A few days ago, I realized that the intense feeling of religious and spiritual homelessness I’d felt for so long was gone. Since the beginning of my deconstruction, I’d begun to feel myself forced out of my Christianity, like a child being forced out of a womb. This left me with a profound feeling of existential homelessness — drifting away from my religious identity and family, and with little to cling onto as a home.
But, a few days ago, I realized that I no longer felt that homelessness — my home is now The Satanic Temple, my spiritual and religious identity is Satanist. (Does this surprise you? I recommend reading my articles on Satanism.)
I can imagine that many Christians apprehend this with immense sadness. I’ve been asked many questions: who hurt you? Was it because you’re gay? One pastor on twitter told me that, while he acknowledges the church must carry a great deal of the blame for hurting me in the way she did, that he is frightened and saddened by my choice to embrace Satan.
So why did I leave Christian faith? The common assumption is because I was so wounded by the church that I simply couldn’t handle it anymore and had to limp away. But I don’t think this is entirely correct.
(Note: there is an entirely different question here which, while I’m not able to pursue it in this post, is worth acknowledging. It’s probably the question many of my non-religious readers are asking: why must I have a religious identity at all? Is it not a sign of weakness that I need a religion to cling onto? I will eventually address this question in another post, but in short, I’ve come to accept that religious identity is important to me. It makes me happy, and I’m unhappy without it. Other people don’t necessary need or want a religious identity, but I do, and that’s ok. If it is a weakness, I’m ok with that.)
In nearly every conversation I have with Christians about leaving the faith, the theme is always the same: I must have been deeply hurt by the church. And it’s true. Growing up gay in the church is no easy thing. I’ve been told I’m damned, deceived, broken, and all number of ugly things. Far worse than the ugly words, though, are the kind words hiding hurtful beliefs: Christians who still love me and are companionable with me, but who could never accept or celebrate my gay relationship; the loving grandmothers who say, in concerned tones, that they are praying for me; the loaded invitations: you are welcome here, but you can’t really lead or take the Eucharist because of your homosexuality. When all is said and done, it is these gentle and pained words from people I love that hurt far more than Christians on twitter telling me I should kill myself.
But Christianity — and other Christians — also sustained me. In fact, this is the reason why I remained a Christian for so long. Even after all the hurt, the compassion and kindness from my dear Christian friends was greater. They were the ones who paid for my therapy, who stayed on the phone with me through long hours of darkness, who cared for my wounds when I self-harmed, and who guided me through the first tumultuous months of my relationship with my partner. I watched Christians lose their jobs and their livelihoods, refusing to back down from supporting LGBT people. Love does win, and the love Christians have shown me probably saved my life. My life is a triumph of Christian love.
So I didn’t stop believing in Christianity because I was so wounded and broken by the church. No. The Church was my home, and I grieved bitterly when I lost connection with it. I left because I couldn’t believe the creeds anymore. It was my faith that died, not the love and compassion from Christians around me.
I’ll grant that my wounding by the church probably helped me see the cracks in the edifice of faith more clearly, and that there’ve been times when my relationship with the church felt like a child’s relationship with an abusive, alcoholic parent. But I was willing to remain a Christian for the rest of my days, because I loved Christ, believed in him, and loved the Christian fellowship I had with other believers. And then I couldn’t anymore — I lost faith, and my skepticism won.
I don’t know why Christians insist on the “people leave because they were hurt” narrative, when it is obvious that many people also leave the faith simply because they no longer find it reasonable.
I can only speculate why this narrative persists. Is it because it’s safer to assume a character flaw in Christians rather than a flaw in the doctrines of Christianity? Is it the assumption that the central claims of Christianity are so transparently true that people must obviously leave because they were wounded, and not because they found those claims untenable?
I don’t know. But it’s an assumption that’s starting to annoy me. When the question of faith comes up, I want to give an honest answer about why credal Christian faith doesn’t make sense to me anymore, but the Christian wants to talk about how hurt I was because I’m gay. More often than not, I’ve just given up mildly exasperated, realizing it’s an impossible conversation.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.