Maybe I should have called this thread "Finding My Religion". But since the title I chose is the name of a song, I'll stick with it.

In actual fact, several times in my life, I've both lost and found my religion.

I'm still seeking.

This is an attempt to answer a challenge put by urbansun. But I'll begin not with my subsequent reflections and ultimate conclusions about my religious life (more about that later). Rather I will begin by sharing some of my religious history and key experiences.

I've shared some of these in other threads. But I did not want to go searching through all of them to cut and paste into an already existing thread. So I hope you'll forgive my self indulgence in devoting a new thread to me.

My mother was a Baptist. My father was a Lutheran. They could never agree which church to attend. So they rarely went. Their's was a passive Christianity. For a brief period of time, I lived with my grandmother for whom regular church attendance was mandatory. But for the most part, my exposure to the black church happened mainly around Easter and those other occasions wherein pageantry was the order of the day.

My mother instilled strong values. But I can't say they were overtly Christian ... and I was not discouraged from exploring other ideas about things. Not exactly encouraged. Just not actively discouraged. Being the library card wielding bookworm that I was, apart from the nuisance of school, the development of my intellectual life was largely unmonitored and self directed.

Very early on, around 11 or 12, I found what would be a lifelong pursuit and a prominent feature of my intellectual life: science ... physics and mathematics in particular.

It was through my early reading (Einstein in particular) that I first became inclined to a somewhat naive scientistic atheism.


stay tuned...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "I have not always been right, but I have always been sincere." ~ W.E.B. Du Bois ~~~~~~~~~~~
Original Post
My major exposure to Christianity happened in my midteens.

I had a cousin who was a Holiness minister.

We're talking store front urban churches, tent revivals on steamy southern summer nights, miracles, and speaking in tongues. For a few years he was a very big influence on my life. For a good little while, my life was spent in intense Bible study among men who called themselves Prophets and Apostles.

I still possess that leatherbound Bible, my name inscribed, which was a present to me from him.

I can remember one experience in particular. It was during a tent revival. People were dancing in the aisles, drunk on the spirit, and dropping left and right. I was standing somewhere near the back. But then came a moment that I still find very difficult to describe. I can only say it was like being struck by lightning - and no it was not raining. I fell flat upon my face and lay there dazed for what seemed like forever. When I was finally helped to my feet, there was just enough light for me to look down and see that I had fallen into a bed of fire ants. Yet when I arose, there were no ants anywhere on my person. No bites. No inflamations. No scratches. Nada.

To this day, I still have no rational explanation for that experience.

I've also learned not to share this experience with too many people- especially Christian women I'm dating. Several have gotten it into their heads that I have a calling from a God against which I'm somehow fighting.
Experiences like that are when the Ancestors or "Holy Spirit" get into you.

For use they are one and the same. But a better question is what was the result of that impact on you? It is obvious that you are not an atheist, nor do you strike me as agnostic.

I think your issue with religion are more biblical then 'religious'. Then just put the bible down, it won't do you no harm.
This Christian period lasted a few years. I can't say that I suddenly looked up and did not believe anymore. It was more of a gradual process.

Being the inveterate reader and searcher that I am, it was inevitable that I would begin to question the faith that I had acquired. I even picked up some Greek on my own. At least enough to follow books that I got from the library. Later, in college, as a mathematics and linguistic double major, I took a few courses in Greek.

I would go on to read Kant (the first critique) - and ran into the epistemological obstacles head on. Then Nietzsche. Many more books that made faith problematic would follow.

The unquestioning (at least unacademic) faith of my cousin would eventually become inadequate for me.

For many years, I was decidely unreligious. Not an atheist. It's more accurate to say that I acquired a more refined agnosticism that was obsessed with the problem of knowing.

For many years, I was more concerned with being a good mathematician than grappling with religion.

And then something happened.

A friend of mine invited me to a Buddhist ceremony. I wasn't particularly interested in Buddhism back then. But the friend was cute.
This ceremony was held in one of the major Tibetan traditions. It was for "empowerment" ... and dedicated to the Boddhisattva (goddess really) Tara.

