What you have to understand is that I believed all of it implicitly. Oh, I had all kinds of doubts about myself, I had times I was angry with God, and the truth is that especially through my teenage years I rarely lived much in accordance with it but there was never a minute that I remember growing up where I gave serious consideration to the idea that maybe it just wasn’t true. It seemed so obvious to me. It was like breathing, it was like the bed I slept in at night or the food I ate every day. There simply was no possibility of it not being true. People asked me, of course. I had atheist or agnostic friends fairly early on and it wasn’t uncommon for them to point out problems or ask questions but one of the things about being an evangelical is that you have answers for everything. You’re never really asking questions, you’re just using filler to get to the answers you already know.
The Christian God existed as certainly as anything in my life and there simply was no meaningful way to question that. I didn’t always like all of it. Particularly by the time I got older, I really wished that the stuff about homosexuality wasn’t true, I really didn’t like the hell thing, I wished sex did not have to be such a big deal… I mean, these things seemed really inconvenient and sort-of incongruent with my personal experiences but the thing about God is that he trumps all that. Personal experiences are completely untrustworthy. For the heart is deceitful about all things, after all. It doesn’t matter if something seems unjust or unfair to me, God created just, God created fair. So I would find myself apologetically explaining that I still loved people, that while these theologies may not seem very loving (and indeed if I was totally honest, I could not understand how they were… but normally I wasn’t going to admit that to myself or anyone else), God designed love so if he says it’s loving, than it is. The point is that I didn’t question it. I questioned things within it. Actually, by the time I left it behind I had tossed the hell theology. But I simply was incapable of living in a world where God didn’t exist.
And now here we are. I’m 30 years old and I now have no idea. I don’t know what I think happens when we die. Do you know how weird that is? For all the genuine trauma I got from my faith, I was never afraid to die, I was sure I knew what would happen. Now I don’t know. When I went to my uncle’s funeral, I was hit with a very powerful feeling that really surprised me. I felt like I didn’t believe he was anywhere. Not heaven, not hell, not anywhere at all. I believed he had lived a very good life and had been happy and brave and good to his family and that mattered. That was enough. But I didn’t believe he was looking down on us, I didn’t believe he had moved on somewhere. I believed what was left of him was with the people who cared about him and that also mattered, that was also significant. But it wasn’t eternal life. Hell, it’s not even a blink. I don’t know. The feeling wasn’t something that stayed with me and it was just that – a feeling. Would I feel the same way if it was my own death? The death of someone I loved a lot and was close to (I barely knew my uncle)? I honestly have no idea. What I know is that for the first time I don’t know that I think there’s anything past this. I don’t believe that someday my parents and I will be reconciled in some perfected state. I don’t believe there’s a great fix.
Believe it or not, it’s not even the belief in a great fix that I miss. I just miss feeling so sure. I think it’s better, I believe it’s better. Life is much more of an adventure these days in many ways. But there are days I miss having that sense of an immovable world, a place where things would make sense on some grand scale someday. I am ultimately glad it’s gone but there was a comfort in feeling like life had a narrative structure even if it was beyond us, in believing that these things were unbreakable. God was always less a person to me than a certainty. On the days I feel the loss, more than anything I miss the certainty.