10/09/2011 | Share this article: View CommentsBy ExPenty ~
I've posted a few things on here, but it's occurred to me that I never shared my extimony. With that in mind, here it is. I hope someone in a similar situation finds it helpful.
Pentecostal church at the age of 16. I repented of my sins, invited Jesus into my heart and decided to live my life for him. It felt really real, and the world seemed wonderful.
I devoted my life to serving God. I devoured the Bible, reading it as often as I could. I was hungry for it. I spent hours on my knees in fervent prayer. I received the "baptism in the Spirit" and spoke in tongues.
I spent two years in full-time Christian ministry in London with Youth For Christ, then I went to London Bible College (a respected evangelical seminary, the largest in Western Europe, now known as the London School of Theology) for three years. During that time I did a weekly placement with Jews For Jesus and helped run the youth group at a local Baptist church. I left college with an honours degree in Theology and a diploma in Evangelism.
In my college years I learned to read the Bible in its original languages. I learned about church history, the controversies in the Bible and many other things.
When I left college I came back to Wales and settled back into my home church. I co-led the youth group, led worship, helped to run a local monthly youth rally and many other things. I was "on fire" for God. I was convinced I had the Truth. This carried on for many years.
I won't go into the reasons other than to say that it was due largely to a clash of personalities, but I left the church in 2006. I fully intended to find a new church, but for one reason or another I didn't find one that suited. I was still a strong believer, though, and I continued praying, studying the Bible etc.
I have always believed that if something is true, it will stand up to scrutiny. One day I realised I had questioned every aspect of my faith except one: the very existence of God.
I read books about the subject, both Christian books and non-Christian books. I know reading non-Christian books can be frowned on by some Christians, but it's the only way to get a different perspective. I put a lot of prayer and thought into it.
I realised that there is no evidence for God's existence. I was always told that God answers prayer, but looking back I realised that the vast majority of my prayers were not answered, and those that seemingly were could easily be explained away by attributing them to random chance. I realised that there is no evidence at all for God's existence. (Some people have pointed me towards various Bible verses on the subject, but that's a daft thing to do because if there's no God, then the Bible becomes irrelevant.)
It took me a long time before I was ready to admit even to myself what I secretly had known for a long time: I no longer believed that there was, or could be, a God.
I prayed fervently: "God, if you are really there, show me." I prayed many variants on that prayer, fervently and with deep longing for God to be real. I wrestled with it. Eventually I had to acknowledge that I was getting no answer to my prayers because there was no-one there to answer them. I admitted to myself that there was probably no God, and reconciled myself to the fact that I was now an atheist.
So that's my story, in condensed form. I've been there, done that. Doubtless some who are still believers will think I wasn't really a true christian, or that I didn't "taste and see that the Lord is good". Believe me, I was and I did. I threw myself into it. If I wasn't a true Christian, then there is no such thing as a true Christian.
The fact is that even a true Christian like me can end up leaving the faith when they use their brain to process the facts and the evidence, beyond what they are told in church. I examined the evidence and found it wanting as far as God is concerned. I'm an atheist not because I ever wanted to be, but because the facts led me that way.
Jesus got one thing right: the truth, when you know it, will set you free. I feel so much happier now that I am not burdened by Christianity, and funnily enough I have much less fear of death now that I realise there is no heaven and, more importantly, no hell. I understand that when bad things happen to me it is no because of some divine plan or design, and I trust myself more than I ever have before because I realised that for all those years it wasn't God helping me to make decisions; it was just me.
I appreciate this life a lot more now that I know it's the only life I will ever have. The trees seem greener, the mountains more beautiful, and everything seems much more alive and vibrant now that I'm able to appreciate this world for what it truly is. It's not fallen, it's not sinful - it's beautiful.
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