Posts Tagged “Personal”
Last week, I went to a concert for the first time in nearly a year. Indoors, no less, and with masks. And in 2019 that wouldn’t have been a significant event, but coming now it got me thinking about hope.
Near the end of March last year, as I was walking near my house, I saw a small, blue teddy bear hanging by a peg from a log. At the time I wasn’t to know it was part of the Bear Hunt movement, intended to entertain children with school closures and lockdown approaching. Nor did I know that I would end up visiting Bear Hunts in all weather and taking hundreds of photos of a wide variety of soft toys.
With the Covid-19 pandemic changing the world, it was only a few months in to 2020 that people were calling it the worst year ever. By the middle of 2020, this meant some writing off the year, then acting as if everything would be magically back to normal in 2021.
Well, as I write this, it’s 2021 here in Australia, and if anything the situation looks worse than it did a week ago. So I wanted to share a carol I wrote for 2020 (with apologies to Christmas).
This year I’ve been reflecting on how much I changed in the 2010s. Some of the changes could probably have been expected given my age and stage of life, but leaving religion in particular wasn’t expected by me or by those around me.
It now makes me wonder how many others there are like former-me: People who are young, indoctrinated, dedicated to their religion. Maybe they’re already facing doubts, or maybe they will in the next five or ten years. Maybe they’re already thinking of quitting, or maybe they just view the doubts as things to be conquered.
If I were going back in time, what might I say to former-me? And if anyone feeling these things happens to be reading this post, what might I want them to be aware of?
As I look back on the 2010s, I see a decade where I became increasingly independent: Moving out of the family home, working, travelling, making my own choices, owning my own ideas and values.
That independence then led me to places and ideas that I would never have expected at the start of the decade, even to independence from the religion that had once defined me.
It was probably five years ago that a friend visited our near neighbour, New Zealand. Coming back, they talked about the beauty of the glaciers, and said I should see them while I could.
That was part of what drew me to add Switzerland to a UK trip in 2016. And it was also part of what convinced me to make New Zealand South Island my next overseas trip. It certainly didn’t disappoint.
In my last post, I talked about how an Edinburgh Fringe event changed my view of Leaf by Niggle. As a story, it relied on the eternal life I had rejected, and left me feeling that I really didn’t know what came next.
However, the next day I flew to Switzerland for a short visit, and I was looking forward to discovering a little of the Alps. Little did I know that that visit would give me a new insight into Leaf by Niggle and into J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It would also do a lot to ease the ache of loss of eternal life.
Leaf by Niggle is probably the J.R.R. Tolkien short story that I have read or listened to the most. My view of it has changed over the years, most significantly shortly after deconverting when I realised my vision was fundamentally different from Tolkien’s. But I continue to love it and it continues to influence me.
C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series was an important part of my childhood. Not only did I read the books a number of times, but we also had BBC dramatisations of them that were frequently played.
I think The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was probably my favourite, with its tales of travel, but one particular section of The Last Battle had a much larger impact on me. In fact, arguably it affected my view of the afterlife more than the Bible itself, and the effect of that endures today, years after I rejected the Christadelphian “kingdom”.
I’m not sure that I saw a single sunrise in 2019. However, I tried to make up for it in sunsets, and wanted to share some of my favourite sunset photos.
A few years back, after Harry Potter 20th anniversary celebrations, I wrote about how fiction can be life changing. This is true in general, but there are particular stories that I strongly remember affecting my view of the world, sometimes in ways that I doubt the author intended.
It’s fair to say that 2020 hasn’t gone as I planned. And sometimes it’s tempting to just write it off and forget about it. But as the halfway mark slipped past, I started to consider what I really want to achieve this year and how I want to be able to remember it.
It is said that our Northern Hemisphere ancestors were familiar only with white swans. When they sat round the fire talking about the swans they had seen, there was no need to specify the colour: The mere concept of a black swan was absurd.
However, sometimes these things are a matter of perspective. I happen to come from a land Down Under where Christmas is in summer, where mothers hop around with their young in a pouch, where spiny mammals lay eggs, and where the swans are most distinctly black. And so it was many years before I first saw a white swan.
