You guys. Let me just say up front that this post may be kind of controversial. Let me further explain that it all started because I was listening to a special series on NPR called “Losing Our Religion,” about the fact that less and less people in the U.S. are identifying themselves as religious.
I know that sounds heavy, but this post has been bouncing around in my head ever since that program interviewed young people about why they were turning away from religion. Although each of the 6 people were very different in their spiritual journeys, the language they used to talk about them was extremely similar:
They all felt fragmented.
If you look at all religions, the core spirituality is the same: God=Love, Do no harm, Love others, Give freely, Forgive. You can sit in any religious service and listen for those truths and you will hear them, no matter what language they are wrapped in. Believe me, I have been to the services of over a dozen different religions, and heard those nuggets of truth in all of them. But something happens to that core spirituality within the context of religion. It gets analyzed, split apart, shoved into doctrine and dogma and debated until you need entire religious orders devoted to rationalizing the cracks in reason and plastering over the flaws with the justification of Faith.
All the young people in this series were struggling with this compartmentalization. If God doesn’t exist, does life have meaning? If God does exist, how does science fit into it? If God made me homosexual, why are my sexual urges automatically evil?
Every religion has 100 answers for all of these questions. I am not inviting an open forum on these topics, because I am not whipping out my notes from 17 years of Catholic School and 3 years of Comparative Religions classes in order to engage in intense dogmatic debates about the merits and failings of each one. In fact, I have no desire to talk about religion in that way anymore. I will, however, pose the question: What image pops into your mind when you think about God? Chances are, that whether if you are from the Western world, the image is of God the Father, whether you are from a Jewish, Christian, or Muslim background.
I’m pretty sure that in this image God is smelling a fart. If you don’t believe me, give “God” the ole’ GoogleImages search.
Let me share with you this visually pleasing quotation from an inspiring woman names Ursula K. Le Guin, one of my favorite authors, and a Portlander. She also has a blog which she apparently uses to post pictures of her cat, but don’t let that throw you off the trail of how brilliant she is.
There is a fundamental problem with this compartmentalization. You can’t just split the world up into mentally convenient chunks and place them in opposition to one another. It contradicts a spiritual concept central to all religions: God-Allah-Brahma-Jesus-Yahweh = ETERNAL LOVE and God-Allah-Brahma-Jesus-Yahweh is within us, permeating everything. When you compartmentalize the world into God/Man, self/other, man/woman, dominant/submissive, you set the world against itself.
There is a theory in Psychology called the “Locus of Control” theory. Basically, there is a place for each of us where we feel that the control of our lives rests. Some people perceive that this control center is within them, some people believe that it is somewhere outside of themselves. “People with an internal locus generally feel that they have control over their lives and circumstances; they take initiative and seek to positively change their lives. Individuals with an external locus feel that their lives are controlled by circumstances; they feel dis-empowered to do anything about their lives, leaving everything to ‘fate,'” –Christopher Zabamba
Can you see how fragmenting a personified “giant-scary-judgmental-Father-God” from humanity and setting HIM at an unreachable distance and making HIM omniscient and omnipotent over your life might create some psychological (and spiritual) distress? Today, my dear friend Liz sent me the link to this blog post, about taking personal responsibility for your actions. And how doing this is totally empowering and liberating. The author isn’t even talking about religion, they’re talking about exercise! But it’s the same fundamental concept that dividing your human experience into chunks and then acting confused when they butt up against each other DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.
Anyway, my point is that you create your own reality. And unfortunately, reality is not particularly selective. If you drive your car for 10,000 miles you can’t just NOT effect the ecosystem, because the reality is that you are part of the ecosystem. If you tell a young homosexual child that he is an abomination in the eyes of God you can’t act surprised when that child grows up experiencing pain and disillusionment. If, ohhh I dunno, I choose to drink a bunch of left-over party-beer on a Tuesday night that will also effect the reality of how I am going to feel in the morning. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY BITCHES.
But I don’t mean to sound so harsh. It is all part of an intensely personal journey towards allowing your spirituality to permeate your life and all of your actions. It is a choice to live consciously and eliminate some of the cognitive dissonance that allows you to do things that don’t ultimately work towards your own good, or even the greater good. It is hard enough to be a human, and even harder to do it with intention. We’re all in this together, y’allz.
Let me round this out with a laser-cat picture of myself in existential crisis, as usual, and Britt in a state of pure joy. Ursula K. Le Guin, your blog would be improved with more laser-cats.