This blog is largely devoted to one beagle’s path through the world of thought. These posts trace the path so far.
My Conversion Story
Although I am no longer a Christian, no story is complete without its beginning. My story began with a conversion to Christ.
My Journey Out of Evangelical Christianity
The Christian faith was the center of my life for 40 years. After a long struggle with show-stopper questions, I gave it up. Here’s my story.
- Part 1: The Wake-Up Call
- Part 2: Worthy Prayers
- Part 3: Prayer Studies
- Part 4: Romans 8:9
- Part 5: Highlighting Your Comments So Far
- Part 6: The God of the Bible
- How It Felt to Lose My Faith
And this is where I’ve landed.
- With respect to thinking: Shaphat
- With respect to living, here’s a post that’s completely different. You’ll enjoy it most if you read it aloud. Zarathustra Speaks to the Trees
The most important reason I left the faith was the moral bankruptcy of the Bible The Bible does have many good things to say, of course, but there are also passages and ideas that are profoundly immoral. This series on biblical slavery treats just one example among many. It will also give you a sense of the lame and/or dishonest answers I got when I asked evangelicals tough questions.
- Invitation to a Dialog on Biblical Slavery
- Was Biblical Slavery All That Bad?
- Did God Command Slavery, or Merely Tolerate It?
- Were Some Biblical Slaves Merely Prisoners of War?
- Does the Bible Regulate the Care of Slaves?
- Was Slavery God’s Righteous Judgment?
- Did God Intend to End Slavery by Changing People’s Hearts?
- What did Jesus Say About Slavery?
- Biblical Slavery: Are God’s Ways Higher than Our Ways?
- Why I Care About Biblical Slavery
- Biblical Slavery Postscript: Where Were the Apologists?
How Can We Decide What’s True?
Having lost faith in faith, I turned to what is known as freethought: seeking the truth based on science, logic and reason. Here’s why.
- The Feeling of Knowing
- Software Patches for the Brain
- Sound Method
- Hierarchy of Methods
- Myth, Meth, Math
WHAT MAKES LIFE WORTHWHILE
As an evangelical, I could not imagine why atheists would bother getting out of bed in the morning. Imagine my surprise when, after shedding my faith, I had more joy than ever.
- On Losing 99.999999% of My Future
- How It Felt to Lose My Faith
- 31 Days of Wonder
- Choosing a Purpose
- Stick Your Head Out of the Window!
Since leaving faith behind, I have been told that I have no reason to care about anything. On the contrary…
- Why Care? (Introduction)
- Why Care About Anything at All?
- Why Care About Right and Wrong?
- Why Do Atheists Care About Other People?
- Why Do Atheists Care About Religion?
Like many evangelicals, I was a conservative Republican. Now that I try my best to stay away from dogma of both left and right, I call myself a moderate.
Although both extremes have their cohort of liars and cynical manipulators, I am confronted with lies from the right more often. There’s an inherent reason for that, as I explain in these three posts.
It seems that the politico-cultural wars are often fought over issues of sexuality.
- The Wedding Ring
- Marriage Is Not the Government’s Business
- Sex-Selective Abortions
- Contraception and Religious Freedom
- The Changing Evangelical Position on Abortion
I have become a big fan of reality as revealed by science. Here are some topics I find particularly fun and enlightening.
I did a whole series on Richard Dawkins’ book, The Selfish Gene. The best parts were at the end.
I devoted all of August, 2012 to the wonders I saw all around me. Many of them had a scientific bent, including these.
Pingback: Path of the Beagle
My dear brother, or “ex-brother”–which is itself an ozymoron, Of course asking all the questions is a reasonable and good thing. Sounds like you’ve read and debated them ad infinitim, and you have a rebuttal for all our rebuttals. But I’m afraid like so many others who think of themselves as rather smart, they believe that if they can’t get sufficient answers to suit their great powers of reason, they throw the baby out with the bathwater. I was truly surprised at your exaltation of evolution, one of the greatest proven shams in history. Re-read your anatomy book on how an eye sees, for instance. Impossible odds for natural selection, etc., etc, etc., and no missing links. I would personally never balk at being identified as being a follower of Jesus Christ, God and Savior. No one Person has ever influenced this world for good as has He and his true followers, inspite of our failings as sinful people. I suppose all one can do with “ex”-Christians is to pray like crazy for them, and the people they will tragically influence. Maybe what some Christian will say will finally strike a cord in your spirit, which the Holy Spirit will be able to use to break through to you. I truly pray it be so.
