I am sitting at the edge of an Alpine meadow, reading Richard Dawkins on God, or rather the delusion of God.
I have always considered myself a believer in some sort of higher power, although since age nine, my belief strayed from the Episcopal Church I was baptized into. A disagreement with the Sunday school teacher about women and faith propelled me into a rejection of Christianity.
As a young woman I learned about the Burning Times and that cinched the deal. No Christianity for this girl.
My grandmother was also a strong influence, introducing me to the real history of the Middle Ages. She, raised in the Colorado Rockies, far from any school, read Toynbee late at night in the New York Public Library (main branch). She had a researcher’s thrill for the hunt and disavowed Christianity with passion. Many years later I discovered she had been sent to a Catholic orphanage where she was routinely sexually abused. I then understood her vehemence.
For years, I was also vehemently opposed to all religion but then synchronicity and a love of the wild converted me. Not to Christianity or to any old, white haired, vengeful god but to the mystery. There was something out there, in here, I recognized it when I saw it. Now whether this is deism or pantheism I don’t know but it sang to me, motioned me forward.
For awhile, when getting sober I attempted to believe in a personal deity but the wild, sweet freedom of no personal god tempted me. Bidding the personal god farewell, I had the thought, no more than a thought, it was more a question and a certainty, “What if there is no god? What if we are solely responsible for ourselves?” It felt to me like the strings had been cut and I flew.
I have never forgotten that moment.
Shortly after this revelation, I rediscovered Buddha. He of the, “We all have Buddhahood within us, we all have the capacity to be enlightened.” So different a credo than original sin. As a very sick 17 year-old recovering from a bad mix of chemicals and lifestyle, I had read, “The Three Pillars of Zen.” I now, as a woman in mid life, returned to this view of the world.
I have always disliked the idea of Christian salvation, just be cleansed in the blood of Jesus and all that you did that was destructive is forgiven. I had always seen this as a shortcut, a way out of personal responsibility, a get out of jail free card. I had wondered just how long that card trick would play before there was a consequence. Thus, Buddhist practice made sense. You did the right thing because you were working toward clarity, no more greed, attachment, fear and therefore none of the destruction that comes with that human arsenal.
I still practice Buddhism, whatever that is, basically I guess the belief and practice of ‘do no harm.’ I am still not a theist or a Christian. That said, occasionally, with the rustling of the Aspen leaves at the edge of a far away meadow, I hear the call of what is far larger and more magnificent than I.
For R on 6/15/2020