An Insurance Policy against Doubt

The Bible and the Qur’an are similar books, I’ve been clear on that before. One of the many similarities is a certain tendency to provide an insurance policy against the likelihood or fruition of doubt.

They both do so in the same ways; by ostracizing those unsure of their claims, demonizing them as deceivers, and apostatizing them in order prevent their dissent from spreading. Doubters and the questions that plague them, according to these holy texts, are like a cancer that will spread unless you cut it out and kill it.

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Facing the Reality of Death

Death, for believers from many different faiths, is a new beginning. Death is the  point in which your deeds and dedication to your god begin to be rewarded and for many it is something to look forward to.  I overhear Christians talking about the joys of heaven fairly frequently, at funerals I hear pastors talk about how much better off the deceased are than those of us left here grieving.

Losing faith comes with many difficult trials for most.  Facing the reality of death is one of those trials, coming to grips with the knowledge that what you once looked forward to may be the absolute end of your existence entirely. Recognizing this can be painful and scary not only when we consider our own lifespan but also of those we love.

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(Another) Former Atheist Embraces Faith

The world of Christian news has been buzzing lately with news that Rich Suplita, Professor of Psychology for University of Georgia and former sponsor for the campus’ atheist club UGAtheists, has renounced atheism and embraced the Christian faith.

Suplita isn’t the first atheist turned Christian to be used as fodder by the evangelical camp; Anthony Flew, Lee Strobel, and others are all well known as “former atheists” that saw the “light” – nor will he be the last. These types of conversions excite the evangelical community around me, they think that seeing a man like me return to faith for whatever reason will eventually break whatever barrier they believe prevents me from being a believer. I pay attention to why people believe though, and Rich’s stated reasons fall short of reasonable.

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Science: Humbling the Faithful

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Science is hard.

 

Science is really, really hard.  I know this because I’ve been spending a lot of my time in recent years trying to get a grasp on various areas of scientific inquiry. From astronomy to physics, evolution to chemistry my studies have taught me one thing above all others;  what humans know is infinitely minute, what I know is 1/10th of .0001% of that (I’m likely being far too generous).

Science has a way of humbling us. I think we have a lot to be proud of, especially considering the length of time that modern science has had to get to where it is after surviving the Dark Ages, but I feel a certain sense of awe and wonderment when I consider all of the things we don’t know – I feel insignificant and tiny when I look at the Hubble Deep Field or when I consider the vastness of the human genome.

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Truth over Comfort

If you had to choose between truth and comfort which would you choose?

My last post talked about the very clear deception that occurs in Charismatic Christian churches, it was the truth but when I began recognizing this truth it was anything but comfortable.

Comfort, in my own words, is when your understanding of the world is something you are OK with. It’s when your way of seeing the world doesn’t have to be changed by anything because it doesn’t conflict with the way you want the world to be. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that a life of faith doesn’t have it’s challenges – what with denying your carnal desires and working to please the man in the sky all of your life – it’s tough for many that care enough to pursue it fully – but the idea of an afterlife of niceties kind of outweighs those cons.

I’ve always valued Truth…so much that I’ve often capitalized it as if the word Truth were just as good as the word God (actually, it’s better), the way I determine what is true has changed dramatically though; as I used to believe that if the Bible said it that it must be Truth. I didn’t even have to question that conclusion, my faith allowed for that to be so…it was comfortable to me and I had no reason to question it.

I remember when I first started feeling my doubts, it was very uncomfortable – kinda like sleeping on a bed of nails uncomfortable, it won’t kill you but it’s not a Serta™. It was at that point that I had to make a decision:  I could hush my doubts and try to forget that they had ever began…I could be comfortable where I was before or I could embrace the standard of evidence that I had been fully aware existed but ignored most of my life – I could pursue Truth despite comfort.  I didn’t know where it would lead me, I never expected to become an atheist but without fully knowing what the consequences would be – I told myself that it was Truth that I wanted, even if it hurt.

