Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray

Dying To Myself Daily: How Good Intentions Paved The Path To ‘My’ Hell

37 Comments

I tend to have trepidations when talking about the subject of religion.  One of the main reasons is because I know that religion plays an important role in the lives of many people, but not everyone becomes as committed to their religion as I once was.  People may call themselves a Christian, but I’m going to be blunt here — most people who call themselves Christians tend to know very little about their own religion or the contents of the Bible, their ‘guide book’.

They are cultural Christians.

Although I was raised a Christian, indoctrinated in Sunday school, religious schools and from the pulpit; it wasn’t until after the suicide of my husband that I really took my faith to another level.  Due to tragedy, I was ripe for the picking.  I was told by total strangers, who appeared to be quite caring, that Jesus would comfort me in my grief.  But I was also told that I would have to do my part, too:

Die to myself.

I have the type of temperament that if I’m going to make a commitment to something or someone, I tend to take that commitment quite seriously and will go the distance.   As instructed by scriptures, I prayed earnestly, read and studied my Bible daily, and dedicated my life to Jesus Christ, fully.  After years of reading, studying, memorizing and hearing it continually preached from the pulpit, I became programmed to believe that the Bible was the word of God and that Christianity was ‘the truth’.

I never questioned.  Without using any critical thinking skills, I submitted and obeyed.  I still deal with embarrassment sometimes because I did so, willingly.  But I also have to remind myself that I had been traumatized and was vulnerable.

Below are examples of many scriptures I read and heard preached over and over.  Scriptures that played a role in killing ‘me’.

Galatians 2:20  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

John 12:24  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Luke 9:23  “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

1 Peter 4:1-2  “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”

Galatians 5:24  “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

John 3:30  “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Galatians 6:14  “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Romans 12:1  “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

*****

I did my very best to heed this message; becoming a living sacrifice to God.  I made a lot of sacrifices, indeed, especially as a woman.

Bottom line:  they were in vain.

It took years of study before I came to realize this, and when I did it felt like the ultimate betrayal!

First of all, those scriptures are not based on any original manuscripts because there are no original manuscripts to date.  Only copies of copies of copies; and those copies contradict each other. This is primarily due to copying errors and manuscript tampering by scribes and Church fathers with an agenda.   I recommend an excellent lecture at Stanford:  “Misquoting Jesus:  Scribes Who Altered Scriptures, and People Who May Never Know.”

When I made my final departure from Christianity, and religion all together, I realized that I didn’t know who the hell I was.   “Me” didn’t exist anymore.  I have not been able to articulate that feeling, yet, and every time I try, I cry.

I had to pretty much start from scratch.  Reinvent myself while working on atrophying (pruning) neural networks created by religious programming.  (See some of the methods used in church to put you in a suggestive state)

What a huge feat that was for me.  My previous passions and interests didn’t surface for a long time, and some were not able to be revived.  I had to deprogram myself, and I did it alone because no one in my life understood what I was going through, and to try to explain it to them seemed to threaten their own faith.

No one in my community, nor any family members had gone through what I’d gone through.  A deconversion.

No one understood.

Today, almost a decade later, I am still dealing with the repercussions of leaving the faith — but —

It’s good to be alive.

Death 2

Photos courtesy of Kenn W. Kiser @ Morguefile.com

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Author: NeuroNotes

Victoria predominately blogs about religion, and the brain's role in religious type experiences.

37 thoughts on “Dying To Myself Daily: How Good Intentions Paved The Path To ‘My’ Hell

  1. I can’t imagine having to go through this completely alone. I don’t know how you’ve managed, but I think you’re doing brilliantly as evidenced by your blogs and comments. If I didn’t have my wife and my good atheist friend, who knows where I would be.

    The deprogramming is hell at times. Absolute hell. For what it’s worth, you most definitely are not alone. Every word you said here rings completely true with me. Solidarity, sister.

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    • Michael, thank you for your thoughtful response. Yes, I couldn’t agree with you more — deprogramming is hell at times. There is a kind of irony about the journey I’ve taken. While seeking effective methods of deprogramming, I came upon study after study about the brain, culture and behavior. Those studies played a major role in my understanding about ‘human nature’. It made me realize, too, that those so called messengers of God didn’t have very good communication skills, like there was static/interference in the lines of communication between their god and themselves. Either that, or their god was/is rather ignorant about ‘his’ own creation, and in particular, ignorant regarding the brain.

      Leaving the faith caused me to become in touch with my humanity, and that of others. I found myself having far more empathy and compassion. I no longer saw humans as ‘depraved’, ‘sinful’, and in need of redemption. Religions, such as the Abrahamic faiths, create the very conditions and behaviors it condemns.

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  2. Still pruning.

    Thanks for this Victoria. Like MichaelB, it all “rings completely true with me.”

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    • Hey Zoe, I’m so glad you stopped by and commented. Yes, “still pruning”. I think the deprogramming process will be lifelong for me. Especially due to the fact that (and I speak for myself) my brain was wired since early childhood to view life from a narrow perspective, and some of those neural connections became strong default networks which can be extremely difficult to atrophy.

      Shit still happens, but I have a big shovel. Apparently, you, Michael and Vance, do too. 😀

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  3. First off, great to hear from you again!:o)

    Secondly, I have been trying for the past several years to stop those exact passages (and others) ringing inside my head, and am amazed at how difficult it is. I know how completely a person can become overshadowed by “FAITH!!!!!” and how effectively we’re taught to bend over and quote Animal House again and again and again. The truly astounding thing is the way in which we’ve been conditioned to accept the pernicious form of slavery that is “seeking the will of God.” Not I, but…well…not I. My personal favorite is 1 Corinthians 7:22: “And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ.” What the hell does that even mean?!?

    Obviously, my experiences of this were not the same as yours, which means I cannot totally understand what you went through. BUT…you know I get it.

    Solidarity, indeed!

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  4. Thank you, Vance. =) This ‘stuff’ is challenging for me to write about, and it took me a long time to even talk about my experiences. My deconversion took place before there were online support systems for those questioning their faith, and there sure as hell were no offline support systems in my community, either. In fact, at the time I became an unbeliever, I had never met one, ever. I’d only heard about those ‘depraved heathens’ from the pulpit. It was years later that I realized that those ‘depraved heathens’ were actually some of the most ‘moral’, empathic people I’d ever met.

    You said:

    “My personal favorite is 1 Corinthians 7:22: “And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ.” What the hell does that even mean?!?”

    My immediate thought was that it meant exactly what it states. Submit, obey and never question your ‘master’.

    Stopping those passages from affecting my thought processes and ultimately, behavior, has been difficult for me, too. During my time as a Christian, I never really had a voice, and when I did, it was discouraged or condemned. I felt guilty for questioning, because doing so was a sign that I lacked faith. Every upstanding thing I did had nothing to do with me. You see, I could not do such things without Jesus. That’s what I was conditioned to believe. Therefore, I never saw my own self-worth, nor the positive contributions I had made. Everything I did (honorably) I gave Jesus/God the credit for. I share that to say that I sometimes find myself doing that now as an unbeliever, only in a different way. It plays a major role in the difficulty I am having with writing from my personal POV — like who the hell do I think I am to have an opinion? Damn, that’s hard to admit. =/

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  5. Awesome post! I did not have an experience like that, so my “deprogramming” has been in other areas, mostly cultural programming. Whenever I have wondered if I would be going to hell after this life because I did not believe in the Bible, I considered the one question of how could a book survive in tact over centuries of translation and editorial control from churches? Much better to dial direct and get input from Source.

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    • Hi Josh, and thank you. Your comment was thought provoking. You mentioned that you had to do some cultural deprogramming, but not of a religious nature. You grew up in a more liberal environment than I did, and yet it seems that you were still quite affected by a Judeo-Christian culture which required deprogramming. I do believe that people in America and elsewhere are not fully aware how much Judeo-Christianity has impacted our laws, gender roles, corporal punishment, inequality, and before the Civil war, acceptance of slavery. In fact, in my state, and several others, you can’t run for office unless you believe in God, preferably the Judeo-Chriatian god.

      I look at it this way — if there is a hell, and if the Judeo-Christian god is ‘the God’, I’d rather burn in hell forever than to compromise my innate moral values.

      So glad you dropped by and responded, considering the busy schedule you’ve had lately. Much appreciated. =)

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  6. @Victoria,

    In referencing Joshua, take circumcision. Circumcision is basically a normal practice here in the US and people rarely question it. It is a way to curb sexual desire in boys and men. It is cutting off a part of the penis, therefore, it shortens the length of the penis. This diminishes some of the sexual desire/enjoyment in men and as a result, weakens the sexual pleasure in women they have sex with.

    My husband and I thought it was healthy, normal and Biblical to have both our boys circumcised, we felt the same about giving them both Old Testament Biblical names for their first and middle names. When you add the fact that most hospitals in the US have religious affiliations: Judaism, Methodist, Catholicism, Seventh Day Adventist, and Baptist, you are more than likely to make decisions at those hospitals that are heavily influenced by religion. Both my children were born at two different military hospitals, however, “God and country” are still very strong in the military and all its entities.

    I apologized to both of my boys this past summer for having them circumcised. People get all upset about female circumcision in far away Muslim countries and rightfully so, however, what about poor little newborn boys here in the US? We are so advanced as a nation, yet, we follow such barbaric methods of religion that encourages sexphobia. It’s just glorified shaming and it needs to stop!

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    • Hey CHope, great comment. We could go on and on about how much the Judeo-Christian religion has impacted the U.S and other cultures around the world. I’ve been in several debates about circumcision which provoked some research about this controversial subject. I’m against it, myself. If I had a son, that would need to be his decision and hopefully he’d educate himself first.

      Some research suggests that circumcision reduces the risks of STDs, and HIV, but looking over these studies (some by Jewish researchers from Jewish hospitals) it appeared to me that other variables were not taken into account. Also, there’s not enough sufficient evidence regarding the benefits, and therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend routine neonatal circumcision.

      I have been in an extensive discussion with my best friend about circumcision and his views definitely compliment your views with regard to sexual pleasure. He brought up a great point about the exposed head of the penis being desensitized due to constant exposure to clothing. It seems quite logical to me. I can’t imagine having the hood surrounding my clitoris removed and my clitoris exposed 24/7.

      So glad you popped in, my friend.

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  7. Rationality and emotional resilience work the same way, this is why false indoctrination is so efficient. The brain will strengthen the neural connection of what you are doing at any time, to become better at it.
    If you constantly ‘work’ at living from a biblical point of view, the neural pathways that are used to seeing the world with religious eyes will become so strong that it will take great effort to have thought-patterns that avoid running through them, they will be a dominating factor of the ‘me’ .

    Neurotransmitters, such as Norepinephrine trigger a defensive state, when the brain feels, when ‘we’ feel, that our thoughts have to be protected from others.
    When, in this state, we are then confronted with a difference of opinion the chemicals released, in the brain, are the same ones that tries to ensure our survival in life threatening situations.
    This defensive state allows the more primitive part of the brain to interfere with rational thinking, the limbic system can knock out most of our working memory, physically causing Narrow-mindedness.

    We see examples of this many places, but stubbornness in a discussion is one place it is often evident. No matter how valuable an idea is! The brain will have trouble processing it when in such a state.

    The neuro patterns from an earlier way of thinking will still be there if you develop a new way of thinking. Making is very hard to direct your thoughts around them, this is one major reason old ways can linger so long after, and it is why I am so impressed by people who can prune up old neural networks, steer their thoughts clear of them, and develop a new network that allows them to move on.

    Thanks for sharing, Victoria

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    • Morti, when I read your comments my thoughts were all over the place. Well stated. This is such valuable input, and something I think people should be made aware of. Information like this is a tool in assisting self-directed neuroplasticity., and it nurtures mindfulness. I am inspired to write another post addressing the contents of your comment. I’m getting my ducks in a row.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and share such relevant, cutting-edge information. My sincere apologies for taking so long to respond. I have been spread thin this week.

      Victoria

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    • Very interesting, BBMorti, and I agree. What you think over time becomes who you are to your very individual cells. Repeated, manipulative teaching will do the same thing, which is exactly how religion operates.

      What I find very exciting is that I’ve learned that meditation does the exact opposite. There are numerous scientific studies that indicate how meditation decreases the size of your amygdala, the flight or fight centre of your brain, and opens up your capacity for well…. openness. 🙂

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    • When, in this state, we are then confronted with a difference of opinion the chemicals released, in the brain, are the same ones that tries to ensure our survival in life threatening situations.
      This defensive state allows the more primitive part of the brain to interfere with rational thinking, the limbic system can knock out most of our working memory, physically causing Narrow-mindedness.

      This explains perfectly the responses I have received when trying to discuss the Christian faith rationally on some Christians sites.

      Actually what I have found most instructive is the type of discussions on Christian blogs when they feel there are no atheists lurking. It falls into two basic camps, on the surface there is a ‘hallelujah brother/sister’ comment, but whenever the discussion gets onto weighty matters of doctrine it soon becomes clear that they actually don’t agree with each other and then the level of vitriol is often akin to what is directed at atheists.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. So now it’s not just music, it’s not just metaphysics, neuroscience, Quantum Mechanics, it is also religious or Christian deconversion/deprogramming, then a PROPER rebirth that we have in common now! Woot woot! 🙂

    We definitely have many “notes” to compare and pick/prick each other’s brains! I wish more publicly-proclaimed Christians examined their religion’s roots and early formation as you did. Much kudos Victoria! Great post!

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    • Professor, after reading several posts on your blog, I’d definitely say we have some notes to compare. I must tell you that endorphins are flowing from all the stimulation — the kind of stimulation my mind craves. It’s not everyday I run across a blog like yours. Also, I’m interested in learning about your deprogramming/deconversion. Have you written any posts about this, and if so, could you direct me to them?

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, and for the kudos. I survived the madness – oh yes I did, and have been making up for it ever sense. 😀

      *Raises glass* Cheers

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  9. *raises 3rd glass* Take no prisoners to the kitchen!

    I haven’t any one specific post sharing the story, sorry. It involves three major life events that I’m not yet sure are articulated in a way I’m comfortable in sharing. They involve family members and a few close friends (“born again” friends) that still stay in contact with me. But I’d be more than happy to share it with you privately out of respect. 🙂

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  10. An excellent post, thanks much.

    I was raised in a cult called “The Way”, which imploded when I was about 8. Then in later teenage years, my family was pulled into another similar movement, this time a millennial one. It took a lot of research for me to escape the errant teachings and simply arrive at normal Christian orthodoxy. Incredibly difficult, with an identity crisis felt during two distinct stages of emergence. I was a devout and serious orthodox believer for about 15 years after, and have just completed round 3 of escape by study, arriving at my more recent agnostic position.

    Religions are an interesting phenomenon, fraudulent as they are from inception, and since they exploit the rather well-intentioned half of ordinary people. I think you’re dead on with regard to the conditioning they effect. And since I still have four kids at home, and having a background such as I do, I have a very strong commitment to (if possible) set them out on life with less handicaps than I’ve experienced. I believe that is one reason why I never considered stopping my research once it became apparent there were serious problems under the hood of Christian faith. Not until the last stone had been turned.

    My kids have adapted to the “news” of Christian falsehood much more easily than my wife and I. Surprisingly well in fact. The identity crisis for the two of us has been very real indeed. For the true believer, what we believe simply is who we are. But I think, in the end, we may be winning – taking our lumps so the kids with at least have the opportunity of a life without such baggage. As I have told my wife, there are enough real crises in life. No need to add contrived crises about imaginary things on top.

    Thanks for posting this. We have found encouragement in other people’s stories.

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    • Matt, just wow. Thank you for sharing at such length. It is a relief to read that you and your wife are on the same page, and that your children have adapted so gracefully. I mentioned in my About page, as you know, that I had been widowed as well as divorced. Let’s just say that when I deconverted, my partner determined that we were no longer ‘equally yoked’ and pulled away. The marriage went south after that.

      I’m so glad you stopped by and posted this. Like you said, reading other people’s stories brings encouragement.

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      • There was a time when I did not know whether she and I would wind up that way as well. It’s been difficult, but we were able to change with each other. I’m sorry it didn’t go that way in your case. The longer I live, the less I can predict what will happen next. I couldn’t have foreseen changing, much less both of us changing. Living life is an odd concatenation of experiences, don’t you think?

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        • Oh, indeed. My past was painful, but now that I have had time to heal, I’m glad things turned out the way they did in my marriage. I chose to look at this from my ex’s perspective, too., and that expedited the healing process, or rather the ‘grieving’ process. It allowed me to embrace Stage 5 (Acceptance) without lingering bitterness or resentful.

          It is true that the only thing certain is change. I can live with that. 🙂

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  11. aha what do I say…. I don’t follow any religion and its practice though am born to Hindu parents. I follow only what my conscience allows me to irrespective of its origin. on the other hand my husband frantically follows a spiritual leader. Its his faith that gave him the strength to fight cancer and two major surgeries . I have accepted him with his faith though I don’t agree. But he never respects my thoughts. that’s the difference between a blind follower of religion and a open minded person.
    V good post Vi.

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    • Rihaansh, as you know, I have no issues with regard to people having a personal faith/belief, or being a part of a faith/religion in order to cope in this world. The problem is that many of faith don’t keep it to themselves, and often seek to influence laws that rob people of their human rights. LGBT rights, Civil rights, and Women’s rights are prime examples.

