When I was a child, I was taught that one must not doubt faith. One must simply believe. If one experienced doubt, one was somehow sinning. Faith was not to be thought through. Thinking was in fact the enemy of faith as it is limited by the limits of human imagination. An open-mind was possibly the worst thing to have. There was no room for doubt. Just believe.
Ultimately, this was very destructive and lead to the unravelling of my faith. Thankfully, modern Christianity isn’t so strict. Today, it is quite okay – popular even – to have questions and doubts. Had I grown up in such a church, I would probably have very different beliefs today.
But I did not grow up in such a church.
Today, I no longer believe Christ is the way, truth and life. Not exclusively anyway. It is as a result of this lack of belief that I cannot call myself Christian. I feel like I would be doing a disservice to Christians who do believe in those words.
I do believe in God, but my idea of God is not the same as that of most people I know. When I hear people niggle over things like whether God was male or female, three or one… I feel like God is bigger than all of that and we are being limited when we think of God that way.
Ultimately, I believe that to understand God, one must understand love.
Love doesn’t really require books. Books can help, but if we live our lives with open hearts and minds, we develop an increasingly better understanding of what is and what is not love as time passes. We all come to know love, whether or not we can define it.
I do not believe that anyone who lives their life by love (and love alone, whatever their beliefs) will not achieve whatever there is to be achieved, be it heaven, higher existence, another life or whatever else exists beyond death and this dimension (if anything at all). This is why I don’t believe in the ‘way, the truth and the life’ statement. It does not ring true to me. I know people who – more than just being ‘good’ – live their lives by love. People who are not Christian. The idea that these people will go to a place called Hell just does not ring true with me at all. The explanation of the best of man’s ability not being enough and that something or someone needs to make up the deficit for us to qualify for higher existence does not ring true with me either. All I have is my conviction, and those ideas do not make sense to my mind, my heart or my soul.
I honestly do not know whether Jesus actually said all the words attributed to him (as I don’t inherently believe the Bible is the infallible word of God). I don’t know whether – if he did say those words – it is what he meant (Jesus seems deeper to me than that). I do not know whether – if he said and meant those words – he was wrong (as Jesus is – to me – only as much ‘God’ as any of us are: little creators who are simultaneously components of God and who have God inside us. I think he understood this and we have mistranslated him).
While I cannot call myself Chrstian, I can call myself a student of Christ. I read his words and try to make sense of them. I read what others have to say about him too. I read beyond Jesus (just as Jesus himself did). But most of my reading is on Jesus.
My being drawn to Jesus is not because he is inherently more compelling than any other religious figure but because Christianity is what I was raised in and is the language I am most fluent in. The vast majority of people lean towards the religion they are brought up in. I am no different from anyone else in this statistic.
Christ fascinates me however because he IS fascinating. To deny so (nothing more, mind) would be patently ludicrous. But I think he was a very deep and mystic individual whose words are not as perspicuous as many presume. So I try to study him and put him in the context of his time. I remember a feeling of relief that I am not alone in thinking this when I stumbled across the Wikipedia entry for the Historical Jesus (as opposed to the religious Jesus).
Ultimately, I think Jesus understood – like many before and after him – that everything boils down to love. The two commandments that he replaced the ten commandments with were both founded on love.
I believe in Love.
I believe it transcends everything. It’s this ‘God quality’. Aspiring towards it makes us higher beings. Not just in an abstract sense, but in a very palpable fashion.
Some achieve this through religion. However I feel like this is in spite of (and not because) of religion. I feel like religions as a whole are a well-intentioned attempt to get humankind to practice lives of love. Through practicing what religions preach, some people touch upon love in a very genuine fashion. Naturally, they attribute that to religion (when it is in fact just love). Many others however do not, as religions often twist the very simple and basic nature of love, strait-jacketing it in dogma.
There is nothing more important than love. To be a higher being involves striving to make love the motivation for everything you think and everything you do. Not just a love of others, but a love of yourself: the two must be balanced. I think all religions understand this.
More than a student of Christ, I am a student of love. I believe that Jesus was both a student and a teacher of it. But I do not presently believe that he was anything more than that (although it is possible that he was. Possible: not definite). I think love transcends Jesus and not the other way around (if you are Christian of course, God is love and Jesus is God so Jesus is Love. I don’t, so – at best – God is Love). This may change as I come to understand him more. Or it may not. I am open to either possibility. Ultimately, I imagine I will move past Jesus to study love not just in other religions, but beyond religion too.
Nevertheless, my not being Christian does not lower my esteem for Jesus (or the account of Jesus that we have received).