The day I went to Hell.

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A old friend from another website I used to frequent and I were having an interesting conversation earlier today on Facebook about my conversion to Catholicism on Easter. My friend converted two years ago (from Episcopalian) so of course he knows much more than I do.

Both of us love philosophical musing and talking about weird, metaphysical subjects so as conversations sometimes will, soon I was asking him if he believed in Hell (he does but doesn’t think it’s a hellfire and brimstone sort of place) and if he believes all narcissists will go there (he thinks they will and there’s no hope for any of them; I don’t think that’s necessarily the case unless they’re psychopathic or malignant).

I asked him what he thought hell was like and he replied that it was worse than a fire and brimstone hell because it would involve the lost soul forever drifting alone in between the galaxies, where there are no stars and no light…utterly alone, and lost for all eternity with no hope of finding their way back to…anything at all.

This suddenly brought back memories of a bad LSD trip I took many years ago, when I was in my 20s. I was never adventurous about taking recreational drugs and pretty much stuck with alcohol and pot, which seemed safe. I must have known on some level I didn’t have the right sort of temperament to react well to a strong psychedelic drug, so I never messed with them except for this one time.

Psychedelic drugs make you extremely suggestible, and heighten whatever mood you’re already in or exaggerate what you’re already worried about. This is why it’s recommended that if you decide to experiment with this class of recreationals, to only do it in a setting you’re comfortable in and have a trusted “trip sitter” who is not under the influence there just in case a freak-out occurs. As a person who was constantly on edge and a nervous wreck anyway (and I also took it with someone I didn’t know well), the outcome wasn’t going to be good (but it sure was interesting).

My trip memories came flooding back (not as a flashback, just a memory) so I described these memories to my Facebook friend today. Personally I think these drugs can be extremely dangerous because I think that, much like messing with the occult, they can open doors better left bolted shut, and reveal truths about the universe we may not be ready to know or ever should know. You can be shown things you can’t begin to understand and that lack of understanding will terrify you. Basically, they constitute a way to eat from a Tree of Knowledge that can really fuck your head up for a long time, even causing a psychotic break, or at the least just cause extreme discomfort for awhile.

At first I thought nothing was going to happen, because the weirdness didn’t kick in for almost half an hour. Then I started to shiver as if I was cold but I wasn’t cold. The shivering was coming from inside me. Everything became metallic. My surroundings developed sharp edges that gleamed like the edges of knives and the sounds around me sounded like metal and glass.

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We were outside. I watched a car zoom by and thought it looked and sounded funny–sort of like a cartoon–so I started laughing. I thought it was alive. I started rambling (probably incoherently) about why cars weren’t considered to be living things because they sure acted like living things and even had “systems”–the body covered with a metal skin, the engine (the heart), the transmission and electrical system (the nervous system), the various fluids that lubricated and made it run (blood and other bodily fluids), even a waste elimination system (the exhaust). And they had four “legs” that kept them moving. They could get sick and be “diagnosed.” Their inner workings seemed as complex to me as the inside of the human body. They even had quirks and “personalities.”

This early part of the trip was kind of fun but I was still disturbed by the metallic sound and cartoonish look of everything. The world seemed like it was screaming and shards of metal were slicing into my brain like razor blades. A fly landed on my arm and I screamed because I thought it was some kind of tiny machine that could see inside my soul. The fact that such “engineered insects” and even smaller nanomachines actually exist freaks me out more than a little.

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Creepy artificially engineered insect.

Then I had a bizarre thought that came out of nowhere. I “realized” that nothing was real–that everything and everyone I had ever known, everything I ever learned about or experienced, in fact every person and every experience I had ever had since the time I was born–none of it was real. Everything and everyone I knew was merely a creation of my own mind. (I understand some Eastern religious practices actually do believe this).

But if everything I saw and knew and experienced was nothing but a mental construct I created from my own mind, and nothing really existed, then where were my own thoughts coming from?

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I was a singularity, a tiny speck of bright white consciousness, floating alone in the black void of deep space, light years away or an eternity away from any known universe. I felt utterly alone and lonely, and wondered why only my consciousness existed. I was overcome with profound sadness.

