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.
(Although, at some point I became uncomfortable with the word God -associating it with the idea of a separate Being.)
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.
You may be asking yourself, as I once was, "Shall I leave Christianity?"
If so, this article may help you to make your decision.
Scroll down to read the current article. Or click on the links below to read related ones.
If you live in a society which is prejudiced against Christianity, leaving Christianity is an easier decision than the decision to stay.
I would like all of us to feel the freedom to attend church regardless of which of the following categories we find ourselves within:
... a believer
... someone who wants to experiment with what church can give them
... 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 article, along with several others, 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.
If you decide to do so, you become better able to swim against the tide of popular culture and make the decision to stay a Christian.
Of course you may have other considerations which are specific to whether or not you agree with 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 seems to be a prevalent view that we choose between having beliefs - religious, spiritual or both - or not having beliefs.
I suggest instead that: we always have beliefs.
It struck me that the belief system of our society is working
insidiously all the time.
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 tend to have the following qualities:
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, in others the opposite is now true.
For the whole of my lifetime, in my country of England, UK I have been 'odd' during the times when I have been a church goer.
I suggest that the ever present, ever shifting beliefs of society can subtly predispose us at this time towards leaving Christianity, or any other religion.
When 'not having an explicit faith' is the norm, It is easier to simply follow the herd and be agnostic or atheistic.
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.
Is the media and its impact on the views of other people unfairly predisposing me towards leaving Christianity?
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.
Are you thinking of leaving Christianity because your beliefs do not fit neatly with those of your church?
Are you thinking of leaving Christianity because you see God in your friends who are atheists, Jewish or Muslim?
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 among 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. All the more so, when they are received before the age of seven.
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.
Are you thinking of leaving Christianity because you received false teachings at a young age?
Get clear on one of these teachings.
Examine this teaching with your adult understanding and your adult ability to question.
Were you taught this teaching in a climate
of fear or obligation?
If so, the belief system itself may have been mis-used and may still have much to offer.
If you assess it now as having been a false teaching, can you give yourself permission to believe what you now believe?
Do you, for example, interpret a scripture differently from the teaching you were given?
Remember that the New Testament tells you to live by the Spirit of the Law and not the Letter of the Law.
It is not your job to believe something you are told to believe. It is your job to pray for understanding.
Losing my prejudice against priests
When I was housebound with severe CFS/ME, I started making my peace with Christianity. Eventually, 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 all shared the following qualitites.
These are two qualities I much admire.
In the past, parents used to sometimes select a child to be sent off to become a member of the clergy. Such children had no vocation and were often understandably resentful.
Thankfully those days have passed. It may be different in other countries, but in the UK, a priest is more likely to be an individualist and an independent thinker.
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.
I am not sure that church is the best place for me to find you.
I want to experience your Love and your Strength.
Please guide me.
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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