Reasons I Remained Faithful (for so long)

February 11, 2008 at 9:14 pm 64 comments

seven 7It’s now been more than a year since I intellectually gave up Christianity and six months since I publicly renounced my faith. They say hindsight is 20/20, and true to form, it seems incredible to me that I was a Christian for seven years. Those seven years now seem like an eternity to me, overshadowing the previous fourteen. Maybe it is just because they are the most recent seven years or maybe because the last third of my life has been the most formative to who I am. Regardless, it is still almost unbelievable to me that for seven years I prayed, I studied the Bible, I attended church, I spoke proudly about my ‘relationship with Christ,’ I preached and I witnessed to those around me.

So why did I remain a Christian for so long? What is it about the Christian metaphysic, which I now find so distasteful, that hooked me? This is a question I have been pondering for a while now, and though my list is more than likely not exhaustive, I’d like to record some of the prominent reasons I remained faithful for as long as I did.

Intellectual Humility. I am not an exceptionally smart person. I believe that I have a good, solid, objective understanding of my intellectual limits and abilities. I am of an average intelligence, perhaps on a good day slightly above average. But I am no genius. When I became a philosophy major and began to devote myself to the study of Descartes, Foucault, Aristotle, Weber, Aquinas, Hobbes, etc. it became only more clear just how limited my abilities are. I have said more than once that I am a student of philosophy but I am by no means a philosopher.

Why do I bring this up? Though I prided myself on being honest about my intellectual capacities, I allowed my limits to become an excuse for complacency. This doesn’t make sense, but it’s just because I’m not smart enough. There is an answer, but I just haven’t read it yet. There are men and women much better equipped than I am to answer these questions. These types of phrases became common thoughts as I studied particularly in the realm of philosophy of religion. I accepted that I just wasn’t on par with philosophers like Craig or astrophysicists like Ross or theologians like Barth. I would remind myself that each of us had been given spiritual gifts, and neither wisdom nor knowledge had been given to me. A convenient excuse, eh?

Personal Duty. I wasn’t raised by Christians. I had a slow process of conversion, which culminated in high school with my affiliation with the local Church of the Nazarene. By my sophomore year in high school, I was leading Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I was a small group leader in my youth group and I was an outspoken Christian at work and school. In college I began preaching at area churches and spent a year as a small group leader on campus. I have never been one to enjoy the limelight, but I often found myself in positions of influence or authority. In my time I have worked at two summer camps. At one, a non-Christian camp for high school students, I was able to form post-camp friendships with many of the students because of our age proximity. More than one became Christians after our interactions (if not as a direct result of my ‘witnessing,’ I believe it is fair to say that I had an impact).

As I began to more seriously doubt the existence of God, it seemed daunting because my entire life was built around the notion that God exists. My friendships, education, career ambitions all revolved around Christianity. If I gave that up, what would my friends say? What effect would I have on those who to whom I had witnessed, preached or taught? That sense of duty to the very God whose existence I seriously doubted and to his people kept me from exploring too far into the possibility that it was all just a myth that I had been duped into.

Pascal’s Wager. It’s a terrible piece of philosophy. The argument is skewed and incomplete. At the same time, there is a reason for its longevity: it is effective. I consider myself to be a rather reasonable person. At the same time, the fear of the unknown is incredibly potent. As I would flirt with the idea of forsaking my religious affiliation, I often considered, What if I am wrong? What if they are right about Hell? And worse, What if I am wrong and that contributes to others going to Hell?! I considered carefully, as I’m sure others have done about me since my de-conversion, the ramifications on my ‘eternal soul.’ This is the one that seems to be most ridiculous to me now.

Warnings Against Intellectualism. The Bible is not very friendly to questioning and skepticism. Colossians 2:8 warns, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” I feel almost like I need not explicate this point (but I will anyway). Time and again I would read this verse and convince myself that I was just a doubting Thomas, that some sort of personal sin had kept me from accepting the ‘Truth’ of Christianity. I reminded myself that there were, of course, areas of my life that would be different were I not a Christian. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to live a normal college life of hedonism. Perhaps I had been taken in by heathen writers, philosophers and scientists who did not have Christ as their foundation. To the credit of the founders of Christianity, I must say that this little verse is genius. It truly does keep the masses in line. It is much easier to dismiss the evidence of atheists if your Scripture holds within it a disclaimer: “All non-Christian evidence is flawed. Don’t listen to it! Don’t be deceived!”

I cannot help but think about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.. As I began to grow and question the foundations of my faith, it was as if someone jerked me around and forced me to look to the mouth of the cave and see reality as it truly was. Instead of embracing that reality, for a long time I desired nothing more than to turn back around and blissfully live via the shadows of reality.

This is just a cursory overview of some of those rationalizations, fears and excuses that kept me from more seriously and persistently questioning my faith. I am curious what experiences other de-converts or skeptical Christians have had in this area?

- carriedthecross

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  • 1. steph  |  February 11, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    exactly. thanks for this. i sometimes get angry with myself for having believed in something so irrational for so long, but i have to recognize all of the forces (church authority, fear of hell, etc) that were keeping me there. i think this is going to be a long and sometimes painful process, but i know i can never go back to looking at shadows :)

  • 2. orDover  |  February 12, 2008 at 12:10 am

    I believe that the only reason I stayed a Christian for so long (17 of my 21 years) was the fact that I was raised in the faith. My entire family are die hard Bible-believing Christians, and I went to a Christian school from second grade on through high school. I never even considered that there was anything outside of Christianity. I didn’t even know anyone who wasn’t a Christian. In my very sheltered life, everyone I came into close contact with was a believer.

    Despite all of this, I was born naturally skeptical. I was that child that asked “why” hundreds of times a day, not to be annoying, but because I honestly wanted to know why! I remember being so bothered when I saw a pair of shoes thrown over power lines, and asking my mom why anyone would do that. She said that she didn’t know. I asked her why she didn’t know, etc and etc. As I grew up I applied this skepticism to everything I came into contact with, except Christianity, thanks to my blinders. I very quickly stopped believing in Santa, then ghosts, then UFOs, then Bigfoot, and so on. I didn’t give credence to anything supernatural, except God.

    Eventually my inquisitive nature did turn toward Christianity. In my freshman year of high school I asked so many questions in my Bible class that the teacher had to make up special “question cards” for me to fill out, and a “question box” to put them in, because he didn’t have time to answer all of my queries. At first he diligently addressed my more important question cards, but eventually he grew tired of me and stopped answering them all together.

