September 19, 2011

Why I’m No Longer a Christian


During my sophomore year of college, I had what can best be described as a radical conversion to Christianity.  Up until that point in my life, my religious beliefs had largely been shaped by my mother, a Reformed Jew who essentially believed in Jefferson’s god.  My mother always observed the Jewish holidays, but her god seemed more open-minded and accepting than the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; moreover, he didn’t seem to intervene all that much, if ever, in the lives of humans. 

For the sake of this essay, there’s no need to describe my conversion experience.  It’s enough to mention that, when I converted to Christianity, I truly converted.  I genuinely believed.  I prayed and went to church regularly.  I studied the Bible, eventually learning Koine Greek.  I strived to bring my life in line with the teachings of the New Testament. 

And then in the spring of 2009, approximately twelve years after my conversion, I stopped believing.  I stopped believing for two main reasons, the first being the immorality of modern Christians, the second being human suffering.

The Problem of Christians

The beginning of the end of my faith can be traced back to 2003, when George W. Bush began his war against Iraq.  Although I’d initially liked Bush, believing him a sincere man, after some research it seemed clear to me that his war was based on lies.  Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, and he didn’t pose a threat to us; and even if he had WMDs, he wasn’t crazy enough to use them against us, nor was he crazy enough to share them with his longtime enemy al-Qaeda.[1]  I didn’t know the full consequences of the US invasion, but I knew that many innocent Iraqis would be killed and I couldn’t understand why anyone of conscience would support this.[2] 

But almost all the Christians I knew supported the invasion.  Not because there was any evidence backing up Bush’s claims but because they had faith in him.  That’s what one woman in my church, essentially a forty-something suburban soccer mom, told me: “I don’t know all the facts here.  None of us do.  I just know that the president prays to God every morning, and I believe that he’s doing his best to listen to the Holy Spirit.” 

And it wasn’t just the Christians in my circle.  Polling conducted in October 2002, for instance, found that 69% of conservative Christians supported going to war.[3]  Once the war begun, this number rose to 87%.[4]  Moreover, most prominent Evangelical leaders supported the war.[5] 

As the months passed and Bush’s lies became even more apparent and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis began dying, I thought that the truth would finally sink in.[6]  But it didn’t.  Christians continued to defend Bush and his evil war, rushing to the polls the following year to reelect him.[7]  And not, I should point out, reluctantly—not, for example, because they believed he was the lesser of two evils—but because they genuinely admired him and approved of the job he was doing.  As he began his second term, 78% of white Evangelicals approved of his job performance.[8]

I just couldn’t fathom this.  Real people were being killed.  People just as real, just as precious and vulnerable, just as capable of love and joy and sadness as you and me.  Yet nobody seemed to care.  Without having ever even read it, Christians had convinced themselves that the Qur’an commanded Muslims to murder Christians—an outright falsehood, I should point out.[9]  Therefore they weren’t saddened that innocents, even innocent children, were being slaughtered.  After all, those dead children were just going to grow up to be jihadists anyway, right?

I began seeing Christians for who they really were.  Not a group that gave evidence of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but a group that actively promoted evil and did so with more fervor than the general population.  Christians, I now saw, took their marching orders, first and foremost, from the Republican Party.  Never mind the actual teachings of Jesus.  All conflicts between the GOP and Jesus were decided in favor of the GOP. 

* * * * *

And it’s not just the Iraq War.  As one sociologist writes: “White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus.”[10]  Evangelicals, for instance, are the group “most supportive of the death penalty, draconian sentencing, punitive punishment over rehabilitation, and the governmental use of torture.”  Never mind all that stuff Jesus said about love and mercy and forgiveness.[11]  And Evangelicals are “the most opposed to institutional help for the nation’s poor;” they oppose “food stamp programs, subsidies for schools, hospitals, job training.”  Never mind Jesus’ condemnation of the rich and his command to the ruler to sell everything he had and give his money to the poor.[12] 

