My background is a very religious one: I was born into an evangelical and conservative Christian denomination. I was raised by devout Christian parents in a bible-thumping family environment. My 6 years of high school were in a junior seminary of a very orthodox Christian denomination. In my late teens and early twenties, I became a fire and brimstone evangelical crusader, started my own gospel crusade team, then traveled far and wide, preaching to thousands of people and converting them to my own brand of evangelicalism. At the young age of 23 I planted my first church, and grew it into a denomination with several branches in several cities. Over the ensuing 15 years, I was the organizational and spiritual head of this denomination in one form or the other. Along the way, I preached literally thousands of sermons, wrote several religious texts, and hosted hundreds of religious events.
As I look back at my religious background, and in spite of what was a very illustrious run in religious extremism, I must admit that I was anything but truly happy. In fact, for the most part, I was depressed, sad, and frustrated; because I always felt trapped. I felt trapped because I never really agreed with a lot of the things I was teaching and preaching. My heart and mind constantly rebelled against most of the stuff I felt forced to say regularly from the pulpit. I could see the contradictions, the lies and the sham, the gimmicks and tricks. I even became an expert in them —often loathing myself for not expressing what I really believed, and for not being true to my own inner awareness.
Why couldn’t I be myself? Why couldn’t I say what I really thought? Why couldn’t I admit what I truly wanted for myself? The simple reason was: I was afraid. I was afraid that if I dared to be myself, I would be rejected by others; by family, friends, supporters, and sponsors. I could not say what I really believed, because I was scared I would no longer be accepted by my religious kit and kin. Though I held very radical personal opinions that were diametrically opposed to the mainstream religious beliefs of the people around me, I could not dare to really express those views; because I was afraid of being rejected; that people would no longer accept me or give me their support. So I felt trapped, sad, depressed, and unfulfilled.
Of course, I’m no longer that way. Today, as you can sense from my writings, I think my own thoughts and reach my own conclusions. Nowadays I don’t care about what anyone thinks about me; other people’s opinions about me don’t matter to me anymore. And if there’s one word I’ll use to describe how I feel today as a result of the personal freedom I enjoy, it would be blissful. Which leads me to think that a major reason many people are not happy is because they are not free to be themselves. They are terrified of other peoples opinion, and scared of being rejected. So they live in bondage and unhappiness.
Yet, this degree of personal freedom—the freedom to think for myself, and be myself—has not come easy. Breaking out of the prison of my religious background, and staying free, has been the toughest battle of my life; but it’s been worth it. My experience agrees with one of my favorite lines:
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
~ E.E. Cummings
Furthermore, I agree with E.E. Cummings that society is partly responsible for this fear: From the very moment you stepped into this world, you were taught not to be yourself. Every time you attempted it —at home, in school, in church, in your workplace, and everywhere— you were severely chastised. And so with time, you began to associate being yourself with pain. It became an unpleasant experience. And so you learnt to pretend, to conform, to fit in. Along the way, you realized that whenever you conformed you were rewarded. So it became easier to do just that. Until you lost yourself. However, I still believe that it’s up to you to discover yourself and break out of this prison.
If you are afraid of being rejected by others, especially family, friends, supporters, and sponsors; if you are terrified by the prospects of not being accepted by a particular group, institution, or ethnicity— I sincerely hope that the thoughts I share here from my own personal journey will help you come to a place where you don’t care about what anyone thinks of you. I’ve come to the personal realization that human opinion is absolutely worthless; that this is my life and it’s up to me whether or not I will be happy. I came here alone and will leave alone. So my strengths, weaknesses, good, bad, ugly, mistakes, and successes are mine alone; they are none of your business. Think as you please and believe as you choose. But do not try to impose your personal views on me because that will never fly. If you choose to be a slave to human opinions and man made doctrines, that’s your privilege. But don’t expect me to have any fun with that. If I have to adjust my thinking, alter my style, change my behavior, deny myself, or pretend to be what I’m not, just to be accepted by others, then that’s not cool. I would never change who I am just to fit into someone’s mould. I am a free spirit; a free thinker. I’m free to live, and be happy, following the design of my Source from within.
I’ve rejected the dogmas of my religious background, ended my marriage with organized religion, and completely abandoned any shares and stakes I ever had there. Organized religion is a scam; and those profiting from it inadvertently end up as prophet-killers, and enemies of enlightenment and personal freedom. Today, I’m a mere messenger, sharing my journey of self discovery and personal freedom with anyone that cares enough to listen. Today, my personal beliefs are neither determined nor regulated by some manmade creed that was knocked into shape at some human conference or convention. Other people’s canons and interpretations of scriptures are no longer binding on me. Today, if I ever need to, I will consider all facts, observations, opinions, and so on from as many diverse sources as I choose to reference—with an open mind, of course. But I will never accept their spiritual or moral authority as binding on me. The God I worship, my own personal God, lives within me; His words are written in my heart; and I don’t need any manmade religious systems to experience Him.
Think your own thoughts, reach your own conclusions, and do have a blissful week!