My real name is not John Cross. It is something else, which I do not reveal, because I work as a musician at a Christian church and also have several close Christian family members, friends, and acquaintances who strongly believe in the traditional notion of God, the “spiritual,” the afterlife, the “supernatural” and so forth. While I respect their right to believe as they do, I do not share their beliefs and nor do I generally feel comfortable sharing my views with them. This can sometimes make things awkward, frustrating, and lonely for me, and especially during some religious or “moral” discussions with them in which it takes a good deal of tact, patience, and self-control to navigate such conversations in a way which allow me to both preserve my integrity with how I see reality while not insulting them or rejecting their views outright at the same time. I am not always successful in doing this, as it is quite difficult, and for the most part, I do not overtly share my views with almost anyone. I guess you could essentially call me a “closet non-Christian.”
Working for a Christian church as a musician in which nothing but Christian music is sang and played brings unique challenges to my life as one could imagine given my point of view. I sometimes feel hypocritical allowing others such as my family, some of my church friends and acquaintances to believe I am still a Christian while no longer actually being one in reality. This was definitely not by design. There was a time from around 2010 through 2011 when I gave one last honest attempt at being a Christian. I read the Bible intently, tried to understand and properly interpret scripture, listened with great interest to several sermons, and prayed consistently and with great passion. After I found myself becoming a bit judgmental and concerned about converting the “lost souls” of those who did not “believe,” a part of me began to feel uncomfortable with this insecurity and self-righteousness within myself. I decided to take a step back and take another good hard look at the Christian faith rationally and logically. Shortly after I began to do this around the beginning of 2012, not long after I began work on “The Mystical Voice,” I realized I could no longer deny the endless contradictions and double-standards inherent in the Christian faith and indeed in all theistic religions which purport the existence of the “supernatural.” Once I realized belief in God and the supernatural is the exact same contradiction as believing in “round squares,” I knew I could no longer deny the painfully obvious. I realized in my newfound awareness I could not and would not ever again be able to be a Christian while maintaining intellectual honesty and integrity at the same time. I knew doublethink was the only way I could remain a Christian while also possessing the knowledge and awareness I had gained and continue to gain through critical thinking and rational analysis. I also realized, after coming to understand the myriad problems with the idea of an “historical Jesus” as I explored in “Caesar’s Messiah” and “The Christ Myth,” I was unable to look at a factual living Jesus as described in the Gospels as a reasonably viable possibility given the incredible lack of any material evidence during his supposed lifetime, combined with far more plausible explanations for the Jesus story and the origins of Christianity. The sum total of all of these realizations made ending my commitment to being a Christian and opting instead to look at life openly and honestly as a freethinker a relatively easy choice, and from my perspective did not actually feel like a “choice” at all.
When I began to move away from being a “believer” to a “non-believer,” opting instead to seek Truth independently from any religious dogma, I believed at that time announcing this “de-conversion” from Christianity would not be well received by my Christian family, friends, and acquaintances, and especially not the pastor at the church where I work, whom I knew had a history of firing a non-believing musician in the past. I therefore decided to keep quiet about my inward de-conversion from Christianity so I could still keep the valuable relationships I had made at the church, not to mention my job there, while seeking Truth independently of church dogma at the same time. What I find fascinating and quite telling is that in spite of my inward “de-conversion” from Christianity, I am continually told by church members what a generous, “Godly” and “Christian” man I am. I take that as a compliment because I know within the context of their understanding of these words, they see me as a “good” man of integrity. I think this goes to prove the fact one need not be a “Christian” to be a loving, caring, and compassionate person who is considerate of others, is not consumed with greed and selfishness, and has a “moral compass.” It is often implied or explicitly stated by some Christians that a person cannot truly have these attributes or be a “Godly” person without being a Christian – as if Christianity has a monopoly on all which is good, honest, compassionate, and loving. My experience shows otherwise. It is in being an open, self-honest, and aware person, and not an ignorant one that makes all the difference – not whether or not one is a Christian.
