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The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference

By Sean ~

I became a born again Christian when I was in the Air Force in 1986. I didn’t have a big, spiritual conversion experience. I was told to pray for God to reveal himself to me and told he would. So I did. I prayed and said, essentially, “I don’t know if you are real but if you can prove to me somehow in the next 30 days, I’ll follow you for the rest of my life. If you are there and real, amen.”

How I got to that point: About two weeks earlier I was given a copy of a book about Armageddon and Revelations called “There’s a New World Coming” by a guy named Hal Lindsey. I devoured that book. It was amazing and Hal was quite convincing. So I went to the bookstore in the town near the Air Force base and bought a Bible. I wanted one that didn’t look like a Bible at all. I found a paperback New American Standard Version Bible that fit the bill.

From Hal’s book I learned enough to believe that I should read the New Testament first. So I started reading the gospels. When I got to the end of the Gospel of John, I thought, “even if this Jesus depicted isn’t real, he’s a great role model and example to follow and emulate.” So I prayed the prayer above.

One thing that is either from my personality or just a lucky coincidence of my reading, that really, really sunk in was the importance of truth. This whole thing was suppose to be based on absolute truth. Jesus was not simply true, he was the Truth with a capital T. I guess I’d always been a stickler for truth, so these claims fit well with my personality. I liked what I was reading about Jesus. I decided to giver becoming a follower a shot after reading about 10% of the Bible.

Had I researched that Bible the way I research everything else, I wouldn’t have stayed a Christian for much more than a few months. But something else happened once I identified myself, at least internally, as a Christian believer. Peer pressure. Or more accurately, peer encouragement. Other believers encouraged me to start attending church. “You need to spend time with other christians.” My first several months becoming a Christian was a solitary experience, for the most part. Beyond Hal Lindsey, no one talked me into reading or believing anything. What I had was mostly pure, if that makes sense. I mostly kept it completely to myself. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself or alienate my friends. I didn’t want to be seen as one of those born-again fanatics. With the encouragement of one of my new christian acquaintances, I joined a Bible study group. I was “growing in my faith,” I guess.

Some of what they pushed in that study didn’t align with what I felt I clearly understood from my own bible reading, with just god and me. I mentioned it to a friend from the gym who I was pretty sure was a Christian. He took me to his church and then to the pastor’s home for dinner. They said that the other group, their church, was well intentioned, but a little confused. I could start going to their church with my friend if I wanted. I could join their bible study at the pastor’s home with my friend as well. Sounded good. Not pushy. Nice.

Around that time I started dating a nice girl who it surprised me to learn was a Christian but “hadn’t been active” in a while. She knew a great church for us to go to together. They “had round tables and great music.” Another church, another set of interpretations that differed from the others and from my own studying. I went. This group did communion every week. I was told for the first time about “not taking communion unworthily.” I didn’t take communion. I did go home and look it up in my paperback bible. I didn’t really see the problem with it. I continued to “grow.”

I ended up just avoiding churches. I liked what I learned and as a person who placed a high value on adhering to truth, it was a challenge for me not be critical when each new group gave me a different interpretation of something I felt I had already resolved. I had a good thing going with god all in my own and they weren’t helping. Also, the original guy who gave me the Hal Lindsay book, he didn’t attend any church. He was “a TV Church kind of guy.” I wasn’t going to become a TV church guy, but I felt just fine building my understanding of god only relying on god and what was supposedly his written word. How could that go wrong? This period lasted about a year and a half.

When I get out of the Air Force, I made good friends with some Mormon friends of my next girlfriend (who became my wife eventually). They listened and sympathized with my struggles. They said my story “reminded them of Joseph Smith’s story.” And it did should a bit similar as the told me about him. “How about we do a weekly Bible study together?” Sounded okay to me. I was a “searcher” they said.

At my new civilian job I made a friend who would always sit off a ways and read his Bible at lunch time. Another Christian I thought. He was a good worker, very nice, and had an air of confidence, an air of something special. Eventually we got talking religion (surprise, surprise) and he said, “why don’t you join me for lunch tomorrow and I’ll share what I’m studying.” Sounded okay to me. He was a Jehovah’s Witness.

Around this time I proposed to my girlfriend. We wanted to be married in the local church that her sister and some of our longtime friends attended. It was called the United Brethren Church. To get married there, you guessed it, we had to attend six weeks of religious classes. Sounded good to me. I’m a Searcher after all.

Now for a guy who was fully committed to not only the truth but The Truth as well, this situation was becoming a perfect storm. There was my truth, this truth, that truth and the other truth. And one truth about conflicting truths is that they can’t all be true. “Alternate truths” aren’t something new.

