My son told me he’s an atheist (part 7) – Conclusion

open-doorIn early 2014, I finally and completely let it all go and I left the faith. The Biblical story was finally and utterly broken for me.

It was not something I rushed into. My abandonment of faith was an arduous process of slowly backing away. I’ve heard others refer to it as “death by a thousand cuts” and that’s a good way to put it as well.

During the last stage of my journey, I always kept it in my mind that if I was wrong, the consequences could be eternal damnation. For a long time, guilt and fear kept me from taking the last step. The fear of damnation and the potential loss of a fictional heaven kept me in chains, which I believe has always been the intended design of those religious doctrines — to keep people in bondage by offering the most tantalizing thing imaginable to someone (eternal life with a perfect body) while also offering the most extreme punishment that the human mind could conceive (anguishing torment that never ends).

breaking-the-spell-dennettI have often wished that I could point to any one thing and say, “this really sealed it for me”, but I can’t. What I know for sure is that the rationalizations I had been making for Christianity were overwhelmed by the scientific evidence about our cosmos, combined with the enormous number of issues with the Bible as a supposedly inspired, inerrant book.

I remember seeing a book by Daniel Dennett called Breaking the Spell a few years ago, and that book title made me snarl. But now, that’s how I felt. The “spell was broken” in my mind. I began to reflect on my life as a Christian for 34 years. I looked back on my service as a Sunday School teacher, church committee leader, worship leader and preacher. The world now made a lot more sense without the fog of religion.

Parents often say that their children are smarter than they are. I am glad that my oldest son broke free of religion, and I am grateful that his courage to do so helped me toward the door of freedom from an oppressive and tyrannical (albeit man-made) god. At this point, I still struggle with the various labels and to giving myself a label. Jerry DeWitt puts it in an interesting way when he says of himself:

Skepticism is my nature; free thought is my methodology; agnosticism is my conclusion, and atheism is my opinion. Humanitarianism is my motivation.

happy-placeIf you wonder, “am I happy now?” the answer is a resounding yes.  And I’m still the same person at heart. People still know me as someone who is patient, kind, and helpful. I didn’t lose my faith and then go rape, pillage and murder people. That’s a silly thought that some have about those who stop believing in the god of the Bible. I was fairly happy as a Christian, but I am far happier now as someone who has embraced reason, truth, and reality.

As more time goes by, I have asked myself why I couldn’t have broken the spell sooner. But I can understand now how our religious books could come into existence. Religions have evolved over time and they continue to do so. The book I mentioned earlier, Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell – Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, does a good job of showing how our various religions have likely evolved because as a primitive species, we looked for answers behind every sudden sound, flash of light, or other unexplained phenomenon. As we came to understand our world through science, we no longer had to blame an invisible ghost for the things we didn’t understand. And just like others before us who once believed in Zeus or Apollo, they eventually put away their beliefs in their man-made gods.

sacrifice memeSo in the end, I saw the Bible for what it was: a repulsive book written by tribal people that gave them license to kill everyone who worked on the Sabbath; to kill everyone who did not believe in their god; to kill anyone who cursed father or mother; to stone everyone who committed adultery; and to kill anyone who happened to be Homosexual. The Bible is also a book that: endorsed slavery (including the beating of slaves); endorsed genocide; endorsed sexism, and self-mutilation (Matt 18:7-9). The Bible is a repulsive book that no longer has a place in a modern civilized society.

The Bible starts with Adam & Eve and how sin entered the world. The problem of “sin” is a central theme, and the Bible attempts to conclude the story with the god-man being killed on a cross to solve the “sin” problem. The gist of the story would be that God, who is omniscient, says: “I told you not to eat from the tree. You didn’t do what I told you to do even though I knew you were not going to. So now, take my son and kill him so that I can save you from what I will do to you for doing what I already knew you were going to do.” Or put in a simpler way, God sacrificed himself, to himself, to save us from himself.

 

 

That’s my story. If you have thoughts or comments to share, please feel free to do so.

If you would still like further thoughts on the topic, the following list came from many of my personal notes that I compiled for myself:

  • From a historical perspective, religion has been one of the most destructive and harmful ideologies to mankind. Countless millions have died or been murdered in the name of religion (the crusades; the inquisitions; witch hunts; holy wars, etc.). People hate each other merely because of religious differences. Has Christianity also helped those in need and in poverty too? Yes, absolutely it has (which is wonderful). But that doesn’t negate the incredible harm that has been done in the name of religion, nor does it contradict the fact that many non-believers also help those in need.

  • Most people inherit the religious beliefs of their parents or family members. It’s rare for someone to embrace a religion that they were not brought up in, and the religions of the world are very contradictory of each other. Each branch of faith is convinced their truth is the correct truth. They can’t all be correct. But they can all be wrong.

  • Mankind has worshiped a long list of gods in the past, which includes Zeus, Hermes, Poseidon, Athena, Ares and Apollo. No one believes in those gods anymore. We are all atheists toward them. Today’s modern atheist just adds one more to the list: Yahweh or Allah.

