Around April of 2010, I finally decided to talk to my parents and in-laws about my growing doubts. Though I was now aware of several problem areas in the Bible, I thought the best approach would be to tell them about the articles I had found on the book of Daniel. I knew those articles could present the information better than I could, and I imagined that my family would be just as troubled by the information as I had been. If so, then we could kind of go through the process together, instead of it being a “me against them” sort of thing.
So one day, I was talking to my dad on the phone, and I brought up those articles on Daniel. I think we had already been talking about spiritual things, so it was a natural place to bring it up. I was very nervous. I didn’t go into a lot of detail about what the articles said, because I wanted him to read them for himself. So I just gave a bit of a primer, saying that the articles made some claims about historical mistakes in the Book of Daniel, and that the evidence seemed solid. My dad didn’t seem too bothered by that, and he said that history was not an exact science — history has had to revise its accounts many times before. Of course, he was right. So I gave just a couple of specifics, like Daniel calling Belshazzar the son of Nebuchadnezzar, even though we knew from historical sources around that time that he was not. Dad still didn’t seem too bothered (I honestly don’t blame him for that — he hadn’t seen any of this evidence for himself yet, and he had no other reasons to be skeptical of the Bible), so I just told him that I’d like for him to read the articles, because I thought they had made a good case, and I hadn’t been able to find any answers to them yet. He agreed, and our conversation moved on. I emailed the articles to him shortly thereafter.
Later that month, I had to go to some business meetings in Atlanta for a couple of days and decided to stay with my parents, who live nearby. One night I was sitting in the living room with my dad and my youngest brother, who was living with my parents at the time, and I asked my dad if he’d had a chance to read those articles yet. He told me that he had started them, but he quit when he saw that the guy who wrote them was an atheist. I was pretty frustrated by that, because I didn’t think it was a good reason to dismiss the articles’ points. So I told him that regardless of the writers’ beliefs, he had some real evidence backing his claims, and I thought they were worth considering. I ended up telling him that I’d hoped he would read them because I was very bothered by them, and I thought they may be right. That final admission got his attention. It also ruined any chance I’d had at keeping us all on the same page; now it was going to be “me against them.” Instead of us all considering these things together, I would be the one presenting the evidence against Christianity, and they would be the ones defending it.
We talked for a while longer that night, but since no one else had read the material, our conversation didn’t go very far. Later that night, I talked to my youngest brother for a while and went into much more detail with him about problems throughout the Bible, not just those in Daniel. He mostly listened, didn’t comment much. The rest of my trip was very strained. And I’m not sure if Dad ever read those articles or not.
Talking to my in-laws didn’t go much better. I don’t remember the details of those early conversations, but I essentially only succeeded in freaking everyone out. I don’t think it ever occurred to any of them that I might have a point — they were just trying to figure out how they could help save my faith. My wife was actually in the same position I was too, but I hadn’t wanted her to admit that yet. I knew it would compromise her relationship with everyone if they knew that she shared my doubts, and I wanted the heat from the situation to be centered on me.
I was still reading a lot at this point. I had read some apologetic books already, and I was still going through some others. I was also given various articles by family members or the few people in our congregation who now knew about my doubts. I contacted some of the preachers I knew who were knowledgeable about the Bible’s history to see if they had any explanations for the issues I was encountering, but their answers weren’t satisfactory to me — they were really just speculation. For instance, I already mentioned that Daniel 5 says Belshazzar was the son of Nebuchadnezzar — in fact, it refers to them as father and son 7 times in that one chapter. Our historical sources (multiple ones) let us know that Belshazzar was actually the son of Nabonidus. How can this be resolved? Well, perhaps it meant “father and son” figuratively. Or perhaps Nebuchadnezzar was Belshazzar’s maternal grandfather, though there’s no historical evidence to think that’s the case. For some people, these answers may have been fine, but I needed something more certain. After all, if the writer of Daniel really had believed that Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar were father and son, there’s no clearer way he could communicate that than what’s said in Daniel 5. Why would God allow such a misleading passage in his word? And of course, it’s just one of many.
Since the answers I was receiving didn’t seem to answer the questions, the pressure continued to mount. In the next post, I’ll cover how the spring and summer of 2010 unfolded.