One of the first big things I noticed after leaving my faith was the sheer multitude of different beliefs regarding the Christian deity. More accurately, I became aware of how many important details I just glossed over when I interacted with other people who claimed to share my faith. When I told people I didn’t believe in that stuff anymore, all of these minor details became super-important things that got used to invalidate what I said about my old faith. The thing is, I was effectively getting told that I worshiped a different deity (the wrong one, of course).
I quickly discovered it’s a self-serving outlook – that doesn’t get used on fellow believers.
It’s self-serving because the same salient differences in what I used to believe – like Original Sin – don’t get called to the carpet when two Christians are discussing beliefs. Even if two Christians might not agree on a specific doctrine, it’s still okay because the IMPORTANT STUFF™ is already agreed upon. There might be a lecture or some light preaching going on, but it’s a very rare thing to see Christians denounce fellows as heathens.
The thing is, if these beliefs are so important to ridicule former believers and deconverts, to marginalize them, then they ought to be just as important to ferret out “true” Christians from “fake” ones. For all the preaching I’ve heard about how my old beliefs were just wrong, there are a bunch of people who believe those very same things now. They don’t get the lectures, the sermons, or the threats that I currently do. Instead, they just get ignored.
And it’s not like there are just a few discrepancies, either.
There are over 42,000 denominations of Christianity today, not counting specific non-denominational churches and other enclaves of worship. Each different unique congregation worships what it conceives is a true interpretation of religious tenets according to whatever sources it values. Among the many different things one can believe nowadays, Hell, spiritual gifts, Revelation prophecy, angels, demons, spiritual warfare, miracles, prayer, sin, salvation, salvation through works, and the divinity of Jesus are but a few of the options people can have on their faith salad. That’s right; some Christians can believe Jesus wasn’t a deity but that angels can help protect your car in rush hour traffic.
Each of these differences fundamentally changes the nature of whatever supernatural entity people believe in. They are different deities, as different as Zeus is from Odin and Freya is from Artemis. If one takes away the label “Christian,” then all one has left is a massive Mad-Lib of different thoughts, hopes, and dreams. These would be different religions if the groups didn’t grasp for the flimsiest excuse to claim common ground. It’s the equivalent of saying I speak English, so I must really be a British citizen.
This is a huge problem considering divine revelation is supposed to be at play.
On a broad enough level, people who believe that the Christian deity exists also believe that it can actually do stuff to reveal itself to humanity. The specific method, of course, is subject to as many differences as other tenets of the religion, but the gist is that there is some true form of a deity out there letting people know about it. And if that’s the case, why are there so many different things being believed all at once?
Some old excuses used to carry the day for me when I had a faith to protect. People are fallible, or they’re reading something wrong, or they’re being deceived by Satan. Nowadays, I recognize they’re all distractions from a crucial issue: there’s no sign of uniform organization going on. Worse, it’s the exact same problem which appears to have plagued the original spread of Christianity a couple thousand years ago. So, not only does this issue exist, it’s not even the only time it’s existed. Thus, if these excuses were correct – that people get it wrong – then it’s equally true for previous generations of Christians as well.
That’s a lot of hard work just to maintain a double standard.
Personally, I can’t do it anymore. Although I don’t believe in supernatural deities, I do remember what it felt like when I thought one personally helped me out. That feeling can be quite overpowering at times, and I don’t doubt that others experience it when they practice their faith. Most importantly, I don’t have to promise myself they don’t really believe what they believe in order to validate my lack of faith.
Thematically, this related to the inconsistency of faith. This is important to me, because a repeated claim I had drilled into my mind growing up was that believing in the Christian deity held up consistently under scrutiny. Discovering one small part as not being true has cascaded into ripping apart many of these other claims.