I didn't quite know how to approach the thing. But I decided to take it seriously and approach it with a spirit of humility. I was informed that it was a good idea to bring an offering of some type. I chose a flowering plant - something living - though I forget what plant specifically.

I showed up with my plant and in my best clothes. I gave my offering at the appropriate moment and I sat politely (on my knees) through the ceremony.

It had two parts. The first was a purification rite. I can't remember what was said. What was chanted.

But I was taken by the thing. It was beautiful.

And then something happened.

About midway through the purification, I began to feel extremely ill. I got very hot. This in itself was odd because the temple was not well heated. It was winter ... and cold. Even inside the building. But I kept getting hotter.

Until, eventually, I felt like I had to vomit. And it just got worse. For awhile I wrestled with the idea of jumping up, running over a few folks, and going outside so I could relieve myself.

I was extremely hot - sweating in a cold room - and feeling sick to my stomach.

Then just as suddenly it ended.

And, soon after, the second part of the ceremony began. This was the "empowerment".

The group was told to imagine that we were being filled - indwelled - by an infinitely compassionate being. We were talked through the ramifications of what it meant to keep company with an infinitely compassionate being.

And slowly, I felt lighter than I had in years.

It felt as if all my cares had melted away. And it stayed that way for weeks afterwards. Sometimes I felt like I was walking on the clouds and my interactions with those around me were qualitatively different. I indeed felt like an infinitely compassionate being.
True to form, what followed was a period of intense study - which if I were a good student, I would NOT have done since beginners are encouraged to engage the practice ... and not the intellect.

But it went well and in many ways I found Buddhism to be highly compatible with the way I fundamentally view life. I had some problems with the religion. But they were more cultural in nature.

The intellectual problems seemed to be non-existent - unlike with Christianity.

I remember once reading the Lotus Sutra and, in particular, what would become my favorite chapter: the 24th.

In that chapter, you read of an incredible being. One who is infinitely compassionate and, as such, becomes all things to all people. He/She appears to people in the form that is most appropriate to the needs of the person.

At first, I thought this was just stupid. How can a single being appear as a male to one person and, possibly at the same time, as a female to another?

I soon learned that it was a mistake to read the Lotus Sutra too literally.

I went for a walking meditation soon after that first reading. It was in the botanical gardens of the place where I lived then. The practice was to walk and practice breathing and attention.

It was a beautiful spring day. I was walking along. Then I looked up and suddenly saw a little lizard scurrying along a branch overhead.

At that moment, it seemed like everything melted away. I felt an incredible unity. That's the only way I can describe it.

The lizard. The branches. The leaves. The sky. The wind. The clouds .... Everything ... at that moment ... was the same being.

And I was like, "So that's what it means?"



more later... stay tuned ...
This Buddhist period was and remains extremely important to me.

It allowed me to fully appreciate faith. For the first time, I was able to go beyond problems of knowledge to grasp the instrumental value of faith for living.

Buddhism was perhaps the best thing for me because of the way it tends to explicitly de-emphasize (especially in the Zen traditions) discursive modes of knowing, speculative theology, and propositional dogma. It also spoke to a religious orientation that I've come to realize is fundamental to my make up: Horizontal rather than vertical.

It was also during this time that I discovered the writings of Martin Buber who, from a different religious perspective, also struck a similarly deep chord.

At this point in my life, I would describe my agnosticism as a dynamic one. I am formally agnostic in regards to the epistemological issues. But I'm not as hesitant to embrace faith as an active way of living.

Lastly it was during this time that I became increasingly more socially and politically aware.


... stay tuned ...
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
Buddhism was perhaps the best thing for me because of the way it tends to explicitly de-emphasize (especially in the Zen traditions) discursive modes of knowing, speculative theology, and propositional dogma. It also spoke to a religious orientation that I've come to realize is fundamental to my make up: Horizontal rather than vertical.



HonestBrother, if I may ask a question here: Did you not feel like you "could" have horizontal before? I ask it that way because I remember posting a quote from a book in which the author stated that we do things in "religion" because we feel we "have to" verses because we "want to." I believe that we learn what we learn and we also UnderStand other people's ExPectAtions, so we tend to "feel like" we "have to" follow certain constructs in "certain ways"....

