Why I Am No Longer A Christian

why-i-am-standardI have a strong evangelical Christian background.  I was immersed in it since birth and felt at home there for most of my life.  My father is a hospital chaplain and former pastor, trained at arguably the most influential seminary regarding the theology of dispensationalism – which dominates much of American Protestantism today, Dallas Theological Seminary.  He received another degree from another leading evangelical school, Talbot School of Theology, while my mother completed coursework at a Bible college.  My sister graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and was ordained in recent years.  The religion made sense to me, enabled a connection with deep spirituality, united my whole being with God and provided a special kind of community and support that initially can be difficult to replicate in secular environments, especially when thousands of local churches positioned across the nation offer experiences that are familiar and normalized in our society.  I wholeheartedly invested an enormous amount of time and energy in lay church leadership during all of my twenties.  I worked as a research/teaching intern for a brief time with two Christian apologetics think tanks and evangelistic organizations that reach out to skeptics and train believers to understand why and how Christianity is true (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Probe Ministries). To varying degrees, I also researched and experienced Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopal and numerous types of Protestant traditions in Christianity.  Also, I studied philosophy, religion and history at Auburn University and Georgia State University.

I was a Christian until age 32 (now I’m in my late thirties).  I was well educated, lovingly treated by other Christians and committed to following God the best I knew how.  But, I was blind to many basic and important aspects in common skeptical challenges to this religion.  Even though I was in the process of pursuing a career in professional Christian apologetics evangelism during my early to mid twenties, many of the challenging assertions of skeptics didn’t make full sense to me (especially as humanistic moral objections toward an apparently all-loving/knowing/powerful creator God).  A few key doctrinal issues drove me out of the faith gradually.  Years later, I was able to think in a different way about various other theological/philosophical topics and vantage points that didn’t occur to me or feel spiritually/emotionally/intellectually safe to really openly address while still in the Church.

Beginning in the late 1990s, I became focused in my intense personal studies and discussions with fellow Christians (including evangelical Christian philosophers/theologians) on the doctrine of creation and the “cultural commission,” “cultural mandate” or “creation mandate,” which, as Wikipedia says, is “the divine injunction found in Genesis 1:28, in which God (YHWH), after having created the world and all in it, ascribes to humankind the tasks of filling, subduing, and ruling over the earth. It has served as a basis among both Christian and Jewish peoples for all manner of cultural activities: economic engagement, scientific inquiry, literary exploration, military expansion, and alternately, exploitative as well as conservationist responses to the natural environment.” My intention was to understand the positive meaning of this biblical teaching so that we humans could pursue our most healthy purposes and participate fully within the rest of nature, not over nature.

I eventually decided that Christianity and the Bible:

1) Greatly over-emphasize the sin/salvation paradigm in place of the creation/natural context.

2) Substantially diminish our understanding, and thus our experience as well, of God’s immanence/femininity (as opposed to God’s transcendence/masculinity, which, by far, is given the most attention and esteem).

These two themes of teaching/practice have had many negative consequences on religion and society (including subtle or overt dehumanization and ecological neglect/destruction). The effect of Christianity’s and the Bible’s excessive investment in the theology of the cross (including making it the visual and conceptual symbol of the religion) developed a sub-context (sin/salvation, wickedness/grace) into a primary context. Instead, I believe it would have been far more beneficial and sane to have chosen a type of creation-centered philosophy/theology/spirituality, which I describe here. Within the Christian/biblical tradition, this creation-centeredness could have been founded on the visual symbols and realities/concepts/doctrines such as the “bread of life”, the “abundant life” or the “Trinity.” Church history, medieval/modern history and Western thought/lifestyle would have been significantly different and probably more humane if this had been the case.

In 2006, I left the evangelical church and around 2010 I realized that because I so strongly held these beliefs I could no longer be considered a Christian of any type, whether this be Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. I gradually came to reject the biblical doctrine of the atonement and the excessive brutality of the Judeo-Christian God. I don’t deny that there is a lot of love and compassion in this God as well. But, by looking at the evidence in the Bible, the natural revelation and my own experience, I conclude that the real God is both good and evil (not necessarily to an equal degree). Sometimes I love God. Sometimes I hate God. Sometimes I like God. These are feelings and thoughts that both come to me unexpectedly and which, at other times, I distinctly choose based on my interpretations/experiences of this very mixed up world that contains many wonderful and horrible things. Logically, I must hold God centrally responsible for most of the conditions in the universe because of the very limited power of the human will to change much of it. This is not pessimism. I believe in a view of life that I call positive realism, which is an attempt to acknowledge the harsh aspects along with the truly beautiful elements and the possibilities for greater fulfillment that are ever-present.

Practically, I’m a secular humanist.  Regarding my theological beliefs, I refer to myself as a theist-in-protest, challenging what I see as seriously inhumane aspects of Scripture and nature as designed, while still attempting to honestly relate to God as much as I can.

Since 2009, I’ve attended a Unitarian Universalist congregation and generally agree with their principles. I still believe in God, pray and repent for specific actions, although to a lesser degree than in my Christian days. Regardless of my several remaining generally Christian beliefs/ethics, I cannot overlook my severe disagreements with Christianity. I am open to the possibility that I am wrong and so I continue to dialog with strangers, leaders, friends and family members who are Christians, whether evangelical or any other type. I also enjoy talking with and learning from people of other religions or no religion at all.

I look forward to hearing your opinions.

Sincerely,

Andy Rhodes

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You may contact me directly at rhodeaj@gmail.com.

I also express my spiritual, intellectual and emotional journey with life and God through other forms of creativity. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my:

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12 comments

  1. Thanks for posting your story Andy. Welcome to the WordPress.com community! (I only arrived here a few months ago myself)

    I too am a former evangelical Christian. I don’t believe in God anymore, so we have a disagreement there, but I agree and identify with a lot of the things you said in this post. You certainly display an amazingly humble attitude.

    In my four ex-Christian years I’ve learned the most from studying the latest insights from the field of human psychology. If you have an interest in this, I suggest reading the following books:

    “On Being Certain” by Robert Burton
    About the “feeling of knowing” and why we believe we are right, even when we’re not.

    “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)” by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
    Mostly about the confirmation bias and its effects on our thoughts and behavior.

    “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt
    Reconciling the best of ancient wisdom with modern neuroscience.

    Anyways, it was great to hear your story and I hope you stick around the community for a while.

  2. I can tell from this blog post that you are a sincere and good-hearted person. And you are also very interested in understanding things from a natural and simple point of view. This is what drives your studies and your curiosities. There are not many who would be driven as you are because, frankly, there are not a lot of individuals who actually think in this manner and feel a need to explain things. Blessings to you and yours.

  3. Hi Andy, as time permits I will read your posts on this blog. I appreciate your honesty and the tone with which you articulate your position. I think that you and I process logic in much the same manner so I look forward to conversing with you. Blessings.

  4. I liked your blog and your various posts. As you have willingly questioned why only a certain religion (in this case Christianity) can be right and why not others, I assume you are open to exploring what other religions too say about everything. Though I feel the word ‘religion’ itself is saddled with too many off-putting associations. So some other ‘religions’ can be thought of as practices.

    Would suggest you to read more about Jainism / Naga babas / Hinduism. (A special caution here though – Hinduism not as a religion but as a practice. Hinduism not of the prayer and worship, but of self-inquiry. Hinduism not of countless gods, but of your own creation).

    You may find this book very fulfilling (pasting the link to its review): https://witheredpapyrus.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/review-waking-dreaming-being-by-evan-thompson/

    Also, do read about UG (https://witheredpapyrus.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/review-this-dog-barking-the-strange-story-of-ug-krishnamurti/), listen to Sadhguru on Youtube. These will help you to explore other aspects of life, I believe.

    • Hi Nikhil,

      I have investigated many other religions, mythologies and spiritual systems quite a bit, including Hinduism and Jainism. I generally found them less compelling than Christianity, which I gradually left for many reasons that I attempt to explain in these blog posts.

      I am open to hearing reasons to believe or follow other religions or spiritual systems. Feel free to share here if you would like to.

      Thank you for the suggested resources. I will check them out.

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