[Warning: This answer is long, so if you hate reading, the short answer is: “Yes. Now go and enjoy your life!” But if you’re struggling with doubt and want a more complete answer, then you’ve come to the right place.]
Science and reason have done more to make the modern world than any other force in history. We must think clearly about all claims, and face the universe with courage and an unblinking conviction to understand reality as it is instead of how we wish it were.
~ Michael Shermer, Editor of Skeptic Magazine
The gullible believe anything they’re told; the prudent sift and weigh every word.
~ Proverbs 14:15 (The Message)
While I enjoy exploring these individual questions, there’s one question that simply cannot wait until the very end to be asked, and that is: “Is there life after God?”
I can tell you from experience that losing faith can be one of the most gut-wrenching, depressing, and difficult things a sincere believer can go through. I know there are other believers who are struggling with their faith as I did (and to some extent, still do), so I wanted to address some of the issues Christians can face when they begin to lose faith, and explore what promise life still holds for those who doubt.
The Value of Religion
We should start by admitting that Christianity can give our lives meaning, purpose, and perspective. It feeds us the answers we crave: it explains who we are, why we’re here, and where we’re going; and it helps us cope with life’s most difficult problems, like fear, death, loss, injustice, guilt, morality, insecurity, and loneliness. When we begin to doubt, we’re forced to readdress all these questions and fears.
For the sincere Christian, the search for truth is not just about exploring a few dry facts and coming to the most reasonable conclusion. When your entire worldview is wrapped around your faith — when you truly believe you have a relationship with the creator of the Universe, who loves and cares for you personally — the transition from belief to disbelief can be confusing and stressful.
Doubt is especially confusing because it can be difficult to know whom to listen to. Both believers and non-believers seem equally confident in what they believe, and seem to have valid rationalizations for their conclusions. But clearly, someone must be wrong.
And doubt can be stressful because of the threat of eternal damnation. It’s not enough to just doubt the existence of hell, you must know there is no such place.
My Own Fall from Grace
Some people describe their loss of faith like a huge weight being lifted off their shoulders: the rain-clouds part, sunlight comes pouring down, AC/DC’s Back in Black begins playing, and a church explodes behind them as they stroll confidently away. While I’m happy for these people, this was definitely not my experience.
It was never my intention to doubt, nor did I believe it was even possible. Serving God had been my number one priority for over 30 years. In all things, I wanted to put God first. If I asked questions, it was only for the purpose of strengthening my faith (I didn’t want to have zeal without knowledge).
In my life as a Christian, I’d learned about other religions and why they were inferior to my own. I spoke with believers in other religions, and read their literature. And in reading the Christian rebuttals to their arguments, I was confident I knew exactly why they were wrong, and I felt I could intellectually defend my position.
But I wasn’t content just believing in God, I wanted to know God was real, I wanted the same confidence that my pastor and other Christians seemed to have. I wanted to be able to intellectually defend the existance of God in the same way I could defend Christianity against other religions. I wanted to know why things like evolution were false, and how to prove to others that stories like Noah’s ark were historically true.
The Bible teaches us that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), so I read my Bible and listened to my audio Bible as often as I could. But after doing so for some time, I began to wonder if this kind of “renewing of the mind” (Romans 12:2) wouldn’t work for any religion. If I studied the Quran or the Book of Mormon every day, wouldn’t I just be “renewing my mind” in that direction? Was the Holy Spirit increasing my faith, or was I just brainwashing myself?
I searched for other ways to boost my faith and confidence, and I found my faith reinvigorated by reading stories about Near Death Experiences (NDEs). Surely so many similar experiences couldn’t be wrong. But these accounts were also confusing, because non-Christians and atheists would also claim to have positive NDEs. (This bothered some Christians to the point that they began to speak out against NDEs, labeling them as demonic deceptions.) Additionally, religious and cultural backgrounds seemed to play heavily into these experiences, and many such stories were being ignored because they didn’t fit into the “typical” NDE mold (the stories that seemed more like dreams). Reports of NDEs eventually inspired tests designed to prove that departing spirits can float above their bodies, yet such tests have never yielded any positive evidence.
I later found my faith revived again with the discovery of the Intelligent Design movement. I finally felt I knew God existed, and I could prove it! Cells were far too complex to form by chance, and therefore this complexity — this information — required an intelligent designer. But I later reasoned that a cell would actually require far less information than God’s “brain” (as it were). How could I justify that the less complex thing was impossible without a designer, but the more complex thing could exist without one? It was more probable that the cell should arise, based on the information requirements alone. Also, cells were made of material that was known to actually exist, and was plentiful in our Universe. No one knows if supernatural materials exist, and if they do, if they can support higher thought. Once again, my faith was squelched.
The Quest for Truth
I knew, as much as I loved God, that I was being biased by never really giving the opposition a chance to speak. If I was ever to be certain of my conclusions, I needed understand opposing points of view, and be able to defend myself against them. So I began reading books about Atheism… written by Christians. And later, I began watching debates between Christians and Atheists. I didn’t really want to believe the atheist view, I just wanted to hear what they believed, and then learn why they were wrong.
I wasn’t easily swayed. As much as my bias was with God, as much as I wanted to believe, as much as I wanted to see God and Christianity emerge victoriously from logic and reason, I also wanted to know the truth, and be able defend it with logic and reason.
After watching many hours of debates, I began to see the logic in what these non-believers were saying. I didn’t want to side with them, these atheists were often smug and arrogant, the opposite of the brotherly love shown by Christians. I wanted nothing to do with them, but they seemed to be winning the war on every front.
The only front on which the Christians were winning was on the emotional one. The Christian position seemed to ultimately rely on a strong appeal to emotion: “God loves you! Jesus died for you! Don’t you want your father’s love? God forgives you! He wants to save you from eternal torment, and to bring you into a heavenly place filled with love, peace, and joy!” Even if true, these are not logical arguments; they don’t prove that God exists or that Christianity is true, but they make us feel good, and so these are the underlying sentiments which seem to drive Christianity. We all want love, forgiveness, protection, and we all fear death, the unknown, and pain, but we should not let these emotions dictate our conclusions about reality, no matter how reassuring they are, or how much these conclusions help to meet our emotional needs.
If the Bible is historically true, why were these Christians having such difficulty proving it? Just as we have physical evidence for things like an ice age, there should be plenty of good evidence that drives scientists to conclude there was once a global flood. And with all the miracles I’ve heard about, why haven’t scientists been able to prove that miracles can happen whenever we pray to a specific god?
I think the one debate that represented a turning point for me was when Kent Hovind used the Loch Ness Monster as evidence for a young earth and the recent extinction of dinosaurs. Were Christians really so desperate for evidence that they were willing to accept anything that helped to confirmed their bias?
As I continued reading and learning, my faith waned. Reality began to sink in.
The search for truth takes you where the evidence leads you, even if, at first, you don’t want to go there.
~ Bart D. Ehrman, Forged: Writing in the Name of God
Depressed and Confused
I went through a long and stressful period of cognitive dissonance where my mind was unsettled about an issue that affected my entire worldview. Our minds like to be made up, especially about such important issues.
I didn’t go from 100% belief to 100% disbelief overnight, I don’t think anyone does (and if they do, their faith wasn’t that strong to begin with). For me, this ratio changed gradually until the scales finally tipped more toward disbelief. Was I absolutely certain there was no God? No, I don’t think you can ever be certain, because you can’t prove a negative (e.g. try proving invisible fairies or mermaids don’t exist), you just come to seriously doubt it.
When the scales tipped completely, I felt a tremendous sense of loss, as if a close friend had died. I wondered: How can I feel loss if God never existed? But I reasoned that as long as I believed God existed, I could experience loss. It’s like believing you’re going to come into a large sum of money, only to find out you were mistaken. It doesn’t matter that you never really had the money coming, as long as you believed it was yours, you can still feel a sense of loss.
I remember the first night I didn’t pray before going to bed. I wasn’t angry at God, I just believed so little that I saw no point in petitioning the void; no one was on the other end. It was just me, all along.
From there I fell into a deep depression; the kind of murky funk that finds you listening to the song Mad World over and over again. I wasn’t suicidal, but I did wish I’d never been born, and I couldn’t wait for life to be over. Life no longer held any grand purpose or promise. Life didn’t matter, I didn’t matter, nothing mattered. I would live out my useless, pathetic, meaningless life, and then I’d be gone forever. As the song says, “Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow, no tomorrow, no tomorrow.” The world was an absurd accident, and I no longer wanted any part of it.
The truth is that Christianity makes such grandiose promises that when you lose what you thought you had, reality appears bankrupt by comparison. Christianity also drives into you that life is pointless without God, so when you conclude there is no God, the first conclusion you jump to is that life must be pointless.
Family and Friends
To make matters worse, no one I knew could relate to my position. Growing up in church, all my friends and family were devout Christians.
My wife saw how depressed I was and could only conclude (from her perspective) that this is what happens when someone rejects God. She saw me as someone who had become deceived; I’d believed “a lie from the pit of hell,” as she put it.
I knew the look she was giving me, it was the same look I’d given people for decades: she saw me as broken, and the only cure was God. I felt like saying, “Don’t look at me that way! I know exactly what you’re thinking and you’re wrong. I’m not broken, I’m not deceived, and I don’t need fixing, I’ve just realized the truth, and it’s a depressing truth.”
I didn’t know if our marriage could survive my loss of faith. I’d even considered hiding my doubts and feigning belief, but later concluded I couldn’t live a lie.
We couldn’t talk about God without arguing (and we rarely ever fought). I once asked her, “Would you still have married me if I wasn’t a Christian?” “No,” she replied. Ouch. That one still stings. My wife was normally the most loving and kindhearted person you’d ever want to meet, but it didn’t seem to matter to her how great of a husband or father I was, if I wasn’t going to raise our children to believe in God, then she would’ve preferred someone else.
After that experience, I had little desire to come out to my Christian friends, lest they see me in the same light. I didn’t pretend to be Christian, I just didn’t volunteer any information.
The Natural Enemy of the Christian
In losing faith, the ex-Christian makes himself (or herself) the intellectual enemy of Christians, because his conclusions now threaten what they still hold dear. Since the ex-Christian’s conclusions cannot possibly be correct, he and his opinions must be marginalized and demonized. Perhaps he is a deviant, who is intentionally blinding himself so that he may take part in the lusts of his flesh, sans guilt. Or perhaps he has become deceived, or is in denial, or is in rebellion against God, or is lost, or closed-minded, or dimwitted, or perhaps it was never God’s plan to save him, or perhaps he will eventually come to his senses and return to the fold. Whatever his problem, it cannot and must not be that he has carefully and honestly pondered the evidence, and discovered the actual truth of the matter.
What Doubt Gets You
When you choose to doubt, you are literally going up against the 2,000 year-old institution of Christianity, and the millions of minds that have evolved the story to protect it.
The concepts of God and Christianity have become extraordinarily well adapted at protecting themselves. Wherever there is a spark of doubt, there is a ready-made excuse to douse it. Don’t expect the answers to be obvious, if they were, no one would believe.
True believers are continually shown by reality that their god doesn’t exist, but have developed extensive coping mechanisms to deal with this cognitive dissonance.
~ Mark Thomas
When you do doubt, you also lose your network of support. I once attended a church service where a young man dedicated his life to God and was baptized, and the entire church gave him a standing ovation. But who applauds the man who leaves the church? Who is there to encourage him in his walk away from faith? Where do doubters gather to offer encouragement to one another? If you’re going to leave, you may have to go it alone; this is one area where you church cannot support you. The truth must be more important to you than anything else.
And what is the reward for your skepticism? Well, you might just earn yourself eternal damnation… so there’s that. And while you’re waiting to burn, you might also enjoy some disapproving looks from your loved ones, who now view you as lost and deceived. And, of course, there’s all the uncertainty and self-doubt.
The truth comes at a price. But what you get in return is an opportunity to glimpse the world for what it really is. If I only get one life to live, the truth is something I’d like to know.
Why Ex-Christians Deserve Respect
Ex-christians who refuse to follow the herd do so at great personal risk. They deserve our respect for their willingness to stand up to authority and tradition, for checking their facts, for following their convictions, and for risking everything in the name of truth. These people are willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads, without letting their emotions or personal bias get in the way. The risk eternal damnation in the name of truth. I imagine if there were a God, especially one who respects those who seek truth, even he would have to respect such conviction.
The Christian risks little by comparison. Even if wrong, he lives out his life in a reassuring delusion, with the full support of his God and congregation, and will die believing that paradise awaits him on the other side.
My Turning Point
It took me a long time to crawl out of my funk, but I emerged with some very different views. Here are the top ten things I’ve learned from the experience:
1) Just because I won’t exist forever, doesn’t mean I don’t matter or my life has no meaning or purpose. I may not matter forever — in some eternal cosmic sense — but I matter right now, in this very moment, while I’m alive. I matter because at this moment, I am real. I matter to my children, to my wife, my friends, my family, my dog, and to everyone around me. We matter to each other, if no one else; my life has meaning and purpose to them, if no one else. And even if I have no one, I matter to myself. Who decided that we must live forever or matter to a deity in order to really matter? And isn’t it better to matter to another real being than to an imaginary one? If your mother or father, or son or daughter dies, how can we say their lives held no meaning? If they matter to us, they matter.
2) If God does not exist, the existence of the Universe is no less mysterious and awe inspiring. Moreover, the odds that you or I would ever come into existence are extremely small. The atoms that make up our bodies have probably always existed in some form, and we are the conscious assembly of those atoms. As Carl Sagan said, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” The overwhelming majority of the universe is unconscious and will never be able to contemplate its own existence; what a rare opportunity it is to be a conscious part of the Universe, even if only for a short time.
3) Life is far from perfect, but there are still so many things to enjoy: the sights, the sounds, the smells, the sensations, food, music, movies, nature, books, pets, technology, new discoveries, sunlight, emotions, laughter, hugs, learning, art, love, holding hands, romance, sex, strawberries, water slides, fireworks, baths, having your back tickled, massages, that first stretch in the morning after a good night’s sleep, ice cream, chocolate, science, games, sports, walking, playing, swimming, kayaking, running, flying, biking, sledding, driving, horseback riding, creating, writing, painting, building, exploring life and the Universe, having children, and introducing them to all of this wonderful stuff.
4) The secular worldview is actually much more understanding of what it means to be human. Christianity tells you, “You’re God’s failed experiment (Gen 6:5-7). He gave you free will, and you disappointed him (Romans 3:23). You don’t deserve forgiveness, you deserve eternal damnation, but if you ask God nicely, maybe he’ll forgive you (Ephesians 2:8-9). Not because of anything you did, you’re still a dick — but only because God’s a nice guy.” The secular worldview says, “Look, you’re not evil, you were born into an imperfect world with an imperfect mind. But as imperfect as you are, you are still one of the Universe’s crowning achievements, and that’s pretty amazing.”
5) Suffering is the price we pay for the opportunity to be alive, but not all suffering is bad. A game without any challenges or obstacles would quickly become boring. Likewise, the obstacles and challenges we face in life can actually make life more interesting. You can’t have a Friday without a Monday, or enjoy warmth without feeling cold, or anticipate a drink without feeling thirsty. If you spent every day at Disneyland, or every day was Christmas or your birthday, you would lose your appreciation for these things. If you don’t have a significant other, your loneliness helps you to appreciate them all the more when you have them. It through not having things that we learn to appreciate and enjoy them so much more when we do have them. And even when horrible things happen to other people, this can, strangely, give us reason to be thankful that these things didn’t happen to us. (And as strange is it may seem, when horrible things happen to you, you may actually be able to increase the happiness of others by serving as a warning, or you may later be able to help others wade through similar circumstances, or you may simply make others feel thankful that those circumstances didn’t befall them!) The challenges that are least welcome are those that can never be adequately overcome; those that forever suck the joy out of life (such as unceasing physical or emotional pain).
6) There’s no need to take life so seriously. As a Christian, I felt the need to be ready to evangelize at every opportunity. I feared that if I didn’t acknowledge God before everyone, Jesus wouldn’t acknowledge me before God (Matt. 10:32). I was on a mission from God to save all nonbelievers from eternal damnation. I didn’t see people for who they were, I saw them as saved or unsaved. I no longer feel this kind of pressure, and I feel like I can finally relax and appreciate people for who they are, and not just what they believe.
7) For some reason, as a Christian, I saw the United States as 80% secular, with believers being a small minority. As a non-believer, I see the U.S. as 80% Christian, and atheists are in the minority. Also as a Christian, I never understood why “the world” hated us, we’re such a loving group! We “love the sinner but hate the sin!” I now realize how presumptuous this was, to assume that we alone have the truth, and that all others are deceived sinners. No one wants to be looked at this way, especially if it’s not true. But in all fairness, I’m sure Christians also hate being viewed as anti-intellectuals.
8) Christians are not the enemy; they really are generally good people with a sincere interest in doing what they believe is right. A person can no more be blamed for being Christian than a dog can be blamed for having rabies; they are at the mercy of their own brain and their environment, and some people just never have the inclination, or ability, to challenge their beliefs.
9) There is no ultimate justice, and this means that some people will get away with murder (literally and figuratively). However, I wouldn’t trade places with these people for a moment, because those who intentionally bring harm to others are not usually well-adjusted, happy individuals living in a healthy environment. You don’t shoot up a school because your life is going great and it’s a logical choice, you do it because something is wrong. And there are many reasons why we make such poor decisions. It may be a response driven by our emotions (fear, jealousy, anger, etc.), or an instinctive response, or a mental illness, or maybe we didn’t have time to carefully think things through; or it may be a genetic disposition, or environmental influences, or some social injustice or inequality, or maybe we weren’t breastfed long enough, or we were just too immature to know what the proper decision should’ve been. We’re all imperfect, but I’d like to think that if given enough time to ponder our hurtful actions, a healthy-minded individual would always conclude that harmful behavior that is unnecessary is illogical, and therefore “wrong.”
10) Finally, death is the end. But the good news is, you won’t know you’re dead, and you won’t care, the same way you didn’t know you weren’t alive for the billions of eons that preceded your birth. The fact that you don’t remember a time before you had a brain is evidence that you won’t remember the time after you lose it. And given the choice, isn’t it better that billions should disappear than be tortured forever? Knowing that you will die makes the fleeting moments of our existence all the more valuable.
The Future… future… future…
They say nature abhors a vacuum, so with God and eternal life out of the picture, what kind of future is there for the unbeliever to take hope in? For me, I replaced my hope in God with hope in science and humanity.
What makes me hopeful is that we humans have a long history of rising to the occasion and solving our problems. Don’t get me wrong, I know that we humans also have a long history of doing pretty shitty things to one another, but our ability to empathize helps us to recognize why these things are bad, and why we should no longer do them, and we seem to be learning from our mistakes. (If you don’t think so, try getting slavery reinstated in the U.S., or getting the ban on interracial marriage restored.)
When mankind wanted to communicate across long distances, we invented radio, television, and phones; when we wanted to travel long distances, we invented boats, cars, planes, and rocket ships; when we wanted to eliminate sickness and disease, we invented vaccines, medicine, surgeries, and treatments; and when we wanted to share information, we invented language, writing, the printing press, and the internet. We’ve invented many devices, appliances, and forms of entertainment that make our lives easier, safer, more productive, and more entertaining. I believe mankind will continue innovating in ways that will make our world even better.
Over the past 150 years in the U.S., we’ve figured out how to treat or prevent many diseases, we’ve slashed childhood mortality rates, we’ve eliminated 90% of deaths caused by fire, we’ve doubled our lifespans, and we recently cut the death rate for childhood cancer in half. We’ve matured, and have become more sensitive to the needs of others; we’ve abolished slavery, given equal rights to women, elected a black president, and we’re becoming more understanding of those with different sexual orientations. We’ve found cures for diseases like Polio and (recently) Hepatitis C, and we can look forward to cures for things like Alzheimer’s, AIDS, depression, dementia, chronic pain, epilepsy, mental illness, and cancer. We will (ironically) help the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and the blind to see. Also, worldwide, mankind appears to be losing its appetite for war; far fewer people die today from wars and genocide than ever before.
As Steven Pinker points out in his book Better Angels of our Nature, life today is better than it was 100 years ago, and life 100 years ago was better than it was 1,000 years ago. Thanks to the work of those who have come before us, we’ve eliminated many forms of suffering that once plagued mankind, and made our lives more enjoyable through tools and technology. (For more reasons to be thankful, check out this list.)
I’m not saying the world will ever be perfect, I’m just saying it’s better than it was, and there is good reason to believe it will continue to get better.
In the future, computers will also get smarter. They will begin processing insane amounts of information to better inform mankind, and help us to make better decisions, from healthcare to political decisions. Unlike humans, computers have the capacity to store and process unlimited amounts of information. They can weigh all possible outcomes of every decision better and faster than any one man. They may even become relied upon to help run cities, countries, or even the world. They can do so without bias or favoritism, and they can continually measure every outcome, including our individual happiness, in order to make recommendations that continue to make our lives happier, healthier, and more satisfying.
Robots will continue to take over mundane and dangerous jobs; they will clean our homes, do our dirty work, and drive our cars (preventing thousands of deaths every month!).
In the distant future, I believe mankind will begin exploring distant worlds that we are only now beginning to discover. Perhaps we will even prepare them for future human habitation; filling them with plants and animals of our own design.
Eventually mankind will defeat death itself. What a great day it will be when we can finally drive a dagger into the heart of the grim reaper. No longer will life be a race to cram everything into one lifetime; we will be able to take time to grow, to smell the roses, and to fully envelop ourselves in whatever time, place, or topic, that delights us.
That’s not to say that death is a bad thing. To the contrary, if you were born into this world with no way to escape, you might be begging for death after a few millennia (everything gets boring after a while). It’s dying before we’re good and ready, and the pain and indignity that often accompany aging, that is undesirable.
Our elongated lifespans will doubtlessly bring our species to a new level of maturity and understanding; a world full of 1000-year-olds is bound to be better behaved than a world full of relative adolescents.
Perhaps in exchange for an indefinite lifespan, future humans will agree to limit themselves to no more than one child per person, preventing problems with overpopulation. Such challenges will arise, and we will, no doubt, continue to rise to the occasion.
The knowledge we gather in our own lifetimes and the children we bear today will help to create this future. You and I won’t be able to live in this future, but we can contribute to it, and we shouldn’t take for granted that we are an important part of human history, and that we already live in a miraculous modern world that our ancestor’s could’ve only dreamed of.
But even if we eventually do beat death… what’s the point?
This is a bit like asking God, “Why do you exist?” If he existed, I imagine he might say, “There is no reason, I just am, and I find it preferable to not being.” And for us, the answer is the same: there is no specific problem we were created to solve, we’re just here because we’re here; and now that we’re here, we find we fancy life and the experiences life brings, and each other. There is not a reason for our existence, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have good reasons to want to continue existing.
Nature may not have intended to create us, but now that we’re here, we might as well enjoy life and take a look around. Yes, nature still leaves a lot to be desired, and there are a lot of bugs left to work out that nature couldn’t’ve anticipated, but we’re at the brink of being able to say, “Thank you nature for getting us this far, we’ll take the wheel from here.”
“If there is no point in the universe that we discover by the methods of science, there is a point that we can give the universe by the way we live, by loving each other, by discovering things about nature, by creating works of art. And that—in a way, although we are not the stars in a cosmic drama, if the only drama we’re starring in is one that we are making up as we go along, it is not entirely ignoble that faced with this unloving, impersonal universe we make a little island of warmth and love and science and art for ourselves. That’s not an entirely despicable role for us to play.”
― Steven Weinberg
So if you’re struggling with doubt, the good news is that (as most ex-Christians will tell you) you get over it. And you’re in good company, there are many former Christians who have struggled with doubt and lost faith (including Mother Theresa!). In fact, here in the U.S., belief in God, heaven, and miracles is on the decline.
And while religion can have some positive impact on our lives, religion isn’t always necessarily good for you. Religion may make us feel closer to some people, but it can also distance us from everyone else. And in the long run, those who leave religion appear to experience lower rates of depression than those who become more religious. And those without religion are also more likely to experience successful marriages, as evidenced by a lower divorce rates compared to people of faith. (And that’s really saying something, considering atheists have no religious mandate to remain married.)
While it took some time, I can honestly say I’m just as happy now as I was when I was a believer, if not happier, but this did take some doing. I had to identify different things that made me happy and redefine what makes life worth living.
In the end, I reasoned I could either spend the rest of my life being miserable, or I could try to enjoy life for what it’s worth. Since being miserable isn’t much fun, it seems logical to try to remain optimistic and find fulfillment wherever we can. If this is the only life I get to live, I want to enjoy it as much as humanly possible.
We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
~ Abraham Lincoln
I’m not in denial over how much life can suck, and it can, I just choose to recognize that it could be worse (it could always be worse). Life will never be perfect, but I’m thankful that I live in a world that is better today than it was 100 or 1000 years ago, and I’m hopeful that life will continue to get better for those who follow in our footsteps.
As for my wife, well, she eventually realized that just because I doubted God’s existence, it didn’t mean I was going to start smoking crack, sleeping with prostitutes, and eating babies (though I do enjoy a well prepared baby). I think she realized I’m still the same man I always was, I just don’t believe. We’ve since seen several Christian couples we know get divorced — a reminder that it takes more than mere Christianity to sustain a marriage.
So there is life after God, and it’s every bit as savory as life with God. In fact, some might say better, since you feel you have a better grasp on reality, free of superstition. So seek out those things that bring you joy and contentment, keep your chin up, and remember to always look on the bright side of life.
Your fellow human,
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Beautiful. So much I can relate to. Well done.
Great post, and anyone can tell you put a great deal of work into it. You will be helping a lot of people with this, so thank you!
“Our ancestors spent eons struggling to survive, and it would be a shame to not honor them by valuing and examining the life they fought to preserve.”
It wouldn’t be a shame. It really wouldn’t matter. They’re dead. They don’t care. “Honoring the dead” is something culturally important for the living (for some reason, perhaps religion had to do with), not for the dead, because they don’t care. It doesn’t matter what you do in life, honoring the dead or not.
I could go on about how life truly doesn’t matter, and I had something already typed, but I decided not to because I realize this page is for people wanting comfort and support. It’s probably best they be a realist some other time. =P
First of all, thank you for your willingness to question my authority. 🙂 Feel free to call my bluff anytime. Allow me to briefly elaborate on this one point.
When discussing whether or not we matter, the crux of the argument is going to depend upon how we define the word “matter.” I would personally define it as the ability to positively or negatively affect the lives of other living things (since non-living things are not impacted by what we do one way or the other). In that sense, we “matter” to each other. But in the cosmic sense, no, we don’t matter, and we don’t matter to the Universe (but I don’t really care what the Universe thinks, because the Universe doesn’t think).
I would agree that this sense of honor and pride in our ancestors is held only by the living. Thomas Edison, for example, no longer receives any benefit from inventing the light bulb, beyond what he received while alive, but he still “matters” to us because his ideas made our lives better. And we, the living, can still feel a sense of pride in what our fellow man has accomplished.
But every day, through all our actions and interactions, we “matter” to each other. And even though we won’t be here to see it, we can benefit from the knowledge that our actions may impact the future.
> (but I don’t really care what the Universe thinks, because the Universe doesn’t think)
It’s a silly way to think about things. Just because the universe can’t think doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about objectivity. It’s basically saying, “I don’t really care that my life doesn’t matter to the universe, because I make up what matters and what doesn’t.” Or, “It doesn’t matter because *I* don’t want it to matter.”
Some people are content with saying that, but I’m too much of a realist to make up things just because it makes me happy. (Yet, I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with that, with your viewpoint. It’s just not for me.) It’s like religion, just not potentially dangerous. I realize this could seem like an insult, but I’m trying to be clear that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being like religion, in and of itself. Humans are complex creatures and we do a lot of things that objectively don’t make sense, myself included, and I’m not going to crusade against every one of them. Things just “are the way they are”.
