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As defined by my occupation, I am a computer technician. I also love life and have a restless curiosity about new things. I am constantly amazed by the insight and creativity of others.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Paradise Postponed: Losing faith but gaining freedom

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. I John 2, 15-17

The World... I remember when it was evil. Not the planet, or the people that live on it, but the age itself. At one time, I saw everything around me as the culmination of six thousand years of Satanic misrule that would soon be replaced by the glorious "Kingdom of God", where the righteous would rule with the returned Messiah and the poor, stumbling, and misguided inhabitants of this dying world would be liberated and guided into a new and enlightened way. 

From my mid twenties, until I was forty years old, I labored in a cult that held tightly to this conviction and believed that it would come to pass within our lifetimes. Practically everything I did was predicated on this belief and it would effect every aspect of my life.

Even after the church's original founder died, and a new administration took over, I was inclined to continue to follow its precepts. After all, by now, my entire reality and social fabric had been woven from its cloth. This is not to say I didn't have my doubts. I have always been a skeptic at heart but tried my best to fight against doubt, calling it a tool of the devil, because I wanted to believe, with all my heart, that it was true. I loved the security of "knowing" the "true" meaning of life, and threw myself with enthusiasm into spreading the "Good News" of the "Wonderful World Tomorrow"

My life centered around weekly Sabbath services, and bible studies, as well as many hours of personal prayer, study, and meditation. I chose to forgo such things as education, career, plans for retirement, and tried to put as much distance between myself and "worldly" relationships as I could. Instead, I formed relationships that were almost exclusively within the church. They became my true spiritual family, and the very thought of a partnership, or even a casual date, with a non-member was completely unthinkable. I chose instead, to use the first fruits of my labors to advance the cause of righteousness while eschewing most of those things that I considered to be worldly, and therefore sinful. I had willingly confined myself to a cloistered existence where every thought and action was to be filtered through this church and it's interpretation of scripture. Closing myself off from the rest of society, I became a slave of Christ, and I would spend many a year, flailing away with countless amounts of both time and treasure in order to prove myself worthy. However, it was not to last.

The beginning of the end started over a seemingly minor point: The age of the earth. The church taught that the book of Genesis was literally true. (Although they modified that slightly, later on) From their point of view, God had used 7 literal days in which to create the universe and as much as I tried to tell myself it was so, my rational, and skeptical mind eventually HAD to prove it one way or the other. For the first time, I began to look into science and it's relationship to faith in order to try to figure out what was true. The more I studied, the more convinced I became that we'd had it wrong but any attempt to get answers to my questions within the group were rebuffed. Now, with my curiosity piqued, I began to delve into the other tenants that I had held so dear to put them to a similar test. In addition, the church itself had begun to evolve in its beliefs which only further convinced me that I had been wrong all this time. Eventually, I was suspended from the church as a non believer and was finally forced to leave the group all together.

I began to study earnestly and in time, the light of rational thought began to seep in to my mind and I began to think outside of that tiny theocratic box I had been confined to for so long. Dogma was replaced by reason, and the arrogance of absolute certainty by the humility of genuine doubt and questioning. Yet in spite of throwing off the shackles of doctrine, and the precepts of a dead faith, I continued to struggle for more than another decade with these things, while in a marriage to another former cult member that would eventually fail as well.

It's only been in the past three years or so, since I have been completely on my own, that a true awakening has come. For the first time ever, I feel completely free. I am no longer putting off the things of life in order to wait for a paradise that is not coming. I no longer look for signs of the end, but rather for sign posts that point the way to the future. The thick veil of irrationality has been rent asunder and I have broken the chains of ideology. I have been liberated!

As exciting as freedom is, it is also scary. The questions of immortality, the reason for my existence, and the very important question of why things happen the way they do, are all lost upon me now, as I suppose they are for most. I feel as though the many years spent in the church have left me socially maladjusted and intellectually stunted, and there are times when I miss that way of life terribly. There are also those times, when I feel lost and so eternally lonely that I can't even begin to find the words to describe it. Yet in spite of the loneliness, and ambiguity, I would much rather grope uncertainly in the light of reality that walk with assurance through the darkness of superstition.


  1. Okay I didn't want to not comment and have you think I didn't read the post. It is an excellent post but it is a subject that I purposely avoid discussing because I, myself, am not religious and hold a very unique and controversial belief. A very excellent and enlightening post though.


    1. Thanks for your comment. As I now have no more religion myself, (Even though Jewish, I am a non-religious Jew) I have come to see that there are a great many unique and controversial belief systems... many of which I find fascinating.

      The thing for me is to keep looking, not for religion per se, but for a way of finding a comfortable place in the universe where I fit, and that makes logical sense to me

  2. Slapshot,

    Thank your these glimpses into your life. Jalan describes her life through early adulthood as having been an "uptight, religious bitch." Not the same beliefs you describe, but a very insulated and insulating set of beliefs.

    I was raised Catholic and did some re-examination of Catholicism and some other belief systems as an adult. I now call myself agnostic, but I don't find the term terribly useful as there are so many diverse ways to be agnostic. When I'm being flippant, I say I'm a "don't-know-don't-care agnostic." Meaning that, as far as I can tell without a controlled experiment, settling on any specific point in my range of likely positions in matters of religion or spirit would not particularly impact my life, thinking, or happiness. Whether or not there is a god (or gods) does not affect how I go about living.

    Jalan does not hold the same position as I, but -- especially with her early training in the history and diversity of religion and religious texts, and my also having done some study -- we have many a lively discussion (though never an argument) about the implications of different parts of religion and belief for individuals and society.

    1. Thanks for your comments Naga!

      'Jalan describes her life through early adulthood as having been an "uptight, religious bitch."'

      This made me laugh! I sometimes wonder how I came across to others during that time. Probably pretty much the same way, except by the time I came into that group, I had spent a few years previous as a heavy drinker, and pot smoker, so maybe I wasn't quite so uptight... I don't really know.

      ”I now call myself agnostic, but I don't find the term terribly useful as there are so many diverse ways to be agnostic.”

      I think that I'm in about the same place, although I am probably leaning toward the atheist side. I would like to think that life is more than just a brief vacation from eternal non-existence, but as of right now, that's pretty much how I see it. I believe that one should always keep an open mind toward such things, of course.

      ”we have many a lively discussion (though never an argument) about the implications of different parts of religion and belief for individuals and society.”

      I think that's great. Those kind of discussions are good to have. I have leaned a lot from listening to differing points of view, and while I don't really believe in the supernatural at this point, I can see where there can be value in holding certain religious views.

  3. An interesting glimpse into something I really don't understand. I think indoctrination is a fascinating and scary thing, and the way you describe the fear and loneliness of leaving what had become your life, beliefs, family and friends reminds me very much of all sorts of people who leave situations where they feel trapped (not by 'force', but it is a force nevertheless).

    It takes a lot of courage to do it: kudos to you for managing it and for working through all of your feelings in the aftermath. I know it can't be easy, even now.

    *warm hug*


    1. Thank you! I appreciate that!. You know, I think that the hardest part of falling victim to that kind of indoctrination is the feelings of anger and self doubt that come about after escaping from it. Anger not only at the group, but at myself for being "weak" and "foolish" enough to have fallen for it. While it's true that I may be neither, it still feels that way.

      I also find it much more difficult to commit myself to any set of beliefs, or even relationships, in part due to not quite trusting my thinking processes. Still, I am slowly but surely learning to trust again as I form new friendships and think for meself.

  4. I have always had an uneasy relationship with my faith - I can't live with it, can't live without it. The best I can do is assume that, if there is a deity; then it is either unable or unwilling to intervene in individual lives in any meaningful way. A non-interventionary god is much harder to situate in a Grand Plan of the universe.

    To some extent, I miss the easy comraderie that came from a life in church, and I miss the surety of "knowing" that all things had a reason. On the other hand, I don't miss the holier-than-thou attitudes and never quite being able to measure up.

    1. I've always been uneasy with mine as well. As much as I wanted to believe, I never really got a handle on it. I derived a great deal of comfort from “knowing” the reason for all things and it worked well as long as I didn't look too closely. I have also kicked around the idea of the non-interfering deity since leaving the church and I believe that if god exists, that is probably the form it takes.

      Even though my relationships within the group were complicated, at least I always knew where I stood. In spite of individual differences and quirks, we all had the same basic worldview, so there were few nasty surprises when socializing within the church.

      I also saw that ”holier-than-thou attitude” that you speak of, but as I came from a somewhat harder background than most of them, I was always looked at as sort of a black (gray really) sheep and I enjoyed being different. Of course, those were the only people I knew, with any degree of intimacy, for years, and I still miss that from time to time.

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