Posted by: innerpilgrimage | September 15, 2012

A Higher Power to Begin With

      “The God concept, since is it not evidence-based but is based on subjective and logic-free faith, necessarily remains different things for different people. I think it will remain so until we quit assuming that there is any power higher than man’s logical and unifying reason.” Stephen Frederick Uhl, Imagine No Superstition, p. 54. (c. 2006)

      I got some interesting reading done when I was told about the 12 Step belief that it doesn’t matter what you believe–as long as you believe in something. The Orange Papers have some pretty enlightening realities about program as it was written in the beginning. I agree with the precepts, because it explains a lot about fleeing the rooms and feeling betrayed by program even as I believe in the solution. Twelve step programs can get cultish. Non-theism is a terrifying thing to bring up at a meeting. However, that doesn’t mean I’m giving up and throwing in the towel. Program works for me, okay? I have maintained a weight loss despite losing faith in an external Higher Power. Program works, but not precisely as written. A day may come when I will walk permanently from the rooms, taking with me my secular recovery principles. Perhaps even doing what others before me have done and rewriting a non-theist recovery manual. The therapeutic principles work, okay. And the secular stuff works, even if the religiosity is heavy-handed. Program and recovery brought me to some hard truths about myself. Program is the reason I finally relieved myself of the relationship that I had bourne with a consciousness that demands faith-without-evidence which is also in hiding in the modern age–if it so exists, which no reasonable means has proved yet.

      So what have I gained from program, if I lost a divine will source of a Higher Power in the process?

      I believe that addiction is delusional thinking; recovery is sanity.

      To me, sanity is not living on faith but on reason. Sanity is adopting Sagan’s Maxim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Program worked in the manner I worked it so far, though I still haven’t gotten through the steps in the past three years. Is it easy? Not even remotely. However, if there ever was a Higher Power and there ever was a purpose or will for me, it was the purpose to be human and the will of those who put out their rational secularist philosophy and knowledge for me to discover. Well, I tripped over (not a miracle, just reading three books at once trying to ascertain a means to secular spirituality–which Comte-Sponville provided) while trying to break the delusion that I have to feel guilty for walking away from, well, the fear I was deluding myself that I was talking to myself and whipping myself into an hypnotic frenzy doing it. Uhl’s book is providing that sense of self-revelation. I am not learning “The Cult of Atheism” here. I am merely reading things that are so self-evident yet I have feared even speaking them, lest I be dropped in the handbasket and sent down the gondola line to wherever naughty folks go. To be brutally honest, I see the people who are assured of their place in the Heaven of my childhood. An eternity with them would be Hell to me, and as I get to be assured that I would be in the company of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment and Age of Reason for eternity in a place of burning torment? I think the answer is clear where I would want to be. In Heaven would be James Dobson, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, all of the popes (including the Medici), and potentially Hitler (he believed he was on the side of the Christian god). In Hell would be Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), and Carl Sagan–and that’s a very, very short list of luminaries. But since it doesn’t matter because it’s a mythic Hell based on a culmination of different dead religions’ mythic Hells? I’m going to run with the safe bet and say that the answer to, “Then who created ‘The Creator’?” is not “The Creator” but “People.” And that whole God-created-God thing really proves more the existence of Ouroboros than the god of my deist indoctrination.

      I believe that wishful thinking, bartering with God, and praying never ended my addiction; action, the experience-strength-and-hope plus honesty-openness-and-willingness of human beings, and the reasonable therapeutic processes offered by program made me aware I could exercise free will in recovery.

      God-as-religion-describes-God is my problem as much as my parents are. Any external being that I am supposed to have faith in reeks of cult to me. I am completely put off by religion–and not because anyone had to tell me so. This wasn’t recruitment. This was suffering doubt. This was fearing closing my eyes and wishing I had a culturally acceptable Higher Power so I didn’t get dropped into an asylum for believing in something that was not okay because of how few people backed me up. This was being willing to enter into addict thinking to have a socially acceptable God so people would like me–which is toxic love on a cosmic and transcendent scale. Talk about abandonment issues. I think the greatest lament out there among the faithful is the lack of God’s active presence in the world. That God is turning away, neglectful. Leaving followers in a permanent dark night of the soul, where they feel around for anything to get some light. Faith isn’t cutting it for the religious, either. Why else would they blame natural disasters on secularist belief that ethics are not the property of the religious any longer. I am getting really fed up with every tragedy having at least one crack-pot fame-seeker blaming gays or atheists for natural phenomena. And if gays are making hurricanes happen, what are the Christians doing excluding them? That’s a modern-day miracle, people. God is responding to gay people, not the television preachers. That tells me maybe God’s angry at the divisive nature of God’s followers in God’s name. Maybe if we want less hurricanes and flooding and volcanic eruptions, according to magical thinking, that angry coalition of people who eat bacon yet condemn homosexuality (Both are big ritual no-nos, folks. Can’t pick and choose what to get mad over) need to start considering that God made gays for a purpose and perhaps ignorance about procreation thousands of years ago may have had a part to play.

