Different Perceptions of God
Different Perceptions of & Relationships with GodThose brought up with Judeo-Christian traditions and culture may feel that there is ultimately no escape from 'God', and no matter what you do, he still loves you. This highlights the perception that within the stereotypical Right Hand Path, there is no freedom of choice. The beliefs of Christianity in particular, and perhaps Islam to an extent, regard there being an eternal punishment after death, if one rejects the true path. To those that hear the 'word of God', this can be seen as no choice at all. Christianity claims to represent freewill and the choice to accept God or not. After all, God does not want to force anyone to love and worship him. However, the truth is presented that one can either accept and love God, and receive eternal life, or one will be damned for all eternity. On the one hand we have the carrot, for the positive goal, but on the other hand we have the stick, that if we do not go for the carrot, we will be punished for all eternity. For those that believe this message, it is not really a choice at all. Who wants eternal damnation? Everyone has experienced a 'rough time' in one's life, so imagine that intensified a thousand times and experienced continually for all eternity. Anyone fancy that? If the choice was simply the carrot but no stick, then it could be considered a genuine fair choice.
Christians and those from other religions may often believe that if one believes in any other God, or if one believes in God in a different way, then one is worshipping the 'Devil'. When an individual moves away from being a Christian, for example, to Traditional Satanism or Gnostic Luciferianism, it is not usually a conscious choice to 'defect' to the Devil or Satan. It is more of a transformation, of a gradual shift in one's own perception of what God is, and what one's relationship to that God should be. In that individual's mind, it is still the same God, but just that one is seeing things with more clarity. Those who change the other way, who go from occultism to Christianity, may not however see it in this way, and usually adopt the Christian dualistic view.
It should be noted that other monotheistic religions do not believe that hell is for all eternity. Is a lack of faith or the 'wrong' kind of faith or relationship with God really deserving of eternal damnation? Surely it would be 'fairer' to not get the carrot or the prize, rather than get the stick. Some alternative views/takes on the afterlife, and comparisons with other religions can be seen the Mainstream Religion page for more information.
Does God feel genuinely loved and respected if people convert and worship him because they are fearful of the consequences if they don't? If the stick or fear evidence that you love God? Or that you feel pressured into 'loving' God. You can't fool yourself. If you pointed a gun at someone and forced them to be your friend or girlfriend, would you feel loved by them? Most likely not! Unless you were mad or trying to kid yourself. Deep down however you wouldn't. It is the same with God (probably). Similarly, if faith is only there because of a perceived carrot or prize, what kind of faith is that? Is it again just there for your own self-interest? If you are only interested in having a 'great time' whilst alive and after you die, then does God really feel loved? Surely a sign of true love would be one that received no reward. If for example you gave people in your class or study group $20 bills every day to hang around with you and be your friends, or if you promised them $1 million if they hung around with you for the next 5 years (with a contractual guarantee), would you really feel like you had true friends? Or would you feel that they were only there for the money? How do you think God feels? Or what about people how hang around with you because they have no other choice? Does that make you feel flattered? For example, some people adopt faith in God or Jesus as they have put themselves into a corner psychologically, where they would surely go mad if they continued along their chosen path, unable to help themselves as no beliefs they use (positive thinking or therapy) are powerful enough to shift this negative mindset - they adopt faith in God.On the same line, are some people looking for recognition or thanks in some sense by adopting or continuing with their faith? Are they looking for acknowledgement or a pat on the back? Some people are external referenced and seek approval from others, whereas others are internally referenced and do not require the advice or approval from others in order to make decisions or function. Are many with faith simply the former? Perhaps there is a large degree of anthropomorphism going on in this article, as comparing human emotions to Gods is perhaps not applicable. This concept is discussed on the Deities page.
Does God really want people to feel guilty, regretful, worried or fearful when they are 'disconnected from God'? Some say that one should never regret being happy, whatever the source of that happiness. If it is a superficial or fleeting source of happiness or dishonesty to the self, then this happiness will not last and the truth will manifest itself one way or another. Or does God want them to be positively motivated and attach positive meaning to situations, to trust and to have grace? To offer a positive lifestyle and belief choice rather than bribing or threatening people into 'loyalty' which is shallow at best in many cases and self-motivated rather than a sign of genuine love or search for the true essence of God within all of us and indeed everything. One could view God as more a pantheistic or panentheistic essence which one can embrace and feel or not (at one's loss perhaps), rather than the complex view presented by the Old and New Testaments. Or indeed one could view the OT and NT in one's own framework of understanding, of a sentient God, a person, and perceive the 'essence' of what the original teachings once were perhaps. Or indeed one can choose to perceive God in any way one chooses, what feels real and authentic.
