Seven or eight months ago, I abandoned Christianity, after being a Christian for many years. It was a decision that cost me dearly. Four close friends have exiled me from their lives, and two others can no longer see me due to their family’s intolerance. This all happened, not quite because I abandoned Christianity, but because I chose to speak out publicly about my reasons for doing so. Let’s not mince words: I expressed opinions that were anti-Christian.
Looking back, having learned a lot since my decision, I not only stand by it, but my stance has been greatly reinforced. There is not a single thing that lures me back to Christianity except the slight nagging fear of having made the wrong decision. I am fully aware that I am literally betting my life and soul that I’ve made the right choice. I take it very seriously, and only a fool wouldn’t.
In choosing to speak against Christianity, I caused great offense to some people, and it occurs to me now that I don’t think I ever made it clear why I was compelled to say the things I said. It could appear that I am full of venom, but that’s not the case.
When the teachings of Christianity tell me that I am going to hell, that provokes a response from me. I can either accept the Christian claim or reject it, and that rejection can take one of two forms:
1. I shrug my shoulders, walk away, and hope that hell doesn’t really exist.
2. I investigate the claim (with as little bias as possible) to be sure that I’ve made the right decision.
Response 1 would drive me mad, as I would end up constantly living in fear of being wrong. I would have to know for sure, just to put my mind at ease – or equally to lead me to embrace Christianity, should evidence present itself.
So I’ve done my homework. In fact, I’ve done twenty years of it; my relationship with Christianity goes way back. And now I don’t think Christianity is true. I don’t think there is such a place as hell. I don’t think people are damned until they discover “the way.” And I’m betting my life on it. What choice do I have? The choice between doing what I think it right, or giving in to an unjustified threat.
In saying such things, I realise I’m being very anti-Christian, but the thing I need to throw back at the Christians is this: you provoked it. I’m not trying to shift responsibility. What I’m saying is, you can’t threaten somebody and expect them to have no reaction to your threat. You can’t ask me to play Response 1, and simply say, “Gee, I hope what you’re saying isn’t true,” and nothing more.
Okay, maybe you won’t deny me the right to think what I choose to think, as long as I keep it to myself and don’t cause offense. That’s unfair for two very clear reasons.
Firstly, you’re saying you would prefer to relate to a false version of me, a politically correct projection that suits you but is nothing more than an illusion. What kind of a relationship is that? Wouldn’t you prefer me to be honest? Wouldn’t you prefer to know what I really think?
Secondly, you are expressing hypocritical double standards. How can you deny someone the right to say what they think is true (even when it offends), when you give yourself the right to express what you think is true (even when it offends)? If you’ve got the balls to say, “Buddy, you’re going to hell,” then I’ve got the balls to say, “No I’m not, and here’s why.” How can you be intolerant to criticism when you claim the right to criticise everyone else?
I don’t want to tar all Christians with the same brush. Some of my friends are Christians, and they’re still my friends, and we still have intelligent discussions without getting angry. My experience of losing friends has made me see that Christians are divided into two camps. I’m not sure what to call these groups, but I’ll wager the words “moderate” and “fundamentalist” are close labels. They are groups of mind and not of location, although I would say that certain churches fuel the fundamentalist mindset, whereas others fuel the moderate mindset.
I think the driving force behind the fundamentalist mindset is the ideal “I want to do God’s will. Whatever God says, I will do, and it doesn’t matter what you think or even what I think, only what God says.” This is rooted in an understanding of the supremacy of God and the perfection of the religious teachings. It sounds fine on the surface, until you try to put it into practice in a world full of differing beliefs. You give yourself permission to slam everyone else’s beliefs and you get angry at them for slamming your beliefs, but you still think that’s fair because you’re the one’s who’s on God’s side. The trouble is, often the opposition believes the same thing about themselves. This, I think, is the root cause of religious conflict, whether that conflict is as insignificant as an abandoned friendship or as devastating as a war.
The moderate Christian realises that when he gives himself permission to criticise someone else’s beliefs he must allow them to criticise his. This is nothing more than basic fair play, the understanding that we’re all equal. We don’t all start out with the same beliefs, so how can we live life with the constant expectation that everyone will see things the same way, accept as sacred the same things that we hold sacred? Ultimately, it is as simple as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This principle is recognised by athiest and Christian alike as the most beneficial way to relate to people, and the very fact that it is in the Bible should give the fundamentalist Christians pause to reconsider their tyrannical stance on the world around them.
I have my own imperfections and personal failures to deal with, too. I’ve been known to get a little upset at times – like when a fundamentalist makes snide remarks at me, or calls me stupid, or insinuates that I have some malevolent agenda. I don’t react well to character assassination. Understandable, you might think, but I should learn to simply accept the criticism without complaint. If that’s how a person feels about me, then I would rather have that raw honesty come out than have the experience of polite dishonesty or hidden fury. Let me have the truth, even if it stings. Mind you, the same fundamentalist will be completely mystified why I don’t feel any attraction to the sort of spirituality that leads him to express himself the way he does.
