Spiritual Not Religious – a young man’s view

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 and ethics 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 Many Christian churches still take these stories and mandates literally~even the outdated sections that vilify women and gays, and normalize slavery and polygamy.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 requires faith above all; it is a testament of unconditional devotion to a specific doctrine and style of worship. It also requires study, effort, and maintenance.
My spirituality, 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 lives.
Tyler Henry – 20 years old
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