One Man's Path From British Israelism to Agnostic Deism

I love getting emails from people. The other day a man called "The Letter D" sent me his story of his slow deconversion process from something called Armstrongism or British Israelism to basically agnostic deism of sorts (see below for the full description). I asked TLD if I could share it with you, along with my thoughts, and he readily agreed and even sent links to the places that helped enlighten him, as well as some additional thoughts and clarifications.

Without further ado, here is The Letter D's story in his own words:
I was born and raised a christian. In my childhood days I thought of god as "that bearded guy who lives in the clouds" and Satan as "the red guy with a pitch fork living in a fiery underworld". Nothing more complicated beyond that. Church consisted of a few verses read, several songs to sing, and in general hanging out. Nothing beyond that.

Dad became bored with the church and started reading the bible on his own and with several "companion" books. He became, to quote my mom, "jewish" since he started following closely what the bible said. He gave up Easter entirely and celebrated Christmas only in a secular way. He adopted Passover and gave up eating most pork products (he made exceptions for bacon and sometimes sausage).

I began to read the same books. It was difficult at first. After studying Shakespearean english I could at least finally understand most of what the bible said. The "companion" books used select verses from the bible to support their claims. the time...believed the nonsense that they uttered. I still feel like a gullible twit for what I believed at the time... They taught what I found out later to be British-Israelism. They taught that the human races were decended from Noah's 3 sons (Ham-black/dark skinned, Japheth-east asian/native american/polynesian, Shem-white/tan skinned). That America and Britain were God's chosen nations due to their ancestry with Manaseh and Ephraim and that Germany was decended from Assyria and other nonsense like that. {shudders}

I discovered that besides me and my dad that several of our relatives also believed in similiar. We more or less believed the world was evil. We believed that all events that occured were predicted by the bible. One day dad's beliefs changed a little. He read a pamphlet that talked about cults and mind control. I gave it little heed at the time. He became a little more liberal. More open to Christmas (although he still ignores Easter). I still ignored those holidays though. I considered them pagan traditions unworthy to be celebrated. I looked upon other people outside of christianity (and even some other christians) as misguided and felt that homosexuals/bisexuals were to be pitied.

Some years later I read that pamphlet. Many of the "companion" books were written by people who were listed in the pamphlet. The pamphlet told about the sordid histories of those authors, the lies they tell, the corruption within their churches (while dad and I believed what they did, we were never members of their churches). I didn't believe it at first. But with research done on the net* it confirmed what was said in the pamphlet.

I was devastated to learn of this. That I was fooled into believing their version of the bible. My gloom didn't last long however and I was deeply reading the bible on my own. I didn't read all of it. But some of the parts I came upon were deeply disturbing. I told myself "God knows what he is doing. If he kills he has a reason for it", but deep down I knew it was wrong.

During this time I met a very uncanny youth pastor. Large and living life, he played violent video games, told vulgar stories and jokes, watched wrestling whilst eating giant pizzas, spoke like a sailor, supported homosexual/bisexual weddings, loved Harry Potter, bad mouthed conservative pastors, etc. In other words my kind of guy! I spent much time with him before he moved away. He was always fun to be around and he showed me a new view that challenged my old conservatice view further.

A year or so after he moved I was still in conflict over the bible's killings. At this time heard about bible contradictions. I decided to look them up* for shits and giggles sake. What I read astounded me. Verses that were as different as night and day. I brought out my own bible and confirmed them for myself. I was devastated. I read about its history with numerous revisions and how it was composed together to unite the people under Rome's control. I read about how a delegation decided what books made it and what ones didn't. The irony of it all was that the head of the delegation was a pagan!

My faith was shattered. I looked at many other religions and found similiar cases such as in Islam therein the Quran was written after Muhammoud's death and could easily be rewritten. Afterward I spent many days in thought. "If there is no god then why do I exist? Why do I think? What more is there?" These are questions that were in my mind.

Present Day- My faith would be considered strange. What I believe so far is that something ultimately started it all. What that something is I don't know. I like to believe it is a hybrid of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Azathoth/Yog Sothoth. A hybrid of Deism, Pastafarianism, Lovecraftism, and Agnosticism. At least that is how it is right now, at least that is what makes most sense to me right now. I personally do not believe in spontaneous existence.

