Quote #46

stephen hawking

via AsapSCIENCE on Facebook

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What Led Me to Leave Christianity?

Back in October I received the following comments and questions from a visitor to my blog but life was too busy for me to really give it a well thought out answer. But I’m taking the time today! And I’d like to mention here how much I appreciate respectful comments and questions like this even if the author and I don’t have the same viewpoint. Also, if you’ve followed my blog for very long you know that I don’t write posts very often, but when I get in the zone, I write long-winded ones – lol! So I somewhat apologize for veering off topic – this turned into a revisiting of my deconversion. But I hope it gives my readers a bit more insight into my journey and maybe it will even help someone who needs to know they aren’t alone in their doubts and questioning.

Brenda, I am a fairly recent “convert”, if you’d like to call it that, to Christianity, and in comparing my own conversion to your “de-conversion” or what have you, I am really struck by the fact that we both cite reason and evidence as two of the main factors spurring us to change sides, so to speak.

So, I must ask: What really clenched it for you? What convinced you that Christianity is false? What convinced you that God does not exist? I ask only because I didn’t believe in God or in Christ’s divinity until two years ago when I actually began looking at the evidence, and saw that a lot of it points to Christ, that a lot of it corroborates historical/geographical details from the Bible, that there are good reasons to believe in an infinite-personal Creator of the universe. Have you looked into these matters much? I mean, as someone who had grown up assuming that the only way to be a Christian was by blind faith, I was stunned!

I go to a church where about 40-50% of the congregation is from an atheist/agnostic background. Conversions happen everyday, literally; it’s very much the norm to see a college-educated atheist or agnostic come to our Bible studies for a few weeks or months and wind up accepting Christ. I was one of them. So, to hear of someone abandoning their faith–especially after 20 years–is quite surprising to my ears. Anyway I was just wondering what your thoughts would be on this.

~Leggatt

Hi Leggatt – thanks for your comments and questions!

What convinced me that Christianity is false?

Here’s a link to My Story if you haven’t read it already. In there I talk a bit about how I started doubting the Bible’s infallibility and from there I started realizing that if the Bible wasn’t perfect then how in the world would I know what was true in it and what wasn’t? It was a frightening experience. I had trusted the Bible as my perfect guide to truth and in a pretty short period of time I realized it was likely just written by a bunch of ancient people who didn’t know much at all about the world and wrote it out of their own ignorance.

That realization freaked me out! If the Bible didn’t have some ultimate truth in it, then where was truth to be found?? I went on a desperate search through books and online to try to find some way that I could recognize and discern truth. I looked at more liberal branches of Christianity, deism, agnosticism, new age material. I was desperate to find some sort of solid ground where I could plant my feet and at least feel like I was on the right path towards truth.

I read and read and read to no avail. But then I reached a turning point. I realized that all of these ideologies were just guesses. All of the people putting forth these ideas and thoughts and guesses were just people like me. They didn’t know any more about any of it than I did. I had been looking around hoping someone somewhere knew more than I did and could show me the way or at least point me in the right direction. But I realized they were all just humans like me who were born not knowing anything and were taught by those around them to think a certain way and while that could look very authoritative, they were just guessing. Almost all of their ideas came from looking around just like I did and they tried to make sense of it and put their own spin on it and called it truth.

So pretty quickly I decided that my best course of action from that point on was to stick with science. It’s not perfect but more than anything else out there it seeks out evidence and makes that its highest goal. No wishing, no hoping, no faith, no manipulation, no using people’s feelings to convince them of anything. No ancient books, no loyalty to ancient wisdom if it doesn’t hold up, no praying, no ceremonies … nothing is sacred … except truth.

And then I took a deep breath, looked around at the world, and I felt peace. You don’t hear that very often, that something as ‘cold’ as science or atheism could give someone peace – but it did. There’s a peace in doing away with all of that other stuff and just saying to anything that comes across my path, ‘Show me the evidence and show me the truth. If you can’t do that for me then I don’t have the time or room in my life for it.’ That was a filter that cleared so much garbage out of my mind and I could then just look at my life and love the people in it and start creating the kind of life I wanted. And I haven’t regretted it for a minute.

But you asked me about evidence and all I can say is that I just don’t agree with you that the evidence is there. You can do searches on my blog and you can visit my Links page, my Bible page, and my Books page where you can see many of the blogs, websites, and books that I read during my deconversion that ultimately led me to where I am now. Many of those will do a better job of explaining in-depth the problems with the Bible and why I absolutely think there is no evidence for the truth of the Bible or any of its core teachings. [Edit: Visit this blog’s Journey pages for some in depth Biblical Criticism. There are many more out there as well. This one is another good one.] You mentioned that you found historical and geographical details from the Bible to be convincing (which I don’t) but even if some of those things were true, it doesn’t mean that anything else the Bible teaches is true. It doesn’t follow that because a historical fact might be true that therefore the spiritual teachings in the Bible are true at all.

Here is a post/page that I wrote explaining why I will never return to Christianity and it probably summarizes well the problems I discovered within Christianity as I went through my deconversion journey: Would I Ever Return to Christianity?

