I wanted to believe in God. I really, really tried.
When I was younger, I found it easy to buy into the concept of God, and of Christianity. After 9/11, I thought I was doing the ‘Christian’ thing by joining the military. There was a certain level of ‘holy war’ mentality amongst my kind of Christians. It was the idea that if these strangers, believers in their odd religion, were going to declare a holy war on us, we were going to respond in kind. At least, that’s what I was made to believe in my circle of believers. However, I’d be lying if I said that that was the catalyst for me joining the military. There were other factors, none of which are relevant to this post.
I tried to believe in God. I went to church every time the doors were open. I taught a summer class at a church camp. I helped the youth director lead worship services. I played my role. And I thought I believed it. Somewhere deep inside, however, I knew I wasn’t really buying it. When I would mention this to other supposedly more spiritually mature Christians, I felt it was clear that I either didn’t have enough faith or wasn’t reading my Bible enough. It was never a problem with the concept, it was always a problem with my willingness to buy into the concept. Nevertheless, I kept on.
For 15 years, from baptism until I entered into my Master’s Degree, I tried. I wanted to force myself to learn everything about the theological process. Perhaps that would make it all make sense to me. Even then, a part of me knew I was only kidding myself. By this point, I had figured out that religion is merely an interpretation of the human experience meant to make sense of the unexplainable. I think I knew then, and I still believe now, that there are certain themes common across all religions, namely love, compassion, charity, forgiveness, patience, kindness, things like that, that are perfectly in line with human dignity and exist as concepts humans should buy into.
The theological process, the way doctrine is born and twisted, the loopholes interpreters go through to justify human action or the written Biblical word, whatever the case may be, is nothing short of bullshit. I tried to accept the process of exegesis and interpretation. I tried to connect the dots, assuming they existed, and come up with the same ends that the theologians whom I had been studying came up with. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t lie to myself any longer. So, for the first time in my life, I gave up.
That’s not to even say I gave up on the concept of God. I gave up on the institutional understanding and dogmatic doctrine surrounding the organization that stakes its claim to that particular imagining of God. I don’t think at this point I know who or what God is. But the ideas that are conjured up in the name of organized religion and utilized as tools for control, manipulation, and the creation of fear in order to manifest obedience are not in line with anything I know to be philosophically justifiable ideas about God.
I’m still open to the idea that some version of a God might exist. Maybe it’s a deist version or a panentheist or pantheist version of God. But theism based on organized religion seems to be an antiquated institution. Judging by the rising number of “nones” across the United States, I would venture to say that I am not alone in my thought process.
It’s taken me a while to come to this point. But I feel more spiritually mature than I ever have. My acceptance and subsequent divorce from organized religion has liberated me to experiment with my own ideas. My only regret is that I wasted so much time of my life striving to force myself to believe something I knew in my mind and heart was inconsistent with rational thought.
I think it’s safe to say, finally, that I’ve lost my religion. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
Author: Adam Hinds is a human being by most standards. He serves in the US Navy, holds a MA in Christian Practice and Conflict Management and a BS in International Relations. He is a vagabond traveling the world, observing humanity and looking for work.