It is natural in life for a person to go through many changes, may that be in appearance, preference in music, dreams and even in their beliefs. I, myself, have gone through a whole host of changes in identity and preference. A change in belief, may it be in Santa Claus, religion, or spirituality, is a common part in a person's life. I grew up in a Buddhist-Christian household, but for a long time I wasn't in touch with religion. In my early and mid- teen years I become very involved in Christianity and all things Jesus related. I wore my cross necklace religiously (pun intended), wore t-shirts with biblical references, went to church, went to Christian music festivals and read the bible. Christianity was my life.
As time went on I started to notice things, externally and internally. On the outside, I started to notice comments other kids in my high school would make toward me. I'd start wearing my necklace under my shirt and hold back from making religious comments in class. On the inside, I started realizing how judgmental I was of everyone else around me. I also started to wonder if Heaven even existed, because I never believed in Hell. I scoffed at the idea of pre-marital sex being a sin. I started to notice the corporation hidden behind many churches, especially in the South. I certainly believed abortion was a right all people should have, which was a topic of discussion that put me in an unfavorable light when with other Christians.
Then, in high school (I can't remember which year), I was invited to an event at a local church that attracts a lot of younger folks in the area and it was there that I had an epiphany. There were a few speakers at this event and the crowd mainly consisted of younger people. There was singing and praise and a lot of preaching. There was one speaker in particular that really hit a sore spot with me. At the end of his sermon he was about to step off the stage and he stopped. "Hold on... I'm getting a message from God right now. Is there a dentist in the crowd? Or a person going to school training for dentistry?" he said. The whole room was quiet, everyone held their breath and looked around. "God has a message for you. Is anyone in here aspiring to be a dentist? Don't be shy! God is telling me to tell you... to not be a dentist. He is telling me that you need to follow the path of the Lord and spread His word." Obviously I'm paraphrasing here because it was a few years ago, but essentially this man was talking to high schoolers and college students and telling a person in the crowd going to school to be a dentist to just stop studying for that profession and become a vessel for the Lord and spread His word. I was utterly embarrassed for this guy. Why wouldn't dentistry be considered a worthy profession in the eyes of the Lord? It's certainly an important and valued profession in our society.
I faked a smile and all my praises for the rest of the event and when I went home I told my family all about it. There were many things said there that I had issues with, but the dentist example is the one that has stayed with me. It all felt fake and showy. None of it was personal or real, it was all about what God supposedly wanted. It was all about rules.
I started getting too critical and cynical about Christianity. Christians who did nice things for charities or the less fortunate pissed me off because they did those things to feed their self-righteousness and because it was the "Godly" and "Christian" thing to do. What about just doing good things for people because it's the right thing to do? Well, apparently the only reason a person was good was because God was working through them. It took away the concept of free will and genuineness of humanity. Obviously the criticisms stated just now are super critical and not true for many Christians, but I'm not denying there aren't people out there like that.
Moving on from my cynicism was really difficult. I threw away all of my religious paraphernalia and stopped going to church. It wasn't that I didn't believe in God, it was that I lost faith in Christianity as a religion, as something real and meaningful. I don't believe in Heaven or Hell. I don't believe in angels and I don't believe in God the way he or she is depicted in Christian beliefs. I don't really have a direction in my beliefs. I am more spiritual than I am anything else. My beliefs center around self-empowerment and universal forces. The western thinker in me believes there is a universal moral code that people have, but the anthropologist in me knows that is false. I simply hope that whatever is right in a person's eyes is what they follow. I do know love is universal and I hope it gets spread more.
The point in all of this is "losing" my religion was very personal and fundamentally changed who I am today. I put losing and lost in quotation marks because I know where it went and I don't intend to find it again. I don't have a problem with religion or Christianity, unless it directly impacts me (like my reproductive rights). Jesus, if he truly existed, was a man of unconditional love. I'd like to think love is always the answer, but I don't know if it is, because life and the world are pretty complex.
Maybe someday I'll go back to church, and maybe someday I won't be so cynical, but I don't see it happening anytime soon. I'm very happy with my beliefs, which are similar to some base aspects of Christianity and many other religions (they aren't all as different as they seem). I think it is important to think critically and not mindlessly accept everything handed to you. It isn't easy to question everything you thought to be true and change it all, but it happens, and in the end I truly believe I'm a better and happier person for it.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that I'm not trying to change minds or criticize anyone who is Christian or anything else. I wanted to share my personal story and encourage anyone who is feeling or has felt the same way to know that it is okay. I love and respect the beliefs of others and don't intend to insult anyone. Love is love, no matter where it comes from or why.