When I saw it, I was alarmed enough to respond. This seemed the Facebook equivalent of "drunk dialing", but I wasn't sure how serious she was about ending her life so I answered her questions and hoped she didn't think I was crazy. I know that scientific-materialists like to mock me as the crazy one for all my spiritual talk, but the joke is on them. We live in a spiritually-directed universe. It's a shame that abusive religion has caused so many to reject ALL spiritual ideas. Most people don't seem to be open minded enough to explore all the spiritual ideas out there. They just close themselves off to the one that hurt them the most and think that all spiritual groups are that way.
In response to her question about what happens if you commit suicide, I did mention what I've read in quite a few books, not to mention people's Near Death Experience accounts. I didn't mention "hell" though because I didn't want to scare her. I just mentioned the theory that killing yourself means that you have to be reborn into similar circumstances facing the same adversities / challenges, though slightly worse because our point of life is to work through our challenges, not escape them. I also mentioned, "who wants to experience childhood / adolescence again?" That's truly the suckiest part of reincarnation. I think that's the reason why we are given a veil on our past lives so we can feel like we're going through this awkward stage for the first time.
Other people offered their sympathy and comments to the post and she actually seemed interested in what I said. I really do hope that she will explore other religions to find a belief system that works for her. I don't want to see her negative experience in the LDS Church to cause her to reject all religions. There are so many good spiritual ideas out there that are worth exploring.
This post isn't meant to be about this lady, though. I wanted to write a post about why I love New Age Spirituality because the church's Facebook page has been inundated by three atheists spreading their doubts all over the place. I found it ironic that they won't believe something until a scientist in a laboratory can prove that it's true. How is this any different than a religious person seeking authority for their beliefs from a sacred text, such as the Bible or the Qur'an, or from their religious authority figures in whatever church they belong to? Both groups are seeking validation from an external source of some credentialed status. In reading the comments of these atheists, I'm struck by the irony that they are willing to discount their personal experiences with coincidences (Godincidents) and synchronicities in favour of the opinion of some atheist scientist who has no interest in anything that cannot be tested in a laboratory experiment.
The term "New Age" gets a bad rap and has a negative connotation in many people's minds (thanks in large part to evangelical Christians calling it part of Satan's plan to destroy Christianity). As the above photo shows, New Age is a catch-all category that includes belief in any or all of the following: reincarnation, numerology, astrology, Celtic / druid spirituality, Wicca, Sufism, Kabbalah, Buddhism, Hinduism, vision boards, Law of Attraction, channeling, psychics, incense sticks, gnostic Christianity, crystals, yoga / pilates, Near Death Experiences, self-help / pop psychology, the Urantia book, aliens / UFOs, 2012 / Mayan, Nostradamus, prophecies, animal totems, Native American spirituality, coincidences, synchronicities, vegetarianism / veganism, self-hypnosis, meditation, sustainable living, chanting, scented candles to burn for specific purposes, King Arthur / Merlin, Akashic records, ESP, Atlantis, Astral Travel, Tarot cards, and stuff like that (I'm sure I left a few things out).
When someone hears "New Age", they think: "flake!" Some of the mockery is well deserved (see the movie Serendipity, as Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon hilariously plays a lady who owns a New Age bookstore in San Francisco and makes fun of her customers to her BFF). The stereotype of a New Ager is a Baby Boomer woman dressed in earthy clothes and looking like a hippy with flowers in her hair, speaking with a soft voice about having gratitude and love for everyone and how the world would be so much better if we skipped hand in hand singing "Kumbaya." I know a few ladies like that. Last weekend, I was in the New Renaissance Bookshop when just such a woman was skipping through the store (with a bunch of fresh flowers in her backback). She recommended that I read a set of channeled books. I skimmed through one and didn't really like the writing style. There are so many books to read that I'm actually selective about what I buy and read. Most of the books say the same thing, so the trick is to pick the one that has the best writing style. A lot of the New Age books are self-published, which makes it risky. I think Hay House is a credible publisher, though. Wayne Dyer and Jerry & Esther Hicks (The Abraham materials) are published through Hay House, which has a good track record in publishing quality books.
Pat Robertson loves to have former New Age believers on his 700 Club, as if they were credible enough to dismiss an entire movement made up of individualistic spiritual seekers. In my young life, I've seen people leave one religion or belief system for another. Yes, there are former New Age spiritualists who probably went evangelical Christian, but there are also plenty of New Age spiritualists who came from evangelical or mainline Christian traditions. So what? All it proves is that people's spiritual life is fluid and not static. People have to go where they feel the most resonance. Because New Age spiritualism is such a catch-all category and not an actual religion, people needing structure and authority figures would only get lost. New Age spirituality is essentially tailor made for people who are individualistic and quite comfortable exploring different ideas and incorporating the various traditions into whatever works for them. No other believe mindset is as open minded as New Age spirituality, because if you've ever gone into a New Age bookstore, you'll see the amazing diversity of subjects (conspiracy theories and Near Death Experiences, UFO abductions and Yoga, etc.). Its definitely not a belief system for people who are easily offended or closed minded.
