Bruce, If You Don’t Believe in Jesus Anymore, Who Do You Think Called You Into the Ministry?

emmanuel baptist church 1983

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio, Bruce Gerencser’s ordination April 1983

I recently received the following email:

I read your blog. Thanks for sharing. I have been an Evangelical Christian since I was 5. I accepted Jesus of the Bible at that time. When I read your “Why I Hate Jesus”, it made me sad. I couldn’t help but think that you have had a lot of pain from people who profess Jesus Christ and that Jesus Himself has let you down. I did have a question. On your ABOUT page, the question was “when were you called into the ministry. ” If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?

In this post, I want to focus on the question, “If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?”

This is a fairly common question I am asked when someone is trying to square my current atheistic life with that of the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry. I believed that it was GOD who called me into the ministry, but now I believe that this same God is a fiction. If God doesn’t exist, who is it then that spoke to my “heart” as a fifteen-year-old boy, telling me that I was to be a pastor, a preacher of the good news of the gospel?

The Evangelical culture I grew up in emphasized the importance of boys and girls growing up to be full-time servants of Jesus Christ. Children and teenagers were encouraged to pray and ask God if he wanted them to devote their lives to the ministry, be it as a pastor, evangelist, or missionary. Parents were challenged to give their children over to God, as Hannah did with Samuel, in hopes that he might see fit to use them in a mighty way to advance his Kingdom. Pastors considered it a sign of God’s favor if boys and teenagers were called to preach under their ministry. Like the gunslingers of yesteryear, pastors put a notch on their gospel gun every time a boy surrendered to the ministry.

Being called to full-time service means you are special, uniquely chosen by God to do his work. From the moment a boy says, preacher, I think God is calling me to preach, he is treated by the church as some sort of extraordinary human being. I heard countless preachers say that being called into the ministry was the greatest calling in the world; that becoming President of the United States would be a step down from the ministry. Preacher boys — as young men who are called into the ministry are often nicknamed — are quickly given preacher things to do. No time is better than NOW, I was told, to start serving God and preaching his Word. I preached my first sermon to the Junior High Sunday school class two weeks after I stood before the church and said, God is calling me to be a preacher. I spent the next few years honing my preaching skills at youth meetings, nursing homes, and any other place that didn’t mind hearing the ramblings of an inexperienced, uneducated boy preacher. By the time I delivered my last sermon in April 2005, I had preached thousands of messages, often preaching three or more sermons a week.

What I have written above is key to answering the question, “If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?” Since I do not think God exists, the only way I can possibly answer this question is from and environmental, psychological, cultural, and sociological perspective. It is important to remember that it is not necessary for God to exist for people to believe that he does. Billions of people believe in a supernatural deity/force that does not exist. Every day, billions of people will pray to, worship, and swear allegiance to deities that cannot be seen, heard, or touched. These deities can, however, be felt, and it is these feelings that lead people to believe that their invisible God is indeed real. Thus, I KNOW that God called me into the ministry because I “felt” him speak to me. This is no different from the 5-year-old Bruce Gerencser believing that Santa Claus somehow came down the chimney every Christmas Eve and put presents under the tree just for him. Of course, time, experience, and knowledge caused me to see that my beliefs about Santa were false, as they did  when it came to my beliefs about God.

These religious feelings and beliefs of mine were reinforced by the Bible. Various verses in the Word of God speak of men who are called to be pastors/elders/bishops/missionaries/evangelists. Variously interpreted by Christian sects, all agree on one point: God calls boys/men (and in some cases, girls/women) into the ministry. This calling is essentially God laying his hand on someone and saying, I have set you apart for my use. Church youngsters are regaled with stories about men and women called by God who did great works. From the Bible, stories of the faith-driven exploits of Noah, Moses, David, Gideon, Elijah, Elisha, Joshua, the apostles, and Paul are used as reminders of what God can and will do for those willing to dedicate their lives to serving him. Church children are encouraged to read the biographies of men (and a few women) mightily used of God. I heard more than a few preachers say, look at what God did through Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Dwight Moody, Bob Jones, John R. Rice, Billy Sunday, Adoniram Judson, Andrew Fuller, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, Jack Hyles, B.R. Lakin, and countless other servants of God. Who knows what God might do through you if you will dare to surrender your life to him. What young preacher boy wouldn’t want to someday be used by God like these men?

