C. S. Lewis is applauded in some circles for exquisitely framing Christian teachings. I used to think the same thing, because I believed that all of it was real. However, Lewis is also a great example for how perception shifts after one takes off the god-shaped goggles. Instead of being this beautiful expression of a loving philosophy, it’s a thinly veiled attempt at passive-aggressively bullying people.
That sums up a lot of softer proselytizing efforts.
They’re pretty common. It’s a relationship and not a religion. Hell is a door locked from the inside. The Christian deity just wants to love people. This is all just a reminder that there’s an invisible entity that cares for people. Nothing bad can come from stuff like this, right?
Well, it tends to gloss over the fact that this isn’t a sign of caring by any stretch of the imagination. Lewis’s quote above paints the picture of a deity locking souls in a terrible place because that’s what they must have really wanted. There’s no direct and perfect presentation of all the facts in a way that makes people fully informed. No, they get a life of being yelled at by missionaries or street preachers that are better at building multi-million dollar parsonages than giving food to the hungry.
Even the thought of a relationship with such an entity isn’t what many Christians allege it is. I have yet to threaten any of my friends with torture if they don’t hang out with me. In fact, making unreasonable threats is at best a great way to end a relationship and not build one. Despite this, rational people are supposed to just ignore the bad stuff and hold onto the warm fuzzy feelings.
Kinder, gentler Christianity still relies on brute force.
While it might hide the whip with a smile and cookies, it’s still there, and it’s going to get used. In some ways, it’s worse than fire and brimstone preaching, because at least those preachers are being open about their views. Otherwise, it’s the same deal in different packaging.
Putting it a different way, as nice as one can say Jesus loves everyone, there will always be a hidden “or else” tacked onto it. Pretending it’s not there doesn’t make it go away. All it does is describe a deity like this:
It’s understandable why it’s upsetting to people that leave the faith.
These are just extra reminders that we came from a place that would resort to manipulation to keep us going on Sundays. Now that the goggles are off, it’s pretty easy to see how manipulative and even petty it all seems. Some of us were even subjected to extra threats if we didn’t show how much we agreed with such nonsense. Anyone wanting to recover from religion doesn’t need many reminders of how awful it was back when we believed.
For me, finding healing from all of this is an exercise in self-control. Yes, these passive-aggressive teachings hide the same doctrines that I can’t believe anymore. But remembering that should also remind me of the freedom I have now to avoid lying to myself. If someone has a problem with me not believing, it’s that person’s problem and not mine.