You’ve been baptized by immersion, and you are a member in good standing of a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church.
For years, everything was fine between you and God.
But now, suddenly, you have questions and doubts.
Maybe something happened in your life to cause you to question your faith.
Maybe you’re having trouble accepting some of the teachings of the Bible.
Maybe you’ve come to see that Christianity is not all it is cracked up to be.
Maybe you have read a book by an author such as Bart Ehrman and now you have questions.
So, now what?
Going to your pastor or a fellow church member won’t help you. They will tell you to pray, trust God, or resist the temptation of Satan. I suspect you have tried all these things, yet you still have doubts.
Christians are taught not to doubt. Just believe. Just have faith. Only in Evangelical Christianity is the natural human experience of doubt considered a bad thing.
Doubt means you have questions. Doubt means something doesn’t make sense to you. Doubt means that the answers of the past no longer answer the questions of the present.
First, it is okay to doubt. Anyone who tells you otherwise has something to hide or has an agenda. Your pastor wants to keep you as a church member, and he knows that the exit door of the church swings out on the hinges of doubt. This is why he tells you to trust God, pray, read your Bible, attend church more, and confess any sin in your life. You know these “solutions” will do nothing to assuage your doubt. Why can’t your pastor see this?
Second, the only way to find answers for your doubts is to be willing to read and study. You must be willing to work hard. If you really want to know, the answers can be found.
Third, be honest. I mean completely honest. Don’t lie to yourself. Be willing to meet the truth in the middle of the road. Engage every bit of new information and weigh it carefully. Don’t move forward until you really understand the new information.
Fourth, you must be willing to follow the path wherever it leads. Are you willing to lose your faith if that is where the path leads? Are you willing to leave the church you are a part of if that is where the path leads?
Fifth, the only person you have to answer to is yourself. This journey of yours is singular. It is a lonely walk that you must take by yourself. No one can guide you, direct you, or tell you which way to go. You alone must chart your course. Remember, the journey is more important than the destination.
Sixth, don’t be in a hurry. Take your time. You have your whole life ahead of you.
Seventh, be careful to whom you share your doubts. Evangelical Christians are known to turn on those who don’t think as they do. They think their God demands conformity and obedience, and if they know you are a doubter, they will have “doubts” about you.
It doesn’t matter where your journey takes you. Maybe you will stay right where you are, but I doubt it. It is likely that your doubts are telling you something about where you are now. Staying where you are is not an option IF you are really serious about finding answers to your doubts.
Not all people can embrace their doubts. They fear losing their faith. They fear the judgment of God. They fear Hell. They fear disappointing their family and friends. Ask yourself: should fear be a motivator for doing anything?
Here is what I know from my own experiences: you will always have doubts. Having questions is how we mature and grow. As we seek answers to the doubts we have, we develop a better understanding of self and the world we live in. Pity the person who never doubts, who never seeks answers to questions. Ignorance is not bliss, and understanding self and the world we live in is key to living a happy, productive life.
I am here to help you, no strings attached, I don’t want your money, life, or soul. I have no desire to convert you to atheism. In fact, I am quite certain that most people will not end up where I am. It is not about you being like anyone else. It is your life, your journey, and I hope you will walk on in openness and honesty.
Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.
In the United States Senate, like in many spheres of life, fear does the business.
Think back to the fall of 2002, just a few weeks before that year’s crucial midterm elections, when the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq was up for a vote. A year after the 9/11 attacks, hundreds of members of the House and the Senate were about to face the voters of a country still traumatized by terrorism.
Senator Patty Murray, a thoughtful Democrat from Washington State, still remembers “the fear that dominated the Senate leading up to the Iraq war.”
“You could feel it then,” she told me, “and you can feel that fear now” — chiefly among Senate Republicans.
Fear has a way of bending us.
Late in the evening on day four of the trial I saw it, just 10 feet across the aisle from my seat at Desk 88, when Mr. Schiff told the Senate: “CBS News reported last night that a Trump confidant said that Republican senators were warned, ‘Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.’” The response from Republicans was immediate and furious. Several groaned and protested and muttered, “Not true.” But pike or no pike, Mr. Schiff had clearly struck a nerve. (In the words of Lizzo: truth hurts.)
Of course, the Republican senators who have covered for Mr. Trump love what he delivers for them. But Vice President Mike Pence would give them the same judges, the same tax cuts, the same attacks on workers’ rights and the environment. So that’s not really the reason for their united chorus of “not guilty.”
For the stay-in-office-at-all-cost representatives and senators, fear is the motivator. They are afraid that Mr. Trump might give them a nickname like “Low Energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted,” or that he might tweet about their disloyalty. Or — worst of all — that he might come to their state to campaign against them in the Republican primary. They worry:
“Will the hosts on Fox attack me?”
“Will the mouthpieces on talk radio go after me?”
“Will the Twitter trolls turn their followers against me?”
My colleagues know they all just might. There’s an old Russian proverb: The tallest blade of grass is the first cut by the scythe. In private, many of my colleagues agree that the president is reckless and unfit. They admit his lies. And they acknowledge what he did was wrong. They know this president has done things Richard Nixon never did. And they know that more damning evidence is likely to come out.
So watching the mental contortions they perform to justify their votes is painful to behold: They claim that calling witnesses would have meant a never-ending trial. They tell us they’ve made up their minds, so why would we need new evidence? They say to convict this president now would lead to the impeachment of every future president — as if every president will try to sell our national security to the highest bidder.
I have asked some of them, “If the Senate votes to acquit, what will you do to keep this president from getting worse?” Their responses have been shrugs and sheepish looks.
They stop short of explicitly saying that they are afraid. We all want to think that we always stand up for right and fight against wrong. But history does not look kindly on politicians who cannot fathom a fate worse than losing an upcoming election. They might claim fealty to their cause — those tax cuts — but often it’s a simple attachment to power that keeps them captured.
I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.
Richard asked: During your time in in the IFB what was your particular view on the KJV? Did you change this view prior to leaving Christianity?
