15 Sep 2016 |
In this extract from the introduction of his latest book Faith, Tim Costello examines what faith actually means to him.
"I often feel fed up with faith. So much said in the name of God represents a God I do not believe in or want to have anything to do with. The public religious discourse is narrow, bigoted and judgemental. I cringe when I hear these attitudes from my Christian colleagues who believe they are speaking for God. Often I wonder how much these purported followers of Jesus actually know about him.
I could renounce my faith or try to start a new variant, but that seems unrealistic. I am stuck. Stuck because the truth is that my faith is my lifeblood. It has nourished the very foundations of my life and made me who I am. I have written before on hope; this is my attempt to do justice to faith.
I see that this is true in so many others who are part of this faith, the largest worldwide religious community. Like me, they have been touched, changed and given purpose by their faith. So, though fed up with it, I realise that without the Christian faith and its spirituality of connection to others I cannot live meaningfully. I have Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu friends who share this feeling about their respective faiths. They too feel caught: needing the beauty and meaning of their faith in order to be their best selves but also wanting to shed the violence done in its name. I cannot speak for them, but what follows is my spirituality, which has emerged from my faith story. Carl Jung said the lack of meaning in life is a soul sickness, the full extent and import of which we have not yet begun to comprehend. I wonder what Jung would say about our age if he were alive today. I suspect he might diagnose even more soul sickness. Most of us are much more affluent than the people of Jung’s time, but now we see mass epidemics of depression and anxiety disorders, high suicide rates, family breakdown and addiction. Why, when we are affluent, are we not flourishing?
I think soul sickness is the right term to describe what we are facing. Maximising wealth can never change the nature of the beast: we are animals who need meaning and purpose. Equally, maximising happiness as the goal of life is not working for most. To approach life with the question ‘What can I get?’ rather than ‘What can I give?’ is to mistake happiness for purpose. This is a chronic mistake that results in many unhappy individuals. Happiness is not the goal, but rather a by-product of a deeper sense of purpose.
We all need something more than just the material in order to find meaning. Spirituality is the exploration of that hunger. At its essence spirituality is about a relationship and connection to something bigger — something transcendent. It inevitably involves faith. For me, without a spiritual connection to God I struggle to find a deeper connection to who I am, to my neighbour, to the stranger, and to the world around me."