Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why I Am Not a Christian

I have a number of Christian friends who are praying for me and wishing for me to find God before my time runs out. I'd like to write this Blog entry for them and for those of you who, like me, may not be religious.

I have been surrounded by religion all of my life. I was baptized. I grew up in a religious household. My father, my brother, my sister-in-law are all ordained Presbyterian ministers. I've had no shortage of exposure to Christianity in my lifetime.

So why am I not a Christian?

I believe in a God that is better than the Christian God. My God does not work on a quid pro quo basis. He loves us unconditionally, without asking for anything in return, not even belief in him.

I never believed in unconditional love until I had kids. I used to think that love had to be earned and deserved. But I love my children without any strings attached. I believe that, as parents, we owe our children everything. After all, we brought them into this world. But our children, in return, owe us absolutely nothing. They didn't ask to be born. If they give us love and respect, it's a sign that we've done something right as parents. But it's not our due. I think this is a common mistake that parents make -- they believe all their sacrifices and heartache should be rewarded with obedient children who will treat them with respect and care for them in their old age.

I love my kids unconditionally and don't feel they owe me a thing. And I'm a mere flawed mortal. I believe God is better than we are. I believe he loves us unconditionally and asks nothing from us. Nothing.

As for the rewards of a Christian life -- eternal life basking in the glory and love of God... I don't want this. This is asking too much. I think I've already been blessed with the life I've been given on this Earth. That's more than enough for me. I don't want or ask for anything more beyond that.

I think religion has limited our knowledge of God and our access to God. I think Christians have assigned human traits to God -- jealousy, wrath, need for recognition. I believe God is beyond these and beyond anything we can understand. But what we CAN understand is that the world is full of evidence that there is some powerful force of good that is beyond any human attempts to destroy it.

I don't mean to insult my Christian friends and family. They have nothing but good intentions and my interests at heart. But I need to let them know that I believe God is watching over me and will look after the people I love after I'm gone, regardless of whether or not I give him due recognition.

9 comments:

ammi said...

Shin u saying u believe there is a God looking after u n your loved ones is fantastic!Just believe God exists...it helps.
Love-Rubina

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin

I was referred to your blog by one of my group members, Esther. At our last weekly group meeting, Esther lifted you in our prayers and she told me about your take on religion, which got me interested as I am undergoing the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) which is a Catholic rite for faith formation. I wanted to read your blog and asked if you would mind if I wrote you something in return. I like to keep my hopes high.

I used to be an avid dragonboater as well, and I would be at Kallang every weekend so I'm sure our paths might have crossed more than once before. You also sit on my work desk in a 2008 calendar that I got from Esther. In fact, it's sitting right here in front of me so I can place a face to you as I'm writing this.

After reading your blog entries, I feel a stronger connection. Since I am new to the faith, I probably wouldn't be the best person to talk about religion. But I thought it may be interesting to trade views on the subject.

I was brought up in a non-religious family, or to be more specific, my father was and still is an atheist. I grew up without intimate knowledge of God, and was convinced I was in control of my own destiny and lived life on my own terms. For a while, that worked well for me, and I was doing well at school and later at work. Family life was not great but that was a constant.

I got sick a couple of years ago. I had to undergo several operations (most of them from complications) in a short span of 3 months, the longest lasting 16 hours. I was on morphine for pain, and was bedridden for about 4 months. During that time, I went into depression and broke down several times. I remember staring at the empty ceiling day after day and watching the sky from my window to see if it was day or night. It was during this lowest period that I found God, or rather it was He who found me. I realised that I had been testing Him. The many times when I wanted to win a race or get past a difficult test, and I would wager God for divine intervention in exchange for conversion, and then brush it off as good luck or coincidence if things really went my way.

I started to read the bible, and pray. I prayed and prayed, and each time I was told of another complication, I despaired. After my last operation in August 06, my doctors told me that they cannot operate on me anymore - there was nothing more they could do. And this time, I did not feel sad at all. I was strangely at peace. I felt that everything was planned out for me, and there was no use getting all worked up over something that I had absolutely no control over. And so I surrendered. To God.

And I recovered.

My doctors said it was a miracle. And I didn't doubt it this time. I have been going to church faithfully since I was able to get out of bed, even though I had a pee-bag strapped to my leg for the first few months.

