In March of
1985 I had a “born again” experience. I
was 18 years old, about to enter the Air Force, and had been pondering the
meaning of life for quite some time.
When I “accepted Christ as my personal savior” everything fell into
place. Suddenly, there were answers to
all of life’s questions. I was on the
road to heaven and everybody who did not believe was destined for hell. Some of my friends thought that I had lost my
mind. In retrospect, they were probably right.
I served for five years in the Air
Force. Three of these years were in
Okinawa, Japan. I had married my best
friend from high-school. We joined a
large Independent, Fundamental Baptist Church. I was extremely active in many facets
of the ministry there. My wife and I
worked in the bus ministry, went on visitation, taught Sunday School, and did
our best to tell people about our religion.
I was discharged honorably and
enrolled in Bible College. I worked as a
salesman part-time and studied full time.
I completed the undergraduate program in four years. Please understand that this period of time in
my life was not one of serious inquiry into the nature of the Bible . . .it was
a protracted indoctrination into the teachings of my denomination’s
understanding of the Bible. I learned
all of the basic tenets of evangelical Christianity and truly believed that
there was not a question I could not answer.
I was taught to hate psychology, Pentecostals, liberals, democrats, and
everybody else who did not agree with “us”.
I had pat answers for everything.
Yet something was still wrong . . . .
I found to my chagrin that even though
I had the holy spirit living in me and I was doing all of the “right things,” I
would still look at women and crave having a beer every now and then. I felt that if I studied harder so that I
truly understood the Bible I would be able to overcome all temptation. Strangely, I also began to doubt whether or
not what I was studying was true.
After college I began traveling from
church to church to raise funds to go to Chile as a missionary. I visited about 200 churches and traveled
more than 100,000 miles in my vehicle.
During this time I noticed that some of the churches in my denomination
did things a little differently than we did back at our “sending” church. While women were prohibited from wearing
pants back home, I noticed that some other churches did not have a problem with
this. Even so, god did not strike them down.
I even ran across a church that used a modern translation of the
Bible. What heresy! I was taught that only the King James Version
of the Bible was the “preserved word of god.”
Yet here was a pastor telling me that he found it better to use a
translation with more modern English. I
guess he really wanted his people to understand what the Bible said. Looking back, this is probably a dangerous
idea: When people read the bible and
really understand it they will probably RUN!
My family and I arrived in Chile on
November 26, 1996. For the next 6 years
I would be away from the influence of the extreme fundamentalism that had “raised
me.” I had always been interested in
studying psychology. Even though I had
been taught that modern psychology was “of the devil” and one of my professors
had warned of a former student who had “turned his back on god to follow
psychology”, I was interested in how the human mind worked. I enrolled in a distance learning master’s
program at a prominent Christian University.
While I studied human behavior I was
introduced to the concept of evolutionary psychology. Of course, I had been taught that human
beings were created around 6,000 years ago, so, the idea of evolution was
anathema to me. A fellow missionary let
me view some video tapes by a noted creationist. While I watched, I could not help but notice
that the speaker seemed rather ignorant.
I opted to begin studying evolution for myself. I was in for the shock of my life!
As I read and studied I began to
feel myself becoming convinced that the scientific community was indeed
correct. I also began to notice myself
questioning my beliefs in the bible as the inerrant word of god. This truly scared me: If evolution were true then the early
chapters of genesis had to be nothing more than primitive legend: myths.
About this time I began to read Biblical Archaeology Review and was
terrified to learn that there was no physical evidence for Moses and the
Exodus, even though I was taught that there was in “college.”
As my faith began to untangle itself
from my mind I found that my style of ministry was changing as well. My sermons began to take on a tone of helping
people improve their relationships. We
introduced modern music into our style of worship. I even began playing the electric guitar. We then committed the unpardonable sin: We
made friends with Pentecostals. Our
Baptist denomination would surely disown us.
The more I studied, the less I
believed. One day as I was reading I
realized that I no longer believed any of it . . .no heaven . . .no hell . .
.no voyeuristic holy spirit spying on my lustful thoughts . . . and no
god. Yet here I was pastoring a
church. I tried to convince myself that
I was wrong . . .I wanted to go back to believing, but I could not. Pandora’s box had been opened. I had eaten from the tree of knowledge . .
.and I LIKED IT.
My family and I left Chile in 2002. When I resigned as a missionary I told my
wife and kids that I no longer believed.
I was REALLY nervous about that. I
was also surprised when my wife told me that she had stopped believing quite
some time earlier. My 5 children had no
problem casting off religion, though at least one of them professes to believe
in god today.
Since leaving Christianity my life
has never been happier. As a cognitive
therapist, I can see that I am truly helping people with serious problems. I no longer pass out Bible verses when people
come to be counseled. I help my patients
in their struggles with depression, anxiety, and even the more serious illnesses
like Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder.
My children are all adults and I am proud of each one of them.
People might be tempted to ask: “Kevin, did you lose your salvation?” My answer is always no.
I gave it back.