The Meanings of Our Lives

Life is a series of events each of us experiences and shares while we curiously and naively, sometimes ill-advisedly, commence from one moment to the next. We do not begin life tainted or damned and if anyone tells you are evil because you are alive, then that one is an enemy of being-ness and ignorant of the potentials and challenges existence presents. That one wants you beholding to another for a life you completely own.

We are all on trips and have been since the moment we were each born. Some trips have led or will lead to times of misery and solitude; a sense of futility in everything one does. Other times the journey will reveal generous expanses of calm and satisfaction or fantastic good fortune. We’ve all had rewarding and fulfilling experiences that we felt we didn’t deserve as we waited for the other shoe to drop. It’s sad that some of us choose to believe that we are innately sinful and evil. We choose a road of guilt and retribution, torturing ourselves with a sense of unworthiness and a consuming need to be cleansed and saved.

When I was eleven years old, I went with my best friends, brothers named Ricky and Eddie, to their family church twice a week and every visit was punctuated with a stentorian appeal by the preacher to be baptized. The preacher’s concern for my afterlife condition caused my friends to be concerned for my souls’ well-being too and nearly every week they encouraged me to finally go up there. “Will you this time” they always wondered aloud, “because you have to be saved or you won’t go to Heaven!”

I was a pretty outgoing kid, unafraid to be the center of attention in other situations, but the burden of standing before a crowd and admitting that I needed to be rescued, that I was a sinner and doomed left me feeling chastised and degraded. I wanted to believe that I had worth apart from a decision from an invisible entity to grant me significance and value. Still, the pressure was too much for my young, still-forming identity. Adults knew better than me concerning most things and when they too implored me to seek baptism, I felt that I had no greater decision to make. Finally, one Wednesday night I rose from my seat and nervously journeyed, repentant and shaking, to the front where a few others stood, apart and grieving from the congregation, each of us seeking forgiveness and acceptance. A date was set for the baptism and immediately after its execution, by virtue of being accepted and now deserving of entry into heaven, I was good to go. How easy was that?

If you give someone something they don’t understand and don’t really believe in, if you tell them that everything has changed now and they have won acceptance and inclusion some, though not all of them, will question why they deserve this special treatment. I know I did. What had changed for me? How was I any different, a better person now, simply because a self-styled agent of a religion said so? It all seemed so phony, so desperate to me. Mostly I was angry with myself for being dishonest. I certainly felt forced into the act of metamorphosis. I knew that nothing had changed in me but others believed they had assisted me in becoming successful at something. I simply couldn’t understand how I had done this thing worthy of their respect. I now know that it all was about making their selves feel good, wise and justified in their beliefs. I gave them a win they could brag to each other about. I validated their efforts, their passions.

If a man tells you that you are born guilty, if he tells you to consult him and not look to yourself for the answers, if he tells you to ignore your intellect and trust only your feelings, your faith, he is a false prophet. If he tells you to fear for your life because when you die a portion of you will live on in endless agony unless you believe in his god, and that this god owns you, he is a dispenser of horrific tales and proud of his ability to debase and terrorize you. He has a mean streak a mile wide and if you don’t tell him he’s crazy, you very well may be crazy yourself. You must not reward him for his hate-filled and perverse predilection.

Religions often are irresponsible, often degrading, thought processes humans set their minds to. Once you create gods, there is very little hope left for you because then any extreme event and entity is possible. You become slaves to your greatest fears and fearful potentials can be immensely magnified. It can be entertaining to scare ourselves but with most fantastically fearful situations we imagine, we leave the theatre, book or television program knowing it was just a fantasy event and we then return to our practical, pragmatic understandings. We do not let our imaginations convince us the monster is real and living somewhere within or outside of our normal existences. The God monster is not real for if he could be we are all in deep trouble, no matter how favored anyone may be, for he has the power to destroy the universe.

Has anyone really considered, and I mean really considered, how annoying Heaven could become after time? Hell is living a stagnant, unchanging existence. Try putting your brain in a box where new experiences and mobility would be impossible. Try imagining life in absolute confinement while being aware of every fact, every possibility life could provide but you couldn’t experience it in time or adapt, learning and feeling as you go through it. Knowing it ALL and having nothing to grow into could be one huge painfully boring way to exist.

We create our moments as we go and make unique choices each and every time we proceed. This is what it means to be alive; to be able to make our own choices in real time for every event we participate in.

I don’t discuss private events of my life too often here because I often doubt anyone would find my life interesting (even though it might be for many of you) or deserving of special attention. Or is it that I don’t want others to think my life is deserving of special attention? It’s a heavy thing having others concerned for your well-being and privy to special information. I seem to be more comfortable being “of a type” with you guys; not too well known or understood.

Is this because I don’t want the choices I make and the events I participate in to be considered too carefully? Do we all fear being intimately known? Or do we crave it?

I detest judgment, this much I see, and yet sometimes I dare it.

5 thoughts on “The Meanings of Our Lives

  1. Here’s a post I stumbled over recently:

    As a Christian, I fully support atheism as an honorable and proper response to what Christians in the west have been saying about God for the past 1000 years, beginning with Anselm’s book “Cur Deus Homo?”

    Modern atheism is a healthy rebellion against a terrorist deity, and I would encourage someone to become an atheist before becoming a Protestant or a Catholic.

    The poster is an Eastern Orthodox and from what I can gather, they consider the concept of Original Sin as preached by Western Christianity as a despicable heresy.

    If you get past the fire-and-brimstone crowd, opinions diverge within Christianity as to the nature of Hell. Likewise, there doesn’t appear to be a theological consensus within Christianity regarding the nature of Heaven, either. To my untrained eye it looks like you have a choice between eternal pain and eternal boredom and stagnation. Oblivion sound like the best deal in town…

  2. Really good post, Brock; and an example of why Les need not worry about occasional dry spells. As a guest Bastard you create landmarks for SEB city.

    Adults knew better than me concerning most things and when they too implored me to seek baptism, I felt that I had no greater decision to make.

    That recalls an awful memory where I was the adult who “knew better” and encouraged my own children to be baptized and accept Jesus (even as that foundation was crumbling inside me – I was whistling in the dark.)  The pain it caused my children in the long run, especially my oldest son, is my lifelong shame.  Practicing self-deception, I misled my children.

    Mark Twain said “Heaven for climate; Hell for company.”

    Stephen Bachelor in Buddhism Without Beliefs said he was puzzled by the fact that Western observers found the idea of reincartion comforting.  But consider our alternative!  Live one time, guess correctly, enter into the Joy of Heaven.  “Choose poorly” as the knight in the IIId Indiana Jones movie said; and you’re toast, over-and-over again for all eternity.  And the clues to the “correct” choice are ambiguous, to say the least.

    I have to respond to Elwed’s Eastern Orthodox quote that “Modern atheism is a proper response” to Christian god models, though…

    To choose a belief as a response to anything but your own best assessment of what is true, well, that’s what got me in trouble in the first place.  It took some doin’ to get myself disentangled from the disingenuous.

    I would certainly agree; the doctrine of original sin is a degradation and a horror, almost as bad as what God supposedly did to correct it.

  3. Thanks, Decrepit. Coming from you the compliment means more to me as I consider you one of the better writers here.

    That recalls an awful memory where I was the adult who “knew better

  4. It isn’t easy to do but I’m sure your children forgive you

    Unfortunately, one of them didn’t.  I have not heard from my oldest son in over two years, nor can I find him.  I know he got married, and is probably out of grad school by now. 

    Why mention it?  On the 10-6 chance that someone with young children may read it and rethink insisting their kids follow something they find hard to believe for themselves.

  5. Decrepit, I’m sorry to hear that. I doubt I can imagine how it feels. I have a sister who none of us have heard from for several years but that’s not like a child disappearing. I hope you and your son are reunited soon.

    I’m the worlds worst at keeping in contact with family but I’m better than my sister at least.

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