A post over at Neil Carter’s Godless in Dixie inspired this entry. In a post Matt Oxley explains the 5 steps to passing from faith to loss of faith. In my faith crisis I went through all 5 steps. I have no idea why I am not an atheist today. I’ve reflected on that long and hard. But as a Christian I deeply empathize with what is written. My faith crisis was exceptionally dark, and this post at Godless in Dixie moved me in an emotional way. My comments in the post are my reaction to what is written. There will be some difficult language in this post.
“Insanity is everyone expecting you not to fall apart when you find out everything you believed in was a lie.”
“These are the times that try men’s souls”
“I form the light and create darkness,I bring prosperity and create disaster;I, the Lord, do all these things“
Isaiah 45:7 NIV
A few things before I get into this post today. First is that I updated the resources page up top. I journaled about my faith crisis in detail and posed the question…what would do you if a loved one you knew was going through a crisis of faith? I tried to write about a faith crisis from that perspective. I hope for those of you who have loved ones in a faith crisis it can help you understand a bit more. Again its not an end all be all…I think each faith crisis or a person who loses faith does so for differing reasons. Second I also posted a couple of new blog links up above. I posted Michael Newnham’s Phoenix Preacher. The Phoenix Preacher’s has done some great analysis of the Moses Model and the issues in the Calvary Chapel network. The other blog I linked to is an atheist one called Godless in Dixie. It is a blog authored by Neil Carter a former Southern Baptist, who is also a teacher in Mississippi. He is an atheist and he writes about atheism, doubt and of his de-conversion experience. I’ve followed it from time to time in the past and I enjoy it. After reading a post there the other day I decided to link Godless in Dixie to this blog. Today’s post is going to be my 89th entry and when I get to 100 I am going to have a state of the state about this blog and where its going. You will hear my vision and goals, plus I am open to your thoughts as well as I want this to be a comfortable home for you. The other day someone emailed me and forgave me for spamming me a blog idea. For me its not spam, I love and care about all people regardless. It doesn’t matter if its Andrew White, HUG, Blue or anyone else who reads, posts, or who have crossed paths with my life. This leads to my next point. Last week I was able to have dinner with HUG in the Washington, D.C. area. We discussed fundamentalism, communism and history. It was a real pleasure to meet him and to place a name with a face. I am a people person. I always have been and always will be, so if you find yourself in the DC area or you live here and want to meet, I am game for that. Just shoot me a note and with that said let me get into today’s blog post.
A while back I wrote a post in which I tried to capture what a faith crisis is like, how it felt, and my experience. What was it like to pass from belief to unbelief? You can read that post here. The other day I read a post at Godless at Dixie while I was taking a break at work. It hit a nerve and I almost broke down and wept in front of my co-workers. The post was about grieving the loss of your faith and how a person goes from Christian to a former Christian. It hit a nerve and I could identify with all 5 points that I went through. This happened against an ongoing discussion I am having about a lot of things with an atheist behind the scenes. A couple of weeks back he told me his story and there was a paragraph that jumped out at me. I liked the articulate way he described the loss of faith as how a tide goes out from the beach. I asked for permission to use it and he graciously said it is fine. So with that today we are going to discuss a loss of Christian faith. Let me open up with his description of what it was like to lose faith…
I kept praying, a lot, even though I was increasingly doubtful that anyone was listening. At that point I didn’t pray for specific things anymore except perseverance in the faith. I prayed and meditated a lot on Mark 9:24, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” This didn’t work. My main image for the second year was the poem “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold. The Sea of Faith, once at high tide, recedes irresistibly with “a melancholy, long, withdrawing roar.” You can’t really stand on the beach and will the tide not to go out, this is faintly comical. The progressive withdrawal of faith I experienced as involuntary and very much unwanted; it was a terrifying disaster because it was the removal of the thing I had built my life around since I was 19. It was the most upsetting and most painful experience of my life. The last stage of my prayer life centered on Isaiah 42:3, “A bruised reed he will not break; a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.” That was a big one for me towards the end, I cried a lot over that one.
