On giving up on Christianity

On giving up on Christianity November 19, 2015

Couple Leaving for Vacation with Train

I don’t know if it’s happening with people generally; maybe it’s just something I’m hearing more about, because people write to tell me about it when it happens to them or someone they know.

But if my inbox is any indication, a lot of people who used to be Christian are deciding not to be Christian anymore.

And they haven’t just given up calling themselves Christian, either, which so many have been doing for so long now. They’ve given up on the faith itself.

They’re done. They’re moving on.

They’re still spiritual; most of them don’t have any particular problem with the concept of God. They have a problem with the concept of the Christian God.

They don’t really have a problem with Jesus, either. But they really have a problem with all the loathsome things that Jesus has come to represent.

They just want out. They’ve gotten out. They like the way spirituality feels without all the baggage that comes with Christianity.

When people write to share with me this transformation in either their lives or in the life of someone they know, they sometimes ask for my thoughts on the whole idea of a Christian deciding not to be a Christian any more.

The other day a student at a Christian university wrote to ask if I’d do an online interview for his school newspaper. I said sure.

Second on his list of questions (following “How and why did you start to explore the topic of homosexuality within the Church?”) was: “How do you define gender? What does it mean to be a ‘man’ versus to be a ‘woman’?”

It took me .002 seconds to answer, “I don’t define gender. I don’t see any reason to. That’s not my business.”

Which is the exact same way I feel whenever I’m asked my thoughts on a person changing from a Christian to non-Christian.

Also none of my business!

What kind of doink-weed would I be if I really thought that was my business? If I was put in charge of Keeping Christians Christian, I didn’t get the email. I don’t run a church. I barely go to church. I have no skin whatsoever in the perpetuation of the institution of Christianity. I appreciate all the good things done in the name of Jesus; I despise all the bad things done in the name of Jesus.

Good is good. Bad is bad.

Rain is wet.

Puppies are cute.

If we’re lucky we grow old and die.

People do what they’re going to do—and they always do it for reasons that are comprehensible (if not always strictly rational, of course).

You know what I do care about? I care that people are happy. I care that they’re okay.

I care that people aren’t getting hurt, maligned, victimized, bullied. If someone is being hurt, then I have a problem. If everybody’s good, I’m good.

My point here is not, Hey, check me out: I’m this groovy mellow cat:

natural man

My point is that 99% of what’s wrong in this world is caused by people believing that it’s important they have an opinion on what other people are doing and thinking. Almost all conflict and strife, from the personal to the global, is caused by people’s crazy-ass need to tell other people how to live. What to believe in. What to think. What to feel. What to do. What to be.

What is ISIS, but people believing it’s their sacred duty to tell everyone else how to live and think and act and be? What lies at the core of every religious fundamentalist, but the drive to make everyone else just like themselves?

What war has ever been fought for any reason other than one side believing that the other should think and believe what they do?

This is not to say that there’s no such thing as a just war. There certainly is. If you’re mass-murdering Jewish people because you think they’re evil incarnate, I’ll go to war against you. If you’re refusing to let your slaves go free because you think they’re less than human, let’s all strap on our bayonets.

People who are victimizing others need to be dissuaded from doing that wrong, of course.

But otherwise, I say, let’s live and let live.

Yes, it’s hackneyed. Yes, it’s a cliche. Yes, it’s something we’ve all heard so often we don’t hear it at all anymore. But the fact remains, always and forever, that the only thing about a person’s business about which we should care is whether or not we are treating that person the same way we want them them to treat us.

The Golden Rule isn’t only a Christian doctrine. It’s a human doctrine. And it’s the only doctrine that’s ever going to save us all.

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  • Al Cruise

    “The Golden Rule isn’t only a Christian doctrine.” Yes very true. It was in place long before ” Christianity “. In the beginning was the Word. It was already there then.

  • KevinWarren

    What war has ever been fought for any reason other than one side believing that the other should think and believe what they do?

    Don’t let today’s headlines blind you to historical fact.

