Editor’s note: This should have been edited.
I do not respond to every complaint about my writing, as that would become my whole life, and because I don’t really care what people think, because basically everything I say is correct.
However, a reader of my 8,000-word 2-part article from Monday took issue with the second part, and made outrageous and insulting claims against me. I do not intend to respond specifically to him, but it was clear that there was deep misunderstanding of the material, and due to the chance that others also misunderstood, I will clarify at length.
This is the passage in question, which the reader took issue with (emphasis his):
Although my grandfather was not a religious man until he accidentally killed a woman in his 50s (it was not alcohol related, I just feel I should note out of respect – the mentioning of the thing at all is probably not something I would do if I didn’t already know that it is a public record that will be in any biography of me), we also must acknowledge that religiosity does not banish the dread. Along with being a personal responsibility, religion a part of the natural human life coping mechanism, and the system of ritual prayer (which we should probably acknowledge is pre-Christian, because we need the Western man’s narrative to extend to pagan Greece for innumerable reasons) is capable of clearing the mind for a spell, and removing tension from the nervous system.
I won’t quote the individual’s entire response, as it contained a lot of baseless assertions about my personal life and faith, and was long, condescending, and repetitive, but this is part of it:
Huh? You been listening to too much Trent Reznor. Jesus our savior (Christianity) and prayer is not “cope.” This entire article is cartoonishly ultra-doomer coming from you. I pray that your faith gets stronger again, I agree with Fuentez that faith is either decreasing or increasing everyday, every hour every minute and it does not take a tragic accident or death or divorce to weaken faith. This is probably the result of too much isolation on your end and not enough fellowshipping with other believers
There was a time when my response would have been “thanks for the moralizing psych-job, faggot. plz kys thx.” But those days are long gone. Instead, I will rant for between 1,500 and 2,500 words, where I will try to show compassion of a sort.
I believe I’ve been quite frank and straightforward: my entire message is that the purpose of human existence is the imitation of Christ and service to God through seeking that which is Godly. I do not know how I can be more clear than that.
My faith has never been stronger than it is today, right now, in this minute. I believe that I have never, in all of my time on the internet, resented something more than I resent that comment from the reader.
Suffering is fundamental to who we are, and Jesus does not promise to take that away (and instead, actually commands us to embrace it as an energy of spiritual development).
If you want to believe that you are going to find some kind of cinematic experience of ecstatic joy (like in a Hollywood movie) in your life, you are living in a delusion. No such state exists on this earth. This earth is a place of suffering and separation from God. Misery and dread define existence, and we can only alleviate these things by seeking after the manifestations of the divine that exist among us.
My essay was clear.
But I will continue to try to elaborate, as elaboration may lead to further clarity.
This issue is so important that I’ve decided that if anyone misinterpreted me as that reader did (I believe he did genuinely misinterpret, or has a misunderstanding of the Christian faith and the nature of human existence, and was not simply trying to harass me), this is a grave matter, and it must be addressed.
Along with suggesting that it is “doomer” (meme) to define life as suffering, the reader appears to have denied the entire religious context of the work, and focused on the highlighted sentence, which uses the word “coping.” He also asserted that I was using the mean form of the word “cope,” i.e., I was saying “religion is a cope,” which suggests he may be ESL or otherwise sub-literate.
To clarify, the meme definition of “cope” turns the verb into a noun, and refers to “a way to deny reality for the protection of one’s mental or emotional weakness and inability to face reality.” The word “cope” has a definition outside of the meme definition. It is a verb, which means “to deal effectively with something difficult.”
Let me just repeat that, to ensure we’re all on the same page: within the established English language, “cope” is a verb that means “to effectively deal with something difficult.” It does not mean “a decision to deny reality in order to protect the worldview or emotions,” in the way the meme noun form is used.
Although this is now officially tedious, one definition of the normal verb form of “cope” I’ve just found even includes “especially on even terms or with success.”
Probably, a different word should have been used, because of the widespread use of the meme noun form of “cope” by younger people. That sentence is, therefore, not ideally worded. (Although, again, the context of the 4,000-word second half of an 8,000-word essay should have provided relief from misinterpretation of a single word.)
In terms of traditional language, this sentence is precisely and entirely accurate: “prayer is an effective way to deal with the difficult reality of separation from God.”
Human existence is defined by trying to cope with separation from God. Prayer, as the definition above states, is or at least can be a successful way to contend with separation from God.
