I’m Not Making This Up

Those of us who choose the Spiritual But Not Religious path are confronted by snarky Christians with the same criticism over and over: “Religion comes from God, not people. Where’s the moral guidance? You’re just listening to your own voice. You’re just making it up to suit yourself.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Really, these Christians are describing themselves: Christianity was invented by people. It draws its authority from an old book—what is actually a collection of old books—written by many people over a span of millennia. And as for “just listening to your own voice,” the way Christians cherry-pick their Bible verses to justify their worst prejudices is downright Orwellian.

But the snarky Christians do have a point. After someone declares themselves to be SBNR, they go through the Fuzzy Period. I mean, once you unmoor yourself from religion, where do you go next? You take a meditation course at your local community college. You follow Richard Gere on Twitter. You go vegetarian. Or vegan. Or macrobiotic. Or the Neanderthal diet. Whatever.

But when the seeker finds a path with surer footing, that all changes. In the SBNR life, the structure and moral guidance comes from the nature of God Itself.

If I’m faced with an ethical conundrum—i.e., I’m thinking of doing a thing, but I’m not sure if it’s spiritually right—I don’t hold the proposed action up to some moral code invented by religious people. What possible use could that be? I hold it up to God.

Something people like me say to themselves all the time is, “How will this stand in God?” In other words, if I do this thing, will I be acting in harmony with God’s nature or will I be acting contrary to God’s nature? And, of course, if I decide that it’s contrary to, I just don’t do it. Because I know nothing good can come of that. I may outwardly appear to have made some short-term material gain, but I know that the Infinite has taken it out of my hide somewhere else. Skirting the divine nature is flatly impossible.

Of course, to make such a determination you have to know something about God in the first place. And religious people don’t know anything about God. Religious people know about their religion. They know about their holy book. They know what the rules are. Or, at least, what somebody told them the rules are. But God is a mystery to them.

SBNR people interact directly with the Infinite without the intermediary Rube Goldberg machine of religion. We talk directly to the Infinite and we let It talk back. Or, more properly, we see It talk back. A two-way dialog with God is the core of the spiritual seeker’s life. And once you figure out how to initiate that conversation, religion becomes—at best—unnecessary. Your life is your real holy book. And once you learn how to read it, you and God will do just fine without the guy in the funny collar acting as middle-man.


SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: My book, GOD: A USER’S MANUAL tells you how to do all that.

Christianity Causes Global Warming

(This post is taken almost verbatim from God: A User’s Manual. It’s in Part 2: A Pack of Lies: 7 Dumb Ideas Generally Accepted as True. –Gregory Flood)

The problem with all the major western religions is that they are dualistic. And if you think that’s a fancy word, the academics call it Manichean. Dualistic belief systems believe that the universe is split into two warring factions: light vs dark, good vs evil, heaven vs hell, God vs the devil. Good people go to heaven. Bad people go to hell. God’s up there, you’re down here. The material world and the spiritual world are separate from each other. To have dealings with the spiritual world you must withdraw from the material world.

And that’s wrong. Christianity has it all wrong. Yes, I did just say that. God isn’t like that, the universe isn’t like that, your life doesn’t operate like that.

Onward Christian soldiers. A mighty fortress is our God. Defending the faith. Right-wing Christians proudly refer to themselves as soldiers in God’s army. I watched a Christian program once where a preacher in army fatigues who called himself Sergeant Something-or-other was giving the audience their “orders from your commanding officer.” He was sending them out to tear down a “stronghold of Satan.” The crowd was eating it up. The moderator announced that several strongholds of Satan had been torn down due to the Sergeant’s ministry. What the practical benefits of that might be was not explained.

“Christian militia” is often ironically referred to as a contradiction in terms. Actually, it’s business as usual for Christianity. Dualism creates a war-like mentality. The more ferocious adherents of the Christian faith see no contradiction in this. Have you ever heard all the lyrics to Onward Christian Soldiers? It’s one of the most popular hymns in the Christian canon and it’s a war song.

Christ our royal master
leads against the foe!
Forward into battle!
See our banners go!

