A Commentary on De-Conversion

July 16, 2007 at 10:25 am 27 comments

Guest Commentary

Quotation Marks 1Ever since my initial link to this site, I’ve been following it with interest. Why? I don’t know if I can put the reason into words sensible enough to be written in the middle of the night; but possibly because I’m a little surprised that there is a need for atheists/agnostics people who are questioning their faith or people who are in the process of rejecting their faith to have the kind of group support that this blog provides. And because I find some of the discussions interesting.

Right up front, let me declare myself. I’m a believer of the Christian persuasion. My reasoning can be found here and here, to some degree.

The long and short of it is that I’m a Christian because I choose to be. As an anthropologist and as a person who grew up in a society that allows for far more possibilities than are found in anyone’s philosophy — while steadfastly swearing allegiance to the Bible — I cannot accept the material world as all that is, which is what seems to me to lie at the bottom of any atheist discussion. There is a fundamental, political arrogance that lies at the bottom of atheist theory that turns me off; as a person from the so-called Third World, I choose not to accept the idea that all the theories about life and the world that at least half of my ancestors — if not most of them — believed are in error, which becoming an atheist would force me to do.

I choose not to label the wisdom of the elders as “superstition”, which appears, unfortunately, to be part and parcel of the atheist creed, and I choose to see the material world and what we can learn about it as a part of the truth, and a huge and very useful part of the truth, but by no means not all of it. I tend to regard agnosticism as more honest, and more politically palatable. The fundamental truth is that we do not know what lies beyond our experience (which for some people is a religious experience and for others is a material one, and both experiences are similarly bounded by our physical and physiological limitations), and to assert that we do know is fallacious.

The difference, of course, is that religious people believe in revelation, while atheists and agnostics don’t, and there’s not a whole lot any human being can do to change either perspective.

What interested me about the this site is that its purpose is to provide a place for the critical consideration of religion, primarily Christianity. I agree wholeheartedly with the stated aim:

We believe the teachings of Judaism, Christianity, & Islam, based on the perceptions and myths of a nomadic ancient Middle Eastern tribe, should be viewed critically – as should the holy books of these religions. This blog attempts to critically, but respectfully, address issues with these religious ideologies, especially Christianity. If you are a skeptical, de-converting, or former Christian, you may find these discussions interesting.

And many of the discussions are indeed interesting. However, I confess that they are also sometimes a little predictable, rather to my disappointment, possibly because the Christianity with which most discussions engage is in reality the sort of legalism that the Christ I believe in condemned, if the writer of John’s Gospel is to be trusted.

I’ll leave it there for now. The night is indeed too advanced for me to make this discussion make sense. Let me sum it up thus: at times the discussion on De-Conversion, rather than addressing real solid issues of belief and non-belief, appears to be attacking the straw man that fundamentalism has created of itself, and thus perpetuates the same error of argument that fundamentalists themselves do. Neither the Christianity that has appeared in recent posts nor the lack thereof that many fundamentalist discussions latch onto have much relation to the vast range of human belief, ritual, or behaviour, to my mind, which is why I don’t always find the arguments as satisfying as they could be.

Quotation Mark 2Ah well. I’m a good one to talk. The night is not young, and I’m off to bed. Good night.

- Scavella

[from Scavella's Blogsphere. Used with permission.]

Entry filed under: ~Guest. Tags: , , , , , , .

Christian Reaction to Atheistic Books becoming Best-Sellers Is Heaven Bogus?

27 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Scavella  |  July 16, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Thanks!

    A correction to the second link regarding my religosophy:

    http://www.everypoet.org/pffa/showpost.php?p=360913&postcount=83

    Cheers.

  • 2. Richard  |  July 16, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Interesting post. Glad to see this here, otherwise I might have missed it!

    (I’ve also made a comment on the original post)

  • 3. mjackson75  |  July 16, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Thanks for the post. I found it pretty interesting. While I did not realize that there was a site dedicated to de-conversion, I understand the desire of people to talk about it. I have recently de-coverted from Christianity. I will be honest that it is a very difficult thing to do. Intellectually, I knew that I couldn’t accept it anymore. I had to many questions and disbeliefs to be able to whole-heartedly continue. While I am confident in my decision, the teachings of Christianity are always in the back of my mind. Particularly those of eternal damnation. While I don’t believe in hell or damnation anymore, there is always a nagging concern of “what if I’m wrong”? The need to discuss what your beliefs are is natural, especially as for many people like me they continually evolve.