  • When I consider the story of the flood in Genesis, it is incredibly implausible and hideous. It’s the uplifting story of God who massacres every living thing on the planet, which includes women and children as well as all of the innocent animals. It’s also implausible for several reasons, which includes:

    • No one before Noah had ever built a boat before nor even seen a boat before Noah’s time. In contrast, true master shipbuilders who had attempted to build a ship similar in size with wood, failed. Also, the ark had to stay afloat for a very long time (1 year), and carry 1,000s of animals plus food and drinking water. This is very implausible. Also see this.

    • Very old trees have been found that exceed 5,000 and 6,000 years in age. The flood, which the story indicates occurred 4,300 years ago, left the planet under water for a full year, which would have killed all trees, animals and plant life. But yet, we have trees in existence that are older than 4,300 years.

    • Assuming the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat (as is usually thought), how did all of those animals then travel to our various continents (without a bridge)? Perhaps they built their own boats, then collected enough food and fresh water for the trip, and traveled to the various continents to repopulate. Um, no. That’s just craziness. The fossil record clearly rejects the myth as well. One small example are kangaroos. Kangaroo fossils are found in Australia but no fossils for these animals have been found elsewhere.

    • The grand canyon is a marvelous testament to the fossil record which contradicts the view that Noah’s flood created the fossil record. The layers of fossils that are found reveal that this record was created over a very long period of time – – not by one big flood.

    • Answers in Genesis says that the flood likely happened about 4300-4400 years ago. Which means that we have to believe the incredible diversity of humans (e.g., Eskimos, Native Americans, South Americans, Scandinavian, African, Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Aboriginals, etc.) evolved over a faint 4400 years. That’s less than 100 generations, and it’s just not realistic. It is insane really. We also have a tremendous fossil record of human skulls that show a very slow evolution in structure and shape. The evidence is overwhelming.

      races-of-People-thumbnail

  • Even with all of the advances of science that we have today, we still have no actual evidence for a spirit world or an afterlife, nor any scientific evidence that God exists.

  • In regard to prayer, Double-blind tests of the effectiveness of prayer for those in medical need also proved to be the same as a placebo, except that those who knew they were being prayed for often fared worse. Consider too that God never heals amputees.

  • “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” (Arthur Clarke). Our understanding of the universe is still small, and it’s likely that what seems like magic now will be better understood in the future.

  • There’s no plausible explanation about the dinosaurs from a Biblical viewpoint. Fossil evidence shows they existed long long ago, and it also shows that many dinosaurs had teeth and jaw structures designed for meat-eating but Genesis says the animals were all plant eaters until after the flood. The Bible is also devoid of information about dinosaurs, save for one tiny reference in Job that is more likely to be about large crocodiles. And yet the typical fundamentalist Christian view is that the dinosaurs died at the flood. It doesn’t fit. At all.

  • The creation account in Genesis 1 conflicts with the order of events that are known to science. In the Bible, the earth is created before light and stars; birds and whales before reptiles and insects; and flowering plants before any animals. The order of events known from science is just the opposite.

  • A study of thousands of people about human sexuality (masturbation, heavy petting, oral sex, intercourse) finds that there is no difference between the secular population vs. Christians or other religious people. In other words, even though religion forbids lust, fornication, adultery, etc., all humans engage in those activities to the same degree. In fact, protestants are even more likely to view porn even though they cite guilt as significant. And perhaps, the taboo or naughtiness of it contributes to the appeal. One obvious conclusion to this is that religion is ineffective.

  • Over 90% of the species that have ever existed, are extinct and gone. Only about 2% of the species that have existed, still exist. That is not evidence for intelligent design. That’s evidence for natural selection. Consider too that in the study of life on our planet, one would have to conclude that God must really love beetles since there are over 350,000 different species of them.

If you enjoy a more visual style of content, I highly recommend the YouTube user named 43Alley.

43-alley-youtube

25 thoughts on “My son told me he’s an atheist (part 7) – Conclusion

  1. I appreciate your thoughtful posts. It does seem illogical and impossible to not reject the Bible, especially the Old Testament, to believe in God. It’s entirely possible to reject all religions, and believe in God, if one chose to. Religion is an impediment to critical thinking. Once one does see clearly, some of the real beauty of religion is in the historical art, music and *occasional* comfort it provides. In the stories and art from all religions, there is powerful allegorical beauty and originality. But we don’t need be spoon-fed religion and its interpretations, nor fight wars or shed blood in its. Hooray for clarity!

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    • Thank you, and hooray for clarity indeed! I agree that there are truly amazing pieces of art and music, etc., that have been created with religious stories as their inspiration. I still enjoy many. And some of the stories are quite powerful. The story of Joseph forgiving his brothers who come to him for grain in Egypt, is still a favorite.

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  2. Dear Logan GLT, I came to faith in Jesus as my Savior from a liberal Episcopalian background as a freshman at Harvard in 1963-64, through a Bible study on the Gospel of John and the lectures that Francis Schaeffer gave that year, contrasting humanism with Biblical Christianity. Later I studied at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and in The Netherlands at the Free University of Amsterdam and the Theologische Universiteit in Kampen. I have taught theology in Korea and pastored three Dutch-speaking churches, and am now retired. My faith is just as strong as it was in 1964, by God’s grace. I believe that if we believe that chance is and continues to be behind all life (standard evolution), then one particular organization of atoms (you, and all humans) are not inherently ¨more valuable¨ than other atoms in other configurations (cockroaches, stones, helium). If God did not make us, and chance is, then everything is meaningless, good and evil have no reality. and love is merely the name for chemical reactions in your brain. Schaeffer’s arguments, augmented by the writings of Cornelius Van Til, help to make this clear.

