Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

I Was Christianity’s Tool, But Am I Still?

In Deception, Heaven, Hell, Life, Politics, Sin on March 10, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Just when I think I’ve finally awakened to reality, I find myself awakening some more. Did I really once believe in a Nazi God that was bent on torturing and annihilating the majority of the world’s population? I mean, really? Please tell me I wasn’t a total muppet.

What makes me sigh even more is to think that I might have actually wanted to believe this. Sure, maybe I just wanted to shift the blame off of my own perceived guilt onto the rest of the world but… was I seriously okay with the idea of any soul being tortured for eternity?

And did German civilians feel similar to this after WWII? I feel like I’ve got some pretty serious psychological issues concerning the after-effects of the Christian religion.

To top it all off, if I think I’ve awakened but still find myself awakening, doesn’t that mean that I’m still deceived? I think I’ve arrived in glory land just in time before I realize, “Nope, I’ve still got a lot more mind renewing to do.” I haven’t finally arrived. I might only be a little closer to… who knows what? What’s around the corner?

We only think one belief is the right one because it sounds better than the last one. I call it the ping pong effect. By continually comparing options with other similar options, we remain a slave to that one set of options. Since they are mostly similar with just enough differences to make them appear different, we never find the freedom to question whether there might be a completely different set of alternatives. Their minor differences keep us trapped in one system. We remain distracted inside of some systematic belief by going back and forth within it using comparisons. I did this for years with churches. I thought they were all different only to find out they were all essentially the same except with unique packaging.

The Democrats and Republicans utilize the ping pong concept all the time during campaigns. Which candidate is better? This one or that one? After a few presidencies, I thought that there was really no essential difference between the two political parties. The politicians only want us to think so in order to push all other candidates out of the race. That way, each of the two parties increase their chances of winning up to 50% instead of say, 25%. But how many Americans would like to have more options when choosing a president? We are deceived into thinking there are really only two to choose from….

After pondering for a while the brainwashing idea of my last post, I was forced to conclude that churches are not the only institutions that enslave people’s minds. In fact, I don’t even think we need an institution at all, nor even any kind of society or civilization in order to be misled. If we exist in some environment – any environment – we can interpret it in all kinds of different ways and then wake up the next morning and still see it from a different perspective.

While our parents, schools, churches and media might be some of the major conditioning agents (and they all seem to be volleying for that control) which one of us as a child can say that we possess our own mind? Even if we break free from one body of influence, was it because we were influenced by another? By the way, I’m influencing your thinking right now as you read this blog post.

I think the bottom line is that we are all controlled by someone or something other than our own soul to at least some extent. This is for the simple reason that we just don’t know everything. The ignorant are desperately dependent. So we are in a continual state of learning, or at least we are supposed to be in a continual state of learning. If we think we already know the absolute truth, we shut down any need or desire to grow.

Fortunately, if I am aware that I don’t know everything, I can be freed from dogmatism or stagnate growth. I can’t really say what is the hard-lined, absolute truth because, well, I’m on a journey toward it – or at least I think I am. If I was duped before, who can say that I’m not deceived again by another one of the millions of deceiving things in the world?

What we don’t know could change everything that we think we do know. (I would have never admitted this as a Christian. It would have meant that my belief in the truth was weak.)

This idea that truth – at least the truth that we “know” – is limited, subjective, changing and relative can really unsettle us. We want to know that truth is absolute, unchanging and that we know it. We find some sense of security in knowing the truth, and that is why we might defend our idea of it unto death. Our entire well-being and identity depends on the “fact” that we can know absolute truth.

For me, this absolute truth was everything Christianity taught me about God and the world. I now believe these doctrines are full of contradictions that, if I thought about them too much, they would have sent me in circles. “God is sovereign. No, man has a free will….” I think that Christianity relies so heavily upon this circular logic that it eventually runs itself into the ground, but only if we dare to awaken to it.

This is why Christians (or anyone) might get stuck in one narrow mindset with a lot of stunted growth. There’s no where else to go except right back into the Sunday morning seat under the pulpit. There’s no new ground to cover. If there is any value in “unchanging” traditional beliefs that has survived the centuries of church history, then there certainly isn’t any room to think about them. To think about things is to broaden our mind about things and… to grow.

