life

Two Books That Mattered: Losing the Faith of My Fathers

I shared some of my personal journey towards Goddess Spirituality in a recent blog and want to fill in the next chapter for the inaugural #Thealogy Thursday. I want to note here that I believe there are many legitimate pathways to spirituality and faith; I don’t think mine is the only road that should be traveled. I do not intend to suggest a false dichotomy; many of the individuals I know who practice Goddess Spirituality incorporate it into their existing faith traditions.

Plenty of people who come from the same religious background as the one in which I grew up are happy and healthy in their view of the world and I see no need to challenge them. Unfortunately, the only picture that was painted of those for whom it wasn’t a good fit was that of rollicking, horny, intoxicated fools who were destined for the pit. I can assure you I am none of those things, not by choice but by nature.

Intertwining events marked my final journey away from the belief system in which I was raised. I attended a religious discussion group in which the topic of women’s role in the faith was raised. I was heartbroken to see good people, people I respected, come to conclusions such as thinking that it was in the best interest of female rape victims in antiquity to be married off to their abusers. For the first time, my conceptualization of the Holy Book of my people turned from being an idea that mankind had misinterpreted it to keep women in their place to awakening to the realization that, as I saw it, sexism was baked into the content of the book itself. All the misogyny and hypocrisy I’d witnessed growing up wasn’t a fluke or personal failing; I saw it cradled at the heart of the fundamentalist faith system.

The second experience occurred in the same time frame. I visited a bookstore—one of those used bookstores where there’s just enough filth and dinginess to convince you that you are taking a part of the person whose used book you are purchasing as well as the book itself home with you. I came across Merlin Stone’s When God Was a Woman. I know the historical accuracy of this book has been questioned, but it shed light into a completely different world for me, one where I wasn’t second class spiritually and where the body and soul of womankind also mattered. It would take a lot more living before it really settled in, but, for the first time, the voice of Goddess rose above a whisper for me.

I didn’t experience a lot of emotional upheaval during this transition, as it was mainly an intellectual reformation rather than an impulsive, feeling-based reaction. The primary change was the double-life I’d been leading—outwardly judging others morally while inwardly feeling acceptance of them as regular human beings—was no longer needed. I didn’t have to divide the world into believers and non-believers. I got to think for myself and experience relationships in all their humanness instead of a conversion contest. Best of all, I came to see that I have as much time and space as my lifetime allows to explore faith, belief, meaning, and Deity, and to then fashion my personal truth out of that experience. I believe everyone should have the same freedom.