Brian’s FAQ April’s Story
FAQ on why I left the church (Brian’s Story)
Brian worked as Children’s Pastor at Freshwater Community Church in St. Bonifacius MN from 2005 to 2011. He and his wife and their 3 children currently live in China. This is their story of deconversion.
Why did you write this?
Many questions, many answers. This was the quickest way for me to answer anticipated questions. If you have one or two that aren’t on here, email us, and we will add it or reply.
Why atheism and not agnosticism?
I think properly, we are agnostics in the sense that no one knows or can know the truth about God’s existence. You cannot prove or disprove that He is real. So in that sense I am agnostic. In the same way that you can’t prove that unicorns exist or don’t exist, there isn’t enough evidence to merit belief, so I am atheist in regard to unicorns.
I think the most intellectually honest answer to my situation is atheism, because as a Christian I had already ruled out the existence of all the other Gods, (even the impersonal one). I’ll leave it to you to do the math.
Why are you using capitalizing personal pronouns for a God you don’t believe in?
I’m just being respectful.
Don’t you think it takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a Christian?
I have come to dislike religious faith. Mormons, Muslims, Jews, and Christian all use the same “faith” to fill a gap where knowledge stops and where “what I hope is true” begins.
Why are you attacking Christianity now?
I see a difference in attacking and defending. I am defending what I believe, and I personally feel that I owe some people an explanation. If you feel that I owe you an explanation, then you are probably not one of the people that I feel I owe an explanation to.
So you think I’m stupid for believing?
I don’t think this has anything to do with intelligence. Many people, much smarter than I am, are believers… in all manner of things. There are brilliant Christians, Muslims, and Jews. There are also stupid people who adhere to these belief systems.
Isn’t atheism just a cover for feeling hurt by God, or hating the church?
No, I don’t feel angry with God because I don’t think He exists. I do not hate the Church or the church.
Why are you being so vocal about your unbelief?
I have been called a coward over this, and maybe rightfully so. There was never an endgame in mind when I left the church. I knew I didn’t want to become an apologist for atheism. I know that there will be many families who have loved us, who will turn their back on us. There will be many people praying and fasting because of this. Originally, we wanted to walk away quietly, we left Freshwater without direction and tried to call as little attention to it as possible. Because the story began to leak, I decided that if my story was to be told, it will be told by me.
How can you say prayer doesn’t work? My Aunt Sally…
Yes, I know. Everyone has a story of how prayer has changed their life. I had them too. But then again, so does every Mormon, Muslim and Jew. The strange thing is you can place people from multiple religions in a room, have them pray for mutually exclusive outcomes and they will all claim that their prayer was answered.
I also find it incredibly disrespectful that Tim Tebow bows down (I know, the blasphemy) and thanks God for giving him the strength to score 316 touchdowns, while all around the world 22,000 children die every day from poverty. 22,000 CHILDREN DIE EVERY DAY from something that humans could do something about, from something that God could definitely do something about.
There are some good conversations to be had about prayer and omnipotence.
How can you say God isn’t real? I feel Him every time I…
I think it is interesting that on occasion I felt very moved during worship services, even when I had stopped believing. I knew that it wasn’t God, it was simply an emotional response triggered by music. Most Pastors and Preachers will council against looking for an emotional response as a means of knowing anything about God. I believe this is sound advice because so many things can cause emotional responses.
How about some apologetics?
Sure, I’m happy to defend what I believe and why.
What do you think of the cosmological argument?
It has always been my favorite and still is. I found it and still find it the most compelling of all the arguments. However, the standard objection is more poignant now than ever. Also, there is an insurmountable leap from the god of this argument to the God of the Bible.
Do you think that by saying that you’re not a believer, you are going to hurt the faith of the young?
I have always believed that truth will stand on its own two legs. I think this is a good opportunity to open a dialog about doubts, faith, and belief. Pastors have way less influence than the parents do, I would like to hope that I still carry so little weight. Kids: listen to your parents, think for yourselves. I think doubts are hidden within the church and that isn’t healthy (even if Christianity is true).
And have a little faith that a loving God would protect His flock. It’s not like He would let them be deceived, or even deceive them Himself.
Aren’t you afraid of going to hell?
What if you’re wrong?
