Even when no one is listening…

Archive for September, 2012

Why I Reject Religion

All the potential harmful aspects of organized religion far outweigh all the potential beneficial aspects. This is not a statement I make halfheartedly. I am fully aware of the implications.  And no, this isn’t a recent discovery. My questioning of religion started at age four-teen. Mostly, basic questions concerning morality and the stories of the Bible; throughout high school I dedicated my time to knowing everything there was to know about the Bible. Once I hit Grace College at age eight-teen things got messy. I was exposed to all the contradictions, loop holes and complicated doctrines of the Christian Faith; and differing worldviews (and yes other religions) that came with serious cultural inconsistencies. While I enjoyed the challenge of rectifying my current worldview to the new information being presented I was never satisfied. Religion, was a hot sticky complicated mess of goo that I spent a lot of time diving into. After leaving Grace in the Fall of 2010 the problem grew. My mind was not satisfied. My questions were only answered with more questions. My heart was willing to ignore the inconsistencies of Christianity while pointing out the loop holes in other religions (looking back I realize the bigotry).  Needless to say, it didn’t work.

Let’s take a look at how corrupt organized religion really is. The beneficial aspects of comfort/ certainty alone are proof enough. Blind faith offers this through a total disregard for intellectual reasoning. We are constantly told that once we hit that point where things just don’t make sense that it’s because God is just too high and lofty to understand and if we want to be good Christians then we need to stop. Just stop right there. Don’t question. Stop everything and just trust that God has all that crazy shit together.

Uhhh? Excuse me? If God is so freaking great then shouldn’t He be able to make himself easy to understand? Shouldn’t the rational inconsistencies…not exist? Wouldn’t he welcome questioning of reality? What does God have to hide? Hmmmmmmm.

Blind faith is only comforting to those who are uncomfortable with the responsibility of finding the truth. Let’s just call it what it is and be done. When you and I stop thinking, send up a prayer “giving it to God” who are we really helping? No one. Blind faith is a pretty little intellectual band-aid.

That being said

Who really benefits from this irrational process for decision making? Ironically, a lot of blind faith believers advocate that God does. God benefits from your stupidity? Uhhh okay. I would think that shows a lack of intelligence on God’s part if his own people give up trying to understand what is real.

Another popular answer to this question is that the believers benefit. Maybe temporarily; but what happens when the band-aid is gone and you start questioning things again? You just whip out another band-aid. The problem never is solved. Eventually, you’ll just stop trying to think altogether. Don’t believe me? Get on facebook. Okay, all joking aside…I’ll tell you who seemingly benefits from this- corrupt authority. Church leaders, a select few who use religion to guilt people into their belief system based on their position and empty promises concerning: wealth, “God’s will”, direction in life and more. The sad thing is that most of this unintentional. These people honestly think they are doing you and I a favor. By forcing their beliefs down your throat it’s a win-win. You get a get out of hell free card and they get warm fuzzy feelings all over. See the problem? Religion has nothing to do with bettering humanity. Instead it creates ignorant flocks that either are not capable or believe themselves incapable of rational thought. Reason is presented as secular; while blind faith is held in the highest regard.

Religion is thus built upon a premise of fear. Fear of a God that can and will condemn you to everlasting torment in hell; all the while claiming that he loves you unconditionally. I will give modern Christianity props for taking God’s approval deeper than a “deeds” based mentality which so many religions propagate. At least Christianity tries to rectify this irrational system by making salvation based on a set of specific beliefs concerning Jesus Christ. So it’s not what you do that saves you it’s what you believe. God will save you just as long as you believe in him; thus STILL making Christian salvation conditional. Hold up. If God loves me unconditionally then why do I have to believe in him to receive the benefits of his love if it is truly unconditional? Hmmmmmmm. Yup. Stillborn babies, those folks in Africa, all the Jehovah Witnesses (because we know how messed up they are) and well every other person outside of MY belief system is doomed.

