Mysticism, Kink, and the Terror of Transcendence

Last week’s article “Mysticism Is Like Sex” argued that self-transcendent experiences are comparable to sex in that they are both hardwired into the human body. They don’t necessarily need to be attached to religious beliefs to be enjoyed and experienced.

As I explored in the article, my fascination with altered states of consciousness started when I was young. I was raised in a Charismatic Christian family that regularly spoke in tongues, and this revealed to me that interesting states of mind were always just around the corner. This provoked a lot of feedback from my audience on my discord server, and a number of people shared their own experiences with speaking in tongues.

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Mysticism Is Like Sex

Mysticism is like sex. Let me explain.

I don’t believe in god or gods. I have no belief in an afterlife or supernatural beings. I’m not saying that they don’t exist. I’m open to being wrong. I just have an absence of belief in them. I’m what could be described as a “soft atheist”.

And yet, I also have a lifelong fascination with altered states of consciousness and the experience and practice of mystical self-transcendence. This fascination started when I was a child growing up in a charismatic family.

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The Motte and Bailey of Christian Belief

I remain connected to the Christian world, even though I’m not a Christian. This is because I value friendship, and I don’t want to cut ties with people who are very dear to me. While having conversations about faith with Christians, though, I’ve noticed a trend that annoys me.

Christians will often make strong, extraordinary, and hard-to-defend claims about the world. But when pressed on these claims, they often retreat to more philosophical, vague, and easier-to-defend claims. This tactic is called the Motte and Bailey. When the Bailey is under attack, they retreat to the Motte.

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The Bound and the Unbound: Religion and Transcendence

I recently listened to a fascinating conversation between the Catholic writer Arthur Brooks and the atheist Sam Harris about the role of spirituality and religion in a healthy life. You will need to get a subscription to either the Waking Up app or to Harris’s private feed to listen to the section in question. I leave your support of Harris up to your own discretion.

For the time being, let’s set aside the political and ideological differences I have with both these men. I’d like to focus on a fascinating difference between Brooks and Harris. 

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Sacredness in a Godless World

Theists often struggle to understand how I can maintain a deep sense of sacred awe without believing in the supernatural. They seem to assume that a life without God is a dry, artless, wonderless existence. As I discussed with Matt Langston in a recent episode of Sacred Tension, my personal experience is much the opposite. I feel like nontheism has ripped away the veil between me and the fundamental mysteries of reality. The utter inexplicability of being, without a God to rely on as an answer, is the most sacred and mysterious thing I have ever experienced.

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An Inter-religious Dialogue Between an Evangelical and a Satanist

I recently had the pleasure of engaging in a public inter-religious dialogue with the Evangelical John Morehead. While the video is primarily geared towards Evangelicals and helping them overcome stereotypes of religious minorities, I also thought the video would be interesting to my fellow Satanists.

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