5/23/2012 | Share this article:By John ~
HEBREWS 6: 4-6
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
The first time I read those words I became convinced it was speaking about me, and I was terrified.
It happened about 3 years ago, during a time I could only explain as my brief sojourn from sanity, into the world of uncertainty, doubt, fear, and misery that I now associate with religious belief.
I've always been slightly obsessive: a mixture of the passion to understand things and my high intelligence. It's both a blessing and a curse.
I first heard about Jesus when I was 6 years old from a babysitter at the prompting of my mother, concerned over my eternal well-being. She sat myself and my sister on the edge of my sister's bed and told us about how we were sinners and needed a Savior, and I accepted Jesus then and there.
Up until that point, I was a happy little kid atheist. Not by choice mind you, but by default. I had no concern over 'spiritual matters' and when I first heard about these things unseen my mind and emotions began their lifelong plummet into the world of uncertainty and fear.
For some unknown reason, the babysitter, I still remember her name: Thina, added as a suffix to our initial indoctrination the grave warning: 'if you challenge the devil, you will explode.'
I remember the next day or two of my weekend was ruined, as I sat on a bench in the park near my house ruminating over the possibility, afraid to death that if my resilience broke for even one moment and I said those words it would mean the end of my life.
I quickly moved on, being the child I was, and forgot about it.
My young life was not very devout: my mother being a Christian and my father being a devout unbeliever we rarely went to church. When I was ten years old we moved to a new city for my father's new job.
At 13 and a new high school student, I remember vividly sitting on my bed reading the bible at night when that thought came back into my mind: 'if you challenge the devil you will explode.' Once more I was plunged into the vague world of religious uncertainty and doubt, ruminating day and night over the possibility I might at any moment lose my resolve and be forever shorn into millions of pieces of teenager-kibble. For weeks and months I prayed to God for strength, I used bible verses to 'send Satan away' such as: 'If God be for us, who can be against us' and 'All things are possible through Christ who strengthens us.' Little did I know the solution to my problems was to get rid of the religious thinking altogether. At the time, however, I could not risk my eternal soul at the utter joy of being safe from explosion over a religious loophole.
This might seem stupid to people, but understand I was a child when I first heard about this. This unknown realm of religious possibility was a mental reality for me since the age of 6, and it was impossible for me at the time to get out of it.
It took me about 18 months to get over it. One day after months and months of torture, I finally decided to face my fear and I finally challenged the devil out loud and...nothing happened. Cathartic. A temporary relief from the agony of obsession that I had been in the grips of for at least a year and a half, day and night, nonstop, 24 hours a day.
But that relief was short-lived. My mind soon found new religious things to obsess over. Demonic possession.
If I stopped believing, I was no longer saved and was at the risk of being possessed. So even though I knew certain things must be true about our reality, I held firm onto the notion that Christ died and was raised and that I was saved. That's all that mattered.
A growing pornography addiction and experimentation with marijuana grew at ages 16 and 17 and culminated in my true religious experience at the age of 17. After watching the 'Jesus' film and seeing this man nailed to a cross and for the first time realizing he 'died for ME' I broke down in shame over my problems as a human being, my lying and stealing and pornography and marijuana use, and asked him to forgive me. A rush of peace loving and forgiving spiritual water (only way I can describe it) flowed through me, and I became a Christian, again.
Shortly after I was baptized and when I went under the water something inside my heart 'leapt' at the recognition that this was me being saved, I was very happy for a time and I still have that feeling sometimes. The best way to describe it is a 'holy fire' in my heart. I don't know what it is, but that 'feeling' is probably the thing I have the most difficulty reconciling with my new found agnosticism or atheism.
Something kept me from going 'deep' into Christianity. I only ever put my toes in, because of this deep underlying fear at all things religious. I thought they were all very mystical and to be honest, extremely scary, and so I sort of kept my distance at becoming too indoctrinated into it. I don't think I could do it even if I wanted to. It's just too weird for me, and always was.
So having been saved and having that part of my life handled I went on to accomplish things in my life and did so for 10 years, constantly battling pornography addiction, trying to be clean in a relationship with my girlfriends and often denying them sex because of fear, battling my ongoing obsession with the potential for me to be possessed by constantly reinforcing that I was a child of God and such things were impossible as long as I had the holy spirit inside me.
That is, until about 3 years ago when I came across that verse. Terrified at having been a nominal christian for all these years and that I had 'fallen away, never to return' I began to research just what salvation really was. Much to my chagrin, I found 7 different interpretations of that verse and 2 Peter 2 from 7 different theologians, all saying different things. Some said I was never really saved. Some said I had lost my salvation. Some said I was still saved but 'backslidden.' Why wasn't there an answer? I ruminated in mental torture, watching YouTube videos from different pastors on salvation. I cried out to God for months, every night and day, in pure agony over the state of my eternal being.
at allAnd I received no answer.
The Christian counselor I saw thought I had some kind of demonic influence from the drugs I had taken as a teenager that was making me question my salvation. I stopped seeing him after he gave me a handbook on how to get rid of that. I never understood how drugs like anti-depressants and aspirin were OK for Christians to take but natural drugs like marijuana were not. Even though I didn't smoke marijuana and hadn't in almost a decade, I could not reconcile this. It just doesn't make sense.
I thought I had finally gotten an answer from God, at the pinnacle of my mental fury he had shown me that God did all the work and that all I needed to do was have faith and I was saved. But how did I know my faith was enough? I heard different pastors saying that God gave YOU the faith to believe, and I felt like I didn't really believe it, otherwise I would have developed more 'fruits' over the past years. Was I never really saved in the first place? Was I in danger?
And to be honest this is very hard for me to write. That know of complete terror rises once again inside my heart as I force myself to tell my story here.
How did Jesus' death save us at all? One pastor on youtube said it was god's wrath poured out on him instead of us that saved us. So then, why need him to die that way at all? One said it was his death. Well, how does one day of torture forgive someone who tortured someone else for 20 years, like the father who kept his daughter in the basement as a slave? How does Jesus' resurrection mean anything at all? It just didn't make sense.
Desperate for an answer I cried out to God, and received nothing. And after a long time I was forced to admit the possibility that he was
I began to delve into atheist literature, and every bit of it made intellectual sense to me. Evolution is actually true. It's not possible to reconcile the evolution of man with mankind's fall in the bible, because evolution is dependent on selection pressures, and those include being tougher, smarter, more logical, and in human beings' case: more social and more moral for success. Mankind was not created perfect and chose to fall (the whole fall in Genesis is a confidence trick anyway), mankind evolved these things. He could not have been successful if he didn't.
I still bounce between atheism and agnosticism. I still have bursts of religiosity and bursts of fear and terror over religious thoughts. I know there are a lot of Christians in the same boat as me. It truly is horrifying stuff.
I began to see most religious people very ignorant of reality in order to hold on to beliefs, either because they must hold on to those beliefs being true because they are afraid, or holding on to those beliefs because they desperately want them to be true.
And to be honest, part of me wishes they were true as well. The thought of a loving God and me being together forever and me living forever is a nice thought. The gospel story is still an amazingly beautiful one.
But so is Santa Claus.
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