I’m sorry but my understanding of God is sooooooooooooooo much bigger than that. God is the supreme reality, truth, love. And my morality is not dependent on the existence of any biblical contradicting God that sets mankind up for failure, calling it “free will” (or did we come up with that part?) then time and time again condemns us for not doing what he wants ( Before you try to refute that statement please educate yourself here). You can’t have it both ways. There is NO love in that; only cruelty. Why would we worship such a god? Why should we have to make excuses in his name? Why explain away his contradictions?

I refuse. There cannot be a god if that’s what God is. Yet, I believe there is something. A cosmic understanding. A supreme reality. Balance. Love without conditions.  Something that I am not comfortable giving such a constricting name of “God” because my understanding of it changes daily.  Religious people love their certainty; but the world become clearer when you remove the fog of certainty. After all, the only constant is change & the only certainty is uncertainty.   Why wouldn’t our “God” be big enough to handle those realities? Why can’t we be brave enough to say we don’t know; perhaps only know what isn’t/shouldn’t/couldn’t and work our way from there?

I say all this, not as an attack on Christianity or any other belief system. No. This is a painfully honest evaluation of everything I’ve been seriously questioning for five years. There is no moment that I can pin-point that this change in my worldview took place. Rather, this has been a gradual opening of my eyes, mind and heart to all the inconsistent B.S. that we like to call faith and religion. There is no room for it in a healthy world. We’ve screwed up. All of us (religious organizations). Myself included. Goodness, I spent a good four years of my life teaching this stuff to little children. I am the first to blame; and the most able to point fingers because I am pointing to myself.

How about instead of indoctrinating others we focus on teaching others how to think. Rationally and logically- placing trust in that which is true. Have eyes-wide-open faith; if you must. An understanding of the rational free thinking mind is the greatest gift that can be given. The giver must see the benefit of uncertainty; because free thought walks on unknown territory seeking truth. An element of trust is at place. Trust that the free thinker will come to the truth.

That gift is what I had been longing for in my searching; yet denied over and over again. It came from the most unlikely and diverse of sources. The first being an atheist who found my belief system completely based on irrational argumentation (I might add that I wholeheartedly agree) yet chose to be my friend and to enter into my world even if he didn’t agree with it. The second, being an old catholic man who took the time to understand the evident pain and confusion in my life as a result of spiritual abuse. And thirdly, by theists, who are among the handful of “Christians” I’ve met that did not have a selfish bone in their body. When my family abandoned me (because of disagreeing worldviews) these “Christians” dropped everything, met me where I was and loved me unconditionally, supported me – they walked through my hell on earth. All without ANY personal gain or interest; simply doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. These three, enter into my realm of questioning wholeheartedly and fearlessly. They discuss, question (both sides) and respectfully disagree.

I’ve learned a lot about people from learning about myself. Those who stick around are those who truly love me. Because, as we discussed, love isn’t conditional upon how a person lives their life, nor upon their belief system. No- true love is based in the simple commitment to care for another person: wherever, whomever and why ever. Just because they are.

I understand that now. I also understand the consequences of voicing this reality because I’ve already experienced a taste:

  • Defamation of character
  • Hostility from my family
  • Attacks on my reputation
  • Accusations concerning my mental stability as a person (*gasp* thinking for yourself?! Must be contagious!)
  • Spiritual manipulation and abuse
  • Judgment from religious circles (shocker there)

However, there is so much more to gain. This way of thinking and forming beliefs is more solid of a foundation than any religion/faith can provide. And I’d much rather be ostracized for speaking the truth then be popular for blindly accepting lies. I’m just ashamed that it took me this long to see the light of truth and grateful that it wasn’t any longer than this.

Slightly Over Dramatic Girly Optimist

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“Oh there you are. I’ve been looking for you.”

Oh goodness. I never thought I would come to this. Every time I look at my bookcase my brain process goes a little something like this….

“Oh hey! There’s a book I don’t need. Oooo and that one too. Hmmm why the hell did I even buy this? Time for all this crap to go.”

