Dennis Knight

Dennis Knight
Location
Whittier, California, USA
Birthday
December 31
Title
I'm the typist of those little labels you find in the pockets of your new trousers.
Company
www.dknightpost.com
Bio
I own several ant farms, but the little fellas haven't produced a single crop.

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JANUARY 19, 2010 9:43AM

Confessions of a Former Evangelical

Rate: 87 Flag
confession

Oddly enough, it was the words of Jesus that lead me out of Evangelical Christianity.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.”

~~~

I was 22 years old the first time I voluntarily attended a church. I went with a buddy of mine who had recently converted.

He baited me into going by saying that “church was the best place to meet a nice girl.”

Sure enough, I spotted a pretty gal who got inside my head long enough to bring me back the next night. And the next. And the next.

That particular church was holding a week of special meetings. It was on the final night that my life took a new direction.

I didn’t answer an altar call (though I would answer dozens of them in the years to come - just to be “sure”).

No, my change came while my buddy was driving home, talking about girls, and I was in another world, realizing that I had never really loved - unselfishly loved - anyone in my entire life.

And my heart changed. It remains changed to this day. That much was real. Sadly, much of what followed was not.

My dramatic change resulted in being instantly recruited at that Evangelical Quaker church to do lots and lots of stuff “for Jesus.”

Less than two years later a national ministry took an interest in me and moved me near Chicago.

In those days Wheaton and Oak Brook Illinois were like Protestant Vaticans. It was hard to cross a street and not encounter a devoted Evangelical.

In the course of my tenure with that organization I became a counselor. I spoke with hundreds of folks each month.

I was 24 years young, arrogant, idealistic, and like a kid who knows just enough karate to hurt himself and others.

A couple years later, after voicing concerns to near deaf ears about things that troubled me in the organization, I returned home. I was soon asked to teach a Bible study and eventually invited to become the minister for the congregation our Bible study had grown into.

The following decade was the period of my life for which I am most ashamed. I said and wrote many things I deeply regret and eventually rejected. I was stupid, dogmatic, but thankfully conflicted on many fronts.

Our church tried hard to feed the poor, visit prisoners, and address global needs. But doing so only fueled my self-righteousness because so few other churches were doing the same.

In fact, the deafening silence in the Evangelical church regarding civil rights, indigenous sovereignty, slavery, AIDS, global warming, poverty and the evils of war troubled me constantly.

Moreover, the thinly veiled hatred of gays and condemnation of women exercising their right to choose convinced me something was terribly wrong.

The church as a whole began to bother me. Not just the Dobson’s, Falwell’s, and other preachers, but nearly everyone I knew (including myself) displayed horrid intolerance (sanctified bigotry) as well as a penchant for whacky “signs and visions” which should rightly scare the crap out of any sane person.

Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.”

After 20 years of studying Greek, Hebrew, Byzantine and Alexandrian texts, and trying like hell to live according to the “red letters” in the New Testament, I finally left Evangelicalism and arrived at a place of deep settled peace.

I concluded that God is not stupid. Nor is he a xenophobe. Nor is he a homophobe.

I came to believe that though Christians may trust in the authority of their book, this in no way dismisses the inspiration of other ancient teachings that bear beautiful fruit among their followers.

I began to embrace the fact that the 3 major religions on this Earth have been, and continue to be, at the root of wars and divisions among humankind.

“You will know them by their fruits.”

I came to realize that I loved, respected, and had much, much, more in common with honest atheists than I did with disingenuous religious folks of any stripe.

What began to matter most to me was fruit. Folks can argue all day about which books or religions are inspired and which ones are not. My question will always be, “What sort of fruit have your beliefs born?”

Faith of any kind is something we exercise for ourselves. No one can do so for us and we cannot blame anyone else for what we choose to embrace.

I believe that love never fails. And I believe that a good life bears good fruit.

I confess I could more easily believe that all the parts of a wristwatch could be thrown into the air and come down an assembled watch than not believe in Jesus Christ or a Creator.


But I could care less if you do. Or don’t.

I believe in love. Love may get the crap kicked out of it at times - but I believe it never fails.

 I regret the quality of the picture. I couldn't find my original drawing.

