Anyways, let me share my story....
I was not raised in a Christian home, though my grandparents are Christians. As a kid I believed in God, even though I didn't really understand the Jesus story. I felt that something greater than myself was inthe sky when I looked at the stars at night. I just believed it without being told.
I got older and in middle school began going to youth group. Summer of my 8th grade year I went to a Christian music festival and decided to become a Christian and got baptized. The message I heard meant a lot to me and it was like it spoke to my wounded soul. I was on fire for Christ for a while, and from that point forward I went back and forth in my faith for...WOW 7 years! 7 years I went from believing, to leaving the church, to coming back, getting baptized again, leaving again, dabbling in other faiths, coming back, etc over and over again. It was a crazy 7 years.
During those 7 years, I often told myself:" The reason why I keep leaving and coming back is because deep down I never quit loving Jesus and He is leading me back to His grace. That's why when I decide to leave the church, I always send up coming back. He has a plan for me and wants me to let Him in my life to stay." This made sense, because when I was not a Christian, I wasn't making the greatest life decisions, and when I was a Christian, I felt like I was living a whole new life with better choices. I used that as proof to show that God existed, since when God was in my life I was living a better life and felt happier about myself.
There's a few problems with this mentality. First of all, when I think about all of the times I left and came back to the church...it was because I had all of these questions that were unanswered, and all of these things I didn't agree with no matter how hard I tried to understand them. For example I will NEVER understand why a loving God would allow anything like HELL, or SATAN to exist. I will NEVER understand why you have to believe in the right God, otherwise you will BURN for all eternity. I don't get why God is so black and white about His children. As in the Psalms, people are described as either being "righteous" or "wicked". There is no in-between here. You either believe in the one true God, and spend all eternity with Him in heaven, or you believe in nothing or something else, and have to pay for it, for ALL ETERNITY.
Christians are like "Well God can't force His love on you, He let's you decide if you want to believe or not." But it's not really a choice. It's pressure. It's like if a guy held a gun to your head and said "Love me or I'll shoot you in the head." It's the same thing as this belief: "Love me or you will spend all eternity separated from me in hell, where there will be gnashing of teeth."
Then they'll say, “Well if you don't love God then He won't make you spend eternity with Him." So instead I have to suffer for making my own choice? What the actual fuck is this?
I don't get why being gay is a sin, or having sex before marriage, or living with your significant other before marriage, or getting drunk once in a while, etc...I don't see any of those things as wrong. But yet Christianity is black and white about everything, either something is holy or it is evil. Either someone is righteous and holy or they are wicked and unbelieving. Either you're going to heaven or hell.
And if God made us in his image, then why do we have to change everything about our human nature, even the things that don't harm others or ourselves? I can't express my anger by saying "shit" without it being a sin? Come on.. you got to be kidding me. Because of a couple of people who sinned when I wasn't even born, I am corrupted in a fallen nature, and I must repent to Jesus Christ to become more like Him because He was the perfect example of how God wants us to live (even though what he taught was VERY similar to other religions. Example read the Lotus Sutra of Buddhism and you will see many similarities in what is being taught with the New Testament).
We were made in His image, but yet we have to change ourselves to the likeness of Christ, who is technically God. In other words, we were made in His (God's) image, but we have to change in the likeness of His (Jesus') image. How can someone make you in his image...but yet you have to change to be like that same person? That makes no sense considering that the Trinity is considered 3 components of the same thing.
[I don't want to go on too long of a rant here so let me continue]
The second problem with this mentality is, even though I felt like I was living a better life and I was happier, nothing much had really changed at all. As I tried to become more like Jesus, I would continue to falter and feel like I wasn't being devoted/faithful enough to the Lord to allow the Holy Spirit to move in my life. I still got upset about the same things, I still had the same habits. Here's the reality of what was happening here: I was trying to be something I'm not, and I felt bad that it wasn't working.
I felt like God helped me overcome aspects of my sinful nature, but now that I think about it, I changed myself because the belief in Jesus was convicting me to change my lifestyle. I thought it was the Holy Spirit convicting me, but actually, it was the idea of Jesus and the teachings of Christianity that caused me to feel like I needed to "part from my evil ways" and "stay away from sinful influences." Which would explain why I wasn't making as many not-so-good life choices. The fear of sinning against God...even though He forgives, I knew I'd be held accountable for it every time.
