By Jeff Mark
My name is Jeffrey Mark, and I'm the author of Christian No More, a book that details my deconversion. Here's the short version of my story. I recently turned 40, and until around the age of 30, I was a devout Christian. Although I grew up in a family that was far from fundamentalist, I still went to church every week, and slowly the whole theology of Heaven and Hell was pushed into my brain.
Throughout my childhood I lived in constant fear that I would do something wrong, and that I had to beg for forgiveness. Every single movement I made was with God in mind, and wondering how God would feel about it. My friends generally misbehaved a lot more than I did, but it was not my place to judge them. And to me, that meant it would be wrong for me to say that what they were doing was wrong. One friend would pick on other kids and beat them up. Who was I to say that was wrong? Passing judgment was wrong.
Although I never beat up any kids, I was occasionally mean and snotty towards other kids. And as soon as I snapped at other kids, my friends were the first to jump all over me and tell me that I'm a bad person for doing that. I would believe them and go in my bedroom, shut the door, and pray to God and cry and beg for forgiveness. I had to do that, because otherwise I would go to Hell.
And so the cycle would continue: My friends would misbehave, but it was okay, because I wasn't allowed to judge them. But when I misbehaved, it was a sin. And indeed the church taught me I was a sinner and that I was a horrible person. And soon I started to believe it. I was a sinner, and would likely end up in Hell. This mindset went right into my 20s. Even though now I look back and realize I was a good person (as a teen and young adult I was always nice to people, and as a child I rarely got in trouble, except for those few times I mentioned), in fact I believed I was a horrible person, just scum of the Earth--all thanks to the church.
By the end of my 20s, I was sinking into a depression. I believed I was a horrible person, and that evil was in my heart, even though I wasn't. And I was certainly a mess.
I wanted so badly for Christianity not to be true. Finally, one day I heard a Catholic Priest on TV pray for forgiveness and he said, "We are not worthy of your forgiveness."
And that's when it all hit me. His words filled me with anger. Not worthy? I'm a good person! Any time I misbehaved as a child, it was just because I was trying to fit in. All those things I beat myself up for were perfectly normal, perfectly HUMAN. I was simply being human. I'm not evil. I don't belong in some Hell and everlasting punishment for just being HUMAN!
My depression turned to anger. For the next four years, I was very angry at the church and refused to buy into it. But I still believed in God and Jesus; however, I was creating my own theology where we didn't have to believe we were bad people.
This worked for a while, but only for a while. Because the problem was that the only source of God and Jesus was the Bible. And in creating my own "nicer, kinder, gentler" theology, I was going against the Bible. And just because one doesn't like something doesn't mean it isn't true.
Then something else hit me. Buried deep in the Old Testament is a very small story that barely takes up half a page. Yet it's a story that's very familiar to all of us, the story of the Tower of Babel. This story details how the world's languages supposedly began.
But I knew better. Scientists, historians, anthropologists, and linguists all tell us otherwise: That is certainly NOT where the world's languages began. And something else troubled me about that story. God was afraid of these people building a tower? Why? It was as if the ancient writers of the Bible really believed that God was up in the sky, and a building high enough would reach Heaven. But that we know better today as well, having sent space ships into the outer reaches of our solar system, and having studied the edges of the universe with radio telescopes.
No building would be a threat to God. Clearly, the story of the Tower of Babel never even happened. It was a myth. A lie. But if the Bible is God's word, how could this one lie be in the Bible?
And then I began really studying. I read as many books as I could, including books about ancient mythology. And that's when it all fell apart. The Bible is nothing more than a collection of ancient myths based on earlier myths. Even the New Testament is built on myths. It's all a lie.
I began detailing my journey in the form of a book. Originally I was going to call it Why I'm No Longer a Christian (a reference to Bertrand Russell). But I chose a shorter, simpler title: Christian No More. In researching the book, I found more and more evidence to back up my idea that the Bible is completely myth and never happened. And that included the story of Jesus. Jesus never existed. He was made up as some kind of god-man story in the style of other similar stories of the time. He wasn't real.
And that was a big moment for me: If I don't believe Jesus existed, then by definition I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN.
Of course, it still wasn't easy, because that was a huge identity issue for me. All my life it was, "I am a Christian." But no more. Where does that put me? Agnostic? The word "atheist" scared me at first, but over time, I embraced that word too.
And now, today, I live a much happier life having finally ditched my beliefs. And I've finished my book, which will, hopefully, help other people break away too. I've made that one of my life-missions. I want to help others break way without going through the pain that I went through. And I'm hoping my book will help them see why there's nothing to fear: God and Jesus aren't real, and therefore neither is Hell, and neither is Satan. So why worry? There's no chance we'll be thrown in Hell and punished for not believing. And indeed I no longer worry. Life is good!
And finally, after years of self-flagellation and depression, I'm finally free of the shackles of the religion that was destroying me as a person. And I'm finally a happy person. Life is much better today now that I've let go of it all.
Jeffrey Mark is the author of Christian No More: A Personal Journey of Leaving Christianity (And How You Can Leave Too) (ISBN 0981631304). This book is for everyone: Atheists will find excellent arguments to help them defend their positions; Agnostics will appreciate the clarification it brings; Christians who are struggling will find this book a great help in breaking free from their shackles as they learn exactly why there's no possible way Christianity is true and why they don't have to worry ever again.
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)