Thursday, February 24, 2011

The parable of the walk on the beach

You all know the famous story of when the guy gets to heaven and he looks back over his life and sees a beach with two sets of footprints in the sand, him and God. Then, at the very worst and hardest parts of his life, there is only one set of footprints. The guy is bewildered, because it seems God abandoned him at those times. God responds that no, the single footsteps were God’s and he was carrying the man through those hard times.

That sounds all well and good when you are young. Very comforting. But here’s the deal. Now that I am an adult, and have this perspective that we become free and inherit heaven when we become actualized and realize we are Gods ourselves, I actually prefer to think of those single footsteps as mine alone. It gives me greater comfort to know that I alone brought me through the tough times. That I was made of tough stuff, that I was resilient and relied on myself to survive. That when all is lost, when I am lost, when God seems to have left me, I have me. Me alone. And that is so much more empowering than thinking God was carrying me. Sure, as Christians believe, God may have given me the gifts and confidence to know how to walk on my own two feet and sustain and survive when all seems lost, but at that hour, God lets Go and trusts and believes in me.

It’s not a one way street. It’s not all about me believing in and trusting and having faith in God. The reverse is true too. We are so strong when we know God trusts and believes in us. Think about how it feels when your parents finally let you stay home alone or take the car by yourself or go off to college or move away, half a world away from them. Knowing they trust you enough to let you go is a huge confidence builder. At that time, they confer adulthood on us, they anoint us as our own kings. God anoints us and then steps away. Into the shadows. What is that line from the bible when God says “Where you are going I cannot come..” The Bible prophesies our graduation from “God”. God has told us exactly what is going to happen. We will graduate from what we have always thought about God. Our conception of him as crafted by religion falls away. We assume his mantle, we take the reins. And we are standing firm and tall and proud and powerful and actualized. And God is proud. He rests....for once, he rests.

God has given me the strength and skills and love to carry myself. If he is a worthy God, truly our Father, he does not want us to perpetually depend on him for everything. He does not want to carry us on his back all the time. He would want to nurture and strengthen and teach and feed us so that we can eventually take care of ourselves. “Teaching us to fish.” It’s what any parent wants. The best parents inspire us to be the best we can be on our own. Yall, we are ready. We can take care of ourselves and each other.


I've adjusted my medications in the past two weeks (under doctor's instruction) and here's what's going on.

When I am manic there are two places I go, either one or the other: 1) a bitchy, short tempered, judgmental, scared place or 2) heaven.

This week it's felt a bit like I am headed to number 2. I have had a few glimmers of feeling one with love, radiantly happy, perfectly in step with the universe.

The first was after I had spent some time Twittering about what heaven feels like and looks like. I felt very peaceful, very joyous. I look up at the setting sun and something special happened.

When I have been in my darkest hour, suicidal, terrified, crazy, I can close my eyes and see a small orb, glowing in the back of my eyelids. If I focus on that orb and believe that as long as I can see it things will get better, I always recover my balance. I equate that orb with the sun, and thus have a special fondness for the sun. I look at it and see evidence that the universe will provide for us as long as the sun is shining. I understand sun-worship.

Anyway, two days ago when I looked at the setting sun, it shone especially bright. It was glowing with a steady warmth and seemed like it was sending energy my way. But the energy was reciprocal, I was pouring strength back into it as well. It feels sometimes like the sun is shining on me in particular, saying "we are counting on you to shine your light over the world, hang in there, stay on your path, I will always be here to send you strength." It feels like an infinite energy share between me and the sun, with no waste and no power source needed on earth. Perfectly efficient. Sounds crazy right? Well when I feel that special relationship with the sun, I know I could be headed to heaven.

Then yesterday, another glimmer lit my way. I was driving and thinking about summer, playing softball and volleyball, playing on the lake, enjoying the great weather. I thought of one of my favorite songs from summer days: Boys of Summer. Within 5 seconds that song started playing on the radio. Coincidence? Then I got home and looked in the mailbox and saw the Sports Illustrated cover with "Boys of Spring" on it. These coincidences of luck and fate happen with increasing regularity when I go to the manic heaven. It feels like the universe can read my mind and sends signals back to me to assure me and delight me. Again, a two way energy street. A suspension of dimensions. A synchronicity of my brain and the world around me. Perfect balance, symmetry, concordance.

So I am keeping an eye out for more glimmers. My husband is well aware of the glimmers and we are both paying attention to more signs of mania. As promised, if I do get back to heaven I will blog from there.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Short post...quick read

Some questions: Who or what is your God? Can you describe it? Do you believe in a God at all or do you profess not to know if one exists (or do you just not give a damn)? Is there something else you believe in in place of the Judeo-Christian God? Are there any experiences you've had that you think prove or disprove the existence of God? Are we born believing in God? Is devotion to God taught and learned or is atheism taught and learned? In other words, which came first?

