What Makes People Think There is a God?

What makes people think there is a God? My nonreligious father asked me that question a while back, and it has stuck with me. As a former fundamentalist Christian, I have a very religious past, and most of my relatives (whom I now generally have little contact with) are very religious. What made me believe? Well… it was a combination of things and a single reason would be hard to pin down. My mother is not religious but she believes in God. I had some interesting conversations about God and the Bible with religious neighbors when I was a teenager. I guess until my deconversion from Christianity in early 2000 I never really doubted the existence of God. And when I converted to Christianity in 1985 it was in large part because after reading Hebrews 4:12 out in my friend Mike’s car, I felt something come alive inside of me. Mike had been “witnessing” to me, telling me about Jesus, and I my attitude had shifted from “Get away from me with that Jesus shit” to thinking maybe there was something to this Jesus thing. That feeling I got in the car after reading that verse was important in my conversion, but so was seeing the “Jesus Film” shortly thereafter at a local Baptist church. I knew after I saw that film that I wanted what this Jesus had to offer, and even now as I write this the memory of that exciting time in my life softens my heart a bit yet again.

But what made me believe in God? And what made me believe specifically in the Christian God? I think because of my upbringing the default position for me was belief. I was raised United Methodist until I was ten years old. I asked then to stop going to church because I didn’t believe what they were teaching, but yet I returned in my early teens to go through the Confirmation process.

Most people in this nation believe in God. For them, the default position is belief because of their upbringing, whether they were raised in a religious home or not. The reason most people believe in the Christian God in the US is simply a matter of geography. Christianity is the dominant religion in this country and so most people believe in its god. There is, however, no evidence at all that the tribal war god of the ancient Jews actually exists, nor is there much evidence that Jesus ever actually lived if you really look into it. I am not one who claims that Jesus never lives as those folks are generally on the lunatic fringe of atheism, but their writings do provide a lot of food for thought.

They way from religious belief to atheism is one full of questions. Bit by bit you chip away at the religious teachings you once held as sacred and as each card in the proverbial house of cards falls down, the entire belief system eventually falls away. For me and for many of us who identify as ex-Christians, that is an intensely emotional time, and working through the emotional trauma of religious brainwashing and indoctrination that we realize we have been subjected to can take many years to resolve.

One big clue for me that God does not exist is the fact that he never thinks, says, or does anything at all except in the minds of believers. NEVER! And he never answers prayers or heals amputees. As comfortable as it is to believe in God, the fact is that he is imaginary!

One of my greatest fears in letting go of God was that life would lose its meaning and purpose. And for a while that was true. I had a hard time coming to grips with the reality of there being no god and no afterlife. Now I see it as tremendously freeing! We are here as a result of billions of years of biological evolution, not as the result of a magical act of a god that occurred just thousands of years ago. When we realize that this life is IT, then life becomes incredibly precious. Every moment must be lived. Savored. Enjoyed to the utmost! Every moment brings us closer to the end of our existence, but that is not reason to despair. It is reason to grab life by the horns and live it to the fullest! Let go of fear and LIVE! You will never get another chance to do it! Life is fabulous. Wonderful. Enthralling. Exciting. Magnificent. AWESOME!

Why do people believe in God? I recently watched a fascinating video on that subject. It is rare that I devote an hour of my time to watching a video on YouTube, but in this instance I am very glad that I did. Andy Thompson of American Atheists does an excellent job of laying out the scientific basis for why we believe in gods.

It is actually not too big of a step to go from believing in the natural to believing in the supernatural because of how our brains work and systems already at work in our minds.

I posted this on Facebook for my friend and high school band director and I think it sums up my thoughts on God well:

My journey from devout religious belief to atheism has been a long and interesting one. I spent 15 years as a very devout fundamentalist Christian. I was the type who annoyed everybody. I wrote evangelistic letters to my family. I tried to convert my friends and co-workers. I handed out those ridiculous Chick tracts to convenience store clerks and toll booth operators. I was at church every time the doors opened, including early morning prayer meetings. I forced my beliefs on everybody all the time and though I meant well, I made a huge nuisance of myself. Despite all of that religious activity and belief, I still had questions that that seemed to have no good answers from my pastors or from the Christian apologists I read. Those questions finally built up to the point where I could no longer ignore them or write them off as coming from the devil.

In early 2000, I got on the Net as it existed back then and started researching my faith on both sides of the fence. I was absolutely stunned to find that the religious skeptics had far better answers than I had encountered from Christian apologists and I was also very surprised to see how easily they ripped my once cherished beliefs to shreds, not through ridicule but with facts. I started reading the skeptical side at www.infidels.org and went from there.

