Honey and Flies – My Personal End to Bitterness

 

This is the first post in a series in which I intend to explain, philosophize, argue, and even convince myself of a new approach in my own personal life regarding my lack of religious faith.

For nearly two years now I’ve been an out atheist and as a result of a very painful process of losing my faith I have to force myself to embrace a Truth regarding myself – I’ve been bitter, angry, and sometimes hurtful toward other people. Some of them deserved it while others did not and I feel the need to repair my approach to humanity.

The fact is, despite my best efforts and the efforts of my peers, we are stuck here with religion and the religious – the vast majority of whom, due to the nature of faith, will hold on to their faith despite all of the good evidence you and I can provide to the contrary. Religion, as a whole, may one day disappear but not without many more years of scientific discovery and understanding so that all questions in which god can be a hypothetical answer to may be answered – if they ever are.

It’s not that I’ve suddenly forgotten all of the dangers of religion or how it has held humanity behind for ages – I haven’t. I simply can’t justify the effects that my approach have had on myself and others in the last few years. Despite being the happiest I’ve ever been, there has still been this underlying bitterness…even a persecution complex (something I often accuse Christians of) in-so-much that I may often see persecution in places that it isn’t actually occurring. Of course persecution absolutely does occur and yes I have absolutely been a victim of it – but my failure has been in giving those around me the benefit of the doubt.

Lessons of experience

Over the last few months I have found myself associated with two organizations, one of which I am a founding officer called C.O.F.F.E.R of Dodge County – a citizens organization dedicated to working with the local Board of Education to ensure that responsibility is used in the areas of education and finance. Secondarily I am now performing all of the web-admin duties and doing other volunteer work for Faithful Hearts Animal Shelter (501c3) – a local startup non-profit incorporation of individuals interested in building a permanent rescue for abandoned and abused animals in my local area (we desperately need it – but that’s a whole different story, just know that my wife and I are pretty much animal freaks.)

Through this work as well as some of the lengthy conversations I have been having with Christians lately I’ve come to realize quite a few things about myself and about other people:

  • I’ve learned that in the past when I thought I was an activist because I wrote a few blog posts about some subjects important to me, or talked about issues with other individuals that all I was doing was moaning about things rather than actively participating in changing the things I objected to. I’ve found that true activism requires getting my hands dirty and learning to work with people that I won’t necessarily see eye to eye with.

 

  • I’ve learned that at times I am unnecessarily confrontational and that stems from a persecution complex I’ve carried over from when I was still a Christian – I often assume what individuals think about me before I give them the opportunity to state a position. I learned this mostly through my dealings with the animal shelter where I have had multiple people contact me saying how much they appreciated the writing I’ve done in the local newspaper and how much they value, despite their own beliefs, opinions and views that are alternative to their own. This revelation shocked me and humbled me.

 

  • I’ve learned that some people are like me – they simply want the Truth. Some people aren’t like me in that they want the Truth so long as it doesn’t hinder their current perception….I remember being there.

 

  • I’ve learned that people, myself included, need fellowship with other people. Since leaving church the times that I’ve spent with other people that are not my wife has been miniscule. Through working with COFFER and the animal shelter I’ve learned that I thrive in an environment where people are present – where ideas can collide and work together to benefit something greater than ourselves and I’ve really enjoyed these opportunities to get to know people.

 

  • Finally, I’ve learned that people, despite our many failings, are essentially good  and when given the chance can be worthy of our time, attention, and care.

 

Goals and Changes

As a result of all the thinking I’ve been doing lately I’d like to work on some goals that I’d like to meet and changes I’d like to make in and of myself.

  • I want to continue to develop friendships in my area and abroad with people that I don’t see eye to eye with. Be those differences religious or political I want to continue to value the ideas that others hold dear simply because they do.

 

  • I want to continue to challenge the status quo  and the religious and political stances that I most vehemently object to – but when doing so I want to make it an issue of facts, reason, and concern for the potential that dangerous ideas hold – not simply to be right all the time.