This is characteristically Un-Rachel-Like. Seriously, ask my room mate. Or anyone that really knows me. Jenna is all for it though because it means less crap setting around the living room; she will actually volunteer to help me sort through my unjustifiable amount of books and slowly help me to remove the emotional ties they have over me. It’s silly really, how emotionally attached we get to physical things. A good friend of mine brought up the concept of already assuming the items in our life as being broken or taken from us. That way, when they are we can appreciate the time we were given to use them instead of being upset over the “loss”. I think he has a point. That’s going to become my next focus- considering everything I have as being on loan.

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In other news….I’ve gone back and forth with myself on what I wanted to blog about today. A couple of topics that didn’t make the cut today include:

Why Christians are so preoccupied with Sex

Why belief systems different from our own can be so threatening

What exactly is Free Thought…and is it dangerous

Do we need a God to be moral

The concepts of Heaven and Hell

I’ll let those rather obscure topics tease my reading audience. In the mean time, the idea that DID make the cut today…

Friendship 

Unlike family, we get to chose our friends. Sure people are thrown our way in life but we have an influence and choice on who we want to share our lives with. Friendship, or better yet companionship, in my opinion; is the highest form of love. Friends can step into your realm of ultimate venerability stab you in the heart with their honesty and end up making you a better person because of it. Friends can go without seeing you all week and be able to pick up right where you left off. Friends can enter into the deepest depths of your soul because they already accept you for who you are.

I’ve heard that when you find your soul-mate that’s supposed to be the highest form of love. I disagree. Soul-Mates are not limited to lovers alone.

I stumbled across this image on Pintrest and couldn’t agree more. And since the term soul-mate is almost always associated with marriage…a few thoughts on that as well.

If I ever do get married it’s going to be to someone I trust, respect and admire. Someone I can share all the little moments in life with, as well as, the big moments. Someone who is up for doing nothing and everything. Someone that shares my dreams while cultivating their own. That’s why friendship is so important. It’s easy to find a lover from friendship; it’s not so easy the other way around. That’s where I think society has really screwed up. Want to know why divorce rates are so high? It’s because we focus more on physical attraction, financial opportunity and “compatibility”. When we really should be focusing on living our lives. Figure out who you are. Walk your own path. See who ends up joining you. The ones who stay by your side are your friends, your companions, your soul mate(s). Once you find that individual that you can’t imagine spending your life without then that’s it. The one person that you can discuss anything with, disagree and still learn something. The friend that sticks with you even during your less than attractive moments in life. The person that makes getting up in the morning worth it because you know they care. That one soul that gives you great joy just because they exist.  See friendship is the highest love because it’s unconditional. Anyone who sees me exactly as I am and still chooses to stick around…well that’s the kind of people I want to spend the rest of my life surrounded by.   Romantic love alone is nothing compared to deep, unconditional, soul wrenching friendship.

Slightly Over Dramatic Girly Optimist

Who’s In Charge Here Anyway?

ImageIn the past two weeks there has been an influx of tracking on my blog. So too all of you avid readers, stalkers and/or mildly curious this post is for you. Thank you for listening…er….reading. Feel free to join the conversation.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle

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Recently, I’ve learned a lot about authority.

If you had to make a list of the authorities in life it might look something like this:

  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • The President
  • The Government
  • The Judicial System
  • Pastors
  • Public Officers
  • God
  • Landlords
  • Coaches
  • And more…

Where does authority come from? There are a lot of opinions; most of which associate the origin of authority as coming from position, God’s will, power and/or wealth. I beg to differ. I believe authority comes from the truth. Too many problems arise from authority rising through force and ignorance. I refuse to follow orders just because someone “said so.” If you refuse to explain a directive then you are not worthy of my respect. True leaders know that they must earn the respect of their position. Even greater leaders do not need a position because they lead by influence. And influence is far more powerful than force. Force creates an environment of hate, resentment and fear. Influence creates an environment of love, hope and confidence.

