Sunday, August 7, 2011

Spiritual vs. Religious

This post is off-topic from what I'd planned to blog here, but I've had some major revelations in the past year that has changed my perspective about what is real and what is not real. I plan to post my thoughts from this point forward in order to understand my own beliefs and determine what does and doesn't make sense.

When I hit 40 years of age, my body changed suddenly. I felt like something wasn't right and have gone to doctors and specialists more times in the past year than I have in my entire life. It was during this period that a sense of impending doom came over me and led me to seek what death would be like.

I always grew up religious. I was born and raised in a Catholic family as a child and been down that path until I reached my college years. It wasn't until my sophomore year in college that I was exposed to the bible through a "non-denominational" Christian movement. During the next 10 years, I would read and study the bible from Genesis to Revelations, learning much about God, Jesus, and religion. This stage changed my views on Catholicism and what religiousness meant. I realized how different various religious sects were and how similar they were also. I had a great time with my new friends and was very zealous for God and Jesus during those early years, but only because I thought I had found the "Truth" and wanted to share it with everyone who cared to listen.

As is the case with anything new, the newness eventually disappeared and the monotony of Christian life began to settle in. This caused me to question my beliefs and faith. How can life lose it's joy when I believed that Christianity is the truth and life and love? My life didn't feel that much different than before I became a born-again Christian, even though my mind believed I was different. This made me question what faith meant and what religion's purpose is. It also made me question what Jesus' message really is.

Upon further examination, I came to realize that the questions and doubt in my mind came from the church's teachings and practice, as well as how Christianity seems to interpret the Bible. I felt that faith does not come from doing this and that, but rather we act because of our own convictions. But when the church, religious leaders, and those in the congregation needs to push you in a certain direction, it made me realize that my faith wasn't really mine at all, but rather those around me. That's when I decided to seek my own faith and leave the church because I felt it was creating a group of followers rather than leaders. I believed that true Christians were leaders of the faith. I believed that if you couldn't lead someone, you weren't able to express your faith completely, which meant your understanding of your faith was lacking. That meant you didn't have faith, but rather a mere agreement with those around you to believe the same thing. This isn't faith. This is simply comfort in numbers. So I left without seeking another church because I saw that all churches were the same by design.

For the next 10 years, I went from feeling guilty about "leaving God" because I had left the church, to feeling indifferent about church, to having no interest in being a part of a church. Church became just a group of people to feel secure together, being taken advantage of by their leadership through fear, guilt, and compulsion. I tried to share my new belief that churches had a negative effect on people because it made them comfortable in a belief without having any responsibility for their own faith. But even with this thought, I was still seeking God in my heart.  While some will blow off the belief in a God completely due to this kind of change in ideology, I could not rationalize the idea of God away no more than I could rationalize away the discoveries of science.  The rationalization that God does not exist required more of a leap of faith for me than to believe in a creator, simply because our existence by chance does not sound reasonable to me.  That's like believing that if I roll a dice long enough, I'll somehow roll the numbers in sequence starting with 1, several times in a row.  I look at nature and biology as the epitome of purpose, the way everything is intricately integrated and co-dependent.  That co-dependence is why I can't believe in random chance as the basis of existence.  Rolling the dice to get a series in sequence requires something knowing what numbers are and the idea of order to create sequences, which a system without intelligence could not have.  I don't look at negative social behavior of humans as a justification to deny God's existence.  To me, what people did was just an expression of individuality and free will.  I don't look at nature and ask why an animal kills another.  Nor do I think of a natural disaster as some type of supernatural vengeance.

As I mentioned, I went through a physical condition which I still have no idea what it is/was when I turned 40. In my mind, based on the symptoms, I felt I had a terminal illness because I never felt bad like this before and having lost a friend recently from a brain tumor, I felt that I too must have contracted a fatal disease. It was during this period of my life that I started on the next leg of my spiritual journey.

