One of the things that my future son does that annoys me is that he tells people (and us) that he sees visions of the future. This is usually tied directly into his belief in ghosts and the supernatural. Almost every vision has to do with something he wants and dreams of having. Last night he mentions another "vision" he had and then asks if I believe in visions. This is a hard one to answer, I told him. Because I don't want to downplay what you believe, but I also think that there are rational explanations to visions. So I told him about how I used to experience dreams and visions, some about the future. And I believed that God must have sent those dreams and visions to me. I lied to people about how they were from god when a part of me always knew that I had just come up with it in my imagination or that it was just a dream. Yet, when I began to analyze them, even when I was still a Christian, I began to question them. I was surrounded by religion as a child, we talked about heaven and hell all the time. Is it any wonder that I would have dreams about heaven? I also have a very active imagination and my church talked about the end times all the time. Is it any wonder that I would imagine scenarios about the end times? No. In fact, I wouldn't expect anything less.
My biggest issue with visions, I told him, is that I have never seen one come true. My mom prays all the time and tells me about things she saw that she believes God showed her. Her "visions" always seem to align with what she wants and most of the time they don't come true. You would think someone with a low batting average for correctly prophesying would stop after a while, but the rationale simply isn't there. "My mom and her friend told everyone that the other woman's cheating husband was going to come back to her. They prayed for three days and believed that this is what God told them. And they were wrong. Really wrong. He ended up marrying the lady he cheated with, had another child with her, and has been happily married for almost twenty years now." This, I finally told him, is when I began to question people having visions and talking to God. They can't all be talking to God, because everyone is coming up with completely different things. Catholics. Protestants. Jews. Evangelicals. The people who claim to see visions of the end times have been wrong. Every. Single. Time. In the end, there are many mysteries in this world and I would love to know the answers to them and will continually seek out an answer. Maybe that answer will lead me to a god, but I will only accept that answer based on evidence. I am no longer filling in the blank of a mystery with GOD.
I encouraged him to write down his visions in as much detail as possible and date them. Convoluted Confuscisms are not good enough. Evidence that his visions are real will show itself in time. If he believes that he is actually having visions and that it isn't a product of wishful thinking, an active imagination, or a desire to impress other people; this could be the evidence the world needs. But, I reminded him, so far there is no such evidence. Not a single person among the billions of people on this planet have been able to prove that human beings can have regular true visions from a deity. And even if you can prove that you are having visions of the future, that does not prove the existence of any one god. All it proves is that somehow you are seeing visions of the future. "And I must warn you," I told him. "This is how new religions and cults start. One leader claiming they can do something that no one else can. Convincing others. And then shaping religion to match whatever crazy notions of enlightenment they have come up with."
I'm not sure how this kid got so caught up in all this supernatural beliefs as it seems rather contrary to what his bio mom taught him, but he is obsessed. To the point where we won't allow him to watch horror films or shows. Don't want to provide him with more imagination fodder. Frankly, it's like he is a small child. Sure, there are plenty of adults who believe in ghosts, but most don't have a panic attack when they hear a noise they don't recognize.
Last night he sat down on the couch and the light flickered. He immediately freaked out. Jumped up, came running into our bedroom with fear in his eyes. My husband gave him a withering look and said, "Dude, your powers of deductions are terrible. You should look for natural explanations before immediately jumping to supernatural." He then showed him that there was a power strip that sits against the back of the couch. (I hate that it is there as it IS a fire hazard) When he sat down hard, the plug connected to the lamp moved a bit, which made the light flicker. "It also could have been a bulb going bad, a criss-crossed wire, the power strip failing or being shut off, or the lamp breaking since it was only $5. You need to analyze these things better." Coming from my god-believing husband, this was accepted. We have assured this kid multiple times that our apartment really really isn't haunted. My husband absolutely believes in ghosts and even he is like...kid, this place is unbelievably supernatural free. But this kid has an imagination and he will not be deterred.
I just hope that we have given him some things to think about. That he begins to really analyze the things he believes and quits jumping on the supernatural bandwagon every time a light flickers or he starts daydreaming.
When I tell people that I grew up in a very conservative Evangelical fundamentalist Christian home, I don't think people really understand what that means. "Imagine the Duggers," I say, "but without the clothing restrictions." Which isn't entirely true, because my mother had long hair and only wore dresses for a good decade. Yesterday, during Easter my dad reminded me of something that I should start telling people instead.
My parents believe that Adam & Eve were real people who fathered an entire race of people. Because young earth creationism does not have enough time to allow for adaptation or evolution within our species, my dad believes that Eve was popping out babies that were of different ethnicities. "Don't you think Eve was a bit surprised by that?" he asked yesterday while sitting on the porch. "I mean, first she has an Asian baby and then she has a black baby. And none of them looked anything like their parents because God gave them all extremely unique genetic codes in order to not have inbreeding." He knows that I don't believe this. My response was simply, "That's an interesting way of looking at it." It's not like I haven't heard this before folks. I used to believe it too. Additionally, my parents also believe that animals used to be able to talk. The evidence? Well, Adam & Eve weren't surprised that the snake talked to them, which means it must have been normal...therefore animals used to talk. Yeah.
It's crazy. There is absolutely no evidence of either of these things being true. The only reason these things are even considered is because, if you believe in a literalist interpretation of the Bible, you have to do these mental gymnastics in order to make everything line up to the world as we know it. My dad thinks that in the times of Noah the people were actually an advanced civilization, which is how Noah was able to build that giant ark. He had power tools. Seriously.
