Wheresoever Ye Turn: Spirituality (Or Not) After Christian Science

The following was submitted via email by ERG.

When I first left Christian Science as a 5th generation CS, I felt spiritually unmoored and went looking for a new religion. I flirted with various forms of Christianity, with Americanized versions of Buddhism and Hinduism, with astrology and veganism and “manifesting” and whatever stuff I found online or was recommended by somebody’s dubious life coach. They were dark years of empty searching, occasionally yielding something shiny, but nothing substantial. Everything felt too much like what I’d already walked away from.

Art was my first rescuer, even when I was still in CS. Music, story, acting and dance saved me, and later I found my way to humanism, agnosticism, atheism, some existentialism (and nihilism for balance), punk values and cosmic perspectives like Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot.” It was liberating to learn to tolerate and ultimately embrace the uncertainty and chaos of real life — to find beauty and dignity in the struggle — rather than spiritually bypassing it with magical thinking.

I love living in the real world now, but an unfortunate caveat is that my religious relatives, friends or colleagues (whether CS or not) often make the mistake of thinking my world view is small, plain and less-than; devoid of faith, hope, awe or excitement because it’s godless and disorganized. They couldn’t be more wrong. This is a frustrating reality of being an agnostic in today’s world, but it’s even harder to be Muslim or Jewish, so I keep it in perspective. But I do wish the Christians and other pushers in my circle would worry about themselves and stop trying to either pity or convert me. I’m open to anyone’s viewpoint so long as they don’t wipe it on me, but also the more I do the work of CS cult deprogramming and trauma recovery with skilled therapists, the more I’m comfortable hearing and heeding the wisdom of my own body over anybody else’s ideas including my own.

I don’t need a god to tell me to love everyone and feed the hungry. My stomach knows hunger, and my empathy recognizes and cares about hunger in another, human or otherwise. My own organism knows I must share what I have, knows I must care for others — because my very existence proves that others have *cared for me, that an unbroken chain of countless generations have survived and made my life possible. I don’t need religion to feel connected to something greater than myself, when myself is already proof of something greater. I can also feel my connection to nature, to music, to story, and to other people. I can feel the compassion in my own heart, acknowledging both my humanity and the dignity of all life on this planet. I don’t need a savior for any of this, I do it naturally by inhabiting my own body and trusting my instincts. There is more than enough wonder, magic and mystery in the plain old boring, messy, real world of chaos and love.

(*Obviously they could’ve cared a little more, vis-à-vis radical reliance, but hey…)

I’m not religious but if I was, I’d be somebody like Ibn Arabi, a Muslim scholar from the 1100s, who said: “Do not praise your own faith exclusively so that you disbelieve all the rest. If you do this you will miss much good. Nay, you will miss the whole truth of the matter. God, the omniscient and omnipresent, cannot be confined to any one creed, for He says in the Quran, wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of Allah. Everybody praises what he knows. His god is his own creature, and in praising it, he praises himself. Which he would not do if he were just, for his dislike is based on ignorance.”