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The Only Honest Answer


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iMy name is Michael, and I'm an ex-Christian. thanks.gif

 

I suppose posting this is good therapy. Honestly reading all the accounts here I don't know how people could say it wasn't possible for real Christians to fall out of their faith. If you don't care particularly about your faith, you probably have no reason to "fall out of it." It's the people who really end up taking it seriously, by and large, that end up being the people who reject it. My father and my girlfriend are both Christians, and because they don't take it too seriously, they don't really ever reject it. Anyway, here goes:

 

I was raised a christian. My father and my mother were both from main-line protestant denominations, but at an early age my mother signed onto evangelical Christianity. I was taught whole bible passages, and often floored people with my biblical knowledge throughout my life. I was home-schooled, and my mother one year taught us the history of the world by teaching us apologetics based on the works of Francis Schaeffer. This was cool because we learned about the classical thinkers, including Socrates. Socrates was a man I was really impressed by. Here was a guy who had no experience with monotheism, let alone Christianity, and yet he saw that the polytheistic gods weren't really doing it for him. I also found his observations on God and morality to be interesting, but filed them away in my brain.

 

In high school I joined the youth group and became very active. We went to discipleship conferences, and got to hear entertaining speakers, and were "on fire for God." Our church was small enough that we were allowed to give testimonies after these conferences, and I participated in this several times.

 

The first thing that bothered me was something that someone who was not home-schooled probably wouldn't even think about. There's a narrative in conservative Christian circles that "no prayer in school" meant that all expression of religion was banned in schools by the supreme court. When I later found out that there were bible studies going on in public school I thought, "That can't be right." Slowly I began to understand that this was a gross exaggeration.

 

I must digress a little at this point and talk about science and origins. My mom took me to a creationist seminar when I was very young. Most of the criticisms of evolution I can't remember, but I do remember that the particular person who was teaching us told us how he saw this teradactyl in New Guinea: a frightening beast with a 40 foot wingspan. I was too young at the time to realize how absurd this was, but later on when I realized how absurd that claim was and also observed how no records of large teradactyls have been found in New Guinea, I was forced to conclude that he was either lying or delusional. My second experience, and more important, was when I went out to Big Bend in west Texas. You can see the stars shine there really well, and I was able to pick out a large smudge with binoculars in the sky: the Andromeda Galaxy. The explanation for this that I was given is that God must have created the light "in transition" or that he "sped up the light" and that the universe really WAS 6,000 years old. But why would he make something look that much older? I concluded that if God sped up the light that must mean he wanted us to see the universe as that old. But why stop there? Why not put telomeres in the middle of chromosome #2 ( as I learned later) or put half-a-million years of ice sheets down in the arctic (ditto)? There could only be one conclusion that wouldn't make God out to be a dishonest douche-bag: God must want us to give the universe a naturalistic framework, the better for us humans to understand it. Thus creationism lost all its appeal to me, and intelligent design was even less appealing than that. Intelligent design is the attempt to curtail the scope of evolution without proving creationism, but they are forced to be very cagey about what they believe, because they aren't defending the biblical creation account. Their essential position is that God not only reverse engineered the Bible out of the evidence, but did a crappy job and left all sorts of holes for us to find. While this might prove some generic god, it disproves the God of the Bible, leaving the ID movement two sandwiches short of a picnic.

 

 

The biggest move for me was when I began noticing the contradictions in the Bible. At first they were minor such how long it took Jesus's fig tree to wither or what David paid for the threshing floor, but when someone pointed out to me the contradictory mess that was the resurrection accounts, I was flabbergasted. How could a good God who wanted to be worshiped get this (the most important miracle in the bible, according to Paul) so wrong? The differences in the gospel accounts are to numerous to point out here, but you can probably get a good summary on SAB.

 

From then on I looked at the Bible on "the other side of the looking glass." I read it skeptically, and even assuming an all-powerful God, there were things that just didn't add up. Also Paul's emphasis on the resurrection was puzzling to me. surely the substitutionary death was what was important. why did we need a literal resurrection? The accounts, besides contradicting each other, seemed visionary in nature, with Jesus walking through walls, appearing and disappearing, etc. It just didn't add up to a serious history of the events as they actually occurred.

I finished my degree in accounting, and my last year stopped going to church (just fell out of the habit). After about two years, I started going back to church at Prestonwood Baptist in the Dallas area. I had no girlfriends to speak of, but started up the old habit of Sunday School only and met some cool people. As time went on, however, I began to see that Christians were pretty shallow people, living normal lives (not good lives or bad lives, just normal ones) and that being a churchgoer meant almost nothing when it came to whether you were a good person. One of my favorite observations about people seems Yogi-bearish, "people are people." That is, human nature seems pretty intractable and most people live the same lives despite what intentions we have. People in church are not "new creations" nor are they possessed by a "spirit of power, love and a sound mind" just like everyone else. To often this is used to guilt Christians into trying to live better lives, but these verses are not commands. They're predictions. God isn't staking anyone's reputation on these predictions but his own. Like a bad weatherman, if he gets it wrong, it's his fault.

The concept of Christian responsibility is seriously screwed up as well. If i do bad things, that is somehow my fault, but when I do good things, god takes all the credit. For example, if you look at "dirty" magazines, it's you looking, but if you don't, god "gave you the strength." You just "let god work in your life" except that you didn't, God did. Apart from being logically incoherent, this is a thoroughly miserable way to live. You have to make your choice. Either god is responsible for your virtues and deficiencies, or you are responsible for them. Like an investment, reward takes risk, and vica versa. It's that simple, and life is much better when you take responsibility for the whole. After my Sunday School class fizzled out, I joined another class, but it was ridiculously superficial. There were two twin brothers that dominated the whole thing, and while the girls were cute, they all ended up pretty much dating people outside the group. I also met this Catholic girl and started dating her, so the whole singles church experience lost it's appeal.

