It seems that at least once a semester you can find an article in the Mars’ Hill dedicated to warning students of the potential dangers in Religious Studies courses. The stories all follow the same general format; someone comes to Trinity as an evangelical, but loses (or greatly struggles with) their faith due to the content they are exposed to in a RELS course. Usually these de-converted Christians later come to rediscover their faith, but outside the academy. I think this mentality has brought about an almost negative view of the Religious Studies department; and as my time comes to a close at Trinity I want to encourage its students, faculty, and staff to have a more positive view. I went through the same crisis of faith that many others do in my second year at Trinity. Now a fourth year, I am finishing my time here a much stronger and more mature Christian.
I came to Trinity as a young, bright-eyed Evangelical. Halfway through my second year, I began to seriously question my faith. I was enrolled in three different RELS courses that all dealt with the New Testament. Two of them were heavily focused on how we, as a post-Enlightenment culture, should read and approach the Christian Scriptures.
For the first time in my life I was facing the hard questions that a Christian academic has to deal with. As if that was not enough to shake my faith, I also became very interested in the New Atheist movement being lead by names such as Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris. Long story short, I became an agnostic materialist, and I believed Christianity was simply the product of people.
Abandoning the religion of your youth is no easy task. It was my identity and my worldview, without it I had no idea who I was or how to see the world around me. Tensions began to rise with family members and life time friends as I tried to explain to them what I was going through. I found that most Christians in my life were as ignorant as I was in answering the question of my faith. This was no fault of their own, but I found little help in the other people I went to.
It was a very lonely time. The only advice really given to me was to ignore what I was learning and just hold on to the truth I was raised with. This was not helpful advice.