From Tormented Soul to Freed Atheist – Part 3 of 3

November 20, 2008 at 1:25 am 57 comments

As I write this final post, I realize that I have two difficulties. First is length. There is so much to recount! Second is sincerity and privacy. How can I be honest about my experiences and protect the those who played a major part in my becoming an atheist?

To solve the first, I will not focus as much on arguments, because I think this would be wasting my breath. There are plenty of good posts already on the arguments against the faith (resurrection, fall, existence of God, etc.) Instead it is my focus to pay close attention to my story – those sequence of fortunate events that lead me to realize that all my problems were slowly being solved by reason and evidence. [The "non-essential" parts to my story are enclosed in brackets, feel free to skip them.]

Secondly, I will do my best to hide the identity of those individuals who played a major part in pushing me furthest from the faith but I cannot hide everything. If they ever read this they will most likely recognize themselves in the unfolding drama, but I feel it is only fair that I keep their names private. Beyond that it is difficult to hide them.

Please do not feel like you need to read this entire story, I have carefully included [tangents] in brackets. Feel free to skip them and read them later – or not at all.

Following the dreadful years of my teens, I was confronted with a period of milder Christianity. I just ‘believed’ everything, ‘believed’ I was saved, ‘believed’ God had a plan for me, and ‘believed’ in the inerrancy of the Bible and that any problem passages could just be resolved with enough research and devotion to the Word (as the Psalmist so often sang).

My love for Christ and my fellow man now became my primary focus – often to the chagrin of more fundamentalists / legalistic friends of mine. I would consider this the “maturing” portion of my Christian faith.

My understanding of the gospel was also deepening. I understood it was less about dogmatic claims and more about the love of Christ transforming us from the inside out. It was a story about a man who is lost and who is then subsequently found. I still did believe the Bible to be inerrant, but I understood from some classes at Moody that inerrancy does not apply to the interpretation but to the original intent of the author. Therefore, if an interpretation is wrong it just means the person has not done enough digging into the word to find the proper interpretation.

My friend and I decided we wanted to start a college-age Bible study at our church. Our church, being quite conservative, did not attract college students and I, for one, felt somewhat secluded from believers my age. I think we had a grand total of 6-8 people my age at church – most of whom I had known for years. At the same time, I felt increasingly called to minister to those my age. For some reason I was attracted to intellectual conversation, stimulating debate, and going “deeper” into the Scriptures. I became rather interested in apologetics (especially C.S.Lewis) and would often use these arguments when witnessing to unbelievers.

Our Bible studies grew – extensively. We went from 6-8 people at our home church to 30-40 in literally. We attracted dozens of other students – outside of church. For the most part I was learning how to do expository teaching and preaching from the text of Scripture alone. We were huge fans of John MacArthur.

I began to give in to pornography. I was thoroughly perplexed by my ‘struggle’ (as we used to call it) with pornography addiction. I remember lying on the floor (multiple times), begging and pleading with God that He would remove this sin from my life. I installed filters and got my dad involved. I joined a support group of guys and was rather shocked to discover that they all struggled with this too. Then I discovered that this was a massive problem within the church and that there are support groups for this issue everywhere. It was all new to me. I had not seen a full naked woman until I decided to look at porn when I was around 19 years old. All the built up sexual tension that I had suppressed through my teenage years exploded into my addiction. I would give in about once every two weeks – in those ‘moments of weakness’. Sometimes I would go for months or more but eventually my natural desire would be too much to bear.

To more complicate things, I was under the impression that guys should overcome their sexual problems before entering a relationship with a girl so that they would not carry that ‘problem’ into marriage. (In Joshua Harris fantasy land, relationships are basically equal to marriage because you should not express interest in a girl until you are ready for a serious relationship and serious relationships, if they are done properly, end up in marriage.) I felt like I was in a deadlock. The very thing I needed (a woman) was the very thing I could not get until I was free from my addiction. But my addiction was fed by my inability to get a woman because I was addicted. I was miserable.

During this period I also came up with a rather ingenious harmonization of all of the passages in Scripture that talk about the possibility of losing salvation – including my dreaded Hebrews 6 passage. I can remember the elation and ecstasy at this discovery as I shared it in one of our college Bible studies. My exuberance was no doubt influenced by the relief that finally – finally! – I no longer had to have doubts about my salvation because I understood what these passage were talking about. But the doubts still lingered.

Our church got a new pastor. He scared me, I will admit. For the first time in my life I met a person who had an answer for everything and I have to admit it seemed fake. Compared to the elderly former pastor who was willing to admit “I don’t know” to a crucial question like my own salvation, this pastor seemed cocky. I can remember once sitting in the car, asking him difficult questions – testing him – just to see if he would ever say “I don’t know” to anything I asked. He never did. I confess this left me rather confused. On the one hand he seemed arrogant, but on the other he actually did have answers. Were his answers right? What if he was ever wrong – would he admit it? I was leery, but I decided to give him a chance and trust that maybe he did know what he was talking about.

This pastor immediately got down to business in the church and started mentoring me and my friend who helped me run the local college Bible study. It was during one of these Bible studies that I shared with my pastor about my discovery regarding Hebrews 6. I was animated as I spoke.
He glared at me. I can still remember his words: “So your telling me that you have discovered something that nobody has known for 2000 years?” In other words, who do you think you are?

As you can imagine I was quite taken aback and pressed him for more information. Where had my interpretation gone wrong? How was I being arrogant? My entire goal was to demonstrate the inerrancy of Scripture and the validity of doctrines of eternal security and election in light of these more difficult passages like Hebrews 6. Tell me, pastor, where did I go wrong? He did not have an answer but instead got visibly agitated and frustrated. I was bewildered. Why could I not just get an answer?

Around this same time, our college group was accused (by this pastor) of being a “parachurch” organization. Despite the fact that we had explicitly outlined that we wanted to be under the elders, they wanted more explicitly outlined control over our group. I can remember talking to my pastor and my dad (who was an elder) asking what this was all about. The college group was going great! What were we doing wrong? They kept reassuring me they only wanted to have it made very clear that the group was under the church because we met on church property. This weirded me out because 80% of the people coming to the Bible study were not from our church and we were not doing anything wrong or teaching anything wrong. Things had been fine for over a year, why the sudden change? I felt this was an attempt to place extra control on our group and I wanted to know why. My fear was that if the church took over completely it would scare some of our non-church attendees to leave. Then we would only be left with people from our church (my fears were confirmed within the next year).

I was accused of trying to take over the college group. I’m not kidding. My pastor accused me in his private office of being unsubmissive, unteachable, and likened me to a girl he knew who was manipulative and controlling. I was aghast. I looked for answers and got accusations. How was I supposed to respond to that?

[I had seen what this had done once before. Our church once had a new attendee who struggled with alcoholism. I loved this guy - he was so smart. Yes he was going through a rough time, yes he smoked cigarettes, and yes he struggled with alcohol. But I still loved Him because He loved Jesus. And he was a new baby Christian in our church! After he had only attended for a few months, our church decided to rebuke him in front of the entire congregation for his alcoholism and unwillingness to repent. I still remember how shocked and hurt I was that even though he never showed up for his public punishment, the elders decided to go through with the rebuke anyway - in keeping with the Scriptures. He never came back to the church (no duh). I did not want to end up like this poor guy.]

So I decided to start my own Biblical confrontation of my pastor, who had deeply hurt me and left me confused. We met at a local coffee shop and I kindly and calmly explained to him how much he had hurt me and how much I wanted some answers over the Hebrews 6 passage as well as his accusations that I was trying to take over the college group. I just wanted answers and an apology for hurting me. He blew me off. When he started going on the offensive, rubbing in my arrogance, etc. I decided to get up and just walk out. I can still remember him yelling at me as I walked out of the front door of that public coffee shop. I felt literally ripped to shreds for my curiosity.

How could a man like this have the Holy Spirit?

My heart was broken. I had no one to talk to. I tried to talk to my parents, but they simply tried to soothe my frustration. Nothing was done about this, to my knowledge. The pastor never apologized.

Fast forward several more crazy stories about a bizarre Christian sect in Kansas, wild interpretations of Genesis (weirder than six-day, I kid you not), and extremely arrogant Christian businessmen who used “God’s Will” as evidence that he wanted them to start an almost impossible multi-million dollar business on money from friends and family to help the poor in developing nations.

The next year I moved to Colorado. I went on “faith”, trusting the Lord to provide (He “did”). I was interested in a girl out there too, and started to feel that maybe the Lord wanted me in a relationship with her. I took the necessary courtship steps at that time by getting to know her father. He agreed to start a Bible study with me and my friend (the same friend who had done a Bible study with our pastor). This girl’s father seemed like such a godly man and I was excited to meet him – and his daughter.

The Bible studies we held were a little – weird. It was basically him teaching us all his wisdom and trying to find ways to demonstrate how wrong we were about things. Often when we would question him, he would start to get agitated and frustrated if we did not take his first answer as gospel. He was one of those types who decides that nearly every guest who comes to his house should be subjected to a rudimentary Bible study after the evening meal.

One study we somehow got into discussing relationships, and he was pointing out the “Biblical” mandate that the father of the bride is supposed to have the final say in his daughters relationships. He also pointed out that the young man should come to the father first and pursue the daughter through him. I could not help but notice that his interpretation was a little off (ok, a lot off, but whatever) and so I pointed out that the greatest love story in the Bible is about Ruth, where it is actually the women who are most involved in pursuing and attracting a man into a relationship – no fathers involved (sure, they were dead, but I figured it was a good example that his strict interpretation was a little too black and white).

[Okay, weird story. So my other friend who helped me start the Bible study also liked this girl at one time. He was attending an extremely conservative Christian school in Colorado at the time that she was attending as well. He was confined to campus (a church) for three months for calling this girl and talking to her on the phone for an hour without permission. I am not joking. If there were extenuating circumstances we were never told - this was what he told me (almost crying). He was told that all courtships were supposed to be approved by the school and his phone call broke that rule.]

