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I Love The Whole World!


TallMike
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Ok, so the title's a little over the top. Bear with me.

 

I've enjoyed lurking here for a couple months, and I'm really grateful for everything that everyone has written here. It really takes an ex-Christian to truly understand another. That's why the writings of people like Ken Daniels and Ken Pulliam were instrumental in my deconversion. Maybe someday I'll post my full ex-timony; for now, I'll just share a slice of it.

 

It's been about 7 months since I left the religion of my birth, my youth, and a decade of my adult life. At first it was rough, and very dark, but now I'm pretty comfortable in my new skin. And it's only getting better.

 

The last few months have been the happiest in 3 or 4 years. Mostly that's because I'm no longer paralyzed by the cognitive dissonance of the serious doubter, and because I'm no longer spending every free hour devouring books and wrestling with the religion I'd been fully devoted to for so long. But it's also because this new way of looking at the world has kindled a far greater admiration for the things, and especially the people, in it.

 

(cue

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For me, the lenses of naturalism and humanism together form a far more pleasant way to look at the world than the lens of the Christian worldview.

 

The Christian worldview lens that I operated under, and the one that many evangelicals share, examines everyone first and foremost in light of the Gospel. The most important thing about people -- a friend, an elected official, a people group, or a nation -- is where they stand in relation to Jesus. So regardless of the good someone does, if they aren't in right standing with God, they are fundamentally deficient. You see this in Romans 3:9-20, which states that no one can be good apart from God (for the special Christian definition of "good", of course). And on judgment day, there are only two types of people: those who are rebelling against God, and those who have allied themselves with him (or did he choose them? Ahhh, how I love not having to care about that stuff anymore!)

 

Some of my Christian friends would quickly reassure me that they believe non-Christians can do good and be good people. But that's beside the point, because to the Christian, the good that the person does is insignificant next to their "rebellion" against God.

 

For me, and I suspect for many Christians who think rationally (some are indeed quite rational), this was a source of despair and cognitive dissonance: here are all these people doing all these wonderful things for humanity, and because of an accident of birth they ended up on the wrong side of God's favor. This really dampened my enthusiasm for the awesome things people do, like

using a robotic jetpack-crane. (I'm happy to report that as a non-Christian, participating in that whole experience on NASA TV was super freaking awesome. Hooray for empathy!)

 

The same kind of judgment happens with everything else. For so long, I was afraid of science because of what it could show me about how the Bible wasn't true. I was especially afraid of psychology because of what it could show us about what people are really like, instead of what the Bible said they were like. I didn't realize how much this stuff colored my perception of other people. The Christian doctrine that people are intrinsically evil, and can only overcome this through God's help, made it hard for me to really relax around non-Christians.

 

But when I became a non-Christian, didn't I just switch teams? Haven't I simply gone from being suspicious of non-Christian stuff to being suspicious of Christian stuff? No. As a Christian, I looked at everything in relation to the Gospel -- what people believe, and whether an idea is compatible with the Bible. Now, I look at everything in relation to humanity and reality -- that is, what people DO, whether an idea corresponds with HOW THE UNIVERSE ACTUALLY WORKS, and whether an idea brings people HAPPINESS.

 

And that changes everything. (warning: this gets a little sappy)

 

In college I majored in physics (while still a functional young earth creationist... yeah, explain that one), and I recently rediscovered my appreciation for science. I spent a couple afternoons watching every Neil de Grasse Tyson video I could find on YouTube. If someone posts an article about CERN or JPL on Facebook, I love to post, "Go, science, go!" Corny, yes. But science has done so much good for us.

 

I love following ideas wherever they go, without stressing about how it's going to turn out in relation to a belief system that's not quite grounded in reality. I love that the universe is built from nothing but cold, hard, indifferent, unfeeling, unflinching REALITY, every bit of which is theoretically there for our scrutiny and understanding.

 

I love that when tragedy strikes, I don't have to wonder what an omnipotent, benevolent deity was up to. (not that tragedy has stuck me recently, but I've heard other ex-Christians say this, and the ups and downs I have experienced have borne this out) I love that when I mess up, there's nothing complicated or spiritual or philosophical about it: I messed up, there's something wrong with the way I'm thinking or behaving, and in principle I can apply science and hard work to arrive at a better outcome (though in practice, it might be hard).

 

I love not constantly examining my desires and motivations in light of what a deity might want me to do. I love not fretting about how to discern the will of a deity who doesn't actually communicate with us in the normal way communication works. I love looking out at my life and knowing that it is what I make of it, so I'd better get living.

 

I love being able to watch movies, read books and listen to music, while withholding no admiration for things that happened to be created by non-Christians. I love meeting people without wondering about something so irrelevant (usually) as their religious beliefs.

 

I love taking people on their own terms. I love looking at people as they appear to be: not intrinsically evil, but flawed beings living in a flawed universe and capable of greatness. With few exceptions, other countries are filled with people just like us, humans just trying to get by. I hate the nationalism and xenophobia that divide us and drive us to war, so much so that I'm working to transfer to a division of my company in another country to play a tiny part in breaking down that wall. And I'm excited to go as a learner and a fellow human, rather than an emissary for my religion.

 

There are limits to this, of course. Oppression and injustice are still rampant in the world, and they must be stamped out wherever they're found. But I say that simply as a fellow human who wants to see other humans flourish.

 

At the end of the day, we're all living together on this planet. And the most important thing isn't what you believe about someone who may or may not have lived 2,000 years ago in Palestine. It's what you're doing now with your life, and especially how you're living in relation to those around you.

 

I imagine that, to some of you, this perspective sounds naïve. You may remind me that there's a generous handful of really freaking hard problems that threaten our survival as a species, many of them our own fault. You may warn me of the day when a tragedy will strike that shatters my admiration of the world and its inhabitants, and you would be rational in doing so. And someday when I grow sick and find myself facing death, my eyes and my optimism will certainly be weaker than they are now.

 

That's all true. But for now I'll just keep doing what I've been doing: wondering how to make this world a better place, wondering how to solve one of those hard problems, and being glad to be alive. smile.png

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Hey TallMike, Welcome!

 

I had a nice reply written out for you before my internet went out. Just wanted to say that I really appreciate and identify with your post. Many christians like to claim that nonbelievers are bitter people with a hole in their heart, but I don't find this to be true for most of us. I have never been more peaceful, free, or happier than since I've left christianity.

 

I wanted to quote something specific from your post to point to and agree with, but the whole thing is just lovely. Look forward to reading more of your posts.

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