After I left St F, I drifted for a while. I would go to this parish or that parish, but my indoctrination about “liturgical abuses” and the dangers of going to “heterodox” parishes, filled me with anxiety as I tried to de-transition to “normal churches.” I finally just tried to break free with the whole Catholic thing by going to a Mennonite church for awhile. I don’t have anything negative to say about my time with the Mennonites, because they were honestly the nicest people I had (or have) ever met. The problem was me, because I was still obsessed with theology, liturgy, and all of the other things that led to a nasty case of religious OCD. Like most forms of OCD, I just couldn’t win; when I was at a church that seemed to fulfill all the aspects of my “spiritual checklist” like St. F, I felt inadequate and sinful for not doing this, that, or the other, or because I could never get behind the “women shouldn’t wear pants” thing or the MLK hate, but when I went to a more spiritually “normal” church, I felt like I was still failing at something or possibly everything.
My last stop on the church line was an Anglo-Catholic parish that seemed to be the best of all worlds: high church worship, nice people, nothing that inspired OCD, etc. The problem (because there was always a problem) is that the Anglican church just seemed so much less than the Catholic church, since from my perspective the only reason it existed was because Henry VIII wanted a divorce, which didn’t really seem like the most high-minded reason to start a church. As I had with Catholicism and Anabaptism, I bought all of the books I could about Anglicanism so I could get a handle on what exactly was its reason for existence.
However, at this time, I was just drifting away from faith in general. I felt like faith and religion, far from enriching my life, was just giving me more reasons to be depressed and anxious. I had been raised secular and had always had a probing mind, which was why it was so hard for me to accept anything “just because.” My will to believe was slipping, and nothing I was reading was helping. At this point, however, I just didn’t care anymore. The Obama/MLK drama alone brought out the worst aspects in white Christianity, so it was really difficult for me to believe that Christianity was providing this salubrious effect on society. And this wasn’t even factoring white Christianity’s no show on slavery and the Civil Rights Movement (I will write more on this topic later).
I didn’t get into secular humanism through Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or anyone like that, because I believe I was always a humanist, so everything they were saying was stuff I had already formulated in my mind before. Just being at St F was enough to discredit religion than anything that any “New Atheist” could have come up with. I got interested in religion because I was looking for a place to belong and “answers” to existential questions and in the end I found neither.
At the moment, I’m involved in the local atheist/freethinking/humanist community. I can’t say I feel 100% like I belong, because I know that because of my anxiety/depression that this will always be an uphill battle for me. But I do know that in this community that I don’t have to worry about some aspect of my self being considered too “inconvenient” for the group theology. There are many times that I wish that I had never taken that class on the history of Christianity or that I had never darkened the vestibule of St F, but all of that is really in the past now. I learned a lot (I think), and I now realize that Extra Ecclesiam est Libertas, something that is more clear after having the experiences that I did. I hope that others can read this blog and learn this message, and that hopefully others will share their stories on this subject.