Way back in the old days, I was a frequent participant in the forums at the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministries. Matt Slick, who owns the site, even asked me to be co-moderator of the evolution/creationism forum along with creationist Penny Fryman. So I read with particular interest this essay at Hemant’s blog by Rachael Slick, Matt’s daughter who is now an atheist. Some of it is pretty heartbreaking, including this excerpt from her journal that was written when she was 9:
Oh boy. I’ve got a lot to work on. I try to be obedient but it’s so hard! The more I read, the more I realize how bad I am! My problem is that when things don’t make sense to me, I don’t like them. When Dad gets mad at me for something, everything makes perfect sense to me in my mind, so I tend to resent my parents’ correction.
I have just realized that I yearn to please the lord, but why can’t I? I just can’t be good! It seems impossible. Why can’t I be perfect?
As my knowledge of Christianity grew, so did my questions — many of them the “classic” kind. If God was all-powerful and all-knowing, why did He create a race He knew was destined for Hell? How did evil exist if all of Creation was sustained by the mind of God? Why didn’t I feel His presence when I prayed?
Having a dad highly schooled in Christian apologetics meant that every question I brought up was explained away confidently and thoroughly. Many times, after our nightly Bible study, we would sit at the table after my Mom and sisters had left and debate, discuss, and dissect the theological questions I had. No stone was left unturned, and all my uncertainty was neatly packaged away.
Atheists frequently wonder how an otherwise rational Christian can live and die without seeing the light of science, and I believe the answer to this is usually environment. If every friend, authority figure, and informational source in your life constantly repeat the same ideas, it is difficult not to believe they’re onto something. My world was built of “reasonable” Christians — the ones who thought, who questioned, who knew that what they believed was true. In the face of this strength, my own doubts seemed petty.
But all is well that ends well:
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.
That passage is hauntingly beautiful and eloquent. Please read the whole thing. It’s very powerful and moving.