Author Topic: My Problems with Religion  (Read 868 times)

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Offline CogitoErgo

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My Problems with Religion
« on: March 16, 2010, 10:39:04 PM »
This is not a simple story, but I'm gonna try to keep it short. Short sentences; simple ideas.

My parents were Jewish. I was a disobedient, rambunctious boy who was always in trouble for something. My earliest related memory was praying to god to make me a good boy. It didn't work. I was still always in trouble. I decided that either there was no god or he wasn't interested in helping bad, little boys be good. I was 5 years old.

When I was about 11, my parents joined a synagogue. They started sending me to Saturday school every week. So we had a fight every week. I hated it. I didn't want to get dressed up; I wanted to wear my jeans. I couldn't understand what they were talking about in Saturday school. I didn't know any of the music they were singing and of course, couldn't understand a word of it because it was in Hebrew.

Incredibly bored and since they just dropped me off and left, I discovered that I could ditch the whole thing and hang out in the bathroom the whole time. It wasn't long before I was caught in there, smoking. When confronted by the Rabbi, I denied it. He said (incredulous), "Playing hookey in the toilet? You'd rather sit in the toilet than study the Torah? What's wrong with you?? ... Smoking?? In the Synogogue!!!??? On Shabbas???? And then lying about it??? to a Rabbi??? On Shabbas !!!!! ???"

I was expelled. No more Saturday school! No Bar Mitzvah!! In spite of no allowance for a year, I was ecstatic.

Fast forward to my early 20s. I have outgrown most of my antisocial tendencies and adolescent rebellion, but now I have serious problems with the fact that I am going to die. I understand that religion offers a "way out", but I just can't get myself to believe in anything supernatural. I read (or in some cases tried to read) philosophy books: Socrates, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sarte,  Russell, ... It didn't help.

I was dating a girl whose aunt was a minister in the lunatic-fringe, Assembly of God church. She (her aunt) was always preaching to me and I told her it was falling on deaf ears. I said that I would like to believe, but I just could not. She said, if I really wanted to become a believer, I should sincerely pray and ask god to show himself to me. Since I was to the core of my being deeply disturbed about dying, even though it seemed ludicrus to be praying to a non-entity, I went along with it in the hope that somehow I could become a believer. So together we prayed: me, my girlfriend's aunt and another minister that happened to be there.

Nothing seemed to come of our little prayer session. Life went on as before. Then, about 5 years later, I had a bad acid trip that left me totally FUBAR. Unable to sleep or eat for days, I had a classical psychotic break. On day 5, I was taken into custody and brought to a mental hospital. There was this staircase and a window. It was dark outside, but I could see a church. It was glowing and I felt God's energy pouring out of that church. It was an absolutely, stunning experience and I was convinced of God's existence.

I didn't know in that moment that I was in a mental hospital. I thought that my life was over for some reason; that this was my last night on Earth. That it was too late for redemption and that God was mocking me. I said to God, angry and dismayed, "But why did you wait tell now, when it's too late, to show yourself to me?"

Well, it wasn't my last night. I woke up the next day and concluded that I'd been given a second chance. They give good drugs at mental hospitals (even back in the early 70s) and I was out of there in 5 days. The net result was that I was converted. I guess you could say I was a born-again Jew.

The deep conversion lasted about 6 months. Then gradually, my old ideas about reality started creeping back in. I tried to fight them off. But the seriously difficult part was that the vision occurred when I was certifiably psychotic, so I had no real defense. My question to god became, "Why did you wait til I was psychotic to show yourself to me?"

I was caught in the middle. The power of the vision I had was undiminished by time and undiminished by its questionable circumstance. Whereas before, I just worried about dying, now I worried about dying and going to hell, which was WAY worse. But, my critical thinking and conviction that the scientific method is our most reliable source of knowledge was still very much intact. I don't know if anyone who hasn't been here can appreciate the inner turmoil I lived with, but I'll tell you it was literally hell on earth.

Long story short, after many years of torment, one day I decided that we should read the bible together, myself and my 2 daughters  (aged 11 and 13). So the plan was that we would read a chapter every week until it was finished. There was much grumbling and complaining, but this is what we did. ... Haha. The bible is the best advertisment for atheism that was ever written.

