About “Losing My Religion”

I have been pondering the de-evangelization of a few of my friends, lately. So it struck me when a blog kept popping up on the WordPress “hits list” about “Losing My Religion.” I have one friend whose new buddy is a Moslem. I have another who has “these Buddhist friends.” And I know all sorts of ex-evangelicals who are struggling to overcome years of trying and failing to “get it right.” They are losing their faith, too — or, at least, it is being undermined. There are a lot of attacks on faith in Jesus being waged, some with good targets in bogus Christianity and others attacking the truth. It is not an easy day to be a follower of Jesus.

So this person’s top-twenty reasons for losing faith kind of stung me. He seems to be losing what I call “crap Christianity” not any real faith. I think most people should lose what he is losing in order to form an actual relationship with God! So I feel compelled to try brief answers to his brief statements, just to get my two-cents worth in – and maybe to dissuade someone from thinking they are losing their faith when they are just asking the right questions.

His thoughts are in italics, my replies are not. I hope you’ll add to my thoughts, as well.

[This post is so long, you may as well take more time and go here, too, before we get started]

“I began to question why the god of the Bible is more believable than all other gods worshiped on earth. With the mountain of evidence staring me in the face, my faith began to die.”

Trading faith in God for an assessment of evidence is a definite change of world view. My faith is evidence of things unseen. Jesus is revelation, not another fact among many with me at the center living a life of endless sorting.

I finally moved past guilt and admitted to myself that I no longer believe in Jesus or the god of the Bible. Surprisingly it was a relief. Not because I wanted to run wild and sin freely, but because I no longer felt the weight a Christian carries. The weight of guilt, unworthiness and fear of god’s judgment.

This seems like a true sign that a person has only met religion, not God. The whole point of the work of Jesus is to free us from the weight one feels, not induce it! We may sense a weight of glory, but hardly of judgment.

His top twenty reasons for losing his faith.

1. God is wrathful, jealous, hateful, and kills nations of people like it is a bodily function. He is certainly not just or “holy” in nature.

The formation of the chosen people of Israel is not the last thing God did. Postmodern people parse Bible data as if what one did when he was twelve is equal to what one did when he was fifty. Humankind has been growing and God has been very creative in working out how to redeem us. We relate to God, not assess his immutable character, as we see it.

2. The act of throwing people into infinite torture and punishment for not believing a Jewish guy from 2,000 years ago was God’s son, or unknowingly worshiping the wrong god, is extremely cruel and sadistic.

Which is why I don’t believe that. People who follow Jesus rise from the dead to everlasting life and those who don’t follow don’t have the life. There will be a painful recognition of this lack for those who don’t, but no eternal torture.

3. The statements, “God works in mysterious ways,” or “It will all make sense in heaven,” are little more than irrational cop outs. This God allows horrible atrocities to be committed against innocent men, women and children every day.

I mostly agree; those are cop-outs. I don’t throw God out for inept or wrong-headed followers.

4. Bloody animal and human sacrifices are illogical demands by a divine god as payment for petty wrong doings. These actions are no different than the rituals of archaic pagan religions. Not to mention the bizarre ritual of symbolically drinking human blood and eating human flesh.

Archaic pagan religions may be smarter than sanitized, atomized, OCD, postmodern religions of no religion. Regardless, a bloody, bodily, connective God who connects with us in Jesus is beautiful.

5. If God loves us and wants us to know and believe in him, why be so completely invisible? What is the purpose of being so illusive to those who believe and worship him?

For one thing, God is not us, so it takes some multi-dimensional capacities to have a relationship. More to the point, turning our backs makes him invisible. Nevertheless, Jesus is visible. The body of Christ is visible. The works of God’s Spirit are visible. The creator is visible in the creation.

6. God never manifests himself or performs miracles as he regularly did for the Israelites in Old Testament stories.

I’m not so sure about that. The OT is the condensed version of hundreds of years of history. If one condensed the last 2000 years into the same amount of written material, the miracles would be incredibly dense.

7. Prayers are never answered. Certainly not in the way Jesus described. Prayer has absolutely no affect on the world around us.