My desire to be such a leader regardless of any position I may hold in life. By building relationships. earning trust, respecting others, leading by example, encouraging an attitude of love and selflessness, giving freedom to make mistakes and being personally involved in the lives of others.Positions come and go. Truth lives forever in the hearts of humanity.

I’ve seen too many positional leaders abuse their authority through force, arrogance and ignorance. Virtually, every positional authority in my life has disappointed me in life. Whether it be through manipulation, disrespect of my person-hood, irrational directives or hypocrisy. I’ve experienced it all one way or another. Nothing hurts deeper than being slapped in the face by someone you trusted as an authority. And nothing brings more joy than knowing someone is choosing to walk beside you in truth and love. I’m not speaking out of rebellion. I’m not speaking out of bitterness. Though I’ve been accused of both. No, rather, I am speaking from the unrelenting truth that…

“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. “

Slightly Over Dramatic Girly Optimist

The only constant is CHANGE

ImageSomeone asked me a thought provoking question this week – “Do you believe that your worldview is the same it was a year and a half ago?”

The question was so simple yet absurd. A slight chuckle escaped my lips. “I sure hope so,” was my answer. “Otherwise I am not learning anything. I like to think that I am changing for good.” 

Worldview changes are  good normal healthy events in human life. I am certainly NOT the same person I was a year and a half ago. Honestly, I am not the same person I was yesterday. And neither are you. That’s an essential part of being human. We change. We grow. We learn. Change is terrifyingly beautiful. Sadly, too many of us get hung up on the terrifying aspect of change. It hinders our growth as an intellectually and emotionally mature person. We cannot stop physical change. Sure we can try to cover it up with makeup and Rogaine and try to slow aging down with vitamins, creams and exercise; but there is no stopping the fierce power of change. Unfortunately, many of us have discovered the key to stopping intellectual and emotional change. Purposeful ignorance. By shutting the world out we create a stale environment where ideas and emotions cannot grow. Thus becoming stagnant beings; then when someone or something comes along that stirs up the pot, it becomes furiously uncomfortable to remain the same.

“Change will come when the pain of staying the same is worse than the pain of change.”

Change is inevitable. So we might as well embrace it. And those who are offended by the change in your life do not deserve to be a part of it. If someone truly cares about you as a person then their affection will not be conditional. That’s what true love is all about. Making a choice to remain in a person’s life regardless of who they become, where they go and what they believe. Those are the people I want in my life. Those are the people I chose to surround myself with; because we can only strengthen each other with unconditional acceptance and love. But that’s another blog post waiting for another day…

Slightly Over Dramatic Girly Optimist

This thing called God?

My heart is swelling with the reality of past events. Yesterday, was a day in which I entered with conviction. Those days are essential to growth as an individual. Only when we stand in opposition do we learn lessons of integrity, self-respect and character. Sunshiney days are nice but the rain teaches us how to truly dance. No matter how I try to look at it, conflict is necessary for peace. Life is all a game of balance. We cannot tilt the scales without consequences. That is why doing what is right is of supreme importance. Truth is what binds the universe together. That which is proven fact. That which is morally objective. I do not claim to understand how truth functions nor it’s properties wholly. Truth is the ultimate reality; with subjective qualities complementing the objective.

Christians are uncomfortable with this reality but it cannot be ignored. Opinions, beliefs, culture, world view, and customs abound on the paths we take through life. No two people walk identical paths. We walk together with various souls during our life time; never knowing with certainty how long we have together. That is the beauty of living. Diversity within unity. Chaos within order. Complexity among simplicity. This is how the nature of that which is real functions. The Christian god-head/ trinity is simply an expression struggling to explain the nature of the supreme reality. That’s what God is after all – supreme reality. (Don’t believe me? Check the dictionary. ) And if the supreme reality truly is supreme and real then why does Christianity limit the boundaries and expectations of such a God? To me, that is pure foolishness. Whatever, whoever, and however the concept of God is should not be limited to one viewpoint. Our understanding of God is so limited that I believe we have no right to impose one understanding over another.

