Friday, June 1, 2007

Browsing--Religion as...uh

(1:38 am). I've been browsing back along some of your blogsies. I see what you're saying about the "flurry" of conversations that have fluttered about lately. A lot of them surrounding religion and atheism, god and self, Sam Harris and moderates, etc....

After I left. Well, I don't remember everything. I don't remember much, actually, of the inbetween times. Whatyoudream and thecrazydreamer may vaguely remember my breakup right around that time (the email, even though he lived 30 minutes away, saying in so many words that he didn't want to "get in the way of Jesus" in my life, that I had too many serious questions, and that he should probably abandon me in order to show me his God's love bestlike, and then the subsequent horrid car accident). That's just about the time, less than a month later, that I deconverted myself. (It was gradual too. The deconversion itself was immediate and final and took place within a few minutes. But I didn't immediately become an atheist. In fact, I will absolutely stand by not being one now either. I won't take on any more labels. I left all of that in the trash and it's most likely completely decomposed by now or at least carried away and transformed into nourishment in chubby little ants, rats, and cockroaches, may death be persistent in their search and destruction.)

I don't remember a lot of the details afterward. I don't remember what thought processes I went through. It was me against way too many people at that point. I kept it quieter even though I didn't hide it from anyone (except maybe boyfriend because he wasn't even wor--well hell, I guess I still have some issues around him.) Whatyoudream, i think, was running pretty spiritually parallel to me at the time which was a godsend (pun intendeded), but three sisters and a brother weren't, dad and mom weren't, boyfriend ditched me because i didn't pray with him (or something), profs weren't, most of my friends at school or home weren't. I remember early on feeling grief at the great loss, loss of so many years, loss of so much potential education, loss of my entire life as I knew it, loss of most of my cognitive definitions of the world in which I lived, loss of that intriguing supernatural otherworld that I'd spent so much time pondering and fearing, loss of my family, loss of my family, loss of my family. I remember not understanding anymore how to perceive the world. Where did the color go. Everything became black and white, literally. Beats me if I could pick out color or beauty. Life everlasting, or loss thereof, bothered me a bit. But not too much.

I spent the summer right after that in Connecticut with my family. That was a summer full of open depression--just finished college, ex didn't want me back (a different one), had no religion, read Love in the Time of Cholera (what was i thinking) and White Hotel (I hid that one under my mattress and I swear it disappeared one day before I got to finish it. I have no idea who stole it...was it another sneaky sibbling or mom or dad still trying to protect me. oh horror such literature), and family was smack dab in the middle of excruciating counselling sessions... plus we were house sitting for a relative of Otto Preminger and the house was filled with sexual books, art and objects, lamps formed like a human body with the light swith where the penis should be which my mother very consideratly draped with a small cloth, penile paintings glaring over the dining room table, sketch books by famous artists of whores and rape and pedophilia. Anyway, those were dark days. Couldn't find meaning in anything, not books, not literature, not art, not music, not religion or non-religion, not even love and family and intimacy. I wrote a lot though.

I ended up taking off for Hawaii to get away from the glaring eyes of all my Christian ex-friends or readjusting friends in CT. That's the hub of my parent's ministry in the US. The church that first sent my dad and us off to the mission field. That's where all our old "friends" live and where we always came back to over the years. We had all the connections there, free doctors, free dentists, free vacation cabins, free vehicles (mostly large, ugly, obnoxious vans without ac or heat-what the), cheap rent, and so on, all because of my parent's job. So that's where the not being a Christian hurt the worst. Even though I said nothing to anyone but my parents and closest friends, within a month most everyone in all my parents' closest circles knew confidentially, which meant most everyone within each of their closest circles knew confidentially, of course, which meant everyone that knew me or knew of me, knew. God.

Hawaii was an intentional departure from anything that reeked of Christianity or of previous acquaintanceship with Anna (except my childhood friend, K, who also had recently deconverted). I got what I wished for too. I ran into every off-the-grid religion you can imagine, but no one talked about Christianity. Not even to curse it or offer it as a measure for something else. Very quickly my thoughts and arguments and bitternesses and hatreds for my experiences surrounding my previous faith faded away. I don't know that I spoke about Christianity more than 7 times in 7 months. And that, only when someone wanted a real answer to the question what is it my parents do.

I met my boy there, too. His parents are nominally Orthodox. Liberal orthodox, if you want to place them, or maybe world-religioners. And not very outspoken about it. In fact, not a bit outspoken. No secrets or stifled stories. Just simply something very private. If you want to ask Muslim priests in Iraq to pray for you and yours, that's fine. If you want to ask you friend to have a buddhist pray over you and yours, that's fine too. But keep it to yourself, it is a personal and private matter. I've become very quiet about it all, around my boy and his. Even around my family. We're outspoken who can speak louder than the other happy go lucky fucks. But still I don't like too much anymore to talk about it all. (Or maybe I just think that because I've sure been wordy these last few blogs. Hmm. Ok, I know what it is.) I don't mind talking about a person's personal experience of religion or non-religion, or a discussion of philosophies behind where we are now or how we got here. But I don't remotely like the I'm right/you're wrong discussions. They don't make sense to me.

