“John, Do You Regret Becoming a Christian?”

Wanted to take a moment to share this. In the comments over on HuffPo to The Smith Family Chronicles 6: “I’m Tired of the Hypocrisy!”, a reader wrote this:

I have a question for John Shore especially watching these chronicles. You went from atheist to christian right? Do you ever regret your decision? I went from Christian to Pagan, I dont regret it, but I am a bit irked that my mother thinks that I would take to christiani­ty like a duck to water. It wasnt for me, I wanted something that fit me, not a one size fits all tee shirt.

To which I left this reply:

I didn’t go from an atheist to a Christian; I went from a New-Ager type (I studied and practiced Zen Buddhism for … gosh, twenty years) to (out of freakin’ nowhere) a Christian. And I don’t regret becoming a Christian, if for no other reason than it wasn’t at all a “decision” I made. (I wrote a bit about my sudden conversion experience here: http://joh­nshore.com­/2010/04/2­6/i-a-rabi­d-anti-chr­istian-ver­y-suddenly­-convert/.) What I don’t like about being a Christian is how sure so many people who have real and imagined issues with Christianity are to assume that knowing I’m a Christian means they have much if any idea at all about the nature of my spiritual experience­. So many people so happily assume that being a Christian automatica­lly means you’re a mean-spiri­ted, narrow-min­ded, fear-based­, hypocritic­al misogynist­ic homophobe. That pretty quickly gets pretty old. (Though—­and I think this is one of God’s little jokes on me—that’­s pretty much exactly how I used to feel about all Christians before I had the weird fortune to become one.)

Here’s to all of you out there who feel the same way—that is, who tire of so many assumptions being made about who you are, because you’re a Christian. Thanks so, so much for letting me know you’re out there. Knowing you are is what keeps me going.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Carlos

    Oh, John, yes there are so many of us out here like you. You are a blessing to the “other” Christians. My consolation when I face the the double whammy of you’re-not-Christian-enough from the fundies and the how-can-you-be-such-a-deluded-superstitious-simple-minded-fool from atheists is that there are so many of us out here who think the same and who “get” what Christianity is about. We are brothers and sisters, and although we might fight like them sometimes, we love each other and must treat each other with the love we all deserve. All of us, believers, zealots, and free-thinkers alike. We are all God’s children. Whether we grew up with the influence of the Christian religion or came to it later in life, or not at all, God loves us all.

    Rock on, dude.

  • Tom

    Good to see. Amusingly enough, while of course the biggest news is always the worst, like some of the stuff spoken for political reasons by the Republican party, or some extremists protesting funerals, etc, so many folks miss that most of the Democratic party is also Christian and yet they often vote against many of the stereotypes that plague the Christian community. Simply put, when you have a religion as large as Christianity, you are bound to have all walks of human nature within, any many folks claiming to be Christian who are simply hate mongers looking for a larger banner to hide behind.

    Keep the faith.

    • Brianisha

      I see that all too often. I believe it is better to lead than to follow, and that is my beef with all of christianity. Its about following the leader, but never being a leader yourself, and if you do become a leader, be careful you dont end up like Ted Haggard or Joel Osteen or Benny Hinn with the funny toupee.

      I dont believe bob dylan is right, i dont believe that you have to be master to someone (which is an odd thing to say anyways)

      Ive seen more and more christians become hateful these days, and generally, Im glad I left, especially since my landord was a drug addict and a devout christian, my brother did horrible things to his daughter, and hes a devout christian. Ive seen enough BS to last a lifetime. Im just hoping there wont be a theocracy soon .

  • Brianisha

    I read a few books that caught my eye back in 2004-2007. Those books were Ten things Ive learned wrong from a conservative church by John Killinger, The dark side of Christian history by helen ellerbe, and the book your church doesnt want you to read by tim leedom. John Killinger’s book, although made liberal christianity more enticing, actually did the opposite for me. How can you reconcile being a liberal christian when the fundies are destroying the faith? Also, Ive met many liberals that admit, freely that the fundies did rotten awful things in the past, yet still remain christian. I dont know what happened to you in 98, but I have a friend that had an NDE in that same year, Unfortuntately, his NDE was extremly limited, he wasnt allowed to see much, other than to know that he was a prophet. Eventually, he and I had a falling out, because he went from Christ Conciousness Christian to fundamentalist Christian. Ive met others like Daniel, but I was there for Daniel before he changed. Its sad to lose friends, but its a part of life.

