In my time participating in various social media as an active atheist, I have come across many great people who are atheists, but also wonderful theists who are going through the painful process of honestly questioning their beliefs. As someone who was raised without religion, a lot of the doctrine and thinking of theists is foreign to me. I have learnt a lot by watching the journey of theists beginning to doubt their religion. It breaks my heart to see the kind of pain they endure when they learn their beliefs may not be reliable truth. The perspective of having a higher being who monitors your thoughts and actions for minute transgressions as well as major ones can be highly damaging to a person’s psyche. The idea that you must live your life for a higher being and that sin comes from evil is just as damaging.
I have recently come across a wonderful person who is in the process of doubting her beliefs. She has been sharing her journey with me and I asked her if I could share with you something she wrote to describe what she is experiencing. I want to share it with you because I found it to be a profound example of why religion is so damaging and what someone questioning it experiences. I hope you will appreciate as I did what it took for her to be so honest and heartfelt about what she is going through. It takes a lot of courage to so honestly examine your beliefs and I applaud her and others for taking such a huge and difficult step with that honesty.
As I sit here to put fingers to computer, countless conflicting emotions tend to overwhelm my mind and heart. I often fear composing or transcribing thoughts to paper for fear of coming to the conclusion and realization that those thoughts suddenly become real due to seeing them tangibly in black and white. Although I work in a field that encourages others to explore their inmost thoughts and then give tools to allow them to better themselves, I have almost always kept my feelings pushed deep down within the depths of my heart….hardly ever allowing any type of negative thought, emotion or question to arise or dare be shown. I’m afraid of vulnerability….I’m terrified of judgement.
Entertaining the idea of questions during my early years was pushed to the side with surface answers, “just trust God” or “you ignorant little girl….just pray to Him…seek Him enough and He will answer….and if you don’t hear Him, it is your fault.” So….I did. I sought God with every fiber of my being. I built my life on the foundation of His word and thought my life was so intertwined with the will of God He had for me.
So….how am I feeling now? This is a question that has been asked of me several times recently, but particularly struck a cord within me by a certain person. I have struggled with verbalizing with how I am feeling and even struggled more so with journaling my thought concerning this topic. Writing has been my outlet….my refuge….my escape….but, for some reason, my fingers and mind are not allowing me to express the rawness of these thoughts…but here is a go at it…we’ll see where it leads.
I am hurt. I am scared. I am numb. I am angry. I am desperate. I am apprehensive. I am anxious. BUT, I am excited. I am open. I am hopeful. I am intrigued. I am inspired. I am empowered. Some of these feelings are completely contradictory, but I feel them simultaneously several times a week….even multiple times a day. The discombobulation of conflicting internalizing feelings often leaves me confused and wanting to retreat.
I am hurt….I am hurt at the amount of emotional pain that has been inflicted on me in the name of God. I am hurt that people in spiritual leadership and authority abused that right and seared emotional harm that have left deep, deep wounds and scars not just with me – but, countless of other individuals and families.
I am scared. I have never known anything but the “truth” of the Bible. I am scared at the newness of this life…a new perspective…new possible foundation. I am terrified of judgement….within the church and outside of the church walls. I am terrified of making a mistake or saying the wrong thing.
I am numb. Some days I wake up and feel empty. I feel utterly completely drained and empty at the idea that if my God doesn’t exist…what next?
I am angry. I am pissed off. I am pissed off at the indoctrination I have endured for 30 years. I am angry that I have been called unworthy, and dirty and filthy. I am pissed off that I have been treated like dirt at the hands of Christians who “preach truth in love.” I am angry that I have been told that you cannot love truly unless you know the love of Christ…and then get treated like garbage. I am angry that I was told my miscarriage was my fault because I was disobedient to Christ. I am angry because people are treated as less than the bright, beautiful people they are because the Bible says, “none are good.”
I am desperate. I want to know truth. I say I want to know truth. Do I really believe that? I’m desperate to determine why I believe what I believe. I am desperate to overcome the emotionalism and seek logical sound information and determine reliable ways to come to know truth.
I am apprehensive. I am apprehensive that I have made the biggest mistake of my life. Questioning God’s very existence is like opening a tube of toothpaste; once that toothpaste exits the container the toothpaste can never re-enter unscathed.
I am anxious. My mind is plagued with “what-ifs”. What if I come out of this and can’t believe? What will my life look like? How will my marriage change? How will we raise our son if my husband believes and I do not? Am I doing this because I want to know truth? What if I am just angry at God? What if do not research enough? And so on…and so on….and so on.
I’m also excited. I’m excited about learning, I’m excited about researching; I’m excited about opening my eyes and mind to things that I don’t know. The fact that I am willing to go there….through the moments of being uncomfortable to discover truth is an amazing leap of honesty and shift in mindset alone.
I am open. I am open to challenging my deeply held beliefs. I am open to changing my mind if I can not find a reliable way to determine my God exists. I am open to being completely honest with myself – even in the midst of gut-wrenching pain.
I am hopeful that truth will prevail…and that I will learn to trust myself and my judgement. I am hopeful that I will continue to understand that I am not broken or unworthy.
I am intrigued. I am intrigued with the idea that there is a whole part of this world that I know nothing about and knowledge can be mine if I work incredibly hard to keep my mind open to the idea of discovering new things daily.
I am empowered. I can feel in control. I can eventually feel the freedom to live my life free of judgement, condemnation and feelings of less than.
I am inspired. I am inspired to take control of my life and to truly live life for the first time in a long time….possibly ever.
I wrestle with these conflicting thoughts and emotions daily. Some moments ignorance is bliss and other moments reality smacks me in the face and I know that my integrity of diligently seeking truth is more important than that.
This is hard….so incredibly hard. Seeing the rawness of the emotions make it real….but, now that it real, maybe I can truly move forward.