In the 1973 movie, Soylent Green, we see the overcrowded Earth of the future, where the only pleasant experience is death. There are euthanasia centers where you get a “full 20 minutes, guaranteed” to slip away while listening to your favorite music and watching beautiful scenes of the former Earth.
Because Earth’s resources have been depleted, most people subsist on one of the manufactured food products from the Soylent Corporation, of which Soylent Green is the choicest. Supposedly it is made from plankton, but Charlton Heston’s character discovers the horrible truth.
As he is carried away in a stretcher, Heston begs those surrounding him to listen. “It’s people. They’re making our food out of people. Next thing, they’ll be breeding us like cattle — for food. … You’ve gotta tell ’em! You’ve gotta tell ’em! Soylent Green is people! We’ve gotta stop ’em! Somehow!!”
But the crowd just stands there. It’s impossible to tell whether they disbelieve him or do not care.
That is how I felt in the immediate aftermath of leaving evangelical Christianity. I had discovered the horrible truths about the God of the Bible. Almost panicked, I was trying to get my pastor and others to see what was now so obvious to me, but they were carrying on with business as usual. How could these people be so complacent in the face of such horror!?
Mixed with the panic was the anger I have already described — anger toward evangelical leaders for being so careless about truth while pretending allegiance to it, and anger toward myself for being a willing dupe.
Being a dupe was the least of my sins. I felt tremendous guilt for proclaiming the justice of a God who had ordered genocide, slavery, plunder and rape, among a long list of other horrors — even going so far as to proffer excuses for those specific atrocities. My hands were drenched with blood.
I was also guilty of having pushed away people who had given me ample encouragement to see things differently.
Over time, I have been making progress forgiving myself. I hope those I offended have forgiven me, too.
The Good Parts…
Those were the tough aspects of losing my faith. After that difficult transition, I was surprised by how many up-sides there were. (And let me emphasize to my evangelical readers that I did not leave the faith because I was seeking these benefits. They were totally unexpected.)
As a Christian, I hadn’t fully realized what oppressive cognitive burdens my faith had placed on me. What a relief it was to no longer have to puzzle over why worthy prayers weren’t answered, why science and scripture don’t line up, and why God’s ways must be higher than our ways as he allows all sorts of horrible things to happen or even actively brings them to pass. I didn’t realize how much emotional energy I had chronically spent on issues like these until I was out from under it all.
It was also a relief not to have to second-guess my every decision: “This seems wise, but is it really God’s will? Do I think it’s God’s will because it really is, or because I want it to be?” And on and on.
A totally unexpected boon has been the pervasive sense of wonder I have about the world. The story of how everything came to be is so much more fascinating than “God did it.”
Just this week, I was driving to work and found myself marveling at how we humans have arisen from the inanimate stuff of the Earth and now we’re dragging more stuff out of the Earth after ourselves, to build roads and cars so we can convey ourselves from place to place. What’s more, we have developed an aesthetic sense so the driver ahead of me evidently likes navy blue cars, and I do, too.
How can you feel depressed when everywhere you look there is something that amazes you?
In the same vein, I vividly recall hearing a choir on the radio singing a lush, 19th-century work and my thinking, “How incredible it is that these collections of molecules (the singers) have arranged themselves to vibrate other molecules (the air) so they bump into yet more molecules (their own eardrums) in such a way as to initiate a chain of chemical events that brings them pleasure!”
Even more amazing is that my own set of molecules has finally arranged itself so that it has some clue about how the universe works. I get a lot of aesthetic satisfaction out of that — more than enough to compensate for having lost 99.999999% of my future,
At some level, we’re all just molecules bumping and adjusting. There are patterns of behavior that deserve the name evil, to be sure, and we want to discourage those. But I have a much greater tolerance than I used to for people who are just trying to find their way.
