My Deconversion Story

by Rebecca Wong

I sometimes wonder how many previously religious people have truly lost the beliefs of their childhood. It seems to me that I am part of a relatively small group. It’s quite obvious that church attendance is down from what it was a few decades ago. But I suspect that in many cases, this poor attendance is due to a declining belief in organized religion, and not a loss of belief in God Himself. While many people no longer view the Bible as the literal truth, they have kept their belief in a supreme Deity and in a Heaven and a Hell. People who were taught to be atheists from birth don’t belong in my group either. They have not “lost” anything. In fact, with each fossil find and medical discovery, their beliefs are shown to have a growing validity. For the newly deconverted, this can make for a very lonely struggle. Only a former Christian could understand the hollowness and the fear that accompany a complete loss of faith. And people who share similar views can be hard to find, when admitting your lack of belief could get you labelled an “immoral person”. During the past three years, I have navigated through the myriad feelings following deconversion, but it has not always been easy.

I grew up in a Mennonite community in a small town in Ontario, Canada. My uncle was the head pastor of the largest Mennonite church in that town. My mother directed many of the choirs that sang regularly in our church. She was also one of the organists. Some of my happiest childhood memories are of potato sack races at Sunday school picnics, playing games on the front lawn during daily vacation bible school, and the excitement of receiving, every year without fail, a brown bag filled with various nuts, fruit, and one piece of chocolate at the Christmas Eve ceremony. Since there was always only one piece of candy in the whole bag, my classmates and I would hurriedly rummage through our bags so we could compare our treats. In my mind, I can still smell the mixture of nuts and oranges and hear the crumpling of the paper bags. It is a pleasant memory.

For me and my immediate family, living in the Mennonite community was definitely not all hearts and flowers. My mother happened to have married an Englisher. While marriages to “outsiders” are more common today, I think my mother was one of very few in her generation to marry a non-Mennonite. This did not make us outcasts, but it definitely lowered our position within the Mennonite hierarchy. I never once heard it spoken, but there was always a feeling that my brothers and I were not as important as certain other children in the congregation. Although my minister would be sad to hear this and might even deny it, I felt it to be true. Equally obvious to me, was the heightened status of certain other, and coincidentally also richer, families in our church. While it could be denied that my perceptions were real, nevertheless, I felt a growing sense of isolation within our church and this was the first chink in the armour of my faith.

Whatever the reasons for my loneliness within the church, I spent most of my adolescence dreaming of a time when I could get away from that congregation and into another where I would be more appreciated. I got my chance when high school ended. As soon as my last class was over, I moved myself to the university town of Waterloo where I would be attending school in the fall. I had registered myself in the Mennonite residence on that campus and was hoping that here, I would be accepted and my faith would bloom. Instead, I found the same feelings again. A lot of people from my home town had come to the same university and the same Mennonite residence, and we continued our various roles in that new setting. This failure to find a place of peace and acceptance led to feelings that are probably common to most adolescents and young adults: a growing sense of the supreme injustice of life. In a similar vein, I remember having conversations with other people about how it was unfair that we experienced luxuries of all description while fellow humans in places like Africa were suffering with disease and warfare. How did God let this happen? Why were we so blessed? The typical answer that “God knows all” and “there is a pattern that only God can see” simply didn’t work for me. I felt guilty and unworthy of my riches. These strong feelings also contributed to my deconversion.

Perhaps the biggest push in the loss of my faith was from the young man I met and later fell in love with; an atheist named Mike Wong. Any Christian anywhere will tell you of the “dangers” of marrying a non-Christian, and I must admit it pains me to have proven their hypothesis correct. Mike was very rational and possessed a cynical side similar to my own. We got on swimmingly. At last I had someone to complain to about the unfairness of life. Someone who wouldn’t sermonize at me about not having enough faith in God’s plan. But although my companion was an atheist, it didn’t mean that I was going to drop my faith. In fact, I insisted that he learn more about Christianity. Which he did. He pored through the Bible and presented me and my room-mate with very intelligent takes on the various passages that he read. And for a time there, it seemed that he might join the ranks of the religious. Later, in his marriage vows, he thanked me for bringing him closer to God. My faith seemed stronger than ever and as we set off on our new life together, I would never have envisioned that our future path would lead me to atheism.

Our move to the small town of Wallaceburg two years after our marriage spelled the end for Mike’s short-lived spirituality. The residents of that community were almost uniformly fundamentalist Christians. You either didn’t go to church at all, or you believed that every word of scripture was literal truth. Friends tried to convert Mike but would not accept his spirituality unless he could believe that the Old Testament was true and that God was at work in every small minute of his life. The harder they tried to convert him, the farther away from them he moved. Spirituality dies when specific rules are forced upon it. Mike’s total rejection of Christianity disappointed me, but it did not lessen my own faith. While I agreed that their restrictive form of religion was strangling, I held on to my own looser beliefs. Nonetheless, Mike’s rejection of spirituality definitely influenced me.

Book: Who Wrote The BibleOddly, the final step in my journey toward atheism occurred during a time of spiritual renewal for me. After four years of living in a suffocating fundamentalist community, we moved back to Toronto. Although Mike’s faith was gone forever, he came to church with me because it was important to me. As I was passing a milestone in my life, I felt that I needed the direction that faith could give me and so I thrust myself back into the religious community, even attending Bible study, which I had never done before. And although I viewed many Christian doctrines with more skepticism than I had in the past, I remained hopeful that there was an ultimately benevolent guiding force behind all the pain and misery of life. I was in this state of mind when Mike showed me a book called Who Wrote the Bible[1]. He warned me that he knew some people who had lost their faith after reading this book. Despite his comment, I didn’t really expect my faith to die after reading it. In fact, I took it on as a kind of challenge. I was curious about the possible identities of the authors of the Bible, but I also thought it would be a good test of faith for me. My faith had survived all manner of doubts in the past, but it did not survive the reading of this book. I could probably still find the exact page where my faith fell like a rock.

I found that my conscience no longer allowed me to attend church, but since it was summertime, I don’t think my church friends took much notice of the fact that we were no longer attending on Sundays. For my part, having gone through many episodes during my life where my faith faltered and then revived, I was not at first sure if this was indeed the end. I half suspected that, given time, I would return to reading the Bible for guidance once again. But when fall came and the emptiness remained, I felt that I needed to call someone and tell them what was going on. I phoned a friend of mine who attended the church and was, in fact, very involved in various church events. I told her that I was pretty sure that my faith was gone. She then assured me that every Christian goes through times like this, and I knew what she meant, but I also knew that this time was different for me. I felt odd. Strangely calm, yet no longer buoyed by anything, my spirit gradually sank deeper and deeper until Christmastime, when I finally fell into a pit. Every Christmas until then, I was able to feel a deeper meaning behind all of the glitter and tinsel. On that particular year all I saw was the endless, unapologetic commercialism. Add to this the usual nausea and trepidation that accompanies the annual visitation of distant relatives and my Christmas was about as enjoyable as a heavy piece of Christmas fruitcake. More than usual, I was relieved when it was all over.

That whole, sad, empty experience seemed to show me that I needed something to believe in, or mentally, I wasn’t going to make it. I read books on all of the different religions hoping to find another that would again buoy my spirit. While I learned a lot, I didn’t really find anything that I felt I could believe in. Islam was too close to Christianity, Hinduism was too strange, parts of Buddhism seemed acceptable, but the whole reincarnation thing threw me off. Taoism held the most promise and so, for a time, I read the Tao Te Ching and perused the Book of Change, but I remained skeptical and aloof. Finally, one night, after a particularly frustrating day, I broke down and cried. I felt alone and adrift on a meaningless and dangerous sea. I couldn’t find an acceptable oar to help me paddle through life. Mike took pity on me and said “Instead of trying to cling to something, why don’t you just let yourself fall and land on your own two feet. It’s not as scary as it seems.” I did stop crying that night, and I’m not sure if it really happened overnight, but I did learn to land on my feet. And, surprisingly, it was a lot less scary than all the clinging that I had been doing.

As odd as it may seem to Christians, I believe that I am a more moral person since becoming an atheist. All of the various “rules” that Christians are supposed to follow are often contradictory and are also often cruel. For one thing, I never understood as a Christian how some very kind and generous non-Christians could be excluded from God’s promised gifts. I often thought that some non-Christians were more loving people than the Christians with whom I went to church. If God really wanted us be loving above all else, how could he reward some petty and conniving Christians just because they believed in Jesus, while punishing some non-Christians when all they ever did wrong was their disbelief? As an extension of this, how could murderers get into heaven after converting to Christianity on their death-beds? Even if their confessions were legitimate, it doesn’t seem fair to reward such people when, once again, there were other more moral people who just happened to be Buddhists rather than Christians. And how could it really be better to ostracize a person in religious congregation who didn’t conform to some of the various grey areas in their particular church? That is what the Bible tells us to do, but it doesn’t seem very loving to me. Does a person who does many good deeds get more credit in heaven? According to the Bible they don’t, but doesn’t it seem right to give greater rewards to someone who has been more loving and generous as opposed to someone who has been an isolationist? A Christian person’s life is abound with many such puzzling questions. Following the rules set out in the Bible can sometimes cause more heartache than it solves. Consider the many admonishments I endured while living in Wallaceburg for having married a non-Christian. Did they really think that it would be better for me to divorce my husband and deprive my children of a father and a stable family just because my husband was an atheist? Likely, they would say that I should never have made such a choice in the first place, but now that it had already been made, what would be the “Christian” thing to do? Once I became an atheist, life really became a lot simpler, and, oddly, it became easier to tell right from wrong. A person who is generous, loving and kind is a good person. A person who is mean, selfish and cruel is a bad person, no matter what religion he has. What could be simpler than that?

Life also becomes more precious once you are no longer a Christian, because there is no longer a fantasy land called Heaven. If life doesn’t get any better than this, then I’d better treasure the finite moments that I have been allotted. Each day becomes a gift; finding joy wherever you can is mandatory. On the opposite side of the coin, murder and torture seem all the more heinous. If there is only one life, then being a witness or a party to any kind of pain is difficult to shrug off. Comments made during the crusades such as “Kill them all, let God sort them out” are horribly presumptuous, and since there is also no longer a Hell, the problems in the justice system seem even more pressing. Once our origins are no longer tied to a creator, oddly, life itself also seems more miraculous. Imagine the millions of years it took just for plant life to generate. And how amazing it is that a body so complex as ours, with such potential, had even evolved at all. Wherever that spark came from that we call life is truly a mystery, one that I find simply astounding. It is only after becoming an atheist that I have finally taken control of my life. I don’t wait for gifts to be handed down to me, my life is my own to make.

On a more personal level, my self-image has vastly improved. As I mentioned earlier, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt for being given the opportunity to live in North America rather than in a third world country. I knew that I did not deserve it and no matter how much money I gave away to charitable causes, I could never rid myself of the pathetic images I read about. Since I had been given the gift of living here in Canada, I felt I needed to repay God in some way. Yet I never believed that I was doing what was expected of me. No matter how many good deeds I did or how spiritual I tried to be, I always felt unworthy. My faith was never as sure as I felt it should be and I was sure that God was somehow disappointed in me. Whenever something went wrong in my life, I was sure that it was payback for not living up to what God expected of me. No matter how many times I asked God to forgive me, I still felt his disappointment. And the constant swinging back and forth from penitence to pride was really making me dizzy. Now, although I still believe that I have been greatly privileged to have been born where I am, I don’t feel that there is an accumulating spiritual debt. I still give to charitable causes, but not because I feel a God watching over my shoulder and grading me. I do it because of the bond of humanity.

To end, I actually feel happier now that I am an atheist and I also feel more emotionally well-balanced. Although I still feel the loss of the religious community, I now see other people in my neighbourhood as my true community. My eyes have also been opened to the divisive force that religion really is. I see the crazy things people do because of religion, the hate that occurs because of it – to gays and lesbians and atheists. Now more than ever, I believe in the potential goodness of individual people when they act with open hearts. I believe in life itself. I wish that one day, we would all act like the brothers and sisters that we really are. I wish for a day when differing religious beliefs no longer result in death and cruelty. Perhaps I am naïve, but I believe that one day this could happen. Sadly, I don’t believe it will ever come about until monotheism is dead and it looks like it will be many generations yet before that happens. Still, I see all of the progress that we have made, each holding onto the hands of those who came before us and I am awed and inspired. Surely the same noble creatures who could create beautiful buildings, design computers the size of your hand, decode the genome, conceive of democracy, and act with compassion and heroism in times of trouble can one day learn to look beyond the blinders that religion has imposed upon us. I believe that one day we can.

Footnotes

1. Who Wrote The Bible, Richard Elliott Friedman, Harper Collins Publishers (1997): ISBN 0-06-063035-3 (paperback).

48 Responses to My Deconversion Story

  1. Chicken Sock Puppet says:

    “I never understood as a Christian how some very kind and generous non-Christians could be excluded from God’s promised gifts. ”

    It’s called “free will”. People CHOOSE to be excluded. God doesn’t exclude anyone.

    “If God really wanted us be loving above all else, how could he reward some petty and conniving Christians just because they believed in Jesus, while punishing some non-Christians when all they ever did wrong was their disbelief?”

    God doesn’t “reward” behavior in this world. Nor does he “punish” other forms of behavior. What we do here is judged AFTER we die. Again, it goes back to free will. It also has to do with repentance. If one sins and is not repentant, then they are not in God’s grace. That alone precludes them from being considered a Christian.

    “As an extension of this, how could murderers get into heaven after converting to Christianity on their death-beds?”

