Thursday Thought: David Rhodes Sparks on Belief
I love religions. The philosophies underlying the great faiths of our world never cease to amaze and intrigue me. In college, at Colorado College, I was a dual major in History and Philosophy, with a special emphasis on South Asia. This meant that most of my philosophy was, by default, more on the theological side of the fence.
All this said, however, I do not consider myself a “religious” person per se. I am deeply spiritual, but have always disliked the concept of worshiping this or that deity, and having to do so in this or that place. Perhaps I take the more Monist approach to spirit, i.e. that god, the divine, the spirit within us all, is indeed within us all. It is the ephemeral ether, it is all around us all the time, although we may struggle to put a name, shape, or place on it. Simply put, I believe “it” is.
Many years ago, I was given a book by my grandfather entitled simply Memoirs and Letters of David Rhodes Sparks.
Born in Indiana in 1823, D.R. Sparks was my great-great-great grandfather, and quite a man. From walking to the California Gold Rush and the Colorado Gold Rush, fighting in the Civil War, and founding a milling company on the banks of the Mississippi River in Alton, Illinois, David Rhodes Sparks lived a full and interesting life.
Recently, I was given by my mother a copy of D.R. Sparks’ Statement of Belief from the mid-1800’s. It is this I thought I would share with you, as well as another similar quote from Reverend Charles Andrew Farley, minister of the Alton, Illinois, Unitarian Church which Sparks attended.
I share these because I feel that, in the world we now live where people seem to be increasingly polarized along political and religious lines, we can all stand to be reminded that the divine – whatever we might see it to be – is within us all, around us all, and a part of us all, regardless of race, nationality, politics, etc.
But now I have rather given my objections to the religions of the past and present without giving my own views on the subject. It is not for me nor any thinking man to explain his thoughts on this subject unless he has concluded to adopt faith without thought; in fact, faith without thought is consistent. With the power of thought brought into play, faith vanishes and the mind goes out unfettered to fields yet unexplored. I might simply adopt the words of the immortal Paine and say, “The world is my country and to do good is my religion.” These words have no equal for grandeur of thought in either old or new testament but I’ll attempt a further view of my thoughts on this subject…God to me is everything, is everywhere; he is the universe, the stars, the sun, the earth; he is the human soul, he is the wood and is in the rocks; he is in the air, in the storm and sunshine alike. In part, everything we see about us or in us is the infinite God.
And, from Reverend Farley:
Do you now ask, “Which is the true church?”. I answer, not the Episcopal church, not the Presbyterian church, not the Baptist church, not the Methodist church, not the Unitarian church, but the good in all these churches. All who live under the light of nature or under the more blessed light of revelation. The child of the Ganges, who worships the glorious river, and finds healing in its waters, he who adores the Sun in its Majesty, he who cries out for the help of the great father and whose dying eyes are lit up with the hope of hunting again in the spirit land, all, all are the children of god. All are members of the Church Universal, of that vast temple which the broad skies cover and the broad earth sustains and whose doors are open to the illimitable heaven.