Archive for the ‘Buddhism’ Category

from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Jews conversed with Muslims. Hindus laughed with Sikhs. They did this in the spirit of creating something positive from the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

On Sunday, before an interfaith ceremony  at the Decatur Hotel and Conference Center, hundreds of people stood in clusters of conversation in the lobby, bridging differences.

“There are so many things in common — the food, the culture,” Ebrahim Esmail, a Muslim living in Snellville,  told Dr. Bhagirath Majmudar, a Hindu living in Chamblee.

The interfaith service drew 500 people to the conference center ballroom, making it one of the largest of the metro Atlanta events marking the 10th anniversary of the terror bombings.

Looking out at the people of different faiths, many dressed in religious clothing, Shelley Rose of the Southeast chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, told the group: “I wish you all could stand up and see what you look like. This is an amazing group of people.”

Event organizers said the events of 9/11 ignited a profound change among metro Atlanta’s community of faith, spurring more efforts to reach across religious boundaries.

“We realized we were part of the problem,” said Jan Swanson, 69, a founding member of the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta who wore a peace sign necklace. “We changed.”

People said they hoped events like this would close the divisions that opened after the attacks.

Rev. Tessie Mandeville of Decatur said she carried a deep sadness for those who perished on 9/11 and their loved ones.  She also felt sorrow over the prejudice that grew from those events.

“No act of love is ever wasted,” said Mandeville, attired in her white clerical collar. “That’s why I’m here today.”

Beyond honoring the deceased, people said they wanted to unify the different faiths.  They felt events like this could help educate people about their common hopes.

“Learning about your neighbors is right,” said Gulbarg Singh Basi, 69, who wore a turban. “We are all creatures of the same creator. The boundaries are man-made.”

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from The Denver Post:

Some say it was fanatical faith that led to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.

Denver’s religious leaders said on the 10th anniversary that the best hope for peace begins with the world’s faith traditions coming together.

In service of that ideal, representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Islam and Christianity — gathered at St. John’s Cathedral Sunday to have “Conversations That Matter” and “A Multifaith Service of Remembrance Healing and Hope.”

“I don’t know that any of this accomplishes anything,” said participant Ann Kelly, “but it makes me feel better. More understanding can’t be a bad thing.”

In forums held all afternoon, people talked about difficult subjects, including what bothers them about their own religions.

They talked about their greatest fears about other religions. They learned some of what each faith’s sacred texts says about the other. They discussed ways for different groups to conduct respectful dialogue with each other.

To wrap up the forums, Jonny 5 of the Flobots, a Christian rapper brought up in a tiny Presbyterian congregation, hosted a final special event called “an interactive, interfaith performance/workshop.”

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from Got Questions:

There is no doubt that the number of different religions in the world makes it a challenge to know which one is correct. First, let’s consider some thoughts on the overall subject and then look at how one might approach the topic in a manner that can actually get to a right conclusion about God. The challenge of different answers to a particular issue is not unique to the topic of religion. For example, you can sit 100 math students down, give them a complex problem to solve, and it is likely that many will get the answer wrong. But does this mean that a correct answer does not exist? Not at all. Those who get the answer wrong simply need to be shown their error and know the techniques necessary to arrive at the correct answer.

How do we arrive at the truth about God? We use a systematic methodology that is designed to separate truth from error by using various tests for truth, with the end result being a set of right conclusions. Can you imagine the end results a scientist would arrive at if he went into the lab and just started mixing things together with no rhyme or reason? Or if a physician just started treating a patient with random medicines in the hope of making him well? Neither the scientist nor the physician takes this approach; instead, they use systematic methods that are methodical, logical, evidential, and proven to yield the right end result.

