A Heavy Post on my Spiritual Belief System

There have been a number of occasions where I’ve felt a little hesitant to post things on my blog, but I usually go ahead and do it anyway. Most of you know that sometimes have a tendency to become the definition of all sorts of cliché: heart on sleeve, to thine own self be true… but I think that despite overuse, there’s a reason those words stick in our collective memories. They stick because they’re words to live by.  I know that by speaking out on certain topics, I may risk alienation, attack or judgment. But I also know that the moment I choose to keep quiet, I cease to be real, and allow fear to control my actions. As an amazing man once said, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  We all have opinions, voices, and feelings, and if our intent is simply to leave our mark on the world by saying “this is who I am,” or put something out there in hopes of bettering it, then I don’t think we have anything to be afraid of. In the blogosphere, so many shy away and play it safe. We forget sometimes that we’re all behind computer screens and unlike in day to day living, we are in total control of the image we project to the world. It can reflect the best fifty percent of a person’s real life, yet if it’s all that’s written about, an audience will believe it to be a hundred. But my words are my footprint, and it’s important to me that they don’t just reflect a toe. 

With that caveat, I feel the time has come for me to write about one of the most personal things to each and every one of us. It’s impossible I think for anyone to agree absolutely entirely with another person’s belief system, but I don’t think anyone should be judged for what they accept to be true. Religion, faith, and spirituality are such a taboo topic that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start, but over the last few years, I’ve been searching for my own spirituality, and trying to find what makes the most sense to me. I must admit how difficult it is to make this public, because it’s not something I’ve really talked about with anyone at all. I suppose I should start with a little bit of a back story.

Growing up, religion wasn’t something that was ever really a big part of my life. My parents were on their own spiritual journeys and hadn’t really arrived at anything concrete, and though they visited temples and read books and filled the house with bronze statues of Hindu goddesses, spirituality seemed more of an ongoing quest than an established belief system. We never went to church, even at Christmas – we’d usually escape to a cottage up in the mountains, where the holiday season would be spent watching BBC specials, visiting country towns with cobblestone streets, and throwing ourselves down hills on two-man toboggans in utter glee at the sight of real snow. Christmas, as a child, wasn’t about going to church or visiting ten different family functions – it was about escaping with mum and dad, and celebrating our togetherness on our own.  The funny thing is that growing up in our house, it seems Christianity was almost condemned.

Soon after we arrived in Canada, one parent’s religious life took a sharp turn from spiritually curious to full on born again Christian. It came suddenly, and along with it, sadly, a noticeable divide in our family – but that’s another story for another time. Suffice to say, the course of events at the time furthered my initial belief that organised religion only drove people apart, and it was something I wanted nothing to do with.  Fast-forward through my early twenties, and after a series of pretty damaging relationships, I hit rock bottom. It’s not something I’m proud of nor something I’m ready to fully share with the world. But it was a wake-up call that I needed something else in my life because my own coping mechanisms were inoperational. I needed to know why these things happened, why people came into my life to leave such destruction in their wake, why I kept getting in too deep with the wrong people. I needed to know the purpose of it all, and for the first time I found myself praying. To whom or what, I had no idea. I just sat alone in my apartment, looking out of the window in the middle of the night, and praying for change and understanding.

In walked my then ex-boyfriend of about five years. Someone I hadn’t seen for years, and someone who also seemed to be the most religious person I knew. Something about him was different – he brought a calmness and a spirit of composure I hadn’t seen before. It seemed that no matter what life could throw at him, he would be okay, and the biggest reason for his comfort, steadfastness and assurance seemed to be his faith. I didn’t understand what it could be like to think of everything in life happening according to the reasons and schedule of some higher power, but I was curious. So I started asking questions, somehow landed myself at a job that happened to be a faith-based organisation, and started going to church with my new boyfriend.

Now, it did happen to be a Catholic church, and though I went on many occasions, I never felt truly connected. But I wanted to. I kept trying, kept going through the motions, but that’s all it ever felt like. So I stopped. As the months turned into years and my relationship with this man grew more serious, I started to worry. How would we possibly fully unite as a couple when our core belief systems were different? If we ever got married, how would we raise children – would we give them his religious upbringing, knowing I was pretty set against parts of it and couldn’t believe them, let alone teach them, or would we raise them more like my own experience, giving them the freedom to grow into the faith of their choosing based on an openness to everything? I think this freedom is a good thing, but I also wonder how different some of my more challenging years may have been if faith was something that had been introduced to me at an earlier age. It was a big worry, and probably the catalyst that launched me into focusing on finding a belief system I could get behind.  When I look at other inter-faith marriages, I can’t help but wonder how they do it. People convert to foreign religions for the sake of their partners, but how do they suddenly fully support this new set of beliefs that are sometimes the polar opposite of their entire upbringing? People also get married and keep their own individual belief systems, knowing they differ from their spouse, and manage to make it work too. I wonder if they also struggle with the thought of how to integrate this divide into the raising of a child someday.  But that’s a bridge to cross further down the line.

