For the sake of space and time, I won’t get into describing every minutiae; broad strokes. Bear with me for a moment while I paint the back-drop.
Let me start off by saying that I was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I was raised in a Christian home, by Christian, middle-class (yet always slightly indigent) Parents. We went to Church on Sundays; I went to Sunday-school, participated in Catechisms, befriended other Christians of similar age-groups, went to Church camps in the summer. We were also brought up in a private Christian school system; for grade-school (primary & middle), High-school, and then for University. My family was Baptist but the school system we were (and which I still am) educated in was of the Reformed tradition; specifically the Calvinist and neo-Calvinist Dutch reformed tradition – a very odd mix between harsh fundamentalism/ conservatism and liberalism/hypocrisy.
Although I had no say whatsoever in where I went in the first two school systems, I did ‘choose’ to attend the Christian University of my own free-will. I haven’t been ‘Christian’ since my very first year of High-school.
My father did not work, leaving my mom as the sole breadwinner for the family. In general, society frowns upon such a strict deviation from the social norm. In the first-second generation dutch community such as the one we were forced into, we were like square pegs in round holes; we just didn’t fit. We were immiscible with that society and culture.
I was a trubulous teenager in high-school. I was fiercely bullied for virtually all of grade and middle-school; I had no friends basically. Grade nine and ten were my ‘break-out’ years; I was in a band, relatively popular at school (especially, and quite for the first time, with girls), and actually, well, kind of happy.
After a few years battling Major Depression, oscillating between popular and recluse, doing well and then failing in school, here I am. At the age of 21 I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome… I should have known that things going right generally portend things going wrong. I live in constant, disabling chronic pain. I am, in no uncertain terms, entirely unsure how much longer my life will continue to go on. And all my friends have basically fallen to the wayside.
And so it begins:
It wasn’t really until this past semester (fall 2012) that I decided to actively pursue a burgeoning interest in metaphysics and the study of religion. I had recently been diagnosed with Central Sleep Apnea and so with my mortality on my mind, for the first time in my life I actively tried to become Christian.
Just reading that now sounds like the oddest thing; how do you ‘become’ a Christian. I had always found reservations and major holes in the logic and facts and history surrounding religion, but the abrahamic religions more specifically. And so this quest was my last mad-grab to try and reel in my ‘faith’.
So, for the time I decided to adjourn any and all of my previous inclinations and reservations and make an honest attempt at this thing. That semester I registered for Metaphysics and had bi-weekly meetings with the school Chaplin. Throughout the semester I met different with professors, pastors, friends, counselors, school faculty. I wanted to rack their brains for answers to any and all of the questions they would commit to answering. And honestly, for a while there it actually worked. I was a ‘Christian’ for a little while there.
I’m sure there are a few reading this who aren’t and never have been religious, and so talking about feeling or knowing of a distinction between being and not being a christian may seem foreign and very difficult to understand. Every Christian will tell you that you feel different when you’re a Christian. And it’s true, you really do. You almost feel like ‘in-love’. There was for a brief time for me a strong feeling of love, of comfort and of being loved; like an on-going ‘a-ha’ moment. I’m sure for others it lasts decades, but for me it was something in the neighborhood of a few days; week tops.
I just couldn’t keep up with everything. I found myself feeling disdain towards people only weeks before I revered as my most important influences. I would take their criticisms of my new found faith (criticisms, mind you, I vehemently defended only days before) as like a direct malfeasance to my sense of well-being. I even wrote and posted blogs about it on my site.
But eventually sanity won over and I came back to the original position – only slightly modified and much more well informed.
For the years preceding I had been in almost every Philosophy class I could. We have one professor in particular at our school who taught the vast majority of my classes. He’s a very sociable and friendly guy. But the sort of guy whose initial endearing character, after a while, leaves a bad taste in your mouth. He tends to choose students in the class as his favorites based upon how smart he thinks they are at a particular time; he’ll almost engage in an ongoing dialogue with one or two students for a whole semester, and mix that into his lecture and presentations. I know, for a time I was one of those students. Anyways, these stroaks aren’t broad enough. I had more and more questions. I became this edgy heterodox always on the fringe asking him questions he’d rather ignore. I was to him what my mentors were to me when I ‘was’ a Christian; they were right and I knew it, but I didn’t want anything to do with anyone who disturbed my fantasy. The questions I asked became more and more specific, and he had fewer and fewer answers so he kept hiding behind classes. He’d say, ‘oh, you have to take Metaphysics, we’ll address all of that’. Or, ‘take ‘philosophy of superheroes’, we’ll be covering that’. And I took those courses, and in those courses he still didn’t have any answers.
Metaphysics was sort of the hair that broke the camels back for me. It was at the same time both imaginative hope and staunch reality; I wanted it to give me what it promised (definitive proof that God exists), but I wanted it to do so in an honest, rational way (one that didn’t involve self-denial).
If Metaphysics was the hair that broke the camels back, than Evolution by random mutation and non-random natural selection was the fat guy riding him for 15 years. . I couldn’t give up evolution; I had to find some way to mix the two in a way that was rational and honest. And much to my own duress and chagrin, there just is no way to do that.
Christianity, like all religion is a product which is influenced and created by many people, and many things. It is a vestige of our cultural heritage. It is a product of our limited resource and knowledge. It was influenced and distorted by ego and poor oral tradition and translation. It was a product of our fear of death, and a need for justice and an afterlife. And most importantly, it is a product of our ancient ancestors emerging consciousness.
I just can’t believe it; it doesn’t make any rational sense.
And again, for time I won’t right here go into all my reasons for disbelief. I’ll just say this: I am not willing to suspend disbelief to believe in Christianity (or anything else, for that matter) just so that I don’t have to face certain facts or certain realities.
And so here I am. I have gotten through all of the sludge that is theology and theosophy. I have overcome my own anxieties and hang-ups – or else have a firm grip on them for the time being. But I find myself in a different place, with totally different desires needs. And this is unique because this transformation happened in a very short time, and occurred as a result of my cram-packed, fast-paced journey through the metaphysics and ontology of religion.
One of the staples of Christianity is the belief that after we die there is an Afterlife. You hear all these stories of people reporting near-death-experiences where they temporarily ascend to heaven and go through a tunnel to a bright light. They meet God and deceased family members but are sent back to complete their ‘mission’. You can find a book here written by the now famed Harvard neurosurgeon Eben Alexander M.D.
It’s just the goal, the end-game and the prime motivator for Christians; this idea of an afterlife. But I ask: why? What’s the point? Sure there are a few appealing characteristics, chief of which being immortality… who wouldn’t want that. But when you get past the initial shock-and-awe, it rapidly loses its appeal… and, a theme we seem to run in to wherever we go in this religious journey, massive logical inconsistencies. The question becomes: what’s the point? If you accept the Creation story (Adam and Eve etc…) and a young earth view, then all of the problems I list are of no concern to you… the only thing you have to worry about is the fact that almost all of your belief directly contradicts everything we have come to know about the earth, our history and existence itself.
But if you believe in the practice of scientific inquiry, of Cartesian doubt, and of evolution, then you will find yourself at a major impasse that is entirely impossible to maneuver around given the teachings of Christianity.
Microevolution (a term used almost exclusively in Christian circles) provides us with ample evidence that the mechanisms of genetic mutation and evolution by non-random natural selection is in fact true. The dividing line, for Christians between micro and macro-evolution is the erroneously concluded fact that microevolution never goes so far as to create a new species (God directly created every living and non-living thing); an example of this is the Cichlid fish.
Moving forward, we have common ancestry; it’s logical, it fits. It explains why we see new species that look much like older species. To rack of a few proofs of common ancestry, we have fossil evidence, comparative anatomy evidence, biogeography evidence, genetic similarity and nested pattern of similarity.Then we have something called Genetic Diversity Among Species.
Basically, if a particular species had descended from a single pair (Adam and Eve, for example), the genetic diversity should be limited. (We receive a copy of each gene (allele) from each parent. You can have single alleles and two alleles for any given gene.) If you genetically tested individuals from that species, you would find that at most genes at four alleles (two from the original father and two from the original mother – some may have more (4-7) as a result of mutation, but nothing drastic. But scientists have concluded that plants and animals have a much greater genetic diversity. Some genes have dozens of allelles indicating that the founder of the species was more than a single pair. If that was humiliating enough, closely ‘related’ species share many of the same alleles, while more distant species share fewer (a pattern evolution and common ancestry predict).
