1. What is your religious background?
I was raised within the Church of Christ. My maternal grandfather was a preacher within this community and my father was a renounced Catholic. This caused some interesting family dynamics that my parents tried to shelter us from, but the energetic “feelings” were impossible to miss.
As a child, I believed these teachings and practices because that is all I knew. I consistently was made to feel as if I were failing god when I did something “wrong” that all children my age did.
I spent a large part of my adolescence trying to understand and align myself with this faith and its practices but it never connected with me. I was the kid in Sunday school that could recite any passage but didn’t know or care what it meant at a practical level. Mostly, I felt “left-out” of the parameters of the faith. However, that’s not to say that I think Christianity is bad. I think that the specific community and practices that I was raised in simply weren’t something that agreed with my constitution.
2. Do you currently practice a religious faith? If not, why?
I think that “religious faith” is a term that can be interpreted in many broad and diverse directions. I do a lot of things religiously and I have faith, and am faithful in many aspects. I consider myself to be very spiritual as well, but I do not believe that spirituality and faith are mutually exclusive. If we are talking about a path that I walk or live/strive for then, Yes. I practice Yoga. Not the hippy sh*t your parents think of, even though there are some aspects of that. And no, I am not Hindu.
I practice Yoga for a laundry list of reasons. Beyond the physical benefits, there is a subtle shift that evolves over time and dedication to the physical asanas that allow you to be more open and receptive to people and experiences. It’s one of those totally mystical and ineffable things that aren’t necessarily appropriate to explain in this interview. When people ask me why I chose Yoga, my typical answer is: “So I can love you better.” Beyond the physical practice, there are the philosophical and spiritual teachings that are very personal. The physical practice is just one “way in” to what and how the individual wants that to be/look/feel.
I don’t believe that my practice is better than anyone else’s. It just resonates with me in a practical way; the same way Christianity or Buddhism or any other religion might resonate for others. I simply find that within my practice there is a lot of grace and freedom to be who you are. Assigning qualities or values is where things get tangled up. Yoga allows me and others and situations to simply be what they are.
3. What comes to mind when you think about God?
This is a really big question to tackle with a brief answer. Do I think god exists? Yes. But not in the conventional way most people think of god. I don’t believe in some kind of omniscient, ubiquitous being that is going to pass judgment. I think of god as the binding “essence” of life. That all things are connected in this world and this universe and that binding element is “god stuff”. We are all ‘god’ in that way. And as such, I believe that god is constantly evolving and changing and adapting in synch with the way that life and the earth is shaping and changing.
This could easily morph into a conversation about Yoga and environmentalism and I’m trying to stay on track. So I’ll go to the next probe: growing up, I was taught to fear an angry and jealous god; that if I didn’t do what I was supposed to, I would be punished. Somewhere along the line, I realized that any god that needed my love and fidelity that much wasn’t worth dedicating myself to. I couldn’t align myself to an all-knowing and all-powerful being that would care so much about what I thought. Jealousy is a human emotion and an emotion that is even warned against in the bible. I didn’t want to worship the human race or hold myself to its own emotional shortcomings.
Now when I think of god, I think of ease and expansiveness and a human experience that is about love and gratitude. That’s god to me: inclusive and expansive.
4. What comes to mind when you think about Satan?
I think that the idea of Satan is important on a lot of levels. “The Devil”, “evil”, “demons”, all serve to remind us of the depths into which the human experience can fall. Do I believe in a counter point to god? Absolutely. Do I believe in another vengeant super-being? No.
We all possess both sides of the spectrum. There is no inherently good and inherently bad. There is simply human. We have the ability to act badly and to act piously. The archetypal angel and devil on the shoulder is a reminder that we are a balance of both. We need the “devil” in many situations in order to survive and we absolutely need the “angel” in order to survive. Both serve their forms to keep us from running amok and killing each other and on the other spectrum, to protect ourselves by whatever means that comes to us. In a case of absolute survival, I doubt you would find many who would not kill or steal.