We started with genesis and I think we got as far as somewhere in leviticus. I had to stop. In the light of what we were reading there, I could no longer justify to my kids (or myself) why we were doing this. The bible was obviously written by a bunch of blood-thirsty savages who had one tenth the moral sense that my children had. And this god of the OT was a terrible person, with again, less moral sense than a child. I decided that even if such a god really existed and really created all of this, that I held myself to a higher standard and had to align myself with a different camp, regardless of the consequences.

The bible reading was about 10 years ago and was a huge turning point. Since then, thanks to folks like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and web sites like these, I've gradually moved further and further towards being a godless heathen.

I can't say I no longer fear going to hell - in weaker moments, I do. But I breathe, I experience my fear and go on with my life. Exactly where is it written that a human being is supposed to be forever free from fear?
« Last Edit: March 17, 2010, 04:17:03 AM by CognitoErgo »
"A thorough reading and understanding of the Bible is the surest path to atheism” - Donald Morgan

"And then Man said 'I create You, God, for I am Fearful and Superstitious!' "  - Moronail.net

Offline Matt__

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Re: My Problems with Religion
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2010, 12:28:13 AM »

Fear is normal. Fearing a make believe place like hell is not.

Offline CogitoErgo

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Re: My Problems with Religion
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2010, 01:31:34 AM »

Fear is normal. Fearing a make believe place like hell is not.

Well, so you're saying I'm not normal? I would disagree. I think lotsa people have irrational fears.

What is stage fright, but an irrational fear? Afterall, no harm will come to you from being on stage.

Thanks to civilization, as we sit at the top of the food chain, there is little to fear, but anxiety medication is big business.
"A thorough reading and understanding of the Bible is the surest path to atheism” - Donald Morgan

"And then Man said 'I create You, God, for I am Fearful and Superstitious!' "  - Moronail.net

Offline Agga

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Re: My Problems with Religion
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2010, 04:19:30 AM »
Hey, CE.


That's an interesting story.  Thanks for sharing it.

Exactly where is it written that a human being is supposed to be forever free from fear?
Well, nowhere.  Fear is a normal and healthy response.

However there’s no point being scared of the bogeyman because he doesn’t exist.  It’s the same with closet monsters.  They’re fictitious too.

It's no surprise that you still fear hell on occasion.  I do too.  All it means is that the religions that invented it have done a good job at instilling deep-rooted fears into us.  It took time to instil that fear and it will take time to clean it away.

Even if god exists, hell is a completely illogical concept.  It was designed to control people and manipulate people into doing what their religious leaders wanted. (To be a part of their religion)

You're free of the god-delusion now.  You can live your life without the fear of hell.  Just bear with yourself and be patient because it will take time to wash away the dirt. 

Just remember that you need to keep actively washing the cloth or the stain will remain.


:)


I've left WWGHA now, so do everyone else a favour and don't bother replying to my old posts and necromancing my threads.

Offline CogitoErgo

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Re: My Problems with Religion
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2010, 01:44:35 PM »
Hey, CE.


That's an interesting story.  Thanks for sharing it.

Exactly where is it written that a human being is supposed to be forever free from fear?
Well, nowhere.  Fear is a normal and healthy response.

However there’s no point being scared of the bogeyman because he doesn’t exist.  It’s the same with closet monsters.  They’re fictitious too.

It's no surprise that you still fear hell on occasion.  I do too.

Thank you for that admission. It often sounds like you guys here have it SO together. I would hate to think I was the only one that had a mind that occasionally wandered into totally unproductive self-doubt and/or moments of complete illogic.

 
Quote
All it means is that the religions that invented it have done a good job at instilling deep-rooted fears into us.  It took time to instil that fear and it will take time to clean it away.

Yes. Damn good job! I believe religious memes evolve in the same manner as genetic material. I am in awe of the incredibly powerful force that is natural selection.

 
Quote
Even if god exists, hell is a completely illogical concept.  It was designed to control people and manipulate people into doing what their religious leaders wanted. (To be a part of their religion)

Again, thank you!! I actually had never put that thought together before. WTF!! It's so true. The paradox of arguing from the necessity of first cause aside, there is a some tiny justification for a god-of-the gaps. But hell? Where does that come in? Now I can see that it's obviously manipulative bullcrap.

Quote
You're free of the god-delusion now.  You can live your life without the fear of hell.  Just bear with yourself and be patient because it will take time to wash away the dirt. 

Just remember that you need to keep actively washing the cloth or the stain will remain.


