O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Conversions: From Christian Missionary to Atheist

posted by Jason Boyett

Today’s conversion story comes from Amy, a former Christian missionary, homeschooling mom, and magazine editor who has recently abandoned Christianity altogether. Now an atheist, she has asked that I only use her first name.

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Bio:

I’m a mother of four young children, whom I homeschooled until last month when we moved to a new state and an excellent school district. Now, I’m putting my Master’s degree back to work teaching English as a second language in a college prep school for international students. My husband is a research scientist at the local university.

Please describe your conversion experience or process:

I grew up in a nominally Christian home—Mom took us to church occasionally at a mainline, liberal Methodist Church (There were 13 churches and 13 streets in my hometown—this church was one of the few “mainstream.”) I would consider myself a “seeking” kid. I prayed and had a sense of “something larger.” God/nature. Jesus. Whatever. I remember once seeing a part of a Billy Graham Crusade on TV where he was preaching that Jesus died for our sins. Frequently thereafter I would sit in church and look up at the big cross and wonder, “What does that mean? Does that mean I would have died on a cross if Jesus hadn’t?” About a year later (when I was 13), I was talking about Heaven with my best friend who was Baptist, and she asked me if I was saved. I wasn’t, but I understood instinctively that to be “saved” meant to be saved from something. I was instantly fascinated. To make a long story short, I met her at her pastor’s house that weekend and repented and invited Jesus into my life.

It was a meaningful and deeply moving experience. Pastor King explained the gospel in much the same way I presented it to other people in the years afterward. I remember crying and praying, on my own. “Thank you Jesus, for forgiving me. I know why you died on the cross, and that I never could have earned it.” I really understood what Billy Graham had been preaching about and I committed my life to Jesus that day. What’s more, I was completely bewildered by the beautiful simplicity of it. Why hadn’t anyone told me about this salvation before? I felt certain that anyone, hearing the truth of Jesus, would come to faith in Him as quickly as I had. If I’d had access to religious tracts, I would have been the most rabid tract-distributor the world has ever seen.

I read my Bible every day after that, as Pastor King suggested. I began praying regularly, going to church and youth group every week with my friend. I spent almost 20 years involved in evangelism, leading Bible studies, and on staff (with my husband) as missionaries in a well known, international, para-church organization. I was Assistant Editor of a Christian professionals magazine before my oldest child was born. Three years ago, my husband and I abandoned Christianity and deism. We are now atheists.

What events led to your conversion?

There were a dozen little dominoes that wobbled over time, including the Biblical teachings on homosexuality and the conflict of science and the Genesis account of creation (yeah, the conflict that fundamentalists deny is actually there).

But I guess my biggest problem in the end is prosaically common, it just took a simple incident to help me face it: Evil. Not just “why does God allow evil,” but “Why does God permit, command, and even perform acts of evil in the Bible?”

Now, I wouldn’t have framed it like that when I was a Christian—couldn’t have—but the idea was there. Of course, God wouldn’t have any truck with evil—He’s perfect, so I wasn’t even able to frame the question in a legitimate way in my own head. So, as many Christians do, I framed it more simply as, “Why does God allow so much suffering and evil?”

The typical answer is this: God is so big, and so great that only He can see the bigger picture. He is using all things to work together for good. We humans, being fallible and limited, cannot understand how this mighty, perfect being can make even seemingly evil things work together for ultimate good. We must have faith that our perfect God is good (despite the obviously horrible things He permits and encourages).

It’s a tough idea to grapple with, and I think most Christians find this ultimately unsatisfying, though perhaps not so great as to abandon their faith—not when it’s the best answer they have.

I didn’t realize how deeply I had rationalized the biblical God’s evil doings until one afternoon when my 7-year-old daughter came to me with a Bible question. My husband and I had given her a youth Bible for Easter when she was 6, and she’s quite precocious; after starting in the gospel of John and losing interest, she decided that she wanted to read from the beginning. I said, “Go ahead!” not expecting her to get very far. I didn’t realize how far she’d gotten until she approached me with Deuteronomy 22:28-29.

“If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.”

“What does this mean?” she asked me.

(Yes, my daughter understood the basic concept of sex and rape, though perhaps not in their most gory details, but all that a 7-year-old might know.)