As a child, I was taught that Lucifer was the great deceiver. That he would tempt you with gilded tongue and promises that would draw you away from god. I agree with that. If there is a counterpoint to god, then it is the belief in the idea that you are separate; that you do not need others or the connectivity of the world in order to be happy. There are a lot of things in the world we live in today that take us away from our sense of connection and community. These things are easy and prevalent, but we do suffer as a species because of it. If god is inclusive and expansive, satan is exclusive and constraining.
5. What comes to mind when you think about Heaven?
I think that “heaven” is more of a state than a place. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in an afterlife. I absolutely do, but not in the traditional sense. I believe that the human existence is just one of the many ways to experience life; that when we die, we are re-joined with the divine, not by going anywhere in particular but by going everywhere all at once. I think that ecstasy and heaven and divine can all be experienced in this life on and at different levels.
I know this might come off as a little Shirley McClain to a lot of people, but I really think that death is truly just the beginning. It doesn’t mark the end. It’s just a punctuation mark in the continued experience of life. I don’t believe that being alive necessarily means having a form or a function but that “life” is more about our ability to feel and connect with the world around us.
Growing up, I learned about streets of gold and harps and stuff. And it all sounded really, really, exceptionally boring. I don’t want to end this beautiful, amazing and painfully sweet existence just to sit around and talk about how happy I am. The continued existence after I shed this body is much bigger than that to me.
6. What comes to mind when you think about Hell?
I think “hell” is also a state of being rather than a physical location. The idea of being thrown into fiery pits of torture always seemed a little small minded to me. If you really wanted to punish someone, it seemed a little uncreative to use torture. That is really medieval to me.
I think we all can experience hell in this life. Those moments when we are simply so desperate for something that no amount of pleading or crying can reconcile. And I think that hell is really personal. We all have different thresholds for pain and discomfort. My personal hell would be having no one to love. For others, it could be something much more simple…like never eating another French fry. I think it’s just too simplistic to say that hell is a place that we go to and we are punished there. It’s too easy and it completely dilutes the human ability to be a multi-faceted and complicated individual.
7. What comes to mind when you think about the Bible?
I believe in the bible. I also believe in the Koran, the Torah, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, the Ramayana and most other religious texts out there (except maybe the book of Mormon, that’s another topic). I think that, in general, religions are founded in good and true principles. And that every religious text accounts for true happenings that may or may not have been fantastic-alized through time or perception.
I think that the bible is one of many accountings of the occurrences of its time and they just happen to center around one set of teachings and bloodlines. I think it contains some good teachings that need to be read with a critical eye. The bible was translated and edited and distributed by the English Government. I think that no matter what you believe (e.g. god preserves the truth) that things were changed within the text and context of the teachings that benefited the government at the time. That the bible has some basic good teachings that may or may not be outdated and need to be taken at a relevant level for how we live today. This goes back to my belief that we and god are constantly evolving.
8. What comes to mind when you think about Jesus?
I think Jesus existed and was a real historical figure. I think that the idea of being the son of god is actually true. Do I believe in Immaculate Conception? No. I believe that we are all sons and daughters of god. The teachings of Jesus closely emulate teachings that predate his existence by thousands of years. That we all possess and are a spark of the larger flame; e.g. we all possess god, we are all made of “god stuff” and when we die, we will be rejoined with that same “god stuff.”
In terms of miracles, I think that it’s possible that he healed people and fed the masses and turned water into wine. But I think those stories may have been embellished A LOT. I think that some of what he did would have been considered witch craft in another time and that he simply had knowledge of healing principles that weren’t necessarily known for his time. Feeding the masses may have been an extravagant version of stone soup and turning water into wine could have been a very different story, and according to some biblical scholars, “wine” meant something very different back then.
As for the resurrection, there are a lot of conspirator-like theories that I have around that I won’t go into here, but I think that the idea and the story are what are important. Rising from the dead, being reborn: these concepts are found in almost every religion. Finding new-ness and starting over and understanding the cycle that some things must end in order for something else to begin. That’s what I take away from the story of resurrection. It was the end of one era and the beginning of something else.
