I am extremely disenchanted with Christianity due to the easy answers about hell or the malicious, inhuman depictions of it. Actually, I now identity as an agnostic because I just cannot rationally believe that one religion amongst an innumerable amount of other religious interpretations could be the paved road to heaven. It ignores our complex minds which are fraught with doubt. The idea of confident belief in something transcendent and unknowable makes the idea of blistering eternity for those who doubt even minimally seem both unreasonable and even sadistic.
I am afflicted with scrupulosity therefore the entire notion of hell was a mind poison for me. Once I started unraveling the logistical problems of it and the paradoxes it formed, I no longer could believe truthfully within superficial Christianity unless I feigned belief. But, what human could really control ever aspect of their minds when all of us view and synthesize thoughts and observations differently? If that is true, then why would we exempt certain people from hell just because someone had the best genetic predisposition towards having decisive beliefs in this vast number of mostly human created doctrines about the metaphysical world.
Also, I cannot honestly believe that any denizen of heaven could live peacefully with the knowledge that the people we love are in hell. Yet, some Christians cruelly denounce you for being too sentimental. But really, I must wonder if then God has some underlying prejudice towards those who are empathetic. I certainly cannot abide by a God's rules if that God was unforgiving towards the errors within my friend's thoughts or beliefs. This God that would cruelly punish those that see God differently and beyond the human construct would be called a sociopath within our reality.
Some forms of Christianity also have informed women who have shown to desire spiritual leadership roles to be hell bound. Recently, a well-admired priest in the Catholic church was excommunicated for showing support for women priests. Symbolically, the church felt that his views were heretical and adverse to God's laws. In many ways, these Christians would thus say that this priest was no longer bound to heaven.
Other Christian sects see this as a non-issue and therefore would not believe it to factor into God's decision upon whether we are to go to hell or not.
Essentially, the whole idea of hell was created all for the sake of preserving order in an agrarian culture. Also, it is a Machiavellian concept that insures believers a passage to heaven if they repent a certain prescribed number of times for certain vices. More importantly, every Christian has a different notion as to who goes to hell. Furthermore, we have varying ideas of things that are dictated by sins. Also, we tend to blindly vilify those who are aberrations. Instead of treating them kindly, we sentence them to hell in our minds because they do not fit within the social context of the church community. Essentially, this makes religion more similar to a society with certain conventions rather than a community fit for a being that cannot be bound to a litany of absurd doctrines.
Overall, I forbid myself to be unloving all for the sake coercing people into a human-created belief structure that certifies them eternal life. Also, I am disgusted by my former self-destructive thought process that kept me focused on only my salvation. In the end, Christianity was about creating a perfected visage that expressed doubt-free belief within doctrines I tricked my mind into believing. But when I really examined my beliefs, I felt filled with sin. Soon enough, a vicious cycle overtook where all my dreams and artistic thoughts were repressed all for the sake of forcing myself to believe in superficial, unprovable religious doctrines. Should I and other inquisitive people be condemned to hell just because we're wired to be artistic and unconventional thinkers? Are we to believe that God preordains people to hell based upon certain dispositions? How can anyone believe in this madness? Why would anyone forswear their right to love others or to humbly accept that God is an enigma just to have some earthbound religious structure acknowledge that you are destined to heaven?
Why should Christians believe ardently within something as cruel as a hell for the doubters or those whose thoughts about God deviate from the rest? Are we likening God to the most pettiest of school bullies? Basically if your theology is fallacious then you do not just get a bad grade and another chance for reexamination, you will be punished eternally for failing to perfectly conceptualize a supreme being in your human mind.
