Menu Close

Former Evangelical Shares Why He Can No Longer Believe in the Christian God

why

Posted with permission from Clay who blogs at Life After 40: My Journey Out of Christian Fundamentalism

It’s been more than two years since I came out as an atheist. In that time, my lost Christian faith has come up often with family and friends. It’s difficult to distill a decade-long journey into a 5 minute elevator speech. When believers ask, that’s typically all they want. They don’t want to hear a lengthy, articulate response. Instead, they hope to hear something that they can easily dismiss as invalid or untrue.

I remember being in those shoes. As a former evangelical fundamentalist, it’s incredibly hard to admit to yourself that you’re wrong. It’s especially hard when you’ve spent the better part of your life in total commitment to what amounts to a fairy tale.

With that said, here’s my 5 minute elevator speech on why I stopped believing.

The Bible
The Bible’s collection of books were penned over a long span of time, some 2000+ years ago, by a diverse group of men who lived in a relatively confined area of desert in the Middle East. Unfortunately, significant portions were written by anonymous authors, and the collective whole is riddled with contradictions, errors and logical fallacies. The canonization of the New Testament (choosing which books were inspired and worthy) was a long, drawn out process that lasted many years and was subject to much debate.1 Political powers also played an influence. It’s especially troubling that the four gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are from unknown authors, dated several decades after Christ’s death, and even penned in a language not spoken by the apostles. There are discrepancies about the resurrection details, the death of Judas, and what Jesus might have said while on the cross. We also find that the oldest gospel account (Mark) is rather light on miracles, but later accounts are more generous with miraculous events (which is indicative of our human tendency to enhance or exaggerate with each telling). You can also toss in odd things like walking zombies (Matthew 27) and apocalyptic 7-headed monsters in the last book, written by someone stranded on a Greek island, known to harbor mushrooms that can induce wild and vivid hallucinations. Are these facts in dispute among evangelical pastors? No.

The Old Testament doesn’t fare better. The first five books are from unknown authors which includes Genesis — a book that begins with a grossly mistaken account of creation that is not only scientifically incorrect, it’s logically flawed. Compounding it all are bizarre tales of a talking snake, a talking donkey, a man living inside the belly of a large fish — combined with an embarrassing lack of archaeological evidence to support the significant stories of the Old Testament. For example, there’s zero evidence for the mass exodus of Israelites from Egypt and there’s little to no evidence for any of the major patriarchs.

When you read the Bible with truly open eyes (and with the above facts in mind), it’s clear that we’re dealing with a man-made tale of a god named Yahweh who is petty, jealous, vindictive, and cruel — a deity who is very unsympathetic to his own creation. Even worse, the Old Testament gives abundant and clear endorsement for human slavery, genocide, misogyny, and sexual slavery, with a generous sprinkling of blood-lust for sacrifice.

God is Silent
The God of the Bible is silent. He does not actually talk to or respond to people. Conversations are entirely one-sided, and any purported two-way conversations are merely imaginary in the mind, and those who claim to have literally heard God speak to them are routinely shown to be mentally ill folk. These same individuals often commit acts of violence, which can (and has) included killing their own children. And some even choose to run for president, convinced that God told them to!

God is Inactive
The God of the Bible is inactive. Human misery and suffering is rampant, especially in less developed parts of the planet. Disease, famine, pestilence, violence, injustice, and natural disasters demonstrate that the God of the Bible isn’t there to act or intervene. The Bible makes bold and specific promises to believers about the power of prayer, but truly miraculous events are not substantiated. No mountain has ever literally moved, nor has an amputee ever had their missing arms or legs restored via prayer. Positive action and intervention only happen when humans take action. As someone once said, “I’ve never seen faith move mountains, but I’ve seen what it can do to skyscrapers.”

The Gospel is Ineffective and its Promise Lacks Evidence
The gospel of Christ makes several audacious promises, which includes: forgiveness; transformation; peace; love; and the ultimate prize: eternal life. Unfortunately, people are routinely targeted with this promise when they are the most vulnerable — during a crisis in their life. Evangelical churches make it a point to go after young children with the intent to indoctrinate before those young ones can think for themselves. What’s especially cruel is how some evangelicals abuse youngsters by painting vivid pictures of fiery eternal torment if they don’t follow along with the adults.

But the real question is, are the promises true? Many competing religions promise peace and contentment, and their followers claim to enjoy just that. Christianity can’t claim uniqueness in that regard. But is the gospel message of Jesus truly transformational? Given that divorce rates among Christians and unbelievers are the same, I think we have our answer. Neigh, I forgot to mention that the rates are even higher among protestants. Or consider the viewing habits for pornography. Evangelicals consider porn a grave sin, and yet we see no difference between the secular populations vs. the Christian population. In fact, we find that Protestants are even more likely to view porn. And alas, we find that some of the most judgmental, hateful and intolerant people are those of the Christian faith.

Now to be fair, I know people have been truly helped and motivated by the Christian message of love and forgiveness. There are some truly wonderful people in the church. But I find similar mixes of people outside the church. Christianity isn’t really much more helpful than any other self-help programs. So it’s not the transformational panacea it claims to be.

