Bill Ross - Deconversion Story

Hi, my handle is WoundedEgo but my name is Bill Ross... this is me with my family.

John has graciously invited me to contribute to his blog, and suggested I begin with my deconversion story, and so I shall...

Unfortunately, being as cerebral as I am, the story will not involve a car chase, but I'll try not to bore...

There is a wonderful scene in one of the Wallace and Gromit stories where Gromit sits in jail doing a jigsaw puzzle. As he places the last piece in the puzzle, he realizes that the puzzle has a personal message for him - he will be leaving jail tonight via a breakout!

This was my experience. I pondered the Bible for many, many years, trying to discover its central themes that would tie the whole thing together and unlock its cryptic design. As soon as I did so, I realized that it would not serve as my own mental framework.

I quote this from the introduction to my book, Bible Shockers!:

My lovely wife of twenty something years is an extremely capable person with a wide range of interests. She might be spending her day absorbed in an art project with the younger children, having some coffee or tea with friends or riding her bicycle up to the video store to see if they have anything new along the lines of Stephen King, or if not, something with some gut wrenching human relationships. She seldom thinks about the Bible. I, on the other hand, like many people, have had a long fascination with the Bible and have often neglected other important activities in order to understand some difficult passage or other. I spent many years as a Christian, treating the book as Protestant Christians are wont to do:

* As a vehicle of magic communication from God to me
* To reinforce the Catholic/Protestant traditions I had been taught

I have spent many more years approaching the text as an ancient religious text, driven to deeply understand as one would understand any other ancient religious text. The reasons I moved from reading the Bible as a vehicle of magic communication from deities, and from seeking proof texts for my faith, to methodical objective study were twofold. First of all, I was challenged by a passage in the Bible:

Hebrews 12:27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

As I meditated on that passage I began to think to myself that rather than try to "prop up" my beliefs with the Bible, what if I began to see which ones I could knock over? Any that would not knock over were solid and I would know exactly why, but any that yielded were unreliable and could safely be discarded. All of my beliefs were quickly exposed as imposters.

Magic communication had failed me. I found that I received confusing, conflicting messages and silly ideas. I found I was insecure and misled by the thoughts that seemed to come from the deity but were just notions. Most troubling was the see-saw of alarm versus confidence that I found myself on. For example, one day I might read some condemning passage of scripture and find myself feeling, and believing myself to be, condemned because of my sins. The next day I would read a passage of assurances and feel, and believe myself to be, in favor. I found I could not really be secure about anything because my subjective moods often dictated my interpretation of the Bible as it concerned my personal relations. I needed to know the objective criteria for my relationship to God.

What I hoped to find was an understanding of God and of the Bible. What I actually found was shock and awe. What I found was that I had not understood the text at all, and that to an alarming extent, the ideas that I had been spoon fed were nasty viruses of misinformation. When I finally understood the Bible, I realized it was not magic, divine or credible.

*****

I look forward to contributing...

Bill Ross
"Sigh, I miss my imaginary friend...http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

20 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Nice picture of your family, and glad to have you here.

Darren said...

[i]I spent many years as a Christian, treating the book as Protestant Christians are wont to do:

* As a vehicle of magic communication from God to me[/i]

LOL! If that's what you think the Bible is then I can only assume that your understanding of Christianity didn't advance much past the children's Sunday school level. It's little wonder you're an apostate.

WoundedEgo said...

Hi Darren.

While I knew coming into this that this would be a "tough crowd" I did not expect opposition on this particular point.

I Googled "bible god speaks communication" and the first hit was a blog by the popular evangelical author John Piper:

"...It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day. The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind—and your mind. We hear his very words...."

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TasteAndSee/ByDate/2007/2021_The_Morning_I_Heard_the_Voice_of_God/

The other links seem to follow suit:

http://www.google.com/search?q=bible+god+speaks+communication&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7RNWN

So, while you personally, and your entire sect of Christianity may find the proposition laughable, it is quite a commonly held belief among Protestants. I made no claim beyond that, and it is clearly supported by the evidence.

http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Don said...

Hi Bill,

Count me in as one of your supporters.

Brother Crow said...

