Sunday, January 20, 2008

Further background to my deconversion

There are two separate parts to my deconversion, my loss of belief in God and the collapse of the logic of the Christian faith.


1. The realisation that God is so unlikely to exist that it wouldn't make any difference whether he did or not.

Anyone looking at the facts would realise that the God described by Christianity, Judaism and Islam does not exist (I can't comment on other religions because I do not know enough about them). If God does exist he has not had any involvement with the world since he started the creative processes. His role can only be that of scientist, starting off an experiment and observing it. This is not the supreme being described by those religions, who will intervene to cure us of illness, forgive our sins or whisk us off to a better hereafter.

If we reduce God to the function of the man with the starting pistol or the mad scientist observing an experiment it doesn't take much to see that even that role is unnecessary. I am not a scientist but what I have read on cosmology and modern physics provides no evidence of the creation of matter from nothing. The universe may expand and contract over vast periods of time, there is not necessarily an initial big bang and creation ex nihilo.
Therefore there is no need for there to be a God or anything else to do any creating.



2. The realisation that my own religion, Christianity, did not make logical sense.

This is more difficult and more personal because I was a preacher. I trained for ministry in one of the world's top Divinity faculties under some very eminent scholars of the liberal Christian tradition. My personal faith was a large part of my own personality for a very long time.

So what attracted me to Christianity and the level of commitment that I had?First of all, the person and teachings of Jesus are very attractive. If more people behaved like him the world would be a better place, or at least thats the idea thats put around by people who have not read some of the more nasty things he is reported to have done and said in the four canonical gospels.

Here is just one example that shows his opinion of non Jews:

"And, behold, a woman of Canaan coming forth from those borders cried out to Him, saying, Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is badly demon-possessed. But He did not answer her a word. And coming near, His disciples asked Him, saying, Send her away, for she cries out after us. But answering, He said, I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But coming, she worshiped Him, saying, Lord, help me! But answering, He said, It is not good to take the bread of the children to throw it to the little dogs." (Matt 15:22ff)

Whatever actually happened in first century Palestine is shrouded in the interpretation put on it by the people who built up a religion around the man Jesus; there is no real historical Jesus that can be uncovered. He may not even have existed; there are even clues within the four gospels that suggest it is myth rather than history. For example, Bethlehem was known for two things: making bread for use in temple ceremonies and breeding animals for sacrifice, hence it being the ideal place for Jesus to be born, among the animals that would one day be replaced as a sacrifice by him. The wise men from the east even presented him with gifts of embalming products which conveniently prefigure his ultimate purpose. The gospels read more like mythology than history.

There are all sorts of logical problems as well. People sin, God cannot accept them in a sinful state so there has to be a sacrifice of blood. God then sacrifices his own son, who is also God so that he can forgive us anyway; therefore there was no need for the sacrifice at all.Of course this comes from legal ideas from the ancient near east. This is mentioned in the bible as the law of the "Medes and Persians" in the book of Esther, that rather than cancelling one law they have to have another law put on top of it to reverse the effects of the original one.

I could expand on this for hours, possibly one day I will write a book or maybe I should go back to my alma mater and do a PhD?

The community feeling of being in a church with like minded people is very comforting especially in a society which is lacking in community. The church provides a social network that does work. However, it requires the members to be less free thinking and less questioning than I naturally am. To me life is about asking questions and discovering new things. I remember getting into terrible trouble for my belief that Jesus was not a carpenter (an idea that is based on a wrong translation of the Greek word tekton by Wycliffe or Coverdale). It was put to me that this would undermine other people's faith. Well it couldn't have been much of a faith then! I suppose the problem is that if Jesus was not a carpenter but some sort of builder how did he earn a living in Nazareth? Well I could answer that question but it might require me to relocate Nazareth and therefore undermine the truth of the bible. Its another shaky foundation.

So what is my attitude to Christianity now?

I don't really feel the need to try and damage or destroy Christianity, but I do want to encourage Christians to think for themselves and question things that they are being taught. Take the simple idea that God is eternal. It's in lots of hymns but it is not clearly stated anywhere in the bible. If you have been misled about something as central as this what else have you been misled about and what else can you investigate? If you start looking you will find all sorts of holes in the scheme of Christianity.

If you are a Christian reading this and recognise that you are asking the same sort of questions I did then I would be happy to help you think through the issues. I have benefitted greatly from moving on from Christianity and you might too.


What if I am wrong?

Well I don't think that I am totally right. Understanding the purpose of life and our role in the universe is a work in progress for all of us. I don't think I have all the answers or any solutions that would necessarily apply to anyone else. If it turned out that God did exist then I would be surprised and somewhat disappointed that he had not made himself known or helped us out from time to time.