Well, I was definitely getting married in the UB Church, so I went with the UB version of truth. It matched what I had gleaned on my own the best, by a long shot. The pastor didn’t put any pressure on me to join up. He just helped me study my bible. That built trust. I didn’t get this same feeling from the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witness. They were focused on convincing me that their interpretation was the only right one. Their organizations the only right organizations. I guess I was lucky I encountered both groups simultaneously. Their claims basically cancelled each other out. I needed to start learning about cults. More “growth.”

This process set me on a path as an amateur Christian apologist for many years. I became a minor expert on cults and a major expert on Mormonism. Hundreds of dollars were spent ordering books and documents on Mormonism. Thousands of hours of study put in. I joined a ministry focused on “saving Mormons.” When I moved to Arizona, I started passing out tracts in front of the Mormon Temple and debating Mormon apologists and missionaries. I had the truth and I was gonna spread it.

What I didn’t realize was I was so focused on disproving those cults that it caused me to fully swallow many of the same types of false beliefs about Christianity itself. I never turned the magnifying glass back on my own beliefs. They say an anti-counterfeit agent studies the original (money, paintings, whatever) so thoroughly that when they come across a fake, even the most minuscule deviation jumps out at them. I was like an anti-counterfeit agent who only studied the fakes. I could explain 29 different ways why their beliefs were based on falsehoods, without having a clue how much of my own beliefs were just as much based on falsehoods. This error would carry me along In Christianity’s current for another 20 years. I knew what I knew.

The turning point came when our church of over 10 years got a new pastor. The new guy, who grew up in that church, had a different view of works and grace than the last guy. Our bible study group didn’t agree with him. After being together for over 5 years, every week at least once, the three founding couples decided to leave the church for another church. They disbanded the study and invited my wife and I to go to the new church. We didn’t have a problem with the new pastor. In fact we liked him a lot. We said we would stay, but we would love to continue or bible study group as always.

They basically cancelled us from their lives. Just like that, the people that we sat with every Sunday, went out to lunch or dinner with several times per month, studied the Bible every Wednesday night with for years, prayed with and for, they were gone. Looking back, I think they saw us not as friends but as objects to serve god through. They did what they did for us and with us FOR GOD. We were interchangeable, unimportant really. It was very, very hurtful. Not just to us, but to the other several couples that were also “let go.” Over the years since we have learned that of the eight primary couples in that bible study/small group three were divorced within a few years of the abandonment. One person died and the surviving spouse just moved away. One couple went through what in my opinion looked like the nervous breakdown of the wife. Another joined a religious group so “out there” it’s still hard to believe.

The opposite of love isn’t hate. It is indifference. After being a very devout, sold-out to my core, born-again believer for over 30 years, praying every day, multiple times a day, attending church every Sunday, full tithing, being very involved in weekly Bible studies and “doing life together” with dozens, hundreds of Christians I came to realize that whatever the Christian god was doing, he wasn’t involved in what I, or any of us, we’re doing. He was indifferent. And his followers could be just as indifferent. It was a very saddening realization.

As a truth seeker and a Truth seeker, I quickly concluded that the god of Christianity could not be indifferent. Something can’t be all loving and indifferent at the same time. Based on the description of him the book he inspired and supposedly protects, indifference towards us, any of us, isn’t possible. But indifference is the rule.

When this realization crystallized I started paying more, different, attention to all the prayers offered up constantly by believers. Nothing ever happened. God could answer or not answer. The answer, or non-answer, could come in any form or no form at all. I realized that if God is all knowing and knows the future, has predetermined the future, as my very first experiences as an investigator revealed, then any answered prayer is at best a coincidence. My prayers were no more use than the prayers of any other person on earth to any other imagined god. That’s the evidence. it’s the truth about The Truth.

There’s a lot more to this story, but the next big turning point, the one that caused me to exit Christianity entirely, was finding the book, “Drunk With Blood.” Actually, it was LISTENING to the audiobook version of it. I recommend this book to everyone questioning christianity. I recommend to any christians that are interested in learning more about what’s in the Old Testament. I listen to it regularly as a reminder in case I start to get sucked back in with persuasive “god loves you” talk.

Drunk With Blood made it very apparent to me that I had been deceiving myself thinking that I was intimately familiar with the whole Bible. In truth I had never read much of the Old Testament. I had possession of everything I ever needed to avoid falling for this load of b.s. from that very first day that I bought that paperback New American Standard Bible. The same as just about every other Christian on earth.

