Conversations With You
Date: Thu, 29 May 2003
Subject: Thoghts and Questions
I had a bit of a browse of your site and it struck me as kind of brave to stick your neck out and put up a site that may well attract unkind comments from multiple directions.
My own journey is somewhat similar apart from the point that I have not totally rejected the idea and reality of God. I have moved toward the idea that the way in which church has "been done" for the hundreds of years is not as it was intended. The thing that keeps me holding to God as a valid belief is an inability to believe that the existance of the world could have occured without a plan by some intellegent being. When I witnessed the birth of my first child I was struck by the wonder of the process of conception to birth and beyond and even now can not believe that it came to be with some deliberate intent on the part of an intelligent creator.
While I understand disillusionment with the nature of the practice of Christian belief, I wonder if there isn't still a place for a real God. I guess your journey has brought you to a place where, since there is no eternity beyond mortal life, there is no need for a saviour?
While I can to some extent see the logic in the process of your journey, I can't say I really understand your conclusion (or present position).
Journey on... and all the best.
Thank you very much for your email. I always appreciate hearing from those who find my site interesting or useful in some way.
I do understand the seeming necessity for some kind of creator / organizer / sustainer entity. My stance now is that I am completely ignorant of what that entity is. I cannot assign a name (such as God) to it, nor can I ascertain anything about it such as who, where, how composed, nor, of course, why? All such information in the past came from my acceptance of the proclaimed scriptures as representing contact by this entity. Now that that has been completely undermined by my continuing education, I have no other source of data. I only have what I can observe - which includes the impression that there is a larger conciousness or source of life and organization "out there" somewhere (or perhaps "within there"?).
This is the direction of the search now, but I can never again accept the word of any human (alive or dead) as to the true nature of that entity.
You are correct in assuming that I have no use for a belief in a "saviour" - as there is no data from the Entity, there can be no constructions of social or moral interactions with It. We are really left to our own devices as to how to live and where to draw boundaries between us. Without direct data, indeed, we must assume for all practical purposes that such an Entity does not exist. I think that the manifestation of well-structured human societies such as in your country and mine is evidence of how well human beings alone have been able to develop those kinds of things that lead to a decent life (understanding that many people have yet to gain this standard of living).
I appreciate the comment about being brave to stick my neck out, but that is an expression of the honesty I now require in my thinking about these life philosophies. I feel like I have awakened from a long sleep and now I can breathe the clear air. Perhaps, I can help others to do the same thing. In any case, we are a social species and I'd rather have conversations than to simply isolate myself in my understandings.
Thanks again for writing.
Date: Thu, 05 Jun 2003
Subject: A Disillusioned Friend.
I would first of all like to extend my warm and heartfelt greetings to you.
I had happened to visit your insightful website one day whilst "living" in my daily, disenchanted state of consciousness. Over the course of the last several years, I have experienced many changes in my psychological and emotional views of the world and life itself -- namely, I have realized that my hopes and dreams are nothing more than what they are. Reality and the dream are two separate entities. The careful thoughts on your website to a great deal run many direct parallels of my own thinking as I have struggled these years with issue of the dream versus reality. I would like to share a few of my thoughts, in the hope that you might also share some of your own, or that they may help you in your own personal journey.
I should introduce myself a bit more. I am a seventeen year old young man by the name of JJ. I once was a boy who was hopeful, sociable, and shining bright like a star. I believed in God, and Heaven, and the Bible. Unfortunately for that little boy, the reality is that Time kills. That little boy has grown up and faded away...he remains only as a memory, a dream of the past -- not unlike the dead. As Time progressed, the little boy grew up, the star faded, and the reality of the world hit him like a cold wave, washing away his foolish idealisms.
The world is, to a great deal, a place for cold-blooded killers. War and hatred eat away at the very fabric of human existence; fanaticism brings time and time again brother against brother (or in a politically correct world, sibling against sibling.) Since the beginning of Time, this has been so. Cain and Able of the Bible are one such example. Jealousy, envy, and hatred are the fuels of these problems. However, I feel that religion is equally responsible.
Here one must define religion. What is religion? Religion, to me, is the fanaticism in which a person will no longer accept ideas that contradict their own. Religion is the ignorant condition in which a person will begin rejecting any fact or evidence in favor of clinging to their own anchored beliefs for the sake of personal stability. Notably, in my opinion, the main source of this problematic condition is the church. ....
The true thought that I wish to express is not how to, or justifying the destruction of the Church. My true thought is neither to eradicate peoples' personal beliefs or opinions. I don't know why we're here -- no one does, really...some people might just try to dig some answers out of a man-written book called the Bible, but I think that there is a true value in finding one's own personal answers. Regardless of the existence of a greater force, humanity must first serve itself before it can think about serving anything else. If God does exist, could any human truly know or understand such an entity's thoughts? If God did have wishes or desires for humanity to fulfill, how would we be able to in the midst of all our fighting and slaughter of our siblings; in the midst of our stealing, raping, and childish bickering?
I often feel as if I live partially within my memories of the past and my dreams for the future, and partially within the realm of reality. I don't really know anything -- I'm just a human being. And being is what I do. If God exists, I am an agnostic in that I will never accept that I could comprehend the entity's existence or thoughts. If God exists, I do not believe that man can correctly interpret Its wishes for humanity. The reality is, humankind is too easily corrupted, and falls all too quickly and all too often to forces such as Jealousy, Envy, Hatred, and Selfishness.
I wonder if it isn't better to live alone in one's dreams and memories than surrounded by a world of illusioned fanatics killing each other left and right to no end or any realization of the reality.
Thank you very much for writing to me. I appreciate it.
I understand the kinds of feelings about the human world that you expressed. It can often seem like all humanity is depraved and without hope of any kind of redemption, and that there is nothing to be done but hide and dream. I hope I can influence you somewhat to look beyond the emotional response we have to that view of life. There is obviously much evil in this world, but there is also much that is noble, good, wholesome, and creative. The world mankind has built is not perfect by any means, but it is quite a marvel. I find it head-shakingly strange that humanity has for so long cheated itself of any self-acknowledgment of its own accomplishments, as it has always seemed to want to ascribe the results to the influence of God or gods. Everything that is bad in the human world is of human making, and everything that is good in the human world is also of human making. We have a choice in what we do or make or support.
I don't know why we are here, either. It is a great question and one that most people give pat, religious answers to. It is a sign of healthy honesty for you to say "I don't know why." There may never be a satisfactory answer to that question, but the pursuit of information that has to do with the Whys is a noble and enjoyable philosophical pursuit. I recommend it highly!
You said that you see reality and dreams as two separate entities. Have you ever thought that it may be that one is dependant on the other? That is, our reality is only the result of what we dream? Many advanced philosophies hold to that very idea. If this is so, then what we dream is very important, for it leads to the very reality that we live in day to day. If we dream/create a terrible and depressing world or life, we may very well fulfill that dream and live in sorrow and dread. If we decide (critical word!) to dream/create a whole and healthy world with learning and creativity, that may very well be our destiny instead.
I choose the latter for myself, and I have found that an honest Humanist approach to life is a rewarding and joy-filled way of living. It frees me to discover new knowledge and try new philosophies. One thing I have learned is that Time does not kill. It simply alters and evolves things. That idealistic little boy you once were is not dead, for you remember him and you embody still all that he was. He advises you now from the inner places and you use him as a point of reference for what you are becoming. I know that you have undergone a complete change of view. I did the same thing, but I think we should honor our past selves and use them to help us see where to go and how to be in each unfolding Now.
Here is something to consider. Don't be a human being; be a human doing! It is our birthright and destiny to learn and create, and the best revenge on those who live small, mean, restricted lives is to live ours as openly, healthily, creatively, and as full of richness as we can. Perhaps by example, we shall influence those around us who are primitive and shallow, and if not, well then, we have lived our lives well and with joy.
There is something to be said about distancing oneself from those who are mean and violent. I avoid people and places that foster and respond to those values. However, I don't think we should just give up and become hermits or something. There is so much we can do and so many people who need to hear of some other options for their lives. I hope you will consider ways to shape your life to be positive and, perhaps, helpful to some of those around you.
There is an advanced philosophy of life that you might like to read about. I have begun to adopt its principals for myself. One way it is known is as "The Way of The Peaceful Warrior", which is the title of a book by Dan Millman. Find the book and see if it resonates with you. As a warrior (of the kind this way is about), I am happy without apparent reason and filled with personal power and a desire to know the unknown. This way is not for everyone, but you may find it a valuable gem, especially in the vacuum that exists after leaving traditional religion.
Thanks again, JJ, for writing, and please do write anytime. I wish you the very best in your important journey. You are not alone.
Peace and Joy to you!
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2003
How would you define disillusionment?
Have you read my site?
Here is an excerpt concerning the term "disillusionment" from one of my essays:
"For those of us who have come out of a religious life to the acceptance of disbelief and of a rational world view, the word disillusionment is uniquely appropriate, but in a new and positive way. In fact, it is the perfect term for us.
When we dissect this word, the root is, of course, “illusion”. To be “dis-illusioned”, therefore, is to not be deceived by the illusion. Finally, it is to reject the illusion in favor of what is real."
Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003
Just discovered your site. I bet you get lots of emailers that say that. However, they may not tell you that they were also brought up in the Church of Christ. I have not read anything on your sight in depth yet, but I am looking forward reading a lot of it. My hat is off to you for taking the time to share what you have been through in you transition to reality. Letting go of faith in the Bible has been taking place with myself for a couple of years now. The main difficulty has been that I have had to rethink everything. Because a person just not realize how much of they think is based on their religious beliefs until those beliefs leave.
Thanks for taking the time to write. I'm glad you found my site, and I do hope you take the time to read some of the essays there. I completely understand about having to rethink and change Everything when going through this process of dis-illusionment with religion. It requires a complete re-evaluation of who and what we are as beings, doesn't it? That can be overwhelming and frightening, but it can also represent a marvellous opportunity to actively recast and redefine ourselves based on authentic information and values. You are in this process, and I have been doing this for a while, myself. Most people who were never believers do not experience this kind of metamorphosis, and, of course, those who remain illusioned by their religions never even conceptualize such a change.
I don't know how this process seems to you at this point, but I can tell you that beyond the initial discomforts there is only wonder and joy in making such changes. I really do feel like a totally different person than who I was five years ago, and so very much more alive!
Best wishes on your important journey, and feel free to write me again when you've had a chance to check out some of my essays and things, ok?
Date:Friday, June 13, 2003
Thanks for the quick and detailed reply. I have been reading over your reverse testimony and one thing that really strikes me is your description of being out of a box. That is exactly what I have been thinking about myself. That I am now out of a box. And the analogy if very fitting I think.
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003
David, I recently discovered your website after typing "disillusionment" into a google search. I'm still trying to sort things out, but it is nice to know there are other folks I can bounce ideas off of. I bring the concept to nearly every aspect of my life, not just religion. I feel like I'm experiencing some kind of metamorphosis, so to speak, in reference to my view of the world.
I'm not giving up on God, however. Things happen everyday to keep me believing there is something out there. Somebody or something is "running the show." Maybe, maybe not, but I can't explain coincidence. Coincidences, big and small, can sometimes seem too odd to deny their plausibility.
Anyway, I'm having fun trying to make sense of it all. I plan to read through your site and those linked. Maybe by the time I'm dead I'll finally figure out what it's all about.
Thanks for writing! I do hope you will take the time to read some of my site.
I, too, sense or extrapolate that there may be some intelligence behind the curtain of the universe. My point of view now is simply that the character of God that the orthodox religions place on that intelligence is man-made and has no connection, scientific or historical, to whatever that intelligence really is. There are some more primitive or direct approaches to gaining information about this entitiy that I am currently investigating, which is exciting and enjoyable, but I do not expect to get hard answers in my lifetime.
That is why you will find me go on a bit about the importance of living life right now - the supreme importance of the present moment. When we leave the small box called "religion" behind and begin to live fully and authentically in the present, it truly is like a metamorphosis. I am a completely different person than who I was five or six years ago, before I made the changes in my thinking.
Best wishes for your important journey, and I'm glad to hear you are having fun with it. That is a sign of an advanced philosophy of life!
Bounce off of me anytime you want to.
Date:Monday, June 16, 2003
Thank you for responding so quickly. I've been reading a lot of books about the brain and how it works, etc. I'm fascinated by the concept of emotion. I've become wary of my emotions and try not to trust them, however the fact remains that I experience these emotions whether I like it or not. I know (think rather) that emotions are really nothing more than electrical impulses in the brain telling the body to feel or act a certain way. So, if there is any truth to the above statement then a person with great control of their mind could deem emotions as inadmissable. Does this make any sense?
Ideally I'd like to be able to train myself and my brain to operate at maximum capacity. I feel like this idea of disillusionment has led me to this exploration of my head.
I feel like I could go on for hours, but then you probably wouldn't talk to me anymore. As I'm sure you did, I've got a lot of questions that I know I'm not likely to have answered. Also, I like your philosophy of living for the day, etc. Sometimes I feel like I spend too much time thinking and not enough time living. Anyway, that's enough for now. Have a great day.
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003
Subject: nice web site
I just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading your site. The process you describe in it is one which I am going through right now, and I totally relate to all of the emotions and thoughts and feelings that you described. When I first started this process, I went though the fear and confusion that you talk about, but it quickly is giving way to exhilaration and joy at the prospect of finally living a free life.
Thanks for such a unique and helpful website.
Thank you so much for your email. It's great to hear from people like yourself who have been through the process long enough to have begun to see beyond the immediate fears and dissappointments of the transition out of belief. Moving into the next phase is very rewarding. Joy is a good word - exhilaration is a good word, and even, perhaps, acceleration into a newfound committment and concentration on life right now. That represents authentic life purpose instead of a false and debilitating purpose based on an illusion.
I am gratified if you have found my writings to have been helpful in some way, and I appreciate the compliments on the website.
Very best wishes for your continuing journey.
[Since Cliff is Webmaster of his Positive Atheism Magazine site and awarded me his award publicly, I am retaining references to him.]
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2003
Subject: Listing in Web Guide: "PAM-Pick" Bestowed
While spending an evening's worth of perfectly good time trying to find out how to stop illicit (mirrored) copies of my work from outranking my legitimate copies on various search engines, I came upon a list of links. Tiring from the frustration of this altogether too familiar chore, I clicked on a link whose name I found most fascinating: The Joy of Disillusionment. Before I even clicked, I said to myself, "Yes, that's just how I feel! No, not about getting ripped off by my fellow atheistic activists, but about life without theism! ....
Since our beginning, we have offered what we consider to be more than just a list of links: we have always called this service our "Web Guide.".... I needed a way to let readers know that this one web site was head and shoulders above the rest, so I created the PAM Pick.... I see that yours is another that deserves a little more than just a listing, simply because our readers deserve to know that yours is more than just a web site.....
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Thanks so much for writing and for awarding my site your "PAM Pick"! Traffic to my site is just a trickle compared to what yours must receive, so I do appreciate the exposure for those who may find it of interest or of some help....
I think your new approach of giving some commentary on the sites you list in your guide is a helpful one. There are so many sites, that lists of links become eye-glazing after a bit. I also wanted to say that I've used and enjoyed your list of quotations from time to time. It's good to reconnect with the broader community of rational ideas - especially when those ideas are spoken by such a wide variety of well-known people, many of whom we may not have normally associated with free thought....
I appreciate your labors to recast the meaning of the word "atheism", especially by appending "Positive" to it. I think, however, it will hold a lot of knee-jerk associated baggage for a very long time to come. For myself, I don't use the term as a name, but make the distinction that it is, instead, a "stance" or a methodology of approaching reality that, hopefully, will gain me new insights or knowledge about the universe. It is not the only such stance, others being agnosticism, mysticism/shamanism, and even some religious viewpoints. It has been said that the warrior believes in everything - and in nothing. This gives him or her the tools and the methods to study the universe from all angles and to discern and choose wisely her or his course without necessarily limiting oneself by any of the various viewpoints' limitations.
Thanks again for the bestowing of your PAM Pick, and I will project healing and peace in your direction! Good journey!
The present moment is not mundane. It is, in essence, extraordinary. -DC
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