    As high school progressed our Bible classes became more and more focused on issues of apologetics, defending the faith and the faultlessness of the Bible. Our teachers taught us what we would encounter in the “real world,” the arguments that evil atheists used to try to defame the our holy book, and the proper counter arguments. I became an expert in this area. I knew all of the answers, all of the best arguments and defenses, but my knowledge started to turn against me. As we had mock debates in class, our teacher playing the atheist and we playing the apologist, I began to truly consider the atheist (or non-Christian) arguments. I found that the answers I had learned, the ones I had be so well taught, fell short, even in a mock situation. I remember one example specifically: we were given a set a verses to show how the Bible aligns with modern science, but the verses were used completely out of context and non-literally. When I discovered these sorts of double standards I became very bitter. We were taught before the extreme context that verses must always be considered in, we were taught words in Hebrew and Greek to further add to our knowledge of context, context was SO important, and here was my teacher violating these rules he himself had laid down for us. At that point I stopped participating in class, and just sat and listed to my teacher talk his nonsense, which seemed more and more like nonsense every day. But I still never considered leaving Christianity, it never even crossed my mind as an option.

    Thankfully, a few months later I met the man who would later become my husband. He was the first non-Christian I had ever really met or had any sort of relationship with. In talking with him about religion, I slowly came to the realization that I wasn’t a Christian anymore, and that I had gradually stopped believing over a long period of time. I had so desperately wanted to remain a Christian because I wanted the things that went along with it, I wanted my Christian friends, I wanted my Christian family, I wanted my Christian community. I didn’t know any other world. But I couldn’t ignore that rational little voice in my head that kept saying, “This doesn’t make a lick of sense!”

    Sorry if that’s kind of long and rambling, but you asked for it!

  • 3. karen  |  February 12, 2008 at 1:00 am

    Interesting post. This is a question I’m always pondering and asking people, so thanks for writing it down.

    In my case, I have to say there were several things:

    Raised and indoctrinated from an early age, becoming a Christian meant being loyal to my mother. My dad was an agnostic Jew and they argued about religion a lot. I “choose sides” with my mom early in my childhood and almost considered rejecting god equal to rejecting my mom.

    Having a group of Christian friends to take refuge in softened the blow of my parents’ divorce and my starting a brand new high school where I knew no one. As an introvert, I don’t make friends quickly, so I was lost socially for a couple of years. The Christians took me in, gave me “cover” for not growing up, rebelling or trying any of the typical rebellious adolescent behavior: sex, drinking, drugs, crime.

    When I did begin to question and doubt, after I started college and found my faith seriously challenged, I squelched the doubt and prayed against satan. I’d been taught that doubt equalled temptation and was an attack from the devil. Through diligent efforts at repression, I was able to bury my natural skepticism (when it came to religion) for 20 more years.

    Personal spiritual experiences: I had felt transcendent during emotional worship services; I had had answered prayer; I had “heard” god speaking to me (in my subconscious mind); I even had one “miracle” happen. How could god not exist when I knew him personally?

    The weight of religious opinion. I know now that it’s a bogus argument, but I really did fall into the trap of “How can all these people have been wrong for all these centuries?” In fact that was one of the last arguments I clung onto when my theism was slipping away. Think about all the time, all the money, all the buildings, all the art, all the wars, all the torture, all the killing, all the good works, all the love – ALL of it done in the sincere belief that there’s an invisible, powerful deity somewhere who made us and communicated with us once upon a time. How could all that possibly be wrong?

  • 4. Quester  |  February 12, 2008 at 2:40 am

    It’s hard to change a world view, let alone give one up. I have my own reasons that it is hard for me to stop believing entirely.

    Family pressures are a concern, as are the pressures of friends. I grew up in a household of practising Christians. My faith has been one of my primary defining characteristics for most of my life. Without it, people don’t seem to be able to conceive of who I am, or even could be. The idea that I could doubt stuns my friends and hurts and scares my family.

    Personal duty is another concern I share. I’m a pastor, in charge of a parish. I preach every Sunday, and occasional weekday services. I lead worship. I lead Bible studies. I teach confirmation class. I preside over the sacraments, lead prayer groups and visit those struggling with pain and doubt. How can I now say I don’t believe in God?

    But I’m reaching that point. It has nothing to do with college, which I got through without major concern. I love logic puzzles and philosophy, and the fact that all the atheists I met made arguments which were just as weak and full of fallacious reasoning as the Christians was enough for me to keep believing. The many different ideas of what was required for salvation, according to the various Christian traditions, bothered me- so I tried them all (was baptized, wore a scapular, prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’, prayed in tongues, etc).

    It has more to do with inconsistencies and atrocities in the bible, suffering in the world that is not the result of human choice or action, destructive beliefs held and taught by Christians (and supported in scripture) and the difficulty with finding an internally consistent and moral view of salvation. These things I am stumbling across more and more as I try to be a leader, a teacher and a pastor.

    Then I go and read God is Not Good by Hitchens. There are factual errors all throughout the book, but replacing the errors with the actual facts never really seemed to weaken his arguments. Then I read the God Delusion by Dawkins. Some problems with suppositions, but hard hitting ideas about the conclusions that can be drawn now that the theory of evolution has been studied for so many years. I always wondered why people argued evolution was so much in conflict with Christianity.

    And now I’ve told my church hierarchy, parish, family and friends about my doubts and my inability to keep preaching and teaching when I am not sure I believe. Next Sunday will be my last as a licenced pastor unless something changes. Afterwards, I will be considered ‘clergy on leave’.

    So, really, external pressures aren’t what are keeping me from giving up my faith.

    When I was a child of about six years of age, a large dog frightened me by running straight toward me. I prayed it would go away, and it did. Even before reaching me.

    As a young teenager, I tried to decide what I could be when I grew up. I was thinking lawyer or psychiatrist when the words ‘a pastor’ boomed loudly as if spoken by someone in the empty hallway behind me.

    A little older, I stopped praying as I had in the past, simply asking God to ‘stick with me’ as I rushed from task to task. I prayed that once while receiving Holy Communion and the bread wedged itself to the roof of my mouth which I interpreted as God telling me He does ‘stick with me’. I needed to stick with Him. With that thought, my tongue finally unstuck the bread.

    In my mid-twenties, I was driving along a lonely highway when I saw a silver-white translucent deer jump out of the ditch and onto my car, crushing it and me. I shook the vision clear, but the shock caused me to slow considerably. There was no deer. The car was fine. Just over the next rise, though, were ten deer, standing in a line across both lanes and in both ditches. If I hadn’t slowed, I would not have had tome to stop. With the deer spread out as they were, there would have been nowhere to safely swerve.

