In this chapter, I relate my experience of the following:

Religion and Belief

Religions are not just beliefs: religions are imperative beliefs.

That is to say that religions are commandments to believe a set of dogma paired with a declaration of reward and punishment to ensure compliance.

Each religion, like Christianity, commands you to believe that particular events have occurred in the past, and to expect that particular events will happen in the future.

A mere set of beliefs, like theism or atheism, is just a perspective, or perhaps a worldview, or at most a philosophy. Theism and atheism are therefore not religions. They are only declarative, not imperative. They only declare that the world is a particular way. They only describe the world in a particular way. They do not require action, as religions do, based on the expectation that a particular description is true.

This is an important distinction because there is a social movement that declares atheism a religion; for all reasons, to discredit it in favor of a religion. To be fair, the argument to declare atheism a religion started out as a declaration associating atheism with an implied religion to worship state authority, which can rightly be called an atheist religion, for state authority is as much an imperative belief as any religion.

The implied atheist religion of state is deduced from the assumption that morality must come from some imperative, and therefore beliefs must also have imperative form. This assumption is so important to the church because the "cardinal" peer of the church is the state, for they share a parity in the form of a power duopoly, compelling them both to maintain the assumption. This is why religious freedom, or a separation between church and state, is desired by both political power and religious power: as a parity, each legitimizes the other.

Psychology and Belief

Religion commands a change in belief. I hope to explain why I have thought so much about this aspect of religion, and why I would like to share my experience.

Belief is the confidence we have in our ideas that represent some aspect of the world, for the purpose of informing our actions. That is, beliefs inform decisions about actions. When we act, we refer to our beliefs about the world and what we might expect from various actions, so that we may decide upon an action. A theist makes decisions about actions informed by their belief in a god.

Religions ask us to make a decision about our beliefs. In short, we are asked to change our understandings and expectations of the world, to influence our actions; if not to change habits to satisfy a purpose, then at least to give purpose to existing habits. In this sense, religion is a psychology, or at least a psychological therapy. It is for this reason that religion is often offered as a solution to psychological problems.

To me, growing up, my father was very careful to talk about Christianity only as a solution for psychological problems. For anything related to the world, my father was almost purely a deist or a naturalist (but certainly not a materialist). But any time I had any psychological problem, there was always a private meeting, usually during a drive, where Christianity was offered as a solution.

I was told that all I had to do was accept Christ into my heart, and the rest will follow. It didn't matter that I didn't believe anything related to Christianity as a philosophy. A Christian understanding of things would follow acceptance of Christ.

Experience and Belief

My first thought, being taught naturalism by my father, was that it couldn't hurt to try. Afterall, scientific naturalists learn from observation, so I could try to accept Christ into my heart and see what followed. This is where I had difficulty.

What if you want to accept Christ into your heart? How is that done? I had visited some churches, and seen people accept Christ into their heart by standing up and declaring their acceptance. This makes some sense, because an action could well lead to a change in observation, which could add new perspectives to change ideas, which could ultimately change beliefs. That is a method I have seen successfully applied to many psychological problems. It works great for things like overcoming an irrational fear. It works great for many problems caused by an unusually bad experience.

So I finally gave it a try. I declared my acceptance of Christ. I asked Him into my heart, even though I doubted even His existence. I even managed to muster a little faith that this would alleviate doubt to some degree, although I must admit that I only felt this faith strongly for a few minutes.

I lived for several months after, thinking how relieved I was that I had done this, and looking forward to a potential for change in my life. Every time I struggled with something, I sought comfort by thinking of Christ. I must admit that I was comforted at first. I think I even started to believe in my imaginary Christ, but it is difficult to tell when the only choice this belief affected was whether to be afraid.

But then I started thinking about having a "closer relationship" with Christ. I felt a little more comfortable, and decided to try to seek faith in more than just my own comfort. I felt that it was time for me to invest more into this relationship. That is when I decided to read the The Holy Bible.

Experience and Disbelief

The problem with basing a belief on experience is that it may also form the basis for a disbelief.

