How Clarissa Found Religion, Part I

Reader Evelina Anville asks:

At some point, (assuming you are comfortable) I would like to hear more about you reconcile your religious and your feminist world views. (Not that I think that a religious and feminist worldview can’t be reconciled: it’s just that they so frequently exist at odds with one another.)

I don’t have a tendency to persecute people with my religion, as I’m sure everybody has noticed. Even David Bellamy, one of the earliest and most constant readers of my blog who has probably read most of the 3,500+ posts I have published had no idea until very recently that I identify as Christian. Since Evelina Anville, one of my favorite readers, wants to know, I will gladly write about religion and I hope that nobody accuses me of being preachy.

I was raised in an atheist country where people only discussed religion in very negative terms. There were some folks who went to church but these were either very elderly or very weird people. So I was a fully atheist kid and very happy to be one.

Until I had a mystical experience. It was a kind of experience that came completely out of nowhere because it wasn’t like I even knew that mystical experiences could happen. It was completely non-sexual in nature, if you are one of those weird folks who sees sex in all mystical experiences. So after that, I did not have a choice but become a religious person. It was a huge secret from everybody because it would have shocked people too much and they would have ridiculed me.

I’m the kind of a religious person who wasn’t baptized, never goes to church, has only a very vague idea what people do in churches, and is terrified of folks who discuss their religion in public. I’m only sharing my religious beliefs on my blog because I was asked to, but in real life you will not find a person who has heard anything from me on the subject. This is an intimate issue that I do not inflict on anybody.

I also have no use for the debates as to whether Jesus existed. Somebody came up with the words in the New Testament, so the code name for that person or group of people is “Jesus.” Who was born where and to whom is of absolutely no interest to me. As a literary critic, I’m not into the biographical approach to a text. I dig the words but the life circumstances of their author bore me.

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27 thoughts on “How Clarissa Found Religion, Part I”

  1. Most interesting. thank you! It was also a mystical experience which led me, finally and after many false starts, to abandon Christianity and embrace Paganism. I could be superfically describe such an experience, but could not explaine it to anyone else. I am glad my spouse is also Pagan. I am doubtful that I could be happily married to a non-Pagan.

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  2. I have had several non sexual mystical experiences. I believe in a creative force but do not try to quantify it(I think presently that is impossible). I briefly flirted with Christianity but it became apparent that I had to answer yes to one question or else it was all moot.
    Do I believe a talking snake convinced a woman to convince a man to eat an apple and because of that were all shitheads for eternity…… Couldnt find it in me to agree with that one. 🙂

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    1. “Do I believe a talking snake convinced a woman to convince a man to eat an apple and because of that were all shitheads for eternity…… Couldnt find it in me to agree with that one.”

      – Of course, that’s nothing but a myth that illustrates how people used to think (including about gender) 5,000 years ago. It’s curious in that respect but as to believing that? I have a sea of giggles in response.

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  3. Clarissa, I’m not trying to debate the merits of the New Testament, but I don’t understand your logic. How you can identify as Christian based on a mystical experience if you don’t accept the theological basis for it? The Jesus part is what makes it Christianity rather than, for example, Unitarianism.

    If you just “dig the words” of the New Testament, you are following a non-denominational value system that has things in common with the New Testament. But if you’re doing that then you/re following it because it’s consistent with your value system,, not because it’s the source of the value system.

    Also, how does the mystical experience fit into identifying as a Christian? A mystical experience can often be explained physiologically.

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    1. “How you can identify as Christian based on a mystical experience if you don’t accept the theological basis for it”

      – I don’t understand what you refer to as “theological basis”.

      “The Jesus part is what makes it Christianity rather than, for example, Unitarianism.”

      – I also don;t understand what you mean by “the Jesus part.” People who concentrate on the biographical account of the life of a man called Jesus are, in my opinion, simply too stupid to graduate from a soap opera to something a bit more intelligent. I am not one of those people, so the Magi, the baby, the virgin birth, the gifts, the guiding star or whatever, sound like pretty boring stories that intellectually challenged folks mistake for religious feeling.

