Why I Can’t Believe Anymore — A Summary

It’s been more than two years since I came out as an atheist. In that time, my lost Christian faith has come up often with family and friends. It’s difficult to distill a decade-long journey into a 5 minute elevator speech. When believers ask, that’s typically all they want. They don’t want to hear a lengthy, articulate response. Instead, they hope to hear something that they can easily dismiss as invalid or untrue.

I remember being in those shoes. As a former evangelical fundamentalist, it’s incredibly hard to admit to yourself that you’re wrong. It’s especially hard when you’ve spent the better part of your life in total commitment to what amounts to a fairy tale.

With that said, here’s my 5 minute elevator speech on why I stopped believing.

The Bible
The Bible’s collection of books were penned over a long span of time, some 2000+ years ago, by a diverse group of men who lived in a relatively confined area of desert in the Middle East. Unfortunately, significant portions were written by anonymous authors, and the collective whole is riddled with contradictions, errors and logical fallacies. The canonization of the New Testament (choosing which books were inspired and worthy) was a long, drawn out process that lasted many years and was subject to much debate.1 Political powers also played an influence. It’s especially troubling that the four gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are from unknown authors, dated several decades after Christ’s death, and even penned in a language not spoken by the apostles. There are discrepancies about the resurrection details, the death of Judas, and what Jesus might have said while on the cross. We also find that the oldest gospel account (Mark) is rather light on miracles, but later accounts are more generous with miraculous events (which is indicative of our human tendency to enhance or exaggerate with each telling). You can also toss in odd things like walking zombies (Matthew 27) and apocalyptic 7-headed monsters in the last book, written by someone stranded on a Greek island, known to harbor mushrooms that can induce wild and vivid hallucinations. Are these facts in dispute among evangelical pastors? No.

The Old Testament doesn’t fare better. The first five books are from unknown authors which includes Genesis — a book that begins with a grossly mistaken account of creation that is not only scientifically incorrect, it’s logically flawed. Compounding it all are bizarre tales of a talking snake, a talking donkey, a man living inside the belly of a large fish — combined with an embarrassing lack of archaeological evidence to support the significant stories of the Old Testament. For example, there’s zero evidence for the mass exodus of Israelites from Egypt and there’s little to no evidence for any of the major patriarchs.

When you read the Bible with truly open eyes (and with the above facts in mind), it’s clear that we’re dealing with a man-made tale of a god named Yahweh who is petty, jealous, vindictive, and cruel — a deity who is very unsympathetic to his own creation. Even worse, the Old Testament gives abundant and clear endorsement for human slavery, genocide, misogyny, and sexual slavery, with a generous sprinkling of blood-lust for sacrifice.

God is Silent
The God of the Bible is silent. He does not actually talk to or respond to people. Conversations are entirely one-sided, and any purported two-way conversations are merely imaginary in the mind, and those who claim to have literally heard God speak to them are routinely shown to be mentally ill folk. These same individuals often commit acts of violence, which can (and has) included killing their own children. And some even choose to run for president, convinced that God told them to!

God is Inactive
The God of the Bible is inactive. Human misery and suffering is rampant, especially in less developed parts of the planet. Disease, famine, pestilence, violence, injustice, and natural disasters demonstrate that the God of the Bible isn’t there to act or intervene. The Bible makes bold and specific promises to believers about the power of prayer, but truly miraculous events are not substantiated. No mountain has ever literally moved, nor has an amputee ever had their missing arms or legs restored via prayer. Positive action and intervention only happen when humans take action. As someone once said, “I’ve never seen faith move mountains, but I’ve seen what it can do to skyscrapers.”

The Gospel is Ineffective and its Promise Lacks Evidence
The gospel of Christ makes several audacious promises, which includes: forgiveness; transformation; peace; love; and the ultimate prize: eternal life. Unfortunately, people are routinely targeted with this promise when they are the most vulnerable — during a crisis in their life. Evangelical churches make it a point to go after young children with the intent to indoctrinate before those young ones can think for themselves. What’s especially cruel is how some evangelicals abuse youngsters by painting vivid pictures of fiery eternal torment if they don’t follow along with the adults.

