God, Heaven, and Other Controversial Beliefs

When I posted 10 Things I learned from my 4-Year-Old, it started a flame war in the comments section and I believe it is an opportunity to write about beliefs.

It may surprise some of you that dogmatic religious beliefs aren’t for me and my son is free to believe anything he wishes.

  • I was raised a Seventh Day Adventist and I once believed the things they taught (they told me my dog wouldn’t go to heaven because it didn’t have a soul and eating bacon could land me in hell)
  • Then I believed I was an atheist
  • Then I believed I was an agnostic
  • Then I believed in New Age teachings
  • Then I looked at Lutheranism

None of these belief systems – as a whole – work for me.

I intended the post to inspire people to think and ask more questions and many readers were inspired. However, some commenters flamed me as an ignorant brainwasher of children, and I empathize with them, because I used to be a lot like them. In the past I believed anyone that believed in God was a weak-minded ignorant fool and I usually told them so.

I used to hold this belief – I believe I must be right. Combined with atheism, this was the most destructive belief I have ever held. It led me to listen only to people that agreed with me. It led me to repeat mistakes without learning from them. It led me into an us vs. them mentality. It led me to insult and impugn people who didn’t agree with me. For me, atheism and a need to be right led to a grander myopia than my Adventist beliefs. The moment I shed those beliefs my life permanently changed and I gained incredible personal power. I saw a new reality full of new ideas and new possibilities.

So now I have decided that I don’t need to be an Adventist, an Atheist, an Agnostic, a New Ager, or a Lutheran, but I can learn things from them all. I have decided that I am not a belief system, but an independent being free to choose the beliefs that work best for me. I can read the Bhagavad Gita and discuss it with Hindus, I can read blogs written by Buddhists, I can discuss the teachings of Christ with a Christian, and I can discuss the war in Iraq with a Muslim. For me, beliefs are powerful tools I can use to achieve results, so why limit myself to just one set. If I were to accept one rigid set of beliefs and never change them, I believe I would be trapped believing the same old things and expecting different results. Insanity!

I’m getting great results with my current beliefs, but I have a big goal – I want to help as many people as possible realize their dreams. I believe achieving this goal will require learning and applying powerful new beliefs that I haven’t yet discovered.

I do believe in God and that belief seems to work very well for me right now. Maybe it doesn’t work for you, and that’s okay with me. But if you are open to the possibility of anything, I believe you will learn far more than if your mind is closed to certain possibilities.

I tried to persuade my son to believe that our cat (Maui) was okay and happy in heaven, so he would think about Maui’s death in the most positive possible way. But of course, the truth is, I don’t know what happened to the life-force that allowed Maui to meow, hunt, run, and purr for the last 18 years. I’m guessing his life-force just changed form, like liquid water turns to vapor.

My point is – My 4-year-old taught me not to accept overly simple answers to big complex questions. I will keep asking big questions so maybe someday I can learn the truth.

For more information on changing your beliefs see Steve Pavlina’s blog. It describes it far better than I can. See these podcasts specifically.
Overcoming Fear
Beyond Religion
The True Nature of Reality

P.S. Don’t bother putting insults and flames in the comments. I’ll delete them. If you want to have a meaningful discussion, disagree without denigrating.

23 thoughts on “God, Heaven, and Other Controversial Beliefs”

  1. Steve – Thanks for clarifying but don’t worry yourself with the silly comments of people who are willing to label or polarize you. I appreciate your transparency in this blog and look forward to each day’s new post.

  2. I really liked your post. I will take it to heart. I don’t know if it is going to help me deal with people any better… but maybe. My issue is politics. It may just be to heated out there.

  3. Hi I really liked what you said about your son . I think we are all teachers when we are around children. They listen and learn everything we say and do and hear everywhere . So I try to be careful of these things .

    I also liked what you said about beliefs and religion there is a differnce I think I belive in everything you have mentioned but I practice the Christain part . And sometimes I think that you can learn a little from everything wether good or bad as well.

  4. Flame war? Wow – that was more like a fire storm on a comparative scale to Yellowstone Park.

    People find their own way toward faith, or not, and it is all good. Really. But I admire you for putting your beliefs out there. I think it interesting, the different way people look at things.

