Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers The Idols Of Faith”)

In “The Three Transformations of the Spirit” in Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and Nobody, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra describes the human spirit as successively taking three different forms: the camel, the lion, and the child. The transformations begin with the spirit of the camel, which Nietzsche characterizes as consisting of obedient, self-sacrificing, reverential, principled, moralism. Essentially this is a religious animal, who pursues the truth at great pains to himself because it is, what we may infer to be, a religious requirement to be moral, and therefore truthful, in the utmost.

In Nietzsche’s mind such moralistic attachment to truth, though inspired by a religious and moral injunction that none shall lie, leads to the discovery of truths that undermine religion and moralism themselves—partly by showing that many religious and moral beliefs are rooted in falsehoods and partly by exposing the truth about some of the immoral and dishonest ways that religions and moralities actually propagate themselves as real world systems of domination and control.

Morality itself, in Nietzsche’s view, is deeply hypocritical according to its own standards. And any Christian who takes the commandment against lying seriously at all is going to have to leave Christianity on precisely that account.

I am like Nietzsche’s camel. While I am many miles away from morally perfect, I have been a generally conscientious person since I was a child and was devoutly, zealously, evangelically, self-sacrificially, and mildly puritanically religious until I was 21. And I am open to certain interpretations of my personality that see it as still fundamentally religious—as long as they do not confuse that for faith-based thinking or other forms of closed-mindedness, authoritarianism, or deference to unwarranted authorities of thought or practice. I think a fair accounting would acquit me of such charges, whatever the other inadequacies of my intellect and character.

What I am stressing here is something that both the faithful and the always-secular rarely seem to understand about at least some of us apostates. For some of us, our rejection of our faith is not merely the abandonment of our religious values but, at the same time, very much our fulfillment of them. It was Christianity that led me to reject Christianity.

Of course some people can reject Christianity, or any other religion, because secular values become more important than religious ones. But love of truth is not implanted, oriented, or motivated psychologically the same for everyone. While some might have that develop that love from the delight of  love of learning, others might find it grows strongest out of fury over being deceived, or others might have it take root because of curiosity, wonder, fear, or the simple satisfaction and feeling of victory in exercising natural intellectual talents. Biographically, the love of truth was preached to me religiously, as a matter of absolute importance because of the religious stakes that rode on it. It mattered that people believed the truth and that they did the good because their very salvation hung on this.

And even in the wake of my rejection of faith (and, with it, the irrationalistic dogmas and habits of thought that were major parts of my Christianity), my supreme estimation of the value of truth might still be interpreted as having a religious, zealous, unmoderated character. I revere the truth, I am willing to suffer quite a bit for it, and still viscerally reject attempts to relativize its value.

I have a hard time accepting that some other values might override the value of truth in some cases.  I do not accept easily that it is okay for some people to be deceived, or that in some people a multitude of other virtues might cover their sins of intellectual dishonesty.  But even on these scores, my love of truth itself leads me to recognize and acknowledge and understand its limited value.  The religious devotion to truth involves learning to not make an idol of truth since that would be to dishonor it.

But, nonetheless, out of concern for truth, I must admit that I am in many respects an evangelist of truthfulness. I am almost pathologically self-disclosing. I view intellectual honesty as a deeply moral matter and excellence of thought as a central human virtue and I only recognize its limits and needs to be balanced against other virtues insofar as it itself requires that I see and acknowledge this.

And, again, while there are many other routes to a love of truth which have no need of religion, ironically my love of truth was cultivated, as it has been for many others before and since me, in that den of manipulative lies that is the Christian church.

And, so, as Nietzsche thinks necessary, my “camel” spirit had to take the character of a lion’s spirit and proudly and defiantly say “no” to the false “thou shalts” of a dishonest and flawed religious value system and “no” to the false beliefs which propped it up.  This was the outgrowth of my religious, moralistic, camel’s nature reaching its logical and practical conclusions. I rejected faith-based religion religiously, at least insofar as my rejection of faith grew out of my religious struggle.

I bring all of this up for a reason. Faithful religious people do not, in my experience, seem to understand that some of us apostates are not like other atheists. We are not total outsiders. Our critique is partly an internal critique of religion, out of religiousness.  We are attacking the idols and falsehoods that are promulgated as Truth.

In practice, if no longer in belief, there is a continuity of our religiosity back to the days when it took a faith-based, God-fearing form rather than a faithless, godless one. In terms of spirit, some of us apostates, are still closer in temperament in numerous ways to our former brethren than to some of our fellow atheists. In some ways we are still inescapably their brethren and, despite our explicit, rationally rigorous, and wholehearted rejection of the contents of their beliefs and some of their worse moral values, our rejection is what we see as the rightful conclusion of the values they themselves have.

