Amazingly, and not a little scarily for me, I've written 2,194 Church of the Churchless posts since I started this blog in 2004.
I've covered lots of subjects. But an important topic hasn't gotten much attention from me. It's difficult to write about, being elusive, slippery, exceedingly personal, difficult to describe.
What it feels like to (obviously) be the same person I was when I embraced a religion, yet now being a person who doesn't believe in what once was so important to me.
It was difficult to compose those italicized words. Elucidating what they mean... even tougher.
I guess a word in the title of this post sums up the difference between Religious Me and Non-Religious Me.
I could have said "relaxation." Relief, relaxation -- yes, that's a pretty good description of the wordless feeling I'm enjoying now.
I'm not saying that I didn't have a sense of relief and relaxation back in my true-believing years (about 35 of them).
But this was more like feeling relieved that I knew which path led to the summit of Mt. Divinity, given how many alternative religious ways there are in this world: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and so on.
My way was The Way. Or so I believed. Just like virtually every other religious believer does.
So it felt good to supposedly be on the one and only genuine path to God-realization. However, there was a tension that never left me during those 35 years of believing:
Feeling the difference between here and there, now and then, the person I needed to become and the person I was.
Religions describe this difference in various ways. Christianity, for example, considers that humans are sinful. Both original sin and non-original sin need to be washed away through believing in the salvation power of Jesus, good works, prayer, and such.
(Never having been much of a Christian, I'm a bit vague on how this saving-stuff works.)
Eastern religions, which I'm much more familiar with, believe in something similar. They just call it "karma" rather than "sin." Karmas of countless lives need to cleared away before humans can enjoy union with God, Brahman, Universal Consciousness, or some other form of divinity.
Whether Western or Eastern, religiosity and tension go together.
There's a problem at the root of Life. The problem needs to be fixed. This takes work. Devotion, prayer, meditation, virtuous morality, service to others. The list of religious practices goes on and on.
It's a big relief to have that weight lifted off of my psyche. In my current churchless state, naturally I still have problems. However, they are everyday life problems, not existential problems which I once thought would determine the fate of my eternal soul.
That's pressure -- feeling that if I didn't meditate correctly, wasn't sufficiently devoted to the guru who would guide me home to God, failed to follow strict lifestyle guidelines like vegetarianism and not drinking alcohol, I'd remain separated from the glory of divinity.
I enjoy feeling like an ordinary person now.
I go about daily life dealing with what comes up. I no longer worry about whether I'm living up to the high standards the religion I once believed in set up for me.
Well, I realize that what I've said probably won't resonate with those who still believe. I say this in part because of the 31,344 comments I've gotten on those 2,194 blog posts I've written during the past twelve years.
Quite a few of those comments accused me of being a quitter; of being bitter; of being obsessed with criticizing the path I once was on.
None of that is true. I'm happier now. I'm more relaxed now. I feel a sense of relief now. Hope this post helps explain why.