My Story - 20min read.

 

On December 23rd 2015, with my whole family home for Christmas, I interrupted the light evening conversation and stuttered. “So I’ve got, um … something to say. It’s probably best everyone sits down”. There was an awkward dis-ease in the lounge. It was clearly obvious I was nervous and that this request was quite out of the ordinary.

I reached for my laptop and read this short passage out.

******

Over the last 5+ years, I’ve been battling with my faith. As it stands right now, I have very serious doubts about the Christian faith. The more I have studied and searched, the more I find the arguments for a belief in God to be built on very shaky foundations, a failure to think critically and an ignorance of the strong evidence around us. My search for the truth has come to a point that it’s become quite hard to continue identifying myself as a Christian. I really struggle to believe in the Christian God or a God of any kind at all. I just don’t see any good evidence to believe in one, but I do find many compelling reasons not to.

I’m not opposed to there being a God. I would 100% love to believe in a God, especially one with the attributes the Christian God has. And I’m completely open to God showing himself to me, but for various reasons I highly doubt this will happen.

Through this journey I’ve been on, my heart has been to genuinely seek and find the truth, and that’s all. There’s no alternative motive to this. I’m not running away from God to justify living a life of sin. I’m not hurt by the church or anyone in particular. I’m not hurt by personal experiences in my past. All I want is to make sense of this world and have a belief that is real to me.

My journey hasn’t stopped. I’m still searching for a truth that makes sense to me and I’m going about it as honestly as I can. I just see no point in being wilfully ignorant about the world around me, and blindly living a faith full of holes.

Where ever the truth takes me, I’m happy to go. I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but right now it’s taking me in the opposite direction to believing in any God at all.

******

I never ever thought my story would read like this.  Over the last few years of searching, I have made a complete reversal in what I believe. Even now it still blows me away how massive the change in my worldview has been.

I remember while at University some 13 years ago, I was walking down the driveway to the hostel I was living at and clearly remember thinking two things. 1: I know that I know that I know, that the Christian God exists. And 2: Everyone else knows he exists too, but they’re just too dishonest and self-centred to admit it.

It’s actually quite scary how much things have changed since then.

 

 

My Christian Life:

To give you a brief insight to where I came from, here’s a brief history of my life as a Christian.

I was brought up within a rich Christian heritage. My great grandparents were strong Christians. So was both my grandparents and all my aunties, uncles and cousins on both sides of the family.  My Mum, Dad and all my siblings are strong Christians too.

I went to church every Sunday from day dot. At about 4 or 5 years old, I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus and became a Christian. I was a shy boy who quite happily accepted what I was told about God. My whole world was surrounded and shaped by Christian thought and culture. I never had any reason to question it all.

I lived a pretty clean Christian life. I went to Sunday school every single week. Youth group as a teenager. No non-Christian girlfriends. No drugs, no alcohol, no un-Christian parties.  I read the bible cover to cover, many other Christian books and only ever listened to Christian music. I received prophecy, got baptised in water, spoke in tongues and got slain in the spirit. I attended church retreats, easter camps, and many parachute festivals. I raised my hands and was deeply moved during worship services.

I regularly prayed to God and he spoke to me through his word.  I prayed for godly wisdom and I felt I had the Holy Spirit living within me.

And all this was of my own genuine desire.  I could see the positive aspects of Christianity working in me and it really was beneficial in my everyday life.   It shaped me into someone with a strong identity, morals and an optimistic outlook on life.  It gave me a place to offload my worries and somewhere to channel the awe and beauty I saw in life.

Christianity really worked for me, and I know it has worked for many others too.  In some cases, quite powerfully indeed.

I felt there was a strong spiritual blessing on our family, handed down from the generations before me. I knew God had a strong plan for my life. He was keeping me pure so I could be used powerfully in his kingdom. This is kind of embarrassing to show you, but here’re a few notes I journaled over the years on the calling I felt I had.

 

 Ex-Christian's journal of Gods plan for me.

It’s quite scary to read back over who I was as I was growing up. I was totally convinced that God was the author of all life and that he personally loved me. God made complete sense of everything I knew and answered all the important questions I had at the time.

 

 

My Curious Mind

I’ve always had a fascination with how things work. From a very young age, I remember pulling apart old car stereos to take out their small motors and make my own electrical circuits. During my teens, I even made a remotely controlled array of microphones (made from old speakers and a re-purposed remote control car) so I could audibly spy on my sisters room and her phone conversations! (sorry sis!)

The fact is, I loved science. I studied physics, biology, math and computer science at high school and went on to university to complete a 4 year Bachelor of Electronic Engineering at the University of Waikato.

Throughout my studies, I gained a lot of respect for the scientific method. I learned how to run a scientific experiment to isolate the variable being studied. I learned the power of statistics and also how very easy it is to misrepresent data. I learned how to think critically and be skeptical of everything that I heard.

I knew the explanatory power science had, and really respected what we have come to know through scientific study.

After finishing my studies I took a simple job in retail (for reasons I don’t need to explain here). Although I enjoyed the simple work, I missed feeding my brain so I continued my studies and fascination with science in my own time.

One of the first proper books I read on the Creation/Science debate was that of Francis S. Collins titled “The Language of God. A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief.” Francis Collins is a born again Christian who was the Director of the Human Genome Project. Throughout the book, he made a compelling case that yes, biological evolution has been happening for around 3.5 billion years, but also that God had a necessary part to play in it all.

This was the first time I seriously questioned the literal 6 day creation in Genesis. But I couldn’t argue against the evidence Francis brought forward in his book. It hit me quite hard at the time. Wow, we really did have a common ancestor with chimpanzees. I had always considered the bible to be the literal word of God and that he created Adam from the dust of the earth in one 24 hour day.

Learning this didn’t really dent my faith though. I knew many Christians who had happily accepted evolution. I just figured that well, that’s how God chose to create us then. And I didn’t think much more about evolution and the genesis account after that.

 

 

The Ever Reliable Holy Spirit…

I was now in my mid 20’s and had spent many years as a Christian. Looking back over the Christian life I’d lived and the experiences I’d had, I started to question things. One thing I questioned was the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus himself spoke these words. “But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” [John 16:13]

Yet it seemed like all the Christian leaders I looked up to were anything but Holy Spirit led. Let me very briefly list a few “fads” Christianity seemed to go through over the years I grew up.

  • During the late 80’s to early/mid 90’s “The End Of Days Rapture” seemed to be the hot topic of the day. NZ pastors like Barry Smith were quite vocal on this. I wondered if I’d ever make it to adulthood and find a wife before the second coming of Jesus. By the time I was 20, I’d listened to 4 very passionate but contradictory sermons from pastors on the end times and revelation. None of which agreed with each other.
 Spiritual Experience Delusion
  • Then there were the revivals of the 90’s. The Pensacola Revival and the Toronto Blessings. Not surprisingly, NZ churches wanted in on the action too, and there were many sermons preached on how revival so desperately needs to come to NZ. I remember several big wig pastors visiting our small town church and prophesying that our church was ripe for revival…
  • I remember coming up to Auckland to big 3 day conferences where the whole slain in the spirit thing was all the rage. People falling over when being prayed for, shaking, laughing. Just good old drunk on the Holy Spirit.

 

The thing is, all these things faded away. Soon pastors were preaching that revival wasn’t where we were at anymore. Almost like, “we used to believe in that, but now we’re more mature. What we really need now is this… [fill gap here]” They seemed to explain away why we never got Holy Spirit revival.

All this to say, it felt a little like Christian culture seemed to change as quickly as the tides. And I got the feeling that this whole “spirit lead walk” I was living seemed a little groundless and drifted where ever the people wanted to take it.

All these experiences didn’t sit very well with me and I started to doubt that the Holy Spirit could really be a reliable guide in our lives. I wondered if the current teachings in my church were just another fad the church is going through.

Regardless of whether my concerns on the above were valid, that was how the seeds of doubt were planted in me.

 

 

The Long and Slow Journey of Searching for the Truth.

I was still a passionate Christian at this time but had a stone in my shoe the continually bugged me. I wanted was to know God ever more deeply but felt a small disconnect in my knowledge of him. I knew God was the way, the truth, and the life. [John 14:6] And I knew that “you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” [Jeremiah 29:13].

So I knew that honestly seeking the truth was a biblical virtue and there was nothing to be afraid of by doing so. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” [John 8:32]. More than anything else, that’s all I wanted, so I made the honest decision that I would follow the truth, where ever it took me. After all, it was only going to lead me closer to God right?!!

One thing I knew through my tertiary education was, the best way to know if something is true, is to try and disprove it. [watch this 4 min video] Now my faith was strong so I thought, what the hell lets find the baddest, darkest, most evil book challenging Christianity and read it. So I went out and bought Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion” from the local Whitcoulls bookstore in Hamilton.

 Proving Christianity wrong.

In the preface, Richard makes a very strong and bold comment. He writes: “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down”. Wow, I was a little shocked by his confidence but I thought, ok Richard, challenge accepted!

Now I have to admit, Richard made some very good points explaining how spiritual experiences could not be trusted. And this did challenge me in some ways. But as a whole, I was completely underwhelmed by the book. I came away thinking sheesh, are these are the best arguments against God? At the time, all that book achieved was to strengthen my faith. Quite the opposite of the intent he stated in the preface. I was quite chuffed with myself.

While I was learning about Christian Apologetics I listened to a lot of William Lane Craig debate various atheists on YouTube. (William’s pretty much Christianity’s trump card when it comes to rational, thinking reasons to believe in God). I would get to the end of the two-hour long video and was left thoroughly impressed by WLC. The atheists couldn’t/wouldn’t answer his questions, William had clear points and lots of ‘gotcha lines’ to throw around. This, I thought was a big win for the proof that God exists. Hallelujah! …

Then I read the comments directly below the YouTube videos … They would read, “WLC has no idea what he’s talking about.” “Krauss humiliated Craig”, “WLC the biggest bullshitter ever. no proof except the bible written by humans”. “Craig got owned. Thank god for that.”

I was left scratching my head. Did they watch the same debate as me?? How could anyone not see how strong WLC’s points were? His nemesis couldn’t even answer them well?? I was quite confused by the disconnect between the debate I’d just watched and these comments below. But I was also very confident that there were strong logical reasons and good evidence that the Christian God exists.

 

 

There Are Two Sides To Every Story

One belief I hold quite strongly is you should always listen to both sides of the argument. I was well aware that we are all quite susceptible to brainwashing if all we hear is just one side.

 Christian indoctrination of children.

Think about this: If you’re born in India then you’ll most likely grow up believing in Hinduism (79.8% of Indian’s are Hindu). If you grow up in Egypt there’s a 94.7% change you’ll be Muslim. If you were born in the Philippines then you have an 82.9% chance you’ll be a Catholic. (stat’s via Wikipedia).

I’m reminded of the bible verse in 2 Cor 4:4 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

You see, this passage works both ways!!

I had programmed myself so heavily for 26+ years into one way of thinking, that I couldn’t even see the other side of the argument. I’d simply dismissed atheists as dishonest liars who were simply rebelling against God.

Regardless of the attacks on God’s existence, my mind would instantly start to defend my position. Thinking things like “yes, but the spiritual realm has an answer to that problem”, or “but God’s God. He can fix the issues surrounding Noah’s Ark with supernatural power”. Christianity gave me all the answers I needed and therefore I had nothing left to learn. So I closed my mind.

 

Now STOP.  Watch this video called “grooming minds“. It talks about indoctrinating children within a religious family and why it’s so important to teach people HOW to think. Not WHAT to think. 

 

It becomes quite obvious that our brains are very malleable to believe in God and can be easily indoctrinated into believing in many different religions. It’s not because the belief is necessarily true, but just because it’s the only one taught to us as we grew up.

So I actively made sure I listened to both sides of the debate. For I didn’t want to brainwash myself. I would read Christian books. Then find commentary online that disagreed with the Christian author. I would find arguments for God-given morality, and arguments against it. I would listen to podcasts by both Christians, atheists and Christians debating atheists.

Then after a couple of years of searching both sides something finally happened. I started to see where the atheists were coming from. It took a while, but for the very first time, I actually heard their argument and understood where they were coming from. I went back to the YouTube debates between William Lane Craig and [insert atheist here] and listened to them again. And all of a sudden I could see where the atheist was coming from. This seems crazy, but I started to see and understand why people wrote the comments they did!!

But it wasn’t over yet. My belief in God only dropped from “I know that I know that I know there’s a God” to “it makes more sense to believe in God, than not.

If you didn’t watch the video I linked above, here it is again. [Hint, it’s really good, so take the time and watch it]

 

 

My SeeSawing Faith.

                  Books I've Read

                 Books I've Read

I continued to read more books, watch more YouTube debates and listen to more podcasts with an open mind. My faith really started to take a hit. So in early 2012 I picked up a book by John C. Lennox. “God’s Undertaker. Has Science Buried God” hoping it would save my faith. And it surely did! I felt John made valid points that helped cover up doubts I’d had. I remember sitting in my bedroom as I finished the book. I felt God draw so near to me in that moment. It was quite powerful and tears rolled down my checks. I even thought to write to the author to thank him for saving my faith!

