I got involved in a discussion with Mama Lou about our childhood days and my heathen ways. I told her about the preacher Mom invited to our house to “talk some sense into her son.” He came. He talked. I listened. Then, he got nosey.

I knew he would. He asked personal questions. I answered. Mom looked worried. He quoted Bible verses. I countered with alternative verses. Mom looked confused, and worried. “Are you ready for Hell?” he inquired. “If I am or not, I will get there faster by following you. I will meet you there to shake your hand and remind you of this day,” I answered back.

I had lost my fear of him by that age. Still a Christian in my own mind, I had already learned that it was not the god named God that I feared, it was those acting as speakers for that god. Were they to ever agree among their very diverse selves about that thing called ‘Truth’, I would have never thought to question their tales. Somebody lied to me, and maybe to Mom and Dad and all the rest of the church people. Such bastards as that had to be found out. Mom and Dad had to be warned, and I would have to learn my lessons well enough so they would have to believe me.

This preacher stood a good chance of being one of them. He seemed evil. I disliked him and he knew it. “There seems to be nothing I can do for your son,” he said to Mom. “He is on the road to his doom unless a miracle occurs.”

I felt surprised that Mom didn’t cry. I knew she had no need to, that I was on God’s side and no preacher would ever steer me away from wherever that would lead me. If anything at all was true in all their tales, God knew my intentions and that I would dedicate my life to the quest for truth no matter what it might be. “I am a heathen because of that.” I told Mama Lou. “I am a heathen because they all lied to me, every one of them. Some believed their own lies, but they were still lies that they had learned from someone else. They accepted them as true without a question, and now they’re passing them out to everybody else.”

I early on became suspicious about whom they really worshipped. The God in the Old Testament seemed mean, like Mom’s latest preacher. Yet, there were plenty of verses there about feeling joyous and happy. For the most part, before somebody named Paul got into the picture, the New Testament followed that vein. It made no sense that it should turn sour after such a hopeful beginning. I asked several grownups about it, and got two different replies: “We are not to question God, especially at your age,” came from some. “God’s ways are too mysterious for mere mortals to comprehend,” seemed to outdo that by about two to one. I eventually realized they were actually two ways to say the same thing: “I really don’t want to know, so you should not be asking. Have faith.”

I had faith, but not in their words. Some would talk to me as I aged, and try to woo me into adopting their way of thinking. Such as those taught me to assess the way they’d argue, and learn from that whether they believed themselves. I met preachers who openly smoked, who drank so it showed in their speech, who cursed when I failed to fall in line. Many others seemed sincere, honest and to be people of merit, but the messages inherent to their persuasion offered no ring of verity. Frightening me with a Hell I never found in the Old Testament seemed to certify that the New Testament had been often tainted by tampering, as I had been sometimes given examples; such as: the Hell that is mentioned in the Old Testament gets translated from Sheol, which refers to an underworld, or graves. Hell in the New Testament came from Hades, a pit where trash continually burned. Dictionaries seemed to have been created by confused people. The message? “Toe the line, or you are garbage.”

Inklings of doubt have begun to form; tiny lines of disturbance ripple across a placid lake. Like soft breezes, they warn of winter’s impending end and, in the same breath, forecast the gentle sighs of spring. I remember my promise to God. “I will chase after whatever I can find of truth, and accept whatever it may be, no matter what.” I remember what I said and how I said it, and what I meant. Promises made to God are sacred and need to be kept. To Hades with scoffers.

Problems creep in along with accreting doubt. God slowly fades as my studies take me from subject to subject, years of spare time devoted to science, philosophy, religion, balancing claim against claim, lie against lie, truth against truth. Politicians catch my attention during the Nixon/McCarthy era, and I discover how God presents in that as ideals counter ideals and Americans are forced to decide on which side Satan votes.

