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Stuck In Between Faith And Non-belief


J.P.
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Over the past six months, I’ve experienced a near complete loss of faith, unlike any faith crisis I have before had. No singular event precipitated it. Rather, my doubts, questions, and uneasiness with faith existed long before this crisis, and they were simply brought to greater focus and attention and given more importance, really, the importance that such serious matters really deserve.

 

No discussion of my current faith crisis would be complete without the story of how I arrived at where I currently am. Throughout my entire life, Christianity has played a complex and highly influential and important role. In comparison with the stories of others, mine is atypical and unusual, which has unfortunately left me without anything to relate to, both when I fully considered myself a Christian and to those who have left the faith.

 

My story with Christianity starts in my childhood. I was raised to be a Christian and while I don’t by any means want to judge the religiosity of my family, we weren’t what the average person would describe as devout (religion was more of a private matter) and we never solidly attended church. I wasn’t raised as an Evangelical, mainline Protestant, etc. - these were all terms I would later come to learn in my teenage years, as I studied religion on my own; however, they were not part of my vocabulary or that of my family. Growing up, I thought of myself as simply “Christian” and adopted the term ‘non-denominational’, even though I wasn't sure what that meant. While I was taught young earth creationism and that the Bible was completely true, my family was not conservative and was really quite liberal politically and culturally. If it weren’t for several special circumstances that so dramatically altered how I relate to religion, I’m not entirely sure where I would have ended up.

 

It was just before my teenage years when the first of these circumstances appeared. I found myself worrying excessively about going to hell. It grew much worse and I was later diagnosed with religious OCD. Luckily, with therapy and medication, I was able to regain my sanity, but an acute fear of hell remained with me and influenced my faith. I also became stuck to an unusual conservative interpretation of Christianity, one that meant I had strongly believed in creationism and Biblical inerrancy, even though I had read very little of the Bible.

 

In fear of re-sparking my OCD, I avoided reading the Bible and took a break from investigating Christianity. During this time, I still considered myself a Christian, but I felt myself drifting away from the belief system. As a science nut, I began learning more about particular subjects and as my OCD waned, a part of my mind became open to the notion of an old earth and to human evolution. I became politically aware and fairly liberal in my views, and while considering myself a Christian, I took on some fairly secular opinions. At this time, I grew aware of the religious right and quite honestly, began to despise it, even at this early age.

 

The next circumstance to hit me defined the greater part of my adolescence. In perhaps the worst coincidence that could happen to a kid just escaping the mental torture of religious OCD, I began to realize in my early teenage years that I was gay. The implications of this did not escape me, and I became severely depressed. I felt like some sort of cosmic joke: why would God make me both gay and give me OCD? Would I have to be celibate and alone the rest of my life?

 

Somehow, I pulled myself out of the depression. A TV show that referred to the existence of gay Christians as well as a reference to a book on how the Bible did not condemn homosexuality gave me some hope. Of course, I couldn’t exactly go down to the library and check the book out without my parents finding out. I dared not look at the Bible myself either (had never read over the verses addressing homosexuality, and wasn't about to without information on the cultural context), and decided that when I was old enough to drive to the library on my own, I was investigate the matter.

 

And so, I did just that. Of course, for a kid with latent potential for an OCD outbreak given the right trigger, this should have set off alarm bells. Several months later, I found myself pouring over arguments on both sides. I couldn’t leave the subject alone - whenever I had free time, my mind immediately began thinking about the issue. I visited numerous webpages on the subject, began learning Koine greek, and holed myself in the local library studying the topic. Without getting into too much detail, I spent a vast amount of time and personal energy researching the issue. After finally dealing with this OCD outbreak, I came to the conclusion that the Bible didn’t condemn homosexuality in the context of loving, committed monogamous relationships.

 

I began to view Christianity less as ‘work’ and as a potential belief system that I would enjoy following. While I was suffering from my OCD, I wondered why anyone would voluntarily believe in Christianity. Now my perspective shifted. I was drawn to a more progressive Evangelicalism, one where social justice was valued, but the Bible was treated as inerrant. I began to look outside the six verses that addressed homosexuality (hadn't read much apart from that) and actually began to read what the rest of the Bible said. Some of it I liked. Some of it really confused me and left me feeling uneasy.