    Who says they do? Have you tangible proof this occurs or is this an illogical assumption on your part? What the bible tells us is that those who are REPENTANT receive forgiveness. After a life of evil, it would seem to me that it would be pretty damn hard to be repentant just before their executions. Do you honestly think God is that naive?

    “A Christian person’s life is abound with many such puzzling questions. Following the rules set out in the Bible can sometimes cause more heartache than it solves. Consider the many admonishments I endured while living in Wallaceburg for having married a non-Christian. Did they really think that it would be better for me to divorce my husband and deprive my children of a father and a stable family just because my husband was an atheist?”

    First of all, those actions you endured would not be considered Christian. Petty seems to be a better definition. One of the principles of Christianity is not to judge. In fact, we are to love the sinner but hate the sin. In that, we are not to worry about what others are doing that may prevent them from entering the graces of God and eternal life in Heaven. What we need to do is worry about what we do, ourselves, that may prevent us from entering Heaven. I don’t worry if my neighbor is a heathen or not, I should only be concerned about what is in MY heart and what MY actions are. In the end, it is not up to us to decide what happens to another person, that is between God and them alone.

    It is more than apparent to me that you’ve had very little interaction in a real Christian environment. Perhaps that would explain your tainted view of that Religion. It is a shame you live nowhere near my church, I’d invite you and you would definitely see a different view than what you’ve experienced.

    • Michael Wong says:

      “It is more than apparent to me that you’ve had very little interaction in a real Christian environment.”

      Don’t be an idiot. She was raised Christian all her life. Her uncle was a preacher. She attended several denominations of church, in several different cities. Obviously, she had extensive interaction in a Christian environment. To say that she did not is just absurd. It is far more likely that you just can’t handle criticism of your religion from an insider, so you declare that she must be an outsider.

      • Jordan says:

        I think the key word is real, as in authentic. From her story it sounds like her time in the church was dictated by rules and not governed by her personal relationship with the Savior, her faith in Christ. It sad to see that negative people had more of an impact on her faith than God did. If anyone is angry or upset or disillusioned or whatever with God they should take that up with Him, He will provide answers. Seek and you will find

      • Jeff says:

        Do not confuse growing up around the trappings of Christianity or the form, as growing up as a Christian. Hanging around football players, for example, doesn’t automatically qualify a person to try the winning field goal on 4th down during the Super Bowl.

      • Jen says:

        The name “Christian” means nothing. Being “raised Christian” means nothing. Having an uncle preacher means nothing. Attending different denominations means nothing. It’s about faith and actual relationship with the Divine–you either have it or you don’t. I am unconvinced that it is a “de-conversion” so much as a maturing of what was in there already. Being “de-converted” implies having been converted in the first place…

  2. Michael Wong says:

    By the way, I like the way you say “People CHOOSE to be excluded. God doesn’t exclude anyone” as if this really changes the equation. Oh, so people CHOOSE not to meet God’s conditions for not excluding them, so God isn’t excluding them at all, right? That’s like saying our society doesn’t put people in jail for marijuana possession; people just choose to go to jail when they possess marijuana! Do you really think that your word games change the equation?

  3. paul says:

    I cannot agree with Chicken Sock Puppet. However, I can say this. I go to church every week with people who not only call themselves Christians they genuinely believe it. However, I can assure you that they are no such thing. I do not know your relatives and cannot say anything about them definitively. However, the fact that they frequented a church or were (or are) preachers does not necessarily imply that they were (or are) actually Christians. Christ tells us that anyone who says they love God but hates their brother is a liar. Christians are to be known by their love, particularly their love of non-Christians! For if we love only those we know will love us in return, Christ says we have done nothing.

  4. Rebecca Wong says:

    “However, the fact that they frequented a church or were (or are) preachers does not necessarily imply that they were (or are) actually Christians. Christ tells us that anyone who says they love God but hates their brother is a liar. Christians are to be known by their love, particularly their love of non-Christians! For if we love only those we know will love us in return, Christ says we have done nothing.”

    The part of Christianity that emphasizes love and compassion is the only part which still resonates with me, and I value people who are able behave this way.

    I would not say that any of my relatives, or fellow members of the congregations we attended, ever “hated” me or Mike. I believe they tried their best to be open and friendly, and some were also loving. But I think it is an inescapable part of being a Christian to want to bring someone into an even deeper faith with God, meaning a faith closer to their own. And if I were to resist or become uneasy with the particular path they wanted me to follow, there would be a new uneasiness in our relationship. This is the way that my discomfort with Christianity as a religion would surface. The uneasiness would then slowly fester over time and the person would have difficulty holding their tongue if I began having personal or emotional problems, often blaming my relationship with Mike for whatever was happening in my life, even if there didn’t seem to be any evidence that it was a factor.

    I think my problem with Christianity, or perhaps more appropriately, with organized religion, is really caused by human nature itself. We are always forming cliques and we desperately want others whom we like to join these cliques with us. An essential part of being in a clique is to exclude others from it for not following the proper “rules”, whatever they may be. Religion seems to emphasize this particular human tendency, and I happen to be more of a loner and a free-thinker by nature. I don’t like people to tell me what they think I should be doing or thinking. Whenever I feel the “warm bonds” of a Christian community wrapping around me, I begin to feel that there is an obligation on my part to follow the rules and do as I’m told. I begin to feel trapped. If I disagree with the rules or feel uncomfortable with them, I know I will offend and hurt people I have come to like and that causes me a lot of emotional pain. At least as an adult, I think this set of feelings has been what lead me to church-hop, and then finally abandon the church completely when I realized that all church experiences were going to be like this.

    I now prefer and enjoy more open-ended spiritual pursuits, where I don’t have to adhere to a specific set of rules. Yoga and meditation, which I know fundamentalist Christians are uncomfortable with, allow me to feel more connected to a larger reality than just myself and my own thoughts. They also have no firm rules, no essential beliefs. While practicing with others, I naturally feel a communion with them and with all of humanity without us having to check notes with each other to make sure we are behaving “properly”. Unfortunately, Christianity is full of spiritual “rules”. There is always going to be a pressure to assimilate, and I will always resist this. It makes me wonder how much personality type has to do with being part of an organized religion. Those who are comfortable with firm, inflexible rules will be happy there. People who are more rebellious to authority will always struggle.

    I suppose all of this is just an aside. But I meant to reassure you that I do believe the Christian people I encountered were in fact Christians. People in Wallaceburg never stopped trying to convert Mike, much to his annoyance! :) They generally liked him and were always hopeful for him and for me. I don’t mean to imply that any of the Christians we were associated with behaved in a hateful way.

    • Jeff says:

      But one should not reject Christ because of the failings of those who may only CLAIM to follow Him. It is clear that ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. So Christ is our model, not organized religion. But having said that, the church is STILL his “bride” through which He desires to bless. I’ve often said that one will never find a perfect church on this side of eternity so stop looking for one. But learn to love each other where He has planted you. If I find hypocrisy in the church, look in mirror and judge myself first rather than pointing a finger at my brother or sister. Only then can I see clearly to help and restore someone else.

  5. Rebecca Wong says:

    To Chicken Sock Puppet:

    In no way does the New Testament say that God rewards good behaviour and punishes bad behaviour. I fully agree and I believe I said as much in my deconversion story. However, it is implied in the Old Testament. There is the example of Job, there are all of the calamities that befall the Israelites because of their lack of dedication to God. And like it or not, it is often implied in modern Christian church services. If we are one of God’s chosen and beloved disciples, we do believe the God will heap blessings upon us. When Christians are blessed with good fortune, they thank God first of all. Obviously, they believe that God had something to do with their good luck. If you happen to always be on the short end of life’s stick, you eventually begin to feel that God must hate you. It is an inevitable result of this same thinking.

    It is true that we don’t know if death-bed conversions actually result in a free ticket to heaven, but Christians enjoy hearing about them. They feel relieved to know that a prisoner on death row was converted before their execution. It’s part of the Christian belief structure, whether or not it is true.

    The Christians that I enjoy being around are those who tend not to judge others. Unfortunately, it is an all-too-human tendency to be judgmental, especially when there are a lot of moral rules to follow. I don’t blame Christians exclusively for this trait. But since Christians are exhorted not to judge others but to love them, it makes it harder to forgive them when they do.

  6. paul says:

    Rebecca, it sounds as if you may have been raised in an environment of performance based acceptance. I know I certainly was. Nor do I disagree with your observations about organized religion. The problem is, none of the legalistic, performance based, ‘you have to do what we say or you’re out’ attitudes are actually Biblical. That’s humans distorting God’s word towards their own ends. It’s taken me most of my life (50+ years) to find a group of people who embrace truly Biblical faith and do their best to live it. Unfortunately, I don’t find too many of these folks in churches. That’s a shame.

    • Jeff says:

      Concur. If my salvation were based on my performance…I ain’t makin’ it! That’s called grace! God’s unmerited favor towards me.

  7. Alex says:

    Hi Rebecca,

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are a very talented writer, and I deeply appreciate your honesty. I guess as a rule I don’t like Christianity. I grew up atheist and what I knew about Christians I learned from CNN. These people were awfully arrogant and unloving. They said hurtful and untrue things, and said they were informed by their holy book. I therefore hated them and their book and refused to read it.

    In college I met a lot of different kinds of people who called themselves Christians. Some were incredibly loving, many not. Many were like those you grew up with, believing they were better in a hierarchical sense, and even arranged themselves according to some strange social ranking system.

    It’s a long story of how I got to this point, but when I finally read the Bible for myself, I found out that a lot of these people wearing the “Christian” label were either ignorant of their claimed beliefs at best, or hypocritical and manipulative of those who believed at worst.

    As Paul writes in Romans, “You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’” In your case I’d add “You who preach God’s love, do you exclude God’s very own children?”

    As for your issues with why God would allow the pain and suffering we’ve seen in places like Sudan and Darfur and Cambodia, I don’t have a great answer. I know for me, in the way I understand the world and from what I know of God, followers of Jesus are called to walk into these situations and give what they have. Instead, many who parade around in Jesus’ name pay no attention to their own brothers and sisters and their desperate needs (whether those siblings know God or not).

    The planet, in most years, provides more than enough food for its human inhabitants. As you probably know, distribution is the issue — a symptom of what I believe is callousness and greed. We as Christians do not live out the love we’ve been given. We do not live like Jesus did, caring more for the sick and the lost and poor and the needy than the big, fancy religious establishment. It is so very sad to me, and it is certainly an indictment on those who say “yes” to God with their lips and “no” with their hearts.

    I guess I think that broken human nature is more the problem than monotheism. I mean, the Nazis did an awful lot of evil without the use of religion. Stalinist Russia broke a few million “eggs” to make an atheist omelet. And yes, Christianity as an institution has the crusades.

    As a former atheist and current, achem, Christian (still don’t like the word because of all the baggage) I absolutely respect your decision. You can believe whatever you want, and it’s not my business to tell you to do otherwise, or manipulate you into some closer version of my faith.

    But I will tell you that I believe you are my sister and that Mike is my brother, and that I thank you both for sharing this. I’d say “God bless you,” but maybe “Cheers” or “Hazah” or something along those lines is more appropriate. : )

    -Alex

  8. Todd says:

    Thank you Rebecca,

    I was not raised in quite the strict environment that you were. I was raised in Oklahoma, I went to church and it was always simply accepted, I even wanted to become a youth pastor in my formative years, but I too went through a similar process of deconversion, reconversion, ambiguity and finally the acceptance of the only plausible (or at least meaningful) reality. That a theistic deity could not be reconciled with our lot in the universe. I recently have also been going through a similar story to your husband, I am in love with a woman whom’s family is quite staunchly religious (fell in love with the pastor’s daughter syndrome I like to call it) and have been told they have deep convictions about the “unequal yoking” but it isn’t personal, ha.

    I would also like to point out my shock at how the first response to your inspiring tale of the human condition, was simply a comment claiming “must have been one of them there fake christians!” I too have heard this statement and used to find it terribly unsettling until I realized why it is the go to response for christians dealing with “dissidents” or Born again-Humans. First of all, to suggest that at one point you did not at least accept the notion that Jesus was the savior of our sins, and that God was the creator of the world is to miss the entire point of your post, and I am sorry such ignorant fools attempting to protect their own vision of “faith” had to taint this blog in such a disrespectful manner. Obviously as I’m sure you have come to know, it is practically a tenet of Christianity to label any dissident as never being a Christian at all, as to discredit their claims and “relationship” or opinions on faith. If you are with us, you never were, an obvious ploy to keep the flock under control. Similar to an Orwellian “Non-person” That is all I have to say on that.

    I just felt I had to post this, your storied moved me. I think anyone who has even been through a fraction of what you have can understand and find solace in it. I wish you the best in your life, don’t let the little things get you down :)

    PS: Your husband’s site Creationtheory.org led me here, I see it hasn’t been updated for a long while, I would like to also congratulate him on a well written attempt to appeal to people who would be happier in their little box of a world than live in the expanse of the diverse universe we really do live in.

  9. jazzy says:

    It’s funny and sad at the same time. I am the reverse of you–once an atheist, now a disciple of Jesus.

    Jesus. He’s the one who I couldn’t get away from. And I’m so grateful I didn’t.

    When I finally drew close to Jesus, through prayer/meditation, reading the Bible, and living it out with the guidance and love of spiritually strong friends, I was ecstatic. With him, I experienced how true 1 Peter 1:2 is: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…”

    (I hesitate to use the word Christian only because I think the world has distorted what a biblical Christian is. Did you know the word “Christian” is only mentioned, I think, twice in the Bible?)

    Anyway, Rebecca, if you ever want to talk, email me and I’ll give you my number.