The meaning of life is not *anything*, but the meaning of life is *exactly what you make of it*. And that really is the short and sweet answer to me. You and me have different answers, but in reality, we are both right, because this question is a subjective one to ask in the first place. Whatever you want to believe is the meaning of life, IS the meaning of life, because I think what you’re actually getting at with that sentence (but I don’t really care what the Universe thinks, because the Universe doesn’t think) is, “who cares about objectivity when all that really matters is subjectivity!”
Actually, that’s a good point I never thought about in that way before. There are many layers of complexity here.
Oh, I want to “question your authority” some more, too, haha.
> I’m not saying the world will ever be perfect
I disagree, I think the world has the potential to be perfect. Then again, you’d need to define what perfection is. Perhaps perfection is just anything that is NOT what you don’t like about the world, or things that cause you trouble, pain, or suffering. All of that I think we can eventually eliminate in the utopia of the future. Then again, maybe there is something implied by the word “perfection” that I am not discussing. Perhaps perfection as a word was created to define something that CANNOT ever be attainable. The question is, is the impossibility implied by the word “perfection” something we tack on ourselves or something the word itself is trying to describe?
Either way, hopefully you gather what I mean. I will be truly content, with no qualms, and truly not a care in the world, if I ever get to see this utopia, that *should* be possible.
> That’s not to say that death is a bad thing. To the contrary, if you were born into this world with no way to escape, you might be begging for death after a few millennia (everything gets boring after a while). It’s dying before we’re good and ready, and the pain and indignity that often accompany aging, that is undesirable.
Another thing I disagree on. I believe it’s simply too bold to say that absolutely, and right now it is too early to tell. How long have we lived, and what experiences do we have that makes us have any certainly when we make the prediction that life will eventually get boring and death is a good thing? Perhaps, the only way to truly tell (until we reach the future) would be to ask the dead themselves and see if they would like to be alive again. But alas, that is impossible, so for now, we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds, and see if we will ever be tired of living.
There was a thread on Reddit just recently, perhaps you’ll find interesting. I definitely learned a lot, disagreed with some, and agreed wholeheartedly with others:
Basically I disagreed with all of the top level comments, because there’s nothing that will change my view of death at this point in my life, top level comments meaning, all comments responding to the OP. non-top level comments would be all comments replying to other comments, including the comments replying to the top level comments, hopefully that makes sense, or in other words, top level comments are the comments attempting to change my view that death is scary.
Anyway, at some point in that thread it came up that even if you could be immortal, you’d eventually get bored. Perhaps so, perhaps not, like I said, the ruling is still out, but the way I see it, as long as we don’t augment our memory to have super memory and remember everything, we’re going to FORGET a lot of things too. How many times have you watched a movie over again after forgetting almost the whole thing? Now what if you haven’t watched a movie in over a billion years because you were too busy doing all the other combinations of things you could do in the universe? Which is another point. I don’t think we can even properly imagine in our human heads just how many things we can do in the universe. It’s mind boggling to even TRY to think about. If we take a very very very very comparatively small part of the universe, Youtube, it would take us well over 10 of our current lifetimes to watch every Youtube video straight! That is with no breaks, that is just Youtube, that is just the film side of entertainment or things to do in the universe, just the media side. And how many potential videos can we make? Like, ever sort of combination you could possibly think of in video form? Youtube has barely scratched a surface, and that’s putting things nicely! Haha.
Perhaps by now, I have really over-typed the point, but at least you get the idea. I don’t even think it’s WORTH putting into text WHEN we will be bored EVEN if that’s possible. Because the word “when” doesn’t even do the timescale we’re talking about justice. =P
I believe I’ve made all my points! Continue Dear Leader, ruling this great blog nation! 😉
I tried to read most of your answer.. Can you tell me if you were ever been baptized in the Holy Spirit? Like in the book of acts before becoming exChristian?
We shouldn’t try so hard tryin to know how to defend what we believe but spend much time building personal relationship with God as your Heavenly Father then it’s not just about what’s in the book you know and experience His presence in your life. Even after years of knowing God personally an spirit of doubt came over me and I found it hard to believe anything in bible but I looked up,every scripture about belief and doubt and wrote then down and studied them until that spirit left thank You Jesus. The word of God is our weapon .. Gotta charge iPad be back
“Can you tell me if you were ever been baptized in the Holy Spirit?”
Yes. Still am… as far as I can tell! I plan to write about it one of these days.
God’s presence is everywhere.. That is His omnipresence.. Then those baptized in Holy Spirit we experience His manifest presence usually in worship( close intimate fellowship not just goin to church) while having personal conversations and submitting to His will..
Can you say you have felt when He has manifest His closeness? i believe that when the spirit of doubt came over you .. You had not experienced true fellowship with Him you only had knowledge of the bible.. So instead of knowing the the enemy had come to test you .. You thought there was nothing to this Christianity life.. You had not had the joy of knowing intimately your Heavenly Father because in those times of sensing His love being poured out on you .. You would fight to the death to get back..I don’t think those 30 years of church taught you enough.. The enemy comes and you fight with the word just like Jesus did. So sad..so many churches are being religious institutions following rules and not really equipping the saints .. Relationship with our Father is the key thing one on one..not just trying to live a good life.. The Holy Spirit helps us do that as we spend time with Him … Praying for you God will not stop trying to lead you home😍
Is it possible that you were psychologically pressured into a FALSE “conversion” by well-meaning church people? I have been concerned about this sort of thing for a LONG time,
as I see the devastating results everywhere! You have mentioned praying in the past, but NOTHING about God communicating with you in any fashion. And I suspect that you also may have experienced a legalistic “Christian” environment in which the demands of conformity was more of a BURDEN than anything (often there can be a tremendous sense of RELIEF that many find from releasing themselves from people’s expectations).
Please don’t assume that you were indeed a “Christian” in the past. You would have had more evidence of God’s presence in your life at the time. It’s much more than mental
assent to some doctrines, or even a “decision” made in a church service.
I feel that you have suffered greatly
as a result of some of these things.
Maybe take some more time ALONE,
get away from others and their expectations
of what you should be (and do),
and ask God to reveal Himself to you, without all the religious fanfare that is so prevalent.
If you are sincere, He WILL speak to your heart. Listen for that….
Thank you for your concerns!
There are two possibilities: 1) God exists, and (perhaps) I was never a true-enough Christian to realize it, or 2) God does NOT exist, and you are not a “true Christian,” you only believe yourself to be.
Unfortunately, trying to prove either one would be an exercise in futility.
Our two experiences will obviously differ, and I alone know how many hours I’ve put in seeking God’s voice. But I never felt like I was part of a legalistic religion, not at all, so I think you’re way off on that one.
“If you are sincere, He WILL speak to your heart. Listen for that….”
It was in meeting with two devout Mormons that changed my mind about “listening to my heart.” They told me, “Pray about the Book of Mormon, and if you pray sincerely, God’s spirit will confirm in your heart that it is true. And with a such a sincere prayer, Satan cannot interfere.”
Clearly, many people WE’RE getting this kind of confirmation about Mormonism. Meanwhile, Christians from my own church were ALSO claiming to be hearing God’s voice and getting various confirmations. Logically, God was either misleading people, or he wasn’t leading them at all, and finding the truth would have to involve more than just seeking spiritual confirmations.
“I feel that you have suffered greatly as a result of some of these things.”
Sorry, wrong again.
I LOVED Christianity and everything that went along with it. God, Jesus, his people, the music, the unconditional love and the promise of everlasting life. What’s not to like?!
My one and only frustration grew from the obvious Old Testament fairy tales I was supposed to pretend were true. It was pulling on that thread that caused the rest of my Christianity to unravel. While I THOUGHT I knew the truth, and I THOUGHT I had all the answers, I really didn’t. I was just thought to believe I did.
So was I not a “true Christian”? Who knows. But every denomination believes that they are the “truest” followers.
But as mentioned previously, whenever “true Christians” see others de-converting, the “true Christian” cannot assume these people are correct, they MUST be wrong. The brain must protect the bias, and comes up with excuses as to why they lost their way. Perhaps they are sinners who want to chase after their own lusts. What horrible, sick people! Or perhaps THEY were never TRUE Christians! Such judgements are unfounded, and hurtful.
500, you are right to suggest that losing faith is depressing. It’s something I am fighting everyday. The lack of purpose beyond a powerful love for my family is overwhelming. But it’s words like yours that are so very encouraging. Coming from a Christian background can make the ‘afterlife’ pretty lonely. Thanks for making it more bearable. It really is a great post in a great blog.
Hey man depression is a bitch. I want you to know that I will pray for you as a brother. No sermon, no judgement, just prayer. Peace
Thanks for sharing. Your experience concerning “Family and Friends” almost reflects my own experiences. The reactions I got from my wife, family and friends were quite hurtful at first, but now I gained enough confidence to just smile my out. “Is there life after God?” — Sure, a better life free from the burdens that religion places on you.
I just stumbled across your blog and I’ll first like to thank you for a very well written blog post. I find a lot of similarities in your journey and mine – with a caveat. I’ll TRY to be brief on the few points I’m trying to make. I was brought up Christian till about 5 years ago (mid 30s) when I started asking the very same questions. I can identify with the struggle to hold on to a tottering faith when all the evidence appears to be against it. Objective thought and empiricism from my education (I am a doctor), soon led me to become an agnostic with strong atheistic leanings. I can also identify with the hopelessness that follows this decision after a lifetime of Christianity. I however, derived some macabre joy from deriding noisy Christians around me who could offer nothing by way of evidence, with the flying spaghetti monster, Russell’s teapot, etc. “Why were they so stupidly blind that they could not think for themselves?!” The only reason I refrained from calling myself an atheist at the time was because I felt it required some faith – not courage as is usually misunderstood by some atheists, for one to affirm with utmost confidence that God does not exist.
However, as an agnostic or truth seeker as I saw myself, I still kept on searching – strangely enough – despite my brazen atheistic stance! All my “Jewish zombie” jokes and “dead jew” diatribes were a silent act of defiance: “if you exist do your worst! Come out of the shadows!! I’m tired of peering in the dark!!!”
Two years ago, I found God. I will not bore you with the details since it is non-verifiable and non-reproducible in a lab in any shape or form. In other words, it is totally unscientific and I never believed I would say those words as an empirical purist and agnostic. It is just a personal experience and I have been utterly unable to convince any of my atheist friends that it occurred. The common responses I get is that I was already “unstable” in my convictions, or that I succumbed to the “mental manipulation” from my childhood, etc – all the usual retorts I used to give. It eerily sounded like atheism had a unified mantra / message… spooky eh?
In these past two years also, I have been to Church only once – and I hated it. I do not consider myself a conventional “Christian” simply because my experience is so personal to me. Yes, I believe in Jesus, read the Bible a lot and all, but I have no love for the blatant wickedness and judgemental attitudes I see daily in the words and actions of the so-called Christian “right.” It does not resemble anything I see in the life of the humble galilean carpenter who did not condemn a woman caught in adultery, and who welcomed a condemned armed robber into paradise. Maybe I am still to find the ‘right’ church? Maybe…
As far as I’m concerned, anyone that tells you they know 100% that there is a God is simply lying. I believe most theists all fall somewhere along the spectrum. Despite my very real (to me) experience, I still have doubts. What keeps me from exploring these doubts any further is that I have been down that road already for 3 years and I found only misery. To be honest, life was kinda bleak when I believed that we are only here by chance, there is no comeuppance for evil doers, and we just die like animals. In that case and for someone like me, a successful life will be based on how much I was able to make myself happy during my fleeting existence. Considerations like “morality” or the wellbeing of others was frankly relegated to the background as I sought to satisfy my deep need to be happy. My point is that in a world like you described, your claim that “those who intentionally bring harm to others are not usually well-adjusted, happy individuals living in a healthy environment” becomes questionable. If I know there is “no ultimate justice”, I might as well do WHATEVER it takes to make me and only me happy! (ok, maybe add my numerous girlfriends – who wants a wife?? and my dog). If I have to steal, lie, and manipulate my way to stupendous wealth, then that is what I will do since the ultimate goal of my life is to find happiness no matter who I hurt in the process. As the saying goes: “People who say money can’t buy happiness clearly do not know where to shop.”
This is already longer than I wanted it to be and I apologize if anyone is still reading my rambling. I will just add that as an agnostic,I idolized Hitchens and all the puny Christians that got “hitch-slapped” by him on youtube. However, when I truly started to investigate the claims of intelligent design (specified and irreducible complexity), I discovered that these theories were not as outlandish as SOME scientists have tried to make them. In fact, they are quite scientific and are propagated by some of the BEST scientific minds in the world, who trained at some of the BEST institutions! Without succumbing to a “conspiracy theory”, I wondered why all these clearly intelligent scientists were not getting as much airplay on the media as the atheist ones. I had frankly never heard of some of them in all my years as an agnostic. They cannot all be crazy or deluded; to believe THAT would be the conspiracy. I have observed that the scientific method has gradually been replaced by naturalism such that even when the pointers are to something ‘supernatural’, we still insist that it must fit into the box of natural causes. Some of the claims of science about cosmology honestly require more faith to accept than believing in God. Investigate this for yourself and do not assume that everything a scientist says has been “proven” has truly been proven. In most cases, it is a working theory. “The best we have at this time.” There is so much uncertainty in the edifice of empiricism, that it really does make a mockery of it all. Philosophy and logic (which were the building blocks of the scientific method), offer a lot of interesting answers to some of the questions you raised here and elsewhere on your blog e.g “how could something so complex as the brain of God come out of nothing?”
I am so sorry once again for this (probably pointless), long, rambling comment but your post struck a deep chord and I couldn’t help responding. This is probably the first time I am writing so extensively on my experience as I felt you were truly someone on a similar journey I could relate to. May God bless you.
Thanks for reading and writing.
“Two years ago, I found God. I will not bore you with the details since it is non-verifiable and non-reproducible in a lab in any shape or form.”
What I gather from your comments above is that you were a believer for 30 years, you logically reasoned that it was untrue, which made you for miserable for 3 years, and then you suddenly found a reason to believe again… which you refuse to disclose… and you were not personally 100% convinced by it.
As much as I’d like to believe you, you’ll understand if I don’t shut down my site and begin proclaiming, “I was wrong! God is real. I know this now because Patrick had… well… a thing… and this thing confirmed to him God was real!” While I really do appreciate your sharing, I’m not sure what to do with this information. Should I ask God for the same thing? Even if your experience was genuine, I have to wonder why God would reach out to you but not me, or thousands of other ex-Christians.
Such personal religious experiences are indeed difficult to verify. We have no way of knowing what psychological state you were in at the time (perhaps miserable?), or what you may have eaten, or if you were half asleep, or what gases my have been leaking into your home, and so on. The fact remains that thousands of people lay claim to lots of crazy experiences, from meeting God himself, to alien abductions, to Bigfoot and ghost sightings. Considering religion plays such a large role in our society, it’s not surprising that so many people have experiences that they interpret as God-driven.
Joseph Smith and Muhammad claimed to meet God personally. Did you meet him? Do you believe both of them? Also, millions of Mormons claim that God has confirmed to them that the Book of Mormon is true. Do you believe them? Why not? Why is your personal experience any more trustworthy than their personal experience?
Thanks so much for your reply. I really do not intend for you to do anything with the information least of all close your excellent blog here. That would be quite presumptuous of me. If I might point at the ONE thing from your post that prompted me to write, it would be the search for happiness in a life devoid of the hope for an afterlife. As someone who spent 3 years searching for happiness as you described and finding only an ache in my heart despite my best efforts, I just had to relate my experience. Maybe I was hoping I could pique your curiosity and you would spare the time to discuss what I said about how such a life may inadvertently lift the burden of moral obligation to others? In furtherance of this point, I also read some of the reddit blog posted by an earlier commentator here, and I could see that this fear of “death as a final end to all consciousness” is a very fervent issue even among non-theists. Though theists might be involved in “escapism” by claiming to know what happens after death, it appears that “hope” is keeping them a lot more positive about the experience than those who should be living freely, unencumbered by any divine mandate. I found that puzzling.
Secondly, the depth of conviction I have now is something I never had in the 30 years I was a “Christian.” I just was a theist because I was brought up that way. Now, I am a believer because of an unverifiable personal experience. (I know how it sounds!) Honestly, I do not consider myself a believer before my experience. I was just tagging along. Also when I said I could not be 100% certain, I was just acknowledging the frailty in myself and others that makes us rage at the heavens when senseless tragedies occur all around us. At such times, faith is sorely tested but not extinguished – for me. Faith has bred knowledge in some mystical way that I just cannot explain.
Speaking of experiences, I was reticent to share as it is quite mundane and would only just make for lengthy reading. But since you alluded to it… Mine was nothing so grand as seeing any deity. On this day, I was not particularly more miserable than other days but I was nevertheless, gradually having to admit to myself that this life may be all we have. This naturally made me sad like you pointed out in your post, but I was also defiant. I’ll be damned if I’m going to believe some “middle eastern fairy tale” just to perk my mood up. I had a strong support base of atheist friends so I dare say I was doing just fine – or as fine as any other non-believer. Well, I sat in my room (sans gas leak!), fully “awake”, and having “eaten” my regular fare – I forget what it was. Then I made the dare I had always made into empty air: “if you exist, show me a sign just like you did all those wonderful miracles they claim you did. Come out of the darkness. Reveal yourself!”
Now, it is quite fair if anyone questions why I did this. Does such a “plaintive cry” -as it might appear to some- not point to a subtle yearning for God to exist which I finally convinced myself to be true? Well, actually no. You see, as an agnostic I was trying to be as fair as possible. The arguments I had (available to me at the time) were strongly in favor of atheism. Yet, a non-biased mind should fairly explore ALL the options available and not just the most likely one. While I made this defiant demand -for that is what it truly was, I was also quite happy to acknowledge to myself and others that I was probably wasting my time and it was all fairy tales. However, I needed confirmation one way or another.
Now, and as was to be be expected, I had not been studying the Bible or any such thing for a while. Next thing I knew however, a Biblical verse popped up in my head like a long forgotten memory. Two verses actually. I will not be so presumptuous as to say I heard God’s voice. However, this was what I ‘remembered’: “He that comes to God must FIRST believe that He exists and He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” The second was “I believe, help my unbelief!” These two verses seemed to be saying that I needed to take a first step of faith… akin to the red pill or Alice’s rabbit hole. That God – if he existed and is everything they say He is- He was probably not going to meet me on my terms but on His. I needed to leave my structured reasoning where everything was filed into neat compartments and be willing to consider the possibility of something so absurd and unlikely. Well, I thought, that could not hurt let us see what this ‘faith’ thing is like.
At that precise moment when I opened up myself ever so SLIGHTLY to the possibility that there could be something else out there, my heart was flooded with so much conviction, that I broke down and wept uncontrollably. I cannot remember the last time I cried before that day. All I could mumble through my tears was “so you’re real after all, so you’re real!” I don’t know how long it lasted, I never saw anything out of the ordinary, yet I felt such a certainty that someone of supreme love and understanding was in that room with me. My flickering flame of faith had exploded into a blazing furnace of certain knowledge. I just KNEW God existed and I had no empirical proof of it, AND for the first time in my life, I was comfortable with that. Amazing! The first thing I did was to call my closest buddy (an atheist) and the cold reception I got checked me back immediately. He was none too pleased about my “gibberish.” Honestly at that point, I could not care less. I was making phone calls to loved ones (theists and atheists) to share the good news: “God exists! I KNOW this now… some how.”
Once again I have rambled away. My apologies. I don’t expect ANY non-theist to believe me. I have experienced the backlash so much I am now used to it. It was never my intention to share this like I said earlier. I will just use this last paragraph to address the questions you raised. I don’t believe my experience is “superior” or “more trustworthy” than anyone else’s and I never made that claim. I also don’t believe in all the other groups you mentioned simply because it was not their God that I felt. Maybe if I was born a Muslim, I may have felt the presence of Allah, and if I did as strongly as I felt that day, I would have proclaimed it as fervently as I proclaim Christ. Experiences are personal and by nature, non-verifiable. It does not make them any less real to the experiencer. You can no more convince the person that had it that it did not occur, any more than you can convince him that he is blind when he knows fully well that he can see. It might be better not to write off other’s experiences based on their sheer incredulity. Every theist is not crazy or willfully deluded. God bless.
I appreciate the response and your sharing the personal details of your experience.
You certainly have the right to trust your own experiences, but as for me (as I discuss in question #47), “just knowing” doesn’t pass muster. We are all biased toward our own personal experiences, and we falsely assume these experiences are somehow MORE valid than those of others. But since lots of people have different religious experiences that lead them in different directions, I must conclude that I cannot trust even my own experiences, as much as I might want to. (Can you imagine two people arguing over who’s religious experience was more valid? Both will conclude their own, but both cannot be correct.)
Personally, I was always afraid to ask God for ANY sign, since many different things can be interpreted as a sign. But Isaiah 41:21-24 does seem to give us permission to demand amazing signs from god (or idols), so that we might tell the difference between real and fake gods.
To that end (as I suggest in question #7), I usually make my requests very specific, such as lifting a penny, or sending fire from heaven. So far, all the gods and demons I’ve prayed to have failed to respond, either because they don’t exist, or because they don’t want to. But if the God of the Bible doesn’t want to give a demonstration, then he certainly shouldn’t’ve invited us to ask for one. (Yes, I know the Bible ALSO says you shouldn’t test God, but to me this is just one more contradiction, and one more way of protecting the religion from reasonable inquiry.)
Moving onto the exciting topic of death, there’s an interesting documentary called, “Flight from Death: Quest for Immortality,” which suggests our core reason for inventing religion is to escape death. From a natural prospective, those animals that fought to survive were more likely to pass on this trait to their offspring. We come from a long line of survivors, and now that we have big brains, and we realize we’re going to die, we use these same big brains to invent a way out of death, and then use coping mechanisms to evolve and protect these ideas.
On a related note, I once heard about a survey where people were asked: “If you could choose between a reality where God exists and heaven does not, or one where heaven exists but God does NOT, which would you choose?” The majority voted for heaven (can you blame them?), suggesting that we actually care more about our own survival than God.
And finally, as for morality, I think a strong case can be made for behaving morally based on logic and empathy alone. While you COULD lie, cheat, and steal to get what you want, you certainly wouldn’t want someone doing this to you. If God doesn’t punish you, society will (or your own brain will condemn you). But this is really a minor point, unless we’re arguing that morality is proof of God’s existance… but that’s a debate for another time.
Thanks for the polite conversation,
Reminds me a bit of Derren Brown – How To Convert An Atheist.
Thank you for this.This is your best blog post yet. Your honesty, and truly caring attitude is so refreshing. You are an inspiration to me who has only been free of Christian delusions for 3 years after about 37 years of genuine devotion to Christianity. Please keep thinking deeply and sharing your thoughts with us. It really matters. You really matter!
Thanks Frank, you matter too!
Thank you for this post; it helps me understand the deconversion stories I hear (I deconverted younger and much more gradually, and the most discomfort I felt was mild guilt about not believing).
I was afraid halfway through that you’d start defending death (as we currently know it) as a good thing, and was glad when I saw you talk about eventually defeating death. I disagree about whether death would eventually be good, and certainly about the timescale involved (I already have a million-year-long todo list and wouldn’t be satisfied by just 1,000), but that’s really a question for another time (namely, 1,000 years from now when somebody knows the answr).
I also disagree about the time when we’ll cure involuntary death, which I think could come about in the lifetimes of a lot of currently-living people. Even if it doesn’t, we shouldn’t lose hope; cryonics is designed just for this purpose and has a non-negligible chance of working.
I don’t know if conquering death is the implicit goal of all medical science, but it should be, death is literally killing us all!
It would be nice if the cure was found within our lifetime, but if it’s not, I’m okay with that. I kinda see death as the sacrifice all we early humans must make so that our future offspring can one day figure out how to avoid it. And seeing as how we don’t yet have much choice in the matter, we might as well make the best of it.
But it does make me wonder… what would Christianity look like in a world where you never have to die? Would Christians want to go on living for thousands of years? Or would they insist on embracing a natural lifespan, believing that heaven will be a better place?
As for how long of a life would be comfortable, I guess that would be up to the individual, but I think it’s nice that death is always an option. If you wanted to die, but couldn’t, I can see that becoming a problem. (Can you imagine living a few million years, choosing to die, and then waking up in the afterlife? You’d probably say, “Damn it! I just wanted it to be over!”)
> I kinda see death as the sacrifice all we early humans must make so that our future offspring can one day figure out how to avoid it.
Perhaps that is because you have kids and probably care more about their life than your own. =)
> But it does make me wonder… what would Christianity look like in a world where you never have to die? Would Christians want to go on living for thousands of years? Or would they insist on embracing a natural lifespan, believing that heaven will be a better place?
Why wouldn’t Christians refuse medical treatment now then? That would certainly be a more “natural” death, don’t you think?
No, I think Christians care more about living forever, or for a very long time, rather than being with God. Everything heaven is supposedly supposed to have will be on Earth eventually, except God.
Weren’t you the one that showed the study that more people care about what’s actually in heaven than genuinely becoming closer to God?
A (belated) standing ovation to you 500Q! I already knew it must have been hard to be in your position but now, now I truly take my hat off to you. That is unbelievable. The spirit of truth that you carry is something that I think we humans need more of, as a civilisation. You’re an inspiration, please don’t ever stop posting 🙂
Is there God after life? Welcome back Thomas. 🙂
Monty Python and his boys are burnt in the oven after that blasphemy of Jesus crucifiction. To put it bluntly they are going to hell unless they have repented of this sin of desecrating the cross and what our Lord did on it for us. I find that video offensive. Having a weight “lifted” off your shoulders because of becoming a traitor to the His crown and His light? Your saying that it was a burden being a Christian and being a satan loving atheist is better? Doubting Gods existence is as foolish as calling compliments “sexual” socalled pestering, its a lie from Lucifer hes the one who made up that false teaching. People who pass judgement on men and their compliments will be in hell when they are dead.
To put it as bluntly as you have, *we don’t care*, we know there is no such thing as God, or Lucifer, or Hell. It’s imaginary. And you can be as sure of it as you can be sure that the sky is blue.
This article is for those who have made up their minds or at least know that there are many inaccuracies and fallacies in the Bible but don’t know how they will live without it.
This article is NOT meant for you. This is why it is not on the main section. If you wish to debate, debate one of the 500 (eventual) questions posted.
To put it not as bluntly:
What if I were to replace the Christianity in your comment with the equivalent of another religion? For instance:
“Doubting Vishnu’s existence is as foolish as calling compliments “sexual” socalled pestering, its a lie from Kroni hes the one who made up that false teaching. People who pass judgement on men and their compliments will be in Naraka when they are dead.”
How would you respond to someone saying that attacking you?
“Everybody is an atheist in saying that there are gods – from Ra to Shiva – in which he does not believe. All that the serious and objective atheist does is to take the next step and to say that there is just one more god to disbelieve in.”
I will attempt to answer this comment in good faith, although there are parts of it that either don’t apply to my specific deconversion or that I don’t understand, as discussed below.
I know that many people, mostly Christian but some not, are offended by The Life of Brian. I also know that many people, including many strong Christians, are not offended by the movie. I myself have watched the movie a single time, more than a year ago. I remember that there was a lot that was not a reference to Christianity or history at all, but to politics and human nature in general, but I don’t remember it well enough to know how offended I would be if I had watched it as a Christian. As to whether or not those involved are going to Hell, obviously a large number of people on this site (including me) don’t believe that Hell exists and thus would disagree about going there.
I would not describe my deconversion as a weight being lifted, and I don’t think the original poster would either. My experience was too gradual to be so dramatic, and he spent a while depressed afterwards. I’m not sure I can actually understand this feeling, either, at least not for deconversions similar to those I’ve already heard about. I can imagine the feeling in other cases, but I’m not at all sure that it accurately represents other people’s actual experiences so can’t really comment further on that topic.
However, I can comment on part of your question. You ask “being a satan loving atheist is better?”. Calling atheists “satan loving” is one part of the Christianity debate I cannot understand. It feels to me like if somebody were to say “I don’t believe that Little Red Riding Hood was a real person”, and people responded “I bet you love the Big Bad Wolf.”.* This is probably an unfair comparison given that a large number of people do believe in God and very few believe in Little Red Riding Hood; one might instead compare it to somebody saying they don’t believe that Thomas Jefferson was real, and somebody else accusing them of siding with King George III. It seems to me that somebody who doesn’t believe in Thomas Jefferson probably also doesn’t believe that King George III exists; you might want to teach this person basic history, but not accuse them of siding with somebody they don’t think is real.
I’m afraid I don’t quite understand your next part. You say “Doubting Gods existence is as foolish as calling compliments “sexual” socalled pestering”; it’s clear from context that you’re calling this doubt foolish, but I don’t get your analogy. Are you saying that complimenting somebody is often called “sexual pestering”? I’ve never heard this phrase before; the closest phrase I can think of is “sexual harassment”, which is usually not associated with compliments. I’m not sure whether you consider the details of this analogy relevant or not, but if so, could you please clarify what you meant? As for whether the doubting is actually foolish, that depends on the circumstances. There are some kinds of doubt which are obviously foolish (for example, the argument “If God existed, then he wouldn’t approve of X. I want X. Therefore, God does not exist” is obviously foolish), but there are others that are obviously not (there are people who have not heard of God before in any way; whether he exists or not, you should not blindly trust strangers about such important matters and should thus have at least a little doubt in everything you’re hearing for the first time).
You also claim that stories of God’s nonexistence are “a lie from Lucifer”. But what about people who never heard of God? They don’t believe stories of his nonexistence, but instead don’t have any stories of his existence to believe. Also, it’s difficult to write a “story” about somebody not existing (though people have tried); I’m not sure what you’re counting here. If it’s scientific theories like gravitation, evolution, general relativity, or quantum field theory, then I should point out that God’s existence is mostly compatible with all of them, even if some of the details of the Bible are not, so I’m not sure why they apply. More importantly, though, is the fact that each of these can be tested to some extent in your own home or a local park (at least partially; you can observe the constant gravitational acceleration, selection pressure, genetic drift, constant speed of light, and a surprisingly huge amount of quantum mechanics for a fairly cheap price, though) and cannot be simply lies told by Lucifer. If you mean some other type of story, I’d appreciate it if you clarified what you meant here.
Finally, you say that “[p]eople who pass judgement on men and their compliments” will go to Hell. Again, since most readers on this site and especially this particular post believe that Hell isn’t real, I’m not sure what you intend for us to get out of this statement. I’m also not sure what you mean by “pass judgement”; what type of judgement are you talking about here? You obviously don’t mean a moral judgement, or a judgement of whether somebody’s actions displease God, because you’re passing plenty of that kind of judgement. I also doubt you mean a legal judgement of “This person is not guilty of the crime for which he is accused”, or even “As the jury found this person guilty of distributing illegal copies of this movie, I sentence him to a fine of $250,000 and 5 years in a federal prison”. I similarly doubt you mean a judgement of “That person was rude to me.” or “Wow, that customer service agent was actually helpful.”. So, what sort of judgement did you mean? I’m also not sure how this applies to compliments; if somebody says, for example, that they like the shirt I’m wearing, what sort of thought about that compliment are you saying are bad?
I hope this helps answer your questions, and I’m looking forward to any reply you might make to answer mine.
* Note: you can replace these examples with “3 little pigs”/”Big Bad Wolf”, “Gandalf”/”Sauron”, “Harry Potter”/”Voldemort”, “Dumbledore”/”Voldemort”, “Aslan”/”The White Witch”, “Aslan”/”Tash”, etc. if you don’t like my example. Some of these probably closer match what this sounds like to me; after all, the Bible is a lot more complicated than a fairy tale.
As you may or may not remember, my journey with God/Christ-ianity began as a boy raised agnostic by his father, then collegiately at a Christian liberal-arts university in Mississippi (there only on a full-ride soccer scholarship), tired of going in seeminly never-ending circles about the existence of God, the validity of a historical Jesus, the validity of the Judeo-Christian bible, and the validity of subsequent Christian theology, etc, etc, then finally throwing my hands up deciding to give the Christian God and Savior a try for the Gipper — a 100% leap of faith praying, asking this God “if you’re REAL show me; you’ll show me, right?”
I did that hardcore — I was raised by my dad that when you make a commitment, you give 120% to it. Don’t be a quitter! And after 3 1/2 more years in college as a “born-again” Christian, then a world-wide pro soccer career, then after 3 1/2 years in Seminary (Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS)… I was about as Faith-driven as ANY good born-again Christian could be…and NATURALLY most of God’s revelation for us and his messages, teachings, and purpose, were found in the infallible Word, His Holy Bible. Over these 8 years of faithful Christianity, I quickly learned the “controversies” of non-biblical revelations from God: the Holy Spirit. It was a fucking mess, EVERYWHERE! LOL
But I was constantly told by my church leaders and professors at Seminary, the Holy Bible is my #1 source for God’s intentions for my life — not all the grey-area revelations of/from God out in the world and within Christian denominations matters so much. Put your head in the sand like osteriches do.
Sidenote — I am strictly keeping my comment(s) within what I see as most pertinent to these questions you’ve raised in your post, i.e. talking the Christian language/theology, not what Nature, the Cosmos, or Quantum Physics/Mechanics are rapidly showing as true existence. This point is critical here.
So, I remained ever faithful to my commitment and was the BEST evangelical born-again Christian I could be according to His Holy Word, the Bible! Until one day there was a question asked of me that I nor my church leaders or Seminary professors and experts could answer for me…
And with one other major life-event at the same time, my entire world, my entire existence was turned upside down by this one question. Then it snowballed and snowballed until finally I reached a point of no return….ever.
The one question? Where was Jesus/Yeshua from age 13 to 30?
Now, since being asked this question from a close soccer friend from Kashmir, India in 1990, you may ask why is this apparently irrelevant question so relevant to me? Simple logic really.
As part of my post-graduate studies (Apologetics), one method of defending the Holy Bible’s validity is by using the Messianic prophecies of Jesus’ birth made over millennia, that become fulfilled. The theological and mathematical significance of his prophetic birth, meaning, miracles(?) and subsequent life makes this ONE MAN, this one Savior/Messiah one of the BIGGEST events in all of mankind’s history for all time. I mean, even the King of Jerusalem had thousands of male babies exterminated trying to eliminate his implied threat! Of course this one baby/man will be known by all mankind! By age 12 this boy was showing & demonstrating unheard of wisdom (and possibly miracles too)! There was NO WAY to miss this man/God, not even for 17 years!
Yet, inside the #1 source for “infallible truth,” the Holy Bible, he does just that. Nothing, zilch, nada, for 17 years this unbelievable miraculous profound man defies all Christian literature! And so far, he has also done it within INDEPENDENT literature of the time too. Then suddenly, as miraculously as he disappeared, he reappears on the scene and even BIGGER event than his birth! How is this possible?
Needless to say, things were not adding up….and soon fell completely apart. Then my subsequent 12 years of study, research, and testing of the bible’s reliability and validity, the holes mounted and mounted until it was WORSE than Swiss cheese. And the one main point of these 12 years was the grossly LACKING independent sources verifying Christian sources of Jesus and his existence. For some odd reason there is very very little independent sources to verify the New Testament’s proclamations!
And so like you 500Q, I have happily & peacefully embraced existence — uncertain as it might currently seem — and now willingly join ALL OF HUMANITY in never stopping my curiosity for life’s beautiful sometimes scary mysteries! Besides, most things are much bigger than my own ego anyway and as I’ve since learned, death is HIGHLY GROSSLY overrated and not scary.
So with you and the boys of Monty Python’s, I gladly sing Look On the Brightside of Life! 😉
A most excellent post and story 500Q! Thank you very much for sharing it!
A most excellent post and story Professor Taboo! Thank you very much for sharing it! 😉
I thought you were a Christian at first. =P It’s interesting that you were once an agnostic, became a Christian, and now back again.
The question that started your quest is very interesting and unique! I suggest 500Q write an article about it. I’m not sure it would have worked for me (my religion would probably just say that he was out meditating or something), but I’m very glad it worked for you. Of course, there are non-canon books of the Bible that try to write in the missing years of Jesus’ life.
Just like you, I was taught the Bible had a lot of evidence behind it to back up it’s validity. They often used circular logic and used the Bible as evidence of the Bible, or retroactive interpretations of Biblical text like the “prophecies of Jesus’ birth”. But the fact that there are very little (or no) independent sources that verify the Bible’s extraordinary claims is a very fair question, and was definitely part of my deconversion.
Anyone with a reasoning mind has to wonder why an Almighty God would not see to it to have a lot of independent sources besides the Bible so that future humans can be convinced of his work also? He’s either intentionally hiding or he doesn’t exist! Which is more likely?
Thanks again for your story, it was great. =)
Technically I now consider myself a Freethinking Humanist, but prefer not to get into “labels” other than Human from Earth. 😉
Yes, the non-canonical testaments (some 40-50 now in existence?) made that proverbial snowball of mine become obese. I’d simply ask my church leaders & seminary professors WHY were these testaments deemed unworthy/heretical? And WHO has the authority to make those decisions!? I kept thinking to myself, why not just let all Christian followers decide for themselves…sort of like we’ve all been doing anyway for the last 2,000+ years: i.e. all the hundreds of different denominations/sects within Christianity and ALL OTHER religions of the world too! Pfffffft, must I keep committing intellectual suicide to make my ‘faith’ work!?
Regarding the independent sources, it is indeed practically zero; most Antiquity scholars now agree that even Josephus’ writings about Jesus, John and the saga of the Jerusalem (Hebrew) sect of Yeshua-followers, have been tampered with by early church fathers to further promote the (eventual) Roman Catholic Church via Emperor Constantine. Yet contemporary Christian apologists are quick to use independent confirmation/support in Nature or Science for their religious theological claims but simply CANNOT do it when it comes to the New Testament.
One line of discussion I’ve been down regarding Jesus’/Yeshua’s Missing Years was that under close examination & speculation from a point-of-view of his family and close religious colleagues was that they knew exactly where he was & what he was doing. However, by 71 C.E. the Roman Legions and war machine had exterminated all those partisan Jerusalem (Hebrew) Jews and the whereabouts of Jesus during those 17 critical formative years of his education & apparent extraordinary wisdom & miracles…they were presumed lost (then much later declared irrelavent for obvious reasons) and determined unimportant compared to what happened on Calvary and later.
Then SUDDENLY a man, a Roman-Jewish man no less, named Saul of Tarsus with theological tendencies favoring Greek doctrines (NOT the controversial James Brother-of-Jesus in Jerusalem theology) becomes the new expert on what Jesus taught and its significance. The beginning of the complete departure from original Jewish-Hebrew doctrines and turning it all into Roman-Greek doctrines. Hence, Yeshua’s purest original teachings were further buried & skewed, assuming of course that Jesus was truly the Messiah of the Hasmonean Jews, Maccabean Jews, and all the Diaspora Jews!
And I won’t even get into the topic of all the previous claimants of Messiah BEFORE Jesus/Yeshua came onto the scene in Jerusalem! Hah! LOL That is an entirely different & extensive debate/discussion.
Nonetheless, thank you Garbonzo for your reply and comments. Just thought my two-cent story could possibly shed light on the unsupportability of God’s revelations strictly through the “Holy” Canonical New Testament.
“Regarding the independent sources, it is indeed practically zero; most Antiquity scholars now agree that even Josephus’ writings about Jesus, John and the saga of the Jerusalem (Hebrew) sect of Yeshua-followers, have been tampered with by early church fathers to further promote the (eventual) Roman Catholic Church via Emperor Constantine.”
Are you 100% sure about this? Can you back this up? Thanks! Also, I read all of your comments on this page. Great writing. =)
At first I answered to myself about your question: “Certainly! I just need to pull back out all my books/bibliography, notes, etc., from those 12 years, rummage through them & find my pages regarding this specific topic.” And then I remembered that most of that work & material is in storage (from my recent move) over 300 miles away. 😦
However, some of that stuff I can recall from memory but not all of it. While trying to jog my memory, I ran across this weblink that covers the subject. I read through it and much of it appears to be correct; in fact, the page uses many of the same sources/bibliography that I used and have. So perhaps this is a START for you/us? The link:
Meanwhile, I will try to answer your question more extensively, but I will need several days, maybe a week or two. I hope you don’t mind?
That’s no problem at all. I hope you don’t mind me publishing your work? Thank you for the link. =)
Don’t mind at all. Much of what I found & researched can be found in public libraries anyway — I bought books like Robert Eisenman’s “James the Brother of Jesus” and “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians” and many others. They are well worth the money spent if one truly wishes to gain a broad objective background & understanding of 1st century Jerusalem, Judea, and the oppressive Roman Empire of the time.
Hi Professor Taboo, thanks for sharing your story.
I enjoyed it, but I have to be honest, I’m having difficulty understanding why the question “Where was Jesus/Yeshua from age 13 to 30?” was such a stumbling block. While this gap is certainly worth noting, it doesn’t seem to me like it would be a deal breaker.
Playing “God’s advocate” for a moment, I could argue that God did not want Jesus to draw too much attention to himself before the “appointed time,” so he spent these years hiding, working, praying, and studying scripture. I could also argue that God tells us only what we need to know, and there was nothing in these years worth noting.
Herod does give orders to kill all boys under two (at least according to the Bible), but this shows he has no idea who Jesus is.