 

  • I want to shut up and listen sometimes and only speak when what I say will make an appropriate impact.

 

  • I want for people of any background or status to feel comfortable coming to me with questions or concerns of any nature, like they once were, and to be trusted as an individual that is knowledgeable about religion and other subjects that will appropriately use my background as a means to answer those questions or concerns.

I could probably think of a hundred more goals to pursue but i think I’ll stick with these for the time being and continue to develop my personal relationships around these tenets. I don’t want my atheist friends to think that for any reason I’ve lost sight of just how dangerous blind faith is – in fact I think I realize it now more than ever, but I’m simply trying to find the most effective way to deal with those things and as appropriate as mockery may seem at times it doesn’t seem to get us anywhere in the long run.I’m not saying that every confrontational thing I’ve ever said or done was wrong – I still hold to the idea that I am nearly always appropriate with the things I do and when It has come to my attention that something I have done is over the top I have always been very fast to issue an apology both publicly and privately.

I think one of the best ways to facilitate  this approach is to find ways to be involved with the local community, since I am in the middle of the Bible Belt having a presence in the local churches is probably one of the greatest opportunities I can have – therefore I’d like to invite any Local Christian organization (or otherwise) to contact me if you’d be open to a discussion on faith either individually or with your church or youth group. I think something like this would be an excellent opportunity to learn and practice mutual respect for myself and anyone involved

I look forward to continuing my efforts at what I can only call “Positive Atheism” and I hope that others might be willing to join me in doing so.

  • Bzzzt…mmmmm honey. 😉

    Good stuff, Matt.

  • This blog is articulated very well.I appreciate both your introspection as we as your blunt honesty. It found the followng quote to be very insightful and motivating:

    "I've found that true activism requires getting my hands dirty and learning to work with people that I won't necessarily see eye to eye with."

    Keep thinking, reasoning,writing, and even "seeking"

  • @CocosButter

    I commend you wholeheartedly for your honesty…this is a great post. It makes me think about some of the debates I see…you can't share ideas and experiences if each side is only trying to debunk and win a conversation. People are more receptive if you are more approachable…then you can get them to listen to whatever you want.

    I understand your anger and the persecution complex thing… after changing my views I got the same reactions from people I knew. Even though I still believe in God, my views are all together different from theirs now. I have learned to let it go though…if they choose not to try to understand then so be it.

  • This blog is articulated very well.I appreciate both your introspection as we as your blunt honesty. It found the followng quote to be very insightful and motivating:

    "I've found that true activism requires getting my hands dirty and learning to work with people that I won't necessarily see eye to eye with."

    Keep thinking, reasoning,writing, and even "seeking"

  • faithx

    Been open to seek the Truth for yourself, is the beginning of a true spiritual journey. No matter which point of view you begin with, if you remain honest and earnestly seek the truth you will bump into God along the way.

    May you find what you hunger for.

    A friend

    • I thought that once too…as I tried to find him in the darkness—not there though…not this time.

      • BigDaveyB

        Have you ever lost something and looked where you thought it was like in a room and you could not find it no matter how hard you looked, and then to have someone go into that room and find it? I know I have. Does that mean that it wasn't in that room when you looked for it? Of course not. It was there all along. For whatever reason your attempts to find the item came up void while someone else find what you were looking for.
        Matt, just because you didn't find what you were looking for doesn't mean it (or He) is not there.

  • anti-supernaturalist

    Natura naturans: wringing “God” out of the cosmic wash

    The de-deification of western culture (including the sciences) is our task for the next 100 years.

    1. we free culture from the dead hand of near eastern mythological speculation

    The Big-3+1 monotheisms judaism, xianity, islam, and zoroastrianism present us with a collection of near eastern magical texts which make false claims of being god-given. Their nihilistic dualism, androcentric understanding of the universe, and paternalist model of human nature are too damaging to contribute to a humane planet-wide ethos.

