Why I Stopped Being A Christian And Became A Stoic
Who am I, and who is God? What do we have in common?
From 2013 through 2016, I was a devoted Christian, devouring the passages of the Bible and additional theological texts in an effort to become a friend of God and a testament to his grace.
The more I read, the more discovered contradictions between the God of Wrath in the Old Testament and the God of Love in the New Testament.
The more I learned about the assembly of the 66-book anthology that comprises “The Word of God,” the more I began to doubt its inerrancy.
The more I pondered the relationship between God and his people depicted in the pages of scripture, the more I discovered a pattern of cruelty, manipulation, and abuse.
In 2019, I had a deep crisis of faith and of my own identity. Who was I, if not a child of the most-high God? If there was no afterlife, was there any reason to live in the first place?
Most importantly, if Jesus wouldn’t help me overcome the darkest parts of my nature, who would?
These questions led me to Google, Google led me to the Stoics, and the Stoics lead me to the pursuit of self-mastery for the sake of experiencing joy and rendering myself useful to others for the brief amount of time I have left to live.
This is the story of how I found God by taking responsibility for my flaws and facing my darkest fears.
I Became A Christian By Choice — As An Adult
I grew up in a household that was fractured over religion.
- My mom is a devout Christian and the kindest person I’ve ever met.
- My dad used to call my mom a “stupid bitch” to her face for believing in God.
My mom stuck around and now demonstrates kindness every day by caring for my disabled dad who made a habit of lying to her, insulting her, and keeping secrets from her for the entirety of their marriage.
She personifies the faith and forgiveness Jesus taught in the New Testament, in stark contrast with the self-righteous showmanship of many modern-day Christian influencers.
When I was a young child, my mom would bring me to church, but she never forced her faith on me, instead allowing me to draw my own conclusions from the things I learned.
I believed in God and Jesus the same way I believed in Santa — and I started to have my doubts about all of them at about the same time. By the time I reached adulthood, I didn’t really think about God at all.
Then, in 2013, I moved to Tampa, FL to attend university, and life started teaching me hard lessons:
- Being an adult is expensive
- Being an adult is scary
- Being an adult is really fucking lonely
I was a grown-ass man, fighting my own battles, and I was getting my grown ass kicked. Then, some cute girls invited me to church.
I attended some sermons that helped me understand why my life felt like a smashed vase on display in a cosmic museum, like some sort of cautionary tale for future generations:
Sin was my problem, and the blood of Jesus was the solution.
I was hooked, drawn in by the idea of an extradimensional entity who accepted my flaws and would fix me and give me eternal life.
Later that year, the head of my college ministry baptized me in the duck pond, and shortly after that, I started to pursue a career in the Church.
In less than 12 months, I went from hesitant skeptic to hotshot worship leader and occasional preacher, evangelizing to students in the common areas and leading small group bible studies.
The thing is, the more I read, the more I struggled to reconcile the harshness of YHWH with the loving-kindness of Yeshua.
I began studying other faiths in an effort to help me better understand mine.
It’s An Elephant, You Blind Fools
Turns out, most major religions are pretty similar at their core. This realization hit me with the weight of an elephant.
Or rather, the weight of the Elephant Parable.
In the Elephant Parable, several blind men reach out and touch an elephant from different sides. One man touches its tail and says, “It’s a rope!” One man touches its trunk and says, “It’s a snake!” One man touches its leg and says, “It’s a tree!”
They’re all wrong. It’s an elephant. And if they stand around arguing about it instead of learning from each other, they’ll never fucking figure it out.
We are those blind men, interacting with truth, but unable to comprehend it without working together.
This is when I started to suspect that the Holy Scriptures made for better allegories than hard truths, and that the better way to discover truth was to seek it from many perspectives.
Thus began the unraveling of my faith.
It took several years for me to stop being a Christian. Sure, I stopped acting like one in 2017, but I clung to the shadow of faith for a few more years. After all, how else would I ever set aside my sinful ways or save my soul from Hell?
I drowned out my cognitive dissonance by drinking. Like, a lot.
By 2018, I was drinking 2–4 shots of tequila on my lunch breaks, then going home after work to kill a six-pack and a bottle of wine.
I lost friends during those years, and I can’t blame them. It’s hard to watch someone you care about drink himself to ruin.
Finally, in 2019, I hit rock bottom. I’d washed out of corporate life in under a year, I was an alcoholic with a history of drunk driving and aggressive blackouts, and I wanted to kill myself.
I blamed God. How could he let one of his children fall so far from grace? Wasn’t it his job to save me from my darker nature?
One night, in tears, I desperately Googled, “Can there be good without God?”
That’s when I discovered the philosophers of Ancient Greece.
Philosophy Is For Nerds
But, in the words of these Greeks, I discovered something I’d never truly found before: hope.
