At 20, while studying for Christian ministry, I became a victim of "post-traumatic church syndrome."
The how isn't as important as the what: My soul had grown obese with doubt, and I could no longer squeeze into my religion. Like every good Evangelical Poster Child, I had been raised with Believe-It-All theology (lest God spit me out of His mouth in disgust!), so when I chose to Believe-It-None I became God's holy puke.
When faith is your whole identity, rejecting it is not unlike swan-diving into a bed of nails. It's spiritual suicide; you'll be forced attend a thousand little funerals for your shattered self, each worse than the last.
The pain is so brutal, so intense, that it's easier to tell yourself lies: Faith isn't important; I don't need God; I can partition off my soul with demolition tape and tip-toe around the condemned site forever.
Except that eventually? I couldn't play pretend.
At 29, I realized with utter horror that I yearned to be "someone who believed." In what, I had no idea. But suddenly the what was not as important as the how: how could I possibly find faith when merely attending church incited flashbacks, weeping, puking and (once) hives?
Well. I did what any damaged psychology grad would do; I decided to treat myself with spiritual shock therapy! Yes! I would go to 30 places of worship before my 30th birthday! I would fit this full-time quest into my already full-time life! (Brilliant, yes? Ahem).
I would rise; I would take faith by force; I would conquer! (Actually, before going all ticker-tape victory parade? I would also hurt. A lot. But I didn't know that then.) One week after my 29th birthday, I launched my project.
I channeled dead relatives with Christian Spiritualists, testified with Mormons, chanted Hare Krishna, feasted with the Amish, fasted for 30 days, and danced around fire to the beat of pagan drums. I sang hymns beside gays and next to folks who don't welcome gays in their pews.
I was damned to hell and told I was god. I raised my hands with Pentecostals and folded them with Catholics; I dressed for mosque and undressed (my feet) to enter the Sikh temple. I shouted with Baptists and was silent in Buddhist meditation. I met Quakers, hugged Jehovah's Witnesses and studied miracles under an Eastern Orthodox urban monk. And in the process I came alive again.