I experienced a spiritual awakening at 19 when I became a Born Again Christian, but dogma and stupid ideas (I’m sorry, but Young Earth Creationism is not a very clever idea these days) got in the way and bogged me down for a decade. So much so that I ended up worse than when I started out. Not because of the ideas, but because in my intellect I knew the ideas didn’t make sense, but I felt compelled to believe them under threat of eternal damnation. It made for a very unhappy existence.

So I rejected the whole thing, but I also rejected all meaning and faith and hope because I still implicitly believed the narrative the Bible teaches that life without God is meaningless as taught by such people as William Lane Craig.

Eventually I came to see this, and I became convinced that if Christianity isn’t true my experiences still were and it must be possible to have the born again experience without having to believe that Jesus or the Holy Spirit were responsible for it and that without believing in them I could not have it.

This is when I started finding teachers like Alan Watts, Ekhart Tolle, Adyashanti, Mooji and others.

So to be born again is to have a sudden change in perspective. It is not supernatural and it is accessible to anyone willing to challenge their own preconceptions of what is true and obvious.

And you don’t have to start believing in crystals and ghosts either. Just recognized that you are not your thoughts. You have your thoughts, they don’t have you. And you can cjnsge them. For me I just started to pretend I have faith. Faith in life/universe/God. It didn’t matter. The brain doesn’t know the difference. It can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Watch a scary movie and you will be frightened even though you know it is not real. Have faith and the same thinb happens. So you must recognise this and begin to change your thoughts. Your feelings will quickly follow behind.

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I read what I hoped would be an enlightening piece from Cardinal Basil Hume’s “The Mystery of the Incarnation” called The Choice Between Mystery and the Absurd. I am continually dumbstruck by the terrible arguments the top lights of religion put forth to comfort us mere mortals. This comes across as nothing more than a Noble Lie at best, a cynical attempt to keep the masses ignorantly at peace over the brutal facts of reality that evolution has endowed us to understand with soul crushing clarity.
 
His story compares Jesus to a Nazi concentration camp soldier who realizes the error of his ways and decides to go die an absurd death along with the innocent little girl he was so cruelly treating moments ago. How does that portray a perfect sinless god-man who sacrificed his life so we could live? Maybe it portrays more than we would like to admit just how cruel this god would really be if it were real. Many hundreds of millions, if not billions, have died pointless deaths and according to many in the Church will now burn for all of eternity because they did not bow the knee to Jesus as Lord while they were alive.
 
Cardinal Hume doesn’t offer any proofs, at least not in this article, I haven’t read the other articles in the book, to back up his claims. Sure, if Christianity is true, then life seems less absurd. But does it really? The Christian story is pretty absurd, as Cardinal Hume has shown us below. Its real trick is in making us believe that somehow all this pain and toil and trouble and confusion and sickness and death has some purpose, and Hitler and his soldier, sorry I mean God and Jesus, have some plan that is going to make it all turn out right in the end. At least for his followers that is. The unbelievers will indeed go to God’s torture chamber. Which will make Auschwitz look like a day at the beach by comparison.
“Every reflecting Christian, as soon almost as he is capable of reflection, must have continual occasion to observe with sorrow and anxiety the multiplied varieties of opinion that divide the Church of Christ, on every point or article of Christian faith; the confidence with which every sect lays claim exclusively to the possession of saving knowledge, and the unqualified severity with which each party reprobates the other, as being implicated in unpardonable heresy. On hearing (and who can escape hearing?) the fulmination of these mutual anathemas, we not only grieve for the state of dreadful peril in which, if we admit such principles, a large proportion of our neighbours, friends, and fellow Christians must be involved: but we grieve likewise on our own account. We are visited with doubts, misgivings, and apprehensions, lest we ourselves, through ignorance or prejudice, should have adopted unawares into our creed some article containing deadly error; or should have omitted something indispensable to salvation.”
 
From “An Essay on Papal Infallibility” by John Sinclair
 
This is the way it was 170 years ago. And this is the way it still is among the fundamentalist Christian denominations and individuals who “admit such principles”. The only difference I see among more open minded modern Christians is that they simply do not “admit such principles”. They’ve just agreed not to condemn each other to hell anymore. How nice.
 
