It happened again this week. I ran into a person that attends a church I used to attend. After a couple of minutes of awkward conversation, THAT question pops up. “So where are you going to church now?” The easy way out would be to say the name of the last church I attended on a regular basis. But that feels dishonest to me, misleading to say the least. On the other hand, I didn’t want to get into a long discussion about why I don’t attend church anymore either. In this particular case I answered in the way I do most of the time, “well, we were going to X church after we left W church, but we aren’t going anywhere currently.” Usually that’s enough for each of us to move on.
And so I return to the discussion of my deconstruction from christianity. Why don’t I attend church anymore? I previously wrote about this topic here, https://marvborst.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/deconstructing-pt-1/, here https://marvborst.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/deconstruction-pt-2-sort-of/, and here https://marvborst.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/momentary-numbness/. To recap briefly, a few years ago I began to research nagging questions I had about my faith and god. Ultimately I came to a position called Christian Universalism. Christian Universalism has several different forms, but the basic belief is that God doesn’t do ECT, Eternal Conscientious Torment. It could be that god saves all, as is referenced in the Bible in several places, or that god allows punishment for a period of time before reestablishing the individual to heaven, or it could be what is called Annihilation, which teaches that non-believers cease to exist when they die, so no eternal torment. I’ll say right here that Annihilation never made sense to me.
At this point my wife and I really felt that Christian Universalism was the answer, and we were comfortable with that. But we didn’t stop our research there. We continued to read books, articles and watch documentaries on the history of christianity. The more we did, the more questions we had about christianity specifically and religion in general. Our excitement about finding the “answers” in Universalism faded as we began to see major issues with what christianity taught, and had evolved into over the centuries. The turning point for me was the realization that I no longer was sure that Jesus was god, and that he died for my sins.
Around this time we began to meet weekly with a couple who were having some of the same issues and questions. Coming from the same church background, one of the couple had come to a place of atheism while the other was dealing with the loss of community from slowly leaving church. During this time I briefly slipped into atheism, while my wife never stopped thinking that there was a spiritual world, just not the one we had spent our entire lives in. My wife and I also began to really look at alternative theories about how we came to be.
I didn’t stay in the atheistic camp that long. I do believe there is something beyond what we see now. Rob Bell has a great talk on what he calls Everything Is Spiritual. It doesn’t give answers, just things to think about. And so I find myself at a place that I call being an agnostic with hope. Agnostic because I truly don’t know what the truth is, and “with hope” because I still hope for a loving force or being in an afterlife. Could be god, could be something else. I don’t know. It could be that this life is all there is. My research has shown me what I don’t believe, the holes and problems and blind faith in things that my christian faith had. But research hasn’t given me concrete answers to what is. We can’t have that in this life, we can only guess and follow our feelings. For some, that means unwavering faith in a god we can’t see or feel. For others that means believing that this life is it, we evolved from nothing and we return to nothing. For others there is a belief in a conscientiousness after we die, becoming part of the “force” so to speak.
For me, I’ll continue to pursue truth, without the expectation that I’ll find ultimate answers in this life, and with the hope of a life of some sort after death. I have peace in all of this, the messy business of not knowing. I’ll continue to follow the teachings of Jesus, who I greatly respect even though I no longer believe he was god. I’ll continue to be amazed at the make believe of my former faith. So that’s a summery of my deconstruction, I asked questions, I followed those questions where they led me, I lost my faith, I gained my freedom.
In a future post, I’ll list some of the books and authors and researchers that influenced me during this time of learning. I’m happy to discuss these issues with anyone who would like to. On Messenger is probably the best way.