On Leaving the Church

A few years ago, I gave up the ghost of trying to find a church where I belonged. Too many Sundays had been spent bored or alienated staring upwards waiting for a service to end.  I tried a few denominations, none of them inspired me, although a few had some sparks that kept me returning.

Many times I found myself slipping into the back of a church like an addict trying to reclaim a high that I had lost somewhere along the path of leaving my teenage years. Almost always, I left unfulfilled. Conversion to another religion or to atheism does not seem to be the answer for me. While I find a lot of wisdom in studying other religions, deep down inside I do not have what it takes to convert. My relationship with Christianity is too entwined in who I am. In many ways it is unsatisfying, in many ways it is lonely, but it is my love and it is soaked deep into the bottom of my heart in such a way that it could not be extracted without removing the essence of who I am.

The warning churchgoers gave me before and after leaving the church was that belief is like a hot coal. You need others to keep the fire alive and one coal taken out from the furnace exposed to the world quickly goes cold. There is some truth to this, but perhaps not the same truth that was intended by those who warned against leaving the church. In the last few years, I have had periods of abundance and periods of emptiness in my spirituality, but those periods were not necessarily correlated with my attending of a church.  If anything, there is a correlation between spiritual abundance and finding space for spiritual thought, spiritual exercises such as meditation and prayer and spiritual discussions.  

It has become necessary to instill some discipline into my spiritual life now that the structure that church timetables is not available to me. If I am not careful, I can slip into a superficial lazy mode that coats my life in an under-appreciation of how sacred it is to be here.  The somewhat unclear impact of church services on my spiritual growth has now been replaced by the somewhat unclear impact of books, blogs, podcasts and conversations with those of like and unlike convictions.

In some way it was a little disappointing that no bolt from the sky struck me when I left the church, no voice thundered from the clouds.  Nor did my life did spiral into an uncontrollable web of sin. Life continued on as before and when Sunday night creeps up on me, some weeks I am able to reflect back on a week well spent, others on a week wasted.  More or less what had come before.

There have been many rewards from setting out on my own spiritual path and leaving the church behind. It is far easier to explain my own beliefs not only to others, but also to myself.  I no longer feel the shame of being aligned with those who drag the name of Jesus through the filth of bigotry and discrimination.  Change and growth is easier, because it no longer happens in the straight-jacket of having to change in one particular pre-approved direction.

But I wonder what impact having children would have on a believer like myself. I see the value of teaching a child to have a sense of community.  There are not many activities that we do in the modern world that gives us a sense of belonging to a larger community. The comforts of modernity allow us to shop from home and to be entertained in our own living rooms.  For many people it is only in visits to movie theaters and sports stadiums that they get a sense of belonging to a group larger than their own family.  The rituals that churches offer are also invaluable for marking transitions to different phases in our lives. What better way to publicly acknowledge the new responsibilities that come with parenthood, than to mark that shift with a public christening? Adolescents also have their transition into adulthood marked with a ceremony that gives them a sense of a new duty to others.  I don’t have alternatives to these components of church life and as my own life changes I may find the need to return a church. One can’t help wondering that if these observations are true for raising a child, should they not be true for me too?

In writing this I do not intended to either encourage or discourage anyone to leave his or her own church. Church attendance is in and of itself not what determines the quality of one’s spiritual experience. I would however encourage anyone to become more like themselves and any decision taken should have as a criteria whether or not this decision makes one more or less like one’s true self?  The specifics will depend on each individual and their own circumstances.

In my case for now, I will say that leaving the Church has liberated my beliefs and improved my spirituality. What a seeker finds depends  on the attitude of the seeker and not on their geography.

13 Comments

  1. Interesting thoughts….and in some ways I completely agree. But of course, in some ways don’t. Am intrigued a bit by your perspective though and do appreciate the disassociation from the perspective of not being dragged down by the way “christianity at large” is so alienating to the very people Jesus himself reached out to…just interesting to think about. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Yip – I was warned that leaving the church would be the end of my faith. For some that may be true, it wasn’t for me. It’s been a renewal. I am very suspicious of those who turn the church into a club where they decide who fits in and who doesn’t.

