I have been a lurker for quite some time on the board. While I haven't posted much since I registered (this is number 4!), I do come here every day and will become more active the more comfortable I get.
I am married and my wife and I have 2 boys who I love to death. I'm Canadian so when I use extra "u's" in my words, you'll have to excuse me. And yes, please imagine I say "aboot" when I use the word "about" in one of my posts (to get the real flavour of a Canadian post.)
I thought I would share my experiences with religion with you guys. It's pretty long (sorry!) and if you skip over it, that's ok. I have been religion free (Praise FSM!) for over 20 years.
I grew up in a Christian household. My mother and father are deaf – my mom was born that way, my dad went that way when he was a small kid. My mom didn’t go to school as a child – she worked on the family farm. My dad went to school, but had a pretty rough go of it because he couldn’t hear (teachers weren’t as tolerant about disabilities in those days I guess). Anyway, my mom and dad became Christians before I was born, so growing up it was all I knew. I went to church on Sundays, went to a Christian version of the Scouts, and did Youth Group when I hit my teens. Every summer I went to Christian camp for two weeks (hated it – the church part of it was all right, but the other kids could be asses).
My father began a ministry for the deaf community in our city. There was nothing like that available, and he felt a burden for his fellow hearing impaired. They had some success with the ministry. Sunday services were averaging about 40 people, and they brought in a fully committed Reverend in the mid 80’s (my dad was only a lay preacher). This man was the only ordained minister in North America who was actually deaf. Pretty cool. I guess the temptation of the single parishioners (both male and female) were too much for the new Reverend and he was summarily stripped of his license in the mid 90’s. Nice. My father continued with the ministry for another few years, and retired it in the late 90’s; too much scandal and not enough people attending for him to continue his work.
I also have a brother. He’s fine now, but growing up he was the worst kid you ever knew. Every class in school has one – the mean kid. The kid that gets into trouble constantly. The “bad” kid that smokes when he’s 12. That was my brother. He was like that due to what happened at the Christian version of the cub scouts we attended, only we didn’t find that out until he was older that he was molested regularly by one of the volunteers (http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2000/06/05/molester000605.html
He sued (successfully, BTW) the church. Growing up for me was hard, but I was content as I had my friends and church activities. My brother turned his life around 9 years ago and is now a productive member of society.
I’m not bringing these scandalous events here as justification for not believing. In fact, I found that these events only served to strengthen my faith at the time. Even though these rotten things were happening around me, I still genuinely believed that Jesus was the Son of God and he was watching out for me. I still believed, even though things were hell at home because of my brother, that it was real. I am only mentioning them here so you can get a picture of what was going on around me as I was growing up in church.
While I was in high school, I went from one extreme to another. I was “holier than thou” for a little while, a regular guy for a little while, and then rebellious (drinking and smoking – never did drugs. Even until this day I’ve been high three times in my life. Not my cuppa as it makes me sleepy). When I was in my late teens, I went on a missions trip through Teen Missions International – we went to Guatemala to build a two room school house, did street ministry, and it was an absolute blast. It was there that I truly made God and Jesus the centre of my life. I had always been a believer, but it hit that “deeper meaning” when you finally comprehend what it was all for (the sacrifice of One Man), and I felt a real burden for non believers and what I perceived as the general decline of morality in our society. I wanted to make a change, if not in the world then at least in my own life. I wanted God to show me what He had in store for me.
I waited. And waited. And waited. I prayed long and hard for God to show me what I was going to do for Him. I didn’t care what it was, I wanted a “sign”. Nothing. Odd? Maybe I was one for whom being a believer was enough. I mean, not everyone in the Bible had a special task to do for God. Some were just there to believe and I decided if being a regular Christian was enough, then let’s go!
I apologize in advance for sweeping generalities in this next section:
I did notice some things that started to make me uncomfortable. The followers of Christianity love nothing more than to kill and eat their own. Why is that? Is it a holiness contest? The same people firing arrows had skeletons in their own closets that needed to be dealt with. I was once asked why Christians are held to this unbelievably high standard in the eyes of the world and how unfair it is. Well, when your most vocal leaders are decrying the sins of the flesh with Stryper yet meeting with prostitutes in motels, what are we to think? When the more prominent church leaders today (Joel Osteen) won’t even take a stand on Larry King Live about what the bible says about homosexuals, what are we to think? And when we see Christian websites popping up, pointing out how the world is going to hell and their site is hosted on Blogger (which also hosts such fabulous websites as dirtybottomgays.blogspot.com), what are we to think? Finally, when people within Christian entertainment sing songs about how good God is, meanwhile they’re yanked screaming and naked from their closets, what are we to think?
I am using these as examples. I could use my own experiences in the church as examples, but none of you know about Sarah and her anti abortion rallies at the clinic downtown, and her subsequent patronage of said clinic a few months later. But you all know about Swaggert, Bakker et al.
To use the argument that I shouldn’t look to other Christians for answers was crazy – if the examples above are the result of believing in the bible, then no thanks. As Mike Warnke once said (something that wasn’t made up, BTW) “Better an honest sinner than a hypocritical Christian”.
And please – don’t flame me for the generalities above. I know that’s what they are, and I know not everyone is like that. So, no offence, ok? But I saw enough of it that it struck a chord.
In my early twenties, I stopped going to church. My church was very conservative and the parishioners were really old. There was a lot of gossip (a mainstay of most churches, it seems) and once they caught wind that I was rebellious in my later high school years, I wasn’t held in very high regard anymore (odd that I would be “penalized” for something from which I had repented, right? Parishioners in my church could forgive I guess, but never forget.) My friend Andrew and I started attending other churches, trying to find one that would suit us at that time in our lives. We tried Pentecostal churches (a couple were all right, a couple were scary, and one was downright frightening. Speaking in tongues was a not a phenomenon I had been exposed to and it kinda freaked me out a little) We tried Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran… we just couldn’t find what we wanted. I went out on my own and tried a Seventh Day Adventist church. Except for their propensity for declaring the end of the world, I thought this was a good fit. They were heavy on family values, living a healthy lifestyle, etc. But even that wasn’t the right fit.
I wanted to live the Bible the right way. I wanted Jesus to help me live my life the way that would make him proud. But he was silent.
While I was searching for a new church, I started to really get into my bible, specifically the Old Testament. Most of the services I attended at various churches (including my own) always focused on the New Testament. What about the old? It’s in the book, right? So I started to read it like any other novel.
As a result, I started to question God’s character.
Why was the loving God, creator of the universe, getting so angry all of the time? He was displeased with his creation that had turned their backs on him, whether consciously or not. How did God rectify this? By wiping them out. Sodom and Gomorrah, the Flood, sending the Jews to slaughter followers of other gods. I could not reconcile this behavior with the whole free will idea. If our will is free, why would God pass judgment before we died? If I chose to follow Baal, why would God send Elijah to eventually display God’s power then slaughter me? Why couldn’t God use a gentler approach to remind his creation that he was around? Why did he use violence to display his power? And why was he so much gentler in the NT?
God wasn’t sitting well with me.
I started to question events in the OT. I spoke to my minister about Noah and The Flood and he gave me the same theories as some have mentioned here (that miracles must have been involved, the animals could have been in stasis, etc.) Letting go of the physical impossibilities for a man in the middle east getting a hold of a polar bear or a koala, why weren’t the logistics of how God helped mentioned in the story? I mean, it was pretty specific on details as to its dimensions, right? If the animals were in stasis, why wasn’t that mentioned? If a miracle was involved, why wasn’t it conveyed? The miracle aspects bother me the most – God loves nothing more than to bring attention to himself in the OT. He had Joshua stay the sun so his army could defeat the enemy they warred against. This was the “miracle” of that story. Ezekiel’s wheel is a miracle. Jesus healing people left right and centre are miracles. Yet no miracles are mentioned here. Odd.