    I have had many, many experiences like these through my life. Most I can explain away. The others, I wonder why God would do this for me, but not heal the suffering so many others struggle with.

    I no longer think I know who God is, nor do I feel I can I tell others God’s will or even if God exists, but these are my own reasons I can not yet give up in the belief there is some supernatural higher power. Too many weird things in my life that I interpreted through the world view I had, and can’t really reconcile with a 100% atheistic world view.

  • 5. Lyndon  |  February 12, 2008 at 10:06 am

    I was thinking about this idea the other day. In my case I was a pastor. Not only did my livelihood depend on the system, but I was in an isolated environment that continually re-enforced a particular worldview. I tried to concentrate on areas of common ground and not to focus on the truths I learned from a liberal arts eductation. I reasoned that a) my parishoners wouldn’t understand the finer aspects of biblical criticism and b) they’d run me out on a rail for teaching it. I rationalized that it was best to stay and work within the framework for the best rather than leave and have no influence.

    I’ll spare the departure story for the purpose of this post. You can read all about that from my previous posts or my blog. Once I was out, I didn’t have people and traditions constantly enforcing that mindset. I was much freer to think independently and question everything. I had no free of apprisal or loss of income. When immersed in the culture on the outside of the glass house looking in, the church iwith its tenets and practices began to look very odd in contrast to the rest of the modern world that is moving on.

    Why I remained faithful for so long? Mostly, I would have to say that I denied myself the right to question and think outside of the dogmatic box. It was socially unacceptable. All my life we were taught that it was damning and blasphemous to deny the incarnation, the resurrection, the truthfulness of the Bible, etc. When you get past the conditioning and began to ask hard questions, you will be amazed that you lived with that worldview for as long as you did.

  • 6. BJNebraska  |  February 12, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I just wrote a post on a very similar topic.

    http://fallofhate.blogspot.com/2008/02/mormons-dismayed-by-harsh-spotlight.html

    For me, having a 100% Mormon family, extended family, and friendships were enough to keep me in until college. Those relationships made it easier to accept church/biblical injunctions on free thought. High-five for philosophy, that saved me too! :)

  • 7. dovelove  |  February 12, 2008 at 11:56 am

    To me, it’s really simple, we’re born into a society that reeks of it. It’s a kind of “brainwashing.” My stint started at the ripe old age of 10, the spur was guilt dished out from my great-grandmother and I continued going because I feared my Sunday School teacher, lol Actually I’m serious… And in spite of the fact that it made absolutely no sense to me — what they were saying/teaching, I just wanted to be “good” and that seemed to be the path toward being so. The last straw for me was at age 16, when a gorilla-ish choir director slammed his Herman-Munster foot into our front door, because I didn’t invite him in…he came in anyway, using the righteous foot to open the door. That was it for me. What I saw in church, even as a kid, was a lot of messed up “grown-ups” looking for something they clearly weren’t finding in church…just a lot of very sad and “lost” people.

    Dove

  • 8. babs  |  February 12, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I am the mother of 2 grown children and one teenager. I was raised in a Christian home as was my husband of 30 years. We have always been very active in our church and worked hard to send our children to Christian schools and stressed the importance of faith in God.

    I have had nagging doubts about God’s existence since I was very young. I have felt tremendous guilt for my doubts and shoving them to the back of my mind was my way of dealing with them. I just kept thinking that if I tried hard enough, studied hard enough, that I would come to have the strong faith that everyone around me has. Only recently have I decided to deal with my doubts.

    I have read The God Delusion, Letter to a Christian Nation, The End of Faith, and now am reading Breaking the Spell. Sometimes I wonder if everyone around me is deluded or if I am deluding myself by reading all these books. I have read numerous books on the subject by Christian authors and sadly, they tend to come up short when it comes to offering concrete reasons to believe. Christianity is “faith based”. I guess that is my problem. I want concrete evidence.

    Although I have had many discussions with my husband about my doubts, I don’t think I could ever reveal to my children or my numerous Christian friends and family members just how skeptical I am. I live in the Bible belt and don’t have any friends who are not Christians. I also worry about the confusion my disbelief would cause my children. I don’t want to ever be a cause of pain and upset to my wonderful husband, who is a man of great faith, by telling people I no longer believe.

    I feel stuck. I wish I had dealt with my doubts in my twenties like you.

  • 9. Derek Timothy Knisely  |  February 12, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    What if I am wrong? What if they are right about Hell? And worse, What if I am wrong and that contributes to others going to Hell?!

    Thank you. This exact sentiment was one of the final vanguards of my withering Christianity. Fear of sending one’s wife to hell can be pretty debilitating. The only way out of it for me was a long and clear-eyed stare into the faces of the multifarious threats of everlasting torture coming from just about every religion and Deity on the books. I was left with no more reason to grant credence to the glory-profiteering threats of Yahweh/Jesus than any other god. The fear-mongering still had currency emotionally, but I could no longer think of it (or believe in it) with any sense of rationality or coherency.

    When I coupled this kind of thinking with my sudden realization of specifically when this sick brand of terror is placed into people’s minds — for me and many others, as toddlers and kindergarteners — I became quite disgusted. It dawned on me that by far the majority of Christians are so due to simply being scared shitless as 5 year olds; I was stunned. Threats of never-ending suffering coupled with an alternative of love and pleasure will convince a child to believe anything.

    Why it wasn’t suggested before recently that this kind of thing is clearly child abuse is beyond me.

    The other part of your post that resonates with me is the “warnings against intellectualism” bit. For me, that aspect of Christian scripture acted in a way that caused me to distrust or ignore any/all contrary information I might have the “misfortune” of bumping into as a teenager. It’s easy to remain an ignorant Creationist when you outright avoid/ignore/dismiss the mountains of scientific evidence proving an ancient cosmos and long-term biological evolution, for example. For another example, it is easy to scorn all unfamiliar political/social ideas when you have no idea what they’re really all about. Words like “liberal” and “feminist” are spit out simply as labels of profanity and the troubling person/ideas are considered defeated, without any concern for the merit of the argument(s) or information.

    What is not-so-surprising to me now is that these above reasons, and indeed just about every reason shared in this discussion, are the exact same things that keep people locked up in any other religion or cult. Christians are quick to see the trouble with this when it concerns a child and Islam or Scientology or whatever, but for some reason never seem to realize that they’re doing the exact same thing, and using the exact same tactics, with their own children.

