I am a former priest and now one of the “nones” Michael Gerson cited in his March 29 op-ed column, “Polarized by religion,” as having no formal religious affiliation.
After 20 good years among the Jesuits, I departed long ago in the embrace of a new, yet very old, awareness that love is at the heart of all religion and religious experience. At the same time, I am not one of the “militant skeptics” that Mr. Gerson described. If we abide in love, then we do not adopt a judgmental stance toward others, including those who still embrace what we ourselves may have left behind. We take a more humble approach, recognizing that our former communities made us who we are today.
My long, silent retreats in the Jesuit Order produced consciousness-expanding experiences that continue to shape and define who I am. These, in turn, were part of the great gift of Roman Catholicism to the West, the preservation of the writings of the great mystics. Just as wisdom advises respect for what has shaped us, it also opens us to the great wealth contained in spiritual paths previously unexplored and in our own inner authority.
William H. O’Brien, Shepherdstown, W.Va.
The writer is director of the Nathaniel Center for Spiritual Growth .