After a lifetime of being a believer in God and His son Jesus Christ, I encountered struggles searching for the truth. I this journey I found just that and wish to share my narrative of how I lost my religion.
Losing My Religion Was A Journey
- Was raised a Seventh Day Adventist
- Attended church on the Sabbath (Saturday the seventh day of the week)
- Sunset Friday evening the Sabbath began
- Refrained from eating unclean meats
- Left church attendance at the age of 15 due to family issues
- Had a personal renaissance of religion at the age of 40 stimulated by a job loss
- Researched all Sabbatarian churches before settling on the ‘one true church’
- Became interested in and followed Restored Church of God (one of many World Wide Church of God splinter groups)
- Became interested in and followed the Church of Christ
- Began to realize that Christians are not really allowed to think for themselves concerning theology
- Researched religion and Christianity for a two-year period
- Realized that religion was a myth and based on suppositional divergencies placed on a broad continuum
- Finally felt truly sovereign after losing my religion
Raised at a very early age as a God fearing Seventh Day Adventist, it wasn’t until I had reached the middle teen years and eventually adulthood that I was beginning to doubting my religious beliefs.
I came to realize that I was losing my religion when I began to ask questions about the theology and the very origin of religion.
This is my personal journey.
[aesop_chapter title=”Indoctrination” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=”http://arnoldwatson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/the-holy-bible-close-up1.jpg”]
I’d say that I was indoctrinated in early childhood because I am not quite certain that I was born a Christian ( to parents that were Christians) although I am most certain that I was too young to have had any say in the matter. As far back in my childhood as I can recall, I was a Christian; not just any Christian mind you but a Seventh Day Adventist. Naturally as a child I did not necessarily enjoy going to church. It was often an unsettling and frightening experience during the sermon when the preacher would raise his voice and pound on the pulpit to express his urgency concerning the context of his message. Honestly, it often awakened me out of a nap because the sermon would be too complicated for kids to follow.
For me, the Book of Revelation was the most feared book to undertake reading. It was filled will mystery and obscurity that even adults were perplexed by. It was disenchanting to say the least in that the feeling was the end of the world was always at hand and as a child, I felt that I would never have the opportunity to grow up and experience life; to get married and have a family; to own a car and buy a home. The common message as it seemed was doomsday and whether you are right with God before the end came.
Nevertheless, there was a sense of community and belonging that I experienced in religion. For instance, we had bible class with our peers that pursued a rather pleasant approach to bible study. Exploring and learning about things such as the creation of mankind, morals, and values, etc. This was a most welcome abstract to the rough measure that awaited me in the main sanctuary.
I was in training to be a ‘Romans Chapter 12 Christian’:
Romans 12 encourages us to be living sacrifices in view of the mercy we have received in Christ Jesus. We do this through renewing our minds to the truth of God’s word, serving and blessing the body of Christ through our gifts and above all by loving and being devoted to one another. Romans 12 is a call to live a life of peace, faithfully serving the Lord in all things and overcoming the evil of the world by the lives we live through Christ Jesus.
I Was Baptized
Despite or maybe even as a result of the doom and gloom that awaited, I was later baptized at the age of 10-12 years old. I can’t really recall the exact age, but it was prior to becoming a teenager. I was impressed with some of my contemporaries having decided to dedicate their lives to Jesus. I was convinced that I was ready for the same commitment. I based this on my reasonable undertaking on a sound practice as instructed by the precepts of the church, God’s word, and my father as moderator. Oddly enough, my father did not approve of my motives / intentions. He felt that I didn’t really understand the sincerity and enormity that this commitment required. However, he saw how much it meant to me and gave his consent irrespective of his suspicions. I was officially a baptized member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
The Christian’s Cognitive Dissonance
My father, being the very religious man that he was, was well versed in the writings of Ellen G. White, the primary founder of the church, as well as all things related to the Seventh Day Adventist faith. He would spend hours reading and studying the Bible and related books that further aided in his studies. In my eyes, he was an honorable man and a most devoted Christian. He would often spent hours talking with church members on the phone discussing the Bible, Ellen G. White, and ‘worldliness‘. As it were, people in the church respected my father for his knowledge and ability to discuss at great length matters concerning religion and Seventh Day Adventism.
