Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/
One could say that my descent into “unbelief” was a gradual one, or some could argue that I made a sharp and terrible “fall” straight from the mountain of staunch Evangelical Christianity down into the murky depths of [maybe] Christian Deism. The truth is that it’s been more like a trip from the flat lands into steadily more treacherous, more varied terrain.
I was about fourteen when I started to really question my faith- right around the time that one of my older brothers abandoned his entirely. Christianity, he decided, was not true, intelligent, or scientifically sound and he wanted nothing to do with it. I never followed him there even though I sympathized with what must have been his feelings of alienation, while my other older brother and my mother attempted to win him back to the faith.
Actually the year before this, when I was thirteen, was characterized by more love for the scriptures and more interest in my faith, and prayer, than ever before. My dad and I would spend hours even after we had already had a lengthy Bible study, just talking about the “grace of God as found in Jesus Christ.” I would spend hours studying the Bible, and almost all of the book of Romans was underlined. Before this time, our mandatory daily Bible readings were more of a chore for me than a joy.
Then I don’t know- both depression and disillusionment gripped me terribly when I hit fourteen. Not only did my mood plummet- probably thanks to hormones and also the beginnings of a mental illness that would manifest full-blown four years later- but the foundations of my faith began to be questioned.
I think this was due in part to my ever-increasing use of the internet. I had been using the internet as a creative and social outlet since I was about eleven, posting stories and chatting with artists on sites like Fanfiction.net and FictionPress, though, by the time I was somewhere between thirteen and fourteen use of the internet became more like an obsession. I would go on even to neglect my homeschool studies in favor of spending hours and hours on sites like Gaia Online. I used to argue in the Extended Discussion forum about things like evolution and abortion- but especially abortion. I really thought I had all the answers back then, and the world was so beautifully painted in black and white. I made a little gif (and put it in my signature) about how when we’re without Christ we’re slaves to sin, so it’s really no one’s “fault” for what they’re doing, they need to be relieved of the bondage by believing in the truth.
Of course, it wasn’t all because of things that I was exposed to, but it was more or less that as I grew older I began to notice holes and hypocrisies in the practices of adherents to the faith that I held so dearly. As the years continued to go by, I increasingly began to seek out blogs like “Memoirs of an Ex-Christian” or read websites on deconversion stories, even if I would sometimes argue with people in the comment section or send emails asking why so many of the deconversion stories were about people deconverting from Christianity.
When I was nineteen, partly under the influence of some hyperreligiousity and partly out of rebellion, I decided that “The Jews were right afterall” and “Isaiah didn’t prove that Jesus was the Messiah”. After being harassed a little by my parents- and eventually being unable to remember the Bible verse that I used to support my deconversion- I very casually returned to the faith.
In the end, though, none of the questions that I kept bringing up privately in my journals had been answered, like, “If predestination is real, isn’t God unjust to judge anyone?” or “Was Abraham really righteous to try and sacrifice Isaac?”
My most recent beef with Conservative Christianity is a lot more specific and complex, however. For one thing, this idea that we’re born as inherently “sinful” before we even choose to do good or bad is one that I have to contest. The idea that we need to be “redeemed” from sin, that there is something “flawed” or “wicked” about us characteristically, is one that I wonder about.
The second problem with this builds on the first, and it’s the idea that we inherit our sinful nature because the first human beings disobeyed God and partook of the “forbidden fruit” at the advice of a talking serpent. This requires us not only to believe that at one point animals spoke- and for some reason don’t today- but also that God would curse the entire human race based on the mistakes of the first two.
Now for the third problem. Even if you can take the Biblical account of creation as literal fact- and I don’t think you can if you compare it to the hundreds of creation myths from cultures around the world, which we rejects as myths so easily (but embrace the Bible so blindly)- then you have to ask why God would require blood sacrifices in order to forgive us. It almost seems to assume that he is so vengeful, so needy to exact his “wrath” on someone or something for wrongdoing, that only when he sees the shed blood is he satisfied.
This sounds farfetched when I say it like this, but the writer of the book of Hebrews states that, “Without shedding of blood, there is no remission”. He references the Old Covenant under Moses, where various animal sacrifices were required for varying iniquities, ultimately leading up to the climax that Christ is the ultimate blood sacrifice.
I am going to be one of the few voices, who asks, “Why?” If God is a loving God, why would he need to brutally torture and then kill his own son, to see that intense suffering, in order to feel inclined to forgive us? Better yet, even if we can accept such a God as being just, why did it take him so long to send Mankind redemption for sin, and why was half the world left in the dark when he did it? (See my other post, “Of Gods and Men”).
Yes, I’ve been back and forth about this stuff for years. I have had periods of intense religious fervor, and others of intense doubt and disillusionment. I think this is the first time in my life, however, that I am emotionally capable of confronting my questions and my fears objectively.
Of course, I do get sad when I’m in church group- and yes I still attend- and the youth pastors talk about the 20s and 30s being the years where we really decide to follow Christ or turn away- that basically the decisions that we make now can shape the course of our lives.
Early on, after my mental health began to stabilize, I saw myself as being a conservative Christian for the rest of my life. I was in church as much as I could be. Tuesday night prayer, Wednesday night church groups, Saturday Night Service, Sunday Service. If I couldn’t make it to one, I’d make it to another. I prayed to God in my car before I went to work, because I didn’t feel confident or capable of handling it on my own.
To be honest, I still don’t feel capable, but now I realize that believing and depending on God doesn’t have to mean sending anxious prayers to the heavens and trying to strain to hear God’s answer. God’s answer is always clear, even if it comes from some pretty unexpected places. Also, God doesn’t always speak to me in words, but rather in that intuitive inward compass that sends disquiet when something is bad for me, and excitement and enthusiasm when it’s good.
When I pray now, I just talk about what I’m feeling, rather than “confessing the word” and quoting all these scriptures I’ve memorized. I used to quote “the steps of a good man are ordered of the LORD” (Psalm 37:23) and for the longest time, that did give me comfort. I could call myself “good” because I was redeemed by the blood of Christ. Additonally, I would keep seeing the verse everywhere I went- like on church billboards- or hear it quoted on the radio. It was like God was speaking to me through that verse, and I can’t say now that he wasn’t. He saw what I needed at the time.
Now, however, I believe I’m good, not because “my sins have been washed away” but rather because I’m created with the capacity for good- and evil- and I choose to do what’s right on a daily basis. I can’t say that I don’t stumble- “to err is human.” I just try the best that I can.
Even though I feel like I’ve learned so much- and I’m happy with who I am becoming- naturally I am experiencing a grieving process over the loss of my faith. A common question for Christians to ask other Christians is, “When did you get saved?” and to be honest, I don’t remember ever not being saved. From infancy I was taught that the Bible was the word of God, that Jesus Christ was the son of God, that Jesus is alive today and is returning for those who are “ready.”
Actually, all of those years of being traumatized as a child about “the rapture” and living through the Y2K hype are today some of the foundations of my disbelief. The end of the world has been predicted by Christians and non-Christian religious people alike for thousands of years and has yet to come when predicted. I believe now that if the end of the world does appear, it’ll either be by a foreign body (asteroid or other body) crashing into the planet or the earth will just be completely destroyed by human negligence. These facts make me sad, but both of those things are something that -hopefully- we can do something about.
Now I could go into the details about how many religions- including Christianity- promote the end of our planet as an ideal and discourage human responsibility in maintaining it, but that’s a topic for another entry.