Evangelicals are also far more likely than the general public to blindly support the State of Israel, even as it daily violates the basic rights of Palestinians, often murdering them.[13]  Again, Jesus’ teachings plainly condemn such behavior.  Despite the assertions of televangelists like John Hagee, the New Testament in no way justifies such evil; this whole notion that “the promised land” belongs to the Jews and that they must be allowed to rebuild their temple in order for Jesus to return is plainly unbiblical.[14] 

Christian theologian Ronald J. Sider writes: “Whether the issue is divorce, materialism, sexual promiscuity, racism, physical abuse in marriage, or neglect of a biblical world view, the polling data point to widespread, blatant disobedience of clear biblical moral demands on the part of people who allegedly are evangelical, born-again Christians.”[15]

* * * * *

I didn’t stop believing just because Christians were so unchristian, but I began grappling with what I like to refer to as the Problem of Christians.  Similar to the more-widely debated Problem of Evil, the Problem of Christians can be stated as follows:

  1. If Christianity is true, then you would expect Christians as a whole to be morally superior to non-Christians. 
  2. Christians are not morally superior to non-Christians; in many important ways, they in fact seem morally inferior.
  3. Therefore, Christianity doesn’t seem to be true.

Whenever I gave this argument to other believers, they inevitably said something like, “Well, you know, you can’t expect Christians to be perfect.”  And I didn’t.  But I’d read the New Testament, and I knew that it claims that all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are consequently being daily sanctified—that is, made holy—by him.  For example, we’re told that the Holy Spirit lives inside every believer and that, among other things, he helps believers, teaches them, reminds them of Jesus’ teachings, and bestows them with spiritual gifts.[16]  We’re also told that, when “filled with the Spirit,” believers will bear such “fruit” as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”[17]

Given all this, I couldn’t help but expect Christians to be at least a little better than unbelievers.  I certainly didn’t understand how, in so many crucial ways, they could be worse.  I didn’t understand how they could be the nation’s biggest supporters of state-sanctioned mass-murder.  If these individuals were part of the church, with Christ serving as the living, active head,[18] then I just couldn’t understand how this was possible.[19] 

But I still believed; therefore, I felt it would be wrong to “forsake the fellowship”[20].  I tried to see myself as a missionary to fellow believers and did my best to point out how they were being unfaithful to their professed principles.[21]  I failed miserably.[22] 

I finally tried a new church, and then another one, and then another one.  In 2007, I tried two dozen or so different congregations.  Some were better than others.  Most contained friendly, smiley parishioners.  I felt that all of them were glaringly un-Christian.  I don’t recall any of these churches raising money to help the poor, although a few of them had building funds, even though their current buildings seemed just fine.  Many of them had state-of-the-art electronic signs, giant flat screen TVs, cappuccino makers.  I learned that one church spent over $400 a week on gourmet coffee, donuts, and bagels.[23] 

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the cognitive dissonance found in these church leaders and laypersons.  During praise and worship, they seemed to genuinely love Jesus, raising their hands and singing beautiful songs to their Lord.  But after service, they were completely different people.  Close-minded, arrogant, materialistic, militaristic, jingoistic.

I finally stopped looking for a new church, concluding that Jesus was real but that his people were quite literally doing the work of Satan.[24]  I just couldn’t be around them anymore; I couldn’t in good conscience continue giving them my money. 

The Problem of Evil

Amid all this church-hopping, my uncle was diagnosed with liver cancer.  David was one of those people who just seemed to embody life.  Always on the go, cleaning, making dinner, shaking your hand, telling you one of his crazy stories.  One of those people who truly seemed to relish life.  He loved his pot, he loved good music, he loved his family and friends, he would never hesitate to help someone in need. 

I watched in helplessness as his sickness began to devastate my family.  My grandparents, my mom, and aunts—all seemed stuck in this state of numbed disbelief.  I began to pray like I’d never prayed before.  It got to the point where I stopped praying for pretty much everything else.  All my needs now seemed so paltry.  Everyday, throughout the day, I would pray with as much faith as I could elicit that God would heal him.  That God would heal him and in so doing draw my entire family to Him. 

