I don’t usually do long posts, but this topic required one. As of late, I’ve been reading a lot of blog stuff regarding people’s religious beliefs. It’s always a fun topic. I decided it was time to write an all-encompassing summary of where I am in my spiritual journey and how I got here. You all will have to be the judges of whether you give a shit and whether I’ve got my head up my ass. Some of this may be repetitious, but I wanted everything neatly in one place, so bear with me.
The Early Years
I am of German/Scandinavian heritage, so naturally I was raised Lutheran, or to be more specific “Lutheran Church of America” or LCA, which eventually became the “Evangelical Lutheran Church of America” or ELCA. My mom was raised Lutheran and my dad was raised in the United Church of Christ. Both were actively involved in church life as youngsters.
Sunday mornings growing up, it was a given that we would be going to church (and picking up donuts on the way home). I went to Sunday School, sang in the Junior Choir, and was active in the different church youth groups. As I got older, I became more involved. I attended numerous leadership events and ran for various board positions. In high school, I was elected Vice President of the Lutheran Youth Organization for the entire Metropolitan Chicago Synod. For those unfamiliar, a synod is a governing body that makes decisions for churches within a defined geographic area. Each year around Christmas, my church would have “College Sunday”. All the college students that were home on break would be asked to help run the service - like read the lessons, usher, greet people, and provide music. Since I was recognized as the most involved young person at the time, I was asked to give the sermon. After I gave it, a number of the old “church ladies” came up to me and told me I should consider becoming a pastor. My regular readers are probably laughing their asses off right now at that prospect.
Here’s the thing. All the time growing up, deep down, I could never fully accept the things I was told to believe. My church involvement was based primarily on the fact that I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. The whole thing lacked logic to me. Don’t get me wrong, I made a lot of friends and generally liked the time I spent at church (except Sunday mornings), but ultimately I couldn’t buy into the whole “our god is right and the rest of ‘em ain’t” line of reasoning. By the time I was away at college, I had stopped attending.
Tough Things To Reconcile
Since that time, I have given a lot of thought to what it is that I believe. At this point, I guess I would consider myself agnostic, although I’d rather avoid labels. There are things that I believe that cannot be proven. My beliefs are based on a number of things: personal experiences, things I’ve read, gut instincts, etc. However, I’ll be the first to admit that I could be completely wrong. The truth is I don’t know. For instance, I think it is tough to explain complex feelings like love or fear as merely chemical reactions in the brain. I think there has to be more to it than that – something we may not be able to comprehend. I think there is a good chance that there is some sort of binding energy that governs the universe. I don’t believe in the notion of some gray-bearded old man up in heaven who has certain expectations of us or who needs to be worshipped. Again, I could be wrong. I do admit that I enjoy pondering these “big questions” and love to hear not just what other people believe, but why.
My problems with organized religion grew after college when I started to notice a lot of hypocrisy in terms of what was being preached and what was being practiced. Unlike other non-Christians, I actually have a rudimentary knowledge of what the bible says and what Jesus taught. If you look at the gospels, the closest thing in the bible to a contemporary account of the life of Jesus, there are a lot of radical things that are said. Things like loving your enemy more than your friends, giving away your wealth, turning the other cheek, not to mention the Beatitudes (blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, etc.). If you think about it, if Jesus were to come back today, he’d be laughed at as some dirty hippy liberal with crazy ideas. At any rate, I became soured by the whole thing. For those of you reading this that are practicing Christians, I mean no offense. I have good friends and family members that are very religious and I respect their right to believe what they want. What I will not do is surrender my right to question their beliefs or even tease them (see website).
Where I’m At Now
Although I continually reassess my beliefs, I am very content with where I’m at right now. I have a personal set of “ethics” that works for me. In fact, as a philosopher, I think Jesus was pretty great. I like the idea of forgiveness and unconditional love. I just don’t think we need to make a choice and pick one savior or the other. I am the complete opposite of someone that is “born again”, and yet, I am not a total degenerate. I’m generally nice and care about creating a better world. I don’t think having religion is necessary in order to live a good life and I take offense when I hear people tell me it is. It implies a superiority – that I just don’t get it, that I’m missing something. How arrogant! The fact is, they can’t know for sure if they’re right either. At least I’m willing to admit it. I mean, how am I supposed to take seriously someone who, without knowing a thing about me, is sure I’m going to hell because of what I believe?
I also reject the idea that I believe what I do out of convenience. Some suggest that I just haven’t given it enough thought – that I’m lazy. Plus, it gets me out of having to wake up early on Sunday. Again, this is completely condescending. Am I any lazier than someone who believes a certain way because their parents told them to? I don’t think so. It was a difficult thing to finally admit to myself and my family that I couldn’t call myself a Christian anymore, but it was the only way to be true to what I felt. There is so much more I could say on this subject, but I can hear you yawning, that is if you even made it this far. My main point, if there is one, is that we shouldn’t take something that we can never know the answer to so seriously. When we do, we become extremists, and that can be hazardous in the long run.