And then realized this meant I must be God. I was pure consciousness floating bodiless within an eternity of nothingness. I could create my reality out of nothing. If that was the case, I could create a whole new universe. As God, I was the consciousness that brought on the Big Bang. I thought about creating a new universe, one that would make me happy instead of so miserable, afraid and sad. But I was too afraid to create anything at all. What sort of “God” would be so scared and so powerless?

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I started to freak out. I remembered my past life, my job, my school, my friends, my family. I wanted to get back but didn’t know how. I had a massive panic attack so intense I thought I would die. Maybe I was already dead. Maybe I had never existed at all…who the hell was I? Where was I?

I was trapped in some weird time loop. Although I (think) I only had these realizations, thoughts and visions once, I had the unsettling feeling I had been through this exact experience many times before, and in fact this experience had been my only reality throughout all eternity. Everything else had been a dream. This was the only reality.

Gradually I began to come back to the world. My friend told me he was worried about me because all I had done was sit on the floor, backed into a corner of his kitchen, moaning and mumbling incoherently. He said my eyes looked like black pools of terror. He tried to give me some coffee but I had pushed him away. I didn’t remember doing that.

It was definitely an interesting experience but one I would never try again.

My Facebook friend and I started talking about the devil and whether he existed. Anyone who would think of themselves as God, even in a deluded drug induced state, was being influenced by Satan, who thought of himself as God or at least that he should have been God. I’m still not sure I believe in Satan, but this argument made a kind of sense. The overall feeling of my LSD experience was one of profound despair, terror, evil and separation from God.

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Could this be Hell?

Being “God”–a singularity of consciousness amid an eternity of nothingness–was terrifying. I told my friend I thought perhaps I went to Hell and it was exactly as he had described: a place of nothingness between the galaxies or even outside any known universe, perhaps within a massive black hole, an eternal separation from all that was real, whether bad, good or in between.

I was never so glad to return to the mundane and too often very boring and painful reality of the earthly world I lived in, just one insignificant human among billions of others just like me. I actually appreciated all the little things that angered, upset or annoyed me, at least for a little while.

Looking back on that experience now, I think I actually was in hell. I think that, if Satan does exist, utter aloneness, terror and despair is what he feels (but don’t worry, I’m not Mick Jagger and have no sympathy for the devil). Satan is the Ultimate Narcissist, and still believes he is greater than God, the source of all that is–and he hates God for casting him out of heaven into that eternal black void of nothingness.

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My problem with Christianity

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I check my WP Reader almost every day, and always find fascinating viewpoints there. Of course, I don’t agree with all of them, but my mind is always opened and that’s a good thing.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the nature of God lately, and living in a Bible Belt state, I think a lot about who Jesus really was and where a belief in the Bible and God fits into my life. I happened across a couple of excellent and well written blogs about atheism here on WordPress, and I recommend both of them to Christians and those of other faiths as well as agnostics and atheists. The two websites I’m referring to are Godless Cranium and The Superstitious Naked Ape.

There’s a lot of negative stereotypes about atheists and how arrogant and intolerant they are toward religion, Christianity in particular, but I think this view is erroneous. I’m not denying there may be a few atheists out there who are arrogant and hostile toward the idea of religion, but from my readings, I don’t get that impression. I also want to clear up the idea that atheists “hate God.” How can you hate something you don’t believe exists? It’s like hating Santa Claus or unicorns.

Let me start out by saying I am not an atheist, nor do I believe I’ll ever become one. I believe in God, and I also pray. I also occasionally like to attend church services, mostly because I enjoy the aesthetics of the service and the music, particularly that of a Catholic high mass (I am not Catholic) or the joyful gospel singing of a black Baptist church. I believe there may be angels but I am not sure (or maybe I just want to believe in them). I believe Jesus provides a great example of how we should treat others. I also believe many other men and women throughout history provide examples that are just as beneficial to humanity.

But my faith, for lack of a better word, pretty much stops there. I won’t go into a long detailed account of why I think most of the Bible is bunk (especially the Old Testament), or why I don’t believe Jesus was actually the Son of God (in the divine sense), because plenty can be said about that on both of the named websites and elsewhere, by people who know a lot more about these things than I do.

