Religion and me, part 2 – The seven components of my current spirituality

Now that I have recounted a comprehensive view of my history with religion, I shall endeavor to capture and convey the religion/spiritual beliefs that have evolved into what I believe today. I’m going to warn you right now… this blog post is going to be very deep, heavy, complex, and intertwined and it’s pretty much most definitely too long and confusing. Please let me know if you need further explanation or clarification of anything. Since I do not claim to be the sole founder of my own particular specific brand of religion, from here on out I shall refer to my “religion,” simply, as my “spirituality.” I’ve managed to identify seven core components that comprise my spirituality and I will briefly outline each one and then elaborate on them in preceding paragraphs.

1) As I stated in part 1, having to fully believe in my spirituality with all my heart is my first core component. 2) I also stated that my spirituality must incorporate logic (even though many people might at first think that logic and faith can’t coexist very well.) 3) My spirituality must serve me a positive purpose e.g., the function of my spirituality is to improve my life. 4) “Illustrated thinking” is another core component of my spirituality. By “illustrated thinking” I mean that I implore the use of metaphor and imagery with my spiritual beliefs as a way to simplify otherwise complex concepts. (I will elaborate on this concept further below). 5) The final component of my spirituality requires the freedom to always be subject to speculation and open to constant revision. It is worth noting that this fifth component holds an interesting dialectic relationship with the first (this will be further explained later in this post). 6) Lastly, a subset of component five includes a respect of the idea that, however much we may think we know and understand about our existence, in truth, we essentially know nothing relative to the infinite possibilities and complexities that exist in all of the “universe” (many of which lay outside the realm of human comprehension). 7) Okay, I lied. There is another component. (can you tell that I’m filling these in as I go along?) Post humorously and paradoxically, the final subset component piggybacks off of component six: Since there is an infinite amount that we do not know, my spirituality must therefore contain no extremes.

Component 1, Follow your heart:
My humiliating Christian testimony experience (as outlined in part 1 of “Religion and me”) re-enforced in me a lesson that is the first core component of my spirituality: I refuse to claim that I believe anything unless I truly believe it fully in my heart. This places a great deal of faith into the idea that, at my deepest level, I am a good and honest person with a perfect heart. I may have a flawed means of expressing that perfection (because, hey, let’s be real: I’m only human!) but, fundamentally, core component number one assumes that the goodness of my heart will ultimately prevail, thus illuminating my perfect (or, best, at least) personal “truth.”

Component 2, Logic is the founding method:
In search of spiritual truth, I employ the tool of logic to remain grounded. Sorry… No beliefs in the flying spaghetti monster here. Logic allows me a process to evaluate and refine my understandings of spiritual truth. I mentioned that people may have a hard time accepting the coexistence of faith and logic (science). I believe that God exists… How can that be logical or scientific? Atheists would argue that God is some hocus pocus big-man-in-the-sky type joke –no more worth of worship than the (dare I say) fictional flying spaghetti monster. Many religions have varying views on who or what “God” is (which, in my opinion serves a purpose in conjunction with core components three and four to be explained later). My definition of “God” is the infinite series of powers, truths, and information that we can never know. Is it not logical to assume that there are things outside of our understanding and even out ability to understand? We can always advance our and evolve our understandings (via core component number five), yes –but no matter how much that happens –in relation to infinity, our sum knowledge effectively becomes 0 (as recognized in core component number six). By it’s very definition, science is the search for truth –or, to illustrate the concept of “truth” (core component four), we can say that it is the search for “God.” (Benjamin Franklin would be proud of that statement. See this Wikipedia article on the religion called “Deism”)

And yet, here we arrive at another dialectic in honor of component seven (the component that says that my spirituality is to contain no extremes). To assume that logic is the only true framework with which to examine, improve, and experience spirituality would be an extreme statement. Indeed there can be benefit to giving value to that which lays outside of the realm of logic. There are occasions (although they seem to occur less often) wherein my spirituality permits me to traverse the boundary of logic provided that such an action would head benefit with negligible harm to myself or others.

