sent in by Unborn Again
I am what my mother would characterize as someone who thinks he's too smart for god. By this she means someone who is intellectual, who has thought about religion and has chosen to leave the church.
I was born into a church-attending family; both parents have been in the choir, have been elders and deacons. I grew up in church, attended sunday school and youth groups, and first became "born again" at age thirteen at summer church camp. Somehow god seems so real in the woods. I remember feeling an enormous sense of peace and tranquility.
I reconfirmed my beliefs in high school--I especially recall when I was fifteen, attending a winter youth assembly with several hundred other teenagers, and the way the youth leaders poured on the guilt and shame, finally offering eternal salvation on the last day of the meeting as kids stood in line waiting for communion, tears in their eyes.
Despite being a pious young man, however, I was never much of a bible reader, and when I began to travel and later attend college and read books, I began to also question the basic assumptions my life was built upon.
As a church-goer I'd been taught that Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other less than "mainstream" sects were built upon weak foundations. I, like others in my church, never extended this suspicion to our own faith, however.
A thought I like to remind myself of occasionally is Allen Ginsberg's axiom that "everything you know is wrong." I first heard this while I was in college. By then I'd done some traveling, met a lot of open-minded, smart, interesting people (religious and non-religious, both nonjudgmental), and had begun to seriously think about my own beliefs and Christianity in general.
I had gotten to know some terrific people who happened not to be religious. They too had grown up Christian, but rarely attended and seemed to take part mostly out of a sense of cultural duty. My religion told me that these people would suffer eternal damnation because they had not asked god forgiveness for their sins.
I wondered why a just, loving god would create a universe in which otherwise good, honest people would meet such an ignominious end. I thought, you know, eternity is a hell of a long time, and human lives are unduly short. Could a person who lived a just, moral life, but who had not submitted him or herself before the lord for forgiveness, be sentenced to hell?
The answer, of course, if you listen to Christians, is damn right. And what about the millions of observant, moral Muslims? Hindus? Mormons even? Why must good people who live within a system that makes sense to them be damned by the truth of a religion they don't even know or subscribe to? Is this fair? Is this the way a logical, just god would choose to behave?
Christians told me that only through salvation could a human be saved, otherwise they were doomed to fall into satan's evil grip. I decided satan was as imaginary as the tooth fairy. Christians say a nonbelief in satan is exactly what satan wants. Oh, he's very tricky, that devil, and such a clever marketing tool to keep the wavering believers in check.
I thought, if after a million or so years in eternal hellfire, writhing in a pit of vipers, wouldn't my punishment be just a tad overkill? Would I at that point even remember the life that doomed me to such misery? The monstrosity of the punishment seemed ridiculous.
As a young man I continued attending church with my parents, but once I moved out I stopped attending altogether, except for the occasional holiday out of a sense of family duty. Though my family is still religious, they do at least appear to respect my right to decide religous matters for myself, for which I'm grateful.
Not attending church for a long while caused a strange thing to happen. When I did attend church I saw how peculiar people behaved there. Of particular interest was the prayer of intercession in which the congregation read a prayer in unison. Their voices droned. I read the words to the hymns. I took in the sermons.
Even as someone who had ceased believing several years earlier, going to church again revealed to me how strangely I had lived my young life growing up. It was sad in a way, for faith had come to me easily as a child, and now as an adult my own reasoning and observation and intellectual aptitude had made belief impossible for me. I saw Christianity as a curiosity.
As more time passed and George W. Bush became president, I honestly began to fear the way I saw Christians behaving and believing. The president, in absence of facts, led us into a war based upon his faith that he was doing good. Christians, in "defending" marriage, advocated hateful positions against homosexuals. And now recently Christians have been making headway in pushing creationism into public schools under the guise of "intelligent design."
I see my country headed toward a corporate theocracy--an unholy trinity of Walmart, the military, and Christians. The brand of hateful "born again" Christianity that the Dobsons and Robertsons are pushing is warping the minds of millions, perhaps irreversibly.
It's sad, in a country founded by Deists and freethinkers that this is what we're coming to: a country of illogic and hate and misunderstanding wrapped in the cloak of compassion and faith.
Many Christians talk about how Islam has been distorted by terrorists, yet they ignore how the rabid among themselves have been doing the same to their own religion. I was taught as a child that god is love, that to forgive is divine, that if I was wronged to turn the other cheek. The charlatans and snake oil salesmen who masquerade under the cloak of Christianity have stolen the churches and warped the minds of otherwise good people.
I choose to no longer follow the teachings of the Christian church, or any other church, but to follow my own curiosity and longing for learning and growth. I believe that people should be given the right to question their own faith, to examine their religion in absence of guilt and persecution, and to be guided by the principle that all humans deserve dignity.
I hope that somehow the Benny Hinns and other shysters of fake faith, and the pious political mouthpieces of the right, fail in their quest to turn this once great nation into a perverted, bigoted nightmare.
Joined: born into it
Left: in college
Converted: to fit in
De-converted: saw through the baloney
email: degreesofgray at hotmail dot com