 

Around this time, I began to take biology classes in college, and found myself giving up creationism. The idea of the inerrant Bible went out of the window and I became slightly more liberal. Many questions arose from this switch, but I decided to not pursue them. I had just figured out how to be gay and Christian. I felt like demanding answers on science and religion was selfish in a way and that I should be happy with how far I had come.

 

I transferred to another college, one that was much more liberal. Christians were a minority here and I decided that I would check out the Christian group on campus. I had only gone to church for the first time months before, and had never been part of a Christian community. This seemed like a good opportunity. Though I was terrified to go, since I was gay, it went well. The group had some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and the group, being pretty progressive, was okay with me being gay and they were very welcoming. Overall, my experiences were really positive.

 

Throughout this time, I finally allowed myself to ask some of those nagging questions I had. The problem of natural evil was a big one. So many problems seemed to originate out of that, and these problems seemed inseparable from the natural laws of the universe. If God used theistic evolution, then why did he make the natural laws have such painful side-effects? Couldn’t there be a better way? I was confused why we thanked God when the natural laws worked for our benefit (bountiful harvests), but when they didn’t and caused us harm (e.g. famine), apparently God was then not behind that, even though he animated the natural laws that led to both good and bad outcomes.

 

I began looking at the Old Testament and was horrified with what I saw. There was such a huge disconnect with the OT and the NT. Jesus seemed to take the Old Testament as fundamentally true though. I found myself rejecting the Old Testament, but still somehow believing in Jesus. I knew this was logically incoherent, but found no other acceptable option.

 

Another huge problem I had was with morality. I’m a strong believer in morality and that good and evil objectively exist. This was, I thought, one of the strengths of Christianity and drew me to the religion. However, the morality of the Old Testament seemed to conflict with the morality of the New Testament. The answers I received back when I asked questions either took the “God is bigger than us, and we can’t always understand his ways” approach or the “God related to them in their own cultural context.” I was totally unsatisfied with these answers. If we can’t determine whether God is moral or not, then how can we be expected to pick the right religion? If their deities all claim to be above our understanding and the “we are to God as cockroaches are to people” analogy stands, then how can we possibly be held responsible to pick the right one? Plus, that line of evidence could be used to justify any command by God. And if God changes morality depending on cultural context, then Christianity is guilty of the same moral relativism it rails against in modern culture. Plus, justifying stoning people because of cultural reasons is a hard one to swallow in any case.

 

Perhaps by biggest issue was that of evidence. I began to see how religion relies on circular logic. Many beliefs were self-reinforcing. I didn’t see anything wrong with this though if I could find an arrow into the circle of logic. If some evidence or proof led into this circle, then I would be satisfied with that. I couldn’t take religion on blind faith. I’d heard that we need to make a “leap of faith”. My question was, how do we know we’re leaping in the right direction? If leaping in the wrong direction leads to eternal damnation, I want to be pretty damn sure I’m leaping the right way. As I searched harder for evidence, I had more and more trouble finding any.

 

I experienced a few small faith crises in college over this. By spring of last year though, I had reached a near-breaking point. My faith was at a low, and I wanted to get back on track. While I really liked the people in my college group and I held a deep appreciation for the teachings of Jesus, I also had so many questions and had issues with worship and group prayer. Something about Christian culture (Christianese, group prayer, raising your hands) just didn’t connect with me, and I began to wonder what was wrong with me. I would always approach things very intellectually and was careful not to let emotions cloud my judgement. I wasn’t ready to say something was God speaking to me, unless I could absolutely rule out that it was just my mind.

 

I decided to go an a service mission that summer in hopes it would boost my faith. It didn’t.

