No freedom from religion

I tried so hard to be an atheist.

I imagined there’s no heaven.
And no religion, too.

I failed.

At first I was enamored with atheism. No more moral rules, no god to tell me how to live my life, no escapism, just the here and now and objective reality. I wouldn’t have admitted it, but I felt superior, I had passed from religious to “spiritual but not religious” and finally graduated into rational reality. We talked about scientific studies, technology, reason, progress. We had so much fun being the smart forward thinking people of the future.

At first I didn’t understand how the feeling of emptiness was able to creep in, the hollowness of my mind floating above my body. Worse, I feel trapped once again. I no longer live within the confines of religious walls, I am not bound by spiritual ideals. My life has expanded and I have come to embrace so many new experiences that used to be taboos. Each of them makes me grow and feel lighter and fuller. And yet there is a new form of bondage that does not negate my newfound freedoms, but keeps me from growing further, flying higher. I’m stuck.

But then it strikes me: I am not free from religion at all. I replaced my first religion with rebound relationship with new age ideas, only to find myself in another relationship with religion again – the philosophy of rationalism. Oh sure, I am free to do as I please and say whatever I think. But each new discovery has to be validated:

“Are there any studies on that?”
“Where is the science behind it?”
“Can it be objectively verified?”

I find myself rebelling against this new epistemology. Not too long ago my experiences were doubted because “that’s not what the bible says.” Now my experiences are called into question because there “isn’t any science behind it”. I have relegated my understanding of reality to an outside authority again, one to which all knees shall one day bow.

The mantra is progress. Statistics, studies, numbers, showing that we are, in fact, evolving, becoming less violent, building a better world. There is an eschatological hope, too. Some of us may not die, we may live to see salvation in the form of the singularity. But I don’t believe the myth of progress and its eschatology terrifies me.

Clearly, it is time for me to part ways with a religion that believes itself to be above religion and embrace a reality in which there is no freedom from religion.

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About Annika Mongan

As a born-again Christian minister I set out to convert Pagans. But through years of traveling and studying I became alienated from fundamentalism and found a new home in Witchcraft. Today I celebrate being born again and again, a lifelong cycle of transformation. A few years ago I founded an intentional Pagan community in California and am now in the process of networking and building an eco village. I love getting out into nature. During rainy seasons I am an avid mushroom hunter, in the summer I enjoy hiking, swimming, camping, and playing music around campfires. When I am not busy doing interfaith work or volunteering for too many events, I spend a lot of time studying and writing about religion. My writing can be found at Cross and Pentacle on www.pagansquare.com and I write as the Born Again Witch on the Pagan channel at www.Patheos.com.
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4 Responses to No freedom from religion

  1. You make it all sound so doom and gloom. Maybe you should try thinking about spirituality outside of the rules. Disorganized religion.

  2. gypsika says:

    How did you get into my head, Angus? I am already plotting a blog post on “spiritual but not religious”. Especially in response to the article Spiritual But Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me by Lillian Daniel: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lillian-daniel/spiritual-but-not-religio_b_959216.html

  3. betoquintas says:

    rowlf… I was on this also. then I hope you also get the same point where I turn to pagan: you can be religious and objective. };)

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