Fortunately (or not) I had a ready answer to such questions—I had several explanations to excuse these sorts of verses, after all, was I not a Bible study leader and evangelist?

  • “This was just supposed to be a deterrent. A man would be less likely to rape a woman if he had to wed and support her.”
  • “This was just for the Jews. They had to follow more serious laws because they were God’s chosen people.”
  • “Christians don’t have to follow these civil laws.”
  • “No other men would have married a woman who was not a virgin. This was a way of making sure she’d be maintained in case she was raped and would be unlikely to marry.”

But, looking at my little daughter right then, I knew none of these was sufficient. There was only one possible answer, the simplest. I took a deep breath and said, “God said that if a man raped a woman, she had to marry him.”

“That’s horrible!” my daughter protested, and I agreed. And I still do. Wrap it however you want, excuse it however you want, but that’s what it boils down to. God made a civil law that said a woman raped was a woman wed.

How odd that it took my child to help me see that. A child sees clearly what an adult can rationalize away. And how evil would it have been of me to rationalize rape to a child?

I struggled with that the rest of the afternoon, remembering all of the places in the Bible where I had excused Elohim’s evil. Sure, you can try to rationalize these things. Of course! When you’re convinced that God is good, you must find a way to deal with these issues that we see as evil. The only answer you’re never allowed is “God is bad.” But we must allow that to be a possible answer if we’re looking for truth.

The God of the Bible calls for genocide, the murder of children and babies, condones the rape of captive women, calls for the stoning of even committed same-sex couples who engage in sexual activity together, and brutally starves thousands who don’t obey Him to His satisfaction.

Once I gave up on the idea of a good deity, the rest fell apart pretty quickly. I began reading Biblical scholars like Bart Ehrman who helped explain the strange discrepancies in the Bible. I had long wondered how Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on a colt or on two animals at the same time, or whether Jairus’ daughter was dead or not when he went to Jesus for her healing. Then it boiled down to the point that the Bible is not inerrant. I had thought it was. I had taught others that it was! However, the Bible has discrepancies and contradictions that I could no longer ignore or rationalize. And not just little ones. Take the death of Christ, for instance. Two of the gospels claim that it happened on different days! Wouldn’t the Bible get the facts of Jesus’ death correct? Isn’t this—and the resurrection—the lynch pin of Christian faith?

The book I thought existed doesn’t. The God I thought existed doesn’t.

And now I no longer labor under the contradictions that I did. And I don’t have to foist them upon my children. And I don’t have to live in fear of the things God will do to help “refine” me in this life, or what might happen to me in an afterlife—Millstone around my neck, anyone? Nope. Because that doesn’t exist either.

What kind of impact did your conversion have on your friends and family?

De-converting affected my life in several important ways.

For one, I embraced my life and my children more fully. Knowing that this was it, that this life was all I had, made me focus more on making it better for my family, my children, and for others around me. I’ve become much more involved in social justice. It’s not enough to say, “Everything will be made right when God takes care of it. Now or after death,” because it’s not going to happen that way. If people are to have justice, it has to be done in this life, and I’m investing time and energy in organizations that are striving for that.

I apologized to many friends and family members for pressuring them for so long to embrace Jesus, and repent. I told them I was wrong, in my attitude and actions. It was very hard. Some relationships are gone for good. Some are strong—and—stronger now.

I had to be much more careful with Christian friends in my community, however. I told very few Christians that I no longer believed. Almost all of my peers and my children’s friends were homeschooling families and were Christians of one stripe or another. I did not tell most of them because I believed my children would be ostracized if it was known we no longer believed. One of my closest friends, during the time I was shucking my faith, went railing against Richard Dawkins, almost gleefully proclaiming, “Oh, God is going have His way. He [Dawkins] will pay for what he’s doing!” I felt pretty sure she wouldn’t want me around her children any more, and her daughters were my daughter’s best friend.

Even two years after our deconversion, I still have dear friends who don’t know.