Component 3, Spirituality is for bettering yourself:
You might be asking yourself, “well, if our relative summation of knowledge and understanding will always comparatively be 0, why even bother to figure out anything at all?!” The answer to that is core component number three: I bother to incorporate spirituality into my life because it helps me live a life that is even more worth living. Spirituality is fun! It facilitates growth and learning, it comforts me when I am down, it fuels my fascination and curiosity, and it probably does a thousand other positive things that I am not totally aware of. I bother with spirituality because it helps me live and enjoy my life.

Component 4, “Illustrated thinking” is useful:
“Illustrated thinking” is probably the most fun core component of my spirituality. I am a very visual person –I derive great pleasure for aesthetic beauty and divine organization. As also a theatre person, I have a great and deep respect for symbolism, metaphor, and story telling. “Illustrated thinking” allows me streamlined and entertaining ways to examine and manage complex or difficult concepts. Perhaps I can, ironically, illustrate for you an example of illustrated thinking: Prayer is a commonly known form of illustrated thinking that I frequently utilize. Let’s say that I just applied and interviewed for a new job that I really really hope I get. For the most part, after having already interviewed –the outcome of if I get the job is pretty much out of my hands. By praying, I am collecting and honoring my deep desires and passing them off to God. But who or what am I referring to when I mention “God” in this instance. If I wanted to be cerebral, intellectual, logical (or maybe “silly” is a more apt word) I could say that “God,” in this example of prayer is the infinite separation of knowing the future in the single moment within which I am praying. More likely than that, however, -I’ll admit it- I part slightly from logic (component 3) to utilize a classic, arguably irrational belief: that there is some supernatural being that cares that I’m praying to “Him.” It is okay for me to break from logic because my prayer is essentially not hurting anyone and it serves the purpose of helping to comfort me. Logic may still be implored, however, to understand what underlying forces may be occurring that would enable me to have my irrational faith in prayer (see “my greatest strength” blog post where I discuss attachment theory as it relates to achieving comfort.)

Regardless of if I chose to view prayer as logical or not it serves a positive purpose for me. I shall attempt to elaborate by providing a concrete example: I may pray by closing my eyes and imagining a hovering benevolent cloud (a classic image of God) with which I hand off my hopes and desires. The illustrative device of praying (talking to an imagined god) is a simplified expression of an otherwise unwieldy complex quantitative experience… I credit my experience with Christianity to the discovery of this very useful way to let go of the anxiety and fear that tends to confound living a happy life. The fun part of my illustrated thinking component comes with the freedom to assign any creative visualization to any situation to suit any purpose in the pursuit of self-betterment. How many boring stifling limiting religions will let you do that? I kid you not: sometimes I imagine myself hanging out on a windy day in a grass field in New Zealand with Gandalph from Lord of the Rings. For some reason Gandalph is really good at comforting me and reminding me to have faith that everything will turn out as it should.

Component 5, Everything is subject to scrutiny and revision:
Much like the Constitution of the United States, the fifth component of my spirituality necessitates the condition that it must be always up for scrutinous review and revision. I believe evaluation and the freedom to expand and grow is necessary in conjunction with component 1 (that I must believe my spirituality with all my heart). Indeed, the heart is an always changing, always evolving entity itself –so it makes sense that that freedom also be incorporated with my spirituality. (In fact, when I think about it, there is little difference between my spirituality and my heart –or even, my spirituality is just a creative extension of what is in my heart. As I write all of this down I find it fascinating how it seems to have fallen onto the page with a stark resemblance to the Constitution.

Component 6, Relative to infinity we know nothing:
No matter how much I think I may know, in reality, I know nothing relative to the infinite possibilities that exist beyond my ability (and mankind’s ability) to comprehend. The “universe” extends into infinity. Granted, I realize that, technically, science has determined that our known universe is finite. When I use the term “universe” (with quotes) I am referring to everything that is –which could include an infinite number of parallel universes, whatever lies beyond our universe, etc (even stuff which, like I said, we can’t even comprehend.) I assume that there is some sort of “stuff” that exists in infinity –and, therefore, essentially, God is infinity. I find this notion comforting! If there are infinity universes with infinity possibilities, then that would mean that somewhere in some universe there must exist a “better” version of myself. (By better I mean happier and more satisfied.) Oddly, for reasons I’m having trouble understanding or explaining, that makes me feel motivated to try to be that better self. Perhaps it is just a reminder that possibilities for improvement are always out there. To look at it in another, arguably nihilistic way –I’m comforted because what does it matter if things aren’t as good as they could be in my life when somewhere in some universe they are (and therefore I don’t have to be.) Component six of my spirituality is very trippy and also humbling. No matter how big my problems may feel –they are nothing in comparison to the scope of the infinite realities that exist. Any finite number divided by infinity equals zero. I can never know even 0.0000000001% of all that there is to know. This idea brings me to a catch phrase that I like to use: “Everything matters, nothing matters, neither and both.” Did that just hurt your head? Good –it was supposed to, don’t worry about it. (That catch phrase is gonna need a blog post of it’s own in the future…)