It’s not that I don’t care. In fact, one of the big surprises about my deconversion is that I now care more about things in this life. As an evangelical, my prejudice was that non-believers have no reason to care about anything. It turns out that’s not true, and I wrote a short series of posts on the subject, if you’re interested.
My purpose, in a nutshell, is to enjoy the one life I know I have. I learned enough from my time as a Christian to know that true enjoyment is not found in selfish, hedonistic pursuit. I enjoy my family, the life of the mind, and the beauty that is everywhere.
After a tumultuous exit from faith, I can now say most heartily, “Life is good.”
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This is perhaps, your most profound post out of this series, although all were significant! Seems to me, you could do a whole series of posts out of this one, elaborating a bit more on each of your points…. if that interested you. I know many would enjoy reading it.
Thank you for writing this blog. 🙂
Even at a summary level, I left a lot out of this post. For example, I had included a couple of paragraphs titled “Divorce from Self” about how I felt ripped apart. I cut them because the post was (and is) too long.
At a detail level, maybe I will write more in the future. In the meantime, the posts to which I linked in this one might serve that purpose.
I’m glad you enjoyed this post and the little series.
thanks for sharing your journey, i have a bit of reading to catch up on
Soylent Green is a comparison that I hadn’t considered. The one that occurred to me was Battlestar Galactica (TV series starting in 2004). In that series, some people discover that they’re artificial organisms, i.e. Cylons. Suddenly, they realize that they’re members of the group that they view as their worst opponents. And none of them can change that fact because it’s now part of who they are. Due to my doubts I was a virtual atheist for a fairly long time before I could finally bring myself to admit that I was “one of Them, an atheist” despite the evangelicalism of my outward appearance and my life up to that point. I’ve grown much more comfortable with the idea since.
I haven’t seen the BG episode, but I love the comparison! I did indeed discover that, like the rest of the human race, I was not inhabited by a Holy Spirit. Inasmuch as I was just a collection of molecules, one could almost say I was a Cylon. Yet — surprise! — I still felt just as alive as before, if not more so. That’s something that sill amazes me, three years later.
Can you explain to me like I’m very daft this property “inhabited by a Holy Spirit” that you are surprised was not a requirement to “feeling alive?” Are you claiming that you’d been inculcated into the idea that the emotional state of “wellness” was contingent a spiritual property across all humans and therefore, no one could feel “well” without sufficiently satisifying that predicate?
I was using “alive” in a figurative sense: alive to the joys and possibilities of life. Evangelicals believe that if you are “born again” God’s spirit comes to dwell in you, but non-Christians don’t have the Holy Spirit. I had believed that people without the Holy Spirit ought to descend into nihilistic despair — or even if they didn’t, they ought to. When I became an unbeliever and therefore without the Holy Spirit (either because I was an apostate or because there was no such thing), I was surprised that I felt even more alive to the joys and possibilities of life than I had as a Christian. Does that clear it up?
As a long-time atheist, this is my guess as to what “Holy Spirit” means.
I’ve done zazen meditation for some time now. It consists of stilling the mind and stopping thoughts, and for me, it is just about possible to be in a state of attention and awareness without thinking. Perhaps this is what our consciousness was like before we developed language, say 100,000 years ago. It is a sense of immediacy and presence that is difficult to speak about, and more importantly, the words aren’t the experience.
I think that this experience has been used, again and again, as the basis of religions everywhere, but because of its ineffable nature, those religions have varied greatly in how they have described and interpreted it. I suspect that the Christian Holy Spirit is one such description.
Well, I for one do not feel your posts are too long at all. They always leave me hungry for more. 😉 Please keep writing! Your audience is growing, and its clear people appreciate the way you are sharing your experiences, emotions and thoughts.
Regarding the sense of wonder… have you ever watched Carl Sagan’s Cosmos? If not… prepare to be amazed:
I had seen only the clip from the series that I featured in my post, On Losing 99.999999% of My Future. I just watched the full-hour episode you provided and it was awesome! Thanks for noting it.