This being the case, why think theology—the study of God—should be any different? Why believe it can be approached in a haphazard and undisciplined way and still yield right conclusions? Unfortunately, this is the approach many take, and this is one of the reasons why so many religions exist. That said, we now return to the question of how to reach truthful conclusions about God. What systematic approach should be used? First, we need to establish a framework for testing various truth claims, and then we need a roadmap to follow to reach a right conclusion. Here is a good framework to use:

1. Logical consistency—the claims of a belief system must logically cohere to each other and not contradict in any way. As an example, the end goal of Buddhism is to rid oneself of all desires. Yet, one must have a desire to rid oneself of all desires, which is a contradictory and illogical principle.

2. Empirical adequacy—is there evidence to support the belief system (whether the evidence is rational, externally evidential, etc.)? Naturally, it is only right to want proof for important claims being made so the assertions can be verified. For example, Mormons teach that Jesus lived in North America. Yet there is absolutely no proof, archaeological or otherwise, to support such a claim.

3. Existential relevancy—the belief system must conform to reality as we know it, and it must make a meaningful difference in the life of the adherent. Deism, for example, claims that God just threw the spinning world into the universe and does not interact with those who live on it. How does such a belief impact someone in a day-to-day manner? In short, it does not.

The above framework, when applied to the topic of religion, will help lead one to a right view of God and will answer the four big questions of life:

1. Origin – where did we come from?
2. Ethics – how should we live?
3. Meaning – what is the purpose for life?
4. Destiny – where is mankind heading?

But how does one go about applying this framework in the pursuit of God? A step-by-step question/answer approach is one of the best tactics to employ. Narrowing the list of possible questions down produces the following:

1. Does absolute truth exist?
2. Do reason and religion mix?
3. Does God exist?
4. Can God be known?
5. Is Jesus God?
6. Does God care about me?

First we need to know if absolute truth exists. If it does not, then we really cannot be sure of anything (spiritual or not), and we end up either an agnostic, unsure if we can really know anything, or a pluralist, accepting every position because we are not sure which, if any, is right.

Absolute truth is defined as that which matches reality, that which corresponds to its object, telling it like it is. Some say there is no such thing as absolute truth, but taking such a position becomes self-defeating. For example, the relativist says, “All truth is relative,” yet one must ask: is that statement absolutely true? If so, then absolute truth exists; if not, then why consider it? Postmodernism affirms no truth, yet it affirms at least one absolute truth: postmodernism is true. In the end, absolute truth becomes undeniable.

Further, absolute truth is naturally narrow and excludes its opposite. Two plus two equals four, with no other answer being possible. This point becomes critical as different belief systems and worldviews are compared. If one belief system has components that are proven true, then any competing belief system with contrary claims must be false. Also, we must keep in mind that absolute truth is not impacted by sincerity and desire. No matter how sincerely someone embraces a lie, it is still a lie. And no desire in the world can make something true that is false.

The answer of question one is that absolute truth exists. This being the case, agnosticism, postmodernism, relativism, and skepticism are all false positions.

This leads us to the next question of whether reason/logic can be used in matters of religion. Some say this is not possible, but—why not? The truth is, logic is vital when examining spiritual claims because it helps us understand why some claims should be excluded and others embraced. Logic is absolutely critical in dismantling pluralism (which says that all truth claims, even those that oppose each other, are equal and valid).

For example, Islam and Judaism claim that Jesus is not God, whereas Christianity claims He is. One of the core laws of logic is the law of non-contradiction, which says something cannot be both “A” and “non-A” at the same time and in the same sense. Applying this law to the claims Judaism, Islam, and Christianity means that one is right and the other two are wrong. Jesus cannot be both God and not God. Used properly, logic is a potent weapon against pluralism because it clearly demonstrates that contrary truth claims cannot both be true. This understanding topples the whole “true for you but not for me” mindset.

Logic also dispels the whole “all roads lead to the top of the mountain” analogy that pluralists use. Logic shows that each belief system has its own set of signs that point to radically different locations in the end. Logic shows that the proper illustration of a search for spiritual truth is more like a maze—one path makes it through to truth, while all others arrive at dead ends. All faiths may have some surface similarities, but they differ in major ways in their core doctrines.

