Have you ever lived with a secret so deeply recessed that it even alluded yourself? Until perhaps, some unforeseen circumstance forcefully pried it from your subconscious?
It’s kind of like housing a sleeping giant within you.
Mine woke up and bitch slapped me after my second divorce.
Losing My Religion
I was a single mom of three children and struggling to survive mentally, emotionally, financially, and logistically. So I doubled-down, like many women in that scenario, on adherence to my religion of origin– Christianity. I had long abandoned the Evangelical version– that went by the wayside with the ex-husband. I returned to a more progressive form, Methodism.
Pressure mounted while working full-time and attending graduate school to finish my Master of Theology degree. I served on the chancel every Sunday and even baked homemade bread for communion every week. But an awareness of inauthenticity was gaining momentum in my heart and head.
I was reciting creeds I didn’t believe. Singing hymns that were nonsensical. And saying public prayers that were performances meant for the human listeners, not God. Not to mention that the energy spent preparing for church, getting my children ready to go to church, and being at church amassed to a waste of time. I began to admit that my obligation to church was for its benefit, not mine.
The Truth Shall Set You Free
It was time for me to be honest about who I really am. I am a None. I came out and joined the roughly 30% of other Americans who check the “none” box when asked to identify their religious affiliation.
There are many reasons that led me to this personal reckoning, well beyond the few listed above. For now, suffice it to say that I had fundamental problems with many Christian beliefs and practices. For example– no, I don’t believe Jesus was born of a virgin or literally rose from the dead. (That’s a big deal, BTW, to say out loud, particularly when you live in the Bible Belt.)
And I don’t have a problem with rituals when they are understood metaphorically but let’s not pretend that sprinkling water on a baby actually does anything– at least for the baby. It may gratify the adults in the room, but that’s another story. And please don’t tell me the church is for all people when the LGBTQ community is not treated like the rest of us. (A more thorough treatment of my disconnect with beliefs and practices is in my book Confessions of an American None: A Credo of Sorts.)
The straw that broke the New Testament camel’s back was the doublespeak of the clergy. These highly educated, well-meaning folks understood the truth about the fallible composition of the Bible and the convoluted history of the Church. Yet on the pulpit, they spoke in ways that heavily implied, for example, that the virgin birth was a literal thing. However, when I had a one on one conversation with them, they would readily admit that it was an allegorical story borrowed from previous ancient narratives about historically significant figures. (Alexander the Great, we’re looking at you. Lest this goes to your head, you aren’t the only or first one though.)
The ministers’ argument was that they had to speak ambiguously so people could interrupt the message however they wanted. This allowed both the people who believe the Bible literally and the people who understand it contextually or metaphorically to hear it through their respective lenses. These were the same clergy who personally had no problems with ordaining or marrying gay folks (how magnanimous of them) but were too afraid to buck church politics on the issue. And at the root of it all–or so it seemed–was the fear of scaring off the older (more conservative) members with deep pockets.
Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face! It became abundantly clear to me that the Church was more concerned with preserving the few remaining members that it had than being relevant to the burgeoning masses who could use some hope and inspiration without the BS.
Where in all of that is the truth?
How Do You Spell Relief?
I couldn’t fake it anymore. It had bubbled inside of me for far too long. I was tired of reciting archaic, irrelevant creeds and pretending that going to church made me a better person. The longer I denied it, the greater the stench of duplicity.
Yet there was fear associated with coming out. It made me think of the experience that I had dating a young woman in college back in the 1990s. Would I be treated now like I was then? Judged, scorned, and ostracized by people who thought they were holier than me? Frankly, I wrestled with this fear for a few years. I love all those people who I feared would shift negatively toward me. I did not want to lose connection with them.
But the fear of loss was less than the belief in Love.
Seminary had had an ironic effect on me. By learning the truth about the humanmade construction of the Bible and the Church, I realized that I was a None. But by studying the teachings of Jesus, I welcomed the truth that only Love triumphs over Fear. Nothing good is borne of Fear. And only truth can foster Love.
So I shed my Fear, invoked my truth, and stand in Love.
As a None.
Rachel Roberts is the founder of American None. Every now and then she's known to have a deep thought, usually in the most random places– like shopping for IPA and gummy bears.