On Rachel Slick (Or how to lose a Christianity that burdens you)

Rachel Slick, daughter of apologist Matt Slick, wrote on The Friendly Atheist about how she became an atheist.

This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?

Alex had no answer — and I realized I didn’t either. Everyone had always explained this problem away using the principle that Jesus’ sacrifice meant we wouldn’t have to follow those ancient laws. 
But that wasn’t an answer. In fact, by the very nature of the problem, there was no possible answer that would align with Christianity.

And that was how it happened. There wasn’t an argument for atheism. There wasn’t a comparison of which side was more reasonable. There was no research. There was just one question she didn’t have an answer to. I hope she  thought about for more than the three minutes it took her to have that conversation.

The Answer

From the cradle, her father had raised her in the tradition of knowledge and critical thinking. Someone should have asked – Rachel, what covenant are you under? The mosaic one? Did God appear to your ancestors in a cloud on Mount Sinai and make an agreement with them that they and their descendants would keep the laws listed in the book of Deuteronomy? Of course not. So how could you possibly be obligated to keep a covenant that wasn’t made with you?

Did you swear loyalty to Jesus and accept his sacrifice as atonement for your sins? Then you are obligated to keep his laws, n’est pas? She might as well have left Christianity because God killed people in the great flood. You don’t need a theology degree to get past both of those questions.

In her article, Rachel did not say why the above explanation was insufficient, nor did she detail her investigation of a question she admitted not knowing an answer to. She simply recalled that the answer she had heard before was not sufficient. So she gave up.

Do you want your religion? Is it even yours?

Like the rest of us who were born to Christian parents, Rachel inherited Christianity. She drank it in her mother’s milk, so to speak. From the time she was a toddler she was told things; about who God was, what the world was like and what she should and shouldn’t do. The bad thing about having someone else think for you (as we all must do as kids) is that the smallest wind will sink your ship. Her father tried to help her in that regard. He taught her theology so she would not be led astray by falsehoods. He taught her critical thinking so she could correctly deduce information from the knowledge she had. But you can only teach a child so much and then it’s up to them.

They need several things to survive;

Firstly and most importantly, they need to want the truth. Rachel wanted freedom. I know this because I have been there. When your whole world is crashing down because of one question you can’t answer, you don’t give up because one person couldn’t answer the question and you had never before heard a good answer. You Google it.  You buy books. You make the local library your home. You fight with everything you have because you don’t want to lose everything. You don’t turn over to a side that has no evidence for itself because you had no answer to a question on the side with the evidence.

To Rachel, Christianity was a stifling set of rules which she (like everyone else) couldn’t follow. She had been having sex with her boyfriend and feeling guilty about it. But then, she couldn’t tell why she was supposed to follow some rules and not others, so Christianity must be wrong. Bye bye Christianity and welcome guilt free sex. She wrote:

Someone once asked me if I would trade in my childhood for another, if I had the chance, and my answer was no, not for anything.
 My reason is that, without that childhood, I wouldn’t understand what freedom truly is — freedom from a life centered around obedience and submission, freedom to think anything, freedom from guilt and shame, freedom from the perpetual heavy obligation to keep every thought pure. Nothing I’ve ever encountered in my life has been so breathtakingly beautiful.

Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.

Sending children out into the world with no knowledge of how to seek truth is surely damning, but sometimes, you teach them all you can and you lose them anyway. Rachel’s Christianity wasn’t her own. It was something she had been force fed. She held onto it because it was more comfortable than atheism, until atheism gave her the one thing she truly wanted – freedom.

In Conclusion: A word to the wise

If you throw away your religion one day because you ran into one question and didn’t feel like finding an answer, don’t expect me to feel sorry for you. Whenever I have a question, I work my butt off, reading as many books as I can, analyzing them, taking them apart, making the arguments for and against so that there isn’t even a dark corner of my mind where the tiniest doubt lies. And I make sure the arguments for the other side are stronger than the ones I already have. Because one great logical suicide is leaving the side with x evidence for the side with x-1 evidence.

Further Reading

How to exploit a family falling out for the sake of ideology – Glenn Peoples

Fearing Atheism

Atheism (Photo credit: atheism)

When I was younger, although I claimed to be Christian, I was in some cases, a functional atheist. That is, I lived parts of my life as if God did not exist while saying that he did.

I had little plans for my life. I would graduate from secondary school, go to the university, and get a job, a husband and kids. That was the height of my ambition. However, a few months into my college life, I began to wonder why the heck I was there. What was the whole point of life anyway? Why do we do all the things we do and why do they matter? Part of this was because life was not as easy any longer. I now failed some tests and was under more stress. My goals in life were pretty simple. I was looking for things that would make me happy – a marriage and children – but I had begun to realize that even with those things, I would still have bad days. I would still get hurt. And I didn’t want that.

That’s a part of life I started to see. You can go through each day if you think it’s going to turn out alright. But once the idea is planted in your head that it might not, if you realize that your entire family might die in a plane crash, and you might flunk college, things change. And if you look around you and see all those things happening, if you think your life sucks, well the question of why you go on with it appears. “Why does my life matter?” becomes a very important question to answer. “What difference does it make if I die now versus if I live through all the garbage that is the rest of life and then die?”

I confided in a friend that I felt my life had no purpose to it and her reply was “But it does!” And she was right. Christianity teaches God has jobs he has prepared for us to do. It also teaches that what we do in this life has effects in the next. I hadn’t been thinking like a Christian. I had been thinking as if life ended at death. In that scenario, it didn’t matter for me whether I died now or later. In both cases I would be dead but in the first, I would suffer less hurt. Heck, the same probably applies to the rest of the human race. Even the world is going to end eventually. Whatever I contribute to society would end up in the cold dead world that was the future. It might matter now to some people, but in the end, not so much.

And that was how, even though I was a Christian, I formed views about atheism. My life is a lot less than perfect. There are things in it I would rather not go through if I didn’t know it was going to end well. I cannot stress that point enough. I do not care for all the ice cream and park rides in the world. They do not make up for the pain and they are meaningless. Unless their effects last on into the future, they are unimportant. My life is the same in the end with or without them.

If I have effectively communicated my thoughts about life if God does not exist, then you have a picture of what I think of atheism. Perhaps it is possibly true, but I cannot believe it. Note that this does not amount to saying that God exists because I dislike the consequences of his non-existence. It is saying that even if it were true that God does not exist, I could not believe it without slitting my wrists within a week. That of course rules out atheism for me. My options are believe God exists or die.

I know that lots of people do not think about it this way. In fact, there are probably atheists who don’t think their lives are pointless. I would love to hear their justification for that if it does not involve the simply stating it as if it were obvious.

As you can imagine, this causes me a lot of distress. It means that there is at least is one factual claim in the world which I cannot believe regardless of its truth value. I do not know what that says of my claims to rationality. It is also a problem for a different reason. You would think that given what I think of atheism, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. It’s practically a potential death sentence. But I can’t stop studying. I can’t stop trying to make sure that I have reasons to believe that God exists and I can’t shake the conviction that I ought to seek the truth however unpleasant it might be. I realize that this might possibly lead me to what I hope is not true, but that is the price to be paid.

Jesus claimed to be the truth and from that it follows that whoever finds the truth finds him. In that hope I feel safe because I know that while I sincerely and relentlessly seek the truth, I draw closer to him. I can read atheist literature and have no fear of finding that he is not who I think he is because the truth is his. He is the truth. So, in the end, it doesn’t matter if I fear atheism and can’t believe it. It’s not true anyway.