For a while, I have been questioning my spirituality, my religion, and religion in general. It started back when I left oneness/UPC around 2009 or so. Since then I have spent quite a bit of time studying not only scripture, but anything I could get my hands on that might help me figure out my place in the universe. There are a lot of ways of thinking that look great on the surface, but when you start digging deeper, they have flaws. My thinking since childhood was that I was in the one right and true religion and nearly everyone else had it wrong. I remember thinking on occasion, “How did I get to be so lucky- to be born into a family that has the Truth…?!?”
Once I came to realize that the truth I had wasn’t very true, I felt the need to find the truth. I have looked for it in a lot of places. I have looked at the Orthodox Church, which has its appeal in that they claim to be the true descendants of the apostolic church, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, who broke away from it. But they have the same problems of corruption and scandal that most other churches do. I looked at Islam for about a second before realizing they have the same foundational problems that the Mormons have.
I mentioned in a previous post that I currently consider myself to be an Agnostic Christian, but I’m not so sure about the Christian part right now. Let me explain a little before I come back to Bart Ehrman.
As I understand it, agnosticism is not defined as “not being sure if there is a deity.” It is best defined as its name implies: not being able to prove or disprove the existence of a deity because of lack of knowledge. The greek word gnosis, meaning knowledge, preceded by a, meaning without: without knowledge, or to clarify: we mere humans have no way to know for sure if there is or is not a god. The more I considered the evidence, the more I realized that all of the arguments for the existence of a god were lacking proof, and all of the arguments against the existence of a god were also lacking in proof. So I came to the conclusion that there is no way I can know if there is or is not a god.
But that’s not the same question as “Do you believe in god?” When I consider the arguments for the existence of a god, I see how they make sense to a point. Why shouldn’t there be a creator who, through his benevolence, created life, the universe, and everything? It’s a nice idea. But then I consider the evidence that the universe came to being through the manner proposed by science. That actually makes more sense. I have also considered the idea that God, in his infinite wisdom, set the universe on its course of existence and created in a way that it would become what he intended through the mechanisms he set into place that can be explained by science. That is the most appealing, sense-making explanation I can come up with. It satisfies my desire for an answer to “what caused the big bang?” and it also satisfies my wondering of where God is when we need him most. After all, if God is perfect, why wouldn’t he create a perfect universe from the beginning that would take care of itself? I am still waiting on proof-positive that he intervenes in our world or has anything to do with us on a regular basis.
What about Christianity? A while back, I realized that in Jesus’ last prayer before his crucifixion (as recorded in John 17), he asks the Father to make all of his followers “one”. As we see from history, that has not happened. There are more Christian beliefs that any other religion in the word, it seems. This seems to be the case from the very beginnings of Christianity, even as shown in some new testament scriptures where Paul or another warns those to whom he is writing to watch out for those teaching “another gospel.” So here’s my premise for doubting the authenticity of christianity: If Jesus can’t even get his prayer answered, what chance do we normal humans have?
Not to mention the irony of Christianity. Here’s what I mean… The center of all of the religions of Moses (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is Jerusalem, which literally means the Foundation of Peace. Paul refers to “The God of Peace”. Yet who has perpetuated more hatred, hostility, death and destruction than anyone? Those who claim to follow this god of peace. Let me give some examples: the crusades, the inquisitions, the holocaust, the current state of hatred of muslims, the hatred of gays, and the list goes on. All of these situations caused be christians in the name of god. I’m not saying that I disbelieve in the God of the Bible, I’m saying that we have an interesting way of serving the God of Peace; hatred and death and destruction.
I decided on all of that a while back. I came to the conclusion that we humans have screwed up a lot of shit in the name of god, but that doesn’t prove or disprove his existence. I was raised a christian, so that’s what I was comfortable with. And the tenets that Jesus taught were worth trying to emulate. That’s how I came to regard myself as an agnostic Christian.
But then I read Dr. Bart Ehrman’s book, Jesus Interrupted. In this book, he provides evidence and examples of the discrepancies in the Bible (specifically the new testament) and the human element in the writing, transmission, and interpretation of the Bible. All of these things point to only one thing for me: the Bible is not infallible, inerrant, or perfect. If my belief about the religion I was raised in can be disproven with fact, why not the very foundation of that religion as well.
What does all this mean? I’m not sure. I finished the book late last night. When I went to church this morning, I kept superimposing a mental image of the prophets of Baal (from 1 Kings 18) on my fellow worshippers: doing everything they could to get their god to pay attention, but never making any headway- No answer, but a lot of trying to get one. No wonder they are always preaching about keeping the faith; that’s ALL they have. I suppose if you want something to be real bad enough, you can eventually make it real for yourself.
As of now, I will continue to claim agnosticism. I can’t prove or disprove the existence of God. I would like there to be a god, but it appears that if there were, he keeps his distance from us. The God of the Bible is looking less and less like the true god. I would like him to be, but the evidence seems to be stacked against him.
Edit 1-14-14: I don’t mean to say that I do not believe in God- even the god of the Bible (I think that agnosticism leaves room for belief). It’s just that all of the evidence against any reliability in the historical accuracy of the Bible makes me wonder how accurately the Bible portrays God. I mean seriously: a lot of the Bible is myth, we don’t know who wrote most of it, we don’t have any of the autographs, what we do have has been changed in many places and for many reasons over the years, so we can’t even be 100% sure of what it originally said, and even if we did know all these things, no one would agree on it any way!
The more I think about it, the less I have a problem with the god of the Bible; I do have a problem with his “followers”. They can’t agree on anything- they are the antithesis of unity, they have caused more harm than good, they argue with everyone else, they hate anyone not like them, and I believe the world would be a much better place if they would all shut up and quit pushing their (unbiblical) agenda on everyone else. I don’t want anyone to think that all christians are like this, just the ones in my family and most of the ones I know. In addition, it amazes me how little most christians know about the history of their religion. I include myself in this, since I don’t know that much about it. I am trying, though; and isn’t it interesting where learning about my religion has lead me…?