Many of my readers are ex-Christians. Some of the many blogs I frequent are written by ex-Christians. Two that I read religiously
(obvious pun) are Restless Wanderings
and On Leaving Fundamentalist Christianity
. The comments section of these two blogs are filled with testy exchanges between ex-Christians and the still Christians who try to woo the former pack into the fold.
One of the arguments lodged frequently is that a former Christian must not have been a truly saved
Christian in the first place or he/she would never have walked away. Bruce, the author of Restless Wanderings
, and Lorena, author of On Leaving Fundamentalist Christianity
, beg to differ. Both steadfastly claim -- and I have no reason to doubt them whatsoever -- that, when they were members of the evangelical flock, they believed in the tenets of their faith lock, stock and barrel!
Long ago, I too was a devout Christian. However, unlike Bruce & Lorena, I was a member of a more liberal Christian denomination: I was a Presbyterian. Questioning of belief and doctrine was more acceptable...well...within certain parameters. Though I thought of myself as a devout follower of the faith, I realize now that I probably never met the strict criteria of being saved.
Despite many years of church attendance, involvement in youth, young adult and adult church groups, studying my bible at every opportunity, and being immersed in the life of my church, there were always some nagging questions and doubts that I simply could not shake.
To be certain, I tried to shake them. I used to take long solitary hikes in the mountains around Hot Springs, Arkansas, with bible in hand. I would find a perch high above the valley floor and try earnestly to talk to God. But the only voice I ever heard was my own!! I sometimes tried to convince myself that God was speaking to me through my own voice, but I was far from convinced this was true.
Whenever the questions popped up, I did my best to shove them back down. Unfortunately, this only provided short-term relief because new questions continued to pop up. When I felt that the questions and doubts were consuming me, I was quite adept at mentally flogging myself for my lack of faith.
After I graduated from college in 1979, with the encouragement of my local pastor and church, I applied to seminary with the intent on becoming a Presbyterian minister. To my surprise, I was accepted. But that's as far as it went.
In trying mentally to prepare myself for seminary, I realized I had to face my questions and doubts. It is when I faced them front and center that I realized I couldn't go through with it. While I earnestly wanted to believe, the truth of the matter was that I didn't!! It just didn't add up to a belief system I could hang my hat on. There were simply too many contradictions and absurdities for me to take it seriously.
Initially, this realization was hard to stomach. I continued to be a nominal Christian for many years. In time, however, I found the experience to be liberating and I eventually found my way to philosophical Taoism.