Secular Sunday: Losing My Religion, Part 1: Christianity

I have been asked several times to share my story of how I went from growing up as an Evangelical Christian, to a Qur’an-only Muslim and finally as an Atheist. The only “beliefs” that give me no cognitive dissonance. In the words of Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.

My religious journey was always about getting closer to god, and trying to salvage my faith. It was why I left Christianity for Islam. It was why I studied Islam more and continued asking questions. Because I believed that my god, the god of the universe, would of course be able to stand up to scrutiny. But the harder I looked, the more everything began to fell apart. So I left Islam, and in the end, I couldn’t see any convincing evidence as to why I should believe in god at all. All I see is fairy tales, make-believe and wishful thinking. And I’m sorry, I’d rather be hurt by the truth than comforted by a lie.

Long-time readers might recall I did a three-part series on Losing My Religion on the old blog, and I have decided to rewrite these posts and share them.

Christianity

I grew up in a very Christian, Evangelical family (by Danish standards anyway). I grew up believing that those who did not believe in God and accept Jesus as their Saviour were condemned to eternal hell, pain and suffering.

I grew up believing that there were demons and evil spirits all around us. Trying to tempt us. Trying to hurt us. I wasn’t told that there were no monsters beneath my bed. I was told to fold my hands and ask Jesus to protect me from them.

I was told not to question “God’s Wisdom”. Or what the Bible said, even when it didn’t make sense. The things that couldn’t be explained was justified by saying “God knows what we do not, and we cannot understand God’s ways”. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1 (New International Version)

Don’t get me wrong. I truly believed. I did everything within my power to continue believing in God. I finished reading the Bible in its entirety by the age of 12, and have probably read the New Testament 4-5 times.

God is good, but the world is full of pain and suffering… because of our free will. God orders genocides, murder and torture of other people, but that’s okay, because those were heathens who were damned anyway. God is okay with babies being born with horrible birth defects or cancer, but it is our fault for being sinful in the first place.

Looking at the God of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, you’d think it was two different gods… or that we’re dealing with a severe case of schizophrenia. Many (if not most) don’t even try to understand it, saying they don’t need to understand it, they just need to accept it.

One thing which bothered me from a young age, and finally began leading me away from the church at the age of 15, is the “all you have to do is believe in Jesus and ask him to forgive your sins, and then you’ll be saved.. no matter what you’ve done”. Really? So your behaviour and actions count for nothing?

At the age of 15, I really began to see the hypocrisy of many of my fellow Christians. The girls who were leading the worship sessions, and spoke about “saving yourself for marriage” were the ones who went all the way with their boyfriends.

The obsessiveness the church has with judging people, and deciding which sins are worse. Pre-marital sex, abortion or especially homosexuality, and you’re practically doomed to hell. And please, don’t tell me how “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.” Because you are not loving your neighbour like yourself when you won’t give equal rights to someone based on their sexuality. You are not God, so stop judging people.

Things like slander, rudeness, arrogance, prejudice are rarely if ever discussed, much less condemned. But frankly? These things are much more damaging to people and relationships, than people having sex outside of marriage.

I wanted to believe in God, even if I didn’t believe in His church. I wanted to believe that She was loving, that there was a plan for me. That there was a meaning behind the pain and suffering in the world.

But if God is truly good, why would He allow so much evil in the world? If He is truly all-powerful and all-knowing? If She exists and we are given free will, this world seemed like a test designed to make us fail.

Watching my grandmother and my father get sick with cancer, and dying, led me to stop going to church. But I still believed in God. Still wanted to believe. Still called myself a Christian.  

Part 2, Islam. Part 3, Unitarian Universalism, Agnosticism & Atheism & Part 4, Coming Out as an Atheist.

21 Comments

  1. I could never make sense of religion so much. My family isn’t very religious, we go to church at Christmas (“submarine Christianity” – appearing once a year 😀 ) and that’s it. We celebrate Christmas and Easter, but that’s more of a cultural thing. Also no prayers before eating or going to bed. My mom is a meditation teacher, so I was raised with a lot of concepts from Eastern philosophy. Overall, I’d say I’m a spiritual person rather than a religious person. I do feel that there’s something bigger than myself, so I’m not an atheist, but I see it as a power of nature that permeates everything and follows its own logic. Everything is embedded in this and therefore mutually connected. Probably this is some kind of pantheism, but I don’t believe in particular powers or something. I wouldn’t preclude the probability of rebirth, I think there might be something like karma but I’m not sure. Every religious belief can be abused to legitimate cruelty, so I prefer to see them as rough guidelines for ethical living but not as dogma. Also in every religion there’s wisdom to be found, but within each religion it’s easy to become narrow-minded. I see myself outside of any particular religion and like to make up my own mind. The fact that I believe in a kind of higher power is probably due to functional reasons, as I live better with a feetling that everything around me isn’t just meaningless and random, but I don’t think there’s something like a higher evolutionary end state manifested in humankind. Mankind will have to alter the course urgently, otherwise we’ll die out like other species before.

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    • Thanks for your comment Kath! YÍ see a power in nature that permeates everything as well, but I don’t see it as anything supernatural or independent – “just” the natural laws of the universe. Does that make sense?
      I agree with you, that there’s wisdom to be found in every religion, but to me that’s because religion is there to help you make sense of the world, that is how religion evolved. Of course there’s going to be glimpses of truth and wisdom in that – the same way that there is in philosophy etc.

