I’ve talked a bit about my previous Christian life on here, and I have explained the reasons why I no longer believe. But how did I get from being a Bible believing Christian who didn’t have a doubt in the existence and sovereignty of God, to the atheist that I am now? Here I will attempt to document this. In summary, I would say this was a gradual process that took around 9 years in total.
Does God heal?
I spent a good amount of time at Pentecostal churches who regularly claimed God did miracles and healed people of various illnesses. Yet for some reason, I was never fully convinced that God was really healing these people. For starters, people with mild illnesses got better on their own anyway, while church never followed up on people with more serious illnesses (like cancer), to see if they had actually gotten better. I prayed for many people, including relatives, to get better, yet nothing happened. I’ve also prayed for myself (and had others pray for me), and nothing has happened. This angered me somewhat, why was God refusing to heal all these people when he could easily do so? Eventually I decided I didn’t believe in miracles… well I hadn’t seen any anyways! Still, I believed in God for a long time after that. Besides, many churches I went to didn’t believe in miracles so it was no biggie. I began to doubt that you could have a personal relationship with God also.
Legalism – fuel for the fire.
It was around the years 2010-2012 when I was doing a science degree at university. During this time I moved into a Christian flat which attended church together. Initially I was quite happy there, but over time I became stressed and tense because of the legalism I had to put up with. For starters, one of the flatmates liked to push his beliefs onto everyone else (even most Christians didn’t agree with him). But the church I went to had many silly backward ideas in retrospect, like the following:
- Women should not be allowed to teach and must submit to men.
- Men must not wear head coverings but women should.
- Homosexuality and natural sexual desires are sinful.
- Eternal Hell awaits anyone who doesn’t get sanctified in Jesus.
- The earth is only around six thousand years old.
That’s just a short list of crazy things my church believed. I put up with this legalism for a while because I had good friends at church and I didn’t want to go elsewhere, but it would reach a breaking point. See, prior to these years, I had been away from church for a while, living a non-Christian life… although I still believed in God. So to come back to a church like this seemed nice at first, but it was like being locked up in a child’s play pen. Also, after studying science, I learnt that most scientists don’t take Creationism seriously, so my belief in a literal Genesis began to drop out fast.
A stressful time and looking elsewhere.
My degree was stressful enough on it’s own, without having to put up with petty legalistic rules. Now this is where I mention the main turning point here.
Did I read some atheist book which transformed my mind?
Did I get ‘won over’ during an argument with an atheist?
No, none of those things happened. Instead, it was Christianity’s legalistic trappings which drove me to look outside of religion for inspiration. I looked outside because I was angry and wanted to spite these people who placed burdens in my life… and I was a curious person too. People say that Christians do more harm to their religion than the most hardened atheist, I think that’s not far from the truth.
Eventually I started secretly looking up atheist videos on YouTube, as well as reading some atheist literature. Initially I felt guilty doing this, and hearing people make fun of my God and beliefs offended me. But then I began to see the points they were making, and how silly they were making The Bible look. You know, sometimes it pays to consider alternative points of view, other than the ones you grew up with, you never know where it might lead. I was about to go on for a journey. Not only did I realise how absurd many of the Bible stories were, but God wasn’t who I thought he was. This is something which could make a whole article on it’s own, but basically I came across huge discrepancies in the Bible between the so called loving character of God, and how he actually acted towards people who rebelled. He sounded like a ruthless dictator to me. An obvious example of this would be the whole concept of Hell.
It was around this time, when I was living in a Christian flat, that I decided that maybe the God I believed in wasn’t real after all.
Still going to church but…
Around the years 2013-2014, my Christian beliefs started to drop pretty quickly. I no longer believed in divine miracles, a literal Genesis, and having a personal relationship with God. Problem was, I WANTED to believe there was a God. I told myself that I just wasn’t seeking him hard enough. Many times I would pray:
Asking God to crush my doubts
Asking God to help me ‘follow his will’
Asking God to forgive me for my sins.
But God never revealed anything…
The weird thing was, I still went to church for quite a while. I think I enjoyed the social aspects of it, and having many Christian friends. But I began to lose the vigor I once had for church. Listening to sermons and singing hymns just didn’t inspire me anymore. When you begin to lose your belief in something imaginary, it no longer motivates you or has any power over you. I think I was pretty much agnostic at this point, but I could never understand how someone could be atheist. Time to drop church.
Losing my belief in a God.
I was always used to the idea that there must be a creator out there somewhere. But then I read a book called ‘Leaving Your Religion’. I began to consider that while it’s POSSIBLE there is a God out there, we haven’t seen any proof of it. When someone makes a claim about the existence of something, the burden of proof is on them, not for others to disprove it. Since I decided I believed in the scientific account of how our universe developed, a God explanation wasn’t necessary. It was around this time last year (2016) when I decided I was probably an atheist. Exploring other alternative religions didn’t really interest me that much. I then decided to start writing this blog at the beginning of this year, to come to terms with what I believe now.
Losing my beliefs was a double-edged sword.
When I first realised I didn’t believe, I felt a little bit of peace in the corner of my mind.
– The God I once believed in wasn’t real so I didn’t have to worry about trying to base my life on him anymore.
– I didn’t have to be stuck on a cycle of guilt, trying to sin less, and feel like I haven’t done enough.
– I didn’t have to attend boring church services and try to understand the Bible’s many contradictions and absurdities.
In retrospect, it felt awesome.
Of course, I did still go to church for a while, because I wasn’t quite ready to deal with the consequences of ‘coming out’ to my Christian friends. Losing my beliefs wasn’t all lovely though.
– I felt disappointed that I never really had a personal relationship with a God.
– There wasn’t really someone who secretly cared for and loved me who had a life plan sculptured out for me.
– I was sad that the many great promises Christians talk about wouldn’t be fulfilled.
– There probably won’t be an afterlife where everything would be made right and that we should make the most of this one.
I think the whole afterlife thing, while it made me sad initially, motivated me to make the most out of this one. I can come up with my own purpose in life, not worrying about what The Bible or church elders would have to say about it. I could spend more time developing myself rather than attending unnecessary church services or Bible studies.
So there you have it. The many turning points which led me to abandon Christianity. Later on I will write about my experiences leaving Christianity and ‘coming out’ as an atheist, but that will take some time before that happens.
Image source: roadtrafficsigns.com