I suppose I should address something of my spiritual past. It is part of who I am now, certainly, and would help explain where I'm coming from.
I am a former christian. Or maybe it's a failed christian. I wanted to believe. I desperately wanted to "feel saved", I wanted to know Jesus like everyone else seemed to. This came to a head when I attended a conservative christian school in junior high and part of high school. I wanted to fit in with the largely Baptist student body - and I wasn't even baptized. This became a sticking point, but I was just too damn honest to go and get dunked until I was convinced I was chosen and loved by Jesus. The only problem was, everything about Christianity felt like a huge, empty void. It felt like I was shouting into a canyon and all I heard was my own voice echoing back. Like I was thrusting a torch into a black hole and expecting a sun to shine out of it.
I wish I had consciously known all of this, that it simply was not the path for me, but I slogged on, even as it sapped my joy and sucked my soul out. I was taught the "sin in your heart" doctrine. Basically, it takes, among other parallel passages, the verse Matthew 5:28 to extremes. It states "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." It goes on to tell you to hack yourself to pieces if a part causes you to sin. Now, I was also told that there was also a passage in that stated if you hate someone, you have murdered them in your heart. To a hormonal teenager, I had suddenly been sinning every five minutes, whether in lust or anger! I felt helpless to stop sinning, I drove myself to madness trying to cleanse myself of these thought crimes I was committing against God himself. This culminated in me attempting suicide - if my own mind was the culprit to my sin, I might as well hang myself, and stop thinking. I couldn't just pluck out my eye or cut off my hand.
Obviously, I failed in my attempt, and I still tried to believe and be "good." It took an attempt of another student at the Christian school to grope me to wake me up. I was trained in Karate, and I did what I was conditioned to do when someone I did not want touching me did so - I beat him to the ground. For this, I was punished. The handsy boy? No punishment. I was asked to apologize to him. This is what finally shook my tenuous faith to the point where I did serious research. I wanted to know how Christians could act this way, how God would react. Instead, I found a god in Genesis who was capricious, jealous, and pretty much a dick to Eve. Genesis 3 convinced me I couldn't serve this god. He not only lied, he acknowledges this lie!
Genesis 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
So they eat. They make clothes. And they hide from El, for good reason. Because this is his reaction!
Genesis 3:22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
So, not only did they not die, like she said, on that day, he seems to be terrified that they will become more like him, find the other tree, and then be gods themselves.
I know the stock answers to all these problems - Adam and Eve "spiritually died", they were subject to death, they were naughty, blah blah, stuff and nonsense. What I saw was a capricious god who couldn't handle competition. Was he even really almighty, or just knew more than humans? Just had more power?
This story, and my experiences that taught me was nothing to the Christian community anyway, led me out of Christianity. I still clung to a loose idea of the Abrahamic god for a while, in the form of the Baha'i faith. I left it shortly, but I often feel it was a necessary stop for me, since it offered an non-judgmental, loving idea of the Divine that I was missing.
It was only when I discovered pagan beliefs that I really felt I was coming home. First, it was Stregheria, then Celtic Witchcraft, then I began mixing and matching ideas and symbols, since most of them were related anyway. In college, I was studying world religions, since it was basically my major. I found that there are so many common threads in religions that the idea that eclectic spirituality is not only just fine, but almost necessary for me - and this is after scoffing at eclectic pagans when I was in boarding school, first digging into Stregheria
These days, I keep a constantly morphing spiritual gumbo of meditation on Shiva, honoring of Ma'at and Hathor, veneration of Mary Magdalene and Joan of Arc, and Vodou worship of many loa, mostly Erzulie Dantor. Oya does offer occasional kicks in the ass, however. And I'm seeking Damballah's wisdom in this venture, to be sure.
Where next? Stick around to see. Who knows what I'll see on my winding path, and if/when I pop out of the labyrinth, what I'll discover. I'll be just as surprised as you are.