Saturday, September 26, 2009

Losing My Religion

~ He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

First and foremost I would like to thank NAD for having me back. With that said, my first post seemed to piggyback a Joseph Lane post and, although this was not intended, here we go again.

The other day I made an interesting observation about my Twitter friends. I noticed that I had managed to form a connection with a significant amount of self-proclaimed atheists as well as proud Bible toting God lovers. Where then, I wondered, do I fall in the mix? Typically I refrain from sharing my beliefs because to be honest I don’t feel a need to defend them or convert anyone else. In addition, my spirituality is so complex it would take a book to explain it, hence the inspiration for the novel I’m working on.

To provide a bit of background, I was raised in the Catholic Church and set free at age eighteen. My parents insisted I had to follow their faith until that age and coming of age I ran like hell. I have always questioned authority and, if something didn’t sit well with me, I called it like I saw it. So there I was, eighteen, free from Catholic condemnation and headed off to college. Life was good until Murphy’s Law hit. Whatever could go wrong for me did, from little things to major wrongs; from not being able to get ice cream at a campus ice cream parlor (apparently the freezers were set too high that day) to my first car catching on fire, with me in it, during a road trip. Did this make me run back to church? Just the opposite, it made me challenge God in a way I never did before. Bring it on! I dared. Is that the best you got? I challenged.

Then something happened. When I receive a new planner, I have a tendency to look ahead and see what day my birthday falls on in the upcoming calendar. One year, I noticed my birthday was going to fall on Easter Sunday, the most holy of Catholic holidays. HA! I laughed, looked up to the sky and mocked, “So what are you going to do now, strike me down?” Now I do believe in a Higher Power and I believe he/she or it has a deep sense of humor. January came and a series of unexplainable events ensued. I would love to share them all with you but NAD may revoke my guest pass.

To make a long story short, enough events transpired in my life to convince me, a highly intellectual, free thinking individual beyond a reasonable doubt that there is something much more to this scripted play of the flesh in which we all take part. To borrow, out of context, from one of my favorite authors James Baldwin, the evidence of things not seen was compelling.

I do not label my spiritual relationship, which seems to bring me into conflict with those who maintain religious affiliation. I have visited many churches in my church hopping days and none of them have ever felt like home. I have discovered more drama and judgment in religious environments than I care to stomach. Ironically, I find that atheists often display more tolerance and the principles at the heart of Christianity than the most devout Christians; an insightful belief in humanity perhaps?

Personally I find organized religion to be too divisive and judgmental. Are all Buddhists going to hell because they don’t accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior? That’s a bit absurd to me. To be honest, losing my religion was the best thing that ever happened to me. In doing so, I developed a far more profound and intimate relationship with the universe. Atheism I could never adopt simply because if I truly believed this shithole we call life is all there is, I would put the gun to my temple and pull the trigger right now. I believe that free will has a purpose. I believe we all consentingly signed on to take part in research of sorts to help get it right by learning from our wrongs. I believe that when I transcend the flesh my inquisitive self will be fulfilled and that alone, for me, makes the human experiment worthwhile.

-Gale Mullings


  1. I too was a raised Catholic. My break with the church came a little sooner. About around the time my family moved from a strong Irish Catholic city to an other province and another town which was mostly Baptist. I think it was the first time my parents felt judged by what church they attended. We soon stopped attending church altogether. Without any sort of religious push, or structure I was left to figure out the whole thing myself.

    I became more conscious of politics, war, famine, disease, human atrocities,the whole bloodyshit show at around the same time as the Ethiopian Famine, so 1984 (funny that!), it was then I lost God. Yes, I know, I know that is almost a cliched response to the question when it I lost my religion. It's the how could an all powerful God be so heartless and cruel thing. If he exists, IF, he is either really bad at his job, or he doesn't give a shit. So I could reject his existence altogether...or I could blame him for all of humanities ills. (He made us, it's gotta be his mess to clean up.) I choose non-belief. This was 1984, I was 11, you gotta give me points for trying.

    I have thus been and atheist for 2/3s of my life. I just see religion and the God myth as being the height of human intellectual laziness, it's the easy way out. I can't get into the spiritual, not in any broad sense. It all comes down to intelligence. Do I believe there is an intelligence behind the creation of our perceived universe, NO! I think not. The only perceived intelligence that exists is that of the collective human consciousness. We might not be all that there is, but we are all that we truly know.