I believe in God not because I want to have eternal life or a place in His celestial kingdom which seems to be a popular pitch for many Christians. I believe, because He has touched me, and I could feel His presence with me during my darkest hours, and also in an encounter last year during a thanksgiving prayer on my way back from church.

I go to church because of several reasons:
(a) to thank Him for healing me.
(b) to answer a call that had been ignored for so long because of my own pride.
(c) to be in perfect union with Him through the sacraments.
(d) to give back a fraction of the love that He has given me because I want to, not because He asked for it. This is a natural response of love.
(e) to be at peace.

It is hard to fully describe the peace and joy I get from knowing God, and from walking closely with Him. It speaks better from experience, and I pray that you will get to know it someday. Because it is so nice to have someone who is always with you no matter what happens. Even when we are no longer here in this world.

I fully agree with you that God's love for us is unconditional. There were never any terms and conditions given to us when Jesus died for us. We have all been given the gift of life, and we will all have to die someday. Some choose not to see life as a gift, but I believe that we were meant to live life as an experience, and what we get out of it depends on how we choose to live it. And I think God's intention was for us to live a full life. And for me, having a spiritual dimension to my life has made it so much more meaningful. Being at peace with my mortality and purpose has put me in a better perspective to live life to its fullest, and it would have been a pity to not see the wider scheme of things, in my opinion.

I hope you haven't been too bored reading this extremely long response. I just want to sign off by wishing you all the best, and I hope that you can find some form of comfort from my sharing, because miracles happen all the time. I truly believe that.

The best,
Ethan

Matthew Taylor said...

Hi shin its Matthew,

If you are finding facing the future as a non-christian difficult in any way, then you should read "The God Delusion" (on sale at borders in singapore) by Richard Dawkins.

Thinking of every day (or most days anyway)

Love,

Mxxx

Shin said...

Matthew,

Strangely enough, I'm NOT finding it difficult to face the future. I should, but I'm not. Not yet, anyway.

I should be afraid and anxious about dying, but what I'm really afraid of is putting my friends and family through the trauma of watching me die a long, drawn-out, agonizing death. Maybe I'll get lucky and get hit by a bus on the way to the hospice for my final days...

I'll still read the book you recommend. It has an interesting title.

I hope you're all happy and healthy.

Shin

Matthew Taylor said...

happy and healthy

Anonymous said...

hi shin, im rubinas sister,neelo.i entered ur blog today n im amazed at ur strength.u r simply amazing.im sorry to hear about the latest findings.all religion preaches good n it can be somewhat a sensitive subject. but u believe in a powerfull source , god n thats whats really important u trully r an inspiration to all of us ...neelo

Matthew said...

Dear Shin

We last met on the beach at Sentosa when Toby was a large bulge...and now I have the photos on your blog to bring me up to date. The children are both enchanting, but so are you with the smooth dome of the head as beautiful as your pregnant form must have been. Beautiful skulls are on our mind at the moment because we take our 6-month old grandson for regular "helmet-fittings" to rectify a mis-shapen head after he slept too long in the same position.

Margaret and I are not writing to you because you say "Thank you for reading my blog" but because we want to say to you : "Thank you for creating the blog and inspiring us with your courage and wisdom, as well as delighting us with the photos and vivid evocations of Singapore".

I see why you reply to Matthew that you do not find it difficult to face the future without a formal faith; nor am I sure that Dawkins has all the answers, except that it is good to shed any "delusions" whether they are religious or non-religious. Actually I wish that I and many "Christians" whom I know had such faith as yours in God's unconditional love. I think that, far from "insulting" your Christian friends, as you put it, you have brought them back to essentials. You are absolutely right that it is not our recognition of God that matters but His recognition of us and of all humanity.

But your blog is not just stimulating attempts to understand (or rather accept) the mystery of life and death, of love and pain. You are calling us all back to honour your bravery, your grace, your profound insights, your wise humour,your ability to look to others' needs...You are packing into months what many of us take years to realize for ourselves, let alone share with others.

Your children will grow up with an inheritance of compassion and comprehension that you bequeath to them. Forgive the pun, but they and all of us will have a new definition for "shining example".

With our love and admiration,

John and Margaret Taylor

Anonymous said...

"I think Christians have assigned human traits to God -- jealousy, wrath, need for recognition. I believe God is beyond these and beyond anything we can understand."
Agreed. And IF God is indeed present.

zorop said...

watch out shin, you are showing traits of people who met their creator face to face.