Salvation, damnation, and alternative information – the rewrite

The pen is mightier than the sword, they say. Words certainly do have power. And that power has to be wielded carefully. I discovered that when my original version of this post (and to some extent the whole direction of my blog over the past few months) cost me the friendship of someone I’ve been close to for about fifteen years. With that in mind, let me attempt a more personal and respectful rewrite of some of what I was trying to convey …

When you’re in a situation like I’ve been in for the past few months, where you sense your Christian faith changing into something else, there’s a certain degree of nervousness about the experience, because part of you is wondering if you’re damning your soul to hell. The Christian message is pretty clear. Entrance to heaven requires faith in Jesus. Ultimately, though, I feel I need to take a deep breath and remember that fear is not a particularly healthy motivator. When I first became a Christian, aged seventeen, there was a certain amount of fear that spurred me into the necessity of taking action, but in fairness my decision to become a Christian was really grounded in the idea that God is all wise and his way is therefore the right way, regardless of what I might want to do with my life. I have to say, to the credit of my Christian friends who are debating with me out of great concern at the moment, none of them have tried to scare me back into believing with a “big stick.” Instead, they have sought to reason with me. Jesus, too, when he was on earth, did not use a kind of all-encompassing fear-mongering; if you read the Gospels carefully, you will see a great variety of actions that Jesus used, depending on whom he was talking to.

So, taking all this into account, I think it’s important for me not to give into fear. If I should return to Christianity in time, it should be because I have become convinced of its validity, and for that reason alone. So, my reaction to my current situation is: take a deep breath, don’t be scared, be wary of those who would control by fear, and above all keep thinking.

One reason why it’s very difficult for me to believe in hell is because my parents aren’t/weren’t Christians. I lost my mother to cancer three years ago. She made no claim to being a Christian during her life, and I only worked up the courage to talk to her about it when she was on her death-bed, drifting in and out of consciousness on morphine. I only got a couple of minutes of lucidity from her while I was talking and she gave me a vaguely positive reaction, but nothing that I could hang my hat on and say, “My mother is saved.” You would think this uncertainty would have played on my mind. It didn’t – at all. The bottom line in all this is that I am psychologically incapable of believing my mother is in hell. That is evidenced by how easily I can talk about it. The idea of hell just doesn’t compute – that this precious person who loved me so completely throughout her life is now suffering in eternal torment. We are connected to people we love in ways that make facing a reality like this so utterly horrible that it becomes simply unreal. And I will face the same thing again with my dad in the not too distant future.

I have to admit to feeling a certain amount of relief that, with my current mindset, I don’t feel I need to warn my dad about that he is (hypothetically) facing fire and brimstone. I’ve always been uncomfortable, as a Christian, with the idea that I should impose the way I see life upon others, with warnings of a dire future, when I’ve never really been one hundred percent certain that Christianity is the true way and that any such grim reality truly insists. I have memories of taking part in missionary activities and feeling uncomfortable about what I was doing in a way that I think goes beyond mere nerves.

Let me be clear about what I’m not saying. I haven’t stepped back from Christianity because I don’t like the idea of hell. I’ve stepped back from it because I see major problems with it. Letting go of the belief in hell is just a major plus for me emotionally, as a result.

In the absense of Christianity, I’ve been looking to a different view of life; considering evil not as a thing to be punished but as an imbalance to be balanced; seeing forgiveness not as something which we should withhold until certain conditions are met, but something which can be given freely by just letting go of any requirement to make the offender pay, whether that requirement is as simple as “Say you’re sorry!” or as drastic as “You should be made the pay for what you did! They should lock you up and throw away the key!” It’s a breath of fresh air for me to realise that I don’t have to embrace the vengeful negativity that I’ve been conditioned to think is normal.

I believe we are all aspects of infinite consciousness. We are all connected to each other, part of the whole that is Creation or God. And the only motivation that makes any sense at all in this view of life is love.

Let’s use a radical example. Someone murders your brother. You feel that he should pay. The police catch him and he is convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. You’re satisfied that he got what he deserved. This is the view that is typical of us when we see ourselves as disconnected from each other. But if you can believe that we’re not disconnected from each other, that we are all unique parts of the same whole, the situation looks radically different. When you understand that from a wider perspective he is you and you are him, the only reaction that makes any sense is love.

Am I saying that all criminals should be let out of the prisons to run amok? Of course not. What I’m saying is that it’s one thing to incarcerate a person for the protection of society and it’s another thing to do it to punish him. Ideas like punishment and retribution make no sense when you are motivated by the desire to help everybody. Yes, even the scum of the earth. The Christian ideal also agrees with the sentiment I’m proposing: “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.” But what I’m suggesting is that I’ve found an underlying understanding that makes this kind of love possible.

I don’t believe I need to find salvation. I don’t think there is anything to be saved from. I believe the answer is to transform our understanding, then we’ll start realising our potential for goodness and love. For instance, the person who understands that he is infinite consciousness won’t be trapped in materialism, will not be greedy for wealth, and is very unlikely to end up a thief. This life is just a tiny little ride on the vast plain of eternity. When you understand that, so many negative motivations lose their hold over you. On the flipside, a person who lives with the understanding that death is the end is so much more susceptible to this negativity. I don’t think evil is caused by a sinful nature; I think how we choose behave is a direct reflection of our view of life. And I’ve found that the answer to my own personal evil inclinations and urges is the transformation of my understanding.

