Conversations With You
Very interesting comments about Gnosticism. Yes, I think I agree with you. I have heard of the Jesus Mysteries from www.egodeath.com (Michael Hoffman). I will look into your book tips. Thank you very much.
It seems I have transferred my cognitive dissonance over the issue of salvation to cognitive dissonance over determinism and free will. But I'd much rather live with the latter. I love paradoxes and can live with a pardox comfortably.
Carl Jung was the beginning of me being able to work through my fundamentalist brainwashing. He also was the beginning of the split between my Dad and I. I still can't believe my Dad has a degree in psychology and philosophy and has thrown it all away. Jung carries a very special place in my heart.
Thanks very much for the information. I will find a way to pass it on.
[NOTE: Well, I knew it had to happen. Someone who just read the Christian book I authored and published in 1994 looked me up and found this site - much, I am certain, to his surprise and disconcertion. I think my long response to him said what I needed to about this issue. I have not heard back from MP as of this site update.
BTW, the contraction "C of C" refers to the "Church of Christ" -DC]
Comments on your journey from fellow former C of C
I'm just finishing your book Prophecy Fulfilled and wanted to know more about the author so I found this website of yours. It makes me immensely sad that you have chosen to throw your relationship with God away on human philosophy. It's funny because I was absorbed in a lot of the same rational thought and read a lot of the things on your list before I understood the eternal truth. Seems like we just swapped places! Maybe after you see the eventual emptiness in materialism/agnosticism/athiesm/selfism and all those other isms you'll come back to the truth. I was immersed in those philosophies the same way you were immersed in C of C dogma. Either one can screw you up pretty good! Sometimes in the C of C there is such a concern to get doctrine right that friendship and relationship with God is put on the back shelf. I, myself, came to relationship with God thru a ministry of the Church of Christ. (Actually, as I've been reading this book, I had a feeling you might have had a C of C background!)
After reading about your journey to where you are presently, I just had a question about this statement:
> It is the Christian religion that asserts that we are separate from our environment and that the entire world and universe is doomed to destruction at any moment by God. It is the Christian‚s logical view that this Earth does not matter, and neither do our earthly lives. I now beg to differ.
Maybe you need to read Chapter 8 in your book again because this isn't what you once believed. What I got from your book is that our lives right now in the present are VERY important in light of the finished work of Christ in the world and we are here to live out the Law of Christ which is love above all things. There is a freedom and peace and joy that can only be found in knowing that what I do in my everyday life thru love is somehow, seed by seed, making the world a better place for us right now as well as future generations as we build the "new heavens and earth".
As you said yourself, what would faith be if God could be proved empirically? God is still there whether you believe or not. Maybe you just needed a very long break from organized religion. Sounds like you've already had a lifetime full of it in your short life! Don't get too lost in philosophies of men. A book like the Bible could never be written only by the hand of men. Men misunderstand it too much for it to be written by them. Your book proved to me the wonders of God in the harmony of the scriptures. May you continue your search for truth without closing your heart to it.
Thank you for taking the time to look me up and to write. I guess I've been expecting an email like yours for some time, but actually, yours is the first I've received from someone who has actually read my book and who is currently a satisfied believer. You must have been more than a bit surprised when you found my Joy of Disillusionment site after reading "Prophecy Fulfilled".
It may seem to you that I'm making light of something serious to say this, but I have not "thrown away my relationship with God" by taking the position I have. Rather, it is like I have packed it away in a box until I see something that makes me believe that the characters and storyline of the Bible exist in reality outside of that story matrix and that single source. Those characters include the stylized "Daddy God" of the New Testament and the tribal "Warrior God" of the Old. You see, the trouble with Christianity is that it depends solely on that one text source. It's like an inverted pyramid. If the source is true, then all is well, but the source has been shown to me to not be true and that makes the entire Christian structure come crashing down - no matter how elaborate or large it has been made to be.
