How It Happened: My Deconversion Part 4

Links: Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3

In early 2010, my questions took a different track that I hadn’t expected, and it happened quite by accident. I was writing material for the adult and high school Bible classes. We were about to begin a study of Christian Evidences, and I was writing a couple of lessons that showed some of the flaws in other religions, like Islam. Basically, it was an attempt to explain why we were Christian instead of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. In researching the problems in other religions, I also came across articles that talked about the problems in Christianity, including a series of articles on the historical contradictions in the Book of Daniel. I read the articles out of a sense of curiosity. I had been a Christian for a long time, and I had done a good bit of personal work. Though I had heard people claim the Bible had flaws in the past, I had never seen anyone present any. So I was very skeptical, even a little dismissive, of these articles. Until I read them, that is.

If you’d like to see them for yourself, I’ve reposted them on my blog. Links to all the articles can be found here. For now, I’ll simply say that the articles had much more substance than I had assumed they would. I was troubled by what they said, but I wanted to verify the information before I got too carried away. However, it didn’t take very long to find out that the main points of the articles were correct. Daniel, in my view, had a lot of problems.

At first, I didn’t really know what to make about this. I had always believed in biblical inerrancy, but now I was faced with a part of the Bible I no longer believed was inerrant. Could it be that only Daniel was the problem? Could the rest of the Bible still be okay? Thus began a period of time in which I began hunting for all the reasons to believe in and/or be skeptical of the Bible and Christianity. This was a really crazy time for my wife and I. I read everything I could get my hands on.

I came across Farrell Till fairly early in my search. He had an ascerbic tone, but he did an excellent job of digging into the details of the Bible and pointing out its flaws. He had written countless articles on contradictions and problems with prophecy fulfillment. He had been part of the church of Christ, though I think a slightly different flavor than the one I had been raised in. But he had still held to biblical inerrancy when he was a Christian, just like I had. And it was through that lens that he critiqued the Bible.

I quickly found that the problems in the Bible were not isolated to the Book of Daniel, they were littered throughout. It was incredible to me that I had been a knowledgeable Christian for so long and never realized these problems were there. But I had always studied my Bible to learn its lessons, not to critique its facts. I had just assumed it was true, since it was written by God. So in February of 2010, I began asking to borrow some apologetic books from some of the people I went to church with. I don’t remember if I told them why I was interested, but even if I had, they would have assumed it was just a passing interest that would quickly be satisfied. In reading those books, I didn’t find their explanations of the Bible’s problems to be very convincing. They sounded more like the kinds of arguments one makes when trying to convince himself to have a second piece of pie. He wants the arguments to be true, so he readily accepts them. I wanted sound arguments that would actually show the skeptic’s accusations to be completely groundless. That’s just not what I found.

Early on, I had shared my growing concerns with my wife and a couple of other close friends. I’ll always appreciate the way they stood with me — they walked a lonely path with me for quite some time. My wife was shocked by the things I had begun to find, and she was initially just as skeptical as I had been. But many of these problems in the Bible are very easy to see once you’re aware of them. And it didn’t take long for her to agree with me in thinking that the Bible was just not what we had always believed it to be.

One of my friends took a more cautious approach, and I think this was good. He willingly read everything I asked him to, and he met with me many times and listened to me talk about my growing concerns very patiently. In the end, he viewed the Bible’s issues as complicated things that we may never have answers for. But they were not of a high enough magnitude to make him question the entirety of his faith. I didn’t share that position, but I understood and respected it. In return, he also understood why this was such a big deal to me. And he never discouraged my looking into these things, nor did he ever criticize my character or attribute base motivations to me. That was a huge comfort, and I’ll always remain grateful for it.

By the time April of 2010 had rolled around, I realized that I needed to tell a few more people about my severe doubts — by this time, my faith was extremely weak. I knew that my parents and my wife’s parents would need to know. I’ll explain more about that in the next post. And if you would like to know more about the prophecies and contradictions I had problems with, the links are provided in my About section.

