I Was So Stupid For Believing That

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

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.

17 thoughts on “I Was So Stupid For Believing That

  1. I honestly feel like I never believed and just said so because everyone seemed to feel things in church. For a while I convinced myself I was a soulless being and the others were just not broken like I was. But I never felt like God was watching me it was always just words everyone I knew took seriously so I went along with it. I wonder if that’s what others feel but then I see former members talk about how they felt it and got over this emotional stuff even if there’s no god behind it. I still wonder to this day what I was doing wrong, I could have used some of that free happiness. I still had some of the guilt when I convinced myself I was too broken to feel god. Some times I wonder if I became strange because of this, I never felt truly human because of it so why bother conforming?


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    • I went through my period of time feeling like that, too. A lot of people I know (both current and former Christians) have had those feelings of being too broken to feel a deity’s presence. I suppose the difference is that eventually I was exposed to it long enough that I forcibly created my own experiences that I could latch onto.

      I also know some people would be jealous of being resistant to such feelings. The thought is probably like considering why some people get addicted to cocaine, while others can just stop using at any time.

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  2. “Believing wasn’t stupid. It would have been stupid if I kept believing after curing the blind spot.”

    Right on. Also, it’s so great that you are learning how to not beat yourself up over your former beliefs.😊

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  3. Thanks for this, SB. Personally, I see my mental illness a great part of why I believed for so long, why I wrote journals of apologetics, why I chose to live in a “gated community of the mind,” as William James put it. But there is a lot of influence in the West in support for Christianity and cultural environment is a powerful thing.

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    • Fear of my mental illness is what kept me going for a while there. Christianity was quite good at offering a salve for it while not actually doing anything. Culture, group acceptance, all these things just add on top of each other to reinforce it.

      I think it’s also important to note that leaving a faith while surrounded by its trappings is one of the most courageous things you can do. It’s kind of easy to forget that when you’re dealing with all the other fallout.

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  4. Sirius Bizinus: “Quite frankly, the time I spent around that faith was punishment enough.”

    Zoe: Just needed to highlight that sentence. My default position would be to think it was rewarding, my faith, yet why every week did I feel punished? I felt whipped. Faithfully every week, sometimes more than once a week or twice a week, I kept going back for my punishment. Everything in me screamed, “This is nuts.” And I’d go back every week and hear that “I am nuts and Jesus is the answer.”

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