I felt a connection
to a higher power
that seemed to answer my prayers
in the form of spiritual
guidance. It was a feeling that I just didn’t get outside [traditional Christian] church
. When we [in church
] came together through prayer
, song, and worship
, it was like we were channeling something far bigger than any of us could imagine, Yet, as fulfilling as church
could be, it was only comforting and interconnecting when I felt safe.
I quickly realized that just as church
could inspire, uplift, and inform, it could also alienate and destroy a young, impressionable person’s sense of self-esteem. This was especially true if the congregation or the preacher had rigid ideas about how people should be. In coming to understand the historical context of the more dogmatic
parts of the Bible, it became clear to me that the Bible should be taken for what it is: a book written by humans two thousand years ago. They lived in different times, in a different culture
, with laws
that are no longer entirely relevant to modern society. Many Christian churches still take these stories and mandates literally~even the outdated sections that vilify women and gays, and normalize slavery and polygamy. Another aspect of church
that I grew concerned about was how commonly fear
was used to scare churchgoers into good behavior. And what was the number one source
of that fear
? The Christian idea of hell. That one perplexed me entirely. By age thirteen, I’d already read and interpreted at least a hundred messages from the other side. I had yet to meet anyone who came through and communicated that they were burning in hell. It just didn’t match up with what I was hearing every Sunday.
More than that, the thought of hell was plainly contradictory to the idea of a loving God
. If God
is all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present, then why would such an awesome and wondrous force waste His time
demanding to be worshipped, by pain of eternal torture? It sounded like the kind of behavior one might expect from a base and tyrannical human being, not an all-powerful, all-knowing Creator.
I always tried my best to be objective in my journey through faith
. In the end, I found myself caught in a mental battle between having faith
in organized religion
, versus trusting in my own personal spirituality
. The two are related, but there is a crucial difference. It is undeniable that the hope, connection
, perspective, and moral
compass that religion
provides are powerful tools for spiritual
growth. But religion
above all; it is a testament of unconditional devotion to a specific doctrine and style of worship
. It also requires study, effort, and maintenance.
, which as you can imagine is very strong, comes from within. It requires no maintenance beyond that which flows naturally from living life
. I have only to trust in a few fundamental truths
, which have always resonated with me more than any doctrine written or preached by men.
I made my shift from the belief
in a religious God
to a spiritual God
. I definitely believe in an inherent creative
force that’s responsible for, and interconnects, all that is. Although I was raised to believe in an anthropomorphic God
who passes judgment
and metes out damnation or heavenly
reward, ultimately my pursuit of God
led me inward. I now view God
as a force that we are all not just the result of; we are also a part.
What gave me that un-explainable feeling of fulfillment as we worshiped together in church
was not the “rightness” of the words we were singing together or the doctrine we were supporting. It was the feeling of connection
between people in a congregation, as they expressed collective gratitude
to the Creator.
This feeling of fulfillment doesn’t require religion
at all. It is available to any group
of souls communing through interconnected passion and selfless dedication to a force greater than themselves. My spiritual
sense tells me this is where God
Tyler Henry – 20 years old