To those close to me that did not see this coming: I'm sorry. I do not mean to cause you any sort of surprise or distress, and I want to talk about this if you are those things. Please accept that some things go better in writing than they do in spoken words for me, and that this could no longer stay inside, bottled up, without making me burst from the pressure. I must be who I am. I know you understand.
It is not often that I use media to make a point on this blog. I, in fact, try to avoid it whenever possible. It is precisely because of this trend that I beg your indulgence today. I will attempt to describe what I need to, but the visuals and music in this video make it much simpler.
If that doesn't load very well for you or you didn't feel like watching it, here is how I must describe things.
I was alone in the desert, left behind, and I was offered a reprieve from my loneliness. All I had to do was truly embrace the life of faith. The price for that was my hope, dreams, and intellect. I fought hard against this price for a very long time.
"Hope is truly found in this life," said I, "just look at the cool glass of water that's been poured for me! I shall never go thirsty for the hope of a bright future." And yet, what kind of a future was I offered? There was the promise that all things would be reconciled, that the ideal of a world without war would exist, but those of faith differ wildly on such things, and church history is replete with war, ostracization, and excommunication. How could these things possibly add up to the kind of Love that Bell wrote about in "Love Wins" or Manning wrote about in "The Ragamuffin Gospel"? That furious love, that unstoppable grace that even the traditional conception of hell could not stand against. And yet, I was told, hell does exist, enemies do exist, and the hope I was offered came with a price...us vs them. Or perhaps more eloquently...us trying to save them. Why then, have I never felt a need to save anyone? Why have I never met a "them"? All of the hope I found was found in people, and eventually in myself. The hope I was offered was nihilism wrapped up in theism.
I dreamed of being something special. In fact, I was told I would be so from a very young age. I was told I would change the world, that I would be one of the people that made faith sensical and rational and compassionate. Why does it need to be made these things if God's work was complete? The answer, of course, was that we are in process. "Dreams," I said, "are sourced from God, for from Him all good things come." So I kept looking up, kept looking outward, kept exploring. What I've found is a universe where life is not static, but dynamic. Love is not a binary, but a journey. Our race is not the center of the universe, but a part of it that we create the meaning of. More and more evidence mounts every day that life on this planet is expressed in many forms rather than species after their own kind, and that active respect is necessary for all of it if we as a race are to even survive. I was never taught this, and so it seems odd to even say. My dreams of being some kind of religious revolutionary began to seem extremely small compared to what the universe is and what humanity is in it. From this, I realized that I am special, and I am so because I choose to be who I am, every day.
My intellect, or perhaps my thoughts, have been what's guided me through so much in life. Every situation thoughtfully analyzed, every concept making sense, and every experience noted. "True philosophy," I said, "comes about naturally from the correct presuppositions and correct ways of thinking. If God is the source of this, then it is ordered in an understandable way, and it is how to understand the mind of God." So I continued to read, I continued to theorize and understand, and I have only begun to see the way logic runs in circles, presuppositions seem to come out of thin air and are deconstructed just as easily, and philosophies are like waves in the ocean. Why does one wave matter when you have the entirety of the ocean to see? Enjoy that wave, ride it or go through it, and move forward. You may be going through it while another person is riding it, but your positions will be switched around before you know it, when the next wave comes. It can't be taken so seriously that you can't play at points or enjoy yourself.
So it all began to feel wrong. If faith truly was a reprieve from loneliness, then why was I living like a reject in darkness, and why were my pursuits so adamantly rejected by most of those I spoke with? Even the "Christian philosophers" I spoke to seemed to disagree with and reject me when it was needed. The agenda began to become apparent to me, and I began to change as a result.
"Just go back to sleep," they said, as the rag was placed over my mouth. The abuse was real, as I was silenced in every way possible, and I felt that it was warranted. Truly, my mind was bent and my heart was twisted in such a real sense that I am still recovering from it. "I deserve this," said I, "for I have failed. I am human, and I just don't understand something." However, the haunting truth was that I really believed that they were the ones that were wrong, and that their religion was not representative of my own faith, despite the realization I would only come to later that what they represented was so connected to what I did that a true revolution was impossible. The presuppositions were too rigid. This is why those in religions that are out to cause real change are always referred to as "radical," meaning back to the roots, or "reforming," similarly meaning returning to the true nature of that religion.
Some say that a sufficiently disciplined mind can compartmentalize contradictory pieces of information. I believed, truly, that I was correct because I was called to be special by God, and that I was also worthless, useless, and alone. For some reason, these things went together into a martyrdom I can only describe as capture-bonding. This is more well-known as Stockholm Syndrome.
What happens when a person endures this for long enough? They break. They either become a complete shell of who they were, accepting the continual abuse of their soul placidly, or they develop a problem with the authority so casually invading their very person, and they decide they've had enough. My study of church history took this to a whole new level, as I realized that Christianity, the faith I was raised to believe in, came about from some incredibly violent historical circumstances, and that this abuse of people had been taking place since the very beginning. My study of the hero archetype of Jesus was the last piece of this puzzle, and it made the claim that the story of Christ was more important than the historical reality of his existence (or non-existence) make a lot of sense. If I may borrow from one of my favorite shows, "all of this has happened before, and it will all happen again." If the story of Christ was not unique, and the story of the church is a power struggle like many others, with the occasional idealistic and great figure emerging to make it about good things, then what is unique to the faith I was raised in, morally, historically, theologically, philosophically, politically, or in any other way?
It all comes down to a question: who do you trust?
Once again, we are back to people. The people I trust are of all different faiths, all different backgrounds, and they are all so uniquely human.
So the last great lie I was sold that I had to reject, "the smile when you tore me apart," was that I am, and am meant to be, alone. I am not meant to be alone. I do not know if God exists or if he does not, but every religious experience I have had so far I can soundly attribute to people. Whether that is authority, friendship, love, public experiences of "worship," or family, I can attribute the things that move my soul to people, and to people alone.
My friends, I must confess that I am tired of imposing loneliness on myself, and I refuse to do it anymore. I love people, and they frustrate me so much sometimes because I believe that we can be better. No one thing can cause this, but I wish to become better by listening, by being open with people, by learning, by arguing, by discussing and philosophizing and enjoying music and art and literature and absurdity and laughter and beauty. I wish to grieve with others, to be a conduit for comfort to the hurt and the downtrodden, and to be a voice of realism to those that feel they must continue to hurt themselves to be acceptable. It is so unnecessary.
I can no longer say I have faith in the supernatural God that I was raised to believe in. What does this make me? I have no idea at the moment, other than to say that I am still the same person I have always been. I am still a critical thinker, I am still absurd and awkward and hilarious, and I am still something of an idealist. I still respect the possibility of a god, but I also deeply respect agnosticism, pantheism, atheism, polytheism, monotheism, and those who don't want to bother with any definition or framework to represent their thoughts. This is because they represent something to the people who believe in them, and that fascinates me.
So faithless I may be, but that does not mean I am different or have lost my ideals. If a god does exist that I will meet one day, it is the person I am that he will see, and judge, if that is even what will happen. However, I choose to live like I have one life, and I wish to make it count in real ways.