These are some of the things they taught me:
- Joy is a choice, and gratitude is a superpower
- Evil is a learned behavior, and it can be unlearned
- “Good” is something we do, not something we are, and we can start anytime
- Life is pain, but we can choose not to suffer
- Virtue is its own reward, and vice its own punishment
I gravitated most strongly toward the Stoics. However, the best thing about philosophy was that I didn’t have to choose.
I could use what was helpful and discard the rest, because my eternal soul wasn’t at stake if I decided to trust the wrong teacher.
Or was it?
Is Hell For The Ignorant, Evil, Or Brave?
Even after coming to believe that, yes, there could be good without God, I wasn’t ready to reject the Gospel, because I still lived in total fear of Hell.
But those damned philosophers had grabbed ahold of me and filled me with questions:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” — Epicurus
I realized that a fundamentally sovereign, good, and honorable God wouldn’t act the way he was depicted in the Bible.
Follow me if you dare, for now I descend into Hell.Is God Omnipotent?
But if God doesn’t have a choice, then who or what is choosing for him?
If we want to believe that God is all-powerful, and that he sends unrepentant sinners to Hell, we must believe that he’s actively choosing to kill and torture his children who disobey him because he wants to.Is God Malevolent?
This is where it gets really juicy. Here’s a brief list of heinous shit God is credited with in the Bible:
- Cursed all humans with death, pain, toil, and Hell — maybe (Genesis 2–3)
- Subjected his chosen emissaries to murder, rape, and slavery several times because they stopped stroking his ego (pretty much the whole Old Testament)
- Killed a dude for pulling out (Genesis 38:1 — 10)
- Almost killed Moses, but was calmed by freshly sliced foreskin (Exodus 4:24–26)
- Killed people for complaining that he’d killed their friends (Numbers 16:1–49)
- Banned ugly and wounded people from worshipping him (Leviticus 21:17 — 24)
- Sent bears to maul 42 children for calling a prophet “bald” (2 Kings 2:23 — 24)
- Accepted human sacrifice (Judges 11:30–40)
- Tortured a man as part of a bet with Satan (the whole book of Job)
For now, I want to focus on that first one: killing, cursing, and possibly torturing his children for eternity.
What was the fundamental sin of humanity? Knowledge.
Specifically, gaining knowledge by eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
This means that, in perhaps his first “red-flag” moment, God chose to kill and curse Adam and Eve — and all of their descendants — for breaking a rule when they literally couldn’t know any better, for they lacked knowledge.
Yes, God told them, “Don’t do that.” But the thing is, they were like children, with no knowledge of right and wrong, so they couldn’t have made the right choice even if they wanted to, because they didn’t have all the information, and they lived in a world where death didn’t yet exist.
And what do we do with children in a world full of dangers they don’t understand? We protect them with playpens, outlet covers, and even leashes. These safeguards prevent our toddlers from killing themselves because they don’t yet possess knowledge about what’s at stake.
So let’s examine God’s performance as an Omnipotent Father:
- If Adam and Eve sin, God has to (or gets to?) kill, curse, and torture them forever
- God creates the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and decides that eating its fruit is sinful
- God can place the tree anywhere, but he places it in the middle of the garden where it tempts his ignorant children
- God tells his children not to eat the fruit, but doesn’t tell them he will curse them and torture forever them if they do
- When they eat the fruit, he curses them with death, work, and childbirth, along with an eternity of torture in Hell
If a parent tested and punished their children this way in modern society, they’d go to jail, or, depending how many of their own kids they tortured and murdered, they might get the death penalty.
Oh wait, God did get the death penalty, right?
“I’m So Mad At You, I’m Gonna Kill Myself” — God
Enter the Messiah.
We’ve established now that God either can’t or won’t protect us from ourselves and that he has a massive appetite for psychopathic violence.
But, apparently, after a few thousand years, God felt bad for his children. He decided to come up with a way to save them from himself.
Since controlling his rage and reigning in his bad behavior apparently wasn’t an option, he decided to indulge his bloodthirsty nature by manifesting in flesh, living a perfect life, arranging for his own brutal execution and a brief visit to Hell, then rising from the grave and returning to his throne in the sky.
According to Biblical logic, the innocent blood of Jesus was enough to cool God’s rage, but only against people who say, “Thank you, God, for killing yourself in a psychotic rage instead of me, and then inviting me to spend eternity singing praises to you in your house where I won’t be able to leave.”
Maybe it’s just me, but when I added it all up, God started to sound like a narcissistic psychopath. I wondered if maybe his depiction in the Bible was a reflection of us, not the other way around.
I decided that, if God was rational and good, and if he made us in his image as his beloved children, then he probably wasn’t planning to torture anyone for all eternity.
On the flip side, if he truly was a sadistic narcissist, I decided, perhaps foolishly, that I’d refuse to beg for mercy from a cruel cosmic bully, even if Hell was the consequence.
Okay, So Who Made All This Stuff?
