I’ve attempted (successfully) to avoid writing about subjects like this (in this blog) over the last several years. I’ve wanted to keep things more light-hearted and not dive into the heavier more debated subjects I used to drown this site in. Keeping mostly to my various feelings on physical media formats and technology. Maybe I should have stayed with those subjects. I even wrote an entry five years ago, about a half of a month shy of exactly five years ago in fact (October 17th, 2016). An entry where I discussed my thoughts on big issues, or rather, my thoughts on thinking about big issues too much. I was beginning to feel it was a waste of my time. That my time was better spent focused on things that directly affect my own life and things I can control. Things I can work on. But as of my last entry about death and the afterlife, I seem to have broke the trend of writing about these deeper subjects. The truth is though, I never stopped thinking about them. Or even in some cases writing or vlogging about them. In fact I’ve been doing a lot of vlogging (both pubic and mostly private) over the last year. A certain percentage of it has been about these big ticket subjects. So it seems I can’t escape that type of thinking. And the last two years especially has been difficult on me. To the point where I have questioned these things, multiple times.
I’d rather not get too personal here, despite this being my personal blog, where I have gotten plenty personal in the past. But one of the things that has changed about me over the last five or so years, is my distrust of the internet. And it’s not without merit. Social media has turned into nothing but a big info grab. Not that it hadn’t already been an info grab. But it feels like it has gotten worse. It seems lately my facebook feed, for example, has turned into nothing but veiled phishing questions. Which all of my friends seem happy to answer. Things like showing an image with a grid of celebrities that have a month under their photo and the question “the month you were born is the person you’ll marry” and “characters from the last TV show watched are the people who will save you from…” some disaster. It’s made me much more aware of the fact that everything put online is harvestable. That there are large servers somewhere, possibly all over the place, chunking away, processing this data for various reasons. Most of which I probably am not all that cool with. So I’ve tried to be more reserved with what I have to say. Less of the open-book than I used to be. Though I’m afraid that my previous state of open-book policy may have already given most away. In which case I’m being cautious for nothing other than my own illusions. But oh well. I don’t know that for sure.
That said, let’s get a bit personal without getting too personal.
As I mentioned the last couple years have been a trying ordeal for me. Really you could say that’s true of my whole adult life, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that claim. But the last three years in particular and the last two especially have been difficult. As of last year, I began to reevaluate my position on religion.
It all started with Judaism. I began watching videos and reading texts that looked at the bible from a Jewish perspective.
As someone who was raised casually Catholic, it was interesting to see more of a Jewish perspective. Not for the first time, but certainly more in-depth than I had before.
Somehow or another I stumbled into something I never had before, evangelical Christianity. Which is a strange thing to say, being an American and having had plenty of discussions with Christians online over the years. So maybe I’m being a bit vague, what I really mean to say is, I stumbled onto certain evangelical beliefs I had not really examined before. Combined that with a reading of Bart Ehrman’s Heaven and Hell and I was into an interesting mix of things. But it all got me thinking about Christianity again, and the rough state that I was in, got me praying. I think for the first time in my life I actually pushed to make Christ part of Christianity. Growing up I had believed in God but always seemed to have issues with this Jesus figure who I was fascinated by, but I had a hard time worshipping. I would always look around at other Christians and wonder if they worshipped Christ because they just had a hard time with a disembodied godhead. Maybe they needed something they could paint pictures of or carve into stone. It always felt a bit idolic to me. Like Jesus existed to appease the masses of non-Jews who needed something more human to believe in. Maybe that was the case. I don’t know. But it seems to me that Christianity does have a pagan streak in there, in regards to influence; so I wouldn’t be surprised.
Even so, I persisted and attempted to make Christ part of Christianity for me. And in doing so also attempted to make myself Christian. But at some point I realized it was only making things worse for me. It wasn’t helping my state of being at the time. It was just causing me more stress. Which didn’t seem right. So instead I took a step back. A breather if you will. I then looked around and I asked myself one simple question. The question was “have you ever had any supernatural experiences?” What I meant when I asked myself that question was, have I ever felt the presence of God, been spoken to by God or Jesus or angels or demons or ghosts or anything really? I was even willing to throw bigfoot and aliens into the mix just to give it all a more material fighting chance. But the answer to all the above was no. I had not. In all of my decades of existence there has never been anything that I have personally experienced that would lead me to believe that anything supernatural exists at all. Just stories I’ve heard, read, and watched, with a great deal of fascination a lot of times, and yet nothing personally I can attest to.
