A Coming Out…..

August 11, 2007 at 8:11 pm 69 comments

A Thinking ManI used to be an evangelical Christian. In the summer of 1966, I got ’saved’. I literally came out – I got up out of my seat in front of family and friends at a Billy Graham rally at the age of 13, and decided to follow Jesus. That faith and commitment lasted for a long time, at least until 2000. I was a lay preacher, a pastoral counsellor, a church leader, and a Christian author. I was in hook, line, and sinker. However, over the past 7 years I have slowly abandoned that faith.

Of course, I know that if my Christian friends were reading this they would say that I am trying too hard. That the fact that I am having to write about it just proves how insecure I am in my new atheism. I would argue that since so many of them ask me about what has happened to me I have had to think things through, for their benefit, and to make sense of the massive change for myself. It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen in any neat, logical order, but it has happened, and what is written below is a poor attempt at an explanation after the event.

Although a degree of general unease and doubt had been happening over a number of years (Does God really answer prayers? He doesn’t seem to answer mine. What is the point of singing hymns? Why am I struggling to make a book written in a series of foreign cultures over thousands of years relevant to my life today? How long can I go on doing mental gymnastics about apparent inconsistencies?) the change really took off when I was ill for a year. During that time I spent a year virtually at home, unable to go out and face crowds, and certainly unable to go to church. To someone who had believed that my life would fall apart if I didn’t go to church, I discovered that I was actually enjoying the absence. I certainly wasn’t missing the two Sunday services, the leaders’ meeting on a Sunday afternoon, the midweek meeting, various other meetings with groups or individuals. I started to enjoy the freedom and realise that my faith was not helping my enjoyment of life or blood-pressure.

Over a number of years I had been doing more and more training as a counsellor which involved me in reading more about human beings in an attempt to understand them better. As this happened, I became more and more uneasy with the template for humanity that I had inherited from my Christian faith. If I was honest with myself, I knew how difficult (and superficial) change really was, and that neat Christian solutions to change often only tackled the surface leaving deeper issues untouched. It no longer seemed good enough to exhort people (and myself) to stop doing things because they were wrong. I started to question the wrongness of some things, and certainly questioned the ability of people to stop despite the apparently available divine aid.

Because of my background in church I initially used to receive a lot of requests for counselling from people within the Christian community. As a counsellor I started to see more of the Christian underbelly. From within the Christian community I have personally come across ’senior’ Christians involved in multiple affairs, anal rape, child sex abuse, cottaging in the local toilets, visiting male and female prostitutes, physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse, wife beating, and bullying. Need I go on? I write this, not in judgement, but simply to make the point – if Christianity did work, and if it did significantly change people at a deep level, that wasn’t always apparent from some Christians. Their tragic experiences, and my own inner struggles and powerlessness, just confirmed my own doubts about efficacy.

As part of my counsellor training I did a 3 year course that forced me to confront a very difficult issue that I had been wanting to avoid. Up until this point I had taken an evangelical view of homosexuality. Homosexuality was wrong because the Bible said so. I was to be compassionate towards gays, but not condone their practice. That was easy as I didn’t personally know any gays. On my course, two of the three tutors were gay. During the three years I got to know them, deeply respect them, and grew increasingly confused and ashamed as I listened to their stories of their inner struggles. I also started to read up-to-date research on homosexuality (Wilson, G. and Rahman, Q. (2005) Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation. London: Peter Owen) and concluded that I could no longer toe the party line. And if my party line was wrong on this, it could no longer be trusted and was probably wrong on lots of other things as well.

I know that many Christians would argue that I am rejecting the package and that I should not necessarily reject Christ himself. At the moment I cannot see a meaningful way of separating the two.

Writing this marks a kind different coming out. I am declaring myself a tentative non-believer. It feels slightly odd, but at the same time much more comfortable than where I was 7 years ago.

- A Thinking Man

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The hypocrisy of today’s Christian Leaders New Age Christianity

69 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The de-Convert  |  August 11, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    Note: Above post is by A Thinking Man NOT Thinking Ape. ATM is a bit higher on the evolutionary ladder :)

  • 2. Thinking Ape  |  August 11, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    ATM is a bit higher on the evolutionary ladder

    I beg to differ – do you think we stopped evolving 5 million years ago!? :P

  • 3. Thinking Ape  |  August 11, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    ATM,
    Coming out is a brave act. The people who are closest to you see you,at best, in a radically different perspective or, at worst, chose not to see you at all. Unfortunately, the search for truth is not as conditional as some relationships, it is relentless and scary, but liberating and joyous. You had been a Christian much longer than I, but like you, it is all I really knew. In my last year of Bible college I declared a state of uncertainty in my life, a place of doubt, without declaration of any creed of any sort – a “tentative non-believer.” I hope that you have or will find peace in your new journey.

  • 4. writerdd  |  August 11, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    Thanks for sharing. That’s a wonderful story of enlightenment.

  • 5. mysterybea  |  August 11, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    I wouldn’t worry that it is taking so long to divorce yourself from Christianity. While it can be logically and intellectually easy (or relatively easy) to let go, those believes have deep roots. Especially in our society where Christianity underlies virtually everything whether we are conscious of it or not. I personally stopped going to church when I was quite young (around the age of 11) because my parents had grown disillusioned with the church. So while the teachings of Christianity were never really drilled into me, I still identified myself as a Christian. It was not until I was about 17 that I finally realized, I am not a Christian. It sounds silly but even though I hadn’t believed in God or had any sort of faith in the Christian church, I still would have called myself a Christian, just because that was normal. I sat on the fence calling myself an agnostic for the next 5 or so years before finally making the Atheist leap 2 years ago.

    So its definitely a progression and no one should fault themselves for however long it takes. Self-realization and critical analysis of religion should not be done lightly or with haste.