Listening to Drunk With Blood finally snapped me out of my stupor when it came to religion. Not only did I find the actions of the god of the Old Testament repulsive, hearing it so thoroughly laid out, story after story after story, destroyed all credibility I had placed in the New Testament. It destroyed the credibility of the Jesus depicted in the New Testament. Jesus is depicted as a wonderful guy, but when he claims his authority as The Truth and The God based on the Old Testament, I don’t know that guy. There’s no way that the Jesus depicted in American Churches today would ever, ever associate himself with the god of the Jews depicted in the Old Testament. They can’t both be true. And if one is false then they’re both false because they’re inexorably linked as one via the Trinity.

I have been out for a few months now. I can’t accept something so obviously untrue. I’m struggling a bit with the implication that with no god then this life is just over when we die. We just end. Forever. To paraphrase what Stan Lee once said to Larry King, “When we die I think it’s just nothing. But I can’t wrap my head around nothingness lasting forever. Forever!” That is pretty hard to wrap one’s head around.

This doesn’t make me fear death. It makes me appreciate life more than ever before. Don’t wait, looking forward to a reunion with loved ones in heaven. If they’re alive, have that reunion now. Don’t put off asking for forgiveness from someone you wronged thinking that it’s okay because god has forgiven you already. Go say you’re sorry. Don’t dismiss someone else who asks you for forgiveness. Understanding that it may be the only forgiveness that will ever come to that person, give it. Don’t wait for god to sort it all out in heaven. Sort it now.

With only now, only this life, I appreciate so much more of what I have now. I want to show my appreciation for those I love and those I like more now than ever before. I also am finally totally clear that when I do something kind or good it’s just purely for that other person, animal, whatever, period. It’s not “for god.” It’s for them. Not for me. And even if it was for me, that’s not a sin. I’m allowed to do something kind or nice for me. No guilt. Everything doesn’t have to be “all or his glory.” If there were a god, It’s indifference proves that it doesn’t care about his glory, or anything else on earth for that matter. The indifference drowns out every sermon every preached about god’s love. The real “good news” is we don’t have a god that is totally indifferent to us, one that worse than hates us. That god is a fable. No god is better than one that just doesn’t care at all. I accept this intellectually. But I admit that I am still struggling with the ingrained thought processes. I am learning what it was like for those who I talked out of Mormonism. It’s not easy.

I am not going to claim that I'm a good person or deserving of any special anything. But I can absolutely claim that now that I have jettisoned the false religious beliefs (I’m trying to). I'm definitely a more authentic person, more authentic friend, more authentic dad, husband, brother. It’s sad to me that giving up a belief in “the loving god of the Bible” and his reward or punishment system I able to be more truly loving. Giving us the “freedom” of christianity is far more freeing than that so-called freedom. Just not looking at everyone who doesn’t believe what I believe as destined for hell is a huge burden lifted. Even knowing, KNOWING, so positively what I thought I knew, I still had that little inkling fear that when I died I might not have gotten it “right enough” and might end up in hell after all, was a burden that christianity was suppose to alleviate. It didn’t. It was the cause of it. I could go on and on about what I believed about hell. What a fool I’d been. I’m ashamed of myself for believing all that b.s.

Now I just see how precious we all are and how we all get a very brief time to BE and then that’s it. Forever. No one is going to burn in hell for eternity for believing in the wrong god. There’s no one burning in hell right now. You’re not going, I’m not going. Same as with heaven. The closest thing to heaven we're all going to experience is the same as a nice restful night’s sleep. “Forever. Forever!”

I’m mostly okay with that. What choice is there? I’ve got about twenty summers left. Twenty holiday seasons. A handful of fun trips, if I’m lucky. If I get to spend 2 hours a week with each of my kids, I have about 86 days left with them. I’ll probably have just one more dog before I’m gone. Two if I’m really lucky. If I were still engulfed in Christian beliefs I would just waste so much time away banking on heaven. Now? I’m going to try not to waste all the time I have left. I know I’ll waste some. Of course I will. But I’m going to try to make sure that those I love KNOW I love them. I’m going to try to instill in everyone I can that we need to live NOW. Don’t put off the good that you would do. Don’t waste time. This life is not just a blip in our lives compared to the coming eternity in heaven. This blip IS our eternity. It’s all we’re getting. Life is SO MUCH more valuable when seen this way. Christianity claims to value life more than all else. It devalues life. It devalues now. Living for tomorrow is a waste of today. Christianity is the ultimate waste of today. How hard it was for me to see that for so many years. I’m sorry for that.

I apologize if I’ve rambled all over the place. That’s just a reflection of where my mind is at this period in my life. My mind rambles all over now when I start to think about the finality of it all. Accepting that the absolute certainties I had as a Christian were false isn’t a simple do it once and it’s done experience. I have been struggling to replace those false certanties with a different set of certainties. And accepting a lot of uncertainties. In the end, it’s about freedom I guess. I don’t care for Ayn rand but this seems true: “Freedom: To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.”

If you read all this I hope it was useful. Thank-you.