“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
In my quest to reach conclusions, I was all over the map….emotionally and spiritually.
I was, at times, what could best be described as agnostic….I wasn’t convinced that there was a God….but I couldn’t convince myself that there wasn’t either. I volleyed back and forth. I was never an Atheist, for to me, an Atheist is one who has been in faith, and through seeking, has come to the conclusion there is no God…or any other deities.
I was doubtful about the “Word”…the Bible. Written centuries ago, and translated countless number of times, there has to be inaccuracies and errors. Just comparing the Catholic and Protestant New Testament show differences. There are over 300,000….yes, THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND…. variations of the New Testament. Scholars will tell you that to question the authenticity of the New Testament on textual grounds is to question all ancient documents. Perhaps so.
There were periods of great anger…why, why, would so called ‘good people’, these Christians, put the fear of God…literally and figuratively …into small children? If you want to keep people oppressed and encourage unquestioning support, keep them in a fearful state. Was this a product of a God of love? Was this how the God of my childhood gathered the faithful, by keeping them subservient and terrified of eternal damnation?
Then there were the pictures…the images of God and Christ…both white…both men…one old and frightening; the other young and handsome…calm looking.
When I was ten years old, a movie called “Lawrence of Arabia” was made and starred an Egyptian actor named Omar Sharif. When I saw that movie, and given my limited knowledge of world geography, I remember, even then, thinking….well he’s from the same part of the world that Jesus is supposed to come from and he doesn’t look white. He didn’t look black, but he sure didn’t look white….and for years I always thought that if Jesus existed, He likely resembled Omar Sharif more than the pictures I’d seen in Sunday School and story books.
Now, if pressed, I’d be more apt to think He may have looked like one of my former business partners who lives just outside of Tel Aviv.
The biggest challenge for me came when I tried to reconcile what I was taught, or learned, about church doctrine…any church doctrine….and the hypocrisy I saw in the churches that I attended.
To be fair, in my fear, anger and doubt, I placed my own discriminatory values and judgements on the ‘pillars’ of the church. The choir members, the pastors, the priests, the deacons, the elders, the Swami’s, the Rabbi’s. I held them all in distain and to higher standards than humanly possible. They had all let me down; disappointed me; lied to me; made me feel unworthy of God’s love…no matter what I called Him.
I watched as my elderly widowed relatives…all female…tried to secure their place at the Throne by subsisting on toast and tea so that they could tithe to the church and send more of their meagre incomes to the con artists of the 1970s and 1980s, called televangelists.
I saw friends stay in physically and emotionally abusive marriages because the ‘church’ had told them that to divorce went against God’s holy ordinance….and the teachings of the church….not to mention that “…Til death do us part” bit.
Attending church service and then gossiping about everyone in attendance is not my idea of being a ‘good person’. But over and over I have witnessed this and I find it extremely offensive. When I have challenged people about it, I usually get the “God will forgive me” line. I’m thinking He might the first time, but over and over again? …hmmmm, not so sure. That’s not to say I haven’t gossiped, but I try really hard not to. It is one of my least favourite things to engage in….it always leaves a sour taste….and regretfulness.
These things are all part of the human condition, but as I said, it is the churches’ doctrines that I have had the most difficulty with and have, over the course of my life, found the most challenging part of all religions.
The condescension of women by many main stream religions has emboldened my feminist self over the years. How do we know that God is not female? Because an ancient group of aged men said God was Male? Did God reveal himself to them as a man?
I do not subscribe to the systematic theology, or dogma, of the religions I have explored and studied. I can’t. It goes against the very core of who I am and what I have come to believe. It is man’s …in the literal and figurative sense of the word…interpretation of what some believe is the Word of God. But which interpretation is the correct one? There are varying beliefs held even within the Christian Denominations. What makes one correct and the others wrong?
The abuses that I have read of, heard of and been told about at the hands of ‘men of God’ makes me quake with rage. The very churches that denounce homosexuality as a sin… have harboured…and protected… child sexual predators.
The act of going to church no more makes you a Christian than does playing the radio make you a musician.
Religion has been used since time immemorial to justify atrocities against non believers of one faith or another. “In the name of God” has probably been one of the most incongruously used expressions in history. Surely man was behind those actions, not God!
Religion, by it’s very definition, is set up to create differences; to distinguish separation…… and it would seem to me that is the basis of so much turmoil, violence and hatred in our world. The very things that I think God opposes often have His name attached.
Can we reconcile the Omnipresent without the Bible, without the symbolisms and trappings of the various religions that have been built on the existence of God? Must we go forward in our quest for truth with an all or nothing acceptance or denial? Why does the growth of spirituality seem to frighten organized religion so much? Can you be a spiritual being, a child of God without religion?
These were the questions I struggled with, prayed about, meditated on, and debated. I would discover, that for me, there were no easy answers.