Conversations With You
Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2002
i'm just curious to how you came to the realization that there is no God.
As I said on my site, I'm not really interested in debating the theist / atheist argument. That is being done quite well on other sites. My stance is rational - I believe only what can be scientifically demonstrated. If you would like to know how I came out of my belief structure, please read "My Journey" on my site, where I go into some detail.
Thanks for your interest.
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002
I think the following words prove every conscious being is immortal, what do you think? Can you say it better? Can you express it as a calculus equation?
"It is impossible to be conscious of being unconscious"
In other words if you are conscious now, which you have to be to be reading this, you have always been conscious and always will be conscious because it is not possible to be conscious of being unconscious, or aware of the time between lives, or times when consciousness is not active in a given life form, due to death or brain injury. If consciousness is suspended as a result of physical death or injury time would stand still for you until your reborn in some form or conscious again. A billion years could pass and you wouldn't know it. Life, all life has to be never ending from it's own perspective, and that is the only perspective possible. Thus we are all immortal. True or false?
I simply disagree with your "proof" statement. I can and I am conscious of being unconscious. It is the state I am in now when I consider my non-existence prior to my birth. Does that mean there is no possibility of "other lives" or a Jungian "collective unconsciousness"? No, it doesn't -- however, if I cannot perceive of myself as being part of those existences - if I cannot remember it, then it really does not matter to me now whether I am immortal or not. BTW, I have strong suspicions that there is a matrix of life as you suggest. I am by default a rationalist, now, however, and that means that I insist on real, empirical, scientific proof before I claim that something is PROVEN.
One cannot prove a negative. You cannot prove that there are not aliens in my soup. There may very well be some in there (really!) but we cannot say that "since it cannot be proven that they do not exist", therefore they DO!
Regards, and thanks for writing,
Date: Sun, 17 Nov 2002
Subject: Hello from KJ
Hello Mr. Crews...
I really appreciate the tone of your site. I especially appreciated your article "Just Like a Divorce." That is a very accurate description and precisely the comparison I have used many times. I was in ministry, and deeply loved it, for about 20 years. I am 42 years old. I resigned from my church position in May of 2001. I was a very committed evangelical pastor and church leader. The last church I worked for had a membership of about 500 people - I led small groups and the men's ministry (a Promise Keepers type of group) As the "problems" of Christianity (especially historic Jesus studies) gradually dawned on me, it was a season of creeping "terror" and profound sadness.
As you know, I am not exaggerating. It was, as you accurately put it, not just an academic process - but the loss of a "love." It was as though I had been in a relationship with an intimate lover and saw it gradually slipping away. It was a very painful process. And there is a real grief process that follows.
People who are not from a deeply religious background don't "get" this. But Christianity was an organizing principle for my whole life, a world view, the way I made sense out of life. Plus, as you said, I felt I had a warm loving RELATIONSHIP with God.
I am now in the process of re-constructing my life and spirituality. I don't think I'm (at least not yet) reaching the same re-construction you have - but "that's okay." I am meeting with a group of 3 other people who are also in a similar place of what I call "re-imagination." We have two "post-Christians," a Wican, and an Evangelical Christian who is recovering from an abusive church. Quite a mixed little bunch! It's an interesting and fun mix.
My reconstruction seems to be somewhere along the lines of the agnosticism, deism, humanism... spectrum! Marcus Borg, of the Jesus Seminar, has helped me approach a synthesis - I'm still growing and thinking... Kind of a post-critical Christian spirituality....?
Our little group is struggling to re-fashion an adult version of a healthy holistic spirituality that we can use - with integrity. Using "spirituality" is a very broad sense.
I look at much of what is happening as just a healthy stage of adult development. Life IS MADE UP OF a series of disillusionments. I think it's just the "cost" of continuing to grow, learn, and develop - with an open mind.
Do you know of any site for "Ex" Christian Ministers? It would be nice to dialogue with such folks.
Thanks again for your stuff!
Thank you so much for emailing - that is a wonderful letter to receive!