It didn’t help.  David grew worse.  Every treatment failed.  He finally went into hospice and soon thereafter, just 54 years old, died.  I tried to be there for my family but knew there was nothing I could do.  During his funeral, I kept thinking of the word “bereavement,” which I’d once seen defined as the state of being “left desolate.”  That perfectly described what I saw.  His wife and children, his parents and siblings, his friends, something inside them had died, something good and carefree and beautiful, and they would never recover. 

I’d never been all that troubled by the Problem of Evil, which can be stated as follows:

  1. If the world were run by an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being, you would not expect the world to contain suffering, at least as much suffering as our world contains.  For an all-powerful being would be able to prevent suffering, an all-knowing being would know how to prevent suffering, and an all-good being would desire to prevent suffering.
  2. Suffering—a great deal of it, in fact—exists.
  3. Therefore, it doesn’t seem likely than an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being exists.

Although I knew the existence of suffering had destroyed the faith of many others, I had always accepted William Lane Craig’s theodicy.  Craig claims that God very likely allows diseases and natural disasters because “a world containing gratuitous natural evils may be necessary for people to come to a knowledge of God.  God’s overriding aim is for people to come to the knowledge of Himself in a free, uncoerced way.  Perhaps it is just a fact that only in a world containing pointless natural suffering would people turn to God.”[25]

But now seeing my family, I couldn’t help but feel that Craig’s argument was absolutely ridiculous.  No good could come from my uncle’s death.  It would not draw anybody to Christ; if anything, and most probably, it would cause people to lose their faith.  As this reality weighed down on me, I started to feel, more strongly than I had since becoming a Christian, that the whole thing might be a lie.[26] 

My prayer life became almost non-existent, my feelings pretty well summarized by this funny but devastatingly astute George Carlin bit: “I’ve been praying to Joe [Pesci] for about a year now.  And I noticed something.  I noticed that all the prayers I used to offer to God and all the prayers I now offer to Joe Pesci are being answered at about the same 50% rate.  Half the time I get what I want, half the time I don’t.  Same as God, 50-50.  Same as the four-leaf clover, the horseshoe, the rabbit’s foot, and the wishing well…It’s all the same, 50-50.  So just pick your superstition, sit back, make a wish, and enjoy yourself.”[27]

* * * * *

Shortly after David’s death, I began experiencing headaches.  Given the nature and intensity of these headaches, my doctor determined that they were not migraines.  Wanting to rule out that I had a brain tumor or aneurism, she set up for an immediate CT-scan.  Within an hour, I found myself lying on a table in a nearby hospital, watching as a giant sci-fi-looking machine passed over me. 

Once the procedure was finished, I stepped into a side room, not much bigger than an old-time telephone booth, and waited for my doctor to examine the scan and call me.  Still scarred from my uncle’s death, I refused to pray, I just didn’t see the point.  Sitting there, I felt more strongly than I had before that Jesus wasn’t there.  As my mind began to imagine the worst, an inoperable tumor, I felt overwhelmed with terror.  I realized that, deep down, I didn’t really believe I knew what happened after death.  I didn’t know if there would be a god and a heaven or if there would be nothing. 

I ended up being fine.  No tumor, no aneurism, just a series of especially intense stress-induced headaches.  Completely shaken in my faith, I began to probe my psyche, specifically my true feelings about faith and mortality.  After watching the documentary Flight from Death, I turned to Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death.  Reading this book proved to be epiphanic.

It was as though Ernest Becker had looked directly into my psyche and grasped all my twisted motivations and self-delusions.  In passage after passage, he explained the wellspring of my behavior.  It was often overwhelming to read.  At different points, I remember closing the book mid-section, simply unable to take any more for the day.  In the end it seemed so obvious that he was right and my faith had been a defense mechanism. 

