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This is a letter to my Christian friends to explain why I no longer believe.  It's a letter I did not want to write, but found that 1) people did not understand when I told them that I no longer believed, and 2) when I finally convinced them, they wanted to know why, or try to "fix" my faith issue.  I could not possibly sit down and explain this to all my friends and acquaintances, hence the letter:


Dear Friends,

It’s with a heavy heart that I write this letter to inform you that I no longer share the Christian faith with you.  This may seem sudden, but I assure you my loss of faith was a long and arduous process, provoking much anxiety and inner strife.  While it would be better to say this in person, it would be impossible to individually meet with everyone affected by this.  Those in leadership positions who I have told about this have implied that by not telling certain groups of people (i.e., CLC, worship band, ABF and others), that I’m being hypocritical, cowardly and non-confrontational.  As I mentioned, I would prefer to say these things face to face, and feel that a letter leans toward cowardly and non-confrontational, but at least I will be past the hypocrite label.  If any of you would like to discuss this further with me in person, I certainly am willing to do so.  But be advised that I am convinced that you are – as I was – trapped in a deception, and will challenge you on your beliefs.  In order to offer a complete explanation, this letter will be quite long.  For those of you who will conclude that I am “leaning on my own understanding”, I say, thank you - I consider that a compliment.

A brief background: At the age of nine, I accepted Jesus into my heart.  This was at a vacation bible school at a Brethren church.  I continued to attend that church until age 17.  At age 20, I recommitted myself to the Christian faith, and believed in all I was taught about Christianity for the next 30 years.  I tell you this because when people fall away from the faith, Christians have a tendency to categorize the fallen into the various types of soil in the Parable of the Sower, or at least come to the conclusion that the fallen never was a true believer.  I can assure you that this is not the case with me. 

The story of my deconversion began as I was preparing to co-facilitate a Christian Leadership Concepts (CLC) group.  As I was preparing to lead the first meeting, I experienced what I recognize now as a first crack in the feet of clay of my faith.  Looking over the material, I asked myself, “Do I really believe in all this?  Do I believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead by the power of the Almighty God?”  This was quite a strange feeling after having been a Christian for nearly all of my 50 years, and putting myself out there as having faith on an apostolic scale.  I felt a wave of anxiety overtake me.  My heart was pounding.  I had shortness of breath.  I was having a panic attack.  My mind was racing - what were the implications if the resurrection of Jesus was just a story that really wasn’t true?  That all of Christendom believed in a myth?  That I did not have the gift of everlasting life?  That I would cease to exist as I took my final breathe?  That my marriage was based on a lie?  That I raised my children to believe a fairytale?  This was too much to think about.  I told myself it was Satan.  He was casting doubt in my mind, and it would pass.  It had to be an attack of the Devil.  I caught my breath, and all was fine.  But for the next two years, this sense of doubt would return every now and then.  One book in particular that we read in the study was A.W. Tozer’s “Pursuit of God”.  The group loved it, and so did I.  But even it contributed to my doubts.  Tozer had a relentless knack for expressing disdain for the physical world and a longing for the invisible spiritual world, to the point of making the physical world unreal while convincing himself that true reality existed in the spiritual world.  Since this contradicted my senses, I had to confront a dilemma: Either I was not spiritual enough to be a part of this invisible world, or Tozer was deluded.  This was a crack.

In the following year, I began to question why I believe what I belief.  The answers always took the form “because a person told me” or “because a person wrote it”, whether it be in the Bible or in another book.  These forms for the basis of knowledge aren’t inherently misleading, when they are accompanied with evidence.  But in matters concerning life after death?  What is the evidence?  Who taught the teacher?  The teacher before him and before that one?  How does he know?  The answer, concerning after death existence, is this: He doesn’t know.  Nobody knows.  This cannot be refuted.  So if I have believed something, taught by a man who cannot himself know for sure, why do I believe it?  Why, with all the modifications and adjustments I have had to make to my belief system in the past 30 years, would I now think that the cosmic system that I currently believe in is correct?  If I were to die today, and experience the afterlife, what would be the odds that it would align with my current belief?  The answer was “slim to none”, but more likely “none”.  Another crack.