You are right in perceiving that I was saturated in Christian, particularly Church of Christ, doctrine. I was able to pull away from the C of C's ideas early on, and developed the Preterist interpretation that you read in my book, but I was never able to, or never allowed myself to, pull away from the basic presumptions of Christianity themselves - things like: the Bible is and must be the inspired Word of God; the person of Jesus Christ was God; Christ's sacrifice of life was to save us from sin; etc. When you read my book, it is obvious that the truth and reality of the Bible as God's document is presumed by me from the very first word, and based on that presumption, the very purpose of the book is to try to make the Bible make sense when it did not make sense before.
All I can tell you is that one day, I stepped outside that mental world for the first time and read many things that showed me a far bigger picture than I had ever seen before, and in that picture, the Christian worldview could be seen as just one of many structures that describe the spiritual yearnings and reachings of mankind, and it was not even very original. That was a shock, to see how derivative Christianity's story is from other, older sources. If it is God's inspired word (presuming the kind of God that is described within the text being questioned), then he borrowed a lot of older stuff from the very cultures he seems to disparage throughout the Bible (such as Egyptian, Persian/Assyrian, Pagan Greek, etc.) and passed it off as his own. In order to open my "box" again, I would need some explanations of these things from the source himself.
You said you hope I might come back to the truth after seeing "the eventual emptiness" in all the materialisms and agnostic/atheisms. You obviously found nothing in any other philosophy that made sense to you, after being "absorbed" in them yourself, you said. I titled my site the "Joy" of Disillusionment" for a reason. I have not found emptiness, but rather the opposite. I am almost overwhelmed by the information, the beauty, the love, and the wealth of experiences that exist outside the blinders of the Christian, or any other similar orthodox doctrinal, system of thought. I am in a state of joy and wonder that is fed with intellectual and spiritual stimulation. Yes, I said spiritual.
I have travelled some ways on since I wrote most of what is on the Joy site. When I came out of the Christian belief system, I had nowhere else to land except straightforward rationalism. Since then, I've been exploring many other - much older - systems of understanding about what is beyond that rational/physical interpretation of the universe we are in. I can only tell you that I do believe there is some force or entity that is at the center of cause in this universe, but I see the Bible's God as a very simplistic and misleading anthropomorphism of it. I don't know what that Divine or Sacred Other is, and I don't think anyone does, but I have read enough and spoken and learned from enough others to postulate it with some conviction now. The only thing left is to reach out and try to make some kind of actual connection with it. This striving to personally experience the Divine has been man's spiritual process for many thousands of years, and it was Christianity's as well in the beginning. However, it was Christianity, in its codified, legalistic mode after Constantine that completely changed that. Now, under that mode, we are assured that we have been saved by God's grace, but God does not interact with us physically in this world. We are told we are accepted by him, but we should never question the truth of the texts that tell us so. On our own, we are damaged goods, and we must never presume to think we can reach out and actually touch God himself. We are told that he "lives in our hearts" but he only speaks to us through the approved texts.
The gnostics had it right, though. They understood that the Christianity story we have now is just the outer mysteries, the simple myth-stories told to those who were only at the beginning of the process of understanding. We have lost what came next - the inner mysteries that explain the allegory and internalize the teachings, because this gnostic "knowing" was a threat to the paternalistic, legalistic Roman church structure and they mercilessly eradicated all who taught these things. Some of this knowledge, however, has been preserved and is available to those who seek something beyond the simple.
Please understand that I would never impugn yours or anyone's right to believe in that simple Christian story or in the Bible texts. I, too, believed in them for much of my life. You were correct in pointing out that I once taught that faith would be undone if there were ever empirical proof of God. Faith as taught in the Bible, however, is never blind faith. It is always faith that is based on trust in a story that is told. That story must be beyond reproach and secure in its truth for the faith to be justified and fulfilled. If that story is not completely true, then the trust has been broken and the faith betrayed. It was discovery of this very breach of truth that makes me disconnect from the Christian story and put any relationship with whatever God is into my little box for some other time when he can be empirically shown or I can connect to him personally. You said "God is still there whether you believe in him or not." I say, great! Let him/she/it show up and I'll gladly interact, but just relying on the biblical texts is utterly insufficient now. The old faith contract has been broken.
