This is a treatise of the subject of Ethan Tyler Reilly’s (me), of Milwaukee Wisconsin, born July 23 1989, his experiences of religion and spirituality. They are different. As I understand them, religion is a shared experience while spirituality is a personal matter. Both contain rituals, beliefs, and ethical standards. I once had a book entitled Religion for Dummies a while ago that I lost, and while I had barely read, so you’ll understand why spirituality is much more important to me than religion. However, as we’ll come back at the end of this treatise, I am seriously considering religion from my spirituality.
First and foremost, I was never baptized into any religion, although at the time my mom wanted me baptized into the Catholic faith. My mom’s family is Catholic, each one of my aunts and uncles are at least baptized Catholic – I do not know if they follow that path. The reason that I was not baptized Catholic was my mom used birth control during my conception. As far as my biological father’s side goes, I don’t know him, he doesn’t really know me, and I don’t even know what religion he is if any.
I wasn’t taught any religion growing up. My mom maybe mentioned Jesus and God once or twice when I was young, but I was never indoctrinated into any faith before I gain the age of reasoning. That was very helpful as I was extremely open-minded by the time I did cross the paths of different faiths. Suffice it to say, I was probably more unbiased then than I am now. Anyways, it was the summer vacation between sixth and seventh grades that I discovered religion on my computer, using the Internet via America Online. I investigated the major religions Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, and others to lesser degrees. In the end I discovered secular viewpoints which greatly influenced my opinions on all the other religions. In the end, I decided to be nothing.
A few years later as I was doing more research a came across the term agnostic and that seemed to be a better fit than just saying, “I’m nothing”. I later discovered the term weak agnosticism, the claim that we do not know God but will someday, as compared to hard agnostics, who do not know God and never will. I decided to fit myself with the label soft agnostic. Oh, and I know there are atheists out there that state that agnosticism is a claim of knowledge rather than belief, but I consider agnostic to be belief as well. Agnosticism is the belief that nobody knows who or what God is.
By the time I was in my early twenties I was desperate to find a religion, not just a philosophical viewpoint of God, to belong to. I investigated many minor religions and even cults. I discovered the Unitarian Universalist Wikipedia page and read it. It seemed like a dream come true. Concepts like deeds before creeds, the seven principles and the six sources made this seem like I perfect fit. My parents thought it was a cult, but my mom did reluctantly take me to a Unitarian service. I soon realized that when I’m in a church during service, my mind wanders into different philosophical and religious concepts. To be honest I didn’t get much out of going to that first service of mine. My mom thought it was a lot like a protestant service. I saw my former therapist there and talked to him after the service. Don’t get me wrong, I was still interested in the Unitarian religion, I just didn’t see it be necessary to go to church. As I can tell, most Unitarians feel the same. During my stay at UW-Parkside, during my second semester there my housemate took me to the Kenosha Unitarian church and it felt very pagan to me. There was a water ritual, and one of the people I knew from my college was there. I was still unsure about joining.
One of the religions that I discovered that has a pretty solid creed and following, more so than the Unitarians, is the Baha’I Faith. Everything they stand for seems to make sense to me. Unity in God, unity in religion, unity in humankind. No drugs unless prescribed by a doctor. No gambling. No monasticism. They have their own calendar and for an entire month fast during daylight. Well, okay, I don’t like that idea. One day a new messenger will come to replace the Baha’I Faith. The Baha’Is have many sacred books. They belief in progressive revelation, and Heaven is simply being close to God and if you believe in God you will be close to him after you die. They believe that works themselves are an act of faith. Almost everything they go by I concur with. I’m also convinced that if any monotheistic faith would be my own, it was be this one.
Unsure of what to do, being so influenced by both religions, I came up with a brilliant idea. Why not join both religions? I know Unitarians allow you to do so, and I heard on a program called Around the World in 80 Faiths by Peter Owen-Jones that the Baha’I Faith allows you do so too. I came across my Unitarian church in Milwaukee and signed up for the Journey to Membership. Roughly around the same time I filled out the information the Baha’I Faith needed to give me a phone call. They gave me that phone call and asked me if I believed their prophet was the prophet of this age, which I replied to saying yes. Before they officially told me to see them in person I told her that I was in the process of joining the Unitarian faith, and asked if it’s okay to join both religions. She said no and said that they would throw away my application. I consider it to be their lose, because I would have gone to worship and follow all the ritual as much if not more than the Unitarian religion. They should have realized that, while many religions have a creed, Unitarianism doesn’t and I could have been a Unitarian who upholds the Baha’I Faith creed. Their lose!
