On Dealing With Christians

February 3, 2008 at 5:32 pm 58 comments

Partially as a response to the thoughts of LeoPardus and partially from the evolution of my own psychology and philosophy over the past year or so, here is something I just put up on my blog:

cross 13My road to de-conversion was a long one. I spent several years as an anxious theology major, and later as an anxious philosophy major trying to sort through the veracity of Christian truth claims. During the process of coming to reject Christianity, I remained quite agreeable to Christianity. When I made the leap and walked away from Christianity, a combination to the flood of responses (both positive and negative) and my own naiveté led to a most vicious lashing out against institutions of faith.

In due time, my anger subsided and I was left with the question, “What next?”

There is a great tension in my life regarding this question. On the one hand, I believe Christianity is just another mythology, if a bit more complex. On the other hand, my time as a Christians contributed a great deal to my formative years as a person. On the other, other hand, I see great amounts of harm come from those who subscribe to what I perceive to be false religious belief. On the other, other, other hand, I see people do great amounts of good as a result of their committed Christian faith.

So what to do?

For a while I was attracted to such groups as the Rational Response Squad. Far be it for me to criticize my fellow atheists, but I cannot bring myself to stomach some of their tactics. Perhaps it is because we have different goals, all atheists are not the same, after all. As a Christian, I watched the Blasphemy Challenge videos with disdain. They seemed to me to be nothing more than a slap in the face to Christians. As an atheist, I still see the Blasphemy Challenge as a slap in the face against Christians. The goal of the project is to allow atheists to proudly dissent from popular culture, and ultimately, I assume, to promote atheism as an alternative to theism. The consequence that I see is to marginalize atheists more by making us look reactionary and angry. I doubt not the RRS’ motives, only their methods.

Likewise, I watch and read Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and am encouraged by the articulate, intelligent and charismatic way that they are able to promote the cause of atheism. At the same time, I am concerned by their blanket statements. Dawkins proposes that religion is the root of all evil. Harris claims that moderate theists are just as responsible for violence and suffering as extremists. Respectfully, I must disagree with both of them. Religion is not the root of all evil, it is simply a vehicle that is convenient for evil. Similarly, I have a hard time blaming the Methodists for Muslim jihadists.

Religious people are not the enemy. War, violence, hatred, paranoia, unchecked self-interest… these things are the enemy to progress. And yes, I believe that Christians, because of their false beliefs, can cause a great amount of harm in the world. But, atheists can cause an equal amount of harm.

Christians (and Muslims, Hindus, etc.), I disagree with you. I think you have poor epistemic justification for your religious belief. I think that you Christian faith clouds your judgment and restrains your intellect. I’m sure you have similar sentiments about my lack of religious belief. But I don’t hate you. I don’t despise you. I hope that my philosophy will one day triumph over yours, but through dialogue and debate, not through coercion or legislation.

Atheists, I implore you not to become reactionaries or radicals. Let us not alienate the 2+ billion Christians in the world, the 1.5+ Muslims in the world, the <1 billion Hindus in the world, the 14 million Jews, the 23 million Sikhs or even the 500 thousand Scientologists. Let us use persuasion and discussion, not angry reaction. Atheism is not a comprehensive worldview. Atheism is the beginning of future progress, not the end.

So on the one end of spectrum, I hope that I can avoid reactionary zeal. At the same time, I don’t want to go to the other end of the spectrum and embrace appeasement. In the name of political correctness, I do not want to hesitate to disagree publicly with the religious majority. Ken Ham stands in the way of scientific progress. Mike Huckabee has dangerous plans for the United States Constitution.

So what is the answer? For me, qualified tolerance. Like most people, I spent a portion of my life as a theist. I understand the psychological drive to believe in something transcendent. I recognize that many of the Christians I know are driven by their faith to be compassionate and socially responsible. Churches run soup kitchens and homeless shelters. And while I can come side by side with my religious friends in these regards, I am not going to back down from challenging the justification for their tightly held beliefs.

- carriedthecross

Entry filed under: CarriedTheCross. Tags: , , , , , , .

You Know What They Say About Assumptions… Atheist or Anti-Theist?

58 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sims  |  February 3, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Do you have a source for the claim that: ‘Dawkins proposes that religion is the root of all evil’? I’d be surprised if you do, as I’m sure I’ve heard him explicitly deny such an accusation.

  • 2. Bryan  |  February 3, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    I just wanted to comment that I strongly agree with your approach to dealing with “people of faith” (Christian or otherwise). Browbeating is not the answer. When Christians browbeat us atheists or agnostics, does that do anything other than hold to our convictions even more tightly? Why should we others to react any differently if we browbeat them?

    Human beings close their minds when their beliefs are ridiculed. It seems to me that whenever we ridicule others’ beliefs we are more focused on pumping up our own conviction than we are on changing others’ thinking.

  • 3. dd  |  February 3, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Do you know what reactionary means? Because it doesn’t seem like it from your context.

  • 4. Anonymous #1  |  February 3, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Dawkins has a documentary called “Root of All Evil?”, yet in his book “The God Delusion” he tells the reader that he was troubled with the title of his BBC documentary. Because Religion is not root of all evil.