I'll leave you with this: the word theology literally means "God-science" from the Greek. There's a reason for that. Thousands of years ago the study of God and science were linked inextricably. They were both attempts to understand the world and the two pursuits worked in tandem, not at odds with each other. Is that relationship between the two preferable to what we see today in this country? If yes, how do we get back there?

Keep wondering, stay curious. Be doubt-full. We'll have all the answers before long.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Forum for Free Thinkers

I hosted a wonderful group of folks at my house last week. It's a group called the Arkadelphia Forum for Free Thinkers. It was only our second meeting but we grew by 200% after our first!

The point of getting this together, ala a French salon, was to bring a wide open variety of thinkers to the table to explore our beliefs on any number of issues. This meeting centered on how we feel about faith/religion/spirituality. I wanted to discover our thoughts on faith, or lack therof, in a non-church environment. I consider myself a student of all religions but a member of none, and I knew there were others in my community who think likewise. I miss the chance to commune with others about the big questions in life: why are we here, what connects us, what are we afraid of, is there a better way out there, etc. Church on Sunday used to be that community but since I no longer buy what the church is selling, I want another venue for that communion with others.

I did not have any real guidelines for our meeting. We brought wine and snacks and visited for a while, but then we went around the table and each shared our faith history: what faith we were raised in and where we are now and why we have splintered from our birth religion. We had all types at the table....atheists, Catholics, Baptists, secular humanists and people who would rather not be classified. The discussion tended toward where religion has failed us, but some lifted up the parts of religion that still resonate to this day. We all have a religion imprint on our brains; it's faded almost altogether for some, and what's left in its place is what I wanted to find out.

The Forum was a great success. We won't always talk about faith for sure, as there are other things that interest Free Thinkers that merit discussion too. But personal faith fascinates me, and I could listen (and blog!) about it for years.

I know the Forum had an impact and here's how: the church-going Baptist who came to the meeting just stopped by my house with a DVD of this week's sermon from his church. He knew I am keenly interested in learning about the different ways we worship, and he thought I would like to see it. I was really touched by this gesture. It meant that I got him thinking. It meant that he heard the voices at the Forum and went back more resolved in his own faith, enough so that he wanted to share what he believes with me. That is EXACTLY what I am looking for from the Forum. Learn and listen, and then make a decision about what you believe from a more informed position. He seconded my belief that you cannot hold your own belief with any tenacity unless you know what other people think too. He said if we just all got together and thought alike and talked alike and prayed alike, what a boring world that would be. He's great proof that a staunch Baptist can be devout and quite open minded at the same time.

So the fact that the Forum stayed in his mind long enough to travel to my house and give me a DVD was a compliment indeed.

We'll meet again at our house in March in Arkadelphia. If you would like to be included post your email address on this blog (or email me directly at and I will send you an invitation. Bring a beverage and an open mind.

Brimming with pride at having started a discussion that matters,


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hindu learning

Lest you think my discomfort with organized religion is limited to Christianity, here's a Hinduism post. I am an equal opportunity faith out there satisfies me, so I keep trying to learn and write.

I've read the great survey of religion by Huston Smith, "The World's Religions." It overviews the 7 major religions in a thoughtful way. Let's jump right in to what he says about Hinduism.

Hindus believe we are not limited to our mortal brains or bodies. They think there is an infinite being (Christians would say the Godhead or Holy Spirit) within each of us. They think life should be about reaching the infinite (accessing our Godness) and there are four paths to do so.

The first is the way to God through knowledge. It's not just about learning or thinking, but is "rather an intuitive discernment that transforms, turning the knower eventually into that which she knows." When you learn, your knowledge is not the sum of the facts in your head; you assimilate what you know and become a changed property. Hindus work at realizing that the thinker possesses more than just her finite self. Knowledge is infinite. Those who believe we only use 10% of our brain see the possibility of expansive thinking.

Anyway, the author then says the thinking Hindu will reach a certain level of detachment from their finite self. As they learn, they will see the difference between "the skin-encapsulated ego" and the infinite potential, or God, in us. They will look at their life and day to day activities from the third person, as in "there goes Alice, going to the dentist and getting gas." She is a witness to her mortal life, watching "her unsubstantial history with as much detachment as she lets her hair blow in the wind."

"Seated in the dentist's chair, she thinks, 'Poor Alice, it will soon be over.' But she must play fair and adopt the same posture when fortune visits her and she would like nothing better than to bask in the praise she is receiving." Smith, p. 31, 32.

It's as if Hindus want to let life wash over them and reserve emotion about all of it. Instincts, guts, feelings, passion: that is all the domain of the mortal and it keeps us from our Infinite godness. We are passive, waiting for life to happen to us and acting as if nothing affects us.

