The Last Straw

I have been asked several times now what one thing caused me to stop believing in god. I thought I would try to tackle that topic today. I am not sure something as life changing as the Christian to Yahweh atheist transition can be caused by a single thought or event. I think it happens with a slow erosion of preconceived notions. But the last straw for me was the honey possum. I know it is a silly thing to be a final straw, but what can you do?
The slow erosion started when I was “chosen” to serve on my church board. There I learn that church is really just a business and is run like one. I also learned that the holy spirit tells different people different things. This caused lots of disagreements on the board. I didn’t understand how a unifying spirit could cause division among followers of Christ. After that I started seeing other inconsistencies in church doctrine ending with the official stand on evolution, which lead to the honey possum incident. I could then see that some Church Truths were nothing more than dogma and not true at all. At that point I had no way of telling what was true and what was dogma. I had two choices. One was to just believe it all, even though I know some or most of it was false. The other was to reject it all as fiction. I tried to do the first. I mean I really tried. I when to christian counseling and everything. But in the end I just could not do it. I could not lie to myself anymore. The second choice was the only real choice if I wanted to be true to myself.
Before all this happened I was the kind of Christian who handed out bibles to people at work. I prayed all the time about everything. I was a true Christian. I thought I should add that for any Christians who may wish to dispute my faith. I had it. It was real.
Now… I would like to here from you. If you were a Christian once and are not anymore, what happened. Also, if you were and atheist once and are not anymore I would like to know how you overcame your skepticism.

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23 responses to “The Last Straw

  1. It’s never all or nothing, Zeb. You never had to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’m sorry you ever felt like that.

    Churches will never be perfect. What we believe as Christians will never be 100% nailed down. We will always, always, always have questions and doubts. And sometimes, even with the most spiritual people involved, things will not turn out pleasant. That’s life in a fallen world.

    Your situation was rough for all involved, I know, and I am truly sorry it happened.

    I know it sounds trite and ridiculous, but if you’re ever interested in coming back, we would be more than happy to have you visit us. I’m not trying to “win you back” or anything, just know that if you’re ever ready, there’s plenty of room for you.

    jj

  2. I’m with Wingnut on this. I hate to hear that our actions were the cause of your disappointment.

    I was raised and forced to go to church until I graduated high school. I typically got high before church, once I realized that God wouldn’t strike me dead for walking in stoned. I had to go on youth trips, and pray in sunday school. I would try to subtly work in Violent Femmes or REM lyrics without anyone other than my friends noticing. After high school I quit everything god related. I wasn’t outspoken about it or anything, but I could easily laugh at “all the hypocrites”. Everyone in churches were “hateful, judgmental gossip liars.” If only they could open their eyes… why were they wasting their lives?

    Then, all of the sudden my plan for my life fell apart. I felt panic because everything I thought I could do on my own wasn’t working. I realized that I had a incredibly backwards self-image. I was a total ass to everyone. I was smug and cocky (still am) because I was a professional that was about to make a fortune. But, like I said, that was falling apart. Shortly after, my wife, who was not raised in church began hanging out with a dirty christian. I began noticing a change in her outlook in life. I tried to hold her back because I knew she would be coming after me next. πŸ˜‰

    Over time I actually started listening to all the people who loved me, even if they were christian, and I began realizing that the things they were saying were in love, and actually made a lot of sense… even if I didn’t want to be like them. Over more time, that changed and I wanted to start being like them. Then I started reading the bible and I noticed that the things in there were meant in love and actually made a lot of sense… even if I didn’t want to be a stupid christian. Then, over time… I wanted to be one.

    Now… I’m still working on it. There was no silver bullet that worked for me. I just had to start seeing the practical side of it before I was willing to start putting faith in the non-practical. It’s hard work maintaining faith, but I’ve seen too much truth now to stop believing just because I haven’t seen the rest of the truth yet.

    Praying for you buddy.

