The Atheist Daughter of a Notable Christian Apologist Shares Her Story

This is a guest post by Rachael Slick.

Note: A few weeks ago, The Daily Show aired a segment about how rough Christians had it because of all those homosexual “bullies”:

The heart of the segment involved correspondent Samantha Bee interviewing Matt Slick, founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM).

Rachael is Matt Slick’s daughter. She’s not a Christian. This is her story.

***

I was born in 1992. My parents named me Rachael, after the biblical wife Jacob loved.

Rachael (right) with her parents



One of my earliest memories is of my dad’s gigantic old Bible. Its pages were falling out, its margins were scrawled over with notes, and the leather cover was unraveled in places from being so worn out. 
Every night, after we stacked up the dishes after our family dinner, he would bring it down and read a passage. I always requested something from the Book of Revelation or Genesis, because that’s where most of the interesting stories happened. After he was done, he’d close the Bible with a big WHUMP and turn to me.

“Now Rachael,” he would ask, “What is the hypostatic union?” 
and I would pipe back, “The two natures of Jesus!”


“What is pneumatology?”


The study of the holy spirit!

“What is the communicatio idiomatum?”


The communication of the properties in which the attributes of the two natures are ascribed to the single person!



Occasionally he would go to speak at churches about the value of apologetics and, the times I went along, he would call on me from the crowd and have me recite the answers to questions about theology. After I sat down, he would say, “My daughter knows more about theology than you do! You are not doing your jobs as Christians to stay educated and sharp in the faith.”



Conversation with him was a daily challenge. He would frequently make blatantly false statements — such as “purple dogs exist” — and force me to disprove him through debate. He would respond to things I said demanding technical accuracy, so that I had to narrow my definitions and my terms to give him the correct response. It was mind-twisting, but it encouraged extreme clarity of thought, critical thinking, and concise use of language. I remember all this beginning around the age of five.



Rachael receives an award from Awana for being the most 'godly' student. She would later complete the Awana course, memorizing over 800 Bible verses along the way.
Rachael receives an award from Awana for being the most ‘godly’ student. She would later complete the Awana course, memorizing over 800 Bible verses along the way.

I have two sisters, three and seven years younger than myself, and we were all homeschooled in a highly strict, regulated environment. Our A Beka schoolbooks taught the danger of evolution. Our friends were “good influences” on us, fellow homeschoolers whose mothers thought much alike. Obedience was paramount — if we did not respond immediately to being called, we were spanked ten to fifteen times with a strip of leather cut from the stuff they used to make shoe soles. Bad attitudes, lying, or slow obedience usually warranted the same — the slogan was “All the way, right away, and with a happy spirit.” We were extremely well-behaved children, and my dad would sometimes show us off to people he met in public by issuing commands that we automatically rushed to obey. The training was not just external; God commanded that our feelings and thoughts be pure, and this resulted in high self-discipline.

Rachael (bottom row, second from right) and her fellow homeschooled friends know to obey!
Rachael (bottom row, second from right) and her fellow homeschooled friends know to obey!

I recently came across this entry in a workbook I wrote when I was nine:


I’m hopeless.

Oh boy. I’ve got a lot to work on. I try to be obedient but it’s so hard! The more I read, the more I realize how bad I am! My problem is that when things don’t make sense to me, I don’t like them. When Dad gets mad at me for something, everything makes perfect sense to me in my mind, so I tend to resent my parents’ correction.

I have just realized that I yearn to please the lord, but why can’t I? I just can’t be good! It seems impossible. Why can’t I be perfect?

At this point, my dad was working at a tech job during the day and working in his office, writing and researching, at night. He developed a huge collection of books, with bookshelves that spanned the wall, full of Bibles and notebooks filled with theology. This was the early stages of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.


It became a sort of game to watch him go “Mormon hunting”; if he saw them on the sidewalk, he’d pull up in the car to engage them in debate. After the Mormons visited our apartment a few times, they blacklisted us, and none of them ever visited us again. My dad was always very congenial to those he debated, and most viewed him as charismatic — though his debate tactics were ruthless and often more focused on efficiency than relationship-building.



We moved to Idaho when I was 12. My dad worked at Hewlett-Packard for a while but eventually made the big decision to make CARM his full-time career.



It was around this time my dad began receiving death threats — though I didn’t find this out until later. Someone was sending him graphic pictures, descriptive threats of rape against his family, and Google images of locations near our house. He got the FBI involved. They eventually determined it was someone from across the globe and likely posed no risk to us. My parents installed a home security system after that, but it only reinforced the “us vs. them” mentality he already held. My dad spoke frequently about the people “out to destroy him” and how his “enemies” were determined to obscure and twist the truth.



I wasn’t privy to a great deal of what went on behind the scenes at CARM — likely because I too young to fully understand it. A few times a year there would usually be an “event” that would capture most of his ire. For a while, it was the Universalists who were destroying his forums. Another time, it would be his arch-nemeses in the field of women in ministry or “troublemaking” atheists. Beyond these things, I knew little, except that I was immensely proud of my dad, who was smart, confident, and knew the Truth more than anybody else. I aspired to be like him — I would be a missionary, or an apologist! (Though not a pastor; I was a woman and thus unqualified for that field.) God was shaping my destiny.



As my knowledge of Christianity grew, so did my questions — many of them the “classic” kind. If God was all-powerful and all-knowing, why did He create a race He knew was destined for Hell? How did evil exist if all of Creation was sustained by the mind of God? Why didn’t I feel His presence when I prayed? 


Having a dad highly schooled in Christian apologetics meant that every question I brought up was explained away confidently and thoroughly. Many times, after our nightly Bible study, we would sit at the table after my Mom and sisters had left and debate, discuss, and dissect the theological questions I had. No stone was left unturned, and all my uncertainty was neatly packaged away.



Atheists frequently wonder how an otherwise rational Christian can live and die without seeing the light of science, and I believe the answer to this is usually environment. If every friend, authority figure, and informational source in your life constantly repeat the same ideas, it is difficult not to believe they’re onto something. My world was built of “reasonable” Christians — the ones who thought, who questioned, who knew that what they believed was true. In the face of this strength, my own doubts seemed petty. 



There was one belief I held onto strongly, though — the one that eventually led to my undoing. I promised myself “I will never believe in Christianity simply because it feels right, otherwise I am no better than those in any other religion I debate. I must believe in Christianity because it is the Truth, and if it is ever proven otherwise, I must forsake it no matter how much it hurts.”



Twice, I attended protests. Once, in front of an abortion clinic, and another time, at the Twin Falls Mormon Temple. I went to public high school for a few months, where I brought the Bible and a picture of my parents for a show-and-tell speech of the things we valued most. I befriended Cody, a World of Warcraft nerd, for the sole purpose of telling him he was going to Hell and that he needed to repent. Every time I heard someone swear in the school hallways, I would close my eyes and pray.


I informed my parents that I wanted an arranged marriage because love was a far too emotional and dangerous prospect, and I trusted them to make an informed choice for my future far better than I ever could. My romantic exploits through puberty were negligible.



I ran away from home when I was 17 (due to reasons not pertinent to this post) and went to college the following year. I must have been a nightmare in my philosophy and religion classes, raising my hands at every opportunity and spouting off well-practiced arguments. Despite this, my philosophy professor loved me, and we would often meet after class, talking about my views on God. Even though he tried to direct me away from them, I was insistent about my beliefs: If God didn’t exist, where did morality come from? What about the beginning of the universe? Abiogenesis? There were too many questions left by the absence of God, and I could not believe in something (godlessness, in this case) that left me with so little closure. My certainty was my strength — I knew the answers when others did not.



This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?

Alex had no answer — and I realized I didn’t either. Everyone had always explained this problem away using the principle that Jesus’ sacrifice meant we wouldn’t have to follow those ancient laws. 
But that wasn’t an answer. In fact, by the very nature of the problem, there was no possible answer that would align with Christianity.


I still remember sitting there in my dorm room bunk bed, staring at the cheap plywood desk, and feeling something horrible shift inside me, a vast chasm opening up beneath my identity, and I could only sit there and watch it fall away into darkness. The Bible is not infallible, logic whispered from the depths, and I had no defense against it. If it’s not infallible, you’ve been basing your life’s beliefs on the oral traditions of a Middle Eastern tribe. The Bible lied to you.


Everything I was, everything I knew, the structure of my reality, my society, and my sense of self suddenly crumbled away, and I was left naked.



I was no longer a Christian. That thought was a punch to the gut, a wave of nausea and terror. Who was I, now, when all this had gone away? What did I know? What did I have to cling to? Where was my comfort? 

I didn’t know it, but I was free.



For a long time I couldn’t have sex with my boyfriend (of over a year by this point) without crippling guilt. I had anxiety that I was going to Hell. I felt like I was standing upon glass, and, though I knew it was safe, every time I glanced down I saw death. I had trouble coping with the fact that my entire childhood education now essentially meant nothing — I had been schooled in a sham. I had to start from scratch in entering and learning about this secular world. Uncertainty was not something I was accustomed to feeling. Though I had left Christianity intellectually, my emotional beliefs had yet to catch up.