I grew up in Baptist churches that only used the King James Bible. These churches weren’t King James-only per se. It just that the King James was the only Bible version these churches used. I don’t remember ever hearing a sermon on why church members should only use the KJV. This all changed with the publishing of the New International Version (NIV) in 1978 and the New King James Version (NKJV) in 1982. This forced Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches and pastors, along with IFB college and seminaries, to stake out positions on English Bible translations. The college I attended in the 1970s, Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, was decidedly King James-only. Professors and students were required to use only the KJV, and chapel speakers were required to do the same. Using a different translation was grounds for immediate expulsion. At the same time, however, the KJV extremism of Peter Ruckman was also banned, I suspect out of trying to avoid the infighting that Ruckmanism tended to foment. (Please read Questions: Bruce, In Your IFB Days Did You Encounter Peter Ruckman?) That said, Ruckman’s teachings found fertile ground in which to grow, and more than a few Midwestern graduates are Ruckmanites. They proudly advertise their beliefs about Bible translations by displaying on their church signs and literature KJV 1611. (Back in the day when Polly and I were looking for a church to attend, we took KJV 1611 on a church sign to mean: Danger! Infected with incurable disease. Do not enter!)
I entered the ministry a defender of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God; “Word of God” being the King James Bible. While I was never a follower of Peter Ruckman — I despised his nasty, vulgar disposition and that of his disciples — I generally believed as he did: that the King James Bible was God’s perfect word for English-speaking people. I wasn’t one to spend much time preaching about Bible translations. Everyone knew that at the churches I pastored we ONLY used the King James Bible.
In the late 1980s, I read several books that called into question my belief that the King James Bible was inerrant. I concluded that no translation was without error, and that inerrancy only applied to the original manuscripts. I took the approach that the KJV was the best and most reliable translation for English-speaking people. I held this position until the late 1990s.
In 1995, I started a non-denominational church, Our Father’s House, in West Unity, Ohio. I would pastor Our Father’s House for seven years. It was here that my theology, politics, and social values began to change. In 2000, I decided to change which Bible translation I used when preaching. I had already been reading other translations in my studies, but using anything but a KJV for preaching was a big deal, at least for me. Congregants? They couldn’t care less. I used the New American Standard Version (NASB) for a year or so, eventually moving to the English Standard Version (ESV). I was still preaching from the ESV when I left Christianity in November 2008. Devotionally, I read Eugene Peterson’s masterful translation, The Message. I found great joy and satisfaction when reading The Message translation. It was a Bible that truly spoke the language of the common man.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.
Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.
Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.
Subjectivity:The quality of being based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. An explanation for that which influences, informs, and biases people’s judgments about truth or reality; it is the collection of the perceptions, experiences, expectations, personal or cultural understanding, and beliefs specific to a person.
Objectivity:The state or quality of being true even outside a subject’s individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings. A proposition is generally considered objectively true (to have objective truth) when its truth conditions are met without biases caused by feelings, ideas, opinions, etc., of a sentient subject. A second, broader meaning of the term refers to the ability in any context to judge fairly, without partiality or external influence.
Faith, by design, is inherently subjective. Even the writer of the book of Hebrews understood this, as evidenced by the words found in chapter eleven and verses one and three:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Hebrew 11 details the faith of Biblical luminaries such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, David, the prophets, and even the wandering children of Israel. Believing these people had great faith requires even more faith because none of them exist outside of the pages of Christian Bible. Hebrews 11 goes on to detail what these people of faith supposedly faced as earthly voices of the one true God:
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
I say supposedly, because there’s no evidence outside of the Bible for these things actually happening. Believing them to be true requires faith. And that’s the essence of faith: believing without evidence. Now intellectuals among the faithful love to argue that their faith is reasonable, but I find their arguments unpersuasive. Is it reasonable to believe a man who was cruelly executed on a Roman cross resurrected himself from the dead three days later? Is it reasonable to believe that this same man was born of a virgin, turned water into wine, walked on water, walked through walls, teleported out of the midst of a crowd, healed blindness with spit and dirt, and fed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and even fewer fish? Of course not. Believing these things to be true requires faith, a faith that rejects what we know objectively to be true. We know that virgins don’t have babies, water can’t be turned into wine (though my wife wishes this were true), people can’t walk on water or walk through walls, blindness can’t be healed through spit and dirt, and it’s impossible to feed five thousand men, and an unspecified number of women and children with five loaves of Wonder Bread and two perch filet. (Now, Jesus teleporting out of a crowd without being seen; that’s possible. SYFY channel, people. It’s all real.)
Imagine me telling you that over a twenty- or so year period I was beaten almost to death five times by Buddhists, beaten with wood rods by jihadists, stoned by ISIS, and spent thirty-six hours treading water in the Pacific. Not only that, the Chinese attempted to arrest me in Hong Kong, but I escaped by climbing over a wall. Would you believe my story? Of course not. A reasonable person would ask for some sort of corroborating evidence. Live long enough and you learn that when a story sound too good/bad to be true, it is likely a lie.
Yet, when a similar tale is told by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11, countless Christians believe it to be true:
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. … In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
The Apostle Paul knew that readers would doubt his story, so he offered up proof for its truthfulness. Are you ready for some mind-blowing truth? Here it is: The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
God knows I am not lying. Paul’s Sunday night testimony is absurd, and most reasonable people would reject it as the rantings of a man who has spent too much time in the third heaven. You know you are in trouble when you have to call a mythical God as your witness. Yet, is this not what countless Evangelicals do when they argue that they know God/Jesus/Christianity is true because of what they have experienced in their lives? God did it, they say. Just ask him! Pray tell, how is this any different from Elwood P. Dowd’s six-foot three-and-half-inch tall pooka friend, Harvey the rabbit?
Dowd believed Harvey was real, taking him to the bar for drinks and even introducing him to his friends. Dowd even believed that Harvey had the power to stop time:
Did I tell you he could stop clocks? Well, you’ve heard the expression ‘His face would stop a clock’? Well, Harvey can look at your clock and stop it. And you can go anywhere you like, with anyone you like, and stay as long as you like. And when you get back, not one minute will have ticked by. You see, science has overcome time and space. Well, Harvey has overcome not only time and space, but any objections.
What an awesome, science/reason defying rabbit, right? Maybe we should start a religion.
Harvey existed only in Dowd’s mind. He believed Harvey was real, so that means Harvey existed — even though no one actually saw him. Dowd rightly ended up in an insane asylum, yet when Evangelicals make similar claims about their God and religion, they are considered fine, upstanding citizens, every bit as rational as hardcore skeptics and rationalists.
