Into the Jungle, Part II: Fear and Trembling

I was taught that once a person was old enough to understand the basic gospel message, that person needed to “be baptized for the remission of sins.” Had to be total immersion in water, had to be with full understanding of what sin is and a desire to repent, had to be in Jesus’ name. God is apparently very picky about these things.

Given how important one’s state of mind is to this whole process, I didn’t want to do it until I was sure I was really on board with the whole belief system. The thing is, I often found myself thinking the whole story didn’t make a lot of sense and seemed to be at odds with observable reality. I would occasionally ask questions about the parts that just didn’t compute, but those questions were rarely well-received. The clear, unspoken message was a simple one: shut up and believe. Continue reading

Into the Jungle, Part I: Baby Steps

This is a series I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. I started this blog, in large part, because I wanted an outlet for all of the random thoughts in my head, many of which concern the religion I grew up with and the problems I now see in it. What I haven’t done yet, however, is tell my story. It’s not like everyone who leaves religion does so for the same reasons, after all, and I think knowing my background and how I got here provides a lot of helpful context for the things I’m saying now.

Just to be clear, this series is not intended to be persuasive. I’m not preaching, and I’m not defending my position. That doesn’t mean I don’t welcome comments or discussion (I absolutely do!), or that I won’t take a more argumentative approach at other times. It’s just that my purpose in this particular series is not to convince anyone of anything. It’s not meant to be anything more than a narrative.

I remember the first time I really doubted the existence of God. I was about five years old, and I was sitting in church. At that age, I was allowed to bring coloring books and crayons to keep myself occupied during the sermon, but I knew I was supposed to bow my head and close my eyes during the prayers. A prayer had just started, and I had dutifully stopped coloring and adopted an appropriately reverential pose. Continue reading

Random Thought

Sometimes my brain likes to play hooky and wander off into truly bizarre territory. I’m hoping it will settle down and get back to work if I post this.

Growing up in the Church of Christ, we were taught that being baptized was absolutely essential to salvation. (We had answers to the thief on the cross issue, but the unofficial answer seemed to be don’t bring it up because it pisses people off.) If you didn’t get dunked, you couldn’t go to heaven.

We also, of course, knew Mark 3:29:

but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.

So, here’s a hypothetical scenario for you. Pretend that you are a devout Church of Christ member, and someone you really care about has not been baptized. You think that person may come around, but it hasn’t happened yet. Someone holds a gun to that person’s head, and he tells you that if you don’t blaspheme against the holy spirit, he’ll kill your unbaptized friend. Continue reading

Christmas Trees and Chocolate Bunnies

Tomorrow, for the first time in my life, I will not go to church on Easter Sunday. Even during and after college, when my church attendance was somewhat sporadic, I always went on Easter. Because, you know, it’s freaking Easter. You get more demerits if you skip church on Easter than any other Sunday. Or something. I don’t know; I just knew I really needed to go. Continue reading

What Did I Do to Deserve This?

One day, when I was a teenager, my mom was talking about a woman from our church who had cancer. Mom was saying that this woman’s faith was admirable, that she never questioned God or allowed her suffering to dampen her spirits. This subject of conversation led to her saying something particularly memorable:

“I figure if I’m not suffering at all, it means I’m doing something wrong. It must mean Satan is already sure he has me, so he doesn’t feel like he has to try anymore.” Continue reading