Posted by Charity on November 4th, 2009

Did you know that phrase means losing one’s temper?  I just read it on wikipedia, so it has to be true.  Still, it was the obvious choice of title, the one that seemed all at once too easy and yet apropos.

If you are a long time reader of this blog, especially if you were a reader back when I was on blogger, you know that JD Ryan, the atheist blogger of Five Before Chaos, and I have a history of heated debates about all things religious.  So, you might find it interesting that he and I got together for coffee a couple weeks ago to discuss religion.  Not just religion, but my religion.  Or, I should say, we got together to discuss the fact that I no longer consider myself a Christian, but an agnostic.

I still have a lot of things to sort out.  I am by no means an atheist.  I am in a state of just not knowing what to think about the existence (or nonexistence) of god.

All I do know is that for the past four years, I gave my power over to god based on a theology that I no longer believe is true.  Now, I have taken back control and things have never been better.

How this came about is really a long story, the details of which even I am not entirely certain.  Suffice it to say that the questions, the doubts, the contradictions, and the logical inconsistencies just piled up to the point that I could no longer ignore them.

Then one day, I just asked myself, How would my life be different if God wasn’t real? The answer surprised me.  I felt optimistic for the first time in a long time.  I felt like I was in control of my life and I had the power to make it better.  I felt great.

The one thing that scared me more than anything was the thought of telling my husband that I wasn’t a Christian anymore.  In fact, I didn’t want to tell anyone because that would make it real and that was a real threat to my marriage.  Not that I thought we would get divorced over it, although that does happen, but that it would upset my otherwise amazing relationship with my husband.

So, I did what any one would do in that situation.  I e-mailed an antagonistic atheist that likes to harass me on the internet.  We got together for coffee and I was finally able to tell someone what I had been going though.  He was very supportive and gave me some ideas about how to talk to my husband about it.

That night I did tell Bob.  He kind of freaked out for the first couple of days, but now things are going very well.  He says that I am happier than he has seen me in a long time and that things at home, in general, seem much more peaceful.

I have been going back and forth about whether or not I wanted to post this, but in the end I felt like it was the right thing to do.  I was a Christian for the life of this blog and I was very open about that.  It seemed somehow disingenuous to withhold this information.

To answer the obvious question, no, my political views have not changed.  I was a small-government conservative long before I became a Christian and will continue to be, barring any unforeseen head injuries.

If you have any other questions, feel free to pose them in the comments section, or drop me an e-mail.

22 Responses to “Losing My Religion”

  1. What? Silence? Where are all the nutters frothing at the mouth over this, like that guy from the Lycaeum Institute who thinks he’s an intellectual but believes all that Godidiocy? Shocked, I tells ya.

    ‘Twas an honor and a privelege.

  2. My guess is that few people have even read this. It’s not like I have been posting regularly.

  3. Perhaps you were never a Christian, but instead played the part as that was what was expected of you. Such is the case with more than a few, imprisoned by the traditions of men, bound by threats and lies. Such a pity.

    I’m not endorsing your agnosticism, nor your mentors atheism, I’m just stating that with what passes for Christianity in many churches is just your everyday basic bullshit.

  4. I am not sure what that means, that “perhaps you were never a Christian.” I guess if I did it right I would still be one?

    I agree with the whole bullshit thing, but I became a Christian before I ever set foot in a church. I was not raised a Christian and no one expected it of me. I felt drawn to find out more about Jesus and decided that I liked what I found.

    I also experienced what I perceived at the time to be miracles. I felt God’s presence. I experienced forgiveness in a very meaningful way. I swore that what I felt and experienced was very real. That is part of the reason that I am agnostic and not atheist.

    But, the mind is a very powerful thing. It can make us think things are real even when they are not.

    Maybe I wasn’t doing it right. Maybe I wasn’t a real Christian. Or maybe it’s all bullshit and I only believed what I wanted to at the time because it filled some deep psychological need.

