“Is that a pentacle or a pentagram?” I asked “Mark” as he took over for me in the guard shack because the guy who normally works that night shift for early in the week had called off. I was asking him about a tattoo on his right arm.
He said it was in fact a pentagram, he said he got it some years ago when he was “mad at god”. He grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist background, and was beginning to separate himself from Christianity, and was feeling a lot of anger about his time spent in it, and what he had been taught. He had no connections to Satanism, either now or at the time, but regarded it as a kind of “screw Christianity” kind of message, like some hard rock singers and death metal bands viewed the pentagram in the 70’s-90’s.
He said he wished he didn’t have the tattoo now, mostly because it was so visible, he said he has other tattoos, but he kept them in places out of sight, places where a short sleeved shirt would easily cover them up. He said now that he considers himself an atheist, but he seems at times to be rather confused. He said that he finds many aspects of the Bible to be rather absurd, like Noah’s Ark, the Creation story, etc, and is repulsed by some aspects of Christian theology, (he also agrees with me that the concept of free will in Christianity is a false illusion), but he said something that surprised me, he said he wished he could still believe in Christianity.
He said that he thought that people in Christianity were much happier than people outside of it, and talked about various studies that claim that Christians are happier than other groups. He finds Christianity to be highly contradictory, and rather bizarre, but he’s longing for that sense of joy that many Christians appear on the surface to have. You see, unlike me, he has been very open about his mental health issues at work, he has OCD and anxiety issues, and chooses to deal with it sometimes by making a joke of it, laughing about being on Xanax to keep the anxiety down, etc.
I had told him that in my experience, being a former fundamentalist myself, that many people are not as happy as they try to pass themselves off to be in those circles. People have the mentality that the only true way to happiness is through their belief in god, and their perceived relationship with him. This leads to people thinking that if they aren’t happy, then there must something wrong with their level of faith, or that it’s coming from sin or guilt (I've personally had that said to my face), which leads to a lot of denial that someone has mental disorders like depression or bipolar disorder, or they may recognize it, but deny the true causes of it.
There are many people suffering in silence on those kinds of circles, but they keep plastering on a happy face, and trying to tell everyone just how happy they are because of their faith, the expectation to be happy all the time, and to live up to impossibly high standards leads to what I call the Stained Glass Masquerade. It’s a necessary survival skill that you have to learn in those circles to get through life.
After I talked to him about that, he started to talk about all the anger he used to have about the fact that if god created him, he apparently created him with his OCD, and how angry that used to make him. Why would god create him this way? The discussion kept going on about religion, and he talked about a 12 hour long debate he had once with our fellow co-worker Jason one night when they were both on holiday overtime (for some reason, our company requires two people to be in the guard shack on holidays when the building itself is closed). They sure didn’t see eye to eye on Christianity.
When we were discussing the various schools of thought of Christianity, a conversation that came up because he had mentioned the Calvinistic doctrine of "unconditional election" (the idea that god didn’t just simply know who would accept and reject him, he decided who would do so, condemning some people to hell with no recourse, no way to change their fate), I had told him about more liberal forms of Christianity.
I had brought up to him the various ideas about hell within Christianity, including the growing idea within more liberal doctrines that hell does not exist at all in the first place, the concept of Christian univeralism, which one of my favorite bloggers, Lana Hope of Wide Open Ground believes in. It’s the concept that god’s forgiveness covers everyone, no matter who they are, what they have done, or even if they decide to accept Christianity.
He was interested in looking into that, since he was not familiar with such ideas during his upbringing, I had talked to him about my many objections to fundamentalist ideals, and with some foundational aspects of Christianity itself, and he agreed with all of it, I think that he doesn’t truly want to go back to Christianity, he is just longing for that peace of mind, the false illusion of hope, the state of feeling like you know all the answers in life with certainty, and without questioning.