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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Why Did God Come Crashing Back into my Life?

I really don't know. Certainly, I recognized the irony, having spent perhaps seven years on these blogs and forums as a member of the ad hoc Atheist Sanhedrin, interrogating and challenging the Christians. I hope that I was a kinder inquisitor than some of the examples whom I've seen since, but I fear that I probably was not.

At first, in my vanity, I imagined that perhaps God planned to use me to assist some of my former WCG brethren whose minds had similarly shut down towards Him as a result of the false teachings to which we've all been exposed, but I've since realized that there is nothing I personally can say or do, either logically or by example that will re-open peoples' minds. Only God can prove that he exists, and only God can open a human mind.

I tried to dissect and deconstruct the process by which I was brought back from my prodigal condition. I remember an Australian lady, who somehow in the course of a forum discussion got me to open, and read a few passages from an old Bible which I'd inherited from my Grandmother. I hadn't cracked the cover of a Bible in over twenty-five years at that point. I also recall the enthusiasm and determination displayed by a Christian lady from Texas, in spite of horrible persecution on the forums, and some severe trials in her life. She was very knowledgeable and was of great help to me. I remember overhearing a bowling friend in a supermarket when he didn't know that I was listening in. He was consoling a friend who was undergoing a cluster of severe problems, and he suggested to her, "Ask God to walk with you!" Over the coming months, I thought many times of the beauty and simplicity of that short statement. Nonoffensive. Unintrusive. But, also, very powerful. I remember my neighbor Chris asking me to go down to the mall with him to jumpstart his wife's car. While I was hooking it up, he asked me if anyone had ever talked to me about "the Lord". It irritated me at the time that someone would be evangelizing me, but later as I watched how his family always seemed to have guidance and blessings in the face of trials, unemployment, and problems their children got into, I became convinced that something special was going on there.

The pastor at our church (non-ACOG, non-GCI!) has told us many times that witnessing to people does not arouse their interest in God. Changed lives, however, are very effective in this. I had two incorrigible people in my life whom I loved more than life itself. One was my son, and the other was a very special lady. I had rescued both of them from some particularly bad circumstances. I had tried to set a good secular example of stability and balance for them, and to help them make a few minor but very positive changes in their lives. It ended up being a hopeless exercise, and I found myself being very deeply enmeshed in two codependent relationships. As a matter of fact, I could very easily have ended up either bankrupt, or in jail. Sadly, although I put much effort into my relationship with both of them, there was nothing I could do as a human being to help them. I finally and gut-wrenchingly, walked away from both of them. Shortly after I did this, God came into both of their lives. He changed them, whereas I could do nothing. With my then agnostic mindset, in the beginning stages, I thought, "Well, that's just great! They're both OK now, but I still lost them. It's just that I lost them to Jesus!" That turned out not to be altogether true of my son. We have a better relationship now than we ever did in his entire life. As for the lady, she ended up happily married to a Christian gentleman, and just knowing that she's happy and with the stability that I always wanted for her is enough for me. I had left WCG in 1975 because I could find no evidence that the Holy Spirit was working through it. I had by that time witnessed so much blatant fakery that, religiously or spiritually speaking, I was toast at that point. But, decades later, as I got to have a front row seat, watching the Holy Spirit very powerfully transform two formerly incorrigible people, I immediately knew exactly what was happening. These two made no secret of the source of their help! It is no accident that the Holy Spirit is likened to the wind. You do not see him/it, but you can surely see the work that has been done!

One of my first fears was, what if these people who seem to have been placed in front of me as an example are drawn to the Armstrong doctrines? Believe me, I watched very carefully for all of the signs. But, it never happened, and that became part of the lesson. In fact, I am more convinced today than ever that HWA was very superficial in his understanding of the Bible. There is an incredible understanding, and deep Biblical foundation to classic or mainstream Christianity, the type that was spawned by the Protestant Reformation. The core of this is taught by many of the Baptists and Evangelicals. That is the vehicle through which all of the help became available to my son and ex-girlfriend. What is true, is that most of us who entered Armstrongism were not firmly rooted in the Bible, or basic study and research techniques, making us easy targets for the many cultic fringe doctrinal approaches, as well as HWA's personal theories.

I must admit, it was very difficult to pray again after nearly thirty years. The first prayer was the most difficult. But, soon, it became very natural and actually a pleasure to which I look forward. As a WCG member, I had always done this from a sense of duty, and in the ways that were taught by the church. Perhaps that's why it had always seemed so dry and mechanical, and caused me to wonder if it was going beyond the ceiling. Also, some of the changes in my attidudes were pretty scary. I had always had a kind of a hard edge, an extreme survival mentality, and was afraid that in becoming kinder and more forgiving, I was becoming weak. I worried, too, about losing friends, but in reality have not lost any friends who were real ones to start with. If anything, I now have more friends, and they are not all Christian. That's another potential pitfall which concerned me. I didn't want to become cloistered, and only capable of hanging out with what I used to call the "Bible Thumpers".

I had just enough of a hangover from my WCG intoxication experience that I became worried about some sort of special calling or purpose. The reality is that there are so many more people, and with greater knowledge, understanding, and articulateness than I, that I really need not have worried about this at all. I'd heard of some people from old WCG who immediately came into the forefront of the mainstream New Covenant churches that they found when "the new" WCG became not a very attractive alternative. But, that's just not me. Probably my best value is in quietly doing little things behind the scenes, and below the radar to help and comfort others. Still, one must put God first, and if there is some sort of special calling, one should be willing to do whatever He would have us do for Him.

