Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Believe?

My favorite professor in college was Helen Chuang (now, Boswell). She is one of those amazing people who is beautiful, intelligent, artistic and a great friend all rolled into one. I was lucky to take Genetics, Evolution and Vertebrate Physiology from her before I graduated and then to work with her (sort of) after my graduation. She truly was a mentor to me is more ways than simply science and I am always happy that we became friends outside of the University as well.
Since I left Cedar City, Helen has been up to big things. I don't keep in touch with her very well but she emailed me (and several others) yesterday with great question. One thing I loved about her classes is that I always left them thinking and craving to know more, to think more, to be more. This question was one of those.
Let me back up. Helen is writing a book. I am sure it will be amazing (have I reached "gushing" stage yet? I like the gal, okay?). For insight for a section of her book about the importance people put on religion she asked us to reply, in A SINGLE SENTENCE to the following question:

Why is religion important in your life?

Those of you who know me know that i cannot answer "What time is it?" in a single sentence. This one was going to be tough. I thought about it all day. I even did rough drafts. My religion, as for many of you, is such an important part of my life that I rarely think to define why. I just know it is. The single sentence requirement was hard for me. Being concise is not easy.

Here is my answer:

Knowledge of an atonement of my past transgressions and sorrows as well as a belief in a better life to come allows me optimism to try to better myself, my fellows and my environment today.

I then thought, maybe she was asking about ORGANIZED religion, rather than just the importance of having spiritual beliefs. We get that question a lot out here. There are a lot of Ba'Hai (we believe in ALL truth) and other self-churchers (for lack of a real term). For many, it makes sense to have spirituality be a top priority but needing to structure that into an organization with administrators is only to distract from your one divine journey. So, I also sent my argument for organized religion but, since I felt this was extra credit, I did not comply to the one sentence restriction. Truthfully, I couldn't edit it down. The hot air just kept blowing.

Here it is. Why I go to church:

Even with certain knowledge of one’s earthly purpose and their divine potential, it is naive to think that a single person can obtain all the necessary knowledge, skills and comfort possible without the experience of others. There is a stronger bond between those who share the their religion as their paramount priority than that of any other association. This security within an organized religion allows members to lesson the worry over temporal needs and focus, uninhibited on the spiritual.

I realize many (all) of you check this blog for pictures and not for the philosophies of an over-tired stay-at-home-mom. Sorry. My blog. My rules. Thanks for reading.

Love to all and happy Tuesday,


Claudia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Claudia said...

Hey Meg. I really liked reading your philosophical reasons for faith and organized religion. We all love looking at pictures, but anyone who knows you at all knows and loves your intelect and ability to express yourself in words. Give yourself more credit.

This was so interesting for me to read. Am I correct in remembering that Helen is not LDS? When I was at SUU, also surrounded by inteligent, accomplished professors, all of whom I admired and desperately wanted to please, I felt like I had to try extra hard to be open minded because I was religious, and they all gave the itellectual vibe that seemed to say that religion (at least our religion) was constricting and detrimental to our educational success--whether that be the limits that having a family at a young age placed on female students; what some students, even as English majors, wouldn't read; or the narrow opinions that many students had of humanity, social "norms" and the world at large. These were not only their impressions (at least what I inferred), but were sometimes mine as well. I had this inner struggle of trying to reconcile my desire to be intelligent and open minded, while also being true to my beliefs. I still think I am dealing with that struggle in some ways.

When I got into grad school, I felt like I was validating myself, especially with my former professors (I, of course, was in WI, but Erin seemed to run into a few of them occasionally, thus sharing my news). But then without even completing a full semester, in order to move and get married, I dropped out of school. I not only felt like I was letting myself down, but my professors, too. Like when Erin saw Dr. Cook (English dept. chair) and told her what was going on with me, Kay seemed less that impressed. Not that that was surprising to me, but it hurt nonetheless. It was like I had failed Kay, that she was disappointed in me. I don't know why I felt this way--she herself had a family, but at least when I was in school, she and her husband both live in different states, as he is a professor as well. Would I be willing to give up my spouse for the greater educational good? Definately not at this point in my life, and I hope I can never say that I would choose that lifestyle. And she doesn't have to defend her lifestyle choice to me--why should I feel that I would need to justify my life decisions? Marriage for us is not only a personal decision, but essential for our religious progression as well.

I realize that this doesn't completely relate to your experience with Helen--she has only asked you to answer a question for the purpose of authorship. But your response to organized religion got me thinking (because I agree with you, of course). You put it that we can't begin to grasp the breadth of all religious knowledge out there on our own, that shared experience makes religion acessible and personal and enriches our knowledge and experience. That is exactly what my study of literature was at SUU. Religion, like other disciplinary/educational studies, requires shared knowledge to make sense and to learn and think further. Thus, my dropping out of school wasn't a failure to my intellectual persuits. It was mereley a choice for me to head in a different direction, at least for the time being. And I like to think that I am still thinking and learing, and I am definatley still reading. So maybe Kay, nor I, shouldn't feel disappointed at all. I finally feel justified. Thank you.

P.S. Sorry for the dissertation.

Erin said...

I concur. With both. Of you.

Mr. Sparticus said...


It is often hard to find the right thing to say when questions about your personally believes arise. Thank you for your blog, as it was helpful in giving me an idea on how to answer to my "all church" believer friend.

Keep it coming...