Going deeper: how I am and how I am not an atheist

“When I consider the brief span of my life, absorbed into the eternity before and after, the small space I occupy and which I see swallowed up in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I know nothing and which know nothing of me, I take fright… The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.”
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

I’ll start with a bit of a timeline.

At age eleven, I began to lose my faith in God because of the atrocities that he reportedly committed in the Old Testament. Other reasons for disbelief quickly followed, and when I asked my pastor for answers, I was told that: (a) faith is necessary for salvation; (b) faith is impossible in the presence of knowledge; (c) because faith is impossible in the presence of knowledge, my questions would only be answered in heaven.

In the late 1960s, I left my boyhood church—the fundamentalist Church of Christ in which I sometimes preached—when I was unable to liberalize it, a project that I had initially thought would be easy, what with the truth being so obviously on my side.

In the early 1970s I became an Episcopalian, but gave it up a few years later when I finally had to admit that, theologically speaking, I was at most an agnostic. I had suspected as much for years, but growing up a nonbeliever in the Bible Belt is a little like growing up gay in the Bible Belt: you want so desperately for it to not be true that you keep hoping you will grow out of it.

In the late 1970s I moved rather smoothly from agnosticism to atheism and joined American Atheists. John Marthaler was the lovable, elderly, eccentric president and only member of the South Mississippi Chapter, and Paul Tirmenstein the lovable, elderly, eccentric president and only member of the North Mississippi Chapter, so I drove 100 miles to New Orleans for meetings with the South Louisiana Chapter. I was warmly received, and soon began attending national conventions and writing for the national magazine. After a few years, my romance with American Atheists wore thin because I grew tired of the vitriol against theists despite the fact that I had initially been an enthusiastic contributor to it.

I lived in Minneapolis from 1988 to 1990 and joined the First Unitarian Society, which was very large and very atheistic—even the preacher was an atheist.

In the late 1990s, my personal life was not quite in shambles but close, so in desperation I turned—or tried to turn—to God. Not believing in God naturally posed a problem, so I became a Catholic. I hoped that by joining such an ancient and mystical organization, I could magically recapture the religious faith that I had—for all practical purposes—lost at age eleven.

Before an adult can join the Catholic Church, he must attend months of classes and meet regularly with a sponsor. Since I didn’t know any practicing Catholics, the good father appointed my sponsor. He assured me that Bill and I would get along famously because we were both intellectuals. Alas, Bill and I did not get along famously. Bill had the old fashioned idea that I should believe in God before I joined the church rather than hoping that God would mysteriously reveal himself to me after I joined. He didn’t block my acceptance though, so I became an official card-carrying Roman Catholic (they don’t really give out cards) in a moving ceremony one night before Easter.

I was also a Freemason and an Odd Fellow at the time, and the Catholic Church forbids membership in either, but no one asked if I was a member of any outlaw organizations, and I saw no need to bring it up, so maybe that’s what pissed God off. In any event, I woke up the morning after I became a Catholic with no more faith than I had when I was a card-carrying atheist (they do give out cards), so I gave up on Catholicism a few weeks later.

I was feeling pathetic, ridiculous, and flaky by now, having gone from fundamentalist Christianity to liberal Christianity to agnosticism to atheism to Catholicism. Clearly, I didn’t even have it in me to remain faithful to the faithless. I had become as much of a joke to religion as Elizabeth Taylor did to marriage.

Everything else aside, one of my main problems with Christianity was that I never liked the Biblical god—or Jesus for that matter (who I saw as the intolerant, inconsistent, and bad-tempered protagonist of a pathologically bizarre story about a merciless three-faced monster that imagined himself a deity). Liberal churches try to dress God and Jesus up a little (okay, a lot) by either throwing out much of the Bible or interpreting it metaphorically. Maybe I would have gotten better at this if not for my fundamentalist background, but I just considered it a hell of a strain to be forever trying to reinterpret the Bible to say something other than what it appeared to say.

Besides, I asked myself, if this kinder, gentler version of God is real, where was he when I hid under my bed as a child, crying in terror because of some fire-and-brimstone sermon—why didn’t the God who counts the hairs on everyone’s head and watches all the sparrows fall (but never catches them) comfort me? In all my years of seeking him, he never answered one prayer for faith or gave me one smidgen of encouragement. My entire religious experience from age eleven onward consisted of me trying to force belief down my throat as if it were a fiery poker, while those who never seemed to question anything attacked me for my “refusal to trust God.”