 

While I had some really great and intense experiences working with the poor, the service mission actually decreased my faith and I left feeling like I wasn’t a Christian. There was a charismatic bend to it all (speaking in tongues, faith healing, prayer walking, ‘treasure hunting’), which I was already skeptical of, and honestly, it freaked me out. Not that that was the only thing, and I wouldn’t have let that be the only thing. For example, I worked with a non-religious volunteer who really seemed committed to helping the poor. Not that I thought non-religious people couldn’t be good, but it helped me to keep perspective that religion wasn’t the sole cause of people being good. I realized being good isn't necessarily proof for the validity of religious beliefs. During Bible study, I found myself concentrating on the contradictions and confusing parts. Then during worship, I felt very awkward. Everyone else talked so surely about God telling them things; I’ve always been very hesitant to say God was speaking to me. I’ve always wanted to know how God does that and how to be sure, and I never found a satisfying answer.

 

After returning from the service mission, I remember thinking strongly that I was going to become a very liberal Christian. In the back of my mind though, I felt like I would end up abandoning being a Christian. I didn’t want to acknowledge this, but it remained with me. Most of all though, I felt really bad, almost like I had did something wrong. I had gone to a service mission, and somehow I left feeling less of a Christian. However, a part of me felt like I really wasn't doing something wrong - I just needed to change my perspective.

 

Throughout the summer, my doubt grew. I tried out a very liberal church, but I didn’t feel a strong connection. It was better than the other churches I had gone to, but something just didn’t fit. I began listening to secular perspectives on religion. I downloaded podcasts by Bart Ehrman, and while remaining skeptical of what he was saying, I thought he made some very interesting points that I hadn’t heard or considered before.

 

Up until this past December, I could best describe how I felt as being stuck “in-between” faith and non-belief. I wanted to either move back into my faith or exit it completely, as I was tired of being stuck. Moving out of it seemed easier and the more likely result, but I was terrified to do that.

 

In late December, I watched a series of videos on youtube on a former Christian’s path to atheism (by Evid3nc3). I had actually come to it through this forum (I saw the video mentioned on a post by Prplfox, whose video I also watched), which I had been visiting for a couple weeks. The videos really had a huge impact on me, and made me really step back and think. While before, I thought I’d consider myself a Deist or Agnostic if I were to leave Christianity, the personal taboo I felt about atheism weakened, though I’m still put off by the vitriol by a lot of the New Atheists. I feel more drawn to a calmer agnostic and skeptical approach. I don’t view religion as evil, since it can accomplish a lot of good, but I also realize that religion can have a very dark side as well.

 

Recently, I’ve begun researching more into the Old Testament and how Judaism formed. I’ve been reading “A History of God” by Karen Armstrong, and it’s been quite the eye opener. The stories of the Old Testament make a lot more sense when viewed by the scholarly opinions she presents in her book.

 

Despite all of this, I’m still not ready to let go of calling myself a Christian. It’s absolutely frightening to think about. For one, the fear of hell is still present. Second, if God doesn’t exist, my worldview will need to shift radically to adjust. I’ll need to do research into ethics and philosophy - something solid to hold onto as an anchor. Then, there’s the possibility that when I die, nothing will happen and I’ll cease to exist. I’ve found myself fearing death, when before, I rarely gave it a thought. If that’s it, that’s quite a depressing thought. I know I shouldn’t fear being dead, because I won’t be alive then, but the concept of eternal life is quite appealing in contrast to nothing at all.

 

I think I need someone to talk to. I’ve been holding this in and this is the first time I’ve really talked to anyone about this (apart from a post at some Christian boards and that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped). I don’t want to talk to someone who vehemently hates religion though - I think religion in some ways is beautiful and can hold important value (not to dismiss the negative aspects by any means). Rather, I think I need someone to ask questions, both about how to deal with losing faith and how to cope afterwards and also intellectual and philosophical questions. Also, being a closeted skeptic, I feel pretty alone and could use someone to relate to.

 

After all I’ve been through, I’m not mad at Christianity or religion. I guess I could be mad about my OCD, but that wouldn’t be rational, as it just as easily could have latched on to something else. I never had any bad experiences with Christians - they were always nice (I avoided the mean ones). I think now, I just feel confused and a bit numb. I need time to grasp the implications of Christianity not being true before I fully step out of it. So much of my life has been influenced and directed by it. I've put so much work struggling with my faith. Suddenly, for it to not be true - I don't know how I would begin to accept or understand that.

 

Sorry for the large rant - I’ve kept trying to make my story shorter, but I really can’t without telling my full story. I look forward to your responses.