In hindsight, I honestly think people choose religion out of fear and then once they’ve latched onto a worldview they only see the evidence that fits that storyline. What are people afraid of? Everything. Death mainly. There is fear that we are alone in the universe, fear of just living with our mistakes without any chance of truly redeeming them. Fear of hell. Fear that has been built into us as children. Fear that is likely wired into us from our early evolutionary beginnings as humans. It’s a scary world – whatever your particular fears might be. Religion holds out a branch and says hold on! We have some solid ground for you and we have almost all of the answers for you! But instead of grabbing onto that branch and all of the baggage that comes along with it – I would urge my readers to look at their fears directly. Realize that some of them are founded in reality (death, catastrophes, loss, loneliness, pain …) but that some aren’t (hell, sin, all of those worries about bad things you think will happen but don’t …). And the best way to face those hard-to-handle things in life is to take a breath, face the reality of what’s in front of you, know you can handle it, and build the life you want in the here and now. And don’t forget to grab onto all that wonderful and awesome stuff that is out in the world while you’re at it! Love, sex, friendship, births, achievements, music, art, nature, conversation, smiles, laughter … they are all out there to enjoy while we’re here!

Well Leggatt (and the rest of my readers), I hope that gives you some insight into my journey. I didn’t want to rehash all of the research I’ve done regarding the evidence for or against Christianity – I’ve already documented that on my blog over the past few years. If you find any posts that you’d like to discuss further and in more detail I am open to that.

Do any of my readers want to chime in with their own thoughts on this topic or on anything I shared?

Religious Trauma Syndrome

I know posting this will help someone. I also highly recommend the book mentioned in the article. It definitely helped me as I struggled through my deconversion.

Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems

via A World Without God (A great deconversion blog you should check out!)

The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Book Recommendation

I had to return this book to the library when I was only about halfway finished, but I liked it so much that it was worth putting myself on the waiting list for it again. I finished it last night and I thought it was definitely worth sharing here:

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

I loved the main character and he’s one of the primary reasons that I think most of my readers would enjoy reading this book. He’s so intelligent and observant and logical almost to a fault. I just loved him. He thinks everything through meticulously and maybe that made me feel like I’m not so strange after all – lol! The book is filled with science-based thinking and writing and yet it is touching and heartfelt at the same time. And if I wasn’t already sold on this book – it also made me laugh out loud numerous times! What’s not to love?

If you only read books that are fast-paced then this book is not for you. But if, like me, you love character-driven plots that make you think and you walk away knowing you’ll have that character stuck in your head forever  – then add this to your reading list.

I can’t wait until this author’s second novel comes out!

It’s Been a Good Life – Isaac Asimov

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was reading an autobiography of Isaac Asimov’s called It’s Been a Good Life. I don’t know that I have the patience or skill to attempt a decent review of the book, but I did want to mention to my readers that I absolutely loved it.

I’ve never had any interest in reading science fiction (which Asimov authored prolifically) but I read a review of this book and something must have caught my attention because I knew I wanted to read it. Turns out the man’s life fascinated me, and more than that, the book is full of so many of his thoughts which are profound and wise and often funny as well. I highlighted so much of this e-book and I think if you have any interest  in autobiographies or humanism or science (he was a professor of biochemistry) or science fiction or writing or philosophy …. (you get the idea) … I think you’ll love this book.

It does jump around a bit but I actually found this made the book more enjoyable to read – the progression wasn’t predictable. I loved not knowing what interesting topic or period of his life he’d cover next.

If any of you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Is There Any Lingering Theist In Me Five Years Later?

It’s been almost five years since I very suddenly lost my faith and three years since I started identifying as an atheist. When I look back it amazes me that after twenty years of being an extremely sincere and genuine Christian that within a few years my brain would see all those things that I believed in so dearly as pure fable. And all the Christians can save their, ‘she wasn’t a true Christian’ nonsense. I absolutely was.

But I was pondering whether I ever have doubts about my atheism. Do I ever wonder if there is a god?  Does that question ever factor into my life at all anymore? I’m not completely closed to changing my mind about things. I value reality above all else. If some evidence convinced me that my current take on reality was wrong I’d be willing to shift my thinking. It’s reality after all! Not much point sticking my head in the sand about reality!

But even with that taken into consideration, no, the god question never factors into my thinking anymore. It would almost be like asking someone if they spend time wondering if Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is true and how that might impact their life. It just doesn’t factor in at all. And I’m not saying this to convince anyone of anything. I just find it interesting that once my brain realized that what is in front of me is reality, I just settled in to building my life around that and all the god stuff drifted away never to be seen or heard from again.

A big part of me can’t believe that just a short time ago I believed all that stuff. Was I a different person then? How could I have thought that was all true when now it seems so ridiculous and awful? The changes in my thinking have been so drastic, and looking at it impartially, that fascinates me! I guess once you choose a way of looking at the world and take on its methods of discerning truth, everything else follows. A Christian worldview told me a story and then told me that the Bible and prayer and visions were the way to discover truth (and threw in the threat of hell to make sure I didn’t doubt any of that). But once I pulled away from that and started demanding proof for the things people were telling me about the world, everything changed. Evidence is an amazing filter. Once I applied it my world changed – and for the better.

Quote #40

There is indeed mystery in life, a lot of unanswered questions of vital importance. I would not be a philosopher if I did not believe that, with all my being. Religion and philosophy alike grapple with the deepest questions of all: What is it all about? How should we live? Philosophy is sometimes chided for failing to provide compelling answers to its questions. Perhaps one of the most important lessons of philosophy is to teach us how to live with the questions unanswered, rather than settle for unsatisfactory but popular answers. This is our legacy from Socrates onward and is the source of at least some of the conflict with religion. In exchange for the security, comfort, and certainty of the world’s religions, we offer only doubt and uncertainty, a cold, hard logical look at the universe. But I’ll take it.

From Chapter One of Philosphers Without Gods – edited by Louise M. Antony

Chapter One: Faith and Reason, the Perpetual War: Ruminations of a Fool written by Stewart Shapiro

What Do Atheists Believe?

I really enjoyed this speech by Todd Stiefel at the Reason Rally. It’s worth 11 minutes of your time and you may even get inspired!

via io9