AND??????

One of my dear old friends submitted a comment to my blog post I Am Not A Sinner which ended with:

AND???

In other words, what happened next? Good question. That’s the purpose of this blog post, to talk about the aftermath of my spiritual tsunami. I described the event itself in my earlier blog post (also annoyingly entitled I am not a Sinner,¬†go figure).

Anyway, as I described earlier, I eventually came to the conclusion that the entire concept of religion is rather preposterous. The idea that the Creator of the universe with all of its wonder has an intimate relationship with me, in which He (She? It?) monitors my very thoughts (including this one!) in real time. I mean, really.

After all, every spiritual experience I have ever had has been completely subjective. Can I really trust my own experience? I knew all too well how thoroughly I am capable of deceiving myself. I therefore decided to chuck the entire question of God as a meaningless, silly question with ultimately no answer at all.

Fundamentally, I finally understood that I am alone in the universe. That life actually has no purpose, meaning or significance. That I am, as the old song says, merely Dust in the Wind.

Now, that sounds depressing. Let me tell you: For me it was incredibly liberating.

An interesting side effect: I became much more humble. I know what you are thinking: There you go bragging about being humble.

No, not really.

You see, I now understand how truly broken I am. And how fundamentally I really know nothing. Nothing at all.

That’s the thing about doubt: Once I understood, I mean really understood at a gut level, that I really don’t know anything for sure, then my faith collapsed, and I became humbled.

Interestingly, faith made me kind of an asshole. I heard a piece on NPR once about a woman who wrote a novel in which the main character was someone she described as:

A white, wealthy, middle aged, conservative, Christian man who thinks he’s good but he’s not.

And why was he not good:

Because he had empathy for people like him, but no one else. People of his gender, race, religion, culture, social status, sexual orientation and political views. God forbid that he would ever talk to or treat a homosexual, feminist, Democrat, or such like a human being.

That was me. For me, faith was a form of hubris: I was completely and totally convinced that I was right, that there was an ultimate truth, and that I could know it. That I had the line on the truth, straight from the mouth of God.

That hubris has collapsed. In the process, I began to do things very differently.

Like a couple of weeks ago, when I was in San Francisco, I found myself sitting down on a park bench with homeless guys, and hanging with them for a while. I had some incredibly sweet conversations with really decent men, who were simply homeless. I have been homeless too. My momentary success, and apparent financial wealth, have simply served as a barrier between me and the homeless. Once I remembered how much we struggled when we were living in Texas during the 80s, I knew: I am not different from them. I am the same. Only our circumstances are different.

The barriers fell away. I became open to people I have never even considered talking to. Like a young, black, homosexual hairdresser from Vallejo who I met on the Muni. We became fast friends, exchanged emails and are still communicating. Before my tsunami, there is no way that I would ever become friends with someone that different from me. No problem now.

And of course there is my most important relationship: My marriage. At first, my wife resisted my spiritual journey. She wanted me to remain a Christian! However, I persisted. Now she constantly tells me that I am, by far, more loving, kind, gentle, compassionate, and sensitive than I have ever been. She would not go back to the old Jeff, that’s for sure!

The key, at least for me, was understanding that there actually is no purpose. That life has no ultimate meaning. That the quest for understanding and significance is another form of delusion. That all we have is this present moment, the very breath that I am taking as I write this.

This moment. Now. There is nothing else.

So, how shall I then live? Optimize the moment. Which for me is simple: Be as loving, empathetic, sensitive, and such as humanly possible. Allow my feelings to express themselves. If I am sad, allow the sadness to wash over me. Understand that it is simply a feeling. Like the weather, it will pass. And then there will be another feeling in that moment. And so on and so forth in a constant progression of moments.

Will I survive in some way when I die? I have no idea. The issue does not bother me though. I suspect that the software just stops running. That won’t be so bad. I certainly won’t be there to care about it.

Ultimately, in a few thousand years at most, I will be utterly forgotten. And then a few billion years after that, the Earth will be destroyed (by the Sun if nothing gets it first). If our species has not escaped from this rock by then, every single thing that every human being has ever known will be lost forever. And that includes me.

Shall I then by any action of mine affect the lifespan of the universe? Shall I somehow change the fate of all mankind? Doubtful.

I can then be free. I am free of religious delusions. I understand now at last who I am and what this life is all about. And that pleases me.

More later.

My Friend Joan

I have a dear old friend named Joan who posted the following comment to my Facebook page, in response to my most recent blog called I am not a Sinner. Here is the quote from Joan’s comment:

Get over it Jeff, you continuously contemplate God….etc., etc., but YOU make no REAL meaningful or significant changes/ differences IN YOUR LIFE….I follow you, but, you never seem to move on, in ANY direction, there is ALWAYS so much confusion andso little advancement, with so little clarity in what you say….Hopefully, maybe, moving forward with contemplated changes and positive decisions in your life WILL make a difference….(outside of all the other crap)……..SOOOOO…sorry… but life’s a bitch!!!!! I’m just trying to find anything substantial or significant in your writing thats worth holding onto throughout your rants…. Maybe your intellect is beyond mine…but sometimes I think life is purely nothing more than life…..moving forward without all the intro-spectrum stuff……ENJOY!!

