Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

The Secret Life of a Re-Defined Jew

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 8, 2010

I think we need to talk to each other about our spiritual lives. Even though we may respectfully disagree, I believe that peaceful co-existence of all religions in the 21st century depends on this.

To this end I interview various believers and non-believers here on Spritzophrenia. Today Romy Shiller from Montreal shares about her life and beliefs. Dr Shiller earned her PhD in drama, has published several books and works as a pop culture critic and writer. Her website is http://www.romyshiller.com

Jonathan: Hi Romy. Tell me a bit about your background- did you have any kind of spiritual upbringing?

Romy: Hey, Jon. Hmmm. I went to Hebrew School from grades 2-6. Took Hebrew in CEJEP for one semester, which comes after high school in Canada. Hebrew isn’t a religion but it’s certainly a part of my Jewish-ness. I can read, speak and write in Hebrew. When I light the candles for Shabbat or holidays a prayer in Hebrew is recited. I like that I know what I’m saying.

In grade 3, I won my first book prize for a poem I wrote about the Holocaust. My grandmother used to tell me stories about how her whole family was killed by Nazis for being Jewish in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland.

Dr Romy Shiller

Romy.

We were not spiritual (do you mean religious?) per se but we did celebrate the high holidays. We’d have a dinner and go to Shul (Synagogue). There, I always focused on good energy– not religion.

My Hebrew School was Kosher and followed all of the holidays– very different from home-life. I am vegetarian but I would never have milk with meat. That stayed from grade-school.

Jonathan: How would you describe your spiritual path now? How did you come to believe what you do?

Romy: I always say that I’m Jewish but I’m redefining what that means. As usual for me, Judaism is a base-line, and I freely extrapolate. I like my Jewish traditions and will always honour my grandparents.

I say that I’d be burnt in the ovens or stake as a witch no matter what I believe. As a matter of fact, just doing this interview is dangerous (But EXTREMELY important). Anti-Semitism is rampant. If you don’t hear from me in the future it’s your fault. 😉

On Twitter, someone using a Hitler icon recently threatened me. I will not give this person power by responding. I live with the danger of being a Jew every day.

So, no regular God for me. I have done psychic readings and Tarot cards, I have many different Tarot decks. One is Kabalistic and uses Hebrew letters. I believe in entities and one God. I believe in reincarnation. I have no friggin’ idea why I believe what I do. I have a blog on my metaphysical journey

Jonathan: What’s your day to day life like? Do you pray or keep Sabbath?

Romy: My day to day life has nothing to do with spirituality except that on the weekend I do Tarot. This to me is like a big fortune-cookie that I believe. My praying is more like thanking the powers that be. I am always grateful for ANY guidance. I kind of feel blessed.

I do not do Shabbat any more every Friday night but once in awhile. Again, it’s not religion for me, it is tradition. Lighting candles is like magic or meditation to me.

I just want to say something. At one time you talked with me about being Jewish not only as a religion but an ethnicity. If one buys into an idea of a straight, white, Christian, male as a ‘norm’ than I am ethnic. I have NEVER felt ethnic in any way. Even though there might be an impulse to label me as ‘exotic’ and although I might like that label, I am not that either. I am not an ethnic/exotic ‘other’.

Jonathan: When I said Judaism was an ethnicity as well as a religion, I meant no disrespect. ALL people have an ethnicity, including my own white New Zealand culture. It seems to me that Jewishness is a mixture of a “nation”, or “tribe” if you like, and a religion. Other religions, like Buddhism, seem to be uninterested in which tribe one comes from. Yet Judaism seems, to this outsider, very linked to a particular group. Any thoughts?

Romy: No offense taken? Jon. I don’t think that most people regard white, Christian, New Zealanders as ethnic. I don’t think anyone cares about my ‘tribe.’

I’m going to be very ‘in your face’ now. Nazis had this notion of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and moved towards a concept of an ‘Aryan Race.’ It brought that up for me.

Jonathan: You seem to have what might be called a “liberal” Jewish faith. (I don’t want to label you, so please forgive me if that doesn’t describe you.) How do you think about or relate to Orthodox or Hasidic Jews? In your point of view, is there any such thing as a “true” Jew these days, religiously?

Romy: Call me what you want but I may seep out of your definitions. Frustrating, eh?

I know a Christian, Filipino woman who works for Orthodox Jews. She will often remind me that it’s such-and-such Jewish holiday. I tell her that she’s a better Jew than me. *smile*

Orthodox and Hasidic Jews are extremely strict and play by the official Jew rules. They definitely embody qualities pertaining to being a “true” Jew. Nothing is ‘authentic’ but there are closer proximities than others.

