Thoughts following my second catechism class


The following is a letter that I just sent to (Father) Brent who had encouraged me to take his catechism class, although, having belonged to four churches, I wouldn't join another one unless I had been going there for years. Besides, I became an Episcopalian at age 23, so I wouldn't need to join the national body, and I wouldn't have to take the class to join the local parish. I think my letter might qualify as blunt, but sometimes I just don't know how to soften things without diluting their meaning. Perhaps, if I sat on it for weeks, but I don't have weeks, and I've already worked on this letter over a period of three days.


I know you're awfully busy, so I hate to burden you with a fairly long letter, but I find it necessary.

I was surprised to hear people in our catechism class speak of struggling to believe, because in the church of my childhood, no one would have admitted as much. Is it not the case that people need never struggle to believe that which they know to be true, and that to do so suggests the triumph of need over integrity? I don’t know what I can be to such people other than an obstacle to their “faith,” and therefore an object of their hatred, and this raises the question of why you wanted me in the class.

The catechism (not you, the catechism) takes me back to my fundamentalist childhood in that the preachers I knew then also addressed difficult questions with smug authority, as if their answers were meaningful, obvious, and incontrovertible, when they were anything but. I see little difference between the fundamentalism I knew then and the fundamentalism of the catechism and creeds, although my childhood church disavowed both as “the works of men.”

I said nothing in our recent class because I could see no benefit in questioning every point—something that I came very near doing in the first class—that is unless I imagined that answers were to be had, which I did not. While I appreciate the fact that you encourage “hard questions,” I still imagine that there is a limit to the number that I, as a nonbeliever, might in good faith ask, and as you said during our last class, if someone isn’t open to learning from the material, then he doesn’t belong in church. As I wrote to you on the day we met, I’m an atheist, and as such I’m not open to learning about the characteristics of a supernatural deity except inasmuch as I can interpret them metaphorically, and I see no way to interpret the catechism and the creeds metaphorically. My attendance at church has been solely a right-brain endeavor through which I had hoped to find some peace with religion. By contrast, the catechism and creeds are entirely left-brain. 

I regard the catechism—and the creeds it supposedly elucidates—simply as the position of the side that won; the side that canonized the Bible; that wrote the creeds; that excommunicated, persecuted, tortured, imprisoned, and murdered those who held other views. As if all this weren’t enough, they did everything they could to destroy the writings and the memory of those whom they persecuted. So, I’m to be open to their writings, to imagine that men with blood on their hands were inspired by God! I’m hardly less open to the Islamic State, the main difference being that these “Christians” successfully carried on their program of control through terrorism for well over a thousand years, and are still doing it right here in America to the extent that they’re able (I write this as one who spent 37 years in the Bible-Belt).

I’m ever aware that for most of the history of Christianity, I would have been tortured and killed in the name of Jesus, and that right here in America, people whose views are considered heretical are still losing their jobs, being disowned by their families, having their pets poisoned and their children bullied. While Jesus had his faults, I never imagine that he would have approved of people who use viciousness to support their claim to having a corner on the truth, but this is what the creeds represent to me.

The creeds don’t even pretend to encourage love and acceptance, but are instead tools for enforcing propositions that never made the first person kinder or more moral. You say that they need not be taken literally, and that the word belief doesn’t have to mean intellectual acceptance, yet people were once murdered because they didn’t take the creeds literally (how easily the church forgets its crimes). When I read those creeds, I hear the screams of people being burned at the stake, and their screams are no less anguished for having happened hundreds of years ago. When I’m in church, I simply tell myself that I’m hearing the mythology of the people among whom I have come, so I will take whatever of good I can from it, and leave that which I regard as bad. It is the best that I can do, the best that anyone with integrity could do.

When you said that the creeds were an anchor to the church, I remembered the time from my childhood when I stepped on a plank and a nail went into my foot and was held there by the sole of my shoe, because that too was an anchor of sorts. Given your statement that the biggest complaint that Episcopalians have about church is the creeds, maybe I’m not alone. Since the entire class won’t be about the catechism, I would like to continue if you still want me, and can help me figure out how to make it work, because just as questioning everything didn’t go well the first time, questioning nothing didn’t work any better the second time.

