Let’s get something straight, I have trust issues. There are two ways to look at my distrust. Maybe I trust only myself, or perhaps it’s only myself that I distrust. Why do I worry as I drive through town? Is it the other people’s lack of focus, or lack of skill that I distrust? Or merely my own ability to react quickly and correctly to their actions? They both lead to the same symptoms of behavior. So in the interest of taking the responsibility on myself, we’ll make this my inability to trust others.
As a child, I was raised under a “Christian” roof. Specifically the Assembly of God variety. Let me state first and foremost that I’m generally put off by the whole concept of “religion.” I find that religions are simply groups of beliefs that have been categorized for the benefit of self propagation. I have a hard time with this because it limits the ability to be truthful about what you believe. I’d like to believe this, but I’m a Baptist. Maybe if I weren’t Catholic I could believe that. What if the “this’s” or “that’s” are the only things standing between absolute truth and ignorance? I also find that this subdividing of beliefs usually doesn’t lead to any kind of interpersonal harmony. Sure on a small scale it might make me feel better about you because we go to the same place of worship. So surely we’re more alike than not, and surely that helps us fit in with each other comfortably. If reading religious texts has taught me anything, it is that most of the major religions don’t favor comfort. I can’t remember any wise proverbs about how becoming comfortable gets one closer to attaining any semblance of holiness or truth or wisdom or enlightenment.
Perhaps this is where the roots of my disappointment, confusion, anger, and fear can be found. There are so many things that we all stumble across in life that beg a countless number of questions to be asked. Most of these questions go unanswered. So which religion is the real deal? I have studied all of the more established religions of the world to find an answer that I could trust. Ultimately I seek truth. This is a tricky quest, especially when you have trust issues. To add another level of difficulty to this quest is my tendency to favor a simplistic black or white view of life. Shades of gray have no place in my quest. Shades of gray are nothing more than degrees of justification for those who can’t handle truth. Since truth is what I’m searching for, gray is out. Whereas I view the Heinz 57 varieties of every major religion, usually termed “sects” or “denominations,” as nothing short of shades of gray, my view of these should fast become apparent. Despite all this, I have come to a certain set of beliefs that I hold to.
As some might suspect, this set of beliefs don’t fit comfortably under any particular religion’s umbrella. I believe that there is a certain amount of truth in each and every holy book. The problem I have is that I find more than a fair share of outright bologna in most of them as well. As one who enjoys philosophy, I far too often find myself following some random goat path to nowhere. I am constantly reminding myself to keep on subject. That said, forgive me if I stray in my attempt to literate the set of beliefs that I hold myself to.
God? This is where my quest begins. I believe in a God who is first and foremost, unlimited in any and every way. This lends to such philosophical puzzles as “Can God create a rock so large that He can not lift it,” and the like. These puzzles stem from the basic truth that people are limited, and we can’t wrap our heads around anything that isn’t. Right from the get-go we have a bit of a dilemma. In order to continue beyond this, we have to come to the understanding that even our language and its ability to discuss the limitless is itself limited. As God is unlimited, several of the nit-picky questions that arise can be easily and summarily dismissed. Is God a man or a woman? Is God a force, a spirit, a being? God can’t be boxed in by such questions. God is God, period. By definition, unlimited.
Creation or Evolution? I believe that evolution is a process created by an unlimited God. Only an unlimited God could create anything from nothing. God created all that we know, experience, and feel. God put limits on it all as well. I am very comfortable living and thinking in a world with limits, or rules, or laws. Whether I enjoy being limited or not, I tend to favor limits and the order they bring. I once spoke to a man who was, incidentally, in a mental facility at the time, whose mind was not bound by this acceptance of such limits. He would not expect a ball that he threw up into the air to slow down, stop briefly, and then return back to his hand. He told me that he was in no position to decide what limits were in effect at any given point in time, and therefore the ball could at some point, continue off into space. He said that probability was not equal to rule. This man’s perspective fascinates me to this day, however I still expect the ball to come back to my hand, or at least back down to earth if my ability to throw or catch said ball is in question. We have limits everywhere around us. From the self imposed limits of public dress codes, to limits like gravity. We even have names for various groups of limits. Names like physics, mathematics, law, etiquette, and religion. We tend to focus a lot of energy and attention finding all the limits, measuring them, trying to escape them, and when we get desperate, even making up some of our own. I can’t buy into any religion that preaches that we are all one cumulative entity that is expressed in various essences. Usually this “entity” is what I would call God, and we are all the “essences” or “expressions” of the “entity.” Although this is a fascinating concept to think through, I have a hard time believing that I am, or any other human is at root, “entity” or God. I think if any of us were God, we’d figure out how to reach parts of our own planet that still remain unexplored, or how to practically apply string theory and travel through time, or how to get our kids to obey us the first time we ask, or keep a hard shell taco in one piece after the first bite.
Birth, Death, Neither, or Both? What happened to “me” before I was born, and what will happen to “me” after I die? Many holy texts speak of experiences pre and post our current experience called life. I feel that these questions fall right back into the categories of “limited” vs. “unlimited.” God, unlimited. Everything else, limited. I believe that “me” existed prior to my entrance into this life, and I think that “me” will exist after my exit. I know that this current expression of “me” exists in a world with specific, and recognized limits. I don’t subscribe to the belief that “me” was ever, or will ever, become unlimited in nature, or God. Therefore any possible pre- or post-life “me” experience would also be limited in nature. There are similarities between the various holy texts regarding pre- and post-life experience. After I pick which version seems most viable, I can start to narrow down what limits might plague a pre or post-life “me.” I’m more interested in whether or not it is even relevant to the current life “me.” Perhaps if I could recall or had record of what experiences the pre-life “me” encountered, I could use that to help guide my current life “me” in the right direction. Unfortunately I don’t recall my own entry into this current life experience, much less anything previous to it. That coupled with the fact that I have trust issues, makes it doubtful that I would rely on anyone else to have recorded it for me. That only leaves the post-life “me” to discuss. Here I tend to lean toward the Judaeo-Christian concepts of Heaven and Hell. I’m amazed how little detail there is of either of these places in holy texts, as compared to the amount of detail we tend to write in ourselves. The basic concept is that Heaven is very close to unlimited goodness, whereas Hell is very close to unlimited badness. The obvious choice here is Heaven. Some seem to believe that Heaven will be perfection. I’ll have to jump ship here and say that I equate perfection with unlimited. Since God is unlimited, and Heaven is not God, Heaven can’t be unlimited. I tend to imagine that the Heaven experience is the next level for “me.” Not unlimited, but rather less limits, or at least a different set of limits. A new game, with new rules. And before you ask, I’m not concerned with the new rules of the new game, just like an infant isn’t concerned with the new rules of calculus.
Holy Trinity? This one gets fun. The Bible says that God (remember that unlimited part here) has three personages, commonly referred to as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three personages combine to form the Trinity. This is something that makes no sense to people. How can this be? Simple. God is unlimited. However we can’t help but try to fit this unlimited concept into our limited understanding and explain it with our limited vocabulary. I’ve heard this concept destroyed by the best of theologian, so I’ll try to make it simple. Think about water. Water can be a solid, or a liquid, or a gas. No matter what state or form it is in, it’s always water. This is the best I can do.