Christianity dominated my life for just under three years. It has been gone from my life for nearly that same length of time. Going from thirty something Born Again Christian to Atheist undoubtedly affected me in complex ways. For better or worse is hard to tell, as the measuring stick is hard to define. My life before Christianity was full of confusion, depression and sleepless nights. My life after Christianity was a nightmare in a different sort of way, drug addiction, severe anger issues, hopelessness. The anger issues stemmed from the final realization that Christianity was false, the drugs were used to medicate the anger, then a chain reaction of problems ensued. Those problems, for the most part, are resolved. Yet Christianity affected me in other ways too. My philosophical views, political views, maybe even my day to day choices, all are different than those of the Pre-Christianity me. The changes have to do with the theology of the Church I attended, my interpretation of the Bible, but mostly it has to do with the Christian community I was involved with.
The community, the Christian Community that is, was more influential than anything else during that time, as people often are. As much as I hate to admit it, it was the best community/social circle I have ever had. I tell myself that it was a false community, with false friendships, but it wasn't. The friendships were real, they were just based on something false. Yet that didn't matter; as long as you believed, your friends believed, your wife or husband believed, then everything seemed to hold together nicely. The community was still genuine, the bonds that held it together still strong, the values and moral code still intact. When someone fell, the community leaped in to help that person get back up. The Christians of the community would tell you that it was God that helped that person back up, but it wasn't, it was the community, it was real people, they just wanted to give their God the credit. In The Gospel of Mathew God says "if you loved one of your brothers you loved me." Maybe that's all the authors of the Gospels intended. Maybe they just made up the idea of God to get us to help one another. Not just a moral code, but to act like a brotherhood, a sisterhood or a community. Like the story of The Prodigal Son, the community could forgive anyone for anything. Like the story of The Good Samaritan, the community could love even their enemies. The community fulfilled these parts of the Bible amazingly, nevertheless they also fulfilled the more unsettling parts.
The parables above were probably genuine, and had just intentions, but the belief system they were based on was not real, and it was too easy to realize this. The authors of the Bible created a fail-safe for this problem: Disbelief and doubt are the because of God's nemesis, the Devil, whispering lies of deceit into our ears they would say. Unfortunately, this fail-safe made Christianity even more unbelievable. So more fail-safes were created, which made it all the more unbelievable. Those who made it through all the fail-safes and still believed, are what The Book of Isaiah would call the 'remnant', a group that has been distilled down to the true believers, believers in all the fail-safes. This was the community I knew, they were the remnant. Unfortunately the remnant was a twisted form of the community intended by The Prodigal Son and The Good Samaritan. They had the 'love one another' mentality, but lurking below they also had the fail-safe mechanisms ingrained in them. All their acts of kindness became tainted, all the good things they did became undone; the division that was supposed to be healed, the enemy that was supposed to be loved, the prodigal son that was supposed to be forgiven and sometimes even the fellow Christian-brother or sister that was supposed to be helped, all tainted, all undone.
All of the good, bad and disturbing characteristics of the remnant were present simultaneously, and they all made one composite imprint on me. It has affected my perception of things in ways I cannot discern. My views on abortion, marriage, divorce, pre-marital sex are all very similar to those that the Evangelical Christian Church holds. I think it's hard for anyone to sort out where, when and how his or her worldview came into being. I know my current worldview was partly developed long before Christianity. Some of it was influenced by my personal struggles, by relationships, by failed endeavors, but more recently by Christianity. My friends comment on the similarity of my arguments to those of Christians, I often engage in conversations with campus demonstrators who ask if I am a Christian, I have fellow leftist friends who jokingly accuse me of still being a Christian because of my Pro-Life stance, I often referred to events as 'destiny' or 'fate' directly following my departure from the Church. Yet I am an adamant Anti-theist, my hatred for the Christian Right and their policies is severe, and my criticism of the Bible and the people who believe in it is uncompromising. Like the imprint itself, the effect is mixed.
When I was a member of the remnant, I said and believed everything they did; the solidarity made it easy. They now say I was never a true believer. Was I? Who knows. Maybe there is no such thing as true belief in anything. Maybe our beliefs are created and forced together because of our surroundings, the need for social survival, the need for identity, the need for stability. I know there were reasons other than belief/disbelief that caused me to leave the Church, like the things I saw in the community when the remnant mentality came out, when the fail-safes came out. Yet maybe some belief is still lingering in my psyche from the imprint, maybe I am a lost member of the remnant. True believer or not, I fully accepted Christianity at one point in my life and now I have fully rejected Christianity, but the imprint it made cannot be erased and its effects cannot be undone.