Typical scenery in the "Doubtful Sounds"
of New Zealand, via WikipediaSent in by Josh
Hello everyone, I'd like to share my own de-conversion story, in the hopes that it might encourage others who may have their own doubts.
To say I grew up in a Christian home is an understatement. My parents were missionaries, believing the Bible as the literal Word of God. I accepted Christ at age 4. We lived overseas on the island of Guam and then the country of Sri Lanka, all the while my parents believing they were doing the Lord's work.
We moved to Raleigh, North Carolina as I entered high school. I involved myself heavily in youth ministry at our church. I remember thinking how great it would be to live in a country surrounded by other Christians, as opposed to the third world, Buddha worshiping country that Sri Lanka was.
Looking back, my high school time was the hardest on our family. My father's missionary salary no longer supported the high cost of living, and my mother had to find a job. Our family spent little time together, and I remember several times going to church alone because my parents were just too exhausted from working.
After high school, I attended Word of Life Bible Institute in New York to make sure my faith was strong before I entered college. The whole year was spent studying the Bible, doing missions work and sitting in Bible classes. I came back from that time 'on fire' for Christ. Or so I thought.
I attended my old church and became a youth leader. Missions trips, camps, bible studies, small groups, teaching, I did it all. I also went to school full time and worked. It didn't matter that I was exhausted all the time, I was serving Christ. I didn't question it.
However, as you can probably guess, I began to feel empty, burnt out and used. I would give and give and give to the ministry and all the church would do was ask for more. "The fields are ripe but the workers are few." I must have heard that line a thousand times, in and out of church.
I began to skip a Sunday here and there, for it was the only time off I had from work and school. Going back the Sunday after skipping, I would often get a guilt treatment of "Where were you last Sunday? We needed you," instead of "we missed you last week, I hope every thing is OK."
Well, at the time, I rationalized that it was some sort of 'sin' to miss church, and that other members were right in confronting me about it. This inevitably led to more guilt, however.
As weeks went by, I spent more time with people who didn't judge how I spent my time or how much I gave to the church; basically my non-Christian friends. They never thought less of me for sleeping in on Sundays, they seemed genuinely concerned if I hadn't seen them in a while, and they didn't mind if I occasionally could make it to a movie or party with them. Basically, my non-Christian friends were more loving and caring than my Christian ones.
From there, I began to question my involvement in church and what I was actually getting out of it. It wasn't a long jump from there to asking "Is Christianity really the truth?"
I began to read a variety of non-Christian books and authors that argued against Christianity, to see maybe if I could disprove my doubts. I still attended church on a fairly regular basis, thinking that I shouldn't turn my back just yet on a faith that had been with me my whole life.
For me, the final nail in the coffin actually came in the form of three nails, all within a short time of each other.
The first nail was Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus." This book cast doubt on the inspiration of scripture by pointing out that none of the original copies of the texts had been preserved, so what makes us think it was inspired by God to begin with?
The second nail came in the form of looking into the creation/evolution debate. For years I believed the creation story, but as I read more and more about evolution and its role in life, my beliefs dissolved away. For what had appeared to be complex and perfectly formed life turned out to be not so complex and rife with imperfections the more I studied biology. Authors like Richard Dawkins and Stephen J. Gould, people I would refer to in spitting disgust, now brought to me wonderful words of enlightenment.
The third and final nail came in the form of an unanswered prayer. One guilt-ridden Sunday I made the decision to stop going to church altogether. I would wait three weeks to see if anyone noticed. I prayed to God that if He was listening, and if He was real, that someone from my church would contact me. A phone call, an email, even a chance meeting somewhere would convince me to go back. Heck, even a Christian bumper sticker might work. I prayed long and hard that my doubts were wrong, that God really existed, and that Jesus Christ was just waiting for me to ask for Him to reveal Himself to me.
Guess what? The God of the Universe, the Savior of Mankind, the Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent Creator of the World was silent. Silent! No calls, no emails, no chance meetings, no bumper stickers! Nothing! Three weeks of silence! I had been on missions trips, taught Sunday school, given my testimony, helped with summer camps, winter camps and even led others to Christ, and I couldn't even get a five-second email fired off to me saying "Hey, where ya been?"
At that point, I felt like a great burden had lifted. I no longer felt guilty about missing church, I no longer cared about lustful thoughts, greedy desires or the fact that I actually wanted to spend some of my time doing things I liked, instead of 'serving' God.
From there, its been two years, and I have not looked back. When I told my parents (they lived in another state now) they were disappointed, but still loved me. My dad still prays that I come out of this 'spiritual valley' but for me its like walking through a door and closing it behind me.
When I was deep in the faith, preachers and pastors often used the act of coming to Jesus Christ being like setting a prisoner free from a cage of sin. I say that leaving Christianity behind was like stepping out of the confining, narrow bars of faith into a whole new world of discovery and endless possibility.
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)