Before this section, please read Religion Part I: Disavowed.
This post is the story of how I decided and developed what I would believe in. It will make statements of my beliefs that I have phrased as fact. This is not to contradict your beliefs or start a fight. I am only presenting my beliefs as I see them, as the facts of my life. I cannot scientifically defend what I believe, as it stands with any religion. I ask that you do not attack my beliefs. The way I wrote this is in statements of fact because I did not want to start every sentence with “I believe…” In stating my belief as fact for me, I am not attacking yours. One of my strongest beliefs is that each person should have their own beliefs and those beliefs should be protected.
Here is an abbreviated list of the ideals and beliefs I was either looking to be present or to avoid. Each item on the list had a weighting and in the end, it required algebra to reconcile a total score.
During the search, I wanted a religion to have, these things. They were things that I was looking for answers concerning and provided positives to the rating, these items generated a positive score:
- Sense Personal Responsibility
- Gender Equality
- A community based in freedom and the idea that people, and their beliefs are different, not the same
- A community that was not judgmental or dictatorial.
- A connection with not just other humans but all living things
- A text that changed to fit the beliefs of the person
- Afterlife or Reincarnation
- Broad Ideals instead of rules
- The ability to not only read religious texts but also write your own beliefs and texts
I was indifferent if a religion needed to include these. These are things I had little to no predefined feelings about, but also could see myself accepting them over time. These things did not a positive or negative score in either direction:
- God or higher beings
- Unified Religious texts
I did not want religion to have, if a religion had these things it would generate negative scores:
- Dictatorship of beliefs
- Cult of personality around religious figures
- Forced belief change if the leadership of the religion thinks it should change.
- Static beliefs (ones that cannot change with the improvement of science)
- The religion being just another “social group”
- Required Tithing
- Language Barrier
The best scoring religion was Wicca/Unorganized Paganism. The biggest place where Wicca took a huge hit was the idea of community. I did not like the idea of a Witches’ Coven, but I noted it was optional in the religion. Wicca and UP won the fight because of the fact that many of things in the religion were optional. Because of the nature of Paganism and Wicca, it has a few fundamental beliefs I could believe in and let you build whatever you wanted on top of that. I refused to join the community but ended up taking its core to build my own belief system. I had to decide my answers to Paganism’s three beliefs.
Paganism’s three core beliefs are:
- Some kind of higher being(s), or deity(ies) exist.
- Some kind of reincarnation exists, even if that reincarnation is into heaven or
- Some kind of spiritual energy or emotion connects all living things.
I had not given those three things much thought over the course of my life. I looked though the beliefs of most wiccans. Each Wiccan has a slightly different set of beliefs; however, each Coven usually has a unified set. Some freedoms of belief… until others are around. How odd. Paganism, Wicca, in particular has a tendency to be duotheistic. There was a God and a Goddess of roughly even power. There was gender equality in religion? I had never seen that before. Every other religion had no comments about gender or raised one gender above the other. Even some covens in Wicca chose to emphasize the female above the male and worshipped a Goddess, not a God. I chose one of each in an attempt for gender equality and balance. At this point, they did not have names they were just divine beings.
From there I started building practices of meditation and relaxation. I developed my senses beyond what is physically existent. Through mediation, I could see past myself into a world of energy. I began to feel my energy levels rise and fall throughout the day and year in a natural cycle. I began to feel the energy levels of those around me. I also felt spiritual or deeper connection with other living things around me. As soon as I believed that this energy existed, it did. The mind is a powerful thing. Some people will think that I have just ‘imagined’ these things. However, I believe that imagination can affect the physical reality around you. There was something different.
I saw something deeper and I needed to write it down. This was when writing became part of my mental and emotional therapy. I started the book that most Wiccans do. The Book of Mirrors is the book where a Wiccan writes stories, quotes, ideas, theories that form their core beliefs of how they practice their religion. One of the first stories I wrote in the Book of Mirrors is one when day when I was camping as a boy scout. I took a nap in the forest leaned up against a tree. I had a dream of calm and relaxation. The dream picked up in my mind where I left off physically. I was walking through the forest and everything that lived had an otherworldly glow. I could see this glow and this energy flowing in and around me. I felt connected with the forest and the world that was around me. When I awoke, I noticed that I could feel a similar glow/aura around living things as if the dream never left me.
