I don’t know where to begin.
This has been a few years coming. Back in 2014, or whenever it was, I was selected to be a deacon in my church. At that time, I walked the walk. I believed. The people of my church placed a great deal of trust in me, and rightly so, I guess. I was following God in all that I did. However, some time shortly thereafter, something changed.
As I prayed, a thought that was perhaps always present, but pushed to the side began asserting itself. “You don’t really believe all this do you?” That thought persisted, and only grew more amplified, especially the last few years as I witnessed how truly ugly and inconsiderate others in my faith could be. But I was no different. My life as it relates to faith started to become disingenuous, incongruent.
I even told our previous pastor during an altar call that I sometimes had to force myself to believe. I would push these thoughts to the back of my mind as I soldiered on, serving in whatever capacity I felt “called” to. I can’t keep it up anymore. Having to live a double life is killing me.
I am a hypocrite.
There exists a pattern in my life. Any time I’m about to leave or make a big change in my life, without realizing it, I detach. I did this to my friends before I joined the guard. I did this to my family before OTS and deployment. It’s only when someone points it out that I even notice it. As I look back at the last couple of years, I have been doing that at church. I quit being the brotherhood director. I quit teaching in any capacity. During the pandemic, we stopped having Sunday evening and Wednesday night church. I haven’t returned to either of those since they started back up. I only show up Sunday morning to play drums. Sometimes I do IT work for the pastor. When church is over, I leave as quickly as I can, hoping not to have to talk to anyone. I have been detaching because I subconsciously saw this coming.
I even started thinking of how I could make a clean break. Was there anything of mine at church I would lament losing? Hahaha, I’m a minimalist now, of course there isn’t! I kid. I really did grab my electric bass drum and bring it home, just in case I decided not to return.
Last night, after D&D, I had a conversation with a very dear, atheist friend of mine. I told him my feelings of being trapped in a religion I don’t really feel like I belong to. I spoke of how I’d been repressing my disbelief for a while now. I lamented having disappoint people who trust me. He came to the conclusion that I am an agnostic atheist. My initial, internal reaction to this was visceral. What an ugly thing to call me! Then I wondered, why is it ugly? By definition, I suppose that’s what I am. After all, if I’m being honest with myself, I must admit – I don’t believe in God. I have felt silly for such a long time trying to make myself believe. I’d never said it out loud before, nor heard myself referred to as such. What a relief.
I woke this morning with a fair amount of anxiety. I have a show with AoM tonight, an oh yeah, I just kind of half-ass admitted to having a completely different identity than I though I had.
I decided to meditate. I put in my air pods on noise cancellation and listened to water sounds in hopes of drowning out John’s cartoon watching. Some lyrics from Rush’s song “Mission” floated through my mind: “In the grip of a nameless possession, slave to the drive of obsession…. if their lives were exotic and strange, they would likely have gladly exchanged them for something a little more plain, maybe something a little more sane…” Though those words had little to do with my current crisis of faith, they resonated well with my journey toward a more simple life, a life from which I am removing everything that isn’t necessary. The meditative process temporarily alleviated the anxiety, and made me face, head-on, this decision I’d come to. If I don’t believe, then my faith is also not necessary.
But the anxiety came rushing back.
How am I to abandon the only community I’ve known since I came to this place? How do I break this to people who will be severely disappointed with me? How do I make people who trusted me not feel like they’d been had? There’s no easy way, so I’ll do what any 21st century middle aged man does. I’ll blog about it! Nobody I know is going to read it anyway, and if they do, then good.
If you know me from my life of faith, know this: I don’t want to talk about it. You’re likely not helping, just as these folks weren’t helping:
The deacon who told me a racist joke while we were cooking breakfast: You’re not helping
The deacon who jumped all over me for trying to take up for President Obama: You’re not helping
The church member (a deacon I think) who told our pastor we should vet people to make sure they’re not Democrats: You’re not helping.
The lady who I looked up to, who had a poster on her car for trunk or treat describing the presidential choices during the 2012 election as a choice between a “Mormon” and a “Moron”: You’re not helping.
The member of my Gideon camp who brags about telling pastors off who won’t give us a church service: You’re not helping.
I could go on for a while like this. I was already forcing myself to believe, and this shit wasn’t helping. I’m done. Who am I kidding, I’ll probably go to church tomorrow.