Over the last few years, I definitely think I’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve visited different churches, read different books, and found things I can believe in, as well as things I simply can’t. And that’s okay. The biggest thing I’ve learned personally is that labels don’t work. There are so many denominations under the umbrella of Christianity that I can’t help but feel are self-defeating; to me, what’s important in the religion you choose to follow is that you live your life in accordance with who you believe your God would want you to be. By sticking a label of “Catholic”, “Anglican”, “Seventh Day Adventist” or whatever onto yourself, you acknowledge that you are different from everyone who believes anything other than you, and subsequently participate in the continuation of human division. Instead of uniting and focusing on the main principles of Christianity (such as faith, belief in a higher power, forgiveness, service toward others, etc.), people get caught up in the politics of what makes “my” denomination different from “yours”. And that simply doesn’t work for me. The album cover of one of my favourite bands seems to capture it perfectly:


It’s okay to be different and to believe different things; our differences are what make us such a diverse and interesting race! But when those differences are seen more as factually right than a personal belief system, we breed intolerance, division and judgment. I acknowledge that there are lots of different belief systems out there. I fully support ideas and teachings and ways of living from many spiritual and religious sectors – most of the fundamendal principles of Christianity make sense to me, as does a lot of Taoism and Buddhism. I believe in God; a creator. I believe that the figure of Jesus probably was historically here and brought an amazing message to the human race, and aimed for those teachings to carry on in the hopes of people of this world living by that example. By living with love and compassion to all, by refusing to living according to the opinions of others, and by loving everyone unconditionally. Even the haters. But I also believe that people today have allowed secular distortions and personal opinions intertangle with history for their own personal agendas. I believe that the ego has a lot to do with a lot of people’s “religious actions” and that truly, the God I believe in is separate from that. I believe in souls. I believe in the power of prayer, and I believe the universe is big enough, vast enough, amazing enough and delivers enough to be called God. But it doesn’t matter; ultimately I believe in a higher power who sometimes has a hand in orchestrating our life’s events in the hopes of messages being heard and lessons being learned, with the aim always being to somehow better the human race and make this a planet of love, not hate. I also believe in science. As the same brilliant man I mentioned earlier once said, “science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.” Popular scientist Carl Sagan had a further reflection, which sums up my feelings perfectly: “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”


I think it’s a shame that sometimes people get so caught up with the secular politics that they forget what’s really important. When asked if I “practice my faith”, I’ve been met with scorn when I say “define ‘practice’”. To me, practising my faith isn’t going to a building and listening to someone else speak for an hour if it doesn’t evoke some sort of intrinsic meaning. The God I believe in doesn’t judge if you practice and believe in your own way. To me, I practice my faith by educating myself, by praying on my own terms, and by living the life I believe I was meant to. I practice by pushing myself beyond what’s comfortable and seeing just how far I can go with what was bestowed upon me, because if everyone boxed themselves into what’s comfortable and never challenged themselves to reach their potential, the rest of the world could be deprived of some wonderful gifts.  I practice by spending my Christmas Eves driving around the scariest area of the city trying to help those without warm homes or families. I practice by never actively causing pain or suffering or hurt to another. I practice by working in a position that pays peanuts but ultimately allows me to help society’s less fortunate become something more. I don’t believe in a judging God who sends people to Hell if they don’t go to church, or sends them to heaven if they dress up in nice clothes every Sunday, drive by the homeless shelters, spend an hour in a flashy church with its own TV channel yet perpetuate intolerance of others. I believe in open-mindedness and respect of all, regardless of sex, religion, orientation or race. It positively broke my heart once  reading a post by a friend of mine:

Overwhelmed, I broke down into tears as the Father stood up to speak. I swear the lady beside me with the Gucci Purse and Dolce glasses must have thought I was either crazy or just really touched by the homily. What struck me as fascinating however, not to mention psychologically revealing, was the fact that I was crying not because I was sad, happy or finally at peace; but because I was furious. Feeling the anger rise inside of me, I became enraged at the fact a person could ever think to say “Peace be with you, but not with you.” Inflamed, I felt like standing up and screaming as loud as I could into the heavens, “SCREW YOU GOD FOR TURNING YOUR BACK ON ME WHEN I NEEDED YOU THE MOST.” But instead, I knelt down like everyone else and prayed until I got distracted by the fact that I needed to cut my nails.

I remember the day in grade twelve when I went to see my counselor for the first time to tell her I thought I was bisexual. (Missing story detail: my high school was all-boys and Catholic). The second I took the seat across from her, my eyes zeroed in on a pamphlet pinned up against her wall that read “So you think you might be gay?” Relieved by the sight, I felt hope that all my life’s questions might be answered within the three folds of that photocopied paper. A week later when I arrived for my next appointment the pamphlet was gone. Not able to help myself, I asked her where it went. “Father Director came in the other day and once he flipped through it, decided it did not accord with Catholic principles and took it down.”

Reconciling one’s Catholic identity with their gay identity is more often than not, a losing battle. I mean, you try getting off with another man while thinking about eternal damnation and tell me that you don’t throw in the towel. But it is in my belief that faith is a dark mystery that one should not be born into, but rather fight their entire lives to shed light upon. Because ultimately, the one thing I had in common with everyone else standing beside me (other than a nice outfit and knack for repression) was that I believed I could be a better person, and hopefully make the world a better place in the process. 

On the subject of homosexuality and religion, over the weekend I came across an excellent short video. Representative Steve Simon (DFL Hopkins/St. Louis Park) says a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment is largely about religion. He says if sexual orientation is innate as science is showing us, and not a lifestyle choice, then God created gay people. He asks how many gay people must God create before we accept that he wants them around.  A commenter on the YouTube channel said it brilliantly: “Believing in something and actively degrading an entire subset of a population are two entirely different things. Go ahead and believe homosexuality is wrong, I could care less. But when you try and take away rights, and make homosexuals inferior by law, that is when we fight back.”   Earlier, I mentioned Ghandi, and he doesn’t simply inspire the words on my e-mail signature, but said it perfectly when he uttered the words “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” There are a lot of absolutely wonderful and inspiring Christians who do incredible things, who truly embody and live out the values that will make this world a better place. But I think there are also a lot who have it all wrong.  To me, labels don’t work. I can’t stick one on myself if I am not 100% certain that I can be behind absolutely everything in a denomination’s mandate. There’s a lot from lots of belief systems that makes sense to me, and there’s a bit that doesn’t. So, when Facebook asks me what my religious beliefs are?  The box is a little too small. I’ll say spirituality. Equality. Kindness. Non-judgment. Servanthood. Faith in a higher power. Faith in fact. But above everything, respect, interconnectedness, unconditional love, harmony and open-mindedness. Because without that, I don’t think the world can ever move forward.