Enough history: where am I now? Well, I’m a member of American Humanists, but I don’t plan to renew because there are no local meetings, and the magazine is a waste of time. I’m still a Freemason and an Odd Fellow (mostly non-attending) because, although both require a belief in God, they don’t define what God is. So what do I think God is?

I’m a pantheist, I suppose, but not a door-to-door street-preaching pantheist. I’m more of a slightly embarrassed pantheist who wonders if it even makes sense to call himself a pantheist. Sometimes, I think yes; other times I think no. My problem is that atheists and pantheists both define the universe in completely naturalistic and scientific terms. The difference is that pantheists call the universe God and worship it, whereas atheists just call the universe the universe and don’t worship it.

When I’m in a cynical mood, this just makes pantheism seem like a way for timid atheists to avoid the negative stigma of being called atheists. Other times, I can look at a cloud, or a baby animal, or even a shrub (a Cascade Mountain snowbrush, for example) and quite literally cry in utter and complete awe at the wonder of existence, and at THOSE times my heart longs for a positive term with which to describe my wonder, and atheist just doesn’t cut it. ALL atheism means is that you think the supernatural is make-believe. Well, I DO think the supernatural is make-believe, yet I ALSO experience worship, or at least something that feels like worship. I could just call the feeling awe, but adoration seems more apt. The feeling is actually more akin to what mystics describe. It’s…how can I put it… I feel overcome by wonder; I feel as if I’m a tiny part of an infinitely vast machine in which every movement of every part is an absolute necessity; I feel at ONE with the universe.

Atheists don’t talk that way. At least, I never heard any of them talk that way, and I think they would probably consider me suspect if they heard me talk that way. They would look at me in the same troubled way that my Catholic sponsor looked at me. Like him, they keep their distance and wonder how long it would take me to realize I wasn’t welcome. In regard to religion, no matter where I am, I don’t belong.

I am a pantheist almost by default. It’s as if I’m a ball-bearing rolling down a conveyer belt at the end of which are all these holes. I see all the other ball-bearings moving in a precise and orderly manner down holes that are meant just for them; only I don’t fit any of the holes, so I just keep being tossed around on top of all the other bearings. You might say I’m a special ball-bearing, or you might say I’m a defective ball-bearing, but one thing is for sure: I can’t be other than what I am. Count them: I’ve belonged to FOUR churches (if you count the Minneapolis Unitarian Society as a church) and hung around the periphery of a few more religious organizations. I’ve also been an atheist, an agnostic, a humanist, and a pantheist.

I’ve been all these things because I wanted so badly to find someplace in which I could feel a sense of peace and belonging, someplace where I would be truly and unreservedly welcome. I never have, and I doubt that I ever will, but I’ve grown to accept that. As a person advances through life and reflects that there is more of it behind him than in front of him, wisdom dictates that he stop expecting much of his fellows, not because he is bitter or cynical, but because he recognizes that the limits he finds within himself are also within them. However unqualified he feels to take full responsibility for his life, he is still better qualified than they to be a leader unto himself.

33 comments:

dana said...

Good grief! Have you lived MY life or have I lived YOURS. Follow ME through being a Methodist, a Lutheran, a catholic, and a non-denominational music minister, called upon to give the prayers during service because I "talked a good talk" and gave a fantastic witness to my physical healing while feeling myself start to bleed internally during the service.


"You were not healed because you did not believe" "You did not take up your bed and walk" "You have done SOMETHING unforgiveable"...... "You do not have enough faith" a nun told me on my way to surgery.

I worked HARD at loving an unloveable god who said I should love AND fear him. I didn't expect that of my dog, I sure wouldn't expect that of a child.

When I asked questions, I was given platitudes. I was told that we're NOT to understand, only trust.

Faith MIGHT be all we're left with after religion gets done ripping our beliefs to shred, but I will never, EVER, join a group that has a title, that requires meetings, just to believe what I believe.

I can't even speak my feelings to my family, friends or husband, because THEY believe and I appear to be the one trying to jerk their rugs of peace out from under them.

So, like most people of faith say:

I BELIEVE WHAT I BELIEVE.

It can apply to NON belief also, with no further explanations, memberships or others touting THEIR non beliefs to ME.

I no longer need convincing. I AM convinced. There's no hell to fear and, sadly, no heaven to look forward to.