After I got over the shock of having my Christian worldview ripped out from under me, I became very very ANGRY! The fact that I was also very mentally ill at the time with not well controlled bipolar disorder didn’t help matters any. I felt foolish, used, and betrayed when I realized I had been intentionally lied to for 15 years and I had bought into it hook, line, and sinker.

What followed next was a swing to the other side of the religious spectrum and several years of outspoken atheism. I maintained a strongly anti-Christian website that had a few different incarnations and I regularly ridiculed the beliefs that I had once held sacred. It was not a happy time in my life, but it was a necessary part for me of processing an excruciatingly painful experience.

I have experimented with several different belief systems over the years since I left the Christian faith. Atheism still makes the most rational sense to me, but right now I would say I am agnostic. I DON’T KNOW if a god of any kind exists, but I strongly doubt it. There’s just no good evidence that he/she/it does. And the fact that God never thinks, says, or does anything at all except in the minds of believers speaks volumes to me.

I have found spiritual beliefs that have some meaning to me. I happen to really appreciate the wisdom that comes out of Hinduism and Buddhism. I can find good in all religions, but I don’t for a moment believe that any of them have a divine origin.

I am not at a place right now where I feel comfortable embracing belief. I sacrificed my brain at the altar of religion once when I was young and got hurt badly, and I will not ever make that mistake again.

Thoughts I Need to Express

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about positive changes I need to make to my life, which of course includes my thought patterns and the way I choose to respond to life events.

I have been harboring a tremendous amount of (completely justified) anger, bitterness, and hatred toward Christianity for about ten years now, ever since I came to the realization that I had been intentionally lied to, brainwashed, indoctrinated and deceived for 15 years of my life by an evil cult that doesn’t deserve even the slightest bit of respect. There is a part of me that would love to wipe the evil, destructive scourge of Christianity off the face of the earth and erase 2000-years worth of bloodshed, religion-sanctioned ignorance, and severely stunted social and scientific progress, if I had the power to do so.

The fundamentalist Christian cult destroyed my life. They claimed to have “God’s Truth” for everybody for all time handed down from God in a divinely inspired, infallible and inerrant book. Instead, what they offered me was a severely flawed myth-error-atrocity -absurdity-bad “history”-ridden “holy” book, a pack of ancient myths and lies, false and severely psychologically damaging doctrines, and many false promises. They seem to have originated the “bait and switch” tactic that shady salespeople are known to use frequently. They got it straight from the Church!

Christians talk a lot about love but rarely show it. I heard about love in church – about how much God allegedly loved me and what Jesus had supposedly done for me. This “love” comes packaged with an immense amount of psychologically damaging guilt, shame and fear designed to lock the unfortunate victim of this mental and emotional abuse into the cult belief system for life.

How do Christian cultists define “love”? “God sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself.” The absurdity of that doctrine aside for the moment, how exactly does that equal “love”?

Christianity can be humorously (but accurately) defined as shown in this graphic:

Much of the world has been enslaved to this absurd belief system for 2000 years. Much of the rest of the world has been and still is enslaved to the equally (at least) absurd, evil, and damaging religious nonsense known as Islam.

I spent 15 years of my life believing that I was a sinful, depraved, essentially evil (without Jesus) worthless being who had no chance of being “good enough” for God (without Jesus). I spent those years fearing hell and fearing angering God and a tremendous amount of time feeling religious guilt and shame that I now realize was needless and without any basis in reality. I also spent those years fearing that my “unsaved” family and friends would be going to hell to burn and be tortured forever.

To say that Christianity is a very dangerous and damaging belief system would be stating the case very mildly! It is a clear and present danger to anyone who has the misfortune of getting sucked into it. Instead of enjoying its completely undeserved status as a socially acceptable belief system and instead of being allowed to trot out its pack of dangerous and damaging myths and lies and false promises on a weekly (at a minimum) basis, the fundamentalist Christian church should be revealed publicly as the dangerous cult that it is and condemned by the mental health community as strongly as is possible. There should be strong warnings against the doctrines and teachings of this evil cult not only on the Internet, but in every conceivable media outlet. The proper authorities would do no less in the case of a tainted food, water or disease outbreak and psychologically damaging, dangerous belief systems should get no less. In no way should they be given any special protection nor should they be allowed to freely prey on the unsuspecting public.

I live every day with the damage done to me by the fundamentalist Christian cult even though I walked away from it eleven years ago. The damage done was severe and it has been lasting.

