Leaving Faith Behind

I was not raised in a particularly religious home. My mother believed in God but my father did not. All of my brothers and sisters went to Sunday School, but as the youngest I was relieved of that burden. Our family practised weddings and funerals church attendance. I recall however an old man that used to come to my primary school and tell stories from the Bible. Growing up, religion and God didn’t mean very much to me, they weren’t a big part of my life. In my early twenties however I found myself in a situation whereupon I was questioning such spiritual matters. Retrospectively I can see that this was brought on by a rather traumatic personal experience of which I could not see the significance at the time. I began “searching” and became a born again Christian shortly thereafter. I remained in the church for twenty years, and it dramatically shaped who I was. There were many times as a Christian that I did not feel that I was myself, but rather just a poor version of trying to be someone else. But I was a fully committed and indoctrinated Christian: I was baptised in water, I spoke in tongues and I performed what I considered at the time to be the gifts of the spirit. I read widely, or at least widely within the Christian framework, and I studied the Bible. Unlike the majority of Christians, as I was to discover later, I actually read the whole Bible cover to cover. Ten years into my Christian experience I began to teach at a theological training Institute where I would lecture on biblical studies, theology, leadership, discipleship and philosophy. A few years into this I embarked upon four years of formal study in which I completed my postgraduate qualification in theology at an accredited tertiary institution. This was the beginning of the end, or more accurately a whole new beginning. I should also mention at this point that throughout my entire Christian life I have suffered from a debilitating chronic pain condition that has effectively defined my life. This condition gradually worsened over the years and has prevented me from working and performing the simplest of day-to-day tasks. Undoubtedly this has factored into my decision, but in all honesty I lived faithfully under the all seeing eye of God for twenty years while suffering through this, and I am certain of the fact that it is theological and not personal issues that provided the ultimate nail in the coffin of Christianity for me.

The more I studied theology the more I recognised a number of fatal flaws. Firstly, the Bible that I held in such high esteem for so long is rather less impressive than I initially thought. In the study of hermeneutics I discovered that one must go to great lengths to arrive at the doctrinal nodes which make up modern Christianity. Everything must be interpreted, and the average person, without training, cannot possibly interpret the Bible correctly. This makes Christianity, at its heart, a religion of the elite. Don’t get me wrong, many lay-people think that they can interpret the Bible correctly, but there are a huge number of misinterpretations in the modern church. The methods of interpretation are also highly suspicious. One must ultimately depend upon and trust in the interpretations of “experts” unless they are intent upon devoting their entire life to the study of ancient languages and interpretive method. There are also many questions around the legitimacy of Bible passages, and many passages which are taken for granted by the modern church are likely later insertions. Even the codification of the Bible as a finished work of sixty-six books is questionable, at the end of the day it is simply the collection that was decided upon by majority at the Council of Laodicea in 363 A.D. They also excluded the book of Revelation at the time which was not canonised until 419 A.D. if that seems arbitrary to you, it should, and this is the supposedly living word of God we are talking about here. Theology is another area which shines light on the gaping flaws of Christianity. I originally thought that it was interesting that there were a number of “grey” areas within Christianity. However, as I studied theology I realised that every area of Christianity is grey. There is no area of Christianity which is clear and concise, every part of it is subject to great debate even the area of salvation. Essentially, there is no firm ground to stand upon within the Christian faith. At the superficial church level, people believe that they have answers to just about everything. But once you dig down into the true contextual, theological level there is no firm ground, and there are no substantive answers. It simply becomes a case of what you would like to believe about the Bible. So we have a religious belief in a super being that is based on a belief that an ancient religious text can be interpreted in a specific way. That is far too tenuous for me. But I am only scraping the surface. For many years as a Christian I had struggled with the divergence between what was written in scripture and what I observed in the real world. The faith that was supposed to be active, living and personal had no reflection on real life. It’s easy to interpret events as being divine in nature, but there is no evidence for this. Christians attribute many occurrences to God, but those same occurrences can easily be explained by other means. The big question that I asked, and one of the most ancient is “if God is good why is there so much evil in the world?” This started me down the rabbit hole. Sure, I had asked this question before, but only really investigated it on a superficial level; only really looking at Christian sources for an answer. As I looked at what non-Christian sources had to say about this problem everything changed. I came to realise that not only is it not possible for Yahweh to be good, but if the Bible is accurate, Yahweh is in fact the most evil being ever to have been conceived. I’ll provide this link as one example:

https://www.youtube.com/user/Underlings

If you have ever asked yourself, and I hope you have, “how can a good God send people to hell?” Then you have faced one of the dilemmas of the Christian faith. Theologians have come up with a number of solutions that tone down the idea of hell and make it more palatable for believers, but doctrinally the evidence of the Bible points to a literal hell. This means that a perfectly good and loving God has deemed it just to sentence a person to eternal punishment for temporal sins. If you think that this is okay then I pity you. This, among an ocean of other concerns has drawn me out of the Christian faith.

