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. Jim

    Religion,Control Mechanism for Weak Minds

    October 14, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  2. Bob

    Do what feels right to you.

    October 14, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  3. Bill

    Studied religions and philosophy,
    Now atheist

    October 14, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  4. jonah of arkansas

    proove. lol

    October 14, 2010 at 10:20 am |
  5. brad

    I think many atheists are trapped in the paradigm of "if science doesn't proove it, I don't believe it." This is like being in a womb. Suppose we could visit him in a womb and he had some consiousness. Here's the condition we would find him in"
    The womb is dark,wet, warm, and noisy( mom’s heartbeat, digestional sounds, etc.)
    He would not believe in warmth because he had never experienced cold. He would not believe in darkness because he had never seen light. He would not believe in noise because he had never experienced silence. He would not understand being in the womb because he had never been out of it. He can't take a mental step toward the Unknown.

    October 14, 2010 at 10:18 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      Science doesn't have to PROVE it, but I do require at least a partial explanation. No blind faith as it were.
      Example: The universe is expanding. we cannot say why, but we can prove it is. Blue/ Red shift.

      October 14, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
    • brad

      @Selfish Gene

      Thanks much, Gene, for thinking about my comment.

      October 14, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
    • Nonimus

      You are making an argument for the possibility of things we can't comprehend, but that doesn't say anything of the likelihood that it actually does.
      In your analogy, the child in the womb, if it's eyes are working, will see variations in the light even inside the womb. It will hear variations in sound. It will feel variations in heat. And through critical thinking and investigation can deduce the nature of light, heat, and sound or lack thereof.
      'Course (s)he's only got nine months and then it's obvious, but the evidence is there.

      I think most atheists, when pressed, wouldn't deny the *possibility* of a god, but would stress that the evidence overwhelmingly supports there not being a god. More/better evidence is always welcome though.

      October 14, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      A mental step towards the MADE UP. You are welcome for the correction.

      October 14, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
  6. VeridicusX

    Read Bible, practiced honesty, became atheist.

    October 14, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  7. brad

    I responded to the Numinous.

    October 14, 2010 at 9:48 am |
  8. David Johnson

    Good People! I would like to get your opinion on 2 exchanges between Frank and myself.

    If you have 5 minutes or so, please go to this blog and read the exchanges. Comment as you will.



    October 14, 2010 at 9:47 am |
    • Nonimus


      October 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      Oh, where frank DESTROYS you?

      October 14, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
    • Frank


      October 16, 2010 at 12:59 am |
  9. Muneef

    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Their allies deceived them), like the Evil One, when he says to man "Deny Allah"; but when (man) denies Allah (the Evil One) says "I am free of thee: I do fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds!" (16)
    Sura 59:16

    Their allies deceived them) like Shaitân (Satan), when he says to man: "Disbelieve in Allâh." But when (man) disbelieves in Allâh, Shaitân (Satan) says: "I am free of you, I fear Allâh, the Lord of the 'Alamîn (mankind, jinn and all that exists)!" (16)

    And the hypocrites are) on the likeness of the devil when he telleth man to disbelieve, then, when he disbelieveth saith: Lo! I am quit of thee. Lo! I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. (16)

    They are like the Satan, when he saith Unto man: disbelieve, then, when he disbelieveth, saith: verily I am quit of thee, verily I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. (16)

    All above are one verse in Arabic but in different translations and I bet you so sadly you would find more than those in the Quran Explorer giving different translations and I am not sure if all mean the same thing and that could be the reason of disputes within Muslim communities of non Arabic speakers and being misunderstood by the non Muslims?
    Any way the verse above tells you no one should be allowed to deceive mislead you because in the end they would say sorry I fear God anger.!  

    October 14, 2010 at 9:34 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

      October 14, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
    • Muneef

      If there is no fear from the righteous well then there would be no control and everybody would do mischief,wrongdoings, sins with out caring since there would be no God to fear of his punishments. Only this fear has made peace between all for many years now but ever since man had believed that there is no God to fear mad has made a mess to nature and to human beings with out care.
      After all I would like to think of my self of being a mankind of God creation that was created at the best of creation with a purpose from life, but wouldn't want to think of my self as an Ape man that came by coincidence with out purpose out of life.
      But if you feel as Apes well then it is up to you and we would learn to treat you as you think you are and would not consider you as humans? Isn't that what you want?

      October 14, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  10. Doc Vestibule

    Obsequious zealots sow seeds of ignorance.

    October 14, 2010 at 9:29 am |
  11. Anaidia

    Jesus loves me, this I know

    October 14, 2010 at 7:18 am |
  12. Anaidia

    Flying Spaghetti Monster, took in pooper.

    October 14, 2010 at 7:17 am |
  13. C. August

    Obdurate pride fuels the failing resistance.

    October 14, 2010 at 6:29 am |
  14. Josie

    Read the entire Bible-became atheist

    October 14, 2010 at 3:10 am |
  15. Peter F

    The Lord is God of all

    October 13, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  16. Jacob

    Look outward among your fellow man.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  17. Laura

    Thank you Jesus, For Saving Me

    October 13, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
  18. Chad

    Saved by Grace, through the Blood

    October 13, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
  19. Starr

    Five daily prayers
    keep Satan away

    October 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
  20. docliptz

    Much more, there is to learn.

    October 13, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
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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.