Sent in by Candace
Hi everyone. I have not used my real name for privacy reasons. I'm posting here not so much a testimonial of "deconversion" as an explanation of my current situation.
Basically, I started going to church a couple of months ago (I was always aware of Christianity, but had always viewed it with suspicion). Its ideas and concepts always seemed absurd to me (like the resurrection, vicarious atonement, etc), but the more I went the more indoctrinated I became. I was at a tough place in my life and I needed some support from other people and Christianity really helped me with that.
Later, I came across your website, did some research on my own (looked at all those "evilbible.com" type websites), realised the Bible was full of absurdity and logical inconsistencies, as well as historical inaccuracies, and quickly deconverted.
Thing is, I didn't stop going to church, because couldn't find anything to fill the emotional void. I was an atheist for a while but didn't want to leave the only social support network I had, so I kept attending services and Bible studies etc. On a human level, I enjoyed those things, if only for the human interaction, but I never really gave much thought to what they were actually teaching.
I was atheist for a few weeks, but eventually I gave up on atheism because I realised that the problem with atheism is that it gives people nothing. It gives you nothing to believe in, no purpose in life, nothing to live for, no reason to do good unto others, love thy neighbour, etc. No reason to gather with other people in love and support which is what appealed to me about Christianity in the first place. I once heard the expression "Gathering atheists is like herding cats". Atheists have no reason to be together. I think the downside to atheism is that you tend to become very individualistic in your thinking (especially if you have no social "cause" to adhere to, like a political group or a charity or environmental organisation), and consequently you become very apathetic about life. Well that's what happened to me anyway. I mean I've always been pretty apathetic, and I liked that belief in God gave my life a purpose. I should add that I wasn't brought up in a loving home, my parents are pretty average but quite self-centred as people go - hardly ever give to charity, didn't concern themselves with social justice etc, basically kept to themselves. So I wasn't brought up with those philanthropic values that might have made Christianity redundant. My parents' idea of the good life is to work hard, save up, pay off your mortgage and enjoy living in the nice house with the material possessions you bought with your hard-earned money - not that there's nothing wrong with that - but I just felt like there had to be more to life than that. For as long as I can remember I've always been a pretty spiritually inclined person who wasn't that interested in material possessions. I wasn't loved very much by my parents when I was young - they were too busy working to pay much attention to me so I think that's why I needed Christianity so much. I needed to feel loved without having to earn that love.
So I started questioning again and came to the conclusion that it was absurd to deny that there could be a God. I mean, I was a Richard Dawkins-style atheist for a while, you know everything evolved randomly and the Bible is a giant chain letter (which is what a "meme" is basically) etc. But then I thought, if everything is completely random then what purpose is there to life? If life is nothing but a series of random, unconnected events? I began to look for some kind of deep, underlying meaning to existence and eventually I found myself seeking God again.
So I re-committed myself to Christianity, but this time with my rationality intact because I realise that was my only defense against being brainwashed. So I realised that Christians are just people who happen to believe what they've been taught to believe, because it makes sense to them, and because their friends all believe the same thing. I realised, if enough people believe in something, it becomes the truth in their mind. It becomes self-justifying. If they feel like the world is somehow against them they could always turn to their Christian friends to support.
Now I have nothing against Christianity. But I'm looking for God. (I have heard people say that they are looking for God but they are not looking for religion, and I totally agree.) I'm looking for the God that is the divine essence, the creative force behind every living thing in the universe. I mean, life itself is pretty absurd if you think about it. The chances of life evolving out of nothing are infinitesimally small. Almost non-existent. We could have just been balls of rock floating in space, but no, we have consciousness, we have thoughts, we love, we feel, we record, we communicate, we can create. We can make things that are beautiful. Art, poetry, dance, theatre, stories. Isn't it awesome and amazing? We should, in all probability, be dust floating in space but we're ALIVE. And we must have some purpose, beyond just reproducing and perpetuating our genes (regardless of what Richard Dawkins might say).
So yes, I want to believe in God, the God that created all of us for a purpose, but Christianity is so absurd that I feel that it keeps me away from God rather than bringing me closer to him/it/whatever. (I mean seriously? Does God even need to have a gender? But I can understand for convenience we say He because of the limitations of the English language.) Which reminds me of what Jesus had to say about the Pharisees in Matt 23:13-15: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." That passage has always struck me as inexplicably relevant even to this day and age. There is no guessing who the modern day Pharisees are.
In all honesty, Christianity is fairly harmless, if you just want to sing and pray and do all those churchy things. But sometimes I feel like being a Christian is more about the church - serving the church, worhipping the church - than it is about God.
So I'm not really a Christian. I don't know what I am. I believe in God. I want to follow Jesus. But I don't think I have to be a Christian. I have enough faith to know that labels don't matter in the eyes of God.
It is sad that Christianity (which was basically the invention of Paul of Tarsus and a handful of people who weren't even Jesus' apostles) has alienated so many who earnestly seek him, not to mention how many people were tortured and killed in the name of God.
So I guess...I'm looking for some answers? I'm not really sure what I should do now. Should I keep going to church? Should I make more friends with atheists, freethinkers, people who question the orthodoxy? They seem hard to find in this world, yet I know (or would like to believe) that I was made for some purpose, to make a difference in the world. Yet I feel stuck between the ineffectual self-indulgence of modern Christianity, and the materialistic nihilism of atheism.
I welcome your advice, comments and suggestions.
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)