I was hesitant to choose religion as the subject matter for my perspectives article, thinking it might offend people. But then I realized that I’m graduating in a few months anyway.
So I’m going for it. If you are offended by my thoughts on the subject, feel free to come talk to me. I won’t try to push my views, and I would love to hear people’s responses.
I’m a former Christian, born and raised in a nice Mennonite family in Newton, Kansas. Throughout my life up until college, I pretty much accepted all the tenets of Christianity that I was taught.
My first big encounter with issues new to my worldview came during my first year, when the “Where’s my LGBTQ Prof?” movement taught me that homosexuality is not, in fact, immoral, and it’s ridiculous to pretend that it is.
My mind was pretty blown that it had taken me that long to figure out this simple fact and especially that my beloved religion was being used to justify this bigotry. From there, I spent a lot of time thinking about religion, God, and the Church.
Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that Christianity brings about some pretty awful stuff in the world, so I don’t want that label next to my name. Also, having thought about it, I realized I don’t really think that God exists anyway, so I guess I’m atheist.
Since leaving the Mennonite Church and becoming a part of the “young people leaving the church” statistic, I’ve become a little less cynical.
Yes, Christianity (and any religion) can result in some seriously weird and misguided beliefs. But I now recognize that there also exists tremendous positive potential as well. Christianity is a smorgasbord of good and bad, much like raisins and chocolate chips in the same cookie.
Christians can be overly confident that their own worldview is the right one, since many consider faith to be really important. This can result in a “holier than thou” mindset that is just plain annoying.
Furthermore, if a Christian gets uncomfortable over non-traditional things like homosexuality or the idea that God could be a woman, they have the option to dress up their homophobia or sexism in religion, and it ends up being super hard to make any progress on social justice issues.
Second, in Christianity, there can be too much focus on personal salvation by Jesus Christ, worrying about heaven and hell — which I believe to be fake, childish notions — rather than focusing on real life concerns. This can result in wasted energy on evangelism to people who need help in this life, not a later one.
Third, why does Christianity set so much stock in the Bible? It’s a compilation of 2,000 year-old stories written from the perspective of privileged men. Calling it “holy” feeds into the overconfidence I was talking about earlier.
I do have some nice things to say about Christianity, though.
First and foremost, attending a church generates a supporting community for members that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
Second, Christian churches often engage with their community in really positive ways, such as volunteer work or raising money to aid recovery from various calamities.
Third, Jesus was pretty cool. As I mentioned before, I do think we need to take the Bible a lot less seriously, but I definitely think the stuff Jesus had to say was pretty radical and awesome, whether you believe he was a savior or not.
Last, prayer can be a great way to deliberately take time to meditate and be thankful for various aspects of a person’s life, leading to good mental and emotional health. Also, vocal prayer in front of somebody can be a great non-awkward way to give them sincere, comforting words to show them you care.
Having tried to remove myself from this mess, my life has changed in both positive and negative ways. I feel that my vision is more clear sighted when it comes to judging the morality of novel ethical questions.
But I rarely meditate on my life or spend time deliberately thinking about others’ well-being. I’m not self-righteous about my beliefs, but neither do I have a church community I call home in Goshen. I don’t believe in God, but I think there is some kind of majesty and mystery to the universe that is unknowable to humans.
Overall, I have a very different worldview than I did when I entered as a first-year, and I’m excited to see how my views change as I move on from college to the next stages of my life.