Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - ,,,, 8 comments

My Spiritual Journey - 3

 When  we last saw our heroine, she had heard enough from those secular-humanist folks that said that all religion and spirituality was hooey. It made life seem so pointless. If they were right, we might as well be living in a computer simulation.  She came to the conclusion that they didn't know what they what they were talking about ... any more than anyone else, so she decided to go and investigate it for herself.

She did a lot of what I call "aimless wandering."  She went about her business in the world with an open mind, willing to consider whatever she came across. She tried and tested many things. Some people may have thought it was silly, but really how can you know unless you try. She tried astrology, tarot, and Wicca. They seemed intriguing, for a while. There's more to astrology than what you read in the daily paper, you know. They had method. They had an internal consistency, but ultimately they didn't work for her. They didn't live up to their claims or their predictions, so she moved on.

She looked at some of the more broadly accepted faith traditions such as Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. Even if she decided that she couldn't accept them, she considered it worthwhile to better understand other people in the world. She found them interesting. She was amazed at the intellect among the people within them. Was it possible that some of the people who participated weren't delusional or otherwise mentally deficient?

However, you shouldn't suppose that our heroine did this all in a whirlwind or a vacuum. These investigations were more like a hobby. She would be wildly interested for a period of time, but then the fever would pass, and she would return to her day to day life, sometimes with years in-between.

Occasionally, her hobby brought her to the doors of Christian Churches. For several years, Catholicism piqued her interest, both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. Her father's side of the family had a history with the Roman Catholic church, and despite her negative experiences with the Catholic Church in her teenage years, she decided to give them another chance. She found the Basilica of St. Mary's to be especially awe inspiring.  The incense was also a wonderful experience. She went through the motions. (You'd be surprised how many people in worship services are doing that.)  She was very respectful, but it was more on the line of a sociology or psychology experiment. She wanted to understand what people were getting out of it beyond the atmospherics, the music, or even the camaraderie. Was it just some sort of glorified clubhouse?

She asked people the question, "Why do you believe that?" Many many times. After all, she just wanted to understand. The response that she got dumbfounded her. "You just have to believe. You have to take it on faith.  If you need a reason, it really isn't faith."  That didn't make any sense to her ... at all.  If she asked any follow up questions, folks tended to get a bit hostile. She couldn't understand the hostility. It was just an honest question. (Maybe that's why none of her friends in high school would invite her to church events?) She would usually wander off on her own for quite a while after one of those episodes, scratching her head.

Then one day, after a particularly chaotic year in the dance business, she had to move. (For two years, she had been exclusively immersed in the spirituality of dance.) Her choices were Minneapolis, Minnesota or Charleston, South Carolina. It had been a particularly cool summer in Minnesota that year. It seemed like the highest temperature for the whole season had been somewhere around 65˚ F. It was the beginning of September, and weather forecasters were already predicting snow. No contest, she decided to try out Charleston, South Carolina.

She found Charleston to be both a blessing and a curse. As a history buff, living in the hometown of signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, not to mention where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, was like a dream come true. Historic housesBeautiful gardens all year round. Going to the beach in September was bliss. Hurricanes, alligators, and snakes ... not so much.

There's one more thing about Charleston. It's also known as "The Holy City" because of the plethora of historic houses of worship there.  That was going to have a profound effect in her investigation and experimentation with spirituality, but perhaps not in the way that you would expect. It was more of a historical expedition, but more about that in our next episode.

Until next week ... Same Bat-Time ... Same Bat-Channel.


I love that you came to your faith through searching. I think it means more when you work towards it, mulling over it and questioning it until you truly understand what it is you are going commit to. It gives you a more solid core of beliefs, one that's strong enough to last through anything life tosses at you.

I think it gives you a perspective that is very different from those who blindly believe, participate in ceremonies they don't understand the significance of, and can't answer deeper questions. In my opinion, that's got to be a hollow religious experience.

I think that you've hit the nail on the head. The reason why so many people felt threatened by my question of "why" is because they can't (haven't been trained) to articulate that which is so engrained in them. I would say that's true for the people with and without "blind" faith within the church.

what a fascinating search you did! and without Google :)
an actual real life search

have you ever seen Bill Maher's film? the name escapes me at the moment
he was actually quite quiet (for him) and respectful and went about the world asking peope why they believed what they believed
it was a good film

I was tempted to see the Bill Maher film way back when, but it seems like every time I give into temptation with him, I break out in a rash. LOL

One thing I have noticed whenever I ask honest questions about someone's belief system is that they become defensive. I don't really understand the reaction. I guess my questions are taken as a challenge rather than as an effort to learn.

Yes, I agree. I've come to understand that there are two major reasons for this:

1) They don't know how to explain it. That's not usually the major focus in study groups. Perhaps it should be. Thinking about it now, starting off with a response like, "It's complicated," might be helpful because it certainly is, and it would prepare the listener. (Hey, I'm at my 3rd blog post, and you probably don't even think that I've started answering the question yet. lol)

2) It hits the emotional center of a person. It's kind of like having to defend one's mother. Sure a logical case can be made, but after all it's your mother. There's kind of a built in emotional reaction that you shouldn't have to defend her.

The problem with both of these things is that Christianity was originally set up to be spread by word of mouth, just one person talking to another, not at the point of a sword, not by bullying them. We don't do a good job at training people to talk about it in a kind and compassionate way.

Thinking through my response here has helped me realize some things for my own work. Thank you for that!

To the first paragraph: People who think life without religion is pointless should follow some religion to add meaning to their lifes. But thinking "all people think that life without religion is pointless, because I think life without religion is pointless" is not accurate. Religion is like a walking stick. It wouldn't be fair to demand that all people should walk with a stick because I am the one who limps :).

You are right. I make no such demands on anyone. Quite the contrary. I speak only of my own experience. It is my inherent belief that all must find their own path in the way that makes sense to them. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. :)

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