I have stopped being amazed but continue to be enamored by the fact that every account I read of someone who has traveled the road from faithful to non-believer has elements of universal truth for others who’ve made the same journey. I’ve seen Julia Sweeney’s monolouge, read many blog posts, books and interviews and every single one them feels as if I could have written at least parts of it.
Of course the details change- a pastor, a comedienne, a stay-at-home mom, a survivor of an extremist cult- but the emotions behind the stories remain the same. Almost all talk about the loss of community, the loss of the friend they believed they had in God, the search for truth and being genuinely surprised when that truth leads away from faith. There are also often, but not always, forays into other religions while trying to cling to some belief.
All of these elements ring true somewhere deep inside me and while it makes me both sad and angry that so many people have had to endure these things it also helps restore one of the things I valued most about my former religion- a sense of connection.
There are many elements of this former pastor’s story with which I feel a strong connection, but I feel it especially with this:
You see, I am not leaving god because the church treated me poorly, or because of abuse or scandal. In fact the church has been a wonderful source of encouragement, inspiration and support and a great model of a caring, loving community through the years. While these benefits of communal life are unmistakably real, I came to realize that the god who inspires them is not.