This post will not be a secular humanist’s manifesto. This post will not bash Christianity.
This post will not direct you to sign a petition, pay someone to think for you or inform you that your “negative thinking” is the cause of your problems.
This post will, however, challenge you to consider whether you have any personal power and if you are using it appropriately.
This is what I tell pre-schoolers on a daily basis. Life is about making choices. When it’s time to go outside and you want to test limits, you have two choices. In that instance, the choice is either, “You can put your shoes on or I can help you put your shoes on...”
And do you know what a socially and emotionally intelligent pre-schooler will do?
He will put his fucking shoes on!
I work with pre-schoolers, as well as teenagers and many of them have a higher emotional intelligence and social awareness than most adults who are involved in religious/spiritual pursuits.
Because when they are given a choice, they choose what empowers them… not what enables them.
But somewhere after childhood and adolescence, adulthood causes the soul to be unhinged from such simple lessons in self-empowerment. All those years of digging in the sandbox, un-freezing each other on the playground during a badass game of freeze tag, streaking naked after bathtime, building forts out of blankets, being a mall rat, arguing with parents about who should babysit the younger sister and staying up late studying for a chemistry test while thinking about the prospects of what we want to be when we grow up… and then poof! We surrender all our personal power and dive into this identity as a “spiritual” being. (Not saying it doesn’t happen in childhood/teenager years. In fact, when this loss of power starts in this age, as it did for me, it’s even harder to see how religion fails us.)
There have been so many times when I’ve heard the misuse of C.S. Lewis’ idea that we are not humans having a spiritual experience but spirits having a human experience. If we really understand that, then we ought to be focusing not on all these lofty beliefs that separate us from our humanity, but direct our attention instead to forming solid decision-making skills that make us, in fact, HUMAN. Let’s dive in. It’s apparently a temporary experience.
We are not 100% spiritual beings. We are social, emotional, financial, psychological, physical AND spiritual beings.
What religion does, in most scenarios, is try to divert the pure human energy into spirit-only energy.
You want to be connected – that’s healthy. It’s natural to relate to others. You are a social being.
You want to be loved and liked – that’s healthy. It’s natural to seek companionship. You are an emotional being.
You want to be financially stable – that’s healthy. It’s natural to “hunt and feed.” You are a self-preserving being.
You want to be physically healthy – that too, is healthy. It’s natural to seek wellness. You are a physical being and pain sucks! (And let’s add sexual. That feels GOOD and is natural too!)
Were it not for religion’s separation from the human condition, we would see all those healthy goals and work toward them not by giving money to church leaders/faith-based organizations, attending bible studies or creating co-dependent circles based on “spiritual” commonalities…
We would do what matters most: Make choices.
And yet, religion often focuses on the solely spiritual part of your being and therefore focuses on the things you cannot control and puts all those choices of your human experience in the hands of a spiritual being. (God will provide. God will heal. God will find me a mate. God will grant me three wishes if I rub him the right way like Christina Aguilera’s genie in a bottle? I just have to be “spiritual” enough?)
What I find most ironic is how Christianity, which was supposedly based on a spiritual Creator sending a human version of itself to EARTH, ends up being the number one enemy of the human condition. (For more on this topic, see The Freedom to Believe in Enlightened-ish). Soon after ”converting” to this faith, the human condition is considered less than the spiritual one… and the divorce of the self and separation of personal power begins.
My thought is, “If being human was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me dammit!”
Ironic but also quite tragic.
I find today that even “progressive” Christians move through life like a pre-schooler who cannot stand up for himself, process his own feelings or make choices that help himself.
Also, I find today that even “spiritual but not religious” people move through life in the same regards, assuming that if they just “think hard enough” good things will happen.
We do not “manifest” anything unless we are actually doing something, with our social, emotional, financial, physical and psychological selves, to make things happen.
This doesn’t mean that we are entirely self-made… but it does mean we are self-reliant.
Most of the things that ”God can do for us” are things that socially and emotionally intelligent children are eager to do for themselves.
And as a child becomes a teenager, all those things that “God can do for us” are things that socially and emotionally intelligent young people think they are going to do for others. (Altruistic and quite motivating in some ways, isn’t it?)
And by adulthood, somehow we morph into a monster of these two energies. We either revert back to being the center of our own universes, trying to force life to behave the way we can understand it…
Or we believe God/others will do it all for us and decide we cannot control anything.
What a cluster, huh? Let’s just be honest with ourselves and admit that if we do not start owning our shit and taking social, emotional, financial, physical, and psychological responsibility for ourselves, our children are going to end up boundaryless and powerless.
We have choices.
Let’s use them for our good and for the good of others.
It’s really that simple.
Will everything be successful?
But at the end of the day, we won’t be playing blame games with religion or suffocating our personal power. (Understand that I do not believe that religion is toxic at a base level. Furthermore, comparing religion to spirituality is often merely a semantics issue that I find as exhausting as the question of a “progressive” Christian vs. a “conservative” Christian. However, you can be sure I address it here.)
In the end, it’s about personal power and the healthy use of it… and a faith experience that does not deter you from making choices is a healthy choice indeed!
Choose wisely. Our children are watching… and our teenagers are taking notes.
Namaste, all. We are self-reliant, but we are in this together.
P.S. I just came up with a new summary for what my latest book, Enlightened-ish, is about – Let’s put it this way… if it’s time to have a spiritual awakening, you can awaken, or I can help you… if you are socially and emotionally intelligent, you will fucking wake yourself up!