I did something that destroyed my faith and makes it impossible for me to go back to it. What did I do? I read the Bible. You may laugh, but I’m serious. If it weren’t for that book I might still be calling myself a Christian. I’ve read the books of Richard Dawkins, Bart Ehrman, Jerry Coyn, Christopher Hitchens and many others. But all those wonderful thinkers put together couldn’t do more then the Bible to convince me that Christianity is a load of crap.
It started in my teen years when I fell under the influence of a well known word of Faith ministry. They were all so excited because they knew they’d witness a great work of divine healing. But as time went on and my hearing and visual disabilities continued, the people started to wonder. Even my parents jumped on me. “Why are you not healed yet? You must be doing something wrong.” After all, the Bible says whatever I desire when I pray, believe that I receive it, and I will have it. Either that’s true or it’s not true. It’s in the Bible, so it must be true. Which means I must be doing something to block my faith.
For my undergraduate studies, I entered a Christian liberal arts university that leaned heavily toward Calvinism. Trying to reconcile Calvinist doctrine with word of Faith teachings drove me to panic attacks. I began to fear death. Not my death, but the death of those around me. God is a jealous god and he will kill anyone that I loved too much. I had to pray. I didn’t trust God to keep people alive unless I was praying for them. But I’m not omniscient. I didn’t know what to pray for. I prayed for one uncle, and another uncle died. After a few years, I got tired of putting myself through so many emotional changes and relinquished control of what God did in other people’s lives. But that’s not what destroyed my faith.
I held on to my “personal relationship with Jesus.” Yet, even while I thought I was holding on, brushing aside any doubts that tried to creep in, my mind never forgot those doubts. When I read in the Bible how God told Cain that if he did what was right, he would be accepted, I wondered how God could have so little understanding of the psychology of his own creation. When a preacher said we had to believe Jesus was God, the question of why Jesus never actually said he was God tried to enter my mind, but I quickly swept it under the carpet. I had an emotional need to believe in Jesus and not until that need shifted did I see how lumpy the carpet was getting.
After 25 years of slowly increasing cognitive dissonance, it all came to a head.
A man who called himself a prophet came to my church and told me that since the Bible says faith comes by hearing, and I can’t hear, faith can’t come to me. Then he reminded us that the Bible says without faith it’s impossible to please God. I was in tears for days. I needed to hear to have faith, but I needed faith to please God to restore my hearing. I thought God had played a terrible catch 22 trick on me. Then I dried my eyes and said fuck him. I can’t see or hear. Every time I step off a curb, it’s a step of faith. So fuck him.
The plot thickened when I went to visit my family in New York. My uncle Richard was trying to preach Islam to me, but there were so many people in the house thkat I couldn’t hear him. He took me down to the laundry area, jacked me up against the washing machine, and preached Islam directly into my ear for what seemed like three or four hours. When he finished, I literally couldn’t walk straight.
What bothered me was not so much what he said, but the fact that I didn’t know enough about Christianity and church history to know if what he was saying was true or not. I was supposed to be the light of the world, but the people I called myself enlightening knew more than I did.
I went back to Texas and read the scriptures he told me about. I told myself Jesus said no one can pluck me out of his hand. If that’s true, I didn’t have to be afraid to read this. If it’s not true, then I needed to know that. How can I have the answers if I’m scared to ask the questions? So I read about all the terrible things God did to people in the Old Testament. I read how Kind David hated the disabled so much that he put a price on the head of the blind. I slammed the book shut and prayed, “God, I can’t read this.”
For several months, I tried to hold onto my faith without the Bible. After all, the Bible is only 1700 years old. God’s word doesn’t need the approval of the Nicean Council.
After a few months of this, it dawned on me that it wasn’t working. Without the Bible, I had no real foundation for belief in Jesus. Faith is just the capacity to believe in things I know aren’t true, and I couldn’t do that. Nor could I love and worship the bloodthirsty, schizophrenic, draconian psychopath I read about in the Bible. I walked away.