I lay out my beliefs today not to convert or to challenge, simply to state that this is who I am. If you’re comfortable, I’m interested to hear about your beliefs and how you arrived at where you are today. If not, then all I can say is thank you, for your time and understanding. I promise never to write such a long post again. 🙂

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55 comments

  1. Christianity is something I’ve struggled with for years. I found myself drawn towards it, but everytime I would get closer, I found myself finding things that made me want to go away. Eventually, I came to realize that this was insanity. So then, I decided to move towards the one faith that I was always drawn to and never found any qualms with: Buddhism (I realize there are people who cry when they read this comment, but please, let me be.)

    I am now part of a Buddhist community here in Atlanta. The most important part of my week is meeting at the Buddhist center where I go to, where we meditate for thirty minutes, listen to a lecture on the Dharma, and discuss it with each other. I love it. I’m also finding ways to grow into my practice of meditation by seeking out retreats. I feel myself become more happy, more open, and more acceptant of everything in my life when I meditate, so it is something I will devote my life to. It is also becoming a heavy topic in my blog, and will be in the future too.

    You need to watch Lost.

    1. Was that last part related? lol 🙂 I’m really intrigued by the fact that you found yourself drawn to Christianity, but every time you got closer, there were things that made you retreat. If I’m being honest, I kind of feel the same way, and I feel like I’m being drawn more toward things like Taoism which I can read and explore and feel 100% like it makes sense… but then again, I feel like if I can identify with the fundamental principles of Christianity and disassociate with the nitty gritty in the denominational divisions, then that seems right too. Thank you for sharing your experience 🙂

  2. This totally creeps me out; this is a topic I’ve been thinking about, and considering doing a post on. I grew up in a Christian household, going to church, although I definitely wouldn’t say we were *especially* religious. My dad, though, went from various stages (at one end devout) to eschewing religious altogether (still an atheist, now, I think). (As for what that means for their relationship, well, I think they have other issues more important than conflicting religious beliefs).

    I haven’t been to church for years and years and honestly, I don’t know what I believe anymore. I believe there is *some* higher power (at this stage I’ll still say God) but spirituality isn’t really a part of my life. My fiance believes in nothing.

    I don’t really know what this means for our kids. It’s not like we’ll be taking them to church, so they’ll have to find their own beliefs. I feel that too many people raised religious turn completely against it, yet those brought up without any religion go seeking it later. What are you meant to do?

    1. That’s totally an interesting point, and something I have to agree with – those raised with it forced upon them turn their backs later (perhaps in rebellion for their freedom?) yet those without do go seeking it. Personally I think the answer lies in giving them both – exposing them to all sorts of different things so they have an open mind and aren’t made to feel like MY way is the only way. Partly because I don’t have a solid “way” yet 🙂

    2. This is a good discussion… I think that teaching them “many” ways, as you say Emily, is teaching them THE way. I think all three of us here are moving towards an open discussion of faith, our purpose, and the deepest and purest of human values, all while exploring it freely with others in discussion. And that is, itself, the practice that we must teach our children. It almost seems that it’s being said in this discussion that doing that is not teaching our kids anything, or bereaving them. But that is not true. You don’t need to go to church every sunday to lead a spiritual, fulfilled life. We can teach them the timeless, universal, spiritual values of compassion, agape, forgiveness, and acceptance–an attitude that is bereft of self-seeking cravings and rejection. But they must practice it, daily, and we must lead them in that practice.

  3. My journey with my spirituality has become pretty bumpy lately, so this post really touches on that.

    I grew up in a family that loosely believed in Catholicism. We didn’t go to church, but we generally believed in God and Jesus and my brother and I attended classes, made first communion and would’ve gone on to be confirmed had we not been pulled from classes (which is a whole separate story, but not really relevant). As a kid, I didn’t really care one way or another about my beliefs – I never really thought about it.

    After going to a Catholic high school (not for religious purposes, but because they were academically better than my local public school), I was yearning for a belief system and found myself vaguely interested in our monthly in-school mass while most of my classmates were half asleep. Once in college, I was encouraged by my best friends to start going to mass every week, and I finally felt that I had started to find my faith. Enter: my ex-boyfriend, who was a born-again Christian. He turned my faith upside down and for a while, I was very lost and confused. But in the end, it was helpful because 1) he got me into the habit of reading the Bible daily and 2) his exuberance for his own beliefs, while overwhelming, made me realize just exactly what I did and didn’t believe.

    Overall, I really agree with what you said here, that people get so caught up in the politics and how well we practice our religion that they miss the main point.

    1. Something you said really hit home here – “his exuberance for his own beliefs, while overwhelming, made me realize just exactly what I did and didn’t believe.” I feel like I’ve experienced something very similar. If my encounter was with someone not so convicted in their beliefs, I probably wouldn’t have been propelled to find out what does and doesn’t work for me…

  4. Well, I am a Christian. I think you know that, I’ve talked about it on my blog from time to time.

    This is my story:

    I grew up Catholic. I STILL have a lot of respect for the Catholic faith, and time-honored traditions, and have noticed that it has become popular to bash Catholicism now-a-days, and that makes me sad.

    But beyond Catholicism, I started going to a non-denomenational Christian church. I am spiritually challenged here everyday, and it is the place for me. My pastor calls us out every sunday, asking us what we do besides church? Since going to this church I’ve volunteered more than I have in my whole life: cancer patients, children’s ministries and ushering. I pray more, I meditate more, I do so much more in the spiritual realm. So I get your point of Christians only going to church and that’s it…but I also ask you to be weary of judging a church based solely on its members. People are imperfect. Sometimes they want to be more spiritual and follow God, but they struggle constantly with their ego. The classic battle of ego vs. spirit wages on, and it will continue to wage on in every religion.