This process of moving away from God did not happen overnight, it took me about three or four years of investigation and serious thought before I realized that even if God was real, and the evidence for that is dubious, I refuse to worship an evil God. I made this decision around 2012, and since then have continued studying and discovered even more evidence showing that the Bible is highly questionable, it is very unlikely that there is any God at all, and that all religions are a barrier to the forward advancement of the human race.

Since leaving the church I have not missed it. I feel like I am me again and can attest that there is freedom outside of Christ Jesus. I am regretful of how much of my life was wasted in pointless church services, prayer meetings and administrative meetings for the church. It is truly a relief to be emancipated from the all-seeing cosmic overlord. I would encourage you if you are a believer to investigate some of these issues with an open mind, as ultimately, knowing the truth is more valuable and rewarding than a futile belief in an eternal afterlife. I would also like to apologise to all of those people to whom I have taught theology and biblical studies in the past. At the time I believed I was teaching the truth, but I have now come to realise that I was imparting falsehoods and deceptions, so please accept my sincerest apologies. Why has it taken me so long to “come out?” Because this has been a process, I wanted to be certain before I definitively stated my atheistic position. I have taken this decision extremely seriously and spoken with a number of people who could be considered experts in these areas of Christianity in order to find some resolution. I found a sad absence of answers and even people who are cited as world experts in areas such as the theodicy provided me only weak responses to my questions. So only now that I am sure of my position do I feel comfortable in officially severing my links from the imaginary god of the universe.

Below I have attached some links to videos that I have found useful in my journey. If you want to contact me to find out more, please feel free to do so. I don’t bite and I was always taught to hate the sin and not the sinner (Christianity being the sin!). I know that many Christians might claim that I was never really saved or that I fell into sin, or some rubbish of that ilk, but rest assured that my decision was not motivated by a desire to do evil deeds. In fact, the opposite is true. It is my hatred of evil, and those who claim to do good in the name of evil, that has led me to where I am today. In closing I’ll just say that I wish you all the best and hope that you put truth first in your journey of discovery.

Resources:

A debate between William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott Armstrong on Suffering and Evil

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkVfvzpKreg

Dr Richard Carrier discussing whether Jesus actually existed

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwUZOZN-9dc

Sam Harris on Free Will

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCofmZlC72g

Six way debate on Religion

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWOZi_OUQL8

I intend to post a number of articles on this site outlining a variety of subjects around Christianity, religion and the psychology of belief. These will help clarify the deeper and more specific reasons as to why I arrived at the position that I hold.

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15 thoughts on “Leaving Faith Behind

  1. Wow! I admire your search, your honesty, and the incredible amount of work you have done on this website. Have you read any of Ehrman’s books? If not, I strongly recommend them starting with “God’s Problem.” I have also written a 10-page article, very similar to your article, that was published on the “ex-Christian.net” website. If you like, send me an email address, and I will forward it to you. Ehrman’s youtube debates and hIs Teaching Company Great Courses are also terrific. Ron

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  2. Hi Ron, I have not read any of Ehrman’s books but I have listened to a number of his debates and lectures. I have found his material to be really good. All the best.

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  3. I first came to know about your story by reading about it on “exchristian.net”. I then followed the link to your website (here). I was once a minister and I too studied, researched, and lived Christianity. I was at a major Christian University studying Theology and Apologetics. It wasn’t until I began reading the “opposition” that I began to really see the gaping holes in the Christian arguments and doctrines…and yes, in particular was the Problem of Evil/Suffering. It took me a year or so to come to the conclusion that I could no longer serve such a false belief system. I announced the end to the ministry and began as a babe in Freethought and Atheism. I have not looked back since then 🙂 I too suffer from a debilitating neurological condition (which came later as an Atheist not as a Christian) yet like you I know what daily suffering is all about. Nevertheless, I do what I can (as I am mostly bed-ridden) to promote Freethought and Humanitarianism. My Facebook page is where I post articles and memes specifically attacking the Christianity. I hope we can become friends. My name is Jonathan E. Kiser and I live in Jacksboro, TX. – Best wishes in all your endeavors and I certainly will share your site with others.

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    • Hi Jonathan, thanks for sharing your story. There seems to be a common thread amongst many believers who de-convert. I think the key thing however is that we were prepared to objectively examine the evidence. In my observation there are very few Christians who are willing to take this step. I am sorry to hear about your condition, I understand what it is like. I have to say that I have felt better about my life since letting go of faith than I did trying to accept my health condition inside the church. I appreciate your efforts to pass on the good word.

