I've had a really good week or so. Still wrangling in the words on Antiphon, though my daily walk schedule has been hellishly disrupted. Hoping for a new start when I'm home and rested from the con.
And now, for something completely different....
Went out to see Religulous with jens_fire last Friday and have been meaning to post on it. I'm also reading Dan Barker's book, Godless. So far, it's like reading a smaller scale version of my own story. I'm still forming my thoughts on how to speak to it. So much of the film (and Dan's book) felt like a snapshot out of my earlier life. And there aren't a ton of evangelical, fundamentalist ministers who've moved through religion into reason. On the evolutionary scale, I went from a pretty hardcore Calvinistic baptist to a charismatic/pentecostal to an episcopalian to an agnostic to where I'm at today. I "felt the call" to preach at 17 and tossed writing to the wind -- it was over a decade before I let that go and came back. And during that time (and slightly before it) I was up to my neck in faith. Sharing it with my friends and with strangers on the street. Gospel tracts left in phone booths and car windshields. Promise Keepers. March for Jesus. Speaking in tongues. Walking the aisle at a Billy Graham crusade. Watching people walk the aisle during my own sermons in churches, prisons, nursing homes.
I believed it. Truly up to my neck. And I said (and believed) some stupid, hateful shit during that time, too.
Of course, by the standards I no longer hold to, I either "never really got it" or "put my hand to the plough and turned back." That was largely the party line -- you either had it and lost it due to "sin in your life" or you never really had it and put on a good show for yourself and others. Either way, there was no room in that belief system for someone to simply say "No, I deeply wanted these things to be true because it's lonely being a naked ape sometimes...and then discovered that they really most likely were not true based on reason and common sense, despite my deepest hopes otherwise at the time." When it's your brand of peanut butter, it's okay to change your mind. Not so much when it's your religion. Interesting, eh?
So I have strong thoughts on the matter that I've largely kept private, though I did a brief post here a few years back on why I lived (and loved) and left that life.
It stuns and humbles me that I used to base every part of my life that I possibly could on a collection of scattered writings invoking primitive blood (and human) sacrifice and fear-based thinking dressed up as love in an age so far beyond the time those beliefs were born in. Of course, I know why I did it and I know that in a way, that season in my life DID save me. But not from what it claimed to or by the means it proclaimed.
I know one thing: I do believe Bill Maher's warning at the end of the film.
I think there can be great danger in believing that we live forever and that our planet is predestined for destruction in some Final Conflict that will end in the eternal joy of the saved and the banishment/torment/annhiliation of the wicked/infidels/unsaved. Not a lot of incentive to be responsible with this one life and this one home we have. If you don't count the Lake of Fire bit as a motivational tool, that is. Especially now that we have the power ourselves to destroy that planet and the life upon it with our very own lakes of fire.
You, of course, are free to disagree though I know the pointlessness of debating it -- no one would have EVER convinced me of these things when I was in the thick of it . And I'd have bruised my knees praying for that person to see the light that seemed so plain to me at the time.
But after many years in that life and now, a bit of distance from it, it's fairly plain to me that none of the Big Four are any different from the hundreds...if not thousands...of religions we've cooked up to feel better about our trip through the universe. And some of them are more dangerous than others when taken literally by young men who think they'll get laid and be hailed as heroes in heaven if they fly airplanes into buildings filled with men, women and children here on earth.
[Please note: This is not to say all members of any one religion believe or act this way -- I am talking about extremism in ANY faith that leads to violence: Killing doctors and blowing up clinics is the same animal. So is hating and fearing someone or denying them their rights based on what they do with their genitals with other consenting adults.]
I'm probably not going to post much more on the subject for now, though the journey itself through it may be worth talking about for those who are curious about it.. Still, it's a conversation I'd rather have over a beer sometime.