 

 

-JP

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Thanks for posting your story. The fear of hell was a big one for me also, which studying the history of hell has helped me tremendously. Yes, leaving the faith can be a long process. The important thing is that you are thinking things through. Welcome to ex-C!

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Wow JP That is quite a long story and very honestly written. I applaud you for putting it all out there. Your heart on your sleeve so to speak.

 

I can identify with a lot of what you are going through. I think I made the decision that Organised religion is not for me at about the age of 19/20 but it has taken a very long time ( I'm 35) to really come to grips with what it means, what I do believe and also how to relate to others around me, living in a society where it is just accepted that one IS in fact a Christian.

 

It irks me so to fill in a form and have to see a place for religion LOL. Till very recently I put spiritual or non denominational, before realising I am lying. and now I just put in none.

 

Anyhow I could probably quote your whole post point for point and give you my perspective, but time is an issue for me. Just want you to now you are not alone. ( not even with the OCD) hehe

 

I decided about a year ago that I will give myself permission to change my mind. I will give myself permission to be fickle, to be inconsistent, until I feel that I actually do know something as true.

 

Until the moment I can validate whatever philosophy, idea, or belief that I resonate with as a personal truth ( different for everyone) I will just go ahead and change my mind. ( this applies to everything in my life, not just spiritual or religious issues)

 

Doing this has brought immense relief. I still struggle with thoughts of "am I doing the right thing not raising my child religiously" vs thoughts of " How the heck can anyone believe this crap and live with blinders on"

 

I think it's because we've been so conditioned.

 

Luckily for me I let go the belief in Hell and the Devil about 12 years ago, else that would still bother me somewhat. Just know that you are in control of what you believe and how you allow whatever beliefs to affect you. The mind is an interesting and powerful thing so give yourself time and space to assimilate, get used to, and grow into the big dark space that used to be filled with something that caused you so much pain and doubt.

 

I'm also not anti-religion. I believe that if it adds value to your life, then that's good. For You. It doesn't add value to mine.

 

I remember going on a school leavers camp, and deciding that my big problem in why I couldn't hear God speak to me was because I was a bad bad person in questioning everything. Luckily I got over that Quickly. The brain washing wore off in very little time. Question everything. Validate everything for yourself. Who cares if it is different from what others believe. Even other ex or non Christians. only you can live your life.

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What I would do is to read the New Testament even more deeply the way more progressive not necessarily christian theologians do.

I would use your OCD type personality positively in that way.

Go to university libraries and read what people like John Kloppenborg, Burton Mack and other theologians have to say about the origins and meaning of the gospel. It will help you broaden your mind about what the texts have to say when they are allowed to speak for themselves in the times they were written down in.

At the same time I would try to find another type of connection with Jesus and God that isn't necessarily christian in any denominational sense.

 

Having said that, I think you have need of a community of like-minded people that keep you feel good about yourself.

Perhaps you could join a meditation group to feel more grounded with your own spirituality instead of it being such a mentally straining search all the time. That would allow you to loosen the grip of your OCD-worries more and more.

In such groups there could even be people who still have a relationship with Jesus.

I think there are even some christian groups practicing meditation, but there are also more secular meditation groups, it depends on where you live which choices you have.

 

But that would be my way, I realize everyone is very different in the manner they need to find their way in these matters.

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Guest riverrunner

you say you are not mad at christians and that they are always nice - but look what they teach people - they teach them that they will die and be tortured for eternity. that is not nice and should make you very angry. there is no fucking hell. and there is no reason to believe we exist without our bodies after we die. we are just like all the other mammals on this planet in that regard. christianity is an elaborate hoax and it along with islam is dangerous to our continued progress/survival as a species.

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Hi, J.P., welcome to ExC.

 

I enjoyed what you wrote. You obviously put a lot of your deepest feelings and concerns in writing. That is a very good step to take and a way to help yourself come to understand what you have been going through. Writing things out is my way of coming to terms with some of the great issues of life. I write only for myself, but it is I who needs it.

