Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Exegesis: The F-Word

Promise Keepers rally, mid-90s

There are so many words in the English language that trigger deep feelings of nausea in me, but perhaps none so much as the F-word.

Yes, every time I hear the word "faith" --or worse, "people of faith "-- I feel involuntary spasms at the back of my throat, the room starts to spin, and images of rotting tuna sandwiches fill my eyes. Well, not quite but close enough.

"Faith" is one of those buzzwords that overpaid media consultants have injected into the memestream. It's meant to be a stand-in for "organized religion," a stand-in that's meant to soften the jagged edges of religiously-motivated political pressure groups (or more accurately, politically-motivated religious pressure groups).

It's kind of like the etymological equivalent of the "you wouldn't hit a guy with glasses" gag from some old Daffy Duck cartoon. The closet cases and hausfraus that form the core of these groups can go around harassing religious and sexual minorities, banning books from libraries, cheerleading for more invasions and bombing campaigns and electing sociopaths totally beholden to corporate and bankster power with impunity.

The minute you raise an objection, the concern trolls at The New York Times and Newsweek start wringing their hands about "faith under fire" and begin pointing out all of the token charity fronts that these "faith groups" from across the monotheistic (there's no such thing, but we'll get to that in a later post) spectrum slap together to justify their tax-exempt status. Anything to divert people's attention from the fact that organized religion as we know it today was created by autocrats to act as tools of political conquest.

Faith also brings up mental images of nanas and aunties at shrines, praying to one saint or another (all of the saints and church fathers that weren't fictitious appropriations of pagan gods were invariably born into or sponsored by aristocratic families -- look it up if you don't believe me). You can just smell the old lady bouquet when the word is spoken.

Enough of all of that.

No matter how much you or I hate the word, the fact of the matter is that, like "spirituality," no healthy society can operate without a large degree of faith. We're not talking about the euphemistic neologism now, we're talking about the fact that it takes an act of faith to get through the day. We all take so much on faith that I think we'd all go into a state of panic if we stopped to think just how much we actually do take on faith.

But the reason I left the Church was because of the concept of "Faith." I can deal with the fact that I take it on faith that I won't be struck down by an asteroid when I step outside my door, or that I take it on faith that the guy barreling towards me on the other side of the undivided highway isn't suddenly going to careen into me head first and send me to the hospital or the grave.

What I couldn't take on faith was a system of belief that my actual experience was telling me was falling apart, no matter how hard I wanted to reconstruct my blissful memories of church from my childhood. What was replacing it was a reductive, tribalist cult of state, no different in theory --or practice-- than the old Jupiter (literally, "God the Father") cult of Rome.

There was so much involved in this faith that contradicted everything I knew or had experienced about the world, never mind the fact that the faith itself is ridden with internal contradiction. And the religious experiences I had in a more countercultural milieu were infinitely more potent and transformative. But as I've said before it wasn't all of that that bugged me- you have to let a lot of things slide when entering into any belief system, whether religious or secular.

It was the fact that the "faith" had become totally subsumed by temporal politics.

The denomination I grew up was split down the middle into liberal and conservative camps who barely seemed to remain on the same planet, never mind within the same church. The work of the writers who rekindled my interest in the faith of my childhood-- Paul Tillich, John Dominic Crossan, Scott Peck, Matthew Fox, Karen Armstrong-- were so outside of the mainstream of what American Christianity had become by the early 90s they were nearly alien.

And what American Christianity had become was an amen corner for the neo-colonial and neo-conservative ascendancies within the Republican Party.

I didn't realize it, but the seeds of something much deeper and stranger were being sown at the same time, seeds that would take root and lead me away from all of that misplaced nostalgia.

In the space of the month that I started going back to church, I'd experience a rash of synchronicities and prophetic dreams, bring home my first modem and get online, and watch the pilot episode of The X-Files. And the rest is history.

"Faith" soon tasted like O'Douls compared to the acid-laced Everclear of gnosis. I never looked back.

Even so, I still believe in faith-- the F-word-- in the Stan Lee "keep the faith, True Believer!" sense. As in be brave, stick to your guns and believe in what you are doing. I still have faith that there's a purpose and a plan that waits for those worthy enough to divine it all to tap into.

The difference is that where faith (as society defines it) is a closed circuit-- a dead end-- the alternative thereto has a whole kitbag of tools to plug you into the raw face of Infinity.

If you have the faith to stare into it.


