Sent in by Chris S
I arrived at University in the autumn of 2004 never having given religion of any kind much thought, I was every inch the wide eyed fresher! I quickly encountered the local group of evangelicals who ran the Christian Union at the University and I found they gave me a great sense of fellowship and warmth when I was around them. As a result I thought I would go along to the variety of events they were putting on, that target new students, such as film nights and discussions over coffee. After a five week course in the local coffee shop looking at the basic of the Bible’s message in Romans, I decided it all seemed to make sense and gave my life to Christ at the end of the final session through a prayer. For the next two years I was every bit the convinced, fundamentalist Christian, a somewhat bizarre species in Britain, but they do exist! Not far off a million of them in a variety of shape and form, and they exist in almost every University. I attended many conferences, endless talks and sermons, bible studies in groups and one to ones, prayer groups and even went abroad to help spread the ‘truth’ about the Lord. I couldn’t believe that it would happening to me, but there it was. I loved having access to the sole ‘truth’, it was intoxicating not having to see things in nuanced shades of grey anymore and being able to be absolutely certain in something’s righteousness or otherwise, it satisfies the inner child in all of us. My parents (especially my mother) were pretty torn up about this sudden life change, as was I, as I now believed them both hell bound sinners in the eyes of God. Towards the end of my first year of study I was finally baptized and read out my testimony to all my gushing Christian friends, who were so proud to have hooked a genuine atheist from the pond. The Christian worldview provided me with an ideological framework to understand and explain the world, a coherency that had been lacking previously in my life, and I loved it.
It was towards the end of my second year that I began to have doubts. Some of the people I was around began to scare me, for want of a better word. They seemed so sure minded and confident about the authority of the Bible, that any ideas about really questioning and finding truth were entirely secondary. I was increasingly finding that the analytical and academic skills taught by my History course were in direct conflict with the approaches taken to the Bible by my Christian colleagues. It gradually dawned on me, after actually reading through the whole Bible (due to my studies it took around a year) that something such as Noah’s Ark could not possibly be an actual historical event. I mean its little better than a joke! And yet when I took this complaint to some of my Christian friends they were shocked and could barely conceal their horror at such a heresy. From that point onwards, my literal Biblical Christianity began to fade, slowly at first, but obviously the Bible could no longer be accepted as the ultimate guide to my life, and must be treated with caution in the same manner as any historical document. I tried to find answers in Christian literature, but it was all pseudo-scientific nonsense, I’m sure you know the kind of books I mean, they are a travesty to real thought. I found Christian books in general to be of a consistently poor quality, being repetitive and simple minded. Most of my Christian friends seemed to have only a vague interest in learning more about the history of the Bible and were entirely satisfied in listening merely to the pronouncements of out leaders.
Then during the summer of that same year, I had a foreign student move in with me for a couple of months who was also a Christian. We began talking, and he confided in me that he had doubts. At that stage I was not ready to admit that I too was doubtful at the type of teaching I was receiving. By the time he moved out my foreign friend had de-converted completely, and it was informative to see how much happier he seemed, finding himself a girlfriend and actually having sexual relations! I can’t believe I gave it up coming into University! After that, I attempted to walk a middle path, attending the same church with the same Christian friends, but trying to use the Bible as a guide not an absolute law unto itself. As time went by, I sensed this simply wasn’t working and I began to do some real reading into the real origins of man and the development of religion as part of human psyche, as well as the actual genesis of the book we call the Bible. This finally allowed me to see what should have been obvious from the beginning.
During my third year, as my special subject I was lucky enough to be included on the module for the Third Reich, an intensive study of every aspect of the regime. Current ideas on the nature of Nazism tend to view it as a political religion, along with such phenomenon as Marxist-Leninism-Stalinism from the Soviet Union. Although such a comparison may at first seem crude (in terms of content all of them are obviously very different!), they all attempt to teach ultimate truths that define reality. Nazism loved to use its own relics and use religious language in mass ceremonies. Some scholars have even compared the SS to the clerical class, as the administrators in chief of any ‘religious’ ceremonial rites! My tutor unashamedly called the Church a totalitarian institution, and by the end of the course I was coming round to the idea. All of them attempt to create a new man, a person who reflects the ruling ideology like a mirror with no independent thought, whether through propaganda and the Hitler Youth and League of German Maiden’s or through church groups. Both try to change you completely! The commitment to both causes must be total or it is nothing at all! (For a faith that seemed so simple to commit to, it was one that seemed to be making the most total of demands, demanding access to all of my time and efforts, all should be given up the Lord, if you truly love him that is?) The comparison does have its limits obviously, but it is not surprising to see its popularity in historical academia.
Having read many of the testimonials on this site, I feel somewhat fortune that my time in the Christian fold was relatively brief, and that the levels of time, effort and money invested were comparatively low. I feel a deep sense of shame that I could have been taken in by such a shallow, one track philosophy. All the richness and variety of life awaits me away from Christianity’s restrictive straitjacket. However it must be said that I bear the people who led me into it no grudge, I chose to give my life to Christ freely. Although misguided, that doesn’t change the fact that they are good people and I still remain friends with many of them. I had some truly wonderful fellowship with so many great people, but they really don’t need a religious justification for any of it! As a person I am much the same now as I was before, and the same will be true for them as well. To be quite honest I think there is a deep underlying sexual motivation for a lot of young Christians who are using their faith as a means to acquire a partner who will be committed to them in totality, especially the men who clearly get the best end of the submission stick. But deep, satisfying relationships and marriage don’t just exist within the walls of religious faith, its dependent on the people involved. It is obvious that many of them are deeply disappointed with me, having invested a great deal of time on me in terms of sermons and personal bible study times, but obviously this can have no impact on my decision. I have moved onto a greater study of politics, I have developed quite a taste for anarchism and its many variants. I can’t quite decide now whether to leave my experience behind me in its entirety or whether to do something about the friends I have, as to be honest, they scare me with their single mindedness and I won’t be able to sleep at night properly knowing that there are any people out there to whom reason means nothing. Or maybe I’ll just relax!
All the best to everyone on this site, and thank you for reading.
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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)