When I was younger (I’m still young and plan on being this way until I die of old age.), my family went to church together every Sunday. I believed everything I was told and even blindly quoted the leader of our congregation once or twice. As I grew older (Again, I’m still young.), I began questioning my faith. People close to me in my walk with Christ believed everyone who didn’t believe the things we did would go to Hell. I was told God makes himself known to every person on Earth and that many in other countries simply reject Him. I had trouble with this. If God loved everyone, why were so many people being punished for their beliefs?
As I grew into adolescence, I began rejecting my father’s faith. Dad told me, despite my philosophical perspective, the morality taught in the Christian bible was true. I was made to go to church with my family even as I rejected their faith. I recall feeling so uncomfortable. I tried making light of the ceremonies in my head. I recall an instance in which the church was to take communion. The head of the church asked parents to keep their children from engaging in communion if they believed their children were not good with God. I smirked. That was me he was talking about. The speaker said, if I was not good with God and engaged in communion, I would surely die. As the tiny plastic cups came by, Dad shook his head at me. I wasn’t to engage in this ceremony. When I couldn’t feel good about making light of the dogma, I ended up feeling rather uncomfortable. I was lead to believe this discomfort was the result of my knowing I was not doing right, that I needed to accept Jesus Christ to be okay. But all of these people whole-heartedly believed something that seemed absurd to me. Further, all of these people believed I was going to an afterlife of damnation, constant pain for an eternity. This discomfort was enough to inspire me to want to believe even as I felt as though I were not being honest with myself. It seemed at the time my options were my father’s religion or nothing. I chose atheism over absurdity and condemned my father’s blind faith.
Then, and if you’re reading this, you likely already know what is coming here, I was told I had a brain tumor. I began searching for anything to give me peace of mind. My old faith was means to that for me. If I was going to die, I was going to pray there was a God. although my brush with death inspired a resurrection of my old faith, it was also means to my trying to reconcile the problems I found in christianity when I was younger. As I went, tediously through the Christian bible, I found things that did not align with my understanding of God. I still took great issue with the idea that so few would see God’s mercy. I then came to in my mind a simple test – two questions: Is God not powerful enough to save everyone from Hell or is He not willing? If God is not willing to save everyone from Hell, then he is not the compassionate God I was told of when I was growing up. If God is not able to save everyone from Hell, then He is not as powerful as the God I was told of when I was growing up. In my mind, there was plenty of evidence for the existence of God. But the God I was told of when I was growing up could not exist without the story of Jesus’ sacrifice to keep me and those like me from suffering.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to attend church with my mother-in law and wife. My mother-in-law is a firm believer in Jesus Christ and would seem to want her daughter and me to share this with her. I’ve felt anxiety both times. I’ve recognized methods used to make visitors susceptible to the message and felt sorry for my brothers and sister who so whole-heartedly believe this message of fear, this claim that the only path to avoiding an eternity of pain is belief in something for which there is little evidence. Further, they believe they are the chosen, that everyone else is going to see God’s wrath. If this isn’t means to division, I don’t know what is. There was a moment in the speaker’s talk when he asked us to pick up a sealed envelop and commit to following the instructions inside before seeing what they were. I thought of Jonestown episodes in which the leader regularly had members drink Kool-Aid as an act of faith. If you don’t know the story, the last time they did this, the Kool-Aid was laced with cyanide.
Blind faith is not means to enlightenment. It is means to servitude. We must open our eyes. We must recognize we are not to divide against each other. God is love. Any message to the contrary works to divide us, keeping us in fear. Ironically, fear and love are often in contrary and opposing states. Please recognize you are not special. We are all beautiful parts of God, each part deserving love as much as the next. It is time to stop the competition and rise up with a revolution of love. Love is the only force strong enough to pull us up and out of servitude. Religion gives us reason to stay in our place. But logic will pull us out of that place, inspiring us to love everyone and demand those we love be given everything they need to live happy lives.