I doubt that many readers went to church today, but they will find good company in this Guardian article, inspired by the recent census showing that fewer than half of people in England and Wales are Christian. Secularism is on the rise (note, though: so is Islam in the UK), and the paper found four people willing to explain why they gave up their Christianity.
Click to read the heartening tales of deep-sixing superstition:
I’ll summarize the four people who spoke publicly (last names not given); their quotes are indented, and my take is flush left.
Diana, 44, a retail worker from Yorkshire:
“Losing my faith was a process of gradual disengagement,” she says. “At some point, I didn’t think that I, as a woman, was made to submit to a man. But the final straw was watching my father die of cancer and trying to do so without pain relief as it was ‘God’s will’, while waiting to be healed. I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t believe in a supernatural being, and couldn’t pretend any more.”
Horrible deaths of the innocent are really a God-killer. As I always say, theodicy is the Achilles heel of faith.
James, a programme manager from Birmingham:
“I was raised as a Christian: church every Sunday, C of E [Church of England] school, taught to say grace before dinner.
“At some point in my late teens the stuff that provided comfort, such as the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient god, suddenly started to feel more like a fairytale you tell kids to help them sleep, and posed questions. And then I thought: ‘If God knows exactly what I’m going to do, and lets it happen, then I no longer have a free will’,” the 44-year-old says.
Well, James, I have some bad news for you. . . . .
Pauline, 54, retired and lives in Bristol:
“I probably stopped calling myself a Christian in my 30s. I was brought up as a strict Roman Catholic with Irish parents. We always went to church on Sunday, and for most of my childhood it was a ritual that was nice and comforting,” she says.
But as she got older she began to have doubts. “I felt that if God made everyone in his image, then why were people who were gay so hated by the church? It felt as if they were saying: ‘Jesus loves everybody but only if they’re like us’. The church was peddling a form of hate, and it didn’t sit right with me.
“All of the hell and damnation stuff as well, plus the amount of money the Catholic church has, it led me to be totally disillusioned by the whole thing.”
Not surprising. I’m amazed that there are people who can think but also remain Catholic (e.g., Andrew Sullivan).
Stephen Hunsaker, raised as a Mormon:
“I had been very devout my entire life, but when lockdown happened and I just stepped back, that made me realise there was so much that I no longer identified with. I felt like I had to justify it at every turn and it was bringing me an immense amount of guilt and hurt,” Hunsaker says, explaining that he also felt alienated by some Christians’ treatment of minorities and LGBTQ+ people. “Religion is meant to help you be a better person, but I felt like it was holding me back.”
Hunsaker says leaving his faith was the hardest decision he ever made. “I was very fearful that my relationship with my family and friends would be affected – my world was so wrapped up in it. [But] it went better than I thought.
“Guilt is an incredibly powerful emotion,” he says. “But as I lived without religion and found other people in solidarity it allowed for me to figure out who I am. I feel a lot more at peace.”
He’s a gutsy guy, as Mormons who leave the church are virtual apostates, and are often shunned, though he apparently wasn’t.
I admire all these people: they are true “freethinkers.” Imagine no religion! And imagine the Guardian publishing the “confessions” of four atheists—I wouldn’t expect that even in a Leftist paper.