Even at my most apathetic levels of belief there were certain truths I never let go of. I knew there was a god and that I needed him. That I was ultimately a broken image of what god had in mind for me and that I needed his grace and mercy to get to heaven because as Romans 3:23 constantly reminded me, I’d fallen short of the glory of god.
I’d been raised to accept, and I truly believed, that I was depraved without god. That my flesh and it’s desires were entirely revolting in god’s sight. I’ll never forget the immense shame and disgust I felt with myself the first time I masturbated. I prayed for forgiveness for being so weak! I was so undeserving of his love! I hated myself for being the way I was!
What I realized in my college years was that even the most upstanding of believers are, at some level, self loathing. It’s part of the deal when signing up for the Christian tradition. Growing up I had multiple people that I was in awe of because their walks with Christ seemed so holy and beyond reproach. They were what all believers, in my mind, aspired to be.
When I’ve tried to relay this point to believers, that Christianity goes hand in hand with self hatred, I’m scoffed at more loudly than normal. No, I wasn’t understanding what Christianity really was. It’s a relationship! It’s love!
But when you break down the most basic tenets of what you’re accepting as a Christian, that you’re a sinner and deserving of hell without Jesus, you’ve already admitted that you’re flawed, broken and undeserving of happiness.
I really don’t feel there’s any need to take the illustration further because at it’s most fundamental core you’re accepting what’s stated above. And if you accept it, you’ve become repulsed with who you are and gladly submit to the authority of an ancient text that works only through assertions, fear, faith and circular reasoning.
That’s been one of the most amazing aspects of giving up belief. Realizing that I’m not garbage. People around me became even more beautiful to me than they already were. All their accomplishments and character traits and skills are all self attained and self realized.
I’m sure many people would say I’m focusing too much on the negative. That a joyous relationship with Jesus isn’t at all like that, but I’d disagree. I’m merely looking at all aspects of that relationship and the costs. In my practical mind if you have to accept that you’re unworthy of heaven or depraved without the love of Jesus, then that means you also accept that you’re damaged goods, unfit to sit at the table with the adults. It’s really quite gross when you look at it wholly.
While I may never be a beautiful or unique snowflake in the grand scheme of the universe, I love that I am a person full of confidence, cheer and love. Sure there’s aspects of me that can always be improved, but the bottom line is that I’m my own man. I’m standing on my own 2 feet with a smile on my face and my arms outstretched to love people as they are.
Can Christians say that? They can say that about other believers in their god, but so long as you don’t match up with their ideologies they’ll accept and possibly even love you, but with caveats. Having grown up in belief I can say these things with confidence. I myself have been guilty of being extra friendly to non-believers or people of other faiths in hopes to show them the love of Jesus and to win them to Christ. Believers will always be working just as I was, with some ulterior motive, even if it’s small, of winning you to the cross. Looking to shackle you with the same self loathing that they aren’t aware of themselves.
If you find yourself in such a situation do as Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife tempted him and run away. Even if that means leaving your cloak behind.