  • 10. mtbrooks  |  February 12, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Very interesting post. As the above comments show, you are hardly alone in the de-conversion. Though baptized as an infant (to appease older family members), I definitely do not consider myself a christian. I’m thankful my parents raised me in a secular environment and encouraged me to explore my own belief system. I went to church a few times in elementary school and was turned off by the “there is one answer” mentality.
    I still struggle with the idea of afterlife, rebirth, etc, and I have no idea what to think of a god, or gods, or imps and demons. My lifestyle pulls from the core beliefs of the christian, hindu, bhuddist, and taoist faiths; there are worthwhile messages at the heart of each…once you strip away the politics and greed that man shrouded them in.
    Live well, follow your morals, leave the world a better place than you found it. And never let an institution decide your beliefs for you.

  • 11. rip747  |  February 12, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Religion is a lie and a means to keep people in check. There is no heaven or hell, just a box; unless you’re cremated, then there’s ashes.

  • 12. LeoPardus  |  February 12, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    babs:

    Wow, do I identify with you. My wife of nearly 25 years is still a believer, as are my kids. My kids are in their teens, with one almost out of the home.

    What you are saying resonates so much with me:
    I also worry about the confusion my disbelief would cause my children.

    YES. I am very concerned about this. I spent almost all of their lives saying how important the faith was.

    my numerous Christian friends and family members just how skeptical I am. .. I don’t want to ever be a cause of pain and upset to my wonderful husband, who is a man of great faith, by telling people I no longer believe.

    I also know that my kids and my wife all have so many good friends there. I don’t want that mucked up at all.
    I also very frankly don’t really want anyone leaving the faith because of my “witness”. I’m not an apologist for atheism/agnosticism. (Yes, here I will argue for it, but that’s part of the purpose of this site.)

    I have read numerous books on the subject by Christian authors and sadly, they tend to come up short when it comes to offering concrete reasons to believe.

    Yancey wrote a number of books “for doubters”. I read them all. He asked the very questions I was struggling with, but then turned and ran back into the cover of the comfortable, but totally worthless and insufficient, answers I’d already seen through.

    At least you may be assured that you’re not alone in your journey.

  • 13. Jersey  |  February 12, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    When did I start questioning my faith? The eve of my 18th birthday: What may be right for one man may not be right for another. Think for yourself, use your head.

    When I was told that, everything I ever believed was called into question.

  • 14. karen  |  February 12, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Wow – what a terrific thread. I read so much here that I can relate to! Tremendous input, everyone.

    Quester, I didn’t realize you were a pastor nor did I realize that your leaving has been so recent and the hurt so raw. I’m so sorry. As difficult as deconversion was for me, I can only imagine that it would be magnified many times for someone whose livelihood and place in the community and (probably) very identity depended on belief. {{{{{hugs}}}}}

    You and Lyndon might be particularly interested in this recent Psychology Today article, “An Atheist in the Pulpit.”

    Mostly, I would have to say that I denied myself the right to question and think outside of the dogmatic box. It was socially unacceptable. All my life we were taught that it was damning and blasphemous to deny the incarnation, the resurrection, the truthfulness of the Bible, etc. When you get past the conditioning and began to ask hard questions, you will be amazed that you lived with that worldview for as long as you did.

    Yes. Exactly my experience, Lyndon, both in denying and repressing and in the wonder afterwards that I accepted it all for so long (30 years, in my case).

    I feel stuck. I wish I had dealt with my doubts in my twenties like you.

    Babs, count me in as one who squelched and repressed my doubts in my 20s and only dealt with them in my late 30s, as I went through a midlife crisis. At that point, there was no more denying my doubts or stopping myself from reevaluating those dearly-held but little-examined beliefs from my childhood.

    I’m here to tell you that it’s difficult to deconvert in midlife, but not impossible. I too had spent years “training up my children in the way they should go,” and it was painful the day I sat them down and confessed that I no longer believed in god. I did it with very little drama, told them I needed to be honest with them and didn’t want to affect their belief systems either way.

    After some shock, they have been fine with it. I was fortunate, I guess, because they didn’t like church and were happy not to go any longer. My older son still believes in god and my younger son is a natural skeptic like I am.

    Things have been more difficult with my husband, who is still a fundamentalist, but we are finding more common ground and learning to agree to disagree (something we never did as Christian clones). The marriage is not perfect (whose is?) but it continues because we prefer going through life together.

    I dropped out of church and had to push myself to try new things and make new friends. It helped that I was in therapy at that time. Long story short, I have made a lot of wonderful relationships with people who aren’t Christians or are but don’t care if I am or not. These relationships are much deeper and more meaningful to me than the shallow friendships I had at church, where being vulnerable meant your “walk with the lord was in trouble.”

    Hope that gives you some hope! Being honest with yourself and others is tough, but the rewards make it worthwhile.

  • 15. Quester  |  February 12, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Karen, thank-you for your hugs, kind words, and for the link. That article does speak very well to who and where I am. I, like Dan, felt called to ordained ministry at age 15, then at age 30 had a hard time feeling anything but hypocrisy. While I preach about God, the advice I give still holds if God does not exist. In many ways I’ve reduced God to a good luck charm. I can also relate to having my first step as learning I can’t take the bible 100% literally. Once I made that step in my reasoning, I’m having a hard time seeing another step short of agnosticism.

    I don’t know what I will do if my wife and I decide to have kids. So far our marriage is surviving my faith crisis, but that would definitely add another layer of stress and difficulty. I feel for you who have kids you want to be honest with and feel stressed about how honest you can be.

  • 16. paulmct  |  February 12, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    I was born Catholic. Having rejected it at a fairly early age, I find it interesting that some people adopted religion in general, and Christianity in particular, when they were born free of it. Why would you do that? Were you going through a particularly bad time or crisis of some kind? I’ve written a couple of posts dealing with recruitment tactics and practices of Christian churches. (see ‘Charity With Strings Attached’ and ‘God’s Gift’).

    The first possibility of a godless world came to me from my brother. My mother decided to have a family discussion, probably having just read or seen something about talking to your kids about values.

    She asked us if we believed in god. I just said yes because I was about six and the thought of questioning it had never occurred to me. My brother, however, annoyed that we were being delayed from going out to play with our friends, said no. She asked why not then he said something about it being superstition or something. I don’t recall exactly. I just know it planted a seed. Ironically, by brother now wears a cross around his neck.

    Then this happened:

    http://paulmct.wordpress.com/2008/01/20/sunday-morning/

    I really started to question things. It’s not a consumer product. You shouldn’t have to sell it. (Or so I naively thought).

