The route from belief to unbelief

December 2, 2007 at 5:37 am 80 comments

It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned intoJonathan Swift (Irish writer and satirist)

Belief cannot argue with unbelief, it can only preach to itKarl Barth (influential Christian thinker)

Above are two quotes, both of which I tend to accept as sensible. So I’m trying to work out the implications of it for those who live inside a world of faith and those who live outside.

Following the logic in both these statements, it’s very difficult to ‘reason’ someone out of a faith position – certainly if it’s a faith held as a child.

My first question to Christians now is always ‘what made you first believe?’ – and if the answer involves the phrases ‘well I was brought up in a christian home…’ or ‘at the age of 13 i went to a camp…’ – it doesn’t mean their faith is any less real or valid, but as far as discussion goes, again I must refer to Swift and Barth.

Can the de-converted people on this site maybe take a moment to discuss what they think are the best ways to guide people from their prison of faith?

(excuse the inflammatory last statement :) ) – QuestionMonkey

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Respect, Religion, and the Teddy Bear Praying my way to losing faith

80 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The de-Convert  |  December 2, 2007 at 6:10 am

    I do not believe we should attempt to de-convert others. I believe we can only assist those already on that path. In looking back at my journey, I doubt if anyone could have convinced me to de-convert. However, once I made a decision to question, sites like this were very helpful in helping me sort through my questions. Prior to that, I would love to discuss my faith with you all and be an apologist for Christianity. My arguments, though now illogical, made sense to me.

    I guess my question is why would you want someone to de-convert? I can understand trying to dissuade a radical religious terrorist from their faith but to the “go to church on Sunday a.m., try to be a better individual, religious person” who is content in their faith – more power to them.

    Paul

  • 2. Quester  |  December 2, 2007 at 6:21 am

    I really don’t think you can, but if you feel a need to try, I recommend the technique I’ve felt best for evangelizing as a Christian: live out your life by your beliefs, and if someone asks you why you make the choices you make, tell them. Not as someone better or as someone judging who they are, but as a person who has made a choice and is answering a question. Respectful conversation can come out of that which, in the context of a relationship, is more likely to go somewhere. But no one can be convinced to change their mind until they are already ready to. You can not ‘free’ anyone, and to make that your mission will doom you to frustration. You can simply model your beliefs in how you live, and be open about who you are and the reasons for your choices.

    Remember, as a non-theist, you do not have the impetus to save your loved ones from eternal torment before it is too late. You can afford to be gentle and take things at their own pace. If you only have this life to live, there are more productive things to spend it on than trying to change people before they are ready, or free them from prisons to which only they hold the keys.

  • 3. lousirr  |  December 2, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Who?
    What?
    When?

    The Christian?
    Show him Christ!

    The rest?
    I do not know,
    yet.

  • 4. vjack  |  December 2, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Intriguing question. I’d say promote quality secular education, teach critical thinking, and highlight the inconsistencies between religious belief and science, reason, and the typical requirement for evidence to which we subject all other knowledge claims.

  • 5. Heard of God  |  December 2, 2007 at 11:37 am

    I think that it all depends on how you were “converted”. Some were “saved” when they were young but it isn’t until they’re older and are able to look at the Bible from a freethinking position that they can say I disagree, and in that becoming a “de-convert” (Luke 6:40, etc). You can’t be born into discipleship, you have to be converted. This is true with any faith stance you take. Whether you blindly follow evolutionism or creationism, you have to decide whether you agree or not. When you decide that you agree you are changed from a professor to a believer and are then converted. (This is known as being “born again” by Jesus and is spoken to a man who was born into the kingdom of God originally but Jesus was saying that wasn’t going to work with the New covenant.)

    I was supposedly “saved” when I was seven, and as I reached the “age of understanding” I tried to live up to that definition because I had defined myself as such. I made good friends and had a good time with them trying to be as righteous as I could. This is common amongst professors (i.e. “Christians”) and these will fall into the category that you generally describe. I was in that category because it would be embarrassing to admit that I had been doing something useless all my life especially when it appears to be working for some really great guys in your church. However, I was converted (in the true meaning of the word) when I was 25. I know this is not what you are wanting to discuss here but allow me a little space, if you please? When I was asked by a man that had also been truly converted if I believed God could deliver me from sin, I thought that this guy was self righteous and setting himself up for a big fall if he believes he can be free from sin (notice how I shifted the problem back over to him). I knew that that was impossible. But then he asked me if I believed that God could deliver me from smoking. And instead of shifting the problem, I considered it. I as a professor believed in that and not only that but I started thinking about the other sins one at a time. Pornography, Lust of the heart, lying, stealing, cussing, course joking, anger, covetousness, etc. If I thought about them one at a time, I thought why not. So from that day forward, working from logic only, I started changing my behavior and attitude and being a Christian. Then I started reading the Bible in order to learn the very book I professed to be true and man what a difference. Where was my Pastor and professing leaders this whole time? Come to find out, they, like most, were to selfish to accept the Bible at face value and started explaining it away until you had an ignorant message and reason not to believe.

    The de-Convert, I have read that you tried to be free from sin once and you said that is one of the one of the reasons that led you away. It took me two years to finally get rid of the last sin. I live to day free from sin because I believed in God and his promise. I couldn’t do it on my own; it was the grace of God that finally did it for me. I know because there was nothing I wanted more than anything and I couldn’t do it. That is the strength of my faith and you would have to be free from sins as defined by the Bible free from faith in order to convince me that God doesn’t exist. It is the one thing above all things that was given us that is a true sign but is not heralded as such. If you could prove to me that someone can be free from lust, hate, lying, and covetousness, which I know is impossible to prove but even you said that you don’t think covetousness is a sin (showing the selfish bias I keep referring to in all my comments), if someone could honestly say that they are content with everything they have and they don’t sin in accordance with the Bible, you could change a believing Christian. But those are the reasons people decide they don’t believe in God.

    And knowledge is skewed in favor of the believer no matter what you believe. So you have to convince me that I’m not trading blind faith for blind faith. You have to present solid observable evidence, aka truth, not logic which is still subjective.

    In Love,
    Sam

  • 6. Heard of God  |  December 2, 2007 at 11:40 am

    Is’nt observable evidence, after all, what scientist claim to present. When did a theory become fact based on subjective logic. Give me something objective for a change.

    Sam

  • 7. loopyloo350  |  December 2, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Did you ever stop to think that people have a great need for something to have faith in and by the way it takes just as much faith to disbelieve in God as it does to believe. Most people change on their own time. Do you really want to be the kind of person that shoves the paper in peoples face and says “Here, I have proof, there is no God”? You have made your choices, but some of you still have doubts, if you didn’t you would have no need to keep proving it to yourself. I love you read your reasonings on most things. It always makes me think and I think that is a very good thing. Is that not what you want? To make people think about why they have made the choices they have?

  • 8. qmonkey  |  December 2, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    I understand the instinct to say live and let live. But life is all about the conversations, the debates and clashes of ideas. If you genuinely think our children’s futures would be better off with out irrational faiths and religions then it’s important to engage with it and win the argument.

    Of course there’s no proof that Jesus wasnt god… how could there ever be? (there’s no proof that I’M not god!)… all we’re asking is for people to acknowledge that there is no evidence to proof that he was… or indeed that i am.

    It is of course a difficult argument to win – when someone has a back stop of ‘at the end of the day, I just believe it’s true because I have faith’… and they think this faith is a virtue.

    So, im trying to find the right blend of ‘wedge’ issues which can at least start a believer of on their road to unbelief.

  • 9. dianarn  |  December 2, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Here’s an easy one: tell them Christianity is nothing more than modernized Sun worship.

  • 10. karen  |  December 2, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    I think the very best tool is cognitive dissonance. Show them how their beliefs are internally conflicted (why does god answer your trivial prayers and ignore the prayers of the sick and suffering?), or how they conflict with reality. That’s the kind of thing that made me wake up and go ‘Whoa!” when I was deconverting. :-)

    In terms of the larger question: I’m conflicted on the “live and let live” thing regarding religion. On one hand, I agree that for the average religious person their beliefs are generally harmless and if they provide comfort and structure to their lives, that’s great.

    On the other hand, I dislike many of strictures that religious people want to impose on secular society. I dislike their tendency to cast themselves as a persecuted minority. In general, I dislike irrational beliefs that are held without scrutiny because they can be very dangerous.

    So, while I wouldn’t go looking for people to deconvert, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to encourage people to look critically at their beliefs if they start the conversation (such as come here to chat). It’s certainly a good thing to encourage skepticism – not only about religion but about a whole host of other nonsense.

  • 11. blueollie  |  December 2, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    Best way:
    1) have them read a good book about evolution
    2) have them read a good book about astronomy
    3) have them read the Bible, and ask themselves: “do I really believe that this happened in this way?”