I learned, throughout my life, that people are people. Bottom line. How good you are or how bad you are has nothing to do with what you say you believe or what you can convince people of and everything to do with what you hold and know inside you. How happy and fulfilled you are has nothing to do with how much other people agree with you (except maybe a certain few...but even better than agreeing is a trust that comes with knowing that she will take your words and sift out the good, throw away the bad, at all times, trust you and you trust her). There is a point where it feels necessary to validate a point, to seek affirmation or just have a good old discussion, to play devil's advocate for the sake of it, or do it because you sincerely disagree with your mate, but when those discussions become personal, that's when it all goes to pot. When rationalism and sanity fly right out the window with whatever warm snuggle energy might have been left in the room. When I hear in a voice a desperate need to convince, then I think they are still afraid.

So anyway, I know I started the whole thing with commenting on the blogversations that have been going on. And I directly don't compare them to what I just talked about. I have personal, family-related experiences that occastionally cause a strong reaction in me. But, i guess what I'm saying is...there is a taste of it there, within the words. Of wordiness or unnecessary or off-focus. (And I hope I don't offend anyone.) I mean, what's the point, now, of rehashing the bad stuff from before, of defining just why we are now so right. And who's to say tomorrow I don't become completely and seemingly irreversibly convinced by another way of thinking. I mean, I really was convinced. I think we all were. By Christianity. From the last nerve in my left pinky toe, to the last blackhead on my forehead, to my beating heart convinced. And now, I am convinced that I will never think so narrowly again. But I don't know... it's all confusing to me. In some ways. And just quiet in others.


whatyoudream said...

I do find it incredibly difficult to separate myself from the things I believe. Right now, I feel like all I am is what I believe, so someone disagreeing with me objects to my very existence. Pretty dramatic, right?

I have felt as though I were on the verge of something for a while now, that I will find something to live for, something in which to find real happiness and meaning. To echo your post, I am finding it difficult to hold on to meaning in books, music, ideas and people. Where before I gleaned meaning from Christian belief, after years of not believing I'm finally at a point where the lack of certainty and absolute purpose is draining me of hope and happiness.

This may sound more serious than it is, or maybe it is that serious. Maybe it's just that I feel a lack of purpose in my career at the moment, and that will change once I'm doing something I enjoy (only a few months away). Maybe it will change when I move and have a new apartment and things to fill it with. But right now and for the past few years I have been in a perpetual state of seeking and it has become exhausting. If I really believe what I say I believe, though, that's what life is and we should never stop seeking answers since I can't imagine a time at which we'll actually find them.

If only I could find just the right book...

forrest said...

Everything in your life plays into everything, its true. Circumstance, location (I always used to respond to people when they made half-joking-jealous comments about me moving to or living in Hawaii that its only a place and you don't think, when you live there, that you're lucky or something, that going somewhere doesn't fix your problems, you have to and while that's true, on the whole, there is something peaceful, a physical beauty and temperature comfort that you get every day that remove certain emotional ups and downs that can't be avoided if you are experiencing, say, a frigid winter, or looking at cornfields instead of mountains and ocean everyday), the people around you, your job, the house you live in, even the things you own--clothing, furniture, books, journals, pens, candles, pans, whatever. You can't, as a human being, unless you work on it like a crazy ascetic or something, understand yourself perfectly according to each aspect of your life by itself. You can't separate them within your body.

By the way, did you see the moon last night? Holy Cow.

When you say, "If I really believe what I say I believe, though, that's what life is and we should never stop seeking answers since I can't imagine a time at which we'll actually find them." I agree whole-heartedly. I think life is made up mainly of questions. And I think the answers aren't the point, on the whole, the process is. The process of education or self-education, of good discussion with friends or smart people. The process should never be given up. Stagnation and apathy are far worse than actively not knowing something.

I think something else that goes hand in hand with my feelings I spoke of in the blog is something I've mentioned before. That is, my brain doesn't wrap itself very well around an argument or a good discussion. Even as I read your comment, I fear I'm missing the point or not addressing what you're actually saying. It's a brain trait of mine that makes me insecure when I put myself on the spot to defend something. It's much harder for me to find that thrill of the mental challenge of a good adversary that S. or my dad find.

So I guess, in the same way that we all seek answers to our spirituality questions, in the same way that we all left X-ianity for our very own personal reasons, we also develop new world views that fit us best. (We became exactly what our parents warned us not to be, some kind of liberal, postmoder atheisticish people). Because we all went from having every last grain of sand spelled out for us in its smallest component to having the entire universe of thought and philosophy open above us. We went from the cozy protective umbrella of Institution--whether that's family, religion, educaction, all of the above mayb--to being bare-naked alone with or against the elements in all their fury and glory.

SJ said...

I loved reading this anna. I feel good at the end-- a rich sort of good, with sadness and regret mixed in with hope and...pleasure (you're a good writer.) I regret my part in your pain. I'm sad about the wall between momndad n me/us. I hope in your perspective, your peace, your love.
Anna's my sister, everybody.

Christelle Joy said...

anna.. i know this is old but i'm reading this and my heart breaks for you. I am sorry for all of the people in your life and in your siblings lives that were an awful representation of God. It is a shame that some people can create a twisted view of God and shove it down everyones throats and call it " religion"... Anna, religion sucks..... Ill be the first to say it......