I remember when I discovered that I like girls. Before then, there were some subtle pressures and images that made me wonder what it was like to kiss a girl. The conditioning of society made me comfortable with the idea of having an other in my life.
But it was way different the day my body knew deep down inside that it desired intimacy with the opposite sex. Sometimes, this thing that I now knew even embarrassed me if you know what I mean. But it wasn’t an intellectual thing, it was an internal thing.
Even though religion muddied the water with a lot of toxic believes about sex, I’m not sorry that I learned to appreciate this truth about myself that I am a sexual being.
I remember when I discovered that I could have my own beliefs. Unfortunately it didn’t happen till I was much older. I was conditioned by my family and by my culture to believe in a very specific image of God and a very specific belief system and practice.
But then, one day I realized many of my beliefs were wrong. It was as dramatic as the day I realized my deep attraction to women. When I began to question my beliefs, many of them came unraveled because they were not very well constructed.
Just like adolescence, I was uneasy at first and didn’t quite know what to do with this new understanding, but every day I grow more and more content and more and more confident that I’m moving in the right direction.
It is also an inner knowing, and every day I’m learning to trust myself more. Religion taught me not to trust myself, but that only put me at the mercy of others and their beliefs and their intentions for me and their practices. Now I have my own practices, my own beliefs and I am much more at peace.
I also remember the day I realized that I didn’t need organized religion. I knew I couldn’t be a pastor anymore because my beliefs had changed so much, but I thought I could plug in somewhere and be a part of someone else’s ministry.
But, as I grew, I realized that organized religion has remained the same for hundreds of years as cultures and understandings have evolved. When I was able to examine it from the outside, it often seemed toxic and unnecessary for most people.
I also realized that religion most often becomes an organization, whether we admit it or not. The needs of the organization always come first and care for the individual is usually last. It is not that religion does not want to help people, but systemically it is usually unable.
When I realized this, it freed me up to be myself and practice what made sense to me. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t slide down a slippery slope. I even addressed much of the trauma that I experienced in religion. I am most definitely doing better, not worse.
Laura and I wrote a book to do the analysis of whether organized religion is necessary in the 21st century. We wanted to make sure that we were not faking ourselves out and that we were actually thriving outside religion.
In the process, we ended up telling lots of our stories from 20 years of ministry. We think this new book will be helpful for anyone that picks it up, inside or outside of religion.
It is called, Out into the Desert: Thriving Outside Organized Religion
We wish you well on YOUR journey,
Be where you are,
Be who you are,
Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart and The Tea Shop. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast. He is married to his wife Laura of 32 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!