I think that's pretty much where I stand now. I do believe in the Church, in the absolute necessity of me belonging to Her. I believe that She, the Orthodox Church (or, a synonym, One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church) is where the Holy Spirit dwells, and that we, those who belong to Her, are being saved by the mystical, incomprehensible salvific power of Jesus Christ, the God-Man, the living Son of the living God. On the other hand, I, at this point of my life, do not believe in my capacity to find eternal truths in very many fragments of the Bible and also in some patristic writings that I have read thus far. I believe a lot of it is myth and, moreover, weird, misleading, harmful nonsense. I know I sound terribly rebellious and I do not, in all honesty, like it! But that's where I stand, sincerely. The whole notion, particularly, of one man lapsing into sin and the entire human race, being "in" that one man, suffering the consequences of that sin, and especially the notion of our bodies becoming corrupt, our sensuality/sexuality becoming a bestial thing and an abomination, our salvation as a path where we abandon all "passions" - humanity? - and thrive to achieving a sort of hesychasm, - all that, again, to me does, perhaps unfortunately, sound more and more like a weird and misleading and very harmful, repressing, killing nonsense...
Probably it's just a phase in my life, I don't know. During the Nativity Fast, I tried to be "good" and read some Scripture and at least a couple of pages from Fathers every day. For whatever reason, everything that I read made me sick to my stomach. On the last day of the Fast, when my atheist daughter and her dearly beloved atheist fiance were already with us, I read a fragment from St. Gregory Palamas where he explains Jesus's words about hating one's family and writes, (I'm paraphrasing), well, if they are good faithful Orthodox Christians, then maybe love them, but if they are unbelievers, then do what Christ says, hate them, run away from them and never look back, become a monk. My ONLY thought when I was reading that was, man, you know, GET A LIFE...
When the Fast was over, I stopped reading that "spiritual" literature and resumed reading some good fiction, and I feel so much better. The only thing that keeps eating me is that my relatives, seeing me in the last days of the Fast, concluded that I indeed became a religious nut.
Sorry for rambling and going off-topic. Perhaps I should withdraw from this forum for a while.
Excellent post, it gets the 'post of the month' nomination from me...not that my nominations get you that far.
I appreciate this post because it is honest and it resonates with me and my experiences. At times I have read various fathers such as Palamas (I try to avoid him anymore), Symeon the New Theologian, monastic fathers from the philokalia, and even Chrysostom or Paul and just thought, this is utter nonsense and that it is nonsense should be obvious to anyone willing to show one iota of objectivity. And then when I see others try to treat this nonsense (and the example you gave from Palamas is one great example) as inspired dogma I tend to ask myself, why do I even bother, I don't really share anything in common with these people, I dismiss their very weltanschauung as uninformed and absurd; why do I even bother associating with these people -- with Christianity -- even, as I often do, in name only?
On this level I can sympathize with your family and their perceptions of Christianity and their wonder as to why you bother. This has been their experience of Christianity, this has been most intelligent people's experience with Christianity; and, I'm sure, it's rather disconcerting for them to have to associate your beliefs and practices with this experience.
However, fortunately (I believe, though this is certainly a matter of personal opinion), I have experienced another side of Christianity, a side where rational people look at these absurdities written by supposedly holy men and confront them as the nonsense they are, they do not allow Christianity to be hijacked by fundamentalists and zealots. They take what is good and upright, what we can still today hold fast to in good and informed conscious, and make this the standard of the Christian faith, unafraid to confront and dismiss the sacred cows of another era that have manifested themselves as absurd today.
Then when I feel disconnected to the Church, to Christianity itself, I will go and read the truly great theologians of our Church, I will read St. John the Evangelist, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Athanasios the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and especially St. Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite; and while there are still some cultural elements from their time that one would do well to gloss over, they are fewer and further between, they are less absurd, and, more importantly, things are objectively presented as the best understanding they can put forth given the knowledge available in their day. In their writings are found gems of wisdom and thought unequaled in the ancient world. And it is because of their intellectual heritage in the Church, a heritage of learning, skepticism, and objectivity, that I am not merely willing to associate with the institution, but even take some pride in standing in the line of their intellectual tradition. While every religion has its nonsense and historical baggage acquired over centuries, if one looks deep enough they will find that Christianity has something more, it has an honesty and objectivity and intellectual tradition derived from the Ancient Greeks that is rarely found in other sets of myths, beliefs, or faiths. Whether or not this approach I attempt is valid is anyone's guess, I may have truly found gems of thought in the ancient world, then again I may just be rationalizing absurdity, but I guess no one can really for certain; but if we apply to religion the same principles that have made the sciences the great and unequaled fields they are today: objectivity, skepticism, and a willingness to change, we can certainly, at least, avoid the descent into fundamentalism.
I don't know if this post helps or makes things worse, but I believed that such a wonderfully honest post on your part merited an equally honest response.