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How very true, honestly written. It is hard to do self interrogation . The human downfall of judging others is so strong. Each road can bring us closer to who we choose to be, that is what I take from this Dennis. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me. r
Beautiful!

“I believe that love never fails. And I believe that a good life bears good fruit.”—What a beautiful way to phrase it.

I share your belief, and the realization that morality has nothing to do with religion, and vice versa

Rated and appreciated
If only others would have these revelations. Thank you for this post. Oh, and I feel the need to say that there is another "branch" of the Quaker ("Society of Friends") church, and the other branch of it doesn't evangelize-- in fact, they have no creeds, only principals, and they just try to do good works.
Amen! Epiphanies are amazing! Mine arrived when I realized God would not create all these people just to send them to Hell.
Well put, When my mind or other fellow christians try to make things complex or push their agenda I always come back to love. Is this a blessing? Is it bearing fruit ?
The lectionary for this Sunday has Jesus quoting Isaiah:

"'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.'

"And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'"

Noteworthy is what he left out: "... to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor [and the day of vengeance of our God]."
It's not easy, when one believes that souls are hanging in the balance, to grow beyond the dogma. One of the relatively few things I miss from "being" evangelical is KNOWING that I'm right. One of the things I don't miss is having to quash doubt every time it came forward. But the fruits thing - that's exactly what gave me the confidence to step out of the dogma - what fruits do I bear?

This is really, really well written. And confirming, for those of us still recovering from fundamentalism.
This is beautiful ... and like you, this journey is somewhat similar to mine. I just believe in the power of Love and I do not think God should be boxed in, so people can be in control.
I believe that we are god and god is us. By our actions we can make this world a better place - not in the name of any one spiritual being - but in the name of us all. I care not whether there is a heaven or hell. Each day I rise with the intent to be the very best person I can be....not to gain an afterlife reward or avoid punishment but because I can't live with myself any other way. Anything else would be hypocrisy.
R
Great, great post, Dennis.
How beautifully expressed as usual....and that's one reason I am so turned off by anyone trying to hit me over the head with the Bible or by cramming it down my throat. Even though it's a cliche, I do believe actions say a whole lot more than words. With that being said, I have two points to add. If you have decided to disregard the three major religions because of war or whatever reason, you are also throwing out all the good they have been successful at. Secondly, when Jesus handed the keys to St. Peter to be leader of the new Church (i.e. first Pope), Jesus knew He was handing "keys" to an imperfect human being...like the rest of the human race. It didn't stop Him from doing it anyway. I truly believe that God works through saints and sinners....through good and evil.
I love this. I love your honesty. I love your ability to reflect.
I believe a Creator/God came before relgion. He resides in us regardless of religion. In fact, religion can be a distraction from Him. He called himself "I am" encompasing all, humans went on to create sects. However, the truth lies in the Fruit produced where He Is.
Truly appriciated!
Our journeys have been so similar in a lot of ways, my friend. Striving to be good. To know and do the right thing. The restless seeking, even as you are being indoctrinated in the "truth."

It is a measure of your humanity and compassion that you can write as you've written. Thank you for the way you lead us here. The church had the wrong message, but they were not wrong about you.

PS: That one day, years ago? At the mall in Oak Brook? Skinny stoned kid with the sideburns and the Billy Jack hat? That was me.
I noticed you were from Whittier some time ago and wondered if you had a relationship with the Quakers. Interesting essay. There are still a bunch of Quakers in my part of PA. Personally I kind of like them.

So, ah, you don't want to confess that you and the Nixons were super-awesome friends now, right?

Seriously though, good essay.
I really think it was a good thing that I was raised Catholic and attended 12 years of Catholic school because, at the age when a lot of people seem to be "born again", I had decided that I finally had enough of organized religion in general, and Catholicism in particular.

Thanks for writing about your journey.
Dennis! Wonderful article. Perhaps you needed to go thru all that to get to this point. As the tale goes: "You would not seek me if you had not already found me".
Love from Star
wonderful essay, thanks for sharing. I was raised in the Methodist church and still cling to the calm, the music, the peace that was present there. When needing to think about how some situation should be handled, I reflect back to "Do unto others....", we are all created in the image of God, and oh, yes John Prine singing " Jesus don't like killing no matter what the reason for, and your flag decal won't get you into Heaven anymore"

thanks for sharing your journey
Compelling. I especially like "thankfully conflicted on many fronts." Reminds me of a line from Heller's Catch-22, at the end, when someone asks Yosarian if he doesn't have misgivings about what transpired. Yosarian's response, which I might not be quoting precisely: "I don't know how I could live without misgivings."
