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Goodbye Jesus

Ten Years In The Making


Citsonga

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Well, it's been roughly ten years. Although I don't recall the exact date, it was sometime shortly after Labor Day in 2002 that my religious beliefs began to unravel. At age 29, I started having my first doubts about Christianity.

 

My life was devoted to "Christ," praying, seeking God, studying the Bible and some apologetics, memorizing huge amounts of Scripture, teaching Bible studies and Sunday school classes, and playing in the church worship team and a couple Christian bands. Of course, the apologists misrepresented skeptics' arguments in order to tear down strawmen, but having come from a dogmatically religious background, I was completely unaware of the enormous holes in apologetics claims. I was firmly convinced that the Bible was true, and I had a knack for "reconciling" the "alleged discrepancies" in the Bible. I thought it all fit together nicely, and I never had anyone strongly challenge me. (A few nonchristians did challenge me, but they didn't do a very good job, thus making my views still seem credible.)

 

At some point in the fall of 2002, though, while doing a parallel study of the Gospels, I was stricken by the discrepancies between Matthew and Luke in the story of Jesus healing the centurion's servant. For the first time, I realized that there was a contradiction in the Bible that really seemed real. I couldn't reconcile it, and every "reconciliation" that I could find by Christian "scholars" stretched things beyond credibility, ignoring explicit details from the text. Could the Bible actually not be inerrant? It bugged me, but I brushed it aside for a little while.

 

Later, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was studying the Nativity stories in Matthew and Luke, and once again I realized that these accounts seemed contradictory. And, once again, the "reconciliations" proposed by Christian "scholars" stretched things beyond credibility, ignoring explicit details in the text. This, coupled with the centurion contradiction, left me further shocked. Really now, is the Bible actually not inerrant?

 

Sometime after Christmas, having prayed about these texts, having tried reconciling them myself, and having sought answers from "scholars," I decided to ask a few respected Christians in my circle. So, I sent an email to a few ministers and an elder about these two contradictory stories, only to find their responses to uncompelling. One went so far as to claim that simply trusting the Holy Spirit revealed the reconciliation in the centurion account, but when I pointed out that there were details in the story that conflicted with his proposed reconciliation, he didn't respond.

 

So, I got no answer from the Holy Spirit, no answer from my own attempts, no real answer from "scholars," and no real answer from trusted friends in ministry. Hmmmm..... I went on confused, trying to hold on to the only worldview I had ever known, but also knowing that what I really cared about was truth, regardless of whether or not it was what I had always assumed to be truth.

 

During the time after uncovering those Bible problems, I was also pondering the problems of prayer and freewill in common Christian belief. If someone prays for a job and gets it, does that mean that God gave him/her the job? Saying yes implies that the person doing the hiring had no freewill in the matter, because God caused the hiring to take place. Most Christians, though, would not accept the notion that he/she didn't have freewill. However, if the person did have freewill and made his/her own decision, then God didn't cause the hiring, but rather simply left it up to the individual. In that case, why praise God for something he didn't do?

 

Similarly, if someone prays for someone else and that prayer is effective, then the logical conclusion is that God's dealing with one person is at least in part dependent upon someone else's actions. Yet, how could a just God base his assistance of one of his followers on whether or not someone else prays for him/her? Shouldn't it be based on the individual alone rather than someone else? Does God slight those who don't have others praying for them? If so, then how is that fair? If not, then how does a prayer for someone else have any effect?

 

Anyway, as I continued to pray and seek God, as well as study the Bible and try to find answers, it started becoming more and more clear to me that there likely would not be any solid answers to my questions. For the first time in my life, I was in the process of finding out that the views I had based my whole life on were not standing up to honest scrutiny.

 

In a final effort to boost my faith, I turned to what was supposed to be the strongest proof of Christianity: the "Christological prophecies." I went through the Gospels and started comparing claims of fulfilled prophecies with the original texts in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament). I had read them before through the lenses of indoctrination, but this time I took a much closer look at the context of the original passages, and what I found was quite shocking to my system. Over and over and over again, the original "prophecies" were not at all saying what the New Testament claimed they were saying. They were ripped out of context and sometimes even reworded to suit the intended new meanings. In other words, it became obvious that the fulfilled prophecy claims were fabricated!

 

I should acknowledge that I was aware of the "dual prophecy" argument, but I had never really examined these things this closely. Once I did, it became obvious that the "dual prophecy" argument was nothing but a shoddy attempt to prop up belief in the Bible. No Christian would accept the "dual prophecy" argument for passages taken out of context if the argument was put forth by people of other religions, and with good reason, because it's simply a stupid argument. The only reason they accept it with Christianity is because of their preconceived perception that the religion must be true.

