Spritzophrenia

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Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

Polly Gods

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 21, 2010

Following up our recent discussion on polytheism, turns out there may be less “true” polytheists these days than I thought.

Meryl commented that Hindus generally believe that the gods are actually representations of the One (Brahman), so they would be “soft polytheists”, in that there is an ultimate reality, or perhaps g0d behind these deities. Freeman, a pagan, characterised himself as a “hard polytheist”, meaning that the gods are separate distinct and real entities. From my reading it seems Hindus might have been hard polytheists once upon a time, but their conception of deities have developed since then.

Bearing in mind the limitations of Wikipedia,

Many Hindus believe in different deities emanating from Brahman, and the majority continues to worship a deity as a matter of personal belief or tradition as a representation of this supreme being.

The Parthenon, where multiple gods were worshipped.

continued…

In the Smartha denomination of Hinduism, the philosophy of Advaita expounded by Shankara allows veneration of numerous deities with the understanding that all of them are but manifestations of one impersonal divine power, Brahman. Therefore, according to various schools of Vedanta including Shankara, which is the most influential and important Hindu theological tradition, there are a great number of deities in Hinduism but they are essentially different forms of the same “Being”.

In contrast to the Smartha sect, Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism follow an established singular concept of a personal god, as panentheistic monistic monotheism, but differ in their conceptions of the Supreme God. A Vaishnavite considers Vishnu or Krishna as the only god worthy of worship, and worship of other deities as subordinate…

What’s it like to venerate a god, Ganesha in this case? Venga shared this attractive video of Westerners doing Kirtan:

Kirtan opens the heart and stills the mind. It is the yoga practice of ecstatic chanting. Through repeating the Divine Names in Sanskrit, the mind is cleared of worry, doubt, fear and all limiting concepts. The joy of peace and infinite love is given to the practitioner, and transmitted through the world by chanting. This is the practice of bhakti yoga or the yoga of devotion.” ~ Toronto Kirtan Community

This would be the kind of yoga the Hare Krishnas observe, and I guess they would be Vaishnavites as above. I intend to visit them one of these weekends. The food is good, and as I’ve said, music could be a pathway to the spiritual for me.

Some cool words I’d forgotten: “Polytheists do not always worship all the gods equally, but can be Henotheists, specialising in the worship of one particular deity. Other polytheists can be Kathenotheists, worshiping different deities at different times.”

Whew, lots of big concepts and foreign phrases today. For me, assuming it’s real, I think I’d rather focus on the One, or the God behind everything than the “lesser” beings.

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I Would Like a Great Lake of Beer

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 16, 2010

I would like to have the men of Heaven
In my own house:
With vats of good cheer
laid out for them.

I would like to have the three Marys,
Their fame is so great.
I would like people
From every corner of Heaven.

I would like them to be cheerful
In their drinking.
I would like to have Jesus too
Here amongst them.

I would like a great lake of beer
For the King of Kings,
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family
Drinking it through all eternity.

~ Celtic poem from 10th century Ireland.

Celtic roots

Man, those Irish Celts, eh? Pity I don’t like beer. I have Irish heritage and one of the things I like about Celtic christianity is the way they incorporated it with their culture in a very earthy way. There’s comfort in that. Making the divine, human; the esoteric, common; the mystical, mundane.

I wonder what part of my modern culture could do with taking up into g0d? What part of yours?

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What is “The Universe” Telling Me?

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 15, 2010

Cigarette smoke swirls in the air and teaspoons swirl patterns in the coffee cream. The waiter wanders past with someone’s bowl of fries. It’s Friday night and I’m hangin’ with a dozen friends at our usual café-cum-nightspot. Conversation rises and falls. Sometimes people say unexpected things: “The universe is telling me to let go”, says Carole. Carole is an atheist. Others nod and murmur in agreement, I look away and say nothing.

Have you heard someone say “The universe will provide”? “The Universe is trying to tell me something”? Or perhaps “Put your intentions out to the Universe”? Do you believe in “signs from the universe”? If these words simply mean something metaphorical, I can accept that. Just what IS this “Universe” Carole talks about? It’s obviously more than the stars, rocks, oceans and life that make up the physical Cosmos.

Is it energy?