I need to be more specific here.  I’d long told myself that I believed because of the evidence.  I’d told myself that archaeological discoveries had proven many key events in the Bible, that there was overwhelming historical evidence proving that Jesus rose from the dead, etc., etc.[28]  But reading The Denial of Death made me realize that I’d been lying to myself. I now understood that, deep down, I’d always known that the evidence wasn’t really all that convincing.  I understood that I had embraced Christianity in order to assuage certain anxieties, specifically anxieties stemming from rejection and my fear of death.  Believing in Christianity had mitigated the former anxieties by allowing me to feel important, initiating me into God’s family and making me one of his chosen ones.  It had mitigated my fear of death by assuring me that my faith would grant me eternal life.  All this, of course, had happened subconsciously.  My subconscious, feeling the need to mitigate these anxieties, had essentially tricked me into believing that the arguments worked.  

I began reexamining these arguments that had once bolstered my faith and saw that they were full of holes.[29]  I’m not saying they’re horrible arguments.  I’m just saying I now saw that they weren’t foolproof.  The truth about such metaphysical matters, I now realized, is something we simply cannot know.  Christian apologists make some good arguments, but the other side’s arguments are ultimately just as persuasive, and, in the end, the truth remains elusive.[30] 

The Present, the Future

I currently consider myself an agnostic, albeit a reluctant one.  One who hopes that God really is there.  And not just any god but the Christian god.  For although there is much that I hate about Christianity, I still believe that it contains the greatest story ever told.  Nothing compares to the story of God becoming a man and dying for the sins of humanity.  And nobody in my opinion compares to Jesus.  His teachings—namely, his injunctions to turn the other cheek, to return insults with love, to forgive those who wrong us—strike me as being utterly true, as close to divine as anything ever uttered. 

Sometimes I find myself wanting to take a Kierkegaardian leap of faith.  And if I ever again embrace faith, this is how I’d have to do it.  Honestly.  Realizing that the object of my faith cannot be “known,” not in the sense that philosophers and scientists know something, but believing nonetheless.[31]  Other times, I feel that I’m just unable to make this leap; I feel that doing so would be weak-minded and dishonest. 

[2] Little did I know at the time how truly devastating the war would be.  We now know that the war killed hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million or more, Iraqis (“1 Million Dead in Iraq? 6 Reasons the Media Hide the True Human Toll of War—And Why We Let Them,” John Tirman, July 19, 2011; “The Number,” Dale Keiger, February, 2007).  For some of the war’s other disastrous consequences, see “From ‘Liberation’ to Occupation: 10 Reasons Iraq Was No Cakewalk,” Medea Benjamin, Charles Davis, March 18, 2011.

[3] Conservative Christians in U.S. Biggest Backers of War on Iraq,” Jim Lobe, October, 2002.

[4] Charles Marsh, “God and Country: What it means to be a Christian after George W. Bush,” Boston Globe, July 8, 2007.

[5] Some of the more prominent leaders who publicly advocated the invasion include James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Bill Bright, James Kennedy, Carl Herbster, Richard Land, Charles Stanley, Franklin Graham, Marvin Olasky, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson (“Interview With Dr. James Dobson,” CNN Larry King Live, November 22, 2006; “Land Letter,” October 3, 2003; Charles Marsh, “Wayward Christian Soldiers,” New York Times, January 20, 2006; “Robertson called Democratic war criticism ‘treason’,” Media Matters, December 12, 2005).

[6] Lest you’re still one of those who believes that Bush didn’t lie but just made mistakes, I encourage you to read the following articles: “It Was Never About WMDs,” September 5, 2008; “How Did Bush Lie to Thee?  Let Me Count the Ways,” September 19, 2008.

[7] “U.S. President / National / Exit Polls,” CNN, November 2, 2004. 

[8] “Will White Evangelicals Desert the GOP?” Pew Research Center, May 2, 2006. 