    The one part where I have to disagree with you is that I do believe in a God that judges somewhat. I’ve heard too many people say that they believe in a God that basically lets them do whatever they want. This would mean that we would feel no guilt for adultery, murder, lying, etc. This innate sense of right and wrong comes from God, in my opinion.

    My ultimate goal is to become more holy, meaning closer to God. I think that’s what we all want 🙂 And what I’ve noticed is that the most holy of people are the most humble as well. I have a ways to go! Pride is probably my number one enemy, and my biggest divider from God.

    P.S. I’m glad you are feeling better this week, as you posted on fb 🙂

    1. Thanks, I’m really hoping things will be back to normal soon…

      I agree with you in that innate sense of right and wrong, but I think people take it too far. Judging things like racism and murder etc. is a good thing in that it teaches people that those things are wrong. But judging people if they live their lives as a good person but don’t go to church? Not so much.

      I’d really like to find a non-denominational church similar to yours!

  5. How Many Gays Must God Create Before We Accept That He Wants Them Around?
    My nephew is gay and is a wee hen. In fact as a straight guy myself I have never known anyone that is loved as much as my nephew Robbie. There’s nowt wrong with homos and the only problem in life is those that refuse to accept it.

  6. My mom was brought up catholic and my dad was brought up jewish. Growing up I celebrated the major holidays of both: Christmas and Chanukah, Easter and Passover. However, I didn’t really equate the celebrations to religion (particularly christian ones). The Jewish holidays seemed more like a history lesson of where my ancestors came from.

    When asked, I say that I am Jewish.

    But I think the real truth is that I practice yoga. I go to the make to seek peace and strength. To let go and surrender. To push myself. I go 5 times a week. It’s a holistic practice that involves, eating right, treating people with kindness and compassion (which comes from treating yourself with kindness and compassion) and fostering physical strength and flexibility. I know it sounds odd…but I guess I am a jewish yogi. Who knew?

    1. That’s amazing, and I have a friend who seems much like you – he probably does yoga twice a day every day and is so passionate about how holistic it is, how it focuses on the spirit and strength and our interconnectedness… I may have to explore this a little further 🙂

  7. This was a beautiful post, Emily. Simply stunning.

    Please bear with me as I will undoubtedly ramble on in my response.

    I want to commend you for your courage to speak up about something so inherently personal, something that I see attacked on a daily basis. It’s not easy to put yourself out there like that.

    The line, “the moment I choose to keep quiet, I cease to be real” and the MLK quote really hit home for me. I’ve always said that all the work I do and the overly opinionated person that I am is because I truly and vehemently believe that you must always speak up. Especially when you feel as though you can’t. Especially then because nobody and nothing should ever make you feel as though your voice doesn’t matter, that it isn’t important. It does and it is- and damned if anybody is going to tell you otherwise. I also believe in this so strongly because I don’t think enough people speak up and enough people listen about the things they hold so close to their hearts, things that impact the world on a daily basis. And if you’re not going to voice that, then who is? These issues that matter so much to people- they go unremarked upon, they stay quiet and they stay unrepresented. And that’s unacceptable and heartbreaking all at once.

    I leave my facebook “Religion” spot blank. I suppose I’m an atheist and I certainly don’t believe in organised religion of any sort. I do, however, think that it has incredible power- that is both used to comfort people and alienate them. And my biggest objection with any organised religion is that it believes it is the sole keeper of Truth. As though there is only one Truth. As though we do not each have our own, equally valid, equally beautiful truths.

    I work in sexual and reproductive health and rights. I am told every day that I will go to hell, that God has reserved a special section for heathens like me, for people who kill babies and propagate the “gay agenda”, for “easy” girls like me who think sexuality education is a must- and hey, sex is OK if it’s an informed decision. I get hate mail and veiled threats. I get people coming up to “save” me from myself.

    And on most days, none of this bothers me. I am amused, annoyed, but never really affected by it. I believe in what I’m doing. I know it’s right. Yet, when someone tells me I’m a horrible human being, it hurts a little. I’m an atheist, but I’m a good person. I try to empower people make informed decisions, I try to empower people to lead the lives they’ve dreamed of. I live by my own ethical guidelines on what is right and what is wrong- and I know that at their essence, they don’t differ from the basic tenets of any religious text. So, who gives anybody the right to judge me?

    If I’m wrong and there is a God, I doubt he would be so harsh with his creations. I doubt he would be so judgemental. And I certainly don’t think he would (to quote Rev. Moody) “make chattel out of women” by decreeing “mandatory childbearing”, or denying anyone his love because they’re gay or trans or had an abortion or had sex outside the confines of marriage or got divorced. I think that if there is a God, then he would love more than anyone can ever dream, and in that pure, all encompassing love, he would see the goodness and the humanity in people.

    And that’s what I strive towards: even when I disagree, I try to see the humanity in people. Because it’s beautiful and pure and it makes me believe, not in a higher power, but in people.

    [Sorry about my ramble, feel free not to read]

    1. No, this was an amazing response and I thank you for being so heartfelt and honest!! I loved everything you said, and what really hit home was “…and on most days, none of this bothers me. I am amused, annoyed, but never really affected by it. I believe in what I’m doing. I know it’s right.” I think that’s an ongoing lesson – especially when faced with adversity and judgment, which seem to run rampant in the anonymity of the blogosphere – that if *I* know the truth and *I* know my intentions are good, then the haters should hold no power. It’s definitely something worth reminding ourselves of and I thank you for that today.