  • 6. LaShawn  |  August 12, 2007 at 3:01 am

    Up until this point I had taken an evangelical view of homosexuality. Homosexuality was wrong because the Bible said so. I was to be compassionate towards gays, but not condone their practice…On my course, two of the three tutors were gay. During the three years I got to know them, deeply respect them, and grew increasingly confused and ashamed as I listened to their stories of their inner struggles.

    ATM, I went through the same exact struggle when I was a Christian. I didn’t know how to reconcile what the Bible said about homosexuals without being prejudice, and condemning of them. I REALLY didn’t know what to do when I realized how many homosexuals were Christians, and loved God just as much as I did. I remember thinking over and over again about how they could even allow themselves to be considered one, knowing very well what the Bible says. Something had to give…. needless to say I chucked the scriptures out the window. There was no way to reconcile it. I came to the decision that the Bible was simply wrong, and that verses such as those were created out of people’s hatred, and intolernace for one another.

  • 7. Steel Turman  |  August 12, 2007 at 3:56 am

    I have been Stumbling since it was in Beta.

    I have noticed a few things.

    There must be many children here, not old enough to realize fully the consequences of their immaturity.

    The other thing I have noticed is that there seems to be so very many ‘atheists’ hereon.

    I put that word in quotes for a reason.

    It seems to me, that avowing, or claiming to be an atheist is tantamount to what ‘believers’ do.

    And more, feeling the urge, or ‘spirit’ to constantly repeat that oath is no more than a religion in of itself.

    I wonder.

    See. I have never needed, wanted, desired, required or given any consideration to anything other than being alive, something worth notice.

    But I see there are many here on Stumble. with some sort of ‘calling’.

    It’s as if they want to convnce the world of their OWN belief system.

    Their ‘system’ is to NOT believe.

    Human units who either do not understand OR wish they could with certainty, I offer this very simple fact … life, as you know it, has a begining and an end.

    That’s it.

    That is all you have.

    You can spend it as you will.

    You will get not another chance.

    When you are done, be that by self-imposed cloture or admitted defeat or death – when your time is done …

    …it is done.

    Over.

    No more.

    No afterlife.

    No prayers will alter that simple fact.

    That you, or any other human, feels the need to some how quanitify that, only serves to demonstrate an as yet, unrequited desire to deny your worldly existence.

    There IS no more after this.

    Deal with it.

    Embrace it.

    And if others do not believe as you, let them.

    Consider it their hobby, thier crutch, their ‘blankie’.

    It is NOT that important unless YOU make it so.

    God did NOT make Man.

    Man made God.

    How more simlpy can it be stated?

  • 8. dianarn  |  August 12, 2007 at 11:49 am

    It’s interesting to hear your story. I used to be Orthodox, got saved and became a Baptist, and now I just consider myself a follower of freedom. :) They used to tell me there are people of all faiths that follow God (“Jesus had many flocks”), but that never stopped any preacher from criticizing every other religion and denomination except for their own, of course, which was the true “one.” Well, what about the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.? Did God so love the world so much that he’s willing to throw them in hell for not following a “white man?” Would an omnipotent and omniscient Creator destroy the very diverse creation he made? That’s when I truly started studying religion, and what it actually meant. Not faith, not spirituality, but actual religion, which is nothing but a quest for power. The final “Aha!” to this whole experience I got while watching Zeitgeist. I found out all of these religions are nothing but sun worship. I still believe in a Creator, in God, but not the god 99% of the preachers would have him out to be.
    Good luck in your quest for the truth. You have been helping a lot of people, and you will continue to do so.

  • 9. moonbeammcqueen  |  August 12, 2007 at 11:51 am

    Great post. I admire you for THINKING. I remember being in college (quite a while back), and in class discussions, there were always those students who would take the “blind faith” defense of any issue. One girl said, “I don’t have to have facts– I have faith.” End of discussion. That position has always been very spooky to me. Believing as our parents (or some other authority figure) taught us to believe, and never examining, questioning, or researching those teachings cannot be a good thing.

    I love your “de-conversion wager.” Love, kindness, and compassion for altruistic reasons, not for a later reward (heaven) Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • 10. lmai83  |  August 12, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    i agree w/ moonbeam and greatly admire you for thinking. too many ppl follow what they “believe” because that’s how they were raised. good post

  • 11. Seph Nite  |  August 12, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    ATM,

    Very interesting post here. I was once a Christian. Followed it in the hope that it would one day reunite me with someone that I once loved, who loved me. But the more time went on, and the more I emptied myself to God, to Father / Son and Holy Spirit, the more I just got this feeling in my bones that it was wrong. Just plain out, not the right way. So I abandoned it, went off looking, searching. I wanted to find answers. To all the questions that I had. God just didn’t have them.

    So I started looking, searching and studying other world faiths and religions. Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Paganism, Asatru, Hinduism. I was looking for somewhere that I might be able to either find my answers, or learn how to cope without them. I found it, ten years ago, in Paganism. A particular branch that she had studied, which had been calling out to me this whole time. I had just ignored it for the popular view, I know now (as I learned ten years ago) that this was wrong. So now I am a Pagan to my core. I’m finally happy in my religion, and I finally believe in the things I have faith in.

    It takes a lot to “come out” and confess that you don’t have the same faith and view as all of those around you. But I always admire someone who can do it, someone who isn’t afraid to come out and say “hey, this is just not right for me. Sorry, but I’m going to go find what I belive in.” So, this is a wonderful post in my mind, and anyone that tells you otherwise, that tries to stop you from finding your own truth, doesn’t deserve to be around someone as accepting and understanding as yourself.

  • 12. bananasfk  |  August 12, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Congratulations on finding that brain of yours.