Between the above two scenarios, you might notice something — I never discounted God entirely. I likely never will.
For me, the question is more about whether God is personally, actively involved in the world, or if he is the world. I subscribe to the latter thought.
Over time, I’ve come to see God as comparable to an author, or even a video game designer.
I’ll need you to suspend some disbelief here.
For a moment, imagine that, when Tolkien wrote The Lord Of The Rings, he created not just a story, but a universe parallel to our own.
Imagine that, in that universe, everything Tolkien wrote was true, including who did what, when, and how they felt about it. Imagine that these characters took on lives, thoughts, and feelings of their own.
In this new universe, where people would be born and eventually die, what would happen to their “souls” once they finished playing their part in the story?
This is where it gets really weird. Many authors talk about how, sometimes, a story “takes on a life of its own” and characters seem to “write themselves.”
Of course, the author is sovereign over the whole story. Yet, at the same time, the author is discovering the story.
To me, this is similar to the tension between free will and predestination that we experience in our lives.
Perhaps our world is a story being simultaneously written by a divine author and also by us, the characters, in order to give both us and the author purpose — similar to how a novelist may feel his “purpose” is to write.
Perhaps we are all creators, created in the image of a creator, carrying a bit of that divine, creative spark that perpetuates new levels of creation for eternity in a succession of “Big Bangs” which occur inside our imaginations.
This is how I envision God — an entity that exists outside of our universe while at the same time permeating every part of it. A directing force that lives inside us, yet we will never meet.
This, in some ways, parallels the Stoic concept of the Logos. In Greek, “Logos” means “word” or “speech.” To the Stoics, the Logos is the divine, organizing rationality that governs the universe. In another word: God.
So why’s all this matter?
I’ve come to believe that God exists, but that he is not involved in the present world, because he has already completed his work.
For that reason, while I still believe in God, I’ve come to reject essential Christian doctrines like the total depravity of man, a personal God, Hell, and the Gospel.
That means two things:
- I can no longer blame Satan (or “total depravity”) for the shitty things I’ve done
- I can no longer rely on Jesus to fix me
You’re Already Dead (Now Act Like It)
Now, we’ll turn to Marcus Aurelius, who wrote in his meditations something that massively impacted my thinking:
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.” — Marcus Aurelius
The Stoics believed that there was nothing more fulfilling than overcoming the darker parts of your nature and serving the people around you.
To that end, they placed great value on courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom. In short, “virtue.”
They didn’t preoccupy themselves with an afterlife or reincarnation. They believed that humans had one short life, one brief opportunity to live joyfully among other humans and not be an asshole.
They also believed that the amount of joy and suffering we experience is completely within our control, and so is our virtue.
Sure, we can’t control every trial or temptation that crosses our path, but we can control how we react to it and whether we allow it to shipwreck our joy or lead us into selfish behavior.
This doctrine of inner strength contrasted sharply with common Christian doctrines claiming that people are inherently weak and evil.
The more I read, the more I felt a call to action. For years, I’d been driving with my eyes closed, begging Jesus to “take the wheel” and fix my life, when really, my joy and behavior were 100% up to me.
I realized that God doesn’t rescue his children from trials or temptation because he has already given them the means to rescue themselves:
“God has entrusted me with myself. No man is free who is not master of himself. A man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things. The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.” — Epictetus
So What Now?
As a Christian, it was easy to be passive. “Lord, I’m too weak to be a good person. Thank you for saving me.”
As a Stoic, my actions are up to me. “Yesterday, I chose to be a colossal asshole. Now, I’m faced with the same choice. Who will I be today?”
I can be tossed about by the winds of fate, kicking and screaming, or I can be the rock that gets pummeled by wind and water, yet remains in its place.
“To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it.” — Marcus Aurelius
I can demand respect from others, complain about misfortune, and work nefariously towards my own selfish gain, or I can live quietly and work honestly, reaping reward only for what I’ve earned.
“I learned endurance of labour, and to want little, and to work with my own hands, and not to meddle with other people’s affairs, and not to be ready to listen to slander.” — Marcus Aurelius
I can hide from hardship and lament the things I lack, or I can embrace trouble with grace and maintain a spirit of gratitude no matter what I experience.
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” ― Epictetus
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” — Seneca
To that end, I will continue to pour my energy into Roses From Bones. I hope to nurture it into a thriving community of people seeking a second chance in life who are ready to grow together from the remains of their former selves, like roses from bones.
Live On Purpose // Die Without Regrets
Hey, I’m Chris. I’m a writer, musician, and philosopher. My “life’s work” is to create content that helps people live on purpose and die without regrets.
Each Wednesday, I send a 3–4 minute newsletter that applies the wisdom of the past to modern life.
I draw these weekly lessons from ancient philosophies like Stoicism, Taoism, and Zen, along with examples from the lives of great women and men who lived and died long ago.
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