What a delight to find your blog! I found it when I googled ‘beagle’ because we recently adopted a beagle-mix rescue (a little guy who’s full of life and fun!) In amazement I read your deconversion story and recognized my own story over and over.
I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, married and raised my children in a fundamentalist church and Christian school. One of them graduated from a Christian college. Then my marriage failed, and in time I fell in love with a wonderful man and we moved in together. A dear Christian friend took me to lunch one day, and with tears, expressed her sorrow that now I was destined for hell! Awash with guilt and shame, I begged forgiveness from God. But a question nibbled at my mind: why would a good and loving God reward me for staying in a miserable marriage, but send me to hell for finding happiness? The journey began!
I first read books by Christians: ‘Love Wins’, by Rob Bell, and books by Brian McLaren. But it seemed to me they were not addressing what the Bible literally said about hell but were desperately trying to find ways around it. When I finally began reading books by non-Christians, even atheists (gulp!). They made more sense than anything ANY Christian was saying ANYWHERE.
Long story short, I no longer believe. Like you, the relief and wonder, satisfaction and purpose took me by surprise! And like you, I can now say, ‘life is good’.
Thank you for sharing your journey, so much like mine.
I’m tickled pink that you found my blog by looking for beagles. If you haven’t read my About page yet, you’ll get a kick out of it as the adoptive ‘parent’ of a beagle-mix.
Also glad to be related to you through a common life-journey!
Went too your About page and read about the beagle: “… single-minded and determined… ” Yep, that’s our Buster! We call him the Squirrel Sheriff! Once on the track, he’s relentless. As for being strongly food-motivated, yesterday the sneaky little stinker waited till we weren’t looking, then ate a whole bag of Puperonis! I would have sternly scolded him if he wasn’t so cute:-)
Jacqueline, I just need to invite you to another of my favorite websites… Dogforum.com Its a great place to come and talk about your pup! I am “Tess” over there.
PS. Beagle, I hope you don’t mind this post!
Thank you, Sue. I’ll definitely check it out:-)
Nice post. I shared some of your feelings at the moment of losing faith. For me, the realization that evolution was true instantly anesthetized me. I had lost all meaningful cogitative ability. Thoughts were nothing but televsion snow. In time I was able restore my awareness and with a little introspection I realized I lacked belief in God. Sometimes the bareness of reality seems peaceful, calming. At other times I feel like reality has a stranglehold on the dreams, hopes, and cohesive bonds that a belief in god affords.
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I would like to know more about how you dealt with the consequences of your loss of faith in terms of your relationships with others – members of your family, Christian friends, people at church etc.
Bridget, my relationships certainly took a hit. All of my best friends were at church, and I don’t see them anymore (that’s as much my fault as theirs). I try not to say too much about my wife and kids on this blog, out of respect for their privacy, but they have adjusted as well as could be expected, and in some cases better. My family of origin are not evangelicals, and my relationships with them are better than they were.
I have started to rebuild a network of friends, but it has been difficult. That’s one thing that’s good about a church: you can just show up and you instantly have a large room full of friends. Virtually all of them share your core convictions about the most important things in life. Virtually all of them trust you. You see them every week. If you need something, someone will be glad to help. There’s coffee and snacks after every sermon. It’s pretty sweet, and I haven’t found a good replacement. I could go to a Unitarian church, but that would be too much like … well, like church. The bad associations are still too fresh, four years later.
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I really enjoyed reading about your experience and wish with all my heart I could get my mother to read it. Well, sort of. I want her to understand me, but I also worry she couldn’t handle the truth. She is still a fundamentalist Christian and despite easing of tensions, she still comes at me from time to time.
I suffer from depression and yesterday she told me once again that it’s because I no longer believe in Jesus. She has no idea how much this hurts me. I’m in a bad place right now, so it will take awhile to get her words out of my mind.
