I was born and raised in the Bible Belt, specifically, Texas. In my community it was taken for granted that the Bible is the word of God. From the earliest age I remember going to church and saying this prayer before bedtime, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake. I pray the Lord, my soul to take.”
Other than going to church, buying Christian themed decorations and quoting a few select Bible verses, nobody in my community lived like Jesus or the Apostles. They lived like modern Americans, and I naturally adopted their lukewarm approach to Christianity as well. I tried not to lie, steal, lust, hate, miss church or masturbate, and I felt profoundly guilty when I committed these sins. Sometimes I prayed and put a few dollars in the offering plate at church. Outside of Sunday school I never read the Bible.
My real life revolved around going to school, trying to make friends, figuring out life and coping with the drama that the world throws at you. I had a very rocky childhood, and my life started sliding out of control before I got to high school. I started hanging out with the rejects, smoking, drinking, doing drugs, stealing, committing petty crimes, running from the cops, and listening to heavy metal music.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I did all of those self-destructive things because I was looking for meaningful connections to life. I hung out with the rejects, because they accepted me without judgment. I poisoned my body, because that was the only other thing outside of my friends that made me feel alive. I binge-listened to angry musicians, because they understood my emptiness and pain.
By my sophomore year I was basically never sober. The farther from sobriety I ran, the more I lost touch with reality. I lived in a dream land. Sometimes I danced through Technicolor flower fields, but mostly I wandered in the dark looking for a lighted path that would take me back to the happiness and wholeness I felt as a child.
As my life spiraled downward, I had two near-death experiences on drugs and almost got arrested when a house I was doing hallucinogens at got raided by the police. Before things could get worse, my mother kicked me out of her house, and I had to move from Paris, TX, to my father’s house, eight hours away in Jourdanton, TX. The only Bible verse I ever heard my father quote was, “Spare the rod; spoil the child.”
Having lost all my friends and all meaningful connections in my life, my soul drifted in free fall. I felt like I was in outer space. I didn’t have anywhere to go, and I didn’t want to spend time with my father. So I stayed in my room and listened to songs that reminded me of my friends. The only book in my room was a copy of Nave’s Topical Bible, which listed Bible verses according to topic. Having a lot of anger at God and nothing else to do, I read what God had to say about love, hate and forgiveness.
I didn’t understand the context of any of the passages or the passages themselves, but they fascinated me. There was a murky message of love and salvation, both of which I needed badly. These thoughts percolated in my brain for months until I had the opportunity to go back to Paris and see my friends. We got together like old times and did drugs. It was refreshing but painfully nostalgic.
At the end of the night, everyone else went to sleep, and I stayed up for several more hours day dreaming intoxicated visions. That night I had a vision of God. His body was in the shape of a human but made of glowing love. He looked like one of the aliens on the movie, “Cocoon.”
We had a long conversation in which He told me I was loved and accepted. Everything is fine, and everything is going to work out. Life is important, and we all have something important to do with our lives. I could still fulfill the meaning of life. I just have to give up my hedonistic ways. So the next morning I threw away my cigarettes and quit all my poisons cold turkey.
I made up my mind that it was time to get serious about God. So I started going to church regularly, and I got a real Bible. I read the New Testament cover to cover several times. In 1997 I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and savior at a Billy Graham convention in San Antonio. A few months later I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church in Charlotte, TX.
I took my faith as serious as life and death. Everyone who knew me my senior year of high school knew that I was a serious Christian. I went to church twice a week, read my Bible, prayed to Jesus, invited the Holy Spirit to guide me and behaved impeccably moral even when no one was watching.
By the time I graduated high school I was convinced I should become a preacher. So I scheduled a meeting with the pastor who had baptized me, Brother Sewell. We met at a Dairy Queen and talked for about an hour. In the end, he told me that if there’s anything else I could imagine being happier doing than preaching, then I should do that. Reluctantly, I admitted, I would be happier teaching art or being a comic book artist than standing in front of a crowd, blowing people’s minds while begging for money once a week. So Brother Sewell told me to become what I wanted to become most.
I wasn’t a good (or rich) enough artist to go to art school, and I wanted to work in a profession that helped people directly anyway. So I decided not to go to seminary school and preach in a church. I would get a day job as a social worker helping the neediest of the neediest. In my free time, I would write Christian books and comics.
So after I graduated high school, I enrolled at the University of Mary~Hardin Baylor in Belton, Tx and majored in social work. I picked that school because it’s a Christian university with a reputation for being unapologetically serious about Jesus Christ. Every event on campus opened with a prayer, and every student had to attend mandatory church services. There were always student-led Bible studies going on somewhere on campus. Every student had to take at least one semester in religious studies.
I chose to take the hardest course they offered, a year-long, in-depth survey of The Torah. I wanted to know every detail about how my religion came into existence, and The Torah was so boring and confusing, I figured this was my best shot at understanding it. I felt confident that if I could master the basics of Christianity then I could write the proof to end all proofs that would convince any Atheist that the Bible was the true word of God.
To my delight, my professor turned out to be a genius named Dr. Stephen Von Wyrick. He spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin fluently, and he spent his summers in Israel excavating religious ruins. The textbooks he taught from weren’t Christian propaganda. They were gigantic, rigorous, boring history books. Dr. Von Wyrick knew as much as a human being could know about the historical context of the The Torah.
He also believed wholeheartedly in the divinity of the entire Bible. So I’m sure he would be appalled by the fact that, more than anyone else, he was responsible for me losing my faith. He took my class through the Torah line by line and explained everything that was happening. He showed how to tell when different authors had written different passages within the same book. He explained how miracles could often be attributed to naturally occurring events. He pointed out where the authors had copied stories from other religions. The two most important things he taught me where how the Jewish theocracy and culture operated at the time. They were both barbaric and superstitious.
Once I actually read the Torah cover to cover, I looked back and realized I didn’t just read a story about God’s love and salvation. The original covenant God had with mankind, was for humans to slaughter animals on altars so God could bask in their blood. In return, God would kill the enemies of the Jewish state. The laws God commanded His people to follow were barbaric or trivial. The whole story was so chaotically thrown together, there was no hope of reconciling all its contradictions, scientific inaccuracies, mysticism and psychotic moral codes.
Making sense of the Bible is even more difficult when you try connecting the Old Testament and the New Testament. Why does a perfect, all knowing, all loving God, write a book that approves of slavery and war. Then He changes his mind and writes a book that approves of slavery and love (most of the time)? But after saving everyone from having to please God with blood, now you have to please God by believing in His son, who is somehow also God at the same time, and maybe one other person/thing called the Holy Ghost.
I found a million holes in the Bible, and I couldn’t ignore them. They weren’t making me doubt my faith yet, because I believed the answers existed. I just had to find them. So I asked dozens of highly educated Christians to explain the gaping holes I’d found in Christianity. Without exception, every single person told me to, “Just have faith.” They couldn’t explain any of the problems and didn’t want to. This infuriated me, because if we didn’t understand the Bible, that meant we didn’t understand what we believed in. So when we witnessed to non-believers, we were telling them, “I don’t know what I believe in, but you have to believe it too.”
The further I looked for answers, the more I found myself piecing together an explanation of why the Bible is just a standard, archaic mythology produced by a primitive culture and not the word of God. This scared me to the depth of my soul. I was afraid God would send me to Hell for entertaining those thoughts, let alone believing them.
The more I dove back into the Bible to find the clues I’d missed, the more mythology I found. It was like watching a train wreck. I watched it until I couldn’t take it anymore. I shut my Bible one last time and let out a huge defeated sigh as I accepted the undeniable truth staring me in the face: Christianity is mythology, and I would never find salvation in it. Even then, it took me over a year to admit out loud that I’d lost my faith.
That happened at the age of twenty. It wasn’t until seven years later that I began writing down my argument for why Christianity is mythology. I’ve been posting those on my blog ever since. In 2015 I consolidated them into a stand alone E-book that you can purchase on Amazon. You can still read them individually for free on The Wise Sloth.
After leaving the church I didn’t think of myself as an Atheist. All I knew was that I was lost. If I had to label myself at the time, I would have called myself an Existentialist, or simply a searcher. Search I did. As depressed and disconnected as I felt, I wasn’t suicidal. I didn’t know what life was for, but I knew a lot of trouble went into creating it, and I believed life was some kind of opportunity with some kind of potential.
Desperate for any glimmer of direction, I read most of the other religious books the world follows. Without exception, I found the same patterns of inconsistencies, incoherencies, inaccuracies, absurdities and culturally relative morals I’d found in the Bible.
Like the Bible, they all also contained useful information. You could even find patterns in some of their wisdom that different religions agreed on. I didn’t take this as evidence that God had a hand in every book, but rather that some morals are self-evident. If you were going to make your own religion, probably the first rule you’d pick is, “Don’t go around killing people.”
Simply proving mythological gods don’t exist, doesn’t prove God doesn’t exist. Since I know that I don’t know the first thing about the universe, I’m not qualified to state emphatically that there is no God. The ingeniously elegant patterns in nature give me reason to suspect a higher force could have played a hand at creating the universe, but that force seems to have left us on our own to sink or swim.
I would like a more cut and dried answer to life’s questions, but the evidence seems to point to the conclusion that we’re here, and our lives are our responsibility to figure out using the tools we’ve been given. I’ve been trying to do that as best I can. I’m constantly updating my conclusions, which you can find listed below and on my Table of Contents:
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