Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Just like my Dad

I love you son, like my Dad loved me.
I loved you right from the beginning you see.
from the top of your head to your tiny toesies.
I loved you when we brought you home,
Wrapped up like a burrito to keep you warm.
I love it when you giggle and smile
It fills the whole house with joy for awhile.
I love your hands that grip so tight
Around my fingers with all your might.
I love it when you kick you feet
Won’t be long you’ll be chasing me.
I’ll love you no matter the risk,
even poopy diapers that make me sick.
I’ll love you when you go to school
And learn about stuff that’s really cool.
I’ll love you when you make mistakes.
I make them too, it’s really ok.
I’ll love you when you start to grow
From 1 foot now to 6 feet, who knows?
I’ll love you when you decide to leave
and start your very own family.
Then you can say to your new baby,
I love you, like my Dad loved me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Sensed-Presence Experience

I recently finished a rereading of “The Believing Brain by Dr. Michael Shermer” and in it he speaks about the sensed-presence effect. It is when the brain suffers hallucination(s) of a presence due to stress-induced neurological dysfunction caused by any number of reasons Dr. Shermer lists; monotony, darkness, barren landscapes, isolation, cold, injury, dehydration, hunger, fatigue and fear add sleep deprivation. This part fascinated me because of an experience I had which held proof in my mind of god’s existence, even if the worlds explanations of who, what , when, where and why were rejected during my journey of truth and self-honesty.

Why I was wrestling with giving up my beliefs in a personal god I systematically started with religion, which was easier than I thought, and its doctrine. I found that finding the research on debunking the Bible was easy and widely available; all I had to do was start looking with reason goggles on (I started with Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism). The thing I had the hardest time with dismissing was a personal experience I had during my second internship as a Youth Minister for the church of Christ.

I arrived at the church the summer after my junior year at Oklahoma Christian University, which was a trying year for me, I was hounded by doubts about biblical texts, but resolved in my faith that god would work those out for me, and I was excited to see the kids I had formed a great relationship the summer before as we grew the youth group from a handful of kids to more that 30 with good relationships with other youth groups in the area. My optimism was high for another successful summer. I had kept up through emails with the minister and a few of the youth who never let me know about the destruction the elders wreaked upon the youth program throughout the year.
A group of 30 was now three, which was two less than when I started. After spending time speaking with the families of those who left I learned the eldership cut all the funding, blocked use of the van to transport to youth functions, and closed the use of the youth building for youth activities. There were many other things that happened, all to lead up to a broken moment one
evening. I remember I walked into the little apartment located in the basement of the youth building, I was so tired and emotionally spent, so I got on my knees at the end of my bed and began to pray, which turned into weeping. I felt alone, abandoned, emotionally and physically exhausted. It was in that moment I felt a hug, a true embrace which turned into a very peaceful feeling. I awoke in my bed the next morning with a feeling of clarity, I felt truly touched by god and it gave me a strong sense of direction. I got dressed, packed my belongings, called an elders meeting and resigned and returned to Oklahoma.

I still feel peace when I think about that moment. It was a profound decision gate which changed the course of my life when I changed my major from Youth Ministry to Liberal Arts, never wanting to do ministry again. Looking back I'm sure that was the moment my journey to skepticism began and the seeds of reason and logic were planted. I’m glad I have a better understanding of how and why I had that experience, which is the last string of magical explanations I have been holding on to. Still, I am thankful for the defense mechanism my brain has, and the hug that it gave me in my time of need, because I really needed it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Post-Religious Stress Disorder

When returning from Iraq in 2005 I was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). As I've gone through the different treatments from psychologists, support groups, medication, self-medication, etc., I've managed to develop a handle on my condition. To compound the issue, war was the place I started to end the self-deception of faith in my life. What I realized was I truly didn't believe... I wanted to, and in a sense I still want to, but I didn't and don't. If I was interested in truth, honestly, then I would have to follow the evidence, wherever that leads.

I have done a lot of reading sense then in science, biology, cosmology, etc. in trying to figure out what the truth is for me. I am a fan of many YouTube atheists and free thinkers as well as believers (multiple faiths) and listen to the arguments believers have with non-believers, reading blogs and their comments. One theme I've noticed is the wondering why believers can't see what we see so I am going to offer up my perspective.

Guilt is an overwhelming theme for the body of Christ. They preach it hard core, mixed with fear; those are always the best sermons I gave. You are a sinner, you deserve death, you nailed Jesus to the cross, you break his heart every time you sin, and you are going to Hell. It sounds harsh right? Never underestimate the sugar on top, that’s right, forgiveness, it’s already there for you, just reach out and take it. Even though you break Jesus’ heart, he still forgives you, loves you, and wants you to live with him in paradise. It is an emotional rollercoaster of guilt, fear, and forgiveness that is intoxicating and instilled in us from the get go. It is a hard habit to break, the comradery of the sinning saints.

