Sent in by James
I've been visiting this site for a while now and it's been a real help during my deconversion. I thought it was about time I contributed and maybe help someone else who is looking for answers.
Well, eight months ago I told a friend "I am a Christian who loves God and has no ulterior motives or desire to not be a Christian. Yet I am willing to leave Christianity if it is found that its claims of Truth can not hold up. Anyone who would not abandon even their most deeply cherished beliefs if it became clear it was false would be a self-deluding fool." I still think that no one should have a belief so cherished that it could not be given up if evidence shows it to be false. That is why I no longer believe in the Christian conception of god, or any personal god for that matter. I am now an atheist. Through reading people's deconversion stories I have discovered the terms weak atheism and strong atheism. A strong atheist would say there is no god, period. A weak atheist would say that he (or she) does not believe there is a god. I'm not really sure if the distinction is a necessary one. I mean, I don't think anyone can honestly take the position that there is no possibility of there being a god. But just to clarify, I would call myself a weak atheist.
Now some might say whoa what's going on? Eight months ago you said you loved God and didn't want to leave Christianity what happened? That is what I want to explain. Before I describe the deconversion process I need to tell you the situation before that. Without giving you my life story I grew up in a Christian home with loving parents. I did not have a horrible childhood or have bad experiences with Christianity like some. Most of my time was spent at church due to it also being my school. All of my social activities occurred at school/church and all my friends were from one, the other, or both. I said the sinner's prayer when I was 6 but when I entered high school I did it again because I felt a 6-year-old couldn't actually make a decision like that.
Around the time I became a junior in high school I was introduced to apologetics. Apologetics excited me greatly because I was beginning to see that not everyone believed in Christianity. Also I already had friends who had left Christianity. Through apologetics I had actual physical evidence for my beliefs, or so I thought. My passion for apologetics mixed with my passion for teaching and I decided that I was going to save the world. That apologetics would be my career. My favorite apologetic topic was creationism, followed by the infallibility of the Bible. It is no surprise that creationism was a favorite of mine; after all, it was taught to me in all of my science classes! I can't remember how many times I said to people "What? You believe in evolution? Are you kidding me there is no evidence for that." What a fool I was.
Skip ahead a bit. I was well into college and had encountered all those kinds of people that I was warned would corrupt me. But just like I had been prepared for my faith came through intact if not stronger. That is until I took a geology class. I took this class because I loved science and had always had a special interest in geology. The professor I ended up with is the kind of guy you hope and pray that you get in college. He made class fun and learning easy. I wish there was a heaven for this guy to go to. He asked at the beginning of the semester what we believed about the age of the earth and if dinosaurs lived with man. I and others raised our hands. This did not phase him. He let it be known that it was fine that we believed this because the evidence speaks for itself and that he was not going to try to attack our religion or beliefs but was just going to teach us geology.
Near the beginning of the semester we learned about something called an unconformity. There are several different kinds but what really had an impression on me was angular unconformities. I just Googled around for a specific definition and this is what I found. An angular unconformity is "an unconformity in which younger sediments rest upon the eroded surface of tilted or folded older rocks". I was shown unconformities which had thousands of feet of fossil bearing strata below it and had as many feet of strata above it or had that many feet eroded away. This blew my mind. I knew this did not jive with Young Earth Creationism and flood geology. I would even call it a smoking gun against YEC. I emailed the Institute for Creation Research (where I wanted to work at the time) and asked their professor of geology about unconformities and how they fit with YEC and flood geology. I received a response but it was basically one long non answer. I learned more and more about geology in class and out of class and very soon I knew YEC was a lie.
Even though I quickly accepted that the earth was old (acceptance of evolution would come later) the shock that a huge part of what I believed was wrong hit me hard and lasted for a long time. When I discovered that an old earth was not a problem for Christianity, like I'd been taught, I was beyond thrilled. I had thought my world was falling apart. Some might say well your faith must have been pretty weak, but you have to understand that I had been taught that the idea of an old earth and evolution were 100% completely incompatible with Christianity and those who believed both were living a lie. So after I did all the research and discovered that the evidence for an old earth was incontrovertible my mind , as the ancient robot proverb says, could not compute. But I bounced back quickly and was soon espousing the marvels of Old Earth Creationism. Hugh Ross, who is the main proponent of this, was my new found hero.
