An interesting reflection on baptism

lurchersontheedge

Yesterday, I posed the question should we always baptise? I began by saying as a loyal priest within the Church in Wales I never turned people away.

One of the comments made was by someone is becoming a very good friend of mine. She writes from her own perspective.

That almost made me cry. It’s a sad thing that Baptisms are just seen as ‘the done thing’. I will not Baptise my children for I am an atheist, it’s just an excuse for the family to have a knees up and I respect the Christian faith much more than that. My children will be educated and exposed to faiths of all kinds and I will leave the decision in their hands. Those who Baptise their children should do so because they wish their children to follow their faith, to be recognised by God as one of his, to follow in…

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Asleep at last

My nearly 4 year old daughter has a sleeping issue. That issue being she doesn’t sleep! Finally this evening she has gone to bed at a reasonable hour so I can dedicate some time to actually writing a blog post. I wasn’t sure I would be able to even do that as my 8 month baby is teething and unwell and I have only just managed to transfer her sleeping form from my chest without her waking and once more needing mummy.

I have been having some wonderful conversations about how religion (mainly Christianity) fits into everyday life for people of faith. I have had some debates on parts of the bible and different interpretations thereof. How politics and religion do or don’t work together, and when Messianic Judaism became Christianity.

I had a thought as I got into bed last night, can an atheist become a religious preacher, just by being empathetic? I understand the morals in the stories, and they go far deeper than ‘have faith in God and all will be good’. I understand why people need faith and enjoy encouraging people to stick with it, we all have faith in something, be it g-d or ‘knowing’ that a course of action will lead to a certain set of consequences. I’d need to study religious texts more, but could I lead a congregation through a story, help people to relate to that story and find hope in it without being faithful to their God? Is it allowed?

I think it ought to be, an English teacher doesn’t have to believe in ways of the American’s during the depression to read Of Mice and Men to a class room of students, to deliver the morals within the story, to help the students relate to the characters. I don’t see how it should be different if I want to do the same to a group of people using a religious story. I find them fascinating, the Semiotics in biblical stories can be quite mesmerising at times, and the messages of hope can influence even atheists because a belief in God is not a necessity for having hope.

It’s all about seeing a world in a grain of sand, of holding eternity in the palm of your hand. Opening your mind to the possibilities, seeing the smile of contentment on people’s faces when a question is answered. Lifting the veil of gloom that seems to be settled on Western ‘civilisation’. Why should lecturing from the Bible be any different from lecturing from another book of stories? Like Greek or Norse mythology. We may no longer believe in those gods but we sure as anything can learn from them. It’s the stories themselves which are important, it’s knowing the minds and time of the authors that lead us to better interpretations. It’s relating the past to the present, old beliefs to new ones, moral for moral.

Morals are a code of conduct, they change over time as people, situations and circumstances change. The reader at the lectern, in a church or lecture hall has to tailor ancient texts to the present day so that we can understand it with our modern minds and lives. I feel I can do this too. So as I am researching theology I would love to take a turn in the pulpit, to educate, encourage and support. Me and the community reaching further into the depths of our minds and of faith, understanding what makes us tick. Enjoying the retelling of age old stories in the company of other enthusiasts.

Uninspired

So many things are happening in my life and yet for some reason none of it has inspired me to write. My friend in Ghana still struggles to feed him and his grandmother, sending me prayers for being poor in a rich country. His compassion knows no bounds, and I am grateful for his continued friendship and humbled by his concern. My 7 month old daughter has teeth coming through and my nearly 4 year old daughter has decided sleep isn’t important, so I am now practising for the zombie apocalypse, as a zombie, or is it mombie? I am coming to terms with my 12 year old son’s psychological diagnosis, bone idleness and manipulation, a learned behaviour from his time living with his father, but nonetheless a blow for me. I don’t want to think of my son that way, an issue that needed therapy would have been easier to deal with. I am a gentle person but I now have to force boundaries and coerce obedience and conformity in my son so that he can unlearn this behaviour. I know it’s for the best in the long run, but it’s hard having to change who I am and what I believe in to be the best mum for him.

Depression weighs heavily on our family, my fiancé’s business is very slow getting off the ground and my contribution to the family income is less than £100 a year on commissioned crocheted items. My first husband’s life is a mess and the only people he really trusts are me, my partner and our children. It’s so sad that he has to reach to his ex wife for the support he should be getting from his own family. He gave me a heartfelt apology the other day for the violence he perpetrated against me. I accepted the apology without question, he is no longer the man I was married to and is now a good friend of mine. I do feel like a weight has been lifted off me and that a chapter in my life has been fully closed off and can be left inn the past.