Am I entitled to express these opinions and ideas?

Yes. We do not live in a medieval world; we live in a world of scientific investigation and discovery. What is wrong with questioning religious ideas? What does the church have to lose? What does it have to hide? How can asking a question be against a religion if that religion is actually true?Christians seem to feel threatened by me. Some see me as being utterly evil or having the spirit of antichrist just because I dared to ask "why?" Well I am going to continue asking the hard questions even if it annoys them.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Gordon,

    I too don't believe everything that's handed down as Christianity and it's refreshing to find someone who thinks for themselves.

    My opinion will probably be of little interest to you, but if you are kind enough to allow free speech on your blog, then it may interest others.

    I believe in Intelligent design, and think that the ability to evolve (within limits) is part of that design.

    I disagree with you that (Darwinian) science can explain the intricate design of nature. How can a sexual orgasm evolve?
    Surely it is there to encourage procreation? If an orgasm evolved, why don't you get one scratching your ear? It just doesn't make sense to me.

    The answer to 'who designed us?' belongs in the spiritual, and I don't know any of the sciences dedicated to studies in that realm, so I'm afraid the sacred cow of science just isn't looking in the right place.

    You need more faith to believe in evolution than in a God, because we are living in, and part of nature which is way too amazing to have come about by chance or natural selection.
    I might not believe the bible is 100% accurate (or even 90% accurate) for many of the reasons you mention, but I do believe there is a living God who we see glimpses of in the bible.
    To the question 'did Jesus even exist?' you will obviously be aware of the writings of people like Josephus who mention Jesus, but to me the fact that Jesus' disciples (who knew him personally) were willing to, (and did) die horrible deaths rather than deny him, surely indicates something.
    You've no doubt heard all these arguments before but I think they have some merit.
    I'm sorry that your ex church friends have rejected you, and for what it's worth, although I disagree with your conclusions, I think you'd be an interesting guy to talk to and commend you for seeking out the truth.
    Kind Regards, Steve

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  2. Hi Gordon,

    I think you were right to come out of this kind of Christianity, that tried to conditioned you, etc... I know I have come out of it too. I used to be a 'bible believing' Christian. But well, in somewhat differently than you (you seem to have also converted to another faith),I was re-converted, and see God in a different perspective. Not a God of a literal bible (never was that intended in the first place), but a God who is discovered in the mistery of creation (not the genesis one) in a not very dissimilar (double negatives)faith and understanding that you have.
    I am not sure if you come across 'progressive Christianity'. I recommend you have a look. I also have a good friend of mine who had a similar journey in faith as myself (and not much different than yours). You might want to have a look at his blog http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/. All the best,

    Nelu
    www.ulen/wordpress.com

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  3. Hi Gordon

    I came across "Christians who do not go to church" when surfing a few days ago. I've read your story and can relate to it in many respects.

    Like you I want to encourage 'Christians' to think for themselves and question what they have been taught.

    I am 73 and in one sense I have been outside the four walls of traditional Christianity for about 40 years - although I still attend church every Saturday because my wife wants to!

    You said that it all started to unravel when you looked at the logic of the whole scheme of Christianity. I can relate to that. Some years ago I wrote an article entitled "Why Suffering?" in which I said, "In human terms there is nothing logical nor rational in the idea that a God who is love, allows us to suffer pain and distress. But then there is no logical or rational explanation for the need for the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour who is described in Isa 53.3 as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. The sacrifice of Jesus shows us the real love of God. God does care!

    To cut a very long story shorter I have come out of a cult and have been going through a bereavement process - first I came out of a Sabbath keeping cult - then I came out of the cult often known as 'Christendom'.

    It was several years ago that I read an article entitled "The Rise and Fall of Christendom" that gives a controversial definition of 'Christendom' - something I think you might be able to relate to.

    We have come to differing conclusions. Could it be that I've recently moved from 'head knowledge' to 'heart awareness' while you have travelled in the opposite direction?

    I know that your story is a reflection of many similar stories of those who have walked away from traditional churches.

    I have taken the liberty of editing your story. I would like to use it as the basis for a discussion on my blog of why people leave church.

    My blog is an introduction to my web site. You will find a link to "The Rise and Fall of Christendom" on "Food for Thought" and you will find my edited version of your story at atheist.html

    I'd be interested in any thoughts you might have.

    Pete

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  4. "You need more faith to believe in evolution than in a God." What proof do you have that there is only one god? What proof do you have that it is not Zeus or Ganesha who created everything? You need more faith to jump from Some "Thing" created this universe to "Christian God" created this universe than you need to believe in evolution.

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