A post by Ariane Zurcher today on Emma’s Hope Book entitled I Want to Know What God Thinks About Autism got me thinking about belief. I was feeling very low before I read this post, but for some reason after considering the question I now feel motivated.
It started me thinking: do I believe in anything? Well, not in a god or the supernatural. I began to consider what belief or faith means: accepting as true without concrete proof of existence, and I realized that I do believe in certain things.
The word true itself originally only meant faithful: in Middle English there was a separate word sooth, meaning factual, whose meaning merged with true. Truth itself is an abstract concept, as are its relatives fairness, loyalty and honesty. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, you could grind the universe to dust and not find one atom of fairness or truth. So are they real? Do they exist?
I would argue that they do, but it is belief that creates and sustains them. I believe in fairness, in honesty, in compassion, and expend my own energy in trying to ensure that my world is one in which they may be observed. I see them as ideals to strive for. I am human and consequently I am fallible, but I do try my best to uphold these ideals — these beliefs — in my own life.
In this I am not so different from one who believes in god, who accepts the teachings of a faith and tries to live by them. There is no god in my personal beliefs and I feel ultimately responsible only to myself as I try to lead a good, moral life. But whatever its origin there is that strong sense of morality, of right and wrong.
A religious person might fear god’s judgement of their sins, and work to atone and be absolved. I judge my own actions: I feel guilt and shame when I fail to meet my own standards of behavior. And only I can ever forgive myself for my wrongs.
That forgiveness does not come easily, nor do I think it should. It is a powerful drive that holds me to the right course according to my moral compass. When I deviate from that path — and I can tell you that I certainly have had lapses — I feel such disappointment in myself, such guilt that it pushes me to avoid such behavior in future.
But there are two sides to this. When I do hold to my beliefs there is a feeling of serenity and grace. Doing right feels satisfying: it is its own reward. And Ariane’s post evoked the same impression of grace as her love and respect for her daughter came through so strongly. I believe I have been inspired.