Why They Left the Faith, part II
John W. Loftus recently made a post detailing why he and the Debunking Christianity staff left the Christian faith. I posted brief answers to the dilemmas that Loftus touched on here. At the end of the post, Loftus invites more deconversion stories in the comments. I thought I’d look at some selected deconversion stories. Starting with Lee, who said:
I left because I could no longer believe the old testament “laws” actually came from God . . . they’re too primitive, too unjust, too much like witch-doctoring. And my realization came when I was doing my regular “read through the Bible” routine. “Wait a minute–I don’t believe this–this can’t be true . . .” and then the whole house of cards came tumbling down.
Starting off with argument from outrage. By what standard are OT laws “too primitive, too unjust, too much like witch-doctoring”? By modern standards. That means the underlying assumption here is that our society is right, and their society is wrong. Reading between the lines, Lee seems to be saying that they would have been better off if they were more modern–like us. This is known as cultural imperialism.
To understand the OT laws fully, we need to understand the context of the society in which they were written. Compared to other ANE cultures, the OT laws were head-and-shoulders above what the rest of Canaan was practicing. If you were a citizen of the Palestinian region in the time of Mosaic law, you wanted to be an Israelite.
Paul Copan has a great article answering this objection here.
I left because I couldn’t continue to participate in the phoniness of seminary and witness the corruption of the magisterium. All that lying and keeping up of appearances would not be necessary if the church was founded on anything real. And Catholic sexual “ethics” would be a joke if it weren’t so cruel.
This guy has a point. First, the Catholic pedophile priest scandal broke in the United States. The fallout from it is still strong after all these years. Now, Ireland has one of its own brewing, and there’s one in Germany that may have involved the Pope when he was still an archbishop in Munich.
But he loses me when he says that “lying and keeping up of appearances would not be necessary if the church was founded on anything real.” That premise doesn’t follow.
If my dad has taught me responsibility and ethics from an early age, and later on I deviate from his teachings and end up in jail, does that mean that my dad doesn’t actually exist? According to this argument, my dad is a figment of my imagination. If my dad were real, then the ethics he taught would have stuck and I’d be an honest, productive member of society. Right?
That’s the problem with this line of reasoning. Just because many priests are child molesters and belong in jail isn’t proof that God is imaginary. It’s proof that humans have a fallen nature, which we give into all too often–many times with disastrous consequences. The Bible teaches this exact point in Romans 7 and Ephesians 2:1. This argument really makes a case for the accuracy of the Bible in describing the human condition, but I know that no atheist would actually want to argue that.
Ryan Anderson said:
For me it was after I read the footnote on Mark 16:9. I’d never given much thought to how illogical most of genesis was, but for some reason, the idea that the resurrection story was missing from what was likely the oldest record of Jesus didn’t sit right. (emphasis added)
The “short ending” of Mark cuts off chapter 16 at verse 8. Verses 9-20 were believed to have been added by later redacters, since they do not appear in the earliest MSS. J.P. Holding has a fuller discussion here.
Ryan may be long on doubt for Christianity, but he’s short on reading comprehension. It is clear from the text in Mark 16 up to verse 8 that Jesus rose from the dead. Read especially verse 6. It is clear what happened from the text–the Resurrection isn’t missing at all.
Mike D. said:
I left Christianity because the theology made no sense to me. I read Hebrews, which essentially explains it, and it left me with more questions than answers.
What does blood sacrifice have to do with anything? If Jesus is God, how can God sacrifice himself to himself? And isn’t he the one who cast humanity out of Eden, cursing all humankind? And isn’t he the one who decided for some reason that blood sacrifice was a requirement for forgiveness? How can he sacrifice himself to himself to pay a debt he determined for a curse he put on us?
When I read stuff like this, there is only one reaction. Quantum mechanics makes no sense to me, but it would be very shallow for me to say that it is false on that basis alone. But many critics of Christianity claim the theology makes no sense to them and use that as the foundation for the falsification of the whole thing. That is extremely shallow argumentation.
I left after several frustrating personal experiences made me strongly question how I can have a relationship with someone who I can’t see, hear, touch, or communicate with. How can a relationship exist if the communication is one-way? Then, I started to see that many Christians, including myself, had the same problems and moral shortcomings as any one else, even though we claimed, according to The Bible, that we are supposed to have better morals than the rest of the “world.” I also then realized that it’s not so crazy to suggest that maybe The Bible is not the inspired, inerrant word of God, and that there it has several problems.
First off, we as Christians have a strong foundation for our morals, but we don’t have better morals than everyone else. That’s not a correct claim. It isn’t surprising that many Christians have the same moral shortcomings as everyone else. We aren’t better than everyone else. No one should claim that we are.
With that in mind, this is the same objection that AdamK had, just rephrased.
AndreLinoge had a very, very telling comment:
I left Christianity while believing it was true. I just couldn’t take the guilt and fear any longer so I made a break for the fence. It was years later that I finally saw that many of Christianity’s tenents were….untenable. I still wonder how people believe in talking animals, Noah’s Ark, floating axe heads, Jesus flying into the sky, etc. (emphasis added)
The obvious anti-miracle bias aside, he’s basically saying “I kept sinning and I didn’t want to stop, so I left Christianity.” I assume so he could live life the way he wants to rather than the way that Christ has taught that he should.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a terrible Christian and I sin a lot. The difference between me and most is that I recognize my sin as such and don’t try to justify it. That’s a step in the right direction. If only I could let go of some of the more stubborn sins. Perhaps God will show me a way in his time. As the song goes, “He’s not finished with me yet.”
It’s one thing to look for a way out within the grace that God has offered and another to run the other way so that you can keep sinning guilt-free. Alas, Andre has opted for the latter.
My journey out of Christianity began with a hard look at Yahweh’s moral character in the Old Testament; especially since Jesus and Yahweh are supposed to be, sort of, the same person. Later, my study of biblical criticism finally convinced me that the bible is just a collection of human texts and not the harmonious revelation of a creator god.
I don’t know Walter from Adam, but I will put money on the table that says he read plenty of Bart Ehrman, but he’s never heard of Bruce Metzger. Funny how most skeptics’ studies of textual criticism revolve around Ehrman and not Metzger. Metzger has done more work on textual criticism than most any other scholar, and is largely responsible for the United Bible Societies’ standard Greek New Testament, which is one of the two main critical texts that underlie nearly all modern translations.
The examination I’ve done of textual criticism has convinced me of the integrity of the text of the New Testament. I studied Metzger, F.F. Bruce, and later on Dan Wallace (who is a contributor to the excellent Parchment and Pen blog, a service of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries). I had never heard of Ehrman until later, but as near as I can tell he is not on par with the other names I had just mentioned as an authority on the subject of textual criticism. Ehrman is a historian while the other names I mentioned are documentary experts.
The majority of these deconversion stories are just fluff and excuses. People don’t want to believe that God exists and guides their lives, and so they find the flimsiest excuses to not belive. No matter how solid these reasons sound, they never stand up to scrutiny.