Monday, July 27, 2009

Christians Turned Me away from Religion

Once upon a time I was a Christian. I was a true Christian, not just in name only. I was not a perfect Christian, but then who is? I went to church every Sunday. I, in fact, attended several different churches from time to time as I tested the waters. I prayed. I repented. I was baptized. I sang the hymns. I made the offerings. I attended bible study. I read the bible on my own. I witnessed for Jesus.

I also was very interested in science. I became a science teacher with a master’s degree in biology. For many years, there was no conflict between my belief as a Christian and my acceptance of scientific facts. The two were not mutually exclusive.

But I was hammered continually by the fundamentalist wing of Christianity. They attacked me as not being a “true Christian.” They asked how I could possibly believe in something like evolution and still believe in God. They told me they would pray for my soul and for me to one day see the light.

But I knew for certain that the scientific method was not a spurious concept. I knew that there were many religions and, in fact, many different kinds of Christianity in the world. But there is only one science and it is the same everywhere in every country, regardless of political or religious culture. I knew science was self-correcting and that evolution had been proven in many different ways for decades.

But there they were, the fundamentalist Christians, attacking my beliefs and saying I was going to hell, even though I had repented and accepted Jesus and had done all the other things Christians are supposed to do.

I talked to my pastor about it. I was having a crisis of faith and needed his guidance. He assured me that these fundamentalists were in the minority and represented only a fringe element of Christianity. He told me that all the mainstream Christian denominations accepted the facts of science, including evolution.

But those words were small comfort to me. The fundamentalists might be in the minority, but they speak the loudest. And their minority status is now threatening to become a majority. Recent polls indicate that, while the number of Christians is dwindling, the number of fundamentalist Christians is increasing rapidly.

Eventually, I got tired of it. I started to wonder if I had been wrong. Since Christianity is so splintered, and since all the fundamentalist churches make the claim that theirs is the true religion, I started to apply logic to my beliefs. Before that, I had been able to compartmentalize my faith so that it not conflict with what I knew about science.

But the fundamentalists sparked an internal controversy. Although I had always believed that the bible was allegory, written as a guide to spirituality and not as a history book or a science book, I now started to wonder if there was any part of the bible that could be trusted.

I researched the bible. I discovered that it was compiled in the early fourth century by a group of Catholic cardinals who were working under duress from Emperor Constantine, who had recently been converted to Christianity in order to maintain easier control over his empire. I discovered that the inclusion of certain manuscripts was politically motivated. I learned that some manuscripts that were used by early churches were ordered destroyed, because they did not fit the new Catholic dogma.

Coupling that research with the intransigence and unintelligent blathering of the Christian right, I came to the conclusion that I wanted no part of it. I, as it turned out, was not a Christian. Christianity was associated with blind faith and lack of education. It was associated with a denial of facts. I wanted no part of it.

In fairness, not all Christians are uneducated morons. My pastor certainly did not fit that category. But even he once called himself a “Christian Buddhist.” He was a little uneasy with the title of Christian as well.

But the increase in the number of fundamentalists has, I believe, been one cause of why the number of Christians as a whole is decreasing. Christian fundamentalism has given Christianity a bad rap. It became a catalyst that caused me to eventually turn my back on Christianity. I believe it has caused others to turn away, too.

So maybe we freethinkers who have seen the light of day and no longer need to depend on an antiquated superstition owe these fundamentalists a debt of gratitude. They have pushed us away from religion, and we are better off because of it.

9 comments:

PCA 8th said...

I am sorry that you have had such a bizarre experience with 'Christianity'. I put that in quotes because what you met up with doesn't seem to have much in common with biblical Christianity. I don't know what this 'decision' was that you made; you went through a lot of 'form' - but that is not true Christianity. Christianity isn't even a religion. It's a relationship with Jesus.
I'd be interested to know what books you studied that led you to the conclusions you made about the authenticity of the bible. I, too, have studied those things and was only strengthened in my relationship with Jesus Christ.
There's no doubt about the fact that you have encountered some misleading people who have turned you off. That is such a shame because you seem like a sincere seeker who has really studied.
Isn't it funny that I have studied the same things and come to the opposite conclusion?
One thing I didn't hear you mention was the love and acceptance you should have experienced within the body. That makes me sad. Let me assure you, you did not have an encounter with the real thing!
This is Jane from the facebook debate.

Halfpenny Design said...

My experience has been the same as yours, Jerry. A 'Church of England' Protestant by default as a child (and what a farce the Church of England is, arising from a desire for a divorce), I was educated at a Catholic Convent. About age 7, I really envied the Catholics their fancy Church Services and pilgrimages, and really bought into the whole idea.

By the time I left school at 18, however, I had had years' of first hand experience of nuns failing to promote the values their religion espoused - and to my mind, being less "Christian" than the rest of us ordinary mortals – and was sick of being told I'd burn in hell because I hadn't been baptised.

I should, however, thank them for giving me a decent enough education to learn to think for myself - although I don't think they bargained for that.

You're right. The Bible is at best a "Chinese whispers" version of history that cannot be verified, edited by the political classes of the day a couple of hundred years after any actual witnesses to events had died, to serve their own lust for power and the subjugation of others - notably women. Its attitudes towards women are absolutely abhorrent and should be utterly intolerable to any rational human being.

The Old and New Testaments completely conflict, with the former dictating rules for social order that no longer apply to modern society.

I actually believe that the basic tenets of Christianity are a pretty solid basis for constructing a harmonious society - "do as you would be done by" sums it up. That's enough - we don't need the "I'm better than you" attitude that Christianity espouses.

All the rest is hogwash - there's a huge weight of impirical evidence evidence to contradict the Bible, but not a shred of verifiable evidence to support it.

I know some very decent Christians, who quietly go about their daily business according to their beliefs without denigrating others. I have no problem with them - I can even respect their belief.

But for me, blind faith because someone once recorded (or, to my mind, "made up") something in a book and presented it as fact shows a total lack of the ability to use the powers of reasoning humankind has evolved.

We are all free to "believe" what we like - it doesn't make it true.

The older I get, the more it feels like Douglas Adams' view of the Universe is the only sane approach.

R.I.P. Douglas - wish you could hear me, but you're dead. End of.

It's a Pastafarian life for me, and the sooner the humanists and atheists among us decide to speak out in greater numbers to dwarf ALL forms of religious fundamentalism, the sooner we'll achieve world peace.

Jerry Wilson said...

"I'd be interested to know what books you studied that led you to the conclusions you made about the authenticity of the bible."

I've read a lot about history and the bible. But you can find a good summary of it in any online encyclopedia. There isn't much debate over where the bible came from. Even fundamentalist ministers who went to seminary know that it is a compilation from 4th century Rome. They just claim that God was in the hearts of the compilers. I claim that it was political. I have historical facts to back me up. But regardless, even before I did my research, I knew the bible couldn't be literal. I mean, have you read it? Who, other than a child, could actually believe those things. It's obviously allegorical. Most Christians understand that. Fundamentalists don't want to.

Jerry Wilson said...

Halfpenny,

I can respect a person's right to worship the way they want and to belong to a religion if that's what floats their boat. But I don't respect any religion. As you know, religion has done more to hold back humanity from progress than anything else in history. And it's still at it.

Andrew said...

My background is much different. I grew up in a very catholic area, but I had never followed the bible or the dogma. Instead, I was more of a pantheist, believing in a more matrix-esque reality to life. In a way, my view was accurate, and still is, as I simply believed that everything in the universe was energy, and that matter was not real. After properly educating myself (where public schooling in a catholic community failed) I learned that in principle, it is true that the universe is energy, seeing how matter is energy. This sparked a thirst for more knowledge, and the more I learned about the various fields of science, the more my pantheism converted into atheism. It was a very smooth transition, seeing how nothing fundamentally changed. I simply weeded out the magic and mysticism from the reality of nature.

Excuse my lack of transition, but I want to touch on another topic in your comments. The problem I see with holding a grudge on religion, yet respecting it's followers is that religion itself is a faceless entity. The people that teach religion aren't knowingly lying to their followers; they believe what they are teaching. To point fingers at a faceless mass you call religion is really to point fingers at those who follow and perpetuate it. You're not going to convince a believer that their texts are inaccurate, hypocritical, or that they have an agenda beyond beliefs. These things have all been proven time and time again.

Religion is nothing more than a socially acceptable cult. Like all cults, it sticks around until you either deprogram the followers, or they all drink the koolaid. I think we all agree we do not want our brothers and sisters to drink the koolaid.

Celestite said...

'I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.'
Mohandas Gandhi

PCA 8th said...

I'm sorry to say there are Christians I'm not overly fond of either. But that's ok, because I know that none of us is perfect, that we are works in process. That's the very reason why we need Jesus Christ. We're flawed. He is our only hope.
We need to look to Him, and not to His followers. We only claim to be sinners, saved from our imperfections by the graciousness of God who loves us anyway.

Jerry Wilson said...

"He is our only hope."

Regardless of how I came to my life as an agnostic, I am actually glad it happened, because it was the catalyst for me to do research on the bible and on religion in general. I don't miss my faith at all. I see now that it was totally against the rest of my personality. I'm a very logical person. I could not even find any corroborating evidence that Jesus actually existed. So it's tough to take seriously the statement that he is our only hope. I think WE are our best hope.

PCA 8th said...

"I'm a very logical person. I could not even find any corroborating evidence that Jesus actually existed. So it's tough to take seriously the statement that he is our only hope. I think WE are our best hope."
I, too, am very logical and needed to research and study extensively before believing something. Isn't it strange that I actually majored in college in bible, not knowing or believing many things, but came out in the opposite place that you did? I am what I am not because of how I was raised, but because of my study and research.
I thank God that I am not my hope. I'm far from perfect.