I grew up going to the United Church of Christ (Congregational) in Northfield Minnesota. My grandfather and mother both worked for Carleton College and the UCC church was responsible for starting the college so I suppose that’s why we went there. I received a bible from church when I was nine years old, “On the occasion of being mature enough to have his own bible.” My earliest memories of that church are of going to Wednesday school during Junior High. The most memorable thing for me was having conformation classes during high school. Our minister was a great guy who could relate to teenagers pretty well. During our classes we listened to the Jesus Christ Superstar recording (on vinyl, of course) and talked about what we thought it all meant. I thought this was great for two reasons. One, because there are a lot of unchristian ideas in that recording and our minister was willing to let us expand our minds and think about some things that the church does not teach (like a possible relationship/marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdeline) And two, because the lead singer from the rock group Deep Purple, Ian Gillan, sang the lead part of Jesus. I had had no exposure to other ideas than what my church taught up to that point. When I finished high school and was out on my own I pretty much forgot about church. I guess I never felt connected in a way that attracted me. I knew Christians taught that you could go to hell for rejecting God but I felt that as long as I wasn’t Christian it didn’t matter. Religion was only for them.
During the early 80’s I met a couple who were born again Christians. They were happily married with two young kids and really lived their religious beliefs. They were happy, well adjusted people living a comfortable, good life. I was having a lot of personal issues at that time and started feeling that I needed to turn my life in a new direction. So I started reading the Bible and going to church. I have read the Bible cover to cover twice and have studied it thoroughly many times since then. I felt that in order to study the Bible properly I also needed to know about biblical times, customs, and opposing viewpoints. What I hoped for then, was to have God come into my life and help me turn things around so that I could have the kind of life that I saw my Christian friends having. Looking back I see how selfish that was but I didn’t know it then. What did happen however, was something I didn’t expect. Studying the Bible as I did caused me to find more questions than answers. There were just too many things that didn’t add up. Also, no matter how I prayed, no matter how I worked for a better life, I never once felt the presence of a God or any other presence in my life. And at the same time I felt that there was a spiritual side of myself that longed to be released. I found religion to be fascinating but the more I studied the more I felt that Christianity was made up by people who desired money and power. Almost all of the concepts proposed by Christianity had come from older religions. It seemed that the religion was pieced together from other religious ideas that at the time, common people would not have known much about. I found, that I just couldn’t believe it.
Now I’m not trying to start trouble. I firmly believe that individuals should believe whatever they want. If you are a Christian and Christianity works for you then that is what you should be doing. All I’m saying is how it worked out for me. I can’t be a Christian for two reasons. I don’t believe the Bible is the word of God and I have never felt God or any God like presence in my life. That pretty much rules out any religion that has a “God.” But I still have a “spiritual presence” that I have since discovered. I think that the human mind is the largest “undiscovered country” there will ever be. I think that all people are connected spiritually and we simply have not explored that enough or we have an unconscious way of blocking it from our conscious minds. Science has discovered the “fight or flight” reaction people have to certain circumstances and I think our minds use that type of idea to block out things we don’t understand or don’t want too. I will spend the rest of my life exploring spirituality and developing my mind. I simply will not believe something just because some one else says it’s true. I have to know for myself.
Since my “I want to be a Christian” days I have studied Buddhism. I have found its ideas to be practical and sound. When I have put Buddhist ideas like “mindfulness” to work in my life I find that it really produces results. My wife and I have good friends who have been Unitarian Universalists for many years. One day we just decided to go to their UU Fellowship and check it out. That was over two years ago and we have since become members and really enjoy it there. They foster the search for spirituality in ones own way and accept all beliefs that are not harmful as valid. What do I mean by that? Simply, there are Christian UU’s, Jewish UU’s, Pagan UU’s, and Atheist UU’s, etc. All are welcome (straight, gay, religious, nonreligious, all sexes, all races, all beliefs). My spirituality has grown because of Buddhism and Unitarian Universalism. I belong to a community of people who accept me no matter what my belief.
The biggest turn off about religion for me is the idea that “my religion is right and yours is wrong”. Almost all religions today believe this very idea. Now I didn’t say “most people” believe that. I said most religions. More people have been killed in the name of religion than for any other reason, ever. And it’s because the ones doing the killing believe that their religion is the right one. Take a look at history, and you’ll find I’m right. For these reasons and more, I couldn’t be a part of a religion other than Unitarian Universalism. And it’s debatable whether or not UU is a religion. It got it’s start from Christianity but has since become it’s own denomination. Here is a link to my fellowship’s website if you’re interested. I’m interested in any comments people would like to make. Like I said, I’m not trying to start trouble, but conversation would be great.