  • 5. Philip  |  February 3, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    I can still see hope for you.
    May God forgive your nescience.

  • 6. Matt  |  February 3, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Indeed, Dawkins did not like that title. It was a decision made by the BBC, not him.

  • 7. CarriedTheCross  |  February 3, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    “Do you have a source for the claim that: ‘Dawkins proposes that religion is the root of all evil’?”

    “Dawkins has a documentary called “Root of All Evil?”, yet in his book “The God Delusion” he tells the reader that he was troubled with the title of his BBC documentary. Because Religion is not root of all evil.”

    Thank you for the correction, allow me to ‘print a retraction,’ if you will. For the record, I enjoy Dawkins. But I think the principle of my point still stands: a perusal of atheism blogs on the internet will show that many respond to theism with blanket accusations.

  • 8. CarriedTheCross  |  February 3, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    DD,

    “Do you know what reactionary means? Because it doesn’t seem like it from your context.”

    Ahoy, you are quite correct. Always embarresing to misuse a word. Disregard.

  • 9. peter  |  February 3, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    As discussed above Dawkins has said in several interviews that he did not want the title “The Root of all Evil?”, but producers chose the title. Dawkins only managed to add “?” to the end of the title as a compromise. Dawkins has stated that he does not believe that anything can be a root of ALL evil.

  • 10. gotnoblue  |  February 3, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    as a Christian (typing on my iPod, so please forgive my typos), thank you. There is nothing more frustrating than being labeled as a narrow/close minded individual because I identify myself as a follower of Christ. It’s no different that some other ” Christians” who berate others, claiming they are going to hell for believing the way they do. Thank you for encouraging discussion. I need to read and think some more before I can comment inteligently, but I wanted to express my appreciation for your position.

  • 11. notabarbie  |  February 3, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Phillip:
    Verpissdich! Abscheulich christlich!

  • 12. LeoPardus  |  February 3, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Thanks for this post. I agree of course. Christians are not “the enemy”. They are just people trying to find a way through life. They may be wrong in their essential belief, but by and large that error does not lead to horrible actions on their part. Misguided maybe. And if you do want them to see the error of their beliefs, you’ll never get there by branding them, hating them, or ridiculing them.

  • 13. TheDeeZone  |  February 3, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    CTC,

    First, your post is well written, respectufl and thoughtful.

    . I think that you Christian faith clouds your judgment and restrains your intellect.
    I strongly disagree with this statement. It may be true for some Chrisitans especially those that “check their brain at the door”. However, it is not the case for all of us. I may strongly disagree with you but that does make it right to make disaparging comments about you intellectully capacity or ability. Also, I could say your unbelief clouds your judgement and retrains your intellect.

    On Mike Huckabee. I am both a Christian & a Southern Baptist. Not sure about his plans for the constition. However, I am concerned about past willinginess to skirt or bend rules. He was one of a group of promient Baptist who signed a document that was published in support of the most recent verison of the Baptist Faith & Message (BFM). The change to the BFM has been controversial because of its content — women should be submissve to their husbands. National news coverage have picked up on that. It isn’t the content of the change to the BFM that bothers me but the way in which it was done. Protocal for changing the BFM wasn’t followed. If he is willing to break the rules as a leader of a church to fit his agenda and change to a document that in the past really hasn’t meant much. All SBC churches are automous & what happens at the convention is non-binding. Most Baptist have never read the BFM.

  • 14. Thinking Ape  |  February 4, 2008 at 12:14 am

    TheDeeZone,
    I too disagree with the statement, “I think that your Christian faith clouds your judgment and restrains your intellect,” but with a qualification: Christian faith itself has no, or little, affect on an individual’s judgment or intellect, except when that faith is called into question. When this belief system is criticized, the defense is psychological/emotional rather than intellectual/reasonable.

    Of course, if you allow your faith to pervade every portion of your life, as evangelicals and fundamentalists say they do, then the outcome is often that of poor judgments, i.e. homeschooling children to believe that they are a persecuted minority that must rescue the immoral state of America by protesting Evolutionary Theory.

  • 15. Thinking Ape  |  February 4, 2008 at 12:15 am

    P.S. I was one of those home-schooled children.

  • 16. carriedthecross  |  February 4, 2008 at 12:23 am

    TDZ,

    “I strongly disagree with this statement. It may be true for some Chrisitans especially those that “check their brain at the door”. However, it is not the case for all of us. I may strongly disagree with you but that does make it right to make disaparging comments about you intellectully capacity or ability. Also, I could say your unbelief clouds your judgement and retrains your intellect.”

    First, allow me to say that I hope you did not interpret that sentence as me attempting to disparage your intelligence. I do; however, stand by the intention of the remark. But, allow me to clarify: Each of us, as a result of circumstance, capability, personality, choice, etc. perceive the world in different ways. There are many assumptions we bring into our paradigm of the world, some are true, some are not, and many are somewhere in between. Religion is only one assumption, and as I believe that religious belief is un-true, I think it does in that sense cause you to have a ‘less true’ paradigm. At the same time, there are many, many other issues that affect our paradigm. I am sure that there are many ways in which I have untrue assumptions that cloud my judgment and restrain my intellect.

  • 17. John  |  February 4, 2008 at 12:34 am

    I totally agree with your stance. I find Dawkins a little bit too militant sometimes. I dont think all religions are equally harmful.
    Some promote hatred/violence.

  • 18. Dan (Fitness)  |  February 4, 2008 at 1:34 am

    I don’t totally agree, but very nicely argued.
    I think a little bit of fire is a needed counterpoint to the passion some religious groups bring to the table.

  • 19. TheDeeZone  |  February 4, 2008 at 2:14 am

    TA,

    I disagree with homeschooling to protect a child from the evils of the world. The Bible is clear that we are to “be in the world but not of it”. Children need to be taught why they believe something and what to do when someone challenages their belief. In my opinion it is better to teach about such topic as the theory of evolution and why I don’t support it than ignore it.

    However, I support the parent’s right to chose the educational setting that best meets the needs of their child. BTW, my I am the editor of a Homeschool site, there is a link on my blog if your are interested.
    DH

  • 20. qmonkey  |  February 4, 2008 at 6:51 am

    great post CTC.

  • 21. Michelle  |  February 4, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Good post, CTC, voices of moderation are much easier to hear no matter where you “make camp.”

    I recognize this post is not about homeschooling – but I want to chime in. After being a public school teacher, I chose to homeschool before I ever had children to insure they would get their basic skills down well. I put them in public school at the high school level so they could transition before college.

    My decision was made due to spending most of my time as a 6th grade teacher remediating students who had not progressed past the 3rd grade level, but were moved on. Too many children fall through the cracks – one-on-one helps the teacher to see weaknesses better. I thank God I’m in a country which allows me to make this choice. Having children with disabilities, it helped them to become honor students once they reached public school.

  • 22. debbie50  |  February 4, 2008 at 11:23 am

    You seem to me to be a very intelligent person. I’m not. Just an average women who has believed in God since a very young age and I can’t understand why athiest don’t believe. Jesus did walk on this earth. He did die on the cross. May I ask who do you refer to when your down. Who do you ask for help in your life when no one has the answers. What do you do when your mother or father or sister or wife or child is dying. Do you cry for help to nothing. I ask God for help. He gives me hope. What about the documentations of people seeing angels. I had a friend whose daughter died in a car accident. The person in the car saw an angel take the girl who died and lifted her up out of the car into the night sky. If you believe there is a Devil then you have to beleive in God.

  • 23. TheDeeZone  |  February 4, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Michelle,

    As a former public school teacher, I agree with you about homeschooling. I have lived in areas where I don’t trust the public schools. My distrust is because of what they don’t teach not what they teach or might. Also, the obession with passing state test, NCLB, and meeting basic skills has caused education in many cases to be reduced to the lowest common demoninator. If if a school has high ratings that just means they did well on the state test not that they are really teaching anything beyond the test.

    DH

  • 24. Justin  |  February 4, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    A pretty decent post,

    my only qualm? The title. Nobody likes the idea of being “dealt with”. It doesn’t set a very good tone considering the nature of the post.

    Nonetheless, enjoyed your story.

    God Bless,

    Justin

  • 25. Michelle  |  February 4, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Agreed. But then to open a whole other “can of worms,” we don’t even call it public school around here, but government school. I’m so glad we still have choices in America. ;)

  • 26. Jason  |  February 4, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    “You seem to me to be a very intelligent person. I’m not. Just an average women who has believed in God since a very young age and I can’t understand why athiest don’t believe. Jesus did walk on this earth. He did die on the cross. May I ask who do you refer to when your down. Who do you ask for help in your life when no one has the answers. What do you do when your mother or father or sister or wife or child is dying. Do you cry for help to nothing. I ask God for help. He gives me hope. What about the documentations of people seeing angels. I had a friend whose daughter died in a car accident. The person in the car saw an angel take the girl who died and lifted her up out of the car into the night sky. If you believe there is a Devil then you have to beleive in God.”

    debbie50,

    First of all, I don’t know any Atheist who believes in the devil. That would be be pure nonsense.

    I was born a Christian. In fact, I was born into a dynastic Mormon family who has been “in the covenant” for well over a hundred years. To my knowledge, I am the first to completely leave, and my ridiculously large extended family expresses the same confusion you do. How could I, or any Atheist, not believe? Truthfully it becomes a question of how could anyone believe? From an intellectually honest perspective, there is no concrete reason to believe in the existence of a god. That’s it. There are a lot of specifics, of course, but it all comes down to a complete lack of evidence.

    Excellent post CTC; I agree for the most part. However I would argue that moderatism is indeed dangerous in the long run, if not as immediately concerning as religious extremists. Moderates tend to discount ideas from both sides as they see fit, which leads to a very irrational approach to their ideals. How do they chose which to discount? Obviously they don’t send mentally challenged women into a market with explosive belts, but there is no doubt that this irrationality is decremental to human progress. And in the end, like all religion, it just leads to more extremism.

  • 27. Paul S.  |  February 4, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Jesus did walk on this earth.

    So the Bible says. You have to understand that atheists don’t believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. Reliance on one ancient text as any kind of proof of anything is foolish.

