Growing up, I was really involved in my church, a charismatic Lutheran megachurch in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. I attended Sunday church service nearly every week, but I also was in youth vocal choir, bell choir, Sunday School, and youth group. And if the Passion Play was going on, I might be at the church six days out of the week for two months!
So, I grew up surrounded by efforts to reinforce my belief. In high school, I came to see my belief as a stool with three supporting legs; fellowship, spiritual highs (choir was full of those), and intellectual apologetics. The first two were readily available at church, but the last one was a continual challenge for me.
In college, I was no longer surrounded by the regular fellowship that reinforced my belief (InterVarsity never worked for me that well), and I no longer had the charismatic/evangelical surroundings that gave be the buzz of “spiritual highs.” So, it came down to whether I could intellectually maintain my belief. I was down to one shaky stool leg.
The break in the last leg was that I realized that I was a Christian only because I had been raised in a Christian family. If I had been born in Tel Aviv, I would have been Jewish; if I had been born in Delhi, I would have been Hindu, if I had been born in Cairo, I would have been Muslim. I realized that I couldn’t just assume that Christianity was the only logical option. Once I did that and started to think about Christianity as one of many candidates that needed to prove itself, I saw that it answered the questions I had about the universe as well as all of the other religions I had looked at: poorly.
I lost my faith in Christianity when I decided that it had to be independently compelling when starting from scratch and comparing it to the rest (and to the default belief that none of them were true).
Other things that didn’t help were religion’s hostility to science, religion’s hostility to homosexuals, the assumption from many that God is a Republican, and the rumors that got back to me that I was into sex and drugs my first year in college (when neither was true and I was still involved in church and IVCF), but those were on the periphery. The main transition happened when I started putting the burden of proof on Christianity to support its claims instead of thinking that Christianity was the default position.
I’m much more comfortable now with my non-belief in God than I was when I was fighting hard over and over and over to convince myself that there was a reason to keep the faith.
My approach at this point can be summed up by something I once wrote on a Pharyngula thread:
If God interacts with the universe, then where’s the evidence?
If God doesn’t interact with the universe, then where’s the relevance?