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My Journey


spiritseeker
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Hi everyone!

 

Sorry I have not been on here for a while but I needed a break from it all and I am now back refreshed and ready to learn and chat with you all. I dont know if you guys have heard of Deism but that is a religion that I have been involved in and I wrote a short essay that will be published early next year. The Deist website I participate on is called www.naturesgod.org if anyone is interested. ANyway I thought I would share my journey with you guys and I would really love some feeback. Ok here it is....

 

The Journey of Spiritseeker

 

I never really grew up with religion. Mum and Dad were not religious, and I was never really aware of the religious world out there. I had one brother who lived with us. Nana and Pa (Grandfather and Grandmother) moved in with us, and they were members of The Salvation Army. They used to go to church every Sunday, without fail. Even though I wasn’t religious, I have always believed in God, and I have always believed in an afterlife. The only proof I have of these claims is that they make sense to me, and deep within it feels right. I used to talk about these claims with my Nanna. She would read parts of the Bible to me and even at the age of 8 I didn’t understand how she could have all her faith in a book. I didn’t dare ask her that though! I did admire her passion in her beliefs and I did wish that I had that passion. That is where I left my beliefs when I was a youth. I thought about God from time to time, but I was far too busy going to school and playing basketball. I was quite content to leave religion sit idle while I had fun and played with my mates and occasionally did school work. I grew up with my Dad since my parents got separated. My mum found her spiritual peace in Catholicism late in her life. Unfortunately, she passed away at the age of 50. Rest in peace, mum.

 

By the age of 20 I moved away from home with my wife and son, who was two at the time. Being a father was a huge adjustment and made me grow up pretty quickly. My wife grew up in a Catholic family and was brought up in the Catholic Church and schools. I found it very interesting that she has been brought up with a religious background and is now an Atheist, while I was not brought up in religion, but have these core beliefs that I can’t shake!

By my mid twenties my family had grown. I now had a wife and my three boys. At this point in my life I had developed a burning desire to learn about religion to try to find where I fit in.

My first port of call was talking to my uncle. We are very close. He is a traditionalist Christian, and he just exudes passion, which is very contagious. We take the boys to his house for a holiday every year since he lives close to the beach, and it is great for the family. My Uncle is a retired minister, and I thought I would start with a few questions. What I really noticed in our discussion was that he couldn’t answer all of my questions. He would quote different sayings in the bible but my response was, "I respect what you are saying but you are only telling me different passages in the bible. How do I know the bible is true? Maybe these passages are taken out of context because I don’t know the part before that passage or the part after that passage".

 

I came to the conclusion that you have to have complete faith and trust in the Bible to be a Christian, and I decided that I needed to look elsewhere since I could not put complete faith and trust in the Bible. There were just too many unanswered questions.

I started with a religion called New Church or Swedenborgism, a faith that believes in the afterlife, but focuses on the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg who claimed to be in touch with God through the spiritual world. I was interested because of his book Heaven and Hell, which focussed on the afterlife. After reading some of this book I realized it wasn’t what I wanted. The whole religion was founded on believing in Emmanuel Swedenborg’s beliefs and experiences. I wasn’t prepared to put all my trust in beliefs about eternity based on one person’s experiences.

 

I looked briefly into some Eastern Religions like Taoism and Confucianism. I really love some of their sayings and respect Eastern wisdom, but I decided that, although I could definitely read and learn from these religions, I could not commit to any of them. I do not have any concrete reasons for reaching this decision, except that spiritually, I knew they weren’t the perfect fit for me.

 

I then found a religion called Baha’i, which I first thought might have become my religion. It promoted the principles of treating people equally, respecting and accepting all religions, but as I read more about Baha’i I realised it was a lot like Christianity, where all my questions were still unanswered, which left a big hole in my spirituality.

