I’ve been reading Losing Faith in Faith by Dan Barker. It’s one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read, I think.
Dan is a former evangelical preacher that simply lost faith in his faith. The first part of the book tells his story on how he was “on fire for the Lord,” converting people to Christians while in High School, and even converting one of his teachers. I was never a preacher, nor did I go to seminary, but it’s very easy to see myself in Dan’s story.
Somewhere along the way, he started to realize that what he was teaching as a pastor didn’t really make a lot of sense, and in 1984 “came out” as an Atheist on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Oddly enough, despite this, he went on to preach a few more times to fulfill commitments he’d made to other churches. (Wow, that must have been difficult!)
The book paints a pretty good picture about how there is no evidence that there actually is a god. Something that Dan is quick to remind people of, is that it’s not up to an Atheist to disprove God, it’s up to a Christian to prove that God exists. Quite often people forget this point.
His point is there’s no way to prove that God exists outside of the mind. Any conclusions a Christian might try to make aren’t actually based in science, they’re all things that exist only in their mind and aren’t measurable in the real world.
He was a bible scholar, and goes into great depth on showing how inconsistent the bible is from book to book, and even contradictions within the same book. This is something that, when I claimed to be a Christian, really bothered me. For example, one of the commandments is “Do not kill,” yet the bible itself is full of God-ordered killings.
The best example I’ve read so far is showing, exactly, how the four gospels differ on the Easter story. (You’d think for something so important to Christian that they’d get this right in their own book, but they don’t!) He’s gone so far as to issue a challenge to Christians – tell him exactly what happened on Easter.
He talks about what was, to me at least, the biggest challenge. If the bible really is God’s perfect and holy word, why does it take years of study of dead languages to be able to actually understand it? Christians would blow my questions off with “it was translated by humans, and they make mistakes,” but I was never happy with that answer. If the bible really is “God’s Perfect Word,” couldn’t he have directed the people translating it to do it correctly? That seems like an easy thing for him to do. 😦
Dan wrote several children’s musicals before his de-conversion and still writes music today, so the book is littered with bits of hymns and his own music.
He talks about how desensitized Christians are to a lot of brutal things… for example, here’s the first verse and chorus of a hymn I used to sing almost every Sunday:
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains,
Lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
So, let’s think about this. There is a fountain, and it’s filled with blood. How much blood would that be? We’re talking hundreds (if not thousands) of gallons. That’s… disgusting. And morbid, and gross, and nasty… and the song is about being dunked in it. Yet Christians seem to be just fine with this. (The same people that will freak out at a violent movie!)
Lots and lots of hymns and other Christian symbols are like this. It was just really eye-opening to me to have someone spell it out, and I’m kinda mad at myself for not realizing what I was saying. I was just simply signing along with my brain shut off. 😦
And finally, he explains in detail something that I’ve written about several times in the past – hell and God’s love.
How is it loving to offer someone a bandage after you cut them with a sword? Not very if you ask me. Rather than say “God saved me from hell because I’m a sinner” (never mind that God made hell in the first place), isn’t it better to say “I was innocent all along?” I think so. 🙂