The Search, Part 1


I guess I was in my late teens when I started occasionally lying awake at night wondering how and why the universe came into existence, and whether we are fundamentally physical or spiritual and if there is even any real distinction there, and so on. I've collected a wide variety of books that try to answer such questions: everything from a five volume set on the history of Christianity by Jaroslav Pelikan to the Tao of Pooh. In addition to these are books by C.S. Lewis, The Astonishing Hypothesis by Francis Crick, Mind in Tibetan Buddism by Lati Rinbochay, the Bhagavad Gita, The Formation of Hell by Alan E. Bernstein, a couple more on the history of Christianity, Old Souls by Tom Shroder, Life Beyond by Hans Holzer, and others.

I've come to think of this as my ongoing "spiritual search", which started with evangelical Christianity more than thirty years ago. During college I joined Campus Crusade for Christ and I was an active participant. We met a couple of times a week, and we sat on the floor and listened to our leader as though we were listening to the teachings of Christ Himself. No one ever questioned anything-- it was unthinkable to question, because Satan planted doubt in your mind, and Satan was a clever devil who used the Pride of Intellect to make you doubt, and you just had to resist the doubt and be a Trusting Child of Jesus and pray for Him to strengthen your faith.

There was a lot of popular Christian literature being passed around back then, as I'm sure there is today, and I read a great deal of it, some good, some awful. Some so awful, in fact, that I struggled, really struggled through a crisis of faith. Because truthfully, some of the popular Christian literature of the 70s was just crap. One of the defining moments of my life came with the decision that, try as I might, I simply couldn't believe all the junk I was reading. I came to a Huck Finn decision, a sort of "Well, then, I'll go to hell." After that it became easier to think for myself, until one day I decided that I simply couldn't accept the doctrine that the default outcome of life was eternal damnation. So right there, that ruled out Protestant Christianity, and although I can write about it flippantly now, it was a difficult and scary decision at the time.

I moved on to Catholicism, since the different definition of Grace opens up the possibility of salvation to anyone who lives by his or her conscience. But there were more defining moments in the decades that followed, because there are more difficult issues than the question of salvation. Questions such as What am I? An eternal soul in a mortal body or just a remarkable living breathing conglomeration of chemicals? Why am I here? To be continued...

July 2012

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