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Clockwork_Spirit

Former atheists who became christians

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Clockwork_Spirit
Posted (edited)
Quote

Why Christian Theology Needs (Former) Atheists

''Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis’s personal secretary, once commented to the great Christian writer about a clever inscription engraved on an atheist’s tombstone: “Here lies an atheist. All dressed up with no place to go.” Not bemused, Lewis quipped: “That atheist probably wishes now that were true.”

[...]

Retelling the conversion stories of former atheists who became Christians, like Lewis and myself, is especially needed today. These stories decisively countermand the widespread secular myth that atheism is the inevitable final intellectual stop for any serious, educated person determined to be scholarly, scientific, rational, and objective in assessing the world as it is.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/february-web-only/why-christian-theology-needs-former-atheists.html

We often hear like it's the other way around. Great thinkers of the 20th century eschewing faith and embracing atheism... Yet as this article demonstrates it's not as one-sided as some people are making it to be. Any thoughts?

Edited by Clockwork_Spirit

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Hankenhunter
Posted (edited)

Are you asking about rejoining a church or re-accepting god or religion?  Two very different things. Regards,

Hank

Edited by Hankenhunter
Confusion
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and then
14 minutes ago, Hankenhunter said:

Are you asking about rejoining a church or re-accepting god or religion?  Two very different things. Regards,

Hank

It is not a requirement for a follower of Christ to belong to any Church.  One need only believe that He is God, born as a human and that He allowed Himself to be sacrificed for the remission of our sins.  Finally, he was buried and rose to life again on the third day, as is written in scripture.  THAT is the sum total of what is needed for salvation and eternal life.  How blessed and rewarded we are in the next life, depends on our works in His service.  

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Sir Smoke aLot

Christianity, especially at the time of Jesus Christ and first couple of centuries after, was spiritually superior to every alternative at the time and that was one of the main reasons why people have taken belief in Christ and that Christianity has survived such harsh beginnings. 

Many times i have read how Christianity 'depends of something or someone, how Christianity is this or that' but most important thing to note is that Christianity is there and it survived harshest of times with barely no help and with many enemies and Christianity will go through these times too, times when people who read Gospels got jailed and times when it's said how Christianity needs converts or whomever...

Let me tell you, Christianity doesn't need them but people need Christianity and they turn to it for spiritual satisfaction of higher level but also, as i am Muslim, Islam provides that too but in the last hundred years, at least, both of those faiths are under constant threat and attacks. I see headlines like these also as part of attacks on traditions and religion especially, not that it is case here in text that is decent presentation with, seemingly, Christianity in focus.

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Will Due

 

Christianity is Paul's religion, and not the religion Jesus taught.

 

 

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Aquila King

I'm still somewhat baffled that it's almost always just assumed that if you aren't Christian, then you must be an atheist, and vice-versa.

Hasn't anyone ever just abandoned Christianity for some other religion or form of spirituality? Why is Atheism viewed as the antithesis?

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WoIverine
Posted (edited)

Simon Greenleaf is a very accomplished example of a reported atheist turning Christian. From what I recall, he was challenged by one of his students to examine the evidence FOR Christ, instead of the evidence against.

Interesting read:

https://today.law.harvard.edu/turning-over-a-new-leaf/

Edited by WoIverine
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jmccr8
8 hours ago, Clockwork_Spirit said:

We often hear like it's the other way around. Great thinkers of the 20th century eschewing faith and embracing atheism... Yet as this article demonstrates it's not as one-sided as some people are making it to be. Any thoughts?

Hi Clockwork

I can only wonder if this is the first time that you have noticed this. People change for a lot of reasons and all of them are personal to the individual. I knew people that lived certain types of lives when they were younger and fearless/ cared less at some point their fear overcame them and they bounced to the extreme end of conversion and hid their past. One would think that they would be better equipt to help other in the same situation, some do most don't and sit in a seat of judgement.

Sometimes it"s just the in thing to do and they will walk away or back and forth as convenience allows. Tjere are just so many assumptions about what it means to believe in god. I have seen Christians take advantage of people for their own advantage then go to church and tell other what a great person they are for helping(finacially raping) some poor unfortunate

These are the types of things I and and some others see when we look at religion and make comments. It is unfortunate that those people negatively impact those of good intent, but they do.

I see that this ends up reinforcing the us/ them problem especially when thete is no house cleaning or responsibility held accountable.

jmccr8

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Grandpa Greenman
16 minutes ago, Aquila King said:

I'm still somewhat baffled that it's almost always just assumed that if you aren't Christian, then you must be an atheist, and vice-versa.

