The Jesus Drug

Image result for Jesus drug

“Feel you when I’m restless, feel you when I cannot cope

You’re my addiction, my prescription, my antidote

You kill the poison, ease the suffering

Calm the rage when I’m afraid to feel again

 

You’re better than drugs

Your love is like wine

Feel you comin’ on so fast, feel you comin’ to get me high

You’re better than drugs

Addicted for life”


“Better Than Drugs” by Skillet was one of the many songs that permeated my young life, as did its message. The concept of Jesus’, or more accurately the Holy Spirit, as this thing that can make one experience a “high” is not all uncommon to many denominations of Christianity. Go into any Pentacostal-esque church and you will witness speaking in tongues (that is, gibberish speaking where those inflicted believe they are speaking in an angelic language), falling on the floor where they proceed to either go catatonic or writhe, moan in a strangely sexual way, weep, or laugh, and all sorts of ecstatic behavior.

In the teenage life of many Christians, the use of Jesus as a drug is more exemplified by the first line: “feel you when I cannot cope.” Turning to Jesus becomes an escape. When the teenage angst gets too hard, the answer is to pray, read the bible, listen to Christian music, or anything at all relating to God. To completely saturate oneself with the Gospel in anyway possible. And only the Gospel: only Christian music, only Christian books fiction and non-fiction, only Christian games, movies with only Christian values (we skip through any sexy scenes, btw). If someone got sick, we’d hold prayer meetings and saturate ourselves in prayer, so we’d learn quick that it’s not medicine that heals, it’s God. We’d have youth groups for teens where we’d get to unleash our pain to each other, and instead of giving advice, we’d lay hands on each other and pray. We’d get to cry, sure, but ultimately “give the pain to God,” have a worship session, and go home happy and drugged up.   

What happens when one goes without the drug? Does one go into Jesus’ withdrawal?

 

“I hate feelin’ like this

I’m so tired of tryin’ to fight this

I’m asleep and all I dream of is waking to you

 

Tell me that you will listen

Your touch is what I’m missin’

And the more I hide I realize I’m slowly losin’ you

 

Comatose

I’ll never wake up without an overdose of you

I don’t wanna live

I don’t wanna breathe

‘less I feel you next to me

You take the pain I feel

(Wakin’ up to you never felt so real)

I don’t wanna sleep

I don’t wanna dream

Cause my dreams don’t comfort me

The way you make me feel

(Wakin’ up to you never felt so real)

I hate livin’ without you

Dead wrong to ever doubt you

But my demons lay in waitin’

Tempting me away”

Christians would often call this withdrawal, as seen above from, again, lyrics from Skillet, “doubt.” There was one night in particular I will never forget when I put this song on repeat, and knelt in tears, singing/praying the lyrics over and over again. Every word I meant. It was one of my last cries of desperation in a stage of very deep, tormented doubt. I wept for hours, and I would again for many nights. It physically, mentally, and emotionally hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt.

You see, I was born an intellectual person. I always had an unquenching desire to know. When I was very young, this showed itself best in my little 6, 7, 8 year old self sitting during the worship service reading the Bible instead of singing the songs (which weren’t boring hymns like most churches, but the jump up and down kind). Instead of watching Veggie Tales and playing games in the little kids Sunday school, I got put in the big kids’ class where we read the Bible, memorized verses, and asked questions.

I did Christianity hard. By my teens I’d been baptised, in water and the Holy Spirit with manifestation of gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongues and prophesy), gone on a healing crusade where I “healed” people, read the Bible front to cover in multiple versions more times than I could keep track of, and started a Bible club at my High school by petitioning the principal of the school. I read commentaries, took notes in the margins of every bible I read, highlighted, did devotions twice a day, read and listened to everything by Dr. Dan Brown and got certified in Healing Ministries and Gifts of the Spirit through Kenneth Copeland Ministries. I consumed everything I knew to consume. And I believed, damn it. I loved Jesus with everything I was, with every atom of my being. I talked to him every moment and believed he talked back. I lead hundreds in the Sinner’s Prayer, personally. Jesus was my everything.

