December 20, 2019

What is Perennial Wisdom?


When you read the phrase, "Perennial Wisdom," does anything come to mind? Maybe an ancient religious tradition. Buddhism? Tao? Someone like Gandhi, sitting cross-legged on a straw mat? The writing of a mystic in China 3000 years ago? Maybe you have no reaction to that phrase; it is new to you. If you had asked me that question a year ago, I would have had no real idea, beyond a generic, "wisdom that stands the test of time?"

Things have changed. For purposes of this post, I want to explore what is becoming an important part of my satisfying retirement. Because this involves religion I will attempt to tread carefully. Whatever I say is part of my journey and is not meant to "convert" or move you toward any path.

Rather, it is important for me to try to solidify some evolving parts of my life and where it may lead me. If you do not believe in some type of supreme force that created everything, or you think that the universe is just a random happenstance, this will not be your post, though I ask you to read to the end before dismissing my thoughts.

Simply put, Perennial Wisdom refers to the ideas, thoughts, and concepts that are shared by many religious traditions across cultures and time. Wikipedia puts it this way: Perennial Wisdom is the idea that all religions, underneath seeming differences, point to the same truth. That as much as religions have divided us, caused wars, and sparked events that lead to hate and fear, the underlying core belief is that there is one divine reality.

Many of us call that reality, God. Other cultures and languages refer to the same concept with words like Allah, Yahweh, or Abba. I do believe in a supreme being of some sort, but how it (not a him or her since those are human words to help define something we can understand) interacts with time, space, and me is what I am working through. 

So, where I find myself is moving to a different understanding of the place of God in my life and the beliefs that are taking me there. Bottom line: some parts of the religion I was raised with and spent almost all of my life following no longer seem to work. That God is too small, too confined, too distant, and much too judgmental for where my studies are leading me. I just happened to be born in the one culture that has the only correct answer to the universe's biggest question? That viewpoint doesn't work for me anymore.

Without getting into an analysis better suited for a religious studies class, the end result of months of reading and study has me in a place where God is present in everything on earth right now - me, you, every human being, all plants, and animals - as well as everything that makes up the universe. He, or she, or it, is not perched on a throne somewhere distant from us, judging our behavior and worthiness. The creator is an on-going part of all creation, both now and for all eternity.

Believing that the divine essence is in every human being, then there must be acceptance and love for us, as the creations of that ultimate creator. If I assume the supreme being is all about love and seeing what has been created flourish, it would make absolutely no sense that whole bunches of us were unlucky enough to be born in the wrong culture or on the wrong side of the world, making our life's path fruitless and dooming us to hell (whatever that is). 

I am not designed to live my life to guarantee a happy ending in eternity at some point in the future. I was born to try to allow God's basic truths to flow through me now and into whatever the future holds. And, what are those "truths?" Love, kindness, and caring for others. I am to be a living representation of what the essence of that God is, here, right now, on earth. As Richard Rohr says, "When you are young you define yourself by differentiating yourself; now you look for things we all share in common."

Importantly, that Reality hasn't given special insight or "picked" one religious tradition as the only way to live. Those rules and belief systems are man's way to understand something that is really beyond our ability to describe and grasp. Even so, we attempt to do so, using our own culture, language, and history to try and make sense of it all. That has lead to all sorts of bad things. Religion can be used to advance an agenda or system that has nothing to do with the core beliefs that I think a divine reality cares about.

All that said, I am a Christian because that is the culture in which I was born and raised. Now, I bring to that faith a broader, more inclusive definition. The Bible was written for a particular culture at a particular time in history. I do not believe it is a literal word for word dictation of God's words that must apply to 21st century America. I do not believe the world was created in six days or that Adam and Eve were actual human beings living in a garden somewhere in the Mid East until they ate a particular fruit. But those, and many parts of the Bible are meant to represent both God's power and love for his creation, as well as man's constant struggle to be in sync with that power. Those stories don't have to be true but still teach us truths.

