Losing my religion.

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by Maniac Craniac, Jan 22, 2020.

  1. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    Not in the idiomatic sense of becoming enraged, but in the literal sense of diminishing faith in the fanciful unseen that once was almost, but never quite, palpably real to me.

    Until very recently, I thought that my elaborate, painstakingly constructed rationalizations were evidence that I wasn't a typical, hopelessly credulous, true believer. I had proof! I had logic! I had...

    I had...

    I had deep emotional scars from early events in my life that left me with gaping holes in my heart and a profound desperation for everything my religion claimed to offer.

    I might not be anywhere near as smart as I used to, mistakenly, think I was, but even if I were, no amount of intelligence is strong enough to win the fight against cognitive bias. I have to not only be willing to accept harsh realities, but to cultivate an indelible desire to be proven wrong- to relentlessly attack my own ego when my ego proves to be the archenemy of objective reality.

    I no longer believe that my religion is the true religion. I no longer am convinced that there is any way of verifying what such a hypothetically true religion would actually look like. I have run out of reasons to keep telling myself and others that God, if God even exists, has ever revealed Himself (Herself? Itself? Themselves?) to anybody, at any time, and in any way.

    All I know is that I am currently living the only life that I can prove that I will ever live, and feel the urgent need to start making the best of it before it passes away as unceremoniously as my faith in something greater has.

    Why would I ever share this here? What could possibly be the point of doing so? The same reason why I make any of my off-topic posts. I've stayed on DI for so many years now, less for the info than for the community. I like you guys. Also, typing in being text and being an anonymous user help me to feel more emboldened to say things that I have trouble saying to people in real life. I guess you could say that this post is a test-run for many difficult conversations that I will have to have with people that will not be anywhere near as understanding as I know most of you will be.

    Thank you for being my anonymous internet friends and for taking the time to read my meandering babble.
    heirophant and SteveFoerster like this.
  2. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Read Screwtape Letters again. I'm not even a Christian but there's more clear sense in that book than any other I've ever come across. You aren't losing your religion. You are growing up.
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  3. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    PM me if you wish.
  4. perrymk

    perrymk Member

    At the risk of sounding like I'm playing with semantics. I gave up organized religion long ago, but never my Christian faith in God.
  5. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly

    I have a strong cultural relationship with the religion of my upbringing, and a lack of certainty on supernatural matters that lends itself to considerable tolerance of those with diverse beliefs in that area. (I'm not a big fan of most religious hierarchies, but that's a distinct thing.)
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  6. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    My own past is not so pretty and I have wound up becoming a Buddhist, a religion without a deity. You're on a good path. Keep going.

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  7. tadj

    tadj Active Member

    I would say that doubt is a normal part of being human. The experience of doubt shouldn't discourage you from giving serious consideration to the search for ultimate answers, or even making peace with a particular faith. There is no reason to believe that the ultimate reality is going to be discovered without considerable intellectual effort and spiritual preparation. There is also no reason to believe that the presence of God could be captured and preserved for a lifetime. This god would not be worthy of worship and too easily controllable. Have you tried exploring the field of the philosophy of religion as part of your search? I don't mean a kind of cheap apologetic, but a rigorous exploration of the topic. When it comes to finding the truth in the religious realm, the issue is far from settled. In fact, you can find arguments in favor of the notion that there could be such a thing as the one true religion, as potentially problematic as that sounds. For example, the recent book ("God, Science and and Religious Diversity: A Defense of Theism. Cascade Books. 2019) by Robert T. Lehe shows one way in which such things could be determined. Also, it's good to keep the following in mind:

    Quote from Prof. Andy Younan's "Thoughtful Theism" book:

    Here’s the real problem, though: thinking isn’t just hard work; it takes a lot of time and patience as well. There’s a positive side to the bombardment [with information] I described above: it gets you to think and question the basis for your beliefs. But there’s a negative side as well: when many questions are thrown together at once, it can imply that, if you can’t answer them immediately, it means you’re wrong. Even worse, it can imply that these questions can or should be answered quickly. Those are both awful implications. The first implication is simply bad logic: “I asked you a question. You can’t answer it right now. Therefore you are wrong.” The logic might prove that you are ignorant, but it certainly doesn’t prove that what you’re saying is untrue. There could be ten million truths unknown to both your opponent and yourself; there could be a thousand different ways of interpreting things that neither of you have come up with. The truth of reality is not bound by your personal ability to argue or understand. Reality is what it is, independent of anyone’s competence, and the real goal, if you are an honest person, is not to win an argument but to understand the world. This is one of the many reasons I despise most styles of debate. (You’ll hear me complain about a lot of pet peeves throughout this book.) The second implication is, like I said, worse. It implies that the truth of the world can be known easily and quickly, that a question as big as the existence of God can be resolved in a few hours or a handful of rhetorical jabs. This is not only insulting to the human mind as well as our amazing universe, it undoes the great good accomplished by asking questions in the first place: your opponent asked you a question and now you have the opportunity to think, but if the question is “answered” so quickly, then your opportunity for thinking is gone. This is simply another form of the same laziness you had before, and if you don’t take the time (and it can take a LOT of time) to work through every step of the argument for yourself, you are simply trading one opinion for another."
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  8. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    Hi MC. That's a very honest and heart-felt post. I'll try to do it justice by responding in a similar way.

    I've always felt much the same way myself. Even when I was a child, I never literally believed in God or Jesus or whatever it was. For as long as I remember (early elementary school), those were things that other people believed in.