When one envisions Within Temptation, one thinks of onstage pyrotechs, poufy dresses, operatic vocals, and bombastic music. Within Temptation has always been the iconic symbol for both the symphonic metal genre and female fronted metal genre. Anyone with exposure to this genre knows of this band’s existence and their importance within the obscure world of European, symphonic metal. David Grohl, lead singer of Foo Figters summed up his feelings about the band this way: “Wow this is a trip; this music is pretty wild.” Within Temptation has always had a versatile sound. With each new album, they are open to experimenting with their sound. With their newest album “The Unforigivng,” they are unforgiving about taking radical directions with their newest album. “With this album, we felt the time was there to take a new step in our creative development, to take it further and broaden our horizon.” Said Sharon Den Adel, lead singer of Within Temptation. Indeed, this newest album is certainly a daring move on Within Temptation’s part. Their past albums mainly have focused on providing filmic music that would suit the soundtrack of either Mission Impossible or Lord of the Rings. With “The Unforgiving,” they are moving beyond ethereal, fantasy-esque music and focusing instead on creating gritty, 80’s inspired rock music. Along with this music, they tapped Steve O’Connell, comic book writer of BloodRayne, to provide the main narrative that in part inspired the music for this album. In many ways, using a comic book story to provide a concept for their album is not wildly unexpected for this band. Their music has always been inspired by films and novels that greatly inspirit members of the band. Some fans will be expectantly wary of the sound and even presentation of the album. In nearly all the music videos, Sharon has been stripped of her decadent dresses. Instead, she dons the attire of a bad- ass rock chick who seems unafraid of facing the stigmas that are still attached to female metal vocalists overall. This perseverance and fierce determination propels the music at sonic speed. From the beginning of their first track “Shot in the Dark,” the character of the song is stymied by the unexpected death of someone close by an unknown nemesis. There is a subtle foreboding tone that is expressed through the staccato guitar notes. While Sharon’s cautious vocals exemplify the initial shock of this tragic turn of events. It seems that the “Shot in the Dark,” was the unpredicted tragedy that brings about the eventual start of her struggle and the overriding intensity of the album. Preceding this first track are two tracks that mirror different reactions to this sudden turn of events. “In the Middle of the Night,” begins the unceasing momentum of the album. Throughout the song, we are thrust into the desperation of the character’s feelings. With this death, the character needs vengeance above all else to appease herself. The theme of vengeance has been recurrent in Within Temptation’s music. Both “In the Middle of the Night,” and “Faster,” work cooperatively to express the character’s unwillingness to be squelched by painful emotions. She will work tirelessly to bring forth justice in this unjust world of hers. In Faster, Sharon seems to scoff at the ineptitude of her status of victimhood within their past song “Caged,” by belting “I can’t live in a fairytale of lies.” Relating well with the album’s title “The Unforgiving,” the character in this song has no reservations about being an assertive female especially when the lack of justice in the world demands it. Nearly all the songs of the album seem to symbolically reflect the necessity for women in the world to emphasize their strength. By having the music take a departure from the saccharine sounds of “The Silent Force,” to a far more darker and violent sound: Sharon seems to imply that female metal vocalists are not purely soprano vocalists. Additionally, a large, decorative princess gown is not a requisite part of Within Temptation’s sound. As per usual, Within Temptation’s sound has been focused on creating an ephemeral sound that detaches us from the world. In this album, we are not only jerked from the world and seduced by Within Temptation’s epic sound. We are thrust into a universe where women do not need to constantly fit prescribed roles. Within their sound, Sharon does not need to maintain a high lilt to her voice to lull us into her sound. Instead, she can sing lower notes and still express a wealth of emotion. At the end of their album, “Stairway to the Skies,” seems to express the character’s acceptance of death and the ambiguity of the existence of a higher power. Yet the song also speaks of the band’s artistic aspirations and their desire to rise above the confines of the labels of gothic metal, symphonic metal, or female fronted metal. For Within Temptation, their sound is primarily focused on being a musical escape from the doldrums of genre music. Effectively, this album maintains their high mark of quality while completely recreating the atmosphere of this sound. Fantastically, the guitar sounds are far more pronounced. This helps in showcasing the talent of the formerly silent, retreating guitar sounds of “Silent Force.” Additionally, Sharon proves that she had a wide vocal range by powerfully singing in a lower range. Often throughout the music, the band does pay homage to the fan’s strict expectations. There are subliminal traces of both Sharon’s soprano vocals and the Gregorian choir. For the most part, the band instead focuses on evolving and differentiating their sound. In the end, they succeed by releasing one of their best albums thus far in their career. Every song is both distinct and important to the theme of this album. Moreover, this album definitely piques the interest of new fans since the album offer a new musical experience. Above all, I cannot wait to attend their concert to hear these finely crafted songs being performed live. Both “Iron,” and “In the Middle of the Night,” will be great songs to stir excitement among crowds at rock festivals.