I have recently finished listening to ‘The Name of the Rose’ by Umberto Eco. Such an eloquently written book, bringing the time of long ago to life. I have learned a lot about brotherhoods of monks from yesteryear, the scorn many had for the Pope as he languished in riches, as did the church, that many of the friars were siding with the Emperor. This was the time of the Inquisition, false prophets, suspicions of witchcraft and penance for penance’s sake. It was a time where education was still seen as dangerous to religion, but the tide was beginning to turn. Christianity was beginning to turn its back on Catholicism, the Cathars of Occitan were being systematically wiped out. This was an ugly time of infighting amongst denominations and sects of Christianity.

The idea of the Other hasn’t been far from my thoughts, just a little shelved. I have needed a fair amount of solitude recently and I had a terrifying thought. If the Other were omnipresent then I would never have true solitude. If God truly is within us all how do get him out when I want to be completely alone with just me? I’m sure this isn’t the type of God fearing the Bible alludes to. Then I thought about the Other being love and hope, well sorry but sometimes I don’t even want that intruding on my solitude, I just want everything to stop and leave me well alone. I suppose I can then allow the other to be peace, but because I put a fact of being on the Other, it feels like an unwanted intruder. Funny how we can even personify an entity.

Well take the way we are looking at the pictures being beamed down to Earth by the probes on Mars. We look for familiarity on an alien world and so far have seen rodents, iguana and even a floating spoon! Are we really that uncomfortable of the unknown, biologically even, that we have to make things up that give us a sense of familiarity? We see faces made by the grills and lights of cars, figures in the constellations, pictures in clouds and flames, the face of Christ on a piece of toast. They’re all real, we really do perceive them that way, perception is real to the beholder. However we are all different, we all see things from different perspectives, what one sees another may not, the stories may be different between one person and the next. Who’s to say which is the truth, however ‘real’ the perception is.

This is what I love about religion. So many vagaries  that it changes for each person, I don’t think there is a ‘truth’ more real than the personal truth taken by the individual believer. The patterns and the stories that make most sense to each person build their idea of the religion they follow, facts fit their theories, familiarity is found and settled upon and life becomes tolerable. People of religion have hope, love and peace, until they are contradicted, then the whole house seems built on sand. I find people of faith slightly different. They may practise their faith through religion, but their house is built on the rock of just knowing that there is love, hope and peace. The words of religion become a guide book to navigate their faith, but it doesn’t have to be right, their theories change to fit the facts.

I know there is no God, how? The same way my faithful/religious friends know there is. It is what it is, to each of us our own perceptions drive our feelings on the matter. I can’t prove there is no God, they can’t prove there is one. Neither of us need to right or wrong to prove one of us is better than the other, we just need to be and be mindful of each other. Here’s my Anarchism, do whatever you want to do, just don’t hurt other people in the process. Be free to practise your life in the way you see fit, just don’t trap people in your own ideals.

Poverty

From what I know of Christianity, taking care of the poor is something that is very important. I live in a rich country and rely heavily on welfare because of a very small income. In my country I am poor. I sometimes have to ask friends and family for money and food. But I have a roof over my head, clean running water and sanitation, heat for when it’s cold, and food in my cupboards most of the time.

I have young friend in a refugee camp in Ghana, a survivor of the Liberian war and all the atrocities that came with that and the Ebola out break that happened recently. He lives in a wooden shack with a roof that doesn’t keep out the rain. He lives there with his grandmother and some children he’s found, orphaned and living in the streets. He works at an internet cafe but the owners all too often don’t pay him because he is barely more than a child himself and they see his labour as they would a slave’s. His little family have now not eaten for a couple of days and only have access to filthy water.

His faith is strong and that gives him the hope and strength to survive from one day to the next. He greatly misses the parents who were murdered in front of him during the war he fled from. He missed out on finishing school so has no educational qualifications to help him work out of poverty. But yet he has hope that it will get better. He loves and cares for more than himself, he will go without food so that his grandmother and the children he has brought in can eat when food is available. Isn’t it always the people who have the least that give the most.

I want to make his grandmother a shawl to keep her warm at night as it gets so cold. I want to send water sterilising tablets and some rice, perhaps a few books. But looking at the restrictions for what can be sent to Ghana from the UK on the Royal Mail website it looks like even this may be impossible. I have emailed the Ghana Post Office for further advice. I may not be able to help a whole refugee camp but if I can make just this one family’s life just a little more tolerable it’ll make a difference that will hopefully have a knock on effect.

