I’m writing this on a Sunday morning while millions of Americans are getting ready to go to church. Some go because they feel obligated. Others go because it’s just a Sunday morning habit. There are those who go because they are afraid not to; hell is a scary place for those who believe it exists. Still others go because they actually enjoy going for whatever reason. And a few go just because it is spiritually uplifting.
I’ve gone to church quite a lot in my life. I was dragged to church when I was a child and I hated every minute of it. I went to church voluntarily when I was between 10 and 13 years old because all my friends went, and we sang some cool camp songs about Jesus. I didn’t go most of my adult life, but I did go almost every Sunday during the 1990s. I felt the need to be close to family after my dad died.
I probably went for the wrong reasons, though. I enjoyed going to church because the family was there, but also because they usually had a social gathering after the service where cookies and coffee were served. I went because I loved the beautiful architecture of the building. I went because I loved some of the music. We sang standard hymns. Some of the world’s best music is wasted on Christianity. And I went because the preacher was a good speaker and he stayed completely away from the fire-and-brimstone drivel that I used to hear as a child.
I got baptized when I was in my 40s while attending our church. It was the First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. I must admit, when I got dunked, I felt nothing but wet.
I also prayed when I went to church, along with the preacher and everybody else. At least I assumed they were all praying. I also prayed right before bed almost every night, if I thought about it. Down deep, I knew I was wasting my time, even though I went to great pains to make sure I was praying correctly, according to what I had learned in church. Even as a kid, I wondered what good prayer would actually do.
A preacher at one of the churches I attended when I was younger said that God knows your needs even before you ask. Even then my question was, “Well then why should I bother asking?” If God’s will is always done, then praying for something that is not his will is futile and praying for something that is his will is unnecessary.
I stopped going to church about seven years ago. We got a new preacher whom I didn’t much care for. Some family members had stopped attending that church because they went elsewhere. But most importantly, they almost never served cookies and coffee after the sermon anymore. Plus, in all the years I attended, I never really felt the presence of God. And I tried to.
I had always believed in God’s existence. I believed that Jesus was God’s son. I wasn’t too sure of the miracles of the bible. I always knew that the stories of Creation, Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the big fish, and all the other Old Testament stories were just fables. But I thought that most of the New Testament stories were probably accurate.
But when the minister of the Christian Church told us one Sunday that believing in the miracles of Jesus was optional to our salvation, except for the miracle of his resurrection, I discovered a problem. If you have to believe in the resurrection, which is a miracle, then why not believe in all the miracles? It’s in for a penny, in for a pound, as the old adage goes.
But if you don’t believe in every one of them, then why believe in the resurrection? There were a lot of miracles that bothered me. I knew that most of the stories about people being possessed were really stories about epileptics. I came to realize that many of the Jesus miracles were allegorical. So it was only logical to draw the same conclusion about the resurrection.
My conclusion, based on years of thought and research, is that almost every story in the bible, both Old and New Testament, are allegories. They are fables. They never actually happened. And as a science teacher, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I once believed some of them.
I never really thought much about religion after I stopped going to church as a kid. Everything I learned about religion as a kid scared me. I didn’t want to believe that the End of Days was upon us. It frightened me that the biblical prophecies were being fulfilled in my lifetime. I tried not to think about it.
Thankfully, I got over my fear as I realized I had been misled as a child. I was being taught by people who didn’t know. They only believed. And there’s a difference.
One of my relatives recently admitted that he was having a crisis of faith. He wanted me to help him decide what to have faith in. I told him that faith was stupid. He looked horrified at my remark. “You have to have faith in something,” he told me.
But why? Faith is the act of treating something as factual whenever it is not backed up by any facts or empirical evidence. I told him that believing in something without evidence is childlike, as a child would believe in Santa Claus. Having faith isn’t something to be proud of. It means you have left reason behind. It means that believing in something because you would like it to be true is more important than believing in the truth.
There is one truth out there when it comes to life’s meaning. But nobody knows what that truth is. If you have faith, you go around thinking you know, and you’re never afraid to tell others about the truth you know about. But you don’t really know any more than I do. Having faith is stupid because it means you have abdicated your responsibility for yourself. You have put your life into the hands of whatever deity you believe in, whether he’s real or not. It’s a cop out on life.
The thing is, when you place yourself in God’s hands, you’re really placing your life in the hands of the earthly entity that you believe is the conduit to God, and that’s your church. Throughout history, churches have been proven to be corrupt. Plus, it means you no longer have to think too much for yourself because your life is now being guided by God, aka, your church.
I have four brothers. Three of them are willing to discuss faith and religion. One of the three is more religious than the others, who tend to be fence sitters. The other brother is highly religious and refuses to discuss it with the rest of us. He just says, “I’ll believe what my church tells me.” He is a smart guy, but he has given up his rational thought processes; he let’s his church think and speak for him. The rest of us wonder if he believes down deep that if he engages in our conversation that it might weaken his faith. Is he afraid he might be convinced through logic that his faith is stupid?
What do we really know about God? Well, the short answer to that question is nothing. In terms of empirical evidence, nobody can prove or disprove his existence. If he does exist, nobody knows anything at all about him/her/it. Is God a male, a female, or none of the above? Did God create the universe and establish all the laws of physics in the beginning and then sit back and watch it unfold, or did he create everything in its place to be virtually unchanging? Does God want us to worship him or is he above needing to be acknowledged by mere mortals?
Every church will have some answer to these questions, but they will all be different answers depending on whom you ask. So that means you have to pick one. And since your immortal soul is in jeopardy if you pick the wrong one, good luck. That’s the dilemma you face if you are Christian.
Do you pick a Holy Roller church whose members get off on speaking gibberish and bouncing off the walls like pin balls? Do you pick a more dignified church that tends to bore you to tears? Do you choose to be Catholic or maybe Eastern Orthodox because they’ve been around the longest? And what if you’re wrong about your choice?
Don’t bother asking God. He won’t give you even a hint. You’re on your own. And if God were a fatherly being who loved and cared about each and every one of us, he wouldn’t let us flounder in the dark.
Maybe God does exist. I can’t say otherwise. But I can say with almost complete certainty that the god of the Christian bible is a fairy tale. People tend to believe in him because they are afraid not to. Their church stokes that fear. But personally, I don’t believe in fairy tales anymore. Can you say the same thing?