Another Post About Christianity

16Dec09

Oh, the Sunday morning blog.  The time when all my confusion and irritation about religion comes through.  Well, not all religions…just Christianity.  Christianity is really the only religion I have to actively tolerate.  I respect other religions.  I don’t believe in them, but I do honor them.  I’m trying very hard to cultivate a better acceptance of Christianity.  I was talking in my last entry about needing to stop making broad generalizations about people.  I confess that I have the most difficulty with this when discussing Christians.  I think it’s because I am so exposed to that particular religion.  In a town like the one in which I live, it’s difficult to get through a day without being saturated in it.  We pray as a group over meals if there is a work lunch.  (My irritation about that little bit is pretty high, considering the fact that it shows no respect for those who might believe something else…no one asks if anyone is offended by it, because no one cares, no one really wants to know, because it would make them uncomfortable.)  Considering my parents, if I have any interaction with them in a day, it’s impossible to get by without reference to Christianity.  So I expect I’ll make some broad generalizations in this post.  It’s something I’m working on, but I’m not perfect, and I don’t think I can completely filter that out yet.

I think my biggest issue is the Christian goal of conversion.  The utter arrogance of the idea that people don’t yet know the “truth,” that everyone else has it all wrong and are damned if they don’t believe.  I know this thinking isn’t solely Christian, but I have never seen any other religion take to it with such zeal.  I hate people constantly trying to convince me to change my mind.  Trust me, if I could change my mind I would have done it a long time ago.  My life would be much more peaceful, my mind wouldn’t be constantly in motion over the way my ideas conflict with those prevalent around me.

When I first started doubting, I was fourteen years old.  I had been raised in the church.  My dad was a pastor, my mom had seemingly unfaltering faith.  I worried over the fact that Christianity wasn’t making sense to me anymore.  I tried to believe in it, I tried to grasp at that blind faith that I had possessed such a short time before.  I think I realized it was a lost cause when I went to a retreat meant for Methodist Youth.  In years past, any dullness of faith was revived by that retreat, by the experience of being surrounded by people my age who believed, and did so vibrantly, did so confidently.  That year (I had just turned fifteen), I just could not get it back.  I couldn’t stop thinking that it all sounded so wrong, I couldn’t force it to make sense.  I spent the week struggling with trying to regain my faith, and left feeling frustrated, both at myself and at the things I had heard while I was at that Methodist College.  I spent the next year still caught up in that struggle, alternating between trying to get my faith in Christianity back and feeling that if I didn’t believe in Christianity I should believe in something.  So I delved into other faiths.  Each one came up hollow.  All that time, I was in conflict with my sister, who was the only person in my family who knew.  She told me I was going to hell.  She sneered at me for my lack of faith.  She punished me for it, with her actions, with her words.  (I should say, she has long since gotten over that way of thinking, and can’t believe she acted the way she did then.)  It hurt me, hurt even more because I knew it was a part of me I couldn’t change, that it wasn’t just some phase or some misguided notion, that this, to me, was truth, and there was nothing I could do to change that because nothing else made sense.  At sixteen, I went off to college, and there I was able to make peace with my lack of faith.  I was able to finally allow myself to believe what I believed.  (I should say, it took a great deal of time after that for me to make such peace with all other aspects of my personality.)

Since then, I have only become more certain, and less apologetic.  I don’t throw my lack of religion into other people’s faces.  I occasionally rant, in private or on this blog (which is the realm for my unfiltered thoughts, and therefore an acceptable outlet), about the problems I have with Christianity.  I don’t go out and try to force people to take on my opinions and beliefs.  And that, I think, is a crucial difference…and I also think that’s why my tolerance for Christian babble is waning.  I am so tired of the frame of mind that there is only one way to live, that there is only one way to think, and if you don’t live and think that way you’re doing it wrong.  Even hearing people who assume that I am Christian talk about people of other faiths, and how their conversion is the number one goal (because doesn’t everyone want to be in heaven in the presence of god?), is too much.  I want to be left in peace.  I want to be able to live my life without people trying to force their beliefs on me.  I want to stop hearing about how people think what I believe is sad and misguided, and if only I knew better, or if only I was presented the information in the right way, I would believe and be lucky enough to rely on and worship some great intangible being who, if he does exist, is really the asshole of all assholes.  What the hell kind of god creates man, and, assuming it is the kind of god that Christians assume he is (all powerful, all knowing), gives them all this strife and doubt and fucked up evil in the world, and then says, oh yeah, by the way, you have to find your way through this maze blind, and if by the time you get through to the other side, you don’t believe in me, well, you’re screwed, you’re damned to spend eternal agony in hell?  How can you call that kind of god kind and loving?  If there is a god like that out there, screw him.  I’ll take my chances with damnation.

Despite the nice little rant above, I think this all boils down to respect of differences, once again.  I don’t care what anyone else believes.  Unless I’m going to have a serious romantic relationship with someone, their beliefs (to a point) do not matter.  I do want people to respect what I believe, though.  I do want people to show more faith in the intelligence of people around them and the ability of those people to think and make decisions for themselves.  And I really want people to stop thinking that their way is the only way.  I know that the decisions I make are not the right decisions for everyone else.  I accept that my ideas are not the only ones out there — and while they are what I believe, I know that they are not the right things for everyone to believe.  And I don’t mean to be critical of Christianity (although I know I was), it’s just something that I am currently battling with.  I want to see the kind of tolerance in myself that I am asking for out of other people.  I’m not there yet.  I know a great deal of that has to do with how I was raised, and how I came to be atheist.  I can’t just pretend that all the pain I suffered then didn’t happen.  I can’t pretend that I don’t resent having it thrown in my face every day that many of the people I love most think that there’s something wrong with me because I don’t share their faith.  But I’m young yet, and perhaps one day I’ll be able to keep a cool head about this.  Perhaps one day I will be able to harbor the same respect for Christianity that I currently do for other religions.  Until then, I’ll keep working on it, and will probably keep writing about the things that set my mind in motion.

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