Loss of the World; Deconversion

I’m experiencing the loss of the world, all at once.

As of late I’ve been dealing with an existential crisis, losing my beliefs, and becoming strictly atheist/secular. My views mostly align with that of Humanism. Before this I was deeply religious and spiritual, spending my entire 31+ years of life involved with it in one way or another. I’d even contemplated becoming a monk.

This internal crisis has made me care more about how we treat one another, not less, because now, more than ever, I see the fragility of life. My convictions have been emboldened because of that fragility. I no longer care to hold my tongue out of respect.

I grew up under Baptist parents. My mother even spent free time here and there teaching at Sunday school. I was properly indoctrinated, using my childhood imagination to imagine myself as a devout missionary for Christ, I even mocked up some pamphlets on our first home computer. This was the 90s.

In the late 90s or early 2000s, I discovered a book on Buddhism and read it. I started looking into other religions from that point. I shook off the shackles of Christianity as a preteen when I discovered it didn’t matter what I did in that religion, I was going to Hell because 12 year old me realized he was bisexual. I started to go pretty deep into occult studies and practice at this point, and this is where I spent the next 15 years or so.

In my late 20s I began studying Buddhism, particularly Zen, more seriously and became an official Zen student. I believed it. I believed in reincarnation, in karma, in all of it. There were so many beliefs I read into and held for so long from my years of study. Religion has always been one of the most important things in my life, from simply reading other religious texts or actually holding beliefs as part of my identity. I was always searching for the truth, claiming myself an Omnist that believed there are echelons and echoes of truth in each path, including the first I was indoctrinated into.

These beliefs are beautiful, but that’s all they are. Reincarnation may exist, but only in the sense of the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only altered. When my eyes shut one final time, all of me will remain, but all of me will alter to another form of energy. My energy will no longer be condensed into this human, conscious form, but will spread into tho cosmos. This is proven. This is fact.

This truth was staring me in the face the entire time, no matter how hard I tried to look beyond it. I have always been scientifically minded, choosing to base my opinions on fact. Reading into double blind studies on prayer (see Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: a multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer) showed me that these effects I had been seeing and feeling, and claiming to witness were psychosomatic. I’m not the sort to take new information and ignore it. I will let fact sway my opinion because opinions shouldn’t be based on feelings unless we’re talking about our opinion of an art piece or a new song. It wasn’t just my belief in prayer that was swayed, either, but things associated therein too.

I still practice Zen, but as a secular and humanist approach to self mastery and understanding of myself through Buddhist psychology, without the escapist afterlife beliefs. The effects of Zen can be studied and quantified, but believing that I’ll have a karmic debt to pay or be paid next life because of my actions in this one cannot. No further can I believe that a promise of either pleasure in Heaven or punishment in Hell is an appropriate basing for morality in this life. Morality exists not because of fear or hope of pleasure and if the only reason one lives a moral life is because of the potential fruits of their labor, then are they really worthy of the prize? Such gaps in logic are what ultimately broke my beliefs.

This breaking of my beliefs has had a profound effect on me. It has changed me. It has opened my heart further than I thought was possible and I cherish every breath more than ever, but it has also made me angry. It’s made me angry at the hypocrisy I see in this world. It has made me even angrier at racists and bigots, at oligarchs and fascists. It has made me angrier at escapist faiths, imperialists and colonists.

The realization that the door at the end of this life doesn’t just lead to nowhere, but it was never even a door at all, is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. Where I go from here, I don’t know. I do know that these will be thoughts I explore for the rest of my time here.

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Trying to find my footing on sacred ground. Minimalism, Finance, Lifestyle, and Spirituality.

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James Winter

James Winter

Trying to find my footing on sacred ground. Minimalism, Finance, Lifestyle, and Spirituality.

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