Heretic, Part 1 – The path of Casual Catholic, to Born Again Christian, to Atheist, to (maybe) Agnostic

her·e·tic
ˈherəˌtik/
noun
  1.  – 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 given me these attributes, and if so why suppress them?”

inerrantSo . . . . 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.

quote-i-will-not-attack-your-doctrines-nor-your-creeds-if-they-accord-liberty-to-me-if-they-robert-green-ingersoll-14-13-22After 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 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.

hereticI 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!

Integrity,Commitment,Truth

What is Knowledge Adventuring?

If I had to identify the most critical element of the shaping of my life and persona, it has to be my passion for the pursuit of truth/accuracy/reality.  At first I thought this was something that came about in my thirties. However, over the years in doing various exercises to identify my true mission and purpose in life, I realize I’ve always been hugely concerned with identifying, understanding and conveying what was truthful and accurate – for my own purposes, but also for others; even from childhood.

Unfortunately, this drive resulted in a young boy who naively thought everyone wanted to hear the accurate details and retelling of this-that-or-the-other. Surely everyone wanted to know the most accurate conveyance of truth, right? I went on FAR too long describing something and everything I experienced (or “knew”) to the n’th degree, quickly losing the interest of whomever it was I was communicating.  My now-adult son is similarly stricken. I only hope he comes to this realization during his life and makes an appropriate adjustment.
🙂

At some point in my mid-twenties, I realized no-one really cared about the details of pretty much anything.  In my twenties I also was married, working a full-time job, going to night school, raising twins, doing improvements on my first home, and later, restoring a vintage muscle car. There was little time for philosophical thinking of any sort. So, my youthful obsession with identifying and conveying “truth” took a 10- to 15-year hiatus.

At some point in my late-30s or early 40s I became exposed to, and started exploring, the more philosophical aspects of life. My passion and drive for “truth” was resurrected. Since then it’s something I cannot escape.

When setting up the categories for this website I struggled with what to name this inescapable passion of mine. I finally settle on “Knowledge Adventuring” because I truly feel that the digging, researching, seeking and discovery has been (and continues to be) a wonderful adventure.

What Does It Include?

For the world at-large it could mean any number of things. For me it boils down to four primary areas:

  • Proper Thinking
  • Philosophy & Religion
  • History
  • Science

Once again, I struggled with how to group and categorize the elements of “Knowledge Adventuring” that encompass my obsession and which drives my focus. I could have laid out numerous sub-categories, but in the interest of simplicity I stuck with these four, as almost everything can be rolled up under them.

Proper Thinking

In this arena you’ll be seeing topics oriented towards what I can best describe as “Intellectual Integrity.”  It includes all the various barriers to accurate (and true) critical thinking that face us as sentient, emotional human beings.  Appeals to emotion . . . authority . . . confirmation bias . . . cognitive dissonance . . . orthodoxy . . . conditioning . . . persuasion . . . group-think . . . disinformation . . . propaganda . . . logical fallacies . . . poor observation . . . skepticism . . . pseudo-skepticism . . . All the things that screw us over from getting to the absolute truth.

The bottom line:
>>> How can I (or anyone) practice the most sincere, accountable intellectual inquiries in order to uncover and identify the real, most accurate picture of the “truth?” And don’t think this will be a simple exercise in “what do the experts say?” or “what is the majority, orthodox opinion?”  This won’t be of interest to lazy thinkers. At all.

The result of “proper thinking” as applied to a person’s intellectual pursuits? . . . a world of adrenaline-rush discovery!

Philosophy & Religion

I’m not a philosophy major. But the simple act of asking the big questions of life put you into the act of philosophical thinking. Big questions like: Why are we here? Where did we come from? How should we interact with others? What ethics and morals should I pursue and use? Is religion necessary for spiritualism, morals, ethics? How much control should one person (or a group of people) have over another individual? Should I trust the things I’ve been taught while growing up? Is there a god? Am I honestly looking at all alternatives before settling on what I believe to be the foundations of truth? Can I be sure what is “real?”  Is it okay for cultural norms to be different from one society to the next? Am I thinking correctly?

Surely, these are some heavy-duty questions.  But they drive you towards some fun realizations and personal, intellectual, emotional challenges. They are life-expanding.

History

History is boring for many (perhaps most) people. For me, there is a great richness in so many elements of history. The magnificent achievements of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Mayans – among others. What caused the Dark Ages? How advanced were the Greeks? (far beyond what you may imagine) How magnificent is The Renaissance? What about The Enlightenment?

Beyond the standard textbook history is also an undercurrent of alternative history. Who actually writes the history? What have they left out, and why (both ancient and more modern)? What is the evidence of more advanced civilization during a time before what we’re taught?  What are the issues with academic archaeology? What are the issues with specialization vs generalization? Why are engineers seeing things in ancient artifacts and architecture that archaeologists have heretofore ignored and glossed over? What anomalies are discovered, buried and ignored? What is the “Knowledge Filter?”

Science

Science too can be very boring for most people. How exciting is it though to discover the mysteries of the universe? Planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, electromagnetism, gravity, physics, applied sciences, etc.

And again, beyond the standard textbook science, there is an undercurrent of alternative science. Do we really know what propels the wheels of the solar system and universe? Are academic theories of cosmology workable and observable beyond the math employed to arrive at their conclusions? Is the Big Bang backed by solid science and observation? Are Black Holes real and observed?  Is gravity the only major motive force in the universe?  Is there more to “what’s out there” than we’re taught?  Is zero-point (free) energy possible?  If so, what are the ramifications? How do scientific revolutions occur and who typically makes those paradigm-shattering discoveries? Is the Scientific Method really used in science? And again, as in History, what anomalies are discovered, buried and ignored? What is the “Knowledge Filter?”

Conclusion

For those with an intellectual bent, there is a rich and exciting world of possibilities and discovery awaiting beyond the mundaneness of daily living and spoon-fed “news.”

As for me, I have to search, seek, refine, tear down and rebuild assumptions and beliefs with each new element of discovery that is validated with a reasonably high-level of confidence.  If I can’t get to that percentage, I must withhold a firm stand until more truth can be uncovered.