What I often found myself perplexed by was the ‘Christian’ life outside the church setting. The everyday life was not always in the likeness of Christ which often led me to think about the matter.
Seventh Day Adventist had very conservative principles concerning diet and health. But there were a few of these that seemed to pose a bit of a dilemma adhering to where my father was concerned.
Nicotine, alcohol, and foul language were a regular temptation with cigarettes being the constant conviction. My father smoked up to a pack a day and more when he was drinking.
When one of us (children) angered my father, his wrath was often delivered through a harsh and foul mannered tongue and finally, depending on the nature of the matter, culminating with the affliction of the ‘divine rod’ round about the body (this was the ‘spare the rod spoil a child’ philosophy).
Although we were considered to be pious Christians, we did not always attend church every Sabbath. This was something expected by the church and could raise ‘eyebrows’ the following Sabbath attendance. I suppose there were just times my father was not in the ‘spirit’ that Sabbath morning. However, we were still expected to observe the Sabbath Day which meant no TV’s, radios, phone use or going outside to engage with friends. This was to be held in place until the sun set on the Sabbath and only afterwards could we resume these activities.
These were but a few of the things that encouraged me to wonder if it was possible to maintain a Christian psyche. It appeared impossible to resist an unnatural phenomenon and that is…being perfect.
[aesop_chapter title=”Enlightenment” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=”http://arnoldwatson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/the-holy-bible-close-up1.jpg”]
For these reasons aforementioned it is said that Christ came to wash us of our sins. I totally understand that. What I can’t come to terms with is why the agony of guilt imposed on the Christian over and over again. The constant struggle between right and wrong, moral and immoral. It only seemed like torment and mental abuse to me particularly as a child.
I recall one day I was leaving the house on my bike heading out for a ride around the block. I saw a church member heading down our street and could only be going towards our home. I quickly turned around and headed feverishly back to the house to warn my father who was home drinking beer and smoking cigarettes all on the Sabbath day. I didn’t make it before the visitor arrived and needless to say I was embarrassed and went about my intended bike ride disappointed and in wonderment as to the happenings at home during this visit. Children are never privy to such private affairs of adults so I know not.
So I began to wonder.
I wondered why the pastor drove a very nice car (BMW 2002 diesel); wore beautifully tailored suits; lived in a lovely home and the deacons were not that far behind.
I wondered why the vast majority of the church members were all struggling and did not drive fine automobiles or wear the finest attire but whatever Kmart or Sears could do to simulate upper quality fashion.
I began to wonder what the purpose of this was. Why would God condemn His own creation to a living torment in life and then concern the Christian with his soul and salvation upon his / her death.
I wondered why God would create man in His own image, place him on Earth which was created in seven days(?), give him a home in the Garden of Eden, restrict him from but one tree, the Tree of Knowledge, give him free will, and allow him to be tempted by a talking serpent.
I wondered how it were possible for Noah’s Ark to house the enormous abundance of animal life both land and sea, and not to mention of the air, could possibly fit into this vessel.
I began to wonder why I believed this book called ‘The Holy Bible’ without ever questioning it’s authenticity or ever approaching it with critical analysis.
Why would God need to create life in his own image, command them to worship Him, give him free will, allow temptation in abundance, allow them to become confused on just how to worship Him, and then condemn them with eternal death for not living up to His expectations?
I began to wonder why we needed someone to explain and preach the Bible and it’s revealed plan for the ‘Children of God’. For centuries the Catholic church forbade the reading and ownership of the Bible to the commonwealth. The masses were held in Latin, a language that nearly if not all of the commonwealth did not speak.
I began to wonder that if God was omniscient it would necessitate that He knows the past, present and future. If He knows the future, then He has had fore-knowledge of every disaster, tragedy, murder, rape, death, war, etc. that has ever occurred. Therefor, he always chose not to intervene and prevent these terrible things from happening. How can a god who supposedly loves all humans, for example, allow 8 year old girls to be raped and murdered?
If God is omnipresent it would necessitate that he is always everywhere. However, the Bible clearly states ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’ (Gen: 1) If God was always there, how could there be a beginning? If he is infinite, then there is no beginning and no end. If God is all knowing, then free will is merely an illusion. If he knows exactly what every person will ever do or think or say, then it has somehow already determined before these things happen. How can we make a choice when somewhere, it is already known what choice will be made?
If God is omnipotent and truly loves us, or even in a simple sense cares about His creation, and He is omnipotent, why does He allow such terrible things to occur in the world? It is impossible for Him to be both omnipotent, and loving, as the existence of evil demonstrates either:
- He does love his creations, but he cannot do anything about it because he is not omnipotent or
- He could fix evil if he wanted, but he does not truly care about humankind enough to do so.
I realized that I was losing my religion. Either God or Gods are real or they are not. How can you arbitrarily discard a God or Gods for the sake of another?
I was loosing my religion.
God is dead, and we have killed him. ~ Frederick Nietzsche
What Nietzsche is stating in this statement is that God is dead in the hearts of modern men – killed by rationalism and science. This same God however, before becoming dead in men’s hearts and minds, had provided the foundation of a “Christian-moral” defining and uniting approach to life as a shared cultural set of beliefs that had defined a social and cultural outlook within which people had lived their lives.
With this quote from Nietzsche in mind, I began to wonder about former religions that are no longer respected as true or relative. There are truly too many to name but the few that I mention are common to the ear for most; Egyptian religion, Greek religion, Mayan religion, Babylonian religion, etc. There are simply too many to name as they have either completely lost favor for one reason or another or have been completely redesigned to appeal to a more contemporary train of thought.
What strikes me concerning this is why is this so? How can a religion just simply die out and a body of people take up another theology over a period of time?
Something just does not make sense about it all.
[aesop_chapter title=”Confusion” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=”http://arnoldwatson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/the-holy-bible-close-up1.jpg”]
Why All The Confusion?
‘We have the one and only truth. We have the one and only true church’. This is what I believed to be fact and this ‘fact’ was postulated as such. The Sabbath Day was special. There was something magical about it and how it made you feel. We would prepare our cloths the night before by pressing our suits and polishing our shoes and then hung them on the door knob along with the freshly polished shoes.
I recall after arriving early to Bible class as we always were the first there, looking out the window that faced a major street and wondering to myself. Why didn’t the people driving and walking down the street understand that this is the Sabbath Day and that it was a sin not to be in church worshiping God?
Sometime later I began to ask myself why did some people attend church services on Sunday rather than the Sabbath Day as instructed in the Bible? Didn’t they know that it was wrong and that it was a sin to do so?
Later as an adult, I began to focus on the fact that there are many ‘denominations’ within Christianity that confused and perplexed me. Catholic, Baptist, Southern Baptist, Fist Baptist, Second Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc. Sadly the list goes even further but the real question is why? Why would God allow His followers to be so confused over a most vital matter as to where the truth or one ‘true church’ could be found?
Then there are the three major religions of the world: Christianity, Islam and Judaism…need I say more?
Looking further into the matter revealed some very disturbing facts.There were two of many that made me stand still in thought. 1)Among the dispensationalist there are conflicting interpretations regarding the end of days. As a follower of one church, I held the understanding of premillennialism as church postulated it. 2) The teaching of the 10 lost tribes gave me the impression of the church trying hard to keep the Bible ‘relevant’.
Take a closer look:
The 10 Lost Tribes
The 10 lost tribes is a belief that 10 of the 12 tribes did not return to their promised land and were spread out and lost throughout the world. A man by the name of Richard Brothers (1757-1824) is thought by some to have been first accredited to this thesis. British-Israelism began with the self-styled ‘Nephew of the Almighty’ Richard Brothers, and his book A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times (1794). Brothers was, as one source puts it, “a Canadian madman”. After being troubled by visions, he was admitted to a mental asylum, where he remained for eleven years. Brother’s taught that the Anglo-Saxons were the ‘Ten Lost Tribes of Israel’. He said that the British, Americans, and other Anglo-Saxons were heirs to the promises given to Israel in Scripture. Consequentially, an Aboriginal, an African, a tribesman from Papua New Guinea would not be so blessed.
Some other groups shared one form or another of the Brtish-Israelism thesis which include Joseph Smith (Mormons), Herbert W. Armstrong (World Wide Church of God), and Ellen G. White (Seventh Day Adventist).
Coincidentally the Christian Identity Movement adheres to the same thesis but applies it to racial superiority; groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nation, Nazi Party, White Separatists groups, etc.
Is a belief that the Nation of Israel (God’s chosen people not necessarily the nation of Israel) is distinct from the church (Christians) and that God has yet to fulfill His promises land promises to Israel. In addition to that, there is to be a 1,000 year millennial kingdom here on earth with Jesus Christ ruling from Jerusalem. But this is only the beginning with this as it becomes a little complicated as to just how this in sequence is to take place.
Here are three main perspectives on how the Millennial take place:
- Premillennialism – Jesus Christ returning before the millennialism and thus ruling from Jerusalem. This doctrine is commonly shared by Evangelical, Fundamentalist Christian, and Living Church of God churches.
- Postmillennialism – Jesus Christ returning after the millennialism and thus ushering in the final judgement. This doctrine used to be more common in the 19th century, but has given way to premillennialism
- Amillennialism – Revelation chapter 20 is symbolic in nature and thus the millennialism has already begun and correlates with the church age (as described in Revelation chapter 2:1-29). This doctrine is commonly shared by Roman Catholics and Protestant denominations which include Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, and Methodist churches.
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? ~ Amos 3:3 KJV
What Is The Plan?
It’s hard to move forward when you don’t know where you’re headed or why. God’s plan gives us the answers to life’s most basic questions like, “Where did I come from?” “What’s my purpose here?” And, “What happens when I die?” Knowing the answers gives us hope and helps us find peace and joy.
Your life didn’t begin at birth and it won’t end at death. Before you came to earth, your spirit lived with Heavenly Father who created you. You knew Him, and He knew and loved you. It was a happy time during which you were taught God’s plan of happiness and the path to true joy. But just as most of us leave our home and parents when we grow up, God knew you needed to do the same. He knew you couldn’t progress unless you left for a while. So he allowed you to come to earth to experience the joy—as well as pain—of a physical body.
One thing that makes this life so hard sometimes is that we’re out of God’s physical presence. Not only that, but we can’t remember our pre-earth life which means we have to operate by faith rather than sight. God didn’t say it would be easy, but He promised His spirit would be there when we needed Him. Even though it feels like it sometimes, we’re not alone in our journey. ~ Mormon.org
Maybe this explains why my Mother and Father died a most violent death which incidentally almost concluded my life right along with them. I was told after this event that God had special plans for me and my life and that was the very reason He allowed me to continue to live. What I find troubling about this is that I needed my parents the most at the age of 18 when they died. From what I could gather over the years contemplating this relentlessly was that it was an easy way to explain the unexplainable.
I was certainly losing my religion.
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Counting The Cost of My Apostasy
As if all the aforementioned was not enough to convince me that I needed to leave religion, these facts only came into consideration as an afterthought. What really challenged my faith in religion was much more devistating.
The term ‘double talk’ never meant so much to me until it hit me at the center of what I considered sacred and that was my faith in God and Jesus Christ and of course the church I was following. As it turned out, I discovered that the church I was following had a hidden history of deceit. The irony of this information I uncovered was purely accidental in nature.
The incident involved a recorded sermon that the pastor posted on the church website for church members too far way geographically to attend a local church congregation (the church practice is likened to the days of Rome in that christians would hold church services in their homes) in an effort to aid in worshipping on the Sabbath. The title of the sermon was ‘Clarion Call – The Time Is Now’ which focuses on the soon coming of Christ and what needs to be completed before hand.
Here is an excerpt that sermon that deeply impacted me:
(4:00-5:32) …We used to have this idea in the church…we understood that these 3-day periods, the 1335, 1290 and 1260 were in the Bible, and everybody was excited about them, we thought maybe everything would wrap up in 1972 when I was called in early ’66…there was this attendant idea that flowed off the 1335 days that at some point we would all hear that there was 6, 9 or 12 months to go; there would come this notice before the 1335 days…We would all be asked to go gather all our resources, our assets, tap our savings account, drain the equity from our home, run our credit cards to the limit, maybe were weren’t going to have to pay them back, before we went to the place of safety. We’d cash in our IRA’s, our Pension Funds, cash our stocks; redeem our gold and silver and precious stones. We all talked about this. This was understood. And then we would give it to the church for the last big blast before the Work ended. Thousands, indeed tens of thousands believed that. I did and I taught it many a time.
If the Bible is true why is the pastor reaching for dates as to the end of times and the return of Jesus Christ? Then later in the sermon tries polish over facts on a published book by the founding pastor of the church on his track record of setting dates. It was simply postulated that the founding pastor did not have the full truth and that ‘new understanding’ had been given to himself.
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. ~ Matthew 25:36 KJV
Another oddity that I contemplated is why does locality play a role in religious status? What I came to realize is that depending on where you were born in the world played a fundamental part in what religion you adhered to. What this suggests to me in observation is that there is a strong conviction to culture and tradition rather than truth prevailing in the matter.
Lastly, in observing the aforementioned I realized yet another oddity. When paying close attention to the Gods being worshiped, I realized that they always took the same likeness as the followers of that religion.
[aesop_chapter title=”Cogitation” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=”http://arnoldwatson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/the-holy-bible-close-up1.jpg”]
Cogitation and Reflection
I cried like a child when I discovered I lost my religion. It was the most painful realization second only to the violent death of my parents. In hindsight I am most grateful for the journey as I am all the wiser for it.
In my zealous pursuit for religious happiness and salvation, I began to push my beliefs on my family in order to save their souls from the coming days of sorrow called the ‘Great Tribulation’. To my anger they did not see the world that way for my wife and I never trained our children to be religious in anyway even thou my wife is Catholic and I was a dispensationalist Christian. Upon cogitation and reflection I am glad that this is so.
I am thankful to religion for what it has done for me, my life, and philosophical views on appreciating life and the power of knowledge. To be more specific religion taught me to:
- Embrace philosophy, science, history, critical thinking, etc.
- No longer take information at face value but to question it.
- No longer rely on the words of the Bible as the ‘truth’ when there are several other homogenous books in existence postulating the same.
- Think critically and apply logic to reason.
- Reject confirmation bias; just because many people believe something is true does not make it so.
- Look for demonstrable and empirical evidence for the existence of God rather than faith alone.
At this point it was clear to me that I was no longer losing my religion but in fact had completely lost it all together. I was bitter, angry, and felt betrayed but interestingly I felt exonerated. I began to finally think for myself by examining religion in ways that would have been considered heresy and would be punishable by death (burned alive or hanged were common judgements) in England.
In the end I harbor no ill feelings towards anyone who is a believer and / or has faith in a higher being. For all intended purposes they are good, well intentioned people wanting to do the right thing. I should know, I was a believer for over 40 years of my life.
I no longer believe the Bible is the word of God and yet I do esteem two books within it and probably always will.
a. Ecclesiastes (or The Preacher) eloquently examines the emptiness in the pursuit of vanity. Chapters 1 thru 4 have such profound affect on me in that I realize how insignificant man is in all things. Humankind is in a constant pursuit to define itself often at any cost…even if it means to define it with mysticism and yet we still fail.
b. Proverbs beckons the adherence to wisdom, moral virtues and their contrary vices, obedience, power, riches, chastity, and temperance. It to me implies a wise father passing on his wisdom for the benefit of the wellbeing of his son as he navigates in life.
In parting I would always follow one most important verse in the Bible that I held dearly as a Christian and still do as a modern day thinker.The other is of a well know Greek philosopher and they are this:
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:21 KJV
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God? ~ Epicurius (341-270 BC)