It's pretty easy to attack religious faith. After all, the stories you read in holy books are pretty far fetched. Those books are full of miracles and wonders and basically shit you don't see on a day to day basis. When was the last time you saw somebody walking on the water, or talking to a burning bush (besides Laura)? What makes things even harder to have faith are the holy rolling idiots who seem to think that the only way you can be saved is if you check your brain at the church door. Moreover, those holy books were all written long after any of those events took place. They have been translated hundreds of times, by hand, by people. And let's face it people, people make mistakes all the time. Remember when you used to copy stuff down in school? How well did you do?
There's the old joke about the priest who spends his whole life working with ancient documents and when he's really, really old, he asks if he can just have one look at the original document from which all the copies had been made. Hours later they find him in the vault weeping and when they ask him what's wrong he tells them, "celebrate! It says celeBRATE!" Mistakes happen all the time. On top of that, some of those translators had their own little axes to grind and their own agendas. So that makes some of the sources somewhat dubious. So how do you know what's real and what isn't real? How can you trust what's written in that oh so holy book that the bible thumpers are thumping all the time? My answer to that is that you don't have to trust it at all.
If the things written in that book were true two thousand years ago, they are true today. If they aren't true today, then it doesn't really matter whether the book is true or not. That book in which people put so much faith, is not all that old really. The final cut of which books would be included and which books would not wasn't made until over 400 years after Jesus' exit. And the emperor Constantine, a man far from either being spiritual or holy, had more than his fair share of influence on the outcome of that decision. As I have said before, you don't take that book as history, or as truth in the way an eyewitness account of something might be. You take it as a book of life-lessons. And you read the entire book as a whole and see the interconnectedness of all the stories. You see how one story relates to all the others. There is a lot to learn from that book. But you don't base your faith on that book, or any book.
I always like to point out that those guys who went around after Jesus and took his message out to the world did not have any bible to thump. And even if they did have a bible, what weight would it have carried in some foreign land where the God of Israel was a meaningless figure? What they taught was a message of faith, and that faith is the key to making things work, to becoming connected to the universal power, the Tao. What they said is that people are connected to God and that all they have to do to feel that connection is to believe in it. They said that the universal power was a never ending source of love and healing energy that binds us all together. And then they set about to prove it. And people believed. They believed because they could see the power. They could feel the energy in the men and women who brought the message, who were the message.
But it's so hard to trust in something without some kind of proof. And without even being able to believe the book, what can you do? I remember when I was taking acting classes in college. And every year we would have to go through a series of exercises in trust. One exercise was to allow a classmate to walk you around campus while you were blindfolded. You had to trust them not to walk you into any walls or let you hurt yourself. That was hard. But the most difficult exercise of all was the falling exercise. We had to fall backwards into the arms of our partner trusting that person to catch us before we hit the floor. No looking backwards. Just let yourself fall. That was so hard...the first time. But as you fell over and over, it got easier, because after they catch you time after time, you realize that this person is going to catch you.
That's why I like to remind people that the stories in the book point out that you don't have to believe without proof. Over and over, people in that book call on God to give some kind of proof and S/He complies.
The most famous of these is Thomas Didymus, one of the twelve. After the resurrected Jesus visits his pals in that upper room where they are hiding, and bids them take his message out to the world, he leaves. Thomas was out at the time. What a drag to be out of the house when something major like that happens! Anyway, when Tom gets home all the disciples say, Shit Tom, you shoulda been here. You'll never believe it. He was here. He was really here. He ain't dead. And Thomas says, Oh come on, you're shittin' me! But they say no, no, REALLY! He was here. And Thomas says, Look, I'm not going to believe you unless I touch his fuckin' wounds, okay? And bingo! Who shows up but Jesus, who says, okay Thomas...go on...put your finger in the hole, dude. Check it out! It's me. It really is. At which point Thomas falls to his knees (wouldn't you) and says, My Lord and my God. This is the story of the famous "Doubting Thomas."
