Conversations With You
Subject: maybe you can help
I am writing to you today as I am struggling with trying to find a way to connect with others in my local area who may be on the same "journey" as I find myself. Three years ago this March, my family relocated to the Seattle area, at which point I decided to take a "6 month sabbatical" from church. This was due mainly to the burnout I experienced having been on staff as Children's Ministry Pastor for the previous 10 years at a church in Southern California.
To make a long story short, it is 3 years later, I no longer am willing to attend any church, and I find myself on the verge of leaving Christianity for good. I was "saved" at the age of 5 and am now 42, so this is no easy task. Being in a new city doesn't help, (although if I hadn't moved I'd still be stuck in my "former life") but perhaps there is a way to find others to talk with who are wrestling in the same manner.
Thanks for your email. I don't know if I can help, but I'll tell you what I can.
When my wife and I left Christianity, we didn't feel the need for being around others for quite a while, as we were doing a lot of reading and we had each other to bounce things off of. When we finally did start exploring, we tried attending with the Ethical Society for a while. That is a humanist, basically atheistic group that meets on Sundays and has fellowship like a church group would. This may be a solution for you if you are ok being around those who have definitely left their beliefs (or never had them to begin with). If you are looking for something less to the non-belief side, you might check out the Universal Unitarian Church. I have never attended one, but I understand that all beliefs or shades of belief or even non-belief are accepted and welcomed there. If you really are wanting a gathering of those who are actually in transition from belief to non-belief, and looking for support, it may be difficult to find in person in any city. The internet is the only place I've found for that.
We have been fortunate, here in Austin, to have recently found a "spiritual group" that is not shallow or locked into some New Age fad, and we have been enjoying the fellowship we have so long lost, but it is a kind of a fluke to have found it. I think as you begin to communicate your thinking to those you select to tell, you may begin to network with some others. I've been surprised to see how many people are actually unhappy with their belief structure and eager to learn new things.
I guess the nice thing about shedding the old belief structures is that we are left much more open to connect with other people of all kinds, rather than just those that nod to a particular dogma or creed. I found it to be a much larger human world out here than in there, and I hope you will find that to be true also.
Best wishes on your journey, and write anytime.
Thank you so much for stopping and taking the time to write back to me. I was pretty certain that the on-line stuff was going to have to suffice. I am steering pretty clear of any “churches” in that I really want to be careful to not trade in one false belief for another, and quite frankly some of the things I have heard coming from some “spiritual” groups is as hard to believe as the junk I’ve recently left behind (in fact sounds almost the same)!
Before I let you go- I just wanted to make a couple of comments regarding your website, and feel free to post them if you wish. Your site is incredibly refreshing in that you are clear about what you are and are not, and your tone is so respectful of believers. I tire of the sites that seem so angry and cruel to believers (though at times it may be deserved) since I’ve been a Christian for so many years and all of my loved ones still are. Besides hate never gets us anywhere… Also, your poetry and musings are beautiful and speak truth so eloquently. The other “aha moment” I came upon was reading how your search for truth brought you to this place- and I am now convinced that this is the common thread for the majority of us leaving “the kingdom”. Truth is all there is, and we hunger for it. I have bent my mind into a pretzel for too many years trying to make doctrines make sense, to understand the Bible, and converting others to accept things by faith when it doesn’t add up. I too began realizing something was horribly wrong when I began to actually research the origin of the “Holy Book” that I was basing my entire being on. Reading became my manna and I was astounded at the wealth of information available at the public library!
Getting my head out of the Christian bookstores and into factual research was not only feeding a starved and shriveled place within, but the beginning of opening my eyes to see how I had been horribly duped- scammed for so many years. The anger is subsiding into thoughtfulness, and you are right, I am so amazed at how open I am to humanity and the need to embrace all of mankind. I see now that tolerance is a wonderful thing, not the dirty word that churches have tried to convince me of (“compromising with the world”, “playing around with Satan”, etc. etc.). Although I feel so very lonely in this new place, and at times scared to death with this new thinking, I am also learning to love life and let my mind soar like the un-tethered kite of your poem-higher and higher without having the tug of tradition and “God’s Word says…” holding me down.
