Sometimes I miss my religion. I miss my days of thinking I knew what life was all about, of living in accordance with God’s will, of believing I was in a relationship with Jesus. It was comfortable and secure, and maybe a little bit anxiety inducing too: what was God telling me to sort out in my life now? What sin had I not confessed? How had I let him down this time?
My faith defined my life for me, set its parameters, told me what to believe about other aspects of life – like the role of men and the place of women, parenthood, abortion, homosexuality, evolution, the end of the world (always coming soon! You need to be ready for it!) – and defined my values. God would guide me when making decisions in life, which may be why I made so many bad ones, and even gave me a special set of spiritual words with which to talk about him. I don’t mean speaking in tongues, though there was that, but words like ‘saved’, ‘redeemed’, ‘born again’, ‘witness’ ‘rapture’, ‘seeking the Lord’. (Now there’s a blog post; the surrealism of Christian-speak.)
There was an entire sub-culture to enjoy too; Christian music (some of it – certainly not all of it – as good as anything in the ‘world’), hymns and choruses to sing, devotional books, Bible study notes to tell you what the scriptures really meant, magazines (Buzz, anyone?), conventions like Spring Harvest and Filey where you could go for a spiritual charge (buzz, anyone?) and hear what the Lord had to say to his people – usually that he expected more of them. Church too, of course, which was the means of reinforcing collective beliefs and ensuring conformity, and where there were friends and some really genuine people (some difficult people too, but they probably weren’t ‘real’ Christians.)
Most of all I miss the cosy, fuzzy feeling that came from being a Christian. This was generated by the sure and certain knowledge that I was saved and Jesus loved me. However things might appear, God was in control; everything happened for a reason, which he knew about even if I didn’t. What’s more, and best of all, he would welcome me and everyone else who was genuinely born-again into Heaven when we died. What more could I want?
- a healthy dose of reality;
- shedding a false persona to be the person I was meant to be;
- using my brain to have views and values of my own;
- recognising that the Bible is wrong about so much;
- understanding we have relationships with living people not long dead ‘prophets’;
- coming to terms with the fact that there’s no-one out there listening to our every thought and answering our prayers;
- embracing the fact that life is gloriously random and messy;
- accepting myself and everyone else as they are (also random and messy);
- knowing this life is all there is, and
- enjoying everything it makes possible.
Would I change any of this to return to the delusional comfort and stability of Faith? Certainly not. Any belief system that puts mythical beings ahead of real people and espouses principles that its adherents would kill or die for, is, I now see, inherently wicked. As we witness each and every day now, all of the world’s major religions – including Christianity – are inclined towards the heartless extremism that belief in the supernatural engenders. I want nothing to do with them, other than speaking out against them whenever and wherever possible.