In high school I had considered myself to be a conscious person--cognizant of all the evils and
horrors of the world--and like many youth, I was optimistic and fairly idealistic. I still believed that there was good in humanity, and that some day, some how, we could bring that goodness to the forefront and make the world a better place.
What better arena to smash such hopefullness than the United States Navy! I signed up in August of 2011--the 17th if I'm not mistaken. I was only 17 at the time, so I had to get my mom to sign to allow me to sign my life away. She did so reluctantly, but she was proud. I pride myself in being able to say that I did not sign up because of 9/11 (as that was a month away from happening). So I wasn't part of the wave of young patriots.
During boot camp I started going to the Catholic mass every Sunday. For the first time in my life, going to church actually felt meaningful and fulfilling. I was always jealous of those who felt so much enrichment in their lives by participating in religion because I had never, ever felt that way. A friend of mine once told me that she actually feels better knowing that Jesus loves her, and many people I've known have told me that they truly feel God's presence.
I had never known such a feeling, and so for me to feel the inkling of that was something quite spectacular. But after boot camp was over and I found myself free of drill instructor oppression, my eagerness to attend church waned. Why did I care so much then, and why don't I care now?
I wouldn't answer that question for quite some time, but suffice to say, I felt like God had helped me get through boot camp.
I was a cryptologist, and for those who aren't sure what that means, it's a person who specializes in communication intelligence. My job was to exploit enemy communications so that my command, which happened to be the USS San Jacinto, could gain a tactical advantage from that intelligence. One of the neat little benefits to having a Top Secret/SCI clearance is having the privelage of access to the Classified World News.
Yes, the CWN is legit. It's web-based on the military's classified network, and it's a lot like yahoo news, only it has all of the stuff that the average citizen will never, ever hear about. On deployment, I had the chance to read it every day, and what I discovered is that there are an awful lot of people on this planet that want me and everyone I love dead because we are white, Christian, and American. And what most people will never know, is that there have been far more attempts to bring us down than we hear about in the regular news.
What an awful place the world truly is, I thought to myself. It was the first time in my life when I truly felt a sense of hopelessness, and that weighed heavily upon my heart. The question came up: "how could a god of love and mercy allow for such unmercifully hateful things in his plan?" My job was to help in killing the enemy. I was a part of a business whose primary function was to kill as many enemy humans as possible. How could I ever be worthy of heaven when the world required me, and all humans, to be a party to such sinfulness.
How could God make a world in which to survive, one has to betray what he knows to be right? What sort of sick, twisted fool makes the way so narrow and the gate so straight, yet creates a world that drags us from the path? And what about all of those non-Christians? How about the Buddhists, many of whom who are actually more moral and ethically sound than 90% of Christians?
And what about this Jesus thing? I don't really believe that God is so petty that he needs a blood sacrifice. That always seemed like a particularly human characteristic to me, and I had a hard time believing that an all-powerful being would actually trouble himself with such a triviality. At that time in my life, I was standing on the precipice, afraid to cross out of the fear of damnation that had been ingrained in me since birth.
I saw a terrible world and how hard so many people strive to be good, to be righteous, only to inevitably fail because that is our nature--human nature that God created us to have. God created us as flawed beings, yet somehow expected us to overcome our every instinct. And for what? To love him? It's all a test to see if we really love him?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the traditional conceptualization of "God" seemed to resemble an insecure teen-ager who had been granted the power to manipulate existence, and saw fit to engineer this life to be a grand competition to discover his most ardent worshippers. The traditional Judeo-Christian "God" was like an almighty jock creating an exclusive list for the biggest frat party in all of existence: only the coolest of the cool people would be allowed.
Doesn't that seem a little bit . . . stupid?