 

Despite all of this, I’m still not ready to let go of calling myself a Christian. It’s absolutely frightening to think about. For one, the fear of hell is still present. Second, if God doesn’t exist, my worldview will need to shift radically to adjust. I’ll need to do research into ethics and philosophy - something solid to hold onto as an anchor. Then, there’s the possibility that when I die, nothing will happen and I’ll cease to exist. I’ve found myself fearing death, when before, I rarely gave it a thought. If that’s it, that’s quite a depressing thought. I know I shouldn’t fear being dead, because I won’t be alive then, but the concept of eternal life is quite appealing in contrast to nothing at all.

 

There is no timetable which you must follow and there is no rule which requires you ever to let go of calling yourself a Christian. It is not what you call yourself that matters, but what you do or do not believe to be the truth that matters. Once you make the determination about the truth and accept it as such, then you are what you are no matter what you call it.

 

There is no doubt that leaving Christianity can be a frightening experience. I remember when I was where you are, I thought to myself that I must be very careful because if I deny Jesus and I am wrong, there are eternal consequences. That really makes one stand back and take a long and careful look at whether the religion is true or not. As I continued trying to come to the truth about Christianity, I eventually came to see this fear I had expressed to myself for what it really was. I saw it as the chains which held me and so many others in bondage. It was only by freeing myself from the chains of fear that I could find the truth. I realized that fear would hold me back just enough so I really wouldn't confront the great questions head-on. Oh, I might have shed certain doctrines from my Christian belief system, but never would I be able step over that line between what I understood to be the border between eternal damnation and heavenly bliss. My chains of fear were just long enough to bring me to the border, but not long enough to allow me to step over it. But if you don't ever dare to step over that border, you will remain in bondage.

 

So how does one go about getting past the fear to address the tough questions? I can't tell you how to do it as only you know the depths of your fears. But I can tell you how I did it. I reasoned that the core of the Christian religion is the bible and if it is all true, then the bible should be self-proving. I also reasoned that if the god of the bible really exists and he gave us the bible as a revelation of his word and truth and I were wrong after diligently applying myself to the task, then a god of justice would recognize that it was he, not I, who had fallen short.

 

So I studied the bible as I had never studied it before. I did not consult Christian apologists, pastors or any other Christian. I also did not consult non-Christian thinkers. Rather, I consulted the bible itself. I asked certain questions and then looked in the bible for the answers to see if they made sense. I tackled questions like: Is there original sin? Is there any kind of sin at all? Do we really need a savior? Have there ever been miracles in the true sense of the word? Are prayers answered the way Jesus said they would be? Does the concept of a prophet make any sense? Is there an actual place which we know as hell? Do Satan and demons really exist? Does the bible present a true picture of justice? I asked these and many more questions and then did my best to find the answers in the Bible. My study revealed to me that the bible falls flat on its face and does not support the religion in any manner and to any degree.

 

With this, my fears and concerns were behind me and I was able to declare with honest conviction that Christianity is a false religion.

 

I think I need someone to talk to. I’ve been holding this in and this is the first time I’ve really talked to anyone about this (apart from a post at some Christian boards and that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped). I don’t want to talk to someone who vehemently hates religion though - I think religion in some ways is beautiful and can hold important value (not to dismiss the negative aspects by any means). Rather, I think I need someone to ask questions, both about how to deal with losing faith and how to cope afterwards and also intellectual and philosophical questions. Also, being a closeted skeptic, I feel pretty alone and could use someone to relate to.

 

We all need someone to talk with. I know I did. That is why I came here and remain to this day. I think, at least based on my experiences, that you will find the kind of people you seek to speak with right here.

 

After all I’ve been through, I’m not mad at Christianity or religion. I guess I could be mad about my OCD, but that wouldn’t be rational, as it just as easily could have latched on to something else. I never had any bad experiences with Christians - they were always nice (I avoided the mean ones). I think now, I just feel confused and a bit numb. I need time to grasp the implications of Christianity not being true before I fully step out of it. So much of my life has been influenced and directed by it. I've put so much work struggling with my faith. Suddenly, for it to not be true - I don't know how I would begin to accept or understand that.

