How times have changed. A few years ago I was a religious person. So much so I went on to study (ha!) for the Priesthood (Church of England). I was Ordained early nineties at Coventry Cathedral and became The Reverend The Stratfordian. To this day, I am amazed that an imposter like me made it that far.
It was not a particularly pleasant trip or indeed easy.
There was a lot of ‘Man in the Mirror’ stuff and a lot of confrontation with people. People, who although holding senior positions in the Church, should have spent more time looking at themselves rather than spend it, judging me.
I think it’s safe to say that my although problems, my doubts started the moment I stepped through the doors of Salisbury and Wells Theological College, I met some fantastic and unusual people and I have no regrets, although I sometimes wonder if perhaps it would have been better and saved a lot of people a lot of precious time, if I had never bothered. Who knows…?
I actually fought hard to go to theological college because I was under the naïve impression that if I got in that my so-called faith would be explored. That I would find justification. That I would find that God indeed does work in mysterious way and…and…he had chosen me. I actually believed that College would put the stamp of approval on my ‘Faith’. That there would be questions and finally answers that would make it OK to move forward. Sadly, I was very wrong. It wasn’t like that at all. To put it simply, College was an instruction manual on ‘How to become a Church of England Priest/Vicar’. Hymns to sing and prayers to murmur on the correct day.
Anyway, enough of that. Here’s something I recently came across, that sums up everything that I began to feel in those early days and proceeds to grow as I get older. I wish I had come across it then. I thought I was alone.
Did you know that when Einstein gave some conference in the numerous universities of USA, the recurring question that the students did was:
– Do you believe in God?
And he always answered:
– I believe in the God of Spinoza.
The one who hadn’t read Spinoza stayed in the same…
I hope this gem of history will serve them as much as I do.
Baruch De Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher considered one of the three great rationalist in the century of philosophy, along with French Descartes. Here’s some of him.
This is the God or nature of Spinoza:
God would have said:
“Stop praying. What I want you to do is to go out into the world to enjoy your life.
I want you to enjoy, sing, have fun and enjoy everything I’ve done for you.
Stop going to those gloomy, dark and cold temples that you built yourself and that you say to be my home.
My house is in the mountains, in the forests, the rivers, the lakes, the beaches. That’s where I live and express all my love for you.
Stop blaming me for your miserable life; I never told you you were a sinner.
Stop being scared. I do not judge you, nor criticize you, (you do not) anger me, nor bother me. (There is no) punishment. I am pure love.
Stop asking me (for) forgiveness, there’s nothing to forgive.
If I made you… I filled you with passions, limitations, pleasures, feelings, needs, inconsistencies… of free will, how can I blame you if you answer something that I put in you?
How can I punish you for being as you are, if I’m the one I made you? Do you think I could create a place to burn all my children who misbehave, for the rest of eternity?
What kind of God can do that?
Forget about any kind of commandments, of any kind of laws; those are wiles to manipulate you, to control you and that only create guilt in you.
Respect your peers and don’t do what you don’t want for you.
The only thing I ask is that you pay attention in your life, that your alert status is your guide.
This life is the only thing there is, here and now and the only thing you need.
I have made you absolutely free, there are no prizes or punishments, there are no sins or virtues, no one carries a marker, no one carries a record.
You are absolutely free to create in your life a heaven or hell.
I couldn’t tell you if there’s anything after this life, but I can give you a tip. Live as if there wasn’t.
As if this was your only chance to enjoy, to love, to exist.
So, if there is nothing, then you will have enjoyed the opportunity I gave you. And if there is, be sure that I will not ask you if you behaved well or wrong, I will ask you. Did you like it?… did you have fun What did you enjoy the most? What did you learn?…
Stop believing in me; believe is to assume, guess, imagine. I don’t want you to believe in me, I want you to feel in you when you kiss your beloved, when you (lift) your little girl, when you love your dog, when you bathe in the sea.
Stop praising me. What kind of egotistical God do you think I am?
I’m bored (when you) praise me, I’m fed up (when you) thank me.
Do you feel grateful? Prove it taking care of you, your health, your relationships, the world. Express your joy! That’s the way to praise me.
The only thing sure is that you are here, that you are alive, that this world is full of wonders.
What do you need more miracles for?
Why so many explanations?
Don’t look for me outside, you won’t find me. Find me inside… there I’m beating in you.”
Baruch De Spinoza