I accepted the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into my soul one night at summer camp, mostly because all of my friends were Christians and I didn’t have a sturdy reason not to be one. I connected with the idea that I needed something bigger than myself and my parents in my life. I knew I didn’t have the drive to make myself better or purer; I was going to surrender that to God, for surely he could make me something more.
As I sat on the miniature golf course that night with one of the loveliest, most caring women I’ve ever met (from New Jersey, of all places,) I began to feel a bit swimmy and detached from my body. I cried and went through the motions of becoming a Christian, but I realized I didn’t really buy into the idea of a man sitting on a cloud, judging me. I realized I didn’t actually know jack about the Bible or my newfound religion. I just liked the people I was hanging around with and they seemed to like folks who claimed to worship Jesus. I figured I needed to learn the secret handshake to be a part of the club.
Later that summer, I was baptized in a muddy Kentucky creek, wearing a Pepsi t-shirt. My lesbian aunts were sitting in the front row of my church that Sunday, and it never really dawned on me that this religion wanted me to think that their lives were wrong. I wanted them there because this was supposed to be some sort of event. In retrospect, I should’ve been terrified of brain eating parasites lurking in the water and I should’ve made a lot more connections about how contradictory Christianity really is.
I went to church for a few years after that, most Sundays and many Wednesday nights. I liked whispering with my friends and listening to bits and pieces of the sermons. I took Communion once with two other girls my age. We all popped Jesus into our mouths too early, so He got stuck to our tongues and a thimbleful of grape juice was no help; that was my first realization that church was kind of not for me. I really, finally gave up on Sunday service when I found myself imagining a giant orgy breaking out, just to keep myself amused.
I never went back, and I never missed going. I started learning more about the Bible and I found myself less and less attached to the idea of Christianity (they don’t tell you that ALL of the books of the Bible were written years after the man called Jesus died. I feel like that really would’ve changed my opinion on a lot of what I heard.)
The first time I heard and understood the term “agnostic”, it was like a deep, steady inhale. It felt comfortable, nourishing and real. I knew I could sum up my beliefs without any contradictions: I believe there is some greater order to the universe, but I reject the version of it that I was told by people who just chose to accept what someone else told them. My religion is developing as I learn more about the science of the universe and I emotionally connect to the vast, beautiful, incredible cosmos. I’ve never needed a reason to love cosmic theory and I’ve never had to keep myself entertained while I was in the sanctuary of science (except for in college, but the wine was really just to help my roommate and I more fully appreciate our professor’s humor.)
At some point, I realized that part of my problem with Christianity is that I’m awful at playing pretend. I can’t even play act any worry that I’m constantly being watched by the dude on a cloud. I can’t surrender to a fantasy world in which I will live on forever and ever in a magical land with streets paved in gold—without any of the people I love, because they’ll all be burning in fire because they didn’t believe as hard as me. I can’t believe that my choices are more righteous than those of someone else, especially when I know that person’s “choice” wasn’t a choice at all. And I certainly can’t pretend that half of what people believe the Christian faith subsists of hasn’t been totally made up by humans along the way.
What if it is true? Well, I’ll be in hell with all the people who chose compassion, reason and consistency, plus the actual “sinners”. Sorry if you miss me, but I doubt you will.
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