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Hi all,

 

My "testimony" isn't so much about abuse or hatred or any real enmity, it's mostly a matter of waves of change over time. I am not an addict to drugs/alcohol, or suffered any abuse/wrong-doing. It can be said that I am an addict of philosophy, history, and religion. The struggle I've had is that I always want certainty and despise ambiguity. Part of that is wanting to find reason for belief in specifically literalistic/supernatural Christianity. I wasn't raised that way (the only of my parents that expressed supernatural inclinations was my mom, who vaguely wanted to see everyone she loves in heaven - as long as they were nice people [regardless of their beliefs/religion]). My childhood in church was between the ages of 4-6 at a Rhode Island Lutheran church, and my parents just wanted me to learn right from wrong, not much else.

 

I'd struggle with the undefined lines of life, and I'd confuse historicity as evidence, and would explore alternative religions throughout my early life. The hardest thing I did to myself was finding videos or books to watch/read that would purportedly show well credentialed academics showing where stuff in the bible was, what happened, and general cultural background, and then the apologists take it and add just a slight spin on it to point out how it proved the bible as-is. The contradiction videos where experts try to deconstruct contradictions in biblical accounts to prove there is no contradiction were particularly addictive. The problem I made for myself was that I also limited myself to Christianity. If I thought the tomb of Abraham made the bible true, I was also disregarding evidence of the Buddha's life, evidence of Amaterasu, evidence of Rumi, Krishna, and others. I was confusing history with theology, and the two are not the same. I think the stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey are great in this regard - Troy and Ithaca are real places and have a lot of archaeology and data behind them.

 

The kings in the stories actually lived. The accounting of the wars and journeys home are likely reflective of some sort of actual history that took place - but the stories as-is are not valid as-it-happened tellings. They are great oral traditions for when you are sitting around a campfire with friends, drinking wine, and telling tales to each other. They are great stories to raise children to prize glory, honor, fighting, adventure, and courage. Good stories to reference in oratorical speeches to whip up opinion towards one policy or another. But an exposition on what actually happened in the Trojan War? Not so much. Just because it is historical, does not make all the truth claims about it accurate or precise. Until I figured this out recently, I'd keep reverting back to Christianity when a new "discovery" popped up on YouTube and seemed to show well-credentialed people backing it up. I also had to learn to research the people giving me information to see if their credentials were actually legitimate...

 

Eventually, I came upon the concept of Ignosticism (essentially the idea that the word "God" - or any other unnaturalistic word is impossible to define in a way that can successfully capture all conceptions or definitions of God in a way that can be proved or unproved). That helped me move forward towards an Ignostic Theism, but I still would relapse into explicit Christianity because it was a great way of connecting to a sense of a higher power (in the form of Pentecostalism). Unfortunately I always had a struggle because the church message and the church in life were two very different things, and the theological and teleological conceptions were hard to swallow. Especially since my best friends where I'm from were all Muslim, Atheist, Hindu, or doubted creationism. The other problem I had was the emphasis on moral perfectionism within Pentecostalism, when I come from a Lutheran tradition that emphasizes the need for "small sins" in life to remain sane and capable of avoiding the "big" sins (i.e. the Saint/Sinner duality/ying-yang).

 

Breaking with Christianity is incredibly difficult, and I'd like to think it's a matter of growing into a larger identity now (with an undetermined label as yet), with my experiences in forms and strains of Christianity helping me in understanding the human condition in new and better ways. My goal now is to understand it from as many religious angles as possible, but within the frame of Being and Existing. The greatest liberation for my sanity was Paul Tillich and Peter Rollins. While Tillich remained a Lutheran clergyman, and his own story is truly epic in its own right, I want to take his thought and his ideas (and also Nietzsche's) and apply it to all the religions of the world, and all the philosophies, in a very academician (in the ancient Roman style) way, which is to say - not in an apologetic way, but with a lens to identify what is useful, what falls flat, what is untenable in the modern world, what is believed, and the history and stories of the view which can help me grow.

 

Nietzsche is helping me out in this regard with his acceptance of the Dionysian element in the human psyche (while Tillich acknowledges it and provides it a somewhat cyclical bent) that I find helpful - the goal being to bring out the best of Dionysus and Apollo. Not a Jedi, or a Sith, or a Gray Jedi - something else entirely. Not a Stoic, or an Epicurean, but perhaps more along the lines of Cicero - just trying to figure out the multiple ways to look at life, and how to accept what is, imagine what might be, and how to express the darker natures of mankind in a healthy and non-harmful way. Reading Abraham Lincoln's, Winston Churchill's, Ethan Allan's, Thomas Paine's, Hume's, and Spinoza's views on religion and George Washington's attitudes toward religion has been immensely helpful (especially Lincoln/Churchill) in remembering that I keep good company and have good examples to draw from for people to model my own life on.

