Daniel Powers, Converts, #(1980)

Aug 14, 2014

Professor Dawkins,

I would think that the de-conversion process like the conversion process is unique to each individual. So, a little history might be helpful. I did not become a Christian until my early twenties after I was married and while I was in college for a technical degree. I was working from 7-4 and then be at school from 6-10 and then study till two. Then repeat. Not every night, but you get the idea. My wife jokes about this early time in our marriage that I only rented a bed which happened to have another person in it. 

I spent a lot of time thinking while driving to work and then to school. Being alone so much allowed the thoughts to explore concepts like what makes something good or evil or what makes something right or wrong. It was during this time I actually first approached the willingness to consider religion. My wife had never brought it because I was fairly hostile towards religion at the time. I guess I was searching for some answers.

Skipping ahead, we joined a local Southern Baptist Church. In a vain attempt to not be taken by charlatans, I started studying the Bible in various study groups (this conversion process probably warrants a paper in itself). We became active members and eventually I became a trustee for a while and eventually an ordained deacon. This put me into the heart of the leadership of the church. This would prove to be most enlightening and a major factor in stripping my faith away.

I eventually started a Master program in Apologetics and Philosophy, which I did not finish for a number of reasons. In a way it marked the beginning of my de-conversion. I was also a student of eschatology or prophecy of the end times. My saving grace, if you will allow the term, was my thirst for knowledge. I had started exploring other political, religious, and philosophical thoughts. I found insight in those that were critical of the establishment. If the critic is valid, the source shouldn’t matter.

One of the books in my Master program was a real eye opener. It was on the concept or nature of god, the Christian god. I had no idea that there was not a more unified view of god. I would have thought god could have done a better job of explaining a few of the details about him or herself. With so many variations, how do you know which one is even close much less anyone even being right?

They also taught what called systematic theology. The idea that there is truth outside of the Bible, a concept that really appealed to me and apparently not really accepted. They also taught hermeneutics or exegesis. The thing that really made sense was that the text could not mean something that the writer did not intend and that context was extremely important to understanding what the writer intend. When I explained some of this to people, the reaction was a stern warning. I was threatened with the wrath of God on my family for altering the Scriptures. 

In my personal studies on prophecy, I was coming up with different conclusion then the mainstream thinking. Then I started discovering miss uses of Scripture to fit agendas. It seemed that the smallest news article somehow was foretold in the bible, which I could not buy and most of the time seemed down right absurd. The real pattern that emerged was the political and monetary were the driving forces behind each of them. Later, in Christopher Hitchens’ book “the Portable Atheist” he confirmed my conclusions as he pointed how in history the prophets used the news for their own purposes. The confirmation felt good.

I could recount a long list of incidents. Each one worked to tear away my faith in small pieces. Like myself, I am sure that there are many Christians that have walked around in pain as the church itself has shredded their faith. Life does get better and the mind clears and covers the scares over time. I will attempt to summarize some of the items that drove me away from the church. This barely scratches my ten years as a deacon. Hopefully you can get a sense of the insanity.

The biggest sin is the attitude of the hate and elitism. I began to see a superior attitude of “I am Christian therefore I am better”. It can also be seen in how the Church feels it should be exempt from the law. Those outside church were sinners making them a lower class of people. This is a very subtle, but if you listen you can hear it in how they talk about people. 

Fear of everything is another attribute. One of the concepts that I found difficult to understand much less believe was how evil others were. The concept is indirectly taught from pulpits and other message formats. The other side is evil and their thoughts and ideas are just plain wrong. The goals of the liberal, homosexual, communist, and a whole list of others was nothing but destruction of the free world. This Apocalyptic view of the world just didn’t match with the world I saw.

I also became acutely aware of the certainty of knowledge that the religious have, particularly Southern Baptist. To help correct problems with declining membership and other issues, I used facts and survey data by the Barna Group a Christian polling firm. The information was aggressively dismissed. Yet, a deacon of the establishment could quote the same group on different matter and be accepted without question. I found that if the facts did not line up with the world view, they are dismissed out of hand. You could tell them that grass was green, the sky is blue, and water is wet and they will deny it.

The anti-poor attitude. In some ways this goes along with the elitist view of the world. You cannot claim to love someone and curse them at the same time. One of the deacons that was heading up the outreach program actually told some of my guests that “their kind was not welcomed”. In a letter to the pastor I told him that we have change the old gospel song “Just as I am” to “Just how we want you”. The advice I got was “you have to ignore Max.”

The politicalization of the faith during the 2008 election clearly showed me that religion is about power and money. I did not know that God was a Republican. I was even told how to vote in a deacon’s meeting. It would seem that the church has no sense of social justice and chooses to ignore numerous scriptures for political gains. I even got an email that outlined how Obama was the Anti-Christ. Really! What are they smoking?

The willingness to step on the rights others was made real clear personally. A pastor of a large church in the area took some books from my son. My son was living with the crazy mother in-law at the time. The premise was to correct him and my daughter in-law of their evil ways. Apparently, he thought my son was practicing voodoo since the books were related to surviving the Zombie apocalypse. Given my library they would have wanted to perform an exorcism or just burn me at the stake.

Lastly, the study process. Once I reached a point of really studying on my own, the lessons at church became mind numbing. The Sunday School class that I attended was made up of deacons and leaders, which should have made for in depth studies. Yet, we used the material from the Southern Baptist Convention. It was only elementary at best. What struck me was how disjointed the lessons where. Bits of this verse and that verse. This approach keeps the membership ignorant of the whole Bible and feeds them what to believe. Then I realized study was not about learning and exploring but more of a self-induced brainwashing.

I could not be a part of something that threatened free thought and the rights of others. Eventually, I had to make the conclusion god is dead and leave. What I wasn’t prepared for was the reaction of friends. Friends that agreed with my conclusions, but would no longer associate with me. Twenty years of friendship lost in a single act. It was years before I got a hello at work from a fellow deacon.

I hope this makes some sense to some.

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