This post by Lana Hobbs articulates a journey very like my own. It was originally posted November 6, 2013 at Overturning Tables by R. L. Stollar and is gratefully reprinted by permission:
Lana Hobbs blogs at Lana Hobbs the Brave, where she wrote an absolutely stunning series on her fight to overcome the stigma of talking about mental illness. Lana describes herself as a “post-Christian” — which is interesting, because some days I describe myself in the same way. There is something about growing up in the fundamentalist circus act that is the Religious Right that makes Christianity taste bitter. When you separate from that world, whether you separate to find the “real” Jesus or decide religion of any sort just isn’t for you, there is often this need to keep Christianity at arm’s length. There is also this fascinating sense of community, an intersectional sense of community, emerging from the ashes of our childhood fundamentalism. We are all putting our pieces back together, in public and on blogs, so we are learning together how to respect one another’s journeys. Lana’s voice is important to consider in that process and so I am happy to share with you her journey away from Christianity and towards Freethought. I don’t know what I think about Freethought, but I do know this: that I’m just “trying to love and hunting for truth,” just like Lana says she is. And we could all use more love and truth in our world. --R.L. Stollar
But this summer, I didn’t believe in God.
I think about life apart from the doctrine I was taught. I change my mind when confronted with facts and logic that merit consideration. This year, I became a Freethinker. A Freethinker is “one who has rejected authority and dogma, especially in religious thinking, in favor of rational inquiry and speculation.”
So instead of telling myself “God made tomatoes,” I wondered, what animals ate them? How did they become tomatoes before they were bred by humans? What were early tomatoes like? What were their ancestor plants?
My childhood wonder was coming back, replacing the certainty of “God did it.”
I grew up with utter certainty. The Bible was God’s perfect word. Jesus lived, died, and rose again so I could go to Heaven instead of Hell. God was good and perfect and wanted me to be perfect also.
I always loved the story of Elijah calling down fire from Heaven because of the utter certainty it represented. The Lord was God and Baal was not, because when the servants of Baal prayed, nothing happened, but when Elijah prayed God sent fire to consume the offering. Clarity, blessed clarity. And the Bible said it so it must be true, therefore God was the one true God over all others.
But as I grew, I began to notice problems. Things like, how can a good God send the majority of the people who have ever lived to Hell for sins they apparently couldn’t help due to being born with a sin nature? How is that just?
And questions like, if God made the earth exactly like the Bible says he did, then why does evolution seem so very true and have so much science to back it up?
And if God is always the same, why don’t we have wonders and miracles like Elijah did?
And if people were filled with the Holy Spirit, why were people often nastier in the church than out of it?
Some of your friends get selective amnesia.
They forget how well you argued for the Bible, how much you loved it and how well you knew it. They forget how on fire you were. They forget all the service you did for the God you loved.
Suddenly you become The Other. The Unsaved. The Immoral. They use the same old arguments to try to convince you back that you once used to convert people.They lament that your children won’t have godly parents. They post trite conversion stories on your Facebook wall.
You become a project, where you used to be a friend. This hurts.
I didn’t suddenly forget the Bible. I know it quite well, thank you.
I don’t need to hear the Gospel. I know it, I just don’t believe it.
I’m not out to make you lose your faith, I just don’t want you to push my old faith back on me; it doesn’t fit me any more.
I don’t hate Christianity, although I hate when it causes injustice, hatred, and pain.
I’m not in favor of outlawing religion, although I will defend the separation of church and state.
I’m not against you talking about your faith with my children, although I won’t let you scare them into a decision with talk of Hell.
By the way, I do parent my children with love and I do have morals. I just don’t get them from an ancient book. I may have changed a lot since questioning my faith and becoming a Freethinker, but really I haven’t changed as much as you might think.
I’m still just a person, trying to love and hunting for truth.