Conversations With You
Sent:Tuesday, March 18, 2003
I am finally finding the time to respond to your two great emails. Sorry it has taken so long – Ted has kept me busy reading apologetics. Funny thing is, apologetics generally have the opposite affect on me than they are supposed to.
I think the reason for this is because I have experienced the paradigm shift that you mentioned: I can read and interpret information through a different set of rules now. These apologetics would seem bulletproof to a believer, but full of holes to a person without the “believer’s filter” on. For the past several years I was attempting to study with filters on; and surprisingly, quite a bit was still getting through (maybe my filter was defective). But a few months ago, I was able to discard them altogether. WOW! My life has changed for the better sans the friction it has caused in my marriage – but I think that we will get through it just fine.
Unfortunately, Ted and many like him will not (or maybe more accurately, cannot) take the filters off long enough to see clearly. I have essentially given up on Ted, but his last email did seem to reflect a better understanding of my argument. My discussions with Ted have been helpful to me is several ways, though.
The thoughts and references on information regarding the origins and influences of Christianity are much appreciated. I will definitely check those out as soon as possible – especially the works of Quinn that you mentioned.
Thanks again for the responses, they have been very encouraging and thought provoking.
BTW, have you seen the movie Matrix? I watched it again after my de-conversion and it was amazing how living in the matrix can be compared to living in Christianity. Those folks were really going through a paradigm shift!
Keep it real,
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2003
I have been looking at some of the information on your site. I am experiencing some of the same questions that you did. I found your site by following a link on www.losingmyreligion.com, I think it was.
As a balance, I have also been reading individual accounts of near death experiences. I sent you the link below because, after reading your journey, I find this man’s story seems to be the exact opposite of yours. Ironic.
I didn’t ask to be on this earth. I was unable to select my environment or have a say in any of my attributes. If I chose not to believe on Christ, or whomever, why would God send me to Hell? I am the way I am ultimately because of Him anyway. Free will or not, I’m still His creation… He’s ultimately responsible, wouldn’t you think?
The typical response that I think I’d get is that you have no right to question the Creator since you are the created. The rhetorical question would be that if you built a house you could burn it down couldn’t you? This is so simplistic it’s not even worth addressing. I could say that my wife and I created my kids. Do we have the right to burn them at the stake if they don’t turn out like we want? I think not.
Basically, I’m self-centered in a negative way and I’d like to have genuine goodwill towards people, but I don’t seem able to.
Thanks for writing. I'm glad you found my site to be of some value or interest.
The journey of Mr. Storm is decidedly not an opposite of mine at all. He went from simplisitic, negative atheism to simplistic, emotionally based Christian belief based on a physical trauma. A bitter and sarcastic man, he was never happy as an atheist and was disrespectful of all other ideas. Now, he seems to be driven to the other extreme in promoting his faith on the world. While a Christian, I was always respectful of the Bible, my religious beliefs, and the beliefs and non-beliefs of others, and I spent much of my life trying to make things work out with Christianity. Now that I am outside of that box, I am in NO WAY like the atheist that Mr. Storm was before his "near-death experience." I am happy in my life, enthusiastic about work and play, and very tolerant of others, even believers who choose not to think for themselves. It is important to understand that the stereotype of atheism as promoted by the believing world is almost completely wrong.
Nor do I claim to be an "Atheist", rather I take an athiest stance on many things until proofs are forthcoming.
I completely agree with you about free will and the nature of the relationship between we humans as created beings vs. the God who supposedly created us. If he did not wish us to think our way through these things, we should have been given sheep's brains.
Here's a final thought for you. The way we think about ourselves and about others is not ingrained or unalterable. The way we think about these things is a CHOICE that we make. It is possible to change ourselves drastically in a very short period of time by making an authentic and powerful choice to do so. Once made, such power choices cause unbelievable changes in our lives - changes that we would have never thought could be so great!
I hope your journey to what is real is a continuing adventure and an edifying experience! There is an unbelievable world of knowledge out there for those of us who choose to think.
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003
Thanks for actually taking the time to read the article. I’m very impressed with your actions. I didn’t really expect such a meaningful response.