    He did die on the cross.

    See my above comment.

    May I ask who do you refer to when your down. Who do you ask for help in your life when no one has the answers.

    I refer on myself, my family, and my friends when I’m down. I’ve never seen any evidence that God provides any answers to anything.

    What do you do when your mother or father or sister or wife or child is dying. Do you cry for help to nothing.

    My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1997. She was a strong Christian believer who continued to have strong faith in God as she continued to die from that disease. Her fellow Church members spent many nights praying for her recovery. She died on September 9, 2000, after a tremendously painful and emaciating spiral that lasted over a year. I guess this was one of those times that God’s answer to prayer was “No”? And I am thankful that my mom’s friends cared enough to pray for her. Perhaps her faith in God even allowed her to face her impending death without as much fear as she might have had otherwise. That is a comforting thought. But after all is said and done, does that make God’s existence any more believable? No. Belief in a belief is proof of nothing.

    I ask God for help. He gives me hope.

    I just don’t understand how asking God for help (or anyone or anything for that matter), would give you hope. What happens when your prayer is not answered? Do you lose hope? What then? Pray again? Hope for a different answer?

  • 28. CarriedTheCross  |  February 4, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Justin,

    “my only qualm? The title. Nobody likes the idea of being “dealt with”. It doesn’t set a very good tone considering the nature of the post.”

    I see what you mean, I suppose the intended tone of the title and the perceived tone of the title may very well be different. I apologize if it sounds condescending in any way, it is not my intention to dismisively ‘deal with’ Christians.

    Jason,

    “However I would argue that moderatism is indeed dangerous in the long run, if not as immediately concerning as religious extremists.”

    I would agree that the so-called moderate position is not the answer to every problem. What I am concerned with is the way in which we approach those who differ from us. It seems strange to me that we are able to speak passionately, yet politely, to one another on issues that don’t matter; but regarding those issues that genuinely affect how we perceive and act in the world, there is a tendency to hate the opposition. Why can’t Democrats and Republicans disagree – and vehemently so – on the issues, and still recognize the other is patriotic? The same principle, I believe, is applied to the theist v. atheist debate.

  • 29. LeoPardus  |  February 4, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    debbie50:

    I can’t understand why athiest don’t believe.

    Look in the archives and you’ll see some posts entitle “Reasons I can no long believe”. If you want to understand, those may help.

    Jesus did walk on this earth. He did die on the cross.

    Actually I can buy both of those. The resurrection on the other hand. Sorry. That was one of the last things to go, but I had to let it.

    What do you do when your mother or father or sister or wife or child is dying.

    Cry, hope, whatever. Deal with it as we all must.

    I ask God for help.

    And he doesn’t help. Your loved one dies anyway. You lose your job anyway. Marriages fall apart, Christians drink their brains out, etc. And when people have actually gone to the trouble to compare, Christians aren’t different from anyone else by any measure. Not health, not behavior, not “happiness”, nothing. Heck, they aren’t even any more deluded than a lot of non-Christians.

    He gives me hope.

    No. You give you hope. You hope in a being whom you can never see, hear, touch, or in any way detect objectively.

    What about the documentations of people seeing angels.

    There are no documentations. Just people making claims. There are scads of claims about Bigfoot, Nessie, UFOs, ghosts, Virgin Mary’s appearing, etc. Do you believe all those just because folks say they saw them?

    I had a friend whose daughter died in a car accident. The person in the car saw an angel take the girl who died and lifted her up out of the car into the night sky.

    So? Does that somehow mean it happened? Has no one ever seen something that wasn’t real. Like an hallucination? Heck the other person just had a collision. They might have been banged on the head. Come on debbie50, think these things through.

    If you believe there is a Devil then you have to beleive in God.

    I seriously doubt there even one de-con who believes in a Devil.

  • 30. TheDeeZone  |  February 4, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Jason,
    I was born a Christian.

    No one is born a Christian. Your parents may be Christians & where raised in a Christian home. Being a Christian involves a personel descion to become one. Infants are incapable of making this decision.

  • 31. Jason  |  February 4, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Bah, old habits die hard. I agree completely, of course, it’s just how I had explained it for over 19 years. Replace it with “I was born into a Christian family.”

  • 32. ED  |  February 4, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I understand precisely where you are coming from. I recently after 50 years in the church de-converted. Everyone in my community knows me from the gospel music, performances, productions and teachings that marked who I was for my entire life. It was during a study on the doctrine of original sin where I came to the realization that I could not ascribe goodness to a God that would choose a federal head for all of humanity, knowing he would fall, all of creation would suffer as a consequences of that man, man would be born into this world with a predisposition toward sin, and if you were calvinistic, could not effect your own salvation unless God irresistibly called, or if you were one of the unlucky millions upon millions of people who never heard the gospel, for the Arminians, you are just as screwed as the Calvinist. Then because of your inherited proclivities you will be tormented for ever and ever in hell. WOW! It is the equivalent of God punishing retarded children for being born retarded.

