Ever since I was a kid, I have sought definitive, black and white answers to questions that are often portrayed with a touch of gray.
My parents weren’t particularly religious. We went to church occasionally, and they certainly believed in God, but it was never something that was an essential part of our day-to-day lives.
Believing was simply something you did, like going to school, without asking questions and because your parents told you to.
It wasn’t my adolescence that I began to take my Christianity seriously. There was a girl that I befriended that had recently transferred to our middle school from out of state, and she invited me to come to her church.
Initially, my attendance was driven by the atmosphere that the youth ministry provided and the friendships that I gained as a result, but as I started to study the Bible and take the sermons to heart, I found that Christianity offered the kind of definitive answers that I had been looking for all along.
I no longer had to wonder where the universe came from, or what would happen to me after I died. All of those questions that had previously been unanswerable all began to make sense, and I could simply use my faith to fill in the blanks.
I lived a devoted and pious lifestyle for a few years after my so-called ‘awakening’; I became a Fellowship of Christian Athletes leader, attended church multiple times a week and even dedicated my summers to church camps alongside my friends and fellow believers.
During this time in my life, I felt obligated to preach the gospel to my friends and peers. I felt that I had found something worth sharing, and I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I didn’t try to win people over.
I was very confrontational and judgmental toward those who didn’t take their faith seriously.
Looking back on it, I now realize that I lacked the courtesy to treat people fairly and the self-awareness to recognize that I was pushing people away by putting so much effort into bringing them in.
I began a transitional phase during my freshman year of high school. After confronting an atheist about his beliefs, I really began to question my own beliefs.
He used unique and thought-provoking arguments that I simply couldn’t ignore, no matter how hard I tried. I went through a gut-wrenching period of doubt and conflicting emotional states, but I eventually regained my composure.
For at least three months, I stayed up night after night obsessively researching theology and religious philosophy. I slowly shifted toward a more agnostic worldview, and that eventually turned into a militant and confrontational atheism.
I ended up on the complete opposite end of the religious spectrum, but I somehow ended up being just as annoying.
I think that I was simply trying to justify my own beliefs to myself, and I did that by externalizing all of the self-doubt that I was holding onto.
I’ve now returned to a sort of distant agnosticism, one that isn’t predicated upon forcing my beliefs on others.
While I still don’t consider myself to be religious, I can see the value it holds, and I’ve finally learned how to take ‘I don’t know’ for an answer.