In popular culture, the rainbow flag has come to symbolise the LGBT movement, and I’ve heard relatives complaining this interferes with the “real meaning” of the rainbow. Some conservative Christians have called it “cultural appropriation”, while others have tried to “reclaim” it. However, the rainbow has been used for many things over many years and belongs to all humans, not just to Christians.
Covid-19 has completely changed our world, and we don’t know how long the disruptions will last or what will come next. When people talk about living during a “historic moment”, this is what they’re talking about.
So I wanted to record some of my personal impressions, starting from the time when the novel coronavirus felt like a distant problem affecting other people, not something which would change my life.
Like the rest of the world, what I’ve been writing about has changed as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. But I didn’t expect that would mean writing in defence of my favourite bat colony.
Melbourne is privileged to have a colony of flying foxes in a park by the Yarra close to the city. However, some residents have been worried by the risk of disease, so their MP has called for the colony to be moved on or culled. I don’t think anything is likely to come of it, but I still have strong feelings about it.
After recovering from a flu-like disease, I felt in need of a longer walk. I was also curious to find out whether people were out hiking and how they well they were following Covid-19 inspired social distancing rules.
Since I knew kangaroos were much more sociable than wallabies, I thought it would be fun to try and get some illustrative pictures. Thus was born the first version of this guide, which I’ve expanded in the last week.
The current Covid-19 epidemic is changing the world. Many places, including Victoria, are discouraging non-essential travel and going into increasingly strict lock-downs. Here’s my personal perspective on where hiking fits in to this.
In the Gregorian Calendar, today is February 29, a Leap Day. It only comes once every four years.
You’ll never believe what it tells us about God!
In the early 2010s, I’m sure my fellow Christadelphians saw in me growing knowledge and ability and a continued commitment to God. They must have thought that I was set for life, and was becoming the spiritual leader I was always meant to be.
And yet, this was the decade I outgrew my faith. My path was only leading in one direction, and that direction was away from religion.
Where did this disconnect come from? How could so many people be so wrong?
As I look back on the 2010s, I get a better perspective on how my deconversion worked and how much changed. Where my 2019 review will probably end up “2019 was a lot like 2018, but still different”, the difference for me between January 2010 and December 2019 is night and day.
At the start of the decade, I was preparing to speak at a Bible software development conference, and my commitment to my childhood religion was unquestioned by all, including me. By the end of the decade I had spent more than a third of it as a self-identified atheist, had started a blog where I wrote critically and at length about religion, was involved in several strongly anti-theistic communities, and was about as certain as I could be that I was never going back.
Last week, I went along to a local church’s Christmas play. Usually, it’s just a bit of fun for the children. I expected to hear claims about the True Meaning of Christmas, and was not disappointed (my take).
However, this time the superlatives were out. The Christmas story was “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. Baby Jesus was “The Greatest Gift Ever Given”. And this was all completely free, with no strings attached.
In October, I wrote about why I didn’t want to do NaBloPoMo. However, I also set a goal for November: To publish at least five blog posts, and if possible to complete a short story I first drafted in March.
In the lead up to the Brexit referendum, several Christian groups claimed that the Bible predicted a Leave vote, including many Christadelphians. When the Leave vote succeeded, they were quick to claim this trivial prediction as a stunning validation of the complete Bible message and a sign of impending Armageddon. However, while Brexit still seems likely to happen in some form, this year has seen it throw the UK parliamentary process into chaos, with no clear end in sight.
While I don’t think scripture makes any statement on Brexit, I do think this saga has some important lessons about Bible prophecy interpretation that stretch far beyond Brexit. It’s all here: A crystal-ball gazing seer, Armageddon, even a reference to my favourite fiction from last year. Some of it is mocking, but I don’t apologise - if Christadelphians didn’t want that, they should have chosen something better than Brexit to nail their colours to the mast over.
Almost exactly halfway along the Pennine Way is a natural limestone bridge called “God’s Bridge”. This name makes me think about how much the gods have retreated as we discovered the things attributed to them actually have natural causes. And how much better we are to rely on ourselves than on the gods.