The world has a collective cognitive dissonance when it comes to deities and religion. Instead of objectively examining and testing religious claims, billions of people accept them at face value. By faith, they just believe these things to be true. The United States is one of the most religious country on Earth. While the U.S. is religiously diverse, Christianity is the primary belief system of most Americans. Approximately one out of four Americans claim he or she is Evangelical. Ponder that for a moment — one out of four. In some places, such as where I live in rural Northwest Ohio, the percentage of Evangelicals is even higher yet. This is why a century of scientific knowledge has done little to change the minds of Americans about evolution. Three-fourths of Americans either believe God created the universe pretty much as it is described in Genesis 1-3 (creationism), or God used evolution to bring our biological world to life (theistic evolution). For hundreds of millions of Americans, when it comes to understanding the world they live in, they are content to say, God did it!
I recently had a brief discussion with an Evangelical man who wanted to know how and why I no longer believe in God. This man wanted me to know that his relationship and experiences with the Jesus were real. Here’s some of what he wrote:
I am not being critical. I am talking from a heart of simple faith in my life. I became a Christian in 1979 as a young boy running away from home. I had never been to church, my parents had never been to church. I sat in class during a bible lesson and had the most incredible encounter, which at that stage I had no clue what it was. Today, I know it had to have been the Holy Spirit. I went home that day, sat on my bed, Gave my life to Christ and have never looked back.
Since then I have had the most incredible experience of Christ’s love, forgiveness, prophecies and jobs through prophecy and leading in Christ. I have seen live [sic] transformed in him.
I am now 55, serving in a Christian school and seeing lives touched. Kids from broken homes, destitute families, youngster in very difficult situations being healed. This is not a hyped experience. Our school has seen raped young girls have coming to incredible healing under Christ, girls wanting to abort their babies, deciding not to and producing awesome children and loving them, boys abused and abusers who have turned their lives around because of the love they have found in Christ and testimonies of students from our school who are making a difference in their work place because of their faith. We do not have extensive bible programs, bible lessons, etc…but simple faith in Christ.
For whatever has happened in your life, I know what I have received in Christ. Maybe for me it has to do with the fact that I truly met Christ, not in a Church, that I have a personal experience of His touch.
I politely responded to the man, and a short time later he sent me this:
Thanks for the honest reply. I have read some of the articles already [I sent him links to several posts, along with a link to the WHY page] . Every single article I have already read still does not disprove or prove the existence of God to me. The only proof of God to me is what I have experienced in Him.
The bible of course makes no sense in many areas! That’s what makes it so tangible for me. Only an idiot would write such rubbish trying to lead someone to believe in him regarding faith, what’s in the bible, the “stories” etc…… , unless that idiot happened to be God who knows infinitely more than I could ever understand. I cannot presume to know God’s thoughts behind what was written in the sometimes seemingly ridiculous writing’s. That’s okay for me.
Once again all I can answer to is my own experience. I have experienced Him personally.
If I am wrong in my belief then I have lived an incredible life of serving others, in my opinion, to a better life where they can live in peace (referring back to the lives I have seen transform from despair to hope). If I am right in my belief in God’s word and plan then I spend eternity with him. What you call life “anecdotes” based on scientific principles I call awesome God events. It is a matter of choice. One of us is going to be wrong at the end of the day. I think I would rather be in my shoes. That however is a matter of personal opinion.
This Evangelical man knows that what he believes is true through emotional, subjective experiences. Essentially, he is saying, I know I am right because I know I am right, no proof needed. I assume he believes that there is only one true God — the Evangelical Christian God — and that all other Gods are false. But people of others faiths have similar experiences. Shouldn’t their beliefs be accepted at face value? If this man expects me to accept his claims without evidence, shouldn’t he do the same for people who worship Gods other than his?
I appreciate this man being honest about the Bible:
The bible of course makes no sense in many areas! That’s what makes it so tangible for me. Only an idiot would write such rubbish trying to lead someone to believe in him regarding faith, what’s in the bible, the “stories” etc…… , unless that idiot happened to be God who knows infinitely more than I could ever understand. I cannot presume to know God’s thoughts behind what was written in the sometimes seemingly ridiculous writing’s.
Only an idiot would write such rubbish, he said. Now, that’s an objective statement if there ever was one. Believing the fantastical claims in the Bible requires the suspension of rationality and critical thinking skills. The only way to believe the Bible is true is to faith-it. Remember what I said earlier? That when a story sounds too good/bad to be true, it is likely a lie. The Bible, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is the greatest lie ever told. At best, it is a historical novel; a work of fiction interspersed with enough historical facts to give it a sense of believability. Until Evangelicals understand this, there is little that can be done to reach them. No matter what I told the aforementioned man, he was going to continue to believe; he’s going to continue to believe that he has had and continues to have a supernatural encounter with a supernatural God (much like being probed by aliens while you sleep); he’s going to continue to believe that God speaks to him; he’s going to continue to believe that his life’s story was written by God from time immemorial; he’s going to continue to believe that the Bible is a supernatural inerrant text written by a supernatural God, and given to fallible humans so they can know how to live their lives (without any updates or corrections for two thousand years).
But, Bruce, you were once an Evangelical. My God, man, you were even a pastor for twenty-five years! You changed your mind and now you are an atheist. See, people can and do change! Sure, I changed my beliefs concerning God, Jesus, Christianity, and religion in general. Many of the thousands of people who read this blog have done the same. But, change is hard, and the first step towards change is admitting that you possibly could be wrong. It wasn’t until I considered that maybe, just maybe Rev. Bruce Gerencser was wrong, that my mind was ready to know the truth (not in an absolute sense, but the truth about Christianity in particular). Once my mind was open to the possibility of errancy, both on God’s part and mine, I was then able to begin the journey I am still on to this day.
