Demands and faith

July 19, 2009 at 1:26 pm (personal)

I want to put aside theology and belief for now and discuss the other side of religion – once you’ve subscribed to it, what it demands of you. It’s not unconnected to belief because when you look into what religion demands of its followers, whether it makes sense or not influences whether you believe in the religion or not.

Even when you think it makes some sense, if it’s extemely difficult and would impact on your life in what you feel is a negative way, your commitment to the religion can wane. Then if you’ve never done so before, you can start to ask questions about the theology and work out whether there was any reason to be committed in the first place.

This is what happened with me and Christianity. I couldn’t lay my dreams aside, and I couldn’t tolerate being at the mercy of nonsensical rules that allowed me to be trampled upon and then being told to just forgive.

I have the same problem with Islam. It won’t let me fulfil my dreams either. My dream of having my own home and living in it until I die couldn’t happen in a mainstream interpretation of Islam because (i) mortgages with interest are not allowed (ii) inheritance from non-Muslim relatives is not allowed (iii) even if we moved to my husband’s country, I have no idea if I’d be allowed to live in my husband’s part of the family house after his death. (He is 11 years older than me so I have to think about that.)

Perhaps there is a less literal, more spiritual interpretation to be made, which doesn’t imitate 7th century partriarchy and tribalism. But I’m under a lot of stress to find it.

My religious indecision is part of the larger stress of an unclear life plan. The fear and doubt comes from needing security every time. Needing to know that the structures I put my trust in will be good for my livelihood, not bad. Perhaps it’s selfish, and faithless, but I may as well be honest about that.

I think that we will never have children. That takes financial pressure off us, and psychological pressure off me to make my mind up about religion before my fertility runs out. And really, the world is going down… global warming, pandemic killer diseases, war, famine… is it really a good idea to make more people? Why would I want to have kids that I would love, only to make them suffer through this awful life? That’s real selfishness, is it not?

I also think that wherever we end up living, it will not be his country… he doesn’t even want to live there. Wherever it is, I am going to have to work and contribute to a house. To have some chance of not being homeless when I am old. This thought makes me so unhappy. I am not lazy to work, just don’t think I will find a job I am good at.

The demands of religion are hard enough when you have faith. Without faith, they are just extremely off-putting. I think faith grows with practice, but I also know all too well how it can be extinguished by religious pain, so I am very distrustful of religion, constantly finding reasons to ignore the cry of my heart for spiritual nourishment. I don’t trust myself to be able to have faith. Even though it’s a way of being that I really want.

I’m tired of wrestling with religion. Every way I turn it just seems to get harder and harder. Faith is not there… I can’t see the wood for the trees.

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13 Comments

  1. Sarah Elizabeth said,

    Regarding your statement about not being able to live in a house because of the whole interest//mortgage issue.. I think you are thinking way too much about all of this. For any religion, in any country, there are usually ways a person can go about doing things the right way. For example, in America, Muslims can buy a home from a person and not pay interest. The person they are buying it from retains ownership of the house even though the Muslim family is living in it. There is no interest charged and the more payments that are made, the more the house switches ownership. Once it is paid the house is completely switched to their ownership. This is how practicing Muslims in America can avoid mortgages.

    I can understand you being sick of wrestling with religion, and I honestly think you should change the title of your blog, simply because your life is about so much more than just that. It would be nice to be able to write about any topic, no? 🙂

    Why do you have to choose a religion anyways? Are you feeling pressure from other people to choose? If you are tired of it, I say give it a break. God was not put into our hearts to burden us hun. God is there to set us free. Maybe your path is different than mainstream religion, maybe your indecisiveness IS God talking to you…

    You never know..

  2. Sara (cairo, lusaka, amsterdam) said,

    Religion should not be a burden. It will come on its own – you can’t force yourself to choose a religion based solely on logic. One day you will feel like something is right, and that will be your decision.
    Asking all these questions is great, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. I already see you as a person with faith, just you haven’t labeled it yet. Nothing wrong with that!

  3. susanne430 said,

    Religion with all its rules IS burdensome, but following God should be a delight. He has promised to guide us and give us strength for every need. You seem to be wrestling and worrying about your life 30 or 50 years from now instead of taking one day at a time and trusting God.

    I think Jesus said it best in Matthew 6. Notice the last 2 verses in particular.

    25″Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

    28″And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

  4. susanne430 said,

    P.S. I greatly enjoyed the comment you left on my blog re: the elder brother. I didn’t reply to it (yet), but I did read it and enjoyed hearing your thoughts very very much.

    • Aynur said,

      I agree with Sarah Elizabeth – as for the loan issue, there are “Islamic loan” options. Not all Muslims worry about that, and do get traditional loans. When I looked at the Islamic loan option, the total amount we would be paying for the house would be the same as a traditional fixed-rate mortgage. That seemed weird. For me, there is a difference between me collecting interest from someone else, or paying interest when there’s really no other choice. Anyway, there should be some sort of resource like that for you there.

  5. Candice said,

    As others have said, there are Islamic loan options. They are not easy to find in the USA, but they exist. I don’t think this should be any issue in you finding Islam. If anything, you can be one of the many Muslims who goes the interest loan route. The overall concept shouldn’t be keeping you from believing in Islam: it just happens to be difficult to get *here*.

