I can’t get on my high horse, even if I wanted to, if you consider where, how, and why I made my breakthrough. My journey to discovery began while I was out on bond. I returned to the religion of my childhood believing I had gotten myself into trouble in the first place because I strayed away from “the teachings”. Had I not been willing to break the laws of God, I wouldn’t need to be concerned with the laws of men.
With that mentality, I decided to regain my discipline and adhere to very strict dietary and lifestyle guidelines before I was able to focus on theological clarity. What to do was more important than why in those first few months. Even then, I would fall short of following all the rules all the time.
I didn’t dwell on theology or start reading the Bible or Quran until just before my bond was revoked. My goal was to read them both from cover to cover in order to keep anyone else’s interpretation from coloring my understanding or taking any verses out of context. Even though I had been taught that the messages in both had become tainted over the years, I knew not of any source that was more accurate. My struggles in practicing religion as I knew it made me doubt my leaning towards righteousness, but I had no reason to doubt my ability to discern what makes sense and what doesn’t.
I figured belief in God should make sense or there would be no reason to believe and there would be no way to tell the truth from a lie. Not only had I not heard of any religion that made complete sense, but I also had a problem with the idea of blindly believing the words of men simply because they claimed they were the words of God.
Truth should welcome and withstand objective scrutiny, instead of avoiding it. I even had a problem with the theology of my childhood religion because it seemed contradictory. The reintroduction reminded me of why left “the teachings” as a child.
It was a very confusing and conflicting period of my life. I was practicing a religion that I really didn’t believe in while reading books I didn’t fully trust for answers. My confusion deepened as I began to read the books. What really stumped me were the conflicting and contradicting, yet believable, descriptions of God.
On one hand, you read about a Supreme Being who claims responsibility for things being set up the way they are, sort of like a “divine planner”. There is no way to logically prove such a being exists, but if “He” does, it makes sense to fear and revere him…he does have dominion over things we need and are still figuring out.
It also makes sense that he has limitations, can be disobeyed to the point of being surprised, has a rival who thinks he can defeat him, has a vested interest in the success of human beings to the point of jealousy, and would be unseen because “He” refuses to reveal himself, although he supposedly let one prophet see his ass. Then, on the other hand, you have the Creator of all.
To me, it seems both easy and illogical to gravitate towards the Supreme Being for a multitude of reasons. It is easy because we are intellectual creatures who would/should struggle with accepting anyone or anything as superior to us without having a superior intellect, we need our sensory perception in order to learn about reality so much that imagination is our main tool for grasping what we will never perceive, and we can’t imagine what creation must be like, but we can imagine someone making something out of whatever already exists.
What makes believing God is a Supreme Being rather than the creator of all illogical is the reason why we seek and believe there is a God in the first place: everything must have a beginning. It is so fundamental, axiomatic, and obvious that we never question why that is. The truth is we know and believe everything we can witness or imagine must have a beginning because measurement itself must have a beginning, and everything we will ever know about while we live is measurable, unless it has no quantifiable attributes. Only zero and God fit that description.
I didn’t come close to contemplating any connection between the two early on. I was too busy trying to imagine the process of creation in order to understand the Creator. We are taught from such an early age that something can’t come from nothing, so we automatically conclude something must come from something else. The truth is something can only come into existence if it came from Nothing. Everything else is just a recombination of whatever already exists.
My problem was if this Supreme Being is the Creator of the universe, how could “He” have any attributes or qualities that fit or describe what “He” supposedly created. I concluded that God is the Creator of the universe. If there were some being claiming supremacy in the past, he, she, or it is irrelevant when it comes to understanding God unless that being was trying to teach man about the Creator but got deified instead..
Even though I was moving in the right direction at the time, I felt like I went from confused to absolutely befuddled. I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt there was a Creator of the universe with good reason, but any definition and every description ended in contradiction. I needed a religion I could follow that didn’t ask me to sell out my intellect.