I relate to God on a more personable and emotional level. Is that because God is a being that only desires a personal relationship with humanity? I think not. God is so much more than that. And while I perceive God as a personable entity that is not to say we cannot relate to God on a logical impersonal level as well. Science is not incompatible with belief in God. On the other hand, neither is atheism (for those of you who just gasped and damned my soul to hell for that statement make sure you have the right definition. Atheism is the disbelief in the existence of deity. And for those of you who don’t know what deity is, let me help you out – “One personal being exalted or revered as supremely good or powerful).

The modern day Christian faith demands conditionalism in reference to doctrinal beliefs while claiming to offer unconditional love from a God person. This is inconsistent; and I know that I’m going to be condemned by “the church” for pointing this out. Frankly, I don’t care. Christianity demands an attitude of religious imperialism dependent on blind faith. Mind you that this is not the biblical definition of faith encourage by Jesus Christ. An excerpt from another blog helps explain this best.

“The most comprehensive treatment on the subject of faith found in Scripture is found in Hebrews 11.  Often regarded as the “faith hall of fame”, this chapter sets forth a concise definition of faith in its first verse:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

A closer look at the attributes given to faith found in this verse will greatly increase our understanding of what faith really is.  The word “substance” is translated from the Greek word hupostatis.  This word, which is translated as “confidence” in 3:14, means “the strongest possible form of confidence that something is true“.  The word “evidence”, found within this verse and translated from elegchos, literally means “a strong conviction“.  The verse, literally translated, would read, “Now faith is the confidence of things hoped for and the conviction (or assurance) of things not seen.”

By looking carefully at this and other portions of Scripture, we can ascertain that the Biblical concept of faith is not an irrational leap into the dark, but a reasonable step into the light.  Although our faith rests in things which cannot be seen, it does so after being previously convinced that those things, though unseen, are real nonetheless.”

Where did Christianity go wrong? When did faith lose it’s sight? Jesus’ core message of selfless love towards others is still true today. Christianity has distorted it into a sick intolerance of other belief systems regardless of their core message. I didn’t see the inconsistency  until I started to ask awkward questions. Like: What about people who have never heard the name of Jesus yet worship God? Is there logical argumentation for the existence of God apart from the Bible? How do we know the Bible to be true? After all , if I am basing my entire belief system upon a book it should be factual. And so on…

As long as, I believe what I’m told to believe without using (Dare I say it?!) free thinking, logic, science and reason than I am a “good” Christian. After all, everyone knows that a good christian has faith and will blindly accept anything the Bible. church and/or tradition claims as truth.

Any individual with an inkling of common sense will see the dilemma with this theory. Why do you think children are so inquisitive? The best question we can ask is – Why? Why do we believe anything? the answer should be because it is true. The truth is the only thing worth believing. And any religion that uses blind faith as a means of seeking truth is irrational. Jesus himself spoke out against this by encouraging people to seek the truth. Ask. Knock. Seek. It is this attitude and lifestyle that we are meant to embrace with all our soul, mind and body. I cannot keep quiet about this. Modern day Christianity is screwed up. I dare those who claim to be Christians to study what Jesus actually said and see if it lines up with doctrinal teaching being taught today (or even the writings of Paul).

I do not claim to have all the answers; but at least I am trying to find them. The more earnestly I seek the more answers I find. The more doors I knock on the more doors are opened. The more I ask the more I receive a deeper understanding of how great God really is and the church is not. God should be big enough to question. I will not worship a God that cannot handle my curiosity.  What would be the point? There wouldn’t. I wouldn’t speak out against the hypocrisy had I not experienced the bigotry of “believers” first hand. People who claim the name of Christ, people I trusted, people I respected. Now I understand why so many folks are turned away from the name of Christ, religion and the Bible. We F***** up the truth. And are too blinded by “faith” to see it.

