In 2007, the “Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life” interviewed more than 35,000 Americans, ages 18 and older, on the topic of religious affiliation. Their key findings concluded that more and more people are leaving organized religion for smaller or even atheistic belief systems. The authors write, “while those Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion have seen the greatest growth in numbers as a result of changes in affiliation, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic. These losses would have been even more pronounced were it not for the offsetting impact of immigration.” (Pewforum.org)
Other sources claim that the denial of organized religion is in direct relation with the increase of lesser sized belief systems. In November for example, the LA Times wrote of a trend in Hispanic communities of breaking long associations with the Catholic Church for smaller, less serious faiths such as the Protestants and Evangelicals, and this is where I am today. I have written about my own history with organized religion in past articles, and now have the gall to denote myself solely as a spiritual person, no more, no less. In this article I will first explain my reasoning for this personal declaration, and then describe the only step needed to find the right religious fit for you.
What is God about?
In Lutheran school, I was taught many things. Most of which was that “God is a jealous and vain God”. I heard the words as a child but did not understand their full implications until many years later. This is what I call a “blanket phrase”, meaning it was used in many situations, to give a rainbow lessons that fit what was currently going on in the school. For example, when Harry Potter first became popular, it was banned under the “He is jealous, so do not worship false idols” clause (the work’s witch craft element also failed to help matters). Further, when one female student got a second set of ear piercings it too was forbidden, only this time under that “God created humans in his own image (vanity)” stipulation, and she was therefore defacing God’s own work by creating extra holes in the ears. Although unusual, the lessons themselves were harmless enough, as there were no sacrifices or serious blood shed; but the thought of God acting in jealousy and vanity, two of his own immortal sins baffled my young mind then, and still does today.
Of course these are just a few examples of the more comical Lutheran school-isms as I like to refer to them, but we (the Lutherans and myself) simply had a differing understanding of who God is. The God I know is not jealous, mean, or vain, but is in fact quite righteous and forgiving. He is always watching and steering me to my ultimate reason for existing, and when I have completed my mission, will bring me home—regardless of what I am or whom I love. In my spirituality, a higher power uplifts me, not chains me to misunderstood values. It instead encourages me to act more of God, and create the greatest version of myself by spreading positivity and kindness—the actual message of God.
Personal or Public?
In the very catholic university I attended for both college and graduate school, we got to learn the ins and outs of one of the world oldest religions. Though many do not understand the significance of the church itself, the often gaudy, over the top décor featured in cathedrals all around the world are meant to serve the purpose of emotional transportation. When one steps into the church they are engulfed in a new world, representative of the kingdom of heaven itself. Forgetting the problems of everyday life, they are meant to look forward to prosperity though God. This mentality broadly features a very public, exocentric perspective of faith.
This theme is prevalent in nearly every form of organized worship; for example Islamic culture maintains women be covered in a burqa when in public, and the Jewish faith has the universally recognizable Yamaka. Even a Christian barring a cross on a necklace is proving publicly their own form of spiritual obedience. But I am not into that. My spirituality reflects a very intimate and personal relationship with a higher power. I do not dislike talking about it, in fact its one of my favorite things to share, but I do not ask nor need the public to see or experience it with me.
What Was Asked of Me
Finally, the reason I became an independent spiritualist, is because I disliked what was being asked of me as a member of an organized church. I do not mean physically in regards to the lovely chartable efforts and potluck dinners commonly thrown by faith based communities, I mean what was being asked of my soul. I am a free sprit. I have two hundred thousand dollars worth of education from a highly regarded private catholic university, and quit a promising job to start an organic soap company and write for a living. I am an ethereal man that follows my intuition to places and ventures where I know I should be. When I went to church every week, I was being told what to think, how to feel, and essentially who to love; all even though my gut told me otherwise.
I now praise and worship on my own terms because it is the best fit for me. While some love it, I naturally rebuff the structure and demand needed to be apart of a large predetermined religious community and I feel intuitively God is okay with it. My spirituality is mine and mine alone, and I now only have to do what God is asking me to.
The only step needed to find the best religion for you: Believe What You Want. This is radical and I was openly told I was going to hell for it, but truly consider what is being taught in the traditional religious systems and how it makes you feel. I will not tell you what you can or should believe, but gaining a proper understanding of such teachings and then making proper spiritual decisions based on your own independent perspective is the only key to religious satisfaction.
God is love. God is light. If you are being made to feel otherwise by someone using his name than maybe that religion is not for you.
I found my own spirituality and am a greater person because of it. What kind of God inspires you? Let me know in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy the following resources:
- EBOOK – How to Find Peace: A Guide for Facilitating Spiritual Evolution
- ARTICLE – What I Learned About God as a Lutheran School Dropout
- ARTICLE – How to Meditate Deeply and Stop Your Racing Thoughts
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