 

Anyway, finding out that Biblical prophecy was a house of cards proved to me that Christianity simply isn't true. That's the point when I realized that I was no longer a doubter, but a nonbeliever. It was pure hell, though. I had only ever known the Christian worldview, so it seemed like the ground had been yanked out from under me and I had nowhere to get a foothold. I was in a freefall of sorts. I went through a depressing time then. All of my closest family and friends (wife included) were/are Christians, and I had nobody in whom I could fully confide. I felt all alone in my journey for truth. It wasn't like there was a Skeptics' church on the next corner that I could go to for support.

 

Having not found truth in Christian answers, at some point I joined the Skeptics Annotated Bible Discussion Board community for a while, looking partially for whether or not the Christians debating there could provide real answers, but also looking for what I could glean from other perspectives. Needless to say, the Christian side lost again. Interestingly, it was there that I also found out more about the flaws in so many Christian arguments, and I realized that some other "reconciliations" I was still buying into were flawed.

 

After a while I took a break from the SAB board, fully intending to go back in a couple months. Instead, I enjoyed allowing myself room to breathe, and I never got around to going back to the board (I occasionally browse it, but I haven't posted there in years). By this time I was out of the depression phase, and things were starting to improve.

 

Later, in watching a bunch of YouTube videos by skeptics, atheists, etc., I found out about ex-christian.net and joined the online community. It's been a good experience, especially since someone suggested meetup.com, and through that I found a freethinker group near me. I joined and met some very interesting people. I finally had a physical community that I could feel comfortable in again! From that group I found out about another nonbeliever organization that isn't associated with meetup.com, and I joined them too. Now I don't feel so alienated anymore.

 

Throughout the past decade, I have learned quite a bit and became better at rationally examining things. I came to realize that the warmongering in the Old Testament made more sense when realizing that brutal groups could easily invoke their preferred deity to justify heinous actions than when believing that a just God would behave thusly. I came to see Biblical absurdities for the ridiculousness that they really are, as well as the fact that most apologetics arguments are based on circular reasoning. I found out that "creation science" has no science behind it at all, and that [gasp] there isn't even any good, solid evidence that Jesus ever even existed.

 

Finally, I also came to realize the stupidity of the whole concept that an omniscient, omnipotent being who desires a relationship with us would be so dependent on a book and fallible men to do his bidding for him. If such a thing was true, then there wouldn't be any need for missionaries and apologists, because such a God could easily make himself known.

 

Things certainly aren't perfect now, but I've come a long way. I have a lot yet to learn, but I feel that I'm much better at critical thinking than I was as an indoctrinated believer. I can clearly see how flawed it is to approach a subject with the intent to try to find ways to make it make sense instead of stepping back and evaluating whether or not it's true by the evidence.

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Yet another example of someone trying so hard and being intellectually honest with themselves, to search for true answers rather than made up ones and coming up empty. Remind me where your wife stands on the issue?

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Oh, and as an aside, did you know that Citsonga is "agnostic" spelled backwards? Yes, this actually had to be pointed out to me by Citsonga himself after I had been here for about a year.

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You are a person of high intellectual honesty and a truth seeker. Congratulations on ten years. You are an encourgement to me and, I am sure, others.

 

And, no, Thought2Much, I did not realize that Citsonga was agnostic spelled backwards. Cool online name, Citsonga!!

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Yet another example of someone trying so hard and being intellectually honest with themselves, to search for true answers rather than made up ones and coming up empty. Remind me where your wife stands on the issue?

 

Thank you. My wife is still a believer, but we both give each other room to pretty much be ourselves. She's not a Bible-thumper and is a good person, and while I know she'd rather have me going to church with her, she hasn't relegated me to the realms of evil.

 

Oh, and as an aside, did you know that Citsonga is "agnostic" spelled backwards? Yes, this actually had to be pointed out to me by Citsonga himself after I had been here for about a year.

You are a person of high intellectual honesty and a truth seeker. Congratulations on ten years. You are an encourgement to me and, I am sure, others.

 

And, no, Thought2Much, I did not realize that Citsonga was agnostic spelled backwards. Cool online name, Citsonga!!

 

Thanks. I wasn't feeling very creative when I opened my account here, and that was the first thing that came to mind. As a big music fan, the fact that the name contains "song" in it was also appealing.

 

I appreciate the intellectual honesty of you all too, and plenty others on this board, as well as many freethinkers I've come to know in my personal life.

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