the silver bullet

May 12, 2009 at 10:43 am 35 comments

imagesFor a while almost a year ago, when I became an active skeptic, or began struggling with my faith, or whatever one might call it, I started reading compulsively. I was not sleeping, anxious, which afforded me many “bonus” hours for reading. Looking back, I see a sense of looking for something to prove Christianity false, something I could rest on to justify my disbelief in the faith I was leaving. A silver bullet that would by itself, once and for all, prove that Christianity is not true.

Ever look for one of those? Guess what, I still haven’t found one. Because for every evidence something in the bible is not true, there is an apologetic argument showing a logical possibility as to how it could be true. Not necessarily showing it likely to be true, just showing a logical possibility that it could be true. If only one wants badly enough to believe. Christianity has had literally thousands of years to work on them. Just learning that took me an inordinate amount of time and was extremely frustrating.

Over time, the shear number of these explanations for difficulties with the conservative Christian faith, and the intricate, convoluted arguments apologists weave to justify their beliefs, provided me with evidence to my satisfaction. The preponderance of evidence got me to the point where I became comfortable with what I did and did not believe. That’s about where I am today.

I recently realized that at some point during that process something odd happened. I stopped looking for a silver bullet to prove Christianity false and I started searching for a silver bullet to prove Christianity true. I know I won’t find it, it doesn’t exist either. And the Christianity I read about now is much more amorphous, less defined, messy. It doesn’t need the same kind of proof to exist. So what am I looking for?

I realized I am still trying to prove myself to the Christians in my life, to demonstrate faithfulness, that I have fought the good fight, turned over every stone, left myself open to what they believe, even if I still don’t believe it. Mostly that is craziness, I still want to justify my moving on. But I think partly it is a desire to maintain relationships with people, when it is my set of beliefs that changed, not their’s. Maybe that’s the price I feel I have to pay.

I also want to be able to provide some direction for my family, not ceding that area to religion that would work to drive us apart. And I want to have knowledge and language to articulate the Christian faith better than others who would hint to me at other ways of viewing Christianity. I want to have been there already, done my homework, understood the arguments ahead of time, done due diligence.

While this new quest for the second kind of silver bullet has not been as frantic as the first one, I do recognize some of the same obsession in the search. I reassure myself that this time won’t last forever. I am still growing into my new beliefs, and I am still enjoying reading and learning in ways I have not in a long time. But I yearn for a freedom from this searching. It feels oppressive at times. Life is so hard to get through as a husband, father, employee, apart from worrying what other people think and about other people’s faith. I’m looking forward to just being myself.

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Entry filed under: bible, doubt, faith.

my god! what have I done? god’s big bang

35 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Temaskian  |  May 12, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Even if we can never truly be ourselves, leaving christianity is surely the first step.

    But I can understand it’s hard for you, given that you’re swamped by the multitudes of christians surrounding you, to, in a sense, be left alone to practice your new-found unbelief without scrutiny.

  • 2. Lorena  |  May 12, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I fully understand where you are at.

    This may not be your reason, but what kept me a Christian for a couple extra years was my love for my husband. I didn’t want to dealt him the final blow. I felt I was betraying him for several reasons. One of them was, “What would people think of him?”

    But it is a process, and you are where you need to be right now. You need to follow your own natural course. Eventually you will reach a point where trying to please people or trying to keep friendships will be too much, and you will make the final break. In your time.

    Infamous Anthony Robins said in one of his books that we will only change when doing what we are doing right now becomes too painful, and changing is the only way to survive. He was talking about weight loss, I think. But I only left the faith when the pain of staying was much worse than the potential of losing friends or fellowship.

  • 3. TitforTat  |  May 12, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Life is so hard to get through as a husband, father, employee, apart from worrying what other people think and about other people’s faith. I’m looking forward to just being myself.(ATTR)

    Ah, Mind over Matter, if you dont Mind, it dont Matter.

