How Religion Deprived Me of Understanding Myself

photo-1427348693976-99e4aca06bb9A key part of my deconversion was recognizing the prevalence of emotion-based reasoning in the sort of religion my siblings and I grew up with. From earlier than we remember, we were given a specific narrative that dictated to us what was true. Young children do not have the experience or the knowledge to question what they are taught; what they hear is what they believe, and that effect even lingers into adulthood as shown by a study in 1977.

To further enforce the religion’s dictated truth, its concepts were linked to common emotions. Instead of discerning right from wrong and truth from falsehood by considering the evidence logically, we were taught concepts based on feelings, as if they were more reliable than rational thought. Rituals created emotions and continued to repeat the narrative, linking sin to shame, hell to terror, heaven to happiness.

And then it went beyond that, teaching us to credit certain thoughts and feelings to supernatural beings. That was where I ran into trouble. We’d been taught that doubt was sinful and asking for proof or signs from god was equal to doubt. Despite Gideon’s supposed verification of god’s reality by asking for two specific physical miracles, despite the instruction in the New Testament to “test spirits to see if they are from god or not”, questioning anything attributed to god was associated with shame.

Regardless of everything I was taught to think, I still learned how to think. By my teens it seemed obvious to me that if a deity was communicating directly to my brain, I should’ve been able to verify whether or not it really was an omniscient god. Instead of simply assuming that I was hearing from god, I wanted evidence.

As it turns out, either the Christian god is an apathetic liar or he doesn’t exist. The test was simple: if a thought or feeling really did come from a god, then it should be perfectly accurate. Answers to questions should always be true, predictions should always be right, promises should always be kept.

Instead of the reliable guidance I expected, I found that all of the experiences attributed to god by myself and the people around me were no more accurate than using my capacity for logical thought. In fact, I found my own cognitive abilities to be significantly more reliable for decision-making and predicting future outcomes than anything the religion had to offer. In other words, Christian indoctrination ultimately didn’t work on me because I was smarter than “god”.

Prayers came true about as often as you’d expect such things to happen anyway. The guidance of god was at best only as reliable as chance, and in some cases much worse since the ideas that formed it were so misguided. Promises made by Christianity were, like prayers, fulfilled just as if there was no god…that is to say, if supernatural forces would be required to keep a promise, it never happened.

At the time, of course, I didn’t understand what was going on. I was confused by the realization that testable evidence and logic are far more trustworthy than god. At first I explored versions of Christianity that describe a more absent god, but even they made testable claims that once again were less reliable than logic. I tried to cling to my religion, tried to figure out why it failed so badly while my own fallible mind produced better results. It’s hard to blame your own reasoning for the failure of religious doctrines when it works so much better than them.

Because of how I was raised, I simply didn’t understand myself and how my mind worked. In my efforts to verify the truth of Christianity, I was testing a flawed worldview constructed on emotions against simple evidence-based logic without even knowing it.

If you want to predict the outcome of an event, it turns out that evidence and logic work better than vague feelings or subconscious voices in your head. Imagine if people tried to predict solar eclipses using nothing but prayer and the emotions and subconscious voices that respond to it, and how much less accurate they would be than using mathematics and physics. Nobody would ever get close to the degree of accuracy we have achieved through reason.

That’s why I have challenged Christians to pray for a solar eclipse to happen out of place, and why such prayers are never answered. An omnipotent god could nudge the moon over a bit to verify that his power is more reliable than logic. Or he could’ve kept his promises. Or he could’ve simply been more trustworthy and reliable than my own human capacity for rational thought. His failure on all counts proves that he either does not care about me or does not exist.

I was still emotionally invested in the concept of a god so I moved on to deism for a time, although I understood that it was just another untestable hypothesis for the origin of the universe. The important part was that I figured out how my emotions and subconscious mind were shaped by the religious narrative I grew up with, and how they created a god in my own image.

My search for god began with an almost unshakable belief that he was real and Christianity was right, and ended with the realization that it was all a useless mind game. The invitation into my life that I offered him when I “got saved” still stands, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for him to answer.

Seek and you shall find, they said. I sought, and found myself. The Christian god remained silent and impotent.

Image: Unsplash

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