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The truth has set me free!

By Jeffery Lee Bergman ~

As a former evangelical fundamentalist associate pastor and elder, I greatly appreciate people willing to speak openly and honestly about their de-conversion experience.

As a young boy, church was a weekly obligation where we dressed up in our Sunday best as members of the protestant denomination in a small town in New Hampshire. When I was 14 years old, at my mother’s insistence I went through the confirmation process and was baptized. While in high school, a girlfriend took me to a fundamentalist evangelical church in San Jose, California. I eventually accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior, began to immerse myself in scripture and after a few years became the guy who knew the bible inside and out, back to front, Old & New Testaments, studied Greek and Hebrew, owned and avidly read my KJV, NIV, NAS, Phillips, Young’s, Amplified, & Living bibles, and of course my Strong’s and other concordances.

Eventually, I began leading bible studies, teaching classes, was officially “ordained”, preached from the pulpit, laid hands on the sick, spoke in tongues, prophesied, etc. etc. etc. I was fully convinced I knew the ultimate truth about “God”. Little did I know how blind and arrogant I was. While sincerely exploring what we would today call “spirituality”, I have only had one foundational prayer which is “I want to know the truth, and I do not care what it is”. My willingness to not remain attached to any particular dogma led me to honestly examine Christianity, the actual origins of the Bible, and other religions as well.

It was my knowledge of geology that really started the cracks in my walls of belief. Backpacking in the high Sierra’s in the early 80’s with my closest Christian brother Steve, we found fossil shells at 11,000 feet and eventually concluded they could not have gotten there due to Noah’s flood. And if God created the Earth with the shells in place, then he had built in evidence leading honest and sincere scientists to conclude they were many many millions of years old. This would mean God, not Satan, was the Great Deceiver! Or, the Earth simply was not created by God some 6,000 years ago, meaning Adam & Eve, and therefore “original sin” were human invented myths.

In 1989, I was invited to join a famous National Geographic author and photographer on a documentary trip to Sri Lanka. While in my hotel room in the sleepy little gemstone mining town of Nivitigala, with nothing to do, I discovered the Buddhist version of The Gideon Bible in a bedside drawer. Out of sheer boredom, I decided to read it. With my comprehensive knowledge of both Old & New Testaments of the Bible, I was stunned when I read Buddha’s version of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This created an intellectual dilemma which challenged my fundamentalist doctrine since I knew the spiritual truths Buddha taught were delivered 600 years before Jesus. Either Buddha was inspired by Satan in order to deceive humankind, or, he was inspired by the same “spirit” that inspired Jesus.

Earth simply was not created by God some 6,000 years ago, meaning Adam & Eve, and therefore “original sin” were human invented myths.I simply could not honestly maintain my simplistic, dualistic, black & white approach to these issues, and choose to abandon my fundamentalist dogma. My present day honest evaluation of the God of the Bible is that he abundantly demonstrated he is a jealous, resentful, bitter, murderous, fickle, occasionally merciful tribal warlord, someone whom I want nothing to do with. But, I can understand how the tribe of Israel followed by early Christians adopted this image of their God. So, while I no longer pray to a person I call God, my all-time favorite prayer is St. Francis “Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace“. St Francis also said “What we are looking for is what is looking”. Contemplate that!

Now, I practice no religion other than James 1:27 –
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this; To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction”.
And I am learning, as the very Buddhist enlightened Apostle Paul did, to be content in whatsoever state I am in (Philippians 4:11). I have a genuine lack of fear of life after death.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love”. – 1 John 4:18.

The epitome of human delusion is to believe that we are the center of attention of an invisible and magic creator of the universe who pays particular attention to not only what we do, but what we think, and occasionally intervenes on behalf of certain believers. Pure human arrogance! Today, I would widely be considered a blasphemer, a heretic, an atheist, and I am content with these labels. My heart is at peace; the truth has set me free.