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Home > religion > Introduction to a Nonbeliever

Introduction to a Nonbeliever

I wrote the following at the request of a Christian friend at Love Life, Embrace Risks, and Live for Eternity, to portray the viewpoints of an atheist for a Christian audience:

I am an unbeliever.

However, I am not “unchurched”. I have known the power and love of the church firsthand and had attributed it to my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was raised in modern Baptist home with loving parents and a life rich within the church. I was saved early on and until I reached the age of twenty-five, my life was devoted to living for Jesus and spreading His Word and love.

Yet, I have rejected the church and the Bible, notions of Jesus, the Christian and Jewish God, Heaven, Hell, and an afterlife. You may ask why.

My journey was never intended to draw me away from the Christian faith. Rather, I made it a goal of mine to become closer to who Jesus truly was so that I was able to serve him better. I made an internal pact with myself and God that I would see this line of questioning through to the end. I had anticipated coming out the other end with a much closer relationship with God through Jesus.

However, my quest began to show me, slowly at first, then like a tidal wave, that there is nothing unique about Christianity; that, instead, it contains as much (and as little) truth as all other religions, and that the things I thought were truths were far from it, that the power of the church and things attributed to God and Jesus were actually of a more sublime nature, more akin to the social cohesion obtained through the common human experience resonating in all ancient texts and mythologies.

The details of my deconversion are long and winding, full of twists and turns, and I’m working on piecing together the tale in its entirety. But let me first get a few common misconceptions out of the way.

Accusations

1. You never were a “true” Christian.

Yes, I was. If you doubt the commitment I had to Jesus, I am writing a more longwinded version of my conversion, my Christian life, and the circumstances that caused me to leave the faith. However difficult it may be to understand that a believer could stop believing, it is true. I’ve got plenty of family and friends that would stand behind my life as a Christian.

2. You left Christianity due to sin.

My deconversion began with the simple request to know God more. The journey carried me through the various Christian beliefs, until ultimately finding no god at the end of the tunnel. I knew that in order to attain a closer relationship to God, I would need to remain pure of thought, mind, and deed. It was probably the most sin-free time in my life.

3. You are angry at God.

This one is hard to explain to someone who believes that beyond a doubt, there is a God. Let me try: I am as angry at the Christian God as you are angry at Zeus. The concept of God, while not foreign to me, is utterly lacking in substance. I can’t be angry at what I don’t believe exists, no matter how much you disagree.

4. You are angry or have unresolved issues with the church.

This is utterly false. My childhood in the church was fantastic and unbelievable. Most of my social life was inside the church and there was a never-ending fountain of fun things to do, lessons to learn, and spiritual “truths” to behold. The same goes for college.

If I have any underlying tensions with the church today, it is due to the dogmatic approach to scripture, the absolute assurance that the rest of the world wants what they have, and the willingness to assert those beliefs onto others unquestioningly.

5. You’re exaggerating your previous claim to Christianity.

Nope. I’ve got plenty of family and friends to vouch for me on that count.

6. You’re lying.

Come on now, really? I know this is posted on the internet, a veritable treasure trove of truth, but in this article, I have strived to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

7. You are unhappy or bitter.

Absolutely false. While I struggled through the deconversion process spiritually and emotionally, today I am more spiritually fulfilled and happy than ever. To assume that a lack of beliefs in Jesus causes unhappiness and bitterness is to ignore the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

8. You’ll be back to Christianity, there’s a lot of people praying for you.

Ten years ago, I was certain that I would never leave my faith. If I were to make such a promise now that I would never leave my non-faith, that would mean nothing. But, now that I am able to read the Bible and see the faiths of man for what they truly are, I very much doubt that I will be returning to any faith, at any time. Those prayers, however much in earnest, have had no affect.

9. Your life has no meaning without Christ or the hope for heaven.

I’d prefer to think exactly the opposite. The fact that I know this is my one and only life to live causes me to make every moment worthwhile. While I don’t doubt that there was a time I questioned this very topic, I now see more meaning in my present life other than waiting for some future reward or trying to convert others to my belief system.

10. You are arrogant for not recognizing the creator.

On the contrary, I consider myself rather humble in this sense. I know that I am a speck of dust on a speck of dust on a speck of dust in an infinitely (or finite, we’re still looking into that) expanse of universe. I don’t assume that there is a maker of the universe, of supernovae and galaxies, of relativity and of quantum mechanics, who was greatly interested in the animal sacrifices of ancient Jews, or the sexual life of people today. That is what I’d call arrogant.

