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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why I Doubt Christianity

[This is a personal letter from me to someone I will keep anonymous, posted on my main blog byroniac.blogspot.com and my mirror blog, byroniac.wordpress.com. This email was sent to a private individual before I made my agnosticism publicly known.]

X,

Sorry for taking so long in getting back to you. I have been thinking about this for several days, and I kept wanting to wait until I had exactly the right words. If I did that, you would not get a response until sometime Q4 2014 or Q1 2015. Lol. So, here is my best attempt to answer your original question. I want to apologize in advance for writing what I know will be personally very offensive to a Christian, and I have no desire to offend you, but I wanted to be honest (and actually, in that spirit, I need to confess that I wrote most of the next three paragraphs before coming back to this first paragraph and adding this as an apology).

I would really like to say that I have left the faith for intellectual reasons. I do have intellectual reasons, but they came later. My first reasons have been emotional, and looking back, have been building to a head trying to reach critical mass for a rather long time, several years I think, since about 2005. But the process itself has been very gradual, slower than boiling a frog in a pot. It just seemed to happen over the course of a few months, because six months ago I felt I was a strong Christian theist struggling with a few spiritual doubts as to how God viewed me, and all that related stuff.

I am really not sure I remember what came first. I think it probably began with a serious spiritual dissatisfaction with God and my life under His providential care (so I believed then). I started getting less and less out of church, so I wondered what I was doing wrong. I tried to justify my feelings by saying, God just didn't move today. But others would occasionally seem to actually be touched by the Spirit, so I supposed. Then I started wondering if I was praying enough. I prayed more. Then I started wondering, is there unconfessed sin in my life? None that I could think of. I had (and this is deeply personal but probably not surprising at all to you) problems of lust and covetousness (not of money, but of social success and friendships and relationships and such), but these were ongoing confessions in my prayer life, with associated ups and downs but no real deliverance. I was desperately lonely and could not understand the providence of God in my life to allow not only crushing loneliness, unanswered prayers (forgot to mention, a rather big omission that) in various and numerous requests to God, but also the apostasy of near and dear friends who held devoutly to the same religion of Christianity that I held to, and the absence of saving faith in so many family members (again, more unanswered prayers) who were variously Catholic, or nominally religious at best, some not hostile but completely apathetic to religion (something I just for the life of me could not understand, especially with all the wonderful experiences in the Christian faith I had, wonderful relationships inside the church at least, at one-time a very growing and healthy spiritual life, and the like, and how could anyone not want more than the daily grind of a never-ending rat race offered by the world?). I even began doubting my election in the sovereign grace of Christ, having no real proof for it with which I could satisfy myself (and I had been given several times the spiritual tests given by Peter to see how one's personal spiritual growth lined up with the expectation and assurance of the Scriptures, and probably other passages which I cannot remember right now).

Finally (and I wish I could pin it on the calendar, for reference's sake if for nothing else) one day came the fatal thought: what if it is all bogus? That little seed of an idea, much like in the movie Inception, germinated into a juggernaut that at first I could not resist and later had no desire to contain. I bought and began reading atheist books. I learned to doubt the Scriptures, and see real contradictions (sorry, this is my personal view) that I could not resolve intellectually. I began to see other Biblical problems that made plenty of sense intellectually from a theological standpoint, but which I could no longer justify emotionally and ethically. I had for some time been secretly in heart doubting rather strongly anything in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. I could not make myself believe any longer in a global flood. Miracles or not, the operation of such seemed absolutely absurd and the reasons for which have made the Christian God in my view to be a moral monster worse than and less deserving of worship than Hitler. Christianity, according to Calvinism, is one of the most diabolically absurd and hateful systems of religion ever invented by man. To think that God who could save a billion worlds filled with billions of souls in a billion different galaxies decided to save only a small remnant on a single planet in an obscure part of a lesser galaxy, and predestined these elect before time to salvation and them alone, is a horrible decree beyond my personal ability to describe. That hell is an inescapable death camp for the eternal torture of souls created by God solely for His glory in their judgment and damnation, and according to some Calvinistic perspectives, for the enjoyment or at least spiritual enrichment of the saved elect who can perpetually view such a monstrosity of injustice and evil, and glorify God for the same, is absolutely abhorrent to me. If such a God does exist, I would never worship Him, and would gladly rebel and suffer eternally than offer so much as a hint of praise to such a monster. My morality such as it is, imperfect as it is, wrongly exceeds that of the Biblical God, which leads me to believe either He does not exist, or is not correctly identified by the Bible.