Bill, I have both read your comments, visited your bibleshockers site (haven't bought the book yet, but I will - I'm just po') and enjoyed your comments to me. I love your alias, by the way. Mine would probably be "crushedbutrisingego." Anyway, I certainly relate to your journey, and your view of the bible. As you will note in my posts, a major theme for me is the failure of the bible to be a consistent witness, its errors, and the absolute pig-headed (nay, reprehensible) denial of people like darren about how christians view the bible. His comments are stupid, and he is normally crass in his commentary. (Much like me, yeh!!) But, he only demonstrates both his ridiculous arrogance and utter ignorance of the majority of christians, who, like Piper, would say..."the bible is the word of god, the very god of the universe speaks through the pages." I would challenge him, or anyone, to show me any protestant group which does not have a statement about the bible's centrality as a source and its infallibility in faith and doctrine.

I respect you, bill, and am glad to have you as a colleague. Best wishes to you at Winter Solstice, Yule, Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwaanza!! Go Falcons!

Lee Randolph said...

welcome aboard.

WoundedEgo said...

Thanks to all for the warm welcomes.

Bill

Joe E. Holman said...

Heidi-ho, Bill!

Welcome!

(JH)

Andrew said...

Looks like the Lord blessed you with a beautiful family.

Nice of you to spit in his face.

Darren said...

While I knew coming into this that this would be a "tough crowd" I did not expect opposition on this particular point.

I'm sure you didn't. Like I said, it's little wonder you're an apostate.

I Googled "bible god speaks communication" and the first hit was a blog by the popular evangelical author John Piper...

I've never heard of John Piper, but if he shares your belief that the Bible is "a vehicle of magic communication from God to me" then he's just as uninformed as you.

First of all, the Bible isn't written specifically to any one of us alive today. That's a romantic fantasy dreamed up by ignorant fundies, and it limits (and in some cases eliminates) their ability to study and understand the Bible in its proper historical and sociological context.

Secondly, there's nothing "magical" about the Bible, nor does it claim to be. If you disagree then I'd love to see chapter and verse. Rather, its purpose is to teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness "so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). There's no magic required. It just takes an informed understanding of what is written and how it applies to us today.

If as a Christian you read the Bible expecting some hocus pocus or "bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky" insights then I'm really not the least surprised that you went on an emotional roller coaster ride every time you stuck your nose between its covers.

On a related note, I'm thankful for the number of apostates who give their personal "deconversion" stories because it lets me knew up front which ones to take seriously (which is very few, actually).

zilch said...

Bill- welcome. Another language freak is always a pleasure.

Andrew- are you sure you're not an atheist, here to make Christians look bad?

Darren- if the Bible is not magical, why should I grant it any more respect than, say, Gilgamesh, or I'm Okay, You're Okay?

Russ said...

Bill,

Thank you for the fine post.

When you discussed your desire to understand the Bible, I found myself once again face to face with a nagging question: what does one mean by "understand" in the context of understanding the Bible? Of course, there exists no objective measure for what the text of the Bible says or means. This lack of a reasonable interpretative metric has lead to thousands of Christianities with widely varying doctrines, and each having their own apologetics espousing why some specific person's subjective take is the correct one. I'd be interested in what "understand" meant to you in your studies.

Over the years, I've come to look at the Bible as a sort of personality test. I think one's approach to it offers insight into many psychological traits like how they allow themselves to be influenced by groups; how strongly do they want to conform; how well do they accommodate the unknown; do they thoughtfully question authority; are they aware that no matter how they look at a specific Biblical snippet, there are lots of Christians who disagree with them; can they look at acts by God and say "that's unacceptable?" To me the Bible says more about the one reading it than it does about any character it sketches.

Thanks again for the post.

WoundedEgo said...

Thanks, Russ.

I hear what you are saying.

What I would say is that the Bible does have a "spine" - a set of assumptions running through it from cover to cover - that make reading it, for me, having finally understood these, not a random experience. These are the "shockers" that form the core of my book.

For example, one "shocker" is that the god of the bible is a manlike deity who lives in the sky. Popular religion says that he is a formless cosmic mind who is everywhere and nowhere. So how can one read about Jesus taking off rocket-like into the sky to sit at God's right hand? Why did John go up through a hatch and see God in a chair, handing Jesus a scroll? So you can't understand the Bible with modern ideas. You need to see these assumptions. Then the text does not require constant appeals to "Oh, that part is just allegory." No, this is what it says, and this is what it means - as primitive and barbaric as it may seem to you and I to think of God keeping scrolls with names on it. Why not at least use a computer?

