This blog has been dormant for almost seven years. I last blogged on October 8, 2012. I am really not sure why I stopped blogging. As I read back over the last entries in the blog I can see changes were already taking place. One could argue I should just have kept blogging, as these changes are what makes the human journey so interesting. But I don’t think I had the language. The process went too deep, and was too painful, to put it into words.
Seven years is a long time. And so much has happened. I have just turned 50. Joshua, Judah and Joel have all finished high school and are in the process of pursuing higher education, vocational training or career. They are leaving the house one by one. Before too long Sophie and I will be emptynesters.
Both Sophie and I have completely switched our focus. In 2012 I was still Europe Director with CA, a Christian organisation focusing on starting new churches in the citues of Europe. Sophie was still doing catering. Since then I have completely shifted my attention to being a professional photographer (see www.rogierbos.com). I started as a photographer in 2007, but my primary focus was on my work with CA. Sophie has completely shifted her focus and become a Doula (see www.doulasophie.nl). Both of our businesses do rather well and we enjoy being ‘solopreneurs’ a lot!
But the biggest change has to be that in 2015 both of us, independent from each other, came to the conclusion that we had lost our faith in God. This change was huge, because not only were we raised in very Christian families, but together we made a choice to become church planters. I spent four years in school to get a Masters degree and we did a three year internship in California. We then joined an agency called Christian Associates (CA for short *). Over the years we held a number of roles: first as director of Communications, then as pastor of a new church in Rotterdam, and finally as Europe Director (with 120 FTE in 33 projects all across Europe). We also managed a guesthouse during part of that time. We worked with CA until we finally resigned in 2016. If you add everything up, we spent 26 years in what we called ‘church planting’, the process of starting new churches.
We enjoyed our work with CA immensely. We got to work with terrific people and had a great sense of community — as well as adventure and purpose. But underneath the surface there were many uneasy questions. There were questions about life, and purpose, and the universe, and relationships, and the future… Looking back I know these questions started in a class on behavioral sciences while I was at the university of Groningen. I tried to answer them, and refute them, and block them, and push them away, with varying degreees of success. I preached about them, prayed against them, read, studied, cried… Sometimes the questions went away, but eventually they would re-emerge. And as I learned more about the world and theology and philosophy the questions became greater in number, and greater in significance.. Eventually it became really difficult for me to function in my leadership role. In february 2012 I asked for, and was graciously granted a sabbatical. I desperately sought to deal with these questions. But the Sabbatical ony served to make matters worse. And so I came to the summer of 2015, where I finally realized I had lost the battle in my mind: I strongly doubted there was a God at all, but did not believe the Bible was ‘true’, and could not in good conscience call myself a christian anymore. In an effort to sort matters out I engaged in a experiment in which I did not pray for three months, followed by another three months, to see if it made a difference in my life. After 6 months I had to conclude I was feeling less melancholy/depressed, and felt stronger and better equiped to deal with life’s daily challenges. My faith had completely eroded. I learned that this process is called ‘deconversion’: when someone becomes a christian, he ‘converts’ to christianity — when someone then turns away from christianity it is called ‘deconversion’. I finally had to admit: I had deconverted.
I can totally understand this is difficult to read for people who consider themselves christian. I think particularly of our former colleagues, or of people who were in a group we led. You may feel betrayed by our admission that we have lost our faith. Some have expressed disappointment, some have expressed anger — and I understand them both. I am deeply aware that I have changed: I now speak against that which I used to proclaim with great fervour. I question that for which you perhaps still fight.
I am not here because I want to be
I think two things are important to say. First, please know we fought tooth and nail against the loss of our faith. The last place I wanted to end up was to be someone with no faith. I’m not here because it is convenient, or easy, or I get to do what I want, because I want a life without morals…. I am in this place because, as much as I tried to resist it, in the end I had to conclude that the Christian worldview, however you define it, just can’t be true. It doesn’t work! Christianity is probably is best understood as a tradition of human attempts to make sense of the world — but scientific discovery is a better pathway to truth. I am not here because I want to be. I am here because, the more I think (and read and learn) about it, the more I see this is the only thing that makes any sense.
Am I an atheist? I prefer to call myself a
truth-seeker. I think I have always been that — it was the motivation in my
study of theology, and later when I studied Postmodern Thought and Culture. I
seek truth. But as I understand truth now, I doubt very much there is a God at
Some have asked me if I could become a Christian again. The answer is yes — if Christianity turned out to be true after all. But the more I learn about Christianity on the one side (and I am still learning about Christianity), and science on the other side, the less likely I think this will turn out to be the case.
Which leads me to the second thing I want to say. If it is true that Christianity is best understood as a collection of human myths designed to help us make sense of the world in a pre-scientific world, then it is smart for you too, to leave it behind. In fact, I think we are at a place in world history that we can see quite clearly that Christianity is a not a helpful force at all. Not in the world at large, and not in our individual lives. Yes, I am aware there are some Christians who do wonderful things. And yes, you are entitled to your own opinion. But if you have the same questions I did, then I encourage you to keep asking them, and to keep looking for answers. Be a truth seeker also! I am convinced at this point that an honest pursuit of truth will eventualy lead you away from the Christian faith.
It is ironic to me in hindsight that my last post in 2012 was called ‘the invitation’. I posted a photo I had made during a walk in Park Clingendael. The photo featured a park bench. I sat on that bench and prayed to God, asking for him somehow to reach out to me. I was struggling in lots of ways, and desperately wanted to know He was there. In the post I write
I know God invites me to sit with him and to share my heart. And for me to hear his heart. But this image is my invitation to him. It says: I’ve come to this place — will you meet me here?
Now, so many years later, I understand He isn’t there. I sat there, waiting for something I had been led to believe to show up. I was looking outside of myself, when I should have been looking inside. The statement of faith I made in the blog post (‘I know God invites me…’) fills my heart with a sense of pain. I remember the agony of that season, and of that afternoon; the melancholy, the doubt, the anxiety. I wish I had known then what I know now: I have to live this life — I have the resources — I can do this. I can enjoy a beautiful scene as that, for what it is, without having to interpret it in spiritual terms (‘am invitation to meet with God’). it is a beautiful moment, in an amazing universe, to sit for a moment and soak in the beauty; to look inside and then forward. To what lies ahead in this journey.
* They have since changed their name to Communitas.