This is a picture of a church that my Grandfather preached at in Buena Vista, CO. By the time we made it there in August of 2021 it had been converted into a bed and breakfast. It was very important to me to find and stop at this church, for unknown reasons really. This day of riding was long, and hot and we were very tired. We still had 2 hours of riding once we made it to this destination and the sun was already starting to hide behind the mountains. My husband in true supportive form was fine with the U turns required to find this little church. I didn’t really understand the significance of this stop at the time but am starting to now. It was a pilgrimage of sorts.
My experience with the church as a child was confusing to say the very least. And I have been away from it since I was around 11 years of age. My father, one of the most altruistic men that I have met and who I adore very much, was the son of a preacher man. Having brought the church to his mother and father at a young age, his father eventually became a preacher and his mother was one of the most devoted and true servants of the word of God that I’ve ever encountered. I’m not sure of the details, but over time my Dad disconnected from the church and religion. I have my suspicions, but it is merely speculation. What I do know for sure is that my father has an unmatched distain for religion. A belief that religion is the ruination of the world. That it has caused conflict, human suffering, and wars since the beginning of time.
He’s not wrong. Humans have created conflict and chaos for as long as I’m aware. And religion has played a large part in a lot of it.
I’m not certain if anyone actually knows how and why religions were formed. Mostly because in ancient times the most widely accepted form of human communication was the spoken word. Therefore, there is very little evidence of what the true beginnings of religion were.
What I know for sure is that I learned many valuable lessons while attending church. But, I was also greatly affected by some very disturbing truths of human interpretation of the Bible. I lived in a very divided home, spiritually speaking. My dad, an atheist and my mother a devote Christian who was very involved in the church. I was stuck somewhere in the middle. As a self proclaimed Daddy’s Girl it was very confusing to be involved in a church that told me consistently that my beloved Dad was going to hell if he was not “saved.” And that I would be eternally separated from him if I did not get him to believe in God. This was tremendous pressure for a child and one that caused me a great deal of anxiety and stress. I wanted to believe the positive messages that I was learning. I loved the community. I loved the righteous acts that I saw being done in the name of God, helping humans who needed it. I loved singing solos for the Sunday morning service, singing duets with my Mom and singing in the choir. I was a devoted student of the Bible involved in bible competitions. I was all in.
I remember feeling tremendous guilt the night that I walked that long lonely walk down the aisle at church to make the statement that I wanted to accept Jesus as my lord and savior and be baptized. The guilt came from knowing that my Dad did not believe in this, but the pressure from the church made me feel that this was the only way for myself to have eternal life in Heaven.
The defining moment that separated us permanently from the church came after years of pressure to get my Dad to believe in God. It all came to a head one night at a revival at the First Southern Baptist Church. After years of praying every day that my Dad would come to the lord, I felt like a failure. And the fear of me being permanently separated from my Dad overwhelmed me and I broke down sobbing uncontrollably in the pew that night. I could not be consoled and tried to explain why I was so upset in between episodes of hyperventilating and crying. The preacher called my Dad that night on our way home from church and explained to Dad what had happened. And when Mom and I got home Dad sat me down in the living room to console me and tell me that everything was okay and that he was not going to be separated from me.
After that, my mom took us out of church. This decision that my mom made for my dad and I was a sacrifice for her. She was a very devoted and involved Christian who had been so her entire life. But she made the decision to leave the church because of how difficult this was for me and my Dad.
I was angry at the church, religion and God for many years. This was an excruciating experience to go through as a child and I couldn’t believe that any God worth a shit would have put his children in this position. How dare you religion! How dare you humans who told me that I would be eternally separated from my Dad, a true angel on this earth. A person who will help another human at the drop of a hat. He has the spirit of service that his mother lived within him. He has the spirit of God in him. Only someone truly connected to spirit would find it within themselves to snow plow a neighbors drive when they are not home and stack wood on their porch in the winter. To insulate a home for a needy family and buy a heater so that they could sleep comfortably. Who would stop on the side of a mountain road and drive a woman to her home to make sure she is safe from a winter storm. This is the spirit of God.
It had nothing to do with God, and I have learned that. It had everything to do with humans. The humans that interpreted oral traditions in a certain way and made that the end all be all for salvation. God is bliss, euphoria, beauty, goodness, nirvana. God is love. The opposite of love is fear. And fear is what humans brought to religion. God is not to be feared. God is to be connected with so that you may have eternal salvation in heaven and earth simply by being connected to the divine.
Religion defined by Oxford Languages is “the belief in and worship of a superhuman power or powers, especially a God or gods.” (What Is Religion? - Google Zoeken, n.d.). I was able to find information stating that there are currently more than 4,000 recognized religions in the world. My interpretation of the common threads in most religions is a belief in something greater than themselves, a sense of community, and a set of rules and guidelines that instill morals and values in the believers. I believe there are good intentions within most religions. But it is the human element or the ego that causes conflict, chaos, fundamentalism, misinterpretation etc.
Although religion plays a very large role in our world and is likely responsible for many individuals believing in a higher power and having morals and values instilled in their lives, religion is not required to have a relationship with God and live a life with morals and values.
The road that I have found myself on is one of spirituality, a belief in and connection to that which is greater than myself, or a higher power. Spirituality allows a person to have a connection with that which is greater without the rules and regulation.
Is there Heaven and Hell, yes. Just as there is good and evil, light and dark, yin and yang, feminine and masculine, activity and passivity, and positive and negative. In a world created from and of energy, positive and negative are the two ends of the spectrum that allow for homeostasis or balance.
Heaven, the way I interpret it, is the release from earthly confines. A connection with the divine. We can experience the beauty and bliss of heaven while on earth by having a connection to the divine. But, the ultimate experience of Heaven, I believe, will be experienced when we have left our human bodies, the earthly experience and permanently become a part of the spirit world.
Hell is being confined to earth, especially the earth we currently find ourselves on.
To bring this story full circle, my spiritual journey has been a long and arduous one. One that has taught me many lessons. I am not mad at God anymore. I now have conversations with him and his many angels on a daily basis. My world has been opened to the beauty and bliss that exists simply by being connected to spirit.
Google. (n.d.). Oxford Languages. Google search. Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.google.com/search?q=what%2Bis%2Breligion%3F&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS1016US1017&oq=what%2Bis%2Breligion%3F%2B&aqs=chrome..69i57j0i20i263i512j0i512l8.5295j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8