Conversations With You
Subject: Church of Christ
I just happened on your site and have browsed some of it. I, too, was raised in the C of C. In the past year, I have finally taken the last step and become an atheist. I am almost 50 and it has taken me all this time to overcome what I was taught as a child. It's hard to explain to someone not raised in the C of C exactly how powerful its hold can be on your life. After all, it has that layer of rationalism that makes it see so LOGICAL....on the surface, anyway.
Even now, I cannot admit this to my mother, who is a very devout C of C believer.
Thanks so much for your email. As you must know, I sympathize completely with your choice and your situation. You are right about the layer of rationalism or logic that the Church of Christ uses in its structure. It seems right as long as one is looking only at the structure that is presented and does not look beyond it. Specifically, it is when we look beyond the Bible to find its sources and to place it properly in history (that is: Late!) that we can determine that the logical system of the Church of Christ, or that of any of the other sects or churches, is simply irrelevant. Once the props are pulled out from under, the entire structure collapses.
You asked how I have dealt with my family and I will gladly tell you in hopes it may provide some perspective or give you some starting point for your own thinking. First, I am very fortunate to have married someone who is on a parallel pathway to mine. Many new freethinkers who have written to me are in the position of dealing with a still devout spouse and children. That can be really tough.
I am, however, in the same boat you are when it comes to my mother (my Dad has accommodated Christianity, but has never had more than a casual interest in religion). My mother (a very intelligent and sincere woman) has backed away from the Church of Christ itself, but is still a sincere believer in God and Christ and reads her Bible all the time. I decided that it would not be necessary for me to simply go to her and say, "By the way, Mom, I'm an atheist now." I also knew that I could not explain to her in any single session all that I had learned over many years that had led to my paradigm shift and get her to see that pathway herself. We had not talked for several years about where my thinking had gone after writing my Christian book (which she so agreed with and still upholds), and she asked me to come visit about it.
I simply told her that I had travelled very far in my thinking and that it had led to some unexpected places. By indicating how much larger of scope this new viewpoint was, I hinted that this might involve non-belief without saying so directly, and I introduced her to some of the things I had learned about the historical underpinnings of the Bible (such as its roots in Zoroastrianism and Vedism). I told her that it was a journey that I had had to make alone for now, but one that I would be happy to share with her if she wanted to know more. I told her that I could not take her from start to finish in one session, but that she would need to take it one step at a time, just as I had done. I would be very happy to give her something to begin with to read.
I gave her the Paul Williams Roberts book: In Search of the Birth of Jesus/The real journey of the Magi, because it was the fist book to open my eyes to the crucial influences of Zoroastrianism and it is very readable. So far, that is as far as we have gone, and I know she has not had a chance to read much of it due to illnesses.
It's a bit of a balancing act, because I did not wish to lie or be untrue to my current self, but I did not want to overwhelm or disturb her with blatant freethinker labels or conclusions, either. I didn't want her to have a knee-jerk reaction and think that her son had just "gone atheist" on her without understanding that the process of doing so has been a deep and fulfilling one that must not be dismissed out of hand. I hope that she will think that if I have found it so worthwhile that I would have made this change in view, that, perhaps, it may be something for her to investigate as well rather than just dismiss it (and my views) immediately.
Whatever similar situations present themselves to us, though, I firmly believe that we must be true to ourselves and authentic in who we are. On the other hand, I don't think it is necessary (nor many times wise) to flagrantly announce all that we are and all that we think to anyone and everyone, even to close relatives. Some things must be experienced and some things must be earned. Before we offer a path to earn them, it is important, I think, to make sure the person truly desires to know. Many will not so desire, and would be harmed or disturbed by knowing all of what and who we are vis-a-vis religion and belief. In my instance, the jury is still out on my Mother, so we will just have to see.
Well, that was a bit long-winded, but I hope it may help somewhat to at least have another person's view and experience on this. I appreciate your browsing my site, Tony, and if you do have time, please read the rest of my essays and things and let me know how they strike you now. I hope your journey has become a positive one, as there is much joy out here once the old skins are shed. I'm about your age, and I know how strange it is to metamorph after so long in one form.
