Guilt: Leaving Christianity
For my ‘G’ prompt with Pagan Blog Project 2012, I wanted to write about guilt over leaving the Christian faith.
Many Christian faiths teach that the only path to salvation is through Jesus. Many Christian faiths also teach that not only through Jesus, but also by believing only in their path through Jesus, will you find your way clear of whatever bad thing is promised for not following that path.
It was into the second way of thinking that I was born and raised. I don’t think it’s hard to imagine how difficult breaking free of such unfair indoctrination was and is. I say ‘is’, because on some levels, I don’t think I will ever be free of the beliefs I was raised with. I can rationalize my way clear of them, with logic and education and research and common sense, but there is a primal fear that goes along with blatantly rejecting something that was ingrained in me throughout my entire childhood.
There is also an unspoken element to this kind of religious belief, and it’s one that I think goes unnoticed most of the time. I think there is an unconscious belief that ‘only’ people of that religion can be ‘good people’; that a fundamental quality to being a ‘good person’ is that you follow that specific religious path. I say this because it’s hard to judge someone as an equal when your religion – a primary source of guiding direction in your life – teaches you on an almost daily basis that people who do not follow that part are inherently flawed. It also sets you up to overlook gross misconduct in yourself and in others because you are ‘on the right path’ or are united in faith. I daresay that my ethical and moral standards would hold up against any religious set, and yet I am considered inferior because I have rejected that path.
In choosing something else, I did set aside those beliefs – the belief that there will be a ‘judgement day’, that there is a way through it, that Jesus is the way, that being part of that particular religion was the only path. If that religion’s doctrines are true, then I have forevermore cursed myself into something unforgivable. In ‘choosing’ to reject what is ‘true’ and ‘worship false gods’, I have committed an unforgivable sin. There is no recovery from that, according to that religion’s doctrine.
Making peace with that is hard. Impossible, even.
And yet I persevere.
It helps that I am HAPPY now. It helps tremendously that I have peace in my heart; that most my gods and goddesses don’t generally have vengeance and destruction of the world and most of the population on their hearts; that I am allowed to let people’s actions speak for them rather than relying solely on commonality of belief to deem them worthy of my time. It helps to know that my children will not endure this kind of mental anguish; to know that indoctrination will not be a part of their childhood, and that no matter what path they choose, their actions – the kids of lives they live rather than the god(s) they do or do not worship, will be the benchmark for success. It helps to have a community of people who follow somewhat similar – and yet extremely diverse – paths, and that they accept that my path is just as sacred and viable and important as their own. It helps that these people see beyond my path into me – what makes me who I am – and value that rather than a path or belief that we may or may not share wholly.
If you have left another faith, what was your experience? Do you have guilt over leaving your former path? Have you made peace with it? How did you resolve your feelings, or is it an ongoing struggle?