      As you pointed out — your partner does not respect your thoughts. This seems to be a common phenomena in many religious circles. The interesting thing about faith is that it’s really not faith if people of faith need to recruit others and bring them ‘into the fold’ in order to sustain their own faith.

      Thank you for reading and commenting, my friend. It’s always wonderful to see you.

      Victoria

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      • very well said “The interesting thing about faith is that it’s really not faith if people of faith need to recruit others and bring them ‘into the fold’ in order to sustain their own faith.”.
        I reread this post after reading this response vi. This has greater depth and gravity than what I assumed earlier. kudos to your thoughts and kudos to you that you chose to deprogram and stand out.no wonder your vulnerability has been chosen by wp for freshly pressed. my hearty congrats. keep it goin my dear friend, and my best wishes for the same.

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  12. Wow – what a journey you’re on! I became a Jesus-follower (how I hate the word “Christian”) in my adulthood and have been grateful I did not have a bunch of deconstruction to do. As part of the emergent church, I understand “dying to self” as meaning dying to the programming the world puts into you (including shame) and embracing the real, whole you that you were created to be. For me, this has meant freedom and authenticity. .
    I don’t believe in Hell. What kind of a loving Spirit would condemn a person to eternal, conscious torment? Not the God I know. And not the one Jesus talked about.
    Anyway, I wish you the best on your spiritual travels. I’m sorry you have had so many tragedies and hardships. They teach us compassion and empathy if they don’t kill us in the process. 🙂
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed for your post on vulnerability. Spot on. The most popular post I’ve ever written was on shame as well. Popular topic.

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    • “I became a Jesus-follower (how I hate the word “Christian)…”

      Hi Melanie, I so appreciate you taking the time to read and your compassionate comments. I like what you said in the quote. As far as I know, Jesus was never a Christian. 😉

      The term “Christian” carries a negative energy, IMO. Same with the Bible. It’s hard to describe, and I don’t say that because of my own personal experiences. I believe in the principles of empathy, compassion, connection and caring that have been attributed to Jesus. I couldn’t agree with you more about Hell. What parent (unless they are a psychopath) would create a hell, and send their children there? Certainly not any God I’d want to bow down to. You said:

      “I understand “dying to self” as meaning dying to the programming the world puts into you (including shame) and embracing the real, whole you that you were created to be.”

      I’ve been in my fair share of churches throughout my life, and was an active member of several denominations in my pursuit of ‘truth’. Everyone has their own interpretation of the Bible. That’s why there are over 41,000 Christian denominations. No one can agree on much, it would appear. I’m happy to read that you have found freedom and authenticity on your journey. I sense your authenticity in your comment. It is a pleasure to meet you. I look forward to stopping by your blog, and reading your posts as time permits. Yes, shame does appear to be a hot topic.

      Thanks so much for the congrats. This has been a special day. I’ve met some amazing people. =)

      Victoria

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  13. We share similar experiences, my friend. I went from religious to atheist and neither of them helped me find out who I am. I lost my power and confidence and became a shadow of myself. There were other reasons as well for this, such as my anxiety/panic and depression and also my giving myself up completely to my husband.

    I finally found myself when I discovered my spirituality. That can mean different things to different people but I believe the foundation of spirituality is discovering your own power and how this power is connected to the universe (or God, as some may call it). My life motto is mind/body/spirit because everything in us is connected and we are connected to the universe.

    I believe faith can be powerful but religion can not. Religion was created to manipulate, shame, and force exclusion. The power is with them, not with you. How sad is it when people can not believe in the strength of their own bodies, mind, and spirit.

    Have you tried meditation? That has been one of my biggest blessing as I go through this journey of life.

    Laura

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    • Hi Laura. My apologies for the delay in response. I’ve been working through the onslaught of email notifications on comments I’ve gotten over the past week on my blog. You said:

      “My life motto is mind/body/spirit because everything in us is connected and we are connected to the universe.”

      I believe this as well, simply based on personal experience and my studies on the Earth’s magnetic field and the electromagnetic fields in our environment and those that surround our brain/body. You would like Dr. Michael Persinger’s research if you aren’t already privy to it. I’ve posted some of his and Dr. Todd Murphy’s research on my other blog. Both are behavioral neuroscientists.

      “I believe faith can be powerful but religion can not.”

      I agree. Faith can have a powerful placebo effect, such as in examples of spontaneous healing.

      “How sad is it when people can not believe in the strength of their own bodies, mind, and spirit.”

      Sad indeed. We have religion ($$$) to thank for that. People are even programmed to believe that if they don’t give credit to some deity, they are in for it. After all, they (i.e., Christians) are indoctrinated to believe that “God” is a jealous god.