Joy and peace,
You have a nice web site. I am trying to get on the ring myself. Check out [URL given] my web site. I was a pretty committed born again christian but the contradictions got too me.
Thanks for writing and for checking out my site. I appreciate your comments. I agree with your asessment about God. I have some suspicion that there is something underlying the organized nature of life in this universe, but I, too, am certain that this thing is nothing like the God of orthodox religions. It is a true Mystery, and worth pursuing, but without the power-centered constructs of mankind. I also agree with your comment [on his website - DC]:
> "I CAME TO REALIZE THAT INSTEAD OF ASKING WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE, I SHOULD ASK WHAT IS THE MEANING OF MY LIFE?"
I believe that life-meaning is created from within, and is never something that is dictated by what is external to us. I see from your site that you have had quite an "interesting" life. It looks, however, like you've found the secret to living now in every present moment, and that is a true accomplishment. Many who do not understand this principle still live as slaves rather than as warriors.
Best wishes on your journey, and thanks again for the email.
as a matter of fact
Frankly I hope there is a God but there might not be. If God were to exist He or she would certainly by his very nature not have to conform to how the bible describes her. If a being understood the concept of infinity, omnipotence, etc it doeasn't seem like that would make us jump thru such a narrow hoop to get to them.
One of your poems confirmed what I long suspected. In 1984 I was in a real jam of my own doing. I could see no way out, so I called out to God.
I got an answer and the voice that answered led me to make serious changes in my behavior and attitude. Looking back I realize now that it was me and I told myself my only choice was to change or suffer.
Two years ago I was diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer, I pretty much have learned to live with it, but your other poem about death gave me another perspective.
It is most remarkable and gratifying that you found some of my poems to be meaningful to you. It takes a fundamental shift in perspective to recognize that inner "voice" as something other than God's and to properly reassign it to our own selves. Only then, can we use that voice rightly to live as warriors rather than as slaves.
Regardless of our present state of health, not one of us can truly control the length of our stay in this form, and I hope you may have found some connection and usefulness in the philosophy of Nowness, or the value of the present moment. It is ever all we have, but it is full of possibilities and can be molded to our uses to serve our joyfulness. I have found a lot of meaning in Carlos Casteneda's projection of Death as an entity that is always "just over our left shoulder." It is always there and we catch glimpses of it, but we are instructed not to fear it, but rather to "use Death as an advisor." In this way, we are reminded from day to day and moment to moment that each moment of life is truly precious.
Thank you again for writing, and I wish you the very best in your journey.
Joy and peace.
[NOTE: As he is webmaster of his own ex-Christian site, I have left in identifiers to Clint Clark]
Subject: History of Settlement Religions
Dear Website Editor,
My Name is Clint Clark and I‚ve developed a small website that may be an interesting link addition to your site. I call it "Religion Detoxification." One of its features is "The Logical Ten Commandments."
It also has some history on the development of Settlement Religion along with some important points about Oral Tradition. The address is:
Thank you for your consideration
Thanks for the reference to your site. I'll be happy to add your link. I really like your approach with your Logical 10 Commandments. Stripping off the fluffy words and restating the purpose in practical, casual language helps us understand what the religious system was for and how it came to be.
You may be right about the "Divine Madness" idea that many of the prophets were actually schizophrenics. I have found much compelling evidence that leads me to believe that much of the prophesy and visions were actually induced by these people partaking of psychoactive plants (what we would call hallucinogens - a loaded and misleading modern concept). This was very common in the old religious societies, and may have actually been the genesis of religion.
I wanted to tell you, also, that I really like your "definition of personal spirituality". Is that your own quote? and can I quote you? It's really right on.
Thanks for writing, and good journey!