I greatly admire your ability to write such a concise and well written post that covers a lifetime of what I know was an unbelievably difficult uphill struggle.

Coming out of so much rubble, seeking so earnestly to be on the side of good while opposed by the giant of "religion" with all of its rules, judgment, threats, fear and loveless self righteousness is an heroic thing. And I am sure, while more than a little wearying, finally worth it.

Love never fails, for sure. Thank you for puting it down on "paper".
Dennis, you and I have very similar backgrounds and stories so I understand what you wrote with every fiber of my being. I have the same amount of shame...the self-righteousness, the judgment, etc. I even told a new believer when she asked "What about Gandhi?" and my black and white response was, "Gandhi is a good person, but he's going to hell." She ended up becoming a fanatical Christian and although years later I shared with her how wrong I was to have said that, she had taken that one statement and made it her anchor of faith. I've let go of taking responsibility for that, but yet still it sits there. I identify myself as a "spiritual agnostic" because, like you, Love does never fail. And, Love covers a multitude of "sins". Thanks for sharing this. There are many who will relate to your post. And I'm glad that you "saw the Light". Highly rated.
Wonderful! So glad you made peace with your beliefs, and thanks so much for sharing your story.
Your description of your evolution is more than interesting. Like Jeannette, many years in the Catholic church had a part in my early negative perspective on organized religion, which was later reinforced by other experiences. Your observations about the fruits of blind faith are profound.
Great piece, Dennis. Extremely well-written. Your journey is fascinating, your conclusions so true. If only others in that movement had the sort of of clear vision you have about life and what it all boils down to.
Terrific. R
I've met a "wolf" or two in various churches. Pastors and wannabe pastors. Basically their message/fruit was as you described above.
I found, like you did, that sometimes we should question and explore our own feelings and faith, rather than let ourselves be spoon-fed by those who prop themselves up by cutting others down.
Great post, Dennis. I'm with you.
:-)
You write with honesty and humility. Thanks for this story.
Very interesting. Nicely demonstrates the two "edges" of religion. I appreciate the balanced perspective. Many tend to focus just on the good or the bad. It helps to see both. Excellent post.
Thank you for this honest and enlightening post. You and owl and Mary Kelly and others who have moved from self-righteous teachings to righteous behavior and open-mindedness are truly special.
When we're young we tend to jump in to causes (for me it was civil rights, as I have just posted). Much of it depends on the time and place. But as you get older, you start to think more, step back, and some of us are able to grow to true understanding and compassion. I can tell from your posts and comments that you are one of those people, Dennis.
Thank you for this post. It is a great description of the conflict between much of the modern Church and Jesus's teaching. I related especially to this: "The church as a whole began to bother me. Not just the Dobson’s, Falwell’s, and other blinky-eyed preachers, but nearly everyone I knew (including myself) displayed horrid intolerance (sanctified bigotry) as well as a penchant for whacky “signs and visions” which should rightly scare the crap out of any sane person." R
Wonderful post. But if I were you, I wouldn't regret the time you spent doing what you eventually decided wasn't right for you; it led you to where you are today. Had you spent that time doing otherwise, traveling a different path on your journey, who knows where you would be now?
Dennis - This post is such a reflection of the person that you are: honest, thoughtful, loving. It touched me in a very deep place. Thank you for believing in the best in in us.
Thank for being willing to speak up on this issue. I completely agree that if there is a God, he is not the xenophobic, homophobic, vengeful, and violent God that evangelicals tend to portray him to be.
Dear brother from another mother: We've walked similar roads, as you know. My own journey out began when I ventured out of the bubble and found out how difficult it was to bring new friends inside without a "Yes, but this will have to change." Those friends became and remain like family in the best sense. I hold to this truth that reminds me of what drove me to strive for so long -- nearly forty years -- and what sustains me today:

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."

The two can't abide together... and I choose love.
Dennis,
Thanks for sharing your confession here. I come from a Catholic background (which I gave up at a young age). We even have ordained priests in my family. I was/am the Black Sheep.

