The Great Courses

A "Coming Out" Letter

Jan 30, 2013 at 11:56 AM
5 years ago

David, a TTA page user, recently shared a letter he sent to his loved ones informing them that he no longer believed in God.  In the document, he meticulously presented his reasons.  With his permission, I'm sharing the letter here, because it may help others in the same situation to articulate their own positions to family and friends. -Seth


Dear Friends and Family

As most of you know, I have been a believer in God, Christ and the Bible since confessing my faith at Word of Life Bible Camp in 1992. I have studied the Bible doctrine and while I would not say I am a theologian, I think I have a pretty good handle on how it all works.
As a person greatly interested in science and critical thinking, I have enjoyed studying nature and how things in the world work for a long time. In the past, I always credited this as a reflection of the way God set things up. In recent years, however, I have run into incongruences between the Bible and observed facts. I have been trying to reason out conflicts with what we think we know about God and what we think we know about the nature of reality and have finally come to the conclusion that there is in fact no reason to believe God actually exists at all.
Please believe that I love you all and regret any mental anguish that this may cause you. I assure you that I am a sane, rational person and that my decision is based on the facts. I am not angry at God, I’m not angry at my friends or family, I am not ‘possessed’, my heart is not ‘hardened’ (as far as I know) ... I simply and irreconcilably believe the Bible and the God it describes to be completely false. I hold no negative emotions to religion, yourselves, or what you would call God. I do and will continue to hold you in high esteem. I cannot blame or mock anyone that has not come to the same conclusion since it took me so long to do so myself.
If you want to label me, you can call me an agnostic atheist, meaning I do not believe a God exists, but I do not know with absolute certainty. I would be open to the possibility of there being a God if He (or one of his representatives) could satisfy the burden of proof that the assertion requires.
If you want specific examples of things I had trouble with, here are a couple; I considered miracles and how they actually go about effecting reality. I considered supernatural influence (God) versus the purely statistical nature of processes all the way down to the quantum level and reasoned that there is a possibility that perhaps God could intercede in the outcome of any individual event by choosing one outcome over others. The problem is that for us to not measure a difference in the overall statistics (and to my knowledge there has never been a reliably recorded result that did not fit the statistical model), he would then have to have a corresponding event that was essentially canceled out the first. The result is there would be then no measurable difference between a reality with God and one without. The simpler scenario (that "there is no God") eventually won out as being much more reasonable.
Another simple example is the Rainbow. Before the science of optics described what happens inside a drop of water in the atmosphere, Christians thought that God magically miraculously formed a rainbow every time it rained as a promise to never flood the earth again. After optics described what was happening, believers reasoned that this is HOW God brought about the promise and removed the miracle part of it. Well, if we know how it happens, why do we need God in the discussion at all? You will say that God created all the Laws that govern optics and he always uses those Laws to relay his messages. But then by what method do you distinguish a miracle from the ordinary Laws of Nature?

And what about the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation? It was first predicted in the "Big Bang" model and years later was measured to exist to a high degree of accuracy. There is nothing in the Bible that can account for this.

These are just a few of many, many examples. As a result of my findings and after years of consideration, I have rejected the notion of the Bible and along with it God, Jesus Christ as Lord or Savior and Christianity in general.

Just so I am clear, here are some things I believe about the world around us:
(Note: when I use the word "believe" in this context, I am referring to the reasonable trust in the evidence based on scientific observation, study and testing. It is not synonymous with "faith".)