For a time, faith kept me from openly and honestly considering my fallibility. What if you are wrong? my inner Bruce said. Most ex-believers went through times when their lives were like a game of Pong. Conditioned by church/pastor-induced fear, it’s hard for Evangelicals to even ponder not being who and what they are. After all, thoughts of eternal torture in a pit of brimstone and fire will do that to you. I frequently receive emails from people who recently deconverted, yet are having what I call a God hangover. They objectively know that they are right about God and Christianity, but a lifetime of religious conditioning causes them to fear. This fear is palatable, and can cause great emotional unrest. Evangelicals, of course, say that such feelings are God trying to woo us back to himself. The Holy Spirit is saying, don’t doubt. I am real. God is real. Jesus is real. Everything the Bible says is true! Of course, these thoughts and feelings are not God at all. They are vestiges of a former life, and over time they will go away, never to be remembered again. Once our minds are open to objective rational thought, there is no going back. The proverbial horse has left the barn, never to return.
How are godly women to win their disobedient husband? By being in subjection to them without a word while they (their husbands) behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear (1 Peter 3:2). This “coupled with fear” stood out to me recently so I went to the commentaries to figure out what this meant.
Pulpit Commentary: “The close connection with the word ‘chaste, and the parallel passage, Ephesians 5:33 (‘the wife see that she reverence her husband’), make it probable that the fear here inculcated is reverence for the husband – an anxious avoidance of anything that might even seem to interfere with his conjugal rights and authority.”
Most husbands can only dream of having a wife who feared them in this way! Unfortunately, the majority of wives today have no desire to fulfill their husband’s “conjugal rights” or allow him to be the “authority” in their homes. What are conjugal or marriage rights? Conjugal rights would include not depriving their husbands of sexual intimacy since this is a strong need that the majority of men have and their wives are commanded to fulfill it according to the Word. It also includes treating their husbands with respect and reverence. Wives are to be their husband’s help meet and take good care of their children and home as well. Godly wives will want to do these things for their husbands and do their best to obey their husbands in everything!
Included in this list of conjugal rights of a husband as a godly wife, would be to build her home up instead of tearing it down with her own hands. Part of building her home up would be pursuing peace within her home. Most husbands don’t want to fight with their wives. They also want well-disciplined children who are pleasurable to be around.
“Coupled with fear; with reverence of their husbands, giving them due honour, and showing all proper respect; or with the fear of God, which being before their eyes, and upon their hearts, engages them to such an agreeable conversation.” (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)
Ultimately women, we will one day answer to God for how we treat our husbands for when we reverence and fear our husbands, we are showing reverence and fear towards God. Knowing this, we won’t argue with our husbands because when we are arguing, we are showing disrespect and are usurping our husband’s God-given authority over us. We need to be agreeing with them a lot more than we are disagreeing. If we disagree, we state our opinion once and then let it go. Hammering them over the head with our opinions all of the time is not showing them the respect they deserve.
“Fear—reverential, towards your husbands. Scrupulously pure, as opposed to the noisy, ambitious character of worldly women.” (Jamieson-Fausset)
Women of the world today are incredibly noisy. They want to be known, their voices heard, and their wants fulfilled. They march for godless principles, watch ungodly shows, and speak filth. This is opposite of what the Lord wants from us. We are to be known for having meek and quiet spirits. We rest in the Lord’s will and are at peace, not fighting for what we want but living out godly values instead. We trust the Lord to handle things so our faith becomes strong and we pray continually.
When someone we love dies, it can intensely undermine our sense of stability and safety. Our lives have been changed forever, generally by forces we had no control over—and it can feel as if nothing’s in our control. It can feel like the ground under our feet, which we once thought was stable, has suddenly gone soft. Our sense of being able to act in the world, and of having some reasonable expectation of what the consequences will be, can be deeply shaken.
This feeling can be especially strong if the person who died was someone we were exceptionally close with and who had a large presence in our everyday lives, like a spouse or a partner or a child. It can be especially strong if they were someone we knew for all or most of our lives, like a parent or a sibling. And it can be especially strong if the death was unexpected, like an accident, a sudden illness, or death by violence.
Typically, religion teaches us to cope with these feelings by denying them. It tells us that, no matter how insecure we may feel, in reality we’re completely safe. The people who have died aren’t really dead—we’ll see them again. Their death hasn’t actually changed our lives permanently. In fact, the next time we see them it’ll be in a blissful place of perfect safety. (There are exceptions—many Buddhist teachings, for instance, focus on the inherent impermanence of existence.)
The opposite is true for nonreligious and nonspiritual views of death. Nonbelievers don’t deny this experience of instability. So instead we can try to accept it, and find ways to live with it.
The reality is that safety isn’t an either/or thing. We’re never either entirely safe or entirely unsafe. The ground under our feet is never either totally solid or totally soft. Stability and safety are relative: they’re on a spectrum. We’re more safe, or less safe.
Coping with grief and moving on with it doesn’t mean that the ground feels entirely solid again. It means that the ground feels more solid. It means we feel more able to make plans, more trusting that our actions will have consequences that are more or less what we’d expect. We still understand that things can come out of left field—terrible things, and wonderful ones. We can go ahead and make plans; and make contingency plans in case those plans don’t work out; and do risk-benefit analysis about possible actions and possible outcomes; and accept the fact that a sudden wind could rise up and radically change everything.
There’s no such thing as perfect safety. That can be difficult to accept. But it can also be a relief. Imagine an existence where there are no surprises, where everything happens exactly as you expect. It would be tedious to the point of derangement. It would be sterile. It would be isolating.
When we let go of the search for perfect safety, it can be frightening and upsetting. But it can also be comforting. Letting go of the struggle for something that can’t be attained, and letting go of the guilt or resentment when we don’t attain it, can be a relief. It can even be liberating.
The fear that grief can bring on, the anxiety about an unstable, unpredictable world, is still frightening. And none of this philosophy makes that pain or fear go away. But it may make that fear more manageable, less overwhelming, and easier to accept.
I am often asked if I still fear going to Hell when I die. I suspect every Evangelical-Christian-turned-atheist, has had, at one time or the other, thoughts about what happens if they are wrong. If Evangelicals are right about God, Jesus, sin, salvation, and life after death, those of us who have — with full knowledge of what the Bible says — walked or run away from Christianity will surely face the eternal flames of Hell. This is where Pascal’s Wager often comes into play. Since none of us can be absolutely certain that Christianity’s teaching are false, shouldn’t we hedge our bets and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior? Of course, the same could be said for EVERY religion. If we really wanted to cover all the bases, shouldn’t we embrace every deity? All any of us can do is make rational decisions about religious belief. I have weighed Christianity, Jesus, God, and the Bible in the balances and found them wanting. Could I be wrong? Sure. But, I am 99.99% certain that I am not. And when it comes to the Evangelical version of the Christian God, I am 99.99999% certain that their God is a myth.
