Beyond the book

What is the Bible, but a patchwork quilt of documents, sourced from various times and contexts, and stitched together by a questionably morally corrupt organisation?

I was taught that the Bible was the Word of God, inerrant, inspired, infallible, given by the One who was perfect in every way.  Therefore it was utterly trustworthy. This made perfect sense to me at the time, when I failed to consider all the evidence against the idea.  Why would a perfect and loving being create a book that would then be subject to such variety of interpretation, which ultimately has lead to unspeakable acts of violence and human suffering?  How can such a book ever be considered to be ‘Perfect Truth’?

I discovered throughout the years all the various splinter groups within Christianity that largely emerged due to divergent interpretations of their scriptures.  And the differences didn’t only happen between groups – they were clearly evident even within the congregations of each group.  When I look at it now, it appears as pure madness, and really only serves to further justify secular voices.

When originally penning this blog I attempted to find a middle ground through the understanding that the Bible really is a human work like any other of antiquity, not transcribed by any divine being.  Yet as I did so I realised that I just could not continue to identify with the religion of the book, and found sources of meaning outside the book that were far more enlightening than those contained within.  As such, I discarded every copy of the book that I contained.

The Bible is merely the work of men who wrote from their cultural worldview at a very different time.  It collects largely orally-transmitted stories into a heavily translated written form, which would have made very little sense to those actual characters of the stories.  It assisted Christianity to have a shape and form, and was the cause of its splintering.  It stands as an important work of history and nothing much more.


What is Easter?

During Easter of 2011 I wrote a blog called The Way of the Cross.  I was very much a believer.  Then a major crises of faith hit even larger than before, and a few months later I wrote of being Stripped Bare.  God and Jesus no longer held any meaning to me.

I recently decided to start re-reading Thank God for Evolution to see what my inclinations would now be towards the message that the epic of evolution could be framed in religious language.  I considered that it might be a quality follow-on from reading Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists.  I was mistaken.  My brief love affair with Christianity after a break and the subsequent falling-out has left me unalterably jaded.  The journey of faith in something unreal no longer holds any merit for me.

I realized that my lack of relatedness to Michael Dowd’s message in TGFE could be a function of culture. As an Australian I live in a very secular society that has little room for religious meaning.  The most we get is the media outlets speaking of the Easter messages of key church figures, recycled old religious films depicting the crucifixion of Jesus, and imagery of church services filled to capacity for this one time of the year.  Yet even this is a function of our secularity; going to church once or twice a year is not seen as making one religious; it is merely a tradition, like the giving of Easter eggs is a tradition.  In most places in our secular society, it seems that the church exists so that it can serve these seasons; in between it remains afloat by the few religious remaining behind.  

In adapting myself to secular culture, I needed to take the step of accepting and acknowledging that supernatural faith and language holds no place in my day-to-day life.  My language in The Way of the Cross spoke of the cry of desperation I felt in my psychological distress.  Religion, God, Jesus, Church did nothing to aid me in my doubts and insecurities. It was scientifically validated methods of therapy and change that lead to greater wellbeing and fulfilment, and continue to do so.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, as third-wave behavioural therapies, do far more for health and wellbeing than the church ever will; and in fact ministers of religion are now borrowing much from them!  

Easter is simply a tradition that has crossed multiple boundaries.  Initially a pagan festival, then a religious season, and now a secular season.  Easter bunny and eggs, symbolizing fertility, hold far more sway than the death and resurrection of Jesus, no matter how full the churches might become, or how loud the voices of some religious figures might become.  Australia has an atheist prime minister; the religion of our politicians is irrelevant.  We lament the fact that we cannot buy beer on Good Friday, so we need to stock up on Thursday and do all our drinking at home.  And this four-day weekend is renowned for being a time to be drunk and merry.

