Questioning my faith was not a matter I had taken lightly, especially considering the years of total and absolute devotion I spent convincing myself of its authenticity. But believing something to be true doesn’t necessarily make it true, and no amount of faith can overcome such a harsh reality; it simply is what it is! In all honesty, however, there is a certain amount of security in the concept of absolute truth, even if that so-called truth is stifling and oppressive.
I have a black and white print hanging in my studio entitled prison’s security, liberty’s risk. I purchased it at an art festival twenty-years ago, and it’s been on my wall ever since. It’s a depiction of lonely and shattered soul standing within the ramshackle remains of his prison cell. His eyes are hidden in the shadows, the prison door is wide open, and sunlight pierces the darkness of his meager dwelling, but he is unable to move. Why? Because true freedom is a very dangerous proposition; it requires that we listen to our own conscience and follow our own path, and when confronting such reality, it’s easy to lose your nerve
I can’t count the number of times I begged God to forgive me for my unbelief, and yet something deep within my psyche kept pushing me forward. I had tried so hard to paint my life within the narrow confines of religion that the concept of true freedom and personal liberty seemed like a lie to me. I’m forty-seven years old now, and I’ve spent the majority of my adult life coming to grips with my upbringing, both religious and personal, and I can no longer deny the evidence that has been set before me.
I was always told not to question my beliefs, and by beliefs, I mean the doctrines and dogma of the church, because doing so would bring about doubt, and doubt when allowed to flourish would most certainly cause a loss of faith, and loss of faith could lead to an eternity outside of God’s presence. I now realize that it’s not a loss of faith but control that drove their fear tactics. A good friend of mine once told me that if you want to find the truth follow the money, and he’s right; all a person has to is watch “Christian” television for about five minutes and the truth becomes painfully clear.
I don’t know about you, but if I had the answers to all of life’s questions, I wouldn’t write a book and charge thirty-five dollars for the privileged few that can afford it, nor would I ask for love offerings and tithes. No, if I held such a truth, I would shout it from the mountaintop for all the world to hear, because in all honesty, I wouldn’t want to be an asshole, and charging exuberant prices for information that could bring personal salvation and happiness to mankind seems like an asshole move to me. But freedom isn’t about security, although we all want security, it’s about seeking the truth, living life on your own terms, and finding purpose in a world that seems indifferent and dangerous.
To be honest, I sometimes miss my Bible-believing, faith healing, God loving, devil fearing, sin confessing, I’m right and you're wrong, hellfire and brimstone preaching life. I didn’t have to think or use critical reasoning in any way, all I had to do was believe. But those days are gone, and I’m stuck with the uncertainties and questions life will inevitably bring to us all.
There are those, close friends and family included, that will say my unbelief, or more accurately, my unbelief in their religion, will send me to hell. But what is astonishing to me is their lack of concern or empathy for a loved one beset with such a fate. Personally, I couldn’t serve a God that would send my family and friends to such a place. In fact, I would fight tooth and nail for their freedom. It seems simple to me now, but it’s taken years to get to where I am today, so in many ways, though I hate to admit it, I understand their staunch moralism.
The truth is I’ve called myself a Christian for such a long time that I don’t know where to go from here, but the cold hard reality is this: I don’t believe the Bible is an infallible document dictated from God’s mouth to man’s ears, nor do I believe God had to commit murder in order to forgive our sins. So, I think it’s pretty safe to say I’m not a Christian, at least in the traditional sense of the word. But on the other hand, I’m not a traditional kind of guy anyway, so I really don’t care how other people define Christianity. I’ll follow my own path and make my own definitions, anything else is a compromise.