Spirituality that follows a God contruct is SUPPOSED to be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, backwards, forwards, etc.....

That is what the Path is....it is never straight.

"Wisdom Is A ThoughtFul Woman!"
quote:
Originally posted by ShayaButHer:
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
Buddhism was perhaps the best thing for me because of the way it tends to explicitly de-emphasize (especially in the Zen traditions) discursive modes of knowing, speculative theology, and propositional dogma. It also spoke to a religious orientation that I've come to realize is fundamental to my make up: Horizontal rather than vertical.



HonestBrother, if I may ask a question here: Did you not feel like you "could" have horizontal before? I ask it that way because I remember posting a quote from a book in which the author stated that we do things in "religion" because we feel we "have to" verses because we "want to." I believe that we learn what we learn and we also UnderStand other people's ExPectAtions, so we tend to "feel like" we "have to" follow certain constructs in "certain ways"....



It was not a matter of feeling like I had to do anything ... but believe in a lot of things that I could not believe in ... like virgin births, resurrection after being 3 days dead, etc. etc.

It's not that I didn't feel I had access to the horizontal dimension as a Christian. It's that I found the vertical aspect unbelievable.

In the end, I found the "God" construct unnecessary. In some ways, it was a serious obstacle for me.

IMO ... "God" is just a name for the un-nameable ...

JMHO.

quote:

Spirituality that follows a God contruct is SUPPOSED to be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, backwards, forwards, etc.....


I guess it CAN be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, backwards, forwards, etc.

It is possible. That was the sense I got from reading Buber - who was a theist.

But it wasn't for me.


quote:

That is what the Path is....it is never straight.

"Wisdom Is A ThoughtFul Woman!"



I guess I can't argue with that.
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
I can remember one experience in particular. It was during a tent revival. People were dancing in the aisles, drunk on the spirit, and dropping left and right. I was standing somewhere near the back. But then came a moment that I still find very difficult to describe. I can only say it was like being struck by lightning - and no it was not raining. I fell flat upon my face and lay there dazed for what seemed like forever. When I was finally helped to my feet, there was just enough light for me to look down and see that I had fallen into a bed of fire ants. Yet when I arose, there were no ants anywhere on my person. No bites. No inflamations. No scratches. Nada.


19

Since I have no other details, like what/who rules your ori, what rythmn was playing ect., and wasn't there... Sango/Shango/Xango/Chango perhaps? Although it could have been a number of energies... Orisas/Orishas/Orixas or Egunguns(deified ancestors)


quote:
To this day, I still have no rational explanation for that experience.


Actually, trance is a real thing... A.K.A. scientifically measurable.

quote:
I've also learned not to share this experience with too many people- especially Christian women I'm dating. Several have gotten it into their heads that I have a calling from a God against which I'm somehow fighting.


I can only imagine... lol
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
This ceremony was held in one of the major Tibetan traditions. It was for "empowerment" ... and dedicated to the Boddhisattva (goddess really) Tara.

I didn't quite know how to approach the thing. But I decided to take it seriously and approach it with a spirit of humility. I was informed that it was a good idea to bring an offering of some type. I chose a flowering plant - something living - though I forget what plant specifically.

I showed up with my plant and in my best clothes. I gave my offering at the appropriate moment and I sat politely (on my knees) through the ceremony.

It had two parts. The first was a purification rite. I can't remember what was said. What was chanted.

But I was taken by the thing. It was beautiful.

And then something happened.

About midway through the purification, I began to feel extremely ill. I got very hot. This in itself was odd because the temple was not well heated. It was winter ... and cold. Even inside the building. But I kept getting hotter.

Until, eventually, I felt like I had to vomit. And it just got worse. For awhile I wrestled with the idea of jumping up, running over a few folks, and going outside so I could relieve myself.

I was extremely hot - sweating in a cold room - and feeling sick to my stomach.

Then just as suddenly it ended.

And, soon after, the second part of the ceremony began. This was the "empowerment".

The group was told to imagine that we were being filled - indwelled - by an infinitely compassionate being. We were talked through the ramifications of what it meant to keep company with an infinitely compassionate being.

