Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Deconstruction: Losing Faith in God

How I Lost My Faith in God


Welcome to "My Deconstruction Blog". This blog is about my journey from being a totally committed Christian to where I find myself now, a spiritual wanderer disillusioned by the collapse of my faith in the Church, my faith in the Bible, and my faith in God.  This post is about my loss of faith in God.

Do you like magic? I do! I like close-up magic such as card tricks and coin tricks. I like prop magic. I like stage magic. I like the tricks where the person seems to have mental powers.

One of my favorite tricks to do is a (fake) demonstration of telekinesis where I move a pencil without touching it, using my (not really) mental abilities to manipulate the invisible electromagnetic fields that surround physical objects.

Of course it is all fake when I do it. It is possible that some people have real mental powers, but most magicians are fakes like me.

If you want to see an example of a fake psychic getting exposed by a skeptic, the clip below is a good one. The psychic's name is Hydrick and he claims to have the ability to move objects with his mind. Please watch the video now before reading the rest of this blog.


Million Dollar Challenge

James Randi is one of many skeptics that do not believe in supernatural or paranormal abilities. Randi founded a skeptical group that will pay a million dollars to anyone who can demonstrate any supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria.

If Hydrick had such special powers, the video above would have been the perfect time to show it. The skeptic Randi would have become a believer, and Hydrick would have collected $10,000 in the process. (The video was recorded in the 1980s. The size of the prize was raised to $100,000 a few years later, and then raised to one million dollars in 1996. The million dollar prize is still available to anyone today who can demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria.)

Even after Hydrick was unable to demonstrate his abilities in a controlled environment, there were people who still believed he had psychic powers and they gave excuses for him, blaming the lights, or blaming Randi's disbelief, or claiming that Hydrick does not work like this, saying people should just "have faith" in Hydrick and "simply believe".

The million dollar challenge is not just limited to people who claim telekinesis powers. Thousands of people have been tested, with ability claims of mind reading, mind control, predicting the future, aura reading, astral projection, extra sensory perception (ESP), clairvoyance, remote viewing, speaking with the dead, telepathy, and water dowsing (to name a few).

None did any better than Hydrick.

But surely God can pass this simple test, right?

Think about it. Does your church need some money? No problem, just ask God to move a pencil for you in a controlled environment. You will leave the testing center with a million dollar check. After all, Jesus himself said,

"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matt 17:20)

If God can move a mountain, surely He can move a pencil, right?

Only he can't. Or he won't.

I lost my faith in God when I realized that God cannot (or will not) move a pencil in a controlled environment.

I have been a Christian since I was a sophomore in high school when I had what I thought was a divine experience of God meeting me and loving me and accepting me and challenging me to be fully the person I was created to be. Over the next 35 years I submitted myself to the teaching of Christian doctrine and to the study of scripture. When questions and doubts arose, they were always swayed by my experience and by my hope that with enough study those questions and doubts would be resolved.

My faith in God survived 35 years of complicated theological arguments.

My faith in God survived 35 years of mental gymnastics regarding biblical scholarship.

My faith in God survived 35 years of twisted-pretzel logic regarding God's will.

But my faith in God could not survive the reality that God can't or won't move a pencil.

It has been a painful loss. I lack the words to describe it well. This blog is part of my self-therapy.

Can I still be a Christian if I don't believe in a God who gives parking places at the mall during Christmas? Can I still be a Christian if I don't believe that God helps my team win football games? Can I still be a Christian if I don't believe that God is creating physical blessings and physical curses based on how people behave?

Can I still be a Christian if I do not think the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God?

I don't know. I'm not even sure I care.

I just know I am being honest with myself, and I can live with that.

6 comments:

  1. That's crazy man. I used to do magic. I taught classes. I shot fire balls, did the pencil trick, stopped watches cold. In Jamaca I freaked the superstitious islanders out with the dollar change. Then I tried to buy somethings with the new bill. Most of them would have nothing to do with it. One guy was more desparate. I told him that he had to spend the $5 bill before midnight or it would turn back into a one. He googled the bill and nodded rapidly. Full on, complete belief.
    When you convert to Christianity it's fast. You want it to be true, because it tells you that you get to live forever, and there's this prefabricated social network that essentially has to accept you. The scales fall from your eyes one at a time when you are moving in this direction.

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    1. Ernie, I always appreciate your words. My blog is mostly personal introspection, a form of self-administered therapy. But it makes me happy to think a few other people might read it too.

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  2. When our adult daughter 'walked away' from church and people suggested that she had rejected God, my answer was that she had not rejected God, but had only rejected what she had been taught ABOUT God.

    I can relate at least to some extent in what you have said. I'd be interested to know what your thoughts are on my blog.

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    1. I am confident that what we know ABOUT God is significantly less that that God actually is (regardless of what God actually is). Fundamentalism involves an inappropriate level of certainty combined with logical misdirections, semantic gymnastics, and just enough good old fashion head-in-the-sand. The fact that God can't or won't move a pencil snapped me out of my certainty. Like your daughter, I can no longer believe in THAT understanding of God.

      But could there be something else? Could there be something better? I don't know. I'm not even sure I care.

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    2. As for your blog, there is a lot of good stuff there. You have been blogging (and doing life) much longer than me! Do you recommend one of your posts as a starting point, or as a foundational idea that you keep coming back to (like the pencil?)

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    3. Could there be something better? I sense that there will be. Civilisation as we know it has only been around for about 13,500 years. It's staggering hopw much we have learned in such a short time compared to the billions of years the universe has been in existence. When we look around we live in an incredibly wonderful environment - that is rapidly being destroyed by the selfishness and greed of mankind. That has got to change and it seems to me that things will have to get worse before mankind realises that there is a better way - that involves ongoing loving relationships. Who knows how long that will take.

      In the meantime I just look back to the time when I was programming on a mainframe computer with 4K of memory; then a desktop computer with 1K of memory on a revolving disk; working on a prototype word processor using paper tape.

      It was in 1969 that I was working on a potential new accounting system for a major company in the UK and even then realised that I was in a position where I could see that what we were doing was depersonalising the job of the staff in the accounts department. I could go on but I think you can see where I'm coming from.

      I've never had the 'certainty' that you obviously had. My wife is not on the same journey as I am. She is always looking for the assurance that what she is doing is right. I recognise the place of cognitive dissonance - and that can be uncomfortable for most people.

      Having been through this journey I'm always looking for opportunities to support and encourage others who may be asking the sort of questions I have considered over the years. For a long time I used to point to "Christians, Agnostics and Atheists" as a good starting point. Not sure now - maybe the questions on the initial page might be more relevant - but we are all on different journeys.

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