    There are these rent and own “loans” that are Islamic, but most Muslims I know from Egypt have adapted by living longer at their parents and paying off a house once they start working. Their parents support them for those couple years while most of their pays go towards paying the home. I don’t like that it makes them get married quite late in life, it doesn’t seem ideal, but I figure we have to expect things not to be ideal when we want so much in our lives that we don’t necessarily need. If we kept things ideal like getting married a bit younger, starting a family, etc., we would sacrifice some comforts. To have these comforts, we may have to sacrifice something, like having to live more years in celebacy while we wait to be able to get married. Or sacrificing parts of your beliefs to get an interest loan for your house. You have all the choices!

    I have to say, it seems like you need to allow yourself a break from thinking about religion and beliefs. I actually stopped myself from posting anything related to religion and took the time to think about myself, without relating anything to religion and I think it really helped. I saw things a bit clearer after. It’s not miraculous, but it helped me for sure. I was just thinking way too much.

    I hope you find a more positive outlook on life… I have a daughter and I don’t feel it wa selfish to allow her to enter this world. I think that the world has a lot of problems, but she could very well be a happ, satisfied person, contributing to society, etc. I don’t think I brought her in this life only to suffer. It takes a person at least a little satisfied with life to see that it’s worth living for themselves and even for the next generation.

  6. Sarah said,

    Thanks for all your comments. I should say that while I don’t understand the economics of it, I know lending money with interest is traditionally forbidden by all 3 faiths in the Abrahamic lineage. Money lending started in Venice with Jews lending to non-Jews which was the only way it was allowed at the time, when people were stricter. I respect that Islam is more idealistic and still follows this. I just sometimes doubt my own ability to be that idealistic! But you’re right, there are options, although some people dismiss them as “interest by another name”.

    Sarah Elizabeth – I’m just putting myself under pressure, it’s no-one else. I have another general-purpose blog (link on my About Me page if you’re curious) and I started this one to discuss religion, but it’s sort of taking over and making me over-think even more than before!

    Sara – I can only hope something will feel right eventually!

    Susanne – you read my mind, those verses are exactly what I’m talking about. That is what faith demands and it’s pretty difficult! I’m glad you liked my “elder brother” comment, no worries about replying. 🙂

    Aynur – I guess the Islamic loan is where they sell you the house at a profit, which technically is not the same as interest. I’m not sure what difference it makes but I read somewhere that Islamic banking was holding up well under the financial crisis, so it is intriguing.

    Candice – compromising on standard of living can cause its own problems – in-law problems wreck some marriages when living in close quarters with them!
    You are right about me needing a break from religion, I think. I just always feel that if I keep going over things in my mind, eventually I will settle on an answer. But I don’t.
    And you’re right about my negativity. I did not mean that remark in any way to offend anyone with children! I had in mind that any child of mine would have my genes and my influence and at this point I can’t see that as good odds. Maybe part of what’s driving me to religion is that I’m looking for a way out of this way of thinking.

  7. Jasmine said,

    If there was an agreed way to practice religion or religious beliefs there would be no conflict between religious people. There is conflict, because everyone practices their own way. In Islam – there are 5 essentials and everything else is what you the indivdual adds to it – and it is not an obligation upon you to add to itany more than you want to.

  8. Jasmine said,

    Aynur! Is everything ok with you? No word for a long time ;0) xxx Hope you’re ok Jas xx

    • Aynur said,

      Yes! I made my blog private, maybe that’s why you think I’m being quiet … 😀
      You can e-mail me your e-mail address at aynurs.random.thoughts@gmail.com and I’ll send you an invite. 🙂

  9. Lisa said,

    Oh Sarah I know this is hard and I know your so fascinated by religion. You could do a degree in it if you ever get tired of science you know, I think you’d be awesome! A biblical scholar!

    I understand your concerns about having a child, but also ask yourself is that baby that could be made with your egg and your hub’s sperm not wishing you would have him/her anyway, regardless? Is she/he not itching to see the same sunsets you witness, the same rainbows, the same beaches, and have his/her own husband and kids? I’m weird I know, but I always think of our babies that are waiting for us sweetie. And if you could hold one in your arms, oh Sarah, your worries about pandemics melt away. Inshallah, we will leave them a bright future….

    And don’t worry about husband being a little older. Not a bad thing at all inshallah. Are you totally sure that you couldn’t work at home or not work at all. Being a barber isn’t easy, but we know a Palestinian with 4 kids and a wife that has a home and does it.

    And mashallah there are Muslim banks regarding the loan.

    Oh Sarah I love you so very very much. I wish you every happiness and know exactly how you feel about what Christianity and Islam prevent you from doing…

  10. Achelois said,

    I absolutely love kids – but from a distance 🙂 I get very edgy when I have to feed, change, entertain a child. I do that and thank God for giving me the chance to do it but I see myself as very impatient sometimes.

    There are so many things to consider before starting a family. I so agree with you. And religion is one big part of that consideration. However, I know mixed-faith children and they do just fine, perhaps better actually.

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