Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Letting go of God

Posted by Paulo on September 29, 2008

I came from an evangelical Christian home. When I was 7, my parents became missionaries and we moved to Africa, where I was raised in Christian circles and eventually attended a conservative Christian boarding school. My parents believed in God so naturally I assumed God must be real. I respected my parents and wanted to do what was right, so when my older brother told them that he wanted to become a Christian, I joined in and said I wanted to become a Christian too. I was 8. In my child’s mind, it was the right thing to do and it made my parents happy.

As a kid I attended church not out of choice but out of duty. There was never a question as to whether we should go or not: it was expected. So I attended church every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday nights.

I did not participate much in church activities. All of the singing, the preaching, and the praying seemed to me like some kind of hollow show. If being a Christian was about one’s relationship with God (as the preachers always said), then I reasoned that church activity really had to be a thing of little importance. The main thing had to be the relationship between a person and God.

I used to pray in private. But for all the praying, I always felt like it was a one-way conversation. I did not feel the spirit or the presence of God like all the other Christians around me seemed to. I wanted to believe that they actually felt it, but as I grew older I started to suspect that what they felt could just be an interpretation of their own feelings, not necessarily God.

I read the Bible and familiarized myself with its teachings, more in an academic way instead of a personal, devotional way. I had a vague belief in God but was not sure how I could interact with him. I went on like this until I was about 14. This was when I seriously started to question whether I thought the Bible was the actual word of God. One of the main things that got me thinking about this was the fact that there were a lot of muslims where I lived in West Africa, and they seemed to be just as devout, if not more, to their religion as Christians were. Both religions believed in a God, both believed in a divinely inspired book, and both religions claimed to know the only right path to God. Christians have standard answers as to why they think the Bible’s teachings are superior to the Koran, but what I was looking for was how do they determine who is right and who is wrong? It boiled down to faith. They couldn’t both be right, but they could both be wrong.

By the time I was in high school, I knew for sure that I wasn’t a Christian but I wasn’t sure if I still believed in a personal God. I didn’t talk about it with anyone, mostly because I was surrounded by Christians who seriously believed in the teachings of the Bible. Privately, I still tried to hold on to a belief in a God, but what kind of God this was I had no idea.

When I was 18 I went to college in the US and stopped going to church altogether. I made it my mission to get to the bottom of my skepticism. I spent a lot of time at the university library reading books. I read all I could about other religions, philosophy, the Enlightenment, existentialism, etc… Basically, I read all the stuff they don’t teach you in a Christian school (or at best, gloss over in a negative light). What I learned about religion was this: All religions assume a belief in the supernatural and the existence of an afterlife, but there was not a shred of evidence to prove it. All of the “evidence” in religion relies on matters of faith, not proven facts. Faith, I always thought, could not be a good basis for belief.

I came to the conclusion that the belief in a God and the afterlife does not go beyond conjecture. Christianity is just one of many religions. The God of the Bible could not be any more true than the God of Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, or Atenism. If a God exists, he would be nothing like he is described in holy books, and for all the misery and suffering I see in this world, probably too vast or too distant to care. As for the existence of a soul and the afterlife, nothing I’ve seen in my life gives me any indication of it (see my post, The question of immortality).

I found myself holding on to the belief in some sort of Biblical God because it was instilled in me as a child that one’s decision to follow this God was the greatest decision that a human being could make, and to reject him would be the greatest mistake. But all of this, for thousands of years, has been a belief based on faith, not facts. Having a belief in the God of the Bible was very important to my family, and I didn’t want to break any fundamental ties. But there comes a time when you have to be honest with yourself. I had no faith in the Bible. Whether a God existed or not made no difference to me. I finally came to the point in my life where I should live according to what I thought was true and not what other people thought was true. So I let go of God.

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