I know there are a lot of ex-Christian sites out there that are angry, disparaging, and pointedly unhelpful, surely due to the trauma of the paradigm shift that we experience when leaving our religion. With my site, I want to show the joyful and positive side of the process and also try to creatively analyze some of the adjustments in living and thinking (and feeling) that we are experiencing.
I can identify very strongly with so much of what you said. The "creeping terror and profound sadness" is spot on. That first jolt when you realize that God may not be true is kind of like realizing that your car just went over a cliff without you even knowing there was a cliff.
I am pleased to hear (and only a tiny bit jealous) that you have formed a mutual support group there. That does sound like a good mix, and I love your term, to come to a process of "re-imagination" for your lives. I think that is exactly the right term and it is what we all must do - creatively re-imagine ourselves into a new thing entirely. And won't we have a special advantage, too, in that we have been through something that will help us to be selective and careful about our future search for what is true! What is amazing to me now, is that I am so careful and scientifically skeptical while at the same time unbound and unrestricted by any man's or society's philosophy. We can examine all things and follow any lead to find truth. It's a tremendous adventure.
Fortunately, for me, I do have sympathetic friends and, most singularly, a fantastic wife who is on a parallel path with mine. I have heard from several people who are not so lucky and have spouses and family members who are shocked and hurt by the fact that their loved one has "left the faith". That can be very hard to deal with.
As for spirituality, my first default reaction after my "deconversion" was toward simple rationalism and a mechanistic view of the universe, but now I have been looking into the effects of the very oldest of all human religions - shamanism - to try to make sense of what seems to be a universal human experience, that of the spirit or of the numinous collective consciousness. It has led me on into some interesting areas of research involving the roots of mysticism, meditation, and the use of entheogens (psychoactive plants) in traditional societies. Fascinating stuff, especially when it begins to cross-connect with science and the mysteries of genetics and DNA.
Sorry, I don't know of a website for ex-Ministers, per se. There is Dan Barker, a well-known minister who left and wrote a book. Steve Locks, owner of a UK site ( http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html ), said this about him:
> If you are an ex-minister then you may wish to email Dan Barker at the Freedom
Well, I wish you great joy and much learning in your pursuit of a new way of life. It may not be nicely structured like the "old time religion", but it sure is better to have the blinders off and nothing but empty sky between us and the universe to impede our progress. Thanks again for writing, and please do so anytime. Let me know what your group comes up with in terms of spirituality, ok?
Thanks for your rapid response!
As I read in more of your site - I noticed you come from a Church of Christ background - I went to David Lipscomb University for my undergrad! And, my journey began in hyper-right-wing Churches of Christ (very cultic).
Are you familiar with Fowler's book Stages of Faith ? May possibly be helpful??? He defines "faith" more as the human process of "meaning making" which is somewhat related to what we seem to be talking about...
I have "spiritual" drives and impulses but also have my rational mind - thus working on my synthesis. And wondering if I can work with a post-critical version of Christianity...
So much of me was formed in and shaped by Christendom - - I'm wondering if I can "morph" a form that will work for me!
I also appreciate your choice of Shamanism. Ancient more "natural" / "earthy" forms of spirituality also have a great appeal to me. Much simpler and maybe closer to primal spirituality...? I am also "intuitively" drawn to some of these...
thanks for the "Barker" and other links...
good luck in your process also!
I will try to give you updates on my little experimental group...
Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2002
Subject: Continuing Conversation...David:
Thought you might find these interesting...
(Please be aware that I DO NOT have some hidden evangelistic agenda! I am sharing with you my process.)
It is challenging for me to find materials that communicate to me as a "post-critical" Christian that do not seem "angry" or "have an axe to grind." (That's one thing I appreciate about your site.) What do you think about Marcus Borg? You may be WAY beyond or have "ruled out" that type of synthesis.
I am trying to find a way to remain associated with my Judeo/Christian roots - and I am very aware of the "choice" involved in this - and the other very valid CHOICES to be made. I know that one of my "drives" is that I am trying to figure out IF I CAN integrate and come up with a synthesis that will allow me to remain in and use 20 years of ministry career (in some form!) and about 10 years of higher education in Christianity / Theology. For now our little group here in .... is discussing the "Dear Kim" letters on the site mentioned above. I'd like to hear your impressions re the "What About God" letter in that series...
