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Comprehending the Incomprehensible

Posted on 2013.08.18 at 00:00
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Growing up in the Worldwide Church of God was akin to being in a secret society - no one else understood the things that we understood; during the End Times, we were going to reign over mankind by becoming...gods! We were afforded this luxury through works masquerading as faith - not the stereotypical traditional Christian belief of simplistically accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, but through following - to the letter - the Old Testament Holy Days. That was the sole path to eternal life through a series of successive biblical resurrections.

Following - to the letter - the Old Testament Holy Days was only half of the equation. The other half was not following traditional faith-based beliefs/behaviors for example the pagan perversion Christmas, and other follow-the-dotted-line activities such as birthdays. If we didn't celebrate the birth of Christ, we certainly weren't going to celebrate (or even for that sake, acknowledge) birthdays. Growing up our own birthdays came and went without so much as a mention because to do so wouldn't honor God (and any fanfare would potentially mark us to be cast into the Lake of Fire from which there was no return).

As I matured and started to question the world around me, many things started disappearing from my priority list - mostly because there were no answers. Its not that I was just super-smart and could out-think or out-reason the answers, rather, there were no answers. At least no answers which made sense, least of all, the very idea surrounding, "faith" as a sustainable course of action. None of this happened very quickly. These types of things rarely do. No, in fact changing one's belief system before one understands how belief systems even work, can take a lifetime. Or in my case, a decade.

To those who are completely devoid of comprehension, why anyone would ever "struggle" with or "question" beliefs instilled in them by another or even ponder the wherewith of the individual doing the instilling (or really, any understanding whatsoever of causation) the entire premise that one's beliefs might change over time due to experience, maturity, or even popular opinion is an entirely foreign concept. Nonetheless, even those in the lowest common denominator are themselves usually capable of taking in new data and processing it. Usually.

So it was of no surprise to me to discover, upon having children of my own, who were going to have birthdays, how I was raised was surely going to conflict with those closest to me. Even my own mother who had since decided all that hooey was just hooey couldn't quite grasp that beliefs which rose and fell during adulthood differed from those which were raised with said beliefs being immutable - which is the problem with beliefs over say, ideas. Ideas can change. We expect ideas to change, to expand, to mutate. But not beliefs. And I'm not talking just religious beliefs. People's worldviews are as fanatically immutable.

So I struggled with changing myself. I struggled with dismantling beliefs which weren't rooted in concrete empiricism, or logic. I worked to dismiss how I was raised from creeping into my decisions and my behavior. Not unexpectedly, it took awhile. I read and learned and questioned and grew and shared all this information with everyone who knew me, from my cult-like beginnings to what I had incrementally overcome. My children never knew the difference in the two me's.

Let's go back to my comments on processing data. Even now, those who were closest to me, and watched firsthand my transformation over nearly ten full years on a day-to-day basis will comment, without skipping a beat, "So now you're celebrating birthdays?"


quicksilvermad at 2013-08-18 14:56 (UTC) (Link)
Jay Baruchel: No, Jesus and God are the same. There's the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
James Franco: It's like Neapolitan ice cream.

As I matured (and am still doing so), I looked back on how I behaved when I was part of the church and did not like what I saw. I saw a bully who passive aggressively told her friends that they should pray for salvation because "I [was] worried you're going to Hell." I saw people who weren't very good friends at all. I saw that all I was doing was repeating what I'd been told and "believing" it. I didn't question anything.

Then I grew up.

I saw how superficial my "friends" were. I heard the things they said behind my back ("she must be a dyke, she never dates and she dresses like a boy."). I did not see "God's love" in these people. I didn't see acceptance. I didn't see a Christ-like attitude. And with each sermon sounding more and more like ones I'd heard before—each hymn becoming a chore instead of praise—I decided that church wasn't the place for me.

So is there a God? Many religions share similar belief systems but call their god different things. If there was a God, would he really be picky about what we called Him? Or would He just be happy that we have enough faith to believe in some higher power? I do believe that there was a dude named Jesus (or his name was something very close to that) who had some great ideas about how to treat everybody with love and respect, but was he the physical manifestation of God? Or was he just some guy who was good at public speaking?

I don't know what I believe now. And that sometimes troubles me. Like you say, ideas can change, but beliefs are supposed to be immutable. So, how is it possible that my beliefs have changed? Or was I only committed to the idea of prosthelytizing Christianity when I was younger? Was I really capable of understanding the concept of an all-powerful being watching over us? I'm not sure I was. I certainly always had trouble with the concept of blind faith (I need hard evidence). So, perhaps it wasn't a belief to begin with.
ehowton at 2013-08-18 15:17 (UTC) (Link)
I never placed you with the rest of the herd. And beliefs are SUPPOSED to change. That's the only way we know we're thinking! (I even authored a little graphic here and discussed why "sticking to ones principles" is the definition of close-minded: http://ehowton.livejournal.com/447571.html)

The problem seems to be society's understanding of how belief works.

Nothing about what you've disclosed the past year had surprised me in the slightest. I've been awfully proud of your growth and can even disclose what is probably coming next for you - a complete disdain for the dichotomy of politics. It will be interesting to see if I am right about that (given enough time) as its another one of my (numerous) theories.

michelle1963 at 2013-08-18 21:09 (UTC) (Link)
I would say that blind adherence to an unchanging belief is simplistic at best. Either people have not been taught to think critically or they fear a change in underlying worldview.

While religion is a great example, politics is another. Many politicians have been in office for a very a long time (never mind the problem with that issue itself). How many times have you ever heard a politician admit to change his mind on anything given new data? Very rarely. And when they do, they are accused of being wishy-washy at best or a hypocrite at worst. No, they are expected to have the same opinions they held when they got into office 20 or 30 years ago, because by God you should stay true to your beliefs. If people's beliefs don't go through at least some modification over 20 - 30 years of new experiences and new facts (especially as quickly as science and tech moves), well then I find myself speechless.

I am speechless in order to avoid saying, what fucking moron still believes the same exact, unwavering shit over that span of time?

(Was that too harsh?)

Head meet desk.
ehowton at 2013-08-26 17:10 (UTC) (Link)
Based on your description, it sounds like politicians are exactly who we need leading the nation!

Edited at 2013-08-26 05:10 pm (UTC)
pcofwildthings at 2013-08-26 01:50 (UTC) (Link)
Wow, Eric, the extremes of the belief system you were indoctrinated with as a child makes my liberal Lutheran upbringing seem like a picnic (with plenty of birthday cake and beer). Of course, it still takes much thought energy and analysis to deconvert, a process which is ongoing for me. I just started reading The God Delusion by Dawkins, and in the preface he talks about people "not knowing they could" (question their religious beliefs). I knew that I could, but did I really want to? As Dale McGowan says, "the desire to know" must exceed the "desire to believe." I think everyone is different in regard to if/when they reach that tipping point.
ehowton at 2013-08-26 17:12 (UTC) (Link)
I like to think I'm more well-rounded because of it. I run up against people who've had no such programming, so they miss out on the pleasure of overcoming an internal struggle :D
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