Why I Stopped Believing In God
The purpose of my rants and opinions is not to change anyone’s mind. There are several reasons I am rather vocal in what I say. I do hope that my posts help people think about what they believe, even if they don’t come to the same conclusions I did. I also hope to better inform those that wish to keep their religious beliefs what those of us who do not have them argue because there is a lot of misinformation out there given by apologetic ministries and the like. My main purpose, however, I think, is to just enjoy having them and not being afraid to express them anymore. Nevertheless, I do occasionally tire from trying to explain everything patiently over and over again to those who have little interest in what I am actually saying, but simply want to dogmatically cling to what they know. In times like those, I remind myself that I used to be one of those people.
It makes me wonder: why did I change my mind when others don’t? I think there are three factors that led to my de-conversion: Humility, knowledge, and misery.
Humility is something taught to Christians, but it is a rare Christian that actually possesses it (at least in the conservative world in which I lived–I never really had much interaction with the more liberal Christians, so from here on, whenever I say “Christian”, know I am talking about conservatives here). I will not say I had an abundance of it–on the contrary, I thought I knew all the answers and could defend them. I was well versed in apologetics and knew every Sunday school answer in the book. Perhaps it was all my schooling in apologetics that made me listen when someone else spoke–I was anxious to prove their argument wrong, so I would listen. Over time, however, I realized that I couldn’t. That apologetics didn’t understand the concepts they were defending, so I had been taught how to defend the wrong ideas. I was convinced that the answers were out there, however, so I started doing some research, which leads me to the knowledge part.
I began noticing: a lot of the arguments for certain ideas tended to end up being fancy ways of saying “Well, we (the authors) like this idea, therefore, it must be true.” My textbook for Old Testament in college contained a good example of this when discussing whether or not the Bible was inspired by God. Over a couple years of personal research, I learned how to think critically. I, like many people, shoved as much of the contradictory evidence out of my mind. I had no desire to stop believing in God, but I did begin questioning. I never expected that my questioning would ultimately lead me away from faith, because everyone questions sometimes. So I waited patiently for my faith to come back. It never did. I began to have some serious doubts.
Another aspect that eventually drove me away was realizing that I was miserable. I did not fit into conservative world very well, at least not outside my home church. I married a minister, who, along with one of his friends and a friend of just mine that I ministered with once, helped me along in my doubts by teaching me about some of the other theological ideas floating around out there. Two out of three of them ultimately rejected those theological ideas–my husband included, but I think it was the “I like this idea, therefore it must be true” mentality that made them stick with their faith. I wound up not having that luxury. Ministry can be brutal, and I wound up serving in one extremely brutal church followed by an extremely apathetic (toward me) church. When we served in the apathetic church, I moved away from family and friends, and all I had was a church that only cared that I attended because of how it looked. I will probably someday post some stories from those churches, but for now, it is suffice to say that nobody really cared about me at all.
Over time, it was incredibly draining to pour my entire heart into ministry, only to never be good enough for anyone. No one was ever satisfied, and I received no support. Nobody saw ME, they only saw what I did or didn’t do. You can only live in that kind of isolation for so long, especially with a small child who also takes and takes from you. When my marriage fell apart for completely unrelated reasons, the reaction of the Christian community is what finally drove me over the edge. From people I had known my entire life, I received nothing but judgment or silence from the conservative community. I lost all my social footing at a time when my faith was at its weakest point to begin with. I felt like the injured man on the side of the road–people either stopped to tell me it was my fault or walked on the other side of the road pretending not to see me. I stopped going to church, stopped caring whether or not God existed, and stopped caring what the Christian community thought of me. Steve (my fiance) insists that is when I became an atheist, but it took me another year to admit it to myself and to others. Back then, I thought if even Christians who are mandated to love others didn’t love me, then how much less would the outside world? Oh, how wrong I was! The outside world likes me! It amazes me, because for so long, I felt unlikeable. I felt invisible to Christians, but I am not to atheists, agnostics, or apathetics. I fit in!
Of course, I did not know that when I was still struggling. All I had was fear–fear of losing everything. Ultimately, I did lose everything, and it was hard. It took a lot of strength and humility to say I was wrong in what I had built my entire life around. But I can say it was worth it. The fear is gone. The rejection is there, and still hurts sometimes, but it is greatly lessened and I found a niche where I am loved–where loving people means they might actually love you back sometimes. I found a lot of joy and a lot of peace by letting go of the things that are supposed to give you joy and peace, but never did. I blamed myself for so long! I blamed myself for not fitting in, and sure, some of it was my fault, but I have learned that it wasn’t all me. I blamed myself for not feeling the presence of God, for not having my prayers answered, for not being good enough, but to hell with it all. It wasn’t all me!
Will I believe in God again someday? Quite possibly! I admitted I was wrong once, and I am willing to do it again. But God will have to make an effort next time around, because I don’t have the energy to go around searching for him anymore. If he is real, and he is the Christian god, and he wants me, he will have to do the knocking, because I knocked hard and long and the door was never opened. I sought long and hard, but never found. All I found when I sought was that I had probably built my life on lies, and the only door that was opened to me was a door to a new life–far richer and better than the one I left behind.
(This is just kind of a nutshell. I could write an entire book on my experiences and journey to where I am now, but there is some of it anyways.)
(cross-posted from The Redheaded Skeptic)