    Regards.

  • 4. HeIsSailing  |  July 16, 2007 at 11:14 am

    ???
    aA, Scavella, or whoever posted this – the first hyperlink in the article does not work. Just thought you might like to know.

  • 5. Heather  |  July 16, 2007 at 11:24 am

    **I cannot accept the material world as all that is, which is what seems to me to lie at the bottom of any atheist discussion.** This, I’m not sure of, considering what quantam mechanics/physics is showing us. And doesn’t string theory deal with something beyond the third-dimension?

    **I choose not to accept the idea that all the theories about life and the world that at least half of my ancestors — if not most of them — believed are in error, which becoming an atheist would force me to do.**

    I understand what the author is saying, in terms of becoming an atheist would mean that he believes all previous theories would be considered wrong, as well as his/her ancestors considered wrong, in terms of the Christian mind-set. However, humans discard theories and firm beliefs all the time. The fact that no one believes the earth is flat — although, aren’t there a few flat-earth Christians out there? — is a theory of life and a belief that our ancestors clung to. We now know it’s wrong. That doesn’t mean we consider our ancestors stupid — simply that they were operating under the knowledge they had at the time. When considering the conceps of racism/sexism and even scientific advancements: all are things that discard previous theories. Even the belief in the supernatural contains theories that are now discarded, such as Christianity’s three-tired perspective, with heaven above us in the clouds and hell directly beneath at the center of the Earth.

    **at times the discussion on De-Conversion, rather than addressing real solid issues of belief and non-belief, appears to be attacking the straw man that fundamentalism has created of itself, and thus perpetuates the same error of argument that fundamentalists themselves do. ** I think much of that has to do with the fact that the ex-Christians that generally post here tend to be from the fundamentalist background. Liberal Christianity seems to be much more flexible, and thus people are less likely to de-convert from it, precisely because the legalism (I’m assuming there is some, as there is some amount of legalism in even the most flexible beliefs) is nowhere near close to what fundamentalism contains.

  • 6. HeIsSailing  |  July 16, 2007 at 11:25 am

    mjackson75 sez:
    “While I don’t believe in hell or damnation anymore, there is always a nagging concern of “what if I’m wrong”? ”

    My story is similar to yours. I was raised to have fear in hell, and it is still in the back of my mind. It wakes me up at night sometimes. It still frightens me sometimes. But I know that it is just the boogeyman. When I first questioned my belief, I thought I was alone. The internet has taught me that there are .. .countless numbers of doubting and apostate Christians out there.

    The need to discuss what your beliefs are is natural, especially as for many people like me they continually evolve.

    I agree, but people avoid talking about their beliefs. Not even in the church parking lot! And when they do, people are easily offended and others often attack.

  • 7. HeIsSailing  |  July 16, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Heather:

    And doesn’t string theory deal with something beyond the third-dimension?

    I have heard some pastors teach that the extra dimensions implied by string theory are somehow the Spiritual Realm of God – this is a total misapplication of what the extra spatial dimensions of string theory means. Chuck Missler of peanut butter evolution fame is notorious for this.

    in terms of becoming an atheist would mean that he believes all previous theories would be considered wrong, as well as his/her ancestors considered wrong, in terms of the Christian mind-set.

    I also think that culture has much to do with it. I have met several people here in El Paso who come from a rural Mexian heratige, who have no real faith in their Catholicism. Yet they cling on to it, I think because it gives them an identity, a link to a culture, their past, that I think they fear is disappearing in the modern world.

  • 8. Heather  |  July 16, 2007 at 11:44 am

    HIS,

    **this is a total misapplication of what the extra spatial dimensions of string theory means. ** And that’s what drives me nuts when those in a position of authority, such as certain pastors, say information like that. Their ignorance of science is apparent, and thus makes everything they are knowledgable in look silly, as well.

