LOSING MY RELIGION
English 102 – Essay and Research
Monday, June 18, 2012
I rarely went to church as a young child. I would go to vacation bible school, Easter sunrise service, and a few other occasional services. I didn’t have a church home; we would go from church to church, denomination to denomination. As a small child religion was just something we did and not something we believed. That all changed in the seventh grade. I was invited to a new church and it became my life. I was highly involved in the church until my freshman year of college, where a bout of depression changed my life yet again. Since that time I have lost all faith that I formally have and have become agnostic.
In my high school years I was very active in the church. I had full and unwavering faith in the existence of the one true God. I believed that I could feel him in my life and that he was helping me get thru my day to day existence. I attended church at least three times each week; I was a member of a missions team going to inner city Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Dayton; I would listen only to religious music; read my bible and pray several times each day. I was a very active Christian and believed that it was the way that everyone needed to live their lives. I would take any chance I was given to try to convert someone to Christianity. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolved around the church camp where I worked as a lifeguard and around time spent with my church friends. When I was a young child I wanted to be a police officer just like my uncle. Church changed that and I decided I wanted to become a pastor. I went off to Bible College in Springfield, MO to train. Shortly after arriving I began to suffer from depression. I didn’t want to go to class, and as time went on the depression worsened. I stopped going to class and to chapel all together, I stopped hanging with friends and going to work. Eventually I even stopped showering, eating, or getting out of bed for any reason. The only thing I wanted to do with my life was sleep every day. One week the only time I got out of bed was to use the restroom. My roommate went to the administration out of concern for my wellbeing. I remind you that I was attending a Bible College. This is a College that exists for the sole purpose of training pastors, counselors, and other leaders of the church. The response to my depression was not to attempt to get me the medical attention that I so desperately needed, it was not to provide me with counseling or any other type of help. The response was to determine that I was unfit for ministry and to kick me out of school and the church. I was 710 miles from home, they not only kicked me out but they did it immediately. I was made homeless by the one group of people who should know how to handle someone with depression. It was going to be over a week until I could secure transportation home, and the college was aware of this. Some of my friends snuck me back on campus to their dorm room so that I would not be out on the street. They ended up getting punished by the college for their “crime.” This is how I lost my faith. How could men and women of a just God ignore such basic needs? I do not fault my friends, because we were all young and did not know better, but the administrators with their degrees in psychology and counseling. They should have recognized my symptoms and gotten me the help that I needed. This is how I lost my faith. While I made my decision a little later in life than others, I was far from alone. As demonstrated in the chart below from “A Longitudinal Study of Religious Identity and Participation During Adolescence” by Lopez, Huynh, and Fuligni
As you can see Christian individuals of European decent that practice their religion decreases almost in half from the 10th grade until the end of 12th grade.
Today I find myself embracing Agnosticism. As an Agnostic, I do not believe in the existence of a higher power. I also do not believe that myself, nor any other person, can prove the existence or nonexistence of a god. I know that when I was a teen I “felt” the presence of God. Today I believe that I was young and naive. The Christian church teaches that having faith like a child is the only way to enter the kingdom of heaven. As an adult I sometimes wonder sometimes if my intellect is what is keeping me from having that faith. I know all the apologetics and the arguments that the church teaches to overcome my intellectual reasoning and I think they totally fall flat. One such example is Pascal’s wager. Pascal was a mathematician and a philosopher from the 17th century believed that if you take a look at the pros and cons of believing in God, the smart betting man would believe. His thought was that if you believe in God, and he does not exist, you have lost nothing at all. If he does in fact, exist the non believer then finds himself faced with eternal damnation. I have several problems with this wager. First off is the fact that if God is real, he would not be fooled by someone who believed just because he was playing the odds. There is no way for a rational person to simply choose to believe. A rational person would choose to believe what is most likely, not what may be most lucrative. Secondly, by believing in a lie the non-believer is giving up a significant portion of his time, and money to the church of his own free will. Thirdly even if one decides that one should believe in God, which God should one choose? Pascal himself was making the argument to try to get people to believe in the Catholic Church. Many Protestants believe that Catholics are hell bound. If I were to choose Catholicism and the Protestants were correct I would still be damning myself to eternal hell.
Organized religion is big business. It is a big tax exempt business. Most churches exist for the good of the community; most church leaders are in the business to help others. It takes money to run the programs that the churches provide, and the pastors deserve to be compensated for their time, but we need to call a spade a spade. Churches sell a product just like any other business. Churches sell faith; they sell it at a cost of 10% of your income every week. According to Charity.com in 2006 $93.2 billion was given to churches in the United States alone. This is almost $300 per man, woman, or child living in the United States. While the church does have programs that provide for the needs of others, it should be sold that way. Instead churches are selling eternal life in exchange for believe in a deity and following his commands; the command to provide your tithe, the command to recruit others to join the church, and the command to volunteer your time in service. In “Earthly Empires” William Symonds writes about how the leaders of big churches are great marketers or branding whizzes saying “so successful are some evangelicals that they’re opening up branches like so many Home Depots or subways” (545.) When I attended Bible College I took a class in church planting. Now that I have returned to college to get my business degree, I was amazed by how similar to that class my marketing and sales classes are.
Organized religion has its place in this country and in this culture. There is no denying that. The church can do a lot of good. It helps to feed, cloth, and care for the poor and elderly. The Church helps to care for the emotional health of many. However the Church has no place in my life. I know that for some the church is a social refuge, a place that they feel that they are needed and belong. I satisfy those needs in other ways. I hold no ill will to people of faith. I just believe their faith is misplaced.
Chairty Choices.com. Chairty Choices.com. 2012. 21 July 2012 <http://www.charitychoices.com/chargive.asp>.
Lopez A, Huynh V, Fuligni A. A Longitudinal Study of Religious Identity and Participation During Adolescence. Child Development [serial online]. July 2011;82(4):1297-1309. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 30, 2012.
Symonds, William C.. "Earthly Empires." The Blaire Reader. Ed. Kirszener, Laurie G. and Ed. Mandell, Stephen R.7th. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2011. 545. Print.