Thursday, September 2, 2010

From Christian to Atheist Pt. 6

The straw that broke the camels back for me once and for all and finally gave me that last impetus to abandon my faith happened in one of my churches seminary classes. I had been attending seminary and was very excited to see in our text book that we would soon be talking about the theory of evolution, but when that day came something surprising happened that upset me a great deal. In fact there were two things that happened to me while I was at seminary that infuriated me beyond measure.

The first and most insignificant incident was that we had a student in our class; a man who was at the time in his late thirties. He basically cheated his way through the entire year by various means, our tests were pretty simple the instructor used to give us an outline of what we needed to know for the test and on test day you just had to put it on paper. What irritated me about the fact that this man was cheating through seminary was that he outwardly projected the appearance of an upright and honest Christian, and instead here he was acting like a sheep in wolfs clothing. He had all of the elders of the church fooled with his charade of holiness and even though he was not a minister he was often allowed to sit on the altar with the rest of the ministers and elders of the church throughout the service. One day myself and a couple of other students brought this problem to the instructor of the class privately, it was a problem because he was the number one student because of his cheating, he always got one hundred on every exam.

What the instructor did shocked us all! He literally said "leave it in the hands of the Lord" and that was the end of it. He did not privately approach him or chastise him for it, in fact he did nothing at all. At the end of the school year during the graduation ceremony I ended up being the number two student of the class and the cheater ended up being the outstanding student of the year. I went home and tore my diploma and was at this time seriously considering never going back to my home church again, but I didn't and I stuck it out a little longer.

The second and most significant event that pushed me closer to leaving was when we finally reached the chapter on alternative theories of creation, I had been anticipating this for most of the year but my excitement that day was short lived. When the instructor came to the theory of evolution a big wide grin came upon his face, he had that look of mockery in his eyes. With that he looked up at the class and said "and finally we've come to the theory of evolution now know that I am a son of God so if you want to believe that you came from a monkey then feel free to do so". He laughed along with the entire class, I was the only one that was not laughing and then he skipped the chapter altogether.

One thing I can say about myself is that I have always been a studious individual, I love learning all kinds of things on all types of subjects. When I was a believer I used to study other religious books from their source materials in order to effectively refute them. I learned about the Jehovah's witnesses from their book 'Reasoning through the scriptures', I read the book of Mormon etc etc. once I took that challenge of reading the bible in its entirety I ended up reading the entire bible four times! I read it 3 times in English and once in Spanish just comparing the two languages I saw many differences in interpretation. As an atheist I have read books on atheism and I tend to favor the classics, but I have also been very interested in evolution and have read most of Richard Dawkins books on the matter and several other authors. I defend my unbelief as effectively as I defended Christianity and have been very direct with anyone who asks me about my religious beliefs or lack thereof.


  1. Hey there,

    I couldn't find an email address or other contact details on your site so I figured I would leave a comment.

    Really enjoying your site and was wondering if you would consider a link exchange with mine (Linked in my name, my contact details are on the site)

    Cheers and hopefully hear from you soon.


  2. Hi Chatpilot, I am going to try and comment on all of your ‘journey’ posts in this one place.
    Opening responce
    First, let me be clear that my comments are intended for your consideration, not to negate your experiences or to debate your position – simply as food for thought. You may of course respond to and challenge what I say, or to query what I mean.

    So I will not spend much time on your time with various churches other than to observe that none were mainstream sacramental churches and none supported by sound scholarship – what you related about your seminary experience is proof enough of that.

    However, there are real rays of light among the darkness of your experiences; one is your realisation that the church you were in was not the answer for you.

    The charismatic evangelical churches are characterised by initial ‘highs’ that prove difficult to sustain and make one vulnerable to crashes. This is really basic human psychology.

    Perhaps too you may have noticed the age spread of members of those churches. If they are anything like the ones here then there would have been few older people and those that were there were often there with/for their kids.

    So what I am saying is that what you experienced is not all that unique and may be more a result of how those churches choose to exercise their faith than anything about the existence of God.

