Following up on my conversation with my buddy Bill about my faith and Jesus, Bill texted me and hoped our discussion about the “person of Jesus” was meaningful (to me).  Of course, it was meaningful, and I told Bill that. I also reminded him that I was intimately familiar with all of the doctrines he had discussed with me since I was raised Pentecostal from before I could speak, had been evangelical for decades, served in church leadership, taught a Christian fundamentals class at the Vineyard, taught Sunday school, was baptized and spoke in tongues.  Bill replied that it’s not really about doctrine. He said he thought doctrine and other ancillary representations of it had hurt and wounded me over the years and suggested I take a fresh look at the “person of Jesus.”

What struck me is this is precisely what I have been doing. Because of the wounding, I have taken a fresh look at all of the doctrines, including the person of Jesus. The words “Who do you say that I am?” rattle around in my head all the time.  Jesus is still a big part of my life, and I suspect always will be. Over two thousand years since his fleshly life ended, people still struggle with answering that question.

The church tells us it’s all about Jesus. Jesus is our ticket to heaven. All we have to do is “believe” in Jesus, and we’re in. Well, what does it mean to believe in Jesus? Does it mean that we believe he existed as a physical person? Does it mean we believe he is the Son of God? Does it mean we believe he died to save us from our sins? If we do believe that, is it enough to merely assent to that fact? Is belief enough or do we actually have to do something?

As I’ve re-examined Jesus’ words, I realize he never said all we have to do is believe in him. He spoke of doing. He said to take up our cross and follow him, daily. He talked about giving up our lives to save them. He told parables about people who paid lip service but didn’t do what was asked.

Matthew 21:28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 21:29 The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went. 21:30The father went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go.21:31 Which of the two did his father’s will?”

As I have taken a fresh look at Jesus, here is what I see. The belief we are supposed to have is that God/Source, is our father/mother/creator, just like Jesus’. The Christ consciousness that Jesus demonstrated in fullness is available to all of us. Buddhists call this same thing Buddha nature. We all have this innate property because we are all part of the Source. What we are called to do is to live this to its fullest. In this world, that means “crucifying” our base nature that many refer to as the ego. To follow Jesus means to consciously allow the Christ consciousness to flow through us to be the hands and feet of God in this world. We are to make ourselves as pure a channel as we can be to bring the Love of God into the world. We can follow Jesus without ever having heard His story as long as we tap into the consciousness He demonstrated.

Christians talk a lot about salvation, as in us being saved from our sins. They emphasize the goal of accepting Jesus as our “personal Lord and savior.” Then we can rely on the work He has done.  Wait a minute. That’s just the beginning. What about sanctification? What about the work of improving ourselves to become more like the man we claim to follow?

After I got beyond the notion that Jesus had done the work for me and that all there was left for me to do was wait to die and slide into heaven on his work, I realized it doesn’t work that way. My job is to improve my connection. As a Christian, I would pray when I needed something, or I’d say a rote prayer at night or when I was taking a meal. To spend time in daily prayer, really trying to make a connection to Source or my higher consciosness is something I didn’t consider. Now, I’m in meditation 25-30 minutes a day. I continually think about how I can be more “Christ-like” all throughout my day. When I look at other people, I try to see the Christ-nature in each one of them. Some have it masked better than others. But, I know it’s there in all of them. Now that I know Jesus didn’t do it all for me. I’m working on doing the heavy lifting that is necessary to become like Him.

I appreciate my talks with Bill. They prompt me to think deeply, and anything that makes me reflect is a good thing. I don’t want to leave the religion of my youth just because it hurt me. I know there are those who would like me to come back into the fold. I can’t see that happening though. I still follow Jesus, the way I understand Him to be and with I think is a broader perspective on “the person of Jesus.” I agree with Bill. It’s always a good idea to take a fresh look at the person of Jesus.

Today was a good day. It was a balmy 60º in April. Gotta love that. My friend Bill and I went for a walk. We are opposites when it comes to politics. So, we usually avoid that topic. We met at an evangelical church back when I was an evangelical. He’s still attending the church and is a former pastor. So, let’s say our religions don’t exactly line up either. I respect where he is. I think he thinks of me as lost. And, since I’m someone who is lost, it’s his duty as a Christian to get me back into the fold. I respect that. If he didn’t try, it would mean he doesn’t care.

He asked me where Tywana and I are going to church now. He wanted to know if we were still attending the “universalist” church. It’s an understandable mistake. I tell him no. We stopped going to the Unity church. I have more than enough social interaction with friends and neighbors and online. I don’t need church for that anymore. In fact, in the years we attended the Unity church not once did we do anything with anyone outside of the church service. As far as religious instruction, I get that via podcasts and reading. Tywana listens to Super Soul Sunday. When we were in Phoenix, we attended the Unity church there. Tywana listens to their podcasts. So, as far as the functions that church serves, it’s not something we need to get up for on Sunday morning and spend two hours, including drive time, to do.

He moved on to ask me what my relationship with “Christ” is like now. That is one of my pet peeves. Why is it Christians, and I think mostly evangelicals, call Jesus (Yeshua) Christ? They say they know him and they have a personal relationship with him. But, they refer to him by a title. Even worse is “Jesus Christ”. Jesus the Christ would be more accurate. Christ is not his last name. I had to ask

Me: “Bill, why do you refer to Jesus (Yeshua)? as Christ? Christ is a title, it’s not his name.”

Bill: “Christ is the Greek.”

Me: “Yes, Bill, I know, but it’s still not a name.”

Bill: “Christ is Greek for Messiah.”

Me “Yes, but Messiah is also a title. Like your name is Bill.You are a father, you are a husband. Those are titles.”

Finally, he relented. On to the meat of the conversation. I told him I view Jesus as a Master teacher, as an Ascended Master, if you will. I view Jesus as someone who perfected his relationship with God (Source). Jesus was a pure channel. It’s my goal to be like Jesus and become a pure channel for source. I do not view Jesus as the son of God. We are all sons of God. Jesus told us we can do what he did (and greater). He said that Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Yes. Because Jesus had become so much like the Source (God) that they were inseparable. Bill asked me my source(s) for these conclusions I’ve come to. I explained to him that I have studied a lot of extrabiblical materials. In a previous talk, I tried to refer him to a book that I had read, and he refused me saying that he only needs the Bible as his source. When I brought up today that he had said that, he say that he reads other sources. Anyway, the idea that Jesus is an Ascended Master comes from channeled communications, NDEs and after death communications; all sources Bill would not take as credible.