    Most wars have been waged because somebody wanted something somebody else had. Of all the wars waged in the recorded human history, under 7% of wars and less than 2% of people killed in them them were religious in nature.

    Encyclopedia of Wars

    ISBN-13: 978-0816028511
    ISBN-10: 0816028516

  • But that just means that side A desired for Side B to believe as it did, which was that whatever side B possessed which side A wanted rightfully belonged to Side A.

  • My point is that 99% of what’s wrong in this world is caused by people believing that it’s important they have an opinion on what other people are doing and thinking.

    For me, that is one of the top problems I have encountered with my monotheism. Monotheists have a tendency to say, “Since there is one God, his opinions ultimately matter — and since we are the only ones that know his opinions, you should do what we say.” It is a total centralization of power.

    Granted not all monotheists think like that. I have met a few that have an open mind on these matters. You, John Shore, are numbered in with that few.

    Granted not all polytheists, animist and/or atheists decentralize that control. But I have noticed that it is real easy to do when one is a monotheist. That’s one of a few reasons why I am seriously considering leaving my Judeo-Christianity behind me. One in a few reasons, but that alone is a major obstacle in my spiritual growth.

    Thanks for posting this John. I’m glad that when I came back to Patheos after several months sabbatical from the blog sphere, your blog, and this post was the first I read. It is refreshing to me. Again, thanks!

  • Brandon Roberts

    honestly my problem is with certain people’s interpretations of the christian god

  • raylampert

    You know, in the midst of all the horrible things happening in the world, articles like this do make me feel a little better. More and more people, especially young people, are giving up on regressive, oppressive, vicious, ancient superstitions and becoming more rational, reasonable and humane.

    Sure, they’re calling themselves “spiritual” instead of “religious”, but that’s such a vague term and often really just a stepping-stone to giving up on supernatural woo entirely.

    So I say, “Yay!” Drop that nonsense and let’s move forward!

  • Steve Deutsch

    The real reason that people are giving up on Christianity is only tangentially related to telling others how they should live. The real reason is the dogma and obviously flawed understand of God that the Christian church professes. The church has put God in a box. A box that is surely too small to contain God. The Christian religion has, or at least tries, to take God away from me. This is why people are giving up on Christianity.

  • spiritubrianus

    I am someone who came from being unchurched to churched. As a gay man, I always thought I was unwelcome in church. Every ‘crusade’ against gay civil rights seemed to be led by Christian churches. Yet, I found a loving and accepting community within the Episcopal Church where my being gay is a non issue. That said, I have come to realize that I will always have a love-hate relationship with the church universal (as opposed to my local parish)–i.e. two steps forward, one step back. Example, just the other day the newly named Episcopal Bishop of Dallas told same sex couples in his diocese that they needed to travel to the diocese of Fort Worth to be married in church because he would not allow it in the churches in his diocese. In effect he was denying them a sacrament that straight couples are given without question. I regard this as a form of spiritual abuse. For reasons like this, I can understand totally why people give up on the church. Had I been one of the people involved in Dallas, I would have considered strongly leaving the church.

  • gewaite

    How about it’s boring, expensive, and wastes time and effort?

  • TaschTasch

    My problem with Christianity is with its inability to address the existence of suffering and evil in a way that satisfies my sense of justice and fairness. The bigotry of many conservative Christians on issues like homosexuality and their anti-intellectualism is of lesser concern to me although I (uncharitably) love mocking such people for their bizarre flat-earthism.

    I keep on remembering that Job suffered because God and Satan had a bet going on the outcome, a fact that was usually left out in the sermons on Job that I attended.

  • jason_111

    I share your thoughts. Not that it matters, but I do.

  • jason_111

    This is one of your very best posts John. I feel exactly the same as what you wrote.
    I have not left Christianity because despite all the unanswered questions I have, I do believe God exists and I really do need His supernatural help in my life. If there is no God, who would I turn to for divine intervention ? A fellow mortal? lol.