Pieter, first I want to affirm your journey. Mine has been similar and even recently been disturbed and angered by the so-called leaders of the church who act more like Pharisees than Christ. In fact, I’ve written extensively calling out faith leaders and the problems facing Christianity. Here are two:
Let’s Stop Pretending Christianity Is Even “Christian” Anymore.
The vast majority of Christians can’t even explain the main tenant of their faith and look very little like their…
To your other question, “why can’t I just be a moral person” I’ll respond a little more in depth. First, if you are saying “Why do I have to call myself a Christian?” the answer is you don’t. I don’t call myself evangelical because the term is polluted and rotten. I don’t even refer to myself as a Christian these days but a “Christ Follower” indicating I’m trying to live as Christ taught and adhere to the main tenets of the faith (as I explain the the Let’s Stop Pretending… article I linked to). Much like Romeo & Juliet’s famous line, you can call a rose something different, but it’s still a rose.
However, if you mean, by being moral then that makes me a Christian and buys me entrance into God’s favor, salvation, and so on, that would be the antithesis of Christian doctrine as morality has nothing to do with the Christian faith. As I explain, in this piece and elsewhere, the core belief in Christianity is that no amount of good works amounts to salvation and that the story of the Bible is not one of man’s search for God, but God’s search for man and subsequent ransom of man despite his repeated betrayal and blasphemy. People who ascribe to the behavioral modification model of Christianity aren’t Christians, they’re just morally upright people, who—at the end of the day—probably look down their noses at others because they’re living right, but others aren’t.