It is important to try to analyse not only the content and nature of your faith, but also the motivation behind that faith. That is probably more important than the actual faith itself. If you intention or motivation behind adopting Christianity for example is purely saving your own ass, and by loving others you are helping yourself, then is it really loving? Is this a Left-Hand reason for adopting a Right-Hand Path? Are some Christians in a sense just being selfish and concerned with their future afterlife rather than having a genuine love of their brother man? This is usually clear when one notices that many Christians are too busy being judgemental or not giving people the time of day; and being unapproachable or unsociable. These issues are explored in more detail on the Belief page.
Christianity takes the view that one should serve God, rather than serving oneself. This in many cases views God as a person rather than a panentheistic essence. This view of God is one of master / servant, but equally in the panentheistic sense it could just mean acting on a higher level when one is closer to God and feeling God within one (or simply inspired by God) - the actual concept of whether one is 'serving' or not being irrelevant. Christians may see their duty to serve God as some patriots see as their duty to serve their country. God could be likened to a nation state, that has provided you with freedom and what you need to survive, and that you may elect to put your 'ass on the line' in the service of God or that nation, for the betterment and security of others. Whilst some people regard Christians who engage in volunteer work as busy body do-gooders, many do appreciate their volunteer work, such as helping poor or homeless people, which may well coincide with the goals of many socialists or anarchists, except for the theology of course! Whilst some anarchists feel that their country owes them a living, and should provide optimum conditions of liberty and wealth for one to simply be spoonfed, as it is one's 'birth right', that previous generations of workers have strived to progress society technologically and politically just for one's sole benefit, some also feel that why should they worship or thank God as they expect 'bread, water and clothes' and they may have worked for it themselves. Whilst many anti-establishment types may object to the work of a country's armed forces, they usually strongly support those that put their lives on the line for the benefit of the people of a country, for example firefighters, emergency services (perhaps the police in certain situations where their loved ones are at risk!) Some might regard such deeds of heroism as 'stupid' and 'illogical', as the prime goal is to serve the self.
What do Christians (for example) consider to be worse? Atheism or a different way of viewing God and a different type of relatioinship with God? Probably the latter ironically, even though it is closer to what they actually believe. Perhaps by exploring the nature of God and the Self, and a desire to get to know God better, one can in fact move further away from God (or perhaps just Christianity).
Following on from the above point that some people feel trapped and obliged to obey or accept God, as he is there loving you whether you like it or not, followers of the Left-Hand Path see that there is something else within oneself that sees other potentials. If is the part that wishes to self-actualise and to become 'self-deified'. Those 'borderline' Left-Hand Paths that do believe in God, a Gnostic God, or Great Architect, may regard their relationship with God in a different way, God being an ally rather than as a ruler. God being an essence, an inextricable part of life and being alive. Seeking to be one with God and to seek the realm of God could thus be seen to be a positive choice, as pursuing the ego is seen as a lower form of consciousness and shallow satisfaction, which may be fun for a while, but ultimately unsatisfying.
Christianity in a sense could be viewed as a form of failsafe. It is the last resort option if you really can't deal with your life anymore - if all else had failed - in the sense that you may have half-heartedly tried a few strategies but can't get over your own emotional hurdles to any degree - you are emotionally desperate to restore balance but would gladly accept an emotional return to base that gets you out of the present emotional vice, that is child-like in some respects in terms of the trust and love components, letting God take care of everything like a caring parent; you want to open the floodgates of feeling loved and feeling love for a God - which may replace a vacuum in that area of deep familial or romantic love.
Is not knowing a form of knowing or wisdom? Is a-gnosis (agnostic) a form of gnosis (gnostic)? By studying widely according to the philosophy of Illuminism, one may well read many different interpretations, philosophies and belief systems attached to the same area. Which is right? Can one ever really know which is right? Which sound right to you? In certain specific instances, when scriptural evidence is weak or the word of Jesus is weak, one could choose to elect to 'have no opinion' or take an agnostic view of that particular area. For example, when it comes to the afterlife or death, one could view that Jesus wasn't 100% clear on the fact that if one didn't believe in him, one would be damned for all eternity. It was more the other way around, if you believed in him you would taste life. Or were the Biblical texts 'sexed up' on such subjects and incorporated Zoroastrian ideas, and didn't quite reflect what Jesus actually said. Was Jesus teachings on this subject more in line with the OT and Judaism? He did after all pray at Jewish Temples and follow the Jewish religion in other respects. One could view the New Testament and Christian tradition of Heaven and Hell therefore with a pinch of salt, entertain a number of other possibilities, perhaps rule a few out (e.g. reincarnation - as it may not sound 'right' to you) and have a somewhat agnostic view about exactly what happens when you die and if you are actually judged or not. See the discussion on Heaven, Hell and the Afterlife on the Mainstream Religion page. What I am trying to communicate here is that a relativistic or agnostic stance on certain Christian concepts or mysteries may be more 'enlightened' or 'wise' than a literal view. This is clearly up to the individual to decide for himself.
