Conversations With You
Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2003
Subject: Refreshing rationalism
The dominant thought on one's mind always seems to be concurrent with the "luck", "blessings", or "miracles" which their actions, have led them to; so it is indeed a miracle that I have stumbled upon your site. I literally shed tears reading the fruits of your mind's labor -- it was liberating indeed to find, in writing, the feelings that I have been feeling. I now have a companion to accompany me on this journey that I have decided to embark on.
I grew up in a very "hope" centered family -- as opposed to an action oriented one; where regardless of the situation, when there was no action to quench our dehydrating spirits and sustain us, there was an ocean of hope to pacify us until "hope" sent someone else to relieve us from our misery. I always queried about that "someone else". I wondered what they had that I did'nt. Since I decided to always be my own "someone else" all is well. Even though it has cost me my fiance, I surge forward.
Thanks, your site is the ice-cold-water-filled-canteen-in-the-desert-found-by-the-man-that's-been-without-water-for-2 1/2 days- that I've been searching for -- refreshing.
Thank you so much for your email. I am always extremely gratified when someone finds my writings resonating with their own thoughts and journey.
I am sorry that you have had to experience losses in your relationships. That can happen when we make very drastic shifts in our philosophies and our life paths, but it sometimes must simply be that way in order for us to be authentic.
The first time my wife expressed the concept of "hope" being a negative, I was taken aback, but once I thought it through, it made such sense that I immediately included it in my essays. Since then, I've been exploring a more advanced expression of living in action (and specifically NOT in hope), that is generically called "The Warrior Way". Have you read anything on that? The concept is based somewhat in Carlos Casteneda's writings, and has been recently collected and studied more in a book by Robert L. Spencer, called "The Craft of the Warrior". Just another direction to explore, especially in the positive absence of all the "religious hopes" that, with their false promises, have stolen far too much of human potential already.
I would be happy to hear from you anytime, L, and look forward to any insights you have on the concept of action vs. hope, or any other rationalist topic. Again, thank you for writing!
P.S. - A Benjamin Franklin quote for you: "He that lives upon hope will die fasting."
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2003
Subject: I'm also an ex. Ch. of Christ member
I was checking the Tentmaker.org website for more information on universalism when I came across a link to your book on preterism. From there I found your website and read about your intellectual journey. I, too, was raised in the Church of Christ, the one true church that doesn't use sinful instrumental music. Fifteen years of study has taken me away from the C.of C. and the notion that the Bible is the Word of God. That study has dropped me off at the position of a theist who follows the teachings in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.
I'm glad to see that your website is not a Christian bashing one. Farrell Till, another ex. Church of Christ member, does that job all too well, although he does it in reasonably good taste. I'm sure you've heard of his Skeptical Inquirer.
You wrote, "...the beliefs of millions...all have their basis in one thing - a book" and "That is the foundation and bedrock and the sole and inherently authoritative origin of all such understandings and beliefs." And that belief, David, is THE problem, as I see it. I've discovered that one of the most dangerous things that Christianity has done was to transform the Bible into the Word of God. Once the Bible was equated with God, then in the minds of many the idea of God must be tossed when we toss the Bible.
I'm glad to discover another person freed from the dogma of fundamental Christianity! If I had a motto, it would be "it's not what we believe that matters, but what we do with our life.
Thank you for taking the time to write me. I appreciate hearing from those who have found my site. I heartily agree with you that when people claim and assume the Bible to be equivalent to God or God's words, trouble and cultism are the result. I was amazed when I began to study the history of the Bible from an "outside of belief" point of view. The political and power agendas of the old Jewish priestly class is apparent, and the derivation of so much of what we have been led to believe is original with Christianity (in particular) is nothing but a repackaging of earlier ideas. If one tracks these ideas back into history, one finds the trail leading into Persian Zoroastrianism, then back to Vedic India, and from there back into ancient Dravidic and animistic or shamanistic forms. This is where I find myself most interested now. I am interested in the history of mankind and of religion in general. I am presently studying the various forms of shamanism and the direct mystical experiences of the divine that can be gained with it. ....
There may very well be a God or a Divine Spirit behind this world, but I know for sure that he, she, or it, is in no way described by the picture we get from orthodox religion(s). That version of God never existed at all; the personal "Daddy" God that we all want so badly to be real, simply isn't. If we can find ethical and moral guidance for our lives from the teachings of Jesus or from other sources, that is good and we are building the story of mankind. Too often, however, I think that relying on such icons leads one right back into codified traditions that cannot remain flexible enough to serve our changing needs, and it becomes tempting to let tradition be a cause instead of a result.
If, however, we are searching for what is real, and for the true history of things, we find ourselves facing the Unknown. In travelling this path, I have found my own advanced philosophy of living best expressed in a wonderful book by Robert L. Spencer called "The Craft of the Warrior". I recommend it highly for anyone on the pathway to true things.