The conclusion is that you can use reason and logic in matters of religion. That being the case, pluralism (the belief that all truth claims are equally true and valid) is ruled out because it is illogical and contradictory to believe that diametrically opposing truth claims can both be right.

Next comes the big question: does God exist? Atheists and naturalists (who do not accept anything beyond this physical world and universe) say “no.” While volumes have been written and debates have raged throughout history on this question, it is actually not difficult to answer. To give it proper attention, you must first ask this question: Why do we have something rather than nothing at all? In other words, how did you and everything around you get here? The argument for God can be presented very simply:

Something exists.
You do not get something from nothing.
Therefore, a necessary and eternal Being exists.

You cannot deny you exist because you have to exist in order to deny your own existence (which is self-defeating), so the first premise above is true. No one believes you can get something from nothing (i.e., that ”nothing” produced the universe), so the second premise is true. Therefore, the third premise must be true—an eternal Being responsible for everything must exist.

This is a position no thinking atheist denies; they just claim that the universe is that eternal being. However, the problem with that stance is that all scientific evidence points to the fact that the universe had a beginning (the ‘big bang’). And everything that has a beginning must have a cause; therefore, the universe had a cause and is not eternal. Because the only two sources of eternality are an eternal universe (proven to be untrue) or an eternal Creator, the only logical conclusion is that God exists. Answering the question of God’s existence in the affirmative rules out atheism as a valid belief system.

Now, this conclusion says nothing about what kind of God exists, but amazingly enough, it does do one sweeping thing—it rules out all pantheistic religions. All pantheistic worldviews say that the universe is God and is eternal. And this assertion is false. So, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and all other pantheistic religions are ruled out as valid belief systems.

Further, we learn some interesting things about this God who created the universe. He is:

• Supernatural in nature (as He exists outside of His creation)
• Incredibly powerful (to have created all that is known)
• Eternal (self-existent, as He exists outside of time and space)
• Omnipresent (He created space and is not limited by it)
• Timeless and changeless (He created time)
• Immaterial (because He transcends space)
• Personal (the impersonal can’t create personality)
• Necessary (as everything else depends on Him)
• Infinite and singular (as you cannot have two infinites)
• Diverse yet has unity (as nature exhibits diversity)
• Intelligent (supremely, to create everything)
• Purposeful (as He deliberately created everything)
• Moral (no moral law can exist without a lawgiver)
• Caring (or no moral laws would have been given)

This Being exhibits characteristics very similar to the God of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, which interestingly enough, are the only core faiths left standing after atheism and pantheism have been eliminated. Note also that one of the big questions in life (origins) is now answered: we know where we came from.

This leads to the next question: can we know God? At this point, the need for religion is replaced by something more important—the need for revelation. If mankind is to know this God well, it is up to God to reveal Himself to His creation. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all claim to have a book that is God’s revelation to man, but the question is which (if any) is actually true? Pushing aside minor differences, the two core areas of dispute are 1) the New Testament of the Bible 2) the person of Jesus Christ. Islam and Judaism both claim the New Testament of the Bible is untrue in what it claims, and both deny that Jesus is God incarnate, while Christianity affirms both to be true.

There is no faith on the planet that can match the mountains of evidence that exist for Christianity. From the voluminous number of ancient manuscripts, to the very early dating of the documents written during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses (some only 15 years after Christ’s death), to the multiplicity of the accounts (nine authors in 27 books of the New Testament), to the archaeological evidence—none of which has ever contradicted a single claim the New Testament makes—to the fact that the apostles went to their deaths claiming they had seen Jesus in action and that He had come back from the dead, Christianity sets the bar in terms of providing the proof to back up its claims. The New Testament’s historical authenticity—that it conveys a truthful account of the actual events as they occurred—is the only right conclusion to reach once all the evidence has been examined.

When it comes to Jesus, one finds a very curious thing about Him—He claimed to be God in the flesh. Jesus own words (e.g., “Before Abraham was born I AM”), His actions (e.g., forgiving sins, accepting worship), His sinless and miraculous life (which He used to prove His truth claims over opposing claims), and His resurrection all support His claims to be God. The New Testament writers affirm this fact over and over again in their writings.