    I don’t have all the answers, thus the whole “not knowing” thing.

  5. Agnostic

    1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god,

    Perhaps I misunderstood, …”I no longer consider myself a Christian, but an agnostic.”… Your words.

    Then you say, …”I guess if I did it right I would still be one?”…

    If by “did it right” you mean you believe Christ came and paid the price, yes you would still be Christian. Christianity is like being pregnant, either you are, or you’re not, there is no middle ground. Personally, I don’t think it’s all that easy to quit being a Christian. To quit being religious is pretty easy, they are not synonymous.

    I guess the real question would be, if you chose to learn of God and who He is, what ever reason would you have for consulting an athiest? Why would you dabble in vain philosophies and let your mind be twisted by someone who admittedly denies the existence of GOD? What can you possibly learn of GOD from one who vehemently denies His very existence?

    …”have a history of heated debates about all things religious. “… How’d that work out for you? You let him tear your foundation to shreds, cast doubts in your mind, he played you like a fiddle.

    This is your friend?

    He has nothing to lose, he’s already shot himself in the foot, and guess what? Now he’s dragged you away from your Rock.

    If as you say, …”I felt like I was in control of my life and I had the power to make it better.”… Then Have a good trip, I hope it works out for you.

    Meditate on the concept of free will, and if you choose to wax philosophical, ask yourself “How can God have given us free will and yet control everyone’s actions?” It can’t be both ways, either we have free will, or we’re mere automatons subject to His whims.

    If you want to know how people can have wars, and murderers can commit murder, and suicide bombers can maim thousand of innocents every year? It’s because they CHOSE to. We have free will so that we can choose.

  6. Thw Almighty Spirit
    November 5th, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    I sent a guy named Klaatu to your planet in 1951 to sort of put this together, but, alas, it seems humans still don’t get it. Charity’s bringing something to the table here. I like a good ‘critical thought’ discusion of Me. Better than Kafka–or even Pastor Melissa Scott.

    The choice is yours.

  7. And so the nutters cometh forth. I’ll bite…

    It’s ridiculously easy to quit being a Christian. One just has to start thinking critically. As much as I’d like to take credit for “dragging Charity away from her rock,” I can’t. From what I can gather, she just kinda came around to realizing how much bullshit she believed in regards to religion. I had nothing to do with it, unfortunately. And, mind you, my philosophy is neither vain nor vacant. It’s liberating. I’m a happy,good person living a fulfilling life, no god necessary, thank you very much.

    We have free will. Some people just choose not think critically, or read history. We call them fundamentalist Christians. What’s your point?

    Why doesn’t God heal amputees?

  8. I do think that the truth about god is ultimately unknowable. That is why I called myself an agnostic. I don’t assert that the god of the bible is 100% not real, but I have too many doubts to continue believing it in the way that I was.

    “I guess the real question would be, if you chose to learn of God and who He is, what ever reason would you have for consulting an athiest?”

    I only consulted JD after I decided that I didn’t believe in Christianity anymore. I needed to talk about it to someone who was not personally involved in my life.

    You have the time line wrong (which is not your fault, not being a long-time reader of this blog). JD and I have not had any discussions about religion in ages and I emerged from every one of them quite secure in my beliefs. In fact, we hadn’t talked in months before I e-mailed him.

    My decision was made quite independent of his input; he was just there for me when the decision was made, but I was not ready to tell my family.

    I thought that my regular readers, many of whom know both JD and me, would find the story interesting.

    I understand that we have “free will,” but to accept Christ is to give that up, in a sense. We choose him freely, but then we are to give our lives to him. I think it is disingenuous to suggest that we retain control of our lives at that point.

    If Christianity was as simple as saying, “yeah, I believe Jesus died for me” and then going about my merry way exercising my free will and not worrying about what God wanted from my life, then I guess that wouldn’t be a problem, but it sure would be a sorry excuse for a religion. I mean, what’s the point?

