Dave is one of my many Christian fundamentalist friends. We have engaged in a fair amount of talk about religion and spirituality, and I did the best I could at the time to explain a few crucial reasons for the evolution of my beliefs. Admittedly, I was attempting to lead Dave away from the typical, dogmatic, literal interpretation of his chosen "revealed" religious text (the Protestant Bible). I figured I had about a 10% chance (tops) of positively influencing Dave, since my old beliefs are so similar to his current ones. But he would have none of it, and I should have realized that earlier than I did.
So it did not work out as I had hoped — and unfortunately, I lost my patience during the process, responding to Dave with overly harsh messages. Despite being in response to negative comments aimed at my own spirituality (most important in my life today), I nevertheless should have taken the high road (as any well-wisher would hope to do)… I should have resisted the urge to respond in kind.
But alas, I did not… In returning negativity with negativity, I have surely erased what little positive influence I may have cobbled together in our communications over the years.
I broke an important spiritual tenet: I became too personally attached to the results.
It can be rather heartbreaking and frustrating to spend time and effort compiling heartfelt emails and posts, only to have them go misunderstood, unread, or ignored… but it was my choice to do so; it was a risk I decided to take. As I presently see it, my biggest error was attachment, but I probably made numerous other errors as well; e.g., making assumptions, allowing the dreadful ego more wiggle room than I should’ve, misreading the actual level of open-mindedness and willingness, etc.
So, I apologized. What else could one do? Dave is where he is. And I am where I am. We are where we are.
Beating a dead horse
As I see it, the primary sticking points in our conversation about religious belief & spirituality that I have identified so far are:
- The importance of intellect in spirituality and religious studies
- Basic closed–mindedness & fundamentalism ("View x has to be right, no questioning allowed")
- My apparent failure to be inspiring or even successful (in the modern, Western social paradigm, that is)
- A crucial misunderstanding (based on faulty assumption) with regard to certain private medical facts
- And others which will remain unspoken…
Importance of intellect
Dave has repeatedly stated that this writer is blocked from spirituality by the intellect; that all spiritual activity is limited to the superficial and scholarly, and that there is no real connection to “God.” My flight from rigid, divisive, paranormal religious fundamentalism into the loving arms of reason, tolerance, compassion, and basic universal spiritual principles is predictably viewed as a tragedy by Dave — although, thankfully, the opposite is true!
I honestly do understand – in part, at least — why Dave believes this to be so, despite being in complete disagreement and perhaps even a just a hair offended by the comment. 🙂 One applicable basic spiritual principle I must remember in the future comes from modern spiritual teacher Miguel Ruiz:
Do not take anything personally, ever.
True spiritual connections, this writer believes, can be accomplished regardless of what is commonly referred to as intellect or the Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Very low intellects, extremely high intellects, and all intellects in between are quite capable of deep spiritual experience and connection.
Part of Dave’s low opinion of intellect + spirituality stems from his own personal experiences. He is apparently unfamiliar with critical thought and remains unable to grasp certain things that, to him, appear to conflict with the teachings of the pastor at his fundamentalist church — teachings Dave does not question. (The overwhelming importance of individual experience, knowledge, and perspective is a fact that applies to all humans, not just to Dave.)
Another facet of Dave’s intellect-dissing may be his tendency to focus on certain Bible passages to the exclusion of others (having never even read the Bible fully himself!!!) — and/or interpreting scriptures literally; however, this is a standard of rigid, superstitious, religious fundamentalism.
One example that comes to mind: The exhortation of Jesus that we be like children… may be interpreted by some to mean that we are not to apply reasoning, intellect, logic, or critical thought to religion (this is often called fideism)… ignoring the other Bible verses that command believers to test everything that is said; another verse about reasoning together; another that states He who hates correction is stupid, etc. In other words, Dave — like most Christian fundamentalists — picks and chooses bits of scripture that seem to agree with predominant thought at his church.
Some religious fundamentalists are living contradictions, believing on one hand that our lives should absolutely be based upon the Bible — and on the other hand, never having even read the Bible in its entirety — and opting, instead, to obtain opinions from biased, non-objective resources (e.g., church officials) rather than conducting serious spiritual seeking and research on one’s own… quite sad, IMHO — but all to common and true.
I’ve noticed that some religious fundamentalists have a tendency to see a lack of correct religious views (e.g., their views!) as the root cause of various challenges and issues life unfailingly delivers.
This writer is certainly among those with great imperfections. I don’t claim to make correct choices anywhere near 100% of the time, despite the fact that my current life situation happens to be by choice. For example,
- I am fairly broke most of the time, as a proverbial “starving-artist” writer
- I am in my 40s yet currently reside in the basement of my parents’ house
- I have no car, no bank account
- I am not formally employed (but moderately self-employed)
- I choose to spend the majority of my time in an effort to spread a positive message — Researching and writing about the ultimate futility of religious and political fundamentalism while encouraging everyone I can to embrace basic, universal spiritual principles and promoting the related goals of this Search for Truth blog. This is my present life, and I am very pleased with it.
However, much of the Western world would quickly label me as a total loser based on the above circumstances; after all, the most common modern social paradigm of success calls for money, independence, career, power, sex, etc.
This makes me an easy target for those who believe differently and superficially. Unfortunately, my circumstances truly do limit my influence and my ability to lead by example — hard to do as a solitary writer. This alone is perhaps a good reason for this writer to obtain at least some of the outward signs of Western success. I would then be more likely to be asked about my beliefs and thus more likely to have a positive influence.
Spreading a positive, realist message
The fact is, my choice to heavily engage in my favorite, most meaningful activities — spreading the message on this Search for Truth blog — perhaps when I should be earning money instead — is the main reason I’m not presently flush with cash at present. That’s a personal choice — and not one rooted in negativity, either.
However — and this is crucial — I believe that I more than compensate for my lack of significant direct, socially based influence upon others due to the increasing readership of my message in this Search for Truth blog. Although I have not yet begun to market or publicize this blog for personal reasons, many Search for Truth posts herein rank amazingly high in Google search results (and those of other search engines). Around 90 to 95% of present pageviews on this blog come directly from search engines. Despite the lack of marketing, the weekly pageviews here on the Search for Truth blog are presently 600+/- and growing steadily.
There is no doubt the positive message being spread within these pages — though somewhat controversial in areas like Nashville, where this writer resides — is reaching many readers, and influencing a few of them. The blogger can learn about specific examples and instances of the positive influence of others due to the interactive nature of blogging.
IMHO, if I change only a small percentage of readers’ minds, beliefs, opinions, or perspectives, then I have achieved the spreading of a positive spiritual message to a greater degree than most other Americans. For this I am deeply grateful; spreading and teaching this message has been my number one goal for quite a while now.
I can rest assured that this message will continue to be taught and spread long after I am gone by making arrangements for the promotion of these Search for Truth articles and posts by other like-minded, spiritual seeking writers on their blogs for the foreseeable future.
Back to Dave’s religious fundamentalism
Another way to state that predictable fundamentalist argument is:
Apparently-negative life situations necessarily point to wrong religious beliefs.
Obviously, that’s a deeply flawed viewpoint on several levels.
- If this were even remotely true, then it would be quite simple for anyone to quickly identify "the one true religion" (non-existent in reality) by identifying the richest, most beautiful, most independent people in the world & adopting their religious beliefs, their habits, etc.
- Such a viewpoint also bases opinion upon mere appearance: A flimsy, immature view most adults would hope to outgrow.
- Lastly, such an opinion implies that correct religious beliefs somehow result in a perfect life: An inept notion that’s in deep contrast with the lives of so many great spiritual teachers throughout history — from the Buddha, Lao Tsu, and Jesus onward through today.
Again, in order to exert significantly more influence upon others in this modern Western society, I would need to change each my life circumstances to more closely fit today’s materialistic views of success. This actually gives me some of my best personal reasons and inspiration to do so – not to be a material success in itself, but to increase…
- The strength (or “juice”) behind my overall message
- The likelihood of living by example
- My self-esteem, health, strength, appearance, etc.
- The chances that everyday Americans might take me seriously
If a group of people were to suddenly inherit my present, non-Western-ideal life circumstances, then most materialistic, standard Western people would be deeply burdened and bothered by the opinions of others. While I am not 100% bulletproof, I am now largely immune to sticks and stones; I am now able to see rather clearly just how generally unimportant such opinions really are, particularly in comparison to the deeper ideas and more meaningful aspects of life I hold so dear.
According to one of my all-time favorite Christian prayers (The Prayer of St. Francis), we ought to make more of an effort to understand than to be understood. I have thus made ongoing attempts to understand the specific religious beliefs of Dave.
The quest to understand Dave’s religious beliefs has been a twisting, confusing one; he has lately become rather resistant to labels. For instance, he was not pleased to be lumped into any category (e.g., Methodist, inerrantist, a Neville Goddard fan, fundamentalist, a literal interpreter of the Bible, Christian mystic, etc.). But that has not stopped my efforts to attempt to understand his religious/spiritual beliefs as well as the critical thought (if any) that has brought him to these standards.
What does Dave believe? Here are a few things I’ve gathered from recent conversations and emails, which have generally and/or specifically indicated the religious beliefs of Dave (with my comments in parentheses):
- Jesus is God (metaphorically, sure…)
- God is the great I AM (The force many call “God” is existence and being itself)
- He is I AM THAT I AM (We are all “God”… sure, in a sense)
- The Bible is factually true from cover to cover and should be taken literally as actual history, biography, accounts of paranormal events, etc. (a deeply flawed belief that, to this writer, makes enlightenment virtually impossible)
- God is imagination (per Neville Goddard, a pioneer of New Thought… I can dig it)
- Satan — the devil — is a real entity; he/it was the talking snake in Genesis (another deeply flawed belief)
- Noah’s ark and the global flood are actual, historical events (another deeply flawed belief)
- Denominations make God cry (Huh? I completely reject such anthropomorphic comparisons…)
- An assortment of other standard Christian fundamentalist dogma & sound bites (Nope)
- In general, that the beliefs of the New Thought movement (Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, etc.) would be correct only if they also included his tenets of Christian fundamentalism (These two disparate systems do not line up for reasons Dave will probably never be capable of understanding, lagely due to his lack of desire to engage in critical thought or objective rational thought, and especially his own self-assessment of being dumb, unintelligent — basically incapable of achieving average intellect…)
Given everything I’ve experienced since "seeing the light" — from increased/broadened/improved perspective, wisdom, discernment, insight, knowledge, spiritual experiences, feelings, and so on — I cannot imagine EVER having even an inkling of desire or cause to return to a half-blind, closed system of rigid, supernatural religious fundamentalism. The very notion seems outright backwards and most distasteful. But even so, I will not treat Dave any differently. We will remain friends… and we have, per a few updates to this post on Tuesday, May 22, 2012.
…writings I have spent dozens of hours carefully compiling, largely for his benefit.
Until Dave begins to seek a bigger, more realistic picture — which Dave may or may not ever do — there is little that can be done.
Unfortunately, Dave (apparently) either:
- Doesn’t really make a concerted effort to understand the information, or
- Has convinced himself he is not intelligent enough to progress beyond the level of a child (insofar as deeper spiritual understanding).
This post is virtually meaningless as it is now assembled… it needs much work, or perhaps to be deleted.)
Apparently, neither of us would dare to trade our own spiritual contentment for anything in the world. That’s wonderful, beautiful — and something I apparently failed to see! For now, Dave appears to be as satisfied with his spiritual development as I am of mine — but it includes excessive ignorance of a broader, more compassionate worldview. I must accept this and move on.
So many poor assumptions have been made by both parties, in fact, that this ongoing conversation has essentially been driven off the cliff… I guess we should leave it buried down there, for now.
This post was written on Tuesday, April 3, 2012.
This post was updated on Tuesday, May 22, 2012.