The Process Of Leaving The Faith.

To many of the faithful, leaving the faith is no only unthinkable for themselves, but it is unthinkable that it happens to others.

Usually, believers assume that when someone leaves the faith it is because they were treated badly or abused within the faith or by parents.   In my experience, this is not usually what happens.  It is instead an intellectual process.

Dan Barker, a former evangelical preacher, has become one of the country’s best know atheists.  Apparently, he was a quite successful in his preaching career.  In the link below, he explains the process he experienced.

During most of his Christian life he was a literalist.  Bart Erhman, the prominent New Testament scholar and former literalist, says literalists develop a bag of tricks to avoid the notion that the Bible has contradictions.  So, when the Bible has various versions of one story like the birth of Jesus, the literalist explains why all version are true.  It’s just that different people knew different things.

Barker’s first problem came when he learned there were sincere Christians who did not believe in the literal Adam and Eve.  After he came to see Adam and Eve as metaphor and as literature rather than history, he began to wonder about the other stories and Biblical characters.  Eventually, he concluded the entire Bible is literature not history.

Barker’s journy is typical of how people become nonbelievers.  As the number of such people grows, we will hear more such experiences.

11 Responses

  1. entech

    It is true that denial of any contradiction in the Bible is explained away as, the non believer doesn’t understand, won’t understand and so on. What the fundamentalists don’t, won’t and so on is that as you keep changing and explaining, showing that even though it is the infallible word you have to allow for different writers remembering it differently, the explanations become contradictory. Actually as you keep trying to explain everything it all becomes so convoluted that you actually explain nothing.

    Remembering things differently is a good euphemism.

    1. wolfy32

      Strangely, I’ll defend the bible a little here. Yes, there are some paradoxes / contradictions. However, I had a psych professor explain perception this way. Him and his wife had a car accident. The copy asked if they were both wearing their seat belt. Each person said the opposite. That one was buckled and the other wasn’t. Are they wrong for saying that the other wasn’t buckled? Well, a truth may exist outside of their perception, but, that truth is unknowable because the reality of the event is unknowable.

      What about our world now… How many truths will we never know but exist anyways… The Bush / Gore election,…. Was it rigged? Were votes lost or uncounted….?? Who ordered the assasination of Kennedy? Who controls wall street? What scientific discoveries have been made but…. Put aside or not made available because the ramifications to society would be too difficult to control… What about anti aging drugs, or disease fighting drugs that would risk reducing or eliminating some drugs in the future?

      There many truths that exist outside of us, but we’ll never know. Do world governments actually possess crashed UFO technology or bodies of alien beings? The repercussions of the admittance and possession of alien life and alien technology on world religions could be catestrophic.

      I think it’s pretty arrogant to pin many issues with religion on inconsistent writing. The fact that seat belts may not be remembered correctly does not equal that there was no car accident.

      It may be possible for inconsistant facts to exist within the bible yet, for the bible to be true. Maybe not in the literal sense many take it to be. However, there may be a truth in the bible that is actually true, just remembered somewhat differently by different observers and writers…

      Another example… What if there’s a ball, you remember it being red, and I remember it being orange… Does that change whether or not there was a ball in existence?

      I find it interesting that Christianity is the target for not being able to prove things true, yet, there’s so little on this planet that we can prove is true. Once the moment in time is gone, we may never be able to prove what was in that moment… You probably ate lunch on Friday, can you remember what you ate? Or what time you might have gone to the bathroom.. There’s many truths…. that we will remember inconsistantly that are unprovable.

      1. entech

        With your Prof. it shows quite clearly that eye witnesses are not 100% reliable, someone may know the stats, but I think a lot less than that – not reliable to any great extent.

        What has been suppressed, changed or outright lied about is, as you say, something we may never know, that someone knew is sure. So yes the truth of these matters does exist and yes we may never know the truth. There are people that believe all kinds of things about Kennedy, UFOs and buried technology – most of these beliefs are outrageous conspiracy theories even though there could be some elements of truth in the theories and a lot of lies involved in keeping the accepted/acceptable version in the forefront.

        I think it’s pretty arrogant to pin many issues with religion on inconsistent
        This is where we must part company, the seat belt issue is irrelevant, whether good drugs and technology is suppressed for whatever reason; is the world ready for it yet??? Who decides? Who would you trust to decide?; Surely one of the altruistic corporations wouldn’t hold on for future enhancement of profit!!!
        My objection to you (or anyone) thinking it is arrogant to ask for a higher level of proof or consistency is quite simply that the religions make arrogant claims for themselves – the claim that bible story A, B or C depending on your interpretation is the absolute truth as to the creator of the universe, as to what this creator expects from us, his creation; not only the way that we should live our lives but the way they want us to be obliged to live our lives – such claims need a level of certainty, a lack of possible doubt, in fact they do need the level of proof that you complain about.

        I find it interesting that Christianity is the target for not being able to prove things true
        Christianity makes many claims based on the Bible that they say are the absolute and total truth, the actual or inspired word of the creator of GOD. Don’t you think it is reasonable to ask for a little verification, the past, present and future of humanity is what they are talking about. The question of what I had for lunch or what time I evacuated my bowels is pretty insignificant compared to Heaven and Hell.
        There’s many truths…. that we will remember inconsistantly that are unprovable
        There are also many truths claimed as truths that are simply not true.

