The question of suffering and my de-conversion

July 27, 2008 at 12:40 pm 55 comments

“Oh God, you are my God, and I will ever serve you…”

I grew up singing all the lame-ass church songs that you know are lame at the time, but you are too afraid of eternal condemnation to even whisper a critical comment about them. I grew up with church leaders who were bitchy and judgmental and used the only place they can criticize others without it being a sin to pick on kids in youth group. I have been to summer camps, winter camps, mission trips, water-ski trips, watermelon seed spitting contests, paint-balling, pizza parties, pool bashes, and bible jeopardy extravaganzas galore. When I was in 4th grade, I made sure to memorize as many Bible verses as possible so I could get the prize of a giant strawberry lip-smacker or fun-size Butterfinger. I wore dresses, which I hated, to church. I tried to fake sick to get out of church at least once a month. I had done all that a young evangelical can do between the ages of 1 and 21…everything that is, except think for myself.

I was pretty brainwashed until I was 18. My best friend and I secretly hated church and would goof off all we could and make fun of everyone because we thought we were cooler…but essentially I was under the spell. I was terrified of sin and anyone who sinned. I was freaked out by homosexuals or homeless people. I thought that divorced women were bad, that non-Christians who rode their bikes on Sunday instead of going to church, deserved an eternal pit of fire. I do not believe I was inherently judgmental, I was just overexposed to the church and God.

This all started to shift when I started thinking about college. I had always been interested in the topic of injustice in the world but I never had the opportunity to develop my knowledge of these issues. So when it came time for college, I really just let go. I started to read about torture and war, watch documentary movies on sex trafficking and the poor. I basically self-taught myself about human suffering and despair. I essentially got to a more realistic worldview. I then spent my college time studying war and peace (my college major was International Peace and Conflict Resolution), watching tapes of crying babies with severed limbs and women pleading for their lives in the Rwandan genocide. I sat face to face with a torture survivor from Rwanda who lost 17 family members and watched his wife be raped and macheted right before his eyes. At this point, the discrepancies between a “Good God” and a “Bad World” became more than just fodder for a 3-part sermon series, they became a tragic reality.

It wasn’t until really my last semester of college that I began to really question my faith. I attended a mega-church who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on video games, basketball courts, and fountains and no time on getting to know the congregation. I was shunned by the other kids in college group and the leaders too. I guess being a punk girl from California wearing tight black pants, converse, a washed out torn t-shirt and a homemade Clash hoodie didn’t really fit in with the Northern Virginia Christian culture. I found myself doubting, and exploring questions I did not even know existed, while at the same time being pushed out and away from my so called “home church.”

Basically from there the questions kept coming. I questioned suffering, free will, the arrogance of God, Biblical inconsistencies– or basically what we all post about on this blog and forum. I started a blog about 4 months into this big quest of mine and started discussing these issues with Christians, atheists, theistic agnostics, etc. I realized over time that all the Christian answers were those I already knew. I could answer my own questions but all those answers missed the point. As I continued exploring these many questions, I just got further and further away from Christianity and more towards agnosticism/atheism. I read books, discussed online, asked my friends, etc–all with an open mind to religion or no-religion. And no-religion was winning.

So in about early March of last year, it came to me. My heart switched off. I could kid myself no longer. I was not a Christian. I didn’t make the decision, it just happened. Maybe my heart was “hardened” or maybe I came to the real truth. Whatever it was, I do not know. The only thing I do know is that I feel more free, more developed, more healthy now. I am not afraid of condemnation or hell. I am not held down by fear and I am no longer trying to make excuses for God’s silence.

Who knows what the future will hold. I will likely never be Christian again, but I do like the idea of a God. However, as long as there is suffering in this world, I just have to commit my life to stopping that–not wasting my time reading Christian self-help books trying to improve my prayer life all the while innocent human beings suffer and die. So now, I hang out with homeless people and gay people without a second thought, my sister is a divorced woman I adore, and I ride my bike around town on Sunday mornings (all things I previously viewed as sins). Life is great.

- Marie (Guest)

Entry filed under: ~Guest. Tags: , , , , .

The Secretive Messiah From Gospel Preacher to Good Atheist

55 Comments Add your own

  • 1. blueollie  |  July 27, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Riding your bike on Sundays was a sin? :)

    From time to time I’ll visit a local UU church (I used to belong); my joke is that I sometimes go if the running/walking/cycling weather is bad. :)

  • 2. orDover  |  July 27, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    “I realized over time that all the Christian answers were those I already knew. I could answer my own questions but all those answers missed the point.”

