Wednesday, May 3, 2006

"Losing My Religion..."

My personal religious history has led me to a state of profound agnosticism. Raised Catholic, “born again” as a twenty-something; baptized in The Church as an infant and in an elder’s swimming pool as a consenting adult, I have been steeped in both the dogma and the charisma. But, battered and beaten by years and tears, the core concepts of religion became harder and harder for me to swallow without question. Eventually, I arrived at a place where I was so deep into unbelief that nothing short of an intimate chat with a burning bush was likely to penetrate my skepticism.

Milestone birthdays have a way of causing sudden, urgent reevaluation of one’s past, present, and future. Turning fifty touched off an odd chain reaction in what is left of my mind; I suddenly realized that mortality was all too certain and (relatively) imminent. I felt an urgent need to explore the concepts of spirituality and the afterlife, if only to keep myself from becoming paralyzed by the fear of death. Also, I’d been suffering from a feeling of real isolation in my life; I envisioned that becoming part of a community of believers would be a side benefit of my search. I believed I craved that “human connection.”

My spiritual odyssey came to an abrupt end when I realized that the timing—not just my personal timing, but the universal timing—for such a quest was all wrong. Human connection? What was I thinking? What connections do today’s organized religions offer us? War? Murder? Ostracism? Ritualized bigotry? Hatred? Turn on the television or radio. Read the news. From every window on the world, violence and hatred in the name of some group’s perception of God devastates the landscape.

Christians hating Muslims. Muslims killing Jews. Sunni despising Shi’ite. Evangelicals bashing Catholics. Fundamentalists straining to drag us all back into the Dark Ages. It’s painfully obvious that the path to peace, progress and harmony does not lie in the direction of organized religion. It’s entirely possible that the continued existence of the human race might depend upon us eschewing religion altogether.

Yet, old habits do die hard. For years, even as my agnosticism grew, it was important to me that the Christ I had been spoon-fed from birth retain some aspect of deity. I held to the conviction that for Jesus Christ—or any prophetic figure of any faith—to have been remembered, much less venerated for so many centuries, there must have been something, some mystic connection to the Creator that gave his story such amazing staying power. But even that rationalization has been given the lie by the bizarre happenings here in our own country over the last five years.

We have witnessed first-hand the power of groupthink and political pressure, and the ability of talented individuals with hidden agendas to manipulate the emotions of entire populations of frightened or disillusioned people. We have seen for ourselves what happens when a party gathers unto itself enough power to literally turn its every whim into the law of the land. We’ve seen them turn lies into truths which people will embrace to the point of martyrdom.

The antics of our current national leadership have given us a glimpse into a degree of domination and corruption we never thought to witness in this society which touts itself as the beacon of freedom and enlightenment to an errant world. But, beyond that, they have made me completely re-evaluate the phenomena of historically prominent spiritual figures. Like Jesus Christ. Or Moses. Or Mohammed. Or Baha’ullah, or the Angel Moroni, or Jim Jones. The right political climate could make any society desperate for a savior. Or make a prophet out of almost anyone. Even George W. Bush. Just ask him.

How sad that the human race is on a course to destroy itself with the very code it created to keep from destroying itself. Religion is ever the double-edged sword. Perhaps the edge that refined and controlled human behavior has been wielded to the point of permanent bluntness. And now we hold the other side of the blade to our own throats.


  1. Oh, Lisa.  Where should I start?

  2. You would probably love Spong. He's a retired Episcopalian bishop. He's also of the opnion that worship is one thing. Religion is most definitely something else. Unfortunately my brains are usually too fried to make sense of most of this stuff during the week. Actually by Thursday "see Spot run." is about all I can manage.

    You'd probably love Meister Eckhart too. He dodged the heretic accusation (narrowly). I'll work on that list I promised. Happy to lend anytning that sounds interesting.


  3. I'm not sure I believe in the organized religion anymore either, but I do believe in God.

  4. sunflowerkat321May 3, 2006 at 4:22 PM

    If we could dump religion and just hang onto our personal spirituality...we'd all be a lot better off.

  5. Well....I suppose I should respond in my own blog, and maybe I will eventually.  I don't want to start a debate in yours.  But I will say that the Christian church and culture and the Jewish faith and culture are such repositories of intellectual, artistic, theological and spiritual richness that to dismiss them in favor of personal spirituality alone is to miss -- um -- a lot.  Not that one shouldn't have a personal spirituality.  But there is so much mystery beyond us.  

    As far as the other suggestions -- I've heard Spong speak several times.  Intriguing on occasion but incredibly arrogant.  Eckhardt is pretty difficult.   (Well, ok, just because I find him almost inaccesible doesn't mean you would.  But I took a six-week course an Eckhardt and sort of -- zoom -- right over my head.)  You might like Thomas Merton better.

    You are only seeing the worst of organized religion, Lisa.  There is certainly war and violence and hatred among world religions, and there is certainly inanity in the local church.  But there is So Much More.

    I have pretty much concluded that most of what we see and experience here is pretty much the opposite of what is really going on, but it has taken me years of persistence to get there.  Do you really want to give in to cynicism and bitterness?  You're only 50!

    I apologize if I sound like a sanctimonious idiot.

  6. lightyears2venusMay 3, 2006 at 9:02 PM

    I go to an Episcopal church, but am agnostic. I love the people (many social/political liberals like myself), standing in line for communion, the architecture, the liturgy, the garden, the chance to do good deeds, the discussions, holding hands with my husband in a pew for an hour a week, references in the sermons to Michael Moore and U2, the seasonal traditions, silently "praying" for forgiveness, succor, protection for others and expressing gratitude.  Maybe that seems odd, so hypocritical, casting a blind eye to the big picture.  It used to bother me, thinking about every single thing you mention, plus the thought that somehow it was my flaw that I couldn't let go and pry open my head and heart to faith.  But I have found peace with my way.  

  7.  please dont blame Religion for things people do in "its" name. That is kinda like blaming Jody Foster for getting Reagan shot. Crazy people do stuff in the name of whatever they think will legitamize the actions.   Be fore warned here...Hillary is getting ready to very to win some of those red states.

  8. You seem to take the position that using religion as a reason for justifying wars, murders, and all sorts of heinous acts toward others is a new development. (And seemingly blame President Bush to a large degree. Ah, but I shan't get into that with you. I read your "About Me" section, and know better than to go that route.)

    The sorry fact is that religious wars have been going on for years upon years upon years. Visit Ireland. How many hundreds of years have they been warring over religion?

    Nothing is new except the means in which man kills and maims. But, I cannot and will not accept that disbelieving in God is the answer to the madness that exists. In fact, if religion were entirely out of the picture, I honestly believe there would be other reasons to do the same things...just in the name of something else.

    And, by the way, "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M. is a great tune! ::smile::