A letter to my reader

Hello, thanks for reading something I’ve written, and I hope you’ve read “Witness, share, apology” as well.

Yes, I hope there’ll be more than one of you, but at the moment it’s just you and me, OK?

Now, I don’t know who you are, whether you have any faith or no faith or even if you aren’t sure which.

I don’t know if you’re some kind of twelve-stepper or not, or if you have any of the various compulsive behaviours (including addiction), psychological peculiarities or other defects of character which I may share about, whether they have their own Twelve Step programme or not.

I don’t know if you’re a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Bah’ai, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Sikh, a Jain, a Taoist, a Wiccan, a Pagan, a “Scientific Pagan, a Druid, a Shaman, a Practical Kabbalist, a Ritual Magician, a “Born Again Agnostic” or….. well, just because you’re not mentioned doesn’t mean I don’t mean you, and if you give me a nudge I’ll try to include you in the next version of this. As it is there, I have friends who describe themselves as each of these, and I’m pretty confident that they’ll read this sooner or later.

By “Christian” I mean you have faith in God – or at least want to – and try to follow Jesus as best you can, whatever conception you may have of what “God” means, what “Jesus” means, what “faith” means or what “follow” means. In other words, whatever “flavour” of Christianity you belong to – and if you’re a Seventh Day Adventist or a Latter Day Saint and think you’ve been missed out, I count you in Christian. I count me as Christian too, if you push me hard enough.

I don’t care about these labels. I think I mean that as an absolute statement, but if it turns out to be wrong, I am trying to move towards it as an ideal.

If you’re human, I mean to include you. I’d include anyone who wasn’t human as well, but I don’t think they’ll be reading this. You get the picture…

There is only one thing I really want to change your thinking about, and it is this. Please consider moving towards thinking of your fellow human beings more as I try to. They are all “us”, none of them are “them”.

Otherwise, don’t panic. I am not trying to convert you. On the “Art of Dharma” site, there is this quotation:-

To a man who asked to become a Buddhist, the Dalai Lama replied, “Please don’t. Stay in your own religion, and meditate.”  Further , he has stated, “It is better to stick with the wisdom traditions of one’s own land than to run from them pursuing in exotica what was under your nose all the time.”

I take his view, for the most part. If you have a belief structure and it’s working for you, use the maxim “If it ain’t bust, don’t fix it”. If you have no beliefs and it’s working for you (i.e. you’re a true agnostic, to my mind, though you may call yourself an atheist and that’s OK with me), use the same maxim. It’s possible there may still be something in what I write which is helpful to you, and I hope there is, but I’m not really writing for you. Sorry!

But if you have some beliefs and they’re not working well for you, I may have more to say (or not – I can only tell you how it is for me, and it’s up to you and, I suppose, chance whether you can find anything in my writing). Again, if you have a belief structure, I’d prefer you to be more comfortable with what you know rather than to shift wholesale; I may still have experience which is helpful. If you don’t have a belief structure, but feel a need for one, I may be talking about the one for you. Or not.  It is going to need to feel right and to help you develop faith, by which I mean love and trust, in whatever you can comfortably conceive “that thing which I tend to call God” to be.

I have a special note for you if you’re an atheist or an agnostic. I started the journey I’m on as an evangelical atheist, that’s to say I believed strongly that God didn’t exist, that the mere concept of God was pernicious and damaging and that I should try to convince everyone else of that. I then spent a significant amount of time as an agnostic, not knowing but still seeking.

And in some ways it would be fair still to regard me as an atheist (and some of my fellow Christians do); it would certainly be fair to regard me as an agnostic still, as I don’t know that any of what I believe is true, I just take positions on the balance of evidence or because they are useful to me and I can relate to them (though I have no option about faith; love and trust doesn’t get argued away easily) and there are still a fair number of the stories Christianity tells which I don’t relate to well, or sometimes at all. I know where you’re coming from. I’m on a journey, moving in a direction, and my beliefs have had to change along the way and will probably change further (though, granted, the changes recently have tended to be fairly subtle).

Please don’t get me wrong; I am very happy indeed with the belief structures I have and I think it would be really cool if you liked them too and tried them for size. For me, Christianity has the best, the most varied, the most useful stories – but to a great extent that’s because I grew up with these stories and know them better than I know other people’s. You’re not me.

I think everyone would be better off with a faith, and that their faith should be strong (as long as it doesn’t damage others or get in peoples’ faces or tell them what to do), and that some of what I’ve learned over some 45 years might help you with that. But I can’t tell you you’d be better off with more faith, as such, just that I’m convinced I am (and yes, it could easily be argued that I’m not from reading things I write about my experience; I try to signpost the points where I think there are dangers and what they are, though).

Finally, before you go further reading my witness, my share, my apologia, please be careful of one possibility. I have had people individually and sometimes collectively wanting to follow me, for me to be their leader.

Do not even think of doing this.

·         Firstly, you can’t get where I am by proxy, only by doing some things and having some experiences. You are not me, your experiences will be different, you can’t borrow mine, only find things in them which speak to your experiences and situation.

·         Secondly, I do not want to be put in the position of telling people what to do, it will embarrass me, and, within my belief structure, you should not be following me anyhow, you should be following in the direction I point. I want people to walk beside me, not behind me.

·         Lastly, I don’t want to be put in the position of having to say “no”, because that would pain me, but I would have to say no anyhow.

One Response to “A letter to my reader”

  1. Chris Says:

    It has just been pointed out to me that I have missed out a number of people who I knew and exchanged views with last nearly 40 years ago. So look, I include Traditional, Gardnerian and Alexandrian Witches, Crowleyans, Satanists, Discordians, Chaos Mages and anyone else I’ve forgotten from Leeds in the early 70’s. OK? I still think some of your paths are a lot more perilous than is even vaguely sensible, for what it’s worth.

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