I wrote what follows to someone who had asked me to talk a bit about my faith journey. I don't know if it will serve much purpose for all here, but it may give some insight into the oddities you find from time to time. And it needs supplementation both anteriorly and posteriorly--which may happen in time.
I think I may have told you that I was raised Baptist up to a certain age when my parents stopped going to Church. They may have stopped going, but I longed to go. I continued to believe in God. In the woods behind the houses in our Neighborhood there was a Church. I often thought about sneaking out of the house on a Sunday morning and going there--but I never did so. I don't know why--perhaps because I considered my own parent's lack of activity in the matter an indication of how life was to be. I often wonder what might have happened if I had expressed this hidden interest. Unfortunately I did not.
I have several other things I could tell you about the earliest period, but I suspect it is the secondary period you are more interested in. When I started to go to college, I had a freedom to explore that was not possible to me at home. Curiously, unlike those around me, my freedom took the form of exploring faith and options in faith. I lived, at that time, near the city of Washington D.C., and the diversity around me was astounding. I started by going to a Methodist Church. The first time I went I found it locked and I thought that was rather odd, but it was what it was and I eventually spoke to the pastor. Mysteriously, the locked door of the church said to me enough about the view of faith that I determined not to go there again. It seemed to me that one should never be locked away from God. In my naive conception of faith and God, I equated the building, in some ways, with the presence of God. Obviously, there is some truth to this, but not the substantive truth of the reality of God. Nevertheless, I look back upon this episode and see in it the working of the Holy Spirit. This was not the place to which I was called.
About this time I began to look at Buddhism as a possibility. It had a certain appeal both from point of view of exotic and that it was "always" open. One needn't go to a temple to pray (and so I found it was for Christianity and other faiths as well.) My chief difficulty with Buddhism is that everything depended upon me, and I am so weak and so disinclined to act upon anything myself that I knew if samadhi and nirvana depended upon my own efforts, I simply would never make it there. Nevertheless, I learned some important things from Buddhism; things that stay with me to this day and aid from time to time in prayer.
Next I looked at Judaism. I had always loved the Jewish people because I was raised in my early school-years in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. From my earliest years I remember marking the year with the High Holy Days in September and October, the Passover in the spring, Purim, and other holidays. Because I am the way I am, I had determined that were I to become Jewish nothing less than strict orthodoxy would suffice. There is no point in going half-way to the stars. You end up in the middle of nowhere. If I were to observe the faith, it would be the faith of Abraham and the fathers in its fullness to the best of my ability to live it out.
Once again, it simply proved too difficult. I could not manage it myself. The halacha, to which I was introduced by a very kind Rabbi as a sort of preliminary was made up of 617 separate and individual regulations which were to be observed in their fullness. The difficulty with this is that those individual laws were amplified, explained and examined in literally hundreds and hundreds of tractates and midrash. In addition, much of the instruction required learning a new language. So despite the beauty and magnificence of the old Faith, I was simply not cut out for observing it. Once again, in retrospect, I see this as the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
I dabbled for a while in other things. I dropped by a Hindu temple a few times. And while the art and ceremony were intriguing, I simply didn't get it. I couldn't understand where everything was coming from.
Finally, I wound up meeting for a while with a group of Baha'i. I loved them dearly. Their home-church was a magnificent thing. In addition, the foods they ate after a fast were wonderful--dolmades, and couscous-like stuff, stuffed dates and fresh figs, baklava, and all sorts of good things (in the initial writing of this I forgot hummus, tabbouleh, and baba ganoush). And I liked the syncretism of the faith--all revelations are true and equal. But as I explored it more, while all faiths were true and equal, it repeatedly came to me that this was not, in fact, what they lived. If all were true and equal, then there would be no need to live the Baha'i way. It turns out that in this true and equal, some are more equal than others; and the Baha'i, which recognized the validity of all, was in fact, higher than all the rest, the final revelation, adding to what the Prophet had had revealed to him.
Thus endeth part one and if popular acclaim requires it, it may be continued. Don't count on it though.