    But the string theory and such is why I’m not sure every atheist would say the material world is all that there is: it may be all that we will ever be aware of and thus all there is for us, but there may be something outside of this. We’ll simply never experience it.

  • 9. cragar  |  July 16, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Scavella

    I think with the traffic this site now gets you are going to get more of the polarized debating that had been void here compared to some sites. One of the great things about this site has been the more civilized discussion between theists and agnostics/atheists and hopefully it will continue. I am sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that the majority of contributors on this site are former Christians and they can appreciate where the theists are coming from so there isn’t a lot of name calling here which is refreshing.

  • 10. superhappyjen  |  July 16, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    **The long and short of it is that I’m a Christian because I choose to be.**
    This speaks to one of the things I’ve always wondered about the faithful. How does one “choose” to believe in something? Many friends and family members have told me that they believe in God because of the security of a being watching over them, of the comfort in knowing that they’ll go to a better place when they die, etc. They try to convince me that life would be better for me if I believed. Perhaps, perhaps.

    However, I’m not an atheist because I choose to be. My life might be better if there were a God. My life might also be better if I owned a Porsche, but no amount of believing would cause it to appear. And even if a God does genuinely exist, I can no more convince myself to believe in Him than I can convince myself that I own an invisible Porsche.

    It actually took me many years to be comfortable with my atheism and to come to terms with my lack of belief in a personal God. I now look at my lack of belief as a kind of freedom and I’m happy that God doesn’t exist. But I never had a choice.

  • 11. cragar  |  July 16, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    I have met several people here in El Paso who come from a rural Mexian heratige, who have no real faith in their Catholicism. Yet they cling on to it, I think because it gives them an identity, a link to a culture, their past, that I think they fear is disappearing in the modern world.

    I have noticed this as well. I am sure there are a few other heavy dominated Catholic areas in the US, perhaps on the east coast, but it took me awhile to get used to how dominant it is here. It seems there are the devout Catholics and then the ones that participate in Catholic traditions (Ash Wednesday for example), get married in Catholic churches, etc. just to keep tradition going.

  • 12. Harry  |  July 16, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    In case anyone’s interested, I’ve posted a response to this over at my place.

  • 13. Thinking Ape  |  July 16, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    “…rather than addressing real solid issues of belief and non-belief, appears to be attacking the straw man that fundamentalism has created of itself…”

    Here is the problem with trying to argue against liberal Christianity: they don’t believe in much, or if they do, you don’t know what they believe or what they don’t. Of course I am not talking about political liberalism – even a fundamentalist can actually find it in his or her heart to care for people enough to vote left. But what do we even mean when we speak of liberal Christianity? It is my belief that most liberal have de-converted, if only from fundamentalist Christianity.

    My agnosticism is very simple. After years of study in the Christian and secular post-education systems, I simply cannot accept the Christian holy book as inspired in any way elevated over other religious traditions. This was my deconversion from fundamentalism. My deconversion from “liberal” Christianity was simply more of the same, finally coming to terms with my indoctrination and my sentimentalist notions of the good version of Christianity. If I grew up in a religious vacuum and was re-introduced into society, forced to chose one religion, it would not be Christianity. There is no basis to believe the very premise of a god-man whose story is based on earlier god-men.

    I do hold that there is nothing “supernatural” – but this naturalism is not limited to things I can see. Our universe is full of mysteries, some which can be discovered, and some that can not.

    I do, however, agree with you that the major difference is the belief in revelation. And apparently, there is a possibility that even this is genetic – the so called “god gene”, which is actually simply a gene that allows certain people to have a propensity to believe in things one cannot see. The problem is that religionists do not simply believe in revelation – they believe in the possibility of a past revelation and the trust of someone else’s revelation, both limited to one cultural timeline. Very few religionists have had anything revealed to them, and those that have are usually labeled as nutjobs by their own establishment or schizophrenics by the scientific community.