Yep. That's why I'm here.  :)
"A thorough reading and understanding of the Bible is the surest path to atheism” - Donald Morgan

"And then Man said 'I create You, God, for I am Fearful and Superstitious!' "  - Moronail.net

Offline Al Stefanelli

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Re: My Problems with Religion
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2010, 09:41:21 AM »
Here's my take on it:  http://wp.me/pPd5H-3G
Organized Religion is like Organized Crime; it preys on peoples' weakness,
generates huge profits for its operators, and is almost impossible to eradicate.



Offline CogitoErgo

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Re: My Problems with Religion
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2010, 01:21:39 PM »
Here's my take on it:  http://wp.me/pPd5H-3G

WOW! I'm incredulous! I'm finding it difficult to wrap my mind around that kind of treatment. I had no idea the bible belt was so hateful and intolerant.

My only anger towards organized religion and true believers derives from their meddling in politics and education. I guess I've been naive. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm feeling much more militant.  >:(
"A thorough reading and understanding of the Bible is the surest path to atheism” - Donald Morgan

"And then Man said 'I create You, God, for I am Fearful and Superstitious!' "  - Moronail.net

Offline Al Stefanelli

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Re: My Problems with Religion
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2010, 01:25:29 PM »
Here's my take on it:  http://wp.me/pPd5H-3G

WOW! I'm incredulous! I'm finding it difficult to wrap my mind around that kind of treatment. I had no idea the bible belt was so hateful and intolerant.

My only anger towards organized religion and true believers derives from their meddling in politics and education. I guess I've been naive. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm feeling much more militant.  >:(

And people wonder why I am such an asshole to these people, you know?  They drew first blood.  Mess with me all you want, but when you try to destroy my family then you have to deal with one pissed off Sicilian. 

Thanks for reading.  My goal is to enlighten people to the wingnut bullshit that is being spewed forth by these completely insane and delusional idiots.
Organized Religion is like Organized Crime; it preys on peoples' weakness,
generates huge profits for its operators, and is almost impossible to eradicate.



Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: My Problems with Religion
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2010, 05:02:12 PM »
Good story CogitoErgo.

Since no two christians can give you the same description of hell, make up your own and then add "free marshmallows" to the description, which automatically makes it a nicer place. Think how good you can get at roasting them if you're gonna be there for infinity.

Playing with fear is more fun than taking it seriously.
Not everyone is entitled to their opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Offline Historicity

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Re: My Problems with Religion
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2010, 08:23:01 AM »

Fear is normal. Fearing a make believe place like hell is not.

Well, so you're saying I'm not normal? I would disagree. I think lotsa people have irrational fears.

Say, are you a fan of Supernatural?  If not, then why not?  I had troubles with the HD conversion (I refuse to buy cable) and missed a season.  I missed the season where Dean was in Hell.  I just saw the last scene of the season where we see this M.C.Escher infinite depth design and Dean was impaled on spikes above an infinite grid, and pitifully calls, "Somebody, GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

Cool.

You probably haven't seen Legend of the Seeker because it's been stuck on late night.  In the cosmology of the Sword of Truth (the general name for Terry Goodkind's books and the TV serial) there are 2 deities:  The Creator (female) and The Keeper (male).  They were once lovers but had a falling out and She had to seal him in the Underworld.  He is still raging about how his girlfriend dumped him and wants to get back at Her.  (This is way cooler than the Lucifer story.)  If He can only break free He's going to do what a lot of jilted lovers do:  Take his/her favorite property (her clothes/his baseball card collection) and DESTROY IT.  That will teach him/her a lesson!  So if He can break out Her most beloved property is the varieties of life.  He will destroy all life and leave the world an empty desert.  Besides the Underworld is awfully crowded.

This leaves a dilemma in the cosmology.  In effect, in this cosmology everyone goes to Hell when they die.  Mostly it's miserable but The Keeper has some snotty, self-righteous extra punishments for people who were bad, by his standards.  When serial killers arrive, however, He tells them He has always had a sneaking admiration for them and they may get jobs as straw bosses bullying the rest of the dead.  He makes a big deal of sexual sin.  He has a special cavern just for tormenting prostitutes supposedly because they sell love and it reminds Him how She never really loved Him so the poor hookers are surrogates for his anger at his Ex.

The morals of this universe are that life is very beautiful so enjoy it while you've got it because everyone goes to the Underworld when they die.

