I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Mystery of Iniquity and The de-Convert has graciously invited me to contribute to this blog. I hope I do his intent justice. I’ve currently “gone fishing” on my blog.
Most of us spiritual journeyers are all over the spectrum on the web regarding our religious or areligious outlooks are concerned. I like Mary’s diagram over at her blog about where we may fall in the Theistic/Agnostic/Atheistic scheme of things and I would put myself squarely in the middle. Right now, I don’t believe it’s possible to prove or disprove that God exists. I suppose I tend to float over to the theistic side more often than not because of religious conditioning, but the more I read and study and interact with Christians and atheists, I am seeing the atheistic side in a decidedly more positive light than the Christian side. And why is that?
As fundies, we are warned in church about atheists and their “mind games.” We are taught that they are deceived and cannot be trusted because they are tools of Satan. If we listen and believe what they tell us we are on the road to hell. There’s no halfway with them. Yet, when you actually face those manufactured fundie “demons,” they are exactly the opposite of what you are told! The most loving people are the ones who aren’t dogmatic about God. Amazing! The most hateful people are the ones who insist that there are two sides and two sides only: believers and unbelievers; heaven and hell; light and dark. The dualism is extreme. No room for gray, no room for exceptions. Yet, I still cling to the institutional church for some strange reason. Why do I do that? I believe I’ve discovered why.
When I was in college, we were required to take a generic elective which dealt with various topics of the day. I took one entitled “Creationism and Evolution,” which was taught by a Biology professor who proclaimed at our very first class that he was a cultural Jew. He explained that he was Jewish by birth and observed Jewish ritual only because he loved it and it’s his heritage, not because he believed in it. I thought this was fascinating. It was the first time this concept had ever occurred to me. I began to wonder what that meant for someone as Jewish as my professor, but it never dawned on me that the same definition of “cultural (insert label here)” could not only apply to Christianity but also apply to me over 7 years later. I realized that I had gradually become a cultural Christian, as have many people who claim they are Christians but have not become a fundamentalist zealot (meaning they take the bible literally, read nothing but the bible, monitor other peoples’ personal lives, etc). I had merely traded my fundamentalism for cultural Christianity. What being a cultural Christian means is that I love being part of the church because of the close friendships I usually found there and have developed over the years. I love bible study because it feeds my natural curiosity and autodidactism. I love singing in the choir especially since there is no other opportunity to sing in my community. I love church activities like community potlucks and garage sales, and all the mundane tasks associated with keeping the church going. It hit me all of a sudden that I was trying to fill needs that the larger human community failed to do! Unfortunately, the price you pay for all this close community is the loss of intellectual integrity.
I was having serious problems with the doctrines taught at our church and the requirement to believe them. I realized that I didn’t believe any of it any longer. I respected everyone’s right to believe what they wanted at this church, but I couldn’t say that any of it was based on irrefutable evidence. In fact, the bible was becoming quite suspect as a “guidebook” for my life. Good grief! How could 2000+ year old texts ever have anything to do with 21st century living? Going back even further to the source of the problem with church, I could no longer even be sure that God existed. No one has ever or ever will be able to prove God exists except by personal feeling or experience. And we ALL know that our personal experiences are not verifiable as proof. It’s great that we are free to have our own experiences, but we should never assume others should have them too!
In church, we were taught that these types of Christians, those who go to church because they grew up there or because they just like the community are “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these”(2 Tim. 3:5) NASB. Despite the fact that biblical writers are talking to men exclusively here (women are never addressed personally in the New Testament, unless Paul wanted to settle disputes or shout out to his co-workers), church folk are told to beware of those people who aren’t wholeheartedly on board with the fundie message! At least that’s how it’s interpreted in every church I’ve ever been in. This being so, I grow increasingly uncomfortable in the community I once loved. I no longer fit. Therefore, I seem to be clinging tenaciously to the forms, but the meaning I so heavily imbued into these rites and rituals is gone. Hopefully, with the help of the wonderful atheists, agnostics, and humanists I’ve met on the way, I can finally let it go and replace those dead rituals with actual living.
– by Mystery Of Iniquity