  3. “It’s never all or nothing, Zeb. You never had to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

    I think it is all or nothing when it comes to a system of lies and delusion. As far as I can tell every in Christianity is make believe. Yes there is some truth in the area of values. Turn the other cheek and love your neighbor as yourself are great, but I don’t see how we need all the mythology to practice these tenets. Most religions have them, why is Christianity the “Truth” while all the rest are not?
    It has become obvious to me that all gods are produces of the human mind. Instead of praying for me do something useful… like send some money to the 3rd world or something. πŸ™‚

  4. Praying for you helps me to remember that I, too, am like you. It keeps me humble and thankful. It helps my patience. It helps establish a routine that carries me through the doubtful times. It causes me to send money to developing countries. It is the most important parts of my day. πŸ˜€

    Why would you want me to send money to a 3rd world country? Wouldn’t I just be luring them into a delusional belief with my generosity?

  5. @bradley
    Those are good reasons I guess. πŸ™‚ If it helps you good. Some scientists say that prayer acts in the same may as meditation to calm the mind. Just don’t expect it to change anything in the world apart from the change in you…

    I don’t think people in the 3rd world have time to be lured into delusional belief… Most are just trying not to starve.

  6. Years ago, I quit believing in God. Those were the darkest loneliest times of my life. It is now 25 years since then. And I know, that I know there is a God. And he loves us. I really encourage you to search for God again. I can only tell you, that if you believed in Gods word, then you know what the consequences of sin is. Be careful, in this. I only tell you this, because I am his servant, but I am his daughter, and I know, the difference. I will never depart from God ever, again. p.s. today I wrote “The Lords affirmations…God loves you, know this today.” Maybe you need to see it. If not, well, we both know God gives us each free will and choice. It is up to us….
    Take care,

    Elena

  7. Zeb, I am not sure that I don’t believe in GOD, but I am certain I do not believe in organized religions. I have seen so much hypocrisy in churches, that I walked away and didn’t look back. Christians, who claim it is GOD who judges, and yet many seem to judge anyone who does not believe as they do. The theory that one cannot be accepted in heaven, except through Jesus… In another post you discussed this point, and I cannot accept that GOD would deny those whom have not come to know Jesus. Babies are born and die in their first days, months years of life.. are innocents and accepted, so those whom have lived their entire lives without knowledge must also be innocents as well. I won’t call myself a Christian simply because I do not want to be associated with those who do not practice what they believe. I am not even sure there is a name for people such as myself. I, apparently am still sitting in the valley trying to determine what I am seeing, and am not liking the view of either side.

  8. @elenaramirez
    “Years ago, I quit believing in God. Those were the darkest loneliest times of my life. It is now 25 years since then. And I know, that I know there is a God.”

    I would like to ask a few questions, Elena. If you don’t mind.
    1. What caused you to “quit believing in God”?
    2. How long did this last?
    3. What made you believe again?

    You say those were the “darkest loneliest times of my life”. I understand that. There was a period of time in which I felt the same. But it passed and now I see how bright the world is without superstitions and fear.
    Maybe it is like a person who wears dark sunglasses all their life. Then one sunny day they take them off to find the sun is too bright for their eyes and it is painful. The person has two choices. The first is to quickly put the sunglasses back on to stop the pain and the second is to wait until their eyes adjust to the light. If the they do the first they will stop the momentary pain, but never know how bright and beautiful the world really is…

    “If not, well, we both know God gives us each free will and choice.” I think you mean you know and I know you believe you know… πŸ™‚
    If you wish to know more about how I see things please read so of my other posts.

  9. @Marica
    I was wondering where you were… πŸ™‚
    “I am not even sure there is a name for people such as myself.”
    Don’t be to quick to label yourself. I think we depend on labels far to much… Just be you. πŸ™‚
    The valley has more than two sides. It may be better to think of it as in object in space as the valley is rather limiting. Find your own place to stand… float… You know what I mean?

  10. Zeb;

    You got something started here. Hope it branches out and you get comments from more people. But,however,Your post almost sounds like you dislike Christians, but might still think a God could be out there somewhere ??? Stop by and leave a reply @ http://menaftergod.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/what-would-god-say-to-an-atheist/ I’m curious what you might say.

