Last week I did a post exploring the questions I asked myself when I was a christian while I was in my transition to atheism. This week, I want to talk about the question that at some point I asked myself "Why am I a Christian?"
I started asking this question when I became aware of other religions in the world. Why am I not a Muslim? Why am I not Jewish? What about Christianity is so great that led me to be Christian? The only honest answer I could come up with was that I was born into a Christian family and therefore I am Christian. It is not like I looked at the various religions and decided Christianity is the best, it was chosen for me.
So then I started thinking, what if I had been born in a different part of the world? Suppose my parents were Muslim, then I would be Muslim as well. I certainly wouldn't be a Christian, I'm sure the situation would be similar, just as I have not looked at various religions and decided on Christianity now, in that situation I wouldn't have looked at various religions and decided on Islam, I would just be a Muslim. What would be the consequences of this? According to the church I grew up in, this hypothetical me would be doomed to hell. This seems supremely unfair!
The funny thing is, my initial thought was that I am incredibly lucky to be born into the one true religion. Awesome, God must truly love me to give me this gift. But after a while, I started thinking about my hypothetical self. How much more difficult it would be for him to get into heaven. "It's not so easy for him, but I'm sure at some point he would see a missionary and learn of Jesus and it would lead him to convert, it's a harder path but he can do it." These things comforted me at times, but they were incredibly distressing at other times. I would think about hearing preaching from other religions and the likelihood that I would convert away from Christianity. Why would I do that? I already am in the one true religion. And I thought "that hypothetical me thinks the same thing." I went back and forth like this A LOT.
There are a few things that I would frequently think that would appease me for a while, one was that whole "God works in mysterious ways" thing, and the "You can't always know God's plan" thing. I was also told "everyone has a chance, everyone hears the true word of God and has an opportunity to become Christian". It worked sometimes, but it just never seemed fair, why do I get this basically for free and my hypothetical self has to work so hard?
At some point I tucked these thoughts to the back of my brain somewhere and didn't think about it for a long time. Then I started learning about primitive cultures. There were hunter gatherer tribes around last century (are they still there?). There are people living in the amazon jungle (still?). These people have their own religions and they certainly haven't heard the Christian story. Do they all go to hell automatically? If Jesus is the only way to get to heaven they can't go there as they have never even heard of Jesus, but them going to hell isn't fair, they never had a chance. The reasons I had above don't work here. It's not a harder path for these people to get to heaven, it is impossible.
So where did this leave me? When it came down to it, I guess the only reason I was able to honestly come up with for why I was Christian was that I was born into it. This never seemed like a good enough reason on it's own. As I said last week, this is not THE reason I am an atheist, but it did play a role. I thought about this a lot when I was a Christian and because of it, along with other reasons, I eventually left the faith.