If you have read any of my past posts you know that one of my biggest grievances against my former religion is that it intentionally squashed my natural curiosity. A Christian needed only blind allegiance to their pastor, church, and denomination.
The day finally came that I had taken as much of Fundyland as I could possibly take. I could no longer suppress the questions. I had to start asking them. At that point the first question seemed to be obvious: "Why the hell have I never been allowed to ask the tough questions?" Even though no one was around to hear me the question made me nervous. For one thing I was going against everything I had ever been taught. For another I might have pissed god off by saying hell in a way that I had always been told was inappropriate. Nervous or not though I had just let the genie out of the bottle and there was no way I was going to turn around.
At this early stage I wasn't even close to questioning Christianity itself. I started with the core beliefs of my church and denomination. What was so important about our core dogma and doctrines? These doctrines were what we believed separated us from other Christians. To be a member of our church you had to believe them or at least claim to do so. It was these very beliefs that we felt made us more right than other Christians. It seemed like a good a place as any to begin.
I remembered seeing a booklet around the church at times that went into detail about all these doctrines. So I asked my pastor if we had any around. He was all too happy to run to his office and come back with just the booklet I was looking for. It had scriptures and explanations to support each of these fundamental truths as we called them. Had he known what would happen when I read that booklet, he probably would have gone to great lengths to hide every copy of it he could find.
I decided I would do my very best to study as impartially as I possibly could. I questioned everything as I read it. There was one particular doctrine which had really caused me problems all these years. Anyone that has spent much time in an Assembly of God church will be familiar with it. I'm not going for a word for word quotation here. The particular doctrine I am speaking of basically says that "speaking in tongues is the evidence of being filled with the spirit." According to AoG beliefs the two go hand in hand. If you do not speak in tongues then you are not filled with the spirit.
There were two reasons I wanted to start with this one. One reason was several really good people had left my church over the years because they were overlooked for positions in the church based on the simple fact that they did not speak in tongues. The second and perhaps more important reason was that I had never done it. Despite a strong desire to do so. Despite believing that god wanted me to speak in tongues it never happened. For those of you not familiar with AoG churches, not speaking in tongues puts you on a lower spiritual tier than those that do. They will deny this, but it's merely doublespeak. Because right after denying it they will turn around and talk about the added spiritual power and benefits it gives them.
Anyway, back to my analysis of this all important AoG doctrine. I found phrases like:
- We can assume that . . .
- It would hardly be surprising if . . .
Phrases very similar to this were found several times just in the explanation of this one belief. I couldn't understand how I had read all this before and these phrases didn't cause me to pause for even a fraction of a second. This time they were jumping off the page at me.
"We can assume that."
Imagine my surprise when I found that evolution is based on evidence far more solid than the religion I grew up in. Are you kidding me? They can assume all they want. I wonder if it is just coincidence that the assumption they made supports their pet doctrine. This assumption is simply a underhanded way of saying "We have no proof so we are going to twist it in such a way that it means what we want it to mean". The phrase "It would hardly be surprising if" is even worse. What would really be surprising is if they admitted that the verses they are talking about don't actually support their 'truth'.
I want to elaborate on that 'assume' phrase a little. Because the assumption made is a real doozy. It seems there are a few times "Speaking in tongues" is mentioned in the New Testament and a few times that being "Filled with the Spirit" is mentioned. However there are only a couple of instances in which they are mentioned happening at the same time. That does not deter the AoG though. The mere fact that they happened together twice means they can automatically assume that they happen together every time.
I wish it really did work that way. I have really been pushed for time trying to make it to work the last two days. I have driven too fast both days in an attempt to not be late. I never saw a single police car either day while speeding. So, based on AoG logic I will never see a cop while speeding. After all it happened twice. That's enough to make it a unquestionable fact.
These assumptions all stack one on another. They make one assumption and then make another based on the previous and so on. The amazing thing is that in fundyland it was for that very reason that evolution could not be believed. They claimed it was based on several layers of unproven theories. Imagine my surprise when I found that evolution is based on evidence far more solid than the religion I grew up in.
These are not the only examples of the intellectually dishonest mental gymnastics required to this single AoG fundamental truth. There were many more in this single 'truth' alone. Yet, you had to be willing to follow along this insane path to be a card carrying member of the denomination. No wonder it's called faith. It has to be. Because the slightest bit of reason or logic makes it fall apart. Needless to say I now realize why I was discouraged from questioning. I know why I was discouraged from truly having a mind of my own. Those who were 'in authority' over me knew that the dogma they expected me to live by would never stand up to an open mind and real questions. They knew logic would reveal it all to be a house of cards. They knew when I understood the truth they would lose their control over me.
I fought for months to try and maintain a belief in Christianity. It was all I ever knew. I didn't want to give it up. But the questions wouldn't stop. Every answer only brought more questions. Eventually I had to give in and admit that Christianity itself is built on just as tenuous a foundation as my former denomination. When the final piece of Christianity crumbled behind me there was a nervous anxiety and happiness. I was nervous to be walking into unknown territory. At the same time I was happy to see the path ahead of me contained the freedom I had been searching for all my life. It was the freedom that my religion had both promised to me and hidden from me for far too long.