When I was 15...

Sent in by Robert W

For me, the worst part of being a Christian was this: taking things on faith, even when my mind totally, utterly disagreed with what Christianity wanted me to believe in. I'm soon going to be 31, and I had my first moments of doubt when I was about 15. I can't remember what, exactly, set me off, but the end result was that I became a bit more fanatical about my belief in the truth of Christianity. That's not odd, I suppose. How many Christians who, when they feel doubt, begin to fear that Satan is working his wiles upon them? They, like I was doing at the age of 15, cling more tightly to a sinking ship. The water spills out of the ship, the ship goes down to the deep, so to speak, but the faitful remain unawares in a mad, blissful sort of way. That's how I was at age 15, and up on through till my mid-20s: unaware, mad with faith of a sort, and blissful with that happy sort of stupidity that only a complete denier can possess.

Now, at almost 31, I'm having, I hope, the last battle with Christianity and Jesus. There have been moments in my life when I've seriously waffled between belief and disbelief; a part of me wants to believe, that credulous and irrational part of us that will accept any little thing “on faith.” Another part, the rational part, of me rebels at the very notion of being locked back into a religion that drove me out of it in the first place. Who is going to win, what part of me will walk away after this last-man-standing battle between Jesus and myself? I want to win of course! I don't really care about Jesus or his religion any longer, even when I take into consideration all of the moral platitudes and niceties that have been written about this dodgy, so-called savior. Do 2,000 years of wishful thinking and, I'll admit this freely, eloquent apologetic writing by Christians truly justify the internal, existential misery that I've gone through for all of these years?

Christianity may have a great deal to offer to those who need a savior or who fear the hellfire, but what about a person like me? Is the world a cosmic chess board between God and Satan, with black and white, absolute good and absolute evil? Or, rather, is it merely, as Carl Sagan said, a “pale blue dot?”Well, I can say with a great deal of certainty that notions of cosmic good and cosmic evil are fodder for comic books and Hollywood, not for real life. I can also say that, from my experiences, life actually comes in shades of grey. As to pale blue dots, time will tell if mankind exists at the center of the universe; I'm open to notions of other intelligent life forms out in the universe, but I've also studied Fermi's paradox a bit, too.

A part of me has always wanted to believe that Christianity is true, but how can it be? I think that, empirically, I've more than amply disproven Christianity. My rational, reasoning side sees it for the sinking ship that it is, but it's my gullible, faithful side that wants to hop back onto the Jesus train. Skepticism is far harder than one might think and I'd decry anyone who says that skeptics are cowards or quislings. It's taken me nearly 16 years, swinging back and forth between belief and disbelief, to come this far. At one time “faith” dominated my life; now "reason" seems poised to dominate. What is going to win, faith with all of its superstitious accouterments? Or, will reason win out in the battle for my heart and mind?

I can't recall who said that "Faith without reason is dead." I'd like to see this quote placed in a better context; I've seen Christians and other theists use it to justify their own religion, but what does faith mean? Protagoras quipped about 2500 years ago, "Man is the measure of all things." So, if I had faith in God and Jesus, I'd be lauded to high heaven by the believers. I'd be one of the elect. But, if I instead said that I had faith in myself, as a human being, I'd be accused of hubris. I'd be on a trip to hell with Satan and the devils. But, this is what I have the most faith in: myself. I put my entire trust in my own humanity, my intellect, intuition, and ability to reason, rather than in a shady savior and a God that never seems to be around when you need him the most.

Examining my life, I'm reminded of a bit of poetry from Aeschylus's Agamemnon:
He (God) steered the mortal mind to thought,

making one law: suffer and learn.

How correct that is, if God is anything more than a hopeful figment of imagination!

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20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very nice quote.

Brock said...

I think for me one of the things that helped me get over that nagging fear that christianity was true after all was to remember the end result: an eternity of worship before the Throne, chanting "Holy, holy, Holy" Samuel Beckett suggested in his novel "Malone Dies" that an eternal contemplation of the Divine presence would in the end reduce to nausea--eternal and ever-increasing nausea. I'm not completely reconciled to the idea of dying, but it's certainly better than the alternative.

Robert W. said...

I've been mulling things over in my mind since I was 15, but I never really began to think about how ridiculous Christianity was till I was in my mid-20s, around age 25 or so. I've been wrestling with Christianity, wanting to be done with it for good, for years. Yes, it's still an ongoing, internal battle for me, and I want to share some of my experiences with others who may be going through the same thing. This testimony was, for me, a new thing. I've always kept my skeptical beliefs on the inside, but I want to now share them with others.

Lorena said...

Robert,

What to believe in something? Believe in yourself, seriously.

Believe that you can achieve your dreams with work and dedication. Believe that you are a great person with many talents and endless possibilities.

Bring the power you once gave to the mythical being back to yourself. All that energy you wasted believing and piercing Christian half-truths through your brain is now yours to be the best you can be.

Deborah K said...

To Robert W:
Seems like we are in the same predicament. It has been an ongoing battle for me for at least 25 years, and I've always kept the skeptical part to myself, until about a 8-12 months ago. I feel so much freer after vocalizing it, but still fearful like maybe I'm wrong.
Isn't it awful to feel like that? And some people don't understand if they haven't been indoctrinated for 50 years like I have.

Robert W. said...

Lorena,

This is exactly what I'm trying to do, but it's easier said than done. For me, deconverting from Christianity has been a very time-consuming and often gut-wrenching experience. I liken religion to social conditioning, and for some of the Christians out there, this social conditioning began at birth.

Imagine an addict trying to overcome a lifetime of addiction, and you can see how tough of a time a Christian will have! But, I want other people to know that all of the effort, all of the gut-wrenching, it'll be worth it in the end. In the end, you can stand with the rest of the truly free human beings and not be afraid of a magical, angry man in the sky..

Robert W. said...

Deborah,

I understand how you feel; this skeptical, no doubting, view that I have of Christianity didn't just materialize overnight. It was a thing that cropped up over years and years. But, I'm certain that I'm on the right path. From the sound of things, you're on the right path, too. If you can admit that Christianity is bogus and wrong, that's just one part of the struggle to be rid of that religion for good. The hardest part is being consistent with what you've come to realize, and that's where a lot of the doubters get sucked back into Christianity, perhaps out of guilt or a sense of shame or, most likely, for fear of alienating their family. But, if a person can live up to the old saying of, “To thine own self be true,” well, what can be said? What is the power of Jesus next to a person who knows his or her true potential? Not held down by fear of sin or Satan or eternal damnation or an angry God, such a person can truly thrive. Christianity is a crutch, or a weighted chain to a person who has the potential to be so much more than a fearful member of Jesus's flock of sheep. Christianity is also an outmoded religion from an outmoded past, a past of magic and the supernatural, when demons flew around and randy gods mated with mortal women. Truly the stuff of myths!

resonate11 said...

Robert,

I admire your wisdom and the range of your knowledge.

I doubt that the battle we humans wage is between irrationality and rationality. Neuro science has shown that our rationality is inextricably bound up with our emotions.

Rather, I think the battle is between faith in our knowledge sources. We are born with an intrinsic trust or faith in our care givers. We really don't want to believe that they could have misled us. Nevertheless, we butt up against scientific knowledge and find that we must jettison conflicting beliefs.

Lance said...

Hi Robert,
Thanks for the post. I completely understand what you are going through.

Now that you have de-constructed christianity, the hard part is reconstructing a new life without it. I am slowly putting my life back together and trying to figure out how to best enjoy and live this life now that I no longer have a mythical deity watching my every move.

I find that I can live with more integrity and love when I live out my life without a bunch of artifical shoulds and should nots pushing me around.

It is a struggle at first, but it gets much better in just a few months after finally pitching the whole thing.

Good Luck.

Nvrgoingbk said...

"Do 2,000 years of wishful thinking and, I'll admit this freely, eloquent apologetic writing by Christians, truly justify the internal, existential misery that I've gone through for all of these years?"

Whenever you experience that "internal struggle" you speak of, ask yourself this over and over.

Speaking for myself, I can say with utmost certainty that I just CAN NOT ever return to the mind fucking that I experienced for sixteen years as a Christian. The mental torment nearly caused me to take my life. I did not find life more abundantly. I found death. I suffer Post Traumatic Stress as I think back to my life of "faith" just as I do when I recall other traumatizing events in my life. Even now, the warnings of Hell echo in my mind, seeking to steal my peace and the gospel message that continually reminded me of my worthlessness seeks to define me. I don't allow it.

Some came out of Christianity with few ill effects, but there are others of us who have suffered tremendously and now, when we should be celebrating our freedom, still have to wrestle with our fear of Hell simply because our minds could not accept the ridiculous claims and contradictions of the Bible.

Lorena asked in another post if we would ever get over Christianity? I ask myself that same question all the time.

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Robert W. said...

resonate11,

I have to be true to my own existential quest. This quest doesn't include a belief in biblical fairy tales and an ancient Jewish version of Superman. Common sense is the bane, the kryptonite, of Christianity. I can't speak much for science, I'm more of a lover of philosopher than of hard, scientific fact, but I agree that reality must be based on empiricism and experiential data.

Robert W. said...

