Leaving Christianity – Oh What A Relief It Is!

Oh What A Relief It Is!Although I left Christianity over 20 years ago, it took a long while for me to erase the doctrines that had been embedded within my consciousness for 15+ years. It was not an easy road.

As Stephen Van Eck wrote on the Deism.com website: “Once sucked into the parallel universe of Christianity, [a person] is too intimidated by threats and rationalizations to attempt escape. Even thinking along alternative lines will induce severe feelings of guilt.”

Writing my book helped tremendously because of all the research and reading I did. Learning how and why certain doctrines of the Christian faith (e.g., final judgment, burning fires of hell, Satan and his demons, the end-times) were introduced into the faith was extremely liberating … and removed a ton of guilt and fear.

I also found out some things about the Bible. As many others, I had been taught the Bible was “God’s Word” (even though the interpretation of what “He” said varies considerably among denominations). Through my studies, I discovered that much of what is in the bible is the result of stories, epics, myths, legends, proverbs, etc. that were passed by word of mouth from one generation to another. This is particularly true of the Hebrew Bible, but intrinsically typical of the New Testament scriptures as well. Can you imagine the burden that was lifted when I found out I wasn’t genetically inclined to sin and thus in need of someone to save me from being human??!?

Contrary to what one might think, the many discoveries I made did not turn me into an atheist. However, I definitely do not believe in a supernatural being who lives somewhere “up there,” who can be manipulated by prayer, or who has a “will.” Rather, my image of “God” is far more encompassing and has nothing to do with religious belief. In fact, I’m extremely reluctant to even use the word “god” because of all its connotations.

In any case, I find my life so much more fulfilling now. Truly, what a relief it has been!

Mindfulness, Well-Being, and Religion

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Read an article in today’s paper about a class being offered at a Portland, OR school. It’s a year-long for-credit class that teaches “mindfulness,” and is designed to ease youth anxiety, depression, and prevent violence. For 90 minutes three days a week, students practice a mix of yoga, sitting and walking meditation, visualization techniques, deep breathing, journaling, and non-judgmental listening. The idea behind the class is that focusing on the present moment helps a person better deal with stress, difficult emotions, and negative thoughts.

As I was reading, I thought, “YES!” What a great idea!

I was already aware that similar practices were being offered by corporations like Google, Target, and General Mills, but was surprised to learn that prison inmates, hospital patients, and the U.S. Marines are also using these techniques to combat stress and illness because they increase focus and well-being. To now discover it’s also being offered in many schools throughout the nation was encouraging.

In my own life, I have long been a strong believer in meditation and deep breathing as a means to deal with stress. Many years ago (before my body rebelled), I also did yoga and dabbled a bit in visualization, so I recognize the benefits of both.

Knowing all this, perhaps you can appreciate my disgust when I came across this in the article …

Some people have greeted the move with less than enthusiasm. Last year, an elementary school in Ohio ended its mindfulness program after parents complained it was too closely linked to Eastern religion, and a conservative Christian law firm unsuccessfully sued on behalf of a couple in Encinitas, CA, arguing their school district’s yoga classes indoctrinate children.

Fundamentalism strikes again!

Of course, those who feel such classes are “indoctrinating children” are totally blind to what’s taking place within their own religion …

The Existence of GOD

Makagutu, a blogger from Kenya, recently wrote a post entitled Atheism and other random stories. As I was reading it, this comment stood out to me:

That it is in the bible does not make it true.

Non-believers have undoubtedly uttered these very words more than once in their conversations with believers. And I would venture to say that much of the time, it was to no avail because … “The Bible” was written by none other than “God” him/her/itself … and who are we mortals to question “God?”

Which brings me to the point of this posting.

Since leaving the Christian faith, I’ve thought long and hard about the existence of “God.” Of course, like other believers, my vision of such a being was centered around the entity described in “The Bible.” It took many years of extensive research (and deep thought) before coming to the conclusion this “Bible God” simply does not exist.

But what about … GOD?

More than once, I’ve heard/read this statement (or something similar) from atheists: “I can’t say with absolute certainty there is no god (or gods), but I have not come across any tangible, concrete evidence to support the existence of  such a being.” Many who feel this way often call themselves “agnostic atheists.”

I suppose there is the remote possibility a supernatural being does exist. And there’s even the potential this being created the universe and all that goes with it.

However, the question that comes to my mind is … if such an all-powerful entity does exist, why would it be interested in the minutiae of human life?

As I’ve indicated elsewhere on this blog, I do believe in a “Universal Presence.” But this is not the same as a god. It is more of a feeling, a sense of awe at the grandeur of the cosmos. Carl Sagan said we are all “star stuff.” In other words, we are made up of the same atoms that make up the stars. Neil deGrasse Tyson added to this when he said: “We are not simply in the universe. The universe is in us.”