Component 7, Never allow extremes:
Ugg! Are you still reading this?! Okay, the final final component to my spirituality is the notion that no extremes must exist in what I believe. This is a subset notion of Components five and six (everything must be open to scrutiny, and there must be a respect of the infinite). If I believe in an extreme then I am not respecting the possibilities of alternatives. My philosophy is that alternatives always exist (even if they lay outside of my ability to perceive). But, wait! Isn’t “there must be no extremes” an extreme rule, itself? Caught me! Yes it is. I guess sometimes I must believe in extremes (although I can’t think of any off the top of my head). Component seven exists, primarily to keep me on track with remembering that things can always improve or be looked at in a different way. From my experience and observation, it seems that much of human suffering stems from some sort of extreme belief. I imagine, therefore, that thinking in extremes is generally unhealthy and should not be desires most all of the time.

Geez! If you seriously have continued reading this far I am pretty impressed… Now that I have attempted to encapsulate my experience of spirituality, it is clear to me that it is extremely complex –and yet, the beauty of it is that it exists within me in a simplistic form as indicated with core component number one: I believe what my heart tells me to believe. That’s the real key –because that is what will serve me the greatest amount of happiness and benefit. I appreciate anyone who can honestly say that their religion or spirituality fully and complete meshes with what their heart. To the people who can claim that –I salute you! Keep doing your thing (as long as, hopefully, you aren’t hurting yourself or other people.) If you have been with a religion or spirituality for a while and things just don’t feel quite right (as became the case with me and Christianity) I would urge you to explore and allow yourself to think and evolve to a place where you are more at peace with your own beliefs. If our universe contains infinite information and possibilities, why not construct for yourself what brings you the most joy, love, happiness, and satisfaction? That’s what I’ve been striving for, pretty much.

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4 Responses to Religion and me, part 2 – The seven components of my current spirituality

  1. DoctorLady says:

    This is fascinating. Thank you for being willing to write this out and post it for anyone to read. Also, I like the pictures. 🙂

  2. Jake says:

    Before you start reading this, word of warning. Please delete this if you feel you can’t handle harsh criticism from a Skeptic/Atheist. Don’t take any of this personally.

    Since you said you’d like comments on this.

    I’m sorry to say that much of component 1 was drivel. So I’m skipping that and heading to #2.

    You start off by saying that in your search for spiritual truth you use logic. But the word spiritual is nonsensical in this day an age. Most people use it to say that they’re religious without being religious, or that they have a strong bond with the universe, or that they don’t trust pharmaceutical companies and rather go to their local naturopathic store. There are so many definitions to what spirituality is that they’ve rendered the word meaningless. But you don’t just say spiritual, you say spiritual truth, which is logically nonsensical.

    You then go on to try to define a god into existence with a deistic perspective claiming that god is not a supernatural being but rather an infinity of unknowable knowledge. An unknowable god is just that; unknowable. A pursuit to know the unknowable is a logical paradox and can never happen. But, none of this maters because you end #2 by implying that logic doesn’t really matter to you when it doesn’t work the way you’d like it to. Which negates everything you’ve said up to that point. A problem I see here is that you seem to be afraid of conclusions. You’re very wishy washy and too scared to offend someone with your own beliefs.

    #3
    Again, there’s no definition of spirituality here. How does it make you happy? What is it? Why is it in your life? How do you experience it? There are seven billion different definitions of the word spiritual. One for every person on the planet. Just like the word god.

    #4
    Most of this is gibberish. You try to rationalize an irrational practice you do by stating that it doesn’t hurt anyone. I beg to differ. It hurts you. And it hurts everyone else you tell this to by reinforcing an irrational belief in something that has been proven, time and time again, not to work. Imagining something is working is not that something working. A departure from reality can be addictive, it may make you feel good, but it’s not good for you.