I think most Universe-invokers conceive of the Universe as some kind of energy or force. A Universal Energy like electricity, or perhaps a force like gravity. If you put out positive energy, you get positive stuff back, and vice versa. Karma, if you like, it’s a kind of cause-effect thing. Flick the switch on the wall, the energy flows and the light bulb gives light. Forgive me, but aren’t we just talking about the consequences of actions in a blind universe? What does the “Universe” add?

The Universe

But Carole often goes further than this. She talks and behaves in ways that imply the universe cares about her. She seems to say that the universe has a purpose or plan for us.

A purely bricks-and-mortar Universe doesn’t care about us. An energy can’t speak, it can’t “tell us” anything. If the universe can give good things based on the “positiveness” of our energy, can communicate, can take notice of us, can be on our side— those are all things only a mind can do.

So Then, Is it Personal?

OK, so perhaps there is a powerful energy that is also personal. By personal, I mean something like a mind. Does Carole mean a “something” that has personality— has intelligence, consciousness and maybe purpose, ethics or desires? If this is what she means by the Universe, I think she’s talking about another word for g0d.

I don’t have a problem with her calling God “The Universe”. But let’s not kid ourselves when we’re doing it.

Is There a Middle Way?

Carole dips a cigarette into the ash-tray. She might suggest I’m closed to some other “middle way”. I’ve been trying to conceive of how that might work. Maybe a kind of “force” like gravity? Do a certain thing, and it reacts. Apparently, if I think negative thoughts then negative (unhelpful? bad?) results flow. The idea of “positive versus negative” thoughts reminds me of the warm energy of reason, a gift the Universe gives us.

[What “positive” energy actually means, is another good question. I think to be labelled “positive” implies something ethical, like “helpful” or “good”, which in turn could lead to a moral argument for God.]

Unfortunately I don’t think a force helps us any more than an energy. If the “something” is in any sense benevolent, if it in any sense “notices” us, then we are again left with some kind of g0d. We know that in our Universe only minds can speak, or love.

There is nothing we can conceive of as a mind in the middle, a “half mind”. We know of damaged minds, and of animals that don’t quite seem to have a mind in the sense we understand, but these are not half minds. These are minds that are not able to do the full range of mind-stuff. A half mind would be like saying I both have a brain in my skull, and at the very same moment, do not have a brain. (Quiet with those rude comments in the back seats 😉 )

I don’t want to be mean. I’ve really tried, but I can’t conceive of any other option. Either the Universe is impersonal (negative?)— and therefore useless in the way the concept is used. Or it is personal (positive?), a mind. And therefore a g0d. There seem no other options.

“The Universe” is Personal

For all Carole’s neurotic foibles as a fashion designer, I love her. Maybe one day we’ll discuss what she means about “the Universe”, but people don’t like having the bubbles of their personal beliefs pricked. I don’t know if she realises it, but she’s not an atheist.

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I love this track from King Crimson’s brilliant album, Discipline. Well, I love all of them, actually. “The more I look, the more I like it. I DO think it’s good.” It speaks to our obession around creating a thing (a philosophy?) which is good.

King Crimson | Indiscipline

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Who Am I to Tell You Anything?

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 20, 2010

Are there some journeys that should never be started? There are people who know me in real life who might sneer on hearing I’m seeking higher reality again. These are people I’ve hurt, lied to, or (think they) know my failings. I’m far from perfect. Even when I turned my back on a religious path, I’ve been a hypocrite in my new path. I’ve criticised other views on this very blog, it’s only fair I turn the lens on myself.

I Was Wrong

I started this journey not wanting to share much about me. Spritzophrenia was supposed to be about the ideas and conclusions, not my self. I’m not that interesting, I’m not that worthy. But the stories are inseparable, and I’m really not proud of some chapters. I feel distress at my own ethical off-the-wagon times. Oh there’s been plenty of failure, moral turpitude, poverty, despair and general crapness in my life: Hear my confession.

I hurt people. I cut off contact with my parents and one of my sisters for a year when they annoyed me and let me down. I’ve lied, and lied again about important things. I’ve broken promises. I’ve stolen. I owe good people money, and don’t know when I will repay it. I may be on a slippery slope to alcoholism. I was once so angry and frustrated I attacked my girlfriend’s car with a chair, smashing a light.

Others question my motives, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. I once overheard a conversation about me getting on my “high horse”. I’d always thought I came across as fairly humble? I wrote earlier about how hard this is for me.