    And finally – you were told your dog would not go to heaven because it didn’t have a soul? Didn’t everybody see “All Dogs Go to Heaven”? 🙂

  5. I found your original post inspirational, but only as I viewed the comments did I see why it was so popular on del.icio.us. But I’m glad I came back for more, to see that you addressed the issue, and in such a great way.

    We need to take all the things we learn together. Not only is their inspiration from the wisdom of your 4yr old to never stop asking the big questions, but we should combine that with looking in all the corners of the box (and outside of our box as well). Sometimes the answers come from the most unexpected places.

  6. I can relate to the meandering path you’v been on, and the spiritual place you seem to be in now (at least at the time of this post). I was raised a Catholic but then joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses after college. Eventually I moved on, but it’s true that our children often do more to cause us to start questioning our beliefs – more than we realize.

    Best to you in your journey.

  7. Hey man, pretty heavy words there. I like it.

    I sort of consider myself a drifter spiritualy, no speciffic path. Just trying to get by. I guess it started after a relationship I had with a strongly religious girl fell through.But in any case, I’m glad with myself swaggering through life, wandering the paths like a nomad.

    I’m glad your kid has taught you all this.

    Heh, me I doubt I could handle a kid, I’m too wishy-washy I think. Hahah.

    Rock on, bro.

  8. You say a couple of times that you now choose belief systems that work well for you. This might be nice, but it doesn’t make them real.

    My distaste for ignorance overrules any desire I have to believe in a friendly man in the clouds.

    If you get this far, I’d also like to say that while its good that you let your son believe anything he wants, its a bit hard when his father tells (unequivocally I assume) that god created him, and his cat is going to heaven.

  9. Scott,
    I was going to delete your comment, but I decided to approve it.

    I wanted leave it as further testimony to how far we have to go to create a tolerant society.

  10. Hi: I liked your comments. I was raised Episcopalian, and I don’t ever remember anyone getting too far entrenched in miracles, or phenomenology. The sermons were mostly geared toward things like work as hard as you can, don’t steal, the 10 commandments, treat each other well. My parents would laugh that the deacon was always drunk on Saturday and a corrupt lawyer. He also had affairs. I have been in different protestant sects. I couldn’t be a catholic because they’re too rigid and tell you what to do too much. As far as I’m concerned, Americans have a huge amount of freedom, and they must have some sense of morals and ethics because they obsess endlessly about the right and wrong. The legal system tests principles almost too much, flipping and flopping, interpreting, sometimes capriciously. The biggest fear I have is that the basic Protestantly enlightenment influenced bills of rights and constitution will be changed by people with more extreme religious beliefs than protestants. Protestantism stands for protest and leave people alone. I believe that anything that is more stringent that is imposed on americans will doom the system to failure.

  11. Hi, read this entry and the “10 things” one. Good stuff.

    I wanted to say that I find these sort of attacks on everyday religious thoughts overzealous and dangerous, on par with McCarthyism, Stalinism, and radical Islam. Radical atheists embarass and shame me as an agnostic, scientist, and humanist.

    How did you go from atheism to agnosticism to renewed belief anyway? Just curious, not going to start a debate or anything.

  12. Steve, like it or not, the beliefs you now claim to have are nothing more than new age beliefs. A hodgepodge of whatever you want to paste together that fits your comfort zone. I don’t mind having beliefs that require some effort and resolve. Every belief group has people that can make things miserable. It’s important to look past them and at the credo.

  13. I am gay. I am an Atheist. But most importantly I am a human being. Steve Olsen is a great philosophical writer, thinker, who actually cares about people. I will judge him by his ideas and values, not by what his religion is. If his ideas are in accordance with human nature, then he is right and everybody else is wrong. But nature or reality will be the final judge. Those who disagree may do so, and if they are wrong reality will correct them. But both parties will profit because we only learn by making mistakes and sharing our mistakes and experiences with others.

    Unfortunately, its this kind of reasoning and thinking that America lost long ago.

