Why I Can’t Go Back to Christianity

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Lately I’ve been getting more requests here and elsewhere to reconsider Christianity, despite acknowledgements that some of the teachings in that religion are harmful. It’s like being told, “Hey, it sucks that this happened, but please try it again and expect it to be different.” This can be maddening, frustrating, and disappointing at times. I’m still looking for the right chain of words to string together to convince still-practicing Christians that me returning to the faith isn’t a good thing (or even desirable).

If your religion is based at least in part on The Bible, then it’s similar enough to what I went through.
I don’t usually like making blanket statements like this, but I’m slowly figuring out that any faith that nominally derives its authority or teaching from The Bible (any version) really is conceptually similar to what I grew up with. Yes, there are some major differences between what I grew up with (Lutheran) and what other Christians believe, but these differences only matter when nitpicking specific beliefs. To any non-Christian, Christianity still has some overarching themes. Only the most liberal and tolerant congregations deviate from this norm, and they’re super-rare here in the States.

Unfortunately, the distinctions within the mainline and fundagelical branches of American Christianity exist without significant difference. They might sound nicer in different churches, but it’s usually sugarcoating the same message. People sin, they deserve punishment for that sin, and bad things will happen to people who don’t agree. From this root, religious guilt, shame, and other negative processes can flourish – especially in minds that are prone to adopt them. While I’ve written about this a bunch of times before, I’m repeating it again to illustrate that this criticism of Christianity exists, and I will not let it be ignored again.

I say again, because the other damaging thing that happens in Christianity is learning how to pretend that all of this is a good thing.
Growing up, all the negative things I felt were explained away as being a natural part of the faith. It was normal for me to hate myself, to criticize myself, and to deny that I’ve done anything worthwhile. I could only grudgingly acknowledge praise from others, and never in a manner which might indicate I felt happy as a result of receiving it. To do so would be to solicit praise, and that’s reserved for a deity.

This kind of thing happens on blogs, in testimonials, and in churches all over the country. I’ve read statements of people who rejoice in being humbled by life. It’s not like I’m the only person who ever did it as a Christian, and I know I’m not the last. This is a feature of the faith, and it still affects me even when I’m out of it. I can attribute several recent depressive episodes to it, as part of my mind refusing to accept any positive feedback on anything I do.

So, it’s equal parts pretending unhealthy thinking is normal, and making sure nobody knows about having healthy self-worth. And before anyone objects, I recognize that not all Christians do this. I even know a few of those, who rely on it in others so they can get their way all the time.

Asking me to reconsider this is a bad idea.
I am not kidding or being facetious when I say it can kill me. It’s bad enough that I can rationalize ending my life without even realizing I’m in a suicidal state. This is the product of years of conditioning to respond favorably to that self-hatred. Going back means I will start excusing these states as being the products of whatever spiritual thing comes to mind.

Above all else, I recognize that some people do use their religious beliefs to feel good about themselves. Just because these people can do it does not mean that I can do it. I tried for three decades (two of which I can definitely point to having depressive episodes). I was exposed to belief tenets from most of the American Christian religious spectrum, rejecting the most liberal because of the core values I’d been taught. The existence of people who can have a good time is not relevant to my experience.

I feel bad for people who are pained by my lack of faith.
Take the religious beliefs out of the mix, and there’s no reason for anyone to even care about what I believe regarding supernatural deities. It’s only when people get taught that life without Jesus is scary that this becomes an issue. This makes it the only cause as to why people might feel awful at my change of beliefs.

In a way, this is another negative reminder of what I left behind. I get to see complete strangers affected in miserable ways for no other reason than they’ve been convinced that I’m going to get divinely tormented. The worst thing about it is that while sometimes it might be genuine, I’ve been around enough manipulative people of Christian faith that it also might just be a passive-aggressive attempt at control. Neither of these alternatives speak to a divine entity rescuing lost souls.

So please, pretty please, stop asking me to reconsider your belief system.
Unless I’ve gone to someone and asked them to change their beliefs, there’s no reason to do this here. Going back to my old beliefs is not a welcoming idea for me. In fact, it’s dangerous in my case.

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18 thoughts on “Why I Can’t Go Back to Christianity

  1. I’ve been in your shoes. While I never went back to Christianity, I have investigated other religions and churches. The Unitarian Universalist church by me is far from a Christian church, it is a liberal church with varying beliefs and non-beliefs. I like the sense of community but it is a tad bit too liberal for me. Buddhism is cool as a philosophy but there is a fine line I follow, I can’t take the more spiritual part of it seriously.
    It’s okay to just be yourself, believe what you want, let your conscience be your guide. I struggle because there are not too many people like me, it would be nice to have a core group of people who think similar to me that I can bounce things off of but there’s not. But I’ll keep looking for them! 🙂

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    • I’ve only got a cursory knowledge of Buddhism, and from what limited stuff I’ve seen of it, some of its tenets seem to be related to some of the stuff I’m getting taught in therapy. But I hear what you’re saying. It’s tough trying to walk that line of being willing to try stuff out that might actually work. Both sides are trying to either pull you deeper in or farther away.

