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Finding my own way

By Monica ~

I was raised Christian (Methodist) my entire life. My extended family is crazy conservative and deep in their faiths, and my immediate family are all definitely believers, just not as intense. As a kid, I whole heartedly believed it because that's what I was taught and I wasn't old enough to have an opinion. It was just like any other subject. I didn't question reading or math, because I was just a kid, and I did what I was told. So Christianity was just a way of life for me, and that was that.

I started going to summer camps the summer after third grade, and that's probably where I noticed that I was the less than emotional Christian. Yeah, I believed because I was told to, but even still, I didn't feel the need to raise my hands up during songs or cry during the end-of-camp communion service. I tried, really. I wanted to fit in. But it just wasn't me.

In eighth grade history class, we learned about all kinds of different cultures and religions, and I just got to thinking... what the heck makes Christianity any different than other religions? We look at them thinking "they're going to hell if they don't convert, because we are the only true way to heaven." Yet they look at us and think the exact same thing. I kept thinking, why would God pick just us, if we all basically believe the same thing, just with different guidelines? And that's where it all really started, and I never, ever felt right about my "faith" after that.

Around that time, I started really disliking church. My family went to the traditional service, and it always seemed like everybody was just going through the motions. Motionlessly sing 5 hymns (yes, we have a crazy choir director who thinks church is some big production), listen to the scripture without reading along in the bible, and nod off during the sermon. The best part of church was going out to lunch afterward. And this wasn't just me! That's just how my church worked. There was never anything special to it, and that caused my whole religious experience to never have anything special.

I'm 20 now and only just now deciding to officially renounce Christianity. But for 6 years now I've struggled hard with those questions from eighth grade. I kept going back and forth, wondering if I was an atheist and I was completely disturbed that I might be. It's hard to get the basic rules of life that you've been taught your whole life out of your head, so even if I supposedly didn't believe in God, part of me always would, and would always think I was going to hell for not believing. Confusing, isn't it? This is what religion does to people.

I went to college and found myself a nice, Christian campus ministry so that I could make friends and connections. Non-denominational, so they were a little bit liberal. But even still, I didn't like going to bible study. I loved hanging out, until somebody brought up Jesus. It just wasn't all there for me, but I did what I had to do to make friends and have a good college experience. This worked until these so called Christians stopped talking to me after they all got their own cars and didn't need me to chauffeur them around. Real good religion, isn't it? But this is typical of most all the Christians I know.

I realized that I didn't have to be an atheist or a Christian. I can be my own thing.So anyway, I struggled with this for years until last spring when my then-boyfriend (who's borderline atheist, but like me, won't admit it to himself) and I were sitting on the porch talking about our beliefs and I kind of had a revelation. I realized that I didn't have to be an atheist or a Christian. I can be my own thing. That's what Christianity doesn't teach you. They tell you that if you aren't a Christian, or part of some other sinner religion, you're one of those evil atheists and you're going to hell. So once I looked at the religion from an outside view, I realized I didn't have to pick. I was raised believing in God and that's what I want to do! I don't have to get emotional about it - hell, I don't even have to worship him, because I believe that a real, true, loving god wouldn't want you to worship him. But I still believe he exists and he created the universe; however, that doesn't mean I have to believe in the bible.

Suddenly, everything felt so right. Like this was what I'd been feeling my whole life, but I was too afraid to really feel it. But I don't feel bad. I don't feel like I'm going to hell. Because I really, truly believe that there is not a hell. I mean, what kind of loving, merciful god would send his own creation to eternal damnation?? And after I realized that, all these opinions started flowing. I realized that I can dislike the bible without being a bad Christian (or should I say God-believer, since I'm not really a Christian). I can make my own beliefs!

And that's the thing about religion. Everyone has different opinions. It comes with being human. So how can you create a couple of religions and just ask people to pick? There is no way you can satisfy every type of person, and that's why so many churches don't. There is such a close-mindedness to Christianity that the churches keep pushing more and more people away.

I still haven't told my family, though. Even though I'm not an atheist, they'd still think down upon my not believing in the bible. The closest I've come to disclosing my beliefs are "I'm kind of a liberal Christian - I think that as long as you believe in something, you'll go to heaven." I told my ex-boyfriend, and I told my best friend, both who feel roughly the same way, maybe even a little more extreme. But I still go to church when I'm home from school, because my parents make me. I still do things to help out, like teach at vacation bible school, because being raised in the church, I still have good morals and can't say no. And yes, when I go back to school, I plan on going to the Wesley Foundation to make some new friends. I'm going to try other clubs, but I need a back up in case I don't immediately hit it off with people there. And everyone here in the south is Christian, so it doesn't really matter if I meet them in a Christian club or a regular one. They'll all be the same. So needless to say, I'm a closet ex-Christian. But I'm working on it. Chances are I'll get fed up with the Wesley and just hang out with a few choice friends. But either way, this is me, attempting to swim out of the raging whirlpool that is Christianity.