10 ways for Christians to open and expand their minds

"Spiritual Leftovers" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Spiritual Leftovers” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

This is not a judgment against Christians. We all need to open and expand our minds. That’s my life long project. So, this can apply to anyone, not just Christians. But, since I am interested in how we change our beliefs, this is my present focus.

One of the most effective ways to keep your mind closed and narrow is to never go outside your assigned box… self-assigned or imposed. You’ve got your same Christian friends, your same church, your same Bible, your same Christian books, your same devotions, your same theology. Nothing changes, including you. Frankly, you are basically living like a cult member, but you’re allowed to work and go home for the night. Every aspect of your life is controlled.

Especially your thinking.

I know all about it because I was there. The strange thing is I was happy. But now that I’ve broken free, I can look back and see that my happiness was severely limited. I was pretty happy… for a slave.

I’m convinced that if you want to start changing your mind, all it takes is exposure. You’ve already made it past the first hurdle… the desire. Once you desire change, then exposure will launch you into the next phase of prying open your locked-down mind.

The challenge is, though, that we can live forever in what is called cognitive dissonance, which is…

”In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.” (Wikipedia)

That is, no matter what new ideas, experiences, or beliefs come our way, we can still hold onto our narrow beliefs in another quadrant of our brain where it can still control our lives and liberties. But, I suspect that if you’re even reading this, you have the desire to change. As I’ve said, I believe this desire will eventually overthrow the cognitive dissonance.

So, if you want to change your mind, break free from the narrow confines, get outside of the box, and stop eating Christian mental leftovers for the rest of your life, here are some suggestions. Try these:

  1. Read books from other religions, philosophies, sciences, physics, etc.
  2. Study depth psychology and see a non-Christian therapist.
  3. Stop reading the Bible.
  4. Trust your intellect and brutally honestly analyze your beliefs.
  5. Take a sabbatical from church.
  6. Go to different church… or a temple, or mosque, or…
  7. Take a college or university or community or online course.
  8. Make and learn to love non-Christian friends.
  9. Travel to a foreign land and experience it.
  10. Appreciate the arts… museums, galleries, dance, music, etc…

This isn’t to predict that you will stop being a Christian. Try not to think about that. It might make you too afraid and you’ll unconsciously restrict your experiment. Instead, just try new things… people, books, ideas, arts, etcetera. For too long you’ve been restricted. Just try it and see what happens. Like an experiment. I bet you’ll surprise yourself. I know I did.

–> I warmly and happily invite you to my online community, The Lasting Supper. We have a private Facebook group where we interact and talk all about this stuff that’s wild and crazy interesting and fun. CHECK IT OUT NOW!


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12 Responses

  1. Ducatihero says:

    I like this, especially the part where you mention “I was happy”. I was happy too with the clothes that were made for me or that I chose growing up but when I got to big for them the became uncomfortable.

    I love it when sometimes people give me insights that I am not aware of. Oh the gift to see ourselves as others see us. One time someone saying every show needs a bang, and you are the bang. Another, that you are creative and you will find belonging in creative environments. Both of these have resulted in inevitable tensions with systems and structures and anyone who is comfortable with them. It’s also made me aware of the need for consideration of others who find security in such and are not as passionate about creativity as I am. Of course there is the need for both, without the systems and structures in place, without governance we would have anarchy. So if I were to have disdain for authority there would be a potential if not actual effect on destabilisation of any governance good or bad.

    Yes I think for many people thinking outside of the box means facing fear which means there is a need for courage. For Christians as you point out, one fear might be losing faith and fear determines choices, then that being limiting. However there is so much misery caused by decisions based on fear or it’s sister, retribution.

    Surely what enhances life is taking the courage to face such fear and try new things. If they work out then great if not, then at least you are not like those refined, cold and timid souls that play it safe and point out where the strong stumble, neither knowing the honourable triumphs or the failures at attempting something great and it not working out.

