Today is a journey looking at my religious background and sharing some powerful words of Richard Rohr (Center for Action and Contemplation). In terms of September's theme of purpose, I feel the first sentence below sums it up:
Your image of God creates you. This is why it is important that we see God as loving and benevolent and why good theology still matters. One mistaken image of God that keeps us from receiving grace is the idea that God is a cruel tyrant. People who have been raised in an atmosphere of threats of punishment and promises of reward are programmed to operate with this cheap image of a punitive God. It usually becomes their entire view of the universe.
Unfortunately, it’s much easier to organize people around fear and hatred than around love. Powerful people prefer this worldview because it validates their use of intimidation—which is quite effective in the short run! Both Catholicism and Protestantism have used the threat of eternal hellfire to form Christians. I am often struck by the irrational anger of many people when they hear that someone does not believe in hell. You cannot “believe” in hell. Biblical “belief” is simply to trust and have confidence in the goodness of God or reality and cannot imply some notion of anger, wrath, or hopelessness at the center of all that is. Otherwise, we live in a toxic and unsafe universe, which many do. --Richard Rohr
I was raised in an ultra-conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. I was given the "cruel tyrant" God. I explored some other options while in college, and then when my mother died when I was 23, I gave up on religion altogether, with an emphatic "fuck you, God." I eventually came around to wanting a church community again. I worked at and attended a Methodist Church for many years. It was a fine place to introduce my children to religion. It was a fairly liberal Methodist Church without any hellfire. I moved into Religious Science (NOT Scientology) as my beliefs matured. I could live and work with the idea that we create our experience with our thinking, and that we could therefore create a heaven or hell of our choosing. Heaven and hell are NOW, based on our choices, rather than some place we land in the future.
Heaven is not about belonging to the right group or following the correct rituals. It’s about having the right attitude toward existence. There are just as many Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews who live in love—serving their neighbor and the poor—as there are Christians. Be prepared to be surprised about who is living a life of love and service and who isn’t. This should keep us all humble and recognizing it’s not even any of our business who’s going to heaven. What makes us think that our little minds and hearts could discern the mind and heart of anyone else? --Richard Rohr
I have learned so much about spirituality in the 12-Step program. It has brought me to the point where I have a loving relationship with my Higher Power, and I do not need religion to complete me. I am whole in the sight of Spirit, eternally. So are you.
None of this, my religious journey, was a waste of time, because I feel I have used the experience wisely.