Too simple? Too idealistic? But I see evidence of it all the time in the school where I work. The kids who struggle the most with bad behaviour are those who have the hardest things to put up with at home. They grow up in a destructive home environment, imbibe an imbalanced outlook on life where they see a bleak future for themselves, and they become “bad.” The answer to these kids is not punishment for bad behaviour; it’s love and compassion. They are no more outside “the grace of God” than more fortunate kids who grow up in a loving Christian home and to whom becoming a Christian is as easy and expected as putting on your seatbelt. The idea of evil coming from a sinful nature is too simplistic to me, and is not a true reflection of what you see in the world.

This alternative view is there for the taking or leaving. If you ask me to prove it, I can’t. All I can say is I am a more loving person for having embraced it. It is simply the intuitive knowledge that everything is consciousness and you and I are aspects of that consciousness. And we are all one.

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40 thoughts on “Salvation, damnation, and alternative information – the rewrite

  1. Paulie says:

    I can totally understand your feelings on hell, and loved ones going there, i remember struggling great with this concept, while a Christian. Like you, i wasn’t one for telling everyone they had to be saved, or even witnessing of my own accord, it wasn’t my style, and to be honest i didn’t think it would have worked anyway, as if you present something to someone out of the blue, that’s outside of their understanding or belief, they’ll likely just turn away from it.

    I had no problem discussing what i believed, if someone brought up the subject or asked a question, but i just couldn’t make the first move.

    I had many a time where i did struggle, over the idea that loved ones would end up in hell, if they didn’t get saved. I had discussions and i tried to put across my points, when they were listening, but the words were falling on deaf ears and to be honest, i found it really difficult to come to terms with. I just prayed for them and hoped that God would find a way to speak to them, where i couldn’t. And that did help.

    I really don’t like this idea of collective consciousness, or should i say i don’t like the ease of it, and the wishy-washy nature of it. To me, it sounds like a fairytale, an excuse to look at the world as a lovely place, where love reigns supreme and we all look out for each other, but the evidence shows that this just isn’t the case.
    If we’re all collective, then why would that murderer kill your brother in the first place?

    I really do think there are too many inconsistencies, in some of the things you’ve been saying, Darryl. Much in the same way the bible is full of inconsistencies, and all other religious documents and beliefs. Because yet again, it’s a man-made belief, dreamed up in the minds of others, and evolved through time and effort.

    I have a lot of thoughts on the issue, but a lot of it is garbled to be honest, and i’m still working through some things, which might take some time.
    But, on a basic level, i see this belief as a backwards engineered religion. Where people are faced with the problem of wanting an afterlife, or at the very least “something more”, but not wanting the rules and fear of religion.
    The easy answer is that we are all God, ourselves. And through each stage of forming the belief, you’re faced with new problems, which then bring up new solutions to still make the idea workable.

    In fact, i think all religion came about this way, evolved over time to deal with new situations and problems. Even the commandments themselves are designed to help society, get rid of some things that are bad for society, by saying “God doesn’t want you doing this”.

    The problem though, is that it can never be perfect, there will always be inconsistencies, flaws, new problems, etc. And this is why there’s always an argument against any belief system, by any unbeliever.

    I can totally sympathise with your feelings in general about the whole thing and your reasons for wanting something. I have them too.
    I didn’t have the negative experiences as you did, while being a Christian, i just don’t believe anymore, but wish i could.

    Agnosticism sucks, in fairness. It offers no comfort blanket at all. There’s no peace and contentment in the sleep of an agnostic, because there’s no real, meaningful hope. There’s no feeling of “everything will be OK”. There are many other issues too.

    So, i can totally understand the feeling of a believer, regardless of the belief. It’s a great thing, and i honestly believe the world would be a better place if everyone believed in something. I think belief does bring happiness, even if there are problems too, it brings an overriding happiness, and when people are happy they’re more likely to be better people, to treat others better, to want others to be happy too. Again, regardless of what the belief is (well, within reason).

    I’m not even sure it’s right for me, or others, to argue the points with you, Darryl, because if this feels real to you, and actually brings you happiness in your life, wouldn’t it be cruel of others to take that away, by revealing some facet you’d missed out? It’s a big question, if someone believes that God loves them and that he’s always there for them, helping them to smile all day long and sleep like a baby at nights, should any of us really try and open their eyes to another truth, if one exists?

    I’ve personally found it easier to debate certain issues with you, when you were being more negative about religion, Christianity, et al, because it was more about levelling the playing field. Seeing a bit of an injustice, and putting across the fact that it was a harsh judgement, and a hypocritical one, in some instances.

    When someone says “my X is better than any other X”, it’s easy to debate it and be quite brash and brutal in style.

    On a pure “my belief is this” level, i find it a lot more interesting, i still don’t agree with it, but it’s probably as good as any other belief, after all they’re all based on a lot of faith, and very little evidence. Even atheism and agnosticism are based on faith, there’s no way of disproving God, either.

  2. Lee says:

    I think you are brave to challenge any of your own beliefs and ask if there is more to what you believe in, rather than merely absorbing someone elses’ views unquestioningly. To me belief is personal, so although others may not like your change in direction, it is your business and yours alone. And why can’t you take elements from different faiths and belief systems that resonate within you? What is so wrong about doing that?

    I could care less whether people I know share one belief or another, as long as they are happy and do right by others. I have found your blog interesting even if I am not a spiritual person in the normal sense.

    – Sorry if that is rambling and disorganised. No sleep in days.