    But really, there is more to it than that, and I am not talking about what is expected of me by church or other Christians. I am talking about what it would require if I were to believe what the Bible says. See, I am not one to do things half-assed. Either the Bible is true or it is not. If it is true, that requires a lot of me.

    If Christ is real, the only thing that matters is building his kingdom. Think about it. What else matters? Only eternity. Not this life.

    That’s a far cry from simply “you believe Christ came and paid the price.”

    That’s also a lot to give to something if one is not sure that it is, in fact, true.

  9. Charity, Thank you for your candor.

  10. And ya know, Charity, that your NEW view on GAWD is gonna ‘trickle down’ onto your political altar, so I hope you keep posting, so we can monitor the CHANGE. Why, by next year, you might be handcuffed through a gate outside the Pentagon to Michael Colby, screaming: “Arrest us, you Fascist Pigs! We’ll talk at the trial!” (Howard Roark) Oh, this could be fun. The Almighty Spirit says: “Hey.”

  11. Geez. Look at all this I missed. Shame in a way, as I thought that the blog hat a poetic symmetry when the last comment was crazy-librul-blogger (me) agreeing with the retiring right-winger.

    But anyways, I thought I should add a couple things as a formerly very religious sort myself (granted it was a while ago).

    1. On agnosticism: Welcome to the club. I think its a club probably made up of you, me, and about eight other people. Be prepared to be looked down on by both religious folks and atheists. Big fun, that.

    2. There’s a line you write that actually has me a bit concerned about you: “Either the Bible is true or it is not.”

    Well… no. That’s binary thinking, and binary thinking – when it has to do with anything outside the most basic truths of the natural world – is reductive. So reductive its not really true. Think about it; nobody says the bible was written by Jesus, its supposed to be the inspired word of god. Inspired. Through the lens of people, and people are imperfect, culturally-bound, mercurial things. How could anything be as 100% true and beyond question or examination coming through that lens? Even the hard core evangelicals – although they would never admit it – implicitly recognize this everytime they wear mixed fiber clothes, which is explicitly laid out in scripture… or when they look at any and all abortion as equivalent to murder, which it explicitly is not according to scripture.

    All of this is not to try and convince you to go back, but a lot of seeker types tend to look at things in that sort of absolute, binary way. And since the world of humans is neither absolute nor binary, they set themselves up for a world of hurt and disappointment. They cleave to something absolutely only to find out its not 100% perfect. They then react in binary – by jumping over and cleaving to the opposite extreme. Then they see the inevitable flaws in that, panic and bounce to some other extreme entirely – all the while making themselves feel more and more desperate and lost, and maybe finding their way into some bad situations. You can’t find truth through pure reactivity.

    So as you’re searching contemplating – contemplate the shades of grey. The nuance. Truth is sometimes an absolute that you can write on a fortune cookie, but more often than not its more complicated. That means it can get frustrating – but also a lot more interesting (and a lot less hard on your psyche). You may even find that, rather tha either being true or not, the bible may be both.

  12. Contemplating nuance… boy, that does not bode well for her conservationism. But good points, all around, odum.

    And if it comes down to it, I’m atheistic about the big religions. Looking at the history, the science, etc, there’s really no way they could be true and I say that certain of myself. As to everything else, I’d say I’m an apathetic agnostic, meaning I don’t think there is anything else there, but even if there was, it doesn’t seem to affect me in any way (or anything else as far as I can see) so why even give a shit? I certainly don’t see any necessity for it.

  13. Oops. I meant “conservatism”. Charity and I have never discussed conservationism.

  14. Odum, I appreciate your comment. That was very thought-provoking.

    I do tend to be a bit binary in my thinking, but let me explain what I was saying here. When I used the word “true” in that context, I meant “entirely true.” So, when I said, “The Bible is either true or it is not,” I was not saying “The Bible is either true or it is false.” I was simply stating that it is either entirely true, or not entirely true. (It can only be one.) The latter case leaves open the possibility for the Bible to contain some truth, which I believe it does. I was not excluding that possibility.

