The process of what causes someone to believe or disbelieve in God and other supernatural claims is a fascinating subject to me. Every one of us would like to think that what we believe is objective, logical, and supported by the best evidence, right? My contention is that very rarely is anyone led into belief in a supernatural creator by reason and logic alone.

    For the overwhelming majority of individuals faith is passed on by one’s parents as well as by individuals that appear to have some authority and credentials on the subject. My challenge to those who espouse faith in a supernatural God is this: Let us imagine that someone is born into an environment that does not have access to a Bible, or any holy book for that matter. Not only that, but this person’s family and geographical society has also never learned about any supernatural God within their lifetimes. It is a society without any concept of God.

    What are the chances that this individual or group of individuals is going to come to the same conclusions that are advocated in the Bible or even the Koran apart from human intervention? Some folks will assert that surely a supernatural God would or could reveal Himself to these geographically godless individuals. The best evidence that I can present to counter this is the vast diversity of religious belief that spans our planet.

    Is it more likely that all of these religions have received a true revelation from God, or that primitive superstition is the main driving force? Not all of these individual claims of either one or many gods can be correct, right? If only one view is correct, how would one even begin to validate one faith based claim over thousands and thousands of others? The problem of unsubstantiated belief is not a small one and it is important to realize that faith based claims are altogether eroding in light of scientific fact and discovery.

    In a later post I plan to discuss the evidences for evolution and how it is driven by natural selection and gene mutation. Though there are many people who embrace evolution in conjunction to their faith I will attempt to demonstrate why life arising by natural means is without a need for a supernatural creator. It seems that a Naturalistic view of the world is the most consistent with reality.

    So why did I personally invest ten years of my life into believing in the God of Evangelical Christianity? Ultimately, it is because it was the most exciting and seemingly life transforming worldview to hold at the time. It wasn’t based on hard evidence or a desire to look deeply into the best criticisms of religion and the Bible. There was another factor that also deeply affected my belief and gave me false confidence for many years. It was the influence of teachers that encouraged me to believe in supernatural revelation and gifts that I could receive directly from God.

    To any new believer this can be a very exciting journey to begin! A God that wants to speak to me directly? A God whose presence I cannot deny? The creator of the universe wants to live in my heart and empower me to make a difference in the world? After a few months of joining this small church on the outside of town I thought I was on the verge changing the world through championing the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever I went.

    There seemed to be clear signs that God was working in my life. I remember a time shortly after my conversion at an evening prayer meeting where about fifteen people surrounded me after I requested prayer for God to empower me to be a witness to the kids at my local high school. I was inspired by this passage in Acts 1:8 where Jesus said, “And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” It presented a vision of God empowering every believer to spread the good news with His powerful hand being behind it all. Who wouldn’t want to be part of such a mission?

    What affected me most about this moment was the powerful emotional experience that ensued as this group of loving people surrounded me in prayerful intercession. I felt a pleasant almost electrical energy wash over me from the top of my head and going down to my toes. It was like a wave of power and love and comfort. It brought me to tears. I thought this was the very presence of God himself uniting with my spirit to change the world. My life was seemingly forever changed by a very real God intersecting into my life and calling me to be one who would herald this message of hope to everyone I could!

    Over the years I had many similar experiences that all seemed to confirm the reality of Jesus living in my heart and guiding me to go into the ministry of preaching and teaching. Eventually I would realize what a monumental mistake it was to count these subjective experiences as somehow being evidence of God’s presence in my life. These experiences were never accompanied by a voice, a vision, or any objective evidence of any kind that God was actually there. I simply felt for a very long time that it was so. I even called it undeniable proof.

    It was a combination of my own life experiences and the stories of many others that would finally bring me to question my confidence. For instance, I came to realize that many religious and nonreligious people have had the same kind of experiences through practicing meditation. It is the very fact that such phenomena is common to human experience that has diminished my belief in special revelation. People have times of spiritual ecstasy at rock concerts, sporting events, religious ceremonies, and even during a romantic scene in a movie. It’s just part of being human!

    All of this paired with the reality that miracles do not actually happen served to bring me out of the delusion of the Charismatic movement that is sweeping across America. I’ll be honest, I held on for a year or so longer to Christianity after I moved away from subjective explanations. I thought that Christian Apologetics upheld the divine inspiration of the Bible and the miracles of Jesus being legitimate in light of the evidence. It turns out that all of the best evidence that can be given demands us to just have faith.

    I am here to express that to just have faith is not good enough! It shouldn’t be for any reasonable person. If there is a God then He has done a terrible job at making the truth easily discernable and a phenomenal job at keeping Himself hidden and vague. Without thousands of years of tradition doing the interpreting of the Bible, this book in and of itself is extremely vague about the nature of God, His will, and His purpose for humanity. Even in light of tradition there exists many irreconcilable divisions within Christianity as to what constitutes as orthodox teaching.    

    It is these kinds of inconsistencies that bear the hallmarks of it being a religion wholly contrived by people. Just like all other religions in the world. These are primitive beliefs about how to explain the universe and our existence. I personally think that we no longer have to be so naïve. May we remain open minded about wherever the truth may lead. It is religious dogma that impedes thoughtful discovery and moral progress. Many things are immoral Biblically simply because God said so, not because there is any objective evidence to justify these claims.

    Bertrand Russell had it right when he said, “Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes….A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.”

4 thoughts on “Why I Once Believed

  1. “Is it more likely that all of these religions have received a true revelation from God, or that primitive superstition is the main driving force?” The problem with trying to answer this question is that you have no way to judge the likelihood of the former possibility. What does a true revelation look like? How does one decide if it is authentic? How likely is such a revelation to have occurred? The answers to these aren’t obvious, and natural theologians have been struggling with them for centuries.

    I asked myself this question, but I came to realize that I needed to focus on either reliable philosophical conclusions and scientific facts. I had to separate the arguments, and appealing to the argument that “any religion is very likely to be man-made”–that is begging the question; you have to have other reasons to conclude that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your response, Patrick! I didn’t have the pleasure of getting to know you personally when I attended Crown College but I know you have a good friendship with Jeff Ingle, Nick Boettcher and some others. I of course have a mutual connection to them and we enjoyed many lively Theological discussions whenever we had the chance.

      In response to your point about my begging the question I want to first off acknowledge that I am an agnostic atheist. I don’t claim to possess any positive knowledge as to whether or not a god actually exists and my atheism kicks in at the point of realizing that Theism does not meet its burden of proof. I reject Theistic claims on that basis.

      With that being said, people, the world, and this universe are my starting point. I don’t deny that reality is objective I’m just agnostic (like all human beings) as to how this reality has been established. Life experience and the sciences seem to indicate a universe that operates via natural laws and consequences. What we do not know is whether a god is actually needed to explain anything. It should be especially enlightening to Theists that there is no known law or mechanism that can be appealed to as to why god is defined to have never at any point not existed. There is also no known reason as to why this god can even function or exist at all apart from any outside influences. William Lane Craig scoffs at this idea of a universe just popping into being but arguably an all-powerful god is an even more complicated subject than a universe. A universe is also something that we can undeniably study and can make conclusions about via observation of physical and chemical processes. With a Theistic god you only have one ancient set of books that contain contradictory subjects and ideas pertaining to god. The rest becomes a lot of guess work in my opinion. These are just my honest conclusions at the moment.

      My overall conclusion is not that any religion is man-made per se, it is that every religion I have been introduced to thus far appears to carry the hallmarks of the type of inconsistency that can be expected from an approach to knowledge that lacks the further consensus that it needs from all major areas of thought and study.

      Christianity reproduces and grows just like all of the other religions. It is passed on via word of mouth and big time confirmation bias. I say this because it was true of me and many others that are coming out of the woodwork. Why else would a built in view of inspiration and authority even need to be established if the truth of the bible was so clearly known and established in our world? I just no longer see the uniqueness at all within this system. I look forward to your thoughts. Thanks!

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