When it comes to faith and spirituality, what is that I strive for? Recently I went back to Church. It was first time in a few months, and after the long absence I felt the need to be closer to God. I enjoyed returning, with all my issues and rebellious thoughts. It is strange, this thing called religious faith. It seems hardwired into us. Or at least into me. Why is it that some people have a deep need for religion, for some sense of God in their lives, while other don’t. I do not have the answers for this. All I know is that I am one of those people who has a deep need for spirituality, religion, and a union with the Divine. Without it my life is gray and lifeless.
When I do not have faith in my life, I feel depressed. When I pursue divine things, I am happier. This is a clear sign for me to continue with my beliefs and practices, despite my difficulties. What I find difficult in many modern versions of Christianity is an excessive and what I believe unhealthy emphasis on doctrinal purity and orthodoxy. Catholicism seems to be rife with this at the moment. This excessive legalism of faith, the endless rules and regulations for the soul, is one of the things that drove me away from the Church for a while. But in the end I discovered those things do not define my relationship with God.
I have to remember that the Church, or any gathering of people, is made up of flawed individual, myself included. What I recently forgot is that although I have many problems with certain trends in Christianity today, those trends are not the entire religion. Christianity is about one thing: Christ. Churchiness and religious conflicts will necessarily draw many into certain conflicts, but that does not mean that my faith has to suffer as result.
One of the things I am exploring at the moment, and will write more on later, is the unhealthy attitudes towards sex and sexuality that have existed in Christianity for two millennia (and other religions as well), and continue to this present day. And yet not all people who call themselves Christians have unhealthy attitudes towards sex. Not at all. There are many people, such as CL and 7man, who talk openly about sex and Christianity: http://curmudgeonloner.wordpress.com/ and I think this is a good thing. For the first time really, people of faith can communicate with each other about their experiences with religion and sex, without being subject to ecclesiastical censure. The internet has made this happen. And outside of Christianity, other religions have different mores when it comes to sex. One of the reasons for this blog, among others, is that I want to discuss sex and spirituality in the most open and honest way possible. Oh yeah, and I also just enjoy having fun with sexual things too, such with erotica. I believe the suppression and demonization of sex and sexual desire is one of the most destructive aspects of all religious thought, not just Christianity. The best way to overcome that is by honest discussion about sexuality. If such discussions can be fun, amusing and light hearted too, all the better.
I am also studying other religions at the moment, not with the goal of converting–no, I will always remain a Catholic, no matter what, even if fall away from the faith–but with the goal of understanding different faiths around the world. What strikes me in my initial and superficial studies are not so much the differences, but the similarities between different religions, similarities which have existed for eons. What is clear from the study of religion that man is homo religiosus, and all societies and cultures have demonstrated this. For instance, one manifestation of man’s desire for the divine is the plethora of beauty created in the name of religion: from ancient temples, to Medieval cathedrals, exotic Mosques, Buddhist temples, and everything in between, art and religion have been united in a common cause of celebrating the beauty of the divine and unseen world since man first painted sacred animals in caves some 30,000 years ago. Art and religion are often a testament to man’s desire to express the transcendent in life, the ineffable power that the divine world holds over him. It is a fascinating evolution, really. Seeing the different truths of different religions makes believing in your own particular religion that much easier, at least for me.
For my personal life, prayer and ritual are two important components of religious expression for me. Prayer is perhaps the most important, and pretty much all psychologists agree on the beneficial aspects of prayer; and ritual for me would be the timeless rituals of Catholicism, and the community of worship that creates. Both these things are nourishment for the soul. Catholicism has a rich tradition of both. So do other religions as well.
But one of the things that I have discovered that makes Christianity unique is this: love thy neighbor. Love one another. Take care of each other. Take care of other people. Help the needy, the homeless, the downtrodden, manifest God’s love through charity towards others. Other religions have this, but not to the extent that Christianity has. I admit these things can be hard for me. I am more inclined to go off into solitude and seek union with the Divine than try to give myself to others, and people can often be quite irritating and annoying; but with God’s help I can find the strength and desire to fulfill social charity and treat others well. With God’s help, the rewards are great.
So one of the things I strive to write about here is how to make Christianity, and religion in general, seem less dogmatic, doctrinaire, and intolerant, and at least try to relate how religion and spirituality can be tremendous, wonderful and life affirming elements of our world, when approached in the right way. I believe that the divine, that the spiritual realm, can also be experienced through eroticism, sexual love and sexual beauty, but a healthy eroticism and sexuality. After all, God is beautiful and loves beauty, as the Prophet Mohammed said. I say Amen to that.
P.S. I will be away for about a week, so if I don’t respond to any comments right away, I will when I get back. Thanks.