I started thinking about what made me go back to a more generalized belief in God after my first round with atheism in my late twenties. It was really hope more than anything. I had been feeling vapid with a lack of belief. I wanted to believe in something higher. And to be fair to myself, I hadn’t exactly abandoned that entire train of thought during my first round of atheism. I still had a sense that there was order in the world. I hadn’t thought too deeply about fate or meaning or purpose.
My first round was more of a shedding of religion itself. At a certain point I began to feel like maybe I had thrown the baby out with the bathwater. That maybe I needed to reexamine my belief in God, but without religion. Convinced that maybe the coincidences that happened in my life that didn’t seem purely coincidental, were the result of some intelligent structure. After all, we’re here and we’re intelligent, maybe the universe is as well or maybe there is something far greater than us we just can’t understand. That maybe there was a God but there were no further details, so everyone had been filling in those details with their own beliefs (and agendas) over the millennia.
So I spent the next decade believing in a sort of formless God. At first it started a bit more deistic. The kind of God that formed the universe and then stepped back and maybe didn’t even interact or only every so often. Over time I realized I took a more generically theistic approach to this God. That maybe it was there and was loving and listened to my plight. Or maybe that’s just what I needed it to be at the time. Either way, it all reached a summit last year where I attempted to be a Christian again.
After answering this simple question I had asked myself, I quickly realized I was an atheist again. Full on. Even more so than I had been in my late twenties. Because this time I realized that without any higher order, there wasn’t any real purpose or meaning to anything other than the purpose and meaning we give things. I had been holding on to a shred of hope that my struggles had some greater purpose or meaning. Like a lesson I was being taught or a fee I was paying for a better tomorrow. Or something like that. But for any of that to be the case there needs to be a greater structure in place with an intelligence behind it and a desire to make that happen. Yet I wasn’t seeing any evidence of any of that. I had never seen any evidence of any of that. Instead I was simply told stories my entire life about God and Jesus and all these people that lived a long time ago with all these miraculous things that happened to them and conversations they had with God. I was indoctrinated into the religion of hope, where the belief was that things would work out and get better and there was a reason for all of it, and God never gave you anything you couldn’t handle. That last one in particular is a humdinger, because of course, if you live they’ll claim God gave you something you can handle. Nobody ever talks about the fact that people die, and guess what, whatever killed them is something they couldn’t handle. So it’s really just a way of trying to make you feel better in the moment. All of those sayings and beliefs are. The reality is, it’s not always going to work out. It’s not always going to get better. There is no set plan. There is no reward for our suffering.
Do I have any proof to back up those last statements? Nope. And boy would I love to be wrong about them. But I haven’t seen any evidence to show that we’re being cared for and that our best interest is in the mind and actions of some loving deity. I need not look further than my personal life and the things I’ve suffered with for the last twenty years. And while I realize I’m not the worst case scenario among humans, let alone any living things, it’s still real to me. I look at the lives of people around me, I know they also have issues and those issues are a struggle for them. But I see the things they can do that I can’t, and I realize that in many ways they are in a better position than I am. They can drive across town and have a meal in a restaurant. I cannot. There was a time in my life I could, but not now. Not for the last couple of years. As just one small not-all-that-important example. And yet still, kind of important to me since I can’t do it. So for others it may seem silly and not all that important, but it matters to me. And for a loving God, something as simple as that seems like it would be easy to solve, or at the very least would have some kind of purpose that would later become known and hopefully be resolved.
Now of course there are always the religious types who like to walk in with their smug resilience about God and all his mysterious ways. The greatest of which is his own existence. One would think that an all-knowing, all-power deity would be able to step into each person’s individual life and plainly, without doubt of it being God, present himself (itself, whatever) to each of us and say something like “Hey I’m God and I want to have a personal relationship with you. Are you willing?” To which the answer would be yes on my part. Though it would come with a boat-load of questions.