When Evangelicals deconvert, they often minimize the deep psychological marks left behind by their religious past. Intellectually, the notion of an eternal jail in the bowels of the earth is absurd. So is the notion of God fitting non-Christians with an eternal body that will survive endless torture in the flames of Hell (actually the Lake of Fire). And even more absurd is the belief that people who never heard of Jesus will be cast into Hell for what they SHOULD have known. Some Calvinists even think that it is possible that there will be infants in Hell. Since God played a divine sorting game before the world began — you are elect, you are not — there could be infants who are non-elect, and who are therefore condemned to go to Hell.
Rejecting the intellectual absurdities of Evangelicalism frees our minds from bondage, but deep within the recesses of our brain lie thoughts seared into our minds from years of religious indoctrination. Most Evangelicals are cradle Christians, having been born and raised in and around Evangelicalism and its way of thinking their entire lives. Teachings about God, salvation, and Hell make deep impressions on children. This is why many Evangelical churches have programs geared towards “reaching” children for Jesus. Born into sin, these lying, cheating, vile little vipers need Jesus, Evangelicals believe, so they do all they can to win people to Jesus when they are young. Fearing that their children might die before getting saved, Evangelical parents and the churches they attend often psychologically pressure children into asking Jesus into their hearts. It is not uncommon to hear of Evangelical children making professions of faith at ages as young as four or five. Both my wife and I got saved the first time at age five. Evangelicals believe if they don’t reach people when they are young, that it is increasingly likely that these people will NOT accept Jesus as their Savior. Get them when they are young and we will have them forever, the thinking goes.
Former Evangelicals then, must deal with deeply seated beliefs about Hell. Intellectually rejecting these beliefs is one thing; flushing them out of our minds is another. I left Christianity in 2008. I vividly remember nights when I would wake up terrorized with thoughts about being wrong and going to hell. (Christians told me that this was the Holy Spirit trying to get my attention.) These thoughts so bothered me that I sought out the counsel of people who were farther along the path of deconversion than I. I even talked to my counselor about my fears of being wrong and spending eternity in hell paying for the wrong decision. Everyone told me that my thoughts were quite normal — an Evangelical hangover of sorts. It is naïve for people to think that they can spend decades (or a lifetime as I did) in Evangelicalism and then one day walk away without there being any psychological baggage. Some people can leave Evangelicalism with a single carry-on bag. Others leave with numerous suitcases. Once we are on the other side of faith, it takes time to unpack these suitcases. It is not uncommon for unbelievers to have contradictory beliefs. I know I did. It takes time to sort through these beliefs, discarding those that no longer fit our evolving worldview. Evangelicals raised in evangelistic churches are taught that becoming a Christian is an instantaneous decision. This decision is called being born again — the instantaneous moment in time when people go from lost sinners to saved saints. Deconversion is rarely that simple. While I can remember the moment when I said to myself, I am no longer a Christian, getting to that point was a long — often contradictory — process. And so it is now. I have not arrived. I am still on a journey of sorts. While I know where I have been, I don’t know where I am headed. Christianity taught me that life is all about the destination. Atheism and humanism teaches me that life here and now IS the destination and what is most important is the journey.
Thoughts about hell, for Evangelicals-turned atheists, are vestiges from their religious past. When fear of eternal damnation and punishment arise, attack them with reason. Why am I having these thoughts? Where did these thoughts come from? Doing this strips these fears of their magical power. Keep doing this, and in time you will learn to laugh at such thoughts when they arise. And just remember as you day by day, month by month and year by year move away from your religious past, these kind of thoughts will eventually fade into the fabric of your past. Come the last Sunday in November, it will be eight years since I darkened the doors of a church. It has been years since I have had a fearful thought about hell. Writing about my past and Evangelicalism has helped to ameliorate my fears. I encourage those who have left Christianity to write about their experiences. Publicly, privately, on a blog, in a journal, regardless of the method — write. There’s something cathartic about putting feelings on paper (or on a computer screen).
I correspond with a number of people who use me as a sounding board. They know that I will never betray their confidences, so they have the freedom to share their raw feelings with me. If you need someone to “listen” to you, please write.
For those of you who long ago left Evangelicalism, how did you deal with thoughts of judgment and hell? Please share your thoughts and substitutions in the comment section.
Gal 4:16 asks “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”. This discernment blog is to warn fellow Christians and others, about what is happening in the churches, stand against the one world religion, and promote the truth of the Bible in standing up before a myriad of last days delusions.
Sites like Galatians 4 love my writing when I expose the “sin” and “heresy” that is going on in Evangelicalism and the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Galatians 4 has even linked to a few of my posts, a rare act by a discernment blog because they usually don’t like sending traffic to sites like mine
I try to stay up to date with what is going on in the Evangelical/Fundamentalist world, so I subscribe to the RSS feed of sites like Galatians 4. A year or so ago, I decided to go to the Galatians 4 site and see if there had been any more comments on an article that mentioned a post I had written about Jack Hyles. There were no new comments, so I decided to poke around the site a bit. I found a post written by Bible Believer on November 13, 2013 about Fairies, Gnomes and Elves.
Bible Believer, there’s a catchy pseudonym, is worried about people building doors at the base of their trees for fairies. Bible Believer had this to say:
The other day, a non-Christian acquaintance from my old community told me they were making a fairy door for their tree outside, and I said “What is that?” It seems that this is a new trend where people will make little miniature doors, and windows and rooms for would be “fairies”. They will use bottom crevices in trees often to put these doors. I found myself very disturbed by this.
