A picture was posted on Facebook, “Twins in the Womb – Hey Brother! Do you think there is life after birth? Do you believe in Mom? – Nah! I’m an Atheist, I mean, have you ever seen Mom?”
This analogy literally makes no sense. First of all, we don’t leave our bodies when we exit the womb. The mother is also a physical body and everything she does directly effects and is experienced by the fetus – Walking, talking, dancing, listening to music. Not only are the twins physically inside of her, but they are also consuming what she eats through an umbilical cord. Both mother and fetus are a part of and joined in nature. But the idea of ‘God’ is not.
In Nature, Man And Woman, Alan W. Watts explains, “The architectonic and artificial style of Christianity is nowhere clearer than in the idea of God as the maker of the world, and thus of the world itself as an artifact which has been constructed in accordance with a plan, and which has, therefore, a purpose and an explanation. But the mode of action of the Tao is called wu-wei, translatable both as “non-striving” and “non-making.” For from the standpoint of Taoist philosophy natural forms are not made but grown, and there is a radical difference between the organic and the mechanical (Watts, 39).”
Western man would like to measure, categorize, explain, experiment, and use every last inch of our earth. If he probes deeply enough into our insides he feels he can explain our bodies as mechanized objects. In this way, existence is only used as a method for profit and gain. And though we have come into an age of a more secularized society, the brain is still programmed from religious thinking to be on the outside of nature looking in. In this way, life is experienced as a bystander, irresponsible and apart in a perceived isolation, separate from all other creatures.
As a person who grew up in the church, it was exhilarating to first experience the freedom of my natural self without guilt or shame. I was surprised that I felt no guilt, but for me, it was like an escape from a prison that I had been in all my life. I had struggled to make my belief real. But it was dead and I was left hungry and thirsty for real life and the riches of gritty experience.
“For in identifying God, the Absolute, with a goodness excluding evil we make it impossible for us to accept ourselves radically: what is not in accord with the will of God is at variance with Being itself and must not under any circumstances be accepted. Our freedom is therefore set about with such catastrophic rewards and punishments that it is not freedom at all, but resembles rather the totalitarian state in which one may vote against the government but always at the risk of being sent to a concentration camp (Watts, 133).”
I think it is obvious to everyone that merely having belief in principles does not make you those principles. A person who lives by belief must also wear a mask, because what is occurring on the outside and what is being thought on the inside are two entirely different things. And the more you try to be ‘good’ with all your might, the more its shadow twin ‘evil’ is increasingly prevalent from the denial of it.
Christians like to say that their belief is not about might. They say that Jesus will change you from the inside out. If you believe that enough, through the power of self-hypnosis and faith, yes, you will change to some extent. But you will still have all the same feelings you had before. Feelings that are now associated with a sinful nature.
“To give free rein to the course of feeling is therefore to observe it without interference, recognizing that because feeling is motion it is not to be understood in terms which imply not only static states but judgments of good and bad (Watts, 93).”
Allowing our feelings to guide us is the only way to be truly happy and centered, to break out of isolation and connect into the flow of life. “… Confucius felt that in the long run human passions and feeling were more trustworthy than human principles of right and wrong… (Watts, 177).”
Christianity has a long history of denying the spiritual that we experience in the physical. In denying the body we deny life. And fear of experience becomes worse and more consuming than the actual experience. In pain we learn the possibilities of ecstasy and pleasure. In sex we find spontaneity and transcendence. In expressing emotion freely, we are released and connected with other human beings. The full spectrum of physical experience moves us forwards into spiritual growth.
I had a friend in college that I love very much. She goes to a questionable church that I used to attend. They believe in punishing the unfaithful by disassociating with them, which is probably why she doesn’t talk to me anymore. But we had also grown apart, and the last time we saw each other, it felt slightly forced and awkward.
I first fell in love with her when we were on a student trip to Europe. We were in Salzburg, and we all ordered Wiener Schnitzel with currant sauce and lemon. It was succulent and delicious. It was so good that she began to cry. I had never seen someone so moved by the pleasure of eating. She lived out her pleasures in the most beautiful ways, and I have always admired the joy she takes in the simple things.
She has alluded to a sexual sin in her families past that resulted in an excommunication from a church. This seems to have shaped her fear of intimacy, beyond basic morals. She believes in waiting for marriage, and has denied herself the sexual experience of being with a man.
It is obvious to everyone who knows her well, what a truly sensual, and beautiful person she is. Her greatest repression has become her ultimate mission. She goes out with her church group at 3am to help prostitutes by talking to them about God and giving them toiletries. Her passion is to help stop sex trafficking. But I find it ironic and strange when such a difficult repression is used to fuel a passion. I am always happy to hear that someone is helping people, but I also worry that it can be patronizing to the less fortunate tiers of society.
“… Profound love reveals what other people really are: beings in relation, not in isolation (Watts, 199).” A coward’s life is in isolation. But the lover’s life is in relation. I see my friend as a lover who is only allowing herself a fraction of what life has to offer. In my opinion of this, of course, I am making the judgment of an observer. But it pains me to see how religion can limit a person’s experience of life, where feeling is repressed beneath doctrine and dogma.
“… a God to be grasped or believed in is no God, and that a continuity to be wished for is only a continuity of bondage (Watts, 116).”