It is a shame that Christian denominations tend to focus on their differences and what they do not like about each other, or live in insular worlds where other denominations do not exist - as if their version of theology and the teachings of Jesus as the only true path; rather than focus on Jesus' teachings and his positive message. Many atheists who regard Jesus as just a wise teacher who was 'hijacked' by religious zealots might become much more interested in the teachings if the focus was here rather than on the 'formula of Jesus' - the idea that the Bible clearly states he said he was the son of God and there is no possibility that he was just a wise teacher. During Religious Education classes at school, I and a number of other students were genuinely interested in Jesus, but the teacher insisted this could not be so, presumably to try to bring in people to the faith with his written 'proof', but all it did was to turn everyone offand lose interest entirely. Is this a wise way to preach the message of Jesus?
Is a literal belief in the Christian 'Formula' and the entirety of the Christian narrative really necessary to have a relationship with God? That of God giving his only Son to be sacrificed so that the sins of man could be forgiven; and that in order to achieve this he had to die on the cross and be resurrected? And to taste eternal life, one must believe in this formula and accept Jesus as one's saviour, and one has a guaranteed seat in Heaven when one dies; rather than really try to understand the very deep sayings of Jesus and try to apply them to the complex situations and ethnical dilemmas of modern living? Is the exact nature of the formula so important to 'faith' or to feeling God? I (at the time of writing) acknowledge Jesus as a wise teacher, a source of illumination and being from God, but does not worship Jesus directly - but more prays to God and 'vibes' with Jesus. I believe the Trinity is probably a gratuitous narrative 'hangover' from various Jewish and Christian texts and traditions rather than of Biblical origin. The nature of God is clearly too complex to very comprehend, and to distill the essence of faith and God into a simple 'believe this and you will be saved' formula with an associated theatrical plot somewhat ridiculous. Perhaps this is a part Christian, part Gnostic interpretation.
As discussed on the Gnosticism page, there are differing views of sin. For example, the revivalist Thomasine Church believes in a philosophy of Illuminism and Hesychasm, based largely on the Bible and the Gnostic Gospels. The Thomasine Church does not believe in the concept of 'sin' but more of a concept of 'ignorance' of not knowing the truth or acting on it. It shows a lack of spiritual wisdom. It is not considered temptation by the 'devil'. I hold a similar view. I do not believe that a 'devil' and 'hell' really exist in the modern Christian interpretation of them (another set of concepts discussed on that page). I believe in a non-binary, non-dualistic view of God, in that there is either God or no God (i.e. the ego). Some balance has to be arrived at, with the emphasis of embracing God. This is a more Hermetic interpretation of God. I have a more nihilistic view of Christianity, in that it is more of a carrot-based philosophy than a stick-based one. Of course, excess ego punishes the self directly and indirectly through life, and that is the stick, but there is no 'fear of God' or 'fear of damnation' for me. 'Sin' and the 'devil' and 'Satan' are a sticky subject, but I do not take the modern Christian interpretation so seriously. I have a more Jungian view of the psyche and any form of denial and suppression is not really so wise in my opinion. However, that is no reason to embrace the ego and basic impulses and focus on those soley or very much at all. The more one tries to block something out and deny it, the more one is in a sense focussing on it and making it stronger. I believe in replacing something negative with something positive and powerful which takes all the 'juice' out of the negative, rather than fighting the negative without replacing it with anything that one really believes in, but which the conscious mind is trying to convince the unconscious is true.
Many people are brought up as Christians, but lose faith in God, as they see God of the Old Testament as judgemental and vengeful; and point to God not intervening to protect the Jews or to help the world's poor and starving; and to the promises of peace on earth not being fulfilled by history; and the fact that if you want to achieve anything in life or to spread peace you have to do it yourself and cannot rely on 'God'. The tendency is to move towards atheism or sometimes the occult or the LHP. However, let us analyse this for a moment. What we have is a monotheistic ideal of God, that people get disappointed in after much reflection and thought about what they want to do and be in life in general. To avoid and move away from the perceived errors in the idea of God, they move away from God completely and more towards the self or towards occult pantheism. However, this may be missing the point entirely. To view God as only a person is just one view of God. One can also view God as both a person and an essence, i.e. a panentheistic view of God. God is still a creator and a consciousness, but is also an essence that is in everything all around us, and that we must embrace or connect with (and to have a relationship with) in order to feel God. In this sense, the will of God is performed by those that act in the spirit of embracing this 'essence' and is not necessarily a supernatural event that people sit around expecting to save them when their lives are in danger. Of course, meditation and focus on God, and prayer can indeed result in miraculous outcomes, and one can view this as literally God or the power of the mind, when focussed on and using the framework/perception of God, or some part of the higher self. The ego may expect God to solve all the world's problems and to correct any area where the outside world conflicts with our arbitrary and culture-specific values, but surely the whole point of freewill is for man to choose and act, rather than expect someone to do all the work for him? Perhaps this latter way is a very selfish and self-absorbed way of looking at God - another way of expecting the world to 'owe you a living', like many self-absorbed angsty teenagers see it.