    All the best,

    jazzy

  10. Jeff says:

    I wish Christians were as hungry for the truth as they are answers to any probing questions about the utter hypocrisy of the entire framework or their religion, from it’s hatred of women to the abuse of the ignorant and poor.

    Before you get closer to Jesus, get closer to a documentary entitled “The God who wasn’t there” and then debate the true facts and history exposed therein.

    Then get back to me about your own refusal to accept the truth of the world over some cockamamey story you were indoctrinated with from childhood and now refuse to let go.

    • Jeff says:

      Jeff, I would argue that the hatred for women you speak of has absolutely no place in BIBLICAL Christianity. It might in some warped and twisted false presentation of the Gospel but it is not the Gospel. Ponder for a moment: In historical Jewish culture (again, not Biblical or endorsed by Jesus, but cultural), women held a very low position. However, throughout scripture, not only were women held in high regard (Deborah, for example) but who were the first who beheld Jesus after his resurrection and testified to what they saw? It was women. Now think about this point: If I wanted to build a religion during the time of the 1st Century church, I certainly wouldn’t have based my claims on the testimony of women. That would have been lower than basing anything on the claims of American slaves in the court of law in Southern Alabama in 1864. But scripture talks about two women telling scared men what they had seen and as a result, motivated the disciples. Doesn’t sound like Christ-endorsed hatred of women to me. In fact, husbands are told to, “love their wives as Christ loved the church.” And how did He love the church? He DIED for her. Speak from knowledge and wisdom rather than unfounded emotion.

      • Michael Wong says:

        Yeah sure, and all the parts about how women should not be permitted to speak in the church, teach, or have authority over any man are all just made up, right?

        You’re playing games: there were plenty of female prophets and oracles in other religions two thousand years ago; it was hardly as scandalous as you’re saying to have women giving testimony, and it certainly doesn’t cancel out all of Christianity’s misogynist elements. Hell, many of the books of minor prophets in the Old Testament rant about the evils of Babylon and the way its women are allowed to talk back to men and wear makeup and jewellery.

        You can try as hard as you like, but at the end of the day, women are simply not held in high regard in the Bible. How many of Jesus’ disciples were women? Oh yeah, zero.

  11. Doug Beattie says:

    Your story resonates strongly within me. I was raised Christian but I took a sharp left turn in early adulthood. I’m sure many would say that I was wandering. I adopted science and embraced the fossil record. In the past five years or so, I came back to God but only because I resolved it was ok for me to have my own personal relationship that was not bound by dogmatic inequity and hypocrisy. I still believe in the evolution of man, but perhaps as a divinely inspired perpetual motion machine created by a decidedly ‘hands off’ God. ‘God’s will’ doesn’t cut it for me either and often leaves me thinking that He’s not unlike a kid with an ant farm. Having recently become acquainted with a racist preacherman, my skepticism of organized religion is as strong as ever. I applaud your journey of self-discovery and wish you well.

  12. John says:

    I really appreciate and enjoyed your essay on how you broke off from Christianity and how you were able to cope. I am a recent atheist in high school who needs advice on how I should tell my mother the truth. I don’t think she believes in Christianity because she wants too but because its like a lifeline for her. She struggles a lot with here job and trying to make ends meet and I know the church is a place where she feels she can let go of her problems and relax. My questions is, should I tell her now or wait until I move out? Reply soon.

  13. Chris Epley says:

    Rebecca,

    I’m a long-time fan of of Mike’s stuff here on the web but this is the first time I have read your essay. I found it moving and compelling and all too familiar in my own experiences in life with Christianity and other faiths. I’m not an atheist per se…but I find myself moving ever so slightly in that direction. At best, I consider myself to be spiritual by nature…totally unbeholden to the dogma and rituals of any organized religion. A person is either good or bad as demonstrated by their actions, compassion or lack thereof, and charity towards their fellow human beings. It does not matter, as you say, whether they are a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Agnostic, or Atheist. I have enormous respect for you and what you have endured to get to this point in your life.

  14. Beth says:

    I found your site through SCL. Andy Stanley has recently begun a series called “Christian” that is very thought provoking. Rebecca, you may be interested in his perspective. They can be seen on northpointonline.tv under “past messages” at the bottom. The 4th part is this week. I hope that you’ll have the time to watch.

  15. Joyce says:

    He loves you with an everlasting love…

    Rebecca…Michael…

    I found your website yesterday (as a result of Michael’s post on another site), and after reading his latest blog post, I read this deconversion post. Suffice it to say that you have both been on my mind continually since then. Throughout yesterday’s evening activities, through fitful sleep, and upon waking this morning, you were on my mind and heart.

    People fail us. They are, after all, human — faulty, prideful, and imperfect. Institutions fail us — they are full of faulty human beings, saved only by His grace. If you were a fly on the wall watching my life, I would undoubtedly let you down….maybe even repulse you sometimes. So often I let myself down….I let others down….I spoil the model that He set before us. I grieve over my mess-ups, yet I usually mess up again down-the-road.

    I have thought in the past that I must “live out” and profess my convictions in certain situations, only to look back to see how immature and grossly negligent I was/am. I guess it’s all part of my growth process—we learn from our mistakes, and hopefully, we grow from them. Don’t get me wrong — I DO feel that we should live out our convictions … live out our faith … the same as anyone who is passionate about something (environmental awareness, advocates for some particular cause, etc.) must live out their convictions in order to remain “true” to their cause and in so doing, refrain from negating their stance.

    This I do know — He pursues us with His Love. I think of Saul, who relentlessly persecuted Christians. He was merciless in his pursuit to hunt down Christians. Yet, somehow, God got his attention — his name was changed to Paul, and this man who once hated everything about Christ-followers became a lover of Christ…a recipient of God’s grace and mercy.

    I don’t know if anything I’ve written will cause you to think any differently in terms of your faith; however, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loves you with an everlasting love…always.

    Sincerely and With Warmest Regards,

    Joyce

  16. Nathan says:

    I have recently left my faith behind. It was a long and hard process.

    Is it really free will? Think, if a guy held a gun to your head and said “Give me 500 dollars or I will kill you”, is it free will to choose to give him 500 dollars or not? It is more “free” will when the outcome is not weighed heavy on one side or the other. If the man asked “Can I have 500 dollars” THEN it becomes free will, because incentive is not pushed on either giving him the 500 dollars or not giving him the 500 dollars, but with the gun pointed to your head it becomes more of what I call “Forced Will”, there is nothing free about it — you become a slave to the other man’s will. Just because there is a choice, doesn’t make it free will.

    Joyce, must you try and convert them? Must you show love with the motive of converting? This, I believe, is one way in which Rebecca has learned to love people more, she has no motive, or stipulation on what you believe in order for her to show you love because what you believe doesn’t matter. But with Christianity, she is in the hell section already of your brain and your love is jaded with this.

