I am no longer a Christian

Before admitting this to myself and others, I thought it was best to let the dust settle – to make sure I’m not now embarking on some whimsical spiritual detour. But, after several months, it seems less and less likely that I will be returning to the fold of Christianity. So, how did this happen? I’ll do my best to explain.

You could say it began with reading something inspiring by David Icke on the topic of open-mindedness, from his book I Am Me, I Am Free (see my review), but the real origins of this change go back much further. I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, what exactly is the nature of this open-mindedness? I’ve blogged about it at length over the past couple of months (see Truth seeking vs. emotional attachment). In summary, it’s an attitude of mind that says “Go where the information takes you, not where you want it to go because of a pre-defined set of personal beliefs that will cause you to edit the information to your own ends.” Sorry that’s a bit of a mouthful. Even now, after much discussion with blog commenters, some are still insisting that this kind of open-mindedness is impossible. Of course it isn’t. All you have to do is make the choice to distance your emotional attachment to a set of beliefs, at least on a temporary basis – to take those beliefs away and see whether the same beliefs occur when you reconstruct what you think.

I found that they didn’t. In doing what I did, the dust was being blown off many problems that I had allowed to stay on the shelf for so long that the shelf was pretty much forgotten. These problems related to the Bible itself, to Christian history, and to my life’s experience as a Christian. The latter is what I mean when I say the origins of this change in me go back much further than reading David Icke. This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve stepped away from Christianity (see My 13-year war with doubt and What I learned from being an agnostic. I’ve hopped from Christianity to agnosticism and back again many times. In summary, what would happen is that Christianity would fail to work on a practical level, so I would seek solace in escaping to greener pastures. And it’s not hard to make the jump on a rational level, because you can always go grab some things from that dusty old shelf and give yourself a reason not to believe.

But things have been different for the past seven years. The fallacy of agnosticism & athiesm has been so consistently clear to me that there was no going back to it. And Christianity was much more tolerable because I had also learned to see through some of the BS that made it so difficult, BS that is largely inflicted upon you by erroneous church teachings and attitudes. I remember going through a period where I would feel I was committing a sin just by allowing my attention to drift during the singing of a hymn in church. For a time, church became an activity where we all got together to tell God how much we’ve let him down during the week. I would hear the most depressing prayers, and something in me would be screaming, “It’s not supposed to be like this!” For this reason and others, I don’t relate to church people and church life. I don’t go because it can so easily be an uninspiring and depressing and destructive influence on my life. My previous pastor has such a narrow view of me that he views my lack of church attendence as lack of discipline and he sees me as having lost my way as a Christian. He looks back on the good old days when I was coming every week and participating, and he recently referred to this period as my spiritual peak. He has no idea how I have progressed over the years, and how the memories of those good old days look from inside my head. He has no idea how manipulated I feel. And it’s not as if he’s the manipulator. He’s as much a victim as I was, his own mind shaped by the theologies that he has absorbed through incessant study in a single direction. I hope some of this illustrates reasonably why I abandoned church life and also why I viewed a lot of Christian literature as dangerous (see The Christian book minefield).

Well, I didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I held fast to my Bible – a lonely pilgrim without a home. Hang on, that’s not accurate. Yes, some years ago, I managed to be one of those rare Christians who actually read the whole Bible in its entirety. But in the last couple of years it’s only fair to say that it’s a struggle to pick it up and read it. The struggle has been prevalent for most of my Christian life. And this apathy can only be a reflection of the lack of inspiration I’ve felt. And I don’t think I’m alone. It has to be asked why so few Christians actually read the Bible regularly. And I would hazard a guess that it’s because their experience of their religion is as uninspiring as mine was. For the most part, I was addicted to wasting my life on pointless entertainment. I’ve known there was something wrong with this, that it was a form of escapism in an unsatisfying life, but I’ve felt powerless to counter it, despite my Christian faith (see Altuism and Altruism – Part II). Now, with my new outlook, I appear to have countered it with the greatest of ease, but that’s a larger topic for another day.

What I began to suspect a few months ago was that the leap I made from agnosticism to Christianity seven years ago may have been too great a leap – one that I made because I only saw two options: there is no God (and therefore no religion), or there is a God (with all the trappings of religion by default). No sooner had I accepted the reality of God than I accepted Christianity. There were understandable reasons to do so. It is the big world religion (strength in numbers, so to speak), with a massive history dating back to the ancient world, and the Bible does contain some inspirational material – the Book of Proverbs being a prime example, which I recall reading at the time of my “re-conversion.” What I didn’t see at the time was that there is an alternative to religion, one that does not involve turning to an athiestic view of life and the depression it causes.

When you know, from a rational basis, that athiesm is in error (see The lie of the joyful athiest) and you then learn that there are major problems with your religion that give you good cause to abandon it, this alternative then becomes the only option for you. (I will go into more detail later on the specifics of my problems with Christianity – not here, because numerous heated discussions are likely to ensue.) The alternative is simply to seek the truth without sacrificing your freedom to think for yourself. That freedom is taken away on the one side by the Bible, and by Popes, pastors, and every other religious authority that insists it has a right to your mind. On the other side, that freedom is taken away by the mind-prison where science is seen, not as a tool to help us understand the universe, but as a God-like authority where “this world is all there is” is the unproven principle under which it operates and which many people hang their entire concept of reality. Openness to possibility is where the real answer lies. Freedom to investigate without being forced into an “ism.”

You might think that this alternative view leaves me in a bit of a vague conundrum of not knowing what to believe, since I’m not allowing myself to be tied down to the specifics of a particular school of thought. Not at all. I think intuition has a lot to do with it. But boy, oh boy, that’s a real can of worms for another day. I have so much more to say, on so many things. This post is merely a summary of why I’ve changed.

Briefly, in closing, some of the positive changes in my life: more courage in speaking out; no fear of what others think; massively increased sense of emotional balance in my day to day life; vastly increased resistance to personal vices; most importantly a much greater capacity to love others, along with empathy and tolerance. In short, the past couple of months have felt like one massive great sigh of relief that the spiritual side of me has been longing for but until now unable to make.

Am I merely in the “honeymoon period” of a new belief that will, in time, fall flat on its face? Time will tell. But I figured enough time had gone by for me to start talking about it with some confidence.

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13 thoughts on “I am no longer a Christian

  1. Paulie says:

    I personally believe you are in the honeymoon period, but long may it live. It doesn’t seem to be anything that will affect the happiness of others, and it genuinely seems to be making you happier in your day to day life. That can only be good. Even if what you believe turns out to be crap, you can still say you had fun doing it. πŸ˜€

    However, it won’t stop me arguing individual points. πŸ˜›

    I’d like to start right now, by stating that my experience as a Christian was nothing like yours, i always felt very free. I never felt like i had to perform, or believe certain things, or even be a certain way, for other people. Which was a big surprise for me, an 18 year old metal head, listening to satanic metal one week and praising the Lord, the next. πŸ˜€
    I really felt my Christian walk was for me and by me. I had elders of the church to talk to if needed, and they would certainly advise, or listen to my ideas and thoughts, but it felt like the sort of thing you’d get off any friend who cared.

    I think that can differ from church to church, maybe even group of people to group of people, so i think it a little unfair to judge Christianity based on it. I’m not saying you are, but as you’ve sort of skimmed over it, without wanting to go into much detail, it does appear that way.

    And as always, i’ll get on my soapbox and mention that i still think David Icke is the most closed-minded person i’ve come across on the internet. Whereby anything and anyone that doesn’t agree with his teachings, is part of some great conspiracy or evil race of elite lizards who sexually abuse children in pentagrams at the weekend.

    One thing i would advise Darryl, is i think you should certainly look at following your own heart, your own ideas, and your own beliefs, but never expect them to be 100% correct.

  2. Peter Adams says:

    I think most of the time life is more about the journey than the destination. I often find myself confused and unaware of what I’m supposed to believe but I largely think this is because the universe (whatever that is) is full of so many possibilities. People often lie or are mistaken for some reason or other, usually though fear of uncertainty. Situations can be misread or misunderstood. People can and should re-evaluate what they previously thought or said if they feel there is some level of doubt. This is part of life in my opinion. Anyone who thinks otherwise or expects otherwise is an idiot and certainly closed minded.

    One certainty in this uncertain universe is that we are all wrong on a regular basis and will continue to be so. Admitting this is a huge step towards… I dunno, enlightenment perhaps? Whatever it is… it’s a step towards it.

    It’s the only way to live in my opinion… though I might be wrong.

