Jonathan Edwards, the former Olympic champion, who still holds the triple jump world record, recently confessed he does not believe in God any more. In 2010, he told Sky News: “I think I was probably quite narrow-minded and fundamentalist in my views and a bit of a scary person. I believed that what I believed was the truth. Some of those extremes I feel slightly embarrassed about now, but overall no regrets.”
As a former fundamentalist Christian myself I can identify with these remarks. I was converted to Christianity from Sikhism in the late 80s. For two decades I travelled and preached at various events and on Christian TV and radio. I also pastored a church for ten years. For seven years, I organised an annual three day Church workers’ and leaders’ conference in Kerala, South India attended by hundreds. Around the year 2000 I chose not to refer to myself as a Christian except for clarity in certain circumstances. I was increasingly becoming disillusioned with the extreme form of Christianity in which I had been involved.
It was at Antioch that “The disciples were for the first time called Christians.” (Acts II: 26). In antiquity, the Antiochians had an unenviable propensity for coining scurrilous nicknames. The name ‘Christians’ seems to have been a sarcastic nickname with which the followers of Christ were branded by the mocking citizens of Antioch. It is feasible that they mistook the Greek word Christos, (whose Hebraic meaning was ‘the anointed one’, a word which would not be generally known to them) with the more familiar Greek word chréstos, which at that time was pronounced exactly as Christos. The word chréstos meant ‘good, mild, kindly’ but often it was used mockingly, meaning ‘simple’ or ‘silly’, rather like the phrase, ‘goody-two-shoes’. The word most probably carried this derogatory, sarcastic sense to many Antiochians.
I Was Arrogant
Since my de-conversion I have reflected on my past attitude and beliefs and find them quite arrogant. I was also simplistic in my understanding and ignorant – subconsciously choosing to ignore niggling doubts and questions. This is what I find with most Christians I meet — they are simpletons. Even the Bible admits many early Christians were uninformed. “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” (I Cor 1:26).
There were certain subjects that led to my drifting over a period of twelve years:
- The realisation that the idea of Hell being a never-ending punishment was not in the Bible was a real eye opener.
- I came to learn that the Gospels were not historical accounts, though they contain some historical facts.
- The biggest blow was to learn that the Biblical character, Jesus, was more of a myth created from Jewish scriptures and paganism.
Today I spend my time assisting people who are in fundamentalism and seeking a way out. This includes Hindu, Muslim and Christian fundamentalists, though I focus on Christian fundamentalists. They should endeavour to better understand their scriptures by viewing them through rational lenses. I prefer to encourage a new version of Christianity rather than fight to eradicate religion. What you fight you ignite. Arrogance solidifies and reinforces their beliefs and so I take a more understanding approach. I prefer mind transformation through education rather than enforced behaviour modification. “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” — Albert Einstein.
The information age is bringing a massive change that is filtering through to the broader Christian community. I am seeing the emergence of a new type of Christianity that is more inclusive. It may take some decades to become a majority view but I am convinced it will.