Friday, December 16, 2005

How I Lost My Faith


Several people have been asking me to explain how I came to lose my faith. I feel like I've told this story a thousand times, but I've finally decided to put it in writing. After this, anyone who wants to hear my deconversion story can piss off!

Like all really good stories, mine begins with a young man in love. Except that the object of my affection was eternal, all-powerful and (I would eventually discover) completely imaginary. In fact, I was so in love with God that I decided to major in Theology in college, with the intention of entering the ministry. However, at the beginning of my senior year, I had a crisis of faith. No, I didn't have a traumatic experience - i.e., nobody in my family died, my girlfriend didn't leave me, and I didn't find out that I had an incurable STD - that all happened later. Simply put, I spent a lot of time studying the Bible (perhaps more than I should have) and I began encountering many inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

I know you're going to want an example (they always do) and so I'm going to give you one (and only one). Jeremiah 28:9 states that if a prophet makes a prediction that does not come to pass, then that prophet is not of God. Now, it so happens that in Matthew 16:27,28 Jesus predicts that his Second Coming (in glory and power) would take place within the lifetime of some of the people in his audience. Naturally, all the folks in his audience are now dead and Jesus still hasn't returned. (There’s not even a Yahoo emoticon that captures such a let down!) In brief, since Jesus' prediction didn't come to pass we have to conclude he is a false prophet. Oops.

But like I said, I came across dozens of instances of the kind just described. At first I simply assumed that I was just misunderstanding these passages or that there was some explanation for these "apparent" problems. (Damn, I knew I shouldn't have smoked that peyote before my Bible Study class!) However, after reading and re-reading many of the problematic passages - often in the original Greek and Hebrew - I could no longer deny the obvious: reading is much easier when you're not high, especially since the words don't move about the page as much. I realised that I only pretended not to understand what were clear inaccuracies and inconsistencies because I was unwilling to accept that the Bible was not the infallible word of God. But it soon dawned on me that I was not only lying to myself, but also to my church members. (I was actually a ministerial intern at the Hosanna SDA church in Trinidad at the time). Finally, I decided that I couldn't go on living a lie; burgundy ties are not fashionable, no matter what the Deacon says! With new-found determination, I tore off my burgundy tie and walked out of the church, never to return!

Admittedly, for a short time thereafter I did dabble in a few moderate versions of religion - a little Unitarianism here and a little Buddhism there - you know, nothing too hardcore. But ultimately, it all boiled down to a matter of faith - or more aptly, my rejection of it. In brief, I am convinced that faith is merely the excuse we use to believe things we want to believe but have no good reason for believing. Now that's all well and good, except that if we're all simply entitled to believe what we want, then I would much prefer to believe in a heaven filled with large breasted women wearing nothing but fishnets and knee-high boots whose sole ambition is to enjoy the endless delights of sodomy.

So there you have it folks, the ‘short’ story of my deconversion. And no I don’t hate God (given the inherent difficulty of hating someone who doesn’t exist) and I’m not on a crusade to convert all Christians to atheism (If I'm not going to be an evangelist for God, I see no reason to be one against him either). I believe everyone should simply live their lives honestly and in harmony with their own convictions (except if your convictions include doing naughty things to farm animals, in which case I think you should be taken outside and whipped).

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

You’ll probably think I’m a pest, but I read this:

“I know you're going to want an example (they always do) and so I'm going to give you one (and only one). Jeremiah 28:9 states that if a prophet makes a prediction that does not come to pass, then that prophet is not of God. Now, it so happens that in Matthew 16:27,28 Jesus predicts that his Second Coming (in glory and power) would take place within the lifetime of some of the people in his audience. Naturally, all the folks in his audience are now dead and Jesus still hasn't returned. (There’s not even a Yahoo emoticon that captures such a let down!) In brief, since Jesus' prediction didn't come to pass we have to conclude he is a false prophet. Oops.”

and it just so happens my husband and I discussed this very issue a couple of nights ago.

It is believed (by us and others) that He was speaking of the Pentecost, at which time believers received the Holy Spirit. And by the concept of the Trinity, He did come again, and to this day we all embody the "body of Christ." Other scholars believe He was referring to the subsequent fall of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Jesus often did the unexpected. He wasn't a military leader that the Jews wanted the Messiah to be. And He didn't come back the way they expected either.

I don't expect the above argument to make a dent in your steadfastness against God. But I felt compelled to share that.

Nubian Nerd said...

Dear pest,
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, which were very clearly articulated.