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    • Kim,
      I truly appreciate that you took the time to write. I enjoyed reading about your background, and I recall listening to some recordings of Francis Shaeffer and I also acquired a few of his books in the 1980’s. It’s interesting to note that his son, Frank Schaeffer, wrote about his early life under fundamentalism, which he then later abandoned. Frank also shared that Billy Graham who was a friend of Francis, admitted to Francis that he himself feared death and had many doubts.

      Frank’s latest book is called, “Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God”, which certainly sounds contradictory but his point is that we all often carry contradictions inside of us.

      I too no longer believe in the God of the Bible because it is clear that the Biblical text is deeply flawed with contradictions and scientific fallacies. The text claims that “The Law of the Lord is Perfect” and yet it also commands that its chosen people commit genocide, kill those who fail to honor the Sabbath, take slaves, oppress women and those who are gay, and even perform self-mutilation – – just to name a few disturbing things. Law that is “perfect” doesn’t need to be changed, as it is complete and without flaw. Unfortunately, the Bible is anything but perfect or unflawed.

      I also have to disagree with your conclusions about life having no meaning, or that evolution is about “chance”. I too would find it inconceivable that life arose and gained complexity by mere chance, but that is not what Natural Selection is about, at all. Evolution is not chance. And there is wonderful meaning to life apart from Christianity. It’s sad that people believe that a human being can’t know the love of family and friends, or know the joy of helping their fellow human beings. I know all of those joys and happiness, and my life has wonderful meaning without Christianity. I am truly grateful to have life and breath. At this point though, my gratitude is to the stars (as we are made of star dust), rather than to the God of the Bible, which is a fictitious man-made character.

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      • Dear writer
        I have sympathy for anyone who has lost their faith and respect any genuine desire to find the truth. Sometimes people appear to improve when they lose their faith because they throw off their baggage. However, there is such a thing as throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
        A few points about what you say
        1. The idea of the universe existing without God strains credulity far more than with God. At least if we believe in God, it makes sense that he created. But if not, where did it all come from? Nothing can come of nothing, however much evolutionists may argue. And whatever you say, life is ultimately meaningless and very depressing without God, because, wonderful and important as human relationships are, when you are dead, it’s all gone. But God’s life-giving plan is to gather up all the good into a wonderful fulfilment with Him (which we call heaven). I know which I would prefer!
        2. You talk about the harm that religion does. The existence of false religion has of course caused much suffering, but the “religion” of Jesus (“love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you”) certainly does not. We should not be surprised at counterfeit religion – as I’m sure you know, Jesus spent much of his time warning against its deception. And even so, more suffering has been caused by atheistic regimes (the many, many millions who died under Stalin, Chairman Mao as well as by Hitler) than false religion. If you want to infer reasons, the 20th century saw the decline of Christianity in the West and also the worst wars ever. At the end of the day there will always be a pretext for killing because the human heart is prone to evil, to quote the Bible.
        3. I do not have the answers to all the questions you pose (though is some cases your assertions are not correct – where does it say in the Bible that the animals were vegetarians for example?). It should not be surprising that there are many questions and apparent problems to the Bible just as to any other major idea. But science has been wrong before – often and seriously – and my faith does not rest on it. Scientists can be the most stupid of people and in their academic excellence (and often arrogance) can’t see the truths in front of their noses. This is because their brains are well developed but their hearts and common sense often much less so and additionally, their intellect has become their god, which is very dangerous. My children know a lot less than me but often they teach me about what is really most important in life. Jesus said the same – “unless you become like a little child, you can not enter the kingdom of heaven” Do we see the world as a collection of atoms, cause and effects or as a wonderful love gift from God to us? Faith is better than scepticism. I know who I would rather listen to.
        I pray that you would find the true God again.

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      • Alex,
        Thank you for writing and for taking the time to share. I appreciate that. I would like to respond to a few of your points. And I empathize as a few years ago, I would have responded just as you have. I agree that it’s possible there is a god who created the universe. But I am confident it is not the angry, jealous and capricious god (Yahweh) of the Bible who sends people to hell for all eternity because they sinned and did exactly what He knew they would do before He even created them. That fictional character was man-made just like the 100’s of other gods that mankind has created in the past. I will assume you are an atheist towards Allah, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Hermes, Zeus, and also of the many Egyptian gods such as Amun, Anubis, Isis, Osiris, Ra and the others?

        If we were to conclude that our universe was created by a supreme being, whose religion has the right god? (Please do watch this short video: http://lifeafter40.net/2014/05/06/dear-believer-video-brandon-fibbs/ ). I believe the more logical and reasonable conclusion is that mankind has created all of our gods in an effort to explain the mysteries of our world (why we have earthquakes, lightening, floods and hurricanes), and religion has also served as a control mechanism to get people to adhere to certain conduct and/or to endorse other conduct e.g., the Old Testament endorses the enslavement of foreigners and also the taking of virgin girls as the captive spoils of war).