Lets look at whats outside….and then try to move in….academics can sometimes cloud things…..A LOT!!! xo

First of all, let me say to Joan: I am delighted that you are following me. I find it significant and inspiring that this blog caused you to to have such a strong response. That’s wonderful.

Now, in terms of what you said in your comment, well, yeah. That’s kind of the whole idea behind that particular blog post: Moving on. I can tell you since that day (the day I referred to in my previous post in which I had a profound spiritually transformative experience), I have been very different. If you don’t believe me, ask my wife. We had a conflict before that day. Now we don’t. That’s because I let go of all the rage. I am no longer trying to change my wife, my friends or any one else in my life. I no longer want folks to be like me. I am happy and content to allow all of my loved ones to be exactly who they want to be, right now, in this present moment, in the area of spirituality as in all other areas.

So, I have a great deal of peace now. That’s what happened on that day. I think that’s pretty much “moving on”, as you put it. Let me know your thoughts.

In terms of your comments about academics clouding the issues, well, again, yeah. Certainly, I definitely have a tendency to get bogged down in the technical details. I can understand your frustration. I will try to lighten it up a bit in that respect. Watch for my next post, which will be another intensely personal account from my family history. No academic content in other words. I hope you enjoy it.

Having said that, I’ve got to read someone. I have a reading habit, and I like that habit, so I am not going to try to break it any time soon. In that regard, I have chosen to read (arguably) academics like Karen Armstrong and Robert Wright, as opposed to (say) Joel Osteen. I find Armstrong and Wright to be much more balanced in their approach, and I like who I am when I read them as opposed to the overtly Christian writers. I suppose that’s just a matter of taste, but this is where I am. My current read, as I think you know by now, is The Moral Animal by Robert Wright. An incredibly insightful book. But, again, I won’t be blogging on anything like that anytime soon.

Stay tuned though. I enjoy the interaction, and, again, I am thrilled that you are listening.

I am not a Sinner

I had a transformative spiritual experience recently. I was driving from Las Vegas to Phoenix (about a 6 hour drive) alone on a beautiful day. I found myself surrounded by the desert, mountain valley after valley moving behind me, as I drove through this incredible landscape.

An environment which is conducive to reflection, that’s for sure. I found myself replaying in my mind an email conversation that I had with my Christian friend Ray, in which he stated that I “blamed God for all the negative things in the law”. As well as the atrocities committed in the name of Jesus by the Christian church, etc.

I realized that I did not think I really blamed God for these things. But that’s a natural mistake on Ray’s part. He was thinking as he is: A Diest Christian. So he has a personal relationship with his Creator. Most days these days, I am agnostic. Certainly I know at this point in the core of my being that the existence or non-existence of God is an unknowable fact. Certainly not knowable by me, that’s for sure! So I do not know, and cannot know, if I am in a relationship with my Creator. Thus, it would be very difficult for me to blame Him for things of which I don’t believe He is is capable. No. I think that the negative things in the bible and the acts of men in His name are simply acts of human beings. Perhaps acting under a particularly ugly form of delusion. But acts of man nonetheless.

That led to the question: So why is it that I am so pissed off about the law? Why do I get so incensed about the stupid, evil, racist, misogynistic, cruel and inhumane stuff in the law? I mean, beyond normal incredulity at the insanity which is the biblical law. Certainly, my ire seemed to me to be more intense than most folks in our time and culture.

And then I figured it out. What I was angry at was not the law. What I was angry at was sin.

Here is what the idea of sin says: The creator of the universe hates me. And He wants to kill me. And after that, he is going to put me in a terrible place when I die, where he has legions of demons who will torture me to death continuously. Although I won’t be able to die. So the suffering will go on and on and on.

And the only way out of this inevitable abyss (about which I have nothing to say, by the way) is to accept that this same Creator took his own son and tortured him terribly instead. And then if I believed, really believed, all of that, I would be saved, and God would not want to kill and damn me anymore.

Once I got my arms completely around that idea, I did get a bit pissed. I realized the real problem with traditional religion in all of its forms is this very thing: The idea of sin.

So I let it fall away. I simply determined at that moment that I am not a sinner. I have not displeased the Creator in any way. This does not mean that I am perfect. Far from it. It simply means that there is no divinely prescribed code of behavior for humans to follow, the violation of which brings divine ire. I have the right to live my own life, in what ever manner I see fit. I am both responsible and free.

This revelation (if you can call it that) was followed by several hours of driving through an incredible desert landscape with tears streaming down my face as I was bathed in an incredible feeling of love.

Was I visited by God? I don’t know. It certainly felt like it. I have been different from that day. I can feel the difference. It is quite weird, and a bit scary. But I would not want to go back to the way I was before.

More later.