About a year into the Christian experience, I came upon a very interesting book that described a transformation experience that had many parallels with my own. Stephen Baldwin, the youngest of the acting Baldwin brothers, was perhaps the brother to whom I related the most. He played confident tough guy roles on the screen, and created some characters to whom I could really strongly relate. Through the influence of one of their maids, his wife had become a Christian, and spent a number of hours praying for him. I honestly wonder if someone had been doing the same thing for me, without my knowing. At any rate, Stephen, or Stevie B as he calls himself, soon found his entire life changing. He likens his adventure with God to being dropped from an airplane, every morning, without parachute, from an altitude of about 50,000 feet. He's written a very remarkable and inspiring book, titled "The Unusual Suspect" If any one is even remotely interested in taking another look at the Christian walk, I'd highly recommend it!

Just in case some people are wondering what kind of life I have lead, it is probably important to also share that when I left WCG in 1975, I pursued my passions to the full. In my professional life, I was always a hard worker. I met a lot of people, and sold and repaired quite a bit of machinery over the decades. This provided opportunities to travel, to stay in nice accomodations, and to indulge in business related partying. In my free hours, there are and were a number of hobbies and activities that I was passionate about. I built and raced (on the street!) an endless string of hotrods and motorcycles. My wives and girlfriends, who were amongst the most beautiful women on the face of the earth, and I rode the motorcycles everywhere! We went to the mountains, the beaches, the deserts, you name it. Having also been a lifelong fitness nut, I spent many hours running, bicycling, weight training, and learning karate. This lead to gigs as a body guard and bouncer at the race tracks and in the performing arts community, with opportunities to meet a number of celebrities. There were also legendary Saturday nights, dancing to live music at the blues bars, and more arena style rock, country, and blues concerts than I can remember. I've been to hundreds of professional NHRA drag races, and hundreds of dirt track sprintcar races. Skiing, parasailing, bungee jumping, deep sea fishing, rafting and tubing down rivers, hours of body surfing at the California beaches, hiking and mountain climbing, I and whoever was with me lead life to the full. As I remember and describe all of this, it's difficult for even me to believe that one person could have done all of these things. And, lest anyone feels that I might be exaggerating for the purpose of dramatizing, I'm not. I've deliberately held back on the X-rated, and occasional recreational/illegal stuff. The problem is, that in the end, none of it ever filled a deep void which I had always felt inside. Ultimately, I was left with a decidedly Ecclesiastes point of view.

Anyhoo, this is one of the things which I've been asked to share. I'd been told that people wondered what made me a believer again. There were no visions, no burning bushes, no talking asses, and no psychotic breaks or addictive breakdowns. Just an unlocked mind, and ensuing unexpected transformation, one for which I am just so grateful every waking hour. It would be naive and presumptuous of me to believe that my words are going to touch everyones hearts. I know better. But, if just one person gets a little encouragement, a gentle assist in life, or perhaps just a temporary boost for the day, it will have been worthwhile sharing.

BB

44 comments:

Neotherm said...

BB:

Interesting account of your finding the way. I recall that C.S. Lewis had some parallels with you. He was an atheist for years and gradually became a Theist and then a Christian. He prayed for the first time and described it as a difficult experience. He called himself a "reluctant convert". Lewis was also fairly low profile at church services. He tended to take up a position behind a pillar.

I did not leave the WCG in 1975. In fact, I remained a member until its demise in 1995. But back about 1975, I began to regard the WCG as a dysfunctional organization that God would eventually fix. This view resulted in my not being much on the bandwagon with the rest of the WCG. I always felt like I was a member of an "underground." I would encounter others who had the same clandestine view of a pathological church that I had. It was like we had to deal with all of the pathology in order to be a part of what we thought was a meaningful church hidden under all the layers of crappola. So we just did our best to stay out of the way of the various periodic tsunamis that came rolling in.

Now I regard myself as being an orthodox Christian but I am not an evangelical. I am glad I am where I am now but my history is puzzling. I am not sure why it all happened in the way that it did.

I enjoyed reading your account.

-- Neo

Allen C. Dexter said...

No, BB, I'm not interested in pursuing what you have pursued. You have your reasons for how you feel, and I restpect that. I'm glad it's giving you something you feel is worthwhile. I don't need it. I also hope Tiger's return to Budhism gives him what he needs. I won't be in his entourage or anyone else's.

The Painful Truth said...

Bob,

Now that is so very interesting how you came back to Christianity after decades on the lam. I have always wanted you to explain how you reached this point. I thank you for that.

I might add to others here that I have admired the way Bob has dealt with others who do not share his views. The man has been gracious and kind in the face of some very harsh criticism.

With that said, I have one pressing question for you at the moment. We all have read of the Christ Myth. The virgin birth, the death and resurrection. Have you ever thought that the God you proclaim may just be a deity that differs with those mentioned in the bible?

Ralph said...

PT, I may be the strange duck of all of you. I believe in God, but i know from biblical teaching that it is impossible to freely choose to become "christian' in the sense that Paul writes of it.

I laugh at all christian organizations, but not at sincere individuals. And believe it or not, I don't laugh at athesists. I see the logic in their thoughts.

Generally, some well meaning christian will come along and talk to me energetically, and invite me to church. They may come back several times, and then I might say "Okay. What time shoud I be there to preach the sermon?"

"Huh?"

"When do you want me to preach the sermon?"

Uh...uh...what do you mean?"

"If I walk into any group, the first thing I want people to know is who I am, what I believe, and that I intend to put my two cents worth in wherever I go. I don't follow any leaders, and I recognize no human authority, and that includes preachers".

Years ago, after I left the WCG, I was asked to attend the church where my father's family had attended. Since my ancestors were buried there, and my great grandparents had dedicated the property to the church, I agreed to come for a few Sundays.

