From Christian to Atheist (and other good questions)

WaffleHouse

This morning I did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread on Facebook, and what follows are a few of the questions and my responses. 

(1)

“Jim, this was in my in-box this morning: 

‘If God/Love created the Universe, and if God/Love is in control of said Universe, and God/love created us to share said creation with each other and Him/Her, then why did He create us all so unequally, and physically in our bodies suffering all sorts of blights, and socio-economically born into poverty and suffering? What kind of LOVE does that?'”

*
(My response below…)

“The human world is characterized by impermanence. All things are born into this world, experience change, and ultimately go away or change forms. This characteristic of the human world can be frustrating because we assume that the trick is to be able to control all our life circumstances. But remember that Jesus lived in this same human world and found peace and joy in it just as it was. In this human world there is human pain. If you hit your finger with a hammer, you will have physical pain. If you lose a loved one, you will have emotional pain. No amount of God, spirituality or enlightenment will ever change that kind of natural human pain. However, the kind of suffering you described above is the result of poverty and suffering is a result of our own ignorance and denial of the truth. God did not create the world as a wind-up toy that follows a script. We are each endowed with the divine capacity to create a world of harmony, well-being, love, peace, and freedom. Consider the possibility of turning around the question from “Why does God allow this?” to “Why do we allow this?”

(2)

“Jim, I’m trying to understand the concept of ‘grace’ when my whole idea of ‘God’ has changed.”

*

“I have come to think of “grace” as a truth that says, no person carries the burden to earn or prove their divine worth or value, because it is already inherently, fully, and equally intact without condition for every human being.”

(3)

“Jim, I want to live beyond the matrix. I feel hindered sometimes, and not always sure what the hindrance is. I most times can trust the journey and the next step, but sometimes fear I’ll miss something vital for further growth and enlightenment. Wish I could do more for so many hurting people. Wish I could break through for them. Wish I could change the world…”

*

“Consider the possibility that being enlightened and changing the world has to do with the quality of your next moment. What I mean is, show up in that moment and see things as they really are, respond to each situation as it requires, however mundane it might seem. I know this might be a bit of a challenge to get, but because of the interdependent nature of reality, when you walk in liberation, when you rise above the matrix, when you see things as they truly are, you aid the liberation of all humankind. I wouldn’t worry so much about whether you are missing something vital in your growth and development. It’s likely that right now you already know what is necessary, and if there is something else to know it will appear spontaneously along the everyday paths of life. Take one simple thing you know to be true and be mindful of it today, and you will be changing the world. I promise! People right now are running the streets trying to change, save, and help the world, and yet they themselves are not walking in liberation. This will not work. You be the truth in the next moment. That’s what changes things.”

(4)

“Jim, what happens when we die?”

*

“It can be useful to explore the motivation is behind the question… any question. In this case, why specifically does this question have a hold of you? What’s driving it? Why must you have an answer? If you had the answer, what would it provide for you?”

(5)

“Jim, how can I overcome the need for my grown children to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices I made for them as a single mother? This has been the greatest pain of my life…the way I’ve been treated by my kids.”

*

“There may be no greater human pain than the feelings of not being remembered, recognized, and appreciated by our children, for whom we have loved and give so much of ourselves sacrificially. One thing is for sure, none of us ultimately have control over others – what they think, feel or do, or how they respond to us. Here’s a couple things to consider. First, I personally want to acknowledge you for what you did for your kids. In my book, every single mother is a hero. If it was up to me there would be a separate mother’s day that we celebrated each year called Single Mother’s Day. I don’t know the specifics of all that it meant for you to raise your kids as a single mom, but I want to acknowledge you for the challenges and hardships you endured along the way, and the sacrifices you made. No one will ever fully appreciate the sacrifices you made. Single mothers are some of the most courageous and extraordinary people I have ever known. Sometimes our kids get busy living their lives and don’t reflect on what got them there. Typically, this is not intentional but I know it hurts nonetheless. Secondly, maybe consider the possibility of being honest and sharing your heart and hurt. You are a human being with your own feelings, and it’s okay to express them. Knowing that their indifference may not be intentional, perhaps you could just share the message: I love you; if I had it to do over again I would because I love you; sometimes I feel forgotten like you don’t really appreciate who I tried to be for you as your mom; it would mean a lot to me to know that you see me and appreciate me; I don’t need the whole world to stand up and cheer, but your recognition means more to me than the whole world.”