    There is a key difference in the theology of the reformist churches and the mainstream churches and it relates to the theology of salvation. The reformists follow the doctrine that salvation is through faith alone – so they go all out to “save” as many as possible. Unfortunately that is all many tend to offer – the ‘high’ of salvation. Few provide a post salvation environment beyond saving others (which leads to personal ‘burn out’); few go on to focus on the real message of salvation – what faith inspires us to – works. That may in part explain why many who attend sacramental churches tend to find a more enduring faith journey.

    From the experience of others it seems that a negative experience with the theology of a fringe church is not reason enough to conclude there is no God. But it is certainly reason to question what we believe about God.

    Sala kahle - peace

  3. In this comment I will try to address two of the triggers that brought you to atheism.

    1) The cheating student condoned by the seminary. This is about the seminary rather than God. Can you conclude that because a person who professes a belief in God turns out to be unethical that their belief in God must therefore be wrong – I am sure you do not think that.

    2) The avoidance of the evolution question. This is clearly poor scholarship. In another comment I raised the response of the Catholic Church to evolution that in 1860 (one year after Darwin’s work was published) did not refute the German Bishops who recognised that Darwin's ideas was not unacceptable to Catholics. Also, in 1868 Newman said “Mr. Darwin's theory need not then to be atheistical, be it true or not; it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of Divine Prescience”. Bear in mind that the science behind Darwin was still being debated by scientists at that time.

    In a healthy environment of true scholarship, as the Catholic Church reiterated at the second Vatican council, there can be no clash between faith and the evidence of science.

    sala kahle -peace

  4. In this comment I will address your third reason for atheism.

    3) You observed that there are parallels between what you observed during your ministry and psychological phenomena such as hypnosis.

    It should not be a surprise that the mechanisms that exist within us can have different applications or uses. WHy should God not be able to interact with us through a know psychological path?

    ... and yes there certainly are those “preachers” who use techniques like hypnosis to create the effects they do in a false way.

    Yes, there are crooks out there, accept it and recognise that exploiting the vulnerable through religion as always been fertile ground for con artists and others. if only 99% of it is the work of sham artists then 1% is real and evidence that there is more to life than the material world.

    From your own ministry can you dismiss absolutely everything that happened as sham?
    Certainly the mainstream churches take a very different view of the charismatic exercises that seem to be a preoccupation of some of the evangelical churches. They show a lot more discernment.

    Observe for example how the strict the Catholic Church is about not recognising miracles until they have been thoroughly and objectively reviewed. Yet it only needs one proven miracle to dismantle the entire atheist case.

    sala kahle -peace

  5. You spoke about the God of the OT.

    Logic and rationality has a role to play. Let’s do a reality check here.

    Either you believe that God did the bad stuff you point to in the OT (i.e. the OT is accurate) in which case you acknowledge that there is a God, you just happen not to like Him

    ... OR ...

    You don’t believe the OT account of events at all – it is all untrue – in which case it is hardly rational to use what you believe to be untrue to prove your point about there being no God ...

    OK, so far there is no rationality for the OT leading anyone to conclude there is no God

    ... BUT ...

    There is another option, that reality is different from the all true all untrue options above.

    My next comment will address this.

    sala kahle - peace

  6. Still on the topic of the OT God.

    Try to reconstruct in your mind the time of Abraham’s nomadic Mesopotamian tribe - early bronze age – human written language was still fairly new – about 500 years old. Then picture Abraham, with his little tribe living in a totally pagan world with all the beliefs and rituals that accompanied it.

    Now Abraham has a revelation that there is only one God, a spiritual God – but that is about all he gets revealed to him. In the context it is probably as much as he can cope with. It threatens his position in society, yet he persists with this belief.

    Abraham had no religion or theology for this new God of his – the ten commandments were still over a thousand years into the future – so of course he sets his new God into the context of what was familiar to him. He replaced the pagan gods in ritual etc with the one spiritual God revealed to him.

    So what does this little band of “chosen people” do? They go about life’s struggle for survival. Through mainly oral tradition they ‘record’ the events in their life and like the pagans around them attribute everything that happens to the favour or otherwise of their God.