And my FATHER didn't not protect THIS child from sexual abuse, munchausen sydrome by my mother, or a husband who was cruel for 30 years. And I also have a LOT of surgical scars from not being healed time after time again.

dana said...

You might want to edit my comment. I had no right to get on a rant on YOUR space.

Snowbrush said...

Dana: "You might want to edit my comment. I had no right to get on a rant on YOUR space."

Au contraire, it was wonderful to hear from a fellowette traveller, as it were. Of course, there will be those who ask you, as they ask me, why you're so mad at a god you don't believe in. What they don't understand is that it's not god the entity but god the concept, and all the misery that has been inflicted in the name of that concept, that we find so hateful.

Bernie said...

I feel when one wants to love, it is the beginning of love, when one wants to believe it is the beginning of belief....
I have buried most of my family and survived cancer, God didn't give me cancer or take my family from me...but he did bring me comfort with my faith.
As long as there are people on this planet religion will always cause wars or hate of other religions....but not God.
Hope you are feeling better Snow, have a great weekend....:-) Hugs

Natalie said...

'However unqualified he feels to take full responsibility for his life, he is still better qualified than they to be a leader unto himself. '

This is my belief system. You are responsible for your own actions, and your temple is your own body and 'soul'.

That sense of awe and appreciation you feel is what I name God/ Universe, because i don't know what else to call it.

Unlike you, I do believe wholeheartedly in 'extra sensory' events and abilities.
I live them everyday. Science is slowly catching up to 'whackos' like me, and not before time too!

There seems to be an order and system to the Universe, as well as random events such as Haiti. Creation is wonderous and magical, as well as frightening and sad.

I question everyday.....
e.g. Why do we have Roses and psychopaths existing on the same plane of existence?

What purpose do Cockroaches serve?
What purpose do I serve?

My wish is to understand it all, but it seems unlikely in my lifetime, as well as in yours.

Acceptance perhaps, is the only way to peace.

~ Accept that you mean no harm

~ Accept that you are moral and loving

~ Accept that everyone is trying their best to figure it out, which ever way feels most comfortable to them.

~ Accept that if we all took responsibility for our own actions, the world would be a wonderous and safe place to live in.

~ Accept that we are human, and by that very nature, faulty.

~ Just do your utmost to love and care where you are able, and to forgive yourself where you cannot.

Aim for peace in your own soul, and love in your heart ( even if you are surrounded by assholes).

The world needs people who are intelligent, moral, and loving, in order for things to change.
We need more of people like you.

Keep on keeping on........ :D

Lydia said...

The feeling is actually more akin to what mystics describe. It’s…how can I put it… I feel overcome by wonder; I feel as if I’m a tiny part of an infinitely vast machine in which every movement of every part is an absolute necessity; I feel at ONE with the universe.......
There, my friend, I believe is where you defined most closely what you are. A mystic.

kylie said...

interesting, isnt it?
you try to come to terms with the difficulties of faith by changing.
i wonder how it all fits, too, but i stick to the belief system i was raised with because its probably as good as any and at least i know the theory

RNSANE said...

Snowbrush, you certainly do get around! Card carrying or not, your experience in the world of religions has certainly been diverse. I respect your efforts and choices and think you simply are a decent human being who would like to believe in humanity, even if they prove themselves totally underserving at times.

Your posts are brilliant and always give me much food for thought.

Mim said...

I live my life in happy bliss most of the time, not worrying about the unknown - but there are times when I get a brief flash - and I mean brief - of "this all must mean something more - it can't just be so random" and then the flashes pass.

I know a Buddist woman from Sri Lanka who's husband shot and killed her two children ( in front of her) and then killed himself. She eventually remarried when the Buddist priests told her it was time to do so, and then had two more children when the souls of the first two were "ready to come back" (according to the priests). Both of her second set of children were born with obvious birthmarks where the first set had been shot.
What the hell does that all mean - I surely don't know!!!

Maybe you should try becoming Jewish. I am, and was never frightened by fire and brimstone altho I'm sure that there are others who were. Maybe I just look away from the hell-fire crap. I stopped going to temple because it was a competitive thing about who could pray louder and who had a better family etc. But I think about going back now that that crap doesn't bother me anymore.

Anyway - how's your shoulder??? hope you are doing well, as usual, your writing is brilliant, thought provoking and requires re-reading over and over - lots in there.

ellen abbott said...

