An unexpected journey to the truth part 2

How can one so entrenched in Christian belief for so long turn so rapidly from Christian theist to agnostic to atheist over a period of a year and half? One might as well ask the opposite question,"How can someone who has studied the Bible, theology, and philosophy take so long to disbelieve?"


First,one must only seriously consider arguments which arguments which support the case for Christianity. Thus essential reading is C.S Lewis, Geisler, Moreland and decidedly conservative scholarship.
Second, one must treat those who argue against Christianity and strongly oppose Christianity as straw men. One must read their books as if they are already guilty of error. The job of a Christian theological/philosophical critique, in my mind, was to poke holes, take potshots and think that the whole secular ediface had been discredited, much as Phillip Johnson does in his book Darwin on Trial. On the whole, the validity of the secular arguments must not be analyzed on its own terms as a viable option.

Once I deviated from this formula, I found that Christianity is a historical, theological and philosophical "house of cards" whose arguments for validity can be defeated by even the most sophmoric of ex-apologists.

What were the arguments which convinced me of the falsity of Christianity?
There are too many to list in any reasonable amount of space at this time. However, the primary reasons were first historical, then theological and then philosophical/scientific.

As mentioned at the end of part 1, it was a systematic study of the Bible with frequent cross-referencing and comparative study of passages which lead me to the conclusion that the Bible is an inspired book of divine origin. Rather it is a book easily proven to be filled with errors and of obvious human origin. The Bible in I Tim 3:16 claimsthat all scripture is to be taken as of divine origin and divine inspiration. In order to consistently argue this point, one must perform numerous theological gyrations and offer ad hoc explanations.

The watershed moment for me was a comparative analysis of 2 Samuel 24 and I Chronicles 21, which both record the event of David taking a census and thus bringing a devasting pestilence on the people of Israel. The book of Samuel was written during the Babylonian captivity. The books of Chronicles were written later during the Persian period prior to the rebuilding of the Temple. God's inspiration is clained by I Timothy 3:16 to be behind both accounts. However, there is a major change between the two accounts. In the Samuel account, it is God who incites David to do evil by calling for a census as an excuse to punish him. David later realizes that he has sinned in performing the census. But it was God who incited David to commit this sin in the first place. However, one must remember that Israel at the time of writing this document had no concept of a devil. Good and evil were seen at that time as proceeding from God. Thus one is struck by the account in I Chronicles which attribution the evil incitation of a census to Satan. Why the change? Here one must remember that at this point that Israelite theology had been exposed and influenced by the Persian religion, Zoroasterianism and had incorporated the idea of a satan who opposed the goodness of God. The authors of the Chroncles wanted to clear the God of the barbarous charge that he was directly responsible for David sinning and then punishing him for a sin which he caused him to commit. Thus they interjected the Persian idea of divine adversary which was probably known to their reader to avoid the contradiction presented in II Samuel. This change is perfectly understandable for the perspective of historical research but presents a nearly insurmountable peak to be climbed by those who want to uphold the verbal inspiration of both of these passages. Can any amount of theological gyrations cogently overcome this problem and maintain divine inspiration with a straight face?

This was a watershed moment which set face down the course toward atheism. Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg of historical incongrueties and implausibilties. I found the gospels to be filled with similar problems that I shall not take the time to detail at this moment. These problems lead me to agnosticism for I could no longer believe in the God of the Bible. He does not exist. If he does exist, he is the most clumsing inept stooge, subject to the development and wavering of human thought.