I haven't been to confession but you seem to have the personality I could confess too. That is, if I had anything to confess ;)
Dennis,

I loved all of it. Simply all of it.

"I came to believe that though Christians may trust in the authority of their book, this in no way dismisses the inspiration of other ancient teachings that bear beautiful fruit among their followers."

Much has already been covered, but this was so wonderful. That is why I embrace all the worlds religions instead of spending time rejecting them or fighting them - they all have something to offer. Beautiful my brother.
There are facts, and then there is the truth. When truth emerges from a recitation of the facts, you have this thing called enlightenment.

Congratulations.
Great essay. I have come to believe that religion is a safehouse for people who are incapable of encountering and addressing the great spiritual questions directly.
As a recovering Southern Baptist, I can relate to much of what you write as well as some of the observations in the comments.

At this point in my life, I remain firmly committed to the precept that religion as we now know it is merely another structure erected in order for a few to garner power at the expense of the many.

I also believe that the existence of "unselfish love" is nearly impossible. When analyzed thoroughly enough, love somehow exists for the benefit or pleasure of the heart that holds it.

Thanks for this.
rita - thank you for your thoughtful comment. It really should be considered a terrible downfall when we judge others.

Lorraine - because I’m pretty consistently blind, deaf, and mute when it matters, I appreciate the kindness of your words more than I can say.

Dr. Ayala - thank you very much for your encouragement. How true that true morality is often totally foreign to religion.

voicegal - thanks so much for the comment. I am aware of the good that many in the Quaker church do and I admire them greatly for it. I will always be in debt to the Quaker church I attended for instilling those ideals in me as well.

Scribblenerd - great name btw. Thank you. I wholly agree.

Anne - thank you for your insightful comment. I ask the same things. Always.

High Lonesome - I really appreciated your quote and the omission greatly.

Owl - I know you understand these things very well. Your comment means a lot to me. Thank you.

WAH - thank you very much for your kindness. It’s hard for me to judge anyone anymore. I own this really good mirror.

rebelmom- thank you so much. God in the box is where so much trouble begins.

Donna - I think there is tremendous wisdom in what you expressed. The most vital test for any belief is how it motivates us to do good now and why.

Ash - thank you very much.

Patricia - Thank you for your comment. My words were not intending to come across as throwing out the 3 major religions of the world but rather to realize that the systems they have become and dogmas they embrace often are at the root of turmoil and hatred. It’s not always easy to let go of the bad and hold onto the good but I think it’s wisest in the end to do so.

next please - I really appreciated your words and insight. Thank you.

Frank - I seem to recall that fellow in the Oak Brook Mall. I just wish we had known each other then. At least we could have suffered through this stuff together. I love you man.

MJ - ha! I should have guessed you would play the Nixon card. Yep. And he went to college here too. I totally agree with you about the Quakers in PA and have met a few who deeply impacted me with their loving hearts.

Jeanette - thank you for such an insightful comment. Those times of realization are never late, are they?

ReikiStar - I absolutely love that quote. Thank you very much.

Liberal Southern Democrat - thanks for your comment. What a perfect example of holding onto what’s loved and right and letting the rest go.

Clark - I love the reference thank you.

Chey - ha! No body knows about this struggle better than you. Nooo Body. Thank you dear.

Mary - our backgrounds are startlingly similar. Except you turned out way better. Personally I am deeply grateful for all the weakness that love covers. I have many, many, patient friends to thank for the “light.”

bluesurly - thank you very much for your kind comment.

sophie - thank you very much for the insightful comments and for your encouragement.

John - thank you very much for such a generous comment. You know how much I appreciate you and your work.

spotted - your comment made me smile. Broadly. And nod. Questioning is rarely if ever wrong.

Dear reader - Thank you for taking the time to say such kind things.

Steve - thank you man. The balance is something I always long to aim for. This world is a pretty grey (gray) place.

Lea - thank you for such a kind and thoughtful comment. Your post on Dr. King moved me deeply. Seeing the commitment you have always had for what is right and just is something that perpetuates the same in others.

Aunt Mabel - thank you for such kind words.

Blue in TX - That was a line I hoped would stand out. Thanks so much.