  14. Dear Steve,
    I am a Christian. I believe in a triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I do care about other people and salvation. If I did not care, I would simply skim over these writings and then move on without response. All this to say… Jesus loves you. He died for you on Calvary. God is faithful to us- it is this world who is not faithful to Him. I have had bad experiences with organized religion- as have other Chrisitan friends of mine. Please don’t give up. I do not know why I feel so strongly to share my thoughts with you- except to say that I feel the Spirit of the Lord is upon me. God bless you Steve! – Love in Christ, nichole

  15. Nichole is exactly right. I agree with her. Read my response to the post that brought about this topic about what was learned from children. Children are awesome and they can teach us great things about life!

    The thief on the cross next to Jesus believed and it was granted to him when Jesus told him that he’d be with him in paradise. The thief witnessed everything. He saw what Jesus went through. And he still believed that it was Jesus to die for his sins and to bring him into fellowship with God in heaven.

    It’s not all the religious acts and traditions that are going to grant us fellowship with Christ in heaven once our earthly lives are completed. We can be good people all we want or even act like we are good people, but that will not grant us the fellowship with Christ in heaven or even here on earth until our time of life is finished. It doesn’t matter if you are claiming to be part of a Christian Denomination (Pentecostal, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Baptist, etc. = denominations), because there are those religions that are not Christian, but it is trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, believing that upon death on the cross, he died for our sins, and when we believe in him, we will have eternal life because Jesus is no longer dead. But he ascended up to heaven after he rose from the dead, three days, as he and Hebrew prophets had wrote. He spent about 40 days or so with his disciples and then ascended to heaven at the right hand of God.

    Religion and Spirituality will not grant you passage to heaven. It’s simply taking up the attitude like that of a child and humbling yourself to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from the absence of the love of God in hell.

    So you ask, how does trusting in Jesus help us in our lives…? As he taught his disciples and those that heard, he told them that he must endure the cross because there would be a helper coming. Simply put, Jesus is speaking about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes into our hearts once we accept Christ as our Saviour and Lord and helps us live in accordance with how the scriptures teach us to live.

    Our churches are just buildings. Just buildings. The Church is the bride of Christ. The Church are those that pledge their allegiance to Christ and Christ alone. So when you go to church you are going to a building. Going to a building doesn’t make you anything except a goer. Originally the word Christian was a term to insult those that followed Christ. “-ian” is a suffix that means 1. Of, relating to, or resembling: Bostonian. 2. One relating to, belonging to, or resembling: academician. (The American Heritage On-line Dictionary) Put it all together and you get a person that relates to, resembles, belongs to Christ. Therefore: a Christian. So to conclude any misconception of what a Christian is there you go.

    I share my heart because I agree with Nichole. I’m giving my reasons and responses based on scriptural truth of events that truthfully happened that I believe in because I have faith in a man that died for our sins.

    Steve and all other readers, I hope that you will allow this short message of truth continue to encourage you to seek after the person that you were made to be in the image of God, in the image of Christ.

    Good day, randos

  16. Dear Steve,
    I am inspired by your words. For all 18 years of my existence, I was brought up Catholic. This past year, however, I started to question my faith. I knew I believed in God and Jesus, but I disagreed with many aspects of the Catholic church. In addition, I was moved by various aspects of other religions such as Buddhism. I felt ashamed that I had questioned the church, but something was not right, and I knew it.

    Your beliefs reiterate mine. I don’t believe there is a right religion. I think all denominations offer something valuable. People get so caught up in what their parents believed or what their parish tells them. I’m not saying following those beliefs is wrong, but following them without questioning is. I think people are so scared to question. An open mind has opened my heart, and has actually increased my spirituality.

    So thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I think kids out there need someone to tell them that there is not one right answer. Also, I think you would like the movie Saved! starring Mandy Moore. It comments on religion today and the misconceptions in society.


  17. Hi Steve

    I’m a Muslim woman but have been invested my whole life knowing more about God. Just like you, I take the good from all religions and consider myself to be a humanist. I find my life easier that I can worship in the Muslim faith, but also share many Sunday afternoons with the Hare Krishna. The music is beautiful, they are gentle souls, they have to chant the mantra 109 times using beans and they have to do sixteen rounds. I have also enjoyed my times with the born again Christians when they dance and clap hands. I try to live as much as I can trying to emulate my life or fashion it more after the behavior of Jesus and the Prophet Muhamad. I used to feel guilty being such an all rounder, but I truly believe in God. I am 6

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