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One time, I told a friend that I went to church regularly. She responded by saying that she didn’t go to church because she’d always thought it seemed to her like brainwashing.
I nodded in agreement. It does kind of seem like brainwashing sometimes. There is chanting and speaking in unison and repetition. We reaffirm unchanging beliefs and have built hierarchies and cultures around them. Some Christian communities are even known for resisting important ideas that seem logical to others. (Global warming and evolution come to mind.)
So I’ll ask a question I had been afraid to verbalize most of my life: Is there something about faith in the Christian God that prevents people from thinking clearly?
Maybe. I reached the end of my faith this year. More accurately, I reached the end of a particular type of faith a long time ago, but kept going until this year due to some kind of church inertia.
I’ll try to explain: All those rote habits, the songs, the community, they become ingrown after a while. They become a part of you, and so do the people. It gets deep. You think together, you pray together, and you serve together. So it only makes sense to leave when you find yourself in peril, when it becomes too painful to stay, even though there are people around you who care for you.
The church togetherness can be beautiful, but it can create also create barriers that deflect our thoughts away from those that might deviate from the script. I know this isn’t exclusive to churches; it’s part of being a person reliant on hundreds of other people with a complex history.
For me, the cognitive dissonance was too much. The dogma was too much. The suppression of doubt and the certainty was too much. The vague threat of hell, occasionally thrown into sharp relief by elderly preachers was too much. The story of Jesus did not feel hopeful after a while. It felt like a facade. It felt like we were trying too hard.
Is there a God? I don’t know. Why ask such a boring question?
The people are all around us. Let’s just love them already.