After going through an atheist and an agnostic phase, I strongly believe in God. I don’t believe in a religious God, nor an anthropomorphic bearded white dude, but the kind of God who got bored one day, snapped his fingers, created the universe and then sat back with a piña colada to watch it unfold.
Religion is a deeply personal matter. Getting to the nexus of how you answer life’s mysteries is one of the most rewarding of life’s journeys. My beliefs have always come under fire in conversations I have with atheists, but these conversations, along with others’ stories of acceptance and rejection of religion, God, and spirituality, have all helped me reach my conclusions about a higher power.
I was raised Catholic and hated every second of it. Mass was annoying and completely inaccessible. Similarly, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), an after-school Catholic education program that leeched every Wednesday afternoon of my elementary-school years, was something I dreaded more than brussels sprouts.
Yet every Sunday, my family dragged me to church, and every Wednesday I found myself at our local Catholic school for CCD until I was confirmed.
Despite not fully understanding my religion, I was a Catholic. I believed in Christ, communion, miracles, and sacraments. I also believed that, in time, I would understand and appreciate the arcane inner workings of my faith that eluded me. Shortly after being confirmed, however, two things happened that changed my perspective.
First, my family stopped going to church in the wake of a sexual abuse case that occurred in our diocese. At 12 years old, I was a bit too young and sheltered to fully understand how horrific these events were; it was the lack of weekly exposure that gradually distanced me from a faith I was not fully invested in.
Second, I stumbled upon a letter from my father to my grandmother. In it, he detailed some of the very same questions about the Catholic church that I was struggling with. He couldn’t identify with sermons, and he was struggling to access his own personal relationship with Jesus.
This, combined with my recent discovery of the cold hard truth about Santa Claus, dealt the Catholic Church a lethal blow. I thought that I was just too young to understand what church was all about. I was told that eventually the esoterica would be unlocked, and I’d get as much out of the church as I’d put in over the years.
I thought time and maturity were all that stood in the way between me and a fulfilling religious experience. I thought wrong. The Roman Catholic Emperor had no clothes on, and with increasing faith in science, I became an atheist for a number of years.
What brought me back to God was Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). One of my extended family members is a recovering alcoholic who has achieved 27 years of sobriety. Out of a desire to share his experiences with me, he’s taken me to a few meetings. While not a religious program, AA does require you to accept a higher power. A typical meeting will involve welcoming new members, recognition of sobriety anniversaries, and group prayer — and typically people will share the story of how they achieved sobriety and what keeps them sober. Some of the stories are absolutely incredible and miraculous.
The most memorable story was about a man who, on his 24th birthday, hit rock bottom. Having alienated friends and family, he locked himself in a room with a gun and bottle of vodka vowing that, come morning, either he would come out with the unopened bottle or he wouldn’t come out at all. He made it through the night without drinking, and in the morning, he checked himself into rehab. He went on to lead a very fulfilling life and died in his 80s surrounded by friends and family.
After hearing many stories, what struck me most was how it became easier for people to stop drinking once they accepted a higher power. Remarkably, everyone’s interpretation of a higher power was different. One woman thought of God as an acronym for “Good Orderly Direction,” representing the notion of putting yourself on a path and doing the next right thing to achieve not just sobriety, but any goal. God, to her, was the objective sense of what the next right thing was. After accepting this, she found it easier to stop drinking.
These stories inspired me to search for my own higher power, which I initially found in music and in a collective human energy toward positivity. Both had the ability to make me feel a uniquely positive set of emotions that inspired me to be a better person and do better things.
Combined with a new analysis of the seemingly miraculous fact of free will, these stories helped me start to believe in God, a process that finished after learning about just how well suited Earth is for human habitation. It seems almost too good to be true. While we definitely evolved to adapt to our ridiculously optimal conditions, it’s easier for me to believe that this was set into motion by some higher power, rather than arrived at by chance.
I know none of this can be proven as objectively true, but to me spirituality isn’t about being right. I’ve found spirituality to be about enriching my life and finding purpose and inspiration to help guide me. We’ll never know for sure exactly what set the big bang into motion or why we’re here.
I think it’s a mistake to write off belief in a higher power just because you believe that Genesis is wrong about creation or if you are disillusioned with organized religion. I fall into both of those categories, and I still find a substantial benefit from a belief in God.
I’ve come to realize that my set of beliefs works for me and won’t work for everyone else. These are the conclusions that I’ve come to and they enrich my life every day.
Spirituality has humbled and inspired me to take joy in little things and be truly grateful for everything that I have. I hope that everyone can be inspired to feel this way through whatever force moves them, whether it’s spiritual or not, but if you haven’t found your own higher power, by no means should you stop searching.
The original article can be found here.