Friday, November 19, 2004

Religion Part 3: My Story

Here's the part where I answer the question: "What's Jim's beef with religion, anyway?" I used to be a devout, born again, Pentecostal, evangelical, tongue-talking, street-corner-witnessing, Christian. I went to seminary. I memorized scripture. I led worship at a very large church. I was really devout. I was at church just about every day of the week. I left that life rather suddenly in 1995, at the same time as my divorce. The trauma of breaking with my faith was so emotionally violent that it affected me for several years. I won't get into how wrenching it was for me. Just try to imagine having your entire culture ripped out from under you. But, I had to do it, as the cognitive dissonance was too overwhelming. I have a scant few friends left over from that era of my life. Bert was one of them. The more time I put between myself and my Christian self, the more shocked I am at what I used to believe, and how I used to behave. The Apostle Paul said, "I used to see through a glass darkly." He used it to describe how his eyes were opened by becoming a Christian. Well, the opposite has been profoundly true of me. My eyes are open now that I'm a non-Christian. But all of this may make it seem as if I'm congratulating myself. In fact, the emotion I feel the most is a deep sense of loss. Before my de-conversion, I had 100 "good" friends, and dozens of "close" friends. While religion can be horribly abrasive, it can also serve as a wonderful social lubricant. When I left my faith, I'm fairly certain I became a white-hot topic of conversation/prayer/gossip among those 100 people. While I was probably quickly forgotten by most of them, the few dozen close friends are probably still "concerned" about me. At any given time, any one of them could Google me and find this blog. So this post is for them. They are people that I once loved, and still love. Some of them I miss, and I think of many of them often. The sense of loss that I feel is that my decision has put an impassible gap between us. Things can never be "the same." While I do not regret the decisions I made about my faith, I am always reminded of the loss of those friends. On the few occasions that I've bumped into some of them, the look of pain they feel over the "condition of my soul" is obvious to me. These old friends often confront me about my "world view." I think this is rude, but I understand that they cross this line because they think my eternal soul is at stake. So in a warped way, they are rude because they care. Well, I also care, but since I don't believe in hell I do not confront them about their world view. I just smile, deflect the confrontation, and try to move on. I swear there are times when I want to rip into these people, but I haven’t yet. I’m just not mean enough, I guess. But here on my blog, I will say without reservation that fundamentalist, born again, Pentecostal Christians are—-in my opinion—-the most deceived people I've ever met. Most of them are intelligent, but choose to abandon their critical reasoning skills in order to embrace something that is 10% true and 90% bullshit. But ... I care about these people, and I know how tough it is to come to grips with one's own deception, so I don't try to convince them of this. But if any of them were to come to me and be honest, and say that they are full of doubts and wanted out, I would drop everything to help them. Unless that happens, the impassible gap remains, and that makes me sad.


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