Still on the fence

by Michael

Sitting on the FenceImage by Jonathan Gill via Flickr

I guess one could call me a de-converting Christian. I am still a little on the fence, but leaning towards the non-Christian side. My story is something of a mystery even to me.

I was raised in a Christian home, with Christians of various stripes and zealousness. I followed in their footsteps for the longest time, being a creationist and the like. But one day I was at a public library searching for videos on atheism for the sake of learning how to argue against it. By luck I discovered a video of a Christopher Hitchens' lecture on his book. Lets just say the surprise was mind blowing. It didn't de-convert me, obviously, but it got my mind thinking: What if there was more to what I believed, what I knew, and what I was told about? I checked out his book, and started to read it. It made me question my beliefs, particularly in regards to Creationism, and it showed what my belief system can do to me in a way I had never seen.

I soon realized that I couldn't believe in the stuff anymore. I soon had a problem though, since I had never been quite able to not wear my heart on my sleeve. It was talking to my grandmother, and I exclaimed that I wasn't sure what to believe anymore. (I found it is good policy to be a pragmatist in talking about things like this.) Well, in short, she made me question again, so I gave religion another shot, though I continued to do research. I found my new Hitchens inspired convictions to be sound. But then I found what I much later determined to be a crock of a book: Why I Believe by D. James Kennedy. It brought me back into the fold.

As I continued to research and think, I flirted with de-conversion again. This time I grew more certain in my convictions because of the fact that I thought that the bible wasn't historically accurate (again thanks to Hitchens' book). I soon became a bit aggressive about what I thought, and acted as such. It ultimately culminated in a discussion with a pastor. In the emotional state I was in (due to getting into an argument with my Grandmother of all things), the pastor was able to beat my arguments against Christianity. (The arguments wouldn't have been all that good if I had been in a less emotional state of mind, I realize in hindsight.) So, I decided to make a serious attempt at being a Christian. I started looking more at apologetics and it only reinforced the conclusion that the Bible wasn't historically inaccurate. Then I took a break from in-depth study of this and thought more about the theology of the Bible and how it worked. Let just say that I became a moderate in regards to Christianity. I was still in support of stem cell research, and I believed that people's decisions should be left to the individual.

In the fall of this year I started taking a class in the anthropological development of religion. I was curious about how religions developed. One of the things I learned is that to truly understand belief systems you have to be as completely objective as possible.

Soon I started to take a look a Christianity. I started to apply the concepts I was learning. I also got up enough guts to think about the Bible in my own way, not using the standard Christian norms. What got me where I am today is realizing that the typical apologetic argument for the Bible is sound within itself, but it leaves out too many important details. Like, what was the culture around them like? What are the other kinds of possibilities other then what is in the Bible that could have influenced the apostles behavior? Also in general concept, what could have happened that was not mentioned in the Bible to influence its conclusion? And to me, as far as I know, these questions have not been well examined by apologetics.

In many ways I have found answers. For one, the factors (cultural theological, and otherwise) that could have influenced the apostles are numerous, and easily could be something other than the Bible. I also started to examine (from an alien perspective as AC Grayling would put it) the ethics taught in the bible. I found that the moral codes particular to Christianity (not just general things like shall not murder), and realized that these are maladaptive codes of behavior that only really work in that culture well.

But still many questions remain and I would like responses.
  1. What possible reasons could have Christians had to make a up a empty tomb story?
  2. Why could no one find the body of Jesus?
  3. What could explain the appearances of Jesus to the apostles?
  4. How could have legend developed so quickly after Jesus died, that what was written in the gospels could not have been at least generally accurate?

Based on my personal research, I have concluded that Jesus existed and taught, was not well liked by the establishment and died. I welcome criticism on those points.

I guess I am caught in a contradiction right now. It would be nice to have some certainty.

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