 

Edit: Forgot to note - where I've recently settled on as an identity of sorts is "Ignostic Agnostic Panpsychist Pantheist." The way I frame this for myself is as follows:

 

  • Ultimate reality = Ignostic
    • The idea that defining "the ground of being" is impossible
    • You can't define 1/0 - something like that
  • Pragmatic response to reality = Agnostic
    • Due to the limited capability to understand the incomprehensible, being skeptical seems to be the natural way to approach reality
    • Understand what is likely to be the way it is - i.e. collect evidence and remain open-minded
    • Cultivate a skeptical mindset towards all absolutist positions any which way
  • Idealized reality = Panpsychist
    • The hope being that the fundamental reality is idealistic in some capacity (though not necessarily supernatural)
    • Idea that creation out of chaos is an inevitable fact/reality of existence itself
    • As an idealized reality, it is not reality - it is a hope upon which to focus identity/philosophical learning towards
  • Pragmatic response to ideal reality = Pantheist
    • The "blunt object" of the ideal - kind of like the platonic theory of forms - it is the chair for the idea of a chair
    • Everything is inherent creation itself in some capacity (though not in a supernatural way) and in some way definable as containing elements of a "divine spark"
    • With divine spark falling under the parameters of the ultimate reality (Ignosticism) and thus being impossible to define
    • As a result, the "blunt object" uses a "blunt definition" that will not always work, and will not always be perfect
    • However, it can be refined over time, expanded, contracted, and used in contemplation
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That's a cool way of looking at it.  I haven't read anything regarding the founders' views on religion, just know that most considered themselves deists. Do you recommend?

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Honestly it's pretty hard - the gist of the research I've read is that most presidents were deist leaning, w/ a few notable exceptions - w/ most of the exceptions being non-trinitarian, w/ universalist leanings (John Adams).

 

Even as recent as President Taft were not trinitarian (Taft once wrote "I do not believe in the divinity of Jesus" as the reason he turned down the presidency of I think it was Yale? Because it belonged to a trinitarian denomination at the time). George Washington basically went to church because he had to, but never did communion. He wasn't the type of man to write books, so we can't say for certain, but the practices of like minded deists of the time was to do likewise, so most historians infer his deeper convictions - especially in light of his freemasonry.

 

There are still strong strains of universalism in some modern presidents (Harry Truman, though a Baptist, once basically said everyone who is religious gets to heaven, and that Jews, Muslims, and Hindus all worship the same God as Christians). As far as writings, I'd recommend just googling Abraham Lincoln religious views, and Winston Churchill religious views - those were the most detailed and interesting from an Ex-Christian perspective I'd say. Thomas Jefferson is already pretty well known, so not a lot to explore. He was a Deist, but technically maintained membership in the church for legal reasons.

 

Andrew Johnson was actually surprising - he got attacked in his day for attending Catholic services - he liked that you couldn't buy a pew in the Catholic church, not even for a president - and never had any affiliation with a religious sect.

 

A lot of presidents moved churches or stopped going to church in adulthood, so it's hard to see what their inner convictions were. It seems like Ronald Reagan believed deeply in a God, but viewed religion in general as positive, so perhaps not as dogmatic as evangelicals make him out to be. Nixon was technically religious, but actually believed religion was going away and would be replaced by a secular culture that developed everyone to their full potential, and felt that religion was only good in as much as it made ethical human beings that yearned for peace (minus some serious prejudices he had for others). Trump was basically non-theistic in that he didn't really ponder religion or have an affiliation.

 

Ford and Carter might have actually been the most religious presidents according to some of the historians I've read (in a very limited way). I guess the gist of it was that if these "great men of history" (regardless of their good/bad actions, they were worth remembering in some capacity) could have such widespread and deeply held and private views, there was no reason I was locked in to the view I grew up with. A lot of these folks purposefully went against the way they were raised to become something better, different, and unique - and led/allowed others to find their best selves in their own time.

 

I know there isn't a lot of links - it really was mostly googling and finding .edu pdfs, etc. to look through, or Wikipedia. It was just really comforting at the time if that makes sense. 

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To me it looks like you have some OCD traits.  You are overthinking the situation.  Step back and look at the big picture of life.  What is it that promotes life for the planet and all it's beings?  What is in the best interest of all of us? 

 

There is no evidence of an afterlife, so study what is in the best interest of humans, society, the planet, etc.  Things we know actually exist.  Study human development, sociology, etc.  Read my testimony, TRUTH: A GRADUAL AWAKENING.  There is a short section about purpose and meaning there.  And think about talking with a mental health professional regarding possible OCD.  

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