I was a dedicated, Bible-believing lover of Christ. I fully believed that God was in full control of my life, and that He cared fully and deeply about every single detail of my life. It was a comforting feeling.
A couple of years ago, my husband of over a decade starting questioning his belief about our God. He started being "critical" of the Bible and reading books and blogs by Atheists. I supported his search because I believed in my God fully and knew that if he was seeking truth he would find it. And since Truth = God, he would eventually come back to Christ.
The months turned into years, and I continued to pray for him. I held fast to the "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Pr22:6) and believed that he would return to the faith. He started tentatively asking "what if" questions of me. "What if" there were no virgin birth. I said "I would still believe. I can believe in my Christ, even if he was not born or a virgin." My husband had a harder time with this and I felt like my faith had been tested and I had passed. There were many more "what if" questions to come, and I held firm. My God had proven himself to me and I would believe in Him. I had "experienced God."
About this time, my brother started studying psychology. He had random ideas to discuss and random books lying around I would sometimes look over. One caught my attention: [Insert name of book here]. It talked about how we cannot trust our own memories. It made me uncomfortable to think this could be true, but apparently, our minds (as humans) are creative. When we access a memory, we pull it up in our minds-eye and "look" at it. Any pieces that may be missing (was it daytime? who was there? where were we exactly?) are filled in by our creative brains. When we "put the memory away" those details go with it. When we pull it up again to "look at it," those details have become facts and we see those as part of the memory. The MORE times we access a memory, the more chances our brain has to make changes, and the more inaccurate the memory becomes. It's like a great game of telephone. I could not help but apply this to my memories of experiences with Christ. Were they really what I remembered?
I also learned from a friend about confirmation bias. When someone believes something, their minds look for evidence to support that. In applying this to my faith, I realized every time I prayed for someone and they got better, I attributed that to God. But when they did NOT get better, I never thought to BLAME God. That just doesn't make sense. Either he IS in charge of my life and hears my prayers, or he is NOT in charge of my life and does not hear my prayers. But I cannot reasonable thank him for the good and "overlook" the evil, or non-good. So I realized how very many times I had confirmation bias. The same idea applies to placebo pills. If you believe you are given a drug, you act as if it is working. When you find out it is only a placebo, your mind is blown. Confirmation bias.
The final "What if" really got to me. "What if the original "Bible" or some of the first Codices (first bound books we now call the Bible) did not contain the resurrection story. What if they were added later?" This, I admitted to Brian, is a deal-breaker. Tell me more. Here is the Wiki article on the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_16
Damn. Now it was time to get serious. If there was no resurrection, then let's face it, there is no Jesus=God. He's just a dead man in a grave. So, why would I believe there is a resurrection? Well, it's in the Bible. How do I know the Bible is true ... aha! This is what I need to study. I had SO MANY people tell me to "read my Bible" to find answers. This is ludicrous. This is what any brainwashed person would tell you. I needed to KNOW if I was brainwashing myself. So what does that look like? Well, if I believed something without reason, and even IN SPITE of reason. If it no longer makes sense, but I continued to hold to it ... so, I needed to KNOW. I became desparate to KNOW the TRUTH. It was very important to me, as we have 3 children and are indoctrinating them into the same beliefs we were raised with. We had them in private schools and churches and prayers at night and the answer to EVERYTHING was God. I needed to have answers.
So we began our journey down the field of textual criticism. Of course, Brian had read Misquoting Jesus by Ehrman. Ehrman went to seminary and studied the Bible more than I can ever claim. His book is eye-opening, but Ehrman learned under Metzger, who studied the same facts and reached a different conclusion. I wanted to read Metzger - I wanted to find the same guy who had the facts of the Bible but reached the conclusion I WANTED. So, we ordered the book.