The wind of Change is enlivening and rewarding, even when it is unsettling....
I do appreciate your "motto", but be aware that belief sets in place our understandings and attitudes, and the belief structure can therefore shape or limit our lives in ways we may not truly need or desire. I have come to believe in many beliefs, while at the same time, believing in none of them. This way, I can remain flexible and strong and seek the Real inbetween the shadows.
Good journey, and best regards,
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003
i think your site is so wonderful
Yours in the search,
One of the things that is bad about Christianity is that it teaches that we humans are worthless and powerless within ourselves for any good outcome, forcing us to rely on the authority of the religion (and the religion's Authorities!) to live an honorable life. If I may, I would encourage you to find the resources that will empower you as a soveriegn being, and take hold of humanity with a strong and happy hand. One of the best resources I know of in this regard is a wonderful and concentratedly rich book by Robert L. Spencer called "The Craft of The Warrior". Check it out sometime!
Thanks again for your email and best wishes on your journey to what is real.
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 2003
I love your site. It is amazing how similar many ex-christian stories are. I have attached my story if you would like to read it. It is actually a letter I wrote to an elder at my church as you will see.
I am working on a web site of my own and will mail you a link if you want. One link that I thought you might want to place on your links page is Steve Locks, Leaving Christianity. ... This is a very extensive and low-key site with many good resources.
Thanks for your time and for putting together a great web-site!
Thanks so much for writing! I honestly appreciate it when anyone finds my site to be of interest and lets me know.
I truly enjoyed your letter to your church friend. I loved your analysis of the confusion on sin and grace!.... As you can imagine, I really found synchronicity in your evaluation of how it is to live as a non-believer. That was really the biggest surprise for me as well, that so much love and healing and fulfillment could come from what I assumed was going to be loss and deprivation. That is what happens when we heal ourselves from the disfunctions that we were constrained by in the traditional religions. (We move from dis-ease to ease.)
I look forward to your website. Please do let me know and I will be happy to trade links with you once it is up and going. I do have a link to Steve Locks's site on my links page, and have had several great emails back and forth with him over in the UK. He was kind enough to mention my site on his links pages in a featured sort of manner.
I really admire anyone who has taken the monumental trouble, endured the significant hassles, and has demonstrated the bravery to analyze their belief structure and make paradigm shifts to correct their understandings. I know what kind of a paradigm shift that has been for you and I know that you now know what the term "paradigm shift" really signifies, yes?
As you have studied the veracity and history of the Bible, have you begun to dig further back into the origins of the Bible's concepts in older religions such as Zoroastrianism and Vedism? This was my first real ground-shaker kind of thing ("What, you mean Jesus wasn't the only Son of God to be martyred for the salvation of his people?", etc.). Also, there is much to be discovered in studying the contemporary situation around the time of the New Testament in ways that the average Christian has utterly NO idea of. I'm speaking of how the Christianity we see now is actually only the outer shell, most fundamental or primitive version of the real religion that was further elucidated by the Gnostic upper levels of the religion. Those concepts - the higher mysteries - were so out of the control of those in power that they viciously attacked and actually eradicated most of the Gnostic church, thus severing an ancient understanding and replacing it with a shallow (and controllable) shell that has lasted until today. You might like to read Freke and Gandy's book "The Jesus Mysteries" which deals with this in detail. Much more can be found that leads one to understand things like the ancient "Goddess" worship and eventually leads back to animism and the direct contact with the divine through natural entheogens or psychoactive plants.
I noticed that you mentioned Spong's characterization of God as the "Ground of all Being". That is an ancient concept that is tied to all the mystic interpretations and claims of the nature of the universe, and it certainly does not include any kind of a personal, friendly, "Daddy" God like we grew up with. I am not certain myself whether that kind of a universal, ineffable being exists, but my work now has to do with discovering what I can about it. Too many years, I relied on what others said was true, and now I am in the process of finding out for myself, not "what is true", perhaps, but rather "what is REAL".
This life is a wonderful mystery and there is so much to try to do and understand!
Great to hear from you, RC, and please do keep in touch. BTW, how did your elder friend take your letter and your logic, if you don't mind saying?
Date: Thu, 6 Mar 2003
Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
<< As you have studied the veracity and history of the Bible, have you begun to dig further back into the origins of the Bible's concepts in older religions such as Zoroastrianism and Vedism? >>
I have not read about these religions yet but I am very eager to learn more. My de-conversion has actually consumed me for the past month or so. I want to read and read! I read John Remsberg’s; The Christ, and found it very eye-opening and was surprised that it was written almost 100 years ago.....
There is one thing you might be able to help me with. Many of these scholars state that most of the new testament was written in the second century (and/or a claim that it is based on older myths), but I have yet to read where these facts originated. Do you know of any sources that influenced these opinions? Although critical writers have less of a reason to be biased, I would still like to make my own decisions before I pass them along to someone else.