    What I was trying to explain in that comment was why I called myself an agnostic, rather than just becoming a more liberal Christian. I was a conservative Christian, which I define as one who believes the Bible is the (entirely) true word of God. I have now rejected that. I no longer have the certainty with which to boldly make that claim.

    The appeal of conservative Christianity, to me, was that we can know who God is and what his promises are, as well as what he expects of us. That gives one something unchanging to hold on to in an ever-changing and unsure world. That is what provides comfort – God is always there; he loves us the way we are, even when we screw up; he has a plan that is ultimately good, even when bad things happen to us; etc.

    If I acknowledge that the Bible is not entirely true, then it calls into question the truth of any assertion contained therein. I am not one to discard the parts I don’t like and then have trust in the parts I do like. Why? I have absolutely no assurance that any of it is true as long as I know that some of it is not, without some sort of objective standard.

    I learned a lot of things that made me a better person in the time that I studied and practiced Christianity, and will continue to do so. But the same goes for other sources of truth.

    I was pretty much always agnostic, or at least non-dogmatic in my beliefs. Christianity lends itself to dogmatism. You have to be sure of its truth to really believe it and practice it the way I was. (I was, admittedly, for better or worse, pretty hard core about it.)

    It’s very freeing. It allows me to look at the shades of gray in everything. The last thing I would do is jump to some other extreme.

    I like knowing that I don’t know everything. I never thought I would say that.

  15. Peter, you crack me up!

  16. Charity,

    I thought, according to JD, you were already cracked-up. Well, as Howard Roark might have put it: “Why should I worship a God who is nothing but a second-hander parasite collectivist nitwit. Look at the World this God of yours has given us: As a creator, God just followed the mob.”

    “Arrest me,” said M. Colby. “I’ll talk at the trial.”

  17. Hi Charity, I think you summed things up in a wonderfully concise way with this part:

    All I do know is that for the past four years, I gave my power over to god based on a theology that I no longer believe is true. Now, I have taken back control and things have never been better.

    It is hard to explain those things. I’m glad to see this also: “He kind of freaked out for the first couple of days, but now things are going very well.” My wife took more like 12 months to get to that point rather than a couple of days, and it is still a struggle, but we’re still trucking along. Thanks for posting this.

  18. It is surprising to me that a person would turn away from religion. Not because religions are intellectually consistent, but mostly because a person usually has too much invested in a religion to be able to leave. Leaving means alienating oneself from friends and family who are typically part of that religion and form the individuals social networks.

    This takes some real courage.

    I suspect, though, that doing so leaves a huge gap, especially for someone who did not go directly to atheism, but instead proclaims agnosticism.

    I suspect you have become a seeker.

    To give some contrary perspective to JDs thoughts, I will present some of mine.

    While I do not believe in the Supernatural, I am not an atheist: in fact some have accused me of being an atheist, but it is not true.

    Nor am I an agnostic. You can not be an agnostic when you have direct experience with a “higher power”.

    And while I believe that Jesus Christ existed and had an exceptionally profound spiritual life, I am not a Christian. To be a Christian you would have to believe in the Resurrection and recall that I do not believe in the Supernatural.

    If you are ever interested in exploring spirituality, I could give you some avenues to pursue, including some interesting aspects of Christianity that people tend to gloss over.

    But for now, just know that is possible to agree with JD 98% of the time, while neither being an atheist nor an agnostic.

    An agnostic is someone who believes that God’s existence is unknowable. From my perspective such is not unknowable, but neither is it a person-like being that stands apart from Nature.

    An atheist declares that there is no God, but of course the absence of evidence that a scientist would accept is not evidence of absence.

    Anyway, Charity, you are in a generally select category, in my experience: Someone who has walked away from a significant social network as a result of intellectual honesty.

    Amazing.

