When Your God Dies

Posted this to Facebook and thought I would share it here too. Glory! 🙂

Those of you who have been friends with me on Facebook for a while know that I used to bash religion – a lot, and usually I wasn’t nice about it at all. But back then I was still stuck in the “anger” phase of de-conversion. Walking away from 15 years of devout religious belief was not just a matter of me shrugging my shoulders and thinking, “Oh, well, that sounded nice but it’s not actually true” and moving on unscathed by the experience.

There are phases to religious de-conversion that closely correspond to the stages of grief. They are essentially the same. The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the time now I find myself in the acceptance stage of grief, but for a long time I was stuck in anger and also in depression.

God

When your God dies, that is an event of major importance! We all grieve when a human or animal loved one dies. But when your God dies? That’s far worse, and it’s just as painful as a human death is, if not more so. Because when your God dies, so does the hopes you had for an awesome and eternal afterlife and your hopes of being reunited with lost loved ones at some future date. And what also dies is your hope that at some future date your God will dispense righteous judgment, right all wrongs and wipe away all of the suffering associated with this life.

When your God dies, so does everything supernatural associated with that belief. What dies too is belief in angels, demons, heaven, hell, and activities such as prayer that require a supernatural component to actually work. When your God dies, what you are left with is what is actually real and that we know actually exists — the natural world in all of its grandeur and beauty — the vast cosmos consisting of billions of galaxies, of which our solar system and our beautiful planet are but a very small part.

When your God dies, what dies too is the belief that you were specially created to serve and worship this God. What dies too is your belief that you are special to this God and that He loves you and cares about what happens to you. When your God dies, you realize that you are not the special creation of a God, but rather the product of millions of years of biological evolution, and you realize how amazing it is that you are here at this moment in time and you realize how precious and incredible and amazing this life is.

My God died almost 17 years ago, in early 2000. It was a death brought about by doubts and questions that had plagued me for years that I never found satisfactory Christian answers for. It was a death brought about by a great deal of thinking, reading, and research. It was a death brought about by seeing just how easily people on the skeptical side of the fence dismantled my cherished Christian beliefs not with ridicule and derision, but with solid, credible evidence and verifiable facts.

My God died a long time ago, and I have lived quite happily free from the fear, guilt, shame, and ignorance that so defined and drove the fundamentalist religion that I was once so deeply involved in.

So… when your God dies, that is a life-changing, life-defining event of major importance. When your God dies and everything that you believed was real dies along with him, it takes a long time to process and to come to terms with. It takes a long time to rebuild the framework that defines your reality. But it is possible to come out on the other side of the grief and all of the processing of it through its various phases complete and whole and happy and grateful to be alive.

If you want to know more, I wrote an article describing what it’s like to make the journey from Christianity to Atheism a few years ago. You can read it here:

http://smokeyinthebox.com/journey-christianity-atheism/

I can only speak for myself and my experience, but I hope this gives you a better understanding of me and what it was like for me to experience the death of my God all of those years ago.

What Heaven Means to Me Now

I posted this a while ago to Facebook, but the Spook of Kryasst who is also somehow magically Him magically inspired me to share it here too. My friend Scott asked me what the Christian heaven would have been like for me if it actually was for real, and what heaven means to me now. These are my thoughts. Glory!

My friend Scott asked me to paint a picture of what heaven would be like, if the Christian heaven were actually real, and what heaven on earth would look like to me right now.

I heard a lot preached back in my Christian days about how wonderful and awesome heaven was going to be, and for a short while there was a trend among popular TV evangelists to claim that they had visited heaven and to write books about it. Of course, the Christian public ate that up, and the TV evangelists made a ton of money off of their heaven fantasy books. I never really bought in to that, though, even though I was a hardcore believer at the time. It just seemed too convenient and like everybody was jumping on the “trip to heaven” bandwagon hoping to claim their share of that financial pie. Maybe I was beginning to WAKE UP to the fact that organized religion, in large part, is just a huge financial scam? But..that’s a topic for another time.

Anyway, my idea of Heaven when I was a very devout fundamentalist Christian believer was a place very much like an eternal Charismatic praise and worship service. Worship of God would always be occurring, and it always be and feel awesome beyond description. It would be TOTAL PEACE AND TOTAL JOY!! Of course, I always heard a lot about streets paved with gold and large mansions for us to live in. And Jesus, of course, would be there 24/7 (if heaven has an earth time schedule) for absolutely everybody, and He would meet our every need at all times without fail. And the scenery in Heaven, of course, puts Alaska or other incredibly beautiful spots on earth to shame.

My idea of heaven here on earth is somewhat different. Heaven to me now is standing up for science and reason and doing my part to make the world a better place by speaking out against fundamentalist religion. Heaven to me is BEING THERE for people who are questioning their religious beliefs and are beginning their journey out of the fundamentalist Christian cult and back to the REAL WORLD. For many people, that is a long and excruciatingly painful journey, and the psychological damage done by belief in concepts such as sin and by religious fears, and by emotional manipulation and abuse can literally take years to heal from. I LOVE to help people get FREE from religion, and that is heaven for me now.

Heaven for me also is helping others live healthier and more fulfilled lives. I am just beginning to get my health coaching business off the ground, and I know that these things take time, but I know it will happen for me if I put the time and effort necessary into it. If I can educate and motivate others to eat healthier and exercise in a way that is appropriate for them, then I am making a difference and that’s a “win” for both me and my clients. I also have some training for helping people deal with emotional and life issues, primarily by being a good listener and by asking what we call “high mileage” questions. Anyway, I am really looking forward to helping a lot of other people lead happier and healthier lives.

