Friday, October 10, 2008

Unappealing, Uninspiring, Unenlightened

Like most journeys of self-discovery, mine began as a solitary endeavor. Long before I had ever heard of Richard Dawkins and The God Delusion, Christopher Hitchens and God Is Not Great, or Sam Harris and The End of Faith, I was well on my way toward repudiating my earlier life and inaugurating a wonderful new kind of day for celebration, the Feast of the Renunciation.

It was important to me that I formally recognize my emancipation from religious preoccupation. It was a day worth commemorating. The stultifying weight of superstition, dogma and nonsensical thoughts being lifted from my overburdened shoulders provided so much relief, quantifying its soothing effect on my emotional well-being is difficult to do.

It took as long as it did for me to begin this journey of liberation because I was virtually set upon by my religious handlers for so long, and because religious indoctrination as a child - when done with the perverse efficiency it usually is - has a way of enduring both time and challenge.

The simple act of freely expressing my thoughts here on a lonely blog has provided immeasurable comfort as well as an increasing sense of belonging as I continue to find other well-rounded, free-thinking bloggers. To my pleasant surprise, the few religious people who have seen fit to comment have been quite palatable. It is my very intention to engage people of faith to propose to them that we celebrate what it is we have in common: our humanity and, hopefully, our love of life. Sometimes it seems to work; other times I am gently pelted with reasons why it can't work.

Three basic qualities about my former life of relative religiosity come to mind when I consider how empty it had become: unappealing; uninspiring; and unenlightened.

  • First, it was unappealing to me because of its innumerable and incessant self-righteous affirmations, as well as its exclusionary tendencies. Dissent of any kind as to things substantive was not tolerated and left one with feelings of impertinence. Further, people who did not openly affirm their status as god-fearing creatures were not only socially alienated, but also told directly that their destinies were irredeemable. Very unappealing.

  • Second, it was uninspiring to me because for all its attestations of wonder and magnificence emanating from a so-called god, it paled in comparison to the awe-inspiring sensations I would experience when contemplating the transcendent splendor of nature itself. The process of man's discovering and understanding things previously held to be mysterious was amazing enough in and of itself. Attributing all knowledge and understanding to a higher power was taking something very precious away from us: our natural thirst to achieve for ourselves that which lends to us the very knowledge and understanding we seek.

  • And finally, it was unenlightened to me because propagating its core tenets was fueling so much hatred and disharmony in the world. We've got a couple of missing office towers in New York that speak to this very issue rather poignantly. Even moderate religious views were becoming more and more distasteful to me because, in practice, they unfailingly abdicated the ultimate responsibility of securing our own stations in life, as well as our destinies, to an entity other than ourselves. This is all to say nothing of just how unenlightened it plainly is to believe that morality is necessarily derived from a supernatural source. Further, any worldview that nominates religion as its guiding structure is simply ill-equipped to handle the challenges presented by a society based on diversity and pluralism.

Yes, it took a while, but I eventually found myself crafting an outlook on life that required three very different qualities. It had to be appealing, inspiring, and enlightened.

My old life was ever so close - yet ever so far away.


  1. Interesting and thought provoking post! As a Christian I have to admit I agree with you on a few of your points, especially #1 on your list.

    The areas where I may disagree, do give me something think about though!

  2. Christianity's main snare is the false promise/appeal to an individual's selfish nature:

    "You will be closer to God/heaven/rewards in the afterlife than other people. You will somehow be immune to the everyday consequences that befall others..." And then you're made to feel guilty if you stop and question: "But, I have cancer! My child died! What about--"
    "Oh, that! Oops, you're questioning God again! Didn't God promise he had a plan for you? That he would not harm you? Oh, ye of little faith!" And the carrot is held out, just a few inches away, drawing you on, in the hopes that some sort of enlightenment or peace will come to you. I guess there are two kinds of donkeys: Those who just keep plowing the same rut forever, in the hope of finally getting to eat that tasty carrot, and those who throw off the yoke, however "light" religion claims it to be and elect to plow in a spot with better yields. This despite all the other donkeys who are braying at you to "stay the course."

  3. My hat is off to you, Volly, if this metaphor is an original. I come from a large family, and sometimes all I sense is the relentless braying to "stay the sourse" even if it is subtle. They plow the same rut with fervent inanity.

    You comments capture that elusive Christian cunumdrum of not being able to reconcile life's negativities with the reassurances of an all-loving diety holding out the carrot of psuedo-enlightenment.

  4. You pretty much told my own story with this post. I too found a deep...release and finally dropping the weight of Christianity. Thanks for your bravery and honesty in your posts. Nice to know I'm not alone in this thinking. I have a lot more to say about this, but, well, check out my own blog I suppose. ha!

    Thank you.

  5. Thanks for the link, I too can relate and have experienced what you describe here. Like you, I eventually came to perceive that the Bible pales in comparison to life's beauty. Rather than providing a guiding explanation of the source of life, the Biblical account belittles and makes a mockery of it for me.

    Did you know it was the day of emancipation when the day actually happened? I think I had my day, but forgot to mark the date.

    Oh, the lonely blog, what healing!

    "A recent piece of research indicated that committing something to paper reinforces our belief in it, whatever it is we have written... the students who had to write about ___ were far more strongly entrenched in the belief that it was true than those who had just read it... (Psychology Today, May 1981, p 17)"
    - The Manipulated Mind, by Denise Winn

  6. That is to say, we could use little self-administered reinforcement of what we believe is true, to help undo the years of religious reinforcement that was imposed on us.