Once the God of the Bible (GoB for short) and I broke up I was left wondering, what, if anything, was out there.
On one hand it felt rather liberating to dump thousands of years of dogmas, guilt, worry, and fear associated with Gob and his complex system of Heaven/Hell/Angels, Faith, Grace, and ritual (much of which was instilled after the fact by the Catholics, and further added to and modified by the Reformation).
On the other, Christian Science neatly does away with most of that anyway because (in very over-simplified terms) we’re all living in the Adam dream and if we acknowledge our true Spiritual Selves as God’s Perfect Children we don’t have to worry about all that to begin with. No need for sin, no need for being physically baptized, we just need to pray and Know the Truth*.
As a result of doing away with the ritual, Christian Science churches are some of the dullest, starkest in existence. There is rarely a cross, never a crucified Jesus, and the walls are occasionally adorned with a quote from the Bible, usually something Jesus says, and often a quote by Mrs. Eddy. There is often a painting of MBE or the Mother Church in the foyer, some artificial flowers, and a fake potted plant. Not exciting stuff, but that correlates nicely with the service, which is generally devoid of pomp and circumstance, no wine, no wafers, no choir.
Ironically, I initially turned to the Bible for inspiration, where I found Agnostos Theos, the Unknown God from Acts 17:23. I disagree with Paul’s interpretation that Agnostos is the “Christian God,” I’d like to think Agnostos is the God one turns to when one is not sure where else to go, and if I’m going to believe in a God, they may as well have a cool name.
The problem with dear Agnostos, however, is I’m not 100% sure there is actually a God. Some sort of over-arching higher power? Sure. A God (all knowing higher power who may or may not interfere in the affairs of humans) I’m on the fence, leaning towards no.
Leaning towards “no” (and some facebook memes) led me to the Dalai Lama, and Buddhism. I think they have a lot to offer, but I have problems with Buddha’s back story, the elephant dream is a bit special for my liking, but many cultures have great mythologies built up around their chosen religious figures and they still offer good insights, after all, Jesus had some fairly decent teachings too.
During this time I also started listening to comparative religion podcasts on iTunesU, reading about atheism, and searching further. In my searching I came across Marcus Aurelius, one of the five “good” Roman Emperors of his day. There is a wonderful quote, often mis-attributed to Marcus Aurelius:
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.
In my reading of it, this quote lines up nicely with the Dalai Lama’s simple religion:
This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
Kindness does not include Heaven and Hell, a hierarchy of angels, or ritual. Kindness meshes nicely with the philosophy of Wil Wheaton: “don’t be a dick” and the Golden Rule. We should desire to be kind to our fellow man, and I don’t think we need a complex set of religious dogmas (or even a God) to do that.
*This is an example of “Bad” Christian Science and “Good” Christian Scientists are likely to pass quick judgement about my “lack of understanding” and need for “spiritual growth.”