úterý 14. října 2014

Why I quit being a Christian

Couple of days ago I publicly announced on my Facebook page, that I am no longer following Christianity. It made some of my friends (especially those who have not spoken to me in recent years) start asking questions at to whether it was serious and what led me to the decision to "quit believing" or why I announced it publicly. So this is my response to both of the questions.

DISCLAIMER: This post is really long, so maybe save it for later if you are short on time, If you do decide to read it now, please make sure you read the whole message without trying to skip anything as doing otherwise would mean missing the point of the message. I would recommend not reading it at all if this is not a possibility, I don't really mind. Also note that it is all my personal opinions only and I am responding only to the Christianity in the form that I know, I surely have limited information.

Let me start by saying what I do believe. First of all, I believe that everyone has their own set of beliefs on every aspect of our lives and world around us, no matter what they publicly say or how they try to act. These beliefs are NOT voluntary, We cannot choose our own beliefs. It is impossible to force yourself to believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster (at least with my IQ level it is), however you can still publicly declare yourself a believer of the Spaghetti church. What you can only do is examine and question your own beliefs, why you cannot accept it, read some different perspectives about the Monster and then accept some new truths as your own and after some time, your beliefs can, deep down, actually change. However, if the almighty Spaghetti Monster flew to your house and told you it will not eat you, if you eat pasta every day, there's a great chance you will forget everything you just read and run to order some nice Lasagne.

So this is my first belief or axiom, I believe what I believe and I cannot easily change it. That means when I wrote I don't believe in Christianity anymore, it wasn't any kind of one-time decision, it was just simply saying the fact I don't believe it, because it's true for some time already.

Having said that, I know you are more interested in what actually made me stop believing. That is a complex question that reflects basically my life experiences so far, hundreds of books I read and conversations I’ve had. However, I will try my best since I feel the responsibility to do so. I must start with my early childhood (not too long ago). I grew up with facts like God created the Earth in seven days, the Universe is no older than 7000 years, that evolution is just a great conspiracy some stupid and bitter people created so they don't have to obey God and that when I pray the correct prayer before I die I will be happy forever in Heaven. I simply knew, there was God, because I was told that from everyone I knew. I, however, was always calculating, how to make sure I will make the correct prayer on time. I thought when I grow up, I will start praying, worshiping God and all other stuff.

Well, that time came earlier, I would say in the age of 12, when I was already sick of playing the two sided game of non-believing at school and being an awesome Christian in church, I tried praying, reading Bible, started actually listen to sermons and my youth leaders. I had some nice "divine" moments when I felt like God was there, when something from the Bible just clicked to my current situation, when I sometimes prayed and it worked (yeah, I won that football game). I would call that the "blind faith years". Whenever I did not understand somethings regarding my faith, I would not care too much, when someone would tell me (especially at school) that God does not exist (with handful of tough arguments), I would always argue and try to make things up that fits my current set of beliefs. I was scared to answer those tough questions as even though I had some certain doubts, it was easier to be safe in my tiny little world of sunny ideas.

It is hard to sustain this kind of blind faith for a long time, since after some time, issues will just begin to rise up. After few years like that, I began to have some personal struggles in multiple areas of my life, and my Christian blindness helped me to make some very stupid mistakes I now wonder how anyone would be able to even think of. As a result, my life began to tear apart in so many different aspects that I just could not hold on sustaining to any longer.

This all led to a very long and deep depression, after which I had a long recovery. I did not give up on God at first, I tried looking for answers as to what could have just happened and what does it all mean. I started asking the questions I feared to ask before, I started to actually see the dark side of the church, the unbelievable inconsistency of different Christian theories (or theologies), simply I started doubting a lot of things in Christianity.

After some time I was just sick and tired of  looking for a firm ground where there was none. Finally I think it was about four years ago, when for the first time in my life I just stopped believing in the God. Yet I still saw no other way of living, I saw all the happy Christians around me, I still believed and was almost sure I will come back.

Of course that eventually happened ,though very slowly since I had quit most of my relationships including my church ones and had stopped talking to most people for a long time as I was broken and also scared that I would have to explain everything. No one saw this change in me, and simply could not understand me.

Well, I was very lucky that I found a mentor (in the same church) who helped me to talk through my insecurities, through my pain and doubts and who didn't judge me for my mistakes and my now non-standard opinions.With him, I started a recovery path where I finally started to use my brain even in the matter of faith.

My first church was Charismatic (and to them God speaks especially in emotions and you should not rely upon your brain too much there), than we moved to the Element church, which is very hard to define in terms of form, but the pastor is a very good reader and thinker, so after I stopped believing everything from Christianity and actually started to listen, reason and compare his arguments with other pastors and even non-christian authors, I was finally free to find out what I actually believe.