  3. Darryl Sloan says:

    Paul,

    “I really don’t like this idea of collective consciousness … If we’re all collective, then why would that murderer kill your brother in the first place?”

    I think the problems with evil happen because people have lost their awareness of this collective consciousness. Gaining that awareness has certainly affected my behaviour towards others for the better.

    “Agnosticism sucks, in fairness. It offers no comfort blanket at all. There’s no peace and contentment in the sleep of an agnostic, because there’s no real, meaningful hope. There’s no feeling of “everything will be OK”. There are many other issues too.”

    I’m glad you see it that way, because that was certainly my experience of agnosticism, too, although I seem to be surrounded by other people who claim that they’re perfectly happy with it.

    Would I be right in thinking that you feel agnosticism is the only belief for you currently because you feel you can’t attach any confidence in the claims of any of the other beliefs you’ve considered? If so, I want to try and make you aware that at a practical level, you have already attached yourself to athiesm. Even the absense of a belief is a belief. Athiests possess the same outlook on life that you do, just with greater confidence. Eqaully, you possess the same outlook as them. It’s like attaching yourself to athiesm without your consent. This is why I’ve always opted for believing in something on the basis of how much it makes sense of life, rather than how much evidence for it I can gather.

    “I’m not even sure it’s right for me, or others, to argue the points with you, Darryl,”

    Sure it is. It’s difficult for me to take at times, when some people react so emotively to me, but I prefer to open myself to the challenge, because it can only put my beliefs to the test and open my eyes further.

    “I’ve personally found it easier to debate certain issues with you, when you were being more negative about religion, Christianity.

    The trouble with this approach is that Christians will insist on getting offended. When a belief becomes so sacred that to question or deny it is seen as blasphemy, it prevents people being reasonable with you – and in one case, never wanting anything to do with you ever again.

    “Even atheism and agnosticism are based on faith, there’s no way of disproving God, either.”

    This is true, and a very important thing to note. A person can choose to believe in nothing because he defines the ultimate standard as “the burden of proof.” Or a person can say, “There’s a lot of things I can and can’t prove about life. Can I make some rational sense of the situation without absolute proof.” The latter is how I operate.

  4. Darryl Sloan says:

    Lee,

    Thanks for your support. You have the kind of free-thinking attitude that allows me to take a sigh of relief from all the bombardment. 🙂

  5. Stacey says:

    Darryl,

    You said:
    The trouble with this approach is that Christians will insist on getting offended. When a belief becomes so sacred that to question or deny it is seen as blasphemy, it prevents people being reasonable with you – and in one case, never wanting anything to do with you ever again.

    Here again, you describe a different Christianity than I know. How can you learn anything or grow in understanding of your faith unless you question it? Please don’t group all of us in with puritanical hypocrites.

    I am sorry for what your friend did, Darryl. It’s a shame and you shouldn’t be treated that way.

  6. Paulie says:

    I’m still not sure i agree with you about aligning myself to Atheism against my will, Darryl, i would still argue that an atheist KNOWS there is no god, i don’t know that at all. I just don’t see any evidence for one, nor feel any great pull to believe.
    I may well have the same rewards as an atheist, a bleek outlook with nothing to look forward to when it’s over, but i’m certainly looking for something better.

    I think tihs is the reason i’ll argue so adamantly about these issues, there’s a lot at stake, i know sometimes it may come across as brutal, or unrelenting, but at the end of the day, if my arguing about another persons faith leads to a point where my arguments aren’t good enough to point out the flaws or weaknesses of a certain faith, i could well find myself believing. Sometimes faith is about not being able to disprove, rationally, rather than just being able to prove.

    Although everything in my head says, Darryl has decided to follow something that doesn’t make any sense to me, if you were to float by my house tonight 20ft off the ground, humming a light medatational chant, i wouldn’t suddenly believe everything you’d said, i wouldn’t suddenly think that you were doing it as a result of your beliefs and their truth, as there couild be other explanations (equally as wild), but i’d sure as hell find it difficult to doubt them. 😀

    For me, making sense of something and finding evidence are pretty similar. And as i sit here typing, the only thing that makes sense to me is randomness, chemical reactions, there being no pretty and soothing answers to the universe, but rather a chaos, wihch sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. That is my faith. I have no proof for things being that way, but it’s the idea that makes most sense to me.

  7. Paulie says:

    I agree with you Lee, in part, i couldn’t care less either, about what people actually believe, as long as they’re happy, but once things are made public and put up for discussion, i can’t help but find flaws in their beliefs, again because i’m looking for one of my own, and if i find one where i can’t find any flaws for it, i’ll be taking it home and using it for myself. So i certainly feel the need to debate the points and see how well it stands up under scrutiny, just like my own beliefs should, too.

  8. Darryl Sloan says:

    Stacey,

    “Please don’t group all of us in with puritanical hypocrites.”

    I’m generalising. Don’t take it personally. 🙂

    Paul,

    I know you’re not an athiest in terms of what you believe. But you’re the same thing as an athiest in terms of what you experience. And that’s the level where it counts, because it’s what we live. I suppose I’m trying to say, why would you align your beliefs so closely with a philosophy (athiesm) that you believe is in error? Is it just you feel you can’t move away because there is no evidence for any other belief?

    I’m concerned that you’ve taken on an attitude of mind that is going to prevent you from finding any truth in life, simply because your requirements are more than the universe is prepared to give. Is the burden of proof the only thing that will satisfy you? If so, I personally think that’s too narrow a focus.

