I have always had a relationship with religion in some form or another. It started off when I attended a local Jewish nursery, and consequently declared in various conversations I was Jewish. On some occasions I even claimed my entire family was Jewish! Without really knowing what ‘being Jewish’ meant, I used to just enjoy certain aspects of their rituals, like when we would sing songs at Shabbat, and one song in particular about Cholla (braided bread eaten on Shabbat) ending up in someone’s little tummy before it was time to eat.
At this stage I had not associated ‘being Jewish’ with anything to do with Religion or God.
Then I went to The Church of England primary school. So, for the next few years my religion was Church of England (whatever that meant!). We went to church across the road to sing hymns once a week during school hours. We also used to sing hymns in school assemblies. The only two which I enjoyed were ‘This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine’ and one which was about different fruits and vegetables called ‘Cauliflowers Fluffy,’ sung during Harvest festival.
At some point during primary school I started to take an interest in Buddhism and became a lonely Buddha on top of the Church of England mount. The idea of serenity appealed, as well as being a ‘wise one’ with great knowledge and wisdom to pass onto others. I also loved the notion of being an animal in past lives. To me that was the coolest thing ever. I used to spend many a walk home thinking of which animal would be the best to be and as such, what I would spend a lifetime doing.
Still, by this stage, even though I had spent time in a church, I had not really considered what religion was or what it meant to have a relationship with God. And so, even by the age of 10, I was still bumbling my way through religions as and when I took a fancy to them.
In secondary school, through Religious Education lessons, I learnt more about the origins, history and purpose of organised religions. That put me right off.
I saw how exclusive and separatist organised religions had been throughout the ages, and it did not take much research to find how much blood had been shed and how many lives lost in the name of religion.
I denounced religion, not just as a personal belief for me, but as a concept for humanity. I would have passionate arguments with people about the absurdity of placing your life in some book’s hands just because they thought it was written by a higher power. I found it excruciating to see that there were so many people that, at the time as a young teenager, I considered to be stupid enough to believe in something so utterly ridiculous as say, every species in the world (over a million) fitting on one ark built by one person. Or, that because someone once ate an apple, women now have labour pains and men have to do manual labour… I was like, give me the big bang theory to defend any day of the week!
That said, I of course now realise that people are not stupid, and certainly not those who hold a particular belief with God.
I spent years becoming more and more comfortable with the fact that this is it. That this physical realm we occupy is the limit of our existence – we are here by chance, one day we will die out and there is nothing more to it.
I grew so comfortable with this notion that I would ardently argue the case that once we die, we decompose and that’s the end, even though as a child I loved the concept of reincarnation as it felt extremely familiar to me.
I began attending courses and workshops run by Universal Medicine and although I loved the philosophical and scientific aspects on offer, I would squirm in my seat when anything religious or beyond physical would be mentioned, even when it was someone’s lived experience. This ranged from talking about God and all manner of Macro-cosmic topics which are to do with the universe, all the way down to the Human Spirit, Soul, Archangels and The Hierarchy.
Only recently, when on a walk with a friend of mine, did I realise what this issue with religion really was.
My friend spoke about what religion meant for her, and as she continued to describe it I found myself firing up and wanting to express so much about how I love to experience the same sort of things. These included waking up in the morning and being inspired to go about my day, knowing that I am bringing more to the world than just function; and that connection with my Soul and the feeling of knowing that I am being looked after and prepared for anything that comes my way which comes with that connection; the relationship I have with the universe and the stars, all that is constellated and provided for me when I cherish and appreciate all that is on offer.
Within the space of a 10 minute walk I was ready to claim that I am religious. And deeply so.
I realised that it is not actually that I have become religious in those 10 minutes, but what happened was my understanding of true Religion completely changed.
In those few moments I reconnected with a deeper than deep knowing that most of what we now call religion does not come from and is not of God. And so I managed to let go of everything the world has been accepting, therefore implying and saying religion is all the doctrines, bibles, churches, fear-mongering domination, cold seats, never-ending hymns, fear-based recruitment, preachings, as well as the key to the pearly gates and the doorway to God (but only if you give some money first) – peppered with wars, killings, money-grabbing and even child abuse.
I brought religion back to me, and found that there is not one ounce of the aforementioned included, that it is not about me talking to God or God talking back to me, but that Religion is about my relationship with me and ultimately with my Soul, the Universe and God. But not from some holy, top of the mount, sacrifice a lamb and you will see me in my true form kind of relationship. Instead, from a point of inspiration that I can feel where there is more to life than this physical body and this earthly world; that I have a Soul which is here to guide me, look after me and navigate me through life with the purpose of reuniting, being one with it; that there is a Universe which is full of order and magnificent reflections for us; that there is God, and that his beholding is not something to be believed in, but to be walked with in every footstep in order to be felt, and subsequently to be honoured and treasured.
I have felt what is possible when religion is lived in its true sense of the word, which is a kind of ‘greater than great life’ that I cannot and would not say no to.
True religion is for us all equally, it is specific for each and every one of us. This religion does not impose on what should or should not be. It offers space for oneself to be at ease. This religion for me is – The Way of The Livingness.
By Michael Brown, Maths Student & Retail Manager, United Kingdom