Sent in by George
My story is as messy as life itself. I'm in the early processes of going public with my deconversion, but it also feels liberating to finally admit the truth out loud, and in the open.
I became a Christian in high school through a youth ministry called Young Life. I went to a week long camp where the gospel was packaged and delivered with great polish and skillful delivery, which was designed for maximum emotional impact. Many girls in the audience at night were in tears as they listened to the account of Jesus. We were all encouraged the final night to go off by ourselves in the dark and commit our lives to Christ. I remember that time vaguely thinking to myself that god really wasn't there, but I think I prayed to him anyway, just in case. It wasn't a fervent prayer however, because I wasn't entirely sure I WANTED him to exist. Still, my friends were doing it, and they seemed cool and nice, so I'd do it to.
I came back from camp somehow oddly pumped up for Christ. I threw myself into bible studies, and developed my Christian friendships a great deal. I still have those Christian friendships, and love my buddies - although now that is a problem (more on that in a moment). I still had nagging doubts in the back of my mind, but kept pushing them aside and just tried harder to be a good Christian. The next few years in college I would vacillate quite a bit. One year I was a volunteer actually helping Young Life. The next year I joined a fraternity and was elected VP, partying heavily and enjoying relationships with sorority women.
I thought that maybe my problems of having a split life would be solved if I married a Christian woman. Any would do. So I did marry one. Now all of my Christian friends and I had wives and my social life was back in order. There was still one nagging problem however, I didn't believe that there really was a God. If I announced it now it would ruin everything. So I kept it half-secret. Every few years I would let out hints, but they were very poorly received, and so I would recant and just say that I was having a crisis of faith, but that I'm fine now. I lumbered along like this, half-happy, half-miserable, for about 15 years.
Finally, many years into the marriage, I did some very bad things. I violated my marriage vows, something I strongly regret, and was deeply ashamed about it. A neighbor reported my actions to my spouse. Some ugly scenes of confession and deep shame ensued. My world was in the process of being destroyed. At this time I turned to Christianity again. This time I was going to REALLY do it right, and my life would work. I knew that atheism was a problem in the past, but fueled by heavy doses of guilt, remorse, and shame, I was confident that this time I could simply force myself to believe. I now realize that Evangelical Christians feed off these incidents in people's lives. They are used to showcase what life without God is like. (Anything positive you've done in your life is ignored or minimized, but the bad is highlighted, because it supports their arguments.)
During this last final, grand attempt to make myself believe, I read many books on Christian apologetics. Although some arguments were intriguing, what these books most educated me on is what can NOT be proved in support of Christianity. It seemed that the authors used their intelligence to devise very convoluted methods to ensure that they can still believe the Bible.
And that was the other thing. I really for the first time in my life read the Bible thoroughly, and found that the more I knew about God, the less I liked him. Here are some things that disturbed me about the Christian faith:
1) Doctrine of Hell. God chooses whether to save people or not. So if you're one of the billions who are not chosen, you never have a chance to save yourself from Hell. Thinking in human terms, what would you think of a person who would invent Hell, and send billions of strangers there because they don't love him enough? You'd think he's a tyrant, maniac, not to mention evil.
2) Book of Revelations. I read through this book and was appalled. Amongst many other atrocities, God wants to send locusts with human faces and scorpion stingers to do nothing but torment people for months as punishment for not loving him enough? How cruel and sick. How can anyone worship a god like that??
3) Tower of Babel. Read this passage in Genesis 11. Really read it and think about it. Nothing is more clearly a myth than this segment. It also reveals a weirdly paranoid God who wants to slap humanity back down right when they're starting to show great teamwork and get things done!
My old reliable Christian friends were delighted with my amped-up commitment to Christ. But after about 12 months, as the guilt and shame and remorse were subsiding to normal levels, I found that I still couldn't make myself believe. Now however, I'm older and feel a need for some internal integrity and honesty in how I deal with people. But my lifestyle is more "Christian" than ever - I have a bible study that meets at my house for goodness sakes! The past few months and weeks I've opened up with my wife and some of my old friends about my humanistic views. Let’s just say that its not being very well received.
As I leave Christianity I will also be leaving my old, faithful friendships of 25 years (on average). They simply can't tolerate doctrinally having a close friend who isn't a believer. They are praying for me, which is a huge condescending act, and showing that they don't accept me as-is -- they need me to change in order for them to accept me. Hopefully that will wear off. Regardless I will need to find new friends because right now I have zero support for my honest, godless views. It really is a shame because I think those guys are great in some ways, but that's the way it is. I even like and enjoy the people in the bible study that still meets at my house (my wife is still a devout Christian). It will be interesting to see how they react to me in the future knowing I'm an unbeliever.
I have habits that may be with me forever, and tend to think in Christian terms (sin, for example). But I'm glad I'm leaving. I have a whole new life of both good and bad things in front of me, and I will live it without worrying about any notion of "god".
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)