A Spiritual Search

A person's experience with Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Unitarianism

Posted Mar 30, 2016

PJPoSullivan, CC 2.0
Source: PJPoSullivan, CC 2.0

In an attempt to avoid the pontification and aridity of the how-to article, I've recently been embedding psychological and other how-to-do-life issues in short-short stories.

Today's offering tells of one person's attempt to find a religion.

When Angela was seven, her parents sent her to a Catholic church's Sunday school, selected because it was longer on peace and love than on fire and brimstone. But one day, Angela asked her teacher, "How come we have to spend a long time being burned in purgatory before we can go to heaven?" Angela didn't understand the teacher's answer. Instead, she worried.

In college, she had a Jewish boyfriend who, like most educated Jews, attend synagogue only twice a year, if that. She went with him one time and decided Judaism wasn't for her simply because services were two to three hours long, mainly in Hebrew.

After college, Angela took a yoga class. That got her into meditation, but she felt that all meditation did was give her a nap. And when she read Scientific American's review of the literature on meditation's benefits (they're very unproven,) she stopped meditating.

Next, Angela took a class at a Buddhist ashram and worked hard to be in the moment and to stand back and observe life's miseries as a way of insulating herself from them. But while both tenets were valuable, she felt her spirituality didn't fully reside there.

Then, she joined a Unitarian church and loved its sense of community and the idealism they preached and seemed to practice. Yet, ultimately, she felt "Unitarianism is liberal activism wrapped in spiritual garb."

Finally, she decided to return to a Catholic church, and there she stayed. She no longer believed in purgatory and could no longer "buy the loving God canard" in the face of deadly earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and the long painful death of her baby to cancer. But she enjoyed services and being involved in the church. Not only were the rituals comforting, she somehow felt that Catholics were her people. Also, she enjoyed being able to step out of her gray-area-filled life and hear sermons of relative black-and-white, good and evil, a reminder of the centrality of basic values such as kindness even if we don't always live by them.

The takeaway

Angela's spiritual landing place is different from many people's, certainly from mine—I'm an atheist who tries to be a secular humanist. But the question is your spirituality? Have you found yours? Do you want to? If so, what might your next step in finding it be?

The 2nd edition of The Best of Marty Nemko is available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at mnemko@comcast.net.