Kickin' it old school

I have no idea why, but for some reason I wanted to listen to Jars of Clay tonight. Their style is so completely opposite to the stuff I listen to now, but I had listened to them often during my teen years, and it just so happens that the peak of their popularity in the 90s were my most fervent years as a Christian. I might be a metalhead now, but for most of my teens I was all about the trendy acoustic pop rock.

Anyway, I listened to some of their old stuff courtesy of MySpace, which apparently still exists. It just got me reflecting on my whole experience – I went from being indifferent about religion to being incredibly passionate about it. I didn't even like the word "religion"; it was a relationship with God. But some things started bugging me. Questions that demanded answers. And as my search for those answers left me even more confused, I became disillusioned. I felt my faith slipping away, and I didn't know how to save it. I was doing everything I could think to do – I read C.S. Lewis, R.C. Sproul, and had numerous conversations with a chaplain who was a friend of the family's. I tore through the Bible, reading it for hours every day, trying to find answers. But the searching just exacerbated the problems, as every "answer" – whether from scripture or from theologians – was transparently shallow, only raising more questions. The truth slowly revealed itself, and as I realized that everything I'd believed in was a lie, I was terrified. How would I live? How would I find meaning in my life? How would I get through tough times? What about my social life, since almost all my friends were in the church? I remember forcing myself to pray, in the vain hope that I could somehow find my faith again – but by then the absurdity of it all was too clear to wish away.

It's strange now, because when I saw the genre label "Christian" on Jar of Clay's MySpace page, I almost felt sorry for them. To be steeped in such ignorance, to believe in such vacuous myths – and worst of all, to have their very identities defined by them. I would never try to lure someone to atheism by promising them happiness – blissful ignorance and appeals to baser emotions are the calling cards of religious faith. Nonetheless, I'm far happier as an atheist than I ever was as a Christian. I have a thirst for knowledge and a love of science that only now can I see was hopelessly impaired when I had the "God goggles" on. My sense of morality and personal responsibility has deepened, my life has become more meaningful, and I'm far more appreciative of the short time I have here.

Most of all though, I feel intellectually liberated. I had spent a tremendous amount of energy conjuring up rationalizations to defend my faith, even from my own doubts. But I now know that no idea is sacred. The walls of knowledge we have exist only to be torn down and rebuilt over and over again. We simply cannot know anything of absolute truth – it's beyond our capacity as human beings. I, for one, take that as a good thing. It's not scary to admit you don't have it all figured out – that's how you start growing. 

Losing my faith was one of the scariest, most emotionally trying times of my life. But I'm glad I got through it. I'm glad I had the courage to question my faith from the standpoint of an outsider – a skeptic demanding evidence – instead of letting my emotions get the better of me. I'm glad that I chose the truth over a comforting delusion. Since my apostasy, I've met many others like me, both personally and across the interwebs. Our stories are unique, but we each share the sense of being free from the shackles of faith – by its very definition, belief without evidence. And we all know that once your mind has been set free, there's no turning back.

"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." – Richard Dawkins


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