Awakening to Reason & Rejecting Blind Faith – How I benefited from engaging the Flat Earth issue
[Conspiracy theories are like potato chips, it’s hard to eat just one]
I will express some preliminary thoughts. Then explain how the flat earth movement led me to take a firm stand that the Bible is not the Word of God, but instead the word of man. And finally, I provide further elaboration and reflection on the religious and philosophical ideas expressed, the first part being where I encourage people as individuals to develop their own unique life operating systems (worldviews) and stick by them as best they can and carefully modify them as they learn more with time, but to be especially careful not to get swept away by the many snake oil salesmen of our day.
It has taken me a lifetime to get out from under the control and influence that evangelical Christianity had over me having been raised in it and intensifying my practice of it subsequent to that. But I feel like I am finally unraveling aspects of it in the last year or so (2017-2018) especially. At this point in my life I consider myself a Christian Universalist but also a religious pluralist. I no longer consider the Bible the Word of God, but instead the word of man. Much (but not all) of Christian theology takes the Bible (again word of man in my opinion) too literally and seriously to the point that you often end up with a concept of God that is over defined and self contradictory. Process theologian Dr. David Ray Griffin has written a book “God Exists But Gawd Does Not” where the term Gawd is used to differentiate the over defined concept of God from more reasonable, logical, and believable concepts of God, such as what process philosophy and theology suggests. With respect to those definitions, I could say that I am an atheist with respect to the Gawd concept of God. And this means that in many ways I feel I have more in common with the critical thinking atheists than I do with mainstream evangelical Christians. I also no longer feel like I have to get hung up on having an answer for everything. The further back in time you go the more uncertainty there is in understanding what took place and how everything came to be as we find it today in our lives on the earth. This is true no matter what view you hold. No one can really prove their view to be true. But the views that include more miraculous all powerful acts of God tend to be less believable in my view, because if you really view God this way, then you can pretty much believe just about anything. If there is anything you cannot explain, you can always just say that God did it. This is why I now lean more towards the scientific views of the age of the Universe and Earth and Evolution, not thinking that this necessarily removes God from the picture, but that perhaps this was the way that God could do it and chose to do it. I would like to see and participate in dialog between atheists and theists for the much common ground that I believe will be found, and they can also help each other improve their respective positions. Some may change their views from one way or the other, and even back again and so forth any number of times. I was reminded of a book that I read some years ago after hearing the author give a talk on the subject at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sunnyvale, “Bridging the God Gap, Finding Common Ground Among Believers, Atheists and Agnostics,” by Dr. Roger Christan Schriner. So I have just gotten another copy of his book and am starting to read it again. He also has a blog on the subject at https://theistsandatheists.wordpress.com/
MY AWAKENING TO REASON & STRONGER REJECTION OF BLIND FAITH THANKS TO FLAT EARTH MOVEMENT
A year or so ago (2017) some of the conspiracy stuff I was listening to and entertaining the ideas of on Youtube were from devout Christian types (of the very narrow minded exclusivist type who also usually believe in hell as eternal (never ending) conscious torment) and within this there were some espousing flat earth theories based in large part on their literal interpretation of the Bible. And once I started delving seriously into the flat earth stuff from the standpoint of scientific evidence, and realizing how wrong they were, it also pushed me in the direction of drawing the line more precisely on what I was willing to entertain from a religious faith standpoint from that point going forward.
So whereas in the past if one was of a devout religious faith (especially Christian as I can relate more to that based on my background) and also speaking truth about much conspiracy related stuff, I would tend to give them a free pass and a thumbs up on the religious stuff without too much thought. But now I have concluded that more often than not there are flaws in their religious thinking that is now a red flag to me. I am not saying these are bad people, and I am still honoring and respecting them for their views and goodness of heart that resonates with me. But I feel I need to speak out and enter the dialog on areas where I now think they need to be questioned and challenged.
There are multiple examples I could give, that is, different people and authors, but I was just reminded of one recently when one of his books came up on Amazon as I was browsing. So I will use him. Just understand I am not singling him out. I am just using him as an example. The author is Edward Hendrie. So I read quite a few of this guy's conspiracy related books years ago and thought they were pretty good. But I have now seen how he came out with a book in 2016 advocating flat earth truth.