This led to consideration of people who present themselves as knowing exactly what God is thinking.  For the most part, when I hear these people talk, I think they are either psychotic or they are deceivers.  They attempt a self-portrayal of having a direct communication line to God, whether it be as a way to guide their own decisions, or a way to tell others how to act and live.  In general, I do not believe these people, nor would I trust their advice or judgment.  From here, I extended this skepticism to those who came before us, all the way back to the authors of the books in the Bible.  What makes their statements any more valid than those of, say, Pat Robertson or an acquaintance wrapped up in hyper-religiosity?  Does writing it down 2000 to 4000 years ago somehow validate it?  Wasn’t it just a group of men who got together and decided it was of divinely inspired authorship?  If this happened today, there is no way I would believe it.  When anyone today mentions messages from God or angels, I get warning bells and whistles going off in my head.  Christians are quick to dismiss the angelic messages reported by Joseph Smith and Mohammed.  But the ones received by Abraham?  Mary?  Joseph?  Those were the real angels?  Crack. 

I decided to apply this thinking process to every other aspect of my belief system.  Since the beginning is a very good place to start, I looked at my belief concerning creation.  I have been a member of churches that believe in a literal Genesis six day creation, and I have been a member of churches that don’t hold steadfast to the six day story.  But I was taught to be a staunch six-dayer.  Any deviation showed a lack of faith.  To not believe, they said, is to deny the power of the Almighty God of the Universe.  To not believe, they said, would render the entire Bible full of mythical falsehoods.  Coupled with the six day creation is the 6000 (or up to 12,000, but most Christians since the Renaissance have believed 6000) year old Earth - and certainly the entire universe, for that matter.  Any attempt by science to claim that the earth or the universe was millions or even billions of years old had only one goal: the substantiation of godless Evolution.  All this must have come as quite a shock when it arose in conversations with my engineering coworkers and classmates.  I thought I was being a faithful witness to Jesus, demonstrating that I had faith of biblical proportions.  When confronted with facts and evidence about fossil records, carbon-14 dating, or the half-life of radioactive minerals, I retorted, “Those are tricks of Satan to blind people to the truth” or “God created the world to appear older than it really is.”  But now I am more interested in finding out what the actual evidence is that substantiates belief that the Earth was much, much older.  It didn’t take long to find out about the millions of annual sediment layers in the Green River Formation, or the millions of years it took for coral reef buildup, or the millions of years required to form the alternating magnetic fields in volcanic rock ridges in the Atlantic Ocean.  I could tell that I needed re-educating.  I read the book “Big Bang” (Simon Singh, 2004).  The book is in essence a history of how mankind has been able to discover the physical nature of the earth, the moon, the sun, and the entire universe through many series of postulating theories, making observations and gathering evidence with whatever technology was available at the time.  Of particular interest is the way that the religious establishment has been such a hindrance throughout many centuries.  I understand that there is a theory that reconciles the 14 billion year old universe in the Big Bang Theory with the six day creation using Einstein’s theory of relativity e = mc2.  This requires that the speed of light was much, much, MUCH different right after the Big Bang, and has changed to what it is today.  I do not subscribe to this belief.  While many Christians will say that they don’t believe in a literal six-day creation, that was not my world, and this became yet another crack.