It was more or less this very state of affairs that made me realise that if Christianity can mean so many different things to so many different people, and with no definite and clear way to determine who actually has the correct interpretation or the authority to correctly interpret, then it means nothing at all. At least not on a practical level. Sure, all the denominations say Jesus died on the cross (because that physical event is recorded in the Gospels) and that this means something. What though? 2000 years have only been the means of more confusion, not less. Entire libraries have been compiled dedicated to the varying interpretations of Christ’s death and what that means practically and spiritually for the one who believes. It’s the interpretation that is the problem. The interpretation is always the problem.
 
Surely God knew the written word of dead people in an ancient culture and language was a terrible medium to convey such an important truth? The usual response at this point is that the Holy Spirit was given to us to lead us into all truth. Or Catholics will point to the Pope and say that he infallibly declares such things. But we are still no better off. Even if Christians could prove the bodily resurrection of Jesus, then what? They still can’t agree with each other on what the hell it means except in the vaguest of terms. There was no agreement back then. Paul and Peter seemed to have disagreements and Paul didn’t have much respect for the Apostles before him. Could this indicate doctrinal disagreement? Then we have different sects from year dot disagreeing on everything from the purpose of the Crucifixion, to the Resurrection, to the body of Christ, the nature of Christ, to the Canon of the Bible, to the role of works and so on. So clearly merely having a group of Christians agreeing on an interpretation still doesn’t prove the interpretation is correct. It just mean a particular group of Christians have agreed that is what it will mean for them!
 
So you either continue to assert your group is right and all others wrong, or that most groups (most are still not willing to admit Mormons and J.W.’s in just yet) have the basic idea right and God will forgive the rest of their ignorance. But each individual still thinks he has it more or less right and all those other folks in those denominations, while saved, are more or less wrong on the issues they disagree with the individual on.
 
You’d swear by the way most Christians carry on that they are never “visited with doubts, misgivings, and apprehensions.” Not with “the confidence with which every sect lays claim exclusively to the possession of saving knowledge.” Christianity simply does not offer the kind of confidence that Christians pretend it does. Is there a God? I don’t know, but I’m quite confident that Christians don’t know either.

The first is that unfortunately True Christians © will not listen to the reasonable objections raised by unbelievers. They can’t. Their faith won’t allow it. This goes for any believer in any religion or pseudo-religion.

The second is that life and reality itself truly are mysterious and there may never be forthcoming answers to the fundamental questions of existence. No matter how far the march of science takes us this means believers will always have a gap to exploit to justify their beliefs, however tenuous.

The third is that while we cannot accept the Bible as literally true and while it contains some truly awful segments it is a deeply profound work in places that shows humanity grappling with existence and trying to come up with workable solutions for life. The Bible is one book among many of collected human wisdom and experience. Perhaps it the greatest of all religious texts in some ways. I don’t say that lightly as Fundamentalist Christianity almost destroyed me. There is a lot of insanity and evil in the Bible that most Christians ignore or reinterpret so that their conscience can go unperturbed. We can remain angry about this or we can simply choose to accept the Bible for what we know it is and seek to learn from it since it can reveal both the best of humanity and the worst.

The fourth is that I have come to the conclusion that life is “sacred”. That the purpose of life is life. So that family is sacred too. If this is true then we should protect it and nurture and seek to build it up. We need to protect the unborn. We need to protect children. We need to preserve their innocence so that they grow up without fear or dread where possible. And we need to teach and guide them so that they are ready to become responsible adults when the time comes.

The fifth is that I’m also convinced that the negative emotions we experience such as anger, hatred, resentment, jealousy and so on are deeply destructive and we do not help ourselves or the world by engaging in them or harbouring them. We owe it to the next generation to be the change we want to see in them. To at least point the way.

Seems to me that early 20th century evangelists such as Moody, Torrey and Ironside (and probably others) were fond of perpetuating stories that are painfully apocryphal. I mean, no self-respecting infidel would make such woefully bad arguments in favour of the 10 Commandments, as we will see in a moment, unless he was completely ignorant of the history and the arguments against the Old Testament. And such is exactly the case here.
 
Look again at what this unknown infidel is supposed to have said:
 
“I have been thinking, Where did Moses get that law? I have read history. The Egyptians and the adjacent nations were idolaters; so were the Greeks and Romans; and the wisest or best Greeks or Romans never gave a code of morals like this. Where did Moses obtain that law, which surpasses the wisdom and philosophy of the most enlightened ages? He lived at a period comparatively barbarous; but he has given a law in which the learning and sagacity of all subsequent time can detect no flaw. Where did he obtain it? He could not have soared so far above his age as to have devised it himself. I am satisfied where he obtained it. It came down from heaven. It has convinced me of the truth of the religion of the Bible.”