While I think one should be measured by one’s own conscience, it doesn’t really matter which moral code you measure me against. I’ve broken most of the ten commandments. I don’t walk in the eightfold path, I’m deeply attached. Insofar as the golden rule suffices for Secular Humanism, I ain’t been golden. Insofar as the “Love God and love other people” of Jesus, nope. Even Augustine’s “Love god and do what you want” leaves me wanting.

Though I can point to reasons, philosophies and religious paths that enticed me, I make no excuses. My atheism, nihilism and Satanism were nascent anyway, the labels became convenient excuses. I might have been bad even if I embraced Hasidism. Sometimes I thought my actions and thoughts were ‘right’ at the time, only to be confounded by them, sometimes years later. I take responsibility for what I’ve done and I’m reaping what I’ve sowed.

I Walk The Line Between Good and Evil

I recommend listening to Alien Sex Fiend’s I walk the Line.

more below

This apple’s rotten to the core

Get up, off your knees

Get down on the floor

You wouldn’t listen [to me], and I don’t blame ya

I’m already in the gutter, next stop is the drain

[Full lyrics.] I note one can still make nice cider from rotten apples.

Are We Moral?

Some will no doubt point to my christian past and infer an over-inflated sense of guilt. But to be perfectly honest, I didn’t have much guilt when I was a Christian— it gave me a sense of freedom from guilt.

I think we have an inflated idea of how good people are. A piece in the NZ Listener some years back indicated just how common white collar crime is; good moral people just like us are cheating on their taxes and their spouses. I’m not worried about whether lying is equivalent to murder, it’s the general point I’m driving at. What does it take to be a moral person? To always do good? Do good most of the time? What percentage of good makes us a good person? Is there such a thing as one’s “character”? “We’re good people. We just do bad things.” (Larry Norman)

The idea that the christian g0d wants to help us escape our tendency to damage, looks on the money. (If she exists.) The phrase so often quoted by evangelists “All have sinned, and fallen short” seems to ring rather more true than we might like to admit. Christians— the ones who know their theology at least— don’t claim we are as bad as we possibly can be. Only that we are distorted. Like a drop of ink in a glass of water discolours the whole thing.

“If I believed in God, if I believed in sin, this is the place I’d be sucked straight to hell.” (~ Dexter, Season 2 Episode 2) Some think believers parade triumphantly into heaven. I think many of us will crawl there, relieved and surprised.

Only those who are broken can accept being whole.

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Posted in Christianity, ethics, hardship, personal, personal development, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments »

Mixed Nuts

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 16, 2010

Today’s Spritzophrenia Street is brought to you by the letter Orange, and the number Fish. It’s a wild, rollicking ride through what I’m currently reading, so lets get started.

The Laughter of God

I will argue that [science and spirituality] not only can coexist within one person, but can do so in a fashion that enriches and enlightens the human experience. Science is the only reliable way to understand the natural world, and its tools when properly utilized can generate profound insights into material existence. But science is powerless to answer questions such as “Why did the universe come into being?” “What is the meaning of human existence?” “What happens after we die?”

Meditation

continued…

One of the strongest motivations of humankind is to seek answers to profound questions, and we need to bring all the power of both the scientific and spiritual perspectives to bear on understanding what is both seen and unseen. The goal of this book is to explore a pathway toward a sober and intellectually honest integration of these views.

First, I should explain how a scientist who studies genetics came to be a believer in a God who is unlimited by time and space, and who takes personal interest in human beings. Some will assume that this must have come about by rigorous religious upbringing, deeply instilled by family and culture, and thus inescapable in later life. But that’s not really my story.

~ Francis Collins The Language of God (Free Press, 2006) p 6,7

We now move from the sublime to the ridiculous – but perhaps the ridiculous can be spiritually helpful too?

I believe that people who have a good sense of humor are usually intuitive people in general. Show me someone who has no sense of humor, and I will show you a very stiff, boring person with no insight whatsoever.

~ Warren Shiller quoted in Romy Shiller Who Knew (Trafford, 2010) p 32

Could a sense of humour mark the kind of intuition that helps along the spiritual path?

You may have heard the recent news that the bones of John the Baptist have allegedly been found. Barth’s Notes has an amusing piece— amusing because of the language and feisty-ness of the Bulgarian officials, who it seems need tourist dollars. Hence they’re eager to proclaim authenticity. The evidence seems pretty flimsy to me, see Rollston Debunks Stupid John the Baptist’s Bones Claim.