Been wanting to get that off of my chest for awhile. Tell me what your thoughts are. Please tell me your own story. I'm curious to hear it. Why I'm telling you this is because

  1. I'm not sure how/if to tell my family
  2. you seem relatable. 
Anyway I can't wait to hear from you and I'm preparing my list for Christmas...Hell with that name! Saturnalia is better! Decorate that tree and chug that eggnog!
Here are the links The Letter D found that enlightened him about errors and contradictions in the bible:
I said the following:
A few thoughts that came to mind:

1. you accepted new information even though it shook the very foundations of your worldview! This is awesome!
So don't feel too bad that you believed the nonsense at first. These things are done in such a way as to be very palatable and easily digested. They make common sense, so if we don't know how to think critically, it's very easy to just accept it. I sure did when I was young.

2. I love how your dad cherry-picked the bible so that he could rationalize eating bacon and sometimes sausage. That's what everyone does, even the literalists! It's just a classic example of how ridiculous the bible is, and how we either have to use cognitive dissonance to hold many contradictory thoughts and beliefs, or we have to dismiss it as the rantings of angry, ancient desert goat-herders.

3. It's amazing what triggers the start of a new path. For you it was a pamphlet. For me it was a movie. I've written up my story here, if you would like to read it.

Your current belief system is just "divine"! :P I understand the reluctance to let go of the idea of spontaneous creation. Apparently, Stephen Hawking talks about this in his latest book, The Grand Design. While I find physics to be a bit over my head these days, I see it this way:

1. If there was a creator who started it all, where did the creator come from and who created it? It's an infinite regress that leads nowhere (also called First Cause).
2. If a creator started it all then wandered off and left everything to their own devices (deism), then that creator is completely irrelevant. Basically it doesn't matter and does not deserve our attention.
2a. If there was a creator who left us alone after it created the universe, it's just another way to say, "God did it because I can't understand how it could have happened any other way". We've answered SO many questions regarding the machinations and wonders of the universe, closing the gaps that God fit in more and more. So there are two logical fallacies here: the God of the Gaps argument, and Argument from Ignorance. (both understandable for something as huge as the "creation" of the universe, but still fallacies)
3. I accept Hawking's expertise in this field (and others as well, of course. We don't want to commit the Appeal to Authority! :P ) and he says that the universe is perfectly capable of coming from nothing without a creator. This is way beyond anything I will ever be able to learn on my own, so I have to accept the consensus in the field. Of course I am open to new information, as are the scientists. But this is where the experts stand now. There is nothing to say that the universe didn't spontaneously begin.
3a. Of course we can always learn new things and science is working diligently to do just that. We can keep closing those gaps (and push God out of them like we have a myriad of times throughout history). But so far, in all of science, there has NEVER been any solid evidence for ANYTHING supernatural. EVER. So far everything we know about the entire universe is completely natural.
Regarding the beginning of the Universe, TLD replied to what I said above: "That's why I used the term something. What that something is I don't know. All I know it's something."

And my further question is, "But why?" Why does it have to be a 'something' that started it all? Where is the evidence for this something? What is the current scientific consensus for such a something? If there is no evidence then it's just a belief, based on wishful thinking and faith.

Then again, the process of deconversion can take a long time. I studied for about 3 years before realizing all religions were man-made. And even then it took several more years to give up the belief in a benevolent cosmic creator who was watching over me. And then even a few more years to learn how to actually think critically and skeptically!

The Universe as it really is isn't really a warm, fuzzy hug. It's cold, mostly lethal to humans, there is no justice or fairness, no evil or good. Just cold, hard reality.

The thing is, the Cosmos gets to know itself through us, our consciousness. And with how our brains have evolved, we have created our own purpose, our own justice and fairness. We  can feel deep love, compassion and passion. It's a wonderful thing.

So if there is no "something" that started it all, does it matter? Does it change anything to accept that the Universe could have started without a creator, from nothing? Does it make us any less than what we are, or the Universe less fantastic and amazing? Or does realizing that it all just sort of happened, and we'll probably never fully know the details - especially what happened before the Big Bang - make it astoundingly thrilling?

The Letter D asked that I also add the following:
The fear of god's anger/hell is similiar to life in a cage. You fear the world outside of the cage, believing it to be Satan's domain. Thoughts of freedom occur but you quickly suppress them.

The cage door is open but you dare not set one toe out, but the temptation is there. You tell yourself that god's way is the only way to heaven. After all, he does feed and provide for you, even if you don't see him. Days go by. You eat the word of god like it's food but it's tasteless and of questionable hygiene. The things for you to do in the cage bore you.

