- – a person believing in or practicing religious heresy
1.1 – a person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted.
(source: Oxford dictionary)
I’ve spent years as a seeker – looking for answers to questions; keys to life; secrets of success; hidden/esoteric knowledge; ultimately the truth. I think it started sometime in the mid- to late-90s when I was in my late 30s.
However, when I really think back even to my attitude as a child and teenager, I was always obsessed with being very accurate . . . . getting a story correct . . . . making sure whatever I shared with others was true, and (unfortunately for them) covering every precise detail to get there. My conversations and descriptions went on entirely too long and in WAY too much detail for any listener. I’m not sure where this came from originally. It seems as if it was a feature born/borne within me.
When I first started to question the religion I was raised with, it was a scary proposition indeed. Our entire family and circle of social acquaintances all practiced this religion – Catholicism. My kids went to a Catholic elementary and middle school. I served on the parish council. I had even attended several Promise Keepers events and was (at the time) considered a “born again Christian” (as strange as that may seem in regards to the Catholic religion).
But something happened in the midst of two bible study groups I co-founded. Certain passages in scripture didn’t seem to make sense. I started asking questions; sticky questions my fellow Christians had difficulty providing a proper, sufficient answer. And the answers they struggled to give or the ones I searched for in books, online and in prayer came up short . . . far short. I could have just kept my mouth shut and “went along,” but . . . .
Something inside me was screaming out: “It doesn’t make sense” . . . . “Something’s not right” . . . . “Don’t give yourself entirely over to blind faith” . . . . “Don’t sacrifice your intellect, mind and reasoning” . . . . “Didn’t God give me these attributes, and if so why suppress them?”
So . . . . I decided to look at the arguments from the “other side.” What did alternative religion and/or atheism have to say? What was their stance? Why not objectively consider both sides of an argument in order to make a more informed decision? If Catholicism, or even any sort of Christianity, was valid it should be able to weather the storm of any rational inquiry, right?
What I found was compelling; much more persuasive than what Christianity had presented to me over my entire life. The more I dug and researched and objectively considered, the more the alternative “dark” side (non-religion) resonated within. I became a student of “Freethought” – a revolutionary approach for me, but one I found was actually rooted in critical thinking from easily over a hundred years ago. I deeply researched the historicity of the bible; authenticity of the earliest scriptures; how did the bible come to be as we know it?; has it been edited over the years?; biblical errancies; etc. More on that in future articles.
“I will not attack your doctrines nor your creeds if they accord liberty to me. If they hold thought to be dangerous – if they aver that doubt is a crime, then I attack them one and all, because they enslave the minds of men.” – Robert Green Ingersoll
After a time I realized I couldn’t go on living a charade by attending church each week and monthly parish council meetings. But. . . . . how could I let my wife and kids down by not attending church with them each week? It would be a social embarrassment to them. Should I acquiesce and just “go along” for the sake of family cohesiveness and unity?
I tried it for a short time, then couldn’t take it any more. I felt like a total fake each week in mass – as I truly was – a fake. I was disgusted with religion and its egregore/cult of emotional and intellectual slavery based on an unquestioned belief system centered on guilt and “sin”. An unexamined blind faith the herd assimilates to without rational critical thought.
I Am A Heretic
I decided to be a heretic. A heretic to my religion. A heretic to my direct family. A heretic to my extended family. A heretic to my friends and acquaintances. A heretic to everyone. I didn’t like the term “atheist” as it had HUGE negative connotations with everyone, but “non-theist” just didn’t seem to fit the bill; so “atheist” it was. It was SO uncomfortable initially embracing that moniker.
I sat down and shared my resolve with my wife; my kids; my siblings, my parents; my friends. I wrote a letter resigning from the parish council. It was difficult at first, working through the explanations and reasons, but I didn’t spontaneously combust. I wasn’t struck by lightning. My world didn’t implode.
After a time, it became more “normal.” Actually, my wife ended up no longer attending weekly mass, as she is more of a “Cafeteria Catholic” like her father. My kids were teenagers, a demographic that typically falls away from their religious upbringing, which they both trended towards. And when talking about it with my children (who were about 14 at the time), I emphasized that we raised them Catholic but the ultimate decision about their religion, belief in God, or lack thereof, was something that now resided within their own realm of decision-making.
In fact my initial discomfort slowly moved to an exhilarating feeling of true freedom. What a psychological and emotional release! I never felt more free. The unearned guilt was gone. The confusion was gone. The feelings of worthlessness were gone. The stupidity of conflicting doctrine and scripture was gone. The whole “I need to look somewhere outside of myself for salvation” ignorance was gone! The idiocy of original sin – and even the concept of “sin” was gone. The concept of universal morals enlightened me and eliminated the mind-constraining belief that I HAD to have religion in order to have and practice morals. What a self-limiting concept!!!
Over the years, however, I moved too far towards a more militaristic atheism. Perhaps this was a natural progression and unconscious protest towards the number of years of blind, unquestioned ownership I had in Christianity? A knee-jerk rebuttal to intellectual and emotional slavery?
As time moved on and more exposure to a variety of concepts and ideas – particularly due to Rosicrucian studies – I’ve softened my atheism and now lean towards a possible agnosticism. I’m not convinced. In fact, as I’ve stated in other articles, the more I learn the less I’m convinced of just about anything. The doors of possibilities are open to me.
One thing is for sure . . . . Once the truth is known . . . once the Pandora’s box of true possibilities is open . . . once you free your mind . . . YOU CAN’T GO BACK to blind faith and unquestioned belief in dogma and orthodoxy. As a child, when you found out that Santa Claus was an innocent, adolescent belief without grounding or foundation, could you ever go back “believing” again? Impossible.
It’s the same with heretic discovery. Once the drapes of ignorance are torn down and the “Wizard” is exposed for the fraud he is, there IS NO GOING BACK!
Seek, Question, Discover, Soar!
(Featured image by Mike Meyers on flickr, licensed by CC BY-NC 2.0)