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He clearly never read the Greek or the Romans then. Personally I am convinced that much of NT morality is borrowed from Stoicism. Read Marcus Aurelius and you will be struck as I was by the parallels between the teachings of the Jesus and Paul and the teachings of Stoicism. The 10 Commandments are hardly the epitome of all that is right and good in human behaviour. They are nothing more than an example of the current ethics of the time. The passage I quote from the book seems like little more than Christian propaganda to me. Designed to do little more than comfort the faithful.
 
Moody’s book was published in 1898. The Code of Hammurabi was discovered in 1901. So even if this unlikely story is actually true then the infidel turned to faith based on insufficient information and faulty logic. Many similar and older codes were discovered after this book was published. So we now know the 10 Commandments were merely a slightly altered form of these older codes adjusted to suit the needs of the ancient Hebrews, and wrapped in mythological story-telling (as all laws were back then) in order to give them authority.
 
Here is a list of all the Middle Eastern codes we have from around that time period: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ancient_legal_codes
 
Far from being evidence of divine inspiration, the 10 Commandments are evidence that the Bible writers of the time were being heavily influenced by the dominant cultures around them. Much like how today cultures all around the world are being heavily influenced by the dominant culture of the United States of America.

Yuval Noah Harari is great. I’ve read his first two books (I listened to them actually), and I’m about half way through his latest offering. It’s exciting (and terrifying) to think about the possibilities the future may hold, but he does engage in a lot of radical speculation. I have a strong feeling that Harari’s books are not going to age terribly well. We’ll look back at them the way we look back now at predictions of the future from previous decades.

But in saying that I was watching an interview with Lawrence Krauss yesterday and the interviewer was saying isn’t it depressing that you won’t be around in 100 years to see what science will reveal to us then and his response was something like “No, I’m happy to be here now, seeing what science is revealing now.” He mentioned that people 100 years ago can’t see what he sees. The interviewer felt a bit sheepish under that indomitable optimism. Krauss is just enjoying the moment. He shared how the galaxies are all spinning away from each other at faster and faster speed to the point where one day in the future the universe will look like our primitive ancestors had imagined it all along. Just one singular galaxy all alone. So he was happy to live in a time where he could see so much and understand so much. He felt he is on the frontier and that was exciting to him.

I remember watching another video where they said the people in the distant future may not believe our “ancient stories” of billion of galaxies because it will no be observable to them any longer. And our scientific certainty will seem to them like silly fairy tales. And their truth, which to us is the silly fairy tale of our ancestors will be scientific fact.

I guess if I look at like that I should be happy I am where I am right now. Not in the past, not in the future. Just enjoying the reality I have. We have no idea how the future will turn out. For all of my problems (and I do have problems believe me), in comparison to people in the third world or to my ancestors, life in 2018 for me isn’t that bad really.

I think we lie to ourselves. We hide the truth from ourselves far more than we’d like to admit. We create narratives and we build up arguments and we tell ourselves these are the reasons we do so and so and act thus and thus.

Sometimes years later we look back and realise this for what it was. Yet we are probably still doing it right now in some way and don’t even realise it. We keep a positive self-image in spite of our flaws. Or we refuse to look at the evidence against our beliefs. Or we judge others while remaining wilfully blind that we do the same thing. Or we keep a relationship going much longer than it should because it’s scary to imagine living alone. Or a million other things.

And I can’t even say I disagree with the reasons for doing this. Humans have evolved to survive on the African plains, not to be purely rational machines. So of course we have some flaws in our critical thinking skills.

Many times when we are debating people online this is what we are debating to one degree or another. Not a cool, rational, purely logical person in search of truth, but a scared individual seeking to create and maintain meaning and stability in their lives. You’re opponent becomes an enemy to that goal if they are challenging the stability and meaning you have carefully crafted over an entire lifetime.

And while it should be our goal to live honest lives, taken from a survival point of view a little self-deception is actually healthier than radical self-honesty. And if anyone disagrees with me then I will challenge them that perhaps they have never tried for an extended period of years to try and be radically honest with themselves. I would guess that they have never made this a life goal.