I admit that as a teenager, I was a little bit "fearful" of New Age spirituality because of the evangelical protestant youth group rallies that my dad made me attend when we lived in Germany. The protestant leaders warned us about Satan's tricks, which New Age spirituality is about in their eyes. But after I heard too many good things being attributed to Satan (such as 80s pop music! And Star Wars!), the fear of New Age spirituality crumbled and I slowly started reading a few books. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. I devour New Age spiritualist books like water. Since the early 1990s, I must have read well over a hundred books under the New Age category. True, a hundred or two is small compared to the hundreds of thousands of books out there (or more). I read between 24 and 35 books a year and probably in a given year, 10 of those might be "New Age." I believe that I am well versed in it by now that I understand the principles.
In the debate with the atheists, I wrote that "circumstantial evidence" is good enough for me to base a belief on. What I gather from what the atheists have said is that their biggest fear is being conned or duped into believing something false. This is why they demand physical, undeniable truth! But the universe doesn't work that way because it would violate the gift of agency / free will if God proved to all of humanity that God exists or that we live in a spiritual universe. It is up to us to experiment with our lives and to analyze our own experiences.
As the drunk girl asked in her Facebook post (the quoted paragraph at the top), "what is the point of life?" Here's what I gather based on the numerous books I've read:
Evolution is the way of the developing our souls. The point is to learn how to distinguish between our ego's desires and our soul's desires. Ego wants separation, soul wants unity. We are tasked with learning how to move away from the natural human state of hating anyone who is different from us towards complete, unconditional love (as Jesus showed with his life's ministry). We have all of eternity to work on this challenge, in lifetime after lifetime. During these lifetimes, we experience good and bad, and our tastes develop. If we are interested in a certain period of time (for me, its the Medieval / Renaissance Ages, the Age of Enlightenment, and Colonial / Revolutionary America and France), its likely that we had a good life experience then. If we have unexplained phobias, it could be that was how we died in a past life (typical phobias like fear of flying, fear of drowning, fear of falling, fear of fire). This theory is based on the idea that everything (every emotion) has an origin. Reincarnation explains why people are different, why siblings have different personalities and interests, why homosexuality exists, why some people believe they were born the wrong gender, why prodigies exist, and even why birthmarks exist.
Coincidences / synchronicities are experiences that is meant to guide us on or towards the path our souls wanted us to be on when we planned our incarnation into this lifetime. Life was not meant to be easy, but as someone who has experienced some tough moments, I learned far more during my trials and tribulations than I did during my periods of grace and easy gratitude. In trying to explain "faith" to an atheist, I admit that words fail to convey my feelings on the subject. The best analogy I've come up with fails to make a great comparison. When a person has faith, without evidence, it's a sign of trust in the universe / in God. To make it conditional that you will only believe something when you have the evidence means you might miss out on something. The comparison I used was the early investors in Steve Jobs' Apple company. Those investors believed in his abilities that they gave him start-up money to build a company. When it became successful, they became rich. They took the risk based on a belief and it paid off. An atheist is someone who doesn't invest in the early stages but wants in on the wealth after the company proves itself! Doesn't work that way. Neither does spirituality.
I read an interesting Near Death Experience quite a few years ago that I've never forgotten. In it, the person did not experience heaven or hell. This person's experience was a black void with only a twinkling light, which kept telling the person that she didn't exist and that she never existed. She was arguing with the twinkling star about why she did exist, such as how she could have made up all the people in life that she had as friends and relatives. This sounds like the Near Death Experience of an atheist.
The discussion taught me that I'll never understand the mind of an atheist. I guess because I've never lived life needing to have actual physical and undeniable evidence in order to believe something. I haven't been easy to con, as I learned in my Navy experience and my BYU experience. I have a logical mind that processes information (I know that atheists might take issue with my claim of having a "logical mind") and any idea has to pass my consistency and logic tests. But because spirituality can never be proven to the satisfaction of scientific materialists, we can either reject it all or we can examine all the spiritual ideas out there and find what makes the most logical sense to our experiences. Circumstantial evidence is good enough for me, as I used it to figure out early on that O.J. Simpson was the likeliest killer of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, that Bill Clinton did have sexual relations with "that woman", that Iraq did not have WMDs, that the 2000 election was stolen through voter fraud / vote suppression in Florida, that Bush did wear a wire / earpiece during his debate with John Kerry in the 2004 election. I believe most people use a combination of factors to believe something or not believe something when actual physical evidence is not available.
Spirituality is a risk, because as people sometimes ask, "Which religion is right? Can they all be right?" What if you believe something and it turns out to be wrong? I'm of the view that if we follow the intuitive pull of our heart, we can't go wrong. But we have to take the risk of believing first. As U2 sang in their beautiful song, "Walk On": "a place that has to be believed to be seen." Belief is a powerful tool. It can and does change the world. My wish for everyone is to examine the strangest coincidences you've ever had and ask yourself, "If the world was purely random, what is the statistical probability or likelihood that this coincidence could ever happen? What is the meaning of this coincidence?" Follow that coincidence and see where it leads, for it may just lead you on the greatest adventure of your life. Mine certainly have. Have faith and carry on.