I discovered this forum a while ago and have enjoyed reading the many stories shared on this site. I have a not so different story. I was an Evangelical-Pentecostal Christian for 25 years or so. My inexorable move towards unbelief was about a decade or so in the making. It all began with a serious determination to study and better understand this faith I had dedicated myself to and was spending an inordinate amount of time and emotional, psychological and financial resources to. While I am still working on a much longer story to share, I want to summarize what it basically came down to for me; the situation is captured in what I call the FIVE PROBLEMS:
1. The Problem with the Bible
Increasingly, it is hard for me to believe that the Bible in its entirety is the inspired Word of God. It takes extremely contorted arguments to try and reconcile the dozens, even hundreds of contradictions. Many of the statements are not only historically false, but ethically abhorrent. That the Bible is not meant to be fully understood by the mind but believed by the heart is a cop out for a book that purportedly comes from a perfect God. It is far more likely it is the work of man. No one who has studied the origin, development and translation of the Bible could possibly deny it is the work of man. Saying God was working through human agency is too convenient and did not result in a perfect book from a perfect God.
2. The Problem with Science
More and more, science and religion (Christianity) do not agree on the fundamentals. For many things, both cannot simply be true. It takes extremely contorted arguments to try and reconcile them. Anyone who thinks or believes otherwise neither knows the Bible nor science well enough, or perhaps simply disingenuous in their approach to both.
3. The Problem with Religious Plurality and Eternal Damnation in Hell
Over 70% of the world's population right now are not Christians and are unlikely to ever be. It is hard to believe that all these billions will go straight to hell when it is really not their fault that they never heard the Gospel. And which Gospel is another issue. There is little agreement in Christendom on some of the fundamentals. The entire premise of missions is that those who have not heard are doomed to eternal damnation. It never occurs to anyone that millions lived before and after Jesus Christ who never heard the Gospel. There are dozens of convoluted arguments about how God in his omniscience and omnipotence will resolve this dilemma, but the inescapable consequence of not hearing the Gospel is fully described in the New Testament and gives the impetus to reach the unreached before they perish. Christian missionary work has gone on for millennia and most of the world is not convinced. True Evangelicals as you know do not consider over 80% of Christians as real believers and believe only those who are "born again" will go to Heaven. Even heaven is a concept lacking in the Old Testament scriptures and a unique invention of the New Testament. That humans will suffer untold torment for eternity (forever and ever and ever… is not only absurd, but sick and twisted). It seems all religion including Christianity not only are man-made, but man-propagated and helps together by natural human forces in human societies with no real supernatural influences. In fact I believe natural explanations for everything in life is all there is.
4. The Problem with Evil and Suffering
I know of all or most of the classical Christian and religious arguments to justify the presence of both moral and physical evil in the World. Honesty requires me to admit that these arguments do not cut it well at all. God if he exists cannot be omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipresent in all of these. Indeed there are theologians who believe the same thing. That evil is the result of human free will is only a small part of the problem, and that it works out a larger purpose in the will of God is another cop out. It seems these explanations are designed to protect God’s reputation, and is followed with explanation that all evil will be conquered someday as comfort to humans. Believers who do not understand this dilemma have never grappled with this problem or do not understand it.
5. The Problem with Prayer
This is the most personal of the problems because prayer does not work as religionists of all persuasions proclaim. After being a born again Evangelical Christian for 26 years until my lapse into agnostic-atheism, I know that most "answers" to prayers are wishful thinking or at best coincidences. All answered prayers are plausible, and there is no evidence of answer to prayer for a truly “impossible” problem such as amputees re-growing limbs, destroyed optic nerves restored, cancer cured, hysterectomized women giving births, or paraplegic and quadriplegics walking again. I have thought through this very carefully over a very long time and found that not a single "answer" to prayer I know lacked a natural explanation. And when a truly supernatural move was required to made a difference, it was nowhere to be found and all the blame as always came back to humans who were either too ignorant, too proud, too sinful to get the prayer answered, did not pray the right way or just too blind to see that God answered it in another way. It seems in 100% of the cases with unanswered prayer, the problem was man and not God. In reality there is no such thing as answered prayer by a benevolent deity.
Religion no doubt plays an important role in the lives of humans and is not going anywhere. That one religion is superior to another is just plain nonsense. Every religion thinks it is superior to another, although a few do not proselytize and have a live and let live mentality. The most proselytizing religions of Christianity and Islam which believes in converting others have also precipitated the most atrocious acts in human history. If you do not believe it, go to Wikipedia and do a tour of histories of Christianity and Islam. Proponents and supporters say those acts do not truly reflect the teachings of these religions, which is of course nonsense. The vast majority of believers in these religions do not really know what their religions teach, and simply hold to them by cultural affinity or family upbringing.
It seems I have become a skeptic and perhaps now doomed to eternal damnation. The problem with that is we have no proof whatsoever that there is such a thing as surviving this earth when we die. Life it seems makes far more sense when we believe the reality of human experience rather than the wishful thinking of what religion expects it or assumes it to be. For various reasons I cannot go into, I am going to stealthily keep my new views and lack of belief from most of my friends and associates, especially from close family who knew me as a very strong Christian for decades. It will be equivalent of an emotional and incredulous earthquake for many who know me if they find out that I have become a skeptic. There will come a time to come out clean, but not at this time.
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