Importantly, this interpretation doesn't change the purpose and power of the Bible to help direct my life. To me, the Bible is  a collection of stories, some literal, some historical, some myths, that are man's attempts to explain God and how we interact with that force. Just because it is not literally true, doesn't mean it is not fundamentally true. The message of God's love for his creatures is what everything in that book points to. 

In that sense the Bible is a guide to how to understand our world. But, I do not need to accept today what the Arab/Jewish world thought of women or slavery or the lack of scientific awareness to believe. I don't have to accept that wearing mixed fibers is wrong. I do need to understand the essential messages in the Bible and make them part of my journey. I don't have to believe every word in the Bible is directly from God to accept the perennial wisdom it contains.

I don't believe my beliefs are the only path to God. I don't believe in excluding people who are trying to reach God in different ways. To have the level of hubris necessary to declare that my way is the only way places me on the level of the Ultimate Reality, a place no human being occupies. As author Jackie Cushman said, so many of our problems come from that "certainty that you are absolutely, undeniably right in whatever you believe or do, and that the other person or group is absolutely, without question, wrong.”

All this is my way of trying to explain a rather important shift in how I see the world. God, or a Supreme Being by any other name, is deep within me, and every other creature. My "job" is to allow that part of me that carries God's imprint to flow from me and impact others in a way that represents the essence of that spirit. I now believe sin is when I am living in a way that hides, or distorts, that eternal flame. Sin is not something I do wrong. It is when I am not allowing the holy spirit part of me to interact with other creatures of  in the way that God wants.

If you are still with me, thanks for granting me these few minutes to put into words what is an evolving part of my story. Again, I say this is my very personal journey. You may disagree with virtually everything I have written, and that is absolutely your right. As noted a few times above, I don't claim to have answers except for me. I don't claim that my way is THE way. My answers are my answers to my questions and my thinking.

For another post could be a discussion of how an all loving Supreme Being allows hate and war and bad things to happen. This is a difficult topic, one that I am feeling more comfortable in wrapping my mind around. But, that is for another time.


In case you are interested in doing some of your own reading and exploring this subject, here are a handful of books (out of the dozens!) that I found most helpful in opening up my mind to other possibilities:


Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr

The Naked Now by Richard Rohr

Perennial Wisdom by Rami Shapiro

Reading The Bible Again For The First Time by Marcus Borg



44 comments:

  1. Bob, your ability to articulate your beliefs and personal feelings is commendable. I'm thinking that this post was either extremely easy or extremely difficult to write. I would not be comfortable examining my beliefs in public, but you've accomplished it with a thoughtful and thought-provoking sincerity.

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    1. It was not the easiest post to write. Religion is very personal and often a key to someone's self-image. I had to tread carefully without being too wishy-washy to get my beliefs across. As I stress several times, this is a personal statement, not meant to change anyone's strongly held convictions, but maybe to encourage a helpful discussion.

      Being human, none of us has the ability to comprehend all that is the force or being or whatever term you use. Each of us just tries to come to an understanding to works for us.

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  2. I left behind the Catholic/Christian dogma a long time ago and am in a place similar to yours. In Thailand, we visited many temples, and heard the story of Buddha.. it's the same as the story of Christ! I believe that at times in history great teachers have come forth to remind us of the ideal way we can live on this Earth.. and remind us that we too can become wise, can become healers, can be holy... And I believe that all the great teachers share that same perennial wisdom. It's not that complicated! I read from many spiritual disciples and I work hard to APPLY the basic principles of kindness and mindfulness to my days. It's a wonderful thing when your mind and heart open up as yours are, and the "bigger picture" becomes more clear.. I enjoyed this post! My spiritual practice is prayer,meditation, spiritual reading, and the practice of mindfulness in my daily life..with a big does of MOTHER NATURE as often as possible!! (PS: it can get lonely sometimes,since there are very few churches that represent MY beliefs..so I connect with a few others in my social circle who believe as I do.. we'll be having some of those folks to a SOLSTICE celebration on Sunday!!)

