The Existence of Organized Religion Implies the Existence of Unorganized Religion
When I first started questioning my commitment to evangelical Christianity, it was because it didn’t make sense in my gut.
It felt liberating to discover the philosophy of Universalism, which essentially promised that maybe everything would be okay for everybody in the end.
After years of being warned about the dangers of Universalism, I eventually just rolled my eyes and looked into it for myself.
It made sense to me, and it felt fair: the qualities of God’s love, forgiveness, and mercy remain true in this life and in the afterlife — that was something I could stand behind. How could anyone reject Heaven when faced with Hell?
I didn’t find any room for these beliefs in the Christian community I was in, and it was too difficult to pretend that I did. For that, and some other reasons, I decided to take off the Christian label and go my own way. I remember getting a lot of value from a wide range of spiritual teachers and traditions during that time, some adjacent to Christianity, some not.
These days though it’s hard for me to listen to any spiritual teacher at all. So much of it just reminds me of the evangelicalism I grew up with: big claims, unprovable claims, conflation of human spiritual authority figures with the actual higher power they claim to represent. What also makes it hard is that I kind of lost myself through extended witnessing (okay, lurking) of public conflict in a variety of spiritual spheres. It made my head spin trying to keep up with what philosophies or ideas were “anti-this” or “pro-that,” and in which communities, and in which contexts… All these conversations either triggered or actually delivered on the threat of public, widespread rejection, attack, and isolation.
I hadn’t yet figured out how to stand behind what I said while still being open to challenges, correction, and questions. So I just isolated myself further — either saying nothing, hoping to avoid a blow, or saying something meaningless, wanting to participate… but ultimately hoping to avoid a blow. And I did for the most part, avoid blows that is. Mission successful. But the isolation remained.
Anyways, now when I hear spiritual (or any) claims from any so-called authority, my eyes just kind of glaze over. If these claims aren’t built on a foundation of personal responsibility, I’m not interested — it’s all just my experience of evangelical Christianity all over again, at least the part of it that I left behind, the part where we submit our unknowing to a so-called spiritual teacher rather than just accepting the unknowing and working it out for ourselves.
Sometimes the new spiritual path we follow can end up looking the same as the one we left behind. Thinking there is only one right way usually just erases the reality of mystery.
What led me away from the organized religion I grew up with was the freedom of feeling secure in asking questions, and that’s the way I want to keep going.