Jon Steingard, the Canadian Christian rock band Hawk Nelson’s lead vocalist, has declared on social media that “I no longer believe in God,” explaining “it didn’t happen overnight.”
“This is not a post I ever thought that I would write, but now I feel like I really need to,” Steingard wrote on Instagram. “I’ve agonized over whether to say this publicly, and if so, how to do it, but I now feel that it’s less important how I do it, and more important that I do it.”
He continued, “After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor’s kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word ‘Christian’ in front of most of the things in my life — I am now finding that I no longer believe in God.”
The musician added that it was hard for him to write that he no longer believes in God. “I still find myself wanting to soften that statement by wording it differently or less specifically — but it wouldn’t be as true,” he wrote.
Steingard explained that “the process of getting to that sentence has been several years in the making.”
He wrote, “It didn’t happen overnight or all of a sudden. It’s been more like pulling on the thread of a sweater, and one day discovering that there was no more sweater left.”
Steingard said he had been “terrified to be honest about this publicly for quite some time, because of all that I thought I would lose.”
He added that he is still scared, “but I’m writing about this now for a few reasons.”
“Firstly,” he wrote, “I simply can no longer avoid it. Processing this quietly felt right when I simply had doubts, but once they solidified into a genuine point of view, it began to feel dishonest not to talk about it.”
He noted that in his conversations with his friends who also grew up in the church, many also share the same doubts. “I am stunned by the number of people in visible positions within Christian circles that feel the same way as I do. Like me, they fear losing everything if they’re open about it.”
Church wasn’t something he went to once a week growing up. It was his and his family’s life, he said. As everyone around him believed in God, he did too. He recalled some uncomfortable church moments such as praying in public and emotional cries for the Holy Spirit at youth events.
The list of things that didn't make sense to him kept growing throughout the years, he noted, including the commonly posed question: "If God is all loving, and all powerful, why is there evil in the world? Can he not do anything about it? Does he choose not to?"
He also struggled with: "Why does he (God) say not to kill, but then instruct Israel to turn around and kill men women and children to take the promised land?" and "Why does Jesus have to die for our sins (more killing again)?"
The artist came to the conclusion that the Bible can't be trusted because he felt in the end it is "human, flawed and imperfect."
While he feels some loss in walking away from the faith, he also feels freedom. He admitted that he and his wife didn't enjoy going to church, reading the Bible, praying or worshipping. "It all felt like obligation." He realizes it was because they simply didn't believe.
Steingard told his followers that he wants his statement to be the beginning of the conversation and not the end. “I want to be transparent with you all — and also open to having my heart changed in the future. I am not looking for a debate at all — just a chance to share my story in the hopes some good can come from it. I love you all.”
He said he's still "open to the idea that God is there."
A follower commented on the post, saying she had enjoyed the band for many years and “I admire your honesty.”
She added: “Sometimes the best way to heal wounds like these comes from taking a step back. I resonate with a lot of what you said about Christian culture, I am a believer and I know God is not far even now. I will continue to follow your journey. I will pray that God reveals himself in an undeniable way. Keep pressing on.”
On Hawk Nelson’s Facebook page, band member Daniel Biro responded to Steingard’s post.
“Forever grateful for these brothers of mine. We’ve been through some highs and lows together and we share a very special bond that can’t be broken,” Biro wrote. “There are many seasons to a band, as Hawk Nelson has experienced. But one thing that isn’t seasonal is our support for one another on or off the road touring. God has a unique path for each of us and it’s important that we stay honest with one another. Looking forward to seeing how each of us continues to G R O W .”
In 2015, talking about the song “Live Like You’re Loved” from Hawk Nelson’s album Diamonds, Steingard told The Christian Post that it was “inspired by growing up and learning the dos and don’ts of Christianity and how to be a good Christian.”
“All those are good, but I missed the part of the dos and don’ts [that] are coming from a place of where this is what the Bible says is good for you,” he added. “But we get confused, because we learn this is how we please God and earn relationship with Him. I just had an epiphany ... all this running around and trying to do everything exactly right, these are not the things that bring us closer to God. Our relationship with God is already secured with what was done on the cross. What if we went into life with confidence of knowing we are already loved? So that’s what this song is all about.”
Lyrics to “Live Like You’re Loved” include: “So go ahead and live like you’re loved, it’s OK to act like you’ve been set free / His love has made you more than enough so go ahead and be who he made you to be / And live like you’re loved.”