Illustration of Daniel FlorienI’m Daniel Florien. I was an evangelical Christian for over a decade, completely convinced that God was real and Jesus was alive today. I attended Bible college and worked at a Christian organization for many years. I have “led people to Christ.” I have left tracts in bathrooms. I have knocked on hundreds of doors asking people to repent and believe in Jesus.

I was wrong.

Now I don’t believe in a personal God or that Jesus was born of a virgin, worked miracles, and rose from the dead. I don’t believe in heaven or hell, angels or demons, holy books or prophecy. I don’t believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago, or that God intelligently designed every species.

I now consider myself an atheist and a skeptic.

Here’s an interview about my former beliefs.

What changed your mind?

It took many years for me to realize I was wrong. Here are a few reasons I changed my mind:

  1. I read widely outside of evangelical Christianity with an open mind. Just reading isn’t good enough — without an open mind, everything confirms your own beliefs. I decided truth was more important than my current beliefs. I was warned this was dangerous. It was indeed.
  2. I studied science with an open mind. I came to believe in an old earth, then finally evolution. This was a long process of removing layer after layer of propaganda.
  3. I looked for evidence for many of the claims I believed and realized that there was no reputable evidence at all. I could believe Jesus was resurrected, or that Moses parted the Red Sea, but there was no evidence outside oral stories recorded by unknown biased authors many decades (or, as with Moses, many centuries) after the fact.
  4. I researched the history and authorship of the Bible from a secular perspective. After I realized the messy history of the Bible, and saw all the contradictions and absurdities, I could not believe in inspiration much less infallibility, and any faith I still had crashed down.
  5. I learned to think critically and, with much trepidation, finally applied it to my own religion. After years of struggling, I finally accepted I was in a cult called evangelical Christianity.
  6. I asked hard questions and got tired of the final answers being “it’s a mystery,” which really meant, “it doesn’t make any sense to me either, but that’s what the Bible says.”
  7. I learned about probability. Things I thought could not happen without divine intervention ended up being within the laws of probability. Coincidence really exists.

Haven’t you just become an atheistic fundamentalist?

I hope not. I am open to new evidence and to being convinced differently. I have been wrong many times in the past, and I am sure I will be wrong in the future.

I want to believe the truth, no matter the consequences to my current beliefs.

If the earth can be shown to really be 6,000 years old, I would believe. If it could be proven that Jesus rose from the dead or was born of a virgin, I would believe. If it could be shown that God exists and he is involved in the lives of men, I would believe. If it could be shown that God is actually compassionate by letting people be killed, raped, and starved, then I would believe.

My own experience of religion fundamentalists is they are not truly open to new evidence or considering things differently. I am, which is how I got out of religious fundamentalism.

But you have as much faith as a believer!

I think this overextends the definition of faith so that it becomes meaningless.

I do not believe in unicorns, ghosts, leprechauns, dragons, tooth-fairies, and many other things. But I don’t have “faith” that these things don’t exist, anymore than a Christian has “faith” to not believe in Baal or Osiris or Santa Claus.

Whatever. Obviously you weren’t really a true Christian. So there!

There is no simple way around this objection, because it can’t be proven one way or another. But rest assured I loved Jesus, prayed to him every night, read the Bible every day (and cover to cover), studied for the ministry, went door knocking, led people to Jesus, led bible studies, and more. I was convicted of sin and repented often.

If I wasn’t a true Christian, how do you know you are?

But again, this doesn’t matter. Even if you were right, so what? So God tricked me into thinking I was elect, then manipulated my mind so I wouldn’t believe anymore. Therefore, God exists?