My Current Feelings on Religion

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For a few years, I was really pissed at religion. Not necessarily at religious people, I always understood that religious people are just like any other group of people, some are well-meaning and kind and others are power-hungry jerks. Most others fall somewhere in the middle, just like the rest of humanity. Of course, when you are angry at religion in general (or Christianity specifically in my case), those who believe in that religion tend to take whatever you say personally, as if you are attacking them rather than a belief system. I understand to an extent. When you are devoted to a religion, you struggle with any criticism of it because you find much of your identity within that belief system and you honestly believe that God himself will hold you accountable if you don’t defend him (that whole “whoever publicly acknowledges me before others” thing Jesus said).

So why was I mad at religion, and specifically Christianity? Mostly, a feeling of betrayal. I came to the conclusion through much biblical and historical study that the scriptures are not inerrant (and were somewhat put together by Rome for political purposes) and everything kind of crumbled after that. Without the belief in perfect scriptures, I found it impossible to believe much of anything because who knows which parts might be right and which are wrong? Logical questions also played a huge role in my de-conversion. For instance, why in the world would a being create a system where the only way he could forgive wrongs done against him was to send part of himself to earth in the form of his son and excruciatingly kill himself? Why the whole blood sacrifice thing? Isn’t that a bit barbaric and pagan actually? If God can do anything, why in the heck couldn’t he just forgive without something innocent having to be murdered? The more I thought things through, the more I felt betrayed because I had devoted so much of my life to these beliefs that now made no sense to me.

All these feelings haunted me and the more I concentrated on it, the angrier I felt and the more I felt duped all those years. I started listening to atheist voices (even though I was never an atheist, I consider myself an agnostic now). Some of these atheists I listened to were nuanced and considerate of at least some religious sensibilities, but some definitely were not. Through all this though, it is kind of funny, I still felt bad for some reason when Jesus was maligned. To this day I still nearly wince when awful things are said about Jesus. I guess old loyalties die hard. I still occasionally listened to my old Christian rock records too, just because I like them. I still prayed, sometimes desperately, just hoping if there was ANYTHING out there it would let me know. Unfortunately, no great revelation was made.

So that brings us to today…and how do I feel now? Rather unemotional actually. Yes, there are still parts of religion I dislike, especially when taken to a literal extreme. Yes, I still listen to Jars of Clay (my favorite Christian group) and still don’t really like Jesus being abused. I’ve come to the conclusion I just like the guy, whether he ever really existed or whether his story was greatly exaggerated, I still like the guy. I find that there are still lessons I learned in the church that apply and I’m glad I was a Christian for all those years. Without it, I doubt I would be as sensitive and caring about social issues and I simply wouldn’t be the same person. I cherish the relationships I made during those years and all the people I loved. I’m not angry anymore. I’m still firmly agnostic, but am always open if some greater force wants to contact me. You’ve got my number God, hit me up sometime.

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The Meaning of Age

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What is the meaning of age?

Is it wisdom?
Only if the time has been spent wisely.

Is it growth?
Only if given room and nourishment to grow.

Is it peace of mind?
Only if all has been found within.

Is it neglect?
Only if the choice is made to turn away.

Is it irrelevance?
Only if importance lies solely in fads.

Is it regret?
Only if wonder and honor are allowed to slip away.

On the Railway

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On the Railway
Written by: Maranda Russell

On the railway,
no one studies your face.
No grief is given,
but neither is grace.

The wheels are loud,
and the engine is hot,
bringing to mind
all things better forgot.

With the changing landscapes,
and nature’s colorful hue,
remember this thought
that will always ring true:

On the long ride back
from wherever you roam,
never return the same person
as when you left home.

The three types of human relationships as I see it

"Flight into the Dawn" watercolor painting.

“Flight into the Dawn” watercolor painting.

Maybe it is because of the logical thinking connected with Asperger’s Syndrome, but I tend to categorize most things in my life. Today I want to talk about the three categories I see in human relationships. This is somewhat from a spiritual point of view, since I myself am deeply interested in spirituality.

Category #1 – Neutral. This is by far the largest category of human relationships in my mind. These are people that enter our lives for various amounts of time but typically don’t make a big impression or change our lives very much. Some might call them acquaintances. There aren’t necessarily any negative feelings involved, but not a whole lot of positive feelings either. Neither party goes very far out of their way to deepen the relationship or get to know each other better. Hopefully each party wishes the other well and would not wish harm on them, but that is about the limit of intention. However, sometimes these people can show up in just the right place, at just the right moment and leave a lasting memory or impact.

