Lee's Deconversion Story

I deliberately tried to keep this to under five minutes reading time. I hope it is adequate. Here is a link to all my Posts at Debunking Christinity.
I grew up in a more or less religious background. I Attended church occasionally and also at Christmas and Easter like a lot of other people. One of my grandfathers was a Baptist preacher. My other two grandparents formed a church about sixty years ago that has grown into something like a mega-church today. About fifteen years ago I got serious in the church and went Baptist Fundamentalist. My reasoning was that since God exists, and he wrote the book, then I should accept my responsibility to have a relationship and assumed the Bible must necessarily be the literal word of God. With this literal viewpoint in mind I got involved in all sorts of conundrums relating to theology and comparing my observations to the way I understood the world should and does work and the way god is described to work and the promises it allegedly made to us.

In an attempt to reconcile problems that I noticed, I started to study the Bible, apologetics and lexicons very hard. I became a staunch apologist, and I could quote chapter and verse like a pro. But I kept running into these people that had really good points about why I was wrong, but I just minimized it using 1 Corinthians 2:14 which supports the idea that because they don't have the holy spirit they can't understand. But even that poses a problem in logic that I didn't bother to reconcile. I just didn't know enough to deal with their questions so I kept studying deeper. I was told that I should go to seminary and seriously considered it, but I wasn't motivated to figure out how to do it.

The more I studied the harder it was to take the Bible literally, so I started sliding into the more metaphorical style of belief. At this point I reconciled the question of how do you know what is metaphor and what is not by believing that praying and the holy spirit would solve that problem. And to take my mind off those kinds of problems, I got involved in "Spiritual Warfare". Having read a book about Earl and Lorraine Warren in my youth called "The Demonologist" and "The Exorcist" I was sure that this kind of thing really went on, and I was going to get in the fray. I sought out Wiccans and people I was convinced were being bothered by an evil spirit and tried to "help" them. In the midst of all this I had some personal crises that convinced me that the demons were fighting back. I prayed and prayed to no avail, and started to try to think of a time when I could say that a prayer actually worked. I couldn't think of many and I started to think that maybe I was just being forsaken like Jesus in the last minutes. I heard from well meaning people that God won't give you anything you can't handle. Well, that meant that I was not devout enough for his tastes or that I was too weak. I didn't buy into either option. After I got to where I couldn’t take it anymore I made a deal with God that he should leave me alone, and I would leave him alone. I was betting it all on my acceptance of Jesus and my baptism to keep the door open, but my advocate days were over.

While I was 'floating through life' I saw the odd news story with the person saying "God saved he/she/me/it from dying or anything worse happening". From my perspective it made more sense for God to have prevented it if he was going to do anything about it all. Away from the Rhetoric of Church, some questions came to mind. Some of them from the church days and some from comparing my observations to how I understood the world was supposed to work with a God around. It didn't add up. Since I am an Engineer, I had some rudimentary critical thinking skills. I began to reflect back on my walk with God, and I realized that my experience in the Church and personal relationship with God was a lot like chance or luck. Not being interested in pursuing that line of reasoning seriously, I just let it go.

After Sep. 11, the Islamist fundamentalists started saying that God answered their prayers, I was wondering why he didn't answer the prayers of the people stuck in the WTC before they collapsed, or the people in the planes, or any reasonable prayer that I ever had in my life. This idea about prayer that "God answers in his own time, sometimes the answer is no, you can't test prayer or God" didn't fly with me anymore. So I decided to apply the same kind of logic, reasoning and research necessary to troubleshoot engineering problems to reconcile this question of "Why does it seem to me that my personal experience with God was so much like depending on Luck."

I went back to studying the Bible but this time I wanted to know where the Bible came from and this time I was going to use secular and academic texts. I wanted to resolve some obvious problems in the Bible that weren't adequately addressed in my mind and so I studied physics, biology, archeology, psychology, informal logic, and reasoning. My first milestone was to discover that God didn't work the way that everyone thought he did. Why was that? I stumbled onto Robert M. Price's Bible Geek podcast and he said something that sounded like "the Old Testament is a collection of Sumerian and Babylonian Myths". I decided that was a plausible hypothesis so I decided to validate it. I have concluded to my satisfaction that most likely the Bible is a compilation of Near Eastern myths. I am sure the Bible was put together over time through socio-political pressures in the near eastern region in an attempt to establish an identity for a community of people that wished to be unique. The implications are that it puts the Bible on equal footing with all the other scriptures in the world, which means that we don't really know anything about God including if it exists or not. Once I realized that I became interested to know how this could go on for so long. That is when I bought the book "Why People Believe Weird Things" and learned about "Skepticism".

Skepticism is a nice buzz word, but I don’t ascribe to being a member of the skeptical movement or a 'Bright' because I am not comfortable with what I consider oversimplified ideals of schemes of reasoning, persuasion and deception. I won't get into it here, but in looking into how people reason including how to influence, persuade and deceive them, it is easy to see how religious belief has gone on for so long. But now I am confident that I have an understanding of what went on with me and is going on with other people. I want to help them answer some of those questions that cause them cognitive dissonance and to be mentally uncomfortable.

References:
Here is list of study material in an amazon.com list that represents what I have studied over the past fifteen years:



Here is link to a researcher that has assembled the information about the origins of Israel in a lay person friendly readable format in his series of Books. He's not the only one in this field, but he has done a good job putting the material in books that non-archaeologists can understand.



If you do a tiny bit of research on the Old Testament. You will find that it is the Hebrew Bible which came about from oral traditions and various historical documents. Now look up the definition of Folklore. Now click here and read this and think about it for a little while

7 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Lee, thanks for coming on board. I look forward to your contributions.

Lee Randolph said...

