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How A Christian Missionary Lost His Faith while Living in The Amazon

April 25, 2009

Daniel L. Everett, a missionary and linguist, first stepped into the Amazonian jungle in 1977 to learn the language of the Pirahas – a hunter-gatherer tribe native to the Amazon. His intention was not only to learn the language of this remote tribe but also to translate the bible in their language and bring them to Jesus. What happened in the decades that followed was surprising. Living with the Pirahas – who do not have a word for god or religion – Everett learnt that one does not need belief in the supernatural to be happy. That people do not need to be “saved” by Jesus to live a life of contentment. These observations led Everett to question his beliefs critically and ultimately led him to reject his faith.

Everett recounted his experiences in his book “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle ” (which I have added to my reading list). Following is a short account of his fascinating experience. 



Part 1 (viewing time – 10:00 mins)


Part 2 (viewing time – 3:55 mins)


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19 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2009 10:54 pm

    Now this was too good. The “real intelligent” people who made Jesus,Krishna, Khuda and all other GOD’s never realized that they have missed some places and this is one of such places.

  2. April 26, 2009 5:20 pm

    I thought it was a pretty good story!

  3. April 28, 2009 3:13 pm

    While the story is undoubtedly fascinating, it is also interesting to note that it took a remote village at the edge of civilization to make Everett question his faith.

    I don’t mean to disparage him – but I have always felt that all it takes for a person to foreswear his/her faith is a good reading of its scripture (in this case – The Bible).

    Similarly the strongest argument against Islam is the Koran and its genocidal content.

    The same is the case with Hinduism. We are conditioned to ascribe greatness and divinity to Ram – but most of his actions show him to be a poor example to emulate.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      April 28, 2009 10:23 pm

      “foreswear his/her faith is a good reading of its scripture (in this case – The Bible).”

      I agree. In fact it is true for a lot of us. But there are others who prefer self- deception and like to deliberately remain blind. For those individuals no amount of scripture reading is going to help. Unless someone is willing to challenge his/her holy book and think critically, there’s nothing much that can be done. 😦

  4. April 29, 2009 8:26 pm

    I have been trying to watch the videos for two days, without success…

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      April 29, 2009 8:46 pm

      IHM, I am not sure which videos you are finding difficult to watch. Are they the videos on this post? I tried them a minute back and didn’t have any problems, so I am not sure if you are referring to those videos. Although I must mention that they are not videos per se. They are recordings from a bbc radio show with still pictures made into a video.

  5. May 1, 2009 10:31 am

    This was good
    thanks for sharing.
    I agree with Holydude…all it takes is a good reading with an open mind to see the kind of nonsense that religions spout..its the same across the board..

    all of them are the same without exception..
    though in all honesty I have to say that Hinduism provides a lot of ‘wriggle’ room 😀
    but at the end of the day I see it too being hijacked and led on the same path as the others…its Hindutva and the brigade now 😦

    in conclusion religion sucks!

  6. May 1, 2009 10:33 am

    also I am sure that a lot of tribes in the andamans and nicobar in India and even in other parts of India (those that have been untouched by ‘civilisation’ ) have the same lessons to offer..that is
    .live and let live…dont search for individuals or invisible beings to put on pedestals..

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      May 2, 2009 7:25 am

      Yep i agree. It’s sometimes sad when we ‘corrupt’ their views on life in the name of making them more civil as has been happeneing to a lot of those tribes from A&N.

    • May 2, 2009 8:53 am

      there was another comment before this hence the ‘also’ 😦
      I seem to have lost it 😦
      cant even remember it now 😦

  7. May 2, 2009 3:45 am

    Now if only the missionary assholes in chennai would understand the same thing i try tell them everytime they preach the message of christ to me, sigh!

    Maybe they should watch this vid. Gonna download this and keep this on my MP3 player and Phone as a rebuttal tool 😛

  8. tearsndreams permalink
    May 19, 2009 9:10 pm

    Hi there,

    I have your blog open for a long time now coz I am trying to read as I finish up chores. Its really very interesting and though I have stuff I should be doing, I wanted to comment on this one.
    I think it should just take a cursory reading of the scripture to give up religion. But faith is not religion. You don’t have to belong to a religion to have faith. For all you know, faith, the belief that someone is watching over them and it will all be alright is the only thing that make certain people carry on, kinda like hope. And No religion has nothing to do with it. Its like believing in gravitational pull and evolution to a certain extent (there are missing links, hasnt been proved beyond doubt), with no conclusive proofs.
    And this argument might be weak too, may be you have thought through that too. . But I don’t think why would you want to say that there is no basis for your faith so you shouldn’t have it..