That said, an insight astounds me. Every issue with which religion deals, the same as in politics, can be boiled down to polarities: Good versus evil; love versus hatred; God versus Satan; Nurture versus Neglect; wealth versus impoverishment; honesty versus cheating… Such a list could go on for days, fill a book with each word’s synonyms sharing its same line. Maybe God and Satan should be headings, like this:

 

 

 

Just that sample scrap of such a list makes obvious the vast difference in the nature of what gets attributed to God versus what gets attributed to Satan. You could make your own list, just by writing out all the words you find attributed to God, and to Satan. God is—great? Loving? The Creator? Satan is—Cunning?—Vile?—Sinful? Choose your own words with serious intent. Draw a cross just as I did (Does that make it official?) and under the applicable heading write your list of words in a column. Put each column close to the upright and work outward from there. Do you see polarities inherent to the words you chose? If not, look among the synonyms for both sides. Failing that, put those words aside (abeyance) to wait until it dawns on you what you should have chosen.

I see a problem in my list that warns me about a kind of care you must take while creating your own list. Wealth versus impoverishment are polarities, yes, but really have nothing to do with good versus evil unless someone is proposing actions or ideas that, if implemented, could lead to unfair impoverishment of others. Seen in that way in the list, it then represents a moral issue. Wealth in itself, honestly gained, is not a moral issue.

Of what use is this?

Okay, your list of goody and baddy boy words is complete and you have made it plain that you want to know what this exercise has to do with becoming a heathen, let alone keeping a promise made to God. Because of that promise, discoveries such as what the list enables you to imply from reading and listening to various religious and political speeches, rants, documents, prayers, articles, books, etc. will awaken you to the nature of whichever character in the heading was referred to as God. For me, it became a tool I could work with toward following the leads my promise led me to uncover.

Listen to the various candidates during an election season: Who tells you the unemployed deserve their hardship?—the impoverished have chosen a life of starvation? Who, across from him, tells you this would be a better world if our country would fund education so people could find their own better path through life. Which of those individuals addresses Satan as God? Which speaks out for good? Would you continue to vote for the forces of Satan as you uncover their hidden agendas? Would you continue going to a church?—a mosque?—a cathedral?—after your own research informed you about the dark, repeated messages filling your mind with harmful information? Does Satan promise a Heaven to his followers, and that’s why you feel little concern over following after that nature wrongly attributed to God?

I did not intend my promise for Satan’s ears, and needed a way to assure myself about the nature of my leads. I listened to the words expressed at the pulpits and the podiums. I let my ears guide my heart amidst the sellers of evil until I found a way clear of them. I made several discoveries about myself, thanks to my promise, the important one of which is that God, and the Garden, are tokens of the mind. We have to make such discoveries for ourselves, and not be led astray by those who would lead us down paths of their own design. The religious systems of today’s world have been designed for centralized control, and the political systems have adapted to that pattern. Both adhere to that pattern from the local community all the way up to the centralized headquarters at the federal level of governance.

Despite that, we always have a choice to act as individuals, to do the right or wrong thing, to pattern after those who would lead us toward evil, who steal from us while they praise us, who seed our governmental system with laws at every level to enrich themselves as we become impoverished, who pay lobbyists to buy political collusion and influence the clergy with promises of rewards for giving their support to ways attributable to Satan. Choosing to not follow centralism in the face of all that hounds after us to take the easier way seems risky. Sometimes, it feels wrong. We have no knowledge of how to live as independent, self-responsible, autonomous individuals. We know that some things can best be done by a centralized system. We soon enough learn that defining good and evil is not one of those, for Satan can be made to look like God too easily by the simple spread of misinformation.

Call to action: Become a heathen. Make the tool I showed you, and practice its use. Use it as a guide, created by your own hands, to keep you reminded to check from where people are coming when they talk to you about political and religious agendas and beliefs, try to persuade you to act for them or join them in a cause, or any time you need to discern whether someone is referring to God or Satan in the name of God. Now, you can catch culprits red-handed, in the moment of their guilt. Take the power from them into your own hands, and use it to steer yourself toward truth by aiming for good and avoiding support for evil.

 

 

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