I began to "turn the other cheek" when someone would treat me like crap. I was trying to be like Jesus by allowing people to walk over me like a door mat. I quit drinking even though the Bible doesn't say it's bad, it's only sinful to get drunk. I almost quit having sex with my boyfriend, but deep down that didn't make sense to me because we are dedicated to each other alone, and we have a special relationship that gets intimate for good reason, because we're in love. I didn't see how there was anything wrong with that.
That's the thing. Not much had changed because even though I believed in Christ and gave up some of my "sinful ways", it conflicted with my personal beliefs on how I wanted to live my life. It conflicted with my views/opinions/thoughts/morals. I began to feel like a rope in a tug o war match. In my mind I had become a "new creation", but even as a Christian, I had moments where I thought about it logically, and I knew that I had barely changed at all. It was all in my head. No one even noticed much of a change in me, if there was one, it was pretty subtle.
I was only changing the parts of my life that I was comfortable changing that correlated with scriptures. In my time with God, I knew there were some things I did that the Bible condemned, but I would not stop doing them because I seriously did not get how it was a sin or corrupting my spirit.
Let me add that when I felt like I was being "prompted" by the Holy Spirit to do something, such as give a homeless man a couple dollars, or invite the drunk homeless lady to church...deep down I did it because I felt like I had to, in order to preserve my Christian image, to show to others that I was living the example of Christ. I find it kind of weird how I needed a reason like religion to help these people in the first place. It wasn't even a prompting, it was more of an obligation. I felt like if I didn't help the homeless person, then I would not be walking in the path that Jesus called on us to live...like giving to the poor.
So what does it make me, if I give to a homeless person with no reason other than just to be kind and helpful? Doesn't that make more sense than basing all of your good deeds on your faith in God? But if the God of Christianity exists, then my good deed wouldn't really matter, because the Bible states how important faith in God is. You can't just do good deeds out of the kindness of your heart, and be accepted by God. You MUST have faith in God, and only the one SPECIFIC god out of the many gods and religions known to man. Otherwise, your good deeds don't mean much.
A third flaw in my mentality of God calling me to follow him all the times I left the church, is...why would God allow me to be so confused about him for 7 years? I've gone back and forth for that long, and I've still come to the same conclusion that I can't believe in this anymore. It's too narrow-minded. I like to consider any possibilities. I like opening my mind to other opinions and ideas. I can't stand locking myself in a box when there's the whole world to explore out there.
In fact, why would God allow all of the confusion about him to surface? 2 Peter 3:9states (NIV):
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
If that is the case, then how come so many people (like me), come to Christ, only to be baffled and confused. In fact, there are so many Christian denominations it blows my mind, because ONE BODY ONE CHURCH is spoken of all throughout the New Testament. But yet there are all of these different denominations, different sects of the same belief, because apparently God is not giving everyone the same message about himself. If it was true that he wants us all to repent and not perish, then why does he cause all of this chaos? Why does he present himself in a way that is so unclear to so many people, even when they try to understand? He gives different people messages that contradict, and that makes me wonder if it's God or if it's those people convincing themselves in their head that it was God.
And what does God being patient with me have to do with anything? He is omnipotent so he knows what I’m going to do next. He knew i was going to waver in my faith for the millionth time. Is this being patient with me? Not revealing himself to me in a way where I can be assured in my faith, sending mankind mixed messages through his Bible, causing all of this chaos and struggle to keep faith?
I've always struggled with doubt following Christ. Many people do. But if he desires for all of us to repent, it would make sense if he did something that would help us to doubt less, and it would make sense if he sent mankind the same message. If someone wanted to follow God, and cried out to him, then he would give him a message that would be the same for everyone else who called to him. Not all of these contradicting ideas that have lead to wars and mass killings and discrimination.
And if God made us in his image, then why do we have to change everything about our human nature, even the things that don't harm others or ourselves? Many Christians come to defense about this and say "It's our fault. We are the sinners. Look what we have done to the world. We cannot blame God for the state of this world. We're the ones misinterpreting God/the Bible."Um...God put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden for a reason. He knew they would eat the forbidden fruit, he knew about the fall of man, he knew all of this was going to happen. Even though he gave us free will, he is the inventor of all the possibilities of how a human can use and misuse his free will. He knew we were all gonna misinterpret his word that is supposed to be infallible and 100% accurate and true. We should definitely take responsibility for the things we do, but we can't forget that if the Christian God exists, then he allowed everything that is to be the way it is, even the really fucked up things. Like AIDS, and how no one has found a cure for AIDS but God could supply us with the cure for AIDS as a way to reveal himself to humanity and to bring more people to repentance, just like he desires as stated in 2 Peter 3:9. But instead he continues to allow AIDS to be a major epidemic in our world.