P.S. Using our reason, yes, but then– humbly– bowing our puny reason to Biblical Revelation is a must before Truth can be perceived and received.
Carole, you’ve raised so many points, directly and indirectly, that this whole blog is my still-growing response. I hope you’ll browse around.
But your P.S. contains the crux of your exhortation: it’s OK to question, but always while “bowing our puny reason to Biblical Revelation.” I’d like to offer an analogy. Starting from when I was a teenager, Bill Cosby was one of the most trusted and beloved people on television. His show, featuring the tight-knit and loving Huxtable family, was full of positive messages. As a speaker, he exhorted black men to build strong families and was a role model for all of us. We all had faith in him. That he was, in fact, a serial rapist was unthinkable. When one or two women alleged that he had forced himself on them, his wife stood by him, as did most of us. However, as the accusers multiplied and more evidence came out, it got to the point where we all knew that his wife would be a fool to continue to assert his innocence.
You see where this is going. No matter how much we trust and believe in someone, we must be willing to abandon that trust if the evidence becomes overwhelming.
Thanks for the invite, Larry, to browse through your essays. I may gradually do so, though I’ve encountered all the arguments one can muster on the “front lines” of Christianity over the last 50 yrs. As for putting one’s trust in fallible humans, you can be sure you’ll always face disappointment at some time or other. The issue it would seem is not human fallibility, but how all this complexity of life got here, whether God is, Who He is, what He wants us to know of our existence, and whether or not He requires anything of us morally — since there is this seeming sense of moralness to varying degrees built into humans everywhere.
Let’s see — in human history, we’ve run the gamut of the various capricious “gods” of the ancients, we’ve got Hinduism with its millions of gods — and be careful not to sit, step on, or eat one. Bhuddism [sp?], with it’s “lose yourself-ness in the grand oneness of the universe”, and maybe get reincarnated as a gnat if you’ve been too bad. Then there’s Islam, with its mission to slaughter anyone who doesn’t convert [and it’s not just from Isis]. And of course the latest — Darwinism and evolution. And my, how the modern “scientific” intellectuals like this one. How Plebian to still believe in an intelligent, purposeful “God”.
From your biography, this last seems to be the major issue that swayed you, since the God of the Bible and Christians couldn’t answer your questions to suit you. What do you suppose the difference is between those who are at least as educated, well-read, daring, not one to suffer fools — who believe in who Jesus Christ is and why He came — and — those with similar characteristics who don’t believe?
>> …[evolution] seems to be the major issue that swayed you…
Not at all. The major issue, by far, was what I described the post Why I Left Evangelical Christianity, Part 6: The God of the Bible. Evolution’s role was only as a wake-up call. (See Part 1 of the same series.)
>> What do you suppose the difference is between those who are at least as educated, well-read, daring, not one to suffer fools — who believe in who Jesus Christ is and why He came — and — those with similar characteristics who don’t believe?
People become Christians for diverse reasons. We can say the same for unbelievers. I would not want to generalize about the differences.
Hi, again, Larry.