41 thoughts on “How It Happened: My Deconversion Part 4”

  1. Just discovered this blog. I’m really enjoying this series of posts. I’ve been there. For me the red light really started flashing with Numbers 31 – in which the Israelites massacre the Midianites and Moses is furious because they didn’t kill the women. I had always read past things like that, until I just couldn’t anymore… unlike your commenter philosophical11, who is compelled by faith to reject conscience, worship a sadistic murderer and call him good.


  2. To my fellow believers, please remember we are to respond in love and in truth. For a great example of how not to do that, click on over to philosophical11’s blog; what garbage. How Christians think they will ever have any results with such an attitude escapes me.


  3. Thank you for posting this series, your story is a fascinating one. I was a believer as well (though not part of the Church of Christ) from high school into college. I’d been raised Catholic, but left that for a more Protestant-flavored Christianity. So, while I wasn’t a professing inerrantist (I figured since I hadn’t read all of the Bible, I couldn’t assume it didn’t contradict itself), I did expect it to be generally perfect. I was not pleased when I started finding the same problems you seem to have found with the Bible.

    By the way, I read on M. Rodriguez’s blog that you wrote a rather lengthy account regarding problems with the Bible and your faith. If you don’t mind me asking, do you still have that nearly 50-page letter/essay?


  4. @ Pretentious Ape — thanks for the comment! Numbers 31 became a big deal to me too — it’s just unthinkable that a God would condone such barbarism when he’s supposedly the father of all mankind. I’m really glad you chimed in, and I’ll be checking out your blog as well.

    @ matt — hey man, thanks (as always) for the kind comments. I’m so glad to have your support, even though we look at some of these things in different ways. It really speaks to your character, and I appreciate it.

    @ Daniel — thanks for the great comment! I’m you stopped by, and I hope you’ll feel free to comment on any of the posts you see here. I do still have the paper I wrote, and I’ll email you a copy (I can see your email address when you leave a comment, so no need to post it).

    @ M Rodriguez — you know, I might just do that. It’s not a bad idea. I keep thinking I’ll flesh it out and make it a real book, but I don’t guess there’s any reason why I can’t have both of them posted…


  5. So, I have a question about those that did try to work through this process with you. You’ve said a few tried to study with you at the beginning of your journey, what happened? Did it get to a point where they just washed their hands of the matter, gave up so to speak? If so I can’t see how that was very good for either you or them. Also, have they tried to recontact you to go over stuff again, maybe with new answers to your questions; or have they just left you to (in their opinion) burn in hell? I don’t mean to be harsh, but we both know that IS exactly their view of where you’re deconversion has left you bound for. I just don’t see how friends, let alone family, could just leave it at that.


  6. Hi Matt,

    The conversations with those who did talk to me varied. The friend that I referred to in the above post remained very calm and understanding throughout our discussions. Whenever I brought up a particular issue, he usually agreed that it seemed problematic. Sometimes he was satisfied by some of the explanations that we found (even though I wasn’t), and other times he would just take the position that the problems were unanswerable or that we didn’t have answers yet. But those kinds of conversations were rare.

    Most of the discussions I had with family often devolved into heated arguments, which didn’t help at all. And they would eventually say that the problems I was bringing up were just details that didn’t matter in the great scheme of things. Some of the people I talked to obviously weren’t ready to discuss specifics, so those discussions didn’t go far either, and most of them didn’t try to schedule follow-ups.

    But in the cases of those who did have many conversations with me, after a number of months, we just ran out of things to say. I had given my points; they had given theirs. I know it was difficult for them to “give up” on us, but there just wasn’t much else to say. I don’t usually hear from anyone anymore, other than an occasional exchange with my dad or my mother-in-law. It’s rare that I hear from anyone else. It’s definitely a weird situation. I appreciate your asking about it…


  7. Those are some big questions! 🙂

    1) I think a good bit of our morality comes from common sense and a conscience that was probably developed through evolution. But I know that topic is much bigger than the answer I gave, so let me point you to some of the things I’ve already written on it:
    Absolute Morality
    The Bible’s Morality
    Moral Codes…

    2) This is a deceptively difficult question. I’ve written on it before (here), but I’m not sure that I totally agree with what I wrote there. I tend to use truth as a statement of fact. For instance, either a god(s) exists, or it doesn’t. One of those options is true, even if we don’t know what it is. So I want to know what is factually true about as many things as possible, but I know some things will forever be out of my reach. In those cases, I just try to get close. As a side note, I do think we can know whether or not Christianity is true. I don’t think we can know if a god really exists or not.