    But how do I now treat all those people? I want to respect and honor their right to believe whatever they want to believe. I spent 50 years looking at Christianity from the inside out; it is a whole different perspective when you begin to look at it from the outside in. When the epistemological tools you used to process the world around you can now be used as well to look at God. It is consistent. That is what theist do not have consistency in epistemology.

  • 33. karen  |  February 4, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    I recently after 50 years in the church de-converted. Everyone in my community knows me from the gospel music, performances, productions and teachings that marked who I was for my entire life.

    Welcome ED! glad you are here. If you haven’t heard Dan Barker’s deconversion story, you’d be interested. He was also a music minister and missionary for decades before coming to the same realization.

    It is the equivalent of God punishing retarded children for being born retarded.

    That’s a terrific analogy. Yet the disconnect doesn’t seem to occur to so many believers, even if you point it out.

    When the epistemological tools you used to process the world around you can now be used as well to look at God. It is consistent. That is what theist do not have consistency in epistemology.

    As Galileo said, ““I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

  • 34. ED  |  February 4, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Once I realized that I could not come to faith using classical apologetics, that one had to embrace a presuppositional view and that every religion started at that point. Once I realized that 99% of all people adopt the faith of the culture and family that they belong to, I could then look at Bart Erhmans “Lost Christianities,” and “Misquoting Jesus” to realize how tenuous the Christian faith actually was.

  • 35. tobeme  |  February 4, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    THat’s a lot of hands. I think you are looking for a black and white answer in a very colorful world. There is good in all things, just because it has a certain label, do not discard it, for you may be disregarding a lesson of truth and beauty. Trust in yourself.

  • 36. carriedthecross  |  February 4, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    “THat’s a lot of hands. I think you are looking for a black and white answer in a very colorful world.”

    It is indeed a lot of hands. I’m not sure, though, that I am looking for a black and white answer. In fact, my intention in writing is that the situation is much more complex than I (and dare I say many others) initially gave it credit.

  • 37. Asymptosis  |  February 5, 2008 at 2:20 am

    “If you believe there is a Devil then you have to beleive in God.”

    According to Bayes’ Theorem, the probability that a person is a Satanist given that they are an atheist is:

    P(S | A) = P(A | S)P(S) / [P(A | S)P(S) + P(A | ~S)P(~S)],

    where S denotes the event that a person is a Satanist, A the event that they are an atheist, and the tilde indicates “not”.

    Now, suppose that:
    P(A | S) = 0.9 (most Satanists are atheists)
    P(A | ~S) = 0.2 (most other people are not atheists)
    P(S) = 1/10000 (most people are not Satanists)
    P(~S) = 1 – 1/10000

    Then the formula reveals that,
    P(S | A) = (0.9 x 1/10000) / [0.9 x 1/10000 + 0.2 x (1 - 1/10000)]
    = 1 / 2223
    (About 0.045%)

    Now, while this is about 4 times the proportion proposed for the general population, it is still a very small percentage of atheists who are Satanists (assuming my figures are anything near correct – they are just guesses after all.)

  • 38. franchisu  |  February 5, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Wouldn’t baye’s theorem could have been easily done this way:

    P(A|B) = [P(B|A)*P(A)]/P(B) ?

    or

    P(S|A) = [P(A|S)*P(S)]/P(A)

    assigning arbitrarily that
    P(A) = 2% or 0.02 (not a lot of people are atheist)

    we get

    P(S|A) = [0.9*0.0001]/0.2

    which yields the same number of 0.00045 or 0.045%

  • 39. Asymptosis  |  February 5, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    “Wouldn’t baye’s theorem could have been easily done this way: P(A|B) = [P(B|A)*P(A)]/P(B) ?”

    Yes.

  • 40. mewho  |  February 6, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    “I think that your Christian faith clouds your judgment and restrains your intellect. ”

    CTC -
    You’ve had several people DISagree with you about this remark, but I’d like to Agree. I was a Christian until about five years ago, when I began my inevitable slide during a truth-hunting expedition, determined to let the truth take me where it would take me. And here I am, much to my own surprise and the disappointment of my loved ones.

    But when I was a Christian, I thought about the world differently. It is a world-view, and if you accept the doctrines you have heaven, you’re born filthy, you must pray, you need God to do anything good, and verse after verse that you literally build your world on.

    As an atheist, I can’t help but look into the world of Christianity now and see immense waste, empty consolations, false promises. Christians choose differently in life. They judge the use of their time on earth better spent in worship, Bible study, prayer, evangelism, etc. These are judgement calls based upon the way they view God. In the same way that “faith clouds…judgment and restrains… intellect” in the Muslim world, it does it in Christianity as well. Who has been oppossed to stem cell research? Who has oppossed intellectual honesty in the science class? Who despises atheism and why? These are clouded judgements caused by faith, and I think that in the same way the Christians think atheists are from Satan, atheists need to recognize Christians are building their lives on sand.

  • 41. karen  |  February 6, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    mewho

    As an atheist, I can’t help but look into the world of Christianity now and see immense waste, empty consolations, false promises. Christians choose differently in life. They judge the use of their time on earth better spent in worship, Bible study, prayer, evangelism, etc. These are judgement calls based upon the way they view God.

