My previous post was an interview with Sam Devis for his podcast “When Belief Dies.” Sam is an active volunteer on the blog and has an interesting background. I thought it would be interesting to have him write up an explanation of why he does this podcast, where it comes from, and how he personally relates to it. As you can no doubt guess, he is indeed one for whom belief has died.
Here is what he has to say:
Bart has asked me to share a bit of my story in the hope that it casts a useful light on what I post on my blog, and why I started my podcast ‘When Belief Dies’. Essentially, I want to have honest conversations on faith, religion and life.
It kind of seems ironic to me that I am going to do this, as I am not sure I know ‘who I am’ most of the time. I will do my best to tell my story well.
I was raised in a Christian family. I remember, with love, my father reading the children’s Bible to my two brothers and me on most evenings. He explained the Biblical narrative beautifully and with passion. I took that motif with me, throughout most of my school years – my parents’ impact upon my belief was huge. My parent’s opinion on my doubt now carries with it a crippling worry. Rejection from the ones we love is the weapon we fear the most, whether that worry is justified or not.
When I was in my teens, I rebelled against everything. I eventually realised I needed to commit to something and complete something after dropping out of a Nursing university course. So, with guidance from those with the highest value in my life, church and family, I decided to go to Bible college.
I realised from an early age that if I wanted to really engage in this, I needed a mantra, a reason for being. So, I coined the phrase ‘Teaching God’s people His word.’ A reason and purpose for my life. Or so I thought.
I embarked upon my journey, with little thought on a world without faith in a personal God. I went through Bible college and did well. I learnt a lot about myself in regard to academic ability, finding a love of reading and writing (I am highly dyslexic) and starting to work out and get into good shape.
When I left Bible college, I wanted to teach within a Church setting. Not in an entitled way, but rather in a passionate way. I had engaged with the Bible. I had put down some sort of roots and felt ready to encourage God’s people in their faith.
Leaving Bible college, I got married and had to find work. Work which would have to be outside of the Church. I was gutted. The next six years are a bit of a blur. A mixture of working in Technology, having two children. Straight after getting married I ended up having a couple of years battling with ‘purpose’. This resulted in a depression that took me out of work for a whole year.
I then found myself trying to rebuild my life, subsequently having to navigate living in faith and what that means in today’s world. I still suffer from depression but have managed to realise my triggers and know myself well enough now to be able to address them quickly. For me, I find release in things like walking, reading and talking. These really help me to overcome the dark moments – which I doubt will ever fully go away.
Anyway, through all this my church attendance fell and I began to ask a lot of questions. Where is God? I don’t ‘feel’ anything. Why am I here? I can’t see a reason. Are these dark moments planned? I had wanted to die. Have I ruined my marriage? She deserved better. What do I believe? I feel lost – like my ‘purpose’ was ash, and it was falling through my fingers.
You will be pleased to hear that my wife still loves me. She is the one I know will listen to what is going on in my head and pass no judgment. She will want me to engage with her, she will push me, and she will listen to my babbling, in the good and the bad.
My faith, however, got smashed to bits. I returned to church because they were and still ‘are’ in many aspects, my support network. I found myself, a man, wanting to believe in God. Wanting to live out my faith in a Christian setting but feeling like a fraud in every regard.
About this time, I realised once again that I was on the fringe of Christianity. I needed to be in, or else I was going to fall out, and with that my whole world would collapse. I told the Elders of the church I was attending that I felt God had called me to ‘Teach God’s people His word’ – that I felt called to do that. They told me that they saw God’s hand on my life, and they would release me and my family to do that and join a church plant in Halifax, UK. Surely – God would see me offering my everything to Him and make Himself known to me. Surely, I would find God and He would find me.
I remember praying, ‘Don’t leave me in my doubt, walk with me through this and bring me back to you. Restore me as you promised your world you would restore it back to you, throughout your Word’. I felt like a man lost in the wilderness, following a stream, trying to find its source. Surely God would reveal Himself to me. I ended up having a massive disk prolapse in my lower back and found that I was in vast amounts of pain and anger. I wanted answers to suffering. I was and am completely aware that what I was going through then (and still am today) with my back is so minor compared to what some people experience.
I prayed. I sought. I cried. I pleaded. I felt nothing. I began to research human origins, trying to see the source of that stream I felt like I was walking by before. I read an incredible book called ‘Sapiens‘ by Yuval Noah Harari.
My mind was forever changed, as the framework I had seen everything through (the Judeo-Christian framework) broke. I was struck by how raw humanity’s origin is. The question that affected everything came back again. Could I really believe in a personal God like the Christian God? If I don’t, then I am to live ‘outside’ of God. But being completely honest, I wanted to live ‘within’ a God narrative.
But then I realised that I didn’t believe it, even though I wanted to. I couldn’t force belief; forced belief isn’t belief, it’s lying. Sadly, I was weak. You see I realised that if my belief died, my world falls apart. So, I sought comfort in friends, mostly Christian. I read other books, Christian books, trying to ‘even the scales’. Smart people believe in God. My world used to sit within that framework. Surely someone can convince me that it is true again?!?
I dived in, and my home Church began to rebuild me. I stopped listening to the small voice in my head screaming in the background, ‘you don’t believe this.’ Why? Because if I gave in to it, I would lose my friends. My family would be horrified. My support network breaks apart. I am probably going to lose my job. My ‘purpose’ fails. My goals fail. My basis of morality stutters to a question mark without a God. The bottom of my life falls away without the ‘God’ pin holding it all together.
I shut the voice down. I ploughed ahead. My wife, our two children and I moved to Halifax town to join that Church plant I mentioned before. We moved there to support them and show them the love of God. But all I will give them now is ash, and I don’t want to hurt them. What am I? Nothing but a faithless, lost, confused, ‘could have’.
When Belief Dies is my story and journey distilled down. The blog is an honest look at the whole journey, I publish one post each week and have a year and a half up there already. The podcast and YouTube Channel started out as a conversation between a close friend and me around why Christianity no longer makes sense. These days I am talking to people about why they believe or don’t. I’ve spoken to the likes of Alister McGrath, Trent Horn, Matt Dillahunty, Graham Oppy, Justin Brierley, Bart Ehrman (obviously) and many others. I have a lot of conversations lined up as well.
I started When Belief Dies to help those, like me, who find themselves outside of the Christian narrative they called home, alone and confused. But this is a journey, and all are welcome, those of faith and those of none. I hope to see you over there soon 🙂
To see where I am online, use this link: https://linktr.ee/whenbeliefdies