Conversations With You
Date: Wed, 17 Jul 2002
I am in a similar state. My only problem is I haven't "come out".
Thanks for the email. Yeah, that's tough. I'm still trying to find the right way to tell certain members of my family who don't know my position fully. I am very fortunate to have a spouse who is parallel with me on this.
You may already be aware of it, but there is a pretty good article on the Am. Athiest site about "coming out" that you might want to read. Here's the link:
Thanks again for writing - write anytime.
Date: Fri, 19 Jul 2002
Subject: kindred spirit
Thanks for your web site. I enjoyed reading through it very much. I wonder why I never looked for information like this on the web before? Maybe because I was so busy searching my own heart and mind for the truth as I've come to understand it.
I too left my Christian community and know the pain as well as the joy in leaving one's religious community. My journey has changed my life so much that I'm almost unrecognizable as a result.
In my attempts to understand my faith and the community that that faith created I began to write. I've been writing for nearly three years now and have finally put something together that I want to share with others. I'd
especially like to get your feedback if you get the chance to look at my work. [URL given for personal site]
Thanks again for putting so much energy and thoughtfulness into a subject matter so dear to my heart.
Thanks for your kind letter. I really appreciate hearing from those who find my site of some value. I was able to read quite a lot of your site, and it sounds like you have made some of the same kind of shifts I began to make not long ago. I particularly liked how you said:
"Now I understand what it means to be born-again. Now my own conscience is my guide."
It really is like being born again, but in a wholesome but scary self-responsible manner, isn't it? Now, we only have our own intelligence and resources to make our way forward in the world, and for trying to understand the universe we are a part of. For me, that is just fine, and has engendered an exciting journey of research and new understandings about the history of mankind and of his religions. I always thought I was a very well-read, even scholarly Christian man, but I had no idea how "provincial" my understandings and knowledge base was until after I was able to get outside the Christian "box" and look around.
I thought the best part of your writings was the story of the neighbors with their tracts and their embarrasment. You have some good thoughts there on the psychology of religious people and the effects of the dominator power structure that would lead them to act and to react in that manner.
Good point, too, about the crucifix. I have often thought, even before leaving my religious beliefs, that a Roman execution device was an abominable symbol to be using for our churches. I love the idea of having an electric chair on the rooftops! :()
I'm glad that you had the courage to make the shift to a self-defined life and to speak up about it. The world of sheep needs to hear more about being empowered to think for themselves and to be told, perhaps for the first time, that they won't be punished for doing so. We should, however, be honest with them and speak plainly that this road is, as you put it, "difficult, lonely, and eye-opening." It is also uniquely satisfying, rewarding, and, after the initial culture shock has subsided, extremely gratifying and joyful! There is, indeed, much more to learn. I am thrilled to be on that road instead of one where I'm stuck trying to rationalize the Christian scriptures with real life.
We are all our own masters now, and the poignancy and power of the present moment is a force that can inspire us and lead us to all the best in works and life that mankind is capable of.
I wish you well in your journey, BB. Feel free to write anytime.
Date:Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I can't quite describe the feeling of having someone taking the time to read my stuff and quote it back in such a positive way. Just let me say thank you, it felt really good.
I've been so secluded in my writing with only very few people willing to read it and even fewer relating to my experiences. Often I've felt like the only person seeing the forest for the trees. Suffice to say I come from a very conservative and even more conflict avoidance background. What I'm doing in my spare time is not at all very well received.
But as I've been surfing the web lately I've been coming across what seems to be a relatively small community of "ex-christians." I have a feeling there are many more out there than the internet reflects. Have you read the study of the American Religious Identification Survey 2001?
It's an interesting read. According to the study in the last decade or so the number of ex-christians has doubled. I wonder what factors are contributing to these numbers? Maybe it's people like you at the grassroots level making a difference?
I'm very interested in meeting people who share in our experiences. Do they meet somewhere? I'm wondering if organizations like the Green party, or Atheists or Humanists share similar experiences? What about Unitarians? Personally, I hesitate to don any new label. I'm happy to just be a human being for now. I'm also interested in positive reputable publications that might be interested in my work. If I might be so bold to ask, do you know of any?
