I belong to a Facebook group called Recovering Ex-Christians. I join in the conversations, even though I don’t think I’m recovering.
Truth is, I enjoyed being a Christian.
In particular, I enjoyed fellowshipping with fellow believers. My last church, for example, was full of love and laughter. The church met in a grange, a two-story box of a building that smelled of scuff marks and Murphy’s Oil Soap. After service, we’d pull the creaky chairs around folding tables and chat and poke fun at one another over coffee and cake.
I also enjoyed worshipping God. I felt it. I’d raise my hands and close my eyes and pour forth my adoration. During the confession of sin, I’d go to my knees and place my forehead on the hardwood floor. I was so grateful He saved a wretch like me.
I also enjoyed serving God. The church was small enough that the midweek Bible study comprised basically the entire congregation. Together, we’d search the scriptures to learn how we could follow Christ more nearly.
These experiences—the fellowship, the worship, the passion for serving God—were all real experiences. The thing is, though, I’ve come to see that there was really nothing special about them. That is, they are experiences that are common to all devout religious people.
“It just feels right”
The problem is—and this is key here—the problem is that these religious devotees take those common subjective experiences and use them to assert the objective truth of their particular religion. Bottom line, if you keep pushing a religious person to say why they think their religion is true, it will ultimately get down to, “It just feels right.”
The only reason I stopped being a Christian is that I came to see that Christianity is no more likely to be objectively true than any religion. They’re all just based on feelings. So, to me, the logical choice was to opt out of religion all together. I suppose I could have picked one. But it would have just been throwing a dart at a wall. Or I could have just stuck with the one I was born into, Christianity, and say I chose to believe in it.
But if you’re going to base your life around a truth—and insist that others do the same or suffer the consequences—it should be objectively true, shouldn’t it? You should be able to prove it.
There’s the rub.
If there is a God, They/It/She/He doesn’t care about revealing anything about Themselves/Itself/Herself/Himself. God apparently wants to be unknowable—and unexperienceable.
The best you’ve got is the common religious experience mentioned above, which is available to all creeds. Religious people don’t like the sound of that. They want an exclusive.
Atheists would say we can’t know and experience God because there is no such thing. That silence is the vacuum where God is supposed to be. I’m not convinced. To me, the most we can say is that God is a mystery.
But then we shouldn’t speak in sacred tones about this . . . mystery. Or devote our lives to its pursuit. We should just shrug our shoulders and get on with our lives. Think about deep matters, sure, but don’t insist on your conclusions.
Ad lib ad nauseum
When I realized this, it made a lot of things come into focus. The people behind religion—all religions—are just making it up as they go. They’re not being guided by God. It explains so much. Like how Christianity didn’t come up with an official explanation for the Trinity until 400 years after Christ died. And the explanation, the Athanasian Creed, really isn’t much of an explanation. It’s more of a bludgeon. One feels no more enlightened upon ingesting it, just punch-drunk.
The creed opens with a snarl:
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
(My response upon seeing that now is, says who?)
The creed then goes on to explain what that catholic faith is, which is that one must embrace a series of logical impossibilities. For example:
So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord.
Basically, it’s saying God can make a circular square. I don’t know how he can, but He can. Now stop asking questions!
That the church didn’t come up with this for 500 years is the reason I don’t think Christ taught that he was God Almighty. If Christ had said he was God Almighty, then—believe you me—the early church would have gone to pains to address this apparent effrontery to monotheism. How can Christ be God Almighty if God Almighty is already God Almighty? Doesn’t that make two Gods?
I think the truth is that, early on, the church came to think of Jesus as divine in some sense. I think Paul thought he was the Angel of the Lord. (See Galatians 4:14.) But, trust me, if Christ had flat-out said he was God Almighty, how exactly that could be possible would have been addressed in what came to be known as the New Testament. It wouldn’t be something you would put a pin in for 500 years.
Anyway, I’m not here to argue about the Trinity. It’s silly to argue about religion, because no one has the first bloody clue what the truth of God is . . . or what He wants . . . or if there is a God. Sure, have discussions over a pint or two. Just don’t insist. Warm feelings aren’t worth shit. I mean, they’re agreeable. You just shouldn’t go to war over them—or boil someone in oil.
Did you like this post? Why not subscribe to this blog? It’s free. All I need is your email address—and I’ll immediately send you a copy of my novel about Mormon missionary who goes insane on his mission, A Danger to God Himself. It’s simultaneously profane and inspirational, if such a state is even possible.