After a few years of church attendance, I stopped -- that was many years ago. Spiritually, it was the best thing I ever did. One of the reasons I stopped going to churches was that Christian doctrine seemed at once blasphemous and self-contradictory. The blasphemy just felt wrong; the self-contradiction demonstrated, at least to me, that it is wrong. I want to present the particular doctrinal issue that I had to reject as an affront to rationality. It has to do with... The Devil!
If the angel Lucifer was created as a perfect being, how could he have rebelled against God? Yes, in theory, having free will, he could choose to rebel; but in actuality, he would not have made that choice. A perfect being would freely make the perfect choice, which is to obey God; conversely, only a flawed being would make the flawed choice of rebelling against God. By definition, a perfect being would never willfully choose to do wrong, because that would be perverse, and perversion is incompatible with perfection. So if the very act of choosing to rebel against God is clear proof of imperfection, then the notion that Lucifer was created as a perfect being who perversely chose to rebel against God is self-contradictory. But if Lucifer was created as a flawed being, should we regard him as the author of sin or as its first victim? And if God created Lucifer as an imperfect being, then is it not God who is really responsible for sin and all of its dire consequences in the world since the beginning? And then how can we say that God is holy -- so holy that he cannot abide sin?
I asked this question of the pastor at the church I was attending at the time. He looked at me for a moment with mute incomprehension, as if I had suddenly started speaking in some obscure foreign language. Then he told me about Lucifer having free will, thereby demonstrating that he had completely missed the point. Over the years, I have posed that same question to many religious people, and every one of them without exception has offered the same answer, which uniformly begins, “Well, you see, God gave Lucifer free will…”
I found the same kinds of self-contradiction in concepts of sin and salvation, and it seemed to me that if all these key elements in Christian doctrine make no sense to me, then I am not a Christian at all -- I am a heretic. And so I stopped going to churches. And it was only then that I realized I had been looking for God in the wrong place. All those prayers and hymns of praise and supplication are addressed to some external superbeing, and so I was looking outside of myself. Naturally, I never found God in any church. It was only when I stopped going to church that I realized that God is not an external being but an inner source of spiritual aliveness. And it seemed inevitable -- all those churches seemed, in retrospect, like mausoleums sealed in dogma, no fit place for a living God.
But note! If I say that God is the inner source of spiritual aliveness, I am expressing a personal experience. Personal experiences, by definition, are subjective. The fact that I perceive God that way and found churches to be lifeless does not mean that other people must or should have the same experience. I am not the Faith Police; I don't dictate what other people should and should not believe. I just don't want them to try to dictate what I should believe, especially when the doctrine they want me to believe strikes me as literally unbelievable -- for I am literally incapable of believing a doctrine shot through with self-contradiction.