  2. I've never had religion. I don't think I'll ever have religion. I believe this is all there is, and it's AMAZING. Sometimes I sit and feel mystified and privileged to be alive at a time where we know enough about the Universe to explain what we DON'T know. Mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology...all these things fill me with an unbelievable wonder, and I don't need to believe there's a higher power to be enchanted by it.

    In fact, it's even MORE amazing if you consider that by some natural process, the Universe was spun out of...something. No hand to guide it, no eye to critique it, no mind to shape it.

    I appreciate your take on religion, and I wish more people looked at it like you do. If I had to believe, I'd believe as you do. But I'm a happy unbeliever. I'm happy to accept my place as a brief -- but relevant and significant -- part of this Universe.

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  4. Thank you Vincent. You and I have very similar views on the universe. We are dumbfounded, inspired and in awe at how things have all come to be, but there is no reverence, we claim no answer to how or who started the ball rolling.

    I might have been born a non-believer, I used rebellion as early justification I know that. It is cool to be the atheist among your pals when I was just a kid. But there was still that gnawing what if, that the Church drives into your heart and soul, ugh Catholic guilt. The stench of it still seeps from my soul from time to time.

    Oh what fun! Thank you Vincent, thank you Gale!

  5. Thank you for your comments...

    Joseph, I truly understand how you feel. "How could God let that happen?" is a question I too struggled with during Catholicist influence. During that time, I erroneously thought that God would fix things if he so chose. I now accept it is not the intention of such to interfere as much as observe and learn from a fishbowl view of sorts. Though it may seem callous, I liken it to disease testing. How would one know the effects unless they witness the damage? Not "bad at his job" as much as pain-filled patience. Catholicism teaches God as the father. As a parent myself I know I can teach my child "the way" in an effort to protect but ultimately he will make his own decisions, which may lead to hurts and downfalls I have to accept.

    As for "the height of human intellectual laziness", a supervisor who felt I was too strong in my opinion once asked me, "Could you entertain the idea you may be wrong?" An interesting question that led me to conclude if I said no, I would be affirming I was all-knowing, thus ruling out possibilities and to do so would mean closing yourself off to the opportunity to learn something new. Major discoveries that can now be proven came from people willing to look beyond what "we truly know". The earth was deemed to be flat until someone, risking classification of insanity, challenged it may be round.

    Vincent, I think you should celebrate yourself as "a brief -- but relevant and significant -- part of this Universe." The lack of religion, in my belief, has given you an advantage. The ability to see life as "MORE amazing if you consider that by some natural process, the Universe was spun out of...something"

    I believe in evolution but the theory falls a bit short for me. What/who planted the first molecule to make evolution possible and why? I don't see it as a conflicting theory as much as I do complimentary. Perhaps I question too much but I'll hold on to my belief that one day, my questions will be answered. That makes me happy and if you are happy as an "unbeliever" then that's all that really matters!

  6. Awesome post, Gale! Whew! Where to start? Without accidentally making, as a Friend of the NAD named Rasmenia says, "blogohrea"...I will try my very best to keep this short.
    I too, Vincent, am a "happy unbeliever" in organized religion. I find it hard to believe a giant, bearded, all-knowing, omnipotent creature sits above us, sorting out the Holy from the Unholy--the believers and disbelievers--the devout from the pious, doling out eternity-long sentences in paradise or the bowels of the most horrible, hottest, and terrifying place we have only imagined in nightmares.
    I do believe and know from personal first-hand experience that there is ABSOLUTELY an untapped natural/ collectively psychical energy that indeed surrounds all of us. Whether we as individuals take a whack at connecting with it is a personal quest we all undergo at some point or juncture in our lives.I think it's important to understand the symbiance in "losing your faith or religion" and "losing your faith IN religion".
    I believe free-thing/ free-will is the supreme universal law to which we finally come to revel in...even if it's on a deathbed. Hopefully most us of belonging to THIS generation will, as many already have, give up our dependence on "HOLY BOOKS" and find the answers we seek within ourselves...simply by grabbing life by the short-hairs.
    Home-run, Mrs. Mullins!

  7. Matt, Thank you for your comment and support. I think many, especially those with a religious background, have a hard-time dispelling the myth of the "giant, bearded, all-knowing, omnipotent creature". Fear is a powerful tool and religions use it to their advantage; tithing perhaps?

    As for your absolute belief in "an untapped natural/ collectively psychical energy that indeed surrounds all of us", I too share that. Perhaps it is closely tied in with your herbal appreciation :-) In that, you should appreciate my day.