Maria - you are absolutely right. My regret is for the hurt I inflicted. Not for journey. Thank you so much for helping ot clarify that.

Melissa - thank you so much. It’s very easy to believe in the best in people like you.

J.A.K. - you hit the nail on the head. I would hate to be portrayed as so many portray God. Thank you.

CK - ah. Though I am old enough to be your father (well if I had you at 9) you know how very much I appreciate you. You’ve overcome incredible odds to become the person you are. I will always choose love. It kicks the crap out of fear.

Scarlett - having been the black sheep (still am) I understand your words too well. Thank you for your kindness. I would make a lousy confessor.

Sparking - thank you for your kind words. That was perhaps the most important lesson for me as well. I really appreciate your comment.
I greatly enjoyed this posting. It's honest and it touched me, as my estranged sister has abandoned her entire family for her church. She has no friends outside the church, avoids family, and applies "sanctified bigotry" to everyone and every situation she encounters in life. No one, nothing, can live up to her perceived standard for them, no one except, of course, herself and her friends from church.
Thank you for sharing this.
I see this as a ministry continued.
" I believe that love never fails."

Enough said. I've never been able to relate to organized religion. Even as a child I'd wonder: How to people believe this stuff?

Love. Morality. Integrity.

What else do we need?

Great post.
We live and learn. I went the other way. After growing up Catholic, I spent many years in a lazy agnosticism, choosing, I think now, the path of least resistance. In my experience, this can be as dangerous as any religion or cult. I now accept the imperfections of my journey as part of the process. It's not a failure if we learn from it.
Amen and amen. From one ex-fundie to another, preach it!

;)
I applaud your matter of factness. This was quite a stunning account and I only think better of you for it. Greatly appreciated.
The minute I heard the Sunday School teacher say that babies who aren't baptized would go to hell, I knew something was up. I was not curious enough about it at the time (I was just a little kid) to search for answers and looking back, I think I could have saved myself a lot of grief had I done that. But you know what they say about hindsight.

I'm just very glad to know you're no longer one of those religious fear mongers (if you ever really were). And I bow to your humility.
It's a wonder more people don't get as clear-sighted as you. I don't think it would take much intellect to see through all that stuff, but there's so many who don't.
"Oddly enough, it was the words of Jesus that lead me out of Evangelical Christianity."

Best reason ever....rated. Appreciated.
With the marriage of politics and religion, Christians have forgotten the bitter lessons of the Cross and the Sword. And with growth of the Prosperity Gospel, Christians have once again eaten of the forbidden fruit. It seems these days that prophet is more correctly spelled "profit".

As I've said before, in my Father's house are many mansions, but I suspect a lot of them are going to set empty for eternity.
Dennis, this is such perfection:

"I believe that love never fails. And I believe that a good life bears good fruit."

Love and goodness. Period. You are the embodiment of both...and so rated and appreciated.
"I believe that love never fails. And I believe that a good life bears good fruit."

me t00 ~ and I believe that you have a beautiful spirit that never fails to move me.
I remember back in tenth grade asking my Morality class professor, Father A.: Who goes to hell, a Chinese man who lives honestly all his life and knows not Christ or a murderer who repents minutes from dying? His answer, the repentant. Then I asked, my cousin's (of course, I was talking about myself but let my imaginary familial take the heat) parents were married by an Evangelical church because her (my) father married Catholic once and divorced. Do they go to hell? His answer: Yes. It's been a long time, and I've come to understand that faith and religion are not synonyms. And sometimes those supposed to lead, mislead. I think many Christians, like myself, have deeply troubling questionings about our own beliefs. Thank you for this post. It takes a lot of courage to question oneself. And I am glad you have found your answers. Rated.
Dennis, in the short time I've had you on my friends list, I've had zero cause to regret it: Posts like this are the reason why.

I could go into a long song and dance here about heresies, interpretations, omissions (like the Apocrypha) and the like, but I'm not going to clutter up your post.

I wish everyone who professes any faith would read this.
“If you have a particular faith or religion, that is good. But you can survive without it.”-The Dalai Lama

"God isn't perfect...She's just smarter than everyone else."-Robin Sneed

xox
sagemerlin - I often feel I’m still looking for the light switch. Thanks for your kind words.

