I was given the freedom to make my own choices on matters of my personal spirituality. Most people had religion pushed on them since they were toddlers, so I was lucky. The fear of Hell wasn’t instilled me. I wasn’t told that my dead loved ones were in Heaven looking down upon me and saving me a spot. I was lucky. I didn’t have a bunch of made up crap pounded into my brain. There are other things that I also didn’t have. I didn’t have a sense of community or the social network that comes with a shared delusion.
When a person hits their early teens, an uncontrollable longing to be a member of a tribe arises. I had to search for my tribe. Lots of trial and error, but I eventually found my people congregated around a bong. I found acceptance and belonging. The details of my ‘career’ as a drug addict are a story for another forum, so I won’t go into that, but the end result was that I spent my 21st birthday in a mental hospital. After two weeks, I was transferred to a drug and alcohol treatment facility. In 1990, AA based treatment was all there was, so I reluctantly started my spiritual journey. I was taught that drugs were a substitute for God and that the only way to free myself from my addiction was to let God into my life. They told me of the Catholic version of God. I didn’t buy it. I played along just long enough to complete the program and get back to what I was doing after my nice little vacation. Again, a story for another forum, but a personal tragedy made me change my mind and I elected to never touch drugs or alcohol again. Two months after treatment, I finally decided to take it seriously.
So, it seemed that I needed to find a spiritual life in order to maintain some semblance of sanity. The Christian version of spirituality was quickly scratched off the list. Some of the worst people I had ever met were ‘Good Christians’. There was no way that I was going to align myself with that particular cult. I researched every religion that I could find. Hindu, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, etc. To this day, I have a deep reverence for Buddhist and Taoist principles and try to incorporate them into my life. The teachings, I have found, are great, I just couldn’t quite get on board with the ritualistic aspects. Just like I can’t believe that a guy survived in a whale’s stomach, I can’t believe that a monk’s soul will reincarnate itself into another person.
I became ‘Spiritual but not religious’. I found comfort in the teachings of many of the religious texts that have been written throughout the ages, but I couldn’t align myself with just one. Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha all had the same general message and my opinion was that when people got involved with interpreting what the divine taught, things went bad.
L. Ron Hubbard published ‘Dianetics’ and in the early 90’s there was a huge ad campaign surrounding this book. It was touted as ‘The owner’s manual for the human brain’. I read it. Three times. It resonated with Fruedian psychology and I know that ‘normal’ people are completely dismissive of the book, but I found a lot of things within that I could really get on board with. It wasn’t until a year or two later that I learned that a religion emerged from this book. And it wasn’t just any religion. It wasn’t ‘love thy neighbor’ type of stuff. It was a full blown Jim Jones type of thing. Did I delve into Scientology? Absolutely not. The reason that I’m bringing it up is because that book/religion is what made things click for me. L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction writer. His entire career was making up outlandish stories to entertain his readers. Science fiction writers have always had the gift of prophecy….writing things that later come true, but how exactly did it happen that L. Ron Hubbard suddenly became a religious prophet? There were a lot of correlations between him and Joseph Smith. Scientology and Mormonism are two religions with rather large followings that we know are just made up. What’s to say that other religious texts don’t have the exact same origins?
I made the conclusion that all religion was man made. There was no divine intervention in their constructions. Whatever. I have found inspiration in a great many authors. The authors of the Bible, the Koran or Dianetics don’t necessarily have to be any different. I can search those books for words of wisdom and I have no problem with that. It doesn’t mean that I am accepting that a deity tagged some dude to write stuff down. It simply means that the author wrote a little gem that I like and find truth in. There’s no harm in that. Over time, I’ve come to find that there is harm in it. Some people have taken it upon themselves to interpret these religious tomes in an effort to further their own agendas and to manipulate people into subservience.
Often times in our stories, there are ‘click’ moments. A bit of information makes its way across our brains and things just ‘click’ into place. I’ve had plenty of those. And then I can think of a moment when it wasn’t a ‘click’ I was experiencing, but rather a ‘snap’….An incident where I just snapped. When my daughter was 4, her mother found a babysitter that would watch her in the evenings. On Saturdays, this babysitter would take her to church with her and her family. I wasn’t a big fan of that, but finding daycare providers that work nights is close to impossible, so I swallowed it. One day, my daughter says that they are going to go to Heaven because they are the ‘chosen ones’. I don’t know why that hit me so wrong, but I snapped and came unglued on my daughter’s mother for letting this babysitter fill my child’s head with stuff like that. I did calmly explain to my daughter that it doesn’t work that way. If a plane of never ending bliss exists, it isn’t reserved for the people who belong to one group or another. You have to be a good person. Who you hang around with has nothing to do with it. And that is when I recognized that one of the biggest problems in the world is that we have a large population of people who will have their sins forgiven and get eternal rewards not for what they do in life but for what club they belong to.