I have finally come out of the closet as an atheist, and have sent this letter to the church. I have not received a response of any kind, but I am not particularly interested in chasing it up, you know?
To: Christian City Church Canberra
This letter is to – what’s the word? – separate myself from the chuch, resign as a member, decline any further involvment with Christian City Church Canberra. I’m leaving the chuch, as of today, 7th Oct 2000. I told Stuart on Tuesday that I was leaving the music ministry, so this may not come as a surprise.
Please remove my details (name, adress, phone, email etc) from all church mailing lists. This includes removing my email address from that Dickson-AM email list. If CCC international has my name, they should erase it too. Remember to subtract one when quoting membership statistics, otherwise the number will not be accurate.
I am not aware of any outstanding business between me and the chuch. The items of equipment I have bought over the years: the two DOD DIs (the ones without the Db pad, I think), various leads, the transformer for the drum kit, the strap on the church bass and so on, were intended as gifts at the time and they remain so. My mike, guitar gear and so on already here at home. The box for the mike is at the hall, but all the mike boxes are falling apart so I don’t really want one. I’m also missing the clip, but that could be anywhere (Dean & Dom’s place, perhaps). Conversely, as far as I am aware I do not currently have anything here at home that belongs to the church.
I have dropped out of the church before, as you may remember. However, I don’t believe I have sent in a letter of resignation before. People who know me well will understand that this is not an impulsive act, and is quite final. I imagine that this would be the appropriate place to tell you why I have taken this step. I cannot do more than touch on one or two highlights of how I came to this point. I had not intended this next bit to be long, but it has turned out so, anyway. I want it to be more or less complete, so I’ll let it stand.
For years I had been aware that not all churches hold the views that fundamentalist pentecostals do. Many people who are admittedly christian, who believe on Christ for their salvation, disagree with the idea of plenary, verbal inspiration. I realised that I had no reason to suppose that I or my church were special cases, immune to error. Someone has to be wrong and it may very well be me.
Upon encountering obvious discrepancies in the Gospel narratives of the resurrection, I decided not to adopt the usual hand-waving approach of making up some story that might possibly fit, and being satisfied with that. I decided not to refuse to look at it, insisting that it simply must all fit together because I already knew it was the verbal and complete word of God. Maybe the mainline demominations, or (shudder) the liberal christians are right after all. Taking off my fundie rose-coloured glasses (which come equipped with blinkers), I looked at the book of Romans and was struck with just how badly it is written. I had always assumed that if it seemed difficult to follow, it was because of my spiritual blindness. But reading it freshly, I was pretty sure that it seemed ignorant, disjointed and illogical because it is.
I realised that I could no longer accept the bible as the verbal, plenary, word of God, particularly in view of its history. I had to re-examine what I believed and why I believed it.
I could not rely on feelings of the closeness of God, spiritual experience. Moslems, hindus, buddhists, voodouns etc have these same feelings. Saying that their experiences are counterfeit is pure question begging – we only can say that if we already know for some other reason that that is the case. These feelings are easily manufactured by good music and a like-minded group, all hyperventilating together in the unaccustomed excercise of singing. I know how it’s done, I’ve been doing it for years.
Nor could I take answers to prayer as evidence. Prayers are “heads I win, tails you lose” propositions. Christianity is never at a loss for reasonable explanations for why prayers aren’t answered. I’ve never seen a limb regrow. I’ve never seen an unquestionable miracle. CCC Fyshwick failed due to a lack of ordinary wisdom, not a lack of faith. We can only call it presumption after the fact.
Finally: the bible itself rules intellectual defenses out of court. If it can be understood at all, then it’s natural, worldy wisdom and not to be trusted. Winning an argument is just a case of who is the better arguer. Apologetics is fundamentally flawed – it’s intent is impossible. Christianity cannot be defended with reason. It is essentially indefensible – the truth of it has to come from illumination, from “the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit”. Many doctrines admittedly make no (natural) sense: the trinity, the hypostatic union etc, and are incapable of being understood by the natural mind. Christianity requires acceptance, not understanding.
Eventually, I realised that I simply had no reason to believe any of the stuff I was brought up with. If I’d been brought up Hindu, I’d accept and believe that just as strongly and for the same reasons as I believed Christianity. Have you ever noticed that the miracle-stories of one religion never impress the believers of another? I concluded that Christianity is false, and that all the other religions are false for exactly the same reasons, and most likely there are no spirits, angels, demons, djinni, bodhavistas, loas, leprechauns, fairies, pixies or Gods of any kind whatever, and there never have been.
This happened in early April, 1999. I have been an atheist for about a year and a half. I just don’t believe it any more – any of it – and have not for some time.
Since dispensing with my imaginary friend God, I have found that my life, the lives of those about me, the history of CCC, the world in general suddenly make so much sense. The answers to all those nagging ‘why?’ questions have simply fallen into place. I have done quite a bit of reading, on the net (mainly at http://www.infidels.org) and elsewhere, on the topic and I feel fully comfortable with my new world-view.
As I said – my leaving the church is not an impulsive act. I have given myself time to “get over it”, if it were just a phase. It isn’t. I have given God ample time to win me back, or to let the pastoral staff know that I was leaving. He hasn’t. It was difficult, at times, keeping my comments to myself while playing some of the songs. However, I do not begudge you all the past year and a half of service I have given, nor the ten years before that. I often enjoyed it, and I made my choices. I was not ready to leave then; I am now.
So – that’s it. I do not blame you for the years of migranes, depression and loneliness I have wasted in following your religion. I’m thirty-four, and still have some years ahead of me. I certainly don’t blame God. I simply hope that the day may come when we no longer teach our children that the world is full of invisible persons who they must believe in, when humanity is free of supernaturalism and magical thinking forever.
(PS: 2 Pe 2:9-22 is nothing but slander and mudslinging, and not to be believed. Cheers!)