        And yes, I do agree that the thought of death being so final is depressing. I would much rather believe in eternal life and a heaven. But just because I want something to be true, doesn’t make it true. Doing so is a form of denial and delusion, and I lived in that for over 30 years. I rationalized away all of the horrible and disturbing things in the Bible for a very long time because denial was easier. Science certainly isn’t perfect, but unlike religion, science quite willingly is self-correcting. And we can see that in a relatively short period of time (200 years), science has revealed an incredible amount of truth so that man has been able to fly to the moon, and to place satelites into orbit which has provided amazing communication capabilities. Science has brought incredible medical discoveries and computer technology, and we now have the realization that there are trillions of stars and billions of galaxies.

        The church denied the discovery of our own solar system and how our planet revolves around the sun for over 90 years! Today’s church is repeating the same, by rejecting the clear evidence that our universe and
        planet is billions of years in age, which strongly contradicts Genesis 1 and 3. If we think the earth is less than 10,000 years old, we’re just like the stubborn fools of long ago who believed the earth was flat and who believed the entire universe was centered around our planet.

        It’s also inaccurate to place evil men like Hitler into the atheist camp. Christians have been doing that mistakenly for years because they fail to fact-check. Hitler was in fact a believer in God, and he believed he was acting under divine providence. The church in Germany never excommunicated Hitler, nor did he ever formally leave the Church. This article is a good summary about Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. http://www.examiner.com/article/refuting-the-myth-that-hitler-stalin-and-pol-pot-were-atheists-1

        In regard to the animals being vegetarian, in Genesis 1:28 – 30, God declares that herb-bearing plants are God’s declared food for both man and animal. In fact, God says “to every bird and to every animal that is on the earth” that the green herb (plants) are their food. So we find that in the original creation, animals and man were vegetarians. It’s not till after the flood in chapter 9, that God declares that the animals will now have fear and dread of man, and that the animals are now also food (meat) to eat.

        Over the last 7 years, I had to ask myself, why I was firmly convinced that Mormonism, Islam and many other religions were wacky and delusional, while the religion that I grew up with because I was born in the USA, was okay? If we choose to believe in things just because we want it to be true or because we just happened to grow up with it, we open ourselves up to a whole realm of superstitious nonsense when we don’t rely on strong evidence.

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  3. Dear Logan GLT

    The “angry, jealous and capricious god” that you talk of is not the God of the Bible. Who could epitomise love better than Jesus, who went around healing and doing good and freeing people and who gave his life for us, including his enemies? Many people see him as being different from the God of the Old Testament, but he put himself firmly in that lineage. He also said “If you see me you have seen the Father”. Therefore he shows us exactly what God is like and we must interpret the Bible through him. This is very important. So, to take one of the hardest scriptures, where God commands the Israelites to destroy an entire nation, it was only done because that nation had become so evil – with such practices as sacrifice of children to the gods of Molech – that it was like a cancer, which had to be destroyed or it would corrupt whole nations. This is the same with the time of Noah, where evil was so prevalent, human life had become worthless and there was no hope left except to start again.

    The other thing to understand (for example in relation to wars, multiple marriage, divorce and slavery, which by the way, was very different to modern slavery and was at times a very positive and respectful as well as economically necessary relationship) is that the Bible does not condone many of the cultural practices it describes and legislates for.

    As for Stalin and the like being Christians or believers in a Christian God – that’s just nonsense. Communism – the most atheistic popular philosophy- has been responsible for millions of deaths and untold suffering. And as I said, when Christ commanded us to love our enemies, anyone who kills and murders in his name is by definition, a false Christian.

    There is a devil – not a red figure with horns but a personal force of evil in the universe, which we must fight against. And there is a deception in materialism and atheism as well as in false religion.

    Finally, yes, there are different religions, but that does not mean none is right. If you ask a class the answer to a maths problem, you may get several different answers but there is a right one, which you can recognise when you understand it. You can tell a fake £5 note when you see the real thing. Of course most religions have aspects of truth to them, but you only have to look at the character of Jesus to see that his extraordinary claims about himself were unique as well as his unique love. As you say, there are many zealous people in other faiths (Mormons, Muslims) as well as zealous people motivated by hatred and revenge, but at the end of the day, we need to look at the only person who claimed to fully represent God and be one with Him – Jesus.

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    • Hey Alex,

      I plan to comment on this comment as well as the one you made above. I want you to know that I appreciate your civil tone and I respect you.

