John Loftus left his faith, but he hasn't stopped preaching.
Loftus, 53, grew up in Fort Wayne, ministered for 14 years in several area churches, including Christ's Church at Georgetown, then started backing out of his religion, one element of its philosophical underpinnings at a time.
Now he's written a book, “Why I Became an Atheist: A Preacher Rejects Christianity,” scheduled for publication this year by Prometheus Books of Buffalo, N.Y. Loftus, who now lives in Angola, is coming back to Fort Wayne to tell a like-minded audience about the “de-conversion” that led him out of faith and into doubt so firm it is conviction.
Loftus could hardly have covered more ground in his de-conversion. He didn't begin as one of the “liberal” Christians who say the Bible is a fabric of symbols and metaphors and disavow literal belief in the book's most scientifically implausible stories.
No, he believed in biblical inerrancy, the doctrine that every word in the Bible is true, even those which can seem contradictory. The decline of his faith - or the ascent of his skepticism - began roughly 20 years ago. He had a debate with a cousin who is a professor of biochemistry, and that debate compelled Loftus to “try to reconcile the age of the universe with the Bible.”
That was the first step. At every turn, he found impediments to belief, beginning with a God who spent billions of years creating the universe, then gave life to Adam and Eve in a flash.
“It becomes unrealistic of him,” Loftus said, referring to God, “to create Adam and Eve through instantaneous fiat.”
First he tried to craft a liberal theology he could live with. Then he became an existential Christian, choosing to believe despite all the evidence that he should not, then a deist, a person who believes in a distant and unresponsive god. Finally, any belief in God at all seemed dishonest to him.
“How could you continue to believe if you didn't believe Jesus was born of a virgin?” he says.
Wednesday night, he'll speak to atheists and agnostics in Fort Wayne who want to hear more about why his skepticism changed him from preacher to atheist. He's speaking at a regular monthly meeting for “freethinkers,” atheists and agnostics. It's something like church for the willfully unchurched.
“It can be a bit isolating in Fort Wayne to be a non-believer when the people you work with are believers, you drive past six churches to work every day and half the cars on the road say ‘In God We Trust,'” said Jeremy Diller, who helped arrange Loftus' presentation. “It can be very refreshing to be able to spend a couple hours every month talking and laughing with people who aren't trying to save your soul and just enjoy your opinions.”