Here is some more circular logic: God, churches and Christians are holy while everything outside of it is evil. This is another one of those silent teachings. Nobody would admit it or even teach it, but somehow it’s what everyone thinks. It also subtly gives everyone the impression that evil is enticing and we’d better be careful or else it will get us.

And that’s a losing battle right there. Tell someone to stay away from something, such as the fruit of a certain tree and that’s going to be one of the first things they eat. And then the guilty will come up with all kinds of subconscious mechanisms to hide their sin and then we’ve got a lot of religiosity going around.

People eventually get tired of being fake and so they become atheists because they were conditioned from childhood to believe that we either follow God (per the church institution) or else we become God’s enemy. And so Christianity creates its own adversaries with it’s do or die philosophy.

I’ve been on both sides of the battlefield (Christian and Atheist) and I’ve also tried to marry the two camps. It’s impossible. There are so many different viewpoints and beliefs and commands and non-commands that we end up completely confused and in the middle of nowhere. To become dogmatic shuts ourselves off from everyone who doesn’t own the same dogma; but to become apathetic to whether God or the world exists leaves us just as empty.

But what is the truth? If the truth is love, is it possible for us to really know it – really truly abide in it? And how do we know we are not only being further conditioned to only think we are loving? It’s happened before. Can’t it happen again?

Well-intentioned Christians had warned me that by leaving my fundamental roots and the belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, my beliefs will lead to meaninglessness. Gotta love those doom and gloom accusations meant to keep Christians chained to Christianity.

At least I can say that I ventured outside of my cell to find out whether it’s meaningless or not. Cowardice can only assume what’s out there. But I can tell you from experience that although I don’t have all the answers, it’s anything but meaningless. Only I’ve had to completely break my devotion to Christianity in order to even begin to discover this. Life certainly is meaningless as long as I am still tied up to Christianity, even as its enemy.

They told us the world was full of evil. They also told us that evil is everywhere. (More circular logic.) If evil exists inside the church as well as outside of it, why confine that evil to a prison cell under the disguise of a holy sanctuary? Or maybe it’s not either/or but both? Maybe we are not good or evil, but we are all, believer or not, good and evil?

Whoever we are and whatever we possess, we take it with us wherever we go. There’s no safe place to hide because we can never be separated from our self. At least that’s how I understand it. Christianity might have used me for its own gain, but I also used it. I used it to avoid myself, as well as to hide from reality. And reality seems to have something to do with the real God, possibly, if there is a real God and if we can know the real reality at least at some point in time.

How do I know this? Well, it’s probabalistic that I don’t know anything. But as far as I can tell, I feel a natural love and longing for other people that I never experienced as a Christian. Sure, I loved people but it was tough. I had to force it. I even had to pretend; my social skills as a Christian stank because my head was in the clouds.

But love seems to be more instinctive now. I’m not so afraid of people anymore. Before, I wasn’t conscious of my pretense, but with hindsight and a new experience, I can admit the fear and fakery of my past (which may still be a part of my present and future.)

To be fair, I know some very loving people who are Christians. I also know Christians who seem to be a lot more aware of reality than most. But this seems to be such a rare breed that I feel I must leave them out of my Christian generalizations. For the life of me, I don’t understand how they can sit under Christian teaching, or even teach it themselves, and yet escape the underlying current of Christian hatred. But either it’s possible, or they’re really good at appearances… or I have no idea what I’m talking about… Or maybe nobody does. Who knows?

Back to the “truth,” as a Christian I remember studying a few “facts” about  say, the rapture and tribulation and making a quick decision in order to form my alliance with a particular belief camp. Was I pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib? Or maybe I was amillenial? If one argument sounded a little more convincing than the other, I would choose that side based on comparison to the other options.

I’d change my mind every now and then but my beliefs always stayed within the confines of the general system. I never thought to question the set of options, nor the whole idea of Armageddon in the first place. I just wanted to make sure I had some absolute belief that I could rely upon to make sure my eternal destiny turned out nice and sweet, and with as little personal suffering as possible. I continually worked within the system to make sure my beliefs fit a happy ending for myself. And then I could live in peace and comfort… and why did Non-christians have such a problem with my beliefs? Oh, it must be because they are God-haters, or so I continued to comfort myself.