In other words, in some ways, we apostates want to be heard as saying that if our former brethren would themselves be true to the values we share, they would leave the faith right along with us. We sometimes want to be heard on these grounds.

Of course, we get it that we are disowned.  And we want to be–because we think the rot of false beliefs, regressive morals, and cultish practices pervert and ruin what is still intense and passionately alive about the religiosity we have from back in our faith-based days (regardless of whether we conceptualize it as “religiosity” any more now that we lack gods to worship). But we do not want our former brethren to deny that we were really among them and we really want them to get that we left not out of a failure of moral and religious seriousness but out of an abundance of it.

And maybe I speak only for me but it galls me when I see liberally minded people who were never at all religious bash apostates for attacking the religious beliefs that we ourselves once held. If such liberals are really so respectful of religion, then it would be nice if they respected the kind of religious experience that leads to apostasy.  Apostates often have too few friends and sympathizers when they are going through one of the most alienating experiences of their lives.

If all religions that are not violent or hateful are valid, then appreciate that apostasy can be just as much a sincere expression of religiosity as faithful adherence to dogma is—and maybe even a purer and more admirable form. And the liberal-minded shouldn’t always assume that an atheist is attacking something he does not care to understand or appreciate in all its manifold colors. For many of us it was something deep in our bones that we now wrestle against—not because there is any temptation left to believe its nonsense, but because it was so deep and enduring a part of our personal formation.

For many of us, this is, in “spiritual” terms, a conflict with our former brethren. It’s a family feud and as outsiders to it, the never-religious really should not take sides and tell us atheists to leave the religious alone, if they are sincere about respecting people’s religious experience. Some of our atheisms represent the culmination and the final truth and interpretation of our religious experiences. And some of our religious natures are expressed atheistically. Some of our pieties are to truth and the objective good, at the expense of faith and even at the expense of our very families when they are wrongheaded. It’s personal to us. Our experiences are valid and they count. Institutional religion does not want to acknowledge our experiences because they call them into question. Don’t attempt to exclude our voice from the discussion. Don’t silence our sides of the religious story.

It’s not truthful. It’s not fair. It’s not even religiously tolerant.

Your Thoughts?

Read posts in my ongoing “deconversion series” in order to learn more about my experience as a Christian, how I deconverted, what it was like for me when I deconverted, and where my life and my thoughts went after I deconverted.

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://sendaianonymous.wordpress.com Sendai

    This is BEAUTIFUL <3

  • eheffa

    This is a great and very enlightening essay Daniel. Thank you.

    You’ve articulated the situation so well for those of us Apostates who started out as committed Christians but in the pursuit of truth came to find ourselves irrevocably outside the faith. This whole process of considering the unorthodox view as possibly true, is quite unnerving and innervating at the same time. I found myself checking and suppressing my thoughts. I caught myself thinking that God could read my mind & would be undoubtedly displeased with my contemplating the unthinkable; but, then, gain courage from the thought that if god was indeed a god of truth, he would not condemn me for prioritizing truth over loyalty to a dogma. Leaving the faith, was the most difficult and probably one of the most virtuous things I have done in my life. I left the faith on principle; after all, a comforting delusion is still a delusion and not worth my allegiance.

    It is still a little bewildering though to speak with those still in the faith & share an appreciation for truth-seeking only to find that I am considered an unregenerate sinner without hope because of it. Quite a curious situation.

    Thanks for a great post.

    -evan

  • http://twitter.com/MikeHypercube MikeHypercube

    This really resonates with my own experience. I felt as though I walked with God right up to the point at which He admitted he didn’t exist. In order to do this I had to truly believe – for if you truly believe something (the way that for example I believe the other side of the moon to be convex), then one sees no need to be afraid of questioning it. It made me wonder how many other Christians truly believe, and how many merely “believe they believe”, a sort of meta-belief.

    @eheffa you are onto something with this comment. Many Christians, including me for years, absorb the idea that disbelief is sin – that is, that it’s a wilful act to believe and a wilful act to not believe. Yet if that were the case (if in other words it could be a sin to doubt), then we would be saying that by an act of our own will we can change the way that we think that the world is. It was once I realised this (as a Christian) and recognised that it was not a sin to doubt, that I was able to question and explore the nature of God and His reality without the existential fear that haunts so many Christians. It was this that enabled me to get the point where God admitted he didn’t exist.

    I mention this because I would like to think that somewhere, somehow, there is something to be written or some help to be given to believers, of the sort that never-believers like Dawkins cannot offer.

