“I’ll pray you find your way back to God,” the woman promised, pressing a reassuring hand to my forearm. She smiled as she rose from her seat, grabbed an old suitcase from overhead, and shuffled down the aisle and out of view.
Our conversation began like most do when meeting a seatmate on a plane: introductory, cordial, unintrusive but a bit uncomfortable—mostly small talk. I tried to hide behind my book, but my efforts failed to combat her persistent questions. It felt as if she was insisting I converse with her.
After getting the bulk of boring stuff out the way—where are you from? what do you do? yadda-yadda?—she proudly mentioned how active she is in her church. She boasted of the work she’d been part of and raved about how her children obediently follow her & Jesus in discipleship.
Missionary work was a major part of her life; she made sure I knew it.
I politely continued to engage with her even though I didn’t really care about what she had to say.
The book I was reading was neglected for weeks and I found myself getting antsy. Free time is hard to come by! Also, the subject matter felt…tedious. I thought if I simply nodded, smiled, and kept my questions to a minimum she’d notice my disinterest and leave me in peace, but I was terribly wrong.
Her bragging continued but when she finished she asked, “Have you found salvation in the teachings of Jesus Christ?”
I was hoping she wouldn’t ask.
Lying likely would’ve been my way out of our chat but I couldn’t do it. Once asked, it’s hard for me to contain my truths.
Her cheerful expression slid into disappointment with a hint of fear flickering behind her brown eyes. I’ve encountered many religious strangers who have shown some discomfort after learning of my skepticism (agnosticism/atheism, depending on the day), so I’ve come to expect it. You can almost see their opinions of me change instantly. That’s why I typically withhold such information.
I want people to judge me by who I am and how I treat others, not by the stigma that comes with the ‘non-believer’ label.
Regardless, we continued our discussion but I did most the talking from then on. I gave her the summarized story of my fall from grace and before I knew it, the plane was bouncing gently on the landing strip.
She was sympathetic but her responses seemed to indicate that she believed my position was a temporary affliction or a flaw in judgment. “God has a plan for you,” she said, “and just because you’ve lost faith in Him does not mean He’s lost it in you.” That’s when she said her final words and departed the plane.
I’ve thought about our interaction a lot since that trip. Aside from being generally kind, I believe that in her heart she only wanted what she thought best for me (I appreciated the sentiment). The best thing, in her eyes, would be for me to return to my old, unquestioning ways—for the sake of my soul, of course.
But our talk made me realize something not many of my religious peers understand: there’s no going back.
This woman made it sound like it was a choice not to believe.
If I saw her again I’d argue her convictions were not acquired by choice, just like mine. Faith in a supernatural entity is a compilation of influences, circumstances/experiences, social norms, and a human desire to find comfort in not knowing the unknowable. I’m going to assume her parents, like mine and probably yours, did not provide an option to choose one of the 4000 known religions. We were all told what the truth was and what god we should serve.
With enough time, faith becomes nothing more than familiarity within the confines of a repetitive thought cycle.
Doubt is a result of being exposed to information that pokes holes into the rationale of any faith. Choice only comes into play when that information makes one question a belief. One can choose to ignore the questions (willful ignorance) or gather enough answers to come to a logical conclusion.
Mine was simple: there’s not enough evidence to support my faith in Christianity.
To willingly ignore the conclusions I’ve made based on evidence gathered, or lack thereof, feels next to impossible. I can’t just say ‘damn the results, I’m going to believe‘…it doesn’t work that way. It’s not like a religious person actively seeks to abandon their standing or out of the blue says, “I’m done believing in this” It’s a process and probably can’t be undone.
It’s easy to take a leap of faith and believe in something until that something is disproved. For example, it is common to believe Satan is the ruler of Hell but, the Bible does not mention it. Other than witnessing the rapture or having some sort of divine experience of my own, I’m confident my belief in the Christian god will not return. My heart is unable to embrace something seen as untrue.
I cannot ignore the inconsistencies of scripture and the endless logical holes of a creator. Faith is not enough because to have faith in something, one must forgo all evidence contrary to that belief. I simply cannot.
What do you think? Is it possible to come back after losing faith? What about if there is no evidence? Let us know what you think in the Comments section below!
I’ve been published! If you enjoy my writing or are interested in a story about God and the Devil fighting over our souls, then you should check it out! It’s called, ‘Through the Devil’s Eyes,’ and is available now on Amazon!