December 8, 2019

You Don't Have to Be Christian

we all make choices

As strange as it sounds today, it took me several years to realize that I did not have to be a Christian. I was raised Christian, told that I was Christian, and told repeatedly that the collective "we" were all Christian. This seemed to be true because everyone I met was Christian. I knew that not everyone was Christian, but everyone I came in contact was (or at least pretended to be). I didn't question any of this because I had no reason to do so.

In our current information age, I have to think that very few children are growing up like I did not realizing that not being Christian (or whatever other religion they are being raised in) is an option. They are more likely than I was to hear about different religions, although I am sure that those living in areas with extremely low religious diversity have a similar experience of not knowing anyone who does not share their religion. Thanks to the Internet, modern children are learning about atheism, humanism, and Satanism in ways I did not have available. They are encountering terms like "ex-Christian" that I had never heard of.

Perhaps a post with a title like this one is no longer as necessary today as it once might have been. I wanted to write it anyway because even if it seems obvious to most of us, I'm not sure it seems as obvious to everyone as it should. If Christianity works for you and you can refrain from trying to impose it on others, great. But you don't have to be a Christian just because you were raised by Christians or because most of the people in your life are Christian. You can decide at any time that it isn't for you. You can try other things. Maybe you will discover that you miss Christianity and return to it someday. You always have that option. Or maybe you will discover that there is something else out there that makes more sense to you.

For an adult, "because I was raised that way" is a fairly poor reason to be a Christian. It suggests you haven't bothered to give the matter much thought and cannot articulate even the basics about what appeals to you. Isn't the matter more important than that would suggest? Imagine an adult telling you that they are voting for a political candidate because they were raised to be a Democrat or a Republican. That would be similarly unimpressive.

Many ex-Christians grew up as believing Christians because we did not seriously question much of what we had been taught and did not appreciate that we had options. This was certainly the case for me. For many of us, things changed once we started critically examining our beliefs and asking questions. We realized that some of what we believed did not make much sense. We looked for evidence and found it lacking. And with a bit more life experience under our belts, we discovered that some of what we had been taught turned out to be demonstrably false. We became ex-Christians.

I wonder sometimes what kind of difference it might have made in my life if someone had told me around the age of 13 that I did not have to be a Christian. I imagine them saying something like this:

You don't have to be a Christian. You have many other options worth exploring and should not settle for one just because it is familiar. I know it seems like everyone is Christian, but that is not the case. You have met people who were not Christian without ever knowing it.
I can't say for sure, but I think this would have been very helpful to me at the time.