User Rating: 5 / 5
Kathy -- Twelve hours old
"What am I doing down here?" I wonder, my nose and forehead pressed to the floor as I kneel in prayer. My knee-caps ache, my arm muscles strain as I try to keep the pressure off my forehead. I listen to strange utterings of the person praying next to me. It's Arabic, and they understand what they are saying, even if I don't.
This was in 1991, at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. I was an open minded, tolerant, liberal woman. 24 years old. I saw Muslim women walking around the international centre and felt sorry for them. I knew they were oppressed. My sorrow increased when I asked them why they cover their hair, why they wore long sleeves in summer, why they were so ill-treated in Muslim countries, and they told me that they wore the veil, and they dressed so, because God asked them to.
I saw Muslim men walking around the international centre. There was even a man from Libya - the land of terrorists. I trembled when I saw them, lest they do something to me in the name of God. I remembered on television images of masses of rampaging Arab men burning effigies of President Bush, all in the name of God. What a God they must have, I thought. Poor things that they even believed in God, I added, secure in the truth that God was an anthropomorphic projection of us weak human beings. But I noticed how helpful these men were. I perceived an aura of calmness.
What a belief they must have, I thought.
I decided I'd better read the Holy book on whose behalf they claimed they were acting. I read a Penguin classic, surely a trustworthy book, and I couldn't finish it, I disliked it so much.
Suddenly the praying person I am following stands up. I too stand up, my feet catching on the long skirt I wear; I almost trip. I sniff, trying to stop the tears. I must focus on praying to God.
"A Muslim! Kathy, how could you - a white western women who is educated - convert to a religion which makes its women second class citizens!"
But Kingston's Muslims became my friends, I protest. They welcomed me into their community warmly, without question. I forgot that they were oppressed and terrorists. This seems like the start of my journey.
But I was still an atheist. Or was I? I had looked into the starry night, and contemplated the universe. The diamond stars strewn across the dark sky twinkled mysterious messages to me. I felt hooked up to something bigger than myself. Was it a collective human consciousness?
Peace and tranquillity flowed to me from the stars. Could I wrench myself from this feeling and declare there is no higher being? No higher consciousness? Haven't you ever doubted the existence of God? I would ask my believing Christian and Muslim friends.
A being out there, affecting the way I lived. How could God listen to billions of people praying, and deal with each second of that person's life? It's impossible. Maybe a First Cause, but one who intervened? And what about the persistence of injustice in the world? Children dying in war.
When I was much younger I had a complete jigsaw picture of the world. It fell apart sometime during the third or fourth year of my undergraduate study. In Kingston I had reminded myself that I had once been a regular churchgoer, somewhat embarrassed, since I knew that religious people were slushy/mushy, quaint, boring, old fashioned people. Yet God had seemed self-evident to me then. The universe made no sense without a Creator Being who was also omnipotent. Leaving church I had always had a feeling of lightness and happiness.
I felt the loss of that feeling. Could it be that I had once had a connection to God which was now gone? Maybe this was the start of my journey? I tried to pray again, but found it extraordinarily difficult. Christians told me that people who didn't believe in Lord Jesus Christ were doomed. What about people who never heard of Jesus? Or people who follow their own religion? And society historically claimed women were inferior because Christianity told us it was Eve's punishment; women were barred from studying, voting, owning land. God was an awful man with a long white beard. I couldn't talk to him. I couldn't follow Christianity, therefore God couldn't exist.
My ears and feet tingle pleasantly from the washing I have just given them; a washing which cleanses me and allows me to approach God in prayer. God. An awesome deity. I feel awe, wonder and peace. Please show me the path. "But surely you can see that the world is too complex, too beautiful, too harmonious to be an accident? To be the blind result of evolutionary forces? Don't you know that science is returning to a belief in God? Don't you know that science never contradicted Islam anyway?" I am exasperated with my imaginary jury. Haven't they researched these things?
Maybe this was the most decisive path. I'd heard on the radio an interview with a physicist who was explaining how modern science had abandoned it's nineteenth century materialistic assumptions long ago, and was scientifically of the opinion that too many phenomenon occurred which made no sense without there being intelligence and design behind it all. Indeed, scientific experiments were not just a passive observation of physical phenomena, observation altered the way physical events proceeded, and it seemed therefore that intelligence was the most fundamental stuff of the universe. I read more, and more. I discovered that only the most die-hard anthrologists still believed in evolution theory, though no one was saying this very loudly for fear of losing their job. My jigsaw was starting to fall apart.
"OK, so you decided God existed. You were monotheist. But Christianity is monotheistic. It is your heritage. Why leave it?" Still these questioners are puzzled. But you must understand this is the earliest question of them all to answer. I smile. I learned how the Qu'ran did not contradict science in the same way the Bible did. I wanted to read the Biblical stories literally, and discovered I could not. Scientific fact contradicted Biblical account. But scientific fact did not contradict Qur'anic account, science even sometimes explained a hitherto inexplicable Qur'anic verse. This was stunning. There was a verse about how the water from fresh water rivers which flowed into the sea did not mix with the sea water; verses describing conception accurately; verses referring to the orbits of the planets. Seventh century science knew none of this. How could Muhammed be so uniquely wise? My mind drew me towards the Qu'ran, but I resisted.
I started going to church again, only to find myself in tears in nearly every service. Christianity continued to be difficult for me. So much didn't make sense: the Trinity; the idea that Jesus was God incarnate; the worship of Mary, the Saints, or Jesus, rather than GOD. The priests told me to leave reason behind when contemplating God. The Trinity did not make sense, and nor was it supposed to. I delved deeper. After all, how could I leave my culture, my heritage, my family?
We stand again and still standing, bend down again to a resting position with our hands on our knees. What else can I say to God? I can't think of enough to say, the prayer seems so long.
Now we are kneeling again, the world looks so different from down here. Even famous football players prostrate like this,