  9. Paulie says:

    I wrote a post today, Darryl, sort of as a reply to Stacey about something she’d asked me, but i think it points out a clearer (well as clear as my mind is capable of) answer to your point, than i could give in a comment.

    The Rationality Of Disbelief

  10. Paulie says:

    Hmm, i always get the url links in comments wrong. 😐
    http://www.dontdamnme.com/?p=550 is the post. 😀

  11. Chris says:

    The bottom line in all this is that I am psychologically incapable of believing my mother is in hell. That is evidenced by how easily I can talk about it. The idea of hell just doesn’t compute – that this precious person who loved me so completely throughout her life is now suffering in eternal torment. We are connected to people we love in ways that make facing a reality like this so utterly horrible that it becomes simply unreal.

    We all make our own choices. God does not condemn people to hell, people choose that fate for themselves. The Calvinistic perspective on this matter is not correct — God does not predestine anyone to go to hell. If you believe in the notions of freedom and free will, then you must accept that people can freely choose God or reject Him. If they freely and stubbornly reject Him, then how can He force people to accept Him without taking away their freedom to choose? Your idea that forgiveness should be all-encompassing and without precondition does not make any sense if people are truly free to do what they choose because then we are not free to reject forgiveness, love, or whatever else.

    It sounds like the idea of hell “just doesn’t compute” not because of any actual rational, philosophical difficulties, but because your highly developed emotional and moral sensibilities find the notion distasteful and you therefore don’t want it to “compute”.

    Let me be clear about what I’m not saying. I haven’t stepped back from Christianity because I don’t like the idea of hell. I’ve stepped back from it because I see major problems with it. Letting go of the belief in hell is just a major plus for me emotionally, as a result.

    To put it bluntly, I don’t believe you. I think it’s crucially important to hear what these “major problems” are that you’ve found with Christianity. As someone who is currently a Christian, if I’m being misled, then I think it is important to know what you’ve allegedly discovered. But I don’t believe you because I don’t think you have discovered any real “major problems” with Christianity. What I think has actually happened is that you’ve realized that you don’t have to accept Christianity, nobody has ever forced you to do so, and now you’re coming up with flimsy, irrational, emotional excuses for why you don’t want to be a Christian any more. You don’t want to discuss these “major problems” because you know they aren’t true problems in the rational theological and philosophical senses, and so you would rather stroke your ego by discussing vague emotionalisms and New Age mumbo-jumbo than do any real thinking.

    That all sounds pretty harsh, but I think you need to start being honest here, or there’s no point in discussing any of this.

    I believe we are all aspects of infinite consciousness. We are all connected to each other, part of the whole that is Creation or God. And the only motivation that makes any sense at all in this view of life is love.

    Yeah, you go tell that to the reincarnation-believing, pantheist Hindus who leave their old-age parents to die in dumpsters so they don’t incur too much “karma”, and do all sorts of other unloving pantheistic stuff to their fellow man so that brain-washed Christians like Mother Teresa have to go clean it up.

    The idea of evil coming from a sinful nature is too simplistic to me, and is not a true reflection of what you see in the world.

    Nonsense. Your environmental/nurture-based hypothesis on the origin of evil is completely blown out of the water by the many kids that are in your school who come from good homes but are just bad for no reason. I know you know such kids exist because I remember you’ve talked to me about them before. I’ve also witnessed this phenomenon for myself. The notion of a sinful nature, coupled with free-will, is the only theory which adequately explains the evil in the world around us.

    In another comment, you said:

    The trouble with this approach is that Christians will insist on getting offended. When a belief becomes so sacred that to question or deny it is seen as blasphemy, it prevents people being reasonable with you – and in one case, never wanting anything to do with you ever again.

    When Stacey took you up on this, you said you were just generalizing, and it should not be taken personally. But I don’t believe you, once again. I think you’ve shown sufficient evidence that you are starting to regard Christianity, and Christians, with a steadily increasing level of irrational contempt as you wallow more and more in your excuses as to why you think Christianity now has “major problems”. It’s the only way to rationalize the otherwise irrational position which you have now assumed. If you want to demonstrate truth and clear thinking, then stop making stupid, untruthful, convenient “generalizations” like the one above, or else you’ll confirm me in my generalization that all New Agers are truth-hating, contemptuous, mental retards.

  12. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    I’m not interested in being drawn into another heated argument with you. Even when I try to write a more personal post that doesn’t disrespect others and their beliefs, you still talk down to me as having a head full of nonsense.

    I make one generalisation and I get a face full of aggro back from you.

    I care about you, Chris, and I care about our friendship. So I’m not interested in fighting with you.

  13. lee says:

    Paulie

    I can’t help but find flaws in their beliefs…

    That’s fine that you admit you are merely looking for something yourself. The ‘Devil’s Advocate’ approach is perfectly cool when you make people aware you’re not just questioning their beliefs to be contrary, but that you are also questioning your own.

    I think anyone who has a strong enough belief would/should not be threatened by a challenging discussion, which is why the whole concept of conflict arising from differing beliefs is often confusing to me.

    I try and stay out of the discussions most times as it often seems to hinge on dogma and rhetoric – and I am an ignoramus when it comes to theology etc – rather than belief.

    Have a good weekend all.

  14. Peter Adams says:

    I for one support your journey Darryl. I’ve been more of an agnostic than an athiest myself for a number of years after seeing my cynicism as a psychological problem rather than some sort of endearing geek superpower as some look upon it.

    I have to admit that my attention has been elsewhere dealing with my own problems so I haven’t been able to follow much of the feedback you’ve been receiving here, especially since your wordpress doesn’t inform people about follow-ups. 😉

    I think you just have to keep in mind that some paths we chose to take on our journey through life will be in a different direction from those of our loved ones. We may never see them again because of it, but the other option is to just live at the crossroads. That’s not much of a life.

    I’m just trying to get on with my life and let go of the regrets. That includes letting go of some people I’ve tried to hold on to for years. It’s heart-wrenching but necessary if I want to proceed to a happier place.

  15. Peter Adams says:

    @Lee: I don’t find it at all confusing that there is conflict and defensiveness when belief is discussed. One of the main motivating factors in the word is fear. People live in fear of having what they believe taken from them, like a child losing a security blanket. I’ve been there. I’ve had security blankets snatched away from me so many times it made me deeply hostile and paranoid when it came to anyone questioning my motivation. the suspicion always exists that their motivation for doing so is purely malicious. In order to see someone else flounder, to see them weak and confused. a certain security can be had from seeing those around you unsecured.

    There is a lot of selfishness, duplicity and hostility in the world. This makes it hard to open yourself up to people. Especially when the topic is the one thing that gives you hope, regardless of how facetious it may be.

  16. Darryl Sloan says:

    Hi, Peter.

    Thanks for the kind words. I think you (and others who have commented in a similar way) might not realise how big a deal a few reassuring and affirming words are, when I’ve been facing so much intense opposition. So thank you.

    “I think you just have to keep in mind that some paths we chose to take on our journey through life will be in a different direction from those of our loved ones. We may never see them again because of it, but the other option is to just live at the crossroads. That’s not much of a life.”

    You’ve hit the nail right on the head. Is it better to end up living the life that others want you to live just so you can have their approval, or to live the one you believe to be right and hope they’ll accept the difference? I’m going with the latter.

    By the way, I think the following RSS feed might allow you keep track of the comments from off-site: https://darrylsloan.wordpress.com/comments/feed/

  17. lee says:

    Peter –

    re confusion – it’s more a question of semantics to me.

    To me it is more logical for someone to question why they fear a difference of opinion and then hopefully take stock of their own beliefs, rather than seek conflict with others out of fear. So when this does not happen, even though I appreciate why it happens, it still confuses me; because I do not have any real emotional attachment to a belief system. I just can’t understand the fuss. I think it’s the sociopath/ inner autist in me ;0)

  18. Stacey says:

    Darryl,

    I find it strange that you see Christian thinking leading to vengeful negativity, considering the first principle of Christianity is love, and the second is forgiveness. You continue to have a negative attitude toward Christianity in your generalizations. But we already know you don’t want to discuss Christianity, although I think it’s an important aspect of your journey into the holographic universe. So I expect no response from you on this or explanations of the “major problems” you see in Christianity, but why can’t you at least give a bullet list and beg no arguments on those points?

    You say that something you get from these beliefs is that the only reaction to this information is love. I don’t think the concept of “love”, “forgiveness”, or even “free will” make sense any longer with such a reality. I’ve already tried to tell you I don’t think the concept of “good” makes any real sense either, but I don’t think you were understanding the line of thought. So I’ll try to make this as short as possible while maintaining clarity.

    Consider “good” again. You maintain that each individual is aware of a moral standard, which is easy enough with us all being linked to some giant consciousness. But what worth is “good” for “good”‘s sake? If you’re not making an effort to become more righteous to be admitted into the grace of a perfect God, and indeed if “righteous” no longer exists because God in His conventional idea no longer exists, then why be good? Where is the fulfillment in becoming “better”? And if you say “To become more balanced” I’ll throttle you. If you say “To become happier” I’ll have a think on it.

    Now consider “love”. You, with your 80’s music background, surely remember the song “Love… isn’t love… until you give it away”. It’s a generally held truth, and if you want to deny it, we can always go back further in our reasoning. If the only way you can bring yourself to love an other is to believe that they’re really an extension of you, that you are him and he is you, then is that really love? You’re not, in your own estimation, actually loving an other, your loving yourself. There’s fulfillment for ya. It ends up a self-centered, conceited kind of masterbation. A pale mockery of the real ecstasy of giving yourself to another and receiving the free gift of an other for yourself.

    Up next, we have “forgiveness”. Again, if you don’t believe that the person next to you is separate from you, then forgiveness is no great thing. Forgiveness isn’t just not being mad anymore or taking away consequences of actions. My dad used to tell me that forgiveness “is giving up your right to be wronged.” So if you don’t actually believe in right and wrong as such, only balance and imbalance (just a nice label for right and wrong in my opinion), then there is no big deal in forgiveness. If the wrong isn’t actually wrong, forgiveness is easy. And what is the goal of being balanced, while we’re at it? To become a depressing homogeneous version of the heat death of the universe?

    Here’s the most tricky line of thinking, but please bear with me and maybe we can get on the same page. The concept of “free will” is really only free will if you have the ability to exercise your will. This only makes sense against an environment of fixed nature. If everything is consciousness, as you claim, and we can alter the states of things with our minds, then the nature of the world around us is not fixed. If I could, at whim, make a stick you picked up to beat me with into a feather, then you could not exercise your will of beating me because you’re so frustrated, and vice versa 😉 I propose that this fixed nature of things, and its inability to be equally agreeable to everyone, combined with the

    I would like to link this idea of lack of free will to the idea of love again. We must have free will in order to love one another. If love isn’t given freely to another, then it’s worthless. If Chris didn’t marry me freely, then I wouldn’t want him to marry me at all. In fact, I think loving me is a choice he has to make every day, as I do for him.