Hasn't anyone ever just abandoned Christianity for some other religion or form of spirituality? Why is Atheism viewed as the antithesis?

That is probably the case for the majority of Pagans I know.  They started in Christian homes, where they were indoctrinated into Christian and Catholic faiths, then later discover a Pagan path usually by chance and become Pagans.   Pagans don't, for the most part, proselytize we just be pagans and they find us.  Why so many people seek us out I don't know, but in my case, Christianity didn't work for what I hold true.  It was a long time between dumping Christianity and discovering the Pagan path. When I did I realized I had always been a Pagan.  

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eight bits

With respect to Simon Greenleaf, while of course I agree that he was a prolific Christian apologist, I hadn't recalled ever seeing any evidence that he was ever an atheist.

I seem not to be alone in that:

https://inspirationalchristiansfortoday.com/2017/11/12/simon-greenleaf-debunking-another-apologetic-fable/

Christians do love their myths.

While I'm here, though, from the OP

Quote

'Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis’s personal secretary, once commented to the great Christian writer about a clever inscription engraved on an atheist’s tombstone: “Here lies an atheist. All dressed up with no place to go.” Not bemused, Lewis quipped: “That atheist probably wishes now that were true.”

I can't imagine Jesus squeezing a cheap laugh out of another man's going to hell.

-

@Clockwork_Spirit @Wolverine

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Aquila King
22 minutes ago, Grandpa Greenman said:

It was a long time between dumping Christianity and discovering the Pagan path. When I did I realized I had always been a Pagan.  

That brings up an interesting possible discussion there, of whether or not some of us are born with a predisposition towards certain beliefs, regardless of whatever it is you were brought up into.

I myself despite being a fundamentalist Christian for the majority of my early life, had a natural predisposition towards more progressive and liberal leanings politically, which made it rather difficult to reconcile with my fundamentalism.

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Grandpa Greenman
1 hour ago, Aquila King said:

That brings up an interesting possible discussion there, of whether or not some of us are born with a predisposition towards certain beliefs, regardless of whatever it is you were brought up into.

I myself despite being a fundamentalist Christian for the majority of my early life, had a natural predisposition towards more progressive and liberal leanings politically, which made it rather difficult to reconcile with my fundamentalism.

I think it has to do with being raised in the country were nature was my main companion. My father wasn't a Christian, my mother (and the neighbors) was one who pushed the Christianity, but by the time she died she had given that up and was agnostic.   I dropped out  before she did, but I think she just figured it was a good way to instill morality in us kids.  I think as we grew older she started thinking Dad had it right when It came to morality. He used reason and example teach us how to learn how do to do the right thing.  The key being to learn. 

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WoIverine
2 hours ago, eight bits said:

With respect to Simon Greenleaf, while of course I agree that he was a prolific Christian apologist, I hadn't recalled ever seeing any evidence that he was ever an atheist.

I seem not to be alone in that:

https://inspirationalchristiansfortoday.com/2017/11/12/simon-greenleaf-debunking-another-apologetic-fable/

Christians do love their myths.

While I'm here, though, from the OP

I can't imagine Jesus squeezing a cheap laugh out of another man's going to hell.

-

@Clockwork_Spirit @Wolverine

In my view, Greenleaf's body of work was to prove the truths of Christ, not only to others, but also to himself.

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Orphalesion

To be perfectly honest, C.S. Lewis philosophical and theological writings (as well as his fiction, such as the Space Trilogy) always struck me less as someone who was secure in his faith and wanted to explore it and more like someone who wanted to convince himself (and other people, but mostly himself) of the reality of Christianity.
A lot of his theories, such as his Trilemma, or the Theological debate that constitutes the climax of "The Silver Chair" (which I understand is simplified for children) seem at first pretty reasonable and eloquent...until you look at them more closely, at which point they tend to fall apart.
What can be said for him is that he never sugarcoated Christianity like some many other people like to do, and he opens and explores several interesting thought constructs (such as his interest to "rehabilitate" Pagan thinking into a Christian context, or his exploration of what the Humanitiy's Fall from grace actually meant, as well as the nature of evil) but I never had the impression that it was very genuine. Then again, maybe I'm just not used to the way apologists write and operate.

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psyche101
21 hours ago, Clockwork_Spirit said:

We often hear like it's the other way around. Great thinkers of the 20th century eschewing faith and embracing atheism... Yet as this article demonstrates it's not as one-sided as some people are making it to be. Any thoughts?

He sounds every bit as big a whack job as does Jonathan Wells. 