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      • Totally makes sense. 🙂 I think there is where you get to the point that you make a decision whether ot not to believe in something supernatural. I like to believe that in the end things make sense, but probably that is because I got in touch with Eastern philosophy and meditation at a young age. Regardless of your decision, nature is definitely the thing I feel awe towards. Sets me into perspective. 🙂

        I think although in every religion there are mystic branches, for the people in general religion is about community, belonging, and making sense of the world. In social psychology there’s a nice theory called “social reality theory” which at its core postulates that in order to validate any kind of belief, feeling, etc, it’s necessary that it can be and is shared with others. So “truth” develops by means of social validation, and in consequence how people perceive themselves and the world is guidelined by those commonly shared beliefs. This makes a lot of sense to me, and I think religion still plays a major role in this process, even among people who don’t consider themselves religious. For example, our sense of time (linear, unique events) is associated with monotheist religion, whereas in other religions, people rather have a circular concept of time. So the influence of religious heritage is still there in every day life.

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  2. Dear Becky,to answer your question “why would He allow so much evil in the world? If He is truly all-powerful and all-knowing?” we would need many pages, and answers can be found on our many websites and pages. In short can be said that it is the choice of the people themselves. The adversary in the Garden of Eden made that God allowed people to arrange the things them selves. The can rule the world now so they have to take full responsibility for it.
    Everything, for now, is in the hands of humans, so they should not blame the Most High Supreme Being, the Elohim Hashem Jehovah, of whom the majority does not want to know. Most humans only seem to think about Him and blame Him when something bad happens to them. but they never consider how it could come so far that something bad came over them.

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    • Hi, thanks for your comment.
      “we would need many pages, and answers can be found on our many websites and pages.”
      – You seem to assume that I have not already read many pages and dedicated many hours to reading and studying this area. I have.
      ” In short can be said that it is the choice of the people themselves. ”
      – A god who sets people up to fail, like the god of the Bible did with Eve and Adam, is disgusting, twisted and sick. And to continue to punish people for generations upon generations is cruel. Blaming it upon people themselves is victim-blaming.

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  3. God does not punish people. When you look at the world most bad things which come over the people are triggered by the people themselves. It is not the Creator His fault when the people mess up so much with His Creation.

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    • So babies born with cancer or horrible birth defects are because of people messing up? God is powerless to stop this suffering of innocent children?

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      • Why do you think people have nothing to do with it? What climate they did create? In what sort of environment do they live? What did they eat and drink? How was their sexlife, did they keep to one partner are did they have sex with more people who also had sex with many others of the other and/or the same sex?

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      • I asked you if God is powerless to prevent it. Or do you believe it is just for the sins of others to be taken out on the children?

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      • For the record, I do believe people have to do with it. And I do believe the world is messy, and that things aren’t perfect. Because there is no grand design behind it, things come together the best they can and we make as much of it as we can. Life in all of its glorious imperfection.

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      • People demanded the sole right to decide things in this world. God has given them the opportunity to rule the world. Would it be justified when God has given them the possibility to arrange everything, that God would intervene?

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      • People didn’t demand anything. IF you believe the Bible (which I don’t), then God set Adam and Eve up to fail. When they knew NOT what is good and evil, he gave them a command that they could not understand the consequence of, until they had broken it. A cruel and vicious god set them up for failure.
        But at the end of the day, I am an atheist because there is no independently verifiable evidence of the existence of any gods.

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      • Your argument is that we should give little children the opportunity to run their own life, and step back and watch as they screw it all up. What a horrible parent your god is in that case.

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  4. Our argument is not that we should step back and watch as they screw it all up when we give little children the opportunity to run their own life. We as human parents are responsible and should guide our children. God as the heavenly Father also give His advice, but most humans do not listen to them. When earthly children do not listen to their own earthly parents and do like they wish they shall have to bear the consequences themselves also.

    God provides guidance, instructions in His Word, the Bible. There are only not many following His Divine Instructions.

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  5. When you do not believe in the Bible nor in God than everything is very clear for you that it can not be God who is responsible so than there is only man to blame. Comes to the same issue, like we are saying.

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  6. When earthly parents or their teachers, give a command to their children, do they understand it or do they only get to understand it when they did not follow those commandments? Lots of people only want to see that they went wrong after they did something wrong and got reprimanded or fined.

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  7. The problem with many Christian denominations is that they continued on the false teachings of the Trinity, instead on keeping to the Word of God, where you shall find that the Old and New testament are speaking only of One God, the Elohim Hashem Jehovah. Allah is One, and not a three-une god. Jesus is the son of God and not a god son. It is because so many people do not want to read the Bible properly and take the Words for what they say. Instead they will keep to their traditions and the false teachings of their church denomination. As long as they are not willing to let loose the false teachings it shall be very difficult for them to find the truth.

    It is a pity you did not find non-trinitarian Christians and went into the Islamic faith. Hopefully you shall learn more about the prophet Jeshua (Ishi/Jesus Christ) the Messiah and will come to see how important that Nazarene Jewish man has been and still is.

    Perhaps going along the Islam will bring you back later to the non-trinitarian Christians.

    Good luck with your quest.

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Trackbacks

  1. Secular Sunday: Losing My Religion, Part 2: Islam | Becky's Kaleidoscope
  2. Secular Sunday: Losing My Religion, Part 3: Unitarian Universalism, Agnosticism and Atheism | Becky's Kaleidoscope
  3. Secular Sunday: Losing My Religion, Part 4: Coming Out as an Atheist | Becky's Kaleidoscope
  4. Post #300: Reflections on the Blog + the ‘Realness’ of Online Interactions | Becky's Kaleidoscope

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