A few thoughts I started pounding into Twitter today, with annotations:
I had so many chances to not try to be a Christian. My conversion experience, as my Camp "Counselor In Training" leader said, wasn't very convincing, for example; I had soul-affecting conversations with so many people along the way. But instead of scrapping the faith and identity, I mastered bending and contorting the faith to fit my understanding. Sometimes it was overly abstract; sometimes I clung to tradition. Most of the time, though, I clung to the false hope that I would understand better in the future why my beliefs seemed to contradict my understanding of the world so much.
I remember, not long after he became an atheist, having a conversation with my brother, for example, and I had an apologetics-based sort of justification for everything he said. And I knew I was jumping through hoops, but I kept jumping. I couldn't seem to let go. And I got accustomed to that magical thinking in so many places in my life. This became most problematic when I justified getting married when I knew I wasn't ready: I kept saying, "This may be your only chance," "just have faith," and it will work out in the end." And as a result of that magical thinking, I'm responsible for that broken home.
When I heard and read "saved a wretch like me" sort of stuff from practically every medium I consumed, when I read messages like "you are nothing without God," or "God killed his own child for you," it gets totally ingrained that that sort of thinking is legitimate. How many times did I hear, "You have no rights?" How many times did I hear about the "God-shaped hole" or how "life is hard and it doesn't make sense, and the only thing that can help you is God?" And all the times that I clung to those hopes, I got more and more alienated from myself.
I don't blame any of those people who gave me those messages. They were doing their best to help me with my "eternal soul" and whatnot. But I took those messages, despite my reservations, and I conditioned myself to second-guess myself and never trust myself.
I thought poorly. And although I abandoned the creed years ago, I'm getting so, so tired of fighting the internal struggle over and over again.
Today, as I rushed through Abbotsford to a job interview, I saw this sign for what appears to be a razed Bar and Grill: "JESUS IS LORD OVER ABBOTSFORD." Even though I was in a rush to get to the interview on time, I felt that I needed to talk about this one. So I did (embedded below).
Seriously. God's obsession with human politics in the Holy Land is absurdly provincial, weirdly local, and entirely irrelevant to people today, or even then. Clearly, the Old Testament is a political text intended to propagandize for particular political ends. As I mentioned in the video above, this bugged me while I was growing up. It was a strange contradiction to me to see how God seemed so political on such a small scale while he also happened to run the entire universe. The largeness of God and the minuteness of his prejudices were a contradiction that I never really sorted out, no matter which apologetics I adopted.
What God cares about these sort of politics? From Judges 3,
It just seems unnecessarily petty for a God of the Universe to use tactics like this.
Or how about this, from 1 Chronicles 11 in the KJV?
This is a whole bunch of political jibber-jabber. Why does God need to be involved in any of this? The answer is that He doesn't need to be there. All the characters would do just fine without the presence of a provincial, political, warrior god.
Again, it seems rather peevish of God to care about this. Such an omnipotent God wouldn't be very concerned about who smiteth who, or who rebuilds a city, right?
I love maps and pored over the maps in my Bibles for many hours in my youth. What about this map?
There we see a line dividing two nations. At some times, God liked one of them; at other times, God liked the other one. There's no way to get around the politics of this: clearly the writers of the texts would have a bias towards their own nation. Note that Jerusalem is on the "Judah" side of the line; guess which nation was usually favoured by God? And wouldn't the omnipotent God understand that political borders constantly shift, that they're arbitrary delineations of human tribal social organizations? I'd like to think that God wouldn't even notice our borders, but instead look directly at our hearts.
Again, this bugged me. And it still does. It seems strange to think that political decisions in the United States of America are often based on an interpretation of a 2000 year old political text from a different continent.
No matter what a person believes, I think it's important to have a clear idea of what type of a being they're worshipping. I, for one, was never at peace with the provincial god who takes sides in battles and sends "his people" to be slaves in other countries. This made it easy to adopt more "ecumenical" approaches to Christianity, ones that focused on unity and personal religious experience. Unfortunately for my faith's sake, that made my faith so subjective that I couldn't seem to reconcile aligning myself with the organizations any longer.
Even though I don't believe in that God anymore, the God I once worshipped was way bigger than the God of the Bible.
About six or so years ago, my daughter, 4 years old, came home from Sunday school and proudly exclaimed, "Did you know that God made the world in six days?" My wife and I looked at each other and immediately realized that we had allowed our daughter to be propagandized. This was a pivotal moment in my faith (I only speak for myself), since it forced me to come to terms with the fact that I did not want my daughter learning the themes of the very faith I espoused. I thought, If I really believe this stuff and really identify as a Christian, why do I balk at my daughter learning what I hold as true? It was a tough pill to swallow.
It also drew my attention to the haphazard nature of Sunday School and religious education. When she came home with that information, I had an odd epiphany of professionalism: if I, as a teacher, have to jump through hoops to maintain my professional status as an educator, why was I leaving my child in the charge of a non-professional? What standard do they work by? I realized that Sunday school teachers have no standardized level of professionalism. I haven't sent my daughter to Sunday school since then.
Which is easy because I haven't attended church since 2011.
What I'm trying to get at is this: professionalism matters to me. I appreciate the need for professional standards and codes of ethics in all professions. I appreciate the need for governing bodies to oversee professional workers. And I trust that standardized, well-governed workers should have some level of expertise that I can rely on for one thing or another.
Professionalism, however, is expensive. And the Internet is not. And god, I'd love to think I'm literate enough to save a few bucks on therapy now and then by searching symptoms online.
Steven Novella at NeuroLogica suggests that I'm trying out the Google University Effect, which feeds confirmation bias. Novella writes,
However, I can't afford much in the way of psychotherapists right now. So I brave the Internet and hope not to feed my confirmation bias. I can look up things about my depression and hope not to feed it!
Here's to unprofessionalism!
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