I am a spiritual atheist

Sent in by Jennifer

When I was three, my mom placed a brass crucifix in my room. I had no idea what it was at that time, but I was petrified by it.

It was the scariest thing I had ever seen at that point in my life.

I was forced to attended Catholic school until I was eleven. I remember being in church at the age of 6 and thinking that something just wasn’t right. I thought everyone looked as if they were in a trance when reciting the Apostle’s Creed.

It was scary.

I also thought that the whole drinking the blood and eating the body was so ritualistic and creepy.

I knew even at this young age, that my only “church,” was outside. When I was a teenager I was drawn to Wicca, but eventually stopped practicing that because I just could not believe that there were invisible people in the sky. Instead, I believed in an energy that resides within us all. I never knew there was a name for what I was, but I recently found out that I have always been a Pantheist. Pantheism is a spiritual form of atheism.

Until a few months ago, I thought atheists didn’t believe in anything. The word atheist has a lot of stigma attached to it for me.

I remember when I first met my husband, I asked him if he believed in God. I told him I couldn’t marry an atheist. He told me that he wasn’t one, but didn’t elaborate. For years, I described the energy I believed in as “God”, only realizing recently that when most people say “God” they are referring to an invisible man in the sky. When I realized that, I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard of. I asked my husband how people could actually believe that. He laughed and told me that the first time I had said the word God he thought that was what I believed. He said after getting to know me, he realized I was an atheist in disguise. He never told me because he knew it would have upset me at the time.

Now I have realized that I am a spiritual atheist, agnostic at best. The agnostic part of me fears, “What if Catholicism is right?” “What if there is a hell?” I am going to burn forever because I don’t believe? My heart skips a beat if I refer to myself as an atheist, just because of the stigma that used to be attached to it.

Most of the time I refer to myself as a Pantheist, but I am having trouble with the realization of what I have always been really means. I have had a spiritual “unawakening” or awakening depending on who is looking.

My poetry is immersed with my realizations, and my thoughts are tortured with my past. I feel like being forced into religion at a young age is virtually child abuse, and a severe form of brainwashing. Because I am an artist, I think of the meaning of life more than I should, and my fear of hell has not gone away. I also have extreme bouts of guilt. My family is devoutly Catholic. They are some of the meanest, cruelest people I know, and I need to rid myself of toxic people; yet I feel obligated and guilty. I’m sick of feeling guilty all the time, and need to heal from the past. I was so happy when I found this website, it definitely helps to see that there are others that feel the same way. Thank you so much!

15 comments:

Chucky Jesus said...

Well, at least you were safe from vampires while in your room...

SpaceMonk said...

Hi Jennifer, I guess I could be called a spiritual atheist too, although I still don't have conviction enough to accept any labels.

I can relate though. People can have different interpretations of what certain labels describe and end up with wrong impressions of you.

Also you can start to feel like you have to live up to something you don't quite fit, because of the stereotype that goes with a label.
That could be a source of guilt? If you feel like you were expected to be something and couldn't quite live up to it?
It isn't a failure though, just a different understanding, a differing inclination.

Hopefully visiting this website can cure your fear of hell - and don't accept any guilt that is put on you by others, epecially when they don't understand your own intuitions. ;)

Telmi said...

Jennifer,

Some advice:

Always weigh and consider; and ask: where is the evidence?

Let reason be your guide.

If anybody tells you the Bible God is all-loving and all-powerful, ask: where is the evidence?

If they tell you the answer is in the Bible, then read the Bible; you will find the Bible God, as he is portrayed, as a malevolent, genocidal maniac.

TimothyTang said...

Hi, my name is Timothy Tang and I have just completed the book, "Real answers to The Meaning of Life and finding Happiness".

Many people feel that the interpretation to The Meaning of Life question is too subjective to have any definite objective answer but I have managed to formulate a real and objective answer to the ultimate question of human existence.

I have made a blog that introduces the book. Do check it out.

http://ultimatemeaningoflife.blogspot.com

Just wondering said...

Hi Timothy Tang,

Are you related to "Pudding Tang"?

LOL!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer,

I have come to describe myself as a spiritual atheist as well. There aren’t very many of us, but we are a very intelligent and creative group of people.

