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The Process of My Disbelief

October 24, 2010

One of my friends who follows this blog has asked if I could say what points in my life lead to my departure from Christianity, so here is my attempt to figure that out.

I honestly can’t say,“I stopped believing in God on X,” or, “I stopped believing in God because of Y.” It was a slow process that started in my childhood and was completed, more or less, this spring. Just like I can’t say for sure when I learned to speak or read, or when I stopped believing in Santa (I do know the year, but I don’t remember what lead up to my asking my parents about it) I can’t really say when it happened.

Early doubts

My earliest doubts started when I realized that there was no way I could live a “holy” life, free from sin, and that no matter how much I prayed for God to help me with this nothing changed. I was experiencing the full rush of hormones and having “sinful” thoughts every moment of every day and God wouldn’t take them away no matter how fervently I prayed to him. I begged and pleaded for him to “fix” me and make me his faithful servant but nothing ever happened. I began to question why God would make me this way and then require me to not be this way.

Of course, there were also the doubts about the truth of the bible — the creation story in par­tic­ular. I saw that there was good, solid evidence to support the idea of the earth being billions, not thousands, of years old, and a lack of evidence for events like the great, worldwide flood. My parents took us to Answers in Genesis conferences and the explanations Ken Ham gave didn’t make any sense to me. This was when I was about 13-15 years old. I had never considered that the things that are described in the bible were myth instead of fact, but I knew that the facts didn’t line up with reality. It wasn’t until college that I would hear that there are people who believe many of the stories in the Old Testament are myth, but still believe in the God of the bible.

It was also during high school that I began to realize that it didn’t really make logical sense for us (Christians) to be able to claim that our beliefs were the only religion that could be true. But, the religion of the bible claims that it is the only way, so there is no way to justify a Christianity that is accepting of other religions as possible truth. Christianity is either the only way or it is a lie.

A sovereign God

When I began to study Reformation theology, the sovereignty of God, more doubts crept in. The God of the bible is totally sovereign, there is nothing that can happen outside of his will. How­ever, things do happen that aren’t in his will. Sin is, by definition, not the will of God, but if he is 100% sovereign then sin must be part of his will. How can a perfect god will that there be sin? “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” (Proverbs 16:4) This verse seems to support the idea that God, who is supposed to be holy and perfect, creates evil.

The idea of a fully sovereign God would suggest that whatever he wills is done. But what is his will? Is it that all should be saved, or that some should not be saved? II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” On the other hand, John 12:40 says, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Why would a God who wishes that none should perish harden the hearts and blind the eyes of some?

The bible’s descriptions of God are full of contradictions like this, especially when we look at the God of the Old Testament versus the God of the New Testament (but even comparing New Testament passages there are contradictions to be found in the nature of God).

Wishful thinking

I realize that there are Christians who recognize these inconsistencies and insist that God is not a vengeful, angry being as described in the Old Testament, but a being of pure love, a being who doesn’t damn anyone to Hell for all eternity. There is no biblical basis for this idea, it is wishful thinking. If we are to believe in the Christian God we must believe in the scriptures. If we believe these scriptures then God is not a perfect, all-powerful, being. The only thing that makes sense to me is that the scriptures are full of inconsistencies and must be viewed as a collection of myths. If these scriptures that we base our religion on are myths then how can we claim to know the one true way?

Just as the warring gods of the ancient Greek and Roman myth are simply reflections on human nature, the God of the Old Testament is a reflection of human nature. The God that liberal Christians believe in is a reflection of their all-accepting nature. We create God in our image, not the other way around.

My disbelief

I know that the response most Christians will have to my disbelief is to quote Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” I’m sorry, I no longer have faith, I have reason. This is why I have left Christianity; why I now call myself godless.

I guess that, if pressured to name the point where I grew out of Christianity, I would have to say it was the point when I stopped believing in the bible. Without the bible none of the rest of the story holds any weight. As to when, exactly, I stopped believing in the truth of the bible I cannot say. It was sometime between the end of high school and the end of college, but like the rest of this journey it was a slow process of examination and thought.