I was raised Catholic, and my faith has gone through several transformations throughout the course of my life from intense religious faith to great skepticism. I used to weep over the passion scenes in the film “Jesus of Nazareth,” and also the brutally graphic depictions of Jesus’ suffering in Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ.” I was a huge fan of Jesus, believing the stories which were taught to me in CCD class as a young Catholic were literally, factually correct. At the same time, while my heartstrings have always been vulnerable to emotionally charged stories and depictions, I had my critical-thinking, abstract mind tugging away at my heartstrings when I was in college while taking a class called “Belief and Unbelief,” beckoning me as it were, for the very first time, to seriously listen not only to my heart and what I wanted to believe was true, but to reason and logic, which has the advantage of allowing us to at least for a time, separate ourselves from emotional influence which can cloud our judgment. Emotions, while not “good” or “bad,” can be too easily used as an escape to avoid reality, honesty, and responsibility. It is too easy to lie to ourselves by giving in to what our egos want to believe.
I was amazed and bewildered as it was related to me by two church members independently; how the pastor at the church where I work once fell to the floor and wept during a church council meeting, bemoaning it was “demonic forces” which were responsible for what members were saying in calling him out on his less than stellar behavior. Emotionally charged outbursts like this, just like the dramas we perpetuate, and shockingly brutal portrayals in pieces of propaganda like Gibson’s “Passion,” are nothing more than clever distractions created to help us avoid responsibility and facing the truth. When we find ourselves cornered in the undeniable awareness of the contradictions and double-standards of our faith we can no longer rationalize, or any other non-truth we wish to defend, we often tend to resort to childish emotional outbursts and rantings – all evidence of our inherent awareness of the fictions we defend out of egotistical self-preservation.
“The Mystical Voice” is my “safe-haven,” my “parachute,” the place where I can express my views and explorations freely and independently without judgment for myself and concern of hurting others. It may be that “honesty is the best policy,” but if we call “honesty” sharing all of our points of view, regardless of whom we are speaking to, how “honest” can we really be when our view of Reality goes against that of virtually everyone we know and love? How can we truthfully, honestly reveal our views of Reality when we know they will not be understood, that they will likely threaten or hurt our loved ones, possibly cost us our jobs and/or relationships, and when we know that seeing Truth is not about convincing nor “converting” anyone? To do so would be to take the war-mongering fundamentalist route. There is no value in “conversion,” because it is just a softer word for coercion. We only see Truth when we see it for ourselves, not because we are taught, told, or coerced into believing something.
While these questions, conflicts, and rationalizations were swimming around inside my head for the past several months especially, I experienced a growing sense of discomfort in my hypocrisy by appearing to be one thing to my Christian friends while actually being another. While I was honest with myself about deciding to withhold the fact of my de-conversion, and rationalized it with my fear of being found out and possibly being judged by others or them attempting to “save” or “convert” me, I came to realize I had not been honest with myself about my inability to indefinitely lie to my closest Christian friends about something I felt so strongly about. I thought I was being entirely honest with myself, when in reality I was not. During one conversation with my very best and closest Christian friend, I finally revealed to them where I stand on the God question. It was not easy to do this, since I knew my silence on this matter was a betrayal of trust and was dishonest. While I was afraid they would be upset with my point of view, in reality, they were more hurt because I had not come to them initially when I had my questions. It was the dishonesty more than where I stood that was the issue. To be honest, I really didn’t have “faith” they actually felt this way. I went on to also tell their spouse, as these two are my closest and most trusted Christian friends I have. I love them both dearly. I will tell two of my other trusted Christian friends, and even just shared my doubts and concerns with the pastor, whom I never thought I would share this with for fear of getting fired as I said before. But as with my friends, my conscience somehow knew deep down if I wanted to set myself free, I had to level with those with whom I worked and lived so much of my life. I was quite amazed after speaking with him there was no condemnation and in fact he only said his relationship with me has not changed at all – if anything it only helped him be a better person in how to relate to me and how to perhaps better assist me.
Neither the pastor nor my two closest Christian friends responded to my words as I had expected, nor did they try to “save” me or convert me to their beliefs. It was then I realized I had judged them all unfairly, and felt badly in having done so. It was a remarkably humbling lesson for me in trust, judging others, and “faith” if you will, ironically enough. I apologized for my deception to my friends and the pastor, and also explained the reasons why I felt I had to keep this to myself. The problem was my friends could feel my inner conflict and knew something was wrong without knowing exactly what it was, and this was causing them to have anxiety out of their genuine love, care, and concern for me. When they told me this, I then realized as long as I am in close relationship with another, I cannot hide the most important elements of my being from them and pretend my troubles do not affect them. Whether I was afraid or not, I feel the undeniably Truthful thing to do would have been to share it. There will no doubt be further fallout from this revelation, and whatever that fallout brings I will have to own the fact I brought this on myself. Nevertheless, I feel glad to still have my friends’ loving friendship and feel a sense of relief at the same time. Keeping things held inside – especially from your closest friends can be a great burden – one I humbly came to realize I could not bear. That being said, I have still not told my
Christian friends and acquaintances about “The Mystical Voice.” Since it is in a sense a journal, I do not feel obligated to reveal all of the details of my thoughts to them any more than I would give them unlimited access to my personal journals. That is why I still write as John Cross on this site. It is enough they know where I stand as a questioning individual, but my goal is not to “convert” them either. It is to have a measure of integrity with them about the truth of who I essentially am.
