Conversations With You
Date: Sun, 8 Sep 2002
Subject: Thank You
I was reading what you wrote on the page "Behold This Day". It was profoundly moved. I just wanted to thank you so much for writing it. Leaving Christianity sometimes I felt my life was empty, but it's not empty it's amazing. Life is amazing and I am alive and this moment can be anything! Anything I could imagine it to be, and that is such a beautiful thing. It was so eloquently, beautifully written and I just wanted to thank you for your profound words. Behold this day that will dawn tomorrow, I know I will behold it and love this moment now. I just must keep reminding myself, this moment is all I have, this is the moment. This moment is all we have and I could have said it before, but I never understood it before.
Thank You, Thank You so much, K
Thank you very much for your email. It is extremely gratifying when one's words are appreciated and found useful. That particular essay means a lot to me, too. It took me a long time to get it through my head that the present moment is not mundane. I still struggle with it every day, but like many things, with practice it becomes more natural to "notice the moment" as it happens. You are very right to say that our life is amazing! That word has a different meaning post-Christianity, as there is no possibility of justifying the amazement by assigning it into an omnipotent God and thereby dismissing it. As Carlos Casteneda's don Juan once said, "We are men, and our lot is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable worlds."
Thank you for visiting my site, and for your feedback. Write anytime.
Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002
Subject: Where was I?
You,re right! No xtian has been able to tell me where I was for 15 billion years before 1955...
Hi and thanks for writing!
Yes, indeed, it is remarkable that believers can claim the authority of the Bible because of its supposed age while ignoring the numerous older texts such as the Vedas and the Avesta and never giving a moment's logical thought to the condition or history of mankind as a species for millions of years on this planet. We often believe what we grew up with or want to believe rather than what is reasonable and rational. I've always maintained that tradition should be a result, not a cause.
Date: Wed, 2 Oct 2002
Subject: Thank you
Just a short note to say thank you for your site. I will explore it more and more.
I am in the midst of this same change. I was a pastor for 26 years and then after much turmoil in both the church having problems with itself and my having problems with the church, they terminated me.
I also did not censor my reading and here I am. John Spong's Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism started it for me and in a personal letter, he said I would not survive and I didn't. I also believe that being dis illusioned is good, it is just very very painful. I have had to start all over, been divorced, on depression and anti anxiety meds and without a lot of friends to talk to. I found out there are thousands of aquaintances, but few friends thru the years.
At any rate, I have been having a bit of a down day and found your site. Thanks for your story and your efforts. They sound very familiar
Thank you so much for your letter. It is gratifying when someone finds my site to be of some value or help. I am certainly sorry that you have had difficult times in your paradigm shift. It is harder for some than for others, and having the investment of a pastoral career has to represent the most pressure to overcome. I can only say that for me, at least, the pursuit of what is true is worth the struggle, even at great cost. There is a centering and peace that comes from discarding rationalizations and freeing the mind to consider all ideas and phenomena to see if they are true or not, and I believe that such a mental lifestyle will, at last, make us truly human. It can, however, be a lonely path - even with a few others around, it is going to be a minority stance. Most people, in the words of Bertrand Russell, would rather die than think. Nevertheless, I and many others are out here, especially accessible via the wonder of the internet.
Please do read the other essays and the poems and things on my site, and let me know how they strike you. As a former pastor especially, I would value your feedback.
As for how you are coping with all this, I would like to tell you that pain may be inevitible, but suffering is optional. That thought is from my wife, who happens to be one of the best personal life coaches in the world. If you think you might find that idea appealing, check our her site at www.coachadvocate.com and give her a call. She is really good at helping folks make life transitions that enable and enoble them, rather than defeat them and beat them.
Again, thank you for writing. I do hope you will find not only great value in disillusionment in the dogmatic religion of old, but more importantly find the very real and powerful JOY of disillusionment that is a true reward right here and now. Nothing is better than real freedom.
Best wishes and regards, and write anytime.
Hi David....Thanks for your reply. It is difficult, or it is not depending on how I am doing on any particular day it seems. I have "given up" trying to understand the why's. It just is evidently.
Will continue to stay with your site. Thanks again...
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002
Subject: Fellow Ex-Christian
I greatly enjoyed, and related to, your website. I am 35 years old, happily married for 15+ years, and am raising 4 children with my beautiful wife. Recently, our Methodist Church put my poor wife through the wringer, all stemming from a conversation my wife had with a teenager during Sunday School. The whole thing was blown way out of proportion, and to make a long story short, a meeting we had with our Pastor and the family of the teenager resulted in them kicking my wife out of the class. This got the wheels turning in my head.