Despite my atheism, you told me that there was a place for me at Resurrection, and I have tried to believe you. Now, I don't know what to think, nor do I know what you think in light of what you said about the necessity of remaining open to that which I told you from the outset I didn't believe. It's as if I'm suddenly back in the Church of Christ where the heart means little and the acceptance of authority everything. In case I have somehow failed to make myself clear, I don't accept the creeds or the catechism as having any authority. Those writers whom the church silenced produced far more profound and beautiful writings than these.

Appreciatively,

26 comments:

Paula Kaye said...

I will be interested in what response you receive...

kylie said...

Snow,
You don't have to reconcile this stuff. It truly does not matter what Brent thinks of you or whether you can be of benefit to the group or if you agree with the catechism. Our position with God is our own experience and nobody elses and if God doesnt even exist then it is nobody's business but our own. (In saying that I am assuming that we are not imposing on other people in any way)
Stop looking approval because you dont need it and a lot of the time you wont get it.

who said...

Amen,

And anybody who has even the slightest memory of things from the past, and if that person cares about your ability to have harmony within your soul (which is you and which isn't your temporary shelter of a body to dwell) here in life, even if only in one house, they would never tell you to ignore what you feel, especially not here, in this the highest household, as you will destroy yourselves if you were foolish enough to create disconnect with who you are, your soul

Nobody can ever have the ability to steer you right through life, no matter how knowledgeable, then You can with a strong connection and genuine familiarity with your eternal self who is your portion of your family's soul

if you cannot let go of the spiritually foolish, and you let them lead you away from that which you know; the truths which are self-evident, it's as if you agree to be taught to hate yourself, it's essentially being tricked into choosing hell

no loving friend would wish that as a life for you, no humane person would wish it on even an enemy

Pilate did his job, he voiced his disagreement, he made clear of his objections, his only sin was not recognizing his state was not a republic of democratically elected by The Peoples Voice,he ruled during a time when the democracy was only among the republicans

The People, The Jews, they loved Jesus, it was not The People whom Pilates listened to, Pilate was a loyal servant to wrong masters

be wary of following any creed that needs a scapegoat

many things in life would not be wrong, if people had the courage to take responsibility for their actions, those who cannot, can do no right, such dissonance is a hell that I don't blame you for being hesitant to accept

But it isn't really my place to tell you to more forcefully reject their ways, I will say that you will know exactly what to do by doing nothing more than practicing honesty

todays post sounds as if things are already becoming clear for you Snow

All Consuming said...

I imagine he will wish you to continue because he wouldn't want to turn anyone with interest in the church away, even if the interest is in part a questioning one. They tend to think that God will help them to help you to join them, if not then there you go and you'll burn in hell or the like. It's a wonderfully well written letter, and explains your feelings so well. It feels as though you are getting somewhere with your search for peace, whether you are aware of it or not, and for that I am grateful. Only can decide the path to take, and you're such a bright spark, a star of sorts, that I think you will get there eventually. I agree wholeheartedly with all that you state, the terrorism, the bullying the horrors inflicted over centuries upon people who would not bow to that which others decree to be the truth. Terrible atrocities, and time should not dim these events, those people were children, mothers fathers, brothers sisters. All killed in the name of a God by their flesh and blood self decreed betters. As I'm here - have a hug *hugs him* x

Snowbrush said...

"It truly does not matter what Brent thinks of you or whether you can be of benefit to the group or if you agree with the catechism."

Well, two thoughts. First, Brent isn't going to tell me to stay away from his church, but he might very well tell me that I'm not a good fit for the catechism class, and it IS his class. The only reason I would even want to keep to going is that, after the next two sessions, we get into material that I'm interested in. As for the group, I have to be sensitive to my position as an atheist among believers. If all I accomplish is to make people hate me when I could have avoided it, I will have done more harm than good to them and to me. All that said, if Brent did DID tell me to stay away from his church, I most certainly would because, if that were the case, I would get no benefit from going. Most of the good from going comes through a sense of community, so if I lose that, I wouldn't waste the gas that it takes to get there.

"Stop looking approval because you dont need it and a lot of the time you wont get it."

Looking for approval? How could I be more honest or run a greater risk of causing offense? If you're talking about my comment about Brent being busy, he is busy, and i'm not even a member of his church, also I give no promise of ever becoming a member of his church, and I would be a cheap contributor if I did because I believe in a lot of other charities a lot more than I believe in church..The guy is on the run every waking moment, and I do feel badly about taking anymore of this time than is necessary, so I don't. I didn't apologize for my letter. I just pointed out that I know he's busy, but that I had something important to discuss. It was a way of putting the spotlight on what I wanted to say. I'm already scheduled--at his invitation--to talk to him later in the week, and I wanted him to have my letter first.

"they would never tell you to ignore what you feel, especially not here"

Just as I'm trying to find my way with the church, Brent is trying to find his way with me. I have no idea why he invited me to take the class, but my impression is that he throws out ideas, and if they work, fine, and if they don't work, he'll throw out another idea. He's not a dogmatist, he's not prone to take things personally, and he's not stuck on having his way, but I've never met a believer who understood what it was like to be an atheist anymore than a straight person can understand what it's like to be gay.

"you will destroy yourselves if you were foolish enough to create disconnect with who you are"

"Who I am" includes contradictions and a desire to harmonize those contradictions, which is why I'm going to this church.

"Nobody can ever have the ability to steer you right through life, no matter how knowledgeable"

My weakness isn't in looking for someone to steer me but in discounting what other people have to offer me. I couldn't be more anti-authoritarian. I could be more gracious.

"that which you know; the truths which are self-evident"

I think that illusion is more likely than truth to appear self-evident.

"Pilate did his job"

Have you studied Pilate as a historical personage? He was a very interesting man.

"I will say that you will know exactly what to do by doing nothing more than practicing honesty"

I do that, but honestly is large subjective, and it therefore doesn't preclude error. It can also act as a knife when a spoon would do. My failure isn't in being dishonest but unknowingly appearing tactless.

PhilipH said...

I'm certain that there is no 'god' and no heaven. This makes me free of all the fears and worries of a 'Christian'approaching death.

Many 'believers' who have strayed from the path of righteousness or have committed heinous crimes against others, especially children, must be in real torment as their final curtain descends.

I do not want eternal life. Who the heck would? Only nutters. Or believers. (one and the same thing).

I trust you will receive a meaningful reply to your missive Snowy - but somehow I doubt it.

Stephen Hayes said...

I agree that Father Brent's reply will be most interesting.

Elephant's Child said...

I suspect this is a letter I would feel privileged to receive. Honest, thoughtful and not glib. And I do hope that Brent sees it that way and continues to make you welcome.
It isn't a journey I could take, but it is obviously important to you. Good luck.

Linda said...

I cannot imagine how you perceive Brent views you. But, you are a challenge. I have heard many a preacher brag about winning over the hard cases. You are fodder for a victory to assure him a place within his delusional pearly gates.

There is a branch of religious study--Apologetics. This study is about how to defend the Faith against what any religion throws at the believer. He is practicing on you. Leave him alone and his class so you will not be depressed when you see yourself as the pawn you are. Of course, he is gracious. He is trying to win you and stars for his crown. you most likely will become the subject of a sermon when he goes away to a conference.

How can you hope to have a sense of community when you join a group with which you are diametrically opposed, at least to their basic tenets. You could be in the same group if they were beekeepers as long as you wanted to be or were beekeepers.

You need, we all need, to choose "community" in a place where we are not rubbing shoulders with those with whom we have nothing in common. I belong to a group of authors. A man drives 60 miles to come and read poetry to us. He is diametrically opposed to publishing anything. As a matter of fact, he only has one poem that took him 20 years to write, a really short poem that is doggerel. But, he comes to be a part of our community. We are all puzzled and not about to turn him away. He needs something, but has joined the wrong group. We try to encourage him to publish the poem. But, he has his own agenda that is certainly not the thrust of the group. I feel you are like this man.

Can you not find community elsewhere? Kiwanis, or other club. There are many service clubs. The way things are going, I cannot see how this church can be anything but stressful to you and sort of deceitful to them because they think you are on the same quest as they are.

Strayer said...

Nice letter, Snow. You nailed it. When you become senile and irrational perhaps then you might be able to overlook the obvious and enjoy church, with your brain then all shriveled up and a happy smile curled across your face through your dementia. Until that day, I can't see it.

Snowbrush said...

"They tend to think that God will help them to help you to join them, if not then there you go and you'll burn in hell or the like."

I think it might be hard to find an Episcopalian who believes in hell (or if they do, it's not the "fiery lake" sort of hell), and my experience with clergy is that they aren't eager to have anything to do with me. If I were a 20-year-old atheist, maybe, but the older I get, the more they hear warning bells go off when I come around (not that I come around much). I think that, in general, clergy tend to think like businesspeople, and as such they're not eager to waste time on a poor prospect, whether that prospect is poor in terms of money or poor in terms of likely conversion. I obviously have a low regard for the clergy in general, yet I think it possible that Brent might be one of the finest people I've ever known.

"All killed in the name of a God by their flesh and blood self decreed betters."

Yes, it is true. Did you know that the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches split off some piece of trivia about whether the Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son, or from the Father alone? People both chose to die and to kill others over such things.

"I do not want eternal life. Who the heck would? Only nutters."

I would if I could have it on my own terms, but if it were like this life, I would have to say no. I think that for eternity to be worthwhile, it would have to be out-of-time, so to speak. Time isn't a given property, after all, but rather a contingent property. For instance, black holes play havoc with the passage of time, and as Einstein pointed out, it's relative in the sense that it can literally speed up or slow down. For example, astronauts return from space younger than if they had stayed on earth.

Snowbrush said...

"I suspect this is a letter I would feel privileged to receive. Honest, thoughtful and not glib."

It is indeed as you described it, but I wish I could have softened it a little because I'm concerned it might sound blaming of him, and I didn't mean it that way. I really don't know if he thought the class would go smoothly for me, but as I said somewhere above, I perceive him as someone who finds it easy to make suggestions, and then go with the ones that work, and put aside the ones that don't work. He's not cautious in this regard, and he doesn't seem to take much of anything personally. Still, I respect him, and I wouldn't want him to think otherwise whether he took it personally or not. To me, the letter sounds harsh, and I'm the one who wrote it, so how might it sound by others? I understand how you've voted, and I hope that he feels the same.

"You are fodder for a victory to assure him a place within his delusional pearly gates."

What I wrote to All Consuming about this is a bit long to copy and paste, but it's in this very same response.

"Of course, he is gracious. He is trying to win you and stars for his crown."

Liberal Christians don't tend to think in terms of "stars in their crowns," but it is a phrase that I used to hear quite a lot during my fundamentalist childhood, oftentimes about a long-suffering woman who prayed and prayed for a drunkard husband or a jailbird son until the day finally came that they "accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior." I literally don't recall ever hearing an Episcopal sermon about either heaven or hell, whereas it was rare to hear a fundamentalist sermon that wasn't at least about hell.

"How can you hope to have a sense of community when you join a group with which you are diametrically opposed. .."

I enjoy religion immensely. Not fundamentalist religion, certainly, or any other form of rigid religion, but I'm actually encouraged to be in a church in which the MAJOR complaint people have is about not believing the creeds. Sure, I could go over to the Unitarian Church where a majority of the people are atheists, and we would have that much, at least, in common, but, you know, having atheism is common is a little like having not believing in Bigfoot in common, plus I would hate the Unitarian service (I did recently go to two classes of a four-class Unitarian history course there, but I got so bored that I dropped out after two classes, this from a course that concerned a subject about which I'm greatly interested in. By contrast, I've very much enjoyed the groups I've been in at Resurrection. I'm also excited about parts of the catechism class.

Snowbrush said...

"When you become senile and irrational perhaps then you might be able to overlook the obvious and enjoy church, with your brain then all shriveled up and a happy smile curled across your face through your dementia."

Leave it to you to point out the silvery-lining to my gray cloud. I keep having to stop typing because I'm laughing too much.

Charles Gramlich said...

I admire your tenacity. I would have quit a long time ago.

ellen abbott said...

Snow, I think you misunderstood Kylie's comment about seeking approval. You are on a constant mission of seeking approval from any and all forms of christian churches. You claim to be without doubt an atheist and in the next breath you say you want desperately to believe. You rightly point out all the atrocities and falsehoods and demands of unquestioning obedience as wrong and evil and then you turn around and tell those self same people to convince you it is all true. You correctly identify the religious books as works of men and then you turn to them to find a reason to believe. You will not find what you are looking for in a religion you have so soundly rejected. Perhaps you need to try a different religion, move away from the concepts of the Abrahamic traditions altogether. I don't know if you have ever read or researched the origins of religions but there is a lot of material out there on the evolution of belief from goddess worship to the one male god worship and most of it involves hordes moving in and taking over and imposing their beliefs on the belief systems of the area they are conquering. And beyond that, the origins of certain myths. The dead and risen god was old old old ever before christianity picked it up. The story of the garden of Eden is symbolic of the male god overpowering the goddess. Eve symbolized the goddess and the snake was a symbol of wisdom. The tale is supposed to show that following the goddess gets you punished. Read Joseph Campbell. Read Carl Jung. There are so many other approaches to the Divine besides jewish/christian/muslim trinity. Try something new. Walk in Beauty with the Navaho. Meditate with the Buddha. Explore the Tao. There are dozens of 'isms' out there. Understand that you are not separate from creation but are part and parcel of it.

I've said before that I am not an atheist but I do not believe in any religion. I don't do religion. I do not believe there is a god out there who demands to be worshipped in a certain way and lays out specific rules for behavior for humans. I don't believe that humans are special or more loved than the tiniest mite. I hold certain beliefs that I accept because they ring true in me but they are about as diametrically opposed to the christian concept of god as they can get. I won't go into those unless you are interested enough to ask because I'm not trying to convince you of anything.

So, think about this, how can you find what you are looking for if your starting position is that it doesn't exist? All I'm saying is if you continue to search for something that you claim you do not believe in, maybe you are looking in the wrong place. There are other paths.

Snowbrush said...

"Snow, I think you misunderstood Kylie's comment about seeking approval."

The possibility occurred to me, and I was hoping she would let me know if I was wrong. As I later thought about it, I realized that I couldn't tell for sure if she was talking about Brent or the people in the class or both, but it's not a case of seeking approval but of trying to handle myself respectfully. For instance, I didn't think it appropriate to share with the class what I wrote to Brent because, after all, it is a class aimed at people who plan to join the church. I don't know how many of them actually want to join (the three of us have said anything about it don't), but I don't regard the class as an open forum where anything and everything is appropriate to say. Likewise, I wasn't seeking Brent's approval, that is unless the fact that I think highly of Brent and want to show respect for him counts as seeking approval.

"You are on a constant mission of seeking approval from any and all forms of christian churches."

I know myself better than you know me, and I can assure you that this isn't true.

"you say you want desperately to believe"

I don't remember saying that about anything, but certainly not about the supernatural. That said, am I desperate to believe--in something? Yes, I suppose I am, but it's a fulfilling kind of desperation, if that makes any sense. What I mean is that I find rewards in who I am, how I think, and what I do. I'm hardly hysterical. I'm hardly despairing on the floor. I'm instead thinking, feeling, looking, loving, enjoying--myself.

There's much in the non-canonized Gospel of Thomas that describes my beliefs far better than the canonized Bible. For instance, "if you will not know yourselves, then you dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty." And again, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

So, sure, I need community, but I am unable to find a community that clearly fits my need. I also read a lot in the field of religion, but it's not in the area of proof or disputation but of personal experience, the non-canonized gospels, and so forth. I find meaning in community and in my reading, but as the gnostic gospels emphasize, ultimately that which is "out there" is only beneficial inasmuch as it brings out what is "in here." To quote from the Gospel of Thomas again: "If one has knowledge, he receives what is his own and draws it to himself."

Due to its length, I'll have to continue this...

Snowbrush said...

"you turn around and tell those self same people to convince you it is all true."

No, I don't identify with this either. I could continue to respond to your various interpretations and memories (of what I have and haven't said), but suffice it to say that they don't fit me as I see me. In regard to religion, I really don't know how I see me. I'm firm in my unbelief in the supernatural, yet I can't let the subject go, so I obviously have issues that I need to resolve. Unfortunately, i lack a clear idea about how to resolve them, and my recent posts have but portrayed my latest attempt. While I'm not exactly floundering (in fact, I'm usually upbeat), I am somewhat in the dark. I simply can't provide more clarity into my psyche, motivations, internal contradictions, and so forth than what I myself have, so I'm not surprised when, seeing my confusion, people attempt to interpret my behavior for me.