There’s No Soul, Spirit or Eternal Abode
But what about that promise of eternal life? It’s the ultimate carrot. Some have claimed to have died, gone to heaven, and returned to tell the tale. But we frequently find these stories are attention-seeking grabs and/or publicity for a profitable book deal. Unfortunately, there’s zero evidence to support the notion of an eternal abode. What we know for certain is that who we are — our unique personalities — is solely contained in our brains. It’s not in some ethereal spirit or soul. We now have 100’s of years of research in human psychology combined with medical science about the brain’s structure and inner-workings. A person’s personality and conduct can be easily and grossly manipulated by chemicals that interact in the brain tissue. We also see the devastating effect of diseases like Alzheimer and dementia on a person. Severe head trauma can also result in significant changes to a person’s psyche — what folks originally attributed as the soul. A good question to ask yourself is, “if you’ve ever been knocked out by anesthesia for a medical procedure, did you have any knowledge of things happening during that time?”. All of us who have been knocked out can answer — we have no recollection of ANYTHING. There’s no immortal spirit hanging out to watch as wisdom teeth are extracted or to watch as Dr. Gregory House cut into our chest.

So when the brain is dead, that’s it folks. And as much as I might like a good zombie movie, it’s fictional — just like a majority of the Bible.

1 When the early church was debating about the gospel accounts for canonization, there were many other gospel accounts considered for inclusion which included The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Peter. So how did they decide to go with the four we currently see? Irenaeus summed it up in the following quote: “It is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four-quarters of the earth in which we live, and four universal winds, … it is fitting that she should have four pillars breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh.”  Yeah, that’s a good reason. Since the earth is flat and has four corners, there should be four gospels! It all makes sense! [Face Palm]

7 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Appalachian Agnostic

    “It is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four-quarters of the earth in which we live, and four universal winds, … it is fitting that she should have four pillars breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh.”

    He could have said, “…since there are three thirds of the earth and three dimensions it is fitting that she should have three legs, three being the minimum number of legs required to hold up a stool.”

  2. Avatar
    Lisa

    Sometimes I want so much to not believe in God. I know there is partial truth to the Bible because my own life has proven it, with my own eyes, which is why I still know Heaven and Hell is real. I have no gain in writing what I am saying, and I bring angry to a whole other level with God for not delivering good the Bible speaks of for me, and I have been repenting. I don’t know what to believe anymore or if my visions are even real. For years I received visions and predictions, and still do, and I don’t drink or take any type of drug, but now I question if my head is making up these visions. I just don’t know anymore! My heart has been breaking so much with questions, to the point of complete depression, but what can I do? I believe there is a “God” but I don’t think he cares. I think he can be both kind and cruel, but with no emotions if that makes sense. Or maybe “God” is something no man can imagine which is why we receive ZERO answers with 100% truth. Anyway, I’m tired. Glad I shared!

    • Avatar
      Robin

      Lisa, know that you are not alone. I am in the same position you are. There was a time when I was blissful because I believed wholeheartedly in the bible with everything I am…I didn’t stress much because I thought, “Meh, it’ll all be fine and dandy in the end.” I’m almost 40 and my faith gets weaker and my beliefs are more confusing with time. Sometimes, I attribute that to our current state of the world and access to technology…being exposed to so many points of view and issues people really didn’t have to deal with lomg ago. If I was simply a wife cooking and cleaning on a plot of land while my husband worked, and lead our family spiritually… without any other distractions… we’d live, believe and die. Easy, peasy. However now, we are distracted at every moment…and our children are more influenced by peers and celebrities than their oarents and the Word.
      I often feel as though I’d rather cease to exist than spend an eternity worshiping God…just seems like kind of a horrific eternal existence, but because my church experience is mostly a bore, I associate heaven with that…and that’s not “God’s fault”. I’m sure the Creator of the universe has something spectacular in mind for heaven… but then where is He in all this? I never feel His presence. I’ve wasted so much of my life in worry. I’m just waiting to die really… not sure whether to be excited or afraid.
      Did God just get this human race thing wrong? Is He shaking His head in frustration the way I do at my own children for not listening to me?Because I look around and there’s nothing really good going on. Or did we truly evolve from specs of nothing and we’re simply forms that will eventually expire like food? The latter, in the end…always seems harder for me to believe. Ultimately, I guess I know He’s there…otherwise I spend a ridiculous amount of time talking to myself…which I guess could be possible.
      So, I’m no help to you but to say…I hope you, I and the world can find peace and Truth…and love and respect each other. I’m sure we make it all much more complcated than it is.?

  3. Avatar
    Rico

    It seems to me that if you use reason, logic, and critical thinking to assess information and make decisions, the moment anybody tells you about a talking snake, it’s time to determine that what he is saying is not true. It’s very simple. Once, however, we choose to entertain the possibility of a talking snake, which requires abandoning the use of reason, logic, and critical thinking, then we are open for the faith booby trap and we get caught. The thing to do is to rigidly hold to the sifting of information shared by sifting it all through reason (does it make sense), logic (can it be proven), and critical thinking (does it represent what we know to be true.) If it does not, then it is not true. The Bible and Christianity fail on all three of those points of view. How to feel better about it all? Decide to go forward using these three critical tools of thinking, and in a very short time you too will be free from belief and its tentacles. This is not easy, but it’s doable. Give it a try.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away!

Bruce Gerencser