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thereisnoperfect

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About thereisnoperfect

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    Strong Minded

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    Male
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    Nerdy stuff: sci fi/fantasy, comics, RPGs<br />Music, esp. rock'n'roll<br />Teaching, learning, growth
  • More About Me
    Books that got me here: Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz and The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
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  1. Sure is, in part. That is, I held onto the Christian belief despite the many problems for a long time because of feelings. And then finally (my story is in the testimonials section) enough built up that the dam broke. I saw enough problems and contradictions that I had a strong feeling of "This cannot be" and then my reasoning brain kicked in and I started digging and making sense of it. Since then, I've engaged in more slow thinking and research, self-doubt and examination. So I've put a lot of thought and research into it. But I also feel comfort in having gotten free of oppressive religion and contradictory nonsense. I'm pleased with where I am, and I value the life I've built as an ex-christian. Knowing that people work primarily on feelings, I don't exclude myself from that. There's logic involved too, but my brain still works like a human brain. Part of what reassures me about my worldview is the fact that, the more I learn about how people and the universe actually work, the more sense everything makes and the better I'm able to predict how things will work. Before, as a christian, I had to (like you) ignore/reject a lot of our knowledge. Now when I learn something new, it's not a threat to me that I have to control or ignore.
  2. Just want to note that interesting bit of contradiction. Stranger says he will never be like me, an ex-believer. Seems fully confident of that thing, but then a few posts later cautions all of us that we never know what the future holds. That's interesting. Also objectively wrong. We know enough brain science to know quite firmly that everybody operates on feelings, almost all of the time. Our more rational thinking mostly exists to justify our feelings after the fact. For you and everybody. So I don't trust you, not because I think you are lying, but because (again) I think your feelings and your desires make it imperative that you not let yourself know what's really going on with you. You keep asserting that you aren't trying to accomplish anything by being here, that you're just telling us what you believe--but that makes no sense. You could be doing all kinds of other things. You could be out feeding the poor, or singing praise songs, or whatever you get up to for fun, or driving for Uber, or campaigning for a candidate, or whatever. You choose to spend a fair chunk of time here--so to you, that must be potentially accomplishing something. Maybe you really don't care what we do or don't believe, but you care about something. Also: I note you keep asserting your faith in your supposedly-inerrant bible, but you breezed completely past my observation that this "inerrant" bible generates a multitude of contradictory interpretations among people who genuinely are seeking to use it to understand God's will. That means "inerrant" or not, it ain't doing the job. Which is one of many reasons we have no faith (that is, trust) in your bible-god's ability to communicate effectively. But you don't have to believe anything. I am simply telling you what I have become convinced of as an ex-christian.
  3. This is objectively wrong. For a full discussion, you can see The Bible Made Impossible by believer(!) Christian Smith. Short version: Even if we grant the assumption that the Bible is God's perfect revelation, the fact that Christians in different groups, times and places interpret its meaning so wildly differently mean that in practice it is not perfect or even effective communication. If every sincere Christian who sought to get communication from God all agreed, then that would be strong evidence to suggest that some kind of being was out there, communicating, and was able to make itself understood. But in practice, you can have two guys in the same conference of the same sect of Christianity, both completely sincere in their beliefs and in seeking to understand God--like John Piper and Greg Boyd--and have them come to completely different answers about what God is saying. That doesn't