On the day before my 18th birthday, I realised something that in combination with all of my other doubts pushed me over the edge and made me an atheist. The being I claimed to love more than anything else in the world, the being who I worshipped, the being who I lived for and the being I claimed I would die for, may as well have been a stranger to me in terms of our relationship. I knew God no better than I did 14 years ago when I was first indoctrinated.
This was major to me. In church I, like many people learned that “Christianity is a relationship and not a religion” and that “God wants to have a relationship with you”. It became fundamental to my beliefs, which is why realising how false it was in my life was so crushing.
Obviously, Christianity is a religion, and not a relationship. All you need to do is look at the difference between you and God in terms of a real relationship, and what each of you contribute. From the age of 4 years old, I had prayed to God, worshiped God, defended God, tried to talk to God constantly, read his book, and tried to persuade others to become Christians on behalf of God. What had God done for our relationship? The only thing that I can think of was give me things I thought were miracles that I now look back on as simple probability.
The important thing to state is not what he had done, but what he hadn’t done: talk to me, actually confirm his existence to me, laugh with me, cry with me, show himself to me, make plans with me, or do anything at all anyone in a relationship would do.
How could you possibly call this a relationship? Saying you want to be in a relationship, and then doing absolutely nothing at all is the equivalent of ghosting someone. Actions speak louder than words, and words of action mean nothing when no action actually happens.
If someone is in a relationship where one does nothing while the other worships the other person, sacrifices so many things for them, gives them 10% of their money, and lives life only by their rules in fear of being punished by them forever, that’s not called a relationship, that’s called abuse. Yet when it’s God who does the abuse, it somehow gets a free pass.
As the meme above puts it so brilliantly, having a relationship with God isn’t exactly a free choice, but a threat. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, you will suffer for it and be tortured forever and ever until the end of time.
Don’t think this situation is abuse? What about original sin? The idea that you are born sick and commanded to be well. What about “We don’t deserve love, but God loves us anyway”? So now we don’t even deserve love? We are only loved because God is so good that he doesn’t care whether we deserve it or not? That’s crap, anyone claiming you don’t deserve love is not worthy of your time, respect or patience. They are someone you should run from, never be close to, and never let into your life. The notion that you don’t deserve love is absurd. What does it say about God if he believes with all of his heart and soul that no human deserves love?
Being in a relationship with someone who believes you don’t deserve to be loved by them is just insulting and degrading, irrespective of their behaviour towards you. It’s like God is wanting to be in a relationship with you as a favour, despite the fact that he knows you’re actually horrible, not because he actually thinks you deserve it. If I found out that anyone was in a relationship with me as a favour, I would stop the relationship immediately, it is a waste of time to be in a relationship with someone who thinks you don’t deserve them.
But that’s not even the worst of it. What happens when you are surrounded by people who claim to be in a loving relationship with God? You feel guilty, weak, ashamed and inferior due to your lack of relationship when in actuality relationships are only possible if they go both ways, and you’ve been more than doing your bit.
It’s often said that the best way to get to know God is to read the bible, but clearly you cannot talk to a book, and reading someone’s book, only tells you about them, it doesn’t mean you’re in a relationship with them. Apologies if you thought that reading Barack Obama’s book meant you were actually in a relationship with him, relationships are not the same as studying people. Knowing about someone is different to being in a relationship with them. Quite clearly. That’s why I said that from the age of 4-18 I knew God no better than I did at the start, despite of course knowing more about him.
As another side point, reading about someone is very likely to give you a completely incorrect idea about them. I saw this demonstrated when one of my really good friends found my blog and started reading it. He came back to me with things that I said that were completely wrong and not at all what I thought. Literally everything he said to me about my blog was something I thought was incorrect and wrong, yet I perfectly understood why he was led to think that way.
The same thing can be said about the bible. If everyone reads from the same book, then how come so many Christians reach vastly different and contradictory conclusions, even going so far as to claim that they have the true Christianity while everyone else is wrong?
How many times have I heard Christians argue about the same issue e.g. abortion, gay rights with the phrase “God told me” – if this is true, then he’s a lying backstabber who is happy to tell you one thing and then completely go behind your back to tell someone else a completely different thing. In other words, a traitor, a bad friend, and someone who is willing to tell someone anything, even if it’s wrong, in order to make them love them.
Actions speak louder than words, I don’t care how many times God states that he loves you and wants to have a relationship with you because his actions don’t demonstrate it in the slightest. What do you call someone whose words don’t reflect their actions? A liar.
I don’t think I’m being too demanding of God. If he is real, he is his own person who doesn’t owe a relationship to anyone. But if God does indeed want a relationship with everyone just as he claims, he has missed one very important step: learning what a relationship is.
I’d like to finish with a very important question. If God is like this, why have a relationship with him at all? I don’t believe that simply creating everything is enough to excuse disgustingly horrible actions. I also don’t believe being defined as perfectly good is good enough reason either, if goodness is so arbitrary that it can change on the whim of what someone says, then we honestly don’t need it and are better without it. The only possible good reason is to avoid the horrible abuse of hell which comes as a consequence of not having a relationship with him.
The thoughts that were going through my mind at the time of my deconversion were “How long am I going to waste my time trying to have a relationship with someone who obviously doesn’t want to have a relationship with me?” – It was time to move on, and as soon as I did, I felt a huge sense of relief. I no longer had to be in submission to a celestial dictator in the sky, nor worry about what he was going to do to me. I didn’t need to worry about living up to an impossible standard, to pray to someone who never answered. Everything that I would ever do and get in my life would not be because of praying to a God, but because of me. It’s impossible to describe the sense of empowerment I felt in that moment. You deserve better than this.