What would the difference be if I had never committed to Christianity to the degree that I did? It’s a question that I often come back to and reflect on.
I think it’s important to distinguish the Christian undercurrents that affected the West’s development over the last two thousand years and my own personal commitments to the version of Christianity that I dedicated myself to. We can come back to the undercurrents and how Christianity has changed the face of the world at a later date.
It is hard to know what I would be like if I hadn’t gone to Bible college. Not that I was something unthinkable before I went, but rather by the time I left I was able to self-learn and write interesting and engaging essays. I discovered a love of engaging with ideas and concepts and then writing up my thoughts and academic research on them. Being heavily dyslexic I never thought I would love to read and write to the extent that I now do, which should be obvious to those who read this blog. Bible college also got me into fitness, and it saw me go from not being able to run at all due to shin splints or do a single sit-up or pull up, to running two half marathons (with lots of training) and working out five days a week by graduation.
Bible college also made me became more fanatic with regards to religion and trying to know the heart of God more deeply as I read, prayed, fasted and listened. I began to write sermons, fitting what I believed into the words in the Bible (most people do this) and then sharing them with others in blog posts or as I preached. I began to reflect on calling and purpose, what was it that God had me on this earth to do?
Bible college gave me a lot of skills that are still very useful today, but it also moved me into a very dangerous place in regard to thinking I knew what was right and true, ignoring the small voice at the back of my mind asking if I really believed this, and then set me on a course to today.
Without my dedication to Christianity, I would never have pushed myself into the place of leadership that I held at Church towards the end of my faith journey. I would never have thought it important or engaged with others who believed that we all have callings and those who are called to be a leader within a church is one of the hardest callings that it is possible to live in. Who doesn’t love a challenge?
Most of my friends from Bible college are now church leaders. Spread out across the globe, running churches, living a certain lifestyle with the respect of a massive range of people. It’s amazing how even within Christianity there seems to be a celebrity style of leadership, which so many without even realising it, want to fit within it.
Leaders want others to think that they are special, to feel a sense of respect or awe from others when they say, ‘I lead a church in…’ or ‘I teach the word of God to…’. They want people to notice their church, they want to see growth and they want structure. I don’t think it’s possible to not be a leader within a church without falling into these sorts of systems of recognition and ‘fame’. People want someone to follow, and leaders want people to follow them.
You can see it in the teachers of God’s word as well. I have met many professional teachers who have found immense pride in the fact that they are paid to teach people who know less than them the tenets within the Bible and how they can be applied to our lives. To know facts or key ideas about a certain letter of Paul’s or one of the Gospels, and then to draw that out in a preach or lecture so that those who listen are amazing at their intellect and wisdom.
Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of people do this anyway, and I have no issue with people holding information and blowing my mind with it when they deliver it in a certain way. This happens most days with the sort of podcasts I listen to or the books I read.
When I taught in small groups or during sermons at church I wanted to share as much information in as helpful a way as possible with the congregation. It’s interesting to think that this is still happening as I honestly share about my deconversion. But would I have ever wanted to do this if I hadn’t dedicated my life to sharing God’s word with His people? Not to the extreme that it did, that is for sure.
Reflecting on my study decision, I am still happy that I learnt as much as I did in my degree. Christianity plays an essential role to have us here today and knowing a lot about it will help me dissect, write and engage with it and its influence on our culture. All of which are things I am passionate about now, even after deconverting.
But again, I don’t think I could care if it wasn’t for my Christian upbringing and commitment to following its tenets. Rather my focus could have been spent on things I am passionate about now. Such as history, biology, evolution, economics and philosophy.
I wouldn’t have moved my family out to a small town in the North of England if it wasn’t for the church that we moved out here to support. But we love our house, and our eldest loves his school, and we love the area that we live in. It has taken me a good 12 months to realise that we moved here for the wrong reasons, but here is the right place for us to be. We can afford our house; we can enjoy where we live, and the family are far more active and happier than they ever have been.
I am getting into meditation more and more as I begin to examine consciousness and experiment with the concept of ‘I’ and what is ‘me’. I will be writing about this at a later date, but what I find very interesting is that I would never have gotten into it if it wasn’t for my dedication to prayer every day and to meditate on the word of God. I did this for 10-30 mins each morning, and since I am no longer a believer in a God who is talking to me as I do this, I have shifted it to meditation. Which I have found to be one of the most powerful things I have ever done.
It sent me down roads and into journeys that I haven’t abandoned simply because I have lost my belief in the deity within my old religion. But I have amended the destination and purpose of these journeys, and the roads haven’t been backtracked but rather they have veered off into new territory that I could never have predicted I would go and explore.
Even now I am finding theology and early Christianity to be a fascinating area of study, simply because it is an area that has influenced the world and myself so massively. Without my faith, I would never have cared, and the fact that I already have so much information stored in my head means that I am in a really good place to continue this journey. But now to do it from outside a literal belief in God. Which is compatible with an interest in the study of something, but not compatible in leading others into a belief in something.
So, a lot has changed.
What is clear is that my choices would have been different, and the person I am today would not be here. Without my religious beliefs, I might never have met my wife; I could never have made the friends I have. I would be in a very different role than the IT job I hold today, and I wouldn’t live in this beautiful part of the country. My passions wouldn’t align with what they do today, and I wouldn’t be engaging with the types of people and conversations that I am eager to engage with today.
I don’t believe in destiny. I don’t believe I am here for a pre-ordained purpose set out by a deity. This doesn’t mean I can’t make the most of the knowledge, skills and experiences that I have. And this is just what I hope I am doing here in this blog. Picking up things that are known to me due to my experiences, most of which happened because of a belief in God.
I can hate my past, but it doesn’t change my past – so I don’t think there is any point in hating it. Rather I should recognise where I was, where I went and where I now am today. Today will affect tomorrow, which will affect next week and will move my life along a course that one day I hope that I will look back on and reflect in a positive light.
The choices I made have brought me here. Did I have the freedom to make these choices given the pre-existing situations that always existed before I had the decision to make? Interestingly, I don’t think so. But that is the subject of another blog and another day.
_End of Blog Blurb_
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.
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Grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation: I am massively dyslexic. It has taken me years to get to the level I am currently at with writing and I have done this mainly through reading. I want to be better and ask you, reader, to please forgive any errors in my writing. I hope you notice improvement upon improvement over the coming years.
Time Frame: This blog is roughly twelve to twenty-four months behind where I currently am in my journey out of religion. It’s important to remember that when reading and commenting.
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I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂
When Belief Dies #67 – 'Psychedelics, History & Hope' with Pat Smith – When Belief Dies
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- When Belief Dies #64 – 'The morality of an Infidel' with Simon Blackburn
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