[9] “Top Ways 9/11 Broke Islamic Law,” Juan Cole, 9/11/10; “O’Reilly’s Muslim-Hatred and Christian Terrorists,” Juan Cole, 7/27/11; “Stop Blaming Religion,” June 5, 2009; “Flanders Does Islam,” August 19, 2010.

[10] Phil Zuckerman, “Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus,” Huffington Post, March 3, 2011.

[11] Matthew 5.38-48.

[12] Luke 18:18-25; “Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus;” “Few Say Religion Shapes Immigration, Environment Views,” Pew, September 17, 2010.  See also: “Opposition to Interracial Marriage Lingers Among Evangelicals,” Christianity Today, June 24, 2011; “The Evangelical Torturemongers Strike Again,” May 22, 2009; “The Blame Islam Game,” November 6, 2009.

[15] The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, 2005.

[16] Romans 8.9; Galatians 4.6; John 14; 1 Corinthians 12.11.

[17] Galatians 5.22-23.

[18] Ephesians 5.23.

[19] Note that I’m not saying that all Christians are bad.  To the contrary, I think that there are many good, conscientious Christians out there; I think that even many of the most right-winged Christians are doing some good in the world.  But none of this refutes my argument.  Even the Nazis did some good in the world, building roads, schools, hospitals, and the like.  

Some might be tempted to reply: “Yes, but Christians don’t mean to do evil.  They’re simply misinformed, unfortunately propagandized.  Not everyone, after all, can be as smart as you, Don.”  In response to this, I’d simply say that yes, to some extent, I agree.  I don’t think that most Christians have evil hearts; I don’t think they supported the Iraq War because they wanted to murder a bunch of Iraqi children; I think they genuinely believed, just as their leaders told them, that the war was an act of self-defense.  In the same way, I should point out, I don’t think that most Germans in the 1930s meant to do evil; I think most Germans genuinely believed that the Jews were a threat to the German people and the driving them from their land was an act of self-defense.  But the good intentions of Christians in no way refutes my argument.  My point, to put it once again, is simply this: Given the claims of the New Testament, it seems to follow that, if Christianity were true, believers would be more likely, not less likely, than the general population, to embrace Jesus’ ethical teachings; it seems to follow that there would be more Daniel Berrigans and less Chuck Colsons in the world.

[20] Hebrews 10.25.

[21] See, for example, More on Saddam Hussein and the War with Iraq,” July 20, 2004; “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” October 3, 2006; “Is God Really Pro-War?” October 17, 2006; “My Letter of Admonishment to Professor Doug Groothuis,” November 1, 2008; “The Evangelical Torturemongers Strike Again,” May 22, 2009; “Doug Groothuis Responds to My Post,” July 26, 2009; “Chuck Colson: Evil or Just Stupid?” June 17, 2010.

[22] It’s nearly impossible to talk a fundamentalist out of his or her political beliefs.  For fundamentalists tend to be epistemically deficient and thus extraordinarily dogmatic.  As Ernest Becker argued, they tend to embrace religion for the same reason that they embrace reactionary political ideologies—for psychological, not ethical or rational, reasons.  In other words, both their religion and their politics serve the same death-defying function, allowing them to feel that they’ve transcended the basic terror of existence. 

[23] For a more thorough description of one such church, see “Trendy Churches,” August 1, 2007.

[24] Or, to quote Søren Kierkegaard, “Christianity is the invention of Satan” (Søren Kierkegaard: A Biography, Joakim Garff, 714)

[25] No Easy Answers, 96-97.  For my own previous thinking about the Problem of Evil, see “The Problem of Evil: A Dialogue Between a Believer and a Skeptic,” January 1, 2002.

[26] I can’t help but quote George Carlin, who, it seems to me, provides a far more logical answer to the Problem of Evil than the erudite William Lane Craig: “When it comes to believing in God, I really tried.  I really, really tried.  I tried to believe that there is a God who created each of us in his own image and likeness, loves us very much, and keeps a close eye on things.  I really tried to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize that something is fucked up.  Something is wrong here.  War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades.  Something is definitely wrong.  This is not good work.  If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.  Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a supreme being.  This is the kind of shit you’d expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. 

