Ex-Christianity, Health & Wellbeing, philosophy, Politics, Religion

Ex-Christianity Revisited: God is ___

We’re throwing it back hardcore, to my first ever blog post on this site, God is Good?. I was still living Bahrain when I wrote this.

God is _______.

Fill in the blank for me. Seriously, do it. I’m interested in this as an exercise. As a part-time boat-rocker and full-time philosophiser, I would like to create a cross-section of human perspective in my comment section about one of the most divisive topics on earth: theism.

Google’s autofill based on the data points it has on me… What does yours say?

2016: The Baby Atheist

I’ll get us started. If my angsty post-Christian, baby atheist vent-fest of a post is anything to go by, 2016 Abby would say:

God is… inconsistent.

She might also say:

God is… choosy.

Or, my personal favourite, just because it subverts expectations:

God is…n’t.

Then, in a latter attempt to avoid alienating my audience, and to progress as inoffensively as possible, I wrote The Beauty of Religion two months later. Why was I so concerned about offending people? People can be offended, it’s their prerogative. I don’t have to apologise for speaking my mind, even if it’s not always comfortable. Retrospectively, I think my concern stemmed from Being Eighteen and Still Somewhat Insecure. (That sounds like a “fun” book to read.)

I wasn’t bullshitting though – much of what I wrote is consistent with my thoughts now. I wouldn’t go as far to say that “[religion] is something … that many of us lack in the 21st century”. It’s glaringly obvious to me that I was:

  1. struggling with the fall out in my church community and amongst Christian friends
  2. petrified of them reading my blogs, misinterpreting them and being offended (wow, how thematic)
  3. completely blurring the line of demarcation between religion and spirituality

And there is a line. It’s a big, thick sharpie-ed line. Some people practice one or the other; some practice both.

At this point in my life, I’m open to spirituality – even if I think a lot of what the term is characterised by is also either dumb or mildly irritating. Read: horoscopes, astrology, reiki, crystal healing, tarot cards. Just think of everything Lorde parodies in Mood Ring. That stuff is garbage – but I can appreciate that it’s often fun garbage. I would define my own ideas around spirituality completely differently, but more on that later.

God is… Grey

It’s been a journey e te whānau, to say the least. Perusing subsequent ex-Christian posts I’ve written over the years, I would use some different descriptors.

2017: The Inquirer

Philosophy, Sexuality and Christian Me (2017) kept it light and fluffy. Nineteen-year-old Abby might have said:

God is… limiting.

Which yes, if one’s interpretation is that god is synonymous with the limits that religious dogma imposes, is indeed true. The problem in this discussion is the ambiguity. The first task of the philosopher is always cementing a shared definition upon which to philosophise.

I’m not going to do that, because it’s not the point of this piece.

2018: The Cautious Unpacker

2018 Abby dug a little deeper. She realised that religious dogma had seriously done damage to her, but didn’t want to extrapolate much further. She still presented a squeaky clean, easily digestible internet persona to the world. Just in case Christian friends were reading and squirming. Her take?

God is… claustrophobia-inducing.

I like this one. It definitely resonates. You can replace god with anything you like – perhaps: church, religious expectation, purity culture, Allah, childhood indoctrination… the list goes on.

2020: The Total, Complete and Utter Mess

Over lockdown, Abby had a lot of fun.

And by a lot of fun, I mean, an exceedingly turbulent time.

Mostly by accident, she finally confronted her religious trauma. Firstly, in Confronting Sexual Purity Culture, where she vomited angry colours, sassed the masses, and experienced a lot of catharsis in the process. Say it with me:

Sex* is not a sin.
Masturbation is not a sin.
Being non-straight and/or non-cis is not a sin – nor are acting on non-hetero desires.
Sin is a man-made concept.
And therefore, most importantly:
Sin does not exist.

(*pre-marital, post-mortem, post-office, in the jungle, you name it: it’s not sinful)

Abby – just a moment ago, 2022

However, she still has mad respect for humans who decide of their own volition that they want to save themselves for marriage. A large part of her thinks it’s kinda bat-shit, but she recognises the cultural and religious significance. More importantly, she remembers how deeply important to her that same purity pledge was, once upon a time.

She also wishes wonderful orgasms and satisfying (Jesus-pleasing) sex to people who choose this path.

Uncovering a Bounty of Religious Trauma

While writing and reflecting on her experiences, lockdowned Abby ultimately triggered her Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS). Shout out to my psychologist for helping me navigate and work through these emotionally distressing times in a gentle and pragmatic way.

During this time, she wrote out what became essentially a mini-memoir.

Jesus and Me: The Ex-Christian Diaries: Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four.
This Abby would say:

God is… traumatic.

God is… just one path.

Both true. The former, I’ll add, is dichotomous. For some, their experience of god is the solution to their problems, their reason for existing, and where they look for guidance and support. For others of us, god’s just a whole heckn’ mind virus – internally catastrophic in the same way a natural disaster destroys a landscape.

The kicker is that it can be both at the same time, or at first the remedy and then the dagger.

2022: The Big-Picture Reflectionist

But it’s not necessarily the concept of god that deserves all this flack. Specifically, it’s the dogmatic, megachurchy, Relationship-not-a-religion, hypnotising bubblegum pop, Young-Hip-Cool-Merch garb evangelical Christianity. The modern offshoots of Christianity that have spent so much time and energy appealing to youth so the church doesn’t die out, that they have wandered away from their parent.

I’m not a fan of any of it. In particular, I haven’t yet shaken my grudge against the likes of rhymes with Grillsong and other, similar multimillion dollar enterprises. Religion (faith, loving Jesus, whatever you want to call it) shouldn’t be transactional.

Arise is the closest thing New Zealand has to a megachurch, and that place is as money-leeching, manipulative, and plastic as any other. They preach the prosperity gospel – much like televangelists, but it a more #relatable and millenial/Gen Z-appealing way. Think about it, that lovely tax-free money doesn’t just sprout up from nowhere.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church pastor, Isaac Adams, explains:

There used to be a fantastic website called arisechurchwatchnz.com, but it was mysteriously taken down a year or two ago. In it, videos like the ones below, alongside interviews, blog posts and resources about religious indoctrination revealed the creepy underbelly of Arise Church.

Imma leave it there, but I can sense this is definitely a to-be-continued kinda post.

#Livelaughlove – but also be a discerning lil’ bitch.

5 thoughts on “Ex-Christianity Revisited: God is ___”

  1. I think pluralism can be a way to navigate life and fear of death (as long as it isn’t causing harm!). But in pluralism God should really be in speech marks: “God”, as in “God”/The Universe/Nature/etc. Because “God” in this context is an exclusively personal definition.

    In my experience what we mean when we say God (without the speech marks) can vary a lot depending on context. God in a Western context usually means the Christian God of the Bible.. So if were talking about THAT God then I think:

    God is not real
    God is a construct of our minds

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely resonate with your comments, particularly in the context of redefining god more broadly. This post definitely considers a specific flavour of god (Christian, father of Jesus, protestant etc).

      I like “god is a construct of our minds” too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Dave

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can say several things about God. As a confirmed Quaker, I do believe that there is that of God in all persons; I listen to the leadings of God. I also agree with Sir Lloyd Geering: God is the embodiment of our highest values. I’m quite confident that God is made in our image and outside the human mind, God does not exist.

    Religious narratives should be understood as metaphors about life, not as literal facts. This was a conclusion I came to in the 1960s. In the almost 60 years since, I have not heard, seen or experienced anything that came close to causing me to rethink that idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fascinating! I don’t know much about Quakers – I’ve only heard about them in passing. Sir Lloyd has some great thoughts there. So if god is the embodiment of our highest values, god is when we are living our best and doing the most good we can? I also like the clarification that god does not exist outside our minds.

      Like

      1. Quakers In New Zealand are of the “liberal” tradition, as are Quakers in the UK, Australia, Western Europe, Japan and parts of the US and Canada. Around 12% of Quakers worldwide follow the liberal tradition and are not necessarily theists. The majority of Quakers elsewhere follow an evangelical Christian tradition, particularly in the Americas, and Africa.

        When we are living our best and doing the most good we can, I think most quakers would say we are bringing about the Kingdom of God. It’s not some “other worldly” place – It’s something that humanity has the potential to bring to fruition on this planet.

        Perhaps you might also like Sir Lloyd’s definition of religion: A total mode of the interpreting and living of life. He explains:
        Everybody who takes life seriously, in my view, is taking the first steps in religion. And this definition of religion, fortunately, covers all the types of religions we’ve had or will have in the future, because it recognises that religion is a human product. Religion is what we humans have evolved in our culture to enable us to make meaning of life, and to live together in the most harmonious way.
        Although in my view, history has shown “in the most harmonious way” is somewhat optimistic.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s