And yes, I wrote this definition of my Personal Spirituality and you are welcome to use it as a quote:
A Definition of Personal Spirituality
by Clinton S. Clark - 2003
"My essence of being, entity (or spirit if you prefer) is naturally aware that all things seen and unseen in the universe are related and connected to each other; ..that the grandeur and magnificence of our universe is divine, therefore the Earth is sacred; ..and knowing that the Earth is sacred, I know that we live and rest in a sacred place each day; ..that human beings occur naturally as a part of life on our planet; ..that human beings are one of many animal nations on our planet and that all animal nations have an instinctual wisdom of morality related to the continuance of life; ..that a lack of memorization skills, tool use, tool making, tool invention, or personal possessions does not infer a lack of intelligence or emotion; ..that phenomenon and the exceptional remain mysterious until they are understood in full; ..that the First Truth in our universe is "Things get together to exist"and therefore, the Second Truth in our universe is that "The smallest subdivision of anything cannot exist by itself."; ..that a small amount of biological material from one person joined with another person to create me; ..that the genetic material in my body is more than 150,000 years old which means that a small part of me has been around for many thousands of years or more; ..that I am unique and special to myself and to the planet; ..that belief systems, which include regular worship services that seek to contradict these truths, are Settlement Religions and do not support Personal Spirituality."
And again, thanks for your kind words. . . .
NOTE: This exchange continues my conversation with Clint Clark, who has an ex-Christian site called "Religion Detoxification." at: http://www.artdsm.com/religiondetoxification/
A New Theory: Jesus Was Symbolically The Essenes
I have a new theory about the Jesus Story:
"Although I have no solid research to support this theory, I believe that The Jesus Story, as written in the Gospel of Mark, could have its beginnings as a symbolic story for the annihilation of the Essenes, the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, a spiritual ending for Essenes (including that their philosophy will live on), and how Jerusalem would need to change in the future after the destruction of Jerusalem."
You may well be right, but I am more inclined to agree with Freke and Gandy's assessment (in "The Jesus Mysteries") that Jesus was a composite of the old resurrecting god-man Osiris/Dionysus and the mythical Jewish Messiah figure. This was the result of the purposed integration by the Jews into their own culture of the teachings and worldviews of the Hellenized pagan mystery cults that surrounded the Jewish state at that time. Unfortunately, that symbolic union became distorted into a literalistic view of it and all pagan mystic knowledge and activity was brutally eradicated. Joseph Campbell once wrote:
"My favorite definition of religion is 'a misinterpretation of mythology. And the misinterpretation consists of precisely in attributing historical references to symbols which properly are spiritual in their reference."
That's perfect! Because I'm hoping this theory leads to a conclusion similar to this:
"The Jesus Story is Egyptian. In other words, The Jesus Story has its origin as an Alexandrian (Egyptian) parable using the historical Essenes, their philosophy, their struggles with the Romans, and the destruction of Jerusalem (and how their philosophy would survive their death - which it did). Origen of Alexandria developed the concept for the story. Two bishops of Caesarea in Palestine, Pamphilius and Eusebius Pamphili, later refined the story. And Constantine? He needed a quick way to kill off Arianism and shore up the Nicene Creed. As you can readily see, we have "motive" and "opportunity" in a nutshell for The Jesus Story."
Compared with the culture in Alexandria, the folks in Antioch at this time in history are "backwards hicks" (Saul and the others). Only those trained in a much more progressive Alexandria would have the technology of the healing arts and the philosophical skills to create a Jesus Story.
The biggest stumbling block I have at the moment is Irenaeus of Lyons (115 CE - 202 CE). We are told that he does mention the Gospels and argues for only four versions to be true. I'm hoping that all these versions of the Gospel are NOT Jesus Stories at all, but versions of some other kind of Hebrew philosophy.
Subject: who am I?
Hello. I came across your website and was intrigued by what I read, but also deeply disturbed. I know I am alive right now, but to think that when I die, that's it, is almost unbearable. It is a very scary thought. Have I really used religion as a crutch to not face the facts of life and death? Your idea of us being non-existent before we were born, makes a lot of sense to me, and is a little comforting. When I leave this world, I want to be able to say that I lived a full, happy life. If there is something beyond, I will be pleasantly surprised. If there is nothing beyond the grave, I won't know because I won't exist to care about not existing. In a way, it's a funny concept. All my fear of death will mean nothing when I die. I will simply be dead. My conciousness will float away with the rest of my body. And I guess, when we go to sleep, our brain half-shuts down, and we don't remember a thing about sleeping. We just go to bed and wake up the next morning.
Living a life of fear, is not a good thing. I'm wondering: Does being an Atheist mean that I don't believe in the possibility of there being a Deity? Just curious because I am unsure of what I believe or don't believe. Your site is very insightful and I wish you all the best in each and every day.
