What Did I Actually Get From Being A Christian?

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

I have another RFR meeting tonight, and I’m still unsure how helpful it will be. Mostly I think it’s because the group isn’t fully able to deal with the issues I have. There’s also some reluctance to discuss very heavy subjects like depression with people I don’t know all that well, and who have differing feelings on faith.

Like most of the time after leaving Christianity, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what happened while I believed in Jesus and other invisible things. Right now I’m in a phase where I’m thinking about how life was cheapened by what I was taught in church. That is, life as we know it isn’t permanent; everything is a grand test for something else later; death is just a transition from one mode of existence to another.

It’s hard for me to talk about all of this in specifics, because there’s no one memory that puts my experience into adequate perspective. What I can say is that I endured a process of believing very much that I was a divine pawn at the mercy of a very powerful thing called a deity. Around the same time, I started dealing with personal failure and frustrations in a very unhealthy way, encouraged in part by trying to make it fit some religion-shaped mold. Eventually I started believing that my life was not worth very much, that I’m not worthy of anything nice, and that I’m just waiting to go to a second and permanent phase of existence.

Precisely because I didn’t think my own death was a big deal, I am still a person who actively considers taking his own life. I have to fight hard to remember why that’s not a good thing, or why I shouldn’t do it. On a permanent basis, I don’t think of things in long terms at all because I’m not optimistic I’ll be around for it. I’ve mostly given up on trying to believe in my worth as a person. Instead, I have to deal with concrete ideas of things people need me for and things I’ve helped people with.

What I keep coming back to is the idea that although the Christian religion didn’t cause me to think poorly of myself, it did help that part of me flourish. Hating myself was explained as being parts sinful and parts of a soul hearing the judgment of a deity. Suicide was either a mercy for a person finally at rest or a definite ticket to hell. Sometimes it was a tool generously provided by a stern deity to remind others of their obligations to each other.

I also can’t think of anything positive my old faith has done for me. Every feeling of euphoria or belonging or goodness was part of an artificial show every week. Outside of the pageantry or the people I met who decided to be nice, there wasn’t anything actually getting taught that I could rely on for help. Any possible glimpse of the divine could get chalked up to suggestion or delusion, and it was only the efforts of others that stopped me from thinking about it clearly.

Sometimes I still get frustrated when I think about this. I wonder what kind of a person I’d be if I never believed in angels or hell or talking fire-bushes. Would I be arguing in front of the US Supreme Court right now? Would I be helping people navigate critical moments in their lives? Would I be able to stop thinking that I’m on borrowed time, and that it needs to stop at any moment?

I wish I had the answers to those questions and more.