An Open Letter About my Unbelief

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Please don’t think that my coming to terms with my unbelief was an easy process. There were tears, trips to churches, talks with church leaders. I fought to keep my faith. I read the Bible and I would cry out in prayer for my doubt to go away, so I could remain in the cradle of Christianity and stay a good, Christian girl with a future as a good, Christian wife and mother.

But that didn’t happen.

My tears and fears were met with silence. I’ve spent months, nearly a year attempting to accept what my unbelief means; what it means for me to no longer identify as a Christian in my life. It’s been an incredibly painful process, one I would have never chosen for myself. I would have preferred to maintain my belief and stay in the good graces of society and God, but that’s not what happened. I just don’t believe. I can’t force myself to believe. My struggles with faith weren’t a choice, and I can’t change that. I don’t know if there is a god, I don’t know if Jesus was sent down to save us all. I don’t know, but I no longer believe. I don’t think Christian belief is inherently wrong, but I can no longer take part because I lack faith.

I don’t wish to explain my beliefs or justify them. I don’t want to encourage anyone to leave their faith. I do support more close readings of scripture, and part of this is selfish—I sometimes want people to read the Bible and understand that many of the things people have used to promote injustice (Biblical justification of slavery, anti-miscegenation, and advocating for fewer rights for the LGBT community) aren’t taken out of context. The Bible can be used for evil, easily and without using the Bible dishonestly.

Ultimately, however, I support faith. My boyfriend is still a Christian. I love and hold dear many Christians. I just don’t wish to be treated like a lost sheep. I don’t want to be seen as a one-dimensional person who simply needs to come back to Jesus. I want to be more than that.

There are 7 billion people on this planet. Only 2 billion are Christian. If all non-Christians are destined for hell, I guess I’ll be among them. I don’t believe that to be true, but I don’t know. I can never be sure. Everyday people convert to Christianity, and everyday people convert away from Christianity. We’re all looking for truth, wherever we can find it.

There are a few things I want people to know:

I’m not the same person I was a year ago—but that’s a good thing. I’m happier. I have more peace. I’ve been kinder to myself and those around me. I judge less. I appreciate the diversity of the world with more nuance.

I’m not suddenly immoral. I have a moral compass; I still have a strong foundation of right and wrong. I simply no longer hold myself to the Biblical standard for good and evil. I no longer think things are good simply because God willed it so. I think goodness comes from actions, from kindness. I don’t think a person can be good simply because God willed it so, just like I no longer think the entirety of humanity is stained with original sin just because God willed it so.

I don’t believe in all gods, not just the Christian one. I don’t believe in Allah or Jah or Zeus or Ganesh. I don’t believe in Satan or demons or evil forces. I believe in humanity, for good or ill. We exist on this planet and affect it.

I want to be treated like I’ve always been treated—well, in most cases. I want to be treated like a young woman with informed opinions. I don’t want to suddenly because useless and unimportant because I don’t believe. I want to still be called a good person, despite not believing. I still want people to say they’re proud of me. I want to continue being a person that makes people proud. I’m not evil now just because I don’t believe. I hope people still value me and my thoughts, but I can’t make them.

I never meant to hurt anyone. My unbelief is deeply personal and has been traumatic in many ways. I’ve spent hours crying and asking my therapist what was wrong with me. I didn’t deconvert to hurt people. I deconverted because I couldn’t say I believe while being honest and genuine. I didn’t do this to hurt anyone, I didn’t do this to usurp others’ worldview and supplant my own. I had to be honest with myself and my personal feelings. If I had stayed in the church, my belief wouldn’t miraculously reappear; I’d rather be “playing church” and pretending to have faith to comfort those around me. Selfishly, I want to put myself first here. I think how I feel about myself is more important than how others feel about me.

Many people will be disappointed in me. Many people will wonder where I went wrong. Many people who once praised that I walked to the beat of my own drum will criticize me, at least in their heads. I will no longer be the quirky, rebellious child. To them, I may well be the angry, lost sheep who abandoned Christ for my own selfish purposes. I can’t change their minds; I only hope that they can eventually see me. Unfortunately, I think many will prefer me being sad and a worse person but believing in Jesus rather than my happiness and kindness without belief. I understand that reaction even though I wish it were different.

Most of all, I hope people forgive me for any pain I’ve caused, even accidentally. Those involved in my religious upbringing will likely feel angry, hurt. I deeply regret hurting people, but I hope they understand that my honesty was never malicious. I want to be loved and accepted for who I am, rather than being loved and accepted for who I pretend to be.

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19 thoughts on “An Open Letter About my Unbelief

  1. This is your choice with life and whomever doesn’t support
    You doesn’t need to be there. I grew up trying to be pushed into being catholic by my father. I am the same as you, just stay true to your self and what you really believe in. The people meant to be will be and the ones who don’t will not be. That’s life. Glad your staying true to yourself!!

