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Flatliner

Ambiguity Or Certainty

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3. Do you believe it takes more faith to live in ambiguity or more faith to believe in a dogmatic faith? Why?

 

Short answer: I believe BOTH require an enormous amount of faith - not more or less than the other.

Long answer: read on.

 

DOGMATIC FAITH

Before my recent unravelling, I lived a long time with a dogmatic faith, one which would pride itself on being able to give an answer, swiftly and decisively address an issue, provide a bible verse that explained it. What's more, that faith and style was affirmed and encouraged by those around me, who saw it as a strong witness to the world. It does not sit well with me now.

For me, that position required an enormous amount of faith in order to believe and 'stand firm' because every cell of my body did not FEEL like it was true (but feelings had to submit to faith), every part of my soul did not FEEL that it was as 'absolute' as that (but it was THE truth), every part of my intellect struggled with the contradictions/mystery/illogical and bizarre aspects to the gospels (but it was supposed to be literally true). I found this faith was very prescribed. There were answers and reasons for everything, and even if we didn't know what the reasons were, God knew, so just rest in that. Final answer, no questions please. If you question things, you don't have enough faith. This place offered me a sense of safety for a while. I look back now and see it as a necessary step in my life to gaining a sense of perspective and solidity because all other aspects of my life were very chaotic and unpredictable. I found safety (and acceptance/belonging) and comfort in not having to think, judge, decide. All I really needed to do at that time was just read, follow, act and obey the prescribed teaching, rules and outworking service/behaviours that were acceptable (and deny, hide, others which were not acceptable).

Although this place may offer some a comfortable place, (which it did for me for a long time until I could no longer ignore my inner rumblings, jarrings and questions) it required an enormous amount of faith because I had to disregard my feelings, thoughts, instincts in favour of a prescribed life.

 

IS AMBIGUITY ANY BETTER?

Living with ambiguity requires from me an enormous amount of faith. My neat, tidy, tight, predictable, prescribed faith/life began unravelling and, it has become impossible for me to gather up all the threads and roll them back into a neat bundle. My belief has been pared down to a few tiny grains of faith although the few grains feel much bigger and more potent that my well thought out boxed up faith. I question everything I ever knew. To keep going, keep searching, keep pursuing requires an enormous amount of faith to live with uncertainty, mystery, ambiguity. It has led me to a greater sense of ambivalence, but a bigger faith. I haven't been able to package this one neatly, or explain it. I have less words now, where I had automatic answers I now find things difficult to articulate, I have very few answers (and my main one is "I don't know"). Ambiguity rather than certainty has brought more feelings, more mystery, more dumbstruck moments, more confusion, more pain for the inexplainable and unjustifiable things that happen, and I hope more compassion. It is different from a certain/dogmatic faith, but requires faith, in a different way.

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My experience is that certainty requires no faith. It is blind in the worst way. Being willing to always question things requires complete trust. It is uncomfortable, but it is at least honest and does require one to deceive themself.

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My experience is that certainty requires no faith.

Sure. Maybe I should have said that certainty requires a whole load of denial, rather than 'faith'. I think my definition of 'faith' is changing too. I think I've had 'faith' mixed up with 'belief' for a long while. So in my original post I can see that it took a lot for me to 'believe' in some things/ways, which I saw as having 'faith'. I think I'm probably reassessing what definitions I have assigned to various words - each denomination almost has its own definition of what it means. Does 'faith' mean 'belief' or is it something else? Trust?

 

Being willing to always question things requires complete trust. It is uncomfortable, but it is at least honest and does require one to deceive themself.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by this bit. :unsure:

FL

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Sure. Maybe I should have said that certainty requires a whole load of denial, rather than 'faith'. I think my definition of 'faith' is changing too. I think I've had 'faith' mixed up with 'belief' for a long while. So in my original post I can see that it took a lot for me to 'believe' in some things/ways, which I saw as having 'faith'. I think I'm probably reassessing what definitions I have assigned to various words - each denomination almost has its own definition of what it means. Does 'faith' mean 'belief' or is it something else? Trust?

I'm not sure what you mean by this bit. :unsure:

FL

 

 

I wish it would quote the quote.

