At age 68 I feel I have explored every available avenue in an effort to maintain some kind of religious world view. Fifteen years ago I let all of it go, and it was the most liberating thing I have ever done for myself. I am a lifelong musician. Music transports me emotionally to an ineffable realm. I am hard-wired with an attraction to “the Divine” whatever it may be. But I will no longer indulge this “call” in any area of my life but music. I think music affects most of us in a way that makes us want to believe that transcendent possibilities exist. I still feel that they do, but there is no way I would ever attempt to pin down what those possibilities are or let others do it for me.
I was born in the Midwest, raised by a serious-minded mother who was sincerely religious is the middle-of-the-road protestant tradition. But she also expressed an independent feminist streak for as long as I can remember. I grew up hearing her complain about the sexism inherent in the Christian religious establishment. I married a Roman Catholic in the Catholic Church and tried attending Mass for few years, but was never really comfortable, and we totally ignored the Church’s silly directives on birth control. In the meantime I searched for a way to be spiritual that fit, read books on the origin of religion by anthropologists, delved into Edgar Cayce and reincarnation, tried automatic writing, connecting with spirit guides, Buddhist meditation, seeing auras as described in the Celestine Prophecy, making up my own rituals based on Native American spiritualism, and came up empty over and over, all the while assuming it was because somehow I just was not "doing it right" and wasn't yet worthy enough to be rewarded with a blue blast of enlightenment, or even just a warm yellow glow of daily contentment. I persevered anyway.
Then 9/11 and the build-up to the Iraq war happened. And it hit me. The men who flew the airplanes into the buildings did the unthinkable, because they were sure God wanted them to, told them to! George Bush prayed about going to war in Iraq and God told him YES! it was the right thing to do. How did conflicting messages like that from the same purported source even work? Obviously not for human good. Somebody was wrong. And then, the coup de grace. How would I ever be able to be sure if I ever did hear the “voice of the Divine,” that it wasn't just coming from my own mind, just as I was sure it was for the terrorists and the president? The honest answer was that I could never know for sure. And I decided henceforth to face life with no God crutch, to no longer waste time in pursuit of something for which there is zero objective proof.
And now it's better. I’m better for releasing myself from the constant suspicion that no matter how hard I try, I somehow just don’t measure up. It’s better because IF I still believed that God was in charge of the universe and all the suffering and injustice humans endure, I would have to wrestle constantly with myself to try to believe in "His" innate goodness. Now I can look at injustice and suffering, and even death in the face and not be angry with a mythical omnipotent being who could intervene to alleviate, but capriciously and heartlessly chooses not to. Much suffering is perpetrated by humans on other humans. Much can be done for humans by humans that we are not yet doing. And some of it is just not fixable. It's Life, and it doesn’t “care” about our species or us as individuals.
The only “caring” that will ever exist on this beautiful blue sphere is what WE are willing to provide to the planet and each other. Our purpose is to enjoy the gift of our own lives as much as possible, and to help others do the same. (It appears that some of the Buddhism stuck!)
- Sandra Clay, Former Catholic