match with any kind of reasonable definition of "capable of making himself understood." So while I'm mostly agnostic, not claiming to know about anything "beyond" or even much caring, one thing I say with confidence: if there is/are any god/s, she/he/it/they are unwilling or unable to communicate with humans in a clear and consistent way. Because if they could and wanted to, we'd know it, because the message would be consistently received. Now, Stranger, I know your answer to this because I have amazing supernatural revelation: you will say "god is capable of making himself understood but only does it for who he chooses." And "who he chooses" will, when we poke at it, turn out to be "Stranger and all the people who happen to completely agree with Stranger." That answer won't satisfy anybody here because it's so obviously contrived and arbitrary. ANYBODY can make a similar argument, and we can't really disprove any of them. A Buddhist, a Muslim, a Hindu could all say that god is able to communicate clearly, and has communicated clearly to them and anybody who agrees with them--and everybody else is wrong or lying. And I can say that the true god is Boobaloo the Moderately Cranky, and she has revealed her truth to me clearly, and anybody who disagrees she has chosen to conceal it from. But you aren't going to find that convincing, and neither will anybody else. So what you've got there is not an argument and not evidence. It's just a convenient rationalization of what your believe. And you want to keep believing it because it feels good to think that you're one of the special ones who's been let in on the Real Truth. That kind of belief gives you certainty and a feeling of connection and importance, so it's an easy way to load up on dopamine. So as long as those feelings continue, you'll keep deploying rationailzations to keep yourself from seeing that it's not convincing or even particularly sensible. (and maybe someday, you, like us, will finally have enough accumulated expereinces that fly in the face of those rationalizations that they will break. and honestly, if that happens, it will suck, for a while. and then it will open up a whole better way of being. and then you can come here and talk to people who've also been through it and will get it. My contribution to that is just to provide you an experience of "I told a bunch of ex-christians that god could communicate clearly, and they were very unimpressed. And some of them had clearly already thought about it a lot more than I have. And my answers didn't convince any of them." None of that will change your mind, but as a piece of a larger thing, they might contribute.)
  4. Welcome! I'm not in your camp, but my gradual move from homophobe to ally was a part of the involved process that eventually became a deconversion. I'm glad you're sharing your story with others.
  5. This is actually her laying her fear upon you. She is afraid of being deceived, she is afraid of hell, she is afraid of reality. She is afraid of you for having the guts to take a step into the "unknown". Their own Bible says "Perfect love casts out all fear" yet every single Christian out there is afraid. Don't let her put that fear back on your shoulders. I think that "perfect love casts out fear" is a valuable line to remember. But I wish we'd be more careful about "every single Christian" pronouncements. You haven't met every single Christian. I've met Christians who are driven by fear and I've met Christians who aren't. Christianity is diverse, Christians are diverse. We don't like it when they make blanket statements about all ex-christians or all atheists or whatever, so we shouldn't play that card either. In this particular case, it's a very good answer for the friend.
  6. Along with all of that, it's based in a kind of magical thinking, that all you need is to be "exposed" to the Christianity virus and you will catch it (or re-catch it, in our case). So FB posts become another easy way to fulfill their obligation to "witness" without the commitment of forming a relationship and finding a rhetorically effective way to talk to someone. Another similar option, as someone recently pointed out, is coming to ex-c and going into the Lion's Den and not-really-arguing with us.
  7. thanks all for the welcomes. As I said, I don't like any term to briefly summarize my complex thoughts on these topics. The issue isn't that I have trouble saying there is no god I put my trust in--it's that different groups mean different things by the terms. Heck, that's part of the slippery chain of signifiers that makes trusting any holy book such a crapshoot.