And slowly, I felt lighter than I had in years.

It felt as if all my cares had melted away. And it stayed that way for weeks afterwards. Sometimes I felt like I was walking on the clouds and my interactions with those around me were qualitatively different. I indeed felt like an infinitely compassionate being.


You soud particularly susceptible to trance/possession/communion via communal ritual... 19

I wonder what would happen to/for you(and can kinda guess) at an Ifa/Voudun ceremony and/or bembe?!...
quote:

ince I have no other details, like what/who rules your ori, what rythmn was playing ect., and wasn't there... but you did mentioned lighteninng... Sango/Shango/Xango/Chango perhaps? Although it could have been a number of energies... Orisas/Orishas/Orixas or Egunguns(deified ancestors)


Lil ol' me? Shango energy? Big Grin

quote:
Originally posted by Oshun Auset:
You soud particularly susceptible to trance/possession/communion via communal ritual... 19

I wonder what would happen to/for you(and can kinda guess) at an Ifa/Voudun ceremony and/or bembe?!...



It's funny you should mention that ... I've often thought the same.

And maybe I'll eventually get around to addressing the communal aspects on this thread.

I haven't been in too much of a mood for self disclosure as of late. sck
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
quote:

ince I have no other details, like what/who rules your ori, what rythmn was playing ect., and wasn't there... but you did mentioned lighteninng... Sango/Shango/Xango/Chango perhaps? Although it could have been a number of energies... Orisas/Orishas/Orixas or Egunguns(deified ancestors)


Lil ol' me? Shango energy? Big Grin


lol Actually, that is the most typical energy 'tapped into' on X-tian ceremonies. Africans in Amerikkka(and the Caribbean) are largely dominated by that energy.

quote:
quote:
Originally posted by Oshun Auset:
You soud particularly susceptible to trance/possession/communion via communal ritual... 19

I wonder what would happen to/for you(and can kinda guess) at an Ifa/Voudun ceremony and/or bembe?!...



It's funny you should mention that ... I've often thought the same.

And maybe I'll eventually get around to addressing the communal aspects on this thread.

I haven't been in too much of a mood for self exposure as of late. sck


I'll be waiting... Take your time... munch

BTW, the sweaty/sick feeling was resistance...
quote:
Originally posted by ShayaButHer:
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
Buddhism was perhaps the best thing for me because of the way it tends to explicitly de-emphasize (especially in the Zen traditions) discursive modes of knowing, speculative theology, and propositional dogma. It also spoke to a religious orientation that I've come to realize is fundamental to my make up: Horizontal rather than vertical.



HonestBrother, if I may ask a question here: Did you not feel like you "could" have horizontal before? I ask it that way because I remember posting a quote from a book in which the author stated that we do things in "religion" because we feel we "have to" verses because we "want to." I believe that we learn what we learn and we also UnderStand other people's ExPectAtions, so we tend to "feel like" we "have to" follow certain constructs in "certain ways"....

Spirituality that follows a God contruct is SUPPOSED to be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, backwards, forwards, etc.....

That is what the Path is....it is never straight.

"Wisdom Is A ThoughtFul Woman!"


Don't forget spherical and helixical. Wink Razz
fro @HonestBrother....I shoulda known you are a Buddhist...I always felt there was something very profound about you....and it had nothing to do with the fact you are math professor. Somehow...it all makes sense. Many of my collegues are Buddhists. In fact, a lot of whom were former christians.... Wow!fro
The funny thing is I felt very uncomfortable in the Buddhist environment. I can't explain exactly why except to say there is probably something of a cultural disconnect. Even now, I occasionally attend meditation sessions. It's something I should do a lot more often because it seems to always have a great and immediate impact ... which is far more effective for me in a group setting.

It was about the same time I discovered Buddhism that I also began regularly attending a Unitarian Universalist church.

I eventually joined.

Culturally it was much more familiar, given that UU services and congregational practices are for the most part mainline Protestant in form.

And I'm basically a Protestant despite myself.

In theory, I love Unitarianism. The intellectual freedom and willingness to experiment, combined with the respect for more traditional religious expression, was very attractive.