I didn’t mean to imply that you were simply an “atheist”. I just thought it ironic that a former church of Christ “Christian” would make a journey that caused him not to believe in “God” while another man who did not believe in God would have an experience that caused him to become a Church of Christ “minister”. These are 2 instances where both wound up on opposite ends of the spectrum, extremities, pendulum arc, whatever…
Surely you see the irony and maybe even the humor in that.
The thing I’d like to ask Mr. Storm (and maybe I can… I just need to get the e.mail add from the site) is that when he asked which religion was best, did he really mean which denomination is best. If so, that implies bias to me.
As for Zoroastrianism and other religions with accounts similar to Christianity, isn’t it possible that these stories really were prophecies that were related differently to different cultures and that Jesus simply happened to be the fulfillment of those prophecies? I mean if it were all to be true, the messiah figure would have to be someone from somewhere with a particular ethnic background. It just happened to be a Jew.
As for justice, I do have a problem with a God that would send someone to Hell forever and ever simply because they couldn’t buy off on a story in a book… especially when certain select people got to SEE the whole thing. Also, people shouldn’t be punished ad infinitum for a mere lifetime of disobedience. Again, no one asked to be born. No one asked for their individual characteristics and capacities. No one chose their ethnicity or country. No one asked for anything related to their basic conception and existence. How can it be just to punish, rather horribly, forever those who don’t see things a certain way?
I am thinking, I just haven’t made any real decisions, I guess. Point, counterpoint… that kind of thing.
Thanks for taking the time and interest to write me.
That idea of Jesus being a prophet of more than one religious tradition or the end result of prophecies that originated in multiple religious traditions (presumably seeded there by God) seems kind of backwards and unlikely to me (and rather vague and duplicitous of God, eh?). It is much more reasonable to understand that the various religions that we have, all reach back to a common ancestor religion whose tendrils we can detect in the various 'versions' existing today, and that Jesus was just one guy to whom was attached meanings and desires that were based on much earlier myths (such as Osiris and Atos).
I totally agree with you on the justice points. It is simply easier for me to see the world without the traditional idea of God than to try to make that idea of God fit with the facts. That does not mean I maintain that there is no "god" or ultimate creation entity, just that the one portrayed in our human religions is certainly a human creation and bears no resemblance to anything that really exists. To reach any glimpse of that real god, I think the only useful methodology to be found may be through the techniques of shamanism - the oldest religion of them all.
Good journey and "keep thinkin!"
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003
Subject: Thank you!
I live in the Bible Belt....where the first question people ask you when they meet you is "What church do you belong to?".
It is somewhat comforting and reassuring to know that one is not the only sane person in the asylum.
Thanks for the email. I always appreciate hearing from anyone who has found my site to be of some value.
Yeah, there are a few of us 'sane' types out here. It seems that the internet is a practical way for many non-religious people to associate and communicate, since there are usually only a sparce few in any one locale.
Thanks for writing, and good journey!
Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2003
Subject: Interesting site.
I'm not sure why I'm bothering to write since you've already closed off any contact with the other side of the debate. But you write so well. Your images of the Grand Canyon are very good. I plan to visit for the first time this summer and will now expect the "shock" you suggest is waiting for me at the railing.
Having converted in the opposite direction at age 50, from secular rationalism to ecstactic Christianity I can see parallels in the conversion process itself. One knows intimately and hates intimately the faith that is lost and thinks very highly indeed of the faith that is gained. An interesting dynamic.
Here's one big/little thing you're profoundly wrong about: that what humans create comes from humans.
I have studied this all my life, not through books or intellecutal investigation but through the internal processes themselves. The music comes from somewhere beyond me, the stories come from somewhere deeper than me. And I am always surprised by what comes out from within. There is no way "I" am creating this. And it is beyond some hackneyed concept of a "collective unconscious."
So, I find your deification of human consciousness amusing. Why not give up every thought of the sacred? Take it straight up, stare into the abyss like a man. I once did.
