I have been spending a lot of time focusing on the effects that various religious thought has had on my life. Originally, I had given into the belief systems of those around me. This had lasted for so long that I nearly lost myself. Eventually, I resurfaced and realized that I needed the skills to keep me from drowning. This was the effect of those early years which turned into a cause. Yet, as I picked my way through the matters of the doctrines and dogma, I soon felt the stones being tied to my legs. This was beginning to pull me down into the depths.
I soon discovered that it was my choice to continue on this path or alter my direction. It was my choice based on free will, so I took that step. This became a turning point. I took some time to reflect on that moment. I came to remember it as the epiphany of my religious understanding. The moment did not stop my search for the answers or fulfill my need to know more. I did not want to sink further into the mire. Instead, I was given freedom from the oppression and continued on my own path.
As I did this, I grew interested in finding others who could understand what it was that I had discovered. I knew that my spouse was with me after having a similar experience in relation to religious beliefs. Yet, I wanted to know if anyone else had come to some of the same conclusions. The search for this person or group of people was for the purpose to discuss and refine the thoughts and theories. I found something that surprised me.
The first moment that I found a group was one day when I was revising some points on my Facebook page. The religious views drop-down menu had many options, but I never expected to find Free-thinker or Hard core non-theist, but non-atheist. I never did care for such labels because no one should be put in a box unless they choose it. As I reviewed the options, I discovered what I thought was a typo. I had read much about Rastafarians, but I had no clue to what a Pastafarian was. I was soon to learn more about it because of that little drop-down menu.
In 2005, I found the answers to this new question. Pastafarians are the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster who is the creator of the universe and pirates. The movement essentially was created in a simple response from an Oregon undergrad in 2003 to an incident in Kansas. His letter was to the State’s Board of Education. It was their intention to teach Creationism as part of the science classes. Creationism would be taught as a theory along with Evolution. This letter was a request for them to also teach his theory on the creation of the universe by a pile of noodles with a pair of meatballs. It was a voice that expressed satire for this decision while designing a curious point for people to gather and discuss their ideas about the world and the universe.
Around this point, the ideas grew until the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was founded and formal religious texts were set down. The ceremonies and holidays were established including September 19. This day came from a curious legend in modern society. It was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The tone for this group of Pastafarians was set and the battle was on. Satire was soon questioned by those of other faiths and the words started to fly.
Of course, I was not interested in the battles as much as I was eager to find others who had seen some of the ridiculous contradictions of the religions. This was not a desire to gang up and make fun of them, but it became a deeper exploration of others’ experiences. I was completely fascinated and quickly identified with them. Perhaps I was more excited to have other minds to bounce ideas off. Either way, I had found something to share and acknowledged this following in my religious views.
So, I would like to invite anyone interested in a different point of view that is not out to strike aggressively at other beliefs to check out the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This discovery is not the end of the search for answers, but a way station for general fellowship. I belief that we all should take a moment to question what is told to us. We should all strive to experience and to understand our own beliefs.
As children, we look to our parents as guides and mentors. When we have an issue or question, we seek them for guidance through suggestions or aid in resolution. Parents who find a way to give their children this raising are among those that have done their job for the next generation. Providing shelter and nutrition is a given, but the molding of their children is the most important part of being a parent. It is our only path to immortality.
For me, my parents split shortly after my fifth birthday, so their influence on my life was quite divided. On top of this, a couple of step parents were introduced into the mix, so the ingredients were multiplied. However, I lived with my father and his new wife, which was uncommon in those days. My mother had rights to my sister and me, but for her own reasons, we only saw her on the occasional weekend.
My sister and I were raised in the environment of my father and his new wife and we learned that the worship of God was a central part of our lives. It was in a Protestant fashion as my father sought to find the right church for the fellowship that worked for him. So, many churches are tested and attended over the years until we settled into a church that was somewhat disconnected from the denominations of the Evangelical churches.
This affected my first twenty years as the doctrines were often the same in those congregations, but I found subtle differences. It was the practice in one church that only members were allowed communion. Or to become a member, baptism had to occur in that building. Another church worshiped without music or musical accompaniment, so the songs were sung a cappella. Different spotlights were focused on various details in order to support these doctrinal differences. It was often very confusing.
I attempted to satisfy the wishes of others in their beliefs and accepted what they were preaching, but my young mind was twisted in the labyrinth of hedges which were filled with thorns. As I have stated before, my hometown’s hierarchy was based on the particular church that one attended, so those doctrines became the structure of the town and its social context. I was left with an understanding of each as I had attended several. I had even reached the point when I was baptized six separate times. All this understanding should have left me with an advantage in such a construct, but it only worked to isolate me further.
At a later point, I will dive back into the idea of how these different views and doctrines left some scars that I continue to try to heal. For now, the primary purpose is to reflect on the swirl of so many different doctrines at a time when most are focused on a single system. In my father’s search for the right group, I became the beneficiary of a treasure trove of knowledge from many sources on the subject of doctrines. Of course, at the time, I was just a struggling teenager looking for a path toward a productive future. Headstrong and stubborn, I stumbled through high school as the awkward nerd with a few memorable moments of friends.
By the time I had reached the age of twenty, I was lost. I had no idea of what to believe, what to follow, or what doctrine was right. I began my search. I decided that the first twenty years would be the collection years and the next twenty would be the search for my own way. I stopped going to church. I left my faith in that institution behind. This turning point was marked by lost friends and connections that left because I would not join their church. My importance to them ended with my rejection of inclusion into their social group. I intended to use the next twenty years to find my own truths.
Those years are nearly over. The clutter of so many doctrines created in me a drive to find the answers. I entered college with the intent to become an engineer or perhaps a graphic designer. However, I had a chance to take a few religion courses in those first years. I thought that maybe I could find some truths in the histories of the different doctrines. By the time that I completed my degree, I had taken to the past with so much fervor that I earned a degree in Classical Humanities with a minor in Comparative Religions. I had learned the sources of the material and I feel that I am closer to the answers.
In fact, with the last year of my twenty year quest before me, I have actually started to touch upon the other religions of the world. I have come to learn more about the faith systems outside the Judeo-Christian based systems. Now the question is: Am I satisfied with the knowledge? No. I will continue to search, find, and acquire all that I can about these matters. The formulation of my own heart’s beliefs is nearly complete and I plan to share it with others.