Why do these fairy doors DISTURB Bible Believer? In classic Fundamentalist, Joseph McCarthy paranoia, Bible Believer thinks:
Ever hear of wood, water sprites? of elementals? of “lights” out in nature? Some claim they see little lights or orbs. Faeries are known to be connected to magic. Faerie magic is a known subject in Wicca. There are magic spells to call up faeries [aka demons]. There are herbs and magical properties that go along with the faeries or “little folk”……
….One thing I noticed is some dictionaries listed fairies as “imaginary creatures full of mischief”, in other words “not real”. I am sure some would read this post and think it crazy that someone would protest the building of fairy doors and little doorways spread around a town for fairies to move into. But how many places in our society are we told that spirits aren’t real and that dabbling with the spirit realm is just child’s play and FOR FUN? How many times do lost people invite the occult in under the guise of fantasy and fiction or just playing a game? Why are human beings so fascinated by the idea of little creatures who have powers superior to human beings moving into cracks in their trees or little doll-houses they have set up for them?Talk about an invitation to false spirits. Talk about leading children into vain imaginations. That’s what that Santa Claus and Easter Bunny stuff does too.
I believe that demons shape-shift, in various forms, and that fairies definitely would be one of those forms during human history. Today one form are aliens. There is a reason they never have found a UFO with little green men to take to the lab. Those are sometimes spiritual manifestations in my opinion. [Of course with Project Blue Beam and other deceptive forces among human beings there is a lot of planned trickery as well]
Many mystical creatures are demons shape-shifting throughout history. If the creature is “metaphysical”, has special powers, etc, then watch out! Leprechauns, Gnomes, Elves, Fairies, Goblins, Aliens, etc. Perhaps even Big Foot and some of the other creatures seen out there beyond what the tricksters are up to. While yes, they can be just imaginative and not a physical manifestation of a spirit, I believe there is a reason the theme of their existence crops up in all human societies. Demons have shown up to deceive and mislead. These creatures are demonic and as they have appeared in history to people they are just shape-shifted variations on demons….
…One thing about Gnomes, they were praised even in the Gnomes book for having magic powers. You may want to rethink the next time you buy a garden gnome to decorate your yard with…
…In fairy tales, elves, fairies, leprechauns, brownies are called upon to aid humans and they all require a spell or a price in every fairy tale I ever have read. So why are these creatures celebrated by Christians in too many instances? Why do they buy their child a fairy-princess bedroom set, or buy a set of Gnomes for the garden? Trust me I know these are some things that may not even occur to some folks until pointed out. I know some are going to be outraged by this article, telling me I am legalistic and in disbelief that I am even addressing this issue, but if you know God’s mandates regarding spirits and witchcraft, why celebrate characters that are associated with BOTH?
I’m not surprised either anon, that it has helped the world get more overtaken with witchcraft. The perverted bible versions WATER everything down.
I don’t think the news casters are shape-shifters but some be mind-control types with tons of alters? I could go with that.
I agree Don, the fairy doors are a way to invite in the demons. That’s not a Christian dominant place sprinkling the fairy doors all over the place.
Well I went into the cryptozoology realm including Big Foot above. A lot of the ‘animals” like that could be shape-shifted demons too. Why haven’t they been able to haul a Yeti in or a Big Foot after all this time?
Some of the cases may be mistaken identities with the Chupacabras, a dog with manage, another type of animal where the hair fell out.
For those of us who spent a lot of years in Fundamentalism, Bible Believer is just another bought by the blood, sold out for Jesus Christian who sees Satan, demons, principalities, and powers everywhere he looks. This is no different from Jerry Falwell’s Teletubbies are gay, Smurfs are demons or any of the numerous demonic toys listed in the classic book of Fundamentalist paranoia, Turmoil in the Toybox. Let me illustrate this with a 1980′s video clip of Pastor Gary Greenwald interviewing Phil Phillips, the author of Turmoil in the Toybox. The video is quite long, but it gives great insight into how many 1980’s fundamentalists viewed the world:
Phillips’s books played an crucial part in the Satan/demon hysteria that was prominent in Fundamentalist churches in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Mike Warnke and Johanna Michaelsen also helped fuel the hysteria with their false claims about demonism, Satanism, and human sacrifices. BTW, Phil Phillips, Gary Greenwald, Mike Warnke, and Johanna Michaelsen are still involved in Christian ministry, a testimony to the fact that there are always new sheep to fleece.
Now I want to get quite personal for a moment. I think there is a lot of truth in what Bible Believer and Phil Phillips are saying. It is hard for me to admit this, but I must. You see I have a Gnome in my front yard. He is a Cincinnati Reds Gnome. I bought him thinking he would use his magical power to help the Reds get to the World Series. Little did I know, he is an ANTI-REDS Gnome, secretly manufactured and supernaturally possessed in a Saint Louis Cardinal Gnome factory. Proof? The Reds are dead last in the Central Division, well on their way to losing 100 games.
Silly, you say? How dare you insult my intelligence. I know what I know!! Gnomes are possessed by demons and they control everything the Fairies, Elves, and Smurfs don’t control. Either that, or I am full of shit like Bible Believer and company. This is what Bible literalism and newspaper theology, the art of reading the newspaper and finding Bible verse to fit the news, does to the Fundamentalist mind. They begin to live in an alternate reality where Frank Peretti novels are true and demons and Satan are everywhere. It is a reality dominated by fear and delusion and the only way out of it is to admit that EVERYTHING you once believed is a lie. Few “Bible Believers” are willing to do this, so they continue to live a life detached from the reality of the world they live in.
If you spend any time reading Evangelical Christian websites, blogs, or news sites, you will likely read things like:
Making same-sex marriage legal will destroy America.
Removing prayer, Bible reading, and the Ten Commandments from public schools will cause moral decline.
Allowing abortion to continue will cause God to pour out his judgment and wrath on America.
Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born liberal, socialist, communist Muslim who plans to institute Sharia Law, set up death panels, and arrest Christians. Besides, he’s black and his middle name is Hussein.
Rock music is Satan’s music and listening to it open up your mind to demonic oppression and possession.
ISIS is setting up camps in the U.S.
Federal government is planning to invade and take over Texas
Jesus is coming soon.
The rapture, it could happen today.
Atheists, agnostics, humanists, Buddhists, Hindus, Shintoists, Taoists, pagans, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, liberal Christians, Roman Catholics, and anyone else who is not an Evangelical will go to hell when they die. God will then fit them with a body that is capable of withstanding fire and torment, and then he will torture them for eternity.
What do all these things have in common? Fear! Fear is the fuel that powers the Evangelical machine. Without it, Evangelicalism dies. The fear-mongering tends to increase when a Democrat is president, and since Barack Obama is a Demoncrat and he is a descendent of Ham and Ishmael, fear levels are at an all time high.