So I was left with only one option:
The story didn’t happen because it was impossible, and nothing in the story suggests God did anything other than to tell Noah what to do, cause it to rain and cause the rain to stop. No mention of miracles to keep people alive and a wooden ark afloat. Polar bears are not readily available in the middle east, yet polar bears exist today (along with Koalas, sloths, etc)
More disturbingly, who repopulated the world? How much incest was going on the get the population up again? My minister, not wanting to deal with this morally bankrupt scenario, told me that God must have created more people after the flood. But where was this mentioned in the Bible? It wasn’t mentioned after the creation story (that God created more people) so are we left to believe that Noah’s family got it on like Adam and Eve did with their children to repopoulate the world? Why would something so significant (creating more humans), something which would have demonstrated God’s power and glory, be left out of the story?
When this story fell apart for me, my world was turned upside down. I examined other stories more closely:
Moses and Aaron displaying God’s power to pharaoh.
Moses’ staff turned into a snake. The pharaoh’s priests matched Moses and Aaron’s displays feat for feat. How were they able to do that? Either their gods were real (but that couldn’t be, because God said he was the only one) or the devil, in disguise, helped them out.
Let’s say the devil helped them out.
Why doesn’t the devil do it anymore? If the devil is so determined to get people to lose sight from God, why is he using a “slow death” method of corrupting our youth through music, TV, drugs and Harry Potter, when all he would need to do is get someone to display the devil’s magic stunts, call him god and boom – the devil wins.
The Tower of Babel to explain different languages – did this actually happen?
Jonah and the whale (again, no mention of the miracle of keeping a man alive in a whale’s stomach for its journey) – did this actually happen?
There are psychics in the Bible. There’s no such thing as a psychic today (there are a lot of charlatans, mind you)
There were people who could talk to the dead in the Bible. There’s no such thing as someone who can do that today (there are a lot of charlatans, mind you)
It bothered me that I couldn’t trust the Old Testament because it left out so many glaring and obviously important details that would have made the stories so much better. It bothered me that in addition to this, God was coming across as being rather short tempered and, well, a little psychotic.
So I took these questions and started to investigate for some physical evidence that these stories actually occurred.
There’s no ark.
There’s no Ark of the Covenant (is it in Ethiopia, under Jerusalem, destroyed?)
There isn’t even any evidence that the Jews were held in bondage in Egypt. No mention of Pharaoh and his army drowning in the sea after Moses parted it on any of the hieroglyphics discovered. And bear in mind – Moses and the Jews fleeing Egypt is a significant story that results in the death of a pharaoh. Egyptians were story tellers and there’s no mention of a pharaoh dying in this manner. A Christian on another forum suggested the story was omitted from the records given the disgrace of pharaoh losing his slaves. But even more scandalous incidents ARE recorded, so this claim is suspect.
Anyway, my non belief is not a result of something happening to me – it came as a result of the Bible itself. The stories are not credible and once those fell, the rest of it lost its appeal.
And that was the reason why I waited for my prayer to be answered and god didn’t answer.
Because he isn’t there.
Some have suggested I was never saved in the first place. That irritates me to no end. I was well aware that salvation isn’t something you feel. I knew – KNEW – that if I died up until the point I lost my belief I would have been heaven bound. I believed it that much. So to suggest I was never saved cheapens the whole experience and isn’t right.
Am I bitter about the experience? A little. I mean, I wasted so much effort on something that was only a legend. I believed in stories that were essentially retellings of other stories from other religions. Truly, I feel more embarrassed by my actions to others while I was under the spell and have since repaired some relationships that christianity ruined.
Do I think less of people who believe? Of course not. Why? Does it benefit you in your everyday life? If so, why would I want to rob you of that experience? Having a Starbucks coffee first thing in the morning makes me happy – would you rob me of that pleasure? However, try to change my life based on your wacky book of legend will get my back up. Tell my son he can't bring a Harry Potter book to read at school because "it's witches" will also get me in your face.
If you took the time to read, thanks. If not, that’s ok too,