What will anyone say to God if they stand before Him? I think the best course of action is just to keep your mouth shut. If God is omniscient then He already knows the answers before He asks. If not, you’re just hurting your odds by self incrimination.
Quite honestly, If I am wrong I will apologize. I will explain that I used everything I could as a resource to make an informed decision, and I made a mistake. I was honest in my search, I was unfearing in the consequences, and I was faithful to my convictions.
What is going to keep you from raping and murdering now?
If God came down and gave you a free pass to do whatever you wanted to with no eternal repercussions, how long would it take you to rape your neighbor? You wouldn’t do it because you’re a fairly decent person. I will also not be raping your neighbor. If fear of hell is the only thing keeping you from raping and murdering, then I am glad you are a Christian and there is no reason to doubt.
Why don’t you believe any more?
It all began with the chainsaw analogy. I have always enjoyed arguing theology, be it with a Mormon or a Calvinist. I began to think that if I wanted a Mormon to actually listen to reason, I should be willing to open myself up to the same reason. I began looking at the things that I believe with the same critical eye that I was applying to the Mormon, Calvinist, Catholic faith.
Apologetics (a defense of belief) has always held a spot in my heart because I like logic, reason, and it played a large role in my conversion. But, listening to a Christian explain the other side of the argument is like going to a Mercedes dealership to hear the advantages of BMWs. I began to listen to well spoken atheists make cases for themselves. There are a large number of outspoken opponents on the internet.
Who has influenced your thought process?
Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Penn Jillette (Penn and Teller), NonStampCollector, Thunderf00t, DprJones, James Randi, The Thinking Atheist, The friendly Atheist, The Atheist Experience. I think Christopher Hitchen and The Atheist Experience are good places to start.
You weren’t really a Christian to begin with.
Well, that’s not a question. And it probably makes you a Calvinist. But okay.
If you were having doubts, why didn’t you talk to me?
I’m not sure if I want to point out how arrogant that position is. But I did speak to several Christians that I felt were safe to talk to about this. People I knew very well, and people I didn’t fear would feel the need to call my church and have me fired.
I feel hurt and angry.
I’m sorry. I knew this would hurt many people. Particularly my family, and I don’t have words for how I feel. I am so sorry. I have tears as I write this, I am so sorry.
What’s the Chainsaw analogy?
My original doubt. I voiced to several Christians, and always received the same insufficient answer.
Imagine that you own a chainsaw, disable all the safety features, and start it in your living room and tell a toddler not to touch it. If the toddler touches it, who is at fault? (Most people are happy to blame the toddler, which is okay I guess. It ends up making you a pretty crappy person, either way.) So the toddler is at fault and is personally responsible for the repercussions, and cleaning up the blood and fingers.
Now imagine that you have this chainsaw, disable all the safety features, start it and place it in the living room. You tell your toddler, your child who you know better than they know themselves, not to touch it. You know that this child is going to touch the chainsaw. When the child touches the chainsaw, who is at fault? (If you have seen through the analogy already, no doubt the child is still at fault. Either way, you are the world’s worst parent. Ultimately the analogy concerns the biblical creation story. God creates a chainsaw, places it in the garden, with toddlers who have no idea of the true ramifications of their actions, and leaves them alone. He has foreknowledge that they will eat of the tree. And this isn’t all, He leaves them in the living room, with a taunting neighbor who says, “Touch the chainsaw…” )
The insufficient answer, that has grown so unpalatable: I know it doesn’t make sense, but God is good.
How does it feel to be a hypocrite and a liar?
It sucks. I have invested the past 15 years of my life in the church and ministry. I believed as much as anyone. I have spent years and tens of thousands of dollars in school (Undergrad in Bible, Grad in Missions), I have spent years in ministry, and 2 years in China as a Missionary. I dedicated my life to sharing the Gospel. And yes, it hurts to know that the last year of my ministry was not genuine. My love for people has always been.
Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure what to do. The economy was/is terrible, and I’m pretty unmarketable outside the church. I felt trapped in my job, and trapped continuing the lie. It caused me to become depressed and irritable, generally unpleasant. I think this will be a big part of the healing from that–coming clean.
What do you think of these verses?
What do you think of these passages from Jane Austen?
This is my blanket response to scripture quoting. Scripture holds little weight and I will not give words authority in my life if they don’t make sense to me. To do so otherwise makes me (or anyone else) no different than the person from a different religion that I would try to convert.
Do you want me to re-explain the Gospel so that you understand?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I understand it as well as you do, perhaps better. I am happy to dialog about why I don’t believe. Send me an email, and I’ll write when I can. I’m in open discourse with several people already.
Did you leave the church because you were sinning?
I left the church because my doubts crystallized into unbelief. When I was a Christian, I read Bill Bryson’s “A short history of nearly everything.” I skipped the chapter on evolution because I didn’t want to hear it. I believed that doubting was a sin, maybe double-mindedness, maybe serving two masters… But if doubt is sin, how does the Mormon escape his cult?
Where does April stand on this?
I knew it, I knew you weren’t a Christian, I saw through it the whole time.
First, it’s not a question. Second it’s incredibly condescending. Third, I no longer feel bound to hold my tongue for the sake of others. So, kindly think through what you say before you say it. (Only included because I have heard it several times.)
What are you going to do now?
We always wanted to be missionaries to China. In fact, the original plan was Freshwater till I finished at Crown then move to China. We stayed at Freshwater for a long time. It seemed like such a waste to not come to China anyway. I love teaching, I love kids, I like China. We will stay here until we don’t like it anymore, and then we will figure it out from there.
Is there something you would like to say to the person who has read this far?
Yes. If you have read this far, I am sorry for the pain that this is causing. I know that many of you have poured your lives into us. Many of you have loved us like family, treated us like family. We came to Minnesota with so little, and through the kindness of your hearts, we left with so much. I hope that no one feels used or betrayed and I only hope that in time things will return. Even if they don’t or can’t, we will always treasure the love you have shown for us, and now we directly attribute it to you. Not God’s favor on us.
What about the kids?
We will not raise our children as militant atheists. We will teach them to be skeptical of any claim, to use their brains, to be logical and rational. If this leads them to become atheists, so be it, if they decide something else, fine. I hope that I can look back on their lives and feel like I did everything I could to give them the tools to make good sound decisions based on the facts, to always be curious, to question things, and not to fear making mistakes.
What if I’m having doubts?
Good! You will either come out a stronger Christian or you can file them away until they overwhelm you. Talk to someone, talk to a Christian or an atheist you trust. Get on the internet and find someone, there are plenty of anonymous places you can bounce ideas at. (If you’re a pastor, there are resources for pastors who don’t believe anymore, even if you’re still behind the pulpit.) It can be incredibly isolating and painful, so if you can prevent doing it alone, that’s best.
Is there only one reason you don’t believe?
No, there are a bunch, I have been keeping a list that I called objections, some reasons I thought were compelling and others not so much. My list isn’t in shape for public consumption. If you want to see it, you can, typos and all. You can raise objections to my objections, see why I doubt, or just make fun of my ramblings. I’ll email it if you want, but I’m not going to post it publically.
And if you feel like this is attacking and not defending, feel free to skip this section.
The earliest objections to Christianity were on philosophical grounds but with the growing body of scientific knowledge many objections are raised because there are discrepancies between the way the world works and what the biblical text says.
I also have objections based on the way God acts in the Bible. When not faced with an atheist aggressor, most Christians will admit that God does, and orders, some pretty strange things in the Bible. The things I am talking about are incomprehensible: creating mankind with the knowledge that most would eternally suffer; allowing the indescribable suffering of so many here on earth; creating a rule system where a God-Man would have to be sacrificed in order to achieve forgiveness (when I forgive someone I don’t require a sacrifice)–this is a self imposed system; allowing an adversary to run rampant and (in terms of soul collection) win; children who get cancer; ordering his followers to kill other people, to dash children on rocks, when He is perfectly capable of killing them with hail or something else; slavery; and no good cohesive representative branch here on earth.
Typically the answer is: I don’t understand, but God is good. An answer that if given by any other religion would simply not be good enough. Why did you fly your planes into the building? I don’t know why God asked me to do it; in fact, it doesn’t make sense, but God is good. This great moral law giver does some pretty atrocious things, unless you say: well, God is good.
Scientific Evidence: Statistical analysis of prayer; evolution, age of the earth, age of the universe, size of the universe, DNA evidence, dinosaurs, Noah, biblical/archeological inconsistencies (Wikipedia: Jericho).
It’s not intended to be comprehensive. Only to further my point, the rebuttal: Yes, these things don’t make sense, but God is good. This is only an acceptable answer for our religion, not for others.
Please forgive me for not telling you sooner. I hope you can understand why it was so difficult.
I am not a believer. This is not the “why.” This is the “what happened.” I spent my entire life, even as a small child transitioning into conscious thought, believing in God, assuming that he existed, as is natural for any child who is brought up in a Christian home. I “asked Jesus into my heart” when I was four, was baptized when I was in second grade because a lot of other kids were doing it, realized when I was twelve that what I had done at four and eight had probably not meant anything, and lived in fear for the next five years, believing God was real, but not wanting to submit my will to his will. I think only three people knew that I was not a Christian.
When I was seventeen, I met Brian, who had just returned from China and was on his way to Japan to be a missionary. I loved him desperately (as only a teenager can do when they first meet someone, I’m sure, but it has lasted), and I wanted to be able to be a Christian so badly, so that I could be with him, and so that I could finally rid myself of the horrible fear of hell that was haunting me. Sometime in February of 2002, I spent a long night, some on the phone with my dear mentor from home, some on the phone with Brian, a lot on my own, wrestling with surrendering myself to God. I tried to ask myself what kinds of things God could ask me to do that I would not be willing to do, and it seemed to me that I could probably do most of them (I really wanted to be a missionary, and I guess you kind of need to be a true believer to do that), and as much as I wanted to have some kind of feeling about him, he wasn’t giving me that, so I’d just have to jump in and tell him I believed, and ask him to please help me believe more, and learn to love him, and maybe have a feeling once in a while about him (I knew feelings had nothing to do with faith, but I did so want to have some kind of affirmation). I had a very unemotional conversion, just a rational decision that since God was real, I needed to accept Jesus as my savior, and hopefully the rest would follow. Six months later I was baptized, especially for Brian’s sake, who was a firm believer that you aren’t even saved until you are baptized. I don’t think that a lot of people outside of those present when I was baptized knew that I hadn’t been a Christian for most of my life.
I married Brian 8 months after that, and we began our lives together in Minnesota. I struggled with a lot of depression, both before and after I was married, which was called spiritual warfare by both Brian and some of those closest to me (talk about some traumatic experiences), but with time, a little distance from my less than happy teenage years at home, and a little medication, it eventually passed. I still had no feelings about God. I tried to read my Bible daily, I prayed, I basically kept a running monologue with God in my head all day long. He was just someone to talk to, whether I knew if he was listening or not.
Two years after we married, Brian got hired at Freshwater to be the new children’s pastor. It was the beginning of the best period in my life. Together we worked on curriculum and taught children every Sunday, watching many children grow and graduate out of the program. I have never felt less qualified for anything in my life. I felt that if the church could see how spiritually dry I was, they would not have hired Brian, but I was so grateful they did. As exhausting as Sundays (and eventually Wednesdays) were, I really loved being at the church. I loved the way it became our family, and we were surrounded by people that we loved, and who loved us in return. I feel like I became a different person over the six years we were there, like I came out of my shell, and became comfortable in my own skin, because I was accepted by so many kind people. I loved teaching the children, something that I had once thought would be terrifying, and I loved it when people came to Freshwater and left with a good experience. I suppose I might have grown up on my own, but it’s hard to imagine that I would be the person I am now without my experience at Freshwater. I really never wanted to leave. (I should also add that somewhere in here, 8 years after I first started college, I finally finished with a BA in Biblical Studies at Northwestern College.)
Over all this time, I had this nagging feeling that I was not really a Christian, and I was definitely not sure where I would go when I died, and the thought of death filled me with fear. But I didn’t know what else to do. I occasionally sought help from people wiser than myself, and I read books, and tried to be faithful in my Bible reading. I still kept up that inner monologue that was directed at God, but there was nothing there. And, though I was afraid of what that meant, I didn’t know what more to do. I was always told it wasn’t about feelings, so I went through the motions, hoping that God would be good enough to give me more someday.
Then sometime during 2010, probably early (it’s hard to set a specific date on something like this), Brian began to ask questions about God and the Bible. They were all questions that you are taught in Bible school, along with the answers, but of course, the answers do not truly satisfy any real seeker (even as a non-seeker, I had an uncomfortable feeling that the answers just didn’t quite add up), and they did not satisfy Brian, who had learned the same answers when he was in school. He asked the standard questions about the problem of evil, apparent contradictions in the Bible, contradictions between God’s character and his actions in the Old Testament, the scientific inaccuracy of the Bible, etc. He didn’t want to ask these questions, because he didn’t want to doubt God, and he held as tightly as he could to his belief, but all the while, as answers failed, the grounds for his faith began to fall away around him. At first, I gave him the answers I had been taught (he wasn’t really asking me anyway), though I could see for myself that they were insufficient, and I would end by telling him that there were no answers for the questions he was asking. If there were black and white answers, one way or the other, people would not still be asking these questions to this day. He would eventually just have to accept that some things have to be taken on faith, and choose to believe anyway. His doubting began to scare me. Even though I had never had a vivid spiritual life, and would not have been surprised if I’d shown up in heaven and God hadn’t found my name in the Book of Life, I had never even considered the possibility that God was not real, and it terrified me that the man who had been so passionate for God, who had been God’s rock in our family, might fall away. I didn’t want BOTH of us to go to hell. I begged him to just believe, but of course he couldn’t.
The more he questioned, the more depressed he became. When you are in the position he was in, to doubt is to be alone. There are very few uninterested third parties in whom you can confide. We felt very constrained by his position in the church, and had the very material fear that he would lose his job if anyone knew what he was going through. Surely we would come out the other side intact, and then it could all simply be related as a testimony, and no one need be worried. Many of my friends were, in essence, the wives of my husband’s bosses (the elders of the church), and all of my friends were deeply invested in Freshwater, and I would not blame any of them in the slightest for feeling that a person in Brian’s position should not be teaching children about Christ. So we kept silent.
Time went on and Brian continued to look for answers, and the more we talked, the more I began to see that there were things in the Bible that simply did not line up, even with the answers I was given in college, and that it might be okay to use my God-given (?) rationality to look objectively at these things and say that they might be wrong. I will not go into the details here about what specific things caused me to begin to consider the possibility that God might not exist, as I want this to just be a history of how we came to be where we are today, but I will write more about that later. I found (a little while after Brian had discovered the same thing), that when you take away your preconceptions, there are many things in the Bible that are lacking, and many things in the world that do not fit with the existence of an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. This period of questioning on both of our parts lasted from late summer 2010 to late November/early December and involved lots of fascinating, and sometimes intense, discussions about the Bible, and morality, and God, and science.
Things began to make sense that had never made sense before, but that I had just dismissed because the Bible was the supreme authority. By Thanksgiving, I realized I no longer believed that God existed (to be brief), and the thing was, I knew I genuinely did not believe, because I had no fear of the consequence of saying so. Some Christians argue that fear is the wrong approach to Christianity, but there is a dire consequence to not following God, and if it is real, then fear is the proper response to hell if you are not right with God. I knew that I no longer believed, and Brian felt the same way, but was not ready to say so definitively for a few more weeks. It is a difficult thing to give up something you’ve devoted all of your adult life to. It sucks actually. I do not know actual dates that things happened, because it was all so gradual, but I remember spending our first Christmas as atheists.
Now we were faced with the decision of when and how to leave Freshwater. And we sat on it for a long time. I realize we should have left right away, and there isn’t an excuse for not leaving, but we had been so gradually getting to that point that it seemed strange to just leave. We were so happy at Freshwater, even though we didn’t believe what we were teaching, and it is a terrifying thing to quit a job in the middle of a recession. We knew we’d never have another job that was also home and family to us. Brian continued to do his job as he had always done it, though his passion was gone, and the hypocrisy of teaching children something that he doesn’t believe began to wear on him. We made it through VBS, but when Brian was unexpectedly asked, a few weeks after VBS, if he had the passion to make Kid City better, he chose to answer honestly, and said no. And so began our newest life adventure.
Many of you will wonder why we did not tell you the moment we made the decision, or any time after that, but it is a difficult thing to decide to strike a blow like that, one that will devastate those who love you most dearly, and for which you can offer no comfort. Believe it or not, I can still remember what it was like to believe, and I remember what it felt like, believing someone I loved was going to hell. It would have been unbearable to know that they had chosen their path, and there was nothing I could do to change it. There are people we love so much, that are closer than family to us, and telling them would change everything. It’s hard to let go of family, to do something that could sever your ties forever, at the very least making them feel as though you’ve betrayed them and rejected something that is at the very core of their being. Of course it will never be the same.
The one thing we did decide, when Brian was fully separated from Freshwater, was that if anyone asked outright, we would tell them the truth. I secretly wished people would just ask, so that I could get it over with, but only one couple did. Telling them was far more terrifying than I could have imagined. When the moment came, I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest. It was a difficult, emotional, upsetting conversation, and my first opportunity to see what it would be like to tell–something that I wish I could avoid at all costs. To their credit, they have done their best to treat us kindly ever since, but there is no way to make it easy to tell anyone.
When I was a Christian, I thought that an atheist was someone who had had a bad experience at church, and hated Christians, or who didn’t understand God, and hated him. I didn’t realize that an atheist just doesn’t believe that God exists. It’s not a choice. You can’t force yourself to believe something you don’t think is real, no matter how much you’d like to, if only for the sake of those you love. And I do not hate God. I just don’t think he exists. This is not a reaction to a bad experience, or bad things in the world (though I think some bad things are evidence that God doesn’t exist). It’s just a reaction to evidence. If I could believe, I would. I know no one who has not been there will not understand it, but I grew up immersed in Christianity. I love Christians (the non-crazy ones). All of my friends are Christians. It is my culture, and my family. I still love the Church (when it doesn’t do crazy things, which bothered me before, too, like Westboro Baptist, which bothers any sane Christian), and I love all my Christian friends, and I wouldn’t change them, except that I wish I could make it less important to them, so they wouldn’t be sad or angry with me for who I am now, and so that we could maintain our friendships just the way they were.
Now that I am an atheist, in most ways, I am happier, and in two ways, I am sadder. I will begin with the sad parts. For one thing, I am still afraid of death, only now it is not a fear that I will go to hell, it is a desperation to hold on to the life I have, because I love it so much, and I don’t want it to be over. Once I die, I will never see anyone I love again. If one of my children dies prematurely, I do not know how I will recover, knowing there is no hope of an eternity with them. And also, I no longer have the hope that there might be some all-powerful being protecting me from sudden, accidental death because of his omniscient plan. At the same time, I do not have the even more horrible fear, that one of my children might not choose to follow God and would end up in horrible suffering for eternity. The other area of sadness is being in the presence of those I love (all Christians), and knowing that, if they knew the truth about me, the happiness we have together would be forever tainted. Of course, if you’re reading this, they probably know now.
I am happier because I feel an urgency to savor every moment of the life I have. Life really feels sweeter. It is not a sin to love the world (not the “world,” that horrible, dirty, evil thing in the Bible, but the actual, natural world, and the people and experiences it holds). I never know what day will be my very last, and so I should do what I can to enjoy what I have now (I know people say that all the time, but when you’re a Christian, you are really just waiting for a better life after this one, so there isn’t that sense of urgency to make the most of the here and now). The burden of guilt I have always carried with me–the knowledge, that in addition to all of the faults I already know I have, there are a million more that I have just because I was born human, and I can never overcome them without God–that burden is much less. My faults are just what they are. I don’t need to sit and pray for God to fix me, it’s not a sin for me to go out and try to be a better person on my own. If I eat too much, I ate too much, and it’s bad because I will get fat. I do not also need to add to that the guilt because gluttony is a sin; I can just choose to try do better the next time (and the time after that…and the time after that…). I can take life as it comes, at face value. I can try and do my best, and my life will look no different than that of any Christian, only my Christian friends will look at it through a different lens, and interpret everything they see as happening because I do not believe in God. When you thought I was a Christian, if something bad happened to me, it was a test. If it happens to me now, it will be because I have stopped following God. If a good thing happened to me as a Christian, it was God working everything out for the good of those who love him; if it happens now, it is simply God causing rain to fall on the wicked as well as the good. I know I cannot do anything about how I am perceived, and I have to let go of it, but if you know me, you know how difficult that will be.
Please forgive me for not telling you sooner. I hope you can understand why it was so difficult.
April’s (Much Briefer) FAQ
Even though you think that God doesn’t exist, why not just believe anyway? After all, if you follow God and he doesn’t exist, nothing bad happens, but if you don’t follow him, and he does exist, you’ll be in Hell for eternity? That is a great question (also known as Pascal’s wager), and what you may not understand is that I didn’t choose to not believe in God. As far as I know, he doesn’t exist. I can’t believe in him, no matter how much I want to. I can’t make myself believe something I know to be untrue. All that is left, then, would be going through the motions, going to church, reading my Bible, “praying,” doing ministry, but all the time not believing. Would God honor that? Of course not. If he were who he said he is, he’s certainly not stupid, and that is not the “faith” that the Bible talks about saving us.
Why did you choose to stop believing in God? Please, please, please stop calling this a choice. I DIDN’T choose it. It happened. Not to belittle your faith, because I certainly do not seek to belittle Christianity, but say I was seven years old, and I had just lost a tooth, and I woke up while my mom was putting a dime under my pillow. Would you ask me why I chose to stop believing in the tooth fairy? Of course not, because I just discovered the truth (or at least, what my experiences led me to believe was true – but still, not a choice). I am just guilty of waking up at the wrong moment. I do not equate God with the tooth fairy, not in the least, but what else do I have to compare it to, to help you understand? And just so you know, I would never have chosen this. Why would I give up that life I had, that was built entirely on and around God? Our whole life was the church, all of our friends are the church, our livelihood, even our beautiful house in Minnesota was pretty much all because of the wonderful people at our church. I was so happy. Now we have to build a new life, from scratch, because things can just never be the same when you turn your back on everything that matters to all the people who matter to you. Perhaps you could sympathize if we were Muslims-turned-Christian, and had lost everything in a similar fashion.
Will you still teach your children morality? Now, this may be difficult for some of you to hear, and many of you will not believe me, but Christianity doesn’t have the monopoly on morality. I imagine if you weighed the people of all cultures against each other, the Christian would measure up about the same as any other average human being. The Christian chalks this up to the fact that all humans are born sinful and evil, and only through God’s forgiveness and covering our sins can we go to heaven. That’s the only difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. Other people might chalk this up to the fact that society cannot work without a moral code. The golden rule is kind of common sense. We have been told that, whatever we think, it will be impossible for us to raise our children well, to have any kind of sense of right and wrong. And of course, if you believe that, I can’t tell you otherwise. Who knows how our kids will turn out? There are Christians whose children turn out perfectly awfully, and Christians who do an amazing job at raising their children. If my kids turn out well in the end, you will think it is because God has some kind of a plan for them and was preserving them from our unholy influence, and if they end up in prison or on the streets, it will just be the natural result of our “decision” not to follow God.
Do you hate the church? Did you have a bad experience that made you stop following God? I will state this again–I love the church. I love Freshwater. Not a single thing happened there that I wouldn’t want to relive in a heartbeat. Most of the bad things that happened in my life, mostly in my childhood and teenage years, never once caused me to doubt there was a God. I never felt comfortable blaming God for my problems, and I was always very grateful when things went well. I can honestly say that I have never been angry at God, and now, it’s kind of irrelevant.
Why are you telling now? For a long time, I have been in denial about the fact that this would have to eventually come out. I don’t know how I thought it would be avoided, because in order to never tell, I’d either have to lie for the rest of my life or cut ties with everyone I love, and neither of those are viable options. We are telling now because we have discovered that it is getting out on its own. Already people know that we did not tell, and we have no idea how they found out. What is important to us now is that people hear it from us (who haven’t heard it already), and that it is not a scandal that is covered up and gossiped about. We are not telling because we want to proselytize for atheism, or because we want to hurt anyone. It is just because it is the truth, and hiding the truth never works. Yes, we did wrong by not telling long ago, but how could it suddenly be right for us to not tell now? The very people who are angry with us for not telling also want us to keep our mouths shut now, and pretend that people don’t know (when many somehow do). But I just can’t agree with them. I don’t want to just cover this up and pretend it didn’t happen. I’ve seen the movies–it never works. We will not tell your children–we certainly do not want to hurt them, and we know it is not our place to tell them; we have gone so far as to de-friend the ones we are friends with so that they will stand less of a chance of finding out on their own. If you want to allow them to re-friend us later, they are welcome to.
What are the problems that you have with God and Christianity? Please see Brian’s FAQ. I stand behind everything he says, and I really really really hate debating, especially when the debate is likely to be fruitless because we are operating on completely different assumptions. You may think I owe you that much, but I really can’t go there, at least not right now. Any questions you have can be answered much more coherently by Brian.