Assuming Too Much

The details of my decision are too many to name here. I won’t go into exactly how or why I came to this my worldview today, but I’d like to get a few things off my chest seeing as how I have a Christian audience.

The terms “godless” and “atheist” are unnecessarily looked down upon, and a lot of that comes from the portrayal of unbelievers in religious circles hammered in by religious texts. We are frowned upon by most organized religions. Most unbelievers tend to keep their unbelief quiet in order to not disturb the peace, and because we don’t adhere to a central doctrine commanding us to tell others of our beliefs.

I challenge believers to open their mind to the overwhelming fact that nonbelievers can be good people in no need of conversion: ones that are completely happy, spiritually fulfilled and generous towards humanity without the need to subscribe to a certain personal relationship or set of rituals or beliefs. We don’t all want to be Christians, nor do we have the same relationship that you have with Yahweh. If we make you queezy, ask yourself why you may believe negatively about unbelievers, or why you may look down upon them for not knowing the deeper truths you may consider yourself to hold.

I view religion (or personal relationships with Christ, if you prefer) more as a construct of social life built out of primitive fears and superstitions, mixed with the intrinsic nature to want to be good. There are other ways of fulfilling that goal without resorting to beliefs in deities and afterlives. Some people fill that gap with an overwhelming obedience to an interpretation of God and Jesus through the Bible, and I can understand why because I’ve been there. The spiritual highs that are attained through acts of worship can be adequately described in terms of psychology and neurology (albeit dryly). I no longer fool myself into thinking such experiences are the cause of a higher power, and somehow that makes the experience of life on Earth all the richer for me.

I can’t speak for all unbelievers, just as no Christian can speak for all others qualifying themselves as Christian. I know that there are atheists born again as Christians, and I know there are Christians born again as atheists (myself included in the latter). This all seems characteristic of the human experience, so I am unable to speak for all.

I am an atheist. But that is only the beginning.

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  1. March 26, 2008 at 3:19 am

    This is a great post. As a Christian who reads lots of atheist blogs, articles and books, I wish more Christians would read and understand your position presented here. My big question is what do you think of the historical Jesus? Did he exist? Did he say and do the things he is reported to have said and done? What do you make of the resurrection accounts? If there are inaccuracies in the biblical accounts, how did they come into being or were they completely fabricated?

    I know fairly well all the common atheist answers to those questions so brief answers should suffice, I’m mostly curious if your answers may be different from those who were not Christian before being atheist.

  2. steve
    March 30, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    99% of the world lives on faith..proven fact…some put their faith in materials..others it might be nature…others it may be a God or Gods in wich you have to prove yourself to them by ritual deeds and acts..others its 3 nails,a Cross,and a man Named Jesus for if it wasnt for his death and resurrection Christians would have no bases of faith in wich the 12 Disciples didnt fully beleive until the resurrection was made known to them by Jesus himself.In the conclussion of Lee Strobels book “A Case For Christ” he writes Christianity is based on the “done” plan–Jesus has done for us on the cross what we can not do for ourselves:he has paid the death penalty that we deserve for our rebellion and wrong doing,so we can become reconciled with God.

  3. Jonathan
    April 2, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I’ve read through this website and don’t understand how somoene of logic can believe this nonsense. Here’s a real simple statement from science (your religion): every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This implies that events do not occur without a cause. It’s just common sense that something(greater than ourselves) created everything around us.

    Another scientific law: energy (i.e. matter) cannot be created nor destroyed. So how did everything get here? It obviously can’t be self-creating.

    Are these questions you’ve ever asked yourself and have good answers for before dedicating your life to the cause of atheism (and trying to bring others down with you)?

  4. April 4, 2008 at 10:09 am

    I think maybe your accusations put by others are all actually true: 1. You were never a “true” Christian, 2. You left Christianity due to sin. 3. You are angry at God, and the rest. I also think there are very few true Christians. If there were (true Christians) there would be a better accounting of the brethren, to build you up and “carry” you through the tough times. I don’t have faith in myself as a Christian. I have faith in Jesus that he died on the cross once and for all for your sins and my sins. Your writing is very thoughtful and for lack of a more precise word, inspiring. The problem with all the other people’s ideas that you adhere to is: you and they do not address sin and what it has done and does to mankind, and you and me. There is only one answer to sin and that is Jesus. A true Christian would want to snatch you from the fire. A true Christian would talk to you day and night. What’s the big deal that some so called Christian would judge you, and shallowly acuse you of not being a real Christian, or bitter, or ignorant of the magnificience of Creation. What people think is as important as chaff, blown about by the wind or burned up in a fire. What is important is your heart and the covenant that you have made with your Savior. I think the primary point of your degredation has been obedience. (And I think that is my own personal problem, too).

  5. nogodsallowed
    April 4, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Jonathan and Cynthia – You assume that this is a story of degradation and that I’m trying to bring others down with me. I can understand where you’re coming from because I used to think the same.

    On the contrary, this is a story of triumph in a search for truth, and I’m sharing my experience in the hopes that it may help others along their journey to overcoming a dogmatic approach to life. I appreciate your the comment that you perceive this as inspiring. I’m taking it as a compliment, even if you didn’t mean it as such 🙂

    I find it amusing that you, Cynthia, take it upon yourself to accuse me of not being as “true” of a Christian as you obviously must be. Such finger-pointing I thought you would leave to the hand of your Authority. As for your doubts to my other points, I expected as much. When a person is so cemented in their line of reasoning as you appear to be, I don’t expect that any amount of open and honest discussion would convince you otherwise.

    Jonathan – Enough with the straw-man arguments. You accomplish nothing with willful ignorance. Take the step of openly seeking answers to your questions, wherever they may be, and you may be surprised.

  6. April 4, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    I wish you could feel my point of view. I’m not saying I’m a true Christian compared to all the deraded other people out there. I believe God is going to exact a very thorough examination on every idle word I utter. He is going to judge what I do, say and think right down to my very motives. I very much care for you and if my ineptness in expressing that to you makes you think that I don’t care about you, can you just read what I say and realize I don’t express myself up to parr with you. What I am trying to say is there are very few true Christians out there. I don’t know if I am willing to bear my cross and die for my brother, for you. Are all my friends and relatives saved?? No. That means that I am a pretty ineffective Christian. I don’t want to prove to you by some overpowering intellectual reasoning that I am right and you are wrong. You are right about so many things. I think God hates a lot of the things you hate. He is even on the same page with you. He is right there with you waiting for you to give His Son another chance. I may be ineffective and unworthy to be His soundpiece. But because I am so faulty, and all the other so-called Christians (me included)- should that keep you from God?

  7. April 12, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    First of all, please forgive me if I overstep my boundaries and miss some protocol–I am new to this world of “blogging.” Also, please forgive me if I come across as being confrontational, one of the things that I am finding in this electronic world is that people can often be more aggressive and sometimes downright insulting in this format, whereas they would not be so were they speaking face to face.

    Never-the-less, I have a question. I know that we could go around and around talking about evidence and about which religion provides the source material for similarities to other religions. I, of course, would hold the many similarities found in other religions to be derivative of the Jewish/Christian faith. These might be intriguing discussions on some level, but I am not convinced they would leave either of us with a changed mind.

    I guess the reason that I am writing, is that as I read your blog and the bits of your story that come out, I am wondering as to your motives behind this “search.” It seems to me that this search of yours was not so much a search for the God of the Bible, but was a search for something else–if you will permit me to be so bold as to suggest, a god of your own making–in other words, to define God in terms of your own studies of the world and of the world’s philosophies and religions–one that made sense to you, not so much one that you needed to submit to.

    Am I being too forward in asking this question? If I am, I beg your forgiveness, I am new to this world and mean no offense. Please forgive me if I have.

    Win

  8. nogodsallowed
    April 13, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Win, thanks for the comment. And no, you’re not overstepping your boundaries, whatever boundaries there may be on the web. I’m happy to try and answer such inquiries.

    I think there is a lot of truth in your statement, but let me explain. My journey most definitely started out in search of the God of the Bible. The more that I searched, the more that I realized the God of the Jews and Christians was just as false as that of the Mormons and Muslims, as well as the Pantheon of ancient gods. I kept searching to find out what gave religions such power.

    So, you are right in saying that this search has led me to try and make sense out of all the world philosophies and religions. I didn’t start with such broad intentions, yet that’s where the path led.

    I believe that religion survives because there is strength in the Metaphor. Religions have a lot of great stuff. They can also do much harm. They are a personification of the human spirit; an embodiment of life’s journey. I believe there is more truth and helpfulness in the metaphor than in the literal interpretation, and that no book, idea, or entity should be held without scrutiny. There are many mysteries to life, and many people choose to ball up what they think of as good and just into an embodiment called God.

    I can appreciate the term God in that sense. But the moment it gets beyond the metaphor into a literal divine being, the metaphor begins to lose its power and dogma takes over.

