Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Conversations with Angie

Last year, I was having a discussion on a message board about determinism, our ability to reason, and the soul. Somewhere along the line, I mentioned that reason had a lot to do with why I was a Christian. One of the participants, Angie, thought that was pretty interesting, because reason had everything to do with why she stopped being a Christian. We exchanged a few emails. In one of them, she summarized some of her main reasons for rejecting Christianity. For the next several months, I responded to each of her reasons. With her permission, I'm going to spend a few blogs (maybe a lot of blogs) reproducing some of the emails we exchanged. I'll begin with the email she sent me explaining her reasons for rejecting Christianity.

That's me! Sam, you probably thought I wouldn't bother since it's been a while, but I am interested in continuing the conversation started on PMs a while back. First, I'll try to answer your question:

I know you're a little uncertain right now about what to believe, but is there anything specific that caused you to think Christianity wasn't true? Or was it just lack of reasons to think it was true?

Well, it was kind of a slow and gradual process. On one hand, I was studying
biblical literature - reading commentary from Christians and non-Christians, and learning about the "integrity" of the biblical texts. I found that it wasn't as I had learned, and had been edited various times throughout history, which I felt negated the claim that it is complete as is, and completely inspired of God.

Second, I began reading up on ancient cultures of the Middle East, and found
that many biblical stories have equivalents (or parallels, or just very
similar stories) in other ancient near eastern cultures. Along with this, I learned that most of the names for God in the bible were the names of gods in several of the cultures that were present in that part of the world. Adonai, for example, was the name of a Sumerian god, and was adopted into the Hebrew language/culture. El Shaddai was the name of a Canaanite god. Now, I know a Christian would argue that this is true only because God was revealing Himself to humanity throughout history, but I don't buy that. I also saw the many similarities that the biblical God had with these other gods...

Another issue ... it only ever felt true, or even believable, when I was surrounded by my Christian friends and avoided such materials as the reading I mentioned above. Now, some might say that if that's the case, I never really believed in the first place, or that my faith wasn't deep enough, or whatever. Perhaps one of those is true, but I doubt it. It's mostly based on things I learned and experiences.

And, I find myself unable to believe that a truly good God would let the world be as it is. I know exactly what most Christians would say in response to it. And, if what the Bible says is true, why do prayers, needs, etc., so often go unanswered and unmet?

I'm not 100% convinced that it's true, but then again, there's very little I AM 100% convinced of, but I maintain a degree of belief and/or doubt. I figure certainty isn't necessary. Reasonableness is enough.

Again, we were like opposites: as I was struggling with so many doubts, I felt I had to know for a certainty if it was true or not. If it wasn't true, what was the value of dedicating my entire life to pursuing its ideals? Reasonableness was not enough for me, because I found that there are a number of belief systems that are reasonable.

I hung on for over two years in this state of limbo, remaining involved with my congregation, etc., until one day I admitted to myself that I just didn't believe anymore. It was really difficult - and scary. I don't really know how to live any other way, so for the most part I do as I did. But sometimes I miss it. Mostly I missed the community I was a part of in college. My closest friendships ever were ones that developed in that community, but we all live far from each other now. I haven't even told them yet.

Well,... I guess I'll be off for the moment...


Conversations with Angie: The one thing that matters


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