9. What comes to mind when you think about the purpose of life?
The purpose of life? I think it’s just that: to live; to experience this life and this world in this body and in this time and to find the beauty and amazement in the simple and complicated facts surrounding that. I don’t think that pursuing anything is the end-all be-all of this life. But to fully experience what it is to live is what makes life meaningful. Finding space and appreciation for what it means to interact with the people and the world around us.
10. On a scale of 0 to 10 (0 being no confidence, and 10 being complete confidence), how would you rate the level of confidence you have that your beliefs about God & Satan, Heaven & Hell, the Bible and Jesus, and the purpose of life are accurate?
On a scale of 0-10, I would say that I am an 8 on the confidence scale of my beliefs. Not because I am unsure but because I know that absolutely anything is possible and things can change and my idea of truth will most certainly expand and change over time with new information and experiences.
11. What would you say have been the biggest obstacles in your search for truth?
I wouldn’t say that I’ve had a lot of obstacles in my search for truth. I’ve always been a seeker and I’ve always asked and looked at the harder questions. I think that earlier in life I was probably just plain lazy. But as I get a little older and think more about my mortality, I’ve found that I gravitate towards these beliefs. Not because anybody told me to but because that is what makes sense to me and gives me a sense of peace.
12. Hypothetically, if all your questions had answers that pointed to God as the Creator and Jesus as the Savior, what would you do about it?
I probably wouldn’t do anything different. If there is a creator and a savior, I’d probably hope that what was written about them was a little more closed minded than what they actually are. I don’t think I would change my life or behaviors. I’m pretty proud of the way I live and if I’m going to hell for it, then this life was meaningless in the first place.
13. Is there anything you’re afraid you would have to change or give up if you were to become a Christian?
I wouldn’t say that there is any fear or sense of deprivation around becoming a Christian. I think that what I know of the religion and the parts that resonated with me I have taken in. There are parts that I simply do not agree with and that is what keeps me from being “Christian.” I don’t believe in “Christ”. And that is the #1 pillar of Christianity. So it’s not a fear or aversion, it’s simply that I don’t believe in that particular figure.
14. Hypothetically, if you were to stand before God today, how would you feel about meeting Him?
I think that I stand before god every day. Per my previous comments, I believe we are all god and that we answer to each other; our community and our world. I stand before myself and my family and my partner every day and I have to be aware and analyze if I am proud of myself and my actions and if I have had integrity and been authentic with myself and them.
I would say that for the most part, I am proud of how I have conducted myself with the knowledge that there is more to learn and to grow through these interactions.
If I were to, hypothetically, stand before [the God of Christianity], I would say, “I did my best”. And I would take whatever were to come after that.
15. Hypothetically, on what basis do you believe God will or will not accept you into Heaven?
Based on my belief that heaven is more of a state of being, I would say it’s not about god accepting me…it’s about allowing myself my own entry. Finding heaven and having enough grace and kindness towards myself that I ‘deserve’ a place of peace and surrender is how ‘god’ accepts me into heaven.
If we are talking about [the God of Christianity], I simply don’t know. It’s not what concerns me now. If I were not to be accepted into a physical place called “heaven” because [the God of Christianity] did not find me worthy I would be okay with that.
16. If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
If I could ask [the God of Christianity], one question it would be: “If you love me and created me in your image, why bother with the fire and brimstone threats of punishment? If you love me, you wouldn’t care, and you would accept me regardless and unconditionally. What is the point if you gain my love through fear?”
17. If you could ask 1,000 people who are not Christians one question, what would it be?
If I could ask 1,000 people who are not Christians one question, it would be: “Did you know that you are perfect just the way you are?”
18. If you could ask 1,000 Christians one question, what would it be?
If I could ask 1,000 Christians one question it would be: “Why have you killed in the name of God? If your God is so great and you believe he passes the final decision, exactly what are you proving?”
19. Would you be interested in participating in an Investigative Faith Study with someone at your convenience?
I would not be interested in this type of service at this time in my life. I tend to seek out answers on my own and as things come to me. Now is not a time in my life where I feel the desire to debate and review my beliefs as I “feel” things better than I articulate them.
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