In our Christian culture, I often feel that we decry truth as being disruptive. This antipathy towards truth when dealing with belief causes people like me to feel sinful in writing admissions of this sort. Often, I feel admitting to hurting someone verbally or physically would be handled with more grace than someone who admits to having a complicated unbelief within the tenets of one religion. To admit your agnosticism or atheism is to become traitorous to the Christian world. Therefore, more often than not, you become the prodigal son who shall never return to the Christian church. Actually, the prodigal son was involved with frivolity thus it was easier for him to admitted back into the Christian flock. But imagine if he had an internalized conviction that his beliefs might all be for naught. Perhaps, they were fleshed out all due to appeasing people around him. What if the very design of his religion beliefs was formed out of coercion from others rather then through vying to understand himself first?
For now, with some aplomb, I admit that I can no longer associate or identify myself with the Christian church as an institution. First off, I cannot have my beliefs be homogeneously similar to the beliefs held by other Christians. Moreover, I am unable to will myself to believe that a myriad of people on this Earth are wasted creations. Due to being created differently and being born within an entirely different culture, they have found that their religious identity is not that of a Christian. In order for myself to abide by the Golden Rule, I forbid myself from revering an interpretation of God that would force eternal punishment upon these people due to uncontrollable, inborn circumstances. I tried desperately to believe within the love and salvation of Christ but often that belief is trivialized by the belief within an infernal realm that declares these people with whom we think as inferior to be forced into hell.
Trying to live a Christian life has been destructive for me. Vying to form an acceptable facade of being devout caused me to form self-destructive behaviors. For the second part of my life, I have abhorred every piece of myself. In order to be complicit with the unreasonable laws of Christianity, I allowed all my questions and my inquisitive nature to forcefully be repressed. Throughout my life, I highly believed that many of the Bible stories were mythic in their function to explain a higher, inexplicable plane of existence. Tragically, many Christian tenets require us to make our Christian beliefs superficial to the point where we disallow the questions from forming and squelch our confused, limited human spirits.
Regularly, I felt like I was crushing my unidentified spiritual self into a prison. While, I unconsciously formed a preferable, sanctimonious visage. Every instance where a question, an unholy passion, or any vestige of my true self penetrated this facade, I exerted my energy daily into abusing myself to make me acceptable to others. As a result, my Christian identity felt false. It was nothing more than a gaudy facade to humanize me in the eyes of others.
When I nearly reached the brink of my level of disillusionment with my self,I felt a great need to know myself. As I nearly destroyed my very existence along with my repressed spirit, I felt that my hatred of my very self has been caused by a omnipresent demand by Christianity to treat my neighbors unkindly. Whenever, I expressed empathy for my gay friends, atheist, agnostic friends, or those of differing beliefs; I had to cruelly and sadistically accept that they are unbelievers that are destined for hell. As a part of accepting that belief, I had to dehumanize them within my mind as a part of accepting the blistering, inhuman notion of hell. My love for them had to be feigned like my supposed belief in the supremacy of the religion. I had to constantly reform myself and assert an arrogant, unyielding belief in things that are unprovable.
Instead of furthering this self-destructive path, I am officially not identifying myself as a Christian. I feel that I cannot love others by remaining in this polarized religion. Also, I feel that I cannot be selfless or open minded in a religion where more often than not that attitude is frowned upon because it expresses doubt within a religion that requires strong, unexamined beliefs. I’m thoroughly sick of offering mutinous smiles to my non-Christian friends.
