I have enjoyed and savoured the many comments I have read in Convert's Corner. Growing up in a dysfunctional christian home, with one parent, bedeviled to the bottle, my mother brought my sister and I up to find comfort, solice and hope in prayers and church attendance. The more desperate my mother became, the more extreme our church experiences, eventually climaxing in rampant faith healing, tongue-speaking, demon exorcising, scared to think differently, belief.
For 25 years, I believed that God didn't/wouldn't heal/fix my dad because of any of the following reasons; he was teaching our family a lesson; we were suffering for the sins of our parents parents (the sins of the fathers etc); we didn't have enough faith; my father was demon possessed and God couldn't help him until he surrendered his life to God (oh the arguments and splintering in the family that caused as we tried to manipulate/force dad to play by our rules.); I'm sure ther were other reasons.
There was an upside – I think I was a pretty good christain. I read christian books, listened to christian music, I attended a christian school, later a christian University where I trained to become a teacher, now I teach, yes teach, in an evangelical christian school. By all measurable standards, I can be as sincerely, honestly and humbly pious and socially concerened as the next socially concerned, ncie evangelical.
Beginning 3 or 4 years ago, I started to observe christian behaviour. I stopped looking at what I got out of being a christain (identity, being a somebody in a closed community etc) and started observing and reflecting on what were/are the motivations, the expectations, the committments of both myself and others claiming faith. My withdrawal from the faith came in gradual steps. My dissatisfaction with organised religious church structures came first – still wanting hold onto belief in god (not wanting to lose salvation). I read the bible cover to cover and wrote 100 000 words in journal notes. This was an eye opening expereince for me. The god that I had grown to believe in through church was structures was not the god I encountered in the bible – i immediately began to pray differently, experience church life differently.
Whilst in New York on a holiday I picked up Sam Harris', End of Faith and Karen Armstrong's History of God. Somewhere in there I also bought and read, The Devil's Chaplain.I listend to quite a few TTC (The Teacher Company) lectures on the history of the bible, the history of christianity, archeology and the neurons in my brain just churned and churned with both excitement and interest. My wife and I visted Greece and Israel – whilst still attending church, yet drastically and continually challenging my previously closely held beliefs. Heck I teach in an evangelical school and I was a youth group leader, lead communion services and occasional lay preacher. I went to Israel with an open mind and one question. Is there any enlightened thinking amonst monotheism or is it just bronze age mythology and bronze age bigotry. I'm not supersticious anymore but when I stood at the Western (wailing) wall I wrote some very pointed reflections that I placed in the wall and I contemplated like I never had before. I believe the answers to that soul searching/heart wrenching desperation to resolve the arm wrestle with religion and beleif in god within myself.
Upon returning from Israel, I read Letter to a Christian Nation and then heard about The God Delusion – I bought it. I have read it once and listened to the audio twice. Richard, in his eloquence, clarifies for me over and over again. Other factors have contibuted – my long held belief in the authority/inerrancy of the bible was a biggie – Bart Ehram's Misquoting Jesus helped me more fully understand the way teh bible was written etc.
The story isn't over – as yet I need to find a way forward. Still working in an evangelical school, ensures I play my cards close. I try where possible to point out the elephants in the room, yet have to duck for cover and say I was just playing devil's advocate. Vocationally, I have to be senstive – but I am looking for a way forward.
This website is one of my homepage tabs and I read/watch/listen to every 'latest news', and their comments each night.
Thank you Richard for your determination and resilience. Looking forward to you coming to Australia. I hope you would be warmly received here. From experience, most of the Christians I know are too concerned with themselves and their own comfort to be too bothered. If only they knew the growing movement of disbelief is acutally well positioned.