Friday, March 23, 2007

My spiritual journey- Christianity to Godnostic part 1 of 3: The preprogramming of christianity.

It's been a 5 year long hobby of mine to visit numerous religious chatrooms to watch the banter of the Atheists that go to Christian rooms to blast Christians for being morons, and then in turn watching the Christians try to "save" the people in Atheist chat rooms. It just blows my mind that there are so many people on this earth that are either 100% positive that there is a god or 100% sure that there isn't a god. How can these people be 100% on something that is absolutely unprovable?? I don't mean this as a blast on either Christians or Atheists because everybody is entitled to their own beliefs. Plus the Atheist/Christian debate is the most prominant religious debate in America (Sorry Muslims). I have experience on both sides of this fence, and this is the tale I will tell you about my journey that I have made from birth and my evolution starting as a christian for the first 22 years of my life, to dabbling in atheism, eventually discovering the beauty of neutrality in agnostism, and finally defining a new religion that my friend and fellow blogger (The Revolution)coined, Godnostisism.

As a former Catholic kid growing up in a small town in mid-Michigan, I understand the pressures faced when everyone you've encounterd in your lifetime has been telling you that Jesus is everything. How can a child understand the complexilties of Christianity when all that child gets is one side of the story?
I grew up in a neighborhood that was chock full of the largest Catholic family in the township of Byron, the Cormiers. The Cormiers owned 4 houses and 3 trailers in my neighborhood. The eldest Cormiers had many children and their children all had kids by the litter. I was a nature lover since birth, and as a child enjoyed being outside in the lake, woods, and fields as much as possible. So I had constant contact with the Cormier clan because their were always a few of them running around. Donna Cormier was my babysitter for the first three years of my life. Donna was the choir leader and main singer in the choir at the local catholic church. Her husband Curry, was the Deacon of that church. Some of my first memories were of me toddling around their enormous house looking at pictures of Jesus, crucifixes, inspirational bible passages written across paintings and hung on the wall. I remember Donna singing and humming different psalms and contemporary christian music as she tidied the house. I remember how loving both her and her husband were towards everybody. These were "true" christians. They did not push their beliefs on anybody or condemn anyone to hell for believing differently than them. I also remember Donna's 2nd to the youngest son, Paris. Paris was always one of my favorites of the Cormiers. Paris always made time for me. I remember how lucky I felt that a 17 year-old like Paris wanted to hang out with a 7 year-old kid like me. We would sit in his basement and play Atari for hours. Being only 7, I never caught on to the fact that that Paris was a little slow mentally and he was also an epileptic that would have Grand Mal seizures. (I never witnessed one of his seizures) I don't think Paris really had any friends his own age and I think he was happy for my company. One summer when I was 7 and starting first grade, the Cormier clan had their annual family reunion and about 150 Cormiers from around the world would come out with rv's and tents and set up for a week or so to visit with family, worship together, eat, and of course, go swimming off the high dive. I remember it was a weekday and there were about 50 of us kids swimming and diving, way too many kids for the adults to keep their eyes on all of us. I was playing king of the raft with some of my friends and all of the sudden it started raining. We all swam back to shore and went back up to the house to dry off. After about 15 minutes people started asking if anyone had seen Paris. Panic swept the room because everyone knew of his condition and if he were to have a seizure in the water there would be no hope for him unless someone saw him go under. After calling for him for a few minutes Donna called the authorities. Police, Ambulance, and recue teams came from all the neighboring towns to search for this 17 year-old boy. It seemed like an eternity waiting for any sign of Paris. Finally after an hour or so my mom decided it was best for me to walk back up the hill and go to bed because it was past my bedtime. I think it was more because she didn't want me to be traumatized when the inevitable happened and they pulled Paris to the surface. The next morning I woke up and as I was eating my breakfast I asked my mom if they had found Paris. She said "yes" I said "good" and then as she was trying to fight off the tears she said to me "No honey, he was dead". It was a hard concept to grasp, so she did what most parents would, she told me all about Heaven and that Paris was in a better place. Naturally I believed it, why wouldn't I? My mom said it and that was always good enough for me. I remember this tragedy also gave me the opportunity to witness the power of faith. At his funeral I remember how positive Donna was, of course she was sad and she couldn't help but shed some tears but her faith in Christ was so strong that she was able to praise his name and thank god for letting her be a part of Paris' life. She never once became spiteful or vindictive towards god. I'm still in awe of the power that faith had given her.
By the time Paris had died I was already in first grade, and although I lived in Byron my whole life, I spent young fives and and kindergarten at Highland Elementary because it was easier for my mom to drop me off and pick me up from school. But my first grade experience took me a little while to make new friends at a new school because I was somewhat shy as a kid. But a couple months in, I finally made a friend and his name was Robert. Robert was a very friendly and outgoing blonde kid that had the same priorities as me, Transformers and He-Man. Due to these similarities we formed a pretty solid friendship. I remember coming home from school and telling my mom and dad about my new friend. For the next week I was in a fierce competition for "best friend" status with Robert. My nemisis was a scrappy ruffian named Shawn Groves. Shawn and Robert were friends before I showed up to Byron Elementary. However, what I lacked in longevity I made up for with my superior knowledge of He-Man and all the storylines of Eternia. This made Shawn mad. I was fine with being a trio but Shawn wanted Robert to himself. I was punched and threatened at recess for that entire week. I didn't realize that was the easy part of being friends with Robert. The next week I came to class expecting to see Robert and Shawn...I only saw Shawn. He didn't look good and the entire class was being pretty quiet, it just didn't feel right. A few minutes later my teacher Mrs. Elbract came in and asked for our attention. She told us that Robert died last night. Apparantly his dad's car stalled on the train tracks and his dad was able to get out of the seat belt and to safety but Robert didn't have enough time. I didn't question it at the time, but looking back it sounds pretty fishy. Anyway, Mrs. Elbract gave us the story of Heaven and God's "mysterious ways" (pretty ballsy for a public school)and when I got home I got the same thing from my parents. Although it was confusing, I didn't hesitate to buy into it. Afterall, I was only 7 years old and I had just lost 2 of my friends in one year. I wanted to believe that they were in some type of paradise not any of the alternatives. (By the way, Shawn Groves and I ended up becoming best friends and are still close today) And so it went for years that I considered myself a christian. And that's gonna be my main point about christianity. It's passed down from generation to generation and the majority of these people never question what they've been raised to believe since birth. It's the easiest way to explain death to a child because there's no finality and life as a spirit goes on. It's not that it's the most rational or factual religion in America, but it's the most accepted. A politician in America could never run for president if they are not Christian. Even if every view they support directly conflicts with Jesus' teachings, if they say that they're Christian that's like the gold seal of approval. But why? Only 2 of the 10 commandments are actual laws in America (Killing and Stealing). Why should everybody have to be a christian to get elected? I'll tell you, morality. Also even more shockingly, I understand why people feel like that. Not very many Americans like the idea that a person of power doesn't fear god, I don't either. The destruction caused could be limitless without the fear of consequence from a superior power. An American president would be the the dominant force to exude that type of power. We've got money, nukes, and Football we could turn the rest of the world into a wasteland within a day. Therefore it's importanat for americans to have a president that is on some type of invisable leash. If I feel that way, then I know that the majority of the American voting block does. Even though I sincerely believe that people can still be morally righteous without religion I don't want to experiment by giving a person with no faith that type of limitless power. It is my sincere belief that religion was created in order to keep humans in check, and it seems to have had at least some success over the years. So I guess even non christians shouldn't try to fix something that isn't broken. These last few sentences make me realize what a hypocrite I am, because I also don't think that religion should play a role in schools, law-making, or politics in general. I guess you could say I'm in a conundrum. I guess I want politicians to fear god, just not to push god on society. So concludes part one of this blog that I have no idea how many parts it will end with. Your favorite, and mine--Tabor


Rev. said...

Awesome story here tabor, Your absolutely right christianity is handed down parent to child in almost all cases. Although I would like to point out: Due to the fact that Christianity (and most religions) is accepted at a young age, most will never question its validity, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. I too recognize that christianity has helped many, many, people handle hard times, especially at young ages.

It never occured to me before, but after reading this, I don't think i would vote for a non-religious canidate in a presidential election. Your right, its to much power for someone who doesn't fear divine retribution. I don't think that people are naturally good, (though im sure there are exceptions) fear of consequences is what keeps most of us in check. God is the most effective in that department.
Good post.

Markus said...

I only take issue with the comment on the institution of religon. The bible cannot be interpreted by any one individual and be reliable. Everyones opinion and moral values influence the interpretation. The only reliable interpretation is through a group of scholars, this group must be organized and found as leaders of the religous community (ecuminical councels). As a group or organization they can rightly define the word that is truth and hand it down to the lay person. How did we get the bible origonally? Through organization! Do you think there were only four gospels, think again. The bible we have (septuigent) is discerned from many manuscripts and rightly handed down from church heierarchs. Again, unless there is a God by whom right and wrong can be reliable assessed, our moral actions are nothing more than opinion influenced by training, upbringing and propaganda. The bible cannot be interpreted by the individual or else the interpreter (individual) will be a law unto him/her self. The bible is the platform for Gods communication with man (in many ways)and the Church is an organization assisting and nurturing the individual who trusts (has faith) in it. Finally there is organization to the natural world we live in and man developes his own organizations in order to govern himself. There is no reason to believe there shouldn'd be organization to religon, that is, an institution if you must!

TABOR said...

Rev- Glad you liked the post. I'm definately glad that I was raised as a christian and had christian parents. It was nice to look at death as simply another chapter of life rather than fearing it's finality. However if I ever have kids I'm gonna take the same approach that you are with your 2 girls. I'm not gonna push religion on them from a young age, and if they ask my opinion I'll tell them exactly what I think. Although that may not be as "sunshine and daisies" as my childhood was, I think it will accellerate free thinking and individuality from a young age.

Markus- Morality is in the eye of the beholder. Morality also changes with the times. The problem with using the Bible for morality is that the bible was written 2000 years ago and most of the laws and rules are just not relevant in todays society. Therefore biblical morality depends on the individual and how they interpret it. It doesn't matter how many scholars they get together in a room to determine the factual books from the fictional. All of these "scholars" had one purpose when filtering out the "false" biblical books and that was "how can we make christianity the most dominant and accepted religion in the world and make the masses conform to the rules of a peaceful society" Morality is more environmental than anything else. Even in America we have a very wide spectrum of morality. In New York I could act like a load obnoxious asshole and nobody would think twice. If were to act that same way in Virginia people would be appalled. So in my opinion we would be better off letting our surroundings dictate our morality more than outdated texts.

TABOR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The H.C. said...

Hey Tabor,
Well written, from the heart stuff. You point out very well the value of religion in coping with loss. I also thought you took a good outside look at yourself and your feelings at your times of trial. It's very interesting for me to get an inside look at "Tabor world". Something beyond the kid who once asked me "What are Flozes" and when I asked him where he saw a Floz he told me, "There are 16 of them in my pop." Great writing there Tabor, not bad for an anti Jesus-Facist.

The H.C. said...

* "anti Jesus-Fascist." meaning against Jesus-fascists not that your one.

Markus said...

I did not want to debate morality which is in the eye of the beholder, just the need for religon to be an organized institution. Let society govern itself and let the individual (in addition to societies laws) follow the laws and rules of the bible if he/she so chooses. Biblical morality does not depend on individual interpretation, it depends on following church doctrine which it is handed down to us for our (spiritual) benefit (if one so believes) from the church! The problem we are facing in this discussion is defining the church, after all there are over 2500 organizations in America claiming to be "the" church. The scholars that handed down what we now have as church doctrine, were not trying to convert the world so to speak but to organize their thoughts and formulate their own(Christian) beliefs. I don't think it is Jesuses' fault people followed/believed Him anymore than I think it is the churches fault it is so widely accepted. To behave a certain way by following an example is the way it all started, it seems to have caught on but I don't think it was the original thinking of the church to mastermind some plan of being the most dominant or influential religon on earth. America didn't start out with world domination in mind, people simply wanted a better way of life. The church wishes to govern itself and organize its beliefs, its that simple. Let society govern itself and let the church exist with the same freedoms all religons enjoy. Persecution is nothing new ot the church and having the chaos of individuals being a church unto themselves is what society now refers to as religon. Let the church work in peace and let us not tear down the instution (building) that has taken centuries to erect. Even to this very day aspects of the church are valid in governing our daily lives if we so choose! By the way, I am not trying to convert anyone, just state my opinion...

TABOR said...

HC- Good I'm glad that you're able to see a side of me now that is a little more than the metal-head, sportsfan that you watched grow up. As I've said before I didn't really start getting into important topics like politics and religion until 9/11. I think that was a political jump start for many in my generation. I've never been afraid to take a critical view of myself or my beliefs that's why I'm constantly evolving spiritually and mentally. That's why I love to be criticized. Thanks for reading.

Markus- You touch on a very good point. I tend to lump all Christianity into one group when there are 2500 different degrees of christianity. You also make very good points about the bible being used as something to better society. Maybe many of the scholars did use the bible for that but I'm not so naive to believe that there weren't some of those people that had the intention to use it as a way to power. People are still using religion for power today, so I assume that some of the authors also had that idea in mind as they were writing. I also know that the church is no stranger to persecution but I think they've been guilty of more than their fair of persecuting as well. Because of the fact that our society has been so successful, I can't argue that religion hasn't been one of most important tools of civilized society. So I consider it a good thing whilst governing people, but I like to stay in the gray area on most subjects. Therefore I like to look at the flaws as well as the positives. Thanks for the feedback there was definately some info I can consider for the final 2 parts of this piece.

Rev. said...

@ marcus:

"The bible cannot be interpreted by the individual or else the interpreter (individual) will be a law unto him/her self."

And then you go on to say:

"....morality which is in the eye of the beholder,

How ironic, that interpretation of morality is subjective to the individual, yet in order to correctly interpret the Bible you must have an organization.

One of your the two quotes here are correct marcus, and lets just say, It's a good thing that you do not wish to debate morality. However if you change your mind and would like to debate such issues the stop on by my post, and we'll have it out. :)

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