Image via WikipediaI am 49 years old and finally FREE of the yoke of Christianity! I have so much to say I don’t know where to begin.
I was born into a southern Christian family. Went to church every time there was a service. Sunday school, VBS, summer camp, choir, etc (you know the drill). I never heard any arguments of the other side and I believed it all. Yet occasionally something would not sound right. I particularly remember being in church at about age 12 at services by a guest speaker talking about Genesis. Of course the question came up about the earth being very old. He brushed it off by saying god created the earth with”apparent age.” That sounded corny to me at the time. I remember it so well because that phrase, “apparent age,” would sporadically come to the front of my brain. It made me think about other weird things in the bible (resurrection, miracles, killing) but each time I would suppress the ideas and continue on in my Christianity.
For those who grew up this way, you will understand that it is a lifestyle. All your friends, activities, interests, etc are centered on the church. After high school and college I moved around a bit. The first thing I would do in each new location would be to find a church and try to become active. I met my wife, had kids, moved again to Kansas City and continued my church life. I was church treasurer, sang in the choir, mowed the church lawn, gave lots of money and attended regularly with the family.
But I was never gung-ho, that is, I never witnessed and never talked about what god was doing in my life like other Christians (including my parents). I did actually believe it, because I would have debates in my head and always concluded it was real. I would be emotional in church and feel it was real. But sometimes it bothered me that I wasn’t bold about my faith.
Finally about age 48, a number of things happened that led to my leaving Christianity. It was like the perfect storm. I don’t remember the order of the events, but they all happened within a few months:
- In Sunday school we were studying Matthew. Our teacher was a professor (Dr.) at a local Bible college. As we read the genealogy of Jesus, I asked why the writer had skipped several generations to come up with his list of 14/14/14 generations. His answer was that the Hebrew letters in the name of David, when given numerical values, add up to 14. Thus the writer was making the point “son of David”, “son of David” , “son of David.” I sure my jaw dropped as I listened to this nonsensical explanation. I never went back to Sunday school.
- Our pastor gave a series of sermons on “hearing god speak.” The main point of his sermons was that god doesn’t actually speak to us (duh). But we get impressions in our mind. Of course we then have to determine if the impression is from god, Satan or our own mind. Strike two.
- I sat in church on Easter Sunday and decided to read all four of the easter stories side by side. For some reason I had never done this and I was curious about how many people actually saw Jesus after the supposed resurrection. I was shocked when I saw that the versions weren’t even compatible. But what really disappointed me was that the only people who claim to have seen Jesus were his own disciples, usually in secret meetings. Jesus didn’t walk all around Jerusalem preaching to people or confronting the religious leaders? Strike three.
I began to realize that most Christians only read small bits of the Bible that sound good but are often taken out of context or are at contradiction to something else in the bible (like the two totally different versions of the birth of Jesus). I began searching the Internet for biblical contradictions. I was walking through a bookstore and saw Bart Ehrman’s ‘Misquoting Jesus.’ I purchased it and it was the best thing I had read in a long time. I read other books and Internet articles. I listened to Julia Sweeney’s ‘Letting Go of God.’ What a great story! I knew it was time for me to do the same.
The first few months were not easy. I had a constant debate going on in my mind. When you have been brainwashed for nearly 48 years it takes time to undo. But I have finally reached the point where I am fully comfortable with my new (dare I say “atheist”) self. I told my wife and 3 children (ages 18, 18 and 21). The kids said they had already reached the conclusion that religion isn’t real (after all, they said, every religion claims to be the one, true religion). I recently sent a letter to my church asking them to remove me from the membership rolls.
I am pleased to see recent polling indicating more people are letting go of religion. I think this information age will result in more and more people (especially the younger generation) taking a reasoned look at the claims of religion and rejecting them. When I was growing up in the 60's and 70's, there just wasn’t any access to information and arguments against religion.
I am now happier, healthier and wealthier than at any time in my life.