Saturday, January 17, 2009

Confessions of a Monotheist Part 3- Branches

Within the last few years I've experienced an awakening to my spirituality. I felt as if my soul has opened its eyes and ears for the first time. I do not pretend to walk closely with God or to have achieved an elevated level of spirituality. I am just becoming aware of it as if I have just awakened from a deep sleep. I do not mean to offend those that may stumble upon this but to tell my tale to those that are willing to listen to my spiritual journey thus far. This is my story.

Summer 2008
I can not express my appreciation and love for Christianity which will always have a place in my life, thoughts, and is an integral part of my personality. I could never completely "deny" the spirit of Christianity nor more than I can deny the Sun rising (read C.S. Lewis' original quote). The main difference is that I call this spirit Love, the foundation stone of my spirituality. What I had problems with was the history, texts, and some closed-minded teachings of the Church that DID NOT drive me away from Chrisitianity but pointed me into a "dangerous" and liberating new direction. I'll talk about the "dangerous" parts later on but I just wanted to stress that the skeletons in Christianity's closet, and even questions about this closet, is what led to my personal awakening.

When I pick up a book I try very hard to make sure that it is as unbiased as possible, but this is very difficult especially in Religion. So I read into their argument and if it makes sense with the backing of credible sources I purchase it. Of course I don't have the time to do this with every book and within the first few chapters it becomes evident if the book is bias or is written mainly to attack a certain view. If we have plausible historical, archeological, and scientific evidence that disproves a widely held belief I have two choices: either throw out whatever "evidence" these so called historians are using in their arguments or listen to what they have to say. I allow myself to listen because unless I have a degree in paleography or in Arabic, Syric, Hebrew, or Greek I can not prove that there was not any interpolation in any of the surviving 5300+ Greek manuscripts we have of the New Testament. So unless I spend decades in study all I have is a biblical scholar's word that he/she is not lying to us.

I can ignore everything I've read (and choose never to read anything like it again) and believe that God intended for the Bible to end up how it is regardless of its historicity. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to that one day in Dr. Harper's religion class and stop myself from asking that first question but then I would be curious as to why my future self appeared in the first place. I will not go into the dreadfully painful details but my wife did find out about my questioning. I struggled daily trying to force myself into a state of doublethink so that I could continue living peacefully with my family, but I could not fool her or myself. I created this paradox within my very soul and it literally felt like it was ripping me in two. If I left Christianity for ANY other religion what would my family and friends think? How would I be treated by strangers especially while living in the buckle of the Bible Belt? Even worse what if I'm wrong? Not only would I be tormented in this life I might be tormented in the next! I opened up Pandora's box and I fought with every atom, every ounce of my being to force it shut. I felt I was having a religious identity crisis and going onto the point of a mental breakdown.

My wife and I agreed to speak with our pastor about the matter and even he was speechless. We asked him for advice on maintaining an interfaith marriage. He never gave anyone advice in this situation before and outside of attempting to convert me and lending us DVDs on how to improve our marriage I felt little progress was made. The poor pastor knew next to nothing about Islam but that's understandable; why would a pastor concern himself with an ungodly, probably Satanic, faith? He then began to tell me how dangerous this questioning was to me and my kids. He was extremely worried about my children's salvation even though they're still in diapers. I have nothing against raising my children Christian. What I refuse to teach them is intolerance towards others based on their beliefs. This is difficult within Christianity which does not allow room for tolerance. To them I am going to Hell and might be a danger to the salvation of my children because I do not share their beliefs.

I was going over what was said in the meeting a few days later when a small light began to flicker. If I questioned one faith what's to stop me from questioning another? This torment would never end while I spent a lifetime searching for a suitable religion. Then I knew that I was seeking God in the wrong manner and in the wrong places. It is impossible for any one religion to have a monopoly on God. I can look into any religion and find dozens of closets filled to the brim with skeletons, but that doesn't matter. What matters is the growth of my spirituality and not the language (religion) in which that spirituality is expressed.

The clouds have begun to recede and I still do not know how to express my spirituality. I have not chosen Islam as my spiritual language but I feel more comfortable with it than Christianity. Does that make me inherently evil? Some would say yes indeed. If I choose to follow a desert-dwelling pedophile bandit that made up his own religion for personal gain then I am going to join him in the hellfire. Of course those that believe that know next to nothing about Muhammad, Islam, and 7th century Arabia. I don't want to limit myself to one religion but I feel uneasy without an affiliation with a religious community. I have learned to take it one step at a time even if it means taking a step back. If I learn something new that helps me in my journey I implement it as long as it abides in a spirit of love.


CSeab said...

All religions are manmade. None of them are “right” in an absolute sense. They are humankind’s attempt to describe an experience of the ineffable, transcendent God. All religions, therefore, will fail at some level. This does not mean, however, that religions are valueless. One purpose they can serve, when properly focused, is to help guide us into a more authentic relationship with God - a truer awareness of how the transcendent God manifests within our three dimensional realm and our personal lives. Dogma and ritual may play a role in this, but these religious elements have more to do with human comfort and fellowship than they do with divine reality.

Culture, family, experience, aptitude, attitude, and many other factors are significant parts of any relationship. Like fingerprints, however, we are all different in how we image God and how our personal relationship is experienced and expressed. I don’t believe God cares one bit about what labels we apply to Him in our evolving quest for meaning and value. He knows better than any of us that the TRUTH about His ultimate reality is unobtainable by humankind. This doesn’t matter. God, certainly, does not expect it. Why should we? God isn’t particularly interested in what religion/theology you practice, but how you practice the love and compassion for all that is core to all religions.

Eruesso said...

This is the same conclusion I came to but you've expressed it much more elegantly than I ever could.

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