I wrote the below for my children a couple of years ago. It is much longer than my usual Posts. I am sharing here in case you can relate and maybe be encouraged that changing your views of God can be a wonderful and worthwhile journey.
What I remember growing up was being made to go to church all dressed up. We often as a family went to church three times a week – Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday. (My kids would have killed me). I hated going to church so much! Though I wasn’t close to my Dad and Mom, I do give them credit for introducing me to my Creator. They were very much traditionalists or old-fashioned and not easy to get close to.
Looking back, it is surprising I was into God as much as I was after I left home and headed to college. I am still into God to this day for whatever reason. It certainly isn’t because I am more moral than others. I just think each has their own journey with God – it is neither a sign of strength or weakness. I still haven’t figured out why some are inclined to believe there is a Creator and what some aren’t. If inclined to believe there is a Creator, I don’t know why some pursue a closer relationship with God and others don’t.
I wore my beliefs on my sleeves beginning in college. I am sure I offended a few. I felt compelled to inspire them to have a relationship with God. I assume that was partly because of what I was taught about heaven and hell growing up. It didn’t take me long to no longer believe in a literal Hell. Jesus didn’t come to earth to save us from being tortured forever.
I graduated from college in 1980 and got married in 1982. I was born in 1957 in case wondering. The best thing that happened to me going to college, though my parents made me go or live on the streets, was meeting my wife. One reason we married was because we shared the importance of having a relationship with God. We still have that connection, though my beliefs about God have changed a lot. I can’t stop the questions in my head about what God is really like. My wife accepts more what she has been taught and I must confess – she is more like Jesus than I probably am. Okay, maybe 60-40!
We took our children to a church on Sundays when they were young. We encouraged them to attend smaller meetings within the building with people their own age, but they mostly chose to hang with their parents in the big room where adult sang and listen to preaching. We let our children when older decide whether to go to church on Sunday.
I am not sure if I went to church out of guilt all those years, but not going to church didn’t feel like a choice. The institution of church worked for me for years and continues to work for many, but people need to feel free than obligated to pursue God on their own terms. Obligatory relationships are seldom life transforming. I am convinced the Bible doesn’t mandate followers must go to a church building once a week. The “church” in the New Testament actually refers to those individuals who choose to follow Jesus. The church (individual) doesn’t go to a church. The church seeks to encourage one another. In the NT this tended to happen in homes of followers.
We attended Church until I was around fifty or maybe sooner. My views about God begin changing shortly after graduating from college in 1980 and getting married in 1982. Attending Seminary for a year in 1981 was an important year in my life. I became exposed to different beliefs about God than what I had been taught growing up going to church. I was so impacted that professors were open to teaching and admitting different opinions existed. I will never forget being impressed that three professors at Trinity wrote a book together on the end-times. They all had different views and that was okay. In my early years I was never introduced to the possibility of different views than what being taught. I had to learn that on my own.
I can remember a pastor I respected greatly telling me a sign of leadership was being certain about what one believes and teach that to others. I know though they went to seminary and surely read biblical scholars that didn’t always agree what the Bible teaches about God. I think leadership is letting others know there are many possible views according to the Bible on a matter. One must be allowed their own journey in deciding what they believe about God, unless their God encourages beheading due to unbelief.
The reason I eventually decided to stop going to church was because when I opened my mouth, I would offend leadership. There was not a lot of open dialogue in the building when it came to discussing different views of God. I am not one to keep quiet when I don’t agree, but I knew it wasn’t healthy to always be divisive. I simply got tired of trying to fit in. I couldn’t pretend my beliefs weren’t changing. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t think certain beliefs being taught actually lead people away from God than toward God.
I doubt I will go back to church. I haven’t found a church that allows honest, open dialogue different from their own beliefs. They seem to assume unity requires agreement. My wife would like to find a church we both could attend, but I doubt such a church exist that we could co-exist. I still dig the woman though! I believe God simply encourages us to find others to encourage us in our spiritual journey. That doesn’t have to be on Sundays in a building.
I begin writing about my changing views about God in my twenties. That seem bizarre to me looking back because I am not a good writer and had not written much before. But I loved sitting and writing down my thoughts of what I thought God was really like contrary to what I had been taught. I suppose it was a form of communication about God that I couldn’t have with others. Church buildings are uncomfortable talking about beliefs different than theirs. I hated that people may be tuning out God for the wrong reasons. Blogging my thoughts became my outlet.
I begin to question if Hell was real, if God condemned gays though that question came later, whether God really favored men over women for leadership roles, if the Bible really was somehow magically infallible or inspired by God though not dictated. I doubted Jesus died because God was pissed at us for sinning and we were going to Hell if not believing in Jesus as our Savior. See here for my main beliefs about God https://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/what-i-believe/
In my twenties I weirdly wrote a 100-page paper opposing Calvinism (God chooses who goes to heaven) and no one was requiring such a paper. I wrote a lot about God’s views of women and that I didn’t believe God thought women should be submission to men any different than men should be submissive to women. It probably had something to do that I was married to a strong woman and I had two daughters that I didn’t want to be at a disadvantage to men. I sure as hell knew men weren’t smarter than women.
Eventually, a friend Tim helped me to create a website/blog around 2008. I called it https://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/ I also begin blogging at https://donewithreligion.com/ in 2018. I named my blog as such because I wasn’t claiming I was right about God, though I feel strongly about my beliefs, but I wanted to encourage open dialogue that I never experienced being in church and still don’t to this day with friends who are into God. They grew up with beliefs about God that I have left but they haven’t.
I am not sure why I am not lonelier concerning my spiritual journey. I am very much isolated from family and friends in my beliefs about God. Family and friends who are into God have beliefs that I felt compelled to leave beginning in my twenties. I don’t bring up God much with them because I have experienced discussing my beliefs are discouraging to them. I just don’t feel a freedom or openness to believe as I do as opposed to what they have been taught growing in the institutional church. I don’t sense the institutional church encourages individuals to develop their own beliefs as I try to encourage others to do.
Then, I have friends who simply aren’t into God all that much. They aren’t looking to have spiritual conversations, and I don’t wish to push such an agenda if they aren’t interested. I would definitely attend a group who desired having open dialogues about God, but I have not found such a group at this time. I am also open to leading such a group should such an opportunity present itself. Most those who want to have spiritual conversations attend institutional churches, and when I share my beliefs I find myself being more divisive than encouraging.
This is my spiritual journey. I am now retired for 6 years and still love reading, talking, and writing about God. I try to write a Post on both above blogs once a week. I used to write more often but once a week seems right for now. I can’t stop the questions about God popping in my head. I can only hope the questions I ask online are others’ questions and it may help them in their journey.
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