After college, I became less strictly Christian and started to learn about other faiths. This is when I would have described myself as a Theist. And I was very attracted to the universalist aspects of Vedantic Hinduism, especially the words and life of the Hindu saint, Sri Ramakrishna. But, since there were no Vedantic temples in Pittsburgh, I took part in the next-best universalist option, Unitarian Universalism. However, the sect proved a little less religious-y than I was looking for.
Then I discovered Reform Judaism. It was in itself, very universalist. But it both had a strong religious character and obviously overlapped my former Christianity. I met a lot of warm and wonderful people. And I found that they emphasized ethics more than any religion I had encountered. But, deeper explorations into this thing called life led me further.
I dabbled in atheist writings, at first, to strip away all the human-created artifacts that were stuck to religion and find the truth inside. But instead, I started to believe that there really may not be any form of divinity, spiritual realm, or afterlife. The one thing that had long convinced me that there was a God was the complexity of the animal form. But after reading some books about evolution, I could totally understand how such a form could arise without divine intervention.
Well, years of atheism was both liberating, and depressing. I had long expected to become reunited with lost loved ones in the afterlife and live forever. But now it seemed I would never see them again and would eventually become part of the earth and eventually forgotten.
But last year, I discovered Druidry, and related spiritualities. It was after a cold and depressing Januray that I saw a poster on the train to work. It was inviting people to take part in Lenten activities in a local church. It made me think how much I missed the seasonal rituals in Catholicism. But then it made me think to look if there were any seasonal or nature-based spiritualities out there. So at work, I did some research and discovered Druidry.
Now at the beginning, I was still an atheist. And I certainly didn't believe in such mumbo-jumbo as magic, tarot, crystals, or dousing for water. But I believed I could still take part in nature and season-based rituals to feel closer to the earth, and more at peace. So I read many books, spent lots of time in nature, and fashioned a simple altar comprised of the primary elements and directions.
But further reading drew me to those mumbo-jumbo elements. I purchased a tarot deck and found that daily card pulls were somewhat poignant. Also, the writings of Scott Cunningham and Phyllis Curott oddly rational and convincing. So, I came up with a compromise that would not compromise my rational, skeptical, and scientific outlook. I would approach all things non-spiritual with the left side of my brain and all things spiritual with my right side. It didn't matter if all this mumbo-jumbo was real or not. I would enjoy it and appreciate it and benefit from it through the right side of my brain, and not worry nor make a judgement whether it was real or not.
Well, this went a step further. I started to believe it was all real. I spent more time in nature talking to and communing with deities and land spirits. And I was convinced I was receiving messages and signs that they were there and real. But I still needed a singular patron to which I could focus my devotion. And through a few more signs and messages, I believed my patron to be the Celtic goddess Brigid. And since she was a deity of fire, she was perfect, since I believed that element was the one that I was most lacking.
Well, Brigid never spoke to me again, the season changed, and my interest waned.
As I said, the interest returned. But as I also said, things are different. I do know that I cannot describe myself as one thing, I am still attracted to the nature-focus and ritual of Paganism. But I'm also attracted to the elements in other religions. I'm still attracted to the ritual an objects in Catholocism, as well as the ethical elements. However, I do reject the core beliefs about sin, redemption, eternal damnation, as well as its sexism and stand against homosexuality. I am still attracted to the strong ethical and liberal character of Reform Judaism, as well as it's rituals and objects. I'm still attracted to the writings, music, and rituals of Hinduism. Thus, my practices would consist of me a lot of meditation and rituals in home and in nature, with both neo-Pagan and Hindu objects, but may also include an occasional visit my local temple or church.
Also. This may seem odd. But I'm still a bit of an agnostic. I'm still not 100% convinced anything beyond what we can see or feel exists. I hope this is not the case. But I've gone back to my two-brain approach. An most importantly, I will try not to worry about whether the mumbo-jumbo is real or not. I may dabble a bit in it, and even talk to the deities, but neither make a judgement that they are there or are not there.
In this spirit, I am currently trying to give Hinduism another, and more serious, try. I've also become a devotee of Sri Hanuman, who I believe can help me draw closer to God. I'm also focusing more on loving God rather than trying to understand God, which is the way of Bhakti Yoga. And Sri Ramakrishna had a great way to describe such a path:
Why are you always talking so much about the various powers of God? Does a child who's sitting beside his father keep thinking how many horses, cows, houses and estates his father has? Isn't he simply happy to feel how much he loves his father and how much his father loves him?.... If you dwell so much on God's powers, you can't think of him as your nearest and dearest.... Think of him as your very own.That's the only way to realize him.