Little did I know that if I continued in my brain spin of the ping pong effect, I would eventually have to consider the idea that no end is really a dead end. While I was enjoying my salvation in heaven, as the circular reasoning goes, someone else would have to be suffering in hell. Without an antithesis, heaven would be meaningless. And so both a heaven and hell must exist and if one is going to be populated, so must the other.

We seem to be creatures of balance. If I am going to be rewarded, then someone else is going to have to be punished.  If I have faith, then others must not be allowed to have faith. If I am forgiven, then someone else must not be forgiven. If I end up in heaven, countless others will have to go to hell. My faith actually requires someone else to not have faith in order for my faith to turn out according to God’s wonderful plan for my life. So by simply believing that I will inherit heaven, I have inevitably doomed the rest of the world to hell.

According to Christianity, we can’t have a heaven where everybody ends up, because that would be meaninglessness. What’s the point of being happy if sadness doesn’t also exist? And I really have to agree with that. Utopias are nice for about the first five minutes, and then we need some devils to slay and whatnot, so that life doesn’t become robotic or stagnate – meaningless.

Sure, life might come through death. That might be a basic principle even according to the laws of physics. But I had taken that concept and applied the life to me while applying the death to everyone else. I was the sheep and Non-believers were the goats. I was the wheat and everyone else made up the tares that were to be burned at the end of the age. I was poor beggar enjoying paradise in Abraham’s bosom while all of the people I didn’t like in the world were the rich man begging for a drop of water. I was enjoying the streets of gold in the new Jerusalem while the sinner dogs were locked outside –  living the nightmare of darkness, fire, and weeping and gnashing of teeth where “the worm does not die.”

The only problem was that my belief depended on the suffering of some in order for others to enjoy life ever after.

By claiming that every person in the world is a sinner and only believers are forgiven, I was automatically setting up two enemies. And if you aren’t one, well then you must be the other. It’s virtually impossible for a Christian to not have an enemy. It’s the only way a Christian can possess eternal life if sin is a problem, and if Christ was tortured for our sins. If sin was enough to kill the Messiah, then sin will kill anyone who doesn’t believe in the Messiah. All of the Christian doctrine depends on the idea that sin must be punished in eternity. Otherwise, what’s the point of salvation?

So this is why Christianity always has to have an enemy. It is fixated on sin, evil, demons, and the devil because it is entirely dependent upon an adversary with his own evil army in order to make heaven have any meaning. But in order for some elite class to make it to heaven, another class must fail that pursuit.

If we need an enemy in order to feel okay about ourselves and our future, haven’t we set ourselves up for unhappiness? How can I be happy in heaven while my loved ones are suffering in hell? It’s that endless circular logic again, and it’s a dead end.

Yes, it can feel very insecure to admit we just have no idea what this world is all about or where it’s going. It’s also not easy to think that I might still be just as deceived as any Christian. But as far as safety and happiness are concerned, I do not think I was any safer or happier while hiding behind the fig leaves of religion. I was only more deceived than I am at this moment.

And at least I can look at myself and admit that I’m still under a cloud. I don’t love everyone so I must not totally understand the truth just yet. My social skills still need some improving as well. But as long as I’m growing, I can’t find any complaints with myself… especially if God created me just the way I am, if God exists at all.

Am I in the process of abandoning the religious ping pong table altogether? I hope so. Even as its scapegoat on my way to hell, I am still its prisoner. To forget about religion entirely would mean that Christianity will not dictate my belief in the truth, but it will also not dictate the lies either. It will be neither my friend nor my enemy. It will mean about as much to me as the hubcaps on a Nissan Versa mean to me. Not a whole lot. Sure, Nissan hubcaps are a significant part of this world but I don’t have to wake up in the morning thinking about how they destroyed my life. Life will have become so much more full of meaning that it just won’t matter anymore.

So maybe I will one day be totally unconcerned with Christianity altogether, or maybe I will go to my grave fighting its deceptive philosophies in my brain. Who knows what’s around the corner? All I can say is that I would like to possess my own soul, no matter where I end up in eternity. Because reality beats deception any day – as far as I  know.

