Nathan Owens' De-Conversion Story
“I was raised in the Church of Christ. They’re a very small group, and most of the churches are in the southeastern US. The Church of Christ is very conservative — it believes the Bible is inerrant, and it believes that people need to have book, chapter, and verse for everything they do. There’s no central council or association that manages the churches; each congregation is autonomous. And they don’t consider themselves to be a denomination, because they basically think everyone else is wrong and probably bound for Hell. Some of them have softened on that a little over the last few years, but they’re still a very conservative group. They believe that they are constantly striving to be as close to first Century churches as possible, so in a way, they claim to predate Catholicism.
“I took it very seriously. I became a Christian (which we believed required the act of baptism) before I finished grade school. By the time I was 16, I was occasionally teaching some of the younger Bible classes. I took an active part in the worship service, even preaching on occasion. As time went on, I continued to study what the Bible had to say about all sorts of subjects — and I tried to live my life by them. Over the years, I converted several friends to what I thought was “true” Christianity. But strangely enough, I never questioned the source of what I based my whole life on — the Bible. I never really wondered where it came from or whether or not it was reliable. Everyone I knew believed in God and believed the Bible was his word. Even the people I met whom I didn’t think were “real” Christians still believed in God and the Bible. I just never saw a need to question it.
“Thankfully, the one thing that really saved me was that my parents always taught my siblings and I to think for ourselves. Mom and Dad were always skeptical of what people said — they just didn’t apply that same standard to the Bible. But the most valuable thing they taught me was the value of truth. So I really did pursue spiritual things with the goal of finding truth. And whatever it was, I was determined to follow it. That core value has never changed for me, and I think it’s what ultimately led me out of religion.
“Once I started to have kids, I started to question some of the things I had always believed. I took the Bible pretty literally, especially about what it took to serve God and what the consequences would be for disobedience. As a result, I didn’t feel any real comfort for my beliefs; I believed that most people were bound for Hell. So I started to feel guilty about having kids. Why should I bring people into this world who might not make the right choices and wind up in Hell? It was miserable.
“As the next few years went by, the magnitude of my love for my kids was overwhelming. If God felt that way about us, how could he send any of us to Hell, regardless of what we’d done? I knew there was nothing my kids could do that would make me think a place like Hell was a fitting punishment for them. And was Hell really punishment anyway? Punishment is given to correct behavior. In other words, you only punish a child because you want them to do better next time — you don’t punish them just to inflict misery. But the Bible taught that Hell was a place from which you couldn’t escape. So where was the lesson in that? There was nothing rehabilitative about it. Therefore, Hell was not punishment, it was torture.
“That realization wasn’t enough to make me question the Bible. Instead, I questioned my understanding of Hell. I studied different thoughts about what Hell could represent, whether or not it was literal or eternal. In the end, I still felt that the Bible really did teach about a literal, eternal Hell.
“I tried to forget about it for a while. Finally, in February of 2010, I was writing up some Bible class material for our church, and I stumbled across some articles that claimed the Book of Daniel was a forgery written hundreds of years after the fall of Babylon. I decided to read the articles, thinking that they would have little to no substance. But I was wrong. The articles presented some strong arguments with good evidence to back them up. What really shocked me was when I checked his sources and found that even Christian scholars agreed with the basic facts he laid out.
“Words can’t describe how disoriented I felt. Over the next couple of months, I researched everything I could think of to test the reliability of the Bible. I studied the failed prophecies in the Bible, the internal contradictions, the problems with the development of the canon, and so on. It took very little time for me to realize that Christianity was just another man-made religion.
“It’s hard to describe how it feels to have the basis for your entire life ripped out from under you. It was horribly frightening, yet it was also exhilarating. In many ways, I felt like things made so much more sense now. And it was hard to understand how I’d never noticed these problems with Christianity before. When I began talking to my wife about some of my concerns, she didn’t want to get into it at first. But she’s a very strong individual, and before long she decided to research this stuff with me. Luckily, we’re on the same page about all of this. We can both see the fallacies that exist within Christianity.
“Our families, and specifically our parents have not handled it well. They have “withdrawn” from us because of our de-conversion, which means that we have no social relationship with them anymore. It’s difficult. But there’s nothing we can do about it. They don’t seem to realize that issues of faith aren’t decisions, but convictions. So we’re coming to terms with the fallout that our de-conversion has caused, and we’re working on establishing new relationships that aren’t based on dogma. It’s been a difficult, gut-wrenching experience, but we’ve come out stronger (and actually happier) because of it.”