My parents did not appear to be religious, even though I and my brother had been baptised into the Church of England as infants. They never attended a church and I had the impression that my father at least was an atheist. However my brother and I were sent to attend a primary school run by a Baptist clergyman in huts adjacent to his church.
At some point, it was suggested that my brother and I attend the Sunday School. Perhaps my parents saw it as an opportunity to get some time to themselves. I was told that it would teach us how to behave. So we both attended. It was all rather a bore until it was discovered that I could play the piano (I had been taking lessons). For some reason there was an absence of the usual pianist for hymns. So I stumbled through the accompaniment, honoured to be asked, embarrassed and flattered at the same time.
This demand for my services kept me involved in the Sunday School while my brother gave it up. Unfortunately it also got me more involved in the church and I found myself attending services, even singing in their choir. In fact, at the age of 16, I accepted Xianity, a sore point with my parents, who no doubt then regretted ever sending me there. At one point they forbade me going altogether and I had to agree. But I vowed to keep my faith, even though I had no church to attend.
While studying architecture later, I attended a Bible study group (my parents had no control over my activities there).
Editor’s note: A shorter version of Steuart Campbell’s testimony appears in the recently-published Why We Left Religion: testimonies by ex-believers,
a Brighter Brains Institute 142-page e-book. You can get a copy for $5.00 here.
Later I got interested in the UFO phenomenon and became a member of a local group of ufologists, who believed that the flying saucers were occupied by the Devil’s angels! This led me to evangelical Xianity and some strange beliefs. When we moved to Edinburgh, my wife and children attended an evangelical chapel there.
While in Edinburgh I got involved in the Berean Forward Movement, whose members believe in “Dispensational Truth”, and the idea that salvation will be restricted to a certain group of believers.
Bereans emphasize examination of the Bible to see if what we are told is true and to discover secrets hidden from others. In effect Bereanism is a gnostic belief. Its secrets will guarantee salvation to the Bereans while being denied to everyone else.
A sucker for secrets, I was hooked on this and took to avoiding the chapel, seeing defects in the teaching there. But then I got into the habit of doubting what anyone said and started to study the history of the Jews.
I hadn’t gone very far with this before I realised that they were just a group of desert tribes who had no greater insight into the universe than anyone else. The Old Testament was merely a record of their myths. Such revisionism escalates of course and I soon abandoned many traditional beliefs and tried to reconcile Xianity with reality. I recall believing that the resurrected would live in some energy field around the Earth!
Eventually I was down to only one superstition – the Resurrection. One day I decided that it was nonsense to believe that someone could come back from the dead and that Jesus must have died like everyone else. It was a curious feeling. Relief and fear at the same time. I was no longer a Xian. This was in 1970 and I was 33, the same age as Jesus when he died. I had wasted 17 years as a Xian and was starting on a new atheistic life.
My wife seemed to accept the situation and claimed to see it coming. We removed our children from the Sunday School, much to the disappointment of the teacher there, who claimed that my son seemed to enjoy it. I think I had an argument with her.
Many might at this point abandon the superstition and get on with ordinary life. However, I like mysteries. I found myself asking, if Jesus was not who he claimed, who was he and what did he actually do?
Alternatively, how did Xianity start? That led to a long study of books about Jesus, some written by Xians and some by unbelievers. I found that there were many ideas about Jesus’ life with many mysteries resolved. But no one seemed to have the whole story. By this time I had become a writer and so I started to write my own book (The Rise and Fall of Jesus).
In it I claim to have found the real mission that Jesus had set himself and how it explains otherwise inexplicable events in the gospel story. My explanation is, as far as I know, unique: Jesus’ plan was to be crucified as one Messiah and to rise again as a second! Naturally this plan failed, but Xianity arose out of this failure and began by mistake.
My book is not to everyone’s taste. Most non-Xians have no interest and Xians are unlikely to want to read how they have been deceived. But ex-Xians may find it answering questions that may have troubled them as hangovers from their religious past.