One of the most heartbreaking things I’ve realized after leaving Christianity is that the religion never wanted me to be happy. That’s a bold statement, and a bit counter-intuitive considering that the whole faith is based on loving one aspect of a particular deity. Love and caring and compassion get poured over the faithful like wax, forming this veneer of perfect bliss. But the covering is too complete; it doesn’t leave much room to breathe.
Just recently I had been walking by as a sermon got played on TV, the bright and shining face of a folksy evangelical preacher with a modern thin microphone clipped around his head. He had that look like all Southern ministers have, that look of desperation and authority all rolled into one. It wants to pull you in and break you into a thousand pieces and reassemble them all at the same time. The guy’s from Georgia, but he’s upper-crust Southern so his accent has only a slight lilt to it.
His message? Really following Jesus.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a sermon chewing out Christians for not really following Jesus, I’d have a shitload of nickels. Even after deconverting and not intentionally looking for these messages, I’d still have a decent income from it. It’s not enough to get people into the pews on Sunday; they have to learn how they’re doing life wrong almost every week.
That sermon came from a DVD purchased online by a family member for an adult Sunday school class. Like most other sermons and videos of that nature, it’s packaged as something new and exciting. Here’s this secret to really following Jesus that true Christians™ have been missing up until now. The guy would build people up only to tear them down and let them know that the real Jesus wants you to do…whatever he says it is.
The whole goal is to do like what the minister in my previous post did to kids: discourage being content with yourself. People who are happy with themselves don’t fit in well with the message of a world of sinners in need of salvation. Being happy is a sin in and of itself; happiness only can be associated with thinking about Jesus or the associated deities.
These messages are a stumbling block to my recovery from religion.
They don’t just come from sermons. Sometimes they come from well-meaning Christians who assume not believing is pitiable, or it comes from ill-meaning Christians who insist they know what’s really in my heart. Messages that people can recover from Christianity and lead happy lives really contradicts the message in traditional American fundagelical culture. In that light, it makes fundagelical Christianity seem misanthropic.
I’ve let the opposition keep me quiet for the past year almost. Whenever I encounter this misanthropy, I have to deal with it because of my history with the faith. Unlike people who never hung around in it, they might not get the undertones of every little jab and snipe that gets sent my way. It takes its toll because I used to take these messages to heart, and I’m having to learn how to see them for what they really are: attempts to make me miserable so that I might reconsider Christianity or criticizing it.
Part of me thinks that by not reacting to this kind of stuff, I’m losing my humanity in some way. Through a lot of searching, I’ve found that I’m actually doing the opposite. For too long I’ve hated being in my own skin for no other reason than some old book and some church said so. It’s not that I’m ignoring the point of view of others; it’s that I’m ignoring people when they’re being rude for no good reason.
People can and should be happy without Christianity.
That search can be hard for people who leave the faith, considering all I’ve mentioned above (and then some). On top of that, I have a condition which doesn’t let me be happy very much. Despite all that, there are times when I do recognize that I am happy, if for no other reason than knowing I don’t have to be trapped inside a religion anymore.
It does not matter one bit when someone of faith wants to tear down the happiness of others. They’re just trying to share their misery. Nobody has to take it from them, because it’s their choice do lock themselves inside a cage.