More importantly, I am tired of falsifying my beliefs when I do not believe that Bible should be taken literally. I cannot believe in the unscientific belief in Noah’s Ark or the symbolic story of Adam and Eve. Personally, I believe that the Bible like any religious text is an attempt to explain the unknowable nature of God. To believe that we know everything there is to know about God is a lofty, impossible belief. The only method to believe in unprovable beliefs requires scare tactics. My Christian experience has been filled with apprehension: I felt that forcing my mind to pretend to have beliefs in God would earn me recognition as a human being.
Do I still believe in God? Yes, but I do believe that God, for me personally, is inscrutable in the context of Christianity. Freeing myself from this nominal label has made me feel more authentic. St. Augustine interestingly cautioned people against fabricating falsehoods to earn the respect of other humans. In many ways, my Christian belief was dictated by the social necessity to fit in. It never had anything to do with believing in God.
By disbelieving in Christianity, I have attained a stronger belief and appreciation for an artful, ineffable God. Also, it has allowed me to love others and it also has augmented my empathetic powers. For once, I am joyful and completely unbound. Unexpectedly, I have stronger moral beliefs that pertain to refraining from judging others and learning to love without inhibitions. For once, I have an unrestricted joy for the person I am who has been crafted by a God that does not require a cloistered religious institution.
Above all, I can be intellectually humble. I do not carry any biases or selfish qualities when approaching people with differing religious beliefs. To some extent, I am able to love and be emotive without feeling guility. Trapped in a Christian identity, I felt incapacitated by an insistence by others that sensitivity was dangerous. Throughout my childhood, I was bullied incessantly for being sensitive. Furthermore, the church itself was not a safe haven from me because it promoted that same prudish dislike for people who differ from archetypes. Meaning, if you are not a “masculine,” male or a “feminine” female then you are not living the Christian life. The same thing applied for nearly all my qualities like empathy, humility, and inquisitiveness. These things supposedly engender a toxic individuality therefore I must make them deplorable. To be moral, I had to conform to a distant,unfamiliar identity. If I could not settle into that identity, I had to painstakingly pray to God to make this self sink away to my subconscious.
I know I will be faced with the indignation and the confusion from many of my Christian friends. Yet, this admission has made my toxic anger dissipate. I no longer have to attend church and feel incensed towards every part of my self. Instead, I am liberated by the knowledge that my pacifistic self is not something to hate. A God that supersedes our understanding does not require me to selfishly hate myself for not being what the world defines as “masculine,” or “moral.” Instead, I can freely pursue my dream to learn everything I can about spirituality and the reasons for our need for belief in the metaphysical elements of the world. Above all, I want to have a real relationship with God even if the world identifies me as an agnostic, Unitarian, or a Quaker.
Now, I am no longer a nominal Christian. I’m a person who feels that their spiritual identity has no moniker. Instead, I strive to understand the universality of our human experience rather than a closed idea of that experience. I aspire to be a religious historian of some sort; I desire to see the interconnectedness of all the world’s major faiths. Religion, to me, is a beautiful aspect of my life as long as I can remain an observer from the distant with my questions being freely embraced.
Anne Rice has granted voice and humanity to witches, assassins, vampires, and other supernatural creatures. Unbeknownst to some others, she has also utilized her literary skills to provide voice to eunuch choir boys from around the time of the Italian Renaissance. Commonly, readers are accepting of bloodthirsty vampires who produce death due to blood being a necessity for survival. Contradictorily, when it comes to eunuchs, readers are often less sympathetic and perhaps even apprehensive. We are desensitized to murder to the extent where it does not seems as morally wrong. Whereas, persons with ambiguous gender identification are castigated due to their unlocked and unknown potential. Therefore, in an effort to minimize this mystery, we brand these individuals as disordered and refuse to read stories where they appear fully human.
