My personal religious history has led me to a state of profound agnosticism. Raised Catholic, “born again” as a twenty-something; baptized in The Church as an infant and in an elder’s swimming pool as a consenting adult, I have been steeped in both the dogma and the charisma. But, battered and beaten by years and tears, the core concepts of religion became harder and harder for me to swallow without question. Eventually, I arrived at a place where I was so deep into unbelief that nothing short of an intimate chat with a burning bush was likely to penetrate my skepticism.
Milestone birthdays have a way of causing sudden, urgent reevaluation of one’s past, present, and future. Turning fifty touched off an odd chain reaction in what is left of my mind; I suddenly realized that mortality was all too certain and (relatively) imminent. I felt an urgent need to explore the concepts of spirituality and the afterlife, if only to keep myself from becoming paralyzed by the fear of death. Also, I’d been suffering from a feeling of real isolation in my life; I envisioned that becoming part of a community of believers would be a side benefit of my search. I believed I craved that “human connection.”
My spiritual odyssey came to an abrupt end when I realized that the timing—not just my personal timing, but the universal timing—for such a quest was all wrong. Human connection? What was I thinking? What connections do today’s organized religions offer us? War? Murder? Ostracism? Ritualized bigotry? Hatred? Turn on the television or radio. Read the news. From every window on the world, violence and hatred in the name of some group’s perception of God devastates the landscape.
Christians hating Muslims. Muslims killing Jews. Sunni despising Shi’ite. Evangelicals bashing Catholics. Fundamentalists straining to drag us all back into the Dark Ages. It’s painfully obvious that the path to peace, progress and harmony does not lie in the direction of organized religion. It’s entirely possible that the continued existence of the human race might depend upon us eschewing religion altogether.
Yet, old habits do die hard. For years, even as my agnosticism grew, it was important to me that the Christ I had been spoon-fed from birth retain some aspect of deity. I held to the conviction that for Jesus Christ—or any prophetic figure of any faith—to have been remembered, much less venerated for so many centuries, there must have been something, some mystic connection to the Creator that gave his story such amazing staying power. But even that rationalization has been given the lie by the bizarre happenings here in our own country over the last five years.
We have witnessed first-hand the power of groupthink and political pressure, and the ability of talented individuals with hidden agendas to manipulate the emotions of entire populations of frightened or disillusioned people. We have seen for ourselves what happens when a party gathers unto itself enough power to literally turn its every whim into the law of the land. We’ve seen them turn lies into truths which people will embrace to the point of martyrdom.
The antics of our current national leadership have given us a glimpse into a degree of domination and corruption we never thought to witness in this society which touts itself as the beacon of freedom and enlightenment to an errant world. But, beyond that, they have made me completely re-evaluate the phenomena of historically prominent spiritual figures. Like Jesus Christ. Or Moses. Or Mohammed. Or Baha’ullah, or the Angel Moroni, or Jim Jones. The right political climate could make any society desperate for a savior. Or make a prophet out of almost anyone. Even George W. Bush. Just ask him.
How sad that the human race is on a course to destroy itself with the very code it created to keep from destroying itself. Religion is ever the double-edged sword. Perhaps the edge that refined and controlled human behavior has been wielded to the point of permanent bluntness. And now we hold the other side of the blade to our own throats.