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Author Topic: I don't want to be an atheist anymore  (Read 6671 times) Average Rating: 0
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Nathanael
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« Reply #45 on: November 07, 2012, 03:47:04 PM »

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I wanted to be a simple God-fearing Jew, but I had no models to follow.

I think that's the point. Therefore I offer the same Serpahim98 did: to check out the orthodox models, the saints. This is what captured most my heart and mind in my spiritual journey. Here I can find the fruits.
In the life of saints I have found out that they have the supreme love, a love, which cannot be topped (for example the prayer for all humankind). Especially after reading books of Saint Silouan, Elder Sophrony and Elder Porphyrios:
"When he went to the desert, sometimes for weeks he would not rise from the floor to look through the hole of his cave, whether it was day or night, but he was there, on the floor, weeping soaking a number of towels. When he became exhausted, he would sleep there for two hours, wake up and continue weeping. And this would take place for weeks at a time, without him even looking through the hole of his cave to see whether it was day or night."(During the WW II ) about Elder Sophrony

And what helped me also a lot, and it still have been doing it, is the book of Klaus Kenneth:Born to Hate, Reborn to Love. Klaus found himself on an odyssey that took him around the world several times, lured him into a vortex of pleasure and power, and initiated him into the great philosophies and religious traditions(TM, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Occultism,...) of our times. Finally he met Elder Sophrony...
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« Reply #46 on: November 08, 2012, 08:36:56 PM »

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I wanted to be a simple God-fearing Jew, but I had no models to follow.

you now have Jesus.
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« Reply #47 on: December 05, 2012, 02:56:32 PM »

An Open Letter to Orthodox Christians

Hello,

I've been posting on these forums for a little over a month now, and I've enjoyed conversing with its members. I'd like to make my formal introduction.

--- PART I: BACKGROUND ---

I was born to a Jewish mother and a gentile father (who was raised Presbyterian but stopped practicing once he reached adulthood). This, according to all Jewish authorities, makes me a Jew. Before two years ago, this did not matter to me; I lived a secular life with Christmas trees and Menorahs sitting in the same living room. By adolesence I was privy to bouts of depression, and I did not believe in God. After graduating college, I tried to make it in the big city with art, but I was soon swept by a sea of melancholy. I no longer felt there was any purpose in life, and though I did not contemplate suicide, I felt both lethargic towards my own actions and embittered towards everyone else's. What was right? What wasn't? Why is nothing working out for me?

Then, I went on a free trip to Israel as part of the Birthright program. For 10 days, I breathed in the sights and sounds of the holy land. Although I did not think it holy back then). We were chaperoned by two young rabbis from an Orthodox Jewish outreach organization.1 They tried clumsily to capture our hearts with ideas about God and the Jewish people, but no one bit -- no one, except for me.

In the Jerusalem hotel, the rabbi lent me a book to read that talked about how it's possible to live life without every knowing God, and why one should strive to know him and serve him. Suddenly, I wasn't an agnostic anymore; no, I realized that God could be explained differently than how I saw him portrayed in secular media. He was this indefinable power, master of all reality yet infinitely beyond it, controlling the world through a perfect system that I once called mere nature. He was not, as I had been led to believe, a grey-bearded man in the clouds with a suffering son who was also somehow the same person.

As the plane touched down in the states, I was changed. I began to seriously consider a god (who seemed to answer all the questions I had before), and I wanted to pursue things further. Just as I was about to claim membership at a reform synagogue, a friend stopped me and pointed me to Orthodoxy. His father was Jewish and his mother was a gentile, which meant he had to convert to earn the recognition of Orthodox authorities. Before beginning Orthodox conversion, he went through Reform and Conservative phases, until deciding that if he was going to be Jewish, he better do it all the way. And I agreed with that sentiment, so I followed him to a community for a weekend Shabbat getaway.

I was blown away by the experience. Here was a whole neighborhood turning off the electronics to eat meals together, spend time with one another, pray, and read about the awesomeness of God. I longed for that sense of community, that sense of trust that everyone seemed to have for one another. I knew I had to experience another Shabbat next Friday, but I was unable to go downtown; that's when a Jewish co-worker of mine told me about Chabad Lubavitch, another Orthodox outreach group that was in town.

I showed up twenty minutes before candle-lighting, the (not just symbolic) beginning of Shabbat. As I approached the Chabad house, I saw two young men in full beards, black coats, and fedoras. They spoke fluent English and introduced themselves. I was welcomed inside and had a wonderful time, sharing with them my stories. I felt a tinge of guilt when I left for the night in my car (a forbidden act on the Sabbath), but I came back in the morning to attend the service and learn with the rabbis.

I kept returning on Friday nights, and it wasn't long before I was sleeping over and spending the whole day at the house with the other religious Jews. I caught on quickly to the externals, and began dressing the part. I covered my head, I didn't shave, I grew out my sidelocks. In retrospect, these should be have been goals secondary to the main goal: a better understanding of God and Judaism. But I didn't want depth, I wanted a quick but total transformation. I was sick of my old, secular, relativist lifestyle. I craved order, ritual, rules, structure, discipline. I figured that the "fake it til you make it approach" would work the best; immerse yourself in the culture and it will become natural. While I did eventually develop beliefs in God and got a formal Torah education, my foundation was rocky from the start -- I wanted the routine, not the religion.

After some harrowing experiences in a religious school and the heart of the Chabad movement's Messianic members,2 I began losing my faith, although it did not happen over night. I distanced myself from the more radical Chabad and tried to live a more modern, sensible, albeit still very Orthodox life. But the curtain had been pulled; I began to see ugliness everywhere around me -- Jews hating gentiles, Jews hating other Jews, judgmental eyes, cruel teasing, slandering, self-righteousness, intellectual haughtiness. I wanted to be a simple God-fearing Jew, but I had no models to follow.

This caused my depression to act up, so much that I had to begin treatment. After a few months of medication and therapy, what I kept denying would happen happened: I became a non-believer again. It struck me one night, as I lay in bed, ill from the fever and exhausted, that I was using religion as a coping mechanism for my own inability to deal with the complexity and seeming absurdity of the world. I was diagnosed with severe OCD, so I determined that all my craving for ritual and order was a result of my disease and not my religious longing. And I was not worshipping God, but some fake God who I had created in my head, who judged me harshly and forced me to destroy myself for the sake of become a holy person.

I was pretty perturbed by the sudden shift, and I was angry for a good long while. I've been doing a lot better recently, but there's one thing I can't deny: my longing for belief.

Try as I might to accept an absurd, incomprehensible world with no answers and death at the end of everything, I cannot keep these ideas grounded. The relativism, the insistence of proofs that will never exist -- it all torments me to know end. Not because I can't accept a world like this, but because I know that there's another possibility: that God does exist, that he did create the world, that he does enter the world, and that maybe, just maybe, two thousand years ago, he became a man and died for me.

--- PART II: BELIEF? ---

I am at a crossroads: believe in a secular, uncaring universe where death is final, or believe in a God who created the universe and who will judge me after I die. I have just recently been able to accept that no definitive proof exists for either scenario, but I still cannot choose which path to go.

But here's the thing: I don't want to live in an uncaring universe. I want to believe in God who has set absolute guidelines by which to live, especially one who changed for humanity and will accept me for the flawed person I am, and not expect me to follow 613 commandments (and countless rabbinical laws and customs) in order to be "saved." I can relate to the universal message of Christianity, that we are all saved in Christ, Jews and gentiles alike. And there seems to be much more room for reconcilation with philosophy and science.3

But I also fear that wrathful beast that I once knew, who expects me to deny basic biological desires, who detests homosexuality and fornication, who is always watching and judging. Who always expects more of me and who will make me feel guilty to no end for taking it easy on myself. I don't want to go back to that, and I feel as if that fear is one of the main barriers from recovering my belief.

I'm conflicted. And so I've taken it upon myself to clear things up a bit by starting from the top, something I should have done before. I'm reading books that introduce me again, to the idea of God, this time a Christian one, and books that attempt to reconcile my moral, intellectual, and scientific objections to the Bible. I'm attending Orthodox Christian services and talking to congregants and priests (but also keeping somewhat of a distance, not wanting to be indoctrinated at an unstable state and end up not believing again later). There's a wealth of resources out there, and it's all pretty overwhelming, so I guess what I'm saying is: I need you, Orthodox Christians, and your guidance.

Now, I don't know what will come from all of this. I may decide that I can safely remain a non-believer. I may become a Christian, but not an Orthodox Christian. I may become a Muslim, or maybe even some pantheistic or nontheistic faith. I'm trying not to align myself to any one path out of the gate, and weigh the options as equally as I can, although, admittedly, since I'm posting an on Orthodox Christian forum and reading books that argue God's existence, I suppose I'm drawn to what appeals to me the most: a loving creator with an afterlife and absolute truths, and one different than the one I knew when I was Jewish.

--- PART III: QUESTIONS? ---

I would appreciate any guidance you can provide; please do not hesitate to speak what you believe is true, as I have. If you have any questions that can aid this dialogue, ask away.

---

With love,
A Love Supreme

1 Back then, I did not know there were different "levels" of Judaism--the three main ones, in order from most liberal to most fundamental, being Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox).
2 Who believe that their deceased rabbi is the one and only Messiah, and will raise from the dead to bring the Jewish people back to Israel. They would chant out, "Long live our master, our teacher, our rabbi, King Messiah, forever and ever!" during services. As a strict monotheist, this frightened me to no end and I prayed that God would forgive me for associating with such blasphemy. Of course, they have their own justifications, for which I care not anymore.
3 It was pounded into my head that I should stay away from philosophy and secular works because they'll only "confuse" me. Torah was the only thing you should spend time on

ar you my reflection or something?
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« Reply #48 on: December 06, 2012, 04:48:06 AM »

tweety234, do you have a similar background?
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tweety234
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« Reply #49 on: December 06, 2012, 10:38:00 PM »

tweety234, do you have a similar background?

Not jewish background if that is what you mean. but 90% of what you wrote in your post, have a lot to do with me. I wish not to discuss them though. I just wanted you to know you are not alone in feeling this.
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« Reply #50 on: December 22, 2012, 07:23:30 AM »

hi  Smiley
 
I am new to this board and happened upon this thread.

I don't have a jewish background in my ancestry, however I have walked a similar path to yours.

I started out with an atheistic background & got involved with judaism, eventually converting and believing quite strongly in the faith.  I would probably have been considered "conservadox" though I did dabble in the chabad movement.  However, like you, I became disillusioned by the intense xenophobia and haughtiness among jews; the issue of palestine also began to bother me greatly (to be honest I never gave it much thought when I first converted).  It was a photograph a palestinian baby decapitated by an Israeli mortar that made my heart start to die toward judaism.

Without writing a novel-- I had a number of experiences while jewish that would be considered quite profound revelatory experiences toward christianity and namely Orthodoxy.  One time when I was very ill, I "hallucinated" (or saw?) the Theotokos and Christ before me as living beings with great connection to my life and all of existence.  I began attending divine liturgy and eventually did convert with a very kind and welcoming priest.

However despite the deep experiences I had-- it's hard to describe-- it almost feels like a religious fuse in me has been burnt out.  I also am and was in a somewhat fragile state psychologically and, stepping back from it all, I begin to wonder if this obsession with religion and faith is even healthy for me on any level.

These days I swing back and forth like a pendulum.  At times I can feel god's hand beneath me and other times I have semi-atheistic thoughts.  At times i feel a strong connection to the Church and at other times I feel alienated and lost.

If I could offer practical advice-- take it easy on yourself!  Don't beat yourself up for finding yourself confused and without faith.  The yoke should be easy and light.  I think it was actually an old-time chabad writer who said something to the effect of, the line between self sacrifice and self hatred is very thin.  God may want sacrifice and discipline from us, but he doesn't want you to hate yourself.  Also be careful about finding "the right book" or "the right author" who will inspire you.  Your belief will come from inside of you, not without.  Remember St. Mary of Egypt found faith without a single book in her possession.  This is something I've had to be careful with, as I constantly think, "Oh this will inspire me, surely this will inspire me, or that, or that..." when what I should be doing is opening my heart to God.

I hope some of this helps...  Smiley
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« Reply #51 on: December 22, 2012, 01:32:33 PM »

welcome to the forums, islandbird!
interesting points.
although i would say that in the orthodox tradition, that self sacrifice is not close to self hatred.
IF you are sacrificing yourself in order to grow closer to God, then that closeness will fill you with love for the whole of creation, including yourself.
God does not hate anyone. so if i hate myself, i am saying that i am smarter than God and i know that He is wrong and it is better for me to hate myself.
of course, i am not smarter than God, so i do not hate myself.

but some people feel driven to achieve more and more. maybe they want to look very spiritual and to do more and fast more than those around them.
this is why prayer and fasting should follow the advice of a priest, who can tell you the right amount of prayer and fasting for you; understanding that you can be tempted to be proud and do too much.
so if someone does too much activity out of the wrong motives, this person can become tired and angry and this can lead to hatred.
our emotions are often like a pendulum, so we should not rely on them.
the orthodox spiritual discipline teaches us to pray when we feel like it and when we don't feel like it, to attend church when we think we are successful, and when we are weighed down by doubts and fears.

may God guide all of you who are spiritually searching, and may you hear His 'still small voice' calling you ever deeper into His perfect peace.
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« Reply #52 on: December 22, 2012, 04:00:05 PM »

Maybe the risk of self hatred is especially great when a person struggles with depression.  I think I once heard depression described as anger turned inward.  If a person is struggling spiritually on top of that, the mixture can be toxic! 
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« Reply #53 on: December 23, 2012, 12:33:39 AM »

lovesupreme, the amount of self-awareness that you have is a great strength.  If I had that I would be much better off.  Many Orthodox writers have stressed the importance of knowing one's self.  My one word of caution is that any great strength can become a weakness as well.  Be aware of yourself without over-analyzing yourself into a state of spiritual paralysis. 
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« Reply #54 on: January 01, 2013, 02:01:02 AM »

Gaze into hell but do not despair.

The same can be said of mirrors.
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« Reply #55 on: January 01, 2013, 07:53:42 AM »

ha ha!
good adaptation of a famous quote.
i am quite shortsighted and usually look in the mirror without my glasses on so i can't see how rough i look!

best not to look in the mirror, often, it can make you vain and proud or sad about your physical state.
but it best to concentrate on your spiritual state, and look in the 'mirror' of the Bible often to make that grow beautiful.
looking at Jesus, you can not despair
 Smiley
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« Reply #56 on: January 01, 2013, 01:42:01 PM »

Welcome, islandbird. I'm fascinated to meet someone else from a similar background.

I started out with an atheistic background & got involved with judaism, eventually converting and believing quite strongly in the faith.  I would probably have been considered "conservadox" though I did dabble in the chabad movement.  However, like you, I became disillusioned by the intense xenophobia and haughtiness among jews; the issue of palestine also began to bother me greatly (to be honest I never gave it much thought when I first converted).  It was a photograph a palestinian baby decapitated by an Israeli mortar that made my heart start to die toward judaism.

There was always a hierarchy with the Orthodox Jews, especially with Chabad. They were at the top, then there were other Hasidic groups, then there were the other Orthodox, then the Conservative, the Reform, and finally the goyim. We just had to wait for Moshiach to come so that we could resume Temple worship and become the light of the world again. Anti-semitic extremists are not too far off when they say that Jews want to "take over the world," except I would argue that this is only an incredibly small subset of Jews, and it's not really a "hostile takeover," more like a belief that God wants them to lead the world in worship. I guess my point is that there is some truth to an anti-semite's ridiculous bigoted claims.

Without writing a novel-- I had a number of experiences while jewish that would be considered quite profound revelatory experiences toward christianity and namely Orthodoxy.  One time when I was very ill, I "hallucinated" (or saw?) the Theotokos and Christ before me as living beings with great connection to my life and all of existence.  I began attending divine liturgy and eventually did convert with a very kind and welcoming priest.

I had a similar revelation. I was in a therapy session, revisiting the unpleasantness of sitting around the Shabbat table, hearing Chabad rail on the goyim, Muslims, the secular world. All of a sudden, Jesus came into my visualization and told me that I was cured of my anger towards religion, and that I can now continue to pursue God. His Love washed over me and I broke down and bawled for a solid 15 minutes. When I went to go wash my face, I immediately thought that it must have been my imagination, a form of wish fulfillment. But I had never cried like that before, and the image of Christ felt like it came both from within me but also from beyond me. I guess I had a decision to make; accept it as a sign from God or forever live in doubt and skepticism, never moving from my place. I chose the former, although sometimes, I forget...

However despite the deep experiences I had-- it's hard to describe-- it almost feels like a religious fuse in me has been burnt out.  I also am and was in a somewhat fragile state psychologically and, stepping back from it all, I begin to wonder if this obsession with religion and faith is even healthy for me on any level.

These days I swing back and forth like a pendulum.  At times I can feel god's hand beneath me and other times I have semi-atheistic thoughts.  At times i feel a strong connection to the Church and at other times I feel alienated and lost.

I am the same way. Just yesterday I was an atheist in the morning but a believer by nightfall. I often scoff at the ridiculous claims of the religion, and the numerous opportunities for forgery and delusion. But then there are moments in my life, like the one above, that really shake me to my core and keep me on the trail to God, even though I toss and turn and fall down countless times. I question the healthiness of my obsession with faith, and I guess I make decisions that will purposely harm my faith so that I don't get "too involved." God really is about having a relationship with Him!

To echo your own advice, we who are psychologically and spiritually sensitive should not be too hard on ourselves. Our minds are sharp, but we can also cut ourselves on them by overthinking, overrationalizing ourselves into a complete existential deadlock. We should continue to pray and grow, accept any steps backwards as genuine steps forward, and practice acts of kindness and sacrifice to others. In other words, live the faith and when our minds search for a way out.

---

lovesupreme, the amount of self-awareness that you have is a great strength.  If I had that I would be much better off.  Many Orthodox writers have stressed the importance of knowing one's self.  My one word of caution is that any great strength can become a weakness as well.  Be aware of yourself without over-analyzing yourself into a state of spiritual paralysis. 

Thank you. I acknowledge that my self-awareness can and does become a powerful foe against my spiritual growth. Again, just yesterday I underwent some major spiritual paralysis, and I'm still very doubtful and hesitant about so many things. I think a certain amount of doubt is healthy, but you should carry it with you as you move forward, not let it anchor you in on place, or God forbid pull you backward needlessly.
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« Reply #57 on: January 01, 2013, 03:03:49 PM »

Lovesupreme,


Are you able to fast from all atheist material(books, talk shows, forums.....etc) for a few years? If so then your atheism will naturally leave you. But if you still have a desire to dabble in it then it may never leave you.

Pray for me and I'll pray for you!
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« Reply #58 on: January 01, 2013, 04:00:43 PM »

Lovesupreme,


Are you able to fast from all atheist material(books, talk shows, forums.....etc) for a few years? If so then your atheism will naturally leave you. But if you still have a desire to dabble in it then it may never leave you.

Pray for me and I'll pray for you!

No, to accomplish such a feat would be solely by the grace of God. Even if I abstained from things that were overtly atheist (e.g. Richard Dawkins) the other worldly material in which I indulge would inculcate in me doubts and skepticism. I lived for a time consuming only religious things, and it turned out to be a prideful, obsessive disaster. I will not, perhaps out of stubbornness, become a zealot who closes himself out from the world and all its strange ideas. Perhaps that marks me as forever condemned. Lord have mercy.
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« Reply #59 on: January 01, 2013, 04:02:26 PM »

Lovesupreme,


Are you able to fast from all atheist material(books, talk shows, forums.....etc) for a few years? If so then your atheism will naturally leave you. But if you still have a desire to dabble in it then it may never leave you.

Pray for me and I'll pray for you!

No, to accomplish such a feat would be solely by the grace of God. Even if I abstained from things that were overtly atheist (e.g. Richard Dawkins) the other worldly material in which I indulge would inculcate in me doubts and skepticism. I lived for a time consuming only religious things, and it turned out to be a prideful, obsessive disaster. I will not, perhaps out of stubbornness, become a zealot who closes himself out from the world and all its strange ideas. Perhaps that marks me as forever condemned. Lord have mercy.
Just curious: does reading Dawkins make you more compassionate? Or does it sharpen your intellect?
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« Reply #60 on: January 01, 2013, 04:04:07 PM »

Just curious: does reading Dawkins make you more compassionate? Or does it sharpen your intellect?

The exact opposite of both.
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« Reply #61 on: January 01, 2013, 04:16:10 PM »

Just curious: does reading Dawkins make you more compassionate? Or does it sharpen your intellect?

The exact opposite of both.

I used Dawkins as an example. I actually don't read his works anymore, nor do I think his arguments are all that persuasive. He should stick to studying genetics. I would say that his scientific writing could sharpen one's intellect, but it hardly makes one more compassionate. He has a materialist worldview, something to which I neither subscribe nor disregard entirely.

I suppose I seek an out of religious life because I still am doubtful of its fruits or worth (that is, I still am doubtful if it is real in the absolute sense or in the  more "reasonable" relative-mythical sense). I seek ways to confirm my biases (formed from previous experiences) so that I can exit the path of virtue without reservation or guilt. I am fairly certain that there will be no earth-shaking argument that makes me a 100% confident non-believer again, but I will search for the weak droppings of self-absorbed sophists like Dawkins if only so that I don't feel like I'm just a cog in humanity's wish-fulfillment machine. I don't like the feeling of being entrapped in a lie, forced to give up my life for something imaginary, so I search for ways to confirm that bias. However, once I remove from me the yoke of religion, I find the world empty and devoid of meaning, and so, back on it goes, until I feel oppressed once more and "liberate" myself again. Ad nauseum.

... Yep.  Tongue
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« Reply #62 on: January 01, 2013, 04:18:23 PM »

Just curious: does reading Dawkins make you more compassionate? Or does it sharpen your intellect?

The exact opposite of both.

I used Dawkins as an example. I actually don't read his works anymore, nor do I think his arguments are all that persuasive. He should stick to studying genetics. I would say that his scientific writing could sharpen one's intellect, but it hardly makes one more compassionate. He has a materialist worldview, something to which I neither subscribe nor disregard entirely.

I suppose I seek an out of religious life because I still am doubtful of its fruits or worth (that is, I still am doubtful if it is real in the absolute sense or in the  more "reasonable" relative-mythical sense). I seek ways to confirm my biases (formed from previous experiences) so that I can exit the path of virtue without reservation or guilt. I am fairly certain that there will be no earth-shaking argument that makes me a 100% confident non-believer again, but I will search for the weak droppings of self-absorbed sophists like Dawkins if only so that I don't feel like I'm just a cog in humanity's wish-fulfillment machine. I don't like the feeling of being entrapped in a lie, forced to give up my life for something imaginary, so I search for ways to confirm that bias. However, once I remove from me the yoke of religion, I find the world empty and devoid of meaning, and so, back on it goes, until I feel oppressed once more and "liberate" myself again. Ad nauseum.

... Yep.  Tongue
So, you don't get a sense of compassion, nor of intellectual acuity, from reading these books, but you do get a sense of freedom permeated with meaninglessness?
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"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." -- Mohandas Gandhi
Y dduw bo'r diolch.
lovesupreme
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« Reply #63 on: January 01, 2013, 04:20:08 PM »

I suppose that would be a fair assessment.
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« Reply #64 on: January 01, 2013, 04:47:36 PM »

The bottom line is this: I do not have the resolve to commit to the path that God (or perhaps my own imaginary God) has set before me. If that were the case, I would truly care about what I let into my senses and my mind. I would not become a monastic overnight, but I would turn away from media that is blatantly secular, sensual, and overall meaningless. I wouldn't listen only to Byzantine chants or read only religious texts, but I would probably trade death metal in for Lutheran classical, and The Atheist Manifesto (which is a really stupid book) for The Brothers Karamazov. I would probably not spend my free time playing video games and watching old re-runs of the Simpsons, but instead try to paths to fellowship with other human beings.

Right now, and I do mean right now, because the strength of my convictions has proven to be permeable, I do not have enough faith in Holy Orthodoxy to move my life in that direction fully. I continue to read, explore, pray, attend services, but I have successfully compartmentalized that part of my life, to the point that its tenants haunt me while still having no real effect on my actual being.

I do not wish to pursue this world, as it has let me down every time. But I cannot accept fully that there is a meaning to it all, and a lifestyle to which that meaning reaches its conclusion.
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« Reply #65 on: January 01, 2013, 04:53:57 PM »

The bottom line is this: I do not have the resolve to commit to the path that God (or perhaps my own imaginary God) has set before me. If that were the case, I would truly care about what I let into my senses and my mind. I would not become a monastic overnight, but I would turn away from media that is blatantly secular, sensual, and overall meaningless. I wouldn't listen only to Byzantine chants or read only religious texts, but I would probably trade death metal in for Lutheran classical, and The Atheist Manifesto (which is a really stupid book) for The Brothers Karamazov. I would probably not spend my free time playing video games and watching old re-runs of the Simpsons, but instead try to paths to fellowship with other human beings.

Hey, I am not an atheist and still play video games, seldomly "fellowship" with other people, read literature and listen to non-ecclesiastical music. You don't have to give all this up.
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« Reply #66 on: January 01, 2013, 05:59:54 PM »

The bottom line is this: I do not have the resolve to commit to the path that God (or perhaps my own imaginary God) has set before me. If that were the case, I would truly care about what I let into my senses and my mind. I would not become a monastic overnight,

Why are you bringing monasticism into your struggle?

but I would turn away from media that is blatantly secular, sensual, and overall meaningless. I wouldn't listen only to Byzantine chants or read only religious texts, but I would probably trade death metal in for Lutheran classical, and The Atheist Manifesto (which is a really stupid book) for The Brothers Karamazov. I would probably not spend my free time playing video games and watching old re-runs of the Simpsons, but instead try to paths to fellowship with other human beings.

Who told you that you had to give up all these things?

Right now, and I do mean right now, because the strength of my convictions has proven to be permeable, I do not have enough faith in Holy Orthodoxy to move my life in that direction fully. I continue to read, explore, pray, attend services, but I have successfully compartmentalized that part of my life, to the point that its tenants haunt me while still having no real effect on my actual being.

The Orthodox Church has a lot to absorb and the absorption takes time.  You're struggling and your own demons are pushing you away from the good.

I do not wish to pursue this world, as it has let me down every time. But I cannot accept fully that there is a meaning to it all, and a lifestyle to which that meaning reaches its conclusion.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say.   Huh
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« Reply #67 on: January 01, 2013, 07:14:20 PM »

I'm not sure what you're trying to say.   Huh

Neither do I.  Shocked
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« Reply #68 on: January 01, 2013, 08:49:28 PM »

I'm not sure what you're trying to say.   Huh

Neither do I.  Shocked

Even though we don't seem to understand what you're saying; you are saying a lot:

I do not wish to pursue this world, as it has let me down every time. - sounds like a cry for help.

But I cannot accept fully that there is a meaning to it all - there is meaning albeit that is clouded by your despair.

a lifestyle to which that meaning reaches its conclusion - I'm concerned about that statement.   Undecided
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« Reply #69 on: January 03, 2013, 02:07:44 AM »

I appreciate your concern and I would agree with your assessments. I wrote this in my journal today. Perhaps it can better explain how I feel:

I desire God, but I am skeptical about the validity of that desire. I acknowledge that to be completely skeptical is to accept nothing, including the idea that one can be skeptical about an issue. Skepticism, when carried out to its extreme, is untenable. I ultimately act because of faith, but my faith is weak. I consider that, being one prone to obsessions and depressions, I cling to religion like so many others have before me. It provides a fantasy of calm, and a fabricated purpose to a world wrapped in chaos. People have proven to believe in some truly bizarre things, some by which we have enough “faith” to discard as absolutely false. I do not think myself above this hysteria, which is why I am always on guard from being ensnared in mass delusion and groupthink. The Christian message I approach with the utmost caution. I imagine the most extreme perversion of Christianity, such as a suicide cult, and superimpose the whole of Christendom on top of it. Yes, Christianity, if lived “as it ought to be lived” can be a beneficent force in one’s life, but that does not mean that it is absolutely not the product of some hopeful messianic Jews, who two centuries ago clung to the memory of their persecuted leader, believing he would rise again in a short time. Then, throughout the centuries, as their position became more and more untenable, their successors fashioned elaborate ideologies, which they portrayed as “eternal teachings of the Church.” Now, so many things stand in opposition to the Church. Is this truly the power of Satan, or is the fantasy fading? Modern apologists write off such things as evolution, but would an early Christian regard it as anything other than absolute heresy, and any attempts to reconcile it with the faith as equally misguided?

   Even if I am to draw to God, to set aside these fears and live in faith, my troubles are far from over. For I think in terms of black and white, and if I am not absolutely for something, then I am diametrically opposed to it. To speak practically, I cannot reconcile listening to secular music with living a religious life. Every time I turn to something that does not possess the character of holiness (admittedly a character I myself perceive, and not necessarily a holiness inherent to the thing), I am struck with an unimaginable guilt, that I am not living to my potential, that I am weak, that I have positioned myself 180 degrees away from God. I must spend my money only on the necessities and on charity. I must consume only things that will draw me nearer to God, anything, even “harmless diversion” is spiritual sabotage from the lower self, and perhaps from the Adversary himself. Realizing this harsh dichotomy, I become angry and defiant. I think, no, I will not succumb to this dualism. I will not see the world as such. And so to compensate, I do much worse: I indulge in things that are purposefully harmful for my soul. Violent and sexual media, and the flippant and blasphemous words of sophomoric academics who worship relativism and hedonism, who sling arrows that, while never striking their target, confuse and disorient me as the observer. Soon I am living two lives: a holy one and a wordily one, and I can no longer reconcile the two. So I despair and wish to find myself a master, and with the confusion set in, I turn to what makes the most sense to my senses: that there is no God and that there is no rhyme or reason to it all, and that I must indulge in the false hope of tasting even the slightest absolution.
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« Reply #70 on: January 03, 2013, 03:34:18 PM »

you sound a bit like saint paul.
in romans 7:7-25 he describes his own struggle with his darker desires.
please read the whole passage to understand his struggle.
in verse 23 he complains of 'another law' which brings him into captivity to the law of sin which works within him.

remember he arranged for very many people to be tortured and killed for their religious beliefs, so it is unlikely that you have done anything worse than he did.
he is truly someone who knows what it is to turn away from serious crime and to fight to stay close to God.

in verse 24 he cries out 'who will deliver me from this body of death?'
possibly even hating his own body and wishing to be released, but realising also that suicide does not, in fact, result in release from the dark forces which attack him.

the answer to his distress comes in verse 25: 'i thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!'
it is the forgiveness and relationship with God that we can all obtain through faith and confession in the divinity, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which frees him from the struggle.

as romans 8:1 explains: 'there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit' (meaning the Holy Spirit of God).
forgiveness from God and continuing to repent and turn from our sins frees us from the evil grip of satan who wants us to enter his spiral of destruction.

for more information on this, read the book of Romans and the book of James.
may God guide you and give you peace.
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« Reply #71 on: January 04, 2013, 05:49:22 PM »

lovesupreme,

When I was younger I over indulged the drama of MY "spiritual search" never noticing the arrogance involved in my unquestioned assumption that it was up to ME and MY intellect to decide what truth is AS IF truth could only be what I finally decided it was.

Please consider there actually is a truth beyond your own intellect and in relation to which you necessarily ARE something regardless of what you think.  God is the absolute truth and we become grievously wrong by denying it.  Those who are blessed and humble enough to realize the enormity of this mistake can seek and will find forgiveness through Christ.

If you do not love God more than you love playing at being God by endlessly deciding if He exists then you might in effect be rejecting God... but one way or the other you decide... keep flipping the coin - the fate of your immortal soul is in the balance and your body will soon die.

I know this might seem stark but it's the best I could do...  May the Lord have mercy on us both.
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lovesupreme
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« Reply #72 on: January 05, 2013, 05:55:38 AM »

I may be arrogant and delusional, but I don't think I've ever believed that my intellect determines what reality is. I do believe in an absolute truth that is beyond what I can know. My doubts, when they arise, have to do with Christianity's claims.

When you say "the fate of your immortal soul is in the balance," this is under the assumption that there is a God, and He is the God of Christianity. I would very much like that to be the case, but I also would very much not like the entire basis of my life to be a lie. You're correct; I "might in effect be rejecting God" with this constant oscillation between belief and disbelief. I risk my immortal soul every moment I choose to distance myself from God... but the actual danger exists only if the Christian God exists and demands what we believe He demands.

Do you understand how all these words of caution and rebuke can seem ridiculous when one believes that there is no God? You can't just say to this person "Even though you don't believe it, it's true!" and expect him to say "Oh, I stand corrected. Even though there are infinite possible things beyond my knowledge, I should believe that the one true thing that is beyond my knowledge is the Christian God." It's easy to admit that you're ignorant, but it's difficult to believe that what you're ignorant of is a very specific thing, and that you should go along with it anyway.

Oh man, it's late and I'm just performing sophomoric, self-defeating mental gymnastics, and falling down a lot. I am a fool. Good bye.
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« Reply #73 on: January 05, 2013, 01:45:35 PM »

lovesupreme,

For myself I think the case for Christianity is strong enough that no one needs to feel intellectually ashamed to believe it.  If you want to disbelieve it you will find whatever arguments you need for that.  It seems to me a person's heart decides and the intellectual justifications come after the fact.
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« Reply #74 on: March 13, 2013, 10:16:50 PM »

After a few more months of searching, I've made my decision. God willing, I will be baptized and received into the church on Holy Saturday, May 4th.

Please keep me in your prayers. Thank you all.
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« Reply #75 on: March 13, 2013, 10:44:16 PM »

Congratulations!!  Smiley
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« Reply #76 on: March 13, 2013, 11:12:30 PM »

After a few more months of searching, I've made my decision. God willing, I will be baptized and received into the church on Holy Saturday, May 4th.

Please keep me in your prayers. Thank you all.

please pray for me too, brother ...

Glory to God  !    Smiley
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« Reply #77 on: March 14, 2013, 06:54:08 PM »

many years! may God give u great peace.
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« Reply #78 on: March 14, 2013, 07:01:39 PM »

Many years!  Smiley
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« Reply #79 on: March 23, 2013, 01:40:24 PM »

Thanks all. I have to say that the Forgiveness service last Sunday was particularly powerful (going around the church, asking each person for forgiveness and embracing them with the response "God forgives"). I am eager yet sober about becoming a full member of my parish and the Church as a whole.
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« Reply #80 on: March 23, 2013, 09:04:51 PM »

Congratulations!
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« Reply #81 on: March 23, 2013, 09:25:10 PM »

After a few more months of searching, I've made my decision. God willing, I will be baptized and received into the church on Holy Saturday, May 4th.

Please keep me in your prayers. Thank you all.

  Smiley Smiley Smiley
 Congratulations!  Wonderful, wonderful news!!
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« Reply #82 on: March 30, 2013, 12:13:53 AM »

I'm not an atheist, I just disbelieve in a lotta gods
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« Reply #83 on: April 29, 2013, 11:54:48 PM »

Please pray for me as the Lord prepares me for baptism. I will be doing my "life confession" tomorrow afternoon...
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« Reply #84 on: April 30, 2013, 12:51:17 AM »

Please pray for me as the Lord prepares me for baptism. I will be doing my "life confession" tomorrow afternoon...
God be with you!  Smiley
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« Reply #85 on: April 30, 2013, 08:33:08 AM »

May God bless you and guide you lovesupreme. And may he grant you many years.
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« Reply #86 on: April 30, 2013, 09:14:45 AM »

Lord Have Mercy Lord Have Mercy Lord Have Mercy
Most Holy Theotokos Save Us
Saint Silouan Pray For Us

Dear lovesupreme,

May it be blessed! 

Love, elephant
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« Reply #87 on: May 02, 2013, 01:31:04 AM »

Anyone who uses a profile picture of John Coltrane is 'friend' of mine - seeing as though I am a 'jazz' enthusiast..... And becoming Orthodox is indeed a 'long' journey of self discovery. I went from Islam (Sunni) to atheist to Orthodoxy - a 40 year road. Yet I no longer thirst for God. For He is quinching my every longing.
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« Reply #88 on: May 05, 2013, 12:35:07 PM »

All -

Glory to God in the highest!

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« Reply #89 on: May 05, 2013, 12:45:07 PM »

Congrats!  God grant you many years!
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