Matt Slick’s Daughter Rachael Shares Her Story

By Rachael Slick, via The Friendly Atheist | Thanks to TriteStatic for finding this!

I was born in 1992. My parents named me Rachael, after the biblical wife Jacob loved.

Rachael (right) with her parents
Rachael (right) with her parents

One of my earliest memories is of my dad’s gigantic old Bible. Its pages were falling out, its margins were scrawled over with notes, and the leather cover was unraveled in places from being so worn out. 
Every night, after we stacked up the dishes after our family dinner, he would bring it down and read a passage. I always requested something from the Book of Revelation or Genesis, because that’s where most of the interesting stories happened. After he was done, he’d close the Bible with a big WHUMP and turn to me.

“Now Rachael,” he would ask, “What is the hypostatic union?” 
and I would pipe back,“The two natures of Jesus!”

“What is pneumatology?”  The study of the holy spirit!

“What is the communicatio idiomatum?”The communication of the properties in which the attributes of the two natures are ascribed to the single person!

Occasionally he would go to speak at churches about the value of apologetics and, the times I went along, he would call on me from the crowd and have me recite the answers to questions about theology. After I sat down, he would say, “My daughter knows more about theology than you do! You are not doing your jobs as Christians to stay educated and sharp in the faith.”

Conversation with him was a daily challenge. He would frequently make blatantly false statements — such as “purple dogs exist” — and force me to disprove him through debate. He would respond to things I said demanding technical accuracy, so that I had to narrow my definitions and my terms to give him the correct response. It was mind-twisting, but it encouraged extreme clarity of thought, critical thinking, and concise use of language. I remember all this beginning around the age of five.


Rachael receives an award from Awana for being the most ‘godly’ student. She would later complete the Awana course, memorizing over 800 Bible verses along the way.

I have two sisters, three and seven years younger than myself, and we were all homeschooled in a highly strict, regulated environment. Our A Beka schoolbooks taught the danger of evolution. Our friends were “good influences” on us, fellow homeschoolers whose mothers thought much alike. Obedience was paramount — if we did not respond immediately to being called, we were spanked ten to fifteen times with a strip of leather cut from the stuff they used to make shoe soles. Bad attitudes, lying, or slow obedience usually warranted the same — the slogan was “All the way, right away, and with a happy spirit.” We were extremely well-behaved children, and my dad would sometimes show us off to people he met in public by issuing commands that we automatically rushed to obey. The training was not just external; God commanded that our feelings and thoughts be pure, and this resulted in high self-discipline.


Rachael (bottom row, second from right) and her fellow homeschooled friends know to obey!

I recently came across this entry in a workbook I wrote when I was nine:

I’m hopeless.

Oh boy. I’ve got a lot to work on. I try to be obedient but it’s so hard! The more I read, the more I realize how bad I am! My problem is that when things don’t make sense to me, I don’t like them. When Dad gets mad at me for something, everything makes perfect sense to me in my mind, so I tend to resent my parents’ correction.

I have just realized that I yearn to please the lord, but why can’t I? I just can’t be good! It seems impossible. Why can’t I be perfect?

At this point, my dad was working at a tech job during the day and working in his office, writing and researching, at night. He developed a huge collection of books, with bookshelves that spanned the wall, full of Bibles and notebooks filled with theology. This was the early stages of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.

It became a sort of game to watch him go “Mormon hunting”; if he saw them on the sidewalk, he’d pull up in the car to engage them in debate. After the Mormons visited our apartment a few times, they blacklisted us, and none of them ever visited us again. My dad was always very congenial to those he debated, and most viewed him as charismatic — though his debate tactics were ruthless and often more focused on efficiency than relationship-building.

We moved to Idaho when I was 12. My dad worked at Hewlett-Packard for a while but eventually made the big decision to make CARM his full-time career.

It was around this time my dad began receiving death threats — though I didn’t find this out until later. Someone was sending him graphic pictures, descriptive threats of rape against his family, and Google images of locations near our house. He got the FBI involved. They eventually determined it was someone from across the globe and likely posed no risk to us. My parents installed a home security system after that, but it only reinforced the “us vs. them” mentality he already held. My dad spoke frequently about the people “out to destroy him” and how his “enemies” were determined to obscure and twist the truth.