      “Have you tried meditation?”

      Yes — both traditional and in an unconventional way. I find quicker results utilizing neurotechnology. When I realized how incredibly effective it was on me and my well being, I studied and became a specialist in brainwave training. I spent around 6 months working on a protocol then opened an onsite facility helping others’ achieve the same effects without the traditional methodologies that can sometimes takes years to achieve.

      Quote from Dr. Todd Murphy — who is also a practicing Buddhist.

      “…repeated, simultaneous stimulation of the left amygdala (associated with positive affect) and the right hippocampus (associated with a positive cognitive style) will, over time, raise the baseline activity of these two structures, allowing a positive emotive and cognitive style for individuals, possibly by entraining their neuroanatomical substrates with each other. This is postulated to be within the range of personality alterations described popularly as ‘Spiritual Transformation’.” Source

      Here are 3 meditation techniques (brain-based spiritual practices) that get quick results without the use of neurotechnology.

      I didn’t use low-intensity complex magnetic signals, but rather brainwave entrainment (primarily isochronic tones) in the SMR (sensoimotor rhythm) hz range (bordering Alpha/Beta). This assists in eliminating mind chatter and increasing focus. Then in the same session I’d gradually entrain down to the lower Alpha brainwave state to experience a rush of endorphins, clarity of mind, awareness, surges of creativity, etc. The sessions were/are around 1 hour.

      I will be posting more about BWE and meditation techniques on this blog in the near future. I have posted a little about cortical evoked response — frequency following response in another post on this blog. It has been life-changing for me and others, and also played a role in helping me to decrease gray matter volume in my right amygdala (fear – anxiety) which had been increased primarily due to fear-based religion.

      Thanks so much for your awesome comment.

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  14. Although my path has been slightly different, I applaud you for taking the bold step of choosing the “Road Less Traveled” I am going through something similar. I still don’t know who I really am. I used to identify myself with being a Hispanic Christian Introverted male. But I know these are just inventions of the mind. I want to be me (whatever that is). A person trying to live in the moment, without seeking too much, and without falling into the trap of religion or spiritual apathy either. I just want to be who I am, which it is taking a while to learn about. I thought you may like this short story I wrote on my blog. I would be interested to hear what you think as an atheist. Take care. http://livingthekingdom.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/carl-and-alfred-a-tale-of-two-extremes/

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    • Hi Noel,
      I’m so glad you stopped by, and I really appreciate your candor. It’s quite refreshing. Just for the record, I am a humanist-freethinker if I have to put labels on my stance. I base my view about god on experience and years and years of diligent study, dedication and surrender. I totally dedicated my life to god, so if there is one, this god is really not into intimacy or ‘personal relationships’, and I really need to have two-way communication and emotional intimacy in a love relationship. I’m at peace now and that is something I never had as a believer — not authentic peace. Just peace by faith. But I don’t care if anyone believes in god so long as they don’t bring harm to others in the name of their god.

      I’ll take a look at your article. Today is my sister’s birthday, so I’m not sure if I’ll get back with you with my thoughts on your article today. Thanks for sharing.

      Oh, and speaking of being in the moment, did you ever read A New Earth by Eckart Tolle? I noticed on your blog that you were promoting one of his books — just not that one. Was curious. I read it in 2005. His book provided much healing and insight during a time I needed it the most.

      “Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”
      ― Eckhart Tolle

      Hope you have a wonderful weekend, Noel, and I’ll be in touch soon. =)

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    • OK, I read your article. You said it was short, lol. No where close. 😀

      Nice message, btw. Bottom line, we need each other to survive which is why cooperation evolved among our species and other species. Humans simply put a label on it, call it ‘morality’ and claim it’s only possible via a deity. To each his own. Without cooperation we’d go extinct, and that is likely possible if we don’t start heeding to the abundant research available to us. But we are hardwired to get edgy around people different from us. (see last paragraphs from article below regarding the amygdala). However, our view on who falls into that category is decidedly malleable. In other words, we can become less ‘tribal’ which religion promotes. I think you will like the article >> Peace Among Primates — especially the section regarding the Forest Troop baboons. Baboons live in aggressive, highly stratified, male-dominated societies, like humans do for the most part.