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    1. The universal nature of most religious traditions is what I find most fascinating. Behind all the myths and stories each culture develops to explain the unexplainable are common threads of behavior and interpretation. To me that points to a part of that ultimate power inside each of us put there by the creator.

      There is a virgin birth story in several faiths while a world-wide flood is also common. These and many other examples show the connection all of us have to try to understand our place and function in the universe.

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  3. I also believe it is ok, and even IMPORTANT for all of us to begin having spiritual conversations! Many are so hungry for connection and a sense of a greater reality.. when we start talking about it, the world will be a better place... In my Women's health care practice (now retired..) I would ask women, at their annual check up.."So what are you doing to feed your Spirit these days?" Amazing how many woken were so thrilled to be reminded that they need to do that! It can be art, music,church,learning to meditate.. I had handouts with many suggestions that I gave out.. And I can be respectful,also of those who follow traditional religious paths,such as Mormon, Catholic, Buddhist, Jewish.. I think it is simpyl
    important to have SOME SORT of spiritual guidelight/path in one's life..

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    1. Those who claim to have the one and only answer to the ultimate mystery are doing themselves and others a great disservice. Shutting one's mind to new ideas and ways of seeing the world has resulted in horrific wars and repression.

      There are 7 billion people in the world. Is it really that odd that there are thousands, if not millions of different ways we humans attempt to answer the most important questions of life?

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  4. I like where you are going with your blog. I read "Falling Upward" a couple of months ago, and I just ordered "Perennial Wisdom" and "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time." I was fascinated by the open-mindedness of the Catholic scholar author in "Falling Upward." I'll give you feedback after I read the two books that I just ordered.

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Rick. Richard Rohr is one of my favorite authors. I listed three of his books, but I have read several others by him. The Perennial Wisdom book edited by Mr. Shapiro is probably the best of the bunch in showing several religious traditions side-by-side and the similarities that exist.

      My library of religious study now takes up a full shelf and expands on a regular basis. The Marcus Borg book will give you a push to re-read the Bible with whole new insight and enthusiasm.

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    2. It took a couple of months, but I read both "Perennial Wisdom" and "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time." I agree with your observations about the similarities of religions and new insight into the Bible. I underlined both books substantially, and I re-read my underlining. I'm still in deep thought about what I read. I feel somewhat enlightened, but also somewhat discouraged by the rigidity of others. I don't know where these thoughts are going to take me, but I thank you again for what you do.

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    3. Thanks for the follow up, Rick. I am pleased you found the books helpful and stimulated questions. Like you, I have so many things underlined in each that there isn't a lot left in either that doesn't have my marks in them!

      Rigidity and being convinced one has THE only true answer is so damaging to that individual and others.

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  5. You and I have similar views, Bob, especially how you view the Bible. And as we age most of us do try to understand the spiritual path we're on or believe we need to get on to so-called meet our make when we die.

    I took a couple of classes in college on comparative world religions that stuck with me all these years later. At their core they do all have the same basic values. Now, I have a hard time with any Christian denomination that claims that belief in Jesus is the only path to finding God or salvation. I also have a hard time with the personification of God, even calling it the Supreme Being which is inclusive of other cultures and religion is too super-sized-humanish to me. I prefer to call it the God-Power which takes away the image of a man in the sky controlling everything like I was taught very early in life. A minister once told me, "the secret to understanding God is there is no secret. God is love and love is God. It's as simple as that." We hear that phrase all the time but do we REALLY think about what it actually means? After my conversation with him is when I started using the term God-Power. The power of love can save the world. Happy Holidays, Bob. Love this post!

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    1. It would be very disappointing to me if "God" were a human. I also see Spirit as a "Force" or a great "power" out there that has no human qualities..that SPIRIT is so much more than that! I think a lot of people are looking for benevolent parent figures and assign that to their god.But then how do they reconcile when REALLY BAD STUFF happens, as it will, to humans? Their human construct of god would mean their god is very cruel! I just don't see spirit that way.. Aligning with SPIRIT gives us courage and strength to deal with the human condition, in my opinion.. there's no god out there directing events...