      It looks as though you make no qualms that Jesus associates himself wholly with the God of the Old Testament. Now, to reply to your justification for why it was loving (or perhaps only just) for God to destroy a whole nation, you mention it was because the nation had become so evil and was essentially a cancer that needed to be weeded out. I have to ask, as the bible specifically tells us that the men were ordered to dash unborn babies upon the rocks, did it need to be children too? If yes is the answer, are we not fully justified in taking babies from corrupt parents whom we know will end up evil and killing them as well? Why does God no longer “command” us to kill nations, people, etc., today as He used to in the Old Testament? Why would there be such a change, if God is never changing and we’re indeed dealing with the same God of the Old Testament? If you say that only God knows what children will end up like (in Canaan’s case I suppose absolutely evil), and we cannot, I have to wonder why that time period was so special and every time period up till now has not fit the bill…? I have to ask, do you yourself not think that there could have been a more reasonable way of going about it? Perhaps kill all the men who were vile, but save the women and children and teach them the ways of God? If you say it’s not about what you personally think, understand that many men give up their own rational thought to follow false gods. You can tell a Muslim man his faith doesn’t make sense, but he doesn’t care. Why? Because he’s putting “Allah’s” ways above his. Catch my drift?

      I just also want to comment on your last comment. We do not say all religions are false simply because of the fact that there are so many. The thing is, they are all indistinguishable even if you claim Christ is “unique” (which, even if your religion is “unique” compared to the others, it still says nothing about the validity of its truth claims). Your very comment “You can tell a fake £5 note when you see the real thing.” could be repeated by any other faith (and indeed, is) because they claim to have the true one. They wholeheartedly feel that all other religions (including yours) is false because, “all fake ones are easy to spot when you see the real one”. How can you prove these people wrong? They’re lead by the same convictions and reasoning as you. Indeed, perhaps there could be a “right” one, but so far no religions have done a good job in proving that there’s is right. All we have to go off of is exactly what every one offers: personal experiences and anecdotal evidence. Seen in this light, they could ALL be true.

      Now to go to your above comments:

      1. Firstly I want to point out that many Christians are “evolutionists” as you put it. The fact is, the biological theory of evolution says nothing about the origin of our universe, or the origin of life for that matter no matter how much creationists think it does. All evolution shows is how life diversified from a common ancestor over time, and there is indeed mountains of evidence that support that, but it’s useless to go into that for this discussion. Whose to say God didn’t plant that first seed? What I will say is that, in my view, even if there was a God who created our universe, it would still be just as meaningless as it was if there was no God. Was God specially created? No, He’s always been there right? So then, what was HIS purpose for existing? Is He just purposeful in of Himself? Why would this be the case, honestly? So if God didn’t exactly have a purpose for His existence, why should whatever purpose He assigns to us humans really mean anything in the end? The fact is, humans assign meaning where they see fit. Some assign all meaning to a deity. Others assign meaning to the important people in their lives, and to their dreams. To some, this is indeed powerful and motivational enough to see life itself as meaningful, even without a God.

      Another thing, we don’t boldly claim that nothing created everything – only that, we do not know what could have caused everything before space-time came into existence (if there is even such a thing; our minds are spatially bound and cannot comprehend something that goes beyond “space and time”). In my opinion, holding off judgement is the much wiser thing to do than claiming you know without a doubt that a deity (particularly, YOUR personal deity) was the one who started it. I could easily say it was all done through the dream of a wizard and it would hold just as much value… But nobody is going to accept that until there is some kind of positive evidence for it. Such is the case with your claims for Yahweh.

      For your claims about the after life, I honestly think this could have more to do with our internal capacity to feel motivation but let’s try a thought experiment: do you think dogs will go to heaven? Because if it does not matter to you, why do we form relationships with them and make bonds with them? I mean after all, they could just die and that would be the end of it. Who cares? For that matter, will we be eating in heaven? May as well do away with food too then, right? Of course, we eat for survival, but does that make ice cream a necessity? We certainly don’t eat ice cream for survival, but because it tastes good. Ever sat there while enjoying ice cream and thought “this isn’t going to be in heaven when I die” and suddenly stopped enjoying the ice cream? Now I have to wonder what your image of heaven is… Because you say because if “it will all be gone” when we die, it’s ultimately meaningless. But the only indication of what we will be doing in Heaven is worshiping God from what I can tell. Do you think you will be reuniting with your loved ones in Heaven? If I am mistaken here, please correct me. If you have a happy family reunion view of the after life, I have to ask, where did you get this view from?

      Just because I believe that when we die, that will be the end of it, it does not make me want to cherish my daughter any less. It does not make our interactions feel any less meaningful or beautiful. It does not diminish my motivations in any way shape or form. I love this life, and will choose to cherish it for the little time I get to spend in it. It is meaningful to me, and not to sound condescending, but I honestly feel sorry for you that you cannot conceive of life being meaningful without some deity involved.

      Not only that, but even if it WERE depressing, that still does not mean that the opposite is true. Our personal feelings have nothing to do with it.

      2. I do think it’s a little unfair to attribute the hideous crimes of one man or nation to an entire group of people. That would be like me saying the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, define all Christians. There are good atheists, and bad atheists. There are good Christians and bad Christians. That’s all there is to it.

      3. Yes, science HAS been wrong before, many many times… But the beautiful thing about it is, we ADMIT where we are wrong, and correct the error! It’s the methodology of science that is so reliable. It constantly is trying to figure out where it is wrong so that it can be corrected. We go where the evidence leads. And look at how much it has brought us. What would have been seen as miracles back in the day is common medicine today because of using the scientific method. Why should we distrust such a self-correcting method because it has been wrong in the past? Think about all the advantages it has brought, in such a very short period of time too. Now think about how religion has been with its methods. It starts with the conclusion first, and is seldom open for any revision. To me, I would be a lot more distrusting of that.

