This post has been in the works for some time. Several months ago I came to the conclusion that I am an atheist. It feels appropriate to elaborate on how I arrived here for friends and family who have been curious and concerned.
My home wasn’t a religious one growing up. I grew up with a single mother. My father wasn’t present in my life.
For the most part, my childhood was free of any religious indoctrination.
We identified as Christians because it was mainstream and because of family traditions. We celebrated Christmas as the birth of Jesus. Easter as the Resurrection and gave a prayer of thanks on Thanksgiving.
We didn’t attend regular Sunday services, though. And we weren’t members of any particular church or denomination.
But in my home, God existed, and Jesus was his son. This is pretty much the view held by most Americans. But not much thought beyond that was ever expressed.
My path to Christianity
My life up until my early 20’s resembled a secular one.
In 2004, I was terminated from a job as a contractor for the Navy/USMC.
This event and a cumulative of other bad choices forced me to re-evaluate the direction of my life.
My ego proceeded to implode over the following months as I struggled to make ends meet.
A former coworker reached out to me at about this time. He gave me a book called, “Maximized Manhood.” This book exposed me to traditional Christian ideas about manhood. At the time, the book resonated with me in explaining why my life was in disarray.
He invited me to his church, the first time I had ever gone to a church in my young adult life. And that first Sunday, it felt as though the pastor of this church was speaking to me with his sermon.
It was a talk about manhood and it resonated. In my early 20’s I felt that I didn’t know how to be a man. Or how a man should act.
Here was that answer, Christianity would teach me how to be a man and fix the brokenness in my life.
God was my father. I was no longer fatherless. And Jesus Christ was my savior, who had paid for my sins on the cross.
Over time, I became more involved in my church and felt that God’s calling on my life was men’s ministry. To help lead other broken men such as myself.
My faith played a daily part in my life and my identity. I had found a community to belong to, a purpose for being.
Daily Bible study and prayer became ritual for me. As time went on, I developed an interest in better understanding my faith. Topics of theology and creationism were of particular interest.
At that time, I had a deep personal relationship with Christ. With a rich prayer life, I felt assured of my salvation. I was baptized in my church and received the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the spirit.
My First Questioning
I spent six years of my adult life at the church my former co-worker introduced me to.
But the church collapsed when it came to light that the pastor was having an affair with the youth pastors wife. And that this was not the first time this behavior had occurred.
This was a blow at first. I questioned what I had placed my faith in, and began to ask, how I knew what I was believing was correct.
Naturally, the Christian response is, man is fallible. We have a sin nature. As so often quoted, all of us fall short the glory of God.
It is at this time I began a regular discussion on the topic of faith with an old friend.
He exposed me to some of the problems with my church’s teachings of the “prosperity gospel”, and pointed me towards reformed aspects of theology.
What happened here are a couple rationalizations.
The word of God is still true. But the teachings presented to me were wrong. Because of this, it would lead to sin and other consequences. It could even lead one to believe they are saved, when, in fact, they are not.
A doubling down on my faith began, and a journey into the young reformed movement started.
A second questioning
In 2011, my wife and I moved to Florida. After searching for a church home, and a few that didn’t fit, we found one in Saint Petersburg. Life Bridge Church seemed like the place for us.
From the pulpit, the pastor preached a reformed approach to Christianity. And I began to read books from authors and pastors like RC Sproul and John Piper.
And for a time, we were happy and grew in our faith.
That was until the realization that Life Bridge Church is a CULT of personality.
A few families at this time were having issues with the church leadership, and somehow my wife and I got sucked into this. We were subject to humiliation, insults, harassment and flat out spiritual abuse as I became a scapegoat.
We promptly left that church. And we moved from Saint Petersburg to Clearwater just to get away from it’s members.
This event left us both hurting. And we have been outside of the church ever since.
I was angry and bitter for about a year after the incident. I spent a great deal of time praying and working it out with God. This lead me to a few questions that kept popping up in my head.
Why do I believe what I believe?
How do I know what I believe is correct?
With so many denominations, and various interruptions of the Bible. Each convinced they’ve got the correct revelation, and their interruption is right. How does one answer this question without blind faith?
I asked this question of another friend who was visiting in Florida, and his response was shocking. When I presented him with two differing views, he simply stated that the opposing view was in sin and error.
FAITH IS A CONVERSATION STOPPER.
Faith is the thing that causes one to abandon all reason and logic. The more I tried to look at this logically, the more and more it kept leading me to the same conclusion.
I looked at the history of the church, world history, other religions, and science. The evidence, when taken in, is overwhelming.
This lead me to the inevitable realization that the God of the Bible most likely does not exist.
I say “most likely”; because I like Richard Dawkins 7 Point Scale laid out in the God Delusion.
Wikipedia describes it as follows:
- Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”
- De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”
- Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”
- Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”
- Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”
- De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
- Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”
Wiki also adds: “Dawkins self-identified as a ‘6’
For a short time after my realization, I found myself as ‘5’ on the scale.
But I have since moved towards ‘6’ as I have given it more thought.
There is just no strong evidence to suggest I believe otherwise.
Atheism is quite liberating. But at the same time, this journey has brought a small sense of sadness and some anger. It has also humbled me in some ways, and I have some regrets about previously held positions.
Sadness at the energy spent on church and other “Christian” pursuits. Time and energy that instead could of have gone towards my dreams and goals, not to mention lost income given away to churches.
Regret that I held beliefs like “Homosexuals are deviants and shouldn’t be allowed to be married.”
Regret that many of the beliefs I held damaged relationships with people.
Anger that I was naive enough to believe in things that seem obvious now. But at the same time, a deep understanding of why and how others believe what they believe. Perhaps sympathy too.
Anger that those beliefs that I held, do in fact inflict massive societal ill. Cause harm to millions of people in various types of ways. And in some cases are holding our society as a whole back.
But in this, there is also great relief and peace.
No longer burdened by the concept of sin, I can make mistakes, dust off my feet and move forward. I am accountable for my mistakes. I am not a broken person who needs Jesus. There is no hole in my heart that only God can fill. These are lies of bondage.
A new view on life and it’s meaning. It feels richer and more beautiful than before. Rather than living my life for some final reward, I live in the here and the now. The present moment. There is no fear of uncertainty, no fear of hell fire. No fear or worry about whether I have the right theology.
I want to close with a quote by Christopher Hitchens
“Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love.”