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Figuring Out A Life Without God


Guest mrwhistler
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Guest mrwhistler

I realize that this post is a little long, but I sincerely hope it will find resonance with some people who feel similarly.

 

My story was one of being raised in church by bible school teaching and missionary parents in a 3rd generation Pentecostal family always thanking God for being so fortunate. I went to the summer camps, spend my weekends in youth group, and really, honestly tried to “build a closer walk” and “dig deeper” into the scriptures and my relationship with God. Being a Pentecostal brought a whole new level to the desires because it included the experiential part of the faith. For a while I lived for the rush of a good worship service and a real “experience” with God. I wanted nothing more than to be a worship leader and help others experience what I did. However looking back I had a lot of deep seated insecurities and problems that stunted my growth emotionally and mentally, so the whole “not getting what I want out of life” thing extended even to my faith. Looking back I realize that I was far from the only maladjusted person looking for answers in a rousing service.

I was living on the rush of being part of the crowd. I loved being in the services, but at the same time on the days when I wasn’t “feeling it” I would feel that much worse—like God didn’t want me or didn’t think I was that important. That only made my drive so much more earnest. It was a vicious circle that kept me on a rollercoaster of ever-increasing hills. The swing from good church kid to evil backslider got more and more pronounced, and it was taking a huge toll on my emotionally.

 

Add to that the growing up process of going to college, and the products of my newfound critical thinking skills seemed to make everything more muddled. Every time I’d look for and think about an answer, I’d find 5 more questions that didn’t add up. I was finally realizing that the experiential side of things could easily be reproduced at a good concert. I was learning about things like groupthink, peer pressure, persuasive speaking, and hypnosis. When I would go to Pentecostal services I could literally see the word patterns and voice intonations that were either whipping the congregation into a frenzy of “praise” or calming people into an “experience” with God’s love. I could pick out the people that weren’t really into it but wanted to fit in.

There were always those people who were in it for the show. The woman that would cry through the whole service and stand up and shout out messages in tongues. The girl at camp that no one liked until she had an “experience” and because the evangelist saw her as a good “testimony” suddenly she was popular. The man who was convinced that God was going to use him to heal people, so he laid hands on whoever was near. I began to see through the fog and notice the woman with deep seated emotional issues, the girl who wanted attention because she wasn’t pretty enough, and the man who just wished he was something more than an average Joe.

 

The turning point came when I started going to a Baptist church with a girl that I went to school with. Being Baptist, they were very, very scripture oriented. However they were also very, very conservative. The “ought-not’s” seemed endless, and the vilification of those who thought differently (people who supported gay marriage, people who allowed themselves to “use” alcohol, people who didn’t come to church) started to pile up. The kicker, however, was that it was all backed up by scripture. I started to see the Bible, and indeed the whole institution of the church, as a hugely paradoxical thing. We’re to love our neighbor, be “in, not of”, and “go to all the world”, but we condemn the world behind the safe—supposedly welcoming—doors of the church. In the same breath we can talk about not gossiping or being judgmental and condemn Sister Martha’s nephew who, she hears, had been drinking and smoking cigarettes. The backstabbing and doublespeak permeated the entire organization.

My mom’s favorite phrase whenever I’d talk to her about the evils and hypocrisy I saw was “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” But what happens when the bathwater is the way it is because of the baby? What happens when the baby is smiling out of one side of its mouth and crying out of the other? What happens when the baby decides that it’s the only baby that’s right, and damn all the other babies? I couldn’t, in good conscience, follow a belief system so deeply, irreparably flawed. I had to stop drinking the kool-aid.

 

I started by sitting down and analyzing what I had always believed and trying to reconcile those beliefs with standard logic and critical thinking. By picking apart the holes in the very thing I’d been raised to defend, I was finally succeeding in seeing how things actually worked. I went from disappointment to sadness to anger to apathy. Eventually I started to work out my own way of reconciling the way things work in the world. I studied sources of ethics, and how you can still live a happy life coexisting with people without a stringent, outdated, impossibly flawed framework. I studied other religions, trying in vain to find something, anything that I could believe in without willfully suspending rational thought. I finally settled, for the time being, on living my life thinking of the good of the community and those around me. I started acting with regards to a sort of Karmic balance that would finally help me achieve centeredness and happiness.

 

I’d always been taught that the only real source of joy was in Christ, but I never truly found joy until I stopped seeking it through a system of intolerance, xenophobia, and manipulation and started thinking of how my life will affect others, regardless of whether they like the same sex, or are for abortion, or like to go out for drinks to relax after work. I’m still very much in a searching phase of my life—I’m only 22 for Pete’s sake—but I’m finally finding that a life that I can enjoy and be contented in is built on more than simply vying for the attention of some divine creator.

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I’d always been taught that the only real source of joy was in Christ, but I never truly found joy until I stopped seeking it through a system of intolerance, xenophobia, and manipulation and started thinking of how my life will affect others, regardless of whether they like the same sex, or are for abortion, or like to go out for drinks to relax after work. I’m still very much in a searching phase of my life—I’m only 22 for Pete’s sake—but I’m finally finding that a life that I can enjoy and be contented in is built on more than simply vying for the attention of some divine creator.

 

This describes my experience too. Well put. Welcome Mrwhistler!

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Welcome to the forums, mrwhistler.

 

Thanks for your very well-written (and very familiar) story.

 

It's quite an eye-opener to have spent one's life not throwing out the baby with the bathwater -- carefully draining the bathwater bit by bit -- only to discover there was a never a baby in there at all.

 

Enjoy yourself here. You're among friends.

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I so know what you mean about the woman that gives out the messages in tongues and the "healer". I think I may have even been that woman a few times and felt that "high". It's embarrassing to look back on it now. I've got drunk on alcohol before and not acted as stupid as I did when I was drunk in the "spirit". :goodpost: Welcome.

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What's this thing with "Karma" anyway?

p.s.

And yes,all this "speaking in tongues" is kinda creepy and disgusting.

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Guest mrwhistler
What's this thing with "Karma" anyway?

 

I guess that I'm not at a point where I want to reject all ideas of a higher power or higher plane. Living my life with thought towards how my actions are going to affect my good or bad karma kind of gives me a reference point and motivation to still be a good person. I've been seeing that by thinking about how my actions will affect others (in some sort of great karmic balance or something) I've been much happier and more at peace.

 

It works for me for now haha!

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Welcome aboard. You were talking about the Baptists and I remembered something that used to drive me nuts...the way that gossip was turned into a "prayer request" As in, "Please don't think I'm gossiping, but so-and-so just had an abortion. Please pray for her and her family in this trying time in their lives." Within 30 minutes everyone inside the church knew and most of the town knew due to overlapping "prayer chains"

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Guest fatkattykat

Hi Mr. Whistler, I am still searching too. Let me know when you find the answers :).

 

I can relate to your experience. I was actually atheist/agnostic during my teen years, then converted to Christianity when I was about your age, but did it for all the wrong reasons (to feel like I belonged somewhere). Making the break is really tough...

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Welcome to freedom Mrwhistler. I grew up in a baptist church and the hypocrisy and backstabbing bothered me too. I'm glad to see more and more young folks like yourself escape the bullshit early.(I'm 42 and it took me until I was 41 to finally deconvert.)

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