Fear the blacks, fear the browns, fear the homosexuals, fear the atheists….and keep them donations coming.
Every day, it is something new to fear. In today’s American Family Association’s action alert, the new fear is unrestricted Wi-Fi at McDonald’s and Starbucks. According to Donna Rice Hughes, CEO of Enough is Enough and the woman who was accused of banging Presidential hopeful Gary Hart, there are predators and pedophiles lurking at your local McDonald’s and Starbucks. Here’s some of what Hughes had to say:
At many restaurants and stores, free public Wi-Fi comes with your morning coffee or your child’s Happy Meal. While the convenience of this connectivity allows many to work or surf the net for fun at public cafés or fast food joints, a growing number of people use public Wi-Fi to view pornography.
With public Wi-Fi serving as an unwitting channel for pornography to creep into our children’s field of vision and attracting felons – all in public squares – large corporations continue to ignore the public outcry for change. A growing movement, National P*rn Free Wi-Fi Campaign, has been calling on Starbucks and McDonald’s as early as March 2014 to filter their Wi-Fi networks…
…So what’s the big deal with unfiltered public Wi-Fi? What happens if Starbucks and McDonald’s doesn’t do something to make their networks safer?
Imagine teenage girls chatting over a Frappuccino after school, just one table over from someone browsing sexually explicit materials. Children in the play area can be just five feet from a man, sitting in plain view, watching pornographic films. These are not simply potential scenarios; they have already happened.
Perhaps more dangerous is that, according to federal officers, the anonymity of public Wi-Fi attracts criminals to engage in sexual solicitation of children and trafficking of child pornography right there in public places. On December 29, 2014, USA Today reported the arrest of a registered sex offender while he was allegedly downloading child pornography at a Hillsboro, Washington Starbucks…
…he availability of unfiltered public Wi-Fi also means that children and teenagers whose parents turn on filtering controls on their home internet service can bypass those parental controls and freely access pornographic materials in public. Even when they are not looking for explicit material, a misspelling on search engines could expose them to images or otherwise lead them to pornographic sites – everything from adult pornography (the kind of images that appear in Playboy and Penthouse) to federally prosecutable obscene material depicting graphic sex acts, live sex shows, orgies, bestiality and violence. Even illegal content depicting the actual sexual abuse of a child (child pornography) — once only found on the black market — is instantly available and accessible on the Internet…
…Unfiltered public Wi-Fi poses real threat to our society, and it’s high time that businesses take measures to make their Wi-Fi policies family-friendly and safe for their customers…
…A mom brings her kids to get a Happy Meal, and there’s a man in an adjoining booth enjoying hard-core pornography or even child pornography? Law enforcement reports this has happened. If parents understood that strangers can view hard-core pornography and child pornography in front of their kids in these establishments, I believe they would join us in saying, “Enough is enough!”…
Has anyone ever sat in a public restaurant or coffee shop and used free Wi-Fi to look at porn? Sure. But, more than a few Evangelical pastors have used their church’s Wi-Fi/internet service to look at porn too. Should we demand that all churches be required to have porn blocking filters on their internet service? Why are people like Hughes not outraged over porn surfing pastors?
There are likely more predators and pedophiles in the church house than there is at McDonald’s or Starbucks. Ask the Family Research Council about resident pervert Josh Duggar. And dare we mention the Catholic church sex scandals, the Southern Baptist and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist sex scandals? American Christian churches and parachurch groups are infested with men (and a few women) who are sexual predators, yet Donna Rice Hughes and the American Family Association is worried about someone viewing a porn site at the home of Ronald McDonald?
While I am sure somewhere in America someone is now using McDonald’s or Starbucks free Wi-Fi to gaze at pornography, I highly doubt that it “poses a real threat to our society.” This is little more than shaking the Evangelical money tree hoping some cash shakes free.
It’s not up to businesses to make sure that children and teenagers responsibly use free Wi-Fi. If people like Hughes are so afraid that their children are going to catch a glimpse of a YouPorn video or Victoria’s Secret’s website, then I suggest they keep their children near them at all time. I suggest that they not allow them to take their smartphone or tablet outside their porn-safe home. It is up to PARENTS to make sure their children and teenagers don’t see things that are inappropriate. It’s up to PARENTS to make sure their children and teenagers use the internet and public Wi-Fi responsibly.
Businesses that offer free Wi-Fi have the ability to control what kind of sites can be viewed on their network. It takes all of five minutes to set up OPEN DNS or some other filtering software. Should businesses use filtering on their public network? Probably, but if they don’t, then parents have to be PARENTS and make sure their children and teenagers can’t access inappropriate material. It’s not the businesses fault or Obama’s faul if 13-year-old Johnny uses public Wi-Fi to look at porn or catch a quick glimpse of a scantily clad model. If a parent wants to make sure Johnny lives in a porn-free world, I suggest they NEVER allow him to use a computer or smartphone.
The real issue I have here is with Hughes’s fear-mongering. I seriously doubt this is a problem, and Hughes provides no evidence that McDonald’s or Starbucks has a sexual predator or customer porn surfing problem. I’ve never walked into a McDonald’s and wondered if there were perverts sitting there watching porn, hoping they will have the opportunity to sexually molest someone’s child in the McDonald’s restroom. I have, however, walked into Christian churches and wondered if there were any sexual predators working in junior church or the nursery.
We have house-wide Wi-Fi access at our house. We have a main router/access point, two access points, and two Apple Airport Express. This weekend, there will be over 20 people in our home and many of them will have a tablet or smartphone. They will most likely use our Wi-Fi to access the internet. Because a teenager, several children, and my daughter with Down Syndrome will have access to our Wi-Fi, I use OPEN DNS to block certain sites. You see, that’s what a responsible grandparent and parent does. I’m not waiting for the government or Time Warner to block these sites.
It’s up to the adult internet user to determine what is appropriate. Donna Rice Hughes likely considers the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition to be pornographic. I don’t. She’s free to block any site that she thinks is inappropriate, as I am I and every other internet user. We have all the tools we need to block whatever it is we don’t want our children to see. (or our husband, wife, or pastor)
Perhaps the real reason that Donna Rice Hughes wants to block internet access is so no teenage boy ever has an opportunity to see:
What would Evangelical Christianity be without guilt?