Wisely, Anne Rice uses this prevailing apprehension to her advantage. At the beginning, we can readily empathize with Tonio's plight and struggles because he has not yet been transformed into society's largest fear: the androgynous figure. Comfortably, we feel kinship with him because he has set, definitive gender roles. This male archetype allows Anne Rice for us to nestle safely within the story before being confronted with his literary "fall from grace." Mary Shelley's Frankenstein works similarly when we are greeted with Dr. Frankenstein, in that story, before he deviously invents an aberration of humanity.
Due to Christian ethos, gender expression is something that we wrongly believe to be static. According to that ethos, male and females should work adversely against their spiritual selves and mindlessly conform to some accepted archetype. Individuals that deviate from these comfortable archetypes are ill-treated and feared. Frankenstein worked more metaphorically in that he represented the outsider of society that hardly any humans can seek to empathize with. Our compromised morals often cloud our consciences from forming instinctive desires for true morality where we genuinely feel compassion for our fellow human: we feel a sincere bond of kinship for a person's spiritual worth.
In Anne Rice's literary world of eunuchs, music serves as the spiritual catharsis for the bereaved eunuchs who are not accepted by their culture. Within this music, they are imbued with a sense of passion and purpose within a world that has sought to debase them. Their angelic voices are the manifestation of intrinsic worth and beauty: it is the formerly suppressed spiritual self that is desirous of recognition.
Often in our world, our religion is soulless. Instead of being pervaded with a sense of appreciation for the diverse beauty of our selves, we are instructed to abhor the most deplorable parts. For an institution to gain power, there always has to be a stigmatized, scapegoated minority. Without that, the institution then cannot salvage their reputation by diverting people's attention from their own sin. There has to be a condemned, heretical group that will serve as the model of being biologically unfit for God's acceptance. With relation to Calvinistic principles, the people who are biologically suited for the religious life will thus earn acclaim and a higher place within the invented hierarchy. In this earthbound scheme of heaven and hell, it is not a rift between the sinful and the sinless. Reversely, it is the segregation between normality and abnormality, theist and atheist, and men and women.
Anne Rice's "Cry to Heaven," book is an immense book that expresses different messages for different people. For the musically or artistically inclined, it offers a message of acceptance for those people who often feel overlooked or misunderstood for their radical imaginations. In another sense, the book acts as an exploration of that largely ignored population in our world that fits neither the societal gender role of male and female. Yet, the book shows that their only means of attaining acceptance comes through having some profitable utility. It also shows that this utility characterizes the eunuchs as being both human and spiritual creatures. Therefore, they are not so different from those who comfortably blend within the female and male world.
This book is evocative and richly textured. Reading it will take a long length of time to fully appreciate and process the implications and purpose of the story. Like many of Anne Rice's other books, it can often feel excessively rich at points due to a few instances where the description dominates the story and character development. But, this problem is often alleviated quickly when Anne Rice rectifies this with wonderful sequences where the character, plot, and poetic descriptions work jointly to create an addictive, purposeful reading experience. After reading this book, you will certainly be dreaming long after of all the sumptuous images and complex details of this splendid story.
*Disclaimer:Shirley Phelps has never interacted with me in any means therefore the post below was a devious April Fool's Jokes. I take full responsibility for the emotional damages wrought by seeing such a sinister figure.*
Philosophy of the Vampire Chronicles Part 3: The Duality of Claudia
What do Belinda, Claudia, and Mona all share in common? They are all precocious young girls whose maturity blurs the concept of age-related maturity. In typical literary fashion,Anne Rice almost deceives us into believing that either one of these three mature characters are older than they really are. When reading "Jane Eyre," I almost believed that Jane as a younger girl was truly endowed with wisdom beyond her years. Therefore, I was almost under the impression that Jane herself was much older than ten.
With Claudia, towards the middle portion of "Interview with the Vampire," you are almost beholden to the idea that Claudia herself is far older than the restrictive age of twelve. With her adult-like whims and predilections, your mind almost fashions her into a far older and sophisticated girl. In many ways, her age of maturity bends the perception of her in your mind to allow for her to appear aged. When in reality, Claudia is truly much younger than the perceived 26 year old Claudia.
