Autobiography of my Christian Experience
Theology has proven a poor way for me to spend my mind; what can I say new here? We already see that zealosy and insanity are bedmates. Rather, a little autobiography, since this is the only honest way to express why one really believes his beliefs.
I stepped into Christianity because of the hell question. I had been twice baptized—Catholic as a baby and Assembly of God as a youth—but baptism makes no change in the person.
I read the Bible continuously in my late teens. I would listen to an audio version when I couldn’t read, and read the book cover to cover, and the New Testament many times. I read the Sermon on the Mount so many times that I could recite it word for word. Humility was easy for me, since I did not think much myself. I interpreted the distance between myself and friends, between myself and church groups and bible groups, as something wrong with me. I wrote hymns to god on my guitar, made it a practice to pray so often in my daily thought that thought became prayer, begged forgiveness for my sins, and imagined being in heaven with God. But no matter how much I pressed my mind into God and Jesus, I wasn’t happy. I felt it was my fault. I felt that I needed to obey God more, and submit myself more to him and I would be happy. I mark it as the most lonely and humble period of my life. Also the unhappiest. Even when I served in the church, in the worship band, doing extra chores around the church (discreetly!, I hated attention, and was shamed when the pastor asked for volunteers to the congregation, and nobody would raise their hand, and neither did I, wanting nobody to see me, but showed up to do the duties anyway, wanting to serve, but loathing public notice), I felt I was not one of the believers, and they looked on me not only as prodigy, but as otherwise unremarkable, since they did not take me into their friendshis.
The Testament obsessed me. But there were disappointments. C.S. Lewis claimed that there were "new men" on the earth—Christians, he claimed, a great new species of men—but "how should I know what they are like?" he asked, excluding himself from their ranks. I hated him for that qualifier. To know of perfection but not be it—what an immoral man! Or in a church service where the pastor asked, "Who here is perfect? Raise your hand. Nobody? Good. If you raised your hand, you would be guilty of pride." Antithetical to my view of the world. I felt revulsion.
A good Christian I was, but inquisitive. I spent much of my time studying the Testament, plumbing contradictions, compounding problems, and attempting to discuss ideas with flockmates (always a disappointment). Everything problematic, weird, and full of possibility fascinated me.
The thinker's God I found impossible. I never believed in an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent, omniscient God; maybe omnivorous, nothing more. Even in my faith, I regarded the scripture as the surest proof against these attributes. The problem of evil never bothered me. I suffered much, but enjoyed that fact, and regarded it as instructive. God simply wasn't omni-anything, nowhere in the Bible or Testament do we have any hint of his omniness, and this didn't bother me in the least.
I dove into theology and apologetics, found them interesting, but also incomplete. I wanted to hear what they were leaving out, the other side of the story. So I read up on atheism, and what a difference! I picked up Nietzsche, and it was over. Finally! A clear conscience, clear air! No longer the thick air of lies that characterized my friends and their theologians. Pick up Nietzsche, pick up C. S. Lewis, read them both closely, and you will feel the difference. Read Romans, then read Emerson's “Self Reliance.” No contest! What I found true of music was true everywhere. Secular music of the 21st century proved innovative and exuberent; religious music, derivative and heartless. Atheism: the avante gard of culture. The secular is always truer, always livelier, always better.
The first great converter of me to the pure air of self-love was Nietzsche’s style, superior to anything I had read up to that point. His writing style and the power of his spirit sung to what was powerful in me. I felt myself for the first time to be a man. Later, when I discovered Emerson, I felt I was worth being born, worth loving, that loving me wasn’t a gift. That I could love myself and others, not because I was supposed to, but because I was beautiful.
The proof is more in the style than the facts. The fact that there is no proof for the Christian Father or any rational reason to believe in him never troubled me. As my wife put it, "That right there is the greatest proof of God, because it means you have to have faith." What struck me as truer was the pudding: the joyful tones of atheism, of humanism, of everything worldly, of the creative flourish of secular music, so much greater then hymns and religious music. The secular joy of life sang in every moment; the Christian joy in life was all promises. For my friends’ actions were hardly distinguishable. The Christians acted like the atheists. Only the atheists seemed more honest and more joyful.