Eventually I worked up the courage to announce my choice on Facebook — which generated its own share of controversy. I’m fairly certain I broke my mother’s heart. Many people accused me of simply going through a rebellious stage and that I would come around soon. Countless people prayed for me.

I don’t know how my dad reacted to my deconversion; I haven’t spoken to him since I left home.



There was no miracle to cure me of the fear and pain, no God to turn to for comfort. But it did heal. Eventually. I only barely fear Hell now, and my instinct to pray only turns up on rare occasions. For a while now, I’ve been educating myself in science, a world far more uncertain than the one I left, but also far more honest.

Rachael Slick
Rachael Slick



Someone once asked me if I would trade in my childhood for another, if I had the chance, and my answer was no, not for anything.
 My reason is that, without that childhood, I wouldn’t understand what freedom truly is — freedom from a life centered around obedience and submission, freedom to think anything, freedom from guilt and shame, freedom from the perpetual heavy obligation to keep every thought pure. Nothing I’ve ever encountered in my life has been so breathtakingly beautiful. 



Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.

***Update***: If you’d like to reach Rachael, you may email her here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Esther O’Reilly

    This is just devastatingly sad more than anything else. It seems like a pretty trite thing that ultimately pushed her over the edge. Not like that objection hasn’t been discussed and dealt with many times over…

  • Marie Alexander

    It may seem small, but the point is that it proved that the Bible is not logically infallible – there are logical flaws in it that Christianity has no good answers for without contradicting itself. The fact that the Bible is infallible is core to the religion, and it dawned on her that Christianity is no different from any other religion as far as its origins go.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I don’t have time to explain why, but I have a degree in philosophy and no, that’s not a logical flaw. However, it’s not even true that strict inerrancy is core to Christianity. There are Christians, even traditional Christians, who believe the Bible is substantially reliable on all the major points, overwhelmingly supported by the evidence, but may still contain minor factual errors. Luke, for example, appears simply not to be aware of Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt when he recounts the Nativity story. But, big whoop. It’s true that some Christians aren’t even flexible enough to be comfortable with that, but it’s simply not true that Christianity necessitates the belief in inerrancy.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Okay I left a comment here but it disappeared. To recap, no, that’s not a logical error, and I don’t have time to provide details, but I might as well mention that I do have a degree in philosophy. Secondly, inerrancy isn’t a core belief of Christianity. Yes, there are sub-groups who believe that it is, but you can be a traditional Christian and acknowledge at least minor factual slips in the text. The important thing is that the Bible is overwhelmingly substantiated and reliable on the major points.

  • Marie Alexander

    The comment’s still there, but that doesn’t matter.

    I will be quite honest in that most of the Christians that I’ve heard will refuse to admit that human fallibility had any effect on Scripture. This is probably mostly due to the type of religious climate I was raised in.

    Also, not really a major thing, but I’m curious as to what you consider to be “major points.” (Sorry if this all comes off as being slightly annoying.)

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Really? That’s bizarre—when I call up the post it doesn’t show up for me. Sigh, my Disqus has been acting generally weird lately.

    Yes, there’s a strong sub-culture that’s very insistent on the absolute infallibility of Scripture down to the tiniest details. They’re good people and solid Christians, but this is one of their hang-ups, and it can create some unfortunate friction with other Christians who aren’t “progressive” but willing to flex more on that particular issue. Almost certainly this was what you experienced.

    Your question is actually very important—what exactly are the essentials, or the “majors”? The answer is, it’s the “meat” of the stories and the events narrated themselves. E.g., that there was a historical Jesus, that he really was born of a virgin, performed miracles, was crucified, dead, buried and rose again. And in the Old Testament, the history of the Jews—essentially accurate. There are strange things. The slaughter of the Canaanites for example. There’s no independent textual reason to question those passages’ authenticity, but it’s morally jarring enough for God to order PEOPLE to carry out murder (which I distinguish from God personally taking a life) that I’m willing to consider it a distinct possibility.

    But again, that would deeply shock many people in the fundamentalist sub-culture, to even contemplate such a thing. It doesn’t make me a progressive, but it does set me apart from that sub-culture in an important way. For many young people, it’s what causes them to abandon their faith. They’ve been raised within such a rigid framework of inerrancy that if they come to doubt one bit of it, their training tells them the whole house of cards must fall.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Aaargh. Trying this again.

    Really? That’s bizarre—when I call up the post it doesn’t show up for me. Sigh, my Disqus has been acting generally weird lately.

    Yes, there’s a strong sub-culture that’s very insistent on the absolute infallibility of Scripture down to the tiniest details. They’re good people and solid Christians, but this is one of their hang-ups, and it can create some unfortunate friction with other Christians who aren’t “progressive” but willing to flex more on that particular issue. Almost certainly this was what you experienced.

    Your question is actually very important—what exactly are the essentials, or the “majors”? The answer is, it’s the “meat” of the stories and the events narrated themselves. E.g., that there was a historical Jesus, that he really was born of a virgin, performed miracles, was crucified, dead, buried and rose again. And in the Old Testament, the history of the Jews—essentially accurate. There are strange things. The slaughter of the Canaanites for example. There’s no independent textual reason to question those passages’ authenticity, but it’s morally jarring enough for God to order PEOPLE to carry out murder (which I distinguish from God personally taking a life) that I’m willing to consider it a distinct possibility.

    But again, that would deeply shock many people in the fundamentalist sub-culture, to even contemplate such a thing. It doesn’t make me a progressive, but it does set me apart from that sub-culture in an important way. For many young people, it’s what causes them to abandon their faith. They’ve been raised within such a rigid framework of inerrancy that if they come to doubt one bit of it, their training tells them the whole house of cards must fall.

  • Marie Alexander

    Just to let you know, your comments are showing up on the page just fine. I actually got the same sort of thing once.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Okay, thanks for letting me know. I’m trying to figure out if it’s an IP thing, but another user in my house is not experiencing the problem. But I hope it’s temporary.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Gah. It’s happening again. Really, the first draft of my other comment is showing up for you? That’s bizarre—when I call up the post it doesn’t show up for me. Sigh, my Disqus has been acting generally weird lately.

    Yes, there’s a strong sub-culture that’s very insistent on the absolute infallibility of Scripture down to the tiniest details. They’re good people and solid Christians, but this is one of their hang-ups, and it can create some unfortunate friction with other Christians who aren’t “progressive” but willing to flex more on that particular issue. Almost certainly this was what you experienced.

    Your question is actually very important—what exactly are the essentials, or the “majors”? The answer is, it’s the “meat” of the stories and the events narrated themselves. E.g., that there was a historical Jesus, that he really was born of a virgin, performed miracles, was crucified, dead, buried and rose again. And in the Old Testament, the history of the Jews—essentially accurate. There are strange things. The slaughter of the Canaanites for example. There’s no independent textual reason to question those passages’ authenticity, but it’s morally jarring enough for God to order PEOPLE to carry out murder (which I distinguish from God personally taking a life) that I’m willing to consider it a distinct possibility.

    But again, that would deeply shock many people in the fundamentalist sub-culture, to even contemplate such a thing. It doesn’t make me a progressive, but it does set me apart from that sub-culture in an important way. For many young people, it’s what causes them to abandon their faith. They’ve been raised within such a rigid framework of inerrancy that if they come to doubt one bit of it, their training tells them the whole house of cards must fall.

  • http://helpology.org/ Helpology™

    Hemant, thank you for sharing Rachel’s amazing story! I respect your work and the many comments shared here in your Friendly Atheist blog. My story is almost the exact opposite. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a passionate seeker of truth and love. While growing up in the public school system, I was indoctrinated to believe macroevolution was a scientific fact, the universe essentially created itself, and I was a descendant of monkeys. Therefore, I logically concluded the Bible was simply a bunch of myths and fairy tales. So whenever I read the Bible, I read it with a blinded bias against it. This lead me to logically embrace atheism and live my live in the bliss of moral relativism. By age 24, I had read more than 500 books about practical life skills, communication, science, and business, etc., then wrote my first book, “How to Gain love, respect, Happiness, Health & Wealth: Personal Perfection of Your Mind.” My pride was ballooning! Eventually, however, I suffered the consequences of my self-centered choices. To make a long story short, I eventually read the entire Bible with an open heart and mind. Thankfully, I discovered the Bible to be the missing link to the truth and love I had always been searching for. By God’s grace, today i am the founder of the Information Age social science called Helpology™ – the biblical and scientific study of the world’s most helpful products and services. In short, I systematically combine the Bible, science, and business as I research, use, and recommend the world’s most helpful products and services. In conclusion, I thank God we live in a country where atheists and Christians can respectfully and peacefully speak the truth in love. Keep up the great work as we all enjoy the Freedom of Speech so many people throughout history have died defending.

  • mdoc

    If you learned man was the descendant of monkeys you didn’t have a good teacher. Evolution doesn’t work that way.

  • http://helpology.org/ Helpology™

    Great point! At the same time, I’ve noticed Atheism also likes to take over the educational systems to mold minds before adulthood. Yet, if someone is convicted they know what the truth is (e.g. it is a scientific fact God does not exist), why would it be wrong for anyone to want to help make sure others learn the truth?

  • http://helpology.org/ Helpology™

    I concur! I empirically combine the Bible, science, and business, and have found no proven contradictions yet. In fact, the Bible has proven itself to me time and again by giving me more practical wisdom than any other collection of books I have ever read. I continue to scientifically test the Bible, and my empirical results keep proving the Bible’s voracity! Glory to God!

  • http://helpology.org/ Helpology™

    The irony is, when one chooses to employ sound logic, one must borrow from the Christian worldview to acknowledge and think with the very same laws of logic God created for us to reason with. Furthermore, I am helpologically reminded of these haunting, biblical declarations: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
    Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:20-32).

  • http://helpology.org/ Helpology™

    But if there is no God, then there are no absolute morals. You speak of bloodshed as if you think it is immoral. By the way, isn’t survival of the fittest a basic law of Darwinian (macro) evolution?

  • http://helpology.org/ Helpology™

    Don’t forgotten about our own American genocide through abortion, more commonly cloaked in the euphemisms “Pro-Choice” & “Woman’s Right to Choose.” Isn’t it odd the helpless, unborn baby has absolutely no say in the “choice”? Oddly enough, if Survival of the Fittest is a logically valid worldview, then it only makes sense: the mother is the fittest one to survive.

    “The following are 19 facts about abortion in America that should make you very sick. …

    #1 There have been more than 53 million abortions performed in the United States since Roe v. Wade was decided back in 1973.

    #2 When you total up all forms of abortion, including those caused by the abortion drug RU 486, the grand total comes to more than a million abortions performed in the United States every single year.

    #3 The number of American babies killed by abortion each year is roughly equal to the number of U.S. military deaths that have occurred in all of the wars that the United States has ever been involved in combined.

    #4 Approximately 3,000 Americans lost their lives as a result of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. Every single day, more than 3,000 American babies are killed by abortion.

    #5 It has been reported that a staggering 41 percent of all New York City pregnancies end in abortion.

    #6 According to Pastor Clenard Childress, approximately 52 percent of all African-American pregnancies now end in abortion.

    #7 One very shocking study found that 86 percent of all abortions are done for the sake of convenience.

    #8 According to the Guttmacher Institute, the average cost of a first trimester abortion at the ten week mark is $451.

    #9 The average cost of a vaginal birth with no complications in the United Statesis now over $9,000.

    #10 A Department of Homeland Security report that was released in January 2012 says that if you are “anti-abortion”, you are a potential terrorist. Unfortunately, there have also been other government reports that have also identified “anti-abortion” protesters as potential threats.

    #11 A while back one Philadelphia abortionist was charged with killing seven babies that were born alive, but witnesses claim that he actually slaughtered hundreds “of living, breathing newborn children by severing their spinal cords or slitting their necks.”

    #12 Some abortion clinics have been caught selling aborted baby parts to medical researchers.

    #13 Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger once said the following….

    “The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

    #14 In a 1922 book entitled “Woman, Morality, and Birth Control”, Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger wrote the following….

    “Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race.”

    #15 Planned Parenthood performs more than 300,000 abortions every single year.

    #16 Planned Parenthood specifically targets the poor. A staggering 72 percent of Planned Parenthood’s “customers” have incomes that are either equal to or beneath 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

    #17 There are 30 Planned Parenthood executives that make more than $200,000 a year. A few of them make more than $300,000 a year.

    #18 Planned Parenthood received more than 487 million dollars from the federal government during 2010.

    #19 The following is one description of the five steps of a partial birth abortion….

    1) Guided by ultrasound, the abortionist grabs the baby’s legs with forceps.

    2) The baby’s leg is pulled out into the birth canal.

    3) The abortionist delivers the baby’s entire body, except for the head.

    4) The abortionist jams scissors into the baby’s skull. The scissors are then opened to enlarge the skull.

    5) The scissors are removed and a suction catheter is inserted. The child’s brains are sucked out, causing the skull to collapse. The dead baby is then removed.”

    http://www.infowars.com/19-facts-about-abortion-in-america-that-should-make-you-very-sick/

  • mdoc

    Given that Christians commonly disagree on what is the truth, doesn’t that make you question whether there is any truth there at all? Why would a god be so obtuse?