Sorry Bulgaria, writing as someone who is open to the idea that faith could be a valid way of life, “faith” in the face of clear evidence to the contrary is not faith— it’s dogmatism and idiocy.

Speaking of idiocy, Insane Clown Posse’s track Miracles. Thanks to Marty Atheist Climber for alerting me. Mysteries do not prove impossibilities, especially when it appears we aren’t to try and figure them out. I do like some ICP, particularly Let’s Go All The Way, but check these lyrics:

Water, fire, air and dirt
F**king magnets, how do they work?
And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist
Y’all motherf**kers lying, and getting me pissed

Bahahaha! While perhaps it’s a metaphorical point they’re trying to make, it does come across as celebrating ignorance. Even better, today Marty tweeted me the hilarious SNL spoof of the song:

Eat, Pray, Lust

Following on from the allegations about Eat, Pray, Love

Sex between gurus and disciples is common, sociologists and other experts say. The New Yorker magazine reported in November 1994 that female followers of deceased Swami Muktananda, the man who made Chetanananda a swami, had sex with them. Many devotees later left after learning about the sexual allegations.

~ from here.

I’ve had this in my notes for some time. Now I realise Swami Muktananda is the one who guru-fied Liz Gilbert’s Gurumayi Chidvilasananda (formerly Malti Shetty). Another book in my current pile is a biography about following a guru:

All of the people whom [guru Paul Brunton, alias P.B.] had chosen… as his disciples were singularly favoured. They were to be at the center of the salvation of the universe. There could be no greater honor. This was a universe as simply organised as a boy’s adventure story. I found a similar atmosphere when I read Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings years later.

[P.B.] is not an egregious example of a false prophet. The story I have to tell about him is not an exposé in the classic sense, although I have nothing against such exposés. Tales by insiders of what really goes on in these cults are not only fascinating gossip, they are instructive of the kind of world this spirituality builds. … I was able to observe, especially in me and my father and in Paul Brunton, the clash, the romanticism, and the ultimate tragedy of these attempts to escape the imperfections of the human condition. I was a direct participant, and I did not escape its consequences.

~Jeffrey Masson My Father’s Guru: A Journey through Spirituality and Disillusion (Harper Collings, 1993) p xiv, xv

Things Mistaken for Meditation

Another misguided notion about meditation is that it’s about becoming enlightened.

You can’t become enlightened. It’s not possible.

You can’t become enlightened for the same reason that you can’t come into contact with Truth: you’re already here, immersed in it. It’s like trying to become human, or searching high and low for air.

When we search for enlightenment, we’re like a fish searching for water or a bird seeking the sky. Enlightenment isn’t something you can pursue. And, anyway, you don’t need to, because it’s already right where you are. Meditation is not about straining or striving for some special state of mind. It’s about letting our habitual striving drop away and simply experiencing what’s present before we make anything of it.

~ Steve Hagen Meditation: Now or Never (HarperOne, 2007) p 21

I’ve begun a very basic practice of meditation, after I get up in the morning. I’ve been quietly pleased with my progress so far, no doubt this is the ‘beginners luck’ that most new practices enjoin. Perhaps I’ll report back sometime, if this blog is about searching for higher reality it will pay me to occasionally record such things.

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Tell me in the comments

Which of the above tickled your buttons? Have a great day y’all.

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Posted in Buddhism, Christianity, cosmology, God, Hinduism, humor, humour, personal development, Science, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

The Dance of God

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 9, 2010

For some reason I’ve been listening to two versions of the Gayatri Mantra over and over and OVER these last few days, pondering the gateways to the divine. I think there are many ways to have a mystical experience, depending on what works with your personality. Music is a common gateway, and certainly one that works for me, at times.

This is hard to write, because so much of my academic side wants to challenge and define things like “spiritual”, “mysticism” and so on 1. Today I’m just writing about experience without over-analyzing too much.

While named for the goddess Gayatri (mother of the Vedas), I think anyone who believes in a deity can sing this mantra with integrity as the words are honoring to any true g0d.

Om Bhur Buvaha Suvaha
Thath Savithur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayath

God! You are Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Almighty.
You are all Light. You are all Knowledge and Bliss.
You are Destroyer of fear; You are Creator of this Universe,
You are the Greatest of all. We bow and meditate upon your light.
You guide our intellect in the right direction.