  2. esbee says:

    Actually, in God’s plan for my life and my husband’s life, He did many of these things. When we stopped going to church due to many reasons including a split, God said at that time I did not even have to pray, He showed me His Grace carrying me through that difficult time. My salvation in Him was still secured, though I did none of the things that characterize a Christian. I was pondering the other day about what the world thinks a christian looks like, things they do, polite, dresses a certain way, talks a certain way, perhaps what a Duggar looks like. But every time you try to put God in a box, He breaks right out. I have met Christians that have died both saved and unsaved, met the Lord and come back leading less than perfect lives, , Christians that were molested as children and had many marriages and deal with mentally ill children, Christians that cuss, Christians that live in poverty and those that have riches. In other words, God does not make cookie cutter Christians. We all have our problems to deal with and our walk with Him varies. We have yet, in this country, but might soon, meet Christians like the 30 plus that were beheaded for their faith by ISIS. What were their lives, thoughts, problems like before they made the ultimate sacrifice?

  3. Sabio Lantz says:

    David, that is a great list.

    Exploring Hinduism was beginning of undoing my faith. (see my post here if you wish)

    Suggestions to Christian readers: When reading about another faith, do not read books written by Christians, read the ones written by believers themselves. When reading about the religion-free life, don’t read Christian summaries of atheists, read those writers themselves.

  4. Ducatihero says:

    Sabio, I’m interested in what you say about Hinduism being your undoing. I took a sabbatical from Christianity where it was Buddhism that provided me with what Christianity was leaving a huge gap for me with.

    I particularly found my experience the Buddhist “meta” or loving kindness and finding contentedness through all things through the teaching of the Buddhist Tara Brach and her book “Radical Aceeptance” worked more for me though applying the same principles of love including love of enemies that Christianity teaches.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Christian teaching in the current spiritual climate I have experienced doesn’t always match with what happens in practice in Christian culture and that Christ wasn’t a Christian.

    Can I ask, what was it that appealed to you about Hinduism, and why did you choose to deconvert from Christianity was it because of the people you met? Do you still hold Christ as central or have to chosen to go the same way with Chriat as you have with Christianity.

    By the way, I’m asking to understand. I don’t do it out of wanting to challenge or evangelise you, but out of curiosity and wanting to learn.

  5. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Ducatihero

    Hey, thanks for your story about Buddhist influences in your life — I too have a long history with Buddhism — as well as with Hinduism.

    If you read the post I linked above, it will answer some of your questions. And if you explore my blog using the “Table of Contents” in the right column (including the Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity links), you will find even more. Feel free to comment on any post, even old ones: I always try to answer there.

    In the post I linked, click on the inside this phrase: “I came to realize that I was self-delusioned when talking in my head to Jesus (see my post here).”

    I hope that helps. I use my blog to avoid being too verbose on other people’s blog threads and so as not have to rewrite the same stories over and over.

    Oh, and may I make a suggestion for you: click here to read the suggestion.

    Oooops, I just went back and looked at a few of your comments on this blog. Oh well, I will still submit this.

    BTW are a Presbyterian “free-thinker” from Glasgow, in your 50’s and single with no kids?

  6. Caryn LeMur says:

    I really like your number 5 and 8.

    A young-in-heart elder once told me, “Do you know how huge a ministry (in church) you would have, if only you were not Caryn (that is, not a believing transsexual)?”

    I laughed. Poked right back at him. What a closed-system view. His ego and self-identity was wrapped up in the church institution.

    Mine was wrapped up in work, in sitting among the homeless in their hidden camps, and just treating them as my equal, and in my extended family.

    Yet, to the ‘elder’, my “ministry” was null, less than, and ‘just plain wrong’ because I worked outside of the Vineyard’s authority.

    In my opinion, that ‘elder’ so needed to be on a sabbatical. And, to make friends outside of the Vineyard. Real friends. Wherein you each accept each other as equals. He could attend a gardening club, a Moose Lodge, a bridge club (or poker, if you prefer), a non-religious food bank once a month, a scout troop, etc.