I was asked to speak at a Baptist Training Union(BTU) meeting that Sunday night, and I agreed.

WEverythig was fine, until I started talking about the effects of inflation on the morals of society, and then demonstrated that Jesus was not in favor of taxes. The minister kept interrupting me to put in a few points, and I finally said "Preacher, do I interrupt you when you're giving your sermon?"

"No, you don't".

"Then shut up" I finished my speech to a shocked congregation. After that, people started keeping their distance, which suited me fine.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Ralph, that account gave me a real chuckle. I admire your spunk and guts and the ingeniousness of your approach.

Ralph said...

Thanks Allen. Along the same lines, when Tkach the younger started his takeover, my best friend in the church, now married with several children of his own, was going through an agonizing decision as to whether he should stay or go.

For thirty years, I had been anathema to him and the church, and now he wanted a "damned" man's opinion.

I said, "All churches and religious organizations are wrong. Doesn't matter what they believe."

"Yeah, but the bible tells us not to judge".

"It says don't judge people. I can't judge you. I don't know what God thinks of you, or if there is a God. I can't judge you, but God doesn't make church organizations, men do, and I can certainly judge them based on their history".

I then told him a fable passed on to me, attributed to a discredited psychologist whose name now escapes me for some reason.

As the story goes, Satan sat in hell one day, surveying his conquests, when a demon ran up to him, all excited.

"What's the matter?" asked Satan.
"Master!" said the demon, "Someone on earth has learned the truth! The real truth!".

"Oh, that" said Satan, "Don't worry. Pretty soon he'll start organizing people, and we'll have him again!"

When I told my friend this story, a look of understanding came into his eyes.

Ralph said...

Wilhelm Reich. That was the psychologist's name. The minute I clicked "publish", the name came to me.

Neotherm said...

I started posting to this blog only a couple of weeks ago. There is something that really bothers me about it. It is the fact that photos of GTA and HWA "adorn" the banner. I find that disturbing obnoxious and everytime I see it.

-- Neo

The Painful Truth said...

Neotherm said...

I started posting to this blog only a couple of weeks ago. There is something that really bothers me about it. It is the fact that photos of GTA and HWA "adorn" the banner. I find that disturbing obnoxious and everytime I see it.
***********************************
Then design me a new banner.

If the pictures of two religious charlatans really bothers you to the point that it is causing you emotional issues, perhaps you should stay away from this blog?

Allen C. Dexter said...

I am not put off by the visages of the founders of this cult. That's what the site is all about, and we need to keep that firmly in mind. Yes, they were reprhensible characters, but I'm not so filled with hate and loathing that seeing their visages again puts me off.

Neotherm said...

PT:

I have no alternate banner and what you have is appropriate. And I have no sense of hatred and loathing. Its just kind of creepy in a mild way.

-- Neo

Allen C. Dexter said...

Neo, I agree with the creepy part. Our pasts are loaded with stuff that affects us in many ways.

Ralph said...

People used to tell me GTA resembled me. I figure anyody almost as handsome as me can't be all bad.

Speaking of weird pasts, I own the movie "Shadowlands" starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, which is about C.S.Lewis and his love affair with an American woman who died of cancer.

I thoroughly enjoyed that movie, but I kept thinking about Hopkins' tremendous role as Hannibal Lecter, "Hannibal the Cannibal", which he had just played prior to that movie.

Grest scene at the end, where the woman dies, and Hopkins/Lewis is talking to her little boy. The boy asks if Lewis believes in God, and Lewis answers "Yes". The boy says he doesn't believe, and Lewis says, "That's okay".

A wonderful, touching moment of faith tested.

The Painful Truth said...

Neo,

The Armstrong's have no power over you. They are what Hitler was to the Jews. Once they are out of power we never give them that power over us again.

The idea of the graphic is to relate and attract those who can identify with the man, his son and the horror(s) of being a member of an heavy-handed oppressive mind control cult.

I cringe from time to time also when I sign on here. I do understand your plight, but consider what I am trying to do here.

Neo said...

PT:

On a similar topic, when I was at Big Sandy, I would experience anxiety every time I went to church services at the Field House. I thought I was probably fairly alone in this. Then I spoke with a prominent minister and faculty member and he said he experienced something similar. He had been humiliated by various faculty members when he was a student. He said everytime he walked past the classrooms where it happened, he would have an anxiety reaction.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

BB, you mention a "special calling", or perhaps worrying about a special calling. I don't really think you can avoid such a calling if it actually happened.

But at the same time, I don't think it would be anything you considered and decided on as a matter of choice, like becoming a minister, or anything that might actually reflect your own decision.

Am I saying there's no free will? Of course there's free will. We can choose to "serve God" any way we wish, and the result is now over 38,000 versions of such choices.

And yet, whatever choices we make "for" or "against" God or the idea of God, those choices cannot help but continue to splinter and speciate into infinity.

So, in any sense of a "higher truth", whatever we choose ends in a tautology: we chose it because we chose it. It suited us, it made us feel some kind of meaning in whatever sense, and eased us through life.

But that would be equally true fro atheists, agnostics, and christians, or zen buddhists, or whatever.

So, if there is an omniscient God, then one would have to conclude that the above description of splintering/speciation into ever more varieties of individual thoughts would have to be the will of that God, or that such splintering is eivedence of no God at all.

But here is the most interesting thing: no matter which choice you make, the result will still be the same.

Anonymous said...

Special calling?

The following quote applies, particularly given the overwhelming christian bias of BB.

