I was reading Lya Kahlo’s deconversion story (it is in three parts) and quite a bit of what she says resonates with me.
One thing that kept jumping out to me was the statements to her about “trying” religion. “If you would only try this religion….” is something many deconverts, myself included, hear many, many times.
How, exactly, does one go about “trying” a religion? It is not a pair of shoes, or an electronic, that we can test out for a few days to see how it performs. We cannot decide one day, “I am going to believe Hinduism, and see how that pans out.” I understand to the Christian, they have been taught, and truly believe, that if one just starts to seek Jesus; He will sweep in and complete the task:
“Jesus, I am going to try to believe you are Go—“
“HALLELUJAH, pass the pickle juice, we got another one! Here I come, and I will now imbue you with knowledge, and enlightenment, and joy and peace, and write your Name in the Book, and don’t you worry. I will take it from here.”
To many Christians, if we aren’t also a Christian, we just didn’t take that first step. Or did it incorrectly.
I debated and lurked for an extensive time on Internet Infidels. Occasionally a new poster would appear, and say, “If only you people would try Christianity…” or “If you only would read the Bible…” We would chuckle. They didn’t realize there were ex-pastors, ex-deacons, ex-Sunday School teachers, people that had been Christians for dozens of years, all of whom had “tried” Christianity to their hardest. Or people that knew the Bible inside and out, and had read it in the original Greek or Hebrew, better than the new poster.
So what does it mean, for me, to “try” Christianity?
By intellect? Should I study the facets of the creation of the Bible, the history of the Jewish nation, the history of Palestine, canon, textual criticism, scholarly works by the best Christian philosophers? I did.
This is a humorous catch-22 for the person that tells me to “try” Christianity. 9 out of 10 people that say that, have less knowledge about Christianity than I do. In fact, it seems the more studied one is on Christianity, the less one uses the phrase, “you should ‘try’ Christianity.”
I can start listing areas in which I have studied Christianity, and soon they realize they have not performed such study. When caught in an unknown, it is often these very same people that tell me I am using “wisdom of the world” which is foolishness. Am I supposed to study, use my brain, my ability to process arguments, my ability to reason, or not?
In trying Christianity, how much knowledge is sufficient to say I have tried it, and how much becomes too much, that I have become too knowledgeable, and “leaned” on my own understanding? There is some happy medium that Christians want. Just enough to buy what they say, but not enough to question it.
By faith? Here, especially, is where they don’t get it. I did live by faith. I had no problem believing that someday we would resolve these prickly little quandaries, when we in heaven. That it was right, and any apparent contradictions we had were a result of insufficient intelligence as compared to God.
When I took my first steps (not knowing it at the time) toward deconversion, it was not out of doubt, or lack of faith. Quite the opposite. I saw a group of atheists that, sadly, did not know any better, and with a little courtesy, some explanation, and some prayer, I could better inform them of the reality of the Christian life. I had no idea, and would have scoffed anyone that said they could drag me into their belief system. My faith was tested, and not at issue.
I “tried” Christianity by faith for 35 years. I never once, in that time, questioned its viability. Issues within Christianity—yes. But the overall premise? Never.
How long is “long enough”? How much faith is necessary to say, “Yep. That fellow tried it.” Was I to go for 45 years? 55 years? 100 years? If someone tells me that I need to try having more faith, I would wonder how I could possibly go about doing so.
By Experience? I had mountain top experiences. Moments where I could swear I almost heard an audible voice of God. Where I felt as if my entire body was infused with God’s presence. I saw what I thought were miracles. Healings that could not be explained. Events that were far beyond coincidences that must have required a God to come about.
Yet, I have reviewed other faiths. Faiths that I was taught were in the wrong God. A God they had made up in their mind. A faith that was attributing events as miracles that were not. What made my miracles any different? What made my experiences any more viable? When comparing them, I realized that there are too many self-imposed beliefs that are incorrect, for me to arrogantly assume mine, and only mine were correct.
I will admit I have never spoke in tongues. Due to my non-charismatic practice, I never had the opportunity. Is that it? Was that the key? Should I “try” to speak in tongues, and this would make it click? I haven’t cast out demons, drank poison or been bitten by snakes. All of which many Christians would claim as an experience.
What experiences must I try, before I can officially say, I have “tried” Christianity.
This is one of those pat phrases that people toss off—“try Christianity” without really thinking through the implications. How? What steps must I take? Or by even asking what steps, have I blown it already. What should I study? What should I not? What should I put faith in? What not? How do I measure faith to determine it was enough? What experiences do I need to qualify as trying out a religion?
And have Christians done this themselves. No, I am not talking some radical change to “try” Buddhism, or agnosticism, or Hinduism. But have they tried Liberal Christianity? Have they “tried” to view the Bible as non-literal? As non-inerrant? Have they ‘tried” other brands of acceptable Christianity?
If so, I would be curious as to how they “tried it” and what I would have to equally do (that I did not earlier) to try Christianity.