Knowing intellectually that Christianity has no basis in reality and that the same goes for the fear, guilt, and shame that I was subjected to for so many years is of course a good and valuable thing, but it doesn’t address the psychological damage done or the strong negative emotional baggage I have been left with which I have been unable to resolve.

I know intellectually that I am and always have been a good, caring, loving, giving, and compassionate person. But the emotional baggage and toxic teachings I still carry from my days in the Christian cult tells me that I am a sinful, bad, essentially depraved and evil person who was born deserving to burn in hell forever – that my righteous and good acts are as filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6).

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

With this kind of belief drilled into me for years, how can I be expected to honestly feel good about myself? How can I possibly really love myself and see myself as worthy of love with this kind of toxic garbage still infecting my thought processes and my sense of self-worth? How can I possibly have a healthy sense of self-esteem having believed this of myself for so long? I am fully aware now intellectually that “sin” is a religious concept with no basis in reality but after so many years of fearing and hating my supposed sinfulness and asking God often to forgive sins both of commission and omission and so often feeling judged and condemned and not forgiven and disregarded or forgotten by God, how do I overcome those toxic beliefs and find healing? How do I go from the “sin consciousness” that was drilled into me by the Christian cult to accepting and loving myself as I am – a flawed and imperfect but basically good and loving human being? Hmmm… I am indeed imperfect as everybody is, but am I really “flawed”? Such is the pervasiveness of toxic teachings, even after years away from the church.

I was taught that “God is Love” in church, but the reality is that most of the Bible portrays God as anything but “loving”. I hear Christians claim all the time that “God is good” and I wonder, “Have they ever actually read the book they claim to revere as God’s Word?” The obvious answer is “NO”. In the Old Testament, God is portrayed as repeatedly either ordering or directly committing mass murder. Genocide was perfectly acceptable if God ordered it or committed it himself. It was perfectly acceptable to beat the hell out of your slaves as long as you didn’t kill them. It was perfectly acceptable to murder homosexuals. God killed a man because he dared to pick up some sticks, which absurdly counted as “work” on the Sabbath. God sent bears to slaughter children who made fun of one of his prophets. According to Psalm 137:9, happiness is bashing the heads of infants against rocks. The New Testament doesn’t get much better. The morally reprehensible doctrine of an eternal hell is introduced as is the notion that it is perfectly acceptable to kill people if they lie to you (see Acts 5). The book of Revelation is a religious lunatic’s fantasy, but it portrays the slaughter of billions (if the events depicted were to occur in modern times) by an allegedly “loving” God and then of course after being murdered in horrible ways they get the extremely dubious honor of getting to spend an eternity in God’s BBQ pit. Praise the Lord!

I actually saw one of my Christian friends (whom I respect as a friend very much) assert on Facebook the idea that if criminals had been given the opportunity to read the Bible when they were children then perhaps they wouldn’t be in prison now. I couldn’t believe what I was reading! Most of the Bible is most definitely NOT appropriate reading material for children! Unless you want them to grow up to be criminals, that is… after all, according to the Bible mass murder, killing infants, murdering homosexuals and stoning disobedient children to death, among other equally immoral acts, are all perfectly acceptable things to do.

I’ve also recently seen the assertion made that America is in the condition it’s in because we have “forgotten God”. And that if we followed “God’s laws” we wouldn’t have the problems we are facing now. What a load of utter nonsense. I guess if we just “remembered” God and apologized for pissing him off, everything would just magically be okay. And especially if we figured out which set of God’s contradictory “laws” we should follow! *rolls eyes*

God is Love? God is good? NOT ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE!

I happen to like and agree with much of what the Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism teach. Buddhists generally lack a belief in a god, but Hindus of course have many though they are generally believed to be the personal aspects of Brahman, the impersonal Ultimate Reality. Christians will readily condemn the Eastern religions as being “false” and “demonic” while they think nothing of the fact that they likely understand little or nothing about what they are condemning while they simultaneously fail to consider the fact that what information they do have is likely inaccurate distortions of what Hindus and Buddhists actually believe gleaned from the writings of willfully ignorant, heavily biased Christian apologists.

I learned very well how to hate, judge and condemn others courtesy of the fundamentalist Christian cult. I learned the joy of anticipating God’s judgment on groups of people I was taught to hate. I was taught to view the alleged coming judgment of people I was led to believe “hated God” as a good thing, as “righteous and just”. It sickens me now to think that I ever could have thought that way or held such beliefs. Nothing matches the power of religion to warp the moral compasses of those who believe in it almost beyond recognition. Evil becomes good and good becomes evil.