Then, I got into what I definitely do not believe about Jesus. Jesus did not come to pay the penalty that God was owed for our sins. That is an insane notion. I told Bill that God commands that we forgive seventy times seven. To forgive is not to demand payment. Why would God tell us to forgive when he cannot forgive us? I said if God is love, how could God torment any of his children? Bill explained to me that God is not just love; he is a complex being. Bill explained that sin has consequence and God is also justice and punishment is a part of justice. My eyes rolled so hard, I thought I was going to pass out. OK. Slow down. Sin has consequences. We agree. Natural consequence. Sin damages our relationship with God. OK. I agree with that. But, we’re not talking about natural effects or a damaged relationship. We are talking about torment. I said to him: “If I owe you money, you have a choice. You can demand payment. Or you can forgive the debt. Either is within your rights to do so. Right? You can forgive my debt without demanding payment.” He countered with the relationship between the two of us and the relationship between man, and God is different. Yeah. OK. God is supposed to love me infinitely. So, God is so constrained by his own “godness” that he cannot do what man can do, forgive?

I continued. OK. This brings me to my next point, Bill. God also is demanding a double payment. He looked at me quizzically.  I continued. Jesus paid our debt.  So, let’s say it was a bajillion whatever that’s the cost to cover the whole debt of humanity for all time. God’s got his payment. But, wait. Here I come, and I haven’t “accepted” the payment. God torments me eternally as payment for my sin. But, he’s already been paid. Besides, in what justice system eternal torment for a short lifetime of sin a just payment? I tell him I read many decades ago the answer to the question of how Jesus could have paid billions of lives times eternal torment in just three days in the grave. The author even diagrammed it out how Jesus, being a multi-dimensional being, could simultaneously absorb all of that torment in a finite amount of time. That makes the movie the Passion of the Christ look like a walk in the park.

Things were getting a bit heated now. But, we kept our mutual respect and continued. Bill acknowledged that I had had bad religious experiences as a child and he thought that’s why I’ve rejected my faith now. I admitted I did have bad experiences as a child and that is a huge part of who I am today. He is spot on. I said, the pain of my religious upbringing forced me to look for answers that made sense. When I was about eight years old I wished I had never been born. I was told that I was born with God hating me for my “original sin” and that only Jesus loved me. Only by being “covered in Jesus blood” could God even bear to look at me. It made me feel worthless and ashamed. And I was told I was supposed to love God because he created me. I didn’t ask to be created. Uncreate me. Put me back where I was before. Then, when my uncle was murdered and they told me he was in hell because he hadn’t been saved. But, he couldn’t be saved because he was gay and the church wouldn’t accept him the way he was, that set me over the edge. Up until then I passively accepted this notion of the angry sky God. I was OK because maybe he wouldn’t torment me if I could keep up the charade until I died. But, I couldn’t accept he was sending billions to eternal torment anymore. Yes, Bill, I have rejected the faith of my youth. It would have been easier just to accept I was saved and move on. I was baptized. I spoke in tongues. And, I was taught eternal salvation. I was all good.

It’s when I got outside of the Bible, which is primary, if not exclusive, for people like Bill, that I began to see the big picture. I studied church history. I learned how the Bible was cobbled together. I learned about how the books of the canon were chosen (by men who had a political agenda). I discovered how Constantine early on co-opted and corrupted Christianity. And, I began to read other texts- the Dhammapada, the Bhagavad Gita, the tao de ching. I looked at contemporary sources.

All of this changed how I read the Bible when I came back to it. I see it through new eyes. For example, if God could speak to Paul and John, why can’t he talk to Neale Donald Walsch today? I related to Bill that Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus sounds just like an NDE. He saw a bright light, he heard a voice from the sky. He was blinded and later regained his site. Bill said “Except Paul didn’t die.” How do we know Paul didn’t die? What we do know is he heard the voice of a dead person (Jesus). Paul was blinded by the light and subsequently ended up with new vision. I told Bill I absolutely believe Paul’s experience. But, you know who else I believe? Michelle Clare who I spoke two days ago who had three similar experiences and came back with messages. Why do you believe Paul’s experience just because it was written down 2,000 years ago and is in your Bible? And, when Paul had his vision where he was taken into the third heaven “Whether it was in the body or out of the body- God knows.” sounds an awful like an astral travel or out of the body experience. Why don’t we believe people who have those experiences today?

For years, I tied myself up in knots and believed things that defy logic and common sense. And, the wilder the thing, the more “faith” you were supposed to have had. I told Bill this to sum up. “You began by asking me about my faith and immediately tied that into Jesus. My faith is stronger than it has ever been. In fact, it’s not even faith anymore. It’s knowing.” I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I like where I am on the road.

The further along I go on my spiritual journey, the more I find I have in common with atheists, and the less I see I have in common with religious people. My favorite pastor, regarding his sermons, is Roger Ray. I think he would describe himself as an agnostic. But, since he’s a person who regularly rails against a belief in the afterlife or a God who intervenes in human affairs, I’d classify him more as an atheist. Yet, he is one of my favorite pastors because we have a lot in common. When I hear an atheist say they are an atheist and I ask them what they mean, almost inevitably, all of the things they don’t believe in, I don’t believe in either.

I was again reminded of this kinship with atheists recently when listening to the Russell Brand podcast Under the Skin. (Confession time, I have a man-crush on Russell Brand. He’s brilliant) Two guests, in particular, revealed this to me. He had Sam Harris, a famous apologist for atheism, and Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek minister of finance. Both are atheists, but both agree with Russell and me about some very important and fundamental realities of our reality. There seems to be a new type of atheist emerging from the strict materialist atheism I was familiar with. Let’s call this new atheism postmodern atheism. If modern atheists believed there is only the material world, consciousness and spirit are both illusions, at best; postmodern atheists think both consciousness and soul are genuine and essential parts of being human. Both of these types of atheists still believe that everything is rooted in the material world. Consciousness exists. But, they think it clearly is emergent from the physical. The former atheists were basically nihilists. The postmodern atheists, not so much.

What I have in common with the new atheists

The things I have in common with the new atheist are many and significant. Consciousness is all we can be sure of. We perceive the world through our senses. We have no direct access to what is actually occurring. We know our senses can be fooled. Maybe there is a physical reality, perhaps there isn’t. Since we rely on our senses to tell us what is going on “outside” of us, for all we know we could be a brain in a jar in a scientist’s laboratory reacting to input from a computer. Or, we could very well be characters in s a very detailed and realistic computer game. What we do know directly is our awareness or our consciousness of these phenomena. Consciousness is the only thing we can be entirely sure is real. Far from the crazies who went so far to question whether consciousness even existed, these new atheists are admitting consciousness is the only thing we can be sure is real. It’s the only thing we can experience.