 

You do need time to grasp the implications of Christianity not being true. Determining that it is not true is but one step toward recovering from the religion. Once I had determined that Christianity was false, I had to rethink many issues and determine for myself how I felt about them. Honestly, I wanted Christianity to be true because it made my life so much simpler. But I also learned that it is so good to live in truth and freeing myself from the belief that, among others, there are these spiritual beings called demons lurking all about us. Once I had gotten to that point, I could look around me and see a beautiful world in which I could live as a free human being.

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Sorry for the large rant - I’ve kept trying to make my story shorter, but I really can’t without telling my full story. I look forward to your responses.

 

There's no need to apologize for a long post when it is filled with words worth reading. ;) I think you have more in common with many of us than you think. There was a point in time when I had a very similar mindset to yours.

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JP, what a thoughtful person you are. I really enjoyed reading your post; it was full of depth, honesty, maturity, as well as rigorously reasoned logic and philosophy. It sounds like you are at the point where you know you're in the daunting process of leaving the comforting cocoon of Christianity and are looking for support, empathy, and a respectful space to ask new questions. There have already been some really thoughtful replies, and I hope these have already helped.

You feel that your story is complex and atypical, which has made it difficult for you to find people to relate to - within and without Christian circles. Factors including your sexual orientation, your struggle with obsessive, compulsive thinking and behaving, and philosophical questions around evil and morality have compounded to make the journey so far quite traumatic for you. Am I reflecting that right? And yet I can't help but notice how well you dealt with each of these issues as they arose. You were really quite pro-active and despite your deeply embedded fears and sense of alienation, managed to step out of your comfort zone and do the necessary research that would serve to at least provide greater perspective for you, and at most, offer you the stepping stone to move on to the "more plausibe." You've been fortunate to have exposure to a lot of great research and media in this regard.

 

Your thought processes remind me of my own journey in many ways, and also brings to mind a great Alan Watts quote from his book "The Wisdom of Insecurity": "Once there is the suspicion that a religion is a myth, its power is gone. It may be necessary for man to have a myth, but he cannot self-consciously prescribe one as he can mix a pill for a headache. A myth can only "work" when it is thought to be truth, and man cannot for long knowingly and intentionally "kid" himself" (p19). Isn't that awesome?

 

It really sounds like for better or worse, you can't kid yourself any longer; you've seen the cultural context and limitations of the Bible and Christianity - its seductive beauty as well as its ugliness (two sides of the same coin), and the wizard behind the curtain just isn't fooling you any more. The metamorphosis into the spacious reality outside of Brand Christianity may well be daunting and traumatic but I have faith that you will deal with this season of your life with grace, sobriety, integrity, and teachability, as you have all along, such admirable qualities, regardless of what you do or don't believe. Rest assured that the journey doesn't have to be full of anxiety, it can be full of spacious wonder and curiosity and some detached but very present-minded awareness of the emotional hooks and cultural conditioning playing out in your personal evolution. "Who knows what would happen if we were to replace our need to understand and control with a sense of wonder and respect?"

 

May I suggest that, while you will naturally form new paradigms, models, and metaphors for explaining Reality, resist the urge to give in to the narcotic allure of false certainty. You are in a wondrous place right now, a place of ambiguity, uncertainty, fertile ground for living in Real Time, rather than relying on the translations of your own filtered mind and models that others have provided through language, religion, philosophy, and science. We have a strongly conditioned psychological need for certainty, and fundamentalism of any kind helps us avoid that pesky continual underlying tension of not knowing - but at what price? You know the price is too high. And it is an unnecessary price; better to always be open to new information and insights as they come, rather than replace one monolithic belief structure with another.

 

Easily answerable questions will inevitable come - like the knowledge that hell was a pagan concept borrowed by Christianity (Thomas Talbot, The Inescapable Love of God), and more complex questions around evil and morality can be sat with and worked through over time, hopefully some of that through this site with us, your fellow sojourners.

 

I'll let you call the next shots, the ball's in your court, to take this thread wherever you want it to go.

 

All the very best, and thanks for sharing your path and the opportunity to support you in it!