      In this particular troop mentioned in the section “Left behind”, the Forest troop alpha males hogged the resources, were aggressive and domineering and everyone else submitted to them like all the other baboon troops do. It wasn’t until half the aggressive, domineering alpha males died out after eating tainted meat from a garbage dump that peace and cooperation within the troop came to be. The cultural dynamics dramatically changed. Dr. Robert Sapolsky, who observed and lived among the baboons for many years said that after this occurred they had literally created a baboon utopia. Became egalitarian and cooperative. It’s remained that way for over 20 years. So I say that if baboons can live peacefully among themselves, we humans have hope. Some of that hope is seen in countries like Scandinavia, where they are considered to be among the most peaceful countries in the world. They are also the least religious. But that will not change for the rest of us until we change the dynamics of an aggressive, highly stratified, male-dominated society that exits in most countries.

      Anyway, I wish you all the best on your journey, Noel. Feel free to engage in dialog here anytime, or on my other blog. I enjoy the discourse, and I look forward to getting to know you better.

      Btw, since you also care about the well being among humans, I think you will really like the website where the article was posted — The Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.
      Here’s the home page. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/

      Hope you’re having a nice weekend.
      Victoria

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  15. Only 3 months out from my deconversion so this post really resonates with me. Any suggestions on how to work on my “atrophying (pruning) neural networks?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Quixie, I can imagine this must be a difficult time for you. My deconversion journey took me a lot longer than most, I think, because I went through it alone and I didn’t know any unbelievers either online or off. At the time I started questioning, which was over 15 years ago, I didn’t know there was any online support or ex-Christian forums and blogs such as you see now. My final stage happened in 2005. Before that period, I went through the 5 stages of grief — Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Sometimes anger and depression would surface again, and I’d have to work through them. Both had to do with the fact that I felt like I had wasted a big chunk of my life — made many sacrifices — and felt betrayed.

      The reason I’m sharing this with you is because I had to go through those stages before I could start pruning. When you are in those stages, you are giving a lot of thought to it, and those thoughts can continue to reinforce those networks. The rule of thumb is — what you don’t use you lose. That doesn’t mean you will forget. It just means that you are not using those pathways as much anymore, and eventually, you’ll create new neural pathways (through new thoughts and habits) so that you don’t automatically default to the old ones.

      I gather that you are no longer reading the Bible, or listening to sermons, etc, and this will help expedite the process. I did have to do a lot of self-talk during that deprogramming period. I know you’re not in the position right now, based on what you shared in another post about your children still attending church, to remove yourself completely from the Christian environment. But it will be beneficial to perhaps get involved with a Free Thinking/Humanist group, like a Meetup, in your community, if there is one.

      Basically, it takes time, and everyone is on a different time-table depending on how invested they were.

      http://psychology.about.com/od/biopsychology/f/brain-plasticity.htm

      *hug*

      Liked by 1 person

      • Victoria, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and personal response.☺️

        I am so very sorry you had to go through it alone. If there was no blogging community I have no idea how I’d be handling this. Blogs like yours have been helping my so much.

        Interestingly enough I think my deconversion process has really been 9 years in the making. I left the institutional church to do home church (like Godless in Dixie’s Neil Carter on Patheos) which I think was probably the first step but for many years after that I tried to find the right church and haven’t been able to really stomach church for the last 6 years (although I did a lot of “church hopping”). I had my doubts but I guess I just thought it was a particular brand of Christianity (the mainstream cultural kind) that I was rejecting. My faith actually probably got more extreme believing I had the true, albeit more radical, brand of Christianity.

        But what changed recently is that I’ve been getting healthier physically and psychologically with the help of counseling and meds and decided to let go of shame. Once I did that the Gospel no longer made sense and the whole thing fell apart. I stopped praying 2 months ago which was a big shock to my system as I didn’t/don’t know how to operate without prayer. So it’s a learning process. It’s painful and confusing but my thoughts are now more congruent and I care more about my life and other people than I ever have.

        We have a freethinkers meetup here which sounds interesting but I’m terrified to go because not everyone knows about my deconversion yet and I feel like I’d be making a huge statement to my husband by going like I am saying, “Yup, this deconversion thing is for real. No turning back.” I’m scared of what that’d do to our relationship even though that is the reality. I think I may possibly be in the Bargaining stage of this. I don’t know.