To the Christians who have stood by me, I’m glad of your continued friendship. I know you think I’m going to hell. That doesn’t bother me, because you have every right to believe what you want to believe. To those who are too offended by me to remain friends, I wish it wasn’t so, and I hope this essay helps you to understand why I’ve gone about things the way I have.
Bottom line: you can’t threaten somebody and expect them to take it lying down.
9 thoughts on “Why I spoke against Christianity”
Darryl, I’m sorry that happened to you. As a Christian, obviously I have chosen differently, and I think it important, but I won’t waste words trying to convince you otherwise. if you have any interest, you can find my take on things easily enough at my site, and respond or not as it pleases you to do.
I, too have walked to the edge of abandoning Christianity. I remember walking out to the end of a jetty in the Gulf of Mexico, and praying to whatever is out there, if anything. I got to a place where I poured out all my beliefs and religious thoughts into a pile to discard. I said “what do I really believe, on my own, just Eric? I discovered over a long time that I was indeed a theist, and that I believed God is good. Then I discovered that I believed that God is personal; and so it went over a couple years. I will now affirm pretty much classic Christian teaching, sometimes with my own understanding, but I’m there.
I of course have no business speaking to any of the circumstances involved in your decision, but you say one thing I appreciate: you talk about your desire to not have to present a “false version” of yourself. If there is anything I understand about God, it is that He is truth. He gave his name as “I Am that I Am” not “I am as Eric understands me to be” or anything else. Pure unadulterated the way things are. And I rather suspect that that is the way we will stand before Him. The places where I am not who I think I am, where I am not who I say I am will be pretty obvious. My private view is that acceptance of these truths about me, and about God, and about the way He is and what He has done (By the way, NOT acceptance of theology according to Eric, but the real truth) is part of what it will mean to be united to His kingdom, to all Truth. Choosing the lies I tell myself, even when I know better, still preferring my fictions, is the definition of cutting myself off from truth. So your insistence that you be authentic, even if it is authentic about your beef with Christians, or with the church, or with Christianity, or even with God himself is a step towards Him who is all truth. Any movement towards truth is movement towards God in my book.
Everything you say about the Christians you have encountered, I have encountered. Some of them I have been guilty of. You are right to be offended by some of them. I have a serious bitch against my own church right now, and a host of minor ones. That being said, though, the ultimate question is not whether these “Job’s comforters” are obnoxious. The question is “are these things true?”
But of one thing I am absolutely convinced: if anyone deeply desires to know the truth, whether it supports his position, or refutes it; if I desire truth more than I desire to win; if I seek light, and try to conform myself to it, I’ll have more light, and move into more truth, and into all truth.
Peace, my friend, and well wishes on your journey!
-R. Eric Sawyer
“If anyone deeply desires to know the truth, whether it supports his position, or refutes it; if I desire truth more than I desire to win; if I seek light, and try to conform myself to it, I’ll have more light, and move into more truth, and into all truth.”
Well said. We might believe different things, but you described an attitude of mind that is so important: having the willingness to change when truth becomes apparent, instead of trying to edit that truth to fit an existing belief system.
Something I’ve noticed over the years, and in my own thinking is, the people often prone to jump down your throat and attack when you challenge their thoughts, or beliefs, especially in the realms of religion, tend to be those with the weakest convictions.
For example, as you know Darryl, the church I attended was pretty much the whole nine yards, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, the whole shebang! There was no neat little excuses and doing what you want, without anyone challenging things (allbeit in a respectful manner). But, because of that, people were mostly sure of their beliefs, strong and secure in their understandings, etc, and also willing to admit when they had something wrong or misunderstood.
I’ve often found that the people screaming from the rooftops that “queers are an abomination,” or “you’re all going to hell,” tend to be Christians (in this instance) who don’t actually follow the teachings of the bible and tend to hobble along on some mix and match of beliefs, based on the God of the bible, but not quite willing to accept it all, only the bits they like.
For example, a lot of them are still given to alcoholism, swearing, etc. I’m sure you know the type here in NI, live their life through the week and get drunk at the weekend, have pre-marital sex, but at the end of the day they have a belief in “God,” and go to church on Sunday, or claim they pray and follow God their own way.
So they try to apply the word of God, from a non-godly perspective. Because they don’t really care about the “love” aspect of the Bible and Jesus’ teachings. It’s more about believing in Jesus or you go to hell, and as long as you pray and go to church every now and then, you can get off with the other stuff.
Of course there is the very extreme end of things, which we dont’ get as much of here, but certainly exists in the US, where it takes the full bible believing aspect of a Christian to the Nth degree, with brain washing and some hate-riddled pastor with an agenda to push, but thankfully they are few and far between, certainly compared to the rest of Christianity.
I see atheism moving in the same direction, thanks to the likes of Richard Dawkins and his ilk. If the decay of religion and Christianity continues the way it has been going, in 50 years or maybe 100 years time, we’ll be living out the Atheist wars of South Park, where people are arguing the merits of words Richard Dawkins has uttered and their own particular understanding of them. A bit like the Cat lineage in Red Dwarf. 😀
I appreciate your courage and honesty. I made a similar decision about 25 years ago when I abandoned seminary, ministry and Christianity. My Christian friends, of course, mostly reject my honesty, and that played a part in my own struggle with God and faith.
It was less than a year ago, in a conversation with a trusted Christian friend, that a remark turned me around and I have slowly returned to my original beliefs. I will label them “evangelical” vs. “fundamentalist”, which is your “moderate” group.
My friend lamented that he struggled with projecting his jaded image of his father onto his image of God. The synapses began to fire for me and I realized I had done the same.
My father abandoned me when I was 4 and didn’t come around much over the years. As a result, I expected God the Father to continually prove that He was there and that He was trustworthy. Although I was given some big “spiritual” moments for reassurance, there was going to be nothing that would be enough.
Not coincidentally, I also had a big “spiritual” experience during the subsequent 25+ years as an outspoken agnostic. I believe now this was God leaving the 99 sheep to retrieve the one that wandered off, but I could be wrong …
How do I get a custom icon?
Our God (Allah) may have showed you the clear path, learn Islam. Surely, you will understand that Heaven and Hell exist. No one would want Hell, therefore, heaven was made for Muslims who pray to the one and only Allah. Trust me because I do not lie when It comes to religion. I give you my word (:
I would suggest a book(NOT about Christianity) from Anthony de Mello (http://www.4shared.com/file/89392961/1886a8d8/anthony_de_mello_-_awareness.html?s=1) it’s about life and what are we not aware of. I really enjoyed the book… especially when the author said “ANALYZE EVERYTHING I SAY! DON’T BELIVE ME!” 🙂
Interesting reflections, Darryl. May I add my $.02?
I’ve been a believing Christian for 35 years, most of the time of the Catholic variety (yeah, some of you readers will say “she’s not really Christian,” but get over it). I’ve developed solid relationships with friends and family in many denominations and none at all. In fact, my son is a pastor in a fundamentalist church. So from the perspective of having seen many styles of sincere belief, I say this:
For whatever reason, Christians frequently lack love and charity toward one another. It’s a scandal, but it’s true. I don’t understand it. That lovelessness does a huge amount of damage to believers and unbelievers alike. No one can say that anyone’s negative reactions to the immaturity, rigidity, and contempt that might result have no basis in fact.
But the logical leap from “I reject their conception of how God relates to us” to “I don’t believe that God exists” isn’t a smooth, logical one in my view.
The question about Christianity, in the final analysis, is this: Did Jesus rise from the dead or not?
If one says “no”, I would ask, “What’s your evidence?” Strong first-hand, corroberated, eyewitness accounts say otherwise. No physical evidence to the contrary was ever discovered (or the Jewish rulers of the time would have trumpeted it from the rooftops). The transformation of his wimpy, measly, beaten-down group of followers into inspired, lively, infectious, excited people on a mission with no regard for preserving their own lives wouldn’t be psychologically congruent if they knew it was a sham.
So if it’s true or likely to be true, then a questioner is faced with a different question. Are there, in fact, other assumptions I can make about God that fit the evidence but serve me better than the ones I can’t live with anymore? It seems that perhaps life in Christ has been presented to you as “Watch your step or God, who is looking to catch you out, will nab you and send you to hell”). I’d suggest that falls short of the fullness of love and grace that is available. It may serve you to find some new friends who have a mature, loving, lively, intelligent, energetic faith and see what they think.
I present this, not to persuade you to my opinion so I can feel satisfied that I’m right and have someone acknowledge that I’m right, but because I detect that it was important to you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Here’s an address for you (or anyone of good will) to get in touch with me to continue the conversation if you’re interested. 78s99k202-at-sneakemail-dot-com
“The question about Christianity, in the final analysis, is this: Did Jesus rise from the dead or not? If one says “no”, I would ask, “What’s your evidence?” Strong first-hand, corroberated, eyewitness accounts say otherwise. No physical evidence to the contrary was ever discovered”
Since Christians are the ones with a belief system to sell, the onus is really on them to provide firm evidence, not on others to provide evidence against it. Lack of evidence against the resurrection does not mean that the resurrection was real by default.
The evidence we are really relying on for the validity of Christianity is anything but solid. When you say we have “Strong first-hand, corroberated, eyewitness accounts” this is not true. What we possess are documents written down many, many years after the alleged events, long after the stories had been passed around orally. And we don’t even possess the original copies of those.
Furthermore, it wasn’t until 325 AD that a proper decision was made to decree which documents were real and which were fake. During those three hundred years, the Church was awash with information and disinformation. And the only way we can know that they picked the right books for the New Testament is if we blindly trust that a politician (Emperor Constantine of Rome) and a bunch of bishops got it right, 300 years after Jesus (supposedly) ascended to heaven.
It was Constantine who changed the face of Christianty and made it a force to be reckoned with, through nothing more supernatural than his own royal power.
When you do the research, the validity of Christianity is anything but provable.
As for God, I have no doubt that God is real, but not in the form he has been represented by religions.
“I detect that it was important to you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Your right in a sense, but I would place where the baby ends and the bathwater begins in quite a different place.
Christianity is not provable, and that means I have every right to believe it or disbelieve it without consequence. If I end up in hell for my decision, my only defense will be that I did what I thought was right.