Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Was Never that Crazy Christian

Lately, whenever I spend extended time online reading atheist material and watching videos, I start to get a little bummed. I'm drinking more these days. And when I'm not drinking, I'm trolling for cupcakes.

I just feel kind of sad.

I'm adjusting to this whole new way of thinking, and I'm feeling a profound loss. A loss of a belief system, sure, but more than that, a loss of a culture. A way of thinking. A way of life. A way of organizing my thoughts.

Because here's the truth: When I was a Christian, I was never like all those crazies we see in the videos and on the blogs. I was never a "Christian nightmare" or a fundie. I've never been a literalist. I've never been into brainwashing. Never been into speaking in tongues. Never had anything against gays, or even sex outside of marriage.

I wasn't that person. That crazy Christian. I was always thoughtful. I always tried to use my intelligence. I asked a lot of questions. (Eventually my questioning led me right out of Christianity.)

But obviously I found value in the Christianity I was embracing and trying to live. It helped me. It gave me a focus. And now that I no longer see the value in it (sadly, I'm mostly only able to see the craziness) I really feel a loss.

Somebody get me a martini. Or a cupcake...

Has there been any depression or sadness in your journey as your own thinking has evolved?

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Loneliness of the "A" Word

("Atheist" that is.)

Just a few months ago, I was still in the phase where my journal says things like:

All my questioning isn't to leave behind Christianity... that's not what I want to do. I want to go deeper, to ask every question, look under every rock.

The choice is clear: I accept the Bible as the basis for my spirituality and remain "in dialog" with and around it, remaining "a Christian." Or I reject the Bible's authority and sacred status, meaning I can't call myself a Christian. I definitely want the former. I hope I'm able to do it. I can't imagine leaving Christianity.

I'm starting to accept that there are many paths to God, not just the "Christian" path. I don't have to put down others' beliefs in order to fully embrace my own. I don't have to be judgmental. I can just celebrate life and God.

I know there is a powerful purpose in prayer.

Can you see how hard I was struggling to remain a Christian? I thought I'd just widen my beliefs. I thought I would become more "progressive" and refuse to be judgmental. I already had liberal beliefs about things like heaven, hell, the resurrection, gays, sex outside marriage, etc. But I was still determined to stay a Christian.

During that time, I tried to talk to three of my girlfriends about this spiritual revolution I was going through. I said over and over, "I'm still a Christian, don't worry!" But it was impossible to share my thoughts without them becoming sincerely worried about me.

Now that my journey has progressed to embracing the "A" word, I don't feel like I can talk to them about it at all. It feels lonely.

You're probably thinking, "You should just tell them. If they're your friends, they'll accept you. If they can't accept you, then you're better off without them - they're not true friends."

But life's more complicated than that, right? These are my BFFs. The ones I envision rocking on the front porch with, 40 years from now, when we break down and buy those Cracker Barrel rockers (and all our husbands are gone, of course). These are the friends I have margaritas with as often as possible. Or coffee when happy hour's not possible. I've worked years to cultivate and build these relationships, and they mean everything to me. I don't easily consider jeopardizing them.

Would they still accept me? Absolutely. But they'd be scared for me, and worried about me. They'd pray for me. They'd waste all kinds of time and emotional energy fretting about my soul. In all of this, they'd be sincere and full of loving concern.

Can you see how I wouldn't want to allow that?

They also might feel kind of unsafe around me. Maybe some of them would feel they couldn't be friends with me because they're afraid of my influence rubbing off on them. They'd be truly frightened. And sad. They'd be so sad!

I don't want to make my friends sad.

Since this is all so new to me, I'm fine remaining in the closet for now. Maybe I'll figure out how to do this. Or get some new friends or something. I just can't cause these friends this kind of pain right now. I'm overwhelmed dealing with my own stuff! Maybe in the future I can talk about it.

But not now.

How did you deal with your friends? Have you lost any over your atheism?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Heaven: How Christians Avoid Dealing with the Problem of Suffering

One of my biggest realizations recently is this: Christianity downplays actual suffering in this world... which is everywhere. It pretends there is always some "higher" reason for suffering, or that it doesn't matter because eventually we will all be living in some transcendent world where there is no suffering. Large scale suffering (genocide, human trafficking, famine...) as well as individual suffering (horrible illness, loss of loved ones...) are downplayed.

God had a reason.
His ways our higher than our ways.
His ways are mysterious.
He works all things together for good.

And I finally realized what absolute bullshit this is.

We downplay suffering with the explanation that there is a world "after death" where there is no suffering... so that we don't have to work hard here on earth to try and minimize people's suffering!

We downplay suffering because we have absolutely no explanation for it. If there really is a loving God like we're taught, then the level of suffering everywhere makes no sense.

But we don't want people to disbelieve in "God" so we come up with ever more elaborate explanations for the suffering.

It seems hilarious (but not) that the final, unarguable explanation is that eventually we'll die and go to "heaven" and not have to suffer. It's like people were sitting around trying to figure out how to keep the masses in line, how to keep everyone from all this inconvenient questioning that was going on.

I know! Let's make up an imaginary world, call it "heaven," and tell everyone they're going there when they die! So when they ask "Why do bad things happen to good people?" we won't have to admit we have no idea. We can just tell them, don't worry about it, everything will be fine after you die.

It's so ridiculous I could just laugh, if I hadn't spent my entire life trying to believe this shit.

Spiritual Experience for Atheists

"It's often imagined that atheists are in principle closed to spiritual experience. But the truth is that there is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing self-trancending love. Or ecstasy. Or rapture. Or awe. In fact there's nothing that prevents an atheist from going into a cave for a year, or a decade, and practicing meditation like a proper mystic.

What atheists don't tend to do is make unjustified and unjustifiable claims about the cosmos on the basis of those experiences."

~Sam Harris

From this video:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Au Revoir Imaginary Friend

Remember the character of Wilson in the movie Castaway? It seems to me that's exactly why the idea of "God" continues in this enlightened age. Ancient people may have initially invented gods to explain the universe and to have someone to blame for all the natural phenomena around them. But we don't need that anymore, since we have a pretty good understanding of science and nature. Perhaps God continues because we fear the existential feeling of "aloneness."

The Tom Hanks character in the movie endured a lot of pain and hardship and heartbreak. But the one thing that threatened to be the end of him was the loss of Wilson - and finally being totally alone.

Is that part and parcel of the human condition, then? Is extreme loneliness tantamount to death? Did we invent God as a kind of imaginary friend to help us through the life so that we never, ever have to feel totally alone?

Psychologically, then, it seems the idea of "God" can have some tangible benefits. If only the idea of God hadn't caused so much crazy hatred, violence and death in the world! If people were able to have their imaginary "gods" without hurting others, and without being compelled to convince others to accept their version of Wilson, then I'd have no problem with it.

Personally, I find myself (figuratively) crying out, "Wil-l-l-l-l...... son-n-n-n-n-n-n" as I sadly watch my beaten and battered volleyball float away and disappear on the ocean swells. It's sad to lose a friend, however imaginary the friend was. Goodbye, God.

Lucky for me though, I'm not lonely in my life. Thank Wilson.