    #5
    A bit more nonsensical rambling. You don’t ever seem to define your terms. “…there is little difference between my ogre and my door –or even, my ogre is just a creative extension of what is in my door.” Doesn’t seem to make sense.

    #6
    This is mainly nonsense in the ways of science fiction. You’ve made the assertion that there are infinite universes with infinite probabilities (a meta-universe) is real. I agree it’s more than likely possible to have more than one universe with different laws and outcomes but that possibility drops dramatically to near zero when we’re talking about parallel universes in which there are an infinite number of yous and mes. But you speak of them as though they you’re certain they DO exist without evidence of such. It would seem that most of your “Spirituality” exists based on your imagination and not by logic or empirical data. You’ve stated again, and more assertive this time, that a god=infinity. You’re definition of a god is simply that it’s a number or an abstract concept. How is that… anything? As far as we know, infinity doesn’t exist except for in our heads.

    You’ve already stated that scientists have determined the visual universe is finite. That doesn’t mean that you can replace the unknown with anything you want. That’s not logical.

    #7
    You do believe in extremes. Several, in fact. You’ve made heaping claims of knowledge all over this blog without providing evidence or real reasons for them. You say this post is suppose to define your version of spirituality, yet you never do. You’ve made claims that are unsubstantiated by anything other than your imagination. You like logic and science, but you don’t seem to use them… ever.

    The main thing I’ve gotten out of this entire post is that you don’t seem to have a handle on what you actually believe but you want to try and explain it anyway. You dance around the question by avoiding the answer and saying nothing with a lot of words. But you don’t want to offend anyone either so you use the language of the pseudosciences, Oprah and Deepak Chopra. I personally don’t allow people to do this because I feel it brings down the community within ears reach and allows for others to make more bogus claims and demand to be taken seriously.

    Here’s a video of someone I deeply respect reciting a poem that has to do with some of the things you’ve said. Some, not all. (The animated version will be out in just a couple weeks)

    • Wow! Such a detailed deconstruction of my attempt to capture my spirituality! I appreciate your input -provocative as much of it may be.

      I believe that you are mistaken that I write as if I am afraid that I will “offend others.” If I was so worried about how other people would view my philosophy I doubt that I’d choose to write about it in a blog topic and then invite all my facebook friends and family to come and read my personal account. The very subject of “spirituality” or “religion” is provocative on it’s own.

      You really go out of your way to try to discredit a lot of what I say. I wonder why you feel the need to do that? If I were to try to define YOUR “spirituality” (yes, I can see that you really don’t like that word) from the limited information that I have based on your response I would say that you are someone who values being oppositional. Would you find that to be accurate?

      I’m curious if there is any part of anything that I’ve written that you feel any bit of appreciation or interest in? (If there is I’d be curious to know about it). You seem offended by every conjecture (or lack of conjecture, as you seem to point out) that I make.

      Why do you feel that I am hurting myself by choosing to utilize what I call “illustrated thinking.” It seems to me that if we are here and have the luxury to define our own beliefs in any way that we choose we should at least have fun with it -and how do you believe that harms others? I’m not forcing anyone to believe, think, or act any particularly way -in fact, I believe that a device such as “illustrated thinking” can be a vehicle to possibly liberate people’s own beliefs and spiritual truths if they themselves should decide that they find use for it. A spiritual truth, to me, becomes a truth if that is what the person chooses to believe. The truth to which I refer to isn’t necessarily a UNIVERSAL truth -just one that can be a personal truth for an individual (such as myself).

      Your analysis has hit on a major component of my definition of my own spirituality -that it is paradoxical, contradictory, dialectical, nonsensical, irrelevant, “drivel,” etc… To which I would respond… yes -you’re right -it can be -but to me it still stands because it is what I believe and it is what I enjoy =) and that is what is chiefly important to me. You also seem to find a lot of what I say to be non-committal. Yep! It is -that’s part of how my spirituality works. I like to remain as open as possible so that I can be receptive to new ideas that spark my interest.

