This paper, is a pretty interesting topic to write about, it pushes me to think back on how my spirituality has evolved. I wrote this on June 12th 2012.
My faith journey, starts I believe at a very young age, as I remember at the age of 2, with the extraordinary and awesome view of the night sky. Filled with myriads of stars. I remember being in awe of this beauty of the cosmos, that awe which has not yet left me. I see that, at this moment, as I analyze it. At that same age, the dark was also another aspect of my very primitive spirituality (which is formed this early on, with the fear of the unknown). I feared the dark, mainly because it was ingrained in me by my parents that the boogey man could snatch me, in Latin America, this figure is known under various different names. The name I was told was “el cuco”. These were my primitive spiritual associations, I have no recall of God or gods, only my parents as protectors, at this young age (Another aspect of early psycho-spiritual development, is that your parents are powerful, so duality occurs in fear of the unknown but also as having protection from “above”, from your parents as protectors).
My first recollection of anything religious was at the age of 4-5, when we went to a congregation, personally, I didn’t like it, too many people bunched up in one place, singing, it just didn’t appeal to me.
Upon arrival to the U.S., my mother became more devout to religion, Catholicism, so naturally children follow in the footsteps of parents since they know nothing better (my maternal grandmother used to say “I was born Catholic and I’ll die Catholic”), and I began to believe in the stories of Creation, of the long lived men prior to Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and so on, in the story of the Flood. I underwent Baptism and Communion. Communion and penance, and observance of the holy days. However, I would question in my mind the suffering of humans, why? I accepted the common Christian answer of: they are there for the work of God, so that you, as his servant, may undertake his work (as it states in the Bible, you will know them by their works). However in my subconscious, it didn’t make sense, and now it’s obvious why it doesn’t make sense (as of recent I have found out or come to the realization rather that my personality type places me heavily as a thinker, an analytical one), but I’m going on a tangent here, so back to story.
Eventually during my teens, I read Greek mythology, and was enthralled with the different stories and the connections with Biblical stories, like the Flood with Noah/Deucalion and Samson/Hercules similarities, the talk of giants and Titans, there are also similarities to other myths from that region such as Mesopotamian myths (from which the Judeo-Christian & Ancient Greek beliefs derive their Creation and Flood Stories). So I began to look at religions and myths in particular further, believing that they all had an underlying theme and potentially a single connection.
This concept, however, is counter to what you are taught in Christianity, in my case, Catholicism (at the time of this writing Christians are becoming more inclusive, but let’s not forget that bloody wars have been fought and many have died due to different observations and beliefs, within Christianity alone). An essential tenet of it is, that it is the one and only true religion, all else are sects or cults, filled with falsehoods, that other non-Christian religions are false religions or just flat out diabolical. And that one should NOT be reading heretical material or questioning for that matter (this latter aspect of such a philosophy depicted in the saying “it’s a sin to want to know so much”). This would be my first break with Catholicism, which did not become complete until many years later.
Hence, I started looking into Eastern Religions, into esotericism (frowned upon by the Church), and the history of the Church with Christians sects. It very likely began with my interest in wizards and magic. The aspect that a mere mortal, with the right rituals, or words, i.e. incantations, spells could affect nature and exact a change. This interest was initially fueled by cartoons and tv shows that showed heroes and at times villains with these capabilities. Think the movie Dragonslayer, Orco in He-man, Gray Wolf in Conan, The Magus and the Archmage in The Gargoyles. My interest in reading alone was fueled by the book “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. Le Guin, as well as the Circle of Magic series of 6 books . These stories impressed in me the search and research of magic, which was also mentioned in “non-fiction” texts like the Bible, the 12 Tablets of the Romans, in Greek beliefs.
In that search, many years later, I found Buddhism, too complicated for my understanding at that time, mainly because I read the Tibetan “Book of the Dead” and found it all quite confusing. I also read a little into the beliefs of the Hindus with regards to reincarnation. This belief helped me to be able to understand why humans suffered (within the spiritual thought): respectively due to their prior sins in either this life or a past life. In addition to that, my father too, who was a Catholic, believed in reincarnation.
At close to the same time, my mother started attending the Catholic Charismatic Renewals, which offered a different atmosphere than that seen in Mass. The requirement was more involvement with spirituality, more praying, more sacrifices, even more observances of the rituals and behaviors required by the Bible. I therefore partook of those observances, and without leaving my belief in all the other aspects of the other religions, I began to combine everything into my own personal belief, whilst behaving in accordance to the strict requirements of the Catholic Charismatic Renewals philosophy, which did not go counter the orthodox Catholic teachings. Within these circles, people are “touched” by the Spirit, I believed I was, but I can attribute that now, to a wishful and trance state, with my current and improved knowledge in human physiology. At that time though, I thought that I was either not praying enough or was a bad sinner, since it had not recurred. So I prayed more, and tried to be more uprighteous. Then eventually I started working, and the coworkers I worked with, who were of the “world”, and obviously did not follow God, so the ridicule came in. In that phase of my life, I had to find an out, out of the embarrassment, that ignorant and unpleasant people are willing to impose on others. I stumbled upon the Dao De Jing, which still influences me today. The philosophy within that book allowed me to counter the ridicule being thrown at me, eventually leading people to get along with me or I with them, however it may have been. The book was emotionally fulfilling for me by not allowing the criticisms to penetrate me or in effect allowing them to go through me, but not staying within, as a toxic substance. This latter situation, awakened my interest in Psychology, which has a close and inseparable relation to neurology.