 

Impertinent as Lewis’s one-liner might first appear, it was not a malicious verbal barb. Lewis was deadly serious. After all, he viewed atheism as having deadly serious consequences. Rather he sought to woo and warn atheists they faced a desperate future apart from Christ.

 

And Jonathan Wells crazy talk:

Wells joined the Unification Church in 1974, and subsequently wrote that the teachings of church founder Sun Myung Moon, his own studies at the Unification Theological Seminary and his prayers convinced him to devote his life to "destroying Darwinism."

I don't know how anyone in their right mind takes people like this seriously. 

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Clockwork_Spirit
Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Orphalesion said:

but I never had the impression that it was very genuine. Then again, maybe I'm just not used to the way apologists write and operate.

Did you read The Case for Christianity?

Lewis presents a very compelling case for Christianity and you can see that he was passionate about his views.

If he didn't believe it (which I highly doubt), he was certainly an awesome seller!

Edited by Clockwork_Spirit

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ChaosRose

My thoughts are that it probably has a lot to do with how people were brought up and whether or not it was a living hell. 

If parents were jerks, it doesn't matter whether they were theists, atheists, agnostics, or Ford people (I chose something random). 

Whatever they liked, you're probably not going to. However they tried to force you to be, you're probably not going to turn out that way.

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psyche101
19 minutes ago, Clockwork_Spirit said:

Did you read The Case for Christianity?

Lewis presents a very compelling case for Christianity and you can see that he was passionate about his views.

If he didn't believe it (which I highly doubt), he was certainly an awesome seller!

I take it you are supportive of the person who commented 

'leave him alone he has helped many atheists see the light!' 

I actually loled at that :) I wonder if it's the leave Brittany alone guy. 

I liked this review, informative and well written. 

 

C.S. Lewis! Everybody tells you to read C.S. Lewis! He is presented as the magical pill that abolishes atheism. You would think that when you read him that he truly deals with the questions of atheists with understanding and tact, but he shows hardly any of them. He merely became a trophy for the Evangelical Christian community since he is educated and the majority of them are famous for reading only one book "The Bible" and tell you that all you really need for education is this one, good book. Well, I read this book on a trip where I got a couple of books by C.S. Lewis and one book by Rainer Maria Rilke. Can you believe I actually got more inspiration out of the Rilke book than I did out of C.S. Lewis? Something about the way C.S. Lewis writes makes me easily annoyed. I don't relish his writing. Yet everybody claims him, even Catholics like to claim him as one of their own when he says that he is just Church of England. He is, indeed, their trophy in a world that that doesn't appeal to rationalistic faculty but reasons rather in a triumphal, emotional manner. 


On p. 5, C.S.Lewis is reasoning that all men, more or less, agree on morality, and if there are any difference, they are slightly different morality. He claims that people may have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you mustn't simply have any woman you liked". 

Do you see his warped logic? I come from a patriarchal society and men may take two or three wives but still down deep inside know that they are wrong. To C. S. Lewis, as long as you take either one or 4 wives, you are fine, as long as you don't just take any woman you liked. Even Mohammad who had this harem of women, when he know that his daughter Fatima was going to have a second to her, he got mad and said in Arabic "la azzan" i.e. I don't permit. He said it 3 times. Here C.S. Lewis has a logic of his own that makes sense to him and to the Christian people who cheer loudly for him and have claimed him as their trophy.

On p. 33 of this book, he is attempting to make a case for a God who made the universe and it is obvious that C.S. Lewis is really ticked off with Pantheists as well as Atheists. He talks about the image of the paint and the artist who makes the paint who has a lot of himself in it because all that beauty of that work of art has come out of his head, he is the creator, etc. So far so good. Then C.S. Lewis is ready to kick the Pantheists where it hurts the worst as he says:

[Confounded with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, "If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realise that this also is God". Then Christian replies,"Don't talk damned nonsense". For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world .............But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again"]

Wow! just reading that part, I felt yelled at by C.S.Lewis in the same breath Christian fundamentalists do. You dare to use your mind for a second, and lo and behold, the blow comes right in your face with the screaming of C.S. Lewis saying to you with his British accent as well as in his famous hot temper "Don't talk damned nonsense".

Who said this? 

A professor of medieval and Renaissance literature at Oxford and Cambridge. In his religious zeal, he made sure to chew us up for the glory of God saying "Don't talk damned nonsense".