  • 14. writerdd  |  July 16, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    I don’t understand how one can CHOOSE to be a Christian or an atheist. You hear about the existence of God, the stories of Jesus in the Bible, and so forth and you either believe them or you don’t. You think they’re true, or you think they’re false. It’s not a voluntary decision, as far as I can tell (OK, saying the sinner’s prayer is a voluntary action, but that’s not in the Bible anyway). I mean, if I tell you I am a 6’12” tall black man living in Alaska, you either believe me or you don’t. Somehow your brain comes up with a conclusion and you either think I’m telling the truth or you think I’m lying. You don’t choose to believe or disbelieve. What do you think? Is that description of me true or false? How do you come to your conclusion?

  • 15. Thinking Ape  |  July 16, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    writerdd says, “I mean, if I tell you I am a 6′12″ tall black man living in Alaska, you either believe me or you don’t.”

    I am agnostic towards your attributes, although I would highly doubt them since you wrote 6’12” rather than 7′. :P

  • 16. Scavella  |  July 16, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    “I don’t understand how one can CHOOSE to be a Christian or an atheist. You hear about the existence of God, the stories of Jesus in the Bible, and so forth and you either believe them or you don’t. You think they’re true, or you think they’re false. It’s not a voluntary decision, as far as I can tell (OK, saying the sinner’s prayer is a voluntary action, but that’s not in the Bible anyway).”

    If only life were this simple.

    What appears to be hardwired in me — a woman with an advanced degree in an extremely skeptical field (anthropology) — is belief in a world beyond the material. In this world, it’s possible to believe in all sorts of things — ghosts, ancestors, ESP, communion with the dead, spirits, healing that goes beyond modern medicine, knowledge of the future, and so on. Religion falls into this group of ideas. Christianity is only one religion among many. That’s where my choice comes in. I suppose I could be a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Wiccan or a pantheist or any other kind of belief-monger, but but Christianity’s the one I chose.

    Quite probably the propensity to believe is not hardwired in me, but it’s so deeply enculturated that when I first went off to school — i.e. left my country and my region and went to North America, where enculturation produces a different kind of default, at least intellectually, the default that regards the material world as being all that is, whether yet measured or unmeasured, I experienced a profound culture shock, and spent a year or so trying to convince myself that North American intellectuals were correct, and that all the stuff I’d grown up knowing about was all superstition and wrong.

    I couldn’t convince myself. All skepticism did was teach me to question — and to questione everything, even the concept that the material world is all that is.

    As an anthropologist, and as the kind of anthropologist who would get to wear the label “native” (i.e. being from a society that was led out of its darkness by the enlightened Europeans who colonized my region) I am very suspicious of any philosophy that suggests that mine cannot possibly be correct because there is no such thing as … . It just so happens that the creation of the European materialist doctrines that shape much of atheist (not agnostic) thought coincided with the widespread European conquest of the world, and I don’t think it’s any accident that in the hierarchy of thought, the purest “scienctific” perspectives are those that negate all those that came before. Either-or thinking is itself socially constructed, as many societies are perfectly comfortable with paradox. The one in which I was raised is one of those.

    And so the dichotomy of atheism : Christianity is a false one, I think; if one’s going to be taking on a dichotomy, it’d more accurate to talk about doubt : belief. One mightn’t choose one or the other. One would certainly choose the kind of belief to shoulder, however. Me — I chose Christianity for reasons that are so very personal they’re hardly relevant to anyone else.

    As for the idea that liberal Christianity doesn’t believe in anything much — well, that’s an entirely different discussion, and one that I might take up at some point elsewhere. But just to set the record straight: I was raised Anglican, as was my mother and all her family. The idea of “conversion” — of finding a point in your life at which you experience a rebirth, or being born again, is not part of that philosophy. For me, as for my mother and my uncle (a bishop) and my grandmother and my grandfather (a lay reader), being born again is a process of becoming, of learning, of forgiving, of growing, of thinking, and of doing.

    My father and his family were raised Brethren, and that tradition preaches the doctrine of spiritual rebirth, just as most fundamentalist sects do. For them, conversion must always follow the Pauline model; Peter’s faith — more sin than purity, more enthusiasm than prudence, more denial in adversity than affirmation — is not an option, nor is John’s, which tends towards love and acceptance and mysticism, nor is Thomas’s, which is primarily doubt. I decided to be born again twice under that doctrine, then realized that in order to “prove” my “salvation” I had to assume a cloak of religiosity that I did not accept. It’s not that so-called “liberal Christians” (am I that? Or am I a skeptical Christian? I don’t label myself) don’t believe anything much. It’s that it is not a tenet of the “liberal christian” faith to share belief with other people. For me, it’s something between me and my God, and not really the business of anybody else. My inarticulation of belief is just that — an inarticulation. It’s not a lack of belief at all.

