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Faith without Religion


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Finished reading your posts now and they have made my day. Made my week, my month. Love it. Well done. Keep seeking and stay on this path. You're doing good work. Everything worth finding takes a ridiculous amount of searching. Keep looking for the poetry. Life is poetry, not prose. The contradictions are painful but also beautiful, meaningful, exhilarating, amazing, deep, universal, timeless, liberating, soothing, healing, mind blowing.

 

Anyway, excuse my rambling... It's 6 am and I only got 3 hours of sleep last night... I'm pure stream of consciousness crap today... 😄

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8 hours ago, Sophy said:

Just started reading your posts and love them.

Just want to note 2 things before I forget them...

1) Saying that "all is vain" can be depressing but doesn't have to be. Said and thought and felt in the right manner, it's  a gentle truth, a deeply liberating one, one that entails elements of farce and slapstick, in the best possible way... Like the archetype/ tarot card "the fool"... My favourite archetype/ card.

 

Which leads me to

2) You have the soul and heart and mind of an artist. They always think and feel deeper and wider than "normies" do. They transcend normal daily life and in fact, they don't really fit into its constraints... it wears them down.

A huge, core part of my healing was identifying as an artist and writer, first and foremost. Yes, I choose to have a day job cos of food and rent and bills. But that has nothing to do with my identity. And... I stopped hanging out with normies... I made sure all my friends are artists and writers and philosophers and musicians... people who don't fit the mold, people who break the mold, as a reminder and validation that for as long as I live on this silly, cute, lumpy, vain, sometimes painful planet... I will never fit the mold, I will always have an artist's gaze, I will always be drawn to the meta level, to the flipside, to the underdog, to the unusual, to the exceptional, to the inspirational.

Living that life isn't easy. Plenty of artists succumb to depression and madness. Look at dear old Vincent. 

But if you have an artist's soul and *don't* live an artist's spiritual life, then life is pure hell and feels like numb, meaningless torture.

This is so good.

My friend Kevin has said things like this, and it rings true, even since HS or college.  Even as a rock-ribbed Republican prototype, I found myself loving and gravitating toward literature and great writing and art.  The business curriculum was something I did as a game because one was 'supposed to' major in something they could make a living from, and it was 'respectable' for politics, and I'm sure it's had some benefit for getting by in the world...probably more than I realize.  law too.  I only really ever wanted to use it to do things that 'changed the world' via causes I cared about.

I too have made virtually all my friends those who either are, or understand, or in any case will indulge in hearing and talking about depression and the heavier side of life.  Otherwise, they're friendly acquaintances, whom I try to engage in small talk with and tolerate.  

Re:    "...silly, cute, lumpy, vain, sometimes painful planet... I will always be drawn to the meta level, to the flipside, to the underdog, to the unusual, to the exceptional, to the inspirational.

Living that life isn't easy. Plenty of artists succumb to depression and madness. Look at dear old Vincent. 

But if you have an artist's soul and *don't* live an artist's spiritual life, then life is pure hell and feels like numb, meaningless torture."

Yes, to that.  The whole book, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, is about that, and you're right, the sheer number of artists from every field that have succumbed to it is staggering, only to be surpassed by those who have kept going (I almost said 'beaten it' but that didn't quite feel right), and in any case created things that inspired others to keep going.  It reminds me of the great scene in Little Children where the adult sex-offender ex-con is living with his mom, and despairing, and she gives him the speech about how unlike other animals, only humans are self-aware that we could lose everything at any moment, and yet keep going anyway (this is one of about 10 things I quote over and over; I need to read more again, and happily have begun).

This light touch you have, being able to describe things with elan, even winsome 
hopefulness in spite of the darkness and in the midst of the storms...this is what I miss most about my former self, and I usually attribute or at least associate most of it with my belief and practice of Christianity.  This is what's hardest.  I desperately miss this indomitable spirit that I used to have.  And I had the Reason to have it.  I didn't know what the future held, but I knew who held the future, and all that good stuff.  I miss one of the best parts of myself that I have sometimes found again, but never been able to keep with confidence, or consistency or conviction.  Cynicism has crept in and so often won the day.