I, like you, started out with the noble notion of being a "good Christian." However, in the back of my mind, I've always doubted several of the tales in the bible, and always wondered if, when we died, what if that was it? Nothing else afterwards? When one considers the crazy and preposterous logistics of Heaven, the whole idea seems even more ridiculous. My quandry is this: I told my wife last night that I was seriously coming to the point of not believing in God, nor Christianity, nor the Church. Being "close to God" is VERY important to my wife, and she, unfortunately, willingly accepts most of the precepts of the Christian "faith." Things she can't explain she ascribes to "having faith." Now, after my confession, she is afraid for our marriage and the spiritual health of our family. I have tried to assure her that just because I don't believe in God doesn't mean I don't believe in morality and common sense. I think we all know the difference between right and wrong.
David, how have you dealt with the difficulties in telling loved ones of your newfound freedom from Christianity? How does one go about raising kids in a situation such as this? I will tell you that my 10-year old son is as critical and skeptical as myself, and I've already told him to think what he wants but keep it to himself. Is that hypocritical of me? I realize we (you and me) are perfect strangers, but I felt like I knew you after reading your story.
What do you think?
Thank you for your time.
On the Road to Freethinking....
Thank you so much for writing. I truly appreciate hearing from those who find my site and my story of interest or of help. Please forgive my slowness in responding, but I wanted to give you a thoughtful answer.
I have to disclaim first that I have not had to face the type of situation you find yourself in now, and even now some of my family members still do not know fully how far I have travelled. I have been very fortunate to have a spouse who has been on a nearly parallel path to mine, and who is fully supportive of my philosophies and, in fact, helps me to question and redefine things. Much of what I will say in this letter comes from Melanie's wisdom, and you might want to know that she is one of the best personal Life Coaches in the world, [you can learn more about her and life coaching at www.coachadvocate.com] and she has been a successful family lawyer for 14 years.
Mostly what I can share with you is the experience I had and that of my wife's as well. We each came to our conclusions after much study and thought over the course of quite a few years. We were extremely fortunate to be, as I mentioned, parallel in our growth and beliefs and reached many of our conclusions independently but oddly enough, simultaneously. We were also fortunate that our step away from Christianity was not due to any particular incident or even any "ill feelings" but was more of an intellectual curiousity that grew deeper over 3-4 years of study. My wife's questions about faith and the Bible and what she'd been taught began quite early and so her transition was quite different from mine. But we shared a quest for TRUTH essentially -- by looking at the history of Christianity and of other faiths in the whole of history. I was serious, and still am, about deeply desiring to find out what is true, even if it is unpleasant or fearful, rather than remain possibly deceived by illusions that may be comforting, but are illusions none the less.
I am hesitant to recommend leaving your religious family traditions or even your expressed faith under your current circumstances, especially if your wife is not in the same place spiritually and you have recently experienced negative incidents. What I can unequivocally recommend is that you continue your quest for your own truth. That quest must be done in full integrity and with being sensitive to the needs of your family and friends. Declaring yourself athiest, agnostic, or other flavor of non-believer at this point in your life may only serve to shock your loved ones and not bring them to any further truth other than to distrust "the non-Christian among us".
Many folks confuse Spirituality with Religion. One can continue to be a very spiritual person, even maintain belief in a higher power or the Universe, without being religious at all. In fact, having a good sense of your own spirituality truly exceeds what most religions have to offer. Your wife may be equating your lack of belief with complete negativity, believing that outside of religion there exists no hope, no spirituality and no morality. Quite the opposite is true, or has been in our experience--thus the JOY of Disillusionment. Life is much richer when:
1--there is no entity to decide your fate or absolve you from responsibility for how you conduct your life
2--your connection to all humans is not dictated by rules created by a few people in power
3--your focus shifts to being aware of the absolute beauty of life here and now instead of focusing on the 'glories' of some heaven in an unknown future, possibly missing the real heaven of now, and actually experiencing life as something to "suffer through" until you presumably get your reward upon death.
4--you can learn to love and accept all faiths and philosophies as conduits through which people can gain their own clarity.
5--you are not constantly trying to match up circumstances with a rule or with someone else's opinion but are listening truly to your own heart, feelings and integrity to 'do the right thing'.
As far as being able to share this joy, I can only tell you of the community that my wife and I have found in others through talking with friends (more of whom were also questioning things than I had imagined), and through the magic of the internet that brings folks like us together when we are geographically dispersed and far apart.