I think that is enough of a taste of the foundation of my faith journey, now let's move to what made me "unbelieve". In Element church, when you meet on Sunday morning, you start by singing couple of songs, then listen to a sermon which takes about 30 minutes, and then you socialize with others. The philosophy of the church is to be relevant to non-believers, so very often the whole message is just describing some Christian principles, reasoning for them (still nothing about God) and the last five minutes it blends the God thing into it. This way I learned about countless of awesome principles, such as generosity, healthy relationships, forgiveness... And I must say, it really works. I can see it implemented in the lives of the people of the church, I can see it in the lives of other Christians, and I can see it also in the lives of non-believers.

So if you feel your life sucks and you need some coaching or you would like to learn some very nice principles you can base your life upon, I would definitely recommend you going to Element church, it's free and the people there are awesome.

So what was missing? Easy question... God. I used to think that when I feel somehow or think something unusual, it must be God talking to me. Well, the heavy lunch God wasn't too nice. Some Christians are sensible and can determine whether it's God talking to them or not, now for me, it just became magic. Now I think it's absolutely unwise to make your decisions based on your feelings of any kind, yet back then, this was what I was taught, or at least I thought I was taught. And of course, many of you can relate to the unreliability of feelings.

But then, how can you meet/notice/hear the invisible God? I do not know. Some people just do and it's magic for me. Some people pray and say God answers them, some lose themselves in worshiping (singing God-centered songs) and feel His presence, some can see Him in the glory of God-made nature, some can see Him after 40 days of fasting (not eating) and I would doubt I wouldn't see Him too had I fasted for so long (I just like myself too much so I haven't done it). I tried many of these ways, I've been to a monastery twice, I read the Bible like a freak, I prayed, I visited many different churches, I read lot of Christian books, but I have to say, in four years I could not find Him.

God might exist and I cannot prove he does not, but the kind of God I would be willing to base my life upon would not let me look for him for so long and keep silent. I know people who gave up much faster and I cannot judge them. In fact, the only one in this I can judge is the loving God I used to believe in. If he was anything the New Testament Bible calls Him, he would not let so many people wander around and never respond. He would not let them slip away. Or when he let them, what's the point of it? This was one of my issues, why some people find Him and others don't? Is it that the latter are just better, more patient or persevering?

In giving up on searching for the invisible God I do not like anymore (for many other reasons, btw), am I just impatient and ignorant? Yes, you can say so, but one must also consider life in my age is full of different huge decisions like what to study, who to date/marry, whether to go into bussiness or into social sector... And when I cannot be sure I make these decisions based on a true theory that I might later on find out to be false, that would be no joke. So I think it might be true that I am impatient and ignorant from the Christian's perspective, but from any other point of view it's even irresponsible to stick with one prior chosen philosophy that doesn't work for so long.

My main argument for the need of a solid ground in belief areas are however the crisis times. I’ve had depressions regularly (I’ve already visited a psychologist, don't worry), so almost every year I am faced with the decision whether I should bother surviving another year. And in these times of thinking whether I should jump or not, it's good to have something you really believe in that makes you not jump. So I would rather find some "stable God", which I cannot disprove even in the worst times of self-doubt. The same I must say about any longer goals. I never could just decide whether I will do music or sports professionally (even though I wanted and want that sometimes) or do bussiness, because I wasn't sure it was the God's plan (I thought it was selfish and useless for God).

Now it's time to briefly list some other issues I have with Christianity that led me here. I don't understand the concept of worshiping God, it just doesn't make any sense to me. Next, I sometimes doubt preaching in church is helpful, because it influences so many people and very often it is just somebody's opinions that are not aligned with Christianity and even with common sense (yes, I've heard some really stupid things preached). I don't believe any crap that tries to disprove evolution and I was never really satisfied with pro-Christianity proving, yet it's thousand times better than the Mormon church and still I can see many happy Mormons. I don't think homosexuals should go to hell, in fact I don't even believe in hell, because the simple idea is just unfair for many reasons. I don't believe the fairy tales about the free will, as they try to explain the existence of evil in the World, which is also big issue I was never given any satisfying answer to.

I am not mad at Christianity, I know many smart and honest Christians who really found God and these are often my favourite people. I am grateful for the Element church and for many people I know there. I like happy Christians being happy Christians. On the other hand, I like happy Muslims or happy Atheists too. I would recommend to so many non-believers to go to a nice church that is like Element just to see what does it mean to believe, to see different life perspectives and to learn about the almost forgotten principles our society is built on, I honestly would. I think any kind of closed-mindedness and conservatism is potentially dangerous, in any religion or philosophy or political/economical world-view.

Now, why bother writing all of this publicly? Well I noticed that most people still considered me Christian or even "strong Christian", and in that position it is quite hard to talk to both sides of the barrier, since I was either a rebel for Christians or an "enemy" for non-Christians, in the matter of some deeper discussion.

I am a big fan of transparency and I think it might encourage both Christians and non-Christians to actually think about their faith and not to worry on what side they are, because what really matters is, whether you are honest with yourself. I also wanted to show to the Christian world that sex before marriage is not always the primary reason why people leave the church and that I actually think about faith and that it is very important to me.

Thank you for reading this long message, you can definitely respond by leaving a comment, writing me a message, we can set up a meeting to talk, I am open for answering any further questions and happy to talk about this topic in general.

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