Unable to fall asleep at the unjustly early hour of my childhood bedtime, I often had lengthy talks with God.

I continue the practice here in my well-advanced middle age at scattered moments throughout most days. The conversations may appear a bit one-sided at times — or maybe not. A nun I once knew said, “God answers every prayer. Sometimes it’s just that the answer is ‘No.’”

Raised Roman Catholic and graduated from Catholic junior and senior high schools, it’s nearly impossible for me to entirely divorce that early influence from who I am and how I think. Nor do I see any reason to. It certainly affected how my fellow formerly Catholic husband and I raised our kids.

A regular churchgoing, say-your-prayers foundation, albeit a Protestant one, was offered to our three children. At least every other weekend saw us at service. I even taught Sunday school. Now with the kids grown, I find myself in church less and less.

My recent absence from brick-and-mortar church is not unlike my relying more on search engines instead of the public library for research, or shopping online and not at the mall. I don’t hunt for facts or buy any less; I just do it differently. I haven’t abandoned my ongoing, if often vague, quest for faith. I simply pursue it outside stained glass, inspirational architecture, and hard wooden pews.

I’ve long considered organized religion as primarily a source of community and comfort, which are far from unimportant. Over time I’ve grown to characterize myself as spiritual rather than religious; following the guidance of my own code of behavior; trusting to a largely indefinable higher power; doing my best not because of a reliance on eternal rewards or dread of fearful retribution, but because early on I was led to a solid understanding of right for right’s sake, and have tried to build an inner and outer life on that understanding.

The state of anyone’s religion is both subjective and objective, and if survey statistics are correct, often a fluid thing. We humans seem to be drawn to the quest for something outside of our own existences, something bigger, wiser, better. The results are often mixed.

Incalculable harm has been done in the name of religion. The Crusades, the diabolical work of the Nazis, and the destructive actions of jihadists are stark examples. Then again, there are the soft words and gentle acts that have successfully sought to bring positive change to the lives of individuals and nations; all inspired by an abiding belief in something beyond what we can see and perfectly comprehend. Think Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa.

With true demons and saints being rare, I figure the majority of us are simply looking for a way to feel less alone, less powerless in the face of trials and heartaches, and less terrified of what happens after we end. Some of us do it in a big, beautiful building, some in the presence of majestic scenes of nature, others in quiet moments of meditation, or through murmured prayers spontaneously offered on any given day.

We may not find the answers we seek, but there’s much to be gained in the search.

Woodsboro resident and itinerant soul-searcher Susan Writer can be reached at susanthinkingout loud@yahoo.com, or see what else she has to say at her UExpress.com’s Ask Someone Else’s Mom column.

(14) comments

DickD

Thank you, Sue, you captured my thoughts.

Dwasserba

"With true demons and saints being rare..." can't agree. Recognized most of the other sentiments.

jsklinelga

Ms. Writer, "following the guidance of my own code of behavior; trusting to a largely indefinable higher power;" Nice column I believe you might possibly contradict yourself when you say you follow the guidance of your own code. Earlier you said your Catholic/religious background helped form who you are. That is why I want my grandchildren educated in a similar way. But the most striking sentiment is the latter:Trusting to a largely indefinable higher power. Recently SCOTUS was asked to remove "In God we Trust" from our money. They refused. "in God we Trust" is an integral part of who we are. Once again. Nice column.

public-redux

I presume you know that “In God We Trust” has been been deemed constitutional by SCOTUS on the ground that it it is not religious. The god it refers to is a deistic god that displays no interest in humans in general and or America more specifically. I suspect hardly any Americans believe in that sort of god,

DickD

Gladys, I didn't know that, I thought it meant what it said. I do believe in God, not sure of all the other garbage. Yes, the SCOTUS made a decision based on the complaints of atheists. https://www.dailywire.com/news/35145/god-we-trust-motto-currency-deemed-constitutional-kassy-dillon The court deemed the use of the motto constitutional in a 3-0 decision, claiming that it was not coercive and has been in longstanding use, according to Reuters. Circuit Judge Raymond Gruender reportedly cited a 2014 Supreme Court decision that required a review of “historical practices” and said that the motto does not constitute an establishment of religion. He reportedly also said that the motto “comports with early understandings of the Establishment Clause” because our constitution allows the government to celebrate “our tradition of religious freedom.”

public-redux

Some background, Dic.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceremonial_deism

public-redux

“I thought it meant what it said.“

I suppose one could argue that it does indeed mean exactly what it says. To wit, we trust that god will leave us alone.

DickD

There are good people and bad people on earth. Not all bad people are bad all the time and not good people are good all the time. And they may be good or bad because of or in spite of religion. Still, we all like good people better, Sue. Thank you for your column.

phydeaux994

A born and raised Methodist/United Methodist, having seen and experienced happenings in the Church that broke my own Moral Code, in my early 30’s I gave up on Organized Religion. I have been trying to define my “Religion” for the past 40+ years. I just found it!....”Over time I’ve grown to characterize myself as spiritual rather than religious; following the guidance of my own code of behavior; trusting to a largely indefinable higher power; doing my best not because of a reliance on eternal rewards or dread of fearful retribution, but because early on I was led to a solid understanding of right for right’s sake, and have tried to build an inner and outer life on that understanding.” Thank you Ms. Writer.

public-redux

My religion promulgates these seven tenets:

One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.

The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.

One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.

The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one's own.

Beliefs should conform to one's best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one's beliefs.

People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one's best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.

Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

DickD

Pretty good, Gladys. I still like the Ten Commandments, regardless of religion.

public-redux

Two of the ten are good. Another one is good advice most of the time.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup] public

Dwasserba

"The Church of Susan"

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