PRSD (Post-Religious Stress Disorder) this is how I see it in my life. There was and is anxiety for leaving what I believed, studied, and lived for 25 years of my life. I had to go through the guilt of condemning my loved ones who have passed away to death, no afterlife, no streets of gold and no eternity. I had to go through the anger of being lied to by people I love and respect. I had, and still do, go through the pain of losing friends and family who see me as fallen or forsaken. Mostly I have to deal with the anger at myself to being duped into remaining uneducated, and ignorant to what the world and universe really are. I have to deal with the responsibility that I lied to kids, and taught them the same things, duped them into feeling guilt and fear for their lives.

Christians, for the most part, are good, caring, and honest people. They are charitable and giving. They are smart, logical and well educated in what they’ve been taught to be important. But they have baggage, lots of it. And when you wonder why they don’t see what you see, it’s because it’s hard to. You aren’t asking them to simply educate themselves, you’re asking them to destroy who they think they are, who their parents and grandparents are. You are asking them to accept their lives are a lie. Let’s be honest, how easily could you do that?

Luke 6:31 “Do unto other as you would have them do unto you” seems applicable here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Creature of Purpose

  When I was neck deep in Christianity the quest of purpose was my extreme focus. What was my purpose? I posed this question to God on a daily basis, asking, sometimes demanding an answer, a reason, something. It was during this time I read all kinds of books on purpose, all with a religious slant of course, and would adopt aspects and latch on exclaiming “I found my purpose!”
  Needless to say, I hadn't, I always wanted to do his (Yahweh’s) will, so my purposes’ was in line with that, i.e., becoming a minister, working with the poor, mowing widow’s lawns, serving communion, building churches in Honduras, ramming Christ down family members throats, becoming a warrior for Yahweh, judging others by biblical standards, etc.
   Sense I no longer have to satisfy an invisible sky daddy in fear for my soul, my focus on purpose had to be modified. I've found that releasing god’s purpose for my life, I found that my purpose wasn’t that much different in the “what” but more in the “why and for who”.  So, without a supernatural force directing every step of my life, except for the ones that he doesn't, where do I start, how do I answer the question? Revelation #1 – IT’S ME DAMMIT!

My will shall shape my future. Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man’s doing but my own. I am the force: I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice, my responsibility; win or lose; only I hold the key to my destiny. ~Elaine Maxwell~

  I am responsible, when you reject the notion of a god(s) then who else is there? There is so much power in personal responsibility. Everything I think about, act upon, manipulate, etc. is my fucking fault. The way I perceive the day, interact or react towards people, places and things is all on me, not god, not my parents, not my wife, not my boss, not my dog, not Facebook posts and not on Obama (or Bush is you like). This is the first concept to get through that thick skull of yours, it’s your fault, all of it, yep that too. The number one step in finding your purpose, is finding your level of responsibility for your own actions and reactions. How do you expect to find your purpose when “your” is just a placeholder for some other agenticity for “you” to hide behind.

“Agenticity”: the tendency to believe that the world is controlled by invisible intentional agents. We believe that these intentional agents control the world, sometimes invisibly from the top down (as opposed to bottom-up causal randomness).  ~Michael Shermer~

  Agenticity isn’t just god(s) it’s any unsubstantiated entity, New World Order, Santa Claus, New Age, Fate, Destiny, etc. This was and still is a huge pill to swallow for me, the only one to blame is me, good and bad, if I am going to begin to steer this ship I need to put my hands on the wheel.
  Revelation #2 – DON’T THROW THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATH WATER!  As with any pendulum the swings from side to side can be monstrously huge, and my pendulum was no different. When I released myself from slavery to Christianity I rejected everything that had anything to do with it, or that ascribed to being a part of it. So all those things listed above, gone, rejected, which was a boneheaded move on my part and caused some needless pain.
  I learned that what I considered god(s) purpose was really just my purpose that I gave agenticity to. I like helping people who need it, now I don’t limit it to the poor and homeless that frequent shelters, but to anyone, my friends that are in a slump. I can still mow widow’s lawns, minister (non-religious) to people; I can ram science, logic, reason down people’s throats instead (kidding). I found out that the reason god(s) always agreed with my interpretations was because they were my interpretations. Dugh!  I dare you to test that on yourself.
  So, what is my purpose?  Well, for now it's simply to leave this world and the people I come in contact with better off because of my existence and interaction.  To be the best husband, father, friend and businessman I can be in the moment I'm in.  I no longer feel that my purpose has to align with someone else's interpretation of what that should be.  Is that so different than others?  I would have to say yes, because it's my purpose, and I work towards it without fear or guilt being the motivator.  For better or worse, I'm at the helm.

Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes. ~William Gibson~