Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Religion

The comments on my last post have given me a great deal to think about. In asking what people use as possible avenues to serenity, most have mentioned prayer or meditation. That got me to thinking about my own religious background.

I grew up in a home without any religious education at all. My father was agnostic, and Mama was a lapsed Catholic when they married. Since she was so young when I was born (just 19), I think the difficulty of being the wife of a military officer and the mother of two young children (which eventually became six) caused it to just fall by the wayside. We moved around my whole childhood. Religion was never an issue; in fact, I never felt the lack of it when I was a youngster.

There are pictures of my sister and me dressed up for Easter when we were 4 and 7, and I guess we went to church, but maybe we just went to somebody's home and searched for Easter eggs in a backyard. It's a mystery to me -- and nobody ever told me what Easter was really about. But when I was 17 or 18, somewhere in there, I discovered religion. I read St. John of the Cross who was a Spanish mystic in the 16th century. He wrote "Dark Night of the Soul" and I was attracted to the title. Interesting what pulls us into major life shifts, isn't it? Here's a quote from my favorite source, Wikipedia:
St. John of the Cross is considered one of the foremost poets in the Spanish language. Although his complete poems add up to less than 2500 verses, two of them—the Spiritual Canticle and Dark Night of the Soul are widely considered to be among the best poems ever written in Spanish, both for their formal stylistic point of view and their rich symbolism and imagery.
I immediately began to look for a church and was drawn to the Episcopal Church when we were living in Albany, Georgia. The vicar, Father Shipps, came to our home and eventually I and all my siblings were regular attendees. I then got married and moved away, but the religious seed that had been planted in my family continued to grow, and I believe all of my siblings are either Christians or agnostics (claim neither faith nor disbelief in a higher power).

As an impressionable young woman, I was always seeking out some form of spiritual guidance. I have the dubious honor of having been saved four times by Billy Graham. I went to Catholic churches, charismatic ones, Southern Baptist, you name it. I learned a lot, but I never found anything that I felt was my journey, not someone else's.

During my hippie years, I meditated and went in several different directions: Ram Dass for awhile, week-long vision quests, retreats. When I lived in Boulder I got involved with the Urantia brotherhood and read that long book. A Course in Miracles was my path for awhile and I went through the entire series. And then I started skydiving, and everything else fell by the wayside, except my job, which I needed just to keep jumping. I was no longer a hippie, I had a job, a career, and an avocation that took all my energy and extra time. That was in 1990.

Today, I jump occasionally for fun. It no longer has the central place in my life it occupied for almost two decades. I am now retired from my career. That's gone, too. But all those years as a seeker have left within me a deep and abiding faith. I call on it daily, and I also pray and believe that I am heard. No, I actually believe that God is everywhere, and that when I pray I attune myself to hear God. And now I am drawn to read books like The Intention Experiment and other books considered to be the current new-age equivalent.

What brought you to your present state? Have I got any fellow travelers who arrived here, but took another path?
:-)

20 comments:

  1. I was also an Air Force Brat who moved away every couple of years. My mom was a Catholic but only went to church a few times a year.She said she lost her faith the day her Father died. I did not delve into the psychiatry of that statement. But she had me baptised, had me have my First Communion and a quickie 2 week course to have me Confirmed. When I was getting ready for First communion the Priest tried to sexually assualt me. (I got away, unharmed but scared). After it happened no one talked about it in my family. I never saw the Priest except at the First Communion ceremony.
    I never went to church except on Easter and Christmas until I had the quickie course before being Confirmed. My husband is Catholic, but went to parochial school. It was a nightmare for him. It was traumatic for him. He is almost aethiest now.
    I am very spiritual even after all of this. But I will never belong to an "organized" religion. I see too much hyprocrisy in many of the aspects of it.
    I know there has to be a Higher Power. I believe we are energy, and that energy goes someplace when we die. I tend to believe in an afterlife and/or reincarnation, depending on whether we make that choice to come back and try and better ourselves.
    I have no doubt that I will meet the souls of my parents and others that have died before me at some point in the future.

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  2. I would have to say that I have always been searching, as well. I've tried different religions, but the only one that came close to what I believed was Unity or Unitarian. Buddhism comes very close to most of my belief system, but not completely.

    Like you, I am interested in science and spirituality. I think the two are beginning to meet in the middle.

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  3. What an interesting faith journey you have had. I am alwasy fascinated to learn how people end up where they are, especially in their beliefs.

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  4. I am a born again Christian. I was saved at age 10. At 18 I fell out of the church as a way of teenage protest, but I never ever felt fulfilled away from church. Only when I returned to my faith did I feel any source of peace in my life.

