I feel like my spiritual journey can best be described like Goldilocks. A girl wanders through the metaphorical woods and tries out all these different religions. I’m still trying to find the one that is “just right.”
I grew up Christian. I was never inundated with religion at home, but I went to a nice little Methodist church all through my formative years. I was active in the youth group and went on several mission trips.
I stopped going to church when the pastor changed. The new pastor was a bit too preachy and conservative for my taste. I tried to find another church I liked, but I couldn’t. So for the next two years or so, I clung to the ideas of Christianity without a community.
I could best be described as a progressive liberal Christian back then. I have a scientific mind and was working on an anthropology degree. I have been an evolutionist since my early teens, and I’ve always supported people’s right to live the life they want.
As I started studying more religions in my degree, I began feeling like Christianity didn’t fit. It was, in a sense, too small for me. I didn’t like the implication that only one religion was the right religion. In my typical fashion, I threw myself into researching the best option. For awhile I believed in some concept of a deity, and I believed different religions were just different paths to the same god.
Over the next couple of years, I saw religion constantly at odds with the social justice values I hold dear. I fell into the angry ex-Christian phase. I was some version of agnostic. Then a student of mine died, and I realized I didn’t believe in any deity. I just didn’t find the idea comforting. There was no divine plan, despite what people said about his death. He was a kid. He died because bad stuff happens.
So, since the definition of atheism is “lack of belief in the existence of gods,” I then spent quite awhile identifying as an atheist. On certain angry days, I was even anti-theist. However, I still believed in the concept of an afterlife. Even though the term atheist doesn’t preclude a belief in life after death, I found that this key point kept me from really being a traditional atheist.
Okay, was I Buddhist? Not all Buddhists believe in deities. No, I rejected the notion that life is suffering. Was I Hindu? No, they have too many deities. Was I pagan? Maybe, but some of that magic stuff just conflicts too heavily with my science mind. And most pagans believe in some form of god or goddess, if not a whole pantheon.
I ordered a book called The Elements of Pantheism. Pantheism is the idea that God is really just the Universe. In fact, many pantheists reject the use of the term “god.” Pantheism is a belief in the interconnectedness of people. Pantheism is the belief that we should be in awe of the natural world. Pantheism believes in rational, scientific thought.
“This is it,” I thought as I read. Most pantheists don’t believe in an afterlife, but some do. Some pantheists are even pagan or Buddhist.
But there’s no Pantheist Church. If I tell people I’m a pantheist, no one knows what I’m talking about. And I don’t even fit in with all the pantheists.
I’m trying to convince myself I don’t need a religious label, but yet I keep trying to label myself. Even Goldilocks needs a comfy chair to sit in, right? I have a feeling I’m not the only millennial who doesn’t fit into a religious box. I guess I’ll just keep trying the porridge until I find the right one or get tired of porridge.