My background is very similar, only I fell away from the church must faster. My parents were very progressive and stopped attending church when I was very young. They decided to instill a love of nature in their children instead.

I was always told I was catholic, but never attend church. When I entered junior high school, I tried to attend catechism classes with my friends. It was one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my young life. I realized that I couldn’t accept their beliefs at all.

The idea of being an atheist didn’t even enter my mind. I don’t think I really understood it. I assumed that you could not be an atheist if you experienced awe or wonder at the natural world.

A couple of year later, I was browsing through the stacks at my local library. I started thumbing my way through some books on humanism and atheism. I immediately realized I had stumbled upon what I was looking for.

Sceptical Chymist

rickyusvi said...

Albert Einstein said: “I believe in Spinoza's God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”

You can count Albert Einstein among your fellow pantheists, although he did shy away from the label. Einstein’s belief doesn’t prove anything, of course, but it may be an effective defense against Christians who are prone to argument from authority.

I don’t call myself a pantheist because, to me, it is an unnecessary layer of abstraction. However, i will not deny the label. “God” is such an ill-defined term that my definition (or yours, or Baruch Spinoza’s) is as good as anyone’s.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer,

Thanks for your posts. This is my first time posting a comment to this site, so I'll hope I'm not repeating what others have said.

First, I'd like to suggest that 'atheist' means believing there is no god, which is a much more difficult position to sustain than simply not believing in the Christian God. I found this website because I googled 'beyond christianity' and the first entry was a testimonial on this site by Jennifer from last year. Was it you? It doesn't matter much. My point is that I was searching for a forum of discussion of 'beyond christianity' not 'atheism' or 'exchristianity' when I found this site. I have come to believe that God is much, much bigger than Christianity. And whether you consider God to be a man in the sky or the corporate consciousness of all living beings, I find it much easier to believe in God than to deny the possibility of a god.

Second, to help you recognize that you are in good company, I'd like to suggest that you take a look at Charles Templeton and Karen Armstrong (try google). Both were very devout Christians who have moved beyond Christianity and written about their experiences.

Enjoy life!

Mandy said...

Dear Anonymous,

Hi,

I was just wanting to know if you consider yourself to be "Agnostic"?

Thanks. :)

Spiritualist said...

As the second anonymous, I will try to "tag" this as Spiritualist to avoid confusion with the first anonymous.

Mandy wrote: "I was just wanting to know if you consider yourself to be "Agnostic"?"

No, because I don't consider myself to be "without knowledge" and I don't believe God is unknowable.

I would consider myself to be a spiritualist or possibly a univeralist (though I suspect that implies dogma that I would not necessarily support).

Though I have more of an analytical background than Jennifer, like her I find myself frequently asking questions of a spiritual nature. I have participated in many different faiths and have developed a very personal perspective. I have too much appreciation for the incredible complexities of life (which seem to contradict the law of entropy) not to believe in some sort of intelligent designer. But I can't believe that any one faith holds all the answers. So as I continue to ask questions, I imagine how this life must be vastly different from anything that will follow, and I gain new freedom and appreciation for all that this life has to offer.

I've learned much from the writings of Thich Nhat Hahn concerning daily life and human interaction. And I'm very intrigued by Deepak Chopra and his perspectives on a more universal existence.

Finally, when I say that I do not believe that God is unknowable, it's because as I continue to ask questions, I continue to discover various potential answers. And this invariably leads to a greater appreciation of the complexities of this world, this life, and an Intelligent Designer.

Does this make sense to anyone but me?

Spiritualist

Mandy said...

Hi Spiritualist,

I think I do kind of understand. Forgive me, I have kind of a simple understanding of things I guess you could say.

So basically you don't believe that christians have God figured out like they think they do. Right?

Spiritualist said...

Hi Mandy,

The last thing you need is forgiveness. And since I've read many of your comments on other pages of this website, I know that you have much more than just a simple understanding of things.

Christians aren't even close to having God figured out. They seem to think that God is neatly packaged in one little book that hasn't been updated in nearly 2000 years. They don't even recognize that their whole perception of God is based solely on this book. They call it perfect and infallible (because the pastor said so) so they can feel comfortable with their perceptions. And all the while they ignore the vast majority of the Bible, and focus on the dozen or so verses that support their lifestyle.

