Subject: Life after brethrenism Date: Mon, 9 Aug 1999
I am a new member of Feeb-forum and I don't know any of you personally except Jill Mytton. But I share the experience of exclusive brethrenism with you and in that sense can feel an affection for you all and can be certain that we all have much in common. For the last ten days emails have flooded into my email box: a huge variety of voices, stories about the Vancouver reunion, chat between people who know each other well, witticisms, affection, embryonic arguments/discussions about belief, about evolution, about how ex- brethren should behave to one another, and some messages which convey a continuing agony as a result of eb activity.
I left brethren twice. First, after Aberdeen, in August 1970 (29 years ago although it seems much less) and second at the end of 1972 when I left those who had left at Aberdeen, before they split into 'Rentons' and 'Frosts' (Jim Renton was my father's first cousin). The first leaving was turbulent and dramatic but there were nearly 8,000 of us worldwide and these included most of my relatives. So it wasn't that difficult. The second leaving (with my wife and five young children) was much more painful and disorientating. Adjusting to a post-brethren life is incredibly difficult and in my case it led to the break up of my marriage and the sudden death of my father (in the middle of an angry argument about my 'backsliding'). I have never really recovered from either of those events and they will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.
I want to say something about 'post brethren belief' but I don't want to carry on at too great a length so I shall finish my first instalment here, and return a little later.
Love and best wishes
9 August 1999
Subject: Life after brethrenism
Here I am again. I wasn’t one of the persecuted in the 1960s, I was one of the persecutors. I wasn’t as extreme as many but I became convinced of the teaching or JTJr through Bruce and John Hales. I knew Bruce quite well and became one of his elite (invited to special private training sessions at Alan Price’s house in Barnet) and began to be a young ‘ministering brother’ in the 2nd half of the 60s. Bruce stayed in our house twice. I was also strongly influenced by George Maynard and stayed with him in Barbados.
It seemed at the time that we were in the middle of a powerful revival of early christianity and I had no doubt that it was authentic. I was also close to the centre of all that was going on through my father, Robert Stott, who was one of the four trustees of the Stow Hill Depot.
I began to have doubts in 1970 and these came to a head at the Reigate three-day meetings, two weeks before Aberdeen. JTJr’s language and behaviour was strange and at times salacious (although there was nothing approaching the horrors of Manchester - the following weekend- and the degrading, filthy nonsense of Aberdeen a week after that). After the Aberdeen split I was given the job of transcribing the tape of the Saturday afternoon reading at Aberdeen (I still have a copy on tape) and my father and I co-wrote the pamphlet, ‘If We Walk in the Light . . .’, which included the text. (Some have suggested that the Aberdeen text was an invention. In some ways this is quite flattering but it would have been impossible to invent that flood of blasphemy and obscenity. And of course the tape itself is still available.)
In the 17 months that I spent with those who left after Aberdeen, I was taking fellowship meetings (and some three day meetings) almost every weekend but in the last few months of 1972 I was beginning to doubt the fundamental precepts of brethrenism and I left them altogether at the end of December 1972.
For the next year or so we attended several different denominations, but my interest in Christianity was fading. It all began to look like some vast theme park and I could not resist the growing feeling that I had been taken for a ride. I re-read Sir Edmund Gosse’s ‘Father and Son’ (the only seriously great book to have been written about the brethren) and was profoundly affected by it. The inscription on the title page ‘Der Glaube ist wie die Liebe: er lasst sich nicht erzwingen! – ‘belief is like love, it cannot be enforced’- became one of my great turning points. I said, to myself and to others, ‘for the first 34 years of my life I have been told what to believe and made to believe it. Now I’m going to work out for myself what I actually do believe.’
And Gosse’s words towards the end of ‘Father and Son’ rang out like a trumpet: “Let me speak plainly . . . evangelical religion, or any religion in a violent form . . . divides heart from heart. It sets up a vain chimerical ideal, in the barren pursuit of which all the tender, indulgent affections . . . all that enlarges and calms the soul are exchanged for what is harsh and void and negative. It encourages a stern and ignorant spirit of condemnation. . . it invents virtues which are sterile and cruel, it invents sins which are no sins at all, but which darken the heaven of innocent joy with futile clouds of remorse..”
