After freeing myself from the mental and emotional tyranny of force-fed Christianity, I started exploring other systems.
I became fascinated with the Kabbalah and the 72 names of God. Gnosticism, Santeria, Eckankar. My god, I was really into Eckankar heavy. Astral Projection. Never did get it to work. Maybe it was because instead of trying to explore the various levels of heaven I was trying to go to Jupiter and Saturn. Eckankar was working towards spiritual enlightenment...I was working for NASA.
Wicca, Satanism, the teachings of Aleister Crowley. The Order of the Golden Dawn.
I retrospect, I think my dabbling in the darker side of the occult was just an excuse to wear a lot of black and seem mysterious. An older guy I knew at the time told me chicks love a mystery man. He failed to mention that the babes aren't that turned on by a "mystery man" who gives off a creepy vibe and looks like he bites the heads off chickens when no one is looking.
My closest brush with Islam was when I read "The Way of the Sufi" by Idries Shah. I was REALLY intrigued with Sufism for a long time.
I also explored branches of traditional Christianity that were unfamiliar to me. I attended a Catholic church, a Unitarian church, an African-American church. That was probably the most fun. Strange white boy wandering into Sunday morning service, not knowing what to expect. I'd never seen a choir with a drummer before. They didn't even act like it was odd for me to be there. They welcomed me with open arms and handed me a tamborine. I went to charismatic tent revivals and watched people zone out and start speaking in tongues. That's some spooky shit.
There wasn't any aspect of mysticism or spirituality that I wouldn't explore.
At some point, I found my self falling in with the Jesus Freaks. Still not sure how that happened. I have a few ideas, though. For one, the Jesus Freaks were ok with smoking weed. After all, God made marijuana, right? If God made it, it must be good, right? Here brother, let me put a clip on that for you. Drinking wine was OK too. Jesus drank wine. Hell, Jesus MADE wine from water! Drink up, brother! Pass that goatskin and that doobie!
One summer I even found myself hitchhiking across the country with a born again biker named Mickey, preaching the gospel on street corners. We lived out of our backpacks, gladly accepted the charity of our fellow man, and carried our bibles in holsters on our belts like God's own gunslingers.
HOW TO MAKE A BIBLE HOLSTER
Cut the top (from the ankle up)off an old cowboy boot.
Stitch the bottom together with some buckskin.
Thread your belt through the loop at the top of the boot.
Insert standard size bible.
Our original plan was to head north, to Canada. Winnipeg. No money. No plan. Minimal equipment. The Lord would provide for those doing The Lord's Work!
We never made it out of the state. Got as far north as Marysville. We were camped out next to a lake. More of a small pond, really. The mosquitos ate us alive. We got up in the middle of the night, packed up our gear and turned ourselves into the police as vagrants.
They gave us a nice cell in the back and told us "You can do anything you want back here except smoke pot. You want to smoke pot, you have to out into the alley."
Next morning they gave us each a baloney sandwich, a cup of cop coffee and sent us on our way.
We decided to head south, down towards Coffeyville. My hyper-religious aunt would probably put us up, I figured...seein' as how we were doin' The Lord's work.
On the way, we got stranded in Warsaw, MO for 3 days. They were having their annual Jubilee Days Festival full of country music goodness. Everyone was coming into Warsaw. No one was leaving. Couldn't get a ride out.
There was a church in town that showed us some hospitality. Maybe a little more than they realized. I seem to recall us availing ourselves of some of the wonderful food found in their refrigerator. We may have even refilled our dwindling backpacks with some of it before beating a hasty retreat while thanking The Lord for his generosity.
We finally made it down to my aunt's. I think we were there for a couple of weeks before she threw us out. Something about not having a job, not trying to get a job, not helping around the house, freeloading, laundry, blah, blah, blah.
Clearly, she wasn't the pious saint that I thought her to be, misunderstanding us like that.
Seems like there was a religious commune in Manhattan, KS on the way back north where we stayed for a while. Then they started sounding a whole lot like my aunt, so we had to leave there too.
We finally made it home. School started back up and I lost interest in being a Jesus Freak. Mickey started backsliding like a bat out of Hell. Shot himself in the leg and had to walk with a cane. He died a few years later. He's buried in Orrick.
The thing is, every belief system I examined claimed to have a monopoly on The Truth. There is only one path to God...Our Path. Well, you hear that several hundred times from several hundred points of view and you start to question their veracity.
Seems to me that if there even IS a God, there are about as many ways to get to Him/Her/They/It as there are people trying to get there.
And that begs the question, is there even a "there" there?
If they all claim to be the ONLY way, then none of them can be the TRUE way.
There cannot be multiple paths to God who all claim to be the exclusive path. Both of those things cannot be true.
That means that they are all lies.
Which brings me to the definition of Faith.
Faith means, belief without evidence.
I tell you something. I offer you no proof whatsoever. But I expect you to not only believe it, but to live your entire life around it. That's faith.
I can't do that. I've tried and I've always known that I was lying to myself and living in a fantasy world.
Carl Sagan once had a very succinct analogy for Occam's Razor. It went something like this...the more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the evidence required to prove it.
For instance. If I say, "I was born in 1955 from a father and a mother and I'm alive today and talking to you right now", that probably wouldn't require much proof. You might be willing to take that "on faith" and assume that I am telling the truth.
But if I were to say "My real father, Jor-El, put me on a rocket ship and sent me to Earth just before my home planet of Krypton exploded and the rocket ship crash landed in Kansas where a kindly old couple raised me as their own. Oh, and by the way, I have powers far beyond those of mortal men." You might not be willing to accept that on faith. You might want a bit more proof.
I have a real problem accepting the existance of supernatural beings actively involved and interested in our daily affairs based soley on "faith" with no independently verifiable proof.
Stay tuned for Part 3.
You may ask yourself, how did I get here?
1 hour ago