Tag Archives: faith

Verses on healing

Recently I was talking with an online Christian about healing. One of the many reasons I don’t believe the Bible anymore is the Bible contains many, repeated promises that prayer can heal people. The Christian told me this was not the case. Here’s her direct quote:

God does not promise to heal those who pray. Never does the Bible make this promise, although I was once in a group who taught this very thing. It is false, and it is an evil lie, giving false hope to desperate people and then destroying their faith when God doesn’t heal them or their loved one.

So I did a quick collection of some of the many Bible verses that do, in fact, promise healing.

Let’s talk about Jesus himself. What was Jesus most known for? Powerful preaching, and healing the sick. Flip through the book of Mark, and the headings are things like “Jesus heals a paralytic”, “A man with a withered hand,” “Jesus heals a deaf man,” “Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus,” and so on. Continue reading

How to prove God is real

So, I’ve noticed a lot of Christians use words when they debate.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a live debate, or an Internet discussion. Christians always use words. They will make logical arguments about why the world must have a Creator. They’ll talk about history, and claim the Bible is reliable and true. They’ll give personal experiences. They’ll talk about how morality must come from a divine law-giver, or claim life is meaningless without God.

They’ll draw on their knowledge of science, history, logic, theology, and epistemology. What I’ve never seen them appeal to, though, is physical proof.

That’s not how it is in the Bible. Continue reading

Atheist Parables: The Wedding Banquet

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells a story about a bunch of ungrateful people who refuse to come at the summons of their king to celebrate a wedding banquet. Eventually the rich, the noble, and the ‘worthy’ prove themselves to be unworthy, and instead the poor and the unworthy are given the fruits of the kingdom. Why would those worthy people so callously refuse an invitation from their king?

 It was not a very important town, and its ruler was not a very important lord. They were not fabulously rich, although they had plenty to get by on. They knew there was a king ruling over the kingdom, or at least they assumed there was. Most of them had never seen the king; in fact most of them didn’t know his name or in what city he lived. He ignored the town and its nobles, and they got along fine without him.

So they were surprised one day to receive messengers from the king. The messengers said that the king wanted to speak with the lord and his court. His Majesty was holding a state banquet, and invited them to come, along with any of the more wealthy members of the town.

The recipients of this strange news were a little unsure of what to expect, but nevertheless they were thrilled to be called away to meet such an important person. They put on their finest clothes, gathered up riches for tribute to the king, and journeyed with the messengers off to the city of the king, which they were told was four days away.

On the second night, however, brigands descended on the caravan as they were lying down to sleep. Continue reading

Atheist Parables: Doubting Thomas

Welcome to my Atheist Parables series. In the tradition of Plato, Jesus, and Aesop, I will use stories and allegory to examine issues of faith, reality and reason.

This is a parable based on the story of Thomas, from John 20. Thomas didn’t see Jesus the first time he appeared to the disciples, so he didn’t believe at first that Jesus came back from the dead. But Jesus was kind and helped him believe. What if Jesus had acted like this instead?

Jesus appeared to the disciples behind locked doors on Monday.  He told them to receive the holy spirit and that he was sending them into the world.  But Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were locked, Jesus again came and stood among them.

Peter and Thomas were alone in one room of the house, when Jesus came in.  Peter was overjoyed to see his friend, the Messiah, and he cried, “My Lord!”

“Peace be with you,” said Jesus.  “The holy spirit is upon you.”

“Who are you talking to?” said Thomas.  “There’s nobody there!”

“What?” said Peter.  “Are you crazy?  It’s Jesus!  He’s right here!” Continue reading

Abraham Sacrifices Isaac: What it teaches Christians today

My previous post made an example of why the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac has so many problems. I’d like to share how this story haunted me personally while growing up Christian.

In Genesis 22, God demands that Abraham sacrifice his son, Isaac, to test Abraham’s obedience. Abraham is blessed for doing whatever God says, no matter how hard it was for him.

This surely tells us something about God’s character. A Christian believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and everything in it is meant to teach us something, to help us grow in Christ. I can nearly type this verse from memory: “All scripture is God-breathed, and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (1 Tim. 3:16-17). So the story of Abraham’s sacrifice must be important.

Because of this, I thought God would speak to me and tell me to do something, and I would have to obey unquestioningly. I had no guarantee that what he told me would be reasonable. An unreasonable demand could be a test, and must be followed like a reasonable one. But how do you know if you are hearing from God? Continue reading

Abraham Sacrifices Isaac: Not how modern Christian think

Here, let me tell you two stories, and see which one you think has the better moral.

A poor man has been looking a long time for a job, and finally gets one. After a time the boss tells him he’s thinking of promoting him to a supervisory position with a big pay increase. But the poor man will have to look the other way while the boss does some cooking of the books. The poor man really needs this raise. And, he’s afraid that if he says no, the boss will find some excuse to fire him, leaving him with no job to feed his family. But after praying and thinking it over, the poor man says, “I’m sorry, but I can’t lie for you, because it’s wrong.” The boss then gives him the bigger job, because it was a test to see if he was honest. The boss didn’t want to hire a person who would lie to get ahead.

Second story: exactly the same as the first. The poor man is offered a bigger job if he’ll just lie about this one little thing. The poor man thinks it over and replies, “I trust you, boss, and I know you wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t have good reason. So I’ll lie for you if you want.” The boss gives him the job, because he wanted to make sure his worker would do what was required.

So…in which situation did the worker do the right thing?

Continue reading

My Journey to Atheism, Part 3: Little steps toward whatever’s next

Originally posted Dec. 2013

I wrote in part one a bit about my religious background. In part two I explained how, shortly after a missionary trip, I ended up praying a prayer of committal to the truth, even if it meant leaving Jesus.