  1. I’d love to win the Lotto, which means millions of others must not. Every time it’s won, I must suffer. Others have kept their jobs at the expense of my sons retrenchment today. Who decides who wins and who loses? Grace and mercy does not appear to be consistent. All suffer at some time or the other, some more than most. It seems that the kingdom of heaven has no lasting power on earth.

  2. Yet still we have hope. Perhaps we are too fearful to face our mortality. What is worse – to live deceived, or to live knowing this life on earth is all there is (if that is true)? I’ve tried to imagine the latter, and if it were true, what is the point of our existence? Yet to my knowledge, before I was, I was…….nothing. I have no remembrance prior to my being here. Perhaps when I die I will just vanish without trace. But then what is the point of it all, and why do I believe there needs to be a point to it all?

  3. As I was posting my own blog post, I saw yours. I guess they are kind of along the same lines!

  4. It seems that we find our existence in the very balance that you talk of. And what does that mean? Sometimes I wish I was never born, yet here I am. Where did our consciousness come from? Who set it in motion? How do I KNOW for sure? All I KNOW for sure is I was not, and now I am.

  5. By resisting absolutes on either end–religious or atheist, you leave yourself open to the very growth and movement that you speak of. There’s a long tradition of “religious liberalism” which, at its core, understands that revelation is continuous and ongoing (not fixed in a book somewhere), that we share a responsibility to attend to meaning, purpose and love in this lifetime, that good comes into the world in part by the work of human hands (so we’d better get busy), and that we can have hope that there are resources (human and not of human making) that help to make this possible. We can’t know, for certain, what happens when we die. We can, though, try to be instruments of authentic, unconditional love while we’re around. In my book, that would make life pretty darn meaningful.

  6. Ellen, I see that too. And that might answer Louise’s questions. Life only seems meaningless when we think we’ve only got two or three different options: Christianity, Atheism or Agnosticism. But when we outgrow these, it’s good to know that we continue living and learning beyond this system which is all owned by Christianity, even as its antithesis or a big Christian question mark.

    Personally, and I am just now figuring this out, I think I want to widen this scope even broader and admit to the significance of the many influences on my life, including Christianity… admitting their evils as well as their benefits. Nothing is good or evil but all is both good AND evil. Nothing is superior, but everything has its unique significance…. including every event in my journey.

    And I agree. Just the journey alone, if that is all there is, makes life worth living. Although I can’t prove anything, the journey itself says that it is what life is all about… and so I would be surprised if it had an end.

    Life only has an end if our belief system requires it…. and the superiority mentality definitely requires it. This is why I, too, believe that real love is unconditional… but this would imply that the lies of religion are just as significant as any truth… and we’re back to that circular reasoning again.

    I honestly do not have any solutions to the mystery of life. But maybe God (or myself) was just waiting for me to realize that. Or maybe life really is one big circle. 🙂

  7. What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer. If he had stayed, what answer would he have received? There cannot be any doubt: Jesus would have said: I am the truth. This too is Zarathustra’s answer to the question ‘what is truth?’ For what, at this level, is truth, ‘the truth’? Isn’t it the discovery that no truth is discoverable except the truth which you yourself are? that there is no truth (sense, meaning) in the world except the truth (sense, meaning) you yourself give it? That ‘truth’ is a concept belonging to the human mind and will and that apart from the human mind and will there is no such thing as ‘truth’? finally, that the resolute determination that your own truth shall be the truth is the sole origin of ‘the truth’ on earth? To give life a meaning: that has been the grand endeavor of all who have preached ‘truth’; for unless life is given a meaning it has none. At this level, truth is not something that can be proved or disproved: it is something which you determine upon, which, in the language of the old psychology, you will. It is not something waiting to be discovered, something to which you submit or at which you halt: it is something you create, it is the expression of a particular kind of life and being which has, in you, ventured to assert itself. Thus Zarathustra declares: ‘The Ubermensch (Over human being, Superman, Overman) is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Ubermensch shall be the meaning of the earth. ‘He is a prophet, not of the truth that is, but of the truth that shall be. What determines the nature of ‘truth’? The nature of the I which asserts ‘I am the truth’. Why truth, and not rather untruth or indifference to truth? Because each particular life and being needs a fortress within which to preserve and protect itself and from which to reach out in search of aggrandizement and more power, and truth is this fortress. Or, as life says to thinking mankind: ‘my will to power walks with the feet of your will to truth.’ What then ultimately is the answer to Pilate’s question? It is: truth is will to power. Thus – by my reading at any rate – spoke Zarathustra.

