“I walk around with a bull’s-eye on my T-shirt,” religious gadfly George Fowler, 66, says jokingly of living among evangelical fundamentalists in Nashville, where he and Lori, his wife of 25 years, have made their home since 1991. Even so, the former monk seems to take helping other spiritual seekers seriously. His syndicated weekly column, “Dear Monk,” appears in more than a dozen papers, and he has recently hit the lecture circuit talking about self-actualization. “My life shows that it’s all right to be neurotic as a start,” he says. “It illustrates that a person can be royally screwed up and still come out okay.”
What was hardest about life in the monastery?
It was probably that I was always questioning everything. For years I had awful self-doubt about my inability to just believe what I was told and shut up.
What would you say to the Pope if you had the opportunity?
I respect the old gentleman. He’s 150 percent sincere, but I think he’s absolutely mentally constipated because of the training he got in the seminary 60 years ago. He has undone a lot of the things that Vatican II got started in the right direction.
Do you consider yourself religious?
When I quit going to church I did not lose religion, I found it at a deeper level. Because I could not rely on externals—I have conformed, so my duty is done—I began to find it inside.