My de-conversion and other thoughts……..

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I was raised with a belief in God, Jesus and the Bible. Like most children indoctrinated, I’d never really questioned my belief in God. This was to change in 2003 when I started to attend church regularly and really read the Bible. As a result of my autism I tend to put a lot of effort into any new project so I bought a study guide and started from the beginning.

I was heavily influenced by the Left Behind book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins which is a narrative about the Rapture and the subsequent tribulation. The authors were fundamentalists Christians and believed that the entire Bible is divinely inspired and should be taken literally where possible.

I attended a United Reformed church which was a very traditional British church. They didn’t seem to go too deeply into the theology. I really liked the vicar and he seemed very knowledgeable. However when I asked him a difficult question he would just deflect it on to a different subject.

The more I read of the Bible the more horrified I became e.g. the condoning of slavery, genocide, the treatment of women. Everyone I spoke to about it gave the excuse that it was in the Old Testament and that Jesus created a new covenant. However in the New Testament Jesus said:

“Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets; I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished” (Matthew. 5:17-18).

The main reason I became disillusioned with the church is the fact that they ‘cherry picked’ the parts of the Bible they liked and ignored the problem passages. I also felt that if some of the Bible was allegory what was to stop it all being untrue? Suddenly I realised that deep down I didn’t believe in any of it. After months of struggling to understand my faith, it was gone and it was so liberating.

Since becoming an atheist I have done a lot of research into the origins of the Bible; especially the New Testament. There are a lot of manuscripts that didn’t make the canon that make for interesting reading. Bart Ehrman, who lectures at the University of North Carolina is a renowned New Testament scholar. I have learned so much from listening to his lectures and reading his blog. I can see now that the New Testament is far from historically accurate. The original events were passed on orally and embellished by the authors of the gospels and epistles according to their own theology. I now believe that although Jesus existed, he wasn’t born of a virgin and didn’t claim to be divine and didn’t rise from the dead. Jesus was an apocalyptic Jew who believed that the kingdom of God was imminent and travelled around preaching on how the Jews should prepare for this.

I am now part of an online community that is striving for logic and reason in society. Now that I don’t believe in an afterlife I’m trying to make a difference in the here and now because that’s all there is. When a theist asks me what the point of life is if there is no God, I reply ‘Why does there have to be a point?’. I know that I’m an insignificant human who won’t be remembered in a couple of hundred years but that’s ok. What I teach my children is passed on to their children and so on, so a little of me survives into the future and that’s enough for me.


We need to give ourselves and each other more credit……..

One of the most insidious aspects of religion -and I speak here of Christianity in particular- is that we are all labelled as helpless sinners who need to be reconciled with God. The ever popular hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ contains the line ‘Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me’. The fact that Christians see themselves as wretches really bothers me. There is nothing more pure than a newborn baby. At birth a baby has the potential to do wonderful things for humankind and to label them as a ‘wretch’ is so wrong.

I have been told that some people aren’t as strong as I am and ‘need a crutch’ to live. I don’t consider myself to be a strong person. I have crumbled many times under stress and even had a total breakdown in 2003; there is nothing special about me. I understand that a lot of people derive solace and comfort in their faith and I don’t have the right to take this away from them. However this perceived need for comfort comes from the religion itself. Matt Dillahunty (a host on ‘The Atheist Experience’) has often said that ‘religion breaks your legs so it can give you a crutch’. If people didn’t rely on a God to sort their life out they would realise that the only person who can change their situation is them.

When my Dad was terminally ill with cancer I didn’t spend my time praying to God for healing, I spent my time doing everything I could to make his last months meaningful. I spent time with him, told him that I loved him. I’m not to going lie to you, it was a bloody hard time but when he died I knew I had done my utmost for him.

Twelve step programs help people who have addictions but one of these steps is often acknowledging that you ‘come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity’ (taken from Alcoholics Anonymous). I think the first step to recovery in any situation should be acknowledging that we are totally responsible for our own actions and consequently it is up to us and us alone to get ourselves out of our current situations.

Earlier this year 12 boys in Thailand got stuck in cave with rising water. The whole world banded together for the rescue. One diver lost their life in the rescue and was heralded, quite rightly, as a hero. Over a period of days all the boys were rescued. Social media was full of people praising God for their safety. This made me really angry, everyone of those rescuers risked their lives for those children and people were giving God the credit. It is the same when people come through difficult surgeries; the surgeon is often not given his dues.

I have achieved a lot this year. I have lost a substantial amount of weight, got my body moving again after a decade of illness and totally changed my thought processes. I’ve only managed to do this through sheer hard work and I am unashamedly proud of myself. This has had a knock on effect on my whole life; everyone around me has benefited from the ‘new me’.

Imagine what humankind could achieve if we all took credit for are own actions!


Where I stand on the big questions……..

When I was a small child I attended Sunday school at a local church. I don’t remember when I was first told about God and Jesus. I do remember thinking that I wasn’t good enough to go to heaven when I died but as it was in the distant future it didn’t bother me that much. At primary school we sang hymns and said prayers but I never thought deeply about God. Even when I was a junior soldier in the Salvation Army I was there for the music and not for God. I always thought that everyone believed in God so I was a bit perturbed when I found out that David didn’t.

Apart from the story of Moses and Jesus I hadn’t read much of the Bible. This was to change in 2003 when I started attending church properly. This was at a time when I felt that something was missing and thought that going to church might help. I not only read the Bible but also other Christian literature. I loved the ‘Left Behind’ series which introduced me to the concept of the rapture and end times. Had I lived in the US I would have attended a church that had adopted this doctrine. The minister at the church was a very kind man and I took to him immediately. He was able to answer the questions I had when they were fairly basic but would always deflect them when he found them challenging.

The more of the Bible I read the more disillusioned I became. The God of the Old Testament is jealous, angry, vengeful God who condones slavery. I know Christians say that Jesus brought with him a new covenant but Jesus himself said that he didn’t come to change the law but to fulfil it. When I tried to pray, deep down I knew there was no one listening. It finally took reading Richard Dawkin’s ‘The God Delusion’ for me to finally admit to myself that I was an atheist. It is very difficult to let go of a belief that you’ve held since childhood and it took some time.

Earlier this year I found the ACA (The Atheist Community of Austin) on the internet and I have found a group of people that I really identify with. I have watched countless debates and documentaries and have learned so much. I have seen how the arguments for God’s existence do not stand up to scrutiny and are full of logical fallacies.

I am so fortunate not to live in the US where atheists are one of the most distrusted groups of people in society. For a nation founded on secular principles I find it very disturbing how much religion is integrated into their society. The ACA is campaigning for separation of church and state but they’re facing an uphill struggle. Religious groups are trying to legislate that creationism should be taught in schools as an alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution in science lessons. I have nothing against religion being taught in schools but I think all of the world’s religion should be taught.

I have many online friends in the reborn community that come from the US and it has taken me years to let them know that I don’t share their beliefs. The most common response I’ve had is that they’re ok with my atheism as long I still ‘respect’ their beliefs. I can’t respect their beliefs but I do respect their right to have them which I think is an important distinction.

I love science. I have studied biology and chemistry at university and have tried to bring my physics knowledge up to the same level over the years. Over the past 300 years the scientific discoveries that have been made have proven that there are natural explanations for phenomenon that were previously thought to be down to a supreme being. There is no reason to think that the questions that remain in the world of science won’t be answered in this way.

Personally I find the natural universe around me far more awe inspiring than any universe that could be created by an omniscient being.