I cannot say that I had all bad experiences as a Christian. In fact, it was much the opposite: I had many wonderful experiences involving intense emotion and self reflection. I believed very strongly in what I was taught, and found great purpose in fulfilling what I believed to be my “destiny”. I was comforted in the belief that my soul was secure from the threatening abyss of Hell. I found joy in serving others, and trying to save them from hell. I heard stories of miraculous healings and answers to prayer, and even saw a few of them myself.
But contrary to what I once assumed, these experiences are not limited to Christianity. Modern psychology has tracked these exact reactions in other groups, both religious and non-religious. Science has proven that these experiences are caused by our brains, and they can be recreated in a number of entirely non-spiritual ways, including electroshock, meditation, and certain types of drugs
Science tells us that the power of the human mind is still vastly unknown to us, but what we do know is quite amazing. Simply believing something hard enough can often make things happen in our own bodies. For example, there have been documented cases of women wanting to be pregnant so badly that their bodies started showing symptoms of pregnancy, such as weight gain, morning sickness, and milk production. No baby existed- and yet their bodies responded to the belief of the mind. Many people experience “sympathy pain” when a loved one experiences it, and still others begin experiencing symptoms of diseases because they heard them described and believe they have it. It is widely speculated that these miraculous “healings” may simply be a result of the mind’s power over the body. But whether the cause is spiritual or physical, Christianity is not the only source of these healings. Many cults, meditation, and self help groups have similar stories to tell.
Personal experience is not solid enough to base a belief system on. Our interpretations of our personal experiences are not always accurate.
My journey away from Christianity started with a few nagging questions that I refused to acknowledge for several years. I had seen discrepancies in the Bible about God’s character, and of how the church viewed and served God. But it was not “spiritual” to question these things: It was only proper to question things that did not threaten the pillars of Christianity. It was acceptable for me to question whether movies were good or bad, but it was taboo to question whether homosexuality was sinful or if the Bible was as accurate as I had been taught. “There are some things you just don’t question.” That is the response I received when I dared to mention one of my questions. I was then advised to keep these questions to myself, since they would confuse and lead astray other Christians.
The final stage of my departure from Christianity was triggered by one of the election issues of 2012. The state of Maine was voting on whether or not to make gay marriage legal there. I saw countless posts on both sides- but none were so arrogant and selfish as those posted by Christians. It reminded me of the many times I had seen Christians shun or hurt homosexuals, and I became aware of new atrocities. At first my belief was simple: I believe it is sinful, but that doesn’t give me the right to use the legal system to force others to live as I see fit. It also bothered me that this one sin was being treated as worse than other sins, even though the Bible is clear that all sin is the same.
Then I began to actually listen to the other side for the first time, and evidence was presented that made me doubt the traditional interpretation of the Bible in regards to homosexuality. I was shocked at how little evidence there was to support such a massive movement against the gay community. I started researching church history, and I was appalled to discover that the church once also supported racism, slavery, and the belief that women were less than men. Given the stained history of the church when confronted with social issues, I began to doubt the traditional interpretation even more.
By now my mind was wide open- I was suddenly seeing the world without the filters of religion for the first time in my life. I was seeing every issue differently; I was not afraid to question things anymore. I finally tackled the two big ones I had never allowed myself to consider: Was the Bible truly infallible, and was God real at all?
I have no idea what it is like to be homosexual. However, in some very small way I think I can relate to a gay person who comes out of the closet for the first time. Although the civilized world is largely accepting of non-religious beliefs, my circles were not. Most of my friends were very passionate evangelicals whose reaction to my new beliefs was far from pleasant. I was coming out of the closet- I was throwing aside my old beliefs and embracing new ones. And in my circles, that was not ok.
I hate that I lived in fear for so long- both in fear of questioning and then in fear of my Christian friends finding out. It is unfair that I did not feel the freedom to be myself during the first part of my journey. I have seen what happens to those who “fall away”- instead of acceptance and love, they are met with tears, manipulation, debates, and sometimes the loss of relationships altogether. I experienced this myself. But I’m done with fearing their reactions. I am “out of the closet”; I’ve lost friends and relationships have been damaged by my new beliefs, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The people in my life who truly love me will love me no matter what I believe. I have seen who my true friends are, and discovered which of my friends had based their friendship with me on our mutual beliefs- and nothing more.
I love my new life. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine- and it’s much better now that I am thinking for myself and no longer afraid of people’s opinions.
Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts. 🙂