You asked about the elder’s response to my letter. He was very respectful and related that he was an atheist of sorts for over 20 years. His atheism was essentially based on a rebellion and not so much an intellectual decision based on study and reasoning. He asked me to read a book written by a fundamentalist preacher. I read it in two nights and it was like reading a commentary on Santa Claus or Romeo & Juliet – in light of my current beliefs about Christianity. I am going to attach two pages of this book that relates to our discussion.
That book you sent pages from is so typical of that kind of apologetics, isn't it? That's what I believe we call "spin" in the politics biz. It's apologia by assertion. Even though the Bible is a collection of disconnected, disfunctional stories and reports, evolving in different directions and serving vastly different purposes over thousands of years by many very different peoples - it is still claimed to be a perfect story, all cogent and moving through to a grand conclusion. That is reading into something whatever one wishes, regardless of what is really there.
I can say this without being accused of just Bible-bashing because I once not only bought the spin, but also earnestly did my best to spin the apologia as well. That culminated in my 1994 book that promoted a preterist interpretation of the Bible. When someone says that the Bible is true religion because a perfect God wrote it, they are roaming around in a house that has no foundation. You have to study the foundation first, and that is where the problems lie. If the origins of the Bible are not what they are portrayed to be (in order for Christianity to be upheld), then everything comes tumbling down, no matter how great or complex a structure was built on it. Many people, however, will never truly question their beliefs and where those came from for fear of just this, and if anyone tries to force them, much stress and trouble can be stirred up. That is why I never really tried to talk anyone out of belief or do anything "pro-atheist". It simply is a waste of time and a waste of my own personal power or resources. Those who desire truth above all else will find their way out of false boxes eventually.
I'm glad to hear you are interested in reading and reading, because that is what will really get you going and keep you vibrant in the next several years of this transition. Believe me, you will be amazed at all the things there are to learn now that are just overwhelming at times. I'm still learning and I'm only hungry for more. It is a dangerous temptation when leaving behind one set structure of beliefs to feel "naked" and want to find another, seemingly more comfortable, set of beliefs to jump back in to, like some have done with so-called new age spiritualism, etc. I sense that is not a problem for you, based on the things you have written and how you are approaching your "deconversion". If you are like me in this regard, we retreat to a simple rational (-ist) viewpoint and then begin to look around for other data that make sense (compared to the nonsense of the system we abandoned). That leads to lots-o-books!!
My interest now is in discovering, to the degree possible, the true history of mankind, and specifically, the history of religion - that is, why does it happen, how did religion get started and why does it take the forms it does. These are deep questions, but are an indication of a direction you could eventually take in looking at things, if you are interested. There is much more to be learned here than I would have ever thought possible.
You asked about resources concerning the historicity of the New Testament and its origins in myth and in older religious structures. There are many good sources for this, but I would direct you to these:
First, find a book by Paul William Roberts called "In Search of the Birth of Jesus: The Real Journey of the Magi". This is not a tired scholarly book, but one of the best and funniest travel books you may ever read. It is also the book that served as the first wedge in the crack of my discontent. He travels to Iran to search out the historic origins of the Magi, and in doing so, reveals how so much of Christianity is solidly based in and derived from the (much older) Zoroastrian religion of Persia (which the Hebrews assimilated when in captivity there and brought back to their lands).
Second, I'd recommend the Freke and Gandy book, "The Jesus Mysteries", which as I mentioned, puts the Gnostic Mystery religion back into perspective vis-a-vis the version of Christianity that we see today.
Another challenging book is by Laurence Gardner, called "Bloodline of the Holy Grail" that deals with the humanity of the persons in the New Testament and specifically how Mary Magdeline and others migrated to Spain afterwards.
"Power, Politics, and the Making of the Bible" (Coote and Coote) is another good resource - an unrelenting expose of the human power struggles that led to the codification of what we now call the Bible and the religions it has promulgated.
If you really want to get going out there we can direct you to studies of the Knights Templar and what treasures of the Jewish Temple are still hidden today (some literal treasure and much secret knowledge). It's easy to dismiss many things that seem "out there" at first, but the preponderance of evidence and the cross-resource and cross-story connections begin to build a mosaic of history that is hard to ignore.
By the way, have you read Daniel Quinn ("Ishmael", and "The Story of B")? These should not be missed by anyone, but especially those of us who have gone through deconversion. Ishmael will really make you rethink all you knew about mankind's history and pre-history, and The Story of B will bring it into a more directly anti-conventional religion mode. Do yourself a favor and read them. (Ishmael was the book that won Ted Turner's contest for a story that would "change the world").