    No, these things won’t produce instant results; from the the “deconversion” was an, ahem, evolutionary process. :)

  • 12. Heard of God  |  December 2, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Dianarn,

    Nice try, but I’ve seen it and all they’re doing is painting a bullseye around their arrow and celebrating as though they have finally figured it out. Congratulations, but you have more explaining to do if you accept that as truth than if you accept the Bible. It doesn’t surprise me that the makers have a political agenda. Tell me, should I believe something blindly without checking resources and objective evidences? I’m not sure, but I think you would say no. You probably should not keep throwing this video up wherever you go as your secret weapon. All it does is convince unbelievers that they’re smart. But they were convinced before hand.

    Here are some basic things that you could ponder while considering that video.

    -If all the disciples were trying to do is convince us that the calendar has a yearly cycle and that the end of Pisces was near then why John 3:16?

    -The birth of Jesus was not on December 25?

    -The Talmud records that Jesus was tried for sorcery; meaning his ministry was accompanied by some sort of power and not only that but he existed and was a problem to the Jews. Hard to say that it was a continuation of the Horus myth.

    -How many of those titles were given to the constellations and other celestial bodies after Christ?

    -How many of these so called beliefs were practiced before Christ, really? And how do you know that they were as old as they say they were? People have been trying to discredit Christianity since its beginning (i.e. the Jews). Could that be the source of these stories? You don’t know, and I’m betting you blindly followed this because of the cute pictures. Oh, and because of your freedom from the bondage of the law of sin, I forgot you wanted to ignore that.

    -Why should we not fornicate if all of it was just a calendar? There really wasn’t much thought put into that video.

    -And would you be more convinced that the president would create and elaborate scheme, or that the liberal media would. Just think of all the things magicians can do now that there are abilities to skew truth in videos. Creative people have always been able to get on stage.

    Anyways, I bet you have a myspace and that Obama ’08 is somewhere on it. Maybe Hillary ’08. Think a little more objective. This is just another case of heralding something as really big and because enough people say it, it becomes “the truth”. Really, they were just doing the Eminem thing in “8 mile”; If they say it before the Bible does, then they can weaken the Bible’s claims (only the claims are already there so they have to somehow make their claims exist before the Bible’s i.e. lie about it).
    Sorry! Your still a sinner and that still requires death as the propitiation. Don’t worry though, a lot of people are paying their own way. You’ll be in the company of friends, though I don’t think that was as comforting to the Jews in Auschwitz, however temporal it was, but at least the conversations will be intellectual.

    Peace,
    Sam

  • 13. qmonkey  |  December 2, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Sam (H of G)
    i never really follow anything you write. I’m sure its very good… but i sense that you type things in the same way you would say it.. with lots of sarcastic brackets and asides… it makes it very unfocused.

    Dianarn… it’s boring conspiracy theory, to be honest

  • 14. Heard of God  |  December 2, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Dianarn,

    I know. I have a different way of speaking and presenting things. My since of humor is usually “caustic” and I try to tone it down because I think it sounds arrogant. But I don’t think that highly of myself and it was to late to change that after I submitted it.

    However, I didn’t offer any theory. I just wrote down some unstable things that are presented in the video; things that can’t be just accepted or I would be guilty of the same thing that you would say I’m guilty of now. Maybe I was that unclear, but if I ask someone to give objective evidence, am I not seeking the truth?

    All I was saying is that the video gives an explanation but without objective evidence. We’ve heard the “Sun God” stuff before and it would be nice if it were just that stupid, but without proof it is only a theory and a boring conspiracy theory as well.

    If science offers truth, then by all means let me hear it. I’m not going to try to explain away someone else’s theory unless I feel that it has weight to it. After all, isn’t that why you’re posting on this subject?

    I’ll work on the clarity thing. It isn’t on purpose.

    Sam

  • 15. A.M.Brewster  |  December 2, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    It’s been said that misery loves company.

    I suppose if a person believes they’ve evolved from nothing, for no reason, with no purpose for their existence, and they don’t accept there’s a supernatural being that loves them . . . I guess that kind of person would be pretty miserable. I suppose they, in suit, would desire company.

    Other than that, I’m having a hard time understanding why you would want to de-convert a believer. For one, do you traverse the globe trying to prove to three-year-olds that Santa doesn’t exist? Do you dedicate your Easters to extinguishing the notion of the Easter Bunny? Do you boycott the Brothers Grimm? My guess is you don’t waste your time trying to disprove such things. Why squander your life? If Santa Clause doesn’t exist, who cares? And if kids believe in Santa, who cares?

    Interestingly enough, no one throws their life away trying to disprove what doesn’t exist. The things they try to destroy are those they know exist . . . but hate: Activists rid hunger in third world countries. Green Peace fights against the killing of endangered species. Al Gore tries to reduce carbon footprints. Christians close abortion clinics. Homeowners eradicate termites. Politicians attempt to establish peace in the Middle East. And conversely . . . Many teenagers rebel against authority, Hitler killed Jews, and terrorists try to destroy America. They wage war on the antagonist. An antagonist, by the way, that exists.

    One great argument for the existence of God is the sheer fact that so many people hate Him. Who hates Loch Ness? Who hates the Smurfs? No one wastes their time fighting something that doesn’t exist . . . why are you? Who cares if people believe in God? If He doesn’t exist, we both die and nothing matters. So why not do something worthwhile with your life like fighting against a real opponent; like terrorists or famine?

    I’d like to see a group of people vehemently oppose the Tooth Fairy. Let them set up web-sites and hand out leaflets. I’d pay to see their documentaries and hear their interviews on Oprah. I’d love to watch them argue the best way to de-convert a child from their silly belief in the Tooth Fairy. That would be great!

    You know why I’d love to see that . . . so I could get a good laugh.

  • 16. qmonkey  |  December 2, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    A.M.Brewster – hating god is a ridiculas notion… i think you’ve missunderstood this site. I care about people, i care about the world, i care about my childrens future, i want to world to move forward to a more rational future – one where decisions to say… go to war… arn’t taken because someone thinks god is telling them too. It’s an altruistic aim to try to convince people of something which i have found to contain liberation and truth (along with anguish, i admit)… but its better to live in the light of rationality and be misseralble (i’m actualy not)… than to be happy and ignorant. Belief in the tooth fairy is harmless… belief in god based on flawed logic and evidince… isnt (i humbly submit)

    I think it would take a lot more that i have.. to talk you out of it though… but i appreate your comment… its great when the fundies get involved…

    http://www.helium.com/user/show/198654

  • 17. bry0000000  |  December 2, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    “One great argument for the existence of God is the sheer fact that so many people hate Him.”

    That would explain why the boogy-man exists, because so many people hate him.

  • 18. Jason  |  December 2, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    qmonkey,

    Your last comment (16) is one of the reasons why I’ve come to enjoy reading this blog. There are way too many people “abusing” the faith. By “abuse” I mean misusing it to accomplish they’re own agendas (i.e. go to way…because God is telling them to). Your site forces believers such as myself to really think hard about why we’re holding to the faith we are. You in no way threaten my faith – I’m a minister for cryin’ out loud…I’m here to stay. But you force us to think hard about why…I would love to see more people wrestling with the questions that are so frequently raised here.

    As for the question being proposed in the post…I was one of those raised in a Christian home, Christian school, blah, blah, blah. But when I hit college, I actually made every effot I possibly could to talk myself out of believing. I didn’t want to be a part of what I had experienced growing up.

    But one afternoon, as I watched my life fall apart around me (girlfriend broke-up with me, anxiety about her possibly being pregnant, drunken stupor, friends walking away, etc.) I came across 2 Cor. 12:9-10 (“…when you are weak, then you are strong…”). I felt like I had been doing everything I could to control my destiny up to that point. That verse made me realize that I can’t control life. But in any case, Jesus/God can help me through it.

    Perhaps that makes religion my “crutch” – as some would say. But to be sure, life certainly has not been easier since that day – just more bearable.

  • 19. qmonkey  |  December 2, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    >>>But one afternoon, as I watched my life fall apart around me (girlfriend broke-up with me, anxiety about her possibly being pregnant, drunken stupor, friends walking away, etc.) I came across 2 Cor. 12:9-10 (”…when you are weak, then you are strong…”). …

    i just wonder if you’d have picked up an other book at that moment… would you maybe be a budist or humanist now? who knows…? i respect you… and i don’t tar every christian with the same brush… i know there are a lot of ‘thinkers’ who don’t just accept everything as litteral and obvious. But to be quite honest… you’re last paragragh says it all.

    I really hope i dont come across as arogant.. its easy to do. Belive me, I’ll get on my knees tomorrow if someone shows me reliable evidence for jesus/god/budda/mohammand/scientology/faith healing etc etc

  • 20. Rachel  |  December 2, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    blueollie,

    I have in fact read a fair bit about evolution. And my response (along with many Christian philosophers) is, “who cares?” Just because science can provide a natural explanation for things that happen in the world doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist…I think it’s possible for the two to be compatible. It’s like someone asking, “why is the water boiling?” the scientific explanation would be, “it’s at 212 degrees,” and the personal explanation would be, “because I wanted some tea.” Having two explanations for the same event doesn’t make one of them any less true.

    Yes, I’ve read Genesis. No, I don’t think it happened that way. It’s a piece of poetry written in the framework of an ancient cosmology.

    You might be able to de-convert some fundamentalists with the science card, but that’s about it.

  • 21. Jason  |  December 2, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    Well said, Rachel.

    qmonkey – I understand what you’re saying…It’s impossible to know if I would have reached for another book. Is that an influence of Christianity on my formative years? Most likely. But ultimately, it’s virtually impossible to say one way or the other.

    Getting as detached as I possibly can from my own faith, I don’t see how one can feel a sense of comfort from a anthropcentric (man-centered) philosophy of life such as humanism and any number of Eastern religions. The Buddhists, Hari Krishnas, and many varieties of humanists I’ve talked to all have one thing in common: they searching for a way to better themselves. I only see one thing coming from that: a life of thinking, “it’s all about me.” Ironically, I don’t see how that can ultimately be fulfilling.

    That’s probably not the sort of “reasonable” argument you’re looking for. But honestly, I’m not real clear about what the criteria for a “reasonable argument” is. If you – and the other contributors – really are interested in getting a reasonable apology, perhaps it would be a good idea to let the rest of us know what would qualify.

    And just for the record, I don’t think you’re coming across as arrogant…I don’t think any of the posters come off as arrogant. I think some of the commenters do from time to time…but not posters. I would love to sit down with any of you over a cup of coffee to talk in person – but you are all in the UK (I think) and I’m in the US…so that ain’t gunna’ happen…

  • 22. Quester  |  December 2, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    H of G – Look back and reread post 13 that you responded to. That wasn’t Dianarn talking to you, but qmonkey talking to you and Dianarn.

    That may clear some things up for you (like why he spoke of a theory you didn’t present- he wasn’t talking to you at that point).

    qmonkey – while this thread of responses would not constitute proof in any way, perhaps it provides some evidence to you that deconverting (or converting) someone who isn’t already in the process of getting there themselves just doesn’t work. Be true to what you believe, live out your life according to your beliefs, and communicate honestly what you believe. That can make a difference on its own. And as vjack said, teach and encourage critical thinking. It may not lead to the conclusions you wish it will, but it will help avoid some of the conclusions you want to avoid (like considering a Holy War to be a virtuous cause).

    You can’t change people, no matter how much we all wish we could, sometimes. At least, not quickly, and even if you provoke some changes, their responses will come out of who they already were, filtered through who they believe themselves to be.

  • 23. A.M.Brewster  |  December 2, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    You speak of rationality but argue against it. Where is the rational in the premise that human intellect has the answer? By what method (scientific or not) do we come to the conclusion that rational thought is the uber-standard? “I think, therefore I am”?

    It is commonly argued that only circular reasoning could lead to believing the Bible is God’s Word. “You believe the Bible because the Bible says you should.” But to use one’s own rational to come to the conclusion that one’s own rational is the ultimate tool by which to make life’s decisions is also circular. Up until recently (in terms of the age of the earth) mankind knew the world was flat, that bathing too often was bad for your health, and that the world was the center of the universe. Only through trial and error are we able to pick apart the world in which we live, and most of the time it’s error. And still doctors don’t know if a virus is dead or alive.

    Belief in God takes no more “faith” than believing in evolution. Search the facts and you’ll discover that evolution is impossible to prove using the scientific method. It is neither observable nor repeatable. Empiric data fails us. And when “empiric” data is discovered, science undoes itself. Argue as you may for carbon dating, helium dating dislodges the argument. Search as long as you like; there are still no missing links. And every hypothesis of “science” (to be sure, there are almost as many deistic/intelligent design scientists that aren’t Christians as there are evolutionists) is counteracted by an equally plausible theory of creation.

    To accept evolution you must extend yourself in faith. Only the object of your faith is your own mind. I’m sorry, I’d rather put my life into the all-powerful hands of a God who loves me, and wants nothing but the best for me, than the capricious will of man. I’ve made enough decisions in life that lead to my own undoing. But, while following God’s will, I have NEVER made a decision I regretted. My rational hurts me and leaves me empty. God’s is liberating. I speak not from verses . . . I speak from experience.

  • 24. Heard of God  |  December 2, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    Q,
    Gotcha. It seems going back and forth between sites is not conducive to a conversation on this level. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • 25. Yueheng  |  December 2, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    Jason wrote:

    I don’t see how one can feel a sense of comfort from a anthropcentric (man-centered) philosophy of life such as humanism and any number of Eastern religions. The Buddhists, Hari Krishnas, and many varieties of humanists I’ve talked to all have one thing in common: they searching for a way to better themselves. I only see one thing coming from that: a life of thinking, “it’s all about me.” Ironically, I don’t see how that can ultimately be fulfilling.

    But isn’t the same true for Christians too? Are they not searching for a way to “better themselves.”? Ultimately, they worship God to avoid “hell” and to gain “eternal life”, do they not? In fact, the whole leverage of the Gospel is that accepting it is beneficial for one’s “eternal destiny” and rejecting it would lead to eternal torment.

    If there was no reward in the afterlife for worshiping God, would you still worship him?

    And the God of the Bible seems to be an anthropomorphic creation just like any of the old tribal deities from the ancient world. He gets jealous when he is not appeased with worship, he orders the murders women, infant and children and incites rape and plunder when it pleases him. His wrath can only be appeased by the torture and execution of a human sacrifice. Don’t all these qualities reflect the values of our pre-modern ancestors which we have been evolving away from?

  • 26. Guna  |  December 2, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    I’ll get on my knees tomorrow if someone shows me reliable evidence for jesus/god/budda/mohammand/scientology/faith healing etc etc

    I haven’t read all your blog posts, but could you define reliable evidence? Is everything you believe in and hold as truth based on similar reliable evidence? Examples would help us see what you mean.

    Thanks.

  • 27. graceMark  |  December 2, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    The fact that this issue is so prominent and popular is evidence to the importance and reality of the God we all seem to be trying so desperately to hide from.

  • 28. LeoPardus  |  December 2, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    The fact that this issue is so prominent and popular is evidence to the importance and reality of the God we all seem to be trying so desperately to hide from.

    This is like the 2nd or 3rd time in the last couple days someone has spouted this bit of thoughtless stupidity.

    If people are going to spout the same nonsense so much, we definitely need a FAQ so we don’t have to type out the rebuttal every week.

    d-C, TA, one of y’all savvy types think we can start a FAQ?

  • 29. Quester  |  December 3, 2007 at 12:15 am

    This is like the 2nd or 3rd time in the last couple days someone has spouted this bit of thoughtless stupidity.

    Looking at response number 15 in this thread, I’d say this is the second time that argument has been made today, in this very thread.

  • 30. dianarn  |  December 3, 2007 at 2:04 am

    Heart of God, lol. Print that out and read that for yourself in front of the mirror.

  • 31. Richard  |  December 3, 2007 at 3:55 am

    Im not sure what happened to this thread, which started off as interesting, but devolved into some strange cross-posting thing that somehow got to evolution.

    Let me try to bring it back on track. How to deconvert others? Well, I agree with those who say that that should not be an expicit goal of ours, though I find myself in uneasy tension with the feeling that the world would nevertheless be better off if more people left fundamentalism. The issue, in my view, is not theism per se, but rather *certainty* regarding theism (or any other -ism), because you cannot compromise with someone who is sure they are right and on the side of Goodness. The world for such a person becomes split into Us and Them, and why should you try to meet somewhere in the middle with evil?

    So how do you deal with such folks? Well, at root I believe such a mindset is psycological, not epistemological. I.e., its the need for certainty itself that leads to the adoption of the dogma, rather than anything intrinstically “certain” about fundamentalist or any other dogma. (after all, we never posit any remotely similar certainty about any other area of our lives). So I think you need to go to the root of this split that they project on to the world.

    The world for fundamentalists is a fearful place, because it is filled with hostile forces. All those on the other side, “Them”, can be seen in simple, unnuanced, black and white terms. Atheists, for fundamentalists, are not three-dimensional people with strengths and weaknessness, they are Sinners and Rebels. CS Lewis said something like “the sinning soul is not a sickness that needs to be healed but a rebel that needs to lay down arms.” Its win, or lose, and you are on one side or the other. Atheists and all non-Christians are thus a blank screen onto which fundamentalists can project every evil motive.

