A pastor no more

sent in by former pastor

left the church and Christianity two years ago.

I had been a Christian since the age of eight when, out of fear of hell, I prayed to Jesus to forgive me.

My family had only intermittent contact with the church over the next 12 years, but at the age of 20 I had what I believed was a real conversion experience (more so than my fearful prayer as a child) and began an 18 year ’adventure’ in Christianity and the church.

I believed I was called to minister, so much of this time was taken up with bible college, one-to-one studies and tutoring, mentor ships and so on, and then with my own teaching, serving on church boards, serving as a deacon, and culminating with becoming a pastor.

All through this time, I saw the best and worst that exists in the church. I received great help and support when I needed them; I knew many deeply loving people who moved me with their depth of character; I saw people pulled out of bad situations (addictions, abusive relationships, etc.). I also witnesses raging hypocrisy; I saw the worst in class system and racial bigotry; I knew people for whom Christianity was a convenient blind for hatred, fear and ignorance; I saw intellect denigrated and received many deep, personal hurts.

Also during this period, my knowledge of the bible, history, language, and comparative religions was growing, and with that, the small, nagging doubts about the absolute truth of the bible and Christianity (which, to be honest, were always there) also grew. I had never whole heartedly bought into thing like creationism, the concept of an eternal hell, the ’evil’ of homosexuality and so forth, and this tendency was increasing. I even got into some slight trouble when I was teaching a class on Genesis for suggesting such things as possible allegorical or mythical interpretations of the creation accounts; that Ph.D.s in geology and biology might have some idea what they’re talking about; or that there is similarity between Genesis accounts and other culture’s stories. (Ironically, my Genesis class doubled in attendance from start to finish).

Although there were some parts of the bible that troubled and disturbed me, such as wholesale mass murders, the generally capricious and bloodthirsty OT god, or the wife stealing, murdering bastard David being put forward as a spiritual ’hero’, I simply filed them away in the ’for further study someday’ part of my brain and ignored them.

But it all came to a head for me in 2003. I had been studying a variety of neopagan, heathen, and atheist books and websites for some classes that I was teaching, and although many of them were superficial and largely useless, there were several that were articulate, intelligently written, and perceptive; especially in their criticism of the bible and Christianity.

I opened up that mental ’for further study someday’ file and began to take a long, difficult, honest look at what was there. The process took some time, but by its end I knew that I no longer believed in the bible or Christianity.

Christmas was approaching, and I knew I could not preach through the season things that I no longer believed. I resigned from my church, and returned my credentials to the denomination. It gave rise to much consternation with both my church and denomination officials that I was not just leaving one church for another (which happens all the time), but that I was leaving the ministry entirely.

That was two years ago. It’s been a painful process and adjustment. I’ve lost my professional position; the financial security it took me years to achieve; many relationships and the support system that had seen me through many hardships. My marriage is on troubled ground because my wife remains a committed Christian, and I don’t know what the outcome of this will be.

I’m past the rage and bitter tears now, thought they flare up from time to time. I’m still working through the mourning process, and I’m still picking up the pieces left from my old life.

I have lost a great deal, but I hold on to what I’ve found. I have a strong sense of peace from being able to face the truth. I have a freedom that I haven’t known before in my life. I even have a modicum of self-respect and, in spite of the bumps ahead, I think the future looks bright.

Joined: 8
Left: 38
Was: Christian pastor
Now: None. I'm just me.
Converted: Originally out of fear
De-converted: I learned too much

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