Four years ago, I was considering thru-hiking the Pennine Way. There was just one snag - the Pennine Way was supposed to be one of the toughest long distance walks around, and, though I’d done 30+ km day hikes, I’d never done a single overnight hike.
I decided I needed a trial run, and did a 60km, 4 day hike in Wilson’s Prom. This is the story of how a fairly disastrous first foray unexpectedly laid the groundwork for a successful Pennine Way trek.
In my previous post, I discussed a couple of childhood experiences that gave me a fear of volcanoes.
However, that changed in 2014 when I visited Yellowstone and the nearby Craters of the Moon: Suddenly, I discovered that volcanic action could be more beautiful than dangerous.
Have you ever been scared that a volcano might grow in your backyard?
As a child, I was - and I think that experience shows interesting things about childhood and about newsworthiness in general.
Another day, another weird but possibly catchy abbreviation. Earlier this week I wrote about NaNoWriMo, today it’s time to talk about the blogger response: NaBloPoMo!
With November approaching, this is the time of year I start to think about NaNoWriMo. Over the years I’ve had various family members and friends doing it, and some of them have told me I should too. However, I remain almost as hesitant this year as I have been in previous years.
Recently, I saw a touring tattoo exhibition at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum. Most of the tattoos shown were beautiful full-body tattoos, particularly the Japanese ones. However, the exhibition also reminded me how much my life has changed since leaving religion.
One of the dubious benefits of having been a lay preacher for over ten years is that Bible passages often remind me of talks I built on those passages. Recently, this happened with Ezekiel’s vision of God leaving his temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8 - 11).
Five years ago, I used that as the starting point for my “Dies Irae” exhortation. Ironically, I sub-titled it “Finding our Blind Spots”, but I now see that it was I who had the blind spot: The passage clearly showed the unpleasant behaviour of the God of the Bible, and I was so busy trying to find what we might have done wrong that I just couldn’t see it.
Last week, I was at the Web Directions Code conference for work. One of the keynote talks was on “The Evolution of Web Browsers”. And it reminded me how much technology has changed in my lifetime, and how many things I didn’t grow up with which I now take for granted.
So here are some of my experiences with changing technology, both hardware and software. Many will recognise some of these experiences, but the combination is probably unique to me, influenced by when I was born, the family I grew up in, the schools and university I went to, and the places I’ve worked.
Last post, I asked whether my deconversion was inevitable, and decided that it felt pretty inevitable. However, obviously some people do hang onto their faith much longer than me, and I don’t think they’re being dishonest or stupid.
After quitting, I heard some suggestions from believers of things that might have kept me in the faith. There have also been some things I’ve seen in others that I’ve wondered whether they might have made a difference to me.
This year, I’ve been wondering whether my quitting was really as inevitable as it now seems. I’m sure to my fellow believers it was completely unexpected for an apparently committed believer to quit out of the blue. To me, looking back from outside the bubble, it just seems like an obvious progression from indoctrination to reality. But could a few changes in my life have affected the outcome? Or was someone like me always going to quit?
Yesterday, I wrote about why you should trust my interpretation of the Bible. But I’m sure it wouldn’t be complete without listing some reasons, both good and bad, why you should take my Bible interpretations with a grain of salt.
On this blog and elsewhere, I’ve written articles involving detailed and systematic interpretation of the Bible, most recently in a long series about how Christianity appropriated Judaism. I’m a former Bible student, but there are a multitude of interpreters of the Bible on the web, with perhaps nearly as many interpretations as interpreters. So it’s a reasonable question to ask: What makes my interpretation worth considering?
Overall, 2018 was a good year for me. Some things have changed, while lots of things have stayed the same. There were frequent hikes, frequent online discussions of religion and culture, frequent quests for knowledge keeping me up to ridiculously late hours, and lots of music and reading.
I said at the start of 2018 I wanted to share more photos, and then didn’t. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a few of the nearly 10,000 photos I took.