      I really hope you’re able to find a good community.

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  2. *”I recognize that some people do use their religious beliefs to feel good about themselves… The existence of people who can have a good time is not relevant to my experience.”*

    I couldn’t either. I’m wondering what the difference is between people who can and cannot. I personally have been told that my depression was why lost faith. What a shitty argument. What about the Divine Healer? Could have stepped in any of the 1,000s of times I asked for help. What about the fact I’m healthier psychologically without my faith?

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    • I love the unanswered prayer loophole. Somehow, I’m supposed to believe that the many times I had an unanswered prayer will magically change this time around. For me, I could have really used some divine intervention *before* I plotted my own demise.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I believe in God but I hate the church. I don’t need a bunch of priests to tell me that I”m going straight to hell because I don’t attend church every Sunday. I’m sorry to disappoint them but god didn’t write the bible. I don’t consider myself a Christian. However I do believe in God, due to my own personal experiences. Trying to convince you that their way is true, is like trying to convince you that drinking too much and then driving home is perfectly fine. Makes me sick. By this point, I just stop listening to people and their yammering. One day, I would like to sit down with a Priest or a preacher and ask them questions such as why can’t women become priests? IF Christianity is based on the belief of Christ, then why are there somany different branches? How can God forgive murders, rapists, drug dealers who ask for it but gay people are going to hell? How can Eve convince Adam to eat the fruit if neither of them had free will? Why was it Eve who convinced Adam to eat the fruit? ?

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  4. I see it as like the Wizard of Oz type event. Once you have seen behind the curtain, the illusion cannot be restored:

    The matter of Hell and eternal divine punishment always troubled me when I was a Christian. It made it difficult for me to love a God who would allow this eventuality. I could never really accept that anyone, even a Hitler, warranted this fate. So I suppose the total depravity concept is important in making Christians feel that everyone deserves Hell, thus God is loving by sparing some the fate that all deserve. Although intellectually I could understand such teaching in my heart I could never accept it whilst still a Christian, instead I hoped for a form of annihilation after death for non believers, citing Biblical words like ‘destined for destruction’.

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    • Sometimes I like to think of it in those terms, but I’m also terrified I’d be treating my former faith too lightly. There were plenty of times my intellect questioned what I was taught, but other doctrines helped wear me down. In the end, that’s what really gets to me the most. I was robbed of my critical thinking, especially when it came to thinking about my self worth.

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  5. Christianity is a challenge..a historical journey..many have tried to be CHRIST in this world..It’s not about CHRISTIANITY…it’s about devotion to creator..where we want to be after this life…CHRIST did not preach Christianity…he preached eternal life through commitment to godly living…no its not about Christianity, church, belief system, behavior the members..its’ about personal relationship…a journey CHRIST said us to walk…remember Peter and other apostles…remember old testament prophets..they did not live for Christianity, their country….they lived for GOD…it would be wise you don’t return CHRISTIANITY and church…but yes do return to creator and CHRIST.

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  6. Ok there are much smarter people than me out there , but what you are describing is classic abuse behavior. I almost had to stop reading your post. In all ways, in all effects the pressures you are under is abuse. You need to get out of that environment !!!! No matter what it takes, you have to.

    I left an abusive home, went to a boarding school, went into the military. Came back to my abusive home after they swore it would be different. It was not! I took the very next train out of there so to speak. I was dumb enough to fall for the same thing four years later and after another military term returned to that same place. it was a lie. The same hates, the same abuse started again. I refused, I was a two term military veteran and wouldn’t allow it ever again. I left and made my own way in the world , I secured housing, developed friends and I never looked back.

    I wish you the best , but no one can make you anything! No one can force you to anything or they have to take your life which they won’t do. Mine would have. Yours would brow beat you and force you to agree that you are ill and that you need them… That is your call. But when and if you break from them, do it, give up all they can give you and go. Your ideas are either right and worth it or not. If you want their money and their security give them what they ask for. IF not go, you have the skills… and if you need meds,and yes I do, make sure the doc is on your side then run!!!! Simply put you can’t live your life in one half, in one side, and the other in the other side, either you do it, or you don’t! If you think you may go crazy well there are a lot of crazy SOB’s out there. IF not you will be free of the restrictions you live your life under which to me sounds like a sort of giving up. Look you seem not to be giving yourself a fair shake.

    Look I had to do what was best for me. It seems to me you are at that same point. Do what is best for you. Do what you want. Do what makes you happy. Hugs

    Liked by 3 people

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