The question of suffering and my de-conversion
“Oh God, you are my God, and I will ever serve you…”
I grew up singing all the lame-ass church songs that you know are lame at the time, but you are too afraid of eternal condemnation to even whisper a critical comment about them. I grew up with church leaders who were bitchy and judgmental and used the only place they can criticize others without it being a sin to pick on kids in youth group. I have been to summer camps, winter camps, mission trips, water-ski trips, watermelon seed spitting contests, paint-balling, pizza parties, pool bashes, and bible jeopardy extravaganzas galore. When I was in 4th grade, I made sure to memorize as many Bible verses as possible so I could get the prize of a giant strawberry lip-smacker or fun-size Butterfinger. I wore dresses, which I hated, to church. I tried to fake sick to get out of church at least once a month. I had done all that a young evangelical can do between the ages of 1 and 21…everything that is, except think for myself.
I was pretty brainwashed until I was 18. My best friend and I secretly hated church and would goof off all we could and make fun of everyone because we thought we were cooler…but essentially I was under the spell. I was terrified of sin and anyone who sinned. I was freaked out by homosexuals or homeless people. I thought that divorced women were bad, that non-Christians who rode their bikes on Sunday instead of going to church, deserved an eternal pit of fire. I do not believe I was inherently judgmental, I was just overexposed to the church and God.
This all started to shift when I started thinking about college. I had always been interested in the topic of injustice in the world but I never had the opportunity to develop my knowledge of these issues. So when it came time for college, I really just let go. I started to read about torture and war, watch documentary movies on sex trafficking and the poor. I basically self-taught myself about human suffering and despair. I essentially got to a more realistic worldview. I then spent my college time studying war and peace (my college major was International Peace and Conflict Resolution), watching tapes of crying babies with severed limbs and women pleading for their lives in the Rwandan genocide. I sat face to face with a torture survivor from Rwanda who lost 17 family members and watched his wife be raped and macheted right before his eyes. At this point, the discrepancies between a “Good God” and a “Bad World” became more than just fodder for a 3-part sermon series, they became a tragic reality.
It wasn’t until really my last semester of college that I began to really question my faith. I attended a mega-church who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on video games, basketball courts, and fountains and no time on getting to know the congregation. I was shunned by the other kids in college group and the leaders too. I guess being a punk girl from California wearing tight black pants, converse, a washed out torn t-shirt and a homemade Clash hoodie didn’t really fit in with the Northern Virginia Christian culture. I found myself doubting, and exploring questions I did not even know existed, while at the same time being pushed out and away from my so called “home church.”
Basically from there the questions kept coming. I questioned suffering, free will, the arrogance of God, Biblical inconsistencies– or basically what we all post about on this blog and forum. I started a blog about 4 months into this big quest of mine and started discussing these issues with Christians, atheists, theistic agnostics, etc. I realized over time that all the Christian answers were those I already knew. I could answer my own questions but all those answers missed the point. As I continued exploring these many questions, I just got further and further away from Christianity and more towards agnosticism/atheism. I read books, discussed online, asked my friends, etc–all with an open mind to religion or no-religion. And no-religion was winning.
So in about early March of last year, it came to me. My heart switched off. I could kid myself no longer. I was not a Christian. I didn’t make the decision, it just happened. Maybe my heart was “hardened” or maybe I came to the real truth. Whatever it was, I do not know. The only thing I do know is that I feel more free, more developed, more healthy now. I am not afraid of condemnation or hell. I am not held down by fear and I am no longer trying to make excuses for God’s silence.
Who knows what the future will hold. I will likely never be Christian again, but I do like the idea of a God. However, as long as there is suffering in this world, I just have to commit my life to stopping that–not wasting my time reading Christian self-help books trying to improve my prayer life all the while innocent human beings suffer and die. So now, I hang out with homeless people and gay people without a second thought, my sister is a divorced woman I adore, and I ride my bike around town on Sunday mornings (all things I previously viewed as sins). Life is great.
- Marie (Guest)