All of this has been a revelation for me because I now find myself at yet another turning point in my life in which I have to look openly at everything again, and perhaps at the very least, simply accept Life “just is” without needing to have an “answer” for it. I have a hunch the most honest “answer” I can give is the one I found to be true while writing my post, “The Principles of Oneness” – that both atheists and theists are incorrect in their assumptions of having an “answer” because ultimately there is no answer for “why” because the “why” of All is ultimately unknowable. I can only say all is One, with the two principles of stasis and change. As for all of the intricate and complicated ways things occur and evolve, moments of serendipity and spontaneous understanding, I do not have an answer for them, and nor do I feel I have to have an “answer” whether I say it is God, Allah, or natural forces. All simply IS. I can live with not having an answer.
I do not like to call myself an “atheist,” because I am actually neither a theist nor an atheist, but a seeker of truth based on evidence, sound reasoning, critical thinking, abstract logical thought, and most importantly, an inherent awareness that Truth is ultimately not dualistic, but One. While facts matter in the honest pursuit of Truth, fact is not necessarily Truth, and Truth is not necessarily fact. I prefer to look at the Truth behind the facts – such as the fact that while the resurrection story of Christ may not be factual, it is “true” in what it can represent – a truthful metaphor for how we too in our lives can be “dead and buried,” only to “rise again” after overcoming trials in our lives. Most of us know what it means to be “dead” at some point in our lives only to find ourselves “alive again,” “resurrected” as it were.
While an atheist will typically say the story of Christ’s resurrection is not true, I would argue it is a True story, but not a factually correct story. It is the awareness of the difference between fact and Truth that separate the atheist and theist from the “mystic,” or one who perceives “The Oneness of All.” The atheist and theist still operate within the illusory, dualistic game, believing dualism to be ultimate Reality. For the atheist, this is blatantly evident in their beliefs in the concepts of self and other, as well as the all-or-nothing notion that Biblical scripture must be either entirely true or entirely false, without perceiving the Truth behind stories which may not necessarily be factual. For the theist, their belief in dualism as ultimate Reality is evident in their beliefs about the apparent separation between self and other, God and “his people,” their beliefs in Heaven and Hell, God and Satan, the “saved” and the “damned.” For someone who perceives “The Oneness of All,” such dualistic notions are seen for the illusions and untruths they are.
That being said, I certainly do agree with the atheistic viewpoint there is no “supreme being” with a will and a “plan” overseeing the Universe and all that occurs within it. However, I take it a step further than the atheist, and reject the notion of any being truly existing because no thing actually exists since all things are ever-changing and transforming into “something else.” Since no form is permanent, and all forms are always nothing more than a composition of other pre-existing elements, then All is truly nothing more than a whole manifested in countless forms which are ever-changing and endlessly evolving. This means no “being” of any kind, whether it is an animal, a person, a flower, or a plant exists as a permanent, unchanging form. The notion of permanent form, and for Christians and Muslims, the permanent self, or “soul,” is an entirely egocentric view which contradicts everything we know to be True about Reality and the nature of the universe.