But like all good stories, there’s another dark twist! Time went by and doubts started to creep back in as I continued to search. It got to the point that I’d lost a massive chunk of my Christian faith. I could no longer believe that God speaks to us through the bible. I no longer believed that it’s God who answers prayers, or gives us dreams and visions. I couldn’t believe the crazy stories of the Old Testament and I was unsure about Jesus being the son of God.

I knew I was in a bad way and I got quite scared. I had spent 32 years of my life living for this God I believed in. This wonderful story of love, hope, and purpose. I didn’t want to lose this.  My whole family believes, most of my friends believe, and I really wanted to get to heaven some day!!! So once again I surrounded myself in Christian literature and tried to save my faith.

But this time, it didn’t work. Every Christian book I read and every Sunday sermon I listened to just took me further away from a belief in God. I could now see through the arguments I had once held so close. All they did was drive me further away. Church became quite uncomfortable to attend and I only went when I was on communion duty (cleaning cups etc).

It even became hard to listen to “Christian small talk”. How God answered weather related prayers. How God’s timing is always perfect. How “this coincidence” could have only been Gods doing. How loved ones go through “state of the art” surgery by a team of skilled doctors and their response… “Praise to God that you’re healed, I knew he would heal you. I was praying for you.”

It was awful. I could no longer see the Christian faith through the eyes of a Christian.

 

 

"Good Afternoon, Good Evening and Good Night" – Truman

In December 2015 I knew I had completely lost my faith. I could no longer square the Christian beliefs with the reality around me.  It became quite self-evident and obvious to me.  I was no longer a Christian.

In a way, it’s still quite a sad story. I’d spent 32 years of my life believing in a God that’s no truer that Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.

 The illusion of God

I had faithfully chased a dangling supernatural carrot, only to be left high and dry when I realised my efforts were all made in vain.  The carrot didn’t even exist.

It’s not much fun realising this and it still hurts today.

 

I had invested soooo much emotional energy into believing in him. Holding out for promises, praying for breakthroughs and trusting that he was leading my way. My whole worldview was shaped around this God I’d believed in.

Losing my religion also meant losing an ultimate purpose to life (as defined by Christianity anyway). I lost a loving and caring Christian community. I lost an eternity in heaven. And I have no one to pray to when times get tough.

But then I think back to verses like [John 8:32] Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. It’s quite ironic that bible verses like the one above ended up leading me away from God. But for all the shit that I went through while losing my faith (and still go through), it was 100% worth it! I really do feel like I’ve been set free.

One of my favourite films is The Truman Show. He lives his whole life in a fake reality TV world. He has no idea that nothing’s real. But very slowly he starts to realise that things don’t add up. He builds enough courage to start asking questions. He tries to disprove what he knows is true. I identify so much with Truman and the emotional journey he went through. And I’m so proud that I figured it out. After 4+ generations of Christianity running through our family, I finally broke free!

On December the 23rd 2015, with my heart beating like crazy, I walked up that staircase and said goodbye to everything I had ever known.

 Living inside the Truman Show.  How Christianity blinds people.

Finding the truth is the most beautiful thing. I feel like I’ve been born again, again. It really is a new life for me. Given my current age, I’ve only got 50-60 ish years left before that’s it, I’m gone for good. So I’m sure as hell going to make the most of it!! No more living in fear of what people think of me. No more being too scared to do things like post this story online!

It’s quite ironic actually, but I have more purpose in life now than I’ve ever had before. Because this is all I’ve got. THIS … IS … IT!!! So I might as well make the most of every day I have.

 

 

Some Final Thoughts:

I realise that some of you may feel there has to be an ulterior motive for my de-conversion. Maybe it’s that I’m pissed off at God, or my church or pastor treated me badly. Or I’m running away from God just so I can live in sin or something. You may even cite Romans 1:18-20 and claim that deep down I still do believe. But that’s simply not true. As much as I know myself and my conscious brain, my loss of faith is completely genuine and was purely due to intellectual reasons.  I can’t be more honest than that.