  • 13. pelicano  |  August 12, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    How wonderful that you come to this point of self-acceptance; it sounds very much as if your former beliefs were keeping you, your inner desires and needs, quite restrained. A life lived like that could not have been anything but tainted with misery; a crack in the wall between these areas of incompatible thoughts hoping, doomed to become a gaping fissure and growing war.

    And then calm.

    I let go of Christianity at 12. It was time. I think there are many beautiful ideas in the bible, and well-meaning people promoting it, but I like to find things for myself, and wondered, as a child, how different these beliefs, rituals and proclamations would be were I born in another country. In short, I did not like the exclusivity of Christianity.

    I too have struggled with the concept of god, have spent long hours discussing the ramifications and intentions of its concept with friends of various faiths and within my own head. This freedom to think and question without adherance to dogmatic assumption has been a tremendous gift of eventuality, for, one day I found a belief-system sympathetic with my own findings. Not atheism and not this arrogant, myopic view of many religions to be the one true way to salvation or connection with a higher force. You will find your own answers in time I think. Or not.

    I am gay, and I feel very honored to enjoy this position in the world, as it allows me to collect knowledge impossible otherwise. And, really, sex is such a great thing to not be enjoyed fully; in its own way I think it connects us quite strongly with the creative forces of nature, and then there is love.

    Perhaps we are nothing more than testament to heterosexuals that love’s purpose is beyond a mere drive for reproduction. Those with wisdom and doubt might ponder this.

  • 14. Zoe  |  August 12, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Nice to meet you ATM and thanks for sharing your story.

  • 15. lil mis than  |  August 12, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    actually Steel Turman, god did make man but thats your beleif, thats your problem if youre not a christian anymore but 1 question, how will you get to heaven?, without believing?
    -your loss

  • 16. mysterybea  |  August 12, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    lil mis than-
    That’s the thing with not believing in heaven, you really don’t have to worry about never making it there! Isn’t it better to live your life as a good person for the betterment of humanity rather than out of fear of not getting to the pearly gates in the end?

    And to Pelicano-
    “Perhaps we are nothing more than testament to heterosexuals that love’s purpose is beyond a mere drive for reproduction.”

    That’s a very beautiful sentiment. Thanks for the new perspective.

  • 17. Steven Smith  |  August 12, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Watch the World with Open Eyes, Unclouded by Beliefs

    To much energy is spent, by religionists or theists, contructing a world of beliefs. Such constructed world are often at odds with reality; nevertheless, the devoted among the-ists follow the Bible or the Quran or the Goofy-Book-of-Lying-Laws.

    Terrifying: that technology with its war machines and fabricated, house-of-cards economies props up the soothsayers and supports its own burgeoning power with the irrational conceptualizations of manic preachers and priests and presidents and bishops and fathers and rabbis and robbers.

    A-theism, though it hints at some kind of ideology, is not ideology. It hints at it because rational people are pissed that so many sheep support crazies! So it’s difficult for me to sound calm when I see clearly.

    Clearly, the world would be a kind and caring place if guys would stop lying about God. All this crap about God! The terrible stories in all those rotten books aren’t even good fairy tales. The mayhem and slaughter brought upon…yadayda (get it?!).

    No. A-theism is no-theology. That’s easy and clean. And morality, ethics, and beauty spring fresh from a philosophy rooted in truth, founded in reality, based on loving this planet and the people in it.

    It take guts to be anti-religionist. I have no patience for assholes and idiots; they get no equal rights around me any more than a drunken slob. If you are kind, then you will not cater to such empty, assinine behavior as the acts of theologians or their sheep.

    Don’t waver in your decision to kick some ass. You earned it. Wake up.

    My work is devoted to waking up.

    RealTaiji.Com
    Tai Chi Utah
    Fight For Your Life!

    Regards,

    Steven Smith

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  • 20. Martin Cothran  |  August 12, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    I have responded to this post at http://www.vereloqui.blogspot.com

  • 21. saintlewis  |  August 13, 2007 at 9:07 am

    I’m still an ‘Evangelical Christian’ (though there’s always been a degree of neoorthodox/emerging-missional/radical orthodoxy influencing my take on things), and yet I TOTALLY understand your conflict. I can only imagine how it feels to ‘lose Jesus’ altogether – if you can find the time I encourage you to read N.T. Wright’s series (so far 3 books, beginning with “The New Testament and the People of God”), and – though I disagree with him on some significant details – Marcus Borg’s “Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary”. Yes to a degree I think it may be a ‘baby with the bath-water’ issue, but partially I think you may not be skeptical ENOUGH, as much of the so-called ‘science’, especially in the field of psychology, is so ‘soft’ as to be little more than one person’s interpretation of statistics and so biased as to leave the whole enterprise questionable. That being said, I’m GLAD you’re recognizing the value of your fellow humans – I think God would at least ‘smile’ on that much. Keep digging, and thanks for sharing this – you’re a great writer.

  • 22. brightlightwarriornika  |  August 13, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Love, light and peace :D

  • 23. Brad  |  August 13, 2007 at 11:46 am

    ATM,

    I noticed a recurring theme in your post, statements like:

    “and that neat Christian solutions to change often only tackled the surface leaving deeper issues untouched. It no longer seemed good enough to exhort people (and myself) to stop doing things because they were wrong.”

    “if Christianity did work, and if it did significantly change people at a deep level, that wasn’t always apparent from some Christians.”

    “…just confirmed my own doubts about efficacy.”

    I would agree that this is the package you SHOULD reject, but that Christ need not be BECAUSE this package has nothing to do with Him. Let me clarify.

    What is the “point” of Christianity? If it is to lead a moral life, “get to heaven,” or be a “good person,” it is not Christianity at all. How do you think God sees you? If you have Christ, your sin is not even seen by God, thus one should not worry whether or not they live up to the moral code of their faith. It is important to strive for and mourn over our sin, surely. But at the end of the day, we MUST rest in the finished, once and for all work of Christ.