  8. Oh, Emily. I know it’s been ages since I’ve commented on your blogging, but I haven’t been blogging much lately in general. I’m sorry. 😛

    But, really. This post makes me want to jump up & down, with happiness, because I loved every word you wrote. You put it so perfectly, in a way I can’t, because I still have too much Christian guilt (which I am working through.) I was raised extremely super strict Christian, and for a long time, when I hit early adulthood, I claimed not to believe in God at all.

    But that’s not true. I DO believe in God. I just don’t believe in church so much! I believe pretty much exactly what you believe; it’s like I could have written this post. There are things about religion that makes me so ANGRY…but that’s an issue for me to deal with, haha. Maybe it’s a righteous anger? Like when Jesus because so angry that they had turned the temple into a place to make money, and overturned the tables? I don’t know. It’s so hard for me to put it into words as eloquently as you have. Really. You’ve said everything I could ever say, and brought up every point I could ever bring up.

    On facebook, under religion, mine says, “Unity.” Because that’s the only fit. I love yoga and Eastern religions and meditation, but even saying “Eastern religion” or “Hinduism” or anything like that doesn’t feel right for me. Because I don’t believe in a set of rituals or specific beliefs. I believe in doing harm to no one, and being an example of love, and seeking your life’s purpose, and being in harmony with nature, and being completely in the present. I love Eckhart Tolle’s descriptions of a spiritual life. But I don’t follow any “religion.” I feel like religions are man-made, they aren’t bad and there’s nothing wrong with them, but they are human interpretations of what Spirit is. That’s all. I think they all contain threads of truth, and threads of ego. You know? I don’t think anyone has it 100% right….maybe I don’t even have it 100% right. But all I can do, is what my heart leads me to do.

    You know?

    1. Absolutely!! We are so very much on the same wavelength, and I think “unity” is even better than what I had 🙂 I also love Eckhart Tolle’s descriptions of a spiritual life. I was once caught reading “A New Earth” by someone I know to be extremely Christian and without having bothered to even read the back cover, he passed judgment and almost laughed, saying something like “there’s no shortage of people scraping together the best bits of all the world’s major religions and trying to make money off of them by calling it innovation.” How closed minded.

  9. @risha, You no going too hell M8 because it don’t exist. People believe in religion because they were taught to, I.E. programed too. How can anyone believe in what they have not seen or experienced. As a boy I went to boys brigade and carried a bible to church every Sunday, yet I got to an age to QUESTION LIFE FOR MYSELF. We are made of star stuff and if we had any help in life then read a bit of Von Daniken. An eye opener indeed or am I the only sane person on the planet. Remember politicians will bull$#!t for your favour, I just do honesty, and I mean moral honesty, If anyone hates me for being honest then I rather that than gaining confidence for P.R. purposes or favoritism. Or am I truly the only honest person I know. Put it this way, I lack faith in humanity, like Ripley said in Aliens “I don’t know what species is worse, you don’t see them fcuking each other over a goddam percentage”. CASE CLOSED.

  10. Okay I’m like half way through so I’m going to write this and then come back with Part 2 of my comment lol.

    My friend Steph came out with an awesome comment yesterday about Christianity and the different denominations.

    So Christianity is a rainbow and each denomination is a different shade within the rainbow. So some people just like red and that’s one denomination and then there’s another denomination that take the blue bits and so on but still some how creates this whole.

    I know what you mean about how it’s “my” denomination against “yours” – I’d like to think that I’m not like that but I know I sometimes get like “How can you expect young-er people to come to your church when you’re singing ancient hymns and are stuck in your ways” – I know of at least two “dying churches” near where I live.

    1. And that’s how I feel when the more “traditional” church people come out into the public eye saying things about how terrible pop culture icons are and how they’re spreading “evil” to the masses… instead of playing the victim quite so much and actually embracing the fact that sometimes you need to move with the times if you want to reach people – or embracing the idea of non-judgment, perhaps.

  11. Talking about that God sent Jesus to earth – can I ask what you think about Easter? (Resurrection etc.)

    “Practising” to me doesn’t work as the RHCP lyric goes “This life is more than just a read through” – it’s not about practising it’s about getting on with it. I know I’m not perfect but through God’s almighty amazing grace and Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross I’m saved – that’s amazing.
    There was a really good quote in the preach yesterday at church about God could have turned his back on us but didn’t – and do you think I can remember it lol. I can’t even remember who said/wrote it now lol.

    I go to church in my jeans and a t-shirt – yeah maybe I should dress up but does God really care what clothes I wear? Yes I cover the necessities and make sure I’m not inappropriately dressed for church. Obviously if it’s an important event (like when I did the talk on Easter Sunday) or something like that then yes I’ll dress up.

    I go to a Baptist church – I grew up in what was a Baptist church then I moved to a free church/non-denomination then I moved back to a Baptist church. To me Catholicism does seem a lot about rules and as a “baptist” I do struggle to see where some of the ideas come from – I’m not saying they are wrong I’m just saying I don’t understand them.

    Homosexuality and religion – okay so yes it’s against NT teaching but at the same time Jesus died on the cross for everyone – if you read John 3:16 it doesn’t say “For God so loved the upper class rich people and that homeless guy up the street and that celebrity who preaches the gospel” it says “For God so Loved the world” – that’s you me and everyone. We have all fallen short of God’s standards but through his grace we’re free and forgiven we just need to step up and accept that.

    I was brought up in a Christian home – my parents would take me and my brother to church every Sunday. I became a born again Christian at the age of 11 and was baptised in 1999 so I was 13 ish. I’ve moved church twice since I was about 13 or 14. The first was because I’d kinda out grown the church I went to with my parents. The second move was when I moved church to go to the same as Chris – I visited in March 2006, and moved completely in July 2006 – I’ve been there since – it’s my home and I love it – although some of the people are a bit funny lol. Chris is now youth leader there which makes me the youth leader’s wife so that has it’s interesting moments too lol. I play bass in the worship band and help with kids work sometimes.

