Food for Doubting Thomas

They may call you doubting Thomas, but I certainly wouldn’t. I’d sooner call you Thomas the wise. You are challenging your religious peers about the dogma they are pressuring you to accept. Truly, you’re being asked to believe things that are completely unreasonable and you’re uneasy with it. They’ll allow you to question things a little, as long as you find your way back into the fold. But when you question things too much, it creates dissonance in their version of reality. They need to gain some ground back from you, so they reframe your common sense and reasonable logic as ‘doubts’. Some of them are your loved ones, and you don’t want to offend them. It puts you in a tight spot. I want to encourage you, because you’re on the right path to question things. They don’t see things logically.

The story of doubting Thomas from the bible, is about the disciple of Jesus who would not believe that Christ had resurrected after his death by crucifixion, until he saw it for himself. It served to illustrate how amazing the resurrection was. It implied that since Thomas doubted and later believed, when he saw it with his own eyes, that no one else need doubt. That’s right, you don’t need to stick your fingers through the nail holes in Jesus’ hands, because apostle Thomas already did. That should be enough proof for anyone.

When I consider the reader of this blog, no serious Christian, Jew or Muslim is going to want to read it. My ideas would likely offend them. Most scientifically minded atheists would accept what I say and find it entertaining, although the sum of concepts I present may not be groundbreaking to them. But I don’t write this only for myself. Someone out there needs this in just the way I say it. This carefully crafted line of logic, language presenting a sequence of thoughts, clearly reveals theism for what it is: fiction. What relief it can bring! Because while you may regard yourself as a believer, if you are questioning the validity of those beliefs, you are only pretending to believe as a courtesy to those around you until you come to a verdict. But you don’t have to feel the pressure to pretend to believe at all. Realize the only reason that the majority embrace it, is because they were born into it, whether it’s good for them or not. Most folks will hold the same paradigm their whole life long. The ones with a desire to escape it are people with a logical itch and confidence enough to question everything. And so who do I write this for? Well Thomas, my friend, this bud’s for you.

Part of loving our god-believing friends and family means accepting them the way they are, without the desire for them to change. Forgive them for being different. Meditate on it, if that’s what it takes to get you there. The ideas I’m explaining to you, are intensely private. Completely personal. Your thoughts are yours alone. I’m suggesting that you separate your mental processes from theirs because theirs are faulty and causing you grief. And don’t misinterpret my tone. Believers are not your opponents. I’m not suggesting that you argue with them. Let believers be their natural selves, while demanding they let you be your natural self. Outside of that, you don’t need to talk about it. There is no reconciling the differences between believers and analysts, you just have to know in which camp you stand.

Okay, now let’s get to the meat of it. First and foremost, there is no proof or physical evidence of any kind that supports the existence of god or any deity. Billions of people have desired such proof, so if there were anything at all, it would be revealed by now and pushed in our faces at every turn. But there was nothing, at all, ever. Nor is there supporting evidence for the existence of any type of spirit, human soul, angel, ghost, or demon. The closest we’ve got are some emotional stories, wishful thinking, and vague clues that point toward a desired conclusion.  Nothing but somebody else’s whispers. The burden of proof is on those that make an amazing claim, and there is no amazing evidence to support such claims. These glaring facts don’t seem to dissuade 90% of the world’s population that accept that there is an almighty god.

When it comes down to brass tacks, there is only one reason to believe in god. Because someone taught you that it was so. That’s it. People born before you believed in god, you were born into their world, and they expected you to believe it too. You did not conceive of god yourself. You didn’t have some experience where god came to you and said, I am god and although you cannot see me, hear me, feel me, smell me, or taste me–behold–you will believe I am real. Some people may have had an experience that was emotionally impactive, and their whisperers told them it was god. Which is to say because of confirmation bias they interpreted certain events to be god. But that only happened after someone they respected told them that god was true, and they took on the paradigm and proved it to themselves.

To understand the belief, look closer at the believer. They are fundamentally emotion based people, opposed to fundamentally logic based–at least when it comes to the subject of god. Although obvious, it bears repeating: they don’t need any factual proof. If something told to them were emotionally attractive or otherwise gratifying, they accept it. Believers aren’t crazy. They’re normal people doing what people do. They do what they are told, and strive to excel within the constraints put on them. They don’t want to break the rules, buck the system, or rock the boat. They are good, polite and obedient people. They are very good at thinking inside the box, and every community needs people like that.