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      • I do mean this in the best possible way but just wondering if this is a common thread in the de-converts where you have a health problem that does not have a ‘miraculous’ healing as the evangelical church likes to push and push and push upon their members unfortunately, and then this leads to bitterness towards God and the church then the result is leaving? I do really feel for those who have a chronic health condition because the church put pressure on them to go up the front time and time again and I can imagine this would feel really embarrassing. Ive seen it happen, particularly those in wheelchairs that obviously stand out to everyone that they haven’t been healed. Any thoughts on this? Do you all in the de-convert club relate to this?

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      • Hi Sharon, you’ve misinterpreted my response to Jonathan. The common thread that I was talking about is the experience of studying the Bible in depth and discovering all of its inherent problems. The fact that both Jonathan and I have chronic health problems has nothing to do with our atheism. You may not be aware, but Jonathan shared recently that he did not develop his health condition until after he became an atheist. For me, my health condition only served as one rung in a very long ladder of issues that led me to recognising the inadequacy of the God concept. But you correctly observe that the church is not very good at handling people with serious health issues. Everybody wants to pray for you, but nobody wants to do anything meaningful.

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  4. “I am regretful of how much of my life was wasted in pointless church services, prayer meetings and administrative meetings for the church.” It could have been worse. You could have wasted your entire life in that cult. Now you can really appreciate your freedom.

    “I would encourage you if you are a believer to investigate some of these issues with an open mind, as ultimately, knowing the truth is more valuable and rewarding than a futile belief in an eternal afterlife.”
    The magical 2nd life thing is what keeps religions from going extinct. It’s a childish fantasy that completely depends on wishful thinking. It’s not something I would wish for. I prefer reality. https://hardcoreatheism.blogspot.com

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  5. What are your current thoughts on the gifts of the spirit, particularly tongues? When I attended a moderately charismatic church, those who spoke in tongues spoke only gibberish, but there were always stories of individuals who allegedly spoke a human language not known to the speaker. Did you ever witness somebody pray in a human language allegedly not known to him/her, and if so, what naturalistic phenomenon operated behind the “gift.”

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    • Hi Mark, the gifts of the spirit are an interesting question because each person’s experience of them is so personal. I think that tongues is one of the easiest to explain in terms of the gibberish that you were talking about. I know one guy who says that he spoke in tongues and somebody came up to him afterwards and said that he was speaking in a foreign language. I wasn’t there so I can’t really comment on that particular occurrence. Like so many things in the Christian community I heard a lot of stories but never personally observed a miracle happening. It’s my study of neuroscience and the power of the subconscious mind that really enabled me to see what was happening here. Our own brains deceive us into seeing, hearing and experiencing things that aren’t necessarily there. You might find a couple of my articles useful as they relate to this topic:

      https://thoughtcontrol.wordpress.com/the-psychology-of-faith/the-psychology-of-faith/
      https://thoughtcontrol.wordpress.com/the-psychology-of-faith/the-voice-of-god/

      I am planning on writing an article about spiritual gifts at some stage in the future, just overwhelmed with topics to write about at the moment.

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  6. In my upbringing, my family circumstances placed a strong pressure on me to believe. Initial rejection at age 10 of the ‘The Bible is the final authority’ and ‘Jesus saves’ claims on my mind and my allegiance was followed by a conversion experience at age 14. But I struggled with belief, rejecting as time went on an ever larger part of the belief system that had been pressed on me. By my early 30s, the Bible had ceased to be, in any direct way, a guide and rule-book. Then for some years through until my late 40s, I found all theological discussion profoundly uncomfortable. In my 40s, at a point where I was uncomfortable in even a relatively liberal Christian church, I suddenly found a new interest in religion, albeit from literature that tries to apply to the Bible and to the Christian tradition the same standards of academic scrutiny that would be applied to any other ancient literature and associated tradition. By that time, I was well into a career in science, one that would in the course of time bring a deep fascination with evolutionary biology.

    Were there positive aspects to this experience? Yes. I benefited from the strong social support of Christian communities, even as I struggled with their belief systems. On the negative side, it channeled some of my life choices in directions that I now regret. On balance, I am comfortable with this experience as part of what I am. I am comfortable with the person that I became, and to that extent have no wish to banish that earlier experience from me. The Bible, biblical criticism, and the protestant Christian tradition have contributed to what I am. They are part of me, albeit leaving me with many questions and few answers. But rather than using the Christian tradition as a starting point for developing a belief system, it finally became a starting point for learning about ancient cultures, and for asking questions about meaning and how one should live.

    I wish that I had been more prepared to listen at an earlier point to what my reason was telling me, that I had come sooner to where I am. I do though find it hard to envisage any very different path that might finally have led me into the place where I now am.

