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 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: