Solo Sojourner

The often repeated criticism against those claiming to be “spiritual but not religious” is that those who hold this philosophy are without doctrinal parameters and as such pick and choose to believe what suits them. Most of these criticisms come from the devoutly indoctrinated, but occassionaly a new atheist will mount the same criticism in an effort to prove that all believers – from those who believe crazy doctrines to those who cannot decide which crazy doctrine to seek their teeth into- are all sufficiently deluded.

Spiritual Tree, Solarisation

Spiritual Tree, Solarisation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I cannot find a label which suits my spiritual understanding so for the sake of simplicity I just refer to myself as spiritual but not religious. I tend to define the word ‘religious’ not as “having or showing a belief for God”, but rather as “concerned with the teaching of a religion or adhering to a specified doctrine of belief.” And since I define religion as a rigid indoctrination of belief, I cannot identify with myself as ‘religious’.

Most of my family members have a traditional Christian belief, although the denominations and doctrines that they subscribe to vary greatly, from Pentecostal to Catholic and all mainstream Christian groups in between. I knew early on that I was the odd duck in the Christian pond. Instinctively doctrines presented to me as opinion, not the ‘Word of God’. I could easily see the fallacy of logical arguments whenever religion was discussed. I realized that everyone believes what they prefer to believe, and for most, it isn’t their belief at all but rather beliefs that they have accepted and adopted as their own.

I began referring to myself as “spiritual but not religious” long before I was aware of progressive and liberal Christians, mystic and new age Christians, or the wilderness and emergent church movements and the calls to exit Babylon and the Harlot church.

My spiritual journey outside of organized religion has led me toward many non-traditional conclusions and I find that I have similar spiritual perspectives with many diverse faiths. To this end I accept many tenets of varying spiritual beliefs while equally rejecting just as many. Like the pantheist, I believe the Source or what most call God is evidenced in nature, and like the panetheist I believe we are individualizations of the All. Like a gnostic I believe the Kingdom of God is within and that we all encompass the spirit essence of God. Like the mystic, I want to know God directly and not just through teachings and doctrines. Like progressives and liberals, I have the willingness to question and hold a sincere respect for other faiths while choosing the path of Christ as my guide. Like the Buddhist, I believe that the way to find God lies within the heart and like the Hindu I believe that the spiritual objective is to know God and the way chosen is not important.

It may be the opinion of some that I have a bastardization of spiritual beliefs. I freely, and somewhat proudly, admit that I “pick and choose” what I decide to believe, because who is to say what is right? Our greatest human weakness, in my opinion, is the ease of which our minds deceive us. We easily buy into the delusions of others, the opinions of others, the preferences of others. Mob mentality? Innate tribal behavior? I don’t have the answer why this is true, but I observe it to be true in all people. Rare and few are the true independent thinkers. For most, the need to belong in the group is just too compelling or overwhelming to ignore. As evidenced in the fertile grounds of politics and religions, the hotbeds of divisions and debates, concurring thought allows us to experience our predilections with the support of those who think like us, and the satisfaction of excluding and reducing to less those who don’t.

I hold the position that truth is subjective and is based on our life experiences and sense of reality. What is profoundly true for me may very well seem completely false or illogical to someone else. That is why I have settled into the idea that a spiritual journey should be a solo sojourn. It is refreshing if I come across people with similar understanding along the way, but, inevitably, at some point we will differ. So, live and let live. I am content to allow others to have their subjective truths just as I have mine.

I think as humans we should nurture our spiritual instincts in order to have a complete and full life. The only way we can possibly do that is to embrace our own truths and allow ourselves to explore our soul consciousness. It is said that no two strands of DNA are alike. If the physical is designed to differ, why would the soul be designed any differently? Religion meets the spiritual needs of some, and it equally fails to meet the spiritual needs of others. While I may feel compelled to search for a universal divine truth, I don’t think it can exist. The only thing that seems to exist is a personal divine truth. All of the spiritual perspectives that I write about are just my personal understanding. Others have similar thoughts, many more do not. What is important is that it allows me to live a happier more content life and live more harmoniously with others…which in my view is the purpose of the Divine.


14 thoughts on “Solo Sojourner

  1. Picking and Choosing IS necessary to making rational conclusions, so it is something to be proud of (perhaps one of the biggest mistakes of the religious I feel is the oft unnoticed compulsion to aceept all or nothing). What I think is (or should be) the question of the secular though is why, or on what basis, do you choose what you do, which was kind of what I was trying to hear from you in those previous comments I made. I dont think the danger of the spiritual but not religious is picking and choosing, but rather doing so based on what “strikes their fancy.” And I dont mean that as derrogative as it sounds. For instance, one may chose a spiritual philosophy based on the fact that it yhe most ethical onr available.Good idea, but whether the necessitated components of that philosophy actually allign with reality or not hasn’t been addressed. In this way, even though highly ethical, by not matching up with reality, it might not be what’s best for us (matter of “true” in a sense).

    So if I can challenge you a bit farther, how did you come to your beliefs? The reasons are of course somewhat personal as you said, but I would conclude that there still must be some, and that the world isn’t so individually polarized that there can’t be a backbone of logic we can all walk on.

    • This is difficult for me to find the way to express, but I will try.
      The reason why I believe is because I have had experiences which I cannot rationally explain through natural means. Others may suggest explanations, but I am the only one who experienced it and know whether or not those suggested explanations hold weight. Because I have experienced these things without being able to assign a material explanation means that the only other explanation is supernatural.

      What I choose to believe with regard to the supernatural becomes more difficult to explain. Since my experiences occurred during the time I was a Christian, I know that something within Christianity is true. If Christianity can serve as a portal to connect human consciousness to the supernatural source then it seems to me that other religions do as well. The one tenet that religions have in common is that of “love thy neighbor as thyself.” I consider it to be the one constant truth of the divine and this is the central tenet that all of my accepted beliefs must not violate. It is the best answer I can offer in response to your “backbone of knowledge” question. (This is why I cannot follow any doctrine that states it is the one and only truth and those who do not believe will be eternally damned. It violates the central tenet.)
      My personal beliefs are formed from Contemplation and Synchronicity. I contemplate the truth of something and accept it only when occurrences of synchronicity repeat to the point that I can believe it to be significantly true. Subsequently, I feel a sense of peace about the matter and become content with it.

      You ask how I might know whether my beliefs align with reality. They can only align with my reality. There may be a universal reality but none of us seem to be able to determine what that is. I consider the use of “you” in most religious texts to be specifically singular and not intended to denote a group consensus. I tend to interpret a scripture such as, “knock and it will be opened unto you” to read, “Knock and it will be opened to “me”, meaning that I will understand what I need to know, not what anyone else needs to know. It’s all subjective and seemingly designed to be that way in my opinion. So, just like I have to find what is true and relevant for me to live my life well, others must do the same.

      • Im with you on most of this and jealous to a certain extent. Had I those “experiences” I imagine my views would be a little different.

        How subjective do you view things though? For instance, I think the practical application (how you live your life) is obviously subjective as well as interpretations of what you see, but I dont think reality itself we can easily conclude subjective (though sometimes I wonder). If thats the case then it kind of calls some doubt into those experiences I feel and makes the criticisms against spiritual views necessary to be personally addressed.

        Of course there’s always the pragmatic “out” to worrying about it too much.

        Anyways Im just picking your brain so much because your views are reasonably unique and you seem firm enough in them dynamically. Not to many people allot for that as you say.

  2. Pingback: Absolute Truth | Random Moments of Epiphany

    • @Page28. When I try to explain a spiritual concept that is difficult to put into words I can ramble, so be prepared, lol.
      I think that there is reality/truth that is beyond what the finite mind can comprehend, and what we are capable of understanding is our unique specific relationship with it (because of dimensional division and material existence). I think Jesus understood it. I think he tried to teach that we have to transcend our corporeal self to understand it. Something that we seemingly cannot do because of all of our divisions and egos. Which brings me back to the understanding that the reality that we can understand is subjective, and it is based on our willingness to seek the divine and our level of connection with it. I think a universal divine truth cannot exist in this dimension because we refuse to put aside our sense of self and connect in unity with it, so the only way to connect with it is subjectively through our own unique sense of reality and truth.

      • I think what you’re saying here just translates the position of the question I was asking I fear. Saying that man can’t comprehend reality is a heft meta conclusion, however obvious it may seem. Linking that to ego might be as well depending on what you mean technically by that. So I although I feel like I get more of your philosophy derived from all the “meta,” the support sounds more a priori (I of course gladly assume otherwise though).

        The devils in the details perhaps, but the universe we build our “god(s)” from (which may sound like a crazy statement, but think of it meaning more as an apologetic), has some huge plan into the pragmatic of the philosophy derived from our “god(s)” (in quotations to allot for all sorts of beliefs of varying degrees of theism or otherwise).

  3. “I think as humans we should nurture our spiritual instincts in order to have a complete and full life.”
    Good point and I agree. But I think that many atheists are afraid of their spiritual instincts because they can’t explain them, and therefore reject them outright. Sometimes I think of atheists as rather analogous to Victorian prudes (who didn’t want to deal with sexual instincts or issues): In the presence of some powerful (and potentially destructive) urges, they would rather deny than deal with them.

  4. It just be semantics, but I believe that happiness is not the purpose of life. Happiness is a human trait, not a Divine trait. For example, if raising hell made me happy, as it does some people, why wouldn’t that also qualify even if it hurt others? I view happiness as a state of mind and a relative term at that. Here’s a story along those lines: A man dies and awakes in what he thinks is heaven. Some heavenly beings take him on a tour of the place. They enter a room where a party is going on and in one corner is a very old man sitting on a chair with a beautiful young woman on his lap entertaining him. So he goes over to her and asks her if this is heaven. She relies that it’s heaven for him (referring to the old man) but it sure is hell for me.

  5. I never quite understood why people were so against “picking and choosing.” They say it as if it’s a bad thing. Up until recently, have always believed that the different denominations existed for a reason, now I think that other religions may exist for a reason as well. Like you said, every person is different. We look different, we talk different, we like different foods, we see things differently, we experience emotion differently, so why wouldn’t our spirits be different as well? For me, I get so nervous, almost terrified, to question the mainstream Christian beliefs that I’ve held for so long. I keep asking myself “What if I’m wrong!?” and I remember scriptures from the Bible that talk about earthly knowledge and such leading people astray, and how Satan will confuse people… It’s all very scary to think about, but I honestly feel in my heart that most of the mainstream Christian beliefs on hell and damnation and God casting people out for not meeting a perfect image are completely false. It’s just so scary and hard to let go of what you’ve been taught all your life.

    • I am familiar with how you may feel. The scripture in Timothy of “false doctrines and itching ears” used to unnerve me but I kept pushing forward by knowing that so many scriptures invite the believer to keep searching, look deeper, and not to be persuaded by the understanding of the world.

      Researching Christian history and origins was beneficial to me. Christians are often steered away from writing, even in the bible, that would open their minds beyond the doctrines that the churches want congregants to accept and follow. Books, articles and blogs written by accredited biblical historians can help in understanding the history and culture in which Christianity was constructed, and the works of biblical scholars can provide understanding on how doctrines were developed. If interested you can find some links to resources on my Links to Ancient Manuscripts page.

      I think there is some truth in Christianity, just that it is hidden beneath years of misdirecting doctrines, intentional or not. And I think all religions serve a purpose in finding spiritual meaning, but not if we buy into them as the complete truth.

      Thank you for complimenting my blog and for reading and commenting.

    • I wanted to say that your comment hit me very strongly, and your fears resonated with a lot of my own struggles early on in this life’s journey, when I was raised to believe in “a belligerent old man in the sky with a lightning bolt at the ready watching my every move and waiting for me to do something wrong”. Really healthy belief for a kid to grow up with, right? I now understand that that’s not the real Christian message. But the lessons we learn in childhood are not so easily forgotten and have a way of haunting us through our adult life. And there’s still a lot of people out there calling themselves Christian, paying lip service to a face and a name to serve their own selfish agenda or belong to the right social networking group, and not really paying any attention to what Jesus actually said beyond a few catch phrases and buzz words, usually chosen for the express purpose of taking them out of context to emphasize fear factor. Anyway, sorry about the tirade. Just trying to say that I empathize with you.

      • No apology necessary. My fear is more of a “oh my gosh, what if I give all of this up and when I die I go to hell!!!??” sort of thing. When I think about giving up on specific doctrines that I don’t find logical I almost get the urge to run in my bedroom and read the Bible for hours to “purge” myself of such sinful lines of though. It’s horrible what indoctrination does and the horrible feelings it leaves you with as you grow up and evolve as a person, especially when you start to question things.

      • Yeah, there’s a lot of emphasis on Hell. It plays on our fear of death. From basic survival instinct to sorrow over lost loved ones. And there’s no way that the average person an verify the existence of Hell or Heaven. So we’ve just got to take their word for it. Because what’s the alternative? Eternal suffering? That’s actually the argument I’ve heard from a lot of missionaries. Pretty good marketing strategy, huh? Personally, I think life is too enjoyable and the world is too beautiful to waste my time here sitting around waiting to die. It’s just society that I have difficulty with.

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