I recently have had some contact with the man who “led me to the Lord” way back in 1985. His name is Mike, and I still consider him to be a good friend, though we were out of contact for many years. Our religious journeys over those years have been very different. Mike is still a devout Christian believer. I am an ex-Christian and an Atheist. Could our paths over the years have possibly been more different? Yet we still get along well, at least judging from our email exchanges. I love Mike and he is still a very special person to me. But we will have to agree to disagree when it comes to religion. Mike said that if we had a couple of hours to sit down over coffee, he could clear up 75% of my “misconceptions” about the Bible. I would love to spend that time with a good old friend, but I doubt I would come away a believer again.
I wrote a site to explain to Mike why I no longer believe, and it is publicly available here:
Mike claims that it was not “hard hitting”, but that wasn’t necessarily my intent. I simply wanted him to understand why it is that I no longer believe in God or in the notion that the Bible is the “word” of a god. Mike claims that I don’t know much about the Bible judging by my site, but nothing could be further from the truth. I will freely admit that I have never read the Bible in its entirety (it is a long and mostly very dry and boring collection of books), but I do indeed know quite a bit about the origins and contents of the Bible, which in large part is why I no longer believe it. I am all too aware of the Bible’s many major problems and flaws, which is why I find it impossible to view it as anything close to being inerrant or infallible. I know about the hundreds of contradictions, the hilarious absurdities, the many horrific atrocities, the bad “history”, the myths, the fables (stories involving talking animals), etc. I know that most of the books of the Bible were authored anonymously. We have no idea who actually wrote them. If God was going to author a book, He could do a lot better than the Bible!
Mike still believes strongly in the existence of the God of the Bible. I, on the other hand, see absolutely zero evidence for the existence of any god at all. I do not believe in the God of the Bible. But…I also do not believe in the thousands of other gods mankind has dreamed up. Yet Christians typically have this reaction if you admit to not believing in their god:
The only place God ever says, thinks or does anything at all is in the minds of believers, and that is a huge clue to me to the reality of his nonexistence.
Mike strongly believes Jesus Christ was a historical person and that he was and is God. I, on the other hand, strongly doubt the existence of an historical Jesus, and I reject the idea that he was or is God. That isn’t a conclusion I reached overnight. It comes after years of thought and research, but I believe it reflects the most likely truth about Jesus. I just finished reading The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus. Earl Doherty makes a very strong case in the book for the nonexistence of Jesus as an historical person. I am open to any proof that Jesus really lived in history, but I doubt any is going to be forthcoming, from my friend Mike or anyone else. Such proof simply does not exist. The apostle Paul believed in a spiritual Christ who never had an earthly existence, and the stories we know about Jesus from the Gospels can be shown to be constructed from the Old Testament by a process known as midrash. The few mentions of Jesus that exist outside of the Bible can be dismissed as hearsay. And Jesus as he is portrayed in the Gospels ranks very high on Lord Raglan’s Hero Pattern scale. Pretty convincing stuff to me…
Sure, there is a part of me that would find it emotionally satisfying to believe again, but the cognitive dissonance would be too much to bear. I know that from experience because I have bipolar disorder and the manic phase of that illness features bouts of religiosity that have seen me briefly return to faith several times over the years. But it never lasts. Part of the reason for that is the mania dying down, but it’s also because I simply know too much about the Bible and the Christian religion to find belief tenable again for any length of time. I have actually written a book on the subject. I sent a copy of it to my friend Mike, and I would like to make it freely available here.
That part of me that wishes for belief again hopes that Mike comes up with evidence that will make that possible, without the cognitive dissonance being an issue. But…I doubt seriously that such evidence will be forthcoming. It simply does not exist. And I am familiar enough with Christian apologetics to know that very little of what a Christian apologist is going to have to say is going to stand up to critical scrutiny. And so…I shall remain an ex-Christian Atheist.