Your spiritual journey in 6 words or less
October 13th, 2010
09:33 AM ET

Your spiritual journey in 6 words or less

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Spiritual autobiography is one of the classic genres in both western civilization (think Augustine’s “Confessions”) and American life (think “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”).

But once given the license to record for posterity their sins and salvations these tales of woe and wonder seem to go on and on. (Swami Yogananda’s “The Autobiography of a Yogi” runs to 520 pages, and that’s without the bonus CD.)

“God in America,” the PBS mini-series that debuted Monday night (with me on screen, now and again), focuses on religion in public life but includes a series of personal spiritual journeys - from Anne Hutchinson’s rebel Puritanism to Abraham Lincoln’s Providence-soaked vexations to Martin Luther King’s neo-Orthodoxy on the march.

Its web site includes a feature called “Faithbook,” in which “viewers like you” are encouraged to share their “personal spiritual journeys” by answering a series of prompts, such as “How do you imagine God?” and “I believe . . .”

Now come my friends at killingthebuddha.com, a web site “for people made anxious by churches” and, presumably, by overwrought autobiographies as well.

Responding to PBS’s “Faithbook” initiative (which should not be confused, by the way, with the college students’ section of the “On Faith” web site, also called “Faithbook”), KTB’s editors have put out a call for even more abbreviated spiritual autobiographies.

Eschewing “even those monstrous 140-character tweets,” "Six-Word Journey" challenges the religious and the irreligious alike to distill their spiritual journeys into six words or less. And the submissions are already pouring in.

In keeping with the irreverent spirit of the site, whose tag lines read (among other things), “god with a grain of salt” and “paved with good intentions,” some of the six-word stories are exit tales:

From “Chris Wonders” : “Was Catholic, asked questions, now free.”

Others, however, are stories of unexpected conversions:

From “Scott”: "Wanted free pizza; got Jesus instead.”

Or stories of settling in and making do:

From “Gordon Haber”: “My Judaism: Chinese food and guilt.”

Or tales of wandering and return:

From “Michelle T”:  “Meandered off path. Now UCC minister.”

I am loving this new genre, so I hope the submissions continue to roll in, and not just from the living. I am already imagining, for example, how the Buddha might handle this assignment. How about . . .

Left palace, kids, family. Sat. Ahh!

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Buddhism • Christianity • Faith • News media • TV • United States

soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Mary Miller

    No choice Catholic kid, Universalist adult.

    October 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  2. atlantaguy

    live , love, Leave but mostly love

    October 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  3. KoraKaos

    God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and love.

    October 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  4. Prodigal daughter

    Grace is for everyone, even me....

    October 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      Grace is a wh0re

      October 14, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  5. thinkpoint

    Windows open! http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/a-world-without-windows-in-print/

    October 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  6. Ben

    Once was lost now I'm found!!!!!

    October 13, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • Reality

      Found by whom ?

      October 14, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  7. Kenrick Benjamin

    Quite an experience, It's called life.

    October 13, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  8. elenore

    I liked this program.It was beautifully done.And brings up something important.A conversation about belief.Now fundamentalist of any religion scream non believer when people examine a personal experience to God and holy books and Atheists scream no intellect when talking about religion.And no one wants to talk specifically about different faiths sadly which I think prevents many Americans from finding spiritual connections.I think many American are losing their voice to the squeaky wheels because of politics and entertainment.

    October 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
    • NL

      The opening chapter about the Pueblo indians certainly set the tone, didn't it?

      October 13, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
  9. Nonimus

    I exist

    October 13, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  10. Charlotte


    October 13, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      neither limited to six words, nor much of a journey.

      October 13, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  11. BlackJellyBeans


    October 13, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
    • adams


      October 13, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
  12. Frank

    For me:
    Fell into darkness, found the Light.
    There is no darkness without Light.

    October 13, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • Guest

      Actually, without light there is nothing but darkness.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Science Fail.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
    • Frank

      I'm not talking about science, smart one. There is Light and darkness in everything. Go read some REAL poetry.

      October 13, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • Frank

      Or physical reality, as it were.

      October 13, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • Frank

      "There is Light and darkness in everything."

      Or, rather, in experiences and within all human beings. By definition, there would be no darkness found in God. God is more akin to Infinite Light.

      Just clarifying for myself. 🙂

      October 13, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Poetry is about as useful as religion, to me. Astrophysics I find very enthralling.

      October 14, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
    • jonah of arkansas

      selfish gene sounds like a nerd

      October 14, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      At least my brother is not my uncle. Paddle faster. I hear banjos.

      October 14, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • jonah of arkansas


      im not from arkansas- but you're still a nerd.

      October 14, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
    • Guest

      I'm confused.
      "God is more akin to Infinite Light."
      "There is no darkness without Light"

      So God created the darkness?

      October 14, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      As long as we can all laugh about the poetry reading together.
      I mean come on, poetry is your argument against atheism now.
      Maybe I am a nerd. I like Stargate, but I don't play any video games. Is there hope for me yet?

      October 14, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
    • Frank

      God didn't create the darkness, we did. It's within our hearts. God is pure Light, if you will.

      October 16, 2010 at 12:18 am |
    • Frank

      Selfish Gene, there's always hope for everything, in everyone.

      October 16, 2010 at 12:19 am |
    • Chris

      Words are not real.
      But the silent knowledge behind them is.

      October 18, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
  13. art sollee

    to love is to know Christ
    to know Christ is to love Him

    October 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      more than six words. please repeat the exam next semester.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
  14. NL

    Searched for God, found truth instead.

    October 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
  15. Reality

    "Do no harm, Respect thy Neighbor"

    Said six words vitiates all religions!!!

    October 13, 2010 at 11:41 am |
  16. len

    I am enjoying the PBS series. Well written, well considered. Thanks!

    October 13, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  17. Russ Gerber

    Better thought-models, better lives

    October 13, 2010 at 11:03 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      I like this one, leaves it open to continue growing as a person. Why limit yourself to "the only way" or "the one true path"? That leads to nothing.

      October 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • OffensiveJerk

      Right, cuz the last time I took eight roads at once I got real far. Hooray for undecided schizophrenic. Here, I found your backbone in a panzie field and I'm keeping it. Your gonna need to grow a new one.

      October 13, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
  18. Doc Vestibule

    Found the TRUTH – God not there.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:54 am |
    • Reality

      Gold Star!!!

      October 13, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      listened to dogma, chose sanity instead.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
    • delivered sauce

      you will reap your words jus you wait

      October 14, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  19. Jay

    Found the TRUTH about Jehovah God.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:44 am |
  20. Jessica Nelson

    Forgive my irreverance, but the more I've learned about religions, the more I've come to think that duties and responsibilities are the only "sins" keeping us from finding divinity. Your example of Buddha's 6-word journey is a shining example. 😉

    October 13, 2010 at 9:59 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.