We stopped going to church when summer break came around. My husband and I had been talking about when to leave the church for a number of months when my oldest child was given a “Are You Sure You’re Going to Heaven?” tract in church to share with friends. My husband and I shared a glance, knowing the time had come. We worked in the nursery during Sunday School, and we told the other child care folks that we were going to have to take a break for the summer because of vacations and other obligations (which was true). Then, we just made it a point to never return. Our children were very concerned at first. They were frightened of Hell. “And God wants us to go to church,” my son explained tearfully.

My husband and I sat down with our children and explained that we didn’t believe all of the things the Bible said. We talked about the holy books of the many faiths, and how people all believed different things (which they already knew from our home school studies). My oldest (who was 8 then) said she was relieved, and that she never really believed it any way. “Did you really believe that, Mama? Really?” she asked. I told her that I had indeed believed that, and she seemed stunned.

Now, two years after leaving church. I’m glad that we left while they were young enough to suffer no lasting confusion. It turns out they had already been getting flack from friends for reading Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and for not being religious enough, so I suppose it was easier for them to leave all of that behind.

We have since moved and no longer have to worry about hiding our “falling away” from our friends and neighbors.

Fortunately, my husband and I lost faith at the same time, so we never suffered the pains and fears of those who abandon faith and leave a spouse and children behind (or vice versa).

What advice would you give someone going through the same experience or contemplating a similar conversion?

Follow your doubts.

Faith is not admirable when it flies in the face of what you know to be reality—particularly when your faith costs other people their rights and happiness.

It will be hard for a while, it may be scary. You may feel you have to rebuild the foundation of your entire life, but you’ll find that it’s still there, just buried under the thick detritus of religion. It will be worth it! I have found a freedom I never had as a Christian, and it allowed me to really embrace my family, children, and reality in a way closed to me as a person of faith.

What are three things you have learned in the process?

1. Question, question, question. There are many more questions than answers.
2. Don’t try to fool yourself. Your self will suffer. And so will others’.
3. Compassion is the best moral guide.

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Thank you for sharing your story, Amy. If anyone wishes to contact her, she can be reached at larennaise@gmail.com.

Previous posts in the “conversions” series:

Adam Morris: Catholic to Southern Baptist to Gay Follower of Christ
Trav Fecht: From Contemporary Worship to Liturgy
Christy: From Fundamentalism to Non-Religious Spirituality
Ryan Hadley: Christian to Atheist
David Johndrow: Congregational Church to Charismatic Episcopalian
Jeremy Myers: From Senior Pastor to Church Dropout
Mike Wise: Christian to Agnostic to Christian
Jessica Gavin: Universalist to Seventh-Day Adventist
Torie Brown Hunt: From Southern Baptist to Mormon



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Clint Oncken

posted April 8, 2011 at 9:32 am


I feel like I just received an atheist tract. I just feel a little disrespected really. Either way, I look forward to these posts every week and really appreciate the topic, Jason. Amy, if you come across another religion and find less or no discrepancies, would you be inclined to check it out or have you given up on religion completely?



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Dharmashaiva

posted April 8, 2011 at 10:16 am


Clint, if by “religion” you mean a system of belief centered on what is considered “super”-natural — whether deistic, theistic, or non-theistic — then I think Amy’s point is that she rejects all non-naturalistic explanations of the cosmos.



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Laura

posted April 8, 2011 at 10:56 am


Hi Amy, Thank you for sharing your story. I used to be an atheist before I began following Christ. I’ve read Ehrman and even wrote a research paper based on “Misquoting Jesus” where I concluded that Christians cannot ignore the discrepancies in the Bible. I have come to understand that the Bible was written by men. Jesus’ early followers for many years never relied on a book; they relied on the Holy Spirit. Whenever I have doubts now, I pray and talk to and listen to the Spirit. My faith is always renewed when He continues to answer my prayers in small, large, and immediate ways that are clearly guided by His hands and would otherwise be impossible. I pray that the Spirit finds you outside of fundamentalism and you come to understand the God of free will on your own terms.



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jeff fleming

posted April 8, 2011 at 11:11 am


I appreciate the honesty of the article. Amy stated “Once I gave up on the idea of a good deity, the rest fell apart pretty quickly.” I think it was C.S. Lewis who described how what we believe about GOD’S goodness will determine the rest of our theology.
We all struggle with forming our own personal Theology apart from traditions, peer pressure, experience.