There are clearly many ways to see God, and ways to not see him at all. The bottom line is whether one should be 'punished' for any of these approaches, or whether by following a different path one is in a sense having more respect for God and oneself and others (or less depending on one's perspective). Is your faith a noose around your neck and restricting your very soul or is it enhancing your life in every way imaginable? Are you embracing some aspects of consciousness at the expense of others? Is this aspect so awesome that it is worth it? What is the nature of faith and belief? What is your relationship to it? Is an existentialist and open framework of belief closer to 'God' or further away from 'God'? Is Gnosis closer to God or further away from God? One may also argue what all the fuss is all about with regards to God. Is the purpose of being alive to not appreciate the gift of life? If one is to truly appreciate life and every moment, there are different ways of showing your appreciation clearly! Some philosophers regard the ideal existence as that which if repeated indefinitely would not be a curse and would still be something that one would want/find fulfilling.
Not all adherents of the Left-Hand Path or indeed more heterogenous or personalised versions of the Left-Hand Path adopt its archetypal standpoint of using/aligning oneself with a deity, but can adopt the 'carrot' approach, of adoration of a deity, but without the 'stick' or compulsion/fear of that deity. This could be viewed in the masonic sense of the Great Architect of the Universe (the universal deity) or an individual pagan deity that one happens to be worshipping. Veneration and adoration of a deity is indeed something that is practiced by some Neo-Pagans, for example, some Wiccans.
The definition of God or Monad within Gnostic Luciferianism is not the same as in the normal Judao-Christian sense or Right-Handed sense, perhaps being seen as a benevolent force or ally that helps one to experience Gnosis, knowledge, and self-conscious spiritual awakening from the experience/viewpoint of the Self. This is in some sense a cross between the Right-Hand goal of uniting with God, or learning from and emulating the essence and spirit of God, but from a Self stance, and the Left-Hand Path of self-deification and ultimate evolution of the Self.
Whilst some neo-pagan religions, such as certain types of Wicca, may employ the use of witchcraft, which is typically seen as being 'Left-Hand Path', they may also literally worship a deity or deities, not unlike a Christian worships Jesus. In such instances, these aspects of these neo-pagan religions may be regarded as being somewhat 'Right-Hand Path' in nature, not following the dark pagan and Satanist/Luciferian model. Indeed, some Wiccans may sound exactly like Christians, when they talk about worshipping of God (in that context meaning the Goddess).
In my experience, it is easy for inexperienced Christians and those Christians who are blind to themselves and their former selves, that one can confuse love of Jesus and that feeling one has with the Holy Spirit with romantic love and sexual love. If they both feel slightly similar. One can trigger the other in one's mind or one may associate one with the other in certain circumstances through association. For example, if one is feeling elated spiritually, if one is not careful and aware, one can see a soul that one finds beautiful, and have all these romantic feelings, that are totally inappropriate in the Christian context. The spiritual love ignites the sexual love or the person finds them so similar that they can swap from one to the other quite easily. This can lead to sexual obsessions and adultery etc. and ruin one's spiritual feelings, replacing them with lustful feelings. When I first became a Christian, or rather, nearly became one (on an Alpha Course), I was in a physical sexual relationship with a woman, and I started to associate my spiritual feelings with the intimate romantic moments. I thought both were compatible and gradually the sexual replaced the spiritual, without me really noticing until later reflection, when I was back in the spiritual (religious) zone a year later and able to recognise this. Some however regard love as love, whether spiritual or sexual, and such people often have multiple partners or are addicted to flirting and are less RHP and more LHP in this respect. Is this 'free love' confused? Or more integrated? Those into free love are usually more into self-gratification and the ego, and have perhaps less of a sense of brotherly love and duty, or rather it comes after the self more. One can combine sexual and romantic love with spiritual love for God and one's fellow man, within marriage, which is 'sex under God and sanctioned by God' in this context. Can this feeling not be transferred to others? And what would happen or what would this mean?
