I met a guy from the bereans forum sometime last year. He’s a Christian, a member of Jesus is Lord church. Last time I heard, he’s now a self-confessed agnostic (he wants to be called “agnostic_pilgrim”). While I never had a real, big time, online communication with him in the past and has not known him personally, it pains me to see Christians turning their backs on their faith.
So I spent about 4 hours yesterday trying to understand why. I read his articles, I followed his links to agnostic sites. Then I surfed into an ex-christian site. There I was exposed to the “real thing” — that people can be really disappointed to what they thought as “Christianity” and do Christian-bashing, Bible-bashing and Christ-bashing all together. Of course, they are free to do that, but I’m just amazed how a former Christian can be too pained by and hate “Christianity” to the point of cursing and literally burn down the world view they once thought is right.
In my readings from his site and that of the ex-Christian’s site, I have observed several identical issues that led former Christians to agnosticism. And sad to say, most of the reasons are caused by organized Christianity itself. Let me share some of my findings:
1. Most turn their back on Christianity because of a legalistic past from a traditional, organized religion. Some Christian families and denominations simply push behavioral expectations to the limit. In fact, even today, I hear people say, “Christian ka pa naman” whenever those who are known to be a Christian committed a mistake. It’s as if Christians are supposed to be behavioral saints. Now, imagine if your local church, even your parents will tell you that. What kind of pressure would it be.
Reading the Bible, praying, or even having your quite time and going to church on Sunday — all these Christian traditions become “burdens” if done in a legalistic manner. Burdens that causes dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction the causes doubts. And doubts that causes disbelief.
It’s a lesson for us Christians. It’s a good practice to treat fellow Christians as “humans” not “super humans”. Yes, we believe that the Holy Spirit lives in us, and he will enable us to do mighty works. Yet, we should understand that we still live in this sin-sicked world. And even Christians fall in to sin. And if they do, the least that they need is ridicule. They need grace, not just from God, but from us first and foremost.
Bible reading and other Christian “activities” are not meant to become standard of measure of a good Christian. They are tools to make us enjoy our relationship with God. Don’t impose it in a way that if you don’t do it, it makes you a lesser child of God.
2. Scare tactics isn’t always the best way to describe the gospel. Now this is common. “If you don’t believe, you’ll burn in hell”. In fact, when we do this, we drive them away from the real essence of God’s grace and to agnosticism. Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in hell. But the traditional way of describing the gospel by pointing people into heaven or hell does not always work. It paints an unloving God who will throw people to hell fire just because they argued with Him.
Remember that God does not want anyone in hell (2 Peter 3:9). God’s very character is love. So the best way to describe the gospel is not telling them about hell. It’s telling them about grace. Leave it to them — accept it or reject it.
3. They just don’t know what Christianity is all about. I read a lot of complaints from former Christians in that site about their former religion. They were asked to do this and that. They were seen as this and that because of doing this and that. Some say their religion manipulated them. Sadly, this is reality. The organized religion has done quite a big damage on the image of Christianity as a whole.
But we need to understand too, that Christianity first and foremost, isn’t a “religion”. Well, from the worldview perspective it is — just like Islam, Buddhism, etc. But if we’ll understand Christianity as a “relationship” with someone who supposed to have founded this movement, then that solves the problem. Because everything else will be based on your experience with that relationship and not with the religious group one had had.
If you’ll notice my title, I placed quotation marks on the word “Christians”. Because a lot of people call themselves Christians without really knowing how and why they became Christians in the first place. Some people believe that they became Christians because they were born in a Christian family, was going to church on Sundays, reading the Bible, or even have been baptized. But those do not make one a Christian.
Most of them will say they left Christianity. No, I don’t think so. They only left the traditions based on Christianity. Because only if they had a real, vibrant relationship with Jesus, they had become Christians. And if they had it, they won’t doubt him. I still have to hear an agnostic say “I had a wonderful relationship with Jesus, then I doubted him and left the faith”.
* 4. Too much intellectualism. The reality is this: most if not all agnostics are thinkers. Bright people. When I visited that ex-Christian site, the owner of the website community has a PhD degree. I read a debate, actually an interview by a Chrsitian broadcaster to one of their members — and the guy is a scientist, PhD. Most posters have masteral degrees if not graduates of prestigious universities. Now, I’m not saying that to be an agnostic, you need to be educated well. Not in all cases. But I see the pattern.
I’m not insinuating, too, that being a thinker is wrong. In fact, our faith should be based on logical foundations. But here’s the deal: most thinkers think a lot — obviously. And by thinking a lot, questions are raised, doubts are built — and that’s abolutely normal. It seems that, for them, all questions has to be answered. So far, I don’t have any objections to that. But you see, we also need to accept the fact that our brain can only accomodate that much. We are not physiologically capable of knowing everything. And so, in the midst of questions, we will reach the end of the rope. That the answer to a question can either be “I don’t know” or “I don’t want to know”.
Having said that, each one of us have no escape but to have faith in something. Anyway, faith is needed in this earth to survive. You got to have faith in the chair that it can carry your weight when you sit on it. You got to have faith in you mom that when you go home, the food that you’ll be eating is edible. You got to have faith in the jeepney driver to drive you safely to your destination (otherwise, you’ll see yourself walking in the middle of the road from Muntinlupa to Monumento). You got to have faith in something to survive.
In the case of agnostics, when they reached the end of the rope of their questions, they’ve got to trust on something (or someone). And choose whatever it is.
That’s how it goes. We have no choice.
I also do not buy the idea of Chrsitians blaming the “God’s way is not our way, so don’t question Him. I simply trust” excuse when we’re confronted with honest questions from agnostics. There’s got to have some answers to their questions too. But not all answers are acceptable to them. Because some answers seems “too good to be true” and does not satisfy their logical standards. But that’s how it is sometimes. On the other hand, we have to point out that most of the time, our reasoning and faith for that matter does sound more logical than that of the agnostic worldview. Just take the issue of creation vs. evolution. You may present me bulk of data concerning evolution, but when I look around and see nature, and when I studied Anatomy and Physiology back in college and found out how our body functions so amazingly, my only conclusion is that creation is far logical than evolution. And it will take me more faith to believe in evolution than in creation.
Is thinking and questioning bad? Not at all. As long as we recognize that we’re no super computers. Our brains have limits, and so does questions.
Agnostic_pilgrim disagrees with common Christian thought that only in Christ can one found happiness. I agree with him. I also believe that even if one does not have a relationship with Jesus, he can be happy. But what’s the difference between a real Christian and an agnostic? It’s how they see the future. The real Christian has hope. The agnostic does not. They just live life and die. The Christian sees the light at the end of the tunnel and looks forward to that light with eagerness. The agnostic simply enjoy life here and now. That what logic tells him anyway.
* updated Wednesday afternoon