For instance, once when I was visiting my grandfather in the nursing home, his roommate died with us sitting there only feet away. The death was unexpected and the man’s wife was there when he just suddenly died. Even though I did not know the woman or her husband, I instinctively went to her and gave her a hug and let her cry on my shoulder since no one else from her family was there to comfort her. So, even though we did not know each other and will likely never see each other again, for a moment, we connected deeply. It is moments like that which assure me that we really are all deeply connected, even if we don’t consciously realize it.

Category #2 – Gifts. In this category I would include any relationships that are positive and precious to us. Loved ones. Family. Friends. People who go out of their way to reach out to us, support us, encourage us when we are down and really connect with us on a soul to soul level. In many ways, these relationships are what make life worth living. Even when there are disagreements or differences of opinions, these relationships still radiate love and caring. Ideally, all families should be full of these kinds of edifying relationships, but that is not always the case. However, if we can’t find this kind of love and care in our family of origin, hopefully we can find it outside. I would include beloved pets in this category too, even though they aren’t human relationships. I think when most of us picture heaven, we picture sharing it with these souls that truly make our lives bright and meaningful. When people in this category pass away it is extremely painful, but in the sorrow we may find that a soul to soul relationship survives, even when we are on different sides of the veil.

Category #3 – Tests. This is the relationship category that is hardest to deal with. It ranges from people who just get under our skin and annoy the crap out of us, to betrayals by those we thought we could trust, to people who are truly malicious in nature and seek to hurt or even kill us. Although this group of relationships is the one least liked, it is often the one that teaches the most lessons. I truly believe that whether we want them there or not, these people come into our lives for a reason. Perhaps it is to learn forgiveness. Or patience. Or to learn when we need to stand up for ourselves and what we believe in. Sometimes these relationships can be severed and learning how to do so (how to remove negativity from your life) can be an important lesson in itself. Sometimes these relationships are unavoidable. If that is the case, be assured that these souls are in your life for a reason and learning to deal with them in the right way will help your soul to grow and may very well help theirs as well.

Of course there are some relationships that may move from one category to another over the course of our life. And there are some relationships that may fulfill different roles simultaneously or switch roles at different times depending upon the situation. However, I do think that all relationships have a purpose and are ultimately some of our greatest teachers.

Sometimes karma comes around sooner than you think…a personal story

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I’ve always found the subject of karma interesting. The whole what-goes-around-comes-around belief. You reap what you sow. To some extent I definitely believe this, although I do believe true forgiveness and grace can overcome negative karma.

Anyhow, today I want to talk about a personal experience of karma showing up a lot sooner than I expected. The story starts about 9 or 10 years ago when my husband first started working in special education. Back then I was young, still very much learning, somewhat more judgemental and sometimes just outright stupid. My husband would come home and tell me about the severely autistic kids he worked with. Some of these kids were exceptionally low-functioning and couldn’t speak or do much of anything for themselves. My husband loved them very much, but even though I am ashamed to admit it, I had some pretty negative thoughts.

Having never (up until that point) known anyone diagnosed with autism, I wondered what kind of lives these kids could have. Was it really worth educating them I wondered when some of them tried to eat their schoolwork rather than doing it? I am mortified to admit I was so ignorant and hateful, but I even wondered if they weren’t just a drain on society. Over time my views did start to shift, especially as I got to know more of these kids myself and spent time with them. It also amused me how as my husband worked with them more and more, he would laughingly comment that he thought I might be autistic. I thought he was joking. In a way he was, but in another way he definitely wasn’t.

Then came the day a few years ago when I read a book about a high-functioning autistic girl. I saw myself in page after page and was amazed. Here was someone so much like me! I saw myself in the sensory issues. I saw myself in the social issues. I saw myself in the stimming and the obsessive interests and the odd way of thinking about the world. Eventually, this led up to me being tested for autism and (surprise, surprise) I was autistic myself and always had been without even knowing it. I was one of those people I had once judged so harshly. Yeah, I might be higher functioning, but I have many of the VERY SAME issues! If that isn’t the irony of karma…I don’t know what is!

Now I am proud to say I am more empathetic to disabled people of all kinds. I stand up for the rights of others who get put down. I would be disgusted by someone who thinks the way I used to secretly think. I have grown and I am so glad…