Thanks for allowing me to participate. I hope I can add value and help you all make the world a better place.

sincerely,
Lee

Theresa Frasch said...

Great reading list Lee. Thanks for the interesting post.

HeIsSailing said...

Agreed - great reading list. It contains little of the usual suspects, which means there are many paths away from God.

Anonymous said...

Lee,
Welcome home! I am recently de-converted Christian. Like you, I took the "rationalization" approach for many years, but after awhile, cognitive dissonance sets in for the rational thiker and one must have to come to the conclusion that religion is priestmagic, no more.

I read many secular arguments that the bible is bunk, but NOTHING more powerful as Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" written in 1795. This treatise was banned in the UK for many years. Why? Paine is one of the most enlightened free thinkers ever. The American Revolution was based upon his and other like-minded rationalists.

Everyone, ESPECIALLY world leaders (or world leaders by proxy) should read this treatise.

The bible has NO AUTHORITY!!

http://www.thomaspaine.org/Archives/AOR1.html#1

Like Carl Sagan said pointing to that bookshelf... "In life, one can read this many books.. it's choosing which books to read that counts"

John

Derenda said...

I came across your site while looking for a book on another site. I was heartbroken. To you Lee, it sounds like you have a lot of knowledge about the Bible.You mentioned your religous background, your grandfather being a preacher, how you gave in to be a Baptist fundamentalist, and those type things, but you never mentioned how God changed your life. I was just wondering if that may be the reason you never could truly accept His Word. Lee, I know the love of God, and when a HOLY GOD truly shows you the wickedness of your heart and you truly see your sin against a HOLY and RIGHTEOUS GOD and you cry out to Him to have mercy on you and He gloriously saves you, then not only will you believe and fully accept His WORD you will embrace it and hunger for it! You will meditate on scripture such as 2nd Timothy 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction, in righteousness."I know this because it happened to me.He gives me the faith to believe. There is a lot of things in this world that you guys will never be able to understand or prove,and that goes double for me, but I know God is real and He has changed my life. I will be praying that he will do the same for all of you.Please join us in our church service each week live at 1030 am central. We are in Muscle Shoals Alabama. Join us on the web at fbcms.org I know you will hear the true gospel.I love you all in the Lord.

Rosemary said...

Derenda, we (the de-converted) have all been where you are now.

We all believed that God had changed our lives. We believed that those who had not experienced this joy were to be pitied. We could not envisage anyone voluntarily rejecting this state unless God deliberately hardened their heart or the Devil offered them a better sounding deal. We all believed that our subjective experience of God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit and the Devil was real. Some of us included our experience of Angels and Saints in that certainty.

We all believed that the insights and feelings we had about the meaning of the written words in the Bible came directly from God and were untainted by our upbringing, culture, environment, experience or significant others. We believed that we were being "led by the Spirit into all truth" and therefore could not be wrong. When we were faced with the fact that many others with strong faith were led in contradictory directions we assumed that their faith or commitment was inferior to our own.

Many of us would even have accepted, as you do, that the scriptures referred to by the writer of Timothy included his own work as well as the rest of what became the Christian Bible in the 3rd Century AD. This included works which were written decades later (most of the New Testament) as well as material consequent to the book of Deuteronomy which was not accepted by the Jewish people of the time as "scripture".

The only differences between you and us may be time, scholarship and an enquiring mind which refuses to allow emotion to swamp reason or stop us from going where the objective evidence leads us, even when this causes emotional distress.

Delusional systems can be very comforting, especially if they make you feel special or allow you to become part of a community of like-minded individuals who are very kind to you. Part of the de-conversion process for some of us was to discover that just about any group of people who share a delusional system, even one that is not socially sanctioned, contain a lot of very nice and very caring individuals who are especially warm towards those who conform to their own beliefs. The leaders of such groups are frequently charismatic authority figures who generally unwittingly manipulate people into accepting them as infallible interpreters of sacred writings, included what was "moral" and is not. It can be hard to resist believing people who seem to be honest, kind, personally interested in us and certain that what they are telling us is correct.

We have been where you have been. We just find that we can no longer interpret our past and present experiences in the way that any of today's Christian gurus say we should.

Most of us are happy to allow you to continue to enjoy the ecstasy of faith-through-ignorance and will only object if you try to force us to behave as we did while we were still ignorant of science, logic and modern biblical scholarship. We would also object if you or your representatives tried to compel us or others to support the aspects of your current belief set which cause physical, mental or educational harm to others or harm to the health of this planet.

Unfortunately, many aspects of current evangelical teaching are cause for considerable alarm in this direction.

We are seeing the damage which these can do to the world and its people when the President of the world's most powerful nation uses them to support war, torture, poor education, practices which promote global warming, the with-holding of the best (non-faith based) health and disaster assistance for the nation's disadvantaged, the elevation of human embryos above the status of conscious children and adults, legal and social discrimination against homosexuals and their loving relationships - and so on. America has never had a more "born again" President nor one which has been so soundly condemned for leading a regime which abuses human rights and dignity and is characterized by the incompetence and criminal depravity of its representatives. This has been a feature of religious dictatorships in other places and times. The Abrahamic God does not have a good track record when it comes to running countries.

To re-iterate, do not make the common evangelical mistake of assuming that we have lost our religious beliefs because we have never experienced the subjective joy and certainty which you currently entertain.

We acknowledge that the reality we experience cannot compete with this feeling of drug-induced ecstasy. We can only offer you support when/if you find you can no longer logically support the delusion as an objective reality.

Losing a religious or ideological faith almost invariably means that you also lose like-minded friends and family. This can be a very traumatic and lonely experience. Fortunately we all find new friends and learn to reconstruct our lives around a more rational set of beliefs, ideals and morals. The enjoyment of life now has a different meaning, one that encourages us to help others enjoy it, too.

We are here if you need us.