My involvement in Christianity stunted my spiritual and human growth.
It stunted my spiritual growth by leading down a path of falsehoods, which included the false premises of separation from God, and my inherent badness. It falsely taught me that Heaven is the big payoff for people who have correct theology. I also learned that in exchange for my obedience God would “bless me,” which meant more favorable life circumstances. I believed that Jesus taught these things, and I taught them myself as a pastor with a Master of Divinity degree. I can’t really blame anyone but myself. I was complicit in these falsehoods by not doing my own due diligence and not thinking for myself.
My Christianity also shaped how I viewed the world, which didn’t make me a very good human either. If the world is doomed and escaping it to Heaven when we die is the point (which my theology taught me), what motivation is there to really care about the future of the world? If we can divide up humankind into “us: and “them,” we can scapegoat the “them” and wash our hands of the hardships and suffering of our world. My Christianity taught me that the world was too far gone to be transformed by love, and that there was nothing I could do to change this. Instead, God would sort it all out in the end.
I am an underdeveloped human being largely because of my involvement in Christianity. My theology taught me to split up the world into the categories of “sacred” and secular.” The “sacred” category included the Bible, church, worship, a list of sanctioned Christian activities, spiritual disciplines, approved Christian books, etc. “Secular” was just about every shred of knowledge that couldn’t be gained by doing the aforementioned.
Through my own exploration and the deconstruction of my Christianity, I discovered that all the falsehoods and mentalities mentioned above had nothing to do with the life and teaching of Jesus. Suddenly, Jesus was no longer someone I “should be like,” but someone I actually wanted to be like. I authored four books that tell that story, and the process I underwent to be free.
It’s never too late. I feel like I’m only entering the zenith of my life now. Hey, this free and independent thinking stuff is awesome, and is taking me down all kinds of paths I never imagined I’d be on. Don’t settle. Don’t get too absorbed or stuck in your anger toward religion. Move on. Living and being the truth is always going to be a threat to the system. I’m not saying to be silent – we should confront any system (religious, political or cultural) that is separating people from God, themselves, others, the world, and life. But be the alternative. Like Jesus, let your life reveal a different way. Don’t just be against something. Be FOR something. Be a freethinker, explore, push deeper, press further, educate yourself, question, apply critical thinking, be conscious of the ideologies, narratives, views and mentalities that govern your life and this world.
This is an appeal to be a free and independent thinking person. Many of us got into trouble with religion because we did not do this. We let others do the thinking for us. Many of us learned to externalize authority. We mistrusted ourselves and bought into the dangerous proposition of trusting the “experts.” Once I started doing my own thinking I was shocked by how many things I was told in virtually all facets of life that didn’t hold weight, and nothing more than a biased opinion by someone who had an agenda or an ax to grind. Many things we’ve been told by the institutions of religion, government, education, medicine is simply not true, and if you apply due diligence in deconstructing them you will discover this for yourself.
Be a questioner. Start with the most basic and fundamental things you were told to never question, or those things it never occurred to you before to question. Don’t accept anything on the premise that it’s always been that way or because some “expert” says it’s so.
Peter Kropotkin wrote, “The history of human thought recalls the swinging of a pendulum which takes centuries to swing. After a long period of slumber comes a moment of awakening. Then thought frees herself from the chains with which those interested — rulers, lawyers, clerics — have carefully enwound her. She shatters the chains. She subjects to severe criticism all that has been taught her, and lays bare the emptiness of the religious, political, legal, and social prejudices amid which she has vegetated. She starts research in new paths, enriches our knowledge with new discoveries.”