I was brought up in a Baptist church. From birth until I left for college, my parents took me and my older brother to church almost every Sunday for Sunday school, morning service, and usually evening service. I went to a Christian school for most of my primary years and through jr. high. I memorized Bible verses at Awana clubs every Wednesday. I went to Word of Life Bible camp every summer, as well as Bob Jones summer theatre and music camp for two years (which was quite enough!). As a teenager, I went to Word of Life youth group at my church and was even involved in Bible quizzing. My point being I've had a hell of a lot of Jesus going on in my life.
I wasn't totally dragged to these activities; I actually enjoyed many of them, though I always felt somewhat out of place. But I believed what my parents and teachers told me about God and the Bible 100%. I can remember at the age of seven wanting to witness to people in order to save them from hell; I was truly concerned for others and felt selfish for being too shy to tell them about Jesus. I actually carried the guilt of that around with me for many years, it just hurt so much that friends who I cared about were going to suffer in hell.
My first doubts about religion began my senior year in high school. Though I wouldn’t admit it to myself at the time, I was severely depressed. I hated myself; I felt like a cancer ruining the lives of everyone around me; I felt worthless and alone. The depression started in childhood, but escalated when my high school boyfriend broke up with me (over the top I know). My ex-boyfriend wasn’t a Christian, and I thought the pain that I felt was God punishing me for being "unequally yoked with an unbeliever." I begged and pleaded with God to forgive me and to help me, but it was all to no avail. After months of trying to appease God and just crying for him to get rid of those feelings of despair, I saw a glimpse of reality; for just a moment I realized there was no one there.
That, however, was short lived, for I was off to Lancaster Bible College (LBC) the following fall. I was going there much to my father's chagrin, because he was afraid I'd turn into a Calvinist. But, I was actually excited to get away from home, and maybe even rekindle my relationship with God; it was the only bright light I had in my foreseeable future.
It didn't take long for the infectious love those Bible college students had for Jesus to rub off on me, and it was actually pretty great for a while. My roommate and I got really close, and I still love the friends I made there. Although I was somewhat different from most everyone else, almost a "rebel" by their terms, I had a giant Led Zeppelin poster in my room and thanks to my brother and N.T. Wright, I didn't believe in the rapture; I didn’t quite fit in to the scene.
My year at LBC was an overall great experience; I didn’t feel so alone and my depression had lifted for the most part, however, behind the contentment my mind was telling me things didn’t quite fit. The students and faculty at LBC were quite different than most of the Christians I grew up with in my family and church. They weren’t all “fire and brimstone,” and even displayed a level tolerance and love; in fact, it was a breath of fresh air. One professor who I really admired at the time always talked about “loving people as Jesus loves people.” The doctrine of free will I was brought up on doesn’t seem to promote loving and caring for people at the spiritual AND physical level. In fact, it has a way of causing Christians to look down on unbelievers, for somehow in their sin they are deliberately rejecting the Lord of the Bible who they know in their hearts is the true God. But, people don’t hold to their beliefs because of free will; there is a series of events that cause people to acquire certain ideologies, which is partly based on one’s upbringing and of course exposure to certain beliefs, as well as the social and psychological costs and benefits of maintaining some religious views and rejecting others. For after all, people don’t exist in a vacuum, and choosing or rejecting Christianity cannot be equated with choosing or rejecting to be good or bad. LBC faculty included free will and predestination advocates, as well as those who tried to combine the two, but none of it settled right with me; free will seemed like an entirely insufficient and naïve doctrine, while the doctrine of predestination was (and is) the most tragic scenario I could possibly imagine for the world. At the time, however, I didn’t want to confront those issues, I was happy for the first time in a long time, and I didn’t want to ruin that.