Thanks for your email. I truly appreciate hearing from those who find my site.
I can certainly sympathize with the frustrations and feelings you expressed, having gone through it myself
These new ideas are, indeed, disturbing. They alter our very identity and put us in an unexpected position. If not heaven and eternal life, then what? Just this? Is this enough? Is there something more, even if it is not what I was taught?
You questioned yourself if you have been using religion as a crutch to not face the facts of life and death. That is exactly right in my view. All who cling to religion do so by paying a price they probably don't know they are paying. I think Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan said it best when he states that we can live as slaves or live as warriors - there is no other choice. We were all in slavery when under the control of religion, and we willingly gave ourselves to it, even to the point of happily depicting ourselves as helpless and will-less sheep to be herded by a shepherd.
Atheism, as such, merely states that no supernatural gods or entities can be shown to exist, therefore we should not accept claims of such until they can be proven. For some, that is enough and they simply stay in that stance. For myself, and many with whom I am in contact, this is not really enough. The universe is too wonderful and too complex and intriguing to simply say, "Nope, there's nothing else and that's it. I'm going to watch TV." There are too many records, reports, and personal stories from all over the world and from all eras of time that suggest that there is something else "out there" that can be percieved or even interacted with. Some call it god, or the collective unconscious, or the Tau, but it is quite mysterious and has nothing at all to do with the "father God person" we were raised up to believe in as Christians. It may simply be the force of life itself, concentrated in our DNA and expressed in an explosion of forms across the worlds. Who knows? But it is something to pursue.
There is a methodology or philosophy of living that is appropriate and powerful for people in my position. You may also find it useful. It is really just emerging in terms of being written down and organized. It's sometimes referred to as the Way of the Sacred Warrior, or the Way of the Peaceful Warrior (Chongyam Trungpa's, and Dan Millman's terms respectively), and it has given me the tools I needed to address the fear of annihilation death that you talked about and to position myself to learn new and strange things. This kind of warrior has nothing to do with the common use of that term to mean one who fights other people. This battle is with ourselves and the Unknown.
You said you "want to be able to say I lived a full, happy life," and "Living a life of fear is not a good thing." This Way teaches us how to bear the unbearable and how to use our fright. It speaks of using our Death as an advisor, asking it to sit down next to us on the mat in order to assess it and use the perspective we get from it to empower us and focus our energies where they need to go instead of wasting our wonderful time on things that drain us or enslave us. It's pretty powerful medicine, and I recommend it to you. You could start with the famous books b
Castaneda, but they are "sharp cheese", indeed. A more graspable place to begin, perhaps, is with Dan Millman's book "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior". Also, a wonderful overview of these things is found in Robert L. Spencer's "The Craft of the Warrior". I won't go into much detail here, but I highly recommend this approach for those who have expressed the concerns and thoughts you have expressed. It is a way that I am learning and "being" in right now, and I think it will lead to interesting things in the Unknown - the only place where we can learn anything new, even if it does frighten us.
The old sorcerer/teacher Don Juan said: "Thus to be a warrior a man has to be, first of all, and rightfully so, keenly aware of his own death. But to be concerned with death would force anyone of us to focus on the self and that would be debilitating. So the next thing one needs to be a warrior is detachment. The idea of imminent death, instead of becoming an obsession, becomes an indifference. . . . And thus with an awareness of his death, with his detachment, and with the power of his decisions a warrior sets his life in a strategical manner.. . . . We are men and our lot is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds." -
Very best wishes and intentions to you on your journey, H, and I hope you will let me know how it goes. Please email anytime.
I no longer feel that I am an Atheist. I believe there is a source of life inside all of us. Something gave us life and we didn't just come into existence by accident. I don't believe in religion. I think religion is just man's attempt at explaining the unexplainable (God). All the scriptures contradict each other and themselves, so they cannot possibly be written by God. There is truth in all the scriptures, but that truth is based on our own intelligence and understanding of God. Right now I am practicing (as best I can) the meditation of Zen. Meditation is very powerful and if I train myself, I might benefit from it (physically, spiritually and emotionally).
Take care, Shalom.
The present moment is not mundane. It is, in essence, extraordinary. -DC
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