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The Importance of Asking 'Why?' in Our Spiritual and Religious Beliefs

Author: Taylor Ellwood [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: June 1st. 2008
Times Viewed: 4,644

When I was 16, for a short time, I became a born again Christian. I went to an Assembly of God church with a friend and ended up being "saved." At first I felt like everything I had been looking for had been given to me. I know longer felt like I was living a life devoid of meaning. In my new spirituality/religion were all the answers and a divine being that had saved me from my sins.

However, as time went on, I found myself asking questions that couldn't be answered by a holy book or by the Christian God.

I remember when I found the first question I wanted to ask. My friend was the son of the pastor, at the church I went to. His family and I had gone to a mall and I picked up several fantasy books to read.

Later, back at their house, my friend's father took me aside and told me that reading those books was putting sinful thoughts into my mind, because they were about demons. I thought this was fairly strange and wondered why reading a book determined if I was sinful or not.

Later that night, I went to sleep and was told the next morning that I had started yelling and cursing in my sleep. I didn't recall this at all, and I'm a fairly light sleeper.

I realized my friend's family had lied to me, possibly as a way of trying to get me to conform to their beliefs, which made me question why they would go to such lengths, to the point that they committed a sin themselves, just to try and get me to conform to what they felt was true.

As time went on, I realized that the answers I had thought I had found in their beliefs could really only be found by myself. The answers they had access to weren't my answers. In fact, their answers seemed to be dogmatic. I found out about magic only a few months later and quickly realized I had found a spirituality that encouraged questions, answers, and seemingly open-mindedness.

One of the most important lessons I learned from that experience was to ask why. I wanted to know why these people I knew felt compelled to lie to me in the name of a god that told the that lying was wrong. When we don't ask why, we give up a very important tool in our spiritual life, namely critical thinking.

Critical thinking is an important tool because it provides us with skepticism. We need skepticism to maintain a healthy relationship with the spiritual beliefs and religious practices we engage in.

When we don't question these beliefs or practices, when we don't ask why, we risk falling into fundamentalist beliefs, and worse we risk compromising our personal principles.

It may seem contrary that a person would compromise personal principles by following a spiritual and religious practice, but as any cult survivor will tell you, sometimes you end up sacrificing your sense of self and personal principles for what you are told to believe. When we blindly follow the tenets of a belief system, we no longer question where everything dictated in that belief system is something we should follow.

This can be taken to some very unhealthy extremes, to a point where because a person feels that a deity or guru or person of spiritual authority has told him or her to do something, s/he has no choice in the matter. Or rather s/he has a choice, but if s/he doesn't do what the spiritual authority tells him/her to do, there will be bad consequences such as loss of health, loss of loved ones, or even the loss of life.

This causes me to wonder if a spiritual authority told such a person to jump off a cliff, if the person would in fact jump off that cliff because the spiritual authority told him or her to, or if the person would actually ask the deity the very important question of why.

Asking the question of why is really taking a step back from any situation and putting some distance between yourself and that situation so that you can examine it more objectively. Asking why is employing critical thinking skills, and more importantly claiming your own sense of empowerment by asking not only the deity, guru, priest, or whoever why you're being asked to do something, but also asking yourself why you think you're being asked/told to do whatever it was that was asked/commanded of you.

Another, equally important question to ask is: What am I supposed to learn from this situation? What are the lessons here for me? This question is all too easily ignored sometimes, because a person can become so focused on the external environment and on what needs to be accomplished that actually taking time to experience what is happening and then reflect on it via meditation is forgotten.

Yet meditation of some form is essential as both a way to connect everything that has happened, and as a way of critically examining what's happened in a mindful way so that the lessons can be fully appreciated.

In a spiritual or religious situation, it's important to ask what the lesson for the self is, because every experience a person has in his or her life has something to teach that person, if s/he is willing to take time to focus on asking why.

Asking why is really asking what the lesson is for you, in this situation. It's asking why you find yourself in this situation, why you have this particular pattern of behavior occurring. It's looking at the deep structures of your identity and asking how what you are doing both originates from and contributes to that sense of identity that is your divine spark within this universe. It's also a reminder that in the end, the ultimate authority for yourself resides within that divinity within you, as opposed to any external source within your life.

The external sources can provide inspiration and guidance, but in the end, it is still you who has to know the importance of asking why, of questioning the very beliefs you have so that you know you are staying true to the journey of your life, and learning what you can learn from everything you experience.

Copyright: copyright Taylor Ellwood 2008


Taylor Ellwood

Location: Portland, Oregon


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