And yet that hasn’t happened. In fact the only thing remotely close was a dream I had after sex with my girlfriend when I was nineteen. I saw a sphere, and realized it was God. As my vision pulled out it was surrounded by a multitude of other spheres just like it. The message imparted was that God was just like everyone else. But it was just a dream and I was kind of into the movie Sphere starring Dustin Hoffman which had just come out at the time. Nothing about it rang of Christianity. In fact it was the exact opposite. It was telling me that God was not a deity on a throne but instead just like everyone else.
Now I’m sure that there might be some of you of a more religious bent who will cling to that vision and say “See! see! That was God trying to communicate with you and you’re just being obstinate.” But if that is God’s method of communication, a vague vision in a dream with a humble but strange message, it’s a poor method of communication. Especially for the often spoke of all-knowing, all-powerful creator of our reality. And it was tried only once, twenty-plus years ago, without anything since. I think if God knows me as much as people like to claim, he also knows the kind of communication that would be needed to convince me. So either he’s there and doesn’t care, doesn’t like me, or isn’t there. And if he’s testing me, well maybe I failed. Kind of hard to pass a test you don’t even know you’re taking.
That’s really the point. In the end I have no evidence in my personal life to claim there is a God or gods or anything supernatural. Let alone a specific deity from a specific faith like Christianity. A faith I struggled with for years as is, because of the strange beliefs. It’s just not in me to believe in a God that requires sacrificing himself to himself to save humanity (but only those that believe) from his own wraith, because of our sins, which he was well aware we would have because he created us to essentially have them. It’s really (if I’m being honest) a bat-shit crazy series of beliefs. It makes zero sense to me. And then when Christians throw in the whole “he’s an all-loving God” or “God is love” part. Well… now it makes even less sense to me. It sounds to me more like a hacked up Judaism with some paganism thrown in, with a series of excuses as bandaids to cover up all the glaring errors. It’s not a coherent narrative to me. Becoming even less coherent when you throw in the concept of the trinity. Which seemed hard to understand as a Christian and something I just needed to take on faith. Yet it’s actually fairly easy to understand if you consider early Christians shoehorning Jesus into the role of God without getting rid of God. Even though it messes with the idea of monotheism and doesn’t make any sense when Jesus is supposed to be both fully God and fully human. Bit of a contradiction there. So when I look at Christianity from a more historical perspective, I see a lot of human interaction and meddling in the religion. Forming it as it goes. And not without a series of errors in the process which has been patched up with more excuses as time goes on.
And so the irony is that it really does require faith to believe that religion, because a logical narrative left a long time ago. So despite my own attempts to have faith and believe it too, I’m left scratching my head and wondering why any of us bother. The more I see debates about the specifics online, the more they begin to look like a bunch of nerds debating the specifics of Star Trek or Lord of the Rings or something. It all begins to feel like yet another fantasy story. Which is likely all it actually is. Again, I’ve seen no evidence in my personal life to say otherwise. And that’s all I can really go on. I’ve decided to stop having faith in fantastical stories other people tell me, especially when they don’t meld with my own sense of reality, my daily life, or make any logical sense to me.
It’s like walking out of a movie theater into the summer sun and all that fun you just had in whatever world you were just exploring is still on your mind, but has nothing to do with the reality you live. Now it’s back to reality. That is how all religion feels to me now. It’s a lot of fun, and I can understand why people want to play in those worlds. The same as people want to play in any fantasy universe, but that’s all it seems to be.
At best I can point to some logical underpinnings as to why things in our reality work the way they do. And that’s using science. And it doesn’t point to anything being in our favor. Just that we persist as a species against the odds until one day we won’t. That seems to ring true on a personal level as well. And while it doesn’t explain why I struggle (at least that I can figure out) it doesn’t make excuses for it or lead me to expectations of hope for a better tomorrow. It is how it is and that’s all there is. And as cold as that is. As much as I personally dislike it and long for greater meaning. It’s the only thing that really makes sense to me.