By Ben Marconi ~
I occasionally miss my imaginary god and best friend Jesus, even 18 years after realizing there probably is no God, especially not any of the surviving desert-folk gods: Jehovah, Allah, Jesus. Of course, these gods do exist in one huge sense—as a construct in millions of human minds. Probably there does exist something like a “god-shaped hole” in the heart that only a god can fill. Novels, movies, gadgets—after creative type people imagine a useful concept, do they not naturally try to make it SO—on paper, on film, in a factory? Seems the Personal Savior-type Jesus has especially evolved to be able to adapt nicely to almost any kind of person. Notice how uncannily some Democrats sport a blue-leaning Jesus while Republicans own a red-leaning Jesus? Then just imagine a Jesus so personally involved that he talks back to us, telepathically through His Friendly Ghost. Therefore, to dismiss and renounce one’s own faith can practically amount to renouncing one’s own brain and identity, since our own mind is partly responsible for whatever god we naturally assisted to construct, understand, love, and obey.
All the hardcore Christian fundamentalists I know (and I as one from 1978-2000) came to Jesus due to some kind of crisis, especially a so-called spiritual crisis—one where faith in Jesus does resolve or dissolve some kinds of pain, and ushers a new spiritual attitude, a new motivation to please the God: the New Birth. But regardless how seriously and how full of grace and faith the converted do live, and regardless for how many years the born-again do cultivate their love for God; belief in the unbelievable, credence for the incredible, and supposed knowledge of the unknown is not sustainable in every kind of observant human. Turns out my original, vaginal birth was sufficient. Most Christians believe that no good, legitimate reason for disbelief should exist, and they may claim that an ex-believer never had truly-enough, deeply-enough believed in the first place. Thus, believers (at least evangelical types) are saved from having to think too deeply concerning those poor ex-believers’ testimonies and accounts of their experiences. Jesus teaches the same in his “faulty soil” parable: Mark 4:13-19. The God’s thwarted intentions are never the God’s fault. (Christian God does not have admitted faults, but sometimes regrets, indeed. Genesis 6:6.)
A few believers really do obey the words of Jesus where he implores, (paraphrase) “Do not think about your future well-being any more than the sparrows do worry about finding food. Doesn’t Heavenly Father provide sustenance for the birds every day?” (Mat. 6:25-35.) This and other scripture implies that Father God has a fine plan for everyone’s life that will fit the way He created each. So, seek the higher things concerning God’s work—do not descend toward human ambition. The sainted Paul even taught that unmarried believers ought not to aspire to marriage; that is, if they can handle the idea without becoming too distracted. (1 Cor. 7: 8, 20, 27.) Some believers (as I was) go along with such teachings, even while supposing we did or do possess otherwise normal IQ!
It matters little to a Bible literalist that some doctrine may seem extreme. To true believers, there is no such thing as too-extreme belief; rather the concern is for correct belief. Therefore, faith and obedience toward the most plain meaning of scripture (or alternately, the most studied and accepted meaning, or alternately, a divinely-revealed meaning, pick one or more) is what good Protestant/Evangelical/Pentecostals are supposed to do, or at least are supposed to desire. But if you “do well” concerning only the above New Testament teaching, (to not worry and trust the God for all things) then you may be a fine candidate to arrive as I did, at age 40, quite the weirdo, finding fulfillment from imagining the reward to be had in the next life, beholding the awesome god. So although fundamentalists may end up abnormal and maladjusted according to the secular world, this outcome can be the natural, even expected price for really believing sacred texts. What counts to the believer is what the god thinks, and not how (or even if) life unfolds on this earth: mental and physical health being relatively unimportant compared with the glory of having a good relationship with the God.
Through the centuries, the credentialed religious class did in fact exaggerate, embellish, forge, miscopy, lose, and find again some of the texts that we receive today as the inerrant (yet translated) Word of God. Common-folk believers had to repeat assumptions handed to them by clergy and authorities, especially before the printing press. After learning about too many documented cases of holy chicanery and plain human carelessness affecting supposedly inerrant scripture, I had to fire my own Loving-God-Terrorist; the book was no longer credible. Around the same time, I also had to admit that my personal experiences amounted to religious reinterpretations of normal, natural experiences. For example, the fact that I sometimes became healthy again after receiving prayer when sick originally indicated to me that God’s promises were valid, but eventually meant that I had instead joined the same observable healing rate of people who do not receive prayer, yet do become well again.
All the pop deities described in sacred texts (Jehovah, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, others) amount to a lineage of assumptions, at times even hoaxes in some writers’ hands. None of the above gods noticeably do or show up for anything detectably divine. Yet all of them acquire divinity after enough collective repetition of beliefs—beliefs based upon (often strange) claimed evidence, but not possessing the essential element for deciding truth, or even tentative, incremental truth—that which is demonstrable, rather than that which is claimed. For many hardcore Christians, there is no practical difference between the two concepts, because what their Bible says IS their evidence, no other verification necessary. Psalm 14:1, “A fool saith there is no God…” Therefore, why give much thought to anything such a fool might say compared with what a god hath said?
To true believers, there is no such thing as too-extreme belief; rather the concern is for correct belief.Some ex-Christians, the kind who had been wholly invested in their Jesus, are not able to shake off some vestiges of faith after they realize their faith was misguided. I had assumed the process of disbelieving could (for me) take a year of progressive adjustment, but not a decade (as it did turn out.) Seems the brain preserves some neuron pathways fired up so often across 22 years of faith/delusion, and this not even counting my Catholic-oriented childhood. No, I’ve not been tempted to become a believer again, from 2000 to the present. But, to unlearn, to repave one’s own mind, to overhaul what good, human, and healthy ought to mean, and then to adjust behavior accordingly—such requires diligence exceeding the effort that maintaining the one true faith had been yesteryear. That aspect is probably not understood by ex-believers who never really risked very much for very long in practicing their erstwhile faith. I do envy all who are intelligent or observant enough to reject all supernatural and religious claims after only a short time of having been snagged. Some of we ex-believers now testify to the religious world as a duty, not unlike how some who are caught in a financial scheme and have their savings consumed by fraud may also feel a responsibility to be a public whistle blower. That is, if they are strong enough to forge past the embarrassment and speak up about being duped for so much. I am embarrassed almost every day that across the prime 22 years of my adult life, I not only let it happen to myself, but helped it—the faith—happen to a few others. (Many Christians automatically label all this as “being bitter.”)
Remember that scene in True Lies, (1994) where Arnold Swarzenegger is piloting the Harrier jet, with the creepy terrorist somehow snagged by his bandolier, face bloodied, body hoisted in line with the pointy nose of the jet’s missile? Arnold triggers the red button: “You Ah Figh-udd.” But don’t worry, the poor fellow didn’t really get blown up; he was just an actor with another name (Art Malik) delivering the role he was paid to do. All the gods so far are nimble actors performing their ever-evolving roles, thanks to scriptwriters, copyists, pastors, prophets, and puppeteers—most of whom hold shares of stock tethered to the success of their gods’ careers. If your finger seems wrapped around the red button, and you are ready to start to erase the shadow of a creep actor, then speak loudly,
“You Ah Figh-udd.”
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