I am of the opinion that many people become atheists not because they actually believe that God does not exist in any form, but simply because they have been ‘turned-off’ from mainstream religions.
This is a sad state of affairs, because you cannot be a whole person without some sense of spirituality. Atheism has nothing to offer but negativism. All it can do is denigrate other peoples beliefs, while offering no alternatives of it’s own. For proof, I offer the fact that I have never seen, or heard of anyone who has turned their life around for the better by becoming an atheist. On the other hand, I have personally seen people’s lives be completely reversed, no matter how bad it was, just by seeking out their spirituality. Of course, this is just my opinion. If you are an atheist, well….., you are entitled to your opinion as well. I cannot demand Freedom of Speech and Religion without extending the same right to everyone else.
The main problem, as I see it, is that the majority of people are unable to separate Spirituality from Religion. Regardless of what anyone my tell you, religion is a man-made entity, created by one or more individuals at some point, to foster a particular agenda. It may have been a perfectly harmless agenda, with the best of intentions, but an agenda just the same. If religion came from God, and there is only one God, then there would only be one religion, right? In any case, if you belong to a religion, and are happy with it, then by all means, stay with it. As long as you do not infringe on others ability to do the same, I think most religions are good for the people that can adhere to them. My attentions are focused on the ones who have not found an acceptable belief system they can live with, yet.
I am probably going to tell you things that may shock you, but they are true nonetheless. The first is that God does not belong to any one religion. Anyone who tells you different is misleading you. God was around before religion. And by God, I mean that intangible sense that you are not alone. You can call it by any name you wish, such as Higher Power, Great Spirit, Man-Above, Buddha, Gitche Manatou, Wankan Tanka, or whatever. It’s all the same thing.
I believe that God is an integral part of each of us, from the moment of conception. Of all the creatures on earth, only humans seem to have any sense of something greater than themselves. Even Chimpanzees do not bury their dead, meditate, pray or show any other signs of a belief in a Higher Power. Even before we were completely human, as far back as the Neanderthals, archeological finds have demonstrated that the sense of a Higher Power developed very early. Ancient burial sites have been found that date well before Homo sapiens. Even the most primitive cultures that have ever existed had some sort of belief in a Higher Power, in some form. So a knowledge of a Higher Power is inherent in each and every one of us. And the really good news is that God is different things to different people. God is what you need at the time. God can be different things to the same person at different times.
A lot of people do not have a personal relationship with their Higher Power. They have relied on the mistaken notion that an outside entity can ‘guide’ you to God. They have been told that only this, or that, ‘true’ religion can unite them with God. And it never feels right, so many just forego spirituality altogether. Here is a news flash for you…….You don’t need anyone, not even me, to find God.
If something is missing in your life, here is how to fill that void. Find a quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts. It can be anywhere you fell comfortable and safe…near a stream, a beach, in a closet, your own bedroom, or where ever. The location is not important as long as you can feel safe and relaxed, and it is quiet enough to hear your own thoughts. And, it is important that you do this alone. Anyone else with you will effect your thoughts and receptions, and make you self-conscious. Wear your favorite comfortable clothing, or none at all…it’s your choice. Whatever makes you feel best.
Next, take a couple of minutes to relax. Enjoy the feeling of the air on your skin. Listen to the sounds around you and try to become one with that environment. You can stand, sit or lay down, whatever is most comfortable. You can even get into water if you want. Whatever you feel drawn to is OK. This is your time. Now, breath in through your nose slowly and deeply, and exhale through your mouth slowly. Try to fill your lungs completely up, and empty them all the way with each breath. Be aware of the rising and falling of your diaphragm, and the sound of your breath. Picture the air going into your lungs and back out, taking your tension with it as it leaves. Be aware of your hands and feet, arms and legs and how they feel. Slowly run your hands over your body and pay attention to how it feels, and know that you are a unique human being, different from everyone else, and revel in your uniqueness.
Now, when you feel good, and relaxed, empty your mind. In your thoughts, ask God, or whatever name you wish to use, to enter your spirit and guide you. Go ahead and talk to God in your head, just like you would talk to another person. Then, and this is the hard part for a lot of people, shut off your thoughts long enough to listen for answers. Be aware of everything around you and look for signs. They can be very subtle and easy to miss if you are not watching. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see a burning bush, or the Angel Gabriel appear in front of you. Most likely, you will simply experience impressions, and a feeling of mild euphoria. You have made a connection. It takes time to learn how to communicate with your Higher Power.
Now, you can pray if you want, in any way you want, or simply stretch, and go about your business. Try to do this a few times a week at least, or anytime you fell you need to. You’ll find it gets easier and easier to tap into your Spirituality the more you do it, and soon, you won’t even need to go anywhere to do it. Just be sure to listen as well as speak (mentally, of course), and try to go where your spirit leads you. You will discover many things about yourself, and feel good about them, as you should.
After you have established your personal relationship, its OK to explore some organized religions if you want. Just don’t let them hijack your personal connection with God. Remember, your opinions on God are just as valid as theirs. Over time, you will notice a general improvement in most things in your life, and the way you handle them. God will nudge you in whatever directions you need to be going in, as your relationship develops. Just relax and enjoy the ride…..
Bealtaine Dia Bí Le leat i gcónaí
(Irish for “May God Be With You Always.”)