  • anon

    Thank you so much for writing this. I can’t tell you how good it was to read something that resonated so closely with my own experience. More importantly, you have written it in a way which is approachable for those who still believe. People need to read this.

  • http://www.theshitizens.com Grant

    It seems like you’ve ended up at precisely the type of atheism that Nietzsche radically opposed, the nihilistic culmination of a Christianity that is still infected with the whole of the corrupted Christian metaphysics. Remember, the idiots in the courtyard where the madman declares God’s death? Not Christians or Pagans, they were Atheists. The point isn’t atheism, but pantheism or polytheism— the gods are still here, whether you want to acknowledge them or not. They are functions, patterns and habits. They are conceptual anchors that allow things like words to function by proposing a non-existing or non-present behavior that exists through the practices that worship it. The lion in the parable is not saying “No” to the belief system, but to the underlying form of the belief itself, clearing out the metaphysic, tearing up the epistemological and ultimately ontological ground of the universe so that the child can instigate something new, a new god. This isn’t a defense of religion in the static sense, that its institutions are valid or it’s concepts are valid, but in the human sense; it is the way of humans to find meaning and meaning is grounded in gods. Our choice isn’t between Religion and Atheism, but between a topological pantheism, a sutured polytheism or the monotono[a]theisms of the past.

  • pixelinabitmap

    From the standpoint of a never-religious, this still resonates on a personal level. The commitment to truth and integrity can, in itself, be a religion of sorts, however one comes to it. If it’s learned as part of a “formal” religion, it can lead a sufficiently deeply questioning individual to apostasy. If it isn’t, it tends to lead an individual with the same kind of temperament (if not the same biographical experiences) to a very emotionally similar place.

  • http://qpr.ca/blogs/ Alan Cooper

    I think you have a good point. A religious tradition that claims to value truth does provide its own escape hatch, and so you are lucky to have come from such a tradition. But where in the Bible is lying prohibited?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      It’s one of the Ten Commandments.

    • http://qpr.ca/blogs/ Alan Cooper

      “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” – ok but that is a bit limited in that it only really prohibits false accusations but not necessarily other falsehoods.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Ha, good point. Well the Christian tradition has many other powerful streams in it besides just the Bible and one of them has been the denunciation of lying as an absolute evil. Many Christian theologians and philosophers have contorted themselves a great extent trying to uphold prohibitions against lying as absolute while still allowing necessary lies (basically by reinterpreting what a “lie” is) rather than just outright say, “okay, sometimes lying is okay”.

    • Drew

      I found this for you. I hope it is sufficient.

      http://ecclesia.org/truth/lying.html

  • Joe

    All men are not created equal some act as beast others become beasts through their acts. It is always a choice not a Religion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paddyjmanning paddy jmanning

    Silliest load of self deluding twaddle I’ve read in years. Your sheer self-congratulatory smugness is bad enough but combined with second hand ideas & a tendency indulge in a martyr fantasy makes you come across as bathetic.

    Just get on with being an atheist without all the public self justification: if you can.

    • Xray

      Talk about self-deluding! You kindly link us to your Facebook page, and from there we see you are a devout Irish Catholic, a follower of Aquinas, and [get this!] a fan of Sarah Palin. Yikes! So evidently you specialize, not in second-hand ideas, but in ancient wrong-headed ideas (Catholicism) and sheer stupidity (Palinism). Pretty “bathetic”. I’ll take Nietzsche and Daniel Fincke any day.

  • Kevin Alexander

    Thanks Dan. Like others here I feel that you have told my story except that I escaped into the light at a much younger age.
    When I was a small child my relationship with god was so close that when I talked to him, he talked back. When the nuns told me about original sin I asked god about it and he told me that it couldn’t possibly be true. ‘Think about it’ he said ‘Why would anyone but an idiot punish someone for what someone else has done?’
    If that’s not what happened, then what did?

    So, even to a six year old it was not so much about the love of truth but of the practical necessity of finding it.

  • http://rutgershumanist.org Paul Chiariello

    Loved the article.

    I, personally, like to ‘accuse’ some of my old friends from my own Christian past of not loving God as much as I did. Because I loved God so much, I was willing to search out other religions. I wanted to understand God, whoever He was, and not merely become some expert on the one perspective on God I randomly inherited. After all, I was telling others who were devout in their inherited beliefs that they might be wrong and should search out God. In effect, it was my love for God that spurred me to search out other religions, eventually ending in my rejection of the concept altogether.

    So, I like to think that it was my love for God and other religions, and not my hate of them, that caused me to leave. So in a way similar to your own story about a love for, and not rejection of, what you then saw as a religious value.

    In fact, it’s surprising how much we have in common. I applied to Grove City (but was wait listed). I also didn’t leave a my devoutly religious Christian upbringing until the end of my undergraduate years. And, this fall I’ll be starting my own PhD in Philosophy at Yale.

    I enjoyed the article, and look forward to searching around it.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Loved the article.

      I, personally, like to ‘accuse’ some of my old friends from my own Christian past of not loving God as much as I did. Because I loved God so much, I was willing to search out other religions. I wanted to understand God, whoever He was, and not merely become some expert on the one perspective on God I randomly inherited. After all, I was telling others who were devout in their inherited beliefs that they might be wrong and should search out God. In effect, it was my love for God that spurred me to search out other religions, eventually ending in my rejection of the concept altogether.

      So, I like to think that it was my love for God and other religions, and not my hate of them, that caused me to leave. So in a way similar to your own story about a love for, and not rejection of, what you then saw as a religious value.

      In fact, it’s surprising how much we have in common. I applied to Grove City (but was wait listed). I also didn’t leave a my devoutly religious Christian upbringing until the end of my undergraduate years. And, this fall I’ll be starting my own PhD in Philosophy at Yale.

      I enjoyed the article, and look forward to searching around it.

      This is terrific, Paul! Congratulations on Yale! I am curious how old you were when you deconverted and if your time as an evangelical affected how you did philosophy at all and how you feel now about what kind of shape your philosophical categories are in. Do you have a settled sense of basic philospohical issues? Because I think I was in a really chaotic place with my philosophy (though I wouldn’t have understood it that way at the time maybe) when I deconverted. Your Thoughts?

      I hope you stick around!

  • http://rutgershumanist.org Paul Chiariello

    Oh! And I completely forgot to mention: I had a small blog for about a year called “In a God Who Could Dance” which is also from Thus Spake Zarathustra!

  • http://NA Brian Iverson

    I am from the non-religious group that never experienced religion except a few trips to Sunday school with my sister. My only memories are that I disliked going and it did not last too long.

    You said “Don’t attempt to exclude our voice from the discussion. Don’t silence our sides of the religious story.

    It’s not truthful. It’s not fair. It’s not even religiously tolerant.” Then you asked for our thoughts.

    To me it is glaringly simple why apostates are not included in the conversation. Apostates are their greatest fear; the most believable voice against what they believe. One who was a believer and part of the community and you left. You said that their beliefs were wrong despite the many years of indoctrination (and love, companionship, caring and so on).

    You have the ability to sway others away from religion unlike never-believers like myself can ever do. I just don’t know what that kind of religious belief and community is like. You do. And you were strong enough to say no to it.

    I have read that people that leave one religion will most likely fill that void by joining another religion or spiritually-oriented group. But you went all the way to the other side. I assume many felt betrayed by your decision. I hope that others, with doubts, may more likely find their own strength to say ‘no more’ by seeing your example.

    I think that yours is a greater feat than what intelligent people must do to continue to believe or at least remain part of a formal religion.

    Along a different line: Do you see similarities between your religious apostasy and the recent atheist apostasy of Leah Libresco who announced her conversion to Catholicism? Not so much between you and her, but the reactions of atheists to her defection. Are they similar to reactions you encountered when you left? I sensed fear in many of the statements made regarding Libresco. Fear possibly coming from people’s perceived ‘hit’ to their belief system.

    Sincerely,

    Brian Iverson

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      To your first point about why they don’t want to tell the stories of us apostates—on that point I meant that the supposedly religiously neutral liberals and secular people should stop trying to silence us since they are motivated, theoretically, by their conception of religious tolerance and not by religious conviction. True religious tolerance would mean giving at least equal respect to apostates as one does believers.

      As for Libresco’s conversion compared to my deconversion, I think that the atheists who I have read don’t like the PR hit and cannot fathom being rationally (or morally) swayed to Catholicism. But I don’t think any are showing the slightest sense of threat to the correctness of their thinking. Many are just wanting to write her off as a fool to be forgotten. Others are I think doing the best thing by analyzing what there is to learn about what leads people into religious beliefs and how to prevent it. I am trying to encourage those people to take seriously the need for constructive atheist philosophy on the kinds of ethical, epistemological, and metaphysical issues that religions claim to address.

  • Josh_Co_85

    I think you are wrong where you say that the camel loves truth. The camel takes on the heaviest things because it in awe of its strength, and wants to be burdened by the heaviest things to revel in its strength. Sometimes that involves eating acorns and grass and making the soul hunger for the sake of the truth, but not for love of the truth. Sometimes it involves wading into filthy water because it is the truth, and because the strong spirit only hesitates to immerse itself in water only when it is shallow.