We may no longer need God, Jesus, or any of the other deities; but we still require tradition, myth, stories, meaning, purpose.  It is almost written in our genes.  In this awkward time of transition, I hope that our secularism can expand upon the past and give us a break from consumerism, to celebrate and enjoy both life and death. 


heresy

Your God is dead and no one cares
If there is a Hell I will see you there
Heresy, Nine Inch Nails

Such is the harsh tone that rings through Heresy, a song from the masterpiece of an album, The Downward Spiral.  What I would have considered a heresy to listen to many years ago I now find delightful.

I’m prompted to write now as a figure from that shadowy past has sent an email announcing his impending marriage.  He was hoping to reach a person who really no longer exists.  Such is the radical shift from fantasy to reality.

I prefer to burn my bridges.  I ran into another of the people who was a friend of that version of me caught up in the delusion, and I explained my move to atheism.  I’m not sure he could quite fathom it at the time.  It seems utterly pointless trying to create a new friendship based on something different than what was there before.

The feeling that runs through Heresy is the attitude I have towards my time of make-believe.  It was another way for me to avoid growing up and facing reality.  The only way I can gather my self-respect now is to utterly condemn my past.

Fate dealt me a blow of circumstances that led to a life of fantasy.  My contempt towards supernatural belief systems grows steadily, as I consider my wasted past, and as I see the stupendous folly that exists in the world by virtue of religion.

My mission is to face reality, and to encourage others to do the same.  I hope to see others liberated from the vices of the god in their minds, and the auspices of religious authorities.

Crossposted from my new blog, the edge of sanity


A 16 Year Abyss

In my 36th year I feel as though I am only now living fully.

Religion, in my experience, placed a noose around my neck and made me a slave.

Intellectually and emotionally I was bound and restricted.  Limited to a narrow framework with which to receive and perceive the world.

Life revolved around the afterlife.  Heaven mattered more than earth.  All my thoughts and actions were judged by how much they were pleasing to the great deity.

And yet what is life?  Fuck, procreate, die, leaving a genetic legacy.  Looking from the perspective of bacteria up through the animal kingdom, you see waste, violence, damage, death, destruction, disaster.  Kill or be killed.  Predators and victims.  And you call this the creation of a benevolent god?

Sorry guys, we evolved from apes.  We will die and we will be dust.  We will join the legion of the dead and life will cease to exist.  I know, it’s a hard thought.  Took me long enough to finally let go of the illusion of life going on.

Without this whole bullshit guilt around sin, I can now finally live freely.  The religious freaks will probably pray for my soul and lament at just how hedonistic I will become.  All the while I feel free to practice a new kind of morality, one that is respectful for all of life.

The religion that I knew was immoral.  Anything that places such a vice on life should be discarded, mocked, ridiculed, and destroyed.  Life is now so much more pleasurable, though I still carry the scars that are slowly healing with time and hedonistic delight.


A short but passionate love affair

I was going through a really dark time.

My health was failing me, I hated my job, and my social life was slipping away.

Money was slipping through my hands, and I moved back in with my parents, who always seem to have a dark cloud hanging over them.

Life sucked hard. And it’s in times like these that people reach out for something that might give them hope, that might inspire, that might open the doors for healing and restoration.

I linked through to a website by the name of Evolutionary Christianity. A series of podcasts was about to begin with a large number of science and religious figures who all had interest in the odd crossroad between the two domains.

The series gave me something to think about, something to ponder. And I was drawn back to the one figure who had inspired my original faith crisis, Brian McLaren, author and popular figure holding a niche market in evangelical Christianity. The more I read and listened, the more I figured that I might just find love, joy, and healing within the realms of Christian faith again.

And hence began my short but passionate love affair with Jesus. I became a fervent church goer, Bible-reader, home-group attendee, and infrequent pray-er. My collection of faith related books began to expand, while I pushed aside all the secular books that did not aid the affair.

In the end it was really a one-side affair. The people who claimed to be followers of Jesus and speak so highly of his love weren’t overly accommodating to a sick and desperate soul. I didn’t find the elusive community I had been seeking. Instead I simply found disparate individuals celebrating the same delusion.