  • 4. freestyleroadtrip  |  May 12, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    “I’m looking forward to just being myself” (atimetorend)

    Then just be yourself. Quit worrying about what others thing you ought to be. You are in the perfect place in your faith, searching. That is where faith is found. That is where God is found. The questions and the doubts fantastic. I hope for you (and for me) that you never feel like you reach the end of the search. That is the place of death in my book. A lot of the atheists that I have interacted with who came from Christianity, and often fundamental Christianity, seemed to get to a place where they got tired of the search. So they quit. They said they are only going to believe in the empiric, the provable. Well that seems to me to be as fundamental as extreme theology, just at the other end of the line. That is no good to me either. The best place where I am exposed and open to the most available truth, is in the tension in the middle. Just my take. I honor your search. I am on the same search and loving it. Have lost friends. Have angered family. Have been labeled by my own father as “unhinged.” And all because I am honestly searching. Well, God is not afraid of my questions. God is bigger than my search. God is not threatened by my doubts and questions and searching. God is found in the search.

  • 5. Lorena  |  May 12, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    A lot of the atheists that I have interacted with who came from Christianity, and often fundamental Christianity, seemed to get to a place where they got tired of the search. So they quit.

    We quit because there are much better things to be doing with our lives.

    But if you want to keep searching, go ahead.

  • 6. Temaskian  |  May 12, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    For me, I did not quit. In fact, I succeeded. I succeeded in answering the question of whether christianity is true or false. To my own satisfaction. And I’m always ready to give an answer to those who ask why I do not believe, because I am 100% convinced that I’m right.

  • 7. OneSmallStep  |  May 12, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    **Because for every evidence something in the bible is not true, there is an apologetic argument showing a logical possibility as to how it could be true. Not necessarily showing it likely to be true, just showing a logical possibility that it could be true.**

    To me, something that is considered this important, something that carries a significant eternal weight, shouldn’t come down to a logical possibility that it might be true. I’m supposed to wager eternal security on something as mild as a possibility?

  • 8. atimetorend  |  May 12, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    FRT: Agree about being oneself, cuts against my personality, not wanting to offend people. Thankfully that hasn’t been possible to avoid though. It sounds like you know, it takes a lot of time to wade through the relational slop. Processes that were gradual for me seemed sudden to those around me. It hurts to be called unhinged, or delusional, by those close to you, particularly when you feel it is being honest and open, asking hard questions rather than pretending to believe a storyline you are no longer a part of. But it is worth it.

    A also agree about not quitting the search, but for me it is a big unknown. It seems like now that God is not going to come out of the search at the other end, but it seems that Life is coming out of the search. Now whether that will include God is beyond me, and really, while interested in the outcome, I’m not worried either. It is easy to get tired of the search, but a lot of that for me is that the search is pushed by those around me to be in a certain direction, and acceptable only as long as the outcomes are within certain parameters. I’m very open to the empirical and provable, and somewhat guarded about the other end of the spectrum.

  • 9. atimetorend  |  May 12, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Lorena, thanks for the comment, it is encouraging. Pleasing others can be walking a fine line between being concerned for others or just being more concerned about ourselves in our fear. I know for me fear tends to dominate too much.

  • 10. atimetorend  |  May 12, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    OSS: Yes, exactly. It seems completely silly to make that wager on those terms, we can’t. That has been important to me in evaluating my previous faith. At that point, when Christianity becomes something that hinges on being required to believe certain “core doctrines,” it is just a game. Even if I chose to follow it, how could I imagine that it was a universal truth that everyone in the world must believe? Not only must believe, but they are actively rebelling against it if they don’t believe it. And it is hard to read the bible as saying otherwise.

    Now perhaps a faith living in the mystery as FRT refers to above is something entirely different, and is more about living life than believing certain “truths.” It’s tough for me to make that leap, it seems like a completely different religion, and not necessarily what I read in the bible. And I haven’t heard from God to be able to read the bible that way.

  • 11. freestyleroadtrip  |  May 12, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    “And I’m always ready to give an answer to those who ask why I do not believe, because I am 100% convinced that I’m right.” (Temaskian)

    This sounds like a very dangerous place to be, that place where you are certain you are 100% right. Kind of closes you off to gaining anything beyond that.

    Also sounds like a lot of fundamentalist zealots I know.

  • 12. freestyleroadtrip  |  May 12, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    “We quit because there are much better things to be doing with our lives.” (Lorena)

    Your opinion I guess. I don’t see that there is much better things to be doing that searching for truth, learning truth from others, including each other in our searches.

  • 13. freestyleroadtrip  |  May 12, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    “It seems like now that God is not going to come out of the search at the other end, but it seems that Life is coming out of the search.” (ATTR)

    I think discovering Life in this way is God. I recently put a quote from Jim Palmer on my blog that speaks to this a bit:

    “For years I was taught that ‘faith’ is believing there is a God even if you can’t experience him. Maybe instead, faith is believing that what you are experiencing is God.”

  • 14. Lorena  |  May 13, 2009 at 12:42 am

    I don’t see that there is much better things to be doing that searching for truth, learning truth from others, including each other in our searches.

    Wrong.

    I am not looking for true regarding God. But I am looking for truth regarding myself and regarding others. In fact observing the things people do and why they do what they do is probably my favourite past time.

    But what does that have to do with the existence of gods?

    A person doesn’t have to be looking for gods to be a humanist.

  • 15. freestyleroadtrip  |  May 13, 2009 at 12:57 am

    Agreed. Not all truth is about God. There is plenty of truth out there, a whole load of it, that has nothing to do with God, and it is a very worthy endeavor to seek after it and discover it. But sometimes discovering truth does involve talking about gods. Maybe you feel like you have the god question all figured out and locked up tight. But is that really any different than people on the other end of the line? It’s the same fundamentalism, just in a different place. If you are not willing to discuss it and consider it in discussion with someone else, you are closing your mind just as you claim fundamentalist Christians are doing. I think it’s interesting that you are the one telling me I am wrong. I have not said a single word about you being wrong.

  • 16. Temaskian  |  May 13, 2009 at 1:23 am

    FRT,

    Yeah, I know. I almost wanted to add this phrase to my earlier comment:

    “Once a fundamentalist, always a fundamentalist,”

    The problem is, I really do feel 100% sure, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t. This makes me even more fundamentalistic than Richard Dawkins, who’s only 90+++% sure.

    I should add that I was never this sure even when I was a fundamentalist Christian, but I was more passionate about it. I’m not passionate about my 100% now, it’s just that, well, it’s there.

    In order not to be labelled as a fundamentalist atheist now, I should probably lie about my sureness. Or at least obfuscate. But I really don’t want to.

  • 17. Temaskian  |  May 13, 2009 at 1:35 am

    “faith is believing that what you are experiencing is God.” (FRT)

    Isn’t that blind faith?

  • 18. freestyleroadtrip  |  May 13, 2009 at 1:50 am

    Temaskian. Well, at least you recognize it and are honest about it, and as long as you aren’t proselytizing like in the same fashion as a Fundy Christian, I got no problem with it.

    On the blind faith issue….From your position, yes, I agree that it appears like blind faith. From my position, no, far from it. I am convinced that there is a creator that explains our existence and that this creator is active in creation. That includes humanity. I am willing to consider that a spiritual god is capable of interacting with us through our experiences which includes our spiritual side. Of course, you have to be convinced that you have a spiritual side to even go there. So if you believe that humans have a spiritual side and that there is a creator, this is not blind faith at all.

    How you get to a Christian god as creator is an entirely different discussion. I will only say at this point in order to not be to long that I don’t adhere to the literal fairy tale reading of Genesis. I think there is a much better way to read it and I think there is a way to consider that God speaks to different peoples in different means.

    I realize that these are significantly different points of contention between us as I am sure that you see it differently at this point. I have no problem with that and with us discussing it.

  • 19. Lorena  |  May 13, 2009 at 2:04 am

    I think it’s interesting that you are the one telling me I am wrong.

    Wrong again.