Charity is close to my heart, I have suffered many hardships in my life and survived. I know what it’s like to be abused, to be exiled, to have no food, to have no one near. I don’t know what it’s like to live like my young friend at the extreme end, but I know how horrible it was for me.

Jesus preached charity for the deserving, although I see many people who call themselves Christians getting fat on the profits of capital success. There are many religious people who still believe in charity. Look at the Pope, sneeking out of the Vatican at night to feed the poor! I actually meet more non religious that are charitable these days. All are faithful though, all have a calling within themselves to do what is right and good. I am also an Anarchist. Anarchists believe that you should do what is right and good for all people. We do not need a governing body to tell us who is worthy and who isn’t, we just go through our lives doing the best we can and treating everyone we meet as kindly as we can. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you don’t hurt anyone else while you do it and preferably you better things for everyone.

I can’t say there is anyone in this world that I have had the pleasure to have contact with that I do not love. I may not like all of them very much, but I love each and every one of them. I hope for the best for all of them, none are less worthy than any of the others. Whether they have done right or wrong, whether I have been done right or wrong by them, I hope the best for them. Religion might say I have forgiveness, I just see it as everyone’s right to be wrong.

I will campaign until the day I die for equality among humans, from the fat cats of capitalism down to the people searching for food in refugee camps. I hope that one day the collective human conscience will kick into gear and no one will go without their basic needs for a good life, not just for their survival. I will probably not live to see the day but this is the sermon I preach to my children. Go through life and be the best you can be without hurting anyone, give what you can to those less fortunate, don’t judge because everyone has a story you don’t know, listen to everyone you meet, someone always has some knowledge you haven’t got and vice versa, never stop learning or teaching. Sometimes I think I am more religious than a lot of people who pray to God. If you read the scriptures there is so much hope there, but you have to act to make that hope a reality, it’s not enough to pray to your chosen god and expect someone else to do it for you. I have no god, I do not pray, I get up and I do, just what the Bible scriptures teach the religious to do.

Hope

It has occurred to me that I know very little, about anything really. I am quite well read, I have an education from institutionalised schooling. I debate with experts in their field. But what do I know?

The little village I grew up in centred very much around two chapels, one methodist and I can’t remember what the other one was. We also had the church that was Church in Wales. The very Welsh people of the village went to chapel, got married in church and had their funeral in chapel.

What I remember most about growing up in this community was never leaving a house on an empty stomach, especially the farms. You were offered a drink, Ribena for the children and a panad (cup of tea) for the adults on entering anyone’s house. Baked goodies were always offered, even gluten free ones would be baked if they knew in advance we were coming round as my mum is Coeliac and both my sister and me had been tentatively diagnosed and so we lived on a gluten free diet. Crisps were always to hand for children, even in houses where the children had grown up and moved out.

Conversation was always about something going on in the community or what had happened in chapel. My grandparents seemed to be a regular topic, they were held in high regard by the older members of the community. My grandfather probably kept the pubs open!

The village was steeped in tradition, everyone was expected to be early risers, put their faith in God, keep their houses clean and tidy and work for the community. As I grew up I began realising that going to chapel and working for the community were more traditional than anything else, because it was the ‘done thing’. I also, sadly, found that a lot of the faithful were so convinced of being forgiven on their day of judgement that they did awful things without a care. I learn that theirs was a vengeful God who struck down unbelievers and so every misfortune that befell me was because I didn’t believe. Even if that misfortune was being hurt by one of their own, God fearing folk, it was my fault because I didn’t believe in God.

I never took religious education seriously. I took pleasure in ridiculing the faithful as unintelligent people who needed some explanation of why they were alive in the first place and had no idea of science, no common sense. I haven’t really had a spiritual side to me at all. I thought it was namby-pamby, hocus-pocus silliness.

Now I have grown up a bit, spoken to people with true faith, seen the workings of good people who don’t just bake cakes for a community gathering to get praise, that I have come to question this lack of spirituality. Guess what? I have a spiritual side after all, I just didn’t recognise it for what it was. Mine has nothing to do with religious doctrine, or belief in the supernatural. I believe in love, patience and hope. That given enough time and love anyone can do anything they put their mind to to at least some degree. We can all get better than we are right now, just by believing in our own abilities and getting out there and doing it, full of faith that our hope is enough to get us through until we achieve our goals.