Second, I found theological problems which I could no longer surmount. All my life I wanted to be close to God, much as in that silly story that I previously related about wanting to converse directly with God in my childhood. However, maybe it isn't so silly and needs to be taken seriously. If God really loved us, why can't he converse with us directly. Why is he so impersonal to only address us through an ancient book, which wasn't addressed directly to us anyway? If God wanted to have a relationship with me, why couldn't he just appear to me, tell me that he loves me and wants to have a relationship with me. If God is all powerful and all knowing, he would certainly figure out a way to do so. Not only for me but for every person who has lived on the earth. The fact of God's transcendence and extremely holiness cannot be used as an argument to rebuff this because God is believed to accommodated himself to directly address Moses, Abraham and the handful of Biblical prophets that lived on this earth. Why is able to appear directly to them and not to vast majority? Could it be that there is no one behind these appearances and that these appearances can be explained in terms of the psychological study of mysticism. The fact that God has failed to appear to 99.9 % of the people who have lived on this earth is convincing evidence that God may be nothing more an idea formulated in a pre-scientific age.

Philosophically, I found the entire idea of heaven untenable. We are told by apologists that the possibility of suffering is necessary for free will to exist, in what post Leibnizians call the best of all possible worlds. For free will to exist, there must be possibility to sin and to cause suffering. However, we are told that in heaven, there is no sin and no suffering. Thus, one has the unresolveable problem of having to do away with free will in order to preserve heaven, which I don't think any evangelical will accept.

I had better stop now. The dam has been broken. The floodgates have opened and swept away the last vestiges of Christianity in my life. I would have to give up my mind in order to turn back and believe the things which I once believed. I am free to accept as substantiated only those things which can be examined from all sides and may be questioned to ascertain their veracity.

Yes, this is certainly an unexpected journey. But I am certainly to be where I am after years of holding to one sided truths. I am aiming to move forward intelligently as I am able.

23 comments:

AllergicToReligion said...

Thank you for your story. I too have given much thought to the concept of a "relationship" with God/Jesus. I realize I have more of a relationship with my dogs now than what I ever thought I had with the "Almighty". Now when I see people talk of their "relationship" with Jesus I realize they're delusional.

John W. Loftus said...

To answer your last question, Scott, NO!

I find it very interesting to learn what the main issue was that led people to deconvert. It doesn't ever seem to be the same issue, and I believe the reason is because there are so many of them, and we are all different people. Thanks again, friend, for sharing with us here at DC. I will always count you as a friend, and although I was very surprised you deconverted, I'm glad you did! It's better over here. It really is. Christian people stuck in their ways just don't understand, until they do as we did.

Theresa Frasch said...

I would have to give up my mind in order to turn back and believe the things which I once believed.

Isn't this the truth! I know my friends and family pray for me to come back to the fold (my mom says she prays everyday and I believe her - I think the rest of them think about it on occasion). But what they don't realize is that, like you said, I would have to give up my mind in order to believe again.

Once you have gone outside the box there is no going back in. I would never give up the incredible freedom I feel having given up the illusion of God.

It is good you have a place like this to go to. I only had one friend that I saw twice a year or so that I could talk to about what I was going through in my deconversion process. Funny thing is we were both pastors' wives. We both ended up divorced, first from our husbands and then from the church.

Every time we saw each other we would kind of feel each other out to see where we were, to see if we had slipped away as much as the other one.

Without her I might have thought I was going crazy for giving it all up.

DBULL said...

If you look at the two passages mentioned as watershed events in your deconversion, you'll see that there is really no controversy, between 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. If you look at the word misstranslated as "satan" in almost all the translations of the bible you will see that the word used is adversary, one who withstands, and this same word is attributed to anyone who plays the part of an adversary, to include various personalities in the bible that include satan, the Lord and various men. Satan is known as the adversary, but anyone playing the part of an adversary gets pinned with the same name. Cheers brother~D

DBULL said...

What I did'nt really say above is that almost all bible translations butcher 1 Chronicles 21 by translating adversary as satan when it could be any adversary and we know from 2 Sam 24 that in this case the adversary is the Lord :-)

John W. Loftus said...

Actually dbull, according to my sources, Satan is first used here in I Chronicles 21:1 as a proper name.

Anonymous said...

