Posts tagged ‘spirituality’
Oftentimes, those of us who have left religion behind are asked to define what keeps us going, what motivates us, what rescues us from the pit of existentialist despair now that we no longer believe in god. Some of us do not seem to have much of a positive belief system, others have adopted skepticism or humanism, others excavate their own philosophies of life.
A new member of an ex-fundy support group I help moderate addressed this topic recently and his answer was so interesting that I asked him if I could re-post it to this group and he graciously consented.
I wanted to share an epiphany I’ve had after many years of wandering a post-fundamentalist wasteland. Maybe it will have meaning for some of you.
My Southern Baptist fundamentalist belief began disintegrating right around the time I went off to college. This was very painful for me (as I’m sure comes as no surprise to most of you). I fought it every step of the way as my faith slowly bled from me — my belief in Christ had formed the core of my self image, and my view of myself collapsed along with the elaborate theological construction that had undergirded it…
I think it is fair to say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from his own death, is the key historical event on which Christianity rests. I know many Christians who if in their heart of hearts came to the conclusion that Jesus had never turned water to wine or made blind men see, would still hold on to their faith as long as they were convinced of the resurrection. I also think that there are few people who truly believe the resurrection happened or that Jesus was the son of god yet do not consider themselves Christian. Conversely, people who don’t believe in the deity and resurrection of Jesus don’t really fall into the category or believer with which I am interested.
So what is the process from damnation to Christian salvation?
Discussions with believers tend to follow a consistent path. If I say that having read the gospels, I am unconvinced that they represent proof or even good evidence of the resurrection, they will argue sometimes very intelligently as to why the proof is good and why I am wrong to disbelieve. If I am honest with them and say that I remain unconvinced they say that I need to open my mind and let the spirit in… let Jesus do the work, he’s knocking at the door just let him in. Or something along those lines…
My former pastor had a favorite anecdote to share on why his flock should not look beyond the teachings of his faith camp in their studies. He relayed that the individuals who are responsible for discovering counterfeit money do not study the different counterfeits in order to learn about counterfeits. They ONLY focused on the real thing so when the counterfeit came along, they would immediately know it was not real. If they also studied counterfeits, they would be too confused as to what is real to be effective in their job. This admonishment was aimed at keeping the flock in subjection to his teachings and to discourage them from listening to those who were critical of the message of faith.
In response to the chaplain’s post Christian Education or Indoctrination?, Karen made this comment:
Education teaches people how to think; indoctrination teaches people what to think. All the religious instruction I went through as a child was distinctly of the latter variety. Even as an adult, I was warned not to educate myself about other religious beliefs. As I was questioning Christianity, I looked into Buddhism and Judaism and bought a couple of books on those topics. My husband objected that I was bringing evil spirits into our household and he did not want them physically “tainting” our home! The only way to learn about other religious beliefs “safely” was to take a course on world religions that a missionary group offered at our church. Of course, you can imagine how “objective” that course was – all other religions were presented as deceptions of Satan! There was absolutely no objective presentation of religious beliefs outside of Christianity…
As a Christian, New Years Day was always a very special day for me. It was the day I would turn my back on all the past mistakes of the previous year and pray that God would make me a better individual in the year to come. I forgot those things which were behind me and pressed on towards the prize of the higher calling.
However, now as a de-convert, I cannot simply forget any of my mistakes of the past year. It is my responsibility to make sure I deal with them in order to move ahead. I cannot simple “give them to God” and know that they have been cast into the sea of his forgetfulness where he and I would remember them no more. I cannot accept that that I can simply confess that there is now therefore no condemnation for those actions but if I deserve to be condemn, then I have to pay the necessary price.
Also, I cannot simply expect my invisible diety to help make me a better person, I have to make the choices to change areas of my life which I deem as needing improvement. In other words, the responsibility sits squarely on my shoulders. I have to admit that it was so much easier to give things to God than for me to accept now that they are my responsibility. Throwing away my crutch and standing on my own two feet is sometimes a difficult feat to accomplish…
This couple were the “senior” (head) pastor and his wife at the church where we spent 10 years working. She was one of those “super Christians” (at least in her mind). However, the reality of it all is she typified all the things I have learned to loath about religious people. She always had “all the answers,” and anything that deviated from her set theology was wrong. She could tell you how to live, while her own life was crumbling unnoticed around her. She pursued “ministry” based on her desire to have acceptance and really could not wrap her mind around love at all.
Saying all this, I’ve learned to pity this woman. Circumstances have moved this couple far away from our lives, but today we attended a funeral of a mutual family member/friend. It was good to see her and her family, but sadly, nothing has changed for her.
That’s the problem with religion. Things stagnate, because that’s the only way they can be controlled. Theologies become calcified, and they become fodder for liturgies…
Personally, I feel that most arguments for or against the existence of God are too rooted in normative conventions for my personal beliefs. In other words, I cannot accept arguments based on supposedly established conventions such as good, evil, right, wrong, etc., because those conventions were primarily established through man-made religions.
This is not to say that employing norms such as good and evil are not useful in arguing against the existence of a deity. Using religiously established conventions (Christian norms, in this case) of good and evil, and by understanding the hierarchy of God’s characteristics, we can show that the God that Christians imagine to exist contradicts himself, and therefore cannot exist.
The Christian tradition holds that God is many things: God is love, God is merciful, and so on. One characteristic, a seemingly unavoidable prerequisite to being a deity, is that God is omnipotent. God, according to the Christian tradition, is also good and cannot be or do evil…
I wrote this just about a year ago when I was trying to explain my doubts and thoughts on another site. Some responses to the recent “slain the spirit” post brought it back to mind.
There are certain responses that I get to my rather simple idea that a God who wants people to believe in Him and worship Him, ought to give us clear proof of His existence. By clear proof, I mean things like supernatural events, visitations, visions, revelations, and so on. And of course, I also mean that they need to be things that we can be sure are real and not just illusions, delusions, wishful thinking, or what have you.
The two main types of responses that keep coming up are what I’m calling the “normal miracles” and the “you just won’t buy it” responses.
The first goes something like, “Just look around. There are miracles you’re missing every day.” This will usually be followed by examples of what they mean by miracles, which tend to include sunsets, babies being borne, life, stars, breathing, and so on. I call this the “normal miracles response”. This response is easy to dispense with so I’m dispensing with it first.
The problem with the “normal miracles response” is that the person giving it ignores what I’m talking about and ignores the accepted definition of “miracle”…