Perhaps I'm not sure why I'm bothering to respond, as neither my site, nor my interests are really involved in debating the issues. I am more concerned with the process of paradigm change and wish to offer support and whatever guidance I can to others going through it. However, I will say that I probably align with you more than you might think, especially about creativity. There is much and great mystery about the genesis of creativity and about life itself, of course. As a rationalist, I would say that there are two possibilities.
First, it could be - yes it could! - that there is a God or divine being or essence or something from which all such life and creativity flows forth. I once believed it so, but I believed in a form and format of what that being was that was prepared for me by others and was spoon fed to me from the cradle on. It was only after bootstrapping myself out of the consensus ideas about God and religion that I became aware of how provincial my concepts were. There is a vast history of religion preceding the Bible that stretches back tens of thousands of years. Once that is studied in any depth at all, it is amazingly obvious how the Jewish texts are but an extreme latecomer in the history of religious texts, and how they repeat all the older myths without really adding much that was original. The reprecussion of this is that we do NOT know anything about such a God. If the texts are not literally God's Word, and if God does not appear empirically to us or interact directly (and I mean DIRECTLY) with us today, then it follows that we know nothing of him, her, or it. You may claim that your ecstatic experiences are proof (or proof enough for you) that God is. I could direct you to a thousand others who claim exactly the same for other paradigms of belief - proving nothing on anyone's side of the debate. Personal internal experience is not proof.
Importantly, in this view, we are not left with "no God", but rather with "we don't know anything about such a God". That is my stance. I simply do not know, but I refuse to acknowledge a "faith based" religious stance on a God that cannot or does not show up.
The second possiblility is that what we create does indeed come from within us. You may say that is impossible, and I understand the response. I, too, feel that much of what I create is not something "I came up with". However, there is some fascinating and important research being done now into the nature of the brain that may shed some light on this. I believe that we are something of a composite being. That part of us that is the up-front cognitive "I" is only one part of us. There are other aspects to our brain being that are hidden and do not speak the rational English that "I" speak. Dreams, visions, music, art, emotions, all may be the product of such parts of us. It may be that we are much more powerful and potent than we have any concept of right now. We may perceive of ourselves as the light on the front of the speeding locomotive, not realizing that this huge machine and source of power is not only right behind us, but is actually a part of who we are.
The one "religion" that comes closest to dealing with such things is the oldest of them - shamanism. This is where I am researching today to find the doorways into new knowledge. I have closed no doors to new information, only to old and discredited structures. You say I should "Take it straight up, stare into the abyss like a man." That is just precisely what I am doing. I am not retreating to the comfort and familiarity of man's invented faiths, nor am I retreating into staid, pessimistic atheism. I am taking what has been called the way of the peaceful warrior - seeking new knowledge where it can only be found, at the frontier. I seek new knowledge for only one purpose now, and that is to determine for myself what is real.
I no longer really expect to find "proof" of or against the existence of God. In assessing or utilizing forms of shamanism, I am not jumping from one religion to another. Rather, I follow the perspective that warriors believe in many things - and they believe in none of them. This means that belief for them is just another tool for analysis of what is real. I hope to be saying more about these things in future essays or evolutions of my websites.
Thanks for your compliments on my writing.
Date:Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Thanks for your long thoughtful reply. I'm in the middle of a huge writing project, but I want to reply to your email.
However, I wanted first to compliment you on your openness. So many in your position of having abandoned a faith, close doors so firmly as if to intentionally blind themselves to what they formerly felt or knew. You're not doing this, and I salute you for it.
I also wanted to say I took a look at your creative website after writing my first email. Nice stuff there. But it was also interesting to note that you've carried a lot of the spiritual mythos into your art, both in the computer images and in the photography. So I guess atheism truly isn't your bag.
Before I returned to Christianity (only 18 months ago after a 30 year lapse) I got interested in "new" religious forms. My thought process was something like this: I desperately need a religious or spiritual framework, because nothing in my life works. But obviously, Christianity (which really screwed me up at age 19) can't possibly have any meaning, it's 2000 years old, born in a superstitious age and in major need of revision to reflect all that the human race has learned since the Enlightenment, especially what we've learned in the last 100 years. I began to read the very interesting but fairly sparse genre of what I'd call "scientific spirituality" those few books written by scientists who've got a bent for the mystical or ecstactic. I figured someone has got to be working the "new" religion angle, someone has to be searching for and perhaps beginning to find the New Truth.
For years I've have this half baked idea, that in the future, hopefully the not too distant future (because the survival of the race is not a given) some brilliant physicist/brain researcher/theologian will come up with a Unified General Theory that ties it all together, all of creation, from the macro to the micro with the human being included. In this theory, love will be one of the mathematically described and quantified realities. Likewise gravity, grace, time, courage, etc. Do you get my drift? Like you I really can't believe that the universe is random, that it evolved from nothing and is headed nowhere. If you look at the Universe as an artist, with wide open eyes, you are hit by the tremendous meaning of it all. You may not be able to say what it means, but that it does mean something seems absolutely inescapeable, and absolutely wonderful! The hardest thing for me to believe is the core faith of atheism and nihlism, that this huge something sprang from nothing. So, at some very deep visionary level, there must be rules tying it all together, rules man can discover.
But then I read G.K. Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" and many other Christian books and my half baked ideas about that Unified General Theory deflated and were swept under the rug. I began to search for a church and found the light coming through the stained glass windows so amazing. Now I've found a church home (a good one that suits me) and I sing Hallelujah in a high harmony as the worship band plays. And while I'm never going to give up my intellect which seems to want to constantly poke holes in everything, really, the worship band is more fun, more immediate and ultimately I think, will get me there much more directly.
The best thing I got from those scientists in the books who were struggling at the very fuzzy edges of the theory I'm describing was one word: Humility. If there is a G-d, then what we must not lose sight of is how small we are compared to G-d. Our intellects may not be up to the task of discovering the huge and extremely complex relations G-d has built into the universe, though I believe G-d wants us to try. But our hearts I believe are capable of comprehending.
Date: Wed, 7 May 2003
The concept of your site is an incredibly valuable one. You and I seem to have traveled a very similar road.
I am writing because I think your site would be infinitely expanded in value if it were to become a community, with forums and interaction... is this in the vision for your site? If not, do you have any idea where a site of this nature might already exist?
Thank you so much for the email. I am glad you found my site to be of interest and value. I actually did have a forum set up in association with the site when I launched it, but no one ever came to it, so I closed it until such time as my traffic seemed to warrant it again. There are several other forums dealing with leaving Christianity. One I check out every now and then is:
Recovering from Religion
another one I'm not as familiar with is:
Walk Away from Fundamentalism
Check out some of the links in my links page, or do a search on "ex-christian" or "xtian" and you should find lots of other resources.
Hope that helps. Best wishes for your journey.
Date: Sat, 24 May 2003
Subject: Experiential myth-religion & entheogens
It really doesn't make sense to "leave Christianity", if Christianity is conceived as yet another expression of transcendent experiential knowledge. One can only leave literalist, lower Christianity.
Esoteric Christianity is mythically allegorized altered-state experiencing and is legit; literalist Christianity isn't legit but is merely the entryway for pre-initiates, at best.
Thanks for writing. I do agree that it is "literalist, lower Christianity" that I am mostly addressing when I speak of "leaving". I do understand that the forms of Christianity that exist today are but the vestigial and disconnected first level mysteries of what was once a deep and rich system that would bring an initiate eventually to direct experience of the divine. I also feel that this was, not only for the Christians, but for the Greeks and the Zoroastrians, and back to the Vedic Brahmans, etc., rooted originally in the use of entheogens or plant teachers.....
Personally, I don't like to label the "mythically allegorized altered-state experience" as in any way "Christian" any more than I would label it as "Kabbalistic" or "Heliopolitan". Perhaps the only appropriate generic term is Shamanistic. I suppose such overlays are useful to many (witness the Santo Daime), but for me, I'd rather take it as straight as I can find it. Don Juan said it best, that the warrior believes in many things - and in none of them.
Thank you again for taking the time to write, and best wishes in your journey.
The present moment is not mundane. It is, in essence, extraordinary. -DC
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