"You were a Christian for 24 years, and then you left. Why? What led you to that decision, and did Christianity benefit you in any way?"
Deep reflections on our journey through life are important. They are an essential part of seeing where we are, how we’ve gotten here, who we've become, and where we’re going.
For me, this article is a big reflection that’s been overdue for some time now.
I’m about to write on my personal journey into and out of Christianity.
What I’m writing here may sadden, or even piss off some people, but it’s important for me to write nonetheless.
This article is a reflection of my own personal experiences in modern Christianity, and how those experiences have both helped and challenged me to grow in new ways.
It’s also about why ultimately, this growth led me to a place where I no longer identify as a Christian.
If you’re a Christian, this article is not intended to change your mind about anything you believe. Having said that, the perspectives that I’ll share here on my own personal journey may challenge you anyway.
Make sure you’re OK with that possibility.
If you’re not OK with having your beliefs challenged, I encourage you to reflect on why that is. In fact if you’re not actively challenging your beliefs yourself, every single day, then... why not?
I look at the world around me as a wonderful mystery to be solved, and every day I seek new and deeper answers. Truth is my goal. The moment I stop searching for it, I’m pretty sure I’ll just evaporate.
Curiosity, discovery, and growth are that important to me.
If you choose not to read this article, you won’t hurt my feelings one bit. This article will be here for you someday, if you start seeing the same things I did, and begin asking the same questions I did. Come back when you’re ready. Maybe it will help you make sense of the confusion and conflict you're feeling,
Until then, keep growing, and never stop learning.
I became a Christian around age 16.
Soon, like many new Christians, I found myself embraced by the community, going to church regularly, attending youth groups and summer camps, reading the bible, and praying regularly. And I felt like somehow, I was on the right track in life.
There was a sense of purpose. Things seemed to make more sense, with a more clear written idea of “right” and “wrong.” It made choice anxiety less of a thing.
I felt relieved at the thought that someone was looking after me. I felt joy at the idea that there was someone who loved me unconditionally. Not sure I’d ever really felt that before.
Within a year, Christianity became central to my identity, and it remained there for much of my life. I explored it quite thoroughly, too.
How deep did I go?
In my 24 year journey, I’ve spent years in all three branches of Christianity - which are broadly known as Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox.
I’ve spent years worshipping in Baptist churches, both traditional and modern. I’ve been in Evangelical churches. I’ve been in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, in congregations of 1,000+ that were “speaking in tongues.”
I’ve taken communion wafers and grape juice. I’ve taken unleavened bread, and red wine. I’ve been sprinkled with holy water, and anointed with oil.
I’ve taken confession. I’ve fasted. I’ve said Hail Mary’s.
I’ve been in candle-lit Russian Orthodox churches at 1 am, burning incense, echoing the chants of devoted masses who braved the frigid winter night, huddled in fur coats.
I wanted to connect with God in every way possible, and to learn why there were so many different views on how this is best done.
I deeply wanted to share God with others. I had many experiences that I would describe as spiritual or religious.
I pretty nearly became a pastor, twice.
For me, this was pretty serious stuff.
What I Liked about Christianity
I know the allure of religion, and what it promises.
There were a lot of things to like about Christianity. But as I reflect, I realize that I need to split this into two separate parts.
- What attracted me. The things I found comfortable and that felt good.
- What improved my life. The substance Christianity, and the ways in which it actually benefited my life.
These two things are separate. Let’s start with the first.
What attracted me?
Writing this part turned out to be quite a difficult reflection, but I’m not one to hold back. Let's get vulnerable.
I craved acceptance
For someone who felt like an outsider most of my life, a kid who was introverted and insecure, Christianity was hugely appealing. It’s very introvert-friendly. Want to be alone, reading or praying? No problem. Feel like being social? No problem.
It made my social anxiety far easier to work with.
At the same time, it felt like the insurance policy to loneliness. I’d suddenly found a community that had to accept me, even for my shy and introverted self. And there were many like me. I felt safe, and I felt accepted.
Even when there weren't people around, I’d always have God, and Jesus ready to have a chat. In that way, I could weirdly be completely alone, and still somehow never feel lonely.
I liked feeling special
I felt special, like I was part of a secret club.