Jonathan: I’m saddened that in modern Canada you still feel cautious about expressing your Jewishness. How do you think persecution has helped define you? (Persecution of your ancestors or in your own life?)

Romy: Yeah, it’s sad but not surprising. When I lived in Toronto, I brought in my grandparents to be interviewed about their Holocaust experience for the Shoah project by Steven Spielberg. There are Holocaust deniers and I thought that having a testimonial was important. [The Nazi Holocaust 1938-1945. Estimated Death Toll: 6 million Jews, 5 million others including 500,000 Gypsies, 6 million Poles, 5,000 to 15,000 homosexuals]

I was called a 3rd wave feminist in a book by the head of woman’s studies at South Carolina University. I researched what it meant to be a 3rd wave feminist. I found out that it’s aligned with a survivor mentality. I align myself with my grandparents whom I consider survivors. Persecution enabled this definition.

Jonathan: You seem to make a strong distinction between “religion” and “spirituality”. Can you tell me more about that?

Romy: Oh, yes I do make a huge distinction. Religion is paradigmatic. I consider it man-made, story-ridden and obviously ideological and prescriptive.

I am very spiritual. My spirituality is about connecting to unseen energies. It has nothing to do with prescriptions for being.

Jonathan: How does traditional Judaism think about spirituality outside the faith, eg Tarot? If the opinion is negative, does this bother you?

Romy: To be honest, Judaism in general doesn’t reflect upon Tarot and I don’t care what anyone thinks about my spirituality. I never did. I say, “bring it on.”

Jonathan: You said “no regular God for me” but also that you “believe in entities and one God”. What are these entities and God like for you?

Romy: Entities are like people who have passed on. Non-material beings that I can connect with. I find material physicality contentious.

I think of God as a quantum physics wave (or particle) in space. I am very comfortable with dualities. I don’t try to make things ‘fit.’ Ever.

The God thing is complex, eh? I absolutely do not believe that God created the Universe and even the idea of a ‘mind’ is problematic. My God doesn’t approximate human identity.

Jonathan: (This is the question I ask everyone.) Is truth important to you? If so, how do you know what you believe is true?

Truth is very important to me but I’m talking about honesty. In most of my books I use this example: Data and historical events do not shift but meaning does. The way we interpret data or historical events can change. For example, History. Things happened on certain dates. The way we regard these events might change. Data: Pluto is not considered a planet anymore. Alteration and flux are truth.

We are limited in what we can know given our senses. I know that any perspective I have is skewed. I am limited by my physicality– ironic because I am disabled.

A fish in a fishbowl only knows what a fish in a fishbowl knows.

Jonathan: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, Romy 🙂

Romy: A great pleasure Jon.

Respond

What questions would you ask Romy? If we’re lucky, she might respond.

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You can find other interviews here.

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Posted in Judaism, Sociology, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Welcome to the Fall

Posted by spritzophrenia on October 7, 2010

Part 5 of a series starting here

I find it highly ironic that I choose to explore pain and suffering, and then come down with a severe cold, the crippling return of an old back injury, and a descent into depression. When I cough, I have to grip the wall, or fall over with muscle spasms. If there is a Being who Knows out there, perhaps she is laughing. How has this affected my own spirituality? I guess I’ll first say, “What spirituality?” I’m an agnostic, and always will be.

Does agnostic spirituality require a constant to-and-fro along the path of unbelief? Climbing up and down the ladder to heaven, closer and then further away? I haven’t updated you on my own journey for a while; my life, study and praxis moves much faster than I can write about it here.

Briefly, I think— for now— that some kind of g0d might exist, following my reading of various theist philosophers. I can “feel something there” when I pray or read mystical literature. Weird, I could never do that before. Is that just the “religion” part of the brain, starved for company?

Strangely, the constant pain in my lower back doesn’t convince me that g0d cannot be there. Perhaps if it continues for many more weeks it may grind down the teeth of my belief. I came to the intellectual position some years ago that the problem of evil is not a “proof” against God. It only means we cannot know g0d’s purposes.

I’m quite cheerful, the sun is shining, and my mind’s distortions of reality are receding. The cold is gone, but the back-ache remains, making it difficult to sit or lie for long. I’m typing this standing up.

Laughing Jesus

As a head-person who has an ambivalent relationship with body and emotions, can I find some meaning or meditative quality in my pain? Mostly it just takes away my focus, removes my ability to think clearly, makes me tired and removes me from the higher life. I’ve read some pretty inspiring stuff by those who live with crippling circumstance. But for me? Nope. It’s just pain. Guess I’m not a guru, huh?

Pain is everyday for some people. There is a challenge in day-to-day spirituality: The life of work, paying bills, struggling to manage kids, exhaustion, arriving too late for the start of the movie. The idol of the mundane says, “This is nothing, this is ordinary. Don’t read anything special into this.”