I am grateful that your words have exposed "the sons of Hell" that Jesus, himself, loved and tried to set free. I too was a humanist and non-believer before I came to believe in Y'shua (sorry, but I have had Jesus and church trauma too so I refer to Him by His Hebrew name - the double standards of hypocrisy are very spiritually painful)but prior to that, I held humanity in a position of idolotry. . I think that the bible is the story of the "consistant inconsistancies" of mankind and a God who left us with more than sacred texts and stone tablets - He left us with His loving spirit and a visible human demonstration of how He wants us to love - is Jesus exclusive??? You bet He is! He loves everyone and we definitely do NOT! If I truly "believe" then I am left to confess my weaknesses to want to be destructive when posed with a threat to my emotional, mental or physical status quo. I think God would prefer that our search for truth lie more in how we define and express love rather than the cultural,racial, religious, political, national divisions that we try to express to identify ourselves. I think God does want us to give up our minds -our territorial mindsets - a tough thing to do, especially towards those who mistreat us (loving the enemy - YIKES - I have to confess that my faith fails me sometimes!!) Actually Jesus rarely used scripture - mostly to those who were devoted toward the Torah - but I don't follow Moses, Abraham, or the Apostles (even Jesus inferred Moses's fallibility when He said that Moses was influenced and pressured by hard-hearted people to create laws that were not a reflection of God's loving will for us). Jesus's words are not easy to imitate - perhaps it is much easier to debate scripture! I hope you are not offended, but I tend to view your blog as "Debunking Human Pride" rather than attacking Y'shua Himself. Thank you for the opportunity to make a comment here!

Anonymous said...

oh, I just want to add one more comment - sorry to be so lengthy! One popular question that is posed to the "Jesus loves everyone" belief is, "What about Hitler???" (I just love these thought provoking queries!!!). I ask those who ask the Hitler question this: do you really believe that anyone who embraces hatred and murder as a means of dealing with those who have mistreated you, will be comfortable in heaven where that is not allowed? Do you really think that if Hitler sees those whom he hated will want to spend eternity in intimate relationship with them? He will think he is looking into the depths of hell! But I also ask you to consider this: on judgement day, who will be more guilty? Hitler or the surrounding community that helped "create" him? We ought to humbly consider the importance of how much lovingkindness cares in our everyday lives. Thank you once again.

Anonymous said...

Anon,

The orthodox Christian would say that you have broken the second commandment by creating a god of your own liking, therefore making yourself bigget than God, because after all, you created Him. As far as your loving your enemies and frogiveness, and blaming society instead of the criminal blah,blah, blah, I think your delusional. So I hope you forgive me!

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm... did Anonymous say, "blaming society instead of the criminal"???? I think we have someone projecting his delusional perspective here.....

Anonymous said...

Re: Response to the person who thought I might be breaking the second commandment: I acknowledge Jesus as the final authority of demonstrating God. Offending religious tradition and beliefs is exactly why Jesus was crucified - He challenged Moses's authority against the powerful religious leaders of His day who were deeply rooted in the traditions and teachings of the Torah - Jesus's mission was not a job for the cowardly! Believe me, there is something really terrifying and demoralizing about being villified and rejected by a morally indignant and religious person - I know! Jesus was controversial and crucified for inferring that Moses was influenced by his surrounding community. That is why Jesus's tongue is the "two-edged sword" - meaning that Jesus's words and actions put into perspective what of the Torah is the influence of God and what is the result of man's perspective and limited understanding of God (influence is a recurring theme in the Bible and is found in the gospel message through to the 7 letters to the 7 churches in the book of Revelation). I don't think the people of Moses's day were ready to hear, "Love the enemy" - that sort of message goes against human nature and is readily attacked, especially in a barbaric civilization. During the Old Testament times, it was not uncommon for people to view gods as bloodthirsty and condemning (it was actually a miracle that Abraham didn't kill Isaac considering child sacrifice was a respected practiced and believed to be essential to offset an attack from an angry deity). I won't go on any further, but by the way, it's noble of you to ask for forgiveness but I did not take offense at your comments, but thanks for gesture anyway.

