11/03/2010 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Jeff ~
This is kind of a follow up to a previous testimonial I posted probably about five years ago, I couldn't find it in the archives so I will just have to summarize it here and then go on to the rest of the story. (Fair Warning, this might be really long) (Editor's note: Previous testimonial is here: LINK)
I grew up in a non-denominational super-fundamentalist evangelical family. We were so ignorant of even our own roots that I remember thinking that Lutherans were a cult. No one bothered to tell me that Luther was the one who spawned the Reformation -- no, I had to find that out on my own. Anyway, I was like any other religious zealot growing up, my theology was right, yours was wrong. Except I always felt this pull on my conscience that would secretly wonder why all these people had to go to hell. But I never paid much attention to it; I just chalked it up to spiritual warfare and moved on.
Then around 19 I joined the Army, during my three year tour I finally got out of my spiritual bubble and met people who were of other faiths. I found that these people were not evil, that they had their own perspectives. At this time I had become pretty lax in my beliefs so it didn't bother me; I was far too busy being a soldier to wax theology in my mind at the time.
When I got out of the army I returned to my hometown where everyone I knew was still a crazy fundie, in my opinion. I would go to church and hear the Pastor speak, and I just felt like something was wrong -- I wasn't instantly believing this stuff anymore. So, I decided to do some research, mostly online as I wasn't making enough to buy a lot of books, and I am embarrassed to admit that I knew that libraries existed -- I just refused to use one. So my main source was the Internet. I eventually did buy "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins and pretty much after I read it I decided I couldn't be an atheist because I believed in a Creator, but I didn't believe in religions, so I became a Deist, and that was where my last testimony ended, with me just starting out on my journey, I thought I was done, but I was very wrong.
It did not take me long to go from deist to atheist, and that is where I stayed for about two more years. During those two years I met my wife and we had our son, "Yes it only took two years for us to decide to get married and have a kid." anyways, once our son was born all the questions I had about life, and God, and morality started bubbling up to the surface.
So I went on a long journey, researching all religion to see if maybe their could possibly be a hint of truth to any of them. I started with Buddhism, being an atheist I thought that it couldnt hurt to start with a religion that philosophically doesn't rely on deities. I bought a lot of books on the subject, one of my favorites was "Buddhism without beliefs." By Stephen Batchelor. I read and studied and what I found was that I like Buddhism as a philosophy, but the religion wasn't for me. I just couldn't bring myself to adopt it as a belief system. So I moved on, not satisfied with just having the philosophy.
Next I tried out paganism, I looked into Asatru (Norse Mythology), Druidry, Wicca, and a form of Eclectic Paganism. I liked a lot of the virtuous aspects of these religions, but I soon realized that these are community oriented religions, they only worked in their times because they were mainstream ideas, I didn't have trouble accepting the idea of multiple Gods, what I had trouble with was finding out the proper way to live out these religions. I know some people can do the solitary thing, but I could never find a satisfying way to do it.
Next I looked into Judaism, and I found out that in Judaism, you don't have to be a Jew to worship their God. Apparently all you have to do is follow the 7 Noahide Laws and your good, "Which made me wonder why Christianity was necessary at all if the Jews had this rule all along." The thing that disturbed me about this was that you sort of lived in a spiritual limbo, you weren't quite a Jew and you weren't quite a Christian. So I looked into becoming a Jew, but then I hit a wall again, if I become a Jew what kind of Jew should I be? Orthodox, Reform, ReConstructionist, COnservative? Also my wife is a strict Deist, I mean she supported me in my search but she is the kind of Deist that Thomas Paine would be proud of, she is very anti "man made" religion and so I didn't have a big picture of her becoming Jewish with me. So I decided I shouldn't do that.
Then I decided to give Christianity another shot. I would look into it with everything I had, and if it did not work out then I would just go back to being a freethinker and forget about the whole thing. I started out with going back to my roots and researching non denominational Christianity. I soon found that their roots don't go very deep, it was during this search that I found out for the first time about concepts like Calvinism, Arminianism, Catholic Theology, The Five Solas, I researched the Reformation in General and found that I didn't totally agree with the Five Solas, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, Scripture Alone, and Glory to God alone. I found that I actually agreed with Catholic Theology when it came down to it.
This started my research into the Catholic church, the thing that made sense to me was that the Catholic church claims to interpret the scriptures, the reason this made sense to me was that in my search of Judaism, they had an Oral tradition as well as the written tradition, and it made sense to me that you would have written instructions, but it might need an interpreter. But in all of this I knew that I was making an assummption, the Catholic Church assumes the same thing that Evangelicals and Reformers do, that the scriptures are inspired and infallible, and I have never been able, since becoming an atheist to bring myself to believe in that again. It is just common sense, when you have 66 books in the Protestant bible (73 in Catholic bibles) all written in a span of 4000 years or so, with different authors from different backgrounds, even if they were inspired you would have to read through all of the cultural context, and author bias before you could even begin to get at the truth.
So I had to give up, here I am now, I give up. I searched and studied for the God of religion, I studied hard and made sure to research everything I could so as not to leave any doubt to my mind, and I have found far more questions than answers. I cannot call myself an atheist, because part of me still believes in a Classical Deistic type of God, but I have put to rest in my mind, the Idea of a God who is religious, or personally invested in my life. I am writing this as a way to put this issue to rest in my mind. I don't want to think about it anymore, I just want to live life, be the best person I can be and as the great Stoic Philosopher Emperor Marcus Aurelius said, ""Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."
Thanks for reading if you've gotten this far.
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