    Yup, I agree with you. There are very fundamental (no pun intended!) differences in the priorities and viewpoints of religious believers (not just Christians) and atheists.

    Rick Warren was on the Colbert Report a week or two ago and he spread his arms out and said that the stretch of earthly existence for most people is only “this long” (about two inches) while eternal life takes up the vast majority of our existence.

    This idea – that our lives on earth are just a tiny and basically throwaway part of our overall existence – is so damaging, in my mind! You’re telling people that instead of life being utterly precious, it’s just a rehearsal for the “big picture” off in another dimension that no one has seen or experienced for themselves. And people fall for it without question!

    That’s sad. That idea and the one about original sin, that makes Christians loathe themselves and conclude that they are incapable of improving themselves, are the two most dangerous and objectionable doctrines in Christianity. The more moderate and liberal denominations that don’t emphasize those doctrines are far less damaging to humanity.

  • 42. Brad  |  February 6, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    “That idea and the one about original sin, that makes Christians loathe themselves and conclude that they are incapable of improving themselves, are the two most dangerous and objectionable doctrines in Christianity.”

    The truly sad part about this doctrine is that (thanks to the Puritans) we have this “emasculating grace” that tells us we are worthless, vile, and evil due to our fallen nature. While this IS true, “empowering grace” is the attitude we should have. This tells us that we ARE capable of improving ourselves if we recognize and utilize the no-strings-attached grace of God. There is nothing more encouraging that knowing that we are infinitely more capable because we have God Himself working in us and with us.

    The doctrines of sin can be beautiful, but ONLY if they understood as they have always been meant to be understood: tied inexplicably to grace.

  • 43. ED  |  February 7, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Brad,
    Calvinist as well as the Arminian believe that there is a necessary condition that must be met before anyone can come to Christ due to the fall. Most Arminians, “think” that they believe in hypothetical universalism, that hypothetically everyone has, at least, the potential of salvation. However millions upon millions of people who are “dead” in sin and trespasses, who are by “nature” children of wrath, whose “carnal” mind is hostile to God, never hear the gospel. Because of this obvious lack of justice, semi-pelagian theologians since the 4th century AD have theorized how God would “deal” with these people. These people were born into this world with a predisposition to sin, based on a federal head of the human race, chosen for them, and due to their imposed proclivities will spend and eternity being tortured and tormented. I do not at all see the beauty in this doctrine. I have often heard it said that God’s ways may be beyond our ability to reason, but , they are not LESS than reason. This doctrine is unreasonable. It makes God the punisher of retarded children because they are born retarded. There is no way to ascribe omni-beneficience to the being that came up with this schema.

  • 44. Angelo  |  February 7, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Ugh. I agree exactly with your sentiments, which is only too painful.

    Only I do painfully more so. I was raised a Christian but never was totally convinced of it. When my life got difficult at 17 and I threw myself into it, I felt devastated by the lack of comfort it gave me. I just felt pure alienation and isolation.

    But I did grow up, somewhat. I finally managed to tear away from it in about a year after seriously attempting it, and to this day it’s been my best decision and one of my greatest sources of pain to lose what I felt gave me structure as a young man, even though it really didn’t.

    For that reason I feel deeply conflicted. I can’t accept this thing that I don’t want but feel has been the most formative thing in my life.

    For that reason I can hate Christians at times (especially looking back on the disturbing way we were raised to believe the nonsense from a very young age, stuff that children could never possibly accept but for the most superficial way, as I did-and I desperately tried to believe it as a kid) and still feel a deep regret that I had to walk away from it all just to cope with my own existence.

  • 45. ED  |  February 7, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Angelo,
    I understand how you feel. I was raised in a christian home and was active in the church for 52 years. My greatest memories have been the fellowship with friends of “Like precious faith.” also my greatest abuses came from the same institutions. I miss the relationships, however that is completely irrelevant to the truth claims of the church. Churches, for better or worse, become “ingrown” in relational aspects. It becomes our support base, the primary receptacle of social interaction, and when we can no longer buy into the delusion, we feel the loneliness and the loss. Many people I believe are christians because of this, they never question what they believe or take seriously the doctrines of their denominational system. Church for many people is just an extension of the Rotary club.

  • 46. karen  |  February 7, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    While this IS true, “empowering grace” is the attitude we should have. This tells us that we ARE capable of improving ourselves if we recognize and utilize the no-strings-attached grace of God. There is nothing more encouraging that knowing that we are infinitely more capable because we have God Himself working in us and with us.

    The doctrines of sin can be beautiful, but ONLY if they understood as they have always been meant to be understood: tied inexplicably to grace.

    Sorry, but I don’t find anything remotely beautiful about telling people they are worthless, vile and helpless and must rely on the intervention of a supernatural power to improve their lives.

    First, it’s obvious from close observation that it’s blatantly untrue. As I mentioned on another thread, I’ve known many, many people who have taken on the challenge of improving their lives through secular means and have accomplished that beautifully. They haven’t called on god or grace or anything supernatural, and they’ve triumphed. Telling them that their efforts are useless and will ultimately fail is cruel and false.

    The other sick and destructive aspect of that theology is that it trains people in learned helplessness that is very hard to overcome even after belief in the supernatural is shed. Not beautiful in the least.