    If we do not, our faith is nothing more than legalism with a figurehead. Legalism beats the hope and love out of faith and leaves it for dead in the alley. My heart truly goes out to you. Your struggle is common, yet never easy. Legalism has been so linked to a faith in Jesus through the Christian sub-culture that it is practically indistinguishable.

  • 24. Zoe  |  August 13, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    “Legalism has been so linked to a faith in Jesus through the Christian sub-culture that it is practically indistinguishable.”

    Hope you don’t mind Brad. Wanted to isolate this part. I like how you put that.

  • 25. Thinking Ape  |  August 13, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    Maybe it’s because Biblical theology is consistently inconsistent.

  • 26. Brad  |  August 13, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Zoe,

    Thanks. It has been pointed out to me multiple times, and verified by myself at least as many, that we often make the Christian sub-culture the Christian faith. Dick Keyes has an awesome (and short) book on this called “Chameleon Christianity.” I highly recommend it.

    TA,

    Hrmmm… I think I agree with you, but I hesitate! I will agree that it is consistently inconsistent, but that inconsistency is not an issue for the truthfulness or accuracy of scripture (mostly due to the near eastern v. western differences in systematic logic and philosophy).

  • 27. Thinking Ape  |  August 13, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    Brad, there is little consistency with anything, including the core issues of salvation, faith, grace, baptism, etc. within the Bible. I find that it is only theology scholars that magically make such issues disappear through far-reaching assumptions that are found nowhere in the text and are put into place only for consistency’s sake.

  • 28. Tina  |  August 14, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    I ran across this blog a few days ago and there’s so much to comment on, but I’ll try to be brief. I am intrigued by your turning away from God and I’d like to make a few points if I may. First, there is no evidence in the biblical record or in the historical record that Jesus lied or was delusional, so the only other option available is that He is who He said He was. I have never seen Him so I can’t PROVE He exists, and that is why I have to believe in Him by FAITH. However, my faith in Him is based on historical and objective evidence, not on emotions or feelings. I also know He exists because I have seen the evidence in creation, in many answers to prayer in my own life, in changed lives of people I know, including me, and in the personal relationship I have with Him. My faith was tried and tested in college in the 80’s when no one else around me believed in God, and I began to deny by my lifestyle that I was a believer. However, I turned back to God because I realized that my life was meaningless without Him, and if He is who He said He is, He is worthy of my life and my love for what He did for me on the cross.

    I know God’s heart breaks to see that people who say they belong to Him act in ways that are contrary to His teachings. There is no perfect Christian, but I don’t believe there is an excuse for so called believers to act in ways you have described above. All I can say is that they didn’t truly love God and maybe they weren’t really Christians. However, Christ should not be judged as not worthy to believed in because of those types of people. I do know there are true Christians who are trying their best to follow Him and living to bring glory and honor to His name.

    I’m sorry that you haven’t seen the transforming power of God in a person’s life. I know many people’s lives who have been changed by the gospel of Christ for the good. I know I’m not perfect, myself, but God has changed my life, and He continues to work in me to make me more like Him.

    In closing, I would like to encourage your readers to please don’t disregard Jesus because of how you’ve seen Christians act or because of what you’ve heard from others. He truly is the way, the truth, and the life. Your lack of belief in Him does not make him any less of who He is, so I encourage you seek Him while He may be found.

  • 29. Heather  |  August 14, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Tina,

    First, there is no evidence in the biblical record or in the historical record that Jesus lied or was delusional, so the only other option available is that He is who He said He was.

    The complication with this is that it sounds as though you treat all of the BIble as historically valid — many don’t, and there are many scholars who don’t say that the gospels are a historical fact, or that Jesus did/said all the things in those. So the only option isn’t that he is who he said he is, if one is using the gospels as fact for that view. There’s also the legend aspect.

    All I can say is that they didn’t truly love God and maybe they weren’t really Christians. However, Christ should not be judged as not worthy to believed in because of those types of people.

    I understand what you’re saying, but one of the key ways we are supposed to see Christ/God is through the actions of other people. You say that many have been changed through God — I don’t dispute that. But many have been changed for the good through encountering the Mormon God, or becoming a Buddhist, or even becoming an atheist. They’ve encountered the same change. So if we see that many people acting negatively while claiming to be forgiving and loving, it is going to make us question the whole belief system.

  • 30. Don’t be a stumbling block | Julie Halitzka  |  August 14, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    [...] This is a quote from a blog I read called de-conversion. It’s a blog for people who are skeptical about Christianity, de-converting, or former Christians. The original post can be found here. [...]

  • 31. pam  |  August 15, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    What seems to be impossible about being human is to difine ourselves WITHOUT God. We all define ourselves as believer, not sure, or nonbeliever but God is still at the center of each of our self -definitions.

    Just a thought.

  • 32. athinkingman  |  August 15, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Pam, I don’t think my describing myself as a tentative non-believer has any theological significance. It is just that having spent years defining myself as a believer, I had to use that concept in some way when I left. For example, if I had loved sausagesfor more than 30 years, it would be important somehow to define myself as a non-sausage lover if I stopped loving them. God / believer are just terms to define oneself against in terms of historical allegiences for me. They are insignificant labels used for clarification purposes. No more than that.

    I can see that for people who have never had faith it may be possible for them to define themselves without reference to a concept that is irrelevant to them. But for us who have “come out”, the former world and concept are inevitably a reference point – in the early stages at least.

