I gave someone (a Christian I love very much) a copy of a book recently at their request. I knew that the book would probably cause them to do some questioning about the origins of their religion. I thought it was cool that they asked me for it. To make a long story short, this person read about a chapter and then stopped. I’m not sure if he’ll pick it up again, but it didn’t seem likely that he would. He said he had “heard that stuff before,” and then gave me an apologetic response to it. I wish I would have debated him more, but I’m not at the point yet where I feel comfortable doing that. I don’t feel like I have enough of the facts down. I've been reading a lot, but I have a hard time remembering dates and details. I didn't want to come off like I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Anyway, I can’t say I’m not disappointed. It seems like he opened the book, saw that he had already read some apologetics to “cover” it, and just put it back down. I’m sure he felt as if his faith had won again (just like he knew it would). It disappointed me. It’s unfair to assume that just because there are apologetics out there discussing something, the apologetic arguments automatically win. Both sides need to be taken into consideration. While I’m glad (and still surprised) that he at least tried to read something like that, I’m disappointed that he didn’t even bother to read the whole thing. That book was fascinating to me from beginning to end.
But... rather than shaking my fist in the air, I’ve been putting myself into “Past Lyndsay’s” shoes. It’s a scary place to be, but it gives me a lot of insight. I think it’s important that I don’t forget the way I was before and the way my mind worked. I sometimes try to forget because, honestly, it’s kind of embarrassing. It’s also painful... like remembering a time I was in bondage.
But when I think about it, I do remember. I remember what it was like to not question even when I pretended I did. I remember what it was like to tell myself that my faith was passing tests even when it wasn’t. I always went into it with my conclusion already made. It’s very strange to me now that I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think I probably just refused to realize it. I didn’t want to reach any other conclusion. It wasn’t that I was assessing the arguments I heard; it was that I was “standing up to them” because I thought that having faith no matter what made me a good Christian (i.e. a good person). It was rewarding to feel right. Besides, the idea that I could be wrong was so terrifying – so mind-blowingly life altering – that I didn’t even consider it. I couldn’t.
As detrimental as my faith was to me, it also made me feel good. It made me feel special. I knew something that only a select group of people knew. I remember what it was like to belong to my old church. It was as if we were all part of a special, secret group. Everyone was welcome to join, but not many people were insightful enough to accept the truth we were so sure of. We (the young people) looked to the adults as if they had all the answers. I think on some level we figured that the only reason we had questions (whether we admitted it or not) was because we weren’t as experienced as they were. We didn’t know as much as they did. They told us who “God” was, who “Jesus” was, what the message of the Bible was, and we really didn’t (couldn’t?) question it very much at all. We (or at least I) figured that they knew it for sure. Why else would they bother teaching it to us every Sunday? It’s funny how we view adults when we’re young. Looking back, I see that they were all just as lost as I was... but they felt good because they didn’t admit it to themselves. They were surrounded by other people who didn’t admit it. They felt like I did: they felt special.
I know for a fact that questioning those beliefs is insanely difficult. It feels so, so, so wrong. It means choosing the tiny voice that says, “Keep going. You’re okay. It makes no sense for God to hate you for seeking the truth.” over that BOOMING voice that says, “You’re going to hell if you keep going with this. You’ll lose all your friends. You’re disappointing God. If you stop believing, you won’t have the comfort that your deceased loved ones are in heaven. You won’t have anyone to go to when you’re sad. You can’t pray anymore. You’ll be alone. Life will be meaningless. You’re disappointing everyone who cares about you.”
Honestly if I had been active in a church when I started questioning, I probably would have just kept on ignoring those questions. I don’t know that I would have ignored them forever, but it would have made my “journey” much longer. So... I don’t know. I guess as disappointed as I am in his decision to blow off the book, I understand it in a way. I remember how it felt to belong to a church that was so sure that they were right... so “on fire for God” and so dedicated to “saving souls.” I was beyond questioning whether or not it was true. I knew it was true. I wouldn’t allow myself to consider that it wasn’t.
Every challenge to my faith was just another feather in my cap... another thing I was strong enough to stand up to and still hold on to my god... another reminder of what a good and faithful Christian I was.