    But... I have always had a strong sense of what I'll call the 'transcendent', for the deeply mysterious aspect of reality and life. That's what attracted me to philosophy. It's why I've always been interested in the intersection of epistemology, metaphysics, the philosophy of science and the philosophy of religion. To this day (I'm retirement age) I've always felt that I was constantly surrounded by mysteries.

    You know if you play that pre-schooler's game of asking "why?" to everything you encounter in life, you will typically arrive at the frontiers of human knowledge in a surprisingly small number of iterations. You don't have to travel to CERN or to an astronomical observatory. (What does 'meaning' mean? What are the past and the future and how are they connected through 'now'? What is science doing when it 'explains' something? And on and on... Where did it all come from? Why does it have the order that it seems to have?)

    Kizmet's suggestion of Buddhism might be helpful with that. Certainly in its more modernist form, it's more of a spiritual psychology than something that demands strong metaphysical convictions. In fact, Buddhism often teaches that white-knuckled attachment to what they term "views" can be a hindrance on the path. And Buddhism is about how to end what is usually translated into English as "suffering".

    If leaving your previous faith behind leaves you feeling empty and adrift, perhaps you need to adopt a spiritual practice of some sort. Ethical practice and meditation practice might help. And philosophy perhaps, to shine your cognitive flashlight a little deeper into the mysteries. (You will never reach the end of that rabbit hole though.)

    Perhaps you are at the point of accepting that you don't have all the answers and never will. That's not really a a bad place to be. It's realistic and it's humble.

    I think that is the kind of religiosity that Albert Einstein arrived at in his life. So I'd say that you are in good company and are making progress.

    You can still feel a religious-style awe at the mystery of reality if that suits you. I kind of feel it when I ask 'Why is there something rather than nothing at all?' Why is there a reality at all (and me with it)? That's when the raw contingency of it all kind of strikes me. I know full well that it's a question that I will never be able to answer.

    If you are going to be floating with no solid foundation to stand on, learn to float well and gracefully.

    Try not to react in a hard anti-religious direction like many people do when they lose their faith. Don't fall in with the "new atheists" or try to turn science into your God.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
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  9. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    So far, this entire thread - which, I'm sure, duplicates other threads here over the years - once again reminds me of Kevin Costner's great line in American Flyers - "Sounds like bull Shinto to me."

    As I have also said in the past, you're all going to hell in the proverbial handbasket. I am the only one here who is saved. Granted, it's a burden, but somebody had to do it. :D
    Maniac Craniac likes this.
  10. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    This is an example of a trollish asshole-type comment
  11. GregWatts

    GregWatts Member

    I would use different language; I had a bad cold a few months ago... I did not "lose" the cold...I got over it.
    Maniac Craniac likes this.
  12. Acolyte

    Acolyte Member

    It must be painful for you to lose that part of your identity, or at least to question it, especially if it was part of the core set of beliefs about yourself and the way the universe works that have informed the way you have lived your life. I'm sorry about the sense of loss you must be feeling. I have had to move to a philosophical position that, "God is all things beyond my understanding" - which you might think would mean that the more I learn, the "smaller" God gets, but the opposite has turned out to be true. Like Kizmet, I have gravitated toward Buddhism, a religion without a deity, but yet in concept, I still hold on to a sense of "God" as divine order. I do not want to diminish your sense of loss, as I feel that loss must be fully experienced before any recovery of peace can be truly realized, but as a few others have said - I hope this turns out to be a period of growth and change that will best serve the person that you are becoming in the way that your beliefs once served the person that you were. It's a good path.
    Maniac Craniac likes this.
  13. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    Thank you everybody.

    The hardest part will be revealing this to others. It was such a big part of who everyone ever thought I was. It will be more than a little embarrassing for a while as I adjust to this new phase in my life.

    I appreciate what Steve said about his experiences making him more tolerant and open-minded. I'm already seeing that happen. I have no leg to stand on when it comes to criticising just about anything that anybody believes, so long as it is subjective and not harmful to others. I have to recognize that the factors that go into the product of belief are quite complicated and not nearly as simple as putting together reliable facts with solid reasoning. Isn't that what we all think we do, and what we all think those other people aren't doing?

    Since Kizmet and others have mentioned it- I'm definitely interested in the prospect of delving into a spiritual philosophy that doesn't recognize any particular God or truth. First off, I still have some philosophical arguments for why God MIGHT exist. But, even if he doesn't, the exploration of the unknown and methods of meditation are useful and helpful to absolutely anybody. I can benefit from the principles of, say, Buddhism, even if there's no truth to be found. I can benefit from a study of ancient texts, even if there's no divine inspiration.

    Further, I'm excited about the many things I can swap out with my religion to fill its void. Instead of weekly Bible study, I can have weekly study of the nature of existence and self- psychology, philosophy, biology, history and physics. Instead of church every week, I can take Yoga and/or martial arts classes (two things my old religion banned, btw!) Instead of preaching, I can do volunteering and activism.

    If there is a God, I can only hope that he doesn't mind that I never figured it out, but still tried to be a good boy anyway.

    Sorry for being so long-winded. This is just a lot for me to take in, and again, this is the only place I feel comfortable with sharing it at this point. :)
  14. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    Also, I appreciate Steve's humor and have no problem with anything he said here. ;)

    Also, also, I've never heard of the Screwtape Letters. I'll put it on my reading list.

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