I have a strong evangelical Christian background. I was immersed in it since birth and felt at home there for most of my life. My father is a hospital chaplain and former pastor, trained at arguably the most influential seminary regarding the theology of dispensationalism – which dominates much of American Protestantism today, Dallas Theological Seminary. He received another degree from another leading evangelical institution, Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola University, while my mother completed coursework at a Bible college. My sister graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and was ordained in recent years. The religion made sense to me, enabled a connection with deep spirituality, united my whole being with God and provided a special kind of community and support that initially can be difficult to replicate in secular environments, especially when thousands of local churches positioned across the nation offer experiences that are familiar and normalized in our society. I wholeheartedly invested an enormous amount of time and energy in lay church leadership during all of my twenties. I worked as a research/teaching intern for a brief time with two Christian apologetics think tanks and evangelistic organizations that reach out to skeptics and train believers to understand why and how Christianity is true (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Probe Ministries). To varying degrees, I also researched and experienced Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopal and numerous types of Protestant traditions in Christianity. I studied philosophy, religion, history, and business at Auburn University and Georgia State University.
I was a Christian until age 32 (now I am in my mid forties). I was well educated and lovingly treated by other Christians and committed to following God the best I knew how. But, I was blind to many basic and important aspects in common skeptical challenges to this religion. Even though I was in the process of pursuing a career in professional Christian apologetics evangelism during my early to mid twenties, many of the challenging assertions of skeptics did not make full sense to me (especially as humanistic moral objections toward an apparently all-loving/knowing/powerful creator God). A few key doctrinal issues drove me out of the faith gradually. Years later, I was able to think in a different way about various other theological/philosophical topics and vantage points that did not occur to me or feel spiritually/emotionally/intellectually safe to really openly address while still in the Church.
Beginning in the late 1990s, I became focused in my intense personal studies and discussions with fellow Christians (including evangelical Christian philosophers/theologians) on the doctrine of creation and the “cultural commission,” “cultural mandate” or “creation mandate.” This, as Wikipedia says, is “the divine injunction found in Genesis 1:28, in which God (YHWH), after having created the world and all in it, ascribes to humankind the tasks of filling, subduing, and ruling over the earth. It has served as a basis among both Christian and Jewish peoples for all manner of cultural activities: economic engagement, scientific inquiry, literary exploration, military expansion, and alternately, exploitative as well as conservationist responses to the natural environment.” My intention was to understand the positive meaning of this biblical teaching so that we humans could pursue our most healthy purposes and participate fully within the rest of nature, not over nature.
I eventually decided that Christianity and the Bible:
1) Greatly over-emphasize the sin/salvation paradigm in place of the creation/natural context.
2) Substantially diminish our understanding, and thus our experience as well, of God’s immanence/femininity (as opposed to God’s transcendence/masculinity, which, by far, is given the most attention and esteem).
These two themes of teaching/practice have had many negative consequences on religion and society (including subtle or overt dehumanization and ecological neglect/destruction). The effect of Christianity’s and the Bible’s excessive investment in the theology of the cross (including making it the visual and conceptual symbol of the religion) developed a sub-context (sin/salvation, wickedness/grace) into a primary context. Instead, I believe it would have been far more beneficial and sane to have chosen a type of creation-centered philosophy/theology/spirituality, which I describe here. Within the Christian/biblical tradition, this creation-centeredness could have been founded on the visual symbols and realities/concepts/doctrines such as the “bread of life”, the “abundant life” or the “Trinity.” Church history, medieval/modern history and Western thought/lifestyle would have been significantly different and probably more humane if this had been the case.
In 2006, I left the evangelical church and around 2009 I realized that because I so strongly held these beliefs I could no longer be considered a Christian of any type, whether this be Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. I gradually came to reject the biblical doctrine of the atonement and the excessive brutality of the Judeo-Christian God. I do not deny that there is a lot of love and compassion in this God. But, by looking at the evidence in the Bible, the natural revelation and my own experience, I concluded that the real God is both good and evil (not necessarily to an equal degree). Sometimes I loved God. Sometimes I hated God. Sometimes I liked God. These are feelings and thoughts that both came to me unexpectedly and which, at other times, I distinctly chose based on my interpretations/experiences of this very mixed up world that contains many wonderful and horrible things. Logically, I must hold God centrally responsible for most of the conditions in the universe because of the very limited power of the human will to change much of it. This is not pessimism. I believe in a view of life that I call positive realism, which is an attempt to acknowledge the harsh aspects along with the truly beautiful elements and the possibilities for greater fulfillment that are ever-present.
Writing now in 2021, I can say that practically I have been a secular humanist for many years. Regarding my theological beliefs, I referred to myself as a theist-in-protest for about a decade, challenging what I saw as seriously inhumane aspects of Scripture and nature as designed, while still attempting to honestly relate to God as much as I could. Currently, I think it is more accurate to call myself an atheist. I am open to returning to Christianity. However, the more I study this belief system, the greater the problems I find within its theology, philosophy, historicity, and ethics.
Between 2009 and 2016, I attended a Unitarian Universalist congregation and I still generally agree with their principles.
I enjoy talking with and learning from people of religious faith or no religion at all.
I look forward to hearing your opinions.
I also express my spiritual, intellectual and emotional journey with life and God through other forms of creativity. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my: