Are you willing to have your mind changed?
Our purpose is vital to our existence. We need to know ‘why’ in order to know ‘how’ we are to live.
A choice is something we value, and yet conflict arises when we change our mind or want to re-evaluate the choices we have made.
Questions pour out when we realise, in our mind, that we were wrong and press the reset:
Did I waste my energy or efforts? Did I take too many steps down this path? Did I spend my resource, time, money, focus, job, purpose, family & life focus on the wrong things? What have I lost? Is it too late?
It might sound selfish – but we all do this, whether we realise it or not.
Within the Christian framework that I was raised in – our reward is ‘in heaven’.
We work, give, focus, engage in and aim at a purpose that is passed down to us from the First & Second Testaments (commonly referred to as the Old & New).
We might not understand how the life we see around us makes sense, or how, what we are doing is speaking of and glorifying God, yet we trust that it is all used by and for God.
We quote scripture left, right and centre. Encouraging people to keep giving, being used in church life and in some cases, downright exploited. Why? So that we grow in numbers, so that we can ‘save lost souls’ and ‘get/glean’ as much as we can.
Scriptures like these get quoted every other moment, Romans 8:28 ‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’
Now I could use that scripture for so many different things, but that is an issue with the Bible, an issue we will come to another day.
We want to know our effort, our life & purpose is not in vain.
Why? Because in the end, we all want to make the questions (above) to be answered in a positive light.
The other side of the conversation resides around heaven and hell.
People genuinely believe these are plains of existence, not measurable or quantifiable within the place, in space and time, that we live.
Different branches of Christianity believe in a variety of ways you get ‘into’ heaven or hell. These days, these are commonly explained as, Heaven = a place where God is, Hell = a place where God is not, (but is willing enough to make it and allow the immortal soul of every human to endure without Him forever?).
Recent voices within the Christian world have begun to challenge our thinking in regards to the purpose of both heaven/hell and time.
Let’s start with the later first.
Time is measurable and quantifiable within the place, in space and time, that we live.
So, therefore biblical ‘eternity’ is not understood by anyone. God is outside of it – if we are to be with God for all time, we will also be outside of time.
So, is anyone really ‘damned to Hell for all time’, when ‘time’ is only held within our space, and not God’s space? I guess if God was real He could make a place of literal eternal punishment for all who ‘didn’t know Him’ (Matthew 7:21-23).
Sadly, I can list a few people groups who never ‘knew’ Him. Though, I guess we could get to know each other in Hell. We have all the time in the world, right?
Christians also believe that God became flesh – the Logos – Jesus. God entered our space. But they also believe He returned to the Father – in heaven?
Now then, heaven. Heaven is being taught more and more as simply the place where God is.
Heaven, as N T Wright (the leading conservative New Testament scholar within current academic circles) explains, is a place where God’s space enters into our space. Temples, within the Jewish narrative, are an image or metaphor of this – God’s space overlapping with our space. This gets played out within the New Testament as Christians are told they are a temple.
People, who ‘have’ and ‘know’ Christ, literally are mobile temples.
Confused? Yup, I was as well for a long time, until I read most of N T Wright’s books to understand the broader metaphors and narrative that he is trying to explain to the Christians of today.
For me though, this still all comes out from a profound confusion about WHO we are, and WHY we are here.
It has been 2000 years since Jesus died (and apparently was raised from the dead), and Christians are still trying to work out what it all means for our purpose and life.
Until (comparatively) recently, Catholics were told that the souls of their unbaptised children would spend a stint in purgatory. Purgatory – a place where the souls of the almost righteous could try to pay penance and earn their spot in heaven, or fall into eternal hell.
These days people can’t find that within Scripture. But it was born from a belief in the infallibility of scripture and sadly, someone’s interpretation of it.
To me, it sounds like Christians don’t understand what they are talking about. And then if they need to, they amend it and make it fit more in line with where humanity’s priorities rest at this current moment.
It all boils down to this, if you are in Christianity, or outside of it: Are you willing to have your mind changed?
Christians are being encouraged to stay fluid, to allow their ideas, thinking and understanding to be challenged and changed. Why? Because they don’t understand what their beliefs are. As things become out of date or are no longer palatable for the rest of the world, it changes or new teaching emerges.
We see this throughout the history of the church. Four examples off the top of my mind: Turtillin, Luther, Lewis & King. They all held beliefs that didn’t fit with the church of their time, so they all made steps to change the status quo.
Christians justify this by saying that God used these figures of the faith to teach us, to remind us of who we are called to be as God’s people and help us continue in a belief framework, within an ever-changing world.
When I was a Christian, I was willing to have my mind changed. This led me down the road of agnosticism – which I am still navigating. But if I doubt, I am unable to be real, open and honest about it – within a church setting. I have become a wolf amongst the sheep, at least in a church leaders eyes. Matthew 7:15.
I am not a wolf, I am just unbelieving in regards to Christian doctrines. An outcast and reject of faith.
But would God, all those years ago, really have allowed humans to try to unpack half baked ideas of justice and purpose, which we are still trying to unpack today?
I get why we keep trying. As I said at the start: Our purpose is vital to our existence.
Christian teach that Jesus will return one day and brings heaven with Him. That Heaven and Earth will be restored and that Jesus will re-new everything, time, space and the cosmos. That He will raise up the Saints in a physical bodily form, much like Jesus had after His resurrection.
Their proof of this? The Bible. The life and death of many people who met with Jesus and went to their deaths professing it was true. We will come to this another time as well.
But for now, we all need to know ‘why’ in order to know ‘how’ we are to live. We believe our morality is divinely appointed and looking at different 20th-century states that tried to do away with God, we believe we find a reason to pick up a belief in God again.
But belief, because we haven’t found anything better, is isolating. Whereas honest doubt allows us to be real and take the next step in the fullness of our uncertainty.
Do we really think our why’s and how’s rest in something as volatile a belief system as Christianity?
If we all really thought that, science & medicine wouldn’t be here. We would be completely caught up in our ‘faith silos’, never trying to make the rest of this world better, but waiting for God to step into the gap once again. And if we did try to make this world a better place rather we would focus in on specific moral elements or circumstances, rather than getting to a point where we understand complex topics about global warming and then begin to try to tackle them on a united front.
My friend just found out they have an aggressive form of cancer.
Do we a) treat it with modern medicine, or b) pray and wait for God to take it away?
Christians will do the later and claim God in the former. If they get better, God used medicine to answer our prayers, if they die, God ‘took them home’.
Without those claiming that God isn’t the answer for everything, and ‘doing’ science and medicine, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Most of us wouldn’t be here at all.
If you are fully content in God, content in your purpose and reason, can you really make a difference within the world that will allow us to discover and grow?
Can you not see that religion hands us biases that we need to recognise and release ourselves from?
Hope, Faith and Belief step into the gaps, and there is no need for advancing Medicine, the exploration of Space and studying Science. We still like these things, and use them day in and day out, whilst not recognising that a religious belief defines a purpose which hinders a potential.
You are more than passive faith. You are active potential.
‘Wait one minute Sam, we wouldn’t have Science or Medicine, or Art, or Western Culture without Christianity’.
I agree. I work within a Christian charity that I genuinely believe that it makes a difference to those lost within poverty.
Though, when they find this blog, I am fairly sure I will have to leave due to my loss of a belief in God.
But they also encourage active evangelism, because they truly believe humanity was created to have a relationship with a personal God.
‘Again, Sam, what harm is that causing’.
Again – purpose and meaning define actions and attitudes.
If we are not willing to have our mind changed. To have our beliefs microscopically explored and open ourselves to the potential of doubt and losing firm belief in a deity and creator. We stagnate, loose active potential and silo purpose to fit within a framework that might be wrong.
When the broken get added to the church, they find a family. I understand why evangelism works. That is something agnostics or atheists don’t do well – community. But we must resist blind belief because we long for union and friendship.
Clinging to a belief, when the evidence points in the other direction is madness. Walling yourself in with a pre-existing set of rules, facts, narratives and purpose is insanity.
The world is far bigger and more incredible than humans could possibly have imagined 2,000 years ago when we tried to give purpose to our existence.
Real truth matters – but it isn’t a certainty, it is a ‘what if’. It is worth stepping into doubt, criticism, heartbreak and ruin for. Because humans have so much more to be getting on with, before this little blue planet dies, than waiting around for the return of Jesus. We have such an amazing opportunity to realise how finite we are and how lucky we are to enjoy what we have right now.
Purpose matters and ours is to put aside that which hinders. To accept we don’t know the answers, and to get on with trying to really find them. To enjoy the journey.
Yes – this raises a whole host of questions. I hope this blog will at least highlight them over time – I don’t claim to have all the answers.
I leave you with two quotes that I have found equally challenging and helpful in my own doubt journey.
‘In dark ages people are best guided by religion, as in a pitch-black night a blind man is the best guide; he knows the roads and paths better than a man who can see. When daylight comes, however, it is foolish to use blind old men as guides.’ Heinrich Heine – Gedanken und Einfälle
‘The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.’ Bertrand Russell
_End of Blog Blurb_
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share about my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.
Grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation: I am massively dyslexic. It has taken me years to get to the level I am currently at with writing and I have done this mainly through reading. I want to be better, and ask you reader to please forgive any errors in my writing. I hope you notice improvement upon improvement over the coming years.
Time Frame: This blog is roughly six to nine months behind where I currently am at in my journey out of religion. It’s important to remember that when reading and commenting.
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I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