Religion is one of the progenitors of my depression: never feeling good enough, always being afraid, guarding my every thought and action, dividing everything into black and white, the threat of hell, the threat of being ostracized. It’s a wonder any of us survived this deadly religious cocktail.
Now I hold back from saying anything to her because there are some compelling things I could show her that would destroy her faith if she would only be intellectually honest. But I say nothing. Part of me worries I’d find out my mother really is intellectually dishonest. Another part of me recognizes that my mother is getting old. I don’t know if she would have the tools to deal with the truth at this point in her life. She would become as ostracized as I am.
I wish I had just one good atheist friend. I think I might get better with just one good friend who wouldn’t try to proselytize me, who would accept me the way I am.
Ladyhawk, I’m sorry that life is so difficult for you right now.
I think you’re wise not to press your mother. Speaking from personal experience, one can be smart and supposedly truth-seeking, but not ready to “handle the truth” as you put it. I heard many arguments from the non-Christian side and rejected them all. It took the crisis you read about in Part 1 of this series to wake me up. Your mother would be very unusual if she were to listen with a truly open mind when there was nothing forcing her to do so.
You said you’re worried that you might discover your mother is intellectually dishonest. I suppose she might be, but it’s more likely that she is just fearful. Fundamentalists believe that life without God has no purpose, that they would have no reason to be good, and no reason to care about anything. Add the threat of eternal torment if you give up your faith, and the Bible passages that say apostates can never come back, and you have a huge load of fear. I don’t think conservative Christians as a group realize how much they are oppressed by fear. It is so woven into the doctrinal clothes they wear every day that they don’t even notice it. They think that if they were to give up their faith their whole world would fall apart and they could never put it back together. This is a powerful disincentive to question honestly and thoroughly. What I observe is that they question just enough that they can assure themselves that they have exercised critical thinking, but not so much that they get to the bottom of things. They accept pat answers that, objectively, are totally inadequate. I’m sure they don’t realize they’re doing this, or that it comes from fear.
Also, cognitive biases, such as confirmation bias, are part of the human condition. Your mother has them, you have them, and I have them. That doesn’t make your mother a bad person.
I hear you about the hurtful comments. I get them, too. I try to take the attitude of “forgive them, for they know not what they do” but it’s hard sometimes to just let these things roll off my back. Especially when they come from people close to me, who should know better. Sometimes I vent on this blog.
I have also managed to find sympathetic friends. I don’t know what area of the country you’re from, but Meetup.com can be a great resource for finding birds of a feather. You can search for humanist, atheist, or just philosophical groups. You might also google Marlene Winell. She’s a psychologist who has made a name for herself in the field of “religious trauma syndrome.” I think she even coined the phrase.
Be good to yourself, Ladyhawk. If medication would put a floor under your depression while you deal with it, don’t be afraid to get some. One thing that has helped me a great deal is becoming fascinated with the story of nature and the cosmos, and catching up on all the science I missed as an evangelical. It’s so much more interesting and uplifting than “God did it.” Maybe you’ll enjoy the series of posts I did in August of 2012 called 31 Days of Wonder.
And drop by here any time.
Thank you. You seem like a truly kind person. You “get it” that Christians have emotions, too. Maybe it’s because you were there more recently than some of us.
I went through a very angry phase. I thought when I became less angry things would get easier, but it was only a matter of degree. I think some people probably have to go through the angry phase in order to make sense out of what happened to them.
As for my depression, I’ve tried everything you mentioned. I’ve been on nearly every anti-depressant there is. I’m so ill I can’t drive the three-hour round trip necessary to visit the nearest atheist meetup. The last time I was able to leave town was to go to on a retreat to see Marlene Winell. It was unhelpful. I would tell you more (and believe me I have a lot to say), but I promised Marlene Winell I wouldn’t discuss what happened. I am occasionally very tempted to break that promise.
I’ve pretty much covered the bases when it comes to getting help for my depression. The only thing I haven’t tried is coming off all these psych meds that don’t seem to work, so that’s what I’m doing now. There is some scientific evidence linking use of psych meds with worsening symptoms (see Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America by Robert Whitaker). I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve been on these psych meds for 25+ years and they don’t work for me. The only reason I’ve stayed on them for so long is I didn’t know what else to do. Coming off psych meds is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Doctors don’t tell you that withdrawing from psych meds is a terrifying, excruciating, horrible-awful-terrible experience. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and I still have three really nasty drugs to go: Lamictal, Seroquel and Klonopin.
I’ve accepted that coming off these drugs might kill me, but it’s the only thing I haven’t tried. I can’t continue living in a drug-induced stupor.
Damn. I already regret the above post. When I’m like this, I have a harder time keeping my mouth shut about certain things. I learned a long time ago to hide my depression, but at times it’s so overwhelming I can’t keep it under wraps. Talking about it drives people away; shutting up about it isolates me. There seems to be no solution.
>> Damn, I already regret the above post.
I don’t think there’s anything to regret in what you said, but would you like me to delete it?
By the way, I went through an angry phase, too. I still go there from time to time.
I can’t even remember how I stumbled upon your blog. First, it greatly has challenged my faith and I have wrestled with it much since finding you. I do not view challenges to faith as a bad thing. I have found your posts very well written – pointed, convicting, soul-searching. Much better written than my replies will be. I am no apologist or professional anything. However I also greatly feel that God wants to get your attention. Why, I have no idea as you seem bent on disproving His existence! The church certainly seems far short of what God’s ideal would be today (much like Israel kept messing up in the Old Testament, I am not convinced the church has done much better in the New Testament era). It certainly has seemed to turn many away, many who were in the church. Myself I turned away for about 10+ years but have recently come back to God (and still am absolutely wrestling with my faith). I am not sure if you ever studied Biblical Prophecy (as I know you were an evangelical for decades, and homeschooled your kids, etc). The Bible certainly seems to be fulfilling things happening in the last few decades. Respectfully, it might be time to reconsider your stance?
>> I also greatly feel that God wants to get your attention. Why, I have no idea as you seem bent on disproving His existence!
Haha! I can think of a few reasons why he would bother. The parable of the lost sheep comes to mind.
>> I turned away for about 10+ years but have recently come back to God.
Interesting. I really cannot see that happening for me, in the way that I imagine you mean by the phrase “come back to God”.
I do not rule out the possibility of the supernatural, but if I were to return to some sort of faith I don’t see how it could be the evangelical versionI had … for the reasons you have been so faithful to read in my posts.
>> The Bible certainly seems to be fulfilling [prophecies] happening in the last few decades.
From the outside, biblical prophecies are a lot less convincing than they were from the inside. The first example that comes to mind is the “prophecy” about 30 pieces of silver. If you read the original (OT) passage, it doesn’t seem like a prophecy at all. A lot of them are like that. As for what is allegedly being fulfilled in the last few decades, I assume you mean wars in the Middle East, etc.. Those have been with us for a long time. When people have made definite, verifiable claims *ahead of time* based on biblical prophecy, it has usually been about the impending Rapture. We know how correct those have been.
>> Respectfully, it might be time to reconsider your stance?.
I hope I will always maintain an open mind. So far, nobody has offered a response to any of the show-stopper objections you’ve read about on this blog that gives me the slightest reason to doubt my decision, but that could change.
I wrestled hard with these issues for several years. If I die and wake up in front of the Pearly Gates and Peter asks me, “Why should I let you in?” I’ll just have to say, “Because I lived the most honest life I could.”
Blessings to you, Convicted Mama.
Thank you again for engaging me. I have other thoughts to add to other posts, I have read a lot of them (as I said I like your writing!!!). But I have little kids that demand my time 😉
Based on my own experience, raised Evangelical, I would have considered myself evangelical for 20+ years… Only after finding God this time (recently) do I think I actually `get it`. As in, I think I *thought* I was a Christian for over 30 years, but wasn’t. I knew the scriptures, had read the Bible, gone to church, even gone to Bible school. I knew facts in my head, intellectually. struggled with some of the things you have pondered, but mostly ignored the hard things… Somehow I just didn’t “get it” in my heart, but didn’t really know that I didn’t get it. And since we can’t “maintain” our own salvation, I would always kind of lose interest and do my own pretty moral thing. I could act the part and talk the talk… But see, this is where I never surrendered Self – I was happy to keep Jesus on the porch so to speak, and not let Him in. And that is why I now believe that I wasn’t genuinely saved before. The “sinner’s prayer” is just words, and feelings are just feelings, it’s the true intention of the heart that matters. I mean, look at Judas. He walked the walk, talked the talk, and *no one* suspected that he wasn’t genuine. I think we can fool ourselves even (think Simon the magician/sorcerer – who believed intellectually, was baptized, but never truly repented and changed heart).
Lost sheep? Prodigal? No. I am thinking more, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
I’m not trying to convince you of anything. You write way better than I. I am impressed by how much you have thought these things through and I genuinely think they are worth pondering. It has definitely caused me to do a lot of wrestling with my own thoughts, beliefs, and faith. I still am very much finding my way and by no means do I think I have figured things out. Myself, I truly am convinced that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. But. I am not afraid to tackle the hard things that most don’t seem to want to.
Actually, by prophecies I meant Israel becoming a nation again after almost 1900 years of not being one. Of them restoring their lost Hebrew language. Of Jerusalem being in Israel’s hands and of the plans for the 3rd temple being complete and priests training for it. These are things predicted by the Bible and are essential to future Bible prophecies taking place (the “tribulation” or apocalypse). As you know, the Bible does not tell when the rapture will occur. It is a secret event, other than it happens before the tribulation at some point. This is where so many people make awful fools of themselves. Not that I haven’t made a fool of myself, but I hope that I haven’t led others away from Jesus by doing so.
As far as how convincing prophecy is, I agree that some of them are pretty vague. I think it is necessarily so in some cases, or it wouldn’t come true (I mean, God can’t come out and actually spell out his plan, or Satan – or even people acting on their own – would make sure it didn’t happen. As the highest ranking angel at one point, I don’t doubt Satan’s intelligence, cunning, and manipulations. He’s had many millenia to observe and deceive mankind). I do find many prophecies convincing, especially when different people from different eras have pointed to similar things, or when they give small, specific details that add to a total picture. It’s like a photo that you cut up into pieces, only when it’s assembled do you see the whole. the 30 pieces of silver isn’t that convincing on it’s own but you don’t find it convincing as a small piece of a larger whole?
First of all, thank you for your encouragement about my writing. Consider every compliment returned: You write very well yourself! Have you considered starting a blog? Your story would be very interesting. For instance…
How intriguing it is that you considered yourself a Christian for 20+ years, even being dedicated enough to go to Bible school, and now think you weren’t a Christian at all! You are such a sincere and thoughtful person that I am amazed that your “intentions of the heart” could have been in the wrong direction all that time. However, you have given me the honor of believing my story, so I will believe yours. (Some people say I must never have been a true Christian, or I would not have walked away from it. What an amusing irony that you and I now stand on opposite sides of the fence, holding hands, as it were!)
If you start that blog, let me know. I’ll come visit often and I promise I’ll be a polite guest.
>> It’s like a photo that you cut up into pieces, only when it’s assembled do you see the whole, the 30 pieces of silver isn’t that convincing on its own but you don’t find it convincing as a small piece of a larger whole?
I like your metaphor of the photo, but, speaking only for myself, I would be more convinced by one truly astounding prophecy than by 1,000 sort-of-but-not-really prophecies.
>> Lost sheep? Prodigal? No. I am thinking more, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
By his own account (Acts 22:20) Saul guarded the clothes of those who stoned the martyr, Stephen. If that’s what it means to be a persecutor, may I never be one!
If, on the other hand, you’re thinking of his zeal (“as to zeal, a persecutor of the church” – Philippians 3:6), I take it as a compliment, although sometimes I wish I were less zealous.
I wish to be less zealous because, to be honest, sometimes I just want religion to be out of my life. You’ve read in this post how I feel post-faith — how fascinating and rewarding life is for me now. Spending time thinking about religion is a huge time-sink, not to mention depressing for me. Yet family circumstances, not to mention politics in the USA, continually put it in front of me. I feel that this is one area where I can contribute an unusual but important perspective to the public square.
Also, The Truth is like a priceless statue from which I broke off pieces for 40 years. Now I have a debt to restore them as well as I can.
I’m working on the blog. It’s difficult to be coherent when sleep deprived. 🙂
>> What an amusing irony that you and I now stand on opposite sides of the fence, holding hands, as it were!
Indeed! I accept your hand of friendship across the fence 🙂
>> If, on the other hand, you’re thinking of his zeal (“as to zeal, a persecutor of the church” – Philippians 3:6), I take it as a compliment, although sometimes I wish I were less zealous.
Haha. Yes, your zeal. 🙂 You are passionate, and I respect your passion of proclaiming truth, as you see it. It’s the heart – you genuinely care.
I stumbled across another atheist’s website today, but this one is an atheist-turned-Christian. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on it. Of course, his arguments are very convincing to me, but you will likely see things through a different lens.
I went to that website and read George’s story about the phone call. Very interesting! It’s tempting for me to observe that there are a million chances for things like that to happen every day, so it’s no surprise that one-in-a-million events happen frequently. We never hear about the other 999,999 that didn’t go as prayed for. However, I also have to admit that George’s story is amazing. For all I know, there COULD be some mechanism at work in the universe by which prayers are sometimes answered. There could even be entities that we would call supernatural who orchestrate things from time to time. But Hindus, Muslims, etc. have similar stories, so I don’t think we get to jump right to “the Bible is true and Jesus is God.”
I also read some of George’s arguments. As you predicted, I was not convinced. But is there one in particular you’d like me to comment on? Maybe I could write a post about it. (I would leave a comment on George’s site, but I could not find any way to do that.)
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I have had a similar path in my deconversion from Christianity. The only thing that gives me pause about my disbelief is supposed miracles? How often are hearsay stories made up?How often are they genuine. I remember an evangelical once at a youth service claim that he witnessed the restoration of a shriveled hand. He had no evidence or proof but things like this give me anxiety? What if god does perform these miracles? I think wat scares me more than anything is the Christian god being real. I left my faith for very similar reasons to yours my problem is now that I know all the contradictions, inconsistencies, and atrocities of the bible. Christianity being possibly correct scares the shit out of me. The possibility of Such an antagonistic god being real almost seems Unfathomable.I almost don’t want to live in such a world. How are u so sure in your disbelief? How do u deal wit the anxiety of being possibly wrong? Are the miracle stories like the one I’ve mentioned just lies? Or maybe something else?
How do I deal with supposed miracles?
First and most important, I remember that just because a miracle is performed “in Jesus’ name” does not mean that it proves anything, much less everything, in the Bible. Other faiths have their miracles, too, making it likely that if there really are miracles, those miracles are the work of a non-sectarian, compassionate something/someone — which would be wholly different from the uber-sectarian, jealous God of the Bible. The universe is a strange place, and I do not rule out seemingly wacky ideas such as morphic fields (Google it!).
Second, when a report of a miracle comes in, the events of my life as you’ve read on this blog make me take a skeptical stance. Part 3 of my “Why I Left Evangelical Christianity” series gives one example. The propensity of otherwise-good evangelicals to lie (or deceive themselves) in support of a Good Cause, as in Part 1 of my series, also leads me to be skeptical of the reports themselves. What did the person at the youth service who claimed to have seen restoration of a “shriveled hand” actually see? Did he see a small hand get larger — creation of matter ex nihilo — or did he see a cramped-up hand relax? I would bet on the latter. And in that case, I would not put it past the people who stage these events to have planted a perfectly normal person in the audience who faked the “shriveled” hand and its cure, just to “build the faith” of the audience. As a teenager, I volunteered for a Billy Graham crusade. We volunteers were in the audience and, when it came time for the altar call, we were supposed to go down to the stage. Ostensibly, it was to meet and counsel the people who were responding to the call. However, it was obvious to me even then that as scores of people (the volunteers) arose instantly from our seats at the time of the altar call, most of the audience would assume we were ordinary people like them, responding to the call, and their inhibitions about doing the same would be relaxed. Don’t even get me started about faith-healers such as Benny Hinn.
How do I deal with the anxiety of being possibly wrong? Two things.
First, if I die and wake up at the Pearly Gate and St. Peter asks me why I should be let in, I will answer, “Because I dealt as honestly as I could with the evidence I had.” A good God (which is what we’re postulating here) surely will value honesty more highly than faking it.
Second, I learn and learn and learn. The more I study science and philosophy, and the more I observe the falsehoods and unfulfilled promises of traditional faith, the more certain I become. It took me 4 years of hard study to conclude that my lifetime faith was bunk, so I was quite certain even at the moment I left, but I have only become more certain as time has passed.
One more thing: You said, “Christianity being possibly correct scares the shit out of me.” I suggest that you have exactly as many reasons to be scared shitless that Islam is correct. So why aren’t you? Whatever your answer, apply it to Christianity and you’ll be fine. 🙂
Thanks for the reply. I really do appreciate it. Yeah the guy was pretty old he was experienced in the business. He was fire and brimstone type of guy and he even preached from the book of Ruth. He mentioned the miraculous healing incident of the shriveled hand during prayer, looking back it seems as if he was just tryin to get people hyped for the alter call. All in all in the end he showed some videos of him healing paraplegics but they didnt look to impressive they just stood and sat back down. I dont know why the prospect of christianity being real frightens me. I was raised heavily indoctrinated and have suffered much mentally because of it I used to have really bad scrupulosity about the unforgivable sin, this OCD type Mental trauma has really fucked up my life. And besides the disgusting effects it has had on me, the god of the christian bible is soo vile, annd questionable in so many ways its just kind of almost unbearable to believe in such a fucked up reality.
>> I was raised heavily indoctrinated and have suffered much mentally because of it…
You might be interested in the work of Marlene Winell (http://MarleneWinell.net). She specializes in “religious trauma syndrome”. I think she even coined the term. She’s written a book called Leaving the Fold. I haven’t read it, but you might want to check it out.
All the best to you, AK.
Having just gone through my own exit from the church (ex worship leader, small group leader) I can empathize with everything you described here. I feel pretty foolish for believing and promoting such bs even when I had doubts and serious questions about the veracity of the “faith” years ago. I’m still struggling with this sense that I lost a sense of purpose even though I know deep down that it is bogus. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose. It was so easy being a sheep. Thanks for the blog. Very insightful and less lonely to know that there are others who left for the same reasons I did. The only other person who I can have a conversation with about these things and who sees like I do is my husband. Thank God lol pun intended.
Your post is very revealing. I agree with just about everything you’ve written, but I do come to a different conclusion. In the city I live I’m trying to start a Science and Faith group – trying is the key word! This group is non-denominational, includes Evangelicals and Catholics, and promotes differing views relating to an old Earth and evolution. The problem is trying to get Evangelical pastors involved. One pastor, in reference to understanding the true age if the Earth, tools me he couldn’t “wrap his head around” four billion years. I thought to myself, “But you could believe God came to Earth as a man, died on the cross, and rose again?”
I am an Evangelical Christian and a geologist.
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