There are a lot of evangelical misperceptions about losing faith. Those of us that have gone through the experience are in a club. Its a club many of us do not want to be involved. My loss of faith for years happened against my will. Trust me….a faith crisis was the very last thing I wanted in my life. I’ve told someone in an email recently that I would prefer to have another close call in the emergency room with my life like I did in 2012 than experience another faith crisis. A faith crisis is traumatic. Keep in mind that as I was slowly exiting it I endured a false accusation that threatened my name, reputation, and ability to earn income. It came from a Care Group Leader at Redeemer Arlington and 2005 graduate of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As I will say in the end of this post I don’t know why I am a Christian today. My approach is very different today and I feel a bond with people who have undergone a faith crisis, or those who left the faith. But even today I am at times perplexed as to why I am not an atheist. Its with that said I would like to journal about my loss of faith from 2009 until 2013. What I am going to do is layer the post at Godless in Dixie against this blog post. I am going to write in red in between sections to explain my experience of losing faith. This post at Godless in Dixie was originally written by Matt Oxley. It ran in November 2014. So pull up a chair, make some popcorn, order a pizza and get comfortable. This one is going to be a long post.
The Death of Faith
We usually speak of grief after the death of a loved one but for many in the ex-Christian and ex-believer communities the loss of their faith is very similar to the death of a loved one. How death-like this process will be depends on how sincere and life-consuming your faith has been. But even the nominal believer will experience some of the symptoms of loss when recognizing that he or she no longer holds the same beliefs that once rang true. In other words, the devotion you have to your god or faith will be directly proportional to the pain you will feel as that faith dies.
This faith death is often spurred by a series of realizations, often the embracing of doubts that have long been quieted by the desire to leave well enough alone. Whether it be a recognition that your particular holy book doesn’t meet the criteria for evidence and truth that you once thought it did, or the epiphany that your own cognitive biases have held you in a belief system that new information simply can no longer reconcile. Whatever the reason and however abruptly or agonizingly long this death takes to occur, the end result will seem very confusing and difficult to explain. Most people say that they feel alone in the world and, despite a sense of data overload that accompanies all the new information coming to you about the faith you no longer hold, a sense of quietness that seems unlike any other that you may have experienced before.
When I was in my faith crisis I honestly felt like I was dying or in the process of experiencing death. There is no other way to describe it as it happened against my will. This was the last thing I wanted, especially as my life was built on my faith in God. Absolutely everything from my friends even a job were built upon my faith. It was the most painful thing I went through in my life. It shook me to the bone and rattled everything that I believed. My life was turned inside out, now I was the outsider. This wasn’t supposed to happen, after all this happens to those who are not serious about their faith. Those that leave the Christian faith are lazy, want to sin, and are looking for an excuse to leave their faith. This faith crisis happened against my will. I didn’t want this to happen at all. It was not just traumatic for me but for those around me as it shook them up aswell. James explained to me how he never saw a person leave the faith and it deeply unsettled him. In the first part of the article Matt Oxley writes “the devotion you have to your god or faith will be directly proportional to the pain you will feel as that faith dies.” The reason why this was so painful for me is that so much of my life was built on my faith. It was the foundation of my life. It defined me, and it felt like I lost absolutely everything. When I walked through my faith crisis I felt alone, so alone and anxious. No one could understand how this felt as in some cases I was filled with rage while with others it was like I was the walking plague…avoid Eagle at all costs. Processing through a faith crisis was exceptionally painful. There are no words I can write here that will communicate what it felt like, how difficult it was to walk through the experience. There were times I sobbed in bed as I traveled through it. The other thing that was exceptionally hard is that no one understood what I was going through. The usual evangelical mantra of pray harder, read your Bible didn’t work, actually it intensified and made the problems worse.
Stage 1: Isolation and Denial
The most common reaction to recognizing that you’ve now rejected the core tenets of your religious identity is to deny that you’ve done so. When I first realized that I had done so it took me two full years to stop my denial of the fact that; in truth, I was no longer a believer. Many people retreat further into their faith, they may double up on church services and find themselves praying more frequently and with more fervency. Eventually though, they find themselves confronting the uncomfortable truth that they simply cannot believe what they once did.
Soon after this retreat into denial occurs and is phased out the newly minted doubter finds isolation to be the only solace from reminders of recent events. It is also a security from being found out. Many find themselves making excuses to avoid being around family and church or other religious communities, largely because the wound is still very raw and because the environment of religiosity simply doesn’t feel genuine any longer. This isolation stage for me was accompanied by a great deal of internalized dialogue about the present situation as I tried to understand what had occurred and what the end result might be.
There is nothing abnormal about these processes, expect them and embrace them in the healthiest way that you can. Try to find solace in the silence of your isolation, as it will prepare you to better handle that which comes next.
I had a hard time realizing that my faith was shifting. This was unpronounced, subtle and crept on me. All that I did no longer worked. All that I believed slowly was made worthless. I had challenges and life situations that so confronted me that I was puzzled how to respond. How did this happen I wondered? I wasn’t into prosperity theology, read my Bible, did the church scene and even did a mission trip through McLean Bible? How and why am I experiencing this process? I actually went to two services like Matt Oxley described at McLean Bible and National Community Church, but in the course of time the doubts in me kept building and I couldn’t reconcile the problem of evil with a God described as good and loving. There were too many things happening in the world that challenged that point of view. It baffled me and turned things on its head. I often found excuses to avoid people especially evangelicals as I hit my personal tipping point. I lost 95% of the contacts in my life which made this faith crisis exceptionally painful because the church was my life, and I was defined through the church. I remember when my thinking was shifting and sitting in Bible studies asking questions and people staring back at me like I was confused or lost. I remember the intellectual questions I had which grew to a level I never thought possible. Again I never imagined I would be broken over the problem of evil. That wasn’t supposed to be the case. I looked at evangelicalism as being phony, a façade and there were times I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of church. In the course of time I stopped going. It felt like a relief but it also puzzled me deeply. Why did I feel more comfortable outside the church then within? Many people didn’t understand what I was going through and it hurt deeply. I can’t put into words all the times I cried and wept in the privacy of my condo. I also needed love but what I discovered is how conditional love can be in much of evangelical Christianity.
Today I wondered…what if I was married? What if I had a family and I went through this faith crisis? What if my parents were hardcore evangelicals? What would they do? What if I was working in ministry? What if I was a pastor who experienced this faith crisis? I mean can you imagine how this could destabilize a person’s life? How can you teach or preach if you lose your faith? Can you imagine being married and breaking the news to your spouse that you no longer believe in God? In some ways a faith crisis can destroy a person. So as I reflect on it I think to myself…how fortunate I was that I wasn’t in any of those positions.
Stage 2: Anger
“I’ve been lied to my whole life!”
“Everything I’ve ever believed is untrue!”
“The people I trusted deceived me when I was young and vulnerable!”
The first two things said here “I’ve been lied to my whole life” and “Everything I’ve ever believed is untrue” I believed in my faith crisis. I thought of both of those claims privately to myself. There were many more. Other things I said to myself are the following:
- “It’s a fraud!”
- “How much of my life was wasted in religion? Look at me! I based career decisions, moving, and life all on this now what am I supposed to do?”
- “Why are Christians giving me the easy answers? Can’t they engage deeper than where they are at?”
There are certainly a lot of similar exclamations that can come from the doubter as an examination of the events that brought this person into faith transpires. Most people, myself included, inherit their faith from their parents, and most people accept that faith before they are able to drive.
My faith I created myself but it was largely immune from a lot of pain and suffering. Actually much of the pain and suffering happened 4 years before my faith crisis starting with my Mother’s pancreatic cancer. I thought I had a solid faith as I had done all that I was taught in Cru, my church and in scripture readings I had done. I thought I was established in that regard.
Religious institutions know, and have turned into a science of sorts, that young minds are the easiest to convince that something extraordinary is true. Consider the tales of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy: Much like the young mind may not be able to discern the tongue-in-cheek fun of these two childhood tales, your local church is spending a great deal of effort and expense on ensuring that young children are exposed to religious notions before they are able to critically examine them. Once embedded as essentially true and unquestionable, even the wayward adult fallen on hard times and in need of a leg up will look to the one place where he believes all truth comes from: the religion ingrained at youth.