I still decided to become part of the Unitarian church. Here’s the rundown on membership. You sign up for it before or after service. Then you go in a two to four part series. I went to the two part autumn 2014 series. The first part, the long part, was being on the second floor with roughly twenty or so individuals and doing faith-esque games like going to a certain part of the room to declare what your spirituality was, and having you pretend to be a famous Unitarian that other people would help you guess. We learned about Unitarian history. During the second session they talked in depth about tithes and had us lit candles from a chalice sit them firmly in a pebbled pot. I became a member of the church when I got a name tag with my name on it.
My religion today. Well, I came across a Unitarian Baha’I group on the Internet that does the best work of both religions. However, it’s a group, not a religion of itself. I’d consider it mostly Baha’I, but they do gather not in each other’s homes but at Unitarian congregations, plus they have some exceptions to traditional Baha’I teachings. Beliefs-wise, I do subscribe to the Unitarian liberal theology and continual progressive revelation in all of us, over the evolution of religion in of itself with the Baha’I teachings. Ethic-wise, I am Baha’i. I completely identify with the God of the Baha’I Faith and I don’t really understand the ethics of Unitarians. By that, I mean, I don’t understand the liberal ethics of Unitarians. Black Lives Matter? ALL LIVES MATTER. Ritual-wise I understand them both equally. However, the rituals with the Baha’I Faith are more stringent than the Unitarians, but because Baha’Is consider work itself a ritual, I give high praise to the concept of rituals of the Baha’I Faith. I have gone to a Unitarian group gathering, I do go to service every so often, and I often listen to Unitarian podcasts and YouTube videos. To a lesser extent, I follow the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. I am not fully satisfied with any one religion right now.
Part two: My experiences with spirituality. As I explained before, I came across religion as I was already starting to question things. The thing that stuck in my head the most was, “they can’t all be right, but they can all be wrong” argument. I needed to believe in something, however, and I didn’t like declaring myself nothing or weak agnostic. I didn’t believe in anything until eighth grade, one faithful day walking towards the bus I asked myself, “What isn’t possible?” “Nothing.” Therefore, “Anything’s possible.” Now, I understand that if anyone else heard those thoughts in their heads, they wouldn’t get anything out of it. But I did. My conception of those thoughts, the things that lead me to believe something new was that if anything is possible, it is only a matter of time before humankind evolves into Gods. That of itself is not enough to carry a new religion, and does not even complete the thoughts that I later had, but it works around itself, solidifying the base.
My ethics became an adapted form of Objectivist ethics. As stated in The Virtue of Selfishness, Objectivist ethics state that all that is good must benefit humanity and all that is bad must destroy humanity. I elaborated on this further, making a three point argument on this. First, all that sustains humanity as it is, is the first priority of ethical dilemma. Second, all that further evolves humanity to become better, is the second priority of ethical dilemma. Better, in this case, refers to not just sustaining but expanding the knowledge, life, and power of each individual person. And thirdly, all that increases happiness of humanity without interfering with the first two priorities is the third priority of ethical dilemma.
Over the years I’ve developed little rituals to signify importance to key figures of what I considered to be important. Making a circle with my hand I would stare directly at the sun (gasp) and show that our Earth revolves around and its life is dictated by it. Another ritual I would perform is the touch ritual: touch anything you are about to eat or drink before you ingest it to bless it and make sure the temperature of it is not too hot or cold. I’ve even tried to come up with holidays of important dates, and no, one of them was not my birthday. I am not that vain. Important dates included dates that I certain revelations, though I do not remember most and famous scientist birthdays. I have worshiped quite a bit, prayed infrequently, and rarely meditated. I will admit I have prayed to Elohim before, and I get the same response as my conscious thoughts and decisions. These rituals are failed because they are not orderly followed or measured to by any degree.
When I was a teenager I made a symbol of a diamond with a T on top to conceptualize time and space, as well as the four stages of life. The first stage was viruses, bacteria, and sperm. The second stage was wild animals. The third stage was homo sapiens. The fourth? Gods, which we were to become. The T was a symbol of itself, standing for time, and the diamond also represented the cycle all life must endure.
In college I was first introduced to the concept of the Omniverse made from a page that has since been deleted. In the webpage, it said that there were levels of existence. Universe, Multiverse, Metaverse, Xenoverse, Hyperverse, and Omniverse. The webpage did not say that the Omniverse was God, but after reading about it I was instantly convinced that this was so. There are many concepts that made God a supreme being, and at that time, I thought the Omniverse held all those qualities. I didn’t know what to call myself after that. A pantheist? A panentheist? A pandeist? I found the term on the Internet that stuck for a while, omnitheist. Watching videos from other fellow omnitheists made me confused because what they believed in and what I believed in differed greatly. Omnitheists tend to be syncretic omnists more than anything else, and I just believed the Omniverse is God. I was still unsure of my spiritual home.