  19. Dear Charity,

    I hope this note finds you well.

    I assumed you were offline long ago, so I have not checked in for months. For some odd reason I visited today; I’ve no idea what I was doing. But here I am, and it seems much has changed.

    You will get no stones thrown your way by me. I am not that sort of Christian. I’ve been known to call myself a Christian atheist, a devout one at that. But I will leave off any explanations of that seemingly oxymoronic term.

    You’ve said a couple of things here that I would like to reply to, if you don’t mind. Granted, I realize that this thread is essentially abandoned. My words are like cigarette ashes in a coal mine.

    First, the idea that a Christian has no free will once he or she follows Christ is simply untrue. I will not overtax you with a big argument, I will merely state a couple of things. St. Paul, for example, urged Christians this way: “Whatsoever YOU do, do as if unto the Lord.” To whom was Paul referring? Anyone who “followed” Christ. There is no writer in the NT who suggests there is a blue-print or schematic one must follow; there is no sense whatsoever that a believer has lost freedom. And I am amazed at how many Christians miss this passage from St. Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi: “God is at work in YOU so that YOU will ACT and CHOOSE according to his good purpose.” Isn’t that at least a philosophically curious locution, that God is at work in a Christian, not so that GOD will ACT and CHOOSE according to His good purpose, but that the Christian, the free person, will ACT and CHOOSE for himself? Of course, people confuse the freedom associated with human autonomy with the freedom to choose ANYTHING; that NOT being able to choose ANYTHING one wills is tantamount to denying freedom altogether, or so critics of Christianity often argue. But the content of one’s choices matters: One is not particularly free if one chooses the pillory. Christianity’s message, at least in part, is that God is helping US to make the choices that keep us free.

    I know you have children. Do you tie your children’s shoes in order to tie them the rest of their lives? Do you teach them ethical behavior so you can monitor them every step of the way; do you inculcate values in your children so you can make EVERY ethical choice for them? No. You do all these things so that they will FREELY choose to tie their shoes for themselves, and act and choose in ways that keep them free. Your will is done when your children do the right things for themselves when you’re absent or even dead.

    Sadly, cruder Protestant theologies generally over-protect God’s “sovereignty.” Hence, they tend to make extreme statements about God’s will, as if it is an absolute PLAN, inflexible, intransigent, deterministic. But God’s will is not a quantity — what you MUST do — but a quality — HOW you do what you choose to do.

    Also, no truly orthodox Christian bases his or her belief in Christ simply on the Bible. As I’ve written elsewhere, such thinking leads to absurdities: If belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of the New Testament is a prerequisite belief, then it follows that the FIRST act of evangelism is to testify not that “Jesus is Risen!” but “The Bible is the word of God.” Imagine the scene: St. John, running from an empty tomb, first runs home and writes down what he witnessed; he then reads it and, in a leap of faith declares, “Now that I’ve read it, it is indeed true!” Nowhere in the entire Bible, Old Testament or New, is there any suggestion that belief in the Bible’s inerrancy is a prerequisite for belief in Christ.

    Since Protestants, because they broke from the Catholic Church in a fit of pique and in a rush for power, removed themselves from the Church’s authority, they IMPOSED on the Bible an authority it NEVER claimed to possess. Protestants the world over say things like this: “The Bible is the final authority in all matters of faith.” But they don’t even realize what they’re saying, for if the Bible IS the final authority in all matters of faith, then the Bible itself would tell believers which books of the Bible belong in the canon and which do not. Where in the Bible does it tell us Matthew and Mark belong in the Synoptics? You get the picture.

    The primary vehicle of faith throughout Christian history has been the church’s VERBAL witness: Christ has risen! The Catholic Church has ALWAYS said this. The primary question, then, is whether the testimony is trustworthy. There are countless other questions, of course, but the primary one is simple: Do I trust what I hear?

    And note, too, that this is essentially a rational question, rooted in a simple either/or: Jesus either rose from the dead, or he didn’t.

