“We don’t need no stinkin’ belief system.” I’m riffing on the classic line from John Huston’s 1948 film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, where a band of outlaws posed as Federales. When those being robbed asked to see badges, one of the outlaws replied, “Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.”
It’s a funny line, and it went on to become part of our cultural lexicon. And it’s true when it comes to spirituality – we don’t need a belief system.
When I experienced a spiritual coming to, I thought, “Gees, what do I believe?” I knew there was a presence about me, and I had started to learn how to increase the experience of that presence. It was changing my life remarkably. But what did that make me? A Buddhist? A Hindu? A New Ager?
I started combing books on spirituality to figure out what I believed. Since I was having all of these spiritual experiences, I must believe in something, right? Looking back, that seems a bit silly, but I truly did associate spirituality with belief or faith.
What I found in my search of world religions and spiritual practices is that the roots of most belief systems touched upon experiences similar to what I was going through. Yet once religions became well-established they tended to avoid or diminish these direct, raw spiritual experiences in favor of narrow doctrine. But when most religions were young, they tended to be a bit wild with radical awakenings.
I came away from my investigation with the sense that spiritual experiences or awakenings are quite different from belief systems, spiritual organizations, or religions.
That’s fine. While it’s a pleasure to spend time with people who are also experiencing spiritual breakthroughs – and I learn from every person I meet in spirituality – I don’t need to have no stinkin’ badge.