    The very things that you hold in so high a regard now with your new view, lack any meaning at all because of it. I ask again, not to belabor points, but because I don’t understand the words you use to answer the question in the context of your beliefs: What is the purpose in this one consciousness?

  19. Stacey says:

    Oops,

    I messed up the end of the third to last paragraph. Can’t remember quite what I was saying there. Sorry!

  20. Stacey says:

    Peter,

    I don’t find it at all confusing that there is conflict and defensiveness when belief is discussed. One of the main motivating factors in the word is fear. People live in fear of having what they believe taken from them, like a child losing a security blanket.

    Or maybe people have conflict because the very nature of different beliefs is that they cannot all co-exist and all be true. “I’m okay, you’re okay” is not a practical theory, since what they really mean is “I’m okay, you’re okay as long as your beliefs are compatable with mine.” Maybe people argue because they care about the well-being of those around them, and hold true to their own beliefs.

  21. Darryl Sloan says:

    Stacey,

    I started writing a long response to your comment, and then I just gave up and deleted it.

    In summary, you present a carefully crafted argument that I know in your mind is airtight, to the degree that you can conclude, “The very things that you hold in so high a regard now with your new view, lack any meaning at all because of it.”

    Over here, where I am, things look way different. I don’t know how to begin to explain it to you. One thing I will respond to:

    “What is the purpose of this one consciousness?”

    That’s like asking, what is the purpose of God? How on earth could I possibly comprehend that?

    As to you wanting your bullet points, I’ll refrain from getting into my objections to Christianity until I’ve clarified them better in my own mind and done more research into things like Church history. What you’re asking is not as placid as it sounds on the surface. Because I can see in my mind’s eye the bullets coming flying my way. Look what happened when I mentioned 1 Samuel 15. Chris’s explanation to that one was unsatisfying, by the way.

  22. Stacey says:

    Darryl,

    I know explanations of the finer points of Christianity will be wholly unsatisfying to you unless you’ve accepted the main points, then make a sincere attempt to gain a better understanding of the rest of it. If your objections are reasonable, then by all means, as Chris says, you should share that. I would never want to believe something obviously untrue. I hold the truth in highest regard when searching for a grip on life.

    I’m really not asking more of you than to make your view of the world self-consistent. Sure, it would require a giant paradigm shift to see things your way. But I’m asking to put your glasses on for a minute. If you insist that your belief holds water, why don’t you put it out in the rain? Please try to explain it. I’m not beyond trying to see things from your perspective, even if I disagree with them.

    You can comprehend the purpose of God by how He has revealed Himself. His purpose is obviously love. The trinity makes it possible that He is Love, and He has created us so that He may love us, and hopefully that we will love Him. If we are only part of a single consciousness, I don’t see the same possibility for Love as the ultimate goal, and as I said above, I don’t even see the concept of love as possible.

  23. Paulie says:

    Stacey raised some very good points.
    The Christinity i learned about, taught me that forgiving someone you love is nice, but it’s hardly a test, because you love the person and you’ll be able to see through their flaws. But to forgive someone you don’t like, someone you have no knowledge of, someone who doesn’t already have a place in your heart, is the difficult part and the challenge.

    If we’re all the same thing, part of each other, then there’s no great mystery of forgiveness or love, it becomes a much more basic concept, of loving a part of yourself.

    This idea also fits in with some of the stuff you’ve been saying Darryl, some of your reasons for thinking and feeling negatively for Christianity, more recently, the fact that you had been made to feel guilty, unclean, impure, etc, now through this new belief not only can you forgive others, therefore achieving “forgive me my tresspasses as i forgive those who tresspass against me”, via finding the thought that they’re in the same place as you, even a part of you, but you’re also making it easier to accept other peoples forgiveness, by thinking of them as a part of you, and that if they realise this too, they’ll forgive you just as you forgive them.
    It’s like a circle of love and forgiveness, all neat and in all honest, easier, than trying to appease a God in the heavens, easier to understand and easier to deal with.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, i have no way of knowing if it’s real or not, but when i look at it, i see it as something that’s too neat, it’s too manufactured, there was a shared need, and the answer had to be something that would meet the need.

    I want to be forgiven when i do something wrong, i also want to forgive others, and i want there to be love in the world, but let’s do away with God, as he’s not fair, he’s too big and powerful to question, let’s make it more about a consciousness, maybe one that i’m part of myself, so i am infact a part of God. Yeah, that sounds much better, it also takes away some of the pressure and will make my own struggles easier, against temptation etc, because i’m not shitting bricks about it anymore, afterall if i screw up now, i’m only having to deal with my own wrath. 😀

  24. Stacey says:

    Darryl,

    Are you really ready to give up this lens of one consciousness if it is shown to be lacking? Or are you convinced of it to the point that you’ll fit all new information into this new predisposition? Isn’t that what you were trying to get away from?

    Not really looking for answers, just food for thought.

  25. Darryl Sloan says:

    Stacey,

    In the absense of being convinced about Christianity, this is just a way of looking at life that I’m trying on.

    A belief is just a tool to help us understand life. This one is no different. Is is changeable? Absolutely. Tomorrow something could click with me and I might suddenly say, “Ah, now I can see it. It’s a load of rubbish.” But right now, these beliefs are making sense to me and helping my life.