You're right that trying to fit the square peg into a round slot, not living the artist's life, is miserable.   And I have struggled to do this with working 60 hrs/week and a family   It's why I indulge myself so much in movies and art, and with my kids, and I don't really feel guilty about it.  At least it's something.  My friend Kevin's always telling me that also.  He is very good at celebrating the eccentricities in his life - he works is mind-numbing 9-5, leaves, and does entirely what he wants, which is politics and art (and cars).  I have neither the time, nor money, nor stability, nor free time. 

At least I have some fairly satisfying writing these days...this is also one of the reasons it often takes me longer to write a legal brief than average, or than it 'ought' to....I am an artisan much more than production machine.  General practice litigators are all production.  Complex litigators (mainly big firm attorneys) have to be both creative artist and production machine.  I can do one well; the other I disdain and can do but in fits and starts, and I think ultimately it wears me out. 

This author, Julia Cameron wrote a book, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, that is largely about a method of trying to systematize this creative satisfaction mainly by getting up and writing 'morning pages' which is more or less, a stream of consciousness journal of sorts.  It bored me to tears though.  I keep trying to get up an exercise.  I soon will.  

As I think back on life, there is a way to try to reclaim some discipline.  A balance between basic prudent disciplines and self acceptance/compassion perhaps.  I see discipline as a missing ingredient that used to allow me to unlock and multiply my effort creatively.  There's an old adage that politicians and public speakers, and I presume actors, know well, that the best ad-libs were the product of many, many hours of practice and preparation.

I think one of my favorite things about writing is that nowadays it can be more interactive, so it need not be so solitary.  This is one of the things that has kept me going.  There's this thought that if I can just hang on long enough, perhaps I will either find, or be able to get myself into a place where I may yet actually create some things I am actually proud of, and that might help inspire some others.  The legal briefs are the closest to that so far, which are fairly pedestrian at least in function, at the end of the day.  I try to write them with a certain degree of wit and style, but they're arguing points that seem mundane compared to the more interesting things I want to write and talk about.

Well, this is kind of just writing to write here this morning.  These are kind of my morning pages. 

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9 hours ago, Sophy said:

Life is poetry, not prose. The contradictions are painful but also beautiful, meaningful, exhilarating, amazing, deep, universal, timeless, liberating, soothing, healing, mind blowing.

"Life is poetry, not prose."  So true, and thank you for summing up my worldview, at least as far as aesthetic, maybe everything, in 5 words.

"The contradictions are painful but also beautiful, meaningful, exhilarating, amazing, deep, universal, timeless, liberating, soothing, healing, mind blowing."

This reminds me of the phrase (from a book I never read), the unbearable lightness of being.  It's one of those phrases that has stuck in my head with an irreducible quality about it.  I can't unpack or disetc, or break it down into any other constituent parts.

Last, in my random ramblings (and I got plenty of sleep last night), you mentioned the tarot card of the jester or the fool with elements of farce and slapstick, "in the best possible way."  This is kind of like the above to me, it bespeaks absurdity, but perhaps not the futility of true black nihilism, and elides further deconstruction it seems to me.  Like, I seem to understand it at a gestalt, visceral level, and don't have to entirely understand why. 

Finally, this reminds me of a movie in my top 10 list (I like how I mention that as though it matters : )), that I often forget, Synecdoche, New York, one of the most clever, layered works of art on film I have ever experienced.  Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a term for a part of something refers equally to the whole or conversely the whole for one of its parts.  Cleveland won, refers to either or both the city of cleveland and the Cavaliers basketball team (never to the Browns, for they do not win).  Why there need be a word synecdoche, let alone trailing back all the way to ancient Greece, I cannot fathom.

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21 minutes ago, gandolfication said:

I desperately miss this indomitable spirit that I used to have.  And I had the Reason to have it.  I didn't know what the future held, but I knew who held the future, and all that good stuff.  I miss one of the best parts of myself that I have sometimes found again, but never been able to keep with confidence, or consistency or conviction.  Cynicism has crept in and so often won the day.

