Thursday, July 1, 2010

Do you ever wish you weren't a Christian?

First question to be answered.

Wishing I weren't a Christian is kind of like wishing I weren't a girl, or human, or wishing that I didn't think.

I guess what I'm saying is that I can't imagine any other thing...I can't imagine not trusting my soul to a Deity I believe cares about me.

Some would view this as naive and bland conjecture. But really, what does believing in a Deity bigger than myself cost me?

If Jesus Christ was not God, I suppose I'll know it soime day, or I won't. Say there is not a God. There is nothing after this life. I will die, and I will not know it.

What did I lose? What did garnering strength in the hope that a creator brings me cost me? Nothing.

I suppose you could say that if I weren't a Christian I could live how I please, but I know atheists who live very morally. There is something in the human psyche that 'knows' that stealing and lying and cheating is wrong. And I would say that that very innateness, on its own, points to the existence of some sort of deity, some intelligent designer.

Why are we all born with that? Chance?

I've heard people say of Christians, "They just use God as a crutch." OK, well, I suppose that's true. We use God as a crutch. I use God as a crutch. Some reasons that's not all bad:

1. If God doesn't exist, but my belief in Him makes me feel better, what have I lost?
2. If God does exist, and He was powerful enough to make every living thing out of nothing, and I use Him as a crutch, what have I lost?

Discuss, while I go to eat a cookie.


asplashofsunshine said...

I love the conversation about God. It is refreshing to read your post that clearly states that you are a believer of Jesus Christ, yet have your eyes open to other possibilities. I am a Catholic girl, raising my children Catholic. I'll admit that I am skeptical over the whole God, religion thing. In my belief, no matter what you believe, it is important for all people to be honest, and loving. With both of those qualities, the world would be a better place, regardless of the presence of religious beliefs or not.

Jess said...

Alternatively, I would say my daily life is harder now that I am a Christian. God isn't a crutch, He offers me a daily challenge to be the best I can be, the best that He demands that I be. It's hard. Not that there isn't joy - of course there is, but it is humbling to have to submit to external control.

Sometimes I wonder if I had known how hard it was going to be at times if I would have kept going as I was studying Christian theology.

Funny enough, I am having this same convo with an atheist over email right now!

Cole said...

I love it and totally agree!! The surrender to God is often difficult for me, but I'm so grateful to Him for my salvation.

As you said, if we're wrong...oh well. If we're right...what a glorious day awaits us. =)

korin said...

well as a non christian (but I do believe in some sort of god) I will say that I agree on many levels. I know many people of faith who use it as a crutch/excuse but most are like gives them peace.
It's kind of how i feel about believing in 'something'... I'm a good person and do the best I can in the world. I treat others with love and respect and give as much of myself as I can. If I'm wrong, I doubt a christian god would turn me away. If i'm right (and I believe in reincarnation) I may get to come back as a butterfly.

Catherine said...

Your premise, I think, is flawed. People are not born "good" or "moral." Look at a toddler...they don't know not to hit, or steal, or lie...until WE teach them. They don't know that you can't lie down in the middle of Target and pitch a fit. They don't know that they have to share their toys. They learn these things from other people. And, the famous "electric shock" experiment from decades ago proved that people WILL bow to a human authority figure even if it means inflicting pain on another (and some even enjoyed the experience). The majority of people don't "know" what is right and what is wrong unless someone else teaches/informs them.

I don't generally care if people use it as a crutch or a feel-good tool or anything that helps you. What bothers me is when people use it as an excuse...not to live...or alternately as an excuse to justify what they KNOW is bad behavior. People either give up on the amazing opportunities of this life because they're waiting for some fanciful afterlife...or they say or do bad things in the name of "God."

As to the facebook comment about hedging your that really a reason to believe in a God? Because you want to be safe? That's not really belief, is it?

Pipsylou said...

catherine... Your premise points to the inherent sinfulness of man, which is one of the basic tenets of the Bible. Still, the Bible talks about every man knowing the truth of a of His ecistence,,,whether or not he will admit it to gimself. Thr desire to sin is innate. The knowledge that sin is wrong is innate as well. Which is why every man has a choice.

I think what Jess said is so true... Being a Christian is hard because you are mandated to follow and help complete Godls great commission on earth. Nothing like feeling like you are never doing enough, which is where grace comes in I suppose.

jess...does being catholic make you feel more guiltyN seems that what I have been reading points more to me needing to complete works for God and less on His grace.

cath...i know what you are saying about people who just say oh well things will be better in the next life. In that sense, christianity shoule not be a crutch.

our belief should always spur us on to love and good deeds.

britta said...

One of my dear friends is an atheist and yesterday she said something that made me think that deep down she still is that Christian girl she was raised to be but is just afraid. It is like she was afraid and still is that she has faith in things! I don't know how to describe it, but your post reminded me of it!

asplashofsunshine said...

I had to come back to read the following comments. I am guessing you have read mckmama's blog, Occasionally she has discussions about God, and boy, they certainly get heated on all sides. While I disagree with many of her beliefs, I find the discussions interesting and eye opening. We all want the same things in this world, we all just have different approaches to getting to those things. When it comes to mckmama, and it seems you too, it seems as though you have your core beliefs that nobody can take away, yet care and respect others for their stance. I think that is the most important way to conduct ourselves in this world. Without respect and love, none of us will get very far.

Tuimeltje said...

Part 1: Background

To me, not being a Christian, even not being any kind of believer, is not a choice. True, I was raised Dutch Protestant, in a pleasant enough, mild mannered, well-off, lovely old widows, mildly dull but nice hymns kind of church with parents who were very open-minded, never using religion/hell/the wrath of God as a means of discipline, and went to similarly easy-going public Christian schools where it was considered fairly irrelevant what or whether you believed and the person you were was more considered more relevant.

