Some people on here seem to be somewhat confused as to why I seem to fluctuate back and forth between hardened skeptic, and strong believer. Although this isn't at all hard to understand my backstory behind why I believe what I believe. I could write a whole book on this topic, but will at least try and condense it as best I can and cut straight to the main points.
I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household. I was very deeply religious from an early age, and as I got older (and more and more s**t went wrong in my life) I began to rely on my religion more and more to get me through. The more messed up I became, the more religious I became as well.
The changing of my belief systems started however when I switched from the Southern Baptist denomination, to an Assemblies of God Pentecostal denomination. I went there primarily due to the extreme pain I felt from childhood abuse coupled with difficulties with school and work. They promised miraculous healing, and due to my curiosity leading me into a revival one summer, I genuinely felt better when a pastor claimed I was miraculously 'healed' (didn't realize it at the time, but it was basically the placebo effect). However it didn't stop there. In order to remain healed and as a testament of this supposed miraculous 'healing', I was instructed (supposedly by God) to leave home and join this essentially cult like small town Pentecostal church so I could help spread the gospel and do God's work. So I did.
It was at this point that my religiosity became absolutely everything to me. Literally. Every single waking moment of my day was devoted to this new found version of Christianity. However as time went on, I soon realized that I wasn't 'healed', as the same symptoms kept popping up all over the place. I kept having the same difficulties, and now on top of that I was supposedly failing God, and fearing eternal hellfire.
That is until eventually I discovered that Christianity itself wasn't true. I'll spare you the details as to how, but basically I stumbled across multiple atheist arguments against Christianity and was convinced. I was incredibly relieved in some sense, because I no longer was afraid of going to hell. Although at the same time I felt betrayed and heartbroken, that I had devoted my entire life up to that point to an entire belief system and worldview that was absolutely false. And so, I became an Atheist.
I began to read up and study the works of people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc. As well as read several atheist and skeptics blogs online, and became rather entrenched in learning the various arguments in opposition to religion. In fact for quite a while I had decided to personally study up on such things and become as well versed in these various arguments so that I could one day begin blogging and debating people online myself. I wanted to help other people and keep them from wasting so much of their lives devoted to made-up nonsense. But most importantly: I wanted to prevent myself from EVER being deceived by people into believing a lie ever again. This here is the key.
I was a Christian for so many years due to indoctrination from birth, being taught that doubt and questioning things is bad while believing is good, as well as the fear of eternal hell for those who do doubt and don't bend a knee to the will of the all-mighty dictator. Although when I broke free from religion and became an atheist, I realized what had held me back for so long was my insistence in believing in something without question. My problem was that I wasn't questioning my beliefs, and the only way to ever know the answer to anything is to first question it. So I took the mantle as a 'skeptic.' During my time as an atheist and a skeptic, in realizing that the primary problem that led me into wasting so much of my life under an erroneous worldview was the fact that I failed to be properly skeptical and question my own belief system, I began to study and learn critical thinking and reasoning skills, as well as the principle of questioning everything.
However, at some point I began to realize in my studies that I was doing much of the same thing I would do with religion only in regards to materialism. I had yet to critically question or be skeptical of materialism up to that point, merely assuming it true as the default position as opposed to religion. Although I began to realize this wasn't the case. I first ran across a man by the name of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, and read his book called 'The Science Delusion' (also called Science Set Free here in the US. He's a Brit.). In it he takes some of the main key dogmas of modern science, and turns them into questions. So without instantly accepting whatever his proposals were, regardless, he got me questioning materialism.
I began applying these same basic principles of skepticism and critical thinking to materialism, which was the main foundation of my atheism. I found that despite what I had originally thought, there were in fact numerous cases of NDE and Psi Phenomena evidence, scientific papers; rational, logical, and philosophical arguments, etc. And as with any theory, if you can find even one case where your theory is completely unable to explain something, then you must either rewrite your theory to accommodate it or abandon the theory and start over. I found what I consider to be numerous lines of evidence (see my blog post DEBUNKING Pseudo-Skeptics) that caused me to decide to abandon the theory of materialism entirely in pursuit of a new one.
The more I began to question, the less I believed that materialism was in fact true, and therefore my staunch atheism that I had founded my little 'religious rebellion' upon was crashing down around me as well. I realized that Dawkins, Harris, and all the other staunch atheists and skeptics were my new evangelical preachers, and materialism my new religion. I knew that in order to discover the truth, I'd have to abandon any ideological ties to anything, identification with anyone, and totally rebuild a totally unique and independent worldview from the ground up. Start from scratch.
