I really enjoy reading Peter Enn’s excellent blog “Rethinking Biblical Christianity”. He recently issued a blog inquiry about what the biggest challenge has been for his readers in maintaining their Christian faith and intellectual integrity – simultaneously. Here is my response:
The biggest challenge for me has been the personal psychological harm I have faced from fundamentalist “Christian” teachings. It took me a long time to realize that my religion was damaging me. I was anxiety ridden and plagued with a plethora of stress-related health disorders. Not being one to sit around and meekly surrender myself to “the will of God” (being sick), I decided to research and research I did. This was also motivated by the fact that nearly everyone around me (in my fundie isolationist world) was also suffering from anxiety and other stress related physical ailments. What I discovered was that the fear mongering, constant guilt, misogynist control, hatred of the outside world, judgementalism, self-degradation, etc that is promoted in fundamentalist circles was creating a fear-based theological mindset that was placing me under an extreme amount of psychological stress. This led to digestive and skin disorders, CFS, adrenal malfunction, ect. So I researched. I acknowledged. Then I fled.
Realizing your faith is destroying you can cause a great deal of cognitive dissonance. It has been hard to hold on to God during all this. I had to come to the conclusion that evangelical Christianity has it all wrong. I had to look to Jesus and see that he came to set things straight and show us what God is really like.
My story is much longer and more detailed than this, but over the course of the last 3 years I have transformed my life and become, in the eyes of most of my “friends”, a heretic. I had to give up certain doctrines that no longer made logical sense now that I had given up on forcefully mentally back filing all the difficult questions that hung back in the recesses of my mind. I had to deal with them. Life had left me know choice. Wrestle with the big questions or die (spiritually AND perhaps physically) were you are now.
I could not longer believe in a God who torments people for all eternity in hell. I could no longer believe in biblical inerrancy. Did God really condone slavery, misogyny, and mass genocide? I saw clearly that fundamentalists are some of meanest, most selfish people on the face of the earth – and I had been one of them. I now understood the damage I had done to my children by applying “Christian” methods of child training.
At times I have even questioned whether God even existed. But I remember times in my life when I had such clear and miraculous answers to prayers that I cannot deny he exists and he loves me. I remember those times and I keep clinging to the remnants of my faith. I hope to someday build a faith that does not deny logic, reason, common sense, and human compassion. I hope to know God better and discover that he is so much greater and loving than we ever imagined him to be.
And I am no longer sick. No more migraines, massive food allergies, panic attacks, anxiety, and chronic depression. Now I have the freedom to question and to search for answers. I have found my way out of the darkness of fundamentalism and I am journeying towards a reasonable faith that does not destroy its adherents.