Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The process by which my faith goes bye-bye

I told Zach today I felt like I'd gone through a divorce I didn't want. Then he asked me if I could, would I go back.

Hmmm...I thought about it but the answer is, I would still end up where I am. I just don't see any other outcome. Because I didn't come to my conclusions based on a book or two that I read. This was a long time coming: years and years of bible reading that always left me uncomfortable with the inconsistencies and contradictions. Not letting myself question a God who would bash babies' brains against a rock. A God who would favor those who "tithed" with more loot but those who couldn't afford to were shamed and treated to more poverty. Why one person was "blessed" with unbearable struggles because God needed to teach her something yet another was "blessed" with a beautiful life because she was being rewarded for being faithful. And this God didn't have favorites?

Before I left our fundamentalist church, I had already discarded my belief in Satan, hell and the trinity and was very close to believing in polytheism since I still believed that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were still all Gods, just not God. All this from reading the bible alone. I had weird out of body experiences (no, not literally) in worship services where I would stand outside myself and watch the whole thing as if from some disinterested perspective. The singing, clapping, hands waving in the air seemed almost cult-like to me (I said almost.) If I hadn't been a Christian, I would have perceived all of it as silly.

After watching that documentary on PBS I gave up on the Old Testament as a reliable document and really wondered about the New Testament as well. I hated the way women were treated as the source of sin in men and that I had bought all of this: hook, line, and sinker. I hated that I had been party to all of that. I hated that I had not had the presence of mine to read the bible through my own lens instead of believing that what I had been taught all my life was the correct way to read and interpret the bible.

It was like an avalanche. One tenet fell after another until more and more rapidly the whole side of the mountain was crumbled at my feet. Nothing was left. The bible was wrong about women; it was wrong about homosexuality (my son didn't choose to be gay anymore than he chose to be a male.) It couldn't get the resurrection story straight, let alone the crucifixion story, no matter how many people tried to reconcile the various gospel accounts. And the nativity story was way off. And what kind of God would impregnate a child of anywhere from 13-16, even with her consent?

It was then I started reading books about the bible from a critical perspective.

That was when I saw how the bible was put together, adjusted, and re-adjusted.

After that it was a done deal.

So in a way, I feel like I was called out of Christianity into Paganism. I didn't initially go looking for all this. In fact, I was trying to write a stinking nativity play, for pete's sake. I had hid my head in the sand for years whenever any inconsistency came up. Or when a contradiction appeared, I just told myself that the fault in understanding was mine. I couldn't presume to know the mind of God.

The fact is, Christianity made me feel bad about myself. In spite of being told how special I was that Jesus died for me, I never felt good enough. And that's because of all the mixed signals I got all my life. I was the worst sinner who needed a savior and yet I was so beloved of God that he sent his son to die for me. But I was still a lousy sinner who had to work 24/7 to keep my mind focused on God. But if I had Jesus, then he did the work for me, I had to just stop fighting him. Except all those sermons on sin told me I had to work on me.

After 55 years of this, I want to feel good about myself again. I'm just not sure I can shake all that indoctrination.

Why Paganism? Because it makes sense to me. Because it allows me to focus on the good I can do instead of trying not to do all that bad. Because women aren't the enemy; they're valued.

Why is it so much harder to believe in multiple gods rather than the Christian God who is really three gods in one? Because Christianity has got a book? Because for thousands of years, they've had the world stage? Because scholars have said it's the one true religion?

Sorry. I'm going with my heart. The one I've been told all my life was deceitful above all things. I'm going with my mind, which I've been told all my life wasn't to be trusted.

If I'm wrong and there really is a hell, then what kind of heaven would it be to live with a god who would send people there for eternity because they were born in the wrong time or place or who didn't have that measure of faith the bible says it doles out proportionately? I didn't throw my faith away. It was taken from me.

There may come a time when I have to leave my church but for now I'm there for the people and I still love the liturgy. I still find something ancient and pagan about it. Until I feel called out of it, I remain.

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