Dec 10, 2012

My Journey From Faith To Reason

"P.S.: If you really are a fake, don't tell me. I don't want to know" - Linus Van Pelt, writing to The Great Pumpkin

After becoming increasingly religious throughout high school, I met "disciples" at college my freshman year. I loved the church and the fellowship....

I was also drawn to the clear morals and the sense of purpose for my life. I felt I could find a much better woman there than anywhere else (and many years later I did find an excellent woman, whom I invited to church and baptized).

I was very involved for many years, moving several times for reasons of faith, including two times to help start new churches, once to Phoenix, and again to Los Angeles.

During this time I advanced my knowledge of both the Bible through personal study and attending informal Bible seminary classes, where I excelled. I also studied science, including college biology, chemistry, physics, and organic chemistry, all of which I excelled in, too. In addition, I have been a voracious reader as time allowed, of books on apologetics (reasons to believe in Christianity) as well as newspaper articles on advancements in science.

As time went on, I became interested in figuring out how science and the Bible lined up. I had an incredible emotional investment in Christianity, which was my primary source of satisfying very deep needs such as meaning, friendship, community, and happiness in my life. As an intellectual and part of a very evangelistic and growth-focused branch of Christianity, I wanted to get all of the tools at my disposal for winning others for Christ. So I studied all of the arguments I could get my hands on for why the Bible is trustworthy and how to convince others of it's validity. I read works by Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis, and Lee Strobel - all of the best minds available on the subject.

Meanwhile, my curiosity had me reading all about science and its advancements, including evolutionary biology. I slowly developed my ability to think rationally and as cause-and-effect. And the more I read about science, and then about the Bible, the more science started making tons more sense than the Bible. The more I knew about the Bible, the more my faith in it was chipped away.

Some of the steps I followed:

1. The Bible is infallible and every word is God-breathed.

2. Well, the Creation in Genesis is not exactly a literal description, it is more of a moral description written to the needs of the ancient israelites.

3. Well, Jesus just called diseases demons because that is how people understood them at that time.

4. Noah's flood of the whole world was just of the whole known world, or whole world of the Jewish people at that time, not the whole world as we understand it today.

5. Jesus' superpowers seem to come and go like a poorly written Superman comic book.

6. People evolved from lesser beings. If this is not true, then God put a whole bunch of evidence there to lead all of mankind astray, not too cool.

7. Whoah, 99.99999%+ of all mankind is headed straight for eternal damnation. And God set this all up, and supposedly loves us? (Actually an argument of the Jehovah's Witnesses, I believe).

8. Wait a second, where the heck is Heaven located? And Hell? If life after death exists, why was it never mentioned in any books of the Bible until just a few hundred years before Jesus was born? Shouldn't science have at least some kind of minimal theoretical possibility of where these fantasy locations could be located?

9. Every little quirk and thing that we do as humans has an explanation in evolutionary biology.

10. How come there is so much detail written about what Jesus was doing before the crucifixion, and almost zero afterwards for the 40 days that he spent talking to his astonished followers? (Just that he ate a broiled fish).

11. Why is it that the disciples had to rewrite so many of Jesus' main teachings after his death?

12. Why do apologists working for my church have to twist around the words of Albert Einstein, who dismissed the Bible and the biblical God as "childish", to try to make it sound like he believed in Christianity or its underpinnings?

13. Just when during the course of human evolution did we begin to have a soul? Do non-human animals have a soul? Apes? Are their partial souls?

As you see, when you start making basic, scientific questions to questions of faith, it starts sounding pretty silly, pretty fast. But should I be wasting my entire life, money and free time for this thing if it isn't, you know, true?

And so on until my faith was hanging by just one thread: the disciples who lived with Jesus every day for years were so convinced that he was, in fact, the messiah, that they were willing to preach that message up to their violent and untimely deaths. They could never have been willing to die for a lie.

But then I read a fascinating book, Influence, by Robert Cialdini, which is about human motivation. In one part he talks about a group of people who were convinced that aliens were coming from outer space to save them and destroy the world. They sold everything and got ready for that date. When the date passed without anything happening, they suddenly became very evangelistic for the first time and tried to explain to outsiders why things had changed and the aliens had spared the earth. They already had so much invested in their religious dreams and lifestyle, that they doubled down rather than admit their error. Multiply their sacrifice and investment by a hundred and you have the early Christians. The first disciples were already getting cut off from their families and society and were much bonded to each other than anyone outside their group. So the idea that they could have been mistaken became easier for me to accept than the idea that all of modern science and medicine is completely wrong about the nature of matter and the universe and everything else that I would have to believe in order to continue believing in the Bible.

So there you have it, in a nutshell. I identify with the words of Charles Darwin:

"But I was very unwilling to give up my belief... But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct." - Charles Darwin, autobiography

Contrary to my wishes and years of attempts to reconcile the two, the Bible is not compatible with science. If God exists, I am certain that He does not resemble the God of the Bible in the slightest way.

And you know, the evil sh*t that people did to me at church was it's own type of hidden blessing, allowing me the extra push I needed to step out and leave organized religion. It's a type of growing up, leaving faith for reason. Now I am responsible for my own actions and for making my own decisions.

Hopefully many more can join me before I am done.

19 comments:

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    1. Thank you for visiting, please share with your friends!

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  2. Why Am I Not Surprised! A Bitter, Lost Whiner Complaining about WHy Hes So Wrong! JEsus is teh Way, teh Truth, and teh Life! And Dont U Forget It!

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    1. To the person behind the moniker "the truth about kip....;" notice how your statement lacks a reflection of love, compassion and grace... it only carries an attack and a self-righteous stance. Christ surely did not speak / act in such a way nor taught His disciples to speak / act in such a way. But I appreciate you speaking from the heart and thus revealing your heart and deep-seeded sentiments. Peace be with you and may the Father hold you close in His grace.

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    2. Why am I not shocked this comes from a sheep who can't think for themselves - grow up

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    3. To Anonymous (April 25): Please keep your comments civil and constructive. We all need a little bit of extra love and compassion sometimes. And patience

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  3. Ed ( the author of this blog ),

    We share similar thoughts and conflicts of faith juxtaposed to man's collective 'facts' and theories about this world. I also have had and still have some of the same questions I read on this particular blog... and although many things still fall outside of my understanding, I have found some things out ( by God's grace, of course ). I won't bother you with my views or a line-by-line response to your steps, for I am not trying to debate nor argue, for one man simply sees a cloud and another man sees a vision / sign ( think of Paul's conversion and the vision only he saw and the words only he heard ).

    Every single person on the face of the planet is on their own individual journey, even Darwin and Einstein had their own personal journey towards the great unknown.

    You also, as well as I, are on that very unique and specific journey which only you can retell since you are the one experiencing it. My only caveat is this: there truly is a God / Creator / Everlasting Being.

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    1. There very well may be a God. If not, why is there so much order in the universe? Or maybe the order comes from some other source that is beyond our current understanding. There are many things that the greatest minds on the planet can't even explain. However, one thing is for sure, the Bible is a fallible collection of documents written by men, and is full of mistakes, contradictions, and impossibilities. And if God does exist, he/she/it does not resemble the God described in the Bible in the least.

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  4. For me, the further I look into science and the calculated thought process, I actually see more evidence of God. The similarities, the patterns, the symbiotic relationships between plants and animals... it is quite amazing and corresponds with that passage in Romans about how He made it clear to the ancient world of His existence.

    I am very confident that God brought you through your personal experiences for a reason... as He did me! And since I am still here in the flesh writing this, that journey hasn't ended. Life is a grand gift full of discovery and experience to bring us a wider perception of what 'life' means.

    To me, men fail in creating the proper sheep pen for His flock to safely reside in. Instead of faithfully allowing participation from the flock in the vast array the body of Christ is comprised of, they instead follow the faulty models already existing... and have a difficult time in seeing past the comforts of those models.

    I'd like to touch upon one thing which, takes great faith, but is what I see as a better route regarding those who are granted the task of leading the faithful. Why the notion that today's minister / pastor must live like his secular contemporaries?? We can read that the 'greatest' disciples lived in rented houses, and I'm sure it wasn't in the best of neighborhoods in whichever Roman province or outpost. lol, I mean, why does today's minister have to reflect the very Babylon system of buying and selling which the Holy Father isn't too thrilled about?? There is a point made that if they had food and shelter they would be content with that. Yet, far too many men who consider themselves shepherds of the faithful are gallivanting around in jets, driving fancy cars and living in places where the worship of money is top of the list. To me, if the minister desires more of the material world, he can go out and derive it himself ( a job, a business, etc. ) and not 'demand' or ask of it from those who are supporting the mission of spreading the gospel... just to make another point: the gospel is spread by feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and clothing the naked... not running around with the people chasing after the material world. I always wondered why doesn't the minister and his family live at the 'church' building and have a space for the homeless to at least lay down during a cold and rainy night?? Or why isn't there a kitchen open during meal-time to feed the hungry and disheveled on the street? And why does this minister have the cleanest clothes yet has no clothes on-hand to give out to those he passes by on the street? Oh yeah, he's not walking the street as much as he is driving around from meeting to meeting like an executive of a fortune 500... instead of the ambassador of Christ he is called to be / look like / resemble.

    Since I / we have seen and tasted the pitfalls of being paid a stipend to preach the Word of God and help the faithless gain a faith in God, perhaps we now know what "not to do" when we receive the call to continue our own personal mission... wherever and whatever that mission may look like... for surely, as each individual person walking the face of the earth has a reason and purpose ( or several ) to their lives, they also play a role in the grander scheme of life itself!

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    1. True, it is a travesty and a contradiction for ministers to be paid so handsomely to preach about helping the poor and needy. The vast majority of the ICC's money goes to minister compensation, and a tiny fraction goes toward the truly needy.

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  5. Let us realize, that ministers of the Word ( the examples in the first century disciples ) were carried forward not by some leader telling them where to go, but by their own conscience, their own dreams of doing something for the Lord... and their life unfolded before their very eyes as they walked by faith in being that living sacrifice.

    Again, I think God has much to show you in regards to the way this world works ( science ) and will, in His very mysterious ways, show you just who He made you to be!!!

    Peace be with you, my brother... may He hold you firmly within His grace and grant you what you need in order to be at peace with the many questions we as mankind share!

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    1. True, the line repeated over and over by Kip about having a centralized leader for the whole world is a power play to have himself calling all of the shots. The church that Jesus set up did not work that way.

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  6. One last thing, my apologies:

    From my current perception of the world, my current understanding of God and who He is, from my experiences and witnessing events that grant evidence into the spirit world and from what capacity I have at my young 38 years of existence on this plain, I see nothing outside of the ordinary when I reflect today's events and our experiences with what has already been written.

    There are things I've seen and heard which cannot be explained in any scientific context. Yet, it is because I believe there to be a God as described in the make-up of Yeshua is reason why I have experienced what I have... both good and not so good occurrences. Yet, to me personally, these personal experiences happened in order to reinforce what very few experienced in their lives in the past ( as we can read about )... and this is simply pointing toward a greater reality that isn't easily explained by any man, whether he is a man of faith or not, or whether he can point to the scripture describing such unseen realities or not.

    We're dealing with things that are unseen. Scientific theory wants us to believe that the universe ( matter, energy and substance ) came about and derived from a void, from nothing. This, on its face, is illogical ( something out of nothing ), yet I call it science's 'leap of faith' into explaining the unexplainable! lol. Isn't that something!? There is faith even within this theory / explanation, and it is grand and amazing to me!!

    And then we can read, in the simplest of terms, how God created the universe by speaking it into existence... and that is yet again a leap of faith in itself, yet both schools of thought are in complete agreement with how 'life' or the universe began.

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    1. The creation story of the Bible is not in complete agreement with how life or the universe began - it completely contradicts most of what we know. However, science still does not know exactly how or why many things happened, although I am immensely impressed at the amount that scientists have been able to figure out already, and they continue figuring out more and more things every day. The difference here between science and the Bible is that science goes based primarily on evidence, where religion continues to limp along in spite of all the evidence.

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