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My Spiritual Journey


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I'm new here. Hi. I stumbled across this site quite by accident and I think it's great to have somewhere to share experiences with other ex-christians and to debate about the views and beliefs of Christianity (which I view to be faulty). Here's the brief story of my spiritual evolution:

 

I was brought up in the Salvation Army and despite the negative attitudes towards drinking and smoking and the sexually repressive nature of my parents, I was lucky that the brand of Christianity I was brought up was at least intellectually liberal.

 

My father was quite interested in science and there were a lot of books in our house, so I grew up with a healthy respect for the findings of science.

 

As a teenager I was already re-interpreting some of the teachings of Christianity. I decided that the Devil was not a literal person but was instead metaphorical for the ways that human beings rebel against God. I also started to wonder whether the things that Jesus said about heaven and hell could not also be interpreted in terms of reincarnation. In any case I started to view God as the force behind nature and the Devil as symbolic of man-made misery and so heaven and hell would likely be states of being that corresponded to that.

 

Another thing that interested me as a teenager was Greek and Egyptian mythology. Partly this was because I was heavily into Fighting Fantasy at the time (a British thing - choose your own adventure books set in a world rather similar to the Dungeons and Dragons world).

 

Later in my teens I became alarmed at the growing influence of more fundamentalist/evangelical interpretations of Christianity among some of the young people. Their weird way of praying, their taking of obviously metaphorical passages of the Bible literally and their rejection of evolutionary theory in favour of creationism - all of these things set off alarm bells in me and caused some discomfort.

 

I had already come to believe that some of nature's forces operated independently of God's direct intervention and I became attracted to the idea that natural forces might be sentient and that lesser gods might operate under the dominion of one big God. I also came to the notion that I would be better off serving God if I followed in Jesus' footsteps and went into the world "among the sinners" to continue to preach his word there, free from being associated with an organisation that people don't trust and free from the kind of separation created between people of the church and the ordinary layman (remember the Salvation Army and those barmy uniforms)

 

I wriggled out of the Salvation Army (oh, how they persuaded me to stay - even when I'd tasted my first alcoholic drink!) and after going to Baptist Church for a little while I eventually stopped going to church altogether. I then embraced paganism (although I invented my own strange combination of Greek and Egyptian paganisms) and astrology.

 

It took some time for me to shake off the idea that Jesus was God. I guess I was scared that I'd go to Hell if I doubted that. But in the end I became convinced that Jesus was just a highly enlightened man - like the Buddha or something.

 

Later I rejected polytheism and astrology, seeing them as superstitious and with no evidence to support them (although I still believe that astrology can be a useful language for talking about personality - but I no longer believe that what sign you were born under will affect your actual personality)

 

I began to become interested in Hinduism and Buddhism and I started formulating an idea that all religions are God-breathed but that they all have huge faults as well. Believing that Jesus was more than an ordinary but still only a man allowed me to believe that Judaism, Islam and Christianity could all be right in different ways and all be wrong in different ways. I also was increasingly seeing Hindu and Buddhist ways of looking at the world to be more accurate.

 

However during this time I was in a relationship with a lapsed evangelical type of christian - and we argued over spiritual matters a lot. In the end she did a lot of damage to my confidence in my own ideas.

 

Eventually I went back to education and studied Philosophy and History at University and I got a 2.1 I also split up with the evangelical type girlfriend. During this period I started learning more about science, and found out more about the evidence backing up evolutionary theory. I also rejected the idea of a personal soul, since philosophical thinking helped me to realise that most things about a person's inner workings can be explained by the physical brain. Only consciousness it seemed could not be fully explained (why are we not merely very complex automata - why do we have subjective experience at all?).

 

I came to a belief about this time that there is a conscious energy that exists in all things and that human consciousness is an illusion created by this universal consciousness experiencing through a creature with a strong awareness of self. I realised then that there was no heaven or hell, merely a blending with the One Consciousness when we die.

 

I came across Neale Donald Walsch's 'Conversations with God' books, where he seemed to explain far better than I ever could the very ideas that I had started to formulate myself. Most important among these is that God would not give us Free Will and then judge us for how we used it. The whole purpose of Free Will is to make mistakes and learn from them, I think. This learning is the purpose of Free Will itself and God would not thwart the process by judging us. In a sense it is crazy to suggest that God could judge us for disobeying him while also giving us Free Will to disobey him if we want to. And God would have given us all our instincts and urges - everything that exists would have to come from God so how could he be angry or disgusted by any of it. Only a crazy God would judge himself, be angry with himself or be disgusted with himself.

 

Even the ideas I hadn't come up with myself, seemed to follow on logically from those that I had come up with myself. So I believed what I read in 'Conversations with God', even though I would say it is debatable whether you can call my idea of Universal Consciousness a god or not.

 

I no longer agree with everything in those books but my basic beliefs about the One Consciousness live on. Basically, this is a non-judgemental, universally loving entity because it is purely consciousness, experiencing itself through the world it is manifesting itself through for the mere purpose of experiencing and learning.

 

But anyway, that is my story. I don't know whether to call myself theist or atheist because what I believe in creates both impersonal forces and objects, and could be considered an impersonal force or a god. But I am an ex-christian - and when there are so many christians around who like to bash their version of reality over your head and emotionally blackmail you into agreeing with them, I find it reassuring to be able to get support from those who also disagree with Christian nonsense. Christians can be such bullies sometimes that even though I don't always agree with atheists, I like having them around :-D

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And I made a couple of errors...

 

Believing that Jesus was more than an ordinary but still only a man allowed me to believe that Judaism, Islam and Christianity could all be right in different ways and all be wrong in different ways.