      Does God exist? Not until one shows up and makes it clear to the world who is right and what to believe. Until then, it is mere speculation based on nothing but faith. A person must have skepticism, have doubt, like one does in nearly every other aspect of life. Case in point: The fallacy that Santa Claus should be disbelieved. He existed in the third and fourth centuries CE as Nikolaus of Myra. We have contemporary-to-his-lifetime proof of his existence, and his remains are in a crypt. So, believing in Santa–despite the massive growth in his legendary and mythological abilities post-mortem–is not fallacious. In fact, not believing in Santa is fallacious; not believing in his supernatural works, however, is reasonable. It’s bizarre that we create truths out of nothing to make the world in our image, that we can shame others into following our belief systems because they want to belong to a community. That’s what happened to me over and over, and I was driven away. I never fit in fully or was rejected outright. I suppose Monty Python was right about nothing being as dangerous as a clever sheep. What’s worse? I have heard so freaking often I am an intellectual, and often it’s not said as a compliment. Usually it’s in a worried tone, as if I’m going to suddenly freak out and build some sort of massive robot army to take over the world (which I can’t–I’m not particularly skilled at electronics and engineering, though I appreciate looking at others’ work).
      Anyway, the ritual behaviors of religion are precisely the same to me as the ritual behaviors of food and toxic love addiction I built for myself–and the payoff was the same happily ever after. When I was open to it all, God didn’t show up. I let God into my heart so often, that if there was a God? Either I was being tested (that’s not love, that’s forced obedience through breaking one’s will) or I was being ignored (that’s not love, that’s neglect). The kindest thing I can say is that I accept that if there is a God, I am persona non gratis. However, in reality? That I even exist is something amazing. That I am part of eternity under the “something” category was a pretty cool thing to have happen when meiosis occurred between my parents forty-three years and several months ago. Even though I will be forgotten? I will be forever have a mark in eternity–not because I had progeny but because I even lived at all and my presence (as all our presences do) affected change in the world. We all do that, which is how I can see spirituality and humility in that–spirituality because I can contemplate it and humility because I am as important as an atom of oxygen someone will breathe in today across the world in order to sustain their own lives for one more breath. That is the reality I believe–the immensity of existing and the humility that I am equal to anything that ever existed in the grand theater of existence is pretty exciting. All without God, too.
      Why should I fret about whether God exists or not, when so many real things which do exist are out there to wonder upon and experience? That being is so immense a concept to contemplate (and have the ability to contemplate, which was earned by the generations of evolving life to create a self-contemplating being) that God pales in comparison? Why worry about God when right here and right now, this world is in utter chaos because others do? I conscientously object participation in the religious wars; life is, to borrow a theist term, sacred. Life is not something which should be taken so lightly, and I am bothered that it is neglected for the promise of an afterlife and a set of archaic and outdated dogmas to petition something without evidence to grant. Something which shows no presence in life. How am I so sure it’s not there?
      Because atheists can experience everything that religious people can–without God. All of it. The difference is when and where: tomorrow in an unprovable spiritual realm or today and right here. How can I not have hope, knowing that just for today I lived reasonably? That I sought a nobler path–even if I failed?

      I believe addiction is about living in yesterday and tomorrow; recovery is about living today to its fullest–being aware in the here and now.

      Recovery is about living one day at a time. Many slogans talk about this twenty-four hours, about staying present in the moment, about splitting seconds to avert relapse. Recovery is mindfulness taken on as a practiced habit. By the time one gets that thirty-day chip, the hardest work is done. Repetition for a month, I’ve been told, can create a habit–good or bad.
      Addiction is about wanting a static life of happiness tomorrow and every day after. No challenges to the addiction. A magic pill cure, which sustains the addiction because it’s not realistic thinking that a magic cure exists. Addiction is about wanting to unmake the past, to use wishful thinking to go back and fix it right then. To relive the fallacious memory (which isn’t actually what happened, as we now understand through study of how the brain makes memories). So, desiring a time machine to roll back to the past is a fiction that sustains the pain and keeps up that exhaustion with the pain of life–and the pursuit of a means to numb out or act out to feel intensely alive. We either exist in eternal torment in life and long for just a few hours of escape, or we are driven justify to ourselves that we exist.
      Religion is an addiction to me–a delusion that there is a magic cure. I am addicted to sales pitch: the promise of personal growth, the community of friends with something core-related in common, and service to the world in order to bring peace to those who suffer. The reality is not so kind. I feel stunted by being told what to think instead of expanding to the possibilities of an infinite God. I have no community because I don’t hold the born-again glee for long. And I have never actually been involved in anything but getting Bibles to the third world through a church. Mostly, it was bake sales to benefit themselves. The only religious organization I’ve dealt with which does real and good work is the St. Vincent de Paul society–and I wasn’t part of an organized religion when I did it. I rebel against strict control, especially when I don’t feel my life is benefitting anyone but a small group. And I am always making “mistakes” which–when confessed–get the most wretched looks of horror from the pious. Devoutly religious people drive me away with their sanctimonious judgment, and it’s unmistakeable. The problem are the gnostics, the people who are using that religion as a spiritual path. Those are the ones who make me look at religion with nostalgia. However, it’s not the religion doing it, I’ve found. It’s the individuals who use the religion as a trellis to grow a life of meaning and value. These often are people who are outside-looking-in, as well, but who have that intimate quiet relationship with a Higher Power of their understanding.

      If God exists? It’s making me a secular humanist. If there is a purpose to my life, it is to grow up mentally, physically, and spiritually. To accept my whole adulthood with what I was given–a desire and an ability to evolve a strong mind, body, and esprit. I have no purpose but what I create for myself. After all, when I am in ego, I am the center of the Universe, and the rest of the Universe is made up of only satellites of my delusional thinking. When I am divested of ego–when I am in the moment where I don’t really even exist in time–usually writing or creating art or reading or walking out in a place where the grand scale of a vista close up makes me feel as small as humanly possible? I am part of everything. I am not everything. Just part of it. It’s a great feeling to have the Universe off of my shoulders in those moments, that it doesn’t matter who or what or where I am. I just am, and that alone is a source of serenity at its inability to be contemplated anywhere but in the silence and wonder afforded a thinking being.

      So, anyway, back to a Higher Power. When I read that passage in Uhl’s book, the light went on. That was it. That is the power greater than myself I can begin with. I believe completely in logical and unifying human reason. There are truths all people can accept, even if they are simple. After that, we divest into other beliefs which are individual yet complete the whole that is humanity. But that evolved trait of humanity to contemplate as we do and transmit culture–even erroneous–as we can is a power that is greater than all of us. It is provable when we talk to anyone. A person only chooses not to use that contemplation. Even the special among us can contemplate, even if the ability to communicate through the most common means is blocked due to mental or physical circumstances. We are unified by being something over nothing. We are unified by having the ability to contemplate so much that we create mythologies to keep the unknown at bay. We are unified by being able to create the next generation with anyone on the planet who can complete the meiotic process with us–through biological means or through scientific means. We are divided by our perceptions as individuals, as being part of an exclusive group. Unification is humane and noble; divisiveness is primal and base. A Higher Power that is logical and unifying reason can’t be prayed to, it has no will for me. However, it requires no unfounded faith (which I rebel against for oft-repeated experiential reasons). So, yes, it’s not going to be easy, but I am setting down the pavers on the path as I walk it. And I just realized that this is a really long postmodern-sounding post. A lot of rambling. It’s not a big deal, considering I write this out mostly for myself. If a person wants to skim? Please do. It’s out here for people to see my experience and potentially hope. I’m not sure about strength, because I still run into that “weakness, not strength” stuff. The contradictions kill belief systems, and time makes everything self-contradictory. The difference, to me, is that science celebrates the expansion of knowledge, and religion often fights reality itself in order to cherry-pick what applies today and what doesn’t in order to keep power over people by terrorizing or shaming or guilting them into submission. Not surrender. Submission.

      My name is Jess. I am a food addict and toxic love addict–binger and anorexic. I can’t live sanely in an all-or-nothing world. Experience, logic, reason shows me again and again there is not one right or one wrong. Everything expressed here is what I am deliberating on today. I will think differently tomorrow. Perhaps drastically. Perhaps nominally. The point is that I will not be the same person as I am in this moment because I will have experienced today. And if I don’t wake up tomorrow? It’s been a pretty good life–even if I haven’t appreciated it as much as I want to. And no, it’s not like a switch, where I turn off the addiction. This is a habit built up over decades. This is like a complete rebuild of a National Historic Registry site. Gotta keep the place standing, even as you change everything out. It takes real time, real effort, real care to restore it so it will last to educate people for another several hundred years. It’s just going to take time, that’s all.

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