The importance of evidence

sent in by Joshua

Some friends of mine have posted on this site and asked that I do the same. So, here is my story.

I grew up in Kansas. Christianity and church were a big part of my life. From the time I was very young I enjoyed church, Sunday school, singing hymns, and reading my children's Bible. When I went to college, I immediately joined a Bible study group and had an instant group of close friends. I felt that the people around me were good honest and hard working people. Christians like me wanted nothing more than strong marriages, well behaved children, good neighborhoods and good schools. I never had any bad experiences or anything like that. Yes, there were scandals from time to time, sexual and otherwise, which we good church folk loved to gossip about but overall my experiences were good ones.

After graduating I got a job in Los Angeles. I was a little nervous about leaving a Christian paradise to move to a sinful city but the offer was too good to refuse. The first thing I did after moving was seek out a church. Once again I instantly had new friends in a strange new place.

In LA, for the first time, I came in close contact with people of other religions, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, even a Zoroastrian. These people believed just as strongly in their respective religions as I believed in mine. I realised we couldn't all be right.

I also came in contact with atheists, agnostics and the just plain nonreligious. My next door neighbor to the left was a Wiccan. The neighbors to the right were a gay couple raising an adopted child. One was a stay at home parent. My boss was an agnostic. All of these people were good people, just like the folks back home. They all wanted the same things. Happy marriages, good kids, safe schools, and so on. They were all kind and helpful to me. The Wiccan neighbor took me grocery shopping every weekend, while I saved for a good car (you don't want to drive a crappy car on LA's freeways). Every morning, the gay neighbor drove me to a bus stop two miles away, so I wouldn't have to change buses, even though it was out of his way. My boss was always happy and friendly. He treated all his subordinates with the utmost respect.

I was forced to reevaluate my views on everything. Gays weren't evil and immoral. People didn't reject God or religion, just so they could behave immorally. They sincerely and honestly didn't believe. People of others faiths sincerely and honestly believed that their religion was true.

I started to seriously question my faith. How could I really know that Jesus was my savior. Where was the evidence to back up this belief? The Bible? Where was the evidence that the Bible was true? I realised that Jesus may have been a savior, or a madman, or a liar, or a figure who was mythologized by grieving followers. I have no way of knowing.

Faith is believing in something you can never know to be true. You choose to believe it but you have no evidence to back up that belief. The Muslim believes Muhammad was a prophet. Maybe he was. Or maybe he was a madman or a liar. Maybe Ganesh or Ahura Mazda is the real god. Maybe David Koresh was the real messiah. How can I know what is true and what isn't true without evidence?

I continued to go to church for a couple of months after losing my faith. I enjoyed the fellowship and the ritual. I had friends there. But I couldn't help looking around at all these people who claim to "know" the unknowable. I stopped going to church. I decided that from now on any belief I held had to be based on evidence of some kind.

When people ask me my religion I tell them I have none because I only believe what I can prove. Of course, I've heard a few stories from individuals who have had powerful spiritual or supernatural experiences that convinced them that God is real and their religion is true. The most recent story I heard was from a Muslim revert. Of course, the Muslim's supernatural experience reveals the truth of Islam, the Christian's the truth of Christianity, the Hindu's the truth of Hinduism and so on.

Religious belief is not rational or logical. It is often more powerful than reason or logic. You can point out contradictions in scripture, historical inaccuracies, OT prophecies that turned out to be wrong, violence and perversion in the Bible and so on. It doesn't matter. The desire to believe is stronger than the evidence against belief.

I truly feel sorry for religious people. People tithe, practice celibacy, wear burkhas, fast, and so on all out of belief in something they can never know is true. Generally, they believe because that's what their parents taught them, and their parents taught them, and so on. You can't convince them that it is not rational to expend so much time, energy and money on the unknowable.

I teach my children, 8 and 6, to be skeptical, to question everything. I teach them that a lot of people make claims that are not true and they try to deceive the gullible for their own gain. I tell them not to fall for deceptions and to think for themselves. Even though my life was good as a person of faith, it is better now that I am an openminded free thinker.

How old were you when you became a christian? Born into it
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 24

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