But the real question is, are the promises true? Many competing religions promise peace and contentment, and their followers claim to enjoy just that. Christianity can’t claim uniqueness in that regard. But is the gospel message of Jesus truly transformational? Given that divorce rates among Christians and unbelievers are the same, I think we have our answer. Neigh, I forgot to mention that the rates are even higher among protestants. Or consider the viewing habits for pornography. Evangelicals consider porn a grave sin, and yet we see no difference between the secular populations vs. the Christian population. In fact, we find that Protestants are even more likely to view porn. And alas, we find that some of the most judgmental, hateful and intolerant people are those of the Christian faith.

Now to be fair, I know people have been truly helped and motivated by the Christian message of love and forgiveness. There are some truly wonderful people in the church. But I find similar mixes of people outside the church. Christianity isn’t really much more helpful than any other self-help programs. So it’s not the transformational panacea it claims to be.

There’s No Soul, Spirit or Eternal Abode
But what about that promise of eternal life? It’s the ultimate carrot. Some have claimed to have died, gone to heaven, and returned to tell the tale. But we frequently find these stories are attention-seeking grabs and/or publicity for a profitable book deal. Unfortunately, there’s zero evidence to support the notion of an eternal abode. What we know for certain is that who we are — our unique personalities — is solely contained in our brains. It’s not in some ethereal spirit or soul. We now have 100’s of years of research in human psychology combined with medical science about the brain’s structure and inner-workings. A person’s personality and conduct can be easily and grossly manipulated by chemicals that interact in the brain tissue. We also see the devastating effect of diseases like Alzheimer and dementia on a person. Severe head trauma can also result in significant changes to a person’s psyche — what folks originally attributed as the soul. A good question to ask yourself is, “if you’ve ever been knocked out by anesthesia for a medical procedure, did you have any knowledge of things happening during that time?”. All of us who have been knocked out can answer — we have no recollection of ANYTHING. There’s no immortal spirit hanging out to watch as wisdom teeth are extracted or to watch as Dr. Gregory House cut into our chest.

So when the brain is dead, that’s it folks. And as much as I might like a good zombie movie, it’s fictional — just like a majority of the Bible.

1 When the early church was debating about the gospel accounts for canonization, there were many other gospel accounts considered for inclusion which included The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Peter. So how did they decide to go with the four we currently see? Irenaeus summed it up in the following quote: “It is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four-quarters of the earth in which we live, and four universal winds, … it is fitting that she should have four pillars breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh.”  Yeah, that’s a good reason. Since the earth is flat and has four corners, there should be four gospels! It all makes sense! [Face Palm]

flat-earth-small

 

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24 thoughts on “Why I Can’t Believe Anymore — A Summary

  1. I find myself in the strange position of one who agrees with the bulk of your argument yet one who disagrees with your conclusion. Yes, the majority of modern Bible scholars would agree with the broad outline of your description of the Bible, yet I would have thought it is more than that. The Bible – and possibly more so the New Testament has been a significant shaping force in many areas of the world. Hospitals, schools and the legal system all emerge from those attempting to follow Christian principles. Certainly the Sermon on the Mount and Paul’s teaching on Love suggest unrealizable ideals, but as an example many who have tried to put the principles into practice eg think Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa and Archbishop Tutu – have made a positive difference.
    While it is true that while many scientists reject a personal God ie one who will respond to requests by interfering with nature – a good proportion of scientists attribute their attitude incorporating the wonder of nature to the sort of God Einstein talked about.
    Because you admit to coming from a fundamentalist background, this does not mean you started with a universally accepted set of beliefs. I sometimes remind Christians that with 900 different views of God you can reject 899 of the m as an atheist yet still call yourself a believer. I reject fundamentalism yet have worked as a Peace activist, written articles about the sociology of Religion, and run a large Progressive Christian web site “Making you Think”) There are literally thousands of forms of Christianity and the sorts of problems you have expressed would be shared for example with many Progressive Christians, the Quakers and the Unitarians. (You might even like to sample some of my articles eg So you think you have the one true faith, the Shaping of God, Christian ethics etc)

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    • Peddiebill, thanks for the visit and comment.

      I appreciate the point you are making. I agree that the Bible has been a significant shaping force in many parts of the world. In similar veins, the Koran has done much the same in other countries, and the teachings of the Buddha are central truths in much of Asia. The state of Utah in the U.S. has also been shaped significantly by the Book of Mormon, etc., etc. So one can make a strong case for other religious texts.