In answer to the usual question from Christians regarding how everything got started … I don’t know. And I really don’t care. I’m here now and I intend to enjoy every moment of my existence. If others want to believe a metaphysical entity lives somewhere “up there” and is interested in the “sinfulness” of humankind, that’s their prerogative.

What say you? What’s your view/perspective/position about GOD?

I would love for my Christian readers to share their thoughts about the existence of GOD as well, but from a personal standpoint, not just quotes and/or references from the bible. :-)

Born in Sin?

I’ve been following the comments to a post at violetwisp.wordpress.com (before you go there, be warned the conversation is very long — and some of it is totally irrelevant, but fun).

A frequent contributor to this particular posting is someone who goes by the handle of “Tiribulus.” In a comment made on November 3, 2014 at 4:50 pm,  this individual said,

“EVERYone descended from him [Adam] is conceived and born in sin and spiritual death.”

This is such a long-time traditional teaching of the church, I doubt any believer reading it would disagree. Yet I wonder how many Christians know where this “original sin” doctrine originated. (As a refresher — original sin is the Christian doctrine of humanity’s state of sin that resulted from the fall of man, i.e., Adam’s rebellion in Eden).

I decided to offer a brief history lesson on this subject. Much of the information is gathered from Wikipedia, but some is from other sources that I researched during the writing of my book.

The formalized doctrine of original sin was first developed in the 2nd-century by Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, in his struggle against Gnosticism. Irenaeus believed that Adam’s sin had grave consequences for humanity, that it is the source of human sinfulness, mortality and enslavement to sin, and that all human beings participate in his (Adam) sin and share his guilt.

Later, another church father, Augustine of Hippo, further developed the doctrine. He taught the effects of Adam’s sin are actually transmitted to his descendants by birth, i.e, when the parents experience libido (or concupiscence), the “wounded nature” is transmitted to the soul and body of the new person.

Much later, Martin Luther asserted that humans inherit Adam’s guilt and are in a state of sin from the moment of conception. That is, all men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers’ wombs and are unable by nature to have true fear and/or faith in God.

Many years later, Protestant reformer John Calvin said this in his Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God’s wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls “works of the flesh” (Gal 5:19).

Of course, various denominations (Roman Catholics, Methodists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, Latter Day Saints, et al)  each have their own individualistic definitions of original sin.

What’s important to note, however, is that the inception of this doctrine came from none other than the bible’s famous writer, orator, self-proclaimed apostle, and hijacker of the Christian faith: PAUL. It was he who first presented this idea in Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:22. Early church fathers such as those named above merely took his words and refashioned them to fit their own personal beliefs … and thus today the concept is thoroughly entrenched within the Christian faith.

As many in Christianity believe, Paul was instructed in a “heavenly” message from a disembodied voice that he was to go to the gentiles and “open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18). In his efforts to do so, Paul began teaching them that the Law was not the answer because it didn’t have the power to save; this could only be accomplished by believing in Christ’s death and resurrection (a dying-rising savior).

However, convincing the Jews the Mosaic Law was now defunct was an entirely different matter. For centuries they had been told that anyone who didn’t uphold the words of the Law by observing them was cursed! (Deuteronomy 27:26)

So what did Paul do? He developed the “original sin” doctrine. He told them sin was in the world before the law was given (Romans 5:13) – and it was all because of Adam’s wrongdoing in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:12). He further asserted that with sin came death, and since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), the only way to life and salvation was by acknowledging that Yeshua was the Messiah/Savior.

It’s important to note here what the early Jews actually believed about sin:

According to early Judaic teachings (and maintained in modern-day Judaism), everyone is born innocent; that is, they enter the world free of sin.72 Throughout life, people may make choices that lead to sin, but it is not part of their inherent nature. To the Jews, sin is a violation of the divine commandments and is seen as an act (thought, word, or deed), not a “state of being”73 or part of the human condition. Further, God explained in Ezekiel (18:20) that sinners will be punished for their own sins, not for the sins of others.

—Things I Never Learned in Sunday School: Facts about the Christian faith that will surprise and astound you (OR, Writing…Etc, 2012) p. 62

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As indicated above, this concept of original sin is a mainstay of the Christian belief system. Yet few realize it was an idea born, not of God, but from a man who believed he’d had a “revelation” from on high. A man who taught doctrines and concepts that Yeshua, the messenger to the Jews, never mentioned, and who created a religion that Yeshua would never recognize.
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(72) My Jewish Learning, The Jewish View of Sin
(73) Wikipedia.org, Jewish View on Sin

From Atheist to Believer

atheist-agnostic-religiousJust read an article entitled, “Your atheism isn’t going to keep your kids from believing in God.”

