I have never lost my belief in God, just changed my terms of reference.
I can remember when I was about 8 or 9 walking home from Sunday school pondering how any grown person could believe in some big dude in a white gown living in the clouds.
I do however subscribe to the belief in a higher, greater power, or Universal Life Force (Ki in Japanese or Ch’i in Chinese).
Although I was raised in a Christian community and actively involved with church groups during my youth, I have never been able to embrace the ‘God’ concept in that way.
I do also believe in Jesus, the man, a.k.a. Joshua, and all that he stands for, both then and now. I have a high regard for the Church and Christians in general, along with Muslims, Buddhists and other believers who have faith in what they believe.
The reason for this is the questioning undertaken during my teens. When I was 16 I went to church on Sundays and afterward attended Bible Class with other teens. Finding that I couldn’t get the interaction I desired and also finding the discussions very ‘bland’ I started to search elsewhere for the answers I felt were out there, yet hidden.
Since I couldn’t believe in God the same way that others seemed to I wanted to find out why we needed religion at all. Psychology books from my school library lead me on to the work of Karl Jung, Zen and the Asian philosophies.
That is how I came to follow the path, or ‘way’, of Bushido. That is ‘the warrior code’ and is based on the philosophies of Zen and Shinto in general and the teachings of the great Samurai philosophers and warrior monks in particular.
I find it fits with my life very well and have followed this path for the past 40 years. The last 20 years through the practice and teaching of Aikido. Prior to that through the practice of Shotokan Karate and before that, Judo.
The main thing that I discovered from my studies is that we are all different and perceive and accept things differently, moderated and moulded by our unique personalities, upbringing and personal circumstances.
What is truly important is not so much what we believe but how we believe. It is the degree of faith that we exhibit and direct into our belief, whatever it may be, that makes us whole and fulfilled.
I always tell my students “it’s not where you walk, it’s how you walk”.
I also believe and teach respect, tolerance, courage and understanding.
The fear of death diminishes with age and knowledge. Having faced death several times I know that it is the fear of what you leave behind that is the key element. So, be sure to conduct your life in such a way as to leave only good things behind.
This is what will be remembered and this is where, I think, the concepts of Heaven and Hell reside.