Not that I purified myself in one dose. Dismissing Paul was easy for me. I regarded my own writing as superior to his (and not only his), and why would I believe in a man or God who can't even write? Dismissing Jesus was easy too, though a little less so. I loved the Sermon on the Mount, but that belonged to Matthew. Jesus' insistent and unmistakable claim for the immediate end of the world proved a great lie and greater mistake. His introduction of the Persian hell was irrational, and utterly opposed to how God would treat us if he created mankind. Furthermore, Jesus was no genius, and I admired only genius. Where was the deep and startling insight into the pith of life? Where was the Socrates, the Nietzsche, the Emerson? Dismissing God was easy: what did I need him for? What did he need me for? I felt happy and vital, so what was God for? He valued faith first (according to the Testament), to believe in the unbelievable, and that I cared little for. Dismissing eternal life, however, was hard. I wanted to continue studying, writing, and singing forever. Was this merely an excuse? that I pretneded to want something beyond my immediate life, when I was feeling in fact lazy?
I could never again believe in God simply for the joy of writing. That joyful philosophy paled the Christian life, such was its infinite and incomparable vitality; I chose what proved more real to me. I believe in myself and any God who doesn’t believe in me is unworthy of respect.
And with that realization, that God, existent or not, didn't matter to my writing, to my happiness, to my life, made me feel freer and happier than any other event in my life. Dismissing Christianity I count as the happiest event of my life, which has brought me continual joy, peace of mind, and a loving outlook on others. I felt free: nobody was going to hell. I could love others as I understood love, I didn’t have to love as the Bible told me to. I began to respect others as creators and beautiful people, not as sinners. I loved mankind for the first time. Leaving God, writing the Idius, and meeting my wife stand as the greatest joys in my life. My happiness to be alive grows yearly, and the phrase “Life is Beautiful” has become my slogan.
Now I could dismiss the problems with my Christian beliefs. For instance, why the world failed to end in the apostles' lifetime, though Jesus thought it would. Or again, why a belief system which proved itself by miracle and revelation happened during superstitious times, among superstitious people, proving itself by beginnings and ends, but never in my experience or the experience of anybody contemporary to me. The demons, the miracles, the answered prayers—never in the real world, always in stories, always in rumors and legends. What a puny miracle: an unknown Jew wakes up from death in the dark, is seen by biased disciples, and conveniently dissapears to let the world remain exactly as it is. Everything ancient and religious speaks miracles; Christianity is not unique, and everywhere it was unique it offends: the goodness of humility, the goodness of human sacrifice, the goodness of hell, the badness of philosophy, the badness of pride, the badness of sex and masturbation. In a word, my heart opposed the New Testament, but I only recognized this when I put faith in my ability to create philosophy, my ability to write; I realized Christianity was killing me. Faith depressed me. Life is the proof of truth.
And now I was angry! Why did a book supposedly written by God lack any sign of such, being fully in keeping with the styles and genres of its time, but nowhere showing insight of science, no mention of microbes, the laws of nature, evolution, medicine, women's rights, antislavery, technology, anything beyond the human capacity of the time to see? For I had read a book (None of These Diseases)whose thesis held that the Pentateuch contained many insights into medical health. I read it, liked it, but thought: only this little bit? Man could write this. God would write something unparalleled, something that showed awesome understanding of nature and man. Where is the psychology? Where is the biology? Where the chemistry? Why is everything here so as-to-be-expected? With my scant education, I could outdo all the insight of the Bible. Nor was the Bible my favorite style either. I enjoyed Genesis, the wisdom literature of Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon—not the Psalms—but beyond that, nothing too impressive, least of all anything “divine" and unequalled. For frankly, the Bible was merely one more book. The Testament, and especially the epistles and the apocalypse were simply bad writing. I could not worship any “god” for writing this. I couldn’t even enjoy it.
And now I saw that my biggest problem with Christianity was taking God’s name in vain, especially when worshipping their God. Everything “divine” simply wasn't. The hymns, the sermons, the “born-again-Christians”—all mediocre, all lame, all unimpressive. What impressed me the greatest, what I envied the most, was never Christian, was never religious, was never God, but was in the great men of history. Jesus simply was not divine, not especially, nor was Paul, nor the boring and unreflective flockmates, nor were the pastors, the suffering, the victims. And the most intelligent of them were either ironic or guilty, but never were they smiling souls. That was enough.
I do not believe in heaven, but I do believe in man; I do not believe in God or gods, angels or hell, sins or atonement, but I do believe in man who invented all of these, and much more, and much more to come, and will continue to invent as long as there is man. I not only believe, but I also invent something worth believing—and this is all the god there need be. I would be an atheist if I were not God.