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    2. The acceptance of a world created by an all-loving Force but filled with evil, cruelty, hate and violence are hard concepts to understand. The idea of original sin is one explanation but that assumes what God created was flawed from the beginning and forever forward. Or, it demonstrates the power of free will that each of us was given by that same God who loves us enough to allow us to make mistakes.

      Organized, traditional religion helps us early in life with rules and a sense of community and belonging, things we all need. But, as Richard Rohr notes, those are first-half of life needs. As we mature, religious certainty often erodes as we begin to question more and chafe at the one-size-fits all answers to life's biggest questions.

      I go to church with my extended family every Sunday. It is a time of friendship and community. But, I listen to the sermon with a more critical ear, accepting parts of it but reminding myself of a wider viewpoint when the message becomes too dogmatic or pointing to just one path for the whole world. It is good for me to be there, but not as just a passive spectator.

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  6. Hi Bob! My answer to your very first question about what I think about "perennial wisdom" is a book I read many years ago by Aldous Huxley entitled, "The Perennial Philosophy." I think you might want to add it to your list because I believe it and your thoughts are similar. Basically, it was Huxley's attempt to distill the highest and best of all religions into a "guideline" of behavior that could lead to "wisdom" or "grace" depending upon your intention. I gave up traditional religion years ago although I confess to being deeply spiritual. After reading books from dozens of faith traditions I finally landed in a New Thought church that was big enough to hold all my thoughts and questions. I think we are similar in that I insist on a Supreme Being that is loving and all encompassing. Good for you for being open enough to express yourself and share thoughts about meaning that are so very relevant in older life. ~Kathy

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    1. I really believe this blog could be much more than just about retirement. We are retired, but that should no more define us than allowing ourselves to be defined by what we used to do for a living.

      I will certainly check out Mr. Huxley's book. Thanks, Kathy.

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  7. Bob,

    Even as a "happy, secular buddhist, ex-Lutheran agnostic," I also share your interest in the thoughts and writings of Fr. Richard Rohr. He blends the the spiritual with the experiential in a way I find unique and inspiring. "Falling Upward "is a favorite and I have recommended it to many friends who have been equally inspired. I have also enjoyed the writings of Fr. Anthony de Mello, the late Jesuit priest who ministered in India and was an expert in finding common ground between eastern and western religious thought.

    I have also found insight in the poetry of the Sufi mystic, Rumi. This is one of my favorites:

    Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
    and rightdoing there is a field.
    I’ll meet you there.
    When the soul lies down in that grass
    the world is too full to talk about.

    Thanks for your post.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. Thank you for the author suggestion and the beautiful poetry. I will certainly see what I can find from Father de Mello. Richard Rohr has a way of presenting his ideas that makes them so accessible, understandable, and logical. Like you, Falling Upward is a favorite. I have read it three times, and each time I get some fresh wisdom.

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  8. I have been on a similar spiritual journey for several years. Although I don't articulate it nearly as well as you, we seem to be in pretty much the same place. I don't think my understanding of God is necessarily in conflict with my Christian faith, but I will admit that Christianity for me is not the same as it is for most people. I am very familiar with Marcus Borg, but I look forward to reading others recommended by you and your commenters. Thank you for an excellent post.

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    1. I believe the Christian faith is much bigger, more inclusive, and richer than traditional churches accept. Jesus had a pretty straight-forward message that is being ignored or narrowed too often.

      I have two of Marcus Borg's books and liked them both, but the one I reference above was an important game-changer for me. I think you will like Richard Rohr.

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    2. I, too, think the Christian faith is much more than what is typically taught in traditional churches. Sometimes it seems they're perpetually stuck on teaching to the Kindergarten level (for lack of a better description). Many years ago I read something that stuck with me: Jesus stood before the disciples pointing the way to God and instead of looking at the way the disciples stood staring at his finger and we've been staring at his finger ever since. Jesus isn't "the way" in the way that churches teach. Jesus shows us the way.