Because the Quran did not go into too much detail describing God and I had not been exposed to Hadith yet, I thought orthodox Islam was the way for me. I was not convinced their rites and rituals were the only way to go, but I didn’t see any flaws in them either. I could be content following as long as no one pushed their rituals as the only way or got too detailed in their description of God.
While seeking safety and shelter through religion, I felt even more vulnerable to reverting to using my imagination in defining and describing God. Even as a practicing Muslim, I felt like my belief was on shaky ground. I became mildly obsessed with trying to get my belief on solid ground after I lost a debate with my atheist girlfriend when I tried to make sense of monotheism.
I even started reading other ancient texts looking for theological insight. Unfortunately, all I could find were confirmations on the mystery followed by contradictory explanations. When I read all the fantastic stories, I had a hard time figuring out what was believable. I couldn’t tell the difference between scripture, mythology, or comic book super heroes. While feeling alone spiritually, I made my breakthrough while being left alone literally for three days.
I was placed in isolation for three days while in transit for court. This is different from disciplinary isolation in that I had no access to anything, including books. It was just me and my shadow. Of course, you contemplate a lot of things when you’re alone with no form of entertainment, but it didn’t take long before I started thinking about what I’m willing to believe.
Once I started down that road, my mind never wavered from the subject. It was the most hellish mental exercise full of frustration that I have ever experienced. I mean no disrespect to women and the physical pain of childbirth when I make this comparison, but my experience was the philosophical equivalent of giving birth.
The first day was pretty uneventful. I had started the day in transit and didn’t get settled until sometime late in the afternoon. I probably spent an hour or two contemplating my current situation at the time before my thoughts shifted to more important matters.
Even once I began to think about God in a more “I need answers” manner, I came up with no answers. I simply wrestled and defeated any ideas of a Creator of the universe that is composed of things that are a part of the universe. I even had to confront the contradictory idea of a self-creating deity.
That next day, I dove right back in picking up where I left off. With no answers concerning my theological belief, I switched my thoughts to Heaven and Hell. My mentality then was: whatever we do in the present is for future gain, and the only future promised to all the living is death. While thinking about Heaven and Hell, I couldn’t help but notice the contradictory mentality that must follow someone taking the allegorical descriptions of Heaven literally.
As my frustration starts to mount because all I can do is negate the beliefs I’ve already been exposed to without any fresh ideas, a song from my childhood starts to play in my head. Because I’ve already rejected “the teachings” twice, once as an adolescent and recently with my conversion to Orthodox Islam, the last thing I want to think about is a song stemming from them.
This had to be the worst case of getting a song stuck in your head. As I tried to shut it out, it just got louder and louder:
Heed the call y’all,
it’s easy to tell,
White man’s Heaven is a
Black man’s Hell.
Once I got past the racial aspect of it, I thought of it from a ‘one man’s Heaven is another man’s Hell,’ perspective. From that train of thought, I wondered if Heaven and Hell were the same reality that would be appreciated in very stark opposite directions. I wondered if the so-called Hereafter was actually to be in the presence of God.
Of course, that must be it, but we still can’t describe God in order to know what that must be like. With that thought, I fell asleep frustrated because I was still stuck trying to figure out who or what God was or wasn’t.
On my last day of isolation, I start off thinking about God. As I am shooting down all the contradictory ideas I’ve shot down already, a somewhat new thought occurs to me: there are three dimensions to consider but most of us only focus on two.
I thought about the Trinity. I didn’t think about it in the same way as the Christians. I saw the Father as the only God, the Creator. The Son was all physical or tangible creation and the Holy Spirit was the laws governing the entire universe. Who is this God that we can only experience through what has been created?
I began to think in 3’s. I started thinking about the states of matter: gas, liquid, and solid. Nope, that’s not it. It made me think of atomic structure though: protons, electrons, and neutrons. Nope, but you’re getting warmer. I thought of positive and negative and how we forget about neutral.
As I started to shoot down the idea of God being neutral, because that would be the exact opposite of what we believe about God, the concept of absolute value pops into my head. I start to think of how absolute and neutral both refer to zero but are nowhere near the same. God is absolute…zero is absolute…Shit! What have I just done?!