On my bookshelf, I have a lot of books about you. I have a dusty old children's Bible with lots of pictures in it, I have a Gideon’s Bible from the top drawer of an old motel, and I have a softbound NIV Bible with wide columns to write all my questions. I also have a black, hardcover Quran and some Dawkins and Harris (who write a lot about you, but in a you-don't-exist kind of way). I have a book about the Dalai Lama and his teachings, and I have a lot of other philosophy books too. I haven't really read most of them though, I was taught early on that only one is Truth.
I used to believe you had a son called Jesus and that together, with the Holy Spirit, you were three in one. My best friend believed in Allah and her faith was as strong as mine. You answered my prayers and you answered hers. I used to think her answers were coincidental and mine weren’t because she was praying to a God that didn’t exist. I don’t know if I believe that anymore.
God, if you exist, there are some things I want to ask you. When I think about walking into a mosque or church or temple to find answers from human beings like me I think it's too simple. I thought I'd write you a letter and publish it on the internet instead because I think that maybe others want to talk to you about the same stuff.
In the whirlwind of injustice, I feel like religion’s explanations have lost their weight. The words people claim as yours don’t bring me peace anymore and I don’t know why. I know that my heart has been hardened. I think I can admit it has been hardened willingly.
Sometimes I want to stand atop a mountain and scream, “IF YOU’RE THERE, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE?” because I question the pain that I see in this world. I question the inconsistencies.
It’s hard to watch loved ones on their death bed, arms outstretched, begging for a cure that doesn’t exist. It’s hard to see millions of innocents under the solitary thumb of a heartless, evil dictator. It’s hard to witness poverty, to watch it on television in a plush sofa and know you have plenty to give, but no real interest to bother. It's hard to watch entire towns be swept up by cyclones or flooded by tsunamis or torn apart by earthquakes. It’s hard to see homosexual people condemned for the same love you feel for your husband or wife.
It’s hard to read our own history.
It’s hard to know what we’re writing now isn’t any better.
How can religion have such assured answers to such chaos? Why must I make sacrifices for a doctrine that doesn't make sense to me and so many others? I feel like religion is condemning me to hell for this, not you.
It’s funny, because I used to be so certain about who you are. When people came to me asking questions, I would point them to one very specific narrative, the one I was taught from birth, the one I lapped up like a thirsty puppy. It's not worth looking any further, friends. The Truth is here.
God, I think I hurt people by doing that. I think there were times when I thrusted what I thought was right onto someone without encouraging them to explore... before allowing my own self to explore.
You know, I’m comfortable not knowing the answers to sin and pain. This is what being human is all about. I think you’re too big and great and unknowable for us to know how and why this stuff happens on earth. I don’t think I can box you in with theology, because when I do, I expect answers. I think a lot of searching people feel the same. I hope you understand how hard it has been to reach that conclusion, I hope you understand that I am trying to live my life as best as I can?
Because I do try to thank you for things every single day, even though I struggle to believe you're there. Dad always reminds me just before he hangs up the phone: “Don’t forget to thank God in your prayers tonight Ruby”. And I am thankful.
I’m thankful for handles to hold things, for the golden colour of honey and the sound of children mindlessly singing. I am thankful for books and a tummy to rest them on when I'm tired. I am thankful for tides and for the shade of purple that you find in clouds sometimes. I am thankful for poached eggs and cold milk and vegemite on toast in the mornings with my toes tucked between the sofa cushions.
And while there is so much pain in this world, there is also so much beauty. I feel comfortable exploring and taking control of the narratives that define my life. I feel comfortable seeing you in gardenias and snap dragons and birds of paradise, in laughter and generosity and goodness.
We won't know if you exist and what happens next until we die. So until then, as long as I'm searching, as long as I'm striving to live a better life, a good life, and recognising that something greater than myself may be at play, it is my hope and prayer that you see the joy and peace many of us have found in you without organised religion, without doctrine, without one man standing on a stage and telling us how he thinks we should live for you.
In my heart I feel that you are with me.
All my love,