    Thanks for all the great questions. If I haven’t answered them well enough, let me know, and I’ll try to do some detailed posts on them soon.


  8. G’day Nate, I read your post when you first published it, but I decided to wait and see the comments, and consider, before I made any comment of my own.

    I think we have some agreement on the facts, so my particular interest at the moment is the process of choosing. I know I have raised this before, but it seems to me to be the key question.

    I began thinking about the difficulties in the OT when I was roughly at a similar age. You and I probably had similar knowledge of christianity (though my “brand” was certainly less ‘exclusive’ than yours was). And yet, with much the same background and information, we responded quite differently. And I am pondering why.

    I am considering a few possible (hypothetical) reasons:

    1. For whatever reason, my belief was stronger than yours (whatever that means).
    2. Your background encouraged an “all or nothing” approach to the Bible, whereas mine was less strong on that (though not much less).
    3. I believed Jesus must be true even if the rest wasn’t, whereas you took it all as a package.
    4. You were subconsciously looking for a way out whereas I was wanting to stay in.
    5. You had been brought up with it, and this was your first real opportunity to choose, whereas I had to make several small choices on the way through and so I was already committed to belief in a way that you weren’t.
    6. You seem to have only considered two options, whereas I considered a few others.

    Perhaps some of these are the same. Perhaps there are other options. And perhaps, in the end, I could conclude that you hardened your heart against the Holy Spirit, or you could conclude that I hardened my heart against reason, but that doesn’t seem to be a useful way to start.

    Any thoughts?


  9. Hi unklee,

    Thanks for the comment. I didn’t realize that you came from a more fundamentalist background — that’s very interesting, and I appreciate your sharing it.

    In looking at your hypothetical reasons, I think some of them are probably close. I do think my background encouraged an “all or nothing” approach that was supposed to emphasize the importance of the entirety of the Bible, but which I ended up using as a test of the Bible itself. I also think your 3rd hypothesis is correct. I viewed Jesus as being dependent on the Bible, and when I felt it was no longer reliable, I didn’t feel I had a reason to keep believing in Jesus. The 6th hypothesis might be accurate too, at least as far as Christianity is concerned.

    I don’t think the 4th hypothesis is true. I sincerely believed it. It was all I’d ever known, and I was happy in the lifestyle. As time went by, the doctrine of Hell bothered me more and more, but I didn’t consider that Christianity might not be true until I saw some strong evidence against the inerrancy of the Bible. As you know, that was an important facet of my faith. But I don’t think I was looking for a way out. I was convinced it was true, and I couldn’t imagine living without it.

    I also don’t think the 5th hypothesis is true. I haven’t talked a lot about it on my blog, but I held several different positions than most of the people I worshiped with. And I disagreed with my parents over some issues, which wasn’t the case when I was a kid. I studied on my own, worked through things on my own, etc. I was kind of known for not necessarily following the party line on some issues that the church of Christ considered to be big deals. So I feel that I had done a lot of spiritual growth in my time as a Christian.

    Also, I never considered belief to be much of a choice, but more of a conviction. As a Christian, I had many opportunities to choose whether or not to live according to my beliefs, but I never felt a need to choose belief over unbelief. I was convinced that Christianity was true, even if I knew I didn’t understand every aspect of it. But seeing that the Bible was not inerrant was a huge blow to me — I had based every decision on what the Bible said and to see that it couldn’t always be trusted brought everything into question. After a lot more research, I just reached a point where I couldn’t believe it anymore, even if I wanted to. It wasn’t a choice, but more of a realization.

    So I think our differences hinge on a couple of key foundations.

    1) I still think a divinely inspired text would be perfect, if we’re all going to be judged on how well we try to follow it.

    2) I think I find the overall premise of Christianity to be less likely than you do. I feel that the Bible’s descriptions of God and his actions tend to conflict with one another. And I think the timing and method of Jesus’ mission on earth seems a bit illogical.

    Maybe those somewhat slight differences in our viewpoints is what led to our different positions. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on that.