In the meantime, I was observing. I observed Christians and non-Christians. I've always held to the Matthew 7:16 idea that we should "know them by their fruits" http://bible.cc/matthew/7-16.htm
In other words, Jesus' followers should be "fruitful" people (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). So, well - I have a Facebook account. I have many, many Christian friends. I have many that I would say were not Christians. So I watched. For about a year. I was looking for a general "happier" mood amongst my Christian friends. I was looking for "miracles." I believed in a God of power and a God who could literally move mountains. So, it stands to reason that when friends asked for prayer for their sick family, or for job interviews, or for dying friends/family, my Christian friends SHOULD be getting, on average, better "results" than my non-Christian friends.
That wasn't the case. Sadly. However, I noticed a strong trend to thank God when things went right and to say "well, it wasn't God's will" when they went wrong. It all started to look like BS to me. And I actually started getting annoyed. I'm still there. I find it highly annoying that intelligent people can't see through the bullshit. Sorry. I digress.
It started to look like many of my friends were lying to themselves. And the answer I got a lot was that "Christianity makes me happy." I don't argue with them, or anyone else about it for that matter. I won't share my knowledge on the subject unless asked. And I am completely willing to admit that I might be wrong.
On that note - Pascal's Wager. Everyone has heard of it. Wiki has this: "since the existence of God cannot be proved or disproved through reason, and there is much to be gained from wagering that God exists and little to be gained from wagering that God doesn’t exist, a rational person should simply wager that God exists and live accordingly." In short: If Christians are wrong, they have lost nothing [by believing], however if they are right, atheists have lost everything [by not believing]. This is an argument that deserves attention. Is there anything lost by believing in the God of the Bible?
Now that I have gone through the process of changing my beleifs, and have seen many other people "deconvert," I've seen many negative issues related to a belief in God. I know this is something that many Christians do NOT want to hear, but Brian and I had some serious issues in our life directly related to the Bible's view of lust and sex. We were personally and strongly and negatively affected by this aspect of our belief-system for our entire married life until we moved away from our beliefs and began tenderly asking each other what WE LIKED. It has been refreshing.
Another problem with Christianity and a literal translation of the Bible is that if you follow it, you'll do some horrible things in the name of Christ. For instance, [here are a few! http://www.evilbible.com/]
And the overwhelming guilt. I have never felt so free as I do now. I was never able to pray enough ... never had enough faith ... never converted enough people ... never grateful enough to God ... I had guilt when I did not go to church, guilt when I did not pray before a meal, guilt that I wasn't a missionary in a foreign country. There was guilt!
Here's another thing about Pascal's Wager. Is there really nothin lost by believeing in Christianity? What happened when I realized that I did NOT believe? Every. Single. Day. Is. Worth. Savoring. For the first time, there is no afterlife! This is it!!! These relationships! This night sky. This unbelievably complex, gorgeous universe! Wow! Humans cherish things more when there is a possibility of losing it. Now I know it can all be gone in an instant, so I cherish every single second. I hug more, especially my kids and family. I am faster to forgive and just let everyone live there own life! I was tired of fighting the devil at every turn, what a waste that turned out being. Now I live every moment in awe of its beauty and the fact that it doesNOT get better. There are no streets of gold and mansions for everyone. This gorgeous reality is it. Of course at first this was a little depressing, but now it's awe-inspiring and beautiful. I almost lost this by believing that I'd see everyone after we died, and that the after-life was so much better than this life.
Another negative trend in Christian circles is LGBT bias. Christians lean toward legislating AGAINST LGBT freedoms, while telling me and everyone else that they treat homosexuals exactly like they treat everyone else. Again, I began calling BS (my own way of saying they are lying to themselves and everyone else). They would ask me: how can you ignore what the Bible says about homosexuals? I began to have very strong feelings about the subject, which is unlike me. I pride myself in my analytical, critical thinking side ... and I often distance myself from any emotions (from an admittedly erroneous belief that showing emotions makes me weak). However, I began to feel that there was an injustice here. That there was a very large group of people (Christians) that were denying rights to a much smaller group of people (LGBT). I began to want to help the smaller group because they were being wronged. This led me to distance myself from those who called themselves "Christians" or those who believed the Bible is the infallible word of God.
I also began to feel like I was doing mental gymnastics to defend my belief in the Bible and God.
... to be continued