Thank you for taking the time to create your website and please keep it going as long as you can. It is an oasis for those of us who struggle in the desert of transition.
I want to thank you for your heartfelt comments. I created my website for you and those like you who are in the transition. I am especially touched that you found my poems and appreciated them.
I may not get to update the site as often as I'd like to, but I intend to leave it published indefinitely in the hopes it will continue to speak to those who may need it.
A couple of quick comments on what you wrote. Lonely is solveable in the long run. Scary is to be expected and is not necessarily a bad thing. It could even be a very useful thing. Thoughtfulness that leads to tolerance and an embracing of humanity - now that's really a good thing! Sounds like you have made it quite a long way already, and I know you will only find more and more to learn and do in this new "mode". Life really is a lot more rewarding and, well, alive here on the "dark side of the moon".
Very best wishes!
[Here's a particularly unusual and interesting letter. I wish I had heard back from this fellow. -DC]
Subject: questions on disillusionment
I'm TS, a film maker in the UK. I'm currently putting together and idea which hopefully will become a documentary and or series of documentaries on the subject of disillusionment, its effects both good and bad on our society and the various aspects. Not being trained in psychology or sociology, I'm kind of feeling my way a bit so would welcome any opinions people have on the subject.I came across your site and it reminded me of something my Dad went through. Until I was 16 (I'm now 30) my entire family belonged to the Christadelphian faith. My Dad, for various reasons lost his faith (I was never that strong a believer myself).
Below are some of the vague questions I'm asking to begin with and hopefully through a process of filtering I'll be able to come up with a clear piece of work that actually says something, be it for teaching purposes or special interest.
Is disillusionment simply part of being human or is it something we have created?
Is disillusionment nesesary in our development both as individuals and as a society?
Is disillusionment actively manipulated by the corporate world and the media and the various governments to enforce a hierachy within our "classless society"?
What part does religion play?
How much of it has links to the speed at which technology is evolving along side the speed at which society is evolving?
Is disillusionment a worldwide thing or does it only affect those in more western cultures and if so why?
These are just a few of the topics i'd like to look at and there are probably plenty more aspects of the problem that I havn't even got to yet (currently wading through some text a friend gave me on psychology and a load of stuff I pulled off the net) so any help or fresh insight would be a great help.
. . . .
Wow, what an interesting idea for a documentary! I don't know if I can help on this, but I'll try to give you some thoughts to consider around the questions you posed. My "Joy of Disillusionment" site is specifically geared, as you know, to those who are making the transition out of organized or orthodox religion and so the term "disillusionment" is used quite specifically to address that issue. However, it is a much broader concept that I believe is relevant to our society.
> Is disillusionment simply part of being human or is it something we have created?
I would say that disillusionment can only exist as a response to an illusion. It is different from disappointment, although we can be disappointed when we become disillusioned. I think it can only be considered from the standpoint of it being a human creation that is wielded in response to malfunctioning or impotent illusions or myths.
> Is disillusionment nesesary in our development both as individuals and as a society?
Illusions can be either useful or harmful. Human societies use agreed upon structures to guide its peoples in the way they think and act, or to express a common purpose. Some of these stories or myths are true and some are not. It may be useful and good for citizens of the United States to identify with and even pattern their values around the mythology of the "Old West" with its promotion of an independent character and a hearty relationship to the open landscapes of the pioneer heritage of this country. Does it serve a useful purpose, then, to disillusion someone of this heritage by pointing out the negative costs of the westward expansion in terms of ecological damage and the horrendous injustices wrought on the indigenous population? Perhaps, or perhaps not.
Some myths or illusions are more obviously dysfunctional or dangerous because they are created and maintained with the purpose of control. When this happens, entire populations can be oppressed, as in North Korea. In such cases, disillusionment is a necessary medicine that can heal.