    The trick is to disconfirm those projections. This involves a rock-bottom civility, respectfulness, empathy (if you can manage it), and compassion towards fundamentalists with whom we engage. We need to be considerate and kind, even when they are not. Which is not to say we need to be doormats — most certainly we should stand up for ourselves and say what we think — but we must never be insulting or demeaning or ridiculing. We need to show them what we are like, as nonbelievers, and for some, after a while, it will start to sink in — “hey, these people arent as hostile and wicked and prideful as I was told. Whats going on here?” This is how you begin to heal the split, if indeed it can be healed at all.

    Anyway, its late and Im tired but thats the outlines of my answer. Thoughts?

    Richard

  • 32. qmonkey  |  December 3, 2007 at 5:28 am

    thanks Richard

    by far the best answer – dissapointed this post got so mixed up.. you’re right about FAQs but who would decide on the answers? high priest… hmmm slippery slope.
    My angle is simalar to yours… try to make the case that it’s at least ‘reasonable’ to come to a conclusion that jesus did resurect (even if he did) … that reasonable people make honest decisions about it … making an honest reasonable decision doesn’t really seem grounds for hell.

  • 33. qmonkey  |  December 3, 2007 at 6:02 am

    A.M.Brewster – if you woke up tomorrow and decided that evolution was the most likely hypothesis… what would that do to your faith? would you then say that there most likely was no god either?

    I know its off topic… but what would be your logic for saying evolution and jesus/god are incompatible.

    (most of my friends are Christians… but they spend their time arguing that evolution/jesus is compatible – it would be nice to have some ammo… don’t take offence, but people like you, i think, are my best bet for convincing my christian friends from their faith)

  • 34. cobus  |  December 3, 2007 at 6:59 am

    OK, got here from the dashboard, so I’m new, here. But I just read through all the comments (which I usually don’t do if the discussion has become so long by the time I get in, but this really interest me), and my second thought on attempting to answer the initial question was this: Convert everyone to fundamentalism; let them be; let them have children; let them tell their children that this is the only possible way things could be; and then show the children the inconsistencies within fundamentalism. And this is not a joke, I’m dead serious. When I scan the bio’s of the contributors, then it seems like some of you have discovered this method as well.

    OK, I’m Christian, theologian, but very very far from fundamentalism, or American evangelicalism, or any of those things. Evolution isn’t a problem, I can’t even think that people actually think that Jews thought of a literal creation (similar to creationists) when Gen 1 was wrote etc etc etc. And the question that I was wondering about was whether we are talking about is Fundamentalism or Christianity?

    When we have conversations (and when I say we then I’m probably referring to a small (or maybe not so small) group of critical thinking Christians I know) about the (sometimes very good) questions posed by atheism, then encouraging critical thinking is what we will propose as well (maybe avoiding fundamentalism is a bigger reason for us proposing this). Critical thinking and fundamentalism don’t go together, whether it’s Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Hindu fundamentalism.

    OK, maybe something else. I think the best advice for (de)conversion is this: Listen with all you have to the other, and listening mean that it is possible that you will be the one to change, and share because you really believe (in God or no god) (more here). Conversation is a good thing, and everyone doing whatever they like do not work (George Bush affecting my life in Africa is a very good example why it’s not OK to just do whatever), so I think people changing from worldview is OK. But when one go into the conversation without ever considering the possibility that it might be you that will change, then things seem to get messy. Of two people come into the conversation with diverging worldviews both thinking this, you have a war.

    Sorry for imbedding stuff into my own sentences. Paul had the same problem, and for 2000 years now he is considered quite a difficult writer, so I hope that I’m a bit more understandable.

    One specific thing. Sam. On December 2, 11:37, you stated that you are living free from sin for I don’t know how bloody long. That’s great, Africa would be a better place if less people sinned. But I’m really sad it didn’t last, since you wrote some stuff by 3:59pm which by 4:28 you said you wanted to change. So, I guess you must have had regret? Thus it must have been wrong? And thus a sin? I don’t know, maybe I don’t comprehend your doctrine of sin, but to me it seems like you must have had a relapse?

  • 35. A.M.Brewster  |  December 3, 2007 at 10:26 am

    qmonkey. Your question doesn’t really make sense. I don’t make decisions based on knee-jerk reactions or my feelings. I’m not going to wake up one day and say “Hm. I believe in evolution.” I don’t believe in evolution for two reasons. 1. The God of the Bible said He created the universe in 6 litteral days. Since God has proven Himself to me time and time again I have no reason to doubt Him now. 2. Because the science of evolution isn’t science, it’s faith. The science supports creationism/intelligent design the more we learn about it.

    But I agree with Richard, this discussion has led away from the key point: what’s the best way to “de-convert” someone. The beautiful thing about de-conversion is you can succesfully de-convert anyone from any religion . . . except Christianity. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, because it has nothing to do with me. No other religion promises eternal security. God tells us that once saved; always saved. A true believer in Jesus Christ may slide away for a time, but will always return. You can’t be de-saved. Once a child of God; always a child of God. “No man (not even a staunch atheist) can pluck [us] out of [His] hand.”

    If you believe you’ve ever de-converted anyone . . . I say to you that person was never a convert in the first place.

  • 36. loopyloo350  |  December 3, 2007 at 10:29 am

    I have a question, why is it you want to de-convert people anyway? If you are right and others are wrong, is it going to make any difference in the end? If they are happy and you convince them God cannot exist, will they be happy then? Personally if they believe that God is incompatible with evolution,, then they are not so far from disbelief anyway.

  • 37. The Issue is Not Theism « Seeking Clarity  |  December 3, 2007 at 10:31 am

    [...] Richard from DeConversion.com  [...]

  • 38. George  |  December 3, 2007 at 11:25 am

    A telling question that I usually ask before attempting to engage in a dialog with a Christian is this: Is there anything you can conceive of that would prompt you to rethink your position? If the answer is “no,” (as it usually is from my personal experiences) it’s a safe bet that the conversation will go nowhere but in circles. Christians fancy themselves as “seekers of truth” and aren’t keen on the notion that they could be dogmatic in their thinking. If certain conclusions are shown to be “off limits” by such a question then at least a slight prick has been applied to their delusion bubble.

  • 39. Yueheng  |  December 3, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Hello Brewster:

    I’d like to respond to points you’ve raised. You wrote:

    1. The God of the Bible said He created the universe in 6 litteral days. Since God has proven Himself to me time and time again I have no reason to doubt Him now. 2. Because the science of evolution isn’t science, it’s faith.

    The Bible also asserts that the world is flat. The incident where Jesus is brought by Satan to the top of a very high mountain where he could see “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” (Matthew 4:8) Since the world is spherical in nature, it is not possible for anyone to see all the kingdoms of the world from any altitude. In Revelations, there is a reference to the “…four angels standing at the four corners of the earth.” The person who wrote this obviously thought the earth was flat and has corners, as did most Jews of the ancient world. Since the Bible supports the position of a flat earth, shouldn’t you accept this as well? Do you?

    In Matthew 24:29, the author of that Gospel has Jesus quoting a prophecy from Isaiah:

    Immediately after the distress of those days
    ” ‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
    the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

    But we now know that this prophecy were the writings of pre-modern men and are not scientifically accurate because the moon does not give out its own light as it has no light to give. The stars cannot fall from the sky because they aren’t there anymore since what we’re seeing of them is light that has taken millions of light years to travel from their galaxies to our eyes. I am curious as to whether you would reject the empirical findings of science and insist that the moon is luminous (as it is suggested in the Bible).Would you maintain that the light rays from millions of light years ago can somehow come crashing onto the earth?

    de-conversion is you can succesfully de-convert anyone from any religion . . . except Christianity.

    I think this website is living proof that the above statement is not true. Of course I am aware that you have invoked the old “if they can deconvert, they were never true Christians in the first place.” But this is a caveat which shuts down all logical discussion by imposing some mystical criterion that can never be disproved. Imagine if a devotee of the Order of the Eastern White Star (an imaginary cult) informs you that his sect has a special revelation which supersedes the New Testament. If you are sincere and open-minded, you will be able to understand and accept this revelation as the truth. But if you cannot understand or accept the Gospel of the Eastern White Star, it obviously means that you are insincere and arrogant. Do you see the problem with this approach? You can never disprove the Order of the Eastern White Star because it is making a Truth Claim that is immune from any attempt to ascertain whether it is true or not.

    I don’t mean to sound arrogant, because it has nothing to do with me.

    You have a vested interest in whether what you believe to be the claims of the Bible is true, doesn’t it? If your beliefs aren’t true, your eternal destiny would be jeopardized. So it has everything to do with you.

    No other religion promises eternal security. God tells us that once saved; always saved.

