Just to Clarify...
I have, in the past, been accused of being anti-Christian by those who have read my rants and raves against the likes of groups like Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, the Moral Majority, anti-choice (or as they refer to themselves, pro-life) radicals and what I call the "radical religious right" (or rrr). I can see where someone who doesn't know me, hasn't read any of my articles before or doesn't understand my spiritual take on life, could think I thought Christianity was a crock of ...well, let's not go there. So I'd like to clarify where I stand on Christianity as a faith and Christians as people.
I was born and raised Catholic— even went to a Catholic university (although my last three years I wasn't a practicing Catholic). There are many Christians who don't consider Catholics to be Christians because of the Catholic veneration of the saints and Mary, the mother of Jesus. And Catholics don't consider Protestants to be fully Christian because they're not Catholic— but at least they acknowledge that they are Christian. I'm not here to debate who is right/wrong (I think they're both right and both wrong— but then for me, all truth is relative to the believer, which certainly puts me outside the boundaries of Christian teaching— both Catholic and Protestant— and while that kind of "proves" my point, it really doesn't either, which kind of proves my point too...but doesn't really...). But this realization, which I first encountered when I was four years old, is what started me questioning Catholicism— and eventually Christianity. My experiences with Catholicism and Christianity in general were full of contradiction. I was told about a God of unconditional love and of complete forgiveness, yet told that unless I did it this way, I'd go to hell for eternity. I was told about a God of justice and yet I saw a god who punished the entire race of humanity for the sins of Adam and Eve. It didn't gibe for me. It didn't fit. It was like trying to put a square peg into a round hole— even if I got it in there, there were still some major gaps that weren't filled. Something was still missing.
I'm not going to go into the details of what I believe or how I got to that point. I've detailed that here and here. And what follows next may tick off even more people that I'm attempting to (for lack of a better word) "pacify" because even I admit that it can be perceived as being condescending.
I see the physical world as being the "lowest" level of being. The "base" of the pyramid, with the point being spirituality— where all is one, the peak, the pinnacle. And I see the physical realm as a mirror of the spiritual. Nature and humanity has "modeled" the physical realm according to the laws of the spiritual. For example, nature runs in cycles: birth, life death, rebirth...which in part is what convinced me of the truth (for me) of reincarnation.
We humans are composed of three parts: physical, mental and emotional— and these together create our spirit, our soul. (I tend to use the two interchangeably, but to me, the soul is that part of us that is always connected to the Divine: our "higher selves". The spirit is that part of us that has experienced what it has experienced through the many lives we have lived, so I'll try to stick with spirit— but if I don't, you know I meant to.) In all aspects of our life in this plane of existence, we have different levels of maturity: physical maturity is almost automatic: we grow from child to adult with out thinking about it, without doing anything to "cause" it. (Which is why I think the physical is the "lowest" level of being— it is virtually automatic.) We also have different levels of mental and emotional maturity. Mental maturity comes with knowledge. The more you know, the more mentally mature you are. Mental maturity also relies heavily on time because it is inevitable that you're going to learn as time passes. But emotional maturity comes from experience: being able to integrate the physical and the mental and deal with how it affects us. But I digress.
When we are children, we're given very specific rules to follow: Don't stick things into electrical outlets. Don't talk to strangers. Don't let anyone into the house. Don't throw things in the house. Don't throw stones. These rules are designed to protect us and to keep us safe. As we emotionally mature, those rules change— we're now simply told "Behave" and we can, from our experience, judge our own limits and our own ability to keep ourselves safe. We have more freedom of choice AND, more importantly, we choose to accept the consequences of USING that freedom of choice.
Because we have different levels of maturity in the physical plane, which is modeled on the spiritual plane, we also have different levels of spiritual maturity. Now comes the part that could be construed as condescending. Please understand it is not meant to be— but I have yet to find another way to explain it.
I see the different types of religion as indicative of different levels of spiritual maturity. Our morality comes from our faith— even if we don't believe in God, we believe in something that has given us our concept of right and wrong. That is our faith. That is where we get our morality. And life is about living up to our own morality— of learning how to do that without taking that same experience from someone else. For those who are, for lack of a better way to say it, less spiritually mature, they, like their physical counterpart— the child, need more rules as to what is and what is not acceptable. They need someone to set down the rules for them like the parent does for the child— so our Divine Parent sets down those rules through religion. As the spiritual child matures— or becomes more willing to accept responsibility for their actions— they are given more freedom of choice. If you look at the Bible, the first few books have very specific rules as to how to properly worship. Then they're compacted into the ten commandments. Then they're compacted even further by Jesus to the two greatest commandments. Just like a parent compacts the rules for the child until "Behave" is all that needs to be said.
So how does this tie into Christianity? I see Christianity as one of the faiths that has more rules: either the followers do not WANT the responsibility of making choices or they don't yet know how to make choices. I see myself as having "outgrown" Christianity. But just as an 18 year old has "outgrown" the rules of his parents home, that doesn't mean the rules the 18 year old used to follow are wrong. Simply because I have outgrown Christianity doesn't make Christianity wrong— it's just not something I need anymore. And just like the 18 year old isn't a better human being than the child, neither am I a better human being because my beliefs are different. I no longer see the need for the rules of Christianity in MY life, but I realize that not everyone is me...and that they may need or want or like those rules and that's fine. I don't disagree with the message of Jesus— and I try to emulate his life and follow those two greatest commandments— and in that sense, I consider myself a Christian. But I don't see the need for the other rules that Christianity contains and therefore, most Christians would not consider me a Christian. My problem is not with Christians: my problem is with those who use their Christian faith to beat up others— verbally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. To those who seek to force ALL people to live by Christian rules just because they choose to. I don't once remember Jesus ever forcing people to listen to him. In fact, what I remember of Jesus, he had to almost be persuaded to teach— and then only after a large crowd had gathered.
Jesus was a teacher— many of those I have problems with are preachers. It just happens that, growing up in the US, most of the preachers I run into are Christian (although I have run into quite a few atheist preachers and I'm running into more and more Islamic preachers now too.) I guess my rant isn't so much against Christians as it is against preachers...and maybe that's something I need to clarify. The difference between the two is that teachers teach by example (they walk the walk) and preachers often spend more time talking the talk.
I have nothing against Christians— my ex-wife is (or was...) a fundamentalist Christian. The vast majority of Christians I know don't try to ram their faith down anyone else's throats. And for those who do, well, I have ways to deal with them that work for me. And even then, it's not that they are Christians that I have a problem with— it's the hypocrisy they demonstrate by refusing to allow me to choose my own faith without influence from someone cramming their faith down my throat— you know, like the way they chose their own faith....
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