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Memoirs of a Former Christian: The Salvation Prayer

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When I was a teenager in church, we had a formula for sharing our salvation story. We were told that it is important to have this formula in our heads so we’re ready to share our story to anyone who may ask. The formula was quite simple. What was your life like before, how did you come to know Christ, and how did your life change? My story was quite simple. I was raised somewhat religious. My family participated in many vastly different denominations as I grew up. I went to a vacation bible school with at a Baptist church, and I said the salvation prayer because the teacher told me to. The only significant change in my life was my involvement in youth groups. In fact, I had believed in Christ long before I said the prayer. The only reason I said it was because the pastor said that we should say the prayer if we’d never done it before. Then my name became a number. 17 children got saved at VBS this week, the pastor would proudly announce to the congregation. Praise the Lord.

            When I got older, I became a volunteer at this VBS, and I learned that like me, very few children understood what the pastor meant by this prayer. I met a small handful of girls who came forward every year to be saved. No one had explained to them that they only had to accept Christ once. I remember talking to a child who couldn’t have been more than six years old and trying to talk her into saying this prayer. I heard tales of children being offered candy for coming forward to be saved. Small children were bribed and manipulated for the sake of a number, a count of converts.

            It was our duty to bring these small children to Christ so they would go to heaven when they died. It seems that is all it was really about. Fire insurance. I never asked questions. I simply did as I was told and accepted the teaching of my leaders. Just like that little child who said the salvation prayer just because she was told to, I followed directions blindly. I was like a zombie.

God was never in my heart. I never felt the spirit move. I never heard God’s voice. I never spoke in tongues. I was never spiritual. But I followed the church because it was what I had been taught. I never considered that they could be wrong. I never considered that they could be lying. I never considered that they could be blind. It never occurred to me to question.

And yet, when I got older, I did question. I became an atheist.

A Letter To Myself

Letter

Dear Lydia,

You are okay. Yeah, college is hard, but it’s not the end of the world. Yes, classes are boring, but it’s going to be okay. I know you miss Jared and your family, and it’s okay to miss them. I know it’s hard to be on your own. There will be nights when everything seems worthless and helpless. But it’s not. College isn’t easy. Being away from family isn’t easy. But you are stronger than you think you are. You’ve already made it this far. Just keep on chugging.

So maybe education isn’t your thing. Give it a shot and see how you like it. Take some art classes, take some science classes, see what you like. You do not have to be a teacher. I know that people have big expectations for you. You feel like you have to get a practical degree and a practical career. It’s okay to be impractical sometimes. It’s not worth it to do what everyone expects you to if it makes you unhappy. You are in control of your own life. You do not have to do anything. You are not obligated to do anything. You are the only one who has to live your life. So do what you want to do.

So, what do you want to do? Forget everyone else!! What do YOU want to do, Lydia? Take charge of your life! You don’t have to just take what’s thrown at you. Heck, when life gives you lemons, throw them back and demand pineapples. Be assertive. Be determined. Be you. Is it really worth it to do what everyone “expects” you to if it makes you unhappy?

You wanna be a teacher? Be a teacher. You wanna be an artist? Be an artist. You wanna be a scientist? Be a scientist! But whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself. Don’t throw away your potential just because you get frustrated.

You are strong. You are beautiful. You are talented. You are smart. You are you, and you have control.

Stop being helpless! Stop being passive! Get of your butt and DO something! If you’re unhappy, do something about it!! Chase your freaking dreams, Lydia!! And for goodness sake, stop doing what you’re expected to do.

You are okay. Now it’s time to learn how to thrive. Learn to be yourself. Learn to take care of yourself. Learn to love yourself.

Love, Lydia

What I Learned from a Giant Tree of Religions

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Check it out for yourself: http://funki.com.ua/ru/portfolio/lab/world-religions-tree/

My observations:

1)   Christianity is the most tangled and least consistent segment. It has more branches and more modern sects than any other religion.

2)   Almost half of the tree consists of Christian branches.

3)   About ten Christian branches die, but other religions combined only contain a few dead branches.

4)   The only Christian branch that is consistent with the original Christian root is Orthodox Christianity. Orthodoxy makes up only a very small fraction of Christian sescts.

5)   Modern day Christianity is the result of about ten different reformations, which is far more than all other religious reformations combined.

6)   Modern Christian sects were formed after the year 1500 as a result of these reformations.

7)   There are almost no remaining sects that are not the product of reformations or significant divisions.

8)   The first Christian reform occurred around the year 450. The sects it resulted in, which are mostly orthodox, bypassed the Great Schism and made it to the modern day mostly unchanged.

9)   The great schism, which occurred around the year 1000, drastically changed religion by dividing it between eastern Christianity (Orthodoxy) and western Christianity (Catholicism).

10)   Almost all non-Orthodox Christian sects are descendants of the Roman Catholic Church. (Which is ironic considering that many modern evangelical Christians, such as some Baptist churches, do not consider Catholics to be “saved.”)

My conclusion: Christianity is not an ancient religion, but a recent creation. It is a tangled mess of one small ancient religion and a plethora of recent reformations. It is broad, diverse, inconsistent, and unreliable.