These are some of the things that people encounter upon leaving Christianity. The questions are endless, the loss impossibly painful. Some of us are rejected straight out by family and friends. Some are harassed in the name of evangelism. Christianity says that you can't leave. Leaving means burning in hell forever. (Or, if you're Calvinist, you don't even have a choice, saved or not whether you like it or not.) Leaving is unthinkable. Leaving means losing everything that makes life worth living. Leaving means losing your community, your support, maybe even your job. The whole system is arranged in such a way that leaving isn't even a choice for many.
They try to beg you, reason with you, using not reason but emotional manipulation. "How can you do this to yourself, to your family? Aren't you afraid of hell? Don't you care about your children's eternal souls? Don't you care about how this makes the church look? If you leave, we can no longer be your friends; you cannot be part of our family, God says so. We must now treat you like an unbeliever." Excommunication, rejection, anger, irrational cliches.
Do they really think these tactics will make us want to stay?
People will come up with all sorts of reasons why you must be apostate.
"You just never knew the real God."
"You weren't saved in the first place."
"You are deceived by Satan. You love your flesh more than God."
"You just want to live a sinful life."
"If you only knew God the way I do, the REAL God, you could never leave him."
If I had a dime for every time someone told me that last one, every time they said "that isn't God, this is God" and pointed in another direction, a way I've probably already been, I'd be rich. You can only be told so many times that the God that hurt you, the church that rejected you, is not the real God and the real people of God because eventually you realize that all gods are made in the image of men and all humans are human no matter how other they claim to be.
I need people to understand something. You don't have a formula for why I walked away from your faith. From MY faith. You cannot justify to yourself some way that I am different, some way that I was broken that you are not, some way I got it wrong, in order to feel secure that you got it right. It's difficult to fathom when you've been taught that if you do xyz, you will be saved forever that someone could do xyz and yet not be saved. I get it. I was you once and I didn't understand and it was scary and I read all the cliches that supposedly explained what was wrong with the apostate that could never be wrong with me. Yet.....here I am. And there you are. And you can try with the best of them to continue to figure out "what went wrong" but your answers will never be satisfactory. Because they will not be true. There is no formula that can keep your faith intact. I realize that according to all the rules, I was not supposed to happen. I've also come to realize the rules are broken, not me, and they lie. I know this doesn't fit into the Christian paradigm. I don't fit. That's OK by me. But someday people are going to have to stop hiding behind their paradigm with all the answers that dismiss everyone who doesn't fit, and start addressing the hard problems that just won't go away and that they don't have answers to.
The truth is that sometimes people wake up and they know something isn't right and they change. It can be sudden or it can be gradual, but it happens. They wake up and they realize they swallowed a lie and life is not what they thought and they can't keep going on pretending that if they just keep on trying, maybe it will work out the way they were told it would. This can happen to anyone, I am not special or unique or flawed. I am human, just like you. No one is exempt from such awakening. It's a choice that we make to continue to live with cognitive dissonance that grows ever worse until we shut down parts of our hearts and minds to stop it and just keep doing and believing what we are told, what is safe. It's also a choice to choose to walk through a door that is scary and foreign but that is honest and true to ourselves. I have chosen the latter. And, for me, that means walking away from belief in god. For some of my friends, it meant re-defining who god is and what that means for them, and I respect that. I hope they find peace in that. I cannot. I've tried. It's dishonest for me.
Please, on behalf of all my ex-Christian friends I beg you, stop trying to save us. It feels very dismissing and disrespectful. I know it's your reaction based on fear that we will rot in hell, but it's a hell that men made to control people's behavior and I reject it. You must believe me when I tell you that there is nothing you can say to me that I haven't heard and probably once said to someone else. The childhood religious indoctrination was complete. There is no scripture you can quote that I don't have memorized. You cannot out-Bible an ex-fundamentalist. You cannot out-Christian-cliche me. I know my Bible better than most pastors. I know the hymns by heart. I was a worship leader. I know every nuance and flavor of Christian culture quite intimately. I know the Greek and Hebrew words. I know the apologetics and the proof-texts and the sermons and the doctrines and all the "right" answers to everything. I was fervent and devoted and loved Jesus with the best of them. You cannot dismiss me by a wave of your hand and a proclamation of "you were never saved". I was the saved of the saved. I was on fire. And now I have seen differently and changed my mind.
Without Christianity, I am free. I have no desire to go back into that damaging bondage.
This is not a decision that I, that any of us, take lightly. It is insulting to my intelligence that you would think it's "a reaction" to my past. It's true there's an emotional component to my choice. I am an emotional being. But I am also rational and the two are not mutually exclusive. I know what I am doing. Can you please take me on my word at that?
For those of you walking the same path, I want you to know you're not alone. There are resources out there for you. Here are a few that have helped me:
Journey Free~ Religious Trauma Syndrome
Recovering From Religion
Celebrate the journey. Life is precious and far more valuable than I ever imagined. Drink it up. Love much. Pursue your passions. Leave a legacy. Write your story. Love others regardless of their religious beliefs. Peace be with you on your journey.