    I’ll just shut up now. I appreciate the chance to participate in this discussion. Cheers.

  • 17. karen  |  July 16, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    I’m a little surprised that there is a need for atheists/agnostics people who are questioning their faith or people who are in the process of rejecting their faith to have the kind of group support that this blog provides.

    It’s enormously important to get group support when making any kind of major – or even minor – change in life. Why would you be surprised by this?

    We were raised, for the most part, in extremely narrow, dogmatic families and churches. To even entertain doubt is a moral failing and serious sin. To actually question is shocking. To eventually reject the teaching we followed for many years means we are misunderstood, pitied, a source of shame for our loved ones and sometimes even hated or disowned.

    Of course we need support groups!

    Heather:
    I think much of that has to do with the fact that the ex-Christians that generally post here tend to be from the fundamentalist background.

    Yes. We all have to write about what we know, after all.

    Liberal Christianity seems to be much more flexible, and thus people are less likely to de-convert from it, precisely because the legalism (I’m assuming there is some, as there is some amount of legalism in even the most flexible beliefs) is nowhere near close to what fundamentalism contains.

    I would have thought that also, but actually I’ve met loads and loads of liberal and moderate Christians online who’ve deconverted. Probably it’s more prevalent among them than it is among fundies, actually. The beliefs aren’t that strong in the first place, and play a less critical role in identity, so they’re easier to shrug off.

    Also, the family, social and community implications are much less, so it’s easier to leave religion behind. And the same contradictions and logical problems arise in liberal Christianity that lead people to question and eventually stop believing as they do in fundamentalism.

  • 18. karen  |  July 16, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Scavella:
    Christianity is only one religion among many. That’s where my choice comes in. I suppose I could be a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Wiccan or a pantheist or any other kind of belief-monger, but but Christianity’s the one I chose.

    You mention that you come from a long family line of Christians. Is it not likely an “accident of birth” that makes you choose Christianity? If you came from a long line of Muslims, wouldn’t you most probably be persuaded to choose Islam? Growing up in one particular religion determines something like 90% of how people identify themselves, religiously. But it says nothing about the truth or falsity of that religion.

    I am very suspicious of any philosophy that suggests that mine cannot possibly be correct because there is no such thing as … . It just so happens that the creation of the European materialist doctrines that shape much of atheist (not agnostic) thought

    I think you’re arguing against something that doesn’t exist – at least not here. All of us here (I believe, someone correct me if I’m wrong) are agnostics or agnostic atheists (aka “weak atheists). We don’t declare “There’s no such thing as god” – for after all, we don’t know everything and one cannot prove a negative. Indeed, I’ve never met a “strong atheist” who declares absolutely, “There is no deity.”

    What we do say is something like, “We don’t see any evidence for a god, so we don’t believe in one.” This is the agnostic atheist position.

    If evidence arises for a god, I’ll happily believe. Until then, not so much.

    Thanks for your comments, they are interesting and glad that you’ve joined the conversation.

  • 19. Heather  |  July 16, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Karen,

    **I would have thought that also, but actually I’ve met loads and loads of liberal and moderate Christians online who’ve deconverted. Probably it’s more prevalent among them than it is among fundies, actually. The beliefs aren’t that strong in the first place, and play a less critical role in identity, so they’re easier to shrug off.** Thanks for the correction. It makes sense, and would explain why I’ve never stumbled across a blog for de-converted liberal Christians: as you said, it’s less of a critical role, and probably a lot less guilt/fear involved in the decision, too. And I would hope that their friends/family would still treat them the same.

  • 20. Is Heaven Bogus? « de-conversion  |  July 16, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    [...] while in the shower. My point – most of my ideas comes to me while in the shower. Since Scavella recently expressed disappointed with some of the recent articles for what may be considered straw man arguments, I felt that this [...]

  • 21. Stephen P  |  July 17, 2007 at 10:20 am

    I cannot accept the material world as all that is, which is what seems to me to lie at the bottom of any atheist discussion. There is a fundamental, political arrogance that lies at the bottom of atheist theory that turns me off; as a person from the so-called Third World, I choose not to accept the idea that all the theories about life and the world that at least half of my ancestors — if not most of them — believed are in error, which becoming an atheist would force me to do.

    Very much of what people have thought in the past was in error. For most of human history people have thought that the sun went around the earth. For most of human history people held erroneous ideas about the cause of disease. Many people still do hold erroneous ideas about biological evolution.

    Perhaps the single quality most vital to advancing humankind and making the world a better place is the willingness to say “having looked at the evidence, I see I was wrong”.

    If there is an arrogant position, it is the refusal to accept that religious ideas should be subject to the same scrutiny as any other idea.

    The difference, of course, is that religious people believe in revelation, while atheists and agnostics don’t, and there’s not a whole lot any human being can do to change either perspective.

    I wouldn’t be so pessimistic. After all, we do have some evidence. If there is one god revealing himself to people, then one would expect that all, or at least most, religious people would have closely similar beliefs. In fact we see a wide range of beliefs, and often violent disagreement (literally violent) between religious groups. This is strong evidence that there are either many gods or none, but at any rate not just one.

    Of course many religious people will refuse to accept this, but a growing number are seeing the force of this and other arguments – which is, after all, why this weblog exists at all.

    … the discussion on De-Conversion, rather than addressing real solid issues of belief and non-belief, appears to be attacking the straw man that fundamentalism has created of itself …

    This comment has me very puzzled. In a strawman argument one attacks a position that ones opponent does not actually hold. But fundamentalist beliefs are held genuinely, and fiercely, by millions. There is certainly no strawman, and you can’t find more solid issues of belief than those held by fundamentalists.

    I think what you are saying is that fundamentalism is a false form of Christianity and we aren’t addressing what you consider to be the “true” Christianity. But that leaves me (and probably numerous other people here) wondering how we are supposed to know what the “true” Christianity is. After all, fundamentalists are adamant that their Christianity is the only true one.

    Is it so unreasonable for an agnostic / atheist to say: “you Christians should first agree among yourselves what Christian beliefs actually are; until you’ve done that I don’t see any need to take any of you seriously”?

  • 22. Brad  |  July 17, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Hrmm… so a question for those commenting on this point:
    “… I confess that they are also sometimes a little predictable, rather to my disappointment, possibly because the Christianity with which most discussions engage is in reality the sort of legalism that the Christ I believe in condemned, if the writer of John’s Gospel is to be trusted.”

    Why is the only option theologically liberal Christianity? I’m smack in the middle. I am theologically conservative (inerrancy of scripture, divinity of Christ, justification by faith, etc.), but very liberal culturally (I love all kinds of music, believe in equality and social justice, and believe that beer is proof that God loves men). Why must the alternative to fundamentalism be liberalism and not moderation? Why not a TRUE attempt to read scripture as it eas intended instead of how we wish it would read?

    Want an example? Here are several:

    http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/index.html

    http://theresurgence.com/

    http://www.epc.org/

    http://www.marshillchurch.org/

    http://www.journeyon.net/

    Stephen said:
    “I think what you are saying is that fundamentalism is a false form of Christianity and we aren’t addressing what you consider to be the “true” Christianity. But that leaves me (and probably numerous other people here) wondering how we are supposed to know what the “true” Christianity is. After all, fundamentalists are adamant that their Christianity is the only true one.”

    I agree, but would hold that true the Christianity is the one that is revealed in the bible. Read the bible, contextualize it (consider author, audience, time period, environment), and apply it in today’s context. Allow for some tweaking by the Holy Spirit, and voila! You have a gospel-faithful Christianity (see Gospel Coalition link for more of this).

