4/04/2015 | Share this article: View Commentsundercover agnostic ~
When I was 16 the real me died. I was dunked under water and symbolically buried in a sacrament called baptism. Why? Because I was born sinful, broken, and evil, like every other homo sapien who had gone before me. The real me, so I was told, hated God, and could never please him because my heart was stony and cold. Every part of my natural flesh, from my first cry out of my mother’s womb, was tainted with transgressions, inherited from humanity’s first parents. I wasn’t a sinner because I had sinned. I sinned because I was inherently a sinner.
At the age of five, the indoctrination began. It was drilled into me that I needed a new nature. I needed to be born again. The new me was conceived once I accepted Jesus into my heart at Bible camp. The proof of my new birth happened a few years later, when I obeyed the scriptures and decided to get immersed. While my dirty rotten carcass was left in her watery grave, just as the bloody, broken Jesus was dead in the tomb after taking on the sins of the world, a new and improved avatar emerged, not born of flesh, but of spirit. The new me loved God and wanted to please him, and had the Holy Spirit living inside, directing my path, convicting me of sin and helping me to please my Heavenly Father.
While the Bible seemed to imply that the death to my carnal self was instantaneous and final, it wasn’t the case at all. It’s more like she was continually trying to come up for air, only to be shoved back down and subdued over and over again. The process of being conformed, molded, shaped into the image of Christ entailed a slow excruciating lifetime of being “put to death”, through rebuking, ignoring, suppressing and resisting every thought or attitude that didn’t align with my new nature. “He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease,” was my spirit-imposed battle cry.
With my new identity, I built a life around the church, the Bible, Jesus and the promise of eternal bliss. I married a Christian, birthed four amazing kids, and adopted two more of equal valor. My highest calling was to serve my family and the local church. I dutifully read the Bible, prayed, shared the gospel, sent my kids to AWANA, endured discipline and correction from spiritual leaders, gave 10% of my income to the church, went on mission trips, made Jesus and others my priority, and denied my own needs and desires lest I be deemed selfish. I believed what I was told to believe, without questioning, and thought what I was instructed to think, in order to avoid the fires of Hell.
But when my faith and dogma, the foundations upon which my spirit life was built, came crashing down in a heap of ruins, I realized the person I had become could only be sustained and realized through the religion that had created her. The chains that held my thoughts captive and forced me into a narrow rigid view of the world fell off, freeing my mind to enjoy a smorgasbord of unrestricted, uncensored inquiry.
The young girl buried with Jesus in the church baptismal has come to the surface, allowed to breathe and feel and exist, for the first time without being viewed a parasite or malignant virus.
The young girl buried with Jesus in the church baptismal has come to the surface, allowed to breathe and feel and exist, for the first time without being viewed a parasite or malignant virus. This past year has been a season of incredible self-discovery. I’m getting to know who I really am and, in many ways, I like the person looking back in the mirror. The kindness, generosity, compassion and loving acceptance, I have always felt toward others remained, even after the Holy Ghost vanished, leaving me to believe that many of my positive traits had always been a part of my natural DNA and not necessarily the product of religious indoctrination.
I’m also aware that maybe the preachers were right, on one level. The natural “me” doesn’t like god very much, at least not the Christian one, as was predicted and forewarned at every altar call. But I don’t think it’s my sin nature at work. It’s the fact that the evidence for a deity is lacking. I would still worship him if I could find any undeniable proof at all, that he is real, but he has yet to come forward and identify himself. And if he is the guy in charge, he has some serious explaining to do. As my avatar slowly makes her exit, I also find myself no longer driven to endless bible studies, prayer meetings and evangelistic outreaches. There is no more weeping for the salvation of my children and lamenting that a Democrat is in office. I refuse to read bible commentaries or prepare Sunday school lessons that perpetuate the lie that the precious children I am teaching are worthy of eternal conscious torment. I no longer think its appropriate to hit children or refuse rights based on sexual orientation. I don’t think the world is about to come to an end, or that I’m going to be whisked up into the clouds in the rapture. I have no desire to scare my children into submission with threats of being rejected on the Great and Terrible Day of Judgment. I have no fear of demons lurking in the shadows waiting to devour me. Contrary to my avatar’s scientific bent (or lack thereof), I’m now quite certain the world is more than 6,000 years old, climate change is a thing, and evolution is true. Without the glue and mortor of religious rhetoric, much of what I once thought and believed can no longer stick and has since, fallen by the wayside.
While it’s a scary venture to set my soul free in all of her humanness and imperfections, I have never felt more alive and whole by letting go of my avatar and embracing the tangible, flesh and blood “me” that is made up of stardust rather than pixie dust. I died at age 16 but came back to life at 50! This time I truly feel “born-again.”