I started reading The Holy Bible. My goal was to read it from front to back, from beginning to end, in sequence. I managed to read about half of Genesis, the first book. After about twenty minutes, I had lost all of my faith. My imaginary Christ had nothing to do with what I was reading. Since my imaginary Christ was based on the truth of what I was reading, my imaginary Christ disappeared. I became a born-again atheist.

My atheism became stronger than at any point it had been since I was aware of the concept of a god. The pressure from my father to seek help from Christ was completely gone. Immediately, in a matter of minutes, the void created by the loss of my imaginary Christianity was replaced by a renewed faith in my own instincts and experience. I had acted with strength, and I had what could be called a "religious experience" from the imperative of my own senses.

I desire to share my experience for the same reason a religious person wants to share their experience: it is "good news". It is my own biblical gospel. I am tempted to go door to door handing out bibles.

Psychology and Disbelief

It is easy to see why psychology and religion are naturally opposed. The purpose of psychology is the integration of mental spirit and physical spirit; incidentally, the same purpose of Eastern philosophy. Countering that purpose is the purpose of religion and state: the integration of mental spirit with the goals of a distant -- even inaccessible -- power authority.

The moralities of psychology and religion reveal this difference in spirit through their attitudes toward instinct. The morality of psychology is one of personal integrity: a loyalty to instinct. The morality of religion is one of collective conformity: a loyalty against instinct.

There is an irrational fear among theists that atheism leads to moral corruption due to a lack of central authority. Firstly, the data available on criminal behavior and religious affiliation contradicts this. Secondly, the atheist has an advantage when it comes to moral integrity since an atheist's moral input is no longer limited to that of the central authority.

Not only are atheist free to trust their own moral compass, atheists are free to trust other people. Every observation becomes a source of moral integrity. By acknowledging my own moral sense, I acknowledge the same moral sense in others. When I observe oppression, I know how to persuade action against that oppression. I no longer have to look to God to know what is right. I see it, and I can act on it in an instant.

It is true that we are created with the ability to assign value to things. The Jews are right in this respect, that we can know the difference between right and wrong. But they are wrong that it is "prior" knowledge. Right and wrong is something we observe. The value of an action is in its effects -- what it produces -- not that it is a particular type of action. That is why creators -- those who can produce desired effects -- have a stronger moral integrity with the world.

Religion and Disbelief

Christians tell you to be more Christ-like. They don't tell you to be more God-like. They cannot tell you to be more God-like because He is perfect and you are not.

But perfection is about the satisfaction of a goal. When that goal is implicit in an external imperative, of course the result will be imperfection. What makes God perfect is not in what he is or what he does. It is in what he wanted and that he created it. Gods are creators.

What greater psychology is there than that of a god? What worse psychology is there than that of a worshipper? What greater psychologists are there than the nonreligious? We are the only group with the interest to create gods of us all.

In the dialect of the monotheists who worship The Creator, every artist is a god, just as Pythagoras, Homer, and Plato are the true gods of the Greeks. Even Christianity may be viewed as an echo of Plato reverberating within the Jewish political philosophy of the time. Ever wondered why the New Testament is written in Greek?

Religion and Spirituality

Perhaps I am not an atheist afterall? Perhaps I am a polytheist? Or more properly, a polydeist? I do consider myself highly spiritual, and believe myself to be more spiritual than most religious people.

My atheism: It isn't about what I don't believe. It is not about rejecting perspectives.

My atheism: It is about the inclusion of perspectives. It is about a faith that new experiences cannot betray me, for they can only augment me. It is about trusting my instincts. It is about viewing the world as a source of therapy, not a source of fear, since bad thoughts and experiences can be checked by new experience. It is about spiritual interdependence. It is about the appreciation of culture. It is about a great sense of optimism.

My atheism: It means that I can talk to religous people, which I enjoy because they desire meaning in their life, and discuss with an open mind whatever parable and moral they want. It means that I can seek answers from any source, no longer required to discard meaning that comes my way merely because it comes from a particular source. It means that I can feel great meaning in my life from daily, even hourly, events. It means that I can be my own therapist. It means that I can love life.

My atheism means reaching beyond religion to an unlimited spirituality.