Walking away from everything you have ever known is no easy feat. When the thing your walking away from is a religious tradition that you’ve known since your youth, the task becomes damn near impossible.
The Southern Baptist Church of my childhood provided comfort beyond my wildest expectations. When nightmares about death became consuming, eternal life removed the fear. When I went searching for purpose, youth ministry seemed like a reasonable answer. When the sinful ways of the world visited my doorstep, I found refuge and sanctuary in the hallowed halls of a wood-paneled church. On 15th St. and in the sleepy town of Frederick, Oklahoma, I found everything I thought I would ever need. Then something bigger than a church congregation of 100 fell into my lap.
Politics, religion, love, war, and terrorism sent me looking for answers in ancient texts and the words of those who promised to lead the faithful. The answers I found there were unsatisfying. Worse, most of the time I was told to rely on faith; something which I have never possessed much of in the first place. I found the sands shifting beneath my feet and things I would call myself in an attempt to make sense of this world began to evolve. My religious journey went from Christianity to Agnosticism to Humanism and now firmly rests on the exploration of Buddhism.
Over the course of my life, I have asked so many questions about the things I believe. More often than not, those questions have come back unanswered. Despite this, I have always found myself returning to my own abilities. For those questions about the order of the world and myself, Buddhism demands I find those answers internally. By beginning a journey to end my own suffering and centering myself, the world and the way it works becomes clearer.
Sitting quietly in deep thought or reading the teachings of the Buddha, I don’t come across endless lists attempting to shape me into something I am not or don’t believe. Instead, I work to end my longing, control desires, and discover ways in which I can be a more loving, comforting, and caring human being. A focus on these things allows others to slip away. I also don’t find an all or nothing approach. In Buddhism, I am allowed to find an angle that works best for me. Not believing in something doesn’t deny me the full experience. This is a refreshing approach to a religious tradition.
In Buddhism, I don’t find all the answers. Even those who are enlightened, I don’t think they would express a belief in some tradition pretending to have all the answers. Instead, there is room to explore, converse, and grow. As I sit and quietly meditate, this is all I can ever hope for when trying to make sense of a seemingly nonsensical world.
Be good to each other,
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