(All scripture is taken from the English Standard Bible)

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43 Comments leave one →
  1. KimchiGUN permalink
    October 25, 2010 10:11 am

    Well written… I was in the same place you were 2 years ago!

    You hinted on “moderate Christianity”, There is no such thing as “moderate Christianity” in the bible. It’s either full blown right or full blown wrong. If you’re wrong, you were put the death. This leaves people stumped when you mention that.

    Nice Read Again!! Thanks!!

    • October 25, 2010 10:54 pm

      Moderate or liberal Christianity are even more false than conservative Christianity. They ignore the text that is the foundation of Christianity for a religion that fits their worldview more correctly. I’m thankful that they are rational enough to see that true, biblical Christianity goes against most of our modern morality and that the scriptures don’t hold up to a literal interpretation, but they still aren’t being truthful with themselves.

      I guess this is kind of like how my grandmother knows that Santa isn’t real, but she still clings to some sort of imaginary belief in him and is offended if a child says they don’t believe in Santa any more.

      • November 3, 2010 3:58 pm

        Moderate or liberal Christianity are even more false than conservative Christianity. They ignore the text that is the foundation of Christianity for a religion that fits their worldview more correctly.

        I do not mean to advocate for or defend moderate/liberal Christianity at all., but I don’t understand that reasoning. It seems like it depends on the assumption that Christianity requires an inerrant bible.

        Why is it more false to allow for errors and flexibility in interpreting the bible? Yes, ignores or recasts parts of the text that has been the traditional foundation of Christianity. But that in itself does not make it false. Any more than saying modern science was false when it cast off Aristotle’s foundational scientific views.

      • November 4, 2010 12:08 am

        But if the text you base your religion on is admittedly not trustworthy, then why believe in what it teaches at all?

        I know that some say, “Because it teaches us to be good people.” But does it really? I can point out many places in the scripture where if we acted the way it advocates we would not be seen as “good people” by most (there are fundamentalists who would love that, but I mean intelligent people) folks.

        Trying to compare science and Christianity doesn’t really make sense, it’s like comparing apples to mice. The claims science makes are based on repeatable experiments and empirical evidence. I have seen no empirical evidence for any of Christianity’s claims.

        • November 5, 2010 11:34 am

          Have you read Ehrman’s “Jesus Interrupted”? I just got it. He presents the historical-critical approach to the Bible in layman’s terms, and although he is an agnostic, he has said that the rest of his colleagues have remained Christians. This is despite post-grad work where they have explored the contradictions and discrepancies of the Bible.

          He also states that understanding the problems of the Bible doesn’t necessarily result in unbelief – his own unbelief is due to the Problem of Evil. I think it does mean a total re-wiring of the way you view revelation if you are an evangelical, and that paradigm shift is deadly to evangelical faith. If the Bible has errors and isn’t inspired in its very words, then what does that say about God? How does he expect us to approach him, and how much must we understand and believe?

          If God really exists, then the key verse in the Bible is I Cor 13:12 “For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.” It is ignorance that defines us when faced with the ineffable, and we can only be responsible for staying within the light we have. If the best information, experience, revelation that I have is that God does not exist, then I can stand on that and say that I seeked, knocked, asked but did not find.

        • atimetorend permalink
          November 5, 2010 1:21 pm

          I agree science and religion are not comparable for the reason you note, but that isn’t what I meant by my analogy. What I am saying is, just as it is commendable for science to discard previous bad conclusions, it is for religion as well. I would only see it as being more “false” than fundamentalist Christianity if one defines Christianity as believing in an inerrant and authoritative bible.

          What I am saying is, liberal Christianity should rise or fall on its own merit, how its beliefs stack up against reality. I don’t see it as more disingenuous than a fundamentalist reading of the bible by casting off belief in scripture being inerrant.

          Personally, liberal Christianity is no more believable to me than fundamentalist Christianity. I just don’t see it as more “false”, so I am content to see liberal Christians as just more willing to be flexible in their understanding of their religion, and more accommodating of other people’s beliefs.

          I don’t mean to belabor my point. It is just that I have seen the same claim made by other people and have never been able to understand it.