Besides the fact that consciousness is genuine, another thing I have in common with these new atheists is the fact that humans are more than biological robots, rising from an accident. We don’t live in a strictly materialistic and deterministic universe. Human beings have agency. To my surprise, Yanis said he has absolute belief in the “human spirit.” Sam Harris acknowledges this as well. Their faith in the human spirit has led to a type of morality freed from the shackles of religious belief or belief in a questionable history told to us by people writing with an agenda.

This leads to the third thing I have in common with postmodern atheists. I believe there is a real objective morality. The Christian morality, for many, is based on the writings of Moses who may or may not have existed and who almost certainly did not receive carved tablets penned by Elohim. If you cannot accept the claims of the journey of Moses to the top of the mountain, you can quickly reject the authority of the Ten Commandments. Sam Harris speaks of morality as maximizing beauty, joy, and love and minimizing suffering. It’s simple and concise. Who could argue with that? What do we need to add? And, while one might expect atheists to argue against any real objective morality, he argues against moral relativism, an extreme many liberals have gone toward as they have become unmoored from the religion their morality was based on. We bend over backward to not call anything wrong. As long as someone has a sincerely held belief, who are we to judge? This has led to a reluctance to criticize things that are clearly wrong, just because they are done in the name of religion or in a different culture. If Saudis want to behead people for being gay or say it’s OK for a man to beat his wife, some say “Well hey, that’s their religious or cultural prerogative. It’s right for them.” Religion can convince people to do almost anything they are told, whether it’s right or wrong. Those who are spiritual will do what is right regardless of what they are told. Those of us who believe some things are right or wrong regardless of sincerely held beliefs or cultural norms would disagree. Things like “honor” killings, female genital mutilation, and forced marriages are wrong, in any culture.

The fourth thing we have in common is a belief in scripture. Surprisingly, I heard Yanis say he believes in scripture. That doesn’t mean he takes it literally as history or even accurate regarding gods. What it means is he takes the moral lessons from scripture as being true and applies them regardless of their literal truth. This is something else I have in common with these new atheists. I still quote the Bible extensively even though I long ago set aside the belief that most of it is historical or that it should be taken literally.

Where we disagree

I believe that we all came from consciousness, which I often refer to as Source. This is fundamental and pre-dates the material. The material would not exist without consciousness forming it and maintaining it. I believe that, as consciousness, as Souls, we survive the physical death of the vehicles we use while we are here. So, stretching backward, we pre-exist this body and going forward, we endure the cessation of these biological functions. I believe that the soul/spirit is what animates the body. It doesn’t arise from the body.

While we disagree on where we came from and where we are going to, we agree entirely on what we should be doing while we are here- maximizing joy, beauty, and love and minimizing suffering.

Do the differences matter?

The fact that I think consciousness is fundamental and they think consciousness comes from the material, I think is immaterial. The origins story, while interesting, isn’t particularly significant. How we got here isn’t as relevant as where we are. What is more important to me is the destination story. I’m not sure what they believe what happens when you die. It follows that if you believe the spirit arises from a complex arrangement of matter, when that matter loses that arrangement, the spirit would dissipate. Does that matter in how treat our fellow man? Does it lessen, the joy, beauty, and love we can experience or hope to share with others while we are here?

Here is what I think is critical about your beliefs and Sam Harris says the same thing. Does it improve your behavior? Does it bring you peace and joy?

Imagine There’s No Religion

This is what has got me really excited. I see where we come together as a new type of spirituality. The tenets are that humans are conscious beings with moral responsibilities to each other. We are more than the sum of our biological parts. We can learn from the scriptures, not just of our own particular religion but of all ancient scripture and even new writings. We can agree on an objective morality and act and govern accordingly. This new type of spirituality could begin to a spirituality we can all embrace. Christians could embrace it without giving up their Christianity. Muslims could embrace it while remaining Muslim. But, most importantly, people who don’t believe in the literal interpretation of any text or in any particular origins story could get on board.

Can mankind evolve beyond religion? Can we come to embrace a spirituality based solely on observation of what is around us and not on special revealed knowledge? John Lennon spoke of this. When he said “no religion too” in the song Imagine, I have always felt he was not saying imagine a world of nihilism and utter lack of spirituality. I think he meant quite the opposite. Religions are often what divides us. We kill and die in the name of our particular god. I’ve heard Christians time and time again say “Allah is not God,” one of the most ludicrous things someone could say. This new spirituality could bring us together in a way we haven’t been together as the human race in millennia.

p.s.- the image used for this post came up in my Facebook feed just after I finished the initial draft of this post. Since it was sent to me, I thought I might as well use it. Good timing, Universe.

 

There is a line in the song Amazing Grace that goes

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;

As I’m thinking about my relationship with church this line presents itself to me. It was church that taught my heart to fear. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with church since the time I can remember. I see four reasons for going to church- obligation/worship, education, service, and community.

Obligation: As the grandson of a preacher and the son of Pentecostal parents, church was never optional for me. From the time I was born until the time I left to go to college, unless I was dying (and often when I felt like I was), church was where I was going to every Sunday morning. Like any good sales presentation, church first convinced me I had a problem.  That’s sales 101, create a need. I was born evil. I was a sinner, rebellious from God by virtue of the fact I had landed on this planet. The good news was all I had to do was to be sorry for being this way, and God would spare me the eternal torment I deserved. When I was the age of 7, my grandfather died suddenly in church I wondered how much church and God really were going to protect me.   And I had a fundamental problem with this god who hated me so much just for being who he made me to be. I went along with the program, as much as I could I got baptized at the age of 13 to appease him. I studied my Bible. I went along to get along. Church was a place I went out of fear, not because of love. I needed church because that was the only place I could be “saved”. Once I was saved, God needed me to worship him. The idea that God needs worship comes from the days of antiquity where earthly monarchs had to have their egos stroked by having their subjects bow and scrape before them. This need was transferred to the image of a god on the throne. Gratitude flows naturally once one begins to comprehend the true nature of the divine and the nature of our relationship with the divine. God doesn’t want our forced praise. And, we don’t have to be in a particular building to express our gratitude. We can quietly sit and reflect in any moment anywhere and anytime and let it come naturally.

As soon as I got out of my parents’ house, I was done with church. The obligation was over. I didn’t go much for years.  When I got married, Tywana had an image of a family that goes to church together. So, I started going to church with her, for her.  This was church out of a sense of obligation- to Tywana.