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  2. Hey Holly. I have been there, a year and a half to two years ago, my sentiments were just as yours. You will find great confidence in your path. Not everyone will understand, and that will be painful sometimes. But you are being true to you, and that builds a foundation to get stronger and stronger.

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  3. You’ve stumbled upon a difficult path, but I don’t think there is any turning back. I, too, gave up my faith reluctantly. It was actually pretty easy to walk away from my Catholic upbringing, because I felt that the church just made up rules. I don’t do rules well, especially made-up ones. But realizing that Christianity isn’t true, that there are no deities/hell/heaven/supernatural beings/supernatural states…that’s a LOT to lose. Discovering that I must work out morality for myself, instead of mindlessly repeating someone else’s idea of it, was very challenging at first. The do-unto-others instruction is an excellent basis for modern morality, but you’ve probably already figured that out.

    I never discussed my unbelief directly with my parents, but they eventually figured it out, I think. By that time I was old enough (40s), and the realization had dawned slowly enough, that it merely irritated my mother and never bothered my father. But lots of things about me irritated my mother, especially my feminism and insistence that rules make sense; religious disagreement just added to the pile. I hope your mother comes around and agrees to treat you as a thinking adult, albeit one she disagrees with on that subject.

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  4. Thank you for telling your story. I have been coming to terms with unbelief for over a decade, but slowly and painfully. I have felt so much of what you describe here and I am sorry for the difficulty that you have experienced. Like you, I wish that I could make it different, but unbelief was not really a choice. I sought answers seriously and sincerely, but in the end, the answers led me to unbelief. I am still struggling with where I go from here – some days are good because I am unburdened from Christian guilt, and some days are bad because this process has created a chasm with so many people I love. I wish you the best of luck in your journey.

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  5. Bravo! My de-conversion was a slow and painful process. Christianity wasn’t just something I believed . . . it was who I was! I’m a hell of a lot happier now that I was back then, of course, but the process was painful.

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    1. I think the pain gets worse when everyone around you assumes you’re just a weak quitter. It certainly made it worse for me.

      In the long run, I’m happier. But deconversion just hurts; it hurts us, our families, our faith communities.

      Wish you the best of luck in your experiences!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is a truly painful thing! Someone once said it’s like death by a 1000 paper cuts, and that’s not a bad analogy. But I’m truly happier. P.S. My girlfriend became an unbeliever before I did. So we were a “mixed couple” for a while. I was grateful that she didn’t try and push me about it all. I probably tried to do more of the gentle pushing ‘back to faith’ on her, but eventually I stopped and deconverted myself. P.P.S. Any chance of enlarging and/or darkening your blog’s font text? It’s kinda hard to read.

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  6. Oh Holly this is my fear about liberal colleges. Start pumping radical ideas into the minds of our youth and it’s very easy to walk away from God. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” Matthew 7:7. I think asking a therapist where to go is not the best solution either. A therapists job is to help YOU find your way, based on what’s inside of you. If you are lost, apart from Jesus, how can you taking with her suddenly give you clarity? The above scripture means you need to ask God. The only way to have a relationship with Him is to daily read your bible and prayer!! Once a week at church will not cut it. Life is too full in between with doubt and distance. Open that book and God will grab your heart! I think you want to have unbelief so you say but honestly I think your heart is telling you that is a lie. If you truly seek God from your bible and not from the chair of a human therapist you will find Him. Don’t base it on a professors view or your pastors or your mamas. Just you and God. He will show up.

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    1. I appreciate your response.

      However, I think you should know that I wasn’t a once a week Christian. I did daily Bible studies, I went to small group, I spoke regularly with other Christians about faith and theological issues.

      In my doubt, I prayed and cried and reached out to God. I dove into scripture, desperately hoping for some help to relieve my unbelief. That didn’t happen.

      It’s offense that you think that liberal colleges warped me. I go to the University of Mississippi, far from a liberal college. My therapist helped me process my complex and overwhelming feelings. Without her, my guilt would be eating at my soul. Professors didn’t warp me. 90% of my professors are Christians, many are deacons in their churches.

      I begged and begged and waited and waited for God to show up. He didn’t.