I knew something that others didn’t. Other people could feel lost and confused and conflicted about their sucky lives- but not me, mine was destined for greatness... because a son of God is special, and gets to have a great life. Right?
I liked being part of something
Somehow, I felt like I was suddenly part of something bigger than myself. I had a mission & purpose handed to me, neatly packaged and supported by a whole community of people.
At this young age, I didn’t really have my own clear mission yet for my life, so suddenly having a specific direction to head in life felt good.
I liked having a father figure
If I deeply psychoanalyze myself, I’d guess that there was probably some impact of not having a father from ages 4 to about 10’ish. I felt a lack of guidance, and a masculine presence in my world.
My mother and my sisters were great, but... who was I meant to be?
When he joined my life around age 10, my step father quickly became one of the most fantastic people I’ve ever met, and is one of my greatest heroes today. He means more to me than I can express. But, our relationship wasn’t the typical father-son relationship that I imagined, the father-teaching-the-son how-to-be-a-man kind of relationship.
He always supported and encouraged me, but I think I lacked that understanding of “masculinity” in that tough-guy, no-nonsense conquer-the-world sense.
Christianity provided that.
- In the depiction of God, I saw that absolute authority aspect. That ultimate alpha male, who simply made things happen, any time he desired to.
- In the depiction of Jesus, I saw deep vulnerability, unwavering courage and commitment, and overwhelming compassion.
- In the depiction of the Holy Spirit, I saw deep awareness, and connectedness in all things.
All three were important to me in developing my sense of self, and who I wanted to become.
I liked feeling like I could trust the people around me
When you are in an organization with a strong moral code, social interactions feel simpler.
As a new Christian I felt like everyone around me was now family. I could depend on them to be there if I needed them. I felt certain that they wouldn’t try to lie, cheat, steal, or hurt me in any intentional way.
Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, in retrospect, I’ve met very few Christians who behave like Jesus did- though most at least try to live better.
I liked feeling a clarity of purpose
Christianity felt like the answer key to life. It had a clear roadmap of “how to be” and “who to be” and right v. wrong in my decisions. Choice anxiety went away. Confusion went away.
For the first time, I had a written manual on “how to live” and “how to make good decisions.”
I liked that clarity.
Self-responsibility is scary shit
I became a Christian at around age 16, and I think there is a deeper importance to that timing.
As teens, we’re suddenly faced with the reality that we’re becoming adults. Soon, maybe too soon, we’ll be out in the world, away from the protection of our parents, and confronted with a big pile of self-responsibility.
Make money. Eat food. Pay rent. Don’t die.
It's a bit scary, suddenly being fully responsible for yourself. Suddenly being considered an adult. Suddenly confronted with the possibility of failure in life, caused by you, yourself, with no one to blame.
But what if my future success didn’t have to be my responsibility? What if we could quell those fears by delegating responsibility to an even greater power?
Like, say... God?
Sure, I’ll be good, and play by the rules. Just look after me. Keep me safe. Meet my needs. Don’t let me starve... and help me succeed in life.
Remember God, we have a deal.
It just felt... good
I liked the happy chemicals.
Interestingly, there’s quite a bit of scientific connection between “spiritual” practices such as meditation and prayer, and the reward center of our brain, and neurotransmitters such as Oxytocin and Serotonin.
I haven’t explored this much, but clearly there’s a lot to learn here about this aspect of religion, and why it attracts people.
What improved my life?
With food, flavor is great, but nutrition is ultimately what matters most.
The same holds true for our other investments in life, including social groups, belief systems, cultural influences, and more.
I’m aware of two key places in my life that I feel I got real lifelong benefit through the influence of religion and Christianity.
My attention turned inwards
In my life to that point, I’d done reflection, but I never really asked questions like “how can I improve?” and “how am I doing inside?” These seemed irrelevant to my life and my future.
But I learned a lot about deep reflection, and it steered my attention more towards "who can I become?" rather than "what can I accomplish?"
In Christianity, reflection is deeply valued.
I discovered Core Values that I aligned with
If you identify strongly with a religion, you probably have found some of your core values there. Personally, I found 5 of my own core values aligned deeply with Christianity, and this is what made it so attractive to me.
Acceptance. Simply being OK with the way things are. In Christianity, there’s a belief that God is controlling everything, at every moment, and therefore things are supposed to be the way they are. Having a difficult time? God’s testing you. Want out of it? No problem, just pray, God is listening. Life felt a lot less anxious when I learned to simply accept what "is."
Compassion. Caring for others, and the community around you. Making sure that your tribe, and its members, are OK.
Honesty. In particular, the avoidance of deception and manipulation,
Courage. Wearing your faith unashamedly. Sharing it with others, even if they don’t approve of it. Taking risks, and trusting God to catch you.
Connection. Seeking a deeper level of connection with people, and with yourself, than normal people experience in typical relationships.
And yet... there were still other personal core values that Christianity conflicted with.
The Seeds of Doubt
My inquisitive mind couldn’t ignore the inconsistencies I was seeing.
And I was seeing inconsistencies everywhere...
- In how Christians behave in their private lives, versus in their church lives.
- How church leaders asked us to behave, versus how Jesus demonstrated in the scriptures.
- In how different churches viewed the same issue very differently.
So many inconsistencies. I could probably write books on the inconsistencies I found, so I’m going to focus on a handful of ones that were very important to me.
Let me frame the problem this way.
As a Christian, I was taught many things. Some of them, I found valuable, and I embraced those. Others, I found deep inconsistencies and confusion in...
Here are a few.
“Thou shall not judge”
The bible makes it very clear that humans should never judge other humans. All of us are “born into sin,” fully flawed, and therefore the responsibility of judgement is exclusively reserved for God.
None of us is worthy to cast the first stone.
But, in fact, I saw judgement practiced all the time by Christians. It was often subtle, but it deeply pervaded every corner of the church.
Most Christians I met tended to look at non-believers as “less than.” These people were seen as “more sinful,” since they hadn’t been saved yet. You really shouldn’t hang out with non-Christians much because... well you might get infected or something.
Even between Christians, I saw a kind of unspoken judgement. There were expectations and measures of how “Christian” you were. You were quietly judged by your pew-mates based on;
- How often you attend
- How you dress
- How enthusiastically you sing
- How much you tithe
- Your lifestyle and behavior outside of church
Even among the church leadership- those that are meant to be shining examples for the congregation to follow, I saw plenty of judgement.
In many churches, the judgement is even institutionalized.
Marry the wrong person, someone who isn’t of the same flavor of Christianity as you? In many Christian churches, you can be excommunicated, barred from attending church ever again.
How is that non-judgmental?
Honestly, if I were Jesus, I’d be pissed.
Speaking of which, here’s another thing I was told...
“The Church teaches us to live like Jesus”
I’d read the bible. I had a pretty clear picture of what Jesus’ life was like, who he was and how he lived.
I also knew that he wasn’t the kind of man to sit in a church and listen to someone talking, followed by coffee and scones.
He wasn’t the guy to stand up, sing a few songs with the worship team, and then consider his job done.
“Thanks everyone, see you next week.”
I never once read a scripture that began with “and Jesus sat in a pew, and passed the offerings basket.”
Jesus was a man of action, interacting constantly with people and making a difference anywhere he could. Huge courage, ridiculous leaps of faith.
He was out with real people, dealing with real problems, every day. He notably spent very little time sitting in a pew, and spent lots of time among people who Christians would judge heavily.
In 24 years of church, I’ve never seen a prostitute invited in to attend service, or a pew full of alcoholics and drug addicts. I’ve never seen a sermon on porn addiction, or infidelity, or environmental responsibility, or greed.
I’m sure somewhere, there is a church that boldly addresses these topics head-on, and that church would interest me. But mostly, the people I saw reaching out to those in need... weren’t Christians at all. They were normal people, reaching out with Compassion because it mattered to them.
Inside of Churches, among Christians, I saw an entirely different goal. I saw a group of people trying to create an environment where they felt accepted, safe, valued, comfortable and in-control.
This was not a place of significant growth or change, where people sought to be challenged. This was not a place for people who were hungry to see positive change in the World around them.
These were people who sought a comfort zone.
I’m pretty sure that Jesus didn’t even know what a comfort zone was.