  8. ...all described in a long post: I was raised in a conservative Lutheran family. Around the time I was a freshman in high school, we started driving an hour each way to go to a MORE conservative church than the one in my hometown. And when I was inside that closed system, it all seemed to make sense. We had “by the grace of God” the Right Answers, the Correct Doctrine. And when you start from that assumption, you can justify a lot of shit. Drug my poor wife into this. I’m not quite sure why she agreed—she thought it was pretty weird, but I guess she thought our relationship was worth it. As I look back now, I notice that during this phase of my life I never really “shared my faith” with anyone. I would sometimes join in arguments about evolution or the death penalty or whatever from my fused political/religious view, but I didn’t even like to tell people that my family was so weird that we drove an hour to church. And at some level, I must have known that the message I had to share wasn’t very “good news.” Anyway, eventually I went to graduate school, where I learned a lot. I guess I had a “feminist awakening” in some ways. Certainly many of the people I was around called themselves feminists, or practiced “feminist pedagogy,” and I read a lot of feminist and Marxist and otherwise-broadly-liberal stuff. More, I saw those views in practice, and saw that they weren’t evil. No one tried to brainwash me or silence me or anything. (Well, one jerk kind of had a one-sided shouting match with me when I wore an anti-evolution T-shirt into the office to grab something, but he was the exception in lots of ways, and I just ignored him.) People treated me well. I learned how to teach. I was trying to do that in the best way I could, which to me meant basing it in love. I even called it my “developing Christian pedagogy.” And I would go to church on Sunday and try to sort out why I spent five days a week trying to empower young women (and minorities) and then one day a week at a church where we actively silenced them. I remember standing in a church service and thinking “I don’t want to lose my faith.” And I remember asking the pastor how we knew we had all the “right” books in the Bible and getting a vague answer that boiled down to “have faith.” Soon we had moved again and I’d started teaching as a job, and by then we knew we couldn’t stay in that church. I couldn’t support its sexism and racism any longer, and I couldn’t keep going through the same motions over and over and never growing. We did a huge “church search,” which was scary. (Visited a truly Fundamentalist church in that process—walked out about five sentences into the hateful sermon.) But we found a Baptist General Conference megachurch with music we liked and an exciting, smart pastor. Broke the news to my family via email, feeling very nervous about it, but that went more or less okay. After all, we were still Christian, even if we did weird things (like lifting hands during worship) and were wrong about stuff. And the 600 mile buffer zone didn’t hurt. This began a long stretch of time when my faith was really mine—that I was making choices about it. At that time, I thought I had decent answers to my question about the books of the Bible, and I was being introduced to a wider range of theologies that I had ever known, many of which were more palatable than what I’d grown up with. And because that church had an attitude of inquiry and some degree of openness to question, I could grow spiritually and intellectually. Switched to a smaller church in the same body, where we were very involved. I preached there a few times and was on the leadership team and quickly enough a co-chair. Somewhere during that time I completed my move to being an explicit LGBT Ally, and while I didn’t demand that the church I was in take a stance, I took comfort in knowing that at least a few of the other members shared this view. Slowly I became frustrated with church, with how it was done and what it was. We threw all this money and effort into Sunday events that didn’t actually accomplish much. Even in that fairly healthy church, the number of people who really seemed to base their lives around Jesus and his message, who really seemed to grow, was small. I was reading widely, still—N.T. Wright, Brian MacLaren, occasional wilder things. I knew that Christians didn’t all agree about things, which meant that nobody had it all right. That was the gift of my original church: they’d shown me that a group can think they have the Correct Doctrine, and from within that can be totally convincing—but once you’re on the outside, you see all the inconsistencies and the ways the evidence is ignored. Anyway, we left that church to relocate to a smaller town and see if we liked that. (We didn’t.) I was on sabbatical at that time. Wife and I were looking for a group of committed people who were just trying to live like disciples of Jesus. Tried a couple of house churches in the area—and they weren’t it. (One in particular was just conventional church done in a house instead.) Tried many of the churches in that area, if they weren’t explicitly sexist or anti-gay. They all felt shallow or exclusive or crazy. Went and sat with the Quakers once or twice—interesting, and a very honest kind of experience, but you can just see that they’re dying off. I guess it’s not very sexy to sit around in silence for an hour, so they aren’t drawing a lot of new people in. I started reading online about progressive Christianity and found some things to like, but it felt kind of ad hoc to me. But this was during my sabbatical, when I really had time to read. And I did. I