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My name is Danny and I am an atheist. Three years ago I was a youth minister at a fundamentalist church. This change has been gradual, starting with the realization that youth ministry wasn't for me. I think I still believed when I left that job, but I took the opportunity to step back and come to faith again on my own terms. As time went on I found that I wasn't interested in beginning a new devotional life or getting involved in the church again.
I probably could have rode the fence indefinitely, but my wife encouraged me to put some thought into this and make up my mind. I did both. After taking a hard look, I can't find any compelling reason to believe that God exists.
The arguments for God that I latched onto before were the moral argument, the cosmological argument and the perceived reliability of the New Testament accounts of Jesus and his resurrection. Here are my thoughts on those three now.
I dealt with the moral argument in my review of The Language of God. To sum it up, I think our moral sense is an evolved trait rather than evidence of a cosmic moral lawgiver.
The cosmological argument says that the universe had a beginning, so it had to be caused by something, viz God. My main problem with this is that God is then let off of the same hook the the universe is put on. Who made God? I used to answer that question by saying that God is eternal and exists outside of space and time. But now I think that saying God is the first cause doesn't really get us anywhere.
While I used to think the New Testament was historical evidence that Jesus was supernatural, I now see it for what it is, a collection of religious documents. Religious documents and historical documents have very different goals. The NT was written to convert people, not to provide an objective account of what really happened. I hope to write in more detail about this, but here's a quick example.
Compare Mark, the earliest gospel, to John, the latest gospel. Over the 30 years between them, the stories and views about Jesus changed quite a bit. In Mark, very few people in the stories think Jesus is divine. When anyone brings it up, Jesus tells them to keep it secret. In John, Jesus goes on and on about how divine he is. One or both of the gospels has to be wrong about this basic aspect of the life of Jesus. I see this fact as it relates to the tendency for people to improve stories over time and I think that they're both wrong.
So far, I haven't found atheism to be nearly as sad and hopeless as I always thought it was. I still have meaning, love, morality and purpose in my life.
Interesting thoughts. If you have any time to spend on learning more about the origins of the Bible I would encourage you to do so. It’s well documented that the Old Testament has been edited many times from the original manuscripts (generally 4 are identified, Jehovist, the Elohist, the Deuteronomists, and the Priestly writers).
In some cases you can even identify contributions by each. It’s interesting to note that often the most spectacular things in the bible were added after the original writings (generally the spectacular things were added by the priestly writers). Such as the parting of the red sea described as walls of water created when Moses ordered the sea to part. If you take out what the priestly writers added it sounds a lot more like a dry spell or tidal factors causing the creation of a land bridge.
That’s to say nothing of the New Testament.
Courageous post, Danny. I know it was probably difficult to write. As one who still believes, I’m sorry to hear faith no longer seems reasonable to you, but I don’t think anyone would claim false claims of faith are better (even if they are certainly easier) than honesty.
Thanks for posting this - I really appreciate your vulnerability in doing so. You know that I disagree with you, but I also hope that you know that I support you too!
I also appreciate your honesty. There’s no point in having passionless spiritual beliefs!
My question would be “Do you WANT to believe in God?” Why or why not?
I noticed that you specifically mentioned that you were in a fundamentalist church - how did this affect your decision (if I can tactlessly dig into your life)?
With the origins of the universe thing, I think you have to break it down a little smaller than you have.
Let’s start by admitting that the universes origins are scientifically unexplainable because they demand the existence of something eternal (e.g. a “cloud” of matter)… and anything eternal is outside the bounds of scientific definition - ergo, you’ve crossed the line into the supernatural. I’m not even talking about the specifics of Christianity and God - just the existence of the supernatural and something eternal. Scientifically and intellectually, I believe that the burden lies upon atheism and science to disprove the existence of the supernatural…
I’m also curious as to how Christians you personally know have responded to your belief shift.
‘Hope we stay in touch.
[quote]I believe that the burden lies upon atheism and science to disprove the existence of the supernatural…[/quote]
And that means God exists because ….?
This is why I have always been opposed to youth ministry.
Danny I stopped by to read what is going on in your life, and perhaps my absents should keep me silent, but alas it won’t. When I read this post my heart sank–I hope that doesn’t sound condescending because I truly do not mean it that way. I am sure this was a hard thing to write and respect your courage in doing so. I too have wrestled with similar questions, and I would like to know more about how/why you came to your conclusions.
Danny, after growing up in a household of people who didn’t live for Christ I am thankful to have a personal relationship with him. Organized religion and alot of “good Christians” have hurt me badly over the years and continue to do so. I am sure that I have hurt people and didn’t know it and am sad about this. You have always been one of my favorite child of my friends. It does get exhausting because we are a bunch of self centered people who don’t put Christ first. I hope as an older Christian that we have not hurt you in any way to make you not believe. We are capable of doing so! We still love you and you are the one who has to decide what you believe in. I am interested in knowing how you feel about where you go when you die. I’ve never heard an atheist’s point of view of what they do believe in. This is my first comment on a blog. You know me. I am not a technology queen. Sincerely, Jeanie Stephens.
First, i am sorry to hear of your “losing of religion,” and pray that you come back to the faith.
While I realize I am not responding in great detail (and this is 3 years after its publication), I feel I must do so anyway:
1. How could our sense of morality have possibly “evolved” over time unless there was some original standard for humans to look to or to know within themselves (which God has put in us as we are made in the Imago Dei)? I skimmed your “Language of God” article, and saw “irreducible complexity,” which seems somewhat relevant - though it is not a physical body part, how could morality (something) come from nothing if not from a supernatural intelligent designer? (Any issues we DO have either in the system of life/nature or within humanity comes from our sinful - fallen - nature).
2. “But now I think that saying God is the first cause doesn’t really get us anywhere.” This does not provide any true evidence against God; it merely shows that you no longer believe in God as the triune, infinite and personal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent creator.
3. Historical and religious documents DO NOT (necessarily (:..) HAVE DIFFERENT PURPOSES! Most of the Bible (a RELIGIOUS document) is historical narrative, and in the beginning of Luke, it is stated by Luke that he did all of the investigating that he could to find out as much truth as he could concerning the God-man, Jesus Christ - which shows that he WAS trying to write what became a part of the Gospels with as much investigative truth as possible (while also writing it to show others spiritual truth).
I hope you take these things into consideration, and i pray that I have dealt with these issues with kindness and respect.
Again, i pray that you come to know Christ as your Lord and savior again, for your intellect is great.
PS: Also, allow me to refer to Pascal’s Wager, which says that even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose.
While I do not mean for anybody to convert to just any religion (nor did Pascal), this, at the VERY least, is a bare-minimum reason to believe in God.