(PREFACE – This post is going to offend some people. There’s no way to be honest about this subject without rubbing people the wrong way. Kindly remember that this isn’t about you – this is my journey and my story. A college professor I had once said, “There is a difference between an offense given and an offense taken.” I’m not trying to offend anyone. For those close to me who consider yourselves Christians; my own views and beliefs don’t change how I feel about you and hopefully you will feel the same in return. To those who read this and are offended; that’s your own insecurity talking and maybe you should explore that a little more. In any case – keep your toxic bullshit to yourself. Most of this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who reads this blog regularly. To say I’ve been hinting at it would be an understatement.)
Awhile ago I wrote about Ryan Bell and his Year Without God. This coming Easter will mark the one-year anniversary of my own Year Without God. I wasn’t as intentional as Bell was, but our journeys are similar. My faith started to unravel a couple years ago. I held on as long as I could, hoping that my prayers would be answered and that I could make sense of everything. Those prayers were never answered and things only got worse. So, last Easter, I quietly left the Church. I quit praying, quit reading the Bible for inspiration, and started trying to figure out if any of it was worth holding on to. Like Bell, I began reading the “sacred texts” of atheists – Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Krauss, etc. I also read books from leading scientists, scholars, historians, humanists, and mystics, as well as exploring other religions and philosophies. Now a year in, I thought it would be good to make a confession of sorts, to come clean about a few things.
One of the first things that really started to grate on my nerves when I was a part of a church was it’s tribalistic nature and it’s upholding and defending of marker beliefs. A marker belief is a way to differentiate one group from another. It’s a quick, easy way to tell who is in the group and who is out of it. Evangelicalism is obsessed with their marker beliefs, theologies, and dogmas. These distinguish who is a TRUE CHRISTIAN and who is not.
So, after a couple of years of unpacking everything I had ever known about faith/God/the Bible/Christianity, and looking at it under a microscope, I have found nearly all the major tenents of modern Christianity to be either unprovable or simply untrue. And, because of Evangelicalism’s (and most Christian faith’s) exclusivity and demand for conformity to these tenents, I no longer see any reason to label myself a Christian and belong to their ranks. Here are a few examples of how I’ve head this phrase, and how it applies to me:
I don’t believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative word of God.
I don’t believe in The Fall, Original Sin, or the need for salvation.
I fully believe in evolution and the scientific method. I don’t believe in Creationism or Intelligent Design.
I don’t believe that Jesus was God. I don’t believe in his bodily resurrection. I don’t believe he died for the sacrificial atonement of my sins.
I don’t believe in the “End Times”, the Rapture, or the second-coming of Jesus.
I don’t believe in hell.
I don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian version of God presented in the Bible.
It seems I tick all the boxes that most assuredly make me not a TRUE CHRISTIAN. The above statements are just a few of the things that I can find no credible scientific, historical, or scholarly evidence to support, at least not in the literal and/or historic sense. So, when it comes to Christianity – I’m done.
Many are probably thinking, “Maybe there isn’t any scientific evidence for these things, but you just need to accept them on faith!”
Let me just say a quick word about faith and why that word is like nails on a chalkboard for me. When I started having serious doubts about my beliefs and went to others in the church about them, I would get one of two answers. Either it was an answer that was steeped in apologetics, based on presuppositions, and never contained any actual evidence. Or, I was told that I just needed to “have faith!” Here’s the deal with faith and how it’s used in Christian language: faith is a fucking cop-out, it’s a defeat – an admission that the truth claims that one holds are unknowable through evidence and reason. It is only undemonstrable assertions that require suspension of reason, and weak ideas that require faith.
Most of the truth claims made by Christians require an enormous amount of faith to swallow unquestioningly. Some obviously have that level of comfort in not questioning, but I don’t. And I have enough conviction and self-respect to not sit in the pews week after week and pretend that I do.
I’ve come across a few enlightened people who have assured me that I can still be a Christian, even if I don’t believe in the above statements. I appreciate the sentiment, and the effort to be inclusive, but the label “Christian” is of no value to me. It beares no real meaning or purpose in my everyday life, and is usually more of a burden then anything else. Calling yourself a Christian means you are expected to act and think like a TRUE CHRISTIAN, and I’m done playing that game.
So where does that leave me?
I’m not really sure. Right now I’m in this weird no-man’s land between religion and atheism. If you reference the Dawkin’s Scale, I’m somewhere around a 5:
I don’t believe in theism (the belief in one god as creator of the universe, intervening in it, and sustaining a personal relation to his creatures) or in any sort of divine deity. But, I’m open to the idea of something bigger than what we can understand in the natural world, which could could metaphorically be described as “God” – love, beauty, justice, an energy, a force, “the ground of all being”, etc.
Or, one could say that I am an atheist in the historical sense of the word. While atheism has been around for thousands of years, the current definition of atheism – the rejection of the belief in deities- is a relatively modern idea. For much of recorded time atheists were those who rejected the culturally predominate view of God, and that would certainly apply to me.
If forced to wear a label right now, it would probably be closest to a freethinking humanist. A freethinker is one who arrives at their beliefs through the use of reason, science, logic, and empiricism rather than by relying on dogma, tradition, and authorities. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.
Soren Kerkegaard believed the old creeds and doctrines of the modern church have become idols, and were flawed and inadequate ways of seeing God. Just as the true nature of a person can never fully be put into words, whatever it is that “God” may be – he/she/it’s essence is beyond our human ability to comprehend and understand, and certainly beyond our ability to properly define.
Like Ms. Anthony, I’ve become incredibly untrusting of any person, institution, or religion that claims to have a monopoly on God, knows his will, and can therefore judge everyone else according to it. This is the epitome of human arrogance, and has lead to more wars and human suffering then could ever be measured.
This past year has been one of the most stressful years of my life. It’s been a year filled with anger, confusion, a sense of loss, loneliness, questions and paradoxes. But, I’ve come a long way. I don’t know how much further this rabbit-hole goes, all I know is that I’m committed to seeing it through. At one point I wrote on here that I was done de-constructing and wanted to move forward. Well, I found a few more boxes on the shelf that needed to be gone through and torn apart. I also found that putting things together is much harder then I had anticipated.
But, there’s an incredible sense of freedom that come from cleaning out all that clutter and getting rid of burdens that have held you down for so many years. I feel like I’ve taken a heavy pack off of my back and can now run unencumbered for the first time.
If you would have told me five years ago that I would give up my faith, I would have vehemently denied it. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God!” and all that pious bullshit. Yet, here I am – a non-believer, at least in the American evangelical sense of the term. If this journey has taught me one thing, it is to never be too certain of your place in life.
Circumstances change. Beliefs change. I’ve changed.
Here’s to the future, and to the shedding of old scales.