        Sometimes when flipping through the radio stations I will stop on the Christian stations and will listen to the songs. Most of them just sound like whiny self-deprecating nonsense but some I still like to listen to and sing along even if I don’t agree with the lyrics. I feel remarkably less angry and hostile about Christian music now that I’ve stopped believing. It’s weird. It’s almost as if I’m trying to soothe myself by saying “See, this song would make anyone feel good. You aren’t a total loon for having believed this stuff.” ::shrug::

        Liked by 1 person

  16. I suppose one of the issues in regard to my personal experience of Christianity was that the reality seemed so far short of the promise. Of course I would attribute this to one of two reasons:
    1) if I was feeling down on myself then it was my fault, I was not measuring up, I needed more faith and more submission;
    2) if i was feeling slightly more positive then I would tell myself that this was all part of God’s training course for me.

    So this meant I would lap up teaching that showed my experience of struggle was part of the true Christian path. The following teaching from Alan Redpath is typical of what I believed to be the truth:

    There is no type of service any of us can undertake which is beset with so much potential as is the service of Master. On the one hand, there is so much that is rewarding, and on the other hand, so much that is disappointing. Many are the obstacles to be overcome and many pitfalls to be avoided. On how many occasions we have taken up a task in the name of the Lord only to withdraw, beaten, discouraged, and baffled, and yet, somehow baffled to fight better. For every discouragement has been allowed to come to us in order that through it we may be cast in utter helplessness at the Saviour’s feet. Then we return to the battle again, no longer trusting in the false and insufficient resources which so foolishly we had taken into battle, but now trusting in the limitless resources of our risen Lord.

    Never was there a time when there is greater need for people of passion, people of principle, people of Holy Spirit vision, in the service of the Lord. It is impossible for any of us to become these things unless first we have stood in the midst of the work which the Master has given to us and have seen the futility of everything that can ever come from our own imagined strength or weakness. These are lessons which most of us learn the hard way, and we learn them in a school from which we never graduate until we enter the very presence of the Master himself.

    It is my firm conviction that, in choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world, our Heavenly Father also had in His eternal plan the sphere of service with which He intended to entrust us. In doing so, surely He had in mind that through our reaction in all testing of Christian work and through our faithfulness or lack of it in the opportunities that He is pleased to give us; we are fashioned into the likeness of His dear son.

    What a day it will be when the Lord welcomes us home! Indeed, it will be worth it all when we see Jesus. We will understand then, as we can never understand now, that the very wounds which so often have been inflicted upon us have been the means of conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of making Him all the more precious to us.

    Circumstances which we have resented, situations which we have found desperately difficult, have all been the means in the hands of God of driving the nails into the self-life which so easily complains. His dealing causes us to rejoice in the midst of affliction, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

    Praise God, we shall come to the heavenly Jerusalem and understand for “…then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

    O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
    Be Thou forever near me, my master and my Friend;
    I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side,
    Nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my guide.

    O Jesus, Thou hast promised to all who follow Thee,
    That where Thou art in glory there shall Thy servant be;
    And, Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
    O give me grace to follow, my Master and my Friend.
    –John E. Bode

    So this sort of devotion really spoke to me at the time. I thought I was unusual in this regard, but after sharing it with some people, including overseas missionaries, I found that my experience was more typical than Christians publicly acknowledge. Another of Alan Redpath’s teachings was that God can only use what I has first broken. This encouraged me when things were tough, but of course one never gets to the other side unless you compromise and accept a level of mediocrity in your Christian life.

    I now see things differently and see this type of teaching as a practical form of apologetics to explain the difficulty of trying to live the ‘victorious’ Christian life.

    P.S. Victoria, if you don’t want a lengthy Christian devotion on your site, just delete this comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Peter, you wrote:

    “1) if I was feeling down on myself then it was my fault, I was not measuring up, I needed more faith and more submission;

    2) if i was feeling slightly more positive then I would tell myself that this was all part of God’s training course for me.

    Exactly. I am always ever amazed how universal this kind of thinking is within conservative Christianity. “Suck it up and don’t complain”.

    It’s hard to break away from that kind of indoctrination. I can remember feeling guilt for not trusting that God was in control. But at the same time I also couldn’t help but wonder if I had brought trials upon myself due to some thought sin, like being ungrateful or questioning. It was back and forth, back and forth and it was maddening.

    There is no virtue in suffering, but Christianity teaches that it’s our duty to suffer. When looking at the history, I now understand what this teaching was all about. As Carl Sagan once said, it was for the benefit of rulers. Convince people that the poor conditions the rulers caused was all a part of God’s plan, and the people won’t protest or revolt.

    ———–

    “There is no question that religions have historically played the role of making people contented with their lot. …such a doctrine would be very appealing to the ruling classes of a society. …Many societies, for this reason alone, encourage the contentment with your lot that the religious premise of heaven affords.” ~Carl Sagan

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