And I came across a sentence in Goethe: ‘always distrust anyone who has a desire to condemn.’
This is longer than I intended to be. So I’ll break again here.
Editor’s note: Father and Son can be read online at http://www.fullbooks.com/Father- and-Son.html
9 August 1999
Life after Brethrenism
I’ll try not to make this too long. When people asked me what my attitude to Christianity was in the mid 70s I said that I had parcelled it all up and put it away on a high shelf and that I might go back and look at it later. I exchanged religious belief for a passionate interest in literature, in poetry, in the great novels and in the theatre. I joined a semi- professional theatre company and began to act and direct. My spiritual and metaphysical life flourished.( After a few years I even played Othello which was a profound experience, apart from the 60 minutes in make-up before each performance!)
Then I joined BBC Television and spent 10 years in their Religious Programmes department making documentaries. I spent long periods studying the Franciscans and the Jesuits, carried out 6 months research into cults, The Children of God, the Moonies and others, meeting people who had recently escaped from these organisations, went to Medjugorje in Yugoslavia and interviewed the six children there who have been ‘having weekly visions of the Virgin Mary’ since 1981, spent a year studying the Vatican and arranged the first ever TV interview with the Pope. And many other highways and byways of belief. I made two close friends: an Irish Catholic priest in Brazil and the Bishop of Edinburgh, the senior Episcopal bishop in Scotland. So where has all that left me?
I am certainly not a practising Christian but I have become less afraid of it. (For some years I feared being the ‘reconverted’ to a version of Christianity and being sucked back in!) There are many things in the Bible and Christian teaching that I still regard as valuable truths. But I reject all the dogma and the moral blackmail and the imputation of guilt as a way of making people malleable. And all the frightening punitive stuff. (When I was studying the cults I discovered that it was virtually impossible to frame legislation against cults because laws passed against the Moonies would apply almost equally to a fundamentalist part of Christianity.)
I have become eclectic (for those not familiar with the word, the Oxford dictionary defines it as choosing or accepting from various sources. I believe that the sense of wonder and fulfillment that I get a Shakespearean sonnet or one of Tony Morrison's wonderful novels is not in any way inferior to what I used to think I got from the 'morning meeting'. (Actually I think it is a much truer and greater experience.)
But I don't see myself as an atheist (the spiritual world is too real and powerful for me to be that) or as 'anti-Christian'. John's gospel can still move me to tears and so can Psalm 90.
We have to get rid of the idea of dogma. That have been many attempts to explain the unexplainable: how man became conscious in a way that the animals are not, what happens after death, what is truth, what is love, the whole business of our inner lives and affections. They are all fragmentary and imperfect but many of them can uplift and enlighten us. That includes the ancient myths and great achievements in psychology and science, religions, philosophy, and for me, overwhelmingly, the great works of literature and the arts.
So I wander between James Joyce's Ulysses, Tolstoy, Yeats, Rembrandt, the novels of Saul Bellow, the Old and New Testaments, a smattering of Buddhism, the poetry of Keats and T. S. Eliot. And I never stray far from Shakespeare. And I am happy. As one of my favourite Irish poets (a man I know well personally) said:
‘And I know that it does not matter That I do not understand.’
I'll close with a little bit of Eliot:
‘The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.’
I hope that this has made some kind of sense to some of you out there, we are all different but our beliefs are our own possessions: ‘belief is like love, it cannot be enforced.’ Forgive me for being so long. I wish I was able to say all these things more to briefly!
Love again, and my strongest feelings of support and fellow feeling to those who are still suffering
Was it just an act?
Date: Mon, 09 Aug 1999 08:05:28 +0100
Subject: Was it just an act? Thanks for your comments Rod.
At the time it seemed to be the real thing. If I was due to take meetings I was always extra ascetic, seeking to be ‘dependent’, ‘free from any defiling element’, ‘humble’ -all that kind of thing. I couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t been sincere. There were cases of ministering bros who were up to something naughty (sometimes very naughty when they were taking meetings), but I never understood that. It was far too scary to take that kind of risk.