I desperately didn't want to fall into the same trap that I did throughout the majority of my life up to that point. I didn't want to follow the blind dogma of others, never seriously questioning the tenets of my own worldview. I wanted to be a truly independent thinker, who arrives at the truth on my own, rather than rely on the teachings, arguments, or credentials of others. So I began a great search for the truth, starting blindly from no real position on things at all, and would thereby formulate my own opinions based on whatever evidence I might find along the way.
Although I did seriously consider for a while there on just taking a totally agnostic approach to things. However I personally decided against it, as I personally found it kinda lazy to not seek the answers to such things in the first place (no offense to anyone who doesn't care for the answers, just a personal decision on my part), but most importantly I had no reason to believe that these questions don't have answers, nor that these answers are unattainable. If certain spiritual concepts such as the human soul, the afterlife, etc. exist, then there is some sort of science behind them, and there's no logical reason why they can't be objectively measureable. So I eventually did plenty of study up on the various things mentioned above, and came to the conclusion that there is indeed something more to this world then simply the material universe.
Now I will say, early on when I first joined UM, I was still relatively new to the whole topic, and didn't really know much about various spiritual concepts and ideas. Much of it was still very much new to me. I was just starting to look into concepts proposed by the Occult and New Age movements, as I knew very little about spirituality apart from organized religion, and was open to and still researching various other ideas I had yet to fully understand or in some cases encounter at the time. Now, thanks to numerous other members on here I'd say I have. So just since being on here my views on spirituality have changed rather significantly, in that I now know that much of the practices of the Occult etc. are in fact explainable by natural means. And to that I want to sincerely thank the members on here for helping to contribute to my mental and spiritual growth.
I'm still changing and growing, and will continue to upon learning of any new information. I personally feel that's best.
So if you want to know what I believe specifically in regards to spirituality as of now:
- I personally believe that consciousness is not generated by the material brain, that there is something more to consciousness then just material processes.
- I believe that life after death is not only possible but highly likely. (as for any of the details beyond that, I have no clue. I find some of the accounts of NDE experiencers rather interesting, but I don't take any of it as the absolute god's honest truth, so I'm essentially purely agnostic here.)
- I believe that there's most likely some sort of 'cosmic consciousness' that permeates throughout everything in the universe, and that it may in fact create, influence, and/or guide the formation of stars, galaxies, and life. Though as for what exactly this force is or how it operates, I don't know. Most likely some sort of 'consciousness energy field', similar to electro-magnetic fields or something. (if you want to call this energy field a 'god', then so be it. Though I completely reject the notion of there being any sort of all-powerful personal creator god as proposed by western and Abrahamic religion.)
- I also believe that this consciousness energy field that exists can and does influence the conscious behaviors of humans and animals, and that these influences can be measured to minor extents in the form of psychic or psi phenomena. Although while I do personally believe that some people may in fact be much more psychically attuned then others in various ways, I strongly oppose basically all psychics, and especially those who give readings for money. Those are undoubtedly scammers out to make money off the gullibility (and in the case of psychic mediums, grief) of others.
- I believe that the idea of ghosts and spirits existing around us is indeed certainly possible. If there is in fact an afterlife, then it's only logical to conclude from that that spirits could inhabit the world around us in a sort of pure 'absolute consciousness' immaterial form. In fact, if such a consciousness energy field exists, then it isn't at all implausible to suggest that pure consciousness-based entities could not exist in various forms all around us as well, as the idea that at least some form of consciousness exists all around us is already proposed. (Now having said that, I'd say that well over 90% of reported ghost sightings are easily explainable, and that ghost hunting by it's very nature is unscientific. Thus I usually avoid using ghost videos etc. as evidence, since I rarely ever regard any of that sort of thing as truly convincing.)
So yeah. That's pretty much it. Anything beyond this ^ I either am agnostic on or just flat don't believe.
I know that this is a long read, but I just want those of you who've been somewhat puzzled lately as to what and why I believe what I do to know that I didn't arrive at these conclusions through the typical biased filter of either indoctrination or confirmation bias, etc. that most who're involved in the religious and spiritual community have. I have a very good reason for why I believe what I do, regardless of whether you agree with my position or not.