This is getting rather long, so I think I will end it here. I am well aware what Romans 1 says, and can no longer believe it. I fear that and other warnings less and less each day. Perhaps that means my heart is hardened until the full measure of sins gathers for God's judgment and my own eternal perdition. Perhaps I am actually elect but never yet genuinely saved, because as bad as I am now, I can be no worse now than any other sinner before he or she is found and redeemed by the grace of God. Or perhaps I am elect, saved, and have entered a very dark time spiritually where I acutely feel the absence of the Holy Spirit and the chastisement of God, feel myself hardening in hatred and rebellion from God, and am awaiting some rather severe discipline where God will either strike me dead and take me home to end my spiritual folly, or by His mercy allow me to live but suffer incredible physical and spiritual chastisement before returning to faith. I think this option is less and less likely, because as 1 Cor 12:3 (KJV) says, "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." And, it does not bother my heart or my spirit to say that the Bible is false, Jesus was either a liar (intentionally, or by reason of insanity, or sincerely mistaken), lunatic, or simply non-existent, and that God (at least the Christian God) is a lie.

I think I have covered all the possibilities, and also made my position known. I have no animosity towards Christians, and because I no longer believe in the Christian God, I only feel animosity towards its religious conception of God and the absurdities in Scripture of requirements for the exercise of Christian religion. I am an ordained Southern Baptist minister, but I have not made my views public, and have no desire to preach or minister publicly or otherwise (I am still debating on how to proceed). Hebrews 6 still scares me a little, but I am rapidly losing the capability to even care and feel mostly apathy instead. Perhaps that simply means what is written there is true. More likely, from my personal perspective, it is simply psychological programming to explain apostasy and its usual finality to the faithful in such a way that acquits God or the church of any otherwise necessary blame. Simply put, Jesus Christ is not my Lord and Savior. I do not trust Him or His (supposed) Bible. I have no hope of salvation and I am quickly losing my fear of Hell or any Second Coming (incidentally, full preterism or hyper-preterism as it is called by some is an interesting attempt to defend the many failed prophecies of Christ and the apostles which promised a first-century return best I can tell from Scripture).

I am not sorry to say that I am happily resigned to be an infidel.

Hope this helps,
Byron

P.S. I am very sorry for the offensive nature of what I wrote above, X, as I have no desire to offend or disrespect you in any way, though admittedly I am disrespecting and denying your religion and cannot help doing so if I am honest and going to sincerely answer your question. Please forgive me for any offense. If I were in your shoes, reading this, I would merely think of the tail end of Romans 3:8, "...whose damnation is just." I would also endeavor not to pray for such a person unless I believed God specifically and unavoidably put such a prayer request on my heart. I used to believe God to be completely sovereign, and that He would work out the details. I'm not important, but I believe apostasy happens every day, and that most in the church, including often pastors themselves, do not really believe any of this, just like I no longer do. I am still the same person I was (according to Calvinism, possibly never regenerated in the first place) and I enjoy the fellowship I have with Christians. I have no desire to be mean or hateful to my Christian friends, or to repeat what I have said to you unless I discover they are open to apostasy and unbelief. I enjoy debating, and I would love to debate Christianity at times, but mostly I'm trying to re-prioritize and just get on with my life and pursue the things I enjoy: computers, reading, secular entertainment and the like.

Wish you the best!

14 comments:

Pete Hoge said...

I appreciate your thoughts because
I have had them myself.Being born
in a Christian household, and
a Christian extended family, in
a Christian society, makes it hard
to question the God and Faith of
our ancestors.

One reason I am happy to be within
the Catholic Church now, is that
I am guided to work with Scripture
in a way which gives me focus on
Christ, and not the ," angry OT
Yahweh".

( By the way, I did not know you
were an ordained SB minister, so
hopefully any of my previous comments were not condescending).

I left the evangelical church
because of the insistence on the
literal interpretation of the
Bible. Instead of the more sane
view of ," is it a parable, is it
an obvious metaphor or allegory?"

Catholicism is the original faith
that Christ intended, and the
full revelation of God's plan.,
the apostle's wrote the NT, and
gathered together the Bible for
us. So the magisterial tradition,
which is sourced in the Apostolic
succession, is our guide for
dealing with Scripture as a way
of life and faith.

Despite the power and strength
I have discovered in the Church,
I know that people will still have
doubts.

I know my arguments for Christ
may not sway you either.

But I am commanded to speak of
God's message to everyone, that Christ is telling the truth and
the Apostle's were witnesses to
his works and miracles.

I have tried to destroy that
argument for faith, but I have
not found anyone who can deny
that the Apostle's were telling
the truth,and wrote about their
life with Jesus in the NT.

Besides some minor errors from
scribes, the NT is the true word
of the Lord, and the Catholic
Church is the intended deposit
of faith by Christ.