Do you read anything special into the mundane parts of your life?

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Ministry | Welcome to the Fall

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Posted in agnostic, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

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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Posted in agnostic, god, Mysticism, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Interview with a Modern Pagan

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 13, 2010

I strongly believe we need to talk to each other about our spiritual lives. Even though we may respectfully disagree, I believe that peaceful co-existence of all religions in the 21st century depends on this.

Some people believe the solution to religious conflict is to suppress or exterminate spirituality, at the very least by ridicule. I think history shows this is highly unrealistic— look at the way religious life has sometimes thrived under active persecution. Polls consistently show that even with a decline in traditional beliefs, new spiritual practices are springing up to take their place. Whatever the spiritual landscape looks like in a few hundred years time, I doubt it will be 100% atheist.

Hence, I interview various believers and non-believers here on Spritzophrenia. I’m grateful to Freeman Presson for his willingness to share about his life. Freeman strikes me as a humorous and thoughtful man. Without further ado, I present:

Symbol of Enlil, Sumerian God of the Sky, Earth, & Water

Symbol of Utu? Sumerian sun God, known as Shamash in Akkadian

Interview with a Pagan

Jonathan: Freeman, let’s start with the classic “Age, Sex, Location?”

Freeman: Birmingham, Alabama, USA will do nicely. I don’t need to hide, I don’t even remember where the closet is. I’m going to pass on that age question, don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression. Let’s just say I have been an adult for a fairly long time now.

Jonathan: Tell me a bit about your background – did you have any kind of spiritual upbringing?

Freeman: I was raised in a mainstream Protestant church. My first mystical experience happened in that church when I was four — but it was before a service, and had nothing to do with Christianity. I was a
fairly devout little guy from ages 8 – 12, until I decided to actually read the entire Bible.

I put it down after finishing Revelation, and I remembering thinking “I don’t know what I am, but it’s not that.”

I got along with closet atheism for a while, but the spiritual realm was not done with me. Along with a lot of this and that, including some early attempts at magic, and some intense experiences with entheogens in my late teens/early twenties, I settled into a phase of “dabbling in Zen.” Then there’s another blank spot before I found a teacher and spent over 10 years really practicing.

I sort of abruptly exited regular Zen practice in the late 90’s, and along with my new love (now my wife), began to explore some more down-to-earth experiences.

Jonathan: How would you describe your spiritual path now? How did you come to practice what you do?

Freeman: It started with figuring out what sort of experiences my wife was having, and developed from there. Her tutelary spirit, Lilith/Lilitu, introduced us to some other deities from the Ancient Near East. I had never heard of my Ilu, Ningishzida, before I was directed to work with him. It had the definite feel of bringing someone out of a quiet semi-retirement.

When we found some other people who wanted to participate, we formed Temple Zagduku. Our work is a mixture of shamanic, devotional, and magical practices. We have more or less regular relationships with six
Deities. We adopted the motto “Namsaga,” which is one of the Sumerian terms for pleasure: as far as we could tell, it is the closest to “bliss,” as in “Follow your bliss.” It’s our equivalent of “Do what thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

So we are loosely reconstructive, hard polytheists, although I am at root “model agnostic” about the workings of the Divine. If someone wants to insist that it’s “all in the mind,” I just grin and say, “So
you agree with me that the mind is a vast and wonderful place. Good.”

Jonathan: Can you tell me a bit more about what a “hard polytheist” is?

Freeman: That is one way to classify a point in the space of modern Pagan theologies. Some people believe the Gods are some sort of archetype or function of the mind; some believe they are all aspects of the One; but a hard polytheist accepts the simple explanation that there are individual Gods and Daimones who each have their own powers and personalities.

As I said before, when people say that the Gods are archetypes or whatever, I don’t argue with them. I might say, “So, the Gods are all in your mind? At least we agree that the mind is a large and strange place.”

[Jonathan’s note: We discussed polytheism on Spritzophrenia at White Men Need More Ganesh]

Jonathan: What does your magic involve?

Freeman: Nowadays I do more meditation and journey work: theurgy rather than thaumaturgy. It’s about developing my self and my relationships with my Deities and guides rather than producing “special effects” in the outer world.

Jonathan: What’s your day to day life like? Do you spend your whole time doing ‘spiritual’ stuff?

Freeman: Quite the opposite, it is a struggle to find time to do my practices any more, or to schedule anything with a group. We are busy folks with a little kid like anyone else.

Jonathan: Why the Sumerian connection, for you? You sound like you’ve researched that a bit.

