At first it was that one nagging thought. Religion is how mankind chooses to fill in the gaps where God has been unclear. That’s an awful lot of space to fill. What is the probability that one religion somehow managed to get all the answers right?
Doubt has a bad reputation, but it is the beginning of every idea that has ever evolved. We may brush it off the first hundred, maybe thousand times it nudges us. Even if we are brave enough to seek out more clues to confirm our suspicions, we will desperately hope the clues take us back to the familiar path. Because for a very long time (and maybe forever) we will only want to feel sure again.
There is something unique among those of us who have lost a very strong faith in God. Once upon a time, I was willing to die for my faith. I made difficult changes in my life for God. Doubt was not an option. And my daily ability to bury those nagging thoughts and desires was a victory over false worldly knowledge and Satan himself.
A believer wants to believe. A faithful Christian will exhaust all resources before giving in to doubt. How can you accept being wrong about the biggest truth of your life? It is a serious identity crisis that is met with intense internal resistance. Imagine planning your entire future around someone you love more than yourself, only to discover that maybe they never even existed. Never existed! Every “maybe” is a severe betrayal to your very real God until you are confident of his absence. It takes more faith for a Christian to doubt than to believe.
It is a rough road to the point of no return. For me, I needed to know the complete story of why Christians are so sure. What did the beginning of Christianity really look like? Who were the people, what were the debates, and how did they come to their conclusions? Would I have come to the same conclusions? Every path led me to more evidence of human error. So much so, that one thing became undeniable. If there is a god, I know nothing about him. Or her. Or it. And after months of faithful prayer for guidance on this journey, this is where I landed.
There will be other believers who try and catch you as you fall from grace, but the distance between them and you becomes too great. They will offer argument after argument as if you hadn’t already carefully sought out every possible angle on your own. If those arguments were not enough while you were desperate to believe, they can be of no use at all now. Believers cannot imagine a world without God, while you are finally understanding how a world without God means anything is possible. And their steadfast ability to never wonder about more? Well, that has more to do with fear than with faith. But you cannot tell them that. You traveled a long way before you could understand it yourself.
The feeling that God doesn’t exist is stronger than the feeling I once had that he was all around me. I know a person can feel both of these things, and that neither of them are proof of anything. I believe there is no god, but I also acknowledge that there is an incredible amount of information unavailable to me. I find comfort in knowing that I will never have all the answers. Because when you didn’t know that before, it becomes its own answer.
But I didn’t just lose God. I lost eternity.
For a long time, that’s what I was afraid of. Who wouldn’t be? I used to be immortal. Don’t you think I fought to stay that way? Back then I could not have imagined more complicated definitions of immortality, or that God had been obstructing my view of such a beautiful world. I almost blew it. I was sacrificing this life for a next life I would never own. I knew I had free will, but I didn’t understand what freedom was until I released myself from God’s control. The same control that used to bring me relief. Now I see there are better coping strategies for loss, for death, and for making sense of the world. Strategies where the pieces fit easily.
The bible doesn’t promise immortality on our terms, anyway. Every tear will be wiped away as our old self disappears- which means there is no mourning in heaven. We won’t miss our friends and family who went to hell because we won’t know who they are anymore. Christians are promised eternity as a new life form, surrounded by like-minded elites with no other desire than to worship forever and ever at the feet of the god who created us as his unworthy image. The same god who will hand out eternal torture to murderers and child molesters (unless they repent), and to those who simply couldn’t solve the belief riddle quickly enough.
And there each of us will be, worshiping or burning without ceasing for all eternity. Apparently we were created to live out our short lives on earth in passionate pursuit of the lesser of those two evils…. but god, I hope not. It sounds like the plot of a horror movie. Is it really so terrible to imagine no god? Or that death brings nothing at all?
Some of you will agree, and some of you will actually be devastated for me. But some of you will be cruel. Why? Because belief in God still reigns supreme. If God exists for most of us, then a majority of us still equate doubt with an influence of the devil. To carry doubt is to carry a weapon against the faithful, who in turn will respond as if they are under attack. And the believer who turns her back on God is the worst among us. That’s me.
I am not announcing the death of God. I am only declaring that I am a human being with limited knowledge on the workings of the universe. I am admitting that I do not know more about the unknown than anyone else knows. I am confessing that for me, God has been silent. The gaps remain an uncertainty. My evidence points to a God who either does not exist, or who is so beyond my understanding that I don’t know how to respond to it. And it makes no sense that I should feel guilty for being unsure about one of the greatest mysteries of all.
Some Christians stopped reading as soon as they identified me as an agent of doubt back in paragraph three. They will simplify me into this role of the damned as if I weren’t even a real person anymore. They never wonder if they have been led to wrong conclusions about eternity, and they are too busy congratulating themselves to be of any use to the unsaved. Was I ever one of them? I spent years feeling guilty about the unsaved. Now that the unsaved also cease to exist for me, I no longer have questions about right and wrong. Or good and evil. I have no burden to find a way to make the bible fit with what my heart knows is right.
I also have no fear of doubt. It means there is no end to discovery; although at times I do feel disappointed that I was born too early for the things future generations will know. I want to know those things, too. I guess we all have our moments of secretly wishing we could live in the end times, or still embrace immortality. All of my searching has resulted in the loss of religion down to zero. But I am happy to be here, in a place I haven’t seen since I was a child. I am back at the beginning. Where the possibilities are endless.