Here’s a sampling of a contemporary thread over at the DC:
I [John Loftus] received an e-mail from [Name Redacted per request], a former Christian who describes the problem of mental human suffering as well as any I have ever read. He will be reading your responses here, so be gentle. Here's his story:
I am a former Evangelical/Charismatic/Mennonite Christian. In order to understand why I came to reject the Christian faith, read the following:
I am writing this to you to determine what the worth of a man's soul is. After 40 years of being a born-again Evangelical Christian, I have effectively renounced the Chistian faith, God, Jesus, the Bible, churches and religion in general. I would like to know if there is one minister in the Christian faith who has the intellect and adult and spiritual maturity to address my issues as presented here without resorting to the worn-out, tired cliches' that I am so sick of hearing!( "The Devil is talking to you" or "You must have had sin in your life" or "look at Job" or "God has a reason for everything" ). If you can, I will strongly consider returning to the Christian faith.
I was an Evangelical/Charismatic/Mennonite Christian for 40 years. I worshipped God, praised him, prayed to him, witnessed to others about him, even cried when I watched crucifixion scenes in Jesus movies, and defended the faith wholeheartedly. How did God, my Heavenly Father, repay my allegiance to him? By doing something that was the moral equivalent of an Earthly father "pimping" his teenage daughter to a molester to be raped and sexually abused!
Between August 1995 and November 2005 I was afflicted with the most psychologically abusive and torturous mental illnesses known to man: Paranoid Schizophrenia.
I went through "deliverance" several times! It didn't work. I rebuked Satan. It didn't work. I repented of every sin I could conceive I had committed. It didn't work! I took medication. It didn't work! I went through counseling. It didn't work! I prayed to God and begged for deliverance. It didn't work! My wife divorced me in 1999 because of her fear that I may have been a threat to my daughter, leaving me to live on my own in a psychotic state.
The fact is, I want nothing more to do with this rebrobate God or his Son! He called me my Father, said he loved me, said he cherished me, and then betrays my trust in him by subjecting me to this living Hell!
At 2:48 AM, June 16, 2006, Anonymous said...
I don't think that there is any answer that would be satisfactory to you. People have gone through much worse and still hold to their Christian faith. People have had to watch their children die, suffer, get sick, and cry to their parents for answers when there are none. The simple fact is, we don't know why God allows such things to happen. But you aren't looking for an intellectual answer to evil, you want an emotional answer to why you suffered in such a way.
But look at it like this: You are an atheist. In such a world, there are only brute facts which are ruled by chance. There is no intent, design, purpose, or evil in the world. There is just a cold, empty universe that will one day die out. You are outraged at God for not giving you help when you felt that you needed it, but you are making a moral pronouncement that carries no weight given your assumptions about the world. All moral judgments are just subjective, personal pronouncements and let's face it: In such a world as atheism, what does it matter if we kill, murder, and hate? We are just another animal aren't we?
Your world of atheism is now much worse than before friend. You live in a world where it doesn't matter if children suffer, if children are raped, etc. Of course I know you maintain a moral system, but that is arbitrary because ultimately there is no right and wrong.
At 6:34 AM, June 16, 2006, [Name Redacted per request] said...
Another thing I would like to say is how INFURIATED I was at at the COLD-HEARTED, CLINICAL, INSENSITIVE, DISCOMPASSIONATE tone of your response!! I thought Christians were supposed to be loving, compassionate, merciful, sensitive, understanding, and possessed with a desire to HEAL, not HURT!
You basically gave me the "Dr. Laura Schlesinger" response of "Hey, CryBaby, get over it!! We all have problems!" Your first "knee-jerk" reaction to my post was not, "Hey, I need to help this lost, hurting, wayward brother" it was, "He is a threat, so I need to discredit him!"
If your response isn't LIVING PROOF that Chistianity is a LIE, A HOAX, AND A FRAUD, I don't know what is!!!!
[Name Redacted per request]
At 7:38 AM, June 16, 2006, Sandalstraps said...
[Name Redacted per request],
The comment by Anonymous was, at the very least, proof that his or her Christianity is either fraudulent or dangerous. If Christianity necessarily produces such people then it can hardly make any moral claims without being laughed out of the room.
My hope, as a Christian (who has been burned many times by people like the anonymous commenter who stopped by merely to insult and infuriate, hiding behind the mask of anonymity like a coward and a moral reprobate) is that Christianity does not necessarily produce such people, any more than Islam necessarily produces terrorists.
But yes, there is a great deal of emotional and intellectual terrorism done in the name of the religion which has provided my life with order and meaning, and, I hope, made me a better person than I used to be.
At 8:57 AM, June 16, 2006, [Name Redacted per request] said...