I wasn’t privy to a great deal of what went on behind the scenes at CARM — likely because I too young to fully understand it. A few times a year there would usually be an “event” that would capture most of his ire. For a while, it was the Universalists who were destroying his forums. Another time, it would be his arch-nemeses in the field of women in ministry or “troublemaking” atheists. Beyond these things, I knew little, except that I was immensely proud of my dad, who was smart, confident, and knew the Truth more than anybody else. I aspired to be like him — I would be a missionary, or an apologist! (Though not a pastor; I was a woman and thus unqualified for that field.) God was shaping my destiny.

As my knowledge of Christianity grew, so did my questions — many of them the “classic” kind. If God was all-powerful and all-knowing, why did He create a race He knew was destined for Hell? How did evil exist if all of Creation was sustained by the mind of God? Why didn’t I feel His presence when I prayed?

Having a dad highly schooled in Christian apologetics meant that every question I brought up was explained away confidently and thoroughly. Many times, after our nightly Bible study, we would sit at the table after my Mom and sisters had left and debate, discuss, and dissect the theological questions I had. No stone was left unturned, and all my uncertainty was neatly packaged away.

Atheists frequently wonder how an otherwise rational Christian can live and die without seeing the light of science, and I believe the answer to this is usually environment. If every friend, authority figure, and informational source in your life constantly repeat the same ideas, it is difficult not to believe they’re onto something. My world was built of “reasonable” Christians — the ones who thought, who questioned, who knew that what they believed was true. In the face of this strength, my own doubts seemed petty.

There was one belief I held onto strongly, though — the one that eventually led to my undoing. I promised myself “I will never believe in Christianity simply because itfeels right, otherwise I am no better than those in any other religion I debate. I must believe in Christianity because it is the Truth, and if it is ever proven otherwise, I must forsake it no matter how much it hurts.”

Twice, I attended protests. Once, in front of an abortion clinic, and another time, at the Twin Falls Mormon Temple. I went to public high school for a few months, where I brought the Bible and a picture of my parents for a show-and-tell speech of the things we valued most. I befriended Cody, a World of Warcraft nerd, for the sole purpose of telling him he was going to Hell and that he needed to repent. Every time I heard someone swear in the school hallways, I would close my eyes and pray.

I informed my parents that I wanted an arranged marriage because love was a far too emotional and dangerous prospect, and I trusted them to make an informed choice for my future far better than I ever could. My romantic exploits through puberty were negligible.

I ran away from home when I was 17 (due to reasons not pertinent to this post) and went to college the following year. I must have been a nightmare in my philosophy and religion classes, raising my hands at every opportunity and spouting off well-practiced arguments. Despite this, my philosophy professor loved me, and we would often meet after class, talking about my views on God. Even though he tried to direct me away from them, I was insistent about my beliefs: If God didn’t exist, where did morality come from? What about the beginning of the universe? Abiogenesis? There were too many questions left by the absence of God, and I could not believe in something (godlessness, in this case) that left me with so little closure. My certainty was my strength — I knew the answers when others did not.

This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?

Alex had no answer — and I realized I didn’t either. Everyone had always explained this problem away using the principle that Jesus’ sacrifice meant we wouldn’t have to follow those ancient laws. 
But that wasn’t an answer. In fact, by the very nature of the problem, there was no possible answer that would align with Christianity.


I still remember sitting there in my dorm room bunk bed, staring at the cheap plywood desk, and feeling something horrible shift inside me, a vast chasm opening up beneath my identity, and I could only sit there and watch it fall away into darkness. The Bible is not infallible, logic whispered from the depths, and I had no defense against it. If it’s not infallible, you’ve been basing your life’s beliefs on the oral traditions of a Middle Eastern tribe. The Bible lied to you.

Everything I was, everything I knew, the structure of my reality, my society, and my sense of self suddenly crumbled away, and I was left naked.

I was no longer a Christian. That thought was a punch to the gut, a wave of nausea and terror. Who was I, now, when all this had gone away? What did I know? What did I have to cling to? Where was my comfort? 

I didn’t know it, but I was free.