 

Yes, faith is often used to mean both belief and trust, depending on the person speaking and the context they are using it in and of course unlike "live" and "live" or "read" and "read" there is no way to know what they mean by context. In this context, I meant trust. I won't promise it but I think I use "Faith" as beliefs only when talking about people of different religions.

 

"oops" I left out a not :o "It requires one not to deceive oneself" (WHere is that embarassed smiley when you need it?)

 

My personal experience was that to be certain (as I was at one time) meant turning off my brain. It meant being sure that all those dinosaurs they found couldn't possibly be real because dinosaurs aren't talked about in the bible so how could they exist? Science must be wrong because earth (according to my certainty) was only about 5,000 years old. There was no such thing as evolution, God created the earth in 6 days! I could go on and on.

 

Thankfully there was always that little nag. Once the perception I had of the powers that be was broken through I was able to stop turning off my brain and relying on my emotions and able to begin searching. I think because I was so absolutely certain from such a young age, for such a long time I will refuse to ever be absolutely certain again! I think ;)

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"oops" I left out a not :o "It requires one not to deceive oneself" (WHere is that embarassed smiley when you need it?)

 

LOL !!! :lol:

Okay, that makes more sense... B)

 

My personal experience was that to be certain (as I was at one time) meant turning off my brain. It meant being sure that all those dinosaurs they found couldn't possibly be real because dinosaurs aren't talked about in the bible so how could they exist? Science must be wrong because earth (according to my certainty) was only about 5,000 years old. There was no such thing as evolution, God created the earth in 6 days! I could go on and on.

 

Yes, I really get this bit, and this is where I've been for a long while, with that little nag as well. Funny though, I really doubted my own thoughts (and sanity??) amongst a large group of certain people - I guess I thought it was 'just me' and have been thankful to find others who are searching. I'm glad it is okay to 'think' again and openly question things and explore. It is not easy but feels much better.

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I have an observation that some people tend to be more likely as adults to have that dogmatic faith.

I know people brought up that way who switch around but I think it is less likely for adults to go

from say agnostism to dogmatic faith and then out of it again. It almost seems

to me that people are hard wired some way about that. I could not have dogmatic faith like Fundamentalists have. I think I wired wrong for it.

 

I think it might go with other types of feelings and traits.

 

I don't feel dogmatic about this, but would be curious what others have to say, maybe experience to the

contrary?

 

October were you brought up that way? I have seen ex-fundie sites and they seem to be mostly adults who

were raised fundamentalist and changed from it in there 20s mostly or maybe teens.

 

I was brought up as a Christian Scientist, but I always had this little "nag" inside me. I just couldn't quite buy into all of it even though I tried very hard to be a "good one". I knew inside I was a "bad Christian Scientist". I have noticed some people going from Christian Science (or other legalistic type groups like

JW) to being fundamentalist. The feelings I had inside suggest to me that I wasn't wired in for legalistic type

faith. Whereas the people that went from CS to fundamentalism were. I left CS in my 20s.

 

So to say one is "easier' than another is not easy for me to say. Dogmatic faith would be very hard for me, but it was easier for my sister.

 

 

--des

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DOGMATIC FAITH

Before my recent unravelling, I lived a long time with a dogmatic faith, one which would pride itself on being able to give an answer, swiftly and decisively address an issue, provide a bible verse that explained it. What's more, that faith and style was affirmed and encouraged by those around me, who saw it as a strong witness to the world. It does not sit well with me now.

For me, that position required an enormous amount of faith in order to believe and 'stand firm' because every cell of my body did not FEEL like it was true (but feelings had to submit to faith), every part of my soul did not FEEL that it was as 'absolute' as that (but it was THE truth), every part of my intellect struggled with the contradictions/mystery/illogical and bizarre aspects to the gospels (but it was supposed to be literally true).

 

Jesus here. This is a very meaningful thread. Flatliner, October's Autumn, and Des – you’ve all described in your own words some of the ways in which dogmatic beliefs affect the brain. October's Autumn, you tell us that to be certain meant turning off your brain. Flatliner (to paraphrase what you wrote) you had to apply conscious will power to continually override the message of your own body and soul. All three of you talk about the little nag. The nag seems to be what eventually pulled each of you away from dogmatic belief.

