When I left my childhood home to go to college, I determined to develop a religious understanding that was true for all people and for all times. Of course, every religion has particularities, and no one completely escapes the limits of their place and time, but I was no longer interested in a God who loved some but not others, or a truth that worked in one place but not another. In other words, if I was going to bet my life on something, it needed to be three things: fundamental and universal and kind.

I also determined not to be a mere skeptic and live an uncommitted life. Just as I did not wish to live out an inherited faith, neither did I want to be content merely ridiculing the imperfect understanding of others. I resolved not to make my fundamental decisions out of guilt or shame.

Those determinations have acted like a filter or a talisman in my life. I still have had many selfish and foolish moments, but I intuitively knew not to base my life on second hand beliefs, nor to ever surrender responsibility to the church or state for how I would treat my fellow human beings.

There is no easy or safe path but we cannot go as far wrong if we hold the talisman to serve only that which is fundamentally true and universally helpful.