A Weird Glimpse of My Past

Best part of this debate: Bill Nye

Best part of this debate: Bill Nye.

Several years ago, when I was still a Christian, I read a blog post about the “once saved, always saved” doctrine of Christianity. As a dutifully active Christian blogger myself, I left a comment with my approval and this sentence: I’m pretty sure in the security of my faith.

Even mere months before my deconversion I was saying similar things, if only to myself. I’ll always be a Christian. There’s nothing that could convince me I’m wrong. It’s too important. We all know how that turned out.

That comment of mine came to my attention again recently when someone happened to “like” it, and then posted a comment in response to someone else who shared their deconversion story on the same article. I find this very amusing, since my comment is undoubtedly seen as the words of a true Christian. So let’s look at how this person who liked my comment responded to a story of leaving Christianity that is quite similar to my own.

First, the ex-Christian said, “I stopped going to church because I didn’t ‘feel’ God inside me and he didn’t seem to listen when I prayed.” The response begins with, “Your religious experience was all self generated as you stated in your autobiography. You yourself stated you didn’t feel God in you and He didn’t seem to answer prayer. You showed no sincere desire to live to please God and the choices you made about church revolved around others and not the truth of the Word of God.” The author of the blog also chimed in, saying things like, “If someone is truly a Christian, they do some serious investigation and research (which isn’t hard to find) and discover that everything you said about God and his word in your comment isn’t true.”

Here’s why I’m writing about this: my own story of deconversion is similar to the story told by the ex-Christian here, except that I did “feel god” and some of my prayers did seem to be listened to. When I set out on a serious search for the truth, I discovered the opposite of what the blog author claimed I would find. I found that the things the ex-Christian in this story said are quite true, and I realized that despite how genuinely I believed, my religious experience was certainly self-generated…as is anyone’s.

So how would these people react to my history of being a Christian according to their own criteria, now that I’ve discovered the religion isn’t true? I’m sure they would come up with some sort of tortuous argument of dismissal and continue to claim I couldn’t have been a real Christian, despite the fact that I had all the experiences and belief and faith that they hold up as evidence of real Christians. After all, the person who liked my comment finished theirs with this: “The fact that you are denying the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ proves that you are an apostate and that you have contrived with your godless mind to repudiate the truth of the Scriptures and the work of God in the hearts and lives of His children. Praise God He is well able to defend us from your pernicious ways and preserve us for all eternity.”

The simple act of deconverting is enough to prove that we were never Christians at all, and that our intention is to harm people–the definition of pernicious. Wonderful. This is why it’s so hard to have reasonable discussions with many religious people. Their supposed proof rests on unsubstantiated claims about the inner thoughts and desires of people they often know almost nothing about.

The “once saved, always saved” doctrine requires such arrogant and hateful dismissal of the experiences of others because that’s the only way to reconcile the existence of people like me with their beliefs. I know this not because I’m making unfounded claims about the motivations of people I don’t know, but because I was once one of them. These Christians have probably never been where I am, because if they were I doubt they would say such stupid things. But I’ve been where they are. I saw the arguments through their eyes for years. I lived it from the inside, and I was completely serious about it.

I was a real Christian. I had all the experiences, all the belief, all the faith, until I embarked on the most honest search for truth that I was capable of. At the beginning of it I had no doubt that I would remain a Christian; I simply wanted to find out which version of Christianity was the most consistent with the evidence. I did not willfully undermine my faith. I was dragged out of it against my will, all the while deeply afraid and fighting to stay.

The simple truth is that I cannot believe lies just because I want to, when I already know they’re false. Maybe some Christians can, and maybe that’s what really makes you a “true Christian”.

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6 responses to “A Weird Glimpse of My Past

  1. There is no way I can use logic to out think you or convince you, nor do I hope to be able to, but this one thing I know, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. God loves the whole world, and does not want for any to leave this world without knowing this. How do I know this? I realize that what we fill our minds with greatly affects what we believe, and it also affects our physical selves and what we do. Many times, I have prayed and asked God to show me that He cares and still loves me. He has shown me signs, miracles and many obvious healings. I have felt the unexplainable peace that passes understanding. There have been many times when I haven’t “felt” things, yet those are not times when He was not there, those are times when I needed to trust and ask for the faith to believe.