For a long time I couldn’t have sex with my boyfriend (of over a year by this point) without crippling guilt. I had anxiety that I was going to Hell. I felt like I was standing upon glass, and, though I knew it was safe, every time I glanced down I saw death. I had trouble coping with the fact that my entire childhood education now essentially meant nothing — I had been schooled in a sham. I had to start from scratch in entering and learning about this secular world. Uncertainty was not something I was accustomed to feeling. Though I had left Christianity intellectually, my emotional beliefs had yet to catch up.

Eventually I worked up the courage to announce my choice on Facebook — which generated its own share of controversy. I’m fairly certain I broke my mother’s heart. Many people accused me of simply going through a rebellious stage and that I would come around soon. Countless people prayed for me.

I don’t know how my dad reacted to my deconversion; I haven’t spoken to him since I left home.

There was no miracle to cure me of the fear and pain, no God to turn to for comfort. But it did heal. Eventually. I only barely fear Hell now, and my instinct to pray only turns up on rare occasions. For a while now, I’ve been educating myself in science, a world far more uncertain than the one I left, but also far more honest.


Rachael Slick

Someone once asked me if I would trade in my childhood for another, if I had the chance, and my answer was no, not for anything.
 My reason is that, without that childhood, I wouldn’t understand what freedom truly is — freedom from a life centered around obedience and submission, freedom to think anything, freedom from guilt and shame, freedom from the perpetual heavy obligation to keep every thought pure. Nothing I’ve ever encountered in my life has been so breathtakingly beautiful.

Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.

Original article: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/15/the-atheist-daughter-of-a-notable-christian-apologist-shares-her-story/

This entry was posted in Atheism, Christianity, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Matt Slick’s Daughter Rachael Shares Her Story

  1. Bizbird6 says:

    I was once a Christian believer also and NOW I am so glad that no longer believe it.

    I also feels so free now, and so free to think and think deeply.

  2. jr says:

    To Rachel Slick: Good for you! You did what was best for you. Everyday I wish I would have done what you did. My life would be so different if I would have had the strength and ability to believe in myself to be able to leave my abusive home and never look back.. I was so scared to do what you did. I really hope your story helps others. Best wishes.!

  3. bizbird6 says:

    Who killed some 3000 innocent people in NY City in 2001, Believers or Non-believers?

    If these believing Muslim were Atheists or Agnostics, these 3000 or so New York victims would be alive today.

    Religion results in far more harm and evil than good.

    Look at all those religious wars, the Inquisition, burning of heretics, and suicidal bombings where thousands were victims.

    World War 1 and 2 results in the death of Millions and Millions, and yet the main participants of both wars were all Catholics (Italy and Germany), Christians (Germany), and Shintoist (Japan).

    Both the population and leaders of those countries were raised and brought up in Traditional Religion which did nothing to prevent the Wars and the slaughter of Millions.

    Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were all raised as Christians.
    For example, Hitler and Mussolini were raised as Catholics and Stalin was raised a Russian Orthodox (I heard Stalin even wanted to be a priest in his childhood days. Hitler was even a Catholic Altar Boy when he was a Child and was a lifelong Catholic)

    It is not of LACK of belief, but strong BELIEF in religion that causes all this Harm and Evil in the World.
    The FASTEST Growing Religion in the World today is “Non-Belief”, which increased from almost zero over 100 years ago to the third largest Belief in the World (next to Christianity and Islam).
    The prediction is that it will be the largest Belief in the next 100 years or sooner. Don’t be surprised if almost all Traditional Religious Beliefs will be extinct as Greek Mythology by then.

  4. Rob says:

    Rachel, I’ll be honest with you. Your story scares me. Not because you have caused me to doubt my faith in God, but because I too am the father of three girls. We have tried to raise them “in the fear and admonition of the Lord”. I have often wondered about the future of my daughters as they grow up and leave the home. Many times I have heard my girls speak of a spiritual concept that they claim that they had learned from our Pastor, a friend, a song, or a visiting preacher. All too often it is a truth or idea that I had explained to them in the past. I think that we all have a difficult time respecting the wisdom of those with which we live (familiarity breeds contempt). I can’t speak to your specific situation. I was surprised to read your words of your journal entry at nine; “I have just realized that I yearn to please the lord, but why can’t I? I just can’t be good! It seems impossible. Why can’t I be perfect?” The reason that this surprised me is that I have learned more about the ongoing effecatious work of the cross of Christ from your Dad in the last year, than in my entire life combined. I have learned from him that the Christian life is not secured by my perfection, but by that of Jesus Christ’s. I am not sure why I have told this to you. I have no reason to think that you hate your Dad. Maybe I am telling this to you because I would hope that someone would edify my reputation before one of my little girls if we should ever become estranged. Last thought, and you may not like it, but in reading your article I could not help but notice how much you’re thinking patterns and writing skills are very much like that of your Dad. Hmmm. I wish you well.

