Ill preface this with a little background on how I met this man, and why I think his story is powerful, and exemplary. I do not profess to know this man well, and in fact I’ve just met him, but I am greatly excited to have run into someone with such a hopeful story! During perfunctory introductions on the “No God” group on Facebook, Daniel mentioned that he was once a devout Evangelical Christian, but that he had found his way to Atheism and critical thought through academic exploration, as well as self-analysis. At this, I immediately asked if he wouldnt mind sharing his story, and he did not disappoint! Here is what he said, reprinted with his permission:
“@Jeremy I’d be happy to share with you and anyone else that is interested.
From birth I was steeped in Christian mythology. I didn’t live in a practicing Christian home but my parents believed in Christianity and my Mother’s parents took my sisters and me to church twice a week. When I was in my mid twenties I was in a real crisis situation and had what Christians call a supernatural “born again” experience (delusion).
I had always accepted that the Bible was the true, reliable “word of God” but I had never read it much until I had my “born again” experience. I began reading the Bible voraciously and soon decided that I wanted to—I had to—become a servant of this Jesus. I attended an intensive Christian discipleship ministry for six months and then left to study on my own via correspondence courses through an accredited university, while working fulltime. I spent a lot of time independently studying comparative theology by reading seminary theology books from many different denominations/sects/cults and watching thousands of hours of doctrinal debates. The whole while I was only interested in what the true message of the Bible was, and what was true (I assumed the two would be the same).
I was what you would call a fundamentalist. For five years I didn’t own a television, didn’t listen to secular music, and didn’t “waste” my time on “idolatrous” entertainment. These were things I refrained from because I saw them as incompatible with being a servant of Jesus Christ. I really didn’t desire any of these things because I saw them as a distraction from what I really wanted: to serve the Lord. I believed in living as if Jesus would come back at any minute, and that meant living the gospel 24/7 and also sharing it with everyone I could. If I wasn’t working, studying the Bible, or sleeping I was effectively spreading the delusion (it makes me ill to think of how successful I was at spreading the disease).
I had been assured that all seemingly contradictory statements in the Bible could be answered and I believed it for a time, but after a while I started noticing small contradictory details that could not be explained away. I tried to forget them for the time being (they were small contradictions after all) and hoped that I would find a way to reconcile them later. This became pretty frequent and eventually there was a mountain of these “small” unexplainable contradictions that I had forgotten about (intentionally?). But when I encountered a big textual problem and couldn’t find any theologian, professor, or pastor who could give a rational explanation to the problem, I began to think about all of the other smaller problems in the Bible I had encountered over the past five years. I suddenly began to fear what I thought was impossible: it was all a lie!
I was absolutely crushed and felt like I had been violated in the worst way possible. I spent the next couple weeks visiting websites that discussed Bible contradictions and historical and scientific errors. (By the way, this was actually pretty difficult because there are so many websites that give very poor and sometimes dishonest arguments against the Bible.) I learned about the plagiarized Nativity story which is an adaptation from Horus and other more ancient deities. At this point I was sure that the Bible could not be considered reliable, but I didn’t know what to think about…well, anything! The Bible had dictated what to think about everything for me: theology, philosophy, science, politics, morals, etc.
Comparatively speaking, I don’t think I was a judgmental Christian but must admit that I always shuddered at the thought of Richard Dawkins. But I gave him a shot and read his book which I thought I would never read: The God Delusion. Much to my surprise, Dawkins is my new favorite author! I can now say with no fear or reservations that I am an atheist…I am free from the god delusion. I have the rest of my life to look forward to living the way I want to live it, and that’s pretty exciting! If you’ve read this far, I hope it answered your question and gave you some insight. Peace!”
Thank you Daniel! If I could find 1000 stories like yours, I might begin to have wild hope in our future, or something equally as absurd. Peace, right back at you.