Many people have asked me how I lost my faith. I’m never certain how to answer, where to start my journey of doubt, my break to freedom. The truth is I had many times of doubt and confusion as a believer, so what was different?
It started with a Chick tract.
Or maybe not. Maybe it started years earlier with death and prayer and the despair of unanswered cries. Maybe it started the first time I let myself laugh at George Carlin. Maybe it started the first time I admitted I didn’t have the whole picture and was determined to wait for the answer. But not this time.
This time, the last time, it started with a chick tract.
I was living in a major city and had just come from the library. I had been inquiring about a job there so I was dressed rather conservatively. Hair up, glasses, reading a biography I had picked up. One of the few benefits of using transit is that you can travel and spend most of the time with your nose in a book.
The point is, I probably looked like a bit of a prude.
As I exited the subway and glanced around just enough to head in the right direction without collision. At that moment I saw a woman. Slim, middle-aged, obviously conflicted. The way you feel when you aren’t sure whether the holy spirit is guiding you to do something or you are just about to make an ass of yourself. She approached me and handed me a little pamphlet, and quickly walked away.
As everyone who lives in a city learns to do I smiled, thanked her, and kept going without missing a step. I waited half a block to look down at what I held, and when I did I nearly fell over laughing.
The tract was called Party Girl.
For those who have never had the dubious pleasure of reading Jack Chick’s publications, he is a famous Christian tract writer who, metaphorically speaking, considers a 2×4 to the head too subtle. Over a hundred of his tracts have been reviewed by Hugo & Jake on Youtube and I recommend their takedowns unreservedly.
In this cartoon a young woman goes to an unspecified festival which is obviously Mardi Gras, Where Satan decides to personally poison her martiini because her Grandmother prays too much and it annoys him.
No, I’m not kidding. That is the ‘plot’.
Fortunately god wakes up grandma and sends her after her prodigal granddaughter. She is dragged away, leaving one of her companions to succumb to the poison, while grandma rambles about Satan being out to get her. Shaken by her non-brush with death the girl listens to the plan of salvation, which apparently she had never heard before, instantly feels terrible about her terrible “sins” of drinking and having sex and gets saved. Ta-da!
Much as I laughed at this bit of absurdity I was also embarrassed, remembering a time in my life, in my faith, when it would not have seemed so absurd. While I had given up many of the more absurd and over dramatic elements of evangelicalism, my move had been slow and sideways. I still held the basic beliefs and could not imagine god not existing, but I had moved far enough away from those ideas that I could laugh at them.
Even as I told the story to my mother I could hear the annoyance and thread of fear running though her voice because I was mocking something “Christian”. Thankfully I still carried that tiny spark of rebellion. Even if I was a Christian I still wanted the see how far I had come, to clear away the rubbish ideas I had long ago been saddled with. To laugh at them and declare my freedom.
So I did. I laughed with Hugo & Jake at the absurdity of devils, Jack Chick’s paranoia, and the unique horror of Christian Children’s Television. I laughed and learned with Logicked and The Living Dinosaur just how much I had been lied to about evolution. I watched Penn & Teller and learned how much bullshit is in the world. I learned to critically examine things, even them. Theremin Trees showed me how my mind can be manipulated. Martymer81 and Cool Hard Logic taught me the even greater absurdity of some other beliefs along with a whole lot of physics.
Bit by bit I laugh and I am free.
It takes seven years. Seven years for me to let myself hear two great men who crack the last damn. Who let me consider there really might be no truth in faith. No truth in Christ.
Christopher Hitchens says, “My own opinion is enough for me.” And it’s who I’ve always wanted to be but have been trained to fear. I hate that that was taken from me. Richard Dawkins is debating Daivd Wolpe and when the rabbi starts on “social utility” he loses it. “What does any of this have to do with whether or not religion is true!? I care about what is true!” And I think “If I have the truth, why does the atheist care more about truth than anyone else on that stage?”
I find my courage. I dare to look at the research compiled by Evid3nce in his series “Why I am no longer a Christian.” I dare to look past what I was taught the bible says.
Suddenly, in a moment, I see. I wasn’t just missing part of the picture I was missing all of it. It was never true. None of it. In a moment everything I had built my life on crumbled to dust and fell away. The magic trick, once seen through, can no longer deceive.
Like the myth I spend three days in the grave.
Now it is over. I am free.