Growing up, I’d been told a lot of things about non-Christians. They were supposed to be miserable people who were lost and in need of saving. These people couldn’t be happy without being yoked to an ancient belief system that teaches everyone they’re flawed and deserving of punishment for it. Time and time again, this message is explained in many different ways, and it got to the point where I believed it without question. Also, since I suffered from depression and believed, I thought that things must truly be awful for those who didn’t.
Then I realized my faith was actively stopping me from feeling good about myself.
Before I get into it, I have to point out that this isn’t a defect or fringe teaching of Christianity. If you believe Jesus saves people, the question becomes, “Saves them from what?” No matter how nice a person tries to spin it, the point remains that Christianity teaches people are in need of saving from some awful thing that includes their identity. By necessity, this means viewing people in a way that they’re substandard.
That conclusion stared me in the face the entire time I believed, and I was able to ignore it for three decades. Such is the hallmark of a good faith, one that survives ordinary observation and pretends that nothing is amiss. As my ability to keep believing waned, I could no longer ignore the proverbial naked emperor running around in the streets. Over time, I had to face the reality that my old religious beliefs helped protect my depressive thinking. I couldn’t fight negative self-assessments because there was this core belief I had that needed it to be true. In other words, I needed to hate myself to validate the belief that I was flawed, to validate the belief I needed saving, and to validate the belief that I was saved.
Life after faith.
I can’t stress enough that for the first time ever, I feel equipped to cope with anxiety and depression. Rather than having to take my religious beliefs more seriously than anything else, I can accept things about myself without having to blame myself for them. That difference alone is a tangible benefit from not being enslaved to an ancient idea.
In many other ways, my view of the world is less fearful. I don’t have to worry about waiting for a prayer to be answered, or whether a course of action will succeed because a deity will make it happen. On top of that, I can accept that I can make good decisions for myself that will yield good results. There’s no compulsion to reward some invisible force with all the hard work I do. I am a regular person worthy of human dignity.
I got out, and that’s a good thing.
Some of this is because I can’t afford to undo all the progress I’ve made in therapy. To the bigger point, I also can’t afford to return to unsupported thinking. Depression inherently involves delusions about the worthlessness of self, and a major tool I have in fighting it is questioning the validity of such thoughts. Christianity deprived me of those questions, and so I was struggling in a fight with my hands tied behind my back.
Most of all, there is a joy in being free from religion that I cannot adequately describe to people who still believe. Knowing that life isn’t planned makes it more wonderful and special. Each new day brings with it the possibility for new discoveries and opportunities. Sometimes, I think that I can only see these things because I was previously yoked to a religion. Nonetheless, I can see them, and they’re an important step to finally feeling a real happiness.