The first and foremost belief that makes one a Christian is a belief in the resurrection of Jesus – the whole story of being crucified, entombed for 3 days, and the bodily rising from the dead.  I have accepted this as truth since age 9.  But why did I belief it to be true?  Because some old man at the Brethren church told me it was true, and if I didn’t believe it, then I would burn in a place called Hell for all of eternity?  So what 9 year old would not believe anything that a man in an authoritative position tells you, particularly when the alternative is to risk being burned?  I have heard over the years about different alternative theories which attempt to explain the resurrection.  I had always ignored them as tricks of Satan.  I will just list them here: 1) stolen or missing body, 2) swoon or drugged, 3) twin or imposter, and 4) vision/hallucination/hypnosis.  Since I had just accepted what I was taught about the resurrection my whole life, I decided to at least evaluate each of these theories.  While some seem far reaching, I have decided that parts of each are at least viable.  Add to it the fact that there are contradictions in the Easter story from gospel to gospel (oh, yes there are, as much as we have been told there are not), and the fact that the only evidence presented are 2000 year old writings.  This was another crack.  Today, my faithless self says that the best evidence to show that a man had defeated death would be to see (not read about) that same man walking and breathing on this earth.  So where is he?  The ascension of Jesus into Heaven certainly seems to be a convenient story.

The next issue I began to deal with was Hell.  And the more I thought about it, the less sense it made.  A person’s eternal fate, whether it be in blissful paradise or burning torment, was entirely dependent upon their belief system at the time of their last breath?   And whether the person had the opportunity to learn what the correct belief system actually is that would lead to eternal life makes no difference.  But in order to reconcile that bit of confliction, I was taught that these poor ignorant fools would experience a Hell of lesser proportion than, say, Adolph Hitler, Carl Sagan or Richard Dawkins would.  So I tried to qualify which souls get sent to Hell, and to quantify the number or percentage of souls sent there.  I created a graph of world population, and separated the population out in groups of different religions (see graph below).  Of particular interest on the graph is the sub-protestant population, which can represent one of any protestant denominations which believes they are the one true church and all others are going to Hell.  Many sects of Protestantism believe they are the true strain of Christianity and all others will burn in Hell.  I have been a part of all that.  As previously mentioned, I have modified and adjusted my views over the years.  Initially, I thought only Calvinists would be saved.  I eventually softened that stance, but still did not think that every Protestant would enter Heaven.  Then I thought that even some Catholics could actually be real Christians.  Even before I began to question my faith, I stopped trying to qualify who was going where.  Could I ever look in the Book of Life to see who was going to Heaven?  Even so, looking at the graph, one can see the billions of people that any religious system, which subscribes to a doctrine of eternal damnation, is sentencing to Hell.  And that depends on how they believe at the time of death?  This is not a divinely created system.  I also learned how the concept of Hell had evolved throughout history, from an underworld where everyone goes (Sheol, Hades) to the place more or less defined by the leader of a Jewish sect.  There cannot be a Hell.  Big crack.


I then began to question the Bible.  How did it get compiled?  Who wrote the books and when were they written?  What are the errors and contradictions that people talk about?  I read “A History of God” (Karen Armstrong, 1994).  The book teaches about the history of the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  The takeaways relevant to this letter would be:

1) The idea of Yahweh was developed over a long period of time and borrowed many aspects from other deities.

2) The first five books of the Old Testament were not written by Moses, but were compiled from the writings of four different authors who wrote between 900 BC and 500 BC (to put into perspective, Abraham lived around 2000 BC, and the last Old Testament Book of Malachi was written about 430 BC).

3) Jesus did not claim to be God in the flesh, but Christianity – again borrowing elements from the religions of other cultures – deified him, making it official in AD 325 at the Council of Nicaea.

4) The nature of Jesus in Christianity was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy.

As far as errors and contradictions, I will point out two here:

1) The Death of Judas

The Bible documents the death of Judas in two places, but each story is very different: 

And he [Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:5

Now this man [Judas] purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. Acts 1:18 

Not only do the methods of death differ, but what he did with the blood money differs.  How can any Christian trivialize this difference in The Inerrant Word of God and say that it doesn't matter?

2) The Genealogy of Jesus

The genealogy of Jesus is documented in both Matthew chapter 1 and in Luke chapter 3.  Matthew lists the lineage in descending order, from Abraham to Joseph, while Luke’s genealogy is in ascending order from Joseph to Adam.  However, the two set of ancestry are markedly different, specifically, the lineage from King David to Joseph, the husband of Mary.  Not only do the lists contain predominantly different names (only two names are the same), but Matthew has 26 generations from David to Joseph, while Luke has 41. 

