Friday, September 4, 2015

There is probably no God

...and I think that’s okay with me! 

I grew up in a Christian household.  It had it’s imperfections and I could go on those, but it was hardly a rough upbringing.  I lived fairly white, fairly rich in a fairly nice suburban area.  I was a super awkward kid (and am still a somewhat awkward adult - but no one cares now.) and that was no fun at times, but I had people I could call friends and birthday parties and good memories and all that. So 1) I’m super Lucky and 2)I think a reasonable person would put me in the non-damaged camp.  

I grew up loving my Christianity! I did AWANAs (Timothy Award recipient I might add), I lead AWANAs, I did VBS, I lead VBS, I went to youth group, I went to retreats, I went to church camp, I lead the Bible Study at my public school.  I went to ‘See you at the pole’ every year!  I did these things because I enjoyed them; I’m sure my parents were inclined to encourage this behavior, but I do not remember feeling coerced.  These experiences, these people, they were my world, and they meant the world to me too.  (Bonus points to those who caught all my references) 

Most of the time Christianity was uber awesome and we were getting along! There were however challenges.  Evolution was a tricky work around, and some other things did not quite add up either.  So as the title of this blog would suggest, I’m no longer a Christian.  Four years ago, I wrote about this process in great detail on a blog I use to write on.  I debated about linking it here, as it’s long, contains some spelling and grammar mistakes and doesn’t ‘perfectly’ reflect my feelings now.  That said, it was cathartic for me to write and I often go back and re-read it to reflect on how I felt, and feel now.  I had only recently left at the time I wrote this down and I can tell I was still having a harder time with certain aspects.  Also fair warning, I’m not sure how much sense it would make to someone who didn’t experience similar things, but I tried... 
These four posts serve as the long answer the question “Why did you leave?”  A question that really has no short answer.  There are some points I would like to highlight though:  

1) I sought to maintain not lose my faith (and lost it anyway).  

When I began to have doubts about or be presented with conflicting information about my faith... it was painful.  I didn’t want to leave the world I knew and loved and I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.  I don’t know that I’m proud of this now, but in the beginning phases of doubt I only looked at Christian sources (Lee Strobel, Mere Christianity, etc...) and my goal wasn’t really research but solace and confirmation.  Nothing really added up for me but they made some heady arguments that seemed vaguely valid to me.   This is how I felt as someone who really wanted to believe.  It was dissatisfying, but for years I let it go.  Reasoning, or should I say “reasoning” that it was more about having faith anyway.  When I finally had the will to truly examine those sources critically, and see things as they were I still attempted to maintain some sort of Christian title for a while.  Maybe I was a ‘Christian Universalist’ or ‘Christian Agnostic’ or a ‘Deist’ and now I would read the Jefferson bible instead.  My point is that if I could have figured out a way to maintain my faith and my critical reasoning at the same time I would have, it was NOT my goal to leave and then later I make up the facts fit to my liking; It was so very the opposite  

2) Fundamentalism FUCKS with you.  
Yes, that, all caps.  Like I have made clear, I liked being a Christian, and the version of fundamentalism I was raised with was honestly probably one of the least extreme.  I consider it fundamentalist for this reasons: We believed there was a real hell and the people who didn’t believe our version of Christianity were probably going there.  We were also, pro-life (anti-abortion), anti-gay, anti-alcohol and anti-sex before marriage.  All of which I could go on about, but will save for now.   

In Christianity, we were taught “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  When I was a Christian, I thought my passions, my desires, my dreams were unwieldy, untrustworthy and undeserved.  Everything was secondary to God’s desires for me and my only goal should be to submit to him.  Then, if I did that, I could finally find peace and maybe God would deem it appropriate for me to have a few of my foolish wants.  When I spell this out as it was, it basically sounds a little ludicrous and incredibly clear why it’s a damaging personal world view, but I didn’t see it that way at the time.  I believed this.  I loved Christianity, but in retrospect it didn’t really love me back.  Also, I was getting these ideas from the Bible.  I’m not even cherry picking here, the message that we are broken beyond repair and have an eternal debt to pay to the Lord is sort of an essential Christian teaching (John 3:16).  The view that I wasn’t worthy of God’s love (his existence not withstanding), even if he still gave me it anyway basically just made me feel unworthy period.  I thought I deserved to feel this way because of my ‘sin nature’ so I didn’t question it.  I only see this as troubling now as I look back.  I also see this view of one’s self harming a lot of other Christians and I worry about the mental health of some of my friends who maintain their faith.  

3) I’m a better person since I left.  

I don’t know that I would go quite so far to say leaving Christianity = life improvement, but I am a more honest, happier, confident and thoughtful person than when I was a Christian.  Part of this might be the timing in my life (People tend to grow up a lot in their 20s regardless), but I don’t think that’s the whole story either.     This is what I can say though.  When I was a Christian, I was insecure, unhappy at work, struggled in most of my relationships, and rarely exercised.  Since I’ve been a non-Christian I’ve found fulfilling work, a life partner and a love of running! (or ‘most of the time’ on the last thing).  Yes, some of this is probably coincidental... but I think a lot of it has to do with letting go of what I talked about in the above paragraph.   

This post is already too long, so I’ll end with this.  I’ve said a lot about Christianity to the point where I’m almost sick of typing that word out.  It was the easiest way for me to describe my background, it’s what I use to call myself, and I didn’t feel like picking another word.  I understand that people might be ruffled by this and want to describe my experience ‘just this one kind’ of christianity and so if that’s you, you have my permission to do so.  There are over 1300 denominations in America and I explored many of them but you are allowed to have your own kind (because at 1300 ... who’s counting?).  Related to this, 90% of the people I’ve met who are Christians are kind people (the other 10% were kind of douchey, but I’ll talk about that later), and many were very intelligent too.  This goes for the fundamentalist kind as well.  I end with this because I often hear that I ran into the wrong kind of Christians and that’s why I left, when the reality is I ran into a lot of awesome Christians, but still had to leave.  

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