The subject line must look like the biggest call of “TROLL!” in the world, so I should preface this note by saying that I am not trolling. I hope I can prove that I’m not trolling by interacting and responding to the posters who have the time and the courage to post to this thread.
That said, I’ll give you the background. I grew up in a largely non-religious household, although I suppose my parents were vaguely Christian, even if in the most non-commital sense. When I left for college, I joined a Christian organization… which, upon further review, was scarily close to a cult. Two weeks after I graduated from undergrad, I “lost my faith.” Due to personal reasons, I first said, “Fuck you God, I don’t want anything to do with you,” which then slowly devolved into agnosticism.
I never experienced the “fullness of life” while I was in Christ, and I’ve never experienced the “emptiness” of not having Christ that all Christians seem to think pervades the faithless. But something weird happened to me the other day, something I’m still trying to explore, cope with, and even put words to. I’ll try to explain that experience as best I can. Something (again, personal, sorry) happened, and I just had a gut reaction. I said things, and I acted, entirely without conscious thought. The weird thing is that my “innards,” if you will, acted on the premise that there IS a Higher Power. Almost like, deep down, I know that there’s some Higher Being, but I’ve supressed this knowledge with all forms of entirely secular thought.
This is entirely difficult for me to cope with, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a unique experience in the history of humanity. It’s especially complicated by the fact that I consider myself to be a rational, moral person. When I’m actively thinking, I make that “innard voice” seem pretty damned stupid. My conscious mind keeps telling me, “Even if there is a God, he’s a cruel fucking bastard… or have you forgotten? Fuck him” or “You’re inventing God because you want God to exist… an omnipotent being that loves you would be the Ultimate Comfort.” It’s tough for me to combat these sentiments, but it’s also tough for me to forget that inner voice… and he hasn’t spoken since that night, almost two weeks ago.
My question depends on who I’m asking, so I’ll break it up into three camps, in alphabetical order:
Atheists and agnostics: Have you experienced this voice? Did you ignore it and it merely went away? Did you attribute it to needing security, etc? Can you recommend a good book or two? As an example, I recently read Seven Theories of Religion by D. Pals, summarizing the views of such anti-religious thinkers as Freud (psychologist), Emile Durkheim (sociologist), Marx (economist/sociologist), and Geertz (another sociologist). This book illustrates different approaches in analyzing the origins of religion, but doesn’t necessarily investigate the underlying truths or lack thereof. Is there a book you can recommend that does just this? I’m not looking for something that attacks the validity of the Bible; I’m thinking of something that looks at religion in general.
Christians: I need a book or two that isn’t hostile to the rational mind. I’ve started re-reading C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and he’s an excellent illustration of the sort of mindset I’m looking for. Any book that starts with “Assuming the Bible is true, we can yadda yadda yadda” will be summarily dismissed without prejudice. I’ve read some Hugh Ross, a Christian Astrophysicist, but he seems too willing to twist the objective data to fit the only scenario he’s willing to accept: God exists. Is there someone similar with perhaps a more open mind? Also, and perhaps more importantly, due to my “culty” experience, I’ve largely only encountered Fundamentalist thought: the Bible is literally true, etc. Can you recommend a book that investigates more “liberal” ways of thinking about Christianity? A book that would be especially useful would be one comparing the Christianity of the Fundamentals with the Christianity of everyone else.
Religious Non-Christians: I have a B.A. in Religious Studies, and in the course of attaining that degree, I took more classes on Buddhism than I did on Christianity. However, most of these classes were merely interested with defining the terms rather than investigating the meat of what the religions say. Do you have any suggestions for books that DO say what your religion believes? Just for the record, I’m familiar with the basics: the Buddhist believes in the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. To me, that’s akin to saying “A Jew believes in the Ten Commandments.” I guess what I’m asking is: what do you REALLY believe in? What does your particular sect hold sacred? In other words, spare me the PR crap and cut to the chase.
One final note–testimonials are equally welcome, in addition to literary suggestions. If someone has experienced something similar, then by all means, share on here, or email me if that’s more to your tastes. If you’re going to do so, please try to be analytical. I realize that these experiences are terribly difficult to put into words (Abraham Maslow wrote extensively about that), and I know I’ve done a shitty job myself. But you’re really not going to help me if your testimonial is “It was at my mother’s funeral… on a whim, I started praying, and right then I felt the Love of the Lamb, and I knew God was real.” I don’t mean to trivialize your experience, but it’s not especially helpful. I’m sorry if my candor offends you.
phew Ok, that was a ton of questions. But any and all help would be appreciated.