    I had this same realization, and it was one of the things that really pushed my de-conversion forward. At the age of 17, I shouldn’t have known all of the answers. There should have been something more. The truth is never that shallow.

  • 3. Richard  |  July 27, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    The only thing I do know is that I feel more free, more developed, more healthy now. I am not afraid of condemnation or hell. I am not held down by fear and I am no longer trying to make excuses for God’s silence.

    Amen to that.

    I never felt as healthy and whole as a Christian as I do since then. I no longer tie myself into knots trying to divine (pun intended) God’s “perfect will”, submitting my own will, or looking for ever more depravity within myself.

    And its amazing how much energy is liberated when we no longer have to,as you say, try to excuse God. There’s evil in the world because theres no reason for there not to be. The only question now is: what are we going to do about it?

  • 4. Quester  |  July 27, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    A month before I started visiting this site, I attended a Pastoral Care workshop on the topic of “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. As the presenter went through her presentation, I began to notice a quiet theme of things that were never explicitly stated. In order to explain that God is neither evil, nor to be blamed for any evil or suffering, the presenter had to imply that God is not actually the creator of the world as it now is, was not the author of the Bible, will not overrule our free will, does not impose justice in this life, was not responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion, and indeed is responsible for nothing that happens here on Earth.

    I went up to her later- maybe I shouldn’t have, but I was in slight shock- and commented that this presentation was the most convincing argument against the existence of God that I had ever heard.

  • 5. Peter  |  July 27, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    i think there is no question that the suffering in this world can be horrific. i currently am in a community with many refugees from around the world. there are folks from many of the African nations plagued by war and there are folks from Myanmar.

    awful what we do to each other in this world. and even worse that this has often been by those who say they are “religious”. those who are supposed to be loving are hateful. those who are supposed to be bringing peace are bringing the sword.

    many of us begin to think that God must not exist, or God must be a pretty horrible God.

    and in the Tanakh, that is why the message of the coming of Messiah was so incredible. there was this ruler who would come and bring peace. the swords would be beaten into plowshears and the lion would lay down with the lamb. no more tears and death. all would be made right. that certainly is an encouraging message. and one that is only natural for us to hope for when we live in a world like this.

    i think this really has to be fundamental when one accepts or rejects Yeshua as Messiah. either he did come to restore things or he was not what religion says he is.

    so did Yeshua come to bring shalom?

    or are we resigned to living in a world full of injustice and despair?

    peter

  • 6. Quester  |  July 27, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    A false choice, Peter. You can do better, I’m sure. If Yeshua came to bring shalom, where is it? He came 2000 years ago, or has been since before the world began, depending on your theology. His message of hope does not look like it will be fulfilled by him.

    Thus, it must be fulfilled by us, if we wish it. Instead of relying on a non-existent God, an ineffectual Messiah, or- as you suggest- resigning ourselves to a world of injustice and despair, we can work to bring and spread justice and hope for something better. Not something supernatural and unknown, but perfectly within our own capabilities, if we but choose to use them.

    Speaking of which, Peter, tell us about this community of refugees you are currently in.

  • 7. grace  |  July 27, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Well, Marie,

    I can honestly say that if I had your experience in church, that’s all I knew, and if I thought that was what the Christian faith was about, I wouldn’t be a Christian either.

  • 8. Cthulhu  |  July 27, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Peter,

    so did Yeshua come to bring shalom?

    or are we resigned to living in a world full of injustice and despair?

    Why must we be resigned to a world of despair? (The following is NOT meant to be offensive – just want to make a point)

    If we spent our time trying to alleviate suffering and make the world a better place instead of praying to an imaginary friend we could start to stem the tide of suffering and cruelty. We are each responsible for our own actions. I have yet to see a single prayer feed a refugee – and yet I have seen dedicated volunteers make a tremendous difference in those peoples lives. A poster here said it best (not sure who now – maybe Richard) – the world is wonderful place – go make it better.

  • 9. Cthulhu  |  July 27, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    grace,

    Could you explain your idea of what the Christian faith is supposed to be. Not baiting – just curious.