    I am not attempting to convince you that you’ve made the wrong decision. You haven’t. I am merely trying to highlight what I see are pervasive problems in Protestantism. It is my belief that Protestantism, when analyzed deeply, tends a soul toward agnosticism and atheism.

    (And I am not so obtuse that I am unaware of Catholics who have lost their faith. But let me add this one thing: I was the only non-Catholic on a softball team I played for. Everyone of my teammates had gone through parochial school; everyone of them — EVERYONE! — was a lapsed, disillusioned Catholic. And one day after practice, I asked them all what they thought of the Immaculate Conception. You know what I discovered? EVERYONE of them did not understand that most-Catholic of dogmas.)

    Here’s a plain fact. There is no distinction between those who have faith and those who do not. That distinction is utterly false. There is no person on this planet whose primary, axiomatic premise for experiencing “truth” or “existence” is not based on faith. I don’t know if that means a thing in this discussion. I share it simply because it is true. But it does follow that, in the most rudimentary sense of the word, everyone is a “religious” person, holding to primary and basal beliefs that are not provable.

    Lastly, let me add one more thing. Our experience of the world, and our knowledge of it and our understanding of who we are, individually and collectively, are not perfectly and completely reducible to language, or even thoughts. There is part of every psyche, every mind, that is pre-lingual; there is something pre- and meta-cognitive in each of us where language has no place: our words grope about, grasping at symbols, analogies, metaphors, similes, all in an imperfect attempt not to bridge the chasm between the human and the divine, but merely the gap between the person and any thought, or any feeling, or any thing. Have you not heard that “words cannot express,” that “words fall short”? Clearly they do. Does “I love you” not seem insipid, weak, to those who truly love?

    If they words didn’t fall short, then when I say or write “I am eating an apple,” the words and the act of eating an apple would be identical. Obviously, they are not, nor do such words EVEN COME CLOSE to the act of eating an apple. If I say, your eyes are blue, as a statement of fact that might be true, but they are not even REMOTELY the same as YOUR BLUE EYES.

    All this to say that we don’t walk in a world of words. The universe is not words; your family is not a composition of words. God is not a proposition, and Christianity is not a set of propositions. It’s easy, of course, to reject and obfuscate and deride and analyze and defend words. But reality is far more than what can be said about it. It will always be that way.

    When the Church testifies to something, it may be using words — what choice does it have? — but it is testifying to something that not only is not a word, it is testifying to something words cannot perfectly or fully describe. Not that such a fact is unique. It isn’t. It’s just that we tend to forget we walk in mystery, not clarity. And our language, symbolic as it is, reflects that mystery. Oh, yes. Sometimes the right words bring some clarity. But not always, and not nearly often enough.

    Peace to you, dear soul.

    Bill Gnade

  20. First, the idea that a Christian has no free will once he or she follows Christ is simply untrue. I will not overtax you with a big argument, I will merely state a couple of things. St. Paul, for example, urged Christians this way: “Whatsoever YOU do, do as if unto the Lord.” To whom was Paul referring? Anyone who “followed” Christ. There is no writer in the NT who suggests there is a blue-print or schematic one must follow; there is no sense whatsoever that a believer has lost freedom. And I am amazed at how many Christians miss this passage from St. Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi: “God is at work in YOU so that YOU will ACT and CHOOSE according to his good purpose.” Isn’t that at least a philosophically curious locution, that God is at work in a Christian, not so that GOD will ACT and CHOOSE according to His good purpose, but that the Christian, the free person, will ACT and CHOOSE for himself? Of course, people confuse the freedom associated with human autonomy with the freedom to choose ANYTHING; that NOT being able to choose ANYTHING one wills is tantamount to denying freedom altogether, or so critics of Christianity often argue. But the content of one’s choices matters: One is not particularly free if one chooses the pillory. Christianity’s message, at least in part, is that God is helping US to make the choices that keep us free.
    +1

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