Now, if Jesus is God, then what He says must be true. And if Jesus said that the Bible is inerrant and true in everything it says (which He did), this must mean that the Bible is true in what it proclaims. As we have already learned, two competing truth claims cannot both be right. So anything in the Islamic Koran or writings of Judaism that contradict the Bible cannot be true. In fact, both Islam and Judaism fail since they both say that Jesus is not God incarnate, while the evidence says otherwise. And because we can indeed know God (because He has revealed Himself in His written Word and in Christ), all forms of agnosticism are refuted. Lastly, another big question of life is answered—that of ethics—as the Bible contains clear instructions on how mankind ought to live.

This same Bible proclaims that God cares deeply for mankind and wishes all to know Him intimately. In fact, He cares so much that He became a man to show His creation exactly what He is like. There are many men who have sought to be God, but only one God who sought to be man so He could save those He deeply loves from an eternity separated from Him. This fact demonstrates the existential relevancy of Christianity and also answers that last two big questions of life—meaning and destiny. Each person has been designed by God for a purpose, and each has a destiny that awaits him—one of eternal life with God or eternal separation from Him. This deduction (and the point of God’s becoming a man in Christ) also refutes Deism, which says God is not interested in the affairs of mankind.

In the end, we see that ultimate truth about God can be found and the worldview maze successfully navigated by testing various truth claims and systematically pushing aside falsehoods so that only the truth remains. Using the tests of logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and existential relevancy, coupled with asking the right questions, yields truthful and reasonable conclusions about religion and God. Everyone should agree that the only reason to believe something is that it is true—nothing more. Sadly, true belief is a matter of the will, and no matter how much logical evidence is presented, some will still choose to deny the God who is there and miss the one true path to harmony with Him.

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from Herescope:

The Holy Spirit as Personal Comforter

The idea of “practicing the presence of God” is meaningless. Do we also practice the omniscience of God; or perhaps, we need to practice His omnipotence? – Pastor Ken Silva

The point in this quote above is well said. As various forms of mysticism invade the evangelical church today, heresies about the nature of the Holy Spirit and His actions, are running rampant. Evangelicals are being told that in order to connect with the divine, they must meditate, contemplate and practice various new/old forms of mysticism. This has no biblical foundation, but rather more closely approximates the views and practices of eastern meditation. In fact, those of us who formerly practiced Transcendental Meditation in its many manifestations easily recognize this heresy — and the dangers of connecting with the spirit world. But our prior experience in this realm doesn’t mean that the warnings we issue will be heeded.

These two quotations below illustrate the mindset of eastern mysticism:

Prana is a subtle invisible force. It is the life-force that pervades the body. It is the factor that connects the body and the mind, because it is connected on one side with the body and on the other side with the mind. It is the connecting link between the body and the mind. The body and the mind have no direct connection. They are connected through Prana only.

Yoga works primarily with the energy in the body, through the science of pranayama, or energy-control. Prana means also ‘breath.’ Yoga teaches how, through breath-control, to still the mind and attain higher states of awareness. The higher teachings of yoga take one beyond techniques, and show the yogi, or yoga practitioner, how to direct his concentration in such a way as not only to harmonize human with divine consciousness, but to merge his consciousness in the Infinite.

The eastern worldview errs by attempting to connect with the divine through various mystical activities. The eastern mind uses meditative mechanisms to encounter the world of the spirit and become one with it. In the corruption that is called “Christian mysticism,” the Holy Spirit becomes confused with a “force,” something that can be manipulated by mystical pursuits in order to achieve a higher order of spirituality.

The Holy Spirit is downgraded from a Person in the Trinity to becoming a means of “connection” to spirituality itself, often presented as a chief “spirit” among many in the modern pantheon. The locus shifts to the person meditating and their own subjective spiritual experiences. The meditator mistakes experience for the Divine; a fool’s gold shining in the rays of self absorption which substitutes for the “gold tried in the fire” (Rev. 3:8).

