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Until a few days ago, I’d never heard of Drew Marshall, the host of an Ontario-based radio program that’s advertised as Canada’s most popular Christian talk show. But when I saw an interesting post about him on Facebook (more on that in a minute), I went and looked him up. From reading the bio on his site, I was favorably impressed by his refusal to toe the party line:

I want to apologize to everyone here for the dumb-ass things which I’ve done personally that have just been a complete misrepresentation of how Jesus people are supposed to live AND for the dumb-ass things that Christians have done for centuries, in the name of Religion.

The initial things that naturally come to mind, which I should probably apologize for, are the Crusades or the Salem Witch Hunt or for the countless missionaries and explorers and white folks who raped, robbed, and killed in the name of Christianity.

I am really sorry for all that stuff. I don’t think that’s exactly what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Go into all the world and tell everyone the Good News.”

Of course I’d also like to apologize for some of the so-called Christian leaders of today; like Benny Hinn & Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell & Pat Robertson & the pièce de résistance… George W. Bush.

I’m so sorry for the dumb-ass things that have come out of their mouths… Things like; Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment on New Orleans or that HIV/AIDS is God’s punishment on the gay community… Or that God is a Republican and he fully supports “their” decision to start a war based on weapons of mass distraction. Please understand people, that the Christian right… is neither!

That’s the kind of thing I wish we heard more of. But what pleased me even more was that the post I saw on Facebook was this one from the self-satisfied ignoramus Ray Comfort, bitterly complaining about – wait for it – yet another popular Christian becoming an atheist!

Ater seven seasons as host of Canada’s “most listened to spiritual talk show,” Drew Marshall announced to his listeners that he is no longer convinced there’s a God… The doubting talk show host said that he became a follower of Christ in 1981. But it wasn’t until recently that he verbalized that he wasn’t convinced that God existed, saying “I feel pretty close to walking away from my faith.”

Intrigued, I searched further and found Marshall’s own account of his growing doubts. Although he says he’ll probably never have the courage to use the “A” word to describe himself, it seems clear that he’s drifting in that direction:

All I can say is at this point is that I still consider myself a “Christian” but before I reinvest another 30 years in Jesus I’d just like to know that God is real. I hope there is a God. I’m looking for him. (Wait, should I use a capitol “h” or not?) However, my fear is that if things stay the same as the last 30 years of my spiritual journey, I’ll probably become a reluctant agnostic who still has great respect for the teachings of Christ.

…I’d like a nail hole experience. One of the guys who actually got to hang out with Jesus also had a problem with doubt. (For some of us, it might be less about our circumstances and more about our nature or personality – but if anyone knows the best way to work with our individual idiosyncrasies, you’d think it would be God.) So this guy Thomas said he wouldn’t believe Jesus had risen from the grave and come back to life (therefore being God) until he could put his finger in the nail hole of his crucified hand. THAT’S WHAT I WANT! Passive Revelation/Rumors Of Glory/Pascal’s Wager/Tribal Conditioning has sustained me for years but today my faith is weak. I’m at the point where my soul is crying out for a “super” natural encounter.

For obvious reasons, I think Marshall is going to be disappointed. But it’s interesting to see him openly admit that “rumors” and “tribal conditioning” have sustained his faith for years – something we atheists always say, but that most believers staunchly deny. And it’s even more interesting that his saying this has struck a chord among his listeners, some of whom are in the same place:

After I let the cat of the bag I asked the listeners if they thought I should just go away and process my crisis of faith privately or is this something that could be done on the show, publicly. I was inundated with listeners who were in a similar spiritual condition, asking me to continue.

This is a commentary on religion’s power to stifle honest questioning – that so many of Marshall’s listeners are voicing doubts that they never felt they had permission to express, until someone they looked up to did the same. And the reason so many Christians feel constrained from expressing their doubts can be seen in Comfort’s reaction. As is usual with small, weak-minded men, Comfort is unable to accept that Marshall’s doubts might be genuine, and has to attribute secret, dishonest motives to anyone publicly questioning Christianity and accuse them of never having been a Christian at all:

Spurious converts don’t experience the “power” of the gospel (see Romans 1:16). The message they heard didn’t come to them “in power, in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance.” This is because the cross is the center of the gospel. It is the supreme expression of God’s love to the sinner and there is a good reason it was obscured to them… If we haven’t personally seen the cross, then we haven’t personally experienced the love of God. This is the tragic case of Drew Marshall…

Comfort’s polemical mindset treats doubt as an enemy to be suppressed at all costs, including by attacking the character of anyone who expresses it. This defensive, belligerent reaction is typical of apologists who see faith as nothing more substantive than a marker of tribal membership, a weapon to be wielded against any outsider. It’s Marshall who took his faith more seriously than Comfort ever has or will, and that’s precisely why he’s losing it. As with the other Christian artists and entertainers who’ve deconverted, an honest examination of religious truth claims can only have one result.

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...