 

I smiled when Jen first relayed to me through her channelling circuits the title "Dogmatic Faith," because, as Flatliner says farther along in the thread, maybe "certainty requires a whole load of denial, rather than 'faith'." Dogmatic Faith is an oxymoron. One either embraces dogma, or one embraces faith. This is a case where it's not possible to bring compromise to the table, no matter how loving and forgiving one is, no matter how much one believes in the general principle of honouring and respecting other people's beliefs. It is not right nor fair that those who refuse to listen to the cells of their own bodies, who refuse to listen to their own souls struggling to be heard, should have the power to crush the heart out of men, women, and children who are trying to hear the nag of the soul.

 

This split – this chasm between faith and dogma – is the split that divides the Jesus of the Gospels (the real me, more or less) from the Christ of the Epistles. This split cannot be mended, no matter how well meaning Progressive Christians are. Each person has to decide which side of the fence he or she wants to be on. Paul talks of faith, but it's a dogmatic faith (there's that oxymoron again), a faith that demands you accept Paul's version of faith and no other. Paul's faith demands you swallow a "truth" in its entirety. Paul demands blind obedience. This is not the Way.

 

Paul is a brilliant poet, a wondrous crafter of beautiful words, and because of this, many over the centuries have been mesmerized. But Paul's message is very different from my message. Paul's teachings are heavily interwoven with ancient belief systems that originated in Egyptian mystery schools thousands of years before my lifetime. My teachings were a fresh start. My teachings demanded that each individual listen to the nag -- the voice of the Kingdom Within.

 

Thanks be to our blessed Mother and Father.

 

Love Jesus

October 15, 2006

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Greetings All,

 

It seems to me that it is very important not to confuse faith with belief. Perhaps what Flatliner described in his initial post was not "an enormous amount of faith" but rather a very strong attachment to a belief. The mind believes yet is lacking in the ability to determine truth from falsehood. It is like an innocent computer in that its hardware runs very effectively but its software in most cases is defective in that it is based on personal and societal perceptual and biased programming. Faith on the otherhand as defined in Hebrews 11:1 is seeing spiritually or 'knowing'. It is beyond belief as it is not of the mind. It defines faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen. (with the senses) Faith is seeing the substance that things are made of. It is like already having the evidence of things not yet maifested. Dogmatic beliefs are of the mind and pertain to belief. Where there is faith, no belief is necessary. Just some words to consider.

 

Love in Christ,

JM

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canajan,

 

I agree, "dogmatic faith" is a contradiction in terms. But it bothers me that you see such a split between the gospels and the epistles, and that you equate dogma with Paul. Can you quote from an epistle of his (an authentic one) something that makes you feel Paul "demands you accept his version of faith and no other" or that he "demands blind obedience?"

 

From what I've read, Paul was influenced by Greek thought, rather than "Egyptian mystery schools."

 

IMHO, Paul did exactly what you describe, persuading the individual to listen to the voice of the kingdom within...more than anyone else he was responsible for spreading the Way.

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Hi Rivanna,

 

This could possibly infer Paul "demands you accept his version of faith and no other"

 

Galatians 1:8

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

 

Love in Christ,

JM

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Joseph,

 

If you read that verse in the context of the whole letter to Galatians, it seems that Paul rebukes them for confusing the gospel with superficial concerns about ceremonies, rituals, circumcision, etc. He does seem to be "breathing fire" in his zeal at that point, perhaps because he wants people to remember the message of Christ as offering freedom, acceptance, and not get bogged down again in religious requirements. He includes himself in this warning too, not just those who were revising the gospel to fit their local customs or whatever.

 

About insisting on particular beliefs, though, Paul never says in effect "you must believe x,y, and z about Christ or you're doomed." Rather, 99% of what he says throughout is in the spirit of "Christ has broken down the dividing wall between us."

 

Sorry to have gotten off the original topic here.

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Paul's teachings are heavily interwoven with ancient belief systems that originated in Egyptian mystery schools thousands of years before my lifetime.

 

You mean Judaism? ;):D

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Well, when it comes to ambivalence vs. certainty, we can see the consequences of too much religious certainty in the current administration.

 

The struggle for me has been more how to apply my faith in daily life, and recently, to see faith as a positive rather than negative influence overall. Often I've been torn about when to express anger (a typical issue for women)--I've gone overboard to avoid speaking up in my own defense, partly because it doesn't feel like seeking the kingdom, and partly because it reminds me of the violent crusader mentality that has misled us into such a disastrous war.

 

Somehow Jesus managed to keep his attention and language on enhancing his own circle, or the small crowd he addressed, rather than the hellish political situation of the time. Wouldn't it be nice to have that wisdom :-)

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(snip)

The struggle for me has been more how to apply my faith in daily life, and recently, to see faith as a positive rather than negative influence overall. Often I've been torn about when to express anger (a typical issue for women)--I've gone overboard to avoid speaking up in my own defense, partly because it doesn't feel like seeking the kingdom, and partly because it reminds me of the violent crusader mentality that has misled us into such a disastrous war.

(snip)

 

Hi Rivanna,

 

As you may know, Anger is a defense mechanism of the ego. It is covercome by understanding of the truth and a desire for choosing peace and love above all other options. When you feel you are being attacked, one must realize that the perceived attack is not an attack on you at all but rather a request for help from the other. One cannot attack or get angry from the position of power/love which is where you reside. One attacks from the position of weakness or ego. They are actually attacking themselves in reality. Love, understanding and compassion for their position will defuse the attack. After all its love they are really seeking but the ego or carnal nature that is enmity against God has fallaciously convinced them to remain separate by attack. The ego seeks love in ways that are the exact opposite of its realization.

 

Just some thoughts to consider.

 

Love in Christ,

JM

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I don't think many people would define anger strictly as a defense mechanism of the ego. Anger involves a number of autonomic responses so that we feel anger in our warm skin, tense muscles, desire to pounce and in other physical ways. We also sense the anger in a cognitive way, with thoughts like, "I don't like this." All this is before we've decided what to do with our anger, whether to suppress it or express it, how to express it. The more intellectual aspects of this are things only humans do, but the autonomic aspects of it have been in our ancestors even before they were mammals. They didn't arise just because we have an ego to defend.

 

It is unfortunate that words are so ambiguous, like "faith" or "anger". People use "faith" to mean belief, but may also use it to describe trust or devotion that has nothing to do with belief. People use "anger" to describe the above state, which is more a perception that something is wrong than a choice, but also use it to describe voluntary behavior, such as blaming someone else for my anger, either silently or publicly. Those are different things, but it is human nature to oversimplify and say that various things are all one thing.

 

Some say people should be beyond anger as Joseph describes. Jesus of the gospels was not beyond anger, but maybe the gospels are wrong about that aspect of Jesus. I don't think many mental health professionals would agree with such an extreme position. Emotions people often label negatively can be helpful to us. Fear is necessary to develop prudence. Anger seems to be necessary to develop determination. It is a long discussion about why some feel more anger than others, and some express anger more productively than others, but there is such a thing as healthy anger, righteous anger, loving anger, as a parent protects a child, even though it's difficult to draw a line to define what is healthy anger and what isn't.

 

Some people are certain about whether God is angry, either yes or no. Yet the truth of that is certainly unknown to most of us. Does it take faith to be content with such ambiguity? I don't think so. Some people are truly agnostic, having learned that people who proclaim certainty are all wrong in some way. Others are certain about some things, but recognize the uncertainty in many other things. Most of us have a lot of certainty about the physical world we can experience. There may be some ultimate reality to that I don't know, but I know I experience something and science has been a powerful way of extending and refining my experience in recent centuries.

 

Yet I'm convinced there's no proof of God or of atheism. The God I experience may all be in my head. Atheists might be right about that. I don't think they are, but intellectually I'll always know they might be. But I have faith that there is something greater than ordinary experience, because I have experienced that and I read both ancient people and modern people have experienced similar things. Experiences vary a lot between an overwhelming presence of God and an idle notion that there is something more than our ordinary world. Either one takes faith to embrace. I'd say it's more faith to go from a little notion of God into living one's life for Him than if God says something like that to me in words, but maybe that's wrong. God has told me things that are never going to be popular with people. It takes a different sort of faith to accept such words compared to the faith that lets someone conform to the beliefs of everyone they know. I don't know how to quantify such a thing. It takes faith to believe in God, no matter how many people like CS Lewis say they got to their beliefs through reason.

