By John W. Loftus
Christian people dispute whether we are truly ex-Christians. Since this particular question comes up so often, I am creating this Blog entry on it, so ex-Christians can simply refer these Christian people here, rather than continually arguing over and over about the same question.
At one time we were all members in different churches, from various denominations (anyone who doubts this can check our respective church registries). I am not opposed to believing anyone who claims they were a former Christian, whether Catholic or Jehovah’s Witness, or Seventh Day Adventist. As an atheist I no longer make judgments about whether someone was a Christian. If these people say they were one, that's good enough for me. Judging whether somone is/was a Christian is something Christians do, not me. If you think other groups who claim to be Christians are not really Christians, then start a Blog called, “I know who the real Christians are! I know what they should believe! I know how they should act and vote!” Then provide us the link so that we can sit by and watch the ensuing debate….and laugh (sorry, but that’s exactly what I would do).
I am a former member of the centrist Christian Churches/Church of Christ (not the leftist Disciples of Christ, and not the right-wing non-instrumental Church of Christ). Some Christians think my former church group is a semi-heretical sect, and the reason is because of their view on baptism. But not everyone within Church of Christ circles adheres to the strict interpretation of Christian baptism being “necessary for salvation” (there is a swelling movement otherwise). I was personally let go of my teaching responsibilities at Great Lakes Christian College, Lansing, MI, for a couple of essays on Christian baptism, so maybe this helps Christians who visit here decide about me, if it matters at all.
And to a large degree it doesn’t matter whether Christians think we were former Christians, although we think such a view is very ignorant. They still have to deal with our arguments. So if you’re a Christian and you think we were never Christians in the first place, don’t harp about it. It’ll do you no good. It’ll just produce tension and frustration between us. You see, we know differently. It'd be like us claiming you really do not believe as a Christian. Who am I to make that judgment?
Christians who think this way about us are deluded, and that's only one of the delusions they have. Many of the other things they believe are delusions too. Maybe they ought to begin interpreting the Bible in light of the evidence instead of interpreting the evidence in light of the Bible? For starters, maybe Calvinistic theology is wrong? Many Christians reject such thinking. Start there.
I'll tell you what, for those of you who think there is no such thing as an ex-Christian, start a Blog and argue for Calvinism, or the once saved always saved doctrine. Invite Arminian Christians to debate this with you. Then when you all come to an agreement about this issue come back and tell us what it is. I just let Christians debate this issue. Don’t ask us how the Bible is to be interpreted here, and don’t quote a Bible verse to us that is interpreted differently by Arminian scholars. Instead go debate other Christians who disagree with you. We do not believe the Bible. So quoting a Bible verse will not show us otherwise. Again, since we are all former Christians we know otherwise. We have personal experience that the once save always saved doctrine is false, okay? You will not convince us otherwise, so don’t even try. Keep it to yourself if you believe otherwise, okay?
Your interpretation of the Bible on this issue needs to consider the evidence of every ex-Christian here as well as everyone mentioned in the almost encyclopedic link here. It’s very interesting to us that Christians will reject our personal testimonies to the contrary and at the same time believe the personal testimonies of ancient superstitious people in the Bible who claim to have experienced miracles, even though their testimonies are all contrary to our experiences in the modern world, where there are no miracles happening today on the same scale.
Christian, you can always investigate our claims. You can talk to people who know us (including past preachers and teachers, parents, siblings, friends, and people we ourselves converted to the Christian faith!); you can listen to our sermons; and you can read our Christian writings.
So, to answer your specific question, were we ever really Christians? Well it depends on the particular perspective you want us to respond to.
There are two perspectives to describe our lives as former Christians. On the one hand, from our former Christian perspective, we can describe ourselves as having truly been Christians, in that we experienced salvation, regeneration, the Holy Spirit, and answered prayer. We had accepted Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross for our sins, and believed he bodily arose from the dead and would return to earth in the parousia. We repented from every known sin, again and again. We confessed “Jesus is Lord.” We prayed the non-Biblical sinner’s prayer (where is that in the Bible?) by inviting Jesus to come to live inside us. We had a personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. Like you do now, we tried to live a spiritual life in gratitude for God’s grace by reading the Bible and obeying what we read in it. So we evangelized, tithed, attended worship services, Bible studies, and became leaders in our respective churches.
Some of us were ministers, pastors,and preachers. Others were Sunday school teachers, superintendents, elders, deacons, and/or Bible study leaders. I taught people at a Bible College who are now in ministry. There are at least three men presently in the ministry because of my influence.
For you to reject our testimony you will probably have to reject the testimony of someone you know right now in your church whom you look up to as a Christian who may reject Christianity in the future. The problem is that you just may not personally know someone like that. But the chances are that you will. Then what will you think?
On the other hand, from our present skeptical perspective, the Christian faith is false and based upon ancient superstitions. We believe we were deluded about it. We were never true Christians in the sense that there is no truth to Christianity. If being a Christian means that we had a personal relationship with God-in-Jesus Christ, then we never had such a relationship, for such a supernatural being is based upon non-historical mythology. There is no divine forgiveness because there is no divine forgiver. There was no atonement because Jesus did not die for the world’s sins. There was no God-man in the flesh to believe in. Our petitionary prayers were nothing but wishful hoping. And we believe this is true about your claim to be a Christian too. You are not a Christian, either, because there is no Christ, no Messiah, no God-in-the-flesh, no Holy Spirit regeneration, no devil and no heaven to go to when you die.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)