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    • Hi everyone.  To start at the beginning, I was born and raised in a practising catholic family in Australia, so I never really encountered the type of fundamental Christian attitudes I've read about in the U.S. Nevertheless, my upbringing was quite sheltered and myopic. I went to a catholic primary school and catholic all-girls secondary, I had participated in all the sacraments, and I always felt acutely aware of a 'spirituality' both within and around me. Then I finally discovered at university that there much more people out there than I originally thought who didn't believe in God. I found myself in a minority. At about 16 I had already started to form opinions about life that didn't conform to catholic doctrine, most of which at the time had to do with sexuality, but that's another story. At 17 I was referring to myself as 'catholic by birth but Christian by choice'. At 18 I fell in love with an agnostic atheist, and on moving out of home (to 'live in sin') I stopped attending mass. I'll say at this point that my mother was (and is) a staunch catholic by heritage. For her there is no other religion, and her responsibility as a mother is to pass her faith onto her children. So when I told her (over the phone, coward that I was) that I would no longer be going to mass, she hung up on me. It didn't help that she had no logical argument to offer - only the assertion that she had raised me to be catholic. After that we never discussed religion, and it's only recently that I have had the courage to discuss my perspective with her. To her credit, at seventy eight, she is at least listening. My father was a truth seeker. He was initiated into Catholicism as an adult, but I think his attachment was to the whole package my mother offered that was missing from his life: strong family ties, high moral standards, tradition, ritual, heritage and absolute faith. He never discussed his faith, but I know that he continued to research Judaism, philosophy and the history of Christianity for most of his life. I like to think I inherited his curiosity.   So throughout my twenties I still considered myself Christian, but I didn't practise and I pretty much didn't think about it anymore. Then my husband (the same agnostic atheist) started working in the catholic education system, our two kids started going to a catholic school, and at 35 I also started work in the system. It sounds like a strange turn out, but we both saw that the benefits outweighed the risks for each of these decisions, and we both agreed to encourage open minded enquiry in our children (and by extension in ourselves), to counteract any indoctrination efforts. I soon discovered that the catholic education system (at least in Australia) is really only effective in indoctrinating if the parents are practising, so we were fairly safe in that respect. Around that time my father had died, and about a year later I had one of those near death experiences that leave you pondering your life's purpose. I still drive past the same spot at least once a week where I fell asleep at the wheel at 110km/hr and missed a ravine by a few feet (it would certainly have killed me), instead side-swiping the fencing on a small bridge. I came out of that without a scratch (the car was another story), but the reality of how close I came to the end of my life was not lost on me. Why am I still alive? If I had died at that point, what would I have left unfinished? My cultural framework told me this was God or perhaps even my dad watching over me from 'heaven', and that there was something more I should be doing with my life. Being a little wiser and more educated by now, I figured I had to explore this idea of spirituality further. So I became a truth seeker. I didn't want to be known as a cherry-picking Christian, but I couldn't find any one denomination that made sense to me. And I also saw plenty of merit in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Wicca. I was starting to sense the argument that "only one of us is right" was not the case. What if we're all correct in some way? Is that even possible? Whenever I explored atheist discussions in open forums it seemed as if I was coming at it almost from the opposite end to everyone else. I couldn't shake my awareness of a 'spirituality' to life. At that time I still essentially believed in God as a spiritual being that I could 'communicate' with in my mind, and my spiritual experiences made perfect sense to me. But I felt that most arguments against spirituality descended into intellectual bullying. I read and followed discussions, but I was frequently disappointed by the attitude of atheists, who seemed to hide behind the format of intellectual debate to belittle and humiliate those who came forward with the courage to plunder the depths of their faith. Atheists seemed to see the debate as a battle to be won, whereas most of these 'opponents' they intended to 'destroy' saw it merely as a testing ground for their faith, and the atheist as a fellow human being. I doubt they were aware of the distinction. I read so much anger and pain in the words of intellectual atheists, disguised as a sense of superiority and emotional distance. You can almost read the satisfied grin on their face as they reduce yet another discussion to 'come back when you're better prepared'. Then a series of comments akin to 'high fives all round' follows the retreating believer. If I was approaching a rejection of theism, then I wasn't going to be one of these people. In what may seem like a detour off-topic, in the midst of this searching I found myself captivated by the Fifty Shades trilogy, and fascinated by the heated debates that surrounded it - particularly in Christian discussion forums. I noticed a similar trend to these arguments as those about the bible. The book was vilified by many who had a) never read more than a few pages, read only handpicked quotes, c) read it with a specific agenda in mind or d) read it filtered through a host of emotional baggage in relation to the content. And it was staunchly defended by readers who were either a) captivated by a deep emotional attachment to or identification with a particular character or only interested in what the book provided for them on the surface. For what it's worth, as a Christian female I was surprised to identify with Christian Grey, who saw himself as irredeemable, and felt a great respect for the female character who saw past that, but refused to be indoctrinated into a relationship built around a power imbalance. But that's another discussion. Anyway, this realisation led me to admit that I myself had never read the bible from cover to cover with an open mind. So I did. At forty years of age this blew my mind wide open, and since then I read and researched widely, and progressed gradually from a theist to... something else.   