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Christine

posted April 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm


I am moved by this article not because I relate to it in any manner but because it makes me, as a Christian, evaulate why I believe in God and His redemptive action to save me. I appreciate that and hope it does the same for others.

I only wish that more examples of scripture other than Deuteronomy 22:28-29 were referenced in regards to what she found to encourage and command evil.



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Travis Thompson

posted April 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm


Very insightful post. thanks for your honesty and for not shying away from the difficulties of your experience.

The saddest thing for me is the other Christians in the story. I really thought that the whole thing about being criticized for reading Harry Potter was an exaggeration, guess I was wrong. Even the person who seemed happy about God “Having his way with Dawkins” is so completely missing the point of the Gospel of grace. Also, yes–there are problems with science and a fundamentalist interpretation of Genesis, but that’s not the only interpretation.

Reading this reminds me of the part of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell when he says “I don’t believe in that Jesus either”.

Again, thanks for sharing.



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Travis Thompson

posted April 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm


Also–I’d like some more info on the conflicting accounts of the day Jesus was crucified. Never heard that one.



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Amy

posted April 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm


Hi, Travis and Christine.
I’d be happy to share the scriptures you’re wondering about if you want to email me. (email’s at the end of the piece)



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brian jeansonne

posted April 8, 2011 at 5:05 pm


I appreciate this post. Stories like these make me wonder often though just how bizarre the church world really is. (Quite bizarre). I was raised in a christian home my whole life. My dad actually started a church when I was 9 years old. Oddly enough though, I was always allowed to question things growing up and I was never given token answers. I never got crap for believing the earth is really old or for wondering why God seemed so different in the OT & NT. When hard questions like ‘why does god allow suffering’ are given such shallow pat answers as Amy was given (and many others) it baffles me.

This paragraph shouted out so beatifully to me:
“I embraced my life and my children more fully. Knowing that this was it, that this life was all I had, made me focus more on making it better for my family, my children, and for others around me. I’ve become much more involved in social justice. It’s not enough to say, “Everything will be made right when God takes care of it. Now or after death,” because it’s not going to happen that way. If people are to have justice, it has to be done in this life, and I’m investing time and energy in organizations that are striving for that.”

It seems to me, the way I understand Jesus and the gospel, that this is what it is to live life as a follower of Jesus. (Minus the idea that this is it, but perhaps embracing the idea that there will be a day where all things will be fully restored – which we are currently working towards.)

I’m curious Amy….do you see a connection between your former understanding of who Jesus was/is and how you are currently choosing to live your life? They seem to go hand in hand (at least to me.) It seems that the life your choosing to live now is exactly what Jesus invites us into.

Thanks for your honesty and your post.



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Amy

posted April 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm


Hi, Brian.

I attach almost nothing I’m doing now to what I associate with Jesus.

I admit that some of the Jesus stories in the Bible taught very humanitarian things–caring for widows and orphans, the sick, ministering to the outcast and despised. And the Sermon on the Mount is lovely.
At the same time, there are plenty of other Jesus stories that have a different focus.

Jesus himself said he came to seek and save the lost. I believed this was meant in the “save them from damnation” sense. He was clear about the goats and the sheep, and the wheat and the tares, and the rich man languishing in the heat and suffering excruciating thirst and being denied even a finger of water. He made sure a woman showed herself suitably cognizant and ashamed of her reviled race before he consented to send demons out of her daughter.

I can’t separate Jesus the Humanitarian from Deity Jesus who says “believe and be baptized or be damned.” I never saw him as merely a humanitarian figurehead. I still don’t. I think there was too much myth built up around him that make him out to be too many things.

Additionally, since I believed Jesus to be a part of a God-head, I would have to hold him partially responsible for evil of the Old Testament. So, while he might have some lovely tales told of him, he’s still part and parcel of a deity who perpetuated and condoned the evils I mentioned before.

I can’t separate Jesus from Old Testament God, just as I can’t separate Christianity from the Bible.

So, I don’t really associate the humanitarian efforts I’m involved in as associated with Jesus any more than I might associate them to another religious figure. And if I can do them apart from him, that’s just proof that one doesn’t need a deity to do what most religions view as moral and decent.

Thanks for inquiring so kindly.