I am quite familiar with the two alternative interpretations of this passage that you mentioned. (Naturally, no believer would want to admit that Christ made a false prophecy so one would expect there to be explanations of some sort, right?). However, I do not find these explanations compelling. The passages are as unequivocal as any scriptural passages can be:

Matthew 16:27, 28 (NIV)
Verse 27: For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
Verse 28: I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

The expression ‘Son of Man’ is never once applied to the Holy Spirit. In fact, it could not be since Jesus is the only member of the Godhead that became ‘flesh’ (I am of course here referring to the incarnation). Moreover, verse 27 says Jesus would come in his Father’s glory and with his angels. There was no Father’s glory or angels at Pentecost (nor at the fall of Jerusalem) and there was no rewarding of each person according to what they had done (which is clearly a reference to final judgement).

So yes, explanations abound, but the ones I’ve heard so far strike me more like excuses for denying the obvious. If you find the Pentecost or fall of Jerusalem story compelling, however, then by all means press on in your faith. Like I said, we should all be true to our own convictions, for honesty is the best we could ever hope for this side of death (well, besides really great sex).

Johnny Jon Jon said...

I read your post and i must say i have much respect for you cause you're able to rationalise the whole faith question.. something that i must admit am abit too afraid to try. I guess, from what I've read here and there, the bible was written by different people giving their different and separate accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. So, discrepancies are like everywhere. And it's always good to just sit down and question your faith cause it's never good to just believe in the whole thing blindly. Here in my country, there's a boom in pop christianity. I've nothing against christianity at all, but it shocks me that many actually take the christian dogma wholeheartedly without actually questioning anything that they have been told.

Walk within beauty, dream within grace.

Johnny Jon Jon said...

Here's my url. So if you wanna follow up..just click on the link!

Anonymous said...

Friend, when reading the bible, we must remember that it was not writtien in the western culture. Matthew had a very oriental logic to him, where time is more like a measuring rod or just another dimension like length or width. That being said, the disciples who would not "taste death" before seeing the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom were Peter, James, and John. Look at the very next verse in chapter 17. You'll notice it is the transfiguration account, where Jesus is in his glory. Right here Peter, James, and John see the Son of Man in his Kingdom and Glory. And furthermore John saw the Jesus in His Kingdom yet again in the Revelation. Friend we must remember that God's logic is not our logic. He does not look at time the way we do, God does not think chronologically the way the western culture does. Everything about the Second Coming of Christ is as one event to the Lord. For example the destruction of the temple in 70 a.d. which Christ prophesied to "this generation" in Matthew, his transfiguration, and his literal establishment of His Kingdom on earth are all one event in the Lord's mind. Remember, he knew those who were in Christ in the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world. Stop looking in 3D but in GodD. Don't let 'problem passages' steal your faith friend. The evidence for Christ's ressurection alone should give you more than enough credence to always give God the benefit of the doubt. Seek him in troubled times and he will reveal himself to you and never let you down.

Nubian Nerd said...

Dear Anonymous,
I will begin by quoting the passage again, this time in the New American Bible:

Matthew 16:27,28(NAB)
Verse 27: For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.
Verse 28: Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Italics mine)

Your suggestion that Jesus is here referring to his transfiguration does not strike me as plausible. I agree with you that Jesus appears in his Father’s glory both at his transfiguration and the second coming. But that does not mean the two events are the same. At the transfiguration, Jesus appears with Moses and Elijah. At the second coming, Jesus appears with all his angels. At the transfiguration, Jesus appears to only three disciples. At the second coming, Jesus appears to everyone and judges them for their sins. These are clearly two different events. Now the question is, which of these two events is Jesus talking about in Matthew 16? Since verse 28 talks about the “Son of Man coming in his kingdom”, it seems clear to me that he is talking about the second coming, and not the transfiguration.

This passage is an example of a common literary style in the New Testament known as parallelism. Notice how the description in Matthew 16 is almost identical to that in Matthew 25:

Matthew 25:31,32(NAB)
Verse 31: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,
Verse 32: and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

I believe the passages speak for themselves.

Finally, you say that “God does not think chronologically the way the western culture does.” Forgive me if I find that assertion more than a little presumptuous. Who are you to say how God thinks? You are employing a very common ploy used by Bible fundamentalist. They are perfectly willing to take the Bible literally when it says things they approve of, like in Matthew 25: 31-32. But whenever it says something contradictory (like in Matthew 16: 27-28), they suddenly stop interpreting it literally and begin saying it is “only symbolic” or it's a “divine mystery.” That strikes me as, at best, inconsistent, and at worst, dishonest. Yes, there are parts of the Bible, such as the parables or the descriptions of the various monsters in Revelation, that should not be taken literally. But the symbolic parts of the Bible are clearly identified as such. When the bible says “Son of Man coming in his kingdom” I believe we should interpret it as meaning exactly what it says. Otherwise, which parts of the Bible should be considered symbolic and which parts should not would simply boil down to your opinion; and your opinion is not something by which I am willing to live my life.