Hi there. My name is Dr. Mike Sosteric and I am a Sociologist. I started my career in Sociology over thirty years ago when I took my first sociology course from Dr. John Conway at the University of Regina. I have to say, I was hooked the first day. Sociology was quite literally the answer to my prayers. I wanted to know “what was up” on planet Earth and Sociology provided those answers like no other discipline I had dabbled in (and I dabbled in engineering, computer sciences, economics, and so on). I loved it so much that I stayed with it through a B.A., an M.A., and finally a PhD from the University of Alberta. All I can say is, what a ride it has been.
I have to be honest, one of the reasons I liked Sociology so much is that it had an answer to my anger and distaste for religion. I was raised Catholic but even as a young man I didn’t have much faith in the Catholic faith. I could see the hypocrisy, I could see the violence, and I could see that something was not right. A lot of my distaste for religion centered around the psychological and physical violence it encouraged in its followers. The example I always trot out at this point is how one day when I was eight I was helping my mom in the kitchen bake cookies. At a certain point I got excited, reached into a hot oven, and grabbed a hot pan. I burned my hand severely and the first thing that my mother did was grab my hand, look me deep in the eye, and remind me that “hell would be much, much worse than this.”
Holy Jesus(!) but did that do it for me. It was at that point that I started to reject my indoctrination. I didn’t give up my quest to answer big questions (when I was a teenager I looked into other “faiths”) but I did give up on Catholicism. Although I wouldn’t have been able to put it into words at the time, it came down to the fact that I could not abide a system that encouraged the psychological, emotional, and physical abuse of children. With all the talk of a loving “father” God, it all seemed so abusive, hypocritical, and psychotic. There were not the answers that I was looking for and so I walked out into the desert to have a look around. And so it was that for a long time I cast about in the Darkness, looking for the answers, but finding nothing that satisfied. I tried Eckankar and Zen, Buddhism and Hinduism. I peeked into the nascent New Age movement. I looked here and there, hither and yon, but I could find nothing that made me say “that’s the Truth.” The wandering of course didn’t go on forever. The darkness and the wandering ended (or so I thought) when entered sociology and heard Karl Marx’s famous words ring to me through the text.
Religion is the opiate of the masses…
He said, and gosh darn if he didn’t appear to be one hundred percent right, that religion was nothing but a tool for the people who were in power. In my sociology class we looked at the history of religion and we clearly saw how religion had been used by the elites to justify their wealth and privilege. During the Feudal period the Church was the obvious handmaiden of the nobility, providing ideological justification that made the “king” into God’s representative on Earth, and the peasants into obedient little worker bees tilling the land and supporting the crown. The priests taught the peasants to accept their lot (as slaves to the nobility) with pride and purpose. And it wasn’t just Western feudalism that did this either. Hindu’s had a caste system and that was based, or so they were told, on”divine” prerogative as well. If you were at the top it was because you’d done something right in a past life, and “karma” dictated that you deserved to be there. If you were at the bottom of the hierarchy, dirty and untouchable, it was because you deserved that too. Whatever it was you did in a past life, it must have been bad that’s for sure for you to deserve that.
Anyway, I was in my early thirties when I game up all spiritual pretense and became, like Dawkins and so many other scholars (or so I thought) an atheist, confident in faith in “science” (or at least sociology) , sure of my belief that I had all the answers, and convinced that everybody else in the world was just a deluded shill of the ruling classes. I tolled the secularist bell with pompous pride and arrogant aggression I did and never did I look back on my embarrassing Christian roots, except maybe to spew and spit about the violence, abuse, and hypocrisy that I had cleverly moved above.
And then, one day, “it” happened. One day, while sitting and watching a movie, my atheist world view came tumbling down like the pathetic delusion that it was. One day I was a secularist meatball, and the next day no force in the universe could make me believe that this material universe was anything other than the fiery expression of The Fabric of Consciousness. Of course, at the time I didn’t quite think of it so clearly as I do now, but that was before over a decade of exploration, analysis, and thinking. Now I have the words to describe what happened, back then I had no clue at all.
Now of course there are some people that are going to call me crazy, and others who will try and say I’m a fundamentalist, and maybe even some that will call for my excommunication (like they did with Rupert Sheldrake), but I’m not standing alone here. As recent research has demonstrated, the majority of scientists are spiritual. And…
…and if that doesn’t stew your noodle then consider that we (and by “we” I mean scientists) have known for over fifty years now that majority of people have spiritual/mystical/peak/transcendent experiences of one degree or another.
It’s way more common than you’ve led to believe.
Of course, I never would have believed a statement like that until I experienced it for myself, so if you don’t believe, I get it. But if you are a student, or a scholar, or anybody else with an open mind, your lack of experience shouldn’t be the driving force behind a dismissal of a phenomenon (i.e. religion, spirituality, religious experience) that is (according to many that have had it) as amazing and wonderful as it is prevalent and ubiquitous.