Amy



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Sylvia

posted April 8, 2011 at 9:25 pm


Thank you so much for sharing your story Amy. Since my sons death I have been rethinking all my beliefs. I am wondering what this world would be like if no one was ever taught about god or gods. Never taught about Christian Religion, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. etc. Do you think our humanity would “do unto others as we would have them do unto us”? Would all this hate and fear due to our different beliefs be gone? If we didn’t have to worry about an afterlife, could we just have love in our hearts for everyone because everyone is the same? Just wondering. In the history of the world there has been so much death, fear, broken families and hate due to religious beliefs.



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fastthumbs

posted April 8, 2011 at 10:42 pm


@Travis

It’s summarized by Dan Barker’s (Pastor turned Atheist) Easter Challenge:

“In each of the four Gospels, begin at Easter morning and read to the end of the book: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also read Acts 1:3-12 and Paul’s tiny version of the story in I Corinthians 15:3-8. These 165 verses can be read in a few moments. Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened.”

If you hold the NT inerrant, then you have some real problems making this work. If you don’t hold the NT inerrant, then there’s the question of how/why you’re cherry-picking verses.

You can read more about it if you wish here:

http://atheism.about.com/cs/easter/a/xt_j_eastrchall.htm

Aside: Jason, do you consider Barker’s Easter Challenge an honest request for a Christian? If yes, have you attempted (or met it)? If no, how is Barker’s Challenge dishonest (or incomplete)?

Aside Aside: Full disclousure – I’m an atheist (from a non-Christian background), and I’ve found a Christian Ministry website that claims to solve it… but they make several unfounded assumptions when they do. But I claim no scholarly expert in this area.



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Jason Boyett

posted April 9, 2011 at 12:02 am


@fastthumbs:

Yes, Barker’s challenge is an honest request for Christians. There are some very serious challenges raised by the historical narrative when you attempt to harmonize the Gospels, as might be expected when you have separate accounts, all based on oral tradition, appearing a generation (or more) after the event. But I’m not harboring any illusions that the Bible is inerrant. There are significant discrepancies — not just in the resurrection narrative but also in thematic issues related to overall narratives, like how each Gospel tends to view Jesus. Ehrman digs into these issues in plenty of detail in “Jesus, Interrupted.”

I wish more Christians were aware of them and willing to grapple with them — sadly, atheists tend to be more knowledgeable about these issues than Bible-reading Christians.



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Your Name

posted April 9, 2011 at 8:15 am


Hi, Sylvia.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine the difficulty.
I don’t have any answers to your questions, but I know you were just wondering aloud.
I’ll do the same here.
I tend to think that without religion there would be some important positive changes in the world. At the same time, I couldn’t say that the religion hole wouldn’t be filled with something worse. There are aspects to most religions that promote goodness and kindness and love, but non-religious people do these things too. Religion does a lot to divide people–bringing together within religions, but dividing them from outsiders, casting the others are the “ones our god hasn’t chosen/doesn’t like/doesn’t forgive, etc.) And I see a lot of people embrace an exclusive religion not because they believe, but because they feel embraced by the community and want that support. I have a good friend who is in this position right now. I wish we had more of that among non-believing people. A more community-related sense of who we are. But that’s a different issue.
I have a lot I could ramble about the issue; it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the last two years, but I won’t burden you with that. I can empathize with you in terms of wondering, however. Sometimes even knowing others wonder too is a comfort. I find it so.
I wish you peace, Sylvia.
Amy



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Amy

posted April 9, 2011 at 8:20 am


@fastthumbs.
Even more simply–If one is willing to read just the Mark and John accounts of the day before the crucifixion and the day of the crucifixion itself, one sees (quite clearly because it states this in the text!) that in Mark, the crucifixion took place on Passover Day and in John it took place on the day of the Preparation of Passover (the day before).
There are plenty of other discrepancies, but it’s too easy to say, “Well, that gospel writer simply didn’t write about _that_ event. It’s still the same story.” However, the point of the days is impossible to ignore. It’s there, quite explicitly. One says one day, the other says the other day.
Amy



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Sylvia

posted April 10, 2011 at 6:37 am


Thank you Amy for your thoughts. Love to you and your family on your journey. Sylvia



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phdescapee

posted April 10, 2011 at 6:33 pm


Heya Amy,

Let me start by saying – You’re so brave!

