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.


Debate Stinks

We all know the experience of walking into a lift after someone has…..ahem…

Watch two politicians on our various news programs from opposite ends of the political spectrum, and you get quite the same nauseating experience.  A whole lot of hot air and nothing is settled, nothing is gained.

And it’s not just in politics, you see the same thing in Christian circles.  Theology is a smoking hot topic, and if you raise a question on dearly-held beliefs, look out – the gospel police will be out to get you.

Jesus dealt with the gospel police constantly – of course, we know them as the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Today’s gospel police claim that since we know what Jesus said, we can rest on those words and have surety what they mean and how they apply.

Isn’t it funny how people can make claims of a text written in a very different context, in a very different language?  Jesus demonstrated that even the most pious, even those whose biblical knowledge was supreme, could be so very far from God.

I pray the gospel police of today would look again at the example of Jesus, but with new eyes.  These eyes would see his compassionate reach to all of Israel.  They would begin to understand the Kingdom of God afresh.  They would baulk at injustice.  They would reach out their hands in healing and their voices in faith.  Rather than subscribe to an old story of a God who makes incessant demands, they would consider a merciful Father who loves both the rebellious and obstinate child.

Debate is the path of the self-righteous.  The penitent sinner can never enter into debate, for they already consider themselves defeated, beating their chest in shame.

Have mercy on us, O God, for our sin stinks.

The Prodigal Returns……Again

A rather radical interpretation of the story of The Prodigal Son, as told by Jesus, is that separation from God can in fact be a necessary means by wish to know his boundless grace and love.  I say this from personal experience – my faith had become stale.

I just love how the son is surprised at his reception following his return.  All the while he was away, he knew that he was in a state of rebellion against his father.  He would have considered how his unrighteous behaviour would look dreadfully shameful to his righteous father.  Just the decision to return would have been one fraught with angst and shame.  How could a good father receive such a wicked son?  Being reduced to a pitiful existence, he knew that he must return, but hung his head in self-disgust, expecting that his father’s wrath would bear upon him in discipline and disgrace.

Yet as we know, quite the opposite occurred.  Upon witnessing his lost son, the father quickly called upon his family and servants to prepare a feast .  Coming towards his father, the son slowly raises his sullen head in shame.  Rather than rage with fury, the father’s eyes glisten with tears as he runs toward his son and embraces him with warmth and compassion.  The son attempts to bring his contrition and confession to the father, and in humility submit himself as a lowly servant unworthy of the father’s love.  The father would have nothing of it, but rather beckons his son back home to join in the celebration of his return.

The son would never have known the full extent of his father’s love had he not walked away in rebellion.  In the same way, God’s love shines forth ever more brightly in the face of my rebellion, even in the face of my denial.  Peter denied the Lord three times; surely his own faith in the love of God was exponentially strengthened as a result of the grace demonstrated in Christ’s forgiveness!  Time and time again we resist God, we rebel against God, we walk away from God, we deny God.  And yet his grace and love remain the same – he is the father who welcomes us back with open arms whenever we stray.  We literally are lambs in the care of the Good Shepherd.

Another extraordinary fact of the story is in the other son, who despises his father’s grace and generosity towards the wayward son.  “Why could you not show me such hospitality considering I’ve always been faithful to you?”, he cried.  Now Jesus was speaking directly of the Pharisees here, moaning of his grace towards the ‘sinners’.  We tend to have such a low view of this group, considering them amongst the most wicked in the gospels.  Yet in this story, even the Pharisees are included in God’s love!  The father does not reject his jealous son, but rather reminds him that his grace and goodness have been always at home, always close by.

What a story of inclusion!  The picture could not have been clearer, of a father with infinitely large arms, ready to embrace all – the wayward and the stubborn – into bountiful grace and love.

Evolutionary Christianity Begins

What a long time it has been between my last post and now!  So much has changed, so many developments have taken place.  I entered what could be described as a ‘dark night of the soul’, a place where meaning was lost and I was trapped in existential despair.  This came about through chronic illness which led to an intense struggle and a series of life changes.  The process has led to something akin to the shedding of skin which occurs in reptiles, letting go of particular ideals and attachments in favor of greater depth and joy.  So while I have been going through significant pain, I have also woken up to new inspiration.