I ponder phrases that are foreign to my Egyptian vocabulary such as "freedom of thought", "freedom of expression" "freethinking",etc. and I find such concepts to be the best thing, the most romantic thing dear to my mind and my heart together, but apparently the passionately religious Oxford professor has nothing to do with them when he is in a dialogue with non-Christians. Frankly, he strikes me as somebody who writes for Christians and gets paid back with unceasing standing ovation. Reading that paragraph above shows me that he doesn't spend the slightest effort in reasoning with somebody who is outside Christianity. He tickles the fancies of Christian people in Evangelical churches and confirms to them what they want him to say, thus they feel vindicated over those "atheist infidels" over there. It is good to feel triumph over them every once in a while and try, even if using swearing and cursing is needed, to show them they don't have a lick of sense and Christians are the ones who have all of it.

C.S. Lewis quoted the Atheist or the Pantheist as raising a question about looking at cancer and saying "This is also God". Both the atheist and the pantheist are more brave and they don't seek to kiss up to anybody but they speak what is on their hearts, absolutely legitimate questions. It is would have been more honest of C. S. Lewis to say, "You have a point and like you, I don't have the answer either". That is better than acting as the apologist of the Christian community who always has an answer to every question in the world and got it all figured out. 

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Orphalesion
Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Clockwork_Spirit said:

Did you read The Case for Christianity?

Lewis presents a very compelling case for Christianity and you can see that he was passionate about his views.

If he didn't believe it (which I highly doubt), he was certainly an awesome seller!

psyche did a good job pointing out the basics of my issues with/impression of Lewis' Case for Christianity.

1)The idea that because of all cultures agree that murder and theft is punishable is evidence for some divine morality, instead of it just being common sense that early huminids worked out in order to be able to work together.

2)The idea that the yawning for god (the source of "joy") proofs the existence of the Christian God, because "people can't yearn for things that aren't real", apparently... I get what he's saying; that every desire must have a basic source where it originates from, but that idea alone doesn't provide any evidence for the Christian God nor does it even open a case for his existence.

3) The Trilemma. It is NOT logical. He insists Jesus must have been a Liar, a Lunatic, or the Saviour. And from that point his whole argument devolves into "And I choose Lord, because that's the possibility I like the best!" He also just accepts the idea that all those texts, written down decades after Jesus' death convey his undiluted and unaltered words. 
If he just admitted here that he is just going to belief because he likes it, and not because it "makes sense" then it'd come off as more genuine.

4) Yes it is written very passionately, but people can be passionately about stuff they want. Lewis' writing struck me as someone who wants to belief in the Christian God, who wants to. To me a lot of the way he wrote basically sounded like:

"I signed up for this club and I'm super happy now. Look at how happy I am. I am happy, honestly! For real, you guys! I'm happy because it makes sense! Yes it makes sense! For real! It makes sense...as long as you do some mental acrobatics. And ignore this...and ignore that....and willfully misinterpret this.....look I mostly converted so that Tolkien would stop b****ing at me, which didn't improve the situation because now he's just chewing my ears off about some trees he saw this morning and a whole truckload of Elves he has invented..." 

There's a difference between saying you are something and actually being something. And with Lewis I always interpreted that difference to be fairly obvious. His apologetics are like the words of the Lady of the Green Kirtle, ironically. He says some pretty things, is eloquent, and for as long as that "special powder" in the fireplace is burning what he says actually seems pretty reasonable...until you start thinking about it.

Side Note: On Tolkien here; now that is a person who strikes me at having been devoted to and secure in his faith. He didn't feel the need to shout at everybody that he was Christian, because he simply was Christian and lived in that faith, instead of trying desperately to rationalize it to other people. 
In Tolkien's mind God (or what ultimately equates to the Christian God) was the inspiration/influence/ultimate source behind every positive and selfless act in the narrative of Lord of the Rings, but he didn't need to advertise that, because for him it actually was evident, and he trusted people would come to that same conclusion. He was so devout that as he grew older he excised all vestiges of the original pagan religions he had invented for Elves and Men from Middle Earth.
Compare that with Lewis' Space Trilogy where, among other things, we spend a whoooooooole, daaaaaaaaamn, looooooooooooooong chapter with the "Archangels" Ares and Aphrodite as they exposition dump a summarized version of Lewis' interpretation of Christianity "Blessed be he!" And in his whole fiction tried to wiggle and find a way to shove the Olympians into Christianity.

 

7 hours ago, psyche101 said:

 Then C.S. Lewis is ready to kick the Pantheists where it hurts the worst as he says:

 


[Confounded with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, "If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realise that this also is God". Then Christian replies,"Don't talk damned nonsense". For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world .............But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again"]

 

Don't forget " what Pantheists falsely hoped of Heaven bad men really received in Hell. " Which not just shows his misunderstanding (or willful simplification) of Pantheism, but I thought it was just another mean spirited jab against them.

