I've done a lot of scary things in my life but very few compare to the day that I said out loud that I'm not a Christian. My relationship with Christianity has always been complicated. Going to church wasn't an option in my family when I was younger and being drug there every Sunday on the 1 of 2 days that I didn't have to go to school certainly caused me to be resentful towards it. But I've also always felt very connected to a higher power and religion often gave me something to hold on to when it felt like everything else was falling apart. My religion was very important to me for a very long time but not because I loved God or was devoted to her. On Sundays I would go through the motions and sing on the choir and give a dollar or two to the collection plate. But during the week, I pretty much did what I wanted to do. I would say "God is great…" before my meals and tried to say my prayers before bed every night just like I'd been trained to do but they were usually filled with selfish requests for myself to get more things -- not to connect with God. To be completely honest, the only reason religion was important to me was because I was scared. Scared of the world around me and all the pain and destruction and confusion and suffering that's here. But most of my fear came because I was scared to die. Because I believed the lie that there's this red man with horns whose sole purpose is to run around all day tormenting people. Scared because I'd been burned by fire before and the idea of having to spend eternity in a pit of it was too much to handle. Scared because I don't know how I got here, what I'm doing here, or what's going to happen to me after I leave. I definitely didn't realize it while I was in it, but fear is the only reason I clung to my religion for as long as I did. But something snapped inside of me when I learned that my mom was facing almost certain death and that the God who supposedly loved me allowed it to happen. All of the fear that I had of dying was replaced with anger. I no longer was afraid of being damned to hell or being punished or being left behind or whatever else. Nah fam, me and God needed to have some words about this and I wasn't going to stop looking until I found him to let him know that he had me fucked up. So I started looking -- not in my bible because I was certain that he wasn't there. Desperation led me to trying meditation -- something that I'd heard about before but likely would have never tried without feeling like I didn't have any other option. And through meditation I did find God and was surprised to find that she looked and behaved nothing like I'd been told she did.

You hear the phrase "God-fearing" in just about any church that you go to as if it's something to aspire to be. But why? Why does God, who allegedly is Love, want me to be afraid of it? If I came to your house and your children were afraid of you, I would immediately think that there's something wrong with you -- that you're abusing your children. So why on earth would our "heavenly father", who loves us unconditionally, want us to be afraid of it? I remember when my little brother had just learned how to crawl and my mom didn't want him going into areas of the house that she wasn't in. So what she would tell him is "don't go back there, there's a dog back in that room!" and when he wouldn't listen, she would start to bark and that would usually be enough to get him to turn around and scurry back to her in terror. She lied & used fear as a means of controlling him -- of getting him to do what she wanted. And what I've learned since forfeiting my fear of death is that the church uses fear to control us as well. But instead of a dog, it uses death or sickness or bills or demons or just general discontent with life to scare you into behaving the way it wants you to. I once believed that hate is the opposite of love but I've learned that fear is actually the opposite of love and that love and fear can't exist in the same space at the same time. I've learned that it's impossible to love something that you're afraid of so those that claim to be God-fearing don't love God at all. Yes, I loved my mother dearly but I can assure you that I felt 0 love for her when she whooped me for misbehaving. And I found the same was true for God. I only "loved" God when I felt like I was being blessed or favored. All the rest of the time I was merely afraid. I didn't love God, I was just afraid to die. I was afraid of what would happen if I didn't "love" God. And so to really know God, I had to give up the fear I had of him, and of death, and of hell. The day I realized that a heaven filled with the Christians I know would actually be hell is the day I stopped being afraid of both & truly came to know God.

I distinctly remember being in church on several occasions and hearing the pastor say something that I knew in my heart was a lie -- even as a kid. I remember contemplating the often contradictory messages that were being broadcasted from the pulpit -- in one breath telling me that God loves everyone unconditionally and in the next telling me that fornicators were going to be damned to hell. Speaking of hell, that's another concept that never really made sense to me. I've never been able to understand how a loving God could punish his own creations for eternity. Maybe because I'm a creative myself and sure, there are times when my creations don't turn out or behave the way that I intended them to but as the Creator, I understand that it's no fault of my creations because they are only what I made them to be. About a year after I learned that my mom had cancer I'd been meditating for a few months and was definitely beginning to feel more connected to a different God than the one I was raised knowing but I still clung dearly to my Christianity out of fear of not having anything else. It was then that a dear friend of mine presented to me a proposition that I honestly didn't think was possible until I heard it from her lips. She said that she loved Jesus and was very connected to Jesus but didn't believe that he died for her sins. This blew my mind! It was so difficult for my conditioned mind to understand how someone could love Jesus but not be a Christian. It definitely took some time but this little seed of wisdom she planted in my mind took root and I began to inquire why I needed a savior in the first place? Why am I not good enough? Because some woman that I never knew and don't even know really existed was misled by a very persuasive snake? What have I done that's so bad to deserve an eternity of suffering? After much deliberation, the answer I came up with is "nothing." If I had a nickel for every time I've heard the phrase "the devil is busy" whenever someone was confronted with an obstacle, I'd at least have enough money to move somewhere far enough away that the devil would never be able to reach me. It always confused me how God loved us and was all powerful but for some reason he allowed this other evil being enough power to punish, torment, and tempt us into doing bad things. I'd also noticed that often times when myself or other people blamed the devil for something it was usually something that could have been avoided had we just been more mindful or considerate. But we human beings hate to be accountable and are always looking for a scapegoat but when you stop and think about it, it makes absolutely no sense to blame the devil for your sickness if you eat trash all day everyday, don't exercise, and make other choices that lead you to being susceptible to sickness. Meditation made me a lot more mindful and a lot more reflective and I noticed that a lot of the things that I didn't like about my life were nobody's fault but my own. So one day back in 2015, I decided that the devil isn't a real. And if he is real, he looks a lot like me. And I promise you that I've had 0 encounters with the devil since having this epiphany.