As far as I can see, the God of the bible is a human construct. I don't believe there is a man in the sky, or even a being that lends itself to any concrete description or definition. But I do believe that there exists what I currently refer to as an eternal and limitless source of life, wisdom, power and possibility, for want of a better description. Suffice to say it has no name, form, voice or personality. It isn't watching me, protecting or judging me, and it isn't making a list of favourites.  But I think the bible, as an articulation of spirituality and how it has changed and progressed across many generations within a single cultural group, shouldn't be rejected in its entirety. It's literature, some of it based on sketchy facts, but myth and legend all the same. The cultural and political motivations that have distorted it, the historical lack of knowledge and understanding that have limited it, and the naive judgements that have twisted it don't change my opinion that, hidden beneath it all, it still points decidedly towards a collective awareness of some eternal and limitless source of life, wisdom, power and possibility, and that it attempts to help humanity advance towards a greater sense of purpose. But then, I would argue, so does lots of other literature and cultural offerings. But I think the moment the church collated these spiritual writings (discarding many others in the process) and bound them as an ultimate reference, it put the brakes on our ability to continue this growth process. I believe the literature of the bible is only the start of a journey alluded to in Genesis' Tower of Babel - one of accumulating all knowledge and understanding. The scientific knowledge and life experiences of the last two thousands years give us a very different view of spirituality than what we see in the bible. But I think we may find that what we come up with in the end will still be found hidden in both the New Testament and the Old. And in the Quran. And in the life examples (real or otherwise) of Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Probably also in the life works of Confucius, Plato, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Einstein and John Lennon, the experiences of the Holocaust and the Hiroshima bombing, and even in the Hollywood film industry as a complete body of work. And in the Internet. I have only limited observations and theory to back this up, but I'm working on it. What I believe is that we communicate with and find access to this source through our connections with the life around us, and in doing so we also contribute to it with our life experiences, our words, actions and our cultural offerings. That might sound airy-fairy to many of you, but I find it makes sense to me at this point. The reason I'm here is because I believe that religion by its nature confines, alienates and judges, and the more people that realise this, the better off we'll all be. But I am also here because I relate to the continued search for something of perhaps a spiritual nature, that for some of us feels like it was left behind with our religion. I want to be part of that search, and to find a way to articulate it for the benefit of anyone who seeks the truth.
    • Great news about the developing relationship with your sisters! Congratulations on caring for yourself and taking that hard step to enter therapy. The most disgusting family destroying lifestyle concept pushed by the fundamental Abrahamic religions is patriarchy. Perhaps it was useful at some point in human development but it is a roadblock to the progression of the human species moving forward. You exactly experienced how unjust and regressive this system of belief is. Total familial power concentrated in the father is corrupting and senseless. Families need to be run with the best ideas possible regardless of what party initiates those ideas or where those ideas originate. Our society needs to stop turning its back on the tremendous resource that females obviously have to offer a free society. As children come of age good families will learn how to hear their ideas and encourage discussions that allow for productive changes. This at least offers the opportunity to learn from one another and move forward rather than recycling the patriarchy that allows and supports abusive situations and forever prevents us from moving beyond the errors of our bronze age ancestors. Freeing yourself from the ball and chain of religious teachings doesn't usually come with a lot of societal congratulations and back slapping; it may initially even appear unimpressive. However choosing the very best answers to your questions and seeking truth through appropriate skepticism, study and research and then applying the powerful advantage of your newly clear mind becomes exhilarating and addictive. As the years go along you'll discover how empowering it is to lay a foundation that is truly solid and then continue building on that without any predetermined limits. I'm sorry for all the trouble you've had Sherpa but I think you've made some very wise decisions and hope you will continue to share your life's adventures with us.
    • I think I recall not being able to have a signature as a new member.
    • Put it between their eyes.   Tell them to show absolute physical proof that Gawd regrows amputated limbs or your through talking.  Tell them to show you someone that has had an amputated limb spontaneously grow back, if not,  then NEVER TRY TO GIVE YOU A LINE OF BULLSHIT AGAIN PERIOD. At the very least,  that might get their attention.  LOL. 
    • Thanks for the help, but my Settings page only has email address, password, Facebook and Twitter, and I've looked through all the other options. It's no big deal though.
    • not really tit for tat person, how about inviting him back to see a porn movie on your birthday???   think it will be a reasonable request....   remember to show him your puppy eyes
    •   You know, I missed the "no fear" part earlier.  I do fear death.  And same as you, I like my consciousness and do not want it to end.  I would love to be able to see what the world is like several thousand years from now. 
    • I can't speak for the movie, since I haven't seen it, but the book was atrocious. I was still a Christian when it came out and I was convinced that there was sufficient evidence to support Christianity, but even then I could see how shallow the Case for Christ book was. For someone who was supposedly a hard-line skeptic, the book showed Lee easily swallowing what Christians said, usually without bothering to check with nonbelieving scholars. His story simply didn't ring true.
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