    Cheers

  • 10. Obi  |  July 27, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Speaking of prayer not feeding refugees, I dislike it when Christians state that God answers such prayers by “using” people to fulfill them. (1) Doesn’t that impinge upon our free will even a tiny little bit? If God is fiddling around and manipulating people as he sees fit, why is it that our supposed free will is always hefted around to “solve” the problem of evil when it seems that we’re really just God’s pawns? (2) Why can’t God do such things himself? Humans have assistants and co-workers because we aren’t omnipotent, but if God really wanted to help these people (and if he’s truly loving, he does), I don’t see what’s stopping him from answering the prayers of these people by materializing food in front of them. Surely no miracle is too much for God?

    Hmm, just my musings. Nice write-up, Marie.

  • 11. Cthulhu  |  July 27, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Obi,

    Speaking of prayer not feeding refugees, I dislike it when Christians state that God answers such prayers by “using” people to fulfill them.

    Like god uses the catholic missionaries who tell all the people in sub-Saharan Africa that using a condom is a SIN – never mind how many die from AIDS.

  • 12. truthwalker  |  July 27, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Wow, its like reading my own blog, just written by a girl in worn out T-shirts and All-Stars instead of a guy in plain black t-shirts and All-stars. I did all that stuff too. And it was moving to the inner city to help the poor opened my eyes to human suffering which in turn made me question everything. Weird similarities. Hope it goes well for us.

  • 13. Marie  |  July 27, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Hey Guys! It’s Marie – the author of this testimony, or as I call it, my “DETESTimony”

    blueollie – well riding bikes on Sunday wasn’t a sin, but when we would drive to church I would see people riding their bikes instead of going to church and I would definitely judge them for not being at church…

    ordover – well said – the truth is never that shallow – I think that realization is what makes so many of us search for truth, rather than just search for supporting arguments to our “faith”

    Richard, nicely said as well. That freedom is so much more than the freedom that I was sold in church.

    Quester – very true about the arguments of suffering. It’s never a clear answer, and speakers always talk about “learning from suffering…” “perseverance through suffering shows God’s ability to help us…or something” (can you tell I haven’t been to church in a while?)But REAL suffering, true realistic suffering on this earth is so grotesque and so evil, and most of the time does not end in the person healing and learning a valuable lesson from it.

    Peter – very interesting point about how the gospel was received-and in many peoples’ opinions, seems to be so radically opposite of the evil in this world. My issue with this question, is “is the ‘hopeful’ message of Jesus’ deliverance from suffering the GREAT truth? Or is that just what the authors of the Bible were HOPING truth would be? Were they so desperate that they designed a savior to help them endure the suffering of life? We’re their views of Christ just built upon ancient tribal myths designed to explain that which they could not yet understand about life? I don’t know, but like Quester said below – where is this shalom?

    Hi Grace – thanks for your comment. I wish I could blame my entire de-conversion on the church, but I really can’t. The honest truth is that I did not leave Christianity because of the church. I left it because I realized that I no longer believed the tenets of the gospel, and the falsity of it was very clearly reflected in the churches I attended. For example, the Bible condemns love of money and gaining wealth( a generalization, but for the most part – true), and we are told to not be “of this world…” but at the same time, I was attending a church that had a full arcade (probably worth well over $100,000), Christians around me were driving BMWs and discussing celebrity gossip ten times as much as the gospel. It was like, how come this crotchety church lady gets to be in paradise and my atheist refugee friend is condemned to burn in eternal hell? The essential truth is that my eventual de-conversion came after over a year of solid study and exploration (I even prayed regularly about my quest for the first 4 or 5 months) So although I always hated church, it was not responsible for my de-conversion.

    Cthulhu – great point also. I think a lot of the time, christians ( i am speaking from my own experience) resign ourselves to a world of suffering because we subconsciously dont want to do anything about it. If attaining peace, ending world hunger, etc. etc etc was not so much an unealistic dream, but a real priority on our realistic todo list, we would have to give up a lot of worldly comforts and make great sacrifices. But instead, we can just say “God will handle it..” and chomp down on our french fries.

    Obi - nice thoughts. I think I am going to meditate on that for a while!

    Well, I want to thank you guys for reading my article here and commenting. I appreciate all perspectives and I welcome the Christians to explore the world of the de-converts. Pretty much 95% of my friends are still Christians, so I am not dismissive of Christians who comment or give their opinion.

    Well, thanks again, and hopefully I’ll kickstart my blog again! ( took some months off :) Happy Sunday everyone!

