When people learn that I'm a former nun who has written a book about her experiences with Mother Teresa, and who often speaks on these issues -- including my recent interview with the BBC and an article in the Italian Jesuit magazine Jesus which was discussed at a meeting of the Vatican's "Il Cortile dei Gentili" -- the most frequent question I'm asked is:
So what do you believe now?
This video, from The Center for Inquiry, expresses a lot of the way I look at life:
How I Try to Live
Here's what I tell myself every day: Life is a wonderful thing. Open yourself to the marvels of the world that surrounds you. Engage with life. Don't be afraid of making mistakes and always allow yourself to change your mind when new evidence presents itself. Open your heart to give and to receive. Become a person whose life has meaning. Love others. Love yourself. Live gratefully.
Often, people want a label for my beliefs. I will accept any of these:
atheist, humanist, secularist, heretic, freethinker,
non-theist, post-theist, heathen, infidel
Here's my version of The Apostles Creed. (find the original creed here)
I don’t believe in God, an imaginary father with almighty power.
I don’t believe in heaven; I do believe in earth.
I believe that a man called Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine at the beginning of the Common Era,
That he was conceived in the way of all human beings, that he was born of a woman called Mary, that he had a following large enough to trouble the authorities of his day, that it’s very difficult to separate what he actually said and did from what people would later say he said and did, that odds are good that he was a more than decent man.
I believe that this Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate; that he was crucified, died and was buried, that there were no souls in hell waiting for him to set them free, that his death was in no way redemptive, that crucifixion has to be hell enough for any person.
I believe that when Jesus died, he remained dead. He did not ascend into an imaginary heaven, nor does he sit at the right or left hand of God, an imaginary father.
I do not believe that Jesus judges human beings. It seems to me that far too much judging goes on in his name, and that most of us try to do the best we can with the lives we’ve been given and that all of us fall short of the unreachable ideals we sometimes set for ourselves, that we ought to be kinder to ourselves.
I do not believe in ghosts, holy or otherwise.
I believe that the church is a human institution that still has much to learn about the humane exercise of power and authority.
I believe that each human being is connected with every other human being by bonds we do not often perceive, that what we do matters because our deeds affect beings animate and inanimate, for better or for worse.
I believe that justice and mercy are both essential and that forgiveness is often one of the deepest kindnesses we can extend to others and to ourselves, but that it should not be offered indiscriminately.
I believe that when we’re dead, we’re dead, and that while we, for a brief stretch of years, breathe upon this planet, we experience mysteries we ought not pretend to understand, though one day human beings will understand them better than we do now. I believe that we should affirm as true only those things we know with reasonable certainty, according to rigorous standards of history and science, that to cede our intellect to religious tradition is to allow ourselves to be manipulated by those who benefit from our credulity. I believe in the value of helping others and nurturing ourselves so that we can live lives as full as they can be. Amen.
I encourage you to compose your own creed. What do you believe, and how do you choose to live in the world? If you'd like, share your creed on my Facebook page.
You might also want to check out The Humanist Manifesto.
Women in Secularism is also a great resource.