I never remember truly believing in Santa Clause. I am sure I must have at some point. I also never recall losing my faith in him. I am sure I had lost my belief in this by the time I was five, if I ever really believed. I know I no longer believed by the time I was five because I started giving presents to my family because I figured out how this worked. This did not make me lose the fun of Christmas nor did it stop me from pretending I believed in the mythos, it just made it all more fun.
When we moved to the United States my parents became avid watchers of TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network). TBN had a lot of Biblical prophets and especially faith healers. They were good at making the money roll in. Benny Hinn was one of the most prominent faith healers in the station. He held huge crusades where people were healed of their infirmities by their faith.
When I was in middle school he came to my town and we got tickets to it. We came in a little late so we were sent to the row right in front of the wheel chairs. Awesome! We had an “in front of the row seats” to the whole event when they would get healed, right? No. None of them were healed. Did I lose my faith, no, this was periphery to what I truly believed. It was a fringe phenomena. Still, I cannot say it did not make me look at the claims of Christians a little more critically.
Also at the time there was a car dealership with a Christian fish symbol on it and we passed it every time in our drive to church. One day my father said “You know they cheat everyone as much as they can.” Every Sunday after that I looked at that place on the way to church and thought about it and it made me realize that you cannot trust someone anymore because they claim that they are a Christian than if they are not. Shortly after that we were judged out of our church because of the prosperity doctrine.
We moved to another church and another state and I started to put a few things together like how every time someone spoke in tongues it sounded the same and I was able to imitate it perfectly. Did the Bible not say that speaking in tongues sounds like your native language when the person speaking does not speak it? Also the translation, which my Sunday school teacher said was essential to verify that it was from God, never stuck in my mind. I thought to myself, as I listened intently trying to gain some insight, that if it was really a direct message from God should it not be a little more memorable, instead of completely forgetable.
I had a very progressive sort of a Sunday school teacher. He wanted to teach us to think for ourselves, especially if it led us to the same conclusions as it was accepted in the church. By this time I was already taking everything with a grain of salt, I was in high school, and I found several things in the doctrine of my church that they treated as essential that I could not reconcile with my conscience and the Bible. There was their stance on the death penalty, war, a Christians involvement in politics to name a few. My Sunday school teacher taught us about different religions other than Christianity. I thought this was some great perspective, well I thought that when he started. I asked, as he was in the middle of teaching about Mormonism, weather this is what the Mormons claimed to believe or this was the interpretation of a non-Mormon. You can guess what the answer was.
One day my teacher made a mistake and taught me an important lesson without meaning to. We were studying Paul and specifically his experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). He divided us into two groups. One was to argue how this was the best thing that ever happened to Paul and one was to play the devil's advocate. I was randomly selected to be in the opposing group. I, of course, believed that this was the best thing that ever happened to Paul but as I started to think about it the ideas to the contrary just started to flow out. Arguing against what I believed in was fascinating. I loved exploring the opposing point of view. The other kids in my group came up with no ideas at all, I came up with plenty of really good ones. When we presented our arguments, mine were better than the opposing groups. I could see on the teachers face the mistake he realized he had made. He thought none of us could come up with good reasons and therefore discrediting opposing point of views from the church’s in our minds. I just did a too good of a job. He carried on as before. I was super pleased with myself and had a lot of fun.
That taught me that other people are incapable of holding two opposing points of view in their minds at the same time. They are too scared to face two opposing realities. That is the thing I am trying to do with this blog. I am trying to get people to stop being scared of seeing their opposer's point of view in anything but a mocking context. We cannot truly understand what we believe in until we comprehend its opposite. If you are afraid of losing your faith, it is not strong enough and hardly worth keeping if a simple mental exercise will destroy it. A faith unquestioned is a faith not worth having. A child may believe unquestioningly, but when I was little I asked questions like who were Gods parents? If little kids can ask that why are you too scared? You are a grown up, grow a pair and start thinking for yourself.