    I wonder, thoughtcontrol777, to what extent has your experience made you what you are? What were the bright prospects, laid out before you, from which you were perhaps diverted? Did you ever consider that there might be other uses of the Bible and Christian tradition than to use it in the way that modern evangelicals use it, as sources to be mined for the reaffirmation of a belief system?

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    • Hi JHmaind,

      I think that we cannot be who we are without our experiences, and it is impossible to gauge what we would be like, or what our identity would be without the experiences that we have already had. One would have to be omniscient to be able to see every possible path that our lives could have taken and what we would look like as the result of each path. I know that people like to say that they are thankful for their experiences because the experiences have made them who they are. I agree with that in principle, but it is also impossible to know whether or not we would remain who we are without certain experiences. This is getting into heavy duty unknowable philosophical territory.

      What I know is that I spent an enormous amount of time, energy and money on religion that I could have put somewhere else. These religious experiences prevented me from having other experiences that I think I would have found more beneficial in the long run. The really interesting question is whether or not I actually had a choice. Did I truly have the free will to take another path or is this the path that I was inevitably going to take given the interactions and life experiences that I had? As to other uses for the Bible and Christian tradition, I would have to treat those two categories separately. Can the Bible provide us with any value? This is quite a loaded question because Christians would tend to ask this question in order to get you to qualify the importance of the Bible. But I can answer this question yes and no. From a purely anthropological and historical perspective one could argue that the Bible adds something to our culture. But if you take into account what it actually causes people to believe and do, it is easy to answer that the Bible is dangerous and does more harm than good. Could I live without the Bible? Certainly! While there might be certain phrases missing from the English language if it did not exist I don’t think that its absence would have any negative impact upon the morality of the world; quite the opposite in fact. You could provide a similar answer about Christian tradition, but I believe that it is of even less importance. In terms of usefulness for me today, the Bible provides the very best source of information for proving that the Bible message should not be believed, and that if God exists at all he is necessarily evil. In other words, the Bible itself is one of the best evidences that we should not believe the Bible.

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  7. The notion that there is a Bible message is just wrong. The Bible is a collection of books, not a single book, and individual books each have their own point of view. Sure there are contradictions, but what is more important is that there are many different points of view. There is even a humanist/rationalist — Ecclesiates — who gets a say. The only way that one gets the Bible to present a unified message is by imposing some external scheme of interpretation on it. Among Bible-based evangelicals, dispensationalism is probably the most popular such scheme. Even then, there are serious problems in extracting a coherent “Bible message”.

    The message that there are many ways to use and view the BIble is an easier sell, and does better justice to our literature and history, than the notion that it must be rejected out of hand. It is a sales job in which we have the support of those Christian thinkers who see the Bible as a part of Christian tradition, which like everything else in that tradition to is be used with careful judgement and discernment.

    I take issue, also, with any notion that there is a “God of the Bible”. The idea of God emerges, in the Bible, in many different forms. Presenting oneself as an atheist is not, the way I see it, thus simple. Assume for the moment that atheism is to be understood as a rejection of Christian theism. There may be as many different understandings of God as there are individuals when atheists and Christian theists are all assembled into one company. Am I an atheist? First tell me how you define God. In important contexts, I do have a use for the word God, as a symbol for a reality that baffles my understanding. I will not let either Bible based evangelicals or those who call themselves atheists tell me how I should use such words!

    Christian communities, like other religious communities, serve an important social function. Belief systems seem an important part of the glue that holds them together. Though there are models that suggest that this glue may to an extent be dispensable. Many (most?) people join those communities, not in the first place because they believe as other members do, but because they want to a part of a supportive community. Unbelievers have the challenge of finding good substitutes for such communities.

    Belief systems are however pervasive. Comments that you make elsewhere on this blog place religious beliefs in the context of other beliefs. They are a part of being human. We believe, most of us and most of the time, what suits our purpose — influencing or controlling others, social or economic denomination, getting ahead in the world, making money, . . . We are readily trapped into beliefs well beyond those that are expressly part of a religious belief system. Or should we just draw the word “religious” very widely?

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  8. Thanks Jason.I enjoyed your contribution very much.Just an idea of mine in the context of Australian Baptists as I am most familiar with them.Reminds me of descriptions of post feudal,industrial society.Previously flogged for learning to read,especially women,literacy became available to the general population.This resulted in incredibly detailed reference books being published as the elites tried to maintain their intellectual distinction from the masses.Interpretation required when mere reading no longer enough.
    I was brought up Baptist and have been an atheist for 25 years.Have found myself proficient in two languages: everyday Aussie English and Baptinese as I refer to it.Was thrilled recently when I read an article supplied to me in a Baptist magazine and could no longer decipher the obscure meaning.Degree in English but could not crack the superior code.I was thrilled.I have lost the silly language and feel confident it just did not make sense.Emperors New Clothes.Saying nothing in a convoluted manner. Heather

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