    I don’t believe that this is a god of my own making at all, and it is definitely not something I worship. These types of ideas have been written about for centuries, they just don’t offer the same type of social cohesion that individual religion provides.

  9. April 17, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    What do you make of sin? And don’t you believe that you deserve a righteous Judge that can (is worthy) judge sin. Would you prefer an unrighteous one?

    Have you ever (recently) said, “That’s not fair.” Where in your innermost parts did that come from? Can that awareness of right and wrong that comes from your core, can that be something that has spung up out of chance or millions of years of evolution. Of courxe not, that is sillyness. That core, innermost expression of knowing comes from the true One Who made you to worship Him, whether you choose to or not.

  10. nogodsallowed
    April 19, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Cynthia – I don’t believe the same god-offending “sin” that you believe in. The transgresses we make are against each other and hurt ourselves and the people around us, but I don’t buy into a finger wagging third party butting his head in where it doesn’t belong.

    I would argue that the Christian view on sin can be harmful. If people screw up in life, I’d rather they work to fix it rather than thinking they can just be absolved and forget about it. Realizing our faults and taking responsibility for our own actions strengthens character more than the youthful wish of expecting parents to clean up the mess.

    There is a plethora of evidence and theories regarding the origins of morality. A quick googling will bring up some very interesting results and studies within social groups of different animals. You call it silliness without even knowing what “it” is. And no, it isn’t a longer strand of DNA that indicates sin, as you have pointed out in your blog. That doesn’t strike you as the least bit silly?

    I think it’s a matter of going where the evidence takes you, and it has taken me to a denial of the Christian God hypothesis.

  11. mj
    April 21, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    sorry that I’m being blunt but you seemed to against spirituality as well. I can understand being against religion but spirituality?. I hope I’m not misreading what you said. Just being people don’t brace the western values (the Enlightenment, scientific thought, materialism) and industrialization doesn’t make them uncivilized.

  12. Jonathan
    April 29, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Sorry, haven’t been on here for a while. How’s everyone doing?

    I have seeked answers to my questions. It’s arrogant to think since I didn’t come to your conclusion that somehow I just haven’t searched openly enough. I didn’t grow up in a christian home and looked for answers my whole life. I’ve even read books by authors on your recommended reading list (Dawkins) and trust me they don’t answer my questions. For one they don’t (and can’t) explain how life began (inorganic to organic). How can you put your faith in something that can’t answer how life began? If you find an answer please share with me, because I would genuinely be interested.

    Previously I stated two rock solid laws of science (Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion and the 1st Law of Thermodynamics) that contradict atheistic thought. All motion has a cause (Earth is spinning pretty fast) and that matter cannot be self-creating. This is just the tip of the ice berg on why atheism is a departure of logic and reason. I would challenge you to even start there and see if atheism can give you answers to these dilemmas, if not you’re not be intellectually honest to continue in your non-belief.

    Out of curiosity, how would you answer the “big” life questions:

    1. Who am I?
    2. Where did I come from?
    3. Why am I here?
    4. Where am I going when I die?

  13. May 25, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Sorry that I have not responded back to you for a bit, this time of year my life gets very hectic. What you say about there “being strength in a metaphor” sounds nice, but it does not carry you very far when the rubber hits the road. People do not joyfully give up their lives for a metaphor. Granted, a particularly charismatic general may rally his men for a suicidal charge, but that is an entirely different scenario than we see where Christians are tortured and executed for their faith. In addition, metaphors do not cause people to have their lives transformed, addictions broken, bodies healed, and relationships restored. It all sounds good and nice to wax poetic about religion being a powerful and emotive metaphor, but it does not work itself out in life.

    Blessings,

    Win

  14. nogodsallowed
    May 26, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Win, Of course people give up their lives and happiness for a metaphor, if they believe it. I’m getting the feeling that you believe the things you mentioned (lives transformed, addictions broken, bodies healed, etc) are all unique to Christianity. I’d urge you to look a little deeper and you’ll see the same things happening in all sorts of religions. Does this make them all true? By your reasoning, it would.

    This is more of what I mean when talking about the metaphor – that the religious mindset taps into some basic human psychology which can bring about such changes. It doesn’t make any religion true, but it brings to light some basic human patterns that seem to be embedded in all of us in one way or another. Joseph Campbell would be a good resource in understanding this line of thought further.

  15. nogodsallowed
    May 26, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Jonathan –
    1. Who am I?
    2. Where did I come from?
    3. Why am I here?
    4. Where am I going when I die?

    1. I am many things, not defined by religion and certainly not definable as an answer in a bulleted list.
    2. My mom’s hoohaa (yea, kinda weird to think about it that way but that’s the facts)
    3. Because, when I was a wee little sperm, I won a race beating out millions of my brothers
    4. The spiritual “I” will be in the same place “I” was in the billions of years before the late 1970’s. I don’t recall much back then and I doubt you did either (but really, was there anything worth remembering about the 70’s?) As for the physical “I” – I’m hoping those ashes get scattered on a high grassy knoll overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

    Or wait, maybe I misunderstood the question. Should I have answered, “God did it”?

  16. c
    June 30, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Actually you are more than chance and an outgrowth of a sperm and an egg and there is more to you than dust to be thrown over the ocean, if you choose. You are body, soul, and spirit. And though the body is dust, made of “dust”, and will return to dust, you were created in the very image of God and if you choose Him you will choose life. Choose for yourself that which moth and rust does not decay.

  17. July 1, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Oh my friend, I do believe that Christianity is unique in seeing changed lives. And do understand, I am talking about genuine Christianity, not this stuff that is typically labeled as “Christian.” But I am talking about a real and genuine relationship with Jesus Christ-that is not a psychological experience, nor is it something that any of the non-Christian religions can boast. So no, the other religions are not true.

    What I find interesting about your response, though, is that you use remarkably “religious” language to describe your philosophy of life. In the previous post, you speak of the “spiritual I,” as an example. The very concept of an “I” is a concept that is dependent on the existence of a transcendent being-philosophically, the concept must originate somewhere and it did not originate through natural selection (cause and effect cannot explain the existence of non-causal concepts-independent thought, morality, the “ought”). The very fact that you have a sense that you “ought” to think of a “spiritual” self or that you even “ought” to care where your ashes are set down after you die betrays that you have gaping holes in your secular philosophy. It certainly does not make you Christian by any stretch (or any other religion for that matter), but it makes you a rather inconsistent atheist. You may be able to live with philosophical inconsistency, I cannot.

    Blessings,

    Win

  18. Eli
    January 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I’d like to first apologize for the people who claim to be my brothers and sisters in faith. I find their accusations against you unreasonable.

    I teeter between your position and my own often. I grew up atheist, and find myself in a position where I’m a Christian agnostic. I’m a Christian by dedicated choice more than by proof. If I’m cool, with any of the atheist camps, it’s the atheism embodied by Dostoyevsky’s character Ivan, in the Brothers Karamazov.

    Intellectual atheism based on proofs seems to be a bit devoid of meaning, but protest atheism, the atheism that cries “Injustice!” is one I can relate to. The Atheism that says “is this really the best possible world? Can there really be an all loving god in control of this?” I can relate to that.

    Also, many of my atheist friends are more loving, patient and compassionate people than my “Christian” friends.

  19. jg
    April 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    All Christians secretly love it when an atheist mentions science and its disparity (or alleged disparity, according to Christians) with the Good Boook. When the atheist makes this fatal error, the Christan cackles in glee, albeit silently, as gleeful cackling is unbecoming of the redeemed. The conversation goes like this:

    “So your god is Science, huh?” The Christian queries, or gleefully cackles, depending on how modest he is.

    At this moment the ardent defender of the holy faith smoothly slides his fingers into his satchel of polemical smackdowns and deftly removes his trump card, his proverbial five smooth stones that are about to make the poor atheist’s entire worldview come a’tumblin’ down.

    “Have you heard,” he begins slowly, “of the ROCK SOLID LAWS OF SCIENCE?” He begins to pick up his pace. “What laws, you may ask? I mean NEWTON’S 3RD LAW OF MOTION and THE 1ST LAW OF THERMONDYNAMICS.”

    “I mean the SCIENTIFIC LAWS that state (1)that all motion has a cause (Earth is spinning pretty fast) and (2) that matter cannot be self-creating.”

    “This THEORY of evolution doesn’t explain that, does it? Where did all the motion of the universe start? And did matter ‘self-create’ itself? Evolution, you see, is a departure from reason or logic.” [editor’s note: ending this sentence with “…bitches” is not considered apropos in evangelical circles, so it’s left unsaid]

    GAME OVER

    End notes: Readers may wonder why no one pointed out to the Christian that explaining the universe’s origins with Genesis 1 is equally inadequate at addressing the 3rd law of motion and the 1st law of thermondynamics.

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