And does Jesus slap him around for not believing? No. He tells Thomas that he is BLESSED because he has seen and believed. Now he does say that those people who believe without having to see are also blessed. But he doesn't say they are more blessed. Moreover, I might mention that Thomas originally refused to believe after having seen Jesus do some pretty amazing shit time and time again. Indeed, he had seen him raise other people from the dead. And I take a lot of hope from that story.
I am a lot like Doubting Thomas. I can really relate to him. I felt exactly that way about hypnosis and acupuncture and chiropractic. And I've still never been able to be hypnotized (probably because I lack the faith in it). And chiropractic never did anything for me but make me worse. But now, acupuncture, I have to say, did wonders for me. The practitioner stuck some needles in me and the pain turned off as though he had flipped some sort of switch. That made me a believer in that. And I used to feel that way about religion.
But now, I don't have any problems believing in God, whatever S/He might be. And I don't have any problems believing in Jesus, because I'm satisfied that that tomb was empty. But that doesn't make him the only holy man. And I don't have any problems believing in the power of this universal energy of love and healing because I have tested it again and again and again and it has always come though...always. Just like the person in my acting class. I have been caught over and over, and I have seen the power of God to heal the brokeness (just for you Brit) in people's lives. Because if the only power in Christianity is in those two thousand-year-old stories, then it's a dead religion. But it isn't a dead religion. It is alive and vibrant. The healing and loving power of Christ continues to work miracles everyday, maybe not miracles that are so grandiose and awe-inspiring as the ones in the book, maybe just those little miracles that go unnoticed, like a child showing loving kindness to a brother or sister.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Jesus is the only way to God. There are as many ways to that power as there are people. And whatever brings you to that source of creation is as holy as any religion on the planet. You know what? Don't even think of it as religion. So many people I know turn off to God because of religion. Give up religion and find God. Because God has a message for you. Everything is going to be okay. It really is. Nothing is going to happen to you that you can't handle. That's not to say that bad things won't happen. That's just the nature of the universe. But you can deal with it. No matter how hard things may seem at times. No matter how much some people may mistreat you. Even when things seem like they can't get any worse, everything is going to be okay. You have to believe that. Don't believe it? That's okay. Just try it out. What have you got to lose? The sooner you find out it's all a crock then the sooner you can get busy moving on with your life. But what if it IS true? Go ahead and test it out.
I mean, what have you got to lose? I think there are a lot of very “religious” people who are afraid to put God to the test because they are afraid they will find out that it’s all a crock. So they say they believe and go to church, but they don’t really put their faith into action. Imagine the incredible freedom you could feel after you finally quit worrying about shit, because worrying about shit never solved anything anyway. When you feel worry coming over you, you just remember the message, everything's going to be okay. What's the worst that could happen? You could die? That ain't so bad. You are not going to fall, because...God will catch you. It's okay to question. You have to question things in order to have faith. Otherwise, you just have dogma. Faith comes out of questioning.
The Bible is full of stories about people testing God. Time and time again, according to the book, God comes through. Gideon tested God three times before finally believing. And even then, he questioned every direction God gave him. God showed the Hebrews in the wilderness a pillar of fire, and parted the Red Sea (really, it was the Sea of Reeds), and rained food down from the sky, according to the story. But its hard to believe. Even that’s in the book. Look at all the shit those guys who followed Jesus around saw, and even then, they ran like scared rabbits after he was arrested. Even after seeing him raise others from the dead, they had a hard time believing he could raise himself. It’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to want proof. And the best proof you can have is trying it out for yourself.
The only thing is, coming to believe, seeing for yourself, can be life-changing. It was for Thomas. And it has been a life changing experience for me. And it’s not that I feel like reading the Bible all the time, or that I spend all my time down on my knees. Quite frankly, I don’t. But I do know that God is going to take care of me.
At one point in my life, I lost everything I had, my wife, my home, my job, my family, everything. But God saw me through that time. I know that I could lose everything I have again. And God will still see me through. I know that because that’s what God does. God gets you through things. And once you realize that, you’re free. That’s a life changing experience. So when you DO put it all to the test, when you do find out for yourself that God will take care of you, just as S/He takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, well then, you may just find yourself falling to your knees yourself and saying, “My Lord and my God.”