One of the biggest, most important questions I had during my last several years as a christian was “what if the brand of christianity I’m in is wrong?” This question haunted me for quite a while, and finding the answer to it (although it wasn’t necessarily the answer I was looking for) was essentially what caused me to leave my faith behind. I posted recently about the multiple versions of christianity that are vying for acceptance by the masses. My knowledge of these different traditions and their mutually exclusive (in many cases) paths to heaven was a problem for me. The search that lead me out of christianity was actually a search for the right version of christianity.
You see, I wanted to be right with god. I wanted my family and I to be in line with his will. I wanted to make sure that the way we were worshipping him was the way he intended for us lowly humans to worship him. My search of over six years lead me and my family out of oneness pentecostalism and into a more mainstream version of pentecostalism. But my search didn’t end there. I kept looking at other traditions to see if they were more in line with the bible than the others. I considered methodist, episcopalian, catholicism, orthodox christianity, baptist, and many more. I compared their beliefs with each other and the bible. I even studied the evolution of all the different faith groups to see how they each emerged from the previous one to figure out which was the oldest and closest to the source.
A guy we went to church with left the pentecostal church for the new anglican movement because of a massive amount of study he and his brother had undertaken. His brother and parents actually left pentecostalism around the same time for the orthodox church. He recommended a book to me called Thirsting For God in a Land of Shallow Wells by Matthew Gallatin. After reading Matthew’s story of a lifelong dissatisfaction with protestant denominations, I actually started to empathize with him. His story is similar to mine in that he was also searching for the right version of christianity. As I read his words, I saw myself in his sentiments about not being satisfied with the biblical-ness of a certain faith tradition, then switching to one that seemed more correct only to find himself in the same situational over again. That was exactly where I was with my search for the right version of christianity. As I finished his book, I was almost certain that orthodoxy was probably the most correct version out there. But I still had questions that remained unanswered. What about all of the versions of christianity that were earlier than orthodoxy? I mean, when Constantine took over the church and called the councils that wrote the creeds, he fundamentally changed christianity into something that it wasn’t prior to that point.
It was around this point that I had read some of Bart Ehrman’s books along with several others. They opened up a new line of reasoning for me: what if all of the versions of christianity out there were wrong. After following this line of reasoning for a while and reading many more volumes about the various aspects of christianity, I finally had to admit to myself that my original question was the wrong question. There wasn’t “one right version of christianity”. The reason that there are so many versions is that they are all based on a book that IS easily interpreted in a myriad of ways . The reason that they don’t agree is that their source material is inherently flawed.
Now that I’ve left christianity, I don’t have any of the questions floating around in my mind about the differences in the faith traditions. I don’t worry whether I’m wrong that the Earth is 6,000 years old or several billion. I don’t worry about whether baptism is properly done by springing or dunking. I don’t worry about whether the correct mantra to say when baptizing someone is “in jesus’ name” or “father, son, and holy spirit”. I don’t worry about whether once you’re saved, you’re always saved or if it’s possible to lose your salvation. I don’t worry about whether women should be ordained as ministers. I don’t worry about whether this or that is a sin. And frankly, at this point, I don’t even care. None of these issues that bothered me for most of my adult life no longer matter in the least to me.
Most importantly, I no longer worry about whether I’m right with god in case he happens to come back tonight. That always seemed to be my biggest worry. I remember those thoughts lingering nearly constantly in the back of my mind: “Am I doing everything that god wants me to do?” “Am I living in his will?” “Am I living up to his expectations?” “Will I make it to heaven if I die right now?” But now- I have mental freedom from that constant anguish of worrying. It doesn’t bother me in the least any more.
When I was a christian, my worldview was always a question. I was so unsure of anything. Now, I see that a life without a mythological god to please is so much more satisfying. There is no weight to bear as to all of these questions that I had been trying to find the answer to most of my life. No, it didn’t happen overnight. No, it didn’t come easily. I have struggled with some of the bigger questions since I’ve admitted to myself that I no longer believe in a god. But now, when these questions pop into my mind, I think back to all of the disunity in the christian faiths and quickly recover my sense of reason, and along with it my peace over these questions.
This worldview makes so much more sense. Science provides answers that are reasonable. If our understanding changes, so be it. Our understanding of the universe is constantly becoming more clear, so a change in scientific understanding is always a change for the better. But you don’t have multiple traditions of science arguing over fifteen different ways to be saved or how to be baptized or whether you can or can’t wear a certain article of clothing. This is the way it is, so says our observation and testing of the situation. That makes so much more sense. That is real answers.
There’s a scripture where jesus is quoted as saying “come unto me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” or some such. Now that I’m out of it, I realize that the burden christianity places on the minds and lives of its followers is a very heavy burden. Leaving christianity was a pretty massive burden. It wasn’t easy or light in the least. However, once I came to terms with my lack of belief in biblical mythology, that burden is gone. The “light and easy” burden of christianity is gone as well. Ain’t no burden here, my friends! I’m free!