    I’m not on the run from Christianity, although Chris is determined to see it that way. I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, these changes came about without me going looking for them. It has all been blogged about from when this started a couple of months ago with The lie of the joyful athiest.

  26. Stacey says:

    Darryl,

    Do you honestly refuse to at least attempt to explain your new beliefs so we can begin to understand exactly where you are when you say “over here, where I am, things look way different”?

  27. Darryl Sloan says:

    Stacey,

    Refuse to explain my new beliefs? I haven’t exactly been keeping quiet about them recently. 🙂

    Regarding your huge philosophical comment further up, I honestly don’t know where to begin. You see my concept of good as meaningless in the context in which I place it. I don’t understand why you see it as meaningless. It seems fine to me. There are certain things that just are. Good is good. It’s a natural law, like gravity, that is part and parcel of this one consciousness that is God and Creation. I think maybe you’re trying to use an old argument that is traditionally used against athiests. Why be good? Because I want to, because I see it as equating to harmony and fulfillment and love, and the way we were designed to be.

    You say I can’t have good. You lost me there, and the rest became even more confusing to me. Sorry.

    Listen, you can spend time trying to poke all the holes you want in everything I say. And clearly, all this is motivated by the good-hearted desire to turn me back to Christianity. But you need to realise that I am not attached to these new beliefs in a way that precludes change. I didn’t take them on to defy Christianity. I found them in the absense of Christianity. So it’s not the case that if you managed to change my mind about these beliefs, that suddenly Christianity is back on the cards.

    The most constructive thing you can do is simply present your case. Tell me why I should believe Christianity. You onus is really on you with the Gospel message (no sarcasm intended). Right now, I don’t live with the reality that there is a heaven and hell, etc., or that the Bible is unfallible truth, or that I have any reason to put my trust in the Catholic faith. The onus is on you guys to convince me of the validity of these things.

  28. Stacey says:

    Darryl,

    How can we state any case about Christianity when you won’t even discuss it or your problems with it? Shall we just start chanting the Nicene creed and defending it point by point? Hey, Darryl, if you really want to leave it up to us to convince youf the Catholic faith, then we’re going to get nowhere. You can’t be forced to understand something you just plain don’t care about. You’ve already passed your judgement and hear nothing outside of it.

    Besides, my goal in pointing out that your new beliefs, although alluring, are rather senseless, is not to turn you back to Christianity. But merely to show you that your new beliefs are senseless.

    Why do you latch on to the stupid “good” argument? Ignore it! Can you still tell me how the ideas of love and forgiveness can retain anything meaningful and noble in your estimate?

    I find it very frustrating to talk to you, Darryl, when you over and over and over again ignore important points in favor of some stupid minute detail.

  29. Chris says:

    The onus is on you guys to convince me of the validity of these things.

    Why is the burden of proof on Christians to prove the validity of these things?

  30. Markus says:

    He didn’t saywe have “prove the validity” Chris, he said “convince me of it”. Darryl isn’t questionong our faith, he is questionioning whether our faith is right for him.

  31. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    The onus is on you guys because you want me to be a Christian. You’re the ones who want something from me. I’ve got nothing to demand of anybody. I’m just sharing information that makes sense to me, and I’m happy for anyone to take it or leave it.

    On my side of the fence, I’m not a scholar, so I can’t look at the Bible and say, “I know it’s all true.” Nor do I have the personal conviction that that plan of salvation in the Bible is true.

    If a Mormon should call at my door and say, “Why don’t you believe in the Book of Mormon?” the answer is really, “Why should I believe in the Book of Mormon? Give me your reasons and I’ll evaluate them.”

  32. Darryl Sloan says:

    Stacey,

    “You can’t be forced to understand something you just plain don’t care about. You’ve already passed your judgement and hear nothing outside of it.”

    More misunderstanding, or deliberately thinking the worst about me. I thought I made it clear that I didn’t want to discuss the negative aspects of Christianity because I just lost a friend over it. And I would prefer to be given time to do a little more research before being forced into a confrontational debate.

    Now, if you want, you can see all kinds of things happening under the surface of these straightforward words of mine. You can see it as a load of excuse-making from a guy who has closed his mind and doesn’t want to open himself to the possibility that he’s wrong. You can imagine that secret agenda in my head, but it won’t be true.

    And if you could be here in NI, seeing the conversations that Markus and I share, you would know it isn’t true.

    “But merely to show you that your new beliefs are senseless.”

    So senseless that they’ve made me a better person.

    “I find it very frustrating to talk to you, Darryl, when you over and over and over again ignore important points in favor of some stupid minute detail.”

    I don’t think you’re quite aware of how your argument about “good” came across. You present a complex philosophical contruct that depends on me understanding and agreeing with every minute detail in order to reach the conclusion that my view of goodness and love is meaningless.

    You guys wonder why I don’t want to talk about the negative aspects of Christianity, but the slightest thing seems to send you in the direction of an emotional outburst and it becomes very hard to hold a conversation with you. I say merely, “Christians are easily offended,” and you launch at me.

    This blog is about positive changes in my life, and I’m not being lured back into the direction we were going in a few posts ago. Nothing good will come of it.

  33. Lee says:

    Darryl,

    hang in there mate, you’re doing nothing wrong. I am sure the other arguments are well meaning, but the other Christians do seem to get a little too feisty about the subject and you are right, some of their comments could be construed as more of an attack – which is unfortunate. I am sure some of this is just down to the unintentional tone of the written word when it is not reinforced by visual and audio reassurances.