Education: Another reason to go to church is to learn. For centuries the priestly class has convinced us they have exclusive access to the saving knowledge we need. The only place to learn was at church, through them. Some churches went so far as to tell their congregants, “Don’t read the Bible, leave that to the professionals. You just sit there and we’ll tell you what to think. I’m grateful for the education I got in church. The Bible still has a huge influence on our society and, frankly, in my life as well. A working knowledge of the Bible is helpful. However, in the information age, we live in opportunities to learn abound. We can pick and subject and read analysis from many different voices about what the Bible says. We can learn church history, so we know not only what the church is teaching today but where these beliefs came from and how they’ve evolved over time. Many in the clergy fear an educated congregation because the more you know about the history of the church and the Bible, the less likely you are to believe the fundamentalist teachings they are giving from the pulpit. I probably listen to an average of four spiritual podcasts a week from various traditions, and from no tradition. I can choose to listen to a pastor in Springfield, MO from a small non-denominational church or I can listen to a pastor from Phoenix, AZ in a Unity church, all without leaving my home or, better yet, while I’m out walking in nature. Church is no longer the only place where I can go to learn about spiritual things.

Service: That first church that Tywana and I attended after we got married was way too fundamentalist for me. I went for her. Over time, Our Sunday school teacher chose me to be the substitute teacher when he was out. This is when I realized that maybe I shouldn’t go to church so much for what it did for me, but what I could do there for others. I enjoyed educating (and I could sneak in some of my subversive thoughts when I was up front).  When we moved to Cincinnati, I found a church I could get into because of their heart for service. They called it servant evangelism. We would go out and give away things like a Coke or even a car wash, not for “donations,” but to demonstrate unconditional love.

Community: Church should be a place of community. Back in the day you were born in and probably died in the same church. The other members were extended family. You watched each others’ kids grow up. You got together for dinner with your friends in the church. In the days of the megachurch, much of that has been lost. The last megachurch we attended, and I mean that in both senses of the word it’s the last one I will go to, was so into the production value, they didn’t turn the lights on for the entire service. It was like being in a movie theater. You’d come in in the dark, sing a few songs, watch the recorded video sermon, sing another song, and file out in the dark. If you wanted actually to meet people, you had to do something outside of the Sunday morning service. This was true at our former megachurch as well. There, Tywana and I did a lot of volunteer work, serving on the premarital team together, me working on the video production team, and me teaching their introductory course to their theology in the evenings. As we moved away from that church to the next church and the next church and as I got involved with blogging more, with Facebook, etc. church as a place of community lessened and lessened in importance.

My history with church: For about nine years, that service-oriented church we found when we moved to Cincinnati was OK for me, as long as I turned a blind eye to their conservative teachings that lurked underneath the veneer of their “seeker sensitive” front. A couple of times a year something would come up that would rub me the wrong way. It was after they taught Kayla, at the age of around 8 years old that she was totally depraved (to use a Calvinistic term), I was done. I would not allow her to be brought up with the self-hatred I was taught in church. The joy I had from leading and teaching at that church was gone. I wouldn’t continue to go and I certainly wouldn’t take the risk they would teach the girls self-hatred. A little yeast leavens the whole loaf, as Jesus said. It was time to go.

Right around this time, I heard of the United Church of Christ.  This was the church I had always sought.  No dogma.  No original sin. No penal substitutionary atonement theory. They respected and even studied other spiritual paths and traditions. The church was tiny. It started with no more than twenty people. The founding pastor left because of the financial struggles. The pastor we brought in to replace him did his best. I was on the board of the church. I was deeply involved. I was serving. But, the stress of trying to keep a progressive church alive in conservative Cincinnati proved to be more of a challenge than I was willing to keep going with. After five years, I left there.  The stress was too great. I wasn’t even on paid staff, and I felt responsible for trying to keep the lights on in the place. Tywana guided us to several more churches, none of which fit. We ended up back at another mega church.  A big, glitzy, seeker sensitive place with lots of shiny happy people, but that same fundamentalist mindset lurking underneath.  I tolerated that place until after Shayna passed at which time both Tywana and I realized we needed to stop going through the motions and either find a place that spoke to our souls or give up church altogether.  She wasn’t ready to give up. So, we started going to Unity.

Ahh… here we were at Unity.  If possible, Unity was an even better fit than the United Church of Christ. The church we were attending was well established, a couple of decades old. So, I didn’t have to deal with the financial pressures, and I wasn’t forced into a leadership role.  I could sit back and be a congregant.  I volunteer some, but nothing like I was doing before. After attending the megachurches, I thought that in a smaller church we’d be more plugged in, more of a part of a community. If we didn’t attend for a while, someone would notice. This was the church I had always dreamed of; like-minded people, small enough to get to know everyone, big enough to be financially stable.

Fast forward three years.  We haven’t been attending regularly for several months now. While the church is small enough to get to know people we haven’t connected. My friend who attended the church for years before I did doesn’t come anymore. In three years I’ve made one friend there. One person contacted me about our lack of attendance. Demographics probably play a role. The church is mostly people our age or older (much older). It’s just about all white. It’s got to be 60-70% (or more) female.  To be fair, we haven’t made much of an effort to connect. Tywana has way more than enough social interaction between her work, friends, neighbors, wine club, book club, and more. I have Facebook and Helping Parents Heal. I connect with spiritually similar people regularly through the week. Going to hear an “expert” give their opinion for 25 minutes on a Sunday morning doesn’t appeal to me. It’s not something I need in my life.

Church, for me, isn’t able to check off any of the four boxes anymore. Fear and obligation don’t have any hold on me as I know God doesn’t need my worship and isn’t keeping an attendance record. Educationally, I have podcasts (I’m listening to one as I type this). I have books. I get to hear some of the best speakers in the world through Helping Parents Heal. I interact with literally thousands of people to bounce ideas off of. I can download a book in a few seconds. For community, I have amazing friends and neighbors. During the scotch tasting at my friend’s house a couple of nights ago we got into a deeper spiritual discussion than I typically can have in church. Tywana and I have a group of neighbors we get together with most Friday or Saturday nights, sometimes both.

Tywana and I have been going to Unity of Garden Park for three years. I volunteer at the church. However, for me, for now, church doesn’t really serve much of a purpose. I had coffee with the pastor a couple of weeks ago and laid this out for her. I continue to volunteer for them. My life is so full right now I don’t have time for the Sunday morning routine.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;

The fear that church put into me served a purpose at one time. That fear was the driving force that pushed me to find the Truth.  People will run away from pain or towards pleasure or both. I was running from the pain.  The fear stirred me to figure out just who I am and why I’m here. I learned a lot about the Bible which is still a significant book in my life and in our society. It gave me a basis from which to study real spiritual truths. In a sense, the fear it taught me, it also relieved by forcing me to seek the Truth that would set me free.