I spent thirty-three years believing that God had called me to preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ; that this calling was irrevocable; that misery and judgement (and perhaps death) awaited if I failed to obey God. The Apostle Paul said in First Corinthians 9:16:

For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!

As with Paul, Bruce the Evangelical preacher had a burning desire to the preach the gospel; to tell as many people as possible that Jesus alone can save them from their sin; that there is a hell to shun and a heaven to gain; that what is a man profited if he gain the world and lose his soul. I shed countless tears over the lost — both in and out of the church. I spent untold hours praying for revival to break out in America, spreading to the ends of the earth. Believing Jesus was coming back to earth soon, I devoted myself to making sure as many people as possible heard the gospel. I thought, at the time, my duty is to tell them. It is up to God to save them. For many years, my evangelistic zeal burned so hot that I preached a minimum of four sermons a week, along with preaching on the streets and holding services at the local nursing home and county jail. To quote the motto of Midwestern Baptist College — the institution I attended in the 1970s — Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry, Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry. We Never Will Give in While Souls are Lost in Sin, Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry!

My burning the candle at both ends wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t believe that God had called me into the ministry and was speaking to and through me. I believed that this God existed. I may never have seen or audibly heard God, but I felt his presence in my life. I “heard” the Holy Spirit speaking to me, leading me, and teaching me truth. These experiences of mine were verified by what I read in the Bible and Christian biographies and what I observed in the lives of my pastors, teachers, and mentors. Most of all, they were verified by the work God accomplished through my preaching and leadership. How then, knowing these things, can I now believe that God is a work a fiction; that my ministerial experiences were the work, not of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit, but the works of a quite-human Bruce Gerencser?

The deconversion process afforded me the opportunity to step back from my life and view it from a distance. As I looked at my parents’ religious, theological, social, and political leanings and that of the pastors of the churches we attended, it would have been shocking if I hadn’t, as a teenager, professed that God was calling me into the ministry. At age five, while we were living in San Diego and attending Scott Memorial Baptist Church (Scott Memorial was pastored by Tim LaHaye), I told my mother that I was going to be a preacher someday. Not a baseball player, policeman, or garbage truck driver — a preacher! This, of course, pleased my Mom. (Ironically, neither my mother or father ever heard me preach.) When people talked about the angst they had over trying to determine what they wanted to do with their lives when they grew up, I had no frame of reference. I never wrestled with what I wanted to be as an adult. I always wanted to be a preacher, and by God’s wonderful, matchless grace, that is exactly what I became. Everything I experienced in my life led me to the monumental day at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio when, with tears and trembling, I told the church God was calling me into the ministry. Scores of fellow church members shouted Amen! and later hugged me, telling me that they were going to pray for me. I am sure that more than a few people had mixed feelings about my calling. Really Lord? Are you sure you can use this temperamental, ornery redheaded boy? I have often wondered what my peers thought as I went from the boy who told the youth director to fuck off! to a young man who loved Jesus, carried his Bible to school, handed out tracts to his unsaved friends, went soulwinning, worked on a bus route, and occasionally preached at Sunday evening youth meetings. The old Bruce, who wore frayed jeans, boots, and tee-shirts to church, gave way to the New Bruce, who wore preacher clothes, including ties. What’s next? Swearing off girls? Anyone who knew me as a preacher boy knows I resolutely obeyed the Baptist Rulebook®. (Please read The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook) I didn’t smoke, drink, cuss, listen to rock music, or engage in premarital sex. I had plenty of girlfriends, but I drew the line at kissing, holding hands, and putting our arms around each other. My commitment to virginity was part of my devotion to God. As much as I wanted to have sex, I willingly took many a cold shower, keeping myself pure until my wedding day.

