There are as many paths to God as there are individuals. This series on Huffington Post looks at six of the most well-traveled paths for contemporary believers. Part 1, 'The Path of Belief', can be found here. The Path of Independence is one of the most commonly traveled paths today for seekers (and believers).
Those on the path of independence have made a conscious decision to separate themselves from organized religion, but still believe in God. Maybe they find church services meaningless, offensive, dull, or all three. Maybe they've been hurt by a church. Maybe they've been insulted (or abused) by a priest, pastor, rabbi, minister or imam. Or they feel offended by certain dogmas of organized religion. Or they find religious leaders hypocritical.
Or maybe they're just bored. Believe me, I've heard plenty of homilies that have put me to sleep, sometimes literally. As the Catholic priest and sociologist Andrew Greeley wrote, sometimes the question is not why so many Catholics leave the church -- it's why they stay.
Catholics may be turned off by the church's teachings on a particular moral question, or its stance on a political question, or by the history of clergy sex abuse. Consequently, while they still believe in God, they no longer consider themselves part of the church. They are sometimes called "lapsed," "fallen away" or "recovering" Catholics. But, as one friend said after the sex abuse crisis, "I didn't fall away from the church. It fell away from me." Many feel this way.
Though they keep their distance from churches, synagogues or mosques, many people in this group are still firm believers. Often they find solace in the religious practices they learned as children. And often they long for a more formal way to worship God in their lives.
One strength of this group is a healthy independence that enables them to see things in a fresh way, something that their own religious community often desperately needs. Those on the "outside," not bound by the usual restrictions on what is "appropriate" and "not appropriate" to say within the community can often speak more honestly.
The main danger for this group is a perfectionism that sets up any organized religion for failure.