Ah, the beauty of spring! How lovely are all the things I see about! The joys of a simple day, the delicate flower, the lovely, shapely legs on a girl, as she walks down the road in a pair of shorts or shirt skirt. Only spring can provide me with such sights. After the grey doldrums of winter, truly spring is a time of life’s renewal, the blossoming once again of beauty and tender joys and sweet, sensual delights, the delicious fulfillment of long suppressed hopes and desires. Spring, you are the blessed sign of God! For only God could create such a world with such beauty; I cannot believe that it all came about by pure chance, but rather that there is some divine force behind all the wonders of creation. It is the divine force of love, guiding us along our paths, showing us the way to peace and happiness. Beauty is divine. Spring heightens the senses, deepens the desires, inflames the passions that much more deeply. It is a ritual as ancient and profound as any, a ritual of life born again, of nature rising from the icy death of winter to proclaim to the world the infinite loveliness of all around us.
For me, the beauty of spring is deeply spiritual and spirituality is still deeply imbedded into my being, despite my present difficulties with certain religions. I still search and long for truth, for beauty, for a sense of the divine in the world; what I cannot tolerate right now is being trapped in a rigid dogma of thought and rules.
At the moment my old beliefs in Christianity and Catholicism are in deep question. There are many reasons for this, not all of which I want to get into here. Some things need to remain private. Let me just say that a few decades of experience–actual hands on, flesh and blood experience with this faith, and not merely an abstract, intellectual attraction or desire for it–has molded my present attitudes and approaches to divinity. It is not a process that is settled, not by any means, but one that is in continued flux.
Recently I have been reading about the Christian persecution of pagans after Christianity became a legalized religion of the Roman Empire in 313 AD with the Edict of Milan, issued by the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine. It was not a pretty picture and within seventy years after Christianity became a legalized religion in Rome, the Christians, now acting as the representatives of the official state religion of Rome, were outlawing all forms of ancient pagan worship, destroying temples, and persecuting those who continued to cling to their old beliefs, even up to death. It is process that went on for a couple hundred years. The fact that so many laws had to be passed during this time outlawing paganism reflects the difficulties that Christians had in obliterating the old beliefs of many people. And in many ways these old pagan and polytheistic beliefs never really were killed off, they were rather incorporated into the Catholic Church in the form of cults of the saints, the Mass as a sacrifice, the ritualistic liturgy which retained many pagan symbols, and the beliefs in heavenly host of angels and saints, who are divine beings with different powers and properties who will intercede in our lives. To the outside observer Catholicism can seem very polytheistic, and this is one of the main reasons Islam and Protestantism sprang up: as a response to the perceived idolatry of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. It is one of the things I actually enjoy about the Catholic faith. Even the story of Christ’s death and resurrection has many parallels in ancient fertility myths about a hero dying and rising again in some act of divine conquest, all of which are somehow related to ancient fertility rites of spring. Pagan Rome became Christian Rome in part because the old pagans already had developed a way of thinking about divinity, polytheism, which was not far off from Christian beliefs. Of course there are huge and fundamental differences too, but many people overlook the similarities, because it usually makes them uncomfortable to think how similar Christianity and paganism actually were. The rise of eastern mystery cults in the first few centuries of the Roman empire, such as the cult of Isis or Mithra, also contributed heavily the spiritual framework of personal salvation and redemption, which Christianity proclaims. Many people became Christians because many people had already been primed for Christianity, through other pagan faiths.
Today is Good Friday, the day when most Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Christ. I often wonder, in a religion born out of such a gruesome act, yet an act also of love and forgiveness from Christ, why so many Christians display so much hatred for those who are different in belief or behavior. Unfortunately, intolerance of other faiths or beliefs is one of the sad facts of Christian history. There are too many examples of Christians, those followers of the crucified Christ, inflicting pain on others, those of other denominations or other faiths, in the name of Christ and “the truth”. Yet such intolerance and aggression towards other belief systems makes sense when you consider that a monotheistic religion, like Christianity, proclaims to possess the entire and absolute truth of God, and that truth, and only that truth, is essential for salvation. So if this is the absolute truth, why allow other religions to exist which may lead people astray, the result of which will be the loss of their souls? This basic item of thinking is often the foundation of so much religious intolerance and suppression. Islam has taken this to even more rigid extremes. I continue to see this thought process today, for instance in the hatred and intolerance of homosexuality among so many Christians, or just anyone who does not fit into some preordained notions of “family values” and traditional morality. Rick Santorum seems to be the embodiment of this.
So where do I stand at the moment religiously? I suppose right now I am somewhat of a pantheist: I see God in all different forms of religion, that all different religions, ancient and modern, possess some elements of the ultimate truth of divinity. What I cannot stand at the moment are religions that try to limit and stifle the freedom of thought, expression, sexuality, or belief in the divine, all in the name of their particular “truth”. Where this will lead me, I have no idea, but I still trust in God that it is leading me somewhere good.
In the meantime, while I am on this journey, I will enjoy the delights and beauty of spring. The beauty of spring is truth for me, a reflection of the divine. So are beautiful women!