In the fifty or so years of my life I have tried on a lot of different cosmologies:
Methodist/Congregational – the religion of my parents, probably going back for quite a few generations on both sides of my family. Although I attended church and Sunday school throughout my childhood, not much of what the Christianity of these particular denominations profess was ever clear to me as a child. I remember memorizing a psalm and receiving a Bible, and a few bible stories, but that’s about it. I sang in the youth choir, loved it!
Atheism – there are several periods of my life where atheism was the belief of my heart. In our wstern culture the embrace of atheism often harbors a lot of anti-Christian sentiments. Hence the polarization between believers and nons. Christianity is often described as a drug for the masses, or idealism, a fantasy, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, corrupt or just a way to appease one’s guilt. Atheism helps one to move away from the shadows of either an unexamined or negative experience of Christianity. This is a logical conclusion when you imagine living in a world where there had never been a thought of God. There would never be atheism when there’s no God not to believe in. Theism and atheism then, cannot help but be ideas in a relationship.
One of my favorite insights of Archetypal psychologist James Hillman is that our culture has begun to embrace a rejection of Christianity without understanding the reach into our hearts, minds and souls Christianity has had in the past two millenia. Hillman’s beef with Christianity is not the usual bad press that Christianity and Christians get now days a la Dan Brown. Hillman does not rail against their hypocrisy for being less than perfect, but rather, sees the notion of perfection itself as undesirable. He also dislikes monotheism and blames it for a literalism in our thinking that consistently tricks us into climbing up the sign rather than acting on its message. His use of the idea of the imaginal will require at least a post unto itself…but you can hear excerpts from a recent Hillman lecture here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFkkQ9eq8qw
Baha’i – Through the music of Seals and Crofts, in my teen years I became interested in the Baha’i faith. It’s probably the first time I ever set out to study and examine a set of beliefs. Primarily, the attraction to me was their belief in the oneness of all religions, humankind and a plea for world peace. After a year of study I officially declared myself a Baha’i and spent nearly three of my teen years going to their house meetings, reading and praying their materials and going to their summer camp in Eliot, Maine.
For Baha’is, God is a creator, with a transcendence that keeps us from having direct knowledge of Him. Only the major prophets Jesus Christ, Buddha, Moses, or Muhammad have received direct knowledge from God. Shucks! I guess my hunger and thirst for direct experience in all things that do manage to get my attention, left me disappointed when the implications of ever knowing an overly transcendent God set in. If there is a God powerful enough tp have created us I would expect He has the power to know us and allow in us a capacity to know Him even if our ability to have contact with Him has necessary limitations. The desire for relationship, very much connected to a missing sense of identity and personhood found me, once again, back on the trail of an ever more satisfying cosmology.
…more to come!