Nonsense. Even I have my own anecdotal evidence to refute that. God responded to my prayer last night.

8. Jesus did not fulfill major Old Testament prophesies or even fulfill his own promises and predictions.

So? Chances are he will. But I am not sure he was obligated to do anything but what he was sent to do, anyway. People do, however, make a big deal about how Jesus “proves” his validity as Savior by being the fulfillment of prophecies, so it is a worthy criticism. If Jesus were Nostradamus, maybe he would be untrustworthy.

9. The authors of much of the Bible are unknown. And of these unknown authors, the men who wrote the gospels likely never even met Jesus considering they were written 40-70 years after his death. A far cry from reliable testimony.

The man who wrote these questions does not even use his real name on his blog, so he is unknown as well – he has an ironic complaint. Regardless, hundreds of people validated the testimony of the gospel-writers. The whole community of believers has been assessing the testimony and validating it for centuries. It is hard to imagine a more reliable and tested revelation. But everyone writing the Bible thinks God will verify the testimony himself, anyway.

10. The Bible is repeatedly contradictory with itself, reality, and the laws of morality. Couldn’t God inspire a less poorly written book?

Of course the Bible contradicts itself if all one thinks it is is a moral lesson or systematic theology. The whole Bible is not meant to be morally exemplary. When King David has Uriah set up, that is hardly a suggestion to “have someone killed effectively.”

11. The Bible is open to interpretation. Everyone interprets it in the way that suits them best or serves their purposes.

Of course we interpret. We are humans, not robots. Hopefully, we discern, not just compare notes.

12. Throughout history, Christians have justified horrific actions by the Bible and its teaching.

So? They were wrong. They have also caused amazing transformation.

13. The Bible promotes hate and persecution against women, homosexuals and those who worship other gods or no god at all.

No, it actually promotes their wholeness. What’s more, the western world’s promotion of human rights is a direct expression of the Christian respect for human dignity and individual value. Democracy is basically Christianity without God, which is what makes it so attractive and dangerous.

14. According to the Bible, nearly 70% percent of the people in the world will burn in hell because they don’t believe Jesus was the son of God.

Another ironic complaint. If you don’t care about God, why would you care about being with God? Just go ahead and die. Again, I don’t think the scripture fully teaches that people burn in hell forever. They may go to ash; but all dead bodies, do.

15. The only reason I was a Christian was because I was indoctrinated into the religion as a child as a result of the culture and region of the world in which I was born.

That is too bad. A lot of people never gain faith because of that.

16. Christianity has no more rational or factual foundation than any other religion on earth that I openly reject.

These points are all just personal reactions, so it is hard to understand what is behind them. Maybe the writer has done some great thinking, but it does not appear so. Having done an awful lot of research, myself, I think religions are much more different than people have been lead to believe by postmodern, dumbed-down, pluralism promoters. The similarities are great; people come up with great stuff and long for love and life, but Jesus is a deeper foundation. Faith in Jesus is rich and very satisfying rationally, too.

17. The Christian church is disjointed and can’t even agree with one another.

That’s for sure. This is the best reason so far, that I can see, for not being a Christian. I’m often surprised that God keeps drawing people to himself by means of the church. But it happened last night after our 7pm meeting.

18. Christians are not at all ethically or morally different from non-Christians.

I think that is a good reason to become a Christian. We need to be saved. My morality does not prove Jesus, but my immorality proves my need for Him.

19. Today, powerful church leaders steal, lie and molest young children. The church repeatedly attempts to cover up these atrocities, only to reluctantly apologize as a last resort.

I think the author is mostly talking about the Roman Catholic church, which should either reform or disperse. The number one reform that needs to happen is ending the requirement that priests are celibate.

20. It is absolutely irrational to continue to believe archaic teaching with the amount of knowledge we’ve gained through science and technology. The Bible reads like a book of primitive folklore, not divinely inspired insight into our true reason for existence.

The Bible is hardly the only source of inspiration for Christians, as the Bible teaches. I agree that everything about God is not summed up in the Bible. But it seems crazy to think that knowledge is summed up in “science and technology,” which is what plenty of scientists say.

What do you think? Any faith out there? Having any stories about speaking back to the de-evangelizers?

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16 Responses to About “Losing My Religion”

  1. Rod White says:

    I cannot answer all you imply, Margaret, in this small place. But let me honor your good question with a try.

    My “light” includes sunlight; it is not a “gnostic” disembodiment that gives me freedom from being in a condition that bleeds and is hurt and dies. God’s personal involvement in violence is not a demand for more violence, or an appeasement system that somehow pleases him, it elemental to the process of transformation. When Jesus upends sin and death, he confonts the religious who think their control of the body will save them and he confronts the supra-religious who think their appreciation of the numinous saves them. Unlike both, he enters the violence with trust in resurrection. When Jesus says he is in me and I am in him, I think it starts with his bloody involvement in my broken existence, not just my freedom from it by his grace.

  2. Margaret Light says:

    Benjamin,

    Help me to understand how Jesus saved us from the ‘need’ to sacrifice animals. What is this need? Is the ‘need’ a human one (eg some need for penance based upon shame and fear) or is it a Divine need (eg some sort of need for punishment or retribution). Either way, what does this say about God? If the latter, then is a God whose Love requires sacrificial death of any kind in order to put one in right relationship a God deserving of worship and love? If it is a human need, then why would God not choose some other way to lift that shame and end the misperception about who God is and what Love looks like?

    My problem with Christianity (at least the way it has been passed down to us. I once heard a theologian speak on the idea that if Jesus’ disciples would just’ve been a little brighter, we would’ve gotten Jesus’ message a little clearer. However, I do understand how such a traumatic event such as the torturous death of a loved one might cloud your understanding) is that its central feature is one of torture. I feel as if this has created a huge blemish on the psyche of generation upon generation of human beings, who have ‘grown up’ with a traumatic bond to both themselves and to the Divine Other. A bond that says they are unworthy of pure Love, that they are inherently bad and that the Love that is the source and all being is also somehow inherently flawed.

    Rod and Benjamin, I wonder if you can help me to understand how the “bloody, bodily connection to God through Jesus” works for you. I can tell you that Eucharist for me reminds me in deep ways that God is present within the whole of life…in the bread and the body, in the wine and the blood, in Christ and in me….and that the journey of life itself transforms a soul. It is a visceral reminder of incarnation, while at the same time a reminder that I am more than this body. “All who eat and drink will know eternal life”.

    But, for me, it is not at all about sacrifice to appease the gods.

    In the light,
    Margaret

  3. Sampaguita Calhoun says:

    Another fantastic blog. I found this to be very encouraging. Christians today are up against alot of prejudice and hard heartedness even from those closest to us and we need all the encouragement we can find so, THANK YOU! 🙂

  4. Perry Engle says:

    A very helpful – and provocative – post. These are definitely some of the questions and concerns that the church needs to be answering. I will be using this post as fodder for future discussions and teachings. Thanks for “putting it out there.”

    BTW, I haven’t yet finished your article in BIC History mag, but the part I read is very good. I’m glad you are writing on a regular basis. It definitely is being used by God, and strengthening the Kingdom.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Benjamin White says:

    “4. Bloody animal and human sacrifices are illogical demands by a divine god as payment for petty wrong doings. These actions are no different than the rituals of archaic pagan religions. Not to mention the bizarre ritual of symbolically drinking human blood and eating human flesh.”

    Judaism as described in the Hebrew Bible is very similar to its neighbors who expressed themselves in worship through animal sacrifice. The important difference is in the God who is worshiped not in the way the God is worshiped. Are we so “evolved” that such expression would be beyond us? The only reason we don’t sacrifice animals anymore is because Jesus saved us from that need. Jesus made himself the sacrifice and his followers have influenced western culture dramatically. The symbolism of connecting to Jesus in that bodily, bloody way, connects us to God in a non cerebral way that is archaic and new each time too.