This was also a period of great involvement for me. I served on several church committees including sunday services and social justice. Through sunday services and religious education, I became something of a frequent speaker. And through social justice, I became involved with organizations throughout the area.

In many ways I felt like I had found a home. It was a great deal of fun for awhile.

I even briefly considered going to divinity school and into UU ministry.

But ...

There were other factors.

Also cultural.

Though there are a handful of African American congregations, Unitarian Universalism is a predominately white religious movement. Though I find its principles extremely appealing, the sociology of its congregations is another matter altogether.

I won't go into detail. But at a certain level, Unitarianism did not connect with me as a black man. In some ways, it was even anti-thetical to me as a black man ... though it felt like home intellectually. Which is really funny because in many ways I feel at home emotionally in a black Baptist service .. but intellectually completely turned off.

Mathematician. Ex-charismatic. Black man. I still have my leatherbound Bible. I still have my lotus seed prayers beads and Buddhist iconography framed on my walls. Black man. I still think about becoming actively involved in a Buddhist group. And I miss the UU lay pulpit. That was fun.

Maybe I really do have a calling from God? ...

But I'm still seeking a religious home.
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
The funny thing is I felt very uncomfortable in the Buddhist environment. I can't explain exactly why except to say there is probably something of a cultural disconnect. Even now, I occasionally attend meditation sessions. It's something I should do a lot more often because it seems to always have a great and immediate impact ... which is far more effective for me in a group setting.

It was about the same time I discovered Buddhism that I also began regularly attending a Unitarian Universalist church.

I eventually joined.

Culturally it was much more familiar, given that UU services and congregational practices are for the most part mainline Protestant in form.

And I'm basically a Protestant despite myself.

In theory, I love Unitarianism. The intellectual freedom and willingness to experiment, combined with the respect for more traditional religious expression, was very attractive.

This was also a period of great involvement for me. I served on several church committees including sunday services and social justice. Through sunday services and religious education, I became something of a frequent speaker. And through social justice, I became involved with organizations throughout the area.

In many ways I felt like I had found a home. It was a great deal of fun for awhile.

I even briefly considered going to divinity school and into UU ministry.

But ...

There were other factors.

Also cultural.

Though there are a handful of African American congregations, Unitarian Universalism is a predominately white religious movement. Though I find its principles extremely appealing, the sociology of its congregations is another matter altogether.

I won't go into detail. But at a certain level, Unitarianism did not connect with me as a black man. In some ways, it was even anti-thetical to me as a black man ... though it felt like home intellectually. Which is really funny because in many ways I feel at home emotionally in a black Baptist service .. but intellectually completely turned off.

Mathematician. Ex-charismatic. Black man. I still have my leatherbound Bible. I still have my lotus seed prayers beads and Buddhist iconography framed on my walls. Black man. I still think about becoming actively involved in a Buddhist group. And I miss the UU lay pulpit. That was fun.

Maybe I really do have a calling from God? ...

But I'm still seeking a religious home.


For my part, I think anyone who sincerely searches for knowledge of the Creator is led to it. I have confidence that you'll find what you're searching for.

"Whoso maketh efforts for Us, in Our ways will We assuredly guide him."
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
The funny thing is I felt very uncomfortable in the Buddhist environment. I can't explain exactly why except to say there is probably something of a cultural disconnect. Even now, I occasionally attend meditation sessions. It's something I should do a lot more often because it seems to always have a great and immediate impact ... which is far more effective for me in a group setting.

It was about the same time I discovered Buddhism that I also began regularly attending a Unitarian Universalist church.

I eventually joined.

Culturally it was much more familiar, given that UU services and congregational practices are for the most part mainline Protestant in form.

And I'm basically a Protestant despite myself.

In theory, I love Unitarianism. The intellectual freedom and willingness to experiment, combined with the respect for more traditional religious expression, was very attractive.

This was also a period of great involvement for me. I served on several church committees including sunday services and social justice. Through sunday services and religious education, I became something of a frequent speaker. And through social justice, I became involved with organizations throughout the area.

In many ways I felt like I had found a home. It was a great deal of fun for awhile.

