My Religious Journey
The Path of Religious Discovery
For a variety of reasons, 2003 saw the end of my long held belief that there was no God. Atheism had been my chosen belief since I was at high school. I particularly remember being asked in a History class if anyone did not believe in God and I was the only one who put his hand up. But as one ages and gets over their pig headedness they start to question just what is out there? Now some of you may be saying (like I did) that there simply cannot be any form of God. And who am I to argue with you. If that is what you believe and you feel comfortable with that then that is fine.
I like to think that the journey of religious discovery is like taking a very long walk. Along this journey many different paths branch off and you can either explore them or bypass them. The choice is entirely yours.
It is my intention to outline some of the discoveries I have made so hopefully the fellow seeker reading this may be aided in their quest as some web sites helped me.
Atheism (believe it or not, a religious belief)
Regardless of what many think Atheism is a religious belief, it is a belief that God does not exist and that he/she simply never can exist, nor have existed. It takes a considerable amount of faith to discount all that occurs which is inexplicable, but atheists either say, “Oh that was a coincidence.”, or they simply ignore those inexplicable events. If a person does claim to be an atheist they are saying there can never be a God, note the word NEVER – now that is a big call. A call I made for years because science reinforced it for me, at least in my limited understanding. I did not believe in God, instead I trusted science alone.
The Da Vinci Code
It is time to admit that it was The Da Vinci Code that kicked off my interest in religion. After reading this compelling book I read a few books mentioned within the novel and then hit the Internet. Slowly but surely I started to question more and more about religion. I never subscribed to the fanciful plot in the novel but it certainly awakened an interest in religion.
Deism (Belief in God without Baggage?)
When I first started to believe in more than this mortal world the first label I could put on my beliefs was that of deism. Now I had never heard of deism before, and discovered that it was a belief in a God who is removed from its creation. In other words, God created the universe and then left it alone, like a fine quality watch the universe was made and is left to run on its own. As a former atheist this minimalist belief in God was highly valuable, and one I am at times still sympathetic to. Unfortunately, in my opinion, deism means God is essentially dead to the universe; if God plays no role at all then we may as well have no belief in God. In fact some would say Deism is the same as atheism, except a deist believes God started it all. But this is not necessarily true.
In addition to the watchmaker God, deism does not believe in revelation. So while Christ and other prophets are considered good men, they are certainly not incarnations or direct children of God. Famous deist, Thomas Paine in Age of Reason attacked the divinity of Christ and considered it offensive “story” to equate a man as equal to the creator. So for deists, belief in God is the result of reason and observation of creation itself, not through revealed scriptures, e.g. The Bible.
Deism is a broad church, and of course there are many varying opinions, one of the best web sites is called Deism and Reason. It has a wealth of materials that any seeker will find useful.
Alternatively you can check out the Universist Movement, a collection of deists, panthesists and others.
Looking at it now, I personally feel Deism is fundamentally flawed. The minimalist view of God really doesn’t cut it for me anymore. I feel God is everywhere, but particularly I feel God is within us all. Hence the concept of an aloof transcendent God is a little flawed in my eyes.
Pantheism (Nature is God?)
The more I thought about a Supreme Being the more troubled I became with the concept of deism. I came to believe that God was a part of all of us, an ever present part of us. As such I discovered pantheism, which equates all living things with God, or more generally the universe is God. The supreme advantage behind this is that God is ever present, where with deism, God was aloof.
Like all other religions there are a diverse range of opinions about pantheism. Some people feel the whole universe is God, while scientific pantheism deifies the universe but removes the word God. Like deism, pantheism rejects all holy books, only contacting God by viewing and being part of nature.
For further information visit:
Taoism (The religion that gave us yin and yang)
It was not long after discovering pantheism that I came across Taoism (often spelt Daoism and pronounced dow-ism). Taoism is an ancient Chinese religion that centres around the Tao, an ever present mystical force that carries the world forward. The Tao is not a personal God; more an impersonal force, that guides actions. To be true to the Tao one can follow the advice found in the Tao Te Ching, the cryptic holy book for Taoism.