Lance,

Thanks for your comments. Things have been hard, I admit this with quite a bit of satisfaction. A hard life isn't worth living, and trying to jettison Christianity has been exceptionally challenging for me to do. The end result, I hope, will be a better, fuller life. A life, as you say, that isn't should and should not, uttered from the mouth of an angry deity. Isn't life more than this? If God exists, then surely God isn't going to begrudge me if I want to explore his world while I'm here? Simpering over my sinfulness isn't a proper way to repay God; it's downright insulting to God (if he exists) and degrading to the human race.

Robert W. said...

Nvrgoingbk,

As we both used to say, amen! Your words are entirely true, and I trust them more than the bible because they are heartfelt and based on an experience that we both share.

Now, I have this same sense of gloom and foreboding very often. The ghost of Jesus looms large in the lives of people who have broken away from his flock; well, I'm not afraid of a ghost, but I am afraid of what I, myself, can do if I ever get sucked back into that world of degradation. This is what I said to a Jewish acquaintance of mine once when he asked me what made me leave Christianity. I told him just that, that I thought that Christianity is degrading to humanity and lowers them to the level of powerless slaves before a tyrannical deity.

Hell is a state of mind, and many ex-Christians are still there. I've often strayed close to Hell's borders, you might say, when I keep having to confront my all-too-human doubts. As I said, a part of me wants to scurry back to Jesus. What's important to remember, though, is that I'm not alone, and there are many fed-up, outright traumatized ex-Christians out there in the world. There's strength in numbers, and we aren't going to go away anytime soon. I'm not bitching at all, I'm rather cheerful about having to deal with this ugly religion, and I want to be of some help to others as they deal with it, too.

The world, the human race, will never get over Christianity. It's simply too big, and it's a part of the noxious legacy of monotheism that has plagued the world for at least 3,000 years. I'm still spiritual after a fashion, but this spirituality has been truncated to a great degree. I still have some vague belief in a deistic First Cause, but the focus of my faith seems to be shifting by inches to the human race. To me, this's a sure bet, and I remain optimistic that the future of the Earth will be far, far better than it has been up till now.

xrayman said...

Hey Robert,

Thanks for sharing your story and making me so thankful I was never totally sucked into the mind fuck of Christianity. I was a tepid God believer at best and was always skeptical of the whole Heaven/Hell thing. When I read my first convincing article that brilliantly refuted Christianity and God belief in general,I was able to free myself in an instant without any of that "What if I am wrong?" fear.

I guess I always do wonder what it really feels like to be a true hardcore believing Christian as many of you were. Oh well I guess I'll never know what it feels like to be riddled with guilt after a round of self gratification.

Don't worry Robert you will set yourself free. Just keep filling your brain with articles from this site and the many fine atheist vids on youtube.

Robert W. said...

xrayman,

That's just it, I wasn't a hardcore Christian. I was, for the most part, pretty awful about going to church. I read the Bible, and bought into it pretty literally and, for a few years there, I was caught up in End Times madness. But, for the most part, I wasn't really a total basketcase.

That's what makes the entire situation so bothersome to me now; even as a lukewarm Christian, it was still pretty abnormal.

xrayman said...

But Robert to say you read the Bible and took it literally tells me you were quite into buying into the doctrine of Christianity despite the fact that you didn't label yourself as devout. Obviously you were scard of the punishment that would ensue for you lack of compliance which says to me you were a true believer especially if you bought into the end of times bullshit.

Like I said hang around here each and every day you can and we will brain wash you into seeing reality for what it is.

Bob said...

Robert,
I'm a Robert, too. I have some good news for you. Once you have decided that faith and Bullshit are synonomous, the longing feeling that religion once provided turns into a feeling something like buyers remorse and instead of wishing for the 'good ol day', I'm disgusted that I was ever duped into religious nonsense, even as a child...Nay especially as a child! Religion is just another form of child abuse. Thank gawd (any one will do) I'm an atheist!

Robert W. said...

xrayman,

Well, it's true, I wouldn't have been much of a Christian if I didn't believe the most basic articles of faith of Christianity. It all made sense to me then! You're right, I was more than a bit scared of the punishing aspects of a religion that uses as carrot and stick approach. The soft glove and the soft touch for the sheep of the flock, but an iron hand for the hopeless unbelievers. It's a very effective psychological ploy.

Robert W. said...

bob,

Children have no choice in the matter; religion is compulsory for them. I'm irreligious but not lacking in any sort of spirituality. I guess I have some deistic beliefs, but I'm not going to put myself into another situation like that ever again. Buyer's remorse seems to be a good term to use because, really, people have no idea what they're buying into when they choose a religion like Christianity.

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