Ever since I changed my religious status on Facebook and Twitter several months ago, I have had several friends ask me why I made the switch to atheism. My response almost always comes out as a long and most-likely-confusing explanation from someone trying too hard to be nice to religious friends. How do I tell someone that I think their beliefs are false without coming off sounding like I’m insulting their intelligence?
So, let me try this again… minus the eggshells.
A lot of things got shaken up for me in college. No longer was I under the protective blanket of my church, but instead I interacted daily with several different types of Protestant Christianity. Also, as a minor in Biblical and Theological Studies, I was examining the Bible more deeply than I ever had before under the tutelage of professors and scholars from several different (though still mostly conservative) traditions.
After graduating and moving to another state, I began to deconstruct and reconstruct my beliefs in order to make my faith my own. The longer I worked at this, the more I came to realize that I was ending up with a lot of questions and very few solid answers. I started blogging here as a way to externally process some of those questions and thoughts.
As I mentioned in my last post, I ended up going through a very traumatic experience that caused me to question God. One who is in the midst of a hard life and/or watching others stuck in hard lives can only take so much
bragging public display of religious humility from privileged friends–”God is so good! He answered my prayer and made this great thing happen for me!”–before one caves into the bitterness of wondering why he’s ignoring much worse situations. Suddenly, the cop-out answers of “It’s all a part of his plan” and “He works in mysterious ways” just weren’t good enough anymore; it was time to be honest and say, “If there is a god and this is his plan, then it’s the fucking worst and most cruel plan he could have come up with. It sucks.”
Reeling from confronting all sorts of things that made no sense, I needed something solid to grab onto. I decided to come at my reconstruction from a place of reason and began researching Jesus and the Bible from a historical standpoint. What I found blew away my life-long indoctrination in apologetics. For me, there wasn’t so much a straw that broke the camel’s back as there was a mountain dropped on the poor animal–a mountain of evidence pointing in the exact opposite direction of my entire life.
After learning all of that, the foundation of my faith had been dealt its final blow. I tried for a while to hang on to some kind of mystical Christian spiritualism, but I’m a very literal thinker and am bound to my need to intellectualize things in order to understand them; mysticism, faith, and spirituality do not come easily to a person whose brain is wired for clear-cut rules and facts. I finally caved to the nagging inner question I was trying so hard to repress: If Jesus were so important, why did God not preserve anything solid enough to know something factual about him, or to be sure that he even existed? The obvious answer that I had known deep down for a while was this: Jesus is a fake.
More to come…
For more info on Jesus and the Bible:
Here are a couple of good YouTube videos you can watch…
Archeology and the Bible
Examining the Evidence of a Historical Jesus (note that the last one is an entire lecture and is over an hour long, but it is well worth the time)
[Note: Edited 9/8 to remove Jesus and Astrology link. Upon further research, I found that the claims made in that clip (taken from the documentary "Zeitgeist," which has apparently been largely discredited) are overblown and not factual. My apologies.]
There are lots of books and articles, as well. I have personally read “Nailed” by David Fitzgerald and do recommend it as a good refutation to apologetics arguments as well as his reasons for concluding that Jesus never really existed at all. As for other personal stories of deconversion, “Why I Believed” by Kenneth Daniels (former missionary) is gentle, honest, and good. Textual integrity/inerrancy of the scriptures was one that was knocked out pretty early on for me while I was still a Christian. “The Bible Made Impossible” by Christian Smith offers a strongly Christian perspective on why biblicism (belief in the inerrancy and universal applicability of scriptures) is not a supportable position to hold. “Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World” by John Shelby Spong offers a very liberally Christian, historically-based breakdown of each section of the Bible. These are just the books that I have personally read/studied; there are plenty more good ones that I did not read.
EDIT (4/7/2014): Since this post is still getting a lot of hits, I wanted to give a bit of an update here. I have, since writing this post, I continued to be interested in the historical Jesus and have explored more mainstream scholarship. I have found Bart Ehrman to be most enlightening. He makes a very strong and compelling case against the mythicist view (that Jesus wasn’t a real historical person) that is purported in sources I linked here earlier. I have also removed the “Jesus is a Lie” video by Jaclyn Glenn because I have since learned that much of the claims in it do not hold up well against historical scholarship. (Yes, I still like Jaclyn Glenn, she is very smart and funny.) Last month, I wrote a post here about another Jesus scholar’s book, Reza Aslan’s Zealot, which was a very interesting read. Perhaps, once I finish with Ehrman, I will post more about my thoughts on Jesus and why I still reject him as divine/savior/messiah/what-have-you. If I do, I will link it here.
Argument for theistic evolution: “The Evolution of Adam” by Peter Enns (I skimmed this, but never actually got around to reading it in full, before I rejected theism)
YouTube lecture on Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
Also, the fact that creationism/”intelligent design” is so laughable that even the majority of Christendom has accepted the science of evolution… not to mention every halfway credible scientist. For a great resource debunking creationism and explaining evolution, see TalkOrigins.