Many systems of faith take on the values and history of their culture. Many borrow from other religions. And many embellish spiritual truths with a little creative story telling, by accident (stories handed down from generation to generation will change) to change the nature of the faith, for political purposes, or to give emphasis to certain aspects of the original faith or philosophy at the expense of others. Many nation states may carry out horrific acts in the name of their claimed religion, even if in reality their actions totally contradict the messages of that faith. This however does not necessarily mean that one should ignore all systems of faith and belief, and all their teachings, that they are flawed or contradictory, and therefore false and rubbish; but that one needs to try to understand their history, learn from each system, keep an open mind, and try to understand what the original message of the faith or philosophy really was. And how to reach one's own spiritual enlightenment, if one is so interested in doing so. But neither does it mean we have to accept a large part of their teachings either necessarily if we aren't convinced by it.
One should not judge a faith by the actions of the majority (the hypocrites), but by the spirituality and actions of the minority, and the spirit of the faith in which they embody; the austerity and simplicity of certain culture's spiritual leaders or holy men (clearly in some cultures they are not austere whatsoever!) There are of course exceptions and boundaries that one may not wish to cross or delve into too much, for example, areas one considers to be dark or negative or ego-oriented, but this is a personal decision. This web site does not draw on one source only for matters of health and psychology, but chooses to go to a huge variety of sources to try to get to the bottom of things, to find the absolute truth! I like to adopt a similar approach in other areas too.
Often people expect to find the perfect 'spiritual model' or philosophy for you out there, pre-packaged and ready to apply. However like in other areas of life, this is never the case! To arrive at your ultimate spiritual self, you may need to embrace many many different ideas and philosophies and schools of thought, at varying times of your life, perhaps not all of which are widely accepted in society, and to have the common sense and groundedness to not get all spaced out and wierd and belief a load of rubbish. So statistically it may happen very often. But society as a whole seems to be evolving and slowly increasing in its spiritual awareness, and you may be pleasantly surprised to find that there are a large number of people who think the way you do if you actually found them!
When one considers a religious belief or a faith, one should consider whether one is attending religious ceremonies and services in order to 'condition' the religious belief and to reinforce it, and whether one believes what one does because one is continually trying to condition oneself to believe it, rather than actually genuinely deep down really believing it. Do many followers of different faiths simply adopt a set of beliefs because it is part of an overall package? And that they acknowledge that adopting the entire package is good for their spiritual and psychological wellbeing? Is the decision to reinforce faith a rational decision then, one deriving from a fear of losing this feeling or relationship? Rather than reflective of the actual relationship one has with God/a deity? Or a sign of real, solid foundations of belief? After all, if one holds a religious belief or set of beliefs, it is by definition not a 'rational' belief but an 'act of faith'. Therefore, should one really need to be continually convincing oneself of it? Those that are constantly convincing themselves of their faith are often those who are insecure in their faith and scared of influences that might detract from this cultivated state of religious and/or spiritual euphoria. They often have little idea of their day to day experience and philosophy in general and how it relates to their faith - they are often compartmentalised as less secure and more fragile as a result. Those that genuinely belief and do not need to convince themselves of it are usually much more secure in their faith and open minded in terms of discussion and new ideas, and less likely to stick to the most crude arguments and reasons for faith.
Are those who are religious walking around scared that a situation or person may conflict with their spiritual beliefs that they feel they should uphold or who might make them feel awkward? Can one go around cocooning oneself in some kind of bubble and separate oneself from any potential spiritual conflict or 'evil influence'? There is clearly a fine balance between avoiding that which is clearly trouble and feeling secure enough in one's core beliefs to remain untouched by any negative or 'poisonous' external interference or influence - in an effortless manner.
Perhaps the compartmentalisation that comes from attending Church on Sundays, as a member of the congregation or as a Priest, results in one feeling that one has fulfilled one's spiritual needs or duties within that arena, so that once outside of this world, one can continue as 'normal' and fulfill all one's other needs, and basically do what you like, within certain limits. Is a 'surrender to God' on one day a week or two days a week a licence to massage your ego on all other days of the week? Clearly it should not be, but for many it is.
I doubt that the nature of the universe is any less complicated that the nature of the spiritual domain. Something can be simple and yet complicated at the same time, depending on the level of detail you want to go into and how you want to apply it to all different manner of scenarios. And indeed the further one tries to extend a certain philosophy or belief system, the more it seems to contradict itself. It may never be possible to break down particle physics to the smallest 'building blocks'. The field of quantum physics and indeed astrophysics is indeed full of theories that cannot be tested empirically or proven. And indeed fanciful theories are constructed to avoid the contradictions in the 'universal' laws that we use in our world today, depending on the scale one is looking at, e.g. dark matter, dark energy and M-theory. Is light a particle or a wave? It is neither but it is both. Does this make sense? Presumably the spiritual realm is bound to be just as difficult/impossible to fully comprehend and seemingly contradictory, depending how crudely one is trying to understand it. Perhaps this is a reason to examine it; or perhaps this is a reason not to rationalise it; or perhaps this is a reason to try to distill it down to its very essence, the core feelings that define that faith (and perhaps for that person).