Slightly Over Dramatic Girly Optimist

{Truth}

When people ask me why I believe in an afterlife I really have no concrete answer. I could say it’s because the Bible references it but the vagueness of scripture on the matter tends to bring about more questions than answers. Logically, there is only one explanation (outside of religious tradition and teaching) for my belief in the continuation of life after physical death – the fact that mankind loves. Not only that, but feels so vibrantly that it is seemingly foolish to neglect the possibility of the immortal soul. I feel, therefore, I am confident that an unseen part of me exists. I’ve heard several theories on emotions and there possible connection to the concept of the soul, many concluding that emotions are merely biological reactions to the environment around us; or emotions are simply electrons floating about in the brain. Or that existence is merely a conscious awareness of self; therefore, we cease to be after our physical death.  I disagree. There is something more. I do not claim to know what or how to define it. Just that it simply is. Whatever the essence of life is – it simply IS.

I could be wrong. I could always be wrong. This is not a theory that can be proven…but I am okay with that. Life is full of uncertainty. In fact,   “The only certainty is that nothing is certain.”  We live in universe that is wholly diverse yet complexly connected. The mystery will never be fully solved-  Only bits and pieces. That is the grand adventure of living. Constantly learning. Continually discovering.  Try and fight it. You will lose. Only once we accept the truth that our understanding is limited can we embrace the beauty of living. There is truth out there. And it is worth seeking out. After all, “The only reason to believe something is because that something is true.”

The truth is out there.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”

What Really Matters…

Three months ago I moved to an apartment in Columbia City. I soon realized, much to my embarrassment, that I had an unjustifiable amount of things. Things that I didn’t need. Things that needed taken care of. Things that were owning me instead of me owning them. So the process began. Friends helped me sort through piles and boxes. Slowly my emotional attachment lessened. The more “stuff” I rid myself of responsibility to the more freedom I gained. As I donated, sold or recycled it became clear that my true wealth was in my friendships. My support team was there for me physically, mentally and emotionally. They still are. And I am beyond grateful. In the past three months I have rid myself of 75% of my material possessions. I did not have the strength to do this alone. This is my public “thank you”.

Amy, Matthew and Ethan thank you for putting your personal lives on hold to support my choice to rid myself of the toxic lifestyle I had been living. Your patience during my less than shining moments speaks volumes to your character. I know you won’t take the credit which shows your Christ- Like humility. Your continued accountability in my life is a blessing and constant reminder that selflessness towards others is the highest good in life. Only that which is done in love will last. Thanks to you I understand that now.

Jenna, your patience amazes me. I am RIDICULOUS and you accept that without hesitation. Thank you for entering into this process with me by volunteering to sort through my obnoxious collection of books 😉 Your lifestyle alone is a constant motivator to rid myself of ties to my possessions. Thank you for your patience, understanding and sensitivity to my irrational emotional ties to the things I own. Because of your patience I have kept up a steady pace instead of becoming overwhelmed and giving up. Slow and steady really does win the race.

To those who gave of their time and self:Olivia, Sue, Dennis, Tala, Ira, Nancy, Aunt Rachel, Aunt Kris and countless others. Thank you for helping me haul boxes, sort boxes, move furniture, host a garage sale, countless trips to the Good Will donation box or simply just listening. To you it may have seemed insignificant but your support was always there when I needed it the most (still is!)

While moving was life changing by instigating the detoxification of ridding myself of  unnecessary material possessions; I soon realized that my mind was in need of a life change. Sure, I could get rid of a bunch of stuff but unless I change my perspective on life then I will revert back to my “old ways”. I not only need a life change I needed a mind change. Being surrounded by a support system of non-judgmental friends has been mind blowing. Several people come to mind but only a handful have entered into this journey with me at the deepest level possible by supporting my somewhat “radical” life change (okay, radical for me). I am grateful for the four people in my life that have accepted me where I am at while encouraging me to become better than I was yesterday. Amy, Jenna, Terry and Ben your support, honesty, patience and encouragement mean the world to me. Thank you for living out an example of patient selfless living towards others. You are my inspiration.   Thank you for challenging my mind in a way that challenges my lifestyle.  Words are not enough. I owe a debt I could never repay in this lifetime.

Rachel

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