So I don’t really get the impression that Jesus was a “big deal” in his youth and that everyone was keenly aware of it, or that this attention suddenly dries up until he re-emerges. His “secret identity” seems to only be known by a handful of people, and other then a slip or two in his youth, he stays off the radar.
Sorry to focus in on just this one question, but it obviously had a big impact on you, so I’m curious if there’s something I’m missing here.
Yes 500Q, in my attempt to keep my comment-length moderate, I probably sacrificed important content in that regard. Apologies.
Jewish Messianism is the critical lynch-pin here.
During most of my teen-years then collegiate years, one doctrine I heard incessantly from Christian evangelicals, proselytizers, and apologists was in order to avoid eternal damnation I needed the specific blood & death of ONE MAN/SAVIOR: Jesus Christ of Nazareth. My next question naturally was what makes Jesus Christ so unique? Their response was essentially that Jesus is/was the ONLY Son of God, and the only means of salvation and eternal bliss. There is no other way into heaven.
Then my next question was how can you prove/demonstrate Jesus was the ONLY Son of God? One of those “proofs” were the many fulfilled Messianic prophecies by Jesus: about 45 that were/are mathematically phenomenal. Furthermore, his coming & birth were known as far as the Far East: the three Magi/Kings paid their respects. He had a cosmological phenomena during his birth up in the sky: the Star of Bethlehem. He was conceived by God through Mary, not by any sinful man or Earthly prince or emperor, so God became flesh.
The key point in the doctrine of Christian salvation (via Jewish sacrificial traditions) is that The Sacrifice must be sacred, pure, and the ultimate of all previous temple sacrifices to be eternally worthy, i.e. Jesus, the Alpha & Omega. Messianic fervor was reaching progressing heights prior to Jesus’ birth in approximately 5 or 4 B.C.E. to 2 B.C.E. The fervor reached a boil-over point from 20 C.E. to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. The Roman Empire and its provincial governors were growing increasingly annoyed by Messianic fervor; they wanted it extinguished and ANYONE who lead or potentially lead anti-Roman movements would be caught & executed as was the policy everywhere in the empire! All PREVIOUS claimants of the King of the Jews had been caught & executed! Jesus would have been no exception.
If Jesus of Nazareth was to be the ultimate King/Messiah/Lamb/Christ/Sacrifice, then that makes the Messianic prophecies, their fulfillment, and his birth and early childhood & life demonstrating it HUGE! How realistically possible is it for such a newborn King/Messiah/miracle-performer of such magnitude escape notice — especially in Galilee if that is indeed where Jesus worked as a carpenter until 30 yrs old — by EVERYONE, including the Romans on-the-look-out for him, for 17 years!? Remember, all Jews were desperately wanting and seeking their coming Messiah to relieve them of centuries of Roman oppression! Undoubtedly some Jewish Zealots would have PUSHED the “Coming Age” as much as possible if they found a man that fit the bill perfectly! Jesus probably would have had to go to the otherside of the world in order to survive and “fulfill his purpose”!
From an outsiders POV (non-Christian) what probably took place during those 17 years was of no remarkable news, probably making Jesus much LESS of a Messiah, or worse, the Savior of the World! Come 75 C.E. and the following centuries when the canonical New Testament was being compiled, RC church fathers & bishops saw the unequivocal NEED to RAISE Jesus the Messiah/Christ into a demi-god with an unfortunate ordinary non-Greco-Roman 17 years; so let’s hype it up MORE, a sensational distraction from a very undeserving birth & boyhood — coincidentally a long Roman divine-Emperor-tradition anyway — when he returns to Jerusalem at age 30.
Nevertheless, those lines of Q&A caused me to examine more closely the comprehensive history of ancient Judaic culture and Messianic literature, as well as Roman, Greek, Persian, and Mesopotamian history and cultures. During those 12 years of study, what astonished me the most was how GREATLY OPPOSED Messianic interpretation was between the Hasmonean dynasty and decending later to Jesus/James-the-brother in Jerusalem… versus the Herodian dynasty and later Greco-Roman Messianic interpretations that SURVIVED 70 C.E. and heavily pushed by a (favored) Roman-Jew, Saul of Tarsus.
This broad historical picture paints a Roman Empire always one-upping an ancient successful religious welfare-system employed by the Hasmonean Jews and later Jesus-Jerusalem-Jews. By 320 C.E. Emperor Constantine and his Roman bishops (many “2nd & 3rd generation” church fathers) needed SOME type of ‘glue’ to bring the crumbling empire together. What was that perfect system to encourage Roman citizens to unity and die for?
Why Greco-Roman Christianity of course, preached by a Roman-Jew, Saul of Tarsus, the father of modern Messianic-Christian theology, and not original Jewish Messianic theology!
Does this help any or confuse much? 🙂
Does this help any or confuse much? 🙂
It helped me! Thank you. This reminds me of question #49. Why did the crowd choose Barabbas over Jesus?
That is another interesting (bizarre?) event recorded in the gospels Garbonzo. There have also been some compelling evidence/theories as to the typical “name-playing” and shuffling of names (e.g. Mary’s, Mariamme’s, James’, Simon’s, etc.) by gospel writers/editors of several “key” characters, not only in the Jesus arrest, trial, and crucifixion but throughout the gospels all together. Greek-Roman-Gentile authors probably interpOlated the Jewish-Aramaic oral & written testimonies of the event and names incorrectly: Bar = Son of…Abba = Father; i.e. they did choose Barabbas, the possible Jesus/Messiah, he eluded crucifixion, and lived a full life avoiding continued trouble. The other “criminal” — a generic very human criminal — was indeed crucified but never rose after 3 days; a later invented version (switchback) by the Greek-Roman-Gentile promoters decades later to help their own cause.
Hell, even the “12 Apostles’ names” are unclear and confusing because of the various languages in and around Jerusalem.
This ‘name-playing’ is one of many reasons why non-Christian readers and researchers desperately need INDEPENDENT sources to attempt clarification of the New Testament’s accuracy and validity — independent sources other than Josephus and the 2nd or 3rd generation Roman church fathers… that is church fathers who were not from Asia Minor or Italy, but from Judea, Israel, Egypt, Arabia, Syria and such!
Another plausible reason for the omission of Jesus’ 17 missing years, whether those years and events
were significant or not, was the overhauling influence of the Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) over Jesus’
leadership and teaching, and James the brother of Jesus and his very brief leadership and teaching
inside Jerusalem prior to 70 C.E. Yet, for being the primary theologian of Christianity, Paul knew very
little about Jesus and his life.
From Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (15:3-8), Paul explains three basic things about Jesus:
1 — he “died for our sins.”
2 — he was resurrected three days later, as prophesied.
3 — he appeared to many AFTER the resurrection.
Assuming the validity of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s impressions of Jesus are in stark contrast to the four gospels; in fact, they are severely lacking! Paul says nothing about parables of sheep, Lazarus’ risen from the dead, a Prodigal Son, a wealthy man, or a Good Samaritan. He doesn’t speak about the HUGE concept of the Virgin Birth, cleansing the corrupt Temple, the Sermon on the Mount, feeding 5,000
people, nor does Paul bother to place Jesus within history with congruent Roman records and events! And as far as confirming or repeating Jesus’ many miracles, Paul does nothing of the sort! He doesn’t mention even ONE miracle! As of matter of verification, Paul states explicitely (1 Cor. 1:22-23) he knows nothing of miracles and thinks placing weight on them is ridiculous.
Paul’s Jesus is a divine un-Earthly part of a Godhead, not a human healer, miracle worker, or wise teacher in the gospels. If these events were part of the Missing Years of Jesus, Paul saw absolutely no point in wasting a single word about it. This position lends the real possibility that over the previous 20 – 25 years after the crucifixion & resurrection, the Jesus stories and legends grew greatly over time; to the point that Paul repeatedly avoided the trend/controversies as minor distractions to a ‘bigger picture’.
What is also missing from the canonical New Testament is the comprehensive turmoil behind the seriously divisive issues between Paul (who knew little about Jesus), and Jesus’ traditional successor, his brother James (James the Just), the Apostle Peter, and the Jerusalem and Antioch Churches. Robert Eisenman in his book “James the Brother of Jesus” goes into unbelievable exquisite depth based on the Dead Sea Scrolls of these major problems between James the brother of Jesus, the Jerusalem Council/Church, perhaps Peter, and with Paul who knew very little about Jesus.
This lends to more probability of purposeful omissions by the canonical authorities leading up to the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. when creating the New Testament, which oddly enough relies HEAVILY on Paul’s epistles and theology…who knew essentially little about Jesus. 🙂
Wow, haha. I didn’t know all this. Thanks a lot. Can you give some interesting tidbits that you learned from that book? I’m not much of a reader sadly. I would, but I have too little time. 🙂
Garbonzo, I will realign my Reply under original comments to gain more room, naming it “Robert Eisenman Tidbits.” Unfortunately that book is in storage 300+ miles away, but I will summarize Eisenman’s position from his later follow-up books addressing critics 14 years later. Hope you don’t mind.
Interesting points about Paul. I have heard that Paul had very different ideas about Jesus than some of the other apostles. I seem to recall that one apostles (Peter?) was encouraging women to become celibate… which didn’t go over very well with husbands.
Getting back to the original question, you wrote:
“How realistically possible is it for such a newborn King/Messiah/miracle-performer of such magnitude escape notice — especially in Galilee if that is indeed where Jesus worked as a carpenter until 30 yrs old — by EVERYONE, including the Romans on-the-look-out for him, for 17 years!? Remember, all Jews were desperately wanting and seeking their coming Messiah to relieve them of centuries of Roman oppression!”
From the Christian point of view, you’d think it would be obvious who Jesus was. The book of Matthew seems to suggest that there are all these prophecies about Jesus’ birth that were so well spelled out that anyone could’ve found him like the Magi did… and yet… no one did. Interestingly, there wasn’t a single good Jew in all of Israel who managed to figure it out based on prophecy. These prophecies only seem to be useful to us now, in hindsight.
In thinking about it, I just can’t think of anything in Jesus’ youth that would’ve made a Jew say, “Yep, that’s the messiah!” Even if we assume Jesus performed miracles, miracles were not one qualifications for the messiah. The messiah would become a great king, but he’s never said to be a miracle worker.
And even if we accept that the Bible says the messiah was to be born of a virgin (it’s debatable), you couldn’t look at the young Jesus and tell that he was.
And if these Jews took Isaiah 52 and 53 to be messianic (again, debatable), the young messiah we’re looking for is severely disfigured. Jesus was not a match.
From a more skeptical point of view, I would say that Jesus only became popular later in his life, and then, by popular demand, the details about his birth come out as an afterthought, and were probably written to make sure they lined up with prophecies wherever possible. I say this because the story of his birth is so riddled with holes. There is no record of a census that required people to return to their homeland (a ridiculous order altogether); Luke completely leaves out Matthew’s story of the magi and the magic star, and replaces it with just some local shepherds and an angel (the story is later merged by Christians into two separate events… but really? Why wouldn’t Luke mention this amazing star miracle?); and there’s Matthew’s claim that king Herod ordered the death of all boys under two, an order also not recorded by Luke, or historians like Josephus (who wrote at great length about Herod’s orders). These events seem to exist only as catalysts for moving Jesus to where he needs to be in order to fulfill prophecy.
I have heard the claim that Jesus fulfills so many messianic claims that it would be almost mathematically impossible for the messiah to be anyone else, but I’m very skeptical of this claim. This is entirely dependent on WHICH verses one selects as prophetic and messianic, how you choose to interpret them, and proving that the events in Jesus’ life weren’t written specifically to sync up with these prophecies. All toll, this argument just doesn’t work. I have yet to see a single prophecy that couldn’t be easily explained. It’s like we’re taking a lot of “C” grade prophecies, lumping them together, and saying it totals up to a perfect score.
Anyway, thanks for the added details. Obviously, there are many reasons to be skeptical.
“It’s like we’re taking a lot of “C” grade prophecies, lumping them together, and saying it totals up to a perfect score.”
I love this analogy. =)
Yes indeed, there ARE many reasons to be skeptical, perhaps even smarter. 😉
You mentioned “These events seem to exist only as catalysts for moving Jesus to where he needs to be in order to fulfill prophecy.” This sums up exactly my final conclusion(s) about the validity (or invalidity) of a SINGLE Son of God/Savior and his divine position being indisputable as I was taught in churches and my seminary. In spirit 500Q, we agree about Jesus’ historical reality. However, for me it took a gap/hole as big as 17 years – a 2-by-4 if you will – knocked upside my head to smash me out of my years of tunnel-vision to see it.
Once someone views the canonical New Testament through an independent lens, i.e. detached from the sensationalism, the hyped-up hope and need for salvation, the snowballing pronounced back-tracking and cover-ups, you begin to see a much more ordinary man caught up in the Messianic times of 1st century Palestine.
You finally reach a point, or I had, where you simply ask “If those 17 years are TRULY unimportant, then that obviously begs two more paramount questions.”
1. Were those 17 years too risky, too opposed to the Greco-Roman-Herodian-Pauline theology and political agendas? Or…
2. Do those testaments, documents, traditions, events reflect simply a wise teacher and reformer of Judaism DEVOID of supernatural powers, a resurrection, and the title (only?) “Son of God” the savior of the world?
The answer I finally reached was that Paul and the Roman bishops – considered 2nd and 3rd generation church fathers who later influenced the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. – had all OVER-exaggerated, OVER-complicated, and OVER-dictated actual events surrounding Jesus, his early followers, and successor, James the Just the brother of Jesus. Yet, that was the Roman way.
Obvious conclusion: John 3:16 or 14:6 and claims like them are hyped-up and bogus. When 1st century Palestinian culture, politics, and all its major players and Jewish sects are fairly considered, via biblical AND non-biblical sources, one cannot deny how badly the Pauline-Herodian-Greco-Roman New Testament lens is intentionally distorted and amputated.