  2. October 25, 2010 7:52 pm

    It has occurred to me that, if one must insist on being religious, that it’s best to regard the Bible and all other holy books as humanity’s flawed attempt to describe some intangible experience of the holy, and this is pretty much the best we can do. At best this will give you a boring and watered down version of Christianity (or Islam or Hinduism or whatever) and it strikes me as a pointless hobby that some people happen to enjoy.

    • October 25, 2010 10:42 pm

      I think people use this as a way to try to be reasonable and yet fit in with the society they know. I agree, it is terribly pointless.

  3. October 25, 2010 10:29 pm

    Wow, what a journey. Welcome to the world of sanity and freedom — you have left behind superstition in favor of reason. As someone who made the journey myself as a teenage, I realize how liberating it can be to escape Christianity.

    • October 25, 2010 10:50 pm

      Thank you for reading, and for the comment! It’s been very liberating, though I’m still very tied to Christianity right now.

  4. Larry C. permalink
    October 26, 2010 7:03 pm

    Thanks for your honesty. I too went through a deconversion experience while being ordained by a Pentecostal church and going through a liberal protestant seminary. I did not realize it but I had a lot of questions lurking in the back of my mind even though I was known as a well read evangelical believer who was into apologetics. I had to keep my changing beliefs to myself because I was pursuing the US Army Chaplaincy & the group I was “endorsed” by were the lunatice fringe of the lunatic fringe. If my group had any hint that I had gone “liberal” (actually, I had gone totally agnostic but I just thought I had become a more “liberal evangelical”)You can read my story on Ex.Christian.Net with the title “My Evangelical Disaster”. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    • October 27, 2010 3:29 am

      I’ll check your story out, Larry! It has been so amazing to me to learn how many people came out of the ministry, or preparation for the ministry, by leaving faith behind for reason! I really thought I was alone, or one of a small few but it seems that there are far more of us out there than I ever imagined.

      It was the Tufts study about unbelieving preachers that caused me to finally admit to myself that I no longer believe and to start this blog, I wonder how many others there are who are in the ministry that felt the same way when they read of this study, and how many others haven’t heard of the study and think they are totally alone.

      How sad…

  5. October 26, 2010 7:11 pm

    Hi there. I added you to my blogroll, I hope you don’t mind. I studied theology at uni as well and earned a BA in Religion while studying to be a minister. Fortunately, I lost the calling to ministry before I lost the faith… it was hard telling my family that I wasn’t going to be a preacher. They still ask me about it, and I think my Mom in particular is very disappointed. When I told them it just wasn’t my calling, and it wasn’t right for me to do it even if it is a good thing to do, they were OK.

    You may want to start there with your parents instead of jumping into your journey to nontheism.

    Also, you might consider going back to school. Get a business degree, or law, or engineering. At least some of your credits will transfer so it won’t take too long, and that will get you on another track in life. You just can’t do anything with a religion degree (first hand experience here).

    And thank Darwin you aren’t married! I will never EVER come out of the closet since I have a wife and kids. Most women are religious at some level, but at least you have a chance to establish what you believe and don’t believe and start a relationship off on the right foot. I’m just lucky that we are more or less “Sunday Christians” or otherwise I would probably have a problem.

    Best of luck. Drop me an email if you’d like.

    • October 27, 2010 1:30 am

      “Most women are religious at some level..”

      I don’t know about that.

      • October 27, 2010 2:34 am

        I’m with Three Ninjas on that one. I think it’s dangerous to assume a trait, other than the obvious physical ones, apply near universally to a sex.

        • October 27, 2010 8:55 am

          The truth is women are more religious than men.

          http://www.livescience.com/culture/090227-religion-men-women.html

          This isn’t to say that women are more irrational, or to make any derogatory claims about women. I have a very smart wife, a mother of superior wit and wisdom, and two above average daughters here in Lake Wobegon. :-)

          So it’s going to be harder for a non-theist man to find a non-theist woman than the other way around. Good news, free thinking women!

    • October 27, 2010 3:20 am

      Hi Tom, and welcome to my blog. Of course you can add me to your blogroll!

      I’m sorry that you’re in such a tough situation, having to deal with a religious family. Maybe your wife and/or kids will come to realize the truth as well. Perhaps you can encourage them to think for themselves without actually coming out to them, for now.

      If you haven’t already, I’d suggest reading Dan Brown’s books on his journey from faith to freedom.

      • October 27, 2010 8:58 am

        I haven’t read Dan Brown’s book, but I’ve read his online postings. Right now I’m trying to plant the seed of critical thinking in my children. Not that I’m encouraging them to actively disbelieve, but I just want them to think for themselves. If they continue to go to church and belief, I’m fine with that. I don’t want them to go through the fundamentalist wringer I did though, so I have to come up with a way around that.

      • October 27, 2010 3:27 pm

        Good to hear! From what I’ve seen when you think for yourself and actually study the bible with an open mind most people come to the conclusion that it isn’t true and that Christianity, likewise, is not true. I hope they find the truth and you can be open with them about your unbelief one day, Tom!

    • limey permalink
      November 23, 2010 7:08 am

      Hi Tom,

      I am in a similar situation in that I have been married for many years to a wonderful wife, we have 1 kid.

      I’ve come to realise over the past few years (long story that I am slowly blogging about) that the Christianity I lived for so many years simply isn’t true. Its been oddly liberating.

      However, I’ve not ‘come out’ so to speak because I can’t tell anyone I know until my wife know and I know that it’ll upset her greatly and I can’t bring myself to do that.

      I know the day will come when I do tell her, I can’t see myself keeping it secret for ever, but I’m not ready to do that yet.

      • November 29, 2010 6:06 pm

        limey,

        Most of the time I really hope I never have to out myself. I know there is some value to society as a whole for atheists, agnostics, and other non-theists to be outspoken, and so I hope that I am able to contribute online in anonymity. Perhaps that’s cowardly but I value my relationship with my wife and kids. Some people are critical and say that I am not 100% honest with her, therefore I don’t really value that relationship; I don’t think that anyone is 100% honest with their spouses though, especially when the results would be hurtful, and I don’t see that being honest about my religious doubts would strengthen our relationship.

        On that note, a blurb about the Gospel of Judas came up the other day and she asked me if I knew about it. I said yes and told her that it by a group of gnostic Christians who thought that Judas was the good guy. This of course shocked her – but what was even more shocking was when I read the two accounts of Judas’ death in the Bible. I think it’s first time she’s ever seen a stark contradiction, but I didn’t push for any logical conclusion based on the contradiction. I did point out the usual apologetic response – that Judas hanged himself and the rope broke, but she saw right through that since it didn’t explain the differences with what he did with the money or who bought the field or why it was called the Field of Blood. And of course it doesn’t explain how he fell face first after being hanged!

  6. October 28, 2010 12:00 am

    I really do appreciate that you addressed this, since I was the one who asked! I like to know the story of how things happen…

    I am trying not to take some of this personally, because I know it’s not personal. I absolutely honor your journey and once again, feel grateful that you chose to share this part of yourself with me. I just think that you have looked through one lens. Maybe two. The realm of evangelical Baptists and reformed Presbyterians is not the entirety of Christendom. There’s so much more out there. I realize that you grew up in an atmosphere that did not allow for doubt or much debate…that’s stifling, for sure. However, I’m surprised that you didn’t seek out a tradition that would let you actively sit with your questions and doubts and whatever scraps of faith may have remained. I think one reason you have resonated with the New Atheists (isn’t that what they call themselves?) is that they finally gave some answers to your questions. You found validation. But to call it truth? I am not so sure.

    As someone who still professes Christianity, I have found that I find hope in believing in a God that’s outside the Bible. I honestly believe many, many believers elevate ‘the Word’ to a holy place alongside God. This is a huge problem. God is not the Bible and the Bible is not God. It’s a major issue and frustration for me. But I can see that God is bigger than a book, and I have hope in that. I don’t think you necessarily have to believe in the Scripture to fully believe in God…nowhere that I have seen does Jesus say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life…me and this collection of writings that will one day be determined by councils…” Even when he is called ‘the Word’ I consider it to be more of a metaphor…

    Like I’ve said before, I am at peace with the fact that faith is not logical. That’s kinda the point of faith, isn’t it? I don’t expect it to be logical.

    • October 28, 2010 1:44 am

      Just to be clear, these were the things that lead to me questioning my faith in God and religious ideas, not the only things that have caused me to not believe. I did consider liberal Christianity for a while, but have since realized that I do not believe in God, either by the bible’s definition nor by any definition.

      I also don’t consider myself a “New Atheist.” I’m not sure many atheists really do. An atheist is an atheist. I simply do not believe in any god. Your last paragraph is the main reason for me: Faith isn’t logical. You find peace in that, I do not.

      I understand that many find peace and hope in their religion. I also understand that many good things are done in the name of religion. But I find no hope in clinging to something that I no longer believe in, and I can be just as charitable without religion. (Only the folks who insist that religion is the only source of morality believe that charity can exist without religion, and I’m pretty sure you’re not one of those!)

      I definitely understand why it is hard not to take personally, faith is a deeply personal and emotional thing. (That being why it has proved to be such a divisive force over the millennia.)

  7. October 28, 2010 12:08 am

    Also, to address what Three Ninjas said: some of us who do insist on being religious find being part of a church congregation and believing in the incredibly flawed Scriptures as more than a pointless hobby. Being a part of a group of people who feed the poor, clothe the poor, participate in failing public schools as volunteers who sponsor kids who need basic school supplies and food to eat over the weekend, and host recovery groups? Is that a pointless hobby? I would say, not so much.

  8. October 28, 2010 7:45 am

    Absolutely charity and community don’t have to be connected to religion. Still, I feel that if more churches were doing what we are called to do, there would be little need for government programs (which can fail people). I mean things like food banks, that sort of thing. I don’t mean things like Medicaid or Social Security…

    Anyway, thank you for taking my comments into consideration without offense. You know I mean absolutely NONE, it’s just part of my process and coming to the conversation. We are all such different creatures…some of us need things to be logical, and some of us don’t. That can be hard to remember!

  9. godlesspaladin permalink
    October 28, 2010 6:48 pm

    Sam, if I may ask (and I’m honestly curious, so please don’t take this a hostility) where do you get your concept of the christian god if not from the bible? I am assuming (and please, by all means correct me if I’m wrong) that you focus on passages in the bible that seem to fit with a preconceived notion of god that is grander than the sum of those pages. Where did you get this concept of god and by what criteria do you favor some passages and reject others? If not by logic, then by what? Lastly, is logic not essential to you in everything else you do? (From something as simple buying produce all the way up making a decision to move/change career paths/ have a child?) If you do require logic in those aspects of life, why is it religion is exempt?

    (Again, I’m not trying to be hostile and it is not my intention to set up straw-mans; if I’ve misrepresented something please correct me) Thanks :-)

  10. November 5, 2010 3:19 pm

    @atimetorend:

    When science discards a previous bad conclusion, it does so on the basis of new evidence. When religion discards a previous bad conclusion, on what basis does it do so?

    • November 5, 2010 5:33 pm

      I’d say that those who do discard a previous bad conclusion in religion tend to do so on the basis of new evidence. But the problem is that the whole thing is not built on factual evidence to begin with. So they discard a part that they admit to be untrue yet they hold to the rest of their beliefs without evidence. Admittedly, that is the definition of faith, but still…

      • November 5, 2010 5:45 pm

        That’s what I want to know. What evidence?

      • November 5, 2010 6:50 pm

        What evidence do they discard the belief on? Or what evidence do they first believe in?

        I think we both know what evidence one bases religion on, having come out of it. There is no good evidence for it that I have found. That’s why I discarded all my belief in it.

    • November 5, 2010 7:46 pm

      @thesecretatheist and three ninjas:
      I think you are both coming up with good reasons not to adopt liberal Christianity, that while it is willing to discard irrational beliefs, it persists in holding onto to some irrational beliefs (even if they are less in number, held more loosely, or less wacky, or whatever). On that basis, you could say it seems just as irrational to you to believe as fundamentalist Christianity. I would mostly agree with that personally.

      But I still do not see the basis for labeling it as more false than fundamentalist/literalistic/inerrant belief in the bible. Or elsewhere, I have also heard the fundamentalist belief set called “more intellectually honest,” because it holds to the bible in a certain way. I still don’t see that to be true. It seems to me it is buying into the paradigm the fundamentalist Christian presents, black and white, all true or none of it true.

      • November 8, 2010 12:20 pm

        I think the issue is that fundamentalism at least attempts to build a logical reason for faith, even if it is based on a number of presumptions that lack support.

        “Liberal” Christianity on the other is a namby-pampy feel good religion that people participate in because they “like the tradition.” [I am paraphrasing an opinion here.] If Liberal Christians were honest then they’d all be agnostic unitarian universalists, but instead they pay lip service to a book they know isn’t “historie” as the Germans say.

        So the Liberals pretend to believe a lie, kind of like adults with Santa.

        I personally don’t have much a problem with people who like the pomp and pageantry of church, and really I don’t think people take the Bible seriously anyway, they just look to it to validate what they already believe. No one gives away their entire fortune, or turns a cheek when struck, or anyone of a number of things in the Bible.

        • atimetorend permalink
          November 8, 2010 2:52 pm

          I think the issue is that fundamentalism at least attempts to build a logical reason for faith, even if it is based on a number of presumptions that lack support.

          I think that is well put. The question might then be, which is better, sound logic with bad data, or or fuzzy (“namby-pamby”) logic with better data. And maybe neither is, is “better” or “less false” if both lead to poor conclusions. And pragmatically we’ll take the one that causes people less harm.

        • November 8, 2010 4:15 pm

          atimetorend: thanks for the comment, I think you have hit the nail on the head.

          I have a hard time accepting the more liberal Christianity coming from the more conservative side and now not believing in any of it at all and so I may write them off too lightly.

          Indeed, if given the choice of fundies vs liberal Christianity I’d rather have more of the liberal than fundies around. (I almost thought that I’d want the ones around who I know what they believe, but those fundies come up with some batshit crazy ideas from time to time. You know, crazier than the whole creator God, Jesus, and hell stuff.)

      • November 8, 2010 2:49 pm

        Well, I think that there are some liberal Christians who do believe in God, so it’s not just that they want religion to make them feel good. I know that three of my readers fall into this category. I’m not entirely sure what they base their beliefs on, but they are very much theists. Agnostic theists, perhaps, but agnostic theists with a strong belief in some form of the Judeo-Christian God. At least, that is what I’ve gathered from my conversations with them. (As I’ve said before, it’s rather silly to try to tell someone else what they believe, but I can try to label what it is I think they believe and categorize them.)

  11. Joe permalink
    December 12, 2010 4:18 am

    While I was still a christian “struggling with doubt”, I switched from the hardcore evangelical churches of my upbringing to a more liberal mainstream PCUSA church. It was there that I met some of the most intelligent rational christians I’ve known. Now that I no longer believe, and am not attending any church, I don’t know who I am more perplexed by, the no-questions-asked fundamentalists, or the intelligent liberals who apply rationality to every part of their life *except* their religion.

    A lot of people write off funtamentalists as nut-cases who aren’t true christians. But I think if you want to understand what the Bible really teaches, look to the people who a tually believe it all to be true.

    • December 13, 2010 6:28 pm

      I had considered PCUSA briefly, but by that point I realized I was no longer a believer. I just don’t see what you can base your belief on if you write off parts of the Bible as myth. Why should any of it hold water if parts of it don’t? And if you write the whole thing off as a myth then where do you base your beliefs? In that case God is either something you have created in your mind or the creation of people other than yourself who have come out of a Biblical view of God and into a more metaphorical view of God. Either way it isn’t based in reality, and still stems from the foundation of the Bible (which you have written off as a myth if you are to this point).

      It just perplexes me. I agree, the fundies are the ones who believe the Bible word for word. It perplexes me how they can believe that!

  12. Enoch permalink
    September 25, 2012 4:04 am

    If I may comment, I was in a similar situation as you – grew up in a Christian home, went to church, said the sinner’s prayer multiple times (a form of self-defeating irony, is it not, that one would have to pray it multiple of times?), and held myself out as a believer for years. But unlike you, I went the opposite direction. It wasn’t until then that I came to a realization that I had never believed in the first place. The Doctrine of Regeneration does have its place. As you are familiar with Reformed Theology, you’re aware that it’s not how much you do or how hard you try – it either happens or it doesn’t. If it happens, it’s the whole deal and there’s no middle ground. While I wish there were something profound I can say, you and I both know that there is nothing that can be said.

    I notice that you describe yourself as having “believed.” This point always seems to come up. I work with someone who almost applied for seminary. He didn’t and said he no longer believed – same reasons as you’ve provided. But the sticking point is always that the individual “used to believe.” I hear this all the time from various people over the years. When I was growing up, I too was taught the Arminianist view like so many other kids. Pray the prayer and voila, you’re saved because you made the ‘choice’. However, I do wish to point out that under Reformed Theology (I mention the following only because you are already familiar with it), like myself prior to belief, neither of us could have possibly been believers. Perhaps a recognition of this is a starting point. After all, not recognizing this begs the question of, “How could you ever give it up knowing the price that was paid?”

    It sounds like your father is indeed a believer based on the limited information. If he follows Reformed teaching, then he would understand as soon as you explain it. He might not be able to verbally accept it at first but he would understand it. I recommend telling him at the very least. It would bring him honour that his son would entrust this knowledge to him even if it breaks his heart.

    • October 5, 2012 1:02 am

      I did believe, whether your reformation theology says I did or not. I believed the things I was taught about god and Jesus without doubt. The early doubts were only dealing with young earth creation and some other points that most don’t consider vital to salvation. I believed from the time I was very young, before I prayed the prayer to “ask Jesus into my heart” I believed. I knew, “in my heart”, that it was true.

      I believed it to be true in my early teen years, as well. It was the reason I struggled so much with “sin” in my life and other aspects of my “Christian walk”. I did not doubt for one minute, back then, that there was a god and that he had a son named Jesus through whom we could have salvation. I did not doubt for one minute, back then, that I was one of the saved because of the grace of Christ, freely given, and the faith I had in him.

      I had no choice in what I believed, just as I have no choice now. That is the thing about belief. You can’t chose to believe something, you simply do believe it or you do not. I can’t chose to believe in Christianity, god and Jesus, theistic religion, “spiritual” things, or the supernatural. I could say that I do, but I would be lying. Back then I could not help but believe. Those things were the way the universe worked, in my mind, and it could be no other way.

      You ask, “How could you ever give it up, knowing the price that was paid?” When I believed, I couldn’t. It seemed like one of the most alien things to me that anyone could live their life having heard of our god and reject him, especially since he offered us salvation through his sacrifice. When I was a teenager I could not give it up, that was why I struggled with the things I thought were sins. I wanted to be transformed in Christ into something holy, I believed it to be possible.

      I now no longer believe these things to be true. I have seen that the idea of the the Christian god is ludicrous, and even the idea of a deistic god is pretty far-fetched. It wasn’t a choice I made, it just happened. I learned things that I cannot unlearn (possibly through brain injury or intense reprogramming) that cause me to not be able to believe. That is how I can give it up, I no longer believe in it. It is possible for your beliefs to change.

      Whether that definition of belief fits your Reformed view of Christianity doesn’t matter very much to me, I know what I believed before and how strongly I believed it. I reject the “no true scotsman” fallacy. There will always be someone in X religion to claim that you don’t believe it in quite the right way and your version is totally invalid.

      As to my father’s theology, I am not sure where he falls, it is not something we discussed much when I did believe in such things and a subject we haven’t discussed at all in the past few years.

  13. May 15, 2017 5:26 am

    For me, having a science background is what undid my belief in Christianity. I found most scientists don’t believe in the stuff of Genesis or even take it seriously. Christianity rests on THE ENTIRE bible being true, and as soon as something like Genesis is found to be false, then the religion quickly loses its footing and legitimacy.
    Many Christians and Catholics don’t believe in a literal Genesis but still believe everything else. But to me that seems a bit of a cop-out, since Genesis doesn’t seem to be written in a figurative style… but that’s just my assessment of it.

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  1. My story, continued « The Secret Atheist
  2. The Strength of Indoctrination « The Secret Atheist

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