Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. I John 2, 15-17
The World... I remember when it was evil. Not the planet, or the people that live on it, but the age itself. At one time, I saw everything around me as the culmination of six thousand years of Satanic misrule that would soon be replaced by the glorious "Kingdom of God", where the righteous would rule with the returned Messiah and the poor, stumbling, and misguided inhabitants of this dying world would be liberated and guided into a new and enlightened way.
From my mid twenties, until I was forty years old, I labored in a cult that held tightly to this conviction and believed that it would come to pass within our lifetimes. Practically everything I did was predicated on this belief and it would effect every aspect of my life.
Even after the church's original founder died, and a new administration took over, I was inclined to continue to follow its precepts. After all, by now, my entire reality and social fabric had been woven from its cloth. This is not to say I didn't have my doubts. I have always been a skeptic at heart but tried my best to fight against doubt, calling it a tool of the devil, because I wanted to believe, with all my heart, that it was true. I loved the security of "knowing" the "true" meaning of life, and threw myself with enthusiasm into spreading the "Good News" of the "Wonderful World Tomorrow".
My life centered around weekly Sabbath services, and bible studies, as well as many hours of personal prayer, study, and meditation. I chose to forgo such things as education, career, plans for retirement, and tried to put as much distance between myself and "worldly" relationships as I could. Instead, I formed relationships that were almost exclusively within the church. They became my true spiritual family, and the very thought of a partnership, or even a casual date, with a non-member was completely unthinkable. I chose instead, to use the first fruits of my labors to advance the cause of righteousness while eschewing most of those things that I considered to be worldly, and therefore sinful. I had willingly confined myself to a cloistered existence where every thought and action was to be filtered through this church and it's interpretation of scripture. Closing myself off from the rest of society, I became a slave of Christ, and I would spend many a year, flailing away with countless amounts of both time and treasure in order to prove myself worthy. However, it was not to last.
The beginning of the end started over a seemingly minor point: The age of the earth. The church taught that the book of Genesis was literally true. (Although they modified that slightly, later on) From their point of view, God had used 7 literal days in which to create the universe and as much as I tried to tell myself it was so, my rational, and skeptical mind eventually HAD to prove it one way or the other. For the first time, I began to look into science and it's relationship to faith in order to try to figure out what was true. The more I studied, the more convinced I became that we'd had it wrong but any attempt to get answers to my questions within the group were rebuffed. Now, with my curiosity piqued, I began to delve into the other tenants that I had held so dear to put them to a similar test. In addition, the church itself had begun to evolve in its beliefs which only further convinced me that I had been wrong all this time. Eventually, I was suspended from the church as a non believer and was finally forced to leave the group all together.
I began to study earnestly and in time, the light of rational thought began to seep in to my mind and I began to think outside of that tiny theocratic box I had been confined to for so long. Dogma was replaced by reason, and the arrogance of absolute certainty by the humility of genuine doubt and questioning. Yet in spite of throwing off the shackles of doctrine, and the precepts of a dead faith, I continued to struggle for more than another decade with these things, while in a marriage to another former cult member that would eventually fail as well.
It's only been in the past three years or so, since I have been completely on my own, that a true awakening has come. For the first time ever, I feel completely free. I am no longer putting off the things of life in order to wait for a paradise that is not coming. I no longer look for signs of the end, but rather for sign posts that point the way to the future. The thick veil of irrationality has been rent asunder and I have broken the chains of ideology. I have been liberated!
As exciting as freedom is, it is also scary. The questions of immortality, the reason for my existence, and the very important question of why things happen the way they do, are all lost upon me now, as I suppose they are for most. I feel as though the many years spent in the church have left me socially maladjusted and intellectually stunted, and there are times when I miss that way of life terribly. There are also those times, when I feel lost and so eternally lonely that I can't even begin to find the words to describe it. Yet in spite of the loneliness, and ambiguity, I would much rather grope uncertainly in the light of reality that walk with assurance through the darkness of superstition.