Why We Leave
Religious people often make the case that people like being atheists, agnostic, or just non-believing because then they can “do whatever they want”. The idea is simple: if there is no god, there is no one watching you when you are alone and therefore there are no consequences as long as you can get away with something. In other words, atheists can turn a blind eye to their own actions.
The last couple of years I have watched in utter astonishment as “True Christian” after “True Christian” have on the one hand turned their eye to corruption around them and on the other self-righteously and tirelessly stood up for their favorite principles. It seems as if turning the blind eye is completely subjective and is not limited to the atheists. It is a human problem.
Along with this observation, I have had another question floating around in the back of my mind: why is it that some of us leave and some stay Christian? How is it that tiny details can drive one person to leave their faith while others can simply ignore them completely and act as if they are honestly no big deal?
For example, it may bother a good Christian woman endlessly to hear a swear word or be in the company of someone who is drinking alcohol but when it comes to sending troops to die in Iraq for what might be a trumped-up war… she can honestly act like it is not her problem and that they are serving the Lord by giving their lives up. A person can whine about a little wine and praise Jesus over a dead relative in battle?
For secularists things like this bother us enormously. We feel a sense that overwhelming injustice is being done by our fellow humans.Vote for a Christian Republican who supports creationism and refuses to even read the evidence for evolution? Be against abortion even in the case of rape? Teach the Bible is inerrant when there are so many “obvious” errors? Support Palin?
It seems that in order to pick our battles we do have to turn our blind eye to things.
I have seen Christians ignore blatant Bible contradictions by changing the topic or inventing – on the spot – an explanation that seems reasonable enough that they can just move on. Or they simple shoulder the responsibility onto their pastor, elders, or “experts”. In the end, textual contradictions do not exist as long as the believer feels that resolving them is not their responsibility. And even when many believers make a crack at giving an answer, they often assume the Bible is still inerrant even if someone can knock a hole in every harmony they can give.
In other words, “it is not my problem!”.
The Christian is doing what every human does everyday: shouldering responsibility on others to relive their own stress.
As an atheist I have made the mistake of assuming that every Christian should feel the sense of responsibility to defend the entire Bible, creationism, or the logical contradictions with the concept of God as I did when I felt convicted to abandon Christianity altogether. In other words, it was almost as if I wanted to say “hey look, I felt this massive responsibility, why don’t you?” I feel disrespected, like a person who set out to clean up a massive mess and discovered a problem and no one else even thinks there is a mess. It makes me feel alone and like keeping things clean is a lost cause.
And I think that for many of us who leave a religion of some sort, we probably all – at some point – felt responsible for something others did not. We set out with noble motives to shoulder a weight that others had refused to pick up or had only loosely dealt with. When we discovered the only resolution involved a complete cleanup of our worldview, we looked around in astonishment that nobody else felt the huge weight we did.
The truth is that a belief in god can be a great peace-bringer because it gives us a being upon whom to shoulder all the weight of responsibility in the end. It allows us to remove responsibility from ourselves. It allows us to turn a blind eye to problems and simply follow up every accusation with “well, that is the Lord’s business and He is in control.”
So why do some of us leave then, when it could be so easy to just shoulder all the responsibility for our religion’s every problem onto a deity?
We leave because we started being responsible. We started seeing the millions of people dying of starvation yearly and supposedly going to hell, or the increasing global warmth, or the poor handling of scientific data, or the discrepancies in our holy text, and we said “I am responsible to resolve these issues.”
And what do we call it when a person starts to shoulder more and more responsibility rather than expecting others to take care of it for him?
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