I found on my journey out of Evangelicalism that there was a great struggle within myself. It was difficult seeing evidence, tangible and real, that what I had held for so long as a belief was simply not true. While I believed it with all my being, evidence to the contrary made it increasingly difficult to carry on believing what contradicts things that can be known as a certainty.
This evidence produced within me, at first, fear. I struggled to hold on to my beliefs because of the consequences of unbelief. Because I knew the fate that awaited me if I dared to question and not have a child like faith in the unseen. For it is written, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” And if this God is not pleased with us, what then? There is hell to pay.
It is my great pleasure, then, to aid anyone who might be having this same struggle within. I know, I’ve been there. So when I popped over to check out the ongoing debate on our friend Gary’s blog regarding the credibility of Paul’s witness and the resurrection, I was delighted to find his newest post:
Hell is an Invention of the Ancient Greeks
Gary’s comments: Sorry my fellow Christians, but the concept of Hell sure sounds as if it originated in ancient Greek legend, was adapted into and modified by Judaism, further modified and embellished by the Christian authors of the New Testament, and then used by Church officials for the last 2,000 years in “hell fire and damnation” sermons as a means of terror to control the lay Christian’s every behavior and to extract obedience and…money (indulgences).
This horrific concept of eternal torment is nothing more than superstitious, ignorant, pagan nonsense! We must stop teaching our children this ancient Greek horror story!
Hell does not exist, folks! It is a superstitious concept used to control the ignorant masses.
This brought a smile to my face. I don’t know and really don’t care if I had any part in his relinquishing the horrors of hell. I’m just so glad he did!
He has more interesting posts and it’s interesting to see his inner struggle and watch as a fellow sojourner leaves fear in the dust to embrace a freedom he had not before known.
June 4, 2014 at 9:44 am
OMGoogle — I am doing the happy dance right now. Wooohoooo!
June 4, 2014 at 9:47 am
Right there with you!
June 4, 2014 at 9:46 am
This certainly is good. Hopefully he will soon realize that gods were created or invented by our ignorant forefathers
June 4, 2014 at 9:49 am
He may never give up the resurrection or god, but the only way he can even honestly assess the evidence is without fear. After all is said and done he may retain his belief in these things, but at least he will be free of one horrific doctrine.
June 4, 2014 at 1:30 pm
People must start from somewhere at least. He has started with exorcising the demons of hell. Maybe next he will kill the angels in heaven and there will be fewer phantoms to deal with.
June 4, 2014 at 9:58 am
Letting go of the fear was definitely step one for me.
June 4, 2014 at 11:41 am
It’s just so hard to think clearly or objectively when you’re scared half to death. After the doubt crept in it was the first necessary step for me. Had I not been able to rid myself of this I might not have been able to even investigate anything else.
Hear no evil..see no evil…speak no evil.
June 4, 2014 at 10:01 am
I really have no concept at what you have all gone through. I feel for you. And for everyone else. There may be no after life but there is no fear or sin. Merely the one life we have.
June 4, 2014 at 10:33 am
It wasn’t an easy transformation, but it was one I found necessary for myself.
I’m delighted to see Gary giving up the hound of hell.
June 4, 2014 at 11:04 am
June 4, 2014 at 11:51 am
June 4, 2014 at 11:05 am
Great Post, Ruth !
The Egyptian “Book of the Dead” also alludes to a concept of Hell as it describes a Lake of Fire . http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/hell.htm
My trip to Egypt in 2008 opened my eyes more than probably anything else that “religion” has been borrowed time and time again.
The concepts of baptism , trinity, circumcision , high priest and the holy of holies , the creation story with the walking snake, a footstool of my enemies are just a few Egyptian concepts that were borrowed by other religions.
And it is likely the Egyptians borrowed them too from Sumeria and others. 🙂
June 4, 2014 at 11:33 am
Thanks, Ken. My last post on Freezing Out Hell went into some of the versions of afterlife that predate Christianity’s and how in Jewish tradition there is no hard and fast view of the afterlife because it isn’t necessarily described. It’s apparent they borrowed from other myths.
I shared that link you posted over on Gary’s blog for him to peruse if he wants to.
June 4, 2014 at 12:25 pm
For the sake of argument , let’s assume we are wrong and there is 1.) a deity 2.) an afterlife
The fact that we (non-believers) have chosen to live our lives without fear of hell and have continually searched for the truth …. wouldn’t a deity be more pleased with this than practicing a religion (drinking the koolaid) that exists through fear and ignorance ?
I think we win regardless. 🙂
June 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm
Didn’t the supposed son of a certain deity allegedly say..”Knock and it shall be opened, seek and ye shall find…”?
Poor Gary’s coming under quite the firing squad over there for posting his new beliefs. I really hope they don’t scare him into abandoning his pursuit.
June 4, 2014 at 7:00 pm
I haven’t been to Gary’s blog throughout his journey. Have dialogued with him here and at DagoodS blog and someone by the name of Caine left a comment on Bruce’s blog suggesting Gary is promoting atheism but calling him an “ass.”
If the **it is hitting the fan it’s probably only just begun.
June 4, 2014 at 7:09 pm
I agree, Zoe. I think it’s only going to get worse for him before it’s over.
It’s hard enough to raise these questions…let alone raising them under such scrutiny.
June 4, 2014 at 7:50 pm
I agree with both you and Zoe. I am glad that I was not actively involved on religious or ex-Christian forums when I was going through my deconversion. I went through it alone. I’m damn proud of Gary. He will have to learn to block out the voices, and it may be that he will have to take a break from it all while he processes it fully.
June 4, 2014 at 12:57 pm
I couldn’t agree more, Ken, unless of course, this god has zero integrity.
June 4, 2014 at 2:45 pm
Precisely, Victoria ! In which case, he never could have been trusted and everyone loses.
June 4, 2014 at 2:48 pm
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June 5, 2014 at 4:45 pm
I’ve been reading some of Gary’s posts, as well as comments.
Something occurred to me and I’m pretty sure I’ve written about it before. I remember the push-back from Christians and then I remember the silence. One of the reactions his fellow “Christians” may have is to ignore him. I remember that happening to me on a Christian forum dealing with spiritual abuse. As my journey shifted people just stopped talking to me . . . and then you are left with a feeling of being invisible. It is quite shocking to the system. I’m wondering if soon we’ll see that they (his fellow “Christians” will in fact just shake the dust off their feet.
June 5, 2014 at 7:50 pm
I’m pretty sure they will, Zoe. But he will be visible again. It may not be the case in his offline life (depending on where he lives), but he will have a fairly good support system online.
June 5, 2014 at 8:19 pm
I haven’t made many comments over there but when I have it’s been to lend him support. I was sincere when I told him over here that his faith was his and that I had no desire to rob him of it. I just wanted him to really review the facts and no one can do that when they’re scared out of their wits.
I have a feeling you’re right. His “Christian” friends are over there trying to frighten him into submission. He seems pretty adamant about his new position on hell at least and is standing his ground. That probably means that very shortly what he’ll be left with is “we’re praying for you” and then…crickets….apart from those of us who are willing to him the respect of honoring his journey. He may not end up where we are, but he won’t be where he was either.
June 8, 2014 at 11:37 pm
It’s interesting what you said about “difficult seeing evidence”. It’s been a fascination of mine in the last few years to try to understand the brain and how we think. It seems to me that one must accept that people believe things and so I want to know why people believe in certain things and how is it that people change their beliefs, change their minds and stop believing something else. I wouldn’t say I ever had strong beliefs myself into religion, but it is interesting that people like yourself can move away from some very strong beliefs as an adult. It has been my observation, and this goes for not only religion but any zealot, whether it is about conspiracy theories, climate change denier, anti-vaccine, etc., they feel their side of the argument is as true as yours. Therefore, to them it is not a belief, they feel they have actual evidence to support what they believe. I find that my disagreement is more over what they consider evidence. For instance if someone is going to say, “Well the Earth is only 6,000 years old because the bible says…” and that’s where my dissonance lies. How is the bible evidence? It is wholly unreliable as actual evidence to how the world works. It might have a few things that are true…but that doesn’t make it entirely true. So it doesn’t seem surprising to me that you would have difficulty trying to determine what good and bad evidence is, because for most of your life you’ve been told to believe in the truth of things from very poor sources of evidence, or even no evidence. Perhaps I misinterpreted your first paragraph, but that is the chord it struck with me.
I read an article that was talking about how when you are arguing with somebody about religion or politics that no matter how right you are, you will never win the argument with great arguments. Because an argument that is so correct and that causes such a feedback of illogic to the other person cannot be accepted. To accept it would shatter their psyche and they would think if I am “so wrong about this what other things am I wrong about?” The struggle you described sounds like you were feeling some of that. To make the type of intellectual move you are making has to be extremely difficult and it is extremely impressive that you are doing it. To have learn what good and bad evidence is, to accept new evidence and incorporate into your beliefs instead of rejecting it, is no easy task.
June 9, 2014 at 8:58 am
Therefore, to them it is not a belief, they feel they have actual evidence to support what they believe. I find that my disagreement is more over what they consider evidence. For instance if someone is going to say, “Well the Earth is only 6,000 years old because the bible says…” and that’s where my dissonance lies.