My first inspiration came about through a series of teleseminars entitled ‘The Great Integral Awakening’: http://www.greatintegralawakening.com/.  The central theme of this series was the evolution of spirituality through the eyes of several renowned figures who each are making significant contributions in the arena of integral thought.  If this doesn’t make much sense to you, check out the websites http://integralenlightenment.com/index.php and http://www.integralspiritualpractice.com/ for more information, and also look up Ken Wilber (who has PLENTY of both positive and negative press!)

The latest avenue of inspiration came when I entered the search term ‘evolutionary christianity’ into Google.  This brought me to http://evolutionarychristianity.com/, the website of author and pastor Michael Dowd, who has release a book entitled ‘Thank God for Evolution’.  He has just begun a teleseminar series which can be accessed through the above link, and which drew my interest due to the fact that a few of the guests are people I have mentioned in this blog as inspirations: Brian Mclaren, John Shelby Spong, and Matthew Fox.  Having heard the first talk, I am excited to say that I now feel tremendous inspiration and hope once again that I can have a living and vibrant faith without the baggage that is predominant in the Christianity that is popularly promoted.

As such, I am now using this space as a means to express my inspiration, whether that come from the Evolutionary Christianity series, other sources, or thoughts about the Christmas season.  I look forward to the ongoing dialog and hope that it can be an inspiration to others.

Atheism in the Easter Spotlight

I really didn’t want to get into commentary and debate again, but a story in today’s newspaper compelled me to write.

Sydney, St.
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The Sydney Anglican Church is renowned for its ultra-conservative evangelical stance, even to the embarrassment of fellow Anglicans.  Sydney’s Archbishop, Peter Jensen, began his tirade against atheism on Good Friday with the following:

“As we can see by the sheer passion and virulence of the atheist — they seem to hate the Christian God — we are not dealing here with cool philosophy up against faith without a brain,” Dr Jensen told the congregation at Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral.

“Atheism is every bit of a religious commitment as Christianity itself.

“It represents the latest version of the human assault on God, born out of resentment that we do not in fact rule the world and that God calls on us to submit our lives to Him. It is a form of idolatry in which we worship ourselves.”

These comments are stupid enough to warrant no reply.  They are ill-informed and reflect an extremely biased view, and as such merely attract scorn.  It’s what followed that disturbed me.

An absence of faith invites an inward focus and undermines human relationships, Dr Jensen said in his Easter address at St Andrew’s Cathedral this morning.

“I have emphasised human loneliness this Easter because that is what expert observers of our society are saying is a real problem,” Dr Jensen said.

“It is what we would expect to occur given the secularist philosophy we have embraced.

“This philosophy emphasises the individual and individual rights, it invites us to invent our own lives and it undervalues commitment to other human beings.

“It is a recipe for loneliness and the path to a very lonely old age.”

I’m no stranger to loneliness.  My experience of it is partly influenced by the existential crisis that came when I left the faith that I had spent most of my life constrained within.  However, it is far more complex than what Jensen suggests – I was lonely at the highest points of my time as a Christian believer.  Involvement in a church and belief in deities are no guarantees of happiness, despite what opinion polls tell us (just ask the multitude of ex-Christians).

Additionally, the very philosophy that Jensen derides was very much promoted within the congregations that I attended!  For starters, commitment to human beings took less priority than commitment to God and church.  The values of both the clergy and the congregation were identical to those in the general community, and in fact in my experience the congregation tended to be amongst the more middle-to-upper class in society, well-to-do by virtue of business, investment, and political interests.

So Peter, do you seriously expect me to believe that the cure for my loneliness is to join your church and take your faith?  If your god kept me locked in loneliness and depression over the years while I attempted to live my life by faith, how on earth will I be saved now?

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The Fantasy of Easter

fan·ta·sy [fan-tuh-see, -zee] –noun

1. imagination, esp. when extravagant and unrestrained.
2. the forming of mental images, esp. wondrous or strange fancies; imaginative conceptualizing.
3. a mental image, esp. when unreal or fantastic; vision: a nightmare fantasy.
4. Psychology. an imagined or conjured up sequence fulfilling a psychological need; daydream.