Both ritual and personal prayer brings a man closer to God, and therefore, it dulls the pain that comes from separation from God. However, prayer does not bring complete unity with God (outside of the possibility of certain temporary experiences, typically only experienced by Saints). If prayer ended separation from God, people would have figured that out by now, and it would bring ecstasy, and most people on earth would be wise enough to simply devote their entire lives to prayer. That is obviously not the way reality works.
The purpose of prayer is to develop a relationship with God, even while we are in separation from Him.
Suffering is fundamental to human existence. I know I said I wouldn’t quote scripture extensively, but I need to quote some. However, please note, that this is not controversial among religious scholars, including even the majority of protestant scholars. Outside of some kind of total heretic evangelical “prosperity gospel” televangelist lunacy, this is simply an underlying teaching of all branches of Christianity, and the verses I’m going to quote are, to my knowledge, implying exactly what I say they imply.
Firstly, we have to look at the origin of our fallen state, and the fallen state of the world in which we live, in Genesis 3. Please understand that “fallen state” involves various curses upon us from God, but is defined by separation from God. As you know, this is a result of Eve taking absurdly bad advice from a talking snake (women, amirite?) and Adam playing the simp and following along with Eve in disobeying God.
It’s worth reading the entire Genesis creation story (keeping in mind it is heavily metaphorical), but here I will abbreviate the relevant passages from Genesis 3:
God lived and walked in the Garden. And humans were banned from the Garden, therefore being separated from the presence of God.
Again, there are all sorts of examples from the Old Testament of men living with a more or less constant state of anguish and dread. Solomon is a fascinating figure, who lived much of his life cynical and bitter. He wrote Ecclesiastes later in life, as the Preacher, recounting what he’d learned in life. (It is similar in some ways to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. There are many overlapping themes, and I think the Meditations are important, and even though Aurelius was not a Christian, the book has had a significant impact on Christian philosophy.) I identify strongly with the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, and believe that the experience of an intelligent man and his personal suffering are very clear in this work. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, read chapter 7.
Here is a preview:
The wisdom of the kings and the prophets does not agree with the “happy-happy, joy-joy” philosophy of my detractor.
Throughout the New Testament, we are repeatedly – perhaps even constantly – told that suffering is good, because Christ suffered, and suffering will purify us.
Christian suffering is an extension of the suffering of Man as a result of the separation from God. All suffering, and all sin, originates from this separation.
From 1 Peter 2:
The quoted passage above from the previous article mentions my grandfather, who was not a religious man, and lived a life of extreme, perhaps even grisly, personal suffering. He was, among other things, relatively alienated from his own family, and people generally. He was very angry. I believe that if he had been a religious man, he would have led a much better life, with less suffering, and more of a loving relationship with his family. However, even if he had spent his entire life strictly religious, he would have suffered still, because suffering is innate to mortal existence. In fact, some parts the New Testament suggest that Christians suffer more than non-Christians, because we are told to suffer in order to understand the suffering of Christ.
Again, just to clarify: the suffering of Christ is directly connected to the fall of Man, because it was the fall that created sin, and the suffering of Christ was only necessary because of our sins.
- The earthly realm is a place of suffering, death, and decay.
- Prayer is not “a cope.” “Cope” is not a noun. Prayer is a way of coping with (definition: verb; “successfully managing”) separation from God.
- Suffering is the natural state of man, and it is supposed to be that way. Because of the nature of the mortal coil, suffering is good. It makes us better, and stirs us to greatness, if managed in a responsible, Christian manner.
- Beyond prayer, divinity and connection to God is experienced through work, love, and the seeking after truth, justice, and beauty.
- We are on a quest to “know thyself,” and this is synonymous with understanding God, for we are made in the image of God.
- We are made in the image of God.
- We are made in the image of God.
- We are made in the image of God.
There will be more words on these things.
I was genuinely and legitimately outraged that a reader felt he had the right to question my faith. But I’m not mad. I’m sure there needs to be a lot of clarity, and there should be reader feedback, and I should offer clarity. I think feedback can be given without self-righteous moralizing (very distasteful), and baseless assertions about the nature of my personal life. But it’s fine.
I do not claim to know everything. I do claim to be able to repeat basic precepts of Christianity, and frankly, if someone has a disagreement, they need scripture or religious literature. I am not simply making things up. I am repeating or at best elaborating on well-established Christian concepts.
If you want a religion that is not “doomer,” then go join Buddhism and sit in a temple humming yourself into nonexistence. Christianity literally says that we were all born doomed, that the entire world is doomed, and that our only salvation is through Jesus Christ – after death. Catholics/Orthodox and all but the goofiest protestants all agree about this.
“Pick up your Cross and follow Me.”
He didn’t stutter.
