Why did I stop believing in God? The shortest answer would be that I ran out of excuses for him.
Pentecostal Christianity stresses that God is actively involved in the believers’ lives, answering their prayers, communicating with them, and changing events around them. As a teenager, I loved this idea. I was raised in traditional Catholicism, where God, while powerful, was very distant. I always thought that if there is a God, I wanted to have close contact with him – I couldn’t imagine any other way of living a meaningful life. But the dull Catholic liturgy, repeated week after week, did not provide me that. So when I found myself at a charismatic, joyous Pentecostal meeting, I knew immediately that what I had discovered was a religion for me.
I grew up in a proud United Pentecostal Church family in the Bible Belt. Words and concepts like “holiness,” “shouting,” “anointing,” and “apostolic” were and are important in UPC circles. For those unfamiliar with the jargon, these terms stand for rigid codes of physical dress and behavior, highly physical expressions of worship, a belief that followers could be “in tune” with the Holy Ghost (speaking in tongues is required as “proof” of being filled with the Spirit, which is necessary for salvation), and a literal translation and application of the whole Bible (as interpreted through the book of Acts as a lens). I know some of this sounds tedious to outsiders. I know some of it sounds ridiculous. But it was my sub-culture, my world, from the moment of birth, and to me, the idea that we were right and the rest of the world was wrong—it was a self-evident fact.