SkepticOfBible said...

Thus one is struck by the account in I Chronicles which attribution the evil incitation of a census to Satan.
.........
incorporated the idea of a satan who opposed the goodness of God.


But Satan is never shown to rebel against God in the Chronicles account. As far as I understood, Satan in Jewish theology is nothing more than a servant of God rather than a adversary

http://whatjewsbelieve.org/explanation07.html

http://www.outreachjudaism.org/satan.html

Otherwise really interesting story

Cya

Skeptic

Dave Armstrong said...

There is no necessary contradiction between 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21, and this holds even if there was development of theology.

Ancient Israel was, as you know, a pre-philosophical society. It is very complex today, in philosophy, to work out the relationship of God's sovereignty and human freedom and evil. Much more so back then.

Originally, God was thought of as the author of both good and evil, as part and parcel of His sovereignty. To this day, Calvinism approximates that view.

Later, as refection developed, the notion of God allowing free will, which is the origin of the evil, came to be better grasped.

In any event, the God-Satan relationship vis-a-vis who "caused" sin is not a biblical contradiction as you claim, because it is a commmon motif in Scripture that both God and Satan can be involved in the same act or sin, for different purposes: God for good and Satan for evil.

The notion of secondary causation of sin and God's use of it for good is actually present as far back as Genesis. After Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery and at length he became second to Pharaoh in Egypt, Joseph reflects on the higher purposes involved:

Genesis 45:4-8 (RSV):

4: So Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, I pray you." And they came near. And he said, "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.

5: And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

6: For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.

7: And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.

8: So it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

This is a rather sophisticated understamnding of God's providence, and how He can turn evil intents into a good outcome, and include the same in His providence. A more concise statement of the same notion occurs in Genesis 50:20:

"As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today."

This is a remarkably advanced understanding of complex theology, hardly different in essence from the developed NT thought of Romans 8:28:

"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose."

So this is no necessary contradiction at all. It is simply two different ways of describing the same thing (a rather common biblical motif). If God allows Satan to be involved, that is His permissive will; not His perfect will. But God can turn around Satan's evil designs for His own purposes.

We find the same dynamic in the book of Job (which is usually considered of a later date than Samuel and Chronicles). God let Job be in Satan's power (Job 1:12), but it was for His higher purpose. When the text speaks of "the evil that the Lord had brought upon him" (42:11), it is in this sense: He permitted Satan to do his thing, which was for a bad purpose, but God had a good purpose in mind.

Now, if your contention is correct, that Hebrew thought had evolved from a simple belief that God was beyond good and evil to a dualistic understanding, whereby Satan did the bad stuff (hence a supposed contradiction), then you have to explain why the same advanced concept was already seen in Genesis, among the patriarchs (some 600-800 years before David).

And you have to explain why it again appears in Job, probably written after the time of David. This isn't contradiction (one belief earlier, and another contradictory one later); it is simply further understanding of the nature of God and how He is sovereign.
You are the one who has misunderstood (as is so often the case with biblical "exegesis"), not the Hebrews or the Christians.

I wrote at length about the similar problem of whether God hardened Pharaoh's heart; tied in with the thought in Romans 9. I explained all this in a similar fashion, giving many biblical parallels:

Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart? (Does God Positively Ordain Evil?) (vs. [atheist] "DagoodS")
http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/10/did-god-harden-pharaohs-heart-does-god.html

I later expanded my argument in a discussion with a Calvinist:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/10/reply-to-calvinist-critique-concerning.html

There is also the motif of the "serpent" in the Garden of Eden; obviously a counter-force to God, either Satan himself or his agent. Thus, from early on, the Hebrews had such a notion. It didn't come from Persia; nice try.