There is zero confusion about the fact that the Cross is a symbol of personal suffering.
Trying to escape the suffering, rather than embracing it, leads to all kinds of problems. All of the problems of modernity are “happiness machine” problems.
At no point, ever, in the entire Bible, in the entire history of relevant Christian literature, in the entirety of classical philosophy, does anyone promise you are going to be “happy” or advise you to “seek happiness.”
I’ve recently had a religious experience involving a 72-hour nightmarish world of delusions (this event is suspected to be connected to a brain tumor). I am not going to compare it to the Revelation of John, because the visions were not prophetic, and I do not have a messiah complex. However, many of the themes and certainly the tone were similar. But it was more personal.
This was a gift from God to strengthen my faith. I have never had more clarity about myself, my existence, and my looming death. Christian concepts, which I could have repeated to you but did not have full personal, faith-based understanding of, I now have much better understanding of.
I have a lot to say on these matters.
Some of it could be confusing, because of the way I am transmitting it, and perhaps the person who triggered this essay was simply confused by the wording.
I believe that understanding the earthly realm as the experience of separation from God’s presence, but not a separation from God’s love, is a fundamental first step towards understanding ourselves and our existence. Acknowledging that suffering is inherent to existence and that death looms is simply adult behavior.
Regarding Ritual and Personal Prayer
Prayer should be a kind of constant thing in your life. This will help you.
Throughout the day, I say the Lord’s prayer:
Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed by Thy Name. Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil. Amen.
It’s very easy to say. You memorize it, and you say it, sometimes several times in a row, and it clarifies and guides you.
I also say the Jesus prayer regularly:
Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner.
That can be said over and over again, to bring peace and clarity, and especially, to battle temptation. (Which, let’s just be real – when we say temptation, we’re pretty much talking about sexual thoughts, masturbation, fornication. None of us are Jews, who have a constant temptation to murder children.)
These prayers also help with fear, and other things that lead to different types of sins. Sex is not the only sin. Many people sit around on computers eating junk food and playing video games, which is sloth. Many people have gluttony. The immediate “I am tempted” is usually sexual, but I think for fat people, the bucket of ice cream can be a similar kind of temptation.
There are others. I think those two are the most important. You can learn about the various other ritual prayers, and find ones you like.
Glory be to the Father, the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
[Trad Catholic Trigger Warning]
I do not pray “Hail Mary.” I think the Mary stuff has gotten out of control in the Catholic Church. I used to say Hail Mary, and I no longer do. I am not against it, I’m not judging anyone, but I must say to everyone that in my experience, the Jesus prayer works much better than Hail Mary. The prominence of this prayer in the Roman Church is recent. I shudder to say it, but it’s true. In my opinion, asking for intervention from Saints is fine, and I do light candles for Mary (and for Joseph), and sometimes I say a Hail Mary then, but I do not pray Hail Mary on the rosary with any regularity. You can pray 50 or 100 Jesus prayers instead of ten Hail Marys. I don’t think there is any Catholic priest who would tell you that this is not allowed.
Personal prayer is different than ritual prayer, and it should also be something that is throughout the day. You can speak to God or the Holy Spirit, if you wish (there is no prohibition), but in my experience, it is best to speak to Jesus in regular personal prayer. You can speak frankly and normally, within your head, or (if you are alone), aloud. When I am working, I may say “oh Lord Jesus, guide me.” You can also speak in more frank or detailed sentences about your feelings and thoughts and ask for help.
He is always listening to you, and He loves you more than you could ever understand (at least while you’re trapped in this flesh).
It is important, at least once a day, to get down on your knees, usually before a Cross or an icon of Christ on some kind of personal altar, and to engage in a mix of ritual and personal prayers, and to ask God to protect your loved ones, to guide the leaders (that one hasn’t worked in the West since they killed Hitler, but you’re still supposed to do it, and maybe it would work if more of us were doing it), for yourself to be guided and protected and to be able to fulfill your purpose every day. You should also give thanks, daily, for all the important things you have – health, home, family, financial security, the dog, etc.
If you have the means, it is good to build the altar in a special small room, which is a room that you only pray in. Most people don’t have a house that big, so it’s fine to put it in your bedroom. In some houses, you may be able to turn a closet into a prayer room.
Finally – and this might seem like a non sequitur but it’s not
The first goal of the quest is to believe – to actually, literally believe – that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, died for our sins, and rose from the dead. It’s difficult for intelligent people to do that, especially given the various botched reference points we have in our society.
You have to work to believe it. (But it’s surely easier than believing in the modern Holocaust religion.)