Monday, 1 August 2011

What If I'm Wrong?

By far the single biggest challenge to my Christian faith, during this early part of my de-conversion process, came in the form of a book, by John W. Loftus, "Why I Became An Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity".  I'm pretty embarrassed to admit that, previously, I had only been aware of one preacher turned atheist, namely, Billy Graham's former preaching partner, Charles Templeton.  My (devout Christian) mother and I once had a brief conversation about him, but quickly came to the conclusion that Templeton was "never a real Christian".  He must have had "head knowledge", about Christianity, but without the all important "heart knowledge", we reasoned.  (Much later, I would also read Templeton's de-conversion story, "Farewell To God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith", in addition to other similar books such as this one, this one, and this one. These last 3, in particular, are excellent.)

My purpose here is not to provide a review of John Loftus' book, in terms of its contents, but rather to try and capture in words the incredible impact it had on me at the time.  Loftus has said on his blog that his purpose, in writing WIBA, was to overwhelm the believer, and indeed this is precisely what happened in my case.  I believe that most Christians have little difficulty maintaining their faith, even when challenged, since it is propped up by dozens, if not hundreds, of individual pieces (& thought patterns) they deem to be solid on their own (and even stronger together)...if one of those pieces takes a hit, hey, no big deal, there are still plenty of reasons to continue believing!  These reasons are constantly re-inforced through conversations with Christian friends, weekly church attendance, and an extremely limited exposure to skeptical arguments (the internet is changing the latter, as Christian apologist Josh McDowell has noted recently).  But what happens when a sizable number of those pieces, propping up your worldview, are attacked simultaneously?  Well, this can cause one to question their entire paradigm, and in my case, that paradigm was the truth of Christianity.

As difficult as this may be for some people to believe, I was a man in my 30's who had never seriously considered the fact that Christianity might be completely false, in even its most basic claims.  I was just SO sure it was true, to even bother investigating it too deeply would literally have felt like a complete waste of my time. I believe this is why most Christians don't bother reading skeptical books, such as those written by the so called "new atheists".  Contrary to what many think, Christians are not (generally) afraid of these books, they just deem them completely irrelevant.  The real believers KNOW Christianity is true and, besides, if ever they need to brush up on the intellectual arguments, in favour of the Christian faith, a Lee Strobel book is never far away.  (Irony intended)

The night that I finished this book is forever seared into my memory.  After reading the last sentence I just sat there, in bed, my head spinning as I tried (in vain) to process everything I had just read. It was in that very moment I reached a watermark in my de-conversion journey.  Had John Loftus convinced me that Christianity was false? No, not fully. But he had convniced me this was a distinct possibility.  That watermark came in the form of a question, "What if I'm wrong?".  I made a commitment to myself, right then and there, to continue my investigation regardless of where it might lead. It was a scary, and yet somehow strangely exhilarating feeling.

I'd like to close this post with a quote, from James F. Sennett, that captures well how I was feeling at the time (also reflected on page 13 of WIBA), "Once I had no doubt that God was there but I resented him for it; now I desparately want him to be there, and am terrified that he might not be."


  1. Respectful Atheist1 August 2011 at 20:07

    Thanks to John Loftus for blogging about this post at,

    Respectful Atheist

  2. Hi
    What made you decide to read Loftus' book, as you were convinced at the time of your faith?

    You mention that christians do not read the atheist books due to that, so what lead you to want to read Loftus book?


  3. Respectful Atheist2 August 2011 at 05:38

    Thanks Anonymous, good question. I talk a little about that in my second post, "How It All Started". Basically, my doubts were kickstarted by a Bible reading challenge I took part in...

    In terms of why I chose that particular book, I think I was just intrigued/puzzled by the idea that a preacher would actually choose to walk away from Christianity. How could anyone do that, after they had seen "the truth", I wondered?

  4. If you liked Loftus, you'll probably enjoy Robert M. Price as well!

    Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

  5. Honestly, it's refreshing to hear someone who, like myself, moved from firmly committed Christian to atheist in a very short time. Thanks for posting this (and, thanks to John Loftus for linking to this post).

  6. Respectful Atheist2 August 2011 at 17:02

    Tristan, yes, I have read (and heard) a fair amount of Price's material, as well, but thanks for the tip!

    Evan, I very much appreciate the enouragement. There is much more to come, on this blog, and I look forward to interacting with other former Christians, such as yourself (always nice to know we are not alone). What led you to reject your faith?

  7. In case you're ever interested, Respectful, I have a blog going on called the Atheist Literature Club, which is a place where I'm hoping to gather many atheists and create a place where they can creatively express their views through literature.

    But, on the topic at hand. I have not read this book by Loftus (though I have read the Christian Delusion and the End of Christianity). It seems like this is perhaps the best book on the atheist market.

  8. Respectful Atheist3 August 2011 at 22:03

    Thanks Weston, I'll check out the site.

    And, yes, it is one of the best for sure.

  9. I have a problem with in the closet atheists.

    Because I don't trust them. I want to know who they are.

    In fact, I have outed two, and am in the process of helping out a youth pastor.

    Stay tuned.

  10. Respectful Atheist5 August 2011 at 05:22

    Hey Morrison,

    There is a big difference between "outing" someone and "helping (someone) out" is mean spirited, the other is not. I hope you intend the latter.

  11. RA,
    Not sure I could say any one "thing" led me to leave Christianity. I had a number of troubling questions about my faith, but I tried to suppress them as much as possible (e.g., theodicy, foundation of religious knowledge, the problem of hell, etc.). One day this spring (Ash Wednesday, actually), I woke up and faced those questions. When I did, I saw that my faith was just cognitive bias on steroids, and that I thought Christianity was true primarily because I wanted it to be so.
    Thanks for asking; I'm always happy to share.

  12. Hi

    What if you're wrong now? I mean, do you count the fact that when you learn more information, it may lead you to return to a belief in the existence of intelligent force behind the arrangement of the universe?

    1. Yes, for sure, I am keenly aware of the fact that I could be wrong now. It's something I think about quite a bit. I guess the only thing that I (or any of us) can do is to try and keep an open mind. If I again become convinced that Christianity is true, at some point, than I will not hesitate to return to it. Hope that helps to clarify, and thanks for your thoughts.

  13. Almost every day, at some point, I find myself talking to God. We have actual, real conversations that I'm not just making up. Any other arguments against God's existence fall short. Try simply talking to God.

  14. "As difficult as this may be for some people to believe, I was a man in my 30's who had never seriously considered the fact that Christianity might be completely false, in even its most basic claims."

    It's easy for me to believe, as the same thing happened to me.