Monsieur Chariot - thank you for your kindness and your insightful remarks.

Kevin - Thank you for your comment. I think the realization that institutions that profess a desire to help others could seek undue influence over or profits from the needy is one of the more sobering facts in life.

Disability, "Kodi" & Me - thank you so much for this thoughtful comment. I once heard of a man who reduced his circle of “communion worthy” people to the point where it eventually excluded his wife and everyone else. As I discovered for myself, a mirror may have helped the fellow much.

scupper - what an outstandingly kind thing of you to say. Thanks. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be on the receiving end of that arrangement.

Eden - that is the sum of it all. When genuine needs are considered those virtues cover it all.

jimmy - the more I learn about you the more I appreciate you and your incredible work.

Gwendolyn - ah! Another ex. Whoda guessed :) Thank you so much.

Stacey - knowing someone of your integrity thinks well of me is really quite enough for anyone to hope for.

sw - my daughter has heard that same terrible crap from her teachers. I’m grateful she is a brilliant kid who knows any being who deserved to be called God could not possibly have a nature like that. Thank you very much for your comment.

Reflections of a shallow pond - thank you for your kindness.

JOY - I still squint constantly. But my aim improves with age. Thanks for your comment.

dolores - I have to agree :) thank you so much.

Tom - I love that take on the houses setting empty. Thank you very much for your words and the reminder of a history that must never be repeated.

M - thank you for your kind words. You place the “period” exactly where it goes best.

Ann - thank you for such a generously kind comment.

v - I really appreciate your take on all of this. If a faith is so fragile it cannot tolerate questions it is of little value. And it it contradicts itself it should be reexamined - always.

Boanerges - there is plenty of visa in the versa for everything you said my friend. Thank you very much.
I think you simply outgrew it--as many do--even if that takes places through the generations rather than individually.

The question that intrigues me is: what is the attraction in the first place? Or, to be more precise: What leads to so many adopting a "dogmatic" structure when clearly their own conscience is far superior to it in terms of basic human values?
Thank you so much for writing this. I was born again at one time as well and left organized religion is a similar manner and for similar reasons. Having read many of the comments to your post I now realize that i was never alone in this sentiment. I become increasingly disturbed by the amount of people who try to force their morals down the throats of others. Especially when I find them to be ignorant of their own religion. Like you, I believe in Love. When someone asks me my religion now, I simply answer, "I believe in all paths to God, by any name"
Thank you so much for your post - one line, one phrase says it all for me God is not a xenophobe. Beautiful...
Robin - thanks for the lovely quotes. You had me smiling with them. Big time.

Janie - the phrase kinda hits the nail on the head. Thank you for your far too kind comment.

Ben - thanks for your words and question. Hopefully it’s something I’m still “outgrowing” :)

Mrs. Robinson - Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Three people observing the same event from different perspectives will usually bring back three different versions of what took place. Many times I think it is that way with fruit bearing truths. Different perspectives on the same light.

Akopsa - that’s a favorite line of mine as well. Thank you for your kindness.
There are so many things I love in this piece. r
I am at a similar place. Religion confuses me. I think the teachings of Jesus are pretty straight forward and extremely heart warming. That is where I developed my morals and values for loving everyone and trying to be a good person. I have read the bible and several other religious books - my opinion is - How do we know when God is really speaking to someone? By their fruits, I agree. There are a lot of folks spoken of in the Bible that made mistakes, like adultery. I decided what warms my heart may be true, and what makes me angry or confused is probably not.
Only question I have, you mention a woman's right to choose? Do you mean abortion? Speaking as a human being, and someone who values the life of humans and of all living things - I do not believe abortion should be legal. The procedure kills a living fetus - I just don't see any way around it. I believe women have the right to choose birth control or abstinance, not abortion after the fact.
There is nothing at all wrong with the quality of the picture, either the one which appears at the beginning of this article or the one which you've painted with your words.
I believe your right. My church is in my heart and how I live my life. Not in how much money I make or can put in the till "for the church". I enjoyed reading this.
I believe in love too. I do. And I will think about fruit in a whole new way now. :)
Dennis, I've been working on my own "Very Similar" story. Not Quaker but otherwise your story sounds just like mine. And your outcome, just like mine as well. Wonderfully written & rated.