Similar dynamics occur in 1 Peter. God's purpose in suffering is seen in 4:13-19, but Satan's is seen in 5:8.

The crucifixion itself is another example. Judas and Satan had one motivation (e.g., John 13:27), but God had another. In fact, Jesus willfully laid down His life, knowing what would happen, and what the purpose was (John 10:18).

So there is no contradiction here at all. It was a clever attempt to find one, though. You simply needed to be more acquainted with Jewish and Christian theology to see that it is no intellectual or logical problem at all for our worldview.

Suffering is a huge problem, and another gigantic discussion altogether, but not this supposed contradiction between God and Satan supposedly not being able to be involved in the same event without contradiction.

In it,

Dave

Dave Armstrong said...

Per my usual custom, I have posted my reply on my blog, and anyone is welcome to reply there, too:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/supposed-contradiction-between-2.html

I do thank the writer for the food for thought, though we disagree profoundly. It encourages dialogue and the critical faculty, which I love.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, everyone hopes that their argument is the best, their belief is the best, and would twist and interprete whatever quotes they can find to substantiate their argument. Don't be self-righteous and say you never do that. I don't think God (if there is one) likes people who lie. And to those who don't think they twisted whatever quotes from Bible to form their argument, I'm sad for your delusion.

Anonymous said...

God does love liars and there are a lot of different way to do that(anyone who says he is not a liar is a liar - that's from scripture somewhere)- but He wants us to love the truth so we don't have to suffer and waste time covering it up.

Dave Armstrong said...

Great rational reply from an intellectual coward who can't even give his own name. Rather than engage my argument, you simply mock it. I'm a liar, etc. Right.

I see you have learned from the method of some others here (not all) who do the same. Mockery to the exlusion of reason and rational examination of opposing argument . . .

This is supposed to impress people? If I were considering atheism and saw all the ugliness and contempot that regularly goes down in this forum, it wouldn't cause me to be attracted to atheism to the slightest degree.

Christians are supposed to be witnesses of the truths we believe in. We often fail. But so, obviously, do many atheists, in being a witness for their own set of purported truths.

Again, not all here do that, but it is enough to be a great turn-off, I think, for someone seeking rational, amiable discussion on a major issue like theism vs. atheism.

Dave Armstrong said...

I painstakingly replied to "DagoodS"' paper about the supposed contradictions in King David's census (15 alleged) alluded to in the post above, in my latest paper:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/on-alleged-contradictions-of-2-samuel.html

s burgener said...

I want to thank you Dave for correcting this error. I was sick at the time of writing this blog and probably should have nothad any business writing at that time.
I am and was fully aware that Satan was not regarded as the personification of evil that we find in the New Testament. But more simply as God's avenging angel who does God's dirty work as in the book of Job or the angel of death in the tenth plague upon Egypt. Thus God is the cause of the incitation to the census in both accounts. Nonetheless, I do not think youre response gets God off the hook. In both accounts, David is incited by either God or by His Satan to commit a sin. In turn God punishes him for the sin which he is ultimately the cause. The difference between the two accounts is that the I Samuel directly ascribes the incitation to God. By contrast, the I Chronicles account attempts to distance the blame put upon God much in the same manner which the author of Job does by ascribing the incitation to his Satan. How can the charge of an unresolveable theodicy be overcome in regard to these passages? I do not believe it possible without having to cover over logical inconsistency which only a Daoist can accept.

Anonymous said...

Scott, what a great story! You truly chose to take "the red pill" and there is indeed no turning back.

Those who seem to feel compelled here to desperately return you to the fold are all motivated by fear. I'm thinking they're probably toying with the idea of rejecting the Bible themselves, or else why are they visiting this site?

As for me, I turned my back on Christianity over 30 years ago after reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. Rather than debunking the Bible, however, it simply presented, through metaphor, a much more preferable and logical alternative to the fear-based religions.