Now I come to read passages from the Bible, extracts from Buddhism, bits and pieces of other religions, it all seems to say the same thing. Hope for better, do good things, strive towards your goals without hurting anyone in the process and good will come to you. I see none of this vengeful god that I was lead to think of when my village peers spoke of their religion. I see no, thou shalt, or shalt not, apart from a few bits, which are pretty much common sense. I see love and peace, patience and forgiveness. I see hope, over and over again, I see hope. There may be no scientific point to life, but is it really worth living without hope?

Totally Devoted to…

Devotion. What does it mean? Definitions found in dictionaries say;

: a feeling of strong love or loyalty : the quality of being devoted                                       : the use of time, money, energy, etc., for a particular purpose                          devotions : prayer, worship, or other religious activities that are done in private rather than in a religious service (Merriam and Webster)

1Love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person or activity: his devotion to duty never wavered she was the epitome of wifely devotion
1.1Religious worship or observance: the order’s aim was to live a life of devotion
1.2 (devotions) Prayers or religious observances: she went to her devotions
(Oxford)
loyalty and love or care for someone or something: He inspired respect and devotion from his pupils. She will be remembered for her selfless/unstinting devotion to the cause.
religious worship: He knelt in humble devotion.devotions [plural]
The Christian bible extracts that I have read today seem to point in the direction of devotion being towards love. As I have discussed in another post love is the meaning of life in according to religion. This love is attributed to God. So through love one is devoting their lives to God. This devotion isn’t direct either. We are to love one another and ourselves. We are to shun loving materialism as that breeds corruption. We are to do this knowing this knowing that God loves us and by being loving creatures we are doing the work God has meant us to do.
In Buddhism devotion is toward Dhamma the cosmic order of things. In other words you must love what is and that it is what it is. This is the core of mindfulness, a wonderful practise that can exorcise the mind of anxiety. Grounding yourself in the moment means letting go of the thoughts in your mind and devoting yourself to what you can physically sense right now.
There are other ways to devote your love, concentrating on a friend in their time of need, using your time for their benefit. Devoting yourself to your children, putting their needs above your own wants. Devoting your concentration to a study subject. All in all we are creatures of devotion, our focus, attention and concentration are continually directed towards the subjects of devotion. What it basically translates to is the channelling of our love for something.
Religion cautions us against using our devotion for the wrong things, like towards money and material things, objects rather than subjects. Whether you have religious beliefs or not these cautionary messages are of value. We are tribal animals, our communities are what make survival possible, make life worth living. We do not need to take part in our communities by being physically present, just by devoting our time to them every now and again so that we can pass on love. Love is what gels relationships, and devotion is a channelling of love. If we channel our love towards a person we have a relationship with them. If we channel our love towards ourselves we can be content to be ourselves.
Religions devote themselves to God or an Other with the ultimate love for those who devote themselves. I suppose in a way we all do, believers and non believers, we devote ourselves to that which we love, to the hope we give ourselves in our own means. Love and hope are what keep us alive and a devotion to this seems pretty healthy to me whatever you decide to call love and hope. If you call it God, the Other or just love and hope, keep on devoting yourself to this and you will find a happy world, you’ll see the good there is in the world instead of focussing on the bad. Really there is a good world out there if you look for it and devote yourself to the good. You can help make the world a good place full of hope and love if you devote yourself to it in a positive way. Don’t ignore the bad, take it for what it is, a challenge, something to overcome and make good. I may still be an idealist but my belief is that as the human race we can make our humanity good. The people of religion I have met also believe this and attribute this ability to their God/Other. We aren’t that different, the believers and the non believers. We’re after the same thing, just on different paths. I hope our paths continue crossing and we have a wild party at our collective destination!

Breastfeeding: The beginning

Another subject I am passionate about, this is a very dear friend whom I have never met other than online. Please don’t just read for the prize. Take a look at the rest of her blog. She is a beautiful writer.

lycrawidow

Thanks for hopping over from Milk and Mummyand welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Day 1

The Start of My Journey sponsors today include Boobie Milk witha £50 voucher, Cherub Chewswho are offering a breastfeeding necklace and Loveyush who are offering a breastfeeding scarf for our Grand Prize winner. Over £700 worth of goodies are up for grabs entries via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

I started my breastfeeding journey with nothing more than the determination to breastfeed. I mean, how hard can it be, right? Baby is born, offer baby the breast, repeat as necessary, voila! You’re a breastfeeder!
Wrong. It is so much more than that!

Maybe I wasn’t totally clueless, I’d seen the instructional video in the maternity ward that shows you how to latch baby on, how you put chin to breast, then “pop” your nipple…

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