  10. Nate,

    We are exploring, and I guess the nature of exploration means being uncertain. But I have pondered over your 2 suggestions.

    1. I think your definition of “inspiration” is probably different to mine, so you end up being ‘forced’ to your conclusion here. But I still don’t understand why you are unwilling to consider other definitions of inspiration, and hence of what to expect from the Bible.

    2. If you can’t believe in the God the Bible describes, or in Jesus, then clearly this is an important difference. But again, I think you take the definition of christianity that you grew up with (which is that the whole Bible tells us equally about God) and this almost ‘forces’ you to disbelief. But if one accepts progressive revelation, then God is defined by Jesus, not by the book of Numbers; and if one understands the Bible as a collection of writings that give different pictures of God, rather than expecting it to be a scientific textbook, then one is less troubled by different portraits of God.

    I also think that your statement about the timing of Jesus’ mission being “illogical” is revealing. You are willing to judge this according to your expectation, even though neither of us can really have much of an expectation of how a God might act. Again, it seems your assumption ‘forces’ you to your conclusion.

    So I feel that we are closer to understanding our differences, but I still don’t understand why you took an all-or-nothing approach whereas I adapted my view of christianity according to what I found.

    Choice is an interesting thing. Do you as an atheist believe we have choice, or are our actions determined? (I think most atheists and most neuroscientists believe they are determined.) But if one believes in freewill, then we can see that if we have very clear reasons based on complete understanding, we don’t really have much choice, because the facts compel us. On the other hand, if we have no reasons, then the choice is actually random. Only if we are somewhere in between (i.e. reasons but not complete understanding, so we have to carefully consider and balance all the facts) do we have rational choice. Now it seems to me that you have acted like someone who believes the facts and assumptions are very clear and only one choice is possible, whereas I have a more flexible view and hence a very definite choice.

    That’s my thoughts so far.


  11. Hi unklee,

    I have considered different views of inspiration, but I just don’t find them very believable right now. Also, this series of posts is just trying to describe how I felt during my deconversion — there are a few nuances that might not be directly applicable now.

    But if one accepts progressive revelation, then God is defined by Jesus, not by the book of Numbers; and if one understands the Bible as a collection of writings that give different pictures of God, rather than expecting it to be a scientific textbook, then one is less troubled by different portraits of God.

    I think that’s true, but I just don’t find progressive revelation very believable. I won’t go into all the reasons right now, because I think it would just take us too far afield. But they’ll definitely come up in some future posts.

    I also think that your statement about the timing of Jesus’ mission being “illogical” is revealing. You are willing to judge this according to your expectation, even though neither of us can really have much of an expectation of how a God might act.

    Maybe we can’t have many expectations about a god we know nothing about, but surely we can have some expectations about the god of Christianity? Shouldn’t we assume him to be fairly logical? And the Bible claims he is just and loving — so can’t we make some conclusions based on those qualities? I believe it’s very fair to judge Christianity’s god by the standards Christianity has supplied.

    The question of choice is interesting. It’s a really deep subject, and we can’t touch on all of it in this one thread. But I think you’re suggesting that if God gave us complete knowledge of him and his desires for us, then we would all choose to follow him. We would have no choice to disbelieve or disobey. I don’t believe that’s true. My children know who I am, and they know what my desires for them are. But there are many times that they choose not to obey my wishes, even when they know there are consequences. Even the Bible shows plenty of examples of those who knew what was required of them, but didn’t follow through: Adam, Eve, Moses, Achan, David, Solomon, Samson, etc. All of them knew that God existed, and they knew what he expected of them. Yet they still failed.

    In fact, I’d say that real choice only exists when we know for certain what the options are. If a child sees escargot on a menu, he may order it instead of the hamburger because it has a cool name. But if he knew ahead of time that it was snails, he may not make the same choice. I don’t serve the Christian god, but it’s not because I just want to rebel against him. It’s because I don’t believe in him. If God really wanted to know how I’d react to his wishes, then he could find out by simply interacting with me directly. Real knowledge of him and his desires would allow me to make a real choice.