  • 14. fianllyhappy  |  July 27, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Nicely done, Marie. It’s always encouraging to hear someone’s story so much like my own. I’m constantly amazed at how much more enjoyment I get out of life these days. “…more free, more developed, more healthy…” THAT is exactly right! Thanks.

  • 15. grace  |  July 27, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Cthulhu,

    To be honest, I think the Christian faith is just about the antithesis of what Marie experienced in church. I think God wants us to accept, and love each other unconditionally, certainly not judge based in outward appearance.

    I think it’s not about constantly being preoccupied with sin, and how we don’t measure up. Christians are already unconditionally loved and accepted by God in Christ. Check out Rom. 8:31-39.

    I also think a huge part of how Christians walk out our faith in Jesus is by caring for the homeless, orphans, people in poverty,who Jesus called, “the least of these. ” Matt. 25:35-40.

    I know my faith has played a really big part in impacting me to work with needy kids, and their families, and into the human service field in general.

    Marie, I also want to add, and I’m assuming that you’re a young person, that your family must be hugely proud of you, and your work.

    Every blessing!! :)

  • 16. Cthulhu  |  July 27, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    grace,

    Thanks for the reply – I am glad your faith inspires you to help others. I have found for myself – I don’t need that faith to motivate me.

    Cheers…

  • 17. Cthulhu  |  July 27, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Marie,

    Thanks for the story!

  • 18. Obi  |  July 27, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Grace —

    That depends, actually. The Christian faith isn’t “about” anything. If you’re predisposed to being a kind/gentle person, you’ll tend more towards the bright and cheery verses in the Bible. If you’re predisposed to being a judgmental/unkind and harsh person, you’ll tend more towards the condemning verses in the Bible, filled with commandments to kill others as well as words of divine condemnation. The Bible is chock full of opposing viewpoints, so there isn’t a specific thing that Christianity is about. It’s about whatever the person makes of it.

  • 19. graceone  |  July 27, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Obi, I have to say that for me this wasn’t the case at all. Before I became a Christian, I was a very judgemental, and self-righteous kind of person. I had little compassion for the poor, or people in real trouble. I basically thought I was so much better, and couldn’t understand why people could not just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. If you’ve ever read the parable of the pharisee, and the poor sinner in the Bible… Well, I was that pharisee.

    It was only after understanding my own need, and brokenness, and seeing the love of God in a deeper way, that I became more open, and sensitive toward others.

    Of course, I still have along way to go, and know that God isn’t finished with me yet.

  • 20. monjaisshin  |  July 27, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    I stumbled on your post by accident and really appreciated it.

    I, too, questioned so many things, for many years. I, too, couldn’t accept the belief that the hypocritical gossip who beat her children would go to heaven while 99.99999% of all humanity would go to hell because they didn’t believe the dogma of that particular fundamentalist Protestant group…

    I finally found my personal spiritual path in Buddhism. One of the most surprising things for me was that then I discovered that I was finally becoming the ‘Christian’ I had always hoped to be – by becoming a ‘Buddhist’. As a result, I became a Buddhist nun, and now lead a community of Zen practitioners.

    No more closed-hearted manipulation through fear of damnation and guilt. It takes courage to break those chains of fear and guilt. Congratulations.

    May we open our hearts and help people end suffering.

    There are many paths to spiritual realization and freedom. All the best to your on yours.

    Gassho (hands placed palm-to-palm in greeting)

  • 21. Obi  |  July 27, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Grace —

    Indeed, but I was pointing out to you that people in the Westboro Baptist Church could be considered just as “Christian” as you or any other, because they are taking their ideals straight from the Bible.

  • 22. sergeyhudiev  |  July 27, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Thank you for sharing you experience. My own is very opposite – in the age of 18 I was brainwashed atheist and communist:)
    I know some people who turn to God because of suffering. It’s a very mysterious thing – some people gained faith, when they were in a labor camp, some people lost they faith, when they just read about labor camp. It’s not easy to understand, why people turn to or from God.

