Note: This is a letter I wrote to a younger friend of mine who was asking about my disbelief. Just so you know, I had been a member of a very small church where everyone knows each other. I have deleted names in order to protect the innocent.
Ok, I’m not really sure what you’re wanting to know. How did I end up an atheist?
First of all let me apologize, I took a long time to respond, partly because I’ve been busy, but also I feel bad because I used to work at the church and I don’t want people thinking that now I’m trying to deconvert people. But everyone has to make up his or her own mind about this, so I’ll just tell you how I feel.
A little over a year ago I ran into some people who are Christians who had very different views than I did. My mother and father are divorced, my dad is remarried, and my mom was just about to get married again. When I told my new friends about this, they pointed out to me that, in the Bible, remarriage after divorce is wrong. Yes there is Luke 16.18:
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
So then I was left to think: my dad is living in sin just by being married to my stepmom, also causing her to live in sin; my mom was about to marry a divorced man and they would both be living in sin–not to mention that if remarriage after divorce is wrong, then why do so many churches perform the marriages? Our preacher married my dad and step mom. He also married another divorced couple from our church. Our preacher himself is divorced and remarried.
I was very distraught to think that so many Christians, so many preachers, so many churches at best were mistaken, and at worst were blatantly ignoring what God’s word clearly says about remarriage. So I asked my preacher about it. He told me that since my mom had been the one to remarry first after my parents divorce, that made it ok for my dad to get remarried. Luke does not say that.
The Bible does say that if his spouse is unfaithful, the man can get a divorce but it does not say he can get remarried. Only if a spouse dies are you allowed to remarry.
So then I was doubting even my preacher’s point of view. Why were so many Christians getting remarried when it was obviously wrong? So many of them seem so close to God. Take my preacher, for example: he prays all the time, reads the Bible, etc. So why hadn’t God convicted all these Christians of their sin? Or why hadn’t the Holy Spirit convicted them? After all, it is taught that the Holy Spirit lives inside Christians, and that is one of his jobs. I came to the conclusion that they weren’t convicted of their sin because they chose not to be; it would just be way too inconvenient.
Now I know the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace and not by works, but Jesus was very clear on the law and sin:
It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law. (Luke 16.17)
And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. Everyone will be salted with fire. (Matthew 9:42-48)
Pretty scary stuff! There’s a lot more good stuff in 1st John. But moving on…
I was faced with the decision of leaving the church given that this one is obviously not following God since its preacher is remarried and it remarries divorced people, but I wondered if I could even find a church that was obeying God’s word. You have to be careful, you know. You don’t want to be mistaken about God’s word, because–even if you thought you were a Christian–you might go to hell when you die.
Needless to say, I was driving myself crazy thinking about all this. So much so that I couldn’t handle working Wednesday nights anymore, I didn’t even know what exactly I still believed. I mean, I didn’t want to think that my preacher, my dad, and my other remarried Christian friends were living in sin, much worse ignoring what Jesus said about the matter. Pretty soon, however, I was completely fed up with it all; I quit working Wednesday nights and I tried not to think about it as much.
After a while, I didn’t want to pray or even think about God.
Then one day I was with a friend of mine at a New Age store, and they were doing some sort of new age chanting. I told my friend that I would give it a try. I sat there listening for a bit, but as the lady continued to explain what each chant did for you it seemed weirder and weirder. I got up and left. It was the stupidest thing I had heard in quite a while! I went and sat outside. I thought about how ridiculous those people were, believing in such nonsense. And then I remembered a question a friend from the church had asked me once a long time ago, “How do we know that our religion is the right one?” I told her, “We just have to have faith.” In other words, we don’tknow; no one really knows and there is not any way to ever know (in this life).
I then realized that my religion was no different than that of the new agers. What made my religion any more valid or believable than theirs? A really old book? I don’t think so! How had I not seen this before, I wondered. How could virgin births, talking donkeys, and resurrections, make so much sense to me when I laugh at the belief that we are reincarnated? How could I completely believe that God is listening to all my prayers and also to everyone else’s when I laugh at the chanting beliefs of the new agers? I thought to myself, “Christianity is just as silly as all the rest of them!” I felt bewildered as to how I hadn’t seen it before. I just sat there thinking of how blind I had been!
Then I realized, I don’t have to be afraid of going to hell anymore, I don’t have to feel guilty when I am not talking to God very much, I don’t have to see people as sinners who need to be saved, I don’t have to argue with science anymore, and I can stop beating myself up for being a sinner who is weak in the flesh. I felt so free, so liberated, peaceful, happy to be alive! I thought of all my Christian friends, I wanted to tell them, to somehow show them, hoping they could get it too.
Life is hard, and it can be comforting to think that there is someone watching over you, protecting you, and that when this hard life is over you will go to heaven for eternity. But I think that takes away from the fact that life is very precious and fragile. Just by pure chance you and I were born, and we are lucky to have even been born, to have the chance to live. This is my one and only life, so I want to appreciate every moment of it.