“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, King James Version).
I was raised in a Christian household. Indeed, my father was a Lutheran minister, an Air Force Chaplain. I grew up accepting whatever I was taught, never questioning anything. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school—1967, to be exact—that I started to have doubts.
‘67 was a strange year.
1967 the continued presence of American troops increased further and a total of 475,000 were serving in Vietnam and the peace rallies were multiplying as the number of protesters against the war increased. The Boxer Muhammad Ali was stripped of his boxing world championship for refusing to be inducted into the US Army. In the middle east Israel also went to war with Syria, Egypt and Jordan in the six day war and when it was over Israel controlled and occupied a lot more territory than before the war. (See more here.)
The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band provided the soundtrack for most of my life in 1967 and 1968. John Lennon’s infamous quote—so often taken out of context—was true: the Beatles really were more popular than Christ. I say “taken out of context” advisedly: Lennon himself later explained that he wasn’t bragging; rather he was making a sad comment on society at that time.
Christianity no longer held the answers to my questions. “Thou shalt not kill” began to be replaced by bumper stickers exhorting us to “Kill A Commie For Christ.” Any questioning of our government’s foreign policy was countered with “America: Love It or Leave It.”
And I couldn’t reconcile the teachings of Christ wit my father’s chosen vocation of ministering to men and women who were dropping bombs on brown-skinned people thousands of miles away to protect us from invasion. (History has now shown that we were the invaders.)
The following fall when I left for college, I left my religion behind.
There was still a part of me that wanted to believe. Over the next several decades I experimented with various religions and philosophies until I found The One True Faith®.
I stayed with the Baha’i Faith for almost 40 years. It wasn’t until I started my transition that its ban on same-sex relationships affected me personally, and I began to doubt the validity of yet another Abrahamic religion that wanted to control who I could and could not love.
So I told myself, “Screw it. There’s no religion capable of dealing justly with the way I was created, so to hell with them all. I’m a fucking atheist.”
Ironically, that was the same year my wife gave me a copy of Merlin Stone’s seminal work, When God Was A Woman.
Here, archaeologically documented, is the story of the religion of the Goddess. Under her, women’s roles were far more prominent than in patriarchal Judeo-Christian cultures. Stone describes this ancient system and, with its disintegration, the decline in women’s status. Index, maps and illustrations. (Goodreads)
I still wasn’t ready to give up my disbelief and embrace goddess-worship. It all still seemed too us. v. them and divisive. I had long ago left behind any concept of an anthropomorphic deity, and I wasn’t about to go back to that ancient system.
Quarks. Quasars. The Strong Nuclear Force. Gravity. Electromagnetism. Dark Matter. There seems to be something, some common thread, running through all creation and holding it all together. And for lack of a common definition, various peoples at various times have put names to it, in order to be able to talk about it.
Some of those names are God, Allah (which translated from the Arabic means “God), Cosmic consciousness, The Force, or any one of thousands of other names of gods and goddesses that have been used down through history. Even in the Mel Brooks/Carl Reiner comedy sketch, The 1,000 Year-Old Man, there was a strong, irresistible force. “We called him Phil.”
And while I reject any anthropomorphic object of veneration, I do believe that whatever we call whatever it is that binds us all together and keeps our atoms from flying apart, that force—creative in nature—is most likely feminine rather than masculine.
And so I worship no one. I adhere to my own private creed, and do not embrace any formal belief system. When I let go of religion, I let go of guilt, of trying (and failing) to measure up to any standards.
I sleep better at night.