This video was shown in the Church service yesterday

Yesterday’s Sermon used the following video as an introduction and link to the sermon.

Its a clever video and makes its point in a slick and impressive way. I am sure if I still called myself a Christian I would have enjoyed it. Several of the congregation around me seemed to enjoy it, judging by their positive murmurings and head nodding when it ended.

However.

All the way through the first half, my mind was screaming out “this is not how I think, this is not how atheists think, this is a straw man built on what misguided Christians think the godless live”.

So I switched off. I can’t remember what the sermon was about now.

So today I find myself faced with the first disappointment of the paster of our new church.

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The first few weeks of Atheism

Having accepted that my Christianity was unsalvageable and that I was on the road to Atheism (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/suddenly-i-realised-that-atheism-was-the-only-choice/) I found myself going through all sorts of mental hoops.

I have already mentioned (in the post linked to above) how my moral compass fluttered a bit while I accepted that my morality was part of me and not as a result of the Christian Holy Spirit dwelling within me. I challenged my morals in various thought experiments to see what I thought I was capable of. It was an odd time while I moved from my existing position to theoretically allowing myself to do anything I wished and back again.

After a couple of weeks of this, I decided firmly that how I was already was how I liked myself and so nothing was going to change there. It didn’t matter if the morals I abided by were truly me or if some I had adopted as a result of years of Christian indoctrination. Trying to separate one from the other would be a pointless task anyway.

Unexpected Relief

This moral settling process took a few weeks and during that time I also experienced an odd sense of relief.

Having made the decision that there was no god after all, I wasn’t expecting there to be much of a change within me and I certainly didn’t expect there to be a deep response within me; in my soul so to speak. I was going to describe the change as emotional, but that would be selling it short, it was more than that.

The sense of relief was unexpected and took me by surprise and so it would be a while before I recognised it for what it was. Identifying what that relief was from would be harder still.

Was it relief from an oppressive religion of the type I have read about on many atheist blogs? Not really, I never felt my Christianity was oppressive and I don’t think I’d describe it as such now.

Was it relief from a binding set of rules and the fear of failing the impossible standards that are set? Not really, I never consciously felt that fear and still I object to that description of Christianity because its frankly not my experience of it.

Was it relief from the rituals associated with any form of Christianity? A little bit, yes.

Was it relief that enabled me to look at the natural world and be able to appreciate its beauty fully for the first time and be able to acknowledge it with a “Wow! That is the result of random chance through Evolution and there is no designer involved”. A bit more of that yes. In fact, I am now finding myself finding greater wonder in nature than I did as a Christian. A revelation has still surprises me today when I think about it.

If I thought for longer I could no doubt increase the list of possible candidates for the source of that relief. The truth is that its not from one source, but rather several different sources. Abandoning my Christian faith has meant a lot of changes in the reasons of why things are important to me and the relief I experienced is the result of the change of each of those.

Besides a sense of relief there is also a feeling of liberation.

Again, I can’t explain why there is a liberated feeling. Liberation implies freedom from shackles, either physical or metaphorical. My Christian life has been one of much proclamation of liberation from the shackles of sin and yet I find myself feeling liberated having ditched my Christianity.

I’m still not clear on all the reasons for these feelings. All I can say with certainly is that they were not expected.

I have decided not to dwell on the puzzle of the source and instead enjoy the result.

Death of a Much Loved Mother

There is so much I want to write and say about Mum, but little of it is relevant to the scope of this blog, which is the story of my Christianity and deconversion from it. However, Mum was a major influence on my life and the story of her life is a genuinely interesting one which I think could be told on its own. I often entertain the idea of attempting to write her story myself. She certainly deserves it.

Mum’s death from Pancreatic Cancer a little over three years ago had a huge impact on me and I am definitely not over it. Writing this blog entry will likely be the hardest one I do. Mum’s death also came at the time when my Christian faith died. The two are not related, one definitely did not cause the other, at least not for me.

“I can’t believe in a God who would let this happen to Mum”

Those are not my words, rather they are the words of my youngest brother. He said it to me while she was still alive. My brother lived with Mum (and our step-father) for the last three years of Mum’s life and saw the cancer slowly kill her. He cared for her daily, cooked for her and confided with her. During that time I watched my brother change into the man that he now is and it makes me immensely proud to be his brother.

Mum’s death affected him deeply too. We are both witness much of what Mum went through in Zambia, one small snippet is referred to here (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/coming-close-to-being-an-orphan/) and we are witnesses to her unending dignity, love and patience. In fact at her funeral, several people made references to this event where she was kidnapped from the farm we lived on and commented on how she responded to it.

My brother was far more damning about God in Mum’s final years than I was. He was blunt, if there was a God, then that would mean he watched Mum through her life serve Him and suffer greatly physically and mentally and still serve Him, and serve Him well. Then in her early 60s let her suffer and die with what is arguably the worst cancer you could get today. Surely such a woman deserved better from God and God should reward such service.

I could see my brother’s point, but I didn’t agree; despite my faltering faith I wasn’t going to buy into the argument that bad things happening to good people means there is no God. My brothers story is very different from mine and I wasn’t at all surprised by his reasoning. He’d long ago stopped living like a Christian and I figured his faith was long past rescuing. I think this experience for him was just a final nail in the coffin.

