Did Your Bad Church Experiences make you leave Christianity?

5 Jan

As I have begun to open up about my doubts-one of the first questions I get asked is this one….Did the bad experiences you have with the Christian Church influence your decision to stop believing? The short answer is no, not really…let me explain.

My biggest reason for doubting the Christian faith has been my study of the Bible itself, along with a study in Church History and the historical formation of the Christian scriptures that have opened up my wellsprings of suspicion. These are topics that I will be posting on for sure…but I really can’t point out any of my bad church experiences as a major reason for doubting Christianity.

Now, for those who know me well, they are aware that I have certainly encountered some pretty ugly and abusive situations during my time in the church. But I can honestly say that I never viewed these episodes as reasons to disbelieve, I simply thought that there must be a better way to practice Christianity or that they were not “real” Christians.

As I reflect on this, one of my nagging questions is what is a “real” Christian anyway? I have changed my own opinions at least 10 times and the thousands of contradicting church traditions leads me to a big question mark….What is a real Christian? And how do you know your definition of a real Christian is correct?

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10 Responses to “Did Your Bad Church Experiences make you leave Christianity?”

  1. atimetorend February 29, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    My biggest reason for doubting the Christian faith has been my study of the Bible itself, along with a study in Church History and the historical formation of the Christian scriptures…

    That was exactly the case for me too. The connection for me is that bad church teaching is what got me studying those areas in the first place. If I had been in a church with more flexibility than the one I was in and with more intelligent teaching, I may have been content to continue to push doubts and questions under the carpet. Maybe the pile under there wouldn’t have become so big.

    Or maybe it would have anyway, no way of telling. I know some people’s faith does not depend on a close reading or study of the bible, and maybe they are more susceptible to have their faith change because of what they experience in church though.

  2. christianagnostic March 22, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    sorry I am late to your comment…somehow I missed it until today.

    you said-

    “If I had been in a church with more flexibility than the one I was in and with more intelligent teaching, I may have been content to continue to push doubts and questions under the carpet. ”

    I have wondered this too, if I hadn’t seen the abuse and hypocrisy, would I have been content to just allow the things that didn’t make sense ,to just be pushed away and unexamined…I think your description hits on my belief, that as humans, we feel first and think later.

    We are emotional beings a lot more than rational beings, in my opinion

    • atimetorend March 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

      We are emotional beings a lot more than rational beings, in my opinion

      Along that line, a favorite quote of mine, Michael Shermer says:
      Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.

      That is to say, most of us most of the time come to our beliefs for a variety of reasons having little to do with empirical evidence and logical reasoning (that, presumably, smart people are better at employing).
      -LINK-

  3. Rob Davis March 23, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    Very interested in your story. Similar to my own…

    I walked away from Christianity a little over two years ago, after being in “ministry” for over ten years. But, I think some good arguments have been made that there isn’t a single definition of what a Christian “really” is or what Christianity is.

    I’ve attempted to write about this in the past:
    http://tentativelyuntitled.tumblr.com/post/10773983901/finding-a-christianity-beyond-the-big-other
    http://tentativelyuntitled.tumblr.com/post/12283419834/pure-christianity

    Thanks for being willing to publicize your experiences.

    • christianagnostic March 23, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

      ..Rob-

      You said

      “But, I think some good arguments have been made that there isn’t a single definition of what a Christian “really” is or what Christianity is.”

      I would tend to agree…when I worked in a Christian bookstore, it seemed the definition of what was a “true” Christian was never ending.

      I’ve got to get some kids off to school….but I’ll check out your posts when I’m free.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  4. randallslack March 24, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    What is a real Christian? John 13:35: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    During the roman Empire, the testimony of the unbeliever was, “Look at how these Christians love one another.” The testimony of the world in our day is, “Look at those hypocrites.”

    As a former pastor, I have been burned badly by congregations and Christians. Early on in my faith I did let others stumble me. Now it just breaks my heart.

  5. christianagnostic March 24, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    Randall-

    Do you mind me asking a little of your story as a pastor…..just curious what your perspective is on the other side of ministry?

  6. thebiblereader May 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    u SAID…

    “As I reflect on this, one of my nagging questions is what is a “real” Christian anyway? I have changed my own opinions at least 10 times and the thousands of contradicting church traditions leads me to a big question mark….What is a real Christian? And how do you know your definition of a real Christian is correct?”

    Just to answer that last question, Let me go in Christian Mode…..
    The bible says Matt 7:16- “By their fruit you will recognize them.” So we are to judge a tree by the fruits they bear. So if they bear spiritual fruit, than they are a spiritual christian, if they bear fleshly-wicked fruit then they are carnal. And in Galatians 5, the bible gives us what fruit we should judge by.”

    now uve been church-ed, and you have probably read or told this all before. Let me throw in one more.

    Now I have christian friends who are part of many different churches and denominations, Calvinist, baptist, church of God, Word of Faith, catholic, free-spirited-liberal-christian. And when dealing with that many spiritual backgrounds, you are bound to here -“I don’t J*$%N is saved. I don’t think they are a christian!!!” So we need make sure we know the characteristic of a christian are, because that is what we are to judge them by.

    And also dealing with gals 5, uv probably met not-Christians who showed more fruits of the spirit than some Christians. So gals 5 is not our only barometer.

    Our last two measuring sticks in my opinion are the most unique.

    —-Prayer
    —-Repentance

    So called Christians who no longer respect the bible, lose faith, backslide, no longer believe or respect God, stop repenting. All Christians regardless of denomination should…”bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8

    http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1015-what-is-the-fruit-of-repentance
    These are the characteristics of a true christian.

    Now back to Skeptic Mode….Everything is Relative.

    • christianagnostic May 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

      I guess my problem with the whole “bear fruits” thing is this-who gets to decide what is fruit and what isn’t?

      To a Calvinist, good fruit would be studying to show thyself approved and full of sound doctrine.

      To a Roman Catholic, good fruit would be faithful attendance to mass and to confession.

      To an Evangelical, good fruit would be sharing the Gospel as much as possible.

      To a Quaker, good fruit would be serving the poor and taking a stand against violence.

      It still seems to me, that in the end, Christianity is morally relative. The scriptures are vague enough on so many issues, to allow the individual followers to make contradictory claims as to what is a “real” Christian.

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