Christianity is an adversarial religion. It started out under siege and has maintained that siege mentality for thousands of years. Originally it was the Christians vs. the pagan Roman empire. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire, it became the Christians vs. the pagans with the pagans as the underdogs this time. The pagans became the heretics and it’s been the Christians vs. the heretics ever since: the witches and Jews and Muslims in the Middle Ages, the Protestants during the Reformation (or the Catholics, depending on which side you were on), the rationalists during the Renaissance, the witches again in colonial America, the philosophers during the Enlightenment, the Darwinists in the 19th Century and the Communists in the 20th Century. Younger readers may not know that Communism was denounced from our pulpits as a Godless doctrine that all good Christians must stand in opposition to. And the Christians and the Darwinists are still going at it. Creationism, anyone?

With the fall of Communism, Christianity needed a new demon group to make war on and they have zeroed in on the gay community as the new minions of Satan. The gays want to bring civilization crashing down around our ears and inaugurate the reign of the Antichrist. But the gay-bashing thing is getting old. People aren’t standing up and cheering for it like they used to. Too many people now know nice gay people who live down the street or serve with them in the PTA. Hating gays is becoming unfashionable.

I wonder who the Christians will go after next? Right now, it’s looking like it’s going to be the Muslims again. That’s a damn shame. I know so many mellow, funny people who are Arab Muslims. But if the Muslim-hating thing doesn’t catch on in a big way, there will always be the Christian conservatives vs. the Godless, slutty liberals.

Dualistic religions generate holy armies whose duty is to engage in battle with the forces of sin and eradicate them. “The forces of sin” being other human beings. It sets citizen against citizen, nation against nation, culture against culture. Some of our most political Christians will commit any crime, even the murder of abortion doctors, in the name of virtue. People who perceive themselves as perpetually under attack rarely evaluate themselves morally or question their own actions. They are fighting to survive, after all. And survival makes savages of us all.

The disconnect between dualistic belief and reality is clearly displayed in the vocabulary used in these religions. God is “the lord,” Jesus is “the prince of peace,” the Virgin Mary is “the queen of heaven,” the Afterlife is “the kingdom of God.” What’s with all the royal verbiage? This is the 21st Century. We got rid of our princes and lords centuries ago, and with good reason. And yet our religious talk is all about the aristocrats. Religionists will say it’s just imagery, but you know it isn’t, right?

God and Guns

Dualistic religion creates fear. Fear of those people. Fear of anybody who isn’t just like you. America, for all of its vaunted power, is a particularly fearful nation.

Everybody in America wants a gun. If asked why, they’ll say it’s to protect their home from intruders. But in the year before this writing, America had about 500 home invasions in which people were killed. Yes, that’s horrible. All those people murdered in their own homes. But in a population of 310 million, 500 is a microscopic statistic. And the real crushing irony of it is that about half of those murder victims were killed with the weapons they purchased to defend their homes with. If they hadn’t had a gun in the house, they’d still be alive.

Where does this fear come from? It comes from two sources. One is living in a democratic, pluralistic society where everybody isn’t just like you. Your neighbor is alien. The other is the us-against-them dualistic religious mentality. America is the most churched country in the western society. Despite Muslim extremist accusations that we are a Godless society, more people go to their place of worship every week in America than in any other country in the free world. And it shows.

In the United States, this dualistic mentality has created the belief that being a Christian is patriotic. This carries with it the unspoken conclusion that anyone who isn’t a Christian is less than patriotic. So, Jews are not to be trusted. And if you’re a Muslim, well, you’re just out to get us.

It’s a pernicious doctrine. It’s also wildly inaccurate. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not Christian values. Conservative Christianity doesn’t teach that this life is what’s important, it doesn’t approve of people using their liberty to do whatever they want and it certainly doesn’t think we’re in this world to pursue happiness.

The Devil on Your Shoulder

Dualism affects people on the personal level with the belief that there are two sides to human nature: the good, generous, compassionate side and the dark, violent, selfish side forever locked in combat for your soul. Robert Louis Stevenson made this concept into a literary classic with the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The good doctor’s potion releases the beast caged within him and horror ensues. (Is it significant that he wrote the whole thing on a six-day cocaine binge?)

But we spiritual grouches know that evil is just a choice people make, most often simply to profit from it. You don’t have a dark entity within you struggling to break free. You just have choices. The struggle isn’t between your light and your dark, it’s between your higher judgment and your current pressing need.

Christianity Causes Global Warming

The most damaging belief engendered by dualism is that the world of matter and the world of spirit are separate from each other. God made the world but he lives somewhere else. Kind of like an absentee landlord. We Spiritual But Not Religious people know that’s wrong. Everything is God. The material world is God being the material world, joyfully interacting with Itself.

The matter-is-not-Spirit duality leads to the belief that this world is not our home. This world is just a testing ground, a vale of tears where we are evaluated for acceptance in a glorious afterlife that contrasts drastically from the misery of this mortal coil. Many religious people even refer to dying as “going home.”

Of course, if this world is not really our home, then we’re not going to feel very motivated to take good care of it. And look what our Judeo-Christian culture has done this planet we rely on for our life: poisoned air, poisoned water, poisoned soil, mass extinctions. And now we’re about to create a cascading warming effect whose disastrous results will not be fully known until they happen.

I once watched a daytime talk show where the subject of environmentalism was the theme of the day. An ardent Christian in the audience stood up and said it was a Christian’s moral duty to take care of the world he lived in. Another such Christian, highly incensed, stood up and fiercely denounced such an idea as utterly unChristian and anti-Biblical. Others in the audience joined the fray on both sides and it turned into a real smackdown. There is actually controversy within the Christian faith as to whether or not we ought to look after the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil we plant in. Now, that’s dualism!

The outlook isn’t all bleak. There is an environmentalist mentality spreading in certain Christian sectors. The passage in Genesis in which God gives Adam stewardship of the natural world is being given great attention. That’s good. It’s nice to see a religion actually trying to make sense. Who knows? Maybe it’ll catch on.

I’ll Get Mine and You’ll Get Yours

And then there is the ultimate dualistic belief: the end of the world. The end of days. The apocalypse. In Christian mythology, Jesus, who currently resides in the celestial vacation resort of Heaven, will return. He will duke it out with the Antichrist and in the ensuing clash, the Earth will be burned to a cinder. Prior to that, all the worthy people, that is all the good Christians, will be swept up into Heaven and out of harm’s way. Many Christians are chomping at the bit for this to happen. They want it bad. Fundamentalist Christians announce the end of the world every time a car backfires.

This is the final and ugliest plank in the dualist platform. The idea that the entire world has to be destroyed so that you can be fulfilled is truly monstrous. We SBNRs know that the world is an expression of God and that God rejoices in its existence. There can be no question of God wanting to destroy it because God doesn’t want anything and God is pleased at whatever It looks upon.

Worship Is Blasphemy

Traditional religionists gather once a week to worship their deity. This is a very primitive, pagan kind of thing and it is blasphemy. To think of the Infinite as some kind of oriental potentate sitting on a throne in the sky who has to be placated with pleas for mercy and songs of praise is an absolutely obscene concept of God. It suggests that they are dealing with a demanding and untrustworthy Entity whose good side needs to be constantly cultivated. They’re mistaken. God only has a good side.

Churchianity

Please understand: I’m not anti-Christian. I’m anti-Christianity. Christians are people. I enjoy people of all stripes. I enjoy them a lot. It’s Christianity’s belief system that’s wack. And I don’t mean to paint all Christians as fire-breathing, legalistic bigots. Many nice people are Christians. Sort of. There is another type of Christianity. It’s a suburban phenomenon, mostly. I call it Churchianity.

Churchianity isn’t just a Christian thing. There’s Jewish Churchianity and there’s probably Muslim Churchianity out there too. And the New Age and New Pagan movements are nothing but Churchianity. Churchianity is a vaguely-defined spiritual system whose main tenets are apparently, “Be pleasant and try not to have sex with the wrong person if you can possibly avoid it.” On Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw called it “the church of be nice to people and don’t speak with your mouth full.” It’s niceness all dressed up like a religion. Religion lite. Religion without all those pesky moral strictures.

God is infinite. It has no boundaries. It never ends. God goes on forever. There will always be more for us to learn about God. No matter how highly evolved we become in whatever future life, we will never know everything about this Infinite Being. So, the next time some guy tells you that his 2,000-year-old religion is the last word on God, tell him he’s full of shit.