 

That should be 'believing that Jesus was more than an ordinary man' of course

 

I don't know whether to call myself theist or atheist because what I believe in creates both impersonal forces and objects, and could be considered an impersonal force or a god.

 

And that should read "what I believe in creates both impersonal forces and objects, and also people - and so could be considered an impersonal force or a god"

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Guest lori4443

Hi Evolution Beyond

 

I enjoyed your story. I’m agnostic but I especially liked your post because it’s kind of new agey and I go that way sometimes. And sometimes I go the other way toward the atheist side. I guess it just depends on what kind of mood I’m in. Since I see you were brought up in a liberal church environment I’m thinking it may have been easier to deprogram yourself and if you have read some of the other’s people experiences here, you know other folks had one hell of a time before they reached the point of disembarking form their faith. Of course I could be wrong about that and I’m sorry if I am.

 

Anyway I found your post extremely interesting so thanks. You’re so right about the Christians who want to “bash their version of reality over your head”. I really HATE that and it is SO true. It makes me sick because so many people who I thought were really nice and I want to get to know then if they are Christian, the getting to know them pretty much stops right there and is where the “witnessing” begins. I feel like as soon as a Christian starts babbling to me about all the crap they babble about, their personality ends right there and dogma takes over. I’ve even lost friends that were once like me but then got religion and I lose their friendship. I’ve lost them and they don’t want anything to do with me any longer because my beliefs or non beliefs are “of the devil”. It’s so sad. I HATE that.

 

Stay cool and I look forward to seeing you around. Take care .

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Thanks for the interesting post, E-Beyond. Welcome!

 

My thinking closely follows yours: I find myself intellectually agnostic but w/ a strong emotional attachment to brahmanical hindu philosophy - maybe even seeing the atman as really just life itself. And that since the soul is a creation of our own ability to self reflect, it's an illusion.

 

Anyways, I'm not finished with my thinking about that. I'm very comfortable not really knowing, so I guess agnosticism is truly where I'm at.

 

So much easier to live this way than the "don't ask no questions, boy - just believe the bible" sort of thinking.

 

Take care and enjoy! :)

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Thanks for the interesting post, E-Beyond. Welcome!

 

My thinking closely follows yours: I find myself intellectually agnostic but w/ a strong emotional attachment to brahmanical hindu philosophy - maybe even seeing the atman as really just life itself. And that since the soul is a creation of our own ability to self reflect, it's an illusion.

 

Anyways, I'm not finished with my thinking about that. I'm very comfortable not really knowing, so I guess agnosticism is truly where I'm at.

 

So much easier to live this way than the "don't ask no questions, boy - just believe the bible" sort of thinking.

 

Take care and enjoy! :)

 

Being an Agnostic means being honest about the need to be continually searching for new truths because you might be wrong about what you previously thought. This is a good thing and more people should adopt that attitude.

 

And Brahmanical Hinduism is one theological position that makes a lot of sense I think.

 

Happy seeking :)

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EB,

 

I liked your post as well. And I've been playing with the same thought about the omni-consciousness (or uni-consciousness) idea too. At least, even in a complete naturalistic view, one has to admit that the Universe inevitable had to produce a consiousness if it also could produce life. The universe have the components to build a consciousness (be it real or a mere illusion) but the pieces for the puzzle was and is there. So in that sense the Universe is a creator of consciousness.

 

Personally I sometimes call myself atheist, sometimes agnostic, but mostly non-theist because it's a more generic or umbrella label for all the non-traditional-religious ideas and unbelief in the Judeo/Christian/Muslim/Philosopher God. No one can really know for sure about anything, but anyone can believe in an idea (and we do all the time), and the ideas can be very personal. So why not encourage personal ideas instead of orthodox ideas.

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Thanks for sharing. I'm sort of in the same place as you at the moment, though admittedly I haven't done as much research as you.

 

peace

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I haven't said welcome in your thread here yet, so, welcome EB!

 

Our beliefs seem to be pretty much the same.

 

I'm glad you're here and hope you stick around.

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I liked your post, too, EB. It helps me better understand some ideas I hear people talking about. The position I feel most comfortable with is atheism, though I have not yet gotten rid of all the negative prejudices one naturally picks up in a very strongly religious culture. I just like what the self-proclaimed atheists of this board say: That they don't see sufficient evidence for god's existence. It meshes with my own convictions since childhood. Maybe I should qualify that statement a bit. For much of my life I believed in God and Jesus in a tentative sort of way. Fear of hell had a lot to do with it.

 

I grew up never questioning the historicity of Jesus. I just needed an answer as to why he had to die. More specifically, I had to know what changed as a result of his death. It seems some fundamental aspect of the universe had to change if it "opened heaven's gates," as the song Jesus Loves Me says. I've searched for half a century and I cannot find what exactly was supposed to have changed. Since there is no basis to believe that anything changed, it makes no sense to claim that Jesus died so we can go to heaven, or for our salvation, or however a specific church chooses to say it.

 

I questioned God's existence all my life, except for a few years in my forties when I found out that the numinous was what people called God. And by that time I seriously questioned any salvific value of Jesus' death. By now I assume he is just a myth. Gotta be careful, though, to whom I say that. I figure it should be safe to say it on this board. And if some rabid Christian rears his/her ugly head there will be lots here to support me. Last fall I came across an article that explained how the religious or spiritual experiences we get could very possibly originate from within the human brain. The article described a very convincing scientific experiment.

 

It's ten years old, though, and I think more research should be out by now if it's really true. Or maybe it's so obviously true that no more research needs be done on it. I don't have the brains for detailed scientific studies but if anyone knows more info that's out I'd be interested to know the conclusions and what they are based on.

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