      But please, please, please do not assume I didn’t try enough. Just because my faith journey took a different path than yours does not mean mine is invalid or unworthy.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Cait,
      If only it was that simple! There is nothing I would like more than to be able to believe again. I was not just a cultural christian; I was all-in, with my life revolving fully around worshipping & following God. Because of that, the loss of faith is so much more painful – my center is gone. I was unbearable lonely.
      Responses like yours make us feel worse and cause us concern about speaking with believing friends & family who may blame instead of come alongside and continue to love. I understand that our loss makes you feel threatened but please be careful how you react.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. In our search for truth it is not unusual to go through a time of desolation. Even Billy Graham went through a dark time in his youth where he had to reach through the spiritual fog and persevere. But know this, Holly, that God absolutely loves you and wants a relationship with you. You will not become a believer because you come from a Christian family or by trying hard to believe. Your faith in Christ begins by choosing to enter a relationship with Christ, repenting of your sin, and choosing to follow him. You don’t have to know all the answers, just take this step of faith and Christ will reveal himself to you day by day. To think that God would send his only son to earth to live and then die for lowly man as a sacrifice for our sin has to be the most amazing gift ever given to man.

    You speak about the number of Christians on the planet being few which is true but should not be a basis for not believing since that is scripturally based as well. Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

    You say you don’t believe in Satan, demons or evil forces and you don’t hold yourself to the Biblical standard of good and evil but then you say that you have a moral compass and you still want to be a good person. So who then sets the standard for good and evil and what is good and what is evil?

    You say we exist on this planet and we affect it. I could not agree with you more since God has chosen the time in history and has even placed you where he wants your life to have purpose and make a difference in the lives of those around you. Perhaps the very process of searching you are going through right now is part of your journey to make your faith your own.

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    1. “Your faith in Christ begins by choosing to enter a relationship with Christ, repenting of your sin, and choosing to follow him. You don’t have to know all the answers, just take this step of faith and Christ will reveal himself to you day by day. ”

      I choose Jesus every day for 19 years. I walked faithfully, I prayed, I read scripture. I would cry out in prayer and in desperation. I desperately held onto my relationship with God because I wanted to keep it.

      But it isn’t a relationship if it’s one-sided. Despite my prayers, I never heard God. I never got answers. They say God answers in “yes” “no” or “maybe,” but if that’s how he answers, I’ll have no better luck praying to God than to a jug of milk. If that’s how prayer works, then literally every prayer is always answered, even those who pray to Satan rather than God.

      “You say you don’t believe in Satan, demons or evil forces and you don’t hold yourself to the Biblical standard of good and evil but then you say that you have a moral compass and you still want to be a good person. So who then sets the standard for good and evil and what is good and what is evil?”

      I look for what is kind, what is just. I don’t hold myself to arbitrary rules about sexuality and gender roles. If an act in safe, sane, and consensual, I see nothing wrong with it. I refuse to deprive others of their human rights, I believe humanism holds many guidelines that are ideal for society. Christianity isn’t the only way to morality, if it was, wouldn’t the other 5 billion people on this planet just murder rampantly? If Christianity was the key to morality, would the Ku Klax Klan so adamantly declare itself as a Christian organization (and it was treated as such until 1960s–and many continue to treat it so today).

      Frankly, many of YHWH’s actions in the Old Testament are grossly immoral. He advocates for the murder of hundreds of thousands of children simply because their parents weren’t Israelites. YHWH accepted slavery, and if a woman was raped, her rapist could buy her and take her as a wife. That’s not moral, and I won’t be called immoral by someone who says that god is just.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for your honest post, which I found through a reddit reference. I’m struggling with de-converting, or more to the point, my Christian wife of over 25 years is struggling with it. She made it clear she didn’t want to know my journey, entertain doubts, so my journey over a decade has been a solo and lonely one. When I recently told her I no longer believe, she was shattered. And may well divorce me. I try to tell her I am still the same person, but it’s like she no longer knows me. I didn’t sign up for this to end my marriage. But she will only entertain counseling if my beliefs are on the table, and, presumably, that I re-convert. I’d like to do that, to save my marriage, but if it’s not sincere, would that be any basis for moving forward?

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    1. Technically, it’s against scripture to divorce you for not believing, but scripture tends to be unimportant in these stressful moments.

      A friend and writer, Neil Carter, went through something similar. He was a devout Christian, has a divinity degree, and when he left the faith his wife divorced him.

      You always have the option to fake it, but it will eat at you. There’s no easy way to deal with this.

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  9. Yes, technically it is against scripture. I always thought that. But upon examination the admonition is far less cut and dried than I thought. 1 Corinthians 7:12, right? It (Paul) says, “I, not the Lord” says…”
    So that leaves some wiggle room.

    Here’s the weird thing; she doesn’t really know scripture very well; she doesn’t read her bible, doesn’t attend church for the last 6 years or so, we have never prayed together. By outward appearances her Christianity is not that important. But inside that black box that is her, she talks to God daily; he remains a big part of her world and her worldview. She is acting grief-stricken, fearful, sad, lonely. I really feel her pain.

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