I was raised Catholic, but by the time I entered college, had abandoned Christianity altogether. I went through a long period of being “nothing in particular,” identifying as atheist and agnostic, while dabbling in Buddhism and (more) Taoism, before finding my spiritual home in Judaism.
Before you start worrying, this post isn’t going to try to get you to convert to Judaism. Jews don’t do that! Judaism is not a proselytizing religion (i.e. it accepts converts, but does not go out to seek them). Something else that Judaism is not is dogmatic. This is an important distinction that undergirds my choice to leave Christianity.
Christianity (and Islam) are dogmatic religions; that is, they have a dogma, or a set of required beliefs. If you don’t believe something required (that Christ is your savior), then the religion threatens you with eternal punishment.
Think about what this means. You are required to make yourself believe something, under threat of punishment. Think about how difficult, if not impossible, that really is. Jesus is always scouring your thoughts, trying to detect any doubt and send you down to the 9th layer of Hell if he finds any. This is little more than mind control.
I’ve been watching the Twilight Zone recently, the original series created and hosted by Rod Serling (unsurprisingly, a Jew) and saw this episode last night (“It’s a Good Life” – part 1 – part 2 – part 3) . The whole “think happy thoughts!” and “put it out of your mind!” attitude displayed by the perennially frightened villagers captures the essence of Christianity to me. The cornfield is nothing more than the threat of hell.
When people don’t feel the freedom to let their mind explore, much less say out loud or print an unconventional opinion, they are in prisons of their own making.