How's your "process" coming along?
Your friend in ....,
Thank you for writing and for sending these links. I haven’t had time to study them in detail, but I did read several of the main sections and kind of skimmed some of the rest of it. I realize you aren’t evangelizing, and I am interested in how others are approaching the post-Christian process. Not everyone will end up in the same place, or desire to attain the same results, but I think it is useful to analyze how different ones of us have travelled, where we have come to, and why.
Bill Loader wrote, “God might as well not exist, if God is only to be thought of as the one who started the ball rolling and then left it to its fate.” I must agree with that, except to take it to the obvious conclusion. I found Marcus Borg’s writings to be more interesting, especially since he seems to have had a truly mystical experience - an encounter with something he can only, in the end, relate to as God, and then place back into a tenuous Christian matrix.
Let’s suppose that aside from a hard-line rational/atheistic view of a mechanistic universe, there is something to the idea of a mystical, numinous, spiritual “effect” that we as humans can encounter. There is much evidence that such an effect is attainable and that some apprehension of a sense of an intelligent purpose at the center of life and the universe is real. As Borg notes, it crosses cultures, appearing as variations on the mystic, the holy man, and the shaman and even seems to be attainable by anyone willing to dedicate themselves to certain tried-and-true techniques such as meditation, entrainment activities such as drumming and chanting, and the like. (Borg did not explain the circumstances of his own attainment of the mystical experience, only saying that he did so.)
Allowing, then, that such experiences are more than mere fantasy or wishful thinking, some of us who have come to this understanding from leaving a Christian background will naturally desire to see if we can in some way reconcile it with the religious structure we grew up with (and that some of us spent years of our lives supporting and working within). Borg seems to have done so by detaching completely (to the point of atheism) and then reattaching to the Christian structure only ever so tenuously, seeing it as only one of many ways to approach the mystical “truth” that he perceived. It then becomes a structure of convenience - a matrix with which to apprehend and deal with this phenomena.
I do not find fault with this, knowing that he knows that the religious structure is a human construct, serving a practical and human purpose. Perhaps this is an appropriate course for you, should you still feel that need to attach to a Christian-flavored filter for dealing with these things. I found for myself that the Christian structure was too artificial, too new, too politicized to allow me to continue to adopt it in any useful way. I just cannot detach from the fact of its human designed nature, nor can I ignore all the loaded meanings, practices, beliefs, and prejudices that Christianity embodies in our culture.
Here is my take on Borg and the others. I can understand what they are trying to accomplish. They want to understand “God” or the mystical experiences in some manner that makes sense in relation to past experience and teachings, but to my mind it is as if they are moving to seek the truth, yet allowing themselves to settle for a view of truth through a particular tint of glasses. Perhaps the set or tint of glasses one views truth does not matter, really. A Buddhist looks at it one way and the Peruvian shaman looks at the same thing in another way. Borg and many others prefer to see it through a “Christian” filter.
In South America, there is an ancient shamanistic way of healing involving a powerful psychedelic potion called Ayahuasca. There are a couple of religious groups that have taken that tradition and filtered it or couched it in Christian terms. They have themselves experienced directly the mystical connection and have then found it useful to express it in Christian modalities.
For myself, I have read too much about the various human made systems to take any of them as anything BUT filters and practical/useful tools to be applied to the mystical experience. I am hardheadedly interested in “What Is True”, and that leads me to want DIRECT experiences that I can in some way measure or evaluate without an artificial filter set getting in my way. So far, the techniques of shamanism seem to be the most promising direction for my scientific exploration. I just can’t allow myself to drift off into a Christianized shadow of things when the real, visceral experience is certainly more primal and powerful than can be contained in that system of explanation, or, perhaps, any other man-devised system.
It seems somehow lazy of me to finally realize that there is a mystical experience and to then try to explain it away by reattaching the Biblical God to it. Importantly, the Bible itself is not a valid source in the search for what is true, so I am no longer interested in trying to rationalize it into the mix. Perhaps there must be some kind of language or matrix that we are compelled to use in this task, but for me, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Vedism, etc., etc., are all too new, too human to not be more in the way than helpful.