For individuals, disillusionment can be either good or bad. For many, remaining "illusioned" in whatever myth is comforting and provides security is crucial to their well-being and even their sanity. For others, only the truth will serve, even if that truth is dangerous, shocking, or devastating.
> Is disillusionment actively manipulated by the corporate world and the media and the various governments to enforce a hierachy within our "classless society"?
> What part does religion play?
I think that the manipulators of illusion and/or disillusionment are those who have a vested interest in power over populations. This points more toward governments and religions than it does toward the corporate world and media. The former require constraining mechanisms to keep their respective populaces under control. The business world wants power in the form of money, but cares little for the people from whom the money comes. The media world just wants a good story to sell, and will happily settle for either a good illusion or a good disillusionment, as long as it means something new is happening that can be reported and sold.
Considering the governments and religious "authorities," I do believe that one of the primary functions is to maintain the hierarchy that has been established. In most modern societies, that means patriarchal rule and a male god. This goes all the way back to the successful invasion of the Aryan peoples into ancient India, of which event our orthodox western religions are a distant echo.
> How much of it has links to the speed at which technology is evolving along side the speed at which society is evolving?
In the past, it was much easier for those in power to maintain illusions or useful myths in their populaces. The masses did not have enough education or access to recorded information to be able to glimpse how they were being manipulated. With modern communications and technology, this has changed on a fundamental level. The advent of the nodal, non-centralized internet is a very powerful new force that is offering many a new, more objective view - perhaps for the first time. The time is approaching, if not here, when everyone will be have the ability to choose whether to acknowledge or align themselves to any particular illusion or myth, or to reject it.
> Is disillusionment a worldwide thing or does it only affect those in more western cultures and if so why?
Disillusionment (and Illusionment) are human things. It may be more prominent in the western cultures because of the bias toward democratic social structures and the aforementioned technological considerations, but it is not something peculiar to western peoples, in my view.
Those are some of my initial thoughts. I hope that helps in some way. Please feel free to contact me again if I can be of assistance. I'd love to hear how your project progresses!
maybe just being alive and trying to be the best person you can be, and loving and enjoying the ride, loving yourself, just as you are, and being open to wonder, and love, and that which some name "god" but is much bigger than any one religion or anyone's ideas about God...yes, sacred attention, and attention TO the sacred...
Who, what church, shall define the sacred to God, or god? or you, or me?
using religion as a way of conforming ideas, as a way of conforming people, their minds...as a tool of control, isn't that a form of mind control?
Yet being open to wonder, and other's ideas, and to the possibilty of love and wonder and peace, and a just world and trying to contribute to that is no small gift from any one of us to any one of us or to the world...
and wonder names it all....
I couldn't agree more. The further I travel on this road the more I understand about connections between all life and the depth, not only of what is unknown to us, but also of our immense untapped potential as human beings. I do think there is something we can call "the Sacred", but it is not to be defined by any of mankind's shallow and self-referent God imagery.
Thank you for your email and your comments! I appreciate hearing from you.
Stumbled across your journey while searching for information to bestow on my sister who constantly informs me of the Hell I am heading for! ("Gee...Is that the Christian sense of Pagan Hell you are referring too?"). I have been able to admit OUT LOUD for a couple years that I do not believe Jesus is a Savior...it is the most enlightening feeling to be able to say it with truth. From my search for answers, I do believe the man quoted from the Nag Hammati (It's been awhile, my memory is faulty on the spelling), may have been the subject of the New Testament Jesus, but he more than likely was a revolutionist returning from the East with a new thought of Oneness...
I find that the Jesus phrase "Love your neighbor" may be the key to peace, but in order to understand our neighbors, (those with other religious points of views), Christian's must think outside their box...I don't see that happening any time soon...too many powerful people using God to their advantage, it's a sad state of affairs we are in. Anybody brave enough to sacrifice their life to prove the difference?
Thanks for your comments and for visiting my site. It is a sad state of affairs, but it has been that way for several thousand years since men began to leave their tribal lifestyles. My journey now is to try to find a way to regain some of that lost wisdom and work to build a better spiritual or human consciousness driven world (and have a joyful time along the way!).
