Reflections on Life

Escape from Fundamentalism


To walk away from the beliefs of ones upbringing does not mean that the fundamentalist mindset has been eliminated. In all truth, it may simply go into hiding, which may make it even more difficult to root out.

If one does not come to the full realization that everything that exists is all from one source, our original parent…. then there is no real moving ahead to release from this prison.

In the end, the question is there. Does one totally trust the eternal parent and ones relationship to and IN that parent, or is there a trickster or monster out there waiting to gobble you up if you let down your guard. I would dare say that most folks can only answer that question honestly to themselves, one way.

Part 1

You know, growing up, I didn’t know I was being raised a fundamentalist. I was just a pretty regular Canadian kid, skipping homework and piano lessons, sneaking out to play with my friends, loving horses, Roy Rogers 6 gun pistols, BB guns, catching gophers, scaring girls with snakes, disliking the taste of cooked carrots. I had no idea that an indoctrinating process was underway.

Possibly, those of us who went to bible college got a more formal training in why they believed what they did, categorizing “why I believe this and why I believe that” into formal doctrinal positions. But for most kids, Sunday School did the trick.

There was one day, when I was about 10 years old or so, that I began to notice a feeling of deep longing…. a deep loneliness developing. Who knows what started it…. maybe it was the beginning of self-identity…. (or maybe losing my “baby of the family” position to my little sister when she showed up!! 🙂 ) In the end it doesn’t REALLY matter, does it)…. We all decide what to do with the life we are given… climb over it like a hill or learn to blame everything on others… learn from our mistakes, or learn to hide from ourselves….. climb out of the holes, or give up and learn how to live in that place.

In any case, it was really at that time, when I began digging into the bible, laying awake in my room late at night…. searching for something that might fill that “void”, that it started to become clear….. whatever it was…. this way of being wasn’t fixing my loneliness… it just wasn’t working for me. At the time, I probably thought the trouble with church was just the scratchy wool clothes I had to wear every Sunday…. or having to sit still for what seemed like an eternity. (That sense of eternity didn’t have much appeal!) Really though, I don’t want to focus on the things that made me feel that this wasn’t working, or how I felt I didn’t fit in…. I am sure most folks have these feelings when they are growing up.

I would like to focus more on the beliefs which seem to have locked me up…. the beliefs which imprisoned me…. the beliefs which took me years and years to extricate myself from, to become what I am becoming now….. a natural human being.

This is also not a new kind of blame game…. that would be of absolutely no value either. But in the process of “deconstructing” the person who was built by that indoctrination process, there have definitely been layers which had the smell and color of those doctrines that were tattooed deep into my soul.

I have not read many stories about persons coming out of cults, so to a person who knows what happens there, and the technical terms, this may just be a non-academic attempt not worth reading. 🙂 In any case, to this day, I would not characterize my upbringing as in some sort of cult. As I said above, I lived a pretty normal life as a child, although I was a preachers kid (how normal can THAT be! 🙂 ). So this ongoing experience has really been more like periods of tattoo removal….. painful at times, but relieved to have rid myself of the negative aspects of that deep belief system.

This could also be called “Escape from the illusion of Dichotomy” but that is far to intellectual sounding. But what I mean by that, is that the doctrines tattooed on my soul were not so much only of a religious nature, but of a grave misunderstanding of reality which is called the “human condition”. The gravity of this misunderstanding is made more profound by the doctrines which have been put in place by most of the theistic belief systems to add a weight of evidence and “proof”. Not only does the person struggle with the sense of their human condition, but these doctrines act as Gods Laws, disallowing the believer to even consider that what they “misunderstand” is incorrect.

I am struggling with how to present this in a manner that won’t either lull the reader to sleep, nor shock them such that they don’t finish reading what I am writing here.  The other more concerning outcome, is that the reader might become more entrenched in their beliefs, eventually coming up with “proof texts” against what is being said here…. but I fear that is a guaranteed outcome for some……. so…………..

I suspect the only way is to simply tell my story, and just leave it at that. 🙂

So, as I was mentioning previously, it has been in the deconstruction, or peeling off of those doctrinal layers, that the “untattooed” nature of my original skin beneath has been revealed.

In my late teens, I began to notice just HOW MANY persons of varying beliefs were COMPLETELY CERTAIN that what they believed was GODS TRUTH. Yet, they all believed different things…… I had quite a time wrapping my mind around how this could be… the logic or math just didn’t seem to add up. Of course, as the time period was one of questioning, there was lots of discussion about truth and absolutes….. after much debate, the answer to that question at the time was “everyone is an individual, they each have a subjective view of things, and they all have the RIGHT to carry those views”

Well that pretty much closed the hope of finding some truth that one could stand on. But the evangelical church had an answer! Gods truth…. unchangeable, perfect, eternal, which had the “Divine Inspiration” stamp of guarantee on every word.

Now, I knew…. that this book, the Bible, (the Protestant Canon) had been struggled with for centuries, in terms of what content should become included. Add to this, the fact that differing churches held different versions, and different content, to be this perfect book…… again this was confusing how there could be different versions of PERFECT ETERNAL TRUTH….. again, many orthodox answers were put in place to stamp out any questions about this subject.

So then, not understanding the multiplicity of interpretations and “doctrine” of individual subjectivity became the bugaboos of my early life.

Then, one day, in a discussion (perhaps an argument, which I have always been too “given” to) with an Anglican priest, the question was raised…. “Who said, that if you believe one word in the Bible, you have to believe every word?” And I thought to myself….. “who is this guy?” well…. he was a priest….. of “another church”……. how dare he say something like this! Well, of course every evangelical church child knows that there is a “bad guy” out there that can trick us folks into believing lies…… so this poor priest had been tricked…… that was an easy and convenient answer! Yet, he seemed very serious in his answer, and certainly had the academic standing to back it up….