I can't buy this detachment. It's yet another religion that rejects our human instincts in favor of a Godly standard of perfection. There is no ownership with this detachment, no heartache and no joy. This life, the gift that is this life, is relegated to a cheerless dress rehearsal ('it will soon be over'). How can our precious existence be called an "insubstantial history?" Why do we keep seeing the same theme in major religions....grin and bear it through this life and you will find your reward later.

This is all we've got people. There is no heaven or hell after death. You are substantial, your actions and feelings and triumphs and failures are precious and worthy. The human is the infinite, you are the God. To be fair, Hinduism has it right when they say "the knower turns into that which he knows." When you learn the truth about religion's limitations, when you lift the veil that religion has enrobed you in, You become God, you become your potential. "Then through a glass darkly, now face to face." There is no greater feeling than returning to this natal inborn knowledge. We just have to have the courage to make a clean sweep of the dusty outdated dogma that clouds our God-view.

I'll talk about the second Hindu path to God next week.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Two problems that give me fits

The first and most glaring problem with Christianity is that it is conditional. It conditions eternal life in Heaven on your being a better person. It sets the bar impossibly high because it asks you to live like Jesus and God every second of the day. Therefore, every second you do not achieve this, you fail. You will never ever measure up to what the “Christian” God expects of us. It is like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the sand hill. You may make some progress for five minutes or five days, but then you fall right back to where you were, fall right back to your humanness. Do you know how debilitating it is to be loved conditionally? To be told time and again, all the time, that you are not good enough? To say you just have to do one more thing, to be one bit better. The carrot and the stick. We never reach the carrot. The Bible’s teaching never allows us to be perfect love ourselves. We can never be “perfect” as it is defined by Christianity. Only God is perfect. And we can never be him. Do you see how debilitating that framework is? Here’s a model for you to follow, but you can never achieve it? What a cruel cruel game.

And it’s such a cruel sham because our God reportedly loves us Unconditionally. We’re told that’s what unconditional love looks like, and that we need to love everyone else unconditionally, but it programs us to fear the consequence if we fail to do that. It convinces us all the time that we are simply not good enough as we are and that God will punish you with Hell if you continue to fail. How can that portrait possibly be unconditional love? It is THE DEFINITION OF CONDITIONAL LOVE.

I know Christianity is conditional just by reading the bible. See John 12: 8, Jesus says “the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” This clause is the damning one; here the bible lets slip that its game is conditional. Jesus is supposed to always be with us, at least that’s how I have understood the Bible. We do not apparently have to seek him or seek God, right? If Jesus is God, and Jesus is Love, then this clause makes us think we have to choose or earn Jesus, or God, or Love. It makes God-love conditional. He could not be more clear: "you do not always have me." Love Jesus, accept Jesus, believe in Jesus, choose Jesus, and you will have God’s Kingdom. But you have to choose him first. You must make the right choice to live in God’s love. The Jesus of Christianity, the one cited in John 12 above, is needy and jealous. He says ‘”you don’t get to drink at my table, to feel God and love everlasting unless you choose me.” God so loved the world that he gave the world his only begotten son, but then commanded that you have to follow him. It’s the only way. You can have the keys to the kingdom, but there are two catches: first, choose Jesus and Jesus only, and then, be better than you really are. Why is Christianity a campaign to elect Jesus? And why is Christianity conditional? It always wants us to be better, to be better than we know how to be, to be perfect… be “Christian”. It sets us up for failure because we can never be perfect, not in this world, not in this epoch. When Heaven comes to all of us we will be perfect without even trying, but now, Christianity is a cruel game of telling us we have to be better, we have to believe more, we have to be more faithful, we have to be more loving. It can never be enough for Christianity, for Christianity’s God, for Jesus. We will never ever measure up to what the Bible and Jesus tell us we have to do. We will always come up short, we will always be failures, which means we will always be fearful. As long as we think for one second that we are failing God, we necessarily are afraid. Of what HE will cause to happen to us. Of the consequences for our failure. LOVE is NOT conditional. Love is unconditional. We never ever have to earn it or choose it. It just is….US, from the moment we are born. We don't have to wade through a conditional God to get to love.

Next problem: God’s martyring of his son on the cross. How can our Christian God have ushered in a non-violent ethos with such violence? How could killing your own son ever ever ever be construed as an act of supreme love? We are parents, and we know better. If he did that to his only son, what would stop him from killing us too? Ah, the preachers say, "humans did the killing." But didn’t God create and conceive us all, and foretell all things….isn’t He ever-knowing? So he knew Jesus would be killed, and had the power to avert that, and still allowed it to happen. THAT IS NOT LOVE.