As discussed in my previous post, the role of Israel today was one area where I came to different conclusions from many Christadelphians. This led me to accept the much-vilified “replacement theology”.
Many Christian denominations encourage children to make a commitment to Christianity before they are old enough to make an informed decision. This is then supposed to create a binding and unbreakable commitment to Jesus and often to your particular denomination, with the threat of specially severe future judgement if you ever walk away from it.
I’ve spent most of my life in Australia, it is my home, and I’m proud of it. But there are many parts of it that I’ve never been to, and many iconic experiences that I’ve never had.
So the question becomes: How well do I need to know my country anyway?
Two years ago, I gave my final exhortation at my home ecclesia, and last year I wrote about the experience. This year I’d like to talk about an interesting fact I noticed that I wasn’t comfortable sharing with the congregation.
I have been asked by a number of Christadelphians whether I will ever return. Depending on how the question is asked, my answers have ranged from “I don’t see any path back” to “I don’t rule it out”. But I think it very unlikely that I will ever return to being a Christadelphian. Here’s why.
2017 has been an interesting year, mostly continuing on with life changes I began after leaving religion and particularly after returning home from a long trip to the UK. I started a blog, did plenty of hiking, and continued to discover how well these two fit together. Compared to 2016, I’ve stayed much closer to home, but have still found plenty of boundaries to push.
Last year, the common wisdom was that 2016 had been a terrible year, with one major factor being the deaths of various celebrities. Earlier this year, I discussed this in connection with long-dead celebrities, suggesting that we had forgotten how much life expectancy has improved in modern times. But my first thought was “2016 has to have been a lot better than 1916”.
When I was younger, a hike was a major endeavour. Usually, we were somewhere far away from Melbourne, exploring a place that was different from our usual environment.
While I appreciate long and difficult hikes in different parts of the world, I’ve also come to appreciate the beauty in everyday walks and in places closer to home. And I’m sure that there are many who could likewise benefit from short breaks spent walking.
Here in Australia, it’s Christmas time. The houses sport Christmas lights, the streets have Christmas decorations, and the shops are filled with busy shoppers buying gifts or completing their Christmas preparations.
But, in among the many Christmas traditions, one religion claims to have the true meaning of Christmas: A true meaning that has little to do with all the bustle and confusion. In past years, I made this claim myself. But how does it measure up?
On the surface, hiking and blogging seem like complete opposites: one involves wandering the big outdoors, while the other involves sitting in front of a computer for far too many hours trying to wrangle my thoughts into a form others might understand. However, while I do far more hiking than I ever write about here, it is a fundamental part of my blogging process.
I’ve described how my search for certainty about the existence of God led me away from traditional apologetics to atheism, most recently when talking about the three gaps theory.
However, there was a time when I actively preferred faith to evidence or argument, because it told me so much more about God. At that time you could reasonably have called me a fundamentalist Bible basher, and yet I already knew many of the nuances that would later lead me away from faith.
Ten years ago today, our third year software engineering team did our final presentation. Since then, I have done many presentations with a variety of visual aids, but that presentation remains my favourite visual aid.
Many Christians say that the worst thing you can do when encountering difficulties is to stop attending church and cut yourself off from the community. And there is probably some sense to it: you don’t want to give up at the first hurdle.
But this philosophy kept me bogged in damaging doubts for years. My whole foundation had crumbled, and nothing made sense any more. I was still attending, but my doubts were so strong that no message in the church had the power to move me. Any weak arguments would remind me of the problems I saw and drive me further away.
Eventually it became clear to me that hanging on was useless as it couldn’t return me to faith. A sense of community was no substitute for truth, and I needed to leave to be true to myself.
When I put my “tourist” hat on, I become a different person. Untied by work or family obligations, with personal life largely on hold, I am free to search out the best experiences. For others, a holiday may be relaxing - for me it is a full-time occupation (though sometimes relaxing too!)
When I return home, I resume normal life with its obligations, and also with the laziness that makes it much easier to sit in my house talking to my computer all weekend than getting out and doing something. This frustrates me, because I know there are plenty of fascinating places in Melbourne that I’ve never visited. I’m sure if I were a tourist I would spend more time seeking out those places.
