“His ways are greater than our ways.”
Ah, the rallying cry of uncertain people who don’t want or are scared to admit their uncertainty, who cannot accept a world without a figure of absolute authority, and who think authority figures can act in ways that don’t make sense to the rest of the world by sheer virtue of being in power. I guess Kellyanne Conway took a page straight out of their book – yes that book.
There are variations on this theme. “God has a reason.” “It’s god’s will.” “I don’t need to know why. I just have to trust in god.” Etc., etc. It’s really quite virtuosic. Christians are the Mozarts of obfuscation.
I guess on some level, it’s comforting to know that the nonsensical, immoral, and seemingly random aspects of our existence happen because of a deity’s will. It definitely makes the unexplainable seem less arbitrary, but then again, it also makes god’s unfailing constancy and consistency – major attributes of the Christian god – rather dubious. It’s kind of difficult to rationalize why some humans deserve suffering while others deserve endless success without attributing it to a creator whose ways can’t make sense to meager human minds, which actually aren’t all that meager given their ability to invent ideologies that have duped an entire species into thinking their minds are too meager to understand a god in whose image they were allegedly created for thousands of years.
On a more personal level, however, it shut down my curiosity. It always felt wrong for wondering about alternatives, and even now, I feel guilty for writing this as if my concerns about religion are spiteful simply because so many people hold certain doctrine in such high esteem. For me, there is nothing at stake in what is a very high-stakes worldview for a majority of Americans, which construes what I’m saying as a personal attack when it’s actually tantamount to criticizing someone’s opinion on macaroni and cheese because let’s face it, not liking macaroni and cheese carries a lot of stigma. Then again, macaroni and cheese isn’t an institution that extorts the most vulnerable among us, perpetuates all brands of bigotry, and changes its interpretations of its founding documents to fit its leaders’ personal agendas. Once again, it’s not an indictment of Christians. It’s an indictment of Christianity. I digress.
Anyway, I shouldn’t have to justify my dissent. That alone is enough evidence to show just how adept Christians are at criminalizing even the most natural questions. It’s objectively innocuous to ask how an all-loving god could allow hell to exist. In fact, it’s a question that would naturally arise from a general understanding of the biblical narrative arc. Instead, Christians just say, “God can’t tolerate sin. We can’t comprehend his reasoning.” Okay, then if god is all-powerful, why can’t he just wipe out people’s sin on his own? “God wants us to make decisions on our own volition. Coercion is not obedience.” Barring the notion that the mere existence of hell is basically coercion, if god is all knowing, how do we have free will in the first place? Doesn’t he essentially know who the winners and losers are before they’re created? And if so, why would he create the losers in the first place? “His ways are greater than our ways.”
That’s just one example – an example that became nearly routine for me as I went through my deconversion. It was maddening, but somehow, no one to whom I asked that series of questions batted an eye at its logical inconsistencies because god doesn’t operate under human logic even though he created us in his image.
Also, if our minds are so meager that we can’t comprehend anything that seems remotely contradictory in god’s actions, how can he expect us to make a decision that will ultimately decide where we spend eternity? I JUST WANT TO KNOW. Tell me without dodging the question. Tell me without blindly appealing to an authority figure. Tell me without condescending me as if you speak for god.
If I were going to base my life around Christian teachings, why wouldn’t I want to know the ins and outs? Why wouldn’t I want to question it relentlessly before I decide? Wouldn’t god want me to use my mind to the best of its ability? Apparently not. Why create a mind with capacity for such questions if he doesn’t want me to use it – especially if the questions generally lead to the conclusion that he isn’t real? Oh. Wait. Okay.
This might seem harsh, but Christians don’t ever back-up their demonization of atheists with actual examples. They don’t take atheists’ feelings into consideration when berating them. In fact, they pretend atheists don’t have feelings. I’m not even making personal attacks here. I’m attacking an ideology. I’m not attacking the character of Christians, accusing them of inherent immorality, or dehumanizing them.
So to the point, how did this hurt my mental health? Well, it made me feel guilty for thinking critically about beliefs – my own and others. It made perfectly legitimate questions feel dirty, worthy of eternal damnation in fact. Ultimately, it made my questions about why a loving god would allow me and so many others to suffer needlessly seem sinful.
I couldn’t be angry at the figure that supposedly authored me into bipolar disorder and OCD because my meager and mentally ill mind would never be able to understand his justification. In fact, he doesn’t even need a justification. He’s god, he can do what he wants, and I have to accept that. Fascism cloaked in purpose, love, and justice is still fascism. God is fascist, and Jesus is his cloak.
For a long time, I not only felt guilty as a symptom of depression, but I also was made to feel guilty for pulling away from god because of the way it hurt my family. I felt guilty for the thing for which people always praised me: thinking. Christian obfuscation was a direct affront to the thing I cherished most, the thing people cherished in me. I had to submit to a god who made me and so many others ill, give up learning because it was detracting from my devotion to this god, and live in the cognitive dissonance that was slowly tearing me apart.
All the while, people were blaming my mental illness’ worsening on my pulling away from god, when once again, it was actually due to neurological mechanisms outside of my control which were exacerbated by people’s responses to my changing worldview – which people attributed to my mental illness: a vicious cycle of diminishing, delegitimizing, and belittling. I’m not sure how that couldn’t affect my mental health. I’m not sure how to make it stop. I don’t want to feel guilty for my skepticism. I don’t want to sugarcoat my identity to appease people who refuse to sugarcoat their identities to appease me. I want to believe that dissent is what makes America great, but given the current attitude toward dissent in this country, I’m not sure how to internalize this desired belief.
I want answers to questions, not any more patronizing deflections.