And I always looked for ‘a prophetic word’ and usually got it. So where did that come from? Secular writers often experience something similar. A feeling that something greater than themselves is providing material, a quality that they couldn’t have produced on their own. (That presumably is where the ancient idea of the muses comes from.)
My own feeling is that that sense is actually an interaction between the conscious and the subconscious mind (a theory developed by C. Day Lewis in his book ‘The Poetic Image’.) Maybe there is some output from somewhere else as well. I don’t know.
I like your image of ex-ministering brothers as people who chase from one obsession to another and that it doesn’t much matter what the subject matter is. Any pulpit will do as long as it’s high enough and the audience is listening. My five kids would probably agree with you about me; they’ve spent their lives trying to dodge out of the way of my latest enthusiasm. (Although, looking back, they now say that they were grateful for some of them. And now they have their own hares to chase, I’d be disappointed if they didn’t.
Two of them are in television, a third lectures in English at Cambridge and a fourth travels round the world monitoring press freedom in repressive regimes.)
I hope that makes some kind of sense? Inspiration takes a huge variety of forms and spirituality is not confined to the religious. And inspiration can be evil as well as good; those who listened to Hitler at the Nuremberg Rallies often compared him to an Old Testament prophet. (And I could move on from that comment to talk about our very own JTJr!)
And yes, I should have been asleep. I often work late and I am pretty woozy this morning.
30 January 2000 subject: intelligence
Suz, Rod and others have raised the question about how intelligent people can stay in the Brethren. This is a topic that fascinates me. First, as Robert said, intelligence has to be defined. Raw intelligence is like the size and efficiency of a car engine -- no particular credit to its owner, just a physical fact. When I was given the IQ test at school at the age of eleven, I registered the highest mark the school had ever seen, so I guess I have to admit to being intelligent.
But what you do with that is a different thing altogether. Any member of my family will tell you that I have sometimes done remarkably foolish, ill-judged things, despite the evident abilities of my brain. Properly used, intelligence can lead to intellect (the ability to conceptualise, to use and arrange ideas). But wisdom (which we presumably all desire to have) doesn't necessarily flow from high intelligence; it is frequently present in people whose intelligence is not particularly high. And this applies to a whole range of desirable human qualities. I saw a remarkable production of Shakespeare's Macbeth last week and I was struck by Malcolm's list of kingly graces (in IV.iii):
". . . justice, verity, temperance, stableness, bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, devotion, patience, courage, fortitude"
(As always Shakespeare gets it exactly right.) These are the qualities that are desirable in a human being, and intelligence -- like physical strength -- doesn't necessarily help you to have them.
But going back to the original question, there is another important factor. Paul’s ministry (taken up and exaggerated by the Brethren) teaches us to distrust our own intelligence and even our common sense. We have to make a kind of surrender of 'natural ability' and admit that we can't trust our own perceptions. That is what leads a large number of 'intelligent' people to stay in the Brethren. I wrote about this in my novel: describing the clash that it brought about when I was in the sixth form at school and -at the risk of making this a rather lengthy posting- here is an extract:
I had been brought up in the brethren to believe that the natural mind was dangerous and deceitful, that it had no place at all in the things of God. Paul warns the Colossians about ‘being led away by philosophy and vain deceit, according to the teaching of men.’ And it wasn’t just the mind. John Nelson Darby had dismissed poetry in his preface to the Brethren hymnbook as ‘…objectionable, being merely the spirit and imagination of man.’ The spirit and imagination were under sentence of death and the whole of the ‘natural man’ had to be judged and displaced.
Paul begins his letters to the Corinthians by telling them that 'God has made foolish the wisdom of this world... the natural mind does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are folly to him... the Lord knows the reasonings of the wise that they are vain'. It was a fundamental Brethren precept that the cultivation of the natural mind and spirit brought you into direct conflict with God. An elderly brother in Birmingham once told me that his university degree was 'a scar on his soul'. My grandfather used to refer to man’s 'poor benighted reason'. How could the natural human mind ever understand that predestination and free will were both true?