And you think that you can reason with these people? You think that by putting out evidence they will change their minds? These people live in a world that uses science only when necessary and explains the world only through the narrow lens of a literalist interpretation of the Bible. And some of you wonder why I don't tell them I am an atheist.
"Was church just silly to you?"
Of all the comments I have received on this blog, this is one that really stuck out to me. There is an assumption here, that by me having issues with the church, Christians, Christianity, or the Bible, that church was somehow just a game to me. That I never took it seriously. It straddles the fence of heading towards a 'No-True-Scotsman' fallacy, where the questioner wonders if you were ever very serious about it. Because if you weren't, then that would explain your lack of faith.
For the record, church, Christianity, and God were my life for a very long time. As a child I attended church three days a week (more if there was a revival on), went to a private Christian school, volunteered, helped my parents with children's church, sang on the children's choir, and in the church theater group. I had no friends who weren't Christians. The only people I knew who weren't were relatives who we prayed for every single evening at the dinner table. My family also did a daily devotional at dinner time and we were expected to pray at night when we went to bed and in the morning when we sent my dad off to work. On the regular my mother anointed our house with oil. We listened to only Christian radio and music and didn't own a television. I didn't like the no television bit, but I understood it all. And I took all of it very seriously and believed in all of it too.
As a teenager I attended not one but two youth groups. I continued to volunteer at a local soup kitchen with my church and started going on short-term mission trips. I graduated as an 'Honor Star' after a rigorous program and then did another program right after so that I could teach at my church. I taught my first Sunday School class at sixteen. I witnessed to people, attended protests, and was quite fearful of wordly outside influences. My parents discouraged anything in the STEM field because they didn't believe Christians could be scientists and still have their faith intact by the end. At seventeen I left my parents church because I wanted to be taken more seriously and treated as an adult. Within a year I was on the intercessory prayer group before church and was teaching a children's Sunday School class. I took this responsibility and devotion to God very seriously.
In my early twenties I moved churches because I was lonely. All the people my age were gone, there were no small groups, no young person's group, and the pastor kept forgetting my name...even though his daughter was in my class. So I moved short-term to a big friendly church in a converted warehouse. This church taught me that flashing lights and fancy chairs don't make up for a pastor with no seminary training and people who were more worried about appearing holy than being loving. Luckily that church was short-lived as I moved far away to Boston. There I sought out what I thought a church should be: diverse, community-oriented, generous, with trained pastors, and full of people who want to deal with some of the hard stuff of life. I found a wonderful church that met all of that. Despite going to school full-time and working full-time, I still found time to volunteer, help with sound on Sundays, and join a small group. I made some wonderful lasting friendships and visit with those people even now. I took all of this very seriously.
When I returned to the south after graduating, I was dismayed to find that my church in Boston was rather unique. I could find churches with trained pastors, but no outreach. Churches that focused on outreach, but weren't diverse. At all. Churches that were generous, but never tackled the hard stuff. Community-oriented, but without trained pastors. I settled for a church that said they were interested in getting into missions and outreach, even though they weren't currently doing so. I joined both teams and help organize a mission trip to the Dominican Republic as well as serving food to the homeless. This ministry still exists and my mother now volunteers with them every Monday. These things mattered to me. I spent a lot of time and effort helping form these groups and leading these groups. Oh and money, don't forget the money. No, this was very serious to me.
In my late-twenties, I moved to another city. Time to church shop again. I found a little church that partnered with people in the community, the pastor was trained, and the people were generous. No missions trips, but I was okay with that. I was starting to have some mixed feelings about short-term missions anyway. I sang on the worship team, was in two small groups, and when I met my husband, began dragging him to small groups too. One of my small group leaders wrote our reference for our adoption paperwork. It was here that I began to really investigate and confront my doubts. It wasn't because of the church that I had these doubts either, although I certainly began examining the sermons in a way I never had before. As I have stated before, despite all my issues with the church, my problem had to do with the Bible itself. And here's the thing, even when I finally admitted to myself that I no longer believed, I continued to go to that church for several more months because of the commitments that I had made. Because I took it seriously.
Church for me, was never silly. It was a place where I could be silly, but the institution itself never was. The church was where I made friends, how I volunteered, where I sought recharges to my faith, a source of enlightenment and soul-searching. I have spent a great deal of time within the walls of a church, believing in what was being taught and bettering myself within a community of believers. One of the hardest things about not being in the church now is that I am having to learn how to make friends. Before, my friends were people in the various groups I was a part of. Many were friends of convenience, but I enjoyed spending time with them. Now, I have to find friends in places that feel rather unnatural. Talking to a stranger at a friend's birthday party, at a community event, at a writing group. To most people who weren't so wrapped up in the church, this may be a duh, but for me, it's a whole different world.
And I still think the church is a pretty serious place. I take them seriously, because they seem to have a lot of sway over people. More and more they are having a sway on our government. I attended a lot of churches that told people to love out of one side of their mouths, while degrading divorcees, feminists, the promiscuous, homosexuals, and anything or anyone else they deemed sinful. One of my good friends still attends a church that states that only a chosen elect will get into to heaven, even amongst Christians. Another posts quotes from her pastor that state that the end times are coming and has quite literally begun a stockpile of canned goods for her heathen neighbors for after the rapture, because they are going to need it. Another believes her mental illness was magically cured by a weekend retreat, because the woman at the retreat told her she was healed. I DO have some issues with the church, but I had these issues with the church even when I was a believer. These issues didn't appear when I started to doubt, nor did they bring on the doubt.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.