Most Baptist preachers will likely say that they just KNEW God was calling them to preach. If they are still Christians, I am sure they attribute their feelings to supernatural intervention. It’s all because of J-E-S-U-S, not me, I’m sure they’ll say, yet the signs in front of their churches say Rev. So-and-So, Pastor. You see, the whole notion of being called by God is rooted not in the supernatural, but in earthly human experiences. My Baptist faith taught me to call my interest in the ministry a calling from God, but in truth, it was the natural outcome of my upbringing and experiences. My entrance into the preaching fraternity was never in doubt. How could I not have become a preacher?

There is nothing in my story that requires the actual existence of a supernatural deity. All that is required is that I, along with the other players in my life, believe God exists. For my first fifty years of life, I believed that the Evangelical God was every bit a real as the sun, moon, stars, and earth. And now I don’t. Does this invalidate my years in the ministry? Of course not. All that has changed is my perspective and how I see my trajectory from a sinner to a Holy Spirit-led follower of Jesus Christ. Instead of God being the first cause, I now know that environmental, psychological, cultural, and sociological influences molded me into the man who would one day preach thousands of sermons in churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Congregants called me Pastor Bruce, Rev. Gerencser or Preacher — the man God who spoke the Word of God to the people of God. I now know who I really was…his name is Bruce.

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20 Comments

  1. Brian

    When I was a youngster, I never considered the ministry. Gawd the Prick frightened the shite out of me with the guarantee of hellfire for saying a bad word or thinking the wrong thing. Later, I realized I had been brainwashed by cultic parents and the Baptist Church doctrine. They believed they loved me in doing this to me and they royally harmed me.
    Parents who frighten children with the ‘love’ of God, the promise of heaven/hell are sick abusers and harm their children even while thanking Jesus for the opportunity to harm! Many of them say, It does not matter if God kills millions because God is God!
    Over time I have dealt with my fears, my harm, by using my imagination, by constructing a recipient of my feelings in therapy. I have howled my pain at this ugly bastard who teaches us to hurt innocence and demands that we bow down to it. I have told it in my screams how much I hate it for what it has done, how it has made my life so difficult in ways, so extreme and reactionary. After I finish pouring out my heart, I put this construct into a garbage can where it belongs. I kick it to the curb and leave it for the Tuesday garbage pick-up. In this way I have been able to accept my parents and love them for who they are, to set aside the horror of their actions and to be safe with them. I cannot change what they did by serving the master. With my pain acknowledged and poured out, boundaries became possible, adult boundaries they are not allowed to breach. They hurt me. They were God. They built my reality for me from day one and I have been dealing with the wreckage ever since.

    Reply
    1. Angiep

      I’m sorry for you, Brian. I trust you are firmly set on the path of healing. Your pain comes through so clearly.

      Reply
      1. Brian

        Thank-you, Angiep. My healing is attached to simply being, and being here is encouraging. So many years of lying and struggling to be inhuman have taken a toll but there is a very special glory in getting out of prison and opening your arms to the free air, the open sky on these B.C. hills! Gracias, for saying…

        Reply
  2. Melody

    I thought I could tell what God wanted at some points in my life too. At other points I agonized over what he wanted because the heavens stayed silent. It’s easy to attribute feelings to God when your whole life is marinated in Evangelicalism in the first place, it takes a lot to step back and look at it from another perspective.

    One of the puzzling things for me was that people in other religions could feel and tell similar things about their god(s). These were supposedly demons, but still, it is remarkable. They shoudn’t be able to feel anything like that, not if only our God could give experiences, feelings and guidance.

    Reply
  3. Steve

    Your theme song, bro 🙂

    https://youtu.be/oW96XddVZTo

    Reply
  4. JR

    I realised recently that Christians find it hard to accept that aspects of the Christian life attributed to the Holy Spirit can be explained by psychology.

    5 years ago I had a difficult week involving a death in the family and a possible cancer diagnosis for another. I stayed strong and calm. I put this down to the holy spirit giving me strength. The belief that god was in control gave me perspective.

    5 years later another stressful time comes. This time my attitude was ‘what will be will be – shit happens take a deep breath and move on.’ Guess what, I felt exactly the same as when I thought I had the holy spirit carrying me.

    Believing in God does give you strength. But the strength comes from the belief, the mental attitude and not from God.

    Reply
  5. Daniel Wilcox

    Bruce, Thanks for another sharing, very vividly, of your Christian past. Since, I reached the last stage of deconversion about 4 years ago, I am still in the midst of rethinking life and reality, and so appreciate these reflective articles of yours (even though our particular types of Christianity were very different).

    As usual you’ve got me thinking:-)

    One point you made, I think is too simplistic, and the analogy doesn’t work well:
    “This is no different from the 5-year-old Bruce Gerencser believing that Santa Claus somehow came down the chimney every Christmas Eve and put presents under the tree just for him.”

    From the perspective of a teacher, and former mental health worker, etc., I would say there is a vast difference.

    A 5 year old still doesn’t have a clear or strong realistic self-concept:
    (“They are transitioning out of the egocentric “me” stage, to a stage in which they have a greater understanding of the “me” within the “us.”)

    In contrast, your convincement as an adult, “Thus, I KNOW that God called me into the ministry because I “felt” him speak to me” isn’t a child’s case of lack of empirical knowledge, a lack of a realistic self-concept, a lack of physical and mental development, etc.

    Rather, it displays the danger of nearly every cultural/religious/ideological worldview. As long as a belief–no matter how illusionary–doesn’t violate the laws of physics, etc., then millions of humans can live, think, and act within that belief system.

    Think how many brilliant scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, discovers of amazing scientific theories, etc. also hold to various systems of thought which don’t appear to be true–Muslim thinkers, Christian thinker, Atheist thinkers (under communism or fascism, where free-thinking was curbed).

    It is only the bizarre–contrary to all facts–beliefs that won’t work in the real world that most educated human adults reject. These would be fanciful stories such as Santa Claus, children’s stories which many young children even realize aren’t true, but fun.

    So why then do so many adults reject scientific evidence and go with their the cognitive bias of their particular social/cultural mass group?

    It’s because, many of the more mundane beliefs of such groups do appear to be an accurate reflection of reality, so the more bizarre ones are given a pass, or are compartmentalized.

    For instance, consider the Mormons! They do have some very weird downright-Santa-Claus-like beliefs,
    BUT the average Mormon, and many of the intellectual Mormons (the ones with PhD’s in history, science, economics, etc.), don’t focus on those.

    Besides growing up within the Mormon culture, they see what amazing practical accomplishments Mormons over the last 150 years have achieved.

    When many Americans were living is substandard housing, suffering want, etc., the Mormon leadership in Utah was establishing mines, beautiful buildings, social safety nets, research, etc.

    In conclusion, I think adult cognitive bias, and confirmation bias are very different from a 5 year old belief in Santa Claus.

    No competent scientists, engineers, etc. believe in Santa, but plenty of such educated adults hold to various belief systems that seem not to be true.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      We are not long out of the caves. Reading the work of Arthur Janov has been helpful to me in this regard because he speaks of the stages of brain development and many factors that might affect it. Watching otherwise reasonable, educated, bright people adopt and feel comfort in belief systems is dizzying but not when one does the personal work necessary to own the insight regarding their own beliefs. It is not at all strange that I believed in Santa Jesus so fully and strongly in my childhood and youth. It was my parents’ ‘gift’ to me, just as God was so generous as to hang his Son up for all.
      Christians are calling for firm harm to be done to freedom these days of the Trump and they will bring down the storm they have been praying for…. Jim Bakker has the food hampers on sale now (always the sharp business man even if he lays the secretary) and it would not be too shocking to see the streets resemble those of the Vietnam protest days pretty soon. They are out for the blood of those who oppose their God-given rights to arm themselves and build walls. It is a very very Christian time now. But we will not go backwards. The women’s march was our answer at day one.

      Reply
  6. Pingback: If You Don’t Believe Anymore, Who Called You Into Ministry? – FairAndUNbalanced.com

  7. Appalachian Agnostic

    I have begun to think of preachers as God geeks, using the word geek in the sense of someone who derives pleasure from knowing and thinking and talking about a particluar subject. It is not meant as an insult. Some people are obsessed with cars, some are obsessed with sports. What if the same mental mechanism that causes other types of intense enthusiasm causes some people to be obsessed with religious subjects? If you were always drawn toward the subjects of God and the Bible, and practically everyone you knew rewarded you for that natural inclination, it would be strange if you hadn’t felt called to preach.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Great observation. I’ve never thought of my “calling” from that perspective. I certainly loved being a pastor — preaching, teaching, helping people. I hated board meetings, cliques, and denominational/fellowship bureaucracy. In the secular world, my favorite job was managing restaurants. I loved working in restaurants, the challenges, the opportunities to provide good, hot food to people.

      Reply
  8. Ian

    What Christians don’t like to hear is that other religions have people called to do great things by their diety, too. What is to say that a Christian’s calling is more legitimate than a Mormon’s calling or a Muslim’s calling?

    I saw a young man who “surrendered to the calling” one Wednesday night. He had been getting into trouble at home and was having trouble with school. That Wednesday night, he came before the church and started crying. He said that his actions were because he was fighting the call to preach. That was almost like a clean slate for him. A little later, he was back up to his previous actions and never became a preacher.

    Was his calling any less genuine than Bruce’s? I would say not. It was based in a set of experiences that culminates in a public announcement. The only difference was that Bruce actually followed through with his commitment, the other person didn’t.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      A point I have raised before is that I was saved two weeks before I was called to preach, and that my parents divorced — Dad remarried, marrying a girl two years removed from high, and Mom remarried, marrying her first cousin who was a recent prison parolee and drug addict — earlier that same year. The church, Jesus, youth group, Pastor Turner…they all were a lifeline for me. My conversion and calling were given life from the fertile soil of my troubled life. And quite frankly, I am glad for these experiences. I can only imagine what might have happened otherwise. These religious experiences need not to have been “true” for me to have benefited from them. Countless people are better off because they found Jesus, even if their Jesus is a mythical being.

      Reply
      1. Melody

        “they all were a lifeline for me.” “These religious experiences need not to have been “true” for me to have benefited from them. Countless people are better off because they found Jesus, even if their Jesus is a mythical being.”

        ^^^This so much. Church and rules didn’t help me much, they often made matters worse, but that was not the case with Jesus. Jesus and praying to him was my lifeline for many years and it was very powerful too. If I hadn’t felt this kind of divine support, I might have stopped believing a lot sooner. And I still do miss it sometimes.

        Praying gave me strength and support and that’s why I understand why some people won’t leave their religion, not even when they have huge doubts. You do lose something, that’s simply the way it is, and you have to be willing to lose it. I was but that doesn’t mean I don’t still miss this relationship I had with Jesus sometimes, especially the strength it gave me. It wasn’t just that I believed in Jesus, but also that He believed in me, and that is something powerful that I have lost and haven’t really found again.

        And every so often I get so gloomy that I become angry at myself for discarding religion: why in the hell did I throw away my only lifeline? But I think it was needed for me to grow and to feel better in other aspects of my life, yet something was lost and I do still feel the sting of that sometimes.

        Reply
        1. anotherami

          Melody, your post makes my heart ache because I feel like I understand what you mean, though I was fortunate enough to have a faith background that let me leave “religion” far behind me but keep my faith.

          I had faith leaders who taught me quite clearly that faith and grace are the free gifts of God to everyone but that religion is mankind’s response and generally tries to keep those gifts as exclusive to their own particular tribe. And that this was one of mankind’s most grievous sins, perhaps the most grievous. Communal worship was generally good, but not ultimately required. The crucial piece is that personal relationship between me and God, not me and the pastor or me and the congregation, I hear it somewhat echoed in the Evangelical’s insistence on personal salvation, not just showing up on Sunday mornings. So I jettisoned the pastors and congregations but kept that personal relationship. I’m not sure I’d still be here to write this comment if I hadn’t, because of that same infusion of strength you mentioned. It carries me when I feel I have nothing left I can do and nowhere else to turn.

          Was leaving “the church” but keeping your faith something that was even a possibility in the traditions you followed or is “the lone practitioner” something that was simply not allowed?

          Reply
          1. Melody

            “Was leaving “the church” but keeping your faith something that was even a possibility in the traditions you followed or is “the lone practitioner” something that was simply not allowed?”

            My mother was a lone practitioner for a long time -still is- and it wasn’t too much of a problem. She did miss out on the social life of the church too though.

            At some point we left the church as a family and were going to find a new one. That never happened, we went as guests to a few, but never attended any for real. A few years later I started to begin questioning my faith itself more as well. So basically I was a lone practioner for some years, say 7 or 8 or so, still going to different churches occassionally but nothing more, also still going to student Bible study for some years too, and now I only go to church when my brother visits and at Christmas and Easter.

            During my deconversion I went to church a few times in the hope of finding some actual proof for Christianity’s claims, but that didn’t happen.

            “The crucial piece is that personal relationship between me and God, not me and the pastor or me and the congregation,”

            It was for me too for all those years. The relationship with Jesus was far more important to me than what leaders or other Christians said, but it did puzzle me sometimes. It felt as if my Jesus was a far kinder and friendlier person than theirs! For me Jesus was a true friend – God was scarier – and sometimes I miss him. To have someone to just pour out your heart to, to not hold things back. I have problems trusting people and that didn’t happen with Jesus, so that’s one of the things I do miss. I didn’t have to be who people wanted to see in me, I could just be me and it was alright. That’s part of it I think. Less need of having a mask or responsibilities: I could be upset or ‘weak’ without hurting or bothering anyone with it.

            It is just that I cannot go back to that. I try sometimes, but because I no longer believe it, it feels strange to pray.

            “It carries me when I feel I have nothing left I can do and nowhere else to turn.”

            Yes, that feeling of hope and support. So without Jesus I’m a little more lost sometimes, but I’m also (learning to be) more open to people because people are all I have got and I think that is a good development too. So it’s not all gloom and doom 😉

            “I had faith leaders who taught me quite clearly that faith and grace are the free gifts of God to everyone but that religion is mankind’s response and generally tries to keep those gifts as exclusive to their own particular tribe. And that this was one of mankind’s most grievous sins, perhaps the most grievous.”

            ^^I like this a lot. Sounds very different than what I used to hear and much better.

  9. anotherami

    Melody- If I had only fundamentalist theology as a foundation, I probably would not still have faith in “That Something”. Another aid to retaining my faith is the Quaker position that God is still quite capable of revealing Him/Herself to modern humans, though the speed of our lives makes it much harder to find the time and quietness required to listen. I think that humans have a need for that “quietness”, thus the current popularity of things such as yoga, tai chi, meditation and “mindfulness”, not to mention the now 350+-year old Quaker practice of “waiting in silence for the “Spirit of God” or Buddhist meditation.

    I agree that people are all we have got and it is through the hands of people that miracles occur in the lives of others. The question is what motivates those hands to act.

    I can give a decent example. My household is on a fixed income and a series of events has caused serious financial shortfalls to the point that this past week, we were out of money, out of food and had exhausted all avenues of relief we could find ourselves. My prayers are often extremely informal and brief and this time it was simply, “I’ve done all I know and can see to do. It’s up to You now.” Within 24 hours, the opportunity to make enough money to make it to the next check came, not in a phone call from God, but one from a very human friend who needed help and had the ability to pay for it. Thus, two needs were met, theirs for assistance and ours for the cash. That friend became “an unwitting angel” to us, though I have no idea whatsoever about this persons spirituality or lack thereof.

    Sure, it is easily explained as mere coincidence or good luck. But I have had so many similar instances of these “personal miracles” that the sheer number of them makes me skeptical of coincidence/luck being the sole explanation.
    A major stumbling block I face in this view is why some of my prayers are answered and why another person (say in Africa) who is facing much more dire circumstances than I will ever experience here in America, has faith also and those prayers seem to fall on deaf ears often resulting in death. The blatant injustice of that troubles me greatly and I have yet to find an explanation that satisfies me. Therefore I remain a “Seeker of Truth”, not one who claims to have found it.

    As you can probably tell from my frequent and wordy posts, this stuff fascinates me and has led me to dabble in psychology, philosophy, various forms of spirituality and meta-physics. We humans are puzzling creatures!

    Reply
    1. Melody

      @anotherami

      I do believe that unexplainable – for the moment – things happen to us sometimes and that makes me reluctant to say there is nothing else out there for certain, because I don’t know. That’s why I would consider myself agnostic on that point. I hope science might provide the answer to some of these things someday, but it never might or not in our lifetimes. I’ve had a few moments like that myself and don’t have an explanation anymore – which was God – but it’s ok to not know. I’ve mentioned it before, I think, but things like deja vu’s, the collective consciousness, the collective unconscious – does it exist? It might, I think – are causes for me to say: there could be more than we see / there are things we cannot yet expain very well.

      But I am also reluctant to ascribe these things to a higher power of some kind – at least not the way I was raised with a personal God who plays with people’s lives for kicks – I don’t think there is someone looking out for us nor out to get us; I think neither of those are true but that the universe is indifferent. Good things happen, fortunately and unexpectedly and so do the bad things. We have confirmation bias on the times we get lucky and forget the times we did not. Like you say: I’d call it a happy coincidence.

      Our prayers are sometimes answered, but very often they are also not. It is very understandable that we treasure the answered ones – I’ve done so for a long time – but we tend to have a short memory for the unanswered ones. It is a stumbling block because people pray all the time and some people get better and some do not, some people get help and some do not. I think that it seems random because it is random. So if that is caused by a God that God is fickle whereas coincidence and luck is random by nature.

      I recognize that in the quiet beautiful things can happen. A moment for yourself, rest, peacefullness, restoration. I don’t meditate but do try to stay in the moment more and more. I’m in my head far too much and am trying to connect with my body more. I think that these things can provide someone with good life tools but don’t buy into the supernatural claims that go with it. So I enjoy the peacefullness of it but don’t believe the getting in touch with the higher part: with yourself and your body, yes, with nature perhaps.

      At the end of the day, it is what helps you through life the best. Some people want to believe in a God or gods; others don’t. Strict religion gave me good and bad things: God loved me and looked out for me, but he was also very strict; demons and Satan and everyone who wasn’t a Christian like us were out to get us all. The negative stuff outweighed the good in the end and so I am now happy not believing in neither of it: nor the good, nor the bad. I don’t want to believe in agency of the universe, god or a higher power anymore because of that fickleness which is fundamentally unfair. It is easier for me to accept that life is unfair because it is random and indifferent rather than because of a fickle power of some – any – kind.

      I like the term Seeker of Truth. We fall on different sides of the fence on this one, but are neither of us completely sure regardless 🙂 I like psychology too and bascially anything I don’t understand yet. I like learning new things, reading new insights and am happy that is no longer boxed in on all sides by a religion – Evangelicalism – that doesn’t provide space for that.

      Reply
      1. Becky Wiren

        I fall in-between both of your beliefs. I hope and experience a Divine being of love who gives me strength. I’m a Universalist as far as “heaven” or afterlife is concerned. But while hoping, I realize that I have no proof and now try to live my life with my own agency, using logic, reason or my own intuition as I see fit. (My intuition…I might pray but now it is largely for peace, mostly meditative.)

        Melody, I too like psychology and at one point did a lot of reading about it. “President” Trump has inspired a lot more reading, sad to say. I was in a job interview yesterday and had a reason to speak about geography, and the interviewer was surprised I knew the approximate location of Middle Eastern countries! (It was an aside and she thought a lot of people wouldn’t care about those countries on a map, and I said because knowledge is a great thing. Should have said we should know the countries that have a ban on them.)

        Anyway…all those things that were sin are no longer sin. There is good and bad, better and worse, and shades of gray. I pretty much think we should treat people as we want to be treated, and love our neighbor as ourself. Everything else is details, not sin or evil. Peace.

        Reply
        1. Melody

          “Anyway…all those things that were sin are no longer sin. There is good and bad, better and worse, and shades of gray. I pretty much think we should treat people as we want to be treated, and love our neighbor as ourself. Everything else is details, not sin or evil. Peace.”

          Amen!

          There’s so much more freedom, isn’t there, when many things are no longer sins and there are more shades of gray. It makes life a little lighter and also much more nuanced.

          Nuance is sadly something that’s missing a lot in politics lately.

          Reply

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