“I’ve been where you are…..”

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.

Why the exception?

“[T]he impression I got was that religion in general, though utterly false, was a natural growth, a kind of endemic nonsense into which humanity tended to blunder.  In the midst of a thousand such religions stood [Christianity], the thousand and first, labeled True.  But on what grounds could I believe in this exception?  It obviously was in some general sense the same kind of things as all the rest.  Why was it so differently treated?” -C.S. Lewis “Surprised by Joy”

The Almighty Schizophrenic?

When I was a kid, I loved reading the Old Testament.  It had more stories.  More action.  The book of Judges in particular was one of my favourites because of its collection of short stories about bloody battles, daring escapes, and intrigue.  As much as I loved my Bible and loved my god–that is, to the point of constantly trying to change myself into someone more “pleasing” to both–some of the things God commanded (particularly in the Old Testament) never sat well with me.  For example, he told the Jews, who were in the process of invading their “promised land” according to God’s instructions, to kill all the men, women, and children of a particular nation.  When giving Moses the law, many infractions were punishable by death.  Somehow this same violent God inspires the prophet Jonah to describe him as being “slow to anger and abounding in love.”

King David spent many many hours studying God’s laws and commands, and frequently went into raptures about God’s love and compassion and kindness.

Can this truly be the same God?  Is he schizophrenic?  Undecided?  Experimenting?  Misrepresented?

Darin Hufford suggests he is misunderstood.  I suppose with the vast number of denominations and religions that are out there, one really must assume that if God DOES exist, he is grossly misunderstood.  But who is right about him?  Or the closest to right?  I imagine each religious group out there would raise their hand and claim THEY are the closest to the truth.  Surprise surprise.  After all, that’s why they believe what they believe, is it not?  I doubt anyone goes searching for a lie to believe in.

How can we find out if God exists?  And if he does, how can we go about finding the real him/her instead of the version on display in the windows of all the world’s religions?  How can we find out what he says about himself?  “Maybe the actual God…doesn’t endorse The God-Of-The-Bible.” –Frank Schaeffer

Complications of god

I plead busyness with school as my excuse for not having written here sooner.  Excuses are a bad habit though.  It IS one of the main reasons I haven’t written, and the other would be that I just haven’t been thinking about anything I felt was blog-worthy.  Nothing deep-ish, that is.

Today I realized that my thinking has been taking a decidedly agnostic turn.  I still pray on occasion, although that has become increasingly difficult in the last year, but more and more often I catch fleeting thoughts to the effect of “how can anyone really know if there is a god?”  I know some people require irrefutable proof of the existence of a deity before they will believe one exists. Others believe that god is something or someone who, by nature, can never be proven to exist or not exist, and that one must choose (rather blindly, it seems to me) to believe or disbelieve in his/her/its existence.  I, for one, cannot bring myself to confidently believe either way.  I wonder sometimes if I ever will and envy those who do.

I would like to believe there is a god.  A god who takes an interest in life here on earth and who is approachable and relatable.  But if there is, then what is he like?  All sorts of religions claim different things about her or them (gods plural) that it gets confusing trying to sort through it all to find out who is right.  Life would be simpler if god didn’t exist and everyone knew it.  Would there be meaning to life?  I was lead to believe that without the Christian version of god life was meaningless.  But is that really true?  Probably not.  Maybe there is not a universal meaning that is applied to everyone’s life, but instead an individual one chosen by each person.  And maybe that’s the case even if there IS a god?  That seems more likely to me.  After all, everyone seems to have different values and find meaning in different things.  Why shouldn’t it be individual?

An error made on your own

I joined the “Free Believers Network” page on Facebook a while ago and have found some interesting and thought-provoking posts and comments and articles there.  Today a quote someone posted caught my attention:

“…an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.”  -Ayn Rand

I think she makes an interesting point.  I have mostly not been an experientially-focused person.  Even from a young age I have lived (or have tried to live) by the saying “learn from the mistakes of others.”  I still see a lot of merit in that.  After all, life IS rather short to go making all the mistakes myself….but I have found that I’ve gone to the other extreme and am now often afraid of making my own mistakes.  And having to live with the consequences.

For most of my life I have accepted the “ten truths on faith”, not having the wisdom of experience to evaluate the validity or merit of those “truths”, and now I find myself having to re-evaluate.  But what standard am I to use to distinguish truth from error?  Experience, apparently.  Which means I need to actually experience something.  Will I survive?

Actually, this is something that keeps coming up in the things I read, the stuff I’ve been listening to, and many of the conversations I’ve had with people lately.  That is, the idea of relaxing and letting myself make mistakes.  Allowing myself the freedom to live life, make decisions, and learn from the “bad” or “foolish” decisions I make without condemning myself.

It’s almost as though the universe is trying to shake me awake and say “Hey!  Get up and go live your life!”

The Bible? Or my ipod?

When I was a kid, sometimes I would lay in bed and think about what 5 things I would try to save from a house fire.  My favourite doll?  My scrap-book?  My piggy bank full of nickels and dimes?  One constant one from when I was about 7 or 8 until…well…until just over a year ago was my Bible.  I loved my Bible.  I would read it almost every day hoping God would “speak” to me (which meant that I would read something that made me feel guilty or “convicted”, then I would pray about it and try to fix whatever seemed wrong in my life that didn’t line up with what I had just read).  I believed every word in it was true and perfect and right and straight from the mouth of God himself.  I believed in absolute truth and that absolute truth was revealed in the Bible.

Now I can no longer believe those things.  Every time I even THINK of pulling out my Bible, I start to wonder “Who actually wrote these books?  What was their purpose in writing them?  Who decided they were to be considered scripture?  What was the agenda of the people who made that decision?  Why these 66 books and not 66 others?  Why does my Bible not contain books that other people’s Bibles have?”  That’s not even going into the translation side of things that brings up MORE questions for me.

I’ve done a little research about how the canon of scripture that I grew up with came to be.  Not enough to give me any illusions of my being an expert or anything–not even enough to answer my questions to my satisfaction–but just enough to let me relax a little.  From what I have read, my understanding is that the canon of scripture that is “my” Bible (that is, the standard Protestant Bible) was not compiled of writings the church leaders of the time considered to be irrefutable, but was, instead, made up of writings that supported the church’s generally accepted belief system.

Perhaps this may not sound like much, but it is a big deal to me and provides a sense of freedom.  Because I had always believed the Bible was absolute truth, I had believed it applied to everyone.  Once I realized it was collected writings that agree with church doctrine I then saw it as only applying to people who also follow that doctrine.  The Qur’an for Muslims, the Book of Mormon for Mormons….and the Bible for Christians.

I am by no means done asking questions about how the Bible was compiled, nor am I done searching for answers, but for now I am comfortable being here.  And at this time (assuming my family got out safe) I would save my iPod, computer, journals, violin and wallet from a house fire.