Robert Eisenman Tidbits…for Garbonzo —
[Garbonzo, perhaps in the future when you & I get into these in-depth discussions, we should swap emails, so as to not overrun 500Q’s comment section.] 😉
This is quoted directly from Eisenman’s Introduction in “James the Brother of Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls #1” found here:
These two paragraphs are found in “The End Result” under the Introduction p. IX., however, reading the entire excerpt will most definitely wet your appetite for a broader truer background of 1st and 2nd century C.E. Palestine that is not so grossly skewed toward Roman Hellenistic Pauline Christianity —
“The modus operandi of New Testament accounts such as those in Acts , some merely refurbishment of known events relating to the life of James, will be illumined. Once the aim and method of these substitutions are correctly appreciated, it will be easy to see that the Hellenized Movement that developed overseas which we now call Christianity, was, in fact, the mirror reversal of what actually took place in Palestine under James. It will be possible to show that what was actually transpiring in Palestine was directly connected with the literature represented by the Dead Sea Scrolls, which in its last stages was either equivalent to or all but indistinguishable from that circulating about and normally associated with James.
Paul, on the other hand, will emerge as a highly compromised individual, deeply involved with Roman officials and Herodian Kings — a proposition given added weight by the intriguing allusions to a parallel character in the Dead Sea Scrolls called ‘the Lying Spouter’ or ‘Scoffer’ — even to the extent of actually being a member of King Herod. His contacts will go very high indeed, even into the Emperor Nero’s personal household itself (Phil. 4:22). Appreciating this context will help rescue Jesus’ closest relatives and his religious and political heirs in Palestine from the oblivion into which they have been cast either intentionally or via benign neglect.”
Understanding the ‘weight and thoroughness’ of Roman control in their provinces, especially during the Empire’s growing 2nd & 3rd century social-economic divisions between Roman and non-Roman citizens, one realizes Rome had long been using assimilation to maintain control of their fringes. As a result, Christian Sectarianism further and further distanced itself from the turmoil of Jewish Sectarianism, which too frequently caused annoying problems within Rome’s borders. Enter the Dead Sea Scrolls, written just prior to and during Jesus’ life, and those Jewish Qumran sects opposed to Herodian Judaism, who were completely hijacking their Messianism. It naturally follows then as to WHY so many other testaments and literature soon became “heretical” according to Roman authorities, including those of the Ebionite’s or Qumran Scrolls, as well as ANY testaments, stories, or hints as to what Jesus was actually learning and doing between ages 13 and 30.
Most likely the (Roman) canonical authorities and bishops discovered one of two things about Jesus’ REAL life:
#1 — from his birth to age 30 it was boring and unworthy facts for an eventual Divine Son of God and would not solicit passionate followers, so it lacked attractive sensationalism, thus his last 4 extraordinary years alive, or
#2 — what REALLY happened from birth to age 30 was so opposed to Roman-Herodian-Pharisaic and Pauline agendas, it would completely inflate and energize Jewish rebellions in Palestine. In other words, what Jesus learned and was taught would NOT set up the radical Jews as Roman enemies; he needed to be a Reformer of “militant” Judaism; i.e. take the proverbial heat OFF OF Rome!
Solution? A Neo-Roman Messianism reinterpreted by a former (Herodian?) Pharisee Paul, that doesn’t go to Hasmonean-Ebionite extremes but doesn’t undermine the Greco-Roman traditions of a Supreme Divine Emperor/Christ anointed by the gods or God [refer back to my comment about Paul’s disinterest in the miracles, healings by, and teachings of Jesus].
Ah, thank you very much for this. =) Very insightful.
Hello and congratulations on your thorough work. I wonder if you have made any research on the historicity of Jesus. Do you think we are facing a legend or a myth? Thanks!
My hunch at this point would be legend, but I haven’t researched the possibility myth well enough to say for sure. I’d like to think Jesus actually existed, and there is some truth to the gospels, but like so many other characters — from Saint Nicolas to Saint Patrick — his story was morphed into a legend by some unscrupulous people who were attempting to make the story better. Of course, I could be wrong, and I’m willing to change my mind if I find evidence that proves otherwise. 🙂
One more thing, I cannot open articles no. 40 and 41. Do you think you can have this fixed? Thanks again!
Fixed! Thanks for letting me know.
I have made a research, spent some years on this (the very existence of Jesus) actually, and even though nothing can’t be proven (and how could it be…?) the “myth theory” is a really valid one and -regarding certain aspects- the most satisfactory. Can you imagine that? (I ‘m sure you can…) Christianity (and Islam by the way) collapses instantly and “our” history (the western history mainly but also the entire world’s to some degree) is a terrible lie ….. !!!!! Not just “our” religion, everything…
Coming from Greece, I am not sure if I can describe all the fuss about “Orthodoxy” (you know, Greek Orthodox is the very term). Thousands of tons of books, analysis, church fathers (we are so “proud” here of “our” tradition” in “our” language, the “gospels’ language”), tutoring, millions of hours and so, so much energy for what…? Not to say anything about the monasteries and the money…
I (and NOT ONLY I of course) could literally change the world with all these sources… I really wonder, ARE WE ALL BLIND??? I am ashamed for having been blind and believing and -the saddest of all- … supporting, but I started questioning all these things as soon as I could (19 years old) and -after many years of research- I was eventually left with no doubt: Christianity (the other religions being at best not that bad) is something to be immediately abandoned…!
Nature abhors vacuum (as you have also noticed -and typed-) and I found my answers -ironically(?) in my tradition, actually in the part of it that was kept hidden from me. Epicureus’ s Garden, Ethical Materialism, with some necessary modifications (logical I presume after 24 centuries) is my worldview and my “evangelization”. Live with no fear, no need for crying about past mistakes and ENJOY with DIGNITY and CONSCIOUSNESS of our choices’ and acts’ results.
Thanks for your “timespace”!
All I can say is I am sending a bunch of gratitude your way. I ( in mental anguish admittedly) wrote a book earlier this year (for myself) in which the exact same conclusion was made. At the end, as you do in your point number 10, I asked myself “Would you have rather never been born knowing now that you will die?” The logic here is that this is entirely contradictory because you would be going back to the exact same place you were before you got here- which is EXACTLY what I imagine death as if you accept death as opposite of birth.
For those seeking peace, there is nothing wrong with knowing your energy is going to be recycled into this beautiful world and you get to live on in the form of everything you see around you- even though you won’t be conscious of it. I can only speak for myself, but the first time I consciously caught myself saying “Wow, nature is so beautiful” and I injected “Yes,so do you want to stroke your ego and live forever or would you be willing to, after living a long life, get off the roller coaster and share your energy with other life so that they may have a turn?” My selfishness erodes each time I marvel in awe at nature and I am completely fine with the thought that my death in fact will, in a roundabout way, make way and allow for the smile on a child’s face some day hundreds of years from now.
Sheol, meaning “pit, grave, or hell” is just a grave to me. A lake of fire is either allegorical or even better the rudimentary knowledge of our ancestors that there indeed is a lake of fire beneath the earth called the “mantle.”
All that is perplexing to me now is the origin of the universe, if such a thing exists. A higher power may exist but I have complete peace with not accepting any known religion. Respectfully, this cosmic band-aide we call “religion” I honestly appreciate greatly as the band-aide eventually sloths off for those that don’t need it anymore and for those that do still need it it will never leave you unless you want it to. In fact, I (selfishly) hope I don’t live long enough to see religion universally disproved because of the utter despair it would bring so many who suffer everyday already as it is. (By the way, band aide is not derogatory- we all need one from time to time!)
To sum it up: the “failure to thrive” mechanism doesn’t, in my opinion, go away when we reach adulthood. We have prolonged human life to the point where “adult failure to thrive” comes into play and religion can help with this. If religion is not for you, there are certainly other options out there.
Take it easy all!
I like your idea of getting off the roller coaster so that others may have a turn. Although, these others will never know they missed their turn if we never create them.
I do wonder about things like “militant atheism,” and whether or not it’s wise to try and steer others away from faith. On the one hand, I think it’s best if people go in search for answers themselves, and not be told what to believe. But on the other hand, there are things like childhood indoctrination, where children aren’t really given a choice as to what to believe, and cults, where people are taken advantage of in the name of religion. (And there is often a fine line between “cult” and “religion”).
With all that has been said, and with all due respects, In thinking of your challenging questions, it leads me to wonder, do you believe any of them may fall into the category of mockery? WIth that said, here’s another link to think on, in regards to it’s possibility:
People have certainly been burnt alive for less…
sad to say, agreed.
Thanks for your honesty on this page. It’s a fantastic story. I hope things continue to improve in your relations and understanding with your wife.
It sounds like the trajectory is a positive one.
A Single Drop of Water
…and so I say these things reluctantly, that is, even though I have known these things for a number of years it is my nature to question and often times not trust even those things which I know to be fact. This approach or response if you will comes to me, I believe through two sources: first is my life experience and second is my innate need to seek truth… not belief – which in its revel can be instant or a process. It is also not in my nature to seek leadership, although through out most of my life I have found myself in just such a position, to greater or lesser degrees; but it is also not in my nature to stand still and just watch.
These things that I am speaking towards are now being echoed or suggested, or intimated by the “new science” of quantum physics. It is very exciting to look into science and see a “verification” of God eking out on the horizon, although not at all in the traditional sense or the traditional “belief” of what God is.
Without going into the discussion on how convoluted organized Religions are; or how they are much more about power and control over man than they are about knowing or coming to God or Spirituality; I would like to say only this…. that the truth about the “nature of God” and the nature of man’s relationship with God is anything but convoluted. Is is actually and truly very simple.
How I have come to this knowledge is the story of an internal quest, a few miraculous incidences, a gift and an overcoming of my own insecurity… but that’s another story.
What is at the very heart of the religious or spiritual discussion – that thing which divides, creates both love and hate and has been at the formation of so many wars and historical and cultural reformations is the Nature of God and Man’s relationship to God.
In that regard let me say this: 9,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (nine octillion).
When we see an average rain drop we see a Single Drop of Water, and yet when we look into that drop of water we have come to realize that it is made up of molecules… H2O (water). A single drop of water is made up of nine octillion H2O molecules…. and so it is with man and God.
“When a man looks upon himself in the flesh he has been taught that he is separate from the Godhead, but I say not; rather while the flesh is of this world, that which runs through, connects and gives life is not merely from, but rather is OF the Godhead.
When Man looks upon the Godhead he sees “the Godhead.” Yet when the Godhead looks upon Man it sees itself. Man is the earthly manifest extension of the Godhead. Man has divinity.”
michael philip kik me if u dont mind at Roooaar
Thanks for sharing your fascinating story. So many of us seem to be on the same journey. I feel I am moving the same way though I am still struggling to make a final move away from Christianity. But since I started this journey the evidence against God has been overwhelming that to the contrary.
The quote from Mark Thomas really says it all.
The decisive difference between those who remain believers and those who leave is, I sense, the preparedness to seriously consider the possibility that they may have been deluded all along. That is to seriously examine their doubts rather than to just seeking reassurance.
Thanks Peter. That’s a great quote; were you paraphrasing? I couldn’t seem to locate it online.
Sorry I should have made my point clearer. The Mark Thomas quote was the one you had used in the post, I did not repeat it, but will do so here:
True believers are continually shown by reality that their god doesn’t exist, but have developed extensive coping mechanisms to deal with this cognitive dissonance.
~ Mark Thomas
The last paragraph was my own views.
Oh, duh — sorry, I skimmed past the name and got it in my head it was Mark TWAIN for some reason, probably because your statement reminded me a lot of his quote, “A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows.” (Also a good one!) But well said.
I like yours better.
Read this through yesterday and found it interesting, there’s a lot of truth in here, but i think too there is a major underlying assumption, and i think that assumption is a hangover from ure “christian days” lol, i’m far from clear about the whole picture, but many Christians groups have pushed this whole “inerrant word of God” about the bible thing, i think this is a relatively recent thing 100-200 years or so with “fundamentalism’ pushing it to extremes. but it started in the “reformation – @16th centurary” with sola sola or something like that lol – that emphasised the authority of “scripture alone” which itself was a reaction and replacement of the abuses of the authority of “the one holy catholic church”. I think once you remove this one assumption of the bible being the inerant word of God, most of your arguments fall down, although i understand where ure coming from.
at the same time the bible does at times amongst all the confusion give us some good pointers, i think one of the most important is the idea that
“in past times God spoke in divers (different) manners (prophets angels etc etc) but now in these last days God spoke through his Son – scuse my kjv memory lol, and then at the start of john’s gospel, the word was God and became flesh, again Johns letter no. 1.
We have seen, we have heard, we have touched, out hands have handled – the word of life. God not content with speaking through dodgy prophets, nor coded messages on walls lol, no he was over it, all that was cloudy vision, no instead he “incarnated” as a man, and it seems that man has made quite an impression, my belief in him isnt really based on the bible though thats gives some good pointers at times. Its based more on certain experiences i’ve had – personal experience – that mean there is this place in my heart deep down that does believe that there was this 1st centuary man who died and came alive again and is God lol, even when everything is fucked up all around, and im fucked up for whatever reason, i still when i look in my deepest heart do believe in this Godman and believe there will be a happily everafter – probably for a lot more people than most people think, probably everyone.
ok nuff of my ramblings anyone kik at Roooaar if yer wanna chat, i’d appeciate it, i dont really care if u r athiest or whatever, ure still pretty special lol. if u r believer not a athiest feel free to pray for me cause i’m pretty mess up atm – have been 18 months but i guess my dream would be to teach some of this stuff clearly – there is lots more bubling deep down but at the moment its getting muddied up top, thnxs
ok couple of more things for u really scientifically minded ones
– 1. theoretical physics blows my mind with the possibilities, extra dimensions, bendy time, particles that know we’re watching them (double slit experiment) etc, bottom line there is a lot we dont know – endless possibilities,
– 2. look up – did material create consiousness or consiousness create matter, this is leading edge theoretical physics – and top notch athiest scientist are seriously coming to these kind of possible conclusion
ok thnxs for reading if u got this far and thanks too if u didnt, but u wont know i thanked u lol
ok nite all 😴
I had a friend that believes in the Chupacabra because of an experience he had as a kid. I understand personal experiences are personal, but it’s really hard to trust them. Almost every major religion has believers that say they have had an experience that makes them believe, but they can’t all be right, so what does that mean?
