Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

Dealing With Religious Fear (And General All-Around Fundamental Assholeness)

In Freedom, Fundamentalism, Life, Love, Relationships on February 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm

As a Christian, I remember how we (I) viewed and treated Non-christians, gays, boyfriends and girlfriends living together, New Agers, Wiccans, liberals, people who cussed, Jehovah’s Witnesses and anyone in the “wrong” church denomination. It was almost like, “Let’s see now, how many sinners can we cut ourselves off from?”

The most amazing and wonderful part about coming out of religion is being able to love the sinners. And I’m not just talking about saying I love them. I’m talking about actually liking these people and, gasp, having a normal friendship with them. It’s about not giving a second thought who they sleep with but getting to know their likes and dislikes, occupations, relationship issues, favorite movies and books, political views, the car they drive (or don’t drive) and what they ate for breakfast that morning. It’s about real friends hanging out with real friends and enjoying the friendship.

It’s so nice to have actual, real friends involved in real life experiences where we laugh together, cry together, question things together, talk philosophy, new shoes, parenting, the latest Comedy Central comedian, the weather, religion, sports, finances – basically, anything and everything pertaining to life, and without judgment because friends don’t do that. Becoming free from the mentality of the Superior Us vs. the Inferior Them causes a whole new beautiful, heavenly world to open up.

It’s a world of love and friendship. Somehow, as a Christian, I never understood, let alone experienced, such a thing. This is because I was conditioned Sunday after Sunday to make an immediate judgment upon people. Are they saved or not saved? If saved, our relationship consisted of doing “the things of God” such as attending church, Bible studies and engaging in charities for the unfortunate poor people, otherwise known as, The Inferior Them.

If someone is not saved, or if their salvation is suspect, then my primary focus was saving them, as any good Christian would do. My mind became preoccupied with somehow slipping the gospel into our conversation or inviting them to church.

[And now I need a moment to vent my anger and frustration over the absolute stupidity of this lifestyle. Why, oh why, oh WHY???? How did I ever let myself become deceived as to think this is actually how some God wanted me to treat other people – saved or not?? How in the world was I so blind to my own pathetic misery? Why did I not see an institution in the name of God gaining power through my own negligence to simply think about what I was doing??!!! Okay, rant over.]

I have been forced to redefine my whole idea of not only what it means to be a friend but what it means to help someone. “God loves you too much to let you stay the way you are” is nothing more than a love based on conditions. And I no longer believe in a love that says “I love you if….”  I actually think this is hatred under the disguise of righteousness, because we have to make some kind of judgment of a “superior us” over an “inferior them” in order to even make that claim.

We’ve probably all fallen into this trap in some relationship at some point in our lives, but I think that religion (among other things, such as politics) can perpetuate it. If I have a set of criteria in which to judge whether or not someone is saved – the same criteria for which I have been judged – then we automatically have an Us vs. Them mentality. This is discrimination which is judging the whole of someone else based on a single trait. And it’s a good way to cut ourselves off from any kind of deep, lasting relationship with anyone.

Real love is not able to turn itself on and off, depending on who is around. This is because love is not dependent upon its objects, but upon itself. If we possess love, we can’t help but love – no if’s, and’s or but’s. And this is how and why it covers a multitude of sins. If love is unconditional, then nothing can separate us from it – no sin, belief system, swear word, gay sex, witchcraft, blasphemy or even self-righteousness can destroy love. It’s impossible because love is independent from these things, and yet connected to all because love desires to be expressed. When we know love, it’s not something we have to try to obey. It’s something we can’t help but live. It’s a desire of the heart that nothing can thwart.

Does it ignore wrongs? Yes! And no. Right and wrong are not issues with love because both are simply opportunities for love to be expressed. But no, because not everyone is in a place where they can accept love. And this includes me and you, dear friend, who have escaped religiosity. We too are still learning that someone or something significant actually loves us. Adores us. Cherishes us as the apple of their eye… just the way we are. That’s not always easy to believe.

And this is where the religious fear and fundamental assholes enter into our story. Trying to be friends with people who claim love but show everything except love is near impossible. What am I supposed to say when someone tells me that I have cut myself off from God or God’s blessings just because I don’t go to church? How am I supposed to be friends with someone who threatens me with a life of severe regret or with the punishment of an everlasting lake of fire unless I change my beliefs? My idea of friendship and their idea of friendship is akin to Bambi and a shotgun.

Do human beings have an innate value where witch hunts and cleansing crusades take place? Of course not. How can they? And what’s the point of pretending otherwise? That’s not love nor is it friendship.

And yet the Pharisees had no idea they were crucifying their savior (love.)

It’s possible to think we have escaped the Us vs. Them religion when we have only switched the Us and the Them.  Loving those we once hated at the expense of now hating those we once loved does not necessarily mean we have made it out of the jungle alive. But it is certainly part of the journey. And it does mean progress.

There is only one way for us to be able to love others and that is to first know love ourselves. We can’t know love by studying the topic to death from a biblical theology book. (Believe me, I tried.) We know it by actually experiencing it. And we experience love by allowing it in to our own heart. And we can only allow it in to our own heart when we can trust someone enough to let them love us. Trust.

I never trusted a God, or those who preached this God, that continuously threatened to punish me if I didn’t believe in him enough or if I didn’t engage in enough religious rituals “with a clean heart.” And so, even though I sang “worship” songs about God loving me, I don’t think I actually believed it.

When I began to understand that God’s love is unconditional, that God loves me no matter what, just the way I am, no matter who I am, then my heart, and life, was finally open to being loved. And I began to see this love everywhere (but that is a future blog topic.)

Love is a process, a journey, a life being lived, as well as a destination. For me, loving sinners might be easy at this point in my life because they are open for and crying out for love, like me. But loving the fundies, or those who are closed to love because they think they already know it, is an entirely different saga. This is where I am inclined to think that unconditional love doesn’t shut down, but it does have unique expressions.

If someone is being bullied, say a gay teenager at a private school, it would be pretty insensitive at that moment to encourage everyone to give a group hug, flowery inspirations and demand that everyone love each other. In fact, I’d want to punch anyone with such ignorance. Spineless cowardice is not love. That is only spineless cowardice that is afraid of the inconvenience of stepping up and getting hurt.

Instead, love knows how to remove the attacking stick from the predator either through defense or allowing things to run their course without fear. In Old Testament Bible days, God seemed to simply allow the hateful to dwell in their own mud, or even be swallowed up by it. The consequences of hating people (my idea of hell) is severe enough to eventually open anyone’s eyes to our own self-loathing, sour contempt and unnecessary loneliness. So we can allow life with all of its joys and sufferings to run its course, understanding that everything has its purpose and plays its role.

We can also stand up for ourselves, and others, without fear of doing something unloving or ungodly. If we really don’t like someone, we can be honest about that. If we don’t want to be friends with someone or pretend we have a happy marriage, we can be honest about that too. If God loves me no matter what, I am free to love, not love or express love in some unconventional way. God loves me whether I love others or not. Love is not a law to be obeyed, but a life to grow in without scoring and losing points.

Some people are going to have a lot of patience for hateful people and others will kick people out of their house if they don’t like the way they’re being treated by their own family members. The difference is no matter. The choice is up to us according to our own disposition and freedom to decide for ourselves how we want to live and what kind of life we want to create for ourselves. And that is how we all learn and grow.

Free to be free from religion, free to be deceived by religion or anything in between. It’s all the same freedom, whether we are free or not. We can love all, have an Us vs. Them mentality, or be a contradicting both. It’s all the same freedom. We can love, hate or grow in love through hate. We can let what “is” continue to be what is, or fight what is, or both. We are free to be, not be or learn how to simply be. It’s all the same, honest freedom.

We can understand that freedom for all and love for all is the only kind of real freedom and love. This will dissipate the Us vs. Them mentality even toward people who insist on creating those walls between us. But we can only discover the moonlit clearing of freedom in the dark forest of slavery if we also understand that it’s perfectly fine to have an Us vs. Them mentality as well. We are all traveling the road of freedom to be sinners, self-righteous, perfect or imperfect, whether we believe it or not.

Free to simply be – for all. It’s how we grow in love.

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  1. Just have to say what a breath of fresh air this is!
    Thanks for being your true, authentic self!
    So liberating and refreshing!

  2. Punkster…YOU are a gift to us all.

  3. Elizabeth,

    I imagine there are sooo many who can relate to this post.

    As you are expressing, my experience of freedom expands as I learn to put love first above everything, including what I used to think about God and religion.

  4. Your best post yet. I love them, all, but this one is by far my favorite and I can really relate to it. Thanks for this post and thanks for evrything you post.

    Peace!
    Keith

  5. Thank you … nothing less than brilliant.

    You might like to read what I said this morning: http://covenantstuff.blogspot.com/2011/02/february-13-2011-good-life.html

    Peace … and glad you managed to “escape” to a healthier place.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. You put into words what I have felt, but have not been able to express when you said:

    I never trusted a God, or those who preached this God, that continuously threatened to punish me if I didn’t believe in him enough or if I didn’t engage in enough religious rituals “with a clean heart.” And so, even though I sang “worship” songs about God loving me, I don’t think I actually believed it.”

    I am at the starting point of this journey–(it is quite terrifying, to be honest)–and I’m still waiting to experience God’s Love for Real. ‘Unconditional’ is not a word I understand at this point–but I’m holding out hope I’ll find it.

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