by T.L. Goble
At a very young age I accepted Christianity as my religion. The reason for it was simple enough, yet also very complex. Christianity was all I knew and all I’ve ever been shown. There was no room for Buddha, Muhammed, Confucious or Zoroaster. As a matter of fact, even Catholicism was regarded as a deviation of God’s original plan. So I was thrust into my family tradition -- Protestant Fundamentalism and of the Baptist denomination.
I grew up going to a church in the mountains North Georgia that was over one hundred years old and full of belligerent, backwoods preachers dressed in their ‘Sunday finest’ spewing and frothing at the mouth the horrors of Hellfire and brimstone while some lady carried on shouting and holding her hands up in the air waving them back and forth. A man would get up and lead the congregation in a few hymns and proceed to lead a group prayer that sounded like an incoherent rumble.
At age 9, I felt a feeling I’d never felt (Christians call this ‘under conviction’). My heart began to flutter and I began to break out in a cold sweat. I felt like I needed God, but why? I had never really done anything horrible, really. I had disobeyed my parents I few times, and normal things that children do, but never any terrible act to scar humanity. Yet, I was so afraid of dying and going to the worm-invested, fire torture Hell and being burned alive forever and ever that I finally gave into my fear and fell on the altar bench. I sobbed and cried out to God for help. I did not want to go to that awful Hell.
Finally, after 5 minutes of weeping and begging God to help me, I got up and felt much better. I wasn’t afraid to go to Hell anymore. I figured that surely God wouldn’t send me to Hell after that! At 9 I was old enough to know that being ‘saved’ meant you didn’t go to Hell and since I felt I was no longer headed there, I done the math. Thus, I was ‘saved’. I became a born again Christian. I reached out for God and felt that he heard me and saved my soul from Hell.
As my life went on, I begin to become aware of people’s reactions towards my new found faith and that I was actually more repulsive to my peers that I had been. I was never a popular one in school and seldom found any friend that I could trust. I resolved myself to books and my Christian nature of mercy and humility was taking a vicious toll on my sanity.
When I reached my mid-teens I became disoriented with the Christian lifestyle and began to secretly search for other ways to pursue what I felt I needed in life. My parents could see this change in me and were not at all pleased. I begin to rebel more at home and at school. Finally, my parents took me out of public school and placed me in a private academy.
Finally, I began to become interested again in the Bible and Christianity. After an enormous pressure from my own intuition I felt as if God wanted me to be a minister. So, after sobbing and trying to re-discover myself for a few days, I told my parents. They accepted this joyfully, yet also in a sober-minded state. My father also felt ‘preaching’ to be his ‘call’, yet it was a burden also. This was a change in his life as well, his vision of ‘preaching the gospel’ was very Kierkegaardian.
The decision to accept preaching as God’s plan for me caused me a world of misery and problems. When I looked around to see my peers, they ridiculed me even more. Not only was I an outcast, but now I was an outcast which accepted such pacifist tenets as “turning the other cheek”. I finally struggled back and forth with my nature to “sin” and my requirement to do God’s will, so I was on again/off again in church.
Later in my life, I realized that I had lived in hypocrisy for well over ten years, and that my life was going nowhere. I needed to fulfill it in some way. I turned again to my Bible studies. I had studied the Bible for over 15 years and intensely for two years. After winning several awards, teaching and holding studies, I became looked at as a semi-scholar, a Christian apologist even. My background in philosophy as well as my Christian studies propelled my to be recognized as a legitimate authority in religious debate. My job at the time gave me the opportunity to write a religious editorial each week, which I did for five years. I later began to teach in studies and conventions. I also taught College age Sunday school at my church.
My popularity grew as did my readership and I begin to become self-important and dependent solely upon my reason and ability to debate. Seldom did anyone challenge me on an issue, and if so, I would have an answer for them. If I did not, I would make sure that I found one that had the least amount of flaws. My father later told me that I badgered people into submission--perhaps he was right.
Such figures as C.S. Lewis, Thomas Aquinas, Rene Descartes and a host of other Christian philosophers were solid weapons that I used to rip apart philosophical arguments against God and my solid Christian beliefs. Apologetics (in all its deceptive nature) I used to the fullest extent to badger ‘sinners’ into a state of complete frustration. This embarrassment to their egos made me feel superior and made them feel two inches tall. This seldom helped lead people to Christianity, since they saw me as a pompous jackass. I had an answer for everything it seemed.
My parents were going through a transition period in their Christian lives also, but the polar opposite of my struggle. They were between ‘faith’ and ‘reason’, and gladly made that leap of faith. This resulted in their becoming more charismatic in Christianity to point of, in my eyes, abandoning all reason and logic.
I, too, had come to another crossroads. Would I accept ‘faith’ or ‘reason’ and could the two become combined? I had read numerous essays and theses on how faith and reason could be reconciled. This was used, for example, in the faith we place in a chair to hold us up while we sit on it. This was a bad analogy in my opinion, for we had empirical, testable evidence for this kind of faith. Another kind of faith was that of fidelity in marriage. However, this faith was not necessarily Biblical faith, but a kind of trust that was earned (or should’ve been) from the spouse prior to one leaping into matrimony. Itwas, again, testable. However, these faiths could also prove to be fallible and thus, mean nothing.
The Biblical faith was what I needed to examine and did. The Bible stated that faith was the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. In modern terms it is simply ‘belief without proof’. Living by faith means to govern your life on blind hope. This does not cohere with rationality and I began to take notice. Finally, I found myself in a dilemma--should I and could I make a true leap of faith and push reason into the backseat or, perhaps, even out the window? This cast me into a deep state of depression. I could not see myself abandon Christianity after I had hammered away so long for it. It would be heresy and expose me as a charlatan and hypocrite, or worse yet, an ignorant.
The depression began to worsen when I examined other arguments against Christianity to be fair to myself. For a while, I battled back with what I had read until one day, out of the blue, a thought came to my mind, a horrible thought. ‘What if Christianity is not wholly true?’ The doubts begin to come after reading several works of mythology and ancient history. The pagan roots of Christianity, some of the words, rituals and concepts came into focus. Finally, I begin to openly doubt that which I had secretly been skeptical of for my entire life -- the supernatural. Spirits, souls, demons, angels, and other mystical phenomena which I had never truly witnessed neither with my sensory perception nor with my rational thought. Perhaps, the supernatural and religion in general was all based upon traditional myths born out of ignorance and fear of the unknown. The very thought of this concept made me shudder. Is it truly possible?
For days, weeks and finally months I pondered this. I read the Bible. I read ancient history. I read mythology and philosophy. In an impulsive and curious purchase, I seized a book on the origins of Christianity and Bertrand Russell’s works on science and religion as well as a host of other books regarding the topic of religion and science, reason and faith.
Through all of this--the studies of philosophy, religion, mythology, science and psychology, I have challenged the supernatural, the mystic element of our world and the world beyond. In my studies and my reasoning I have come to the most beautiful, harmonious system of belief that I can accept with all the joy of geniune fulfillment, yet reconcile to the rational process from which we govern our lives. Reason, logic, and intrinsic nature are the tenets of this belief. It subscribes to no religion nor dogma, but accepts science, reason and the nature of things as being the true and most logical way of accepting life.
Became a Christian: 9
Ceased being a Christian: 28
Labels before: Minister, Teacher, Valedictorian of Christian Academy
Labels now: Skeptic
Why I joined: Upbringing, Emotional Reactions and Fear of Damnation
Why I left: Extensive scrutinization of Apologetic Arguments, Listening to the Voice of Reason
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)