(I haven’t had the chance to jump into the millenials leaving the church conversation yet, but then came blogging friend Sheldon Cooper with an excellent guest post that I identify with a lot. Sheldon (not his real name), blogs at Ramblings of Sheldon about being an undercover agnostic. He’s got an interesting story and some great posts, please go visit his blog 🙂 )
Much has been said recently about the great blogger Rachel Held Evans writing her post, Why Millenials Are Leaving the Church. It’s a great post, but I don’t think that the evangelical/fundamentalist churches that are driving many people of my generation from Christianity will listen, in fact, it disappoints me, but doesn’t surprise me that many evangelical bloggers are dismissing her words, and criticisms of today’s church culture.
I enjoy Rachel’s writing, though I disagree with her on some issues, after all, she is a liberal to moderate Christian, and I am an agnostic now, but I enjoy her writing because she gets it. She understands the damage that conservative churches have done to people and to our society, and she has the love and compassion towards society, and those wounded by churches that they lack. She is what I hope the future of Christianity will become.
I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family, I said the old Sinner’s Prayer, and made my decision to become a Christian at only 5 years old, and was baptized at 7. I believed it all fully, I was “on fire for God”, as many would say in that world.
When I started college, I was in a well known Southern Baptist university, with a double political science/Biblical studies major. I was as Christian as they come, I knew the Bible through and through, but a nervous breakdown there, attempting to bury myself back into my faith (because of being convinced, mostly due to family, that it was somehow my fault), that I really started to see the Bible in a whole new light, and started to become both repulsed by what was in it, and what was going on in the evangelical subculture around me.
There were many reasons I eventually gave up on Christianity at 21, nearly 4 years ago now, and issues with Christian theology were almost equal to the problems with the evangelical culture I was in when it came to leaving the faith. I still attend church, which may seem strange, but it’s a necessary charade that I must put on. It’s a long story there, mostly having to do with the abusive fundamentalist family that I am still living with, thankfully I will be moving out in about a month, I have bought my own house, and I’m currently in the process of rebuilding it. (For more about this process, check out my Undercover Agnostic blog series).
Sometime in the next few months, I’ll be able to come out as agnostic, it’s something that I both look forward to and dread at the same time. I will be a relief finally being able to live openly, and be honest about who I am, but it may lead to me having to cut myself off from my mother, depending on how extreme her reaction is, just to keep what’s left of my sanity (I am currently on medication for depression, and I’m beginning to seriously suspect that I am autistic, I’ll talk to a psychiatrist about that in the coming months).
Anyway, there’s many things that drove me to the point of giving up Christianity as my personal beliefs, it’s quite a laundry list, some issues are theological, some are issues with the church, and some are emotional as well.
I left Christianity because:
1. I was tired of faith being held as superior to simple logic, especially when it came to treating many aspects of the Bible as literal truth. For example, based on it’s dimensions, Noah’s Ark if it existed, would only be about half the size of the Titantic, and yet, supposedly all of the creatures of the earth at the time, which would have included animals like dinosaurs and mammoths fit inside it.
2. I was tired of the fear and the suspicion towards the outside world, and the demonization of everyone who wasn’t a Christian (and not just any Christian, a true “Bible believing” Christian at that). I was tired of the fear and hate towards everyone who didn’t look, think, act just like us. I’ve been in the outside world a little since leaving the faith, it isn’t the scary, corrupt, immoral cesspool of debauchery that they portrayed it to be. In fact, I found that people are usually more real about who there are in the outside world as compared to people in churches.
3. I was sick of worshipping a god who supposedly has all the power in the world to stop evil, and yet doesn’t do it. Either he wants evil to happen, doesn’t care that it happens, or is powerless to stop it. If you had the power to stop war, genocide, abuse, murder, etc, would you do it? I think we all know the answer to that question, so it begs the question of why god doesn’t. Does this mean that we as lowly human beings are more moral than god?
4. The barbarity of the Old Testament repulsed me. Entire cities destroyed, men, women children alike killed in horrible acts of genocide because god ordered it to happen. A law code supposedly given out by god that endorses slavery, sexual mutilation of children (aka circumcision), women being forced to marry their rapists, children being killed for being “disobedient”. It made my stomach turn. I know the old lines about the Old Testament being invalid now because of Jesus’ death and resurrection (I used to repeat them all the time), but if god approved of this at any point in history, then he is an immoral psychopath, and not worthy of my worship. I would rather go to hell than worship such a monster.
5. I was shown more acceptance, love and understanding by a Wiccan woman who ran a store selling hard rock CD’s and memorabilia than I was by most people in churches. Here was someone that I was raised to hate, and raised to believe was a “Satanist”, and yet she had more love for the world and the people in it, and more wisdom from life experience than most people I had ever known up to that point.
6. I was beginning to see that LGBT people were people just like me, not the evil corrupters of society that the church wanted me to believe.
7. I’m still tried of the pressure placed upon young people in churches to marry young and have children. It makes me feel like that only value they see in the lives of young people as human beings is in the ability to have more children to raise up another generation of young fundamentalists. To me, it seems dehumanizing, like that’s all they want us around for. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting married and having children, but what about those of us who have different plans for our lives? What about people like me who know for some reason or another that they just couldn’t handle having children? I’m not alone in feeling this way, the Christian site The Wartburg Watch recently had a series on this, I talked about on my blog, churches don’t value single people.
8. I can find more comfort and truth in music, alternative rock at that, than I can find in any of the churches I have been in during my lifetime. There’s an honesty, and a sense of authenticity to the raw emotion revealed in music that can’t be matched, and speaks to me in a much deeper way than religion ever did. I love songs like Shattered Faith by Bad Religion for exactly those reasons.
There are many more reasons, some that I can’t bring to mind right now, and some I left out, because I could ramble on for a long time about this. Maybe my life would have been different had I grown up in churches and a family that was far more tolerant and loving.
Would I have stayed in Christianity under different circumstances? Maybe, I really don’t know, I might have been able to overlook some of the more revolting aspects of the Bible, or maybe discard it as the ramblings of ancient people who only thought that god was on their side, but he didn’t really order all that. I wouldn’t have had so many problems with church culture. Maybe I would have been happy and stayed, but I’ll never know the answer to all those “what if?” questions, I was never given such opportunities.
Evangelical churches are always quick to dismiss criticism from people like me and Rachel Held Evans, but they’re ignoring the criticism at their own peril. I like how the blogger Samantha Field of Facing the Dragons put it in her post about the controversy over Rachel’s article:
Which makes me wonder if anyone is really paying attention. Because yes, Rachel’s article was a really, really good place to start. But there are so many other reasons– as many reasons as there are people. So when stories like these are shared, when my generation is groaning under the weight of back breaking religion, under the movements that have left deep scars– like the Purity movement, and the Courtship movement, and all the others that have left us with gaping wounds, ruined lives, and destroyed marriages, I wonder if anyone is paying attention. I look at all the articles floating around the internet, and I feel like Stephen watching the Sanhedrin stuff their fingers in their ears and gnashing their teeth.
Because we’re not just narcissistic. We’re not just selfish. We’re not just liberal. We’re not just impatient.
We’re hurt. We’re bleeding. We have been stabbed in the back so many times by the “church” that claimed to love us. And as long as no one acknowledges how deep our pain is– how real and life-shattering it is– we’re not going to come back.
Go on, “church.”
Go on saying that we’re just young, and foolish, and we don’t know what we want, and we’re going to change our minds in 20 years, that we’ll come back, that, eventually, we’ll realize that we need community, that church isn’t about us, that we shouldn’t make it about us.
And sure, some of us might come back.
Most of us probably won’t.