  3. Jeff Davis says:

    I agree with Paulie in that different churches seem to bring about different positions on how we feel after the sermon. I’ve spent most of my life in an Assembly of God church because I loved the lively worship. But I started to see that music and speaking in Tongues seemed empty to me, like I was worshipping those things and not God. I’ve started helping with a small Baptist church plant here in Springfield, MO, and I am latching on to the sermons. I feel refreshed. Not that I don’t believe in lively worship or Speaking in Tongues anymore. I just feel that my walk with the Lord is more about a relationship with Him that singing and dancing.

    I don’t want to open a heated debate here- and I don’t want to make a good friend angry with me- but I do want to let you know that I am praying for you.

  4. Darryl Sloan says:

    I would be wrong to judge Christianity as a whole by the quality of my particular church experience. And that’s not something I did. For the last couple of years, I’ve held onto Christianity without church life. And I should say church wasn’t all bad. I’m just highlighting some of the psychological problems I had as a result of it, in the interests of telling the whole story.

    Jeff, you’re a good friend. I don’t think I would get angry at you if we had a discussion (well, I would try very hard not to πŸ˜› ), and you should feel completely free to raise anything you feel is important. Thanks for your prayers. I don’t feel I need them in quite the way you probably think I need them, but they’re a sign that you care, so thank you.

  5. As one who has spent a LOT of time watching Trek, I’ll be greatly interested to hear how you defeated escapism!

  6. Chris says:

    Hi Darryl,

    The alternative is simply to seek the truth without sacrificing your freedom to think for yourself. That freedom is taken away on the one side by the Bible, and by Popes, pastors, and every other religious authority that insists it has a right to your mind.

    In what way does one’s acceptance of a religious authority take away the freedom to think for oneself?

  7. Paulie says:

    Trek is not escapism, it’s realism of the future. Once this hadron accelerator gets under way and we all start time travelling on a regular basis, you’ll find out that Data, Troi and Warf are real people, in whom we should find inspiration. πŸ˜€

  8. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    I got nuthin’ to say to you here; I got a whole blogpost for you instead. πŸ˜‰ Seriously, it’s a good question and it prompted me to write a response with a lot more detail than a comment would allow. See “I am the one and only.”

    Grace,

    Our tendency to wallow in escapism is a great topic, too. I’ll make a note to write a full post on it, once I’ve clarified my thinking. On a basic level, though, I suspect it’s rooted in living uninspiring, unsatisying lives.

  9. Chris says:

    Darryl,

    Thanks for writing such a detailed response. I’m glad you didn’t take the brevity of my question as a sign of argumentativeness and choose to simply ignore it. I really don’t seem to have sufficient time these days to write more extensively on these matters…

  10. Stacey says:

    Jeff,

    I’m curious what AoG church you went to in Springfield, Central or James River?

  11. A.P. Fuchs says:

    Sent you an email about this.

    I’m stunned.

    You’re on a dangerous path, one that appears bright and sunny but will ultimately lead to darkness.

    I’m sorry your church experience wasn’t all you hoped. I’m even sorrier you stopped reading your Bible (which is one reason why you wrote what you did). I’m most sorry for you, if this decision becomes permanent. I pray it’s only you going to the left or right, and I pray for grace for you regarding this.

    Can’t give you touchy-feely words here. There’s no room for it.

  12. Jeff Davis says:

    Stacey,

    Actually, I went to Park Crest Assembly of God on Kansas Avenue. James River and Central were just a little to big for me, although I did attend the latter fairly regularly when I was in college at SMSU.

  13. Darryl Sloan says:

    Hi, A.P.

    “You’re on a dangerous path, one that appears bright and sunny but will ultimately lead to darkness.”

    All I can say is, we’ll have to see about that. I’ve lost my convictions about the truth of Christianity, and I appear to have found something way more inspiring – something that has helped me greatly on many levels: the emotional, social, spiritual and even moral.

    I did not expect this. I didn’t plan for it. But it happened.

    Maybe I will end up embracing Christianity again in time. Who can tell? Right now, the only thing that could make me believe again is if I allowed myself to be scared of going to a fiery furnace that I don’t think exists.

    I know that’s not what you meant when you said “darkness.” You were speaking more about the direction you think my life will now take. And I know this is coming from your own experiences of getting away from God.

    But you may simply have to give me enough rope to learn the hard way (from your perspective). From my perspective, I have a feeling my life might surprise you. We’ll have to wait and see.

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