While enmeshed in the eastern mindset, then, it is difficult (if not impossible) to view the Godhead according to Scripture.

In contrast to the seductions of these errors, we offer a solid biblical refutation by J.C. Philpot, in a selected excerpt from “Meditations on the Person, Work, and Covenant Offices of God the Holy Ghost,” by J.C. Philpot (1802-1869), On Matters of Christian Faith and Experience, Vol. 1 (Old Paths Gospel Press) (406-466-2311), pp. 187-192). . . . .

read the full article here.

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James 4:4:

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

from The BBC:

Pope Benedict XVI has said he will organise a summit in Assisi with religious heads to discuss how they can promote world peace.

In a New Year message, the Pope also condemned inter-religious violence, including attacks against Christians in the Middle East.

The summit in the Italian city will be held in October, 25 years after Pope John Paul organised a similar event.

His announcement came hours after a bomb went off at a church in Egypt.

At least 17 people died in the blast at the Coptic Christian Church in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria, sparking a clash between Christians and Muslims.


Speaking in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Pope Benedict said the aim of the summit would be to “to solemnly renew the effort of those with faith of all religions to live their faith as a service for the cause of peace”.

“Facing the threatening tensions of the moment, especially discrimination, injustices and religious intolerance, which today strike Christians in a particular way, once again, I make a pressing appeal not to give in to discouragement and resignation,” he said.

He said the summit would also “honour the memory of the historical event promoted by my predecessor”.

Pope John Paul hosted a similar event in 1986, which was attended by leading Jews and Muslims, as well as the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Pope Benedict has repeatedly denounced attacks on Christians in Iraq, including an assault on a Baghdad cathedral in October which killed at least 50 people. The Vatican fears that the violence is driving many Christians out of the region.

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from The Korea Herald:

Korean religious leaders met Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday to exchange views on promoting inter-faith harmony with the Vatican, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The Korean Council of Religious Leaders, comprising representatives of Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism and Protestantism, visited the Vatican as part of their Christian pilgrimage from Dec. 6-16 to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

It is the first time the leaders of the Korean faith communities made a group visit to a pope, the council said in a press release. 

 Korean religious leaders pose with Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday at the Vatican. The Korean Council of religious Leaders visited the Vatican as part of their Christian pilgrimage from Dec. 6-16. (First row, from left: Kim Joo-won, general director of Won-Buddhism; Rev. Rhee Kwang-sun of the Christian Council of Korea; Hyginus Kim Hee-joong Archbishop of Gwangju; Archbishop Pier Luigi Chelata; Pope Benedict XVI; Ven. Jaseung, head of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism; Choi Gun-duk, president of Sung Kyun Kwan; and Han Yang-won, president of the Korean Council of Religious Leaders. (Yonhap-News)

The visiting representatives include Kim Joo-won, general director of Won-Buddhism; Rev. Rhee Kwang-sun of the Christian Council of Korea; Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, archbishop of Gwangju; Ven. Jaseung, head of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism; Choi Gun-duk, president of Sung Kyun Kwan; and Han Yang-won, president of the Korean Council of Religious Leaders.

“The Vatican showed keen interest in the fact that Korean religious leaders jointly went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” the council said in a press release.

They also met with senior Vatican leaders including Archbishop Pier Luigi Chelata and exchanged views on ways of promoting inter-faith peace.

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This article is sadly the case today for most Christian youth who encounter the secular world in High School and College.

Many become dissillusioned with what they see in modern churches and therefore begin to doubt the very existence of God, and start on that long road of searching for meaning in false religions, alcohol and drugs!

I was one of those Christian youths, and I can identify with this young mans testimony!