"Personal spiritual experiences, no matter how intense or real they seem, are a terrible argument for religion. The human brain can produce vivid experiences that aren't real, and our minds are fallible, subject to many cognitive errors -- including the strong tendency to believe what we already believe or what we dearly want to believe."

Greta Christina

BB is back to believing what he dearly wants to believe. No news in that.

Byker Bob said...

James,

When I first began praying again, I actually addressed whatever force was in control of the universe for the first couple of days. But, then my revulsion for the Bible was replaced with an extreme desire to read it. I realized that the overall tone of the book is to promote many of the higher ideals which all advanced civilizations share.

I also began to go back and check out some of the "evidence" which has been bantered about on some of these blogs and forums about the so-called evil of the God of the Old Testament. In considering incident after incident, Father God was totally justified in all of the things which He is alleged to have done. There is an incredible record of justice and faithfulness to the humans who trusted Him.

Part of belief is occasional doubt. It is almost the flip side of the same coin. I have to admit that sometimes militant atheists and current Armstrongites cause me to have momentary doubts. But, God gets me through them. I really don't doubt that He is who scripture says he is. The theories about some "demiurge" has never made any sense at all to me, because there is a highly detectable thread of basic goodness on planet Earth.

BB

Byker Bob said...

Neo,

I'm glad you enjoyed the experiences which I shared. Usually, positive spiritual experiences will be encouraging to other believers, and people with whom God is working, but certainly there are others who would find no value in reading what I shared.

I've heard much about C.S. Lewis, and plan to read up on him in the near future. One other former atheist who makes great sense is Gary Amirault. I saw him on the old "Faith Under Fire" TV program while I was yet a non-believer. He had commented that he's met many people who thought they were angry with God. They were not angry with the real God, just with the monster that some preachers had created to beat their congregations into submission. His remark had quite an aura of familiarity and authenticity, and prompted me to ask myself many really pointed questions.

BB

Byker Bob said...

Anonymous 8:37, no, I really did not want to believe in God. In fact, I always valued my own independence, and realized that if suddenly I did believe in God, there may be some obligations, or things He required of me. I had deliberately steered my son away from God and Jesus when he came home with questions that were prompted by his conversations with some of his classmates. My last wife was Christian when I first started dating her, and to my everlasting shame, I talked her out of it.

God knocks on peoples' figurative doors in many ways, and often over and over and over again. People become Christian through a wide variety of experiences, one of which we call a "road to Damascas" experience. That would be me, only in this case, parts of my experience had me riding an old Shovelhead on the road to Lake Pleasant in the middle of some mighty hot summer nights.

I really needed to correct your misconception of my past attitudes because you were so far off base. But, think as you need to. As April guest editor it's my job to present, and y'all's job to process.

BB

Ralph said...

I generally try to convince everyone not to be christian at all. I also try to convince them not to join any religion, and I believe in God.

When I left the WCG, I began studying into Skinner's theories on Operant Behaviorism. B.F. Skinner wrote a controversial book called "Beyond Freedom And Dignity", and pointed out that proper manipulation of the environment could produce any collective behavior at all.

Skinner quoted Jefferson's statement that "that government governs best which governs least", but then he added that this is true only if there are contingencies in the environment that tend to ensure lawful behavior.

This led me into freedom and determinism, and to William James's statement that if God is all knowing, we are not free, since he already knows our choices and the outcome of those choices in advance.

I was just about to conclude there could not be a God when my dad showed me Romans 8:29-30, which in fact does say that God does indeed possess knowledge of his children, who they are, and has predestined and foreknown them.

I quickly rejected that idea. "No, dad, that can't be so. We have free will".

My dad shrugged and said "That's what it says".

Of course there are arguments that seek to get around the idea. One person pointed out that foreknowledge does not eliminate free will. He gave me an example: suppose you know there is an apple hanging from a limb outside your window, and you know for a fact that tomorrow at 2:15 PM, the apple will fall from the tree. At exactly the time you knew it would, the apple dropped from the tree. But you did not control the apple's actions. You merely knew it would fall, and foreknowledge cannot limit freedom.

I pointed out to this person that such a concept would be true in specific instances for humans, but with God, we're talking about an individual who not only has perfect knowledge of everything, but allegedly created it to be exactly that way. In fact, with perfect knowledge, it could not have acted otherwise. In that case, foreknowledge eliminates free will.

But you see, that's exactly what Paul says, so there's no freewill choice involved. You can't talk someone out of that which God already knows to be so. BB, if you talked your girlfriend out of becoming christian, God already knew it would happen. God already knew in advance you would change your mind about your belief. God already knew what I would believe, or James, or Corky, or whoever. Even Hitler merely did God's will.

But that's consistent with Isaiah 45:7. The only "free will" you could possibly have, with an omniscient God, is to choose not to follow the ideas of other men. But even that would already be known in advance.

Logically, philosophically, the idea of christianity and free will choice simply cannot stand.

Purple Hymnal said...

"I always felt like I was a member of an "underground." I would encounter others who had the same clandestine view of a pathological church that I had."

This statement makes me curious, Neo, I hope you don't mind if I ask you about it? I can tell you that you were not alone, as I knew many who lived "clandestine" or double lives, while still being members in good standing of the congregation.

I have always, personally, viewed these people as hypocrites. I'm certainly NOT implying that you ever were, or are, one (You're not an evangelical, that's bonus points for you right there!) :-) but that is the sense I got from those "liberals" my family associated with.

Even, to a degree, my family itself. Although there were many other dysfunctional dynamics at play there as well; the church was, pretty much, just the icing on the cake, I've come to realize.

Having one parent in and one parent out, did tend to lead to a lot of tug-of-war, and the "converted" parent being more lax than might have been their wont, had both of my parents been in.