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  9. You have articulated very well the transcendence of a dualistic, us/them, right/wrong sort of approach. Our thinking minds can only understand things in this comparative sort of way. but God (or whatever term you use) is beyond limitation or exclusion. Jesus taught love. The Dalai Lama describes his religion as "kindness." As you have observed, the essence of all wisdom teaching is relational and unifying. A Course in Miracles teaches that when we separate ourselves from anyone else through judgment, fear, hatred or anything else, we separate ourselves from God. According to ACIM, you cannot be connected to God when you are disconnected from others. Very simple.

    I admire your willingness to explore. Inquiry is how we access our own inner wisdom. Lovely and inspiring post.

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    1. Coming from you, that means a lot to me, Galen. Your study of various religious traditions and our conversations helped inspire me to push out of my comfort zone and start asking myself some hard questions. It is a process that continues.

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  10. Hi Bob. I have nothing to add at this moment, as I am still reading, devouring actually, all of your writing as well as all of the replies from your readers. I so enjoy reading this content, both yours and the replies, as it is intelluctual, civilized, and informative. I just want you to know that there are those of us "out there" who are here, (pardon the irony) who may not be ready to speak up but are reading, hearing, and learning. Excellent work, Bob. And I also enjoy the new content. Merry Christmas to you and your personal family and your family of readers.

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    1. Your comment is very much appreciated. On average less than 3% of blog readers leave comments on a regular basis, so it always encouraging to hear from folks like you. It helps me feel comfortable with what I am writing and how the blog is being received.

      A very Merry Christmas to you and yours, as well.

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  11. I call myself spiritually fluid, but that might be an exaggeration. I was prepared to dislike this post but found it interesting, insightful and full of heart.

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    1. Good! It is a tough subject to express oneself clearly and without provoking someone.

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    2. I have been inspired by the writing of Richard Rhor for many years now. He does a daily meditation which you sign up to and I really recommend it.

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    3. Actually, I do get his meditations and made a donation to his center in New Mexico.

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  12. I have written my comment a number of times. You are very good at explaining your journey.
    I was fortunate to be educated by Jesuits and Franciscans while living in a, predominately, Jewish neighborhood. Typical Phoenix. I was fortunate to be able to study Confucianism (and a bit of Taoism) with my husband as he studied/lived in China. Living in Saudi gave me some perspective into Islam. My husband's family is LDS. Teaching on the Navajo reservation gave me a huge insight to some of their beliefs and practices. Mind blowing! I love studying religion.
    For me there is a huge difference between religion and faith.
    To me religion is more about training. Very important to have a place for children, to form their conscience. Gives people parameters to figure out how to be with other people and God. Bumper guards. It is a place to come home to. They are community.
    Faith is what "I believe"- which evolves all of the time. I continually go back to writings of Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, CS Lewis and Thomas Merton. All lived my questions. When most in doubt, they looked at their actions to be their guiding principles. I continue to be Catholic. Catholics, who are truly practicing their faith, are constantly questioning, pushing, looking for more understanding on how they can best live the two main commands. We know when we are not in Communion- but still are encouraged to search.
    You might look at some of the retreats at the Franciscan Renewal Center. There are some cool monasteries (of many different faiths) in your area as well. There are many people on your road that you may enjoy talking to.

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    1. You have a fascinating mix of religious influences in your history. I'm sure you would agree that being exposed so many different ways of thinking about God had had an influence on your development. It also makes the point that there are many paths to an understanding and relationship with God.

      Yes, I agree that religion and faith describe different parts of one's journey. As Richard Rohr makes clear, organized religion is really a necessary part of the first stage of life. It adds structure, community, basic rules of behavior, and an introduction to the important parts of a belief system.

