That’s Me in the Corner.
Once you stop believing in one god it is really hard to believe in any others. I have given a lot of thought to the basis of my own Christian belief and wondered how I ever could have believed. I give myself a hard time for carrying on for so long. The ripe old age of 19.
I found substantiation to my doubts early in high school. But before that there were just wiggly squiggly discomforts when I would hear things or be asked to do things that violated my own sense of right and wrong.
As early as I can remember, I would not sing the lyrics of Amazing Grace that asked me to proclaim myself a “wretch”. My mind protested at such a label. And if god is indeed our father surely he would not want me to say such things about myself.
I felt at home enough in my parent’s church but there were Sundays I went to church with my grandparents. They were rural Southern Baptist. There was a lot of yelling and screaming, fire and brimstone. God seemed a lot angrier there and I always felt like I had endured a beating by the time they let us leave.
When I started to study science there were obvious questions that came up. I made an appointment with my Pastor to talk about it. He was the most well educated person I knew at the time. He held degrees from prestigious universities. When I asked him how he reconciled his faith with science it was as if I had dared to ask the unthinkable. I had broken an unwritten law. He told me in no uncertain terms that I had no business asking such things. I was surprised by his vehemence.
I was in geometry class when Operation Desert Storm commenced. There was so much talk about god being on our side. God was an American evidently. Who knew? But all I could think about was all the murder happening. Surely as a Christian it was wrong to kill. Thou shall not kill? Right? When I brought this up I was told that it was OK to kill people in time of war and godless heathens mattered even less.
In my youth bible study class I began to bring up the unvarnished misogyny we were finding in our scripture studies. I looked to my leader, an intelligent educator for answers. I expected sage advice explaining something I had over looked or misunderstood. No, the answer she gave was I just had to believe it. It was in the Bible and as a woman I was not allowed to question god’s will.
The last nail in the coffin for me was when I took part in a program called Evangelism Explosion. It is a class that teaches Protestants how to proselytize. I was paired with the Senior Pastor of our church and a family friend who just happened to be our family doctor. Both men were well thought of in our community. When class room portion of our training ended I was nervous but I was on the dream team.
What truly shocked me was how disrespectful our interactions with people were. First of all we insinuated ourselves into the lives of strangers. Then we asked inappropriate questions designed to put them in an emotionally vulnerable state. The most shocking thing to me was that we offered them all a cookie cutter solution to all their problems. Some people really needed help that was in our power to give but like a high pressure car salesman we tried to bully them into closing. This consisted of a confession of faith.
I did not even have the chance to have an in-depth conversations with anyone concerning the Bible’s pro slavery attitude until I was much older. It is shocking to have someone you love and respect say with a straight face that they are sure that the slaves would thank their masters for everything they did because it brought them to Christianity and ultimately eternal life.
I am a gatherer. When making decisions I must have enough info to make an unemotional informed choice. So it was no surprise that I began to read other Holy texts as I had the Bible. I really came to understand the importance of study. If you are going to commit your life to philosophy it is probably best to have read the holy book in its entirety to ensure you can commit to the faith of your choice. I found that all the major religions supported behaviors that I would not tolerate from fellow human beings much less a god that demanded obedience not to mention worship.
Astrology, tarot, channeling, all require the same suspension of disbelief. Not that I have not met those that are very good at what they they do. The people who do good from the inside of these structures have something in common. They have a high emotional intelligence and their philosophy of choice is merely a means to focus the abilities they have naturally. Of the multitude of religious and spiritual leaders that I have interacted with over the years there have been 3 that appear to transcend their communities and function from a place of higher understanding. Slim pickins.
I realize now my reluctance in letting go of my community was never about god or religion but it was about relationships. In a community where your first allegiance is expected to be to god, not your spouse(#2), not your children(#3), it is daunting to try and develop relationships based on a common ground that has no value in your community. I am still at it 20 years later. It is sometimes touch and go. It is still painful at times, but worth it. I have been surprised over and over again by my fellow humans and their capacity to love.