The next “nick in my armor” was a comment from a close friend. At the time, we had taken to smoking our “elven” pipes, discussing philosophy, hobbits, and of course religion. One evening, in frustration, my friend said “you know, there really is no point in discussing things with you, as your mind is made up before we even begin the discussion.”  I was shocked! (and maybe a bit hurt!) But it shocked me awake…  I had to admit that what he had said was true. I either needed to just believe, or open myself truly to alternative answers if they came…..

One other “happening” of the time, was a sudden “revelation” of pure faith…. which very much changed me. But, to make the story brief, approximately a year later, after realizing that my closed mindedness had not been “cleaned” by the spirits cleansing power, this hope of finding an answer in the beliefs of my upbringing faded and died.

At that particular time, my studies in religion and philosophy (my library included MANY books which I had purchased and read ….much to my partners chagrin) had really turned up nothing which could answer my questions, and as all the professors, priests and ministers around me were holding dogmatically to their points of view, I began looking elsewhere.

The “finding of books” became a very strange happening at that time. It seemed every book that “caught my eye” seemed to be leading me on an adventure of discovery.  The first notable finding was a book discussing C.G. Jung’s point of view. It was my first real foray into psychology other than the book “Psychotherapy East and West” by Alan Watts, which I had read as a high school student.

This was my first belief shift in response to the questioning of the seriousness and honesty of my searching process. The reason why it was a strange happening, was that not only did it lead me into studying psychology, but it led me directly to Zen Buddhism, as it was C.G. Jung’s interest in Zen, and his preface to D.T. Suzuki’s “An Introduction to Zen Buddhism” which pointed me in a new “method” direction. (having been raised a “Free Methodist”, and being familiar with John Wesley’s “methodology” it seemed a natural progression)

This was a huge shift from my dead end searching, to a new exciting method. But it had its walls it needed to break down….. and thus began the deconstruction………..

The first struggle in beginning to practice a form of Eastern meditation, was that as a youngster, those meditation methods were demonized, saying that if one practiced a style where the mind was “emptied”, and not a “meditation on a scripture verse, or the loving nature of God” , Satan would have an entrance point… and with movies like “the Excorcist” coming out in those days, there were some very visual pictures available to the imagination of what that might look like.

This led to my first true experience of what it meant to directly “peel off” a layer of belief. One day, as I as doing my sitting meditation (zazen) a fear came over me. I pushed ahead to see what this fear was, and where it was coming from. It was the fear that something unholy might happen if I pushed deeper into this practice. Here is how I remember it……….

I was sitting on my cushion, and a sense of dread came over me…. that there was something unholy there, and it was “coming to get me”. I had experienced this feeling in the past, but each time, I had warded it off, and not “gone there”. But this time, I thought… “if I keep hiding from this thing, I will never know if it is real, or if it is simply something in my imagination”, so I decided to face up to it…… in my imagination, it set itself up that I was sitting on the railway tracks at night…. and I could hear a train coming from around the corner, although I couldn’t see it yet…. as the train got closer, I saw that in the past, I had simply jumped down between the tracks each time it had come, so never knew if it was real or not. This time, I was determined to not move, and face the train! Then the train came around the corner, and I could see it coming quickly towards me, billowing steam from its blast pipe, I seem to remember sweating, fighting the urge to hide….. but then…. it “hit”…… and at the moment it hit, it vaporized! In a puff of smoke! It was gone! It was a lie!…. And I started laughing almost hysterically, thinking “Just how long have I been afraid of this thing?!” I immeditaely thought of the little boy laying in his bed, afraid to get up, because his dad had told him there were invisible black snakes on the floor that would bite him and he would swell up and be dead until morning….. This fear was gone!

Curiously, this first experience of release from a deep fear which had been instilled in me by the teachings of my youth, created both a positive and a negative effect. The positive effect was that I as freed from a fear of the dark, which I had experienced since my childhood, and my zazen was free to dig deeper. The negative effect was, that when I told my church minister of this experience, he told me that perhaps I was “now so far from the Lord that I didn’t feel the spirits tug anymore”. For someone who had studied theology, and understood what he was “implying”, this ultimate slap in the face (apostacy) was one of the final nails in the coffin of my connections with my church.

But there was another side to this experience. It had not been “naturally” coupled, with a rational realization of what had happened.

It wasn’t until many years later, that the layer of “the lie that the universe has an entity of evil in it” was finally removed or dropped off. In fact, that is actually what had happened that day….. the lie had fallen off….. yet the indoctrination of dualism….. of “good and evil” was SO deep, even the direct experience of evil being a lie did not irradicate it. To this day, I find it strange, as it doesn’t fit any models I have ever heard, about how wrong beliefs “drop off”.

But in fact, this is the first step in letting go of fundamentalism. Without an enemy, fundamentalism falls apart. Without a spiritual enemy, religious fundamentalism falls apart.

If one does not come to the full realization that everything that exists, and has yet to exist, is all from one source, our original parent…. then there is no real moving ahead to release from this prison.

This bedrock difference, that when one falls into “the abyss”, you fall into the arms of your “original parent”, is really the starting point of seeing the universe, and ourselves, as what and who we truly are.

To walk away from the beliefs of ones upbringing does not mean that the fundamentalist mindset has been eliminated. In all truth, it may simply go into hiding, which makes it even more difficult to root out.

In the end, the question is there. Does one trust the eternal parent and ones relationship to and IN that parent, or is there a trickster or monster out there waiting to gobble you up if you let down your guard. I would dare say that most folks can only answer that question honestly to themselves, one way. (Boo, I scared ya! hehe)

To be continued…………


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