I first remember learning about Christianity when I was probably around 5 years old. I went to a Methodist Sunday School where we learned many of the popular stories in the Bible. At the time, it was a magical place where I learned about Jesus and his miracles, heaven, and a seemingly benevolent, omnipotent God. I remember being mesmerized by the idea of all this… especially the idea of God. As a kid I was always scheming up end of the world scenarios or who knows what else, and the thought of some powerful protector made me feel safe when I thought the rest of the world might crash down around me. As a child, I definitely found religion to be a comfort and a safe-haven in the unpredictable world of a five year old’s mind.
Looking back, I remember that everyone around me seemed to believe the same ideas and so I just took it as an absolute truth that God and Jesus both existed. I don’t think I ever remember anybody asking me if any of that made any sense or asking me what I thought about it… So I believed it.
Somewhere around middle school and my freshman year of high school I became very religious. In fact, I would say that I was on a bit of a religious high. I deeply felt that I needed to tell others about Jesus and whenever I actually built up enough nerve to do so, I actually felt high. I believed I was saving people from eternal damnation, and I was actually buzzing with elation after believing that I may have actually helped to save their soul (whatever that is). Much to my chagrin now, I actually wrote a letter to a Chinese foreign exchange student and even my biology teacher to tell them about Jesus. In its own way, even though I’m embarrassed by it now, this was also a magical time. I felt safe and like everything had a purpose… and that I was even a part of that purpose.
It actually wasn’t that dramatic of a change at first. I simply started to actually think about my religion and to question things about it. I began to read the Bible and was astonished by the amount of questions and doubts I had. It probably didn’t help that I started with the old testament. If you haven’t read through the old testament, well, there’s incest, murder, slavery, etc. God seemed very angry and not so benevolent as I had always believed. He even claimed himself to be a jealous god. After reading through only a few chapters, I realized that god sounded rather, well… human. And then there were the miracles I was supposed to believe in… virgin births, people rising from the dead, walking on water…
With these doubts already beginning to permeate my mind, I still fought to hang on to my religion… to my comfort. I spoke to preachers, teachers, parents, friends, and even complete strangers. I learned that almost everybody I spoke to believed in Christianity either because they were raised that way and it made them feel safe and happy, or that they hadn’t been raised as a Christian but felt they found salvation from an unpleasant life. Not once did somebody tell me they were a Christian because it made sense. Not once.
All of this seemed to culminate at a youth convention. I remember listening to the main speaker, the topic actually eludes me now, but by the end of it he had everybody crying for god and asking to be saved. I remember looking around at all the tear soaked faces and trying desperately to feel what they did, but I couldn't feel it anymore. I even tried to put all my doubts aside and pray one last time, but I felt nothing inside.
After I started questioning the bible and religion, I started to question life, existence, god… all those fun topics that generally seem to be taboo. Without Christianity as my comfort, I felt very alone and vulnerable. The unknowns like death became far more intimidating. There’s a bit of awe when you realize that you really know nothing at all. You don’t even know where you came from or why you are here. And worse yet, everyone you know still believes in the magical world you learned about when you were five. Who do you even talk to??
It took a lot of soul searching (pun intended) to find meaning and happiness after religion, but unlike what many tell me, it is possible. It is possible to make the best out of the only life that I know I am guaranteed. It is possible to make the best out of every moment in my life and to have a deeper appreciation for all aspects of life… It is possible to find truth without religion.
Nicci's story really mirrors mine. What about you? Would you like to share your story of finding, or losing religion, or simply the role that religion has played in your life. Please comment!