So it’s been a few months since I actively stopped going to church. One night, My wife and I have a conversation about it. I basically summed up my arguments as to why I could no longer go to church with “It’s all bullshit”. She thought about it, and a few nights later she told me that she had come to grips with a lot of this when she started attending the UPC church years ago. She basically said that she realized her baptist grandparents were saved, even though the UPC church says they’re not. She then went on to say that she even considers her dad OK, even though he is a member of what he calls the one, true religion, “non-practicing Catholics.” She said that he is more of a Christian, by his attitude and actions toward others than many of the active Christians she knows. I have to agree with her. He is one of the best people I know.
So since I’ve quit going, the music minister sent me a text asking how I was doing. I replied that I was well.
Then two Sundays ago, I get a call from one of the men in the church, who I used to ride motorcycles with. He left a message asking me to call him back. I put it off until Tuesday night. He called back and we talked for a while. I tried my best to lay out what I had been through as quickly as I could. He expressed his worried disapproval and finally concluded by asking me if I had ever witnessed a miracle. Well, no. I never have. I’ve been told by others that they knew someone who heard someone else say they had witnesses a miracle. For all intents and purposes, I think most situations that people call miracles are coincidences. And I also think it’s interesting that the closer you get to the third world, the more miracles you see. And isn’t it interesting the near lack of modern medical equipment that could confirm a miracle claim in the third world… But I digress. He went on to tell me about a miracle that happened to him. Apparently his dog was hit in the head and his son said the dog was dead. He called the pastor, who proceeded to pray for the dog, and he was healed. I think he made my point for me without even realizing it. But he asked if he could pray for me that I’d witness a miracle. Sure. What harm could that do? I’d love to see an actual, verifiable miracle. Wouldn’t you?
Then a couple of days later, my former pastor sends me a text asking if we could talk. So I called him and we set up a breakfast meeting for last Saturday. Over the course of an hour and a half, I laid out most of everything I had learned, and concluded by telling him that I no longer believed.
One of his concerns was that I had mentioned that Matthew had mined the Septuagint for his “prophecies” concerning the messiah and had misunderstood it, and therefore pictured Jesus riding two donkeys into Jerusalem simultaneously based on his misunderstanding. My former pastor proceeded to tell me that the Septuagint wasn’t written when Matthew wrote his gospel. OK…
Then he told me that he thought that “my searching” was a good thing, since it showed that I was looking for the truth. In fact, I had told him several times that that was the whole reason I had started questioning Christianity in the first place: I wanted to know the truth. I had even said that I thought it was interesting and ironic that my search for the truth had lead me out of Christianity. But even so, I’ll grant him that my search is definitely not over. There is always more to learn.
So he concluded by asking if I would be willing to read a book. Sure. I’m always open to reading a good book. So he orders me a copy of The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. But he doesn’t stop there. He also orders me a copy of The Case for a Creator, also by Strobel. I was a little anxious to see if these books might contain that one thing that I might be able to pin my hopes on that Christianity had some sliver of hope left. After all, he is a pastor, and he has to know something about these books and the knowledge they contain. Maybe, just maybe, he knew something that I hadn’t looked at yet. So we said our goodbyes and promised to meet again in a few weeks time to discuss the books.
The next day, as I was running around town doing errands, I stopped by the local bookstore. In the religion section, they had a copy of The Case for Christ. So I sat down and started reading. Very quickly, my hopes dried up. It’s written on quite a low level, and is dry: that formulaic, leading kind of dry that so many Christian books are written in. I got about half-way through the first chapter and had to quit. I skipped to the end of the chapter and realized there were “study questions”. I’d been had! This wasn’t a real book about facts and serious inquiry, it was a Christian self-help book.
So I looked up some reviews of the book online to see what others had said about it. Not surprisingly, all the Christian reviews were glowing. But then I came across a couple of blog-length critical reviews of the book. I also found one for The Case for a Creator, which I am nearly finished with reading. It is over at the Daylight Atheism blog on Patheos.com. Apparently, my initial assessment was correct. These books are nothing more than self-help books trying to keep those Christians with little or mild doubt in the pews. When you actually look at the claims made in these books, it’s easy to see that they haven’t got a leg to stand on.
Frankly, I am quite disappointed that my former pastor would recommend these books. Either he thinks they are that good, or he doesn’t realize how tenacious and thorough I have been with studying this stuff. Yes… I know it’s taken me a long time to finally put two and two together and realize that not only is the emperor not wearing clothes, but that there is no emperor at all, but at least I did figure it out. Now to convince my former pastor that I’m done.
I still do intend on reading at least The Case for Christ, but I had already ordered Loftus’ The Christian Delusion. If you have not read this book, you need to. It puts all of it together in a way that makes it easy to comprehend, and is written by such a high level of authors that there is really no arguing against it in a meaningful way.