  6. Art Bucher says:

    I wanna respond more to the second part of #3, cause I think he means that God is capable of stopping the world’s daily atrocities against the innocent, but does not, so therefore God is either incapable, uncompassionate, or does not exist.
    I’d respond that our God is much more capable of compassionate empathy for innocent sufferers than this person making the critique or anyone else. God’s empathy comes from his own innocent suffering torture and death on a cross. So God agrees with people who see the innocent suffering and who are pained by it because he felt it himself in his own body.
    And I’d point out 3 of God’s solutions to the problem:
    1. In the present, in many circumstances, God does not to respond with a violent stoppage of killers, but with an invitation to a forgiving relationship that will transform them, an invitation that is still open.
    2. God is establishing a kingdom that is like yeast in the dough, subversively working justice into the world’s cultures,
    3. A planned ultimate resurrection and transformation of the world, which is the ultimate healing of all wrongs. We know that resurrection is God’s solution to the innocent suffering because he himself was first resurrected.

  7. Pingback: who-centric, not what-centric « ghost ride the whip!

  8. Pingback: Letting Religion loose « ghost ride the whip!

  9. joshua grace says:

    “I began to question why the god of the Bible is more believable than all other gods worshiped on earth. With the mountain of evidence staring me in the face, my faith began to die.”

    Trading faith in God for an assessment of evidence is a definite change of world view. My faith is evidence of things unseen. Jesus is revelation, not another fact among many with me at the center living a life of endless sorting.

    ————
    It was early on, and what you said is so crucial. It’s too bad that often we are still the center of our “faith.” I’d rather work the Revelation and respond to Jesus alive.

  10. Jonny Rashid says:

    I liked reading this, Rod. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I had no idea you had this blog, Google Reader told me about it!

  11. Dev Rajhansa says:

    Refreshing…Most of what this person has to say, I could have written and firm;y felt not too long ago!!! I still struggle with some of these “points”, but I am ok with that…Thanks for posting this, Rod!!!

  12. Zack Jackson says:

    i’d love to talk to you more about your thoughts on hell and/or eternal punishment or whatever. that’s always been a stumbling block for me, and the only way i’ve found to deal with it is to just straight up ignore it. i’ll save that topic for the next rabbi time i suppose. i agree with what you said though. i’m all about losing my religion if it means finding my God.

  13. Kelly Musser says:

    To “evangelize” means to “speak the good news” and I think what your friend has been hearing is some bad news. It’s hard to resist the de-evangelizers, especially when you are trying to swallow what they’re calling “God” when you know it’s not, because all you want to do is puke up the negativity they’re proclaiming as “God” and “Love”.

    The important thing is not to think much, but to love much.

    I remember reading in the book “The Heart of Christianity” by Marcus Borg. He is a Theology professor and would have students come into his class telling him “I don’t believe in God”. Then, we would always ask, “What don’t you believe about God?” and they would tell them about some supernatural theism stuff that was filled with judgment. And he’d say “Well, I don’t believe in that God either”. This shocked them, because they never heard of another God based in love and longing for His children.

    Thanks Rod.
    Ps. Sorry for the long post.

  14. Howard Pinder says:

    “I finally moved past guilt and admitted to myself that I no longer believe in Jesus or the god of the Bible. Surprisingly it was a relief. Not because I wanted to run wild and sin freely, but because I no longer felt the weight a Christian carries. The weight of guilt, unworthiness and fear of god’s judgment.”

    In response to the above quote: A quote from David Benner – “People often believe Christian life is measuring up to expectations by avoiding sin. This lives little room for grace, little room for knowing and enjoying God or resting in his love”.

    I agree that living a life that only tries to avoid sin is probably a miserable one. We do not have to remove sin from our lives for God to love us. When we accept the grace of God’s love for us, only then is real transformation possible.

  15. Ziggy says:

    This is very helpful. I’ve definitely heard a lot of those arguments before and will probably refer to this blog as a reference. Also, I think it’d be cool to take a couple of those points and discuss them more deeply in cells or with friends…. as I read some of them, I imagine a more lengthy back-and-forth that could be fruitful.

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