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My Complicated, Unknowable Spiritual Identity

By Justin B. ~

In our Christian culture, I often feel that we decry truth as being disruptive. This antipathy towards truth when dealing with belief causes people like me to feel sinful in writing admissions of this sort. Often, I feel admitting to hurting someone verbally or physically would be handled with more grace than someone who admits to having a complicated unbelief within the tenets of one religion. To admit your agnosticism or atheism is to become traitorous to the Christian world. Therefore, more often than not, you become the prodigal son who shall never return to the Christian church. Actually, the prodigal son was involved with frivolity thus it was easier for him to admitted back into the Christian flock. But imagine if he had an internalized conviction that his beliefs might all be for naught. Perhaps, they were fleshed out all due to appeasing people around him. What if the very design of his religion beliefs was formed out of coercion from others rather then through vying to understand himself first?

The Sea is Just a Wetter Version of the SkyImage by Brandon Christopher Warren via Flickr
For now, with some aplomb, I admit that I can no longer associate or identify myself with the Christian church as an institution. First off, I cannot have my beliefs be homogeneously similar to the beliefs held by other Christians. Moreover, I am unable to will myself to believe that a myriad of people on this Earth are wasted creations. Due to being created differently and being born within an entirely different culture, they have found that their religious identity is not that of a Christian. In order for myself to abide by the Golden Rule, I forbid myself from revering an interpretation of God that would force eternal punishment upon these people due to uncontrollable, inborn circumstances. I tried desperately to believe within the love and salvation of Christ but often that belief is trivialized by the belief within an infernal realm that declares these people with whom we think as inferior to be forced into hell.

Trying to live a Christian life has been destructive for me. Vying to form an acceptable facade of being devout caused me to form self-destructive behaviors. For the second part of my life, I have abhorred every piece of myself. In order to be complicit with the unreasonable laws of Christianity, I allowed all my questions and my inquisitive nature to forcefully be repressed. Throughout my life, I highly believed that many of the Bible stories were mythic in their function to explain a higher, inexplicable plane of existence. Tragically, many Christian tenets require us to make our Christian beliefs superficial to the point where we disallow the questions from forming and squelch our confused, limited human spirits.

Regularly, I felt like I was crushing my unidentified spiritual self into a prison. While, I unconsciously formed a preferable, sanctimonious visage. Every instance where a question, an unholy passion, or any vestige of my true self penetrated this facade, I exerted my energy daily into abusing myself to make me acceptable to others. As a result, my Christian identity felt false. It was nothing more than a gaudy facade to humanize me in the eyes of others.

When I nearly reached the brink of my level of disillusionment with my self,I felt a great need to know myself. As I nearly destroyed my very existence along with my repressed spirit, I felt that my hatred of my very self has been caused by a omnipresent demand by Christianity to treat my neighbors unkindly. Whenever, I expressed empathy for my gay friends, atheist, agnostic friends, or those of differing beliefs; I had to cruelly and sadistically accept that they are unbelievers that are destined for hell. As a part of accepting that belief, I had to dehumanize them within my mind as a part of accepting the blistering, inhuman notion of hell. My love for them had to be feigned like my supposed belief in the supremacy of the religion. I had to constantly reform myself and assert an arrogant, unyielding belief in things that are unprovable.

Instead of furthering this self-destructive path, I am officially not identifying myself as a Christian. I feel that I cannot love others by remaining in this polarized religion. Also, I feel that I cannot be selfless or open minded in a religion where more often than not that attitude is frowned upon because it expresses doubt within a religion that requires strong, unexamined beliefs. I’m thoroughly sick of offering mutinous smiles to my non-Christian friends.

More importantly, I am tired of falsifying my beliefs when I do not believe that Bible should be taken literally. I cannot believe in the unscientific belief in Noah’s Ark or the symbolic story of Adam and Eve. Personally, I believe that the Bible like any religious text is an attempt to explain the unknowable nature of God. To believe that we know everything there is to know about God is a lofty, impossible belief. The only method to believe in unprovable beliefs requires scare tactics. My Christian experience has been filled with apprehension: I felt that forcing my mind to pretend to have beliefs in God would earn me recognition as a human being.

Do I still believe in God? Yes, but I do believe that God, for me personally, is inscrutable in the context of Christianity. Freeing myself from this nominal label has made me feel more authentic. St. Augustine interestingly cautioned people against fabricating falsehoods to earn the respect of other humans. In many ways, my Christian belief was dictated by the social necessity to fit in. It never had anything to do with believing in God.

By disbelieving in Christianity, I have attained a stronger belief and appreciation for an artful, ineffable God. Also, it has allowed me to love others and it also has augmented my empathetic powers. For once, I am joyful and completely unbound. Unexpectedly, I have stronger moral beliefs that pertain to refraining from judging others and learning to love without inhibitions. For once, I have an unrestricted joy for the person I am who has been crafted by a God that does not require a cloistered religious institution.

Above all, I can be intellectually humble. I do not carry any biases or selfish qualities when approaching people with differing religious beliefs. To some extent, I am able to love and be emotive without feeling guility. Trapped in a Christian identity, I felt incapacitated by an insistence by others that sensitivity was dangerous. Throughout my childhood, I was bullied incessantly for being sensitive. Furthermore, the church itself was not a safe haven from me because it promoted that same prudish dislike for people who differ from archetypes. Meaning, if you are not a “masculine,” male or a “feminine” female then you are not living the Christian life. The same thing applied for nearly all my qualities like empathy, humility, and inquisitiveness. These things supposedly engender a toxic individuality therefore I must make them deplorable. To be moral, I had to conform to a distant,unfamiliar identity. If I could not settle into that identity, I had to painstakingly pray to God to make this self sink away to my subconscious.

I know I will be faced with the indignation and the confusion from many of my Christian friends. Yet, this admission has made my toxic anger dissipate. I no longer have to attend church and feel incensed towards every part of my self. Instead, I am liberated by the knowledge that my pacifistic self is not something to hate. A God that supersedes our understanding does not require me to selfishly hate myself for not being what the world defines as “masculine,” or “moral.” Instead, I can freely pursue my dream to learn everything I can about spirituality and the reasons for our need for belief in the metaphysical elements of the world. Above all, I want to have a real relationship with God even if the world identifies me as an agnostic, Unitarian, or a Quaker.

Now, I am no longer a nominal Christian. Instead, I've become an agnostic of sorts. I’m a person who feels that their spiritual identity has no moniker. Instead, I strive to understand the universality of our human experience rather than a closed idea of that experience. I aspire to be a religious historian of some sort; I desire to see the interconnectedness of all the world’s major faiths. Religion, to me, is a beautiful aspect of my life as long as I can remain an observer from the distant with my questions being freely embraced.