A more appropriate adjective for my viewpoint is that of an a-egotist – a word I do not believe actually existed until now. An a-egotist is someone who rejects the idea of a permanent and essential “self,” since such a notion is demonstrably false and illusory, as all things, beings, and concepts depend on the existence of other pre-existing elements for their existence, making the notion of independent “self-essence” impossible and contradictory. Only if things existed independently of everything else could the notion of “self-essence” or “individual permanence” be even possibly true. Since all things and forms depend on the existence of everything else for their existence, all is truly One and inseparable. As all things are ever-changing and endlessly evolving, the notion of a permanent anything, including the concept of the “self,” is untrue and an illusion, since no form whatsoever is permanent. The only which is “permanent” and “eternal” is All – not the forms within it. All is timeless – without beginning and without end. Every form within it is impermanent and illusory. Our egos, our notions of “self,” are no different than any other form, and are also impermanent. Since our egos cannot handle the fact of its impermanence, it invents all kinds of intellectual “loopholes,” such as the notions of “eternal souls,” the “afterlife,” and “God” to comfort itself against the reality of a fact it cannot accept. These notions are all nothing more than defense mechanisms created by the ego, for the ego, to lull itself into the illusion it has individual “separate” existence and permanence, when it never does.
The bottom line is, that which is real always provides hard evidence which can be demonstrated to third parties for its existence. If there is no evidence, than it can only be an idea. Mars and Jupiter, gravity, and matter, are not ideas, but realities which exist because there is hard evidence for their existence. Tatooine, Hoth, lightsabers, and the “Force,” are all ideas from the “Star Wars” saga, not actual realities because there is no evidence whatsoever for their factual existence and are clearly products of the imagination. The “spiritual” is just like the ideas from “Star Wars,” and is often said by apologists to “exist” on the basis of pseudoscience, hearsay, hunches, and on the authority of supposed “prophets,” “messiahs,” or people with so-called “special powers” of perception the rest of us do not have – none of which constitute hard evidence which can be empirically verified by third parties. Since there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for the “spiritual,” it is therefore simply another idea, just like any other idea conjured up by our imaginations for which we have no evidence to confirm its existence such as leprechauns, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus. The “spiritual” is therefore not a reality which can be demonstrated to third parties through evidence as you would test the existence and credibility of anything else. All ideas, including the concepts of the “self,” the “soul,” “God,” and the “spiritual,” are simply nothing more than products of the ego itself – the limited dualistic mind, and are therefore not Reality since the ego itself is ultimately not Reality because it is impermanent and an illusion.
The truth is, I love my Christian family and friends. They are wonderful people. Since there are many things in Christian scripture which are truthful, though not necessarily factual, and I was raised Catholic with a solid background and knowledge of Biblical scripture, I can oftentimes seamlessly engage them in conversation without compromising how I see Reality. As I said earlier, this is not always easy to do within all such conversations, but when things flow naturally, I find myself able to often “translate” what they say to me in the terms of Reality as I understand it, knowing they perceive things differently than I do. This is how I can agree with a Christian that the story of Jesus’ resurrection is “true.” To the Christian, the story refers to literal fact – that Jesus rose bodily from the grave and appeared to his disciples, and for me, it metaphorically represents the Truth of the “death” and “resurrection” we can all experience within our lives. We both “agree,” but understand the same story in an entirely different way. I would rather not directly challenge their viewpoint, since I know one can never be “convinced” of anything, but can only see in their own time, as convincing is coercion as I said before. I actually enjoy praying with them, as the essential meaning of prayer for me is in supporting others, not offering supplication to a “divine being.” I also enjoy playing much Christian music, despite the lyrics and titles of the songs I often disagree with because I am first and foremost about music, and not the words which are sung. It is my love for music which allows me to play much Christian music with joy and happiness regardless of the titles and the lyrics of the songs.
When it comes to being involved with a Christian church while being a non-believer, I try to remember the big picture – that which is valuable about being involved with a church. There is great value in what a church can offer in their humanitarian efforts to help and support others. The support system of wonderful people is what makes a church great – not some “divine being” that is “behind it all.” With the exception of natural disasters and circumstances beyond our control, it is people who make or break life as we know it, but most of us are uncomfortable with the fact of that responsibility, opting instead to give credit to God when things are “good,” and blame to Satan when things are “bad.” This gives us a convenient excuse to ignore the truth of our responsibility in making life here on Earth either a living heaven or a living hell. The bottom line is, the humanity of supporting and helping others, and reaching their hearts through music is the value I find in working for and associating with a church – not the dogma of its religious beliefs.
I must express what I see, and feel compelled to record my journey in my quest for Truth, which is why I created “The Mystical Voice.” The contents of these pages are for those who wish to seek and find, question and contemplate for themselves. It is not about me actively “evangelizing” to others, as Truth is about coming to the waters to drink, not being force-fed against one’s will…
Listen to the “About Me” audio version