 

It is human nature to claim certainty about all sorts of things, liberals or conservatives, seculars or religious. People see one way things might be in their mind, and that's enough for them. But someone else can see it differently, maybe in multiple ways within one person's mind. There may be good arguments to show that one person is right and another is wrong, but my experience is that there's always some part of the picture that remains ambiguous. My faith in God helps me with that. It helped me when I knew I didn't know something, but expected that He knew. It still helps me even though there are a number of issues where God has told me He doesn't know either, like a detailed vision of the future. If God doesn't know, how could I possibly know better? He knows everything I know, and proves to me regularly that He can process what I know better than I can, giving me direction when I'm unsure and have that work out well. He is God, as best as I can tell, but He says He doesn't know that much. He doesn't own a mirror to see everything objectively. I believe Him. Why should anyone else know?

 

So I accept the ambiguity even though my nature is to hate that, to keep working on some idea until I feel I can make some conclusion or to even stop that prematurely and say some half-baked idea is the final answer. I don't think God expects us ever to be perfect, but we can move in that direction unless we dig our heels in. Anger can move us, tears can move us, for ourselves or for others. I wish there were some perfect role model to follow instead of being led through the darkness, but experience is that even Jesus of the gospels only teaches us so much. How to apply His principles to these times is not easy. I cling to God because of that, but it still takes faith.

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Interesting response DavidD,

 

It is true that anger can be useful but I have found that true only when stuck in lower levels of consciousness such as shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear or desire. It can lift one out of those levels to action but it is still a destructive level of consciousness. To one on a serious spiritual quest anger has no place. It is always a position of weakness compared to courage, reason or love. Fear also has no valid function to a spiritual seeker. It is the mind's opposite to Love and has reality only in mind. It separates us from God's presence. One cannot both fear and experience Love simutaneously.

 

You said we can never be perfect yet Jesus is reported commanding us to "be perfect evn as our Father in heaven is perfect." Therefor, it must be possible. Perhaps God's idea of perfection and yours is opposing.

 

As far as faith in God goes. It is a non-issue here. It doesn't matter what I believe with my mind. God is and it requires no proof. My very being itself testifies to this truth even if I deny it with my mouth or mind. The mind cannot be certain about anything since it is incapable of knowing truth from falsehood. It is just an innocent computer. But the Spirit on the otherhand can 'know' God and that knowing is beyond the limitations of mind and requires no proof as it is self evident. One will never find God with the mind. The mind can only know 'about God'. The mind can only subjectively experience God. It can see the effects of God but not God. Just like the wind. You know its there and can see its effect on things but where it comes and where it goes you cannot tell with flesh but with Spirit which all possess, God is known.

 

Best wishes on your journey davidD,

Love in Christ,

JM

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I didn't mean to get off the topic here, talking about anger-- and it definitely was not about anyone on this website! :-)

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I didn't mean to get off the topic here, talking about anger-- and it definitely was not about anyone on this website! :-)

 

Hey, Rivanna - don't worry about it. It's okay to bring your own thoughts and feelings into a discussion. And please do.

 

Best wishes,

Jen

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I don't feel dogmatic about this, but would be curious what others have to say, maybe experience to the

contrary?

 

October were you brought up that way? I have seen ex-fundie sites and they seem to be mostly adults who

were raised fundamentalist and changed from it in there 20s mostly or maybe teens.

 

 

My upbringing wasn't quite fundamentalist but close. My parents always drilled into me the importance of trusting my own judgement and not blindly believing whatever I was taught. Of course, they taught me this because I was a Christian going to public schools but I applied it across the board. They also led by example. I can't remember how many times they would contradict what I had been taught by a nutty Sunday School Teacher. It was scary leaving behind the safety of dogmatic faith but at the same time I didn't have a choice. I can set something I don't understand aside but I can't just ignore that voice that says "this isn't right. "

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