  12. G’day Nate, yeah, I think it’s about time.

    I think progressive revelation fits in with the real world real well – it’s how parents bring up kids and how teachers teach.

    And I think you don’t understand how much the power of God is veiled in this world if you think anyone on earth has complete knowledge of him.

    But like you say, perhaps some other time. Best wishes.


  13. I don’t think anyone on earth has complete knowledge of God — sorry if I somehow gave a different impression. I think God’s power is veiled so well, it’s very easy to question his existence.

    Thanks, as always.


  14. Ahh, biblical inerrancy. I was waiting for this one. There are very few doctrines that I strongly oppose, believing most to not be worth arguing over. This doctrine is not one of them.

    Some contradictions are not truly contradictions, as they require a better understanding of other relevant facts to synergize the opposition. Others, however, are not dismissed easily, while others are in flat-out opposition, with no reconciliation possible. As I mentioned in a reply to a comment you left on my blog, I have an article that will be edited and republished at a later date. For now, I’ll say this in refute of the doctrine:

    Question: “Name a perfect person that walked the face of the earth.”

    Christians answer: “Jesus.”

    Question: “Anybody else?”

    Christians answer: “No.”

    Question: “Who wrote the Bible?”

    Christians answer: “Many people”

    Question: “How, then, can a perfect piece of writing, without any error, come from the pen of imperfect people?”

    For any Christians reading, I cite Jeremiah 8:8 (NIV): “How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?”

    “Inspired” means just that: imperfect human beings doing their best to transcribe what they have heard and perceived from a perfect being. Imperfect beings, in spite of their best intentions, will make mistakes. The source is not to blame; the translator is (I know, I know, “why doesn’t God make it plain?”, but that’s another topic). If Christians would dump this ridiculous doctrine, they could start following the path laid out before them by God, instead of self-righteously measuring and criticizing everyone else’s path. “For what is that to you?”


  15. Thank you for your thoughts, Don. Inerrancy is something I’ve gone back and forth on over the last year or so. I still believe it’s very important, considering what the Bible says is at stake. But I appreciate any Christian who is willing to see the contradictions for what they are in an effort to better understand what the Bible is. It’s so much better than continuing to claim the Bible is completely inerrant.


  16. I know talk on this page ended several months ago, but I’m just finding this blog, so forgive the necro-comment…

    On the topic of Progressive Revelation. I can buy the idea of progressive revelation…like a child learns that 1+1=2, and then progressively harder and harder mathematical concepts. However, the new bits of revelation can’t contradict the first bits. The god portrayed in the NT is almost a polar-opposite to the god of the OT. In the OT even a consistently disobedient child who curses his parents gets stoned to death; in the NT “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

    Coming from a similar, fundamentalist background as Nate, I can perhaps better understand the All-or-Nothing approach. 1 Cor. 14:33 says God is not the author of confusion; Heb. 13:8 says Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever; Mal. 3:6 says “I am the Lord, I change not”; II Tim. 3:16 says all scripture is given by inspiration of God. When one does begin to see inconsistencies and failed prophecies and the like, then something is wrong.

    But many christians aren’t Fundamentalist, and some are even willing to toss out the OT altogether and just have the NT + Psalms & Proverbs. Fine. What about Jesus’ birth? The two genealogies do not mesh…explanations have been put forth, but the topic has never been decidedly solved. How it came to be that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in accordance with OT prophecies, is also suspect–everyone had to go back to the town of his ancestors for the census? That doesn’t make any kind of sense. Plus, the Quirinius (of Luke’s Census of Quirinius) is not recorded to have been in power or doing censuses before 6AD). So, there are enough issues throughout that one cannot claim that we threw out the entire diamond (of the bible) b/c we found a speck of quartz in it (or whatever).

    Free choice…yes…after much unhappy searching, I felt compelled by the facts to renounce my faith. I suppose I could have chosen to continue believing, using the justification that “well, the bible is true…I just don’t understand it well enough and satan is getting to me b/c I had the audacity to look at this stuff in the first place”. But if I say that about the bible, why not say that about the Koran? What’s the difference? How could one prove one right and the other false?


