What was the moment or event that started my journey out of faith? That’s a difficult question to answer since there wasn’t any time I can point to and say, before that I was a Christian and after that I was an atheist. Like most beliefs, changing mine took time, study, and introspection. However, I can more easily point to the time I first started having doubts about Christianity–my family decided that we would read the Bible together over the course of a year.
It still surprises me that so many Christians (or believers of other faiths) have never actually read their scriptures. I am still very happy that my family wanted us to learn more about what we believed and (to borrow from 1 Peter 3:15) “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” No matter what you believe, you should never be afraid to ask why and ensure that you have good reasons for it.
As I have since learned, this activity is pretty common among atheists as it is the first time they read some of the less popular parts of the bible. At least in the United States, most preachers (or pastors, rabbis, imams, etc.) tend to teach the passages that they find most useful, instructive or–with the possible exception of “fire and brimstone” denominations–uplifting for their congregations. Very few church goers would find much value in listening to sermons about where you can buy slaves, how to (incorrectly) attempt to breed striped livestock, and so on. Most modern Christians would rather stay away from the Old Testament entirely and focus on the teachings of Christ–as they are far less controversial or irrelevant in the eyes of believers.
For me though, reading the bible from beginning to end introduced the first of many questions that I had to try to reconcile.
What happens to people who died before Jesus’ resurrection? Is there (or was there) more than one way to get to Heaven?
This is the first question I remember struggling with as a young Christian. It seems unfair that God would have created all of the people of the world before Jesus, knowing that they would burn in Hell for eternity and there was nothing they could do about it. It turned out that this was also a fairly common question and Christian apologists had a ready answer. In the simplest terms, if you were born before Jesus and therefore could not avail yourself of his path to salvation, simple faith in God was enough. Of course, that made me wonder why Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary if there was already a way into Heaven without it.
To clarify, this one event did not “make me an atheist” in any sense. I accepted the apologetic answer and figured that other answers would follow as I continued reading the Bible. At that point my faith wasn’t diminished in any way but it was the first time I ever thought to question something in the Bible that didn’t make sense to me. In retrospect, that is why I say it was the beginning of my journey.