While it was by all means a pleasant upbringing which involved a good deal of bible stories and bible-inspired songs, it didn't really involve that much about the basic theology. At least not in a way that made it so I had to think through it, form my own opinion on it.
Or maybe it did and I didn't pay attention. Very possible, that.

The moment I found myself with some of that, the moment I found myself at the Alpha course of a local Christian student club, I found out that I was not a Christian.

Before that course, I was a Christian simply because it was something I was born with. After, I could no longer consider myself to be a Christian because the basic idea of Christianity, that a sacrifice like Jesus' is needed to before we can be forgiven, appalled me and didn't fit with what I thought God was like.
And at any rate, had made the earlier vague idea that the whole thing with religious feelings and experiences were more neurophysiology than divinity more explicit, which made "God" a piece of me and made such experiences so much more interesting because apart from experiencing them, now they're also things to study and, very importantly, discuss without some of the nastier bits of religious dogma interfering.

I do feel profound joy in a way that would, in a religious context, probably be described as divine. I do experience the feeling of being cared for, the idea that I'm loved, a deep, deep gratitude for having the chance to experience this life, a gratitude I've had al my life and before the Alpha course directed vaguely at God. After, I found myself unable to direct this gratitude at God anymore. However, I did retain the feeling and instead of directing it in one directing, it fanned out to cover everything.
This one short life which nonetheless is so much more than others get. Knowing that for me, and everyone else, it's just this one life, makes it so much more precious.

But that's not what you asked. You asked what you would lose by being a Christian, even if it should turn out that there's no God after all.

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Tuimeltje said...

apologies about all the deleted posts. Blogger keeps telling me my comments are too large, but then apparently posted them anyway. :/

Part two: in which I actually get to the question

I don't know what you would lose, but for me, if I got back to believing (and to be honest, I'm not actually sure I ever believed to begin with, but that's another matter), I think I'd lose myself.
All those great feelings are part of me. As are the not-so-great ones. I own them. They come from my awesome, awesome body and I like that I own them. Believing in a God would mean giving them away, believing that they don't come from my body, that I'm at least in part dependent on someone else for having them, someone I cannot actually see, call, hug, get an actual clear answer from. Someone who'se existence I would have to accept on faith alone.
I would lose feeling I could be myself the way I see fit, the way I am, being myself without feeling the need to constrain myself to what whatever religion I start to follow sees as a proper person, deny certain parts of me because they're considered "wrong".
If I were to, along with finding God, go back to the tradition I was raised in, I would have to reconcile some of the nastier bits in the bible with a supposedly loving God. I would have to face up to the fact that this oh so powerful God can't see fit to forgive me for things I did which, if they were misdeeds directed at others or at something any interpretation of the bible considered "morality", would not have affected him in the least, without some great big sacrifice from his son, which I have to accept first before getting in on that forgiveness.

Most of all it would mean losing the inquisitiveness which comes with not feeling as if the difficult questions can be answered simply with "God". It closes the door to any other explanation and then barricades it because trying to find out what really happened might just threaten the comfort the "God did it" line of thought brings.

Also, while I by no means know a lot, I know too much about the natural world and its evolution (which is not the same as chance) to accept any kind of design.
To me, believing in God would mean I would lose living in reality, lose living my life facing the world as it is.

Tuimeltje said...

Part 3: in which I do not answer your second question but recommend a bit of Julia.

While facing the world as it it might suck at times, what with natural disasters, everyone eventually dying and people being capable of truly horrific things,
using a nice little insulation to shield myself from it, deny that the horrors are quite as horrible as they actually are, would be profoundly wrong to me.

You asked a second question, about the crutch. I have nothing to say on that, mostly because the way I experienced religion when I was younger, God was this fairly nebulous, distant creature from stories and I don't recall experiencing any kind of comfort from him.
The one time that came closest, even then I knew I was sort of self-deceiving and was okay with that. Which I suppose comes back to my quite probably never having believed in the first place.

When I first read your post, I immediately thought of Julia Sweeney's Letting Go Of God monologue. I listened to it earlier this week and very much enjoyed it.
While her experience is quite different from mine in many ways, there are a few bits I connected with, especially the bit about feeling God's love but not sure if she believed what she so clearly felt, which resonated with me so much. There's also the bits on how to deal with some of the suckier bits of the world without religion's comfortable insulation and on how lucky we are.
It's also terribly funny at parts while staying respectful, being very very happy about how lovely her Catholic upbringing was. It's sad at other parts.
I'm curious what your thoughts on it are.

Jess said...

Sorry, just getting back to this after being away for a long weekend.

Rachel, you asked:

"jess...does being catholic make you feel more guiltyN seems that what I have been reading points more to me needing to complete works for God and less on His grace."

A big difference between most Protestants and Catholics/Orthodox is theology about Justification and Sanctification. I do believe that baptism is the start of it all, your soul is forever changed by that Sacrament, ie. Justification, but your life's choices are a continual process of Sanctification. They don't happen simultaneously. So, sanctification is a life-long process, my actions matter a lot. God's grace is magnificent, the sacrifice of His son breathtaking. However, acceptance of the gift of that sacrifice is just the start of it all, and that is what keeps me going some days, knowing I have a responsibility to behave in a way that demonstrates that I value it. So, it isn't guilt, it is extreme gratitude.

Here is a link if you are interested:

That doesn't mean that I am not a lazy jerk sometimes - I certainly am!