  • Brianisha

    My husband’s had some very interesting experiences. He went from Atheist to Buddhist/Pagan. He had five NDEs and has told me many things I had no knowledge of. Sometimes we squabble, sometimes I get frustrated that I didnt have the same expereinces he did, but then he is reminded that at one time, I had the experiences and he didnt, so I guess it evens out.

    I believe him, and I trust him, and sometimes my intuition is higher than his, and sometimes his is higher than mine. I do believe very strongly that these two years may be the end of all organized religion as we know it. Perhaps it is for the best, because all the wars fought over religion are becoming irritating.

    It may also be time for a major shift.

    • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

      *blinkblink*

      Ninetailedfox, is that you?

  • WindReader

    I went from Orthodox Jew to Pagan and now practice a mix that I call Earth-Based Judaism or JeWitch, depending on my particular environment.

    I imagine that you, and many of the devout Christians that I know personally, hate being immediately lumped into the misogyny/homophobia/mean/narrow/fear-monger crowd. I suppose that this blog and your writings are your attempt to tell the “leaders” of “true Christians” who are all of those and more that they do not represent you. Probably don’t represent most Christians either. At least not most in the North East at any rate.

    It may be important to tell us, but it is more important that you tell Maggie and Peter and Tony and Bryan that they do not represent you and that they should stop claiming the title of Representative…..just sayin’

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Um. No; this blog isn’t my attempt to … have anything whatsoever to do with “leaders of true Christians.” I mean, it could be; I could see how you could maybe think that. But it’s not. I just … like to write stuff I want to say. That’s all. (And I’m afraid I have no idea who Maggie, Peter, Tony, and Bryan are. The … neo-Monkees?)

      • NS

        I think WindReader means Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown of the anti-marriage equality organization NOM, Peter LaBarbera of the anti-LBGT group American’s for Truth, and Tony Rollins the anti-LGBT street preacher who was wrongfully arrested for saying terrible things (freedom of speech and all that jazz). Did I get those right, WindReader?

        • WindReader

          I was thinking Tony Perkins of the American Family Association, but Rollins will do.

  • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

    To be honest, I regret it sometimes – but it doesn’t mean I’m going to change it. What I mean is… I pretty much question doubt and regret almost every decision I’ve ever made and everything about me. It’s my nature, my brain chemistry, I suppose. It comes and it goes, but I know that whatever path I choose, I’ll question it a lot and regret it sometimes. It is the way I am.

    Christian/Athiest/Something else, Rich/Poor, Famous/The stablehand tha I am…. no state is going to make me really, consistently “happy” on the mortal plane. Now, biting into a piece of really good dark chocolate? Yeah, that makes me happy – but for a moment, then it passes.

    The times when I feel the most “religious regret” are when I’m reading around on places I like to read online and I encounter a lot of people who don’t think much of Christianity (mostly athiests with issues). It seems even the nicer ones (the ones who can respect people who believe in spirtual concepts), will talk big about being “awake” or “not believing in fairy tales” or “grown up” or “not living in a fantasy world.” (Sometimes, even the few who express a sort of longing to “have something so comforting.)” I feel the condecension of that – while I know that it’s really what they believe and it’s more or less their answer to people who talk big about being able to directline to the creator of the universe – for someone as unsure as I am (I admit to being agnostic in my Christianity, I believe and HOPE, but I don’t for sure “know”)…. it hurts, actually. I get to feel like I’m somehow worthless – or worth “less” for being “childish” or “crazy” instead of “awake and facing brutal truths” or something. It’s like, even to the nice ones who think I can still do good for the world despite my belief in God, I’ll still always be “below” them. Even reminding myself that this is probably how they’ve been made to feel by theists all their lives, it’s like “I’m not that way!!! I’m a little ball of pain and inner tumoil, I don’t think I’m better than anyone!”