“Christianity is the only right way”
Yay, finally I’ve found The Answer to Life.
But... which Christian church is teaching me the “right way”? There are more than 30,000.) Christian organizations (groups, branches or denominations) worldwide, and more than 1,200 in the U.S. alone.
Here are some of the most popular ones, worldwide, which have a wide ranging interpretations of Christian scripture.
These differences are not small.
For example, we’re humans, and we have strong drives, and big questions, like...
- Is sex before marriage OK?
- Is contraception OK?
- Is divorce OK, and in what situations?
- Is abortion OK?
- Is capital punishment OK, if someone is really, really bad and killed a lot of people?
- Is homosexuality OK?
- Should we physically discipline kids, or not?
You’d imagine that the bible, and Christian churches would offer a clear and consistent answer to these questions.
But if you’ve guessed that, you’ve guessed entirely wrong.
“The bible is the divine word of God”
Frankly that was exciting. The creator of the Universe, of life, even of me, had made a freaking life manual of how to live happily and productively.
I liked manuals. I was good at following directions.
But which parts exactly, are the word of God? The old testament, or the new testament?
And, which Bible is the right Word of God? There are so many translations- from the Gutenberg bible to the Luter bible, the Clementine, King James version, and many more.
In a book of over 800,000 words why does Jesus only speak about 2,000 of them?
How do I make sense of the inconsistencies?
I was befuddled.
And that bothered me too. If God made me, wouldn’t he write a manual, that I could easily understand? With zero inconsistencies, and zero ambiguity? Wouldn’t I just be born with that knowledge built into my DNA and my reflexes?
If not... why not? So I can screw up and suffer?
Things just weren’t making sense.
Here’s another one that didn’t make sense.
“Sin is terrible, and we’re all sinners the moment we’re born... but God’s forgiveness is absolute”
In other words, once we’re Christian, we can do anything we like, and we’re forever forgiven by God.
Yep, kill a million people, still go to heaven.
But an innocent baby, who dies before baptism, and never hurt a fly... doomed to hellfire.
For many Christians I encountered, this encouraged a rather two-faced persona.
People would show a good deal of enthusiasm on Sundays. They’d speak of how much God blessed them in different ways. They’d sing loudly in the choir, and volunteered at church events. They made a real effort to be “good people,” particularly where other people could see them.
At the same time, I knew well that behind closed doors, they weren’t always that “good.”
- Unfair business practices.
- Elitist attitudes.
- Gossip, judgement.
From what I could tell, people are people. Christians are no different at all, not one bit less “sinful.” Yet they would go to great lengths to put on this huge, happy, God-forgiven, people-pleasing face on Sundays.
What’s the point?
Do they think God can only see them when they’re in church?
Or, are they more concerned with what other people think about them, than what God thinks?
“God needs your money”
You heard that right.
Yeah yeah, God made the whole Universe and he owns it all already, but still you have to willingly give 10% of what you earn to your local church.
Okay, I thought, a little confusing, but maybe this is a test of faith. Proof that I’m committed to furthering the kingdom, and building the church.
But even when I fully embraced that perspective, some things puzzled me...
Christianity is described as a personal relationship with God, which means that you’re in regular communication with God through prayer and reading scriptures. Therefore, if you’re a devoted Christian, and wouldn’t you want to tithe automatically? Why did pastors have to do sermons on tithing so often?
What exactly was my church doing with my 10%? Who was I benefitting? How was the kingdom growing, really?
And why was it that I had to give my 10% to the church, rather than anonymously but directly to people who I knew desperately needed it? Wouldn’t it be even more Jesus-like if I was the one directly trying to help people rather than delegating that to someone I didn’t know?
I might have missed a passage, but I don't remember Jesus ever delegating his good works.
When you ask these questions of a devoted Christian, you’ll get a wry smile, and a pat on the back, and they’ll say...
“Well, you’re a human, and God’s wisdom is beyond your understanding. You’re not meant to know.”
So then, why did God make me so curious?
Where’s the Harm?
Here’s why all of this matters so much.
For a long time, I held the belief that it didn’t matter if I was right or wrong about the existence of God.
- If God does exist, then being Christian is essential, because someday I was going to die, and I wasn’t keen on the idea of spending eternity in hell.
