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My Spiritual Journey (Condensed version)

This could have been my theme song 20 years ago.

A couple of months ago, I wrote and posted a fairly detailed description of the process by which I became a Unitarian Universalist. This is a shorter (somewhat revised version) that I read this morning in front of our church. (Link to longer version)

I was raised in the Catholic Church, and like many young people, I more or less accepted without question the basic tenets of my faith. The only problem was that I did not know very much about this faith that I believed. I knew that I was supposed to be a decent human being, go to church every week, fulfill the sacraments, and pray regularly for forgiveness and guidance. But I never read much of the Bible on my own or spent a lot of time studying Catholic theology, and this was fine with me.

Then I went away to college, and for both social and spiritual reasons, I became involved with various Christian groups on campus. Suddenly, I started to study in depth this faith that I believed but did not know much about. Over time, after wrestling with fear and guilt, I became convinced that certain Catholic Church doctrines and practices conflicted with the Bible. So eventually, I walked away from my childhood faith and was baptized as an evangelical Christian toward the end of my freshman year. Over the next five years, I would lead numerous Bible studies, go on retreats, read and outline the Bible from cover to cover, and even spend a summer on a missionary adventure in Africa. There was a problem, however. Once you allow yourself to question and reject your original worldview, it is tempting to go even further. I had already rejected one version of Christianity for another, but what if Christianity itself was untrue? Had I ever considered that possibility? Did it make sense to settle on a worldview as a twenty-year old, a world view that I had largely been conditioned to believe, without considering other options?

So even as I wholeheartedly devoted myself to various Christian activities, the doubts were always there. I tried to fight them off in various ways - reading books on theology, talking to Christian friends, prayer  – but they never went away fully. Fear and guilt, however, were strong forces keeping me in line. But when I graduated from college and lost close contact with my Christian friends, I was freed up to stare these doubts in the face. After hanging on as a Christian for a couple more years, I eventually concluded that Christianity was probably not literally true.

For the next several years, my wife Sangeeta, who went through a similar experience, and I were not involved in any kind of organized religion. Then something happened that caused us to revisit long neglected spiritual questions: we had our first child. And we both agreed – my wife in particular – that spirituality was good for kids. After a couple of years of pondering spiritual questions without taking any real action, our second daughter was born, and now it was time to get serious. We then turned to the source of all wisdom in our culture – the internet – in order to discover our religion. We found a web site where you could take a quiz that would supposedly determine your spiritual beliefs. For both of us, the test spit out the word “Unitarian,” whatever the heck that was.

So we turned back to the internet, and my wife found a web site for the “Unitarian Universalist Church in Fullerton.” She listened to a few sermons that they had posted, and they seemed promising. So, after years of hardly setting foot in a church, we set off for the good of the kids. There, to my pleasant surprise, we found a place with people who reminded me of me. This church was filled with other doubters and questioners, and instead of discouraging this type of behavior, they acknowledged and even celebrated uncertainty. What a strange concept. Here was a church that saw diverse views and traditions as a blessing rather than a threat. Finally, I found a church where I could actually learn something original from interesting, informed, and uniquely spiritual people. For the first time, I was truly proud of my church.

Our minister has used a great line many times that grows in meaning for me as time passes: “It’s not the facts that matter; it’s the truths.”  All religions, like great literature, express great truths through stories and metaphor. It’s the only thing that you can do when trying to explain the unexplainable. For years, I tried to find straightforward answers described in literal terms. I wanted certainty, but I never came close.

Personally, if I were the creator of the universe, I would have made things easier. I would have identified myself in some clear way and told people what to do. Of course, if I was the creator of the universe, there are a lot of things that I would have done differently. I cannot base my beliefs on how I think the world should be. I have to face the world as it is. And if religious metaphors are the best we can do, and if uncertainty is apparently unavoidable, then I need to embrace this reality and focus on what I do know: that I should do my best to treat others the way that I want to be treated. Spiritual attitudes and behaviors, not theological theories, are what matter. So I thank everyone in this unique church that meets in a temple for showing me through your deeds and words what spirituality is really all about.


  1. Great post! I am going to find out more about your church.

  2. There are a couple of Facebook groups for Unitarian Universalists. I almost put a link to my church on my list of recommended blogs and sites.

  3. My story is similar to yours, except I was raised "unchurched." I want to comment on your U2 video... Raised in the south, I love listening to the energy of church choirs, even when I don't care for the lyrics. Bono gave an interview that the lyrics for "Haven't Found..." were very much like a hymn and received an invitation from an African American church in Harlem to collaborate on a re-recording of the song. That version sends chills up my spine. The words come alive in it. I bet you can find it on that google-thing!

  4. I love that version of the U2 song as well.


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