I don't expect you to be reborn
in Christ by my words, as I know
that God will keep you in the
desert, battling with doubt as
it is His will to do so.

I pray that you will not give
up on the idea of spiritual life,
and you maintain an attention to
moral conduct.

Prayer does work, but we think
that our mind is God's mind, and
so we think God will do what we
want when we want.

To be honest I think you have
some selfish desires and want
God to give you things that He
has not offered you in the first
place.

He called you to ministry and
I think this could mean that you
are asked to be celibate.

Please examine your conscience
deeply. I admire your knowledge
about Jesus; the world needs
Christian soldiers, and even if
you are not in full communion
with the Catholic Church, you
still have a chance to do God's
work.

Were you baptized in the formula
that we call," Trinitarian"?

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

May you be blessed.

P.

Byron said...

Hey, Pete, sorry that was not directed towards you. Please don't think that. I am just cynical towards religion in general. I liked your comment, BTW. But, I am very fundamentalist in my thinking, so I fall into a "take it or leave it" approach to the whole thing. I live right across the road almost from a Catholic church, but I just don't think on the same wavelength as that (and truthfully, I'm too lazy to be a Catholic, lol).

Byron said...

I meant, I didn't intend that "Cynical on Religion" post I did right after this one to be directed towards you, Pete. That was just me being cynical. I've been less than impressed with organized religion for a couple of years now.

Pete Hoge said...

Your," cynical", was not seen
as directed towards me.

I guess there is some confusion
no matter how well we write
out our thoughts.

I appreciate your honesty about
Catholicism...I could not stand
it myself. For may years I could
not take anything seriously about
the Church's teachings but now
the Blessed Virgin has brought
me to her son, Jesus Christ.

It just happened.

I never thought I would be any
kind of Christian, other than
a ," new age", type, a diluted
disciple.

Hope you keep writing, I like
to correspond with other bloggers
about stuff other than religion.

P.

Anonymous said...

Well do you have an answer to Steve Hays post at triablogue? Has he at least given you something to think about and perhaps re-evaluate your position?

Byron said...

Hello Anonymous. I did not realize that this was posted to Triablogue. He sent me the same message via email, and I've been meaning to respond. He has a great letter, and some valid criticisms, but of course, I remain unconvinced.

Jill said...

I am wishing you peace in your journey. I am concerned that all your comments seem to be Christians praying for you. I want you to know that I am a deconverted Christian too. It was a very long, tiring, difficult time of coming to grips with my disbelief. I also felt that I needed to apologize to everyone- apologize that I lied, that I'm saying I don't believe what they take so seriously. I don't feel that way anymore. I hope you soon will stop feeling like you need to apologize. You have come to understand. I think of it as the moment that Toto pulls the curtain back and reveals the wizard of OZ. Once the curtain was pulled back, I couldn't believe again - even though I really wanted to (sometimes). Now I'm glad I'm where I am. Now I'm glad that I know reality. I am not sorry for my journey. I am not sorry and I don't feel the need to apologize to anyone for what I believe or don't believe.
If you haven't yet, read The God Delusion.

Byron said...

Hi Jill. Thanks for stopping by! What I hate about all this is that I'm made to feel like a second-class citizen for rejecting Christianity. The immediate assumption is, "there is (was) something wrong with you, and that's why you left the faith." Oftentimes it is unspoken, but remains in the background in the person's thinking. I know, because I thought the same thing for the same reasons about deconversion. I simply never dreamed it could happen to me! Glad it did.

Richard Coords said...

Hello Byron,

I appreciate you taking the time to verbalize your thoughts. In a certain way, I just cannot relate to the idea that God would be a monster (although the Calvinist view is quite dark, though obviously I also believe quite unbiblical). Everything that I've read about God just amazes me about the person that He is. Scripture portrays Satan as making a case against God's goodness, and I see Job as someone who was thrust within the skirmish, and Job went back and forth. He really struggled, and he didn't even have morality issues, so you can imagine how "dissatified" he was. He didn't even do anything wrong, and I imagine that he questioned absolutely everything that he'd ever taken for granted. I think that if I was in your position, that I would seriously pray & fast, and ask God that if He was really there, then to make it known in a way that even a child could understand. the Scriptures also say that God challenges us too. He says in Malachi that if we surrounder our finances to Him, to see if He won't open up the heavens and pour forth a blessing. So I guess He throws the challenge right back at us. He think that He puts the ball in our court.

Richard Coords said...