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      May 19, 2009 9:53 pm

      Hi Tearsndreams

      I am not sure I understand you properly however faith is belief in something without evidence. Gravitation and evolution has been proven conclusively but god hasn’t been. If faith to you is crutch that gives you comfort. That is fine as long as they keep it to themselves and don’t try to propagate their false beliefs. As soon as people express their faith in the public domain, they cannot expect others to keep their mouths shut or not criticize it if they feel like.

  9. myminddroppings permalink
    May 19, 2009 10:28 pm


    It is a folly to consider “faith in god” to be same or even similar to knowledge of gravity or evolution. Both these theories are open to inspection and criticism. The robustness of these theories lies in the fact that they have held up to intense scrutiny.

    Faith, by contrast does not welcome scrutiny. In fact the essence of faith is believing something without the need for evidence. In fact the ones considered “most faithful” are those who persist in belief despite evidence to the contrary. These are called “true believers”.

    The issue of “missing links” is just fakery. Yes it is true that there are elements of a theory (any theory) which are unknown or currently unexplained. But that does not constitute invalidity of a theory.

    You may not know some aspect about how your car runs – but that does not mean you don’t know whether your car is in running condition. If you are asked whether your car runs, you don’t resort to “faith” you respond based on your objective observation knowing fully well that some elements of that assertion are not explainable by you.

    • tearsndreams permalink
      May 20, 2009 9:12 am

      yeah, that was a poor example. All I wanted to say was its good to criticize all that is wrong in a religion, be it hijab or purdah. But why take away a hope or blind faith.
      So the things that statistically have a low probability of happening such as these:
      They give me faith. If I were that women, I would have thanked God. Not Jesus or Ram or Allah but my God. Now why would you come out and tell me that it is just a coincidence.
      Yes my faith is my crutch. Without it I feel I am just like an insect. And that might be the case, there might be no higher meaning to my life than that of a cockroach but if I like to think there is…why do you have to argue with me? That’s my only question to you.
      An improbable event or a miracle, what ever u call it, both do not have an explanation (not talking about hindsight)…I know I am myself confused here…
      I understand atheism. I respect the courage to live an honest life while believing there is no sin, no salvation, no future, no after life, no one to judge, no one to be afraid of…
      What I don’t understand is the obsession to prove others wrong. By others, I mean the ones that are just spiritual not religious.

      • nitwitnastik permalink*
        May 21, 2009 6:17 am

        What I don’t understand is the obsession to prove others wrong. By others, I mean the ones that are just spiritual not religious.

        Tears, I have no problems if people keep their faith or views about God to themselves and inside their houses. But once they bring it into a public domain, we have every right to criticize it just as others have the right to criticize me or other atheists. Why should you have a problem with criticism. Why should a person’s beliefs or spirituality be a sacred cow? In a free country we have the right to criticize anything we feel is wrong, isn’t it?

        • Amanda permalink
          April 6, 2012 5:50 am

          Would you respect someone who believes in a real place called Hell and yet never loved you enough to tell you about it? True Christians are not afraid of your questions. Why is it we are suppose to have tolerance for every walk of life and personal choice rubbed in our face but their is no room for tolerance for us to just share love?

  10. Frager permalink
    May 19, 2016 2:56 am

    If you’re becoming a Christian to “be happy,” you’re “converting” for all the wrong reasons. Read the Psalms and Hebrews 11 as just a sampling of what being a believer really entails. Christian faith is not some sort of spiritual MaryJane, or panacea for all that ails you psychologically. Jesus Himself assures believers, “In the world, you will have tribulation,” but then He hastens to add, “But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

    Look at how He died to get a graphic example of what the Christian life is all about.


  1. When a missionary’s position becomes a matter of mystery, maybe we should avoid the Manawatu « Alf Grumble

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