    (Sorry if any of it came out like I was preaching – that wasn’t intentional)

    1. Not at all, I appreciate you sharing. You hit on something I’ve always found interesting – the contradiction in the Bible. “Homosexuality and religion – okay so yes it’s against NT teaching but at the same time Jesus died on the cross for everyone.” You’re right, one of the biggest messages in the Bible is that Jesus died for everyone, not just some people, and God so loved the WORLD, not “some people”. And out of the two seeming mutual exclusives, I prefer to go with the love and unity-filled option, rather than the discriminatory.

      1. The way I see it is that God is the Judge right – one day when it happens we’ll all stand in front of God and find out if we were good enough for heaven – I don’t have the power or authority to condemn those around me. So for now I try to show love to all (Love your neighbour as your self) and I know that sometimes I mess up, luckily I live under the grace of God and can be forgiven.

  12. An excellent post. My belief is that if your spiritual journey leads you to love, to inner peace, to a greater compassion for others, and to take action to make the world a better place, then bravo. The rest is trapping, which we can choose or not choose.

  13. I loved this post, Emily! Thank you for courageously sharing your thoughts and belief system. I love hearing about people’s journeys who think deeper than just ” this is what I grew up with so this is my religion, too”. I think you’re brilliant and brave for posting such heart-exposing thoughts to what is a potentially cruel audience (the trolls you speak of). Thank you for writing with love, transparency, and genuine intentions. It really inspires me.

  14. I agree with a LOT of the things you said here, especially about not believing in a ‘judging God’. Over the years it seems like religion has become an outlet for people to judge others based on what they think God expects from people. There are a lot of aspects of different religions that I believe in because they FEEL true, and I do believe that there is something more, because believing in nothing at all to me seems like a very scary thing.

    Religion is a really tough thing to write about, but when you’re 100% certain with your belief system you shouldn’t be worried about how people will take it. You can write about what you want in your little space!

    It’s nice to have you back to blogging, I missed you last week!

  15. This post touches on so many things that it’s difficult not to have some sort of reaction to it. While I have a lot of feelings about religion, and God, and all the baggage that goes along with it, at this point I can say I have no faith in any of these things. Based on the sum of my experience, I’ve concluded that they’re not relevant or necessary for me.

    But that’s for me, and I’ve always held the belief (even as a child) that I’d never want to dictate what others should believe because I forbade them from doing so to me. Like many of your readers, my history with religion is a complex and confusing one, fraught with perils and triumphs. It’s something you and I have long owed each other a full conversation about, and maybe that’ll happen. If not, just know that you’re not going to get any judgment from me on the topic.

    You’re a brave and rare person for sharing your feelings on this, and I about let out a cheer at the God-wanting-gays-around quote. If there’s one concept that I can appreciate about what you believe, it’s that you are “blessed to be a blessing to others.” I think your pursuit of that is not only admirable, but inspiring. More power to you.

  16. There are so many good comments here that’s it’s hard to think of what I’ll actually say that contributes and doesn’t just echo and also, to pick what’s important to say. Hmm.

    I guess, first I’d have to say that those who pit denomination against denomination aren’t *actually* Christians. Sure, they say they are, but Christian means “little Christ”. That means that when you choose to live under that umbrella, you choose to live like a little Christ. Those who bicker, argue, condemn, etc., etc., are acting as their own god, judge and jury. I personally pay them no mind.

    It’s funny, though, because our pastor encouraged all of us to post a new favorite verse on facebook. The Husband did that and got one of his atheist friends (though not antagonistic, which is nice) to comment and now we’re going back and forth with a great and respectful discussion. I love things like that because it forces to me to look at my own faith, what I believe, WHY I believe it and most important, can I back it up? Did I just make something up in my head that has no scriptural basis? Things like that.

    I love that you posted this and I would love to talk more about it with you, but it’s hard via comments. With internet trolls and everything, it’s easier to have these conversations via email and whatnot. I’ll leave you with a little nugget that my pastor shared either yesterday or last Sunday.

    “I’ve never met anyone who decided to really submit their lives to Christ and say to me, ‘Jon, that was the worst decision I’ve ever made. It completely screwed up my whole life, my relationships are falling apart, and I have nothing to live for.’ I’ve never once seen that happen with Christ, but I’ve seen it countless times with other substitutes like drugs, alcohol, work, and play.”

    1. That’s a really great quote. I totally agree with you – “those who pit denomination against denomination aren’t *actually* Christians. Sure, they say they are, but Christian means “little Christ”. That means that when you choose to live under that umbrella, you choose to live like a little Christ” – and personally I don’t believe that Christ would have participated in human division and looking down on those who were “different”.

  17. Im so blessed to be reading this. You know I’ve been a Christian my entire life, and have always held that with me. I love how this is written, I love everything about it.. And Im not gonna get into complete detail but this was defintiely hearat-warming. Love you Em, and I love your ability to word your posts so incredibly, its definitely inspiring!!!

  18. I’m a Christian. Maybe a different kind of Christian, since I live with my fiance and we disagree with the church on a few things. But nevertheless, a Christian. A “Jesus died to save me from my sin and guarantee my acceptance into heave” kind of Christian. I think if you hold the fundamental tenants of Christianity to be true, then you’re good. The rest is just icing on the cake. I do, however, believe in Jesus for salvation.

    I do believe God judges. As a PP said, if He didn’t, you could get away with just about anything. There are consequences to everything. However, just because God judges doesn’t mean I should. Do I think a non-Christian will get into heaven? No. Am I going to be a total bee-yotch to them because of it? No! What good does that do anyone? Be the light you wish to see in the world, and let God deal with the heavy lifting. That’s His job, not mine.

