I am a 50-year-old man who has been a Christian all of my adult life, who has been married for 28 years, who has raised four children to respect God and believe in the resurrection of Jesus. I have served as a deacon, as an elder, and have lead churches in worship music. Two years ago, I felt the need to ratchet up a level in my faith and joined a men’s study group at church. The purpose of the study is for 12 men to develop deep relationships with each other, meeting weekly to get trained and equipped to be leaders in church, at home and at work. I have to say, this study became a catalyst for questioning every aspect of my Christian faith. This was the exact opposite of its intention. I came to realize that for decades I have been sheltered by a belief system. Any contradictions to that system were simply explained as a trick of the opposition. I recently took an objective look at what is called The Fossil Record, and now can see for myself that a bunch of atheistic scientists did not just make it all up to contradict the story of creation.
During this two-year study, I began to realize that I had to constantly recommit my mind to the buy-in… that Jesus was God incarnate, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified, entombed, rose from the dead, sacrificed for my sins, and is the only Way to God. Maybe it was a statement that my pastor made from the pulpit: “Either Jesus was a madman and we are a band of fools, or that it’s the most wonderful truth that ever will be.” As I pondered for months which “either-or” I would eventual be drawn to, I considered this: If any of the unbelievable stories in the Bible were to happen today, I would dismiss them as coming from a psychotic nut case or from a power-hungry trickster.
Last year, I saw a Chick tract on a Walmart check-out line about the evils of Halloween. I picked it up for amusement. When I finally read it, I could not believe that I have been in the same religion as the author. Even the cartoon characters who were preaching came across as mind-numbed robots. I knew then my foundation of faith was crumbling.
As you might imagine, I am still reeling from this change in cosmic perspective. I do not think myself an atheist. I still am amazed at the complexity of the universe and believe it to be by Design. But the nature of the Designer has changed in my mind. The requisite to “believe as I believe, or be eternally damned” is no longer an issue. I believe we can all recognize our Creator, but we don’t need Christianity to ferry us through life and into eternity. Organizing my thoughts into a few categories, I have finally asked the right questions and concluded that Christianity is a man-made religion just like all the others that I have mocked for years. I reject the standard answers that Christian apologetics has indoctrinated me with which to respond.
What is God’s plan for afterlife and eternity?
We don’t know. Period. Anyone who claims to know has either talked himself into believing that he knows, or is lying to get you to believe his way. Anyone who claims that God has revealed this knowledge to him is either demented or is a liar. If we were created, then we were created not to know. If we evolved by accident, we still don’t know. If that’s the way it is, and I’m okay with that.
If God is the same yesterday, today and forever, it seems that Christianity was a “change in plan”.
There are too many irregularities in the Christian plan of salvation. What about people who lived prior to Jesus? What about people who have never heard of Jesus? I know all the pat answers, they no longer hold water. The plan is also rather complex with many rules, although Christian will tout its simplicity. Why is my eternal destiny dependent on my reciting a “sinner’s prayer” that someone made up (and is not even in the Bible)? Yet the billions of people who lived before Christianity did not have this opportunity. This is where the complexities ensue. If God made a plan for “whosoever will” to make it to the mother ship, I don’t think it would be that complex and rule-heavy. And what’s with the silent treatment? “I’m going to create you then be quiet and hide away. You’ll have to make guesses about me. I’ll give a few privileged people, mostly men, a few hints, but the rest of you will have to trust them.” Hard to swallow.
On the Bible
I once had a coworker who quipped, “The Bible was written by a bunch of guys on drugs.” I wrote him off as Hell-bound. But today? I think back to Moses… funny how there were no other witnesses to the burning bush and his conversation with God. Likewise when God wrote the Ten Commandments with His finger on the mountain, or ANY conversation that Moses had with God… I guess that goes for all the Old Testament prophets. Then one day, about 2500 years ago, the Jewish leaders sat down and decided what writings would be included in the Scripture. Then one day, about 1600 years ago, councils of bishops did the same thing with writings of Jesus’ disciples. Both sets of writings must be considered as the inerrant Word of God. But to reconcile the aforementioned “change in plans”, the terms Old Testament and New Testament were applied. Hmmm…
God’s Chosen People
I have thought my whole life that most people hate the Jews because they are God’s Chosen People. Wait… who says they are? Oh, the Jews say they are. It’s written right here in this Book. My cynical nature now questions whether there is some self-generated benefit to this claim. Duh!
Today, if anyone claims to have seen or been talked to by an angel, I would immediately classify them either as demented or as a liar. But Christians need to accept that angels spoke to Mary and Zacharias personally, to Joseph in a dream, to Mary Magdalene on Resurrection morning, and many other instances. Two angels visited Abraham, and he didn’t even know it (“Whoa, those guys were angels?!?!?”). Jacob wrestled with an angel and got the nickname “Israel”. But wait, other religions claim to have begun with angelic conversations. Two such occurrences were Muhammad at the beginning of Islam, and Joseph Smith at the beginning of Mormonism. But Christians will say those were either fabrications or even demonic. “Don’t believe those, but the ones in the Bible were REAL angels.”
