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Hopeful Agnosticism

By J. Christenson ~

Where to begin... I guess I'll give some history into my conversion to Christianity in the first place?

The thinkerImage by Darwin Bell via Flickr
As a child I was exposed to many good Christian people. A baby sitter. An aunt. Both of which suggested to my Catholic-raised parents that I should attend a Christian youth group called Awana. I went for a year or two as a very young child. I remember that I liked receiving praise and badges for remembering words from the work books they handed out. The characters were exciting to look at. It seemed like lessons similar to other books I had. Lessons about being nice. Being good. Oh, and this other weird one about crossing from one side of a cliff across this cross shaped bridge to the other side where huge hands holding a crown and light coming from it floated waiting for you. Whatever I did, I didn't want to be one of the stick figures that fell off the cliff into that big camp fire. It all seemed like a good time. And it was, to be fair. We played games. Ate snacks. Made friends.

Then a few years later I went to the summer camp. Camp Awana. Same concept only now we read from the bible. I made older friends from all over the Midwest. Ate great food. Learned valuable lessons both biblically and in general. Then we had a camp-wide fire where our camp leaders told stories both biblical and anecdotal. Mind you, before and/or after nearly every activity of the day, we bowed our heads and closed our eyes in prayer while one of the pastors or camp leaders prayed to God that any one who may feel like they aren't "saved" or doesn't know Jesus should raise their hand. Like some religious version of Heads Down Thumbs Up Time To Play 7 Up. So a few kids would individually raise their hand and be asked to stay after so a camp leader could pray with them to be saved. This camp fire, however, was more of a mass saving. It's where I was saved. I remember not feeling anything afterwards. I'd seen all these other people explain this tingly, rejuvenating experience. I had none of that. It just sounded to me like no matter what I did now, good or bad, I was going to heaven.

Some time after that I had an an embarrassing experience with pot that made me think I was having a heart attack. Though silly, the panic attack that I perceived to be a heart attack filled me, at the age of 14, with overwhelming fear of my own mortality, regardless of my "knowledge" that I'd go to heaven. I realized then that I didn't actually know 100% with out a doubt for sure what would happen to me, or anyone I love for that matter, after we died. It is this fear - this anxiety - that has compounded and grown and stayed in my thoughts every day for the last 11 years. I fell out of practicing Christianity as I grew older and entered high school. Then a few years ago, as the fear of death grew stronger, I began to meet with a pastor I had met at an Apple Store. He was a good man. He met with me personally because I didn't like going to church. We talked. I asked questions. Over our time together my doubts in Christianity started to grow. It boiled down to 2 basic problems.

1. Everything we know about Christianity, or any religion for that matter, is based on faith. But not just faith in a/THE God, but faith in humans - the humans who have translated, edited, reprinted, changed, branched off, and formed every facet of religion we know today. I had a hard time believing that somewhere down the line no one changed elements of the bible to fit their own interests. I simply couldn't put faith in words changed and passed by so many people over so long.

2. More importantly, lets say Christianity IS the "right religion" and the Christian God DID divinely inspire every version of the bible and everything in the bible is true... This means God knew everything that would happen before it happened - that Eve would eat the fruit, that all of humanity would be cursed from that day forward, that millions of people would die unjustly, many of them over religion and faith in God Himself, that He'd have to come to earth as both Himself and a human to take on the sins of the world and save the world FROM HIMSELF - God knew all of this would happen, and did it anyway. Could have gone about it thousands of other ways but the God of the Christian bible chose this way.

These 2 things have taken root and grown to my fading belief in the Christian faith. I have come to a new realization this week. I would now call myself a hopeful agnostic. I think it's just as ridiculous to say without doubt that the God of the Christian bible is the only god that is true and right as it is to say that there absolutely is no God at all. I think there probably is a god. I hope so anyway. I just think we as humans have have completely failed at our perception of it.

I look at nature and science and in that I actually find proof that there must be some sort of intelligent design. Not creation over 7 days but a more intricate hand at work. Then I look at humans and begin to have my doubts.

I still carry a severe fear of death and the unknown and I don't know that I'll ever overcome that. I do, however, now feel much less daily guilt as it relates to an all knowing all seeing God that is judging my every move. I don't have the answers. This is just where I'm at right now. I will say it's very relieving to know I'm not the first person to struggle with leaving such indoctrinated beliefs behind.