By John Shores ~
It's time to see if I can live without Christianity entirely. It seems to me that as long as I am investing time and thought into the Ex-Christian journey, I'm still living in the shadow of Christianity. I'd like to see if I can escape it altogether.
This will be my final submission on this site. I hope that the things I have written have helped others on this journey.
As I say farewell to you all, I wanted to leave with one last offering of thought and reflection. Well, more a recap of what I have found to be the essentials in the whole question of Christianity.
I want to thank Dave and the moderators on Ex-C for providing an invaluable oasis for the many who travel the path away from Christian indoctrination.
I also offer my sincere gratitude to this community as a whole. Your companionship on this journey is beyond evaluation.
I wish you all my highest hopes for great lives full of love and laughter.
P.S. For any of you who were inflicted with Fundamentalist theology, there is a book that I think you must read. It is absolutely hilarious on so many levels and was a key instrument in my early days of deconversion. The book is Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. If you don't have one, get a copy. Today, if at all possible.
There are only two accounts in the Bible that are indispensable to Christianity.
The first is the death and resurrection of Christ. Some say that this is the sole pillar of Christianity.
But the death and resurrection of Christ are founded on Genesis 3 which describes the Fall of Man. Without this account, the death and resurrection are completely meaningless.
There are two ways of looking at the Fall of Man story in Genesis.
The Fall as Literal History
For most, if not all Protestants, the Fall of Man account is viewed as actual history. After all, the genealogy of Christ in Matthew lists the names of Jesus' ancestry going all the way back to Adam. So it's reasonable to think that Adam was an actual person.
And yet it is physically impossible that the Adam and Eve story is literally true. Homo sapiens sapiens, have been on this blue orb for over 100,000 years. And we evolved from an ancestral species that we share in common with the other great apes. There is no way to dispute this except to discard reality entirely. (Sound like anyone you know?)
The Fall as Allegory
For the Orthodox, the Fall of Man story is allegory. The Jews have always viewed everything pre-Abraham in Genesis not as literal history but as allegory or epic poetry. If you ask an Orthodox priest, he will likely say that you can discard Genesis entirely and not impact Christianity. Everything is "viewed through the lens of the resurrection" in Orthodox thought.
To me, this is more than a little disingenuous. The whole point of the resurrection hinges on the premise that humans are sinful by default. So the Fall of Man story is just as relevant to the Orthodox as it is to Protestants.
Are people sinful by nature? Asked another way, are humans born with some kind of spiritual birth defect?
Or is it possible that the word "sin" is simply an allegory in and of itself? The way Christians use the word, doesn't it just mean that people behave in certain ways that we have decided are contrary to whatever current moral code we have adopted?
Our behaviors and how our brains function are simply part of our biological makeup. It is how we have evolved. And when we look at the other primates like us, the major difference is that we have the capacity to reason. But that capacity does not in any way negate the other aspects of our basic biological structure.
Of course, we could delve into a discussion about morality. But here's the thing; moral guidelines can only be possible because of our ability to contemplate.
If Chimp A takes a banana from Chimp B and Chimp B chases Chimp A around trying to get his banana back, is this due to Chimp A breaking some higher moral code? Or is it simply how chimps behave?
Now, we can think about these behaviors and make up a rule that states "stealing is wrong." That's all fine and well. But is the presence of our desire to take something from someone else due to a spiritual flaw or "sin nature"? Or is it just nature? I would argue that it is the latter.
The Nature of Forgiveness
Let's play Devil's Advocate for a minute. Let's just presume that humans do in fact have a "sin nature" (or spiritual birth defect) and that we have offended God. And let's say that God really wants to forgive us.
Now, imagine that you have a child who has offended you. You want to forgive the child and the child wants to be forgiven so that you both can share in a good relationship.
Which of these would you do?
- Tell your child that s/he must kill her/his pet dog as a sacrifice to you.
- Kill your infant son so that his sibling(s) might be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with you.
- Simply forgive your child and move on.
You would have to be by far the most twisted and heinous human being to ever live in order to choose options 1 or 2. The nature of forgiveness is to forgive.
No bloody sacrifice is required.
The Power of the Resurrection?
The Orthodox will tell you that the death and resurrection of Christ were not about forgiveness. Rather, the resurrection is an icon of new life. Because of the resurrection, people can live in a manner that is pleasing to god.
This whole idea is, once again, predicated on the concept of Original Sin.
Here's the crux of the matter as it relates to Christianity. With the exception of a traumatic brain injury, a human being can only change his or her behavior through choosing to change his or her behavior.
End of story.
Christians would have you believe that the "power of the resurrection" and the "indwelling of the Holy Spirit" equip them to live lives that are pleasing to god.
But what do Christians do? They alter their behavior.
- They attend church regularly.
- They daily read the Bible or some other devotional book.
- They pray or meditate.
- They think about things differently and try to behave according to whatever code is laid down by their particular denomination.
Changing one's behaviors creates new neural pathways in the brain. There is a physical change that happens in the brain when new habits are adopted.
"Jesus" and the "Holy Spirit" have nothing to do with it.
If there was such a thing as a Holy Spirit indwelling people, those people would not have to go through any such rigors. This new entity would simply give them a completely different brain makeup, one that never experienced anger or jealousy or lust or any of those "base" emotions that lead to bad behaviors. (Sounds rather like The Host by Stephanie Meyers to me.)
But never in the history of Christianity has any such thing happened. All that has happened is that people have changed themselves through force of will.
Isn't that really what this Ex-C journey has demonstrated? Each of us has gone through a process in which we have changed our worldview. I personally think that a great deal of the challenges that we face are a result of our neural pathways changing as a result of leaving belief behind. In many ways, it's like detox.
Rather than adopting habits that reinforce a belief system, the simple act of abandoning all those habits we had formed in order to remain in the Christian mindset results in a return to our original state.
I intensely admire this community. Time and again, people have demonstrated courage, humility and a sincere desire to know the truth. They have sought the truth at great expense to their own psyche and often at the expense of losing their friends and family.
Such honesty and humility demonstrate a high regard for personal morality. I have been constantly impressed by this as I have read the many extimonies on this site.
There is no need for a god or a "higher power." Each of us already has all that we need in order to live the best lives possible. And let's face it; life is challenging enough. Adding something as messy as the sub-human Christian god is just ludicrous.