We've lived parallel lives in this regard although I didn't search quite so long for a religion I could fit into. I've written several posts about this. I shed christianity early on for many of the same reasons. The whole dichotomy of the loving but fearful god, the whole heaven/hell thing, original sin and temptation. I figured out pretty soon it wasn't about god at all but about controlling the population. Anyway I guess the main difference between us is that I never felt the loss of 'belonging'. I have always been happy without a religious or faithful community. My moments of awe have been enough for me.

Snowbrush said...

The pain is just horrible tonight, so I will make a start at some responses while the Demerol kicks in--hopefully, it will kick in.

Bernie: " religion will always cause wars or hate of other religions....but not God."

Is God, in your view, both all loving AND all-powerful? If he is, why does he allow war? Even if all things will come out okay in the end, God, being all-powerful, could surely accomplish the same goal without all the suffering

You have a great weekend too, my sweet friend.

Natalie: "Science is slowly catching up to 'whackos' like me..."

Never, Natalie! They're smart, but not THAT smart.

Your "acceptances" are in the direction of believing that I'm a good person, but I don't see myself as either wholly good or bad. Loving--me? I often make choices that I know will cause unnecessary pain, but I make them anyway. I try to reduce their number, to be sure, but I still make them. Recently, I gave up eating eggs because chickens are horribly abused. Yet, I still eat fish. Maybe someday I will give it up too, but one thing I know--there will ALWAYS be more good I could do that I choose not to do.

Lydia: "I believe is where you defined most closely what you are. A mystic."

Well, it is my impression (and maybe I'm wrong) that mystics typically believe in the ultimate goodness of it all--that love will prevail. At heart, I'm a determinist, so the furtherest I can go is to say that I believe in the ultimate necessity of it all. I have zero confidence that, in the big picture, wrongs will ever be righted, or comfort given, or love triumph. I see the universe is utterly amoral. Only human beings have moral standards, yet we inflict more unnecessary suffering than all the other species combined.

I will stop here for now. I am all but in howling pain at the moment, so forgive me if I've been even more disagreeable than usual in answering your responses....maybe I'll answer a few more since I'm still quite sure I can't sleep.

Kylie: "i stick to the belief system i was raised with"

Given your statement that your lifelong belief system is, "probably as good as any," maybe the issue simply isn't that important to you. A lot of people are that way, but a lot more of us couldn't be that way if we wanted to--and we probably did want to, at least initially.

RNSane: "Snowbrush, you certainly do get around!"

Me and the Beach Boys--ha. Thank you for your kind words and frequent visits.

Mim: "Both of her second set of children were born with obvious birthmarks where the first set had been shot."

I have no idea what that might mean, but Occam's Razor would place reincarnation pretty far down the list of possibilities. For my part, I never assume such accounts to be true. It's not necessarily that people lie when they see paintings cry, statues raise their hands in benediction, etc, but that they (we) all tend to see (or imagine we see) that which substantiates what we already believe to be true.

Mim: "how's your shoulder???"

At the moment about as bad as it gets. When it's like this, I become exceedingly scared that I've damaged it, and will have to have the surgery done all over again. After two such surgeries them in ten months (and even the first one not completely healed), this is horrifying thought to be sure.

Thank you all so much for writing. You are a great encouragement to me simply by being there.

Pantheist Mom said...

Snow, I understand.
I, too, figure I'm a pantheist by default because it comes closest to describing the way I believe I fit into the universe. I think it is unfortunate that we feel obligated to find a "word" to describe our spirituality. I suppose it's useful to have a definition when we're seeking out others who we might feel a connection with...but it's unfortunate because using any label as defined by somebody else is going to be an imperfect fit.

You are a very honest soul. I think that is what lets you feel "right." It also makes it very hard sometimes, in a world where we insist on fitting everything into categories. You are who you are, and I think that is a very rich thing. I feel fortunate to have found a connection to you.

Snowbrush said...

Ellen: "We've lived parallel lives in this regard although I didn't search quite so long for a religion I could fit into...I have always been happy without a religious or faithful community."

Peggy grew up in a dedicated Southern Baptist household, and attended church with her family for 18 years without complaint; but the day she left home, she left church and never looked back. Whereas religion has often consumed me; it never interested her even enough to rebel against it. She doesn't like talking about it, not because she's sensitive on the issue but because she's bored. I rather envy people like her--and you--people for whom it just doesn't matter. It will always matter to me though for all manner of reasons, most of which, I daresay, have nothing to do with God but with psychology, anthropology, art, literature, history, etc.