However the horrible feelings that came with discovering something I had held as a basic and obvious truth did not leave me. I began to realize that many of my beliefs could just as easily be overturned because they were based on little if any evidence. The idea developed that I should take every single one of my beliefs and prove them so that I could eliminate any as misplaced as Young Earth Creationism. I never expected such tenants as belief in Jesus, the gospels, and God to fall but I wanted to be an apologist and if I couldn't defend my beliefs to my own satisfaction how could I do it to others? Thus the idea of a Search for Truth was born. When I said I was willing to not be a Christian despite all my wishes otherwise if the evidence was against it I was serious. That was the risk I was willing to take. Because, truth to me is so much more important than any traditions or my own personal feelings. What use is it being happy if I am living a lie?
My findings from the year plus that I spent on my Search for Truth are pretty extensive and I think I'd like to write a book some day about it but the reasons I left Christianity and the order they occurred in is easy to sum up. As I already mentioned my quest began by me learning the immense age of the earth. It did not take long for me to realize with an old earth evolution was probably true. Without flood geology all arguments against evolution loose a lot of force. I mean if the flood did not put all those extinct animals there then what happened? Did God periodically create animals to make up for disasters which caused extinctions? That is ridiculous. I began to read everything I could come upon dealing with evolution (something I still do with a passion) and it became painfully obvious how ignorant I had been when I told people they were silly to think evolution was true when there was no evidence for it.
Next I realized that the Bible could not be infallible. Once again it was because of my discovery that the earth was old. Old Earth Creationists make some convincing arguments on how to have an old earth fit with Genesis, and in fact most of them work, kinda. However I could not reconcile the concept of people hundreds of years old spending over a hundred years building a boat to save their livestock from a local flood. It just doesn't fit. This opened the floodgates, no pun intended, for me discovering how fallible the Bible is. Things like the prophecies supposedly foretelling Jesus lost meaning. The dates that the old testament was written and the stories they told lost meaning. The authors of the Gospels lost meaning. That is just a few of things too. And even though they don't have anything to do with infallibility themselves this same line of research revealed the inaccuracy of doctrines like original sin, hell, etc.
By this time I was in constant turmoil. However I still felt love for God; I still believed in Him and Christianity; I still prayed all the time and felt like I was being listened to. But even with all of that I had this mountain of evidence against Christianity which was literally growing daily. My grades began to suffer. I began to question if I could live at all in a world without Christianity. I even considered dropping out of school to devote all my time to the question of is Christianity the Truth. During this time I still believed in Christianity. If someone had held a gun to my head and said are you a Christian and if you are we will kill you I would have screamed YES! But at the same time a part of my mind knew that I was staring the conclusion of my search in the face.
That Christianity is false and that there is no personal god and probably no god at all.
Typing those words even now hurts. I was losing something that had been to my life what my bones were to my body. Everything was based on it, supported by it, and moved by it. Things like what was I going to do with my life all of a sudden began to gain a new significance. I had planned on becoming an apologist. Preaching to people and teaching them how true Christianity was and how their faith did not have to be blind. If Christianity was not true I would have to find a new direction in life. If I became a non believer and this got out I would loose many friends and become ostracized from my family. I felt like I should be mad at God for even making me where I had to make such a decision.
One day I just got tired of the tension. I realized I had known the answer for a while. I sat down and said my last prayer. I told God that I had loved him and followed his laws. That I had learned however that many of the things I had been taught about Him were not true. I told Him that if He is actually there and Christianity is true that I am sorry. But with the mental abilities I have and with the evidence that exists I can not go on believing that he exists or Christianity is true. I said goodbye. I then told myself that I was not a Christian.
It was really hard to do that. It is even hard now to write that. I guess after 3 months I am still transitioning. But I am sure as I can be that I have made the right decision if you can even call it a decision. C.S. Lewis called himself the most reluctant convert to Christianity. I feel like I was the most reluctant to leave it. I will continue to research Christianity and the evidences against it. I never documented many of the things which I read or saw which lead to my decision and I feel that I need to document them so that I can give an answer for why I am an atheist to any of my friends or family if they find out, when they find out. Also I find myself wondering if it was all just a dream. That Christianity is actually true and that I have just made some horrible mistake. This drives me to learn as much as I can and if I am some how wrong I will find out. But I doubt I am.
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)