You often manage to capture my jumbled thoughts and nail them down onto "paper". My ADD or whatever the hell it is doesn't let me craft sentences like what I quoted from you above.

I love writing, but it's often pure agony for me.

But! I, too, held that "indomitable spirit" at one time. I remember the constant drive to jump out of bed and do something. There were endless possibilities within my grasp. Maybe it was the "optimism of youth", or  maybe the universe hadn't rounded off my edges yet. I dunno. But I miss it.

Edited by JD4010
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I have faith out of pragmatism.  From what little study I have done on religion, I have very little respect for them. 

I listened to a classmate's speech years ago who was or researched Islam, Christianity and Hinduism.  He was pretty critical of them. 

One of my professors had a joke.  "How do you make an atheist?  You give them a bible."  For me what I read in the Bible made me not trust or love god.  I saw too many contradictions and cruelties.  I saw god as The Great Santini or Mommy Dearest.

Being called a blasphemer by a past-turd was funny.  After I said in my confirmation class that god was a demonic tyrant. 

A lot of what I see in faith/religion is little more than confirmation bias. 

 

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2 hours ago, JD4010 said:

You often manage to capture my jumbled thoughts and nail them down onto "paper". My ADD or whatever the hell it is doesn't let me craft sentences like what I quoted from you above.

I love writing, but it's often pure agony for me.

But! I, too, held that "indomitable spirit" at one time. I remember the constant drive to jump out of bed and do something. There were endless possibilities within my grasp. Maybe it was the "optimism of youth", or  maybe the universe hadn't rounded off my edges yet. I dunno. But I miss it.

Yah, I go back and forth wondering if it was the naivete of youth, or if instead, that depression has clouded my vision and attitudes.  How could I possibly (ever) know?  The harder and more I overthink it, it seems the farther I get from anything like an answer.

I think we all had 'it' at one point (I know there are probably tragic exceptions of some who had really awful childhoods, but this is a general statement about humanity).  I have always been fascinated about where peoples' motivation derives from.  No surprise that for me, as far as I knew, it came from Providence, although also of course from the family around me.  But the hope from on high just can't be overstated.  So, from an early age, I wondered quite seriously, how on earth and why, and from where do those who have hope in god, get it from?  We saw it all as the repression and suppression of Truth, and that people are good at temporarily distracting themselves (which indeed we are), and just not thinking about it.

Anyway, the common loss of this spirit is a key worry and fear I have for my kids, and regret that I am sure I am not being a good model for them...much as I try to pantomime hopefulness.  And when they ask about things that bear on it, it will not take them long to realize that my answers about having hope from love for them is tautological, circular, and maybe nonsensical.

Writing is arduous and often painful.  Even when it is good, and a state of flow, editing is painful (which is why I barely do it here).  : )  The quotation, that "writing is easy, you just open a vein and bleed," has probably been attributed to so many different people because, those of us who've tried, so easily relate to it.  To me, it is the sweet science, not boxing.
(It was Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith, an American sportswriter in 1949.  And think of it.  An entire career in writing, and he was lucky we remember 1 phrase he debatably is credited with!).

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1 hour ago, Rattler6 said:

I have faith out of pragmatism.  From what little study I have done on religion, I have very little respect for them. 

I listened to a classmate's speech years ago who was or researched Islam, Christianity and Hinduism.  He was pretty critical of them. 

One of my professors had a joke.  "How do you make an atheist?  You give them a bible."  For me what I read in the Bible made me not trust or love god.  I saw too many contradictions and cruelties.  I saw god as The Great Santini or Mommy Dearest.

Being called a blasphemer by a past-turd was funny.  After I said in my confirmation class that god was a demonic tyrant. 

A lot of what I see in faith/religion is little more than confirmation bias. 

 

This is the conclusion of, among others, Dan Barker, in my estimation, the most formidable of all the new atheists.  I do not think it was coincidence, that Barker spent his formative years as a devout Christian advocate (as I did), and pastor.  The degrees and ways in which he knows the arguments inside and out, including at least much of the philosophical logic that underpins it, was so superior to Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, even Sam Harris, that it was part of what persuaded me to drop the Christian faith as such.  Now, it exists as a web of abstractions still begging the question.  


