June 13, 2012

The Strength of My Former Faith

Posted in atheism, theology at 3:09 pm by Jerry

There was a time in my christian past when I was afraid to be *emotionally* swayed by evil ideas.

But, eventually, I became more confident “in Christ”, rejected my fear of views opposed to christianity (I deemed them unworthy of my fear because I had faith in a greater power), and started studying what atheists thought about christianity — not to test my faith, but to make it stronger, deeper. I wanted to use “my God-given mind” to be intellectually intimate with God, not just emotionally intimate.

Most of my life I studied what/who I was or wasn’t by reading from Christian voices. But I believed I had reached a point of maturity in my faith where I was ready to contemplate what non-christian voices had to say about my world of belief. It was long overdue! After all, I was an evangelical! I should be able to hear from those whom I wanted to evangelize (share the knowledge of Jesus) with. I should be able to *explain* to them the obvious truth of the Christian reality.

The more I read about atheism, the more I adapted my explanations in an attempt to present a more reasonable one. And as a result, my theological views slowly moved from a more conservative leaning to a more liberal leaning, and eventually becoming an atheist myself. Some may think this is reason enough for them to not contemplate the views of atheists, and that my faith wasn’t as strong as I had thought. I disagree.

“Faith” is one of those words that believers (in my experience) put far more meaning into than any dictionary could (or would?). One aspect of faith is the kind of willpower to maintain a commitment — no matter what. Another is the relational/emotional attachments like love. Here, faith in God is more than just a choice. It’s innate, inevitable, a part of the unconscious core of your being. These two descriptions alone show how “trust” is not a proper synonym for “faith” in the mind of a believer, and probably why we often hear the cliche, “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” (To me, this just explains how all religions can be claimed as ‘relationships’.)

So, was it my lack of willpower that lead me to apostasy? No, it didn’t weaken. My willpower was as strong as ever until I purposely pulled it away from my commitment to Jesus. Then, was it that I fell out of love for God? Had I neglected this spiritual relationship to the point of ruin? No. I was more devoted at that time then I had ever been.

The problem was, next to the abundant willpower to commit to God and loving devotion I had for God, my relationship with God lacked an intellectual intimacy that could satisfy my conscience. I couldn’t get close to proving God’s love unless I ignored gratuitous suffering and biblical genocide. I couldn’t prove God’s existence outside of anecdotal evidence from a Christian society. I couldn’t even make the christian ideology seem like the most probable explanation for our reality. I couldn’t provide a reasonable explanation of the belief I had dedicated my whole life to. My theology seemed so lame compared to a materialist explanation — even though a materialist explanation didn’t explain everything.

I know I shouldn’t expect reasonable explanations to legitimate all my life experiences. But reason is an important part of the human experience. And I just couldn’t live the rest of my life like so many of the faithful over the centuries before me, who had embraced the unsatisfactory ineffable stance that, however indirectly, justified ethical dilemmas within the troubled Christian theology. I NEEDED a reasonable explanation. My moral journey required it.

And so, despite the strength of my former faith in God, for the good of my soul, my conscience, it was necessary that I break away from this being who I loved more than family and friends but couldn’t entrust my life with. It was necessary that I reject my commitment to: a God that seemed irresponsible and a belief that seemed intellectually unlikely. And after I rejected this spiritual relationship, feelings of love for “God” did remain, although, the feelings grew more and more nostalgic while “God” shrunk into the size of an imaginary friend – what I now accept “God” to have always been.

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2 Comments »

  1. Kari said,

    So well said, so similar to my own experience. My understanding of God was so (in retrospect) messed up, that I could make suffering and genocide make sense in my world view. But when I started to figure out how much of the Bible and Christian mythology was plagiarized, and wishful-thinking, and deliberate misinformation for the sake of gaining power over a population of people, that’s when it really started crumbling for me. I found myself identifying as a “theist,” and then finally as nothing at all.

  2. Jerry said,

    Hey Kari,
    It’s all quite bizarre, isn’t it? I remember having warm, fuzzy feelings for the faith while in the faith, but now my perspective is so different. Yes, there were good times to be shared with good people, but I cringe when I’m reminded of some of the ways I took part in the theological culture.


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