Is the Easter story a fantasy, of the creative imagination of a primitive culture?  Or is it a real story that continues to demand our attention?  It’s Good Friday, and again I’m thinking about the whole idea of Jesus on the cross.  Actually, this is a particularly striking time of year, as it was around this time in the year 2006 when my faith came crumbling down. And that was not long after I had been through quite a ritualistic Easter experience.

Day 048/365 - Jesus Saves
Image by Great Beyond via Flickr

I particularly like that forth definition, as it gets to the very point I am about to expand on.  The brain requires completion, and goes to great lengths to fill in the gaps, so to speak.  Optical illusions are often the result of this tendency, with the brain creating an image that is not exactly corresponding with reality.

Today I realized that I had been caught up in the process of fantasy while attempting to gain people’s favour.  I had suggested that my Easter weekend was being wholly taken up in entertaining visiting family, when in reality much of it will be spent on my own (or reading, or posting to this blog!).  I didn’t want to present myself as a loner, and I don’t like to think of myself as a loner, yet if I gave a completely accurate description of how I am

spending my time, that’s exactly how I would come across.  As such, I expanded the small time with family to include the entire weekend, appearing then to be far more social than I actually am.  I created a fantasy in my own mind, which then translates to a fantasy in the minds of those I am trying to impress.

What I’m suggesting here is that self-deception and deception of others is something that can occur in the day-to-day process of living; as much as we want to be truthful, in order to maintain or advance our social positions we will inadvertently bend the truth in our favour.  Additionally, in the absence of understanding, we use our imagination to fill the gap.  Hence the pervasiveness of religion in our time, and the belief in the spiritual realm that has stretched back as far as recorded human history.

Easter for most Christians hinges on the afterlife: Christ died for our sins, and to be acceptable to God we must put our faith in him.  Afterlife is an unknowable entity, so we naturally reach for some kind of known through our imagination.  The fires of hell provide quite the fantastical persuasion to lead many to the conclusion that they must believe wholeheartedly in Christ, or at least participate in rituals such as those that are occurring in churches around the world today.  Even for those who choose not to believe, virtually everyone has been in some way touched by death, and the experience easily lends itself to the desire for an afterlife.

The fantasy of faith has a neurological explanation, and as such I cannot and will not judge anyone who chooses belief.  As I demonstrated, I often utilize fantasy in my social experience, and quite unconsciously most of the time.  It’s wonderful that I can wake up to this and therefore choose to be more authentic, but given the nature of brains I can’t guarantee perfection.

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The Journey Continues

It’s been a long time between posts.  In fact, I had almost forgotten about the blog until a visitor commented yesterday, and I now feel it is time to pick up from where I left off.

In my usual melodramatic fashion I suggested that there was not much more for me to say.  Yet in the interim months I’ve been drawn back to matters of a spiritual nature.  In the lead-up to Easter I’ve begun reading Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment by Deepak Chopra.  It’s a fictional account placing Jesus in his twenties, leading up to the time of his entry in the Biblical gospels.  So why back to Jesus now?

I figured that my spiritual quest is relevantly focused on the Christian figurehead at this time of the year.  Prior to now I’ve been more interested in Buddhist and mystical thought, and as what the title of the book suggests, this account of Jesus has him leading more towards Eastern than Western ideology.

At the same time I’ve also started reading another book called The Evolution of God by Robert Wright.  I still believe that gods are a psychological projection, and this book really goes into the detail of this historical development.  I’m of the opinion that Yahweh, the Jewish and Christian god, is merely an enlargement from many gods to one.  I can say that while at the same time putting more and more focus on spiritual matters.  Weird, hey?

I guess that’s part of this whole beyond black and white thing.  I don’t fit neatly in categories, and I happily sit with paradox.  I’m not out to try to prove or disprove anything, but merely moving in the direction of my desires, and hopefully oriented in the direction of inner peace.  That’s not something that any worldview can give me, it’s something I’m convinced can only be cultivated.  And I’ve got so much more to say about that.

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