    At age nine or ten I openly stated in class at school that god and religion was stupid nonsense. I think the teacher also questioned assumptions, because it never got back to my parents. I’ve never looked back, really. All the information I’ve seen or read since then supports what I already know. I’ve seen nothing to support the existence of god.

    The scripture you quoted is a new one to me. Human tradition and the basic principles of this world are to be rejected? Now that’s really pushing it. Don’t believe your own eyes, believe what I tell you. If I’d seen that when I was a kid, I’d have quit sooner.

  • 17. HeIsSailing  |  February 13, 2008 at 7:17 am

    This is the most amazing thread of comments – from seminarians, pastors, older believers – heartfelt stories from people who face real consequences with leaving their Faiths. I read these comments and I understand and can relate to most, yet every range of emotion went through me – religion is such a powerful force, I swear sometimes it is like playing with TNT. My wife and I read these comments last night and had a long chat about them. We are both convinced that there are many, many unbelivers in the pews – maybe the seemingly pious person sitting next to you is one of them – it is just they would never know it, because like us, we just keep discreet about it in church. If you think you are alone, maybe you can take heart in that.

  • 18. Yurka  |  February 13, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Babs, that is very sad. I hope you do not take the word of biologists and journalists to be the final word about what is a philosophical, historical, and theological question.

    You say you want concrete evidence? You should listen to William Lane Craig and his lectures on the logical, moral, and historical evidence for God’s existence. What about the Kalaam argument? This universe is of a nature that logically demands a transcendent cause. You can’t get much more concrete that this. The cause must be personal, since had the cause been impersonal and eternally existent, the effect would have been eternally existent as well.

    You take morality very seriously in your regard for your family, you regard it as real. But if materialism is true, moral feelings are just so much brain gas (to quote Doug Wilson from his debate with Dan Barker).

    There are passages such as 1 Co 15:3-7 which date to within less than a decade of the resurrection – not enough time for mythical embellishment to take place.

    In short, many of the arguments in atheism are based primarily on emotion. “I *think* God would have done things differently if he were real”, “I don’t *like* the morality of the Bible.” As C.S. Lewis said in Miracles, God always seemed less plausible to him when he prayed in a hotel room than when he prayed in his room at Oxford.Don’t fall victim to a ‘mood’ or ‘climate of opinion’. There are many natural phenomena you would admit are counter intuitive, such as relativity, quantum mechanics or the fact that dolphins are mammals and not fish. Humanity would never have advanced if it did not look to pure *evidence* even if it is counter intuitive.

    The moment you start reading popularist stuff like Dawkins and Hitchens to bolster your feelings, you admit you’ve ceased to inquire rationally and dispassionately into the matter and are looking for things to prop up your mood of unbelief. These guys are cheerleaders, and all they offer you is nihilism and absurdity in the end. Please reconsider.

  • 19. qmonkey  |  February 13, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Great Post CTC… make sure and put it on your own web site.

    I’ve added you to my blogroll.

    this was my path…

    http://de-conversion.com/2007/11/16/from-faith-to-non-faith/

  • 20. orDover  |  February 13, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Yurka,

    Relativity is only counter-intuitive because it doesn’t match up with what we were taught about the principles of time by our parents when we were kids. To quote the astronomer Dr. Pamela Gay, “The only paradox [of theory of relativity] is the one between the reality that we think is true when we were little kids and the one we find out is true when we take relativity class. I think that it makes sense that the human mind can’t discover all the truth there is out there to know simply through the interaction with the sand in the playground.” The same goes for Quantum theory.

    Evolution explains perfectly why dolphins are mammals and not fish. Does God provide and equally clear explanation? No. All you can say is, “Well…that’s just how God made them.” But why would a perfect creator make a fish that can’t breathe in the water? That is counter-intuitive. The fossil recored and the skeletons of living whales and dolphins show that they were decedents from terrestrial mammals. Modern whales still have small hind limbs as well as the remainder of a pelvis. (Here is some information from my great institution on the subject: http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/cetacea/cetacean.html)

    To say that Dawkins and Hitchens offer only “nihilism and absurdity” only shows that you haven’t listened to what they have been saying. Dawkins himself said, “If you are an atheist, you know – you believe – that this is the only life you are going to get. It’s a precious life. It’s a beautiful life. It’s something that we should live to the full to the end of our days. Whereas, if you’re religious, and you believe that there is another life somehow, that means you don’t live this life to the full, because you think you’re going to get another one. That’s an awfully negative way to live a life. Being an atheist frees you up to live this life properly, happily, and fully.”

    That’s pretty much the cosmic opposite of nihilism.

  • 21. LordSatan  |  February 13, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    So, Yurka, the basic story you want people to believe is –
    sky daddy (S.D) was getting bored and created the universe so he could make a man to worship him who, after rejecting all animals as possible mates (god had obviously expected him to find a mate from among them) has god make a woe-man from his rib who makes him eat an evil apple after being convinced to do it by an eviler serpent who (presumably) had hopped up to her while the guys were not around (ofcourse S.D knew all along but dint try to stop it) and told her s.d was just a meanie and dint want them to be like him and this caused a downfall and made all of humanity criminal and because S.D could not just forgive them and save their souls from going to hell where a fallen angel (how did he fall? Trip over a cloud?) will cook them forever, he had to become his own son, born through a virgin and belonging to the lineage of the womans husband though he(husband) had not screwed her yet, hence becoming son of man and son of god (Headlines – Gay male couple gives birth through surrogate virgin mom!),

  • 22. LordSatan  |  February 13, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    and he did this by entering her body in the form of a ghost who was the third part of the 3 gods that were one god, so that he could be nailed to a cross which would prevent satan(hes the fallen angel dude) from getting the souls of people, provided they claim the son to be their saviour and consider him to be god who is part of the 3 god comittee which is only one god and drink booze pretending it is his blood and eat bread thinking its his flesh and speak in tongues (in other words, get really really drunk) and talk to him in your head because he can hear everyones thoughts, and assemble every week with other believers and then talk to him aloud together, just to make sure he hears you since youre still suffering from drought and disease and then give your hard earned money to the chappie who is running the place and bitching about non believers for which he gets paid so, he can buy himself a jaguar or a porsche (maybe even a rolls) and molest little kids

  • 23. LordSatan  |  February 13, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    and then if you make sure you follow a set of rules he(god) gave to some guy which the guy broke minutes later (they were stoned) and so had to be replaced and which in turn were replaced by the son of god (no stones here though), who incidentally was also the son of man, when he dropped in to get nailed (gay – women get nailed) at the cross(kinky), apparently having decided to update the rules though keeping many old oned thus causing confusion because there were more than 30 rules instead of ten in the originals and they include avoiding picking up sticks on a particular day of the week because God did not pick up sticks on that day and theres nor reason for you to do so , failing which you must be stoned to death and which also requires you to stone to death naughty kids, non virgins if they fail to prove their virginity (this is after the husband has ‘known’ the woman)

