- Posted August 10, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
From Christianity to Agnosticism (A Long Story for a Long Journey)
I once heard it said that who you are as a child is your true identity. As a child, I was very strong willed...and bossy. I remember when I was seven years old and learning to ride a two wheeler. My grandma had tried to hold the seat until I gained my stability to ride on my own. However, I was bound and determined to learn on my own. And I told her this...repeatedly. Finally she just gave up and went into the house. I was excited, several hours later, when I was able to go in and proclaim that I had learned to ride! I had taught myself. I feel that paints a vivid picture of who I was as a child.
Fast forward into my teen years and you'll begin to see a different picture. At the age of 13 I had begun learning from biblical scripture at my Christian middle school. At that time, I was still very strong willed and extremely independent. I thought for myself for the most part. But, as I got older and started understanding the underlying message of Christianity I began to develop a stricter mindset. I remember the story that led to this change, too.
The story of David was a powerful one for me at the age of 15. Basically, David started as a mere sheep herder and the youngest of several sons until God anointed him to be the future King of Judah. Through many trials and tribulations he proved himself to be a survivor. The story that opened my eyes to the main principles of Christianity was David responded after his affair with a woman named Bathsheba. David had slept and impregnated this married woman while he was a King. To try to cover up his actions, he attempted to make Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, sleep with her to make it appear that he impregnated her. After Uriah refused to sleep with his wife while many of his men were at war, David had him sent to the front lines of the battlefield and instructed the military leaders to abandon him so he'd die. After David had lost his first born and reflected on his actions, he became overcome with such guilt and shame that he begged the Lord's forgiveness. God became pleased with David's sincerity that David became known as "the man after God's own heart". Of course, in the bible, the story of David is compared to the story of Saul which severely contrasts the two as Saul is just a selfish, wicked man with no remorse for his actions.
This story opened my eyes to the meaning of Christianity. Here you have a man known as "the man after God's own heart", but yet he did such awful things. This eliminated my perception that Christians were perfect people. I became aware that Christians are actually imperfect people that simply have the love of a perfect God. It was then that I admitted that I was imperfect and needed the love of this perfect God (His son's sacrifice) to reunite me with Him. I became a Christian at the age of 16.
I was a zealous Christian. I studied the bible and even books written about the bible. I absorbed the Christian teaching. I believed that everyone was a sinner and needed to accept Christ's death on the cross as atonement for their sins. The Christian teaching that life was meaningless without God (or positively stated, that God made life meaningful) consumed me. I became convinced that those who lived in and of the world without God led sad lives. Only God could offer me the peace, comfort, and assurance that were required during hard times in life. And how could I look around the world at such wonderful nature and not believe in its Creator? My strength came from God, and God alone. To believe that I could live on my own accord was simply Satan trying to tear me away from such a just and loving God (I mean, after all this was often preached in church). I desired to live a life according to scripture. I didn't party, drink (minus a few minor sips of wine coolers with a childhood best friend during our curious, semi-rebellious moments), or have sex as a teenager. Whenever something exceptional, unexplainable, or simply wonderful happened, it had to be God. If I was praying about which school to attend and I got rejected from other schools, it was God's will that I attend that school.
That was my life as a Christian.
Fast forward to the age of 21 after a few years in college and being on my own, and my childhood personality began kicking back in. I began asking deeper questions about who God really is. How could Christians within certain denominations disagree on who he is or how to interpret scripture? Why did some believe that he chose who could become a Christian while others believed that the invitation to become a Christian was open to everyone (predestination versus free will)? How could such a huge characteristic of God such as that be so controversial? How did I really know that it was God's will for certain events to take place in my life? How could I be sure that the answer to my prayer was really from God and not just my own mind's creation? Was the Holy Spirit really a part of God that resided in me, or was that just what we called our desire to believe a part of God helped guide our lives? Why did every religion believe firmly that it was the True religion?
All of these questions and the varying answers led me to believe that maybe Christianity isn't as absolute as I had believed it was. I began teetering on the fence as to whether I really believed in completely altering my life for something I didn't accept as logically valid. Finally, I decided that I couldn't. I accepted the fact that no one really knows 100% one way or the other if a god exists. A large part of it has to do with faith more than anything else, and I simply could not rely on only faith. I decided I was agnostic.
But, it wasn't that easy. Christianity had it so engrained in my head that Satan tries to manipulate people's minds in many ways to tear them away from God. For months after my initial agnostic self-proclamation I still prayed even though I didn't believe in God. I prayed that Satan not be able to take me away from God.
I also believe I had a semi-mental breakdown for a brief amount of time as my entire life foundation and worldview disappeared. If I didn't believe in God what did I believe in? I questioned the meaning of life. When I found myself facing hard times in life, I found myself again praying. The only way I knew how to get through tough times was to rely on a strong, just, and perfect God. I was only human. I couldn't possibly rely on myself to get through such times. After all, to think otherwise was only Satan's way of winning in tearing me away from God.
The transition was tough. I think this was mainly because I sincerely believed that to believe anything other than Christianity was Satan's way of winning.
Finally, I eventually let go of my belief in Satan as well. That is what brought back my childhood personality.
I knew we as humans could define the meaning of our own lives and not be burdened with guilty thoughts of Satan, hell, etc... If bad things happen in our lives or to us, we are strong enough to determine how they affect us. We can reach into ourselves and find the same comfort, peace, and assurance that everything will be okay. We're all going to make stupid decisions and do stupid things in life. That's a part of life. We are the ones who determine if we beat ourselves up over them or learn and move forward...there is no shame in that. We can be strong, independent people. This is NOT a BAD thing. I know I feel no shame or guilt in claiming that I am a survivor and that I give my life meaning.
I still have conversations with Christians when they ask if I believe in God. When I tell them I'm agnostic, they often times get excited and eager to share the Good News of Christ. When I begin telling them I already know the good news and disbelieve it, they are often baffled. They question whether I really ever was a Christian. They question whether I fully understand the Christian teaching. They wonder how I find meaning in life without God. How can I look at such beautiful things around me and not believe? How could I abandon that feeling of peace and comfort I could only possibly get from God?
My answer. I rely on myself. I am strong and I have no shame or guilt about my decision. No, this doesn't mean I live a wild life of sex, drugs, and self-destruction. That lifestyle is not what makes me feel like my greatest self so that is not the life I choose to live.
I don't know how nature came about or life, but the truth is, no one really does. I believe people convince themselves they believe it was God, evolution, or something else simply to have an answer and provide a false sense of security. But, I don't need an answer to that question. It doesn't matter how the world was formed. All that matters is that it is here now. I determine how I respond to it. And I let the beauty of nature awe and comfort me the same as I did when I believed it had as specific creator.
Just as I relied on myself as a little girl to learn to ride a bike, I am confident to rely on myself to make my way through life.
Bottom line is, I am agnostic. I am strong. It is okay to rely on my own beliefs and inner strength. And because of this, I feel liberated in a way I have known never before. Sadly a lot of people will never know what this feels like and they're completely fine with it.