After I prayed that prayer on Nov. 6, 2010, I began a long and confusing journey. One of my first steps was to try and convince myself I was wrong—that God was actually true after all.

I asked God to give me a sign. I asked him to speak to me in some way. When I asked for simple things, that could happen by coincidence, my prayers seemed to be answered. But when I asked for slightly less simple things, nothing happened.

I asked him to give me a vision, or a vivid dream—something that would clearly let me know he was searching for me like a lost sheep who had wondered off. Something that I couldn’t interpret as just my mind playing tricks on me. I got no answer.

I asked for God to send someone. I have many friends from the mission program who are in tune with the Holy Spirit; God could ask one of them to call me up. Or God could use my current pastor, or my former pastor, or my former roommate who is now a pastor. They would tell me God had told them I was struggling with my faith, and has asked them to pray for me. But nobody called.

I prayed that someone would interpret a dream I’d had, without me telling them what the dream was, like Daniel did for a king in the Bible. But no one did this either.

I attended church regularly, and played on the worship team. I waited for God to punish me for standing in front of the congregation and worshiping dishonestly. I thought he might suddenly wipe away my ability to play, or take my voice, or even just overwhelm me with emotion. But it did not happen.

We took communion every month. Communion is the most solemn ceremony of the Christian faith, and my pastor treats it as such. He always reads from 1 Corinthians 11:27-30:

 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

Don’t come up to eat and drink just because everyone else is, he would say. If you have something you need to get right with God first, just wait. You can always take communion again next month.

It sounded like a promise that a person taking communion dishonestly would suffer some sort of consequence, and I believed God would keep his promise. As I took the bread and juice, I prayed, God, I don’t think I believe in you anymore. If you are real, God, turn this bread sour in my stomach. Make me throw it back up, God, because I have eaten in an unworthy manner. Make me sick, God, or knock me flat so I can’t take the bread at all. But nothing happened. There was no effect. The body and blood of the deity I was dishonoring went down smoothly like ordinary bread and juice, just as it always had.

I attended several different churches during this time, some of them very Pentecostal in their worship style. I always prayed that God would speak to me there. Knock me flat on the ground, “slain in the spirit”; strike me blind or deaf or dumb; cause me to start speaking in tongues; give me a vision or a prophecy; send someone else to me with a vision or a prophecy. Nothing happened.

I attended a church service by a traveling prophet at another church. He prophesied about people in the audience, giving them encouragement or advice. Some of his insights seemed pretty accurate, but nothing that couldn’t be duplicated by a skilled illusionist. He called people up one at a time out of the audience, and I kept praying that God would have him call me. At the same time I was terrified that he might call on me. I was afraid he would expose my sin and disbelief in front of all those people. I was afraid it might be true, even though I was praying for it to be true. Instead, nothing happened. The speaker ignored me.

It was the same at a revival service I attended later. They gave testimonies of a miraculous healing that had occurred, which actually sounded like an unlikely but very possible physical healing. I didn’t see any healings occur that day; no people leaving their walkers or wheelchairs; no limbs growing back.

I was filled with anxiety throughout this time. Questioning God didn’t lift a weight from my shoulders; if anything it pushed me back into a morass of not trusting myself. I don’t know if you’d called it “depressed” or not, but I sure got down.

I didn’t talk with my friends as much, because I was afraid they’d find out what I was thinking. I didn’t spend time looking for jobs as much as I should have, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life without God to ask for directions. I was afraid to read atheist blogs, or research, because I still was afraid of being right.

But gradually, things began to change. I got a full-time job, which kept me from sitting around moping so much. Then, about a year ago, I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own apartment. Suddenly I wasn’t in their Christianized atmosphere anymore; I was free to make my own connections.

I started reading the atheist blogs on Patheos regularly. I started digging into other sources, like ex-christian.net. I eventually got up my courage and posted on an atheist website for the first time.

It was scary, but over time I started to get used to it. It became more and more normal for me to write out the things I was thinking. I’d been keeping a journal for a long time, but now that people were reading what I wrote, it seemed more real.

When I look back over my journal, I see that I slowly stop being afraid. I write a lot about being depressed at first, about feeling like a sinner, about my worry that God is upset at me, but that slowly drops off. Instead, I become more used to this ‘godless’ idea. I become more comfortable with myself and with my own inquiry.

I feel like even if I am wrong—even if there is a God, and I end up needing to repent and return to him—this time was essential for me to figure out what I believe. For me to try questioning what I was taught and discover that it is possible to live differently than how I was raised.

Three years after I vowed to follow the truth, I’m feeling more comfortable as an atheist. But I also feel like I’m stuck again.

I can’t bring myself to tell my family what I’m thinking. In fact, none of my real-life friends know what I’ve gone through over the past few years. My parents still think I haven’t changed—I’m still a creationist, anti-gay, traditional Christian.

I live on my own, and handle my own finances. But I still go home a lot, and enjoy spending time around them. I know we couldn’t be friends like we are now if they knew the truth about me. I honestly don’t know how they’d react.

But I hate not being able to speak about what I believe. When my mom makes anti-gay comments, I can’t say anything to counter that. When I hear people talk about faith healing, I have to keep my mouth shut. When people talk about how Christians have it so hard in America these days, I don’t feel free to point out the many, many things wrong with that statement.

I don’t want to be quiet and just keep things to myself. I have never enjoyed not being able to speak up. I want to be vocal about what is right. I want to stand up for what I’ve always believed—peace, justice, love, anti-imperialism—as well as new things I’ve come to believe in, like gay rights and religious tolerance.  I want to encourage people to use reason instead of blind faith.

I hope at some point here, three years after my big decision, I will be ready to make another big decision, and let the world know. I hope by then, I will be strong enough to survive through the fallout.