The other version I’ve had on repeat is by Ravi Shankar, as it turns out. There is so much more music I could add, some mentioned during music week but I’m keeping things short, mmkay?

I found you not, O Lord, without, I erred in seeking you without because you were within. ~ Saint Augustine

I’d be remiss in describing Augustine as a mystic, he’s famous for his logical philosophy. This is the feeling side of him, perhaps? I think warmly of Charles Hodge, a christian theologian in the “Reformed” or “Calvinist” school which is traditionally suspicious of mysticism. Hodge is wary too but almost plunges in, writing of those whose “heart” theology is deeper than their head theology 2. “Until recently it was widely believed that India is ‘mystical’ and the West is ‘rational’, and many still hold this view. But in fact Indian thought has a strong tradition of rationality”. 3 There is so much more to write in this area, but insh’Allah, another time.

All this makes me desire to find a group of intellectual mystics. Now, THAT would be something! Practitioners committed to exploring the ways of both reason and the spirit.

Here’s a track that invariably made me cry, and can still do so. Tilt | Invisible

Listen to my voice
You won’t see me
You won’t see me with your eyes
Listen to my voice
I am a feeling
You will feel me deep inside

When I was a christian, I interpreted these words as speaking of the Holy Spirit (who is sometimes considered feminine), the part of g0d who interacts with us here and now. I have this record on vinyl, it’s one of my treasured possessions.

Music… wine… drugs? Ah, it might just be a feeling, but if that feeling hints at anything true, how wonderful that would be. When I was a DJ, it was these moments I lived for. To dance – preferably outdoors – to ecstatic music and maybe feel a glimpse of something special. It didn’t happen often, but when it did…

Here’s a film of an outdoor party I curated. You can even get a glimpse of me DJing at one point.

The particular music doesn’t matter – that tends to be an individual thing. For some it might be opera, for others heavy metal. It’s the sense of beauty and transport the music evokes, in the best of moments at the best of times. If the transcendent is there, if there really is something more, and if we can somehow touch it… How can we not yearn for this?

Is music a gateway for you?

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Notes
1. Check some of my loose definitions and writing on atheist spirituality if you’re uncomfortable and want to go down the intellectual path.
2. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans, 1871). Hodge spends considerable ink on mysticism, and it’s gold, for a post-christian like me.
3. From Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction by Sue Hamilton (Oxford University Press, 2001).

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Celebrating The Weeds

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 4, 2010

In the comments last week someone characterised my project as “sorting out the weeds”. I like that. Weeds can be beautiful as well as inconvenient in my opinion. Here’s a scattershot bouquet to admire or throw away.

Chickweed

I’ve been getting some balance back into my life. I pushed myself too hard writing critically and intended to get away from the computer. Instead I spent a large part of the weekend coaching my 12 year-old through his science project. So much for getting away from the computer.

I’ve also been thinking about balance in terms of spiritual paths. Reading the last week or two’s posts you could get the impression that only atheism or some kind of christianity count here. I don’t claim that all religions are the same. I do want to be open to insights. Have a random Bhagavad Gita quote:

“There is neither this world nor the world beyond nor happiness for the one who doubts.”

Dandelion in the sun

Dandelion

I do believe serious thinking needs to be done as part of my spiritual journey. There’s still gonna be some intellectual heavy lifting here, it’s part of who I am and I can’t escape that. But I don’t want to neglect the rest of life or get stuck down the rabbit hole of endless philosophy, obscure science or irrelevant theology. Let me know if I’m doing that, won’t ya? Sometimes I’m unable to back up everything I ponder with academic research, which disappoints the ego in me, but that’s life. I want to let go my attachment to being right.

We’re allowed to change our opinions. Some days I will be logical to the point of inanity. Some days I will be fluffy and mystical. Some days I will appear to favour one path, others another. It’s all part of my journey, and I reserve the right to change my mind as I learn. This is Spritzophrenia, after all.

This is not to say I think all is one, or there are no answers, merely that the path is sometimes unclear and may require backtracking.

Henbit

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.
– Helen Keller, quoted in Who Knew.

I’m valuing the experience of friendship, and the discussions of late. I think there is so much we can agree on, even if we can’t agree on everything. I value you. You don’t have to be an intellectual or spiritual giant to belong here. I’m not. Besides, giants can scare away the little people. I’m sometimes amazed and delighted at the connections people make with what I write. When I see your comments I find myself thinking, “I really love you maaaan”. No, I haven’t been drinking 😉

I thought you might enjoy the hilarious “Internet verses real life” sketches, particularly the final section on what internet discussions can be like. (Some language may offend.)

