Faith, or lack thereof

I’m still sort of introducing myself here so I thought I’d cover some sort of basic facts about me, including my stance on religion/spirituality, which some of you may have read before.

Let’s start at the beginning. My parents are Christian. My dad (Irish/German) was raised Catholic, even attended Catholic school at one point, and my mom was raised Lutheran (Midwest, Danish/European descent). My dad didn’t really keep up with his faith, he even told me at one point he got into drinking and drugs (pot) and didn’t know where his life was headed. (He told me this as a scare tactic but I just found it hilarious.) I’m fairly certain my mom stayed a good girl but maybe wasn’t too serious about her faith. In college they both really got into Jesus hardcore, I think they made a lot of Christian friends and went to Bible studies at people’s houses a lot and just got really strong in nondenominational Christianity. They were married at 21 and 23, while my mom was still in undergrad.

So naturally, when they had kids they were going to raise these kids in that same faith. Trouble is, they have never been able to find a church in the area where we grew up and live that is “just right,” that made me feel a part of a larger Christian community. When I was younger we went to one church for the first several years of my life, then when I was about 7~9 or so we switched to another one, and we were there for a while–until I was 13 or so. At that second one is where I learned that Christians can be hypocrites. I never made one single real friend there, and I always hated to go–even when I was so little I had a rock-solid faith in God and Jesus (cause I hadn’t ever had a chance to know otherwise), I still hated going to church. And it wasn’t just that church, but church in general. I hated going and I still do. Anyway, this church was in a pretty rich, kinda snobby suburb (though there are worse). Which, as a young kid, I had no idea about and yet I was trying to be friends with all these snotty little girls and they were just having none of it. I mean, I was a weird kid to begin with, but yeah. I really just couldn’t understand how these people could be Christians and yet only be as nice to me as they had to and never be a real friend to me. I always felt so isolated and alone there. It sucked.

After that we switched to another church, where again I didn’t really fit in or get to know anyone, and then another where history repeated itself, though by that point I had given up on trying to attend youth services and make other teenage friends. I would just attend the main adult service with my parents and sister and we’d leave after that.

Throughout all that, up to high school, my faith remained pretty strong, actually. I have always been very impressionable and somewhat naive, so I took all of what I was fed and sincerely believed it to be true. I listened to Christian music, I prayed often, I believed premarital sex and so on was wrong–everything. In ninth grade (freshman year of high school) I believed my faith to be so strong that I could have been a youth pastor. I honestly thought that could be a viable career path for me then.

But, it began to go downhill from there, and I spent the next several years trying to get back to as solid and sure as I’d been in ninth grade, and I just never could. It wasn’t the influence of one person or people (my parents, who wanted to send me to a Christian high school, would have blamed my friends–the same people I’m friends with today! But it wasn’t them) or singular source or anything. It was just a combination of things gradually, slowly, over the years, wearing me down. The process ended in December 2009, and probably began in 2001 or so. Parts of my faith just slipped away over time. Realizing I was super all about hot boy-on-boy action made me realize there was just no way homosexuality could be wrong or evil. I read more about gay rights and decided I just couldn’t be down with believing it was bad. So that was out. I wasn’t opposed to swearing, so that went out too. I wasn’t convinced Christianity was the Only One Way, not when there are so many other religions out there–what about people on an island who never knew Christianity? What about people who lived before it was developed? It is just silly to think those people were condemned to hell. There can’t be just One Way, so that was out. I realized I was more liberal than conservative politically, and I also began to realize I had not much in common at all with other teenage Christians. In college my stance on premarital sex eroded–not because of any personal temptations I was faced with, but because I just spent a long time observing other people and really mulling it over and I came to the very, very gradual conclusion that in a serious, committed relationship that had lasted for about six months, it would not be the end of the world to have sex. This was a Big Thing for me, since I’d remained opposed to it for soooo long; it was like a point of pride (“Other people may falter, but not me! I’ll be a virgin on my wedding day and my white dress won’t be a lie!”). But so that was out too. Then, because of all this, I realized the Bible had to be fallible. I mean, it just had to be. You look at it logically, and you realize it was not written by an all-knowing divine but by faulty humans, because so much of it is a product of its time, with antiquated notions about women and food and all kinds of things. So belief in the infallibility of the Bible went out too. By last year, all I had left was a belief in God. And… in December, that went out too. I just needed one last catalyst, and a book I read came at the right time and knocked that last bowling pin out.