  3. “People come to God when their internal view of the universe changes as a result of an internal crisis or a profound experience of love or mystery.” + quote of Buddha… hehehe, sounds like a freudian thought.
    My dear friend, as you may think of me on my rareness, I’m christian. I don’t know how you will take this words but I may say thah.. uhmm… christianity is not about that only. And, and the same time, it’s worth simple. Hawking, as you might know, wasn’t regularly an academic defender of the non-so-scientific theory of desing, what he call as a “M” theory. When I knew of this my first impression was to say “WOW, this is great”… but then I ended up in the idea: “…there is an unexistent bridge between this and Christian faith… so, what could be the objective of this?” OK, I will not talk too much but please read this: Jesus Christ offers you both believe or not-believe ways. The beautiful and enough trustly greek literature that are the Evangelion consists on biographies of, if not the most egocentrical person of all, the most weird and high-demanding wise master of all. If you now wan’t to believe on him (the whole corpus of his words, at least intending to interpret’em), it is not because you “tried and then conluded” on something… it is because you CAN’T, because of your own nature, intend to play with God truth without being dissapointed. Just read the Bible (note, I’m not saying “read just the Bible”), not as a “wisdom two-thousand-year-old book” but as a history book. Read the new testament and don’t get a at-client-demand metamorphed religion. Dude, God exists, even if you can’t see him now, and these are not just rewind words. I tried with Him, believing real sin on me and salvation as a child heart. I study sociology, particularly interested on matters of religion thought… for thy I’m very critical on my own believings… I will not put here an advocacy affirmation for my believing, but I must say that God is Good. That’s it. He is not an idea… He is like… like Aslan on Narnia world. OK, I sound pretty stupid, I know. But the Truth is very stupid at a first look: a personal God who sacrifies for the sin of His followers (and sin as a radical contra-cultural -I’m refering to both jew and greek cultures- idea) and, then, alife again. Power and whatever. This, every of this, is very simple. Just “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”… and that means that your problem is that, first, you have hughed the idea that God is FOR YOU, FOR YOUR OWN AND INNER FULFILNESS and not YOU FOR HIM, WITHOUT QUESTIONS…. and, second, your own pride is the perfect antithesis to biblical experience of God, for thy yu CANT RECEIVE REAL AND HUMILIATED FAITH. Just live WITH HIM, talk to him, pray to him, ask him for forgiveness, ask him to feel HURT because of sin on you… ask Him for the needing to feel this! do it every day, even if ye feel withut faith… and only THEN you will see God is with you, cause He will. The problem is you, my friend. I have thought once, twice, whatever, I have felt the same, my friend. Just trust Him! And not, I almost can’t feel excelent with brainwahsing. if God LOVES you, really, he will discipline you til’ a certain point if you haven’t passed through this process before. But if this doesn’t happens.. i think you know what I mean and is enough.
    I will say few words more, and I always know you will look critical on me. Salvation comes from jews. The Lord is the Lord. Look that at the first reading at this you can’t now be aware of their implications. And if you can, and always go then humiliated under the feet of God, you will notice after a good time giving yourself to Him that, even if you nont feed your mind with this words before, you will have enough respect to die voluntary for this truth. No one said it was easy,even Jesus. Diego Paucar.

    • Hey Ja7#I,n&o821s;ve been following your blog since the end of last year, and I always wondered where you got your blog name from. =PGetting refocused and taking your business in a new direction is always an exciting time. I’m excited to see which way you’re taking it and wish you the best!Have a good weekend,Tyson

  4. Oh, and 1 more thing… I’m peruvian, and therefore my english should sound extremely strange, at least all the text out of the Bible quote :). Pardon me for some apparent mislinkings on the ideas or redundancy… I believe that you, as a normal thinker, will be capable for determining the “apparent” on the text (i.e. when I say firs this and second that). No, I’m not apologizing for redundacy ¬¬. God bless you enormously…

  5. Thanks for contributing Diego. I appreciate the comments.

    Some people are very happy with the church as it is, some are not. Perhaps these comments are directed at churches rather than at the religion of Christianity.

  6. U’r Welcome. Oh, another 1 plus more thing. Read, slooowwwly and carefully, first letter by Jhon. And another one more, I beg you ask God himself what church is yours, I don’t know if haven’t done this yet (considering the previous, indeed). I have a, as I like to call, “disciple” (though actually my church, informally -I mean no namely- pestecostal have not a formal discipulling (? it’s right?) module/format/system or something… simply there’s not following to people…) who is catholic, then I preched to him, he accepted the Word, he humilliated to the Word, I prayed for him n’ the Holy Spirit touched him in a place and condition where you can less imagine…
    The thing is that he is not assistant at my church cause’ he wanted not, and you may understand here on Peru and on every Latinoamerican country catholic church is so… tradicional… for not saying another words… as luteran church on Germany. Little by little, I don’t know why (and Im not behind his steps as cross over my head you migh be thinkng, in fact I don’t see him between a period of one or two months) he is loosing interest on his church. NO, wait, I know why. It’s because I gift him series of mexican non-denominational (or presbiterian… the thing is that I have never heard him going through denominational stuff) pastor on bilblical studies of romans. My conversion was on that studies. They’re beautiful. Oh, here a beautiful name: A. W. Tozer… and another one, Leonard Ravenhill.
    God bless, so much. No, really, in Power of Creation, hehe, God Bless.

    • Dat klara.be niet bereikbaar is voor Nederlanders is ook onjelribpegijk! Maar goed, in Belgie zit men geloof ik nog in de beginfase t.a.v. ‘het online zetten van programma’s’.

    • And I should have added…IRANIAN caviar? Is it even legal to be buying anything from Iran? At the very least…it is appallingly obtuse. Obama won’t visit our soldiers but he and his “wife” eat caviar from the country that is responsible for killing our soldiers…IRAN. That’s rich…truly.

    • CodingHorror just posted something about , and interestingly enough I’ve been involved in conversations about managing slices of identity as well.It seems like the momentum needed to address these issues is building, and perhaps Google’s recent release of will provide the necessary tools and APIs to do it.

    • hallo Cahntimanou,das sieht ja alles wunderschön aus. Besonders der Kammzug hat’s mir angetan…!Du sprichst von einem neuen Merino Spinnrad!? Gibts schon Erfahrungswerte; postiv oder evtl auch negativ…? Ich denke auch intensiv über die Anschaffung eines Rades nach und bin deshalb für Meinungen dankbar. In meiner engeren Wahl ist übrigens bisher ein Sonata, das du ja auch hast.Lieben Gruß und alles Gute für das neue Lebensjahr!Heidi

    • Opa baixando e ja ouvindo! Quero ganhar o livro O Cofre do Dr. Rui.PS: Pelo jeito da foto a Viciada em História daria uma ótima modelo de babylook para as fotos das camisetas! Algo temático seria bom mas acho que precisa de mais alguns casts para juntar mais frases para ítens até mesmo como canecas como a do Nerdcast, já adianto que me tragam fotos do homem aranha e ainda bem que isso não acontece hoje tem que estar presentes nas camisetas ou no que fizerem!

    • Richard, the % score relates only to those issues listed in brackets after the score. So you are (supposedly) 78% aligned with Gary Johnson on those issues listed. That is how I understand it.

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