For me the anger that arises during this grieving period focused on the fact that people, as children, were sold a truth that later turned out to be untrue. During my own deconversion I was enraged at the adults in my life who had mislead me, Furthermore, I was enraged at any person I witnessed performing the same misdeed upon any other person, young or old. I felt the need to crush this idea, this god, and this church with whatever venom I could produce because the pain of having something so incredibly important to me ripped away was more painful than I could imagine, and I couldn’t abide allowing others to endure the same.
My anger was deep and prolonged for a multiple number of reasons. I believed Christianity is a cancer. I used to think so highly of John Piper I risked so much and was deeply influenced by “Don’t Waste Your Life“. Now I realized that I had wasted my life and made completely foolish decisions that backfired. I couldn’t choose another career. I couldn’t undo some decisions I made. I had to live with the ramifications of the decisions I made. Like I said I looked at Christianity as a cancer. It must be snuffed out, halted, confronted and clashed. After all it was during this time that I discovered atheist material. I went from William Lobdell to Christopher Hitchens. I actually listened to a lot of Hitch’s stuff after he died. What inspired me as well is this quote from Hitch’s “Letters to a Young Contrarian” “Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.” This is a part of the reason why I clashed so much. Its part of the reason why I clashed with James Crestwood or Andrew White from Redeemer Arlington. Its part of the reason why I clashed with others. It was a natural response especially after being burned out and crushed by my doubts. Anger was righteous and it felt good as well. The lid came off and I was especially angry when I did all that I was supposed to do and people like Andrew White said, “Eagle maybe you were never a true follower of the Lord to begin with.” But my anger took root in forms I never thought possible. I trashed Christian books, I destroyed tons of sermon tapes and I even looked into burning all my John Piper stuff. The other thing I did, well today I wonder what the neighbors may have thought. It was a 11:00 at night or the late evening and I wanted to blasphemy the Holy Spirit and in the process God. So at the top of my lungs this 36 year old male screamed “Fuck you God!” and swore every profanity that I could think of at the top of my lungs. I wanted to be done with everything. I wanted to move on from this stage.
Anger is often a justified emotion. What drives your anger may be something totally different than what I’ve discussed here, but it is well within your rights to feel and to experience it. It is very important that you know that. You may feel the need to lash out, to say mean things, and crusade against your former faith. On the one hand, you’ve earned this angst and it’s OK to take as long as you need to work through it.
I lashed out deeply in pain and confusion. I was in so much pain…again words cannot describe the pain I had. I was on a mission against Christianity..it was evil and it needed to be destroyed! It posed more harm than good and it was the root of many problems in the world. I was dealing with that, and in addition I had to contend with how my family was hurt; for example my mother confronted me on the John Piper pamphlet I gave her because I drank the f#cking Kool-Aid!! What was I supposed to do? How did know I was going to cause my mother deep pain? To do that when my mother shouldn’t have survived pancreatic cancer is in itself unbelievable. But during this time I was on a mission as Christianity is a cancer, it caused needless harm. Against this Andrew White invited me to Sovereign Grace, and I reacted harshly when I read that Sovereign Grace was allegedly covering up child sex abuse. Being invited to Redeemer Arlington when it was attached to SGM helped me justify atheism. I mean consider…I ranted and raved about the harm Christianity did and here was this denomination that I was being invited to that was allegedly covering up child sex abuse. It fed my faith crisis and was like pouring gasoline on a fire. And the more Andrew defended it and called it healthy, the more I stepped up the criticism. Why was a graduate of the Air Force Academy defending a denomination that was covering up alleged criminal activity and child sex abuse? I couldn’t believe this was happening. So in the spirit of Christopher Hitchens I clashed deeply. But every single thing that is described in this sentence I actually did, and that sentence is “You may feel the need to lash out, to say mean things, and crusade against your former faith. On the one hand, you’ve earned this angst and it’s OK to take as long as you need to work through it.” I was like this for nearly 5 years, from 34 to 39.
Some things to keep in mind though:
Chances are good that every person who ever deceived you was first deceived by someone else in much the same way. This may not excuse the events of the past, but it’s a good place to begin on the road to forgiveness.
Generally speaking, those who evangelize do so with the best of intentions. I remember doing so fully believing what I was preaching would help bring someone into the faith and into the love of God that I experienced. It would prevent them from spending an eternity in hell. These intentions were sorely misguided and I regret every second of it, but I did it because I cared for people and because I thought that the threat of eternity was very real. I’m still angry at the person I was sometimes, but I’m also compassionate toward my younger self because someone first deceived me. That line of deception has been perpetuated for generations; it didn’t begin with me.
Anger, though a sometimes helpful emotion, can drain you and cause further alienation. No matter how justified your anger may be it isn’t healthy to remain in that state forever. I gave my anger a very long time to rule and it truly drained my relationships and personal mental health to the bone. I believe that, even though anger is well within your rights, it is far from within your best interests to let that remain the prominent feature of your life. I recommend that you try to experience it quickly and move on from it quickly if at all possible.
After I write this I am going to go cry because the reality of the situation is that I never wanted this to happen. If I could go back and change things I never would have said what I said to Andrew. I never had this kind of fracture before or betrayal. However, my gut is telling me that another reason why Andrew ended the relationship even though I don’t think he will admit it is that he couldn’t deal with the questions I asked. Deep down he had deep insecurities. His world was too neat and orderly and he feared a wrench. On the flip side I am all the more amazed that the relationships with James Crestwood and Scott Van Swernigan survived and preserved. When your life falls apart you know who your friends are, and today I know firmly who loves me. Its like a person who goes through a divorce or does something scandalous and makes a mistake…you will know who your friends are in those times.
Stage 3: Bargaining
In the traditional model of the stages of grief this is the third stage, but I’ve found that bargaining is often the second stage when it comes to faith, and it can surface multiple times throughout the process.
I noticed this during my process as well. I wonder if this is why I told Andrew White I would let him baptize me? Today I think that was bargaining…if I only did the right thing the problem would be solved. Like a fairy with a magic wand say the right words and the problem is solved. I bargained so many times thinking if I just did this the problem of doubt and my faith crisis would go away.
Bargaining occurs when you find yourself wishing the internal chaos and turmoil produced by your doubt would be quieted. You try to strike a deal with your former god, in whom you don’t even really believe, to return you to his good graces. Fear of punishment drives this bargaining process, along with the loneliness accompanying these dramatic changes in belief as you simply wish to “return to normal.”
I was so lonely during this time. Lonely in so many ways…I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be understood. I wanted people to empathize. I wanted people to care and reach out to me in ways that could have helped. I wanted to control these doubts and early on I tried. After all before the bottom fell out there were a couple of months where I had a taste of what was to come for the next 5 years. I didn’t want any of this to happen at all. I wanted to return to normal. In addition I also envied others and was angry as to why didn’t they deal with doubt? Why didn’t Andrew White or Scott Van Swernegan deal with the problem of evil? Why must I? I didn’t want to deal with it. So I tried to bargain with my doubts.
Occasionally bargaining will “work” in the short term so that your doubts will be quieted, or at least the volume will be turned down for a time. Doubt can be stubborn, though, and it will linger in the back of your mind, itching from the moment it first enters until you decide to fully embrace it. Though you may offer your god your whole life, bargaining will only bring temporary solace. You might as well prepare for it to be an impotent cure
Yes I quieted my doubts for a couple of months then all hell broke loose and the bottom fell out from the tub. Doubt can indeed be stubborn as the problems don’t go away. You can’t hide doubt. You can’t will it away. You can’t bury it. You can’t walk along acting like all is well and put on a façade. The doubt comes roaring back. Doubt is difficult and the evangelical Christian church doesn’t know what to do with a doubter. That is what I learned. Today I embrace doubt as a part of my faith and live in between the tension. For example I know there is no answer to the problem of evil and yet I have made my peace with knowing there is not an answer.
Stage 4: Depression
I think it goes without saying that you may experience depression in one form or another. It’s an almost unavoidable practical implication to the loss of your god and your faith. Characterized by a sense of sadness and deep regret, you may find yourself upset that you’ve fallen into this seemingly empty place, uncertain about how you could ever move forward. Depression leaves us with a lackadaisical attitude toward life, removes joy, and makes friendship and companionship difficult.
My faith crisis was the most difficult time in my life. Words can not convey how dark it was and how lonely it became? Honestly I had close call in the ER with sepsis and a bacterial infection in 2012. I would rather go through that again than another faith crisis. Here’s why…when I was in the ER the infection which was in my blood stream and spreading made me delusional. I didn’t realize how severe the situation was because my judgment was affected. Whereas in the faith crisis I felt it. I felt it to my bone. I remember lying in bed crying, crying, and crying in ways I never had before and it felt like something was spiritually leaving my body. The more I resisted it, the faster it went. I could not control the situation at all. From 2009 to 2013 those years were exceptionally difficult. I would like to write about it in more detail but one of the problems with mental health counseling is that there are little to no resources for those who experience a faith crisis. This is one of those things you will not understand until you have experienced one yourself. My advice to you is to brace yourself….your time is coming. I think everyone will experience a faith crisis at one point in their life.
During this point it’s important to seek companionship and friends who will accept you, love you, and support you without requiring that you conform to their religious ideologies. It’s important that you find someone to confide in who can provide words of encouragement and an empathetic ear when you need it. It’s a good idea to find a support group of other ex-believers to surround yourself with, and if you feel it necessary, a qualified secular therapist to help you work through the emotions of this critical stage.
I needed friendship and love. Love was given generously by Scott Van Swernigan and James Crestwood. Likewise love was unconditional by Danny Risch. Dee Parsons my East Coast Mom loved me deeply during these years. She took on a challenge and things worked out. I couldn’t believe how much this former Sunday school teacher at Providence Baptist engaged me. Love was felt by those key individuals and I believe today that all of these people who loved me or walked with me through the valley I traversed were there for that season. They came along side at the perfect time. As for Andrew White I wondered at times if he cared or if he was peddling Redeemer Arlington at all costs. I am going to choose to believe that he honestly cared and wasn’t taking advantage of my situation. That said if he’s going to be honest with himself I think in the course of time he will realize what he did. The guy who boasted of his faith and church the most was the one who bolted at the end. While that speaks volumes and people make mistakes he could always undo that mistake. I am willing if he is willing to work through all that pain we both did to each other.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Acceptance means recognizing the inevitability of the facts, embracing them, and embracing the life that happens after faith. And there is life after faith.
Those of us who left our faith once believed every step we took was ordered by our respective gods. We believed that he had numbered the hairs on our head. It’s quite a radical departure from what we knew to break out and start a new path, but this is our opportunity to do so. We can take this opportunity and find a purpose and seek a happy, enjoyable life surrounded by friends and family who will embrace us for who we are and where we’ve been. It just takes a little courage.
I was in this process of this stage of acceptance when I was falsely accused of a crime I didn’t commit. Today I wonder why am I not an atheist? After all I’ve read a lot of material, listened to the talks, and watched the videos. I still love Betty Bowers and get a laugh from her videos. After all who wouldn’t love “America’s Best Christian?” Here was the problem…when I was at the Reason Rally I realized that atheism is also a faith system. I realized that I traded John Piper for the likes of Richard Dawkins. Piper and Dawkins are much closer in principle and practice than either one will admit or acknowledge. I was in great tension over that fact as well. But I honestly thought I was going to be a reluctant agnostic. I honestly couldn’t see how I could be a Christian. There were too many problems and theological issues. The biggest one pertained to the problem of evil. There was no way around it, and the problem of evil was the main reason of all the doubts I had as to why I categorically and firmly rejected the Christian faith. So I was in the process of accepting the state of where things were to go when Andrew White gave birth to a false accusation. Let it be noted as well, that doesn’t justify the false accusation either. I don’t know how else to describe it. In the course of time I realized that I needed to practice forgiveness for my aching soul. And I found a different Christian faith that was rawer, not black and white, and deeper than what I had before.
Acceptance feels like the weight of the world coming off of your chest. You are finally able to breathe for the first time. That’s when you finally recognize why you endured all this pain and heartache, and why you worked so hard to allow this grief to reach its ultimate goal: It’s because you deserve to be free, and you deserve to be happy.
Finally you are ready to accept the fact that you are here, precisely where you are, and you cannot possibly be anywhere else. Finally you can begin to choose your own path and make your life your own.
