The idea that I would ever be convinced Christianity was false was…well…preposterous. My parents taught it and lived it as a reality. So, too, my friends, their families, and all the people I associated with.
There was never a question of whether the God of Christianity existed. Laughable. I could understand, and even sympathize with theists who didn’t quite get it. They were close, but off the mark by a bit. Maybe they had the Abrahamic God, but took a slightly wrong turn into Judaism. Or Catholicism. We even felt that many were so close it was possible they were saved!
I could understand the heathens, too. Hey, I was just as human as the next person. At times it would have been fun to suppress the knowledge of God and engage in some hedonistic pleasure. But I knew the eventual guilt I would feel (and they must be as well) and that their conscience was being seared.
It did seem a little odd that they would be so gung-ho on avoiding God. I liked God. I appreciated what God had done for me. And living the Christian morality was not that bad. Plus there was that awful prospect of hell. Eternal torture? Why flirt with THAT danger?! I like the thrill of excitement as much as anybody, but that seemed a bit like bungee-jumping with dental floss. Sure, you could survive—but why take the risk?
I watched Christians sacrifice, due to their belief in the truth of Christianity. I sacrificed due to the depth of my belief. (Virgin until the age of 24. ‘Nuff said.) To Christians who claim that we were never saved in the first place—that is like telling me as I jump out of a third-story window how I don’t really believe there is a fire raging in the building. You can argue and debate with me all you want how I didn’t believe in the fire. But in the end, the crushing point in favor of my premise is that I jumped. All your philosophical and logical counter-points notwithstanding—I lived as if the God of Christianity was true and acted upon it.
However, if there was one thing that I was certain about this God, was that I did not know everything about Him. He was an infinite, awesome creature—whereas I was merely a human. Heck, I barely passed Calculus 101—I knew there was math I didn’t know about that other humans did. Not so difficult to imagine there was a vast pool of knowledge in mathematics that a God would know, and I did not.
Since there were things I did not know about God, it seemed quite certain that there were things I did know that were wrong. The chances that I happened to get it 100% right with the few positive assertions I believed…that was pretty far-fetched. I figured, as did Christians I associated with, once we got to heaven we would learn of all the things that we got right, the things we got close, and the things we would smack ourselves on the forehead ‘cause we got it so wrong.
Knowing that, the idea was to make sure, as best we can, that we get it as right as possible, and be willing to change, based upon new knowledge. That was why we would have classes, and discussions, and Bible studies, and books and study materials—to learn and grow and mature in our understanding of God. We even recognized this by looking at the history of Christianity.
Right out of the gate, there was confusion as to whether God wanted circumcision continued. Some people were wrong, and had to change their view of God to the “correct” one. The Catholics started off pretty good, but got sidetracked. Hence the need for the Reformation to get Christianity back on track. To re-align the belief to the “correct” view of God.
And we fractioned off as various Christians debated with other Christians as to who was right, who was wrong, and who was closer in the “correct” view of God. Yet over the course of time, people have been willing to change in their belief. To modify upon learning of new material.
Thanks to geology, we began to have Old Earth Creationists. Who say the “correct” view of God is one that created the universe, but not just 6000 years ago. We began to have theistic evolutionists. Who say that God didn’t create exactly as laid out in Genesis 1. In fact, if you pick up a Bible of today, as compared to one printed 60 or 70 years ago, you will see a notable change. Footnotes.
Over the last century, people have started to recognize that parts of the Bible were added later. The ending of the Gospel of Mark has a footnote. The story of the Adulterous Woman has a footnote. The Johannine Comma has a footnote. People’s view of God has been “corrected” by calling into question the inspiration of certain passages, that not too long ago, the “correct” view was that the very same passages were inspired by God.
Most Christians would agree that they could be wrong about God. O.K. So what do we do to determine what is “right”? How can you learn to be more correct about God? Using the footnoted Bible as an example, we realize that there are words in our current edition that are not inspired—how do we go about determining what words we know are inspired, what ones we are not certain and what ones are not?
“Well,” (I can hear Christians say,) “I may be wrong about God, but that does not mean He doesn’t exist.” Yep. I said the same thing.
See, I knew I was wrong. I knew that I could be better; more “correct” about God. While I looked forward to heaven, and learning more about God, I also partly dreaded learning just how wrong I was. I could imagine Jesus saying to me:
“Inerrancy? Oh, my—NO! I had no intention of such a ridiculous notion. In fact, I need humans to see their differences, not to smash those differences into some silly notion of sameness. You will see that in 100 years of so, inerrancy (like animal sacrifices) will drop off the map to be quickly forgotten. Had you researched a little more (rather than watch all that football…ahem!) you would have recognized that.”
What was I wrong about? Was I completely off-base by holding to Calvinism? To not subscribing to Baby Baptism? For those reasons I studied, and learned and read. My error was that I studied and learned and read from people with beliefs too similar to my own.
Eventually I encountered people who did not hold to inerrancy. Who pointed out the need for a methodology to determine contradictions. Who pointed out the human errors in other works, and the similarity within the Bible. Who pointed out that what I would never accept in another religious work, I was defending with passion in my own. A double standard.
And I had to face a decision—what is the correct view of God when it comes to inerrancy? If could be wrong about God, and really believed I could be wrong—what was I willing to give up in order to be “right”? To be correct? To NOT have one more thing God tell me in the after-life, “Nope. Wrong on that one, too.”
That was the first, unknown but significant step to my deconversion—willing to change my belief about God. Willing to admit I was wrong, and try to determine the best way to be right. Did I think it would lead to atheism? Of course not! I would have still claimed that as ridiculous. In fact—far from it. I would have said I was closer to God, because I was trying to discover who He really was, not just what I wanted him to be, or based upon my own upbringing.
It was only after I kept changing my view of God (based upon my methodology) to the “correct” view that eventually I realized how little was correct!
So here is the question to theists:
Do you think you are wrong about God? If so, what system or method are you putting in place in order to modify your belief to be closer to the truth? Or do you think this is a hopeless endeavor, and it is every person for themselves?
I’ll warn ya—being willing to change can be a terrifying aspect. We don’t like change. Change is uncomfortable and scary. What if you change to something that is equally as wrong? What if willingness to change is seen as a lack of faith?
For me, the fear of being wrong about God by refusal to change outweighed the uncertain prospect of allowing the change. Thus my first step on a journey I am glad I took…
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)