On Satan and Demons
Demons? Come on! Perhaps one of the major reasons leading up to my faith rejection is how human attributes are assigned to God and Satan. I should thank Christianity for doing this. It underlies the fact that the whole thing is man-made. When people in my church start talking about the devil, I just want to say, “Goodbye!”
The Virgin Birth
This is an easy one… lonely, single middle-aged Joseph gets engaged to a lovely 16 year old virgin. There is NO WAY that they could have possibly been alone together and, in the heat of passion, just gone ahead and did it! NO WAY! Then, Mary runs off to visit her cousin, and upon her return, there is some ‘splainin’ to do… enter the angels!
By the way, Joseph was not stupid, and knew his lineage. He was a poor carpenter, but rightfully in line to be the King of Israel, directly descended from King David, Solomon and the whole gang. The Bible never mentions this dilemma in Joseph. But wouldn't that grind on you throughout your whole life? If you had the chance, wouldn't you do something to rectify the situation, if not in your life, how about the life of your first born son? Am I being too cynical?
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness
Hey, there’s a guy in funny clothes, eating bugs and proclaiming that the Messiah is here… oh, by the way, the Messiah is the guy’s COUSIN. By this time, the family has had 30 years to plan it all out. Again, am I being too cynical?
The Resurrected Christ
Jesus will return with an army and fight a war against his enemies and establish his kingdom. I've always wondered, if God is behind all that, why does there need to be a war?Something that has always bothered me while reading the Gospels is how Jesus was not recognizable after the resurrection, especially to those who were closest to him. Was he just too radiant in his glorified state? Did rising from the dead give him a different appearance, height, weight, posture, straighter teeth, higher cheek bones, or an eye lift? Maybe the blood was washed off when they entombed him, but wasn't he quite scarred? If he still had scars from nails in his hands and spear in his side, what about all the scars from whips and other Roman beating devices, and the crown of thorns? It was Sunday morning, and had only been since Friday afternoon when he was beaten, for Christ’s sake (sorry…). He had to look pretty unique. But Mary Magdalene thought he was a gardener. Within days, resurrected Jesus walked quite a way with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and they did not know it was him (until He revealed himself to them). Recently, I read the observations that Mary Magdalene was the first to the tomb, the first to see Him resurrected, and first to talk to Him. Oh, by the way, she had seven demons exorcised from her the year before… ruh roh… I have often wondered what would have happened if they had buried Jesus in the ground instead of entombing Him? Would he have still risen, and how?
The Second Coming
In that Chick tract I talked about, it proclaimed that Jesus will return with an army and fight a war against his enemies and establish his kingdom. I've always wondered, if God is behind all that, why does there need to be a war? Why does he need an army? Isn't He God? When the Apostle John wrote Revelations, he was a very old man banished to an island. I can see where he might have ingested some strange mushrooms, and mistaken the side effects for something else… Another thing, believers who have died will rise from their graves and meet Jesus in the air, and reign with him. What if I get cremated and my ashes are thrown into a river? Another complexity. And, okay, it’s been 2000 years. What does “I come quickly” mean to you? I know, “a thousand years is a day to God, and vice versa.” Well, Jesus was a man, and to a man, 2000 years is not quickly. Guys, I’m sorry, but I don’t think he’s coming back.
I now cringe when I’m in a group, and we go around taking prayer requests. If enough of us pray hard enough, then 78 year old Aunt Sally will be cured of her stage 4 cancer. For some reason, we never pray hard enough… Then, every prayer has to end something like, “I pray these things in the name of Jesus.” What if you left that out? Does including that sentence somehow validate the prayer? Then, if you can pray out loud eloquently and use all the right terms and phrases, you are held up as a mighty prayer warrior. So much for us soft-spoken introverts…
I was in the 5th grade when I came to the realization that Santa Claus was a myth. I think I see a trend. To the dismay of many readers, my plan now is to keep my new revelation a secret. I am, by nature, avoidant and non-confrontational. I love my wife dearly, and would rather pretend and keep the peace than to face a confrontation of epic proportions. If by chance death does us part and I remain here alone, I might perhaps leave the church under the guise of mourning (“the church reminds me too much of her…”). I feel more free now than all the freedom that Christianity had promised me. I realize that putting forth a farce of faith will limit my new freedom, but that’s a price I will continue to wrestle with. Just writing all this out has been very therapeutic. With this new cosmic belief comes an altered world-view. Instead of “Jesus is coming soon”, it’s “Oh shit, the Earth is getting dirty and over-populated”, and other complete about-faces. I look forward to my transformation, it will be fun.
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