As per my username, I’m a phdescapee. So what? (you may ask). Well, my phd was in systematic theology and the story you have just outlined is, in so many ways, similar to my own.

It’s only a few months since I resigned from my job as an associate lecturer in theology and I’m now studying an alternative masters award. Like your own situation, my husband and I have traveled this journey together and it has brought us closer to one another. Yet, many of my friends and family don’t know… and my hubby and I still go to church occasionally (to keep the peace with family and because some of our close friends are there). If we had kids, though, we might re-think this attendance, for similar reasons to what you have stated.

Unlike yourself though, I wouldn’t say I’m an atheist as such. Where I’m at right now is more agnostic… maybe a ‘Christian agnostic’. The ‘Christian’ bit might be out of habit or simply because I DO like a lot of what Jesus was on about (which is, perhaps, another reason for the intermittent church attendance).

Anyway, amid all the Wolfhart Pannenberg texts I was reading last year for my phd, I read a wonderful text by David Dark called ‘The Sacredness of Questioning Everything’. And, whilst I’ve so far come to different conclusions than he has, his text beautifully affirms any and all QUESTIONS. He speaks of the INSANE way ‘we’ (Christians) go on about truth as if we know EXACTLY what we’re talking about. He implores his readers to free themselves from their mind-forged manacles which have rendered them unable to think, for fear of coming to the ‘wrong’ conclusions.

Anyway, I too am in ‘hiding’ (so to speak), but have a ‘secret’ blog, which about 3 of my friends know about, where I occasionally blurt out thoughts on my journey. If you ever want to chat you can email me at phdescapee@gmail.com or check out phdescapee.com

Take care!



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Kimberly Lee

posted April 19, 2011 at 12:50 pm


Dear Amy,

Thank you for sharing your story. I am sitting here wishing I had words to convince you otherwise, to say that somehow in your journey in the Christianity, that you missed the relationship with God. But the truth is, I don’t think any of my words could change your experience. Nor do I think that me have the “right” response will bring you closer to coming back.

An interesting thing happened in that I read this particular article this morning just before reading your story. It was about the very issue of the three gospels saying one day and John saying it was another. This person actually came at it from a scientific perspective, which I love. I truly enjoy science because it is fascinating and in part because I believe it actually points back to the creator.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110418/wl_uk_afp/britainreligionchristianseaster

Hoping that you sharing your story may challenge all of us to not take things for granted.

Sincerely,
Kim



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Patrik

posted April 19, 2011 at 4:46 pm


Interesting article. Especially since I very recently became an atheist after being raised in a christian family (I am now 20 years).

My experience I think will be a bit similar to yours and I therefore appreciate that you shared it.

I always had some doubt obviously. But I thought that my life as a christian would be better than as a non-christian even if God didn’t exist. That I found out to be very wrong after I took my decision and now I appreciate life more (as you also described). Although I am a bit nervous since I haven’t told my parents yet.

Thanks :D
/Patrik



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Nick

posted April 19, 2011 at 8:58 pm


My own walk away from Christianity was a gradual one. University exposed me to many different traditions, and many ways of exploration both of the physical universe and the human condition. The thing which crystallized the fact that I was no longer a Christian was meeting old Christian friends over Christmas. I mentioned a film that I had seen which I thought was beautiful and deeply unsettling (“Sophie’s Choice”). My friends said, “Oh I would never see that film, it is not Christian.” In that one moment I knew that I was no longer one of them.

In the years that followed I explored many traditions, philosophies, literature, and psychology. What I came to realize is that the primary religious experience is a psychological/physiological reality, but that the narratives and traditions which arise to frame it are attempts to contextualize experience. Experience of powerful, ecstatic states does not require such a frame, though many enter these states through such a frame.

To my mind religion becomes dangerous when it takes itself as real, rather than as one of many modes to enter into a primary religious experience. When it becomes real, and all other ways of interpreting are made subservient, the believer is shaped by and reliant upon the truth of his or her beliefs. If those beliefs are challenged it often leads to an aggressive/defensive response, because in the balance may be damnation and salvation. This is a powerful carrot and stick, which conditions ego/self to avoid anything which raises doubt. The problem is, repressing doubt does not work. It finds ways of insinuating into the thoughts and emotions, requiring more and more effort to keep it in check. A believer may find him/herself in existential dread, terrified at the idea that thinking the thoughts that arise from doubt means that he/she is damned.

