Daniel, writing from his position as a “former Christian” over at Unreasonable Faith asks an interesting question:
Was belief a waste of time?
Many readers of this site have religious backgrounds. Do you think being religious was a waste of time for you? That is, do you wish you were always an atheist/agnostic/skeptic?
In many ways, I wish I had the foundation of skepticism for my entire life. But I also don’t think my time believing in God was a complete waste. I came to love reading, found great friends, and asked many questions that would eventually lead me to atheism. My belief was a necessary part of who I am now, and why this blog exists. It’s a hard question for me to answer.
How about you?
There have been lots of interesting responses. Well, I don’t quite fit into the category of people he refers to in the opening line, but even so I thought it might be quite interesting to try to answer the question. So I replied, and this is what I found myself saying:
Great question Daniel, and lots of interesting responses. I’m still in the church and calling myself an “agnostic Christian” so have some thoughts on this.
My background first: not raised in a religious environment, converted to Christianity by big London Crusade at the age of 15 (Luis Palau at QPR stadium). I’d found somewhere I felt at home. Joined local Baptist church after an invitation and have been there ever since. That’s 25 years. Active member of the church, was on the leadership team as a deacon for six years, helped with various evangelistic campains over the years, still play drums in the worship band. (Learned especially so that I could do so.)
Over recent years, began to feel that much of what we do in church (not just in my own church but wider) just doesn’t make sense. Am feeling it might possibly be just a load of superstitious nonsense. have read Delusion and some other bits, am trying to balance that with reading some more Christian material but generally finding it just isn’t interesting me and I’m not finding arguments convincing. Am in regular dialogue with my minister and others about all this. One thing I decided not to do is pretend, so anyone I speak to at church or outside knows that I have no clue whether I believe there’s a God or not.
Anyway – to your question. No, not a waste of time. The majority of my friendships have been made within the church, and most of my life experience is intrinsically liked to it. Most of my musical ability has developed and been encouraged and nurtured within the church. (Indeed, it’s often referreed to as my “gifting”.) I now play drums in a local rock band and have no way of knowing whether I’d ever have got involved and learned to play if my life had taken a different path. Most significantly of all, I met my wife there. And where would I be without her?
Now I’ve got older and (just a little) wiser, I recognise in myself a greed and selfishness that’s probably not healthy. I do suspect that being in the church has helped me keep this under control while I didn’t have the self-confidence and self-awareness to do so under my own steam, so to speak. I think being in the church has kept me safe from a lot of external influences that I could well imagine me struggling with.
… that last point is something of a two-edged-sword. It’s only recently that I’ve realised one of my regrets in life is that by shutting myself away in the church at the age of 15, just when I should have been getting out into the world and experiencing things and making choices and learning, I’ve probably missed out on a lot. Maybe not all good experiences, but I missed them none the less. And as a 40 year old family man with responsibilities, a wife and a young child there is simply no way I’ll ever have such opportunities again.
So – time wasted? No.
Opportunities missed? Yes.
But happy with where I am just now. Ask me again in another ten years.