Over the last year, I’ve had many Christians tell me that I only stopped believing because I wanted to. I think this is primarily used to deflect the conversation away from the actual issues I’ve brought up (like the ones I’ve been posting about). But maybe these people really believe that. Is it true that I just didn’t want to be a Christian anymore?
Let’s compare my life now to my life as a Christian. When I was a Christian, I didn’t steal, drink, smoke, do drugs, or use bad language. I was happily married and tried to teach my children to be moral individuals. Now that I’m not a Christian, none of those things have changed for me. I still live my life in exactly the same manner. In fact, the only visible change between what I did then and what I do now is that I don’t go to church anymore. And we actually only stopped going to church when our old congregation withdrew from us (note: withdrawal is severing ties with people who have left Christianity or are involved in sin in an effort to bring them back; I’ll be posting more about it soon).
When I was a dedicated Christian, I didn’t mind going to church (and we went to every service without fail). I actually really enjoyed it most of the time. And it’s something I had done since childhood, so there was a momentum in place that made it very easy — it’s just what we did. So church attendance never felt like a burden to me. There’s no way I would have given up my religion just so I could stay at home more often.
And when people make this accusation, they’re really not thinking about everything that we’ve had to give up over the last year. 11 months ago, my wife and I began having long, painful religious discussions with our friends and family. They were sometimes heated, and they almost never went well. That was extremely unpleasant. And whenever we were around our families socially, a pall hung over the event that everyone could feel. Once we were officially withdrawn from in December, our friends and family would have no more social contact with us. We weren’t welcome at Christmas or New Year celebrations. My wife’s birthday in February went unnoticed by most. It’s been the hardest thing we’ve gone through — and we’ve been through some tough things before. And that doesn’t even touch on the inner turmoil we both felt as we struggled with these issues.
What have we gained that could possibly outweigh that emotional and cultural upheaval? What benefits have we gained in unbelief that made our parents’ disowning of us worthwhile?
Another problem with the accusation that we just didn’t want to believe is that it doesn’t account for reality. For instance, I’d like to believe that I can fly through the air like Superman. But simply wanting that to be the case is not going to make me jump off a building to test it. When I was a Christian, I really, honestly believed that Jesus was the son of God and sinners were bound for Hell. If I gave up Christianity just because I wanted to (and not because I was actually convinced of something), how stupid would I have to be to knowingly consign myself and my family to Hell? Maybe other people believe things just because they want to, but my brain doesn’t work that way. I need evidence and reason to back up a position before I’ll believe it.
The simple truth is this: I had no doubts in Christianity. Sometimes I doubted our understanding of doctrine, but I had no doubts in Christianity itself, until I was presented with significant evidence. After spending some considerable time testing that evidence, I was finally convinced that Christianity is not true. If I ever convert to Christianity again, it will be because of evidence, not wants.
I’ve spent the last two months posting some of the major issues that caused me to lose faith in Christianity. Amazingly, most of the Christians I’ve presented them to have simply said that they’re not bothered by them even when they don’t have any evidence to explain them. Others have researched some of the problems and found responses to them, but none that actually answer the problems.
I’ve been very consistent. When I was a Christian, I happily admitted that I based my beliefs on the Bible. When it was shown to me that the Bible isn’t perfect, I stopped being a Christian. Now that I don’t believe, I’ve been very honest about the specific things that led to my unbelief. If there were answers to those things, I’d be a Christian again. My beliefs have never been about what I wanted, but what I thought was demonstrably true. I thought everyone approached it that way…