I do sincerely appreciate the thoughtfulness, sensitivity and ultimately, non-judgmental nature, of your post. It is not just Christians like "anonymous" who disgust me with Christianity, it is God himself, his hypocrisy, and his brutal, tyrannical nature! What happened to me is PROOF POSITIVE that God does not love me!! If an earthly father had a child, and saw that child being abused, emotionally or physically, and had the power to stop it, AND DID NOT, then he is a LIAR when he claims to love that child! Love is an action, not words. God pays "lip service" to love!The Bible can call God a God of love all day long, but if there is no evidence of it, then the Bible is a cruel lie! The fundamental premise of Christianity is "Jesus loves you very much and oh, by the way, if you reject him, he's sending you to a burning Hell where you'll scream in agony and torment for all eternity!!" I'm sorry, but that seems just a TAD bit sadistic to me, to put a human being into fire for all eternity.
[Name Redacted per request]
At 2:32 PM, June 16, 2006, Stardust1954 said...
When I was on my path to atheism, I often questioned why an all-powerful god would allow such suffering to occur while he stayed silent in his Heaven.
I lost a child during childbirth in 1977. I prayed and prayed for that baby to make it.
Several comments are in order:
1.It says something about Loftus’ character that he would publish, and solicit public comment on, an email from a man who was or is mentally ill.
Loftus is using [Name Redacted per request] as a human shield. [Name Redacted per request] says what Loftus would like to say, but due to his history of mental illness, Loftus can hide behind [Name Redacted per request], the way a terrorist will blend into the civilian population.
[Name Redacted per request] is off-limits. He can go on the attack. But to counterattack would be mean and cruel and so on.
Loftus may well have received permission to post this email, but that’s beside the point. Either [Name Redacted per request] is mentally ill or not. If he is mentally ill, then Loftus is exploiting his condition.
But if he no longer is ill, then we should feel free to subject his comments to the same rational scrutiny as we would anyone else’s.
Loftus is not [Name Redacted per request]'s psychiatrist. He’s in no position to evaluate [Name Redacted per request]’s mental state. To publish his email is cynical and opportunistic. Loftus is using a man with a history of mental illness in a game of chicken.
Keep that in mind when we are scolded as cruel and mean-spirited for daring to respond.
ii) I thought the reply by the anonymous commenter was measured and reasonable. But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that he was “insensitive.”
It should be needless to say that if a Christian can be insensitive, this in no way shows the Christian faith to be a lie, a hoax, and a fraud.
That has absolutely nothing to do with whether Jesus is the Son of God, or the Redeemer of his people. Nothing to do with his rising from the dead.
Is the law of gravity falsified by the fact that Isaac Newton was an SOB? Is the theory of general relativity invalidated by the fact that Einstein was a lousy husband?
iii) What [Name Redacted per request]’s experience illustrates is that bad theology has consequences. Bad theology fosters a false expectation which, sooner or later, will be dashed by life in a fallen world.
What is striking is how many churchgoers read the Bible with blinders on. They have a preconception of God that doesn’t bear any correspondence to the Bible.
And then, when their unscriptural view of God collides with reality, they get angry and blame God and leave the faith.
iv) [Name Redacted per request] complains about the way in which God “repaid” him for all the things he did for God.
Where did he ever get the idea that the Christian faith is a quid pro quo? Maybe from Creflo Dollar. But not from Scripture.
He says he trusted God, but where is his trust?
How did God “betray” him? Where does God promise in Scripture that all his children will be exempt from personal tragedy?
Assuming that [Name Redacted per request] ever read the Bible from cover to cover, he must he must have read it with blinkers on. The Bible is full of stories about the suffering of the faithful.
It’s striking, I say, how many churchgoers read what the Bible says about the experience of many an OT or NT saint, yet they never connect it to their own experience.
They manage to bracket all that in one big parenthesis. Then they mentally shelve this parenthesis, or lock it away in a drawer.
They compartmentalize their own expectations from the repeated witness of Scripture. Somehow it can happen to everyone else, but never to them.
These are people who have two different Bibles. There’s the Bible they read—assuming they read the Bible. And then there’s this hallmark card version of Christianity which they superimpose on Scripture.
If they read the Bible at all, they read it through the rosy lens of their Sunday school image of God—like something out of a children’s coloring book—illustrated with puppies and deer and butterflies.
v) Does the Bible merely say that God is a God of love? Is there no evidence to that effect? Look to the cross! Look to the Exodus! Look to restoration of Israel after the Babylonian captivity! Look to the healing ministry of Christ!
But mercy is not a bill to be paid.
vi) Finally, what is [Name Redacted per request] left with? The alternative to a fallen world redeemed by God is an irredeemably evil world.
Without God, you still have evil. You have all the same sorrows, but sorrow unalchemized by hope. Remove God, and despair moves in.
You are now alone with your loss—sealed away with your grief.
Yes, John Loftus may pat you on the back—like one death row inmate patting another on the back. He may wave at you and smile through the glass as a godless and pitiless universe straps you into the chair and throws the switch. Does that make you feel better?