Edited by Orphalesion
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joc
Posted (edited)
On 3/7/2018 at 2:52 AM, and then said:

It is not a requirement for a follower of Christ to belong to any Church.  One need only believe that He is God, born as a human and that He allowed Himself to be sacrificed for the remission of our sins.  Finally, he was buried and rose to life again on the third day, as is written in scripture.  THAT is the sum total of what is needed for salvation and eternal life.  How blessed and rewarded we are in the next life, depends on our works in His service.  

The only requirement for a follower of Christ is that one follows the teachings of Christ.  The rest is unsubstantiated, mythical, voodoo belief.   The Church...does not...get to put forth the parameters!  The Church thinks it is the Only Way...it isn't...it isn't even A way.  The truth is that the Christian Churches are no different than the Jewish Temples of Jesus day.  The same people making it up as they go along, re-interpreting the scriptures to mean whatever they want them to mean.  They just took the crucifix and stuck it up on top of their building.  Same people.  Same voodoo beliefs.  Same hypocrisy.  Same back stabbing, bunch.

And  the Christians will  kill you for heresy just as quickly as the Jews killed Jesus.   What did Jesus really do except call them out for being the hypocrites they were?  Using the Scriptures as a personal money making machine.   Nothing has changed...

Edited by joc
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joc
22 hours ago, Aquila King said:

That brings up an interesting possible discussion there, of whether or not some of us are born with a predisposition towards certain beliefs, regardless of whatever it is you were brought up into.

I myself despite being a fundamentalist Christian for the majority of my early life, had a natural predisposition towards more progressive and liberal leanings politically, which made it rather difficult to reconcile with my fundamentalism.

I just wanted to say that it is only those progressive and liberal leanings politically that I disagree with. Having read many of your posts, it is very clear that you are a deep thinker and an admirable human being.  Politics aside...

I was also a fundamentalist Christian for the majority of my life.  From an early age however; I had a natural predisposition to question the church, it always seemed to me that they were missing the whole point.  My grandfather was a preacher and so I saw all the back stabbing so called Christians take part in behind the scenes.  As it turns out...my predisposition to question the Church led to my complete and utter rejection of the church as any kind of authority on how to live.

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Doug1o29
On 3/7/2018 at 2:52 AM, and then said:

It is not a requirement for a follower of Christ to belong to any Church.  One need only believe that He is God, born as a human and that He allowed Himself to be sacrificed for the remission of our sins.  Finally, he was buried and rose to life again on the third day, as is written in scripture.  THAT is the sum total of what is needed for salvation and eternal life.  How blessed and rewarded we are in the next life, depends on our works in His service.  

The only real test for being a Christian is that one believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead.  That is a miracle that proves he is god and so, if you please him, he can do the same for you.  Christianity is based on making a deal with god.

So the question becomes:  how can I please god?  There is no consensus on that.  Some think it means you have to go out and kill Muslims.  Some think it means kill brown people.  Others think it mean "Thou Shalt Not Kill" ANYBODY, EVER.  Others settle for blatant discrimination.  Others think it means providing guns to every lose nut who wants to kill school kids.  And others think it means to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.  And to others, once you're "saved" it doesn't matter what kind of a person you are.  I'm not sure what they mean by "saved."

 

In my case, I was a Christian.  Then I started reading the Bible, trying to find the evidence for god.  Forget it - the Bible doesn't provide any evidence of god.  All Jesus' miracles have natural explanations, as does every other "miracle" in the Bible.  So the Bible turned me into an agnostic.

Doug

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Doug1o29
Posted (edited)

Retelling the conversion stories of former atheists who became Christians, like Lewis and myself, is especially needed today. These stories decisively countermand the widespread secular myth that atheism is the inevitable final intellectual stop for any serious, educated person determined to be scholarly, scientific, rational, and objective in assessing the world as it is.

Research tells a slightly different story.  Most people's spiritual journey starts with god, progresses to agnosticism, then atheism.  Then it turns back toward a mysticism that doesn't quite believe in god, but doesn't quite not believe in god, either.  As if, god is not really relevant.  God has been transcended.

Doug

Edited by Doug1o29
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I'mConvinced

The most freeing moment of my life came when I realised that there are no answers as regards the true meaning of existence.  Life is the greatest mystery and there isn't a person on this planet that understands even a fraction of it to any meaningful degree.  So here I am, a life explorer with no idea where he's going or where he came from, just passing through and marveling at the sights along the way - content in our shared ignorance and excited to find out how my own personal story ends.

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