“And just between you and me, in any decently run universe, this guy would’ve been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago.  And by the way, I say this guy, because I firmly believe, looking at these results, that if this is a god, it has to be a man.  No woman could or would ever fuck things up like this. 

“If there is a God, I think most reasonable people might agree that he’s at least incompetent, and maybe, just maybe, doesn’t give a shit.  Which I admire in a person and which would explain a lot of these bad results.  So rather than be just another one of these mindless religious robots, blindly believing that all this is in the hands of some spooky, incompetent father figure who doesn’t give a shit, I decided to look around for something else to worship” (You Are All Diseased, 1999). 

[27] Ibid.

[28] “Critique of William Paley’s Design Argument,” January 1, 2006; “The Kalām Cosmological Argument,” April 1, 2009; “The Resurrection of Jesus,” December 16, 2002; “The Historicity of the Gospels,” December 15, 2002; “The Resurrection of Jesus (1 of 2),” December 1, 2007; “The Resurrection of Jesus (2 of 2),” December 2, 2007.

[29] For more on this, I can’t recommend highly enough Dale Allison’s Resurrecting Jesus.  In this book, Allison himself a committed Christian, explains why the arguments that apologists have given for the resurrection are deeply flawed.  Although personally believing that Jesus rose from the dead, he explains that the historical evidence for this is scant.  For my own thoughts on Christian apologetics, see my Nietzschean-inspired diatribe “Christian Sophists,” July 10, 2009.

[30] Realizing all this proved to be liberating.  Liberating and unsettling.  Unsettling because I no longer felt assured that Christianity was true; ipso facto, I no longer had an insuperable hedge against my most troubling anxieties.  Liberating because I finally felt at peace with myself. 

Believing in Christianity had disconnected me from myself.  My real self, just like all people’s real selves, is unique.  My real self has similarities with others but also its distinctive thoughts and feelings and talents.  By becoming a fundamentalist Christian, I had forced myself into a mold.  I had forced myself to adopt beliefs I didn’t really agree with—for example, that homosexuality is sinful, that husbands are the spiritual heads of their wives, that unbelievers deserve to spend eternity in hell.  I had forced myself to deny certain feelings; I felt afraid to acknowledge certain desires, to laugh at certain jokes.  In sum, I no longer felt free to be myself, to be the unique, free-thinking, spontaneous individual I was born to be.

I love how psychologist Karen Horney puts it: “[T]he human individual, given a chance, tends to develop his particular human potentialities.  He will develop then the unique alive forces of his real self: the clarity and depth of his own feelings, thoughts, wishes, interests; the ability to tap his own resources, the strength of his will power; the special capacities or gifts he may have; the faculty to express himself, and to relate himself to others with his spontaneous feelings.  In short, he will grow, substantially undiverted, toward self-realization” (Neurosis and Human Growth, 1950).

Admitting to myself that Christianity might not be true opened up the floodgates of self-realization.  I started to realize who I really was and what I really felt and believed.  Perhaps for the first time ever, I started to accept myself, warts and all.  This proved to be just as glorious as becoming a Christian had been twelve years earlier.  The self-deception was gone.  The need to conform to someone else’s standard was gone.  I could finally be myself.  I finally wanted to be myself.

My feelings are well exemplified by John Lennon’s beautiful song, “God” (John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970).  In the song, Lennon denounces various idols, all at the cost of self-actualization, of course.  “I don’t believe in magic. / I don’t believe in I-Ching. / I don’t believe in Bible. / I don’t believe in Tarrot…”  He himself had previously identified with many of these idols.  After listing these idols he no longer believes in, he declares, “I just believe in me, Yoko and me.”  He then tells us that he’s no longer the “dreamweaver” but now is reborn; he’s no longer “the walrus” but now is John.  In other words, he no longer has a mistaken, idealized view of himself.  He finally sees himself as he really is; he’s just himself, he’s just John. 

