Presently in my life I have been engaged in a constant discussion about faith, my father’s insights often touch my soul. I am blessed that I am considered a good friend by people of different faiths and those without. My own personal journey has been quite colourful, born a catholic, turned atheist, then joined a Hindu cult, then a protestant group and now finally a Catholic.
I still cherish the sound teachings that had first attracted me to each faith and the lack of it. As an atheist I thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility aspect, we are in charge of our own lives and most importantly our choices. Unless someone puts a gun on your head and makes you do something, it’s a choice no matter how hard you disliked it. Accountability, I really liked that part.
In the Hindu cult, I enjoyed the concept of deriving meaning from mythological stories. Somehow it touched a chord; it triggered an ancient evolutionary process. The story itself was colourful and mesmerising and then the art of deriving hidden messages that gave you the ‘Aha moment!” was just splendid. The religion itself is steeped in ancient customs that somehow still managed to energise the chakras, and left you feeling exhilarated.
The Protestants on the other hand were an energetic bunch, so dedicated and passionate about their faith that I couldn’t help getting attracted to a life filled with purpose. Every morning was a new day; a new discovery to be made, a constant goal that kept evolving and I loved the whole momentum. The fact that we could feed off each other’s energy whilst generating our own and seeding others was just brilliant.
I decided to finally follow the catholic faith after researching other faiths, Buddhism, Islam, etc. I must admit that my research wasn’t extensive but enough to help me finally make up my mind. I realized that faith is a gift from God, providing you are willing to receive and nurture it, but religion is man made and highly dependent on your family, friend circle, society, culture and upbringing.
Let me elaborate using my own journey as an example, It was easy for me to be an atheist as I was a young science student and filled with questions that no one could answer. The concept that there was a God that allowed misery and we the blind sheep were supposed to entreat this unfeeling God with prayerful supplications basically defied common sense.
As a college student who was going through a rough patch at the hands of educated peers purely out of spite, I found refuge in the welcoming embrace of a new age Hindu cult group that spoke of tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness. Their love for life and every living being was such a welcoming change to the snooty cruel self-absorbed attitude I was accustomed to at my hostel. My disdain for money and those who valued it more than anything took root during this phase of my life.
As a young woman setting out to make my career I returned to live with my parents in Dubai, U.A.E. Muslim colleagues soon bombarded me with literature to facilitate my conversion. As an advanced member of my cult group I entered the organizational committee and soon discovered that money was indeed the core of everything. The love speech halted and turned into strategy and financial planning, albeit very transparent and honorable. I saw the stark reality of the romantic picture I had painted in my mind’s eye.
People were told exactly what they wanted to hear in order to lure them into a group that generated income by selling meditation, camaraderie, yoga lessons and supposedly enlightenment. All in all it is a good business, nothing wrong with teaching people to let go, live, sing and dance albeit for a reasonable fee that supported a community. Life coaches do the same thing on a smaller scale and charge astronomical amounts and benefit only themselves with the income. However, it wasn’t for me as I was looking for the truth, the path to self-evolution, not a song and dance distraction to help me live out my years on planet earth.
I spoke to a few Islamic friends and heard what they had to say about their religion and whilst I developed a deep respect for them, it didn’t take me home. That’s when I met a protestant evangelist, a powerful psychic who could read minds, see the past and foretell the future, gifts from the Holy Spirit he assured me. I was intrigued and more importantly lured by the promise that perhaps if found worthy I too could be blessed with such graces.
Sad to say money too was at the heart of his propaganda, and he literally thrived off the ‘donations’ made by generous followers. My tenure with him taught me a startling fact about the future, it is not set in stone. A person’s ability to choose brings about the biggest uncertainty to the possible time lines. I began to understand the question that drove me to atheism, why does God not interfere and stop the suffering? God’s gift of choice to mankind binds him and restricts him in making any changes or supernatural effects that could override mankind’s right to choose.
Suddenly the Lord’s Prayer made perfect sense, Our Father, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. We need to choose God’s will over our own, collectively to allow God to enact his miracles. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with love and respect for this unseen God, what a sense of justice, to stop oneself from interfering just because you have given your word not to.
For a split second I was transported to a world where honor, integrity, justice, and love was valued so highly. My head bowed with the realization that this unfeeling God was an honorable, ever-loving God of justice and suddenly I felt so worthless and regretted ever daring to question his righteousness. The verse from the bible resounded in my head, ‘Can the pot ask the potter what have you made?’
Long story short, I turned catholic after a brief experimentation with another protestant group that was more like a Christian rock concert, once again money being the central theme of everything. As I entered the Catholic Church after a sabbatical of five years, I felt as if I had come home. It felt familiar even though I had stepped into it for the very first time. That’s when I understood that everyone has a home, for some it’s a temple, to another it’s a mosque, to some a synagogue, but to me it’s a catholic church.
I felt my burdens lift away, I felt comfortable like I was returning home after a long trip. In many ways I had.