By the way, if it's not to personal, what do you do for a living now? And if I may, how has your conversion to rational thinking versus religious thinking changed your line of work, if any?
Well, thanks again for your correspondence.
I think it is less likely to find a group or groups of people who have a rationalist viewpoint than to find those who will rally around a particular religious belief or creed. This is simply because the rationalistic, freethinking, nominally atheistic stance (and it is a stance rather than a dogma) is open in nature and does not "demand" any particular belief or set of beliefs or expected actions. Everyone has a different viewing angle, as it were, and there is less need or compulsion to "gather together". For those of us who were raised up in churches, that can be a bit disconcerting, no? I and my wife surely felt it. We decided to check out the Ethical Society, which is a group espousing "secular religion". It was quite interesting, and seemed to me to be a construct specifically designed by and for those who have left religious belief, but who still yearn for the trappings of religion and the comraderie of the group or congregation. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it did seem to us to be a bit too much like they were trying to hang on to the very things that came out of the dogmatic religious system that we now wish to avoid.
So, we have not really found anything here - even in as forward thinking a place as Austin - that we feel is good for us to be involved in as opposed to just doing our own thing, and for me, finding my comraderie in the virtual world of the internet. Thus my web site. BTW, I have not yet gotten involved with the very strong Austin Atheist group here, although I know some of the people in it and have been around some of it for years. Madeline Murray-O'Hair and her family used to come into the TV studio where I work (more on that later), and do their television show every month. Again, though, it seems to me that Atheists (with a capital A) are rallying around non-belief as in yet another dogma or camp to be defended and from which to throw stones at all perceived enemies. Although I agree with much of their position on things, I don't want to adopt yet another creed. Like you, I am very happy to be "just a human being"!!
You asked where I work, and I alluded to the TV studio- I am Senior Producer/Director for Time Warner Cable here in Austin, where I create mostly commercials for local, regional, and some national spots. I specialize in editing, motion graphics, and animation. You can see stuff about me and stuff I've done at my other web sites, all of which can be accessed at http://www.newrational.com
My Digital Artist site has most of my commercial work, but you might find my other sites interesting as well. Let me know what you think!
Due, I suppose, to the nature of my work, my philosophical stance has never had an impact on it, nor the other way around. I did do some program work years ago to counter the Atheist show, before my paradigm shift, of course, but the nice thing about TV production is that no one cares what you believe or what you really do in life, and no one ever gets hurt. It's just television! :)
I can't really give you much on the book publishing. It is a nasty business and the only way to do anything like your writing is to self publish and self market. I know, because I wrote a book on the New Testament (a 400 page interpretation and study with over 1,000 scripture references in it) and self published it in 1994. It was a small run of about 500, and I did manage to sell out - mainly by attending a conference where I met the publisher of Great Christian Books. He bought most of my stock and through them, my book did end up in places all over the planet. But, it is not easy and nothing is guaranteed or even likely. I had a huge learning curve to deal with all the various aspects of creating a publishing company and a real book from scratch. It literally took years.
I do think that your sources about the increase in ex-christians is correct, and I think the proliferation of mass communications and the failure of the church systems to address morals these days has allowed many to reconsider things. I hope it continues, but we live in a world that could turn narrow and fundamentalist very quickly and very nastily, I am afraid. Humans are easily scared and cowed into submission and we live only a thin barrier of intellectualism away from barbarism. I hope that technology will provide some tools to mitigate this in the future, but I am trying to live each day to the fullest right now.
Date: Sat, 27 Jul 2002
Subject: thin barrier
I have to agree with you on many points. I think my desire for community is the driving force behind wanting to find people of like mind. But really, what's the difference between that desire and the desire of a religious believer? I've come to the conclusion that the end result of belonging to a religious community is driven by the strong desire to belong to something, sometimes anything. Not that's there's anything wrong with that in itself, but the results speak for themselves.
I enjoyed visiting your websites. You've obviously put a great deal of effort into a wide variety of expression. In my former life I worked for Apple Computer. I was part of the educational division that provided computers for schools. It's amazing to see how people, like you, are using these technology and how varied and powerful these technology really are. I too hope technologies, that make it easier and easier to communicate the creativity of the human spirit, makes a difference in our future. But I agree there is a thin barrier between intellectualism and barbarism. I doubt it's much more obvious than what's going on in our world today.
Thanks for your input on the publishing world. I have a stack of rejection letters that emphasize your point.
It's weird because I realize I have still much more to learn. At twenty I thought I knew so much. As I approach forty I realize that I know very little at the same time know considerably more that I did before. It's a strange and humbling feeling.
Date: Fri, 2 Aug 2002
Subject: One reason
If you were to give the best reason for your leaving Christianity, what would that be?
I look forward to your response.
The most compelling reason for my "deconversion" from Christianity was the deconstruction of the authority of the Bible scriptures. My default position as a believer was that the Bible was the unassailable source and authority for all things human. My studies in the last few years have shown me that the Bible is rather a latecomer in the world of holy scriptures, and is very, very derivative of older religions and their scriptures. There is tremedous influence of the Zoarastrian religion and the gnosis of the Mystery Schools of Greece and Egypt, and even further back to direct influences from the Aryan Vedic religions of India and the Dravidic beliefs that preceded that - going off into the mists of ancient time. I truly had no idea of any of this history or of the power plays that went on in priestly (Old Testament) times until I began to study some things while "setting aside" my core beliefs. It was the overwhelming evidence of this study that convinced me that those beliefs belonged in a very small box which I am now much too "large" to enter and call home.
It is amazing how huge a structure has been built upon the foundation of the Bible writings. I've said that it is like an inverted pyramid with all it's weight of tradition, ritual, and power, resting and bearing down mercilessly on that apex called the Bible. If that pyramidion is ever disturbed or shown to be false, then the entire structure above comes crashing down or dissolves away, no matter how big it was, or how much of that structure was good sense or the works of good people. I myself spent many years of dedicated work to try to reinforce that foundation and wrote a book that influenced many people to understand a completely spiritualized interpretation of the New Testament. All that work was good work, but it simply does not matter anymore in terms of understanding the universe and Life, and must be put aside along with all the other structure that was constructed on the pyramid point.
I experienced an old truism in my journey - "be careful what you ask for, for you might get it." I had asked for truth at any cost, and that is what I have found, although it is certainly not what I expected. It is what I wanted, but it is far more wonderful, overwhelming, scary, and joyful than ever I imagined. It is a very good thing for me to have experienced, but I know that for many, perhaps most, this would be too unsettling to even consider.
Thanks for the question, and I hope the answer is of interest to you.
Date: Sat, 3 Aug 2002
Subject: RE: One reason
Thanks for your answer. Do you consider yourself an agnostic? Do you lean toward an evolutionistic approach to the origins of life or some supernatural process?
I don't particularly like labels like "I'm an Agnostic" or "...Athiest", etc. I have been too much a part of labelling in the past and now wish to be simply human and openminded about things. I consider agnosticism and atheism to be useful "stances" to take when certain concepts come up, but, as I state in one of my essays, I do not wish to become caught up in another "structure of assertions". For me, a default position which I would rather refer to as rational or rationalism is where I find myself and that can include atheistic views, agnostic ("I don't know or can't know"-ism) views, or anything else as long as it leads to a rational evaluation of whatever is being discussed or presented. I do hold to the oft-stated maxim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs.
As for the process of life, I think some of the basic understandings of evolution are plainly valid. I think life is an ultimate mystery in many ways, though, and I have read much ("Darwin's Black Box", and "The Cosmic Serpent" come to mind) that make me think and wonder about the design and intelligence elements that appear to be present in Life. I look forward eagerly to new research and information on this subject, but I will consider such data only as it comes through a rational process, not a simplistic religious one based on faith in the unseen.
Date: Sat, 3 Aug 2002
Subject: Austin Ishmael and Disillusionment
cool site about disillusionment.
A book that i think you'd like after lookin at your site is Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. Are you familiar? No book has ever helped explain the roots of disillusionment in our culture to me more than that...well except Quinn's subsequent books :) There is a great site at http://www.readishmael.com that explains it, especially the Why Read Ishmael section.....
Thank you for the email. Yes, I am very familiar with Quinn's books (see references in my book list on my site). They were not the first things I read that began my journey out of Christianity, but they were absolutely pivotal in solidifying my understandings of the true history of mankind. I have always highly recommended them myself, especially Ishmael and The Story of B, to anyone who is beginning a study of these things. In fact, I keep an extra copy or two to hand out to friends!
The disillusionment I refer to in my site is a little different from the overview of "disillusioned culture" of Quinn's analysis. I'm referring more specifically to the positive disillusionment of someone coming out from under the influence of organized religion. This influence is, of course, a subset and side effect of the overall dominator or Taker culture.
Another book that gives much insight into the history of the dominator culture and how it has defined religion in our age, is called "Dancing Shadows", by Aoumiel. She is a Green Wiccan who has some wonderful history going back to the Aryan and Dravidic religions of India and how the Aryans promoted the dominator style. Or, if you want to really stretch your thinking, try "Food of the Gods" by Terrance McKenna for insights into how religion may have begun in the first place.
I'm happy you found my site and found it of interest. Write anytime.
Date: Mon, 2 Sep 2002
Subject: www.newrational.com and its linnks
Thanks for posting your website on DUSA Message Board/Back to Questing....
If you've read many of my posts, you know that I'm a questor who continues the unending quest as a Christian. You and several others who routinely post on the questing board exhibit disillusionment with Christianity. Is it possible that your reactions are not to Christ, Christianity, or God, per se, but rather a strong dislike for what often masquerades as Christianity? A response to individuals claiming Christianity who are little more than power freaks seeking constantly to control the lives of others by jerking the "religion string."
In my thinking, and this has been discussed several times on the thread, Jesus, the prophets, and others can actually be identified as Shamen (Shamans: which is plural?). The visions I've received as a result of questing tend to confirm my belief in Christ. In my love and devotion to Him, I've found the freedom and liberty to continuously advance along the questing path. The inscription on the front (south-facing) facade of the Main Building at UT states, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
All of us who follow this path are, indeed, seeking that truth-based freedom.
Hopefully, I've not been too preachy!
Thanks for taking the time to correspond. Your point about responding to the "power freaks" is a valid one, but what I have discovered in my search for the true nature and history of religion is that the entire structure of the Christian Church (and the Judaic "church" before it) is nothing but the manifestation of such power mongers. In fact, this trend goes all the way back to ancient India and the invasion of the Aryans from northern lands into the very old Dravidic religion / culture that had existed in the subcontinent for thousands of years prior. The old worship of God and Goddess was replaced by the forced worship of only the male god forms in order to establish the control of a male priesthood. This old Aryan Vedic philosophy has evolved in India into the Hinduism we see today, and it also worked its way across westward into the tenants of Zoastrianism and eventually into the Levites who established Judaism and then Christianity (and then Islam, and then Mormon, and then....)
Was Christ a shaman? That is an interesting idea, but one that I cannot really play too much with because I do not have enough information on the historical person in order to know. I do think that the historical person was someone quite different from the classical image presented in the Bible, and it is the Bible source material that has become problematic for me. If the only picture we have of Jesus is from the Bible, then we are looking at a severely manipulated presentation produced by those who would use such a tool for political / power purposes. The Christian "New Testament" is only still around today because of the historical oddity of Constantine and his decision to "adopt" Christianity as a political tool for himself. If it had not been for that, we might still have something of Jesus, but I feel it would have been extremely gnostic in nature, and, perhaps, this leads back to the idea of Christ as a shaman.
My personal best guess is that he was a militant Jew who got caught up in the Scicarri movement and was used by his fellows to promote certain ideas. I do think he survived the "execution" and went on, perhaps to India where much evidence exists today to indicate his presence there.
Naturally, I could not speak to nor gainsay any personal experience you have had in your vision quests. I would not question the nature of such visions as they come to you, for they seem to be a power unto themselves. Perhaps we all take in this same energy and shape it according to our own needs and personalities when we embark on such a quest. I shall be doing this soon in the deserts of Utah, and will let you all know how it "shapes" for me.
Some excellent books you might want to read, if you don't know about them already, are:
Power, Politics, and the Making of the Bible - Robert B. Coote & Mary P. Coote
The Jesus Mysteries - Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy
In Search of the Birth of Jesus/The real journey of the Magi - Paul William Roberts
Thanks again for writing -- do so anytime.
The present moment is not mundane. It is, in essence, extraordinary. -DC
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