- If God does not exist, then there was no afterlife... but at least I felt like I’d lived a pretty good values-driven life.
Either way felt like a win, and I just felt safer, hedging my bets.
What I didn’t see at the beginning of my life as a Christian was that there are hidden costs to embracing Christianity.
Guilt and shame
The Christian worldview is that we're all sinners, doomed to hell, because we’re human. We're sinners because our great-great-great-great-great-times-a-thousand grandparents pissed off God by eating an apple.
And let’s make no mistake- no matter how good you are, you’re still a bad person, because you've sinned.
You’re bad just for existing. You were born bad.
You’re bad when you do anything that God might disapprove of.
You’re bad when you even think about anything sinful... even if you didn't intend that thought to occur. Watch this... PORN. See, a thought just happened. Maybe an image just flashed in your mind. In the Christian view, you just sinned.
Did God really want a world full of depressed, self-hating, groveling, emasculated man-servants?
Maybe, but that seems strange to me.
Deep sexual shame
For me personally, this was probably the hardest part.
For a man who deeply values curiosity and connection, and for whom physical touch is a primary love language, this was difficult.
But I was a committed Christian, which put me in deep inner turmoil.
It was wrong to want sex. It was wrong to think sexual thoughts. It’s wrong to express sexual attraction to someone. It was especially bad to have sex, unless you were married.
Even when you were married, you probably weren’t meant to enjoy it that much, because lust is never Godly, right?
Ok, but I crave these things. If God is perfect, why did He design me to desire these things so much?
I could only see two options.
- Maybe there’s something wrong with me. I’m broken, or cursed, or demonically possessed, somehow. I need to be fixed. Or...
- God is cruel. He’s created this unquenchable desire, and intends me to experience this torture forever. if Eve couldn’t ignore a freaking apple in a garden full of tasty fruit, how am I going to deal with this crap?
Frankly in either case... I’m already in hell. I really can’t imagine it getting much worse than this.
Overall this led me down a dark, depressed road. I felt fundamentally flawed, and I felt a lot of shame at having these thoughts. Shame is incredibly destructive, and it eventually developed into a mindset of self-hatred and feelings of being not-good-enough.
Not only did it affect my relationship with myself, it deeply affected my relationships with others too. The moment I felt attracted to someone, I felt wrong. I’d put up a wall, isolate myself, while feeling incredibly needy at the same time.
For all the ways Christianity aligned with my values, in this particular area I felt a crushing overwhelm of conflict and unhappiness.
Did God really mean for me to suffer this much, and to be distant from other humans? Why did God make me at all then? Was I designed to suffer?
What kind of life is that?
It wasn’t changing me for the better
I liked having a pattern to live by, it made decisions easy. There was pretty much always a “right way.” But in the Church environment, I saw myself being affected in ways that weren’t good for me.
Perhaps the most significant ones were;
- The judgement, of yourself, and others
- The deep shaming of yourself in areas where you didn't feel you met the standards of Christianity
- The tendency for elitist and self-righteous attitudes to form
- The distancing from “non-believers”
- The lack of self-responsibility
- The unwillingness to “stand out” as too successful
- The shaming of curiosity. Christianity shamed my natural desire to question my universe, to learn, and to understand why. I was regularly told that there are things I'm not meant to understand. That sucked.
I saw these in attitudes in others, and I saw them forming in myself, and I did not approve. This was not who I wanted to become.
I heard big talk, but saw little action
About 99% of Christians I've known are "Sunday Morning Christians," which means that the rest of the week they just led "normal" lives that were indistinguishable from the lives non-Christians lead.
This inauthenticity got to me in a big way.
One Sunday, I clearly remember sitting in church and enjoying a good sermon about the importance of compassion, and helping others in the community. In that room were roughly 200 people, sitting on their asses, for at least 2 hours in total.
And this thought crossed my mind.
Why aren't these 200 people out there, being compassionate right now? Why aren't they painting houses, fixing fences, and mowing lawns? Maybe planting a garden to provide food for the hungry?
What if those 200 people each had a 2 hour tea with an elderly or disabled shut in? Or spent time playing with an orphan child?
How much good could they do?
Why aren't we doing that right now?
