Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

My Deconversion

My De-conversion.

An atheist is person who does not find compelling reason to accept the God hypothesis.  De-converts are special, I think, because most of us became atheists not because we disbelieved in God, but because we believed so much.  One cannot be disappointed by a fictional character.  The God hypothesis broke our hearts because we believed it, not because we doubted it.   I searched out God.  I looked for him desperately, searched the Scriptures, searched the great works of Christian literature, searched everything, everywhere for God.   Because I believed God to be real, his enormous contradictions of character and schizophrenic mood swings terrified me.  I began to increasingly doubt that God was real.  There didn’t seem to be objective evidence for him.  With all the blessings of God which relate to material things, (healing for instance) there should be objective measures of Christian health which would prove this blessing, and thus serve as objective proof of God.  Yet there was none.  If fact, the more I thought about it, the more Christians were just like everyone else, showing no blessing that made them special.

I decided that to heal my flagging faith I would read the Bible again, cover to cover.  I wanted to do it in a short time, so that I could remember my thoughts  from the beginning when I got to end.  I read  it in 3 months.  But instead of healing my faith, it shredded it.  When the Bible is read as a continuous narrative, not dissected bit by bit into numerous sermons, the full humanity and the total lack of the divine cries out in every page.   The Bible, when read like a book, instead of read with the assumption that it is the book of God, it is indeed just another book.   Desperate to believe in God, I decided that perhaps the Bible had been corrupted. I began to search out the history of the Bible itself.  Again, nothing relating to the canonicity of the Bible gave me any compelling reason to believe in God.  I told myself this was because of God’s deep seated love of freewill.  He allowed errors in because he loved freewill so much he would let his perfect message get lost.  I began to search out the history of the early church, hoping that maybe God had revealed himself to those people, given them something special, only the message had been twisted.  Tragically, a search of the early Church did not yield the results I’d hopped.

Reading the Bible cover to cover had revealed gaps in doctrine I was unaware off.  Studying the history of its translation revealed ghastly, purposeful mistranslations.  Studying the canonicity had revealed a far deeper commitment to contemporary orthodoxy than to truth.   So, for the first time, I no longer implicitly trusted Christian authors.  They were, as Acts said, “men of like passions”, and had no more guarantee to be right than I.  Everything I read about early church history, I source checked.  I went through the bibliographies of the books, and read the oldest books that came up the most often.  Or, I did as long as I could stand it.  Church history, not properly sanitized to fit post Victorian Christian norms, was appalling.

Oh, I knew about the Crusades and the Inquisition. What shocked me was the total fluidity of doctrine.   Church doctrine was not a solid thing, but a sickly, taffy like mass.  The early Church was the measuring stick of Christianity, the Holy standard which all churches tried to adhere too, and their doctrine was not, by any normal sense of the word, Christian.  I didn’t know this because I had never read Church history from any perspective other than supporting an argument for doing church a certain way.  Pre-Constantine Christianity is a lot like pre-Ford automobile manufacture.  Before the Model T, cars could have 3 wheels or 4, levers or steering wheels, engines could be anywhere.  Ford created the standard, what we think of as “car”.   Before Constantine, Christian doctrine could be whatever you wanted.  The Gospel could be whatever good news you liked.   You didn’t like a trinity? No problem.  Open marriage? We’ve got that.  Nudism? Go for it. Communism? Why not?  Jesus was purely spirit? Got that too.  Heresy did not exist. It was not until the Church had political power to harm heretics that suddenly it had the will.  Heresy suddenly became very important, because it made it acceptable to kill people and take their stuff.   The road to orthodoxy is apparently paved with tombstones.

I studied more, hoping desperately to find God.  The church had lied.  Over and over again.  She had claimed things as truth which were wrong. Unbiblical organizations, unbiblical norms, based in unbiblical doctrine, based on imaginary standards of canon.  I got mad at God.  He didn’t seem to do anything about the atrocities committed in his name, and didn’t even seem to have much a hand  in witting the Bible.  God just didn’t seem to give a damn.  I  wanted to be wrong. I wanted to believe.  I wanted every hurt I had ever been given in Christ’s name to have been a mistake.  So I told my Christian friends what was going on in my heart.  How hurt I’d been by God and by the Church for lying to me about him. It seemed as if I was an abused wife, finally finding the courage to talk with the police, expecting help, but horribly wrong.  They would look sympathetically at each bruise and gently explain, as if to a child, that it really was my fault and didn’t I know, if I would just do what he told me, this wouldn’t happen anymore?  It was terribly painful.

And then I got it.  I didn’t matter what evidence I had.   To Christians, the sickness of the things that surround God could never be God’s fault.  Christianity was not at fault, I was. It was all my fault.  God is not accountable to anyone, that’s Christian Doctrine 101.   No evidence, no source, no study, nothing would change their minds because nothing bad is God’s fault.  “Blameless” is not beautiful; “blameless” is as ugly as death.  When I was a Pizza Hut shift manager, if a cashier’s drawer was off by a dollar, I was accountable.  It was on my watch, I had the power to do something about it, I did nothing, and I was responsible.  Yet, the immortal, all knowing, all powerful master of the universe was “the blameless one” who stood watching every atrocity, or worse, stood by wanting to stop it, but waiting for more prayer.  That was Holiness and if I didn’t like, well I could just burn in Hell.

I used to tell the people I was evangelizing to,  trying to convince them of the personal nature of a relationship with God, “There is no difference between a God who will not act and cannot act because he isn’t real.”  I swallowed the bitterest pill of my own advice I had ever given: I reluctantly accepted the fact that I was an atheist.   Surprisingly, the world did not end.  I was pleasantly surprised to find I was still capable of basic acts of morality.  I didn’t cheat on my wife.  If fact, I loved her more.  Without the pressure to be “Christ to the Church” to her, I enjoyed spending time with her more.  Without wondering if I was enjoying sex from fleshly desire instead of Holy love, martial relations were delightful.  Between wanting to spend more time talking to her and wanting to spend more time with her in bed, our relationship blossomed.

Not believing in Hell changed how I treat people.  Never realizing I was afraid to truly love non-believers because it would hurt so much to know they were burning in hell, I’d never had a non-Christian friend in my adult life.   Now, I had non-christian friends.  Because I didn’t spend half an hour in prayer for them before they came over, I invited them over more often. Since I no longer looked in the mirror and saw a filthy disgusting sinner, I had a lot more confidence.   I made new friends quicker.   Because I didn’t think I had to “life style evangelize” them, I was free to be myself when they were around, something I had never felt with most Christians.

I no longer constantly questioned whether or not I was “pursing God’s will” in my education, which made me stress less about college, and in turn,  get better grades.  In fact, the lack of worrying about God’s will allowed me to effectively plan my life for the first time.  I’d never been able to make long term plans out of the terror I would do so out of God’s will and derail my life.  Believing that perhaps I didn’t know everything I needed to know about parenting from a few sentences in a very old book, I read books on parenting, and became a better father.

After my marriage and my daughter, atheism is the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me.  I have done more to achieve my dreams and experienced more joy and peace in the year or so that I’ve been an atheist than the prior twenty-seven.   I love more deeply. I make better decisions. I have better friends.  My only regret is that I waited so long.  I feel like a grown man who finally realizes that there is no Santa.  I’m a little embarrassed that my disbelief in an imaginary character was this healing, because it only reveals how emotionally, morally, and intellectually bankrupt I was before, a fault I cannot place on Christianity, but rather my adherence to it.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 15 Comments