  • 23. robert  |  July 28, 2008 at 2:14 am

    very compelling detestimony you have marie. As i read your accoint of your life i could only think how could you not fail to believe in a God or fath that was as you described. I think as i read what you say you discovered *apart from* Christianity, I would say is truly the essence of Christianity. Jesus came as a servant and He said Hiis followers were to be His hands and feet on earth, to carry out His work and it doesnt violate our freewill as it is our seeking to follow His leading. Jesus said we arfe to feed the hungry, care for the sick,downtrodden,prisoners,rejected,basically putting actions to the words of His Good news. Ultimately suffering will not be removed on this earth, it will be once we are in eternity as that is His promise. I really admire your boldness in sharing yourself so openly and genuinely maria. Love to email if you would so like for more in depth discussion.

  • 24. detroitus  |  July 28, 2008 at 3:28 am

    Thanks for sharing Marie!

    My deconversion is very similar to yours as well. People always ask “What happened?” as if there was some dramatic event that just instantly turned me off to religion, but the truth is that more often than not the journey away from faith is long, slow, and torturous.

    Glad to see someone relate it in such an engaging way.

  • 25. detroitus  |  July 28, 2008 at 3:32 am

    P.S.

    Ever notice how Christians always assume that you never really knew TRUE Christianity? As if the only reason one can stop believing is if they are doing it wrong?

    I’ve been an atheist for 13 years and have not once heard an argument from a Christian that I had not myself used at one point or another while I was with the ‘flock’.

  • 26. John Morales  |  July 28, 2008 at 6:11 am

    Grace @15:

    I know my faith has played a really big part in impacting me to work with needy kids, and their families, and into the human service field in general.

    Without denying your belief in any way, I present a hypothetical consideration I hope you don’t dismiss out of hand: Could it just be that, had you been raised into a different faith, or indeed none at all, you might still have been altruistic? Is there any chance that, perhaps, you give credit to your faith which is more deserved by your own self?

    OK.. two considerations. :)

  • 27. graceone  |  July 28, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Obi,

    I understand what you’re saying, but I think we may have different views, and understanding of Scripture, and what that means to Christians.

    To me, a Christian is someone who is following Jesus. Do you think He would call for the murder of people who are gay? I think many verses of Scripture need to be understood in the light of the culture of the time, and not just in an arbitrary kind of way. I also would see Scripture through the lens of the whole life, and teaching of Christ.

    Or to to put this in another way, I’m sure you’ve heard it said as well, “The Devil can cite the Scripture for his purpose.” Also, I think God wants us to be discerning in a good way as well. Not everyone who calls themself a Christian may necessarily be the real deal. As Jesus shared, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord…”

    For me the bottom line is who is Jesus Christ, and what does He mean in my life, personally? Am I following Him?

  • 28. graceone  |  July 28, 2008 at 7:59 am

    John,

    I can’t completely know. I’m sure it’s possible. But, my life, and heart were certainly not inclined in that direction. I didn’t even know that I was wrong in my spirit, and attitude.

  • 29. Frreal  |  July 28, 2008 at 8:21 am

    “To me, a Christian is someone who is following Jesus. Do you think He would call for the murder of people who are gay? ”

    But he did. Jesus is God, God is Jesus. Jesus destroyed a whole city for that very reason Grace. The only man righteous enough to be saved from that “gaycity” was a man who proceeded to have sex with both his daughters and impregnate them in a cave.

    For me it is of no merit to consider context of culture for if we are considering an unchanging God (another argument) then what is wrong in the year 2008 must/should also be wrong in 2000BC.

    Marie: Lovely post our paths are similar though I lack courage to come out of the closet.

  • 30. piratehat  |  July 28, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Grace,

    Do you ever wonder why the Bible – something that is supposed to be the word of the creator of the entire universe – is so subject to interpetation, and misinterpretation?

    Don’t you think an omnipotent god could have done better in terms of letting us know what he wanted?

    And I don’t think “free will” is a good argument here. The (human-written) laws of the land are pretty clear, for example, but people can still choose to follow them or not.

  • 31. Obi  |  July 28, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Grace —

    Frreal hit the nail on the head. Read passages such as Deuteronomy 13, 1 Timothy 2:11-14, Deuteronomy 21: 18-21, Romans 1:26-32, and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 for example. All in the Bible, and all commanding and condoning acts that today we’d see as inhumane, but in the past were commanded by God. Like Frreal said, if Jesus and God the father are one, then following Jesus is following him, meaning that such atrocoties are condoned and even encouraged by the Bible.

