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.