I've been down this road so much, and nearly back again, and so forth, I feel largely just cauterized to it.  Almost numb.  But not quite, as it always gnaws at me - is there something more, an intelligence, anything lasting, a reason for love to give rise to hope, a connectness, meaning, redemption, etc....these are the names I usually now use as a proxy for god.

And at least for me -- though I have also found for most here -- I am using faith in a broad sense in terms of what reasons, to what themes, or forces, or things at all do people look to for hope.

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5 hours ago, gandolfication said:

Well, this is kind of just writing to write here this morning.  These are kind of my morning pages.

Good 🙂

And maybe you can turn that around to: These are my kind of morning pages.

(((hug)))

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P.S. I have Julia Cameron's books at home too. And Kundera's Unbearable lightness of being. I read it when I was 16 and adore the title, but the contents, while okay, are overrated. 😄
(Tho that is the opinion of a 16 year old, so eh... what did I know back then?)

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This pretty much sums up my "take" on Christianity. The Beatitudes are attributed to Jesus (in the book of Matthew). This is one aspect of the "religion" that stuck with me, even when I thought I had fallen into pure atheism (the other aspect that stuck with me was most of Ecclesiastes. Go figure! :) ).

THE EIGHT BEATITUDES OF JESUS

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

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1 hour ago, Sophy said:

P.S. I have Julia Cameron's books at home too. And Kundera's Unbearable lightness of being. I read it when I was 16 and adore the title, but the contents, while okay, are overrated. 😄
(Tho that is the opinion of a 16 year old, so eh... what did I know back then?)

But of course you would have both books.  I imagine your farmhouse as essentially one continuous bookshelf, with maybe a table in the middle, on which to store everything else.

This is how my younger brother is; and I was as long as I could be.  Then I kind of stopped reading for a while, in part from depression and work.  We stare at screens all day reading, it was not what I wanted to do at night.  Thankfully, I am back into a better grove reading again.

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9 minutes ago, JD4010 said:

This pretty much sums up my "take" on Christianity. The Beatitudes are attributed to Jesus (in the book of Matthew). This is one aspect of the "religion" that stuck with me, even when I thought I had fallen into pure atheism (the other aspect that stuck with me was most of Ecclesiastes. Go figure! 🙂 ).

THE EIGHT BEATITUDES OF JESUS

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

You know, we've talked about the beatitudes here several times, but I just read them again now as something more of a homily, an aspiration, and thus liked them more, without my usual objections.

In evangelical tradition (especially the part I grew up in), we don't really have anything exactly like a homily, intended more for spiritual edification than doctrinal instruction. Partly because of that, I suppose we do tend to take things more literally and at face value than even other sects in Christendom.   

Edited by gandolfication
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On 5/21/2019 at 12:28 AM, Sophy said:

Oof... I love, love, love Leonard Cohen...

Making me smile and sniffle on the bus on the way to work. Life and the universe are worthwhile for those moments... Leonard is divine and blessed. His words and songs are like religion, mass, communion to me.

This is the stuff that matters.

This is the stuff that makes life worthwhile.

I love that you love Leonard Cohen.  Good taste knows no boundaries.

Yah, you're right, he's like listening to mass if mass were beautiful and transcendent.  Because I had relatively narrow exposure to popular and modern-classic music growing up, I've had the "joy of rediscovering"* much of it at an older age.
Anyway, to me, Cohen is a prophet.  He provokes, he preaches to an extent, he is clarion about what is important, mourning and celebrating life's beauty and absurdity simultaneously, and then he stops just short of things like telling you what you should do.  (He did basically become a monk, living in a convent, I think in CA for a while).  His rasp haunts your soul with a thick atmosphere of a dreamlike trance.  Like if Bob Dylan were good.

Apparently, he would agonize for years over his songs (he once met up with Dylan in Paris and they compared notes; whereas Dylan would have songs come to him and scribe them in a day or two...yah, bleach, it showed).  The song Hallelujah for example, went through many drafts over 2-3 years, and would have been heard by almost no one if Jeff Buckley hadn't found it at a babysitter's house before he tragically died.  There's nothing else like it.  Cohen was a student and poet, who never though he had and never did have a good conventional singing voice.  Talk about someone who got up--he never got over his stage fright--and bled on stage.

yah, I'm with you.  This is the stuff that matters.  And it is my religion.
Well that, and this stupid, oppressive tort reform law I'm writing to help take down hopefully.  I'm gong to post separately about this in a minute.

 

*this reference is to Journey's (arguably) greatest line ever, in what (to me) is their greatest song, Faithfully, about a musician on the road coming home..."I get the joy of rediscovering you.  Btw, speaking of the clown/gester/fool, see below, my favorite verse.
This was one I did have the pleasure of enjoying as a kid.  My 3 favorite 'secular' bands were Journey, Chicago, and Van Halen.  Maybe still are.

 

Highway run
Into the midnight sun
Wheels go 'round and 'round
You're on my mind
Restless hearts
Sleep alone tonight
Sendin' all my love
Along the wire
They say that the road
Ain't no place to start a family
Right down the line
It's been you and me
And lovin' a music man
Ain't always what it's s'posed to be
Oh girl, you stand by me
I'm forever yours
Faithfully
 
Circus life
Under the big top world
We all need the clowns
To make us smile
Through space and time
Always another show
Then everything
Wondering where I am
Lost without you
 
And being apart ain't easy
On this love affair
Two strangers learn
To fall in love again
I get the joy
Of rediscovering you
Oh girl, you stand by me
I'm forever yours
Faithfully
Edited by gandolfication
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  • 1 year later...
On 4/18/2019 at 3:05 PM, gandolfication said:

Faith without Religion

I have faith.  We all do.  In something.
But in what, exactly, I am not sure.  A 'god as I understand him,' (or it)?
Something holds me back from this, perhaps the pain of pride and embarrassment, that I was wrong, am wrong, could be wrong again, perhaps a feeling of betrayal at the deepest level.  Fear that it all will be an elaborate fraud and deception again.  Unwillingness?  Selfishness?  These are the usual answers.
So, what if I just try to let go, set them down so to speak, and choose to believe, on faith, right now, that there is something, someone out there, in here, who ultimately makes has a purpose for all things?
Can I live it?  Does it matter?  Will it help?  Do I have to--can I--give up that assurance, too?
What to have faith in, and how?
Does it require fidelity to believing the Bible again (Church?).
My must I complicate things so?
Are these just elaborate ruses to try to maintain control?  What could it possibly mean to really give up control (and then still go on and do the next right thing, exercising free choice and agency)?
Is this the source of my insanity?
This is kind of a stream of consciousness, but also follows the usual pattern.
It all feels very damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don't.

I want to just place this sacred relationship above all else, put all hope, and faith and trust in it, wrong or right, put all the chips on one number and let them fall where they will.
Something resists.  Something hedges.


I grew up and until about age 33, I was--to label it for shorthand--a protestant evangelical Christian who believed Christ Jesus saved by faith, through grace, as a free gift to those who believed and sought to make him master of their lives.  And I was taught and embraced that it was all about a 'relationship' with God.
 

Finally, and as a direct result of sui cidal depression, I gave it up.  I couldn't handle the self-loathing, flagellation, guilt, feeling and conviction that no matter what or how hard I tried, I could no longer 'make it work.'  There was no peace, no hope, no reality to any of it any more.  I was already sui cidally depressed all the time, for the longest time (years), and nothing I did spiritually or otherwise, put any dent in it.  So, I guess I finally let go and decided to try not hanging on so tight to it.  That precipitated a long and equally painful journey.

The problem was that my worldview, my philosophy, and everything I believe about life, only left two options - nihilism and hedonism, both of which come up empty in pretty short order, and certainly don't provide any answer, let alone antidote to death and hopeless despair.  No meaning lies that way.

Enter an attempt at spirituality, which I have been trying and working at for 10 years or so.  This has ranged from militant atheism to agnosticism, deism, spirituality, and still always wrestling with the need and possibility of a personal god as I understand him or her or it.  "God as I understand it" is a phrase I take directly from the 18 months or so I spent in a couple 12-step programs...which do provide I think a fairly good, workable spirituality for many who struggle--as I do--with the emotional pain and difficulty believing in a personal god, such as from Biblical or other religious traditions.

I am so eternally jealous of those who seem to have found equipoise in a more liberal, progressivel, figurative, symbolic, or less-literalist version of Christianity than I could ever reconcile.

Some wise patrons of the faith, and very learned family and friends I am blessed to know, remind me from time to time, that it is possible to set aside for a moment the truth and belief in God, but for me (and I contend for anyone who treats the inquiry with as much seriousness as it deserves), it is not plausible to question the desperate need for God.  We're dying.  We're suffering.  Then we're gone.  Either there is some meaning, some purpose, some reason, something worth the suffering, some redemption of all things, and for me--some permanence--or there is not.   If there is not, nihilism is right, reason disappears, and the emotional logic of ending pain prevails.  Or the same, and one should eat drink and be merry for tomorrow e die (hedonism).  Either way, sense and intelligibility themselves break down very quickly indeed.

Anyway, I realize how daft and over-analyzed this probably sounds.

 

To hear with my heart
To see with my soul
To be guided by a hand I cannot hold
To trust in a way that I cannot see
That's what faith must be

When the universe fell from His fingertips
He decided He wanted some fellowship
But the man and the woman would not submit
So He made a better way

When the moment was right, He sent His own son
And He opened the way so that everyone
Could have hope and believe that when time was done
He'd be able to make us one

*Chorus*
To hear with my heart
To see with my soul
To be guided by a hand I cannot hold
To trust in a way that I cannot see
That's what faith must be

Now I understand that there is a key
It's Jesus in me, a reality
That God is in Christ, and that Christ's in me
That with faith I see what is unseen

Sounds like you let the devil work in your mind and really put you down and cause you to have doubts. Which lead to spiritual decline and also depression. Negativity will with us all in different ways, you have to fight it. Its heresy to say accept the issues and just pray and believe. Your supposed to rebuke evil and also fight for the changes yourself too. 

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On 6/14/2020 at 1:03 PM, Prycejosh1987 said:

Sounds like you let the devil work in your mind and really put you down and cause you to have doubts. Which lead to spiritual decline and also depression. Negativity will with us all in different ways, you have to fight it. Its heresy to say accept the issues and just pray and believe. Your supposed to rebuke evil and also fight for the changes yourself too. 

Sounds like victim blaming without evidence like Job's friends.

Honestly, "I let 'the Devil'..." as if the Exorcist is non-fiction.  This is a good example of fundamentalist literalism I'm so glad to leave behind.  I was taught all this stuff, and when I started really struggling with depression, I read The Screwtape Letters (I read almost all of C.S. Lewis at one time or another), and then Frank Peretti (sorry, but what garbage that was), heck, I even read the first 4-5 Left Behind books until even as a then-Christian, I realized they we pulp sophistry.  I even went to one Christian/pastoral counselor for a while, who anointed my head with oil.  4 years of Pentecostal college and I managed to avoid this, and then I get it in 'counseling.'  This stuff is toxic.

Anyway, yah, "The Devil."  I'll be sure to keep a lookout for sulfur and black footprints, or to do spiritual warfare with the principalities of this world.  Maybe I need to have an exorcism performed or be bled with leaches, or see if I sink to make sure I'm not a witch?    Nah, if I could just get myself to focus on my job, I'll be a world better. 

I don't mean to sound sarcastic here, but I really wonder and want to ask:  do you see how damaging this unfalsifiable superstition is?  To anyone?  Let alone, someone trying to excavate the fundamentalism I was indoctrinated into since birth, complete with total depravity, original sin, utter worthlessness in myself, etc?    I would ask you to give some rational thinking to that.

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