      Speaking of which… when I was able to move past being offended by some of what you said (I am going to trust what you said that your intent is not to offend me)… I liked how you bring up that just because there are things outside of our awareness that doesn’t necessarily give me free reign to say that there are an infinite number of things, universes, etc. that must exist. That is an interesting idea that I am now thinking about. Do you think there are only finite “things” in “existence”? What percentage of all possible knowledge do you feel as though you have currently obtained (if you were to hedge a guess)? (I’d venture a guess that you’d say that is irrelevant and a silly question since obviously you can’t comment on how much you don’t know …since you don’t know it by the very definition). But seriously… Do you think that “everything” must be finite? (I grant you to fill in the blank of what “everything” stands for.) You’ve knocked me for skirting making my own definitions -don’t disappoint me by refusing to fill in my blank of what “everything” means to you. I’m attempting to challenge you right now 😉

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts -I wish more people would do the same.

      • Jake says:

        You have so much more class and tact than I. 🙂

        The very nature of being a Skeptic tends to be in favor of being “Oppositional” to those that make claims about things they can’t prove empirically, logically, mathematically, observationally, etc. I can agree that I’m oppositional to the amount a Skeptical, critical thinking person would be. But I’m not a contrarian. (I think I may have danced around that seemingly loaded question nicely enough.)

        What are my spirituality though? You can’t define a spiritualism for me since I see all things spiritual as near useless while lacking evidence. What I believe, on the other hand, is anything that can be proven. Right now people love the concept of dark energy and dark mater, both of which would explain much of our universe but there’s currently not enough evidence to support them. I find the two concepts to be intriguing ideas but I don’t believe either one until someone proves them and explains them in a way I can understand (maybe someone has, I haven’t been up to date for a few months). M theory is another one that I would love to see proven but there’s simply not enough there. On the other side of things, there’s just enough information about M theory to make spiritualists attempt to explain crap medicines, foods and practices in order to promote their own belief system as a genuine science.

        You ask what I like and I like the fact that you’re willing to change your mind when presented with new evidence (I think that’s right, or maybe you just said new ideas). The very core values of skepticism. Though most of us get a bad rap due to people like me.

        —”Illustrated Thinking”—
        Much like meditation, reiki, acupuncture, chiropractic techniques, smell therapy, reflexology and pulse therapy (off the top of my head at the moment), as far as I can determine this is suppose to be a technique used to calm and relax someone. Just picture what you want. Unfortunately I don’t think there’s anything more than a placebo effect taking place. And that’s what I’m against. When someone declares something as true with nothing more than anecdotal evidence it promotes a free reign of mostly bad ideas being thought of as inscrutable, and therefore, free from all criticism. If it makes you feel better, I’m all for you doing it yourself, just not promoting it as fact.

        A “Spiritual Truth” may be true to you but how do you convince someone like me of it being true? “Trust me,” isn’t going to cut it in science and skepticism.

        Q – “Do you think there are only finite ‘things’ in ‘existence’?”
        A – I don’t know.
        Q – “What percentage of all possible knowledge do you feel as though you have currently obtained (if you were to hedge a guess)? (I’d venture a guess that you’d say that is irrelevant and a silly question since obviously you can’t comment on how much you don’t know …since you don’t know it by the very definition)”
        A – You’re right, but the only intellectually honest answer I can give you is that I don’t know.
        Q – Do you think that “everything” must be finite?
        A – The key word in this question is MUST. And no, nothing MUST be finite. If something were to be infinite, be it the universe, the multiverse… time… a possible afterlife or a soul, we simply don’t know at this point. And an interesting point about Time is that, according to Big Bang Cosmology, it didn’t exist before the big bang. So if that were true (remember, I don’t fully understand it so I don’t actually believe it) time isn’t infinite; it had a beginning.

        If you really want me to define what “everything” means to me. It encompasses all things within the realm of its context. The realm itself can either be real or fictional.

        I’m glad you didn’t take what I originally said personally. I was reluctant to type it out at first. Then when I was typing I was thinking, “I’m really being mean but I don’t know of another way to say it.” Then I re-read it once I was done and it didn’t come across as cruel as it did when I was typing it, so I posted it.

        Maybe I should go through some of your other posts! I really enjoy talking about these topics (as you might see from some of my comics) but I hate how I come off in type.

        See you on FB.

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