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with the Bible and your past as a Christian. It looks like you have a great family!

You wrote: "Most troubling was the see-saw of alarm versus confidence that I found myself on. For example, one day I might read some condemning passage of scripture and find myself feeling, and believing myself to be, condemned because of my sins. The next day I would read a passage of assurances and feel, and believe myself to be, in favor." This is what I too experienced just prior to becoming an atheist. However, this is idolotry, not faith - the vascillation and continual weighing and assessing of one's standing with a "god" does not come from the "good" news. The good news of Y'shua provides an inner foundation of trusting that one is fully known and fully loved by God. From this foundation it is possible for growth - a progression of faith towards living an inspired life. Living and practicing faith from divine spiritual inspiration (which is about healing, trusting, embracing the love that is already existant and promised to us, and expressing it) is different than living from a base of having to earn or gather love outside ourselves or have to prove or defend onesself.

At any rate, thanks - the best to all of you -

nightflight said...

Darren, one must wonder while reading your posts why the Christian god has made it so complicated to understand what he requires. You Christians can't even get your goddamn stories straight. You know damn well what woundedego meant when he used the term "vehicle of magic communication." He should have said "supernatural" instead of magic, thus saving all of us from the insufferable inevitability that a Christian would home in on the word "magic" and commence to misrepresent woundedego meant (which is just what you did).

"On a related note, I'm thankful for the number of apostates who give their personal "deconversion" stories because it lets me knew up front which ones to take seriously (which is very few, actually)."

And we "apostates" know not to take you seriously. Just another fundy.

WoundedEgo said...

>>>the vascillation and continual weighing and assessing of one's standing with a "god" does not come from the "good" news. The good news of Y'shua provides an inner foundation of trusting that one is fully known and fully loved by God.

I was relating the defective paradigm I enjoyed at the time. I hoped to remedy the situation. I did not say that all Christians were in personal crisis.

Because *I* did not enjoy security (which for my temperament is largely a function of understanding) I was motivated to study the scriptures in pursuit of a perspective that would provide me with the security of knowing where I stood.

But I am confused on what you are saying is your experience. Are you saying that you were an atheist and have since become a secure believer?

Thanks,

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi Bill!

Thanks for your thoughtful response and question to me. I can only share what happened to me and you are, of course, under no obligation to accept my words.

You asked me, "Are you saying that you were an atheist and have since become a secure believer?"

I never used to be in the practice of labeling myself or other people, but according to Webster's I was an atheist. I now know that by God's definition, I was viewed lovingly by Him and considered a candidate for salvation - He saw me struggling to define and express love.

As a nonbeliever, I kept looking for what could be called a finite end or goal or a medicating salve/solution for my life and to build myself up but these things were temporal at best.

By faith, I learned something about God. Faith is not about seeking a finite solution or medication for life, but finding a definite foundation to live and practice expressing an eternal Way of loving and living. The difference between faith and nonbelief, for me, is that in nonbelief, I was seeking a finite end and with belief, I have instead found a definite foundation - a promise of love, edification and healing and courage. Faith keeps me healed, alive and loving. So faith is a practice and a Way - an eternal Way. I'm probably not making any sense again.

Prior to becoming a nonbeliever, I would be concerned about hell and damnation for myself and for those I never had any influence or contact with, never realizing that the real fear was who I would meet in heaven.

At any rate, Bill, I believe Y'shua's words were for the purpose of upsetting the status quo of our understanding so that the burden of our foundation for security would rest in Him. The most difficult words Y'shua spoke are the ones that have brought about the most understanding and freedom for me.

I've asked this before of others with no response yet, but if you are willing to respond, what was the good news supposed to be when you were a believer?

Thanks for the conversation. Take care!

WoundedEgo said...

Well, MMM, pleased to meet you.

My understanding of the Biblical Christian hope (which I think is the question you asked me) is that of "attaining the resurrection" and living forever under the rule of God for ever in the Middle East.

Bill
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi Bill! Thank you kindly. Glad to meet you as well :-)

gudlukinlif said...

Bill,

You obviously have no clue what the Bible says or means. While saying you do probably sells more books and gets you the atention you want, it is disingenuous. I recommend you read Josh McDowells book "Evidence Demands Verdict" to at least give you enough information to make a legitimate decision. I realize of course that if you do reach the Truth you will have to renounce your book and all this attention, but that will be your choice.