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Goodbye Jesus


Guest ikant

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Guest ikant

What is it that causes us to make choices? Choice, emotion, and intellect are closely linked. When we experience something, an emotion is often associated. Our emotions act as a sort of guide. When we are young we feel good or bad about our parents. Typically we feel good about them until we realize (if that is the case) that they are harming us. Our desire for love causes us to develop defense mechanisms, such as rationalizing the harm that is caused us, e.g., by telling ourselves we deserve this type of treatment, or developing a hatred for them, etc…. We also have feelings about more innocuous (yet not inconsequential) things such as food, or aesthetic things such as music and other forms of art.

We rationalize every emotion that we experience, especially the more impactful ones. We are constantly seeking to interpret our emotions. Typically we accept them as bearing a strong objective significance whether they feel good or bad. Emotions lead us to certain conclusions, e.g., if we are told by our parents we are bad, we will feel this way about ourselves and then tell ourselves why they are right, or if they tell us we are good we will also confirm that in our thoughts. Even if we disagree with the treatment, the corresponding emotion is extremely difficult to resolve as it is natural to feel bad when we are harmed, whether we believe the treatment is just or not.

These feelings become materialized in a sense. Our brains must then only have to experience a fleeting image of a thing associated with a past experience in order for us to react emotionally.

Emotions tell us who we are. When we feel a certain way about something, that feeling has meaning to us. The meaning is in the emotional representation of the thing that we connect it to. This can obviously have good or bad consequences. If we remember that we felt good about school, we might be more inclined to study. On the other hand if we have had bad experiences at school and feel corresponding negative emotions we might have an aversion to learning.

Of course we can have both positive and negative emotions concerning a thing and become conflicted. But, I would imagine that the stronger emotion always wins out. Now, if we decide at some point in our lives that a thing is not bad simply because we have negative emotions about it, this is because we have somehow gained an ability to associate good feelings with this thing. This can come in the form of a person, or another experience, that being as powerful as some of the negative experiences we have had associated to the thing.

Religion is no different. We become religious, or we reject religion simply on how we feel about it. If we feel bad about ourselves because we were told that we are bad, then it makes sense to us that Jesus had to be tortured and killed for our sins. We feel guilty about all the things we were told to feel guilty about and then we add a whole list of our own simply because we trust the way we feel. On the other hand, if we were loved and nurtured without the use of guilt, the gospel will not make sense to us.

Of course there are a multiplicity of emotions that go into a decision, especially ones pertaining to religion, but in all areas of our lives as well. After one receives Jesus as the truth of God, and accepts that they are an evil sinner, the bible seeks to correct the negative feelings of oneself associated with one’s parents. It does so by presenting the idea that one can have a “loving heavenly father” as a replacement for our earthly father and mother. This creates an interesting conundrum. What happens when the love of the heavenly father causes one to feel good about themselves? I suppose it depends on the interpretation of that love. Jesus said that “without me you can do nothing.” So the idea is that God loves you, but if you were to leave him you would be back to the same wretched state you were in before. Of course it is possible to associate positive feelings (as one should) with the idea that we are lovable. Even if it is only through God’s power that we can be loved, that love is still given to us for some reason (it is not as if Jesus died for cows). So whether we like it or not, we will tend to think of ourselves as special.

The negative emotions we experience can serve as a sort of comfort to us, such as if we are treated harshly by our earthly fathers, but at the same time are given affection from them, we might never question the contradiction of a heavenly father who simultaneously loves us but who would torture us for eternity if we were to leave him.

The idea that our emotions are tied to our choices permeates all areas of our lives, not simply religion. When we choose to believe something, e.g., religion, or our ability to succeed, why do we hang on to negative ideas related to our emotions? Why would we continue to tell ourselves that only the most powerful being in the universe could love us? Or, that not even a god could love us? I guess we have to look at our own particular influences and seek to decipher them ourselves. Perhaps a good counselor could help. But what happens when we know that our feelings are based in a misinterpretation of who we are based on negative experiences? Are those emotions hardwired within us, never to go away? Or can we develop new emotions that can potentially push out the negative ones?

In my life I see these principles at work. But, it seems to be a slow process. When I was a Christian, it was easy to believe that people were evil, at first. At first I was at a point in my life where all I saw was people making selfish, harmful (to themselves and at the expense of others) choices (as I was told I always did). As time went on, and as I met people that I liked or that seemed happy that were not Christians, I had to interpret how these people were evil yet simultaneously not overtly so. I believe the reason I did so was because of a fear that I had that what I had staked my entire life on was false. I was not aware that I had this fear, but, looking back, it is apparent. I told myself that their self righteousness was what was evil, the idea that they could be good without God and that this belief caused every other kind of evil to exist. This is a common response to people who are doing better than us. There must be something wrong with them. Over time I began to associate more negative feelings with Christianity and less with the world in general. These little steps caused me to confront fears that I have had up to this about myself and the world.

This type of process exists in all of the choices that we make. I think the reason we might not escape certain negative life choices is that not only do we not realize how much we trust our emotions, we embrace them as we feel that they give our lives meaning, they make us who we are, they remind us of who we were, in this way we do not wish to let them go, whether they are harmful or beneficial. Especially so if they are associated with someone whom we love and trust. I believe this is the reason why people raised in religion tend to do so, they trust their parents (even if they were confused about the love they received from.

So the question remains, how do good feelings replace the bad ones? How do we realize when something we believe about ourselves is actually hurting us? Or, if we know a feeling is hurting us by causing us to make bad choices, how do we overcome them? The problem is that this way of interpreting who we are limits the idea of free will. If we are simply the product of forces external to us which we internalize through emotion, we can often be stuck in a frame of mind until a more powerful emotion replaces the harmful one. This can come by way of people, or of an idea. I think we must first acknowledge the power emotions have over us and perhaps seek to replace negative emotional associations with positive ones. This is not to say we isolate ourselves in a world of false positivity, but we simply learn to encounter our feelings and seek to understand them. Then, when we feel compelled to do or think something that might harm us, we will have an opposing emotion that can become stronger that will seek to benefit us.

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