This area documents my survey of the world's major religions which I did a few years ago, when I was already aware that I was a Taoist by nature. Still, I knew that my education in this area was abysmal (by my choice, I'm sure), and I was really curious about it anyway! So, we have a series of web pages, corresponding to each religion I surveyed.
The menus are at the bottoms of the pages. The majority of the images are linked to much larger renditions of the same image, so check out any images you like! As far as the specific religions in the menu, I suggest you take them in left-to-right order, since this corresponds to their chronological development. Or jump around. Or do whatever. I'm glad you visited.
When I decided to do a decent-sized site on my spiritual journey, I figured it would be illustrative, and maybe even enjoyable, to provide the kind of analysis I've done to try and appreciate how my spiritual identity fits in with the other spiritual headsets of the world's people. The order of presentation of the world's religions is in approximate order of their widespread appearance on earth; it's nowhere near the order in which I looked into them. For me, once I started reading about Taoism, the search was over. Your mileage may - and probably will - vary.
I should point out here that whenever anyone asks me in what religion I was raised, I usually say "Protestant", which is the literal truth. Since my parents were not church types themselves, they had no denomination of choice, but knew that Protestantism was usually the least abhorrent of the common affiliations. So, whenever we moved to a new neighborhood, our new church became the Protestant church that was geographically closest to the house, reducing the time spent in our weekly ritual to an absolute minimum.
Actually, there was one part of the service I kind of liked. When we were still too young to attend the usual "adult" service, we were subjected to the "Sunday School" equivalent. There was no organ or organist for these mini-services, just a fairly decent upright piano and an old lady to pound out the requisite hymns, note for note, every week. Well, one day my Dad came to me and said that Mrs. Hymn Pounder wouldn't be doing her gig any more (I suspect her ticker couldn't take the excitement), and asked what I would think of taking over her duties. It'd be great sight-reading practice, and it even paid a pittance every week. So I figured, what the hell - most audience members were kids my age who didn't care how good it sounded anyway and my sight reading was just getting really good.
So, for 1-2 years - I forget the term - I became the church keyboardist, and would never know what hymns would be played until that morning - talk about performance under pressure! But I was right in figuring that my friends in the audience would get a big kick out of it, and when no adults were around, we'd occasionally render our own special lyrics to hymns whose words were unusually gakky - such lyrics to be composed during the first part of the service by a couple of young perverts who would finish the job, including photocopying the substitute words, by the first hymn, which occurred at around 20 min. into the very reverential service.
This was a very cool way to pass the otherwise boring Sunday mornings, until it came to a screeching halt one Sunday. It seems that several of the more starched young ladies in attendance took one look at our new words and immediately became hysterical - screaming, crying, wailing, yelling about the likely fates of our souls upon our demise, etc., and immediately delivered a set of the words to the pastor upstairs. He and the other adults were really no fun at all. Oh - I escaped his wrath by claiming complete ignorance of the lyric scam, because I had to practice the upcoming hymns, don'cha know.... but those other boys were just so...so...*naughty*!
So how did I actually become interested in spirituality? I was in college between 1968 and 1972 - it was the height of the Vietnam War, and the entire country, to say nothing of the college campuses, were intensely polarized. You were either a jock/fratboy/war hawk or were a hippie of some kind, totally against the war and the administration that waged it. *Guess* what I was...
Remember, I was in a great band that paid some of my way through college, and my hair fell below my shoulders. Of course, I experimented with most of the recreational drugs that were so prevalent - except alcohol. For some reason, I stayed away from alcohol like it was cyanide.
Once I did try alcohol, when I was around 25, there were a lot of stressors in my life, and it quickly became apparent that I was no match for that chemical. Within 6-7 years, I was in treatment. One of my first weekends there, the sponsor I'd chosen just before going in came to visit, and I expressed to him my frustration with the material I was reading there. It said that I had to turn my will over to a Higher Power of some kind, to stop running my life myself. I said something brilliant like "I really don't like this Higher Power stuff at all, you know?" Expecting some kind of commiseration, I instead got this - with a look that sometimes things aren't the way we want, but that doesn't matter: "Well, I guess at this point that's kind of tough shit, y'know?"
I was floored! He went on, "Here you just got your Ph.D. in a hard subject from a great university, got a super job, and look where your best thinking has gotten you! You're in a treatment center in the middle of the winter!!" Smiling, he softly added, "maybe it's time to let someone else take the reins for awhile. You really can't do too much worse...".
Slowly, with a boatload of work and with the help of innumerable wonderful people, I began to gain some insight into the insanity that had ruled my life, and started to see that all the areas I thought I was in such complete control of, had never been under my control at any time. I have grown to really love the freeing feeling of not being in control, because 1. It's an illusion anyway, and 2. Even trying to do it all takes way too much work and time that would be better spent on something constructive.
If you're interested enough to get through this section, you'll see how I never did develop a taste for organized religion, but am on a spiritual path that has me happier, more content, and more serene than I ever was even before I started drinking. I have done a lot of reading and research on spirituality and the efforts of the world's people to find their own individual paths, and if this planet is ever going to solve the problems that keep leading us back to the same errors, again and again, I believe it will require a worldwide awakening and fundamental shift in thinking.
The shift that needs to happen is for us all to become aware of, then thoroughly understand, the reality that we are all spiritual beings, each with the same power and energy. The appearance that we are all discrete entities, totally separate from each other in all ways, is nothing but a huge illusion that we all perpetrate and reinforce through the generations.
Our much-valued individuality, complete with its total separateness from all other living beings, is an illusion we cherish, with a tinge of desperation. Several well-designed and authenticated studies indicate that when people raised in Western countries are read a general description of the beliefs of Taoists, especially the reality that we are all part of the same energy, more connected than our thinking will allow, subjects' stress levels rose dramatically, regardless of gender.
More focused surveys and interviews with the participants determined that the thought of being essentialy "made of the same stuff?" crossed an intimacy boundry strongly defended by nearly all project participants. They particular detested the Taoist belief concerning death - that our spiritual essence joins the Great Tao, the Universal energy, from which different paths are available. Evidently, the thought of no more funerals, person by person, was too much to comprehend.