A year ago, I returned from three months spent in the UK and Switzerland - long enough to make me pine for gum trees. When I got back, I made a commitment that I would try to bring a little more of that tourist spirit into my day-to-day life. It’s not the first time I’ve made that particular commitment, but this time I actually took steps to make it happen.
Last weekend, I attended a Harry Potter Day at Federation Square, organised as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival. It celebrated 20 years since the initial publication of the Philosopher’s Stone, and considered how much the series had changed the world. Many of those there were not even born when the books were first published, and yet current evidence suggests they are now ardent fans. There were costumes galore, wands, and a general buzz of excitement.
Fiction changes lives.
On this day last year, I wrote a formal resignation letter, bringing an end to 14.5 years as an officially baptised Christadelphian member, and even longer as part of the Christadelphian community. Tonight I’ve been trying once again to get a feel for what the whole process meant to me.
I have much to say, but it’s late and I can’t get control of it now. So for now just a brief response (well, brief for me). Past history suggests I may come back to this at great length, or I may never get to it.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about my experience speaking at BibleTech in 2010. One of the biggest problems I had was trying to cover too much. In my talk I spoke about Bible software and usability: Why we should care about personal notes and why Bible software couldn’t just replace paper.
What I want to discuss in this post is my own personal vision: What I had already implemented in BPBible, and what my future plans were. Though it was meant to be an important part of my talk, none of it ended up covered at BibleTech.
From mid-2012 to mid-2016 I was the editor of Salt Cellar: a magazine for Christadelphian young people in Melbourne. One year ago today, I produced my final Salt Cellar and wrote my final editorial. It contained an important message about seeking out truth, though that message was concealed behind scriptural wording. Now I can reveal the real message behind the editorial.
In my last post, I mentioned that I spoke at BibleTech:2010 about user annotations in Bible software. In this post, I want to talk about why I felt support for personal notes was important, and why it wasn’t enough to just use someone else’s notes.
Anniversaries have helped me reflect on what my religion meant to me, and today marks a significant anniversary. Seven years ago I spoke at BibleTech:2010 on “Improving User Annotations in Bible Software”. Let me tell you a little about it.
One year ago today, I gave my last exhortation at my home ecclesia (and it had nothing to do with Valentine’s Day…). Now that time seems a world away, but here are some reflections on that exhortation:
How I could give an exhortation at all while very near to quitting.
Reflections on the importance of careful and accurate Biblical exposition, a puzzling Bible contradiction, a failed Psalm, Biblical propaganda, generational change in Melbourne Christadelphia, and fighting the long defeat.
In my last post, I talked of things that I had seen hiking, and of the confidence shown by children who had written letters to Winnie-the-Pooh or to the fairies. This post is a little more serious, since I’ve been sidetracked onto an important theme: the importance and power of fiction in real life. With the power of the Internet and social media there are fan clubs everywhere, and sometimes it is hard to draw the boundary between the fictional groups and “real life”. I’ve stuck to a couple of examples following the “letters” theme and a personal example, but it’s really just scratching the surface.
For many years I have relied on electronic maps to help me understand the world, to discover new places to visit, and to find my way around. One stereotype of today’s generation is that we just use a satnav to get from A to B and accept whatever it gives us without really understanding where we are going. But that is not my experience.
Well, it’s come to that point again: the arbitrary point at which we say an old year has finished, and a new year has begun. It’s neither the start of summer in the southern hemisphere, nor the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere. But it does get me a public holiday tomorrow as part of a full week break from work, so I guess I’m not complaining.
Every year is a new adventure and a step into the unknown. For me, though, 2016 was less of a step and more of a leap into a completely different world. So here are some thoughts on what the year meant to me.
If you don’t know me, I’m Jon Morgan, a software developer based in Melbourne. One of my interests is trying to understand the world around me, and then to share what I have learnt. I want this blog to be a place to discuss ideas, and hope you can join the discussion.