Faith and Doubt / Religious Dogma / Spirituality

I gave up dogma, not God…

When my skepticism finally reached the point where I no longer considered Christianity to be a valid belief system, I gave up belief through dogma; but not God or at least not the sense of whatever God may turn out to be.

The internet is full of the voices of people who, having realized the farcicality of dogma, equally decide that a belief in God is also meaningless. Blogs, posts and comments all reflect the progressive deconversion from religion to atheism. Skepticism is presented as all black and white. Why then, am I in the grey area?

Perhaps I need the comfort of spirituality. I thrive with the fascination of the unknown, the curious awe of the beauty, sound and vibration of the majestic world around me. As disagreeable as this statement will be to some, when I consider the atheistic worldview, specifically that of new atheism,  I envision that for me it would be a depressive state, one that lacks the full pulse of life with all of its intrinsic parts. Atheism to me represents nihilism, nothingness, an abyss devoid of mystery and wonderment. Logic alone is barren; it is like math without art or an instrument without its vibrant tone. I realize that this is not how atheists feel about it, but it is what it represents to me and the impact that I imagine it would have on my life.

Subjective experience also plays a role in my remaining faith. I often hear nonbelievers speak of not “feeling” anything during prayer or religious service. One said, “I may as well pray to a tree or worship a bird.” This has not been the case for me. I do “feel”, and I feel connected to a greater force during meditation and prayer, and when witnessing acts of unselfish bravery and compassion toward others, or during an awareness of the natural world and all that it is. I have had experiences which are difficult to explain that cause me to leave the door open to the supernatural and mystical. Perhaps the “god gene” greatly influences my experiences, but as an explanation of why, it doesn’t change that I feel them, and it is the feeling that produces emotion which beckons me toward spirituality.

Hubble telescope image known as Pillars of Cre...

Hubble telescope image known as Pillars of Creation, where stars are forming in the Eagle Nebula. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The fact that science has not adequately explained self-awareness and consciousness through evolutionary theory, or even that evolution is acceptable theory but not an absolute proof also leaves me considering that the intelligent design of a creator is a more suitable explanation than nothing from nothingness. When scientific documentaries make statements regarding the astronomical odds needed for the existence of our universe and the life it contains to have occurred within the big bang, those words have strong meaning with me. An odd that consists of a one followed by sixteen zeros, for me seems inconceivable. Why would I accept those odds as the only explanation for how life occurred?

My skepticism led me to determine that the bible is not inerrant and that the religion I was brought up in was not the words of Jesus passed through apostles onward to the “chosen” man of God in the pulpit. I see the fingerprints of man throughout religion and still it doesn’t cause me to conclude that an unexplainable, enigmatic force or a supreme consciousness cannot possibly exist. I don’t know what God is; I know what I believe God is not. As such, God could turn out to be an altered state of my own consciousness. But that is ok if that is what it turns out to be. Whatever God represents to me has to be discovered through a search for my personal truth and not dependent on the beliefs of others or family traditions. And if God does turn out to be an altered state of my own mind then I would have been right. God in some form did exist, just not as the deity of religions…which is what I currently believe, that there may be something unknown and unexplained at this time which may turn out to be the summation of what believers express in their defintions of “God”.

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14 thoughts on “I gave up dogma, not God…

  1. I commend you on your open mind and willingness to question. More of that is needed in this world, in my opinion, and less of the attitude “It’s my way or the highway.” The Universe is such a mystery, a beautiful one, and I am okay with it being mysterious. The way people relate to the nature of its mystery is a very personal, private matter. Thank you for expressing your feelings here.

  2. I’m absolutely with you on this one, even though I was raised in a totally non-religious family. Religion was (like sex), something that nobody talked about around our house. But I couldn’t help being curious, because so many others believed in ‘God.’ What was this god, and what was my relationship to it? I’d had many experiences (or feelings) of union with the world around me – particularly the natural world – that I came to realize were probably what others considered spiritual experiences. My book reflects a lifelong quest to understand the role of religion in human culture and to evaluate the experience of ‘spirit’ in my life.
    Thanks for your steady, thoughtful commentary. I’ve been slow to post recently because I was trying to get a book out on my experiences in Korea. It’s now at the publisher. Amen!

  3. my path is almost the opposite: i was a complete nihilist, and i discovered the bible… then i realized that being a nihilist and believing in God were two sides of a same coin: it doesn’t make sense to say that everything is “vain” if you don’t believe somehow in an absolute, because the idea of vanity is only valid if you believe in its contrary. i still don’t believe that the bible ‘literally’ tells the truth, but even for atheists, jesus can represent a powerful symbol of love, charity and forgiveness, with a message that many christians have actually forgotten…

  4. As always, you’re right on target. You have the best of both worlds, god and no dogma. You mentioned God as an altered state of your consciousness. I would just reverse it, making us an altered state of God’s consciousness.

  5. Right there with you. It’s a small demographic it seems sometimes though, or at least small in terms of being outspoken.

    It’s a darn shaky ground too, but hey it’s got its perks.

  6. I completely agree that rejecting religion doesn’t mean you have to reject everything remotely “supernatural.” To me, atheists are often as sure of themselves as the theists, and that is worrisome, considering they are the ones who are supposed to be champions of “reason and logic,” and only basing things on solid evidence. I’m recently coming to believe that agnostic is the term that best describes my “spiritual” situation, as I cannot have the confidence that the atheists and theists so commonly do about their beliefs.

    There is simply so much that we do not know, and perhaps will not be able to know for a very long time. Love this post, I believe I will be sharing it. (:

  7. I’m with you too… I went from dogma to agnosticism but I don’t envisage ever becoming atheist.

    Just a note on your statement, “evolution is acceptable theory but not an absolute proof”. In science we don’t see anything as “absolutely proven” as such. The truth is that things are supported by evidence and rigorous testing by both those who support and doubt an idea. A theory in science does not mean the same thing as it does in layman’s terms. Lay people mean an “untested” or “unsupported” idea when they talk of a theory. In science that equates to an “hypothesis”. In science, a theory is developed AFTER an hypothesis (the untested idea) has gone through extensive testing by the person who had the original idea, and by those who wish to test the validity or falsity of the idea. After that extensive testing has failed to falsify the hypothesis, the hypothesis is incorporated as a theory. A “theory” then (in scientific terms) is a tested idea supported by an overwhelming weight of evidence and is then held as the current view of objective “reality” but with a door open for further testing. The theory will be readily altered, refined, or replaced by the scientific community if, and only if, further evidence and experimentation is able to falsify it, or components of it. Evolution has gone through this kind of testing more than most theories, as it is targeted by religious groups in particular. When Darwin came up with his hypothesis, he spent twenty years testing and retesting the hypothesis before he brought it to his peers (this is evident in “Origin of Species”). Once Darwin brought it out, it wasn’t immediately accepted. It was subjected to scrutiny and scepticism and testing by the scientific community. It, like all theories, has remained on the testing table for the past ~ 150 years and, while new evidence has enabled scientists to tweak the theory, nothing has yet given the scientific community reason to reject it. This is not to say nothing will ever overthrow it, because we can’t know what we don’t yet know. I am just pointing out that a theory is scientific talk is something that is overwhelmingly supported by current available evidence, and in that sense is presently accepted truth. If one is looking for proof for something one will always find it (due to the psychological problem of confirmation bias). This is a problem for theists. They often go looking for proof for their beliefs, and when they see what they want to see, they satisfy themselves with confirmation bias. If they want to approach it the way scientists approach hypotheses, they should instead look for things to disprove theism. That is a more reliable way to critically analyse our beliefs and ideas. Good science looks for contradictory evidence. No such evidence has arisen to completely overthrow evolution as yet, but plenty has arisen to over throw 6-day creationism. So it is not good science to talk of proof, but merely of weight of evidence, and to remain open to ongoing progress in knowledge. Creationism is a closed minded dogma, not open to emerging knowledge that falsifies its claims. In that sense, creationism is not science, but mere dogmatic fundamentalism. 🙂 Additionally, one who says “evolution is just an unproven theory” does not understand the scientific method, nor the terms associated with it.

  8. p.s., I wrote a similar blog about 10 hours ago, as an agnostic, called “why I would never be an atheist” 🙂 I can’t know what I can’t know. 🙂

  9. I gave up dogma for God, but I have led back to some dogma because I felt it was from God.

    But the important thing is to give it up first, then seek, and hope to find.

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