This may also lead you to many important studies about the true history of humans on this planet. The Egyptians once mocked the Greeks for knowing such a shallow surface layer of history and thinking that was all there was when the Egyptian's history was vastly older and deeper. That shallow view is truly how our culture sees history. Much has been lost and glossed over and many strange things have happened on this globe.
My own journey began with these books, but I have travelled on much further still. Perhaps I will be able to direct your interest in these other pathways some time down the line.
I haven't read Remsberg yet, but I'll try to link through and check it out as soon as I can.
Thanks for the correspondence. I'll be happy to communicate as you wish. (Isn't the Internet something?!!)
Peace, Joy, and Wonder,
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2003
Thanks for the reply. I have not had time to study your last email, but I am looking forward to doing so soon. I would like to continue our dialogue but for now I wanted to bring you up to date on my conversations with Ted the elder. If you remember, he stated that he was an atheist for 20 years.... It turns out that he was not a studied atheist; rather he was basically living a life of rebellion against his parents and the church. His problem with God was the existence of evil. Believe it or not, he stated that his re-conversion was solely due to his studying the bible, cover-to-cover! Go figure!
Ted is a very loving person, but I am beginning to realize that he is a fundie at heart. His one desire is to re-convert me and not to understand me.
He asked me to read a book that was a summary of the Christian theology, and I requested that he read a couple of de-conversion stories including yours, and Remsberg’s The Christ. One of the essays I asked him to read was Dan Barker’s, and much of the following dialogue is about Barker’s story. (You may be next!) .... I can see a never ending circular argument with Ted developing .... How do we get past this “true” faith argument?
I hope you enjoy and I welcome any advice or input – this is my first debate and is kind of exciting!
Yeah, this fellow is never going to think it through and come to a rational conclusion, even if you give him all the facts in the world. If you are having a good time debating with him, that's great, but you realize that it is an endless circle, indeed, and will never have any real purpose or tangible results. I was once an expert in making the Bible fit into a logical pattern and ironing out the defects and non-sequiters in it. I know, as I am sure you do, that anyone can use the Bible to find justification and corroboration for any point of view or belief system they may have. The only way I would ever approach such a debate now would be to agree to put all interpretations or commentaries on the scriptures aside and focus first and foremost on the underlying assumptions of what the Bible is and where it came from.
If the foundation is fully rotten, the castle can and should be forgotten.
Your answers to Ted are spot on. This is the kind of fellow who is in constant, almost paranoid, spin-mode. Whatever anyone says, they fall back on their mantra of God is sovereign and we should just bow down and stop stirring things up. In my opinion, that comes from two distinct sources: Fear and Power.
I wait with utter un-anticipation of what this guy will say about me and my journey. It was not published for him, but for those who are making or adjusting to a similar journey. It is not for him to judge my story in the first place, and even if it was - before I would listen to even a syllable of it, I would insist that he come up to my standards of education and analytical ability concerning the subject matter at issue. Namely, he (or anyone else like him) would have to be able to speak knowledgeably about the true history of the Bible vis-a-vis its roots in earlier religions like Zoroastrianism [how well can he reference or quote the Avesta or the Vedas?], and be able to deal with the Gnostic side of the early church, etc. These things would not be required by me because I want to show off some special knowledge base, you understand, but rather only because without this common base to work from, we simply would not have anything to discuss. I refuse to bandy words with those who are stuck in their dogmas, and they could never hear what I have to say. There would be no gain, no purpose served, and very likely only bad feelings and harsh words in the end. Using the parlance of the Warrior Way, I would be allowing the situation to drain away my personal power in living, thus deflecting me from following my heart path.
There are plenty of resources on-line and in print to speak the logical arguments against Christianity for anyone truly desiring to learn and compare.
As for "true faith", that is the key bugbear here. "TF" is a sucker's bet. It is defined always and only by the person putting forth the bet as a proof-of-argument. It does not matter what you say, they can and will maintain that "you did not have TF!!" Why? Because, of course, if you DID have it, then you would be in perfect agreement with THEM!! What a ridiculous waste of conversation time. Even a cursory read of the Bible will show that BLIND FAITH is never required by any doctrine based on what is written there. Faith was always and ever should be a choice based on a compendium of knowledge that one has aquired concerning the issues to be believed in. You pointed this out very directly in your response to Ted. Anyone who insists on Blind Faith is insisting on you becoming a SLAVE.
Thanks for sharing your discussions with him, though. I understand all too well the tug of desire to get through to folks about something important, especially if they are someone you are friends with and or are around a lot. BTW, I agree with your comments about not making your differences into a big problem with your spouse. You are fortunate to have someone who is capable of dealing with this. Some folks I have talked with recently have had very serious concerns about their relationships in light of their new values.
Maybe Popeye's philosophy was right in its simplicity and cogency: "I yam what I yam..."
The present moment is not mundane. It is, in essence, extraordinary. -DC
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