And although they want you to think inside the box with them,Thomas, you aren’t like them. If you were, they wouldn’t be calling you Doubting Thomas. You are a logically based person. You don’t accept things just because you’re told to. If things don’t add up, you’re going to get to the bottom of it! You gather all the information available, and draw your own independent conclusions. But maybe you’re not ready to let go of your beliefs quite yet, and your judgment hangs in the balance. There are some more things you should consider.

I’m going to present a list of ‘cases and considerations’ that might influence you to believe or not, and compare each of them to three different ‘belief scenarios’ to see which scenario best explains the considerations. The scenarios are:

  1. Dogmatic Theism: From the point of view of organized religion; Where there is one true god, he has rules we must live by or continue after death to an afterlife of eternal torture. We must accept him, love him, and obey him. Or else.
  2. Spiritual but not religious: The belief of a loosely defined god consciousness that created everything, without any rules or stipulations.
  3. Atheism: Stop worrying so much because there is no such thing as god.

Cases and considerations:

  • I have prayed to god for a personal connection, message, or some kind of sign for many years but I never get an answer.
  • I participated in group prayer for a sick friend, who was miraculously healed.
  • I participated in group prayer for a friend with cancer, who got better for a while, but eventually got worse and died.
  • I’ve heard stories where people have had these amazing experiences with god.
  • What if I’m wrong saying there is no god, and I end up going to hell?
  • This world and the universe is so beautiful and so complex.
  • 95% of people on Earth do believe in some kind of deity.
  • Demographics of religious to not, educated to not.

Explanations:

Dogmatic Theism:

It says in James Chapter 1,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

It is difficult to know the will of God, and why he does some things and not others. But he has a plan for all he does, and his timing is perfect. It’s important to believe in the Lord’s judgement and accept all things in his timing. God is bigger than you can possibly understand, so don’t constrain him to any of your expectations. He will deliver.

The Lord has placed within all of us, a thirst to know him. He’s also granted us all free will, so we can deny him if we choose. Most of the world, throughout time and across all cultures believes in God in some way. It is no coincidence. Still, there are people that cannot find their way to him. Unfortunately, their torment will last with them into the afterlife.

Spiritual but not religious:

It’s difficult in the modern age to understand the actions/inactions of god based on the definition of god that organized religion provides. There are too many contradictions, and too little consistency when our considerations are based on the dogma of ages past. The pieces are able to fall into place when we change our definition of god itself.

We have the freedom to find something truer when we throw out preconceived ideas that shackle our minds. And we gain new insights when we accept science as a whole. We are ready for a new level of understanding to take place.

A good starting point is the basic human experience when in a relaxed or meditative state in a beautiful natural setting. Whether taking in a mountain view at sunrise, or a grove of trees swaying in the wind on the far side of a park, we feel a connection to the world. It’s easy to realize our symbiotic relationship to the world, considering how we’ve evolved along with it. The world affects us and we affect the world, not separate from it at all.  Surely, this symbiotic relationship goes beyond what science can quantify as of yet.

We know from the second law of thermodynamics, entropy, that all things have a tendency to break down. It’s the way of the universe, the path of least resistance. But life works in complete opposition to that law. Perhaps we can consider the force that propels it to be god. The tendency of life to occur, grow, and develop.

Consider the law of gravity. Science is unable to define what exactly it is or why it happens, but we can detail what it does. We can see the effects of gravity. We can measure how matter is attracted to the center of other masses of matter. Apply this to the law of nature which is god. We can notate the effects god has in our lives, we can see HOW it works. But there is no way to know what exactly it IS. To question the behavior of god, and project your hopes and disappointments on it is a distraction. To judge it as good or bad to you personally, or wish it to work differently is to obfuscate your understanding. Go ahead and project your own will and desire in your thoughts and prayers, change what you can but accept what you cannot.

You will see amazing things happen.

Atheism:

The reason you don’t get signs from god, or answers to prayers is simple. There is no god to answer your requests. Your expectations were inflated by amazing stories from friends, family, or someone on social media but when you try to reproduce it in your own life, nothing happens. Or worse, a little something happens by chance every once in a while which strings you along to believe more miracles will happen in the future.

Some people say the definition of insanity is to keep repeating the same behavior, and expecting different results.  If you keep praying, only to find disappointment, why would you keep praying. If you keep asking for a sign and there never are any, then stop expecting them.

If you want progress in your life, if you want peace in your life, if you want understanding in your life, accept things how they really are. Entertaining fantasy as if it were real will only hamper your life. Being realistic and logical with what you have to deal with enables you to make the best decisions and build your life up quickly.

Analysis of The Insightful Nihilist

I’ve tried my best to be fair to each point of view, and I think I’ve been reasonable considering I’ve held each of these points of view for several years.

The explanation of the Atheist wins hands down. This explanation is the most likely true scenario. I wonder why this simple logic gets lost on so many people. As a rule of thumb, the simple answer is most likely the correct answer (reference: Occam’s razor). A more complicated answer is probably fast talking, or over explaining as an attempt to persuade. A sell job.

Speaking of sell jobs, the dogmatic explanation of the Theist isn’t really an answer at all. Theism encourages you not to question things, but instead to have faith. For all intents and purposes, having faith means to go along with whatever they tell you is true, so as to be part of the group. To say that god is too big for you to understand is nothing but arrogance, especially considering that god is unproven. However, you might go with this explanation because of social reasons. Yes that’s right Neo, take the blue pill. Ignorance is bliss.

The alternative spiritual explanation presented above is just one example of many. It is very thoughtful, and I find ideas like these attractive and fun to ponder. Related discussions can bring hours of entertainment with open minded fellows. But instead of answers, we reveal more and more thoughtful questions. While thoughts and related practices like meditation may benefit your life in some ways, this way of thinking should be kept in the arena of entertainment. Taking it too seriously brings you dangerously close to developing new whisperers that will lead you away from any objective truth.

In conclusion, dear Thomas, the answers you are so ardently seeking are not as elusive as so many would have you believe. The answers are right in front of you, waiting for you to accept them. As much as I’ve suggested to you, who am I to tell you what to believe? Despite what I think is obvious, I know that you may have your own insights. Maybe I’m overlooking something. So what I hope for you, what I love about you, is that you never stop questioning things. And I hope you never make any compromise in accepting the answers.

Stop pretending. Make a decision.

 

Whispers in your ear

They’re always with you

They tell you important things: What is right or wrong, what is true or false. What you should accept or reject.  They are whispers in your ear, as if spoken by a spirit on your shoulder. And you believe them.

We all have them. They’re steering our thoughts, leading our conclusions. It’s hard to say if they’re more like angels or demons, but your whisperer’s purpose is your overall victory, one way or another. Victory in all you do, against all who oppose you. There are many different whisperers, just as there are many different types of people and they have distinct personalities.

Let’s say you’re sitting next to a stranger on a train, traveling to another state. It’s going to be a long trip, and the stranger starts a conversation as the train departs from the station. It begins pleasant and light where nobody reveals much of themselves. You talk about the weather. Chit chat.

This continues for a while, but eventually you move on to expressing opinions and personal views. Comments about the weather turn into comments on global warming and climate change. The conversation moves into politics, with hints of religious beliefs or the lack thereof.  By that point, your whisperer is awake, attentive and active. Worried that the conversation could affect your overall paradigm, it drops comments known only to you. Whispers, intended to keep you on track. It understands you need help staying strong and sticking to your guns. You mustn’t be persuaded, because you’ve worked hard to build a belief system that works for you. There are too many things in the world to know them all, and you’ve built a system from the knowledge you do have. And with it, you have found a way to be strong and face the world. Your whisperer is not about to let the vehement opinions of a stranger derail it all. Even if it has to lie to you.

For the purpose of illustration, let’s say your views are very conservative. Everything goes well in your conversation until the stranger, you know now as Ian, says…

“I can’t believe these climate change deniers. They think they can argue the factual conclusions of 99% of the world’s scientists.”

You heard it was 97%, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all bunk anyway, says your whisperer. Scientists have their own agenda it reminds you, and it’s right. But you don’t want any direct conflict with Ian and you’ve got to say something.

“Hopefully we can trust their conclusions,” you say. “Maybe what they’re mostly concerned with is their funding.” Hm, maybe that was more confrontational than intended.

Ian looks at you hard for a while, saying nothing. No doubt his own whisperer has been aroused now. Finally he speaks.

“You mean to tell me that scientists around the world have all banded together in some kind of global conspiracy about the possible fate of the world–only to keep their respective funding?” Ian says.

“Well I’m not saying that,” you reply. Your whisperer chuckles knowing that’s exactly what you’re saying. “But how do you know you can trust what they’re saying. They could have just made it up for one reason or another,” you say convincingly.

“They didn’t fabricate any numbers,” Ian says, not convinced. “Independent scientists from many different countries are completely transparent with the data that has been gathered by many different sources, and they are going to great lengths to explain their conclusions.”

There is no point in talking to him about this, your whisperer warns you. He has obviously been brainwashed by the media. Fake news. You look out the window, and see trees frosted from snow falling in the lowland mountains you’re passing into. Your whisperer chuckles again. Not much warming going on here, it points out.

“So who do you know in Colorado?” you ask Ian. Hopefully you can change the subject.

And so it goes, again and again. Social media is brimming with political commentary from everyone we know.  Many people will “un-friend” others with differing views, and they end up living in an echoing chamber, where only ideas like their own are brought up. Their whisperers exchange material until all the people they control are all synchronized like a hive mind.  They all have the same ideas and the same whispers in their ears. They all present the same arguments, with the same references and examples because they heard it from someone else who heard it from someone else within their circles.

What are these whispers, really?

They are our subconscious minds, and more specifically, our confirmation biases. And confirmation bias is a very big deal. So what exactly is it? A common behavior where people focus on information that confirms what they already believe is true, while undervaluing or ignoring information that does not confirm what they believe. Also, it’s when information is interpreted in such a way that it confirms what they already believe or want to believe is true. There are many web sites that go into great detail about confirmation bias, that are easy to find if you look for them.

It affects every aspect of our lives from our personal experiences and decisions to our interactions with others. From a case of neighbors reconciling their differences all the way up to global politics, confirmation biases shape our world. The danger of confirmation bias is that the larger the bias gets, the less objective the person (or organization) is, and that leads to faulty choices, the spread of misinformation, and conflict. In short, people become deluded about what is true and false, because of what they want to be true, and then they fight about it. Religious persecution, political disputes, wars, and heinous acts of terrorism are all results of confirmation bias. Huge conflict arises when people can’t agree on things because they aren’t all focusing on the facts and only the facts. Perhaps we could accomplish long lasting world peace if everyone could agree on an objective truth based only on facts and mutual welfare, unhindered by any bias. But that will never happen. We have whisperers, and they’re controlling us.

Is the author of this article writing with a confirmation bias? Is the reader of this article reading with a confirmation bias. Almost certainly on both accounts, which reminds me of a story.

You are the smartest person around, just like anyone.

Do you think you are the smartest person you know? Seriously. Perhaps you make an exception for an especially smart individual that you’ve met, but out of all the people you know you consider yourself to be smarter than nearly everyone, don’t you?  You feel strong as a smart person. You’re in a powerful position that gives you confidence. You often shake your head at the idiots all around you. You can’t believe how they could be so dumb.

If you do think you’re the smartest person around, well, you’re not alone. What I’ve found is that almost everybody does. Why, I remember back in my early twenties when I outright proclaimed to myself that I was the smartest person in the world. So it was a bit alarming to hear that some of my friends thought that indeed they were the smartest person in the world.  The super smarty pants that I was, recognized that was illogical. We can’t all be the smartest. And as I progressed into adulthood, I continued to analyze the subject. I would meet a lot of people, having long conversations with them as we got to know each other. I would take note if they thought they were the smartest person, which was (and still is) usually the case. Sometimes I’d even prompt them to say it in one way or another. It was easy, people love to profess how smart they are and how they are surrounded by idiots. I’ve never seen anyone taking IQ tests to prove their towering intelligence. But the truth became clear, and here’s my full conclusion.

There are exceptions, because some people are too self deprecating for this. And, we do allow for the true Einsteins of the world. But the rule stands. Pretty much everyone considers themselves smarter than everyone else. Obviously we cannot all be the smartest person in the world. But to think so is the way human beings are as a default behavior. And remember, everything we are is good, meaning we evolved to be like this for good reason. It’s part of a system that works. It gives us the advantage of confidence. And with it we boldly forge towards our victories.

I reached that conclusion long ago, and I haven’t thought about it overtly in a while. Then, when a young person in my life recently stated they were the smartest person in the world, I had a new insight. As you’ve read here, I have a lot to say to explain confirmation bias and how they permeate every aspect of our lives. But what I realized, is that thinking you are the smartest person is the first and foremost confirmation bias. So now I like to call it ‘The Original Confirmation Bias’. One that we all hold in common, and it is the mother of all confirmation biases.

Bias override

The only logical conclusion from that point forward, is to accept that what we believe is upheld by our biases. We rarely, if ever, resist what our whisperer tells us. And it’s far more difficult to see our own biases than other people’s. While they often work to our advantage, we need to constantly challenge the beliefs that we hold, by asking ourselves some routine questions:

  • Have I gathered all the facts [about the topic]?
  • Am I ignoring unpleasant or disappointing facts?
  • How do I know what I believe [about this] is true, really?
  • What does the other side of the argument say? Is their argument based in fact or is it all rhetoric and emotion?
  • When there are no applicable facts, am I filling in blanks with my imagination and assuming my internal rhetoric is true?
  • How might it serve me to strongly believe [this] if it can’t be proven?
  • Am I willing to update what I regard as true in respect to new information?
  • Are my whisperers controlling me by keeping me in the dark?

The puzzle of truth: Analyst vs. Theist

The way we see the truth about life, the universe, and everything is like building a puzzle with an unknown number of pieces. Different people go at building their puzzle in different ways.

Discerning analysts want to make sure they get as close to the objective truth as possible. They don’t want to buy into, or propagate misinformation. They take every measure to ensure that they aren’t wrong about things. That they aren’t misled to believe things that aren’t actually true. And so every bit of information they can find is another puzzle piece on the table. They are always looking for more pieces, and even before they know if the information is true, false or partially true it becomes a piece of the puzzle. Even false information and uncovered deceptions are clues about the overall picture. Science, of course, is the backbone of the puzzle. The puzzle of the discerning analyst is huge, complicated, and utterly insightful. It knows no bounds.

The goal of the Theist is to make their puzzle into the picture they want to see. They have very few pieces left on the table, because so many were impossible to fit into what they envision. With a couple swipes of their arm, they cast most puzzle pieces onto the floor, most of those are scientifically proven facts. What’s left are emotional stories, hyperbole, rhetoric, and a lot of gaps. Those gaps are easily filled in with their own creative talents, until they’ve painted the picture of their dreams. When a theist describes their view of the world, it is often inspiring, beautiful, and humbling. But let’s not forget that they left all the facts of the floor.

 

Everything you are is good.

Everything that you are, every way that you think, every feeling surging in you is good; Everything that occurs in your brain is there by design. Every aspect of you was developed over long periods of time through the lives and deaths of your ancestors, resulting in a better you. So since everything about you evolved for a specific purpose, then nothing about you is bad.  In this context, there isn’t even any such thing as bad. Your family tree is an organism evolving through the generations, and you are the most evolved strain. A superior product of all that came before you. It’s helpful in all aspects of life to realize this, and especially encouraging when you’re feeling down on yourself. 

Yes, even when you have thoughts of things that are considered bad, naughty, downright evil, even illegal. Thoughts themselves are not bad or evil. They are just thoughts, creative brainstorms of viable solutions.  There is no need to feel guilty, or that you are a bad person. You are hard wired to think that way by design.

I state this because the idea runs counter to what many people are taught growing up, especially if they grew up in a religious family. In the Christian paradigm you are automatically a member of a “fallen race”.  Because of the “original sin” of Adam and Eve you are born of sinful nature.

Let me put this into perspective: Hundreds of millions, if not billions of people, were indoctrinated with the paradigm that: Everything you are is bad, and you can only find redemption by (drinking the Kool Aid and joining the hive mind of the zombie collective) accepting the Lord as your savior. These people believe bad things about themselves and their “sinful nature”, and commonly lead a life in emotional bondage and they project it upon everyone they have discussions with. They were taught that they were born faulty and will always be carrying a piece of that faultiness, even when forgiven for it by the almighty. They see other people as inherently faulty, and either write them off as a sinner who is only good enough to fuel the fires of hell, or they implore the sinner to accept god’s forgiveness for being so faulty. Oh, we are not worthy, we are not worthy… Ha! What a terrible way to think! They are slaves to guilt. They are psychologically shackled by their religious masters. This paradigm is such a destructive deception, it is nothing less than a psychological disease.  If you have suffered from this paradigm, know that it is false and not good for you. Consider yourself freed from it now and forever more, as you assimilate a new paradigm.

To know where you came from, is to know what you are, and there are two ways to learn about your origins. Either through the large body of science that is available today or through cultural stories, and they paint two very different pictures. Scientific knowledge is widely available today, unlike most of the span of humanity where all people had were the cultural stories. Stories are mostly what religion is and it bonds a community together by showing people that they’ve been through it all together. They have each other’s trust and support. Telling stories from generation to generation is what people have always done, it’s the human way.  So since it’s our nature to, no wonder that so many people still tend to go with bible stories instead of gathering huge amounts of accurate information through modern science. Even though the stories were written by people long ago that didn’t have any scientific insights. Surely the stories became more and more emotionally evocative as they were refined through the generations. No doubt the tales became taller as they matured. They could be complete works of fiction and no one would know the difference. The older generations could say they were inspired by god, and the younger generations would never question that. And so the stories spin and spin, propelled into our modern world.

We’re tempted to say pain is bad, but we know pain is very important. The body is stating in no uncertain terms how to avoid damage. If we didn’t feel pain, we’d bump and scrape our body into oblivion. We’d fall apart. And many aspects of ourselves may seem bad, but are very important and good. Some people get confused about it.  For example, the fallen race club might say it is sinful to get very angry, but that is foolish.  Anger rises in us when our brain perceives a threat, identifying that it must override our normally complacent behavior and take authority over the problem. Without anger, you’d remain docile and could get badly taken advantage of, hurt, or even killed. The fallen race club may also say that it is sinful to hate, that only the sinful nature of a fallen race would produce such a feeling  as hate. Wrong again. Hate is the long term awareness of a physical or psychological threat that your anger didn’t take authority over. Anger is a momentary thing. It flares up quickly, and when there is no immediate threat it cools down as quickly. You could simply run from the threat and your anger would subside.  However the threat is still out there, and it could come back to get you over and over.  Enter hate and loathing.  That is how the brain prompts you to take care of a long term problem. If you don’t listen to that, it could progress into depression. If someone pushes down their anger, hate, and depression, it will continue to fester. They may take communion at church and supposedly receive absolution of their “sin”, but what they’re really doing is creating suppressed feelings and worsening their state. They could do much better for themselves by listening to and acting on these queues instead of labeling them sinful or bad.

We often hear the adage “Face your fears”. This may be a life changing good thing for certain individuals, but don’t be fooled into making a blanket statement that fear is bad. Fear is learned through experience, and it protects us from harm. Recent scientific studies have shown that the phobias of mice–that they developed in their lifetime–are passed to their offspring. This is amazing. It shows us that evolution goes beyond that slow process of elimination that we’ve been taught.  It makes a direct change from one generation to the next. And it makes sense. How are you supposed to pass on a fear of something to your offspring if that thing kills you before you can have offspring?

Also, consider the beauty of tropical birds. There are so many eye poppingly gorgeous birds of spectacular color and design. How did this breathtaking beauty come into being? Some people might say, god was feeling creative that day. Or, nature is just so amazing. But come on, those aren’t explanations. As soon as we accept that there is no god–feeling creative or otherwise–and that nature is not a personified entity we can look for a better explanation. Suppose we went way back in time, and we find some birds that weren’t quite so amazing as they are today. They still would have been the most eye catching birds of the day. Then new birds would be born, and in order to find a mate they would have to up the ante and find an edge over the mass of other birds. The line of bird that was most able to attract a mate would have to be a little more enticing than the rest. And little by little, birds would come into being that were more and more beautiful, more intricate in color and design because those were the ones chosen by a mate to progenerate that DNA. They would do amazing dances or “mating rituals” that we’ve seen in Planet Earth type documentaries. People most often think of “survival of the fittest” as simply the development of a species by avoiding death. Either being stronger in a fight so as to prevail, more able to avoid infection, or the classic example of the giraffe developing longer necks to eat leaves higher in the trees to avoid starvation. But how much more influential is it to be the one who attracts the mate versus the ones that didn’t. Those are the individuals that create offspring and further their family organism. It’s a jungle out there, and you’ve got to bring your game. So to answer the question, who created birds so intricately beautiful is this: The birds created themselves. That’s right, it wasn’t god, it wasn’t mother nature, and most of all it wasn’t random. It was the birds. They made themselves.

These ideas begin to illustrate how everything you are is good. We have become what we are now because of what it takes to survive in the world, the choices our ancestors made in the past, and for other reasons we’re just starting to understand. We needed an edge, there was something we wanted, we had an idea of what we wanted to be, and so we became. What we are is what we decided is the best way to be.

Understanding that is only the first step to understanding ourselves. One has to wonder, if we are so perfect, why  is there so much turmoil in the world? Why are so many people depressed? Why are people disgruntled, unsatisfied, so often self destructive?

I’d like to dedicate another post to answer those questions. But I will say now, as perfect as we’ve made ourselves we didn’t make ourselves for the modern world we now live in. The world we made ourselves for wasn’t anywhere nearly as populated as the one we live in now.  That primitive world was comprised of thousands of small isolated communities scattered across the planet, whereas today we are upon the threshold of a global community. It didn’t have much technology beyond handheld tools, and you know what we’ve got today. It didn’t have any governments beyond respective tribal cultures, and an occasional holy book. The world has changed completely with the boom of population and technology in the last thousand years. The result is a myriad of complications for a whole world of previously perfect people.

These complications manifest on a personal level in addiction. The world we evolved in did not have drugs, video games, Internet porn, money, gambling, giant 3D flat screens or an endless supply of groceries and consumables. Gad zukes, is it any wonder there are so many people with screwed up lives? We have nearly endless resources of our every desire, that we didn’t evolve with. We’re not prepared for this scenario. We don’t have an internal switch to turn off the desire to consume all the things we have today, and so we can barely (if ever) stop ourselves once we get started with them. We hurt ourselves by being out of control.

It is a comfort knowing that everything we are is good, but caught in the insanity of the world today, we have to learn to keep things in balance. And we all need to find a way to coexist with everyone else.

Suffocation

There is no escape.  They’re everywhere I go.  A state of psychological panic slowly infringes my mind, when everywhere I turn there is someone ready to distort what I know is true. What I can see clearly is denied by those who project upon me the hopes, fears, and twisted delusions they need to entertain. Here, in my own personal zombie apocalypse, they come at me with outstretched arms. Clutched in their hands is the Kool Aid that they implore me to consume. But they are not walking corpses, they are the believers. Where in the world can I seek refuge when the vast majority accepts the belief in–or delusion of–god?

You could say I am a recovering zombie. Like most of the world, I once believed as they did.  So imagine the horror of snapping out of it.  Like taking the red pill. At first it’s liberating to see the truth for what it really is, and not having to pretend anymore. But the next realization is that I’m stuck in a world full of god believers where I don’t belong.

They’re programmed to do everything in their power to pull me back into the herd. They call it ministering. Some are forceful and others kind, telling me my realization was just a bad dream. That I just need to have faith.

“Here, drink this,” one of them says, taking my arm.

I shout back at them, “No, no, I won’t! It isn’t true!” I break from their grip and push them back. “Stop telling me that crap is true. I know what’s true! You’re trying to suck me into the whirlpool of your comfortably confused mind! You’re sick, so stay away from me!”

I can outrun them in the short term, but day after day like this brings a kind of emotional suffocation. I am a proud discerning analyst, who has been on a long road of answering existential questions. An ardent seeker of truth. Through lessons of history, science, logic, and psychology I’ve learned enough to see the truth from the lies. And I understand why people believe what they believe. Why then, do they affect me so much? Why not just ignore them?

Well let’s say there is this giant chalkboard, where everyone can come and write down their ideas about things. There are many people writing, but I find a nice large spot of my own. It gets more crowded as I write out my precious insights, and before long there is barely any elbow room. Then the people around me start erasing my words, writing in their own. I have to fight them off, but they’re encroaching on all sides. Writing over my space. Even worse, they aren’t even writing intelligible prose.  Most of them are repeating the same phrases over and over, just filling up the board with it. If I step back for one moment, my thoughts disappear, replaced by insipid zombie scrawl. I can elbow in and fight to keep my words on the board, but the moment I step back, all is overwritten again. I can’t ignore that, you see. It’s maddening.

And it’s one thing to ignore the passing stranger, or even masses of them. But they are just the background setting for the main characters: Zealous family members, that would psychologically torment me if I didn’t believe what they believed. Their methods are so subtle, and seemingly kind. Their pretense is of counsel and wisdom. Their touch so soft like the caress of a boa constrictor that holds you in its warm and reassuring grip as you drift off into sleep. If you wake again, it will be as a changed person.  They’ll administer their Kool Aid over your sleeping lips. Smiling and telling  you everything will be so grand now that you’re able to see God’s truth.

                The only way I can breathe is to speak out against what is suffocating me.

Why would I alienate the world around me by calling them zombies? It’s intended as a slap in the face that says, “SNAP OUT OF IT!”. And what else would you call otherwise intelligent people caught in a spell of deception that traps them in emotional bondage? A global case of “group think” that results in so many destructive decisions. There should be an insightful blog that brings them step by step through thought processes that are like weapons against bullshit, beguilement and quackery. Thoughts that are easy to understand.

I have evolved through many different belief systems throughout my life, in search of the truth.  That actual truth, not the religious one.  As a child, my family attended a quiet Lutheran church now and then. It was more a group of friends and neighbors than anything else. Throughout childhood and into my teens, I had a general belief in god but didn’t really like going to church or talking about it with anyone. I was half agnostic, not at all attracted to any organized religion. I would pray now and then when things got tough, in whatever way I liked.

As I approached my mid twenties, I wanted to belong to a supportive community. I wanted to experience the supernatural. I wanted to cash in on the promises given to me by aforementioned family church elders, and accept all the great things God had in store for my life.  I decided to commit to Christianity with all my heart. I read the bible cover to cover. I got involved in church social groups. Within a few years I was an unabashed Jesus freak.

It took about seven years for me to see through the pretenses, and become discouraged from all the promises that proved to be hollow. In the end I felt completely duped by it all. Frustrated that my life was fruitless from living in that paradigm.  That’s when I started regurgitating gallons of Kool Aid. One thought of the stuff will send me into dry heaves.

I left the church and immediately threw myself into paganism and Wicca.  Or at least I read a few books about it, burned a lot of incense, and cast a few spells. But I soon decided that those people were all nuts too.

I studied Buddhism a bit by listening to Sogyal Rinpoche’s Tibetan book of Living and Dying on cassette (an audio book). I continued to the natural progression of reading the Tao Te Ching. That one really struck a chord in me, by the way. Soon after, I would proclaim that I was a “Neo-Pagan Taoist” if anyone were to enquire about my religious orientation. As you can imagine, I got some strange looks.

As I learned more and more about science, and quantum physics in particular, I embraced what I now call “quantum spirituality”. It’s the idea that mind creates matter, and consciousness itself affects the constituents of the physical world. If you’ve heard of the movie “What the bleep do we know”, I was into that kind of stuff. I progressed past it, knowing that the fascinating conclusions that are drawn in that paradigm are as fictitious as any religion, even if it were inspired by science.

But now, I think I’m a nihilist. Because nothing is true. Because everything is true. Because you decide whatever you like about things during your life, and either way you die at some point and that’s that. I don’t feel better by pretending certain things are true or not because I’m so aware of the pretending. It’s counterfeit, what’s the point? I get my confidence in the certainty of what is actually true despite our wishes. I cling to science and intellectualism. I feel better holding the cold hard facts close to me.

So I thought of myself as a “chameleon of paradigms” for those years I explored different belief systems. I did gain many insights along the way that will never be forgotten. In fact they’ll be peppered throughout ensuing posts of this blog. One poignant observation, something that all these belief system have in common, is that people always fill in the blanks of the unknown with their imagination and continue on as if it were all true. I know that is folly, because rarely does your imagination render anything realistic. Humans are experts at misleading themselves.  So I say, one must work hard to stick to the facts, which is to fight human nature and becoming mislead by one’s imagination.

But aside from insights and alternate paths, Christianity affected me the most emotionally. I became so very broken hearted from having previously been so deeply in love.  I was actually trying to believe more completely, by using my analytical nature. What I found wasn’t at all what I was after. Above all, what I thought I was doing, was seeking personal fulfillment that can only come from connecting with something beyond our mundane world.  So many times I went to a home group or bible study and asked the group to pray that god would reach out and show himself to me.  I prayed for it myself all the time:

“Please god, come to me.  Reveal yourself and touch my soul.  I want to feel you.  I want to be here with you, and to know that you’re with me.”

I miss singing in the spirit, as we called it. Back in the day, I would prefer to sit without friends in the afterglow worship session, but with others close by. My friends usually wouldn’t sing much or open up so they would be a distraction.  It was the hardcore worshippers that would stay for the afterglow. The lights were low, the music was sensitive and sincere, and I would sing my heart out. I would sing so well. So well. I would sing my love to god, pour out my adoration, my praises, my longing. It felt so good. There’s really nothing like it. Unfortunately it was a one sided relationship. It could go anywhere I wanted to take it, but nowhere I didn’t.

The church that had that legendary afterglow worship was the same one where I snapped out of it while the pastor was giving a sermon. He said that it was not the faith itself that was important–but what the faith is in. His message had an adverse affect on me, and I realized that of course it was the faith itself and only the faith. A thought like this would seem so insignificant to another person, but for me a giant lightbulb struck me in the forehead and knocked me to the ground. Yes! That’s why it all didn’t add up! It completely explained all the broken promises about how god would work in my life. It completely explained why god didn’t answer my calls. It completely explained why I needed to find another path for myself. I wasn’t willing to make my imagination as real as the faith needed to be. And then I was done. I broke up with god, my imaginary friend, and walked hard.

Now, I can’t blame zombies for doing what zombies do. I can only remember, as a cautionary tale, that I let myself believe them. I will be sure not to become mislead by their rhetoric in the future, no matter how enticing. Instead, only cling to what I know is true. Cling to Science and education of all sorts.  And above all, I will speak out hard against what is suffocating me, and breath.