On a social level, and in the most extreme cases, it results in religious extremism and violence towards those who leave the religion. It also can impose a very skewed morality which elevates the importance of the religion above people, society, and all other ways.

That said: A religion which is interpreted metaphorically and in a non-exclusionary way, can convey a lot of what is beautiful and meaningful. The key is, that it must not mistake itself as being true in itself, but one of many ways to enter into powerful individual and communal states. It can become the seed for exquisite poetry, music, and art, and it can teach that we live in an inclusive, interconnected, and deeply complex universe. And we can experience this without religion or with it. Religion is not a requirement.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” – Albert Einstein.



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Amy

posted April 20, 2011 at 8:19 am


@Kimberly Lee

Shame on you!

How dare you tell me that I “missed” a relationship with God! I loved Jesus with all my heart. I loved God with a passion. I talked with him every day, all through the day. I have journals full of praise and love to him.

This is one of the most disgusting things I have to deal with from Christians–You aren’t a Christian anymore Because You Did It Wrong!

You can’t even know, Kimberly Lee. But I remember. I remember thinking the same thing when I was a Christian, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so angry. How’s this one? You can’t truly have a loving relationship with someone and then one day deny they exist! It would be like loving and knowing your brother for your whole life, and then one day saying, actually you didn’t even have a brother after all. (False equivalence much?)

Here’s the deal, no, I’m not going to be convinced back to Christianity by your words, particularly when they’re so assuming and prejudicial. I could be convinced by proof however.

I read the article you linked to, and it’s almost laughable. I’ve heard this argument before, and I think it’s painfully weak. It’s certainly not a new argument, and if you use a little Google-fu you’ll find some good critiques. I did this myself when trying to reason myself back to faith with honesty.

That aside, I didn’t appreciate the critique of my previous faith, and your perspective on the paucity of my relationship with the Christian deity. I guess I should be surprised that I’m reaping what I sowed, however.



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Amy

posted April 20, 2011 at 8:28 am


Hi, Patrik:
I felt much the same–there’s a wonderful passage in the Silver Chair (by C.S. Lewis) where one of the characters says they will live as if Aslan existed, even if he didn’t. I felt exactly that way, that I’d want to believe in God and Jesus and direct my life that way even if they didn’t exist. However, I came to believe differently :)
I’m glad for you! I wish I’d have figured it out when I was your age.

Best to you!



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Your Name

posted April 20, 2011 at 8:36 am


@Nick

Ohh, I had a nice response typed up for you, but it got eaten :(
I really appreciate what you said, and particularly agree with the last section. Beautifully done.
I do wish humanity could do more to embrace transcendence and our interconnectedness without religion. It’s just too Easy for the religious myths to become true in and of themselves, and that’s dangerous in too many ways.



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Amy

posted April 20, 2011 at 8:36 am


Oops, sorry, that post above was from me, Nick.
Amy



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Amy

posted April 20, 2011 at 2:06 pm


Updated to add:
_Mea Culpa_
I admit I was pretty hot when I went to the link Kimberly Lee sent me, so I didn’t pay it too much attention. I thought this new theory was just a re-tread of one of several “other calendar” theories. I see this is an all new “other calendar” theory. So, I’ll withhold judgment. I’m no scholar on these matters. I’ll just let a couple of years pass and see what others who like to spend their time on these things determine about Sir Humphrey’s theory.



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Barney Oh

posted May 10, 2011 at 2:35 am


I think what Christians don’t get is that they no longer can stake out the moral high ground. The new atheism isn’t just about telling Christians how silly are their holy books. Science has a lot to say about morality and atheist are kicking them off their holy delusional mountain that morality comes from religious belief.

The world is going to be a much better place when people base their morality on the facts of science rather than relativistic interpretation of some holy books and invention of a personal god of convenience. Just as medicine progressed when people dumped ancient superstitions in favor of science, so too will morality.



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