    That is not true. The Bhagavad-gita, for instance, promises that anyone who has faith in the Lord Sri Krishna will be permanently delivered from the cycle of rebirth: “Abandon all varities of religions and simply surrender to me. I will deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” (Bhagavad-gita 18:66). In Islam, Muslims are taught that submission to the will of Allah brings eternal security in paradise. Many other theistic religions also makes promises of eternal after-life security for their followers. Christianity is hardly unique in that area.

    A true believer in Jesus Christ may slide away for a time, but will always return. You can’t be de-saved.

    If this is true, why did Paul urge his readers to “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”? If salvation was really so secure, there should be no need for fear, shouldn’t it?

  • 40. Guna  |  December 3, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    A telling question that I usually ask before attempting to engage in a dialog with a Christian is this: Is there anything you can conceive of that would prompt you to rethink your position? If the answer is “no,” (as it usually is from my personal experiences) it’s a safe bet that the conversation will go nowhere but in circles.
    Hey that’s a very good one. One that universally applies to so called delusion bubbles christians, non-christians, and de-converted idontknowwhattheywereinthefirstplace, just like what happens on this blog. :) It always goes around in circles, doesn’t it.

    Christians fancy themselves as “seekers of truth” and aren’t keen on the notion that they could be dogmatic in their thinking. If certain conclusions are shown to be “off limits” by such a question then at least a slight prick has been applied to their delusion bubble.

    Again, many who take their place against God in this blog have the same dogmatic thinking.

    So basically that comment you made pretty much pricks its own delusion bubble.
    Cheers.

  • 41. Jason  |  December 3, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Just wanted to respond to Yeuheng (#25) and the questions posed to me:

    The brand of Christianity that you are referring to (that which I call “get-out-of-jail-free-card” Christians) is not the sort of Christianity I hold to. I fall in line with the Reformed branch of Protestant Christianity…that which follows in the footsteps of John Calvin, John Knox and others in the northern European stand.

    I don’t worship/serve God because I’m looking for “fire insurance” or because I want to in some way better myself. I worship God because, simply, God has commanded me to. My spiritual “pedigree” places an extremely high emphasis on the sovereignty of God over all things (I understand that opens up a whole slew of other questions – but try and bear with me and keep on topic).

    The Bible speaks of God using anthropomorphic language because that’s the best we have to work with. Likewise we can know something about God by looking at ourselves: God created man in HIS image. Therefore, by looking at ourselves (i.e. our emotions, feelings, ability to reason, etc.) we can know something about God – but I must emphasize that by looking at ourselves we are developing a rather tainted view of who God is. We are an imperfect image of God (because of sin). Not the other way around…which is what we tend to do as demonstrated by our use of terms like “anthropomorphic” rather than speaking of humanity as “theopomorphic.”

    The problem of a wrathful God as presented in the Old Testament (or Jewish Tanahk) is troubling. I can’t explain it. But I trust that God had His reasons. My Reformed theology says that everyone deserves it…but by God’s grace, those who commit to be Christ-followers get the privilege of worshiping God for eternity. You do it because He deserves it, not because you’re afraid.

    To my dismay, some have distorted that message and present the Gospel as “fire insurance.”

    When you worship God because He demands it, it eliminates Christianity as a self-edifying religion.

  • 42. Guna  |  December 3, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    To give an humble opinion on the original premise of this post.
    If a ‘christian’ believes his religious position depends on himself, then his salvation is based on the wrong grounds, and he can surely be de-converted.

    But if the christian’s position is dependent on the work of Christ, then Jesus says “and I give them life eternal; and they shall never perish, and no one shall seize them out of my hand” Jn 10:28

    But then, since de-converts perceive their strength is stronger than that of Christ, who can blame them for trying right?

  • 43. qmonkey  |  December 3, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    guna

    god gave you the ablity to be rational… and to reason what is true and what is not. you need to depend on that, to decide if you think jesus is god… after you’ve decided that… then yeah, for sure depend on him…. but this post is about… what happens if your god-given (say) rationale thinks that jesus wasnt the son of god.

    if i repeated your post and substituted the word tooth-fairy for Jesus… you’d maybe see the problem in your logic

  • 44. Anne  |  December 3, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    I believe all you can do in the way of helping people is to try to get them to think analytically about their beliefs. “How do you know what you know?” This means asking questions and engaging in thoughtful dialogue. They have been taught from an early age that Christianity/God provides all the answers on the nature of the universe, and so they generally do not even subject it to any kind of rational analysis.

    My own thoughts on what the critical points are for Christians and other theists:

    1) Source material (Bible) is unreliable and internally inconsistent. If you cannot rely on the material to be accurate, then what you have is modern interpretations. So how can you know anything the Bible says is true for sure? You have to rely on your own “gut” feeling. Interestingly, other people relying on their own “gut feelings” come to very different conclusions. There are many sites that list bible inconsistencies and errors; a good one is on Internet Infidels at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/contradictions.html. These don’t prove anything to the diehard Christian, but they can help people move away from a literal acceptance of the book and maybe get people to think for themselves.

    2) There’s pretty strong evidence that the Jesus myth is recycled material. I would point them to http://www.jesuspuzzle.org and some books on the subject if they are interested. (Most people will reject this theory out-of-hand without investigation, however, since the implications are too threatening to their belief system. I’m not sure I would raise this theory with most believers as it will simply get them to shut down and cease to listen.)

    3) The nature of the universe does not support the benevolent god hypothesis. This is the age-old Problem of Evil (5 million+ children under the age of 5 die of starvation-related causes but god helps you find your car keys?) as well as modern cosmology. Reading and understanding more about the vast scale and hostile nature of this incredibly enormous universe would have to at least move a person away from fundamentalism. There’s no way you could understand cosmology and believe in a petty desert god who’s terribly concerned with who screws whom and how. Also an interesting read is Richard Carrier’s Essay on “Why I am Not a Christian”

    4) The lack of evidence for a separate soul. Ebonmuse has a very good informational page on this subject. Also Susan Blackmore’s book, Dying to Live explains how OBEs and NDEs are caused by brain chemistry under stress. If there’s no evidence for a separate soul, then the god hypothesis also begins to look sketchy, IMO.

    5) Critical thinking skills. I’d recommend Shermer’s book, “Why People Believe Weird Things” as a good read…I don’t think theism really comes into it at all.

    Plant a seed of doubt. That’s all you can do for most people. Get them to think.

  • 45. Yueheng  |  December 3, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Hello Jason:

    You wrote:

    I don’t worship/serve God because I’m looking for “fire insurance” or because I want to in some way better myself. I worship God because, simply, God has commanded me to.

    But the spirit of the New Testament seems to propound the very “fire insurance” and self-benefit that you criticize. If you read the NT, the followers of Jesus appealed to people to accept their Gospel so as to be saved. Just take a look at the Acts of the Apostles: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (4:12), “He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’” (11:14), “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved.” (15:11), They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (16:31). All these and many other references is evidence that the Christian acceptance of God is strongly motivated by the desire for salvation – in other words, self-benefit.

    You wrote:

    The problem of a wrathful God as presented in the Old Testament (or Jewish Tanahk) is troubling. I can’t explain it.

    My explanation (which you will certainly find unacceptable) is that the wrathful genocidal God of the OT was a paradigmatic figure created by the Israeli tribes who believed that God shares their values, likes and dislikes. They believed that women were the property of men and thus they naturally believed in a God who could allow his followers to take comfort women (Numbers 31) and sanction the forced marriage of attractive female prisoner-of-wars (Deuteronomy 21:10-11). The Israeli tribes believed that women were inferior beings to the point that if a man suspects his wife is impure—or, as the OT clearly states – even if he merely feelsjealous and suspects her even though she is not impure, he has the “right” to subject his wife to a ritualistic trial at the hands of the priest who will compel the woman to drink some cursed water which, if the woman has really been unfaithful, will induce an abortion. No, I’m not making this up. The process is faithfully recorded in Numbers 5:11-31. The Israeli tribes believed in stoning people who did not share their beliefs (Deuteronomy 17:2-6). These and other tribalistic beliefs became attributed to God.

    You know, I never did find the “but that was the Old Covenant” line to be convincing because isn’t the nature of God supposed to be eternal? If in the past he could find it possible to order the murder of children and approved of women being treated like livestock, who’s to say he isn’t capable of doing it again? I would never trust a God who could approve of cutting infants and children to pieces.

    And you wrote:

    When you worship God because He demands it, it eliminates Christianity as a self-edifying religion.

    That’s pure fantasy. The whole Bible is filled with the words of believers who expect some reward or benefit from worshiping God. Have you not read the famous prayer of Jabez? “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10) The Psalms are filled with prayers for God to bless and protect their writers and to curse their enemies. Paul wrote that his preaching was for the sake of the Gospel so that he could “share in its blessings.” and envisioned that his efforts would win him a crown (just like the sort given to athletes of his time) that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:23). Christianity is a self-gratifying religion in that believers accept its claims and worship their conceived notion of God with the expectation that their devotion will win them deliverance from eternal torment and everlasting life in paradise.

  • 46. qmonkey  |  December 3, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    loopyloo350…. because truth matters

    http://www.whytruthmatters.com/why_truth_matters1.htm

    i make no bones about the fact that in many ways i actualy wish jesus was the son of god, there were was more truth in that whole christian narrative…. but, the evidence just inst there… and that must be addressed and accepted… then we move on

  • 47. loopyloo350  |  December 3, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Then what you are saying is there is no truth but mine, no room for doubt, no room for discussion, just my way or the highway? Then what makes you different from anyone else trying to force their beliefs on someone?

  • 48. Thinking Ape  |  December 3, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Loopyloo, was comment 46 a response to qmonkey? How does what qmonkey said leave no room for doubt? He/she said the evidence isn’t there, obviously implying that the evidence that some see is not convincing to him/her.

  • 49. qmonkey  |  December 3, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    looplyloo…. im saying EXACTLY the oposite of that.

    I’m saying i don’t know… lets assess every messaih/god claim on its merits. Rational objective investigative forensic thinking is a gift (you might say from god) its what he have its what we do… lets bring it to bear on what we see around us as opposed to propagating myths. I don’t belive sceinctology has it right, i don’t belive in reincarnation… i dont believe in ghosts… i dont belive jesus rose from the dead…. why? because i dont htink there’s enough evidence. (if some evidence comes along i’ll gladly change my mind)

  • 50. loopyloo350  |  December 3, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Thinking Ape: sorry, my mind gets ahead of my mouth sometimes and is much faster than the keys on the board, Yes my response was to qmonkey. Maybe I misunderstood, I get that he/she believes the evidence isn’t there, but I disagee with the statement that it must be accepted. Maybe I am not getting something but accepted by whom? And how do you make someone accept something that they believe that is based at least in part on faith. If you have proof the God does not exist then all the rest of us are suffering from insanity and delusions. If you want to free us from our delusions, doing it by forcing us to accept your version of reality is like convincing Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson that they are not God’s gift. Impossible on one hand and a waste of time on the other. Trying to force anything on anyone is counterproductive. If you have faith in your belief and know you are right, then just show people and let them make their own decisions. “Free Will”

  • 51. qmonkey  |  December 3, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    loop. we cant prove jesus wasnt god in the same way you cant prove im not god… or to take it futher that Joe Bloggs of gallalee wasnt god… things like that must be positively proven.

    If i tell you i drove to work today, got out, bought a paper then physicaly flew up the side of my office…. you’ll accept the first few things as narrative… but you might want some evidence of the later.

    ‘Free will’ ?… i dont think anyone hear is saying that people should be forced not to belive – i think thats pretty impossible. Im the same way a teacher might ask for advice as to how to teach… im asking advice as to how to approach and debate with belief (given that its a hard task)

  • 52. loopyloo350  |  December 3, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    qmonkey, sorry responded before you had a chance tp respond. It seems we are a lot closer than we are far apart. I do respect anyone who tries to discuss any thing and value peoples opinion. Don’t really understand where a lot of you are coming from, quite frankly. Have no experience with some of the stuff you all have mentioned in your posts. Mine was so varied and scattered that most churches that tried to force my beliefs were left very quick. Do not respond to force well. Again, am sorry for the misunderstanding.

  • 53. LeoPardus  |  December 3, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Can the de-converted people on this site maybe take a moment to discuss what they think are the best ways to guide people from their prison of faith?

    Just FTR. I don’t want to lead anyone out of their faith. I’m not an apologist or evangelist for atheism/agnosticism.

    From long experience I know what a precious, deep, and meaningful thing faith is for people. And I know what losing it is like too. (Many others here also know both these things.) So I don’t want to bother anyone about their faith.

    I’m here like many others to talk through aspects of a life without faith, because that’s where I’m at. If someone wants to come in here and question, challenge, evangelize, then I will answer them. But I won’t be going to their websites to pursue them.

    Just my piece. Wanted to state it.

  • 54. qmonkey  |  December 3, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    LeoPardus – understood and respected.
    I just thought its an interesting question. I’m a lover of debate, the white heat of human discourse is a vital place for rationatlity and reason to be heard.

  • 55. LeoPardus  |  December 3, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    “white heat of human discourse is a vital place for rationatlity and reason to be heard.”

    I LIKE that quote.

  • 56. HeIsSailing  |  December 3, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    QMonkey:

    Can the de-converted people on this site maybe take a moment to discuss what they think are the best ways to guide people from their prison of faith?

    I have no desire to lead people away from their faith, provided that I do not find it harmful. I know I will lose my free-thinker’s accreditation by saying this, but I do see the good that relgious belief has done in certain instances. It is a mixed bag like all things – much good, and much bad has been done resulting from the cause of Christ.

    With that said, I think the best path away from religious faith is education. Introduction and even immersion in religious beliefs, customs and practices different from what you are accustomed to. Speaking to, and learning from people of various beliefs and opinions. Not being afraid to read those ‘heretical’ books your church warned you about. I really think that is the key – education, and not being afraid to look at your beliefs from outside the bubble of your own religious perspective.

  • 57. ollie  |  December 3, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    As to why there are so many atheist sites: it is because we live among so many fundies who want to force their prayers upon us and ruin of our science.

    If religious types didn’t try to hold us as a captive audience to their prayers and if they didn’t want to try to coerce science teachers in public schools to teach their brand of idiotic nonsense, then I wouldn’t care a lick what they believed.

    I’d still find their beliefs delusional, just as I find beliefs in tarot cards, healing crystals, bold buddahs, charkras (sp), golden plates read by magic glasses and numerology delusional. But I don’t care much about the latter as no one is trying to force such nonsense on me.

    Personally, I find atheism liberating. But if you believe that “having faith in” some Jewish zombie somehow gives you everlasting life, that is entirely your business.

  • 58. 3 December 2007 « blueollie  |  December 3, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    [...] is a blog for those of us who were formerly theists and then “deconverted”. There is a long discussion on how one came to deconvert and how one can help others deconvert: It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into” Jonathan [...]

  • 59. Guna  |  December 4, 2007 at 12:05 am

    god gave you the ablity to be rational… and to reason what is true and what is not.

    Funny you should reference god. Anyway, I couldn’t agree more with you on needing to reason what is true and what is not.
    However reasoning is not absolute. The conclusions of different people’s reasoning differ based on various factors and information used in the reasoning. So your reasoning that Jesus is not God, or never existed, is no closer to the truth than those who conclude He is.

    you need to depend on that, to decide if you think jesus is god… after you’ve decided that… then yeah, for sure depend on him… but this post is about… what happens if your god-given (say) rationale thinks that jesus wasn’t the son of god.

    Sorry, i’m not sure if your own logic is correct here. do you believe the president is president because you think he’s president or do you believe he’s president because he IS president. There is sufficient proof to show that he is president.

    Whether I think Jesus is God or not doesn’t change the fact that He is. There is more proof to show Jesus’s divinity (both biblical and extra-biblical) than there is to show he isn’t.

    Why is it unreasonable to think that Jesus is God?

    if i repeated your post and substituted the word tooth-fairy for Jesus… you’d maybe see the problem in your logic

    hahaha! Looks like your power of reason is as funny as your sense of humor. Really, that cracked me up.
    Yes, I’d really have a logic problem if I tried to equate Jesus to a tooth fairy as you have. The onus is on you to prove that Jesus is as fictional as the tooth fairy.

  • 60. qmonkey  |  December 4, 2007 at 5:55 am

    >>>The onus is on you to prove that Jesus is as fictional as the tooth fairy.

    therefore the onus is on you to prove that Joseph Smith didnt receive tablets from god.. or that mohammad wasnt visited by gaberial etc etc

    >>Whether I think Jesus is God or not doesn’t change the fact that He is.

    that IS logical. but irrelevant. what we’re trying to asscertian is … is it a fact? we’re not saying that disbeliveing it makes it not a fact… any more than beliving it does make it a fact.

    you may or may not belive that i have green ears… beliving it one way or the other wont change it… wont make it any more r less fact. i grant you that. but you understand why its an irrelavant point? we must investage any super-natural claims skeptically lest we would belive and fall for anything.

  • 61. Yueheng  |  December 4, 2007 at 7:53 am

    Guna wrote:

    Why is it unreasonable to think that Jesus is God?

    For one, it’s not even certain that the historical Jesus thought of himself as God.

    As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. — Mark 10:17-18, NIV)

    In the above passage, Jesus is clearly saying that he is not God. Since Mark is the oldest Gospel, perhaps the above episode is closer to the historical truth than the Gospel of John (which supports the “Jesus is God” doctrine which was written decades later than Mark and shows signs of a theological evolution away from the synoptic Gospels.

  • 62. Guna  |  December 4, 2007 at 10:03 am

    Yueheng,

    For one, it’s not even certain that the historical Jesus thought of himself as God.

    1. On what basis do you state this fact?

    Jesus is clearly saying that he is not God

    Again, please expound how Jesus is is denying His own deity in this passage? The man approached Jesus as mere man, saying, and called him a good teacher, and asked how he may inherit eternal life. The man had a number of false assumptions : 1. He thought a man could be ‘good’. 2. He thought he could ‘inherit’ eternal life 3. He self-righteously thought that keeping of the law could gain eternal life.
    Jesus systematically breaks down the man’s assumptions starting on his own ground, and the end result is the man walks away with his self-righteousness broken.
    The verse you quoted is a weak one to use to disprove Jesus’s deity.

    Since Mark is the oldest Gospel, perhaps the above episode is closer to the historical truth than the Gospel of John

    Friend, Mark’s gospel opens with the Father’s confession of Jesus being His Son (1:11)
    In John’s gospel, the Jews wanted to kill him because he called God the Father. Joh 5:17-18 And Jesus answered them, `My Father till now doth work, and I work;’ because of this, then, were the Jews seeking the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the sabbath, but he also called God his own Father, making himself equal to God. Obviously the Jews completely hated the fact that Jesus thought Himself as God. The Gospel of John doesn’t introduce the divinity of Jesus, it just emphasises it (for purposes I wont discuss here).

    And thank you for actually quoting bible verses, as it makes it easier to reference and explain.

  • 63. qmonkey  |  December 4, 2007 at 10:14 am

    >>For one, it’s not even certain that the historical Jesus thought of himself as God.

    >>1. On what basis do you state this fact?

    I think part of the problem here is communication…. ie you think that Yueheng was stating a fact, when he wasnt.

  • 64. qmonkey  |  December 4, 2007 at 10:18 am

    I must say Yueheng, unless you belive the bible is litteral and reliable as reportage… then don’t quote it as evidence… you’ll get in all sorts of trouble. You concede far too much when you do this.

  • 65. Guna  |  December 4, 2007 at 10:34 am

    qmonkey,

    therefore the onus is on you to prove that Joseph Smith didnt receive tablets from god.. or that mohammad wasnt visited by gaberial etc etc

    Don’t sidestep the issue. Prove it. and where did the tooth fairy go?
    J.Smith and mohammed you mentioned has changed the premise of your first comment. You were talking about jesus and tooth fairy.

    in any case, on Joseph Smith’s experiences and claims, read his own follower’s comments :

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Mormon Church : “Our individual, personal testimonies are based on the witness of the Spirit, not on any combination or accumulation of historical facts. If we are so grounded, no alteration of historical facts can shake our testimonies.” (“1985 CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium,” Brigham Young University, Aug. 16, 1985, page 26)

    Oops. JS’s own followers have decided that JS is a prophet, regardless of evidence otherwise, or the lack of it.

    Mohammed, claimed to receive revelation when he was alone in a cave. No eyewitness accounts, no one to corroborate the fact. Again, no evidence to support his claim.

    Jesus’s miracles and works were done openly and publicly. People saw Lazarus walk out of the tomb. People heard God’s testimony regarding His Son. More then 500 saw him alive after his crucifixion. Many saw him ascending into the sky. At least 3 gospels and even many anti-christian writings were written in the same lifetime as those witnesses and have passed peer-examination.

    i’ll have to visit the library again to recap the research i’ve done on extrabiblical accounts of Jesus. So i’m sorry if i can’t quote all that proves not only that He existed, but He did miracles that only a God could do.

    i know i’ve not been convincing enough, and I know that it won’t shake your doubt in Jesus’s existence and deity.

    By the way, do you believe there was this man by the name of Alexander the Great? Why do you believe he existed?
    Cheers.

  • 66. Guna  |  December 4, 2007 at 10:37 am

    I must say Yueheng, unless you belive the bible is litteral and reliable as reportage… then don’t quote it as evidence… you’ll get in all sorts of trouble. You concede far too much when you do this

    Yes, its the safer way. Stay away from absolutes. Being relative always gives room to argue your view. :)

  • 67. Guna  |  December 4, 2007 at 10:40 am

    I think part of the problem here is communication…. ie you think that Yueheng was stating a fact, when he wasnt.

    Benefit of doubt to yueheng, I’ll change my response:
    What basis is did you make that statement orwhateveryoudliketocallit. :)

  • 68. qmonkey  |  December 4, 2007 at 10:49 am

    Guna

    I apologise… i used Joe smith, Mohammad, reincarnation, Ganesh etc etc etc as a way to say i can’t prove theres no god. i wasn’t ducking anything. If anyone thinks they can prove a negative then they don’t understand the nature of evidence based inquiry.

    I can’t prove that the tooth fairy doenst exist – neither can you.

    Im afraid, that’s why the onus is on you… and anyone else who is making such a big claim… we can’t have default positions of all gods, ghosts, myths, fairtales and miracles probably happened… now prove they didn’t!!! that’s just weird

    >By the way, do you believe there was this man by the name of Alexander the Great? Why do you believe he existed?

    Because of numerous independent historical sources…. Im sure there are things which Alexander is said to have done, which he didn’t… history gets warped… and certainly if there are any super-natural claims.. I assume them wrong till proved other wise. You don’t seem to understand my view… im think Jesus did exist… i think theres enough evidence for that… i just dont think there’s enough evidence that he rose from his own death…

    You know what… if Jesus had hung about for a few years afterwards, saying hi to Pilot and herod… holding mass rallys … i think that would have been decent evidence.

    If you think the evidence is there… then fair enough.. each to his own… i personally don’t. It’s not because im blinded or don’t want to… its just that im unconvinced… i could pretend to believe it if you like… but i’d just be pretending to you and to myself. what should i do?

    Maybe if you tell me what first made you believe, it would help?

  • 69. Sojourner  |  December 4, 2007 at 11:16 am

    ~Another suggestion to Yueheng~

    If you plan to use the Bible in your argument (which I agree with Qmonkey… if you are arguing against it… probably not a good idea to use it), it would be best to use it correctly.
    In most formal debates you would get lambasted for using something out of context or isolating a fact/statistic to aide your side. This shows a lack of knowledge on the subject at hand and a disregard of scholarship. The Bible is no different.
    I am not trying to “blast” you. A blog like this can be a great tool for learning. And one of the best ways to learn is to be corrected when something is being done wrong.

    ~Sojouner~

  • 70. Guna  |  December 4, 2007 at 11:51 am

    Maybe if you tell me what first made you believe, it would help?

    How would it help you, qmonkey? based on most blog posts and comments here, any testimony is quickly dissected, marked as ‘thoughtless stupidity’ and the witness branded ‘foolish’.

    Anyway, since you asked… When I heard the gospel, i felt a deep sense of conviction, of my sin and willful ignorance of God in my life. I was afraid of judgement after death, afraid of hell. Then i read that the judgement of my sin was paid, by jesus. After stuggling some days, i asked jesus to save me.

    Yes, i know, a teddy bear would have responded the same way, right? But a teddy bear has never convicted me of sin. And a teddy bear has never given me the peace i feel now.

    If you think the evidence is there… then fair enough.. each to his own… i personally don’t. It’s not because im blinded or don’t want to… its just that im unconvinced… i could pretend to believe it if you like… but i’d just be pretending to you and to myself. what should i do?

    Wow, you’ve just confirmed a bible verse.

    1Pe 2:7 To you therefore who believe is the preciousness; but to the disobedient, the stone which the builders cast away as worthless, this is become head of the corner,
    1Pe 2:8 and a stone of stumbling and rock of offence; who stumble at the word, being disobedient to which also they have been appointed

    Jesus, precious to me, a stumbling block to you. Exactly what the bible says.

    Out. the verse has just reminded of what i need to do (rather stop doing) ;)

  • 71. qmonkey  |  December 4, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    >>When I heard the gospel, i felt a deep sense of conviction, of my sin and willful ignorance of God in my life. I was afraid of judgement after death, afraid of hell.

    But what made you think that Hell was a literal fact to be scared off? Did you not spend some time forensically investigating the claims in the NT? If not, why not? If yes…. How long did you spend on this investigation before you believed it? Had you ever heard of Jesus before your moment of salvation? What was your view of the Jesus stories before that?

