Around the beginning of 2017, I read the first of several books that changed my worldview forever: Reason, Religion, and the Trinion Contradictions by David Robertson. While not a deep book, it served as a catalyst and forced me to entertain thoughts previously not considered. My faith had frustrated me for years and I reached a point where I wanted something to change. My Christian life wasn’t an authentic one, in spite of having tried for years to be the best Christian I could be. (Ok, perhaps that’s a stretch. There were times I didn’t try much, but that is the norm with faith).
The book’s premise was simple: How could god create a “perfect plan” for a believer, yet allow prayer to alter that plan? One might quickly point out that any “alterations” to said plan weren’t changes at all, but carefully crafted outcomes set in place by god before the world began. But if that is the case, then how does free will factor into the equation? Can we have free will if the outcomes are set? And if the outcomes aren’t set and our prayer can affect them, then how can god’s plan for our lives be perfect? These thoughts were troublesome, especially since I was a Calvinist and thought god had everything figured out in advance. (In my last entry I discussed fatalism in more detail).
As I wrestled with this, I wrote questions that, while simple, failed to withstand scrutiny. The questions varied in subject and complexity, but all had one thing in common: they were unanswerable from an honest Christian perspective. So, without further ado, here they are:
- Why are most Christians willing to accept a fantastic event in the Bible, but not outside it? Example: The devil inhabiting a serpent and speaking to Eve. Few question this account in Genesis, but, if a Christian were to claim to witness this today, people would consider him crazy.
- Why has the Church opposed science, even though god gave man science to unlock the mysteries of the universe? Example: The Church persecuted proponents of a round Earth.
- Why would god, a perfect being, create a race he knew would fail, according to the bible?
- Why would god create a perfect plan, yet allow it to prayer to alter it?
- Can a plan be perfect if god needs to alter it to account for people’s actions?
- If god is perfect, how can prayer persuade him?
- Why should a man pray if the ultimate outcome is already set?
- If man has free will, this would mean that a created being has the power to reject the plan or desire of God. How can this be if god is all-powerful?
- If god is fair and just, why would he damn an entire race to everlasting torment based upon the disobedience of two people?
- Why would the creator of the universe communicate the unchanging message of salvation to man through something as changing as the written word? Example: changes in word meaning, use of idioms, knowledge of original languages, etc.
- Why would god command people to be holy man can’t achieve if full sanctification?
- If god is truly a trinity, and his being a trinity is so important, why isn’t he more explicit about it in the Bible?
- Why does god need to be a trinity?
- If god desires to communicate with his creation through the written word, why is the canon closed? Additionally, why is some of it so difficult to interpret and understand (for example, the book of Revelation).
- If god still reveals himself via prophecy, etc., why does a canon exist at all?
- If god saves some people from eternal torment, why does he not assure them of their fate?
- If the human race is not born into sin, why do people have a propensity toward evil?
- If god gave man science, why doesn’t science agree with the bible on things like the age of the Earth (assuming a literal translation)?
- Why would god conquer and destroy in the Old Testament, but not in the New Testament?
- How can god change how he behaves and interacts with people if he never changes?
As I mulled over these questions and more, I realized that my Christian idea of god wasn’t right. In fact, I suspected it was way off. What if I was wrong about Christianity, just like I was wrong about the United Pentecostal Church? What if the entire Christian faith was nothing more than a cult I needed to leave? As I wrestled with these thoughts, I distanced myself from the church. I still believed in god, but all questions and contradictions kept me from continuing to accept the Christian message.
The next best thing seemed to be Deism. It allowed for me to continue to believe in god (I wasn’t able to make that jump yet), while not subscribing to the nonsense. I remember the first time I semi-publically announced myself as a Deist. I say semi-publically because all I did was write it as a preference on some paperwork at a meeting. Still, it was huge. I denied the Christian faith. I was in a room full of Christian men, and suddenly in the minority. It was an odd feeling.
I was perfectly happy with considering myself a Deist. It was the best of both worlds. The idea of a “first cause” or “intelligent designer” was appealing, but not without its own problems. Even if I turned a blind eye to the plethora of natural examples of un-intelligent design, I still believed in a being that allowed pain and suffering. A lot of pain and suffering. And the more I considered it, the less plausible it seemed. Over the next few months, I changed my worldview from Deism to Agnosticism. God’s existence seemed unlikely, but I didn’t want to give it up completely and join the ranks of the horrible atheists. After all, they were an evil group of folks. However, as I continued to read new books and reconsider my life experiences, the last bit of belief quietly slipped away.
I’ve had many wonderful, new experiences as an atheist. I consider myself a better, more authentic person. The world has become more wonderful, and time more precious. I have had to make tough decisions about who I am and who I want to be, and I’m sure this will continue for the remainder of my life. The best years of my life are ahead of me.
I’m sure I will add to my writings about my journey and discuss my time as an atheist. For now, though, I will end this series and write about a few things that have been on my mind. In closing, I’d like to leave you with a list of books that proved helpful. Some of them are good, and some are excellent. I recommend them all.