Friday, June 3, 2016

How to Shed Your Faith Without Losing Your Soul

Churchgoers! I’m here to tell you the good news! God did not put anyone else in charge of you. You’ve long suspected and feared this, and I’m here to tell you: it’s true. Each of us is a direct conduit of the divine. None of us needs someone else to interpret divine will for us. We are it.

This thought may fill you with fear. The fear of responsibility. The fear of accountability. The fear of losing what is most precious to you. Religion has been your comfort, your foundation for your sense of self, for your relationships. You may wonder what meaning your life could have without it. What if I tell you that everything you cared about when you were religious, you still care about when you’re not? Your family. Your friends. Making the world a better place. Becoming a better person. Loving those who despitefully use you. Helping those in need.

Religion is just a scaffolding to help us “fake it til we make it,” so to speak. If you can see the point and feel the benefits of living a life that is honest, useful to others, and focused first and foremost on loving one another, you don’t need religion.

The sense of specialness you get from being exclusively in tune with God, the sense of piety from denying yourself pleasure, the anticipation of a much better afterlife, these things are nothing next to the peace of mind you attain once you give yourself full permission to address cognitive dissonance and begin taking full accountability for the outcomes of your beliefs and actions. Those special, light-bathed moments that confirm you alone are connected to the divine? Everyone has those moments. Everyone is connected to the divine. Literally everyone. And it’s awesome.

Your faith’s structures are fantastic. Don’t stop using them. Keep coming together, singing, enjoying the holiness of community, presence, and worship of the divine. The feelings you feel are real. It is holy to sing together and celebrate the fact that we are here on this planet, the great mystery of our existence, it is holy to bring ourselves in tune with one another, it is holy to gather and experience love!

Instead of locating the divine in something far above you that demands you fit yourself carefully into a box through constant war with your own urges, listen intently to the individual path on which you are being guided, trust yourself, and celebrate divinity in the people around you, in the coming together, in unity.

Keep visiting one another. Keep seeing to it that every human being has invested humans looking out for them. Keep taking care of the sick, helping beleaguered new mothers and visiting the elderly. Encourage others to do the same and offer them venues without first demanding that they align their personal moral universe to match yours.

Keep your rituals. When we engage with the physical world, we communicate with the unconscious. As above, so below. Open up your temples to all who are willing to be respectful inside of them. Let them see their own rituals through. The symbols of others are not in conflict with yours. The rituals of others do not contradict yours. There is room for everyone.

Keep doing missionary work. Send your missionaries everywhere, teaching people to love and respect themselves for their own divinity, and to love and respect others for theirs. Don’t stop doing the good work. Keep it up. Shed the skin of conformity. The demand that you live your divinity by suppressing someone else’s is designed to free you. Let the hypocrisy unravel your faith; it's supposed to.

Religions all carry within them the key to breaking free of them. The very first of the Ten Commandments is “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me.” What do you think a human being standing in for divinity constitutes besides something coming between you and God, standing literally “before God”? Jesus Christ said that God is love, and that your only commandment is “Love One another as I have loved you.” Do you find that your faith makes it harder for you to love others or to receive the love that others feel towards you? Do you sense the intense wish of your unconditional love to flow free and unrestricted towards all, instead of stopping short when it encounters certain behaviors and ideas?

God is us! God is all! Free yourself! Surrender yourself to love!

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