    "I believe free-thing/ free-will is the supreme universal law to which we finally come to revel in". I share this hope and believe this to be the ultimately goal, obtaining free-will without infringing upon/hurting others. Tough challenge!

  8. I buy into a life force idea. I do not deny that there is a definite buzz, energy or light to life and consciousness. It's the idea of a controlling intelligence to everything that happens in the universe that I take issue with.

    We might be a high school science project. Earth might be a fish bowl. Intellectually we might be closer to sea monkeys, then whatever stirred or stirs our bluish chemical soup. But they, if they exist or existed are the not the king of all things, they are but another of perhaps many mad scientists.

    What gets me is the void. Before there was everything there had to be nothing. God might have created the universe, but who or what created God? The big bang? How was there anything to bang in a void? Nothingness more so then existence boggles my itty bitty speck of a human brain.

  9. The Pope wears Prada shoes.
    Therefore, I guess you can say I'm a recovering Roman Catholic.
    Seriously though, my religion used to be very important to me until I grew up and started questioning things. Once you become inquisitive, your perception changes--you become a person that can be reasoned with. I find most very religious people irrational. I'm glad I'm no longer one of them because as a human, it's my right to question my world.

    Great post, as usual. I think you're an exceptional writer. Hurry up and get published already!

  10. Awesome post Gale!
    I'm grateful that the human factor is part of your belief system...a part many seem to forget about. I think the best thing any of us can do is to question the religion we were taught, find out more, learn about others, see where our heart actually lives on the matter. Sometimes it leads us home, sometimes it leads us to a new enlightening path.
    While we share different views on some points, I believe in a power..some name that power God, some call it Buddha, Allah, El Shadda, Jehovah... In my humble opinion, All Gods are part of that 'Power' and that 'Power' is found in everything. It would be great to find more believers minds open on the matter of religious tolerance. Thanks for your openness.

  11. Gale, interesting post. I've just started reading The Case for God which states -- and I'm really boiling ideas down here -- that the recent (i.e. in the last 1500 yrs.) decision to view the Bible as a literal history rather than a collection of allegories has given rise to both fundamentalism and atheism. And perhaps a reversion to the more inclusive beginnings of Christianity might allow for less division among Christians and make it possible for non-believers to find something to hold onto as well. Very interesting, if somewhat academic, read. Thanks for sharing your views.

  12. I once had breakfast with a professor who taught the subjects of death and dying within the spiritual context as well as following the process from a clinical point of view.

    As we talked, I asked him if he believed in life after death and his simple response was, "Who cares?" If there is, great; if there isn't, we won't know because we'll be dead.

    For many of us still in the church (United Church of Canada in my case)it's the dialogue of justice, spirituality, and actually the love of neighbour (yes, even ones on the internet) that seems to fuel the desire to create a better world, all the while learning to be contemplate beauty, art, passion, and stillness in life.

    That's why, as a minister, I think of myself as a practitioner of the spiritual arts rather than as a "pastor who has to get people to Jesus." I dislike the Gospel at Gunpoint mentality where people seem to think if you don't believe what they believe you're going to hell.

    I think "religion" and "spirituality" are far more complicated than that - but I seem to be on the losing side, given the religious fundamentalism that surrounds me.

  13. Thanks Aaron, I am so glad we could get some perspective from someone who works in the 'business'.

    As for the content of or comment, I see religion, spirituality, beauty, art, passion et al as human expressions. None more important or more profound as the other.

  14. It's funny that you would write this post, because I have struggled with organized religion for the last five years. I just never got into church, and I hate how Christians, especially, tend to be so judgemental. So, like you I rebelled in college and only attended five times in my five years of school. I like to think that I went once per year.

    Anyways, I've recently been going thru some things and my parents suggested I go to church. I must add that my parents are devout Christians and church goers. So, I did. And I was greeted with nothing but, judgement and ppl. trying to get into my business as I was a new face. But, I brushed it off, because, I thought that church would somehow give me the anwers, I just needed to find one I liked. But, then I tried another church the next week and couldn't get in because the church had reached capacity so they weren't letting people enter.

    The point of this long story and comment, is to say that God is there or he/she isn't. It's up to YOU to make the choice and it's up YOU to decide how you follow him/her. And that's why I think I didn't get into church nor did I have a good experience that first time...that's not what the Spirit wants for me. That's not how the Spirit wants me to find my way.