I thought the last post would be my last. Turns out that I have more to say. The last post was written in pain and anguish. This, however, is written in joy.
A dear friend who I had not seen in some time told me recently that they were bewildered as to when “this” happened to me. It sort of made me giggle. Leaving the “faith” and the church is one of the best things to happen to me. But, this is for that dear friend.
To those who are believers, this may be your final straw for me. If so, I understand. I’ll give you a few minutes to say your goodbyes and unsubscribe.
I’m much more comfortable in my skin now than I was at the time I wrote the last post. I was trying to sort of say goodbye, to reassure folk, to please people and help them to not worry about me. I felt that I was betraying them.
But the truth is, cognitive dissonance is more dangerous than virtually anything that I can think of. I believe that many of us walk around with it and we’ve just learned to live with it. We’ve learned to simply accept brazen contradiction. We’ve allowed ourselves to compartmentalize and do mental gymnastics to no end.
For years, I had been coping with cognitive dissonance. I was tortured inside with conflicting ideas, thoughts, whatever…
So, how did this happen to me?
Well, I started paying attention to the cognitive dissonance.
What does that mean?
Year by year over the last decade, I found myself searching for harmony in logic. I’ve always adored studying apologetics. As I studied, I would try to pay attention to what would “click” and what would not.
If we’re all honest, we know that there’s things we *all* believe that, were we to examine them, and apply even just a bit of the socratic method to, they’d fall apart. We like to assure ourselves of our surety, but, it’s somewhat desperate.
Year by year, I found myself dismissing more and more of the scriptures. I would pick and choose what made sense in light of science and reason. Less and less would hold weight. To me, I found the Bible to be more and more of a mess.
But there was a sort of turning point. You know that sort of moment when you say something out loud and realize that it really means something to you.
Well, one morning, I woke up early and stumbled upon an article about this mom realizing how unbalanced her son’s views of prominent women were. He had complained that *all* of their books had girls as the main character. So, she had him get all of the books out, and they counted which ones really did. It was only about 27 out of 100.
She was fascinated by this. She did research and found that it’s a big cultural problem. Our minds are conditioned to see women, even if given an equal time share, as taking up *too* much time.
I reposted this article on my facebook page. On the way to work, a friend commented that he read it, and said something along the lines of, “I think the woman is misguided. God made us that way because men are supposed to lead the way.”
I was disgusted inside by the sentiment. I realized right then and there that I had to pick one or the other. I asked this fellow, “So, let me ask you, if science tells you that your faith or religion is wrong, shouldn’t you do away with a misguided belief once science has explained what is *actually* going on?”
He said no. Faith is faith, and always trumps science…
I know, his case is extreme. There are many, many folk of faith who DO NOT feel this way. I get that. But, you know very well that there’s a problem there.
Some atheists (you knew I was going to say the word eventually, didn’t you) like to use the phrase, “we go one god further. “The point is that, no matter what your faith, you are an atheist in regards to thousands of gods who’ve come before yours.
It’s worth questioning it all.
It was little moments like what I listed above that simply got the ball rolling. Moving outside of the religious/church community that we were living in gave me the permission that I needed to start tugging on the yarn.
The more that I pulled, the more it all fell apart in piles of logic.
I found myself realizing just how convenient all of my “faith” was. It was my upbringing and culture (as it is yours). It was always tailored to suit my needs. It always conveniently helped my find my car keys. I think you get the point.
Stepping back, I realized just how much of the Bible I had cherry picked. I see in a ton of the Emergent Church. They’re making their own god. It used to bug me, but now I see that I did as well. I tailored my god to suit my needs.
Right now, our culture needs a social justice working Jesus who won’t banish the LGBT crowd, who will defend refugees and oppose injustice. But, oddly, that same Jesus is being used by Trump’s supporters to back up other actions as well. Hell, Bannon, mr. White Power himself claims to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
I found it odd how much we can all use this book to defend what we want it to be.
I started giving myself permission to listen to podcasts and videos from secular humanists, atheists and the like. I found their questions to be quite profound.
One that got me thinking the most was that, if the God of the Bible, or even of the Q’ran really wanted us to know him, and know him well, was this really the best he could do? I mean, really, this was bleak? A book that is endlessly contested. Translations upon translations. Denominations galore… I mean, if YOU wanted to communicate your existence to people, wouldn’t you do better?
It terrified me at first, and took great courage to muster up the bravery to say, “I would do better.” I would also have made the moral questions a whole lot more clear.
Wait a minute… am I more moral than the god I grew up worshipping?
When I realized that even my 9-year-old could easily improve on the unclarity and morality of what is supposedly the proof that a god exists, I had to rethink things.
I may be offending you, but it was an honest question. God isn’t supposed to be the author of confusion. But pew to pew and corner church to corner church, YOU GET A DIFFERENT PICTURE OF WHAT IS SUPPOSEDLY THE SAME GOD. That’s NOT clarity.
It all fell apart the more questions I asked. Even exploring the historicity of it all, the origins of the idea of hell, and the outright mythical nature of the entire book.