And I can say Thank God for his patience and forgiveness!

from Berit Kjos:

My father was a priest in the Episcopal Church, and thus I was highly familiar with Christianity during my childhood. However, by the time I reached adolescence, the services and Sunday school had lost their interest for me. The whole liturgy felt monotonous and dry. It was about this time (I was perhaps twelve or thirteen) that I was introduced to David Hume in school’s philosophy class. I hadn’t even thought of doubting the existence of God before, but I quickly realized that I didn’t believe.

The final straw for me was a Sunday school class, the subject of which was faith. Each person in the class had to name things that they had faith in. I was an honest person at the time, and I couldn’t say that I had faith in God. That would be a lie. I didn’t even know what that phrase “faith in God” would or could mean!

By the time I entered high school, I was a hardcore atheist. I quoted Richard Dawkins in papers of mine, and read religion message boards just so I could get in arguments with Christians. I was entirely certain that I was correct, that the notion of God, or any God, was impossible.

At the same time, the message boards exposed me to many other religious traditions. I flirted with several other beliefs, but didn’t stay with any of them for long. There were a couple months where I was Taoist, and maybe a week or so where I professed Anton LaVey’s version of Satanism. High school wasn’t a pleasant time for me. I was obsessive and kept to myself, preferring to sit at home scribbling away in notebooks when I could be out with other people.

By the end of high school I had given up strict atheism. I found the whole “new atheist” movement immature and annoying. I still didn’t believe in God, but I identified as an agnostic and an existentialist. The way I saw it, there wasn’t anything meaningful outside of people. You had to make your own meaning, pick something to do, and do it. I was still fascinated by religion, and I wrote a couple of plays on religious topics — an absurdist re-telling of the story of the three Wise Men, and a man who had committed suicide finding reconciliation with God in the afterlife.

College hit me like a freight train. I started drinking heavily, and soon my relationship with my high school girlfriend was on the rocks. We broke up over winter break and I became incredibly depressed. During the spring my drinking became little more than an escape from feeling awake; I was belligerent towards my friends. I tried to get with other girls, always without pleasant results. When I found my ex-girlfriend had hooked up with a guy at my friend’s college, I almost killed myself. I stopped myself at the last minute, captivated by the beauty of the snow falling at night. I certainly wouldn’t have recognized it as God’s work at the time, but looking back, it’s remarkably clear that something more than snow was going on there. The whole scene was so peaceful, in spite of my inner turmoil.

It was pretty soon after that that I was introduced to hallucinogenic drugs for the first time. I had smoked marijuana a couple times before, but hallucinogens were something completely different. I thought about my life in a completely different way, and realized how selfish the actions of the last few months had been. Afterwards, however, I closed off again and directed my hostility at the people around me. I kept drinking too — I wasn’t able to fully manage it until my senior year.

I did hallucinogenic drugs a couple more times my sophomore year, and by the next summer I was curious as to what else they were capable of. I had decided on majoring in religion, realizing that it was something I had found interesting for my entire life. During the summer I started reading both psychedelic and Christian mystical literature. During the one “trip” I had on drugs that July I decided that there was something spiritual beyond the physical. I became a pantheist.

I kept studying mystical literature during my junior year. While I found the experiences interesting, I always tried to direct them away from their Christian meanings and towards more general sorts of theology. I also started doing hallucinogens much more often and at much higher doses. I mainly “tripped” with one of my friends — he also introduced me to metal. As the winter approached, my experiences on drugs became worse and worse. I started having “bad trips”, where I would experience extreme neuroses, would receive messages from intelligences outside of myself (at least, that’s how it seemed. I always reminded myself that those voices came from my own subconscious mind.)

During one of these experiences, before the drug had kicked in all the way, a voice said “Why do you need drugs, isn’t what I made good enough for you?” At the time I thought it was the voice of God, yet I refused to listen. Instead, while watching a video created by Timothy Leary, I convinced myself that I was God.

But by the spring it was clear that we couldn’t handle the drugs anymore. I would go into fits where I talked nonsense for extended periods of time. Some of the neuroses slipped out of the trips and into my daily life. I would feel sensations on my skin that were not there, would have to constantly check to make sure I hadn’t misplaced anything. During one “trip” we found one of my friends in our bathtub, shaking and clutching at himself, desperately begging for forgiveness.

