My spiritual evolution (to date) was as follows:
I was baptized by my grandfather when I was an infant.
I went to Sunday school and learned bible stories.
At 12, I went through a confirmation class. On the eve of confirmation I told my pastor, “Look, I believe that Jesus was a great man. But I just don’t accept that he was the son of god. In clear conscience, I have to tell you the truth about my beliefs. Being confirmed means very little to me. I’m doing this more for my mom and grandfather.”
He told me that he respected my honesty and that confirmation was a symbolic gesture anyway. If I would like to, I was still invited to participate in the confirmation ceremony. So I did.
After that, church became a VERY minor thought in my head. I went through periods of depression. I was disturbed by the suffering in the world. I didn’t see the presence of god in any of it.
In high school and then more so in college, I began to learn about the historical Christian church. Shit like the inquisition, the crusades, and all the terrible things done in the name of preserving the church’s power.
“The opiate of the masses” is how Marx described it. And I thought he was right on.
I became depressed again. The futility of it all was overwhelming. Eventually, we will all be dust. What then? Why does any of this matter? ANY of it? The whole planet and all human existence is temporary. Our sun will eventually extinguish or explode…and then what? What point will any of this have?
Well at least we have our opiate.
I read the book, “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut. It talks of a fictional new faith called “Bokonism” that encourages you to live by the “foma” (lies) that make you happy. I found this refreshing.
The Bokonist death prayer hit me so hard that it shook me out of my depression.
"God made mud,
God got lonesome,
So God said to some of the mud, 'Sit up!'
'See all I've made, the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars.'
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
'Nice going, God!
Nobody but You could have done it, God! I certainly couldn't have.
I feel very unimportant compared to You.
The only way I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud that didn't even get to sit up and look around.
I got so much, and most got so little.
Thank you for the honor!'
Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
What memories for mud to have!
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!
I loved everything I saw!
I will got to heaven now.
I can hardly wait . . .
In college I resented religion. All the lies. All the deceit. Church was evil. Later I would distinguish that although the Christian church sometimes sucks, Christ was a cool cat. Nothing wrong with concept like love your neighbor or turn the other cheek. I simply never saw these ideas demonstrated by the devout.
I read the book, “Joshua” by Joseph F. Girzone about a modern day Christ pointing out errors in what has become of the Christian church. He does things like question the hierarchal structure of bishops and such. Christ washed the feet of his disciples to try to show that no one is greater than anyone else. How could we have strayed so far from his teachings?” (Paraphrased from memory)
In college, my best (and only) friend, Eric, was equally existential. While keggers raged on frat row, we would discuss the meaninglessness of it all.
One night, we had an epiphany.
If it truly has no meaning…if there is no purpose for ANYTHING…then isn’t the fact that anything exists at all a miracle?
If there is no reason for that tree, then it’s existence is a miracle. Same with that cloud, that baby, and that song.
The world is a playground of meaningless miracles. The dark filter over my retinas faded slightly. Unfortunately, since this was an intellectual discovery, I understood it far more than I *felt* it.
The next year I found myself backpacking through Europe with Eric. Three months into our journey, we found ourselves atop a snow-covered mountain. Our lives were in danger and 1000 year-old ruins lay beneath the wind-whipped snow. (This is a long story, but I’ll abbreviate here).
While on top of that mountain, I had a moment of clarity. I have almost no memory of the experience. I simply remember a calm feeling of emptiness. Beautiful nothingness.
As we began to descend the mountain, I tried to make sense of the event. Eric and I both had similar experiences. As I trudged through the snow, I realized that I had a new understanding. Someone had answered the question, “What is the meaning of life” and placed the answer inside my awareness. It wasn’t something that I learned or was told. I just *knew*.
The meaning of life was to live. This planet is an amazing playground for us to experience. This is heaven on earth.
This wasn’t a statement. This was an understanding.
It wasn’t something to debate. It was something I felt. My concept of life and spirituality has been different ever since.
I no longer am angry when someone tries to convert me to their path.
I have since had a renewed appreciation for the teaching of Christ and other spiritual leaders. I still disapprove of the paths of most organized religions, but I understand that there is goodness buried deep in the heart of all the dogma.
Unfortunately, faith is not something we can be taught. It is something that is felt. And as I have evolved since the mountaintop, I learn more and more that the root of ALL of it is really love.
I think the ideal spiritual path is first learning to love yourself, then loving everyone else. Seeing every interaction as an opportunity to show compassion and add to the cosmic pot of love. And as you begin to feel that we are all part of one energy (call in god or cosmic consciousness or “The Force” or whatever) it becomes easy to love your neighbor and marvel in the glory of the Universe.