Growing Up Godless

I grew up outside of organized religion. In a small Midwestern town, this was unheard of. I knew no one else like me; all my friends dutifully went to church every Sunday. My parents didn’t want to impose any one set of religious beliefs on me, so they basically left the door open. They told me that God might exist or might not; it was not provable, all based on belief—the agnostic’s view. So I was left with a question mark and a feeling of “differentness” among my peers. I can remember feeling very uncomfortable whenever the topic of church or God came up at school, fearful that I would be “found out.”

When I was about 9 years old, my parents took me to a Unitarian church service in a nearby town, after which I commented, “I’m glad that’s over!” Clearly I wasn’t longing to go to church as much as I was longing not to be different. When I reached college age, all my new friends were rejecting their religious upbringing, and I found myself ahead of the game since I didn’t have a religion to reject. But still I was searching for something, as were so many others of my generation. The meaning of life perhaps, or the secrets of the cosmos. At any rate, I gradually began to look for answers in diverse spiritual books and teachers, not really wanting a guru or one answer, but rather a tapestry of truths that resonated with me.

My search for meaning was partially driven by a deep-seated fear of eternity/infinity, which I had carried within me since childhood, possibly because I had no superimposed God image to block the fear. The void, or an endless universe in which “the world went on forever and ever,” was very real to me. Eternal life and eternal death seemed equally frightening. Still, in spite of this, I was a happy child for the most part, nurtured and supported both by my parents’ unconditional love and by the natural world outside our rural home. It was only at night that my fears about the infinite universe arose.

These night fears continued throughout adulthood, even after I came to believe in Spirit, or a greater sacred presence in the universe. After many years of spiritual exploration and growth, it was in an individual session with Panache Desai that I had my first tangible experience of infinity as an expanse that was both peaceful and comforting (see previous blog post “Infinity). Months later, during Panache’s webcast series “Mother, Father, God,” I faced my long-ago religionless past. As he instructed listeners to embrace the image of God they had grown up with, until it disappeared and became one with them, I felt disconnected, alone, different, stuck in my Godless childhood. But when he said, “The Divine in essence is formless and nameless and is in fact love,” I suddenly realized that I was already at “disappeared,” and God/Spirit had always been a part of my life, as love. I felt old fears dissolving as I also realized that I had never really been alone. God, or the Divine, was always there, at my very core.

Looking back, I see how what seemed my greatest challenge as a child was in fact my greatest blessing. What I experienced then, through my parents, through nature, and within my own heart, was Divine love in its purest form, undiluted by human concepts of an external God. Now, in my present life, as I continue to have extraordinary experiences of Spirit and infinity, I am so very grateful for my parents’ openhearted love and wisdom which allowed me to follow my own path when it came to matters of the spirit.

“Look in your heart for God, for truth, for the answer. Feel that heart space—that is where you and infinity can meet, because your heart is not limited, but ever expansive.”—Panache Desai


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