I have a confession to make, one that a good number of readers will find disgusting and emetic and prevent many of them from reading further. Others, however, might relate or find it interesting regardless, and so those people will continue to read, which, I suppose, is good enough for me. You see, when I was a child, from a very early age, probably as early as I can remember, I felt all around me the “Presence of God.” It was and is, in all actuality, an impossible feeling to properly describe, but I suppose to some extent that I could say that I felt some sort of “immanent-transcendent energy” “flowing” through me and through my surroundings. Having lived in a rural area hours away in any direction from something resembling civilization, many of my childhood memories consist of me sitting in the backseat of a Toyota 4Runner driving somewhere else, usually toward civilization somewhere. And I remember looking out at the mountains, at the trees, at the desert, at whatever should be passing by my window, and feeling an innate, primordial connection with all of it. I identified with the entire world. Of course I wouldn’t have used those terms, exactly, but in retrospect, I think that’s the best I can explain it with my limited talent in this area.
Anyhow, as I got old enough and more finely initiated enough in our lovely American culture, the language I would eventually come to use was, “I can feel God’s presence.” Again, looking at it in retrospect, I, myself, felt divine, in a sense, as if I was part of something so vast and inconceivable and great, not separate from it. Yet, whenever someone spoke to me about Gahd, I didn’t recognize what they were speaking about from my own experiences. They spoke about Gahd as something far away, distant, judgmental, even rude. Not all the time. There were some people who presented Gahd to me as “loving” and “nurturing” and “merciful” and “forgiving” but these people were far and few in between, and quite frankly consisted primarily of my mother and grandfather, whom I believe probably felt “The Presence of God” to some extent as well. Most people, though, seemed to think Gahd was some dickhead somewhere foisting untold suffering upon his own creations for untold reasons. And when they described this Gahd to me, I couldn’t tell if it was my concept of “God” that was inaccurate, or if it was theirs. (Quite frankly, I didn’t have the self-confidence yet to simply acknowledge that my experience made much more sense to me.)
As I got older, the traditional definitions and descriptions of Gahd continued to make less and less sense, based on my own experiences. And as I read about Taoism and Zen and various animistic and shamanic traditions, I found that many of the experiences I read or heard about seemed to align to my own experiences much more snugly than all of the horseshit I heard from, well… Christians, mostly.
So the question to a lot of people seems to be: Am I a theist, an atheist, or an agnostic?
It’s a stupid question and when you’ve had certain experiences, an insignificant and superfluous one. However, it’s important to many people–of the utmost importance to many. A lot of people care about this kind of question. Others care a lot about whether I’m a “patriot” or not, or a “liberal” or a “conservative.” People care profoundly to know whether I’m in favor of “free-market capitalism” or if I’m a “socialist.” And so on. People really, truly, deeply care about labels.
This is nothing new, of course. I think a lot of us know this, and a lot of us think this kind of behavior and outlook is ridiculously silly. Nevertheless, as I get older, I realize that what people care most about are about those things they know jack shit about. The less somebody knows about something, the more they care about it.
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