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    • You don’t really need logic, just some evidence that the claims are true. Given evidence, I can take care of the logic part. I don’t need to be convinced; I need good evidence.

      Personal feelings and unsupported hearsay are not evidence. I already have all of that. People in other religions have the same sort of experiences, and I’ve even created a complete person with their own personality and voice in my mind and interacted with them for days. That doesn’t make them real. It just means I’m really good at imagining things.

      When your imagination is so vivid, you can’t trust what it produces as evidence of anything outside of your brain.

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  2. I come from the other side. I grew up in a Christian home and my parents moved to Florida when my stepdad started his own business a month before I turned 18 and 2 months before I graduated high school. I was free to my vices with a 2 story, 5 bedroom house, acres of land and an in ground pool in the back yard. Only problem was that I sincerely believed all of the Christianity stuff. I assumed I was indoctrinated so I set out to disprove my faith so I would be free to act on my desires without my nagging conscience convicting me when I did live to fulfill my own desires. I set out hoping to free myself of my perceived prison of indoctrination and I researched every discipline from philosophy to ecology. I wanted so bad to be free of all of the Christianity stuff, but the problem was that I actually believed it and couldn’t just shrug it all off.

    In all of my studies and in all of my efforts to free myself from the prison of indoctrination that I assumed I was in, the exact opposite actually happened. I realized I was adhering to a certain standard, not believing it as actual truth. I found the opposite of what you did. I studied every atheist from Bill Nye to Neil Degrasse Tyson hoping they had the key that would unlock my prison. I cant even say that it was an honest pursuit of truth, I was heavily biased towards finding a way out of all of the Christianity bull, but I couldn’t refuse what I discovered. Just like Christianity, science doesn’t have all of the answers. Not even a lot of them. But when I started to reason the evidences that existed on both sides I couldn’t avoid the obvious conclusion anymore. I had been indoctrinated to some extent, but for the most part what I had heard growing up in a Southern Baptist Church was true.

    I will tell you this though. I do not believe it is God’s will for every single person in the history of creation to be saved. If it were His will and priority that all people be saved, then why isn’t everyone saved? There must be something that God values more than universal salvation. The majority of Christians will say that thing is free will. That every person is not a Christian because God wants us to have free will. But that operates under the assumption that God’s greatest priority, even greater than all people being saved, is that people have the opportunity to choose what they want.

    I believe, because of what Scripture very obviously teaches, that God does have a greater priority than all people being saved. That priority is His own glory. For further explanation on that, I’ll refer you to Romans 9:22-24. I realize this doesn’t answer any of your questions regarding the Christian faith, and I’d like to point out that I have not set out to do so. As a Christian, my sole responsibility is to share with you the Gospel message and considering your background I assume you are well familiar with this. However, I would like to assure you that no discipline of science or philosophy is inerrant and should not be treated as if it were. I assume at this point you may very well be a staunch non-theist, or at least very well founded in your absence of belief in the Christian faith, and I am not determined nor expectant in changing your mind. But I think it is beneficial for all experiences of this circumstance to be presented before the matter is pontificated upon.

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    • I don’t know if you’ve read any of my other articles, but I’ve already addressed pretty much all of the points you made in this comment. In fact your third paragraph is almost identical to an argument I made in a recent article. Of course, since the Bible says in at least two places that God’s will is for everyone to be saved, I came to a rather different conclusion than you did (I dealt with that question years ago when I was still a Christian, and determined the traditional idea of hell as eternal torment must not be true.)

      But I appreciate the thoughtful comment. It’s interesting to hear from someone who actually wanted to leave, but didn’t. I’ve known a few others like you, with various motivations for reexamining Christianity. Many of them return to it because of the fear of hell…Pascal’s Wager, you know.

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  3. I definitely relate to this feeling. I also “felt God” and believed that prayers were answered and had a very active, personal faith at some points in my life. I relate also to trying to find the version of Christianity that fit the evidence… and instead finding the “no god” option to be the only conclusion to be consistent.

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