In a sense, all people who hold a firm religious or moral belief are by definition hypocrites. A faith seeks spiritual perfection, but this is impossible, so why does the person believe it if they can't attain it or aren't behaving consistent with their claimed beliefs all the time? So why pick on Christians? Christians are a fashionable target for ridicule or for criticism, often on account of the few visible proponents or political figures who claim to be Christian whilst not really representing Biblical values at all. Everyone is a hypocrite in some capacity. No one is perfect. Should we not strive to improve ourselves? But we should be humble about it and not claim anything necessarily for ourselves or seek to bolster our 'righteous position' or ego.
In a sense, religious or spiritual beliefs are just an extension of our other beliefs. When a person believes in a certain religious concept or spiritual belief, he often does so because it sounds appealing or it is the way he feels things 'should be'. Spiritual beliefs are often created or taken on in order to justify a person's actions or behaviour or an ideal of behaviour, or to support inaction, or even to provide a kind of 'opium' for the mind - a kind of leverage to feeling good that might not be possible otherwise with 'secular beliefs' that do not go as deep into the psyche and seem like 'good ideas' rather than 'musts', with less emotional leverage attached to them. I have noticed that a person's religious or spiritual beliefs often reflect their general attitudes or beliefs in other areas, and the more outlandish one's beliefs are, the more likely it is that one's spiritual beliefs will be as outlandish, if not more so. I have personally found that Conspiracy Theorists or 'Truthers' to have the most far out religious or spiritual beliefs, and these often reflect their frequently far out secular beliefs or ideas on current affairs. Religious or spiritual principles or motivations are also often attached to these conspiracy theories, 'sexing' them up even more, creating even more 'unreality'.
Some people promote Christianity as universally good, and that if you embrace Jesus into your life it is only a good thing. I used to say that in general the answer is yes, but I don't think that you should accept Jesus just because you think you ought to and change your values just because you feel you ought to. Some Christians think that a belief in Jesus is a binary matter, but there are a multitude of ways of viewing Jesus, as a prophet, inspiration, or as some kind of divine vehicle. In the latter sense there are numerous ways of viewing Jesus and God besides the Trinity.
Adopting a faith can potentially be extremely psychologically damaging in terms of one's self worth and concept of self. Many Christians take faith as a replacement for their brain or rational thought. When they have faith, they don't have to think! God will sort it all out. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work like this, and you have to make decisions on the spur of the moment intelligently and with your faith in your heart. And be put into tricky morally and spiritually ambiguous or unclear situations and see what you do with it. And pray for help and for others. But the reason you are on this planet is that you have to personally make decisions and take accountability. Otherwise God wouldn't have bothered creating humanity as a bunch of monkeys or robots would have been equally as efficient. But your faith doesn't always 'give you instructions'.
This isn't what faith is about. It's not a simple rule book to dictate your behaviour. Applying rules and principles isn't easy. Life is complex. Many situations aren't comfortable and don't have a perfect outcome whichever way you choose to deal with it. Sometimes each option is a bad or uncomfortable option. Our society is highly disassociated, abstract, alienating, anally retentive and unhealthy. Everyone is different, but I think in some individuals, their faith has not been altogether good in all areas of their personality. I think that you need to ask yourself on a daily basis why you believe this or that and that you are happy with your relationship with God (or who/whatever you worship), and you are doing this because you want to. You have chosen to do so. And because it feels good in its entirety and there are no unpleasant or repressive aspects that you are trying to brush under the carpet and kid yourself about; and you try to use your brain. I don't think religion should be an excuse to ignore and give up on learning about many aspects of life. And I don't think belief in Jesus should be an excuse to shut one's mind off to science, philosophy, psychology and alternative/complimentary health etc.
Many Christians just believe and think what they are told in church and make no effort to understand where the boundaries of their faith lies and how it relates to other religious ideas, and therefore what it is compatible or incompatible with. And in addition, what is looking to destroy their faith. And so they can engage in intelligent conversation with other people about Religion and not make gross generalisations about what they perceive to be 'evil' and also what fringe beliefs they need to be wary of. Of course, each individual interprets and applies their faith differently and needs to draw their own boundaries where they feel comfortable. And not necessarily just accept the premise that all oriental medicine is satanic etc. Which is old fashioned. We are living in an age where our faith has to evolve with science and knowledge. It doesn't have to be an either or situation. And similarly I don't think that one should fully embrace Satanism to replace lack of self-knowledge or natural confidence, or lack of life experience. You need to know when to shut up and take it, when to reveal nothing and not react, and when to act and exactly what to do when you do act. This comes with self-knowledge, understanding cause and effect, how people's minds work, how life and business work. And knowing how to relate the complex world back to the spirit of your core values. A simplistic rule book that suppresses part of your options isn't going to help you. Many of the issues that Satanism is trying to fix or avoid just go away when you have more life experience and learn to use your head and adapt to different situations and not be a sucker. You simply act on instinct and through a process of continuous learning and self-knowledge.