(6)

“Jim, since the veil has been lifted …I have seen so much so fast..I am in the “now what” stage…but I am free…so the “now what” doesn’t seem so much a doing type of thing just a being but not even sure how to “be” here….somehow this is the most comfortable uncomfortable place ever..crazy or nah? Lol”

*

“What makes you come alive? 
What satisfies you most deeply? 
What fills you up? 
What brings you joy?
What centers you?
What is a source of delight and pleasure for you?
What areas, fields, or subjects are you interested in exploring?
What makes you feel connected to yourself?
What forms of self-expression are the most gratifying?
What would your sense of adventure tell you to do?
What way of being in the world resonates most deeply with your heart?
Where does your sense of curiosity take you?
How are you most compelled to aid the liberation of others?
Where in life are you inspired to be a tangible expression of love, acceptance, and compassion?
What nurtures a greater love for yourself and others?

The answers to these questions is a good place to start in determining an answer to “what now?””

(7)

“Jim, how to deal with the chronic pain of pudendal neuralgia and keep a good and hopeful attitude?”

*

“I know it must be difficult to daily deal with the chronic pain of pudendal neuralgia. I feel great compassion for those who have to endure chronic pain. A very close friend of mine wakes up most days and goes to bed most nights in excruciating chronic pain. I’ve seen the physical and emotional toll it takes on him. I feel sadness for those who experience this day in and day out. I’m guessing that part of the struggle is that others don’t/can’t really get it or understand. It’s one thing to have chronic pain; it’s another thing to feel alone in it. I respectfully stand on the edge of your chronic pain – not pretending to understand it – but standing with you in it… caring and wanting you to know you are not forgotten or alone. Consider the possibility of thinking about your spiritual life as the relationship you forge with whatever you have in your life. Some people have depression, some have Bipolar Disorder, for me it’s Tourette’s Syndrome. What if one of the most sacred parts of your life is your relationship to your pudendal neuralgia? In other words, rather than thinking of it as being an obstacle, hindrance, or meaningless affliction to an otherwise good life, consider thinking of it as what it means for you Kathleen to be an expression of the truth through your human reality. I don’t mean that you spiritualize your chronic pain in some kind of fake, happy-happy way, what I mean is that you settle for yourself at a fundamental level that your relationship to your chronic pain is what it means for Kathleen to be fully divine and human.”

(8)

“Jim, what do I do with the fear that creeps in because I feel that I’m abandoning a life long set of beliefs….”

*

“I think virtually everyone who goes through the “shedding religion” process experiences these fears. I think it might be useful to remember that Jesus himself was raised in the religious tradition of Judaism. He affirmed and embraced the truth he found in that tradition, but he also denounced and walked away from those elements that were hindrances and obstacles to the truth. It maybe that what’s actually happening for you is not that you are just abandoning a set of old beliefs but that you are breathing new life into them, and reclaiming the essence of them that perhaps got lost or misconstrued along the way.”

(9)

“Jim, why am I having such a hard time liking myself? Why is it so incredibly hard to break bad habits and always feeling guilty? If God loves me and created me as I am, why can’t I atleast like myself??”

*

“The Titanic did not crash for not knowing about the iceberg. The problem is that even after becoming aware of it, they could not turn the Titanic around on a dime. The perpetual motion of that massive vessel could not be turned back. Your not liking yourself, bad habits, and feeling guilty are like the Titanic. They have become a mass of habit energy in perpetual motion. You have been conditioned into not liking yourself, and now it has become the habitual way you think about yourself. Typically, there is not a magic wand solution here. Even spiritual enlightenment is not going to magically or instantaneously solve this. Consider the possibility of taking the time to consider the possibility of determining the personal work you need to do to break this habit energy. Let me give you an example from my own life. I grew up with an alcoholic mom, became codependent, and carried this codependency into my adulthood and relationships, which reaped havoc in my life for many years. For me, I determined that I really needed to tackle my codependency, which involved attending a weekly Codependents Anonymous group, and working a 12 Step Program for codependents. It was a lot of difficult emotional and life work but it paid off. The truth is that I could sit down with you for 10 minutes, and easily find many wonderful and extraordinary things about who you are. I could even describe each one of them. The problem is NOT that you aren’t likable, lovable, valuable, desirable, enjoyable… the challenge is only your relationship with yourself. It’s your relationship with yourself that needs restored. If you thought about it, I bet you could identify things you do actually like about yourself. What are they? Wrote them down. Respond back in a comment and let me know what some of them are.”

