Being born and raised as a Baptist in the south, I never really questioned the existence of God.
I was told as a child that I’d someday grow up and be a pastor by a pastor. I grew up singing in the choir, going to sunday school, and vacation bible school in a church where both of my parents were active members. I always assumed that the stories, the bible, the church, Jesus, God and everything was true.
I mean I was truly indoctrinated into this belief system and never questioned it.
I did have a few unanswered questions, but it never shook my faith. I always figured that there was an explanation and that I either needed to study more or that God would reveal the answer to me. Simple apologetics was enough to answer many doubts that I presented to other more studied Christians.
I did go through the typical rebellious teenage years, but never really questioned my faith in God, even though I wasn’t exactly acting all Christian like. Eventually, I came back around and decided to dedicate my life to God and started reading the bible and praying. I had never read the entire bible, but decided that it was time to do so. It took about a year to get through the whole thing the first time, but ironically, reading it actually caused me to turn away from the faith.
It wasn’t the only reason, but definitely a major one. In an attempt to research things online that I had questions about. (We didn’t have internet like that when I was young). I discovered apologetics and counter apologetics. I began to wonder why muslims and Jews didn’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I wondered why Catholics thought it was ok to “worship” Mary. Why did Jehovah witnesses believe that Jesus wasn’t actually God, but just the Son of God. I wanted to be able to answer those people in an effort to convert them to Christ.
The best answer that my Christian peers could give was that they were all being deceived by Satan. I began to think that if they sincerely held their beliefs, but were being tricked, who’s to say that I wasn’t being deceived myself. How could God allow them to be tricked into going to Hell? Didn’t He love us all?
I was told that they knew the “truth”, but chose to deny it by following men and “the traditions of men”. That the answers were all in the bible and all you had to do was read it. But then, I discovered that there were doctrinal differences even within protestant denominations. How could they all be reading the same bible, claim to be led by the same HOly Spirit, and yet come to different conclusions about the interpretations.
I wanted to follow God in Truth and in spirit. I didn’t want to be deceived because of my traditions and upbringing. I started studying why Jews didn’t believe and it made a lot of sense. I read up on what Muslims believed, and it did make sense. Even though I disagreed with a few things, I realized that I did need to study it more. I started listening to Christian and atheist debates and to my surprise, many atheists knew as much, if not more about the bible than the Christians did.
I spent hours devouring people’s deconversion stories and their reasons. I prayed for God to send me a sign. A real sign and not some coincidental a cup blowing in the wind a few minutes later. I sincerely wanted to follow God in Truth. Meanwhile I began studying the historicity of the bible, how it was commissioned, the historical evidence of the stories in the bible and was disappointed to see that that much of it is easily debatable. That the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) may not have been written by (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). I found a channel on YouTube called the Atheist Experience where believers were asked to call in and debate the Atheist hosts (one formerly a preacher) and saw how he easily demolished their arguments.
I began to debate my Christian friends online and many of them used simple apologetic arguments that were easily destroyed using logic, reasoning, and the bible itself. The majority of them had never even read it. They didn’t know about the strong’s concordance. They had never heard of the council of Nicea or the Council at Trent. Very few heard of how Constantine declared Christianity the de facto religion of Rome. They didn’t know about Roman Scholars like Pliny the Elder or Josephus. Many didn’t know the dating of the books of the bible or Gospel.
I learned about logic, rhetoric, and logical fallacies and used them like weapons, dismantling, fairly easily anyone who was foolish enough to engage in debate. I think I only lost one debate and that was to a Calvinist who said that God decides “who gets it” and who doesn’t. And that everyone wouldn’t be saved. He didn’t know why God chose who He did, but it wasn’t his concern. His concern was leading the people who was predestined to be saved to Christ.
Apologists like William Lane Craig and Matt Slick were completely outclassed when debating the Matt Dilahunty’s and Sam Harris’s online. They made the apologist arguments look foolish. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens became like heroes to me. Their knowledge and critiques of Christianity and religion in general were compelling, well thought out, and presented well.
Despite that, I never described myself as an Atheist and pretty much ran under the umbrella of Agnostic. I no longer believed in a Judeo-Christian god. I did believe that there could be a God out there, but I couldn’t say for sure. Let alone know what He wanted from us.
I began to study mysticism and occult knowledge and became fascinated with the apparent link between psychology and occultism. I knew that logic and our knowledge about the world around us hasn’t yet been able to explain certain phenomena. I had the idea that there was more to the world than meets the eye.