He grew agitated and would not look me in the eye. He almost started yelling, explaining how wrong I was and that the Bible was “so clear” on how relationships are supposed to be run. He knew I liked his daughter and I think he probably felt like I was trying to usurp his God-given authority in the relationship. I didn’t know what to do. His Biblical interpretation was just downright silly. He never acknowledged the Scriptures I cited and almost banged his Bible saying “God’s Word is so clear, how can you not see it?”

This got me curious: how many Christians hold on to bad interpretations of Scripture and insist they are Biblical when they are not? How many interpretations of Scripture did I hold in similar fashion to this man? And if someone can hold onto a bad interpretation and not know it, what bad interpretations did I have that were wrong?

But I still held on to my faith. Around this time I was starting to have problems with Biblical inerrancy and science and the Bible. One day I was talking to a friend about evidence for God’s existence, and my friend (who is normally pretty darn smart) said this: “Josh, you know how they don’t know what the gluon is? Well, I think they can’t figure it out because the gluon is God.” Now, I may not have been as philosophical then as I am now, but I was not so stupid as to accept this. What would happen when they did discover what the gluon was – would this mean they killed god? Unintentionally I discovered the “god of the gaps” concept.

I was getting interested in philosophy and psychology and biology, etc. I was starting to read – a lot. One thing that kicked this off was an agnostic friend who had me read some Descartes. Finally! I found a person who thought!

I was thoroughly intrigued by atheists. I knew they were wrong, but why were they so smart? How could they not see the error of their way? In church we had learned about all sorts of world religions, but rarely discussed atheism. What was up with these people?

The year of 2007 I spent massive amounts of time writing. I was working on a book – a rational defense of the Christian faith. I reached the point where I had nearly 115-120 pages of material and then hit a dead-end. I had figured out an entire system about how knowledge turns into understanding turns into beliefs which influences actions and generates emotions. My premise was that the right beliefs will lead to peace. This is (of course) why Christians have so much peace. If a person believes something wrong, it will lead to inner turmoil because their beliefs do not match reality. This explains the “void” in people’s hearts in the world. They obviously have bad beliefs.

Because of my interest in atheism and consistent compliments people would give me on my intelligence, I started to feel lead by the Lord into apologetics so I could lead atheists to the Lord. I figured if the Lord had given me the gift of my intelligence and analytical mind, surely I could use it to reach atheists. I met a man at a bookshop who was an atheist and we agreed to start a book club. I was so excited at what the Lord was doing! I agreed to read The End of Faith by Sam Harris and he agreed to read Mere Christianity by C.S.Lewis.

That day I walked down the street, book in arm, to a coffee shop down the road. I had already started reading the God Delusion, but The End of Faith knocked me flat. As I read the first 50 pages, I realized that Sam Harris had stolen all my ideas. He was basically speaking back to me everything I had worked so hard to discover in my book. But he was an atheist.

I couldn’t take it. I stopped reading the book. I literally walked out of that coffee shop unable to continue reading The End of Faith. My confidence was devastated.

A few weeks later (at the beginning of this January, 2008), I got a call from a family member in Chicago who lets me know that there is an opening on the floor at Moody Bible Institute on my old floor. I had not attended for over a year, but with my new doubts and desire to be an apologist I thought I would attend – if not just to get some new answers. I needed time – to think and study God’s Word. I was confident they would have the answers and the only thing I was dreading was the PCM (Practical Christian Ministry) because my faith was so weak at that time I felt like I needed to be taught – not teach.

That night I nearly hallucinated as I opened my Bible to Genesis 1 and 2. I was shocked. For the first time I was seeing problems everywhere. There were contradictions, difficulties galore. I panicked. I called my dad, telling him I thought I was under demonic attack. As I left for Moody the next day I even thought I saw two angels fighting a demon over me at the top of the stares. I almost stopped and then thought “what the heck am I thinking?” This can’t be happening! The voices felt like they were going to come back.

[Ah yes, the voices. I said that I was going to explain them. Ironically around this time I discovered that I could almost always predict what the voices were going to say to me. On top of this, they never said anything new to me - they only told me things I already knew. This got me to thinking: maybe they were all in my head? If they really were demons, I should not have control over them or be able to predict what they say and they should also occasionally reveal something to me that I did not already know. Otherwise they might as well be figments of my imagination. Ironically, upon this discovery the voices started to go away. As soon as I was able to identify them as figments of my imagination, my "belief" in what they said dropped, and I suddenly gained control over them. I can now, in the right moments, make them come back and say whatever I want. They normally just disagree with what I am thinking at the moment anyway!]

If there was anything that cured me of Christianity, it was this last semester at Moody Bible Institute. I took up three primary courses, all of them specifically chosen so that I could get some good answers. They were Philosophy, Genesis, and Intro to Bible.

As I sat in those classes, I was appalled at some of the things students were saying. In Intro to Bible, I can remember our teaching explicitly telling us that Hebrews was probably not written by Paul. A girl piped up and said, “Well, I believe it was written by Paul” – as if that settled it. In Genesis class, our teacher was explaining how the Hebrew structure in Genesis 1-2 does not necessarily imply a literal six day creation. Several students raised their hands and asked him if he had ever heard of Answers in Genesis. One of the most loved, and most hated, teachers was a teacher who believed in progressive creation. He would often be ‘corrected’ in class when he would admit he was a progressive creationist. Our teachers were smart and well educated and they were being gently insulted by students in the class who thought they must have missed something. I was appalled. How could this be? If these students already had the answers, what were they coming to school for?
Sadly, the answers from the teachers were not any better.

I literally spent hundreds of hours studying extra-curricular topics at Moody. I dove into psychology, the paranormal, aliens, UFO sightings, miraculous reports, resurrection reports on the Internet, the Book of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Peter, the formation of the canon, evolution, six-day creation, theistic evolution, debates, apologists, William Lane Craig, a little of Bart Erhmann, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Polkinghorne, Francis Collins, Ken Ham, C.S.Lewis, Socrates, Aristotle, etc.

As my doubts increased, I talked to teachers, pastors, students. I talked to a grad student who was attending Moody. I read books people recommended. I talked to my roommate, my father, and confided in anyone I could think of. I talked to my dorm supervisor.

[My dorm supervisor sat down me down and I confessed that I was having doubts about inerrancy and creation / evolution. To my surprise, he was not surprised. Then (to my later astonishment) he handed by a book by John Polkinghorne entitled "The Faith of a Physicist". Imagine my surprise when I discover that John Polkinghorne does not believe in inerrancy and does believe in evolution. How weird. Here I was admitting to my teacher that I was struggling with doubts about inerrancy and six-day creation and he hands me a book by a Christian who believes neither. If inerrancy is so true, why not give me a book defending inerrancy? I took this as a tacit admission that maybe inerrancy is not true.]

[During spring break I sat down and talked to a graduate student. I confessed that I was having trouble with Biblical inerrancy and laid out before him a rather complicated contradiction between Paul's writings and what Moody taught about Scripture. He looked at me lovingly and basically said "Well, I know that is what the passage says, but hey, there are more complicated problems with the texts that we are learning about in Grad school. Have you heard about the issue with the virgin birth? The amazing thing about all this is that it actually strengthens my faith!" I suddenly felt like I graduated with a PhD in theology. I was way beyond this man, and he was in graduate school. The virgin birth problem was the least of my worries, I was discovering stuff far beyond that. I felt so alone. Did no one else see the problems in Scripture that I was seeing? Why did churches and seminaries hide these issues so carefully from people - until they entered grad school? What did they have to hide?]

My skepticism increased. That semester we had Josh McDowell come to Moody. I was elated. Here was a big-hitting apologist coming onto the scene. I was hoping he would answer my questions and attack this “new atheism” that was on the rise. I was on the edge of my seat, hoping for some new evidence to come to light that the atheists were hiding.

Instead, he gave an impassioned speech about how the evidence is so overwhelming he did not feel the need to address it in front of Moody. Instead, he explained how Christians need to stop paying attention to the evidence and instead start developing close relationships with those outside the church. If we can develop those relationships, and gain their trust, we can then teach them about our Lord. Can anyone say manipulation? We had just learned about logic in philosophy and here was McDowell (an apologist!) breaking the rules of logic. He was basically saying: ignore the evidence and focus on emotional appeals and gaining trust. I was ashamed because I suddenly felt like I was part of a cult.

[At this meeting McDowell confessed something he had never confessed before. He admitted that it was not the evidence that lead him to the faith, it was the close relationship he had with a pastor in his early twenties. You see, he had been molested as a child and the anger of the experience had built up inside him. This pastor taught him about God and lead Him to the Lord and eventually he got up enough courage to confront the man who had abused him.
I was shocked.]

Is that it? Is this all Christianity is? Good relationships? Gaining trust? Emotional appeals? Where is this massive mountain of evidence? How the heck was I supposed to defend the faith as an apologist when I was being asked to basically commit to the faith and make the evidence fit?

During chapel once, a wise old ex-president of Moody Bible Institute was asked by a student what the most difficult question he has to answer on a daily basis. He said “how do I know I am saved?” Then he added his own difficult question he asked himself all the time: “why do I not see more evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in my life?” I could not help but think the answer to both was most easily satisfied with: because neither of them are true.

