Often our religious beliefs are handed down to us by family and culture, and by the time we are old enough to consciously choose, it’s too late because we are already brainwashed with pre-ordained beliefs that seem to be set in stone.

Ideally, the true purpose of any religion should be to facilitate a direct connection with the “Divine,” and to support spiritual awakening. Unfortunately, few, if any religions, fulfill this purpose. If they did, many more of us would be awake by now, or at least intimately connected to the Source of who we really are. Even with the prevalence of “new age” spiritual practices today, few of us have attained full spiritual awakening and direct Divine connection.

What’s wrong with this picture? Maybe that answer lies in the reasons why humanity seeks out religion, or structured spirituality, in the first place…

Seeking the answers to the unknown can be a scary business – where do we come from, why are we here, and especially, where do we go after departing? The further we travel down the “rabbit hole” in our quest for spiritual truth, the more lonely, confusing and frightening it can become. Religion preys on this fear and confusion; by providing premade answers designed to give us a false sense of security, it offers a reprieve from that inner quest, but in exchange for that spiritual crutch, we must give up spiritual sovereignty and the freedom to choose our own beliefs. We must give up the very thing it saves us from –finding our true selves.

In many ways, my spiritually convoluted childhood was a gift in disguise. Although my mother was raised strict Roman Catholic and my father was raised strictly Jewish, I was baptized Christian, and when it was time to send me to school, I was sent to a very Catholic school run by tyrant nuns. Neither my mom, nor my dad, considered that they were sending me to a Catholic school, where I would stand out like a sore thumb — with a very Jewish last name and a nose to match. I was treated differently by the nuns than the other kids but I was too young to understand why, and by the end of first grade, even the other kids formed an alliance against me. This overt judgment from nuns and peers went on for years, and as result, I did poorly in school, I had no friends, and I believed that there was something very wrong with me.

In fifth grade, the ongoing emotional stress caused me to have a nervous breakdown and, as a result, my parents enrolled me in public school, and also allowed me to figure out this “religion thing” on my own. By the time I was twelve, my immense search for truth was underway.

Up until that time, I had been taught that God was to be feared, and if you sin or break any commandments, you would be punished, and maybe even sent to a fiery hell to repent eternally. It was quite convincing, but something inside me said, it just wasn’t true.