“…suddenly being able to make my own decisions and being able to own them for myself was a very interesting, but also kind of terrifying place to be.”
This is Dan, describing losing his faith.
I attended a funeral for on my friend’s girlfriend, this was a lesbian couple, and the deceased parents would not attend this memorial because they did approve of her lifestyle. In this room there were 200 people and the love and the support and the community in that room rivaled or exceeded that of any church I’d ever been in. I’d spent 12 years of my life seeking out that sort of community. I left a little bit shaken thinking to myself that everything that Christianity was standing for was apparent in that room with the heathens, the people that were being condemned by the religious right.
After that experience I ended up on a blind date with someone who ended up working for an abortion clinic. While that was the only time we spent together, the conversation that night was very enlightening and Christians have, for the most part, a pretty black and white view on abortion; as in, “Don’t do it.” In speaking with someone who worked in a clinic I got to hear 300 shades of grey, you have a poor immigrant family that was attempting to use birth control–they’ve already got six kids, they can’t afford to pay for those six kids in the first place–and accidentally have a seventh. Are you going to condemn them, are you going to let a child be born into this world in really dire circumstances? What about rape? What about incest? And I didn’t leave with a huge, changed opinion about how I saw abortion, but what I did was open up my mind to seeing things in shades of grey, rather than in black and white.
I found when I was driving home that night, I pulled over into a parking lot and asked myself–this was kind of my tipping point moment–I asked myself; If I am a Christian I am supposed to believe and follow the character of Jesus Christ, am I following Christ right now? And in that moment, even though I still believed in God, I found that I was not really fully in line with following Christ. And once I decided that that was negotiable, it was only a matter of time before my faith entirely waned.
What really pushed me over the edge–I was married once upon a time–and the only time in my life I really thought I heard God speaking to me, the words that were spoken were that my marriage would survive and it did not, it failed. If after thirteen years of faith, the single time I audibly heard my supposed creator speaking to me was 100% wrong, what is that going to do to my faith and to my concept of prayer?
I took a close look at prayer and was trying to decide where prayer stood. What I really found is, looking at the lives of my friends who were Christians versus the lives of my friends who were not Christians that approximately the same amount of good and the same amount of bad happened to both of them. The difference being, when bad things happened to Christians, even though two or more were gathered in his name to ask for these things–which the bible says that God would answer–when things did not go according to prayer plan for Christians they chalked it up to God’s will. When things did not go according to best wishes for non-Christians; “Oh well, that’s life.”
When I look at life I try to use the scientific method, but another one that I try to apply–a maxim–is Occam’s Razor which, basically, says when multiple explanations can apply to something the simplest is the one you should chose and so the concept of some great father figure in the sky granting out wishes or answering prayers, but only some of the time, but confusing you with mysteries versus “Life happens.” It really seemed, in Occam’s Razor’s favor, that the second was the way to go.
I’d spent twelve years of my life following the tenets written in an ancient book, trying to please a creator that I never met, never saw, and could never communicate with. But I was doing everything for the greater good, because it was the right thing to do. It was really selfless and it really became a lot of my identity, who I was and all of my motives came back to this framework for why I was doing anything. So, suddenly being able to make my own decisions and being able to own them for myself was a very interesting, but also kind of terrifying place to be.
The more I chose my own way, the more that I found myself free to discard notions that no longer sat peacefully with me. That suddenly I started to find the peace that I’d been lacking for so long through these twelve years of Christianity. Christianity wants to give you peace about your eternal soul and they want to give you peace in this world as well about where you are at, even through the hardships. But all this time I just had this nagging feeling that I was putting my logic aside and that I was trying to blindly follow the doctrine, but it never really sat well with me.
On the one hand it is a pretty neat rush to feel like you are connected with a lot of people, that two hundred people in this building have your back, that you are doing something that is in line with the creator of the universe and there is some definite emotional rush that comes with that where you feel like you can get lost in whatever the moment would be and commune with the creator of the universe… yeah that was kind of neat.
On the other hand, wow, I am awake now and, wow, I partook in what?! I look back on who I was and so much of it seems foolish and unjustified and irrational and when I look at it from that perspective, yeah, I kind of miss the feelings, but I don’t miss feeling like I was sacrificing a big part of my brain to get there.
Losing Something by Jody Stephens is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.