      I think that one of the reasons the Bible was a significant influence is because it was the first religious thinking/text that was written down rather than passed around orally. But we find that other written religious texts in later years also had similar effect. Even the crazy book of L. Ron Hubbard — a known writer of science fiction — became the basis for Scientology, which apparently has more than 1.2 billion (USD) in assets and funds and some 100,000 – 200,000 followers.

      I agree that many people have been positively influenced by the teaching on love in the Bible. I still love many of the stories, like the one about Joseph in Genesis, and the stories of the good Samaritan and the parable of the prodigal son. I think we can be influenced in wonderful ways by writing that moves us. And if we can extract those positive things from the Bible, that’s great.

      But I don’t think someone should build their life or worldview from the Bible. It’s clearly a man-made collection of writings. It’s not inspired or inerrant, but you probably agree with me there.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Good summation of fairly obvious truth – but there is a great deal of damage that the religious virus does to society that far, far outweighs the positive illusions it generates. I’m sure there are racists and bigots who might seem to others to be fairly nice in some contexts, but they are still living and perpetuating a fundamental lie, one that does monumental harm.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Peddlebill – did you get the part where he said he’s realized it is ALL fiction?? (you know, MANMADE, not ‘godbreathed’). That conclusion is a result of having a logical think about things, no matter which 900 views one starts from. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. All Fiction?? Eh? The Acts of the Apostles checks out pretty well with history notes from independent historians of the day. I also thought David, Solomon, Saul, Paul etc were real people even if some of the stories were remembered big. There is also a constant interaction between belief and historical setting.
    Surely you must have noticed something of that in the last few centuries of history. History is part of our setting too.
    Now take one definition of God (from the Bible) God is love. Are you seriously saying it is a fiction to say love is not a key idea for an ideal society?

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    • I try hard to not state things in the extreme as I do value truth. The last statement of my post needed some tweaking (done). And I agree, there are portions of the Bible that likely contain historical truth. There’s some modest evidence for a king named David, and the apostle Paul almost certainly existed. Jesus very likely existed too but his stories were certainly grossly exaggerated over the years.

      I’m with you — love is a great ideal for society to strive for. But faith in a diety isn’t needed for that. We find compassion and a sense of morality in many mammals. It’s evolutionary.

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      • Hmmmm, Clay. Why do you think Paul “almost certainly existed”? When I did research for my book, I was unable to find any secular history about him. Nearly everything that is known about him is from the bible itself. And even there, the information is sparse.

        Having said this, I suppose it depends on how much credibility one places in the scriptures.

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        • Hey Nan! You just reminded me that I’d been wanting to order your book (done!). Link for others if interested.

          I have been giving the epistles credibility in regard to Paul’s existence, but I have not really explored option B much (that Paul was a potential fictional character that was merely a vehicle for the teachings that an early group wanted to push forward).

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you Carmen: Although I was aware of the Westar project I had not come across this link before. I guess the progressive Christianity movement would agree with much of the Westar Institute findings although
    there is still sufficient to leave the scholars agreed that both Jesus and Paul lived and that New Testament teachings represent some of their teaching. (cf the Wikipedia article on the Historicity of Jesus). The notion that Jesus was more human than implied by the Gospels is hardly a new concept and it is really only the Conservatives and fundamentalists who treat it as a new heresy. The scholar I follow is John Dominic Crossan who appears well accepted by liberal scholars and historians alike. The letters of Paul in their mentions of the cities of the time certainly suggest he was there and the existence of Christian churches from early times fits the early non Christian histories. In terms of placing Jesus and Paul in context I would recommend reading Karen Armstrong (the History of God). For example the appearance of the Church in South India makes more sense if you accept the recorded histories of the day. Yet I would have thought that, as with Buddha, the teachings have to stand on their own merits no matter how they were first recorded. I personally find inspiration there although you would discover from my own writing that I believe much of the teaching is now outdated.

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  6. I’ve been reading my way through your blog with considerable interest. I’ve often found that people like you who became atheists, having abandoned their faith, tend to be far more vocal about their atheism than those who (like me) never were theists at any time. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that you, as it were, have known both worlds. As far as I’m concerned, I’m quite happy with people believing whatever fiction they want so long as they make no attempt to impose that fiction on anybody else.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the visit and comment. I agree — those of us who were originally theists are much more likely to be vocal about it all. And I think you hit on part of it — that we’ve lived in both worldviews. But I think another significant factor is that we intimately know how damaging the fundamentalist mindset can be to society. Those of us who are former theists probably even contributed to the harm in the past. We might now cringe at the emotional abuse we contributed onto others. While I never preached fire and brimstone, I have given alter calls before and I preached the gospel message and led several in prayer. I now wish I could go back in time and undo that emotional and mental abuse spewed onto others.

