Yes, I responded to ‘faith’ poetry

An exchange of ‘faith’ poems

Despite writing nearly one year ago that I wouldn’t respond to other poets’ “faith” poems, I recently received a lovely God-oriented poem from Rayla Noel of ‘Innerdialects’… and unexpectedly felt moved to respond to it.

My first reaction was something like “oh boy, not another ‘God poem’…” But then I visited Rayla’s blog, read her ‘about’ page, and watched this beautiful spoken word piece of hers:

And I was really touched by her sweetness and sincerity (I mean… how can one not be?). Besides, the intent of her poem, as you’ll see, was not to push her beliefs upon others; it was purely a personal reflection and sincere turning to the God that she believes in.

So, I contacted Rayla in private, writing (among other things):

Given that I do not believe in a traditional concept of a God who is benevolent or at all concerned with our human existence, the only way I can respond to your poem is from a skeptical non-believing perspective.

I mean, really, one of the main reasons I avoid such poetry is because I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. What would be the point of responding to a true believer’s sincere God-loving poem with my skepticism? What would my cynical response accomplish? And- believe me, I have almost nothing left in me today but cynicism towards the traditional concept of an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God.

Anyway, Rayla wrote back to me that she was “intrigued” and would still like me to respond to her poem, which I did, bringing up a historic catastrophe in Lisbon, Portugal that left Europe’s entire Christian community of 1755 reeling and doubting its foundational religious beliefs.

This, in turn, led Rayla to respond with a second poem, which I also posted and responded to with sincerity, from my non-believer’s perspective.

So, what was accomplished? Nothing really, I think. To be honest, I still don’t feel good about coming down like a ton of bricks on somebody’s pure-hearted faith; and I can’t see myself doing it again. Then again, who knows? I never thought I’d be moved to write poetry of this sort in the first place; and Rayla unexpectedly brought it out of me.

The irony

The truly ironic thing about all of this is that my life as a Sabbath observant Jew would be easier if I could believe that a [benevolent] supernatural being had commanded me to do so and cared about my actions. As it stands, I only have humanistic reasons for participating in my religion to the extent that I do; and those are often not enough for me.

I spent five years of my life studying religious texts and convincing myself that I believe in God; and then I spent years afterwards clutching to my irrational faith and trying to keep my doubts at bay. Still, after all of that, the truth is that I just don’t believe in a traditional concept of God, and I cannot pretend because I believe that living according to one’s truth is important. My pretending to believe in “God” would be a lie, despite and regardless of the communal pressure to do so.

For me, personally, these words of Carl Sagan ring most true:

42 thoughts on “Yes, I responded to ‘faith’ poetry”

  1. She is such a delight David.. I see how and why you would “cave” ha.. she might make some convert โฃ๏ธ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ๐Ÿคฃ Carl Sagan good food for thought too! ๐Ÿ’—

  2. i admire how respectful you are, David, and your level of self awareness and compassion when you ask, what is your skeptism going to accomplish.

  3. I am utterly speechless at the beauty of Rayla’s poem. She is so articulate in reciting her work. David, Thank you so much for posting this. I will be reposting this on my blog.

    1. ๐Ÿ™ŒI mean, really, one of the main reasons I avoid such poetry is because I donโ€™t want to hurt anybodyโ€™s feelings. What would be the point of responding to a true believerโ€™s sincere God-loving poem with my skepticism? What would my cynical response accomplish?๐Ÿ™Œ

      Exactly, each one of us have a unique relationship with holiness.

      The most positive that’s come from your meeting for me is the poetic and intellectual exchange, fostering deeper independent relationship that is able to communicate differences respectfully.

  4. David, your post reminds me again of the Elie Wiesel story where people stand in the concentration camp looking at fellows hanging… one cries: Where is God? Another replies, there He is, hanging… Shabbat Shalom –

  5. Whhhaaaatttt? He did a Faithfullish Post, ach Ben David ๐Ÿ’œMore than intrigued, by your honesty & brilliance. Its rare that people are willing to even share differences. Hmm , had my share of hurtful ppl, so called religious kind. Still do. But it leads me thru a mountain: pain. Its a teacher. I’m startled by life

    Oh ๐Ÿฅ€ ‘m rambling.
    Thank you for posting;thrilled that you’d give this a moment.

    1. ๐Ÿค Rayla ๐Ÿค ~ just ‘David’ is fine ๐Ÿ˜‰ … ‘ben’ isn’t a name – it’s just a word.

      Anyway, I’m truly glad that you weren’t offended ~ I just didn’t have any other way of responding to your words because that’s the kind of thinking that faith language immediately brings up in me!

      Much love,
      David

      1. Yes, you’d told me. David! ๐Ÿ’œ
        No more Ben๐Ÿ˜….
        How could I be offended, we are oceans within and must swim our tides. Its not an easy life on any count.
        Honored that you’d do a post. You’ve stoked me into a reply Post. Hope thats ok
        Warm wishes! ๐ŸŽถ

  6. Excellent, David. And hearty congratulations for 6000 followers, which ‘I came to know through Cindy Georgakas’ post. โ™ฅ๏ธโ™ฅ๏ธโ™ฅ๏ธ

  7. I am an atheist too, but not a militant one. And these days I find myself enjoying both poetry and fiction that incorporates elements of (what I consider to be) the supernatural ~ gods, magic, ghosts, etc. I even include it myself. I think, for me, it’s not saying “I believe this,” but more an expression of emotions in more colorful language, if that makes any sense…

    1. ๐Ÿค Paula ๐Ÿค ~ I’m definitely not militant, and I don’t even consider myself an atheist… But to the extent that I think the concept of “God” holds any actual meaning, it’s something that an individual can only feel/ experience on their own ~ it’s not something that they can successfully convey to someone else, much less expect someone else to buy into.

      1. Interesting. Sorry for mis-categorizing you. It makes sense that our experiences (or not) are individual. I am not like a lot of the atheists I know, given that I am open to personal, direct proof, but so far… nada!

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