"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.