Let me share with you how Christianity is psychologically damaging. When I became a Christian earlier this year, my boyfriend was accepting and cool with it, even though he isn't a Christian. I started going to church and one week the pastor was speaking about marriage, and how it's not a good idea to be with an unbeliever. He even said it's "stupid" to dedicate your life to someone who doesn't base his life on the same Lord that you do. Another person there said most people who try dating an unbeliever just go down in their faith, and it's hard to leave a relationship like that but God will provide a way out.
It was really fucked up, because a lot of the people at the church know I am with a non Christian guy...and the pastor literally says it's "stupid" to bind yourself with an unbeliever. I even raised my hand and brought up a couple verses that suggest otherwise:
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives (1 peter5:1)
If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Corinthians 7:13-14)
And the pastor was like "Well those verses were referring to a couple after they were already married, not just 2 people dating unmarried." In my head I'm thinking "That's his interpretation, yet he stated it like fact." Even though it specifically says wife in these passages, I feel like I am already married to my boyfriend. We live together, we have been for over a year now, and we are dedicated and in love with each other, alone. We live as if we are a married couple. We're just not ready to get legally married because that moment hasn't happened yet, and when we're ready, we'll definitely know. So it made sense to me that this verse could apply to that...but it's yet another biblical debate where people disagree on one verse because the Word of God is so clear in it's passages *sarcasm*.
Anyways, after the church meeting, I began to feel what I thought was a conviction of the Holy Spirit, telling me I should not be with this guy because he doesn't believe in the most important thing in my life; the Lord Jesus Christ. I felt guilty and cried in my church friends car, telling her about it, and she was like "God will provide a way out. Just ask God to lead you in what you're going to do."
So here's what happened...this belief caused me to feel guilty for the way I was living, even though being with this man makes me happy and we're in a strong relationship. This belief caused me to feel like it was a sin if I drank and got a mild buzz, or if had pre martial sex, or if I said bad words, or whatever. And I translated it as if the Holy Spirit was convicting me to quit living this kind of life, but really, I was just feeling guilty because I was calling myself a Christian while only following pieces of the Bible. And that is how the majority of Americans who say they are Christians are.
The guilt drove me crazy. I'd ask God to bless our relationship and for him to get to know God. I look back and I feel kind of silly, praying for all of these people who are in the predicament I am now in; a state of disbelief in Christianity. It's kind of weird to pray to God to change how someone views the world, even though it was God himself who created him that way and allowed him to have those views in the first place. I feel kind of bad for when I was being like that. I could not tell if the guilt was from God, or if it was my own thoughts, or if it was because of what the people at church said. And the guilt was so heavy I didn't know what to do with it.
However, I came to my senses. I love this man and I still refused to follow through and leave the love of my life. A loving God would understand if I loved someone of a different belief/lifestyle/etc than me. If God made us in his image, then that means since we are all different, God has many faces. That's why there are so many different religions and spiritual paths. Different people all trying to make sense of why we're here. We're all telling similar stories with different deities. It all boils down to the fact that we started religion to try to make sense of why we're here, and over time, many different ideas have come into existence.
So here are the real reasons why I kept coming back to the church and leaving again:
- Unclear Bible, lack of God's communication with humanity, questions that continue to go unanswered and God not helping me understand the things that cause me to doubt.
- I felt as if I was living in my own head, because I would act and think as if I was a "new creation" but then I truly observed my way of living and it mostly remained the same.
- Unfairness of God, how you go to hell if you don't believe in the right god, even though God allowed the existence of other religions in the first place. How can he expect us all to be the same? We're all different, so if we are God's image, he has many faces. Lack of room to be free, to be open minded, to consider other possibilities.
- The psychological harm that Christianity has brought me. Feeling guilty for living in a way that goes against the Bible but does not cause harm to me or anyone around me. It literally made me feel trapped like I'm a sinner if I keep doing this, or keep living like this.