There was no mountaintop experience. The promise of faith was fool’s gold, all shiny on the outside and rough on the inside. I spoke to leaders and counsellors within the church who offered me very little.

One counsellor though actually made a big difference. She led to my finding the path out of depression and into actions that would lead to employment and a life with more joy. Her techniques were largely borrowed not from her faith but from her psychology degree, and as soon as I focused on the things that would actually make a difference, I no longer required the fantasy of Jesus.

As a staunch believer I would have defended Jesus as very real, God as supreme, and non-belief as delusional. Yet I now understand faith as merely a frame of reference, a way of seeing and relating to the world, which really is the basis for all mythology and belief systems. In the end I simply found faith to be pointless, futile, and generally immature.

I fell well into faith because I have always been rather naïve and immature for my age. Faith was a way that I could maintain my childish ways of thinking. Accepting the world as it is, and working with the world as it is, is both mature and liberating.


Stripped Bare

It’s time to peel away the onion and get to the core.

I have seen the world through the preconceptions of others, but now I am determined to separate fact from fiction.

What is real?  I can look at the computer that I’m writing these words on, I can feel it, I can hear the sound of the keys I press. I could even sense a particular scent if I placed my nose close enough, and I’m sure it would have a unique taste, though I’m not about to find out.

Facts are presented to the senses; fictions are the things of the mind that have no basis in reality.  If there is no basis for a thought or idea in reality, then it is merely a belief.  I am currently going through the process of challenging my beliefs so that I may live according to what is real.

This brings the whole idea of truth back from the ephemeral realm of spirit into the here and now.  Truth is everything I perceive.  I can’t perceive of a God, so according to my definition of truth, God is not true.  God is fiction.

That is not easy for me to express.  I feel an emotional tinge when I state that God is fiction.  Yet to live in the realm of reality, I must let go of beliefs, including those about God.

If God is true, then he/she/it will present itself to me as clearly as I can perceive my own body.  Since God has yet to do this, God is not true.

So much of my time has revolved around what I like to call mental masturbation; namely the playing with ideas over and over again in a self-pleasuring fashion.  Yet I can’t see, hear, touch, taste, or smell these ideas.  So they are really useless to me.

There is so much more to experience and enjoy in the world outside of my head.  Life is to be lived, not considered.


An Identity Crisis

Far, far, far too much of religion resembles a gigantic shame-producing machine.

And now I feel like my identity has been shattered into a million pieces.  Life is a lot easier when you can rest in simple beliefs and stories.

Well, almost.

I tried to do that.  I tested the waters of faith, and found them to be icy cold.

I really, really hoped that much of my problems could be solved by trusting in God, by restoring my lost faith.

And all I found was disappointment, for I again felt out of place.

I think you can only fake it if your heart really is in the enterprise.  And my heart really was not fully there.

The constructs of good religion would be the opportunity to enjoy empowering friendship to start with, and then the impulse to be a more engaged planetary citizen, demonstrating the utmost care and concern for all.

Instead what you get is this insular movement that is concerned about its particular unique system of beliefs about the afterlife, which attempts to create as many adherents to its particular style of practice as possible.  By-and-large, these movements tend to attract a fairly similar demographic of personality styles (with the odd difference here and there), so in the end it is little more than a club of mutual interest.

One of my present contentions with faith in God is that far, far too much is asked of me, which really seems unfair – a God of infinite love and benevolence naturally would be the one to carry the weight of responsibility towards finite creatures.

If you frame this relationship in terms of the parents of a baby, then you see that there is little to no expectation on the child to do anything to receive the love of the parents.  There is not even a need of response for the parents simply pour out love to the child, who gladly receives it.

If I was aware of such love, like the child I would gladly receive it.  And it’s not like I turned away from the opportunity either, and it’s not like I’m doing so now.  I stand perplexed, neither believing nor disbelieving, really just disappointed that I couldn’t get what I wanted.

So now I don’t really have faith as a big part of my life, and neither do I have any real sense of the spiritual, and really just trying to work out what it is that I want for my life.

I guess this might just be another blog silence.


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