I can remember my forays into alternative religions back in my youth. I think a good number of us get restless feet and start sampling different religious options, different philosophical persuasions, different diets (vegan one week, high protein another, party-time alcohol abuse, ascetic starvation to the realm of holy glory) when we’re young. I tried several, some that were not Christian…and learned that being a non-Christian is not merely different, it’s challenging, and sometimes it’s frightening. It’s also not well accepted back home at your folk’s house.
Ultimately, after reading everything I could find about spiritual and philosophical beliefs and who (or what) God is, and trying out all kinds of things (but NOT the Jim Jones Suicide Camp version!) I finally settled down to a laissez-faire Christianity that didn’t put any demands on me to conform, perform or abstain all the comforts. But what I learned, for the most part, is that God is merciful, and that miracles are real — that prayer is efficacious and soothing, and hope is a blessing.
Here in my later years, I’ve returned to the faith I was taught in childhood…Catholicism…because I was never able to find psychological satisfaction and a sense of inner peace and fulfillment from participating in social gatherings where the worship was lacking what I think are the elements of true worship that participation in a formal Mass provides me. The ritual of the mass embodies, for me, the Last Supper described in the New Testament (English translation) bible…which is what I think a formal effort to worship a Supreme Deity is actually all about — but in such a way that it incorporates true ritual acts that are designed to show respect for a Supreme Deity. Part of that process is the preparation that is made by the priest — preparation that is not simply jumping into colorful robes and going through a ritual. The sacrifice that a priest makes (a comfortable married life, a high income lifestyle) is just the beginning of his purification of himself to perform a devotional offering before a Deity.
For the most part, I had never appreciated the choice of a life of celibacy as a useful choice because so many of us humans are so dedicated to our pursuit of life, love and good times. We love to party, and some of us do a lot of it. But as I’ve got older, I’ve spent a lot of time living alone, which gives me lots of time to read, think, and contemplate. So I can see the value of this sacrifice for the priesthood now. But I digress…
Choosing a religion should be more about choosing a way to worship the Supreme Deity and less about picking a gang to hang out with once a week…or even just going through the motions at home.
Not all religions worship God…many of them worship idols or lifestyles that satisfy personal whims or atavistic urges. Not all churches are holy. Adventures in Holy Land are not trips to Disney World. Sometimes they’re more like trips through Dante’s Inferno. Not necessarily a “safe ride”.