Ecclesiastical Quotes According to an Ex-Believer

I used to attend church every Sunday but now I can’t remember the last time I set foot in a church or wanted to. When I was young you couldn’t keep me away from Sunday School or A.W.A.N.A.S or the various youth groups I frequented. I took time most mornings and throughout the day to pray and read the Bible and even requested a “Teen Life Bible” for my birthday one year.

If you are a true Christian and you love others and the world you believe God has given to you (or chosen to put you in) then I would love to speak with you and even participate in your fellowship and learn from how you personally live your life. I am interested in our differences but more in what makes us the same. If you are a person searching for answers then we will most likely get along.

The most important thing in life is LIFE not death. Christianity and most religions are concerned with what happens after we die but if you believe in God, trust that they know what they are doing! If you don’t then join me and search for meaning in your own life, in your own way. If a nameless deity somewhere out in the sky cares for us at all we will be forgiven… let us concern ourselves with our life-giving home, Earth and all her precious resources, most especially space, time and all of us.

Only humans can imagine the future! Naming and believing in an imaginary place can only increase the fear and dread of that idea. Live life and have a positive mindset towards death and perhaps you can “move on” or “move up” or go whatever direction you wish when that time comes!

The more you have the more you can lose. The more you learn, the more alienated you become. Animals live in the moment and have no concept of the future. They don’t get stressed or anxious about future events. Some people choose to praise God for their entire lives in case they might go to Hell but how can I condemn them if it is what makes them happy? I can’t and I won’t condemn those people if they exemplify their chosen religion (path) but if they are fair-weather and only in it for the protection and have no clue how to live a peaceful and fulfilling life without condemning others who are not like them then, I have to put my foot down!

I no longer use the Bible as a literal handbook for living but still find some passages poetic and useful. These verses can be found in the Book of Ecclesiastes:

1:4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

That means we are only here for a short time but the energy we are born of (whatever form it takes) will endure forever. This is comforting as is the idea that we all return to the place we came from (if rivers and rocks eventually do) and though we were born to toil and suffer with much knowledge also comes a sense of loss. The loss of innocence is one of the most critical themes in the Bible and it is only through knowledge that we shed ignorance and dawn enlightenment. For someone like me, the pursuit of an enlightened existence far outweighs the fear and torment of imagining myself or my loved ones in eternal damnation.

1:7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

Sounds like a very Buddhist way of thinking. We all return to the “river” into a collective consciousness, the Earth regenerates itself (reincarnation at some level) and the world seems to work seamlessly because of the well designed life cycle (this includes water, trees, animals and humans!)

1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

This could evoke passivity and futility but I find comfort in the fact that there is no pressure to be new or perfect or different, however life came about and began to sprout, it has been doing it for so long and will continue long after our individual lives blink out of existence.

1:13-15 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

It is our life’s job to search out wisdom and it is the only way we learn. We gather useful items and ideas and this is how things are meant to be. It doesn’t seem to matter what is done because the nature of things is set and life can never be satisfying. “Wanting cannot be numbered” and wanting is one area that Eastern religions and philosophies warn against. It is silly to want more than one person could realistically use and there is no use working overly hard to attain. All things will someday pass away, even our rapidly firing minds.

1:17-18 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

There may be pain in wisdom but as another very good book put it: “Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.” It separates us from other lifeforms because we have music, art, religion, science. We have an urge to understand how things are put together and work. I have given my heart to both madness and folly and though everything seems meaningless at times I feel growth is necessary to life, even when that growth can be painful. Ignorance is always associated with bliss but there is also satisfaction in the intricate details of life, science and literature that I would be lost without having learned. Perhaps some of God’s creatures are simply doomed to lives of unfulfilled longing. I long for knowledge and connection and a connection that can expand and reenforce the knowledge I have acquired. Then again most connections simply wither away, afraid to confront the major questions, afraid of offending another fellow sufferer.

3:1-2 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…

This one is quoted constantly. I like to plant things not just to reap the benefits but because I enjoy the process of growth. Growth inevitably leads to death and more sadness and unsure feelings but as this verse confesses, those things must happen in order for life to perpetuate onward.

6:1-2 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.

This one is just interesting to me and it talks briefly of celebrity and vanity. It is the classic example of not being able to benefit from your own works and knowledge… an age old problem and one that will not likely be leaving anytime soon. I think the main point is to not look to others no matter how successful they seem in life because the important task is to learn and find your own path. It is more rewarding that way and you are less likely to fall victim to a salesman in the robes of a saint.

10:2 A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.

I love that last one because I am left-handed and a bit of a fool at times… overall I  like the imagery of rebirth in this book and the idea of triviality in existence. I will probably never stop seeking wisdom in one form or another but this is a part of my religious teachings that I can still agree with mostly and build upon. I only had an issue with a church that limited the scope of your own experience and knowledge because if there is truly a God they most certainly would not have put you in a place as wondrous as the universe if they didn’t want you to explore!

Wikipedia refers to Ecclesiastes as the “Book of the Teacher” and describes the book as such:

The main speaker in the book, identified by the name or title Qoheleth (usually translated as “teacher” or “preacher”), introduces himself as “son of David, king in Jerusalem.” The work consists of personal or autobiographic matter, at times expressed in aphorisms and maxims illuminated in terse paragraphs with reflections on the meaning of life and the best way of life. The work emphatically proclaims all the actions of man to be inherently “vain”, “futile”, “empty”, “meaningless”, “temporary”, “transitory”, “fleeting, or “mere breath”, depending on translation, as the lives of both wise and foolish men end in death. While Qoheleth clearly endorses wisdom as a means for a well-lived earthly life, he is unable to ascribe eternal meaning to it. In light of this perceived senselessness, he suggests that one should enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life, such as eating, drinking, and taking enjoyment in one’s work, which are gifts from the hand of God.

I used to be a Baptist. I still write about my religious experiences because they were a huge part of my life growing up. I have since changed my perception and made up my own mind about certain issues. If you are interested in creative writing that deals with my religious past read Nothing New Under the Strange Sun.

I began catching the bus to the Waterloo Baptist Temple with friends and almost considered getting a religious education at a local Baptist high school. I attended several leadership conferences that revolved around faith and at one time thought I wanted to attend a Christian college. Through reading my “testimonials” you will discover why I “went searching” for more in my life and how I stopped seeking God’s will and approval for every arbitrary situation. I will add updates to this page as I make them and check out the religion category for future additions!

What was your favorite quote in the book of Ecclesiastes? What do you think the quote or overall book means? Are you a person of faith, a life-long non-believer or, like me, do you fall somewhere in the middle?

I would love to know your beliefs and how you came to acquire and/or test them!

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