  1. I'm one of the "people of faith" that causes you spasms.
    I'm not belong any organized religion, my guide is the Word.

    First, sorry my english, but i'm european, so i speak another language. But i'm a long time reader of your blog and this is the first time i comment something.

    Second, i do not recognize in your describing about me, and about faith. Sorry, but not all the people are the same. And in my personal view i think you are wrong about Faith. But i respect your gnostic view even you do not respect my Christian view.

    Third, Faith is the fuel that gives me sanity to live in this crazy world.
    Justice is gonna be made
    "Deus tarda mas não falha"

    A christian hug

    PS: I like your blog, even i do not agree with the most of yoiur writings

  2. Is it really any surprise that a religion based on the Old Testament, which espouses genocide, slavery, rape and incest,(see will spawn congregations that believe warmongering and bigotry are the route to revelation? It occurred to me the other day that Abrahamic faiths are all based on the myth of a man who proves his own moral righteousness through his willingness to murder (sacrifice) his own son to please Jehovah. So, by not challenging the moral degeneracy of Jehovah's command to Abraham, the societal consequence is a nation of fundamentalists warmongers who literally sacrifice their own children in pursuit of foreign wars that serve no practical purpose whatsoever.
    At best, the Bible can be viewed as remnants of ancient knowledge that has been edited and reedited so many times that much of the most useful wisdom is gone. However, I'd like to believe that the malignancy of the media version of Evangelical Christianity is not representative of the belief system of average Americans. Am I naive to believe in the essential goodness of people, even when those people are brainwashed by sociopathic leaders? Can the concept of the sociopathic society explain why Christian charity is a reality not represented by the policies of GOP representatives? This is not to say that sometimes their constituencies don't go on to adopt grossly unethical belief systems such as support for the Iraq war, particularly where the use of torture is concerned. Here is where the dangers of groupthink step in, but all the same I have to wonder if those admittedly destructive beliefs are intrinsic aspects of the character of the so-called herd, or if they are grotesque mistakes of reasoning superimposed over higher selves by the Gnostic Demiurge? This is where talk of the "New World Order" seems most useful to me, as a parasitic overclass which seeks to inflame the most base instincts in humanity, such as greed, competition, violence, lack of empathy, etc.(notice I did not say lust because we know where that is going.)

  3. I'm also a member of a semi-organized religion, and I disagree with your take on Faith.

    Gnosis is wonderful, but after 5 years as a practitioner, I've found that it's not enough. There are times when I doubt the knowledge gained, even through experience. And so, faith, in the sense of 'Trust' (trust my experience, trust the Divine, etc) is incredibly important.

    That said, all too often it is used as a cop out. The major organizations that bother to maintain charities I have less quarrel with, for they do a lot of good. It's the ones that don't even bother to hide, the dominionists and the New Apostolic Faith and the propserity gospel perversions, that I save my ire for. I remind myself they're a small fraction of the whole.

  4. You can't help but feel the way you do Chris when you are confronted by the devoid of spirit church as it stands today. Faith is a crutch, largely. It is the final leg that many stand on rather than reaching out to hold on to something real. That said if someone has faith in something I will not disparage him doing so.

  5. this post really hit the spot with me chris; i have a lot of 'faith' in you and your blog. i didn't see it as a spasm, or an attack on 'people of faith'. like everything else,it is all relative to your positiion and perspective. I think that yours is a 'mature' perspective; and that is where misunderstandings may arise. I think the whole, 'new atheism (?)' of dawkins et al, is a childish response and misrepresentative. There is a cycle to these matters and the distinction you draw between faith\spirituality and religiosity\dogma is illustrative of this.
    The dogmatic religiosity, of absolute certainty, was a construct for children and childlike adults of limited education. For dawkins et al to focus on this aspect of faith is to either miss the point entirely or to wilfully misrepresent it.
    As the faithfuls level of education, and degree of or ability with critical thinking increases; the cycle begins; usually with an indignant bout with 'atheism'. Unfortunately, this seems to be where the 'new atheists' get stuck. Hopefully, the next step is along the comparative religion phase, whereupon the arid nullabor (name of australian desert = treeless plain) of atheism is found wanting and the common denominators (tao- those letters ended up on the screen due to editing and deleting, too good to get rid of- i have faith that these sorts of synchronicities are the stuff of gnosis; as opposed to 'gnosticism'.) of all the wisdom traditions are sought, and hopefully found. e.g. transform motivation, cultivate emotional wisdom,live ethically,concentrate/calm your mind,awaken spiritual vision and intelligence, embrace generosity and joy of service."Essential Spirituality- Roger Walsh". Having achieved a level of understanding of these concepts, it becomes possible to realise that you are able to choose a tradition that resonates with you, understand that it was always a cultural choice, and accept it as part of the ritual that has been found throughout the ages to be an essential(?) component in the toolkit of the wise. For whatever reason, ritual and 'Faith' seem to be powerful drivers in allowing us to understand and implement the spiritual common denominators as outlined above.
    I believe that one necessary component of intelligent discussion is the importance of defining the terms, loaded terms such as 'faith' can be difficult, especially if people have a preconceived definition which they are wed to.
    sorry to blab, but your blog is inspirational man, i really mean that.