One night, I had a thought. "What will it be like to die?" That question brought up in my mind the old stories about entering a dark tunnel and going into the light. These stories were typically told by people who had died and survived death. Unlike so many, when presented with an inspiration end up ignoring it, I stopped what I was doing and I decided to look up near-death experiences. What I read simply amazed me! I was reading about people's experiences with life after death, which I have only had very minor details prior on TV! Their stories were different in some ways, but similar in others. That similarity is what caught my attention immediately. To think that people from all different walks of life, beliefs, and times would have a similar experience made me think there must be some truth to this. So I kept reading more and more stories. The more I read, the more I came to the conclusion that religion is man-made and that "God" as the religious community likes to label the Creator, is not what they believe. Their idea of God is so limited in their thinking that it does not do justice by the label "God".

As I continued to read more about what life after death was like, many questions I had while I was of the Christian faith had been answered. Questions such as "why must I be saved?", "why is there evil?", "why doesn't God answer us?", etc. These are questions that both the religious and especially the non-religious ask or use as the reason for not believing in a Creator. The religious use those questions to basically put themselves down to a low level, as one being unworthy and in need of saving. The non-religious use those questions to deny the existence of the Creator and to deny their own true nature. But even these stories of near-death experiences did not answer all of the questions I had. So I kept searching for more information.

For me, the deepest question I had was "Why am I conscious of this life in this body in this time?" I could not understand why I am experiencing life as I am, what consciousness is, why I see out of these two eyes and why my life is the way it is. I'm not referring to the decisions and actions I've taken to bring me to this point in my life. I'm talking about the fact that I am aware of myself in this body and experiencing this life right now. How can I "Be"? It was also this question that made me believe that the religious belief that Jesus came to save us from eternal damnation could not be true. If it was true that God must save us from death, then why do we exist in this imperfect form when God created us this way (rather than believe that God doesn't exist because of all the imperfections in the world, I believed that God allowed imperfections for a reason and thus it isn't an imperfection but by design)?

As I kept digging, I came to a couple of books that seemed to have all the answers, at least for the questions I had at this point. These books spoke from people who were experiencing spiritual reality without the veil of ignorance. One problem I had with the near-death experiences was that people did not seem to know what they were experiencing and many were not very deep experiences. I could not understand why that was because if we all die and are taken into "heaven", why is it that everyone sees something different? It wasn't until I read about life between life that some of those questions were answered. I now understood that those who do not die completely have not truly put off their human ego and are seeing what they create in their mind as reality. Because of this, those spirits on the other side tasked with helping those who have recently died create a sort of fake play to help transition the newly deceased back into the spiritual reality (edit: after a few more years of study, I understand now that helpers do not create the perception of the newly transitioned, but instead act within the perception created by the newly transitioned). This may sound foolish, but if you realized what we perceive as reality isn't reality, how would that affect a person's psyche? Most likely, it would create a barrier to those not able to cope with the truth (ie. deny the truth) because of their strong belief in one reality. You can see this in people today. Many people believe strongly in one belief or another. For example, many religious believe that heaven consists of the Pearly Gates or Gates of Hell, with angels and demons. I'll talk more about our concepts of reality in another post, but for this point, our beliefs is our reality and that reality becomes manifested by our spirit body. In "life", you do not believe that you create your own reality, but rather believe reality is outside of your control. Once we are in the spirit body through death, the same holds true until the truth is revealed and acknowledged by us. That truth is revealed by those spiritual guides and helpers through the transition period. It is this point that I realized why so many near-death experiencers had differing experiences.

In closing this post, I would like to conclude that my journey into understanding reality is just beginning. My hope is that some others will be helped in this lifetime through my understanding. I do not claim to be some wise-man or a guru. But I do believe my purpose in life is to help people and the way I believe I can help is by helping people understand why they are here. Unlike my time as a Christian, where I would try to force my beliefs upon people in order "save them", my goal now is to educate people on a different perspective about reality and allow those who listen to come to their own conclusions about their reality. I do not believe anyone needs saving from anything except their own limiting beliefs. It is people's beliefs that create reality. Why is there evil? Because people believe in it. Why do people do evil? Because they choose to do it. No excuses, no finger pointing, no scapegoats. Simple as that.

Peace out.

No comments: