Leaving Christianity: A Collection of Essays
I grew up in a religious house. We went to church every Sunday; my mother was director of the CCD program; my brothers and I were even altar boys. This wasn't all just ceremony. I sincerely believed in God and Jesus, and thought I could feel His presence when I prayed.
But as I got older, I began to question my religious beliefs, and eventually realized that I’d been mistaken. There was no moment of epiphany. The gradual realization came after several years of research and intense self-reflection. During the course of that transformation and afterwards, I wrote several essays documenting the thought process that I went through in abandoning Christianity, as well as some of my current positions as a nonbeliever. This book is a collection of some of those essays.
I realize there are already essays and even entire books on this subject by philosophers and scientists who are no doubt more well known than me, but I figure it doesn't hurt to add one more voice. Perhaps it will strike a chord with some readers, and help them to see things differently. Even for those not questioning their faith, I would hope these essays show the thought that goes into abandoning one's religion, and allows them to at least respect and tolerate, if not agree with, atheists.
Here are all the essays available individually along with short descriptions. If, during the course of reading these essays, you want to double check my use of a Bible passage, or check the passage in a different translation of the Bible, I've found the site, BibleGateway.com, to be very useful.
A few brief introductory notes. Any of the essays that originally came from elsewhere on the site are sourced here.
A Brief Introduction to Non-Belief
This is a short introduction to non-belief, covering many of the common questions and misconceptions I hear from people when they learn of my atheism. It was intended to be short enough that people would actually read it. This is a good starting point if you've never been exposed to these issues before.
This is the main essay, and the one that I would hope that everybody who visits this page reads. It discusses my reasons for coming to this conclusion, and a bit about my personal journey in abandoning Christianity. It started off by consolidating three individual essays with a fair amount of overlap that I had written during my "deconversion" process.
Musings on the Existence of the Soul
This was written several years ago, actually, before I ever began to question Christianity. I do still find it interesting and compelling, even if I am a little less certain about my conclusion. It was originally an e-mail correspondence, and had already been published as a page on my website.
Further Musings on the Soul
This essay was written after giving further thought to the idea of the existence of souls, but more importantly, after doing some research into ideas other people had already come up with, and some research into how the physical aspects of the brain control our personalities.
E-mail Correspondence- Children & Religion
This is a copy of an e-mail correspondence I had with someone regarding how to raise children in a largely Christian nation when you're no longer religious.
When I went through the period of questioning my acceptance of Christianity, the single question that I was trying to figure out was whether or not God exists. At the time, it seemed obvious to me that if God did exist, then I should worship him, and if he didn't exist, then there was no need to worship him. It never dawned on me to ask, if God does exist, should I worship him?
Problems with a Day-Age Interpretation of Genesis
This essay was written while I still considered myself a Christian, but had already rejected the idea that the Bible was divinely inspired. It addresses a common modern interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis that tries to reconcile it with science - that the chapter is figurative, with the days actually being very long periods of time.
Confidence in Historical Knowledge
This essay actually originated in an e-mail reply to a creationist who had written me about some of the other essays on my site. Even though it's not specifically religious, since it counters some common creationist arguments, and helps explain why I can have so much confidence in scientific findings that contradict a literal reading of the Bible, I figured it was worth including here.
Confidence in Scientific Knowledge
In a similar vein to the preceding essay, while this topic isn’t exactly religious, many religious people do reject science because of their faith, so I thought it was fitting to include it here.
Most people have heard some version of Pascal's Wager before, even if they haven't heard it referred to as such. The argument goes something like this. There either is a God, or there isn't, and you either believe in God, or you don't. If God is real, belief offers eternal reward, while disbelief offers eternal punishment. If God isn't real, so the argument goes, you gain or lose nothing through either belief or disbelief. So, following those odds, belief would seem to be the rational choice. While this argument may appear clever at fist blush, there are definitely some major problems that keep it from convincing anybody who has given much thought to the question of the existence of a deity.
Liar, Lunatic, or Lord ... Or Something Else
A common expression used by Christians to defend the divinity of Jesus is 'liar, lunatic, or lord'. According to the argument, anyone who spoke the way Jesus did has to fit one of those three choices. However, I think this line of reasoning leaves off a very likely alternative, that the actions of Jesus in the Gospels are more myth than true historical accounts.
Book Review - More Than a Carpenter
A book review may seem like an odd item to include in a collection of essays, but the book being reviewed made many claims that I commonly hear from Christians. And this book is fairly popular, so this book review makes for a good, brief way to look at popular claims actually being put forward by Christians.
How Monotheistic is Christianity?
Christians claim their religion is monotheistic. But when you get down to it, it has all types of mythical beings in its pantheon, from angels and demons, on up to the Devil, who even has his own kingdom in Hell. If it weren't for the Christian's own insistence, would anybody else call the religion monotheistic?
What's the Point of Intercessory Prayer?
Many Christians will pray to God, asking him to intervene in events here on Earth. Even as a Christian, these types of prayers never made much sense to me. If God has a divine plan, and he's omniscient so that he already knows everything going on in the universe, what could anybody hope to attain by asking God for something?
Reasons for Strong Atheism
When I first became an atheist, it was of the sort that people call 'weak atheism', and some would even have referred to it as agnosticism. Now that I've had some time to become comfortable with the idea that there aren't any deities, I've moved from the position that a god is a possibility simply lacking in evidence, to the position that gods really are pretty unlikely, and almost surely don't exist.
Standards of Evidence for Religion
I've often written that I could be convinced of a religion given enough evidence. This essay discusses just what that evidence would be, along with a sense for the standards that would be convincing to a skeptic.
Am I Religious
Considering the attitude I had of non-religious people when I was a Christian, and considering that many people probably have similar attitudes, this short essay is an attempt to show how I still think about all the same big questions, and that I'm not just apathetic about the whole thing, or only concerned about myself.
Appendix - Other People's Comments from Various Blogs
From time to time, I'll run across a comment on a blog that expresses a sentiment nearly perfectly. Here are a few of those comments (obviously written by people other than me). Some of them deal with evolution, which as I wrote in the main essay at the top of this page, doesn't necessarily conflict with Christianity, but was one of my first seeds of doubt concerning my religion, and is certainly part of a cultural conflict in this country right now.
Appendix - Ein Sophistry's Genetic Evidence of Evolution
This is a little longer than the other comments, so I've put it onto its own page. It is a very, very (very) good description of some of the genetic evidence for evolution, and how this evidence just doesn't make sense from a creationist perspective, including references.
Appendix – Various Quotes on Free Thinking, Religion, and Science
This is a short collection of witty, humorous, and thought provoking quotes.
PDF & Print Versions
If you want to download these file to save them, e-mail them, or print them better, here are pdf versions. The pdf files are formatted to print out as booklets on 8.5" x 11" paper. If you don't have a printer with auto duplexing, Adobe Reader still has the option to print booklets (in the Print dialog box, under Page Scaling:, choose Booklet). Note that since these are .pdf files, you will need Adobe Reader to view them.
Brief Intro to Non-Belief.booklet.2015-06-23.pdf (152 kB)
This is a short pamphlet that covers many of the common questions and misconceptions I hear from people when they learn of my atheism. It is the same as the Brief Introduction essay above. It will fit onto a single sheet of paper if you print on both sides as a pamphlet.
Religious Essays.booklet.2015-06-23.pdf (950 kB)
This PDF contains all of the essays. It contains much more detail than the pamphlet, including many more examples and reasons, and citing sources. If you plan on reading all the essays, this is probably the easiest way (other than the book). It also allows you to download, save, and share the essays.
Religious Essays.Supplement - Two More Essays.2015-06-23.pdf (439 kB)
This is a supplement to the first print edition of the book. It contains two essays that are included in the second and third editions, Book Review - More Than a Carpenter and Standards of Evidence for Religion. If you already own the first edition of the book, download and print this supplement to have the complete collection.
Buy this book from Lulu.com|
If you really, really like these essays, and would like them in a professionally printed and bound book, you can buy it from the print on demand company, Lulu.com. The cost is $4.99. If you pay attention, Lulu sometimes runs specials with free shipping. I've already received a copy, and the quality is pretty good. They make great gifts...
Additional Information on this Site
I've written quite a bit about religion on this site, but since my goal for this book was to keep a concise collection that could act as a good introduction without overwhelming the reader, I've had to leave most of those essays out of the book. My other essays on religion are available through the link below. However, those essays are of more variable quality, with more thought put into some of the essays than others.
Additional Information on External Sites
Here are some of the better sources I've found for information on this subject.
- Ebon Musings: The Atheism Pages
- Book - The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins
- Book - Misquoting Jesus, by Bart Ehrman
- Made numerous small revisions throughout the book, including fixing typos and additional footnotes.
- Created a third edition of the print version on LuLu.com to incorporate the changes.
- Updated the PDFs to incorporate the changes.
- Made a few small changes to the layout and wording of this page, including a new title.
- Removed link to Soapbox entries since they've all been reposted to the blog and are included there.