I could go on and on. But, for those who’ve known me for years, I wasn’t “faking” it. I was trying so hard to please god. I was desperate to make him happy and do his will. I pushed past my conscience so often. But I hated myself so much… I hated me with a vengeance, I had to keep pushing to be better and get better.
But in the crowd, all telling you to keep pushing, keep trying to be “holy” it’s very, very hard to hear your inner voice saying, “Stop it! I can’t think! I can’t see straight!”
It’s amazing what we can do and give our lives to when we work together, both for good and bad. We are powerful as a species. I mean, we are amazing. We can create such magic and wonder… or destruction, pressure and doubt.
There’s an old friend of mine… actually, I’m not entirely sure I can call him that. You see, he was part of the church group we lived in for 11 years. But, he believed some weird, wacky stuff. He didn’t toe the party line like I did. He wasn’t a people pleaser like me. I would set aside reason and critical thinking to get approval. And boy, when you stop doing that, people sure notice.
But this fellow, he was a friend to me. I was not to him, however. I looked down on him for his odd ideas. On the same note, though, I loved his kindness and sincerity. He would look at you and see through you.
One evening I was actually enjoying some time with him, having a glass or two of wine together. He said something that occurred to me the day I finally admitted out loud that I no longer believed in the god of the Bible. He said something along the lines of, “John, I think that the end of all of this is atheism.”
I was shocked. (this was about 10 years ago) “What are you talking about?”
He laughed and replied, “I think that the culmination of all of our struggles with religion, belief and all of this, is atheism. We’re going to realize that it’s us. It’s been US all along. We, together, make this.”
What a bold claim. And from what I can see, it’s true.
You see, this supposed god had answered my prayers since I was a kid. Now, I was taught as a young one, as well as an adult as recently as a few years ago, that there was nothing good in me. If it was good, it came from a god. If there was beauty that anyone saw in me, it was the creator, and not the creation.
The end thought, that I still feel in my very skin, (and I’m sorry to be crude) is that I’m a piece of shit, and god is what is lovely. Sure, people will tell you that god loves you and such, but, in the end, they’re still teaching this idea that he really can’t stand who you *actually* are day to do, you need a blood sacrifice for that… for the *father* to be able to look at you without revulsion.
Now, you may bristle at this. “Not my god… no, that’s not Jesus.” But it’s a seething undercurrent in ALL of the theistic religions. We’re messed up to the core, and we need this other thing to save us. We long to be saved from ourselves and it’s so, so relieving to put the pressure on something else, to hope in something other than our desperate, ever evolving selves.
But, from what I can tell, it’s us.
It’s me. All those times that I came around and did the right thing… it was me. All of those times that we got through, it was us. Because we are beautiful and wonderful.
We ARE what we make ourselves.
I’m going to therapy now. It’s helping. We’re talking about deep seeded beliefs about ourselves. One that came up for me, right away, was believing that I’m *always* ruining the world for everyone around me.
But I don’t ruin things. Frankly, I love to make the world more fun and beautiful for everyone around me.
Quite frankly, I’m learning to look in the mirror, and actually smile a bit.
So, yes, in regards to faith, I am an atheist… and it’s been a longer time coming than I think I even know. All that means is that I don’t see proof that there’s a god of any sort behind all of this.
This is not my belief… Atheism has no tenants. It has no belief system.
As far as belief systems… I’m re-learning those. The ideas of Secular Humanism are helping and make a whole lot of sense to me. I’m trying to be slow to adopt any beliefs. The only real one that I have is that I am precious. YOU are precious. We are precious.
We are precious because of the value we put on ourselves and others.
Life has more meaning to me now that it ever has. Ever. This just might be the only day that I have. Each day, I get to ask myself, “How will you spend this day? What will you do with these, quite possibly, your only moments with breath?”
So, when someone messages me, or tells me, “I still see god in you.” More than anything, I find this to be offensive. Not because of your intent, your intent I’m sure is good, but because we aren’t acknowledging what we’re actually saying there.
We’re saying that god, or “good” hasn’t left you. You’re not a godless shell. But I’m more me now than I’ve ever been. And I patently reject the idea that if it’s beautiful in me, then it is otherworldly. No, what you’re seeing in me, is me. It’s the me that you loved. It’s what you’ve always seen in me, and in many cases, I’m finding “me” to be more amplified than ever.
I am actually starting to like and enjoy being me.
I’m not crap, and neither are you.
In regards to the questions of faith, I didn’t get into those on purpose. If you want to question yours, which I actually do recommend EVERYONE doing here and there, there are plenty of places to start. I’m not going to create a blog about those things. This blog has always been about life and loving life. I’d like to keep it that way.
If you have questions, fire away… I may or may not answer. If you get nasty, I will simply delete your comment and move on with my life.
Recommended reading –
On The Historicity of Jesus – Richard Carrier
The End of Faith – Sam Harris
Anything by Matt Dillahunty
A Universe out of Nothing – Lawrence Krauss
Winnie The Pooh – Milne (just seeing if you’re still reading)