I’ve questioned Christianity all my life, but the ship didn’t start sinking until a few years back when I wrote my first Statement of Passions and Beliefs just after my father’s death. It occurred to me then that the only way Jesus could have been the sacrificial lamb that took away my sins, thereby making it possible for me to gain entrance into God’s Kingdom, was if he had forfeited his place in the Godhead for eternity. For if he was once God and then became man, and then returned to being God… what was the sacrifice he made… except for a few years of lowering himself to the level of us humans?

To question the Deity of Jesus however went against everything I was ever taught and also contradicted the Bible where it’s written in John 14:4-6, “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

To go against what’s written in the Bible, especially when it was the words of Jesus, was something I could not do. My whole life had been lived for Jesus and to turn away at that point was to condemn my own self to Hell!

I could not get it out of my mind however, and so I began to study Christianity from the perspective of others who were not Christians. It was in my search for the meaning of this statement by Jesus that I discovered the Book of Thomas and read for the first time what Thomas heard Jesus say. In Thomas Saying 3, Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty.”

Suddenly a door was opened and I began to see things more clearly. I no longer believed in the infallibility of the Bible and from that point on, it could no longer hold me captive with its threats of hellfire and damnation. The poverty of my life vanished as I realized that I too was a son of God.

It is now my understanding that God is not a being at all. He is life itself; universal life that will last for eternity, and we’re all a part of that wondrous Life. Jesus evidently understood this truth and although his words have been rearranged by men to fit their purposes, his whole ministry suddenly took on a new life for me. He was not the saviour of humankind that the writers of the book of John wanted us to believe, but was in fact the same as you or me.

Freedom from the chains of religion, however, does not come without cost. Giving up Jesus meant giving up a saviour that could absorb all my wrongdoings. It meant there was no more forgiveness for all of those things I had done in my lifetime that were selfish and arrogant. I had to take a closer look at myself and admit that I had made foolish choices, and I realized that I am the sum total of all I have ever said and done. Every lie I have told, every word I have spoken in anger, every bad deed, are all a part of me and I had to accept responsibility for the damage I had caused others because of these things. That was not an easy thing to do, but as I began to admit my wrongdoings to myself, I was reminded of my good deeds as well and I gradually learned to accept the person I have become,

I also realized that I no longer had to accept or forgive those who had treated me unjustly, something which had never come easy for me. Nor did I need to turn the other cheek anymore; I could hold people just as responsible for their actions as I held myself responsible for mine. I was free to judge others just as harshly as I judged myself. That may not sound right to a lot of people, but it is now my belief that the only way there will be any change in this world is if we start holding ourselves and others responsible for the actions and inactions in our lives.

The joy of which I speak comes from the fact that I’m no longer in competition with anyone. Meditation is now the only worship I need and it takes place within myself and requires no words of wisdom or instruction from anyone. I’m free to examine the deepest parts of my inner being whenever I choose.

In addition I’m no longer responsible for the “souls” of others. There is no “hell” to save them from going to and therefore they’re welcome to worship whomever they want and in any fashion they choose. There’s no right or wrong way to worship as long as the end result is finding a spiritual connection to all living things… and even this is not essential. There are those who go through their entire life without ever learning compassion. For them perhaps, eternity will seem like “hell,” but for the majority of us eternity will be an ever-expanding awareness of love as creation continues to grow from the experiences we bring back into it.

The best thing of all is, I can now take credit for my “works” again, which is a forbidden word in Christianity. Yes, I work hard at becoming a more loving person towards all living things and it makes me feel good when I see progress in myself. And perhaps the best part of all of this is I don’t care if anyone else believes the same way I do or not. It isn’t important because I am a Child of the Universe and no one can take that from me. Within me is eternal life and I have only begun to experience what it means to be God.

Read more on this topic: SPIRITUAL IDENTITY: A Christian’s reinterpretation of his religion

By Wayne Dale Matthysse. Wayne is the overseer of the Wat Opot Children’s Community in Cambodia. Visit their website www.watopot.org