 

About a year ago, I went to a debate between Christopher Hitchens and an ID proponent named William Dembski. I knew this was going to be fairly one-sided, given my above views on ID. By this time I more wished than believed Christianity to be true. I hoped that there was a savior to save us from our sins. Christianity is the biggest lie ever told, but like all lies, it has a kernel of truth and our fallen nature (or as Darwin put it the "unmistakable stamp of our lowly origin") and I had, and have no doubt that I am an imperfect person. I thought he got some good licks in, and that William Dembski's responses were mostly ad hominems and cheap shots. But it wasn't until his closing statement that Hitchens won me over:

 

 

 

I gave him a standing ovation, and then went out in the hallway thinking for a long time. This was the heart of the absurdity of Christianity, more than all the miracle claims and contradictions of Christianity combined. It was the idea that god would expect our certainty to save us. Certainty is epistemiological vanity, no how much you cover it in devotion to an external figure. The limits on human understanding are profound, and what god is asking us to do is lie to ourselves and say "we know" without earning that certainty first. It attempts to assault an orderly set of certainties, held in porportion to the evidence, by laying out a ridiculous set of rewards and punishments to scare us or tempt us into belief. But pursuing such a certainty is vain, because an honest assessment of the evidence is the key to obtaining everything in life, and it only stands to reason it would be the key to obtaining any afterlife that might actually exist. If you give up your honesty, you give up everything else that might set you free. I felt a huge weight off my shoulders. It was OK now to doubt, OK to ask questions. In fact, my new worldview demanded it (too much, I think sometimes).

 

Thinking this over I went down to my house for thanksgiving, and dropped hints to my mother about why transformation. she was upset, and gave me several books on Catholicism. she was now a catholic, having given up evangelical Protestantism. This was yet another confirmation of the absurdity of certainty. Here was a woman who had been certain twice, and wrong at least once. It emphasized to me further the absurdity of a saving belief. Finally, right before I left to go back to Dallas, she cornered me and asked me if I believed that I was no more than a bag of chemicals and water, and I turned and looked her dead in the eye, and said,

 

"Sometimes the honest answer, the only honest answer, is I...don't.....know."

 

From that moment, I was no longer a Christian.

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If you give up your honesty, you give up everything else that might set you free. I felt a huge weight off my shoulders. It was OK now to doubt, OK to ask questions. In fact, my new worldview demanded it (too much, I think sometimes).

 

Hi, Michael. Isn't it a shame that Mother Nature gives us a brain and then religion dictates that we aren't allowed to use it? Am glad you figured it out. Welcome to Ex-C!

 

 

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Wow! Well done. And so quotable:

 

"pursuing such a certainty is vain, because an honest assessment of the evidence is the key to obtaining everything in life, and it only stands to reason it would be the key to obtaining any afterlife that might actually exist. If you give up your honesty, you give up everything else that might set you free. I felt a huge weight off my shoulders. It was OK now to doubt, OK to ask questions. In fact, my new worldview demanded it"

Congratulations to you.

Edited to add: when I took a second look at Christianity after being out of it for decades, I had a similar reaction about honesty, or the lack of it. This quote kind of gets at it:

"Philosophy is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat. Metaphysics is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn’t there. Theology is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn’t there and shouting “I found it!”

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faith is absolutely contrary to the natural human code needed to stay honest and logical with one's self.

 

Thank you for your post.

 

Jesse

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Dude, that paragraph beneath the video is one of the best things I've ever read on this site. I am so jealous of you getting to see Christopher Hitchens. I love listening to that guy!

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Hi, Michael

 

Thank you for posting your story. I really appreciated your journey and thoughts.

 

I agree with you about those who say we were never "real Christians". You said this so well: "I don't know how people could say it wasn't possible for real Christians to fall out of their faith. If you don't care particularly about your faith, you probably have no reason to 'fall out of it'. It's the people who really end up taking it seriously, by and large, that end up being the people who reject it." I understand where fundies are coming from when they declare us never in the club in the first place, but it is a terrible thing to say to us, who have become skeptics, atheists and agnostics against our deepest desires.

 

 

I also like what you said about certainty: "Certainty is epistemological vanity", and your assertion that we should have evidence for our beliefs.

 

And finally, I like your Darwin quote regarding our nature: "the 'unmistakable stamp of our lowly origin'". This has helped me a lot.

 

Thank you for your thoughtful extimony. I hope to see more of your thoughts posted here.

 

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

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I really enjoyed reading your extimony. This part in particular struck me.

 

 

The concept of Christian responsibility is seriously screwed up as well. If i do bad things, that is somehow my fault, but when I do good things, god takes all the credit. For example, if you look at "dirty" magazines, it's you looking, but if you don't, god "gave you the strength." You just "let god work in your life" except that you didn't, God did. Apart from being logically incoherent, this is a thoroughly miserable way to live. You have to make your choice. Either god is responsible for your virtues and deficiencies, or you are responsible for them.

 

 

This is one of the things that bothered me the most while I was in the faith. It isn't just the good you do being attibuted to god, it is anything good. Yet, anything bad that happens, god gets a free pass. This really stood out for me this spring when 5 kids from my step-daughter's private xtian school were caught in a rip tide while on a mission trip to Costa Rica. Three of them died, including a very close friend of my step-daughter. In the midst of this horrible tragedy, my step-daughter's mother kept posting on FB how awesome god was because of the number of people saved at their funerals. I knew it was an inappropriate time, but I wanted to ask why this awesome god ignored the desperate pleas of these poor kids who were only trying to serve him... Insanity.

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