Raising children outside of Christianity is not really that different than raising children within it. Can you develop a sense of gratitude, integrity and dignity in a child? Sure. Can you share lessons with them about handling life's circumstances? Sure. Can you allow a child to think for himself? Absolutely. There are many, many ways to establish and maintain spiritual health outside of Christianity. People throughout history and across many cultures have successfully done this. We just don't hear about that as much within the confines of Christianity. It may take some creativity on your part. It may take some reseaching of resources both for yourself and your son. It may take some discipline to make sure that some time is spent developing spiritually outside of visiting some building every week. There are a great many books and a great many people out there who are right where you are.
Others may and probably will never understand your position or philosophy that takes you outside of Christianity, but your wife and children must be consulted and included in your process, even if they don't agree with it. Some of the process in dealing with a bi-faith marriage are applicable here. You may wish to convey to your wife that you will respect her choices for her own spirituality as you work through your own journey. You may as parents want to decide if your son is mature enough to make some decisions for himself or to at least expose him to more than one way of thinking or one course to spiritual fulfillment. In any case, I can hope that your relationship is based on mutual respect as human beings and not just on some formal religious structure of expectations. If it is, you can agree to respect each other's journey as long as it is a journey of integrity, without expecting necessarily to agree with each other along the way. Being a whole person outside of religion requires a kind of integrity and lovingkindess that is far above what many religions espouse. It means not being attached to the 'rightness' of your own beliefs and allowing others to do what is right for them. It means being an example of all of the virtues that religions tell you cannot exist outside of their particular framework. Those walls and boundaries exist within the religious constraints and not in the freedom of freethinking, so it is always better not to mimic them.
DM, I really do wish the best for you in your situation. I hope that you can be cautious and reasonable and courteous in dealing with those who do not understand your position, but that you can be determined, tenacious, and thorough in your search for the real truth, welcoming all new information and ideas with a hearty hunger for what may be revealed next. That is part of the true joy of living.
Please write me again and let me know how you are doing as you move along this new path, ok? I and my wife are also still moving and learning and experiencing new things as we travel the new roads before us.
Date: Fri, 1 Nov 2002
Subject: touching base
Thought I would touch base with you again.
I had written to you earlier this year about how I chose to walk away from religion while I was living abroad. After I received your encouraging letter, I went to work for a temp agency. For a while ,I thought I would never get out of the depression. I was so low. I weeded out some religous friends who were draining me and knew I had done the right thing for me. I have never felt so free as I do now!
Currently, I landed a job that has been rated one of the bests businesses to be employed by in our county! I AM going in the right direction. Although, I am so very careful in making new friends. I am still healing.
I think leaving religion is worse than going through a divorce. When I went through a divorce, I had many friends and support systems. Leaving religion is a solitare move. Friends in the church have no understanding of the choices that I have made for my life.....I simply can not be around those who want to quote scriptures or pray for this "backslider". Friends "in the world" are happy for me, yet, they have not gone through this transformation themselves. I hope someday I will have new friends.....but I think it is going to take alot of time....
I have read some great books on Christianity from the "outside" world. They confirm what my spirit has been saying for a long time... The BIble Fraud by Bushby and The Christ Conspiracy by Asharya
For now, I feel, that the only one who can take care of me is myself.
Thanks for your website and kind words.
Thank you for writing to me again. I am happy to hear about your job and the progress you've made in rearranging your social environment. I think your points about the solitaire nature of this experience are well made. It is something that those who have never believed can't really relate to and you are right about not having the type of support group that the divorce process has surrounding it. I guess being "deconverted" is something like one of those "orphan diseases" you hear about - not enough people contract them to make it worth society's time to take much notice of the victims' plight, much less offer money and resources to them. Divorce, unfortunately, has become so common in our society that all sorts of support is made available.
I have not read the two books you mentioned, but they sound like one's I'd like to read. I will look them up. Have you read the books by Freke and Gandy - The Jesus Mysteries, and Jesus and the Lost Goddess? These are quite good and enlightening works, too.
Nice to hear from you, JD, and continue to let me know how you're doing, ok?
Wednesday, November 6, 2002
The many good internet sites of various organizations have helped me, but the one thing I lack is understanding, support, new friends (guess where all my old "friends" have gone...maybe they weren't really caring friends these christians), and to top it all off, I am in the midst of financial struggles, jobless and I have lost some relatives in past years. I certainly am tired of having "just faith, brother..." stuff.
Your poem and website is courageous and inspiring. But what If I cannot redefine myself in a society that says the poor and financially ruined don't matter. I need structure and social support, a new life, but am "distracted" by society's crass need of paying bills, commercialism and political correctness (on BOTH sides of the camp; gets tiring after a while...just give me a nice rainforest and a camping trip vacation!) in the evil northern ....
Well, thanks for listening and perhaps I can find some new friends, especially here in....
the many believers at churches who never helped me or truly helped me solve real problems. Hugs and words may be nice (and I rarely got hugs, or EVEN INVITED into their homes....!!) but no deliverance or true sacrifices being made for their beleifs or friendship to me...although I had done it for them. I guess I sound arrogant.
I am still reading your great articles and they are helping me. You said something, something about "void". I now feel a void that I am DESPERATE to fill. I don't want to be lonely or have pity parties. I want to have courage like you and go forward. Bitterness never helps anyone, but encouragement and a listening ear are a soft, refreshing wind.
I should have made this decision long ago.
I appreciate your emails, and I sympathize with your reactions to this major change of perspective. It can be huge and can truly set you on your back end for a while. Sorry to hear about your present practical disadvantages, but I think the important thing is that you have begun to make this big shift in thinking and that really does change everything! The religions of the world are not really about truthseeking and lovingkindness, but are about power and fear and control, even when they are clothed in niceties and comforts. You seem to have found that out when your former "brothers and sisters" simply dumped you at the first sign of you being different from them and their beliefs, yes?
That happened to me, too, when I first started espousing a variant interpretation of Christianity (much less upon abandoning the "faith"). Those who were so kind, so caring, simply froze up and would have nothing to do with someone who didn't fit their mold. These are people who are either petrified of anything that challenges them, too busy with their goings-on to be bothered by involving themselves in the needs or ideas of others, or who have decided to be petty, drawing tight the boundaries of their exclusive club and getting some kind of satisfaction out of policing it for those who do and do not "belong."
I am gratified to hear that some of my articles and poems have been helpful to you. You asked, "What if I can't redefine myself?" My answer is that you already have begun to do so, and you cannot stop redefining yourself now, even if you wanted to! (And you don't want to, do you?) When we step outside of the restrictive box of religion, it is something akin to the butterfly coming out of its cocoon. We must surely be disoriented at first, and uncertain of this alien world and our new and unexpected wings and form, but we can't go back - only forward, and so we go.
I have found only revived interest and joy in life after my paradigm shift, and I know that anyone else who breaks out and begins to freely think and live for themselves will, too. The Christians believe that they have a patent on the concept of Joy, but I know that real joy comes from using our total human being to live a full and wonderful life on this amazing planet. For me it is comprised of learning new things, and creating new things. That's my new motto: Learn and Create. There is so much to do and to know that I can't ever imagine a situation where I could be depressed and feeling that life is meaningless. I can get along, however, with less social contact than many folks, and I know that others need more direct and frequent social contact and networking. In any case, the loss of a family or family of friends because of a philosophical change can be devastating. There is only one way out of that hole, and that is to reinvent yourself as a friend-to-be and go in search of those whose attitudes and understandings about things are compatible with yours. Believe me, there are many such people to be found.
So how do you reinvent yourself that way? It may sound oversimplified, but it really is a matter of making a conscious decision to do so. If I should drive my car off into a ditch, I might sit there and fume about how crummy the world is, or I might say, "Well, this is a crummy situation. Now, let's see how we can get out and get fixed up and go on." My Mom always told me that the most important word in language is "attitude," and she was right. It is not only important, but is a power generating word, as it is from our attitudes that our actions proceed.
I don't mean to preach, but I fear a bit when I hear you lock on the word "void." My word of encouragement would be not to focus too much on that void. Respect it, understand the power of it, and use it to gain an important perspective, but begin to find and make your own structures to fill it. That is what it is all about, after all, filling the Void with human creativity and life. It is what we humans have been doing for tens of thousands of years.
Also, I might say again not to forget that there are MANY others out there in the real world and via cyberspace that share your views and situation. You are NOT alone. The chatter and propaganda of the religious world is loud and can seem to be the only voice, but do some reading and searching and you will find, as I did, that many more of the thinkers and movers of our world are NOT believers in religion. Many are or were quite vocal in their rationalism and it is helpful and refreshing to read their thoughts now that we are free from the restrictions of the church. I encourage you to find and study some of these great works.
I wish you the best of travels on a road that can be scary, rough, exciting, amazing, and very joyful. Write me again and let me know how it's going, ok? I hope some of this helps. Thanks again for reading my site and for writing.
Wednesday, November 6, 2002
Re: thanks for the words of encouragement.
The present moment is not mundane. It is, in essence, extraordinary. -DC
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