[31] Essentially I’d like to adopt the thinking of CS Lewis’ Puddleglum: “One word.  All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder.  I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it.  So I won’t deny any of what you said.  But there’s one thing more to be said, even so.  Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself.  Suppose we have.  Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.  Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world.  Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one.  And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it.  We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right.  But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow.  That’s why I'm going to stand by the play world.  I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.  I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia” (The Silver Chair, 1953).


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article. I've been through almost the exact same thing. It's not a good feeling to realize that you've been deluding yourself... at least not at first. But it's worth it in the end.


Soren Samsa said...

Don -

I commend you for your honesty and encourage you in your struggle. I wouldn't begin to want to dissuade you from deep self-examination and objective, candid assessment of faith - and certainly, I won't chide or preach. But let me at least encourage you to continue in your quest for truth; in my experience (about which we can talk, if you like), a shipwrecked faith was the start of a much deeper, much stronger belief. God by grace disillusions and disassembles - I dearly hope that what he reconstructs is more of Christ and less of the sort of pseudo-Christian/cultural apostasy that passes for much of evangelical Christianity today.


peace, etc. said...

Thanks for the comments, DAR. I'd definitely like to hear your story.

peace, etc. said...

Samsa: I appreciate your comments. I deeply admire and respect you and your integrity and your faith. Your type of faith is my ideal -- you're too honest to be convinced by the apologists but, all the same, your faith seems pretty unshakable.

I've been an agnostic for around two years now. It's been a good time, a time I needed. As I explain in this essay, I just needed to basically self-psychoanalyze myself, I needed to understand who I really was and why I had done the things I'd done. The process has been therapeutic, just as such analysis should be: the goal being to realize that we've basically been unconsciously programmed to act and believe in certain ways and then to break free from this, to truly, for the first time in our lives, become free. Freedom involves the ability to choose; most people are too controlled by defense mechanisms to be able to truly choose.

Anyway, I feel that I needed to reexamine all of my beliefs, get to the bottom of myself -- insofar as one can do such a thing. I’ve tried to be as honest with myself as possible, tried to look existence straight in the eye, so to speak. This has been good, this has been healing.

But I’ve started to realize that agnosticism is just too much. Perhaps not for everybody, but for most people, certainly for myself. I just don’t want to go on living w/ such hopelessness. It’s just too much. I feel pretty confident at this point in my journey that I need faith. I just need the right kind of faith, the honest faith, your type of faith. I think I’m getting there.

Anonymous said...

I am a Christian and will be a Christian till my last breath. I am not following or looking at the behavior of the children of men who are Christians and are fallible, My focus is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of my faith, He is the only way, He is the truth and the Life. I am a living testimony of the miraculous power in the name of Jesus Christ, If you allow men's conduct to be the determining factor to choose who you will serve, then you will miss heaven, you will miss the crown of glory and eternal life. Look unto the the life of the ever loving, humble, compassionate, gentle Jesus and not men, for He already told us that the heart of men is desperately wicked. Please don't loose your soul because of people who claim to be Christians but at the end will be rejected by our Lord Jesus Christ, saying " Depart from me you workers of iniquity to eternal damnation. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

I know where you're at. I've been there this year, and I likely will always be at that place from now on. I became a Christian when I was 5, but my beliefs have changed over time, and this year really shook my faith.

I'm not sure I'll ever fully believe again. I relate a lot to Frank Schaeffer (son of a late pioneer of the modern evangelical movement): "Some days I'm an atheist, on others an agnostic, on other days I believe and feel God's hand 'on me' as we used to say."

I admit it's not pleasant, but what else can you do?

peace, etc. said...

I think the most important thing is to be honest. Lying -- to yourself or others -- is never good or healthy.

I also can relate to Frank Schaeffer. I think his position is an honest one. I also think it's admirable that he strives after belief. I think that honest, non-dogmatic belief is a wonderful thing, definitely something to strive after.