I have found that if I read the Bible on my own or am careful about who is teaching it to me, I come to a much different conclusion than if I sit in a pew at the average church.

Well-said!
Dennis, reading your opening line there, I was reminded of my reasons for quitting the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery). Funny how mandates to be ethical can backfire on people who don't heed those mandates themselves.

Many religions have some very sound messages within, but one has to be vigilant to avoid getting caught up in the destructive man-made dogma that sometimes accompanies some of those messages. I think religion is often offered as a kind of autopilot, for people who'd rather not think, and that's exactly the kind of situation that can lead to many of the problems you mention. Those who approach religion thoughtfully often fare much better, as you obviously have.
"I began to embrace the fact that the 3 major religions on this Earth have been, and continue to be, at the root of wars and divisions among humankind."
I agree. Terrific post, I cannot add much more.
Rated and much appreciated.
Thank for a courageous and obviously heart-felt post. I was raised Mormon and went through a similar process of finding peace in trusting my own conscience rather than self-proclaimed religious authorities. But no need to be ashamed of who you were. You did your best to live what you believed at the time. No one can do better than that.
Dennis,
I've gotten here late because of life events yesterday, but I wanted to let you know what a beautiful essay this is. I love the transition from the arrogance of knowing everything as a youth, to the realization as one gets older, that it's all shades of gray, and still being able to hold onto some truths that one feels to be true even if one can no longer know that they are.
The line that was put on the cover was the most important of all. What a journey of lessons and growth, Dennis. Beautifully handled, beautifully revealed.
Joan - thank you very much. I’m grateful it was helpful.

Cotten - Thank you for your comment. Things we read or learn that bear the fruit of inner and outer peace seem to be keepers. Things that breed inner turmoil or confusion or anger or intolerance do not fit that bill. The delicate balance of living truly is realizing that we must allow others to live the same way even though their truth may differ from our own.

thefuddler - thank you for the generous comment on my drawing and the piece. You are far too kind.

Lunchlady - thank you for your insightful and encouraging comment. If our heart is not our sanctuary everything can be become very superficial all too quickly.

sweetfeet - thank you for such a kind remark.

trilogy - thanks so much for your kind words. I look forward to reading about your journey when finished. Please let me know when you post it.

Delia - it is a strange phenomenon that our understanding can differ so greatly from how someone else is interpreting words. What you say is so important because ancient texts are often used to promote whatever the speaker wants them to. Thanks so much for your comment.

Kent - thanks for your remarks. I think approaching everything thoughtfully is a great yardstick for life and living. But then I’m preaching to the choir telling that to you :)

Fusan - thank you very much for your kind words.

I Wonder - thank you for your encouragement. I appreciate it. I also appreciate your courage and honesty. Working your way out of a system you were raised in can be incredibly challenging on so many levels. Bravo to you.

Lorraineflw - thank you for your comment and your insights. I could not agree more about life being shades of grey. Black and white may be easier but seeing life that way makes us far more susceptible to mistakes and the wounding others. I loved what you said about holding onto truths even if one can no longer know that they are.
Every experience we have in life plays a part in who we become. Your path led you there maybe for you to realize what you truly felt deep down. You express yourself beautifully here and prove how much you have embraced love, over anything else. Thank you for sharing this.
Late to the game, but oh so grateful to have found this. I have struggled endlessly with organized religions. The difference between "spirituality" and "religious" is so great. I think there are a hundred people here who would love to sit down and have a coffee with you, Dennis.

You have truly hit a chord with this.
Dennis, this is incredible. Apostasy is fairly common, but his sort of unsentimental accounting of forsaken ideals is rare and valuable. Great writing and better ideas.
Great stuff Dennis. Thanks again for being so elegant and vulnerable with your thoughts.
it's about "structure" and the search for it. it can be fundamentalism, it can be a therapeutical philosophy, it can be a wife or husband that tells somebody what to think and they are so needy they believe it, it can be scientology, it can be a military commander, it can be a basketball coach, it can be a way of "seeing" that a person who has denied that can adopt, it can be an addiction that tells him what he must do next--do you get the point? you must. the seach goes on until we become "me" and no longer give a shit.
I know this is over a year old, but I had to chime in...

This is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. You are not alone at all. I found so many commonalities between your story and mine.