I am finding as I become more courageous with my writing, the revelations often leave me out on a ledge. Discovering one’s true self is never easy and always an adventure.
Growing up a devout Catholic, I was aptly named, Thomas. My father anointed me with the name after the Apostle “Doubting” Thomas. Having never said why, I believe it has only been in the last ten years I have found the answer.
You see, he went to Catholic schools his entire life: Precious Blood then Visitation High School in Detroit. He did the perfunctory kid things in the church, played sports, was an Alter Boy, then later, as an adult, the head of the Liturgical Society at our church, an usher, Minister of the Eucharist, and the chief artist and decorator for all special Masses. What I found revealing at an early age was his adamant belief to never send his children to a Catholic school. There was one close by, but no, we attended public schools.
We, as a family, stayed active in the church. I became the first teenaged lector, played in the church sports league, and even began coaching basketball when I was only fifteen. Church was our pastime, our other family. But my dad was different than others. He was not open or evangelical about his devotions, and he was noticeably more inclusive of people in general than so many others I knew in the church.
Before he died, early from cancer, he shared with me that he began smoking at age ten while a fifth grader at Precious Blood. He would never talk about his past at school other than having to take city transportation – grandma never learned to drive – and having to hitchhike to and from high school. He did play high school football, but never once talked about teachers, classmates, or clergy. Being lefthanded, he did share stories of being whacked on the wrist “by the nuns” who said he should not be lefthanded. But that’s about it. Wait, there was a drunk priest who, just prior to mass, went to kick my father, for what I don’t know, but the priest’s shoe went flying out onto the alter causing a murmur through the packed pews. My father said he ran out, retrieved the shoe, and that was the end of whatever incident there was.
Years ago, as I began my life’s recovery, I needed the community of the church because that is the community I knew as a child. And since I was going through a period of family-of-origin discovery and therapy, the church helped settle me. I owe a debt of gratitude to many of those people
Then a funny thing happened on the way to a spiritual awakening, I walked away from the church – not my community, the Church.
My new community was lifesaving. The Church, on the other hand, became life-hindering. I had found my “Doubting” Thomas personality and sank headlong into researching my writings, books, and more specifically, the history of the Church. In so doing, I walked onto the ledge of being one of the few who identify with no religion. I am not atheist, but I am also not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim, or anything that would identify with a group that deifies a spirit as a human incantation of some godhead. I refuse to be a part of a group of people that excludes humans instead of including them as fellow beings.
Pantheistic is a term widely used for such a person as me, and the philosophy is Pantheism. The Oxford English Dictionary denotes Pantheism as: “A doctrine which identifies God with the universe or regards the universe as a manifestation of God.”
For me it translates to an acceptance of all human beings as one within our known Universe and all have the capacity to relate to each other without the fear of exclusion. Now as you digest this concept, that does not mean rapists, murderers, pedophiles, or those that commit heinous atrocities to fellow humans. No. They deserve consequences that define their crimes. What I mean as acceptance is no definition of “exclusion” because of race, gender, or other identities – yes, even religions. Think of the movies Lion King, Star Wars, and Avatar. Native Americans and many First Nations of many countries had these beliefs and were one with Nature and the Universe. While that may seem backward, it’s not. Think of famous folk: Carl Sagan, Albert Einstien, Stephen Hawking, Emerson, Thoreau, Galileo, da Vinci, on and on. Get the picture?
People, and the community they live in, are God. We are the energy translated from a growing, pulsating, moving, and evolving Nature and Universe. I suggest that if two-thousand years ago we knew about science and our evolution, we would not have religions. Humans needed to explain things they could not explain, therefore, there must be a human-like creature somewhere no one could see that pulled the strings. Everything from sunsets to falling stars and storms were consequences for some human failing or success and a human god created those incidents.
As a way of controlling behaviors, most religions became apocalyptic. Prepare for your imminent demise or you will burn in the flames of hell. Or as hunter gatherers may have begun to believe, if you were not buried with implements or riches, you would return to some haven less of a person than you were.
Wouldn’t life be grand if we could accept each person we saw as an element of the same Universe we live in and no different than you? Same heart, same red blood, need for oxygen, and need for acceptance and love? That we could live life every day as if it were the best day to be alive and cherish those moments without the worries and disenchantment of a religious finger point? Now, granted, the only way this works is that we all accept each other and do no harm to our community as a whole.
All of my books contain an element of pantheism; a belief of connectivity to each other. Why? Because I believe we’re at the crossroads of a change. Young people indoctrinated in the facts of our beginnings and the expansive Universe, no longer need a religion to explain life, yet we have generations that cannot give up the concept of an evangelical way of control and exclusion. Ironically, those same evangelicals use projected rationale to believe their rights are being curtailed. That is so far from the truth. They can practice their religion any way they want. But in the public purview of government, we are all the same. You cannot discriminate. Many wish to govern and pen laws as their scripture would suggest which actually does take rights away. Do you see the crossroads? That scripture is thousands of years old and has not evolved with the knowledge we now engage in our day-to-day living.
Charitable giving, sacrifice, and community action need not be from a religion. It can emanate from a human, from a person not connected to a religious hierarchy or a scripture proclaiming, “do this or hell awaits.” The devil is our own conscience. We have the power to not be evil. Which is my final note of this crossroad theory. Have you noticed how many mass shootings, wars, insurrections, and crimes against humanity are done by the most religious? The most evangelical? Including the quiet crime of excluding those not like them into poverty and despair?
It is time we prosper under a new spirituality for a new generation to become one with all and all for one. I do believe if we allow each other to succeed we would be carried right along with that success. Panaceas and Shangri-La’s are achievable even in a microcosm of a community. Let us try.