I’m not at all sure that you’re the one suffering from dissonance. Speaking only for myself, having once been a young-earth-creationist who believed that the flood happened, the Israelites were held in captivity and had a mass exodus from Egypt, and every other tale in the Bible was the gospel truth, what I considered evidence was anything that confirmed my bias. I accepted junk science, junk history, and junk cosmology. I never even considered other evidence. The reason for that is because I thought there was sufficient evidence for the divinity of Jesus and his resurrection (for the same reasons, I might add).
The first real crack in my belief was realizing the actual lack of evidence for things that I considered foregone conclusions. What I was led to believe was evidence in many cases was nothing more than forgeries and allusions. Apologists are quite good at twisting these things. Furthermore, in the Southern Baptist, inerrant Word of God tradition it is highly discouraged to consider any of this other evidence. It’s considered weak faith if you need anything more than the Bible to explain life.
So, really, a slow steady rain of some very pertinent questions turned into a flood of Biblical proportions, and an exodus of my own.
You also said:
I read an article that was talking about how when you are arguing with somebody about religion or politics that no matter how right you are, you will never win the argument with great arguments. Because an argument that is so correct and that causes such a feedback of illogic to the other person cannot be accepted.
I would agree with that. I’ve come to understand that ardently held beliefs of most any kind are addictions. There are components of addiction. It’s not just evidence and it’s not just emotional. What I have discovered is that even before any evidence is accepted about these things there is already a belief in place. That belief is based on a experience. When I say experience I don’t mean a supernatural thing either. I mean that one thinks that because they were cured of whatever malevolent state they believed themselves to be in, and they believe that some thing(i.e. a god, alcohol, drugs, food, exercise, etc.) caused them to be cured of it, they then become infatuated and obsessed with said thing.
Okay, I’m rambling now. I’m not sure if any of that made any sense at all.
June 9, 2014 at 9:19 am
I agree. And I guess that is what I was saying that it’s not that the Bible couldn’t be evidence it’s just that it’s not very good evidence. It should never anyone’s only source for proof about anything. Not only can we analyze the Bible itself for discrepancies, when we analyze the authors of the bible itself we see that many of the books were not written by who they were supposed to authored by, and we see of course that an assembly of men put together the bible and decided which books to keep and which books to not include in the bible. So without other sources of text that are independent and not based on the bible itself to corroborate such events it becomes very poor evidence indeed. You see the same thing with other things. Somebody arguing against gun control laws will cite an article from a website called iloveguns.com or something of similar ilk. Somebody who is 9/11 “truther” will link to some article, by one guy who says that burning jet fuel isn’t enough to melt steel. We don’t know what his credentials are but the article says he is experienced with this kind of thing. Somebody will say climate change isn’t happening, because there is one scientist who disagrees at a well known university at wrote a magazine article about it and posted a few blogs on the internet. Now it could be that any of these people are right. If there was no other evidence at all that contradicts this people we might have to seriously consider it. If there is some contradictory evidence we might say well either side could be correct we need to really investigate further. But in many of these cases there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that contradicts these people and none of that evidence carries any weight whatsoever. For me it was actually important before dismissing the bible to try and understand it, read what it says, learn about it’s history etc. I am quite certain I know more about the bible than a majority of Christians. I think that if many of them knew as much as I did they wouldn’t put any stock into it either. lol
And what you say makes complete sense, because what you are describing is the central thesis to a very interesting book you might enjoy by Michael Shermer called The Believing Brain. He makes the point excellently that our rationality is not something we use to come up with beliefs, but that we rather form beliefs first and rationalize those beliefs second. This is undeniably true. We are full of all sorts of cognitive biases and he makes a strong case for the scientific method as one of the best ways we have now for removing bias from the process. Of course any scientist can be biased too, but that’s the beauty of it all is that other scientists need to be able to repeat your work independently. Anyway, your comparison to addiction is also spot on. In the book he also talks about how beliefs forge neural pathways in the brain, and when those neural pathways are reinforced it releases dopamine in the brain so you actually do become addicted to reinforcing your beliefs and it can make you actually feel physically unwell to try and change your beliefs. This is why I believe teaching children critical thinking skills and letting them ask questions when they are young is so important.
June 9, 2014 at 9:30 am
“… you actually do become addicted to reinforcing your beliefs and it can make you actually feel physically unwell to try and change your beliefs.”
I definitely did make me feel most unwell to reconsider by beliefs. Believers would say that was the Holy Spirit. Having gone through it I know that it was psychological – and fear based.
I absolutely agree with your statement about teaching children critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, having come from the Bible Belt, that is not a skill that is highly valued. No, children are rather, shepherded like sheep; told what to think about God and discouraged from asking deep questions.