"I do not believe there is a god out there who demands to be worshipped in a certain way and lays out specific rules for behavior for humans. I don't believe that humans are special or more loved than the tiniest mite."

I agree with all of this.

"So, think about this, how can you find what you are looking for if your starting position is that it doesn't exist?"

I don't believe that the supernatural exists, but there is such a thing as non-supernaturalist religion. Unfortunately, the Unitarian Church is the only one in which most of the members are non-supernaturalists. This is a bit like it would be if the only church for supernaturalists was the Southern Baptist, and so every theist who didn't feel comfortable there had no other good options. So it is that I have no other good options. I choose the Episcopal Church because I love its liturgy and because it's one of the two or three most liberal churches, so liberal in fact that one of it's retired bishops writes book after book in support of non-supernaturalist religion.

I am simply not willing to deny my religious nature on the basis of not fitting neatly into any of the available churches. You say that I have other options, but I'm unaware of any that I'm interested in. One other thing I might share is that I think it likely that, in a general way, I know a good bit about more about religion than most if not all of my readers, yet I hardly know everything. For instance, I've become immensely attracted to the gnostic teachings, some of which bear so little resemblance to traditional Christian theology that they don't even posit a supernatural deity.

"...if you continue to search for something that you claim you do not believe in, maybe you are looking in the wrong place."

If your premise is true, your conclusion is certainly true! Thank you for your thoughtful response.

Snowbrush said...

I saw Brent tonight at a book group (we're reading an excellent book entitled "The Long Loneliness" by Dorothy Day). He said three things: he read my email; he wants me to stay in the catechism group; and we'll talk on Saturday when we get together for a lunch that we had planned before I wrote to him. I was very surprised that he still wants me in the catechism class. I had wanted to attend some of the meetings but had reservations about others (the ones that focus on the catechism). However, since he wants me to attend, I probably will. After all, I agreed to take the course because I was interested in the material. I simply hadn't foreseen how stressful it would be for me.

I was surprised that some of you think that he sees me as an interesting challenge or as as a way to add "stars to his crown," because Episcopalians don't think like that. They don't do altar calls; they don't ask people if they're "saved" or "born again"; they don't preach about heaven and/or hell; and any attempt to convert anyone would be considered bad manners. Brent is also the kind of priest who wouldn't be accepted in a conservative parish. He has belonged to three churches--the Congregationalist, the Unitarian, and, of course, the Episcopal. These are probably the three most liberal churches in America, and as such are the only ones that I would consider attending. What I'm trying to convey is that I know him, not well, but well enough to have an informed opinion, and I never have any thought but what he wants the best for me. One of the first things he told me is that it might happen that I attend for a while, learn from the experience, and then leave; and as he saw it, that was fine. It was me who said that, no, I'm looking for a place to stay. My problem has nothing to do with not wanting to be there, but with wondering if it is possible for me to remain there exactly as I am.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

I'm glad Brent is open to you staying and that you are open to continuing.

Linda said...

I have no idea what you said to All Consuming, so I have no idea what was your response to me. I give up.

Snowbrush said...

"I have no idea what you said to All Consuming, so I have no idea what was your response to me. I give up."

I'll put hers below followed by mine to her.

All Consuming said: "They tend to think that God will help them to help you to join them, if not then there you go and you'll burn in hell or the like."

I said: "I think it might be hard to find an Episcopalian who believes in hell (or if they do, it's not the "fiery lake" sort of hell), and my experience with clergy is that they aren't eager to have anything to do with me. If I were a 20-year-old atheist, maybe, but the older I get, the more they hear warning bells go off when I come around (not that I come around much). I think that, in general, clergy tend to think like businesspeople, and as such they're not eager to waste time on a poor prospect, whether that prospect is poor in terms of money or poor in terms of likely conversion. I obviously have a low regard for the clergy in general, yet I think it possible that Brent might be one of the finest people I've ever known."

kj said...

this:

ellen: "...if you continue to search for something that you claim you do not believe in, maybe you are looking in the wrong place."

you: If your premise is true, your conclusion is certainly true! Thank you for your thoughtful response.

snow, you have a bit of feedback here, from several folks, that raises the same questions i often have and feel after reading your posts on religion and non-religion. It may be that you have a passion for the unprovable in this subject and that passion is too exciting to resist. i can understand that: i feel that way about certain things. but there is something that continues to confuse me about your journey. it seems hopeless and you seem to enjoy that. so be it….

i do think this is a special post and the comments here are to be saved. there are kernels and gems here, somehow.

i know you think i don't read well enough and thus my comments may be in left field. i hope this is not the case here. maybe in brett you have found another person passionate also, in such challenges. that would be nice to enjoy in the months and years ahead.

love
kj

Snowbrush said...

