A guest post by Ian
There were several things that contributed to my deconversion, which was a several year process. Books were the first things that made me question my beliefs.
The first book than made me question was a reference to the worship of Mithras in a David Morrell book titled, The Covenant Of The Flame. I used to sneak read his books because I wasn’t allowed to read this type of fiction, only Christian fiction. In it, a character describes a method of worship similar to, but pre-dating, Catholicism. I told my pastor about this and how surprised I was. He kind of chuckled and printed me out some material about Mithraic worship. I was amazed; this was totally new to me. He told me what I had heard many times before: the Devil knew what Christians would do for worship, so he created many practices to replicate true worship; these false religions were created hundred or thousands of years before Jesus’ birth. I had always thought this was weird, but he was the pastor and knew better than me. I kept wondering about it, though, and this created a fine crack in my belief system.
The second book was The Da Vinci Code. In it was this quote:
“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”.
As I thought about this idea, I wondered who actually put together the books of the Bible we use today. I posed this question to that same pastor. He told me that tradition passed down these books to us. That true Christians always knew what books were the real ones. Again, this was an answer that didn’t make any sense; I didn’t fall for a non answer this time, though. I kept this question in the back of my mind and chewed on it. This opened a crack in my belief system that was started way back in ’93 or ’94 by the Morrell book.
Growing up, I had been warned about the dangers of setting evil things before my eyes and the virtue of thinking on things that are pure and right. I was told that once a thing is seen, heard or read it can never be unseen, unheard or unread. This is true, and there are some things that little children should not be exposed to. As we mature, though, exposure to new things and ideas makes us smarter and better equipped to face the world. Christianity hopes to keep people from learning anything outside of itself because it might cause you to question, or even loose, your faith. Questioning your faith means questioning those in authority over you, who watch for your souls; and we can’t have that.
Keeping people in the dark and withholding knowledge of a larger world is a hallmark of the IFB movement. I’m sure it can be said of other fundamental religions, but I have firsthand knowledge of IFB teachings and traditions and I know free thought is discouraged.
The books had started me on a course of actually thinking about what I had been taught and whether it was right or wrong, truth or fiction. This free thinking was very slow at first. Looking into these radical ideas made me feel guilty at first, but they resounded with me and I could feel that there was something there. During this time, I also started throwing off the trappings of King James Onlyism. Throwing off the mantle of KJV only allowed me even more freedom in my thoughts. Of course, I had to keep these heresies to myself; there is no room for dissent in the church. Eventually, these heresies started permeating the things I did at church. A few people commented on some slight changes they noticed, but I was able to explain these things away. (Amazingly enough, AFTER I made my deconversion known, I heard that everyone could tell there was something different with me. How come no one cared enough to ask me about it then?)
I had always been told that the Bible was able to withstand any scrutiny. I proved that wrong, and I am no scholar. I just had a healthy curiosity and no fear of looking outside of the box for the truth. I had actually started studying these things to prove them false and bolster my faith. I wanted to patch the cracks in my beliefs and be stronger than ever. Unfortunately, to honestly study these things, I had to leave behind Spurgeon, Pink, et al, and go to the sources. Once I left the IFB reservation, I finally saw there was a whole world with different, if not new, ideas and knowledge. Once I started looking at this new information, Christianity started falling apart like rotten clothes. I didn’t know what to do with that information at that time, though. I stayed where I was, with a flawed belief, for a couple of years as I started to search for the truth. This was a long process. It is a rewarding process. It is an important process.
I would tell anyone what I tell my children (who are still Christians). I tell them that the truth needs no defense. If you look at the truth and it needs bolstering, it probably isn’t the truth. In addition, the truth may not be what you want it to be, but never be afraid of the truth. Truth will set your mind free; and with a free mind, you can work on freeing your body. Look at the Dark Ages. For several hundred years, the world was dominated by a religious system that kept the people in slavery by telling them what to think. Only when brave men began to throw off their chains did knowledge begin to increase and people become free.
So, yes, heresies are a bad thing. They are a bad thing to the church or group that is trying to control you. One of the definitions Merriam-Webster gives to heresy is “an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards”. If you look at a heresy with an honest search for the truth, you may be surprised at what you find. And this is why religions hate an honest search for the truth and the appearance of heresies. People may come to see that what they believe is a lie. This, in turn, will point the way to the truth. And the truth will set the people free.