      Faith is not necessarily connected to that first stage...it can be but that isn't a requirement. As you say, faith is belief in how things work together, the place of Supreme force in the universe and an individual's life, both here on earth and after. It isn't rules-based, but beliefs-based, and should be constantly reassessed.

      There is a beautiful Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale that I have driven by many times. Your suggestion is a good one.

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  13. This is a very thoughtful post, and I think more of us are thinking this way as we mature. I have done some work with a spiritual director who considers herself Interspiritual, and I love the discussions we have at her retreats. Very open minded, very accepting, and many paths to the Divine. Like you, I am a big fan of Richard Rohr and really resonated with the concept of first half of life needs. I've felt myself to be a seeker as I age and you articulate well a good portion of the path I've been on. While I find some of the rituals from my Christian upbringing bring great comfort, there are aspects of the dogma that I struggle with. Falling Upward is such a thought provoking read.

    I'm not sure Jesus would recognize some of the things that have been done in his name. But overall, he had a solid message. Maybe just not THE only message. ;-)

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    1. I am pretty sure that Jesus would not be happy with much of what is supposedly done in his name. Corporate Christianity is not an accurate representation of what is in the New Testament. It has become much too political, exclusionary, and us vs them in mindset.

      The vision that Mr. Rohr and many others talk about is much closer to what I believe Jesus wants us to understand and follow. I find it encouraging that posts like this generate such positive interaction and that so many thoughtful people are looking for ways for us to reconnect with the Creator.

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  14. Bob, thank you for sharing your journey with regards to spirituality/religious beliefs. My journey may be somewhat different than yours. I was raised a protestant Christian but we rarely attended church services. I accepted Christ as my savior at the age of 10 at a Billy Graham event. I feel I was moved by the Holy Spirit to take that leap of faith when it occurred. Over the years of being an adult, my beliefs wavered some and for a long while, I pretty much had abandoned my Christianity. I believe God sent me a wake up call a couple of years ago when I had several not so pleasant events occur in my life. Those events caused me to re-evaluate my life and choices, and I made some very positive changes in my life which included me re-affirming my commitment to follow Jesus and Christianity. I do practice blind faith knowing in my heart that God will direct me to where I need to be even if it is someplace my head tells me to be cautious about. I wish you the best on your journey and may the blessings of God be with you.

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    1. The story of someone finding his or her way through a renewed connection with the supreme power, for whatever reason and in whatever way, has to be good for all of us. It is impossible for someone who truly internalizes the message of love for all to cause intentional harm.

      I feel a warm glow when I read a story like yours. That you feel a direct connection that has helped you gain control of your life is affirming. The power of the holy spirit (to use a Christian idea) to change a life is real for a true believer.

      I wish you the very best, Dan, as your faith moves you forward.

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  15. Bob, thanks for this post, and for having the courage to venture into this territory in such a public way. I too, will try to tread lightly.

    It appears that I may be the only dissenter among your commenters on this topic. I am an atheist. I was raised a Christian and attended church every Sunday with my parents when many of my friends were attending sleepovers and sleeping in on Sundays. As an adult, I kind of just went with the flow. I married a fairly devout Catholic woman and raised two Catholic boys, sending them to Catholic elementary and high schools.

    Around 6 or 8 years ago I felt for some reason that I should actually start to think a bit more about what I believed. Around that time the very well known Minister of the largest United Church congregation in Canada, which is close to where I live, announced that he was resigning from the Ministry as he had become an atheist. He wrote a book about his journey, which I devoured. It all resonated with me after reading other books and resources and watching numerous online debates and discussions. Very little of it made sense to me anymore, and nowhere in all my reading and viewing had anyone presented anything that resembled evidence for the existence of god. I "came out of the closet" as an atheist about five years ago and have not gone back.

    It's important to me to note that I am pleased for those who have a belief and find comfort in it. I still attend church with my wife almost every Sunday and enjoy, as you have said, listening to the sermons with a more critical ear. I must say that I have heard three different priests make three quite outrageous comments over the past year, and I have been tempted to get up and leave. My wife, by the way, had a similar reaction. I am very fortunate to have someone who has made the effort to understand my position and to continue to accept me despite it. She has gone as far as researching a number of secular "prayers" that we now say before meals instead of the religious one we said for years.

