Earlier this week I reposted a post titled The Danger of Being In a Box and Why It All Makes Sense When You Are in a Box. A commenter of Reddit asked if I would elaborate on:
But is wasn’t. My mind was filled with thoughts of all the wonders I found outside the box. Things that those in my box said were bad for me. Things that they were sure would ruin me. They told me that the box was all I needed.
But out I wandered once again and just like before I fell down the slope of the slippery hill. This happened to me many times before I finally gave up stayed at the bottom of the hill. At this moment the box I had lived in for almost 50 years no longer fit. For the first time the things I had found in the box seemed odd, peculiar, and contradictory.
Every time I left the box I found new and wondrous things. Things I had never heard about before. Things I had never experienced. The box I was in for almost five decades was a box where the dimensions of the box were clearly defined. There was no guessing about the length, width, or depth of the box. Over time the box had to be replaced. Those outside the box constantly battered the box with bats, bricks, and rocks. Sometimes these attacks would cause gaping holes in the box and it became necessary to replace the box.
The new box was not like the old box at all. The dimensions were different and it held fewer people. Everyone in the box pretended that the box was just like the old box. An old-fashioned box, we were told. We knew the box was not like the old one, but giving the appearance that the new box was the same as the old box was more important that coming to grips with the reality that the box was different. The box keeper was adamant. He said our box was just like the first box that the Savior of the box built two-thousand years ago.
On one of my trips outside of the box I found out that the box keeper wasn’t telling the truth. He was trying to preserve something that never existed. Perhaps he really didn’t know since he had never been outside the box himself. I found out the box manual had errors and contradictions in it. People outside the box questioned whether the box manual was a divine manual. For a time fear plagued me every time I went outside the box. I realized if the box manual wasn’t true then everything I believed about the box was wrong. I thought, “I am smart guy. How could I have been deceived for almost 50 years?” “Surely ALL these people in the box can’t be wrong?”
As I strayed farther and farther away from the box, I found that there were all kinds of other boxes. Every religion had its own box, as did the various political, social, and economic ideologies. I always knew there were other boxes, but I considered all other boxes but the one I was in to be false boxes.
Those of us in the box always mocked those in the atheist box. None of us actually knew an atheist, nor had we ever read a book written by an atheist but Dr. Ihavethetruth told us he knew all there was to know about the atheist box and he was certain the atheist box was a false box. He told us many horrible things about the atheist box. I was glad I was not one of THOSE kind of box dwellers.
Imagine my surprise to find out that the atheist box was nothing like Dr. Ihavethetruth said it was. In fact, I found out there was quite a bit of diversity in the atheist box. They argued back and forth with each other, but at the end of the day they all went to the bar and were still friends. I had never seen such interaction before. In my box when arguments broke out they usually ended when each party called the other party a not-a-true box dweller. Some of them even went so far as to leave the box and, just a few feet away, build another box. They said they were a new and DIFFERENT box, but everyone knew that the only thing different was the location of the box.
I found that I liked the atheist box. Those in the atheist box encouraged me to be skeptical of every box. I had never heard this before. In the box I was from we were told to never question the box and certainly to never question or doubt the box manual. The box keeper warned us that doubt led many a box dweller outside of the box never to return.
This new-found freedom to question and to be skeptical was quite liberating. It also caused a good bit of conflict for me. People from the box I had left were questioning whether I was ever a “real” box dweller. They said, Yes he was in the box but he never really believed the box manual. They called me a deceiver. Some even thought I was deluded. The box keeper used me as an illustration of what happens when a person leaves the box.
For a time, my new-found freedom, while liberating, caused me a great amount of mental conflict and emotional pain. There seemed to be a constant tug and pull. I felt like I was going to be pulled apart. I heard about a man who specialized in helping people who left boxes like the one I was in. So I went to see him, and I knew immediately that he could help with the tug and pull that was trying to pull me apart.
Over time, I began to see how the box, the box keeper, and the box manual, had taken over my life to such a degree that I lost any understanding of who I was. Every time I saw the box specialist I reclaimed some of the self that I had lost. As this happened, I began to deal with the questions I had about the box and the box manual.
I am not sure when the moment was, but I do remember coming to a place where I felt completely free. I felt “born again”. I thought I am a “born again” atheist. I no longer felt any pull to return to the box. Of course those in the box said “See what happens when you stay outside the box for a long time?”
Five years have gone by since I found myself at the bottom of the slippery hill. It is hard to believe…five years. People in the atheist box, the box I now call home, told me that things would get better with time. They encouraged me to read and study. They told me “go where the data leads you.”
Leaving the box I was in was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I want to shout FREE, FREE AT LAST. I love having the freedom to investigate not only my religious beliefs but also my political, social, and economic beliefs. (or for that matter any issue I am confronted with)
Over time, I learned that the atheist box, or for that matter any box I find myself in, is not perfect. In every box there are arrogant, nasty, vindictive box dwellers. No box is perfect, but some boxes are definitely better than others. That’s the greatest wonder of all…I now have the ability to freely choose the box (es) I want to be in.
I guess the best thing to say here is this…
I no longer feel boxed in.
repost, revised, updated