    I also couldn’t care less about differing denominations. As long as you believe in the basics, you’re a Christian. The rest are all just details. I think most Christians are that way. Do I believe in the Pope? No. Do I believe that a Catholic isn’t a Christian because of that? No. Maybe some people do, but I haven’t met very many.

  19. I choose not to write about religion, because it can be so divisive, Emily…I myself try to live my life by being a good person and helping as many people as I can (my father was a Methodist minister, but I haven’t attended church on a regular basis for more than 35 years). I get very uncomfortable around anyone who is trying to push their religion on me, and usually leave as soon as I can…

    Wendy

  20. i always want to post about my own beliefs, but i always find myself at a loss for words. neal and i had a long conversation about spirituality and metaphysical possibilities the other night. i still find myself at a loss. you have expressed something i have yet to do. thank you for always being so open and thoughtful 🙂 maybe one day, i will be, too (ps i agree)

  21. Oh girl! You know I could make this comment so incredibly long. I have SO MUCH to say about faith and the way it is lived out.

    Basically, I’m one of the girls who grew up in a divided home: my mom was a Christian and took my brother and me to church. My dad was an atheist and would constantly degrade my mom for her beliefs (and call her brain-washed). It made me very confused on what I believed and I just floated along for a while.

    I have thrown away all thoughts of denominations and religion and all that jazz. For me, it’s about my relationship with Jesus Christ. That. Is. It. Nothing more. It’s about learning more about Him and trying to emulate His goodness on a daily basis. It’s about talking to others about Him and being the light to a world of darkness. It’s not about screaming that all gays are going to Hell or “turn or burn”. It’s a message of love. That’s what God is. That’s WHO God is.

    Lovely post, Emily. I love how honest and raw you are!

  22. What a WONDERFUL post Emily! And not a bit too long.
    I think that it is incredibly important that we share our beliefs so that we can open up dialogue to create greater understanding And growth for all of us.
    Thank you for sharing! Please continue!

  23. Thank you for posting this Emily, I love to read what others think of religion because I always seem to be shaping my own thoughts. I’ve always called myself spiritual with no one denomination because I’ve never found a type of religion that seems to fit my personal beliefs. And I figure that’s okay. God knows I believe and that’s all that should matter.

  24. I totally agree with the statement about “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Reads so much into who we are as bloggers.

    I don’t want to get too much into what I think about religion. I was part of church, converted to another, and then left. That’s pretty much how the story goes. Your writing is amazing from the first word to the last

  25. I also want to applaud you for sharing your beliefs so candidly and without shame; it should be so easy for everyone. Alas, where judgement abounds in this world it is so difficult to be open about many things without the fear of rejection.
    I am a Christian, but have found that it’s difficult to confess that without prompting debate or stereotypes. I can’t blame people for a negative reaction, seeing that the vocal “Christians” are the ones who are not striving to live like Christ…their harsh judgements wouldn’t come so easily if they were.
    Personally, I think many Christians and Churches have lost sight of the purpose of Church. It’s not there to make one feel guilty for not attending or to make one feel pious for having attended. It’s not a box to be checked or a place to earn attendance. From what I’ve seen and studied, the purpose of the church is for fellowship. It is a place for friendship, support and service, but there are too few churches (and Christians) that view the church that way.
    My relationship with God is personal and I don’t rely on my church or my pastor to build that relationship for me; that is my responsibility…and my pleasure.
    This is such a deep subject and I could probably write more on the topic than you ever wanted to read.
    Kudos to everyone who has commented thus far…such great responses. (c:

  26. This was powerful. Thank you. I applaud you for showing us this side of you regardless of what others think. Being brave is so much more empowering than living in fear.

    I was raised a christian – Pentecostal. As I grew up, I went from believing in God to not being sure. Things didn’t add up and no one had answers for me. So I stopped believing and all christians were evil. After searching and then realizing I didn’t need to search, my path led me to Buddhism. The teachings of the Buddha fit the way I wanted to live; and it’s flexible enough for you to have other faiths if you’d like even though not many other religions say the same.

    It’s hard to label myself as a Buddhist because IMO it’s not really a religion. But on this journey I’ve learned to embrace all faiths- because they all have something to teach us. It also helps to look at the teachings of the bible and others from an open mind, perhaps not too literally, because ultimately they are all saying the same thing.

    I believe we are God manifested in different unique and beautiful ways. We are all interconnected – no religion is right or wrong. I believe in love. Love that transcends what we as humans comprehend and label as love. It is the foundation for our being. I think the inner workings of what is “true” is something felt deep down in our core beyond what our minds and fact tells us.

    Okay, this is really long. I really love what you wrote! Very inspiring.

  27. It has taken me years to figure out the best ways to explain my spirituality. I believe in many of the principles that Christ teaches. I believe in faith, a higher power, a code of right and wrong. What I don’t believe in is judgment. Unless you are causing physical harm to yourself or others, I don’t have a right to judge. But I do reserve my right to disagree. Sometimes that causes me issues with organized churches. I can’t understand a God who would create this world, but then turn people away from him. I think that in a world full of different cultures, different languages, different races, wouldn’t it make sense that God (or whatever) would manifest in different ways to reach those people? Through reading different religous texts, I have found that the principles are right and wrong and good ring true through all of them.

  28. I’m glad you wrote this and felt you were able to share something so personal (and yet so public) with us. Praying for you in this season you’re in. Hope all is well. That loving God you speak of is the same loving God even when our world is spinning out of control. (That’s what I believe, anyway)

  29. Pingback: Battlefield |
  30. I feel the same, infact I just got an email from a friend that I am having to protect myself from. He is a preacher without a church but he still comes across as judgmental and condemning of my life.So I really enjoyed finding this blog. It is nice to find out I am not alone. Light,Love&Live-N-Heart.

