I have a feeling this may be a multiple part post.
I grew up in a Catholic home and a Christian environment for the most part. It wasn’t until seventh grade that I really began to question the Bible and interrogated my mother and Missionettes leaders on all the technicalities. How could both the Bible and evolution be true? Where were dinosaurs in the Bible? Why was God so harsh and cruel in the Old Testament, but more forgiving and loving in the New Testament? If you needed Jesus to get to heaven, what did the people do before Jesus came to earth? My Missionettes leaders had the answers I was looking for, and that night I prayed so hard to God that I could just know if He and the Bible were really real. I woke up the next morning feeling assured and refreshed that Jesus was my savoir and the Bible was His true Word. And that’s how I felt until about after I graduated college.
I think part of what made me such a good student was that I listened so well. So well, in fact, that I would hardly ever question people that I believed to be in authority and knowledgeable. This not only included teachers, but also pastors, bible study leaders, parents of friends, etc. I left the Catholic church once I was able to in high school and in college I began attending a weekly bible study. Then I found a small Baptist church to attend before I settled in a large and growing non-denominational (and I should add fundamentalist) church where I was re-baptized by submersion.
I never considered myself an extremist, but I called myself a Christian fundamentalist. I believed the Bible was true, word for word. But things started to happen, just here and there, that got me to start thinking. One, my then boyfriend of more than five years (and now husband) had been questioning the existence of God for quite some time and regularly asked me about my faith, how I knew, how I had confidence in my faith. Him trying to understand my faith led me to question my own and try to understand it better myself, but sometimes I could tell I lacked the confidence that I thought I had. Second, I started to notice things that just didn’t sit right with me in my weekly Bible studies. I remember one story in particular where God hardened the heart of someone in order to prove His glory. God intentionally hardened the heart of a person (note that God has supposedly given us all free will) so that they would not accept Him, so that they would not know salvation or Jesus, so that His glory could be proven. This one story stuck out like a nail in everything I had believed and accepted as true, and it really got me thinking. It got me thinking and questioning everything. I started looking at the bible stories I knew so well from different angles and investigating the origins of different religions.
Of course, other life events have occurred, making me question the likelihood of a divine being guiding our lives. The biggest event was the passing of my Step Dad. No words can accurately describe his passing. The unbelievable unfairness of his cancer diagnosis and the progression of his disease. I demanded answers from the god I was already distancing from. How was my Step Father’s sickness, pain, incurable illness….how was any of it justifiable? Where was the good that god was trying to show? To demonstrate? Where was the mercy? Merciful that such a good and honest man be dealt such a bad hand? And for god to see it fit that my Mother, after years of being alone and finally finding true love and happiness, watch her loved one suffer and then be left alone again? Where is god in that?
I was angry at god, even at the notion of an all-knowing, all-loving god. In some ways, I guess I still am. Sometimes, things just happen, and there is no good reason to answer, “Why?”
Maybe this won’t be as long as I thought. In short, I don’t consider myself a fundamentalist anymore. I wouldn’t use the label of Christian, either. I don’t know what I am. Why do we even have to use labels? Life is one big puzzle. No one knows how we really got here. Anything anyone says, they are believing on faith. No one that’s alive right now saw what happened in the beginning. The best we can do is to combine our knowledge, scientific evidence, and life experiences to come up with some explanation that fits us. That’s where I am, trying to figure out life.