read about different religions, and an excellent critique of attempts to claim that all religions really said the same thing (God Is Not One, I think it was called). Read Spong and Borg, read about Buddhism (couldn’t believe that somebody just sat down and thought really hard and worked it all out; to me, it was all about practices). Read and enjoyed very much the book The Spirituality of Imperfection. That was an important step toward being able to just accept being imperfect instead of trying to fix it. Read The Bible Made Impossible, which put the final nail in the coffin of my being able to take the Bible as magic and correct. I’d been headed there a long time, but this finally gave me a briefly summarize-able way to explain it. And then I read Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz. I love that book: it’s funny and richly researched and smart and philosophical. And it’s not about religion. It’s about how and why people are wrong, and what we can (and can’t) do about it. It includes a chapter about what happens when we find out we’ve been WRONG in the biggest things—that our whole life was based on something wrong. And so that book perfectly described and predicted and caused my faith crisis. It’s ironic and funny now, but didn’t feel so at the time. There’s a lot in that book that speaks to religious worldviews, even though that isn’t the subject. And reading it helps me be more understanding of people who still believe, because I know some of the many reasons it’s possible to be very wrong and still feel like you’re right. (Plus, I am constantly aware that I could be wrong.) But for me the key thing was this: being wrong is just a built-in feature for us. The way we think inherently includes being wrong some of the time. So if humans ever were perfect, then they were a completely different kind of thing from us. And if we ever were to become perfect in some future world, again, we would have to be completely different people. So there can’t have been a “Fall” from perfection, no matter how metaphorically you take that. And while I can’t completely exclude the possibility of some post-death experience, it can’t possibly be like Christians think it is. I spent about a day as an atheist, but didn’t find that able to sustain. I started Just thinking of God as a mystery, as the source of all good. My wife and I started saying some pretty weird prayers. “We don’t know who or what you are, but if you could do us some good, we’d appreciate it.” Or “Who the fuck do you think you are?” Very freeing. No less productive than any prior prayers. Explored progressive Christianity further but couldn’t find anything satisfying there. Saw someone online bluntly ask people “Why progressive CHRISTIANITY?” and the basic answer was “I grew up in this tradition so I want to hold on to it.” But I don’t care about that. And the more liberal churches we tried ultimately weren’t very satisfying—more of the same, more going through the motions, holding tradition for tradition’s sake. I didn’t really feel a strong need to be connected to a church any more, even though I was interested in continuing to grow spiritually. But I wanted to support my wife in anything she found valuable. Then she read basically everything Bart Ehrman ever wrote, and she gave up on Christianity for good because she was convinced we had no direct reliable evidence. That was it for church-going for us. For me, now, I don’t have an exact name for where I am. The agnostics have it right in my view, because they make the most modest claim of knowledge. While I respect atheism as being internally consistent and intellectually sound, I can’t claim that I know there is no god. People can ask questions that they can’t answer. I’m confident that every version of conventional-Christianity-God that I’ve heard about either can’t exist or is unworthy of love or respect. But I sometimes do think about God as the source of good. Some days I think that might be an actual person or force or entity or whatever. A lot of days I think it’s just a convenient myth, a shorthand for a complex concept. I wish for an afterlife that would make some things better for the people who got screwed in this life, but I know that I don’t have any theory for how that could be, and most of the time I think that’s just an empty fantasy. But I don’t personally have a satisfactory answer for who Jesus was. If I had a time machine, I’d go see if there was such a person and if so if he taught anything or did anything or healed anybody or died or rose again or didn’t. I know the documents we have are not reliable. But none of the theories I’ve heard explaining those documents are fully satisfying to me. So I’m left with “dunno.” I do know a little about how humans come to believe things, and I know that no just and all-knowing god could ever judge us based on what we do or don’t believe: that’s a stacked game. And I figure there’s probably no god, or else no god who judges. If somehow there is, then I figure either She is a good god who judges with mercy or fairness, in which case I’ll be okay, or She isn’t, in which case I’m screwed no matter what. So I spend no time worrying about that. I do try to find ways to grow spiritually wherever they might be. And I try not to fault Christians for believing what they believe. I did gain some things from trying to follow the teachings of Jesus as I understood them, so I try to hold on to them. But now I insist on being an adult, and I won’t let anyone try to make me be a child again—not a religious teacher, not a boss, not a relative, not a god.
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