One more issue you touched on that I'd like to address is the contention that the Bible could not have been written by men. I, too, once fell for this line of sale until I read several things that helped me to understand the Bible in its original context and how it was used as a tool of power and politics by certain groups of men. Sorry, but the idea that the Bible must be from God because "men misunderstand it too much" is simply silly. Even the modern accepted Christian view of the Bible is a complete "misunderstanding" of it. It wasn't written for our minds or cultures. Those who were immersed in the culture it was written for understood it implicitly, for it was written by their peers and it freely quoted and borrowed from the myths and stories that were as familiar to them as Sleepy Hollow and Star Wars are to us. There are some unbiased scholars today who have burrowed back to those times enough to begin to understand, but our traditional view of the Gospels, for instance, is so entrenched that it is nearly impossible for us to see it as anything else.
Lastly, I'll just say that my heart is not closed to God. If anything, it is ever so much more open. However, it is also not constrained by any dogma, any doctrine, or any particular worldview, even that of the well-meaning Church of Christ minister. I may find my connection to the Divine Other through any of a number of paths from shamanism to Jungian synchronicity, but if I do not ever find that connection, it will not be because I did not try and did not have an utterly open mind and heart. If that were to be so, then I would indeed fall back to a simple rational view of my life and this world and I would continue to find joy and wonder in every moment of this indescribable and mysterious thing called Life.
Thanks again, MP, for writing and for listening to my response here. I do understand your emotional reaction to me and my path, but I also hope you will respect that I'm not doing it as an unconsidered knee-jerk reaction or doing it out of anger, as many confirmed non-believers do. I do hope that you will continue to follow your path of heart, whether it is inside the structure of Christianity or not. In the end, we may even arrive at the same destination, but I've come to believe that the only thing that is truly important is the quality and purpose of the living we live along the way in each and every magical moment.
I've read over your site several times; very good job. I too am an ex-christian, but I find it really hard to wrench myself free. I still struggle with much fear, even after "leaving the fold" several years ago. Someone suggested that I am a victim of "neurological sabotage", an idea I am intrigued by.
What I really like about your site is that you are open to other ideas. So many ex-christians and other "free-thinkers" seem to gravitate towards a very materialistic, secular-humanist point of view. Anything outside the lines is verboten, ridiculed even. I too sometimes sojourn in that materialistic outlook, but I find it rather limiting and bleak.
Anyway, I was wondering if you have ever read any works by David Icke. I know, I know, Icke is wild. But some of the things he says resonate with me. Not the reptillian stuff, although you never know............. But the idea that our reality is manipulated and manufactured. I want to explore these ideas, mainly I admit for my own personal pleasure. I have at times been able to question our "reality" and for all too brief periods experienced a freedom from our usual paradigm or reality tunnel.
By the way, I really loved your poem "Old Stories". It really speaks to where I am.
Hope to hear from you-
Thanks for writing! I truly appreciate hearing from you. I totally agree that many folks who turn away from Christianity, per se, tend to end up in an angry and depressed place because they have been so severely disappointed as well as disillusioned. The disillusionment is good for us, but it is easy to get caught up in the disappointment and just give up to it. Then we are stuck, as you mentioned, in the materialistic outlook and, perhaps, never take the chance to seek other information or try other ways of understanding our lives. I am glad to hear that you've taken the road I have also taken and decided not to be self-limiting. I've actually travelled on a ways further than where I was when I wrote most of what is on my site.
I am somewhat familiar with Icke's ideas, mostly from a good friend who has studied his books more than I have. I don't really buy a lot of his more extreme ideas myself, but I am very open to understanding alternative histories and I do think, as Graham Hancock has said, that we humans are a people who have lost their memory. Some tribal peoples also claim that we Americans are a people who have lost their spirit, and they mean that literally. I've been looking into some of the oldest philosophies and paradigms of spirit in existence and find that much of it is intriguingly practical. Shamanism is alive and well, and represents, really, the first way humans dealt with the things that are beyond the rational, ego-driven worldview.
This path involves personal experience of the Divine Other, however you wish to name it. In western societies, that shamanic approach developed into the mystery religions and continued into Biblical times as gnosticism. It still continues today, and is a pathway I am interested in because of its focus on direct personal experience. That is actually the rational, scientific approach, after all - experiment and analysis of results, and repeat of what works.
The way I see it now, there are really only three philosophies to follow. We can retreat at one extreme to pure materialism, represented by the ideas of existentialism, or on the other pole, we can pursue gnosis, or knowledge - meaning direct personal knowledge - of things spiritual. The third path is to have what someone once termed "faith in someone else's faith." That is, handing our belief structure over to someone else directly or through any of many sacred scriptures and turning our own mind off. Although comforting as a cocoon, the latter is no longer tenable for me, and it sounds like it's not for you, either.
I am very touched that you resonated with my poem "Old Stories". It was a powerful poem for me when I wrote it, and I hoped it would speak to others at that level. Thank you for telling me.
Thanks again for your email, and I wish for you only the best in your journey to new information and new experiences. It's a very large universe out here beyond the Christian box, and our travels here are an unending adventure. Write anytime.
[OK, you gotta love this one! I always try to answer those who write me in something of the same level of communication, but this one was a challenge! Write and tell me if you think I got it right!
Subject: truth, or the pursuit.
>A few years ago when I was yet fully Christian in my beliefs, I wrote the following sentiment on a card and posted it in my home:
1) coc = cult/sect(comforting falsehoods) NOT= truth
2) leaving coc = going to truth ,
or= going to something else also untrue.
3) keep seeking truth. Shalom then.
1. leaving CoC = movement out of,
2. Movement forward could =
* toward Truth
* toward untruth, but
3. Keep seeking Truth =
4. "Not all who wander are lost" (Gandalf)
5. Thanks! and Pax Amicus
Subject: still mourning
I have returned to your site again a re-read the "Like a Divorce" page you have. True, so true. I am still hurting and in a mourning stage after turning away from the Bible and Christianity. How long does it last?
Thanks for writing to me. I appreciate hearing from you.
The answer to "How long does the mourning last?" really depends on your own situation in terms of your personality and what it is that you decide to do next. Some people are prone to a more emotional response to things than others, and for those folks, the mourning "phase" may be more prolonged or profound. Others might be tempted to turn their emotional hurt into emotional anger and go stomping away into resentful, unconsidered atheism, never to emerge again with new thoughts or a new heart.
I think that the most important thing is to recognize the loss (and it is a profound loss), but then "get real" about it at a certain point and decide to move ahead into whatever presents itself as interesting and worthwhile. That process of deciding is very important. Once that movement has begun, you will soon discover that the mourning and the worry and the mental mess of the past is truly that - past. You may experience, as I did, an unexpected sense of wonder and joyful relief at finding yourself in a brand-new, clean-slate relationship with the universe. From that point on, there is only goodness, wonder, and worthwhile challenges as you begin to investigate what the real universe has to offer, as opposed to the dogmas and false structures of the man-made religions.
This is the process I am following, and it is truly a joy. I do remember every now and then how distraught I once felt about the Christian faith and culture and set of knowledge that I left behind me, but it is a distant thing now. It is something I muse over and dismiss because I have things that are so much more important to occupy my mind and heart now. I believe that this path is possible for anyone, and I am certain that you will move past the pain of the loss you are experiencing right now, even though it may seem overwhelming while you are in the midst of it.
I also think it is very important not to allow ourselves to become victimized by the feelings of loss and fall into just being "The One Who Is Hurt". That way is a dead-end that many have followed into a numb kind of existence.
Keep reading. Keep thinking and trying to figure things out. There really is a tremendous world outside of Christianity that you can learn to involve yourself in. I wish you the very best on your important journey and send you my encouragement during the "hard part". Feel free to write anytime, and thank you again for your email.
Thanks so much for writing. I'm going to keep your email and refer back to it periodically. I appreciate the depth of your response. Boy, this is really hard, but I know I have to get past it if I'm going to live happily.
Thanks for your response and your website.
Keep growing and learning.
Subject: Poetry for the newly-converted unbeliever
Hiya David, I enjoyed your site... I especially liked your poem "Old Stories" - excellent "fishing line" metaphor.
Anyway, it moved me to share. This isn't my own (sadly) - it's by Rupert Brooke.
Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat'ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! ˜ Death eddies near ˜
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time.
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.
[David's response and continuing conversation with K on the next page.]
The present moment is not mundane. It is, in essence, extraordinary. -DC
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