My journey away from Christianity toward free thought came in phases as theological concepts that I once held as true began to collapse.
It started off simply with questioning the principle of tithing. I remember the scripture in the book of Malachi in the 3rd chapter..."Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings." I took that concept without any questions. I was taught that tithing in the modern era deals with giving 10% of your income. I was never sure if it was gross or net income. As I began going through my process, I decided to investigate tithing for my self. I discovered that the word tithes only appears 21 times in the Bible and in no case does it has to do with money. Tithing deals with produce and farm animals. I felt a great sense of anger, guilt and dread because I was mislead and mislead others. I began to wonder if there were other errors or misinterpretations that I never questioned.
As I continued this journey,I saw a documentary on the History Channel about the Banned Books of the Bible. I wondered why I had never heard of these books before in church. These banned books had different ideas about the nature of God and the divinity of Jesus. This piqued my curiosity to investigate these texts for myself.
Most of these books were written before the Bible had it's final canonization. There were different gospels like the gospel of Judas, Peter, Philip, and Thomas. This revelation got me to wondering about an odd passage in the book of Jude:
"And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
I never remembered Enoch saying this in the book of Genesis. Where did this scripture quote come from? It came from the book of Enoch, a book that did not make into the final 66 books of the Bible.
I started to investigate further and discovered that the canonical gospels were not the oldest books in the New Testament, the writings of Paul were. Paul's first letter to the church at Thessalonica is the oldest book in the New Testament, written about 30-50 years after supposed crucifixion of Jesus(about 60-80 CE). The dates for the gospels come much later even well into the second century
(80-150 CE). Even the most conservative date estimates put the gospels at least 30 years after the supposed events occurred. The other books in the New Testament fall within the years of 80 CE-150 CE.
How can accuracy be maintained when most of the Roman world was illiterate? This began to bother me. Stories I heard before about God protecting the sanctity of his book throughout history began to ring hallow. I could no longer believe that.
In addition, I started reading books that discussed errors and contradictions in the Bible. I learned that entire passages like Mark 16:9-20 were not included in the oldest manuscripts. Plus there were no original manuscripts of the gospels written in the language that was spoken:Aramaic. There were only copies of copies of copies. The oldest of these copies only dates back to the second century; 100 years after the supposed death of Jesus.
During that same time period, all those countless gospels existed side by side with the ones that would make the final cut. This period of having multiple gospels would go on for another 200 years!
Then I found out that church leaders convened a meeting(4th Century Council of Nicea, in present day Turkey) to decide, among other things, which books would serve as the basis for a codified volume of scripture that would unify the various factions of the churches. So once again, I am supposed to believe that God gave wisdom to the church leaders to pick the books that were divinely inspired. I don't have enough faith for that.
The Gospel of Mark, reported to be the earliest written, did not have a virgin birth narrative. Neither did the Gospel of John the last gospel written among the canonical gospels. Also, Matthew and Luke, which both contained very different virgin birth narratives, borrowed heavily from Mark's Gospel. In addition, the supposed authors of these gospels would have already been dead when these gospels surfaced and they were written in Greek.
I started to ask many questions:How did Matthew know the intimate details of the messiah's birth? Who told him, if only Mary and Joseph were present? Why don't the details of the birth of Jesus match? And why are there four different resurrection account?
For the first time I started reading the Bible through the lens of reason versus the lens of faith. What I saw was a book that were full of stories and accounts that did not always make sense. I learned that the Bible was compiled over many centuries by many different authors, writing to diverse audiences, with various agendas in mind. It was not a cohesive book that came from heaven completed from Genesis to Revelation by the hand of God. It was a very flawed human book, full of errors, fables, and contradictions.
I used to be an avid apologist, defending the word of God and the faith. I knew that I could no longer defend either. My eyes became opened.