Some years ago I read a shocking article that upset me a lot. I was serving as a Fundamentalist Protestant missionary in Hong Kong at the time. Most of my real mission work was in Mainland China, or related to the task of preaching the Christian Gospel to the teeming masses of lost and dying Chinese souls. The article was mainly about the death rate in the country and the problem of disposal of all those bodies. Seven million Chinese corpses a year had to be dealt with in one way or another.
I guess that I had never quite realized how many Chinese were passing into a Christless eternity annually. Seven million souls? Wow, that is the population of a whole country like Switzerland, Honduras, or Israel.
But, I couldn't grasp that without wondering … how many souls a day is that? I grabbed my handy dandy calculator, and it instantly told me that seven million divided by three hundred sixty-five days equals just over twenty thousand per day. I was colossally depressed.
The conflict that this bit of reality caused within my soul and my psyche was quite overwhelming. At first I didn't even know how to react to it. Thinking back now, I can't recall which emotions came first and which followed. But I was angry and disheartened at first. Then I became disillusioned, and finally resigned.
First of all, I was angry at God, whom I still somewhat believed in – at least in theory. All of my Bible-reading at the time was Old Testament fare, when I was coming to the conclusion that the God of the Bible was basically a maniacal monster. I really think I stepped over the line into disbelief at about that time. There was no epiphany by which I woke up with a start and said, “Hey, this whole God thing is just a pile of crap.” No, I eased myself into a new state of consciousness gradually and thoughtfully. My gradual transition from a rejection of the “God who is not there,” to outright hostility and fierce hatred of all things Christian, came on slowly over about a two-year journey of discovery. I opened my mind and was appalled with what I found once the denial was truly over.
My anger was not white-hot right away. I had to kind of grow into that. But the behavior of believers and clergy alike certainly kindled the fire. Disillusionment set in first. All the religious psychobabble that I had so wholeheartedly embraced when I was converted, began to ring hollow and almost mockingly in my ears. “How could I ever have bought any of this?” I asked myself introspectively. How could I have ever worshiped a deity who could casually condemn twenty thousand souls a day to eternal fire and everlasting suffering? And that's just in China, BTW.
I looked around and with true sadness observed that none of the Jesus People around me seemed the least bit aware of or much concerned about the myriad souls daily sliding down the divine garbage chute into the eternal lake of fire. Not only were the happy, comfortable, well-fed pew-sitters oblivious; the clergy, though certainly mindful of this theology of doom, were in a self-imposed denial. And, above all, the missionaries – those appointed to preach to these lost and dying unfortunates – were living lavish lives in the midst of spiritual poverty, allowing months and years to slide by without ever reaching out to those perishing around them. I was one of them and I was ashamed of myself and my fellow ministers. The whole charade came crashing down on me as I saw it all as a sort of divine scam. But, how could it be divinely inspired if the one designated as the creator of this cruel travesty was in fact not real at all? Who invented this horror show?
Well, I didn't really need to think beyond this point. Once I accepted that not only was the “Judeo-Christian” deity named Yahweh, Jehovah, or plain old “God,” nonexistent, but millions of his followers were likewise totally deluded to boot, I had to jump off this ship of fools. And I did. To quote an old hymn, I “launched out into the deep and let the shoreline go.” That was over thirty years ago now, and guess what? I don't regret my decision for a minute.