My failed mission to find God

Introduction

Can you finish the joke below? Click 'Answer' when you think you have a good ending.
Did you hear about the agnostic, dyslexic, insomniac? He lay awake all night wondering if...
  • Answer
He lay awake all night wondering if there was a dog.
Maybe we can look at insomnia and dyslexia in a more serious light in other classes, but today it's all about one woman's quest to find God, and what she discovered instead.
Before we do a Cambridge-FCE-Style listening, discuss or write about the following questions.
(You can write on the interactive board at the bottom of the page.) 1. Do you believe in God? If you do... ...do you follow a particular religion? ...do you have any friends from different religions to your own? ..do you think it is important to talk to others about your faith? 2. Have you any spiritual views that are different from your family and friends? 3. Do you think religions help people to have happier lives? 4. What would you suggest to a friend who asked you for spiritual direction? 5. If you invented your own religion, what would be the main areas of belief for its followers?


Listening - Format: First Certificate Exam, Part 4

1. Look at the questions and options below the video.
2. Play the video until 4:29, then answer the questions.
(Play the video twice if necessary before you answer.)

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  • Answers with transcript here.
A few years ago, I set out on a mission to find God. Now, I’m gonna tell you right up front; I failed, which as a lawyer, is a really hard thing for me to admit. But, on that failed journey, a lot of what I found was enlightening. And one thing in particular gave me a lot of hope. And it has to do with the magnitude and significance of our differences. Q1: Although the speaker didn’t find God,
A) she discovered something about herself. B) she learnt something new about human beings. C) she stopped working in the legal profession.
So I was raised in America by Indian parents, culturally Hindu, but practising a strict and relatively unknown religion outside of India called Jainism. To give you an idea of just how minority that makes me, people from India represent roughly 1% of the US population; Hindus, about 0.7 percent; Jains, at most .00046 percent. To put that in context: more people visit the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory each year than are followers of the Jain religion in America. Q2: She makes the comparison between her religion and a teddy bear
A) to show how few people have the same belief. B) because she thinks religion is childish. C) because many followers of her religion work in toy factories.
To add to my minority mix, my parents then decided, “What a great idea! Let’s send her to Catholic school” where my sister and I were the only non-white, non-Catholic students in the entire school. At the Infant Jesus of Prague School in Flossmoor, Illinois – yes, that’s really what it was called – we were taught to believe that there is a single Supreme Being who is responsible for everything, the whole shebang, from the creation of the Universe to moral shepherding to eternal life. But at home, I was being taught something entirely different. Q3: For her, being sent to Catholic school was
A) contradictory to who she was. B) a rational decision for her parents to make. C) an opportunity to learn something very different.
Followers of the Jain religion don’t believe in a single Supreme Being or even a team of Supreme Beings. Instead, we’re taught that God manifests as the perfection of each of us as individuals, and that we’re actually spending our entire lives striving to remove the bad karmas that stand in the way of us becoming our own godlike, perfect selves. On top of that, one of the core principles of Jainism is something called “non-absolutism.” Non-absolutists believe that no single person can hold ownership or knowledge of absolute truth, even when it comes to religious beliefs. Good luck testing that concept out on the priests and nuns in your Catholic school. Q4: People who practise the Jain religion
A) believe in many gods. B) spend their lives trying to discover the truth. C) see God as the perfection of the individual.
No wonder I was confused and hyper-aware of how different I was from my peers. Cut to 20-something years later, and I found myself to be a highly spiritual person, but I was floundering. I was spiritually homeless. I came to learn that I was a “None,” which isn’t an acronym or a clever play on words, nor is it one of these. It’s simply the painfully uninspired name given to everyone who checks off the box “none” when Pew Research asks them about their religious affiliation. Q5: Once she’d grown up, she
A) felt lost. B) had no belief in anything. C) decided to convert to Catholicism.
Now, a couple of interesting things about Nones are: there are a lot of us, and we skew young. In 2014, there were over 56 million religiously unaffiliated Nones in the United States. And Nones account for over one-third of adults between the ages of 18 to 33. But the most interesting thing to me about Nones is that we’re often spiritual. In fact, 68 percent of us believe, with some degree of certainty, that there is a God. We’re just not sure who it is. So the first takeaway for me when I realized I was a None and had found that information out was that I wasn’t alone. I was finally part of a group in America that had a lot of members, which felt really reassuring. Q6: What interests her most about ‘None’s is
A) how many young people don’t follow any religion. B) how easy it is to find other people like her in her age group. C) that despite not having a religion, the majority have some form of belief.
But then the second, not-so-reassuring takeaway was that, oh, man, there are a lot of us. That can’t be good, because if a lot of highly spiritual people are currently godless, maybe finding God is not going to be as easy as I had originally hoped. So that is when I decided that on my spiritual journey, I was going to avoid the obvious places and skip the big-box religions altogether and instead venture out into the spiritual fringe of mediums and faith healers and godmen. Q7: She says finding out about ‘Nones’
A) was the best thing that had ever happened to her. B) influenced how she decided to look for God. C) made her realise how alone she had been.