I have gone through many changes in my religious point of view. These changes have shaped how i looked at the world and what I valued in people, situations and myself. As this blog is about my journey and research into theology, philosophy and psychology I thought I would take some time to go through my past and what has lead me to here.
Early on in my life my parents did not really value religion. We would go here and there and observed the appropriate holidays, but church was never really important to us. Just like family dinner at the dining room table it would flair up here and there and we would attend church for a while. After a bit though this would fade and I would find myself sleeping in on Sundays once again.
I have memories of attending my grandparents church when we were in town, but frankly just quickly getting shuffled off to Sunday School and not really paying attention or understanding what was going on during the service itself. I think honestly I may have colored in one or two hymnals during this time. Round about middle school age though this changed.
At this time my parents decided they wanted to reengage with the church and provide a stable religious life for me and my sister. I think its also because we had moved a good distance away from our family and they needed that community as well. It was then my real religious education began.
We attended a number of different denominations of churches looking for the right mix of message, community and lifestyle they were wanting. I remember Protestant, Lutheran and UCC being involved. Eventually they settled on non-denominational as our… well… denomination.
I got involved with the youth group there and started to get into the culture of the church. The teachings of love, acceptance and faith also spoke to me so I became a driving force for us attending church on a regular basis. At this point I would be what most would consider a “born-again Christian”.
Ok I jokingly call this my “peak Christian” phase. If I was invited I would have been involved with movies like God’s Not Dead and in fact produced more that one short film about Christianity. There is a lot about this phase of my life that I look back on with some horror, but I cannot say that it was all bad.
I met people and cultivated a sense of well being toward the world that I feel serves me well today. While its not rooting in Christianity anymore a lot of my views on ethics, justice, tolerance and how we should treat eachother were also fostered at this time.
I did however participate in mission trips to a native American reservation where I proceeded to tell them their method of worship was wrong. I was obstinate in my view that my religion was right and anyone was threatened that view was literally sent by the devil to tempt me and needed to here the “true word” or else they would be condemned to Hell.
In fact just prior to going to college the way I did I was seriously looking at going to seminary and becoming a youth minister myself. Little did I know that had I done this my church had a place for me and my future would basically have been mapped out.
Prior to college though I had second thoughts about that as a career path and ended up attending a state school in Pa for public relations
Atheistic and Questioning
After attending college for a while and swapping church services for LAN parties I started to look more critically at my faith. There was a number of things that didnt add up and I could not reconcile. I of course consulted my pastor about it and got his input, but none of his answers were sufficient to silence that doubt in my mind.
Then one day when I was visiting my parents I of course attended church. During this service my church was raising funds to go out to communities and countries that they said had “untouched people-groups”. These are people that have not heard of Jesus or Christianity and thus could not be Christians. They were doing this because the church held a firm belief that if they were not taught the ways of Christianity and accepted Jesus that they were condemned to Hell and of course they didn’t want to see that happen.
This broke me.
I could not reconcile the idea that my loving lord would send people to Hell simply for not having the opportunity to hear that Jesus was an option. That he would be so unforgiving of circumstance and petty that he would allow this to happen. It was at this point I literally walked out of the sermon and never went back.
For years afterward I was functionally atheistic though I was still searching for answers. I wanted it to be true so I dove into the Bible, religious books and teachings and just could not find the answers I needed. Eastern and western religions alike did not work.
This did not sit well with my mother and we ended up in heated discussions for hours at a time about it to the point that she does not remember those conversation and blocked them out. I dont blame her for this and there are times I wish I could do the same. Unfortunately my stupid brain doesnt work that way and wont let me.
This lasted for years and eventually I gave up religion as a concept and ignored it entirely.
Within the last two years a lot has happened in this arena for me. Both my grandparents on my mothers side passed away. I was very close to them and it hit me rather hard. They also both had their faith and it made me start to wonder if they were right and if I would have the opportunity to see them again.
I also started down another path; I became a Mason. This was in honor of my grandfather who was a life-long Mason and was well taken care of my the Masonic home in Elizabethtown Pa. (Eternal gratitude to them if they ever read this)
As part of Masonic tradition you have to express a faith in a higher power. This used to be in the Judeo-Christian God, but has since evolved to simply be that of a higher power. I did not want to lie to them so I had to reengage and figure out what I believed.
That led me to where I am today. I am not an atheist nor am I a Christian. I believe there is divinity and a supernatural presence, but I do not know what that is. My current belief is that religions are an attempt to understand that divinity. Some likely get it more right than others, but ones legitimately exploring the divine are attempting to do so and I respect that.
That is why I refer to myself as an agnostic theist.
- Gnostic means knowledge of the supernatural or divine.
- Theist means belief in the supernatural or divine.
So while I do not know what form the divine take or what if any will it has I believe that it exists and seek to understand it better if I can.
I fully realize this may be a path with no end and that is why I’m referring to this as a journey. I wanted to document it here in case anyone else has questions along the same line and to elicit genuine feedback the religious and non-religious alike to help inform my quest. (if you indulge slightly theatrical language).
So thank you and I leave you with a quote from William Shakespeare. One of my favorites and one that has been on my mind a lot these past couple of years.
There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.– Hamlet