  • 33. Tina  |  August 15, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    Yes, you are right, Heather. If people see Christians act in such ungodly ways, why would anyone want to believe in the Christ they say they believe in? I do understand that. It angers me that there are so-called Christians who don’t act like one should act for that very reason. And it saddens me that people don’t believe in Christ because of it. But I didn’t become a Christian because I saw such perfect examples of Christianity around me. I became a Christian because I saw my own need for salvation. I saw the sin in my own life, my “imperfections”, and I believed what the Bible says, that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). Christianity is different from other religions because it’s not about what man has to do to earn salvation; it’s freely offered because of God’s great love and mercy, BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST died on the cross to take the punishment I deserved!!! (And as an aside, I’ll say that the love I have for God, because of that mercy and grace, is what motivates me to share His love with others.) I’m so sorry that people will look to imperfect people and not at the Only perfect person who ever lived, who was crucified, buried, and rose again, proving He was God. Read Josh McDowell’s books, EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT, for extensive research on the historical accuracy of the Bible. He, by the way, set out to prove Christianity wrong, and realized He couldn’t.

    And I have a question: What constitutes a behavior that you would look at a Christian and say that because that so-called Christian does such and such, I won’t believe? If someone lives with me, they’ll see I might get impatient with my children and I might get angry at my husband. I am not perfect! But the Christian life is a growing process. I should be becoming more Christ-like as I read my BIble and pray and allow God to work in me. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and I might add, there are some addicting habits that take a very, very long time to overcome. But I do know there are Christians who have overcome addictions. I encourage you and others to re-examine Jesus’ claims, and make your decision based on Him, not on imperfect people.

    And you’re right also, I believe that all of the Bible is inspired by God. I began my own search into the historical accuracy of the Bible in college when none of my friends believed in God, and I was satisfied then that I was on the right track. (I still would have believed if I had never read the supporting evidence for the Bible, because God is as real to me as you are…Just because I can’t see you doesn’t mean you don’t exist, and here I am talking to you.) That was 20 years ago. My faith is stronger now because its been tested and tried. I’ve seen God work in awesome ways, I’ve seen His loving Hand on my life. God’s Word is true from beginning to end. I’ll stand on it, live my life by it, and I would count it an honor to die for that belief if God so chooses.

    I truly pray that God will reveal Himself to you in such a way that you don’t doubt it’s Him!

  • 34. Heather  |  August 15, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    Tina,

    Christianity is different from other religions because it’s not about what man has to do to earn salvation; it’s freely offered because of God’s great love and mercy, BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST died on the cross to take the punishment I deserved!!!

    This is only dealing with one particular atonement theory, though, and from everything I’ve read, the substituionary atonement theory wasn’t really in the works until the 15th-16th century. And Christianity has had quite a few in the last 2,000 years. And I don’t think this adequetly describes Judaism. One scholar, Paula Fredriksen, says that “IN the literature where Judaism speaks for itself, Israel’s election, emobodied in the giving of the Torah, is viewed as God’s gracious gift. Obedience to Torah is the proper response to the gift of Torah, but it does not earn salvation as such. “Election and ulimately salvation cannot be earned, but depend on God’s grace” and mercy.” (She quotes another scholar in this section). She also says that a legalistic view of Judaism doesn’t really exist outisde traditional Christian interpretation.

    Read Josh McDowell’s books, EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT, for extensive research on the historical accuracy of the Bible. He, by the way, set out to prove Christianity wrong, and realized He couldn’t.

    The problem is that McDowell’s book has been analyzed in so many places on the internet alone, from those who are very familiar with Christianity and how it formed — it’s like Lee Strobel’s books. It’s written for those who already believe, and honestly? From everything I’ve read about it, and the critiques, this isn’t the best book out there. One of the contributors here has even made a mention of that — he found McDowell’s arguments persuasive, because that was the only aspect he read. Once he started reading the other side, a lot of what McDowell said didn’t hold up, or just didn’t work.

    What constitutes a behavior that you would look at a Christian and say that because that so-called Christian does such and such, I won’t believe?

    My belief or lack thereof isn’t 100% dependent on Christian behavior — it’s tied into my study of CHristianity, of the development of the Bible, and the fact that Christian behavior can be seen in non-Christians, sometimes a lot more than in Christians. I’m not expecting perfection, but I am expecting better behavior than everyone else, because they claim to follow an absolute truth, and the creator of morality. Instead, I see Christians acting no better and no worse than anyone else, rather than being the beacon of forgiveness or justice.

  • 35. HeIsSailing  |  August 15, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    Tina sez:

    It angers me that there are so-called Christians who don’t act like one should act for that very reason. And it saddens me that people don’t believe in Christ because of it.

    The behavior of Christians is not the reason I do not believe. With that said, Christians are to stand as representatives of Christ to the lost world. Most non-Christians form their opinions of Christianity based on the actions of Christians. They don’t get it from the Bible, nor should they be expected to. The problem is that most Christians do not live any more virtuous life than the heathen, despite the outward signs we should expect to see. The CHristian is to be sanctified by the Power of the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by the fruit of the spirit. Many Christians live it, and many do not – same as any other human being on the planet.

  • 36. Barry H  |  August 21, 2007 at 7:46 am

    I would much rather live like there is an Almighty God and die to find out there isn’t than vice versa.

  • 37. Mark D. Combs  |  August 22, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    Frankly, I’d rather live like there’s no possible chance that the chlidish buffon portrayed in the Bible is actually in charge than waste my time on such silliness.

  • 38. Tina  |  August 22, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Heather and Hans-I do appreciate your commenting on what I wrote, I just haven’t been able to get back here. And I appreciate your respectful disagreement with what I believe. The only thing I can say is that in spite of the evidence that I do believe is there for the accuracy of the Bible and in who Jesus is, it still has to come down to faith. Everyone has faith in something or someone; I choose to put my faith in the God of the universe, who loves me and died for me.

  • 39. HeIsSailing  |  August 22, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    Tina, glad to see you back, and I am also glad that you found us respectful of your beliefs. I have much to criticize Christianity for, but in the end I also remember that I was a believer for 35-40 years. I will always have that with me, and because of that I also understand why people do believe.