Some backstory: since beginning to read the blog Jezebel sometime in early 2008, I had developed an intensified and burgeoning sense of feminism, and conviction that I was a feminist. So in December 2009 when I began to read Sue Monk Kidd’s The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, a book about one woman’s journey from ardent Christian to somewhat pagan/agnostic-ish, it was exactly what I needed to hear. That book sets out, in heavily researched detail, just how completely anti-feminist and anti-woman Christianity and the concept of an entirely male god are. (The typical Christian argument to this may be that God has no gender and we only assign male for convenience, but when you always say “he” and “him” in conjunction with everything divine, combined with everything else about Christianity that puts women second–being told to submit to husbands, anyone?–that drives certain points home.) Upon finishing it, I realized: Christianity and God were entirely out. I just can’t believe in something that so completely excludes me as a woman from a concept of the divine. I don’t want this to sound like I was brainwashed by the book or anything–it really did just verbalize everything I’d already been thinking, and it’s very meticulously sourced and researched. (If you have any protests, please read the book first–I promise you it addresses all of them.)

Believe me, I didn’t want this to happen. A belief in God had been my rock for a long time by then, mentally and spiritually. Losing that was kind of a real blow to my psyche and probably something of a contributor to my worsening anxiety. But I just couldn’t turn it around and go back to something I knew was so fundamentally opposed to my very self and body. I just couldn’t. I had to keep going, even though I had no idea what was beyond me.

So, what am I now? I guess technically… agnostic. I’m not atheist, I’m not opposed to believing in a divine form again, I do enjoy the thought that someone is out there watching over us, but I just don’t know who/what it would be. I’m just taking some time off from religion, I think, kind of a break after believing strongly for most of my life, and eventually I’ll start doing some research and maybe get back into some form of faith but who knows. The concept of oblivion and not eternity with a divine form after death is still taking some getting used to–mostly because I just can’t fathom any of it, and I hate the idea that when you die your consciousness just ends–but I’m not as terrified by it as I was. Right now, my main task is to not be so annoyed at Christians, like a lot of my family members and acquaintances, who just seem so naive and brainwashed to me now… and I’m sure they’d feel the same way about me, I understand all too well how easy it is to get all pitying “You’re just so lost; you need God to fill that void I know you have in your life.” Guess what, there is no void! There seriously isn’t! I’m the one who should pity you for falling for all of this and never thinking about it critically. And like I said earlier, my parents don’t know (my sister Bee feels the same way I do, though her journey was entirely independent of mine and I have no real idea how/when it happened, actually) so sometimes they make us go to church with them and it sucks, but we don’t want to hurt them/make them get all worried that we’re going to hell etc so we haven’t told them. Maybe we will someday, but it’s going to be hard. Of course we have a few very devout aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, and so on who would be so disappointed to learn this, who will be unhappy with my secular wedding ceremony someday, who will let me know “I’ll pray for you” and other condescending BS and think of me with that pity, but it’s still not going to change my mind. I also hope to be there someday for my younger cousins raised Christian or semi-Christian who may eventually come to the same realization I did; some of my cousins around the same age already have, and they’re open about it to the family (I’m sure my grandma still tells my cousin, “I’ll pray for you” though), which is somewhat encouraging but not enough to get me to do the same; I’d get more heat I think because my parents aren’t as lax and I just don’t want to deal with it.

I will definitely never be a Christian again because it is so diametrically anti-feminism and anti-female, and I just can’t abide by that and I will never be able to. Never.

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