    If Satan is seeking whom he may devour, and is the cause of so much anguish on earth AND we can’t see him, why doesn’t God end him? Lets take our the supernatural and put it in human terms to see its justification: if I had the power to kill a sniper that was taking out your family, or stealing from your family and causing you to live in grief or poverty, would it be morally responsible of me to inform you or to put them to justice instead of letting them cause havoc?

    Keep it up guys. It is hard to be an atheist in the US. Christians don’t understand what an atheist goes through, but I applaud you for daring to question.

    -Nate

  17. Fred says:

    I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story.

    “Only a former Christian could understand the hollowness and the fear that accompany a complete loss of faith.”

    As a former Christian myself I know exactly what you mean. I attended private Christian schools from elementary school to high school so I know what it is like to be immersed in Christian religion and then have it all fall away. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time.

    For me it is hard to pinpoint the exact moment I lost my faith. Because it wasn’t one “Eureka” moment I had. It was a very gradual process.

    I guess it started when I was 11 years old. I was raised by a pretty traditional Chinese American family. History had always been my favorite subject in school, especially military history. My father and I loved WWII movies. I read every book I could on WWII history. But to me it was all a game. In my mind none of it was really “real”. When I first read about the Holocaust… I couldn’t really grasp the pure evil of it all. When I read that 6 million Jews lost their lives… It was just a number to me. At such a young age I didn’t understand death. I believed that anybody who died and was a good person (and also believed in Jesus) would go to heaven and live happily ever after.

    Until one day my parents decided that I needed to see the mother country. They took me on a tour through southern China, first Hong Kong, then Shanghai, and then finally Nanjing and Beijing. In Nanjing they took me to a museum about the Nanjing massacre. I don’t know how familiar you are with the Japanese invasion of China, but there was a really horrible mass killing there. For the first time in my life, I started to realize what war was. It wasn’t a game and it wasn’t glorious or fun. It was terrible.

    I will always remember that museum and that final exhibit. There was a pit in the back, were the skeletal remains of hundreds of people lay. I remember standing there, a little 11 year old boy, staring at piles of skulls that were almost as tall as I was. I remember very well staring into a skull that was smaller than the ones around it and realizing that it had been the skull of a child. I remember thinking about what that kid must have been like in his final moments. Scared, crying, confused about what was happening, right before a bullet or bayonet pierced his tiny little body. I thought about how his parents might have tried to protect him or maybe his older brother or sister. I thought about how I might have been that kid, or how my little brother could have been him.

    But mostly I thought about God, and how he could have let this happen. I started crying at that thought. Because up until that point I thought that God protected children, that he loved us and wouldn’t let harm come to innocent people. My tiny little world shattered, and I became aware of this evil in the world. But that didn’t really frighten me as much as the thought that followed it. That perhaps those people died because they deserved it, because they weren’t Christians and that they were probably in hell now. I cried even harder after that. I felt horrible for even thinking such a thought. How could God let these people die such horrible deaths? Then send them to hell just because they chose to believe in some other god or gods? It just didn’t make sense to me how Jesus could talk about unconditional love but still send people to hell. All this went through my mind at the age of 11.

    That was my first chink in the armor of my faith. I kept believing though. I didn’t really start asking questions until I reached the 11th grade. In my school we were taught a Christian apologetic class. Basically a how to defend the faith class. I remember I asked him a lot of questions, most of them pretty basic. Why do bad things happen to bad people? Why is their evil in the world? That kind of thing. His answers never satisfied me spiritually or morally. Especially after reading about the horrible things that God condoned in the Old Testament. God started to seem like a real prick, like an abusive parent who says do as I say and not as I do. The more I attended his class, the more my faith deteriorated.

    One day, he showed us a video of a debate between a Jewish atheist and a Christian preacher. At one point the Jewish atheist asked the preacher a question. He said that his grandfather had survived Auschwitz. And that after all that suffering, all that misery and hell that he experienced. Did he still go to hell after he died simply because he was a Jew and refused to accept Jesus Christ as his savior? The Christian preacher replied in a very matter of fact tone of voice “Yes I think he is in hell.” When my teacher turned it off and agreed wholeheartedly with him I exploded.

    I yelled at him. All my memories of that visit to Nanjing came to the surface. I said “how could you believe in such bullshit!” I got suspended for a day because of that outburst. It was not until after I graduated that I finally lost my faith completely. I started thinking for myself.

    I started reading more and more philosophy. I read about Epicurus and the problem of evil paradox.

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?”

    I came to the conclusion that only people can solve humanities problems. That God wasn’t the answer. That man need not look into the heavens for reasons to exist, we need only to look at ourselves.

    To quote the late Richard Robinson, former professor of philosophy at Oxford.

    “When we contemplate the friendless position of man in the universe, as it is right sometimes to do, our attitude should be the tragic poet’s affirmation of man’s ideals of behaviour. Our dignity, and our finest occupation, is to assert and maintain our own self-chosen goods . . . of beauty and truth and virtue…. We are brothers without a father; let us all the more for that behave brotherly to each other.”

    • Jeff says:

      I will say one thing: It is easy to be immersed in religion and not immersed into Christ. This was the Apostle Paul’s (then Saul) same experience before he had an encounter with Christ personally.

  18. Ken Cook says:

    Quote: Still, I see all of the progress that we have made, each holding onto the hands of those who came before us and I am awed and inspired. Surely the same noble creatures who could create beautiful buildings, design computers the size of your hand, decode the genome, conceive of democracy, and act with compassion and heroism in times of trouble can one day learn to look beyond the blinders that religion has imposed upon us. I believe that one day we can.

    Not if this guy has anything to do with it.
    http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/05/14203607-video-shows-scientist-in-congress-saying-evolution-is-from-pit-of-hell#comments

    excerpt: “U.S. Rep. Paul Broun’s view that the theories of evolution and the big bang are “lies straight from the pit of Hell” is getting more exposure than he might have expected, thanks to a video that was made at a church-sponsored banquet in Georgia and distributed by a progressive political watchdog group.

    The Georgia Republican is already well-known as an outspoken conservative Christian, due in part to his unsuccessful campaign to have 2010 declared “the Year of the Bible.” But the latest comments have taken on an extra dab of controversy because Broun, a medical doctor, calls himself a scientist in the video and chairs the House Science Committee’s panel on investigations and oversight.

    The video clip, distributed by the Bridge Project, was taken from a longer version recorded on Sept. 27 during the 2012 Sportsman’s Banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Ga. Here’s a transcript of the Bridge Project’s snippet:

    “God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.

    “And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.”

    Broun’s comments were greeted with applause, and they probably reflect how a lot of his constituents feel about the same issues. He’s assured of re-election in any case, due to the fact that he has no Democratic Party challenger in next month’s election.”

    In our country (U.S.) we have a bad habit of electing people who tell us what we want to hear and have to clean up the mess once we realize what’s happened (if we ever do).

    Quote:Only a former Christian could understand the hollowness and the fear that accompany a complete loss of faith.