    Also, I was thinking to myself the other day and I thought of something interesting. Ask yourself, how many living things(humans and other animals) did God kill in the entire Bible? Start off in the thousands, the Flood must have killed quite a few. And then ask yourself, how many living things did God heal in the Bible? I can’t remember any significant events in the OT, but Jesus healed a handful in the NT, didn’t he? Also, you might want to ask yourself how many living things Satan killed in the Bible (which would pretty much be in Job).

    The final tally might disturb you.

  • 32. Obi  |  July 28, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Marie —

    In your last paragraph you said you still considered the idea of a God. I’ve been wondering what other atheists/agnostics consider that could be, so what are your full ideas on it? I’d think it would be more of a deistic God or one that isn’t fully omnipotent/omniscious/omnibenevolent, due to the problem of evil in the world. Or, it could even be an evil one…

  • 33. The Nerd  |  July 28, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Ever notice how Christians always assume that you never really knew TRUE Christianity? As if the only reason one can stop believing is if they are doing it wrong?

    Of all they ways I’ve heard this put, I think detroitus said it best!

  • 34. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 28, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Frreal-

    Lovely post our paths are similar though I lack courage to come out of the closet.

    I’m right there with ya. I still haven’t worked up the courage to tell my family. I really don’t know when I will.

    Ever notice how Christians always assume that you never really knew TRUE Christianity? As if the only reason one can stop believing is if they are doing it wrong?

    Isn’t this covered in the Convenient Categories post?

    Also, are grace and graceone the same person?

  • 35. LeoPardus  |  July 28, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    (2) Why can’t God do such things himself? Humans have assistants and co-workers because we aren’t omnipotent,

    And if god does need assistants, doesn’t he have angels? They’re rather better at things than we are. (Like I couldn’t take out and army of 185,000 in one night.)

  • 36. LeoPardus  |  July 28, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    grace:

    I think the Christian faith is just about the antithesis of what Marie experienced in church

    Except for all the millions who align quite well with what she and that so many others encounter on a consistent basis.

    I think God wants us to accept, and love each other unconditionally, certainly not judge based in outward appearance.

    Fine opinion. Now back to all the millions who align quite well with being judgmental, unloving, arrogant, etc and that so many others encounter on a consistent basis.

    I think it’s not about constantly being preoccupied with sin, and how we don’t measure up.

    Nice. Now about all the millions who so preoccupied with “sin” and how we don’t measure up.

    I also think a huge part of how Christians walk out our faith in Jesus is by caring for the homeless, orphans, people in poverty,who Jesus called, “the least of these.

    Nice thoughts. Now about all the millions who don’t care for the “least of these”.

    I know my faith has played a really big part in impacting me to work with needy kids, and their families, and into the human service field in general.

    That really is great. It makes you a very rare exception. Now about all the millions whose faith makes no difference….

    To once again post what Karen said a while back:
    “The bible tells us that Christians who believe in Jesus and have received the Holy Spirit have access to God’s guidance, comfort and presence. If that’s true, it seems to me that there should be some way to detect that special influence in individual lives and in the corporate “life” of the church and history of Christianity. After all, people who have a member of the trinity living in their hearts should manifest that at least somewhat consistently – right?
    And yet it seems like the history of the church, and the individual lives of believers, bears no distinctive stamp of that indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The atrocities, the horrors, the corruption, the wars fought in the name of Christ, the individual selfishness, suffering, immorality – where’s the divine spark that separates Christians from followers of other religions, or from non-believers?
    I don’t see it. There are great churches doing good, and great individual believers living sacrificial lives. There are also great secular organizations doing much good, and great atheists living sacrificial lives. There’s not a pervasive difference that I can see, and it seems if the promises of the NT are true, there should be.”

  • 37. LeoPardus  |  July 28, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    grace:

    To me, a Christian is someone who is following Jesus.

    Exactly what everyone who calls himself a Christian would say. No matter how the agree/disagree with you.

    Do you think He would call for the murder of people who are gay?

    A lot of Christians would. And unlike you, they’d have Biblical examples to back it up.

    I think many verses of Scripture need to be understood in the light of the culture of the time

    Really? God writes His message to all humanity for all time, and it’s that time and culture bound????? There are what? … Maybe a few thousand people tops, living today, who know enough about the cultures and times in which the Bible was written to even venture a guess on such bases.

    I also would see Scripture through the lens of the whole life, and teaching of Christ.

    Which is only recorded in one part of the Bible. So you use a small part of a book to help you understand the book, so you can understand the life of the guy in a small part of the book whose life you then use to understand the whole book, which you understand only via the life described in a small part of the book, which ………….