Alaska is a little piece of heaven for me. The scenery can’t be beat, and I love to get out in it, regardless of the season. Hiking and bike riding are fun in the summer months and occasional winter hikes and snowshoeing are fun during the winter months. I’m much more active outdoors during the warmer summer months, though.

Heaven for me too is visiting fun places in town, whether I spend any money or not. I eat out at Subway a few times a month, and thoroughly enjoy it. Visiting Bosco’s Comics and The Pack Rat Antiques store and Title Wave Books is always fun, whether I buy anything or not. And riding my bike to those places or out to the Dimond Mall is always a lot of fun too.

I’m already in heaven right here and right now on this earth! I don’t hope for another life after this one, nor do I feel the need for one. My friend Dan and I were just discussing how boring heaven would get if it lasted forever. Worshiping God? Sure, awesome for a while, if the Bible is wrong and God really is love as they claim. But, forever? It would get BORING! Hanging out with Jesus forever would eventually get BORING! Large mansions and golden streets would be awesome for a while, but eventually they would get BORING!

Life here on this earth is temporary, but that’s part of what makes it so GOOD! And now that I realize that it is quite temporary and that it can end at any moment, I realize the need to grab life by the horns and live it fully in the HERE and NOW! No one is guaranteed another day or even another second of life. Every single moment should be lived and embraced fully! When I am happy and feeling good, I embrace those good and positive emotions fully. Hiking, for example, makes me happy, and I do my best to soak up every blissful moment of it and I make sure to pay attention and soak in all of the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness while I am out there. When I am depressed, I feel that fully. When I am sad, I feel sad fully and let the emotions and tears flow, as I did recently when my mom’s wonderful and loving little dog Sally died. Her death hit us all really hard, and I cried and mourned publicly without shame. There is no shame in crying and no shame in publicly mourning the death of a loved one, no matter how many legs they happen to have.

My life is not perfect by any means. I have health challenges, chief among them right now being sleep quality. I have two doctors working with me on that issue and things are slowly improving. I am often tired from sleep deprivation, but that doesn’t keep me from still being happy and enjoying life. I need to lose about 30 pounds…again. Medication I had to take for a while for my bipolar disorder, chronic sleep deprivation, and poor dietary choices have put a lot of weight back on me in the last couple of years. But it is fixable, and I know that, and I intend to take care of it. But, even carrying that extra weight, I can still hike and bike for miles with no issues.

Heaven for me does not mean having a lot of money or having a life that is easy and free of major challenges. Heaven for me is facing life head on and facing the real world as it actually is, problems and challenges and all! Life has not turned out the way I thought it would when I was 18 years old. I could not have known at that time that I was severely mentally ill and that it would cause me very serious problems and many very unhappy years. But I am HAPPY NOW and I am so glad that I made it through those bad years. Now, I can help other mentally ill people feel better too. They are one of my major target markets for my health coaching business.

I am already in heaven. I don’t necessarily need another eternal life after I die. This life right here and right now is awesome! The very fact that it is temporary makes it that much more precious and that much more important to enjoy it while I am here and while I can!

Hope that makes sense. 🙂

Thinking Through Religious Fears

FEAR is one of the primary driving forces behind fundamentalist religion, the others being ignorance, guilt, and shame. Religious fears, for those who have them, are very real and hard to overcome. But recovery from religious fear is possible! Let’s think through some religious fears so we can discover that in reality they are baseless.

FEAR: There might be an angry, vindictive God who will punish me for sins.

REALITY: Although God is often portrayed as angry and even evil in the Bible, there is no evidence that such a God actually exists, and therefore there is no rational reason to fear such a God. Sin is a religious concept with no demonstrable basis in reality.

FEAR: There might be a real Hell that I will go to if I don’t believe.

REALITY: Most of the major world religions have some version of a Hell that unbelievers supposedly go to. There is, however, no evidence that any of these hells actually exist, and therefore there is no rational reason to fear them.

FEAR: Demons might be real, and I fear demonic activity or being deceived by them.

REALITY: There is no evidence that demons or lying spirits or any kind of spirits at all actually exist. Fearing their activity or deception is, therefore, not rational. Knowledge obtained through reliable means (such as science) is not something to be feared but knowledge obtained through unreliable means (such as ancient error-ridden holy books, prophecy, fortune telling, astrology, etc.) should be avoided.

FEAR: I am afraid of what will happen to me after I die.

REALITY: Nothing can or will happen to you after you die. Death is simply the end of your life and the beginning of your nonexistence, and there is nothing to fear in it. There is no heaven to gain but there also is no hell to fear.

As Carl Sagan famously said,

“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

It is indeed far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in religious fears and delusion. You can and will be free once you see religion for what it really is — a pack of ancient myths and lies with no basis in reality.

Carl Sagan also said,

“Personally, I would be delighted if there were a life after death, especially if it permitted me to continue to learn about this world and others, if it gave me a chance to discover how history turns out.”

I feel the same way, but I’m not optimistic that an afterlife of any kind actually exists. It all boils down to the evidence, and for religious beliefs, there simply is none that will pass critical scrutiny.

Religious fears can be powerful and very real to those who experience them, but in reality they are baseless, and once you see that you will be free!

Glory!