Guest blogger Sheldon Cooper, writer of the blog, Ramblings of Sheldon is a closeted agnostic and a longtime fan of Laughing in Purgatory.
(Yes, the screen name does come from the character in the TV show, The Big Bang Theory, if you were wondering....)
It was on a Saturday night, and there had been a Sunday School class "hangout" at the apartment where my Sunday School teachers at the time lived, for some reason that I can't remember, something came up that caused both the husband and wife had to leave, and surprisingly they were fine with the three remaining people in the group staying around after they were gone, they just said to lock the doors on your out.
Well, that just left me alone with my longtime friends Sam and Rose (not their actual names), two people that have been very important in my life. Two people that I would trust to tell them anything. As will happen in groups like this, conversations after a while will turn back to faith, and one's spiritual life and discussions on theology. Sam starts talking about the church, and how it was at the time, and how he felt it wasn't really meeting his spiritual needs, the Sunday School, etc. I didn't know what to say.
Obviously I didn't know what to do at this point. Of course the church isn't meeting my spiritual needs at this point, by then I had already known for about 6 months or so that I was no longer a fundamentalist, and I had given up on Christianity altogether, but I had told no one this up until this point.
Until then, I told told a very small group of people that I had doubts, including the husband in the Sunday School teacher duo I had mentioned earlier. He had recommended that I read books from his favorite minister, John Piper. That I had done, and pray constantly, and no matter how much I felt guilt for doubting, and apologized to god for it, it never seemed like prayers were going past the ceiling. (I wonder why...)
I kept reading the Bible to find the answers to my doubts within my own faith at the time, but all I ended up with were more doubts, and confusion over the contradictions and barbarity contained within that I had tried to excuse away or ignore while I was still trying to defend my faith.
I was always past the point of no return, and I felt like a spot light was on me, if I didn't give a response it would seem odd, so I just let it all out right then and there.
Sam wanted to know more, and questioned without condemnation why I had come to this conclusion, Rose, well she was just dumbfounded. I wasn't surprised by that reaction, I mean, after all until this point, I had the image of being one of the most solid fundamentalists around, not in an arrogant, holier than thou way (at least not to people in the church, now non-fundamentalist would disagree), and the resident theology expert.
I knew the Bible thoroughly, I knew all the arguments, I was everybody's idea of a solid Christian in those circles, and in a few moments all of that perception was shattered completely, catching Sam and Rose unaware. It was a shocking revelation, and a discussion that went on for about 2 hours.
So many questions: What led you to this point.....? Do you even believe in god anymore....? Will you be staying the church....? I answered them all, and did my best to reassure that though my beliefs had changed, I was still the same person as before.
In the end, that night, I felt better that at least someone finally knew, it was a relief, at least two people that I cared about know now, at least someone understands.
It has been a year and a half now, and they still accept me for whom I am, it may not seem like such a big deal, but for some people, religion is taken far too seriously, it consumes them to the point that are willing to reject people that don't fit into their narrow ideals that it becomes what some call "religious addiction".
Their beliefs become everything to them, and they don't want people around that no longer believe, it's threatening to them, if someone who once believed no longer does, than what does that mean for them? I think this fear is what drives people to think that if someone leaves their version of fundamentalist Christianity that they were never a "true Christian" in the first place, they many say that, but they know the truth.
It scares them to think that someone who was the real deal, lived the life, could leave it, and it makes them insecure about their own faith, and worried that it's a possibility for them.
Thankfully, that didn't happen with Sam and Rose, today they are still both fundamentalists, but are more relaxed and somewhat more open minded than they used to be, it's a slow process, but they may eventually come around to the same conclusions that I did.
I would like to think that my honesty with them about my unbelief had something to do with that.
Next step will be coming out to my family, who is more fundamentalist than even Sam and Rose were.
On the other hand, I think I'll wait on that, maybe for a another year or two, small steps.....