[One time during a Bible study with a bunch of Chinese people (in which we lured them in by teaching them English and then said they could stay to study the Bible) I mentioned to a very intelligent Chinese lady that I believed in God. She looked at me, curiously tilted her head sideways as a small playful smile slipped into her lips, and simply asked "Why?" That one word did more to destroy my faith than anything so far. I had just spent hundreds - if not thousands - of hours studying Christianity and the arguments for the existence of God and in one simple word she revealed just how silly I was being. I did not have a good answer. I think I made something clever up. I can't remember.
That night I realized I had a problem. I was always an extremely honest person, and I knew I could no longer lie about my doubts. At this point I still clung to the faith but was willing to give up inerrancy. Thankfully school was almost over and I needed time away - away from ministry, away from the indoctrination I felt I was getting at Moody. Away to think. I was in mental anguish. I would spend hours and hours mulling over all the possibilities, trying to think of any way that Christianity could still be true.]

One incident at Moody particularly got my attention. The elevators in the guys dorms are notorious for not closing or opening when they should. Often students will press the “close door” button over and over and over – until the door closes.

I remember once standing in the elevator, looking down at that small button, thinking how stupid it was that people would keep pressing it – when the door was going to close anyway. The thought popped into my head and nearly knocked me over: isn’t this what prayer is? Don’t most Christians intentionally pray in such a way that their faith is safe? Not only this but we all prayed for things that were probably going to happen anyway. Were we all just as stupid as those students who keep pressing the close door button over and over?

This summer, unable to get answers to my questions from private meetings with professors or pastors or reading the books they recommended, I opened up to the public about my doubts. I first revealed on Facebook that I was having trouble with six-day creation and was now a theistic evolutionist. The backlash was horrifying. People were telling me I was losing the faith (not far off, really), that I did not trust God or His Word, and that I was going liberal. I had carefully outlined my reasons but no one cared about that – not a soul dealt with anything I actually said. 95% of those who responded did so out of anger, frustration, and confusion. I kept thinking: are these children of a God of peace and order and truth? Why are they so afraid of solid arguments? Where is the Holy Spirit they claim to have – the Holy Spirit who was promised to lead men into truth?

Then I posted notes about why I was now no longer believed in inerrancy. Vile responses, threats, confusion, anger, frustration, etc. Now I was getting frustrated. I was seriously hoping that somebody would shoot me down, put me in my place, show me how I was wrong so that I could go back to Moody in the fall with a reinforced faith. (Only one professor from Moody really dealt with the issues seriously, and I have him to thank for being one of the best Christians I have met who was willing to dig deep to find answers. If you are reading this, Douglas, I respect you.)

[One friend sent me a reference to a missionary for New Tribes Missions, who was also a PhD in biological chemistry. I was thinking: oh good, someone who can show me how I am wrong! I still wanted to believe in six-day creation because it would have been so much easier that way.

His responses appalled me. We got into a deep discussion and I actually started to out-match him in philosophical matters. This scared me a little, quite frankly. Then we began to discuss inerrancy, and I (rather bluntly) challenged him to find the place in the Old Testament that predicts that the Messiah would rise on the third day. But I gave him one stipulation, he could not use the story of Jonah because the early Christians did not have the book of Luke yet and so they would have only had the Old Testament to work with. Besides, using the book of Jonah was taking it out of context anyway.
His response was scary. He told me that just as Joshua entered the promised land three days after the bearer of the first covenant had died (Moses), so Jesus as the bearer of the second covenant entered the new promised land three days after he died (resurrection). Impressive. But it only took me fifteen minutes of Bible study to realize how wrong he was.

How could a believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit twist Scripture so elegantly? It was a beautiful allegorical interpretation: but it was dead wrong. How could he be so careless with the very Words of God? If Satan is the one who twists Scripture, what am I supposed to believe about this man?]

Christians were pushing me away from the faith with every ridiculous word they uttered.

I continued to post notes. I received dozens of lengthy responses from believers, asking what was “going on?” I have met dozens of new people on Facebook, all of them trying to help me. I was trying to be as honest as I could with everyone, knowing that “faking” my faith was just stupid. I’ve made new friends, probably lost a few friends. One relative kindly told me to stop tagging her in my notes. I stopped tagging anyone, for fear I would keep offending Christians.

Eventually I had to admit I was an atheist. This brought in a new flood of criticism. At the same time it has been bringing in a flood of apologies from believers on behalf of other Christians who have been so ridiculous in their comments to me. I have received confession notes from other believers that they no longer believe the things they used to either. It has been a little weird. One day I receive notes from seasoned believers with comments like “Ya, ya big talker” or “May God have mercy on your soul” and the very next note I receive is a confession from a young Christian that I have been making them think or an admission they are having doubts about things and have not told very many other people for fear of ridicule. Either way, all the comments I receive only convince me more and more that Christianity is false.

So that brings me up to today. I have not hidden anything, I have been open and honest and blunt about my atheism. And it is starting to pay off. “You will reap what you sow.” I have been desperately sowing honesty, rationality, and as much kindness as I can muster (it is really hard to be kind to people who damn you to hell) – and I am starting to see the fruit.

And if anyone has anything new to add to the conversation, I am all ears. If you can demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God – and not just a figment of your imagination – I will believe. Hands down. I miss the good days of my faith, just not the horrifying ones.

Many of you will say that the Christianity I “knew” is not the Christianity you “know”. Oh really? I would just argue you are not taking your faith seriously enough. You are lukewarm, which Jesus detests. Try making sense of Hebrews 6:4-6 – realizing these are the living Words of God – and see if the Bible looks so rosy next time you open its pages.

I am an atheist, and I am free:)

- Josh

Entry filed under: Josh. Tags: , , , .

The Psychology of Apologetics: I Love to Tell the Story Belonging

57 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Quester  |  November 20, 2008 at 2:58 am

    Peace, Josh. I am glad you found this site.

    So much of your story kept catching my attention as I’d think of parts of my own story that relate: problems with preachers and pastors, seminary and with scripture; deperation for answers turning into acknowledgement of reality. I haven’t been as vocal as you, and have faced less confrontation. I hope you have some sources of support where you are.

    Any thoughts on where you will go from here?

  • 2. Kat  |  November 20, 2008 at 3:39 am

    I started rereading Job the other day and was amused by these two passages, the first from Eliphaz the ‘miserable comforter’ and the second from Job:

    We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself. – 5:17

    He sounds dismissive – a lot like the people with whom we want to have logical discussion.

    Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong. How painful are honest words! But what do your arguments prove? – 6:24-25

    Sounds a lot to me like, “If you can demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God – and not just a figment of your imagination – I will believe. Hands down.”

    Let me know if someone has a good answer.

    Out of curiosity, what was the ‘fix’ you had for Hebrews 6?

  • 3. Jeffrey  |  November 20, 2008 at 3:42 am

    What an excellent story and outcome. Thank you for sharing. Our stories are quite similar, but you probably struggled three or four times as hard as I did, both emotionally and intellectually. I read my first book against Christianity after deconversion.

    I too was quite disappointed by several times when I spoke to Christian leaders about my problems. Spring 2007, I asked the director of my online theology class about an agnostic’s argument that God is evil due to the genocide of the Midianites. His primary response was that agnostics have no basis for calling something evil. I knew intuitively that this didn’t answer the question of Christianity’s internal consistency and that anyone had the right to ask about it. I tried to make myself accept the answer, and I succeeded for a while, but this wore away at my tolerance for problems in Christianity.

    >At this meeting McDowell confessed something he had never confessed before. He admitted that it was not the evidence that lead him to the faith, it was the close relationship he had with a pastor in his early twenties.

    Not that I don’t believe you, but is there a youtube video/school newspaper article or something supporting this? If I’m in a conversation with a Christian their “josh.org says that…” is going to trump my “a guy on the internet said that…”

  • 4. Humanistdad  |  November 20, 2008 at 8:55 am

    I’m prepared to ‘believe’ in a god (or gods) once satisfactory evidence is presented. However, I cannot argue with Christopher Hitchens when he calls himself an ‘antitheist': He doesn’t want it to be true.

    When you look at the death-count in the bible (http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com/2006/08/how-many-has-god-killed.html) suddenly stories in the bible start to make far more sense when you hypothesize that god is actually the evil one.

  • 5. Cereal Man  |  November 20, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Josh! I waited in anticipation for this third post as I am a graduate of MBI (your recollection of the elevator problems in Culbterson was quite funny – I remember taking the stairs a lot). Only, I can’t imagine having to go through all of this while actually attending. I went through Moody as a pre-programmed robot taking in everything that was taught. My doubts didn’t come out until I was well into my mid 30s and had already spent a long time as a missionary overseas. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  • 6. Zoe  |  November 20, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Thank you Josh.

  • 7. Nicholas Johnson  |  November 20, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Wow, that was like reading my own story. I attended Moody in 2002-2003, and I took the stairs at culby often also, all the way to the 17th floor. I have a love-hate relationship with my time spent there. I suppose I can’t hate it because it was instrumental in de-converting me. I’m interested to hear what your plans are now. I went off and joined the Army, because I didn’t know what to do with myself, but now I’m back in school obtaining a nursing degree, after a few semesters towards a philosophy degree (I love philosophy also). Anyway feel free to email me, or look me up on facebook, I think we could be useful resources for each other. I bet we know some of the same people too. I must admit though I haven’t been as brave in coming out, my parents and old friends still don’t know. Something for me to work on. Anyway, thanks for sharing, it was encouraging.

  • 8. freestyleroadtrip  |  November 20, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Josh. I don’t quite know what to say. Thanks for your honesty. I have shared many of your doubts, many of your struggles, much of your dismay, but only a fraction of your persecution. I have shed my fundamental Christian upbringing, but I haven’t seen the need to abandon Christianity altogether and haven’t seen convincing evidence to think another religious system of thought is more credible. In contrast to your final statement, I would say about myself: “I am a theist, and I am free.” I don’t have all the answers about the problems inherent in the bible. I can’t yet make it all fit together, and suspect that I probably will not ever to be able to make it all fit together. I can’t prove that God exists, and I don’t think that this can be done. I see evidence for God’s existence which I continue to explore and which gives me a bit of a growing foundation behind my belief. And I rest in the fact that I think God is big enough to not be threatened by my questions, and I know of nowhere in the bible that he says to me that it is critical that I have it all put together properly. In a way, I think God is honored by my digging and my doubts and my questions.

    I am reading a book called “How (Not) To Speak Of God.” It is by a guy named Peter Rollins. I would describe him as an Irish philospher involved in what he calls the “emerging conversation.” He is a Christian who thinks about Christianity in radically different ways from which I was taught in my first 35 years so comes from that side of the equation. I would like to share two quotes from this book. I apologize if anyone is offended by my mention of the book here. It is not my intent to change anyone’s mind about God. I only want to put out something for discussion, and I would be curious about what anyone has to say, especially Josh.

    Quote 1 from page 36. “Only a genuine faith can embrace doubt, for such a faith does not act because of a self-interested reason (such as fear of hell or desire for heaven) but acts simply because it must.” All those people you describe as vile, and especially the pastor of whom you speak, were threatened by your doubt because it threatened to remove the cornerstone of their faith which would cause it to crumble. Faith which is built on self-interest is not genuine faith in God. It is faith in an specific image of God which is not God at all. It is idolatry.

    Quote 2 from page 53. “In short, a true spiritual seeking can be understood as the ultimate sign that one already has that which one seeks, or rather, that one is already grasped by that which one seeks to grasp. Consequently a genuine seeking after God is evidence of having found.” I guess this is very close to what I have already said. But I am comfortable in my doubting and actually feel that I am in a much better place with my studying and seeking than someone who is trapped in a systematic theology that allows nothing different so that they just keep mulling the same information over in their heads. I don’t think that God is threatened by my questions. I don’t think God has a series of hoops that I have to jump through to gain his approval. I think that my seeking is evidence of finding. And I rest in the fact that the entire bible can be seen to fall under “love God and love people.”

    Again, I am not trying to change anyone’s mind. Many of you are way smarter than I am on the bible so my views are probably way too simplistic. I am sure you can rip them to shreds, and I am OK with you doing that because it helps me refine my thoughts and my seeking. My only intent is to show how I am comfortable and free in my doubting while I continue to seek for answers to my questions which I imagine will be a life long endeavor for me. If I have helped somebody else, great. If I have stimulated discussion then may we all learn from it. If I have angered somebody, I apologize as that is not my intent. I am truly glad that the de-cons on this sight have found freedom from the jail of fundamental Christianity. I think you are better off for it. I think it is as wrong as you do. And whether you all know it or not, you are helping me tremendously in sorting out my own questions, faith, and beliefs. Thanks for including me.

  • 9. Josh  |  November 20, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. Just curious, did the girl’s father who led you in a Bible study belong to Bill Gothard’s group? Also curious, how has your new freedom changed your relationship with girls.

    This was one of the clearest and most intriguing entries I have read. Thanks for taking the time to put this all out here for us to read.

    Josh

  • 10. Gracie  |  November 20, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    First, thanks for sharing the many personal aspects of your struggle while trying to gain a better understanding of Christianity.

    I found your experiences to be heartbreaking at times especially during those college years. From the beginning, the very people you depended on for answers failed to provide but only added additional confusion and stress. The pain and frustration are obvious in your writing.

    I do hope family and friends will accept your decisions without judgment – it might take a while. You must feel a huge relief at this point as your conclusion states.

    This is the first time I’ve read anything re: my doubts that has had such an impact. Although my life experiences differ, I can relate to many of the emotions you describe so eloquently. I’ve wanted desperately to simply have faith and accept the doctrine but it doesn’t seem possible anymore. There are those that don’t understand why I can no longer accept Christianity simply based on faith – that’s fine.

    Both your story and this site have been inspirational – I thank you again and wish you the best.

    Gracie

  • 11. FFFearlesss  |  November 20, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Hey Josh, great finish to an amazing story.

    One question I have. You say you “eventually had to admit you were an atheist.” I’m curious if it was a gradual transition or if there was a definitive moment when you finally said, “Okay, I’m done.” And how that passed for you.

  • 12. orDover  |  November 20, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    My dorm supervisor sat down me down and I confessed that I was having doubts about inerrancy and creation / evolution. To my surprise, he was not surprised. Then (to my later astonishment) he handed by a book by John Polkinghorne entitled “The Faith of a Physicist”. Imagine my surprise when I discover that John Polkinghorne does not believe in inerrancy and does believe in evolution. How weird. Here I was admitting to my teacher that I was struggling with doubts about inerrancy and six-day creation and he hands me a book by a Christian who believes neither. If inerrancy is so true, why not give me a book defending inerrancy? I took this as a tacit admission that maybe inerrancy is not true.

    It’s funny how Christians are like that. They don’t really care what kind of a Christian you are, if you believe in theistic evolution or six-day creation, if you think the Bible is the literal word of God or a metaphor. What matters is that you stay a Christian and keep believe in Jesus.

    I only told one person who I knew from Christian school about my atheism. His first response was along the same lines, to show me examples of the continuum of Christianity, and how it could still contain my new convictions regarding science. They’re kind of missing the big point though, aren’t they? It’s not a matter of making God conforming to your world-view, it’s a matter of reality conforming to God without effort.

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to write all of this out. I really wish I would have talked to my parents, like you did, when I was originally having doubts. At least then they would have been clued in, and would know the exact time-line of events. When I think about telling them I’m so afraid they blame Berkeley or Richard Dawkins, but I only came to know both after I had already left Christianity far behind. I think you’re very brave.

  • 13. truthwalker  |  November 21, 2008 at 12:02 am

    Dear Josh,
    I want to thank you, for telling this story. I takes a huge amount of bravery to lay everything bare like that. You mentioned hearing voices and being addicted to porn, specifically. I wonder how many of us de-cons could admit those two, but don’t. Thanks for being strong and true.

  • 14. Josh  |  November 21, 2008 at 12:08 am

    orDover –

    “They don’t really care what kind of a Christian you are, if you believe in theistic evolution or six-day creation, if you think the Bible is the literal word of God or a metaphor.”

    This is true – until you become a Christian! As I’m sure you know, then its almost as if humans need something to bicker over so you find Christians competing with eachother to be more orthodox, or more godly, or to have a “better” interpretation of a difficult passage, or to follow Jesus more intimately. Men like Calvin put competitors to the death! Before you know it, six-day creation, theistic evolution, Calvinism, Armenianism, pre-millenialism, soteriology, views on homosexuality, biblical inerrancy, etc. are very important. Its not until someone is about to leave the faith or is really struggling that the leaders start to fudge on key issues – as I discovered – just to keep them in the fold.

    As time progressed I found this more and more hypocritical. Paul talks about people who want their ears tickled and says it is wrong. Ironically, Christians will search and search until they find a church that “fits” their needs or is teaching the “truth” (e.g. the Bible as primary source). Is this not wanting to get your ears tickled? I have yet to meet a de-convert who wanted to leave the church – most of us left kicking and screaming, thereby demonstrating that we were willing to listen to things we did not want to necessarily hear.

    Its as if humans are looking for ways to distinguish themselves from others and those “others” become an enemy or a part of the enemy’s cause.

    “I think you’re very brave.”

    Thanks. You’ll get up the courage to tell your family, in time :)

  • 15. Josh  |  November 21, 2008 at 12:15 am

    truthwalker –

    “I wonder how many of us de-cons could admit those two, but don’t. Thanks for being strong and true.”

    Thank you so much. I often wonder just how many Christians struggle with hidden sins. To be honest, it was a little odd for me to discover just how prevalent the double life truly is. I was always so public about my sins, because it seemed so silly to hide them. I am somewhat hoping that my ability to confess the things I’ve done will demonstrate that honesty can be found outside the faith, and may perhaps put some of those inside the faith to shame (clergy struggling with lust toward children, pastors addicted to porn, etc.). I am a huge proponent of honesty – even when it is hard and hurts. I learned this most from my little sister – whom I dearly love. She once called me on the phone (she was around five) and asked me point blank: “Josh, do you love me anymore?” I had moved away from home and I am sure she felt a little abandoned. I was so touched, almost to tears, by this little question that I have made it a goal of mine to imitate that innocence and honesty toward others. Sometimes its a little weird… but soooo freeing.

  • 16. Josh  |  November 21, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Gracie –

    You are very welcome :)

    FFFFearlesss –

    “I’m curious if it was a gradual transition or if there was a definitive moment when you finally said, “Okay, I’m done.” And how that passed for you.”

    Well, it was a transition over a period of about six to eight months for me. From what I understand this is an extremely short period of time to completely de-convert – which was probably why it was so painful for me.

    There were several times when I cried “Okay, I’m done” but normally the emotions and psychology of the faith stuck around after that anyway. Sometimes I still find myself urged to pray or read my Bible (which I often do, just in case!). So I guess you could still say I am de-converting. It is a weird – and painful – feeling to want to cry out to someone you know is not there. This is probably similar to what people feel when their spouse passes away. The mind takes time to readjust the way it thinks about life and to rid itself of learned responses that are no longer useful.

  • 17. Josh  |  November 21, 2008 at 12:28 am

    freestyleroadtrip –

    First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate your comments. Something about your desire to find the truth and your unwillingness to just accept something becuase someone else proclaimed it dogmatically is greatly encouraging.

    “Only a genuine faith can embrace doubt, for such a faith does not act because of a self-interested reason (such as fear of hell or desire for heaven) but acts simply because it must”

    I have a hard time understanding how the one follows from the other, to be honest. If a person acts because they must, then there is little doubt involved. If one honestly believes they “must” act, then how can they have any doubt – at all? If one doubts, their action will be somewhat hesitant, by definition. I think the faith talked about in the Bible is very different from what is found in this quote. In the Bible, the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6). In the Bible, anything not of faith is sin. I could be wrong, though, as the Bible talks about this from all sorts of different viewpoints so I am sure there are other passages that could be interpreted to allow for doubt in faith.

    “Consequently a genuine seeking after God is evidence of having found”

    In this case, have I truly found God? If so, I am quite surprised :)

    Your attitude is truly amazing in all this, best of luck in your pursuits, and I am sure others appreciate your comments on this blog as well.

  • 18. Josh  |  November 21, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Josh –

    What a fine name you have, did you know it means “God is salvation”? Jesus means the same thing as Joshua. And Jesus is the ultimate salvation for mankind!

    Sorry, just brushing up on my witnessing skillz!

    Ahh, girls. To be quite frank, things have been really rough in the area of relationships. I broke up with my girlfriend when I realized I just no longer believed any of this. She is still a devout Christian as far as I know. We have not talked much since.

    Since then it has been weird. I did not realize just how many little rules, stipulations, expectations, and “programming” I had let myself receive regarding relationships. The last couple of months I have finally been able to start relaxing about my sexuality and be a little more open about my interests without constantly checking myself to make sure I am doing things in a “right” or “pure” way. I can kiss a girl. I can hold a girl. I can call a girl without having to talk to her father first.

    I’ll confess I have been damn antsy to get into a relationship. I resisted girls for so long because of theological and religious reasons that now I feel like I’m a ten year romantic bomb ready to explode. Sadly, I’ve never kissed a girl (except when I was a little kid – when I kissed girls *all* the time). I had made it a vow not to kiss a girl until marriage (in true courtship fashion). What a transition it has been to go from thinking a kiss before marriage was being unfaithful to my promise – to now, when I don’t have problems with sex before marriage.

    I must admit I have my fears about relationships. I am so far behind in the dating scene that I don’t know what to expect or how to act, really. I feel like I am now having to learn what most people learn when they are fifteen or sixteen. You know how weird it is to get online and read a website on safe sex where you are probably the only person who is over sixteen learning about stuff? I was shocked at just how much fourteen and fifteen year olds know about sex that I didn’t learn until the last couple of years. I’m not condoning their behavior, it is just quite an eye opener.

    Beyond this, I realize that I had so many “expectations” on what a woman should be like in a relationship that I am now trying to face reality on the subject. We were seriously taught to look for a woman who fit the description of Proverbs 31. So now I am trying to figure out what characteristics to look for in a girl when I have checked “godliness” or “loves Jesus” off my list. Smart? Cute? Cordial? A little saucy? Flirty – at all? A de-convert like myself? Atheist? Agnostic? Likes to travel?

    I feel like I am finally getting a dose of reality when it comes to relationships.

    How about yourself?

  • 19. orDover  |  November 21, 2008 at 12:59 am

    I often wonder just how many Christians struggle with hidden sins. To be honest, it was a little odd for me to discover just how prevalent the double life truly is. I

    I remember when I was in high school one of the Bible teachers decided to talk to us about pornography. He said, and of course all I have is his word, no peer-reviewed study or anything, that many Christians (men) struggle with “pornography addictions” (I am really bothered by that term, but I won’t get into it here, you can send me a message if you want to know more), so he was trying to warn us all early on to be aware of the “dangers.” He emphasized that it was a very “addictive” behavior, and that if you looked at porn even ONCE, you’d be hooked (a common tactic). He said also that looking at pornography was cheating on your future wife. Anyway, my point is that, from what I’ve gathered, it does seem to be a pretty prevalent “problem” among Christian men, especially those with internet access.

  • 20. Josh  |  November 21, 2008 at 1:08 am

    Cereal Man –

    Wow. You know how weird it is to see you Moody’s coming out of the closet? I thought Bart Ehrmann was the only one!

    No, it is truly good to see some ex-Moody’s that also ended up de-converting. While at Moody I someone retained the illusion that I was all alone in my doubts…

    Good to meet you!

    HumanistDad –

    Well said. The death count is truly amazing. I can hear it now, though. “The reason God killed so many people in the Bible was to show us how much he hated sin. Sin is the punishment for death. If He let all those sinners live, He would not be a just God.” Thanks for reading!

    Jeffrey –

    Thanks for reading. As regards the Josh McDowell reference, your best bet would be to refer someone to the 2008 Founder’s Week DVD which can probably be purchased from Moody. I am pretty sure they would have recorded that speech given at Moody Church in February.

    Kat –

    Haha, nice references to Job! I had never seen it that way. Thanks :)

    As regards Hebrews 6, my interpretation was that Hebrews 6:4-6 was referring to individuals who had a brush with Jesus. It is like walking up to someone, shaking their hand, chatting for a while, and then walking away. Could you say you were “friends” with that person? Not at all. So in the same way a person can “brush on by” Jesus, having contact but not sticking. The greek word used in that passage for falling away refers to this idea. The idea is like a boat which brushes next to the dock but passes on by as if nothing happened. In a sense, this was my interpretation of blaspheming the Holy Spirit as well. Just as a person can “taste” the powers of the kingdom to come, and have contact with the Holy Spirit, the ultimate blasphemy is to reject all of this. At this point the person can never be forgiven. Why? Because unlike animal sacrifices, Jesus Christ was a “once-for-all” sacrifice. The Jews would have been accustomed to offering one sacrifice after another for their sins. They could always sin again and sacrifice again. With Jesus, though, one cannot do this. So if you reject the sacrifice when it is first made clear to you, you reject the only sacrifice available. Your screwed because Christ cannot be sacrificed again on your behalf. You have rejected the witness of the Holy Spirit and are therefore guilty of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and now cannot be “brought back to repentance”.

    Ironically, Christians keep on saying I was never saved and ignore this passage. If Christianity is true, then this passage clearly says: I can never be saved because I would be subjecting Jesus Christ to public shame. Nothing remains for me but a fear of torment and of falling into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:26).

    Or so it says :)

  • 21. Josh  |  November 21, 2008 at 1:14 am

    Quester –

    Peace to you too :)

    “Any thoughts on where you will go from here?”

    Yes. I plan on pursuing the things in life I always wanted to do but always felt hindered from doing because I had a “higher” calling. Things like traveling Europe, starting my own business, building computer games, finishing my degree in software engineering, writing a book (possibly about my de-conversion), getting a nice girl, trying out clubs and bars, maybe getting into debates with creationists or Christian apologists… the list goes on. Probably won’t accomplish anything ground-breaking, but I plan on having a damn good time trying!

    I am discovering there are so many things to do in life, I cannot possibly do it all before I die. I am not sure how anyone could ever get a “void” or feel “meaningless” if they work hard on activating their imagination :) There is so much to do.

    Heck, I might even invent a religion!

    jk

  • 22. Kat  |  November 21, 2008 at 3:31 am

    Re: 20 – Hmm… so in effect, no one can really recommit their lives to Christ after backsliding? Is that it?

    Re: girls – hey, you’re still young. Plenty of time to make that list.

    One of the first things that entered my mind when I realized that I no longer believed was, “Well, now I can marry whomever I want. Except the pastor’s cute son.” :p

  • 23. Frreal  |  November 21, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Josh,

    Thank you for this series.

    I find that the biggest revelation during my own deconversion is the fact that words that are profoundly believed to be written by God shouldn’t be/wouldn’t be open to interpretation by man.

    There would/should be no errors, there would/should be no ability to manipulate text, and ultimately there would be/should be absolutely no need for apologetics.

  • 24. LeoPardus  |  November 21, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Josh:

    Great series. I have to say that there were a number of places in the last installment where I was amused. The silliness of the fixation on sex and porn (been there myself), the immersion in apologetics, the horrid pastors (they’re like living caricatures), the “geniuses” with “answers”…. I know all that was distressing (I went through most all of it too), but in retrospect it’s all kind of hilarious.

    Well, at least now, on the far side of de-conversion, you’re experiencing how much better real freedom is. Congratulations on a tough road bravely traveled.

  • 25. Josh  |  November 21, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Kat –

    Well, yeah, that’s what the passage says, right? It actually makes conversations with Christians interesting because all you have to do is show that you *can’t* be saved according to Scripture and it totally throws them off guard. When they say “well, I don’t believe you were saved in the first place”, you just say “Well, what about Hebrews 6:4-6? Do you not believe the Bible?”

    Re: girls

    Yeah, your right and I know it :)

    Frreal –

    Your welcome. And you are right. What I can’t figure out is if God is so omniscient, so amazing, so powerful – why can’t He make His message clearer?

    LeoPardus –

    I have to admit I am starting to be amused at the sexual fixations as well. Bizarrely, since de-converting I am discovering that unbelievers are not as sex-crazed as we often thought as Christians. They don’t need to be, because there are not any restrictions. No restrictions = no temptations. No temptations means people are not as curious and it isn’t as big of a deal. Same goes for alcohol. I drink regularly but don’t get drunk. Ironically, I don’t want to. Yet when I was a Christian I remember the fixation on alcohol as a tool for evil and trouble as well.

    What a relief. What freedom.

  • 26. LeoPardus  |  November 21, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    About fixations/temptations: A pastor I used to know actually had a very wise take on things like sex/drugs/alcohol/etc and how much Christians struggled with it. His saying was, “Whatever gets your attention, gets you.” So, as many of us have learned, if you fixate on sex (by praying all the time about it, and having sex talks at every third youth group meeting, etc.) then you’ll struggle with it non-stop. OTOH, if you just stop thinking about it, it will not be much of a problem.

    So part of the reason why Christians struggle with, and lose to, sexual temptation so much is because they are so damn fixated on it. (Ditto alcohol, drugs, etc) Whereas unbelievers aren’t uptight about it and they can take it or leave it. And if they do lust, or bed someone they aren’t married to, it’s not a big deal that they have to think about, pray about, confess about, and carry on about for the next 4 weeks non-stop. They just move on with their lives.

    Like you said, “What freedom!”

  • 27. TitforTat  |  November 21, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    And if they do lust, or bed someone they aren’t married to, it’s not a big deal that they have to think about, pray about, confess about, and carry on about for the next 4 weeks non-stop. They just move on with their lives.(Leo)

    Leo

    I have a feeling if you cheated, your wife would tell you to pray she doesnt kick your ass, then tell you countless times to ask for her forgiveness and then let you know you wont be getting any for at least the next 4 weeks. ;)

    “As far goes your self control, as far goes your freedom”

  • 28. Josh  |  November 21, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    “I have a feeling if you cheated, your wife would tell you to pray she doesnt kick your ass, then tell you countless times to ask for her forgiveness and then let you know you wont be getting any for at least the next 4 weeks. ;)”

    lol. Ahhh, a much better reason to be faithful than “God says so” :)

  • 29. Josh  |  November 21, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Oh, BTW, I need to thank whoever it was that “cleaned” up my post. I meant to do it last night when I saw some of the problems but kudos to whoever got to it first!

  • 30. LeoPardus  |  November 21, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    TT:

    Yessir. The fear of a non-being is nothing compared to the fear of an pee’od wife. Hell hath no fury…..

  • 31. Richard  |  November 21, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Josh- Beautifully told, and well-thought. I ache for you and your horrible experience.

    One line in particular caught my eye-

    My premise was that the right beliefs will lead to peace. This is (of course) why Christians have so much peace.

    This is exactly the sort of thing I had in mind when I wrote my post on definitions: since “right beliefs” is, seemingly, defined only in terms of the outcome measure included in the statement itself — i.e., peace — it is functionally a definiton. And, hence, unfalsifiable.

    In effect, you spent years blaming yourself, rather than the theology, for the failure of this “prediction”, because, well, since you didnt have peace, you must not have had the right beliefs. See? It says it right there.

    In my own life, it would have been written “If you properly submit your will to God, you will have peace.” But it did exactly the same thing to me — made me miserable as I struggled for years without peace, and blaming myself for that. (Though I confess I gave up a lot sooner than you did.)

    Congratulations on the laying down of you burden!

  • 32. Sarah  |  November 22, 2008 at 2:16 am

    I can relate to a lot of your story, Josh. I was actually employed by an evangelical church (not exactly fundamental, but restrictive enough to leave me with plenty of emotional baggage!) while I was de-converting. Although I had been very happy with my life as a Christian throughout my youth and transition into adulthood, my de-conversion kind of came out of nowhere and happened really fast (as compared to most of the stories I’ve read–I think I went from a very strong and active believer to atheist in less than 6 months). I was never plagued with doubts about my salvation or questions about God’s existence or Jesus’ divinity, but when I got “turned off” by the religious right and then set out to “prove” how loving and progressive Jesus actually was, it opened a can of worms, and the rest, as they say, is history!

    The church I attended/worked at has a huge focus on sexual purity. They’ve published books and put on seminars around the world to “help set people free from sexual addiction.” By my church’s definition, I was a sex addict. Even though I was a 24-year-old virgin who had never even kissed anyone, I was deemed a sex addict because I masturbated! Now I look back and laugh, because that was probably the only thing that kept me sane!

    I can relate to you when you say you feel like you’re learning the things that teenagers are learning when it comes to sex, relationships, dating, etc. A friend of mine joked about how I was finally living in sin, and my response was, “I’m trying to live in sin, but I suck at it!” Oh well. All good things in time…

  • 33. Josh  |  November 22, 2008 at 4:14 am

    “A friend of mine joked about how I was finally living in sin, and my response was, “I’m trying to live in sin, but I suck at it!” Oh well. All good things in time…”

    Wow, that is totally me…

  • 34. jonfeatherstone  |  November 22, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Josh,
    When I first began my deconversion journey about 2 years ago I thought I was alone, and then I discovered this site and found so many others walking a similar path. I can honestly say that deconverting, after having been a Christian for over 2o years, has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
    One thing that made the transition much easier for me was the discovery of a book called “Conversations with God, Book 1″ One of the problems I had growing up withing the Christian sub-culture was that it was all I had ever known, so after deconversion the only other choice seemed to be Atheism (or “Not the Christian God”) The “Conversations with God” series were very helpful to me because they helped me move away from a place of always thinking about what I did not believe, and towards a new framework of thinking about God and Man that was far more relaxed and enjoyable. Looking back, the worst is over for me now with the deconversion process, but dont let anyone tell you it is easy. It hurts like hell, but it will get easier.
    Thanks for sharing your story,
    Jon

  • 35. archaeon  |  November 25, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Josh,
    Very thoughtful story. I’m in my life journey somewhere between doubt and agnosticism. I have a more liberal Christian background, and I’m wondering why you went from extreme fundamentalism to atheism with no transition of liberal Christianity beliefs or agnosticism. With my background in science, I’ve given up on a “literal” interpretation of the Bible. I also realize that IF there is a God, there is no way I can understand most of what the Bible is trying to convey. In thinking about how huge the universe is and if a God made it all, how can human language capture or human thoughts contemplate these mysteries? We are puny worms. Also, IF there is a God that is just, I’m sure he wouldn’t send us to hell without giving us all the evidence. A thought I hope is true is that after death, we get the whole story, see how our life played out, and how the problems we faced really was for our good. We’ll also get all our questions answered, and then given a well informed choice. I really hope this guessing game isn’t all there is. IF there is no God, then I’m just maggot food. Oh well, I guess that’s better than hell.

  • 36. freestyleroadtrip  |  November 25, 2008 at 3:08 am

    Josh. Sorry for not getting back sooner. I didn’t want to leave things somewhat open-ended. I’d like to expand on it a bit more. And I think it is interesting that you are from Kansas. While I am not from KS, I live here presently.

    Thanks also for the compliments. I don’t get much approval from my family or certain friends for my approach to Christianity so your kind words are satisfying to me. I am unwilling to accept something as truth even when proclaimed dogmatically because I have learned two things: First, we all come to the table with agendas that taint what we have to say. Second, similarly if you ask a question within a certain box of philosophy or theology or whatever, you will get an answer that falls along the lines of that philosophy or theology or whatever. I grew up in the Nazarene church, and after asking questions like how do we know the bible we have is the right one or how do we know God exists or how come the phrase entire sanctification is nowhere in any bible I have ever read, and after getting the same lame answers over and over and over, I realized that until I asked these same questions outside of the Nazarene box, I was never going to get a different answer. No matter what the question, whenever I asked it in a Nazarene setting I was going to get a Nazarene answer. So with these two things in mind, I have been asking these questions in a whole lot of other circles, and it is amazing the answers that I get. This has led me to realize that probably, every one of us holds a bit of the truth. So in order to collect more truth, I have to ask questions in a lot of different boxes and then put the truths together. I hope that all makes sense in words. It does in my head.

    Next, I would like to expand on the quote I listed prior and your subsequent comment:

    ““Only a genuine faith can embrace doubt, for such a faith does not act because of a self-interested reason (such as fear of hell or desire for heaven) but acts simply because it must”

    I have a hard time understanding how the one follows from the other, to be honest. If a person acts because they must, then there is little doubt involved. If one honestly believes they “must” act, then how can they have any doubt – at all? If one doubts, their action will be somewhat hesitant, by definition. I think the faith talked about in the Bible is very different from what is found in this quote. In the Bible, the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6). In the Bible, anything not of faith is sin. I could be wrong, though, as the Bible talks about this from all sorts of different viewpoints so I am sure there are other passages that could be interpreted to allow for doubt in faith.”

    In the book I referenced, the author, through this section is discussing how a faith that exists because it sees that it will get something in the end, is no real faith at all. It is an exchange. He is making the point that a real follower of Christ would commit to him on Holy Saturday, when there was great uncertainty or doubt about what the future held for those who had committed to him thus far. It is in a time of doubt such as that, that one can make a real decision to follow or not to follow. Anything less than that is not real faith. I also think that your view of James 1:6 is different than what I would assign. That verse is talking about sheepishly approaching God in prayer, almost in fear of not being granted what was being asked for which in this case is wisdom because one doesn’t know what to do (which sounds an awful lot like doubt to me.) It isn’t the doubting that is condemned. It is the prayer given in worry which is a selfish prayer of not being given something. How could God even begin to answer a prayer given in that light. I agree that your reading of it seems to condemn doubt, but I don’t see it that way. As a final thought on this idea of doubt I would point out that Christ did not condemn Thomas for his doubt. Instead he met him in his doubt.

    Lastly, I would like to expand on the second quote I listed and your comments on it:

    ““Consequently a genuine seeking after God is evidence of having found”

    In this case, have I truly found God? If so, I am quite surprised :)”

    I don’t know how I would answer your question here. Have you found God? I will say that you for sure have not found the God that you were taught existed. You have not found the God that was handed to you in a neat little box, a box that already had all the questions answered. And I would say that as soon as we think we have God in a neat little package, we haven’t got God at all. What we instead have is an image of God which is idolatry. So to try and give at least a half-way decent answer to your question let me say this: I do believe that there is plenty of evidence which points to the existence of a God, and without getting too detailed I will just say that I think the God as laid out through Christianity offers the best explanation for what this world and life is all about. And I think that the modernist balck and white reading of the Bible has probably done as much or more to mislead us and harm our view of God as it has done to accurately give us a taste of God. I think the Bible needs to be taken as a whole with the entire story viewed as a revelation of love rather than being looked at as an ethics text. So, in a sense, yes, I think you have found or at least are finding God. I think you are searching and that as long as you keep searching, you will be fine (I mean that both in a physical and a spiritual sense and I am not all that sure that the fundamental view of heaven and hell that you and I were taught growing up within that Enlightenment framework is all that correct). If you ever quit searching, that is when you or anybody else is in trouble. Life teaches us that. It’s in the journey where the reward is found, not in the destination.

    I look forward to interacting with you more in the future. I look forward to learning more from de-con too. Thanks for the time.

    FRT (Doug)

  • 37. SnugglyBuffalo  |  November 25, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    It seems like the question of why de-cons so frequently seem to go from fundamentalist Christian to agnostic/atheist without ever coming to liberal Christianity, even temporarily, comes up a lot.

    At least for my part, my questioning and seeking never really left liberal Christianity as an option. When I started to seriously explore my doubts, it wasn’t fundamentalist doctrines I was questioning. My questions really started and ended with whether or not there was a deity actively involved in human affairs. Trouble with fundamentalist doctrine came up along the way, but it’s not really possible to even consider liberal Christianity when you’re becoming increasingly certain that the entire concept of a deity is false.

  • 38. freestyleroadtrip  |  November 25, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    SnugglyBuffalo. I really am amazed that so many of the de-cons seem to go from serious fundamentalism to atheism. You are right, it seems to happen often based on what I have observed on this sight. These are my thoughts on that.

    Humanity for thousands of years has obviously been convinced that there is some transcendent being out there. The majority of humans throughout history have seemed to believe in such. Only for the last 200 – 300 years has the Enlightenment system of thought brought about an emphasis on rationalism and belief based on only the empiric. It is this focus on the empiric and scientific proof that seems often to lead the fundy’s to come to the conclusion that God is all just something we humans have made up in our psyche’s to explain the seemingly unexplainable and deal with certain dilemmas. I am not so sure that what human tradition has been obsessed with for thousands, maybe even millions of years, should be so easily thrown out because of a couple hundred years of so-called Enlightenment. After all, if there is a God who created all this and is responsible for it, then he is outside of the science that we have come to explain it with. That makes that science not the optimal way to explain that God. At best, it could point to him. It certainly couldn’t prove him. I think that giving up on a belief in God is a step that we should approach with extreme hesitation. And I don’t mean to imply that you all have not approached it with this caution. But I choose to instead look out how my fundamentalism may be flawed and how might this God really want me to know him.

  • 39. Josh  |  November 25, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Doug (fsrt) –

    I would like to answer your question in as simple a way as possible. Most fundamentalists are programmed systematically to see the ‘evils’ and the logical inconsistencies with liberal forms of Christianity. Based on this, it is easy for me to see how I would “skip” liberal Christianity myself and move into atheism. I already knew all the problems with liberal Christianity so I did not consider it for very long.

    Besides, I think that most Christians (even fundamentalists) are quite liberal compared to Biblical standards. For example, you rarely see fundamentalist Christians doing what the apostle Paul did and claim they are somewhere in spirit judging someone else, or claim that believers were dying because they took communion in an unworthy manner, or in calling people who question them “idiots” and then use emotional appeals to back up the resurrection (1 Corithians 15, “we are most to be pitied” – which is flat out not true and really selfish and post hoc), or in insisting that women should have their head covered in church. Sure, you can probably find churches that teach this stuff, but nearly all of the fundamentalist churches I knew just brushed over these passages like they barely existed.

    The fundamentalist churches of today are the liberal churches of yesterday.

    So when it comes to 21st century liberal Christianity, why? Why hold onto some metaphysical belief system that is more subject to the whims of creative men than to the reality we know and love so well? Why should I believe in the dialectical theology of Barth when Barth obviously invented the entire thing to solve a “problem” that existed in Christianity? Every form of emerging liberal Christianity is only evidence that up until this point Christianity has failed to provide substantial universal answers. Why?

    And SnugglyBuffalo has it perfect. No God, no Christianity. No resurrection, no Christianity. Its really that simple. So I guess until a liberal Christian can convince me of these two items I would be amiss to try and invent my own form of liberal Christianity to fill a void that might as well just be another invention itself.

    “But I choose to instead look out how my fundamentalism may be flawed and how might this God really want me to know him.”

    I did too. But what if your fundamentalism is flawed at the core: e.g. the existence of God? If so, it is quite a waste of energy to try and patch up all the holes above that faulty foundation.

    I guess I just do not want to believe a lie – even a comforting one.

  • 40. SnugglyBuffalo  |  November 26, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Again, I think it’s largely due to the kind of questions (and the answers you come up with) that you ask. If you find serious flaws in the fundamentalist doctrine, it’s easy to give those up and shift into a more liberal Christianity. If you find serious flaws in the entire concept of a deity who is involved with humans, it doesn’t really leave you much room to develop a world-view that keeps religion in the mix.

    After all, if there is a God who created all this and is responsible for it, then he is outside of the science that we have come to explain it with.

    Even if God is “outside” of science, the effects he would have on the world would not be.

  • 41. Josh  |  November 26, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    “Even if God is “outside” of science, the effects he would have on the world would not be.”

    Exactly. It is difficult for me to define a God who is indiscernible from nature and whose actions seem as capricious as the very laws that drive it.

  • 42. Saganist  |  December 1, 2008 at 3:00 am

    Thanks for sharing your story, Josh. I read all three installments and it really resonated with me. I can really relate to taking everything so seriously, and not understanding why everyone else apparently isn’t. Sometimes I think it’s those of us who take faith most seriously who usually end up losing it.

    I was shocked to read about what Josh McDowell said. I remember going to a series of revival meetings or something in Michigan when I was 15 years old, and he was the main speaker. I was really impressed with the “evidence” he showed for Christianity, and I was impressed by his personal story of trying to disprove Christianity from an atheist perspective and failing because of the evidence. I guess it’s not too surprising to learn it was never about the evidence in the first place. The more I live, the more I realize that relationships can trump rational thought for almost any one of us. It’s happened to me more times than I can count.

    Feel free to friend me on Facebook if you like – my real name is available on my web site, which should be linked above.

  • 43. Lauren  |  December 19, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Like many other posters, I can identify strongly with many aspects of your story, Josh. I had a similarly hyper-analytical, guilt-ridden existence with regards to Scripture as a very young girl. I also agonized, weeping and praying all the time, over whether or not I was, “really saved.” I am so thankful that I will hopefully be sparing my own children of those burdens.

    Thank you for your honest, helpful story. As a very recent deconvert myself, I’m happy for both of us in our newfound freedom.

  • 44. BJ  |  March 16, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Josh,

    Thank you for sharing your story!! I noticed all these comments dated shortly after you posted, and I want to let you know that your posts still have impact.

    I am newly in the process of deconverting and I just yesterday found this site. Your story is inspiring and encouraging.

    – BJ

  • 45. Joshua  |  March 16, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Thanks so much BJ! I do truly hope your journey is filled more with the thrill of discovery rather than the pain of leaving the faith behind – although I’m sure there will be both. Keep learning… I am still continually surprised by the things I am finding.

  • 46. Steve Schuler  |  April 9, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Josh,

    I would like to thank you very much for sharing your experience. I hope you are able to realize some measure of peace in your life which religion denied you. My own deconversion and life experience is very different from yours and perhaps I will share it on this blog at some point. I have sometimes wondered what my life might have been like if I had grown up in a more religiously conservative environment than I did. Your tale helps expand my understanding of the scope and depth that religion can have in our lives. Thanks again for your willingness to reveal so much about your life.

  • 47. Slimar  |  September 2, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Hi Josh,

    Thank you very much for your story. My story is similar, but I was a muslim.

    Faith was something that was so important to me that when I started to lose it, I felt like something in my very foundation was taken away and I was crumbling to dust. Melting away.

    The worst thing is I lost the meaning of life. I lost the moral compass I had. I lost the ‘why’. I lost my purpose. Once, I was a positive happy person but now, I am devastated with my loss of direction in life.

    You say you became free when you became an atheist. How do you fill the void, how do you bear the uncertainty, what meaning can you find in this life?

    I lost the intellectual reasons of belief, therefore any religion is equally unprovable to me. But is our only capability reason?
    Isn’t it early to declare that no God exists only because of the reason that we fail to prove his existance using reason?

    The ‘why’ of our existance, the ‘why’ of existance remains unanswered.

    Then what kind of morality should we follow? I am at a loss…

    Sincerely..

  • 48. Joe  |  September 2, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Slimar—

    Very candid post. That “why” you speak of is very important. We as humans ask “why” about a lot of things. But some are quite comfortable saying there really is no reason we are here—no intelligence behind it at all. They can attempt to answer how we are here, what we are made of, when humankind came to be, where it originated, but the “why” they fail to answer. I find that to be very intriguing.

  • 49. paleale  |  September 2, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    You know, there may not be a “why”.

    Personally, I’m okay with that.

  • 50. Joe  |  September 2, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    paleale–

    But after you solve the how, when, where and what, isn’t the “why” really the ultimate question? I’m not really sure if an atheist scientist could settle for how, when, where and what and stop there. Even a scientist wants to know why don’t they?

    Perhaps I’m wrong—just posing the question.

  • 51. Joshua  |  September 2, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Slimar,

    The faith provided an ultimate answer to everything: God. In a way, it provided a foundation even if this universe were to disappear. It also provided an ultimate answer to the question “why”: God. It’s all about God. So whenever a question was encountered that a human could not answer with the tools at his disposal, he could fill it with God. God knows. He knows. And He is in control. So no matter what, we have to trust He has a plan.

    Subtract God and what do you have? A weird period where it almost feels as if nothing should exist because the very foundation of everything has been removed. Everything feels drab and gray and meaningless.

    What helped me out so much was that my experience as a Christian was for so long such a living hell that even the drabness of leaving was like finding light at the end of a tunnel. I did experience that feeling of a lack of meaning, but I discovered something that helped out immensely.

    If hope, peace, and meaning are possible inside the faith when God does not exist, then hope, peace, and meaning are possible outside the faith when God does not exist. We just have to find the tools that bring about these things. Does that make sense?

    One tool that can bring it about is religion. But when you start to break religion into its components, you begin to find some interesting things…

    Back to the original point: God fills all holes and gives everything a reason. So we can be at peace that even if it does not end up in our favor – God has a reason!

    But think about it! You don’t need God for there to be a reason (purpose) for everything.

    Ascribing purpose is something humans do. We consider what a thing does and what caused that thing and then we ascribe a purpose to it. Rocks don’t “do” anything and they aren’t “caused” by anything per se, so they don’t have a “purpose”.

    Unless you shape a rock into a stone for a building. Then suddenly a rock has a purpose.

    So who gave that rock a purpose? A human.

    Now think about it a little further. If you get a job, you do so for a purpose: to make money. Who ascribed a purpose to the job? You did. And you can make the most of that purpose that you want.

    Now think even further. You didn’t choose to be alive, you are alive because you found yourself alive. So rather than thinking of life as an accident, think of it as a surprise.

    Not accident: surprise. Like discovering that where there should be nothing, suddenly you find a ton of potential.

    Now go into your life considering the potential of what you could do or become. And no matter how far into your life you are: you can always find some potential, some reason to keep living.

    One more thing: the only thing that changed in life for you was your perspective. God did not cease to exist. You were just set free from a belief that was acting like a catalyst to a certain form of happiness. Now, like an addict who has had his drug removed, you will go through a period where the real world will seem extremely bleak. This is your mind reorienting itself to reality.

    Now just learn how to change your perspective. All the things you learned in religion about meditation or focusing your mind on particular things: take those skills and learn to apply them on your own. The results are the same: happiness, peace, meaning, etc.

    As for your question about God, here is how I look at it: any deity who can be understood is an invention of man and not worthy of my attention. Therefore all theisms are bunk. Therefore I am an a-theist. However, this does not mean that a deity does not exist: just that it would be foolish to claim to understand It. After all, if It is completely transcendent to this universe, any statement we make about it is to simply anthropomorphize it – to bring it down and make it in our image.

    And what is animism? It is ascribing human characteristics (will, motive, intent) to non-human items (rocks, trees, grass, wind, storms, etc.)

    What is theism? It is animism ascribed to the universe.

    What is north of the north pole (as Dan Barker likes to ask): it is a silly question. What happened before time? That is a silly question too.

    I really do hope this helps you out.

  • 52. Joshua  |  September 2, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Slimar,

    Oh, btw: be prepared for some nice epiphanies outside the faith :) Don’t give up, man! Most of those “spiritual” experiences come back :)

    Joe,

    For a long time I struggled with the concept as to why the word why even exists. I mean, doesn’t the very existence of the word why imply that purpose does exist?

    Well of course.

    But doesn’t that imply there is some sort of ultimate purpose to the universe?

    Maybe. I personally wouldn’t mind if there was, but I think it is a little arrogant – and ignoring of history – to claim one understands that purpose.

    Has a Being of some sort ascribed a purpose to the universe? If so, what?

    Now, here is the trick! Watch closely:

    Why did this being ascribe a purpose to the universe?

    You see it?

    There is absolutely no reason why a perfectly perfect being would need to ascribe a purpose to anything at all.

    Not only this, but think about it: purpose can only be ascribed to things that exist inside of time. You cannot ascribe a purpose to something unless it is to fulfill something later – which requires the existence of time.

    Therefore, God has no purpose.

    Except, except! Think about it Joe!

    God does have a purpose. Right?

    I mean, doesn’t God save us?

    But who is the focus here?

    Us.

    And who is ascribing a purpose to God?

    Us.

    So God does have a purpose: to serve and save us.

    God was invented by man to serve and save us. He is our bitch, so to speak.

    But in the same way that men invent wooden idols and claim humans are actually to serve the idol to save themselves from calamity: so men invented an invisible God in the sky who we must serve to save ourselves from calamity (hell, death, curses, etc.)

    What’s the difference – in concept?

  • 53. Ubi Dubium  |  September 3, 2009 at 12:18 am

    Slimar,

    Regarding morality, since I do not think there is a god, where did any of our morality originally come from? My answer is that we humans have developed it ourselves over time. We are social animals, each dependent on others for survival, and we have kept those principles which allow us to live in harmony as a community.

    So, look to all the different cultures of our world for what ethical precepts we all tend to share. We share them because they work. Think them through, and if they make sense to you, then adopt them into your own ethical code. The “not killing people when you can avoid it” rule is good, and the “treat others as you would like to be treated” is a keeper. Charity to the poor is great, as long as it does not have religious requirements attached. But the “don’t eat pork” or “pray every day” or “women must cover their hair” rules do nothing to strengthen our society, or protect anyone from harm. They’re just about obedience and tribal identification. You can dump rules like that with a clear conscience.

    With no “sky-daddy” to magically forgive us, we become responsible for the consequences of our actions, and must clean up our own messes. My experience is that people who have lost faith tend to eventually become more ethical, because they had to work out their values for themselves instead of just accepting what they were told their values should be. You are still the same basic person you were before you realized that God was not real. If you were basically moral before, then you are no less so now. Trust yourself and rely on your common sense.

  • 54. Roy  |  September 3, 2009 at 4:11 am

    RE-PEE-ENT YE HEA-THERN SIN-NAHS, OR YOUR [sic] GOIING TO HAY-YAL-AH!!!!!
    ;-)

    Great posts, Joshua and Ubi. I think we are all pretty close to being on the same page.

    Hang in there, Slimar! A wonderful world awaits!

  • 55. LeoPardus  |  September 3, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Slimar:

    You’ve gotten lots of good responses. We all had to find a new way to view the world end existence and purpose after de-conversion. In the end I think what we all found was that purpose is defined, and even created, by us. It isn’t a romantic, universal, big ‘n’ beautiful way to view it, but it is realistic.

    Isn’t it early to declare that no God exists only because of the reason that we fail to prove his existance using reason?

    None one here came to their conclusion quickly or lightly. We spent a lot of time struggling with it. In the end though, we all have a God we are thinking of (BibleGod, KoranGod, etc.) and that God has certain characteristics. If you can find NO evidence of any being with those characteristics, you must either A) be honest and accept that the deity doesn’t exist or B) be dishonest and start making up all kinds of excuses and lame-ass apologetics. We all chose A). So did you. Good for you.

    Then what kind of morality should we follow?

    You want to live a happy, healthy life right? You’d like to suffer a minimum of sickness, suffering, unmet need, anguish, etc right? So what is the best way to accomplish that? Do to others as you’d would like to be done to. Help others to have the very things you want in life and they will be willing to help you toward the same.
    If you’d like a miserable life, then be mean to others, rob them, hurt them, and generally be an asshole.

    In some circles, it’s called “enlightened self-interest”. Label it what you will; it works pretty well.

  • 56. Joshua  |  September 3, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    If you’d like a miserable life, then be mean to others, rob them, hurt them, and generally be an asshole.

    What is so weird about this is that the Christianity I knew – by nature – encouraged people to live some sort of miserable life. If you were not daily taking up your cross and following Him, you were not worthy.

    Ironic, now that I think about it, that this eventually lead to everyone feeling like they had to be an asshole at some point::

    * Leaving families / wives / children for the sake of the call
    * Being a pain-in-the-ass proselytizer
    * Provoking arguments to share the “truth”
    * Seeking to “get out of ones comfort zone” – which normally meant doing awkward things that make other people feel uncomfortable
    * Standing up in front of classrooms proclaiming the “truth” of creation
    * Inventing situations where your faith is “under attack” so that you can stand up for it and be persecuted – which normally comes off as just looking like an asshole.
    * Judging others as not saved or less spiritual because this meant standing up for Jesus.

    Etc. etc.

    It’s so much easier to be a nice Christian boy once you leave the faith.

  • 57. Slimar  |  September 4, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Hi Friends,

    Thank you very much for your responses. Being on similar views feels good..

    About morality:

    I think from a survival perspective there are two levels of resources:

    One is where resources are abundant and readily available for everyone for survival. At this level, you can survive easily, and then hostile actions are not needed towards others to compete for a survival level of resources. You can easily be a contributor and follow contribution contracts because you don’t have the pressure of struggling to fulfill your basic needs.

    Sadly, when survival level of resources are either inadequate or made inaccessible by the state of affairs, violence or assholeness is triggered. Put 10 people in a room with the food of 2 and see what happens.

    What is survival level of resources? I think the resources that allows the organism to survive, reproduce and live ‘reasonably’ pain free.

    Why am I exploring morality? Because I have remaining guilt tendencies inside me. Residues of religious thinking. I am just trying to determine my place in the altruism-selfishness scale. I could be a nasty asshole, but I don’t want to. I could try to be a Mother Theresa, but I don’t want to. When should I act for those in Africa? Or should I be a ‘selfish’ corporation owner?

    I think self acceptance is directly related with one’s beliefs. If one does not allow himself to be succesful and happy, he can’t.

    About purpose and meaning:

    I agree that they are human made, constructs of the rational mind. But I also believe that every living organism acts in a purposeful manner. It tries to survive and thrive. Life, the combination of all species, as a whole tries to survive and thrive. What it does it does, but what it does ‘looks purposeful’. There is a drive inside us that we can’t deny that pushes us to conform with this apparent purpose.

    Well, should we go to Africa to raise the people there out of poverty? Or should we commit ourselves to the ruthless process of capitalist selection, where organizations and doctrines (the new DNAs) compete and the single human gradually loses its influence and impact, ignoring the Africans?

    Well I think the world is going towards a great hierarchy of power. It is already in a state of a great hierarchy of power. But the hierachy will become deeper and wider(at the bottom). Power is accumulating in fewer and fewer entities. Human has domesticated animals, and human is domesticating humans.

    Where we will place ourselves within this is really a matter of decision. We will decide on our purpose, and the meaning we base it on. No rationally knowable super beings as judges or guides. Intriguing. :)

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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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