    I can say that I never experienced that. Maybe because I never considered myself a Christian. My parents raised me to be one but other than when I was very young it never made sense to me. To be honest it never made sense. The age I believed I would believe in anything, Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or whatever.

    I remember trying to figure out how many times I could feign sick to stay home and watch “The Prisoner” and “Secret Agent Man” before they caught on.

  19. hidden says:

    Thank you for your article Rebecca.

    I was preparing a Bible study on why we should believe in the Bible. My list of criteria for a fulfilled, validifying (sic :)) prophecy:
    1. a human can’t control it (rules out choosing to ride in on a donkey)
    2. it has to refer to a future time frame. (ie not require faith ahead of time)
    3. it has to be specific (predicting he will be from Israel isn’t really amazing)
    4. it had to be somewhat verifiable ( saying Mohammed would like blue – how can anyone check up on that?)
    4. I had a couple of other criteria – i wanted this to be a treatment that would hold up to the same scrutiny I apply to other religions.

    The end result: Maybe, maybe one prophecy from Daniel still holds up. When i realized the other “1000 prophecies” didn’t qualify , i concluded it was wrong. Like Rebecca, i had other chinks and thought i would come back. I led the Bible study by lying. I still go to church for my wife, but don’t believe in it.

    I was extremely into grace and a very personal relationship with God. I even went on “dates” with God, sitting in His presence in a coffee shop saying “I love you” and imagining him doing the same. Such rapturous joy I have never found elsewhere.

    I tried to trick myself, but couldn’t. It’s been three years; my business hasn’t failed, everything is the same. I have seen no evidence God is pursuing his lost sheep, no cancer ;)

    I am now very joyful, but not to the same degree. Oh well, first I lost santa, now Jesus.

    In closing, make a checklist of what you require of Islam or mormonism to convert.
    Apply those criteria to Christianity. Look especially at the “prophecies” Btw when i took a year off from college to study the veracity of Christianity (grew up christian but wanted to check for myself) I concluded that Christianity was the way to go. Five years later when recreating that for my Bible study group, Christianity failed the supernatural writing test.

    one other aside, you can get huge books on apologetics, they will bury you and you will never sift through all of the archaelogy, Roman history, etc. That is why people stay Christian – they can’t dig through it all.

    In my writing, i told you a shortcut. Are there any prophecies that hold up to the basic questions above?

  20. Fellow De-converted Mennonite says:

    Great story, Rebecca.

    My journey has been similar, but that’s irrelevant. Let’s just say I grew weary of trying to “live by faith” when it seemed to be like waiting for a train that never shows up, and then trying to find comfort in other Xtians going through similar experiences…

    …where the name of the game is literally an un-ending rationalizing attempt to explain why God never does anything, and seemingly doesn’t care.

    That, along with judgmentalism and sentimental reinforcement, basically summarizes the Christian experience.

    The clincher was similar to what “hidden” was saying. Last year I started writing a fiction novel that required exhaustive biblical research, particularly in Genesis and other parralel creation legends (Sumerian, etc).

    As I really started seeing how scripture was “written”, manipulated, and in general misrepresented in Christian culture at large… It just became so obvious. Those nagging doubts soon became gaping plot-holes.

    (My advice to anyone actually seeking truth is to evaluate the ORIGIN of scripture, Yahweh, the flood myth, etc. It won’t take long until it all comes into focus… Use legitimate publications to conduct this research. Not Kirk Cameron’s latest book).

    Anyway… What now?

    I’m agnostic, but not particularly hopeful about finding a divine “connection” out there. I don’t have the answers, but I’m also not willing to reduce the quality of my life, or approach life with a fatalist attitude of “God’s got it”. This has done nothing but cause harm, or at best, pointless restraint – most usually in the form of indecision.

    Or as Christians put it: “waiting on God”.

    I’m done with it.

    Far as I know, we only live once. Time to make the best of it, love life, live life, try to make a difference and take charge of my destiny. If there is a God who actually gives a crap and needs to reach me and tell me otherwise – well, he’s got my number.

    Call anytime. Till then…

  21. steve h says:

    @ Fellow De-converted Mennonite
    Thank you for your insightful writing. Hopefully, your research tips will save people a lot of effort :)

  22. John says:

    Personally, I take a very liberal view with my faith. As far as God excluding some from paradise simply for not believing, that is not the official stance of the church, just idiotic Bible thumpers who take the good book far too literally. The official stance is one is excluded access to heaven if, and only if, they commit mortal sin (reject God) and never repent. Rejecting God does NOT mean not believing, it means rejecting his will to be kind to one another.

    There have been many interesting developments in the church that aren’t well known, luckily my former priest stayed up to date and kept me in the loop. For example, the age of the Earth. Many people know that Christian “scientists” calculated it to be laughably low in the past, but what they actually did was count the number of generations the Bible claims to have lived between current day and Genesis. Then they assigned a number to the length of each life and estimated from there. But since then we’ve learned people lived much longer in the past, and with new calculations allowing for these longer lifespans put Genesis around the time we estimate our ancestors evolved. The coincidences between science and Christianity can be a bit overwhelming at times.

    I’ve always believed God set a sort of cosmic pool table, then cracked it with the Big Bang. An omnipotent/omniscient being should be able to have easily set a large chain of events to lead to the present. I suppose technically speaking that this refutes free will, but is free will even possible with an omniscient being present? Perhaps I should stop commenting on blogs at 4AM….

    • John says:

      Wow that rambling got off topic fast. What I meant to saw was A) the whole mortal sin bit, covered that, and B) God works in mysterious ways, I guess. As in, I believe He gets stuff done in a much less direct way than our ancestors thought. One of my favorite examples is Constantine. When at the gates of Rome, he prayed for a sign to attack or withdraw. Then there was a blinding light, followed by a great crashing of sound. And eclipsing the setting sun was a cross. He took this as a sign from the Christian God to attack, and converted after taking the city. Now, there is a small lake to the west of Rome with a very small island, a lake some scientist believe to have been caused by a meteorite. This meteor would have created quite a large explosion, kicking up a sizable mushroom cloud. Coincidence? It seems science finds very many “coincidences” that correlate to God, more so than one would assume was simply peasants attributing the fantastic to works of God (though there is more than enough of that as well)

    • Michael Wong says:

      “The coincidences between science and Christianity can be a bit overwhelming at times” … seriously, you’re just kidding yourself. We have NOT learned that people lived much longer in the past; the Biblical claims of ancient peoples’ longevity are absurd enough without arbitrarily making them even more extreme. We have NOT even confirmed the Biblical Exodus story, never mind the Great Flood or many of the other stories. The order of events in Genesis is totally wrong; not just stretched in timeframe but in the WRONG ORDER.

      If you’re going to defend Christianity, at least try to do it without misrepresenting science by claiming that it confirms Christian teachings when it doesn’t.