  • 47. QUOTABLE - On Religion « Marge In Real Life  |  February 7, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    [...] – On Religion I just ran across these poignant quote in a blog post on d-C by CarriedTheCross: “Religion is not the root of all evil, it is simply a vehicle that is [...]

  • 48. euphonos  |  February 11, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    “As Galileo said, ““I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.””

    What a marvellous quote! I am a Protestant Christian (non-denom) and I don’t see a lot of critical thinking encouraged.

    I have been a Christian for many years & have many questions that have very few answers. Critical thinking is essential to me – God gave me a sense of reason and an intellect that I am able to use. I could have been born brain-damaged or had an illness or injury that prevented that but I don’t and I feel it is the most natural thing to utilise my faculties to their full potential, particularly in the area of my faith.

    God gave me free will and He can handle my queries & challlenges, even if His church can’t :). The fact that my reasoning has not lead me to de-convert is the path that I have chosen. There may not be irrefutable, tangible evidence that God exists (take a breathe :) all those who think there is – this is my view, doesn’t have to be yours) but there is also no hard and fast proof that He doesn’t. It is my choice.

    I have never in my life brow-beaten, argued or condemned someone with my belief in God but I have been mightily harassed and ridiculed by atheists who wanted to provoke a response. I hold no grudge, Christians often do the same in the name of God, who I imagine finds it all just a bit ridiculous. This might be a bit of a cheeky comment but it always amazes me that, for people who don’t believe in God, atheists sure spend a lot of time talking about Him :).

  • 49. guest  |  February 12, 2008 at 1:21 am

    You are right, it was cheeky.
    I can’t see any thought about Him.

  • 50. karen  |  February 12, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    God gave me free will and He can handle my queries & challlenges, even if His church can’t :). The fact that my reasoning has not lead me to de-convert is the path that I have chosen. There may not be irrefutable, tangible evidence that God exists (take a breathe :) all those who think there is – this is my view, doesn’t have to be yours) but there is also no hard and fast proof that He doesn’t. It is my choice.

    Glad you enjoyed the quote, euphonos. Here’s my take on believing in god (which I just happened to post on another forum today):

    Theism – an interactive god – obviously makes no sense. I’ve examined the apologetics that are brought forth to justify it (free will, Satan, etc) backwards, forwards and sideways and they do not hold water for me.

    Deism – maybe. I don’t have enough information to say yay or nay to that notion, but more importantly, I don’t think I need to. An unattached, uninvolved deity doesn’t seem to demand anything specific of us, let alone worship or belief. Even if I were a deist, I would answer ultimately to myself for my life and beliefs.

    If there’s a benevolent deity and an afterlife in another, as-yet-undetectable dimension, I’ll be pleasantly surprised after death. If there’s not, I’ll be dead so I can’t be disappointed. This is why it makes the most sense to me to live as an agnostic atheist.

    As for why atheists talk about god- isn’t it obvious? We’re in a culture steeped in religion, surrounded by believers who distrust us and often villianize us for not sharing their supernatural belief system. For us deconverts, it’s even closer because we were once believers (probably as devout or more than most) and our families and friends still are.

  • 51. mewho  |  February 12, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    euphonos,

    Loved your post! We atheists DO speak a lot about God. Interesting… It might be because we are surrounded by it (like talking politics even though you might not vote) or because it is a fun topic that everyone has an opinion about. We may talk about it a lot if we were once Christians, but now are atheists. This is why I talk about it. It’s almost therapy for my mind. I NEED to talk about it. I need to establish a new footing for my life. I need the reasoned arguments that only come from a lot of voices, posts, views, etc. I think we also talk a lot about god as Atheists because EVERYONE needs a purpose in life, and the religious automatically have one (heaven, eternal rewards, etc.) but the Atheist has to muddle through their own discovery of reality and search for a significance. If not God, then what? That is the big, yearning question of my heart. More money? Sex? Pleasure? Golf? If not God (and for most de-converts we know all too well the pleasures and comfort that a religion can bring) if not God, then what? So we talk about it… It does come as a strange phenomenon… those who do not believe often talk alot about that in which they don’t believe…

    I have a brother-in-law who LOVES to talk about THEOLOGY. He just loves to discuss the rapture, the signs of the times, the prophecies, the Feasts of the Old Testament, all the symbolism, the miracles and their meanings. He loves interpreting all of these mysteries and talking about them. Now, as a former Christian, I’ve LOST all of that mystery. I miss it, to a point. It IS interesting if you believe it to be true. It’s nonsense if you’re an Atheist. Maybe we Atheists talk about the delusion of God and the Universe’s Beginning because it’s the mystery that we still have left to discuss that we believe to exist.

  • 52. euphonos  |  February 12, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    :) mewho, I enjoyed your post immensely. I think you encapsulated what so many experience in life, whether atheist or theist or whatever.

    The search for significance is an integral part of the human condition and I think your post was a poignant description of that journey.

    re. my comment about atheists & God – I was just being facetious :)

    One of the qualities that I admire about some atheists is their inquiring mind and their commitment to critical thinking. Theology is so much more than esoteric topics & dusty tomes filled with someone’s interpretation of ancient texts.

    Theology is (or should be) a constantly evolving process that does not seek to pin down finite answers but that provokes questions and research. If you have a view about God (one way or the other), that is your theology. Sadly, many ppl rely on imbedded theology passed down from parents or peers and do not seek to find out what they believe and why. (btw – karl barth is a brilliant read for anyone interested in practical theology – barth was a great thinker and commited to knowledge and discovery).

    Re. your brother-in-law – good on him for enjoying the esoteric but that sort of stuff drives me nuts and bores me to tears! Honestly, I couldn’t give a rat’s about the Rapture – I figure if it’s going to happen, it’ll happen when it happens. I love the Scriptures but I think many Christians over-complicate it or focus on issues that are complicated to the exclusion of what is painfully obvious (eg. feed & clothe the poor, defend the oppressed & disadvantaged, be strong of character but gentle in nature,etc, etc).

    I think the mystery still remains outside these issues. The search for purpose is a vastly mysterious and strange journey. I have some sense of purpose that I attribute to my faith and as being part of a faith-based community but my life is broader than that and I think I ask the same questions as anyone else. Why am I here? What am I truly meant to do? Who am I meant to be? Finding these things out is all the mystery I can handle!

  • 53. gotnoblue  |  February 13, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    I am having a problem with some of the posts here.

    On the topic of original sin – I don’t think I am worthless because Adam munched an apple a while back. I do think that I have the capacity to do evil – that there is no fundamental difference between me and those who commit acts of atrocity, and I need to keep that capacity in check. I am not worthless, but I do need to look to higher moral authority to help me not be so selfish and look to the needs of others. I find that in the teachings of Jesus.

    On Rick Warren – I don’t think his point (although I admittedly didn’t watch the clip) is that this life is a throw away. His point was (I have heard this argument before) that what we do NOW will effect our eternal experience. This life, this here and now, is the most important, the foundation upon which eternity is based. HOWEVER – the point is not to get into heaven, or to get in with all kinds of bonus points – but rather to bring the ultimate paradise to the people of this world.

    I don’t have this whole thing figured out yet, my faith that is, and I am looking for examine what I believe critically. Please know that that is my angle here – not to slap anyone down.

  • 54. mewho  |  February 14, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Thank you, Euphonos, for the generous compliment. And you’re right…searching for our purpose is the great mystery of life.

    On the truth of Atheism versus the falsehood of Theism, I asked my wife this question (who is still a Christian):

    What is more likely to be true? That which I was taught as a child by authority figures in my life whom I loved and respected, whose every word I trusted? Or that which I discover when I’m older, more educated and more mature? And could it be evidence of Truth that in a short span of 5 years what I’ve discovered has shattered the indoctrination of 30 years? What argument displayed the most power?

  • 55. Matt  |  February 14, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Yes, sadly some people believe everything they’re told without really thinking about it.

    Parents, who are often the worst of indoctrinators in terms of religious beliefs, are also those same people who readily tell such falsehoods as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus when there really is no need at all.

    Santa as a kid-friendly tale to explain christmas? Why? Why not just say “It’s just a day where people decide to be really extra nice to everyone else”.

  • 56. Offensive Christian  |  February 23, 2008 at 2:28 am

    Thanks for the post. I appreciate it’s lack of vitriol. I do have a question however – Why do atheists care what nonatheists believe? If we are merely matter in motion, why does anything matter in terms of value? A human is no more significant than a flower and a flower is no more significant than a bacterium. Why ascribe value to anything?

    I know I’ll get an answer here so I’ll ask: Can anyone show me either qualitatively or quantitatively how a nonatheistic belief has impeded the progress of science?

    I just got a copy of The God Delusion today – maybe I’ll find an example in there.

    Thanks again for the post.

    OC
    http://www.offensivechristians.com/blog

  • 57. Matt  |  February 23, 2008 at 3:29 am

    Why do atheists care what nonatheists believe?

    We generally don’t. We generally only take notice when religious beliefs try to be imposed on the rest of society or when a religious groups gets undue benefit or exemptions from law based on their beliefs, when the rest of society has to obey the law.

    If we are merely matter in motion, why does anything matter in terms of value?

    Misleading premise in that question. Once again, a theist attempting to tie ethics and morality to a supernatural being. It simply does not work that way. Try research the Social Contract or Evolutionary Morality.

    I know I’ll get an answer here so I’ll ask: Can anyone show me either qualitatively or quantitatively how a nonatheistic belief has impeded the progress of science?

    History and even current news indicates that theism is generally very much anti-progress. Examples: When someone translated the bible into english for the first time, the Pope was so infuriated that … even years later … he had the man’s bones dug up and thrown in a river. Then you have the churches conflict with scientists through the renaissance. Even in the current day, you have some whacky people trying to insert creationism and intelligent design into science classes at school level (when neither have the slightest thing to do with science).

    There are a great deal more examples than that but I think you get the general idea.

  • 58. bloonsterific  |  July 10, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Just wanted to tell you all know how much I appreciate your postings guys.
    Found you though google!

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Attention Christian Readers

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

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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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