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


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.

The Non-Cultural Truth: The First Draft

I have been searching for a while for what I call the Non-Cultural Truth: The truth about the way that things really are, stripped of all human culture and bias. This has been a tough quest, believe me. However, I am willing now to at least propose the following as a first draft:

  • The principle of doubt: I embrace doubt. Like Socrates, I accept that I know nothing. Doubt is good: Doubt keeps me humble. If I live in a state of doubt, I will not stubbornly and dogmatically assert the truth of unproven propositions. Faith is the opposite of doubt, and faith thus blinds me to the truth.
  • The principle of proof: The burden lies with religion, politics, or any other movement within human culture, to prove the truth of facts which they assert to be true as a matter of faith. Thus, I cannot accept on faith any factual proposition for which the evidence is dubious at best. The virgin birth of Jesus is a good example: I have no direct evidence of the manner in which Jesus was conceived. I have the accounts in the gospels, nothing more. These accounts assert that Jesus was born of a virgin: That is true. I can accept the truth of the fact that these accounts exist. That says nothing about the truth of the accounts themselves. I must judge these claims separately, and in most cases, the evidence for the absolute truth of these propositions is dubious at best. Thus, for me to accept that Jesus was born of a virgin (especially to assert this passionately as a matter of faith) without any direct evidence on the matter is simply another way in which I delude myself.
  • The principle of freedom: Sin is the idea that God is legalistic. Sin claims that God has some form of legal code with which I am expected to comply, or else face divine wrath. This is also a religious factual proposition for which the evidence is sorely lacking. It is impossible for me to know if God exists at all, so how shall I know that he has a divine code that I am obligated to follow? And what the content of that code is? I must reject this idea completely. Thus, I am not a sinner. I have not displeased God in any way. There is no divinely-prescribed law which I am bound to obey. I am empowered to live my own life in whatever manner pleases me. I am both responsible and free.
  • The principle of the present: Given that, how shall I then live? Since I have no assurance of divine reward after death, what happens to me when I die? I have no idea. I accept that the only thing I have is this present moment, this breath. I do not even know if I will make it through my next breath. That is my state. Given my mortality, it falls to me to make the best of this present moment, because that is all I have.
  • The principle of love: The only thing left to me is relationships. This is my purpose in being: To engage in relationships with my fellow creatures, to enhance their lives, and allow them to enhance mine, if they so choose. Thus, I seek to enlarge my empathy to include all of mankind, and to be at peace with my fellow men and women. I will strive to love everyone as well and as truly as I can.

More later.