I was not raised an atheist. It was more that religion simply wasn’t that big a deal. My father was a lapsed Catholic, my mother was essentially a non-believer. As a young child, I was “taken” to church (Catholic due to my father’s Basque, very religious, family) and later I was enrolled in catechism classes (which I left … another story, another time).

As I grew older (12? 13?), for reasons I don’t recall, I purchased a red-letter edition bible. I was in a stationery store (where I used to love to hang out) and saw this bible with a white leather-like cover and gold lettering, “Holy Bible.”  I thought it was so pretty … which, now that I think about it, was most likely my motivation for buying it. Once I got home I placed it on my headboard in a conspicuous location (remember, I thought it was pretty).

On occasion, I do remember taking it down from its exalted spot and thumbing through the pages. Of course the red letters grabbed my attention but mostly I stopped at Psalms to read a few lines … because they made me “feel good.”

At this point in my life, I think I had a vague feeling there was a god but that’s about as far as it went. It wasn’t until many years later, after I was married, that circumstances in my life turned me towards (big-G) God (also a story for another time).

Anyway, the above-mentioned article intrigued me since it reminded me of my own situation. In one place, it asked: “Do kids raised without religion actively seek it out and convert all that often?” The answer surprised me. A 2008 Pew survey indicated only 46 percent of those raised in religiously unaffiliated families (which includes atheists, agnostics, and those who say they’re “nothing in particular”) remain unaffiliated as adults. Another study using the same data found that only 30 percent of people explicitly raised as atheists (excluding other unaffiliateds) remain so as adults. An updated study (2012) raised the unaffiliated rate to 53 percent. The article does state these measurements are not perfect, but they do indicate somewhat of a trend towards religion vs. irreligion.

I have my own thoughts on why this happens, but would be interested in hearing the opinions of others. Especially those who are in or have experienced this in their own families.

“Praise the Lord”

A few minutes ago I read a posting on FB about a car accident that happened yesterday a few miles from where I live. Several people posted comments, most of them saying they hoped the involved parties were OK (as it turns out, one person got a couple of cracked ribs).

One of the last commenters wrote: “Praise the Lord.”

I wanted so badly to respond and ask whether the “Lord” should be praised for allowing the accident to happen or because someone was hurt …
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(In case you’re wondering, I held myself in check.)

ADDENDUM:

bettybowers

Do You See Satan in Ezekiel?

In a discussion on one of Nate’s posting at the Finding Truth blog, there was some discussion on the authenticity of Paul. Was he truly an apostle? Did he speak for Jesus? Were his teachings from God or were they his own? One individual claimed that Paul was a “false apostle,” and referenced Deuteronomy 13 as her evidence.

After reading the chapter, I could see where she was coming from. However, as someone noted, these scriptures could be applied to any numbetr of persons. Thing is, this is true of the entire bible. There are innumerable passages that can be interpreted innumerable ways. How can we know which interpretation is correct? Christians will say the “Holy Spirit” will reveal the truth. Er … well … OK.

I’d like to offer my own perspective on another passage of scripture related to the existence of “Satan.” This is from Ezek. 28:11-19.

12 Mortal, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God: You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, chrysolite, and moonstone, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald; and worked in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14 With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the stones of fire. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you. 16 In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from among the stones of fire. 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. 18 By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade, you profaned your sanctuaries. So I brought out fire from within you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you.

This passage has long been accepted as pertaining to the “Big Bad Guy.” Even though the words, “devil,” “satan,” or “fallen angel” are nowhere to be found, scores of Christians are certain Ezekiel is writing about “someone” other than the person named in verse 12 (the king of Tyre).

What’s interesting is that throughout his book, Ezekiel speaks to several foreign rulers. So why do believers isolate this message written to the leader of Tyre and assign it a second meaning (i.e., Satan) — especially when Ezekiel specifically says he’s speaking to a mortal?

Personally, I don’t believe Ezekiel was talking about “Satan.”

Through extensive reading and research.  I discovered this idea came from the writings of Origen of Alexandria, one of the early church fathers. It was his contention that Ezekiel could not possibly be talking about a human being and therefore must be referring to “some superior power which had fallen away from a higher position,” and who was then converted into a “wicked being.”(1) In case you don’t know this Origen fellow, he played a major role in the formation of Christian doctrine. In fact, it was his viewpoint on this matter (among others) that set a precedent in early Christianity, and remains the accepted teaching in many churches today.

What do you think? Is Satan in Ezekiel?
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I discuss more on this topic in my book, along with several other passages that believers contend are about “Satan” (Garden of Eden, Book of Job, Lucifer in the Book of Isaiah, Revelation).  I think many will be surprised at what I learned.

 

(1) Origen, De Principiis, Book I, Chapter 5, Verse 4