When a person goes from fully believing religious teachings to just doubting them can be a staggering process. Every time I’ve heard of people talking about having these first doubts, they’re always in private, and rarely discussed in the open. It’s as if admitting they’re there will invite some terrible misfortune. Although I’d had doubts before, the really big ones were quite different. I pretended they weren’t there for a little while.
Shame has a lot to do with it.
Nobody I know of would believe me if I told them that I walked across the surface of a lake after living in the belly of a whale for three days. This includes a bunch of religious people I know as well. There’s good reason to doubt. People don’t normally do these things, and a lot of learned principles and experience makes that occurrence even less likely. When I was a Christian, even I would have doubted the testimony of such a person.
Despite having this sense, I persistently did not apply it to the holy book I read. There was always an excuse, a reason, or just a change of subject waiting to pop out and save me. Trying to examine it was like trying to learn a new language by reading it. It all made no sense.
Changing one’s perspective brings this out in the open. I had to admit I was wrong, and I had to admit that all the terrible things I did as a result of this was wrong. Really, it seems so obvious now that I shouldn’t believe people could come back from the dead after three days, or that some person couldn’t live on a glorified raft while the world was covered in water. That’s like telling people Ghostbusters was a documentary. It’s easy to blame oneself and feel stupid for doing so.
Except believing never was a function of intelligence.
In particular, Christianity had a couple thousand years to get its sales pitch ready for me. Enjoying privileged positions in society, notoriety everywhere I lived, and without an ability to say no when I was younger, these things added up to curb my ability to think about my religious beliefs with complete impartiality. Not only that, a lot of the things I was taught relied heavily on the natural bias people have in their own thinking. It would be a work of genius if it didn’t do other things that I haven’t been able to recover from.
I mention all of this not to excuse anything, but to explain it. The intellectual deck is stacked against people when they enter the faith. Even adults can become similarly situated as children are, because churches have narratives for them too. There’s a canned answer for everything, because most every protest imaginable has been registered with various Christians over the history of the faith. New ones get encountered, cataloged, and excused as a matter of course.
At times, I think of this as having a blind spot created in my mind. It’s something I never wanted or needed, but it was created nonetheless. This spot was a place where my intellect couldn’t function normally, where I wasn’t allowed to be myself. There was nothing I could do to prevent its creation, because I wasn’t allowed to do so.
Believing wasn’t stupid.
It would have been stupid if I kept believing after curing the blind spot. It would be stupid if I let another one form in place of the one I lost. While figuring out that one’s faith was based on smoke and mirrors didn’t make me feel happy about believing in supernatural beings, there’s no reason to punish myself for it. Quite frankly, the time I spent around that faith was punishment enough.
Changing this perspective has been important in my recovery from Christianity because it has freed me from it even more. Beating myself up for what I believed was something I learned as a Christian, and learning to stop doing that is something I learned as an independent human being. Spending time as the latter definitely has been healthier for me.