      I cannot type much further because I don’t have any time at the moment, but I’ll repeat in that I appreciate the dialogue and respect you. Take care!

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      • Hi “glareth” A lot to reply to! Thanks for this post and also for not caricaturing the views of Christians as is often done. Can I reply to some of your points as I think they are very important?

        About the destruction of the Canaanites, firstly, although it is true that God did command them to kill everyone is one or two cases at a certain time in Israel’s history (and there are several cases where women enticed Israelites – notably Solomon – away from pure worship of God), the bit you quote about dashing children on the rocks is not a command of God, but an angry cry from the writer of Psalm 137 after Israel had been slaughtered and plundered and exiled by Babylon. The psalms are not written as doctrine or even commands and should be read as such. We know how God feels about children by Jesus treatment of them i.e. he blessed them when others wanted them out of the way (e.g. Luke 18:15-17). And remember that Jesus said “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

        Second, you ask, so why have things changed in the way we deal with people? One answer may be that the world could not have accepted Jesus before the “fulness of time” (see Galations 4:4). Sometimes people have to see the truth about themselves before they are ready for a solution. For example, an alcoholic may refuse offers of help until he knocks down and kills a child while drink driving. In other words, he needs to come under the law before he can accept grace. The same can be true of nations.

        Your point about different religions is a very interesting one. In apprehending truth, there are, of course many factors and people can be blind because of prejudice, self interest etc. I will only say that Christianity, or rather, Jesus Christ, does “do a very good job of proving” He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. For a start, no other person (who did not actually think they were Jesus Christ!) has ever even claimed this for themselves. I challenge anyone to read the words and actions of Jesus (and compare with any other religion or claimed doctrine of truth). Another way to put it is that there is no greater story of love and truth in any other doctrine.

        About God’s purpose / evolution / meaning of life, firstly, God’s purpose, even before anything existed was to live in love relationship (hence Trinity). Out of the fullness and abundance and intentionality of that love, God created – people in his own image as well as the wonders of nature, people who were free to love or not, not puppets, hence the possibility of things going badly wrong as they did. You may see meaning in life without God and indeed there are many meanings, but none so limitless and optimistic as eternal life with God! And by the way, I see absolutely no reason why one’s dog should not be in heaven. I firmly believe all good things will be there in some way (see Ephesians 1:10 [His purpose is] “to gather together all things in Christ, both things on earth and things in heaven.”) Jesus, in his resurrected body ate food as well as walking through walls.

        About science – yes it is open to revision, but the fact of God and his purposes have never changed. The essentials of Christianity therefore will not change, though of course filling this out and the application is a huge area.

        I know I have left many points unanswered but there is limited time, especially with a young family! Best wishes to you and all of us as we try to find what is true, good and beautiful!

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    • Alex,
      The dialog has been interesting, and as Glareth said, I appreciate the respectful tone. Please do let me remind readers that I was a student of the Bible for 30 years (my college degree was in religion and theology), and that I spent the last 7 years with an open mind in considering the criticisms against Christianity. We should both recognize that our mutual conclusions are no doubt quite solid. I am not trying to change your mind, but for those who read my blog who are on a similar journey as I was, or to those who want to know that they are not alone in concluding that the Bible is harmful and very disturbing, I will continue to comment and post.

      I do agree with you that the character of Jesus provided many wonderful teachings around forgiveness and love. The story of his sacrifice is profound, and I used to delight in Christian songs that proclaimed it.

      Please note though that the same gentle Jesus (meek and mild), is the one who introduced the teaching of hell, burning fire, eternal torment, weeping, and the gnashing of teeth. It is also the New Testament that states, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev 21:8)

      We all have to wrestle with the notion of a loving god who chooses to punish his creation for all eternity. He could choose to punish people for days, months or years. But Jesus declares it to be eternal punishment and one has to ask, “why bother creating humans who you know would reject you, so that you can punish them in a lake of fire for all eternity?”.

      Fundamentalists can only rationalize away an answer to that. And I wonder how many Christians could truly enjoy heaven, knowing that their dear brother, sister or mother or father is anguishing away in eternal torment? Christians again have to rationalize away with thoughts like “god will cause me to forget about them”, or some other nonsense. The more rational conclusion is that these man-made teachings were thought up in order to give “control” to the church over men, through the use of fear about eternal damnation.

      I also have to ask: If your god appeared to you and commanded you to kill me, would you do it? My blog is certainly a blasphemy, and Leviticus 24 instructed God’s people thus: “anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.”

      If you believe that god would never tell you to do that, He certainly commanded His chosen people to kill repeatedly. According to Deuteronomy 13:12-15, if you find that the people in the city you’re visiting worship another god, you have to kill them all. And by “all”, the bible means everyone in the city. “If you hear it said about one of the towns the Lord your God is giving you to live in that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock.”

      Please note that these verses do not specify “only those who are sacrificing children to Molech”. That is another rationalization that we as Christians came up with, to feel better about the horrid things in the old testament.