    Feel free to comment on any of our crazy articles any time you wish.

  • 40. Tina  |  August 25, 2007 at 1:01 am

    “helssailing”: sorry, i have no idea how i got “hans” out of helssailing! i can only say i’m usually in a rush from here to there, esp. since my family is getting ready to move, and i guess my eyes weren’t looking right at the page! it might be awhile before i get back here but i’ve found the articles thought-provoking, anyway. i can’t fathom how someone can be a Christian for as long as you and some of the others have, and turn away from it. anyway, i’ll look around a little more another time and maybe i’ll read more of your story. (i saw the page with all the contributors, but didn’t really get to read much yet). i am in the process of starting a blog myself, so in the future when i comment maybe you can read some of my posts :-).

  • 41. phiz  |  August 27, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    decent article. i was forced into catholicism a few days after birth, went to 12 years of catholic school and was forced into the ‘as long as you live under our roof you’ll go to church’ crap until i was 16. around that age, i sat with my mother and explained to her that my depression had increased over the years and that i felt physically ill and like i was lying to myself by sitting in church three times a week. she visibly understood me but it took her years to understand where i was coming from when she finally realized she was going through it herself. as did the skewed and butchered ‘philosophy’ and beliefs that came with it. i don’t necessarily consider myself to be ‘atheist’ by this point in my life because i personally believe that by stereotyping yourself into a category of nonbelief, you automatically create a denomination of your own by doing so. and the atheist following is massive these days. although i’m glad to see every nimrod mercilessly throw themselves in via spite and disdain for all religion, and while i agree with the many viewpoints on existence that go with it, i believe that the best belief is to know that as a human, you have the ability to ‘keep yourself in line’ without the fear that government and religion tries so hard to instill in you and to be the best you can to others while you are here for the short time as present. with that said, it would be the most beautiful existence if for once, people of whatever belief or disbelief stopped to think about not this pitiful electron of a bubble we reside on, but to question the depths of the universe for which we lie inside, and its nature- rather than ours. by studying that around us makes us realize how unbearably small and alone we are and to realize that by understanding even the most difficult of those around us, leads us to the care and preservation of this broken piece of dust, floating endlessly in the vibrating vein of the universe. hopefully we can someday learn to place the reigns of war, depression, hatred, and religion behind us and realize that we have nothing to gain but the insight of eachother for this fraction of our time in space.

  • 42. Michael  |  August 28, 2007 at 12:38 am

    I’m glad I stumbled across your page. I am a long time atheist and have just started editing a magazine with an atheist theme. It is brand new and only has two articles on it at this time. We literally opened its doors over the weekend and we have done no marketing at all yet.

    We are looking for literate fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and essays with an atheist connection. We have a heap of early submissions that we are looking at for publication. Your prose is very thoughtful and made me think of the sort of writing we want.

    There is not much of an outlet anywhere else for these pieces, at least that we can find. We believe thoughtful atheist literature is important to our cause and that they deserve more consideration than they currently get.

    Thanks for joining us out here in the open.

  • 43. lostgirlfound  |  August 28, 2007 at 11:31 am

    Welcomed to the journey of the spiritual disinfranchised! May your path bring you the peace and understanding that “the structure” has so stripped away from all who refused to bow to its idols.

  • 44. Lee  |  September 1, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    I’m not an atheist, agnostic or spiritual, I’m a deist. I firmly believe in a creator, I find the existence of that creator to be self evident. I believe that the creator is the universe and its physical laws. (eg gravity, evolution ect.. ) I believe god created the universe and guides its evolution. I believe we evolved (under guidance) from something (I favor pigs over monkeys though.) I believe religions are made up by power hungry humans, god does not need to religion. I believe the creator loves all creation unconditionally. I believe that religion breeds hatred more than love. I don’t believe in an afterlife as conceived by religion. I do not believe in a fiery hell and eternal damnation for any reason. I believe the creator we call god gave mankind the mandate to make its existence a heaven or hell, we took the forbidden fruit, the knowledge (more like a notion or anamorphic ideal) of good and evil and created a hell with it. I believe mankind turned its back on the creator and uses religion as an excuse not to turn back. I believe that all gods that require worship before loving what it has created are false gods and more likely demons. I believe the greatest sins and the only sins are depriving another human being of its life, liberty or property.

  • 45. spitfire  |  September 2, 2007 at 1:21 am

    You have allowed doubt to win. Get alone, climb a mountain, wait on the Lord.

  • 46. Ducky  |  September 3, 2007 at 9:20 am

    What an inspiring and brutally honest piece. Thank you

  • 47. Jun  |  September 4, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Your piece is beautiful and affirming. That feeling you expose (loss of identity? direction? whatever it is) is so strange, and you put it well. I am a relatively recent de-convert, too, and I wish the best for you. May I recommend anything Richard Dawkins has to say at TED.com? And the movie “The God Who Wasn’t There” by Brian Flemming. And, if you’re into philosophy at all, Nietzsche. How weird I felt for years, until I said, “Ok, I’m an athiest. Now what?” But I love it now, I swim in it.

  • 48. athinkingman  |  September 4, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks for all of your comments, especially to Ducky and Jun. Jun, I have recently read Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” – very witty and passionate and reasonable. I am also getting into Nietzsche too. Helping clients to accept reality and not be delusional about expectations is so powerful and important in the work I now do.

  • 49. SayBlade  |  September 4, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    athinkingman wrote:

    “I know that many Christians would argue that I am rejecting the package and that I should not necessarily reject Christ himself. At the moment I cannot see a meaningful way of separating the two.”

    Suggest you might benefit from reading Tom Harpur’s The Pagan Christ: Rediscovering the Lost Light. While Harpur eschews the idea there was an historical Jesus and presents evidence that there were many “Christs” in ancient mythology, he re-embraces the Jesus aspect of Christ finding points of commonality with other faiths. This provides opportunities for dialogue between people of different faiths instead of producing conflict and isolation.