Pantheist Mom said...

BTW, I am very sorry about your pain. I almost hesitate to write that because it sounds so thin compared to what you're living through right now. I mean it to the fullest possible extent. I wish there was something that could be done to help. It sucks.

Marion said...

Snow, I love you no matter what you 'label' yourself. (I personally don't believe in labels.) And I truly hope you achieve some relief from your pain.

Personally, I decided many moons ago to call myself a Seeker. I was born into the Catholic faith although my Daddy made no bones about being an atheist and my Mama was baptized in a creek in Mississippi as a girl. Daddy died when I was 6 and I got into the religion of no religion when we moved to Shreveport to live right by the Red River levee with my farmer/fisherman Uncle and Aunt who did not attend church. Us kids went to church with whoever in the area offered the best treats as rewards for attending. (I was in love with Mark Twain at this time and spent most of my time on the river bank reading and daydreaming I was Tom Sawyer and/or Huck Finn depending on my mood.) Later, we moved and became Methodist, but also attended the Baptist church intermittently. (Equal opportunity family). As an adult, I've attended Assembly of God, Church of Christ and hard core, pew-jumping Pentecostal churches. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every experience and got a lot out of each. I've seen real life miracles and healings. I've spoken in tongues and fell out in the Spirit and laid hands on a person and saw her healed. I have had hundreds of prayers answered and I believe God spoke directly to me in several dreams.

I have not one single regret, faith-wise. I now study the Bible, Zen, Taoism, The Bhagavad Gita, Tarot, the I Ching and any other book about world religions I can get my hands on. I worship daily at the altar of poetry. And I firmly believe in God and that he loves me in spite of the fact that I no longer practice organized religion. I guess you could say I practice disorganized religion. LOL! That's my story and I'm sticking to it....

Love, Hugs & Blessings, Snow. Feel better soon!

The-Fire-Olympus said...

Besides, I asked myself, if this kinder, gentler version of God is real, where was he when I hid under my bed as a child, crying in terror because of some fire-and-brimstone sermon—why didn’t the God who counts the hairs on everyone’s head and watches all the sparrows fall (but never catches them) comfort me?

I myself would have wrote that.


Pantheism and Atheism are very similar since they both define the universe as the creator,but also see it as not caring.

Most of the famous scientist expressed some sort of pantheist beliefs like Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison.

Although Einstein described himself more of a deist, but his own qoutes about the universe and essays come across as very pantheistic.

Thomas Edison once said "What you call God I call nature" and was against teaching religion in Public Schools.

So if you feel this way it's nothing to be ashamed of. It leat you question and think of your beliefs.

Most people go throughout their lives without questioning anything about their beliefs.

To me it's not what you believe, but it's why you believe it.

Chrisy said...

I love visiting here Snowbrush. It’s like I go into a world where my thoughts are validated. We are so alike. Like you, and Dana above, I’ve studied/tasted most spiritual beliefs but I don’t think I can put a label on the beliefs I’ve come to because our language doesn’t have the words to express it. Pantheist comes close but with so many sub-categories - monist physicalist pantheist, monist idealist pantheist, dualist pantheist – it’s unsatisfying. Reading your posts, and the readers comments that I can relate to, is like sitting down with a group of friends, lounging about bouncing ideas off each other. It’s a world where there is no pain. No meds. Just laughter and ideas. Thanks Snow.

Will-E said...

Hey Snow, I'm sure you've considered it from a scientific viewpoint. I enjoy science mostly from a pantheist viewpoint. I think the Earth, plants and animals are interesting. I think most people have experienced something similar to what you wrote:

"I could just call the feeling awe, but adoration seems more apt. The feeling is actually more akin to what mystics describe. It’s…how can I put it… I feel overcome by wonder; I feel as if I’m a tiny part of an infinitely vast machine in which every movement of every part is an absolute necessity; I feel at ONE with the universe,"

