Monday, May 9, 2011

Written Aug '09: My First Doubts - Relationship? Where?

In all other religions, the believers are largely victims of delusion. Careful analysis is required to conclude that Christianity is the sole exception, since we already know that humans, including us, are capable of mass delusion. We must consider the distinct possibility that we too are delusional, and carefully rule it out. We must know how to identify delusion, and be careful not to engage in lifestyles/activities that perfectly fit the nature of delusion. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to distinguish any element of Christianity from delusion.

When someone is deluding themselves, they tend to subject themselves solely to their particular belief and avoid/dismiss opposing arguments. Many Christians are this way; they don’t think outside their beliefs (like me until the age of 27). I have yet to personally encounter similar concerns amongst Christians as the now seemingly obvious ones I’ll present here. These concerns led me to doubt that which I hold dearest, which is a fair reason to avoid them.

When I started looking at Christianity through an unclouded lens, I was very disheartened. Try this: after every Christian teaching you hear, ask yourself, “is this also what I’d expect to hear if Christianity were false?” After several months of having to honestly answer “yes” without a single exception, this began to wear on me. Here are just a few Christian teachings to try it on:
• God works together all things for good, even when it’s tough to see.
• We can’t understand God’s decisions because his mind is so superior.
• God doesn’t give us clear answers because Faith and love must be a choice.
• God’s wisdom is spiritually discerned and appears foolish to non-spiritual men.
• The Bible’s teachings must be analyzed in the context of the ancient culture.
• Fear the Lord, who has the power to throw us into Hell.
• The Bible warns against falling away from belief.
• Satan is the Father of Lies, turning many people away from Christ.
• Jesus Christ is coming soon.
• God speaks to us through the Bible, His living and active Word.
• We can’t go through this Christian walk alone, we need fellowship.
• We are standing in the way of what God desires for us.
• We will learn all the answers and see God when we die.

Since Jesus is supposed to be the absolute Truth, we can call Christians "seekers of the absolute Truth". A seeker of the absolute Truth should not accept teaching at face value. This implies that the individual who is seriously doubting and seeking, who may be considered weak in Faith, may actually be further along in their spiritual journey than some Christians who simply believe what is taught. I’d hope all seekers of the absolute Truth would critically assess their beliefs and think heavily about these/other concerns. Otherwise it will be difficult to argue that Christians are not merely delusional. If we can’t find the answers and yet still believe, then our Faith is even stronger because we’re not ignorant to the lack of evidence.

If our God is true, we do not have to delude ourselves to believe in Him. A relationship with God must be readily available by his mighty power and love, not by continual efforts in mind-maintenance. If this relationship is readily available, then I’d imagine most Christians must have it. I personally feel little/no substance to a relationship with Jesus. I’ve found an overwhelming majority of devoted Christian’s also admit an unsettling sense of distance in this relationship.

Not giving up and not choosing complacency, the question becomes: what does a real relationship with God look like and how do we attain it? The view we generally gather from church is that God’s relationship is similar to that of an intimate Earthly lover, and it’s attained largely through Bible-reading/following and prayer. This sets up high expectations which lead to guilt and confusion. The common response is to take blame, “I just haven’t been reading my Bible and praying like I should.” Mother Teresa preached this intimate closeness, did more Bible-reading and praying than most could imagine, yet secretly admitted in her diary that she always felt a complete absence of God. If we’re expecting a lover-like relationship with God, then why would Bible-reading and prayer be the medium anyway? Imagine your wife wrote you a book about how much she loves you, gave it to you on your wedding day, then moved far away and said “call me and I’ll just listen without responding.” No rational man would stay in love with her or blame themselves for the lack of intimacy, saying, “She loves me so much, I just don’t read her book and call her like I should.” No, there must be more relational substance to survive. I see three main possibilities: 1) There is a different means of drawing intimately close to God which we’re not commonly taught, 2) the lover analogy is off and “closeness to God” needs to be properly redefined with little intimacy/feeling, 3) God doesn’t exist, that’s why we can’t get close to Him. Either way, the church is conveying false ideas which are causing guilt and confusion.

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