  • 50. MICHAEL GREEN  |  September 5, 2007 at 12:12 am

    I was raised Catholic. I have been Orthodox, Pentecostal, Lutheran- Missouri Synod. I now consider myself a Buddhist. I do not believe in a Christian god. I believe we are all the “creator”. Bless you for sharing and on your journey. Thank you!

  • 51. John Slane  |  September 5, 2007 at 6:52 am

    I am 77 years old and only in the last few years have I realised that I am really an atheist. I was brought up (by my parents) as an Anglican and was baptised and confirmed. When grace was said before meals, I chanted “amen”.

    But, as I grew older, what worried me most was this idea that religious believers would live after death for all eternity. Now, although I loved my mother and father, I don’t really want to argue with them about matters we disagree upon — for all eternity. Eternity is a very long time!

    I heard people, like my wife, thanking God for a lovely day. But never heard her cursing god for a bloody awful day when we had something planned for outdoors.

    Then I started to realise there was no convincing evidence that god actually answered prayers even though the bible stated he would. I noted prayed-for christians dying just as one would expect non-christians to die.

    And christian sports teams prayed for victory while their opponents prayed to their particular god for victory. Generally the better team seemed to win!

    The 9/11 hijackers prayed to the muslim god for glory, while the passengers prayed to their (christian) god to be saved from death. The planes still crashed into their targets.

    If there is a “god” he/she/it is clearly indifferent to the beings it allegedly created.

    That is exactly what I would expect to happen if there was no god. Indifference.

    No god. No eternal life. That suits me just fine. When I die, I die. Blank. I have no recollection of anything before I was born. I want no recollection of anything after I die. This tiny blink of eternity that describes my life is what I have, and what I have enjoyed.

    The god-believers I have discussed this with, find this so hard to accept. They pity me!

    I say to them, that the few operations I have had when pentathol is injected into my vein, is a perfect description of what I want. Count backwards from ten — at about 6 I am gone! Blank. Hours later I wake up — but I don’t need to!

    Death, for me, is the time after 6!

    Why are the religious so arrogant that they feel an entitlement to live forever? And have they ever really considered, if true, how b…. boring that would be after the first trillion or so years?

  • 52. HeIsSailing  |  September 5, 2007 at 6:57 am

    Hi John, and welcome to our humble site. Like you, I think considering the implications of 9/11 have forced people into really considering their own beleifs, and maybe casting a critical eye on them.

  • 53. Samnyasi  |  September 6, 2007 at 3:15 am

    Bravo! ATM,

    You are right on track, carry on.

    The rarest human virtue is courage.

    Even if you have the intelligence to see the truth (getting educated), you need extraordinary courage to break free and accept the truth.

  • 54. Michael  |  September 6, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    A lot of the responses I’ve read here that don’t support this conversion to atheism revolve around cyclical logic. “There’s no evidence to refute the claims of the Bible, so the Bible must be true.” “The only way to earn God’s salvation is to believe.”

    There’s no substance to these claims. Claiming the authority of a book that has been refuted as a source of authority doesn’t convince anyone. There’s as much evidence for the Flying Spaghetti Monster as there is of the God of the Israelites, and as much incentive to sit at his Noodly Appendage.

    Religion demands faith — unquestioning belief — as opposed to reasoned consent. The Bible is the infallible Word of God not because it’s been tested empirically and found to be perfect, but because it says so right in its text. We know that God watches out for us and meddles in our daily lives not because we have verifiable proof, but because people we recognize as authority figures have told us so.

    This is the trap of religion. It conditions us to accept authority without question. Ever wonder why there are so many scandals in the religious and political world? Ever wonder why so many people are lead astray through the guise of religion and religious principles? Because the people who use religion to further their aims know the weakness of the religious-minded: if you tell them what they want to hear, they’ll support you without question. And they’ll give you a truckload of money to do it.

    Sure, people do wonderful things in the name of religion. People also do wonderful things in the name of secular principles. They do equally bad things for the very same reasons. Belief in God or membership in any religion does not guarantee any sort of moral behavior or enlightened understanding. We can create those things without religion. What it does is give us membership in a social setting, and that’s far more comforting than any word of a long-dead cleric.

  • 55. SeTI  |  September 6, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Maybe you didn’t ask the right person your questions regarding the Bible and Jehovah God.

    It is true that Jehovah wants you to chose to worship him and that’s why he gave us free will to decide. He gave us the ability to think and reason and look at his word the bible as an entire book. Man has polluted Jehovah’s word and supplemented it with traditions and doctrines that have no biblical base. Looking at the bible and comparing mans doctrines can indeed be very confusing.

    Maybe instead of throwing out the bible you should throw out the doctrines…such as hell fire and the Trinity. You may find that once the man made doctrines are gone the true simplistic truth that is in the bible will shine forth.

    As for the argument that religion needs faith, and to the question of the man made doctrines 1 John 4:1 is very clear that believers must test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God. This is not a question of faith to believe the bible, but of knowledge and understanding.

    Just give it some thought, maybe the bible wasn’t wrong, maybe it was what man taught you about the bible.

  • 56. Papasmurf  |  September 7, 2007 at 3:56 am

    “What if the religion I believe in is a false one? There are so many religions and they all claim to be true”
    “Am I evil for taking a step back and becoming indifferent to religion until I’ve sorted out which one is true?”
    “Am I evil for not beliving in religion at all?”

    Once you realize you are still the same person, a good person, despite the lack of faith in your life you can start looking for the real truth.

    Each religion come with a pre-defined set of questions and answers. If those questions or answers are changed then it won’t be the same religion anymore. Religion therefore demand unison. You are thus not allowed to question the question or answers you are given, by doing so you may change the rules or lose faith alltogether.