Like the words I read out to my family on the 23rd of December. I’d be 100% happy to return the Christian faith. If someone could convince me that God was real and true, I would look them in the eye with tears running down my cheek and say thank you so much for helping me find the real truth. I have no issue living under a loving God and submitting to his rulership. It would be amazing to be apart of something bigger than just 80 years on this planet. I don’t want it to end here.

But in all honesty, I can’t see a way back. There's too many reasons why the idea of God just doesn’t work for me. The magic trick, once explained, can no longer deceive, and I just can’t figure out how a belief like Christianity could ever work again.

I know I haven’t given any strong reasons for my loss of faith in the text above. That’s not what this post is about. This post is just to share my story about what I’ve gone through and where I’m currently at.

We’ll see how things go, but I plan to write more in future posts about the specific issues I have with God and Christianity. It took me about 20mins last night, and I already have 17 chapter headings of things to talk about! So watch this space, there’s lots more to come. Most probably in 2017.

 

 

To The Christian Reader:

And lastly, if you’re a Christian or religious person, I really want to encourage you to start asking hard questions. Just like Truman did!

Look at it as a win-win.  If your God is the true God then you’ve got nothing to fear, for your search for truth will just draw you closer to God.  But if you are wrong, then you’ve got everything to gain!

Learn how to think critically, the importance of sound reasoning and how to spot fallacious arguments.  Learn how powerful and blinding confirmation biases can be.

Stay humble, stay honest and stay open to the fact that you could be wrong on some things. Search for the truth with all your heart mind and it will surely set you free!

 

 

Start Searching Here!

 

 

YouTube Channels to follow:

TheraminTrees:  Knowledge is one thing.  Communicating knowledge is something else.  This guy is amazing at making tricky topics really easy to understand, and makes powerful points in doing so.  https://www.youtube.com/user/TheraminTrees/videos

NonStampCollector:  Really good videos questioning different stories in the bible.  He highlights many areas I’d never thought about as a Christian.  https://www.youtube.com/user/NonStampCollector/videos

QualiaSoup:  Good videos on Morality, Faith and Evolution.  https://www.youtube.com/user/QualiaSoup/videos

Theoretical Bullshit: Scott is shall we say, quite strong about his views on God, but he's a very bright cookie.  This is my favourite of his. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvRPbsXBVBo

Matt Dillahunty: Matt’s an ex-Christian.  He has an absolute wealth of knowledge.  He’s heard every apologetic argument under the sun that Christians could throw at him.  https://www.youtube.com/user/SansDeity/videos

DarkMatter2525  It’s a very popular channel, and you may be offended by these videos.  Some are quite blunt and crude, but he makes very powerful points.  https://www.youtube.com/user/DarkMatter2525/videos

CrashCourse:  A crash course in philosophy relating to God.  Sounds a little boring, but it's actually presented quite well!  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8dPuuaLjXtNgK6MZucdYldNkMybYIHKR

 

 

 

PodCasts to listen to:

 Don't brainwash yourself.  Listen to both sides of the story to find truth.

These can easily be downloaded to your phone to listen to in the car.  You’ll be amazed at how enjoyable being stuck in traffic becomes!!

Directions:  You can click on the links below, but the best way to listen to podcasts is by downloading the "podcast" app to your phone.  For Apple phones, search "Podcast" in the App Store.  For Android phones search "Podcast Radio Music - Cashbox" from the Google Play Store.  Then just search for the podcast you want. i.e "A Christian And An Atheist".  They're all free and can be downloaded for offline listening.

 

A Christian And An Atheist:  A really good and honest discussion from both sides.  I highly recommend listening to this. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/a-christian-and-an-atheist/id117306719?mt=2

Unbelievable?:  Another show which hosts debates and discussions between both Christians and non-Christians. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/unbelievable/id267142101?mt=2

Life After God:   Hosted by former pastor Ryan Bell.  He interviews people who once had a strong faith, but ended up losing it. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-after-god/id1032909038?mt=2

The Thinking Atheist.   Interesting and honest talks on various topics surrounding belief in God. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/thethinkingatheist/id412308695?mt=2

 

 

 

Books To Read:

 50 Questions for Christians.

For now, I’m just going to recommend one book to read.
 
50 Simple Questions For Every Christian.  By Guy Harrison.  It’s a very easy read with short chapters, and asks genuine and real questions about Christian belief.  I highly recommend this book.  Totally worth the $25 to buy it. http://www.fishpond.co.nz/Books/50-Simple-Questions-for-Every-Christian-Guy-Harrison/9781616147273

 

 

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