I couldn’t tell Mum about my loss of faith. I was still processing it myself and the acceptance of what was to come and the grief that followed complicated that somewhat. Would I tell her now if she was alive and well still? I don’t know. I did ponder on telling her but decided against it, given the circumstances I didn’t want to put the spiritual worries of another son onto her.

It wouldn’t be until some months after Mum’s funeral that I would tell my brother about my loss of faith.

 

 

Suddenly I realised that Atheism was the Only Choice

The side effect of my increased understanding of the scientific method and the impossibility of a literal creation was that more and more of what I had accepted in The Bible was rejected as false.

I can’t remember exactly when it was but over a short period of time I realised that rejection of formerly held Biblical truths could only result on one thing, total rejection of The Bible. I did consider for a while if I could hold my acceptance of Evolution along with the belief in a personal God. The problem that caused me was that it didn’t fix the fact that key events in the Old Testament didn’t happen and if certain key events in the Old Testament didn’t happen, then the New Testament was equally in doubt and therefore Christianity as a whole had little to defend it.

It didn’t take much for me to realise that the end result of the road I was on was the abandonment of my Christian faith. I could not embrace my new scientific understanding and my enthusiasm for more and keep a Christian faith. It simply wasn’t going to happen for me, there were too many questions that resulted in The Bible being wrong or questionable.

So rather than spend years battling with my faith, I decided to shortcut the torment and make a conscious decision that Christianity was bunk and go from there.

While it was an easy logical conclusion to make, there were many things that I needed to consider. How do I tell those I love? Especially my Wife! How will this affect my morals? What do I do about going to Church? How will this affect my views on death? This last one was key as at this time my mother was very ill with Pancreatic Cancer (more on this in another post that will come).

Those first weeks Post Atheism were a bit weird.

It was a few years ago now so I don’t recall those weeks especially clearly, but there are a few things that still stand out for me.

The first one is that I questioned my morals and their source. I hadn’t realised it until then, but my mind-set wad been very heavily engrained with the idea that morals and goodness come from the Holy Spirit and I was good because I was a Christian. Abandoning that must then surely mean the abandonment of my morals. I found myself asking questions about what was now acceptable, could I lie more readily? Steal from work? Cheat on my wife? You know, the sort of things those horrid godless people do all the time!

Well, it turns out that I was still just as unhappy with the idea of any of those things as I was before. So there would be no sin binge, as it were.

Tell No One

At this time I resolved that my state of faith would be a secret until I could work out what to do with the news. My biggest fear was how my wife would react, I knew that if it had been the other way round I’d have likely been devastated and I didn’t want to do that to her. This meant that I also would not tall anyone else because I didn’t feel it would be right to tell anyone else when she didn’t know.

Later I would seriously consider confiding in a close friend first and there were a couple of occasions when that very nearly happened. It just never seemed to be the right place or the right time.

What I did start to do was expand my reading of blogs. I looked for and found several blogs of people who had also come out of Christianity. This gave me a form of release as I could read now read (and participate if required) about similar experiences and not feel alone and unable to express my concerns and frustrations.

Science Podcasts helped my understanding

Along my way to questioning the literal interpretation of the Old Testament stories, I got into listening to science podcasts.

The timing was quite fortunate really. Not long after the USA holiday which sparked my questioning (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/the-first-nagging-doubts/) I changed job and found myself working from home for prolonged periods. The result of this was I installed iTunes on my PC and started investigating podcasts. Some of the podcasts I found very difficult to listen to because in amongst the science there were many disparaging remarks about belief and faith. I found it extremely difficult to listen to those comments, but I continued because I found the science interesting and it was that that fed my mind.

I did also try out some creationist podcasts to try and balance my intake and challenge what I was hearing. To be perfectly honest, I found them deeply wanting. The scientific content of the creationist podcasts was weak and invariably the presenters would try and use biased logic to argue against evolutionary science. The result was that I very quickly abandoned the creationist podcasts and continue to consume as much science as I could.

By now it was clear to me that I was no longer a literal creationist.

 

The biggest side effect in embracing an old earth and the truth of evolution was the Old Testament sections that now came under the spotlight.

Old Earth, means no Genesis Flood (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/noah%E2%80%99s-ark-gilgamesh-or-just-a-story/) for starters. I also came to realise that other well-known Biblical stories were not quite as I had believed (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/poor-poor-joseph-what-you-gonna-do/).

The latter realisation had me questioning the Bible much more. Its one thing to accept the Bible as the word of God while also holding that Evolution is true; however, I seemed to be going further and was questioning the accuracy of key Old Testament accounts.

Following the scientific podcasts and learning about what was reliable and what was not was making me think more critically and sceptically about when I had previously believed.

What in the Old Testament Could I Trust?

 

This became a problem for me and was a question I asked myself a lot. The bottom line was; if I can’t trust the Old Testament, then the New Testament, which hinges on the Old Testament being reliable, can also not be relied upon to be the inspired Word of God either.

Greater scientific understanding had definitely left me with a problem…