I was born and raised Catholic. I was absolutely bored in church and religion classes, painfully so. The times my attention would be swayed to the bible was when we were being taught the actual gospels of Jesus. What I knew at that time was that the example in Jesus' message was not what I was seeing on display at the church or in our culture.
I saw Him as a rebel and his overwhelming message was compassion. I could feel the yearning to live this way, but a culture told me that way was wrong. I struggled to believe the church who worshiped this man, but seemed to me to not model his teachings. This left me with an inner yearning to know about the compassion of Christ, but found church after church fixated on other church matters, mostly of a political motive. The message of compassion as drawn out by the more prominent message which was conversion of non-Christian. This eventually saw me leave the search for a Christian church all together.
A deep knowing of God led to me to look at Christianity from a much more objective position. I wanted to understand the gap of Christ's message and what I experienced as the major themes popular culture. How could these messages of compassion be so different from what messages were coming from the church. This led me to explore God from a much more metaphysical perspective while studying what people were getting from the bible that would make Christ's message so superficially political. It didn't take long to find the greatest critics of the church, atheists.
Though I never strayed from the knowing of there being a God, I certainly found the connection of Christianity's political popularity and it's members so far away from what Christ taught. I became very interested in how the bible came to being. I read books such as Misquoting Jesus, which I found to be a well written objective piece written by a bible scholar. I came to know that the bible that we find today was not the same word of God as was passed on from the days of Jesus. Full books were dismissed and new books were added along the way to today's modern churches.
I began to see that if someone wanted to actually know the word of God, they would be required to learn the language in which the bible was written. What was interesting as I explored the trueness of the bible, I still deeply connected to Jesus' messages. I found myself trashing the bible and exhalting it in the very same conversation. As people found this to be hypocritical, I found that most people need to either believe the whole thing or nothing at all. To me this was throwing an important baby out with the bathwater.
I began to become aware of what I was unconscious. Through painful experiences, I found where my behavior was incongruent with my values. My childhood wounds were directing my life in many ways. I finally figured out how are behavior can be so incongruent with our values. Wanting to uncover all of what I was unconscious of, I created my greatest self challenge of my life. It seemed that if I learned the compassion of Christ, I would have to step through what I thought I knew, to uncover what I wanted to know. I wanted to know how to live loving everyone, not just the people with whom I agreed. This led me to constantly be in state of self awareness. If I was angry at someone, I needed to find out the "why" within myself and find it's root.
This path led me to discover how deep judgment limits our perspective of the world. It is much more profound than the superficial understanding I previously held of Jesus' words, "Judge not lest he be judged himself".
How I see the bible now. Jesus speaks of a devil. I have come to know the nature of the devil, which easily imatates the nature of the secular understanding of the ego. I have come to know that the devil as the absence of virtue. However, the nature of the devil is not sway by means of taking a person directly to hell, but rather to convince the individual of their righteousness, through the counterfeiting of virtue. Take the popular notion of telling it like it is. This seems fundamently sound when following the understanding of the virtue of honesty. However, honesty, doesn't guarantee sincerity. For those wanting to live virtuous lives, the devil will give you all the teachings of how we can counterfeit virtue for the sake of superficial living.
I have come to know something more profound than love, from challennging myself to walk in Christ's modeling, I have found joy The absence of judgment brings joy, as a sacred invasion, into my life. Have I been saved by Christ, you betcha! I'm saved in every moment and I'm eternally grateful for the relationship I have nurtured and learned to play within. I'm not saved because I became a Christian, I'm saved because I've set myself free from judgment.
What about the belief of whether or not Jesus even existed? Why should I care when I know I'm becoming the best version of me on this path.
We create all of our prejudice, separation and disconnect through our thinking minds. Our minds create static beliefs in the form of nouns. If you want to bring people into the joy of what you believe, show them with your actions. We try so hard to crowbar people with our beliefs. We brandish our beliefs believing that if we say the words enough, this will cause people to see the world as we do.
Jesus! Peace! God! Buddha!
As meaningful as these words are to you, their spirit doesn't live inside other's minds. In fact, it is in the fighting over the words, as to why they are repelled. Bring them to their hearts. Speak in actions, using verbs instead of nouns. These are universal messages that go directly to the heart.
If you love Jesus, emulate compassion. If you want peace, be a giver of blessings. If you want people to know God as you do, offer love. If you dig on the Buddha, live mindfully.
If people "feel" your sincerity, they are much more likely to listen.