  • 24. LordSatan  |  February 13, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    and everyone who does not believe in him (God) and dont even think about thinking about naughty evil stuff because he can read your mind and he also sees everything you do from all angles, and yes, especially in the poopy and dont even think about playing with anything dangling objects attached to you or try filling any holes and dont curse and if, in the end, he is happy with you, he might take you to a place from where you will be able to see your loved ones roasting in hell because they dint believe, which will occur when god comes back to settle this whole satanic thing and kill pretty much everyone so there can be a 1000 years of paradise under his rule which will be mostly due to the fact that nobody on earth is alive and at the end of the thousand years… Well, I guess we’ll start all over again.
    Rationality Rules

  • 25. tobeme  |  February 13, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    I enjoyed your review. I am sure this was helpful for you to write and that it could prove to be helpful for others who are on the fence or who have made a decision to de-convert, however feel quilty about it.

  • 26. Marge  |  February 13, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Amazing thread! I’ve been away from religion for 10 years and each time I hear a new deconvert story it reinforces my decision and inspires me to be more outspoken about my own experience. Thanks CTC and all of you for sharing.

  • 27. Sidharth  |  February 13, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I come from the hindu faith and came to know Yeshua when He healed me of cancer of the bone and muscles.

    Yeshua is real and true. There is nothing fake about Him. I have experienced too much and have seen too much to deny realities in the realm of the Spirit.

    Sidharth

  • 28. Yurka  |  February 13, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    “Lord Satan”, I cannot believe you are serious. This is sub-John Loftus stuff. If you think any of my points is wrong – why not just refute it?

  • 29. GoDamn  |  February 13, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Oh, Yeshua healed you? I guess you dint go to a doctor or receive any treatment or anything like that? And dont try to give bullshit about how the chances of survival are very low because people do survive. THATS WHAT THE TREATMENT IS FOR. What makes you so special that your prayers were answered and millions of others arent? What have you done for the world that god would keep you here but kill others? Why dont you visit the cancer wards and compare yourself to those who will die and ask what makes you worth saving? WHAT MAKES YOU MORE SPECIAL THAN MY 6 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER? WHY DID SHE HAVE TO DIE? WHAT MAKES YOU SO SPECIAL? YOU ARROGANT CUNT, I HOPE YOUR CANCER RETURNS AND KILLS YOU. PAINFULLY.

  • 30. Quester  |  February 13, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Yeshua is real and true. There is nothing fake about Him. I have experienced too much and have seen too much to deny realities in the realm of the Spirit.

    Sidharth, I would have said the same thing, as recently as five years ago. In fact, I did. Sadly, I have now experienced too much and seen too much to be certain I was interpreting things correctly, before. Am I sure I’m interpreting things correctly now? No. So I’m not trying to shut you down, so much as express that you are not alone in how you feel, but what you feel is not convincing to anyone who is not you. If you are not trying to convince anyone, but just express yourself, that’s something different all together.

  • 31. LordSatan  |  February 13, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Well, it is all true.
    I think orDover did a pretty decent job replying. The counter intutive ideas have scientific evidence that shows why things are the way they are. Objective evidence. Not philosophical musings. You say we should look at the evidence but assuming god through conjecture is not evidence. You appeal to ignorance by concluding there has to be a god because you cant think of any other way. People thought the earth was flat and nobody could give a better explanation. That dint make the earth flat. Just because an explanation is not available does not mean that any which is will be right. The thing with science is that it needs objective evidence that does not depend on a persons belief and it reserves its definitive opinion for when verification is possible. What you demand is faith which does not consider evidence.

  • 32. LeoPardus  |  February 13, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Yurka:

    You say you want concrete evidence? You should listen to William Lane Craig and his lectures on the logical, moral, and historical evidence for God’s existence. What about the Kalaam argument? This universe is of a nature that logically demands a transcendent cause. You can’t get much more concrete that this.

    You don’t seem to understand the word “concrete” in the current setting. Here are a couple definitions for you:
    -Of or relating to an actual, specific thing or instance
    -Existing in reality or in real experience; perceptible by the senses; real

    What you proposed are arguments, or philosophical considerations. or opinions. Only the historical evidence approaches being concrete.

    The cause must be personal, since had the cause been impersonal and eternally existent, the effect would have been eternally existent as well.

    The effect being the universe I take it. And what tells you that it’s not eternal? (Of course this is allowing that the argument is valid to start with, which it is not.)

    But if materialism is true, moral feelings are just so much brain gas (to quote Doug Wilson from his debate with Dan Barker).

    Oh. Well, if Doug Wilson said that, then it must be true. Sheesh! Talk about brain gas.
    Try this: moral feelings could be a specietal survival mechanism. A species that develops a paradigm of caring for it’s members can expect to survive very well.

    There are passages such as 1 Co 15:3-7 which date to within less than a decade of the resurrection – not enough time for mythical embellishment to take place.

    Please take a trip to any urban legends site, or study recent history, or any other history for that matter, to see just how fast myths get established. Hells bells man, just look at what was said about many famous figures while they were still alive.

    In short, many of the arguments in atheism are based primarily on emotion.

    Unlike the almost Vulcan logic of religious arguments.

    Humanity would never have advanced if it did not look to pure *evidence* even if it is counter intuitive.

    Fine. Look to pure evidence then. Even if it runs counter to your presuppositions.

    The moment you start reading popularist stuff like Dawkins and Hitchens to bolster your feelings, you admit you’ve ceased to inquire rationally and dispassionately into the matter and are looking for things to prop up your mood of unbelief.

    The moment you start to read popularist stuff like Doug Wilson or Max Lucado to bolster your beliefs, you admit you’ve ceased to inquire rationally and dispassionately into the matter and are looking for things to prop up your mood of belief.

    Hey! What’s sauce for the goose…..

  • 33. Yurka  |  February 13, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    orDover#20, LS#31, I agree once you know more it is not counterintuitive. All I wanted to suggest to Babs is that people have a tendency to reject the unintuitive and that she should examine herself carefully to make sure she isn’t doing that.
    It would be a shame if she has all this conflict in her life because of the likes of polemicists like Dawkins. I just wanted to make sure she had heard Craig’s case for Christianity:

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org

    Babs, if you haven’t already, please give Dr. Craig a chance – it may spare you this situation.