Wood sorrel

I’m valuing life experience in spirituality, and remembering the path contains joy as well as hardship. (Read “personal development” for spirituality if you prefer.) After a brain-draining and exhausting weekend I spent time on Sunday sitting in a pub reading, drinking cider and eating hot bread. The good things in life are indeed good. I like the Celtic christian way of talking about deity as “The good God”, who brings good things to our life. Hopefully a genuine spiritual path involves celebrating this life, extreme asceticism has never appealed to me. Judaism often has an earthiness and a real-world focus which is warming, as I understand it.

I think I’ve finally worked out who I’m writing for. Me, of course. But also other seekers, people who haven’t got a fixed, firm and final perspective on everything and who are looking to grow, to learn and to share. Do you know anyone like that who might enjoy reading this blog?

So there you are, a few weeds to either keep or throw. Which did you react to or resonate with? Have a great day.

Posted in agnostic, god, Hinduism, humor, humour, life, personal development, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Anne Rice: I Quit Christianity!

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 30, 2010

Reactionary. News-driven. That’s what I try not to be. Atheist friend Marty tweeted this yesterday, and I read Anne’s Facebook page. Today I see Matthew at Jesus Needs New PR has blogged it, so with thanks and apologies Matt, I’m yoinking yours. Even though I’m highly interested, I’ve got other work to finish today. What’s Cool?

***

Anne Rice announces on Facebook that she’s quitting Christianity!

Yesterday on Facebook, Anne Rice updated her status…

“For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

Anne Rice

And then later, she updated her status again…

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

Currently her status is…

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. ” Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew comments:
I love Anne Rice!

However, I do hope this new “non-Christian, Christ-centered non-Christianity Christianity” that she’s embracing will lead her to stop writing books about Jesus. Wow. Have you read them? They’re so boring in my opinion. Oh, I still buy them. But I don’t read them. (Stupid, I know.)

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All I’ll add is there’s a lot of other people like her, some of whom I know personally. This is the kind of belief I eventually chose, and probably would choose again if I go back to a faith based on Y’shua. Maybe without the vampire stories 😉

You get multiple updates from me today, you lucky lucky people.

[Update: Rice also writes in part, “My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But …” You can read the rest at JesusNeedsNewPr]

So what are your thoughts on her status? Or you can check out What’s Cool?

Posted in agnostic, Christianity, hardship, life, Sociology, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Somewhere, Over The Rainbow

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 28, 2010

Do I want there to be a God? Do I want g0d to exist? Or perhaps another kind of spiritual reality, like Nirvana? Yes, today I think I do.

I’m inhaling the scent from the flowers a dear friend gave me. I’m looking at the sun shining through the trees outside my window, and thinking it would be nice if there was something more than the mere material world. Maybe God. A nice g0d, of course. That would be kinda cool. I’m not claiming my desire for the numinous is evidence g0d exists, although some have argued that.

I can hear my imaginary friend say “Aha! How can you possibly search for meaning without utterly passionless detachment? You’re biased.” To which I smile, “Of course I’m biased. Show me someone who isn’t”.

As Iain writes, there are dangers of wish fulfilment in religion. No-one is completely objective but I think commitment to a position is perfectly ok. It doesn’t preclude the ability to reason well. Philosopher Roger Trigg says scientists are committed to an intellectual position when they work, but this doesn’t invalidate their research.

Dancing in the sunlit forest

Sikh religion ascribes importance to the sanscrit word sat. It means “truth” ¹ and is used in many ways: satsangi (follower of truth), satguru (conveyor of truth), satsang (speaking of truth), and more. I’m committed to truth, as well as to my desires. As Trigg concludes:

It is fashionable to fix one’s attention of the fact of commitment. This is understandable. If our commitment determines what we regard as true, all that matters is whether a commitment is sincere. … As we have seen, however, commitments involve claims to truth which are logically prior to the commitment. It follows that what ought to be of fundamental interest is whether the claims are true and the commitments justifiable. ²

Here’s an example of commitment to an opposite point of view, respected atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel writes about not wanting God to exist:

I am talking of … the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true… It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God: I don’t want the universe to be like that. … I am curious whether there is anyone who is genuinely indifferent as to whether there is a God – anyone who, whatever his actual belief about the matter, doesn’t particularly want either one of the answers to be correct.” ³

The obscenities inflicted upon us by religious zealots revolt me.