Maybe those who understand this have an evolutionary adaptation that has helped us survive more successfully? The part of us that creates these feelings inspires us to live. It also also inspires us to create philosophies about the meaning of life and religions that explain the same. The conclusion is that philosophy and religion are results of evolution and the overwhelming desire to survive and flourish...life. Feeling that there are things more astounding and greater than us inspires us to live and therefore helps us struggle through tough times. From a pantheist perspective, existence and life are what should be admired and "worshipped." If one appreciates his life experiences from a religious perspective, or if he enjoys them for the face value of an enjoyable experience, what difference does it make? The depth of appreciation is what divides shallow folks & deep ones(AKA religious). Those of us without religion can still have just as much appreciation, I think that's what the Faithful don't realize. There's a difference between religion and spirituality. I didn't know the term pantheist before I read your blog, but I would say it roughly describes my feelings. A connection with things (the Universe) that I can't describe, but an aversion to organized religion that pushes me away from anything involving the term "faith." The benefit of religion is the opportunity for those who have it to look down on those who don't. A non-religious person can have every emotional benefit a church-going person has, if they enjoy the supportive network of family and friends that I have.

C Woods said...

When I first joined the American Atheists, I was thrilled to find like-minded people. But, like you, I was disillusioned by some of the ill-tempered intolerance. Madalyn was a hell-raiser, even though she didn't believe in hell.

Like you, I stopped believing as a pre-teen, but I never sought out other religions. I was comfortable with my lack of belief. That doesn't mean I was always comfortable in a world filled with mostly religious people who thought there was something wrong with me, but I was comfortable with myself. I sought out non-religious groups to fulfill my need for belonging.

Although I don't think labels are important, I guess I would call myself a humanist, atheist, pantheist, freethinker. I believe one can be all of those at the same time.

Religion has always fascinated me ---maybe because, as Dave Barry says, no matter what religion you are, everyone else's sounds stupid. Religious people, please don't be offended by that. If you are a Christian, you probably think Islam sounds stupid. If you are a Jew, you most likely think Christianity sounds ridiculous. If you are an adherent of any religion, you're sure atheists just don't get it. As an atheist, all religions sound like wishful thinking to me.

Although I was once a believer, it is now difficult to remember why I bought into Christianity, other than that I had been indoctrinated by my parents. A part of it surely was that I wanted to believe, whether I liked the fantasy or merely wanted to please my parents.

I know quite a few people who have hopped from religion to religion, trying to find where they fit in. I've often wondered if they are seeking something outside of themselves that they need to find within. (Just a thought.)

kylie said...

no snow, after a good days thought, i can say my faith IS important. my husband has tried to take away most of the things important to me and often he succeeds but not on this one.i fought and fought hard for it.
i agree that my comment looks like i dont care, maybe i didnt think it through enough......
my faith is something i continually question and i probably dont understand more than i do but i believe that i'm on the right track.
this stuff is important, if i hadnt been raised within a belief system i would have looked for one, i know this because i keep delving further into the big questions. i dont neccessarily do it in the context of Christianity but i do it and isnt that what religion is about? answering the big questions?

rhymeswithplague said...

I can echo Dana: "GOOD GRIEF! Have you lived MY life or have I lived YOURS?" Except I still believe in God, who remains a mystery to me. I don't think the universe is the creator, though. I think the universe is the creation, and, yes, it does inspire awe and wonder and adoration (a puppy, a rosebush, a constellation of stars), but somehow God is both in his creation and outside of it at the same time. He/She/It (or maybe all of the above, a kind of trinity!) is big enough to be outside of it all, and also small enough to give me little private nudges from time to time. That Blaise Pascal fellow you quoted also said that in every human heart there is a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill. But I'm not going to preach to you.

So much of what you wrote here I can identify with, except the part about knowing Madalyn Murray O'Hare (O'Hair?).

I think I stopped believing in the God of my childhood the day my mother died when I was sixteen. If this God loved me so much, why did He take my mother away? I am 68 now, and I still don't have an answer to that question. And although I have read a lot of the Bible in no particular order, I recently decided to start at the beginning and read straight through. I am now in the seventh book (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges...) and several times already I have thought, "Why, except for the fact that it records the history of a particular group of people, is all this gore placed in a book and regarded as holy?"

Did you know the Ku Klux Klan went down to the Unitarian Church and burned a question mark on their lawn? (feeble attempt at a joke)

I'm glad I discovered your blog. I forget how that happened. Your opening quote from Pascal really resonates with me, as does also your closing paragraph (I think I would have omitted the final sentence).

The someplace in which you can feel a sense of peace and belonging, the someplace where you are truly and unreservedly welcome, seems to be blogland. At least this little corner of it. (I bet you thought I was going to say something else....)