From there I started building what I believe on a spiritual level. I do believe that reincarnation makes the world make, in my mind, the most sense. From there I asked myself what about all the people who say they went to heaven and came back? Are they crazy? What role does heaven play in the afterlife? I spent many hours rationalizing the ‘afterlife’ to some extent there was proof of people going to haven and coming back, however no similar proof of hell. I fundamentally believe people when they say they have been though something, especially when multiple people from different backgrounds/places say similar things. In addition, stories of the soul existing after life and the hauntings of people that have not departed the physical world do exist in mass quantities. Though it was all circumstantial, there was this kind of proof about people being to heaven. Therefore, I had to rationalize heaven existing and at the same time reincarnation and the ideas that souls can become ghosts trapped in the physical world…
Here is how I have worked that all together: When someone dies, their soul is released from their body and attempts to reach ‘heaven’ that is one of the last choices a soul makes… to either go, or not. The goal of a life Earth is for a soul to learn a lesson, once it does it returns peaceably to the spiritual world. If that has happened, the soul has no decision to make and reaches ‘heaven’ if their physical body has ceased to support them before the soul has learned its lesson the soul decides to become trapped on Earth or return to ‘heaven’ anyway to try again. While a soul a ghost or in heaven, waiting it retains the memories of its life and can interact with the world of humans in the path of spiritual events or hauntings. Those ghost stories you here or spiritual events of guidance can all be forms of this interaction. Perhaps A gust of wind that carries a voice of a recently passed loved one will float by.
When a soul reaches heaven, it is their paradise. It is a place for the soul to rest/relax and enjoy doing whatever it most enjoys doing until the time for reincarnation comes. If a person loved interacting with their family, it will contain carbon copies of the souls of those people so that soul can interact. Anything is possible in heaven. Heaven is a chance for a soul to rest and relax before reincarnation. At the point of reincarnation, you leave heaven and become reborn into life. The lesson you learned as a part of your life is the only memory that remains from one life to the next. Those ‘lessons’ form a type of innate common sense. Sometimes flashes of memories can remain and give hints that a past life existed. Reincarnation can happen at any point in space-time and into any type of living thing. I may be a human in this life; I may be a dinosaur or a tree in the next. In my next life, I may even be a human in the 1850s or in the 2550s. My past lives may actually be in the future! I believe that many of the most famous inventors had past lives in what to them was the future and were inventing objects that they used every day in their past life.
Therefore, now I had a core based in Wicca. I saw and believed a spiritual energy. I had deities, an unnamed Goddess and God. In addition, I rationalized a conflict between beliefs around the afterlife. At this point, I had become an Observer. Again using my best friend’s definition of that term from his blog post entitled “And let there be dark…”
Observers are people who follow the faith as it is written and truly believe that they are doing the right thing. Their motivations are pure. Their intentions are pure. I find that many recent converts who studied a religion before changing fall into this category; at least at first. Observers are those who follow in the way I believe to be the most accurate. They wear their faith and they live by what they believe without judging others.
At this point, what I practiced was close to the bare minimum of religion. It really had no practices, prayers, actions, holidays, or meaning. It was only a core of these three beliefs.
I felt very weird about starting to adopt religion into my life was a very odd experience for me. For many years of my life I hated religion and hated religious peopled. I though thtey were blinded by their religion and did things that good people wouldn’t do otherwise. When I was younger I saw no value in any kind of religion but at this point in my life I couldn’t see my life without religion… However, each step I took was comfortable and felt right… Had I gone insane? I felt like I was in the the twilight zone…
The next portion of the story is about me building a custom religion out of a couple of beliefs. I then tied it to another religion and proceeded to throw it all away again.