I find that one barrier to coming out as a non-believer is my fear of how others would tell my story. I feel defensive about how I think others might explain my loss of faith. This is why I want to better understand my own story before I let anyone know. Some misconceptions that I could anticipate:
- “Bad things happened which made me mad at God so I decided not to believe in him.”
It is true that I have had some difficulties in life – more than the average person of my demographic but less than the median level of human suffering. I have battled depression/anxiety all my life. I was raped at Christian college. I have had food/body image issues and for a short time engaged in some binging/purging behaviors. I had a child when I was pretty young with a chronic, life-limiting disease that caused a major financial strain and pushed me to go back to school for a second bachelor’s degree. I have a job where I care for ill/injured/dying children every day.
I fear my story being derailed by the assumption that I gave up on God when he didn’t make my life go smoothly. It is true that my worldview probably changed as I saw more of the darker sides, but I am not mad. I just don’t think that Christianity makes sense. I would rather focus on improving life for myself and others in a concrete way than talking to God in my head and wanting him to do it.
- “People at church were jerks.”
Overall, this is not true. I have had bad experiences and I think there are ways that the Evangelical culture has been harmful, but overall, church has been a positive experience. I remember growing up with family friends that we would “fellowship” with. I had a sense of belonging. I was surrounded by adults outside my family who really cared. At lonely times, I have found meaningful and accepting communities in church. I believe that Christian organizations do lots of good for the world.
- “I did Christianity the wrong way.” “I was too legalistic and there wasn’t enough grace.” “I followed Religion instead of having a Relationship.”
I think that there are many people uncomfortable with the possibility for someone to have a genuine salvation experience and later change their mind. I keep having to reiterate that I was a “real” Christian. I did it both the Calvinist and Arminian ways. I also tried Universalism. I have read scripture and had a personal devotional life with Jesus. I have confessed all my sins and dedicated myself to God’s plan. Ultimately, I decided that it really just didn’t make sense. I don’t need to hear the “good news” explained again.
- “I decided I would rather sin.”
I can see this coming up – the idea that I quit religion because I wanted to do what I wanted and didn’t want to have to follow the rules. There are a variety of secular moral systems, but for me, without a supernatural entity, there is even more pressure to do the right thing. We humans are responsible for the way we treat each other. There is no magic way to absolve our wrongs, so we have to live with the consequences of the choices we make. Also, my life is pretty boring and void of debauchery. I am monogamous with two kids and a job and a house. I have never used drugs and I only drink in moderation. I have definitely made mistakes and have hurt others in my lifetime and I need to own up to that, but I don’t know what horrible, secret sin would be pushing me to hide from God.
Ultimately, I need to come to a concise “why” so that I can state it confidently. My plan going forward is to write my story in a way that is genuine and hope that if the issue comes up, I am able to be heard.