  • 34. orDover  |  February 13, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Wouldn’t it be an equal shame if she is on the path to real happiness, free from the doubt and cognitive dissonance that has affected her for her entire life, and you derail her by sending her back into the circular logic of apologetic Christianity?

    Anyway, from what I can tell, Craig is just making the God of Gaps argument over and over again, which goes something like this: “We don’t know what caused the Big Bang, therefore God caused the Big Bang.” That statement makes a lot of assumptions. It assumes that the cause of the Big Bang is unknowable (a false premise), and it assumes that if we don’t know what happened, then automatically that means that God caused it (a false dichotomy). It’s also an argument from ignorance, which claims that something is true just because it hasn’t been – or cannot be – proven false.

  • 35. Quester  |  February 14, 2008 at 1:22 am

    Well, I just went over to Dr. Craig’s Reasonable Faith website, following Yurka’s link in reply #33. I always hope to see intelligent arguments for Christianity. It would make life so much easier for me if I could only continue to believe. I registered for the site, and read two of the ‘popular articles': Does God Exist and The Problem of Evil.

    You don’t have to leave this site to find arguments against everything Craig says. He uses the usual arguments of the uncaused cause, the fine-tuned universe, the need for a source of objective morality, as well as claiming Christ’s resurrection as a historical fact only explained by the existence of God. It’s too bad. I was really hoping for something new.

  • 36. Rafael Garcia  |  February 14, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Atheists are people who assert that there is no God. They may say that atoms or their component parts in space makeup the sum total of all reality. Whatever the analysis, these people assert that finite physical reality is all there is—that there is nothing else. There are several divisions in this group. One historically prominent group is the Logical Positivists. By an analysis of language, they conclude that theology is not so much false as it is plain nonsense. To them, speaking of God is like saying that the typewriter is the bluish-green sound of the square root of minus one. Theology is not good enough even to be false; it is simple nonsense. Other devotees of scientism are not Logical Positivists. Their theories are called naturalism or humanism, and they would call theology bigoted falsehood. Various political liberals are atheists, and often their socialistic creed attacks theology as a reactionary hindrance to social advancement.

    Pantheism and Agnosticism

    It is instructive to distinguish between two forms of atheism, for the second form, pantheism, has the appearance of believing in God very much. It indeed asserts the existence of God, and the theory can be called theology. These people do not want to be known as atheists or as irreligious. But they define God as all that exists. Spinoza used the phrase Deus sive Natura: God, that is to say, Nature. Some may use the term Pure Being, or theologian Paul Tillich’s phrase, The Ground of All Being. Thus God is the universe itself. He is not its Creator. Since they say that God is the All, these people are called Pantheists.

    Logically there is no difference between Atheism and Pantheism. To deny that there is a God and to apply the name God to everything are conceptually identical. For example, it is as though I should assert the existence of a grumpstein and try to prove it by pointing to giraffes, stars, mountain ranges, and books: together they form a grumpstein, I would say, and therefore a grumpstein exists. The pantheists point to giraffes, stars, and so on, and say, therefore God exists. Those who deny God—atheists—and those who say God is everything—pantheists—are asserting that nothing beyond the physical universe is real. In Christian language, and in common languages around the world, God is as different from the universe as a star is from a giraffe and more so.

    There is actually another variety of atheism, though the adherents themselves might strongly object to being called atheists. Technically they are not atheists, though they might as well be. These are the agnostics. They do not assert that there is a God, nor do they assert that there is no God; they simply say that they do not know. They claim ignorance. Ignorance, however, is not a theory one can argue. Ignorance is an individual state of mind. An ignorant person is not required to prove by learned arguments that he is ignorant. He just does not know. Such a person needs to be taught.

    Probably most persons in the United States are atheists of a sort. If one should ask them, they would probably say that they believe in God. But they might as well not believe in God for all the good it does them. Unless someone mentions God to them, they never think of him; they never pray to him; he does not enter into their daily plans and calculations. Their lives, their minds, their thinking are essentially no different from the lives of atheists and agnostics. They are “practicing atheists.”

    The Atheist’s Argument

    The reader of this may expect to find a straightforward refutation of atheism. But he may be disappointed, for the situation is somewhat complicated. In the first place, one might accuse the atheist of never having proved that the physical universe is the only reality and that there are no supernatural beings. This would be satisfactory, if the term atheism means the argued denial of a Deity. But atheists, like agnostics, shift the burden of proof and say the theist is under obligation to demonstrate the truth of his view; but the atheist considers himself under no such obligation. Atheists usually wobble back and forward. Yet, Ernest Nagel, who may be called a naturalist in philosophy, seems to argue: “the occurrence of events [he means each and every event without exception]…is contingent on the organization of spatio-temporally located bodies…. That this is so is one of the best-tested conclusions of experience…. There is no place for an immaterial spirit directing the course of events, no place for the survival of personality after the corruption of the body which exhibits it.”

    This is an atheistic, not an agnostic, statement. He argues that science has proved the nonexistence of God, but the argument is invalid. No scientist has ever produced any evidence that man’s intellect ceases to function at death. Since his methods have not discovered any spirit, Nagel assumes there can be none. He refuses to question his methods. Atheism is not a conclusion developed by his methods; rather it is the assumption on which his methods are based.

    The agnostic, however, is not so dogmatic. He shifts the burden and demands theists prove that an omnipotent spirit has created and now controls the universe. This is quite a challenge, and it is one that the Christian is duty bound to face. No Christian with intellectual ability can excuse himself by claiming theology is useless hairsplitting. Peter has warned him otherwise. The “practicing atheists” are really agnostics, and we must preach the Gospel to them—and that God omnipotent reigns is part of the Gospel. But they answer, “How do you know that there is any God at all?” A Christian who knows no theology is ill equipped to answer this question. How is it possible to know God? Is he just a trance, a hunch, an ecstatic experience? Is he so transcendent that we can neither know him nor talk about him? Is he not so transcendent? Note that the Christian apologete, i.e., the Christian evangelist, must have a decently clear conception of God before he can satisfy his inquisitors. He must be knowledgeable in theology.

    The Wrong Reply

    Now, the answer to the agnostic’s very pertinent question is rather complex, and the reader must not expect anything simple. Furthermore, the answer given here will appear unsatisfactory and disappointing to some very honest Christians. For these reasons the present reply to agnosticism will begin with an explanation of how not to answer the question. If this seems a cumbersome and roundabout way of going at it, and the impatient non-theologian wants immediate results, it must be pointed out that the initial choice between two roads determines the destination. Choose the wrong road and one ends up lost and confused. Remember Bunyan’s Christian and how he looked down two roads, trying to see which one was straight. Then there came along a swarthy pilgrim in a white robe who pointed out to him, with great confidence, which road Christian should take. It ended in near disaster. Therefore we shall begin by pointing out the wrong road.

