“Sermons” on the Dismount

Introduction

My deconversion from theism (Christianity and less specific beliefs in a higher power) motivates this series of writings I’ve titled “Sermons” on the Dismount.  The title operates as an ironic misnomer.  I only want to write about my experience, not preach on the advantages of having a naturalistic view of the universe, nature, and phenomenon; that’s why I put the word sermons in quotes.  But like a sermon, I will write what I feel and how I slowly dismounted from the belief in a God, or gods, the supernatural, and other religious and mythical explanations for the world.

These “sermons” operate within and from a naturalistic point of view.  In other words, I subscribe to the theories of evolution, the big expansion, and abiogenesis.  To me, science explains how the world (and all of its phenomenon-natural or otherwise) works.  I state this at the outset of this series for one reason.  I hypothesize that many readers, sympathetic and empathetic to the theistic vantage; will attempt to debate my point of view.  I realize that this series invites debate and emotional responses. Despite that, I am still going to post this set of writings, and I will decide who I debate to whom I respond.

My Slow and Certain Deconversion (part 1)

 After my second divorce, I moved in with my parents.  Two years before my divorce I went to church twice a week: on Mondays to rehearse my bass playing and harmonies with the church band and on Sundays to play in the contemporary service.   Once I recovered from the initial shock of the breakup, I began working a minimum of forty hours a week.  Inevitably I worked on Sundays–particularly when I was a team leader at AWS. None of the personal assistants working under me willingly worked on Sundays.  If going to church and playing in the its band really meant so much to me, I would have tried harder to get one of my subordinates to cover my Sunday shift.

I still believed in the Christian God and prayed in the morning, in the evening, and when I felt uneasy or anxious. Not going to church and band practice (which included a prayer group before we began to practice) gave me a chance to start questioning organized religion and theology in general.  Though I had read about evolution in college, on my own, and believed it to be a plausible, I started seeing that evolution couldn’t be reconciled with the Genesis account.  With more and more space between the Lutheran church, and myself I began forging my own relationship with God, as I understood him.

This personal relationship focused on a god I could talk to and his name was not Jesus. Another newer feature of this personal relationship included getting to know myself better: what I thought and felt without the filter of Christianity.  In other words, instead of praying away my doubts about religion, myself, and praying away my problems, I began to see myself as an individual who could solve my own problems, or go to someone else–whether they were believers or not.  Case in point, I began talking to an old friend of mine who was (and is) not affiliated with any organized religion.

I started to find my own way in the same way he had found his.  He lived (and lives) by his own spiritual principles, many of which he formulated after reading myriad books and contemplating those principles for many years.  Similarly I began listening to his experiences and how he applied his principles to those experiences.  At first I adopted some of his viewpoints and applied them to my own life and “spiritual journey”. I started drinking kumbucha and green tea, eating better (high diary fats, olives, leafy greens), weaning myself off of psych meds, and following a more predictable sleep routine.  I was still doing God-centered twelve-step work; but all the while I questioned if there was an actual higher power.  I questioned it because I believed I was doing the spiritual recovery, not some bigger, immaterial and invisible force.

(End of Part 1)

One Time

When we have no second life,
only one that wakes us in the morning,
is the same one in the afternoon
and the evening; when we finally
rest.

All the second chances
happen with skin and bone,
covering muscle and the soft heart
Life’s harsh light won’t blind us,
we’ll only feel warmth of blood that breaths,
not a ghostly wind from nowhere.

Here now, the bridge wobbles,
the teeth grow crooked
and the roots twist wildly:
While the flower lives;
until the flowers dies.

When beauty fades,
we remember beauty,
awhile. But as water
evaporates in the sun;
all that’s natural parishes.

It’s our pathology of perfection:
pressing petals into scrap books
past the age of 10,
that chokes life
away from growth–not the sun,
that wilts the beautiful petals
in due time.

end part 1

Hi, I’m an atheist. “I’m beginning to see the light”

Religion is my favorite drug.

If I punctuate my spiritual experiences, nine of the plethora stands out.

1. At 10, I was born-again. Jimmy Swaggart, on the television, asked the viewing audience if we accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. Out loud, I said yes.

2. At 15, I felt an indwelling of the holy spirit on a youth group retreat. I lead a prayer circle on the annual Faith Ranch retreat.

3. At 21, on March 29, 1995, I hit my knees that morning and asked God to keep me sober that day. (I still haven’t drank or used drugs again.)

4. At 23, while walking in the sunshine in Levittown, NY, I recognized that all things were Buddha. (I still don’t know what this means.)

5. At 31, while working at John Morrell in the meat lab, I envisioned that I could unite all Christians and began preaching out loud to no one. This event lasted 15
minutes. (I talk out when alone. If I can hear something, I can usually figure it out.)

6. At 33, under heavy medication’s supervision, I had my last Christ experience. I even looked into going to Seminary.

7. At 34, in September of 2007, I went to Pittsburgh to visit Randy Miyan. He helped me detoxify my body of all the medicine I was on. Randy and I hiked for what felt like 8 hours. I saw God in the light and patterns in nature. (I have been off of meds for 2 years and 3 months.)

8. On December 24, 2007, I fully realized that the Bible authors fabricated a bulk of the stories. That was the day that I realized I was not a Christian. Just a year earlier, I started to analyze and critique the four creation myths of Genesis 1:1.

9. This is where the story starts.

In November of 2009, while raising out of bed to go meet Professor Kamholtz about graduate school, I asked myself a question inside my head. The question was so simple; it’s laughable now. “Do you REALLY believe in God, other than when you asking him to save your ass?” In my head I replied, “No”. Prior to this last nail in the coffin of personal theism, I had realized that to believe in God required faith and sincere belief.

Some gain faith from sudden, spiritual experiences that permanently transform their inner beings. The other variety of spiritual experience originates in reading inspirational literature and letting the “logic” of God slowly unfold over a period of time. According to Henry James, this is the educational variety of spiritual experience. In my experience, it’s the same way I realized I wasn’t spiritual. It’s James’ latter variety that unfolded to demonstrate that I was an atheist. But I am not the only one who figured it out. Randy, the guy from number 7, confronted me in September of 2009.

He apprised me of the fact that I never really hit bottom–and not spiritual. In the last part of November of 2009, I finally admitted what another person knew. And truly I tell you: I don’t believe in God, Jesus, Heaven, Hell, Mohammed, Buddha, Nirvana, Enlightenment, Karma, Krishna, Horus, Elijah, Moses, Angels, Demons, Satan, Crystals, Ghosts, Superstitions, a soul, a spirit or chakras.

Well…chakras represent “energy centers”. These energy centers metaphorically relate to colors and particular dimensions of one’s own personality. Chakras provide an excellent guided visualization tool in my experience. But I don’t ‘believe’ in them. It took me a while to believe and know I was an atheist–I’m bad at believing. So, I confess: I was a chakra con. I professed spiritual beliefs I hoped were true for me.

Or as my buddy Dolf likes to say: “…blasphemy is a victimless ‘crime’.” Victimless indeed.

(End of Part 1)