However, would I like there to be a g0d? Today at least, I say yes. How about you?

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Notes
1. Sat means more than the English word “truth”, but we’re keeping things simple here. Thanks to Brian at Church of the Churchless for introducing me to the word.
2. Roger Trigg, Reason and Commitment (Cambridge University Press, 1973).
3. Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (Oxford University Press, 1997) page 130 – quoted in Timothy Keller, The Reason for God.

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This Is Hard

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 19, 2010

My twitter friend Anne complimented me recently saying “It takes guts to blog about personal spirituality”. I took a great deal of comfort from that, because she’s right. It’s hard.

The post-Enlightenment West is unusual among many world cultures because we regard talking about religion as a private matter. I read of somewhere – was it Bali? – where a typical meeting of strangers includes “How are you? “, “How is your family?” , “Are you married?”, and “What religion are you?”. I assume not all in the same sentence!

I firmly believe that not talking about the inner life diminishes us, yet fighting your own culture ain’t easy. In the words of the song, “I fought the law, and the law won.” Many people simply do not want to engage with this stuff. I’d probably be a millionaire by now if I switched to blogging Oprah-esque personal development.

Writing about what I do is difficult because it’s personal. It affects me. I don’t talk about spirituality, agnosticism, atheism out of mere academic interest. It’s apatheism, a portmanteau of apathy and theism/atheism which says, “I don’t know and I don’t care that I don‘t know.” I care that I don’t know. The question of whether or not there is some higher reality to be found affects my life, my emotions, my fears and my frustrations.

Not having a firm position feels rather like rowing a solitary boat through a rolling sea. Up, down, no safe haven in which to anchor, and no fellow passengers to share the oars.

“Doing” spirituality is hard and I’ve never been fond of spiritual “work”. If one is going to include spiritual practices as part of one’s search, such as meditation or even just listening openly to a friend of a different faith, that takes time and effort. I can’t honestly say I’ve spent a lot of energy on this yet. It’s ambitious to think I could experience enough in one lifetime anyway. Books are safer.

The search is also hard in an intellectual sense. I’ve spent time reading very obtuse philosophy debates in online forums. “Before we debate God,” says one, “let’s decide if ‘god’ is a coherent concept.” Phew. At the end of this, often my head hurts and I feel stupid. I do value good reasoning, after all, half my undergrad degree was in philosophy. But at the end of the day, there will always be a better argument around the corner and I simply don’t have time to understand them all.

I’m also bruised by the times when someone who likes to be seen to be intellectual wades in and wins the battle, while simultaneously killing her friends. I’ve been one of those people, and I’d rather lose the ego. It’s a weakness of intellectuals; some of us learned to feel self-worth because we knew more big words than someone else. When others do have better arguments, it’s humbling.

Writing about a spiritual search also exposes me on a whole different level. See, there’s a funny thing: When it comes to religion people not only judge what you think, they also judge your character. Online friend Kimh asked if my writing will be abstract study, or more of a memoir. I think it has to be at least partly personal because otherwise it‘ll be dull as iron. But I don’t want it to be about me. I want to hide behind argument and erudition. I don’t want to have my life up for scrutiny as well. Frankly, sometimes I’m not a nice person at all. Apparently we all have secrets, and it’s OK to keep some of them hidden– at least that was the theme of Dexter season three. But he’s an imaginary serial killer.

Writer Matthew Paul Turner recently wrote of the difficulty of being truly honest in a Christian context where you’re not supposed to talk about some things. I think it’s hard being honest full stop, regardless of one’s persuasion. What if I’m making some obvious mistake and people laugh at me? What if my friends disown me? What if I offend people who don‘t share my (non)beliefs? It would be much easier to merely present ideas. Ideas are external to me, I‘m safe. However, in the case of spirituality, ideas are carried within a life.

Right now, the sun is shining through my window, and warms my chest. With support from friends, much of the time I’m happy. I remind myself this is a path I’ve chosen and I can step off it any time. The adventure remains, and also a hell of a challenge.

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PS: Go check out Anne’s very cool blog if you’re interested in innovative small business.
How do you feel talking about your personal beliefs with other people?

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