Are you thinking of leaving Christianity because of the mistakes of your church, your congregation, or because of the opposition of other people to your being someone with a faith and religion?
I left the Catholic church at the age of 17.
I continued to believe in God.
I left church because I felt what I considered to be an un-Godly guilt over the crucifixion.
Many years later, since the time when I have been physically healthy enough to do so, I went back to church. I now only miss Sunday worship if health prevents it.
I love church and feel that my connection with God is strengthened from my attendance. My decision to attend church is clear.
But you may be asking yourself, as I once was, "Shall I leave Christianity?"
Leaving Christianity is an easy decision if you live in a society which is prejudiced against Christianity.
I would like all of us to feel the freedom to attend church whichever of the following categories we find ourselves within:
... as a believer
... as someone who wants to experiment with what church can give them
... as someone whose beliefs don't fit with the church but who finds benefits from spending time in a place which upholds the values of love, peace and service to others.
This series of religious articles discusses some of the ways in which society is anti religious.
When you recognise the existence of anti religious pressure within society you are better placed to make your own decision about staying within or leaving Chrisitianity.
You are better able to swim against the tide of popular culture and make the decision to stay a Christian.
Of course you will have many other considerations specific to Christian beliefs. These are not addressed in these articles.
I was outside religion for 17 years. I didn't consider I was anti religious though I had disagreements with the church.
However, there came a point where I realised with shock that the word God had started to sound laughable to me, and that the words Catholic and Jew had started to sound like insults.
Where was this religious prejudice coming from?
There is this idea that we choose between beliefs - to have a faith and religion or spirituality - or to have no beliefs.
But we always have beliefs.
It struck me that the belief system of our society is working
insidiously all the time. And these beliefs of 'the
world’s religion' can actually be more dangerous than religious beliefs.
Why do I say this?
Because the beliefs of the world are
In the fairly recent past, there was a lot of pressure from society to see yourself as a Christian. Whilst this pressure still exists in many countries the opposite is now true. For example, in my country of England and in the UK as a whole.
The ever present, ever shifting beliefs of society can subtly predispose us at this time towards leaving Christianity, or any other religion to which we belong.
It can be easier to remain a Christian when you do not see the decision as one of "belief versus non belief", but more correctly as one where you choose to expose yourself to Christian beliefs rather than only to society's beliefs.
The silence of the media on the importance of faith
The media is largely silent on the importance of spirituality and religion in people’s lives. An interview can be carried out with a star or celebrity without the question of faith ever being asked.
Yet, I am struck when I listen to interviews carried out on a religious program – Good Morning Sunday on BBC Radio 2 – how faith is often integral to the development of a person’s talent. Even when someone of no faith is asked a question about faith, the answers are often interesting.
Isn't it fascinating that a celebrity will be interviewed about their talent without the interviewer ever talking about their primary motivation? It is an extraordinary omission.
Media attacks on Christianity
At other times, there are more aggressive attacks on religion through the media, for example through comedians inviting an auditorium of hundreds of people to laugh at those who believe in God or attend church.
Through silence or attack on religious practice, there is a subtle pressure to avoid religion at this time. If you are Christian, you may experience this as a pressure to leave Christianity.
The News is bad news
In addition, because the News is bad news and because it is not "done" to express religious views generally, when we do hear about religion, it is often about the fundamentalists and about abuse within the church.
Although deeply upsetting, thankfully, these unfavourable religious media items are "news" because they are not the usual state of affairs.
In my experience, most religious people have peace at the centre of their teachings and at the centre of the way they live their life.
Those who are more vocally Christian are often those who hold the view that Christianity - or even their brand of Christianity - is the only path to God and that the Bible can only be taken literally.
These people can be very clear that these beliefs are what it means to be Christian.
I know many wonderful people who hold this belief. My faith has benefited a great deal from exposure to their faith. However, I find it frustrating that as a Christian I am assumed to hold these religious beliefs.
I was brought up an interfaith Catholic Christian, with the belief that there are many paths to God.
I was never asked to take the Bible literally.
If you answered yes to the above questions, leaving Christianity may not be necessary.
You may find yourself more at home within a different Christian denomination -one that allows more room for a variety of beliefs.
Or you may find that your own congregation can accept you complete with your different beliefs.
We may dream of finding a church whose beliefs exactly match our own, a church where our beliefs fit neatly with those of other people, but it is healthy that there is a range of beliefs amongst those who meet together to worship God.
Our knowledge that we are One in God does not depend on having exactly the same beliefs.
I have great sympathy with those leaving Christianity because they have encountered abuse or spiritual teachings that have been unhelpful.
If you have encountered abuse, it may be too painful for you to stay.
Teachings have enormous power over us when received before the age of seven when our ability to question is more limited. We may believe at this time that we HAVE to follow certain religious beliefs to retain the approval of our parent. If so, it can be hard for us to question these beliefs, even in later life.
Moreover, teachings which contain deep metaphysical truths may
actually be harmful if taken as a guide for behaviour at an early age. As a child, the author M
Scott Peck heard the story of Abraham being asked to
kill his son. He was terrified that God would ask his parents to kill
him. Later in life, he found great wisdom in this religious story.
Losing my prejudice against priests
When I was housebound with severe CFS/ME, eventually, as I moved back towards the Church, I asked a priest to visit me in my home. This meant I was meeting priests one-to-one.
I was surprised to note that – whether I agreed or disagreed with their views - the priests were all people who genuinely attempted to live according to their belief systems, and were not afraid to be different from society at large.
These are two qualities I much admire. Gone are the days when homes select a child for the clergy. It is now likely to be the individualist and the independent thinker who pursues a religious vocation.
I was also deeply touched by looking at Church notices and seeing
My surprise revealed that upon leaving Christianity I had forgotten its benefits and its beauty.
As I received more and more strength and guidance from Bible scriptures and the prayers of others, I set aside my religious prejudice.
My spiritual journey moved me towards reconciling with Christianity – the religion of my youth.
(I am also a student of A Course In Miracles.)
My life is richer for being a Christian and for not limiting myself purely to the beliefs of my current culture.
In my view, religion is neutral. It can be used for harm. It can be used for good.
Religion is here to stay, so let us support it in living up to its spiritual principles and serving the good of the world.
Finally, if you still believe in God but are considering leaving Christianity, don't forget to pray about your decision.
Seeing God guiding you in your decision.
With the Love we are,
Katherine T Owen, webmaster,
Author of Be Loved, Beloved (Kindle)
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