      I’ve also found it odd that when the issues of the Bible’s endorsement of slavery, sexism, and prohibition of homosexuality are raised, that people declare “that was a cultural thing and the Bible didn’t want to change politics or culture”.

      Huh??? If God (who created billions of galaxies and all of mankind), wrote a book to direct His people on how to live and how to find Him — most assuredly He would want to instruct and admonish about *ALL* things. To say that God would choose to sit on the sidelines about severe issues like the enslavement of humans and the denigration of women as property, and choose to not address it in His holy book — that is obscene. A central theme of the Bible is on changing hearts through the gospel message, but the Bible spends a great deal of time fussing over sex and the Sabbath day, while never condemning the brutal enslavement of humans or the denigration of women. Instead, it instructs the Israelites on how to obtain slaves, how hard you can beat them, and when you can have sex with the females. (See Exodus 21:7-11, Exodus 21:2-6, and Leviticus 25:44-46).

      That’s not a God of love. Instead, that speaks to a man-made book that justifies the immoral conduct of one race over another race. And if I had the goal as a leader of a tribe of people to convince my fellow tribesmen that we had justification for enslaving, beating and raping the females of another tribe, what better way is there than to wrap it all up in a religion?

      Like

      • Dear Logan GLT

        I agree that it is a big ask to change each other’s opinion in these exchanges. I do, however, feel that one can be a Christian for a long time, feeling all the while uneasy about the character of God. I understand this issue. We have to ask the essential question “Can I trust God?” That’s why it’s so important to know the truth about him. I personally do not believe in eternal punishing (except for possibly the Devil, who may be eternal). Yes, the fire is everlasting according to Revelation but in Genesis God said the man would die if he ate of the fruit and only in Christ was eternal life given back. I do believe the Bible teaches a final judgement, which for those who eternally refuse good, will mean an eternal (in the sense of final, irreversible) punishment.

        I think you are being somewhat disingenuous when you say my god commands me to kills you. You must know after all your years of Bible study that the command about blasphemers (and I’m far from sure that is what you are, unless Job was one too!) was under the old covenant and we are under a new covenant. When Jesus was asked if the woman who had committed adultery should be stoned he said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone” and said “neither do I condemn you.” Jesus shows us the heart of God most fully. (see Hebrews 1:1 ff)

        You must also know that God does have plenty to say about slavery. Half the Bible is about fair treatment and as we’ve said slavery was not necessarily like today’s slavery but could be very positive – see Genesis 24, where the slave clearly loved his master and Exodus 21 where provision is made for a slave to be released or to stay with a master they loved if they chose. About treatment of women – Jesus constantly affirmed women see for example Luke 7:11ff, 8:43ff. Finally in this issue, as I have said, there are many cultural issues, which were less than perfect to say the least, where God does not try to change everything all at once. This would include multiple wives and concubines and marriage to captive women (maybe better for them than being cast adrift economically and socially)

        You say that you were choosing not to believe the evidence against the Bible before your “deconversion” but I would challenge you that now you are presenting a warped picture of what the Bible teaches, which is equally unfair.

        In any case, I wish you the best.

        Alex

        Like

      • Hey Alex,
        The essential question isn’t, “can I trust god?”, it’s: “Is there a god? And what evidence (beyond an ancient book written by men in the Bronze age) is there for that particular god?”. You’re assuming that Yahweh and Jesus are the answer, because we were born in the USA and brought up in Christianity. If you or I had been born in parts of India, we would believe in Vishnu and Krishna. If we had been born in Egypt, we’d believe in Allah and his prophet Muhammad. If born in Israel, we’d likely believe in Yahweh but we would reject the New Testament.

        In my new post which shows a map of the world with the predominant religions, I am saying that we think far too highly of ourselves into believing: “I was blessed to have been born in the right country with the truth”. The other peoples of the world think exactly the same thing about their faith and holy book, which stands in strong contradiction to the Bible.

        What evidence do you have for your god’s existence that the followers of other religions don’t also claim?

        In regard to whether God treats people differently throughout the ages — and you can call it “new covenant” theology or dispensational theology, it doesn’t matter what it’s called — it’s all a rationalization that the church has had to make because the Old Testament God is a very angry, jealous and capricious God who killed his own people more than 150 times.

        But I’m happy to stick with the New Testament for examples of disturbing teaching. Since you don’t believe in eternal punishment, I have to assume you pick and choose what verses are true in the Bible? It’s clear that the NT teaches eternal damnation. Jesus said, and let me repeat that… it’s JESUS who said in his parable about the sheep and the goats, “Then he [God] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

        The NT also teaches that homosexuality is an example of just how far a sinful person can sink (Rom. 1:18-27), and that such are doomed to eternal hell. Do you disagree with that teaching as well?