    2. we free culture from a death impulse characterized by "sin" and "guilt"

    The universe evinces neither affect, nor morality, nor intellect. Neither physical nature nor human nature say anything about a superordinate, supernatural realm populated by creators or law givers.

    Nature is silent. There is no concept of truth in nature. Indeed, there are no concepts whatsoever in nature. Nature obeys nothing. Nature knows nothing. Natura naturans. Nature acts.

    Nature is neither meaningful nor meaningless. Neither a source of comfort (natural theology) nor a source of despair (existentialism). Both are rooted in the same mistaken presupposition that meaning can be found by searching “the starry heavens” for gods or by quarrying human inwardness for “the moral law within [us].”

    3. we show that religion is a cultural artifact

    Religions belong to cultures embedded in nature. And cultures are our distinctive human-all-too-human handiwork. Religions are obsolete, replaceable cultural artifacts.

    Any specific religion reenacts and institutionalizes cultic myth. It gets spread through recruitment, custom and conquest — financially supported by tax code and state funding — enforced by indoctrination, intimidation or violence. Religious institutions are Ponzi schemes.

    4. alleged god-given morality belongs to ancient imperial propaganda

    Xian mythology posits a moralized universal order which never existed. No more can be found than the ancestors put there in the dream-time. (All commentary, aka theology is fifth-rate fan fiction.)

    God-given morality stems ultimately from Sargon I’s (2334-2279 BCE) imperial propaganda when the very first violent yoking together of disparate city-state cultures occurred in what is now Iraq. The first myth of divine status of the emperor and of an empire-spanning morality turns out to be ancient political spin. (Still works today, doesn’t it?)

    5. we present a "way" superior to world hating monster-theisms

    Adjust your understanding, adjust your expectations, and you will have a right relationship with the only total reality there is natura naturans. Nature naturing —

    the anti-supernaturalist

    • Guy Vestal

      God Bless You…

  • Guy Vestal

    So being a "Yahoo Troll" did nothing more then "entertain" us fellow trolls, and "enlighten" little to none? 🙂

  • I love this post! I've noticed too in the past year that you catch more flies with sugar, and actions speak louder than words. Regardless of the situation.

  • I appreciate where you are coming from. I was born and raised a Christian, and while I still identify as a Christian, I've often caught flack for my questions and the conclusions I've drawn about the nature of life and of God. Going into school for Philosophy even caused some 'friends' to declare me spiritually dead, for seeking wisdom and truth outside of the bible.

    I view Christianity first and foremost as a socio-evolutionary tool, and as a bridge to God (who probably doesn't have a flowing white beard, for the record) second. So many of the laws and customs in the old testament make sense from some social perspective, but have no real place in a modern world. New Testament teachings about the empowerment of each individual, the equality of all men, and women too, and commands to meet together in love … even though some of these things have been distorted by dogma, I remain an active member of the Church because I perceive many of these things to be good for humanity at their core, and I can do more to clear away dogma from within the church than from without.

    I wish you wisdom and growth in the coming months and years, as you alter your life according to this post. Though (as I have said) I am a Christian, whether you come back to the church doesn't particularly bother me. I only hope that you have a life which has a positive impact on those who are around you, and it seems like that is true already.

    Thanks again for your perspective.

    • What an interesting perspective you have….have you communicated this to other Christians? I wonder how they might react?

      Thanks for the comment.

  • tabitha

    Actually, Kenmore's response seems pretty normal to me. Stuff like that is communicated all the time amongst the Christians I know.

    I find it interesting that most of those who 'fall away' from belief come from a fundamentalist tradition. I think part of that is because they had 'religion'. You stated once something about the 'relationship not religion' being emotional so worthy of being discarded, but that is not logical. The relationship you have with your wife does involve emotion, but it is still very much part of reality. Emotions do not have to be exclusive of reality.

    You wrote: "It's not that I've suddenly forgotten all of the dangers of religion or how it has held humanity behind for ages…"…wow, you are not up on your reading. Of course you will find examples of religious thought holding back humanity, but you will also find the opposite too. Most of the scientific discoveries and advancements have been by Christians. The 'church' might have rejected some of these discoveries, but again, that is religion rejecting, not Jesus. Much of the good that has been done in the world has been done by Christians. It's so popular today to be Christian-bashing and repeating the same 'proof-texts', but I find few who have actually tried it themselves- and again, I'm not talking about religion, I'm talking about Jesus. I know you say you have 'tried Jesus', and I thoroughly respect that and appreciate that about you. I honestly admire you for your sincerity. It is commendable. We've come to different conclusions, but it's not because I have my head in the sand or don't read the Bible.

    I have 2 science degrees and though the secular press would have you believe otherwise, there are quite a few scientists who have come to faith in Jesus because of their discoveries in science. Bottom line, if one wants to misinterpret Scripture and cultural practices (I've read the Bible probably 20 times or more), they can do so. If one wants to think they can understand everything, they can believe so. If one wants to support a non-God bias, their heart will let them do so. But for one whose motto has been 'Truth is my pursuit', if you truly want to seek out truth, it won't come out of reminiscing about how the church has done you wrong or how many supposed Christians there are out there who have an unintelligible faith. It is insulting to all of those who are scholars of the Bible, yet their hearts and minds led them to a different place than you. You can hang out with those who ended up in the same place as you, but don't presume to imagine everyone who studied like you or prayed like you did would reach the same conclusion.

    You are really quite young, and your energy and passion (no lukewarmness) is admirable, but if it is okay by you, I'll be praying for you. And by the way, for 25 years I've encouraged people who are seeking Truth to go ahead and study other religions, because I believe God will honor those seeking Truth (and not just an 'enlightened' club). The reality of Jesus is undeniable. He was not a mythical creature, and imagined deity- but he was God made man who historical records verify. Archeological records are constantly confirming Scripture, even when it's gone against what was then the prevailing scientific belief of the time.

    Also, you mentioned that you concluded the 'miraculous' you saw was merely emotional, but many of the miracles I've witnessed are physical- and remain years later as testimonies. In fact, the other day was answering the questions about why I've seen more miracles than most, and it certainly doesn't have much to do with me, but has more to do with faith/belief/perseverance and humility- these were met with a physical miracle. Of course, there have been times I've prayed for a miracle and it didn't pop out of a prayer slot machine, but the older I get and the more I see, the more I know the path of wisdom is to trust God and live accordingly. Mine is not a blind trust though, so please don't relegate it to such a category in order to justify your agonizing choice in a real time of searching. And truly, I'm sad you did not find God in the time slot you gave Him.

    By the way, I came across your post through the Naked Pastor. Met him in Haiti where I was ministering the love and compassion of Jesus to those hurting there. I've lived amongst the poor for much of my adult life in 60 suffering nations, actually living in a dump at one time. Some might say I 'wasted' my 'valedictorian status' by living and working amongst the poor and not continuing to post scientific journal entries…but for me, this is what an intelligent Christian faith is about. May not be for everyone, but has been for me.

    • RevOxley

      Interesting comment Tabitha…

      Regarding emotion:

      Emotions, in the arena of faith, cloud one's thought processes…In regards to emotion I would say that they aren't reliable witnesses as to what is ultimately true, mostly just witnesses to what we would like to be true or what we most fear.

      It's also not that I haven't seen "miracles"…I've seen things most Christians never do as a result of the type of ministry I was in….but to assume they cannot be explained as a different type of phenomena is incorrect in my view….This conclusion comes from an understanding and study of many other religions and the psychology of faith.

      I'd like to hear more about this confirmation of scripture you speak of…sounds like a topic for another day…

  • I will also be praying for you. I am sorry to hear that you have lost your faith. I somehow wonder if you truly have. Losing your faith and turning your back on God is a huge thing to do. If you are going to turn your back on God, you need to be prepared not to ask for his help. I am sure you have had difficulty doing this if you were ever a true Christian. I think of the story of Jonah when I think about your journey. I hope yours is just as happy.