  5. Paige M says:

    I am not of the mindset “Believers vs. Unbelievers”. What is certain is that when you die you will know the truth. There will be no other answer and as no one has come back from the dead saying there is nothing there, I will hold steadfast to my faith in the one true God. I cannot say that I agree that your journey of theological study and logical thought lead to unbelief and atheism. I have seen theology and truth, scientific study and logic lead only to a deeper belief in the God of the Bible. I have also seen it prove it self through the Old Testament and the New Testament. Nothing that is stated as a sin in the OT is announced as not a sin in the NT. So I was at a loss at that point in her journey. I am sorry that she was paraded as an example of Great Parenting and I am sorry that she was beaten without remorse or grace. I am sorry that she was given a God that was not near to her, but far away judging her and scaring her. I don’t know that God. I know the one true God of the Bible that is full of mercy, grace, peace and love. That his judgments are righteous and true, and any punishment is through the steadfast rebellion of a sinful person, who was called with mercy many times. I am sorry that Rachel never knew this God. And I am sorry that she does not have a God to lean on when she is uncertain. The certain thing is that she will die, and her youth is beautiful on her now but will be gone one day, and withered and decrepit, she will enter into death. And like I said earlier, no one who has come back has said it was empty and void, nothingness of which they were not aware. And science and archaeology bear out my beliefs. I won’t pray for her, it seems there are enough people doing that already. Thanks for sharing your harrowing story. I am sure that it of great benefit to many.

  6. Sean Gerety says:

    Hardly an insurmountable logical problem you faced, but it’s tragic that you were brought up believing you can only please God by your performance (an impossible notion in itself).. I don’t know your Dad or CARM, but it seems to me that your rejection was that of legalism and not Christianity. Last I checked the Gospel isn’t performance based.

  7. Bradford says:

    Rachel,

    As a former ministerial student at Westminster Seminary California (and even acquaintance of your father on Pal Talk), and now a thoughtful, deliberate atheist, it was encouraging to read your delightful essay. There are many others like you (and me) out there. Please remember you aren’t alone.

  8. Carlos says:

    I would like to say this as gently as possible. The Christianity that you grew up with is a sectarian Christianity and is only believed by a small portion of those Who call themselves Christian, and even they Who hold to this form of Christianity don’t agree Among themselves. The One ancient Christianity of the apostolic Church doesn’t believe most of the things you listed, in fact, Eastern Orthodox Christianity is something altogether different. I don’t blame you for rejecting that kind of Christianity; I would point you east go east young lady.

  9. David says:

    Many apologists spend so much time Mormon (and their ilk) bashing that they have ignored and are completely caught off guard by the growing strength of the new atheism. The tactics used to attack Mormons and others are useless against atheists. Better pick your poison.

  10. This article doesn’t give me hope. NOW if Rachel is able to escape death and then can tell us all about her new liberty, than there is something to feel “free” about. http://books.google.com/books?id=2JlHAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+death+bed+of+a+free+thinker&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZaDkUa2jKrLIywG0woCwBA&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA

    • Grant C says:

      Fine illustration of one of the most widespread motivations for religious belief… fear of death + denial. People can’t cope with their mortality so refuse to deal with it at all and pretend they’re magically immortal instead. Now there’s a solid basis for a philosophy to base your entire life on.

  11. agnophilo says:

    I called into matt slick’s show once and he hung up on me. I thought he was kind of a douchebag. Though to be fair he was sick at the time and everyone has bad days. His daughter has more courage than I need to lose faith, not having been made so that my entire life revolved around it.

What you think about this?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s