I have heard year after year the importance of the lineage of Jesus as proof that he is the Messiah.  But I have also thought to myself, and now synthesize the idea, that what does the lineage of Joseph matter at all, since his sperm did not fertilize the egg cell from Mary’s ovary that produced the baby Jesus?  And since Jesus is not the birth son of Joseph, what does that do to all the prophesies, from those concerning the offspring of Abraham and David?  In Acts chapter 2, Peter speaks to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost concerning King David, “Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne…” But the fruit of his loins stops at Joseph, since Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 

This is not a small issue.  The inerrant Word of God has errors.  I’m sure any seminarian can offer an explanation, or more correctly, an excuse.  I have grown weary of a God who needs excuses.  The following table contains the two Genealogies of Jesus from David to Joseph:


 Lately, when I travel on business by car, I listen to Christian radio, probably more than I ever had before.  I have noticed that several times during sermons, the speaker needs to encourage the listener to not lose heart when it appears that God is not listening or does not seem to care about their situation.  The fact of the matter is, it appears that way because it is that way.  We have been convinced, most from youth, that there is an invisible, silent all-knowing Being that loves and cares for us.  But the Being does not stand up to critical thinking.  A belief is easily born when it is backed by wishful thinking.  I am rejecting Christianity because I don’t believe it to be true.  I am continually seeking what is true.  If my pursuit of truth brings me back to Christianity, I will embrace it with open arms.  But my pursuit will be tempered with the visible – evidence, observation and rational thinking.  At this point, my beliefs and new ways of thinking include:

  • There is no existence after death.  We have a body, and there is no evidence of a spirit or soul.  We cannot wish a soul into existence.
  • There is good and bad, and people operate on a continuum of acting good and bad.  Morality is taught and cultivated, and exists due to natural selection.  Christianity does not have the market cornered on morality.  A Hindu who has never read the Bible can act “good”, and a Christian raised on the Bible can act “bad”.
  • The Bible is a book that is more a compilation of mythology and much less a historical document, and none a divinely inspired word of a god.
  • Jesus was a man who became a cult leader, and was exalted by his followers after his death to the role of deity and messiah.  He taught some worthy ideas, but also had some unworthy ideas. Cases in point: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” – worthy.  “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” – unworthy.
  • The Big Bang and Darwinian Nature Selection theories are the best evidence-based solutions to the question “Where did we come from?”  Science will adjust the theories based on new evidence.  To fill gaps where lack of evidence exists with “God did it” actually inhibits incentive to investigate further.
  • With my changing world view, I have re-evaluated my political conservatism and concluded that it is not in the best interest of my fellow man.  I have witnessed first hand a society that has no social welfare, and will choose a welfare system over that any day.  Having removed the homophobic and misogynistic influences of the Judeo-Christian scripture, I have become much more tolerant of homosexuals and women’s reproductive rights.  I cannot in clear conscience participate in any more Tea Party activities.
  • Since Christianity is not true, I no longer wish to be involved with activities that promote its cause, or anything that exalts the name of Jesus as a messiah.  To that end, I no longer have a heart to play worship music. 

I’m sorry if I sounded harsh at times, but deconverting is a harsh process.  I feel like Neo in The Matrix when he took the red pill.  Since I believe Christianity is promoting a deception, I will help anyone who expresses a desire to leave this religion.  It is not an easy thing to do.  I list below a set of resources that helped me deconvert.  Some might say that anyone can post anything on youtube and call it true.  I say that anyone can write down anything and call it God’s word. 

-Daniel


Resources

 

A History of God (Karen Armstrong, 1994)

Big Bang (Simon Singh, 2004)

The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins, 2006)

Support site for Christians exiting the faith:

http://new.exchristian.net/

Videos by a Psychologist who deconverted from Christianity:

http://www.youtube.com/user/TrustingDoubt

Videos by a PhD in Intelligent Systems describing his deconversion experience:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSy1-Q_BEtQ&list=PL76EF052213FF4FA4