From time to time, devout Christians drop by TRT to engage in dialog or just to harangue me and other frequent readers. In a recent comment, one young man (Tye) stated that he drops by here simply because he wants people to think about Christianity. As I stated in my comment response, "thinking" is what led me away from Christianity.
As a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder (as part of my Asperger's Syndrome), when I believe or practice something, I do it to the hilt. In other words, nothing is half-ass with me. If I believe something, I believe it all the way to an extreme.
I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were Presbyterians. For many years, we attended Wednesday night classes as well as church and Sunday School. By mid adolescence, I had read the bible cover to cover and back again. In Junior High School, I was a member of Youth for Christ.
During my college years, I was very involved in the life of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. With my parents divorced, the senior pastor, Dr. James W. Mosely, became like a second father to me. We talked for many hours about Jesus, God and the life of the church. It was because of my relationship with him that I seriously considered going into the ministry.
In fact, I applied to and was accepted into seminary. Because of my church involvement, I had glowing references. Everything was lined up for me to make the Christian Church my home for the rest of my life...
...but something held me back. For years I didn't know what it was, but it was there nonetheless. One early hint, that I simply didn't accept most of the tried and true doctrine, came during my senior year in college. I was chosen to deliver the Sunday sermon at our church. Eschewing the usual Christian message, my sermon focused on thinking of God as a force, a la the recently released movie, Star Wars
(shades of Taoism).
I spent hours hiking in the mountains around Hot Springs, Arkansas and my bible was always with me. I read, prayed and contemplated many a passage. I fervantly tried to open my heart to talk directly to my savior and his father, but I kept thinking to myself, "This is nothing more than fabricated conversations, my id conversing with my super ego." When these ideas bubbled up to the surface, I pushed them back down.
Instead of becoming a minister, I became a social worker. I continued to participate with local churches in the communities I worked in. In fact, I was the high School Sunday School teacher at the Methodist Church in Monticello, Arkansas. I got in trouble with the deacons though because I encouraged the members of my class not to accept the religion of their parents outright and to attend different churches in the area to see which one, if any, spoke to them personally. This idea didn't go over well at all.
Throughout my 20s and early 30s, little by little, I began to move away from the idea of God, Jesus and church. Too much of Christian dogma bothered me. So much of the belief system of Christianity was irrational and, if God made us rational beings, wouldn't he want us to exercise our rationality in coming to him?
The more I contemplated notions of this sort, the more I realized that a personified "God" was silly. The God of Christianity is beset with all the petty emotions of we humans and this defied the belief that he could be ominpotent and omnipresent.
Despite these misgivings, I still wasn't ready to announce to the world that I was no longer a Christian -- it represented too much of my self-identity. So, I went looking for a different church tradition to try to solve my problem. For a while, I gave serious consideration toward becoming a Quaker. (I even investigated other religions.)
One day during my Quaker experimentation, I was walking by The Book Bin
in downtown Salem, OR. In the window, I saw a book "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Taoism"
. Up until that moment, I'm not even sure I'd ever heard the word, Taoism
. For reasons I can't explain, I went in and purchased the book.
As I read the book, I kept exclaiming, "Yes" and "That's it!" I began to realize that my Sunday sermon way back in college was the beginning of my turn toward a Taoist way of viewing the world -- I just didn't know it at the time. After finishing that book, I bought and read "The Tao of Pooh"
by Benjamin Hoff.
That sealed the deal!! The moment I finished reading Pooh
, I was ready to be a non-Christian and I have happily been non-Christian ever since.
In fact, looking back, I often wonder why I held on to those untenable Christian beliefs for so long. Even in my most devout times, there was always an inkling that things just didn't add up the way the Church said it did. There were too many contradictions and inconsistencies. There were way too many aspects that didn't make any rational sense.
The time simply came when I had to release the fetters that bound me. I had to have the courage to set myself free. It took me a while, but I finally cut the chord and I have no regrets at all.