    Faith is Obedience. Obedience is Control. Control is Power. Power corrupt absolutely.

    If you want to learn the real truth you have to ask the right question or find the real answer. This is really hard, infact it is so hard that most, if not all humans simply can not grasp it all, however succumbing to the easy comfort of religion mean you give up your freedom to think.

    Religion is slavery of the mind.

  • 57. SeTi  |  September 7, 2007 at 6:54 am

    I do not have first hand knowledge of many religions. I have only studied in-depth mine. For this reason I cannot make broad stroke statements regarding all religions.

    On the other hand I can say that I have found true peace. When you open your mind to the bible, and you do not let man and his philosophies get in the way, then you will find the truth. The peace that I have found is what so many people in this world are striving to find.

    To that end I have found that Knowledge is power, and that anyone that is given the opportunity to learn the truth can have that power. The organization that I belong to does not have a “Power Structure” We call ourselves brother or sister. Sure there is a system in place to organize the group, but Jehovah is a god of order so that should be expected. There is no outlet for anyone in the organization to “Lord” over anyone else. In fact there is a discipline process in place to make sure that that does not happen. No one is pulling strings and making others do their bidding.

    And as I stated before, it is each and everyone’s responsibility to test out what we are taught to make sure that it is in harmony with God. If a teaching is out of harmony with God’s cardinal attributes such as love, it will be easy to spot. That means we all need to analyze what we are being taught. And that means that there will be questions, but unlike many other institutions, the answers will come from the bible if you have fund the truth.

    So you see if you have found the truth, then the slavery that you speak of will not exist. You will be able to openly question a teaching and you will get a biblical answer. And if you do not like that answer you will be able to chose not to accept it. There will be no strong arm tactics. The choice is yours to listen and obey Jehovah or not.

    I can guarantee one thing. If you do search out the truth you will find it. Jeremiah 29: 13-14 gives every human on this earth that guarantee. If you make an honest search for Jehovah he will make himself known to you.

    Don’t let the hatred that you have built up deter you from finding Jehovah and true peace. What you hate is false religion. Controlled and run by Satan and his human cohorts. Follow your instinctual need to find Jehovah.

    I challenge each and every one who reads this to a simple test. Find your local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Ask for an elder of the congregation and ask them your questions. And keep asking until you are satisfied. It will take 30 mins of your time, but it could save you a lifetime of hopeless wondering in this world.

  • 58. Myths and the Creation of Meaning « de-conversion  |  September 10, 2007 at 6:48 am

    [...] strong internal pressure to do so, and this is often more than emotional attachment. I have written elsewhere about my own exchange of templates. However, one reason it took so long for me is that you can feel [...]

  • 59. kenny  |  September 10, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    You’re a brave man, and I applaud you. Please look around for support in the atheist community, there are many, many of us out there who can help you with just about anything, especially trying to figure things out. Many of us have had to go through just what you have. Thank you for sharing, it gives us all hope.

  • 60. John  |  September 12, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Thoughtful believers might say that one tempts god in expecting that anything in its (purported) creation should accord with our expectations of what is fair, or right, or true, or logical, or justified. How dare anyone project words into a god’s mouth, and intentions into its mind! Yet that is exactly what all religious folk do, believers and doubters alike.

    Sincere congratulations and genuine hope for your continued convalescence! Humanity does not require a (specious) religious context in order for us as individuals to continue to contribute to the common good of the one and the many.

  • [...] A Coming Out….. « de-conversion [...]

  • 62. The Unsinkable Rubber Ducks « de-conversion  |  October 25, 2007 at 12:02 am

    [...] study the good things were asked for by faithful people and the results never came. I have written elsewhere about the part that unanswered prayers played in my own loss of faith. And as I thought about the [...]

  • 63. Steveb  |  November 29, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Welcome back.

  • 64. Jesus Is The Weigh « de-conversion  |  January 20, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    [...] reason for my own loss of faith (see Coming Out) was my growing conviction that my faith did not provide any convincing ability to produce deep, [...]

  • 65. Happy 1st Anniversary to d-C « de-conversion  |  March 10, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    [...] A Coming Out….. [...]

  • [...] An Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists by Dan Barker.  I had travelled a similar journey (albeit in a less publicised way).  Having made the change from being an evangelical leader, [...]

  • 67. Grant  |  January 22, 2009 at 12:00 am

    I recently “came out” as well… family is still having issues with it. I have also faced the “well maybe you never were a christian.” quite sad, slightly funny… and… well you know, you went through it, just as much (maybe more) than i did.

    PS. i was an evangelical christian.

  • 68. Jeffrey  |  January 22, 2009 at 12:40 am

    >I have also faced the “well maybe you never were a christian.”

    That used to really bug me. My faith was a large enough part of my identity that this was a severe insult. It stopped bothering me once I separated the two different definitions. If a Christian is someone who sincerely believes Jesus rose from the dead to save them, then I was a Christian and no one can agree with that. I am the absolute authority on what I think.

    If “Christian” means someone who had a relationship with God, was chosen by God, whose name is written in the book of life, etc. then for me to claim I was a Christian is ridiculous. Instead of arguing that I was this sort of Christian, I claim that there is no such thing as a Christian. Bing! The conversation is back to “but is it true?”

  • 69. annaldavis  |  February 19, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    athinkingman,
    I don’t know why I’m telling you this, because I know that you will probably laugh at me and my delusions, perhaps even my audacity (arrogance?). But I’ve been lurking/commenting on this site for a while now and I just have strongly felt the need to pray for you in particular. I realize those are fighting words on this site, and I hope you know that I don’t mean this in a fighting way. I have a new compassion for deconverts that I didn’t have before reading your posts. It’s not a cut-and-dried issue for me anymore.
    Your soul-searching honesty has been inspiring for me.
    Anna

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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