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...brings to mind a great Alan Watts quote from his book "The Wisdom of Insecurity": "Once there is the suspicion that a religion is a myth, its power is gone. It may be necessary for man to have a myth, but he cannot self-consciously prescribe one as he can mix a pill for a headache. A myth can only "work" when it is thought to be truth, and man cannot for long knowingly and intentionally "kid" himself" (p19). Isn't that awesome?

 

__________

 

... resist the urge to give in to the narcotic allure of false certainty. You are in a wondrous place right now, a place of ambiguity, uncertainty, fertile ground for living in Real Time, rather than relying on the translations of your own filtered mind and models that others have provided through language, religion, philosophy, and science. We have a strongly conditioned psychological need for certainty, and fundamentalism of any kind helps us avoid that pesky continual underlying tension of not knowing - but at what price? You know the price is too high. And it is an unnecessary price; better to always be open to new information and insights as they come, rather than replace one monolithic belief structure with another.

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Thanks for sharing that quote! I copied and pasted into Evernote. And very well said about embracing uncertainty.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Apart from the OCD and your being gay, your story seems so similar to mine that it's almost a little crazy. Perhaps I was just so astounded by the similarities that I ignored the differences...

Anyway! I also was raised in a rather liberal form of non-denominational christianity, and I also went to a christian missions-thing which didn't help with my faith, and also soon questioned the christianese being practiced for seemingly no other reason than christian tradition and emotional highs.. I also have never felt damaged by the religion at all or known people to be damaged by it, apart from my own crises with faith that ultimately lead me where I am today.

I commend you for being so honest about it all. I don't know what it's like to have OCD, but in my case, thinking that I had done all I could and that the responsibility now lied with God really helped calm me down ("you do the possible, and God will do the impossible" was what my christian peers always told me).

And as time passed, this crazy existential problem of mine that was taking up all my time and energy, became less prioritized and less painful, and now I only allow it to be prioritized on special occasions when I feel like it. I feel in control about it all. I feel control in knowing that God can at any time speak to me, or in another way reach out to me if he truly loves me. I've reached for God, and now, if He's there, it's his turn to reach for me.

Dunno if this helps at all, but it did to me:)

Best of luck on your journey, wherever it may take you!

 

-Daniel

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi,

First off, I just wanted to say thanks for all the great replies. You all had some great advice and things to say and I appreciate your words.

 

Though I still feel stuck like I have, some things have happened in the past couple weeks and the way I am seeing things are shifting. Things are starting to sink in, so to speak.

 

One is that I've realized that some of my arguments that helped me to justify certain aspects of Christianity are falling through. For instance, one of the ways I was able to cope with the concept of hell was the C.S. Lewis answer that "Hell was locked from the inside." Basically, the people in hell were so far gone that they chose to stay in hell on their own accord. But recently, after listening to a religious study lecture (by Dale Martin at Yale) series on the New Testament, the phrase "weeping and gnashing of teeth" popped into my head. It seems gnashing of teeth may mean anger from what I could find, but people would be 'weeping' as well, and some people think gnashing of teeth may imply regret. In any case, if people are crying and regret might be implied, the "hell locked from the inside approach doesn't seem to hold so well. I'm not sure why this never occurred to me before.

 

Another is that while the idea of Christianity being wrong implies losing God as something to base morality on, I'm now more intensely questioning what that kind of morality is and what exactly from the Bible I'm basing it on, other than perhaps the Golden Rule. It's increasingly clear to me that there are differing moral codes, and to embrace the whole Bible as morally right leaves me with a very strange and shifting moral code. I realize now that the version of God that I derived my moral inspiration from was more of a construct meant to answer philosophical questions about God than anything I read in the Bible. So, while I'm struggling to come to terms with morality apart from God, I also realize I know too much to return to my old system. Not that I'm giving up on morality - I'd hold to it even if God didn't exist. I'm not the person who doesn't do bad just because I thought God would punish me if I did.. I just feel the need to find some ground for it, or some proof for it to be real and transcendental or emergent in some way, if that makes sense.