  6. Hey Chris,

    More exceptionally lucid thoughts. Rock on, brother. In my more optimistic moments I like to imagine that the human/divine psyche is so profoundly alive and infinite that our most tender and hopeful musings about Christ, Allah, Krishna, etc are all true in some mysterious and joyous way.

    I like to imagine that all those Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Jews who are exceptionally warm and intelligent and open-minded are rewarded with profound truth and life to their religious imaginings, perhaps without them ever really knowing it.

    If God is love, and at the risk of sounding unfashionably New Age I do believe that the creator-force IS love, then I can imagine many faces to this love -each face is complete and cultural, and yet each face is a refraction of the other. In this way, no matter the belief system or imagery, our religious/spiritual beliefs are true in ways we cannot fully comprehend.

    After all, if something akin to a loving God exists - I'm sure it is a master story-teller.


  7. Given the perception that the Christian Church and clergy have not merely failed in providing spiritual leadership, but have been completely and hideously derelict in their responsibility to do so… and given the state of the secular world today… the Gnostic explanation that the creator god, or demiurge is essentially insane… is as good a hypothesis as any!

    - cheers!

  8. terms...

    'faith' doesn't grate on me nearly as much as 'believe' or 'belief'.

    although for both terms, context IS key....

    faith is intuitive and that's fine. it's a glass half full gamble on odds. :)

    but, when one 'believes' something... one should at least be able to explain their logic path and proofs that led to the state of such confidence on the subj. more often than not, one expressing 'belief' on a matter has simply accepted someone else's dogma, and the lessons of self-inquiry have been negated/lost.

    the real trouble begins when the faithful and the believers evangelize and demand that others accept and live by their beliefs and dogmas, or die. to borrow a lizzardism... "cake or death?"

    this ultimate tyranny, THE BIG DOGma of the major religions; original sin.

    w/this cudgel, humanity is forced to negate/deny its innate divinity and connection to it, as part of Creation.

    humanity, held hostage outright by a criminal hierarchy of self-appointed emissaries, who work iron fist/velvet glove w/bureaucratic authorities who capitalize on the victim's pre-dispositional subservience to theocratic authority premised on the imaginary rift.

    there's the mustard seed.

  9. Chris,

    More great observations on faith and religion. The topic of religion,and specifically in this case faith, can be like opening a can of worms--it's so personal that I think people lose all reason when discussing it. Our perosnal bias causes blind spots and we fail to see the salient points others make--as I think the European gentleman did in his comments. He actually confirms one of your points in that faith helps keep us sane and going throughout each day.

    I used to belong to a church (which I like to view as a closed-system) in which thinking independently was not prohibited per se, but discouraged by practice, peer pressure, and tradition. These are powerful forces and when applied to politics as you point out, can be very disheartening. I've been following your blog for a few years now and find much value in it. It helps reinforce my own personal journey of discovery and helps me to focus on some of the more subtle points of reality that I might otherwise miss.

    My encounter with organized religion is different from yours, but I think the awakening process from the closed-systems that most religions are, opens our eyes to a vastly more complicated world that does take time and effort to discern.

  10. First of all, thank all of you for responding to this post, which I realizes touches on very deeply personal issues. As always, I'm impressed and honored by the thoughtful comments I get on this blog. As someone who spends a lot of time reading a whole range of websites on a whole range of topics, I realize how rare and previous that is.

    NP- I think you might have missed the fact that the essay specifically cites American Christianity, which most non-US Christians might be shocked if they discovered how nationalistic and xenophobic it has become, among many other things. The old mainline denominations and the historical churches are in rapid decline in America and are being replaced by a set of ahistorical, anti-intellectual sects that have more in common with blood and soil paganism -and the more hysterical Mystery cults-- than any kind of traditional Christianity.

