Recently, some of us have been discussing nontheism and Quakerism in a forum at QuakerQuaker. My latest posting touched something deeply personal for me, and I thought I'd share that as a blog post.

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Daniel wrote: "Where I am confused is when you state you are a non-theist. From this I understand you to mean a non-God person. Why do you seek if you've already decided there is no One, no Light to be found?"

I was raised by a Pentecostal preacher who was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive. My very first experiences of religion were from a person whom I loved and whom I wanted to love me in return with every fiber of my being, but who was incapable of doing so. He truly believed his religion, but he was emotionally wounded as well, since his father was also abusive.

I discovered peace, love, and freedom while living with a Mennonite intentional community - you my have heard of Reba Place - for over 10 years. While there, I was serving Jesus with all my strength, yet I was emotionally scarred and lashing out in frustration at my wife and children. I knew that I had to be loving, but had no idea how to do so.

What changed my life was a little drug called Prozac, cooked up in a lab without any reference to God. It calmed me down, rewired my emotional circuitry, and made it possible for me to hold a job. Years of psychotherapy were involved as well, but they weren't half as effective as that damned little pill.

Religion nearly destroyed me, Science saved me. If theism is so great, then why are so many theists going around starting wars, exploiting the poor, and oppressing women?

That said, I am glad that Quakerism and Anabaptism have come out to reject those things so clearly. Their example did shape me in fundamental ways. Why that no longer requires, for me, theism is a question that I may not be able answer to your satisfaction.

You wrote: "My philosophy profs at U of N and CSULB lectured that without Essence (God), there can be no truth. What we have instead is Existence where there is no "truth" but scientific probability, and some philosophers even question whether science can even verify."

One is never purely consistent intellectually. I am a mash-up of Marxism, anarchism, Quakerism, Anabaptism, feminism, deep ecology, universalism, and a lot of other things. Even Marxism, a supposed atheistic view, has been shown to depend in important ways on Hegel (a kind of Christianity) and Judaism. I desire Love, as I mentioned in my opening paragraphs. Love is the only God I could believe in.

I have met wonderfully loving atheists, and wonderfully loving theists. I concluded a while ago that theism or atheism is not the central issue.

I have found love in other people, though it isn't all I want it to be. Nor am I as loving as I want to be. Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, and others stand as symbols of perfect love, peace, and freedom. We can let these symbols challenge us, even as nontheists. Even if in the end we are all simply physical energy briefly coalesced into organisms, what we can become - the love we can perfect a bit more each day, as our ideals of God or Jesus promise - makes it worth spending another day of life trying to do it better.

Peace! Charley

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