Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Well meaning harm, the church in a nut shell

For several days now I’ve trying to write my de-conversion story. I wanted to take the time to round the corner, to mark the old part of my life from the new, and to celebrate my giving up on pondering my past.  Though you could say that my de-conversion began over 20 years ago, it began in earnest about 3 years ago.  Much of the struggle over the last three years was to be objective.  I wanted to look at the church with total fairness, separating out the well meaning harm of the church from the well meaning harm of the culture I grew up in, my parents, and even myself. After about 4 days of trying to write this over and over again, I’ve simply had to accept the fact, as the primary observer of my childhood, my views of it are pretty biased.  No amount of careful codification and fact checking can give me an objective view of the thing I experienced: The church hurt me a lot.

This makes me a somewhat poor representative of atheism.  Ideally, for the cause of de-converts everywhere, I would be able to perfectly separate the hurt I experienced into convenient causes, with titles like: Biblical doctrine, which correctly followed hurts people, common but unbiblical doctrines which also hurt people, painful church traditions, and people who call themselves Christians but act in a way to contradictory to scripture.  But I can’t.  And I won’t try anymore, for reasons I will explain shortly.  Apologists can attack my positions about Christianity as the embittered cry of a broken heart and not the calculated thoughts of a reasonable mind. They’re partially right.  My beliefs are both the calculated thoughts of reasonable mind, and the embittered cry of a broken heart.

If I was to chose one phrase to describe the whole Christian experience, the beliefs of people, their actions, the social constructs they made, and even the book stores, it would be well meaning harm. I tried at first to start from childhood and work through the specific harm which happened step, by step, carefully assigning fault where appropriate.  With each step, I put on my apologist hat, and picked apart my complaints.  This heartbreak was my fault, for not searching scripture, that heartbreak was a pastors fault for not following scripture, and that other heartbreak was the fault of institutional traditions which had grown more important than the love of Jesus.  

I know, from being an apologist, that for every cut a person receives in Jesus name, there is a corresponding bandage that explains how it wasn’t really Jesus, but some kind of false representation of him.  Jesus himself, and his word, can never be held accountable. That’s a doctrine in fact.  This filled me with rage as I tried to write.  I knew that for every pain and heartbreak the church had inflicted on me, the committed Christian could explain it away by saying “Well, that’s not really Christianity.”  To know that my 25 years of misery would simply be dismissed by saying that I never experienced the right kind of Christianity, filled me impotent fury. 

Masturbation and the guilt I felt about it was the centerpiece of my teen years.  I tried to write this into my de-con story. Like a lot of adolescents, I masturbated and looked at online pornography frequently.  Unlike a lot of adolescents, I was frequently suicidal and occasionally self harming about it. I know that an apologist would here say “Masturbation is not expressly forbidden in scripture, it’s the lusting that is a sin and God would never want you to commit suicide, or cut yourself.”

But if I said to a Christian that after I was done lusting I felt like a million bucks so I didn’t want to stop they would respond with “Oh, you’ve seared your conscience. The Lord loves a contrite heart.”  Well, how contrite?  Sometimes I felt so bad that it seemed the only thing that will take the hurt away was cutting myself.  “Oh no, you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and God would never want you to harm yourself.”   Christians would demand that I hurt, but not too much.  How would I know how much hurt was the right amount?

This lead me a single fact which explained all the confusion and hurt I had experienced at the hands of Christians.  Though there are clear standards of what it means to be a Christian, the measure of whether one meets those standards is totally subjective, in short there is no objective measure of what a Christian life looks like, it is totally dependent on local group conditions.

I could go into great detail about how I tried desperately to be Christian, and how I hurt people and myself in the process, but it doesn’t really matter which standard I didn’t meet, because they are all arbitrary anyway.  I could talk at length about how I, a critical thinker, become a foaming at the mouth Pentecostal, in the desperate hope that exchanging one set of arbitrary norms for another would result in me feeling the peace, hope, and joy that Christians are supposed to feel, but I never got.  

But, instead, I just accept the fact that I wasted the first 25 years of my life.  I masturbated alone when I could have been making love.  I qualified to enter MIT and failed out of a private bible college instead.  I beat myself up over meaningless infractions of imaginary, uncodifiable social norms. I accept all this, and take full responsibility for it.  I’ll not blame my parents, or the church.  Reason shined a light and I hid from it because I was afraid.

A personal relationship with God is life with the cheat codes on. He slants the odds in your favor, and softens the falls.  That girl didn’t break up with you because you were unsupportive and neurotic, she broke up with you because she wasn’t God’s best for you.  You got that job because it was gift from God. It was not Christianity that hurt me, but my fear of living without it, and my insistence on giving it every possible chance.  The fault of my fuckeduppery was not God, but fear of facing the great gamble of life without loaded dice. 

 

I will publish my decon story when in few months  when I think I can write it without the impotent rage.  Please all, feel free to comment.

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November 27, 2008 - Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. This is very well articulated and clearly well thought out. I’m sorry for your pain and thank you for your story.

    Comment by Robaigh | November 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. you are a prolific writer. bravo

    Comment by Varadharajan | December 5, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hey there. This is a great article. You’ve managed to say some things e.g. about masturbation, or turning down a prestigious secular university offer for a crummy Bible school, that I’ve felt and feel, but haven’t been able to say. Thank you so much!! I’d love to read your de-conversion story. It’s true – Christianity is just an arbitrary set of rules that change depending on company!!

    Comment by Andrew | December 13, 2008 | Reply


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