Yoga and meditation introduced me to Hinduism and while I wouldn't call myself a Hindu, it's definitely the belief system that I feel most connected to these days.  Once I forfeited my fear of "putting other Gods before me" I started to study all the world's major religions and I've learned that they are all a lot more similar than they are different. I learned beautiful stories of Hindu deities that I feel just as connected to as I do to Jesus.  I learned about Buddhism, I learned about Islam, I learned that being a Satanist has absolutely nothing to do with worshipping Satan but fear would have prevented me from ever knowing that. I've learned that atheists are actually a lot closer to God than most of the religious people that I know because they're a lot more open minded. But the most important thing that I learned is that we all are searching for something greater than our day to day existence whether we admit it or not. We all want more answers about who we are and what we're doing here. We all want to know what awaits us on the other side of death. I held a lot of resentment towards Christianity and religion in general when I first "woke up" but I've since learned that this resentment was misplaced. We all are looking for God and we all are looking for the same one --it's just that most of us don't know it yet and that's okay. But what's not okay is judging others or telling them that what they feel, do, or believe is wrong. What's not okay is believing that you're better or higher than other people just because you belong to a religion. What's not okay is pretending to know exactly what God is and what God wants because you don't and if you did, you wouldn't be here. I definitely don't intend to speak for all Christians but in my personal experience, Christianity is more about belonging to a social club than it is about following the teachings of Christ and actively trying to love everyone unconditionally. This is in no way meant to imply that nothing good comes out of church or religion or Christianity because I don't believe that. I visit my bible more often these days than I ever have and I definitely believe there's an infinite amount of wisdom within. But I don't believe the bible was ever meant to be taken literally. And I do believe that over time some individuals have capitalized on the human fear of death as a means to get people to follow their beliefs and ultimately control their lives. I do believe that religion separates us and causes conflict between us. I do believe religion gives us an excuse to judge others and be righteous. And that's ultimately why I am super okay with losing it. 

I still love Jesus. I feel very connected to Christ and I think about him literally everyday. In fact, I love Jesus a lot more truthfully and honestly than I ever did back when I identified with being a Christian. Everything that I've been doing lately from Yoga, to As You Are, to this blog is directly influenced by my desire to live my life after the way Christ lived his. I would certainly consider myself a follower of Christ's teachings but I would not call myself a Christian. "So what's the difference?", you might ask. Well, I don't believe what Christians believe. I don't believe that Jesus died for my sins because I'm a wretch because I've learned that I’m not a wretch and that I don't need saving. I don't believe that "good" people go to heaven when they die and that "bad" people are damned to hell. I don't believe that a newborn baby that doesn't know up from down or right from left is a born sinner. I don't believe in condemnation and I've learned that Love is the absence of judgement and so the God I know judges no one and never will. I don't believe that God gets jealous or wrathful or angry or even happy for that matter but we humans took our own emotions and assigned them to God and assumed that she must feel the same things that we do -- like Zora Neale Hurston said "Gods always behave like the people who make them". I don't believe that "favor ain't fair" because the God I've come to know loves everyone equally and blesses everyone equally. I believe the idea that some are more blessed than others is an ego game that we created in order to put others down and make ourselves feel better by comparison. I don't believe that God only gives messages to a select few -- I believe that God speaks to us all equally and all the time, it's just that some of us don't know how to listen. I believe that righteousness is gross -- and that there's a big difference between purity and righteousness and most of the righteous people that I know are inwardly very ugly and impure. Do I know that I'm right? Absolutely not. If I've learned anything these past few years it's that I know nothing. Which is another reason why the church isn't for me because the church pretends that it knows the way. And maybe it does know a way but I’m certain that it doesn't know the way for me. My way continues to unfold as I continue in this life of mine and I'll have more to say on that as it's revealed for me. For now, one thing I'm certain of is that there is something out there that's bigger than me and that it does love me unconditionally and that's enough for now.

--@MichealSinclair

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