As a family, we eventually had a falling out with the other members of the group we belonged to within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. I think because we required a real strict adherence which was not completely tolerated by the rest. We saw them as weak, they saw as “judgmental of everything”. After that we moved around and came to Connecticut, I went to Church, maybe 3 times total and stopped, my mother exhorted me to go a couple of times but I verbalized some excuses as to why I couldn’t go. In any case, I then began studying a bit about Buddhism again, and was surprised at the intelligence with which it worked. I was primarily in awe of how Siddhartha, a mortal man, attained the Enlightenment, and how he stated something along the lines of: “You must strive for your own salvation, no one can do it for you.” This principle was contrary to Catholicism (Christianity), which states that you can only reach salvation through Jesus, but it made sense to me. It employs the philosophy of the 4 Noble Truths, how everything is impermanent, and how suffering arises from our attachment to the myriad forms presented. I have looked at the beliefs of many religions and paths, but none have impressed me the most than Daoism’s Dao De Jing and Buddhism, particularly Theravada Buddhism. I’ve not researched Zen Buddhism, but I think that one too offers a good dose of healthy pragmatic practices. Regardless, I am a pragmatist, or at least I see myself that way. So those last two philosophies, are not the end of my journey. Within the last 3 years, I stumbled on an inter-net document in word document form titled “Why I am Not a Christian” by Richard Carrier, which changed me around. It was an atheist excerpt. I read it just to see what these “non-believers” were saying. And the questions it posed began to open my eyes, to answers, that monotheists would state but just didn’t really answer. Such questions as: Is God loving? By what attributes is God loving and if so, why would an omnipotent being allow the suffering that is rampant in many parts of the world? Although in the past I believed reincarnation answered this, how could we prove reincarnation even happened or happens?
Along with neurological findings about how our brains process thinking and self awareness, this showed affinities with Buddhist thought at the same time negating the existence of a soul, which Buddhist claim does not exist but instead is a conceptual attachment many humans can detach from by reaching Enlightenment. In this excerpt, the author touched upon the ability to think, which is really a capability that is really connected to a physically functioning brain. To put it in perspective, there are many humans who are either injured or born with defective brain problems. We can observe that many of these cannot carry out normal human function, due to their thought processes or lack thereof, I will even add that people who are “normal” but have personality disorders can’ t function to expected levels due to their imbalanced thought processes, amongst other problems. What this tells us is that any sort of thinking, humans have is regulated by how well the brain is working with regards to its own physiology and structure. Anytime we see an inebriated person or a person whose level of consciousness is lowered, their thought patterns are not operating correctly, and therefore they make mistakes in judgment. Essentially if these brain parts do not work together, as in the case of a severe psychiatric or a neurologically affected patient then you do not have the original person, the person itself might not know he or she exists (a perfect example is the case of Phineas Gage and his complete personality change, which is supposed to remain constant under normal circumstances, after suffering brain injury).
I also began to attend college again prior to growing out of belief. In the classes that I took: Psychology, Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Human Pathology, it becomes quite clear how the mind works, often against itself, often due to mental disorders, disease or conditioning. It becomes clear how the body is supposed to work and how that doesn’t happen due to occurrences at the molecular, chemical, cellular, system, organ levels. Thousands of ways that the body can malfunction, and how often that is what happens, denotes a very imperfect working system.
In summary, I must say that in my journey of spirituality, the questions I posed when I was younger, helped me to reach the understanding I currently hold. Borrowing from Taoism and Buddhism, “nothing is permanent”, everything changes. I consider myself between an agnostic and an atheist, I call myself a theoskeptic. I will hold this view until, someone or something can show me evidence of God or gods, of spirits, of miracles (actual miracles). Currently I do doubt that such an event will take place, but I will give believers the benefit of the doubt, by allowing them to show the evidence. In the meantime, science is what I can see as the tool that best answers our questions. And I again hope to look at the cosmos, and see the night sky as I saw it when I was two. In the words of many atheists out there, “everyone is an atheist, we just happen to believe in one less god.”
From the old Romans view of the gods as numina I was able to identify the view held by many previous generations of humans. The nascent view of identifying terrible natural events as the actions of, often, disembodied entities,
Flow from Theism to Deism to Atheist spirituality to Theoskeptic/Atheism
Morality of having a hell
Who goes to hell & when?
I quote my sister, “faith is unmeasureable”
Is there an amount of praying for effect? If not then is it faith only? And when the thing prayed for doesn’t occur, the explanation is that how God wanted it?
Historicity of Jesus in question
Plagiarism, errors in Bible
Other texts that were kept out of Bible
The similarity with other myths about being born on December 25th, dying & rising from the dead
Evolution of idea of hell from sheol to gehenna & Hades
The God Helmet:
Evolution & contraposition
Anatomy & Physiology: trachea next to esophagus, tibio-femoral joint one of the weakest joint structures, lack of vitamin c synthesis, terrible eyesight, why in the world do males have nipples? What’s the use? Why gynecomastia?
Fisher, Mary P. Living Religions. 8th Ed. Upper Saddle River (NJ). Pearson, 2011
Carrier, R. (2006). Retrieved from The Secular Web . Web Site: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/whynotchristian.html