Too, I was often placed in the position of being the responsible adult (even as a child) of the family, and as a result, I studied and understood the church literature, far better than either of my parents, as I recounted back to them the nitty-gritty details of what they needed to know, after each reading. So, I was much more indoctrinated, than either of my parents were.

I took notes during services from an early age, not copious ones at first, and my doodling skills were and are legendary, but before the changes were hinted at, I was taking a LOT more notes, and not just verbatim of what the minister was saying, but notes of what he was saying, as well as notes of how they related with the WCG worldview, and any other supporting scriptures I might have remembered.

That's not to say I did this a *lot*, but I was starting to, right before the changes hit. I had even requested baptism (but was turned down because I had to wait till Kingdom Come to be "healed"), but then the changes hit, and everything went pear-shaped.

Funnily enough, those who I regarded in the church as hypocrites, were right onboard with the changes, all gung-ho and singing the praises of being "transformed by the truth". I abhor that kind of hypocrisy, and I believed fully in the WCG and all of its teaching, prior to the changes; when the changes were enforced, the church became null and void, and so did my reasons for attending it.

Which is a long and rambling explanation of my position, that I hope will expiate any offensiveness of the question I'm going to ask you, Neo:

If you really felt there was no truth in all the church's teachings (as that was the requirement), how could you, in all good conscience, bring yourself to stay?

I really am curious about that. Because, if I had had any inkling (or had opened my mind to the various warnings I was receiving about the church) that even one of the church's teachings was, in any way, false---I would have been gone like a shot.

As a matter of fact, that's pretty much what happened. I abhor hypocrisy, and I will NOT be a hypocrite. So I left all religion behind, because all religions are false. Belief turned to agnosticism, and agnosticism turned to atheism, which morphed to non-theism, with (now) a dash of Gnosticism and non-Christian Quakerism on the side.

I can't commit fully to either one of those groups, however, because the hypocrites of the "believers" therein (in both cases who treated quite badly for calling them out on their hypocrisy -- by their fruits, etc.) quite literally drove me away. Especially since I don't have unquestioning faith in either approach. Or ANY approach, these days.

But how could you disagree with the church's teachings, and still be a member?? I just don't get it....

Purple Hymnal said...

"But, then my revulsion for the Bible was replaced with an extreme desire to read it."

Actually, I had a similar experience, WRT the Christian canonical texts; however, instead of Christianity being the impetus, reading the narrative as narrative (i.e., myth) is what drew me back into it, and abolished that feeling of sick dread I used to experience, every time I read a Bible verse, and automatically remembered what it "really" meant.

They (bible stories) only "really" mean whatever you take from them. For some, that is an anthropomorphic deity or deities or triety, that personally influences their lives; for others, it's an interesting look into the lives and minds of the mystics of the Ancient Middle East; for others, they're simply cracking good three-thousand-year-old creation-myths (but I've had a thing for First Nations and other aboriginal legends since I was really young, as well).

Reality, historicity, or literalism of the texts, is not an imperative for me, when I read them. And thus I have found myself freed, from all of the dread, terror, and confusion, they once engendered in me, and I find myself able to truly read the texts on their own merits.

That's been my experience, at any rate. Hope no one minds my posting an alternate experience, in re: the Biblical texts, to Bob's. And, that said, I don't read the canonical texts all that often; the Gnostic gospels and texts speak far more to my condition, than the canonized texts do.

Purple Hymnal said...

"In considering incident after incident, Father God was totally justified in all of the things which He is alleged to have done."

It's unfortunate you've drank the Kool-Aid of this particularly virulent anti-Semitic brew that professing Christianity serves up, Bob; having read both an English translation of the Tanakh, and being well-versed with the Old Testament god of the Christians, thanks to Basil Wolverton's Bible Story, I can qualitatively say, the wrathful, vengeful, mean-spirited god of the Old Testament is purely an invention of its Christian translators.

"He" is nowhere to be found, in the original texts, but sadly, since the Christians still fall prey to the heresy that "the Jews killed Jesus", I fear the underlying, pernicious anti-Semitism in the movement, will never be fully expunged.

Question everything. Especially your own assumptions, and how they may appear to others. That's my only advice.

Purple Hymnal said...

"...there is a highly detectable thread of basic goodness on planet Earth."

Again, we are in agreement, but at counter-points...there is a highly detectable thread of basic goodness on my planet Earth as well; but it neither requires nor utilizes the Christian religion, to exemplify that goodness.

"You can be good without God", as the bus ads say....At least, that has been my experience, and the experience of many other atheists.

The way I look at it, if you NEED religion to absolutely define for you, the very basics of right from wrong? You're a functional sociopath. Atheists are NOT amoral by virtue of their non-belief, and that is one "preaching point" of the believers that really does stick in my craw.

Purple Hymnal said...

"I've heard much about C.S. Lewis, and plan to read up on him in the near future."

Lewis' The Screwtape Letters is hilarious. Much better than anything else he's written, IMO. (And I say this having read bits and pieces of the Narnia books, over the years.)

Neotherm said...

Purple Hymnal:

I was not a hypocrite. But I was a heretic. I aligned with the Armstrongist theology - believed it wholehearedly. I was at odds with the WCG because I saw so much unloving behavior. I saw ambitous people preoccupied with self-promotion and having a willingness to harm others to achieve their goals. I felt that these people had abandoned the truth which I unfortunately believed was the truth as revealed by HWA. It is just that in my own personal rendition of the truth, love was important.

-- Neo

Neotherm said...