I don’t believe after we die, we only have two options–Heaven or Hell. People run the gamut from nearly totally evil to very, very good, and I don’t think anyone is 100% one or the other. None of us is perfect of course, but on the other end of the spectrum, even Hitler had a couple of good points: he loved dogs and children (as long as they were blonde, blue eyed white children). To say we will either spend eternity in a place with streets of gold and lots of harps and winged beings OR in a place of fire and eternal torment by demons just seems silly and overly simplistic–why would a God of mercy and love send an average Joe or Jane, who just doesn’t happen to have accepted Jesus as their personal savior, to a place of eternal torment? It’s black or white (and to my mind, very toxic) thinking, with no shades of gray in between, and I can’t accept that way of thinking.

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Here’s a laundry list of my problems with the idea of heaven and hell:

— If all that is required to get into Heaven is to accept Jesus as your savior, then a serial killer like Jeffrey Dahmer (who was “saved” before his execution) or another otherwise horrible person who got “saved” (and there are horrible Christians out there) would be accepted into heaven while a very good person of a faith other than Christianity, such as Gandhi or Buddha, would be burning in hell. It just doesn’t make sense, and any God who would allow such a state of affairs is no God I would want anything to do with. That God would be a sadist, a bigot, and a narcissist: basically the God of the Old Testament.

— While there is evidence of fire and brimstone under the earth (easily explained by geologic science), how is it possible that so many souls could fit into such a small space in the center of the earth? If most humans are hellbound, and even if humans have only populated the planet for 6,000 years (which I think is complete bunk), that’s a hell of a lot of souls crammed together (pun intended).

— Why would any God of mercy give Satan so much power? Is Satan God’s hatchetman, the supernatural equivalent of the good cop/bad cop meme or the company hatchetman or woman who does all the “nice” boss’s firing?

— Lots of people have never heard of Jesus Christ. If they’re all going to hell too, that’s a pretty unjust God.

— Are children who have never been baptized or told about Christianity all going to hell? That’s a cruel and sadistic God.

— What about people like me, who have tried and tried to believe in Jesus the way most Christians want us to, even praying for the gift of faith, but just can’t do it? God gave me a brain to think with, and to question things. Before I can believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins and that the only way I can attain salvation is to accept Him, I need some sort of evidence proving this is so. If God didn’t want me to think and question, why would He have given me a brain?

— Most Christians (at least the evangelicals) think animals have no souls and won’t go to heaven. To me, heaven without animals would be hell. When I look into my dog’s or my cats’ eyes, I know there’s a soul there. Nothing can convince me otherwise.

–Any God who would allow the majority of human beings to suffer for all eternity just because their level of faith didn’t satisfy him, is a sadistic, evil, unempathetic narcissist. I can’t and won’t believe in a God like that. I also think threatening people with eternal damnation is a horrible way to get people to convert. If it works, then it’s a tactic based on fear and is very toxic and soul-damaging.

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I’m not a Buddhist or any other eastern religion (I have problems with those religions too), but I actually like the idea of reincarnation. It makes more sense to me and takes into account why there’s so much suffering and injustice in the world. A difficult life may be a way of paying off karmic debt and our next life could be much easier if we pay off the debt sufficiently in this life. Or a more advanced soul could have a difficult life, because they’ve attained enough spiritual growth to be able to learn something valuable from their suffering or use it to help others. I don’t know, but it just seems much more like something a loving and merciful God would do than throw his creations into the Good Box or the Bad Box after they die, and that’s it for you for all eternity.

I take issue with any religion that only values what happens to you after you die, and fundamentalist Christianity seems to care much more about the afterlife than enjoying this life.

Christianity, as is all too often the case today, especially in America, has become very much tied up with conservative politics, and is turning off a lot of liberals who may otherwise be attracted to Christianity. I doubt if Jesus was around today, he would worship the free market economy, think helping the poor was “enabling” them, and be intolerant toward LGBT people, atheists, and women.

