Losing Faith

What was that fledgling idea I had when I decided to start this blog? Well, I really wanted a comfortable place to communicate honestly my reasons for coming out of the faith.  Though I had planned to write a post about my long journey to becoming an atheist months ago, I admit I have been dragging my feet. So, even though it’s really hard for me to be this intentionally vulnerable (it’s like pulling teeth without pain medication)… I will saddle up and share the story of how I lost my faith.

If you missed the brief history of my religious background, check it out here.

Questioning Sin

I would say that my deconversion from Christianity began about 8 years ago, in early 2006, when I was newly married. We moved into a small basement apartment of a house in “Old Town”. Several people lived upstairs and across the hall in the basement there was one other apartment next to ours. That’s where Nick lived. Nick was purposefully and awkwardly funny, he introduced us to the world of Ultimate Frisbee, and frankly he turned out to be a great neighbor. We swapped keys at some point and if we were out of town Nick would sometimes call and say, “Can I borrow some milk? O, and can I hang out and watch the game at your place?” And he offered the same hospitality to us. That’s really the best kind of neighbor.

Ultimate Frisbee Costume Tournament (Nick, Matt, me)

Ultimate Frisbee Costume Tournament
(Nick, Matt, me)

The first time we had Nick over for dinner we initiated our common ritual, praying before the meal. Right after the prayer Nick said, “So, you guys are Christians, huh? You ever seen Broke Back Mountain?” I laughed at his intentional prodding but even though I hadn’t seen the movie, at the time the idea of a film “promoting homosexuality” made me feel uncomfortable. I certainly would struggle to admit it back then, but I was homophobic and I thought homosexuality was a sin. I believed you should love the sinner and hate the sin of gay sex. In a later conversation Nick, my husband and I got into a more in-depth discussion about being gay and there were a few things Nick said that struck a cord with me, big time. He said:

  • Most of the stuff that is in the bible makes sense to me because it usually forbids hurting someone in some way, but I’ve never understood what it says about being gay… if you’re gay, you’re not hurting anyone.
  • Imagine if we lived in a world where the “normal” or common thing was to be gay and everybody discriminated against or looked down on straight people.
  • Why would someone choose to be discriminated against by choosing to be gay?
  • Why would god let someone be born with homosexual tendencies and then punish them for those tendencies?

Huh, I had never thought of it from that point of view before. It’s amazing how these questions planted a seed in me that I mulled over for years. I really struggled with the thought that I was discriminating against people that had done nothing wrong, even if my discrimination was frowning at them in silent judgment of their lifestyle. But on the other hand, the bible was the infallible word of God, it was God breathed! My insides were telling me “I don’t like this dogma that I have been brought to believe about gay people” but the bible was telling me “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? … Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men … will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

My response to all of this was: well, I will just set those types of verses aside and try not to worry about them. At this time I didn’t fully throw them out because that begs the question, what other verses can be thrown out? This was the start of my cognitive dissonance and for the time being I was able to keep my doubts at bay.

Questioning God

Gradually, over the next 5 years I transformed from a conservative Christian (biblical inerrancy belief and devout religious practice) to a liberal Christian (personal biblical interpretation and relaxed religious practice).

But then, at the end of 2011, the floodgates opened and the questions just started flowing. Below are some of the things I could not reconcile with my god belief. Keep in mind that I may have asked some of these questions earlier in my life but this was the first time I asked them without assuming I already had the right answer from god.

