No matter how many posts I write about the reasons I left Christianity, I still get comments and emails from well-meaning Christians who think that the real reason I am not a Christian is that “bad” Christians hurt me. The thinking goes something like this: bad Christians psychologically harmed me in some way, resulting in my rejection of Christianity and my embracing of atheism. It seems that these armchair psychologists know more about me than I do.
I suspect the reason they refuse to accept my story as I tell it is because they cannot fathom why anyone would ever want to get a divorce from Jesus. In their minds, Jesus is a wonderful friend, companion, and lover, better than any that can be found in the world. Who in their right mind would reject the love of Jesus, the forgiveness of sins, and the promise of eternal life in heaven after death? How about someone who thinks that Jesus was a mere mortal who lived and died; that the need for forgiveness of sins is a religious con game used to prop up church attendance and offerings; that the only thing that awaits humans after death is eternal decay and silence?
You see, the reason I am not a Christian today has little to do with whether someone hurt me at some point in time during my fifty years in the Christian church and the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry. Sure, I met a lot of hurt and heartache along the way. Some of the nastiest, meanest, most cantankerous people I’ve ever known, I met in church. But, some of the kindest, nicest, and most loving people I’ve ever known, I’ve met in church as well. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Christian people I’ve known over the years are good people. I may now think that they have some crazy beliefs, but that doesn’t mean they are bad people. I’ve met more than a few atheists who have crazy beliefs, including a few who voted for Donald Trump. I cannot for the life of me understand how any atheists could vote for Donald Trump, but they did. Does the fact that they voted for Trump mean that they are now bad people? Of course not! So it is with Christians.
Christians who think my atheism is the direct result of exposure to the wrong kind of Christians must answer me this: since most of the Christians I was exposed to my life were good people, why wasn’t their goodness enough to keep me on the straight and narrow? Shallow is the belief that rests alone on the goodness or badness of believers. On any given day, Christians can be found doing good and bad things, and the same can be said for atheists. It is impossible, then, to judge the merits of Christianity or atheism based on behavior alone. Yes, I think Evangelical Christianity, with its self-righteous moralizing, promises far more than it delivers. Yes, I think many preachers preach one thing and live another — I know I did and I know many other pastors who did the same. Yes, I have an axe to grind, a bone to pick, or any other metaphor you can think of, with Evangelicals who pontificate about morality and right belief, then ride the moral high horse, only to then be exposed as liars and hypocrites. Yes, I have no patience for denominations, churches, and pastors who turn a blind eye to child sexual abuse and other criminal acts, choosing instead to put the testimony of the church above the harm caused by offenders. Yes, I can find countless things that I don’t like about not only Evangelicalism, but progressive and liberal Christianity too. But, even taking all of this into account, most Christians are good people. (I wish Christians would return the favor by saying that most atheists are good people too. I suppose this is too much to ask. Without atheists, agnostics, humanists, and secularists, who would Evangelicals have to fight? As long as they can paint people such as myself as workers of Satan, there will always be a mythical enemy to fight.)
Let me, one last time, be clear on the reasons why I am not a Christian. While there are certainly psychological components that played a part in my decision to walk away from Christianity, they are not the primary reasons I did so. If I had found that the Christian narrative was true, I would’ve kept believing regardless of how people treated me. However, through much study, I determined that the central tenets of Christianity were not true. While I believe that the Jesus of the Bible was a historical person, I do not think that he was God, virgin born, worked miracles, resurrected from the dead, or ascended to heaven. The Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Palestine was likely some sort of apocalyptic preacher who lived and died, end of story. I also think that the Bible is not in any way an inspired, inerrant, infallible text written by God, either directly or through men as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. The Bible is littered with errors and contradictions and lacks internal consistency. While certainly the Bible has deeply influenced Western civilization, so have other books, yet we don’t consider these books to be of divine origin. I also reject many of the moral teachings of the Bible. In particular, I reject the notion that humans are broken sinners in need of redemption; that there is any such thing called original “sin.” Sin is a religious construct used to control people through fear of judgment and damnation if they don’t cower before Jesus and the church and ask for the forgiveness of sins. I consider many of the teachings of the Bible to be anti-human, used to subjugate women and control children.
I hope this short post makes it clear to those desperate to suss out the “real” reasons for my deconversion that the primary motivator for my loss of faith is intellectual, not psychological. Sure as the sun rises in the morning, I will get emails apologizing for how “bad” Christians treated me, hoping that I will give Jesus another chance by finding a church of “good” Christians. In responding to them, I will send them the link to this post. There is really nothing more that I can say on this matter.