I remember around the age of 16/17 being asked by a friend at school whether or not I believed in God. I responded by saying that it would be crazy not to, but I did not believe in God in the way we are taught through the varying religions. So at one level I was saying yes to God but at another level I was denouncing all of the organised religions that I knew. I grew up having been to schools heavily influenced by the Catholic religion and whilst I liked some parts of the teachings, there were far too many discrepancies that I did not agree with and which did not make any sense to me.
This led me to the following conclusions about organised religion:
- I grew up thinking that religion was something outside of me, where I had to go to a church or a priest to have access. This meant sitting in a cold church on uncomfortable seats, listening to things that in the main did not make much sense to my life!
- It was something you had to go to on a regular basis. If you did not, you were seen as being bad.
- You had to renounce your sins and somehow they would be taken away at confession. This starts with the premise that you have sinned and are already bad. It also implies you can get away with anything so long as you confess it afterwards.
- That in order to be closer to God you needed to be a monk or a priest. This put God out of personal reach.
- You had Heaven, a state of nirvana or bliss to look forward to at the end of your life… if you lived a good life, otherwise you would end up in hell. This led to a feeling of always trying to do the right and best thing whilst not wanting to own up to or admit mistakes. It led me to try to be a perfect boy growing up – polite, attentive and not saying what I truly felt.
- You had to prove yourself in order to get to Heaven and that life needed to be hard and arduous. So I could not simply be myself, I was always trying to be someone else, someone better.
- That you would go to war over your religion. The sheer amount of bloodshed that has been caused over religion is inconceivable. We were told we are all equal, yet those who are not in the religion are perceived as sinners and will go to hell.
- Illness and disease are punishments from God. This takes away all responsibility for our own actions… leading to us blaming and resenting God and other people.
Now all of those can seem fairly obvious examples of what put me off religion but for me the most insidious one was actually being repulsed and turned off by the word religion itself, so much so that I would run a million miles away from it. When I came across The Way of The Livingness I found it very hard to accept the fact that it was about a religious way of life, and that I already am a deeply religious person. So whilst I struggled internally with this fact, although I knew it to be true, I began to feel how I had stopped fully claiming the relationship with myself, with God and with other people.
I have been almost ashamed or fearful of using the word religion because of its many connotations and so have shied away from using the word in my life. I have even shied away from really opening up about The Way of The Livingness to others, in case they may take it the wrong way. It is crazy in a world where we are led to believe in freedom of speech that I have stopped myself from speaking about the one thing that I hold very dear to my heart.
There are many tenets of The Way of The Livingness which cannot all be listed here, but here are some, which for me show the real and true sense of the word religion:
- Everything is within me, no one is greater or more special than I am.
- We are all the equal Sons of God and are born with a knowing of this fact.
- There is no building you can go to, to be closer to God.
- We are returning to the love we are and not going anywhere and so are able to live this love no matter what.
- Access to God or Heaven is not restricted – we simply have to make a choice to connect and live in a way that supports this choice.
- We are responsible for all of our choices and what happens to us.
- The doors are always open and no one is ever excluded or judged for their choices.
As I say the list can go on but more is not needed here – this quote says it all:
“Honouring the love you are in full and bringing that into full human life forms the basis of a new worldly religious way known as The Way of The Livingness.”
It has been a very freeing experience to no longer feel shackled by thoughts that say I am not religious. It is also very freeing to claim that everything I could ever want is already within me. This has taken off a lot of the strain and pressure of wanting and thinking that I need to get somewhere and then, only then, can I let go and be myself.
So yes, I can not only claim that I am religious, I can in fact state that I am deeply religious.
Do I shout this from the rooftops? No, for there is no need.
Do I need to convert people with my words? No, for they will see the way that I live.
Does it matter what anybody else thinks about me? No, for if I am living the love that I am then this is more than enough confirmation for me.
By James Nicholson BNat, Design Consultant, Frome, UK