Currently I've been a member of this wonderful site for a little over a month. When I first joined I was so excited. The message boards were packed with great conversations, and I could sense that there was something really great happening on this site.
I have come in contact with some great people, who also happen to be in possession of brilliant minds. That was really what kept me coming back. Finally I decided to start sharing my opinions and writing, and I found more people who liked what I have to say and appreciate my contributions to the site.
However, currently there is someone who has pinned a target on my back. This is not something I am unfamiliar with. Having my own unique view of the universe and my place in it, has always created controversy with others. Something led me to believe that being part of a group of people who are generally considered to be "outsiders" would allow me a bit more freedom. Lately my participation here has become the bittersweet reminder as to why I am pretty much a hermit.
When I was a kid my father (like many of us) would try to shut up my questioning nature by stating simply "because I said so". To this day I cannot have a conversation with my father about religion, or politics without him getting upset that my views are so different than his own. I get that. However, there are only about 5 people that I can think of that I can sit and talk to about any topic, and the result is always amicable. We don't have to agree, but we appreciate the other persons right to have a belief. Most of the time we find the middle ground on which we can agree. That is what makes the conversations fruitful.
I share an office with a youth minister, and we have many conversations about politics and religion and NOT ONCE has one of us stormed off, upset that he other person refused to see it our way. Proving your point is not the only reason to converse with another individual. If you have your ears shut to anyone else's protestations, why are you even talking in the first place. The first key to intelligent communication is that one must be able to listen, and not simply react in some half-cocked manner when someone states a fact or viewpoint that you cannot agree to. It will serve no purpose, and will devolve into a shouting match which ends in a negative result. The communication has failed and therefore any time spent trying to share viewpoints has been wasted.
I understand that not everyone is programmed that way. Not everyone has had experience at dealing with people who will listen, and allow you to say whatever you feel. While in the Navy I worked in the ship's office, and was frequently the very first person a new crew member would meet. I would try to be friendly and would learn as much as I could about where they were from, what they liked, how they believed, and over time when they had problems they somehow knew I would lend a sympathetic ear. I never tried to supplant my beliefs or experiences for their own, that would be ridiculous. They needed someone to listen, not to tell them what to do, and that was the role I tried to fill.
Now I find that I too need to at least be honest enough with myself to try and remap the territory, so to speak. My view of this universe and my orientation within it has changed many times over the years. I've been a Christian, Buddhist, Cabbalist, Thelemite, Muslim (briefly), and even tried to take on Zoroastrianism. I've studied other religions, but not necessarily practiced them as a devotion. I didn't do this for any other reason than to understand the religious peoples reality tunnels as best I could.
Now here I am, on the ledge... looking over the cliff at the great boundless nothing... true religious freedom. I've already jumped and have enjoyed the rush of air, free. I have become liberated from the guilt, shame, and other feelings which theists use to manipulate. While this is one of the best experiences I've had during a perception shift, it has also been frustrating.
Ultimately, I'll never be able to just say what I think and feel without a barrage of assholes coming after me with their forks and knives ready to carve me up, and show me the error in my logic. I appreciate it when it is done in the spirit of education, or possibly clearing up a misunderstanding I have about something in particular, but I am not here to be recruited or to kiss anyone's ass. It simply isn't who I am. I am here for discussion, for learning, and for friendship.
I would hope that I am not the only person with those ideals in mind. I truly hope to continue to forge special, personal relationships with the people of this site. Please bear with me though as I figure out those people who are just like the Theists I cannot stomach, and only want to prove to me how "right" they are... I didn't come here for it, don't need it, and I've worked hard to get that same mentality out of my own programming, so I'm going to avoid that behavior at all costs. Plus, people who constantly have to tell you how right they are, typically have an agenda. I'm not here to be included into another individuals "agenda".
Take care all!