Story of Recovery: Steve Smallwood

My story begins in the suburbs of Central New Jersey in a Methodist church. My parents started going to church when I was young, and that dictated alot to me while I was growing up. Both of my parents are very educated, and I have the utmost love and respect for them still to this day. I always went to church and never really questioned The Good Book, and even when I saw pastors and people in authority misuse their power, I still kept believing and not questioning. We went from a Methodist church, then to a Baptist church for 2 years when I was in Junior High, and then I started going to a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. The church we went to was run like a business, and the whole principal is that in order to get into heaven, you need to share your faith with others. I never felt comfortable with that because I never liked trying to convince people to believe the same things I did. It made me feel like a salesman, not a spiritual person.

On the opposite side, I was very drawn by the desire to help others. I was always drawn by the story of the good samaritan, where a total stranger would help an adversary not for their own benefit, but because it was what God had wanted. For all the ridiculous hypocrites I met, I also met a small handful of people who's lives were truly lived with the conviction that if they believed in God, then they should live it. These people, though all different, all exhibited some of the same qualities. It was because of these people that I made the decision to be a pastor. At least that's what I thought I wanted.

Once I started attending bible college, first in Georgia and later in New York, I realized a few things. First off, I had no real focus to study the Bible in depth, and as a result, my biblical studies grades were atrocious. I also figured out that I would make a lousy pastor. The person I had become by the time I was 25 was years apart from the person I was at 18. After graduation and some time in the workforce, my mentor and one of my pastors invited me to California with him to help with a church plant. I liked California upon visiting, and decided a change from The Garden State would be nice. I've since left that church, which isn't doing much at all currently.

So what brings me to agnosticism and borderline atheism? I'll tell you. I started questioning things. I stopped believing the myth that God would always be there for me. Rotten things happen to everyone. That's inevitable. It's human nature. We all have the capacity for good and evil. Belief that we were created by some higher being stopped making sense to me. Science started making more sense. I got tired of feeling guilty by my alleged "sins". I had fallen hostage to a dogmatic set of beliefs brought to me from others, but they were just ideas that can't be proven. I don't want faith without proof. I don't believe that Jesus was crucified for my sins. I think Jesus was murdered unjustly by corrupt people who wanted to hold onto their power. Jesus' life, not his death, were the true meaning of Christianity. However, Jesus wasn't the only one to preach this message.

All in all, I've seen the good side of religion and the bad side. I've been feeling as of late that religion is outdated and that we can do better. I don't want to have my life dictated by words in just one book that's supposed to be holy, but was still written by normal men. I've let go of my guilt and embraced more logic than I have before. And I have to tell you...it feels great. And the best part? I can still give a damn about my neighbor without feeling any guilty about coercing them into what I believe.