    I am also pleased that your journey has led you to openness, inclusion and understanding. Unfortunately, tens of millions of North Americans and probably billions around the world still fall into the camp of "my way or the highway (to hell)". Many of those would like to impose laws based on those beliefs on the rest of us. I stand firmly opposed to that notion.

    Thanks again for promoting the discussion on an important subject. And yes, Merry Christmas to you, your family, and all your readers.

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    1. Thank you, Dave. I really appreciate you taking the time to express a view that is important to talk about. The last survey I saw indicated there are somewhere around 500 million atheists in the world, so it is rather common.

      Over the last several years I toyed with the idea that maybe I was an atheist. There just seemed to be too many things that didn't add with the concept of some supreme force. More reading and thoughtful consideration led me to my current position.

      I am afraid way too many in any organized religion take the "my way or the highway" position. Certainly evangelical Christian churches like mine, have rather fixed views of what is right and wrong. I think that is just human nature: to feel good about ourselves we have to constantly confirm decisions and beliefs we hold.

      My wife isn't at the same place as I am, either. I can see some glimmers of understanding of my evolving position on things, but she isn't there yet, and may never be. That is fine. I am ready to admit I may be wrong and she correct. My "job" isn't to convince her to abandon her belief system at all. I welcome her questions and answer them openly. But, if she doesn't join me in this regard, no problem. And, she seems OK with my shift.

      The very best of holiday greeting back at you, Dave!

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    2. I love that you and Betty have good discussions about this, Bob. I would say one of the things that made me think harder was marrying my current husband. We have always had some pretty deep conversations about all kinds of things and religion and spirituality are high on the list. He was raised in a tiny but intense sect and had a pretty hard negative reaction to it. But we are able to have some great conversations with neither of us getting our nose out of joint. Good growth talk for both of us!

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  16. I am a New Yorker who lives in the South. While I love so much about it being told that I will not get to heaven--something I'm not sure exists--because I'm Jewish, and will go to hell because I refuse to accept Christ as saviour--by people I like very much and even respect is making me wonder if I should sell my house, cut my losses (too much work went into my house for various reasons including the big one--
    I am a New Yorker with a soft voice who doesn't live up to stereotypes except perhaps on Facebook--that was in the beginning before people knew and respected me--the second complete renovation was done much better.
    Anyway, excuse my lack of great sentence structure. This has been weighing on me since I was on a cruise where I could totally be myself. Came home and had dinner at a very good friend's house when she pulled the Christ thing on me--sweetly unlike some other people.

    I don't get why they talk about how they lost when their candidate, sick as he is, is the president. They must know, in their hearts that he isn't a good person and not worthy of their adoration.

    But as much as I want America to get back on track I'm too old to hear that I'm going to hell no matter how good a person I am.
    Of course I don't believe this. It's that they do and they feel they can tell me this. I'm trying to write about this without hurting people. Ha!

    I was stifled and not as productive as I should have been because (this isn't an excuse) I have been so flummoxed trying to be the best person I can be and not hurt others while expressing myself.

    This isn't easy and I really thought I was ready to tackle everything with a fresh eye until people starting pulling the "you're going to hell because...." on me.
    Why so many have so much invested in saving my soul is beyond me.
    They ask me questions that I can't answer because my answers can't be found in bible verses. I don't care to win these "arguments" because I know that I have lived the best life that I can live and that should be enough. I used to laugh at how literal they are. After the past three and a half years it's not something to laugh at.

    I don't comment often but I love your posts.

    I hope you and Betty (one of my favorite names--my mother's) have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year.

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    1. It breaks my heart when people have to endure the small-mindedness of others who think they are helping you by tearing you down. To be convinced of the best way to live one's life is fine. But, unless someone claims to be God and have all the answers, to judge others is just so wrong and counter-productive.