In many churches I have been to, especially evangelical ones, many Christians use the same 400 words to describe their relationship with God without appearing to really give much thought to what it really means, including phrases such as 'I tried to do it myself, but it didn't work, and then I just did what God wanted' etc. These types of phrases are applied often to many different situations and attempts to achieve something. What exactly does this all mean? Do the people know exactly what they mean? It hardly encourages free thinking, understanding one's faith and how it is applied to every day situations. Why not use the whole of the English language and be more specific? And for all this rhetoric, I have not felt like I de had true brothers and sisters in many of the churches he's been to. There are some great churches out there, but not as many as he'd like. I tend to try to follow my own path, find real brothers and sisters and homeboys, through shared experience and values and intuitive understanding.
Many Christians subscribe to the idea of 'God's Will' and associate any occurrence in their lives as being 'God's Will'. Whilst this may indeed be the case, it often creates a passive attitude towards one's environment. God gave each of us a mind, body and soul, and he intended us to use them! Gold helps those who help themselves - through a combination of taking the initiative and self-conscious self-improvement but also through faith, and cultivating a health body and mind for God to be able to perform his will through. God intended us to use our brains and use our initiative, and to never give up or never say die. He gave us a body to look after it and achieve incredible things with; and to contribute beyond ourselves. He did not give us a body so we could be apathetic, eat garbage, abuse it, get wasted and sit around on our backsides watching television and not exercising. He did not give us a body so we could sit in front of computer all evening, every night. He gave us a body to express ourselves in the highest sense. Act like you appreciate these miraculous gifts! Be grateful for them and use them in the way that nature and God intended.
Some people report that they have found their exposure to Christianity and Christian upbringing oppressive, repressive and negative. There may well have been a heavy focus on what you should do, and on feeling guilty for committing 'sins' and doing wrong. This could be interpreted as missing the whole point of the spirit of Jesus' teachings, and is often backed up by the use of the Old Testament. It is perhaps why some Gnostic Christians regard the God of the OT as 'evil'. This concept is examined in more detail on the Mainstream Religions page. Clearly no religion is free from hypocrisy, persecution, corruption and no religion or belief system ultimately has 100% consistent followers, those who embody the spirit of the faith or belief system and do not stray off and break the concepts and tenets of that faith. These are clearly not reasons to denigrate that particular faith as it is not necessarily the fault of the belief system and teaching but of the laziness and moral imperfections of the followers. We should not judge a religion by those that claim to profess it, and who are most in the public eye, for example politicians, who are going to be flawed and corrupt in varying degrees whatever religion they follow (on the whole)! One should not judge the essence of a faith by a religion's past historical crimes against humanity, as many religions are hijacked and corrupted, and used for purposes of control, power and money.
Teenagers, especially those in the USA, should try to get more perspective, and there are alternatives to evangelical Christianity as it is presented to them in the media and through church sermons. It is not an all or nothing equation. One does not simply have to choose between an American interpretation of evangelical Christianity and LaVey Satanism. There are many different types of Christianity, many of which are very different than that found in the USA. There are a large number of religious and philosophical belief systems out there, if one chooses to read and learn about them, one may find many ideas and concepts of value. Not all religions and belief systems are by default 'repressive' or 'dominating'. It is easy just to look at the most heavily promoted and 'commercial' religions, representations of those religions (which may or may not actually be true representations of what they are about) or philosophies in our modern societies. There are many philosophies and ideas that do not require affiliation or strict adherence to a set of values or 'laws'. One does not have to take on the 'whole' of a philosophy, in an all or nothing approach.
Some people adopt a religion through fear. I personally don't think this is a good idea, regardless what the 'official' line is. Clearly, fear is used in all walks of life to control people's behaviour. Fear of crime. Fear of rejection in relationships (you negatively control and restrict your own behaviour after a break up through fear of the break up or fear of the pain of a break up and stop yourself getting close to people thereafter) etc. Fear is a good survival instinct to keep you alive and stop you getting into unnecessary dangerous situations. But in our abstract world, there are really very few real dangers if we use our common sense. Unless we chose to poison ourselves with poor diet and drugs. Most of our fears are psychologically based. So becoming a Christian because you fear going to hell is a negative reason to become a Christian and is unlikely to result in a good quality of relationship with God. The Bible says to fear God. One could argue that why should one fear something that cannot be proven?
