The overwhelming evidence against God led me to become an atheist on January 11.
My quest for the historical Jesus led to a more comprehensive intellectual investigation of the empirical and philosophical arguments for and against God and the Bible. I consumed books, articles, lectures, and debates.
The more I looked at the Bible, the more flawed it seemed. And much of it was nonsense, including a man who lived in the belly of a whale, a prophet who pointlessly cursed a fig tree, and a man who squeezed every species on the planet into a big boat. Supposedly, 500,000 Israelites died in a single battle, more than those who died in any single battle of WWII or in the entire U.S. Civil War.
Worse, the Bible revealed an ugly, evil God not worthy of worship even if he did exist. This God overturned free will, caused disaster, lied to his people and instructed them to lie, dismembered 42 children for calling Elisha bald, and murdered or ordered the murder of millions of innocent people (in the conquest of Canaan, the death of Egyptian firstborns, the Amalakite genocide, the 50,000 Beshemish people killed for looking into the ark of the covenant, and the great flood).
And of course the empirical evidence in the world points to a naturalistic worldview. If God loves and heals, why has he never regenerated an amputee’s limb? And why would God create squids with useless complex eyes underneath their working simple eyes, mole rats with useless eyes buried under a layer of skin, or humans with an appendix? These structures agree with evolution, not with an intelligent designer. And why is there no evidence of a worldwide flood?
Finally, I listened to several hours of an atheist radio show featuring two experienced, expert atheists who destroyed theist arguments persuasively and took calls from ignorant, angry believers. Atheist arguments were obvious and straightforward. Christian arguments were convoluted, backward, irrational, and always devolved into “you just have to have faith” when pressed. That was enough. I was convinced God could not exist.
It broke my heart. I was coming from a lifetime high of falling in love with the Jesus I thought I knew. My first day as an atheist was miserable. The next day, I wrote to the atheist radio show host:
I do not think I am strong enough to be an atheist. Or brave enough. I have a broken leg, and my life is much better with a crutch. I think I’m going to choose to hang on to my belief in a personal divine (though certainly not one asserted by any religion I’ve ever heard of) through my own anecdotal evidence of its existence. I’m going to seek genuine experience with God, to commune with God, and to reinforce my faith. I am going to avoid solid atheist arguments, because they are too compelling… I do not WANT to live in [an] empty, cold, ultimately purposeless universe in which I am worthless and inherently alone.
But I can’t come to know the truth and then ignore it. Two days later I told my dad and broke his heart.
I wanted desperately to recover the faith that had brought me so much joy and purpose. I asked close friends for help. I spent time with Christian apologist materials, which encouraged me that there might, after all, be a God. As it turned out, there are many problems inherant to atheism (the existence of morality, good, free will, and beauty), phenomena science cannot explain (consciousness, certain instances of irreducible complexity, much macro-evolution, finite history, miracles), and good counter-arguments to many of the atheist arguments that had destroyed my faith. But ultimately, the way of Jesus was the most beautiful thing I could think of, and worth living.
I have recovered my faith in a personal God expressed in Jesus, albeit with no other commitments yet (to the church, to theology, to religion, to doctrine, or to the Bible).
I went looking for a fresh faith and God took me further than I wanted. Now I have a completely new faith, with few doctrines or traditions or religious hangups. I’m now free to seek God’s truth without intereferance from “2000 years of theological engineering and religious propaganda”.
But now I’m walking towards God with a limp. I’m scared about my gullibility and God’s mystery. I have questions he won’t answer. I want him to show himself unequivocally, but he hasn’t. I’m more motivated than ever to pray regularly and commune with his Spirit, because now I know I can’t do it in my own strength. I can be led astray. I’m not smart enough to figure it out. I am more dependent on God than ever.
I’ve been humbled. I was “doing discipleship” in my own strength, because I thought I was smart enough and disciplined enough. I would depend on God in my incompetancies, but not in my competancies. In this way, strengths were actually weaknesses. And, having surrendered my prideful and independent ways to him, I can see how my weakness is God’s strength.
I’ve repented. I was deceived because I did not let the Spirit lead me into truth. Now I ask for God’s guidance in all quests for knowledge and wisdom.
I feel like I’ve been born again, again.
Exit Music (for a short story) [link fixed]
words and music by Luke Muehlhauser
recorded on a $10 Skype headset, edited with freeware – how’s that for lo-fi?