"there is something that continues to confuse me about your journey. it seems hopeless and you seem to enjoy that"

I'm going to proceed in the belief that your confusion about me contains an element of criticism of me. By way of comparison, if you were confused about what day of the week it was, that would be an occasion for you to learn something, but I believe you take your confusion about my journey as an occasion for me to learn something. Not having any better idea about how to proceed, perhaps I should share my thoughts about how I interpret questions and criticisms.

I think it generally true that people's questions and criticisms of me say as much or more about them as about me. What this means in regard to my church attendance, for example, is that I put most of my effort into using what others say as an inspiration to go deeper into myself in order to make my thoughts more nearly complete and comprehensible, both to myself and to them. The advantage to myself in doing this is greater wisdom and self-understanding. The advantage to both them and to me is that their understanding of me will come to be based more upon who I am and less upon who they are. In regard to these goals, you inspired a recent post, and I plan to use Ellen's thoughts to write still another post. At the same time, I try to avoid taking what others say to heart in the sense of concluding that, for them to criticize me as they do, or, in your case, to remain confused despite my best ongoing efforts to clarify my thoughts and actions, I must be doing something wrong, unhealthy, ill-considered, stupid, shameful, etc. even though you and/or they might see me that way. After all, I have my knowledge of me, others have their interpretations of me. I have decades of serious thought and experimentation with my life; others have relatively little knowledge of my life and their projections about what my thoughts and behaviors (or what they perceive as my thoughts and behaviors) might mean are heavily based upon what they would mean to them if they themselves were to think them or do them. Furthermore, even if I should prove mistaken in my thoughts and/or behaviors, I think it likely that I will learn more and discover my mistakes sooner if I do what I think is best for me versus what other people think is best for me.

Another problem with (me) giving much credence to what other people say about me is that they often disagree among themselves. Sometimes, they also hold different values and goals than I; appraise risk differently than I; have, perhaps, less confidence in me than I have in myself; confuse their fears for my reality; and--in their concern for me--forget that all of life is experimental. Pertaining to the subject at hand, it seems to me that you expect a completeness of clarity that I simply can't offer given that the "project" is in what might be called its experimental phase rather than its final phase. You appear--to me--to interpret this lack of clarity to suggest that something is amiss, and that the project should be halted.

kj said...

The project?

My purpose in commenting is not to criticize you, snow.

Snowbrush said...

"The project?"

Yes, exploring my issues with religion in another way. Am I wrong in interpreting your confusion to mean that you are concerned?

"My purpose in commenting is not to criticize you, snow."

I never had the least idea that criticizing me was your purpose in writing, but rather a corollary of the fact that you care about me. I spent an hour or two on my response to you, and still didn't make it as simple to understand as I had wanted. BTW, my most recent post was suggested directly by Ellen but also by you.

Snowbrush said...

"My purpose in commenting is not to criticize you, snow."

KJ, Rhymes with Plague, a Christian reader in Georgia wrote the following in response to my most recent post.

"'I think you shouldn't protest so much or try to explain yourself so much.'"

I answered him as follows, and what I wrote concerned you more than anyone because you keep challenging the rationality of my thoughts and behaviors:

"I see these things as being for my benefit. When others challenge me, I am inspired to challenge myself. It is in this way that I discover what's true for me. It would be a terrible mistake to assume that I write only those things which have already found a clear expression within myself. Rather, I become clear as I write."

I see you a good influence in my life because you do challenge me. I really don't care if I'm criticized. I can't say that I never for a moment feel annoyed by it when I've already spent so much time trying to hard to make myself clear, yet I'm always willing to have another go at making myself clear, not so much for the benefit of others as for my own.