    Venusinpieces- Well put. Even though I don't consider myself an atheist I am a big fan of the writings of Sam Harris, who I like to call the "Thinking Man's Atheist." Harris points out that the Abraham and Isaac story is part of a tradition of human sacrifice that existed throughout the ancient world and has not been entirely erased from the Bible, even though the practice was replaced by animal sacrifice all across the ancient world. Read more here:

    Monsignor- I'm not sure how you are defining Gnosis, and I did point out the importance of faith in the essay. As to your claim that these sects are a small fraction of the whole, I have to disagree. The NAR might be a vanguard, but they are simply saying out loud what a lot of conservatives believe. And the PG movement is enormous- much bigger than any "mainline" sect. PG churches and their fellow travelers make up the core of the megachurches in America.

    Tenebroust- We all have faith of some sort and we all rely on it to one degree or another. But I think it's no longer enough to build a belief system around and faith-based systems of all kinds have used faith to excuse - even justify- injustice.

  11. Dboy- Blab away, my friend. It's all good stuff. And you're right to distinguish Gnosis from Gnosticism. The ancient Gnostics often took a lot more on faith than their orthodox enemies. I think Gnosis should be tested and questioned, or it may degenerate into faith. Which is why it's important to do things like keep a synchronicity log and a dream log.

    Raj- Well, I think not only love but compassion need to be at the core of any belief system. I think that the tenets of Gnosticism as it was widely practiced- that this world is a prison and we are spirits trapped in flesh-- puts the practice of love and compassion at the center, in much the same way that survivors of a plane crash would need to stick together to survive. More so now than ever, as the veneer of "prosperity" and "freedom" begin to crack and fade.

    Jack Heart- Look now further than the systematic sexual abuse of children- endemic to all organized religions, though certainly worse in some more than others- for proof positive of that.

    Kikz- I think the fact that the original selling point of the monotheistic (sic) faiths- their pretense to historicity- is rapidly falling away is leading to a crisis point. The practice of gravitating towards the respectable sects, who shifted from history to allegory- has been under continued assault by the skeptics and the fundamentalists and social convention no longer requires religious affiliation. But nature abhors a vacuum and fundamentalisms (both secular and spiritual) have stepped in to fill the void. This is untenable and is leading to a near civil war situation in America.

    Arthur- Well, as I said my original exposure to religion was overwhelmingly positive. But I was enjoying the tail end of a historical movement in which churches acted as communities and extensions of the family. It was when I returned in the early 90s I realized how much has changed. And it was the rampant hatred and anger that I encountered when I went online and tried to interact with Christians that put the nails in the coffin. Everything was politics, politics, politics and there was a total absence of spiritual awareness. This was at the time of the Promise Keeper Nuremberg rallies and all of the rest of it. This is the time when the Southern Baptists and the Bible Belt took control of the national conversation on a lot more than religion.

  12. Excellent points Chris. I've read Sam Harris. I've also studied the Promise Keepers and was shocked to see how much cultic aspects of their practices jumped out at me. It truly borders on mind control. I'm not saying that there are not sincere people who join Promise Keepers who truly want to make a difference in their families and communities, however once in it is another story. I resisted attending as I was already beginning to see how I was controlled by my church--which I soon left. You've probably read American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips-he echos your thoughts on the Southern Baptists.

  13. I am currently in the process of finding my own gnosis. It requires a leap of faith to do just about anything worth doing. It takes those leaps to reach high points and make it over the obstacles of dogma and belief. It's like George Michael said...

  14. Well said, Chris. I couldn't agree more. I think love and compassion facilitates simultaneous reason and intuition - which is why it does need to be at the core of any belief system - especially if that belief system wishes to remain healthy and beneficent.

  15. Chris,

    What does 'gnosis' mean to you ? If you have already posted an essay or 3 on that, I will be happy with any links you care to provide.

    At the risk of inciting dogmatism, does one conceive of a definable purpose in gnosis ?

    How does such gnosis work for 'the initiated'? Is it entirely individual, or is a community pursuit ?

    If you feel such questions more personal than the intents of this blog, I understand. Please just fill in whatever you feel up to.