After living on my own I discovered transhumanist literature and found the philosophy of Extropianism. Extropy is the opposite of entropy, it is order rather than decay, it is exactly what I envisioned humanity to do in an increasing amount to evolve into higher powers. As far as the term omnitheist goes, my therapist came up with a better name: Omniversalist, after talking about it with him for fifteen to twenty minutes. I now consider myself an Omniversal Extropianist.
The modern concept of my spirituality has lead me to believe that God does not exist. Yet. Omniscience would be human. Omnipotence would be both human and Omniverse, in different ways. Omnipresence would be Omniverse. Perfect goodness would be human. Divine simplicity would be Omniverse. Eternal and necessary goodness would happen after the unification of post-humanity and Omniverse, to create a reversal of entropic decay and exert a force of extropy throughout the entirety of existence.
For the first time I have conceived of an afterlife that I believe could exist. First and foremost: your “soul” is merely electrical impulses flowing through your brain to your body. When you die, those electrical impulses dissipate. However that may be, no information is ever destroyed, only created. If post-humankind merges itself within the Omniverse it will resurrect all things that have been dead, are dead, and will die for an eternity of perfected existence. You will be God, but so will everything else. It will be a human-made Heaven spread across all of existence and eternity.
Objectivist, my, and humanist ethics, including transhumanist and posthumanist ethical standards, are very similar to each other. Extropist ethical viewpoints are only a more elaborate viewpoint of my own. As far as rituals go, there’s only one that matters, and it’s own that billions of people do on a daily basis. Work. Working and volunteering is the most noble thing you can do according to the ethical standards of extropian thought. In fact, I would so far to say you should have faith in works. That no faith in works means the opposite of extropy, it means a heat death caused by an ongoing everlasting force of entropy. It means every single molecule of your body will be separated and never be reassembled again. Faith in works, faith in reason, faith in science. That is the core doctrine of my spirituality.
Improved symbology. Forget the diamond with the T on top, there are two symbols of importance of my spiritual background. One, an infinity symbol, which I have tattooed on my left wrist. It is to symbolize the infinite scope of the Omniverse and the everlasting peace we will have with it someday. Two, simply a circle. A circle symbolizes the bond between the Omniverse and man and it shows the shape of the Omniverse itself. I have a tattoo of a ring, shaped of a circle around my finger, on my wedding ring finger.
I have so many thoughts about my spirituality that I have seriously considered writing an entire book on the subject. I might as go so far as to develop my own religion someday, if I get enough followers. I’m deciding though if it should be a sect of Unitarian Universalism or something new entirely. But I need to formulate my ideas first. I need to write better, clearer, with an expanded vernacular. I want to show this to somebody at my Unitarian church…
Part Three: Religion and Spirituality Together
I have tried to tie those two concepts down, how they prevade me so. I told the minister at my Unitarian church about my concepts and all she had to tell me was that I should join a chalice circle. I do not feel deeply connected to Unitarian ideas much. I also joined the Baha'i Faith yet do not feel connected to that as well. I feel God's presence and love when I read Baha'u'llah's scripture, yet I do not feel the importance of such. Of course, having anyone tell you that they love you and promise you everything feels good - coming from God or otherwise. That's not a secret. I edited my Extropiversophy page to reflect a wider-scope; exaltation. I called Exaltism. Exaltism was the philosophy and the Faith of Exaltation was the religion; same as Positivism and the Religion of Humanity ala Auguste Comte.
It all comes down to the concept of apotheosis. This is what I've come to realize. The religion that best suits my goals towards apotheosis is the religion that I will follow. The goals of apotheosis will only be obtained through science and rational thought. I have come to realize that there is already such a religion that believes this, called Luciferianism. Left-Handed Religions, as they like to be called, follow a certain path that leads to one's own divinity, and therefore, the divinity of others as well. I should have realized this, but between the bad music, "magic" and other occultist subjects of ritual and sacrifice, I forgot what religions like Luciferianism really teach: freedom and perfection through improvement. A ReligiousForums.com user in the name of Infinitum helped me realize this apparent truth to me now, and now I can say for full-certainty that I do follow the ways of Lucifer (light-bearer). This is my thank-you to her.