Once the autonomy of your mind had been overthrown, we fell back on 'the obedience of faith': 'Lord I believe, help mine unbelief.' To become an obedient and malleable member of the Brethren this was one of several things that had to happen to you. You also had to realize that, as a natural being, you were hopelessly corrupt: 'I know that in me, that is in my flesh, good does not dwell.' You had to be reduced to a defenceless state before the work of God could begin in you. Normal human virtues like common sense, self- confidence and self-respect were surgically removed in this process. Everything that would be acceptable to God in you, in your personality and your perceptions, would be a new construction, a new nature that was the work of the Holy Spirit and which canceled out and replaced the original You. 'Ye must be born again.' You could take no credit for the new nature; it was a work of sovereign grace and mercy.
Sometimes it could happen quite suddenly, like a switch clicking over inside your head. Then you had a new way of thinking, a different sense of reality. Old ways of analyzing things no longer had any validity; you looked at everything through the Exclusive Brethren window, a carefully focused construction that changed a little over the years under different leaders. The world outside the fellowship became a barren wilderness, and all that was health giving and wise was among the Brethren. You had submitted, there was nothing in you that could fight back. All meanings were Brethren meanings.
In the autumn of 1954 I came to John Brownstone as a 16-year-old who was out of sympathy with the brethren, living among them in a state of passive resistance. But I was deeply formed in Brethren teachings. I had been absorbing them all my life and despite my rebellious instincts I still saw the world through the Brethren window. In Brownstone terms and my mind and spirit were faltering, wounded things. I was reaching out for a new awareness but I dragged a huge ball and chain. Voices pursued me: "The mind of the flesh is death... the mind of the flesh is enmity against God... it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be... He that is a friend to the world is constituted an enemy of God." These were the father voices, harsh and judgmental. Then there were the mother voices: "When Israel was a child then I loved him, and out of Egypt have I called my son... Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall have rest to your souls... How often would I have gathered you, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wing ... Come for light is gathering quickly o'er this world's fast fleeting day, if you linger in the darkness you will surely miss your way." The words remain in the memory, queuing up to be quoted here, more than 40 years later. These are voices that never give up.
In the Sixth Form my Brethren voices were telling me that Yeats and Shakespeare were a frivolous waste of time, that all the apparent vistas that were opening to me were carnal and corrupt, 'the pleasures of sin for a season'. Two ways of seeing competed with each other: the apparent continuum of a Jewish tribal literature, the absoluteness of the new Testament with its 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life' and all the construction of John Nelson Darby, stood on one side; the persuasive, fallible, infinitely diverse subtleties of my A Level texts stood on the other. One was graven on stone, the other rippled like water. One asserted itself: this is true, you know it is true, it is the Word of God and you will be damned if you turn away from it. The other side sang and whispered, beguiled, suggested, asked questions, claimed nothing, resonated. The battle was on.
Love and blessings
Fri, 31 Aug 2001 5:19 am
This is me musing away at the Kitchen Table. It's far too early to open a bottle of Rioja, so I'm stimulating myself with freshly ground Columbian Arabica. (You can keep all the recreational drugs in the world -apart from alcohol- and just leave me with coffee beans.) I'm not sure where this muse is going so those who are of a sensitive disposition may want to leave now.
I'm with you on the rage, Sandy.