  • Why are there so many religions? There are many good people of various religions but they can’t all be right. If I put my belief in the wrong god, yet I live a good, well-intentioned life, why is it justified for me to go to hell for eternity?
  • How is it that god is all knowing, all powerful, and all good and still he allows evil? Read more about the Problem of Evil
  • Eternal torture for not believing in the right god is an exceptionally vengeful punishment, is it not? Eternity is a REALLY long time. Read more of my thoughts on hell
  • It’s self-centered to look at my situation and say, “I am so lucky to have been born in this day and age in America, thank you god”, when so many terrible things have happened and continue to happen all over the world. Why does god allow all the terrible stuff to happen to people yet he gets credit for a successful surgery completed by a trained medical doctor?
  • Why does god get credit for things that have another explanation?
  • If I don’t know why something good happened, why should I just assume “well, it must have been god that did it”? If I attribute good things to god, why don’t I attribute the bad things to him as well?
  • Why is it necessary to “catch ’em young” (teach religion to our youth)? If something is true it shouldn’t matter when or how someone encounters it, it’s still the truth.
  • When I look around and see beautiful and magnificent things in nature, just because I don’t understand the mechanisms that happened over time to make it happen, why should I attribute it to a god?
  • Why does the holy spirit say contradictory things to people?
  • Why does the bible contradict itself?
  • How is a bible verse good evidence for god? Why should I believe the bible just because the bible says so or Christians say so?
  • Why does god need our financial help to do his work?
  • Why is god so sneaky? Why doesn’t he just reveal himself to everyone on earth and save us all?

While some may be able to come away from all of these questions with some justification for god, ultimately, I can no longer suspend my disbelief. If I am to put my trust and belief in a god, I need sufficient evidence that such a god truly exists. So far I have found no such evidence.

A big thanks to Nick for helping me start to question the bible. An even bigger thanks to my husband for helping me question throughout the entire process. Lastly, I am grateful to myself for resolving to say to god, “If you are real and you created me, I trust that you want me to freely use my god-given brain to question and process information in an honest way, without fear”.  It was that statement that allowed me to let go of my fears and ultimately be set free from the chains of religion. Can I get an amen? 😉

sagan quoteThis was Day 3 of the Zero to Hero Challenge. Learn more here.

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8 thoughts on “Losing Faith

  1. LanceThruster says:

    Deborah was nice enough to include a quote by me in her concluding chapter. It seems to tie into some of the observations you’ve made.

    Regards!

    “I see a pattern where the randomness of human actions can be directed through probability for an overall cumulative and positive effect. All throughout our society there is a butterfly effect that we are most always oblivious to…I guess my message is to go boldly forth and increase the peace and love and know you are not alone. You may not always be aware of the others choosing to follow this same path as you, but they’re out there, and they’re making a difference.”

    ~ LanceThruster

    [from Deborah Mitchell’s book “Growing Up Godless” – Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nick says:

    Hi Vanessa, this is your cousin Nick – long time no see! I was reading through you blog and found it quite interesting and obviously quite surprising. The issues you raise are issues I too have struggled/wrestled with in the past (and present) throughout my journey as I try and grow stronger in my faith. I hope you don’t mind if I use this reply box to discuss some of these issues and work through my thoughts. I know you state in your blog that you don’t want to be considered a potential convert. Although not considering anybody that does not believe in God a “potential convert” goes directly against one of the main things we are called to do, that is certainly not the sole reason for my post. I most definitely do NOT have all the answers, but I would like to start a (hopefully mutually beneficial) conversation regarding this.
    Firstly, I was interested in your idea of multiple religions on earth and the idea of that possibly being evidence against God. I see your point – other religions believe just as strongly as I do that their way is the right way, what makes me so sure I am right and they are wrong? At this very moment, a muslim could be typing something very similar about why he/she is so sure his/her religion is the right path. This also segues into your point about eternity in hell being a very stiff punishment for simply believing in the wrong god. I do not disagree that hell is a stiff punishment – by all accounts is seems to be worse than my meager vocabulary can describe. An eternity of complete hopelessness, punishment, separation from God. Im sure you can agree, just because two groups have different ideas/beliefs, it doesn’t mean that BOTH are wrong. If two people strongly believe that they know what is in a birthday present and those beliefs are not the same, this certainly doesn’t mean that neither one can be right. Therefore, the fact that there is multiple religions on earth by itself does not, in my opinion, speak against the idea of God existing. As for you concern regarding a stiff penalty for not believing in the right God, in my opinion, you are asking the wrong question. I think the question is not “why does believing in the wrong god earn my hell?” but “why is believing in the right God all I need to do to gain heaven?”. I believe we all deserve hell. After the fall, nothing we can do on earth has been good enough to satisfy God’s inherent, perfect justice. Nothing has been good enough to allow us into God’s presence. therefore, God – knowing this and deeply desiring a close personal relationship with us – sent his Son to die for us so we may have this relationship. All we need to is believe and accept this – that is pretty amazing! The Bible says Jesus will not come again to act a judge until all of the earth has heard this message. Everybody will be given the opportunity to accept or deny this amazing gift.
    The idea of God allowing evil into the world, I believe, is one of the hardest questions to answer. I think a parallel to this question is “why do bad things happen to good people?” and lets be honest with ourselves some times we ask “why do good things happen to bad people?”. I wish I had some great answer for this. I, in thinking through this to some extent, have only come up with this: I think it is a matter of perspective. I have to trust in God and trust that his perspective is much, much bigger than mine. I can only think about things from my very limited earthly perspective. I often have wondered, why did a good God take my mom from me so early, before she was even able to meet her grandchildren? I can only take solace in the fact that God has a much bigger perspective than mine. To me is seems such a worthless and meaningless tragedy. But to Him, there may be several ways he has used and will use that occurrence to further his Kingdom. I pray that He has used it to strengthen my faith in Him and the faith of others. (And by the way, I trust in the fact that some day I will be able to run to her in heaven and give her the big hug I have been waiting to give her!)
    Some of your other points were a little confusing to me. The thought of the Bible or the Holy Spirit contradicting itself – i would be interested hearing, in particular, what examples you are thinking of. I personally feel the Bible is an absolute truth and feel the Holy Spirit would not move somebody in contrary directions. Secondly, I strongly believe that God does NOT need our financial support. We, out of gratitude for what he has done for us, give of the blessing he has given us to be a blessing to others in need. Also, I truly do not believe that we are called to “catch them when they are young”. I do believe that as Christian parents, we believe that a relationship with and a knowledge of God is the most important thing we can teach to our children. I don’t believe, as I think your point implies, that we have to quick brainwash them before they have the opportunity to think for themselves. I think God calls us to use our intellectual abilities, otherwise he would not have given them to us. I think God is big enough and strong enough to stand up to our questioning. He is OK with us wrestling with and struggling with these questions. In fact, I believe that every adult is called to come to their own conclusions. We will not be saved because our parents took us to Sunday school or because they had/have faith or a relationship with God, but because we, ourselves, have asked these questions and have decided to ask God to start a good work in our lives. To constantly work and rework our idea of what God wants from us and what we can do to further our relationship with Him. The good news, in my opinion, is God does all the hard work. We just need to trust in Him and ask him to remodel us to be what we were made by Him to be.
    I have other thoughts about topics raised in you blog but will stop here. If you have interest in anything I am saying, it would be great to start a dialogue. Hope all is well with you!
    And PS – I LOVE ultimate frisbee. Used to play multiple times a week in residency. Havent been able to get a group together that wants to play around here. I need to work on that!
    Love,
    Nick

    Like

    • Hey Nick –
      Glad you stumbled across my blog 🙂 I don’t think that many extended family members know about this change in my life… I’m not asking you to be quiet about it but just something to be aware of.

      Wow, you stated a lot there! Give me a few days to respond to your questions and comments. Thanks for wanting to dialogue 🙂
      Vanessa

      Like

  3. Steve says:

    Interesting (de)conversion story, thanks for sharing. Would you mind discussing the role your husband played in all of this? Was he a Christian when you got married? Did he lose his faith first? Did he play a roll in you losing yours? None of the above?

    Like

    • Great questions. Yes, we were both Christians when we married, we met through a Christian ministry. Faith was a huge part of each of our lives and was one of the things that drew us together. He did lose his faith shortly before I did. He began asking some tough questions and we would talk about it. We had a couple months there where we would both come home from work and have a ton of new insights to share with each other. I feel like I owe him a huge thanks for helping me to free my mind.

      Like

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