  16. thx for the reply chris..

    i agree.. the mist of cognitive dissonance their game is generated on/in; original sin and suffer here/now for a better then/there is evaporating in the beautiful sunlight of reason. :) i lament, it should'nt have taken so long... if we'd not lost the library/alexandria.... how much farther along in our evolution could we be? sorry.. ahem.. back on topic...

    the most worrisome aspect i can discern; the overt taking/control of the gov/mil by radical/religious fundamentalists w/in the last 2-3 decades....... by 2 generalized groups; evangelical dominounists w/in branches of the mil, most notably the Air Force, and the israeli/judaic component w/in the exec & foreign policy branches, the pentagon... and their respective agents of fealty w/in the legislative.... they've got play of the board..... it's not lookin good for the home team....

    however, most alarming of these - the evangel/doms - w/in the AirForce. a broken arrow by dominionists??? that possible scenario is a hangnail biter for sure!

    and to matters terrestrial, i am concerned that if the fundi/zio-xtian trend continues to gain traction, i (as others) may end our tenures here, at the stake. the noahide laws are on the books, all that is needed is for some thumper nut(s) to ignite the kindling, and we return to the burning times. some of their adherents have made no secret of their deluded demand for the US to return(?) to its xtian foundations (snicker)and rule by biblical law. (no snicker)

    the the free exchange of info, here in the net is quite tenuous....its negation could well progress to the street and thru our doors.

    ......if our generation allows the 'inquisition/dark age 2.0, under any banner - on US soil.. well, that'll be the one... i personally will step into the breach for, as i'd have nothing left to lose.

    no doubt.. we live in interesting times..i'm keeping an eye on the increasing numbers of institutional support for #occupywallstreet. pilots' union.. national mass transit... an acquaintance, patrick/heretic productions... has a rather poignant short voiceover vid out.. the author did quite well w/the poetry.
    expect us.

  17. The decadence and failure of the Church to provide spiritual sustenance left a void in the hearts and souls of those in search of meaning. Especially in the US, this void was filled by… you guessed it… Rock-n-Roll. Hence the term “Rock Star” took on a deeper meaning as a bringer of light. Music, being the language of the soul, provided insight and opportunity to internally reflect & process… an activity once sought in the church on Sunday. With the clergy mired in debauchery, musicians provided inspiration (gnosis) to their fans, in search of spiritual sustenance.

  18. Boy, can I relate to this post, Christopher. I remember in fall '93 - out on my own, living in Grand Rapids - catching the trailer for what was the upcoming pilot episode of "The X-Files." I thought - "Wow, reminds me of 'Twin Peaks,' a show I adored and when I put up fliers a few years earlier to start a Twin Peaks fan club at my conservative Christian college, they were all torn down. There's some faith in action for ya! And yeah, I know what you mean - you never look back. - Andrew in OKC.

  19. Have been on a comparable journey, Chris.

    Back in 2010 I reached a kind of boiling point and over a week-end wrote this article to let my steam off:

    Heiser vs. Sitchin

    Then for over a year I sat on the article as I knew it would never be given a fair shake in my "community". It simply contributes to the on-going upending of what we thought we knew.

    Then (a bit of synchronicity) after a year of sitting on the article I felt compelled to share it with author Paul Von Ward, after I'd read Paul's book:

    God, Genes, and Consciousness: Nonhuman Intervention in Human History

    Paul answered back after reading with comments such as:

    "I can't tell you how much I am pleased with your deeper corroboration of some of my comments in Gods, Genes & Consciousness."

    He'll use my article as one of his reference items in a book due out in Dec. 2011.

    I'd urge folks to also look at Paul's latest effort just released in Aug. 2011:

    We've Never Been Alone

    Another very important work that has contributed immensely to the synthesis that is brewing is Doug Elwell's book:

    Planet X, The Sign of the Son of Man, and the End of the Age

    This is essentially the "Unified Field" theory of the creation account mythologies of the various Mesopotamian civilizations.

  20. [Hi Secret. Saw this on the net recently. Robyn]

    F-word Mania

    The members of the present degenerate Hollywoodized generation love to needlessly sneak in the f-word for pure (?) shock value. I guess it's the literary form of "flashing" or "indecent exposure." They may not know that they are referred to in the 22nd chapter of Revelation which says "he which is filthy, let him be filthy still" - and they sure wouldn't want to know where such unrepentant low-lifes will end up, as vividly portrayed in that Biblical book! America's suicidal turning away from God in recent years has created a huge vacuum that has been quickly and gleefully filled by someone whose five-letter name starts with "S" - and, no, it isn't Santa (to find out just re-arrange these letters!). How many more disasters will have to happen in the US and elsewhere before even low-lifes will start to see connections?