Throughout my research I had become increasingly stressed and concerned that I couldn’t find a religion that suited my thoughts and beliefs. I felt like I was alone, and through my frustration I decided to jump on the Internet and do a Web search. My search was, ”I believe in God, but I don’t know what else”. To my surprise, I found a website about something called Deism. I had never heard this word, but thought that I had nothing to lose by investigating. I was excited and delighted to see that there were other people who believed in God and didn’t have all the answers. I printed out a Thomas Paine book called Age of Reason, and I couldn’t believe that I had found a book that I understood and could relate to. I went back to this Deist website to read more, but I started to get discouraged, because I found a lot of criticism of other religions, which really put me off. On the one hand, I was excited to find Deism, but on the other hand, I decided I could not follow a faith that bashed other religions, so I continued my journey along paths to the unknown.

The journey and research had started in my mid-twenties, and I had now reached my thirties. I still had not found a religion where my spirit could come to rest. I had continued to go to my Uncle’s house during the holidays, and I would get more Christian advice. I was so jealous that he was in his happy place. I wanted the same. Even with all my questions, I decided to ignore them and try to be a Christian. I had built a great relationship over the Internet with a Reverend in Canada, and he and I spoke weekly. I must admit that for the first couple of months I felt great. I felt on top of the world. I was on a spiritual high, or so I thought. Nothing could be better. Then, one night it all came crashing down. My wife and I got to talking about religion, and she was asking me a few respectful questions. She could not understand how I went from being someone who questioned to someone who just believed. I got agitated at her probing, and in the end we decided to agree to disagree. Don’t get me wrong, she was happy that I was happy; she just wanted to understand. Anyway, in the morning I woke up, and for the first time in a couple of months it was not with cheery thoughts of “I love you, God”. It was with the stark realization: “What am I doing?” My wife’s questioning had showed me clearly that I was just blocking out all my own questioning. And I had unconsciously chosen to pretend to believe in Christianity. I was shocked and saddened over what I had become. I was also in a state of disbelief. For the last couple of months I had been able to put blinders on and ignore the reasons that had started me on my quest all along. Once this had happened I needed sometime to think and decompress.

 

Deism kept coming up in my thoughts. I decided it was time to go back on the Internet and see if there was any form of Deism that did not bash other religions. To my excitement I found something called Positive Deism. To me this was like winning the lotto. I had found a group of people who agreed with me about being respectful. I really learned a lot through Positive Deism, and it led me to the Church of Nature’s God. The Church gave me that more personal fellowship that I had been longing for. It is a great group of people from all walks of life who share some common beliefs. I participated actively on the forums and felt really good about where I was. A key belief in Deism is that there is a God/Creator that made the universe, but isn’t actively involved in it. I started to struggle with that because my spirit tells me that God plays a bigger part in all of this. Once again I felt frustrated and decided to take a break from the forums and search again.

My heart was telling me to go back to Christianity. My head was saying, “Don’t be ridiculous,” but my heart won. I decided that I had not learned enough about Christianity to completely rule it out, so I decided to read and learn as much as possible. This time the blinders were off, and remained true to myself as I read and learned. I was relaxed and did not put any pressure on myself to commit. I just wanted to learn more so I could decide once and for all where I stood with Christianity. I do believe in Jesus, but I cannot 100% say whether he is God or not. I am unwilling to commit to that, but I am willing to devote myself to learning from his teachings and being guided by them. I know that traditional Christianity is not for me since most branches are unwilling to accept gay people or to admit the possibility that people with other religious beliefs may get into heaven. These are a couple of my core beliefs that are non-negotiable. I faced a dilemma. My head was still having Deist thoughts, and my heart was still longing for a more personal relationship with God.

Enter Progressive Christianity! I have just started my journey down this path, but my first impression is that, while there are a lot of similarities with Deism, it allows for Christian Mysticism. Questioning is encouraged, and it is OK to not know all the answers. I am very comfortable with the major tenets of Progressive Christianity, which you can find at the Centre for Progressive Religious Thought website: http://www.progressivereligion.org.au. I am also comfortable with the 8 points of what it means to be a Progressive Christian.