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

This morning as I’m listening to one of my podcasts for the day a spiritual teacher is talking about seeking absolute truth. Frankly, there was a lot of “deep” talk about how everything we experience as humans is relative. But, the absolute truth lies in the “nothing” (or something like that). It’s confusing to me. I’m trying to stick with the podcast because I’ve heard that if a teaching doesn’t make you squirm, you’re not learning anything and I’ve found many gems even from people with whom I have deep disagreements. But, as he goes along I find myself saying “No, no, no.”

He goes on to talk about how humans seek meaning and when we don’t find meaning, we don’t like it.  No shit, What galls me though is the implication that there is somehow something wrong with seeking meaning. As the podcast mentions, the Buddha taught that life is suffering or life involves suffering. Attachment causes distress. Attachment to a particular circumstance or outcomes causes suffering. If we could give up all attachment, we would not suffer. If we could give up all preference for a specific result, we would not hurt. All of this is true. You cannot argue with any of it. If you want to end suffering, stop caring about what happens. Easy. I’ve heard teachings saying that we need to detach from our life story.  They tell me to tell myself Brian is just a story. I am an eternal being who is beyond any circumstances of this lifetime, any experiences, of this lifetime. If I could only identify with who I indeed am, I could transcend any suffering. Just step outside of my story and be the observer, unattached, unaffected. The solution is to eliminate the need to seek meaning, to have no preference for outcome A or outcome B. Ideally, you’d be just as happy being healthy and wealthy as living on the street in constant pain. There’s only one problem.

Humans are, well, human. We have evolved over millennia to seek meaning. Or we were created to desire it, whichever you prefer. We pursue pleasure, and we avoid pain. This is a biological imperative. Every living being has evolved to seek comfort and to do whatever it takes to prevent pain. This is not a shortcoming; this is the design. I’ve studied Buddhism, and there’s a lot of good stuff in there. And, I think there’s some good stuff in what this guy was saying, but the problem is when we come to the wrong conclusions about seeking meaning or avoiding pain and suffering. If we could divorce ourselves from the need to find meaning, we would suffer less. If we could eliminate the preference for any circumstance or outcome, we would eliminate suffering entirely. So, this is what we must do. This is impossible, as human beings though.

While meditation, getting in touch with our higher, more authentic self can add perspective, and reduce suffering it’s additive to who we are as humans, not subtractive. We cannot deny our humanity, our biology. We can know we are that higher self, the eternal being, in addition to, not instead of. Escaping the frustrations and pains of being human is not the goal. Eliminating the desire for meaning isn’t what we are after. Instead, we should seek more meaning, more profound meaning.  How can I transmute this pain? What is this pain here to teach me? Yes, I am suffering. No, I don’t want this. My higher self might be benefiting, but this still sucks. It’s OK to be human, and it’s OK not to want pain.

I’m leery of any teaching that says I have to be less than or more than human. That’s why I chose my email address (onlyhuman) at least for the years I spend here, I am human, fully human. I cannot be more. I do not want to be less. I have desires. I have needs. I have things I do not wish to have to endure. It’s part of the deal.

As an aside, another thing he said that bugged me was that I should be grateful I woke up to feel pain. That sounds good. We should be thankful for life. And, I am grateful for life. The issue I have is the notion of being thankful for waking up. It’s something I’ve heard many Christians say. “Any day on top of the dirt beats the alternative” or something to that effect; as if the worst thing that could happy to us is to die. Newsflash, we don’t die. We cannot die. We never “don’t wake up.” Be grateful that you were created and that you have the opportunities you have. Being a human being is a marvelous thing. But, don’t think the worst possible thing that could happen to you is for your body to stop functioning. On the day that happens, you will truly wake up. You’ll be more awake than you ever were here. Death is far, far from the end.

In closing, I turn to my favorite role model, Jesus. As I was thinking about the misplaced desire to transcend being human while being in the body; the drive to become this all-knowing, being who simply chooses not to suffer, I pictured Jesus hanging on the cross. While Jesus was one bad-ass Master, He was still very human. He knew who He truly was. He never forgot His Home and His true nature. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed so hard not to have to endure what was before Him that He sweated blood. He had desires. He had preferences. His last recorded words expressed a deep preference for what happened to Him “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  Those don’t sound like the words of someone who had “overcome” all of His desires and was cool with just whatever. Be human. Be fully human.

 

The other day I’m taking a walk with my former pastor religious buddy/unofficial counselor and he tells me he was praying for me at Easter and asks me what Easter meant to me this year.  Wow.  Interesting question.  I’m not sure he really wants to hear my answer.  Where do I begin?  He’s staunchly Christian, totally committed to the idea that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection are what allows anyone to be saved. No Jesus, no resurrection, no salvation.  How do I tell him the celebration if this particular holiday just isn’t that big a deal to me anymore?

The way to tell him is just to tell him. I explain to him that Jesus is still a central figure in my life, that I believe the Bible is inspired, and that I sense the importance of Jesus in the history of mankind.  However, my faith is not founded on the idea that Jesus physically rose from the grave. Our church teaches Christmas and Easter stories as metaphysical narratives. Whether they physically happened that way or not, they are things that play out in each of our lives on a continual basis.  The Birth of Christ consciousness at Christmas.  Rebirth at Easter. I have learned to take much of the Bible as allegory, as I believe it was meant to be.  Noah didn’t pack animals two by two onto an ark.  There were no talking snakes in the garden. And, Jesus might or might not have physically gotten up and walked around after being murdered. Certainly, the disciples believed something magical happened because they were changed men after that event.  There were many messiahs who came and went. When they died, their movements died with them.  I know Jesus was resurrected, as we are all resurrected at the moment of “death”. Bodily resurrection isn’t even on my radar anymore.  As Paul said, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”. However, if they found Jesus’ body tomorrow, it wouldn’t change my faith one bit. To my surprise, my friend says “Oh, it would certainly change my faith.” I fill in the blank in my head. “Of course it would.  Your faith is founded on the idea that God proved Himself by raising Jesus’ physical body from the dead.  No resurrection of Jesus’ body, no proof that God can or will raise any of us.”

Most of the people I know don’t base our faith anymore on the need for Jesus’ blood to save us or the idea that God had to do this demonstration to prove He could.  Since that is so central to Christianity, I think what I’ve realized is that maybe I’ve allowed Jesus’ importance to slip away a bit.

A couple of days later, maybe prompted by this conversation, I remember a documentary my friend Mark Pitstick let me borrow months ago.  “Jesus In India” is the name of the movie.

As I’m reading in bed, the series of books The Team, I come across the notion that Jesus is the League leader for this world. According to these books, we are all on teams (like soul groups) and the teams are organized into Leagues. There are many worlds.

This morning, I wake up at 3:16 am.  I know because I look at the clock and I think John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son.”.  Interesting.  Today, I’m going to watch the movie.

The movie lays out the case for Jesus’ lost years, at least some of them, having been spent in India. the Bible is amazingly sketchy on the life of Jesus.  In the book of Luke, He was born. Then, he was 12 and in the temple teaching. Then, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” and suddenly He was 30.  Woah!  Hold on a minute Luke. What the heck was Jesus doing from the ages of 13-30?  OK, you skipped the years He was running around playing with the other kids. But, what did He do doing these critical years of His life?  The Bible is completely silent.

Some say Jesus traveled to India. And, if you go to India, there are people there who claim to have documents and stories of Jesus’ time there.  Christians believe Jesus had to die on the cross to be a sacrifice.  Muslims believe God would never allow His prophet to die in such a manner and that Jesus survived the crucifixion.  Some believe Jesus traveled to India during these missing years and there learned from and taught the Buddhists and the Hindus.  You can certainly see similarities between His teachings and theirs. Some go further to say the Lost Tribes of Israel may have gone to India and that’s why Jesus went there.  There is a tomb in Kashmir where it is rumored that Jesus is buried and another tome in Pakistan where it is rumored Mother Mary was buried. (Uh-oh, let’s hope they never prove that’s Jesus’ body in that tomb).  The documentary also makes the case the Catholic church has evidence on this it is keeping secret (say it isn’t so… the Catholic church keeping secrets).  Is there any proof in the documentary?  No, not at all. It’s interesting speculation, a decent case.  As my wife asked “So what?” What if Jesus did travel to India before and/or after His crucifixion?  Well, that would loosen Christianity’s exclusive claim on Him.  Muslims revere Him as a prophet. They call Him Issa.  Hindus in India call him Isa and they also revere Him. Jesus has pretty much universal respect around the world, including with atheists who think He was a great teacher. It’s Christianity that is the stumbling block for many, not Jesus.  If Jesus did travel to India, teach and learn, it could be a bit step towards, dare I say it, one world faith.

A couple of weeks ago, when we were in Sedona, I thought once again that I’d like to have a Jesus statue for my altar. I have a Jizo statue (Japanese), a compassionate Buddha statue, a Lord Krishna statue, but no Jesus statue. I’m as much of a follower of Jesus as any of these figures. But, here is the problem. As I looked in this Catholic shop for a Jesus statue, and as I’ve looked elsewhere, I can’t find anything that depicts the Jesus I want to remember in my meditation time. All I can find is baby Jesus in a manger or Jesus hanging on a cross.  Christianity is so focused on the Christmas story, the Easter story and Jesus’ blood, they have practically forgotten about His life.

 

Helping Parents Heal is all about the continuation of life and the continuing bonds model of grief therapy.  Grief therapy used to be about accepting the fact your loved one is “dead” and moving on without them.  If you’re a religious person, perhaps you’d believe you’ll see them one day, “in the sweet by and by”.  But, it’s goodbye for now, for the “rest of my life”.

Helping Parents Heal turns this on its head. Our kids are not dead. They are not gone. We will see them again one day.  In the meantime, we can maintain a relationship with them.  One of the most compelling pieces of evidence for this is mediumship.  A good medium reading can do more healing than years of traditional grief therapy.

I work with a number of mediums and over the last several years have grown more familiar with the process and how it can help people. Today I have arranged a demonstration from a certified medium, Kat Baillie.  Kat is going to attempt to do a demonstration of how mediumship works via video conferencing to about 50 people she has never met. Kat has never attempted this before (via technology). So, this is a bit of an experiment.

Kat and I go over the details and have a dry run so she can get familiar with the technology. I tell her I’ll run the meeting- tech-wise. All she has to focus on is spirit.  The meeting is going to be at 10 PM her time since she’s in London.  She has a paid reading set up with a client for 8 PM because, as she explains, this will open her up, warm her up for the demonstration.

The time for the meeting comes, I introduce Kat and she’s off. The first person she comes to can’t claim anything Kat is bringing out.  It’s “‘No… no… no…” This is one of the funny things about these gallery readings and I’ve seen it before.  I’d think the spirit would walk up and say “Hi, I’m Shayna and this is a message for my mother Tywana, the woman over there.”  That’s not the way it works.  The medium doesn’t know exactly who the spirit coming in is for at first. They’ll point to a section of the room. In this case, Kat picked someone one her computer screen. Kat doesn’t get rattled. Eventually the mother says “I think this is for someone else.”  Also, the information seems to come in kind of slow and first and the inaccuracies will be up front, until the medium  fine tunes into the particular spirit and things start to flow.  Kat shifts to someone who can claim everything Kat has said so far. Then the connection is clear. Right information. Wrong person.  Kat proceeds to give her an amazing reading. Then, she circles back around to the first mother whose son was very different in life.  And Kat gives her a spot on reading, including the fact he worked on motorcycles, what he looked like, the nature of his skin, and the fact he is still working on motorcycles in “heaven”.  What we are finding is when we ask “What do they do all day over there?” is they often are doing the same things. I watch as this mother’s face lights up with fond memories of her son.

Kat goes on to other mothers (and some fathers) giving amazing evidence not only of how their kids were in life, but current events that the kids know about now.  Kat identifies dogs (and cats) that are in spirit with the children, describing them. She talks about hobbies the kids had when they were here. She talks about there personalities.  An uncle of two young children, ages 3 and 1, know his sister is having trouble getting them to go to sleep and he’s helping with that.  A daughter knows her mother wears her earrings and keeps them in a box.  A son knows his mother is considering publishing something he wrote.  Getting what the kids did in life, what they died from, that stuff is impressive enough. But, the fact that the kids know what is going on our lives now and tell us to keep talking to them, keep remembering them, keep honoring them, is amazing.  In one reading, a son extends a bouquet of flowers as the reading is coming to a close.  A nice gesture. Kind of cliche, but it’s the only one Kat says this to.  Today, when I log onto Facebook I see this mother’s birthday is today. That’s why he offered the flowers.  It was a birthday present for his Mom. During the reading she had forgotten that today is her birthday.

I’m far from a medium. But, I’m very good at reading emotions on people. I watched the faces of these parents as they went from skeptical or maybe even cynical to believers that their kids were right there on the call with us. I watched as tears turned to smiles.  I heard laughter as jokes were exchanged (inside jokes).

After the demonstration was over, I had people sending messages to me thanking me for arranging the meeting. I could feel the energy when I was on the call.  One mother followed up with Kat and was on with Kat after the meeting. I don’t know how long, but I know it was 1 AM Kat’s time when the mother sent me a message saying that Kat was still talking to her.

I know in some religious circles, particularly Christian, an interpretation of the Bible says consulting with mediums is wrong. I’ve written about this before. But, as I say, the proof is in the pudding. And, as the Bible says, test the spirits by the Spirit.  I saw healing last night.  That cannot be wrong.  I’m happy to have played a small part in bringing this together.

Kat’s at http://www.kat-b.com

 

“‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.”- Leviticus 19:31

If you’ve talked to a fundamentalist Christian about mediumship you might have heard this verse.  Keep in mind Leviticus is the same group of books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) that tells you to stone your children for talking back, says eating shellfish is an abomination, and says that menstruating women are “unclean”.  How many of us live by the book of Leviticus? A show of hands, please.

A little background on me.  I was raised in the church since before I could walk or talk.  My grandfather was the pastor. I was baptized (total immersion), receive the Holy Ghost (that’s what we called it), and spoke in tongues at the age of 13.  I’ve read the Bible cover-to-cover. I’ve studied church history and Bible history. I once thought the Jesus Seminar was the work of the devil because they dared question every word of Jesus spoken in the synoptic gospels.  I had a website called “Counsel for the Defense” where I was an amateur Christian apologist.  So yeah.  Been there, done that.

First, let’s look at a biblical perspective on the consultation of mediums.  Practically speaking much of the “Old Testament” (Jews hate this term, BTW) was about the purity of Israel, keeping Israel separate as a nation, keeping Israel as a nation. These were laws given with a very specific purpose. “Do not be like the nations around you.”  Also, the books were written not by God, but by the priestly class. Have you ever noticed they told you not to consult with mediums, but it was OK for them to talk to the dead?  It was OK for them to interpret dreams.  King Saul consulted the Witch of Endor because his priests couldn’t get him satisfactory answers from beyond.  King Saul first consulted dreams, prophets, and the Urim and Thummin (basically like your pendulums used by spiritists today. All of these were methods of contact the beyond. How is a prophet any different from a medium other than in name?  Saul went to the Witch of Endor because he knew she could truly contact Samuel (not an evil spirit) and she did.  She made the connection.  Yes, Saul lost his battle and committed suicide but perhaps it was because of his hypocrisy. Notice the medium was fine.  The medium was not punished by God.

Then, we have Jesus. In one of His highest moments, the transfiguration, we have Jesus talking to two very dead people, Elijah and Moses.  Uh, that’s being a medium, folks.

Paul, says to test the spirits by the spirits. The mediums I’ve seen have delivered nothing but loving, comforting, healing messages.  No demons would ever deliver these types of messages.  Test the messages? What are they? Are they loving, healing, life affirming?

1 John 4 1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 Corinthians 12 7-11.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Now, let’s look at it practically.

When we “die” we don’t become some evil entity. We don’t go to sleep.  We are the same person we were before our bodies ceased to function. If I can talk to my loved one while she’s here, why am I forbidden to talk to her after she is in spirit?   I’ve heard some Christians say it’s OK for them to talk to their loved one directly but they’d never consult a medium. Oh, I can talk to her, I just can’t go to a medium to talk to her? Give me one good reason besides what you believe the Bible tells you. We all have the ability to connect with spirit, but some of us have more ability than others.  You consult your preacher. You ask for intercessory prayer.  Why would it be wrong to ask someone who has more ability to be the conduit between you and your loved one you can no longer talk to physically?

The proof is in the pudding.  A good medium reading can be more healing than several years of traditional grief therapy. Knowing that your loved one is still right here, has forgiven you, loves you, still participates in your life gives you the strength to carry on until you see them again.  What thing that is so life affirming and so healing could possibly be “evil”?

I respect everyone’s right to believe whatever you want to believe. But, I would encourage you to base your belief on common sense, facts and your heart rather than a handful of verses plucked out of an ancient book. What does your heart say to you about mediumship? How is mediumship impacting people in the world?

We are spirit beings. We don’t cease to be spirit beings because we are encased in flesh. When a medium works for us, her spirit is connecting with our loved one’s spirit talking in a way we can no longer do with our tongues and ears.  Spirit connecting to spirit is never wrong.  Mediums do holy work, serve spirit, and serve humanity.  Some of my favorite people are mediums and I honor their gift.

Hellophilia-  the fondness or love for the doctrine of eternal conscious torment

Hellophilia is a word I came up with this morning.  If I’m supposed to write about something, I’ll often get a synchronicity of at least three events. Two can be a coincidence. Three means, “Write this down”.  A couple of nights ago we had some friends over for the Bengals game.  As the party was winding down someone brought up church. One of my friends attends the church that Tywana and I stopped going to a couple of years ago. There were a number of reasons I stopped going there.  Two of the big ones were their homophobia and their hellophilia, their love for the doctrine of eternal conscious torment. My friend brought up the fact that the church was about to start a series I believe called “Heaven/Hell or Here” or something like that.  She said that maybe I wouldn’t want to attend, but the services would be offered on YouTube. So, I might want to check it out.   She knows I am a universalist. I believe that everyone will (eventually) be reconciled back to God and I believe this is not only common sense, simply humane, and reasonable, but that the Bible, as flawed as it is, teaches this. OK. I told her I’d be willing to check it out and I would be more than happy to discuss the topic with her any time.

Then, this morning I wake up and there are several comments from my blog “The Beautiful Heresy” in my email inbox. The Beautiful Heresy is a blog I wrote to combat the notion of Hell.  I figure some spam bot has found the blog and filled up the comments with spam.  The Beautiful Heresy is a blog I started almost a dozen years ago which lays fallow.  I haven’t written on the blog in a few years and most of the comments these days are spam from people pushing mortgages or some nonsense.  Today, a couple of guys have engaged in a conversation where one is trying desperately to convince the other that in fact God is a monster capable of torturing His own offspring for an eternity and if you think so highly of Him that He won’t, he’ll torture you, too.  Interesting that these guys would choose today to go at it. I don’t remember the last time there was a running battle like this on my blog.

The third thing is that, as I’m sitting at my desk, I see an email from my former church. I unsubscribed to their emails a couple of years ago. Again, I don’t remember the last time I saw one from them.  It flashes through my in box just long enough for me to see from Brian Tome.  “What was that?”  I go searching for it in my inbox, in my spam, but I can’t find the email. I know what I saw. I keep searching. Finally, I find it in the trash.  It’s an invitation to a new Facebook Live thing they are doing.  Cue the Twilight Zone music.  Why did this pop through today?

OK. So I email my friend and tell her about the email I got from the church.  I tell her I would be more than happy to share my years of research with her any time she wants.  Yes, universalism is biblical. What is not biblical is eternal conscious torment. There are a handful of verses, mostly poorly translated, that refer to “hell” (which more often should have been Gehenna with no need of translation).  Where Jesus speaks of figurative, redemptive “punishment”. The word that should have been translated “age” or “ages” is translated into forever or forever and ever.  There is no mention of post mortem punishment in the “Old Testament”.  The idea of eternal conscious torment was only invented by the priestly class and later backed up by the state after the Jewish scriptures were written. Why didn’t/don’t Jews believe this doctrine? Did God forget to tell them?  If it’s so important, why is it completely left out of the “Old Testament”? And, no Sheol, is not Hell or a place of torment, King James translators.

More importantly, why the love for the doctrine of eternal conscious torment? Why the hellophilia?  I politely visit the comments where theses guys are going at it. I tell them I don’t do this anymore.  This is settled science for me.  Not only does the Bible not support this, but neither does common sense or experience. Tonight I have a Helping Parents Heal meeting with an afterlife expert where we discuss what people who have actually been to the other side report. There are no reports of eternal conscious torment. Zero, zilch, nada.  But, some people cling to a faulty interpretation of a 2,000 year old book put together by people who wanted to manipulate you into thinking they held they keys to your eternal future.   No, I ain’t got time to get into this with you. But, I do want to interject a question.  Why? Why is so important for you to convince people that God could or would do such a thing?  I ask them not to answer, but to just think about it. But, this morning, here it is in my in-box. It’s not that God does such a thing.  It’s a “choice”.   Just like a parent can’t control his child, God can’t control us and simply sets before us the “choice” to be eternally consciously tormented (without actually telling us directly this is what we are choosing).  Some people simply make this choice and God’s respect for free will is stronger than God’s love for us. Our will is stronger than God’s will because the Bible clearly states God wills that none perish.  So, He lets us walk into the fire and shuts the door behind us with a shrug of His shoulders. The guy tells me he’s a preacher and he’s never preached fire and brimstone.  “What? Why the hell not?”  If this is what people are walking into isn’t this the only thing you should be preaching?” I’m tempted to fire back, but, I hold my tongue. This was my life for a few years.  OK, preacher, you keep on lulling people into what you believe is a false sense of security.  Thank God they’re not in real danger.

Thankfully for him, my friend, and everyone else, they’re wrong about God.  I’m more than willing to share my years of research on the subject to anyone who has ears to listen and truly wants to now how amazing and loving God is, apparently too good to be true for many.  But, if you want to cling to your hellophilia, that’s your choice. I’ll see you on the flip side where I will say “I told you so.”

I’ve always been a “middle path” kind of guy.  Long before I knew what the middle path was, I was on it.  I believe in all things in moderation, including moderation.  There are some things I’m extreme about, but not many.

Last week I got into it with a couple of guys on the subject of the truth of the Bible, the existence of God, why “bad” things happen to “good” people, etc. The thread on Facebook went over for a couple of hundreds comments as I recall.  There were several people engaged but mostly two people with very simplistic and very wrong (in my not so humble opinion) views.  On the one hand, I had a fundamentalist Christian whose attitude is basically “God (the Bible) said it. I believe it.  That settles it.”  I quickly pointed out to him several places where the Bible said in fact the opposite of what he believes and tried to help him understand God did not author the Bible.  This guy’s attitude is God is the micromanager of everything and therefore God is responsible for everything that happens (God being the big white dude in the sky with the beard).  On the other hand, I have a materialistic atheist who says “Babies die all over the world all the time. If there were an all powerful, all loving God, babies would not die. Therefore, there is no all powerful all loving God.”  This is about the most simplistic and overused argument for atheism I have ever heard. It assumes an awful lot including you know what is good and “evil” and that a loving God wouldn’t allow any “evil” in the world.  The logical extension of this argument is that if the world is less than perfect (in your eyes), God cannot exist.

We, of course, went back and forth as I battled both extremes. The Bible isn’t perfect.  It’s not the Word of God. And, it doesn’t even make the claim that God micromanages everything. God has regrets. People rebel. People negotiate with God.  On the other hand, the “evil” in this world can be explained in any number of ways.  Free will, God allowing natural cause and effect, God using evil for a greater purpose.  When we take a child to the doctor and he gets a vaccine, the child would say that is “evil”.  As a parent, you understand the temporary pain of the injection is more than outweighed by the protection it offers.  When we go to the gym, we endure pain and discomfort to make our bodies stronger. There are countless real world examples of how pain (evil) or struggle can be useful as a step to a higher goal.

So, yesterday I ran across a podcast that was a new idea on evolution I had never heard. I don’t buy into it fully, but is has a lot of promise.  It could satisfy the Atheistic Materialists (I capitalize because that is actually a religion, not a scientific position).  It starts with the fact that the entire universe is evolving.  It has evolved from material/physical, to producing life, to producing conscious beings, to producing spiritual beings. Those spirit beings when they “die” go on to an afterlife which is also evolving.  It solves the problem of why the world is so chaotic and so magical at the same time by saying the world is chaotic because we are evolving out of chaos into a more organized world that is now being shaped by consciousness.  There is no perfectly omniscient, omnipotent God (yet) because God is evolving as the entire universe evolves.  The theory holds promise as a stepping stone for Materialists to understand that we are more than just our bodies.

So, I went to present this idea to my two friends.  Turns out the Christian Fundamentalist has shut down his Facebook account.  According to his brother-in-law, our conversation pushed him over the edge.  I actually sought the guy out after the conversation wound down. I apologized to him for any offense.  And, I told him I admired him for joining the fray.  I guess it wasn’t enough.

My Materialist Atheist friend didn’t react the way I had hoped to the podcast.  He wanted me to summarize it for him (even more than I already had).  He complained that the theory was too complex. It is pretty complex. The universe is a complex place. And he clings to the fact there is no evidence, no “proof” of any of this stuff.  He complained that the host and the interview subject took for granted that we are spirit beings.  There is so much evidence, I don’t even know where to begin. The fact that we are spirit beings has been proven at this point way beyond any reasonable doubt by several fields of study.  I learned that with this particular guy, don’t waste my (digital) breath.

So, I have successfully alienated both the Materialists and the Religious Fundamentalists.  I must be on the right path.