I grew up religious, attended Catholic grade school and recall being scared to death of dying and going to “he-double toothpicks.” The fear of double-toothpicks played a central role in my life – so much so, that during college I went to church every Sunday when I should have been at home recovering with my friends. I remember on those Sundays righteously thinking – I’ve got my crap together. All my friends are at home sleeping, and when it all comes to an end, I’ll be standing tall.
After college I continued to trudge through life dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s – all on my way toward a supposed happy ending. Through the early part of law school I continued with church every Sunday and even picked up a teaching gig – Wednesday-night catechism. I was checking boxes and nothing was going to stand in my way – double-toothpicks would never know the likes of me.
As time went on in law school, however, things slowly began to change. Training to be an attorney required that I to pay attention to my words and actions. No more doing things just to do them. Success in law school demanded that I understood why things were said and what they meant. It was a new experience for me – personal responsibility for my thoughts and actions. Little did I know, however, I was on a crash course with religion.
As I continued with church and teaching catechism, things started to unravel. I started thinking about what I was saying. And a lot of it didn’t make sense. In fact, a lot of it seemed quite absurd. How could a loving God condemn someone to hell? If God was all-powerful, why would hell even exist? How could there be one true church when much of religion was determined by geography? But what really got me was the selective adoration of God. If someone was cured of cancer, it was always through the grace of God, but where was God when someone died a tragic death? The religious hypothesis for life failed the consistency test.
Too many things just didn’t make sense. But who was I to question religion? Besides, questioning took a lot of work and left a lot of uncertainty - It was much easier to do what I was told, and hope for the best. So I plowed ahead with the prescribed formula – be nice, go to church, believe in Jesus and maybe dump a little money in the basket.
But as the weeks and months went by that formula revealed itself as more and more contrived. It smelled crappy - of humans trying to control each other. I wanted to cut ties, but was scared to leave. I still needed something to help me with the uncertainty of life, and didn’t know where to turn. So I reluctantly continued down the same path. As time proceeded, however, that path became more and more restrictive. I had become a caged bird and was looking for my keeper to open the door.
Slowly I began to realize that I was my own keeper. I started exploring other religions, philosophies and spiritualties. I attended churches of different denominations. I spoke to anyone who had an interest in the topic. I took it all in, and it slowly digested. I began listening to my own voice. My keeper was ready to open the door.
But one question continued to nag me. What if I was wrong? What if my inner-voice was leading me astray? What if a happy ending really meant holding firm to one certain belief? With double-toothpicks at stake, I needed to be sure.
So 1997, I quit my job as an attorney, sold my house and moved to California to attend Divinity School at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. It was through that experience that my keeper finally had the courage to turn the key and open the door. I flew free to experience a new world. A world that was always right in front of me but hidden through religious fear.
I no longer look at life through the eyes of religion where we are being watched and judged by a father figure. I no longer look at life as something that must be undertaken through a prescribed formula. I no longer look at life as though someone else has the answers for me to follow.
I cut the crap from religion, and went rogue.
The following blogs will provide some insight into the crap I cut and the change I experienced. I don’t proclaim to have any answers – only my own experiences that I am willing to share with you. If what I share doesn’t resonate, toss it aside and move on.
Finally, if I’m wrong about all of this and end up in double-toothpicks, I’ll just blame it on law school. At least I’ll be in good company with all the other attorneys.
Thanks for reading.
You can follow my daily blog – a series of discussions between the worry-self and the present-self – at: thespiritualgym.me
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