Editor’s Note: Mary Johnson, Clergy Project member and former nun with Mother Teresa’s order, gave Rational Doubt permission to reprint this post from her website. Thank you, Mary, and thanks for the enticing offer to readers to write their own variant of the creed.
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 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.
(find the original creed here)
I encourage you to compose your own creed. What do you believe, and how do you choose to live in the world?
Mary Johnson worked for twenty years as a nun in the Missionaries of Charity where she became a trusted assistant to Mother Teresa. Since leaving the convent, Mary has married and written a well-received memoir, An Unquenchable Thirst. She left the Catholic Church and has become a humanist celebrant, speaker and teacher. She serves on the Board of A Room of Her Own Foundation, an organization that empowers women writers. Her work has appeared in O, the Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous other publications. She has appeared on The Rosie Show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, NPR and the BBC. www.maryjohnson.com
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/7603557@N08/14778338259/”>lars hammar</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>