After 18 years, I went from fundamentalist, evangelical, Apostolic Oneness Pentecostal Christian to non-Christian atheist. It was not an arbitrary decision but was reached through much study, meditation, and prayer, which was originally a desperate attempt to PROVE that my Christian faith was not misplaced.
The journey started out as a simple question regarding a disputed moral issue - whether or not the Bible, in the original tongues, condemns homosexuality. A good friend of mine, who happens to be a gay Apostolic minister, showed me some things that challenged some of my long held beliefs concerning the issue. I realized that there is a legitimate case for the view that the Bible texts that appear to condemn homosexual behavior in the English translations are incorrectly translated, the original English translators reading their own biases into the text. I will not go into detail on that subject, because Rev. Carey has already done an excellent job of doing so in this book: http://www.lulu.com/product/file-download/gay-and-christian-yes/4135979
. However, suffice it to say that the arguments were strong enough to change my mind and to begin asking questions like the following:http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=AiI0LjzMt9mu.cXmCcMafVPty6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20100624061934AAhwgPf
Note the numerous comments of the "scholar" who repeatedly evades my demands for EVIDENCE and continues to appeal to "scholarly authority"). Shortly afterwards, I received a scathing email from this "scholar" stating that I was a despicable person, not worthy of calling myself Apostolic, and a disgrace to the name, Christian.
After said encounter, I began to wonder if there were perhaps other places where traditional translations and interpretations were questionable. Shortly after posting the above question to Y!A, I was approached by someone with some scholarly works showing parallels between the Genesis creation story and older creation stories of people like the Egyptians and the Babylonians. What I found were numerous contradictions but parallels that were just as numerous, including a story of a walking, talking snake and a forbidden tree and a woman being created by being taken from a man's flesh. There are numerous parallels between Genesis 1 and the Babylonian and Egyptian writings as well.
All of that was discouraging to me, but I did not give up hope, because I still recognized that it could be possible that the Biblical creation story was a "restored" version of the other "corrupted" creation stories, which might have still contained elements of truth but were mostly "perverted" versions of the original story. So I turned to the foundational belief of Christianity - the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If that story could be validated, then I could consider the whole Christian belief system valid. So I began to take a look at the "dying and rising god" myths of pagan nations. What I expected to find was pagan stories that had plagiarized and copied from the gospel story; what I found instead was that some of the "dying and rising god" pagan myths were much, much older than the Christian gospel story. It appeared to be a case of Christianity plagiarizing the pagan myths and not the other way around. Even the early church father, Justin Martyr, admitted that the pagan myths were older than the Christian gospel: http://shemaantimissionary.tripod.com/id11.html
. Justin attributes it to "the devil" plagiarizing the Christian gospel beforehand. It seems far more reasonable to me that it was the Christian writers who plagiarized the much older competing pagan myths. At any rate, there you have it - an early church father admitting that the pagan dying and rising god myths were actually OLDER than the Christian gospel story.
Further studies began to reveal that there is really very little evidence, outside of the gospels, that Jesus even existed at all. There are two (probably forged) texts in the writings of the Jewish historian, Josephus, that refer to him, so it is possible that a historical man named Jesus of Nazareth existed; however, if the man had as much influence as is claimed for him, why are there not more references to him in contemporary historical writings of the time? Even if such writings were hostile against him, his teaching, and his movement, one could expect to at least find mention of him, could he not? Outside of Josephus, what I found was nothing but third and fourth century historical writings that were only quoted as secondhand information in the writings of later Christian historians. Even the passages in Josephus come from a third century Greek translation that had been in the hands of the Roman Catholic church for centuries.
After all of this studying, I finally had to accept that my fundamentalist Christian beliefs had been wrong. While I have known and been instructed by many sincere and good Christian people, it seemed that we had all been under a deception. One thing that I learned and has stuck with me since my days as an Apostolic Christian is to value "truth" above all else (although they search for that truth in the Bible). So I am continuing my search for truth after having rejected what I had falsely believed to be truth for so many years. Will I ever find what I seek? I don't know. At first I felt as if the entire foundation of who I am had been yanked out from under me, but I am now at peace with the fact that I have turned from false beliefs to seek truth from more tangible sources.
I'm inclined to believe that the answer to the question, "Is there a god?", is ultimately unanswerable; however, the lack of evidence for the existence of a god(s) leads me to conclude that the answer to that question is probably, "No." So, by default, I choose to have no belief in god.