I spent an entire 3 days thinking only about the lead in and title for this post. There are so many stories about my divergence from Christianity, I honestly don’t know where to begin. This is probably one of the most important post I will ever write. I feel this way for a few reasons. First, it is important because my family and friends [no matter how many times I have tried to explain it to them] do not understand how this came about. So I have to prove myself, and my thoughts to them to help them understand that I am not apart of some new age cult, that no one person lead me into or brainwashed me into this choice, and that this choice happened over time [which in the end won’t really mean anything to them because the outcome is the same]. Secondly, it is important because another person reading this may be influenced to diverge from Christianity. In light of that I need to be as thorough as possible. Thirdly, religion is something that people are easily offended over so I need to make sure that I am respecting others’ beliefs even though I am about to spend over 2000 words discrediting it. I am risking my entire [albeit small] writing career over my personal beliefs. You may not think it is that serious, but to some people if you are not a follower of Jesus…you are the devil incarnate. Which leads me to my first of many random points that I will be covering before I actually delineate my divergence.
A lot of Christians respond in the most un-Christian fashion when I tell them or when they find out that I am not “one of them”. A co-worker of mine un-friended me on Facebook. I have been called crazy, accused of devil worship, and all kinds of things. As a former Christian I believe the correct response would be [per the doctrine] to engage a non Christian in conversation and keep them as close to you as possible, instead of rebuking them in the name of Jesus.
On a side note, I would like my friends and family to know that I do not research the information that you present to me [I’m tired of lying about it]. Just like you all don’t read into the stuff I tell you, I surface graze the books, articles, and notes you ask me to read to “turn me back to Jesus”. I look at it this way. I spent 26 years classifying myself as a Christian and submitting to the doctrines. As a toddler I attended a Catholic private school. Growing up, every weekend I was forced to go to church every Sunday. Every Wednesday my grandmother would force me to attend Bible study with her, and every Thursday we’d go to choir rehearsal [which eventually made me resent church. Parents you should note this. By forcing your children to do certain things you aren’t teaching them, you are actually building resentment for whatever it is you want them to learn]. As a teen I was actively involved in my church’s Boy Scout troop and youth choir [I am an Eagle Scout now, so proud]. Throughout all those years I was forced to go to “watch night service” every new years until I was 19. I spent approximately 2 years earnestly practicing Christianity by choice as an adult. All these things were Christian centric and taught about Christianity while being involved. I have mentioned all of this to say this, I have done enough research on Christianity. If I hadn’t learned about it in 26 years, it’s probably made up. The one thing that I hate the most is to get into a religious debate with someone that claims they have “done their research” and in actuality they have not ventured outside what has been given to them by their pastors or religious leaders [you can not defend the Bible with the freaking BIBLE!!!! That would be the equivalent of me proclaiming that Grey Goose is the best Vodka on the market, and having never tasted any other nor willing to]. There is nothing a book or an article can say that I probably haven’t already heard [please note that I am not close minded, I’m just over it].
[another random point] Please don’t invalidate my research, belief, and/or feelings because I do not come to the same conclusion or believe the way you do. That’s so cult-ish. Take a genuine interest into what I have to say. Also, retorts of “I feel sorry for you”, “I’m going to pray for you…”, “emmmm you just feel that way because you want to do what you want to do”, do not help in convincing me that I am wrong. If I was about to make a “break through” and go back to Christianity then statements like that would definitely stop it.
Christians go into a religious debate assuming they are right [mostly because the vast majority of people are Christians or are a part of a Judaic faith]. Scientifically speaking, the correct way to enter any debate is to have a theory, offer your theory up for reproof, and be open to an objective conclusion. Historically speaking Christianity is the new “world is flat” theory [something widely and “matter-of-factually” accepted by most, rarely challenged or thoroughly researched, opposing information and ideas suppressed, non-believers branded as “crazy”]. I definitely would like to know how the societal belief transition from “anybody who believes the world is round is crazy” to “yea…we found out the world actually is round…” took place.
[making my way to the delineation] I most recently had to explain and defend my beliefs with my cousin [but he’s more like an uncle]. My mother called him on me because she is not as versed in the opposition of Bible beliefs and fell drastically short in defending its “truthiness“. Our exchange discouraged me because the conversation we had was very thorough, but in the end all he did was take my points, Google opposing points for them and forward them to me in an e-mail [it was stuff I have already read. My Christian friends and family don’t believe I have already read the stuff they send me because I continue to come to the same conclusion.They don’t even read the stuff they send me]. This was the last straw on my heart. It broke into a million little pieces and I knew that this post, that I had been contemplating writing for over 4 months, needed to be written immediately. And so here we are.
The Chronicle of My Divergence from Christianity
It all started in my college religion and ethics class [I don’t remember how long ago it was but I would guesstimate about 7 years since I took the class before I joined the military in 2006]. My professor was an ordained minister. One class he lectured on the origins of the Bible [mind blown…prior to this I had never fathomed a time period where the Bible didn’t exist. Most people don’t even know that for a great period of time there was no “Bible”, there were just holy text]. He taught us about the Hampton Court Conference [Interestingly enough he glazed over King James a-k-a James Stewart. You will see why he probably intentionally left this out later on in part II of this post if you aren’t already familiar] and how the King James Version [the version that most of us grew up with] came about. Well that led me to ask the question “Why were some books excluded?”.
Fast forward to about 2007. I began to dabble in the Apocryphal text.I read articles, conspiracy theories, and things of the like for and against those text. This opened my mind to the concept and possibility that the Bible could be flawed. It didn’t make any sense to me that these book were found and translated around the same time period as all the other books in the Bible, and some were even revered as “Holy Text” up to a certain point in history but were now not included. That lead me to ask the next few questions: “What changed? and “What was so different about these books that they should be excluded from the standardized Bible” [note that at this point I still considered myself a Christian and practiced its tenants] .
Fast Forward to about 2009. I actually read the Book of Enoch and that shit blew my mind. Enoch is the great grand father of Noah [we are all familiar with Noah right?]. His book was filled with counter-Christian ideas; from astrology to nephilism to purgatory. I Immediately understood why it was left out of the bunch. However there was just one problem… Enoch is mentioned several times in the KJV of the Bible which lends him a lot of credibility. In addition to being Noah’s great grandfather, he was also Methuselah’s Father. Which lends him even more credibility. The thing that stuck out to me the most about the his book, and would later become my talking point, was Nephilism and the origins there of. A Nephilim is a giant. Biblically speaking…nephilims just “were”. They didn’t have a particular origin or time frame in when they came to be…they just were. However, Enoch offers the missing information. The book of Enoch proclaims that Nephilims are the offspring of angels and women and that a group of angels looked upon the earth and found that the woman were fair and came upon in their sleep yada yada yada. Nephilims were born, they terrorized the earth, people prayed and ask God why did he let this happen. Later, an angel brings it up to God one day and God finally does something about it. He caused all of the Nephilims to kill one another and bounds the angels that were sleeping with woman under a mountain to be judged at the end of days. Sounds crazy right…right. That’s what I thought too until I thought about the famous story of David and Goliath. Hmmm… a giant. They had to come from somewhere right? Where did they go? We can’t take one part of the Bible and say “Fact: David defeated a Goliath” and then say “Fiction: Giants are the offspring of angels and women” because the KJV doesn’t offer another origin story for Nephilims.
I spent the next year seeking guidance on, researching, and reading the Bible and the Apochryphal text in an attempt to reconcile the two [let me tell ya…Enoch is on the lite side of fantastical when it comes to the Apochrypha]. I remember one instance in particular where I introduced the what I had found to most of my family; to include my mother and my uncle [a heavy weight Bible thumper]. I started the conversation off by asking the room if as Christians we believe that the story of David and Goliath was a factual event. Everyone responded yes. Then I asked them what were the Biblical origins of giants. No one knew [which I already knew they wouldn’t know]. Needless to say that conversation did not go well at all. By the end of it my uncle offered up the theory that biblical giants weren’t really “giants” and that Shaq would have been considered a “giant”. This theory obviously doesn’t jive because the Bible says that Goliath was “six cubits and a span” which is roughly 9 ft 6 inches tall [considerably taller than Shaq]. In the end I realized that the Bible and the Apochryphal text could not be reconciled and that somewhere, something was wrong. I was now set on finding out what was and wasn’t true in what we believe and practiced in Christianity.
I began to deeply question the Bible and it’s interpretations. Things began to riddle me. Things like denominations among Christianity. How was it that so many people could interpret the same words so differently. A good example of what I mean is the Church of God in Christ [C.O.G.I.C] and it’s practices. Based on the Bible, they assert that woman should not wear pants and are also not meant to be ministers or spiritual leaders. And so the confusion began. Instead of giving up the faith I resolved that it wasn’t meant for me to understand everything and that I should just have faith in what I do know.
A small time later I was introduced to a video on youtube called Zeitgeist by the first love of my life Priscilla. She and I are no longer romantically involved but at the time she held and still holds a special place in my heart. The video goes into painstaking detail about the history of religion, concentrating on Christianity [again, mind blown]. The video asserted that Christianity is a hybrid of folk lure and pagan religious practices that has stood the test of time. When I first watched it, I could not take it all in and was highly skeptical. But now I know this to be true. It introduced me to the idea that the whole of Christianity is a shame but as previously stated, I was not deterred by it initially. Only later would I confirm the video’s claims in my research [If you watch it, start at minute 13. It has a grandiose entry that is not about anything and can be done without].
Unbeknownst to me my line brother and close friend was on the exact same journey that I was. The only difference between us was that he was raised catholic and so started his research from that angle. Our seeking of knowledge and understanding came up in conversation one Sunday in 2010. We began discussing the different discrepancies we had found in the Bible, doctrines, and other religious text. We also discussed the current state of Christianity; things like Pastor Terry Jones, and the Westboro Baptist Church [people that claim to be working under the direction of God]. Our conversations became a regular thing and in this we way were able to tackle a large amount of research in a short amount of time. He would always have something for me that I didn’t know, and I, for him. After trading information we would spend the next week researching what the other had mentioned and trying to clarify points. This would always lead to new findings. On one particular Sunday, my line brother presented me with some information that actually broke my spirit. I never told him, but what he told me that day was the beginning of the end with my ties to Christianity. We were discussing Jesus, and what he told me was that the word virgin or almah [Hebrew] actually meant young girl or maiden. Meaning that what we understood as virgin, as in having never had sexual intercourse, wasn’t what was actually meant [mind blown…]. Now this is a big thing. Why was no one talking about this? As soon as we got off of the phone I began researching; thinking to myself that there was no way that this could possibly be true… but sure enough I found it, in several places. It hurt me that no pastor had ever discussed this from the pulpit or in Bible study in spite of it apparently being a well known fact. It hurt me because my own mother and grand mother had never told me this. It hurt me because this was one of the most fundamental understandings and teachings of Christianity….and it was a lie.I would later find out that although we believe and are taught that Isaiah 7:14 is about Jesus, it actually has nothing to do with Jesus. It is about a sign that God was sending Ahaz. The child named Immanuel that was spoke of was born in Isaiah 8:3 and Ahaz went into war.
So now you have me, a confused, doubting, psuedo-Christian. I stopped attending church because I couldn’t feel anything anymore. All the churches that I had visited in my area made me uncomfortable. They all preached different doctrines yet claimed to be lead by the same God. One church I attended claimed that the only evidence of the Holy Ghost was the manifestation of speaking in tongues. Another had a single, middle aged, male as it’s pastor; harmless. The church and it’s people were nice enough. The word being preached was consistent with the basic ideas of the Bible. I was content until I realized that the pastor was a single, middle aged male that had never been married and didn’t have a girlfriend. Nor were there any rumors floating about him dating anyone or messing with anyone at the church. I became aware of his femininity. I refused to let a closeted homosexual lead me in my faith.
At this point I still classified myself as a Christian because in practice I was. I still prayed grace over every meal. I payed my tithes, and although I questioned and doubted it, I still held on to the Bible. There were two incidents that I feel pushed me into a corner and made me choose between continuing to call myself a Christian and completely severing ties. The first was the continued appearance of the Westboro Baptist Church in the news. Their ideas and radicalism outraged me and I was ashamed that they fell under the same umbrella as me. I know like any family you have a few crazies but these guys were really out there. What I realized is that other cultures and religions didn’t look at them and see radicals, they saw Christians. Misunderstanding is okay. However, there was no misunderstanding. I began discussing homosexuality with my friends in detail and realized that the majority of Christians felt the same way as the Westboro Baptist Church. They just weren’t as vocal about it. In my mind I began to question how it was possible that homosexuality was so much worse a sin than any other. According to the tenets and doctrines all sin is the same and God hates it equally. Therefore sinful, heterosexual thoughts and acts [which any normal person has] are just as bad as a man loving and having sex with another man. Strike one.
The second and last thing that pushed me over the edge was the Bishop Eddie Long incident. This hit so close to home because I am from Atlanta. I attended his church back when it was a small, no name congregation. The revelation of this incident meant that it wasn’t just old Catholic men who had pledged a vow of celibacy molesting children, it was also prominent Christian “men of God” who had a wife and kids and lead thousands. Molestation had gone mainstream within the Judaic faith. Finished! There was no way that I was going to continue calling myself a Christian when all this was going on. In addition to those things I was swayed toward this final decision because Christianity seems to have the most dissension. There are seemingly more denominations within Christianity then any other religion; and they all claim to be “right” and lead by God. How is this possible? What could cause so much dissension? The conclusion that I came to was the Bible, and incidentally it was a Bible verse that helped me conclude that I was better off on my own. ” For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33. Dissension is confusion. I began wondering why would God, in his infinite power and wisdom, produce such an indefinite guide for us to live by. We can’t claim that it is because of man because then that would imply that the Bible is indeed flawed; and something that is flawed can not be the definitive word of God. In addition, God has worked around man’s flaws before so why wasn’t it possible to do for his own word. Then other questions came like “if the Bible is indeed the word of God, and Jesus is his son, and the only way to God is through him, then why would Jesus and the word of God come so late in the existence of man?” In John’s account of the creation he states “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It makes more sense to send a “how to” guide in the beginning. It would have made even more sense to send it after the infamous “fall of man”, when Adam and Eve partook of the tree and became “like us” as God stated. He could have easily taught them to write and read. The biggest question that came about was “if Jesus and his words are so important to the faith and to getting to the heart of God, and it was the full intention of God to redeem man through Jesus, then why did he never write a line of his own words?” We never even see a place in the Bible where Jesus instructed any one to “write this down”. These were just some of my abstract thoughts. The idea of Christianity became illogical.
Once I struck out on my own, I scraped all knowledge previously gained about religion, Christianity and faith. I wanted to learn it for myself. I began studying and researching like I never had before. I concluded that the Bible and religion are flawed. My goal was to define Christianity for myself and through research, prayer, and guidance identify those things that were logically provable and consistent throughout the Bible and cut away everything else. What I was left with was nothing [I will get into the detailed account of my “definitive” studies and finds in part 2, but for the most part I found the same information and came to the same conclusion that I have already presented in this post in one form or another].
I now define myself as a Deist. I do not hate organized religion or speak against it. I believe that it serves it’s purpose, but it is not what’s true nor is it for everyone. I believe that faith is a life long study and I plan to continue researching all things religion and faith until I am dead. I am open to new information. It is my contention that true worship of God is achieved through the constant refining and redefining of what is true to me, and through the study of his creation [science]. Play the song please.
© Stephen R. Freshley and wordbending, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this
material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Stephen R. Freshley and Word Bending a secret but not so secret blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.