Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/
I gradually began to attend my church group less and less. At first, I used school as a [legitimate] excuse, but now that we’re in the middle of the summer break, I really don’t have anything in my schedule to prevent me from attending.
There is nothing preventing me in my schedule, but there’s a whole lot more preventing me in my heart.
So when a combination of boredom and loneliness compelled me to attend “one last time”, I got in my car and went. It turns out that my indecision had made me even later than I realized, and I had missed out on the food and socializing and arrived just in time for the service to start. Also, my indecision had caused me to fail to realize that the first of the month was worship night- there would be no sermon, just more than an hour of worship.
The pull for me to be involved, to shout and dance and sing with all the rest, was strong, but I remained a very subdued version of my former self. I sat quietly and watched the lyrics playing across the screens, scoped out the atmosphere of the room. I felt like an outsider in this room of people who were being “moved by the spirit.” On top of the stage behind the singers there was a young man painting a picture- “prophetic painting” as it has been so named. I focused on him for some of the time, too- how he carefully fleshed out what was actually a beautiful design. I tried to just allow myself to enjoy the music and be at peace.
Of course, if I focused too hard on the words, the weight of my new beliefs became once again apparent to me. I could no longer objectively sing “you gave yourself for me” or “you died so I could live” when I no longer believed that blood sacrifice was necessary for someone to be “clean” in the eyes of God. I couldn’t say “I sing because You are good” if I was singing to the Christian God, because I am not convinced that the God of the Bible (or Koran) is good. I couldn’t pray to the Christian God when I wasn’t sure if He was alive and well to answer- or if there was evidence that He really cared if He was.
In fact, the more I travel along my spiritual/idealogical journey, the less evidence I have for believing in “hidden agency” at all (see more here ) Hidden agency is a term used to describe the belief system that suggests that hidden/invisible “agents” are influencing visible agents/elements in our world- such as believing that natural disasters are caused by angels/wrath of God or disease is caused by evil spirits. It also could be expanded to include the idea that the dead walk among us as unseen spirits. Either way, the more I see, the more that I am convinced that the whole idea of invisible forces somehow influencing our world is extremely subjective, and that the ideas vary so greatly across cultures that it is impossible for them all to be factual.
In the same way, I’m starting to believe that other mystical beliefs- such as a belief in karma or the belief in the law of attraction may be equally problematic. Bad things still happen to good people, and some bad people seem to prosper and to go unpunished. Also, if we believe that people can somehow “attract” or “repel” things into their lives by performing unrelated actions or rituals, it perpetuates the belief that victims of misfortune are somehow to blame for their own victimization or “bad luck”. While it is true to an extent that your “attitude determines your altitude” and “the man who says he can, and the man who says that he can’t, are probably both right” there are times when determination alone cannot enable you to succeed. It doesn’t mean that you’re “wrong” or “broken” or you just need to “think positive.” I believe that part of life is trying your very best- but also knowing your limits. So in other words I believe in “pragmatic optimism”- in having high hopes but also being firmly centered in reality. So as Hayley Williams put it, “keep your feet on the ground, with your head in the clouds.”
Of course, I still have my faults. When things seem to go strangely well, I want to thank someone “above” for it all having gone out smoothly. When I think of something I’d like or need, and it is shortly thereafter provided to me, I’d like to think it was a synchronicity– that somehow the universe was rewarding me for having that thought or desire. It feels weird after years of being raised so religiously not to perceive hidden agency on multiple occasions in the course of a day.
It makes sense too, that if we think hidden agency is involved when good things happen, we tend to apply it to the bad things as well. If we end up not being so “lucky” and we aren’t able to avoid the car accidents, physical assaults, losses, and diseases- and especially if we suffer many of these things in a short time frame- we wonder what we’ve done “wrong” to “deserve” such misfortune. We may blame generational curses, hexes, poor attitudes, karma, etc., but the truth is we don’t have solid proof for these claims, only circumstantial evidence as it were.
So really as I left the church this time, I couldn’t say for certain that I would never go back but my experience has permanently changed. For me, my deconversion has been less of a “shocking sever” and more of a “slow fade” like the one mentioned in the Casting Crowns song.
The song goes like this;
It’s a slow fade / When you give yourself away / It’s a slow fade / When black and white turn to gray / When thoughts invade / Choices are made / A price will be paid / When you give yourself away / People never crumble in a day…
It’s strange that they’re warning about falling into sin/falling from faith, and I’m using their lyrics to positively describe my deconversion. I do believe there is a price to be paid for leaving the faith, in terms of the loss of relationships, the loneliness, the self-doubt, and the guilt, but if you’re able to go all the way through with it that in the end you’re much better off.