Although it wasn't until years later that I undertook a serious study of metaphysical philosophy, I liked enough of what the book suggested to be able to evolve beyond the fables and horror stories served up to the masses in the Bible.

For me, the eventual "kicker" was the realization that the God of the Bible could not possibly exist simply because I myself was already more spiritually and morally evolved than "Him." And this logic was centered around the concept of eternal punishment in Hell.

When it came down to it, I had to admit that if the decision to damn all unbelievers -- or even the worst of us, for that matter -- to eternal, agonizing torture were given to me, I would simply not be capable of tossing any soul into everlasting fire, or whatever other interpretation of the meaning of Hell might be.

In other words, my own personal level of empathy for others -- while not anywhere near that of say, a Mother Theresa -- has evolved to a point where I am not capable of allowing such a level of suffering to occur to even the worst of creatures. It simply strikes me as sadistic. I'm not saying old Adolf wouldn't benefit from a brief, quick dip in "The Lake," mind you, but surely a perfectly wise, merciful, and patient God knows countless methods of behavior modification that are certainly more evolved that these sorts of terror tactics. Once I had realized this, I knew that the God of the Bible was a sham, simply because any God less evolved than my lowly, imperfect self could not exist.

Any intelligent person who thinks about it understands that the logic of consequences for one's actions is to foment behavior modification. To inspire change within the "guilty party." Since the Christian idea of Hell is an eternal consequence, this negates the capacity for change, and is therefore also rendered illogical.

But it was not enough for me to remain an agnostic for the rest of my life. I could not accept the atheistic idea that the Universe is a random event and that there is no real purpose to its and our existence.

I found said purpose within a metaphysical belief system. It seems to be a good fit for my highly logical mind, and satisfies, to some degree, my need for purpose in the Universe.

If anyone reading this is dissatisfied with their newfound atheism or agnosticism, may I recommend you begin researching the metaphysical belief systems. It's okay if you don't. One of the best things about metaphysics is that none are rejected regardless of their belief in it or not. All are eventually rejoined with God. Some are simply just slow learners.

Some books to get you started are the "Seth" books by Jane Roberts, "To Dance With Angels" by Don and Linda Pendleton, and pretty much anything by Deepak Chopra.

God does exist, but his/her miracles are all around you. Everything you see, hear, and touch IS God. Even you. We are all One, and We are God, studying the Universe around us from infinite perspectives. Take care!

Anonymous said...

I think many of you who comment on this new kind of freedom you are experiencing are confused on what freedom really means. Does freedom mean doing whatever you want and whenever you want to do it. The freedom you talk of actually is the kind that enslaves you to this world. What is 80 or 90 years (if your lucky) of "freedom" in this world?..compared to true eternal freedom of God.
My heart breaks to read your life stories, and to see how you were tricked and led astray. Just like many of your family members pray for your return to truth, so will I , a stranger, pray as well.

Anonymous said...

My name is Sherri. Thank you for posting your deconversion story. I too was a member of the ICOC and left in March 2003. I was in it for 11yrs. After leaving that cult I went on my search for a new church. I got involved with Dr. John Piper's church for about a year. After dealing with too many triggers relating to the ICOC experience I left and took a break from chruch, but remained a Christian.

In 2006 I started to allow myself to investigate some of the questions I had about the bible. At first I read from the Christian apologetics point of veiw, but found that my questions were not really being answered. Then I started to read from the likes of Bart Ehrman and the myth of the bible began to unravel.

I finally rejected the Christian myth in July 2006! It's been quite the emotional rollercoaster ride! I still wanted a relationship with God. Issues of the afterlife haunted me. I missed having the security of heaven.

Now it's almost a year later. I realise I am an atheist. I never imagined my views would change so much. I am starting to feel more comfortable with the thought that it just ends when we die. We may not know for sure what happens, but I am not going to put any hope in a myth.

Thanks again for sharing.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks for sharing Sherri! That Christian group is a cult. Glad you saw fit to leave it.