Sunday, February 23, 2014

From atheism to theism (a response)

I recently read a blog post on atheist revolution entitled 'How an Atheist Could Become a Christian.' Although I found this post to be interesting I thought I would reply to it by stating as a former fundamentalist Pentecostal believer why in my opinion it would be highly improbable that I would ever return to theism. The author of the post mentions that some atheists miss some aspects of their former lives as believers. This does seem to be the case and I have read about other more well known atheists discuss how they missed the music, the sense of community, etc. The author of the post also compared the switch from atheism to theism like trying to unlearn how to read. I think that my analogy will serve as a better description of the process which I intend to share shortly.

It literally took me six years to be completely free from my religious beliefs and indoctrination. The last thing to go was my fear of the Lord and my very real fear of death regarding what would happen to me if I died in my condition of unbelief. One of the things that turned me off the most as a believer is that when I sought help from the church elders or my fellow believers I was often told not to question matters so much and to trust God. I was warned against reading books that questioned the validity of the scriptures etc. When I first left the church some (very few) of the members and elders of the church visited me with the intent of getting me to repent and return to the ways of the Lord.

Once the church members and elders realized that they could not convince me to return they stopped visiting with me and started spreading rumors about me. About five years after leaving the church I ran into an old friend and he froze for a moment with his mouth open staring at me. He then ran at me and gave me a hug and said he could not believe that I was still around. I asked what he meant and he replied that they had said in the church that I had died from a drug overdose a while back! Another former friend I ran into once told me that he heard that I was seen on the street by someone from the church half bent over like a junkie! The funny thing is that I have never used drugs in my life!

My deconversion was very difficult for me and those six years were very trying times. I remember that I had addressed God in my very last prayer with a proposition. I basically told Jesus that if he would reveal himself to me as he did with Thomas in John 20:25 that I would be his faithful servant for the rest of my life.

So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." John 20:25

In the subsequent verses Jesus grants Thomas his request although he chastises him for not believing what he had heard from the other disciples about his resurrection and return from the dead.

26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:26-27

After all these years (19 to be exact) I have yet to have this one wish fulfilled. I haven't given up hope in it but I think that the probability of it ever happening is highly improbable. Faith wasn't good enough for Thomas and it is not good enough for me either. As an atheist I demand empirical and objective evidence before I commit myself to a belief system. I have come to the conclusion that I could never be a theist again. There are several reasons for this. The first is that after much study I don't find the Bible to be a credible source of information, faith without evidence is irrational to me, and my studies into the mind helped explain all of what I once thought were supernatural experiences.

I compare my conversion to watching an amazing magic trick for the first time and my deconversion to having that same amazing trick and its secrets revealed to me. As a kid I was fascinated with magic and I even had a magic set that I once used in a school talent show. When I had my first daughter I bought books on sleight of hand and card tricks to use later to amaze my child. I learned and practiced may tricks and got quite good at the sleight of hand. But one thing I learned from my little foray in magic was that once you know the trick it loses its mystique.

Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, in fact, all religions are in my opinion nothing more than beliefs based entirely on ancient myths and superstitions that dominated the minds of men before science had dispelled many of those erroneous beliefs. I consider myself to be a modern day Thomas: there's not an argument in the world that any apologists could make to convince me about the truth of Christianity nor the reality of their god. The term "God did it" is not in my mind an answer to the many questions that science has yet to solve such as the exact process of the origins of the universe or the origins of life itself. In fact, this so called answer does nothing more than raise more questions than it answers them. 

The return to Christianity is in my mind only available to those who have never really left the faith. They might call themselves atheist but deep inside they still had questions about their faith and were more agnostic than they were atheist. I don't miss the music, the community, nor anything I experienced as a believer. Christian music and worship disgusts me to no end. In order to be a believer you have to first degrade yourself and accept that without Christ you are nothing. You must worship him and tell him how great he is all the time and live forever in gratitude for saving you from your disgusting sinful condition and ultimately eternal damnation. 

Christianity in my current view is not that different from slavery. There is the master (God), the subservient believer, the laws that you must live by (commandments), the idea that you must obey the Lord, the idea that he knows your thoughts and the very intents of your heart! Christianity is dominated by fear and subservience. Like a slave who has obtained a taste of freedom I could never go back!

Note: All biblical passages are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures.


  1. Thank you for your interesting post!
    I was born and raised a Jew and I spent the first 18-20 years of my life both observant and in extended study of my forebears' religion. I can still read Hebrew and Aramaic and have a certificate that allows me to teach Hebrew School. When I left home for University, I realized that I had never asked myself whether I believed in God, having spent those early years in study and observance, but never questioning any of it. It came as quite a shock when I realized that not only did I not believe, but that my parents and most of my teachers had actually never examined their own beliefs! I have been an atheist now for over 50 years, have faced the prospect of imminent death on two occasions, and have yet to find a "God-shaped hole" in my psyche. Separating myself from Judaism as a religion was not so difficult, but separating from my cultural heritage as a Jew was more so, inasmuch as much of the world continues to assign that identity to us whether we like it or not!

    1. Thank you for your comment Harvey and welcome to my blog. I can see how your cultural identity is literallly tied to your former religious beliefs. It's even more interesting that you have read and studied the scriptures in Hebrew and Aramaic and were not convinced of their veracity. Many biblical scholars that started out as believing Christians have gone through the process of learning the languages of the scriptures to get at the truth and have come out either agnostic (Bart Erhman) or Atheist (Robert M. Price). I never read the scriptures in the original languages I have studied them thoroughly in English and Spanish but did not find the stories in the narratives convincing.

  2. Oddly enough, it was not so much reading the Torah in the original language that led to my unbelief. It was, rather, when I first asked myself whether or not I felt any "faith" or whether reality required any of Scripture to explain the world as we know it. All that study and observance had simply blinded me to the central question of whether or not any "God" had ever existed, other than in the minds of men who seemed to "need" a Deity to help them get through what is often a frightening and harsh existence on this Earth.

    1. That's interesting and very informative. In fact, that is my current position now I don't feel a need for a god to explain anything in the world that cannot be explained naturally or as a random occurrence. I have no need for a god in my life for any reason and find reality a lot more exciting and challenging.