sent in by exhihhuli
Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount to build the houses of our faith on the solid rock of his teachings (Mt 7:24-27). Too bad that the religion based on his teachings is a house built on sand. However strong you make the internal structure of your faith, there is no external rock that it is anchored to. So when the flood of rational thinking hits it, it will fail.
My parents became born again Christians when I was 5. They started in Pentecostal and Lutheran circles, but soon ended in charismatic and Word of Faith (you know, the name-it-and-claim-it bunch, e.g. Hagin, Copeland, Oral Roberts) connections, though there were no such churches in the area we lived. As the only child I grew up with the faith, starting to speak in tongues at 7 and getting baptized at 14.
When the super-charismatic "Toronto movement" landed in Finland in 1995 (I was 18), our family jumped in with no restraints, as the drawbacks of the Word of Faith movement had started to become evident (no matter how you believed and confessed your wish, nothing extraordinary happened). I laughed, cried, shook, groaned, fell to the floor and tipped people over in prayer all through the latter part of the 90s, feeling that God's presence in my life was very tangible. I visited the main pilgrimage targets of the movement (Toronto, Pensacola and Tampa) and spent a lot of time in church related things. Personally I was most interested in the praise&worship music, singing and playing in a couple church "house bands". In all that time I never questioned my faith.
I remember making a conscious choice when I was 11 or 12 to never allow myself to criticize my faith intellectually. The teaching I received discounted the "earthly wisdom" and made the blind faith in the inerrancy of the bible the ideal to strive towards. I had noticed that I was rather good at school and with a disposition to science and pondering. Therefore I feared that my intellect might lead me away from the Lord. So from that on I never took the time to really examine my beliefs. I learned about evidence for the evolution but simply chose to believe in creation. I read about the problems in the bible, but never linked them to my belief in the inerrancy of the book. I noticed some of the inconsistencies in the fundamentalist Christian faith, and saw the discrepancy between the promises and the reality, but never considered their effect on the big picture. I am really amazed about the capability of the human mind to hold contradictory beliefs and direct the focus past them.
For reasons still unknown to me, the degree that I could lose myself in the charismatic feeling started to wane a couple of years ago. At first I interpreted it so that God wanted me, one of the most advanced Christians on the planet to step to a new level of faith that is beyond charismatic (quite extreme religious pride, but what else can you expect when one is taught that one is the focus of God's attention and he will do whatever I pray in his name). But over time I started to question the charismatic experience and see how the driving force behind them is more human emotions and less the holy spirit. That led to deeper soul searching. Finally about a year ago I started to think through by beliefs.
It all started simply by wondering the racism of Jesus towards the syrophoeinicean (sp?) woman, but within one week I was forced to admit the inconsistency of my faith and reverted to deism. I understood that the two main pillars of my faith were actually circular arguments. One was the bible, which clearly declared that God exists and what he wants. However, when I gave myself permission to take one step back to examine bible from without, it no longer was possible to consider it as a word of God, with all the inconsistencies and the unreliable origin. The other pillar, my personal experience, was similar. When I opened the door for the possibility of alternative explanations, no charismatic experience was no longer a reliable witness.
In the little less than year that has gone since that week I have lost the deistic position, labeling myself currently agnostic. There are still some experiences in my Christian past that I cannot reliably explain, so I do not have the courage to descry myself as atheist. Sometimes I wonder where I will end. I know that part of the reason I have set myself apart from Christianity are the bad experiences from the charismatic circles. Maybe as their effect wears off, I will bounce back somewhat, though certainly not back to fundamentalism and charismatism. But on the other hand there is no denying the fact that I cannot rationally support the Christian faith. However, to be honest I envy the people that can take the emotional benefit of trusting in something bigger than this world despite the logical inconsistencies. I believe that for many it is a positive strength in their lives, provided that they do not lean too much on their inexistent crutch.
It has not been that easy to strip down two decades of indoctrination. Though I feel now more free in my mind than ever before, the emotional strain is quite clear. Added to that is the fact that my wife is still a believer (though she has moderated a lot over the same time I have lost my faith) and my parents are full-blown charismatics, getting their living from holding "holy spirit meetings" and providing e-mail teaching newsletters on the charismatic side of the faith.
I am glad that I have found in this site and elsewhere in the Net that I am not the only one to have taken this trip. Hopefully my story helps in turn somebody that is still trying to leave the camp. Jesus' advice on building on the rock is still sensible. It just happens that the rock is reason and the sand Christianity.
There is a lot more that I could share about my journey. I'll probably come back to those on the forum later.
Became a Christian: 5
Ceased being a Christian: 25
Labels before: Charismatic, Fundamentalist, Word of Faith...
Labels now: Agnostic
Why I joined: Parents converted, I grew up with the faith
Why I left: Allowed myself to examine my faith from without, found out that I could no longer rationally support my beliefs
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)