    The Sabbatical plus forcing yourself to make friends outside of the church circles… what a huge difference just those two points would make.

    The church people then might become like the ‘city upon the hill’ that cannot be hidden… instead of the ‘candle light under the bushel basket’.

  7. Ducatihero says:

    Hi Sabio,

    Thanks for responding. I do like to hear different perspectives. Someone in the Christian meditation group I go to sees the elephant god as an an expression of God. Something I know would make some of my evangelical friends toes curl! 🙂

    I hear you say you felt self delusioned when talking in your head about Jesus. I take that to mean that you have gone the same way with Jesus as with Christianity.

    For me, what I was doing with my sabbatical was finding something that my experience of Christianity wasn’t giving me. I now have received integrated myself into Christian culture but withe greater identity withe the contemplatives and more guarded approach to the wider church.

    I hear what you say about liking to know about someone in order to have conversation. I like engaging with ideas and with my experiences online prefer to have a certain amount of anonymity and for the protection of myself and others like to keep information about myself private. Of course it’s easy to find out about people and for that reason I am considering chchanging my nom de plume here.

    I hope you understand and that this won’t prevent you wanting to converse.

  8. Sabio Lantz says:

    I transitioned out of any normal form of Christianity before giving up on thinking I was talking to Jesus or God or both. I considered by myself a mystics of sorts (and still have that temperament), but then realized i was making up the Jesus/God talk in my brain and not doing anything different from what religion-free people do. So I knew I was no more communing with Jesus than Hindus with Krishna, Catholics with Saints, or shamans with dead spirits. I saw the human pattern of self-deception — mine included.

    I am sympathetic to the monkey version of God — see my post (type in “monkey” in the search) — but not to an all-knowing, personal, caring deity — seems utterly silly to me — very anthropocentric, of course. But I get that it comforts folks. As long as they aren’t exclusivists, I don’t say anything.

    What stirs me is En or Yuan — again, you can search the site for it.
    Peace out

  9. Thanks for the input guys! Interesting how many journeys there are.

  10. Ducatihero says:

    Ahh OK Sabio, I think I understand where you are coming from.

    So you find an identity with the mystics and contemplatives as well and the idea of an all-knowing, personal, caring deity is something you think of as silly and and obviously anthropocentric.

    Well, I know I frequently am silly, it’s a comfort to me that human beings are strange. Perhaps I am deluded to believe in an all – powerful benevolent God, but it’s the best explanation I can think of for the life experiences I have had and rationally, for that reason unless and until something happens or someone shows me something to give my objective and indefatigable evidence to the contrary, I can’t sanely not believe.

    Of course that does may me a fool in the eyes of many but I’m OK with that.

  11. Sabio Lantz says:

    Yes, for myself (*emphasis*) talking to gods, spirits or ancestors in my head seems silly. It was when I was doing it, but it took me time to see what I was doing. Maybe all the rest of folks are. Maybe there is a pantheon of fluffy extra-dimensional things listening to us and talking to those who can here. Maybe every believer is right (even though each thinks the other wrong), OR maybe they are all wrong. But I could be wrong.

    But concerning mystics: see this post https://triangulations.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/cat-vs-monkey-religions.

    I have a mystical inclination toward a monkey god, not the cat version. So I am not criticizing all mystics — just the ones that think they are getting personal guidance, Actually, I think such thinking is actually dangerous to society even if helpful to the individual.

  12. Ducatihero says:

    I doubt if we will have what is true worked out between us in a few comments and what is false.

    You think that getting guidance from any deity is dangerous. Well if that deity is all powerful, benevolent and loving even in a way that may at first sight to be foolish then it can only result in good. If no such deity exists then of course any mystic or believer is deluded.

    Would such belief be any more dangerous than an alignment with any human movement or world view? No real security can be found in such.