    The camel is a beast of burden and wants to be burdened because in burdening itself it proves how strong it is — sometimes this means the truth is taken on because it can be heaviest, but not always. There are other things besides the truth that are heaviest, maybe even heavier, like to revel in your stupidity because it debases your wisdom — are you strong enough for that? Would your pride allow you to be humiliated?

    I’m afraid you are still only camel, even if armed with a hammer.

  • Grant

    Thanks for the article! Even though I have thought about this to some extent and realized how sometimes my atheism was religious, I hadn’t linked it as evenly as you did. So thank you for helping things make a little more sense.

  • findingme

    Thank you Dan for your site and your boldness and courage! There is little support for someone experiencing deconversion. Just knowing others share similar experiences can be of tremendous help. Those without a religious background perhaps cannot relate to the bondage and shame cycle that is perpetuated as an instrument for social, political, and thought control within the monotheistic traditions. It can leave one with a type of PTSD (as another post pointed out).
    My religious journey has taken many twists and turns, yet has only climaxed 4 months ago. It is a traumatically painful process that can end in a freedom unlike anything superficially experienced in the evangelical or even charismatic setting. I too have been an avid “truth seeker” always asking the hard questions and studying many theological traditions within Christendom in order to reconcile the glaring contradictions. I have wasted almost my entire life memorizing scripture, teaching Bible Study groups, and pouring over ancient Greek and Hebrew in hopes of reconciling the irreconcilable.
    I agree with you completely that one has to be truly devout and passionate about truth to discover the myth machine behind the great and powerful OZ. Is it true that to have intellectual integrity one has to be a fundamentalist fanatic or a passionate atheist; but can truth ever lie in the middle? Consequently, the “truth” came to me during a yearlong, intense study of the book of Hebrews. There were unmistakable OT misquotes and misinterpretations throughout the book, yet in one final blow the whole enchilada fell apart. The Hebrew’s author made the claim that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. However, it is explicitly stated in the Old Testament that fine flour could be brought for sin forgiveness if one was too poor. Later verses exclaimed that the “bulls of our lips (i.e. repentance)” were acceptable without a blood sacrifice. These discoveries led ironically to more de- “revelations “ that have continued to build up a case for the Bible being a …..surprise….fatally flawed contradictory work of human scholarship. I could no longer accept the canned answers.
    Once the veil was lifted it became impossible to continue in the hypnotic delusion of evangelical doctrine that one pervaded my worldview. I have had to accept that I have been deluded in many areas. The hardest has been debunking the proofs I have constructed for the supernatural over the last 30+ years. I am discovering the world, history, philosophy (oops, that’s man’s wisdom ;) ), science, true morality, and myself. I’m still in flux, not yet embracing full-fledge materialism; there are things I’ve witnessed that I am still seeking scientific understanding on. But, Am I just converting to a different “religion”. No, I don’t believe atheism should not be called a religion. It is better described as a worldview. A religion requires ritual, worship/devotion, etc. I just seek the truth.

  • B-Lar

    Dan, I would be interested if you could elaborate on something within this post:

    “But even on these scores, my love of truth itself leads me to recognize and acknowledge and understand its limited value.”

    I am a massive fan of truth and was taught to love it by my childhood in the churh. I would say that truth is the most important thing there is. I understand that nothing real can have infinite value, but I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the limts of truth’s value.

  • s

    Have just discovered your blog and am reading through your story. This post put words to what I have felt since I lost my faith. Most of my friends and family are evangelicals, and I am still in the closet about my not-so-new non-belief. I don’t want the people I love to lose sleep praying and stressing about my eternal fate. I wish I could share this blog post with them without fear of that as it explains my views so perfectly. I know they would think I was never truly a believer OR that I consciously rejected it to carry out a sinful lifestyle (premarital sex in only two long term and deeply committed relationships… gasp!). You’ve captured it perfectly here how it was exactly my deep belief that led to my non-belief.

    Also- one of the above comments mentioned “meta-belief” – one of my pet peeves and a fabulous word for it! My in laws are some of the wildest meta-believers ever, and I just think if they devoted one brain cell to examining their so called beliefs, they would toss Christianity to the curb immediately! I don’t understand how they profess to believe and yet never pray, read the Bible, or attend church outside of Christmas and Easter. It feels a little hypocritical as a non-believer to get my panties in a bunch about it but it actually kind of offends my formerly devout sensibilities.

    That said, fabulous work here. I look forward to reading more.


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