I was ranting to my brother tonight about religious people who say “Oh yes, I had questions like yours a few years ago, but I finally came to the point where I just had to say “God, I’m believing in you. I know you’ll show me the truth.” and ever since then I’ve just KNOWN he’s real.” Or something similar to that. The other night I was chatting with an acquaintance and my unbelief came up. He had wanted me to pray about playing violin on a worship team he was organizing for some event. I said I wasn’t the kind of person he’d want on the team, so naturally he wanted to know why and I told him. After sharing a few of the questions that lead me to where I am today in my current state of uncertainty and unbelief, he said something like the above-mentioned annoying anecdote. To be fair, he was very nice about everything and the conversation remained congenial.
On Facebook, a friend posted a status about his recent deconversion, and I noticed a comment someone left that ran along the same lines as that of my acquaintance. Again, the comment was far from harsh or condemning, just an “I’ve been where you are, but I still believe.”
I am not going to argue that the believers who say they’ve been where I am and have questioned the things I question are lying or mistaken. I cannot say that they haven’t questioned things like I am. It offends me when Christians claim I never really believed, because I know for almost my entire life I DID believe completely and passionately and based my identity in my belief in God and my faith in the Bible. I have no intention of doing that in return. The thing that bothers me is the suggestion or implication that I should stifle my questions, turn to this god I am not sure even exists and say “God, I have these questions, but I’m going to put them aside now and believe that you are real.”
Perhaps I am just too far gone now.
For twenty-odd years I believed whole-heartedly that the God of Abraham was real and good and that the Bible was absolute truth and infallible. I believed Christianity was the one true religion. That therein lay truth and any who seek for truth would eventually find their way there and to God. I believed it unquestioningly. But no more.
I owe it to myself to find answers to my questions.
About a month ago I joined ExChristian.Net and have enjoyed reading people’s stories. Some of them have been out of Christianity for years and years, and some have only recently left in the last few weeks or months. Most seem to leave because of the same unsatisfying answers given to their questions regarding discrepancies in the Bible, the suspect goodness and love of God, the arrogance of religion…
I don’t HATE Christianity, although I do get pretty heated sometimes when talking about church and the control that goes on there. Perhaps I should be angry or something. But I’m not. At least, I don’t think I am.
Most of the ExChristian members seem to be atheists, with a smattering of agnostics and various kinds of theists. This trend towards atheism interests me. Why atheism instead of just switching to some other religion? Sometimes it feels like “the thing to do”, and sometimes atheism seems like the smart/logical conclusion. A few weeks ago I caught myself trying to talk myself into being an atheist for both those reasons. It’s kind of odd that “the thing to do” would be one of my reasons considering how many times I’ve done or not done something just because nobody else was doing it or everyone was doing it. Just to be different.
When I realized I was trying to talk myself into it, I discovered that is not who I am. At least, not yet. If I were, I wouldn’t have to persuade myself. Maybe this is just my periodic desire for a label.
Becoming an atheist or a theist or an agnostic or whatever is not my goal. I just want to be honest with myself. Live honestly.
I am not an atheist.
I started reading Evolving in Monkey Town the other day and was excited this afternoon to discover that Evans asks many of the same questions as I do. I’m not quite half-way through the book so I don’t know if she gives any answers, but there is something affirming about finding someone else who wonders/wondered about the same things.
“Isn’t it a little suspicious that the only true religion is the one with which we happen to grow up?” -Rachel Held Evans
One of the first questions I began asking over a year ago when I finally allowed myself TO question things was “How can we Christians be so sure that we are right and everyone else is wrong? How can we be absolutely positive that all the people around the world who don’t believe the same as us will spend eternity in hell for their mistakenness?” I’ve wondered this for the last 10 years or so but, because I blindly accepted the things I grew up hearing from my parents and sunday school teachers and pastors, I kept shoving that question to the back of my mind hoping it would eventually go away. But it hasn’t.
Why was I a Christian? Really, I almost didn’t have a choice. I was born in Canada in the 80’s to a young Christian couple whose parents and grandparents were also Christians. I was raised in the church and grew up hearing all the Bible stories both at home and at Sunday School. When I was about 3 I remember waking up in the middle of the night. It was dark and I was alone and a little scared. I don’t remember WHY I thought to do this (perhaps the bits about “Jesus is always with you and will protect you” popped into my mind. I don’t know.) but I remember sitting up in bed and asking Jesus into my heart.
Evans talks in her book about how a person’s religion is at least influenced if not determined by when they are born and where they are raised. Of course anyone can change their beliefs at any time, but many if not most people don’t. And for the majority of the world past, present, and future who do not believe or have not heard that the creator of the universe came to earth in a human body, died on our behalf to save us from sin, rose from the dead three days later and now demands that we “believe in” him or else spend eternity in torment, the “gospel” (aka “good news”) is about the worst news they could ever receive.
I honestly find it incredibly difficult to believe that God can both love every human he has created AND condemn the majority of those loved creations to an eternity of torture. I can’t think of any situation in which I could send someone I love to a place of torture for a month, let alone eternity. And I can’t think of anyone I could in good conscience sentence to an eternity in hell. Does that make me more loving than the God of the Bible? Because seriously, if the Bible is telling the truth about who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, most of the world’s people are going to hell simply because they were born in the wrong part of the world at the wrong time. If he really truly loves them, he could do something about that. He SHOULD do something about it.
“We cannot be ourselves unless we know ourselves. But self-knowledge is impossible when thoughtless and automatic activity keeps our souls in confusion.” –Thomas Merton
Honesty is important. It is vital for freedom. One of the hardest things I’ve had to do is to learn to be honest with myself. Honest about my questions. Honest about my doubts. Honest about my failings. The absolute hardest, though, is to be honest about my successes and my good qualities.
As hard as it is to be honest about both the bad AND the good, that’s what I want in my life. I want to live honestly. Be myself. Live intentionally. I think this ties into my earlier post about experiencing life. I can sit all day and think about who I am or who I seem to be and write pages and pages and pages of self-analysis in my journal…but until I go out and start experiencing things and testing my limits, I’ll never really know who I am and what I can do. I hate saying that here because someone will read it (I know my mom does) and make me go out and do something. And honestly….that just sounds scary and uncomfortable right now.