not a christian anymore 1

Why I am Not a Christian Anymore

So here is my official, long awaited “coming out” article about why I’m not a Christian anymore, outlining my journey within Christianity and how, after spending nearly three decades involved in it, I have decided to take the exit. It’s quite long, but after devoting such a long part of my life to this religion, I had to be sure to cover as much as I can.

In case you were unclear about what this article is about: The unthinkable has happened to me… I do not believe that Jesus Christ is my savior anymore. No, I have not just quit religion – I have quit JESUS. As Christians would call it: “I have lost my first love. I have backslidden. I’m not a Christian anymore. I have rejected my salvation. I have shipwrecked my faith. I am not a Jesus follower anymore.”

One of the counter-arguments I have already heard is this one: “Well then what you had was only head knowledge – you never really knew the REAL Jesus.” I can only smile at that. If only people knew how “intimate” I was with him… I had a “relationship” with Jesus that most Christians would envy.

I’m not trying to pick a fight with any Jesus followers, even though you might feel the need arise to defend your faith against my heresies as you read this. If I wanted to I could probably run a dozen circles around anybody who wanted to argue with me – I consider myself quite a Bible expert. I can contradict almost anything you wanted to prove from the Bible with opposing information, also from the Bible. But more on this later…

For all these many years I passionately sought to find the right “flavor” of Christianity to believe in. And believe me, I have nearly tried them all. I was so sincere and fervent in my pursuit for “truth”, that I never even saw the exit sign among all of them.

not a christian anymore 1

I know many of my Christian acquaintances are already saying “See, I told you so” or “I warned you this will happen”. Well, I’m happy if this shocking, terrifying, hellish experience of mine allows you to happily and blissfully carry on with your life and your Christian faith. I’m happy that my journey into the unknown, having to witness all I’ve so dearly held onto for almost thirty years, slipping down the abyss of the unknown, provides you with some sensationalist topic for discussion. I can tell you without a doubt: It’s not easy walking out on something as central and key in your life as your faith.

I’ll bet not many people saw this coming. Well, I didn’t either.

I’ll try to cover all the questions you may have in separate sections and keep them as short as possible. Remember this was my journey, and mine alone. If what I share resonates with you, then awesome. If it doesn’t, please don’t hate me for it.

 

Grace

At the start of 2013 I was still firmly planted in the “grace camp”. I was defending my faith (with a large degree of success) against those blasted universalists – people who call themselves Christians, but who believe hell doesn’t exist and that everybody on earth is going to heaven. I ran circles around them with my Bible knowledge. I had championed the grace message, and became the author of a relatively successful Christian book as well.

People can say what they want, but within Christianity this is without a doubt the fastest growing “movement” of them all. We will probably see it growing even more over the next few years.

 

My Church Exodus

I quit going to church in April-May 2010, after we couldn’t find a “grace church” to connect with when we immigrated back to our home country (South Africa) from Australia. So we tried doing the “organic church” thing for a while, and quite enjoyed it. These spontaneous get-togethers with a closely knit group of friends were far more fulfilling than anything we ever experienced going to church, and we had some wonderful times, learning and unlearning a whole bunch of stuff together.

 

Universalism

Whenever I argued with universalists, I noticed that I always felt like I needed to leave a back door open, just in case those damn heretics were right. Towards March 2013 I noticed a shift in my heart. I didn’t know what it was, so I decided to sit down and draw up a Bible time scale to see for myself WHAT EXACTLY I believed in and why I so vehemently fought for my views. And much to my own surprise, these articles were what came out of that:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/andr%C3%A9-van-der-merwe/does-god-need-your-permission-to-save-you/10151700183176725

https://www.facebook.com/notes/andr%C3%A9-van-der-merwe/the-bloodthirsty-god-and-penal-substitution/10151689469541725

It didn’t stop there however. The further I traveled down this rabbit hole, the more the questions became and the fewer the answers. Now I know right there some of you would say: “So why didn’t you stop when the warning lights came on?” Well, I can’t explain it. But I felt like I had to push on. If my faith really didn’t have any skeletons hiding in the closet, why did I have to be afraid to question my beliefs? After all, for almost 30 years I had sat submissively through countless church sermons without ever once raising my hand and ever questioning the Pastor’s message (well maybe towards the end I started thinking for myself a little). But wasn’t it time I started carving out my own path for a change?

 

The Bible

My entire life I had based my perception of who God was on what I had read in the Bible and learned from other Bible experts. Now for the first time, I started questioning the Bible itself. I had to be sure that the very book I was prepared to be martyred for, was water tight, perfectly preserved through the centuries, had no contradictions, and was God’s perfect will for my life. I was in for a shock however…

My research about who put the Bible together, how it was translated into English, the way that entire concepts (like the words “Pastor”, “church”, “obey” and many others) had been twisted by the translators to conform to the 15 Rules which were laid down by King James I of England, uncovered inconsistencies that were far too many to mention. I even put up a challenge on Facebook a while ago for anybody to provide evidence that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bible is really as reliable as it claims to be. After several hundred comments, I concluded that even this was only a belief as well. Very few people know that there are none of the original manuscripts in existence today. All they have are copies of copies. There are lots of issues with the Bible, and you can read my thoughts about it here:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/andr%C3%A9-van-der-merwe/led-by-the-bible-or-led-by-the-spirit/10151490784716725

https://www.facebook.com/notes/andr%C3%A9-van-der-merwe/are-you-suffering-from-bible-disease/10151640967121725

https://www.facebook.com/notes/andr%C3%A9-van-der-merwe/dont-throw-away-your-bible-but-think-when-youre-reading-it/10151707247881725

I was stopped dead in my tracks. If the God I had known all my life was the same God as the one who was described in this Bible, I didn’t want to have anything to do with him! Don’t just get angry with me as you’re reading this – go and READ these articles above and see for yourself!

As someone who was used to be able to whip out a Bible verse for every question life could throw at me, this was a pretty daunting place to be in. Fortunately I made friends with a surprisingly large number of people who were roaming these same profane and unconventional spheres in their journey. I would still, up to this day, state that the most valuable thing you can find in this life is someone who understands you and your journey.

 

Broken Promises, Thousands of Them

Christianity promises its adherents health, wealth, happiness, joy, peace, prosperity, and lots of other things. All of these are conditional upon one thing: That you just believe. If you won’t believe, God can’t help / heal / love / bless / forgive / prosper / accept you. He already gave all of these things to you, and if you would just believe that He did, you would receive them. And therein lies the catch: If you don’t get these things, it’s because you didn’t believe, or you just don’t understand something yet. You need to go and study the Bible or pray and talk it through with God a little more, so that you can get it next time!

So when my little two year old was admitted to hospital recently with a life threatening condition (her third major operation since she was born), we did what we knew best: We laid hands on her, we commanded life, and believed with all our hearts. And like before, nothing happened. ZERO. NADA. ZIPPO. ZILCH. It eventually came down to the doctors (again), who ultimately had to cut her open (like they butcher an animal at the abattoir) and remove an apple sized abscess as well as her appendix in an emergency procedure.

not a christian anymore 2

Previously I would have just gone back to my “prayer closet” and wrestled through this thing with God. But I couldn’t do it anymore. Not again. Nobody promises me something as crucial and vitally important as HEALTH and then decides to take a nap when they are supposed to deliver the goods. NOT WHEN IT COMES TO MY FAMILY!! You will NOT fuck with my Family!!

For a few days I was angry, admittedly. But when the doctors let us know the operation went well, the anger dissipated. I knew there was going to be some alterations and adjustments coming. I have to be able to protect my family better than I’ve been able to! Something had to change and I would dig and delve to the bottom of the ocean to find out what was going on. I was going to inspect every single millimeter of my beliefs to try and get to the bottom of it all.

So I told God I was going to take a break from him for a while, just like you do sometimes when you are angry with a person after they have repeatedly let you down. Nothing unusual, right?

Suddenly something drastic happened to me… It dawned on me that for as long as I could remember I had been taught that I could never question God (the God of Christianity that is). If something bad happened, God was never to blame. And before you think I’m blaming God for anything, please hear me out…

Christianity has a very intricate system that it uses to exempt God from taking the blame for anything. But my recent turn of events forced me, for the first time in my life, to be brutally honest enough with myself to ask: “Is this faith of mine really delivering on all its promises?” I felt like it was time to do a “stock take” of my beliefs. What was preventing me from receiving all of God’s all the promises?

And totally unexpectedly, a thought entered my mind (some Christians might say it’s the devil): “What if this entire belief system, Christianity, is what’s wrong?” I had never thought about that before. I had previously only considered that it could be something wrong within my beliefs. But never before had I looked at this whole thing from the outside. Oh dear…

I then started recalling all the times that I had prayed for sick people before, and seen results (deaf ear opened, wrist and knee pains disappear, countless back problems, foot problems, colds, headaches, etc etc.) and I realized that for nearly all of those healings, there was always an element of doubt about whether it really happened. The people could have been faking it just to make me go away. There were also many times where the circumstances were questionable and the healing could have occurred naturally (over a period of time). One thing that bothered me as well, was the fact that even though I had personally been prayed for many times over, I had personally never ever received a single healing in my body.

So either my entire life was a lie, or the religion I had championed was a lie. Because let’s face it, when you try the same thing over and over and it doesn’t work, you are an idiot to expect different results if you don’t make some adjustments. I had listened to countless sermons of Curry Blake, Andrew Wommack, Joseph Prince (no offence to these guys – I think they are great people) and even now I could probably recite their stuff to you backwards.

My thoughts also traversed to the other promises that Christianity offers. Even though I wasn’t doing too bad when it came to finances, happiness, love and joy in my home and all those other nice things, I could without a doubt say that there were just as many Atheists in the world who had much more of all of these things than me. ME, a child of God!

I knew I was facing a crisis. I was either going to have to dispel all my doubts again, go back to “believing like a child”, trust that I had just “missed” something again and that surely God would help me understand all of this. But even as my eyes started staring down that road, I knew I couldn’t do it again. This was a Matrix moment for me…

neo down that road

So I allowed my mind to go where I never allowed it to go before. It was like I was using it for the very first time. Previously I had allowed myself to question everything, as long as it kept me within the confines of my religion. I had never dared to venture outside and inspect the validity of this whole thing itself. My God given intuition and intellect, which I had always locked up behind an impenetrable, forbidden wall of “child-like faith” (especially when it came to Christianity), suddenly whisked me off to lots of places where I had previously buried my difficult  questions beneath the sand. I dug those questions up again. And to my utter amazement, the whole house of cards came tumbling down right before my eyes. It literally happened within a few short days. Here’s a quick example (and there are many others):

In order for you to be “saved from your sins”, you first need to believe that you were “born with sin”. Nobody can prove this however – it’s simply a belief.

Nobody can prove that they ever had “sin” and that now, after some Jewish teacher who lived 2000 years ago has “cleansed” them, they don’t have “sin” anymore. What if I reject the belief that I ever had “sin”? Can anybody prove me wrong? What if I refuse to believe that there was something “wrong” with me when I was born into this world? What if dysfunctional behavior is simply the result of conditioning during a person’s childhood years? There is no proof either way. In fact, it’s easier to belief that a person picked up bad habits and destructive thought patterns in this life than it is to believe they were born with them.

original sin

But Christianity teaches that’s why the cross was necessary. God needed to have Jesus killed so He could love us again, because He became so angry with all of mankind for the sins a guy committed in a garden thousands of years ago (even though God himself put that damn tree there), that God needed blood to appease His wrath by having His own son (Himself) slaughtered. Now there are some Christians who say that the cross wasn’t necessary for God to forgive and accept us, that all of mankind was already reconciled before the foundation of the world, but think about that for a second: Reconciled from what? Surely if reconciliation took place, there had to have been rebellion or separation at some point? When did this occur? Before before time? And why then would the cross even be necessary? Why would God have His son (“the lamb”) slain before or inside time for any reason whatsoever? Did He reconcile us from the separation that would occur in our minds during our life on earth? But what if I don’t even believe in the Christian version of God at all, and I never experience any feelings of so-called “separation from God”, did Jesus die for nothing for me?

We can argue all day long, but in the end it’s quite easy to shoot Swiss cheese sized holes in the logic of Christianity. But Christianity has a watertight antidote to this for all its followers:

1 Cor 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

There ya go. Case closed. I can’t argue with impeccable logic like that 🙂


A Relationship With God

It’s one of the most offensive things for a Christian to hear that someone can think of God as anything else than a loving Daddy/Father. The Bible calls him “Abba” after all, doesn’t it?

What makes Christianity so unique is the deep emotional aspect it attaches to God, as though he is someone you can have a face to face, one on one relationship with. One of the all-time favorite slogans of Christianity is this: “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

This (unintentionally) dumps all the other views in the world about who/what “God” is into the dreaded “religion” category and states that only Christianity is exempt from religion status. All because of the belief that a personal relationship can be had with a person who lived and died 2000 years ago. I am not posting the following picture to patronize anybody at all. I’m simply posting it because it certainly made me think when I first saw it:

not a christian anymore 3

A simple test to find out if someone is part of a cult or religion, is to find out if their beliefs go something along these lines: “If you don’t believe what I believe, you are WRONG, even though I can’t prove to you what I believe either, apart from what my religious book / manuscript teaches.”

Hearing God’s Voice

I was taught that I could hear God’s voice (some say even audibly) if I listened in the “right” way. But nobody could tell me exactly what that way was. I was also taught that everything God told me needed to line up with what the Bible said, else it wasn’t him (are you kidding me?). But that didn’t bother me back then. I was a committed Jesus follower. I would do anything to know him better!

Well, I listened. I kept quiet. I boldly spoke to him as though he were right next to me. I spent months and months of my life, trying my utmost to learn to know his voice better. I went and sat beside dams, ponds, rivers, in my garden, in my room, in churches, in prayer meetings, in conferences. At one stage I became almost convinced that I could actually sense him speak to me. But I was never 100% sure.

Looking back now, I can see that I had been conditioned to listen to my own brain, which in turn had been conditioned with the Christian religion. “God’s voice” was nothing more than just my own voice, speaking back to me thoughts and emotions that I had learned through my many years inside Christianity.

I recently posted a status on Facebook where I asked anybody to prove to me that the voice they perceived to be “God’s voice” was nothing more than just a voice in their head. After over 200 comments, lots of blabber and no proof whatsoever, I realized that I had stumbled upon another gaping hole in the Christian doctrine. Some people made their experiences sound more dramatic by saying “… and I heard His audible voice in my head telling me…”. Can you see what you did there?


Good and Evil

If you honestly think about it, the main theme of Christianity is about overcoming “evil” with “good”. It goes by terms like “bringing heaven to earth” or “bringing God’s kingdom to earth”. It’s about letting “light” shine in “darkness”. Every action, thought and word must be taken captive and measured against the attributes that define the Christian god, to see if it’s worthy and acceptable. The Bible teaches “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Ironically (and this is another one of the paradoxes of Christianity) the Christian religion also teaches that we ought not to “eat of the tree of good and evil”, which means not to judge everything in terms of good and evil. So what does that imply about the terrible evil that all Christians should guard against, namely the Devil… Is he evil or not?

This is a fascinating documentary about how the devil, as he is known today, came into existence (also one of the things that helped me in my journey out of religion):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxyWhXTntd8

So, getting back to good and evil, everything in the Christian life is measured against whether it’s love or not. And anything that is not love, is of the devil or evil. Until recently I believed so too. All my actions were measured against this one, major “standard”. It was either love or hate. There was nothing in between. Well, believe it or not, I discovered an entire universe in between these two parallels. Let me explain using some examples.

Previously I would be driving behind a person who couldn’t drive to save their own life, endangering other road users and themselves. And being a Christian, I would monitor myself the whole time, guarding against frustration/anger and road rage. I had the Holy Spirit inside me, and I had to allow him to manifest His fruits through me (love, patience, kindness, etc…). It was a battle between good and evil, and if I cooperated with God, I would allow love to win by not getting angry with the person.

Well, the other day I found myself sitting behind a terrible driver on the road again. And instead of monitoring my emotions and anger levels, I suddenly found myself intensely interested in what this guy would be doing next. I tried to anticipate some of the mistakes he would make, smiling whenever I got it right and going back to the drawing board when my predictions were wrong. I found myself lost in analysis and in the complexity of the moment. And suddenly it occurred to me: This might very well be the “religion-free” dimension that everything exists in, a realm where every moment and every minuscule detail of the universe is cause for exploration, awe, child-like wonder, ready to be discovered by the person who can look past the pollution of religious paradigms.

The key is to take the emotional aspect out of the equation and use that wonderful tool we have all been given, namely our mind.

This realm between “good” and “evil” might just be where I have failed to look my entire life. There is no good or evil when you approach life like an eagerly expectant, teachable, open minded student. There is just wonder, fascination, new challenges and also, very importantly, the power to become very difficult to offend.

The person whom I probably have gained the most respect for during this entire transformation in my life, is my wife. She admitted it to me openly that one of the main reasons she had married me all those years ago was because I was such a “man of God”. She could never have anticipated what a drastic turn my spiritual life would take, but to be completely honest, neither could I. The other day though she said something that blew me away. She said that initially she was very cautious towards this whole new journey I was embarking on, but as time went by she saw that I didn’t suddenly just turn into a bad father or an unloving husband. On the contrary she found that I had been showing an increased amount of interest in her feelings and in understanding her. It struck me then that instead of simply trying to be a “loving husband” (because it’s the right thing to do), I had genuinely developed an amplified curiosity towards my wife as a person, finding out what made her tick, noticing when she was feeling down and trying to find out what we could do to help her solve the challenges in her life. Again I sensed it was that “in between” realm, the realm of inquisitiveness and genuine interest that was bringing about this change. And in the process, as a by-product, I got to develop an increased sense of appreciation for the woman I had married.


Would I Still Recommend Christianity to Anybody?

If helps you to stay sane, then yes. Christianity is a wonderful crutch. It helps people to make some sort of sense of the inexplicable. It helps many people with a sense of security, that if they have nothing else left, at least they have their faith.

If you are someone who doesn’t like to challenge the norms or who never bothers to do your own research about anything those trained Bible professionals teach you at church, then yes, I would say that I can certainly recommend Christianity to you as well. It’s a relatively “safe” sphere to move in, if you remember to do your part for the church, and also if you are a very agreeable person.

But if you are someone who likes to ask the hard questions, who likes to dig and search and discover by yourself, then no, you will only end up walking away with a bloody nose. Again and again. You will find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated with the growing number of blatant contradictions and the pat answers offered by the emotional  mob of people who will start attacking your character and integrity when they can’t answer your questions anymore.

If you don’t have any unanswered questions, then I can assure you, you have simply just not asked the right questions yet. This article might help 😉

https://www.facebook.com/notes/andr%C3%A9-van-der-merwe/questions-that-shatter-your-answers/10151781997436725

I have come to see the Bible and Christianity as nothing more than one single nation’s evolving and expanding view of who they thought God was. Even in the Bible itself, the “Monster” who slaughtered millions of people in the Old Testament was very different from the picture that was painted of this same God in the New Testament. This makes it appear very much as though mankind created God and this “god” evolved as man became more civilized. This article might be of interest to you:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/andr%C3%A9-van-der-merwe/the-god-of-the-old-testament/10151610739276725

Christianity will always be a part of my life, because nearly everybody in my life are Christians. I will never ridicule anybody for it, but I will give people who are unmovable in their views a piece of my mind from time to time. Love is still the best way when it comes to dealing with sensitive issues like this. For many, they are issues of life and death.

Do I Hate Christianity? No. But I hate the way it made me dig in my heels for nearly three decades, thinking that my religion had the monopoly on God. Any other views out there were just plain, dead wrong, because my religion had all the answers!

I am not put off by people who practice Christianity, as long as they can keep an open mind as well. My own boss at work is a very “strong” Christian and he still often prays for me, even laying his hands on me from time to time. He cares, and that’s what matters. I still believe the universe can express itself through Christianity to some degree, just as it can through many other expressions. It may very well be that this “expression” is much more compatible with some people than with others. I gave it my best shot, and it didn’t work for me.

I no longer view a “strong faith” as a sign of maturity, but instead highly respect people who are willing to admit that their view may not be the only one that exists. I have learned to also hold “very loosely” onto my own views and am open and willing to learn from just about anybody – I’m actually quite a pleasant person to talk with if you get to know me 🙂

Who Is Jesus to Me Now?

Jesus was probably an enlightened teacher and may even have been a recognized traditional healer, but his teachings, like many other enlightened teachers, was turned into a religion by his followers. His expression of who/what “god” is was to portray god as a “father”, an image that certainly struck a chord with his listeners, as they were very family oriented people and they could identify with the imagery that he used. He most likely thought of himself as “a” son of god, and somebody somewhere purposely turned it into “the” son of god.

There are a striking number of similarities between Jesus Christ and many other influential religious figures:

The mother is impregnated with the seed that will bring forth God. The wicked king believes the child will overthrow him and tries to kill the child. The child is carried away to safety. The mother is Devaki, the wicked king is Kansa, the child is Hari Krishna. 

The mother is impregnated with the seed that will bring forth God. The wicked king believes the child will overthrow him and tries to kill the child. The child is carried away to safety. The mother is Reah, the wicked king is Kronos, the child is Zeus. 

The mother is impregnated with the seed that will bring forth God. The wicked king believes the child will overthrow him and tries to kill the child. The child is carried away to safety. The mother is Mary, the wicked king is Herod, the child is Jesus.

(quoted from http://www.hiddenmeanings.com/)

A movie that I would recommend to be watched with an open mind, is Zeitgeist. You can watch or download it for free here:

http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/

It outlines all the many similarities that can be found between the life of Jesus Christ and many other prominent spiritual personalities.

Everybody in the world suspects foul play here, except Christians…

So Who/What Is God To Me Now?

Honestly, I don’t have any answers for you. I’ve come completely undone. I have no idea who “god” is anymore. I’m still looking into that.

I’m starting to think more and more that perhaps life is this rabbit hole we are traveling down in. Maybe life is experienced best in the middle of all the questions, helping us not to get stuck along the way, holding too tightly onto some of our answers. And I’m sure hoping that with this article I’m going to be meeting some interesting new fellow rabbit hole travelers as well! 

And having said all that, I’d like to end with the following… There are dozens of folks on Facebook who’ve had to create entire alternate profiles for themselves to be able to express what they truly believe, because of the fear that their family and “friends” will shun them if they ever found out what they really believed! Is that what Christianity makes us do? Do we need to hide from those who are close to us so they won’t reject us when they find out that our beliefs don’t fit into the same “box” as theirs anymore?

I trust that I have helped to create some sort of a “safe space” for everybody else who dares to ask the hard questions as well. There is always room to grow and learn from each other, if we can only remain teachable, hard to offend and open minded.

Thanks for taking the time to read all of this. I am off to explore the wonders of the universe outside of any religion. I’m reveling in my new found freedom, so please don’t be sad for me. My family is doing wonderful and we are making the best of the life we have been given, even more so now that we have become more focused on experiencing life now, and not wait for something better in the hereafter.

3 comments

  • Wow thank you so much! I have been struggling with what you are talking about for the past few years a lot.

  • Thanks for sharing your story! I can relate to a few things in it, too.

  • Anon, I felt your journey — I’ve taken it, as well. Funny, though, how we ended up up in slightly different places.

    I spent 50+ years there, and as you, believing I ‘heard the voice of god’ whenever I came up against a dilemma. (I even felt that I could discern ‘his’ voice from that of the ‘adversary’, because of the emotive content in the ‘answer’. In other words, ‘god’s answer’ would be placid and guileless.)

    I’m sure my upbringing — oppressive and judgmental, based solely on my mother’s hatred for my father — has a fair amount to do with my unsettled feelings. I DESPISE RELIGION, and am ready to verbally war with anyone who espouses it. Maybe it’s because I had to fight back all my life against the maternal oppression……

    I’ve been congratulated by other atheists on ‘making the journey’, but that leaves me empty.

    To me — religion has to GO. But since, realistically, I can’t make that happen, I can only hope for the ease you’ve found.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *