This is the first such comment I have made on any website, ever. For a number of months I have read all sorts of comments and debates on all manner of topics. Sadly, I realise that most of the stuff I have been reading has been about God, Jesus, faith, Christianity and so on. All born, I realise now, out of a crisis of faith; a search for meaning. In a sense, I guess I am writing this as a form of therapy (which I have been having formally as I make my way through the mud and mire of my recent confusion and crisis). In many ways, I find myself in a place that I didn't expect to be.
With hindsight, I realise that I thought I had moved on from the fundamentalism of my early adulthood. I was young, facing the world as a young adult, replete with the lingering emotional wounds from an absent father from the age of 2 yrs and all the subsequent issues and baggage of step-families, and grappling with my place in the world. Christianity, to which I came as a 19 year old, gave me a place and a community and it felt good. I was 'on fire' for God. I was a hand-raising, tear-crying, preaching, evangelizing Christian zealot. I led worship, I prayed prayers, I preached, I taught at church, I ran the largest youth outreach in my state. Hell, I even gave up sex.
And I read.
Mostly what I read was charismatically-inclined literature, you know the type: miracles, healing, awesome stories of mighty power in the lives of ordinary people. Some of it troubled me... some scared me... most inspired me. And I felt God with me.
But time moves on and over the years, ever so slowly, church became less important (worldly seduction in increments?), although I was still attracted by the myth and mystery, the traditions and the ritual. But less and less my wife and I went. Strangely though, I felt I began to 'mature' spiritually and whilst not adhering to the traditional Christian faith, I still had a profound sense of the sacred, the ineffable, the divine. I entertained the idea that chakras might be real, that the earth and humanity might be transforming, that indigo children might be a genuine phenomenon, that vibration and energy was legitimate.
I read Eckhart Tolle, a little Depak. I only say this, not because I now necessarily adhere to all of that; rather simply to show that over 10 years I slowly began to explore the previously 'forbidden'. Up until 12 months ago, I was traveling well.
Successful professional, happily married, emotionally healthy, two beautiful kids, plenty of money and, strangely, a healthy spiritual outlook and sense of purpose. Then the wheels fell off. twelve months almost to the day after the passing of my grandfather, who was really my father figure all my life, I had a massive breakdown. It started slowly, but ended with a bang. And although initally masked by the trauma of the breakdown itself, at the core I sensed what I termed my 'existential crisis'. What DID I believe? Why did I believe it. Suffice to say that the last six months has been a fearful, anxious and at times almost paralysing search for the 'truth'.
I have read so much on Christian sites, non-Christian sites, sites such as this and more. Time and time again I am struck by a couple of things: the enormous number of errors and inconsistencies of the Bible; the process by which the Bible was put together; the blood-thirsty nature of 'God' in the OT particularly, and the seemingly impossible, variable and problematic requirements for God's steadfast love in the NT. When I read the Bible, I feel fear and terror, not love and comfort. I feel rejection and threats of eternal abandonment -- not unshakable, unbreakable, unconditional love. I feel the imminent strike of God's mighty and furiously imposed hand against my mere mortal and fleshly face at the slightest indiscretion, not the guiding, loving, patient and persistent support and immeasurable love of a father. A real father. In short, I see more compassion, understanding, patience, forgiveness, support, forbearance and unconditional love in many of the 'fallen' sinners of this world than I see in the image of God I have constructed.
Maybe I have missed the mark. Maybe I am way off. Maybe my faith never was, or has failed me, or isn't strong enough. Maybe I just don't want to submit all. Maybe the devil has asked to sift me like wheat. I'm human, not wheat though. And what I see as a human each day in other humans, despite some of the ugliness, is beauty, vulnerability, love, acts of kindness and grace. Oh, that is unless I read a fundie website where all I see is hatred, fear-mongering, rejection, bile, vitriol and a perverse and sickening glee gained from believing God will torture people like me. It is humanity that keeps me buoyant. Ironically, it is humanity that somewhere in the recesses of my soul keeps me believing (hoping) in God. But as for God, or at least my cobbled-together construct of God, I feel like I have woken up one day to discover that my 'daddy' (and I never really had one) -- the man I have loved, admired, worshiped and idolised all my life, is a murderer, a rapist, a blood-thirsty tyrant and a hater of children, in fact of everyone.
I feel like I have admired my father's commitment to my Mum all my life, have used their marriage as the basis for my own, to arrive home one day to find my dad pumping the next door neighbour... and her husband at the same time... while my mum is out making arrangements for his birthday dinner later that night, blissfully unaware.
I fear, God, you see, really hates us. God really can't bear to look at us. God's first inclination is to reject us and destroy us. But Jesus stands before us and God says 'Ah... shit. OK. OK'. Gee, don't know about you, but that just means that God really loves his own son (and even the mafia and terrorists love their own children), not us, and kinda lets us through the door to do Jesus a favor. So God really only (just) tolerates us. "Jesus, if you MUST have those people in the house, at least make them behave."
All my life I worked at seeking love and acceptance for ME, to find out that in actual fact, God is the one who does this the least. He doesn't love me for me. He loves me because Jesus stands in the way and says "Don't shoot!". Trigger happy bad-ass old copper who hasn't shot anyone for years and is so close to a pension-cheque puts his gun down and says: "Ah, shit. Fine. Do-gooder idealist. You'll see. They're all scum! When you've been in the force as long as I have, you'll see."
Bottom line: I feel like I am in mourning. I feel like I have lost a wonderful friend. And I realise that I don't even know what that friend ever looked like. Was he a mental construct? Was he imaginary, like the friends you make up when you are a child?
At times during the last few months I have thought that this battle has been contrived by me, or the 'victory' back to God resisted, to justify a life of sin. But hey, what the hell does that mean anyway? And so here I stand, not in the world, not out of the world, and into it all kind of wondering what it's all about anyway. At times I have been so depressed and so fearful that I have contemplated the unthinkable. Imagine that, leaving my two boys, who I DO love with all my heart, unconditionally, and who I will NEVER forsake nor just tolerate -- to live alone, and lest I say, repeat the sins of my own father by being absent myself. And yet, somewhere in my heart, I still want to believe. I want to believe that God really is there. That God himself is saying: "I agree with you. They get me so wrong! I am the one you can depend on. I am everything and so much more." But that would just be making God in my own image wouldn't it? And that, I remember, is a big no-no. God is the same today, yesterday and forever (my father-in-law reminds me), which hauntingly means that God (at least when referencing the OT) may still be liable to bouts of terrifying anger, rage, jealousy, vengeance, murder, rape, genocide and infanticide (just to name a few).
Strangely, the sorts of things that He may not be all that crash hot on me doing. So there it is, my unfinished journey. Where it will take me yet, I know not. But I hope I am ready. Some closing irony: God bless.
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Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)