Never having been one to shy away from overstating the obvious, I can authoritatively state that I’m pretty critical of religion. For the last two and one half years, this blog has been primarily dedicated to dismantling the lies and the walls of religion, and encouraging people to seek God outside the guilt, coercion, dogma, the formulaic programs, and the depressing, corporate environment of religion.
I grew up in a very Fundamentalist Christian environment. Like all religions or denominations, it had a compelling narrative—as long as you didn’t dare to question its inconsistencies. I want to be clear, that there were many wonderful people who subscribed to the narrative. I in no way want to demean them or portray them as anything less than kind, loving, honest, and sincere. My charges are not leveled at those people, but at the system and those who exploit it for personal gain.
Almost 25 years ago, I had the extreme good fortune to have been involuntarily pulled out of the religious environment and unwittingly pushed into a journey of discovery. Upon attempting reentry into institutional religion some 13 years later, I was shocked at how religion revealed itself to be hideous and oppressive. I’ve been accused of throwing the baby out with the bathwater—of seeing a handful of bad institutions and lumping all the good institutions in with them. But it’s not just the handful of exploiters that ruined a good thing for everyone else. It’s the well intentioned people that create artificial, hierarchical systems and portray them as the only means by which people may encounter God that forge the majority of the chains. To expand upon the metaphor, the bathwater is disgusting, but the baby is the bigger and more insidious problem.
Examining religious structures from an objective viewpoint has left me irate and disgusted at the illogic and the blind superstition of religion and the vitriol with which those characteristics are vehemently defended. But cursing the darkness without shining the light is no way to go through life. I realize that merely lashing out in anger is purely destructive. It’s not God’s way, and if the walls of religion are detrimental and divisive, then walls built by hostility must be at least as detrimental. So I struggle to keep my ire and sarcasm in check when discussing religion and its damaging effects.
You see, as a child growing up in a very zealous religious system, I was introduced to the bible. I was introduced to religious practice. I was introduced to the Fundamentalist narrative. I was introduced to doctrine and polity. But I was never introduced to God.
I was introduced to a caricature of God. A caricature of a vengeful, schizophrenic God that was based on a purely academic approach to a set of writings which was viewed as a formula that must be deciphered and followed maniacally in order to appease an angry God.
I don’t expect to change the mind of anyone who is wedded to their religion. That’s ok. My message is not for them. My message is for the disenfranchised—those who have been hurt by people who wield religion like a weapon or left feeling empty because of religion’s vacuous and impotent promises.
My message is for those who recognize the religious smoke screen for what it is. It is for those who see the detrimental effects of religion but haven’t yet discovered the Way. It is for those whose doubts are dismissed as a lack of faith and whose disagreement with the narrative is met with ridicule and ostracism. It is for those who seek deeper relationships with God and other people but are offered only programs and rituals.
My desire is to help those people to understand that they are not crazy, that they do not have to feel guilty for questioning nonsensical dogma, and that God is not angry at them for doubting the narrative. I am convinced that if they could simply get a glimpse of the overwhelming love that God has for them, they would be changed forever.
When you get a glimpse of that love, it makes you want to seek it at the expense of everything else. It sets you free and launches you on a journey of discovery. You slip the shackles of religion and venture into the unknown. You realize that there is no formula. There is no pat answer to the mysteries of the ages but rather an infinite wealth of wonder to be mined by those who have the tenacity to keep digging.
There is no psychological padded room of religion to shield you from the fear and the doubt and the sorrow. But. There is that glimpse of unconquerable love that leads you ever onward into a wild and dangerous frontier. And the relationships that develop, should you choose to build them, become torches that radiate the love of God into a suffering world that badly needs it.
And that’s good enough for me.