Supernatural is Deist.  God created the world and is now busy in another part of the universe.  He left the Earth in the charge of angels.  The angels don't have human feelings like sympathy and are faintly contemptuous of humans.  THEY want the apocalypse.  The current situation is a cold war and they'd like the nuclear option.  A lot of us would be wrecked in the middle but, hey, that's collateral damage.  In one of the last episodes Dean declares his new found belief.  He wants a war against the demons and the angels.  "This is our world!  They can both get the hell away from us."

Did you see the Stargate SG-1 episode where Te'alc is tortured to give up info and the Go'uld who is doing it tells him that they are going to kill him in any case but if he dies in sin (disobedience to the Go'uld) they will, regrettably, regrettably, have to send him to an eternity in Hell.  So the Go'uld torturer pleads with him to confess -- and then goes back to torturing him.  This is exactly what the torturers of the Inquisition did and said.  In the SG-1 cosmology the whole idea of Hell was a propaganda tool of creatures from outer space.  Their technology gave them overwhelming power but they couldn't be everywhere.  So one of them invented the Hell idea.  That not only scared humans into being "good" when they weren't around but also created lots of terrified Quislings who out of fear would be poorly paid enforcers for them.   Or how about the episode where Ra incarnates himself into a woman.  He asks the hero O'Neill what happened to his old buddies, his fellow gods such as Hathor and Thoth.  "We killed them," says O'Neill, flatly and unapologetically.

How about Firefly/Serenity?  In that space opera, the preacher man finds River Tam writing notes on his Bible and crossing things out.  It is the first time she's seen it.  She says it has some good material but it needs a second draft.  It's a very poor scifi story -- it strains suspension of disbelief.  "I mean," she says, "No one is going to believe this story of Noah and the Flood.  There isn't enough water to drown the Earth.  And you can't get that many animals in a ship that size.  It needs to have some device for folding space so the Ark can be larger inside than it is outside."

Then read some Trekkie material.  Or some Matrix fan forum writing.  There is no net energy gain off of humans in tanks eating slurry and giving off body heat.  So I saw a fan figuring maybe the machines used some sort of psychic stimulation off of our creativity and couldn't do without it.  If you lose the momentum of the story the fans have to do a lot of mental work patching on it to keep suspension of disbelief.

I dig horror fiction and so should you.  It is cathartic.  You can get really scared for an hour at a time.  As you can see, you have to explore its theologies as well.  Which is cool. 

Then go back and read the Bible.  Note when the theologians patch the story with things that were not said, stretches of things and cherry picking to jump over scenes and episodes you'd like to forget because they are so inconsistent.  With scifi that's called fandom, with the Bible that's called apologetics.

Read the preachers' descriptions of Hell.  Read Dante's.  Compare it to horror fiction.

And then like River Tam, maybe YOU can write a second draft of the Bible.  All the denominations, including Judaism, have had to do that.  Combine some characters, add some dialogue.  Use lots of speculation to explain inconsistencies.  Then, if you are dishonest, you can make your own denomination and possibly make millions.  Or if you are honest you can get some books on script writing  and circulate a pilot script.  You can possibly make thousands that way.  Hey, if you work some teenagers (especially teenage vampires) you can sell it to the CW.  Then give us a heads up.  I promise you I'll tune in.










Offline Matt__

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Re: My Problems with Religion
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2010, 07:29:35 PM »
Fear is normal. Fearing a make believe place like hell is not.
Well, so you're saying I'm not normal? I would disagree. I think lotsa people have irrational fears.
I guess it depends on your subjective interpretation of "normal". Thanks though, I don't think I will ever use the word normal again. I'll add it to my ever growing pile of redundant words.

Offline CogitoErgo

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Re: My Problems with Religion
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2010, 08:12:50 PM »
I guess it depends on your subjective interpretation of "normal". Thanks though, I don't think I will ever use the word normal again. I'll add it to my ever growing pile of redundant words.

Yeah, "normal" is an interesting word. First I googled it and got sent to wiki where you could have your pick of about 20 or 30 topics. So then I googled "define normal" and got about 70 links about defining normal before I ever got to a dictionary definition. But essentially it just means being towards the middle of the bell curve and, thanks to natural selection, is only indirectly linked with being healthy.
"A thorough reading and understanding of the Bible is the surest path to atheism” - Donald Morgan

"And then Man said 'I create You, God, for I am Fearful and Superstitious!' "  - Moronail.net