Complexity, by definition, is difficult to comprehend, so our minds often prefer to view life from a simper either/or or black/white perspective. I’m right, you’re wrong. This is good, that is bad. Rarely is life so cut and dry; in most cases life happens on a spectrum from black to white, good to bad, with all shades of grey in between.
Religion and spirituality are the quintessential examples of complexity, with beliefs and practices landing all over the black/white spectrum. Add in the diversity of beliefs even within those frameworks, and you now have complexity on steroids, maybe represented more appropriately as a rainbow, with all the shades of red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo and violet in between as well.
In the United States, we have an array of faiths represented, but with a majority of 70.6% of the population identifying as Christians, according to the Pew Research Center. Second place is surprisingly “nothing in particular” at 15.8%. Also well known, but in fewer numbers are other non-Christian faiths (5.9%) such as Judaism and Islam, with a sprinkling of a number of different faiths and beliefs (agnostic, atheist, liberal, and New Age) at 1.5%. I now affiliate with a liberal faith called Unitarian Universalist.
Though as a country we’re becoming decreasingly affiliated with specific religions, as a whole we’re still a country that believes in God and the importance of religion in our lives. According to Pew and a 2016 Gallup Survey, 71-79% still believe in angels, Heaven and/or God, though down about 10 points since 2001 when the Gallup survey was first started.
According to the Pew Center, 33% of people also state that they receive guidance from their faith. In a previous blog I cite anecdotal evidence about how others receive guidance, which seems to vary tremendously. In the vein of guidance-on-a-rainbow, undoubtedly some are on the vague-sensation side and others on a clear channel side, plus everything in between. I have to admit that my clear channel is likely on an end of the spectrum of this 33% that receive guidance. I’m thankful for the gift and still trying to learn what it means for me and others.
Though a vanishingly small number of respondents to the Pew Survey identify as liberal or New Age, a growing interest in the Eastern perspective of spirituality seems to be reflected by the increasing popularity of yoga and meditation practices. According to Pew, 40% of the population confesses to meditating at least weekly. Gaia.com, a respected resource for yoga and Eastern spirituality, talks about the metaphysical and what is probably considered by many as a New Age philosophy about our relationship with the divine. Gaia.com includes many resources on these topics, including how to contact your spirit guides, suggesting an expanding interest in such perspectives and practices.
All this talk about guides, angels, and God still feels weird?
I think what is weird is that we don’t talk about it, especially given the preponderance of beliefs about angels, God, meditation, and even guides to a lesser degree. Clearly we have a vast array of beliefs and practices. Misunderstandings are more likely to occur when\our beliefs remain shadowed in the dark of nondisclosure or when we require others to believe as we do.
It’s also overly simplistic to think that we should all be the same with regard to our believes and practices. We can get into big trouble when we start to feel we’re better than or worse than others whose beliefs and/or practices differ from our own. Unnecessary conflict tends to result when we “other-ize” people who differ from us. After all, what would the rainbow be without all its colors?
Due to the potential for conflict and the highly personal nature of the subjects, we’ve just learned to keep our mouths shut. No finger pointing, I’m guilty of this as well until now. With this blog, I’m hoping to take some of the mystery out of it so we can talk about it. Paradoxically, the mystery will remain, or even grow, given our conversation.
As when I originally started this blog, I started this phase as a way to deepen my learning and to hope that others share the journey with me. Both times, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’ve learned that we can never predict where the road takes us, and to define it narrowly risks us underestimating the beauty or impact of our destination. And what I have learned over the years is that my struggles and challenges are not unique; I share them so that we can learn from each other and ease the burden of the journey by supporting each other, even if you may judge me to be unhinged or ill-informed.
I guarantee that I didn’t raise my hand for this particular gift or journey. I certainly didn’t ask or wish for the losses that precipitated it. My prayer was only that I be of service for the greatest possible good and in the most authentic way.
I guess you should be careful what you pray for.