I grew up in a Christian Fundamentalist home, where the Bible was law and nobody questioned its authority. As a child we would watch the "Those Who Are Left Behind" type propaganda movies, and I was left with a deep fear of the so-called "End Times." I would never dream about my wedding day, having kids, or anything else most kids dream about, out of fear that I would be found "not diligently waiting with a lamp full of oil when the groom returns." I believed that it was pointless to plan ahead, as we are living in the End Times, and I would probably never get married anyway.
As I grew older a new fear took its place. I was taught that God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for our sins. Great. Since I was saved I had nothing to worry about. Not! Enter the fear of grieving the Holy Spirit. To this day I have no idea what that means, but it is terrifying. Constantly walking on eggshells. Checking your thoughts all the time. Never daring to question, never daring to search, as surely that would constitute a great grievance!
In church we were encouraged to continuously sacrifice ourselves and to be aware that no earthly thing came between our First Love and us. No idea what that means, but to a 17-year-old who loves music, the only thing I could think of was that maybe I had to place my guitar on the altar to prove my devotion. Luckily at that point I already had some sense of reason, and abandoned the idea. I was torn up with guilt for a while after that, convinced that I had somehow proven myself greatly unworthy.
I was deeply involved with the church: worship team, children's church teacher, even went to Bible School. When I left school I moved to another city and proceeded through what Christians call a "backslidden" phase. Living 800km from home meant that mom and dad could not pop in at the drop of a hat, thus, for the first time in my life, I lived!
During that time I met a Deist. He made a statement one-day saying that the whole Jesus story had been repeated many times through the ages, and that Christianity was based on mythology. Well, I was highly offended. Backslidden and all, I knew that this was blasphemy -- no doubt about it! But the thought stuck. He also taught me tolerance and acceptance of the gay community. (Being a South African, this was a huge step for me). I know that that is not exactly relevant, but my point is, Dom opened my eyes and nudged me towards an attitude of questioning my values and beliefs.
Years passed. I recommitted my life to Jesus, but could never find a church that I felt comfortable in. I started to criticise. I noticed how music could dictate the mood of the congregation. It was interesting to find that using certain instruments almost always resulted in the "tangible presence of God". I was amused to find that every time an altar-call was made, most of the congregation would rise, and I asked the question, "Is this real, or peer pressure?" Adding to that, I married a man who is even more critical than I am. He introduced me to sci-fi, fantasy and evolution. Church leaders hated that. We dared to disagree with them over issues. Then I started to question my prayer life. I would catch myself quoting scripture and repeating "catch phrases" that sounded right. Candy coating as it were. Was I sincere? Hell, no! Next I questioned my salvation. Based on love for God and a real desire to serve Him. Not! Fear of being thrown into the lake of fire was more like it. I wondered how salvation based on fear could be salvation at all. Through all of this Dom's comment about mythology nagged me.
Jump to the present.
I am now 33. For the first time I have found enough courage to REALLY question the things that I have held dear for so long. I found a website last night listing the similarities between Jesus and Horus. Scary. Everything matches. I found another site where a certain Rev Pete disproves the Bible by using the Bible. Even more scary. No argument I ever had for Christianity holds water any more. I am now convinced that God is not affiliated to any religion. He does not care where in the world you live. And He certainly does not want to throw us into a lake of fire!
I am not entirely sure where that leaves me, but I refuse to call myself a Christian anymore. I am still looking for answers, testing what I have been taught against true evidence. Till then, I remain pissed off.
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)