Snow, keep on keeping on. I am thinking of stopping my blog as it doesn't seem to be making much of a difference. Yours, on the other hand,....

Marion said...

Thank you for your last two posts, Snow. The posts and the comments make for very interesting reading.

I don't have much to say; my belief system is deep and defies explanation. It is not one thing or the other; it just is.

I do hope that excruciating pain is letting up on you, my dear friend. One thing I know for sure is that I could not write as well as you if I was in such deep pain, and so I thank you for these very evocative posts.

JOE TODD said...

Maybe Faith is nothing more than having the Willingness to look at "things" from different perspectives.. Pantheism Dawkins described it as "sexed-up atheism. I like that

CreekHiker said...

Thought provoking as always, Snow. I must admit, religion always leaves me questioning and lacking.

Snowbrush said...

Thank you for your kinds words and concern, Pantheist Mom.

Marion said: "I love you no matter what you 'label' yourself. (I personally don't believe in labels..)"

Thank you for the love. As for labeling, please see my response to Will-E. I kind of know what you mean about them, but I still spent several hours laughing intermittently as I played a private game of reductio absurdum based upon the result of discarding a few too many labels--labels being just another name for nouns after all. You could get rid of only the proper ones, or only the common ones, or all of them. In any event, I should think you would have to do a lot of grunting and pointing to make yourself understood.

Chrisy, yes there are an amazing number of different kinds of pantheists. Few beliefs stay "pure" from additions and alterations, I suppose.

The-Fire-Olympus said: "To me it's not what you believe, but it's why you believe it."

In this regard, it's easier to find sympathy for someone who believes something in error if everyone around them has repeated it as true all their lives long (such as Jesus walked on water), as opposed to someone believing something that is equally outrageous but new--such as the Halle-Bopp Comet cult of a few years back.

Will-E wrote: "Those of us without religion can still have just as much appreciation"

I think Marion's objection to labels was based upon this truth. There is still, in my mind, a desire to put a name to that appreciation. Labels can be divisive and confusing, but they can also be awfully useful.

C Woods said: " it is now difficult to remember why I bought into Christianity"

Yet, you stopped believing before you were even a teenager! I see it this way. When you're little, people tell you lots of things that aren't readily apparent, such as "if you love Jesus, you will go to heaven after you die," and "touching a hot stove will burn you," and how the heck are you, a person new to earth, supposed to even start sorting out which ones makes sense; especially since they come at you from adults whom you trust to have your best interest at heart and to tell you the truth.

Snowbrush said...

Kylie said: "isnt that what religion is about? answering the big questions?"

I don't know if a long essay would do to answer this question--I can easily imagine a book. For one thing, while it is true that our beliefs come from the questions we ask; it is also true that the questions we ask come from our beliefs. For example, if you ONLY believe in the material world, you probably won't spend any time at all wondering about the non-material world (the spirit world).

Snowbrush said...

Marion said: "hope that excruciating pain is letting up on you...I could not write as well as you if I was in such deep pain"

I am having a horrendous few days. Last night, I took four Demerol, one Percocet, one Vicodin, and one Restoril over a period of ten hours; and I was still up every two hours staggering from my chair in the living room to the freezer in the garage for another ice pack. Today, I feel sick from all the drugs, so I know I can't take many tonight. My plan is to hang in there for a few more days, and, if the pain doesn't get better, get an MRI to see how my shoulder looks inside. I'm waiting because of the cost, and because I went through the same thing with my other shoulder, and that MRI hurt more than anything else I have ever experienced in my whole life due to the fact that I had to lie on my back for a half hour with my shoulder pressed to the table by a block. As for writing while in pain; that's my best distraction.

Rhymes with Plague said: "Did you know the Ku Klux Klan went down to the Unitarian Church and burned a question mark on their lawn? (feeble attempt at a joke)"

On the part of you or the Klan?--ha.

Rhymes with Plague said: "I think I would have omitted the final sentence"

About it being better for a person to take charge of his own life than for him to allow others to do so? ...I guess I'm a LITTLE lost here. I suppose you took it to imply that I also included the voices in the Bible, which I did, of course.

Rhymes with Plague said: "I am thinking of stopping my blog as it doesn't seem to be making much of a difference."

