by James Edwards
I was in my mid-thirties when I became a born-again Christian and I took my faith very seriously by attending church and Bible studies twice a week and witnessing to unbelievers almost on a regular basis. Whenever I had doubts in my mind about anything I would hear in a sermon or read in the Bible, I would always find myself putting those things out of my mind and label them as satanic and influenced by the Devil. I actually believed that not only was the Devil a spirit, but he was an actual invisible person influencing my thoughts, and of course there was the Holy Spirit who was on my side and doing constant spiritual battle in my defense at all times.
It wasn’t until approximately seventeen years later that I started to seriously doubt, after visiting a Christian website that had views and interpretations that were contrary to the fundamentalist teachings that I had been exposed to most of the years that I was a professing Christian. I was always interested in Bible prophecy and during the summer of 2001 I discovered various websites that had many essays on prophecy and other biblical doctrines as well. The one thing that I always cherished about my Christian faith was the promise of the afterlife and spending eternity in Heaven with God and Jesus, and especially the promise of being reunited with loved ones. After I read a well-written essay by a Christian on heaven and the afterlife, arguing that it was not a reality according to the scriptures, I almost had to protest what I read with disbelief. I would read that particular essay over many times and even corresponded with the fellow who wrote it, and to my disappointment, I found that everything he was saying was true according to the scriptures. I would continue reading more of his essays that refuted many other fundamentalist doctrines of the bible that I was so used to interpreting from a fundamentalist perspective as well. This, I believe, was what put me on the road towards doubt and critical thought on all the false teachings in the Bible and Christianity.
I stopped believing in the Trinity, original sin, Heaven and Hell, Satan and the Devil, and prophecy and the return of Christ, among many other things. I got to the point where I wouldn’t even voice or express my different views and interpretation of the Bible in my church and my usual Sunday school class, for fear of being judged by my fellow peers as either a liberal or possibly not even saved. I guess you could say I was living a double or a secret life for fear of being considered something less than a fundamentalist born-again Christian. However, I did get to share my paradigm shift from conservative to moderate views to someone in my class whom I trusted as a friend and who I knew I could confide in.
Around that time, I discovered various Christian discussion forums on the internet and registered in one of them, in which I made friends with a fellow who had his own website where he shared his deconversion story from Christianity. His story of how he lost his faith in Christianity and the Bible inspired me greatly and I was impressed by how much he and I both had in common even though I still considered myself a Christian but not really a fundamentalist any longer. The essays that he wrote were so great that I would spend night after night in front of my computer reading them and the other various freethought/atheist links.
The more time that I spent reading essays by atheists, agnostics and freethinkers/humanists, the more I began to realize with a mixture of both fear and joy that I was thinking more like an unbeliever, similar to before I actually became a Christian approximately seventeen years earlier. I felt a certain kind of excitement building inside of me that was a very freeing experience. It was as if I was being released from some sort of prison, or a bondage if you will. The feeling was that of a mind being set free from religious restraints and it was very liberating. I was beginning to realize that there was no higher power keeping tabs on my entire thought, life, and every move and action in my life. If there was a higher being, it certainly was not the invented god of the Bible or any other religions invented by humans.
As the year 2002 was coming to a close and 2003 was beginning, I knew in my mind that I was no longer a Christian or a theist and was beginning to think more like an agnostic and an atheist. By this time I was wondering how I was going to break the news to my wife and my Christian friends. With my wife I didn’t really have to actually come out with it, because of all the challenging questions about the Bible, God and Christianity I had always been confronting her with. At one point she even asked me if I was an atheist or an agnostic, because of all my changed views and beliefs about the Bible. At that point, I felt that was the best time to be out with my unbelief. To my surprise she wasn’t very upset, but she still expressed her feelings of disappointment that I no longer was a believer in God or follower of Christianity.
Atheism to me personally is a great way of life and my biggest motivation at this time is that of being vocal and open about it with those around me. One of the things that motivates me the most is the way unbelievers, freethinkers and especially those who actually hold no reservations about referring to themselves as “atheists” are being classified as second class citizens. I consider myself just as moral and decent as any theist or fundamentalist Christian. I believe in defending the rights of those who not only have a lack of or no belief in a God but those who have a religious preference and a God belief as well. I believe that is the real and true purpose of America: Freedom of religious beliefs as well as freedom from religious beliefs and dogmas.