And then I got the call to ministry.

And I went to a federally accredited Christian college.  

And long story short- I read Richard Dawkins, Timothy Keller, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Socrates, Plato, Kierkegaard, Robert Wright, Christopher Hitchens, I read commentaries by Atheists, Jews, Agnostics, Muslims, and Christians of all types. I read the Bible in Hebrew. I read anything, and everything. I wrote my Pastor with questions, I wrote and spoke with my (very Christian) professors, I spoke with students, I typed on message boards and forums, I asked questions everywhere I possibly could. And one by one my doctrines came to be questioned by reason and logic until they all fell away.

And there I was at the end of it all, an Atheist with no Jesus drug to help me cope with the pain of my long untreated mental illness and dysfunctional upbringing, or to comfort me from the loss of friends and family who wanted very little to do with me now that I wasn’t a Christian. But that, not the doubt it self, was the withdrawal. All the pain, the loss, the “oh shit how do I cope now?”, was the coming down process.

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but neither would I ever go back to the addiction. The addiction kept me blind from reason – from seeing two sides of the argument, not just one, and discerning for oneself, from seeing science and philosophy and logic and doubt and tasting it all -, from entirely healthy parts of life such as sexual exploration, love in all its forms, making mistakes, and living life to the fullest, and from proper self care, not faith [[ many sects have an irrational fear and/or outright contempt for psychology and all its medicinal help for people with mental illness]].

The Jesus’ drug culture is not healthy. When these two songs came on my playlist, because yeah I still listen to my old Christian stuff, I cringed. There is nothing ok with raising young people to seek a thing that does not exist to give it a placebo like high for all of life’s ills, and to drown their mind, senses, and psyche with nothing but that drug.

Just say no.

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Can doubt lead to a better understanding of “Being”?

Can it?

Insofar as language cannot adequately describe this concept of “being,” should we doubt (that is, not accept the truth of, call in to question) what it attempts to communicate to our faculties?

The more that is denied, filtered out, and shut out, the clearer the self becomes.

The question really is, what is being apart from our acceptance of the external world in relation to objects. Can is be conceived of? If the essence of man cannot be grasped without its continual relation, than to what extent can it do so and not lose a part of its individuality?

Heidegger speaks of one finding a “nearness of being” in learning to “exist in the nameless.” What is the denial of naming but doubt? To exist in the nameless is to refuse to describe and ascribe language to. And how else do we understand our existence but through language?

Is to experience something without ascribing a name to it true experience? Should one doubt, also, the ability of our senses to provide us with the essence of a thing? Is the truth that science sheds upon an object more true than the experience of it?

To be and remain in pure being is to withdraw into oneself apart from interpretation, but how is that state to be described?

Penny for your thoughts? Because mine can do nothing but reel and abstract into abstractions far from my ability to understand them.

Utilizing a religious past/education for secular post-graduate pursuits

proverbs 22 6

As the doors into post-undergraduate education has opened, I’ve been forced to look back into my undergraduate studies for my “best writings” to inspire my applicant writing sample. There’s only one problem…

I went to a Christian college where most of my studies were in Bible. It was only the last year and a half that was spent mostly (3 out of 4 classes) in Philosophy. So looking back into essays I had e-mailed to Professors and thus remain in my storage, I find mostly topics in Christian apologetic and reconciling/criticizing extra-canonical materials.

Out of the 5 years spent in undergraduate education at this private college, it was only the last year of it that I was a full blown Atheist.

This has been leading to bouts of hopelessness and feeling as if years of my academic life were for naught. After all, what doctoral level programs would accept someone whose “best work” is a thesis for accepting the book of Enoch into the Christian cannon? Or for reconciling modern science with theism? (Towards the end, I was more an agnostic theist than anything, and tried to sneak doubts into vague “i’m playing devil’s advocate here” term papers to my very-much-so Christian professors.) Not likely in a highly esteemed secular university where philosophy of evolution, metaethics, and philosophy of language are the hot topics.