I had started reading books on magic. I became convinced that there was a structure of the universe based on the number five, and I created a type of pentagram to illustrate it. I attribute a lot of my interest in magic to the anarchist and Discordian Robert Anton Wilson, who was a psychedelic writer of the same type as Leary. I didn’t actually start trying to practice magic until the next winter, but I became convinced of my ability to achieve anything simply through the force of my own will.

That summer, I discovered Current 93, the musical project of David Tibet. Tibet had started off as a member of a magical society, interested in Tibetan Buddhism, but by the mid-90s he had converted to Christianity. The Christian symbolism and apocalyptic themes of his music fascinated me. It was an approach to Christianity that I could relate with, and he was a Christian I could relate to. Current 93 would quickly become my favorite musical group.

During my senior year I joined a New Age group — less because I believed in them, and more because I wanted to see the kind of nonsense they performed. I was slowly losing my interest in mysticism, realizing its ultimate irrelevance when one has to actually live in the world and not outside of it. The group confirmed my suspicions. They focused on meditation, lucid dreaming, and other vaguely occult but mostly tedious practices. Once the group smoked marijuana and summoned a spirit with a Ouija board.

I was growing tired of the mysticism, and the magic did very little for me. At the end of the winter, I tried hallucinogens again — the first time in nine months. I had a dissociative experience and nearly killed myself. Later, we convinced one of my friends, a Catholic, to do them. He couldn’t handle them and ran wild through the school’s library.

The turning point for me was this: I went to a religion department meeting where one of my fellow students presented his thesis topic, which was on current Christian demonology. As he presented the idea that cities, towns, and individuals are possessed by demons opposing the work of God, the professors mocked and laughed those very ideas. Then I thought that, for those who believed, there were demons possessing everyone in the room. And I saw what those demons would have looked like: the faces of the professors were contorted, expressing their own smug superiority and arrogance. I was sickened.

It was that spring that I put all of the pieces together. The leader of the New Age group was directing meditation for finding one’s spirit animal. And though I quickly found one, it was quickly supplanted by an enormous crucifix. God was trying to direct me back towards Christ, no matter how I tried to run away from Him.

And I had been running from it, running for most of my life. It was delayed rebellion, my attempt to get away from my mother and father, from my family. But most of all I was trying to make myself God, trying to convince myself that I was the most important thing in the universe. And I was wrong. I was dwarfed by the boundless, quiet humility of Christ.

It came to me then that God had been continually calling me through the whole time I had been running. But God hadn’t tried to force me into faith or belief. God had strewn my life with reminders of Christ so I would ultimately return to Him. The whole engagement with the world’s dark religions ensured that I would return to the true God — my arguments with Christians in my adolescence, my fascination with mysticism and the Apocalypse, my writing of stories and plays about religion, even the voice that told me to stop when I was at the heights of my drug abuse. David Tibet, the new age group, the arrogant professors — that combination got me to the point where I could realize how God had been directing me and watching over me since my childhood.

Since then I have tried to focus myself elsewhere. I used to write strange sci-fi stories and magical rituals; now I’m concentrating my efforts on theology, especially the theology of Christ. I’ve stopped drinking heavily and I no longer do drugs. I try to maintain a safe distance from those people who encouraged me in my debauchery (and there was quite a bit of it.) I have faith that God will lead them back too, though I do not know how or when it will happen. But it’s still difficult. I’m fairly isolated from others, and I haven’t been able to find a Church where I belong.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from my experiences of the past few years, it’s the importance of humility. Pride comes so easily to us, and we are too quick to decide that we know better than God. We must have faith that God is directing us and learn to trust God’s plan for us, for only through Him we can follow His way and achieve things we never could do by ourselves.

I am still learning. I hope you will keep me in your prayers, so that I may not wander back into the darkness. Thanks be to God.

– Jon

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