    • Gaylan, that makes a LOT of sense. And its unorthodoxy is just icing on the cake. 🙂

      That might finally give us an explanation for the diversity of documented NDE’s (near death experiences) which some seem to experience heaven while others seem to experience hell. If we create our own reality on earth, why wouldn’t we create our own reality in the afterlife as well? I’m open to that idea.

      To believe that anyone goes to hell seems to be in essence, sending ourselves there as well… at least in our own created world.

  8. I think when one comes to the conviction there is an objective truth, or universal truth that cannot be realized on this plane of existence, then one is taking the first step toward a spiritual journey.

    Getting of the spiritual journey is the realization, not just the information, but the real interior conviction that there is a higher power, or God, or to make it as easy as possible for everybody that there is an Other, capital O. Second step, to try become the Other, still a capital O. And finally the realization there is no Other. You and the Other are one, always have been, always will be, you just think that you aren’t.-Father Thomas Keating

    What I interpret as the meaning of Nietzsche’s “Will to Power” is when one places a meaning or purpose for their truth “will to truth”, then it is their actions which provide the basis of their beliefs, “will to power,” creating something beyond themself. That is; what one believes is proved by how one acts. I heard somewhere that faith is belief in action and I think it is written somewhere that one’s beliefs are not enough, but it is what one does. So, for me, though I may believe there is a “truth” other than what I can perceive, a trancendent, then I must determine what it is for me and act on it.

    “Choosing what you want to do, and when to do it, is an act of creation.”
    Fortune Cookie

    ‘my will to power walks with the feet of your will to truth.’

    What then ultimately is the answer to Pilate’s question? It is: truth is will to power. Thus – by my reading at any rate – spoke Zarathustra.

  9. Lest we not forget that living on the mountain top is not as important as the journey.

  10. You are not alone. Welcome to the black-sheep flock. (That’s what they call us, the ones who drop out of the ping-pong game. I choose to call us all sacred, loved.) Thanks for sharing.

  11. Truth … another beautiful perception of perceptions.
    What is, is.
    If you were standing before me now, I would declare that “You are Truth” or I might accept that you were an aspect of my delusion or dream, but then, would my perception be any less an aspect of Truth simply because it was only in my mind? What form or shape, thought or idea, do I ever perceive in all of it’s radiant glory after my mind filters it all down to a manageable derivative pattern for my consciousness to perceive? It’s all in the mind of the beholder and as for me I am content to be custodian of my heart, mind, and soul until such time as I am no longer fit for that capacity.

    What is, is.

  12. To marry Christianity and Atheism–what seems like a complete paradox–check out Jack Spong’s latest book “Eternal Life”. It was the book that convinced me maybe I do have a place as a Christian even though I reject the concept of a personal deity. Of course, Spong has been roundly criticized as a heretic (and sent death threats and prayers “that God will blow up the next plane you are on”). It helped me accept that my own position, while heretical, is still Christian.

  13. Dropping religion and also escaping the control of “the machine” has got to be one of the best choices a person can make. May we all find freedom.

    Trying to understand who we are and how important our will is to reality will certainly help to light he way.

    It is a way. It is a path. It is a journey towards ever increasing discoveries. And sometimes through some pretty desolate valleys.

