I was speaking to a good and wise friend about religion and faith. Unknown to me, she was under the impression that I had been raised outside any formal or organized religious faith. When I corrected her, explaining that I was born a Catholic and later converted to Protestant Congregationalism with my mother’s approval, she was surprised. Actually, I was not born a Catholic. My parents conspired with the church in an attempt to indoctrinate me at a time when I was not capable of reason or choice by splashing me with water and declaring me a Christian.
The concept that someone can be born a Catholic, a Muslim, a Jew, or a Buddhist is a little silly. Right? You cannot be born with a belief system.
Surprised to hear my religious upbringing (I also lived with Born Again Christians for a year and attended church with them on a weekly basis), my friend asked about the cause for my loss of faith.
‘What caused you to stop believing?”
I can’t remember anyone ever asking me this question before, but I knew the answer almost immediately. After explaining that I am a reluctant atheist who desperately hopes that a kind, benevolent, slightly less-than-Biblical God and an afterlife exist, I answered.
“I read the Bible,” I said. “The more I read, the less I believed.”
In fact, I first started reading The Bible while sitting in the pews of that mother-approved Congregational church, and since those early days, I’ve read the book straight through three times.
Perhaps this is why so many churches do not provide parishioners with Bibles in the Pews, and temples do not make copies of the Torah available to their Jewish congregations. To read from the primary source document might lead to an uncomfortable level of questioning and doubt.
After all, to discover that God sent bears to kill 42 children who were cursing in the name of the Lord is enough to give anyone pause over their choice of religion.
Of course, the lack of Bibles and Torahs could just be a matter of funding, but I like the idea of conspiracies.
I've spoken to many former believers for whom this is the case. Reading that book cover to cover can be hazardous to your faith.
Most surprising, I meet very few people who have ever read The Bible or The Torah from cover to cover. Honestly, most of them are English majors who were required to read it in college.
While I understand that many believers would argue that The Bible is not supposed to be taken literally, I think that I'm too much of an English major to allow some of the material in the book to be considered the word of God and absolute doctrine while ignoring other parts or assuming that they are metaphorical.
It would be like saying that The Great Gatsby is a terrific book, but just pretend that chapter 14 didn't really happen. It was just a metaphor for other things wedged in between more relevant material.
I just can't do it. The inconsistencies alone killed me.
But I admire my friends of faith and am envious of their ability to believe. And I appreciate those who do not presume that my lack of faith is a personal failing or a sign of some fatal flaw.
I’d like to believe. I’d like to find the solace in knowing that my mother is waiting to see me again, and that when I die, my soul will move on to a better place.
I just don’t buy it.
And I think we cal all agree that you can’t fake faith.