And that brings me to the evangelical Christian attitude toward women. According to the Bible, it was because of a woman (Eve) that man fell from grace, and because God made man first (with women being created as helpmates), the biblical view is that men have dominion over women and women should submit to their will, even when the man is abusing them. For that matter, the God of the Old Testament acted much like an abusive husband. I’m sorry, but that view is a total turnoff to me, and isn’t doing anything to win more women over to evangelical Christianity.

I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about the Bible here, but there’s something I need to get off my chest. When Christians can’t back up their arguments with reason and evidence (creationism vs. evolution is just one example), they almost always use the “But it’s in the Bible so it must be so” argument. If you try to pin them down as to why the Bible is right, all they can say is “it’s the word of God.” No. It’s the words of men, translated many times and from many different languages. The Bible can and has been interpreted differently by different Christian denominations, and even Christians can’t seem to agree among themselves what the Bible is actually saying in many cases–because it’s full of contradictions (which I won’t get into here because it would take way too long). What makes the Bible so special anyway? It’s a book. Homer’s Odyssey is a book too. Why isn’t Homer’s Odyssey taken as the word of God? For that matter, what makes one religious text right and another one wrong? Christians think Muslims are all going to hell and their Koran is the wrong holy book. Muslims think the same about Christians and the Bible. Mormons think only the Book of Mormon is the correct holy text. What makes one automatically right and the other ones wrong? If any of them were right, wouldn’t God somehow give us some sort of clue as to which text we should all be following?

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There’s a lot more things I could say, but then this article would turn into a book, so let me just sum up here with what I personally believe.

I believe God exists, and that he created the universe, but I also very much believe in scientific evidence that the earth is several billion years old and that all life on earth evolved, and was not created in 6 literal days. I think a concept known as “divine intervention” is a possibility–that is, that evolution occurred, but was overseen by God or a higher intelligence and that the evolution of human beings may have been “helped along.” Some evolutionists actually believe this view is a watered down version of creationism, and perhaps it is. I don’t dispute the idea of random evolution, but human intelligence seemed to happen too fast for that to be the case although I could be wrong. Besides, I find the idea of no higher intelligence watching over things a little frightening and to me that would seem to make all our striving and suffering a little pointless. I like to think there is some higher purpose to this life than mere physical reality.

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As for the afterlife, I believe some people may go to heaven, but I don’t believe in hell, unless it’s a hell created by our own minds during this life that continues into the afterlife. I actually find the idea of annihilation after death more attractive than one of eternal torment, but I think our souls live on. Perhaps hell exists but only for the truly evil and unrepentant. I think the rest of us–who are too good for hell but not good enough for heaven–probably get reincarnated after a time of contemplating and assimilating the lessons learned in this life. I believe God is merciful and loving, and loves all his children, even those who have no faith he exists, and he would never give an evil entity like Satan (who probably doesn’t exist anyway) dominion over the majority of human souls after they die. As for Jesus, I have a lot of trouble with both the concept of his divinity and the idea of the Trinity. The first seems like a fairy tale and there’s no evidence, and as for the concept of the Trinity, I just can’t wrap my brain around it. Is there one God or three? How can God be three persons in one? Believers take it on faith alone and don’t try to analyze it, but I just can’t do that because of my analytical nature. I need to know the why’s and hows of everything before I embrace it. However, I do think Jesus was an extremely evolved soul who showed us a lot about grace, mercy and love, and I wish more Christians actually tried to follow the example of Jesus Christ in their daily lives instead of only on Sundays.

I have no idea what “religion” my beliefs make me; I suppose it’s bits and pieces of a lot of things that fit in with my worldview. But I’m open to changing my mind about a lot given enough proof.

I like to read blogs and books by atheists, Christians, and everything in between, in an attempt to understand differing viewpoints, and it saddens me that so much hatred, violence and death has occurred in the name of religion. Why does it matter if you worship a different God than I do, or even no God at all? We can all be moral and decent people who bring good to the world and to others, no matter whether we’re Christians, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics, pagans, or atheists. I wish people with different belief systems would act the way this atheist and Christian pastor do in this video, in a civil and respectful manner. These two men have completely opposite beliefs, and yet have become good friends, and I find that very heartwarming and the video is extremely interesting.

I can’t embed the video, but here’s the link:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/08/video-from-the-megachurch-service/

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Nuff said.