I find God in everyone and everything. I don’t mean this in the pantheistic sense that God is everything and everything is God, but rather in the sense that the Intelligent Designer has made everything with such incredible complexity that each thing gives us a glimpse of the designer’s nature. The chair you are sitting on is made up of molecules which are made up of atoms which are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons which are made up of etc, etc, etc.. Every cell of every living creature is so incredibly complex that it is itself a life form. Which means your body is made up of billions of other bodies. Is there a thought process in each of these? And on a different scale, our society seems to function pretty well despite millions of people each doing there own thing. And each person has a unique set of experiences which gives him/her a unique outlook on life. I believe there is a divine nature in all us (not just the prophets of old) and so I try to learn more about the Intelligent Designer by talking to other people about their perspectives. Unfortunately, most are too conditioned not to talk about such things, or they just parrot back what they’ve been taught.

I’m hoping this website might be good place to learn of different perspectives about what life is really all about. But so far it seems to be more about simply contradicting Christianity. I hope we can get beyond that.

Mandy said...

Hi Spiritualist,

Thanks for you comment. :)

Would you consider yourself a pretty open minded person, who accepts people for who they are, regardless of their lifestyle?

spiritulist said...

Hi Mandy,

Yes, I consider myself very open minded. But I can't imagine there are many people who would admit to being close minded, other than possibly Rick Warren who supposedly said if you're too open minded your brains will fall out.

I try to accept people for who they are regardless of their lifestyle. But I'll admit I have a problem with close minded people, such as religious fanatics and anti-religious fanatics (who are really just religious fanatics with an opposite agenda). Ravi Zacharias has a series of lectures where he says essentially that being a universalist is self-contradictory because of the following:
1.) Universalists believe everybody is right.
2.) Christians believe only they are right.
3.) So Universalists have to believe that Christians are wrong.

Well after giving that a lot of thought, I still consider myself to be a universalist and believe that Ravi over-simplified the universalist viewpoint. I believe that nobody is totally wrong or totally right (including Rick Warren, Ravi Zacharias or the writers of the Bible). I have no problem debating Christians because as soon as they quote John 3:16, I explain that the Jesus Seminar pretty well established that John is the least reliable of the Gospels. At that point the open-minded Christians (and there aren't many) go back to do a bit more research and the close minded Christians just go away.

Regarding other lifestyles, again I believe I am open minded. Personally, I am a bit of a traditionalist as I am a 50 y/o male who has been married for 27 years and am growing more in love with my wife every day. She considers herself a Christian but doesn't feel the need to preach or even practice her faith very often (thank goodness). I am quite conservative politically in that I prefer less government regulation and lower taxes, but I also support gay rights. In fact, that was probably the single biggest straw that finally broke the camel's back in pushing me away from Christianity. I tried to understand how some Christians could be so absolutist against the gay lifestyle when others found it completely compatible and were being selected for some of the highest positions in their faith. After examining both sides of the argument, I found the arguments supporting gay rights much more compelling and found the anti-gay christians to be close minded, bigotted hypocrites (not that I have an opinion of the subject).

Does that answer your question? Or were you asking about some other aspect of 'lifestyle'? I once believed the only absolute is that there are no absolutes. Then in trying to be a better Christian, I moved away from that notion and toward the notion that Christianity was right. Now I've moved back away from Christianity and back toward supporting 'no absolutes'. I can even defend religious fanatics and close minded bigots, though I wouldn't go very far to do so.

So, how about you? Have you closed your mind toward anything? Or would you like some help in supporting a particular lifestyle?

Spiritualist

Mandy said...

Thanks Spiritualist,

I can appreciate someone like you, and someone with your beliefs. I find what all you had to say quiet interesting.

I am a former close minded christian, who has come quiet a long ways towards accepting others myself. Plus my life has changed quiet a bit.

I guess you could also say that I am Agnostic. That's why I had asked you if you were. You kind of reminded me at first of someone who is Agnostic, until you explained more to me.

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