It's a complex thing we're doing here on this forum. There are members (like Sandy and me and a number of others) who now regard the whole 'religious apartheid' ethos of brethrenism as spurious and corrosive from first to last. For myself the spirit of brethrenism has been the Black Death of my life (which began in 1938 and so far is still going strong). I mourn the way that my creative and talented father spent all his energies in what I now regard as a sterile little cul de sac; I mourn the roller-coaster life of agonies and fears and traumas that my mother has been going through all her life (which began in 1905 and is still going) when that lovely, kind, sunny person could have had a much more fulfilling and contented life; I mourn the loss of the bunch of people I was with at Cambridge (Philip Spink, Denys Leflaive, Michael Nunn, Neil Purdom, David Wilkinson) and others like George and Priscilla Gibbon and Nevill and Carolyn Long - my generation which I loved and cherished - all removed from me at a stroke in July 1970. I mourn the fact that my own creative life didn't get started in any proper sense until I was getting on for 40. I look at the excellent creative achievements of my own five children (young enough to be nearly untainted by brethrenism) and I wish that the rest of my kindred could have got clear of the brethren virus too. I mourn particularly for my younger sister (a Renton) who still plays Chopin well and paints good water-colours but 95% of whose creative energy is still devoted to dingy little brethren concepts of reality.
(I didn't intend that to go on so long but the rage began to flow with the coffee.)
Then there are others on the forum who still retain some of the framework of Darby's weltanschauung, still to a degree see themselves as 'pilgrims and strangers in a wicked world - out of which they will (in one way or another) be taken to glory'. Some of the structures of Darbyism remain in place in their minds: some of the contempt that he had for the established churches, some of the sense that there was a 'recovery of the truth' around 1830, some of the reverence for JND, JBS, FER, CAC and JT - the feeling that there are unique insights in these teachings that non-brethren are deprived of. Post Aberdeen these feelings have become very much gentler and milder (and they are usually mixed with a more exploratory and liberal spirit towards other christians) but what I have elsewhere called 'the brethren window' is still largely the one through which they see the world. Naturally enough these people still feel a warm nostalgia for the pre-1959 brethren community. If my Renton sister is anything to go by, they still feel that translating 'ekklesia' as 'assembly' instead of 'church' represents a major step forward in Christian understanding.
Then there are all those people in between. Those who have rejected the 'religious apartheid' of brethrenism decisively but who remain in a form of Christian nonconformism (or, in some cases, in the evangelical wing of Anglicanism).
The 'root and branch' people that I began with (including, I judge, Sandy and certainly me and others) are probably not christians in any meaningful practising sense any more. Yet we are imbued with christianity -through upbringing and also through its presence in western culture. As a source of symbol and metaphor. As a figurative and allusional language. In much the same way that Greek and Roman (and other) mythologies are spread through our language and literature and consciousness, so those of us who live in 'a post-Christian' state have no problem in using Christian language and imagery. It's part of the cultural furniture -along with the legends of King Arthur (busily christianized by the monks but originally deeply -mystically- pagan and Celtic), Shakespeare's plays (easily the second strongest influence on English thought and language after the bible) and a whole ragbag of other things, from Pilgrim's Progress to Alice Through the Looking-Glass.
Two more points. First, back to the idea of metaphor. Goethe said that 'everything that exists is a metaphor'. When you are dealing with spiritual things, with metaphysics, you have to understand metaphor. The history of christianity is -from one point of view- the history of the battle between the metaphorists and the literalists. The teachings of Jesus are pure metaphor, the teachings of Paul (with some exceptions) are grindingly literal. Paul's struggle to work things out in literal detail (as in the middle chapters of Romans) are some of the most distressingly literalist things ever written and simply succeed in muddying the waters even more. (Poor old John Nelson Darby was a tortuous literalist, although he often escaped from that in his verses.) I've sometimes thought
that the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3 is like a meeting between Jesus and Paul. Jesus speaks in flashing, glittering metaphors and poor old Nicodemus is left high and dry with his literalisms. And so he goes away to ponder Jesus' words: 'The wind blows where it wants to - you hear the sound of it, but you don't know where it comes from or where it goes to. Spiritual people are like that.'
Spiritual truth is not understood with the intelligence. It's like a ray of light, a phrase of music, the way an actor stood when he spoke a particular line, the brushwork in a late Rembrandt self-portrait. It's grasped by intuition, insight, enlightenment. I sometimes find that a single line of poetry can light me up for several days. (In ways that I would find hard to put into words.) Buddhists understand this - the name Buddha means 'the one who woke up'. Literalising something like the teachings of Jesus, codifying it, making it enforceable rules and regulations, turns it into something quite different and entirely loses its essence. It's like those pointless exercises at school where children are asked to put Macbeth into their own words:
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time.
