One of the by-products of my recovery from alcoholism has been a renewed desire to explore my faith and re-evaluate my spirituality. In Alcoholics Anonymous, we are committed to turn our lives and will over to the care of God as we understand him. Some people like to refer to this god as their higher power, some people profess the faith of their upbringing, others change from one tradition to another, others still create a higher power of their own out of whole cloth.
My personal journey has led me to where such journeys often lead, to books. And after reading quite a lot about Buddhism, about the history of the Christian Church and about what several branches of this church actually teach, I have had to call my whole concept of religion into serious question.
If we come from a church going family, we are taught a list of dogmas early in life that we are simply expected to believe. For example, we are taught the Nicene Creed and that we should accept its words without question. But we are never taught about who wrote that creed and why, and that there were decades long controversies over its content and that dozens of other creeds were written and proclaimed and dismissed and fought over.
We aren’t taught that the divine God-head status of Jesus wasn’t officially conferred upon him until well more than three hundred years after the crucifixion nor that the Catholic church split between the east and the west over the very question of the nature of Jesus in relation to God.
We never consider that there were far more documents written about the works of Jesus and the apostles other than those that made it into the book that we call the Bible. Why do we know nothing of the relationship between Jesus and his earthly father Joseph? Surely someone had some memories of those years between Jesus’ appearance in the temple and when he began his ministry some twenty years later. Then there are the fairy tales about Mary’s immaculate conception, limbo, purgatory, venial and mortal sins and the infallibility of a man in a white dress and ruby slippers.
It’s not that I mean to simply take cheap shots at people’s faith. I thoroughly understand the need to believe in something more powerful and more creative than ourselves. But I must call into question the blind faith that so many have put in a belief system that has been made up as it went along for the sole purpose of keeping a few powerful men in control of the the minds and behavior of the masses.
For now, I have taken to exploring just how I understand God and trying to divine through personal experience how he works in the world and in my own life. I can’t not believe that I am protected by a benevolent creator who guides me into not only good things but into a pure and meaningful relationship with himself. But I also have come to understand that this relationship is of the most personal and private nature imaginable. It is not guided by fears of punishment nor a set of rules and regulations that were set up by some ancient council to guide my behavior toward some punitive and political agenda.
My guiding principle is this: that I must be good and honest and kind to my fellow beings and never cause them any kind of harm or suffering.
That is my new starting point, and I have set about to discover again just who this God being is and how his representative on earth in the person of Jesus, whose teachings I can gladly accept plays a part in my faith. But I want to take the time to try and learn just who this Jesus really is and how he might speak to me in his own voice, not in the tired diatribes of a manipulative and power hungry institution called a church.