So I find myself trying to find the way out of the forest of agnosticism. Honestly, I am not quite sure where to “go.” As I have mentioned many times before, I grew up plenty-hostile…Pentecostal. Pentecostalism is a very ethereal segment of Christianity. Your faith and your perceptions of God and others are emotionally centered. The focus of most church services growing up was to invoke religious ecstasy. Glossolalia (speaking in tongues), crying and experiencing emotional catharsis were routine events carried out at the church’s alter.
That is a perfectly legitimate way to conduct a church service. My parents to this day embrace the Pentecostal church. At some point in my 20s, I realized that the faith of my childhood no longer fit. I still had faith, though it was far less exuberant. I began to embrace more liturgical high church forms of worship. I thought that I was worshiping God with my mind instead of my emotions. That was what I told myself anyway. Really my faith was led by my emotions as much as it ever was, though not as outwardly expressive (and far less intrusive on the life of serpentsJ). I am not sure it is possible to follow any faith tradition without a healthy dose of emotion.
It is during this period that I had the strongest religious experience of my life. At an Emmaus retreat, I felt that I was called to serve in the clergy. It was by far the most potent and “real” encounter I had experienced with God.
But because of risks I was unwilling to take, that calling was denied. I was left with only a few of plausible explanations.
- God did call me and I lacked the faith to follow through.
- God did not call me and my most profound religious experience was a fraud to the point of delusion.
- There is no God and I am part of the biggest fraud of all time.
When I first backed away from my calling, I thought it was 1. Over time my faith deteriorated to the point that my explanation was 3. But I am just not wired for atheism. So now I my thoughts lean towards 2.
Problem is religious experience was at the core of my faith. I am now dubious of any kind of emotional reaction. My view of God is in a state of freefall. I keep trying to redefine my understanding of God and I am failing miserably.
I think the modern church places way too much emphasis on a personal relationship with God. In my opinion, relationship is not possible when one of the parties is completely silent. If God routinely communicates with people the most plausible mechanism is through the language of emotion (ya just “know” when it is right). But if that were true, would we really have such a thing as denominations or even whole religions? There is by no means consistent sentiment when it comes to God. Heck in our own country Christianity is split by political affiliation. Republicans fervently think their ideology is consistent with God’s point of view. And there are others who feel with equal strength that God is primarily concerned with the plight of the disadvantaged. They tend to vote Democratic.
That being the case, I find emotion completely unreliable (not that I am embracing Vulcan mysticism…but I can no longer rely on my emotions). And I no longer think the personal relationship model works, at least for me.
Is it possible to be religious and/or spiritual without having a personal relationship? I think so. I respect and trust the president with the managing of my country. But I have never met nor see Obama.
So where do I go from here? I am not exactly certain. But I will try honestly reflecting on my journey in the months and years to come.