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale,
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
How can you put that into other words? Get across to the kids that they are entering the terrible cavern inside a man who has destroyed himself, who has betrayed and murdered and knowingly suppressed and atrophied his own better instincts and then just let the words ring and echo. Help them to understand that there is nothing more terrible than a life from which all meaning has departed, a life in which all standards and all landmarks have been flattened. And then the incomparable metaphors will start to work.
And finally. What I started out wanting to say was that with all the different points of view on the forum, all the differences of belief and unbelief, all our varying retentions and rejections of our brethren heritage, it is something of a miracle that we cohere at all. How are we possible?
So I salute you all Love
On 1 Sept 2001 Eric quoted Roger as having written the following.
"Buddhists understand this - the name Buddha means 'the one who woke up'. Literalising something like the teachings of Jesus, codifying it, making it enforceable rules and regulations, turns it into something quite different and entirely loses its essence."
Sat, 1 Sep 2001
Subject: The righteous rage of Sandy Robertson
I understand your response. I was of course talking about spiritual truth in a wider sense than that of religious belief.
I would like to make a further point. One that particularly interests me. Bear with me: this is a hard thing to put into words without sounding trite. When I was a 'ministering brother' in the ebs, I took the whole matter of 'getting a word from God' very seriously indeed. Sometimes it was a real struggle and occasionally it was distressing. But (as far as I remember) there was, finally, always a sense that I had become 'a channel' and that more than just my own mind was involved in my 'ministry'. This, at the time, was a very real thing to me and the sense that I was 'being used' was one of the things that kept me going.
Nowadays I write a bit. I have written several plays (one of which was put on) and I am in the middle of two novels. I also write poetry (some of which has been published). I have to say that this process of 'creative writing' has an uncanny similarity in many ways to the 'dependency on receiving a word' described above. There is the same sense of 'need for inspiration'; the same sense of the need to get one's own ego out of the way; the same sense of being a channel and the same sense of something outside oneself having flowed through. (A number of 'established' writers talk about having the same experience.)
I find (not often enough) that the words suddenly start to flow - easily and authoritatively, and when I read them the next day I often have the feeling: 'that's really good, where on earth did it come from?'
There is, quite definitely, a sense in which creativity involves opening yourself up to something very much larger than yourself. D.H.Lawrence described this process in one of his poems.
SONG OF A MAN WHO HAS COME THROUGH
Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me! A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift! If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the chaos of the world Like a fine, an exquisite chisel. A wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge Driven by invisible blows,
The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides.
Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul, I would be a good fountain, a good well-head, Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.
What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night? It is somebody wants to do us harm.
No, no, it is the three strange angels. Admit them, admit them.
This poem fascinates me and chimes with my own (occasional) experience. So what I am saying Alistair (and I know that most christians resist this idea) is that secular spirituality 'works' and is very little different in its nature from religious spirituality. That the very greatest artists (Shakespeare, Mozart, Beethoven, Dante, Rembrandt, Yeats and others) all speak of exectly the same kind of process. My Renton sister resists this entirely and says that 'all true spirituality is of the Spirit of God'. I say to her that if that is true then the Spirit of God is busy in a lot of areas that are undreamt of by the brethren.
Happy birthday feeb!
Love to all
On 31 Aug 2001Alistair wrote
Roger, an interesting piece and I would agree with your analysis of Darby and his successors.
and then quoted Roger as saying
Spiritual truth is not understood with the intelligence. It's like a ray of light, a phrase of music, the way an actor stood when he spoke a particular line, the brushwork in a late Rembrandt self-portrait. It's grasped by intuition, insight, enlightenment.
Sun, 2 Sep 2001
Subject: If I have offended Sheila . . .
I'm a little bit afraid that I might have been seen by Sheila as preaching an anti- Christian doctrine. I hope not. I have many close friends who are practising christians and I often engage with them in healthy debate but I do not derogate or disparage their beliefs. I am fascinated by christianity (spent 12 years at the BBC in the Religious Programmes department making documentaries about it (and other related ethical subjects)) and although I have an understanding of the nature of faith and belief, I do not feel the need of either of them myself.
