This being my birthday, I figured it was a great time to fire up my Burgman scooter, head to my favorite Salem coffee house, and write a blog post -- stimulated by 20 ounces of the Beanery house blend.
Next month is this blog's five year anniversary. One of the presents I opened this morning -- in addition to a bunch of books I gave to myself -- was a wall hanging that Laurel, my wife, thought was fitting for me.
Happiness: When one's spiritual needs are met by an untroubled inner life. Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.
Well, my blogging definitely makes me happy. I know it's beneficial to myself, and have a lot of reasons to believe that this is true for others as well. To be exact, 607,001.
That's how many page views this Church of the Churchless blog has gotten since November 2004. Currently the blog is averaging about 550 page views a day.
Of course, some of those visits lasted just long enough for someone to go "Ugh! Blasphemy!" and head elsewhere into cyberspace. But the 12,858 comments show that quite a few people stay around long enough to leave their feedback.
Which makes me feel good. I recall (more or less accurately) a C.S. Lewis quotation: "We read to know that we are not alone."
Religious believers have churches, temples, mosques, and such where they can congregate with like-minded individuals. Churchless folks usually don't. So I wanted this blog to be a place where spiritually independent people could come in contact with like-minded minds.
Thank you for making this possible. Writing and reading is a two-way street. Or more accurately, a circular boulevard.
Meaning, when I throw some thoughts out via a blog post, almost always my thinking is changed in some fashion by those who read what I've written and share their own ideas. And so it goes...around and around and around, sharing how we see things leading to fresh ways of seeing.
It's difficult to encapsulate how I feel that I've changed churchlessly over the past five years. I'll spend the last of my 20 ounces of coffee giving this a try.
More relaxed. Less worries about doing the right thing. I've become much less obsessed about following rigid ethical or moral rules, such as not drinking any alcohol. Now I follow what could be called a "middle way," if I was a Buddhist (which I'm not).
For example, I've found that a glass of red wine doesn't send me to hell. Just into a bit of relaxation and improved health.
It's also nice to not feel so special. I used to look upon my belief system as head and shoulders above all those ridiculous other faiths that didn't know The Truth. Now, I consider that nobody knows the ultimate secrets of the cosmos, so we're all in the same boat of not-knowing.
That's a humbler place to be.
So after trying hard for thirty-some years to lose (or lessen) my ego through meditation and devotional practices, it's interesting that by becoming faithless, I feel a lot fewer egotistical sensations of "I'm right and you're wrong!" welling up in me.
Lastly, the universe is an amazing place.
It's marvelous that we're here, conscious human beings, able to look out upon it -- and also capable of gazing inwardly at our minds that try to make sense of it all.
Almost certainly we won't ever be certain of what it all means, including what It is. All we can do is live our lives as authentically and zestily as possible, drinking in each and every experience with gusto.
Just as I'm doing with my last gulps of coffee. Time for a sunny caffeinated scooter ride home.
Very enjoyable article, Brian.
I enjoyed it so much that I read it aloud to my wife.
She really got a laugh out of this line.
"I've found that a glass of red wine doesn't send me to hell. Just into a bit of relaxation and improved health."
So true! And, what a relief not to have to harass the waitress or waiter every time we go out to dinner to order something!
Posted by: Bob | October 07, 2009 at 04:05 PM
Nice. I enjoy your blog a great deal and I've only recently discovered it.
Posted by: e | October 07, 2009 at 05:34 PM
Happy birth and blog day!! Of all the blogs I follow, I've followed this one the longest (with a break here and there). And, of course, you're the only blogging compatriot I've met in person, though me thinks at a different Salem coffeehouse.
So, I raise my mug to the next five years and beyond...
Posted by: The Rambling Taoist | October 07, 2009 at 05:38 PM
Happy birthday Brian. Thanks for sharing this blog with us. Its like a breath of fresh air! Also it assured me that there is a way out from cults also.
Posted by: sapient | October 08, 2009 at 10:30 AM
Googling about information about the similarities between Taoism and Zen, I stumbled into your May post about Ray Griggs' book, "The Tao of Zen". I enjoyed that post (You wrote, "Speaking personally -- as if I had a choice ... "; I loved that), and just ordered the book. I will be peeking in periodically, to see if I like the rest of your writings as much. Happy 5th.
Posted by: rainbird | October 09, 2009 at 08:17 AM
Brian, happy birthday for then! Thanks for the post on that day. It is interesting to read that there are so many page views per day... but very few comments. Are they all Buddhists and Satsangis I wonder??!
Posted by: Catherine | October 16, 2009 at 09:47 PM
Catherine, thanks for the not-very-belated happy birthday. I make the entire month of my birth a holy period, sort of like Ramadan but with a lot more self-indulgence. So your greetings are still timely.
Regarding commenting, I visit quite a few blogs each day, but I don't comment very often myself. So it doesn't surprise me that the blog visitor to comment ratio is what it is. Most people are readers, not writers, on the Internet.
Posted by: Blogger Brian | October 16, 2009 at 10:10 PM
Brian - love this blog which I have just discovered.
About 8 years ago I asked an unthinkable and dangerous question: Who would I be if I didn't believe in God?
I have let go of the spiritual life for an inner life which simply allows for all experience. Nothing to brag about, no unseen authorities to invoke.
As a practicing heretic, I enjoy a profound freedom and, surprise: an awakening heart.
joy to you!
Posted by: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1052789444 | October 26, 2009 at 08:58 PM
Nice comment. Look forward to reading further comments from you. What would it be like to "not" engage in belief or non-belief? Just simply live life. This life could be inner and outer, and possibly void of any heretic practicing. The "awakening heart" term was nice too.
Posted by: Roger | October 27, 2009 at 07:46 AM
Katie, thanks for the expression of love and joy. I resonate with your courage to ask the "unthinkable and dangerous question." Of course, it turns out that asking it is the safest place to be, because then we aren't afraid of imaginary terrors like hell, sin, god's wrath, and so on.
Posted by: Blogger Brian | October 27, 2009 at 10:20 AM
I bought the following bumper sticker this week:
RELIGION IS WHAT KEEPS THE POOR FROM MURDERING THE RICH - Napoleon
As I began to investigate with questions that cannot be answered easily or if at all, I began to see that beliefs are ever changing, dogma is the glue that holds beliefs together and the need for answers invokes belief systems.
Who would I be if I didn't need any answers?
I also began to watch as my beliefs were more routinely questioned that I have some consistent values, ethics that I had somehow neglected in my pursuit of the big Enchilada: GOD CONSCIOUSNESS. (or Enlightenment or whatever...)
Now I pay attention when I compromise a value such as kindness, honesty, respect. I really feel it when I am not true to these human ethics.
So now rather than cultivating and cherishing beliefs, I cultivate my human values. Very healthy for the human heart to recognize and take care of its values.
Posted by: Katie Grace | October 27, 2009 at 09:15 PM
Another very nice comment. Keep up the good comments!!!
"Who would I be if I didn't need any answers?"
---You probably would still be a very nice person. Nothing wrong with answers, however, there are times when I wonder what an answer was before it become an answer.
"Now I pay attention when I compromise a value such as kindness, honesty, respect. I really feel it when I am not true to these human ethics.
So now rather than cultivating and cherishing beliefs, I cultivate my human values. Very healthy for the human heart to r0ecognize and take care of its values."
----Girl friend, if you run for President, I'm in line to vote for you. This kindness, honesty and respect are all good values. Keep up the good work
Posted by: Roger | October 28, 2009 at 09:50 AM