      “If you just “dig the words” of the New Testament, you are following a non-denominational value system that has things in common with the New Testament.”

      – Careful now. It is not your place to put labels on other people unless you are prepared to have labels put on you.

      “But if you’re doing that then you/re following it because it’s consistent with your value system,, not because it’s the source of the value system.”

      – I had the mystical experience in question when I was 11 years old. People normally do not have “value systems” at that age.

      “Also, how does the mystical experience fit into identifying as a Christian?”

      – On the basis of what happens during it.

      ” A mystical experience can often be explained physiologically.”

      – I have very specifically said that this was not the case.

      Now I have to ask, why are you so angry?

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      1. Not angry. I’m just trying to follow your reasoning. Also I wasn’t putting a label on you. I was questioning why you put that label on yourself, when it seemed like you reject the very thing that makes Christianity, Christian. I’m not criticizing you for rejecting it.

        Mystical experiences can be related to oxygen and glucose deprivation or other chemical effects in the brain.

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        1. Something tells me that the idea that people will reduce his teachings to a stupid worship of his biography would have horrified Jesus. :-). To say that Christianity is all about some silly, poorly concocted fairy-tale about virgins, mangers, apostles, etc – that, besides, had been told many times before in many different cults – is kind of pretty insulting. Have you tried reading at least small excerpts of the words of Jesus (whoever he or she or they were)?

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        2. I also wanted to point out that everything Jesus ever said points to him being against any formality in religious feeling, against public prayer, against churches, against mechanical things. I could give miles of quotes on that. Time and again, he comes back to the idea that it is all about a very intimate, private, quiet, unassuming manner of relating to the divine. How could anybody have possibly assumed after reading his actual words that he would have approved of the pomp and the expense of the super showy religious ceremonies we see in almost all denominations is beyond me. The guy raged against public prayer and assaulted the people who sold shit in a temple! It isn’t for nothing that Catholics claimed it was a sin to read the Bible. Every word in the New Testament is a condemnation of their practices. I feel like these ceremonies and stuff defile my faith, which is why Christian religious fanatics anger me so much.

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        3. “Mystical experiences can be related to oxygen and glucose deprivation or other chemical effects in the brain.”

          – When people hallucinate, they envision things that have some relation to their world. And I’m telling you about a child who grew up in an environment where religion simply wasn’t present. At all, in any form. As for “chemical effects in the brain”, I have already expressed my opinion that this is all an invention of pharmaceutical companies that gullible Americans have eaten up.

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    2. I agree, AYY, that a mystical experience need not lead to Christianity; for me it was the opposite. But I am skeptical that a mystical experience can be “explained” physiologically. I know people who claim that “magic” muhsrooms and LSD are the key to mystical experiences. I have not tried them, so I can only say that they are not the only key.

      The classic case of a mystical experience leading to Xtianity was, of course, that of Saul of Tarsus, later known as the Apostle Paul. He, if we are to judge by his writings, was a total misogynist, and is yet another reason that I could not continue to be a Christian. His writings are part of the sacred myth of Christianity.

      The misogyny and the monotheism, both of which are inseparable from Christainity, are incompatible with how I experience the world. It may well be that the early Xtians were henotheists, not monotheists, but that is not the view today. All five of the Abrahamic Monotheisms [Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, and Ba’Hai] are anti-female, with the possible exception of Ba’hai, and the Ba’hai have other problems, such as prohibitions against sex except in marriage and against alcohol.

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      1. “I agree, AYY, that a mystical experience need not lead to Christianity.”

        – Of course, it doesn’t.

        “But I am skeptical that a mystical experience can be “explained” physiologically.”

        – Exactly.

        “I know people who claim that “magic” muhsrooms and LSD are the key to mystical experiences. I have not tried them, so I can only say that they are not the only key.”