I would love to be able to wholeheartedly believe that a loving God truly exists and I would love to be busy finding joy in serving others in any way I possibly can. That’s where my heart is and that’s what I know will bring me true happiness.

But before I can truly live that life – the one I know I am meant to live — and embrace those beliefs I have to find a way to resolve these long-standing negative feelings and toxic beliefs. I will never know the happiness and the peace that I know should be available to me if I can’t find a way to get out from under all of this toxic emotional baggage I have been carrying around for years.

I have information and tools available to me – such as Eknath Easwaran’s excellent 8-Point Program – but to fully take advantage of the positive beliefs and spiritual teachings I have become aware of, I have to get out from under the toxic and negative anger, bitterness, hatred and rage that Christianity brought into my life. I have carried them with me and have been weighed down by them for far too long.

I want to see the positive changes that I want so badly to become a reality in my life and embracing positive spirituality and getting free of the baggage the fundamentalist Christian cult left me burdened with is going to be a huge part of it, but there is a lot of work to be done.

The closing verses of Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita summarize beautifully the person I would love to become. I am far from it right now, but that kind of change and that level of spiritual growth is my goal.

Arjuna:

Tell me of the man who lives in wisdom,
Ever aware of the Self, O Krishna;
How does he talk, how sit, how move about?

Sri Krishna:

He lives in wisdom
Who sees himself in all and all in him,
Whose love for the Lord of Love has consumed
Every selfish desire and sense-craving
Tormenting the heart. Not agitated
By grief nor hankering after pleasure,
He lives free from lust and fear and anger
Fettered no more by selfish attachments,
He is not elated by good fortune
Nor depressed by bad. Such is the seer.

Even as a tortoise draws in its limbs
The sage can draw in his senses at will.
An aspirant abstains from sense-pleasures,
But he still craves for them. These cravings all
Disappear when he sees the Lord of Love.
For even of one who treads the path
The stormy senses can sweep off the mind.
But he lives in wisdom who subdues them,
And keeps his mind ever absorbed in me.

When you keep thinking about sense-objects,
Attachment comes. Attachment breeds desire,
The lust of possession which, when thwarted,
Burns to anger. Anger clouds the judgment
And robs you of the power to learn from past mistakes
Lost is the discriminative faculty,
And your life is utter waste.

But when you move amidst the world of sense
From both attachment and aversion freed,
There comes the peace in which all sorrows end,
And you live in the wisdom of the Self.

The disunited mind is far from wise;
How can it meditate? How be at peace?
When you know no peace, how can you know joy?
When you let your mind follow the Siren call
Of the senses, they carry away
Your better judgment as a cyclone drives a boat
Off the charted course to its doom.

Use your mighty arms to free the senses
From attachment and aversion alike,
And live in the full wisdom of the Self.
Such a sage awakes to light in the night
Of all creatures. Wherein they are awake
Is the night of ignorance to the sage.

As the rivers flow into the ocean
But cannot make the vast ocean o’erflow,
So flow the magic streams of the sense-world
Into the sea of peace that is the sage.

He is forever free who has broken out
Of the ego-cage of I and mine
To be united with the Lord of Love.
This is the supreme state. Attain thou this
And pass from death to immortality.

Eknath Easwaran’s 8-Point Program:

  1. Meditation on a Passage
  2. Repetition of a Mantram
  3. Slowing down
  4. One-Pointed Attention
  5. Training the Senses
  6. Putting others first
  7. Spiritual fellowship
  8. Spiritual reading

The person I hope to become, though it may take a lifetime of work, is far better than the person I was as a Christian. I would much rather learn how to love myself and every other living thing fully and without reservation than to stay angry at the Christian cult and never come close to reaching my full potential as a human being. That is my goal.

Feeling Frazzled

I am really feeling frazzled today. Not able to concentrate and I’m having a really hard time making decisions. It’s very frustrating because there is so much I want to get done!

Back on Zyprexa

I have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed in 1998 and have been tried on various cocktails of drugs over the years. None has worked well, and most of the time I am not on any medication. But I have discovered that Zyprexa by itself really calms the bipolar stuff down and allows me to sleep! So I have been sleeping a whole lot lately, not from depression, but because I can and it feels so good!! The Zyprexa gives me a feeling of TOTAL PEACE when it hits and it calms the anxiety down so I can sleep restfully. I don’t like the weight gain that this medication is notorious for causing, but I love the rest of what it does for me!