“Stop Trying To Figure Things Out and Just Believe” ~Joyce Meyer

I’ve only recently begun to read and listen to Atheists at the forefront of the Freethought Movement. One might think that, as a new atheist, I’d devour the writings of the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, or Richard Dawkins. With just a few exceptions, I haven’t been doing that until recently. For good reason…

Leaving Christianity meant I had to learn to think for myself and therefore, reclaim myself. The last thing I needed was to dive into Dawkins or Hitchens works using my old methods of learning and digesting information. Until I could break old patterns and replace them with healthier methods, I needed space. At least for a little while.

Reflections on my life of indoctrination led me to conclude that I needed time to wake up more fully before exploring the works of atheists. 

For children, indoctrination is a relatively passive exercise. But for the adult, it requires some work. I did the work.

To give perspective: My ‘relationship with Jesus’ really took off at the age of 17 when I was baptized in the holy spirit. Because I was a ravenous reader/studier, I practically set up house in our local Christian bookstore.

All my books had highlighter markings on Bible highlighted and marked up.jpgpage after page with notes in the margins. My bible was fat with dog-ears and underlined with color coded pens. I saw it all through my God glasses.

When a controversial topic popped up, I’d turn to trusted Christian leaders to find out what they were teaching about it. I’d read their books, listen to their tapes and, ultimately adopt their belief as my own.

As I grew and matured in the faith, I began teaching bible studies and prayer groups. Preparing my material typically consisted of a Strong’s Concordance, 2 or 3 bibles of different translations, and 3 or 4 books by authors our church trusted that covered the topic at hand. From there, I’d piece together my own rendition.

Many Christians know that this is the process by which many believers gather and disseminate doctrine and dogma. Most bible studies or sermons are nothing more than re-writes of someone else’s beliefs and teachings, made personal.

sheeple.jpgIt took massive amounts of mental gymnastics to make nonsense make sense throughout my Christian experience. But milling about in the sheep’s pen made it MUCH easier. I learned within those fences how to regurgitate the dogma and bleat with all the sheeple.

I’ve had to face the fact: I was a full participant in my own indoctrination as a member of the herd.

Now, at nearly ten years out of Christianity, I feel like I have enough distance from all of that to indulge in the writings of knowledgeable atheists without pulling the wool over my own eyes.

I’m not kidding myself… I’ll never achieve 100% objectivity, but I’m certainly more up to the task than I ever could have been as a Christian.

The beauty of where I am right now is that for the first time in my life, I’m wide open to possibilities. I’m reading new authors from all kinds of backgrounds with an aim to see something new. To put a fine point on it: I’m not reading Richard Dawkins, Valerie Tarico, or Dan Barker to learn how to think like an atheist… that would completely miss the point of free thought at its core and further rob me of thinking like MY SELF. And the fact that I see that is amazing.

I’ve already found myself at odds with a few atheist authors on some points along the way. It could be that I don’t yet know the scientific data but when I do, I’ll change my position. Maybe I’ll see the data differently and stick to my guns. The difference is that now I don’t have 10 foot high walls around me. I actually welcome being proven wrong so I can further grow and understand. This is TOTALLY counter to any Christian training I’ve ever had on how to think and consume information.  Whatta wild ride!

This may sound childish to a whole lot of people adept at critical thinking. You’ve been enjoying the wonders of your brain in ways I never did because I was discouraged from doing so. But there are ExChristians who will relate. We were trained to ‘die to self’ and just believe. Joyce Meyer said it perfectly in this terrifying tweet:

Joyce Meyer Tweet.jpg

As I round the corner toward my 10th year out of Christianity, I’m acutely aware of how my thinking continues to evolve. I think differently today than I did just one year ago. As my oldest son put it recently, “The farther away I get from Christianity, the more ridiculous it all looks.” And I feel the same.

But I’ll add; the farther away I get, the freer I feel to think outside the God box I was stuck in for so long. And now… NO box will do. Believe me, this is Way Past Due!

 

Advertisements

7 thoughts on ““Stop Trying To Figure Things Out and Just Believe” ~Joyce Meyer

  1. You know, people like Dawkins and the late Hitchens are (were) just as fanatical and dogmatic as any hardcore Christian, preaching a static world-view. Philosophically, the only truly unchallengeable position is agnosticism but I rarely hear that from New Atheists. There’s a lot of denial regarding that, among them.

    Like

  2. Dawkins hasn’t come off as fanatical to me up to this point in my exposure to him. I raised an eyebrow at a few phrases, but over all, the read was enlightening. After so long in the God box, I’ve enjoyed exploring a new perspective. I just finished listening to Seth Andrews book Deconverted on audio. I related to his journey in many ways. Plus he has that delicious radio voice. Like butter I tell you! :o)

    As human beings, objectivity is an inevitable obstacle course of the mind. We all have our own obstacles. Dawkins and Hitchens have theirs just as you and I do. That means there is virtually nothing on this planet one can read that isn’t written with some sort of slant. History books reek of it… so for me, the key is to keep the walls down as I read and simply consider the other person’s point of view as it presents on the page in spite of my personal obstacles. And in spite of theirs.

    Given the nature of both of our blogs, some readers might conclude that you and I both fit the definition of “fanatic”: (filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.) It is my hope though, that in spite of this shortcoming (or strength, depending on the POV), people will still check in once in a while and possibly consider our personal perspectives. You and I, like Hitchens and Dawkins and the like, have something of value to add to the the world’s conversations.

    It’s possible to find a gold nugget in a pile of dirt. I’m sure I will explore a fair share of dirt as I read and explore from this new vantage point. But I’m on the look out for the gold.

    Like

    1. For some reason I didn’t get a notification that you had replied. WordPress baffles me sometimes.

      I’m actually more moderate than the impression I give through writing, it only goes over the top when I feel some of the subjects I touch on happen to be unfairly embattled. Spirituality for instance. Humanity always had spirituality in one form or another. Evolving with it for hundreds of thousands of years makes it as important and as essential to us as any other secondary social activity (you know, besides solving the immediate problems of food, water, shelter and procreation through social functions). I see Dawkins and his crew waging war on this and wildly generalising, creating Christian strawmen along the way. Not all religions, faiths, call it what you will, have the same form as the Abrahamic ones. Are they more valid? That’s up to the individual to decide. But to successfully critique a religion with a supposedly divinely-inspired holy book that can easily be shown to be full of errors of all sorts (historical, scientific, chronological, internally inconsistent and so on) and conclude that this religion makes false claims (if the holy book is divinely inspired and it can be shown to be erroneous, then the claim of divine origin collapses) cannot be generalised to everything else that doesn’t make the same claims. Some faiths don’t have creator Gods, aren’t monotheistic or even theistic, some don’t include worship of deities even though they recognise them as such, Some don’t ascribe to the view that God(s) exists outside of nature.

      It seems like in modern discourse, when one talks of religion (positively or negatively), they’re talking about Christianity, Islam or Judaism. Fair enough. But religion existed before these currents and hopefully will survive them in healthy forms. Beyond the Western World, those three faiths have a much shakier foothold, in Asia for example. I don’t like religion being represented by Christianity as if Christianity is the poster child of human spirituality. Far from it.

      There’s more gold than dirt with Dawkins in particular. His idea of the extended phenotype is really good. I don’t like Hitchens though because near the end of his life he sort of became an apologist for a specific brand of politics (the one that favors dropping bombs on foreign people), trying to justify it with his atheist views and all that was pure garbage.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One person’s passion is another person’s fanaticism. I invested 40 years in a faith that failed me. I have some things to say about that. If someone labels me a fanatic, so be it. Ain’t no skin off this heretic’s nose.

    You appear to be far more interested and well versed in the history of religion than I, so when a generalized statement is made that includes ALL religions, you bristle. Makes sense. For me, I’m not reading any of the aforementioned authors in an effort to think like an atheist. I don’t want to think like them… I want to think like ME. So what if they make generalized, broad-brush stroke statements? In the world of me, all that’s going to do is make me scrutinize the information all the more as I’m critical of generalizations.

    My pendulum has swung so far the other way, I’m OVER scrutinizing at this point. One mistake I don’t wish to make again is believing what I’ve been told simply because I’ve been told it. Atheist authors included.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The way I used the word fanatic to describe Dawkins and Hitchens refers to their penchant for having blind, unquestioning faith in science, resulting in scientism. This is the notion that science can explain every phenomenon in nature (and even human societies), making science a new religion. Science can’t do that, one of its underlying assumptions is that no metaphysics has any value. So even if empirical evidence presents itself with no known scientific explanations, since the axiom is that metaphysical explanations are impossible, these explanations are not given any weight. Axioms are by definition unproven (many times actually unprovable) basal assertions.

      This leads to people producing or accepting various scientific explanations for various phenomena that many times are worse than the metaphysical explanations from a rational point of view. Or even accepting false explanations, as long as they’re “scientific”.

      That’s the pitfall with New Atheism. Becoming blind to genuine areas that science is unable to explain. Over-scrutinizing is actually a good solution to that, as long as it also examines scientific axioms and evaluating whether they always apply.

      Like

  4. Regarding fanaticism, I too wonder about myself – am I too “fanatical”? I self-check every now & then. Here’s what I think…
    Ever see a tree bent kind of funny, as if it’s trying to needlessly compensate to get more sunlight? That’s because at one time, another larger tree loomed over it, hogging the sunlight. So the shorter tree bent funny to reach sunlight. Even after the larger tree is gone, the smaller tree still has & always will have that bend.
    So it is with me (and maybe others too). I retain a focus on “God stuff” (I’m “bent” a certain way) because I was enmeshed in it for so long. That’s not good or bad – it just “is”.
    I’ve CHOSEN to aim that energy towards good things: helping others stuck in harmful beliefs, speaking out for people victimized by religion.
    What determines fanaticism vs passion? Is it intent? Is it the effect it has on others? Is it only fanaticism if it takes over the rest of a person’s life? Hmmmm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love your tree analogy, Marty. And it’s spot on for me, as well! I’m introspective and can be brutal in my self evaluation. One issue I’ve seen within myself is that the passion I feel about certain topics within Christianity can show itself in ways that shut conversation down. I can become elevated. Brutishly opinionated. So like you, I gotta self-check on occasion and pay close attention to how others are responding and tone it down. The opposite of what I’m after in conversation is a shut-down!

      I’m not sure what determines fanaticism, either. In my minds eye, I see blinders. The fanatic sees one thing only. Passion connotes a level of tenderness and understanding, where fanaticism bullies its way across the playground. There certainly is a fine line.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s