        In regard to slavery, the “church” has been trying to recover from that gross embarrassment for a long time now. It was the Christian church that was against the abolishment of slavery during the Civil War. The same Christian church was against the women’s suffragette movement to bring them their rights. You do yourself no favor by trying to paint slavery in a positive light (spin-doctoring) by saying that the Bible didn’t want to address a “cultural issue” or by saying “it wasn’t as bad back then”. It was as bad, and in most cases, it was worse. It’s also silly to rationalize that the Bible didn’t want to “try to change everything all at once”. If there was a God, an all-powerful and supremely wise being, He would have the power and creative intelligence to address incredibly important issues such as human rights (slavery).

        I do not present a warped picture of the Bible. I paint a real, non-rationalized picture.

        Like

  4. Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. Steven Weinberg.

    Interesting blog and impressive story, I enjoyed reading it!

    Like

  5. Hi Logan

    I agree that the first essential question is “is there a God?” As to your argument about which one – just because we are more likely to believe in the religion we are brought up in, doesn’t mean it can’t be right (- and FYI, I am not from the USA and was not born a Christian!) I would assume that you are able to look at the various cultures of the world and choose what you think is better. For example, you might look at the treatment of women in a culture and decide you prefer your own cultures’ attitude (or not). The same with any kind of truth, though many people have more restricted access to knowledge. There are Christians in every nation of the world that I know of and some of them, for example in Iran and North Korea, have become Christians at risk to their lives. You might as well say we can not know the best answer to the question of the death penalty or the answer to who discovered America because of where we were born.

    In regard to eternal punishment – yes, as I said before, the fire is eternal because God’s passion for goodness never changes, but that doesn’t mean the punishing is. As I said, as far as I’m concerned, God said we would die (not keep living for eternity) when we sinned and the only eternal life is His gift to us.

    About homosexuality, what the Bible is saying in Romans 1 is that a world which takes its eyes off the creator and starts worshipping the created is in a bad way and will end up thinking homosexuality is OK (among other things).

    I do find your comments on slavery very strange in view of the fact that it was evangelical Christians (William Wilberrforce et al) who were instrumental in abolishing slavery in Britain and evangelical Christians (Martin Luther King et al) who were instrumental in abolishing segregation in the US. I will not repeat all I said above except to say that there was a kind of slavery (or system of servanthood) in the Bible which WAS very different (look at Genesis 24 and Exodus 21) and that the Bible does constantly legislate about the other kind.

    Finally, of course God can and does address every issue, but at times, in the Old Testament, the nation were not able or ready to hear. An example of this is when God allows Israel to have a king even though he warns them that it will not go well with them if they go ahead (see 1 Samuel 8).

    So yes, I would say you do present a warped picture – God’s anger in the Bible is in the context of his love and there is far more about the kingdom of heaven than about hell, if only you could see it.

    Best wishes

    Alex

    Like

    • I agree that our place of birth doesn’t dictate in a guaranteed way that we’ll have a particular faith, and I agree that there are some who adopt a different faith which puts them in extreme danger. This is also true for those who reject religion and/or who indicate they are agnostic or atheist, which is punishable by execution under Muslim law (link).

      But it is indisputable that particular religions are dominant in each country or region of the world. It is indisputable that the religion that is dominant in a country continues to convert young children and teens with that same belief. Certainly, there’s a small percentage who adopt a different faith (or no faith at all) but history shows a continuation for the religion that has been in place. I will note too though that the United Kingdom’s predominant religion is Christianity.

      In regard to eternal punishment, we can agree to disagree. The Bible teaches the punishment is eternal (as my previous comments and posts point out), but I understand that many reject that teaching or interpretation. And we will continue to disagree on the interpretation of Romans 1 (particularly verses 26-29). Readers are welcome to read it for themselves.

      In regard to slavery, I agree and I’m glad that several Christians were instrumental in abolishing slavery and in helping to end segregation. But the Christian church was far too cozy with it all.

      http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/Religion/slavery.htm

      http://scholar.library.miami.edu/emancipation/religion4.htm

      As to whether the Bible has a message of love and of eternal bliss in heaven, it certainly does. Readers can decide on their own if the 150+ occurrences of God killing his own creation is in the context of love. They can decide too if the Bible teaches there’s an eternal hell that a “loving” God sends unbelievers to. We’ll continue to disagree on that.

      Alex, it sounds like you have a young family and I sincerely wish you all the best. It’s a huge challenge to be a good father, husband and neighbor. Take care.

      Like

  6. My journey has been similar but much faster. For me it was like a dam burst and all the doubts that had built up over the years overwhelmed me. I really enjoyed reading this series of posts.

    Like

  7. I appreciated your story and in many ways it parallels mine. I was a Christian for many years, having been brought up in a strong evangelical household. I saw any other belief system as preposterous but had a different standard for my own. The doctrine of hell was the first chip in my faith. Like you the thought of a loving God torturing billions of people was not something I could reconcile. I was condemned by fellow Christians for questioning this doctrine. How could loving people so easily accept the eternal torture of others. Also like you my son rejected his faith and I was forced to consider that he was bound for hell. I finally allowed myself to examine Christianity objectively and I came to many of the same conclusions you did. It is a relief to be free of this bondage. I feel a real kinship with you and others who have been freed from superstition.

    Like

    • Dave,
      Thank you for taking the time to write. If you ever decide to share your story, please do let me know. I am encouraged that there are a growing number of us who have escaped our superstitions.

      Like

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