    Glen

  11. hooloovooblue

    Zeb:
    I was raised Christian and tried really hard to get into it. I read the bible daily and read books by Christian authors and went to church etc. but always had lingering doubts. Did I *really* believe that there was a big man in the sky that was watching out for me, that there was an afterlife with eternal fire or eternal peace? What finally convinced me was a lot of self-examination, and finally confronting my doubts and really thinking about what I believed (not what I wanted to or felt I had to believe). I spent some time on the fence, but came down firmly on the other side: science has defined our existence elegantly without any logical fallacy.
    Unfortunately religion is filled with misconceptions, and often encourages dogma over curiosity. A church is like any other organization in that it moves inevitably toward corruption.
    Check out The Cosmos by Carl Sagan (the book and the TV shows, they are on netflix) for an awe-inspiring description of man’s place in the Universe.

  12. I always enjoyed Carl Sagan and his presentations. My favorite is when he shows a wall as it represents the Universe. He then draws a circle around a plate to show the Milky Way Galaxy. Then a quarter, our solar system, and then a pen point, earth. Carl then stands back and shows the vast awesomeness of the universe as compared to the tiny pin point and says this;

    ”If there is a god out there, why would he create something so vast as the Universe, and the only living things are on this tiny pin point? So if you believe or don’t believe, one must accept that we are not alone.”

    Glen
    @hooloovooblue

  13. @Glen
    I do not dislike Christians. I just think they are being lied to, by themselves and by others. Most of my family are Christians and I love them. Yes I think there could be a god out there somewhere, but if there is we have not seen it yet, or come close to guessing it qualities. I would also have to say that it is not very likely to actually exist. The idea of god could be a human idea that exists nowhere else in the universe… I don’t know. πŸ™‚

  14. Zeb,
    Sounds eerily similar to what I went through with the Church of Christ.Glad you’re on the team, glad to have you!
    TGM

  15. seekthetruth

    Thoughful message, Zeb. I am a Christian, though not of the fundamentalist variety, so there is room in my imagination for a God who is bigger than one particular doctrine or belief system. So, for example, I have no trouble believing in both evolution and creation — could not God use evolution as an instrument of creation?

    I do take exception to your statement that Christians are being lied to and/or lying to themselves. Lying is the deliberate presentation as truth of something one knows to be false. I believe most Christians are sincere in their beliefs. Yes, some religious leaders have done terrible things, but I believe that comes more from human fraility and the corruption of power than from a deliberate attempt to deceive people. Now, if you want to say we are deluding ourselves, that is a different discussion…

    Finally, I think atheism takes every bit as much faith as does religious belief. In each case a person chooses to embrace a view of the universe that can be neither proved nor disproved. The question then is which view better enhances your life and gives you a sense of purpose and fulfillment?

  16. @seekthetruth

    Why would an all powerful god use a system that could be done with no intelligent control? Was he feeling lazy? πŸ™‚

    You are right deluding is a better word. πŸ™‚

    I am not sure about what you say about atheism taking as much faith as religious belief. If I were to hold my empty hand out to you palm up and say I am holding a rock does it take more faith to believe me or not believe me? Or does it take the same amount of faith for both? There is no correlation between the amount of belief in a thing and the actual existence of a thing. I am not sure if that makes sense.. I am having an off day… Sorry.

  17. seekthetruth

    Okay, so we are agreed that deluding is a better word. Having stipulated that, I don’t think I’m deluding myself. Then again, if I were I wouldn’t know it, would I? Nor would you know it if you were deluding yourself. I suppose we all have our delusions — let’s just hope they are benign. Whatever gets you through the night, eh?

    I don’t accept the premise that evolution is without intelligence. Even if the intelligence is buried deep within the cells of plants and animals, it is there. Otherwise evolution would be willy-nilly instead of tending toward the improvement of species as it does. As to why God would choose such a method, well, why not? It sounds a lot more interesting and creative than just zapping the univese into existence in finished form. Where would the fun be in that? Every living thing needs to adapt and grow in order to thrive, so why not the universe?

    My point about atheism taking faith is simply that an atheist makes a decision about what he believes in the absence of absolute proof, just as does a religious adherrant. Now, agnosticism is a different kettle of fish. It is one thing to say you don’t know whether or not there is a God and even that you doubt the same, but to state categorically that God does not exist (which is what a true atheist does) does indeed take a belief system, whether you call it faith or not.

    Based on your ruminations, I suspect you are more of an agnostic than a true atheist. You reject specific religious doctrines and have formed a world-view that is strongly influenced by doubt, but that isn’t quite the same as having the strong conviction that there is no God.

    By the way, I have a certain admiration for agnostics and atheists, much more than I have for people who are religious for purely social reasons or because they are intellectually lazy. I respect any person who honestly seeks the truth. But I do get a little cheesed-off by militant atheists who belittle people of faith, just as I do by Christians who are threatened by non-believers and lash out in harmful ways.

    Personally, I think the most dangerous people in the world are those who think they have things all figured out. They end up starting inquisitions and flying airplanes into buildings. Embracing the fact that you don’t know is a healthy thing, don’t you think? It keeps one humble.

  18. @seekthetruth
    “Personally, I think the most dangerous people in the world are those who think they have things all figured out. They end up starting inquisitions and flying airplanes into buildings. Embracing the fact that you don’t know is a healthy thing, don’t you think? It keeps one humble.”

    Well said. πŸ™‚ To bad so many of us think we have it all figured out. Think how peaceful the world could be if everyone was just a little agnostic.

  19. @zebulonthered

    Hello, I just ran across your questions. Sorry it took me so long to respond.
    I did not get this through my e-mail so I just ran across it in my comments stats. If you communicate, can you send it to my blog?

    Well, to answer your questions.

    1. My sins, darkened my spirit, so I could not believe in God. I was selfish, in wanting what I wanted. Yet, hurting myself.

    2. This lasted a few years, when I began seeing that I was reaping my sins.
    In other words, I saw the fruit of what my sins were. That is why I was in darkness, etc.

    3. I began believing, when God found me. Truly, he came for me like the story where Jesus, finds the lost sheep. He came looking for me.

    If you get a chance go to my blog. My testimony is there. God did an awesome thing, and showed himself mighty.

    I hope you are doing well. You have been on my heart and thoughts. I so pray you find your way back to God. He has a plan for you, dear one. Remember Jeremiah 29:11. You can be fulfilled in Christ. But you have to go back to him. Because he loves you.

    http://elenasjustmythoughts.wordpress.com

  20. @elenaramirez
    Thank you for your reply. I will stop by to read your testimony. πŸ™‚
    I am fulfilled now, or at least more so than when I was a Christian. For example I no longer feel the need to prove myself right at the cost of my own peace or the peace of others. If you want to look at the world in a different way, go ahead.
    When I believed in god I could not think that way and it took some time to lose that dangerous mind set… Maybe I am still working on it a bit, but I think I see improvements. You can pray if you like. I think there are better things to do with your time, but whatever. πŸ™‚
    You adamantly believe in Jesus so he is real. What about the people who believe just as strongly in Ganesha? does their faith make him real too?

  21. Okay, I admit. I was a little late getting to the ‘honey possum’ and only read it like yesterday.
    While I’m sure there is something very significant about the honey possum, otherwise, how could it be the last straw, I was shocked to find you link only lead to a wikipedia definistion.
    I don’t know what I was expecting. Something a little more dramatic, maybe? Like a subversive creationist plot to overtake the scientific world and to banish the evolution theory for all time. (insert evil laugh here)
    But it was nothing like that.
    So I guess I’m would like, if possible, a little clarity, on how this little mammal was the last straw. Maybe you can’t tell me any further than you have.
    I get hypocrisy, I get “the Holy Spirit told me…”, I get power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely applying to church situations just as much as government and all these thing undermining a persons faith.
    But the honey possum?
    Heather

  22. @lightexcelsdarkness
    Hi Heather, thanks for stopping by. πŸ™‚
    It might seen silly. When I talked to my Christian friends at the time they didn’t get it. I was raised Christian by my mom and her family (my dad did not care about religion), so I always just accepted that the bible was right and evolution was wrong. Even at school (public school) the biology teacher told us that that “evolution is just a theory” and that he didn’t believe it. I learned about the subject through the lens of disbelief so I never really gave it a second thought. Then after much disillusionment I watched a documentary about the animals of Australia. That video described the honey possum as a small marsupial that lived like a bird. It was as if a light when on in my head. Suddenly I understood what evolution was all about and why Christians gloss over it. https://zebulonthered.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/random-atheist-question-8-12/
    This lead to other questions about what I believed and nobody I talked to could answer any of them. I hope that helps. πŸ™‚

  23. Thanks, that helps me understand better your position.

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