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…

The Life of Mohammad

The BBC recently ran a series about the life of the Islamic prophet, Mohammad (http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2011/06_june/20/muhammad.shtml). This is something I was very interested in watching as I had previously not had very much knowledge of the man or his influence.

I was expecting the programme to result in me having genuine reason to dislike him. The main reason for this is that previous descriptions of him that I have heard include the words; raider, polygamist and paedophile. Not words you’d want to have associated with any prophet.

The programme was very different though and did not portray Mohammad as the monster I was expecting. It was obvious that all those being interviewed held a respect for the man and his values that was more than just skin deep. I’d even go so far as to say that some held a reverence like respect for his legacy.

However, there is a caveat to that glowing praise. The presenter and producer appear to be Muslim and the majority of those interviewed were also Muslim. There were a couple of others who had written about Mohammad and they included a couple of Anglican Reverends and a Jewish leader (Priest?). There was no one who was an obvious atheist. The result is that I am left with a feeling that the whole programme was somewhat biased in favour of the prophet.

Impressions from the Programme

That said, I still watched all three episodes and found them informative and interesting. Even if I had no way of telling how much was left out or how much spin was being employed.

There are a few things that stood out for me from the programme. The most obvious one being the revelations that he had; they all seemed to be just the right thing at just the right time and to my sceptical mind it smacked of a man who was making things up to suit him and his continued establishment of power. At no point at all was anyone else the recipient of these revelations, it was only him. This seemed far too convenient and to me does not constitute satisfactory evidence of a man of God (or Allah), quite the opposite in fact.

Inclusive, ecumenical and respectful.

Mohammad’s early adult life seemed to be one that very few modern critics of Islam would recognise. Women were apparently valued as equals and respected and other religions were accommodated and given equal validity too. Those who look at modern Islam and see the oppression of women and the desire to be the dominating religion and a special zeal to eradicate Jews would not recognise the young religion that was growing during Mohammad’s lifetime.

In fact, all the commentators agreed that the modern activities of extremist Muslims were not in accordance with Mohammad’s legacy or the words of the Koran.

The Covering up of Women

The origin of Muslim women covering up was traced to an instruction by Mohammad to his wives to cover their whole bodies. I can’t remember the exact reasons given in the programme, but it was an instruction for a specific reason in the context of a specific situation at that time. The modern following of it seems utterly ridiculous and irrelevant. I can’t help but be reminded of the Christian Church’s issue with women and head coverings.

What a Young Wife to Have

Among the most uncomfortable issues to get brought up was that of one of his wives, promised in marriage at very young and still young when finally married. Some narratives place her age at 9, while others put her as a teenager. One commentator said that it was his belief that she was 16 or 17. Either way, it was a very young bride for a man close to 50.

I don’t know how I feel about this revelation really. Obviously by modern standards its not acceptable, but in the context of that time when an older man would take more than one wife and some very young, is it right that we should judge them by our standards today? If she really was as young as 9, then it is an act that can’t be defended well; even then, I don’t think he would have been alone in doing such a thing. If the culture of the time habitually did that then his actions should be seen in that context.

The Killing of the Jews

There was another major keystone event in the life of Mohammad; that of an act of war where he slaughtered the men from a tribe of Jews when they sided with his enemies.

The bigger story here is that these were Jews who had an agreement with him to help and assist him. The Jews in question saw a chance to usurp his leadership when he was busy defending from other attackers. The plan failed and punishment was exacted.

A Jew interviewed for the programme called it the first holocaust, which I think is a bit rich frankly. The slaughter was a clear punishment for a specific act that could easily be called treachery. It was not a specific attempt to rid the area of Jews. I think Jews who take the holocaust stance on this event should go and read about what the Israelites did in some of their battles in the Old Testament.

Summary

Having watched the programmes, I am not sure exactly how accurate much of the information was; but I now have some information with which to form a view of Mohammad.

I think he was a leader with ideals around personal integrity that people today would recognise as decent. He was one of several religious leaders in the area who were all fighting for greater boundaries of power. As such his personal ideals clashed with a greater desire and being a leader with growing power resulted in some of those ideals being sidelined when it suited.

I certainly don’t believe Mohammad was anything special, I was just one of many leaders, he was just the one that got lucky. I also don’t believe that he was the horrid despot that others would say he was.

The Islam that I see today in the news does not seem to bare any resemblance to the Islam that Mohammad was trying to practice in his day and that does seem to be a very real shame.

Brief Recap

Before going into my adult experiences of Christianity and young earth creationism I thought it would be a good idea to give brief recap of my beliefs and level of Christianity moving from childhood.

The posts that come under the category of ‘The Beginning’ give the salient points of my upbringing to the age of 18.

What I believed, either through direct teaching or through assumption.

  • God made the world in 7 literal days
  • Up until the time of the biblical flood, there had been no rain, the rainbow account was the first occurrence of a rainbow, ever
  • All the characters mentioned in the bible, and their adventures occurred exactly as stated. This includes:
  • The spiritual gifts listed in the bible are real gifts that humans can and do use
  • God is a personal god of love and has an interest in us as individuals.

In terms of my own Christian dedication, I had no doubt I was a Christian and I had no issue with going to church. I considered it important that I did, the thought of not going to church just didn’t feature. I attended many different churches of different denominations over those early years.

As a person I had very low self esteem, thanks to my parents marriage breakup, controlling step-mother and step-siblings, English public school and probably other factors too. I recall not having much freedom to find and express my own views, opinions and ideas.

Christianity to me was defacto and unquestionable. There had been boys at school in England who challenged Christianity, but the school itself did not, with the majority of teachers being practising Christians. There was even a school Chaplin.

So at 18 years old, I was to leave home in Zambia, with a plane ticket for England and make my way in the big bad world. Of one thing I was certain, I would be looking for a church to attend with the same seriousness as I would be looking for a job.