Originally posted by Pullhard
Those of you who have a religious belief. How did it come about?
Did you wake up one day and even tho you had never heard of Catholism, you realised this thing called Catholism is the way. Or do you honestly believe you were born with this belief and right from infancy knew of this Christian God?
Did you have a spiritual experience that made you real ...[text shortened]... , I've never asked it before, but when you think about it, it is the most important one to ask.
I grew up Protestant Christian. Aside from Sunday school and a couple years of catechism, I learned it by conditioning and “osmosis.” To be anything else was as unthinkable—literally—as unthinkable as picking your nose in public. When I began to understand that there were people who were not Christian (Jews in our community, for example), it seemed a non sequiter
: “What does that mean not to be a Christian? I don’t understand?” It was that “thick.”
It’s a long time ago to remember, but it seemed that at a fairly early age, I started to learn that my existence was flawed, that my very being-here had to be justified somehow. There was a certain amount of “puritanism” mixed in with Lutheran justification theology. I was fundamentally flawed (filled with original sin), there was nothing to do but believe as hard as I could and hope for God’s grace, but also realize that my whole life was under the obligation of justification—to anyone, to everyone, an obligational demand that could never be satisfied, a justification that could not be fulfilled till I died. (I’m not claiming this is standard Lutheran stuff; I don’t think it is, except for justification by faith.) And, I must say, behind it all was a (thin in my case) veil of fear: if you didn’t believe (think) right, you might not be saved….
Pretty depressing stuff. And I was depressed a lot, “guilty” a lot. I would try my best at something, fail or only partially succeed, and feel deep shame. There was a really deep philosophical and theological message that let me know I could never “get it right.” And when you’re woven so deep in it, you can’t see out of it.
Later, I began my own project of studying other religions. This was not something that was really encouraged, unless of course you held yourself to studying them through a properly Christian lens—making sure you stay on the “us” side of the “us/them” line, applying all your critical faculties to those other religions, faculties that you were never
taught to apply to your own.
Well, I won’t belabor this, and I don’t want to do more biography than the question seems to ask for (and, quite frankly, I just don’t want to cover all the details). I’ve had “spiritual” experiences that seemed to open me up to some insights. They have no particular religious attachment to them; they may come from the “deep unconscious” or whatever. But they have helped me to be more open and questioning. So have the debates on here.
Some people find it easier to “unpeel” their early conditioning than others, I suppose. And I do not
say that those, such as lucifershammer, who ultimately returned to the spiritual paradigm of their childhood, somehow did not succeed in that unpeeling. I also know people who grew up as well-conditioned atheists, who moved in the opposite direction in adulthood. But I read somewhere once that, if a child is not exposed to languages other than the primary language of their culture by some fairly early age, the “architecture” of the brain that would normally be used in that process either atrophies or is redirected—so that it is much more difficult to learn other languages later in life (given such things as talent, natural proclivities, etc.). That might be a good metaphor for my “spiritual” journey, and the difficult process it has been for me to open up those “neural pathways” that were set in hard casings so early on—then again, I might just be a slow learner, or a more fearful “clinger” than others.
You can label me today “agnostic,” I suppose, if you need the label (some of you will see this as a change from when I first began to post here; and I hope I’m still changing, still moving). Zen Buddhist/Taoist perhaps—though again, I really find less and less use for the labels. I’m here—with our without justification—and I have a lot more serenity and harmony and eudaimonia
in my life than I ever did before the age of about 40.
I’m not attacking anyone’s beliefs or understanding; as Omnislash points out, we each have our path to walk, our questions to ask, our journey through life to make. I really have little to defend. As a Zen Master once said: “Just put it all down.” Well, I’ve put a lot of it down—and it generally is an error when I pick a piece of it back up again (but KneverKnight and frogstomp will surely point it out to me!).
I offer a poem to just sum it up. This was written just a little while back, after spending too much time on the forum here. For background, there is a Buddhist saying about enlightenment and religious practice/methodology, that says: “Once you’ve crossed the river, you can leave the boat.” The second stanza of this poem came all at once under the circumstances described:
After words, a while ago,
went out to gaze at misty stars—
There is no boat!
There is no river!
There is no this
Or other shore!
You can interpret that how you will. Thanks for the thread question, and your indulgence with this overlong response; I’m sure it was more helpful for me to write it than for anyone else to read it.