    I have not been faithful in church attendance, but in my heart I have a relationship with Jesus. I can not count the number of times that I have had prayers answered. My life is still a struggle because of disability and other issues, but I have been blessed abundantly. I believe once a relationship with the Lord develops all doubt and confusion about which path to follow disappears. The course becomes obvious. Although I waver, I am trying to maintain the course.

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  5. Joan, that is some story! If I had been through that sort of introduction to organized religion, I would feel the same. Your spirituality is very obvious (I would even say your pictures reek of it) and I love your sense of humor and joie de vivre!

    Nancy, we have followed very similar paths. I consider myself aligned with Unitarianism too, and on my Facebook page decided to identify myself as one, although I'm still looking for the right place here in Bellingham.

    Amy, welcome! I see you are already a follower and I went to your website and left a comment. Romantic novels with an inspirational twist, huh?

    Rae, I know you are blessed, it comes through in your writings. You are blessed with talent and a very unique ability to communicate through your blog. I'm glad to hear that if I keep on truckin' I'll stop wondering which path to follow. I believe that too.

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  6. Yes, I believe that when I pray God hears me. And when I listen for Him, He speaks to me. Many people pray, but few listen. I think that makes the difference.

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  7. For me the greatest peace and serenity comes from spending time with nature.

    I consider myself to be a spiritual person but not religious. That feeling might come from growing up in a small town and hearing one thing preached by the pastor and elders of the church on Sunday and then hearing the local gossip about what they were doing the other six days (and nights) of the week. Or in another church in Alaska when the Youth Director was arrested for molesting his five year old daughter. There are many more examples. I do not care for organized religion.

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  8. Hi DJ,

    I am not a religious person, I am a Catholic but I miss hearing mass, I don't read the Bible, I don't say the rosaries like some Catholic devotees do. I just pray but not constantly, but when I do...I'm like a little child talking to a loving Father.

    AL

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  10. D-Jan,always asking interesting questions.I can see you have tried different things and read many intriguing books.I sugguest you read the bible from start -finish,just read it like any other book.

    I found what was written there was actually true,as archaeological reports and other historical documents support it.God is watching whether we belive it or not. So, christian I am .May you find what your looking for.MY e-mail id charminegirl@gmail.com

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  11. One more thing,be guided by the bible not the pastor.God can explain it better.

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  12. Wicca for me. I now have a religion where I don't need a priest to show me the way to the door. I have a direct link to the Goddess and that's the way I like it. Trees, animals, nature, that's the way for me.
    Blessings, Star

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  13. Please stop by my blog. It is award time.

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  14. I was raised Anglican but always felt there was something more. I searched and found the Baha'i faith. I was attracted by the message of peace and equality...equality among all people regardless of what sex, colour, culture or faith...and the belief that we all worship the same God.

    I call myself Baha'i-Christian, as the stature of Christ is both recognized. respected, and honoured.

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  15. Another thought provoking post...
    I was raised in the church, Methodist actually. I am thankful to my parents for that because it has provided such a strong foundation.
    About the time I went to college I was already questioning a great deal of what I'd been taught. I began to read and study more, and I continued to question my beliefs. In my early twenties I lost sight of everything and went through quite a bit of personal upheaval. In the aftermath of that I began to read and study even more. I learned to listen to my feelings; some things I come across resonate with truth (for me, at least).
    Like several of the others who commented, I term myself more spiritual than religious. My beliefs tend to change as I learn or experience new things. Not to say I'm wishy washy but I keep an open mind and make room for new beliefs to slip in with the old. Or alter the old beliefs so that the new ones fit.
    I know enough to know I do not know much at all.

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  16. My lifelong spiritual quest has been circuitous through many of the Christian denominations when as a teen and young adult I sought opportunities to sing in excellent choirs. On my 22nd birthday (a long time ago) the man who was to become my first husband took me to a Unitarian-Universalist church service and I stayed there until my children were raised. The U-U church honors questions more than answers and expects beliefs to be acted upon. Over many years I've studied many religions, have adopted a few meditation practices, and am once again active in a U-U Congregation just so I can be in community with free thinkers. My mother taught me that the Golden Rule is all one needs to live a moral or ethical life. She is an atheist. I believe in Love and the wholeness of the universe.
    I read and hear many speak of their religions, all of which teach the Golden Rule, yet I see it practiced so little.....
    A quote from whom I do not remember: "God created the world and the devil organized it." Obviously I'm not a religious bureaucrat......