      • John says:

        I never claimed people lived as long as old Methuselah. And after going to check out the story 1st hand (was told by a friend) I see he misinterpreted it. Seems scholars now think when speaking of centuries old folk in the Bible it likely meant family dynasties, not literally hundred year old bodies.

        And as far as your attack on Genesis in general, I totally agree. Most of Genesis is written as a creation myth and totally doesn’t fit the rest of the Bible at all. The bit with the serpent is especially bad.

        As for the great flood, many people’s myth include that, and there’s a lot of (poor) evidence to support it. This story, http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/evidence-suggests-biblical-great-flood-noahs-time-happened/story?id=17884533#.UcDfeefPduJ shows some of it. Is it conclusive? Hell no. Is it possible? Makes sense to me.

        Part of my argument for combining science and religion is also that a lot of what people claimed to be God’s work that’s praised in the Bible is actually just random stuff they couldn’t explain. Moses praying for God’s help in battle is simple psychology. Ice melting causing floods is interpreted as holy wrath. I don’t know why many Christians assume their religion was the only one immune to attributing unknown phenomenae to a supreme being. The root of the matter is, the Bible is not to be taken literally. It’s a bunch of stories to help guide you to be a better person. Not a detailed historical account.

      • Michael Wong says:

        There is no real evidence for a “great flood”. There are plenty of small floods (they still happen today), but nothing remotely resembling a “great flood”. Every time you see some news story saying that the “great flood” might have happened, if you look more closely it turns out to be something more on the scale of a Mississippi flood.

    • mawarikomi says:

      Found this information after cruising through the sci-fi pages (last updated in 2006 or so) due to some insomnia.

      I was under the impression that even biblical scholars consider the “Creation Story” metaphoric. I never understood the desire for a literal interpretation.

      Regarding the immense ages of biblical characters, something I thought of years ago – I decided to find out what a “year” was to them. I asked my lay-pastor mother how her concordances defined “year”. As it turns out, the transliteration was very vague; something like “repetitive period.”

      So I divided the age of Methuselah and Moses and other long lived characters by 12 on the off chance they “aged” according to a lunar calendar and I think the age came out to be in the 80s. Very long lived for that day and age if that was indeed their ages!

      I never checked any of my information with biblical scholars or anyone with greater experience so maybe my musings and inductive reasoning were a bunch of bunk.

      Regarding the “Great Flood,” Bob Ballard has published some great information. If I recall, it had a global scale due to an interglacial period but the story really only reflects a regional description of the event. The “world” back then was rather small.

      And I should mention, I don’t think any of this should change the validity of an individual’s belief system. It is, after all, what you believe.

      -mawarikomi (moving in circles, circling)
      die-hard empiricist and lazy relativist

  23. Sam Mina says:

    Michael and Rebecca’s story is powerful and real. In fact, it is powerful because it is real. I am a Christian. I believe the Bible literally, and I am always sad to see someone leave God. However, what happened to this couple is real. They don’t need to be bullied, they don’t need to be argued with. I’ve read most of Michael’s material and it is very clear that he is a rational thinker. (You don’t become a mechanical engineer if you cannot reason well.) Even though I believe the Bible can be solidly defended, there is a large element of faith that must come into play. The issue is one of the heart, and this couple have been hurt by Christian people. They need to be respected, not debated with. They need to be appreciated, not looked down upon and pitied. Mike seems to be a pretty neat guy and I’m sure he is a lot of fun to hang out with. Trust God with their souls and pray to Him if you must, but please do not harry them in the name of God. Christ loves all men and He died to pay for their sins. He knows how to take care of people, and it is obvious that this couple and their children have been blessed.

  24. circuitrider says:

    I can’t help wondering why my email address shows up on the “leave a reply’ page. Because I try to base my comments – in that case, MLM – now I find my address here – and I was not planning on commenting. But since I can’t delete my addreess, I will comment, basing what I say in living quite a long time:

    In the Book of James, chapter one, verse 27 – “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

    These fatherless and widows are without borders, and the remainder of the Spiritual teachings, from Buddha, Krishna, Moses and Jesus, and the Others, become nothing more than a commentary on this overwhelming Truth.

    The fundamental question facing every human being – atheist and religious alike – on earth is, “Who have you genuinely loved today?”

    • Michael Wong says:

      Do you know what widows and orphans need? They need real help, in the form of financial and education assistance. Not Bibles.

      • circuitrider says:

        Mike. what did you see of yourself when you read the verse? Did you recognize the definition of religion? There is no mention of taking a Bible to those in need. The intent of the Bible verse is to point out the need for assistance, as you have said. Love requires meeting needs. Bibles are a distant second; “affliction” means “the cause of continued pain of body or mind, an illness, losses, etc.” So I ask athiest and religious the question once more: Who have you genuinely loved today?

      • Michael Wong says:

        I support social programs which help millions of strangers in real, substantive ways. I’m not an American right-wing Christian whose biggest priority in charity is making sure it goes to people who he thinks deserve it, ie- who remind him of himself.

  25. steve h says:

    Hi Michael, Thank you for your site. I didn’t know that my name would be published above. Could you kindly remove at least my last name?

    Thank you for your good work,
    Steve

  26. Tara says:

    I haven’t read all of the comments, so forgive me if I’m repeating something already said. Forgive me also if this comes across as “fixing”. That isn’t my intention. I arrived here from Jon Acuff’s blog (from the comments), and this post in particular resonates with me. I find Rachel Held Evans to be a reassuring voice in my own frustrations and doubts, and her book “Evolving in Monkey Town” was especially helpful. Obviously you’re not in a place of doubting and looking for answers, but if you haven’t already found her, I find her to be a sane voice in Christianity. She is willing to tackle things that a lot of Christians aren’t, in ways that most Christians don’t (her “Ask a…” series is pretty brilliant). I find that her blog often spurs my frustration at Christians… but it also often soothes it, too, showing me a side of faith, and non-faith, that seems so much more whole and loving and (forgive me) Christlike than what many Christians (in the traditional, conservative sense) portray.
    Anyway, if nothing else, it’s interesting reading. Best wishes.

  27. Greg says:

    Hello, my name is Greg and I am in the process of creating a site for shared deconversion stories. I would love to include Rebecca’s story with her permission. Just let me know either way please. I’m hoping to officially launch the site within the next month or so. I’m just collecting content at this point. Feel free to visit the site and read my story of deconversion. And comment if you are so moved.

    Thanks for any and all consideration.
    Greg

  28. mary says:

    it’s sad you’re an atheist. mike got to you. the bible warns against this. the linking with belial. you probably were always liberal and rebellious!

    please return to god. he never gave up on you!

    • Sam Mina says:

      Let me get this straight. You insult her husband, whom she loves and is married and committed to, and whom she is raising children with. You insult her. And then you make an appeal to her? Fail.

      I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ literally is God and is the only way to eternal life and forgiveness of sins. But talking to people in that tone is not going to get them to see that. Read her story again. She was hurt by Christians. Please don’t add to it. Thanks.

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