  14. Thanks for sharing so much Elizabeth. I hope your life is ever showered with Grace.

  15. hey, E. so do you think christianity has always been deceptive or is it christian religion which is constructed and deceptive?

    and – do you ‘make sense’ of time, space, existence? and if you do, how, for it is one thing (ping-pong 😉 to rid myself of a particular way of thinking, but we think, and thinking in the negative of denial is not thinking at all?

    i do not call myself a christian anymore either …

  16. And yet how do we find the place where we won’t think about all this anymore? After so many years in churches, even though I didn’t have my mind on church too much toward the end, right now my passion for reading the bible increased a hundred fold and I can’t stop thinking about how amazing it is. It’s like going on a quest and I can’t stop the desire for the journey. Maybe that’s it, maybe I don’t want it to end? Because it’s so incredibly beautiful. Just wish the opposite side would stop… but perhaps it’s that opposite side that keeps us questing for more. 😉

  17. It is definitely a journey of discovery while shedding old ideas at the same time. Recently I stopped viewing and participating in a bunch of Christian focused blogs / websites, went through another round of “relocating” books to the local Library donation bin and am taking up a couple of interests which are not spiritual. I think that there is a natural process when we know it is time to stop looking over our shoulder at what was or looking into the future at what may be and become more focused on what is.

    For me the many expressions of our basic humanity towards each other is becoming a language which is supplanting many of those spiritual memes I grew up with. Rather than stepping over to the dark side (which I think we are all told will happen) I think I’m becoming someone who cares more deeply.

    Is there an afterlife? Where is my place if indeed there is? These are questions that effectively tortured my reasoning for years. As you mentioned, in your excellent blog entry, there are so many inconsistencies. The thought that some must / may suffer (a son, a daughter, a parent, a close friend, a child, a fragile senior, the abused and broken) all because they could / cannot sign up to a distorted and confusing message was a key component in my exiting the system.

    The other is that if there is a continuum of existence then Christian belief basically is telling me that I will no longer be myself once that change occurs. To believe that I would be comfortable with the knowledge that many were in terrible pain while I in bliss – how could that be?

    It takes courage to step outside of comfortable and acceptable definitions where one’s place and personal destiny is ensured. It takes courage and strength to choose to live with ambiguity and paradox while choosing to honour goodness wherever and in whomever it may be found.

  18. Thanks for sharing your heart which I know many can relate to. I’ll be the first in line to confess that often the church falls way short of being what it is called to be. Too much emphasis is placed on the non-essentials of liturgy, ritual and perfect doctrine and the central theme of a loving and grace-filled relationship is lost.

    If it’s alright, I’d like to suggest a great resource for addressing some of the issues we can’t and shouldn’t ignore about the damage done in the name of God.

  19. Dear Elizabeth: Thank you, thank you for being a woman with the courage to see things that don’t make sense and boldly question them. In years past people like you and I have been tortured, thrown in prison and even burnt at the stake. Thankfully, we live in a country where free thinking is tolerated. Much, much appreciation and admiration from a guy who wishes all women would have the same heart and mind as yours.

  20. Elizabeth, I love your writing so much. I know that you will be at rest at some point in the future about Christianity. I know how upsetting it can be to obsess over something. It gets old. Have you ever read “The Power of Now”? I think you would really enjoy it a lot. It helped me so much with my thinking processes that sometimes become too analytical or obsessive. It helped me get to a peaceful, restful place. Keep writing. You’re great at it!

  21. maybe there is a whole truth …..
    I have always been impacted by how Jesus had the audacity to reduce all those reams of Mosaic legislation, the Talmudic addendum’s, historical writings, as well as all the scrolls of prophetic revelations penned over the various ages to a double-barreled uber-mono-theme, – “love God with everything and your neighbour as yourself”
    I’m just too complicated … simply not simple enough ….

    for me it just seems to get deeper as it simplifies
    perhaps all the subclause and small-print we add is superfluous and even deceptively distractive of the truth?
    perhaps it’s all a vain flag we desperately want to hoist for ourselves, of ourselves… a tribute to ourselves?

    we the people!

    …lest we get forgotten

    lest we appear inconsequential?

    do I hear “Babel”?

    I think that our first footslip is when we interpret things from our own perspective … – even though it’s all we have

    – it’s not all God is, and isn’t it fairly reasonable that God dwells in dimensions beyond all our combined linear angles?
    maybe it just gets deeper as it simplifies

    and maybe even simple is far too complicated

  22. […] down of their security of heaven which, in their minds, means hell since that is the only other ping-pong option. Since the idea of hell is far worse than the idea of death, a Christian is stuck in one […]

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