In humans, specifically in an area called the histocompatibility complex, scientists have found genes with more than 150 alleles. Assuming that natural mutation rates in the past are similar to mutation rates in the present, this number of alleles is far greater than would be expected if all humans descended from a single pair that lived only 100,000 years ago. And even if they had lived hundreds of thousands of years ago, natural mutation rates are not fast enough produce this degree of genetic diversity.
Then if we return back to the fossil record, how do creationists explain the abundance of hominid and human fossils? I suppose Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, Paranthropus, Homo habilis, Homo erecturs “Archaic” Homo sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis, and Modern Homo Sapiens were planted by the devil? Or have been incorrectly compiled by mixing various bones?
And that’s precisely why I can’t align myself with any form of religion, and specifically Christianity. To explain the fossil record of hominids and early humans, a pastor told me that ‘all of the bones they’ve found have been very sparse and inconclusive. It’s mostly just the paleontologists throwing around new species to become famous. They’ll find a bone here, a tooth there, a skull here and throw them together and say they’ve found the missing link’. This man had his PhD, too. All types…
Final point, I promise:
If we step away from all of this, and suspend our disbelief. To me, Christianity just isn’t appealing. Heaven does not interest me. Perfection does not interest me. I believe in evolution, as any rational person should. How could a God use death to create life than claim that death is the greatest injustice since the fall… but the fall is an allegory… but then so is what God’s saying. Do you see what I mean? It’s a vicious cycle of regress that when left unabated goes on, ad infinitum. The only way around this is to deny the most important scientific discoveries of the past century and a half, or else to play at semantic games and binary opposition. How could a good and just God use animal death to create human life? Billions of years of suffering to create a species whose average life span over the past 6000 years is probably around 45-55 years old? That seems like an awful sacrifice to create a species who are going to suffer but then 55 years later go to heaven and have their immortality and all their faculties actualized; they will know everything and be perfect. Why not cut out the middle man? Why not just create angels?
And on another note, why is heaven so interesting? Why would you want to live forever knowing everything and feeling only one degree of emotion?
Suffering builds character; it’s a very integral part of life. I wouldn’t want to live in a world, or rather a place, that denied me of that. How can life without all of the aspects of life be considered a good, complete life? And I can say that confidently; I suffer from excruciating chronic pain. My very life is often a tight-rope walk.
And as I’ve written about before, fear-based master-slave morality is a weak, outdated type of morality. And that’s the exact type of morality which Christianity has at its core.
And then there’s all the binary opposition; they man is better than women, and woman is better than animals, and animals are better than plants etc… It’s misogyny only it’s being practiced and interpreted in the 21st century; it’s a ‘soft’ misogyny.
In light of all this:
I find very few aspects of Christianity appealing. I find that I’m constantly searching for answers and those answers often come in the form of different religions. I have precisely what I want right in-front of me: secularism, agnosticism or atheism. These don’t espouse relativism (see here ), but goodness by well-being, intuition, self-expression, freedom equity liberty and love.
There’s not one established system out there that can offer me everything I think we need. Religions are… well, we’ve been over that. While the aims of Atheism are good and righteous, unfortunately, they have required atheists to engage in the same sorts and types of behavior the condemn various religions for expressing. As a worldview, Atheism is better than most of the other alternatives, but is still quite bereft; it assumes beyond what information we have our hands on
What we need is a worldview for the interim; ecumenical, with all the virtues of theology and atheism, but without all the various trappings. Humans long for organization; at least I do. I’m never more happy or concentrated than when everything in my life is in its place; at the very least ‘establishing’ a worldview for myself is adiaphorous.
The exordium of proscopeism.
- taken from: the Greek root ‘pro’ meaning ‘before, in favor of’; ‘scope’ meaning ‘to examine’; and ‘ism’, meaning ‘the act, state, or theory of’.
or maybe pleuraiteism, which is an amalgamation of the words for good, true, ethical, and wide.
Because I like to straddle the line between formal and informal with my entries, I’m going to be honest and say that I’m very tired and have been up all night. Which means I’m not going to edit and refine as I was planning, nor complete the very last section. I’ll complete that stuff tomorrow morning hopefully. In the meantime, I couldn’t help but post this draft.