If you are reading this and find yourself in the midst of a loss of faith, you might say: “Hey…I’m pretty sure that I’m experiencing all this stuff at one time!” I think that’s the case for a LOT of people. I think that’s the one major difference between grief in an actual death and grief after a loss of faith–the emotions and stages rush upon you so that you pop in and out of each stage, sometimes experiencing multiple stages at once. This is completely normal, and this is precisely how I experienced it. However it happens for you, this is fine. I’ve set forth my experiences and the experiences of those I’ve counseled over the years in very short order here, but every person’s experience is going to be different. What’s most important is that you understand this:
You will survive this and you will be happy again.
When I read this post at Godless at Dixie I almost lost it at work. This is the first time I read something that put into words what I experienced for 5 years of my life. Now here is the catch….I don’t know why I am not an atheist today. I thought I would never be in the Christian faith again. I thought I was done with God and faith. And as I write these words I am not trying to be disrespectful or insulting if you went through a faith crisis and passed out of the Christian faith. Please believe me when I say this…you will probably never find another Christian who from the depth of his heart can nod his head and identify with what was written above by Matt Oxley. When I read this at work I got up walked around and had to wipe some tears from my eyes. This hit a nerve and was the only piece I have read in years that captured or explained what I went through step by step.
Some Excellent Resources:
Ex-Christian.net – A Forum for ex-Christians
Recovering from Religion – Resources galore
Secular Therapy – Find Secular Therapists in your area
The Lasting Supper – a community organized by David Hayward for those seeking spiritual independence
Dr. Marlene Winell – Religious Trauma Syndrome resource
I was stunned to realize likewise that I found some of these links myself over the years. I lurked at Ex-Christian.net for years. Dee Parsons who writes Wartburg Watch also lurks there as well, but she doesn’t talk about it much. I also looked at Marlene Winell. In addition to that I also looked at Dr. Valerie Tarico who also became an atheist due to the problem of evil. I read in an interview she talked about being in a cancer ward at a children’s hospital and telling God she was done making excuses for him. I also looked at Seth Andrews, by the way I still listen to him from time to time on the way to church. I am probably the only evangelical Christian who will do that on the way to church. Other individuals I liked include Greta Christina, Hement Mehta who blogs as The Friendly Atheist, Dan Barker from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Center for Inquiry has a lot of secular humanist material. I also listened to a lot of Christopher Hitchens. I also liked William Lobdell the former religion writer for the Los Angeles Times. His book Losing My Religion I would like to review here one day.
So I write this post to communicate my feelings. I also write this to say that I can relate to what Matt Oxley originally wrote. Like I said I have no idea how things turned out the way they did. I honestly thought I’d live out my life the agnostic path. I think some people who leave the Christian faith may come back in time, and then I honestly think others will not. I think that until evangelical Christianity works on its intellectual deficits some people will not come back because the evangelical faith will not be able to engage them. I also think that for some what will help them resolve their faith crisis is when evangelical Christianity tackles hypocrisy and double standards. Honestly it is old that there are Christians who rant about the culture wars, gay marriage, abortion and other issues who at the same time support churches or denominations that cover up child sex abuse or are engaged in financial scandals. Plus let me also say this…for some people I think atheism can be healthier than Christianity at times. Some people get so burned out, so fried that they need a season to rest and heal. I do think atheism and agnosticism can offer that healing for people. In the course of time like I said I think some may come back, and others will not. So I try to write this post from my heart just laying it all out on the line.
I also emailed this post to Danny Risch, Scott Van Swernigan, Dee Parsons, and James Crestwood as I think this will help them better understand what they saw from 2009 to 2013. Andrew White reads this blog so he will in time read this otherwise I would email him this post. I also emailed it to Neil Carter at Godless in Dixie. So in closing let me do the following. Neil I know you complain about Christian music in the gym, restaurants, doctor’s office, etc… As I get ready to publish this post I honestly can’t of another atheist song at the top of my head at this moment. I’ve used John Lennon in the past and XTC as well. So I am just going to throw this up. Please understand I am not trying to tick you off. We ever have dinner together or if I gave you a ride in my Nissan Sentra I would never subject you to Christian music. That said I hope you like Hans Zimmer or Aaron Copeland because you would be subjected to that music! But with that I am going to close with Selah’s “You Life Me Up.”
Take care guys, as always I love you!
The Eagle is signing off….