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The New Charismatics: Debunking Experiences with God

People "Slain in the Spirit" at a Pentecostal church service

People “Slain in the Spirit” at a Pentecostal church service

There seems to be a modern resurgence of the Christian charismatic movement that is focused largely on evangelizing young people, hyper-emotional worship services, and “experiences” with the “Holy Spirit”. The kids these new ministries are reaching out for are largely between the ages of 10 and 18 and tend to take on a very “Jesus Camp” like atmosphere.  Some of the trends I’ve seen in these groups I find rather disturbing because of my own past experience with similar groups.

When I was little (between 6 and 10 if my memory serves correctly),  I attended a Charismatic Pentecostal church – of the  Church of God denomination. There was always the typical fire-breathing and fear mongering but with that was coupled this amazing experience….what I was told to believe was the result of God’s “Holy Spirit”, the third person of the Hypostatic Union – or Trinity that identifies the currently “orthodox” Christian deity.  The experience was amazing, for lack of a better word. I remember this feeling of euphoria as I begged God to bless me with his physical presence – a heat would overwhelm my body,  I shook uncontrollably, cried tears of joy, and sometimes when the pastor or evangelist would pray with me directly lost the ability to stay on my two feet – a phenomena called being “Slain in the Spirit“.  These experiences were magnified when I would attend a yearly summer camp – it was like a week long charismatic church service – kinda like the one in this video except with mostly kids under the age of 12 and in a dark room with a full light show like at a rock concert:

 

*Watch this whole video, an excerpt from Jesus camp – it’s something important for people to see.

These experiences, for many many years, solidified my belief in god – they were physical evidences of spiritual truths that my god had gifted me with the ability to experience.  I still remember them strongly and I still feel that immense “heart tug” when I hear the sort of worship music that was present during those times…if ever an atmosphere was ripe for manipulation of young minds it was this one and I was it’s victim.

Today I’m not really writing to tell my story – I’m writing to try to explain the dangers of experiences like these pose to young people and how some of these youth will ultimately be let down by these experiences and why they, as great as they may seem, are the result of psychosomatic responses to emotional over-stimulation.

 

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Facing Doubt with Integrity and Honesty

There are a few Christian ministries popping up here and there that are dedicating themselves to ministering to doubters, one such ministry is called Credo House which has recently hosted a few podcast programs and blogs dedicated solely to being a haven for Christian doubters looking to restore their faith.   I contacted one of the ministers involved with this organization in order to offer to be a guest one of the pod-casts to give my testimony of leaving the faith.  He wasn’t interested.  I was surprised by the response because I thought this was an attempt at an honest examination of doubt and faith with the goal of giving people  hope that, regardless of where you end up as a result of your doubts, the depression, fears, and suicidal thoughts that often accompany these events can eventually get better.

Before I really became entrenched in facing and realizing my doubts about the Christian faith I had certainly dealt with doubts before. Small things like the Trinity, Biblical lack of clarity on some subjects, post or pretrib eschatology had made me question myself and the Bible in small ways but never in ways so ground-shaking as I eventually began to deal with.  I recognize that many of my Christian friends  deal with those same small issues and because of my own personal hindsight I recognize one of the main problems with the way believers of any faith deal with those doubts.

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It Gets Better: A Letter to Doubters

I remember thinking – knowing really, during that indescribably difficult and painful time of my life when all of my doubts were finally being dealt with, that this darkness and self-hatred was  something I was destined to endure until I died. I remember this feeling, hopelessness, being all that I could feel for some time.

I was losing my faith. I was losing the core of who I thought I was. I’ve tried to describe this pain before but my words can’t do it justice. This was an involuntary reversal of that which I once KNEW; that my god existed, loved me, and had plans for my life. To know something and then to no longer know that something, especially something so vital to my own existence can be absolutely devastating.  It was for me.

For over two years I wanted to end my life every day. It seemed like the only way.

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