"Personal spiritual experiences, no matter how intense or real they seem, are a terrible argument for religion. The human brain can produce vivid experiences that aren't real, and our minds are fallible, subject to many cognitive errors -- including the strong tendency to believe what we already believe or what we dearly want to believe."

I am not sure where this quote came from. It reads like something a secular psychiatrist might write. The problems with this statement include:

1) The writer assumes that he understands the origin and nature of all personal spiritual experiences.

2) The writer further assumes that since the human brain can produce a certain class of similar experiences, by some criteria, that this invalidates all personal spiritual experiences.

Both propositions are unproveable.

The strategy of most arguments of this type is to pull you into the material realm in your thinking entirely. Once you decide to fight on the material turf, you may be easily discomfited with a torrent of scientific observation.
All such observation has no real invalidating power over your spiritual beliefs. I believe an honest scientist would object to having his empirical findings used to wage war against what is in the realm of faith.

-- Neo

Purple Hymnal said...

"I was not a hypocrite. But I was a heretic. I aligned with the Armstrongist theology - believed it wholehearedly. I was at odds with the WCG because I saw so much unloving behavior."

Ah, thanks, that clears it up. I thought you meant you didn't agree with "god's laws" or something. :-)

As for "unloving behaviour", that is one of the hallmarks of a closed high-demand group, after all....

"I believe an honest scientist would object to having his empirical findings used to wage war against what is in the realm of faith."

Depends what kind of effects said "realm of faith" is having; "Holy Roman Empire", for example?!

Ralph said...

Neo, you state some very good points. All truth is not subject to expression in language, which means it cannot be subject to expression of law which all people are to obey.

Or, the natural mind is enmity against God and cannot be subject to God's laws. By your statements, what is known then as "spiritual" would be subject to virtually infinite variation. The attempt to decipher ANY law, much less "God's Law", would result in the analogue to Godel's theorem. The harder you try to define it, the more undecidable propositions you end up with.

This translated basically into Church's theorem as well as the Church-Turing thesis. If the human mind could be subject to "God's laws", it becomes subject to language, which further means it is subject to algorithms and programming, which pretty much eliminates any need for human life.

Consequently, "sin" as the violation of law, is unavoidable. By the same token however, one cannot simply decide to overcome it by any legal process, whether by church organization or state organization. Such attempts merely increase confusion, not to mention the elimination of human freedom of experimentation and learning.

So, we end up with Purple's statement that you can't get "there" from "here".

That would be a cancellation of all human authority, from "Holy Roman Empire" to any government authority. Humans are more than their creations, as we see plainly from Isaiah 29:16:
"Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it,'Ye made me not?(Like the US Constitution, perhaps?) Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, he had no understanding?"

The principle is clearly outlined that law is given to humans for the purpose of learning how to govern themselves.

These rights and freedoms are clearly outlined and passed down from Old testament to New, and include presumption of innocence(Isaiah 54:17) Right to face your accuser(Isaiah 50:8), requirement of two witnesses(Deu, 19:15) protection against perjury(Deut19:19).

Protection of proerty owners against foreclosure(Deut 24:10-13)
protection against collective control of property by vote(Micah 2:5).
Protection against usury laws and monetary system based on intetrest(Nehemiah 5 and many other sections)

Trial by jury(1 Cor 6) settlement out of court(Matthew 5:25, 18:15-18).Right against "corruption of blood" or Bill of Attainder(Deu 24:16-17.

All these rights are included in common law, and common law is called "due process" in our constitution. No person may be derpived of life, liberty, or property without it(5th and 14th amendments).

No Holy Roman Empire included, no religion of Constantine, just the right of individuals to ensure their own innocence.

Bill of Attainder, protection against punishment by death withiout due process? That was taken by Constantine and turned into a pagan ritual that glorified the power of the state. The right against Bill of Attainder or "pains and penalties' was guaranteed for anyone who chose it by the death of you-know-who, the one who was denied due process of law and paid the penalty for it.

It's about LAW and freedom under law, folks.

Byker Bob said...

Ralph,

Fortunately, when I shared my change of heart with my ex-wife, she was very forgiving. Basically, she stated that she wished I'd come around to all of that while we were still married. I don't know whether she ever got around to reading Bob George's "Classic Christianity" or not, as I'd recommended, but she does frequently forward to me Christian email that her friends and family send her. I think she's going to be OK in spite of my past bad influence on her.

BB

Anonymous said...

neo said:

"I am not sure where this quote came from. It reads like something a secular psychiatrist might write. The problems with this statement include:

1) The writer assumes that he understands the origin and nature of all personal spiritual experiences.

2) The writer further assumes that since the human brain can produce a certain class of similar experiences, by some criteria, that this invalidates all personal spiritual experiences.

Both propositions are unproveable."

The original quote doesn't make the propositions you are claiming. The original quote doesn't say such experiences are invalid, it says they are a "terrible excuse for religion"...

BB is a classic example of this. He has a personal mystical experience and suddenly he is attached to an ancient religion and justifies a ghastly old testament misogynistic god as a loving father figure.

Byker Bob said...

Anon 3:16: While I might use different phraseology to express the sentiments in your last paragraph, essentially you are correct! And, I praise God for that! It's just awesome!

BB

Purple Hymnal said...

You "praise god" for being anti-Semitic Bob?

Funny, we used to do exactly the same thing in the church, didn't we?

Ralph said...

How do you get anti-semitic? HWA offshoots are about as pro-Zionist as it gets. Even most evangelicals want Israel to kick some Iranian ass.

Anonymous said...

BB says: "And, I praise God for that! It's just awesome!".

You are absolutely right Bob, you are THE man!

Purple Hymnal said...

"How do you get anti-semitic?"