      2. Wolfy 12:56 “Yes there are some paradoxes/contraditions..”

        I agree with entech the on the Bible’s wide variety of interpretations, inconsistencies and contradictions are worthy of more ridicule than those of other sources is the claims of absolute “truth” made for it. We have gazillions of policies, from Sunday opening hours to anti gay marriage to anti abortion based on “Biblical truths”. If every politican and preacher admitted to the inconsistencies and lack of evidence we would not have these policies.

        The story of the cruxifiction and the bounce-back-to-life has all kinds of implications. Yet, if it never happened, or, happened for reasons having nothing to do with “sin”, then everything about the faith changes, or, the entire faith disappears. A high standard of evidence is justified.

        1. wolfy32

          I agree, the impact to society of those truths is great.

          However, none of us can be held responsible for the crazies.. Those that take the truth to be absolute.

          There are two absolutes in life..
          1. I exist. I can prove that every moment my heart beats.. For within the realm of our perception I exist.
          2. I will die..

          everything else in life is up for grabs. Including religion.

          I agree, it isn’t absolute, nor is it black and white, and many people read into things. In some ways, maybe this is what the early Catholic church was trying to avoid by only having a latin bible that no one could read. It was a convenient way to have power over people, but, it also prevented people from making up their own outrageous assumptions.

          I believe truth exists within the bible, and very most likely within the other sacred texts. However, determining those truths is most likely impossible. So, we’re left to fend for ourselves. Or well, back to square one… People making their own truths….

          1. Wolfy32 4:36 “I believe truth exists within the Bible, and very most likely within the other sacred texts. Hoever, determining those truths is most likely impossible. So, we are left to fend for ourselves. Oh well, back to square one..people making their own truths…”

            Good summary. My thinking is people can believe they have encounters, awarenesses or faiths in invisible beings and nothing is harmed. The problem comes from taking seriously the Bible (written by unknow authors who were not there for purposes of that time and that time only) and expect others to take it seriously as well.

          2. entech

            Wolfy: I believe truth exists within the bible, and very most likely within the other sacred texts.
            You often hear claims that a persons religion is very largely a result of their environment and upbringing. Children in America born of evangelical parents are likely to grow up to be evangelical adults. Similarly, Children born in Saudi of Sunni parents are most likely to be Sunni Muslims them selves.

            Your statement about believing one and accepting the possible truth in another is a reflection of this “truth”. In this case, even though you have obviously given a lot of thought to the subject, you give a positive “I believe” to Biblical Truths, and a most likely to the Sacred Truths of others. An obvious truth is much more obvious if you have been brought up to believe it is absolute truth, and even more so if you want to believe it, if it offers something in return for your belief: some thing like the promise of eternal bliss, countered with the threat of eternal damnation; an ego caressing doctrine that says you are the reason for creation, the creators image, the dominant creature on the planet (in the universe?) and all you need is faith!

            Just believe everything is true, well maybe that is too difficult for some: Just believe most of it is true and quite a lot can be explained as valid metaphor, the ways of the creator are too complicated for poor mortals (imaged ?) to comprehend: … : Just believe the parts that you want to believe, but don’t dig too deep, don’t want to be in the position of having to decide what to accept and what to reject: Just believe it is a good story that may or may not be true 😳 keep going far enough down this path and who knows where it will lead, a free inquiry, or heaven forfend – a free thought.

          3. entech

            PS. Leave aside for the moment the fact that in Saudi they would not be”likely” they would be obliged to be Sunni Muslim. Going by the writings of many commentators they would like that situation to pertain in America (Australia and England have their own fundamentalists, actually Australia and New Zealand have exported a few to you, probably couldn’t make a living at home).

            Think carefully about what the Christian version of Sharia might be like, would you really want it, would you like the 600 or so laws to be imposed and enforced instead of the fuzzy little ten – half common sense for a stable community and half pay obeisance to some entity you have never seen but who has lots of representatives here on earth.

  2. Long John

    An eye opener for me was Bishop Spongs book “Jesus for the Non Religious”. From there I went to many articles and books on freethought. Thank You internet !!

    1. Long John 2:37 “An eye opener for me was Bishop Spong’s book, “Jesus for the Non Religious”.

      I think Spong is one of the most compelling personalities to come along in recent decades. The better known writers, Dawkins, etc. start from an atheists position. Spong starts from a believers position which represents the majority of people in the U. S.

  3. Brad

    “literalists develop a bag of tricks to avoid the notion that the Bible has contradictions.”

    That is one of the skills that are taught to people who are going through the educational process of become a clergy. I know a minister from one of the right wing Lutheran churches that can walk his way through just about anything you can throw at him. He is really good at it, he really has the bases covered. In essence, he uses his educational advantage to intimidate anyone who doesn’t have the same level of education as he does, and of course that includes most everyone in his congregation.

    This is why it so important for seekers of the real truth to get educated well enough to see through these con artists.

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