  17. It is interesting that your study of other religions played a catalyzing role. At this point I have come to like Daniel Dennett’s idea of having standard religious education in the public schools. Nothing insulting, just good level-playing field discussion of the claims and beliefs of all the major religions. As believers we do not want to see this happen, because we favor a deliberated sheltering, lest the Devil gain a foothold. But I’ve come to see this as a week position, and one that nearly admits of a serious problem a priori.

    After a year of intense reading of everything and everyone, it was discouraging to find in the end that Wikipedia already summarized the bottom line in a number of its entries. Authorship of the Bible, origin of various doctrines, advent of belief in hell and satan, resurrection/dying-rising beliefs in other faiths, virgin birth, etc.

    It left me with a “duh” and a “sucker” feeling about it all. The information was always right there, it checks out if you check into it, and many, many people in the world already knew about it. The only thing preventing me from having a more balanced knowledge was our community tactic of voluntary insularity.


  18. Thanks Brisancian!

    I completely agree with you (and Daniel Dennett) about teaching religion in public schools. I have an article that he wrote about it saved somewhere, and I’ll probably turn it into a blog post at some point.

    It left me with a “duh” and a “sucker” feeling about it all. The information was always right there, it checks out if you check into it, and many, many people in the world already knew about it. The only thing preventing me from having a more balanced knowledge was our community tactic of voluntary insularity.

    That’s exactly how I felt. What was so crazy to me was that the church I grew up in was always very good about teaching us about all the “false doctrines” that were out in the world. We knew why people taught them, and we knew why they were wrong. So we felt prepared, no matter who we were talking to.

    But when I began discovering some of these severe problems with Christianity and the Bible in particular, I felt completely swindled. Why hadn’t these issues been brought up to me before? The only reason I could think of was that they had no good answers for them. And that suspicion was confirmed the more I studied.


  19. @William
    ”when i figured it all out, i felt like a fool for ever believing to begin with.”

    But at least you figured it out.
    The question,now how do we stop the likes of William Lane Craig poisoning the well?


  20. I wish I knew. When i saw the issues, i immediately saw what they pointed to. Despite a little fear and initial uncertainty, and with the overabundance of issues, it didn’t take long to awaken. It became obvious, and everything started to make so much more sense. I truly felt liberated from a bondage I hadn’t previously known I was under.

    When people have grown up in it, and arent aware of the real issues, I can understand believing in anything. Like if someone lived indoors their entire life and were told that the sky was red. Once they actually stepped outside and saw it was blue, i’d hope they’d stop thinking it were red.I would like to believe that once everyone saw the issues, they’d wake up too – but seeing they do not, I just don’t know. Some people just seem to create any reason to justify a red sky, despite all the evidence against it.

    It seems so much like that children’s story, “the emperor’s new clothes…” I just don’t get it.


  21. It is something have pondered on for a while as well.
    The irony is that if it were a few hundred thousand that believed it would be declared a medical condition/mental illness.

    The big question for me is, if the current consensus is that Jesus was an actual historical figure, bit NOT the bloke reflected in the gospels then just who the heck was he?


  22. I just assume he was a charismatic guy going around promoting the golden rule, who a few people thought or hoped was the messiah. like forest gump running the world. When he died, they struggled to make sense of everything… then mathew comes in and does his best to tie him to the OT as if everything about him was prophesied. it was enough for those who liked what jesus was about.

    Who knows what happened to the body. It’s probably still in it’s tomb, but no one knows where it was buried. I think it took quite a while for the Christ momentum to build. But for poorly educated, impoverished and oppressed people, the notion of becoming rich and victorious in the afterlife, while their overlords would perish in hell probably seemed appealing, helping them trudge through their crappy lives.

    Others, just ignorant but liked the moral principles of the NT. They found some “truths” within a few pages and that became enough to validate the whole.

    It’s just a guess. Basically the life of bryan. “…only the true messiah would say that he wasn’t…”


  23. @ Nate

    “I was writing a couple of lessons that showed some of the flaws in other religions, like Islam.”

    I am an Ahmadi Muslim.

    What flaws did you find in Quran/Islam/Muhammad? Please


  24. Yes, Nate, that would be interesting. I would love to follow the conversation between you and paarsurrey–I don’t actually know much about Islam…this might be educational! 🙂


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