The instance within both the novel and film when Claudia hides the cadaver of the older women within her bed;Claudia is psychologically attuned to the very fact that her physical body should represent her age. Therefore, she almost lies in slumber with the cadaver and even playfully toys with it as though flirting with the idea of being mortal. With her mortal mental self intact, she cannot help but go through that same phase that all girls and boys ultimately go through where they cleave to the idea of being older. They begin to become increasingly frustrated by the limits the world places on themselves and therefore begin to question and often defy these structures. Every part of themselves has this unrealistic, romantic image of adulthood signifying uninhibited freedom. When in reality, being older just places us ironically in that same restive spot where we are still very insecure with ourselves.
Anne Rice uses this same phase for Claudia to show that humanity is intrinsic to the vampire existence. Their minds have still not been configured to match the same perception of infinity that the vampire existence holds. Therefore, their internalized body clocks still triggers certain hormonal responses to different stages to life. Within Claudia, there is a burgeoning desire for sexuality. Her human mind still carries the promised expectation for sexual desire to provide her a new form of pleasure within her life. In many ways, it is one of the rites of passages of maturing as a human being to take part in that pleasure. Once the realization dawns that she's essentially impotent: She rebels against Lestat because she thinks her metamorphosis into a vampire has denied her the ability to experience this exclusive mortal pleasure.
For vampires, the blood takes the place of all their base desires. For them, it temporarily forestalls any human feelings or doubts from clouding their euphoria within the vampire existence. Claudia herself never has any sudden need to experience sex till she permits her human desires to dominate parts of her mind. Fascinatingly, Louis' example provides Claudia with the ability to tap into those repressed feelings whereas with Lestat, she could be absolved of those clingy desires in order to fully enjoy the ecstasy of the vampire existence.
In a sense, Louis awakens the sexual desire within Claudia which interestingly enough brings a rather controversial element of the Vampire Chronicles. If Claudia has mentally matured to the extent where she is having a sexual awakening then could that have been triggered by Louis. Could there be some inexpressible sexual desire between them. Meaning, could they imagine it within their thriving human souls. Yet their material, vampire bodies prevent those feelings from becoming manifest. This recalls the important trait that all Anne Rice's vampires share. They share a duality of body and mind. Within themselves, they have an immortal body that completely defies the age process of mortal bodies. Yet, their spiritual forms carry all the desires and inclinations that humans have.
In the next Vampire Chronicles post, I shall be discussing in full the spirituality of "Interview with a Vampire," and how Anne Rice cleverly involves a deep discussion of the mind and body problem.
A Fundamentalist's Reverie
This is Shirley Phelps, activist for the Westborough Baptist Church. I shall now be using Justin's hacked blog to spread my message of true Christian behavior. Therefore, from now on, there won't be no discussions about those evil, devily vampire books. Instead, we will be discussing the evil aspects of American culture and how all of it is telling of our downward spiral right into the grips of Lucy Lucifer himself.
There will be additional posts besides this one including a review of my best-friend, Fred Phelp's wonderful work. As for now, I condemn this page for being sinfully artful and deceptively ambiguous. I implore everyone to pray for the salvation of the soul of "A Bibliophile's Reverie." All followers you are forewarned that there won't be no substantive, evil book reviews anymore. Everything will correspond to the limited grace offered by the beneficiaries of "Westborough Baptist Church."
For now, we must all carry our signs and protest funerals. No, we also protest local libraries for carrying too many books in addition to the only book, the Bible. Please listen and heed Fred Phelp's words.
Thank You and Have a wonderful time in Secular Perdition!
If you are interested in having me review a certain title, you are welcome to email me at narniafanatic(at)gmail(dot)com. I promise to read the book in its entirety and write a review that garners attention, but also informs. I mostly review novels and graphic novels of the science fiction, Gothic fiction, fantasy, and horror genre. Thanks! Giveaways: I'd love to feature giveaways and would promote such giveaways in a truly innovative way. For my convenience, add giveaway to the subject line of the email