There is significant beauty and wisdom in the Tao Te Ching, and it is here that yin and yang, the duality of all nature is revealed. Duality is to me something that appears in all parts of life, in fact Jung later elucidated the relationship between the light and dark sides within the psyche.
It is difficult to explain how the Tao works or what it is, but then some would argue you do not need to, just live simply and try to follow wu-wei, which loosely means doing what you need to but also letting things happen, that is, don’t try to make the Way follow you, but you try to follow the Way. It also if often translated to doing things with the least effort possible; quite a contrast to the modern Western work ethic.
One of the best descriptions of the Tao came from one of the many copies of the Tao Te Ching I own, essentially it said: Imagine a garden full of wild bushes, they seem to flourish, but the soil is not visible due to the dense foliage. The unseen soil is like the Tao, ever present and nourishing the life that can be seen. Hardly a definitive description but effective nonetheless.
If the concept of the Tao still feels a little inaccessible, think of the Force from the Star Wars movies; Lucas drew heavily on the Tao when he created the Force.
I should add that in many people’s eyes Taoism is nothing more than a philosophical system based on the Tao Te Ching or the Chuang Tzu. This is indeed a dated and false perception. In the last 10 years we have discovered that Taoism is a living religion and indeed it includes more than simply the Tao Te Ching. Saying Taoism is based on the Tao Te Ching alone is analogous to saying Christianity is based on the Gospel of St Matthew alone. For more information I strongly suggest you have a look at the Taoist Restoration Society’s pages.
For further information visit:
The Quakers (The Religious Society of Friends)
My search for my spiritual centre has stopped here at the Quakers. Many times during my spiritual quest the Quaker faith came up, but I passed it over, foolishly just thinking is was a mainstream Christian faith. But as I read further i discovered an admirable form of religious expression that i could happily subscribe to.
Quakers are essentially mystics, they believe that anyone can have personal contact with God. This is possible because the light of God resides within all of us, Quakers say, “There is that of God in everyone.” A statement from the English Quakers web site is as follows:
Quakers respect the creative power of God in every human being and in the world around us. We work through quiet processes for a world where peaceful means bring about just settlements.
The Quaker faith is relatively free of dogma, and the dogma that is there is not compulsory. A famous quote between William Penn and George Fox goes as follows:
When William Penn was convinced of the principles of Friends, and became a frequent attendant at their meetings, he did not immediately relinquish his gay apparel; it is even said that he wore a sword, as was then customary among men of rank and fashion. Being one day in company with George Fox, he asked his advice concerning it, saying that he might, perhaps, appear singular among Friends, but his sword had once been the means of saving his life without injuring his antagonist, and moreover, that Christ had said, ‘He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.’ George Fox answered, ‘I advise thee to wear it as long as thou canst.’ Not long after this they met again, when William had no sword, and George said to him, ‘William, where is thy sword?’ ‘Oh!’ said he, ‘I have taken thy advice; I wore it as long as I could.’
Samuel Janney, 1852
One of the key features of Quakerism is the Meeting for Worship, this is something of a group meditation where people group together and wait in silence for the God to make his presence felt. Essentially the gathered people are waiting to see if God moves anyone to give ministry. In the silence one must quiet the mind to listen to the light of God that dwells within. Visitors are always welcome at a Meeting for Worship
The last thing I must inform my reader about the Quakers is that Quaker theology is very open, that is there is no set belief one must adhere to, however nearly all Quakers believe there is that of God in everyone. Some Quakers consider Christ divine, others do not; as a regular attender I consider Christ to be a man who was highly in touch with his Inner Light. Moreover no Quaker will tell you what you must believe, it is up to you.
When you include the Quaker’s excellent social justice and peace work it is hard not to recommend them. But to live the true Quaker life is to live simply and to be truthful at ALL times. Not always easy in our modern Western society.
For further information visit: