I never thought I’d be the kind of person that refuses to go to church. It hadn’t been that long ago that I was encouraging other church-less Christians to give church another chance. Now here I was. One of them. I felt guilty for not going to church. My son and I did visit a small nearby Methodist church a few times and they seemed like wonderful and nice people. Too nice. The pastor called me up to the front of the church to announce the “new visitor”. I appreciated the acknowledgement…I know he meant well. Their attempt to make me feel welcome was a little much! ha! I still went back a few times though and I don’t really know why I didn’t continue. Looking back, I think it was just a time in my life that I needed to be away from all human influences when it came to spirituality.
In our new town, my new job was in the offices at a local liberal arts woman’s college. I had no idea what that was going to be like so it was quite a shock to my small-town, conservative mind to suddenly be in the midst of students from all over the world, different cultures, different religions, and different sexuality. It was intimidating. I only stayed for about a year and a half. It just wasn’t a place for me but I learned a lot during that trying time.
It was amazing to me how devoted students were to their culture’s beliefs. It caused me to think about how so many people believe such different things and if Christianity is THE right one, then why doesn’t it stick out or obviously rise above these other religions? How come Christians as a whole are not as devoted to their beliefs as Muslims are? Why aren’t Pagans being struck by lightning if they are so evil? When I asked questions similar to these a long time ago, I was taught that everyone has the knowledge of Jesus deep down in their hearts. They just choose to ignore it. But suddenly that didn’t seem fair. The only reason I believed in Jesus as The Savior was because that’s what I grew up believing. What if I had been born in Iraq? I would be just as devoted to Allah. These people didn’t seem to have any doubts whatsoever about their beliefs. In fact, they seemed way more solid in their stance than most Christians I knew. They prayed everyday and asked for miracles and somehow God had shown himself to them in his own way. They had experienced things they considered to be miracles, just like Christians do. So, why would they ever have a reason to doubt their religion?
Another thing I noticed…a lot of nonChristians were really nice and much more pleasant to be around. There was only a few Christians on campus that I knew about. I befriended one of them and it turned out that she was quite the backstabber. In fact, she admitted it one day before she took off to her Bible study where she was teaching about forgiveness. She wanted me to forgive her real quick before she did that. Wow. My closest friend there ended up being someone who was a nonChristian. She was and still is one of the most honest, genuine people I know.
I remember a saying that went something like the fruit of your life should be reflecting your walk with God. If someone is on the right path (Christian-speaking), then there should be evidence, or fruit of that. Well, God’s fruit is looking pretty withered up and crappy these days. I’m having a real hard time finding any that doesn’t have worms in it.
Being associated with a liberal college, meant that I got to see Christians and their behavior from a different viewpoint. I never made it well-known that I was Christian because I always felt like it was better that people get to know me first and even then I would only speak about it if someone else brought it up. Students from the local Christian university visited the campus one time when well-known atheist and author, Richard Dawkins was speaking. The students made asses of themselves by standing up and asking obnoxious questions and came across as arrogant and rude. Whether they were true or not, I heard stories from co-workers and students about how the Christian university students treated them, looked down on them, assumed things about them, and were just plain mean at times. I was embarrassed to be associated with Christians during that time, so I really kept it to myself after that.
In 2007, I was pregnant and so became quite the hated one. Feminists don’t like that too much, so I left. After the baby was born, jobs were becoming very hard to find due to the economy so I stayed home a long time. For the first time since I was 15 years old, I was unemployed. A strange feeling that was. I rocked my new baby boy everyday for hours and while he napped, my older son was in school, I had a lot of time to think and ponder things. I watched documentaries on tv and talk shows. I searched the internet researching every topic I could think of. I didn’t know many people in this new town so I was quite lonely, aside from my husband and sons. I thought a lot about God and life and the universe.
When there is no influence from outside sources for some time, things start to look clearer and I began to realize that so much of what I believed was just simply a product of my culture. What if I had grown up somewhere else? I probably wouldn’t be Christian. I began to understand what it must be like for people who are brainwashed in a cult. I’m not trying to imply at all that Christianity is a cult and is about brainwashing. I’m trying to say what it felt like to me. Everyone who taught me about the Bible, God, and Jesus believes it with their whole heart too…no one was trying to deceive anyone. But what if they only believe because their parents believed it, and their grandparents believed it, and so on.
How do I KNOW that the Bible is THE book, THE truth? Muslims are 100% convinced that the Kuran is THE truth. Mormons are 100% convinced that the Book of Mormon is THE truth. Somebody’s lying!! Not intentionally. But still.
One day, I saw Sylvia Browne on the Montel Williams show. Sylvia is a well-known psychic medium who has wrote many books on what she believes the afterlife is like. I began thinking a lot about that. I was always taught that psychic stuff, astrology, magic, new age stuff…all of that… is evil and satanic and we should stay away from it. But that wasn’t making much since to me since psychics don’t seem to be spreading evil of any sort. So if they are so evil, then Satan is pretty dumb.
I didn’t know if Sylvia Browne was the real deal or not, but I decided to do some research on the whole psychic and paranormal topic. I started listening to the Paranormal Podcast on JimHarold.Com. I still love that show. Jim interviews authors of books on all kinds of subjects such as UFOs, ghosts, spirits, the other side, near death experiences, reincarnation, angels, etc. Jim is a healthy skeptic and does a good job of just listening to all sides of the stories and letting the listener decide what to think about it.
By the way, I did a little research on Sylvia Browne and apparently there is controversy around her work and she doesn’t seem like a good person to study so I did move on to more credible people to study eventually. Before finding that out, I read one of Sylvia Browne’s books about the other side and what it’s supposed to be like after we die. Somewhere in the middle of that book was when a light bulb suddenly flipped on and the wires finally connected in my brain. It wasn’t even the book’s fault. I don’t even remember what it said. It was something so small that just finally broke the camel’s back. It was strange how it was so sudden. I remember standing in my bedroom and sobbing. It was the first time EVER in my life that I truly contemplated the possibility that there is no God. No Jesus. No invisible person who has been my best friend forever. I was talking to the air my whole life? It wasn’t totally a choice to not believe. It really was a moment of “Oh my God! What if everything I have believed is wrong??” It was the worst feeling I have ever felt. I did not like it. My entire foundation of life…gone. This higher power that loves me, leads me, knows me, keeps me safe and warm…never there. My heart broke in a million pieces that day. It was the loneliest feeling on earth. I cried and yelled up at the ceiling, begging God to show me He really is there. I said I would give it 2 weeks. I begged and pleaded for God to somehow, big or small, give me a sign that this light-bulb moment is wrong. I NEED to know, God! I don’t want to doubt. I don’t want to not believe! But I can’t just believe because people told me to, just because a book told me to. Surely you understand that I must have something to go on. How do I know the Bible came from you, God? How can I KNOW? How do I know that all those evil men and kings through the centuries didn’t add and subtract all kinds of things to benefit themselves…to convince a kingdom that God said don’t do this or else! How easy would that be? What’s stopping evil people from doing that? Why wouldn’t they use religion to control their people? This would make sense why certain strange things are in the Bible that don’t seem consistent with God!
So anyway, I gave God 2 weeks to show me these new revelations were wrong. I swore that if He would just give me a tiny little sign, then I would toss all these doubts out the window and never doubt again. Every night I cried and begged God again until 2 weeks was up. No sign ever came from God that I could see. I was constantly looking for one, so if any coincidence had happened I would’ve assumed it was God. But no. Nothing. I wanted desperately to go back to believing. I wanted to go back to my comfortable, warm spot on the church pew where I knew all about life and I didn’t have to worry because God was going to take care of us. We were on the good side. The right side. We didn’t have to worry about evil. But I just can’t believe something because I want to. I have to know it in my soul.
I became depressed, devastated, and angry at the world for about a year or two. It was like mourning the death of my closest friend. I was so angry and upset and hurt that I wouldn’t have anything to do with anything remotely Christian. I wouldn’t listen to a single church song. I wouldn’t sing like I used to love to do. I threw away my Bibles…even my duct-taped, highlighted, ripped up Bible. I figured if there was a God, maybe He would punish me for throwing away his book but he didn’t that I know of.
In hindsight, I believe that this happened because I needed to wipe the slate clean of all of my beliefs and start completely over.
And after my anger ran its course and faded away, so begins my search for what is real. Surely there is SOMEthing more than just what we see in the world. I did eventually come back to believing there is a God, but now I don’t know who God is anymore and I have to figure that out. I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure and that drives me crazy, but I’m going to at least be educated as much as I can about it and see what I can find.
My first task will be to read some books or websites about the history of religion. Where and when did it start and how it evolved. If anyone has reading recommendations, I’d be glad to give them a try. My fear is that every book about this subject will be biased in some way and I’ll still be confused as ever. It makes me angry sometimes that the truth is so dern hard to find! I just want the truth…not everybody’s opinion. Where are the FACTS?