Obviously I don't think of you as 2nd class, nor any more deserving of wrath than myself. My thinking is that I would also reread about Job, and notice his own comtemplations of deconversion, and how God responded. I think God likes honesty. I think that God hates it when he lock up our brains and throw away the key. I think that He likes it when we are real. But I also think that He wants us to engage Him. I don't think that there's anything that we give Him that He hasn't already heard, and I think that we also need to seriously contemplate His answer at the end of Job. Anyway, wish you well as your process everything facing you.

Byron said...

Richard Coords, thank you for dropping by my little ole blog in the middle of nowhere. Heh, back when I was a Calvinist, people like you were "the enemy" lol. Seriously, though, I appreciate your comments. I feel like in my heart that I have wronged God if He/She/It exists with at least some of the thoughts I have had recently, if not actual words. I do not want to try to reduce (any possible) God down to my understanding, which is decidedly finite. I just have trouble believing that a good, benevolent God can exist at the same time that African children starve to death on a daily basis, so I suppose it is the problem with suffering and evil that gets me the most for an emotional problem. If God exists, and I'll use the pronoun He for the sake of my personal tradition, I know He would not want this to occur, and I think every believer, Calvinist, Arminian, or some variation between the two (or other categories I am not aware of), would agree. Theodicy is a real problem for religion, and I would like to study this area a bit personally, but without unjustly accusing God (if He exists) of any wrongdoing.

Richard Coords said...

Hello Byron,

I'm sure that you know Hal Lindsey. He has a "Gospel of John" CD commentary, which from the A perspective is fantastic (40 discs), and he commented about the "children in Africa" issue, and he felt that that's just an excuse, and that people who raise those arguments "don't give a rip about the people in Africa." I don't know that that's true of you, but it's ironic that you mentioned that. I have a sponsor child in Thailand, so I'm doing something. Maybe God points the finger of blame back upon the collective of mankind.

Personally, I skeptical that Jesus could have been someone's made up, fictional character. Hal Lindsey made that point to, stating that Jesus is the greatest character ever conceived of. If someone made Him up, I'm ready to worship them :-) The testimony of the disciples, the authenticity of the NT as confirmed by the numerous contemporaneous writings of early Church period, the perfect dovetail from the OT, and the way that Christ's speaks to a person's conscience makes Atheism non-plausible to me, but maybe I just have a closed mind. I don't think so though :-)

Byron said...

Richard,

I know Hal Lindsey's name but I am unfamiliar with him for the most part. However, his dismissal of the African children issue as an excuse brought up by those who question theodicy is itself an excuse, and perhaps even a cop out. An all-powerful, all-knowing, benevolent God could solve the problem instantly without effort. Or such a deity could have prevented the problem in the first place. Or the deity could have even refrained from creating the people who would afterwards suffer in the situation described, and this would be especially a good thing to do if such people were foreknown to never believe the gospel and be saved. It is impossible to excuse God of apathy, incompetence, malice, and/or premeditated cruelty without resorting to the age-old explanation "God works in mysterious ways" and making vague and hopeful references to verses like Romans 8:28. That's NOT to say I believe God is or could be apathetic, incompetent, malicious, or cruel. I don't believe God would or even could have that nature. But that's why I probably default to agnosticism and doubt the existence of God, or at least I may ascribe to nothing more than a form of Deism that allows God as an observer with very little intervention in the world if any at all. But basically, this is the crux of the issue in my eyes. It does not matter if I care about the African issue and do all I can to help, if you do the same, and even if everyone gets on board and tries their hardest to solve this problem and others like it. Even if the problems are solved, with an all-powerful, all-knowing, good God such problems shouldn't exist in the first place. Of course there are theological explanations for why they exist, but truthfully, naturalistic explanations that do not require God in the equation to produce answers seem more compelling to me.

Richard Coords said...

Yes, I agree that God could instantly stop or prevented world-suffering, but in terms of why world-suffering exists in the first place, notice Acts 14:16: “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways.” God doesn’t withdraw unless man first rejects Him. So in other words, imagine a world where there’s no Heaven above us, or Hell below us. Imagine a world without borders to war over. Imagine a world without religion to divide us. Imagine a world in which we make our own way. Imagine a world without the class-barriers of poverty vs. wealth, but of brotherhood, sharing and sharing alike. Then imagine such a world as this, in which our “own way,” independent of God, ended up contradicting all of the things that we’d imagined could be, and then imagine man blaming God for it all. How is that fair? I imagine a different world. I imagine a world *with* God, in which *when* His kingdom comes, and *when* His will is done on earth as it is in Heaven, then we will have all of the things that we’d imagined, and learn that it could only be achieved *with* God, instead of without. So I think that present world-suffering, is simply God giving us what we’d asked for, that is, for Him to leave.