        – Obviously I was not trying mushrooms and LSD at age 11 in the USSR. Or since. I’m so anti-drug that I don;t even take Tylenol.

        “The classic case of a mystical experience leading to Xtianity was, of course, that of Saul of Tarsus, later known as the Apostle Paul. He, if we are to judge by his writings, was a total misogynist, and is yet another reason that I could not continue to be a Christian. His writings are part of the sacred myth of Christianity.”

        – He was a man of his time, confused, mostly quite stupid and definitely not divine. Which writings are sacred is up to each individual to decide. Questioning of the literary canon is what I love to do as a literary critic.

        “The misogyny and the monotheism, both of which are inseparable from Christainity, are incompatible with how I experience the world.”

        – On the misogyny, wait for my 2nd post in this series. 🙂 As we all know, I’m not a huge promoter of misogyny. 🙂

        “All five of the Abrahamic Monotheisms [Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, and Ba’Hai] are anti-female, with the possible exception of Ba’hai, and the Ba’hai have other problems, such as prohibitions against sex except in marriage and against alcohol.”

        – Can you show me some quotes where Christ is anti-female? But it’s got to be Christ, not some later jerkwad who couldn’t tell his ass from his elbow. 🙂 🙂 In any case, a religion (like art) doesn’t just exist somewhere out there. A religion is what we do with it.

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    3. AYY, While I respect your right to police the boundaries of the Christian community, I hope at least you are not also one of those people who conveniently find a broader definition of Christian that includes ecumenical Christians, mainline Protestants, and maybe even Unitarians, when (in what looks like appeals to naked majoritarianism) coming up with statistics such as “80% of Americans are Christians.”

      In the no-man’s (and according to some no-woman’s) land in which my life is lived, the boundaries are policed by Bible-based Christians, and another group who from my perspective seem to be their natural political allies, but don’t seem to realize it.

      My working definition of Christians is “those who self-identify as Christians.” You can call it PC, but I call it Plain Courtesy.

      Here’s some majoritarianism. 🙂

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  4. ” A mystical experience can often be explained physiologically.”

    – I have very specifically said that this was not the case.

    ?? Clarissa, you said that it was not sexual, but I don’t see where you said it had no physiological basis.

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    1. “Clarissa, you said that it was not sexual, but I don’t see where you said it had no physiological basis.”

      – I simply couldn’t think of any other physiological explanation. This is the only one we discuss when talking about the visions of Spanish mystics. That is always, sex, sex, sex, which I find extremely reductive as a type of literary criticism.

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      1. The explataniton about the visions of Spanish mystics I got in highschool (so, I suppose, it is the official explanation) is that they ate rye bread in a bad state, which was common a the time, of course not because they were experimenting with LSD but because that was all they had in some certain religious orders.

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  5. Wow. I feel so honored. Thanks! 🙂 I liked reading this and am eager to read your next entry on feminism. But I just wanted to quickly say thanks for the shout out.

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  6. Also I completely agree with the following: “Somebody came up with the words in the New Testament, so the code name for that person or group of people is “Jesus.” Who was born where and to whom is of absolutely no interest to me.” I wish more people felt that way. It would save humanity from tragic thinking such as the earth is 6000 years old and Noah was able to fit dinosaurs on his ark. 😉

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    1. ” It would save humanity from tragic thinking such as the earth is 6000 years old and Noah was able to fit dinosaurs on his ark.”

      – Being a literary critic really helps, you know? Cervantes ridiculed this type of literal reading that cannot recognize a metaphor or an allegory 407 years ago.

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  7. “When it seemed like you reject the very thing that makes Christianity”

    And what is that THING? Don’t you think that thing will be different for everybody?

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  8. I’m new to the game of wordpress. And I’m so fascinated to chance upon your discussion of this topic. I’m a man very interested in feminism and spirituality — originating from the opposite paradigms.

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