"...the so-called evil of the God of the Old Testament. In considering incident after incident, Father God was totally justified in all of the things which He is alleged to have done."

Meaning the stonings, the thirty pieces of silver for a woman who was raped, the dashing of infants' brains against the rocks, the multiple punishments of "the Israelites" for "disobeying God's Laws", etcetera. (Found only in the Christian Old Testament, existing nowhere in the Judaic Tanakh, BTW.)

This is due to the central Christian misconception that "the Jews killed Jesus".

As Herbie would say, "Read your BIBLE!"

Silly Christians. The Romans "killed" your dying-rising-sungod...they did it for millennia before 1CE, and they have continued to do it every year at Easter thereafter, for three thousand years. And so do modern mainstream professing Christians.

They really, really, REALLY do. Have you read what the Christian Easter entails?!? It IS a Solstice observance, whether Bob wants to admit that, or not. The more theologically honest Christians do, at least.

The Christian institutions that hold fast to such observances, however, are NOT theologically honest enough to admit this. Which is why they, too, are slowly dying off. But not nearly slowly enough! Although I suppose once the Holy Roman Empire falls, for once and for all, the others will come crashing down like dominoes...we can only hope.

Ralph said...

Your arguments seem to me a given. We knew that long before we left the WCG. Easter, Christmas, etc, is pagan.

However, in more modern times, we see that the WCG was intensely pro-Jewish and Zionist, as are many of the usual gang og christian idiots.

While BB might have some wrong conclusions, I don't think he confuses hs beliefs with the old notions of Easter and Christmas and all the Mithra garbage.

But, had we simply accepted Romans 8:29-30 at face value, and Matthew 24:23 for what it actually said, we wouldn't have to follow any religions at all.

Even in the old WCG, we knew that christianity in general was bullshit. The problem is that we gave Herbie the 'default' position. If the rest were all wrong, then by God, herbie must be right!

Who's to blame for that? Well, God. After all, he did say he created evil, and he did claim to deliberaltey blind people.

I mean, it's not like we weren't told.

Byker Bob said...

Purple,

No, I don't praise God for being either anti-semitic, or mysogynistic. Remember, in my response, I indicated that my choice of words would be different from anonymous's terminology. I believe those words represent two of perhaps numerous possible mischaracterizations, but, believe me, I fully understand how a person might reach that conclusion.

I see God as being the original ecologist, with everything that He created being an integral, functioning component, with specific purpose and place. In some cases, those roles appear to be highly adaptable. It seems ludicrous, and anthropomorphic to call Him names based on some of the roles which were once part of a logical progression. Our opinions on some of these issues are highly influenced by what seems to be understood in and by civilization as we know it today.

An intelligent God would not have intended for His creation to be "static". He would have made it to be dynamic, maleable, and responsive. Events recorded in the Bible are simply a snapshot of time.

When I left WCG, I was totally convinced that God had not been part of that organization, yet they had really laid it on thick about other organizations being false churches, insincere, etc. So, at the time, although I'd briefly considered keeping the core doctrines privately, and possibly sending my tithes to Billy Graham, I ended up totally walking away from the spiritual component to life.

Then, either consciously or unconsciously, I began erecting these huge walls, or barriers to the whole God thingy, and I also ended up investigating a series of dead-end trails to the maze in which we humans appear captive, and (surprise!)they went nowhere.

One thing I did not do. I did not read books on objectivism, atheism, or agnosticism as some here have. To me, that would have made unbelief into yet another religious system, and I was too deadset against "religion" (collective thinking)to even do that. From my perspective now, I believe that based on my negative experience with WCG, I indulged in the moral equivalent of "proof texting", in seeking and filtering information which would tend to rule out God. And, over time, I built a very formidable wall.

One event was very thought provoking, though. Right here on the old PT Forum, one of the most staunch atheists created a post acknowledging that the human brain was hardwired to need to believe in many of the concepts embodied by God. Other atheists agreed. Most of them, however, felt as if they were an exception to this generalization.

Much later, when I began to read on the topic of NDE's, the opinion of one of the researchers was that human brain chemistry, or the ways in which nerve impulses are transmitted actually become altered by an NDE experience. These experiences occur in the right temporal lobe of the brain, the center acknowledged as the area in which mystical experiences are processed. It is my own personal theory that the right temporal lobe of Christians is different from that of non-believers, and that only God (or occasionally injury or trauma) can alter that lobe. Once changed, it makes all the difference in the world as to whether we are perceptive of, and receptive towards God.

BB

Allen C. Dexter said...

BB, I've never had an NDE or a serious head trauma, so as far as I know, there has been no alteration in my temporal lobes. Yet, I see things totally differently now than I used to see them. To me, it's a matter of reason and logic based on experience.

Your reason and logic has led you back to something you call God. I doubt it bears any real relationship to what you used to believe.

As an agnostic, I'm just not sure but don't denounce those who are, whether it's positive or negative where a god is concerned.

If there is a god of some sort, I'm quite certain that entity or force is not going to condemn me for using the mind I have to come to the conclusions I have come to in all honesty and humility.

Those with positions and incomes to guard have to resort to the fear of punishment to keep their drones from thinking and deserting the hive, leaving the "queen bee" to starve and the hive to die out. I think that's what we've been witnessing in the disintegration of the old WCG. As people realize it was all a big bag of hot air, their fear evaporates and as we used to say in the Midwest, "down comes the shanty."

Purple Hymnal said...

"However, in more modern times, we see that the WCG was intensely pro-Jewish and Zionist,"

No, Ralph, we thought we were Jewish, thanks to our White Supremacy (otherwise known as British-Israelism) mis-beliefs.