One could argue that philosophical discussion within adherents and hangers on of the LHP can be beneficial in evolving one's sense of what God is, in terms of breaking past ties with traditional monotheistic precepts and feelings of obligation/guilt; and breaking certain parts of one's low self-esteem (whilst no substitute as such for full psychological reflection and NLP etc.); and seeing certain aspects of reality; but beyond this one could argue that continuing immersion in the LHP philosophy merely results in merely excessive titillation of the ego, and reinforcing and strengthening the ego's hold over the consciousness, which is counterproductive and an obstacle to spiritual growth and a higher level of vibration. However most RHP practitioners would avoid such people and in those instances where they do engage with them - e.g. TV interviews like Bob Larsen's, or on internet forums, usually there is an intention to prove or find fault in their philosophy using the crudest of tools and superficial understanding of what it all means based on their own terminological preconceptions.
Atheism vs TheismThere are clearly zealots, arrogant and intolerant people who have faith and who are atheists. To impose one's will on one's fellow man with a view to creating one's own personal vision of a utopian society using force and regulation, whether secular or religious, and not respecting people's right to choose, inevitably results in 'hell' on earth.
The pursuit of the understanding of the universe and the frontiers of science can be enjoyed and furthered by atheists, agnostics, those who are not sure and those with faith. Until we find definite proof of a creator or proof to the contrary, let us remove this pointless bipolar debate from the table and focus on the job at hand! Faith can simply be slotted into scientific theories by the individual to further enhance them, or not, depending on personal preference.
One could argue that in the absense of any direct scientific evidence to suggest that God does or does not exist, then holding a firm position that God exists is just as unscientific and illogical as holding the premise that God definitely does not exist. In strict scientific terms, to be completely rational about the matter would mean that one would have no opinion on the subject whatsoever, and not rule anything out, i.e. Agnosticism. Atheism is in a sense just as irrational as faith. Faith is just that, faith. It does not rely on physical evidence, but on personal experience and the benefits of that faith to affirm to the person that it is something that the person chooses to believe in. Equally atheism is a personal choice, a belief, relying on faith in that idea, and it is equally a faith. A faith of 'no faith'.
It is important to differentiate between 'weak atheism' and 'strong atheism':
Weak atheism is more akin to agnosticism, in that there is no direct evidence for the existence of gods or the 'supernatural' and so whether such things could or could not exist is not relevant or interesting, until some hint of their existence presented itself. It is the belief that there is 'most likely' no god or gods, but that if evidence presented itself, then one might consider the hypothesis. Much like one does not believe that pixies help to boil the kettle when one switches it on. One cannot prove they don't, but until one sees some suggestion that that might be the case, one does not seriously entertain the idea, but instead believes in the measurable. This is a more rationalist perspective.
Strong atheism is the firm belief that there cannot be god or gods, and a refusal to ever believe that there are or could be, regardless of what can be potentially scientifically proven in the future. This belief takes a 'leap of faith' in non-belief in god or gods, and as such is a departure from rationalism, in the same way that spiritual belief or religion is seen as such, also being a 'leap of faith' or relying on 'intuition' in the absence of hard physical facts that can be measured by current scientific means.
Those strong atheists or anyone else for that matter who believes a scientific theory that is yet to be conclusively proven, but which feels right and sensible to the individual (for example, Super-String Theory or Darwin's Theory of Evolution), is hard and indisputable fact, is also taking a leap of faith. In this context, such individuals, scientists as well as strong atheists, could be said to be a 'religion', i.e taking a leap of faith. What we call science fact should be based on measurable results where exceptions can be predicted and explained without error; or how certain one can be about being uncertain (the Uncertainty Principle), where an electron can be in all places at once, but at the same time nowhere, and where the result is affected by the observer.
Agnosticism of course does not deny that gods exist, but neither does it postulate that they do not exist either, because one can never know, and therefore there is little point in having that discussion, but rather to rely on what one can directly see, feel, touch and experience in the physical world.
In actuality, some of the unanswered puzzles in physics do point to some kind of divine or other non tangible intervention being a plausible explanation for the big bang occurring. So one could argue that there is indirect evidence to suggest that there might be a God.
Indeed it could be argued that some Theistic Satanists actually do believe in a creationist theory, either instead of evolution or in addition to evolution. It is just that some believe that the 'creator' was evil as they did not ask to be put into a world of 'suffering'.
The link below quite neatly sums up the main arguments of those who support atheism vs religion and vice versa.
Please also read the section 'Genesis: Creationism and Evolution' for further discussion of the relationship between religion and science.