Religion and spirituality, a life of being skeptical with a moral code

This blog entry is for my parents.

On facebook I created a fan page for my blog, so far it has 9 likes, so it has not taken the facebook world by storm.  But I can post my blog entries, and write comments that potentially people could see. I posted a comment for people to suggest topics for me to write about.  My friend, colleague, and fellow blogger, (his blog link is on my blogroll) Vijay, suggested I write about spirituality and my take on spiritual questions growing up.

So this blog entry will be about my spirituality and religion. In a trained sense or structured belief system I am not a religious or spiritual person. On online profiles I do not put a religion. If anything I define myself as an American, and not by a religion or belief system. Most people have a core belief system similar to their parents, and both of my parents gave me a good moral code, a belief in right and wrong, but did not force a religion on us. Both of my sisters and I are doing well as adults, and we are good natured people. None of us though attend church or are concerned with the big spirituality questions.

Growing up, I don’t think I was the happiest kid, but I was an active kid. When we lived in New Mexico I would play in a vacant lot with my sisters and neighborhood friends all day, and then we’d have a family dinner at night. This is up until age 8 or so, I think I was just having fun. I did not think of the big questions. Questions like ‘why are we here,’ ‘why is the sky blue,’ and ‘who created the earth’ did not concern me. I think I just wanted to have fun. My parents would take us on hikes in the mountain ranges there. My memory might not be the best but I don’t think I questioned much of anything in my early childhood.

In Baltimore from age 9 to 15 I had periods of being picked on at school or in the neighborhood.   Even though I was going through some issues I never considered going to church.  One year when my grandparents visited around Christmas we attended a church service. I think I was 12. I was bored stiff, didn’t understand it, and in the middle of it rudely asked my parents if we could leave, of course we stayed. Later I told my dad I thought that religion was nonsense, and I never went after that. My parents did not try to convince me otherwise. At age 11 I started skating, and a lot of my time went into that so I didn’t think much of the big questions at that time either. During those years in Baltimore we had family dinners most nights of the week. I look at my adult life without kids, and I realize my parents did spend a good amount of time with us. We had dinner every night, a kind of a family conference, and that helped a lot.

My dad is a doctor and my mom was a former teacher. Over those dinners we would discuss my dad’s day, our days at school, and often the latest politics that my dad kept up with.  Politics is an interest I did not inherit from my dad, but I think I learned a lot from those discussions over the dinner table. Sometimes that conversation would be mostly my dad and my mother. Whatever candidate situation or newsworthy happening that took place my dad would analyze it and put kind of a judgment on it. Such as did that person do a good or bad thing, what could have happened for better or worse, what it means, what should be the repercussions, and if it can be improved, or will more bad things happen. My dad kind of thinks of the different possibilities for stuff in the news and most of the time forms an opinion on the issue he read about. I think listening to my parents’ political or simple debates did form the way I think. I might not follow the latest news but I always try to form my own opinion on things that are happening.

At age 15 we moved to Toledo and I went to a private school. That was a new experience for me. Instead of being a number in a huge public school in Suburban Balitimore, I was in a small private school considered one of the best in the region. I seemed to have a lot of free periods and talked to a lot of kids there quickly.  One of best friend’s from there is Muslim. I meet Christian, Jewish, Buddist, Hindu, and Muslim kids there. For a small school it really was diverse.  I think I was sarcastic and skeptical of religion, but I quickly realized that these fellow students really believed the religious stuff. I think at that school, Maumee Valley, I learned to respect and not question people on their religious believes.  I grew more tolerant but still did not really pursue religious knowledge at all.  I think instead of asking big questions I was more of the mindset, if something works, it works, and there is no need to question why it works.

As an adult I went to church a few times but I still don’t have an interest for it. I lived at home with my parents until I went away to grad school at age 25. Even as an adult when I lived there we would have our family dinners. For some years it was simply my parents and I. When my big sister was in law school she had dinners with us. For a few summers over her college years my other sister stayed at home too. At some point I asked my parents about not being religious. My dad said people can and should live by the core values from religion without all the other stuff.  The Judea Christian values of do onto others as you would do onto you, and thou shall not kill, are rules that guided people for centuries.

After reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley I was impressed at how his live transformed in jail by his decision to become Muslim.  I thought of the religious people I know, from all religions, and how they seemed more in control with their lives. They don’t run up their credit card bills at bars.  They don’t backslide on decisions, and simply don’t do things to regret once in awhile. I thought there has to be something about religion that can keep people measured and controlled. As an adult that is the most I thought about religion. But then I didn’t do anything about it, and I think people can be responsible without learning a religion.

All this has been about religion. Sorry Vijay, you asked about spirituality. I’m not sure what spirituality is, but I believe that people should be decent to everyone. Every time someone belittles a person weaker than him or is nasty to other people he is going to get it at some point.  I guess it’s called Karma, and I wish everyone believed in it. Regardless of religion or spirituality people need to be good, and progress.

4 thoughts on “Religion and spirituality, a life of being skeptical with a moral code

  1. Matt I think it is really great that you dedicated this post to your parents. Trying to imagine a 12 year old you, telling your father that religion is all nonsense. Also wanted to share — as a parent now, we try very hard to have those family dinners every day and that is our favorite part of the day.

  2. Thanks Brinda!

  3. Matt, you have a great way of tackling serious subjects and putting them in such a way that they are informative and insightful. How wonderful you’ve dedicated a blog to your parents. From the time I’ve known you, you’ve always seemed like a kind person and and your sentiments above only reinforce that perception. Great post and I agree about those family dinners — not sure if that goes on as much anymore in this busy time, but I really hope it’s a tradition that never goes out of style.

  4. Thanks Brigitte!

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