    For me the bottom line is who is Jesus Christ, and what does He mean in my life, personally?

    Whatever you want.

    Am I following Him?

    Eventually of course. He died. We all will too. [Yes, I hear it already......... but He rose and you can too.]

  • 38. notcalvin  |  July 28, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    It would seem that if somone had “God” living in them there would be a noticeable difference in the way that they live. To be fair I have seen a few Christians who are very different from the “world”. They are usually quiet, calm people who are not easily riled up or disturbed. They tend to have a great deal of wisdom and patience. I wonder if we should be trying to help religion evolve toward a higher progression rather then assuming that we should abandon it all together.

  • 39. Ubi Dubium  |  July 28, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Notcalvin:

    To be fair I have seen a few Christians who are very different from the “world”. They are usually quiet, calm people who are not easily riled up or disturbed. They tend to have a great deal of wisdom and patience.

    But I have also seen just as many non-christians that I would describe in thie way. Including many non-religious peoople. So this does not speak to there being any inherent advantage to religion.

    However, I agree that we should help those that are religious move towards peace and tolerance. Since we cannot entirely rid our society of religion, at least not anytime in the immediate future, encouraging tolerance is a realistic goal.

  • 40. Frances  |  July 28, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Dear Marie,

    Thanks for your story. While I don’t exactly share your experience of the lead up to de-conversion, I had a similar moment of de-conversion as you described. “My heart switched off” is the perfect way to put it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • 41. The de-Convert  |  July 28, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    BTW, here’s a link to Marie’s blog.

    Paul

  • 42. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 28, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    To be fair I have seen a few Christians who are very different from the “world”. They are usually quiet, calm people who are not easily riled up or disturbed. They tend to have a great deal of wisdom and patience.

    As Ubi implied, this doesn’t seem to be linked to religion. Heck, everything but the “wisdom” part would describe me pretty well. I’d say the wisdom applies as well, but then, I’m a fairly biased source on that :P

    So, these Christians might be good, wise people, but that doesn’t make them different from non-Christians who are also good and wise, aside from their beliefs.

  • 43. notcalvin  |  July 28, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Snuggly said
    “So, these Christians might be good, wise people, but that doesn’t make them different from non-Christians who are also good and wise, aside from their beliefs.”

    It seems an odd statement, “aside from their beliefs”. Don’t our beliefs help us form who we are? Even if those beliefs are false? Snuggly doesn’t your modesty stem from your beliefs about who you are? I was just reading that evangelist Greg Lauries son was killed in a car accident. Lauries beliefs will certainly help him through this situation.

  • 44. Cthulhu  |  July 28, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    notcalvin,

    It seems an odd statement, “aside from their beliefs”. Don’t our beliefs help us form who we are? Even if those beliefs are false?

    I would say the false and/or irrational belief erodes the wise part of the equation. Look at it this way – what would your reaction be if we used a belief other than religion? Would you consider a person wise if they believed that Elvis lived in a shed behind their house? Even if they said that belief helped make them a better person?

  • 45. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 28, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    It seems an odd statement, “aside from their beliefs”. Don’t our beliefs help us form who we are?

    I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at, here. I include “aside from their beliefs” because that is the only difference I see. I see incredibly good, wise non-believers, and good, wise Christians. I look at their actions, and I see no difference, only a difference in their motivations.

    I was just reading that evangelist Greg Lauries son was killed in a car accident. Lauries beliefs will certainly help him through this situation.

    I’m sure they will. And I have seen atheists deal with unfortunate deaths with great wisdom, in spite of their lack of belief in the supernatural.

  • 46. LeoPardus  |  July 28, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Marie:

    Good stuff. There were just so many points on which I really clicked.

    I grew up singing all the lame-ass church songs

    I hated those. For a long time I just came to church half an hour late to miss the songs.

    the discrepancies between a “Good God” and a “Bad World” became more than just fodder for a 3-part sermon series,…… not wasting my time reading Christian self-help books trying to improve my prayer life all the while innocent human beings suffer and die

    AMEN! If ever there was a ringing condemnation of Christianity, it’s a simple look at where they invest their time and money.

  • 47. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 28, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    I hated those. For a long time I just came to church half an hour late to miss the songs.

    Oh man, I remember catching flack from my mom as a kid for not getting into the worship music before the sermon, as if singing “praise and worship” songs was the only way to praise and worship God.