During that year in Bible college under the influence of that professor whom I admired so much, I realized I wanted to be a missionary. In a world in which I viewed the ultimate purpose in living was to please Jesus, I felt there was no better way to do that than to share his love with others. That spring break I went on a mission trip to Turkey with a group from the college led by that professor. In class and prior to departure, the professor kept talking about the scarceness of Christians in Turkey (99% Muslim) and the tragedy of it all thanks to evil Islam. We had to read all kinds of apologetic books, some explaining why Christianity is better than Islam, others explaining ways to defend the faith, and even others describing how we can know without a doubt that Christianity is true by using simple “logic.” I was never surer of my faith, however, there was something that kept irking me in the back of my mind. Why was I so blessed to have the right beliefs while the entire nation of Turkey was so NOT blessed? Our second or third day in Ankara, we were taken to the top of an ancient fortress over looking the entire city, which was a view meant to be a visual reminder of just how many people are living meaningless lives without the knowledge of Jesus and are ultimately on their way to a “Christless eternity.” Several days later we went to a mosque where we had a question and answer time with an Imam. Before heading in, we were given some examples of questions we could ask pointing out flaws and contradictions in the Koran, which were meant to make him sweat and stumble for answers. I was amazed, however, that nothing like that happened. In fact, his answers were similar to those that Christians would give regarding, for example, the contradictions in the Bible or flaws in theology; it was Muslim apologetics. No one else seemed to understand that (at least no one else dared mention it); in fact, it really doesn’t matter what he said, for no answer he could have given would have been sufficient enough of an answer as long as he said Allah is the one true God. Many in my group even felt disgust towards him for turning the minds of the local population, especially the youth, against the true God of the Bible. When the trip was over we got on the plane feeling a sense of remorse for the lost souls we encountered throughout the ten-day trip. Looking back now I see that part of loving people as Jesus loves them, in practice, means pitying the poor wretches. Through the lenses of Evangelicalism it appeared that everyone in the world besides Evangelicals followed illogical and oppressive beliefs; all they needed was Jesus to set them free. But somehow I knew I wasn’t seeing the whole picture. I didn’t understand how Christians could criticize Muslim apologetics for having unsatisfactory answers when I knew Christians didn’t have the most sufficient answers either.
The following year I transferred to a local university to study Anthropology. Initially, I wanted to learn about mankind in order to become a better missionary. But, I knew I would be forced to learn things I didn’t agree with, particularly human evolution. I was raised a seven day creationist, and by this time I still held onto a fairly literal interpretation of Genesis. I had read all the Answers in Genesis (AiG) arguments against evolution, many were even taught to me in my Christian jr. high science classes, and I went into this feeling quite confident that I could not be swayed. But, it didn’t take very long at all, in fact, I soon felt betrayed by my upbringing; I had been misled my entire life! Now I realize what a joke creation science is, and AiG “scientists” are either utterly delusional or total frauds! They mislead people by misquoting and misrepresenting the work of real scientists and use highfalutin words as to mask their true inadequacy; people just assume that because it sounds so scientific, it must be true! I can’t believe the glaring ignorance they spew is taken seriously by anyone, but then again these are the same people who think the rapture is imminent; their world is already a fairytale.
But even after I abandoned any belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis, I still considered myself a Christian. For, after all, there are plenty of Christians who believe in evolution. But the clincher for me came when I stumbled upon a work by Thomas Paine, in which he criticizes the Christianity (sorry, I’m not sure which work specifically). At first, I read it skeptically, until he examined a passage of scripture I had never come across before. The passage was Romans 9, and if you are not familiar with it here are a few verses.
19One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "[h] 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— (NIV)I was suddenly confronted with the very issue I didn’t want to face while in Bible college; the fact that it cannot be man who chooses God, but God who chooses some men. I was completely horrified at this. I could find no reason to be a Christian anymore. The gospel no longer seemed like the “good news”. It’s the worst news imaginable; God created the world and mankind, though he didn’t have to; God allowed sin, though he didn’t have to; God created some for glory, but most for destruction. I find no hope for the world in this, only the hope that one’s ego could live for eternity.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve lost all hope in Christianity, and I feel as though my mind has never been clearer. I no longer have to ride on the merry-go-round of Christian living. My depression has also decreased now that I no longer have a “personal Jesus” to make me feel like the center of the universe. My mental state has improved over all.
Not everything has been great though. About six months ago, I had to tell my parents the truth about my beliefs. I started dating an atheist, and being that I live with my parents, I knew I couldn’t keep him a secret for long. When I told them about him, of course, one of the first questions they asked me was if he was a Christian. He wasn’t raised with any religion, so I knew there was no sense in even trying to pass him off as a Christian; and I made no attempt at hiding the truth. But, it was only after they kept badgering me to bring him to church and get him saved that I cracked and told them how I truly felt about it all.
I know most of you know how hard it is to tell your family something like this, and it’s makes me sad to have to hurt them like this. Right now, they think it’s a phase that I’ve just been corrupted by the secular university I’m attending. My mom thinks I just need to go to church and be in a place where the Lord can reveal himself to me. They both keep insisting I read some apologetics books, because they think somehow I’ve just forgotten everything that’s been shoved down my throat since infancy. My boyfriend doesn’t really understand either, because his family has never been religious. He thought I shouldn’t have told my parents, but he doesn’t understand how difficult it is to have to pretend to be something you’re not. I know for the rest of my life I’ll be making decisions that do not coincide with my parents’ beliefs, and I’d much rather them know that I simply do not believe as they do rather than have them look at me like a hypocrite.
It is so hard living in a house with my parents right now, but this site has made me feel not so alone. Most of the friends I’ve grown up with are Christian and do not know, and I’m worried they might not be my friends anymore if they did. It’s nice to come here and see people who have been through the same things I have. I don’t feel like such an evil infidel.