Losing My Religion (2 of 5)
I mentioned about my ‘talent’ for sitting in one place and mentally escaping into my own world in spite of all the noise. At Catholic churches during mass it isn’t possible, what with all the rituals you have to perform: you sit, stand up and kneel a few times; fall in line for a communion; sing hymns; respond to the homily, etc.
It didn’t happen overnight, this change of heart of mine about my religion and all religions in general. In spite of this disconnect though, I retained my belief in God. I’ll have a deeper explanation about this in future posts.
If you are happy with where you are spiritually, whichever belief system you have, that’s well and good.
If you were never a believer or do not have any beliefs now, that’s alright too. I now believe God, for all the greatness that God is, is not bothered by it. I will also tackle later why believing in a ‘super power’ (and I’m not talking about the US) is better (and I’m not referring to the concept of heaven or hell).
But for now let me address my fellow believers and state the first of my four reasons I mentioned in part 1.
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This is not a chronological account of my search for answers and meaning, which started when I was younger. Over the years, I spent a lot of time contemplating as various thoughts and questions came to my mind about God and the reason(s) for our existence.
For many balmy nights, while living in Manila, I would sit on the concrete steps in front of our apartment in Sta. Mesa. With my elbow on my knee and a hand cupping my chin, I would gaze at the moon and the twinkling stars above and wonder what is out there, is anyone out there, who are we, where did we come from?
While kids noisily and gleefully play in the streets, a common sight throughout the neighbourhoods during my childhood, I spent a lot of time wondering what life is all about.
As I learned about religions and their various denominations, the thought of what these all meant crossed my mind. I read a little bit about some of these religions, beliefs and other philosophies. My eventual response, after reading up, on and off, on this subject over a period of almost two decades, was to ‘disengage’.
One of my reasons is due to:
1. My conflict in reconciling where the Jews, other Christian denominations, the Moslems, the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Sikhs, the Taoists, the Shintoists, the ‘Zoroastrians’, the various Indigenous religions, other non-mainstream religions, the agnostics—plus the atheistic materialists— fit into this.
According to Wikipedia, Christians now make up approximately 2 billion people. Out of these 2 billion, there are a staggering 38,000 different denominations or branches. More branches of Christianity will no doubt emerge as people, for whatever motivate them, form and lead their own group and interpret the bible in their own way.
At one time, I felt Catholicism was the best religion out of all them. That it’s the only correct path and I had a better chance in being allowed into heaven. Everyone else is wrong and ignorantly in the wrong path. However, as you know, each of the people who belong to other Christian denominations or other religions feel the same way, if not stronger, about their respective religion. People ‘peddling’ their own brand of religion, each one of the group believing theirs to be the real deal. Who’s right, who’s wrong?
But I also thought a lot about those people who have never heard of Jesus Christ or concepts like the Holy Trinity, and/or those people who worshipped a different God or Gods. Where will they go when they die? Would God forgive them? How can they redeem themselves?
What about those Christians who think everyone else will go to hell or purgatory unless you are ‘born again’, whatever that means?
How about the Moslems who seriously think that Allah is the one true God, the Qur’an the one true book, and the rest of us are infidels?
The Bahá’í’s who believe Abraham, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and most recently their own, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, are one and the same being and who appeared as these different messengers to establish a religion that was suited for the needs of their time?
The Hindus with their multiple Gods? Does believing in more than one God gets you quicker to reaching nirvana?
The Buddhists who believe that you will reincarnate over and over again until you learn your lessons and paid off all your karmas?
And the Jews who consider themselves God’s chosen people? I felt a tinge of jealousy I wasn’t born into the ‘chosen’ race.
Let’s not even mention the Scientologists who once annoyed me a bit for incessantly calling me to talk me into meeting with them, after I purchased one of their leader’s books.
In all these, I considered and attempted to turn into a vegetarian after reading about a female Vietnamese Buddhist master who teaches that eating meat contributes to global warming.
As I don’t consider myself materialistic, it was easy for me to imagine I was suited to becoming a monk—stripping myself bare of all material possessions—until I learned you have to abstain from the desires of the flesh, alcohol, gambling and other vices. 🙂
I once wanted to be like the Breatharians who claim to live without eating food or drinking water but by proper breathing alone. Imagine how many kilos I would have shed if I tried it? You must have read about a recent news of an Indian man who was reported not to have eaten for two weeks, while doctors in Australia probe him and what he was claiming.
I marveled at the mysterious world of the Shamans and their use of psychedelic plants to, purportedly, take them into different worlds and dimensions.
I read a few articles on secret societies like the Rosicrucians, which I considered joining, and the Freemasons which was for a long time exclusive for males only but have recently started accepting female members.
I’ve heard about the Gnostic Catharrs and the Essenes of the ancient times.
I was surprised to learn of the existence of the moderate Moslems like the Sufis or the Dancing Dervishes.
I read the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda hoping to get inspired but it somehow drew more questions from me.
So you see how serious I was in getting to know more about religion and other beliefs, and my desire to get some answers to some questions?
We do know religions have the same aim, even if there are myriad paths. If it continues to work for you, that’s admirable, but what gets my goat, so to speak, is the intolerance of others for people whose beliefs are different from their own, people who think they have sole access to the one correct key to open/enter, the pearly gates of St. Peter or the ‘paradise’.
But this is my story and my journey. You have your own story to tell.
To be continued…
As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated.