Sometimes when I hear various religious concepts, which are just human concepts, I internally feel like my younger son who has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS) - a form of high functioning Autism, Not Otherwise Specified. I have watched my son over the years and sometimes I have thought, “I feel like he acts” as he does his frustrated and confused behaviours concerning the external world around him. For years now, I get this dark void in my mind concerning various religious concepts and cannot help but think “It makes no sense. That makes no sense. You don’t make sense.” Sometimes I feel like I could almost rock back and forth as I think in my mind such statements. Abraxas, of the formally titled “Coffee, Cigarettes, and Gnosis” podcast ( http://www.thegodabovegod.com ) in his interview with Tom Harpur, played a sound clip towards the start of the show that said, “Some people lose their faith because heaven shows them too little, but how many lose their faith because heaven shows them too much?” With my years of research on the subject, I too could ask the very same question, because in a sense I was “shown too much”.
I guess one could say I am the ultimate “agnostic Gnostic”, as Robert Price describes in his essay “The Agnostic a Gnostic” ( http://www.robertmprice.
The agnostic knows, though perhaps he wishes he did not, that the creator God was himself created as a stop-gap measure by human inquisitiveness that had no way of ascertaining the facts, and is held onto by those too lazy to learn the facts of science once they are available. Now he knows that this God was a reification of human society, a scare-figment to get people to internalize the all-seeing eye of peer approval and disapproval so as not to dare to break the laws, and to fear eternal hell even if he should commit the crime and evade human scrutiny. Now she knows that this fairy tale seems true to the mass of humanity for poor psychological reasons, the mass mentality of the herd to which we delight to belong because we dread thinking for ourselves and the alienation we know it would bring.””
This is the definition I use because I am not a sophomoric agnostic, but an educated one, who took “the leap of reason”. I not only took it, but I was forced to take it due to what I learned and if there was a sub-category of Humanism call Gnostic/Agnostic Humanism; I would claim it in a heartbeat. I have studied psychology, as well as various religions and mythologies long enough to know that what humans call god are all just various human concepts and none of the concepts really are God. Sometimes I do feel like “a fish flapping on the wooden boards” too, because IF there is a god, it is beyond anything the human mind can conceive and no attempt to describe it describes it, whatever it might be. No, effort to give me a mental picture of a god will give me any picture either, because it’s just a human concept and not reality.
One Tao author once wrote something like, “To describe God is to not describe God at all.” So when one speaks of God, heaven, hell, “the Path of Salvation”, “being saved”, and other religious terms, I get this vast void in my mind because such concepts make absolutely no sense in my mind. I feel as though there is something wrong with me because I cannot comprehend their concepts. Yet I know, those concepts do not exist or rather, IF there is a God, their concept is only a very small piece of the whole, whatever the whole is and they are like the blind men and the elephant. So, I am right back to confused mental darkness, because no human concept makes any sense.
The whole, for all I know, could be “the Laws of Physics” as Carl Sagan once implied when he said, “The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.” It could be Acharya’s concept of it being the Cosmos, yet that concept brings an image of a Black Hole to my mind. It might be John Shelby Spong’s concept of ruach, the wind, and one experiences this God, not explains it. These concepts would make a little more sense than some sky deity, but we are right back to neuro-chemistry, which is part of the human condition, as well as physics and other sciences. However, if one means something chemical in nature, that is part of and within everything and everyone within the universe, then there might be such a thing, again on the level of science. The Gospel of Thomas sayings 3 and 77 suggest that the kingdom is right here on earth and God/Jesus is within everything and everyone on earth. To me that suggests, whatever it is, it is within everything and everyone, yet all translates into the Hindu words “Neti, Neti”, “not this, not that”, because again those are all human concepts and do not mean anything nor do they actually describe anything. At the same time, because humans do not have a complete understanding, via science, of the universe or even themselves, the whole could be the universe and humans’ ability to discover things through science has not advanced enough to get beyond superstitious pieces of the whole.
“The Path of Salvation” is another one of these concepts, which I cannot even begin to explain to someone, because it makes no sense, and I remember a phone conversation I had with my mother recently, in which I told her, “I have no concept of “The Path of Salvation”. This was after my grandmother’s funeral and my step-cousin’s memorial, in which her preacher preached on the topic at both events. She was all enthused that the preacher preached on it again at Mike’s memorial, especially since he had committed suicide, until I said I had no concept of it, and then she was perplexed. She could not fathom how I could not have any concept of such doctrine. In my mind, my step-cousin committed suicide because that church had been after him to “turn his life over to God/Jesus” and they had confused the hell out of him so much that he lost all sanity. Such religious concepts, which were created by humans, make absolutely no sense at all and could very well drive one to insanity.
Heaven and Hell are two other concepts that I believe IF there are such places, which I seriously doubt, are beyond anything the human mind can conceive. My mother seems infamous for saying “It would not be heaven without our pets.” What? We have that here. How is that any different? How does that make living this life, the only one we know for sure we have, any different? She is describing what we have already, right here on earth. So, why doesn’t she enjoy this life and all that she has, instead of expecting some sort of unreal afterlife? Again, it makes no sense.
Next there is the ultimate in insanity, which makes absolutely no sense and one would have to have a mental illness to understand it- Rapture theology, which Karen Armstrong would call “bad theology”. Do not even get me started on how that bizarre concept makes no sense at all, not even to my son with autism, and only leads to the REAL god the believers of this theology worship- a freakin’ NUKE, as in nuclear war. George Carlin once asked something like, “if people believe in angels, why don’t they buy the f***in’ zombie package too? Where are all the zombies?” Well there is the “f***in’ zombie package” for him, WMDs included! Now there is some scary, screwed up hog manure for you that poisons young minds and is even more bizarre than “the Path of Salvation”! Now there had to be many years of doing huge amounts of red and yellow shrooms to come up with that bizarro horror flick. That one has nothing on “The Living Dead” movies and as far as I am concerned, Bill Maher could make a great movie out that horror story. It would be funnier than “Scary Movie”, but unless you want another rant, let’s move on...
There are other bizarre concepts in Christianity and religion in general, but I think the ultimate oddity is “What would cause you to believe in God?” I cannot help but shake my head as my mind whirls in a blank void, “What is god?” God is a human concept and it is different for everyone, including and ironically for some atheists too, in part because some respond with “Define God”. IF the person asking means their concept of a deity, my answer is nothing because it is a human concept and not an actual deity. IF there is a god, I do not know what it is, but I know what it is not and it is not all the various concepts humans have conceived of over the centuries. IF they mean something that is numinous (definition #3 in Webster’s Dictionary), transcendent, a feeling of being at one with their environment, I cannot disagree, BUT I can explain said deity away with neurology. This neurology, or rather brain chemistry, IS within every living being on earth and numinous feelings are one of many things that make us human. Yet this is not God, for if it were, scientists might have stumbled on to it by now. Such a question, which I’ve but not been asked yet, makes me want to say if ever asked, “Bury yourself with your cell phone, give me a call when you find out for sure, and maybe then I’ll believe. If God is all you say, then He has my number.”
Back to the Gospel of Thomas, for purpose of concepts, saying (3) Jesus said, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty." What is above us is only the sky, below us is the earth, and we do not live in a three tier universe as Christianity suggests or even a seven tier one as Norse mythology suggested. Mental health wise, it is good to know ourselves, but knowing ourselves does not mean anything supernatural or belief thereof. In this respect, this Gnostic saying makes almost as much sense as the Tao saying above. Saying (77) states, “Jesus said, "It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the all. From me did the all come forth, and unto me did the all extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there." Could this be some chemical element? Maybe, but what would that be? Hydrogen, which is the very basic element on the elemental chart? Is it the sun? For centuries people worshipped the sun, that light which is above us, and called it by various names and even today there are mythicists who suggest that Jesus, Krishna, and Buddha are “The Suns of God” and there is some evidence that this is an apt description of various religious. John 8:12 suggests with the saying, “I am the light of the world”, God is the sun. Even John 3:16-21 suggests this too by the time you get down to verse 21, “but he who does what is true, comes into the light”. The sun is vital for life and contains hydrogen, as well as other elements. If it is the sun, then it is no god at all, but rather something that is part of nature and not supernatural. Thus, that deity disappears with all the various volcano gods thanks to science. If “the all” is the universe, or the Cosmos, then Carl Sagan’s statement could apply quite well and we are left with the Laws of Physics, once again leaving any god concept behind with the volcano gods of the past.
History has shown that the behavior of humans can do great harm to the one who does not conform to the tribal mentality, so it can be a scary thing even to admit one has no concept of said ideology or deity. So going to a religious text does not clarify anything and it does not mean I don’t understand the text. I understand the words all too well. I have studied many texts for years and am quite able to interpret the words as well as anyone else. Even so, the concept one has of a deity and/or religious ideology, Biblical or non-Biblical, I am left with a vast dark void of meaninglessness and the majority of human concepts about heaven, hell, salvation, and God make no sense, in light of science. The thing is these concepts, more numerous than I have listed here, are part of the human condition, in which humans contrived various definitions, everything from the Tao to the Bible to other religious texts, so they could explain the unexplainable before we had science as we know it today. In some cases, the concepts are also meant to control members of a group and scare them into conformity, which in today’s society is sad because such things should not be. Freedom of thought and unique individuality are too important to have a group mentality or concept enforced on someone.
I have no concept of God, heaven, hell, especially with knowledge of all the various written human concepts, and for all I know, science is right about when we die. We become plant food, which is a fitting end for a vegetarian, like myself, in this vast eco-system that recycles itself. However, this recycling does not mean reincarnation. Far from it. It does not mean that the earth is the mother of all creation either, even though the planet earth is important to our survival, just as the sun is. I would not even begin to describe God, even if I believed one or more existed, because to do so would not even begin to describe the great vastness of the universe, which also has a profound effect on humans. As Bob Price says in his essay, “It is of such knowledge that the Te Tao Ching warns, “Those who know don’t say. Those who say don’t know.” I do not tell theists who say they know what God is that they are wrong, but yet, with what I do know, I know they know not what they are talking about.
Some theists, if they knew this about me and most likely are Fundamentalists like my mother, would say that all my study of psychology, religion, and mythology has led me to a state of confusion. However, I know, as the Gnostics said, what they describe and worship is only the demiurge and is not God. This demiurge did not create anything. Rather humans created it in order to explain the unexplainable, with an eternal world of very human ideas, and the only ones who are the autonomous creative force and decisive power are the humans. No I am not committing hubris by insinuating that humans are gods themselves. Humans are not gods either, because they are far from being powerful, except for when they attempt to impose their god and/or religious concepts, which they created, on others.
This tribal mentality is a powerful force in and of itself. It instills overwhelming fear of the rest of the tribe because the individual has no clue what the rest of the tribe would do to them if they admitted they do not believe and/or have no concept of the god the others speak of. History has shown that the behavior of humans can do great harm to the one who does not conform to the tribal mentality, so it can be a scary thing even to admit one has no concept of said ideology or deity. I have yet to meet anyone who has not been affected in some manner by tribal concepts, because such a force does not leave any human mind untouched.
However, I do not believe I am confused when I say, “IF there is a god, I do not know what it is, but I know what it is not and it is not all these human concepts”. As for heaven and hell, I do not believe I am confused there either, especially when I hold true to the scientific knowledge we have about death and do not even attempt to conceive of anything beyond the grave. Even so, I do find it comforting that, after a lifetime of taking from the earth, I will give back to the earth after my death, even if it is in the form of plant food. I cannot comprehend a deity that would punish me for saying it is not this or that, yet I do not know what it is or even if it does exist. I have done a lifetime of studying and researching that has lead me to the conclusion that all these human concepts only exist in the minds of those who create them and IF per chance there is a god, it is part of everything that is found within the universe and not something out there that is apart from everything in the universe. I just do not know what it would be, IF it exists, and I would not dare attempt to create any human concept of it.
So I sometimes live with feelings that something is wrong with me because I have this incomprehension of various human religious concepts and the word “God” or alike terms leaves me with a mental blank, especially if I do not know what the person’s very human concept of a deity is. At the same time, I know these human concepts do not exist, which makes the black hole of incomprehension that I experience in my mind justifiable. Do I have some sort of gnosis? I do not know, would never say I do either, but I know what people perceive as a deity is not and wish they shared my knowledge. I also think that what Robert Price says in his essay is an apt description of myself. As Bob Price wrote in his essay, “See what I mean? The Gnostic knows that the world system the average believer takes for granted is a sham, a scheme, a show, and like the agnostic, he no longer wants to be grist for the mill of the Powers that rule this age, who count on his loyal allegiance to keep the scam going. What the Gnostic knows and what the agnostic knows is identical. Only the agnostic has managed to get beyond mythic consciousness.”
Yet, I do not dare tell people what I have learned, that I cannot believe in said concept, why I cannot, and that it has led me to not only not having any religious concepts, but also no comprehension of religious concepts. If I were to dare admit having no belief in a said concept it would get me the cruel hateful tribal mentality, in which some would blame my education for the lack of belief. Even “[The Gnostics] knew that to broadcast their message indescriminantly would be to cast pearls before swine, and that if they tried it, they might wind up being trodden underfoot, persecuted. [sic] (Robert Price, The Agnostic a Gnostic)”. I cannot share what I have learned, because it would be the same scenario due to the same old tribal mentality. I dare not tell believers that what they speak of is not real and does not exist, except in their minds. I dare not tell them what I have learned over a lifetime of study and research that they have tribal mentality and what they know as a being higher than themselves is only a human concept that I cannot fathom or comprehend. I cannot admit, especially to those who are anti-intellectuals, that I have done the same thing Karen Armstrong has done, plus more, and ended up with a sea of very human concepts that mean nothing, especially in light of science.
All of this sometimes leaves me wondering if I am the one who is not normal and possibly sick of mind, but as I observe believers and their actions, I also think, “IF that is normal, I don’t want any part of it and prefer being what Bob calls “The Agnostic a Gnostic”.” What else can one do when they live among deluded theists who believe they know it and are so apt to impose it on others who do not believe in their human concepts? How does one deal with meaninglessness of such archaic human religious concepts? I do not know, anymore than I do not know what IT is, IF it even exists at all and one cannot believe in something they cannot even conceive of in their mind. I cannot believe in any human religious concept because I cannot conceive of said concept, because it makes no sense to me. For me, saying that said human religious concept exists is like telling a theist that Zeus and Hades exist. They would be non-plus by such a statement, would not be able to comprehend it, and probably act like someone with a form of autism, because... It makes no sense! (Mental rocking back and forth now commences)