I believe there are 2 basic reasons why some supposed evangelical Christians end up rejecting Christ. 1) Much of modern evangelicalism has been watered down in its presentation. Simply “accepting” Christ as one’s Savior, perhaps in an emotionalized meeting may not be enough in some for the new birth to happen. Jesus isn’t only our Savior, but the LORD [which Greeks and Hebrews understood at the time to mean the Almighty God]. Many Christians don’t take that seriously in their daily life. They “come to Jesus” confessing their sins with a guilty or needy heart [because we basically ARE guilty and needy ], but not with a truly repentant heart– that which is willing to change their ways from self-centered to God’s ways and to seek to know Him. This should be the only underlying reason one comes to Christ. And it’s the only kind of heart the Holy Spirit can work His life into. Picture the Mafia dons — who go to Mass, get their confession in, then go out and continue their murderous ways. They never came with a Repentant heart. They were never a “new creation”. The second basic reason is related to the first:
2) These other evangelical “Christians” walk along a dangerous path. Maybe they claim to be “born again” because they “went forward” in a meeting and got some emotional relief, but basically go on from there behaving as they please. I do not judge these people. They’re walking too close to the fires of Hell, as the Bible says. Only God, who alone sees into the heart, knows if they’ve truly experienced the New Birth. But the point is, because they still fight the Lord’s rule in their daily life and circumstances, they– a) exhibit very little evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. “I preached that they should repent and turn to God, and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” [Acts 26:20]. — b) With each passing week, month of rebellion, they’re hearts become more and more hardened to the Holy Spirit’s quiet promptings.[Hebrews 3: 7-10]. — c) They open themselves up to the influence and deception of Satan, who, as you know, “prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour.” And so they drift further and further away from Him, until rebellion and rejection is full-blown. I would certainly not want to meet my Maker in that state if my “number was suddenly up.” You know what Jesus said about those who called Him “Lord, Lord….” “I never knew you. Depart from Me, you evil doers!”
A couple more thoughts later today……
Carole, based on your email address, I’m guessing you’re in Maine. (Don’t worry; I will never use, let alone share, your email address without your permission.) I hope you can come to the Forum at the AIIA Institute on November 7. (Perhaps you are part of their group?) I imagine that many there will hold the same position that you apparently do, namely that it is impossible for a true Christian ever to leave the faith. If the audience wishes, I will invite them to ask me questions to determine whether I never was a true Christian, or if I still am a Christian but am backslidden. I predict they will have a hard time deciding, but who knows? In any case, it should be fun and maybe enlightening.
Hi, Larry, Yes, I’m in Maine, near where you’ll be coming. I have a health issue and have been taking care of my 91 yr. old mother, so I may drop in on the meeting toward the end.
The other thought I had was that it’s one thing to reach your own conclusions, but wondered why you’d want to destroy others’ hope as well. How could that not be your goal? Are you so angry with this horrible God who won’t give you the answers you demand, or else?
Even self-righteous Job was humbled at the end when he saw how little he knew, even though the Lord didn’t answer his immediate question. I imagine you might respond by saying that you want others to know the “truth”. Have you scoured the universe to KNOW for certain it’s the truth? What a terrible risk you take — given all the “proofs” [not petrie dish proofs] for Christ and Christianity. I remember saying to my unbelieving uncle [though he changed his tune after getting terminal cancer], ” Even IF what you believe is true, mine is a win-win situation. If it was all a huge fantasy, at least I’d go out believing I’m going to a place like heaven and see my loved ones again, rather than into something totally unknown.”
Josh McDowell, a Christian speaker, was addressing some university students years. One student kept throwing all the “why” questions at him. Finally Josh asked him, “If I could answer all your questions to satisfy you, would you surrender your life to Christ?” The kid’s answer was — “No”. When asked why he didn’t believe in Christ, Bertrand Russell bluntly replied, ” I want to have sex anytime I want to.” No demands on him, free to follow whatever drove him. I’ll trust you’re more altruistic, Larry. Yet with many unbelievers, the questions, as good as they are, are simply smoke screens, diversions, to keep from submitting to God’s authority over them. After all, that is our chief problem — rebellion. And that’s not such a wild idea. Look at children. We have to teach them to be good and to do right.
Christ is a wonderful Hope and explanation for this out-of-control world. We’ve been given enough about His character to grant Him distance [how very gracious of us] if we don’t get the answers to every question at present. But no one loves humanity more than the God of the Bible, even if our pea brains can’t figure out all out. Ants are a highly functioning society — for insects. Yet they can’t conceive of what we humans are thinking, or what we are capable of. Have a safe drive up. — Carole
>> How could [destroying others’ hope] not be your goal?
The only thing I want to destroy at the forum on Saturday is stereotypes, such as those in your comment (from which you graciously excluded me — sort of).
If you were referring to my goal in general (not just at the forum), I can only say that I so am much happier without my faith than I was with it, that any hope I have lost is more than compensated. If you can make it on Saturday, we can talk about why. Otherwise, you might want to ready How It Felt to Lose My Faith.
>> Are you so angry with this horrible God who won’t give you the answers you demand, or else?
This is one of those common stereotypes. How can I be angry at someone who I don’t think exists?
>> What a terrible risk you take…
Are you worried about the equally terrible risk you take by not believing that Mohammad is Allah’s Prophet? Neither am I worried about my analogous risk with respect to Jesus and Jehovah.
>> …given all the “proofs” for Christ and Christianity.
I spent a lot of time looking into them, Carole. Year after year, I read everything I could get my hands on, until every “proof” I read I had read somewhere else before. At that point, I figured I had heard it all. Not only was I not convinced, but I found evangelical apologetics to be riddled with lies. The average apologetics fan does little if any fact-checking, so he is convinced. I had become disillusioned enough to fact-check, with the result that I saw the man behind the curtain. Read A Case Study in Creationist Quote-Mining, or my post on prayer studies, or my entire series on biblical slavery for examples of the dishonesty I found everywhere in evangelical apologetics, including the so-called “proofs” for Christ and Christianity.
>> …mine is a win-win situation. If it was all a huge fantasy, at least I’d go out believing I’m going to a place like heaven and see my loved ones again, rather than into something totally unknown.
Didn’t Paul say that if it were not for the resurrection of the dead, Christians are of all people most to be pitied? I agree with him. A real Christian life involves heavy sacrifice — “taking up your cross” and “losing your life so that you may save it”. If it turns out to be for nothing, that should not be a win-win.
>> …with many unbelievers, the questions, as good as they are, are simply smoke screens, diversions, to keep from submitting to God’s authority over them. After all, that is our chief problem — rebellion.
Why is it so hard to conceive of unbelievers as just that — simply people who do not believe (or who no longer do)? Is the reason you don’t submit to Allah and Mohammad because you’re in rebellion against them? I assure you that Muslims have just as many reasons to believe in Mohammad and Allah as you or I have to believe in Christ and Jehovah. They have just as many reasons to believe in the perfection of the Koran as we have to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. But I give you credit for not being rebellion against Allah. You are simply not convinced, plus you are convinced of something else. Can you see your way to giving similar credit to people like me with respect to Jehovah?
>> But no one loves humanity more than the God of the Bible…
Really? Surely you’ve read my post, Why I Left Evangelical Christianity, Part 6: The God of the Bible. I can think of plenty of people who love humanity enough not to do what God did in those passages.
>> … even if our pea brains can’t figure [it] all out.
Today’s conservative Christians are very comfortable claiming to know the mind of God on all sorts of things that are so unclear in the Bible that evangelicals in our lifetime have taken firm stances on opposite sides of the issue (abortion comes to mind — see this post). They also claim a “relationship with God” that guides them moment by moment. Yet when difficulties arise such as how a God who “loves humanity more than [anyone else]” can send most of said humanity to hell, after commanding some genocide and slavery along the way, we retreat to “our pea brains can’t figure it all out.” Something is wrong with this picture, don’t you think?
Sigh……I don’t have the energy anymore to counter all your points. Others will have to. You obviously haven’t read enough, or, as maddening as it is to unbelievers to hear this: you do have an underlying agenda. But you’ve made your choice. I’ve made mine. As far as your wonderful joy at leaving faith — naturally you may feel that: yippee, finally FREE of all you may have felt burdened you about it. Well, I can’t very well wish you “luck” in your future debates. My goal is to help others grow in their walk with the Lord Jesus, not tear it down.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.”
Appreciate youu blogging this