Best wishes for you on your journey.
Subject: I love your site
I just wanted to say that I love your website and I appreciate it very much.
I am building a website right now (when I have time) as a memorial to all the family members and friends in California that I have lost over the years to fundamental religion and who now avoid me.
Thanks so much for taking the time to help others.
Thank you for your email. I haven't had any responses on the site for quite a while, and I was beginning to think no one was finding it anymore! I am very gratified if you have found it to be useful and helpful.
It is always hard to know how to deal with the hurt and loss of friends and family who are still "back there" and cannot or will not understand the shifts we have made. I can only say that a certain kind of practiced "detachment" is the only method that helps me not to become mired in those feelings and waste my time and efforts on trying to force a shift on those who just don't want one. It seems much more useful to me to turn my focus onto those who not only agree with me, but who are much farther along the paths I'm on and who challenge and love me for who and where I am. There are many such people out here and it is somehow very compelling and rewarding to begin to cultivate a new family of fellow spirits - one that I have specifically chosen. Perhaps you will also find this to be true.
Please accept my best wishes for you on your journey, and feel free to write anytime.
I'm very happy to hear back from you. You never know when a website has been abandoned or forgotten and sometimes when I write to the owner I never hear back.
I have not read everything on your site yet but I definitely will.
I like your Shambala quote. I tend to enjoy the ideas of Tibetan Buddhism now and the wisdom of the Dali Lama. But unfortunately, I have had a difficult time finding others of like mind in my own community.
Yes it hurts to have lost my loved ones and friends to religion. I am hoping that the website I am making will be healing for me. . . .
I have had many emails over the past several years with [book author named]. It is about "post-modern" Christianity. He is the son of the pastor of a "mega church" (the one that I feel I was rather brainwashed by in the 1970's; a pioneer in the Jesus Movement). Although he and I disagree on obvious matters of theology, his church is progressive and incorporates principles of psychology and recovery. He says he is on the "fanatic fringe" and is a "black sheep" in the evangelical movement. . . .
I have had difficulties getting unbrainwashed and have even sought therapy and feel that I have satisfactorily resolved those issues now. Part of the problem is the fact that my father has a degree in psychology, which he has effectively totally thrown away in factor of fundamentalism. It is my dream to see the gap between Christianity and psychology bridged.
[The author] tells me that he is rather worn out from the fight now and has decided to settle with just making sure his church is progressive enough and helps a lot of people with recovery and psychology.
Well, I will write more later and you, too, feel free to write me anytime also.
Just thought I'd say that the only way to bridge Christianity and psychology will be to return Christianity to its proper roots. Those roots are in Gnosticism. The Literalist Christianity that we all know so well is not the original form of the religion. That original form was brutally supressed over the centuries by the Roman Church and we only hear of it as something terrible to avoid (like Paul's comments in the New Testament). Actually, Paul was a gnostic himself, and much of what he had to say was altered and forged by the winners of the war - the literalists.
If you are intrigued or would like to learn more about this, I highly recommend two books by Freke and Gandy: "The Jesus Mysteries", and "Jesus and the Lost Goddess".
Christianity will never be neurosis-free until its people are free - free to think and act for themselves, and to search for and approach the Divine Other on their own terms. It can only be a personal experience, and it can never be pinned down into one specific form or format (read: dogmas and creeds). It's just this chaotic freedom that paternalistic, rigid, literalist Christianity can never tolerate, and will fight to the end. Fortunately, many more people these days are just deciding to walk away from the old school and begin to really live their own lives for the first time.
Have you read much of Jung's works? "Man and His Symbols" is an excellent intro. I've been working with some Jungian related synchronicity systems lately, and it is a most interesting phenomena. Another step for me toward that gnosis (knowledge), perhaps. Best regards, David
[KH's conversation continues on the next page.]
The present moment is not mundane. It is, in essence, extraordinary. -DC
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