Freeman: I don’t know why I, in particular, would have that connection. You’d expect Celtic or perhaps Germanic Deities, or something from the American Indian realm; but they called me. It would never have occurred to me. I tried to work with Hermes first. I got a sense of “something” there but no real interaction. Then I got “clobbered” by my Goddesses and introduced to some of the others.

Jonathan: (The question I ask everyone) How do you know your beliefs are true?

Freeman: I don’t call something a “belief” if I know it’s true. The phrase” scientists believe” in place of “current scientific theory suggests” gripes my butt. I have had experiences that I couldn’t have had any other way, and my experiences are undeniable. If I could ‘prove” any of it, it would be science instead of spirituality.

I do not have to justify my spiritual practices and experiences. I’m not selling them as a cure for anything but boredom… but spiritual boredom (anomie) is a serious condition in its own right.

Jonathan: Thankyou Freeman, I hope to chat again in future.

Freeman: You’re welcome.

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For those interested in reading further, Freeman writes at http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com and http://ulbh.livejournal.com You can also read about one of my own Pagan experiences and more interviews. If you’d like me to interview you, leave a comment.

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What questions would you ask Freeman? (He may pop in and answer if we’re lucky.) What other thoughts has this raised for you?

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Posted in god, pagan, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 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).

Posted in agnostic, Hinduism, music, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

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.)

***

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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The Police | Spirits in a Material World

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Rejecting God Is Justified?

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 21, 2010

Why should you love God if she forces you to live through pain and doesn‘t keep her promises? I watched The Rapture last night. It’s the story of a bored, hedonistic woman who finds faith, and eventually loses it again.

Some reviews claim The Rapture is the best movie of 1991, and that lead actor Mimi Rogers deserves an Oscar. I’m not sure about that, but I did find it compelling. It’s an independent film, and I had to ignore the intermittent “made for TV” ambience. However, this film is not trying to convince you to follow a particular religion. Sure, the concept of “the rapture” is a common christian idea that true believers are caught up to heaven when Jesus returns. From my experience the ethos portrayed in the film is a fairly fringe kind of pseudo-Christianity, but I don’t think that’s the main point. The Rapture is asking bigger questions about belief in general, some of which will sit very well with atheists. One commenter wrote they’ve seen the film 10 times and they’re still not sure what to make of it.

Edit. The Rapture is not an easy or pleasant movie experience – don’t get it for a romantic first date.

The video below contains scenes from the movie, I’m not sure why the Foo Fighters soundtrack, but it’s a great song and worth watching for that alone. You can download the movie on BitTorrent if your local DVD store doesn’t have it.

Also see 10 Must-See Spiritual Movies.

Posted in agnostic, Christianity, hardship, movies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

From The Book of Atheist Spirituality

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 12, 2010

I think the reviewer who suggested The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality should be read along with the current offerings from Dawkins, Dennet et al was right. It’s fairly erudite, as one would expect from a French philosopher, but also readable, especially if one has a basic grasp of this field. I think believers as well as atheists would find this book worthwhile.

I won’t consider here whether he makes a good case for his question Can There Be An Atheist Spirituality?, especially as I haven’t finished it yet. I did find his writing enjoyable and stimulating so before the book goes back to the library I’ll drop in a few quotes:

As shown in the first chapter, we are finite beings who open on to infinity. It can now be added: we are ephemeral beings who open on to eternity, and relative beings who open on to the absolute. This ‘openness’ is the spirit itself. Metaphysics means thinking about these things; spirituality means experiencing them, exercising them, living them.

night sky

This is what distinguishes spirituality from religion, which is merely one of its possible forms. … All religions involve spirituality, at least to some extent, but all forms of spirituality are not religious. Whether or not you believe in God, the supernatural or the sacred, you are confronted with the infinite, the eternal and the absolute – and with yourself. Nature suffices. The truth suffices. Our own transitory finiteness suffices. …

To be an atheist is not to deny the existence of the absolute; rather, it is to deny its transcendance, its spirituality, its personality. It is to deny that the absolute is God. But to be not-God is not to not be! Otherwise we ourselves and the world itself, would not be!

Does the word absolute bother you? I understand. I, too, long shied away from it. Indeed, nothing prevents you from replacing it with another. Being? Nature? Becoming? With or without a capital letter? Everyone is free to choose their own vocabulary and I know of none that are faultless.

If we decide to take the word spirituality in its more restricted sense, we shall need to go further and higher: at its utmost, spiritual life verges on mysticism.

Here again, it too me a long time to accept the latter word. To my suspicious ears, it had a religious or irrational ring to it. Eventually, however, I was forced to acknowledge that it was the only word that fitted.

~ Andre Comte-Sponville, quotes from pp 136 – 141

Read more by me on this topic here.

Some music to help you feel spiritual? Carbon Based Lifeforms:

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Posted in atheism, Philosophy, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »