Jump to content

I Finally Swallowed The Red Pill. A Little Bitter, But I Feel Better Overall.


Recommended Posts

Posted below is my de-conversion story. It's not exactly complete, but it's what I have for now. A bit long, so I'll just post it here for anyone that comes looking for more information about me. At some point in the future I may create a condensed version of it for the forum's viewing pleasure. Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

You may or may not know that I have been doubting Christianity for years. Not out of a desire to ‘do my own thing’ or be free from its strict moral code. No, I started questioning the stories of miracles, virgin births, and an all powerful, ever vigilant being because I actually read my Bible.

 

If I am to tell this story effectively, I have to take you back to the beginning. I was ‘saved’ at a very early age, I think it was 4 years old. I can still remember the night very clearly. My mother prayed with me while I accepted Jesus into my heart. Unlike many others who have shared their deconversion story, my parents never really emphasized Hell as the consequence for ignoring God’s gift. They simply presented the Gospel for what it said it was, and encouraged us to obey. The night I accepted Christ was very emotional for me, I felt an amazing power moving through me (even at that age) and I could not stop crying. Even now, I am quite surprised that I actually understood the magnitude of such a decision.

 

From early childhood until I left home for college, my family attended Church and Sunday School together on Sundays, conducted family time prayer, singing, and Bible reading each night, recited scripture, as well as prayed before all of our meals. Although I was occasionally bored during our activities, I can say that even now it was pretty good family time. I can remember being told early in my faith that there were people who did not actually believe in God or the Bible. These people were to be pitied, prayed for, and approached with the ‘truth’ when circumstances permitted. As soon as I understood that there were doubters, I think that I started my search for definitive proof of the Bible’s claims. What better way to win doubters over to our side, than to show them the most obvious signs of our God’s existence? Of course, it was not long before I discovered that it was pretty difficult to find definitive proof of anything in the Bible. But my father was able to keep me at bay for years with very succinct, simple answers to many of the tough questions. Like most children, I assumed that father knew best and was quite satisfied with his replies.

 

Throughout high school and college I did my best to live a pure life. I avoided profanity, aggressively suppressed lust, and read my Bible regularly. A year before I graduated from college, my older brother became an agnostic, and moved in with the woman he would eventually marry. It was bombshell for my mother, and it took her many years to reconcile the anger she felt towards him for turning away from the faith she had instilled. I didn’t take it much better. We are 20 months apart, and had shared our struggles with temptation and peer rejection throughout our adolescence. When he dumped Christianity, I felt as if I had been left to go it on my own. I wasn’t angry, but I was very disappointed, and eager for him to repent and return to Christ.

 

It wasn’t until shortly after my college graduation that a steady, growing doubt in the veracity of the bible started to develop in me. I can remember one night over Christmas vacation saying to some friends of mine “If we ever to make contact with extra terrestrial intelligence, I would like to ask them if they have a messiah story much like our own. If they don’t, then I will throw Christianity out ASAP.” My basic logic being that if God created the entire Universe, then he should have made the same promises of salvation and redemption to all of his sentient creations. That is of course, a very random sort of conclusion to come too, but I suppose it represented the intersection between my fascination with space travel and foreign life forms and my struggles with Christianity. This is the first time that I can remember seriously doubting the Bible.

 

In the spring of 2003, I was working as an officer in a US Army Light Infantry division which deployed to Iraq for the invasion. I was a First Lieutenant at the time and was eager to prove my mettle in combat. However, I was chosen as the rear detachment commander. This meant that I had to remain in the US to take care of the injured and belligerent soldiers, as well as tend to family issues, and send supplies forward. I was absolutely devastated, enraged, and alone at the same time. All of my friends left with the division while I stayed back to command the rear unit. Shortly after they left, I was approached by a member of the Navigators and invited to a Bible study. I would eventually become active in the group and pushed myself to memorize scripture, pray regularly, and evangelize on the weekends (which I hated). Regardless, I thought it was what God wanted. Looking back on it, I think my vulnerability at the time played a large role in me getting so deeply involved. As the Read D commander, it was also my job to handle casualty notification. I would call the parents or spouse of the wounded, and visit in uniform the family of the dead (only had to do that three times). As I watched the KIA numbers rise daily during the early insurgency, I couldn’t help but think “Some mom is praying that her son survive the night, but he will be killed anyway.” It made me wonder why God would not answer that mother’s prayer, but I chalked it up to ‘mysterious ways’ or a ‘part of his plan.’

 

A little more than a year after I met the Navigators, I left active duty for medical school in Baltimore. It was at that point that I again started asking some difficult questions. I can remember a conversation with one of my cousins that summer where I told her how disturbing it was that Christianity was so similar to other ‘false religions’ given that it was supposed to be the truth. Towards the beginning of medical school I can remember reading the book of Revelations all the way through, and for the first time realizing that it made absolutely no sense. In all my years, and I had read the ‘choice’ passages from Revelations in church, or as part of a broader study. But this was the first time that I analyzed the book as a stand alone piece. Stories about three headed snakes, strange beasts, an incomprehensible events. Symbolism or otherwise, there was no accurate way to interpret this. I researched its origins to find out that it was the retelling of a vision which John had at some point after his contact with Christ. This is when I first became critical of the Bible’s origins. Who wrote each of the books? Who decided that it would become part of the modern Bible? And why the HECK did they do that. The truth is, the Bible’s arrangers probably did me a huge favor by including Revelations. It demonstrates some major flaws in the process of assembling scripture, hence allowing me to question the rest of this ‘inerrant’ body of work. I could not understand how someone’s dream was allowed to stand as scripture and somehow become ‘useful for teaching’ to every Christian. Who was John? What gave him the right to publish his dreams in the name of God? How literally are we to take this? These are questions which have no good answer. That really bothered me, so I started to investigate the sources of the other books.

 

I attended a few campus bible studies during my first year of med school before I was convinced that I didn’t want to do that anymore. Shortly after that I stopped reading my bible and praying. I did meet my wife within months of arriving on campus. She was also a Christian and had attended a Christian undergraduate institution. We shared our faith and commitment to prayer and reading for a few months before we slipped into little more than weekly church attendance.

 

By my second year of med school, I was pretty much back to where I was as a college kid. Committed to avoiding sin, reading occasionally, and praying occasionally. I had been very frustrated by my inability to score higher than a B- on my tests. Despite constant prayer on the matter, varied techniques, and constant studying I could not elevate my performance. When I would review the tests I would always find that it was my memory that was failing me. Flash cards, audio recordings, wrote memorization did little to improve. I had tried everything in the book and prayer. Why would God not answer me? In my mind, I knew that it was a very acceptable practice to rationalize one of God’s unanswered prayers. But for the first time, I simply refused to. It didn’t make sense for him to spare me from combat in Iraq, facilitate my acceptance to med school, only for me to perform marginally. Slowly, I accepted the idea that no matter what the Bible said, God DID NOT answer prayers. He must have better things to do. Afterall, he had already allowed 3,000 soldiers to be killed in Iraq despite the fact that each one probably had at least 10 people praying for them. There is no benefit to someone being killed, there is no ‘blessing down the road’ there is no room for ‘mysterious ways’ when someone has been blown to pieces.

As I moved through medical school, I continued to attend church but I put less and less faith in God’s ability to get things done on my behalf. I simply went about my business and my grades remained pretty much the same. I refused to pray before step 2 of my licensing exam as well as the residency match (to test my theory on prayer’s efficacy). I was pleased when I was accepted to my number one choice of specialty in Hawaii. Now I was pretty sure that something was wrong with the Bible. Leading up to med school graduation, I was pretty convinced that the Bible was on the same level as other religious texts. It had simply been allowed to become more acceptable because of it’s sanctioning by various western governments.

During these years, I began to challenge my father (the most rational and fervent Christian that I know) on a semi regular basis. More frequently, I noticed that his arguments never seemed to amount to more than hazy, unsubstantial, circular reasoning. During one of our debates, I challenged him with the unlikelihood of many of the ‘miracles,’ as well as the young earth theories. He told me that I had not read enough, and that I should do some research on the topic instead of drawing from a general understanding of the earth. Although I felt as if I didn’t need to read one more sentence to understand the unlikelihood of Jonah being swallowed by a whale, being held in its GI tract, and then vomited intact on a beach of God’s choosing days later. But I picked out some material anyway.

I read the book Is the Bible True by Jefferey Sheler. I walked away from this book understanding that basically, there is anything but a consensus between archaeologists on the accuracies of the Bible’s historical claims. For every archaeologist who dates sites and artifacts as coinciding with the historical claims of the Bible, there are at least another one or two reputable archaeologists who disagree. But I was never really concerned with the Bible’s historical accuracy since I figured it would be hard to verify a lot of it. I was more concerned with the supernatural claims that the Bible made. After all, those were the miracles, and phenomena that separated God from the lesser, false gods of israelites’ contemporaries. The book barely addressed this topic, I would assume that it had something to do with the fact that there is no physical evidence of any supernatural event. Regardless, a book written by a Catholic author, with the intent of strengthening faith in Christ’s followers allowed me to see that there was no historical record of Jesus separate from the Bible, and no accounts of his presence after the crucifixion. There is no evidence of a single biblical supernatural event. Only writings.

 

It was at this point that I realized I must start to accept what I had feared. Christianity can only be accepted by faith, there is nothing substantial, nothing physical, nothing tangible on earth to support claims of an all powerful, ever present, all knowing being who manifested himself in the form of a man, died, rose again and regularly intervenes on our behalf as he sees fit. Christianity was no better than any other faith. It was just another set of stories put together by the ancient Israelites. If it takes faith without proof to fully accept it, then how can I put my faith in it above Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc?

 

There is a part of me that wishes I never went looking for answers. Wishes that I could just go back to church and sit, pray, smile, and be happy that someone had my best interests at heart. To this day, I wish that Christianity was true, I wish that the world was that simple. This does of course leave me with a few issues. My father valued Christian obedience above all else in life. Being a total recluse without friends, or close acquaintances suited him fine, just so long as he was going to heaven and all the other people of the world were not. And even if another ‘Christian’ was going to heaven, he looked down on a lot of them, content that he accurately interpreted the Bible while they merely followed the direction of some bozo preacher every Sunday. As you can imagine, a male role model as such could set you up to have some serious social issues early in life. Although I found ways to adapt to a lot of situations in adolescence, I can’t help but wonder how much I missed out on for want of a pure existence. How often I passed on ‘sinful’ activities in favor of pleasing my phantom savior. It’s kind of sad. But in many ways, I have to acknowledge that I owe a lot to my upbrining. Overall, I am very pleased to be an ex-christian despite these regrets.

 

So where do I go from here? I see a common fear in the Christian motives of my wife and my father. They both cling to the idea of Christianity as being a solid method of child rearing and self regulation. They fear that without such boundaries, humans are capable of almost anything. For the longest time, I believed this as well. But recently I have grown to reject this belief. Christians readily admit that they are born again, and committed to obeying God’s word. But at the same time, they acknowledge their human weakness, continual sin, and constant need for repentance. So basically, despite their elaborate rule book, they’re still going to break the rules. As an ex-christian, I choose to live by many of the biblical principles of my youth (I have set gay-bashing and moderate, not excessive, lust aside). I too am human, and will make mistakes from time to time. So the major difference is that I will dust myself off and get back to work while the Christian will do the same after asking the invisible man for forgiveness and fearing divine retribution at some point in their future.

 

As far as the time that I used to spend 'seeking the Lord's will through reading the bible, praying, and fellowship with people who I would not otherwise be friends with- I spend that time conducting a thorough examination of Christian beliefs and the most dominant arguments against them. Internet forums, and discussions are what I find most appealing right now. Arguments and rebuttals, ideas and counter ideas add a dynamic element to my search for a clearer picture of Christianity and its role in this world.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome. :)

 

Have to say, I'm new too, so I don't have a whole lot of advice I can offer, but I really do feel for you because a few things in your story were so similar to how I began to question and leave my faith behind.

 

Looking back on it, I think my vulnerability at the time played a large role in me getting so deeply involved.

 

 

Emotional vulnerability is almost always what gets people into cults. Now, I'm not saying Christianity is a cult, but it is not above taking advantage of a person in that situation. They see it as doing the right thing by quelling your insecurities and giving you a support network. I guess it can do that, but for a lot of us it just glosses things over. Or worse, if it really is a cult, you get a mountain of other problems.

 

 

Slowly, I accepted the idea that no matter what the Bible said, God DID NOT answer prayers.

 

 

This was probably the one thing I held onto until the very end. I hardly believed in God in my heart for a long time, and I knew no one was listening, but I kept praying anyway. I prayed that I would be able to pray more sincerely. It's a very lonely realization.

 

I think it can help when you try to remember that the people you care about will always love you, even if you aren't able to talk to them about all your problems like you could with God. These people will be able to hold you, listen to you, comfort you, because they are actually there. They exist.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm new to the site too and appreciate reading your story. Yea, I was heavily involved in the Navigators too for a couple of years in the military. Actually started a new group on our army base until the regional leader got ticked off at me and ex-communicated me from the group, but that's another story.

 

I can relate and think most of us here can, about the overly sensational supernatural myths presented in the judeo-christian scriptures and their lack of evidence in the rational scientific world. To their defense maybe it is "allegory", although I think that is a very convenient alibi and can be too easily said of anything claimed as miraculous without proof. I can tell you struggled with the decision you made for many years and can relate to that process! I think most of us here, really didn't want to become agnostics or atheists, but after taking an honest and objective look without religiously biased understanding, didn't have a choice. There are just too many holes to ignore and rationalize away.

 

Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi and welcome! I de-converted officially in November, though the journey out took about 6 months and was probably seeded long before that. This site and others that are referenced from the main blog page helped to give me concrete things to demonstrate that Christianity was an evolved religion pieced together from various religions of that area and time. One of the primary things that caught my attention was the lack of hell in the Old Testament. Since that is rather a primary doctrine in the preaching of the New Testament, I was astonished to realize that it was a Greek concept, not a Jewish one.

 

There is a good site called "Why Wont God Heal Amputees?" http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

 

You'll find a mix of attitudes on this board, ranging from fairly venomous anger to detached philosophical. Some of us have moved on to other religions, while others have become devout atheists. Some of us don't know what to call ourselves. Anyway, it takes time to look at the material and let it sink in. I have 30 years of gung-ho belief to undo, and it is surprising for part of me to see the words that fly off my keyboard today. But I'm happier than I've been in years, and much much more free.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to the forums, Doubting Joseph.

 

I look forward to more posts from you and expect you'll find a genial home here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest QuidEstCaritas?

Welcome Joseph.

 

I too kept wishing it were all just true when I was going through the process of not only getting out of religion, but getting out of a very uhhhh...extreme variety of it.

 

I wish it could have been true, but it's just not. I still feel like I wasted so much time with it, and I feel bitter because I tried so very very hard to be holy. The siren call to holiness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Joseph, I'm glad to see that you're feeling better and I enjoyed reading your story.

 

I was wondering, since you were a Lt in the military.....do those who profess evangelical christianity get treated better than those who do not? The reason I ask is because my son is in the AF, he's not an atheist but he is definitely "getting the shaft" because most of his unit is made up of evangelical christians. He and another guy won't "play along" and the boss with his christian clicke doesn't like it at all. He and the other guy are constantly getting prostelitized to and someone anonymously left that book "A purpose driven life" on the other guys desk. When the guy took it to the boss and complained the boss said, "Why don't you read it, it's a good book". Their unit Christmas party was also all "religioned up" with opening prayers and "praise Jesus's" expected from everyone. My son and daughter-in-law refused to pray and didn't bow their heads when the other guys wife noticed she raised her head too and asked, "you're not religious"? My daugher-in-law replied, "There's a difference between being spiritual and flaunting your religion". The lady said she agree and kept her head up for the rest of the prayer too.

 

My son and one of the evangelical "elites" both put in for OTS and the evangelical got his paperwork signed by a higher ranking officer even though his resume wasn't as good as my sons. You can't prove it was religious discrimination but it's pretty obvious that's what is going on. It's so frustrating.

 

Did you notice any of this type of thing when you were in? I was in the AF from 79 to 87 and it was nothing like this when I was in...even though we were coerced into attending Church at Lackland (your choices back then were church or a GI party).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Joseph, I'm glad to see that you're feeling better and I enjoyed reading your story.

 

I was wondering, since you were a Lt in the military.....do those who profess evangelical christianity get treated better than those who do not?

 

Did you notice any of this type of thing when you were in? I was in the AF from 79 to 87 and it was nothing like this when I was in...even though we were coerced into attending Church at Lackland (your choices back then were church or a GI party).

 

 

Hey Sandra,

 

From my experience, I would have to say that there is a general acceptance and publicity of religion in the military that is slightly higher than it is in the civilian sector. With that said, the individual's experience, and the climate of his workplace will depend very much on who their commander is, what his beliefs are, and those of his higher ranking subordinates. I had a battalion commander who was a Christian, and was not afraid to make it known, but religion as a whole was pretty much a non-issue in my unit. Rarely discussed, and never used as a tool to distinguish between 'good' and 'bad.' As a Christian at the time, I do remember feeling quite isolated, because the majority of my fellow Lieutenants liked to head down to Nashville to get drunk and try to find someone to sleep with. 'Bad' behavior was pretty much the norm, but I was also in an Infantry unit, so maybe their a little rougher around the edges than most.

In all honesty, if one airman/soldier was promoted or given preferential treatment over another, I would search for some reason other than religion. Most people that I ran into just didn't care that much about what faith everyone else was practicing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.