Sent in by Johnny
I was sitting with my pastor at the seminary I was attending for development in Christianity program, and we were talking about one of the finer points in Calvinistic dogma, that being predestination. This was the moment, after 20 years of Christian living, that would instill the mustard seed of doubt into my mind, which would eventually lead to my leaving of Church, of the faith, and eventually any notion of God.
I was raised in a Christian home, by Christian parents. I was taught all of the same teachings that every Christian has heard thousands upon thousands of times. I was pulled out of secular middle school to be home schooled with a Christian curriculum. I had science classes that taught against evolution. I had writing classes with exercises that were always Christianized in theme. I had math classes that had me adding and subtracting problems, with Bible verses on the sides of the page.
I went to Church every Sunday. And youth group every Tuesday. And I had Bible study every Wednesday. And in high school I led a Bible study with jr. High students every Thursday night. I lived and loved in the Church. It was, completely and wholly, my life. My doubts were brief, my emotions high, and I remember praying every night before bed...begging God not to judge me for the sins I still committed against him.
But here I was, 20 years old, at a seminary...never having anything that could be called "a crisis of faith" up until this point, and here speaking to my pastor...I could not accept the idea of God punishing people.
The idea of hell had always bothered me. Why had Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, yet only Christians got into heaven? Why would a god that ultimately is supposed to love us as we are created in his image...why would he throw us into hell? Why would that place even exist? The old phrase, "why do bad things happen to good people?" but on a larger and more eternal playing field.
And with the idea of predestination, came the idea that I made no life choices. I had no free will. While the belief in predestination is not one the whole of Christianity, or even a majority of it, accept as fact...the point was still hitting me on a daily basis at this point that I had no free will. God was so big and powerful that his plan was formed and written millions of years ago (figuratively), and there was nothing I could do to change anything.
My life suddenly felt dark and empty. My pastor even told me that I never accepted Jesus into my life. I was so dead in sin, that Jesus chose to save me. The pivotal moment in my life as a Christian...and it didn't even matter. I had done nothing. And it made me question, why go out and mission to people, when they are already chosen? If God made his mind up at the beginning, why should I try and save anyone?
That was my seed of doubt.
Then college came. I lived in the dorm my first year away for college, and my roommate was chosen randomly. He was, as it turned out, a former Christian who now studied philosophy. Over the course of the year me and him had many discussions about the way of life, the way things used to feel for us as Christians, and my doubt in the faith began to grow the more I read on things in the field of science. Things I had never learned in high school. I was taught about the lies in evolution, and now I was finding out that it was actually my book that had been lying. I learned about philosophy. I learned more about art. And every night I would talk to my roommate, and he would continue to answer my questions about things away from faith.
The last night of my Christian life, the last time I would identify myself as a Christian, I asked Robbie, my roommate, if he thought he was still happy without God in his life. I was so scared that I was going to be lonely and miserable without Him. I thought without Church, and Christ I was going to live a sad life.
Robbie didn't even answer with words. He just sat there and smiled. And that smile warmed me more than the smile of any pastor I had heard or seen in my life. It was a smile of comfort in life, with no mysticism. A life of just...life. No afterlife to worry about, no sins to atone for.
I was 20 years old, and I in that moment in my dorm, I stopped calling myself a Christian. It took me another year before I could fully stop believing in any version of a god, and a year after that until I could argue my points with all the friends I had that were Christians. And most of them still are, sadly.
I am 25 now, and I am more happy now than I ever was as a Christian. I don't have this huge guilt that I am a bad person hanging over my head. I don't constantly feel like I am this evil creature. I don't go about my life worrying about heaven or hell, but just the only life I have in front of me. Now, in addition to grad school and work, I work with people in my own community to help others escape from Christianity in the heart of the belt buckle.
I cannot believe how long it took me to get out, but I am thankful that I have the rest of my life to help others try and get out earlier. You don't have to live a lie. You don't have to live a life away from science and facts, from true enlightenment. You can be free to accept the world as a flawed place, and work on making this world, this earth a better place, rather than just hoping for a good afterlife.
There is hope, after faith.