And he is not the only devout truth seeking Christian student of conspiracy theories who has come out strongly taking this stand in favor of the earth being flat. There are many more. So about a year ago when I really started seriously digging into the flat earth arguments and realizing their claims could be soundly refuted, and spherical earth theory could be pretty easily confirmed in a variety of ways with measurements and experiments that ordinary people could conduct, that's when I just had to draw the line. But the flat earth stuff led me to tighten up my thinking in other ways that I had previously avoided taking a stand on.
So I have changed my mind and now I am firm in my conviction that sacred writings like the Bible and those of other faiths are the writings of man, possibly reflecting man's thinking about how he sees himself and God, and on that basis possibly having some information of value. But when man comes to believe and maintain that the Bible (as an example) is the inerrant Word of God, then this can and has led to a lot of problems for the human race, in my view.
And I have found that there are many people who were once very religious even to the point of being scholars and religious leaders, and eventually they just could not accept the dogma of their belief systems anymore. From these have come many of the great scholars and critics of fundamentalist religion.
Some of these people call themselves or identify as atheists, some agnostics, and some as progressives or religious pluralists. Where I am now in my life I have a lot more in common in my beliefs and viewpoint with these people than I do with the majority of the Christians in the United States, the fundamentalist Christian Zionist types who are likely supporters of CUFI. But there is a relatively small fraction of fundamentalist Christian types who are also students of conspiracy theories, and a good portion of these may be wise to the Jewish Question so are not Zionists, but their exclusivist Christian faith and belief in much end times Bible prophecy still remaining to be fulfilled in the future, taints the soundness of many of their other views, in my opinion, so I really have to be careful listening to these people in deciding the validity of everything they say.
Another viewpoint I have heard from these fundamentalist Christian conspiracy types who believe in much Bible prophecy to be fulfilled in the future, is that they definitely view Islam as being an evil anti-God religion, and it figures prominently in their views of Bible prophecy. It is amazing to consider that there are fundamentalist Jews, Muslims, and Christians, who all have their own end times God given prophesies that they take to be literally true. I no longer consider any of this to be valid or worthy of serious consideration as actual true prophecy, except to recognize that there are many influential religious leaders and believers in this stuff and at least two if not all three of these religions mentioned have significant influence on the leadership of nations with nuclear weapons, and if that is not enough to scare the living shit out of you, I don’t know what is. It is a recipe for world destruction and disaster, self fulfilling prophecies.
But what I have come to view as the poison pill in much of Christianity, is the turn or burn gospel, the belief in hell as eternal conscious torment. The turn or burn gospel is a sort of trauma based mind control method for inducting people into the faith. Do a google image search on "god loves you but will torture you in hell." There are a lot of good ones, but I like the one where there is this guy with a smile on his face and a white beard (God) who says, "Worship Me or I will torture you forever. Have a nice day. Love, God." So I came under this system of "trauma based mind control" for most of my life, but am now, at age 62, finally becoming free of it, and for good, and for good (doubled intentionally for two senses of good).
So I have already been burned (pun not intended) by this. I will not allow myself to be burned by this same thing again. So if (for example) a devout Muslim told me that if I did not convert to Islam, that I would go to hell and be punished by God forever, I would tell them that I have already been through this with Christianity, so I won't fall for this type of fear based manipulation again. I don’t believe in God’s never ending torture chamber any more.
So when I see students of conspiracy theories who also have strong exclusivist religious faiths, and they are speaking out about the evils of atheism etc., I really feel that they are misguided and are just being manipulated into unfairly demonizing others, many of whom could actually be of much common interests for the well being of humankind.
This does not mean that all atheists are good people. But you cannot say this about any group of people. For example, can you say that all Christians are good people? Of course not.
Are there any atheists for 9/11 truth and if so how many? Does anybody know the answers? Also, how many different flavors of atheism are there? How many different nuanced positions do atheists take?
In my view now, many atheists are simply expressing their rejection of the over defined Gawd they were deceived into believing in, or the concept of God that is so loudly promulgated from fundamentalist evangelical Christians and possibly other fundamentalist religions that I am less familiar with. I really believe very strongly that people need to be and should be true to themselves and others as much as they can. I realize this is not always easy, because the exclusivist belief systems shun and retaliate against those who decide to leave them. If a person who was a Christian or Muslim or Anything decides that they are now an atheist, they should be honored and respected for that, for their right to make up their own mind on this. It is often hard for atheists to come out of the closet. Did you realize that? Some continue to go to church or whatever just to keep their family and friends happy. As I am just now starting to re-read Dr. Schriner’s book, I see he quotes two old definitions of “atheist” from respected dictionaries. “A godless person; one who lives immorally as if disbelieving in God.” Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, Unabridged. “One who practically denies the existence of a God by disregard of moral obligation to him; a godless man.” Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, Volume One
I have recently re-read the books by Dr. Darrel Ray, The God Virus, and Sex and God, and have found them very helpful to me. He has a very solid Christian background, education, and experience, and yet he identifies as an atheist now. To me he comes across as a deeply spiritual, caring, and loving human being. To me, the fact that he identifies as an atheist means about as much as someone telling me they use Linux as their computer operating system rather than Windows or MacOS.
FURTHER ELABORATIONS ON SOME OF THESE IDEAS
BEST TO DEVELOP YOUR OWN OPERATING SYSTEM FOR YOUR LIFE, WORLDVIEW, PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE
Regardless of how many organized religions, movements, philosophies, rules to live by, cultures, groups, etc. that there are, every individual is responsible for managing this for themselves. Some latch onto exclusivist narrow minded groups and let those groups do a lot of the thinking for them. I have done this myself a lot in the past, and I have learned from it so that I try to avoid this approach as much as I can in the remainder of my life. So I really think that people should develop their own rules for perceiving and analyzing information, perhaps even do this in writing from time to time, and try to stick to their own rules as best they can, so as to avoid letting themselves get carried away by those who seem to be very knowledgeable and offer a good sales pitch presentation of their views encouraging people to jump on their bandwagon.
THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF MAN
Much of this I have already mentioned, but here it is expanded a little bit. I have come to a very significant change of thinking on something over the last year or so that will have a significant impact on how I approach and live the rest of my life. I no longer believe that the Bible is the Word of God, nor do I believe that there are any other holy writings or scriptures that are such. I believe that holy writings are the words of man, where man may be writing about his views about God, and man may even think that he is inspired by God and that God is speaking through him. But this is just man’s nature to pretend and exaggerate his own importance. And the ruling elite perhaps write these scriptures as a means of organizing those under them in some kind of a cohesive force, where the lower followers may actually believe that their leaders really are speaking for God. And since this seems to work so well, this is a part of how religions and movements work.
MYTHS HAVE A PLACE BUT NOT AS LITERAL TRUTH
I don’t see a problem with calling these things myths, like for example, the founding myths of a religion or culture. Like the creation myths of the Bible, Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, etc. The myths are not so much expressing literal truths but deeper truths. If you accept the myths as 100% literal truths you can end up getting something like common evangelical Christianity, which has a lot of absurdities and inconsistencies. And creative atheists have developed a lot of very pointed and hilarious (in my opinion) material just based on ridiculing and making fun of these views. Just do a Youtube search for “kissing hank’s arse” or “if man obeyed god” for a couple I discovered for the first time not too long ago. Be warned. Many will find these offensive. And yet they are both expressing very logical arguments making fun of fundamentalist religion. I found these to be hilarious. I almost died laughing on the second one. In fact I wrote a comment, “In the day that thou watcheth the forbidden youtube video, dying, thou shalt surely die of laughter.” And there is even an entire version of the Bible based on making fun of it, called The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, which you can get online or in a very high quality leather bound print edition.
TYPICAL EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN SALVATION THEORY
I was raised in and I once believed in the common Christian evangelical belief system where one must accept Jesus Christ as their sin bearing savior in this life in order to be saved from going to hell after one’s life on this earth is over, a place of never ending torment and suffering from which there is no possible escape, and even God himself could not get you out of hell. I no longer believe this. I have come to the conclusion that this is a deeply flawed belief system on many levels. Much can be said about this, and I have dealt with this in more detail in some of my other blog posts. Even though I was raised in fundamentalist Christianity, when I really went off the deep end and swallowed the whole thing hook line and sinker as a senior in high school in 1974 with a troubled life, the initial appeal was the idea that if you had accepted Jesus Christ as your savior as a little kid, and then later you got off on the wrong track into much sin and died suddenly, you would still go to heaven, and you might actually be surprised that you ended up in heaven. But the flip side of this evangelical Christian approach to salvation theory is that it seems to suggest that there will actually be a lot of good people going to hell. Have you ever heard of this one? It is quite common.
A UNIQUE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN SALVATION THEORY THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
WHAT IF A ZIONIST U.S. ISRAELI DUAL CITIZEN NEOCON 9/11 FALSE FLAG CONSPIRATOR GOT SAVED?
Let me illustrate with a unique example. Take any one or more of the many Zionist U.S. Israeli dual citizens in the highest echelons of U.S. power who were conspirators in the false flag attack of 9/11. Suppose one of these individuals got exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Jews for Jesus ministry and the Holy Spirit convicted them of their terrible sins related to the 9/11 false flag attacks and their need of a savior, so that they wept profusely in repentance of their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal sin bearing savior. This individual would then have a guaranteed place in heaven. But suppose there were a simple Jewish grandmother who was faithful to God in the way that she was taught in her upbringing and strove to be as good a person as she could be and she never ever even thought of planning or executing a false flag operation, in fact she did not even know what that was, but she was never convicted of her sin by the Holy Spirit and her need of a savior, so she died without accepting Jesus Christ, so she would go to hell forever, torment and suffering without end and no possibility of escape. Doesn’t this seem absurd? But this is what basic evangelical Christian doctrine actually teaches.
[I am thinking of something I loosely quoted in a previous blog post, where I remembered hearing the dogmatic evangelical Bible teacher say something like, “It is better to be mentally retarded and go to heaven than a genius and go to hell.” This statement was made in conjunction with expressing the view that a mentally retarded person would automatically go to heaven because due to their impairment God would not hold them responsible for making a decision to accept Jesus Christ as their savior. To these evangelical dogmatic Bible teachers and believers nothing is more important than eternal salvation. So I just thought of something similar to this on my own. I admit I probably first thought of this many years ago, but this is the first time I am sharing it with someone by putting it down in writing. If eternal salvation is so all important, then is this a true statement based on Biblical doctrinal truth? “It is better to have been a serial killer child molesting child raping child torturing child sacrificing Satanist saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ as one’s sin bearing savior and go to heaven than to have been a law abiding unbeliever and go to eternal hell.”]
VIEWED FROM MY CHRISTIAN UNIVERSALIST PERSPECTIVE
So if I were to put on my Christian Universalist hat, I would explain it this way. I would say that all people reap what they sow (aka Karma in eastern religions) regardless of whether they accept Jesus Christ as their savior in their lifetime, and that people would reap what they sow in the afterlife as well, but that God would ultimately draw all people to Himself in love and justice. God doesn’t end up being the warden of an eternal torture chamber, but nobody gets away with anything either. There is justice. I believe what I have explained can be justified by Bible scripture, but I cannot prove it is true any more that the evangelical Christian can prove that their view is true. But I can say that my view makes more sense and seems more reasonable and logical. But no one is required to believe the viewpoint that I have expressed in order to benefit. And my viewpoint does not threaten with eternal hell anyone who does not believe it. And with my viewpoint, no one should feel encouraged to live a wild life of sin with the idea that they have accepted Jesus Christ and are saved, because all will reap what they have sowed, in this life and/or the hereafter.
SELECT THE BEST FROM ALL FOR THE COMMON GOOD - PLURALISM
And if you look at history you can see a lot of examples of organized religions and movements motivating and bringing about a lot of really bad shit. Christianity is no exception to this. If I had to accept all of Christianity to be a Christian, I could not do it, because there is so much bad within it in my view. But if I look to it to select out from it only that which is good to the best of my ability, then maybe I do not have to abandon Christianity altogether. But the same can be said for other religions. So this is where I would like to encourage all religions to examine themselves and their beliefs and practices to seek reformations where necessary to become more accepting, nurturing, and respecting of the rights of individuals to make their own decisions without coercion or fear of harm. I also would like to see religious pluralism encouraged. But I seek these things with loving persuasion rather than forceful coercion.
PLURALISM INCLUDES ATHEISTS AND AGNOSTICS
And I really have to include atheism and agnosticism here as well. There are very many people who have had religious upbringing and some who have even pursued their religions academically and in dedication in their lives and careers, but they have eventually come to the place of moving beyond it, and many of these people have done so because they could no longer accept many of the things within their religions that simply did not make sense to them. It is good for people to be true to themselves, and if they have the courage, to be honest with others. In religious history respected Christian leaders have had fellow Christians burned at the stake for not having quite the correct Christian beliefs. It is hard for me to imagine that this would have been a society and culture where atheists would feel safe expressing their true beliefs.
So I welcome atheists and agnostics into the brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind. I want to hear their arguments. I already know that I agree with a large portion of their arguments and views. I do not believe that they are headed to hell, the imaginary “God’s never ending torture chamber,” because of their beliefs or lack of beliefs.
I am glad to have them as a part of our nation, a nation founded and dedicated to the principle of religious liberty and separation of church and state. I am glad for their opposition to the many dogmatic and exclusivist religious teachings so common in the world and in the U.S. I welcome them for their search for truth and meaning in their lives and for their ways of doing good in the world. I do not agree with the view that atheism is an inherently bad or evil approach to life.
If I had to condemn people for being atheists, I would have to condemn people for being Christians as well, in order to be consistent.
A COUPLE OF MY ANECDOTAL EXPERIENCES WITH ISLAM
I also want to offer a couple of experiences I had looking at Islam. Many years ago I saw on TV a couple of women of the Islam faith in a middle eastern country and their conversation reflected a simple humble faith in God, that reminded me of the simple faith that my grandmother had in her Christian faith. And much more recently, within the last 2 or 3 years I struck up a lengthy conversation with a devout young Muslim man working at a bank where I was doing business, and I was impressed by his sincerity of belief and practice and his knowledge of the scriptures, including the New Testament, and his respect for Jesus. Could this devout Muslim actually also be a Christian in some significant sense?
I realize that the typical evangelical Christian would disqualify him because he is not believing in the correct Jesus, something like that. Have you ever heard this line from the evangelical Christian camp? “Salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone.” What exactly does this really mean, from a practical standpoint? My impression is that it really means, “Salvation is through the precisely correct faith alone in the precisely correct Christ alone.” There are a lot of possible points of failure here. There could be problems with your faith and/or problems with how you view Christ. And if that is not enough potential for failure, there is the use of the word “alone” which occurs twice. I have actually heard dogmatic preachers say something like, “If you add anything to faith in Christ, you are not saved.” To me this is an example of extremely narrow minded evangelical Christian viewpoint to the point that it leads to convolutions, contradictions, and consternation.
FINAL COMMENTS & CONCLUSIONS
People of necessity need to have their own worldview or approach to life including how they deal with any and all new information coming their way. If a person is in dire straights like a homeless person on the streets barely surviving, then for them, survival is everything, so huge amounts of information if you were to suppose it could come their way, they could easily just pass on most if not all of it as being irrelevant to their situation. Obviously this is an extreme end of the spectrum. Somewhere in the middle there could be a middle class family struggling to makes ends meet, and they may be able to take in some information that is relevant to their situation and make decisions on it, but things involving more uncertainty and risk and controversy they would likely pass on. But if you get to the point where you have a person who has the interest and means to take on some controversial issue, such as something that the Fake News might seek to marginalize by calling it a “conspiracy theory,” then this type of person can face a dilemma. Conspiracy theories are like potato chips, it’s hard to eat just one. So this person is subjected to the hazard of having a barrage of conspiracy theories coming their way, and they can’t possibly eat or digest them all. So of necessity they need to develop a system where they can quickly eliminate the things that are likely not worth looking into further, and also quickly determine which ones might be worthy of their time and attention to look into further. There are so many factors at play here that anyone who might be in a situation like this has to decide and figure this out for themselves.
For me personally, at this point, based on the change in approach that I have made as I have explained in this writing, I will be tending much more on passing up on examining further any controversies or “conspiracy theories” that require blind faith in something, which often is some sort of religious belief. It’s possible that this could cause me to miss something important, but I do not have the ability or resources to investigate everything, so I have to draw the line somewhere. So that is what I have done. It has simplified my life in terms of what further investigations I am willing to take on.
And even with this, I do not have the ability to take on everything that is worthy to be taken on. So this is perhaps where synchronicity, serendipity, quantum entanglement, or the grace of God, whatever you want to call it, comes into play.
And it is OK to tell somebody that you don’t have an opinion on something because you have not studied it.
So I really am thankful for the Flat Earth Movement for kicking my butt to get me to start blogging almost one year ago, to get my views out there, and also for pushing me in the direction of upping my game.