The God the bible has conceived for us wrote the whole story and knows how it ends…..why wouldn’t he just give us unconditional love on a silver platter and grant us the kingdom on earth from the beginning of time til the end of time. Why, why, why condition our love? You have to TRY in order to be a Christian. In my faith, you never have to try, you are always good enough, you are born perfect. (Cue the chorus of incredulity: “What a cop out! Where are the laws, the responsibility, the discipline if we are all born perfect….what, are you perfect, Hilary???” )

Why was God ever avenging or wrathful or violent? This was made up to keep us in line. We needed an angry God so that we knew there were consequences if we acted up. But it makes God seem very childish. As a parent, if you watch your child do something bad, do you feel wrath or vengeance? Of course not. You want to reprimand them to show them the better way, to make them understand what was wrong about their behavior, but you don’t ever want to avenge them. Where is the teaching God? Where is God the parent who shows us how to improve our behavior? Where is the image of God running along side our bike as we take off the training wheels? Where is the God who laughs with amusement as we struggle to make things work in this life, but gives us the loving nudge to help us along? Where is the God who says, look, when I was young I made the same mistakes you did and I understand how hard it can be sometimes but it will all turn out okay? The God the bible portrays is never satisfied with our efforts. He is a judger, a punisher, who by the way also touts himself as perfect. Why would a parent ever punish us with eternal hell or strike us down with wrath or plague? Dangle heaven in front of us if we meet his demands? Torture us? Condemn us? Those are not verbs that are in a parent’s lexicon.

That’s our model? God…A moody, infanticidal, dictator? We’re lying to ourselves about God being perfect. Deluding ourselves. It’s so frustrating. He is not “perfect.” He is human. He is us. We made him. In our image. Face it. He’s the man behind the curtain, the veil. We wrote the veil into the story thousands of years ago, tens of thousands of years ago. We separated ourselves from him, we convinced ourselves God was something external to ourselves. And like the wizard, when we confront him face to face and hold him up to our face, to our mirror, when we see him for what he is, warts and all, he rolls over on his belly…he gives himself back to us. He is disarmed. We are reconciled with him in unprecedented unwavering soul deep love. We redeem him. We forgive him. We say “we’re not mad, how could we be, we made you the monster you are, we banished you from our hearts, from our lives, we kicked you out of our Eden, we put the veil up between us, and we are sorry and we have missed you so. We’re so glad to have you back in our hearts, where you belong. The veil is gone. You are us and we are you. Goodbye “God.””

At this moment, we forgive ourselves. We love ourselves. We redeem ourselves. We’ve won the battle, the worst is over. Blue skies.

I see the blue skies there on the horizon, still a long way off. They are there in the distance, but there is a lot that has to change about our current understanding of God and religion for us to get there. We'll have to shake free of 10,000 years of dogma. There is hard work ahead. But my lord is it going to be worth it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Way to go Nathan, you are a sage

My secular husband said something so simple the other day, it just blew me away. He, one who does not believe in the Christian God, said "whether or not you believe in God, you've gotta believe it's all gonna work out."

What religion that we know of has a clearer, cleaner, more elegant sacred text? I mean that's what we all believe from the day we are born right? You wake up each day believing the day is going to work out. You believe you won't die, you believe the sun will rise, you believe there's a point in getting out of bed. Believing that it's all going to work out is synonymous with being alive. It's inborn, in your one taught you how to think that way. On the other hand, you're not born believing in God or Allah or any other deity; you are taught those words, that worship. Strip off all the religious dogma we've been taught and try to remember what existed in your mind the moment you were born, your elemental thought: It will all work out. I will take my next breath and I will survive.

That's the only faith I think we need. Faith not in God but in the nature of things working out for the better. Faith in yourself and in your gifts. Faith in the rhythm of the that it's all gonna work out. I felt so glad to hear my husband speak of his own faith in these terms. It made me see that there can be and there is a common faith that is born, not taught. The ones that are taught (organized religions) are the ones that divide and bewilder and incite us to hate one another.

This religious, evangelical era is a phase. We are in the fretful fractured frightening teenage years of our existence. We are nearing adulthood in the human timeline and we will soon be liberated from our fears. We just have to be able to see what it is that frightens and frustrates us and keeps us in the dark....and then move away from it.

It is all gonna work out. Not just today, or over the course of your life or millenia, but all of IT. The sun is going to continue to shine and soon it will shine brighter than before and illuminate the next great epoch for us. We will all rise. I don't need "God" to keep that faith. I've seen it, walked in it, lived it. It's an implicit faith that is written into our hearts and minds in the beginning....but it's a faith that we have to be introduced again in our adult lives because it is so obscured by the noisy gong and clanging cymbal.

Random post script. Just heard a long lost song on my Itunes. Check out the "Cure-like" Your Mouth by Trip Shakespeare, off their Lulu album. Also excellent from that album are Today you Move and Down my Block.

God, to have these guys in a room together again....