I noticed every so called "experience" I had with Christ… they were all so subtle, anyone could interpret my experiences as either being from God, or a coincidence, or in my head, or a normal every day occurrence. For example when I prayed for Jesus to enter into my life when I first became a Christian earlier this year, the next day, a homeless man went through my line when I was working at a store. He told me to trust in Jesus. And that moment was intense, as if time froze, because it was like God answered my prayer, and the homeless man looked at me as if he was concerned for me or something. That moment was what first solidified my faith in Jesus.
Many things could have happened here. Either, it was God answering my prayer, or that guy said "trust in Jesus" to me but he would have said the same thing to another cashier in a different line. The homeless man maybe says that phrase to everyone he comes into contact with. Maybe I convinced myself it was God answering my prayer when really it was just a random guy who said that tome.
Let's say it was an answered prayer. Why does God only choose to reveal himself to us so subtly, in situations like these? Whatever happened to Jesus healing the blind? I haven't seen anyone pray over a blind man and get his sight back. I haven't seen God do any of the miracles that Jesus performed. My experience with the homeless man telling me to trust in Jesus was a situation that could be interpreted in many ways. It would be great if God would reveal himself to me in a way where I wouldn't question it, or think it was a coincidence, etc.
Again, I know faith is important in Christianity, but it's to the extent where he does very little to reveal himself to us, and we have to keep faith regardless. I clung onto all of my experiences with God to help me not doubt, but I look back on them and there are so many possibilities as to what could have happened in those situations. The next day an Asian lady handed me a pamphlet about Jesus. At first I thought it was God revealing himself to me again, but really, that lady hands pamphlets out to people all the time. It was nothing extraordinary, it wasn't a supreme act of God showing his existence to me through this person.
Subtle experiences are definitely not a bad thing, but it makes it difficult to keep faith when those experiences can be interpreted in different ways and there are possibilities of it just being an everyday occurrence, or a coincidence, or in my head. I'd like for God to do something a little bigger than that, something that wouldn't be open for interpretation. Example, I have been praying for my vocal chords because I have chronic voice hoarseness and I don't know why. Yet my voice hasn't improved at all. If God healed my vocal chords after I humbly prayed for healing, then it would be much easier to have faith in him because of how he made it clear to me that he responded to my call, and healed me.
I have a friend who doesn't believe, but one day she prayed and asked god that if he was real, to please show himself to her and let her know he's real. Well, nothing happened. If god desired everyone to come to repentance, wouldn't have he answered the prayer of my friend?
I'm trying to think of anything else to add here, but I think I’ve made my points. I'm still getting over this realization, and I'm still making the spiritual shift. I'm hesitating to tell my church friends how I don't want to go to church any more, they have been so nice to me and care about me and miss seeing me at church. One of them even helped me practice driving and another one bought me a gift for my birthday. They've been so nice. I don't know how to bring myself to tell them the truth. I'm worried that it will cause a confrontation I don't want to deal with, and I know it will hurt their feelings and they will become concerned about my soul and my eternal fate. If you guys could leave comments on advice on how to confront my church friends about my departure from the church, that would be so helpful.
It hurts, knowing I spent my time involved in the church and the Bible, when there are so many components I just don't agree with. Even if I would have stayed a Christian, I'd still be having pre-martial sex. I'd still believe that there's nothing sinful or evil about two gay people being together. I'd continue to devote myself to God, but only in the areas of my life that I feel comfortable devoting, and that line up with scriptures.
I can't continue to worship a God who is so confusing and unclear in the Bible. People tell me the Bible is clear, but really, it isn't. So many people have debates over controversial things in the Bible and can't come to a conclusion. Some churches think certain things are ok, while other churches don't think they're ok. And their reasons are the same, because they believe it is the will of God to think certain things are ok or not ok.
I could go on forever. In conclusion, the belief of Christianity and Jesus being Savior...it no longer adds up to me. So from here I will move on. Any advice on how to get through the pain of letting go of something that once meant so much to me...would be appreciated. It's hard to type about god without capitalizing his name because I got so used to doing that. This is not going to be easy, leaving the church and moving on.
From here, I still believe in some kind of higher power, but I do not want to subject myself to any kind of belief system that insists on only one god being the right god to believe in, or else you'll suffer in the afterlife. We're only human and there is only so much we can know. We don't know for a fact that the Christian heaven and hell exist, and we also don't know if any kind of heaven or hell exists. I don't want to base my life on a book that has been re translated over time. I don't want to try to be like Jesus even though God supposedly made me in his image to begin with. And I don't want to be fake...only devoting parts of my life to a god while acting like I’ve given it all to god.
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