 

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean we are Christians who:

 

1. Have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus.

2. Recognise the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.

3. Understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’s name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God’s feast for all peoples.

4. Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable (including but not limited to):

believers and agnostics,

conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,

women and men,

those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,

those of all races and cultures,

those of all classes and abilities,

those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope

5. Know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe.

6. Find more grace in the search for understanding than we do in dogmatic certainty - more value in questioning than in absolutes.

7. Form ourselves into communities dedicated to equipping one another for the work we feel called to do: striving for peace and justice among all people, protecting and restoring the integrity of all God's creation, and bringing hope to those Jesus called the least of his sisters and brothers

8. Recognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.

Reproduced with permission. The Centre for Progressive Christianity website: http://www.tcpc.org/about/8points.cfm.

The future? Your guess is as good as mine. I will pursue the path of Progressive Christianity for now, and at the moment my head and heart are in agreement. That is a great start in my opinion! I really hope you enjoyed my journey. The main point I want you to take away is to just be true to yourself. Don’t pretend to be anything you are not. I hope we meet online. Just look for “spiritseeker” at one of the Deist Alliance discussion boards. I am planning to get involved again because I am comfortable that Progressive Christianity and positive Deism can live together in harmony in a peaceful and respectful relationship. Who would have ever thought that Christianity and Deism could do this? I am convinced that we can make this happen.

 

Thank you all for reading. I would like to leave you with two of my favourite quotes.

"The heart has its reasons which the reason knows not of" --Blaise Pascal

 

As you pursue the path that you believe to be true, keep your eye on your goal, wave if you see me, share what you have seen and done on your journey, and don’t be surprised when I continue on my own path instead of following yours.

 

Spiritseeker

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Hello Spiritseeker,

 

I very much enjoyed reading all of your post. Your struggle (if i may call it that) between your heart and your head was most interesting. You seem to have had a great need for your beliefs to provide answers to your questions and those of others. To me it at first seems like it is the thinking mind that enables us to break away from traditional conditioned thoughts and beliefs and enter our own journey yet i find that only when the thinking mind reaches its end of usefulness that the spirit reveals itself and subjective experience begins. This experience to me goes way beyond head knowledge and is gentle yet firm like a rock and able to gently dissolve that which attempts to impede the progression of what seems like a journey but is rather a returning to that which always was and is. Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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I don’t know much about Deism aside from its basic tenet of a Creator who does not intervene - a product of the clockwork universe theory of modern thought. As a belief it seems logical enough to me - I mean, logically it may very well be correct that there is a being who created the universe or set it into motion. But to me this belief, as it stands, seems to lack the personal and intimate relevance to life as it is lived. To me God must have direct and immediate relevance to one’s religious practice, else, what is the point? In my view, if he is not at the heart of reality, then God is just another object among objects - perhaps a plausible explanation or theoretical framework by which to understand the natural order, but it sort of lacks that immediate, intimate “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,” that is found in Christ. To me God does not primarily serve as an explanation, a theory, or an object to be apprehended, rather he is very Reality, the oft-cited ‘ground.’ And that is to me is what truly allows for worship and devotion, because he is not just an object among objects, but he is inescapable, all in all, as Saint Dionysius stated: beyond being and non-being, beyond movement and stillness. Deism in a sense complements the Christian belief in a Creator, which I am certainly not opposed to - as such they have something to talk about, but as you also point out, Christianity has much more to say as well.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Spiritseeker, Welcome to the forum and thank you for telling us about your journey. I like your name and questions because they seem to match. I am also impressed with your mind set to go into any cave and confront what is there, may Truth win out. I hope you are picking up the tools of Truth in your research and study of spirituality. Truth is everywhere so will stick to you by your just coming in contact with it. I look forward to more of your post. Your brother in Christ, Soma

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