Did some work on "The Line", but I don't think it's quite finished yet.
I once had a conversation with two members of a Christian fellowship at my junior college. While discussing the basis of faith in God I pointed out that many religions had texts far older than the bible, telling of their Gods and their laws, and asked why I should believe that the Christian religion is the one that got it right and that Christ is the only true way into Heaven. One of the men was very talkative and interested, but the other was mostly quiet. I was worried I had offended him when he suddenly joined in. He looked at me and said in a mildly bewildered voice “I just don’t understand. Everyday, in everything I do, I feel the Lord my God within me and around me. I feel the love of Christ, and I just don’t understand how you don’t feel it too. I don’t identify with you. I’ve crossed a line and I can’t see what’s on your side of it.”
I immediately thought this was bullshit, a way to get out of having to provide a logical argument to back up his ideas. Since when did having different beliefs from someone else mean that you couldn’t see their side of the story? But thinking on it later, I realized that I was, in fact, an idiot. People, myself included, do this everyday. It happens in everything we do, from the minor and inconsequential (“Charmin toilet paper is the only way to go!”) to the major and world altering (“Christ is the one true way to heaven!”). One may be particularly fond of Toyotas and have trouble understanding why some people prefer Fords. As an Olympic weightlifter, I just can’t figure out why every time I go to the gym I see dozens of people doing nothing but bench press and bicep curls. I have crossed a line, and I can no longer see what’s on the other side.
Everyone is searching for something better: A better car, a better house, a better partner, a better life. Most people are, in some way or another, searching for God, or a higher power, or any kind of proof that there is something else out there, something after this life ends, attempting to stifle their fear of death with the belief that it is not the end. Generally this faith is found in a Church or a Synagogue, or within the pages of the Koran or Taoist scrolls. Somehow the laws and structure of religion make it easier for people to believe – or at least to convince themselves that they believe. But this attitude seems to lead only the minority to what they’re looking for; the majority achieve only ignorance and intolerance.
Quakers believe that every single human being has a piece of God in them, and that religion of any kind is simply a way of locating that piece of God and getting in touch with it. They call this concept “inner divinity”. Aside from making the Quakers a pretty cool bunch of people – they were among the first abolitionists in the colonies, after all – this idea has spurred me on to realize something: Religion is simply finding the thing you are most passionate about, most in tune with, and staying with it. If finding God and building a relationship with him should make us ‘happier than anything else, and we are most happy when doing the thing we are passionate about, this notion could be considered nearly infallible. I rarely feel more complete than when I have my hands wrapped around the cold steel of a barbell, struggling and straining (and sometimes screaming) as I battle seemingly insurmountable odds. Sometimes I get the lift, other times I don’t – either way, I feel like I am as in touch with whatever higher power is out there (or within me) as I could ever be. A man who loves Toyotas may experience this feeling after spending a few hours in his garage tuning up his ever faithful ’91 Camry.
In everything we do, there is a line. We always start out by treading carefully right along it, like children pretending that everything on the sides of the line is hot lava – don’t get burned! But eventually the lava on one side turns into warm ocean waters, so blue and inviting, and we cannot understand what we ever saw on the other half. It is my belief that one side of that line, the side that calls to us and draws us on, contains that piece of God that can be found within each human being. Crossing that line, finding our passion, could be the answer to the eternal question: why are we here? It could be that our passion, our path to God, is the only reason. The beauty of it is, once we find it, it’s the only reason we need. With that knowledge, I can deal with the constant barrage of evangelists and preachers telling me that I need be saved and that Christ is the only true path to heaven. Good for them for having such passion.
I firmly maintain that heaven is a squat rack.