What if those 200 when and worked those two hours at a minimum wage job, and then gave that money to someone in need?
By my calculation, that would be roughly...
200 people * $15 / hr * 2 hours = $5,000
Frankly, I got pissed off.
Not at anyone in particular, there was no one to blame. I was pissed off at the daftness of it all. Of the fact that I could be doing something worthwhile.
That was my last day in church.
Since then, I’ve devoted that time instead to far more “Christian” pursuits.
I’m so thankful that I woke up.
What I’ve Learned
My Core Values were always there, and no one can replace them
In hindsight, Christianity was a great set of training wheels for me. It helped me to discover and explore some of my core values.
It also helped me to discover my core values that Christianity conflicted with, such as freedom, curiosity, and respect for others.
I can certainly find philosophies, cultures, religions and social groups that have similar core values to mine, but they’ll never be the same as my own complete set of core values.
At the beginning of my exploration of Christianity, it felt exciting and authentic to me. I felt as though I’d found a part of me that was missing.
Soon however, I began to understand that I wasn’t discovering Christianity, I was discovering myself.
I discovered the importance of;
- Compassion. Caring for the welfare of others. Being a good member of society.
- Connection. Seeking social groups that recognized the importance of expressing both thoughts and feelings.
- Vulnerability. The ability to have deep discussions with people.
- Courage. Sharing my thoughts and beliefs with others, and welcoming criticism and questions.
I also found that still other core values of mine were challenged by Christianity,
- Curiosity. It wasn’t OK to seek answers or to question the inconsistencies.
- Authenticity. Being the same person, no matter where you are. The “church face” v. “non-church face” personas really bothered me.
- Self-Responsibility. For a time, it felt great to give up responsibility for my future. Hey, it was all up to God, so therefore I didn’t need to worry, right? Except that I found things didn’t magically get done. Progress wasn’t naturally made in life. Bad, even really really bad things still happened to me, no matter how faithful I was to God, prayer, and my Christian beliefs.
- Respect, in the form of non-judgement. I deeply disliked the tendency of the church to judge those who weren’t in the club. It had very elitist overtones to me, and I could see that strongly affecting the members too. I don’t believe this was how Jesus lived at all.
- Honesty, in the form of accuracy and transparency, and the pursuit of Truth. Much was hidden, and inconsistencies were ignored. I was told to stop asking questions. It baffled me that a massive religion could make statements like “Earth is 6,000 years old,” and then not spend one bit of effort seeking to prove the accuracy of these claims. Science, History and Archaeology should be every Christian’s best friend, yet how many actually seek to answer those questions?
Curiosity means exposing yourself to all kinds of ideas, social groups, and experiences... but always keep your mind open and aware. Who you surround yourself with has a huge impact on you, and creates an echo chamber that your mind simply cannot see beyond.
Don't let others change you into someone you're not.
Christianity doesn’t make someone “good.”
I might have given you the impression above that I see all Christians as “fake”, two-faced, judgmental people. That’s not the case at all.
Yes, I grew away from Christianity in part because I watched people who identified as "devoted church-going Christians" do terrible things, just like any other human.
Clearly they weren't transformed, special, unique, or ascended from the rest of humanity. They were fully capable of practicing the same evils, and sometimes worse ones, and they even justified themselves as "right." This left me speechless, shattered, confused, pissed-off, and in despair.
Simply, humans are humans, nothing better or worse than that - we're all fully flawed, and fully capable of great things, all in one package.
Despite that, some of my favorite people today are Christians, and they are awesome people.
Here’s the difference - they were awesome people long before they found Christianity. These people already knew their values, and lived by them authentically.
No one could tell them what was “right” or “wrong” for them. They lived by their own terms, and they never let the assertions and admonitions of the church compromise their core values.
Christianity didn’t make them who they are.
Faith, philosophy and religion are separate things
Faith is the belief in something you cannot see. It’s the acceptance that there are things you don’t know, that govern your life. This is useful, and represents the real world experience of life. The Universe has lots of mysteries- including big things such as the nature of life, time, matter, and gravity. Faith is believing that these things are real, even though we can't understand or explain them.
Philosophy is a set of core beliefs about how to interpret the world and life experiences, the perspective to gain from them, and the way to respond. Also enormously useful.