 

I met with my former youth group leader recently. I've since graduated, but he wanted to meet up and I was in the area. These past six months, I had thought of calling him up and asking him some of these questions, but I almost felt like there were no satisfying answers to my growing list of questions. The visit went well and it was great to see him; he's a great guy and his wife who I also met is a really wonderful person. Near the end of the visit, they asked how my relationship with Jesus was. I said something along the lines of that I had a lot of questions and a lot of doubts, and he replied that I should e-mail him some of my questions. So I did, and he e-mailed me back. I had heard many of the answers he replied with before, and to be fair, I'm not sure any answers would satisfy the questions I have.

 

He recommended I read a book, which I have been reading. I haven't got too far into it, but it seems the approach the author takes is that if you're honestly a skeptic, you should 'doubt your doubts' as well. Also, it says that rejecting Belief A implies making a leap of faith for Belief B. But of course, there are problems with those statements. If you should doubt your doubts, which doubts should you doubt? Doubting doubts implies having more certainty in the belief you're doubting. Which belief system should I have less doubt in? Christianity? Mormonism? Islam? Hinduism? It's the whole "skepticism is a religion" claim - but if that's true, then is not collecting stamps a hobby? (thanks Nonstampcollector for that one!) And then if everything is a belief, what if we were to say, believe that gravity was false (Belief A). Then that implies that 'gravity is true' is a belief ( Belief B ). Of course, that's absurd. The author's stance takes as an assumption that all claims are based on faith and he leaves no room for evidence. He also said that any doubts about Christianity involves a leap of faith to another belief system. But of course, that's not true - there could be inconsistencies in Christianity that would cause you to doubt its coherency. No outside belief systems necessary there.

 

Dismantling the author's argument was an interesting experience for me. For once, I was looking at a Christian apologetic book critically. And in about an hour, I utterly destroyed his main line of reasoning he described in the introduction, taking a couple pages of notes of my thoughts. It was both exhilarating and frightening. I just dissected the safety rope that had been thrown to me, but I was closer to the truth and that made me excited.

 

My faith is so low, it feels almost non-existent. I keep telling myself I'm a Christian, partly out of fear of hell, but every time I say it, it feels like saying 1+1 = 3. I know I shouldn't feel pressure over whether I should call myself a Christian or not. But I feel torn - I feel a need to be honest with myself, but letting go is such a scary idea. I don't know it should exactly, because at the level of faith I have, I probably fail pretty much most the salvation requirements in the Bible (the ones dependent on faith).

 

I haven't been worrying about it so much lately though, and I have to admit, my life has been pretty good. I've realized a lot of the stress I've had has been over this issue. Maybe another path out is to just quit keep worrying about it for a while, and then I can make a decision without so much anxiety attached to it all.

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  • 4 months later...

Hi all,

Just wanted to say I finally left Christianity today. I read through a list of major objections, contradictions, inconsistencies, and philosophical issues about Christianity that I wrote out and said one final prayer to God saying if God existed, I'm open to any evidence God wants to provide, but for now, there's not enough for me to believe. And then I admitted I was agnostic and that I no longer believed in the God of Christianity. In actuality, I de facto deconverted back around December/January for good, but am finally now admitting it and breaking my last connection to Christianity.

 

So it's over. I don't feel sad. Just at peace, really. It was funny, because beforehand I wanted it to be this cathartic experience where I cried my eyes out and yelled out to the sky that I no longer believed, but that really didn't happen. It was a pretty calm experience.

 

I just feel this sense of moving on and a little bit excited that I don't have to believe in this stuff that's weighted me down for so long. I'm in control of my life now, and I have nothing supernatural to worry about or endlessly ponder.

 

Thanks for all your posts and for the stories other people put on here. It really helped, and I'm grateful for the community on here.

 

 

J.P.

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... and said one final prayer to God saying if God existed, I'm open to any evidence God wants to provide, but for now, there's not enough for me to believe.

That's what I did too, 7 years ago. And I'm still waiting for "God" to give me any evidence. I have heard a lot of his followers talk a lot, but nothing tangible has been provided. I even have challenged God's slaves to ask their master for a miracle to show me wrong, but nothing... Because their "God" doesn't work that way, except for when some random guy in New York prays to their "God" for his mom to win lotto... then this "God" answers. Weird. My son's health is worth less than some woman becoming millionaire.

 

Everything you said J.P. is :3:. :)

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