three pieces of paper
I wrote things down on those three pieces of paper. I crossed things off. I spent hours staring at them and thinking. I didn’t talk to anyone about the whole thing, no one but Max.
He never once tried to convince me to believe something. In fact, he wouldn’t even tell me what he believed for a very long time. He would ask me things, questions I couldn’t just throw out an answer to, queries I would have to think about.
We talked about the nature of good and evil and what lies in between. We talked about nature and what is natural and by extension of that, what is unnatural. We talked about hate and fear and how it infects us and spreads, about how it destroys us.
Max gave me space to think about things I had not let myself think about in a long time, without expecting any specific answer. It was unbelievably freeing.
Six months after I started, I had a good start on those three pieces of paper. I was starting to know myself better. I knew more of what I did not believe than what I believed, but it was a start. I knew that I did not believe that any divine being would torment his creation for any length of time. I knew that I did not believe that anything I had ever done in my life was so heinous as to deserve torment.
But I was starting to get a feel for things I did believe too. I believed that there was something divine at work. I believed that human beings have a spiritual component that compels us to search out that divinity.
With my eyes a little more open, I turned once more to trying to find a place I belonged. Some part of me still needed validation, that I was “good” and that I was right and that I wasn’t alone.
I began with Christianity, because it was safe. It was familiar. I began researching the various denominations and sects, sorting through statements of belief. All that led me to was more confusion. And into maybe the biggest biblical research project of my life.
I dug through web articles and books on the history of Christianity. I had four or five versions of the bible spread out on my bed to compare passages, I nearly wore out my Strong’s concordance. I dug through Hebrew and Greek translations and discussions on the nuances of this word over that word.
Somewhere in the middle of all of that I had the thought that the bible itself was not divine. One would think that would have already occurred to me, but the divinity of that book as the breathed words of God had been so drilled into me I didn’t even realize I still looked at it that way.
I began to see the bible in sections. There was the section that told the story about an ancient people, and their approach to the divine, and how their belief shaped their nation. There was the story about this man who tried to steer his people from a legalistic view of their religion and back into faith and there was the story about how a new religion came to be.
Christianity, as a whole, did not fit my needs. I could not believe in the absolute divinity of Christ. I was uncertain of many other things as well. So I set all of that to the side and turned my attention to researching other religions. I focused on the big ones first, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism.
I researched and studied and thought about things. And through it all, I kept on writing, and crossing off, things on those three pieces of paper.