Why People Walk Away From Their Faith

I had previously wrote about Ruth Tucker's talk to the Freethought Association of West Michigan, in which she gave 5 myths about those who walk away from their faith. See here. Ken Pulliam recently mentioned this talk and highlighted the fact that Tucker went on to list the real reasons people give for leaving their faith:
1) The study of science & philosophy

2) The sense of absence of any caring God

3) The critical examination of the scriptures.

4) Disappointment in God

5) The hypocrisy of Christians

6) The perception of a dogmatic anti-feminist and anti-homosexual stance of fundamentalist Christianity.

As I said in my book I was hit by so much at once that I cannot say which of the first five was a dominant reason for me leaving the fold. They all hit me at the same time. #6 played a minor role.

Like Ken I would be interested to hear from others as to why you abandoned your faith.


Cole said...

For me the main thing is the barbarian nature of the punishments in the Bible. In particular psalms 137 that states: "Happy is the one who dashes your little ones against the rocks."

Jer said...

For me the main thing is the barbarian nature of the punishments in the Bible. In particular psalms 137 that states: "Happy is the one who dashes your little ones against the rocks."

There had to be more to it than that, though, didn't there Cole? That seems more like a reason to stop believing that the Bible is the literal word of God than it is a reason to stop believing that God exists at all.

Of course I guess depending on how you're raised those two things might be equivalent. I was raised Catholics so I never believed that the Bible was the literal word of God in the first place. So seeing ancient poetry extolling the virtues of dashing the heads of infants against rocks didn't shake my faith, it just made me glad that we didn't live in times like that.

Studying mythology as a teenager pretty much stopped me from ever being able to take the Bible literally. Science started me questioning. The Catholic Church hierarchy's horribly regressive stances pushed me further in my questioning and convinced me that the Church was an organization of men, not anything divine. But it wasn't until I started reading Christian apologetics for the existence of evil that I decided that the Christian God I was raised to believe in could not possibly exist. The apologists are so casual and cruel when it comes to suffering and none of their explanations allow for the existence of the kind of loving God I was raised to believe in. It was so disturbing to read some of their rationalization and trivialization of suffering that they just pushed me further and further from being able to believe in a loving God.

I came to the conclusion that if there was a God, he would have to be closer to the Calvinist vision of God than to the loving God I was raised with. And if such a God exists he's a monster not worthy of worship.

Anthony said...

It was primarily 1 and 3 that did it in for me. Like I've mentioned in the past in wasn't through reading authors critical of the faith, it was instead reading evangelical scholars who were trying to be honest with the evidence that led me to question my faith, which initially landed me in agnosticism and then after much more thinking and studying eventually to atheism.

smalltalk said...

I walked away, when I reread the bible for the second time. I saw that when I compared the bible to actual reality that they didn't mesh. I realized right then, that if my faith continued that it wouldn't be faith, but would be a delusion.

Cole said...

"There had to be more to it than that, though, didn't there Cole? That seems more like a reason to stop believing that the Bible is the literal word of God than it is a reason to stop believing that God exists at all."

That is correct Jer. I'm not an atheist.

Jim Thompson said...

When I became a 'born-again' in high school (early 70's), I started reading the Bible. The New Testament really puzzled me for awhile. Especially the treatment of Women. And also Jesus meek and mild running around with a whip in the Temple. I went to a University that required one religion course. I took New Testament Survey and was exposed to textual and historical criticism. I became an agnostic in 2 weeks of that course. I was so mad that every preacher I knew -- HAD to know all this.

Fast forward to 9/11, I was very curious as to what was going on in Islam. As I browsed around the Internet and ran into Sam Harris' End of Faith on Amazon. I read the first chapter that was online and at the moment I realized I had been an atheist since college.

John, I enjoy your site. Thanks for working on it.

Jim said...

Growing up Catholic, #2 probably just bothered me for a long time--it didn't tell me there was no God, but it did seem to make me wonder why he never did anything, and the more I thought about suffering in the world, the more I thought I couldn't "stomach" the idea of praising such a God.

That led me to start searching down the road of #1 to see if I was missing something and I soon discovered a whole treasure trove of sensible atheist scholarship that made a whole lot more sense than the apologist literature.

Very early on, friends let me borrow their apologist books like "Mere Christianity." I have no formal "logic" training, but I felt I was dissecting the illogical sentence by sentence.

Now I would say #3 is the most fascinating for me--I listen to Robert M. Price's "BibleGeek" podcast--always interesting. Along with the discussion on this forum--thanks for having us!

stamati anagnostou said...

Studying Calvinism began my eventual release from Christianity. I decided I would never worship a God like that, and it turns out certain aspects of predestination are unavoidable. Then I was put into a mental health clinic due to the panic caused by my doubts and I realized my faith at least was a sham, and I found it odd that a good father would let me go on so long as a fake.

Robert Oerter said...

For me it was a combination of science and science fiction. Science forced me to ask what evidence there was for my faith. And science fiction forced me to think about all the other ways the universe could be, other than the religious cosmology I grew up with. For example, Philip K. Dick asks "What if God (= superintelligent extraterrestrial being) exists - and is evil?" (Read "Faith of our Fathers", possibly the creepiest SF short story ever.)

Trancerole said...

The first 5 were the big ones for me, too.

The first, science and philosophy, was what started my deconversion, but not in the way you might think. The reality of evolution, etc., did not bother me as a Christian. What bothered me big-time was the discovery that the Christians I had trusted (young-earth creationist leaders) had been such frauds. That made me wonder what else that I had believed on authority was false.

For me, the first reason was related to the fifth, hypocrisy of Christians. Their hypocrisy did not bother me in the sense of "I refuse to play with them unless they're nice." It was because the Bible promises that those who are Christians will be better people than average, but both my observations and formal studies said they were not. To me, that was a huge disconfirmation of the Christian faith.

The final blow was number 3, examination of the scriptures. In particular, it was the downright nastiness of God. How was I blind to it for so long?

Joel said...

Numbers 5 and 6 certainly gave me some distance to be a bit more objective. When I was in college I became full-out evangelical with IVCF. One of the primary things they teach (and essentially require all new members to learn) is how to study the bible. Ironically, it was using this exact method that I discovered the problems of the bible (numbers 1 and 3). God was never really present nor absent for me, he just "was" according to the philosophy and religion I learned, so there was no disappointment.