Religion and spirituality.

It’s been awhile since my last blog post.  While posting this on Easter Weekend is appropriate, I’ve been meaning to post something like this for a long time, and the timing is mostly coincidental.  I could talk a lot about how I feel about the institution of religion and its many problems, especially Christianity, but I don’t really want to do that here.  I want to talk about my own relationship with religion and how it has formed my worldview.  A lot of these thoughts are where the ideas mentioned in many of my other posts come from.  As I’ve grown up, thinking about the unknown or the Great Beyond has become something that’s almost commonplace, as is to be expected with almost anyone.  The more I think about it, the more appreciative I am of my “religious” journey, although I prefer the word “spiritual.”

I have always considered myself to have a weird relationship with religion.  I was raised Unitarian Universalist, definitely not a “mainstream” religion by any means.  Sometimes I find myself at a loss for words when I try to explain it to someone who has never heard of it (i.e. most people I meet), but a friend of mine who grew up in the same church once put it very simply and eloquently: we “love.”  We believe in a world of tolerance and acceptance, where every single person is free to have their own spiritual journey and come to their own conclusions about how the world is.  While I have only been to a couple services since I graduated high school, my Religious Education experience – at least what I can remember – involved learning about different religions.  This set the stage for when I was in my youth group, where we talked about current issues, challenges that we were facing in our own lives as high school students, social justice, etc.  We were free to discuss practically anything and everything, developing our own philosophies for how we wanted to view the world.  This entire experience growing up was severely underappreciated; it was just something that my parents made me do.  But now, after years of reflection, I know that religion does have a place.  The human mind has two parts: rational (what we objectively experience) and irrational (emotion and subjective experience).  To ignore half of the potential of my mind is a complete waste, in my opinion.  So I have to believe in something.

So what do I believe?  When I was younger, I refused to believe in a god of any sort.  I think science just always made more sense to me.  After all, I was obsessed with dinosaurs and being a paleontologist from age 5.  However, as I went through high school, things started to change ever so slightly.  I admit that I have had a pretty easy life up to this point, but when things didn’t necessarily go my way or I was going through some tough emotions, I would find myself praying.  To what, I don’t know.  But maybe it was (and still is occasionally) a “just in case” kind of thing.  Transitioning from a public high school to a private Catholic institution for college was a huge change for me.  My college girlfriend was raised religious, and in my sophomore year I found myself laying in bed for hours before going to sleep just thinking about practically everything.  Reality, philosophy, religion, whatever.  I wouldn’t call it an identity crisis, but I was taking belief much more seriously than I ever had before.  Ultimately I came to two very important conclusions.  First, when it comes to God, or at least a Christian one, I cannot convince myself that one exists if I have never been a believer and have led such an easy life compared to the people around me.  I would never deserve the experiences I have had in terms of travel, education, family, even my summer camp in that world.  It would be such a waste.  However, my second conclusion practically negates that: question everything.  I came to the realization that my mind is the only thing I can prove exists.  Senses can be fooled, we experience it all the time in dreams.  Therefore, anything is possible.  Including a god of sorts.  So at this point I am completely comfortable considering myself agnostic.  To identify as an atheist or theist completely limits the potential of one’s mind.  That got quite a bit more philosophical than I meant it to, and that is only establishing myself within the context of religion, mainly in relation to Christianity, simply because that’s what I’m exposed to most often in my daily life.

But it still doesn’t quite answer the question of what I believe.  As I mentioned before, Unitarian Universalists “love.”  It took me a long time to put into words what I believe in and to realize that it all ties back to my religious upbringing, but in the last couple of years I have been at a point that I feel very comfortable with.  I do believe in a higher power of sorts: the human spirit.  Hell, you could go as far as to call it God if you want.  But it feels much more tangible than that definition.  It connects all of humanity and links us all together.  Unconditional love has always been preached in Western tradition, stemming from Christianity, and that is the most powerful thing anyone can offer another person.  I believe in people loving one another, giving each other hope, and making connections.  I believe that there is good in every single person, which is problematic given historical figures like Hitler, Stalin, or Mussolini.  However, what is more important is the resistance that is given to evil.  Local, national, and international communities have proven time and time again that terrible actions and events can be overcome by uniting through the human spirit.  Seeking understanding with one another is what fosters love and unity, whether that means political, cultural, or philosophical understanding.  Western religion is arguably founded on the concept of love.  Some people call it God.  But there is a much more human aspect that we can live and experience and feel for ourselves by loving and interacting with one another.  And that’s what I want to believe in, especially with current events both domestic and abroad.  The human spirit gives me hope, and that’s what I choose to live my life by.

I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this topic and how it applies to me, but maybe it’s because it took me years to actually develop this worldview.  I could probably go on and on about this, but I think this is sufficient.  This felt like another rambling blog post, but I think that’s important since it gets all of my thoughts out there and it feels like me talking, which is especially important in this context.  Either way, I also want to make it clear that I’m not trying to start any arguments, only discussions, as it should be with all religions.


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