      The Supreme Being that I believe exists is in every living thing he/it created. It is absurd to think that it would be his plan to doom people to hell because they happened to be born in one culture or another that wasn't the "correct" one. He created them!!!

      I understand your frustration with the situation you find yourself. May I say that a very good friend would not hammer you over your beliefs. A good friend would respect you enough as a human being, as a unique creation, to stop passing judgement.

      I guess you have two choices: stay away from anyone who treats you poorly, or move. However, moving doesn't mean you won't find small-minded, bigoted people...they are everywhere.

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  17. Bob, first time commenter, after being a lurker since about a year after you began this endeavor, and about a year before I retired. Dave and Pia's contributions have provided the spark. And, BTW, I endorse your decision to periodically post some rather controversial topics and opinions. I'm longtime married, with adult children, and grandchildren. Three decades law enforcement service and independent, middle of the road politics, normally voting a combination of D's and R's. Spent much of my life under the label of, "Evangelical Christianity". For more than a decade, I've gravitated away, which can be occasionally awkward with family and some friends, with not all of them being aware I've been in the agnostic/atheist space for quite awhile. Yet, I'm totally at peace for embracing what I believe is reality. Way too many reasons and intellectual justifications to cite here, but over the course of time, I'm not surprised that the demographic of, "nones" (not affiliated with any particular religion) is growing. I was already there, but seeing how the evangelical political base is largely responsible for who occupies the most powerful position in the country, and likely, the world, it has been one of very many factors that have validated my, "evolution" (that's another of many related topics which isn't suitable for elaboration here). I firmly support the separation of church and state, but I believe all should have the right to their own religious beliefs, or none at all. With the continued appreciation for what this holiday represents, I wish you and Betty a Merry Christmas, and thanks for what you have, and continue to offer, along this great journey of a, Satisfying Retirement.

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    1. Just because I found the subject interesting, I am studying first year law. I have zero interest in a second career in that field, but I am fascinated about how decisions are made.

      I bring that up because the section I am reading now deals with the separation of church and state as it appears in the Constitution and subsequent amendments. The writers of those documents were rather straight-froward. But, over the years, as judges have begun to inject more of their personal beliefs, that has blurred the line between church and state separation in ways that may take us down a path we aren't comfortable taking.

      Thank you for adding your thoughts. This is supposed to be a safe space for learning about each other, rolling around what someone says in our mind, and deciding what any of that means to us. For that to happen, many different points of view need to be given space.

      A very merry Christmas and holiday season to you. Thank you for your long term readership.

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    2. I enjoyed Unknown's thoughts to. I hope he/she sticks around and attaches a name to his thoughts. I would like to hear more...

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  18. Bob, I appreciate the way you have shared your evolving internal spiritual quest with us. I think it is important to question assumptions and seek deeper levels of understanding.

    I describe myself as an atheist. I simply don’t believe in a supreme being who created us. The beliefs and rituals of organized religions I have examined do not attract me, and the wars, cultural genocide, and persecution that have taken place in the name of various religions is a horrifying history.

    However, despite being an atheist I am still open to the possibility of there being a spiritual level of existence. Perhaps there is something like a life force, or deep connection between living things, or a fundamental “good” that we humans can feel when we open ourselves to it. I feel something when I am in nature that seems to go deeper or beyond pragmatic physical reality, and I sometimes feel a deep sense of peace and connectedness to something beyond myself when I meditate or do yoga. So, I try to keep my mind open to spiritual possibilities, without succumbing to the (rigid and seemingly bizarre) rituals and beliefs of organized religion.

    Jude

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    1. Organized religion is a human construct that can suffer from all that comes with people and organized anything. The need for power, to control, to dictate, to present answers as the only solution are part of any group of humans. In that sense religion is no different.

      What my readings and studies are showing me is that once a religion starts putting up barriers and claims to be the only path of God, then it is about as far away from a Supreme Being's message as something can be.

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