(10)

“Jim, it seems that ever since I walked away from fundamental Christianity, and then Christianity all together, it seems I’m walking down a path to atheism. I no longer belive the bible as the word of God but as a set of books put together to control the masses. I have been reading and watching documentaries regarding if Christ was real or even if the biblical God is real. I’m not sure anymore. Everything I believed for 42 years has crumbled away and my belief structure is in shambles. I’m not scared of eternal damnation because I do believe that God, universe, powers that be, what ever you want to call it, will except my soul back in. But I guess I’m just floating in the void and I’m not sure what to do since this is all brand new for me. Is this all normal?”

*

“I think what you are experiencing on the journey is normal. I tell people that I became an Atheist because I divested my belief in the “God” I had construed in my heard through religion. I am an Atheist in terms of no longer believing in the “God” I learned in church – a God of separation, judgment, and condemnation, a God who sends people to Hell, a God who is a grand puppet-master over human affairs, blessing one person and cursing another. I no longer believe in ‘that’ “God.” I think for most people their concept and understanding of God evolves. There’s a lot of ground to consider between (a) Christian fundamentalist God, and (b) no God end of story. I’ve actually found science to be a helpful influence in my own understanding of God or ultimate reality. Remember, that the word “God” is a word we chose to point to that which no person can adequately comprehend with their mind. It’s the same thing with the Bible. There is a lot of ground to consider between: (a) the Bible is a book God directly wrote, and (b) the Bible is rubbish and worthless. I would say to fight the tendency to pour concrete over your latest revelation or new understanding. I think you will in time live yourself into the answers you need for yourself but it can be a bumpy ride along the way. Sometimes the best thing to do is just stop worrying about it, stop trying to figure it out, and just live life. Consider the possibility that you are still growing, awakening, and evolving. Be careful of driving a stake in the ground. Remain open and pliable. Be mindful and stay true to the simplest things you know in your heart to be true. I hope to come back to this question with some other thoughts, but I figured I would start with this…”

Latest Comments

  1. First time commenter! says:

    On question #1, I don’t know where I picked this up (probably from someone wiser than me) but I think that on disabilities, etc. Maybe God created everyone perfectly, but our world has made situations where their differences are a hindrance rather than a blessing. Like you said, how do we allow this?
    Maybe sickness/death is a part of being the created rather than the creator (impermanence). We are not infinite because we are not God.

  2. sa says:

    I find that I have been gravitating from being paralyzed and locked in hurt since my fiancee left me pregnant, unemployed and homeless in November. He made me leave our apt when I was a suicidal wreck afraid of the future and drove me too Iowa to live with a friend. Then I moved to Missouri with her parents. I gave birth to our baby about 6 weeks ago and my ex drove me and our baby, Sophia Grace, back to Tennessee so we can co-parent. I’m living in our old apt with baby and he’s living with his new girlfriend.

    Since returning to Tennessee, he and I have a continual cycle of fighting. I get frustrated that he will only visit and babysit his daughter from 4:30 to 6pm after work. She has colic and I am often at my wits end in tears and feeling so alone.

    The thing is, I love this man. I adore him more than anything on earth. From the beginning of our relationship, I loved him for who he is, knowing he isn’t perfect and I wanted to be good at living him unconditionally. But we both hurt each other in different ways and for the entire pregnancy I was frightened, needy, abrasive, etc. I pushed him away.

    I know that he is going through a lot internally. He started this non-profit a couple years ago called… all about embracing the Love of Christ send uniting people of all or no religion. He is now no longer a Christian of any kind and going back and forth between Buddhism and atheism. He wants to be happy and he’s hurt that he feels I wasn’t what I was supposed to be in our relationship.

    I know he doesn’t really treat me well sometimes but I also believe he still needs my unconditional love if we’re ever going to figure out this co-parenting arrangement.

    But I don’t know how to get out of my depression that he left me. I don’t know how to quit the cycle of fighting. I think I’m holding onto hurt and need to let go but I don’t know how.

    How do I begin to heal myself and treat him with Love?

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