My extra-curricular activities included a year long internship as a youth minister, converting people to Christ in a church-funded tent set up in our local county fair, the occasional sermon shared boldly on the subway, and repenting for sexual thoughts over who I was dating.

I intended on concluding this post with some theories, or at least something thought-provoking, but alas I’m at a mental impasse and very discouraged. So a venting blog it is, with a little peer into the author’s past.

What do I believe?

 

hume wise

As I’m beginning my morning read, happening upon an article on Phenomenology I’m clouded by my knee-jerk reaction of hatred and despise for the theory and field itself. Eventually, this forces me to stop reading and ask myself why? Then, what stance do I take.

Many who have discussed issues with me have pointed out, quite accurately, that I don’t take a stance on issues, I merely dissemble and attack arguments. When asked what I believe, or if I slip out something along the lines of “I’m an empiricist” I’ve been known to destruct what I claim as well.

As far as I am concerned, everything can be doubted. Am I a nihilist, then? No sir, that’s not practical. Pragmatist? In practice, sure (ha!). Does holding that the conscious thought of others cannot be proven make me a solipsist? Perhaps. But how do I know I exist but in the mind of a god?

Ah…

It rings of Descarte’s meditations, but without accepting that I am because I think I think (repetition intended). Or at least, that it is un-doubtable.

So, do I exemplify everything that is despised of philosophy? Believe nothing, doubt everything? Perhaps. At this point, until proven otherwise. Every argument seems to have its fallacies, everything can be doubted. As such, I suppose I believe in doubt.

Is this useless? Bullshit? Everything that is wrong with philosophy? A phase?

Penny for your Thoughts?

What is Philosophy?

 

Google’s dictionary, everyone’s main source for information nowadays, defines Philosophy thus:

the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.

A little too brief of a description, I say. And what’s with the “especially when…”? Sure, we mainly recognize philosophy in its academic context, but any Phi101 class will admonish that anyone and everyone can, in fact, be a philosopher.

It’s the fact that we still return to the question of “What is Philosophy” that best defines us. When I become frustrated by the amount of writers people around me are quoting that I do not recognize, or miff over the new terminologies that are coined, I return to the starting point: introspection. What is it, exactly, that I do and want to do? What does my philosophy look like? Can it be defined by terms and philosophers? How do I express it?

So I returned to actual starting point, the very first book of philosophy I ever read in college: “Does the Center Hold” by Donald Palmer, and I found this piece of knowledge very enlightening:

Philosophy poses a series of questions that it then tries to answer and one of these questions is “What is Philosophy?” The fact itself tells us something about philosophy because it informs us of philosophy’s self-reflective nature. It is part of philosophy’s task to think about itself, because philosophy is an activity whose purpose involves questioning the assumptions of every system of thought, including its own.” pg. 5.

As such, it isn’t the philosopher who can quote the most, name-drop the most, or confuse the most with elaborately described concepts and terms, but the one who can turn around to one’s own assumptions and question the foundations of everything they believe. After all, isn’t that why people think we are so absurd?

But what do you think? Is philosophy a waste of time? Does it address the big picture? Is it an academic field, or something the layman can engage in?

Penny for your Thoughts?

Ryan Bell’s de-conversion surprises no one

For those not familiar with the recent headliner, Ryan Bell started trending a year ago after starting a blogging and personal experiment project titled “A year without God” which you can find here. He trended again recently after the big reveal of the conclusion being “I don’t think there is a God.” More on that here.

Surprising? Not really, no matter how you spin it.

To the Atheist, naturally, we see a God-less reality as reality. Thus, giving test to the truth leads to seeing the truth. Many of us have religious pasts as well, so we’ve been down that road of “exploring.” Some of our conservative denominational backgrounds would go as far as to see the exploration and doubt as bad, so wouldn’t lend much cognitive advice past “pray on it,” “it’s a faith thing,” or “keep your eyes on Jesus.”

To the Christian, the lure of the devil is sweet. Once you taste the fruit, it can be hard to turn back. This is why they push so hard to train their children to walk the path of righteousness. Furthermore, there are plenty a Bible verse that can be used here:

[they are those who] have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. Hebrews 6:5-6

But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven. Matthew 10:33

Then you have the theory behind my former blog post: believing is seeing, seeing is believing. Both were at play here. He gave Atheism a fair try, so he believed it for a year. This lead to seeing it as true, as he had to, to be fair to the experiment, believe it to be true for the year. Self-fulfilling. Works the same for many things: believe you’re fat, you’ll see yourself as fat. Wake up in the morning, look yourself in the mirror ever morning and call yourself stupid and I can assure you you will begin to believe it.

This begs the challenge:

Would an Atheist convert to Christianity/Judaism/Islamd/Ba’hai/Hinduism/etc if gone through the same experiment of a year trial?

Not quite the same, granted. Not all religions have a “believe and you’re in” clause. Judaism, for example, has (ironically) a year trial period where you study under a Rabbi before being allowed and given the option to officially convert. Also, traditionally, when asking a Rabbi to convert to Judaism, he will deny you 3 times to prove your ardor and sincerity before taking one under his discipleship.

But regardless, would it yield the same result?

What do you think? Think *someone* should try it out? What would make it different than a religious person giving doubt a run, or is it the same concept?

Seeing and Believing

believing seeing

The problem with memes, phrases, sayings, and even quotes is that they are not as necessarily true as they are treated. They may rhyme, and have a “ring of truth” yet they are not, without a proper context, true.

The example I’ve had rolling around in my head are these:

  1. Believing is seeing.
  2. Seeing is believing.

Both seem to be used equally as much with different people groups. Often concerning religion, or Santa Claus, and usually in the form of “you/I won’t ____  it until you ____ it.” I’d like to point out the faults in each, and the truths in each, to show that they are not ultimately and totally true in themselves.

If I see it, then I will believe it.

Foregoing the extreme nihilistic skeptic, this is often true of individuals. Hard to believe concepts often require tangible proof. Examples: “Your wife bought you a 1969 Mustang. It’s in your driveway,” or “you just won the lottery,” or even “I have a green ball in my right hand.” For some, it seems detrimental to the psyche to believe them without evidence. The disappointment and reversible of that high dopamine response to you getting extremely excited is something we tend to try to avoid. So, we don’t believe things like “we just won the lottery,” sometimes, even after we see the numbers. It’s  just too big and unbelievable.

However, is this a healthy stance to take on all matters?

Of course not.

Issues such as eating disorders and other self-esteem related conditions are an easy example. How do you show someone they are not fat, when they see fat in the mirror? More on this after the next issue:

You have to believe it, to see it.

Often the catch line of many kid’s holiday movies, the crochety old grown ups just can’t see Santa anymore because they lost their ability to believe and imagine. But is it true?

Well, yeah.

We see this evidenced most with negativity. If you believe the world is full of evil, than you are more likely to see more evil things. If you believe in demons, you’re most likely to see that sleep paralysis (a somewhat common parasomnia) as demons holding you down and crawling over your body, or movement in shadows more often. If to you, the world is going to hell then…. well, you’ll likely see hell where ever you look.

But if we attach this mantra to the above examples of the lottery winning and the mustang, it’s clear that believing you won will not make it true.

Or will it?

This is where my concluding thought comes into play: it’s all in the perspective. In a way, perspective is the starting biases of a person’s psyche, the beliefs. A nihilistic skeptic, based on it’s core beliefs, will not believe anything no matter what the “proof.” A biologist may need to see something under a microscope before believing. A Christian may not be willing to accept that Jesus may not be the prophesied messiah no matter what textual criticism comes his/her way.

Applying both mantras to the above, both are true. The Christian, if spent some time believing God/Jesus does not exist, will most likely see it and thus continue to believe it (ex. Ryan Bell). They feed in to each other.

The mind is a powerful thing, and this “seeing,” is in its own sense, a subjective word. We only see through our own two eyes, and the mind can only interpret what is observes through its programming.

In conclusion, they’re both true. Use them to your own, individual, personal benefit. Is believing the world is going to hell helping you? Is your doubt and skepticism preventing you from seeing that maybe your perspective on what “fat” is isn’t entirely true/helpful to you?

Penny for your Thoughts? Which side do you side with more often, believing or seeing? Which do you think comes first?

Why do we live in houses?

I threw this question out there a few weeks ago while sitting in deep thought. I had spent the last car ride staring out the window, contemplating the wooden boxes along the side of the road. 

Naturally, I know the answer. Shelter from the elements, mainly. A place to store our things, and congregate the people we want to be around. Yet my mind still wanders and asks “Why?” (as a good philosopher, I suppose, amirite?)

“This is mine” is all I can hear. Is it really? What is it with our species and possession? 

“This is my girlfriend” one will say, as a way to say she is yours and no one else’s. Really? My children, my car, my money….

I think fleetingly back to my college days. Why do we all look so fondly back on those wild times? Could it be because most of our time was spent without a consideration for ownership? Some lived in dorms, I spent much of it sleeping from house to house. Trekking up a long hill with my back-back to school, taking buses and trains. Sure, we look back on some of it as “immature,” and ashamedly admit to feeding off of our parents finances. 

But a part of me still sees that wandering nomadic life and finds something to admonish and extract a deeper life truth. 

Even if I can’t elaborate on it and attach to it words, it is there.

Penny for your Thoughts? Can you make sense of any of those thoughts? 

Music, consciousness, Eastern vs. Western philosophy

I cannot pretend to have a solid topic in mind today. They race with concept from meditation to the influences of the arts on the psyche. 

Something particularly striking my mind is the division between Western and Eastern philosophies. Thanks to a mind and body meditation book lent by a friend this past week. I seem to be trapped in a Western mindset and dead set on believing I am right. Could I be wrong?

Of course I could.

Like our medicinal practices, I believe in a material world. I believe the body is a material thing, and consciousness likewise restricted to the physical composition of the brain as a piece of matter. I see scientific studies, tests, and neuroscience in-dept CAT scan observations and cannot help but use these to support my predisposition.

However, even Western studies has to concede to Quantum physics and its metaphysical applications. Energy, spins, fields, waves. Everything seems to operate on a deeper level than what we see. Does this mean that the universe is not a material thing? Well, the material exists. Particles are material, they do their business due to their relation with other particles. This thing called “energy” is hardly some mysterious unseen force guiding the universe that we can extrapolate to supernatural processes.

But are we merely a hunk of meat? My empirical philosophy leads me to think yes. My deeper psyche wants desperately to say no. 

What do all my above title topics have in common? I do not know. All I know is I am a Philosopher, therefore I think and toil over such things. 

So, I must open it up to discussion. As no one learns anything by being trapped in their own thoughts. 

A Penny for Your Thoughts?

Anthropomorphism

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As a philosopher and vegetarian/animal-lover, I often get accused of doing this. The word carries a negative connotation, as if illogical. In my thoughts, I am merely observing and putting on words. I make comparisons to human nature only because we seem to be the epitome of the height of evolutionary potential. In reality (as I observe it), we only carry traits that have made of survival so dominant as a species on this vast planet of life forms.

Admittedly, I stem much of this from being a cat purist. That is, I prefer pure breeds from a line of non-feral cats. I’ve long observed the differences between multiple pure breeds and feral/mutt types. There is a marked intelligence, and ability to communicate through action and verbal sounds their needs and wants. Whereas non long  domesticated lineages are more simple, more survival driven.

However, the most recent studies on more higher creatures appears to also make such comparisons. Stress in lower tiered in their tribe monkeys affects their immune systems similarly to a poverty level working human. Elephants mourn and appear to recognize themselves in a mirror.

Why? Why the comparisons?

We all are evolved creatures. At one point in time, humanity was a simple creature fighting for simple survival along with other predator creatures. We were all, once, on a level fighting plain. We rose in our own fashion, while others did the same.

But, those are just a portion of my thoughts and I must digress.

You form your own conclusions based off of the information you obtain. Perhaps, entirely different in interpretation.

What are they? Penny for your thoughts?

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