  • 23. Scavella  |  July 17, 2007 at 11:50 am

    I’m not interested in “false” and “true” Christianity, or in “false” or “true” atheism or “false” or “true” anything, really. The straw man argument I’m referring to is the picture of Christianity that contemporary fundamentalism has created for itself, which has very little to do with actual belief and far more to do with mass marketing. The “Christianity” that is discussed most frequently on this blog appears to be that which is most vocal, being the one that has used mass media and business marketing tools to make itself known. The reductiveness of its self-presentation has meant that it has defined “Christianity” in a far narrower way than is historically or theologically sound.

    While it isn’t so unreasonable for an agnostic / atheist to say: “you Christians should first agree among yourselves what Christian beliefs actually are; until you’ve done that I don’t see any need to take any of you seriously”?, I do think that any group of people who justify their philosophy rationally should take the trouble to engage fairly and broadly with their opponents. All fundamentalists, religious and secular, believe that their way is the only true one; it’s not a fault of the philosophy itself per se (which of course will have its own problems), but the fault of fundamentalism itself. I am certain that all atheists/agnostics don’t agree among themselves either, but that doesn’t shut down rational discussion.

    Thanks for the other comments, which are fair, as far as they go. My problem is not with the question of causes and effects, which materialist investigation and empirical approaches to science have identified pretty clearly; my problem is with the political end result, which I find atheism does not clear up; by belittling the philosophies of entire civilizations by labelling them “erroneous”, atheism and atheists can advance the cause of racism and bigotry as much as religion does. This is what I protest, and this is why I have pretty major political objections to atheism.

    Atheists and scientists can be as narrow in their definition of “evidence”, as theists may be irrational in their faith. which is more suitable for the material, inanimate world, but which is inadequate when applied to human beings. Anecdotal evidence, being largely unmeasurable and variable (hence untrustworthy), is pretty completely discounted in materialist thought. But a social anthropologist, I’ve discovered that materialist thought doesn’t go very far when applied to questions of human behaviour and human societies. So there is room in my discipline for anecdotal evidence. As I cannot prove that my grand-aunt did not see and speak with her dead sisters the week before she died, I choose not to dismiss her experience; I don’t know what happened, I can’t find a materialist explanation for it, I may not believe what she said it meant (that they were calling her to come with them), but I cannot discount it without disrespecting her. I choose to say I don’t know what happened instead.

  • 24. Stephen (aka Q)  |  July 17, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Stephen P:
    What percentage of the population is well educated and informed in any area of life? Take politics for example — there’s a lot of ignorance out there, no?

    It isn’t any different with respect to Christianity. Popular religion is one thing; thoughtful, informed religion is another.

    Should people judge and repudiate Christianity based on its most ignorant expression? That hardly seems fair to me.

    Thinking Ape:
    Is it true that Liberal Christians don’t believe much? That’s an interesting perspective.

    Liberal Christians believe in God’s existence; they believe God created the cosmos; that Jesus constitutes a revelation of God to believers; and that Jesus’ death and resurrection (whether physical or spiritual) speak deeply to us about the universal human experience of suffering and about survival beyond the grave.

    They also believe in many of the values and mores of the Bible (e.g. the responsibility of the wealthy to assist the poor).

    So what do you mean, they don’t believe “much”? If they believe the core elements of the Christian faith, isn’t that actually rather a lot?

    That said … I think Liberal preachers are quite tentative about teaching scripture. Maybe because they are confused as to what they believe themselves — there is such a wide range of opinion among scholars.

    Partly, I suspect, because they don’t want to tell their parishioners what to think. Thus they do people a disservice: in my experience, people who attend Liberal churches are deeply interested in being educated about the Bible.

  • 25. lostgirlfound  |  August 1, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Thank you for the balance … we’d all be a lot further along with thinking like this!

  • 26. Thinking Ape  |  August 1, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    Stephen, sorry if it seemed like a negative judgment on liberal Christians. I simply meant to point out that it is fairly easy to assume conservative Christian perspectives because of its nature (conserve – not changing, or slow change), while liberal Christians, for better or worse, are more prone to change perspectives. I must point out that what I mean by “liberal” and “conservative” Christians has little to do with the political spectrum (although theology does influence one’s political ideology).

  • 27. Maxx68  |  October 23, 2009 at 8:51 am

    You have helped me overcome my fears. ,

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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