    Who is authorised to say that it is wrong to question a belief from time to time and try something new? If you were to give this new direction up and go back to Christianity with a renewed fervour, is that so wrong?

    Funnily enough, some of the comments are demonstrating the exact reason why I have never been able to accept one established faith. It is this attention to detail and rigorous defence of details in a glorified manual which seems to be a direct counterpoint to the actual belief that is supposed to be personal and more of an emotional connection. Surely the manual is designed to be referred to, but not followed exactly to the letter – when so much of it is open to interpretation?

    Lee

  34. Paulie says:

    Lee,

    You can kind of understand why a Christian might be a little bit “fiesty” about the whole thing though.
    If an agnostic and a new-ager argue the merits of their faiths, or lack thereof, there isn’t much at stake, other than maybe personal pride and the finer points of the argument, but for a Christian, or the follower of any major religion, there’s a lot at stake.

    For example, Darryl turning his back on Christianity isn’t just about whether he’s got it right or not, in the eyes of a Christian, it’s about his soul, his life after death, his going to heaven or hell. So if someone is a Christian and cares for Darryl, you can surely understand they’d be worried for him, and there’d be emotion involved at that level.

    The frustration comes in because as Darryl no longer believes in that God, or heaven and hell, he doesn’t see the whole thing as seriously as they (CHristians) do.
    So, it’s a bit like telling a child not to put their finger in the electricity socket, and have them continually tell you they know it’s safe. Do you let the kid find out the hard way, or do you continually argue the points, and as human beings lose your cool every now and then?

  35. Heidi says:

    (Just a quickie again as mobile broadband is limited)
    Darryl, I think, personally you are doing great. I haven’t yet read any negativity, as suggested, about Christianity, only a few ideas and questions about faith. I myself, actually believe there is some ‘sort of’ God, yet I also believe the Bible is not the infallible truth; after all it was written and edited by us Humans. I believe I am a good person because it makes me feel a happier person, not because I am afraid the pearly gates will be locked.

    I also have not read anything to suggest you are ‘turning your back’ on Christianity. From what I have read you are just questioning and opening your mind to other possibilities, which may or may not include a God, Heaven and Hell, etc..

    I also do not believe what Paulie suggested “he doesn’t see the whole thing as seriously…”
    I think you are seeing/taking Christianity very seriously and therefore admire your thoughts and ideas (probably because I think more or less the same 😉 ). I personally think Christianity or any religion is an acquired taste and not to everyone’s liking, but that doesn’t mean I will stop you eating as I’m sure you wouldn’t get food poising, just a different set of taste buds.
    In conclusion, you’re thoughts and ideas and questions/answers are not senseless. I can easily understand what you are trying to convey and in my opinion you’re doing an amazing job! 😉

  36. Paulie says:

    Heidi,

    He’s hardly taking the situation as seriously as a Christian would. He doesn’t believe in the God of the bible, anymore, so obviously the teachings of the bible and the fear of things like hell play no part in his current thinking or his life, now. So while a Christian might tell him they’re worried he’s now going to hell, he doesn’t take that aspect of it as seriously as they would.

    It wasn’t a condemnation, merely the facts of what is going on. He’s mentioned himself he’s glad to be rid of those fears, and the idea he must do such and such, or suffer for it.

  37. Heidi says:

    Hi, Paulie.
    I understand what you are writing, but, Sorry, I beg to differ. No personal offence intended. I think Darryl is taking Christianity as seriously as a Christian as he is critically and sincerely examining Christianity as he sees it. Just because you think he no longer believes in God it doesn’t mean he is not taking the subject seriously. In fact because he is actually ‘keeping his mind open’ and it writing about this in his blog, he is probably extremely serious about Christianity. In a previous post Darryl wrote;

    “Right now, I don’t live with the reality that there is a heaven and hell, etc., or that the Bible is unfallible truth, or that I have any reason to put my trust in the Catholic faith. The onus is on you guys to convince me of the validity of these things.”

    I believe this statement says much more than ‘Not Believing’, I think Darryl is just opening his mind and looking ‘out of the box’ until he finds his own real truth about what he really thinks, or is happy with what he decides or doesn’t decide. My personal thought is that he is taking Christianity very , very seriously.

  38. Darryl Sloan says:

    Thanks, Lee, Heidi and Paul.

    Paul, don’t worry, I didn’t interpret your comment about taking things less seriously as a condemnation. I actually thought you were pretty accurate. All you meant was that I don’t see the consequences of my choices as resulting in heaven or hell.

    And Heidi, you’re right when you say I am taking it seriously, in that I am understanding that this is major big deal from the Christian point of view, and I can see why it has upset people – and that I do care a great deal about finding the truth.

    I want to announce that Chris (with his wife Stacey, too, I hope) and I have reached an understanding privately by email. He’s not in agreement with me, but he has come to terms with the true motivation behind the things I’m saying. If only we were all telepathic; a lot of frustration would be prevented all round. 🙂 This is a major relief to me, because my friendship with Chris goes back to when I was nineteen and he was thirteen (the bygone days when he would look up to me as an adult with greater knowledge, hah). I’m now thirty-six and he’s about thirty.

    So, group hug all roung. 🙂

  39. Heidi says:

    🙂 I’m glad you have sorted your differences.

  40. Chris says:

    I’m now thirty-six and he’s about thirty.

    Twenty-eight. I’m not an old man yet.

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