Frankly I see it as a tribute to the resilience and generosity of this group that I (and other non-believers) feel so free to be frank about what we really feel and believe. If I have occasionally strayed beyond the bounds of mutual respect (which is the hall- mark of this forum) I apologize unreservedly.
I am used to the fact that most ex-brethren I meet have no respect for (or interest in) my beliefs and simply regard me as a deeply muddled and wilful individual who MAY (through God's grace) be recovered to the truth one day. But that is not the way that this forum works.
Much love to all
Rewriting peeb history
Tue Jun 08, 2004
Found all this stuff about HM [Henry Magahy, a one-time EB leader] very interesting. Even when I was under the Bruce Hales/JTJr spell (the former more than the latter) I always thought that HM was an ignorant and dishonest oaf. (Used to go to Bristol quite often, my sister lived there.)
The question that interests me is how one gets into the frame of mind that believes nonsense. (Shakespeare's Othello is a play on this subject - Iago creates a totally unreal window of perception and convinces the big man that it's the only true way of seeing things.) In cult studies they call it 'snapping' - suddenly one's mind moves over to a recklessly foolish standpoint and stays there in spite of the evidence, in spite of commonsense, in spite of common humanity and its 'sense of the normal'.
One of the major cultish weapons (developed in most forms of fundamentalism) is getting a person to distrust their judgement, to feel that the human heart 'is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked' (98% of the time it isn't and don't let anyone fool you into thinking it is) so that you sign your sovereignty over to some bully boys and give up on thinking for yourself.
The absurd thing is that it's still OK for JND and (I'm afraid) Paul to carry on using their speculative minds, a lot of JND's reasoning is specious and dishonest and Romans is full of clonking non-sequiters, but the rest of us are not allowed to use our minds and curiosity at all.
Tue Jun 08, 2004 Subject: Hello again Iain
Always a pleasure to hear your voice and I still look forward to a day when we can settle down together for a long and serious discussion somewhere congenial where food, whisky and wine can supplement the hard-fought (and hopefully fair-minded) exchanges. (I nearly put an 'e' in whisky but that's because my wife and I have just spent a sublime long weekend in Dublin celebrating a landmark birthday (hers) and for the first time in my life I got to taste Midleton's whiskey (at £80 per bottle). And England won the Test series against New Zealand and our football team won 6-1 just prior to leaving for the European Championship in Portugal. And one of my very favourite batsmen scored an individual 303. And on Saturday our rugby team take on the All Blacks. (Savour this: England have not lost a rugby match against NZ or Oz this century.) And of course Brighton won the play off in Cardiff the previous weekend and are now in the First Division and my son Matthew and I were there.)
I don't want to do battle here. It's just that it has always (even I think when I was caught up in 'the system') been an irritant to me that while we plebs are told to switch off our minds and to listen and obey because our minds are dark and untrustworthy, the illustrious like Paul and St Augustine and John Nelson Darby launch themselves frequently into what seem to me to be highly speculative (and yes, often clonkingly irrational) diatribes which for this humble observer seem to be flights of fancy which have no underlying logic (although they passionately claim to be logical).
Apart from that piece of provocation (yes I admit it) I was otherwise genuinely interested in how 'snapping' (the well-documented phenomenon of a human mind moving to a completely illogical cultic point of view where he or she can be manipulated and controlled at will) can happen to reasonably intelligent folk. That was my real question.
And you my dear Iain were also being provocative about the 'big bang'. Just go and read and digest any of Richard Dawkins' masterful books, or Stephen Jay Gould or (very precisely on this subject) Stephen Weinberg's Nobel Prize winning study, 'The First Three Minutes'. Yes of course it's strange and not fully understood but science is always a better approach than fable. (Not that I for a moment discount myth and fable. They have their place in the human imagination. Just not to be confused with 'what really happened'.)
With love and greetings to all