Monday, January 30, 2012

Does religion have any purpose?

How easily I wrote off religion! Everyone knows it only gave guilt, fear, suffering and "sheep mentality" to the world. Who in their right mind would be drawn to it?

Me. When all else failed. I found out when you plug in those "negative emotions" where they fit, only then can the experience of humanity be made sacred. Where do these negative emotions fit? Generally, they go where and when things aren't good for me.

Along with lots of people, I thought sex was the answer to all my problems. After all, I had been taught in psychology and even from a few therapists I had, that sexual repression made people neurotic. Although repression could cause far more problems than sublimation, I had too many empty experiences trying to work all that out.

I wonder how it is that the rate of mental illness has mushroomed (along with the divorce rate) since the great "sexual revolution". People want their own freedom first, at all costs, regardless of how others are affected. Many of these people will quip that they aren't responsible for how others feel. Others will quip that their true freedom comes through sharing their love with others. Does that extend to difficult times of suffering or will the other person be dismissed since you believe suffering isn't healthy?

I've been where they are. I've defended a lot of selfish decisions. I had felt trapped in my life and I wanted to be free. I did just that. I became much more confident and successful in my life. When my idea of "success" collapsed, it was hard to find meaning. I kept being told that I could gain "personal power" and become all I ever wanted by believing in my "divine nature."

Had I not felt desperate, I wouldn't have stayed with this thinking as long as I did. Deep down, I remembered the story of the Garden of Eden and how the serpent told our original parents they would "be as gods". Deep down, I knew that making myself my own god was a type of idolatry. When I wasn't trying to become as God, I was idolizing gurus. Finally, I collapsed with guilt from it all.

My gurus would have cautioned me not to judge myself and to stop being a victim, through guilt, but if I had done that, I would have denied myself the greatest realization of my life.

After a five year period of re-examining these things, it became apparent to me that I had a desire to explore what Jesus had to offer. I learned more about contemplative prayer, lectio divina, and a Jesuit technique of visualizing yourself in the life of Jesus. I started reading scripture and saw how superficial my understanding had been before.

I had thought I could draw from the universal root of all religions, love, but I didn't have the best example available of how to live that love. Christianity began to make love concrete and real- not an airy bliss but a solid foundation for my life. All other attempts at such "foundations" had failed. I used to believe my spiritual teachers could act as clear or clearer mirrors for me, but Jesus is the clearest mirror there is. He's the only one safe to be trusted.

Everything he did in life was to give to me and you. He didn't help us for material profit. He taught us how to sanctify suffering, not to avoid it. Yes, even suffering can be sacred. Through this, I've learned more meaningful ways to view emotions I once avoided.

Seeking God can take many faces and phases. I don't believe if you don't agree with me you're going to hell. I only wanted to share my story.

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