I think if something claims to be the word of a god, it should be inerrant, or otherwise special. But there’s nothing special about the Bible, it’s just a collection of man-made writings like the Quran.
I agree with Garbonzo, here. If the Bible is inerrant, which parts do we trust? Do we just trust the core message that God exists? And if so, what other evidence has God given us to prove that he exists, unlike the thousands of other gods we’ve invented, which do not?
If it’s all about personal experience, what shall we do when these subjective experiences conflict? Shall we believe the Mormon because he prayed about the Book of Mormon and the “Holy Spirit” told him it was true? Or should we believe the Pentecostal who prayed, and the “Holy Spirit” told him it was NOT true? If God is proving himself through personal experiences, he should at least be sending the SAME message. (See #47.)
“…did material create consiousness or consiousness create matter?”
A fascination question, but I think the evidence points to material giving birth to consciousness. When we think, our brains light up, and we can observe that consciousness is a very physical activity. We even lose consciousness when the physical brain becomes injured.
I don’t think the “observer effect” in quantum physics is a serious problem for this understanding of consciousness. I think we are either changing the result through our attempts to measure subatomic particles, or there is something here we don’t quite understand yet. (Spooky action at a distance is also a mind-boggler, but I’m sure there’s an explanation, even if we don’t know what it is just yet).
But I’m pretty confident that if every living thing on the planet died, the planet would still keep spinning around the sun, even without anything left to observe it. There was a time when everyone thought the sun rotated around the earth, but this didn’t force this to become what was later observed. Matter is what it is, and does what it does, regardless of our understanding or expectations. 🙂
I must say that that I pity you. I it is much harder to hold on to your own man made beliefs than to belief in God. I know God exist. He spoke on several occasions with me audibly. I also had doubts but I rather wanted to continue in a path of faith than an empty road full of human wisdom. Do I argue with atheist and non-believers? No. There is no need. Human wisdom and human words cannot change their hearts and it is waste of time. I can only lift them up in prayer. I realize once again that those that are saved is truly few. Only true believers can be accepted by God. Yes, it is not fair but hey, that is my belief. Just as it is yours believing in the cosmos. Moreover, I must confess, I start to believe more and more in the doctrine of election. God knew right from the start who is the ones that would press through and would “walk with Him”. Thank you for your blog, it reinforced my faith in God.
Peace to you!
Lucky you! Enjoy heaven, you lucky dog. I wish I was one of the elect. 😦
I believe pretty much all of this anyway, and I’m still a Christian. For example, you say that you saw people for what they really are, as opposed to just ‘sinner’ etc and that you were evangelistic. That was your own choice. I’m a Christian and I don’t see people that way and I don’t feel pressured to ‘preach the word’ to all and sundry. I think everyone has free will and in deciding to be an atheist, they are using that free will. It would be disrespectful of me to start preaching to them knowing that they are making a decision just as I am.
Also, Humanism and Christianity are not mutually exclusive. My world view is very nuanced. It’s able to contain natural history and natural beauty and God at the same time.
It’s interesting to note, I think, that many people who lose faith were formerly oppressed by fundamentalism, which is a predominately American phenomenon these days and is far more intense than Christianity is in Europe.
Thank you so much for this. It aptly describes what i went through and it’s good to know that i am not alone.
Hi, 500 Questions….
What about your wife and your 2 children? Are they kind of skeptics like you?
BTW, I’m a skeptical Christian like you. But, my position is wait-and-see…. I still believe on Biblical prophecy (fulfilled or unfulfilled)…. Maybe, there are answers for our earthly messy & chaotic life problems…. Yes, I CERTAINLY WOULD ASK your questions described here to Him in heaven (or the quicker the better, asking Jesus in 1000 years Messianic Kingdom — after Antichrist era)….
(Sorry for my poor English grammar & diction if there are some mistakes….)
Wife is Christian, kids aren’t quite old enough to decide for themselves.
Does your wife know you write this blog, BTW?
Yes, she does. She doesn’t read it, but she’s aware of it.
We have one of those “We’ll have to agree to disagree” situations. She believes I’ve become deceived (and I can certainly understand that, coming from her perspective), and I believe she is afraid to acquire more knowledge, both because she already feels she has the truth, and for fear of becoming deceived.
But somehow, we still make it work. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to life than religion. 🙂
As a man, I can relate to you.
Well, that’s a problem to become a man…. Men tend to be irreligious than women do…. 🙂
Do you still go to church (pretending to be a Christian), BTW?
Na, quit going a few years ago. Kinda felt like a one-sided conversation.
And your devout Christian friends/relatives would comment on that behavior, wouldn’t they? 🙂
Surprisingly few did. I suppose it’s like a can of worms they didn’t want to open.
What do you consider to call yourself?
Agnostic atheist? Gnostic atheist? Agnostic Christian?
A reluctant atheist? Free thinker? Humanist? Skeptic? I’ve always liked the label “naturalist,” as it describes what I believe rather than what I don’t, but it’s not a very mainstream term.
Do you tend to be a nihilist too?
At the moment, I don’t believe life has any inherent/external meaning or purpose (intended or otherwise). But I don’t know why it needs to, and I think life can be enjoyed regardless. If there IS meaning or purpose, it’s only what we decide has meaning or purpose.
Likewise, I don’t think nature has any inherent/external moral laws, but I do believe morality can be logically and empirically derived (in many cases). For example, you probably do not want me to stab you, and I don’t want to stab you, and there is very little good that will come from me stabbing you. Ergo, I think we can choose to define such an action as “immoral”, as it would likely result in unnecessary pain.
However, reluctantly, I must admit I do think a solid case can be made for antinatalism. There is risk in coming into existence, and zero risk in NOT coming into existence. There has never been a single non-existent person who lamented NOT being born. I think the math will always favor the safety of non-existence. Wouldn’t it be ironic if our greatest purpose in life… was to prevent it?
Could you speak in tongue (glossolalia)? Real or fake one?
According to your observation, do you believe many fake it?
Eh, BTW, what is it in your avatar?
Jesus riding a green snake? 🙂
Just share a Messianic Jewish perspective about problem of evil (quite long):
True believers are continually shown by reality that their god doesn’t exist, but have developed extensive coping mechanisms to deal with this cognitive dissonance.
~ Mark Thomas
If I knew as little history corroborating Christianity as people who believe that ideology, I might have their same disposition.
There’s plenty of well known ancient historians who wrote about Jesus, one of which being Luke who also wrote a gospel. There’s about 42 documents saying something about Jesus, a lot of which are either hostile or indifferent to Jesus and Christianity. Some historians also mentioned a few of the miracles recorded in the gospels or just mention Jesus as being famous for miracles that they dismiss as illusionist tricks, or otherwise sorcery. An example is a record from Thallus in the 50’s A.D. mentioning the darkness that occurred during Jesus crucifixion and attempting to explain it as a solar eclipse. Africanus, who quoted this record about 2 centuries later, mentioned that an eclipse wouldn’t be possible because it happened during the Jewish Passover, when the moon is full and diametrically opposite from the sun. both of these historians records only survive as quotes in other historical writings, like in the records of Eusebius, from what was still left of their respective work during the time. Tacitus references in 115 A.D. in his Annals that Christians were killed for saying Jesus was resurrected. He recorded “Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular”. Suetonius recorded “After the great fire at Rome . . . . Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief”. The only way that many people would believe that Jesus was resurrected was if they actually saw him. Even his first disciples doubted him until they saw him. The same culture that presented Jesus to be executed with the accusation of apostasy and sorcery is not going to suddenly change their minds about him and invent stories in agreement with his claims that they originally hated him for. And none of them could have hallucinated him because shared hallucinations don’t happen and in general can’t happen anyway when you aren’t expecting to see the person or have no care to. Simply knowing the culture of his time is enough to deduce that the converts were reporting a real encounter. And it’s recorded that one of the disciples touched Jesus after he appeared to them and Paul records having met about 500 witnesses. These new testament accounts are consistent with Josephus and the Roman historical records talking about the teaching of Jesus resurrection. Hardly any scholar, regardless of background, doubts Jesus was a real historical figure, it’s mostly the miracles that are controversial, but with no evidence against them, just skepticism that miracles can even happen.
No one who ever wrote about Jesus was ever questioned by anyone about if he actually existed. People who knew anything about Jesus would be around to say how accurate these claims were that were being recorded. There were plenty of people who hated his teachings who would have loved to refute that he was real, if he was made up. The problem is he was seen by many people in person. There are over 5000 copies of the new testament in it’s original language, all of which are mostly consistent with each other and modern translations. The only differences are the story of Jesus and the prostitute not being in the oldest copies and textual variants.
We know the new testament was completed before the second century because Clement of Rome quotes it in the late first century. The gospels would be some of the earliest of the new testament compilation. http://www.garyhabermas.com/books/historicaljesus/historicaljesus.htm#ch9 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2012/12/why-the-lost-gospels-did-not-make-the-canonical-cut/
It looks like you copied a lot of this material from another post you made here:
I’ll echo the moderator’s sentement and say: “That’s a lot of material. Pick one argument and summarize it, and we can discuss.” Is there any one thing here you find particuarly compelling?
For what it’s worth, I personally don’t doubt the historical existance of Jesus, but I DO think his story was embelished.
You wrote that many people wrote about him, but it’s equally true that many people wrote fictional stories about him. In fact, there are probably more fictional stories than truthful ones. If we know the people from this time and place were not above creating fictionalized stories about real people, why would we trust any story from them that included such fabulous details? Like stories about Jesus walking on water, or doing other physically impossible things?
“Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course or that a man should tell a lie? We have never seen, in our time, nature go out of her course. But we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time. It is therefore at least millions to one that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie.”
― Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason
I’m a Christian, though I am open to discussion.
I accept that walking on water, rising from the dead and other miracles are impossible. They simply cannot be done. Not a single person in this world can do any of those things. But that doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t do them. He did them because they are impossible. If it was impossible to whistle ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’, then he would have done that too.
You say that ex-Christians deserve respect. Well I happen to think that current Christians deserve it too, as they are constantly ridiculed and patronized. Even if there is no God, the fact that these people are willing to say in public that they believe in it does take some doing.
I think the evidence is compelling, but not strictly conclusive. There has to be a lack of material evidence, as the very point of faith is faith, which is spiritual matter. Therefore, logically, it commands spiritual evidence.
On Having Respect for Believers
If the truth is as Christians perceive it, then Christians are doing EXACTLY what they should be doing (well, many of them, anyway). While I DO respect them for doing what they believe is right, I have to wonder, should we ALSO respect the men who flew 747s into the World Trade Center? They too were willing to stand up for what they believed, and even give their lives! This probably took a lot of courage and conviction. And if what they believed in just happens to be true, then they are heroes!
There is also no shortage of confidence in mental institutions. Should we respect these men? Should we respect the likes of Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh, and Jim Jones? Who all stood up for what they believed in? Despite the ridicule? Before killing their followers?
There is an inherent danger in respecting religious beliefs, especially when those beliefs can lead to dangerous conclusions (like 9-11, or climate-change denial, or refusing to vaccinate children, or suicide-cults, or financial fraud). So while I respect you and your right to freely draw your own conclusions, I don’t think respect should ever inhibit us from criticism of ideas, even religious ones, nothing should be so sacred.
On Faith and Miracles
I would argue that the only reason God desires faith is not because he values gullibility (for some strange reason), but because God does not exist, and faith had to be invented to explain a complete lack of evidence. I could just as easily make up a god, and claim he desires your faith. Why should you believe in my god? You shouldn’t, you should demand more evidence.
If your primary reason for believing (the only evidence you mentioned) is that Jesus did miracles, then your faith isn’t really in Jesus, but in those who wrote about him. Even if these miracles DID occur, they are completely useless to us today, because it takes just as much faith to believe in these miracles as it does to believe in God! One might as well just ignore the miracles and have faith in God, as these miracles do not add to the evidence — both God and the miracles of Jesus demand our faith in the unseen.
Again, I could just as easily claim that my imagined god (that demands your faith) has healed many people (with miracles I cannot prove). Will you NOW believe in my God?
As Christians, we are asked to have faith that these story tellers did not lie about Jesus, even though we know OTHER men lied about Jesus. We are also asked to have faith that Jesus was the messiah, even though we know OTHER men also lied about being the messiah. We are then asked to have faith that he did miracles, even though we know OTHER men lied about performing miracles. And all of this is built on faith that the Jews didn’t just imagine their God to begin with, even though we know OTHER men have imagined thousands OTHER gods. That’s A LOT of faith.
Regarding respect, obviously it comes with a caveat: it’s fine so long as no one is harmed in any way. Also, I would advocate for the loosest definition of respect, which is tolerance (a word I dislike, as it suggests an inconvenience of some kind). There should be no ridiculing or condesention. Strangely, in a time in when people bend over backwards not to offend followers of religions from other cultures, it is apparently fine to offend those who follow a religion from our own culture. It doesn’t bother me unduly, but is worth pointing out.
You make an interesting point about miracles. Of course, any miracle is open to cynicism. If Jesus arrived and performed them now, we would say it was a sophisticated illusion. It could be filmed, but we’d say it was camera trickery. In any age, miracles would be greeted with skepticism. It is difficult to imagine just what Jesus would have to do to convince us.
I think it is useful to research the Bible and investigate why people believe. For instance, the disciples were willing to die for Jesus, so they must have believed in him. Many of these men were recent converts and not indoctrinated since childhood. Nevertheless, they were pretty convinced by the whole thing. It is also useful to discover when the Gospels were written and how they were preserved. Lee Strobel’s books are good reads for this.
Mainly, personal experience and testimonials are a kind of evidence. It is not physical evidence, but then Jesus is not a physical being. As useful as it is to read up on these things and develop knowledge on both sides of the debate, spiritual matters call for spiritual proof.