Guilt, despite what preachers say, is the engine that powers Evangelicalism.
Often preachers will try to hide guilt by giving it other names like conviction. But no matter how they try to hide it, guilt plays a prominent part in the day-to-day lives of those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ.
Think about it for a moment. The Bible presents God as a righteous, holy, judging, wrathful, deity. In the Old Testament this God was unapproachable except by a few chosen people. People who got too close wound up dead.
Who can forget the story about the man who put out his hand to steady the ark of the covenant and God rewarded this man by killing him. Or the story about God killing the entire human race save eight people (and yet, Evangelicals say God is pro-life).
From Genesis to Revelation we see a God who gives no quarter to disobedience or sin. He demands worship and expects perfect obeisance. He is a God who not only hates sin but hates those who do it. (the-hate-the-sin-but-love-the-sinner line of thinking is not found in the Bible.) Evangelicals often remind people such as myself that someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Bow now or bow later, the thinking goes.
There are hundreds of commands in the Bible, commands that God expects every Christian to obey without question or hesitation. After all, according to the Bible, God himself lives inside every Christian. According to the Bible, the Christian has the mind of Christ. The Bible also says that Christians are to be perfect even as their father in heaven is perfect. Lest one doubt whether God is serious, the writer of First John reminds his fellow Christians that he who sins is of the devil.
The Bible message is clear, obey God lest you fall under his judgment, a judgment that could lead to your death. Put in words that any child can understand: do what God says or he is going to get you. Remember this is a God who killed two people in the book of Acts for lying. This is the same God who brutalized his son on the cross because of what other people did. This is also the same God that will someday savage the earth and its inhabitants and torture in hell for all eternity all those who are not Christians. The book of Revelation reads like Quentin Tarantino movie script. The vengeful God will pour out his wrath upon the earth, killing billions of people and destroying the earth in the process.
It should come as no surprise then that many Evangelicals live with a backbreaking load of guilt. They know what God expects and they fear him, but, in spite of all their hard work, they still can’t measure up to what God expects of them. What deepens their guilt is preachers who say they speak for God, adding more rules and regulations that God demands every Christian obey (also called church standards).
I spent most of my life in the Evangelical church. I desperately wanted to be a good Christian. I felt God had called me into the ministry and I wanted to be the best pastor possible. I was willing to sacrifice everything for God. And so that’s what I did. I sacrificed my family, my health, and my economic well-being for God. I held nothing back and I was willing to die for my God if necessary.
A while back someone made a comment on Facebook about my being an atheist. This person has known me for 37 years. He said that he was shocked that I was an atheist because if anyone was a committed, true blue believer, I was. Most people who knew me in my Christian days would give a similar account of my devotion to God.
As a pastor I gave 100% to the cause. I worked long hours without regard to whether I got paid. Most of the churches I pastored paid a poverty wage, but that didn’t matter to me. I would have gladly worked for free, and, in fact, I did work many weeks and months without receiving a paycheck. It was never about the money. It was all about faithfully serving God and fulfilling his calling on my life. It was all about being obedient to the commands and teachings found in the Bible.
One would think that someone as committed as I was wouldn’t have guilt, but guilt played a prominent part in my life. Striving for perfection quickly reveals how imperfect one is. Sometimes I envied Christians who could take a minimal, carefree approach to God and his commands. Why couldn’t I be nominal just like everyone else? I’m not sure I have an answer for that. All I know is this, I worked for the night is coming when no man can work and the more work I put into my Christian faith the more guilt I had.
I often pondered the work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus had given his all on the cross for me. Shouldn’t I give my all to him? I took seriously the command to walk in the steps of Jesus. I tried to pattern my life after the example of Jesus and the apostles. I wanted to be found busy working for the advancement of God’s kingdom with Jesus came back to earth.
I prayed in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night, and numerous times throughout the day, yet I feared I was not praying enough. After all, the Bible commands us to pray without ceasing. No matter how many people I witnessed to, there were always more people I needed to evangelize. There never seemed to be an end of souls that needed saving. How dare I spend one moment taking care of my own personal needs while countless souls were hanging by a bare thread over the pit of hell. I had no time for talk of heaven or eternal reward. There was too much to do.
I know some readers of this blog will read this post and say, no wonder you were guilty all the time. Look at how motivated and driven you were. Yes, this is true, but I ask you, where do I find in the Bible the laid-back, nominal, easy-come-easy-go, Christian life? While certainly such a life would have lessened the amount of guilt I had, how could I live such a life knowing what I did about the teachings and commands of the Bible?
Look at the examples given for us in the Bible of people who were devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Show me the nominal Christian. In every instance nominal Christianity is roundly condemned. God expects — dare I say demands — 100% devotion and anything less than that is treason against God.
So, for many years I lived with guilt almost every day. I felt guilty when I stopped to enjoy life. I felt guilty when I stopped to attend to my personal wants and desires. I felt guilty when I spent money that could have gone to the church or to missionaries. Why could I not be like the Apostle Paul? Or why could I not be like Jesus himself?
Of course the real problem was that I was a human being. A life of selfless devotion to God was an impossibility. Now that I’ve left the ministry and left the Christian faith, my problem with guilt still remains. I’m no longer guilty over my lack of devotion and I’m certainly not guilty over committing what the Bible calls sin, but I do lament the amount of time, money, and effort I gave in devotion to a God who does not exist. As the old gospel song goes, wasted years, oh how foolish.
I also regret leading people into the same kind of life. I regret causing parishioners to feel guilty over not measuring up to the commands found in the Bible. As I have often said, churches would be empty if it weren’t for guilt and guilt’s twin sister fear.
Perhaps my penance is this blog. I am sure there are many people who read this blog who know exactly what I’m talking about. Atheism and a humanist worldview have allowed me, for the most part — aside from what I have mentioned above — to live a life free of guilt (and fear). I no longer have to fear or feel guilty over not keeping God’s commands. No longer are my actions checked against God’s sin list. My actions on any given day are good or bad and when I do bad things I need to make things right if I can and try not to do them again. There is no need for me to be threatened with hell or promised heaven. All I want to do is be a good human being and be at peace with others. If my actions fail this standard then I need to do better.
How about you? Do you still struggle with guilt post-Jesus? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.