I even briefly considered going to divinity school and into UU ministry.

But ...

There were other factors.

Also cultural.

Though there are a handful of African American congregations, Unitarian Universalism is a predominately white religious movement. Though I find its principles extremely appealing, the sociology of its congregations is another matter altogether.

I won't go into detail. But at a certain level, Unitarianism did not connect with me as a black man. In some ways, it was even anti-thetical to me as a black man ... though it felt like home intellectually. Which is really funny because in many ways I feel at home emotionally in a black Baptist service .. but intellectually completely turned off.

Mathematician. Ex-charismatic. Black man. I still have my leatherbound Bible. I still have my lotus seed prayers beads and Buddhist iconography framed on my walls. Black man. I still think about becoming actively involved in a Buddhist group. And I miss the UU lay pulpit. That was fun.

Maybe I really do have a calling from God? ...

But I'm still seeking a religious home.


It's funny that you say that HonestBrother...

I was just thinking about that early this yesterday and early this morning, with regard to you. What made me think about that was something I was working on with my friend who's completing the thesis.

We were talking about my belief that God actually wants Man to figure out His timing, meaning God's sense of what one day is....in the mathematical sense. We were discussing the fact that there is much discrepency about what is believed to be the real age of the earth.

Some science has suggested that the world is many billions of years old, while some take the literal translation sense that the world is only 6-7K years old. I know the latter reasoning is because of the recent discovery that the earth may have actually dealt with accelerated radioactive decay, rather than the previously assumed constant state of radioactive decay that helped to form the earth...

You can see this link for more information about that: The Rate Group: Radioactivity and the Age of The Earth

I have been researching many sites regarding the clarification of the age of the earth, as well as looking at why the scientific community stands by the previously laid out assumption that the current radioactive dating method is the real deal, knowing that the radioactive decay model is faulty in that we can not actually test this anywhere.

In any event, I think it is good to look at both sides of the "age" debate and try to determine the age of the earth, of the first man (African), and the first animals. If we can truly do that accurately, Man can "figure out" God's Timing, given that God gave us a model of His timing in Genesis.

I know that God wanted Man to know otherwise He would not have created scientists and mathematicians and artists, giving us all the KnowLedge to "figure it out"...

Revelations says that the KnowLedgeAble Man will be able to figure it all out...

So, I've been discussing this issue and others at length with others, like MySelf, who bother to ask questions and seek answers.

For instance, I stated before that I had non-traditional beliefs about the nature of God, creation and some of God's goals. I was talking with my friend (thesis friend) about the premise that I believe that God had a wife...not Jesus, but God. There are many reasons for my belief, with one being why would God create Man in His likeness and give him what God Himself did not have or at least have the ability to have?

In addition, when you read Genesis and Revelations, there are various constructs that allude to the fact that yes, God may have, in fact, had a wife....especially when you consider that He states in Revelations that He will not allow marriage in the New Heaven and the New Earth. Why would God say that marriage would no longer be allowed if He did not believe that marriage would not ultimately be beneficial? It seems that most Men that I know, who've been divorced (and badly at that) swear they will never get married again....so I have to wonder about this construct.

We already know He had a kid...and Mary wasn't that kid's first mother...lol, hence the Woman protected in the desert and the child snatched up into the Heavens (Revelations).

Sort of like Lilith, Adam and Eve in the Garden, huh??? hahahaha!

There is much more to my belief and others, but that is all I am going to say about that for now.

But before I go, this morning, I was looking at a site (and I am still looking at this site) regarding Creationism and the premise of Creationism Science...I think it is an interesting read for those who have a good scientific, mathematical and artistic background.

For You: Creation Science FAQ

I've come across several other sites like this that attempt to study Creation Science objectively (WITHOUT trying to tie the creation of the Earth to God) believe it or not...we'll see how that one pans out...

There is more to the Words we've been given and this is why I started what I did....

I will try to post a thread that leads one to the "Lost Books" of the Bible...I was tripped out because I actually found a lost book of Judas today!!! TRIPPED OUT! I will post that in my blog...

"Wisdom Is A Woman Who Tells (and thinks)!"

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