One day you set a toe outside of the cage and quickly pull it back in. You await for a punishment of disease, pain, and misfortune. It never comes. Days later you casually set your whole foot out then quickly pull it back in. You're on the lookout for the divine punishment. A week passes and nothing occurs. You then carefully step 3/4ths out of the cage and then pull back. Instead of waiting you step out entirely for a few seconds and then dart back in.

Surely death will come upon you. You wait a day or so. Nothing. You look out and see the other birds flying around. You hop out of the cage and truely stretch your wings. After a few clumsy attempts you are able to fly. After awhile you go back into the cage. You go out everyday and fly around more and more. Punishment never comes. Thus one day you fly away to build your own nest. No more drab cage. What was once your "safety home" never crosses your mind again.
Well said! I remember when I spoke the words to my husband Butch, "All religions are man-made. I guess I'm an atheist!" I inwardly cringed and held my breath, waiting to be struck by lightning. Literally. Of course nothing happened and I laughed at myself, but the fear of burning for all eternity in a lake of fire and brimstone is pretty strong, especially when you've been brainwashed with those messages and images throughout early childhood.

So, should The Letter D come out of the proverbial closet and tell his family that he's changed his beliefs about the faith he grew up with? We each have to make this decision regarding individual family members.

Since his dad has changed his beliefs from reading the pamphlet, it shows a certain openness to change. I think I'd feel him out and maybe share some ideas and information with him. That's how I'd start.

Sometimes it's worth it to be authentic and to fully be yourself with your family and friends. But we are all different. Some of us would rather keep the peace and keep religion out of the conversation. It's what is comfortable to you.

For instance, I am quite open that I'm a godless heathen to most people. But there are a few family members who I feel would be argumentative, not to mention it would seriously strain our relationship if it came up. So while I don't "hide my light under a bushel", I just avoid the topic. This is especially the case with extended in-laws. I don't think it's helpful to be Out and Proud with them. It's not worth it to aggravate everyone to achieve nothing but tension and strife within the family. But I only see these people for holidays.

For close family, I am open but courteous. I don't bring it up or throw it in people's faces, especially if they're religious, but I also don't hide it.

So you can have different approaches for different people in your family. I'd suggest dealing with each person individually. Feel them out. You might be surprised. I was when I said something to my stepmother. She replied, "You might be surprised how much we think alike on this issue." Wow! So you never know!


  1. "Coming out"(a curiously apt descriptive term) is always about "others", never about self. I suspect this is also true for Gays. Unfortunately, belief is always about others, inasmuch as our religious upbringigng convinces us that we must toe the line or be subject to expulsion or exclusion from our family/tribe/religious group/nation. Since believers cannot achieve affirmation of their beliefs (at least on this side of death) except by associating with/convincing others that they have it right, any deviation from Scripture/canon/customs will be threatening to the rest of the group.

  2. Hmm, I'm not sure I understand how belief is always about others. That doesn't make any sense. Belief is internal, then manifested in word, thought and deed.
    Although I do agree that anyone who is not in the in-group of a certain person is threatening, especially since belief has nothing to do with reason.

  3. Read Darwin's Autobiography by his granddaughter Nora Barlow with all the left-out parts reinserted. You can find it at the library or online from Powells or Barnes and Noble online fairly cheaply.

    I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.

    - Charles Darwin

    If you are truly interested in a good book that will pique your imagination and teach you about life's beginnings, it's a good start.

    If you like it, then read anything (or everything) by E.O. Wilson.

    Blind faith, no matter how passionately expressed, will not suffice. Science for its part will test relentlessly every assumption about the human condition.

    - E. O. Wilson

    And if you want to read one of the most erudite writers about evolution, read Richard Dawkins. He rocks.

    Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.

    - Richard Dawkins

    For the first half of geological time our ancestors were bacteria. Most creatures still are bacteria, and each one of our trillions of cells is a colony of bacteria.

    - Richard Dawkins

    I can see you enjoy learning. Bet you'll enjoy these authors.

    Good reading!

  4. Excellent, Suzan. Thanks! You picked some fantastic authors regarding evolution.

    The Letter D didn't mention if he believes in evolution, though. He seemed concerned with the Big Bang and the beginning of the universe.

    Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking would address this topic specifically.

    1. I very much believe in evolution. Used to think of it as impossible but that changed when I read a book. It was a fictional novel but very well written. It is The Lost World: Jurassic Park (VERY different from the movie). Evolution was explained very well in the novel. Later I read Darwin's Origin of Species & Dawkins's The Greatest Show on Earth. It was esp. after reading Dawkins's book that I became convinced of evolution.