For at least a year or so, or perhaps much longer, there has been the image of a woman that keeps intruding into my mind. I don’t know who she is, but I have a general sense of what she represents. The idea is somewhat vague, but I feel like she is a woman that is deeply distraught. I believe her inner turmoil has something to do with religion and her complete inability to come to a knowledge of truth. Why does this bother her so much? Who in the world is this woman? Why do I care about her? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but I can’t stop thinking about her.
She is a rather petite woman, thin and not tall. Her hair is dark but not quite black. I’m not sure what she’s wearing, but her clothes are dark-colored. Her angst has brought her to the floor, and tears stream down her cheeks. I don’t think she’s Asian or fully Caucasian. She may be a mix of other backgrounds. Who is this woman? Why do I worry for her? I have a hard time watching people suffer. I know I’m overly sensitive, feeling her emotions as my own.
I think that the first time her image came into my mind was after I received an email from a caring relative who worried about my fall away from the family religion. I don’t remember the content of the email exactly. I can’t even find it now; there are so many. But some of the words seemed to imply that I should trust in them and not in myself. They were more knowledgeable and experienced in receiving inspiration from deity. I can’t quite make the connection to my thoughts, but I know the woman is struggling with trust. Is it a person in her life that she can’t trust, or is it what this person has decided to believe?
I’m not sure my struggle is the same as hers, but I feel that it’s at least similar. If I trust in the words of caring friends and family members about the truthfulness of their beliefs, I have to stop trusting in my own ability to think and reason; my feelings and emotions are all suspect. What then can I do? If I can’t trust my thoughts or feelings, I become like a child again, having to rely on others for everything.
Better than anyone, I know that I can make mistakes. I can come to the wrong conclusions even after much thought. I do my best to think rationally, but I’m not perfect. When both logic and feelings that I had once labeled “spiritual” told me that religion could no longer be trusted, I worried that I might have made a mistake. I wrote so many blog posts, hoping to have my errors pointed out. Friends or family members did speak to me on occasion after one or another of these posts, but they never spoke to what I’d written. The topic would be changed or avoided in favor of some other only loosely-tangential topic.
So my confidence grew that I was not wrong. I’m not always right, and I certainly am capable of making mistakes, but in this case, I have no reason to trust anyone else’s feelings or reasoning over my own. I like thinking. I like reasoning. I like trying to figure things out. In the past, I often defined myself as a thinker, and I still do to some degree. … But I still can’t figure out why the woman weeps.
In exchange for the freedom of thought I gained when I turned my back on religion, I lost relationships with many in my family. At least half of my friends stopped talking to me as well. Some of those that still talked to me suggested that I’d taken the easy path; I’d let go of the iron rod. Those I left behind proved to me with their words and actions that they understood little of what I had to go through in leaving religion. It would be hard to find something as difficult. Could this be part of the woman’s struggle – the loss of human connection?
The woman is not old. The feeling she gives is that she’s in her thirties. I don’t sense that she has much in the way of friends or family. Perhaps they exist, but in the vision I have of her, they play no role. She seems to be alone with no one to comfort her. I wish I could tell her that she’s not alone. No matter her struggle, we all share this world together, and despite the many claims to the contrary, the truth of our existence is still a mystery. Many have taken comfort in choosing one answer over another, but it seems rather arbitrary which version people choose. With very few exceptions, people choose the version of truth accepted by their family or society around them.
If the truth is known, I don’t understand why that truth is so hard to recognize. When I was young, I thought the Holy Ghost could tell me the truth, but how can a person know that what they’re feeling is the Holy Ghost? Different people describe it differently. They feel different things, and it tells them different things are the truth. Then, when people hear that someone else has felt something different, they claim that that is not the “real” Holy Ghost. They haven’t trained long enough. Their reasoning is flawed. And this goes on and on. I’m right and you’re wrong, and if you think you’re right, then you’re still wrong. But why? Surely, a god can’t expect us to unravel the truth using this method.
If a god is real, and that god expects us to use the Holy Ghost to uncover truth, but my ability to hear the Holy Ghost is somehow flawed, even if I don’t think it is, what am I expected to do? I think that I feel the Holy Ghost, or at least the feeling that they are calling the Holy Ghost, as well as anyone. Others think I don’t because it leads me in different directions than it leads them. They tell me to trust or follow them because they have more understanding of the Holy Ghost or more experience. But how can I know that they are right? If I can’t trust what I believed was the Holy Ghost, what can I use to decide who to trust regarding religion and the truth of our existence? It’s a circle with no end.
I don’t know for sure, but I feel like the woman’s anxiety is closely related to this issue. She doesn’t know who to trust or how to tell who to trust. When the Holy Ghost fails to answer the question, people try to turn to logic. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work either. Why are there so many religions and belief systems in the world? If there is just one logical choice, why hasn’t it been found yet? If a god exists, it seems like they are being very secretive. Some say the reason for that is to test us. How do they know? Did the Holy Ghost tell them that? Another person passing on their version of logic?
Anyway, whatever the reason, I hope the woman I keep seeing in my mind is able to move past this period of unhappiness. I have no answers regarding gods, religion, the Holy Ghost, or the meaning of existence, but knowing that we (the whole human race) are all in this mess together has helped me more than I can adequately express. Maybe it can help her too, to know that she’s not alone. None of us are. The ones I feel most sorry for are those that isolate themselves by thinking they have the answers while the rest of us don’t. Do you really have the answers? How can I know?