  • 48. Ubi Dubium  |  July 29, 2008 at 11:44 am

    I grew up singing all the lame-ass church songs

    Me too. Actually singing was the best part of worship services for me, even though the songs were indeed “lame-ass”. I would sit through all the boring parts, waiting for when we could sing some more. I sang with every kiddie-choir, and youth choir my church had. I taught bible-school music one summer, and joind the regular church choir as soon as I was old enough. I was a soloist even.

    Turns out, it was just singing I liked. Once I realized that most of the positive associations I had with church were related to music, it was easier to dump the rest. I still sing, but it will never again be with a church choir. (Never ever.)

  • 49. LeoPardus  |  July 29, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    At least this is one place where the Orthodox (and Anglicans) often stand out. They’ve got a lot of really great music. Admittedly there’s some crappy Orthodox music, but much of it is great. It’s one of the things we liked when we got to the EOC

  • 50. wendy  |  August 4, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    The more i read of this “blog”, the excuses, the self-centered observations most formed while sitting in a church watching and questioning the “faith” of others, the works of others….. the music played; missing the point. Christ died for our sins, sent thru God to experience man’s plight, to understand why we live the way we live…. it’s not about the person who drives the BMW, who gossips out of one side of his mouth and praises God out of the other…. its about the heart of Jesus Christ and what He did for us.
    Faith is not about following a man (those around us…. because you will loose your faith in a heartbeat!! – If you invest your faith in a man) we are imperfect, contradicting, condescending and evil at times, and at other times we are compasionate and loving…….God is not fickle.. His love is always the same. The heart for the homeless and wronged is something God gave you, whether you believe it or not. We all have free will to live the way we want. Its your choice its my choice. I was, and still am, a girl with old jeans, vans and a tore up t-shirt…. i am rebellious love all kinds of punk, (black flag and suicidal tendencies) rock and Christian music………. but my heart and soul belong to Jesus Christ…. I am not evangelical unless the “spirit” moves me, but my call is for the homeless, down-trodden and abused. To give without question of faith, or heart, but to be there when the questions come. As you grow in this life, you will see that. The energy that has come from being liberated from Christ, is a head-trip that has transformed your life and decisions in a direction that will bring you emptiness. But once you have known Christ, and the more you deny Him; the more you will be finding Him more and more as you go thru this life, He will not abandon you. We have the ability to rationalize, read books, hear speakers, and balk at everything someone tells us about Christ…. but in the end its all about Faith.
    P.S. My childhood was spent sitting in a Catholic Church, figity, tired of the repetition, watching other people …. which sometimes led me to loose focus on the “the Who, What, Where and Why”, which is Faith in Jesus Christ!

  • 51. The Apostate  |  August 4, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Wendy, please read this and this before giving a hypocritical lecture. Oh, and give this a read too.

    Furthermore, if you are going to make an accusation of any type, be sure to base it on something somebody actually said so they can defend themselves. But judging from your comment, you lack any empathy, understanding, or care for anyone but yourself.

    [This is my last and only response to Troll Wendy]

  • 52. Randolph Taylor  |  September 9, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    You obviously didnt realize what great gift Jesus gave you. You are just crucifying Him all over again. Being a Christian isnt just a another old religion. It’s a relationship with Jesus. The man that died for you and loves you. I admit some people and some churches are very judgemental, but Jeus loves you with or without your punk style. All I’m saying is think about what you’re giving up. Look at it this way. Right now you’re headed to a place of total destruction. Think about where you could be headed…

  • 53. silentj  |  September 9, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    This is more of a point for another thread, but in response to Randall:

    Note the final argument based on fear.

    Randall, I think most decons see the “great gift” as a literary trope more than a true gift. However, even if one assumes that Jesus is real and washed away our sins, one has to remember that the only reason we need our sins washed is because God created the apple tree with the knowledge that we would eat from it. If you read the Bible literally, the “great gift” is the cosmic equivalent of saying “uncle.”

    If you don’t take the Bible literally, then Christ’s crucifixion makes no sense.

  • 54. Quester  |  September 9, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    … Dairy Queen?

    (They treat you right!)

  • 55. Quester  |  September 9, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Sorry, I expected 54 to follow immediately after 52. It makes (slightly) more sense that way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


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.

Twitter

Archives

Blog Stats

  • 2,009,939 hits since March 2007

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 201 other followers