Number Seven: 24 Minus the “Big Three” =?
(NOTE: Due to the extended length of this posting, there will be no extras in this blog, such as pictures, links, and whatever.)
2001 was a year that saw EVERYTHING change in America. I was also attending the Church of Christ Mama went to. Nobody can shoot out Bible verses like a Church of Christ elder or preacher. I began to delve all into the Bible, learning what I needed to live…and to bring others to the “one true church” that would get you to Heaven.I had also just come out of a five-year addiction to meth and coke. I was so fanatic with it, I thought if I read the Bible enough, I could also be rid of me homosexual desires. After all, religion got me off drugs, right? Then came 9/11. The Muslim terrorist group Al-Qaeda led by the mysterious Osama bin Laden and seemingly on some holy mission from their version of God, Allah, slammed airplanes into three buildings and killed over 3,000 people in less than 2 hours. Prior to 9/11, very few people knew what Islam was. It was seen as just some Middle Eastern belief that pretty much ripped its Quran off the Bible. Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, was seen as just another rich Arab who jipped his own people into following him. I knew a few Black Muslims; they never bothered anybody. They kept their beliefs to themselves, and always respected others. Ironically, they adhered to the Quran a lot closer than a Christian could ever hope to obey the Bible. This seemingly meaningless religion was now depicted as the ultimate evil. The holy Quran was anything but, and deserved investigation. With that, the Christian U. S. President George W. Bush declared war on Islam. Bush knew to call it that would raise the ire of the Arab Muslims who supply America their vital oil. Thus, he called his new religious crusade a “war on terrorism”. Fundamental Christians, like I now was, gladly stood behind this new crusade.
Many fundamentalists entered this war on terrorism with an insane enthusiasm. In righteous indignation, they brutally rebuked Muslims who just days prior were their contemporaries. Muslims who actually put patriotism ahead of religion were ostracized, and in some cases, beaten. Mosques were burnt to the ground. Some cities refused to allow Muslim women to wear their traditional veils in public, fearing they might be hiding weapons. And the Quran was dissected, scrutinized and stigmatized as a catalyst for jihad, Muslim holy war on all “unbelievers”. Then, the Muslims went THERE: they pointed out that if the Quran was worthy of rebuke because of 9/11, then the recent behavior of Christians prompted an investigation of the Bible. And the Muslims even knew what issues to pinpoint. MaIt was one thing to be so loyal to their own book, but to be able to point out errors in somebody else’s? America was the most powerful nation on the planet, and the Bible got it to that point. Besides, look at the tyranny running amok in Islamic nations. Look at how they treat Christians in these lands. And what’s more, look at the inconsistencies in their Quran. The Bible is inerrant. With me being in a fundamentalist congregation that supported the “war” against Islam, I jumped right into Bible study to prove that very point. I knew it’d prove itself in the end. I made a point of starting with the hot buttons I repeatedly heard Muslims point out in the Bible as contradictory… Within a week’s time, I was unknowingly about to enter a personal war against the very religion I was propagating. It hurt to have to admit defeat to the opposition I set out to discredit. My attempt to defend the Bible backfired on me. I had become so dependent on that “hedge of protection” around me. Now it seemed futile. I didn’t tell anybody about how I felt, for fear or rejection. And so I began to do what I later found out over half the people in America were already doing on Sundays and Wednesday nights: I “played church”.
I had been so committed to religion, and had been totally crushed by the end result. And there was nothing else I envisioned as a point of refuge. I felt trapped and resented the hell out of it. With no other outlets on the horizon, I began to burn out. Ultimately, I’d end up leaving the town I lived in to move to Chattanooga. Once again, I got into a religious outfit, a Presbyterian church. And this one even had an “ex-gay” ministry to help people remove their homosexual desires that consumed them. But their version of Christianity was very morally relative. It’s one thing to feel bad about thinking you’re the only one playing church, but what do you say to a LOT of people blatantly doing so? On top of this, Chattanooga had several gay bars, which some church members attended, often. Thus began a new, destructive phase of my life: I’d hit the bars Saturday night, get up in the choir Sunday morning, and blend in with the masses. And I hated myself more and more everyday, to the point I’d take it out on others. Three years later, I walked out of that church. The guilt was finally too much.
Fast forward four years later. Just prior to when I restarted posting blogs (around January, 2011), I was trying to find my way through the rubble of the worst couple of years of my life. Family problems kept me awake all night. Things were finally settling down, but not fast enough. I just wanted peace. I just wanted to be left alone. And so, with me at my last wit, with me wanting to just an end to the nonsense, it seemed there were only three options: death, drugs, or church. I’d have preferred death. Only thing is, I didn’t want to kill myself. I wanted to die valiantly at somebody else’s hands, like in some John Wayne movie or Queen Latifah’s character in Set it Off. That idea was (thankfully?) stopped when I ended up being my mother’s chauffeur. She was depending on me, as I had her as a child. Guilt kept me alive. Sh*t. Drugs could’ve led to death, but that would’ve took too long to kill me. Besides, I had lived around drug dealers for 3 years, and never got close to a one of them. I didn’t even seem worth killing. I wouldn’t have minded if they did. That left me with church. I was still tight with several members of the Presbyterian outfit. With my back up against the wall, I returned to that congregation. It helped me get back on my feet. It got me away from the family crises that popped up every other day. It gave me a sense of stability. But the resentment was still there. Rather than play church, I finally had to say “enough”. I couldn’t go through this anymore. Bitter as I was, and despite all I had seen and done, I wanted to be able to at least show some respect to the good people I KNEW went to that assembly. Even if I didn’t believe what they did, they deserved that much respect, at least. I left for the final time. With that, I was officially no longer a Christian. I was out of the game. No more “down low” (since I didn’t ever try to date women, technically I wasn’t down low as much as I was just a “closet case”…never mind.) No more playing church, or having to be surrounded by others who did, and me trying to rationalize doing so. No more sophomoric “holy cliques” to HAVE to be a part of. And there would be no more defending a book to folks that I believed so staunchly, but ended up having to say I honestly couldn’t.
The only difference this time was that I was determined to find not just an alternative to that one church, or even the Church of Christ. No, I was ready to find a way out of what you might as well call “Churchianity”: the social club atmosphere in churches that encouraged hypocrisy. This emancipation couldn’t be like when Abraham Lincoln set the Black slaves loose, or the jailbird that’s just turned loose on the streets. Neither of them had anything to go to upon release. That left the slave to piss in the wind, and the ex-con a major candidate for recidivism. (I just had to get that one in there.) Despite the Bible controversy, I knew there was DEFINITELY a God. All this stuff on Earth, and its intricate designs, couldn’t possibly be dumb luck. To keep from frustrating myself like I had when in the churches, I just left the faith thing alone for a while. And as has been the case in my life so often, the minute I quit searching for something, I found it. I finally found a belief system that allowed me to honor God without a bunch of power playing, politics or pressure. It was Deism.
The benefits of Deism, to me, are enormous. It’s a great alternative because of what it doesn’t involve. It doesn’t involve a bunch of titles and fancy names to boost up an ego, and ultimately set up fights. It doesn’t make you go out evangelizing or “soul-winning”, coercing somebody into doing something everybody involved, including YOU, may live to regret. It’s devoid of all the confusion over earthly creeds and the Bible, primarily because it acknowledges creeds and the Bible as man-made and propagated, which of course they are. And above all, Deism holds the individual for their own actions, and they must face the consequences of them, be they good or bad. When things go wrong in life, you can’t blame the “Devil”, or expect God to be on your side when you know your own misdeeds caused your problems. This also denies you access to “call God down” on people you don’t like, and send them to Heaven or Hell. If something can’t be backed by hard numbers or facts, it’s not going to be involved in Deism.
Recently, I decided to do something I’ve never consciously attempted to do before. I decided to go a full 24 hours, one whole day, without doing something that I know I like (or assume I have) to do. I just wanted to see if I had the willpower and commitment to make even the slightest change to my patterned life. And the habit I chose is the easiest one to pick up, and the hardest to let go of. It’s shaped my being for at least the last decade. It wasn’t smoking. It’s wasn’t Xbox. It’s wasn’t sleeping with the TV or computer on. No, I decided to go a full day and not attack the “Big Three”, either online or anywhere else. In other words, I decided not to slam people over their religion. And I’m glad I did. It proved to be a major step in ending my personal war with religion. I know a lot more about Deism than before, and unlike with the previous times, I was not afraid to ask questions, do homework, and know what I’m getting into. And the fact that I was free to do so ALONE added to Deism’s credibility.
The greatest benefit of all from the 24 hours of not bashing the Big Three is the peace of tolerance. When I was involved in Churchianity, it was pretty much my job to get people to be a part of the system I was a part of, even if I myself questioned it. I’d get frustrated when they wouldn’t comply. It’s not an easy thing to live in a world where people rarely see things the way you want them to. But man, it’s such a lifted burden to know you don’t have to change their minds. That’s really the only way people of different mindsets can co-exist. And another thing that helps? Empathy. Knowing where a person’s coming from. No two people on this planet have the exact same life experiences. Folks complain a lot of times about others getting on Deist-oriented websites, and basically ripping the Big Three. In the first place, complaining about complaining is… well, complaining. That may be the only place they can vent their frustrations against systems that have caused them, in their particular case, far more harm than good. If they can let it out and go on their damned way, hey, good for them. Let them do it. The key here is to be able to move on. If I see somebody on a posting or a shared video or whatever doing something that is meant to hurt others, or it’s just completely uninformed, oh yeah, they’re fair game. (You don’t want something you do commented on, keep it off the damned Internet.) But if a person goes on and on about something, I’ll just leave them to sort it out. The biggest thing about it is that people have a right to believe whatever they want for whatever reason they want to. The person in organized religion is in it for some kind of reason, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. And there are things about Deism those in the Big Three don’t understand. Regardless, we have to at least be able to co-exist. I didn’t say we had to hold hands and sing “We Are the World”. But as long as I’m left alone, I won’t bother anybody else. You go one way, I’ll go another. If there happens to be a middle ground, great. If not…oh well. And if you are in a religious quagmire you want out of, just remember this…the prison is your own mind, and you’ve got the key. You just gotta figure out which way to turn it.
I’ll close with this: To those in the World Union of Deists, I really want to say thank you. The support I’ve received has been incredible, and I absolutely love how we can have some really good conversations, even when we don’t all agree unanimously on something. I only hope I can be an asset to you the way you have to me. And as for those in NCF (those who go there know who I’m referring to), I say thank you, and I’m sorry, but we both know it’s better this way.