  31. The Beginning

    I’m Paul and am 43 from the UK. I’ve written the following to hopefully help others ‘spirits’ find this interesting and may even relate to it. I am sorry for the length.

    Well, I was brought up as a Christian. As a family we never went to church and my main attendance was pretty much reluctant with me being in The Scouts so was an expectation rather than a need. As such, giving praise to God was very much secondary to what I got from scouting as a whole.
    In my early teens, I had the opportunity to go through the ‘Confirmation’ process with our local church. I did this more for the novelty factor than for the purpose of religion. Although on hindsight I’m very glad that I did. That said, I knew in my heart that there was a God and Jesus but never felt the inclination to follow it through.
    As time went by, God and Jesus became less and less important to me to the point that I questioned my entire faith. I then allowed my analytical head to completely rule my heart and did so for many years – denying the presence of God and Jesus unless I witnessed them physically, which I knew would never happen.
    So, whenever I was asked my religious beliefs, I denounced God and Jesus completely. At one point I was even saying I was an Atheist. While this never sat quite right with me, I allowed it to continue.

    My savior

    This went on for many years. And then something sensational happened to me. Around the middle of March 2013, and totally unexpectedly, I met the most amazing person online. We talked about a range of things before coming around to the topic of religion.
    I told her about my lack of faith and she never judged me (I am using ‘she’ deliberately as I do prefer to use names, but feel the need to protect her identity). If anything she thought me as being uncommonly kind and that meant so much to me. She went on to explain about ‘Souls perfection’, ‘spirituality’, and may other concepts I’d never even considered.
    Now, I’m sure she (ohh, I hate that term!) thought from time to time I was just indulging her – maybe even mocking her. But I never did. I listened. And the more I listened the more interested and intrigued I became. Her words were soothing and intelligent. Her wisdom is incredible. And I am in awe of this wonderful young woman who invested so much time and energy helping me (and still does).

    My spiritual belief

    There was so much to take in and understand. I found a lot confusing (some things I still do). But she has helped my heart rule my head again. Not only am I re-gaining my faith, I recognise the spirit inside me – inside everyone. I believe our true home is the Spirit World, where we can choose our ‘chartered life’ on Earth to help improve our spirit’s vibrancy and take our spirit to another level. We then go back to the Spirit World when our bodies die. We can remain there, or look to continue improving our spiritual vibrancy by returning to Earth – or other worlds that God created within the universe.
    I know I have a spirit guide who looks after me. At times I may have several. I also believe in a non-judgmental God. For years, I never understood the term ‘god fearing’. I was brought up that God loves us all, is there for us and does not judge us. He welcomes us with open arms and has unconditional love. It is only with some research I found that some religions have judgmental gods. While everyone has their right to believe in their own religion and faith, I do not believe in a judgmental god. I believe God will welcome me into the light when my time comes and will be there for me with nothing but unconditional love.
    I have also come to realise that I have known my very special friend for a very long time. Before this life we were together in the Spirit World. But now I have found her on Earth and am so overjoyed. I find it hard at times as she lives many miles away from me in a different country and time zone. But when we get together online it is such a special time for me (and she has told me the same). I also look up at the stars and feel her presence beside me. So she is never that far away.

    My purpose

    I do love the person that I am. I know I am kind and considerate. Up to recently, I don’t always think people saw my inner-self as I considered myself as ‘unremarkable’ (when I mentioned this to my very special friend, I don’t think she was best pleased!). But my I am learning to raise my vibration and this makes me feel good about myself. Brilliant in fact. So much so, I look at this world and the people in it from a whole new perspective.
    I have always enjoyed helping people. It is who I am. But I want to take this to the next level spiritually and become a LightWorker. I see this as being my purpose on Earth. What I need to acknowledge is that in order to help other people, I first must learn to help myself. Sometimes this means to appreciate joy, I must first must know sorrow. I can then use these experiences to become healthy in mind, body and spirit. Only then can I become a truly effective LightWorker.

    Friends and family

    So, I have recently started mentioning my spiritual belief to select friends and family. Now, I’ve not bombarded them with information all at once as they have their own ideas and there is no denying that some of them are going to find this very radical. Even unconventional. Especially when I am regarded as being level headed so to have what they may consider a ‘sudden’ change, may make them feel uncomfortable. Of course, this is not my intention but it is me who needs to feel comfortable within myself – and I do. So, while I will gladly explain my spiritual belief I will never force it on anyone. All I ask in return is that I am allowed to believe as I do.

    My very special friend

    Well, what can I say when the term ‘thank you’ just isn’t enough. My very special friend is my cornerstone. Not just because of her help with my own spiritual belief, but because of the person she is. She is so pure in thought and deed. My life has been shaped beyond all recognition. I still hold my core values for which I am eternally grateful. The biggest difference if that I am now in tune with my spirit, Jesus and God. This is all due to my very special friend. I regard myself as being so very fortunate to have met her. She has rescued me in my time of need and I thank God for bringing us together. I once referred to her as a ‘free spirit’. She truly is.

    Where to go?

    I have started going to church through my own volition. I actually wanted to for the first time in my life. But I need to see how that sits with my own spiritual belief. It could be that praying on my own is (or becomes) sufficient. God listens when I pray. He may not always reply as I would expect, but he does answer.
    I now feel I need to branch out in my community so I can help other people. But I want to do that as part of a spiritual support group. However, I want to do so based on my current beliefs and values. I don’t want to be persuaded differently and I am concerned about that. I thought about trying an online community first as I feel I’ve learned so much in such a short space of time. I also know, I still have so much to learn – and to give. But all the time, no matter what happens, I have my very special friend beside me.

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