    This progresses through their time into and out of Egypt, the capture of Jerusalem, the exile in Babylon, the return to Jerusalem and ultimately to the time around the birth of Christ.

    However, over this time and buried in among the oral tradition describing a God that wins and looses battles for them there is a growing revelation of His divine nature and will – this helped by the prophets.

    Now in this context was there a genocidal God? Or was there an oral tradition that ascribed every event to God? Reading the specific revelations of God and His teachings the message is clearly one of love and consideration for others; of service ahead of ritual.

    sala kahle -peace

  7. Finaally you talk about doubt and personal growth ... about a period of doubt, of prayer for guidance etc. Yeah, I have been there too!

    All learning and growth has as a driver doubt – if nothing else, doubt that you know everything. Belief in God or your atheist position requires a leap of faith – so doubt is a natural companion. It is through doubt that we grow in our belief system.

    Doubt leads us to modify and/or replace old knowledge or views with new. The new may be an expansion of what we know or different knowledge, or a mix of both. What we have to be careful to get right is that we have not rejected old knowledge invalidly and replaced it with invalid new knowledge.

    So you should subject your atheism to rational, sceptical review; and satisfy a sceptical observer that your reasons for rejecting a theist position are valid.

    The reasons you have given so far do not stand up to scrutiny.
    1) Cheating student condoned – poor scholarship at ‘seminary’
    2) Evolution avoided – poor scholarship at ‘seminary’
    3)Hypnosis parallels – logical that these parallels should exist
    4) God of the OT – accounts are as expected given the context, genuine scholarship accepts and expects the problems you describe, recognising that an appreciation of what the bible actually is – neither literal nor inerrant – is different from what you may have grown up believing.

    I understand that you don’t believe in the God of literal inerrant bible as taught by many of the fundamentalist evangelical churches – well nor do I. Yet when I looked at all the evidence for the existence of God it was just too hard to dismiss it all and make that huge leap of faith to stay atheist.

    Sala kahla - peace

  8. It doesn't take faith to not believe in a god any more than it takes faith to not believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. You twist the meaning of the work faith. Faith is believing in the unseen.

  9. Amen ex-minister1! Santa and the Easter Bunny are perfect examples.
    Post after post after post of regurgitated, mindlessly repeated rhetoric combined with facetious pity and fake well-wishing (arrogant Christian "love") seems to be the standard response from the Christian visitors here. As if 10 ridiculously lengthy posts will shout down the absurdity of a talking, flame englufed, shrubbery speaking to Moses (commanding genocide and land-theft).
    I do not marry a woman based on "faith" - I get to know her and base such an important life decision on rational thought, reasonable conclusions, and verifiable INFO (you know, dates). Same for car loans and home loans. I do not trust the health of children to "faith," and prefer scientific, rigorously tested, verifiable, medical science.
    I likewise refuse to accept a 4,000 year old book of Bronze Age myths, the Pentateuch's unverified-by-archaeology (recorded history, geology, or any other source for that matter) claims of Egyptian capitulation, Canaanite baby murder, Herculean legends of Samson murdering 3,000 Philistines (3,000 seat capacity buildings did not even exist in ancient Philistine society) and other supernatural Judges, and the subsequent 2,000 years of apologists who reformed it all into Christianity (yay, hellfire! water walking ZombieChrist, magic tongues of flame hats, and all manner of absurdity).
    Popular "science" didn't even know that maggots did not spontaneously generate out of rotting meat, but were instead fly spawn, until the late 1500s... *AD*. They didn't know leprosy was NOT a curse from an angry god requiring animal sacrifice - and was instead the result of exposure to the Hansen's Disease bacteria.
    akakiwibear, have you really "been there too!" (more facetious condescention)? If you have, you'd realize Midianite babies are not for murdering and little Midianite girls are not for raping. If you've been where we are you'd stay - it's not a *momentary* bout of doubt - it's the clarity of reason. Pixie dust is not a matter of "faith," it's a matter of delusion masked in rhetoric, faux-reason, and pseudo-science.
    Keep up the good work Chatpilot!!!