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  17. I am back home after another little trip these last 3 days - to North Carolina. I am catching up with your posts and as usual they are very interesting and make one think. My grandfather was the one who talked to me about religion (my mother’s father) and I shall have a post on him some time. He had a Bible and would show me all the passages that contradicted each other – and there are a lot. Then he gave me books that showed that so much of the history could not be proven. He made me find sources for everything so that I would “know’ rather than “believe” which is quite different. Of course it is different in my country of youth as people in Europe are not so religious as here, as the USA is the most religious country in the western world. I remember well one of our instructor who went to Italy to give courses for 3 months. When he came back I asked him what surprised him the most about his stay. He was a Catholic and told me that he could not believe how few people went to church in Italy, he was very astonished. The reverse is true. Many foreign trainees here, when I asked them what surprised them the most about the USA, told me that it was the religion. They were quite surprised at the number of churches and about the fact that people talked about it so much. In Europe only about 10% of people go to church, some a bit more, some a bit less (and it is considered a very private matter.) Here it is more like 60% or more. It’s quite an interesting subject.

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  18. A little long, but maybe I'll be the last to comment and everybody else won't have to read this. ;-)

    Since I'm your brother, I'm quite sure you know I'm a Christian. I'm also a member of the United Methodist church, which, in general, and along with several other "mainstream" denominations, is less conservative than some of the more politically visible denoms. We place a little more emphasis on tolerance, open-mindedness, forgiveness, grace. But again, I'm speaking in generalities, as the people who make up our membership tend to cover a wide range of beliefs. We're only human.

    To me, religion has always been a personal thing defined by my unique relationship with the creator, and with his created world, a relationship that has taken many forms over the decades. United Methodism is a good place for me to belong, but except for the Christian alignment, it doesn't really define my personal religion. "Organized" religion (i.e., any group of two more more people trying to standardize, formalize, and/or spread their religious beliefs) is often going to produce problems because religious people are still just people, and people in groups will always struggle with relational and other challenges.

    Of course, truly deep beliefs about anything can be fuel thrown onto the fires of relational challenges, and we all know that religious beliefs in particular have fueled many wars and much hatred. It's stupid.

    But religious fellowship can also be incredibly rewarding and important. It doesn't have to be bad, even though people (in ANY kind of group) will always manage to screw things up to some extent. I attend church to form friendships, relationships, to learn from others, but I still consider my religion to be primarily a personal thing.

    I believe the Biblical writers were inspired, just as many people today are inspired, but I also believe those writers were human beings who were very susceptible to the religious and cultural biases of their times. Some of their writings reflect those biases. Scripture is still sacred to me, but not in the unbending way many consider it to be sacred. I believe God speaks truth through all of creation (also sacred), through all people and things. We must understand that truth comes to us wrapped in mystery, that we will often find truth by examining and re-examining not just the beauty of life, of this world, but also the pain, the struggle, the suffering, the often ugly imperfections of humanity. Our understanding of God's reasons will always be limited, and I think we should simply trust him, and believe that he loves us.

    I'm a Christian because I believe in the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, taking our punishment upon himself and making it possible for us to be credited with his righteousness instead. It's a trade that we can choose to receive, even though we don't deserve it, a trade that I believe the Father will honor. But I don't believe God has limited himself to a single, exclusive method of reaching out to people, of calling people, of sharing life with people. He can reach people from different religions, or people with no religious labels at all.

    I'm a Christian because I believe in the amazing and compassionate example set by Jesus, an example I almost always fail miserably to emulate, an example that is often hard to see in the Christian church (which sometimes seems - to me - to be following the example of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes with whom Jesus constantly struggled), but again, I guess we're just human. And the grace and love of God is sufficient.

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  19. I am a Christian and find my greatest security and comfort in my relationship with Christ. I could not go forward without the faith I find IN him, and because of him.

    I was taught a very warped Christianity when I was in my home of origin. But I didn't want someone else's warped teachings to substitute for the truth of God's Word through the Bible. That would be a huge price to pay. That would make THEM my God. I'm glad I didn't let that keep me from a true relationship. What a tragedy that would have been! What would I do without the hope that is within me?

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  20. First...

    Thanks for your visit to my Pick a Peck of Pixels Blog and for your comment there about the squirrel with one ear stuck flat down on its head. She is sitting in the snow eating a peanut. Pick a Peck of Pixels

    You will find what you seek since you are looking. I pity those who were born into a Catholic home or a Methodist home -- most take on the religion of their fathers or parents and never look beyond home for guidance. I began studying religion and sects a long time ago and came to the conclusion that the beliefs of the Native Americans come close to what I believe. It is risky to dwell in spiritualism as that opens doors to things you do not need in your life.

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