    I said you were wrong because you were talking about ME. I am the only person who knows ME. That is the only time I will correct you, and I will be very self-righteous about it. Because I am the only person inside my head.

    As to whether I am a fundamentalist or not. The big question is, why is that important to you? It seems to me that you continue to be fundamentalist. You are still an EVANGELIST, anyway.

    I am terribly curious to know why you are so adamant to preach your brand of belief–whatever that is.

    I am not into that. You believe what you believe, and I will believe–or not–what I will. That’s why I have no plans to go to your blog. I have no plans or intentions or desires to convince you of anything.

    I’m pretty sure that if there were a God, she wouldn’t want us to be worried about her. She would want us to be nice to each other, to take care of the earth, and to try to be happy. Life is hard enough as it is without ever having to worry about hypothetical beings.

  • 20. freestyleroadtrip  |  May 13, 2009 at 2:20 am

    Lorena. I don’t care if you come to my blog or not, and I am not trying to evangelize anyone so quit being “terribly curious” about me. Think whatever you want to think about me and yourself and god or the lack of god. That’s your right and I think you ought to exercise it however you want. I don’t care if you believe like me or not. I am only trying to carry on discussion with anyone who wants to about anything under the sun really so that I can learn more about myself, others, and the world. I doubt that I am fundamentalist as I am willing to discuss anything with anyone without feeling the slightest need to convince you that you are wrong or that I am right. If you don’t want to have discussion with me then don’t. I won’t worry about it. Why do you seem so defensive though?

  • 21. isnessie  |  May 13, 2009 at 2:31 am

    I think it’s natural, leaving Christianity and having a time of searching. I agree with one of the comments above, for a lot of non-believers, particularly atheists, there just seems to come a time when they stop searching, at least not with the same desperation/vigour. At least, that’s what I’ve gathered from some of the atheists I speak to. I think you invested a huge part of your life to Christianity – whereas I ‘only’ had 3 years, I also struggle with the same issues you mention, wanting to be able to show my Christian friends that this isn’t just ‘a phase’ and that I didn’t cop out. As someone who spent such a large amount of time, I suspect you will probably feel that need for a longer period of time. It does calm down eventually, I’m told, and I am feeling it myself. I don’t think the research needs to stop for there to be freedom. It will come with time.

  • 22. Lorena  |  May 13, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Why do you seem so defensive though?

    Because I hate arguing with people about anyone or anything. We could be talking about goat milk soap for all I care, and it would still bother me.

    I feel that it is no one’s business what I believe or not.

    I have never let even atheists preach at me, because I like to reach my own conclusions about stuff without outside influence. I learn constantly, yes, but I learn by myself reading books and other people’s writings.

    So, thank you for your interest in my beliefs. But they’re not out for scrutiny.

    I do understand that some people like to discuss/argue/share or whatever you want to call it. I’m not one of them. I find that communication style highly intrusive and disagreeable.

  • 23. atimetorend  |  May 13, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Lorena, you better not go TO THIS PAGE then…

    Oh no, you turned the page!!!

  • 24. Lorena  |  May 13, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    LOL! I went, but I came right back. Did you actually surf just to tease me? Wow! I am flattered.

    I’ve never understood the big brouhaha with goat’s milk products. But then, I’m not a typical woman. I rarely wear makeup and use no cosmetics on my face, other than cheap soap.

  • 25. wowy  |  May 13, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    oh, ATTR, you’re really a great self-observer! It’s also quite honest what you write about.

    I have/had that same OBSESSION to read. I just couldn’t help it. Felt like I HAD to have this and that book read before I could make a decision. It seemed SO important to me – faith, relationships, God and all – that I didn’t want to miss any argument that could possibly help me.

    I knew that one Christian friend of mine was a TRUE friend when he asked me why I wouldn’t just read apologetics from Monday to Friday and then read more enjoyable stuff or watch movies on the weekend :)
    That’s a true friend.
    I guess he felt in me what you call a “yearning for a freedom from this searching”.

    What you write about the motivations BEHIND all the searching is awesome. I WISH I could see into my own soul to find out the true motivations. But what you write about
    – wanting to justify myself before others
    – wanting to prove Chr true
    – wanting to prove Chr false
    – a sense of duty: “due diligence”
    all definitely strike a chord!

  • 26. atimetorend  |  May 13, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    wowy, I’ll be honest, I think I just have an obsessive personality to some degree, so things I worry about can go in that direction. I’ve read obsessively about other things too, just not to the same degree. Yes, I force myself to read lighter stuff too.

    I also have come to the conclusion that religion that requires making “the right choice” or believing “the right thing(s)” cannot be true. Cross conservative Christianity off the list then on that point alone, even apart from all the apologetics…

  • 27. atimetorend  |  May 13, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Lorena, I didn’t even know there was a brouhaha over goat milk soap. Maybe you should post a blog entry on that…
    ;^)

  • 28. freestyleroadtrip  |  May 13, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Lorena. Sorry to hear it. I’ll bet you have some things in your head that would be educational for me and that I would like to know, more like why you believe what you believe than what your actual beliefs are. It doesn’t really matter to me what you believe. More why you believe it. But I’ll respect your wishes and quit prying. My suggestion would be that if you don’t like discussing this type of thing that you quit going to places where people do.

  • 29. Lorena  |  May 13, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    I’ll bet you have some things in your head that would be educational for me and that I would like to know,

    You have over three years of blog entries that you can read to get into my head, if you like.

    But so far, I’ve heard you preach. I haven’t notice you being interested in learning at all. Which is fine. I’m not out here to teach. I am out here to RECOVER from Christianity.

    Friends like ATTR and others are immensely resourceful in helping me see the bright side of life after so many years of brainwashing. I appreciate their friendship very much.

    So, if you find a joke somewhere that could give me a laugh, by all means, send it my way. That’s what I need. I need to have fun. No arguing please. Please quit arguing with me. I HATE IT.

  • 30. freestyleroadtrip  |  May 13, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Lorena. If you don’t like the discussion then quit it. You labeled with the evil end of the “Christian” word from the first minute before you even had a chance to know anything about me. You checked the link TFT suggested on this blog, left a comment, and when it didn’t immediately post, came back here and called my blog a “Christian” blog. I strongly disagree with that label, and you won’t even open up enough to let me try to explain why instead just defaming me with terms like “evangelize” and “preach.” I have worked hard to get myself away from that side of the Christian community. And I agree with what you say about needing to recover from Christianity. I don’t doubt that for one second. I have experienced and know many others like yourself who have experienced what amounts to spiritual abuse by Christian churches, and I want as far away from that as possible just like you. While I still retain a belief in God at some level, I understand you do not, and I’m fine with that. It is not my intent to convert or evangelize anyone. Fine if you think I’m some Christian zealot trying to win you and yours back to the flock. That is a far from the truth as it is possible to be, but if you want to deal in falsehoods and put labels on people you know nothing about, go ahead and make the same mistake you are trying to get so far away from. I’ll be checking out your blog more as you suggest and will send any good jokes I come across.

    ATTR. Sorry to come onto your territory and stir things up. It was not my intent. I’ll be reading along. Thanks for checking me out.

  • 31. atimetorend  |  May 14, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    FST, no need to apologize, thanks for stopping by.

  • 32. Mike aka MonolithTMA  |  May 16, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Very rarely do I re-read blog posts. This post resonates with me and I will be re-reading it. Thank you for sharing.

  • 33. atimetorend  |  May 16, 2009 at 8:32 am

    You’re welcome Mike. Thanks for commenting, I’m so glad you got something out of it.

  • 34. Like a child  |  August 19, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Good to know i’m not the only one spending an insane amount of time and energy wrestling over these issues, nor knowing what the future will bring

  • 35. atimetorend  |  August 19, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Like a child, hope you’re not losing too much sleep. At the very least, you are learning a lot, and I would be pretty confident that the insane amount of time and energy won’t last indefinitely. I wrote this just over a year ago, and things are a lot calmer now.

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