    I cannot snap my fingers and change my beliefs, and to tell the truth, I don’t really want to. On another blog I go to, I said that I basically read Jesus’ words about equity and human worth and conclude that I really want them to be true because the make me feel not-worthless. Other stuff? I don’t know. If I read up more on Buddhism, I think I might like it (from what I do know, I like aspects of it), I did a little minor research on Shinto for something I was writing and found I liked little bits of that… I know that I cannot make take the “pluge” of “accepting atheism” both because I have a mind that holds out to possibilities (once told a guy on Huffpo who basically demanded atheism-right-now of me that the best anyone can hope for is an agnostic with me since I’m basically too damn imaginative)…. and frankly, atheism doesn’t offer me hope like even loose Christianity does. Atheism basically says “we’re here becuase we’re here and the universe is marching toward entrophy – deal with it.” I cannot. As I am now, I’m not sure of my purpose in existance, but I am sure I have one. “Being freed from my religion” would leave me drifting without a purpose (and I can see myself doing bad things without a purpose, at least to myself). Where some people see a world of freedom, I see despair.

    And yet, because I cannot let go of the ideas that keep me from plunging into pure despair (and suicide), to some I’ve encountered, I’m worthless as to not being worthy to draw breath, or at the very least, a lesser human than they are – for what? Going with my instincts and clinging toward that which gives me hope enough to stay alive?

    I believed in God before becoming a Christian, actually, but sometimes, yeah, I wonder if I would have been a better person without any of it, since some seem to think so.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      “As I am now, I’m not sure of my purpose in existance, but I am sure I have one.”

      Unless we’re lying to ourselves (including by being certain of not having one), I’m not sure we’re ever exactly sure of our “purpose” or—perhaps more accurately—purposes in existence until we wake up some glorious day having already accomplished them. But I have reason to believe that the ultimate purpose, into which each of our individual purposes ought somehow to interweave, has got something to do with love.

      And I hope you always remember, Shadsie, come what may, no matter what befall us, love remains—there’s always love, in all things, at all times, no matter how dark, no matter how drear. And love matters. In spite of all the hardships life brings, life is worth it, why? For the sake of love. And love never fails you: even if relationships in which love once was found are removed from us, whether by withering away or by sudden tragedy, the same love that once was there is still there (not bound by the vanities of space-time and its law of entropy so as to diminish)—only we have to be willing to open our eyes to look to the world around us, and see that it is so.

      Whether understood from a theistic or atheistic point of view, this is (in a nutshell) the truth that one must live by.

      • vj

        “the same love that once was there is still there (not bound by the vanities of space-time and its law of entropy so as to diminish)”

        Wow, Matthew, so beautifully put!

        And Shadsie: “I admit to being agnostic in my Christianity, I believe and HOPE, but I don’t for sure “know”” – that’s exactly how I feel too… and if God can say “without hope/vision my people perish”, then I think you are exactly right that your hope is good for you, regardless of what others may think….

        • Don Rappe

          By faith alone, means to me that knowledge, while good, is insufficient. It does not serve the same purpose for me as my faith does. Knowledge does temper some of the imaginative quality of my faith. I attempt to reject every superstitious interpretation of the faith (that was once delivered to the saints). Like Tildeb, I cannot attain knowledge by other than certain commonly accepted methods. But I don’t confuse knowledge with faith. To discuss anything with her I first would not let her impose on me the definition of what faith had to be. She insisted on such a narrow definition she was willing to exclude Buddhists from the class of religious people. I agree with your perception that despair is the opposite of faith (ignorance is the opposite of knowledge). When people who claim to have no faith are not desperate, I usually try to see what exactly is the source of their confidence? Is it an idol? Or is it the cosmic creator unrecognized? But the creator does seem to have given me an imagination. I’m sure it has some purpose.

  • Richard Lubbers

    What I get tired of is the assumption that, because I’m a Christian, I vote Republican, like Glenn Beck and all of Fox News, call gays “sinners” and don’t drink. There is a strong conserative religiosity here in West Michigan. It’s one of the places in America where you can be pro war, pro nuke, pro guns, pro death penalty and still call yourself pro life.

    • Diana A.

      Yeah, I get tired of that assumption too. That’s why I’m getting louder about my democratic, progressive, liberal, gay-respecting Christianity (I don’t drink, but that’s a product of my family history, not my moral values.)


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