Trying to slap a label on your deepest, existential self can be as elusive as a Baptist in a liquor store. The monkey in my mind would run around shaking trees until it wore itself out. Here's a peek inside my mind before I finally came out as a None. I wonder if you've experienced anything similar...
And the teaching that suffering is simply the attachment to desire- that hits me between the eyes. Accepting the transitory nature of life is the key to liberation from suffering. Lord knows this revelation changed my life.
Am I a Christian?
Ok, yeah I was born into a “Christian” family, raised in a “Christian” culture, and know the ins and outs of this religion more than any other. I attended a progressive Methodist Christian seminary and have sampled many of the various denominations over the years.
Jesus was a spiritual badass. By studying his teachings, I’ve learned to love my enemies, forgive freely, and treat others the way I want to be treated.
But dang, the religion as it is widely known today TURNS ME OFF AF. I don’t want to be inadvertently associated with hatred, bigotry, racism, small-mindedness, etc.
So, am I a Christian?
Hmm, what are my other options?
Gosh, I know I’m not a Muslim. I mean, I’ve read a few books about the history of Islam but that’s not saying much. But I also know that I would not be the person I am today had it not been for the positive influence of some dear Muslim friends. So in that sense, I possess some Muslim influence.
There’s Almas and her tireless volunteerism toward the advancement of peace and tolerance amongst world religions and cultures. There’s Kamil and his wife Fadime who invited me into their home and graciously served a generous meal with unparalleled hospitality. I’ve worked alongside Iman Suleiman advancing interfaith dialogue in my hometown. His relentless message of love is one that all people need to abide by.
The Muslims I have known are pure-hearted, loving people. They’re just facing a severe PR problem due to the hateful fringe sects within their own religion and the hateful Christian sects who propagandize against all Islam.
Well, I’m definitely not Jewish by birthright. But there are a few critical things about Judaism that make me more Jewish than Christian.
For starters, it’s ok not to know all the answers. It’s ok to disagree. Thank G-D!
Nobody is actively trying to convert anybody in Judaism. Christianity’s opposite position (we’re right, you’re wrong, and we must convert you) never sat well with me.
And heck no, I don’t believe Jesus was God. Jesus was a dude. A very special dude. But not a god.
Is it possible to be a philosophical Buddhist?
I don’t observe any Buddhist practices but I LOVE the Buddha’s teachings about The Eight-Fold Path for correct living- something practical and organized, unlike Christianity.
And the teaching that suffering is simply the attachment to desire- that hits me between the eyes. Accepting the transitory nature of life is key to the liberation from suffering. Lord knows this revelation changed my life.
And it turns out that Buddha and Jesus are attributed to having many of the same teachings. (Thanks Thich Nhat Hanh for bringing that to my attention.)
So am I Buddhist? I don’t think I have the right to call myself that.
Learning about Hinduism taught me that it’s legit for thousands (literally) of expressions of God to exist simultaneously. These gods are mere symbols that point to something ineffable and transcendent.
Love that. And it applies across the board to all religions IMHO.
Maybe I’m an atheist. I mean, I don’t believe in a god-deity floating around out there somewhere who trifles in my existence per his/her/its whim. But really, you’d have to define “God” for me to know if I qualify as an atheist. I definitely believe in Something Greater than the sum of my parts– something powerful and regenerative that binds all Life.
Besides, atheists have a PR problem of their own, due to the angry, bitter, condescending stereotype. The atheists that I know personally don’t fit this stereotype at all. But it does seem that some atheistic public figures with the megaphones don’t help mitigate it either.
And no, I don’t want to be affiliated with that.
I suppose I could write in Taoist here.
After all, it was the study of the Tao Te Ching that liberated me from the Christian hamster wheel of waiting for life to get better. Taoism taught me to embrace the totality of reality, warts and all. Taoism taught me the nuance of paradoxical thinking and knowing. Taoism taught me balance.
Or maybe I should write in “Twelve Steps disciple.” After all, the years I spent going to Al-Anon taught me simple, practical spirituality.
Or Yogi. Yoga synthesizes my head, heart, and body.
And to make matters more complicated, I still look to Jesus as my main squeeze. That is who I know best and am most familiar with. But clearly, after going through this list, I’m getting some side action.
(At this point, I return back to the top of the form.)
So here I am again. Am I a Christian?
It’d be easier to say I am. Slap a label on it and call it a day. I won't risk being shunned by others.
But in fairness to those people who genuinely abide by their religious affiliations, and out of respect for my own personal integrity, I cannot call myself a Christian.
I observe the strengths and fallibilities of all religious systems, which really is a reflection of the strengths and fallibilities of humans. I see what unites humanity- striving toward Something Greater, seeking happiness, and yearning for meaningful, sustainable connection. The person I am today has been formed, to varying degrees, by many religious influences and people of all different world views.
There is not a label that describes this. In fact, the only label that fits is no label.
Therefore, I select:
Rachel Roberts is the founder of American None. Every now and then she's known to have a deep thought, usually in the most random places– like shopping for IPA and gummy bears.