Thursday, May 19, 2011

Big Changes

Before I begin, I should preface this by saying I'll be discussing some thorny, difficult issues with religion, morality, and my understanding of the world. Much of what I'm about to say in this and subsequent notes and blog posts will offend and anger a lot of folks. Folks have already told me off for some of this. So, if difficult, provocative conversations about religion are not your cup of tea, don't say I didn't warn you. Feel free to add any comments you like, so long as you do so in a respectful manner. Feel free to disagree, but unless its constructive, clarifying, helpful and enlightens all of us, I'm not interested. Angry polemics will be deleted.

I've concluded that God probably never existed, and 'god' as a concept is most likely a ficticious creation of our minds, reinforced through religious teaching, indoctrination, predominant cultural assumptions, and our fundamental need to answer the biggest existential questions.

In many cases historically, the gods that people believe in are precisely what one would expect from the cultural, political, and historical climate in which they are expressed. In her bestselling book, "A History of God," religious scholar Karen Armstrong, in immense scope, describes literally hundreds of different conceptual iterations & expressions of God, and how each gave rise to yet another version, and descended from endless other versions dating all the way back to pre-history.

Coming to this conclusion has been a long, difficult, and painful process for me, and I've only begun to make sense of it. I can't find the answers to certain problems on my own, & the Holy Spirit (God (if it exists at all) remains silent on some of these matters. I've found both the Bible and books of faith apologists & their answers to my questions about existence to be unsatisfying, lacking, and at times, downright absurd & strange. As I'm coming to discover, while this has all been very abrupt within the last few months of my life, I'm learning that this process started slowly, during the last 8~10 years (& in some cases, much much earlier).

A lot of things, for a long time, just haven't made much sense to me. For a long time, I've been willing to "trust in the Lord, and lean not on [my] own understanding," but that just isn't satisfactory to me anymore, or sustainable. I've finally reached a point in my life where I realize that my decisions affect my life and others. I also turned 30 last year, and for the first time, health and age are telling me about how much my precious and finite time here matters. I can't waste it any longer praying to a brick wall, rationalizing and defending things in my head that just don't make sense to me anymore. I need good answers, not the canned responses to these sorts of problems I so often get, usually delivered with a slick sales pitch and a dash of brimstone. And even if I had good answers, I need some undeniable connection with the divine, a taste of Karen Armstrong's "sense of sacred transcendence."

Finally, late last year, after a particularly frustrating time personally and interpersonally, I openly entertained the proposition that there may indeed be no God, or alternatively, if there is a God or gods, it or they have chosen to remain hidden. I find these suppositions show greater explanatory power over the world and my perception of it. With this paradigm, there is much more congruence between the experiences & perceptions, & what I know of existence & the universe. It simply makes more sense to me.

Several key issues dominate my deconversion. Frustration with prayer is probably the most significant. I simply can't help but feel or wonder if I've been praying to drywall my whole life. Perhaps I'm not talking to the almighty creator of the universe at all, but simply talking to some deepseated part of myself late at night, a simulation of sorts.

But my problems go far beyond that, ranging in scope from logical problems, moral dilemnas, problems with biblical authorship and historicity of key events alleged by Christians, to experiences I've had while traveling and learning about other cultures. I don't have to apologize for an ostensibly 'perfect' God who demands & needs to be worshipped. Why would anything perfect need worship? Or a loving God who condemns you to hellfire (eternally!) for being skeptical about, or 'rejecting' him, or even being simply mistaken about him. I don't have to explain how millions of people who lived & died prior to Christ (or prior to access to knowledge about Christ) may be condemned to hell.

I don't have to 'trust' God to someday explain why humanity suffers hurricanes, earthquakes or why miscarriages happen to good people. I don't have to explain how millions of people around the world seemingly have honestly powerful spiritual experiences outside the Christian faith. I don't have to make excuses for all of the terrible things Christians do & have done, whether that be the Crusades into Palestine 100s of years ago or the current child-sex scandal consuming the Catholic Church, or bombings of abortion clinics. Why would the almighty creator of 400 billion galaxies with 400 billion stars allow himself to be represented by pedophile priests numbering in the thousands and an organization that spent decades actively covering up their scandal? I don't have to explain genocide, rape, murder and all the other ugly atrocious acts committed by the God of the Old Testament. All of this makes more sense, with the supposition that god is ficticious.

More important than all of that, I no longer have to rationalize to myself or to others a God who just doesn't seem to be there. Something that's taken years of my life in prayers, thought, fears, frustrations about his will or the future, but has always been frustrating, and just out of reach to me. I've got a lot of serious problems and goals in my life, and I haven't time anymore for a God that can't or won't give me the direction I need. So its time for me to stop praying and start doing something about these things.

So, to get this off my chest, I'm going to write a series of posts explaining my new thoughts on everything pertaining to this matter. Everything from a new grounding in morality and ethics to reasons why I ultimately left it all behind. I'm not claiming I'm always right. I certainly can't know all of this for certain and I have a lot to learn, but I'm going to tell you all how I stand and how I feel about these matters if you're willing to listen. Feel free to ask any questions or if there is something you want to hear about in more detail, don't be afraid to ask...