I recognize that my turning away from Christianity to an agnostic approach to things of faith are based on my own personal experiences.   That is to say, for example, I did not reach my conclusions after an exhaustive study of the traditional philosophical arguments for God.  Like most people who break away from a faith, I checked my personal experiences against what has been taught from the Bible and concluded, “bull hockey!”

I began the series of posts on the concept of payoff after I began to realize that a serious “turning away” had occurred.    On the one hand, there was me turning away from a long held belief system. On the other hand,  I realized over time that a turning away had occurred from me.

Except for my wife and son and a few of her friends to whom, I guess, I am a “tag along” friend, part of a “package” deal,  there is really no one else in my life.  Nobody calls.  Nobody checks to see what I’m up to or what I’m thinking.   I’m pretty much a loner – – not by choice,  it just ended up that way as a consequence of choices I made in the past  I suppose.

I’ve always considered myself a kind, compassionate, empathetic sort with a sense of humor that is silly and  not always fully appreciated.   From everything that I have read, I should be a friend maker.  But, still, there is  that “turning away” thing – – – like suddenly waking up one day in an empty town with no living person around.  I think of the actor Earl Holiman in that classic Twilight Zone episode – – – “Where is everybody?”

Earl Holiman on Twilight Zone - "Where is everybody?"

Earl Holiman - "Where is everybody?"

charlie_brown

I have begun to wonder.  Do people actually experience me as thoughtful, friendly, or  empathetic?

ostracize_by_claudio_munoz

Another reason, maybe?

OR,

do people REALLY experience me in a different way?

Maybe I am not the person I think I am.  Perhaps the perception others have of me is different and not as positive as I would like it to be.

I admit, I feel like my skills at anticipating  what others are feeling are often inadequate.   I often find myself at a loss for the “right” things to say to people.

I don’t feel like an interesting person.  But I try.   Not only do I often feel at a loss for words ,  I also say the wrong things, never knowing fully whether I annoy people too much or even offend them.  Although I try not to annoy or offend people.

“Wretched man that I am . . .”   I have committed the unpardonable sin of being displeasing to society!  I have become an outcast and a loner.  And these days, nobody likes a loner.

However, because of my awkward, isolated status, I have no social pressure on me to conform.  There is no social payoff in trying to see things that are wrong as things that are right.   Good sense in tow, what have I got to lose?

I certainly received no economic benefit from my faith, except arguably a solid work ethic about “getting there early and staying late.”    Since my parents really never pressured me with religion as a child, I have no neurotic nervousness about disappointing Mama or Daddy or some other imposing Patriarchal or Matriarchal figure.

The only residual effects I feel from time to time are a  few irrational  thought processes left over from the mind game that is Religion.

With no god “out there” really communicating with me and no people  saying to me, “C’mon . . .  just say it’s true.”   I became free to think for myself.  With no more payoff for trying to maintain the delusion of religion, I am free to pursue the things that are true and right.

Of course, at this time, it is still a bit of a sad and lonely journey.   There is a choice to be made in life :  happiness or truth.  The “blue pill” or the “red pill.”  I have taken the red pill.

2serious

In the last few posts I have been presenting my own thoughts about religion and what keeps people involved, despite problems they may truly see with that religion.  I have been unpacking the concept of the payoff.

The payoff is that web of family, economic, social and mental pressures that keeps the believer bound to a religion or a religious organization despite contradictions, disappointment or outrage.

In this post, I want to touch on a couple of observations on how socioeconomic forces may influence and even intimidate people to remain in their faith.


I originally posted the following as a comment by oddbird1963 on ExChristian.Net — encouraging ex-Christians using Disqus.  The comments displayed here have been edited slightly.

In the early 80’s, when I was in college, the “Christianity is a relationship not a religion” cliche was being thrown about a lot.

Religions, like casinos, seek to put you in seats and keep you there!

Religions, like casinos, seek to put you in seats and keep you there!

It has persisted to this day as one of the most recognizable cliches in evangelical Christendom.

Continue reading ‘An observation on “Christianity is a Relationship, not a Religion.”’


Yogi Berra in one of his famous quotes is reported to have said this about baseball:  “Ninety percent of this game is mental, and the other half is physical.”   Others have repeated the quote in this form:  “Ninety percent of this game is half mental.”

Yogi Berra - "90% of the Game is Half Mental"

Yogi Berra - "90% of the Game is Half Mental"

Religion can play mind games with faithful followers.  These mind games are designed to keep them tightly tethered to the organization.  Certain mental manipulations are pervasive throughout churches, to one degree or another.  It’s as if there is a pot of gold out there under some “religious rainbow” and if you keep trying hard enough or believing hard enough you will reach that pot of gold:  health, happiness, peace of mind, a regained passion or zeal for life.  However, the more you run to reach that rainbow, the farther away the rainbow appears.  It is always “out there,” not yet within reach.  With this aspect of the payoff, few people ever reach their perceived rainbow, much less find the spiritual pot of gold. Continue reading ‘Payoff: Mostly Mental’


I have been reading a book called A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives which lays out the facts on how the mind will do whatever it takes to maintain a belief despite absurdity or evidence to the contrary. I believe one reason people maintain their spiritual delusions is that certain forces impinge upon the mind of a person making the prospect of continuing with a delusion more appealing, or at least less traumatic, than giving up that delusion (a religion, or a religious belief).

One of the primary factors that makes religion pay off in the lives of certain people is family.
Continue reading ‘Payoff: That Family Feeling’


Although the old hymn entitled Blest be the Tie that Binds would have us believe that Christian love is the essential ingredient that keeps religious organizations together, the real truth is that Christian love is no more effective in the big picture than any other kind of “love” that religions have to offer.

Continue reading ‘Payoff: the Real “Tie that Binds”’


Do not follow the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself.
Your body and mind will become clear and you will realize the unity of all things.

Dogen

When an unfamiliar car in the neighborhood keeps passing by your home, it is wise to take notice and be on the alert.   That unfamiliar sedan circling the neighborhood could be a menacing threat to safety or security.  More likely, the vehicle represents the opportunity to be a good neighbor and provide  directions to a lost traveler.   The odds are not impossible that a new friendship will begin.

The same is true with ideas. When an idea keeps bubbling to the surface of the concious mind,  refusing to go away, daring to be ignored , begging for attention or beckoning you to come spend quality time with it, take notice.

Continue reading ‘Meditation on Ideas’