    You wouldnt encourage me to Belive is any other religion or faith? the rest are all wrong… yeah? what about Gumboism? its really good… if i explain it to you… do you think theres a chance you might abandon christ and join Gumbo? if not, why no? you seemed to have joined Christ without too much inquiry. (or am i assuming too much)

    [i made up Gumboism, but its a good one... it's heaven it fantastic... and it's hell is worse than your hell]

  • 72. Yueheng  |  December 4, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Hello Guna:

    It is a historical fact that the early Christians were not certain that Jesus is God and held contending beliefs about his nature. There were Christians who were “Adoptionists”, who believed that Jesus was a human being “adopted” by God to be His Son. There were Christians who were ‘Docetists”, who thought that Jesus was completely divine and only appeared to be human. There were also “Separationist” Christians (Gnostics) who believed Jesus was a human being in whom the perfect Christ dwelled. The reason we know this is that these different understandings of Jesus resulted in writings that later became lost or suppressed by the “proto-orthodox Christians” established the orthodoxy of today. The term “proto-orthodox Christians” was coined by New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman and is used to denote the group of Christians whose beliefs came to form the views of orthodox Christianity as we know it today.

    The verse you quoted is a weak one to use to disprove Jesus’s deity.

    I don’t think you are reading the passage objectively. Let me break it down for you A man approaches Jesus and calls him “Good teacher.” Jesus then tells him that it is not appropriate to call him good because only God is good. In other words, Jesus is saying that he is not God.

    Mark’s gospel opens with the Father’s confession of Jesus being His Son (1:11)

    According to my understanding, the title “Son of God” is a title that was associated with the Messiah and also King David. The Psalms refer to David as a Son of God (Psalm 2:7 and 89:27) Does this mean then that King David is God?

    Obviously the Jews completely hated the fact that Jesus thought Himself as God. The Gospel of John doesn’t introduce the divinity of Jesus, it just emphasises it (for purposes I wont discuss here).

    How do you know that the Gospel of John is a literal and faithful representation of the life and ministry of Jesus? In fact it is ironic that you declare the “Jesus is God” doctrine as a fact when it is merely a belief that has been interpreted from a collection of ancient manuscripts. If that is a fact, then the stories of Lord Sri Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad-gita are also facts. All the sacred mythologies of the ancient world that have been preserved in ancient manuscripts and continue to be believed by people today are all facts.

    Sojourner wrote:

    In most formal debates you would get lambasted for using something out of context or isolating a fact/statistic to aide your side. This shows a lack of knowledge on the subject at hand and a disregard of scholarship. The Bible is no different.

    Thanks for the advice, but I don’t think I quoted the passage in Mark 10:17-18 out of context. The passage has Jesus categorically declining to be placed on the same platform of God. Of course in a canon compiled by the proto-orthodox “Jesus is God” Christians, such a passage would be problematic. But the history of Christianity does not belong to these proto-orthodox Christians alone. The Gospel of Mark was written when the New Testament was still decades from being standardized and the writer of the Gospel certainly did not think what he was writing would one day be considered “scripture”. He was only writing down the story of Jesus according to the sources at his disposal (The Gospel Q for instance) and his own understanding. Hence, if one looks at Mark 10:17-18 as a story that was inherited from the historical Jesus, then there is the real possibility of contradiction between what that Jesus thought about himself and the teaching about him that went on to be developed after his life.

  • 73. Jed Rothwell  |  December 4, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    I am an atheist, but I cannot imagine why you would want to de-convert people! If people find happiness in religion, that’s wonderful for them. Most religions are harmless, and many are helpful. They seem a little irrational to me, but so what? People have countless irrational and unfounded beliefs, and most of them cause no harm. Even scientists believe in some things without evidence.

    I think the urge to de-convert people is no more laudable than the urge to convert them. It seems to spring from the same instinct: the desire to influence others and make them resemble yourself. I wouldn’t want people to resemble me! The world would be insufferably boring. We would all drive at the speed limit, but I can’t think of any other advantages.

    The only thing I would like to quash is intolerance. I wish that Muslims would stop hating Christians and vice versa, and I wish the Pope would stop attacking atheists.

    I would not want to convert someone like A.M. Brewster, but life would be more pleasant for everyone if he would take some time to learn about atheists. He wrote:

    “I suppose if a person believes they’ve evolved from nothing, for no reason, with no purpose for their existence, and they don’t accept there’s a supernatural being that loves them . . . I guess that kind of person would be pretty miserable.”

    That’s absurd. Most atheists are as happy as a clam. I am delighted that we evolved from nothing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I assume Brewster is happy with his life and his beliefs. Why does he imagine that other people are miserable with theirs? Whatever happened to good-old American-style live and let live?

    Consider this: There are many different kinds of women in this world. A woman who attracts one man may repel another. Let us imagine that Brewster meets my wife and finds he intensely dislikes her, and sees nothing attractive about her. Would he imagine that I could not possibly love her? Why is it so difficult for people to accept that other people have different tastes, different beliefs, priorities and so on. Why does that bother anyone?

    Some are religious by instinct; others are not. If you are inclined to be religious then go ahead, and if not, then don’t worry about it. Just be true to yourself and be happy.

  • 74. Matt  |  December 5, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    You act like people who live inside a world of faith are so different then people who live outside of one. Those are nothing but labels. The truth is everyone has different beliefs. The most important thing, I think, is not having to be right all the time. People who want to be right all the time usually over simplify concepts and issues, you’ll find them being labeled as “fundamentalists”

    Idealogical extremism / fundamentalism is a major cause for human suffering.

  • 75. bipolar2  |  December 8, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    ** Expect becoming-who-you-are to hurt **

    The word ‘islam’ means submission. Obviously submission to the will of Allah, as prescribed in the five pillars of faith. The big-3 monotheisms are alike in dismissing an individual’s will, “not my will but thy will done” as we’re shown in the poignant scene at Gethsemane in the NT.

    Self-assertion takes on the character not of honest questioning and personal growth, but of insubordination and rebellion. Think of Prometheus vs Jesus.

    With characteristic, combative verve, Kierkegaard condemns the doubter as insubordinate, a rebel against fideism:

    “They would have us believe that objections against Christianity come from doubt. This is always a misunderstanding. Objections against Christianity come from insubordination, unwillingness to obey, rebellion against all authority. Therefore, they have been beating the air against the objectors, because they have fought intellectually [against] doubt, instead of fighting ethically [against] rebellion. . . .So it is not properly doubt but insubordination.” (Lowrie 122)

    Thus, SK. It’s not surprising that even attempting to leave a religious culture which demands ’subordination’ or ’submission’ to someone else’s interpretation of an alleged “will of god” adversely affects the psychological well-being of the “apostate.” Guilt feelings. Guilt is the elder brother of Sin.

    Becoming-who-you-are or “Individuation” (to use Jung’s terminology) is the goal of personal growth. It cannot occur without self-doubt or without doubting authority figures. When you’ve made a “leap of faith” into hyper-religious space there is no return except by self-assertion, and doubt is just a form of it.

    Irrational self-assertion characterizes the popular culture, the “secular” culture. Irrational fideism characterizes fundamentalism, jewish, xian, or islamic.

    Tolerance, that wide band of humane behavior, lies between inhuman anarchy and inhuman puritanism. Trying to navigate in that band requires years of training and making a lot of mistakes. And, there is no end to learning until life itself ends.

    bipolar2
    c. 2007

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  • 79. Joe  |  July 11, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Can the de-converted people on this site maybe take a moment to discuss what they think are the best ways to guide people from their prison of faith?

    LOL LOL

    I had never seen the article above. When I read it I thought, “this sounds like it is going to be a very reasonable post. The quotes used are very good, and he is laying out the argument that neither side can really prove anything to the other—but then he ends the whole thing with “guide people from their prison of faith”.

    “Prison of faith”? LOL That sounds like QuestionMonkey is really trying to present a reasonable argument. Saying “inside of faith” and “outside of faith” is fine—but to end the article calling the “inside” a “Prison” is hilarious as hell. I have believed for many years, and I am in no prison—a little closed-minded about my faith and those who would mock it or attempt to “disprove” it—sure. But I am in no prison—I can say after 35 years (I was saved when I was 17 and am 52 years old now) that the greatest day of my life was the day my next door neighbor handed me the Gospel of John.

    I can only say with the blind man, who was not very good at explaining to the Pharisees why he believed in Jesus, “All I know is that once I was blind, but now I see”. My joy was great then, and is even greater now, because I am closer to the day when I will stand before the Lord than I was then (I am older now, but just as filled with hope)

    Man—if that is prison, give me 8 life terms!

  • 80. John  |  June 29, 2009 at 2:51 am

    The fact is that everyone has belief based on something, if nothing other their own life experience. The evidence is that everyone has faith. Even scientists that are bent on supporting evolution are dependent on their faith. To suggest otherwise would imply that humans support causes only to promote their own social power or to get a nice rush of adrenaline or dopamine. Consider the reality of faith or belief next time you sit in a chair without thinking or consider the possibility when you will see a sunrise in the morning. People are bound, slaves to what they believe and possibly by what others believe. All members of society influence one another. We do not live isolated from our peers, whether ‘friend’ or ‘foe’.

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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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