Bit of a difference there, but it makes all the difference in the world. The church was anti-Semitic to the extreme, and if not for our pacifism, we would have been the first Christian Militia group to arrive on the scene; as it is, British-Israelism (even though it did not start with the church, it was popularized by Armstrong) did inspire all the Christian Militia groups that came after the church was no more.

Purple Hymnal said...

"I believe those words represent two of perhaps numerous possible mischaracterizations, but, believe me, I fully understand how a person might reach that conclusion."

So why use those words at all? I also note, no one has commented about the diversity of other religions that DO exist on this Earth; you can't just hand-wave them away, or pretend they don't exist, just because they're not Christian; those people are believers in the superstitious too (even though I, personally, am not), and if the Christians demand a hearing for their superstitions, other religions deserve a hearing as well, for the very same reason.

Why is it that Christians choose to differ on this, can anyone tell me?

"Who's to blame for that? Well, God. After all, he did say he created evil, and he did claim to deliberaltey blind people."

I partially agree with this, Ralph; the gods that men create for themselves do deliberately blind them...but that's because of the creators' (men) own subconscious minds, not because of some extra-natural entity, in my opinion.

"One event was very thought provoking, though. Right here on the old PT Forum, one of the most staunch atheists created a post acknowledging that the human brain was hardwired to need to believe in many of the concepts embodied by God. Other atheists agreed."

I agree with this too.

"Most of them, however, felt as if they were an exception to this generalization."

Here's where the other atheists and I disagree; but as I have discussed my own forays into gnosticism at length, I won't belabour them again; suffice it to say, while I can access what appears to be "the god part of the brain" while meditating, in no way do I take this as objective proof that any of that experience exists outside of my own brain.

And, if more believers were honest with themselves and others, and not so tied with the idea of required blind faith, they would admit the same. Referring to your own canonically "sacred" texts, the "fruits" of blind faith are plain for ALL to see, and have never been, and will never be, good ones. If we differ on that point, so be it.

"It is my own personal theory that the right temporal lobe of Christians is different from that of non-believers"

Your own personal theory is completely refuted by all we know of neuroscience today, Bob, as well as refuted by my own subjective experiences --- if the right temporal lobe of Christians (Or even the believers in other religions --- you keep conveniently ignoring them, even though I keep bringing them up repeatedly, why is that?), were altered or different, neurosurgeons and scientists would have seen this plainly, from the time the first MRIs were being done.

Unfortunately for your own personal theory, that just isn't the case, Bob; we all have the same right temporal lobes in our brains, and those who don't, often have significant genetic disorders that affect the rest of their bodies as well, and quite noticeably so. (Trisomy 13, for instance, or Prader-Willi Syndrome, to name two off the top of my head.)

Trust me, if your right temporal lobe was in any way significantly altered, there would be clearly recognizable physical effects throughout the rest of your body that would be physically visible; and we wouldn't have to sit here having this back-and-forth about "does god exist outside our own heads" at all.

The brain and body are connected, regardless of how "natural" it feels to intuit that they are separate things. They are not. Neither is the god syndrome separate, from the brain and the body. Sophia (Wisdom) -> Christos -> (Knowledge) -> Logos -> (Language). That's my version of "the trinity", non-(professing)Christian though it may be.

That's my take on it, anyway.

Ralph said...

Anti-Semitism must have developed after I left(1974). I only experienced strong support for the nation of Israel.

There does seem to be an offshoot of British Israelism appearing in the studies of Jefferson's thoughts when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. He was very supportive of the legal system of the Anglo Saxons prior to
Willioam the Conqueror in 1066.

A study of Blackstone indicates this same prejudice toward the legal system prior to the Norman invasion.

But Jefferson saw in the Anglo Saxon influence a reflection of the Old Testament legal system of israel as they wandered in the desert, with their captains of fifties, etc.

For Jefferson, the blend of Anglo Saxon courts with Isralite laws was the perfect combination.

Also, Magna Carta was seen as a return to those principles by the Puritans, in their "Hebraization" of Magna Carta and the New Testament. While Magna Carta had only been intended for the equality of the Barons, the Puritans made it to be a representative of every person, rich and poor, and associated it with Jesus' concept of justice here and now.

This strain of British-Israelism has woven itself in right from the very beginning.

Byker Bob said...

Re: diversity and other, non-Christian religions:

Just in looking around us, and the religions extant today, one general category of religions, Christianity, is distinctly unique.
Christianity claims that God came to earth, in the human form of Yeshua Messiah, or Jesus Christ, lived amongst us, a perfect life, then died as a sacrifice to pay mankind's sin debt. Further, this facillitates a relationship with Father God, and guidance and help from their Holy Spirit.

If each of us, as an individual, believes that we are imperfect, and that we've done things to hurt ourselves or others (let alone sinning against God), that is going to produce both guilt and pain. So, unless one is a total sociopath, one might assume that one would need to deal with, or get rid of this guilt in some way.

In the past, I've had friends who were Buddhist, Scientologists, Muslim, Wiccan, or practicing the beliefs of Native Americans. Their beliefs often fascinated me, but to me they were wanting for a greater concept. Buddha did not die for man's sins, although he was a great teacher. L. Ron Hubbard was not God in the flesh. None of these systems has anything that even remotely rivals our Holy Bible.

Certainly, I'd be one of the last to trash the sincerity of people who were deep and sincere believers in many of these alternative systems, or philosophies, but for me personally, there is no way they can take me where I need to be. They are simply not a viable alternative for me. Sometimes there are partial principles we can borrow from them, such as meditation, but they simply don't have the total package offered by Jesus Christ.

BB