  • Bible:
  • I do not consider the Bible as authoritative as I see no reason to believe Bible is infallible and anything more then legends and hearsay. Even the Church theology class I attended acknowledged the authority of the Bible comes from the Bible itself ("All scripture is God-Breathed…").
  • Prayer:
  • There is no evidence that prayer makes any consequential change in reality. If it was true, then over the long term, Christian's prayers would have a measureable difference from other religion's prayers, such as a lower rate of miscarriage. Long term studies have shown no such influence exists.
  • "Spiritual" signs:
  • Speaking in tongues: is called glossolalia and other religions/meditation systems have the same phenomena. 
  • Healing: I have never seen or heard of any long-term influence of "miraculous healing" that could not be explained by the "placebo effect" or coincidence.
  • Universe Beginnings:
  • Fundamental properties of this universe (Gravitational constant, electron charge, etc.) do not necessarily dictate a "fine-tuned universe". It would be easy to imagine many universes with different properties and ours is just one of them, just as we now know that there are many planets and ours is just one of them. I'm not saying this is fact since there is as of yet no direct way to test this hypothesis, but it is a viable scenario that does not require a God. 
  • If the Universe WAS created as Genesis describes, then God is a Great Deceiver and cannot be trusted in any case: 
  • Observations of stars point to a Universe that is about 13.75 billion years old. 
  • You may claim that He created the light from the stars "in situ" so that it could reach us from so far a distance within the 6-10,000 years as predicted in Genesis.  But then I can just claim the he could have just created the entire universe "in situ" 30 seconds ago with all memories in place.  Either we can trust observations to provide a reflection of reality or we cannot.  There is no other option. 
  • By all accounts, the Universe appears to be expanding.  If the "clock" is re-wound, it leads to the conclusion that the Universe was smaller in the past.  If you keep going, you could conclude it was infinitesimally small at some point in the past and for some reason, expanded into what we see today.   This does not jibe with the Genesis account at all. 
  • Not only that, but the expansion appears to be accelerating!  In fact, the farthest parts we can see now will soon no longer be visible or reachable in any sense as they will be/are moving away from us faster than the speed of light.  If the stars are there to show God's Glory, what could possibly be the purpose of this?
  • Earth Beginnings:
  • Evolution is the Theory that best explains the evidence we have for how life proceeds and the fossil record.  It has now been tested in the laboratory to produce not only Microevolution (which most Christians agree with) but also Speciation (an example of Macroevolution).  
  • Life arose quickly after the formation of the earth about 4 billion years ago.  
  • As of yet unanswered questions such as how it began do not necessarily dictate the insertion of a God to fill in the answers. 
  • By the way, If death did not exist before Fall of Man as the doctrine of the Bible states, what about bacteria and other microscopic life that depends of the death of cells to survive? How did they survive/reproduce before cells died? The Bible seems like what someone would say if they only knew about non-microscopic life. But an omniscient God WOULD know about microscopic life and would be able to relay that information (like he supposedly did with other unknown scientific information)
  • Morality: 
  • I believe morality was formed from the natural selection processes in evolution.
  • I believe morality is an instinctual property and is based on concepts of
  • Reciprocity
  • Fairness
  • Empathy
  • "Never impose on others what you would not impose on yourself" (Confucius, 500 years before Jesus)
  • "Least harm done"
  • "Least harm to most people"
  • I believe morality is Inherently a social property. "Society" is comprised of ALL individuals within a group, not just those in power.
  • In any case, morality of God of the Bible is not something to look up to as a standard.  (God condones slavery, genocide,  rape, condemnation of children, torture, etc.)
  • Concept of Hell is incomprehensibly cruel and immoral.  
  • There is no reasoning to give why eternal souls should be cast into Hell when some people have no chance of being saved.  
  • You may talk about how Romans describes the inherent Godliness of Nature and how we all know (presupposition).  Even so, that still does not save you from hell.  According to the Bible, you actually need to hear the Word and believe in Christ, a chance the vast majority of the world never gets.  
  • "Evil" is a man-made concept and is used to describe what we think of as VERY immoral activities.  However, there is no clear distinction of evil to normal "sins".  This can be likened to the following scenario:
  • You know what a pile of sand looks like, correct?  Like evil, you might say "I know it when I see it"
  • Place a grain of sand on the ground.  Is that a pile of sand?  Obviously not.  
  • Place another grain of sand near the first.  Is that a pile of sand?  No
  • Continue placing one grain of sand on/near the others.  At what point do you have a pile of sand?
  • In the same way, at what point is an action so bad, you would call it evil?
  • Self/Soul/Consciousness/Free Will: 
  • If there was an omnipotent God according to Biblical tradition,, Free Will could not exist.  Reasoning:  
  •  Supposing God is ALL-powerful, by definition nothing can happen that is outside of his control.
    He therefore controls every elemental particle and force including all those that make up each person.  
    There can be no action outside of the direct will and influence of God.
    Our souls are not omnipotent.
    The soul can therefore have no influence on the body that supersedes God.
    Therefore, God is in control and Free Will is an illusion.
  • It would be just as easy to call God equivalent to the Laws of Nature.  Pharaoh would be a good example; in the end he wanted to follow God, but God hardened his heart.  How can ANY of us know whether our hearts have been "hardened", whatever that means? 
  • I believe what we call "Free Will" is actually the semi-independent consciousness providing feedback to the underlying automated neural  processes that allow us to make choices that would otherwise violate that automation.  That is how we can have personal responsibility.
  • I believe "Consciousness" itself is an emergent property based on the highly complex nature of our brains.  There is no inherently distinct "me".   (This can effectively be demonstrated using "split-brain" patients; that is, people with a severed corpus callosum.)
  • Religion: 
  • My working framework is that it is the evolved product of the complex interaction of several influences:
  • The Interpreter Module (the "storyteller") part of the brain providing an explanation for strange phenomena (lightning, earthquakes, etc.)
  • Instinctual "better-safe-then-sorry" reaction.  If you hear a rustle in the grass, it could be a snake or the wind.  You can either run, ignore or investigate.  The people that ran more often lived to pass on their genes.  This gave rise to "Pascal's Wager" arguments, that is "Best to believe in God just in case it is true".
  • Wishful thinking for ultimate fairness (we don't like a world where the bad guys get away with it)
  • Unconscious fear of annihilation (giving rise to idea of eternal soul).
  • I am happy to discuss/debate any of these or other ideas with anyone if you would like to do so.  I do not claim omniscience, and could possibly change my mind about one or more of these if better evidence presents itself.  However, I will by default be skeptical and request you back your assertion with actual substantiation or well founded logical arguments.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.  

    Thank you,



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