As someone who has been raised a Christian, I grew up hearing many different promises about the benefits being a Christian would bring me. These promises made it tough for me to relinquish my faith, because it meant giving up on the hope that they’d come true. Like a gambler wanting to play just one more hand of blackjack to break even, I kept giving these promises and the faith one more chance. What Christianity promises a lot of people are big things, to the point that the promises of an afterlife, cosmic justice, and many other stuff that forms the backbone of why it persists. But when I couldn’t believe them anymore, I’m stuck looking to find something else to ease the suffering of being lied to.
The promises did serve a purpose.
One classic argument is that religion must do something for people, otherwise it wouldn’t still exist. You can go here for some more thoughts on that. Conceptually, it excuses the empty promises of many religions – Christianity among them – as serving some sort of benefit to people in the form of encouraging better social engagement. The problem I have with this view is that sometimes it doesn’t wholly measure the costs of doing so.
Like I’ve said above, many of the beliefs Christianity promotes simply exist to encourage raw belief that holds it all together. Any practical benefits are simply runoff from the river of this thought. For example, why is it that heaven is a place every Christian wants to go due to generic statements, but the only concrete description of it is in Revelation 21? Hell gets more air time in the Bible than heaven does. A good reason why this exists is because love and fear (to heaven and hell respectively) are the only immediate needs of promising an afterlife. Everything else is just fluff.
In this light, it’s not too terribly different from any other religion.
Pick a belief system, and one might end up finding ways to cope with death, pain, and suffering. Religion’s tools are old ones, and Christianity does borrow from many of the precursor faiths that it overtook (like hunting for Easter eggs from an Easter bunny). Like fire, the wheel, and agriculture, religion is an ancient tool which people still pick up and use. The chief difference is that we have improved upon fire, the wheel, and agriculture. Christianity specifically has branches which seem to resist any modification or improvement whatsoever.
So how do I look for something better?
A large part of it involves accepting the fact that I’m not going to come up with answers to everything. Accepting that can be difficult, especially considering I’ve been trained for most of my life to believe that a made up answer is somehow more desirable than one I can actually trust. Some Christians are proud that their beliefs answer something for them, but they forget that they’re pounding a square peg into a round hole. Not everyone has to follow suit.
Indeed, I’m finding that most of my recovery from faith includes just that: learning to abandon the toxic conditioning I received in church. Focusing on these grand designs blinded me to the ordinary beauty, wonder, and fulfillment that occurs in everyday life. I can’t create world peace, but I can certainly create joy in others. While being depressed makes me think otherwise, I do suspect that my presence might be missed if I’m gone. Hopefully the marks I leave on most people and this planet are for the better. The universe got along just fine for billions of years without me, and I suspect it will get along just fine when I’m gone.
I think that finding something better includes not having to make things up just to keep my beliefs going. Sure, I don’t believe in supernatural deities; this is because I haven’t found any suitable evidence which persuades me otherwise. Should a screaming meteor write the word “Puppykins” in the sky tonight, my views on that can change. Until then, I’d just be lying to myself and others by forcing myself to believe something I can’t really support.