      Ragheadthefriendlyterrorist, I definitely like your last statement (and that’s a hilarious username). I’ll fight for the right of others to believe whatever they want to believe, but I’ll also vocally fight those who want to shove their fundamentalist religion onto the rest of the world.

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  7. I was noting with interest your comment about God being silent. I might beg to differ, it seems God told most of the failed Republican Presidential Candidates to run for office.

    Seriously, though, I can recall so many times when folk confidently said that God had told them such and such, which inevitably turned out to incorrect. Or the Church meetings where ‘God’ apparently God was telling rival groups contrary instructions.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey Clay,

    I am interested in re-posting this article on my site. What say ye, my friend?

    Shoot me an email or a comment if you are interested. I think this post would resonate with many of my readers. Of late, I have been writing posts about pervert preachers. 😀😀 An atheism focused post would be great. Sometimes I feel slimy and depressed after writing posts about scumbag preachers. Occupational hazard, I suppose.

    Bruce

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Former Evangelical Shares Why He Can No Longer Believe in the Christian God | The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

  10. There is so much error here. Perhaps we can have a drawn out discussion, slowly reprimanding each error.

    For one, there is not a single error or discrepancy or contradiction throughout the entire Bible. All have been debunked. I can show you myself if you simply make the accusations more clear.

    “talking donkey”

    Numbers 22:28; “Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”

    It clearly says that God opened the donkey’s mouth. The Bible doesn’t claim donkeys can just speak. The Gospels are not anonymous either, I have written an extensive piece establishing the historicity of the traditional authorship of the Gospels based on an extensive historical record — https://faithfulphilosophy.wordpress.xxx/2016/10/17/matthew-mark-luke-and-john-authors-of-the-gospels/

    This is for now. I will await your response.

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    • “For one, there is not a single error or discrepancy or contradiction throughout the entire Bible.”

      SC, please note the following verses:

      –How many animals did Noah collect? Genesis 7:2-3, Genesis 7:15
      –Who built the ark of the covenant? Deuteronomy 10:3, Exodus 37:1
      –Who killed Goliath? 1 Samuel 17:50, 2 Samuel 21:19
      –What happened to Judas? Matthew 27:5, Acts 1:18
      –How did Paul’s traveling companions react to his mystical experience? Act 9:7, Acts 22:9

      Which version is correct? How does one choose? What criteria does a person use?

      Liked by 1 person

    • SC,
      I seriously doubt that you are open to honest discussion about Biblical contradictions. For someone to even say that there’s “not a single error or discrepancy or contradiction” — that speaks volumes about you. Even when I was a conservative Christian, I acknowledged there were some issues in the text.

      If you want to seriously discuss contradictions, let’s go with one of the most important parts of the gospel: the death and resurrection of Jesus. Take the Easter Challenge, which is simply this: tell me what happened on Easter. We’re not asking for proof. Just tell me exactly what happened on the most important day of Christianity.

      The conditions of the challenge are simple and reasonable. In each of the four Gospels, begin at Easter morning and read to the end of the book: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also read Acts 1:3-12 and Paul’s tiny version of the story in I Corinthians 15:3-8. These 165 verses can be read in a few moments. Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened.

      Since the gospels do not always give precise times of day, it is permissible to make educated guesses. The narrative does not have to pretend to present a perfect picture — it only needs to give at least one plausible account of all of the facts. Additional explanation of the narrative may be set apart in parentheses. The important condition to the challenge, however, is that not one single biblical detail be omitted. Fair enough?

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  11. Well, well. If it isn’t SC – he’s shown up on several blogs, Clay, and it appears that he’s trying to drum up interest in his blog. Another charmer, as you can probably tell. His ‘faith’ is only exceeded by his blinding arrogance. He’ll make a few comments, get challenged by people speaking logic and sense, then escalate his criticism with ad hominem attacks. He got the boot on another blog for his high-handed insults. He thinks himself very clever.

    Isn’t that right, SC?

    Liked by 1 person

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