Religion is a set of pre-formed beliefs, practices, rituals, that are packaged and handed to you. They are very rigid, and usually come with a “do this or else” consequence. Religions also tend to have hidden, “unknowable” and unprovable parts which you are not allowed to ask questions about.
There are a lot of things that I got from my experience as a Christian. Like all life experiences, I got a deeper self knowledge- but in order to do that, I had to keep my eyes, ears, and mind open.
I learned my core values, both the ones that aligned with Christianity, and the ones that conflicted with it. And I learned what it means to be authentic.
Those are things I took away from Christianity that have improved me forever.
I deeply respect the example that Jesus set- who I believe was probably a real historical person, in essence, a "prophet." Jesus practiced compassion, non-judgement, courage, and deep uncompromising authenticity.
However, I didn't see these qualities in "Christianity" as a religion, and that, I found, was holding me back.
The fact that these were missing conflicted with my core values, and prevented me from being the best man I could be. It also required a large expense of time and money that could be far better used in more Jesus-like ways.
And so I just let go, and decided to find a more authentic path to being my best.
Since that decision, I’ve never been happier at my progress, and my positive impact on the world.
The ironic thing is this... since I've left Christianity, I think Jesus would approve far more of who I've become, than who I was as a Christian.
The real reward is that now I live happy and fulfilled in the knowledge that I am authentically being me, at 100% strength- the way I am supposed to be.
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- Like political systems and very large corporations, most religions warp, because they are a power structure. People who desire power gravitate towards the top, and use them for their own ends. The costs of sustaining very large organizations also shifts their focus.
- Religions are indistinguishable from cults. A big part of the definition of a cult is that it has hidden, "unknowable" aspects that you're meant to blindly accept on faith ( occult means hidden ). However, as religions are very popular cults with very large memberships, they’re questioned less often. The bandwagon effect makes an appearance once again. What’s the difference between a religion of 10 million people, and a cult of two people? Only the membership size.
- The ironic thing is... since I've left Christianity I think Jesus would approve far more of who I am now, than who I was as a Christian.
"Jesus was born on Dec 25th"
Historians are not at all clear on when Jesus was born, and the date has changed more than once.
Q: "whats the free world feel like?"
Meaning, how does life feel differently outside of the church? Really it just feels more authentic. I live by my own values, which weren't that far off from the values of Christianity.
I definitely like the fact that I never feel "blocked." Before it was "I want to understand X", but Christianity said "no, stop asking." Now I'm just motivated to explore my world freely.
And I like the fact that I can define my own moral system that aligns with my values. Before I felt like it was bad to express attraction to someone I liked. There were too many questions, like "is this ok?" "what if she's offended?" "is she single, and if not, have I disrespected someone?" "Is this the one God wants me to be interested in?" Too much confusion, too many questions.
Now I love it, it's one of the greatest gifts I can give.
I guess I'd describe the experience as feeling Free, Complete, Authentic, and Unlimited.
Q: So a big component of Christianity is that by having a set guideline of moral standards it doesn’t allow for personal bias. How do you stay self aware that your own morals have an objective standard?
My bias is 100% personal, that's what authenticity means.
For example, previously I'd look to "social approval" or "religious doctrine" to measure the rightness or wrongness of a behavior. Now I use my own compass. However I do formalize this a bit, through a kind of personal code, outlined here;
And by asking reflective questions. e.g.;
- "Am I growing?"
- "Can I grow faster, and how?"
- "Am I wasting time, money, energy on useless things or relationships?"
- "Are my relationships balanced?"
- "Am I leaving the people I meet better than when I met them?"
Q: Sounds like you have switched for worshipping religion to idolising a coach? Difference is?
Nope. I don't idolize anyone at all. People are people.
There are certainly people who exemplify many ( but rarely all of ) my values well, and I appreciate their examples. The character of Jesus is one. Huangdi ( the yellow emperor ) is another.
Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Bruce Lee and Arnold Schwarzenegger are more contemporary examples. So far, none of them matches all of my values.
Even if I were to find that person, I wouldn't idolize them, in the same way that I don't idolize myself. Good comes with bad, and there's always work to do.