Oh, I would hate for you to do that. If I were to judge my own blog in regard to how much difference it makes, I might stop it too. I mean, how much difference do you need to make? I'm intensely gratified by such praise as I get, but I hardly think I'm out changing the world for the better; rather that I'm monologuing (and, to some degree, dialoguing) with friends. I stimulate them to think, and they stimulate me. That's a significant enough reward for me--and you're right about my blog being a place where I feel that I belong. It's the strangest thing to GAIN followers for posts that I anticipate will cost me followers. I'm apparently saying some things that some people relate to but don't commonly hear; and I'm at least not alienating too many of those who disagree with me, and for that I'm truly grateful. Someone wrote recently that I seem to provoke people just for the fun of it, a statement that couldn't be further from the truth. I actually go to pains to tone down statements that might alienate people. I want to be honest, but also to not be disrespectful of individuals even though I might not respect some of their beliefs. Actually, you're one of the people who I'm most pleased to still have visit me as I know that you don't like dirty words, and as I know that you are a solid Christian.

Creek Hiker said: "I must admit, religion always leaves me questioning and lacking."

I had thought you were quite firm in your beliefs, and this caused me to worry that I might offend you.

Joe Todd said: "Pantheism...Dawkins described it as "sexed-up atheism."

Which is still atheism, of course. I had read this quotation by him, but I have no idea how he meant it. I rather recall that he's a harsh critic of theism, so I guess he wouldn't be too down on any form of non-theism.

pink dogwood said...

I love this
not because he is bitter or cynical, but because he recognizes that the limits he finds within himself are also within them.

so much wisdom here.

swan said...

This is by far one of my favorite posts... Strange that they allowed you to join without having a belief in the founder... I have had these same yearnings with Catholcism and even have had

Christine Robinson said...

Hey there, Snow.

So good to read you. Always so thoughtful and thought provoking.

I hope you're feeling better soon with your sore shoulder. It seems unfair that you're still hurting so much. but life's not fair, eh?

If there's some divine entity out there, imagine how confused it/he/she must be at all the fuss about who it/he/she is about. If it's lonely being a pantheist, imagine how lonely it must be to be the head honcho of all humanity, the universe, etc.

At least we have a few equals. And even when we only fit in for a short time, at least we fit somewhere with someone for a time.

It's always about moving on.

but maybe it's the decongestant talking. (I have a cold! Why?)

chris

Strayer said...

I think god and others exist in other dimensions, that we might be a science experiment in a test tube, or even that our earth might be a particle in a very big huge body.

But my favorite opinion (fantasy) about god and us, is that god and other beings of some form, exist in another dimension, and that god got into trouble for collecting humans. He liked them, like I like cats but his neighbors didn't, said they were messy, tore things up, bred like rabbits and fought viciously. So god went to court and he told the judge "No, don't kill them, they're wonderful." Like I would, for cats. Anyhow, so the judge says, "They're disgusting and vile. But....let's have an experiment. We'll put them in their own space and see just how they behave. If they destroy everything, breed like rabbits, fight, then we're going to exterminate them. If any turn out decent you can take those back."

That's how I see it, one of the ways, and I tell Christians that story, because I run into a lot of Christians who are really nasty to animals. As your god is to you, you are to the animals, I try to point out, uselessly and half self righteously, matching theirs or trying.

Snowbrush said...

Swan said: " Strange that they allowed you to join without having a belief in the founder..."

I don't think it was like church policy or anything. I just doubt that Bill mentioned it to the priest. I think Bill just wanted to be done with me in the least time-consuming way possible. The night I was confirmed, he gave me "The Seven Story Mountain" as a gift and never spoke to me again.

Christine said: "I have a cold! Why?"

Well, duh, it's because you believe in God, silly. I mean, did you ever see an atheist with a cold? God gives colds to people who believe in him because he wants to teach them patience, fortitude, and compassion for other sufferers, etc. By the same token, he doesn't give colds to atheists because he doesn't care about helping them. Lucky you.

Well, Strayer, I guess the Bible just isn't too big on being nice to animals. As I sit here at 3:00 a.m. in my Demerol induced haze, I'm trying to think of even one command about treating animals well. I suppose there must be something about it back there in the Laws of Moses, but I can't recall anything off-hand. Maybe that's why every church I know of puts 100% of its efforts toward bettering the world into bettering the world for human beings.

Thank you, Pink Dogwood, for your kind words.

The Blog Fodder said...

Hi, Snow
Waded through this one too. I read to learn. I read because it makes me think and helps me think. You have a good group of followers and the discussion always adds to me. thanks for contributing some answers and some more questions to my own search.