Some who leave Christianity never experience or perhaps wish to experience any such actual encounter with the mystical or numinous “over-mind”, but still seem to need to hold on to some vestiges of their old religious culture and life. My wife and I briefly explored the “Ethical Society” and attended several of their Sunday meetings. It was strange to see folks going through all the motions of and maintaining many of the trappings of a “church service” while maintaining a totally atheist/rationalist outlook. I had no problem with the atheism, rather it seemed strange to still hang on to the old forms and vestments of the church, as if these folks NEEDED them - needed the psychological support of such a ritual system similar to what nourished them as they grew up. We found it odd and somehow unsettling. Perhaps we did not need that so much ourselves, and we stopped going.
Another angle on this is that for those of us who invested ourselves seriously in ministry, teaching, and writing, such as you did and as I did with the book I spent years writing, there is a reluctance to seemingly toss aside all that investment in time and energy, and a reluctance to abandon the useful and honest skills and knowledge that we once brought to bear to help our fellow man. You mentioned that this was one of the things influencing you to try to find a rapprochement to Christianity or at least the Judeo/Christian roots or form of it. That may be a valid approach for you, but I might only suggest that you could look at things another way. The skills and knowledge you have are yours, and are not necessarily tied to the belief structure that has been abandoned. In other words, the useful skills can be recast in a new mode and be applied practically from another set of assumptions that might have nothing to do with the artificial construct of human religions.
This could be in the shape of a Humanist model, or perhaps a Shamanic or Gaian one. I don’t mean that we should all become silly, brainless New Age fanatics either, but simply that there are other modes of being in this world that also honor and need the skills of ministry, healing, teaching, and the increase of wisdom. Our people are hurting and the old pat systems of religion are not doing the job of providing real help or solace in this complex world of ours, in my opinion. In fact, the application of such ministry skills within the old forms may be causing those skills to be degraded or ineffective.
I think it is important for me, and perhaps for you and others who have such investments in Christianity, not to feel that all that was wasted and is of no use. I told one correspondent who asked me what I felt now about my Christian book that I was quite proud of that book, even though I could no longer take what I wrote as reflecting reality. Going through the process of learning and writing it has made me the critical thinker that I am now, and the backgrounding I acquired in history and culture has enriched me beyond measure. Those things make us who we are and will never have been wasted or fruitless, even if we go in completely new directions.
Well, I hope you don’t mind the long reply, but I wanted to give you a thoughtful answer to some of these things to the best of my ability. I hope you continue to share your points of view and process with me as it goes.
For now, I’m looking forward to four days off from my day job which has been hammering me with last minute work! We have some good ham and fixin’s to look forward to tomorrow [Thanksgiving], and I hope you and yours have a wonderful time off and time together as well. (Side thought: What do we do with the concept of “Thanksgiving” now??)
Best regards, KJ, and write whenever you can.
Really appreciate your long thoughtful e-mails. Meant to let you know that!
I have gone back to work after an extended leave. I work the evening shift in a psychiatric hospital. Profoundly stressful job - especially the weekends. My little "spiritual support group" is really filling a need in my life. I am very aware that it is mostly the sense of love, safety, and support from fellow human beings and not anything more lofty than that. I don't know much else in life (if anything) more important than relationships...
Hope you have a good day and week...
Thursday, December 26, 2002
I finally had a chance to look over your website. I appreciate your insight. We have shared a very similar experience.
I agree that life without God is like going through a divorce at first. It can be quite a shock to realize he is not there.
From childhood I had been told to confess sins as soon as they happened, and so I would walk around repeating "Dear God, Please forgive me" in my mind many times a day. Even after I came to realize there is no personal God looking over my shoulder, I still found myself repeating that phrase without thinking about it when I made a mistake. And I have to chuckle and wonder who I think I am talking to.
I'm still in the process of telling my family. My story is all out on the web for everyone to see, but of course, my family never frequent these parts of the web. I keep thinking I need to send out a blanket email telling everyone about the site, but haven't done it yet.
I hope you have a happy new year. I'll try to stop by your site occasionally to keep up-to-date with your journey.
The present moment is not mundane. It is, in essence, extraordinary. -DC
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