    Now, I do not wish to say that those who recommend the wrong road in the present matter are flattering deceivers whose white robes are hypocritical disguises. On the contrary, a large number of respectable and honest authors, from Aristotle to Charles Hodge and Robert Sproul, insist that the best and indeed the only way to prove the existence of God is to study the growth of a plant, the path of a planet, the motion of a marble. They support this seemingly secular method by quoting Psalm 19:1— “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” Therefore we should study astronomy to refute the atheist and to instruct the agnostic. Paul says that God’s omnipotence can be deduced from the way a little boy shoots a marble—a thing that has been made. Some stalwart Romanists boast that Paul foresaw and placed his stamp of approval on Thomas’ Aristotelian argument.

    There are two difficulties with this enthusiastic recommendation. The first is not conclusive, but those who approve of the argument must pay attention to it. The difficulty is its difficulty: It is a very hard method. The second difficulty is its virtual uselessness.

    The first difficulty—inconclusive evidence and a hard method to prove—can be best addressed with a few examples. Suppose we can get a microscope and examine the internal phloem of the Lykopersikon esculentum. Botany is even worse than theology in its use of long and technical words. We get a clear picture of the internal structure of a plant, but we cannot discover God by a detailed, microscopic look into a tomato. If we carefully observe the motion of the planets, we will see that the squares of their periodic times are proportional to their mean distances from the Sun. If we succeeded in getting this information, we could conclude that God is a great mathematician and that salvation depends on understanding mathematics. Essentially, this is what the ancient Greek philosophical school of the Pythagoreans said. They believed that a happy life after death was the reward for studying arithmetic and geometry.

    People hold a somewhat similar view today who think that all the problems of this world can be solved by science. But unlike the Pythagoreans, contemporaries do not believe in a life after death, nor do they think the laws of astronomy can prove there is a God. To change their minds by deducing the existence of God from the laws of science would be extremely difficult and perhaps impossible. If by some other method we first know there is a God, the study of astronomy might show that he is a mathematician. But we would have to know God first.

    However, the mere fact that an argument is difficult and complex does not prove that it is a fallacy. Geometry and calculus may drive students to despair, but the theorems are usually regarded as valid deductions. Contrariwise, when one examines the argument as Thomas actually wrote it, serious flaws appear. In another work, I have detailed some of Thomas’ fallacies. One of them is a case of circularity, in which he uses as a premise the conclusion he wished to prove. Another is the case of a term that has one meaning in the premises and a different meaning in the conclusion. No syllogism can be valid if the conclusion contains an idea not already given in the premises.

    The conclusion therefore is: The so-called “cosmological argument” is not only extremely difficult—since it would require a great amount of science, mathematics, and philosophy to prove it—but it is inconclusive and irremediably fallacious. This is no way to answer the atheists.

    The second difficulty is that even if such an argument were valid, it would be useless. This objection applies more to modern authors than to Aristotle. Aristotle’s notion of god was quite clear: the Unmoved Mover, thought thinking thought; and this metaphysical mind has a definite role in the explanation of natural phenomena. But the god of contemporary empiricists seems to have no role at all; mainly because the meaning they attach to the word God is utterly vague.

    As examples of these arguments, one can mention Yale Philosophy Professor John E. Smith’s Experience of God; Frederick Sontag’s How Philosophy Shapes Theology; a few years earlier Geddes MacGregor of Bryn Mawr published Introduction to Religious Philosophy. There are many such books; it is not my intention to discuss any of these individually. My point is: When they try to support a belief in god, their arguments are no better and often worse than those of Aristotle; and if some plausibility is found in them, the reason is that their notion of what god is is so vague and ambiguous that the reader imposes his own definite ideas. In their context, the arguments are virtually meaningless. Furthermore, the vague god of these views is useless. Nothing can be deduced from his existence. No moral norms follow a definition of god; no religious practices are contained in a description of god.

    One can have a certain academic respect for an atheist who flatly denies God and life after death. He says clearly what he means, and he uses the term God in its common English meaning. One can have almost as much respect for the pantheist, even though he does not use the term God in its ordinary meaning. At least Baruch Spinoza and others identify god explicitly with the universe. But what can our reaction be to the view of Professor H. N. Wieman? He insisted on the existence of god, but for him god is not even all the universe—he, or it, is only some part of the universe. Namely, god is a complex of interactions in society on which we depend and to whose essential structure we must conform if maximum value is to be realized in human experience. So? How does this definition of god stack up against the Shorter Catechism? Therefore, Christians should be more concerned about what kind of God exists rather than about the existence of God.

    The Meaninglessness of Existence

    At first it may seem strange that knowledge of what God is more important than knowledge that God is. His essence or nature being more important than his existence may seem unusual. Existentialists insist that existence precedes essence. Nevertheless, competent Christians disagree for two reasons. First, we have seen that pantheists identify god with the universe. What is god? —the universe. The mere fact that they use the name god for the universe and thus assert that god “exists” is of no help to Christianity.

    The second reason for not being much interested in the existence of God is somewhat similar to the first. The idea existence is an idea without content. Stars exist—but this tells us nothing about the stars; mathematics exists—but this teaches us no mathematics; hallucinations also exist. The point is that a predicate, such as existence, that can be attached to everything indiscriminately tells us nothing about anything. A word, to mean something, must also not mean something. For example, if I say that some cats are black, the sentence has meaning only because some cats are white. If the adjective were attached to every possible subject—so all cats were black, all stars were black, and all politicians were black, as well as all the numbers in arithmetic, and God too—then the word black would have no meaning. It would not distinguish anything from something else. Since everything exists, exists is devoid of information. That is why the Catechism asks, What is God? Not, Does God exist?

    Now, most of the contemporary authors are extremely vague as to what sort of God they are talking about; and because the term is so vague, the concept is useless. Can these authors use their god to support a belief in life after death? No ethical norms can be deduced from their god. Most pointedly, their god does not speak to man. He is no better than “the silence of eternity” without even being “interpreted by love.” Atheism is more realistic, more honest. If we are to combat the latter, we need a different method.

    The Proper Reply

    The explanation of a second method must begin with a more direct confrontation with atheism. If the existence of God cannot be deduced by cosmology, have we dodged the burden of proof and left the battlefield in the possession of our enemies? No; there is indeed a theistic answer. Superficially, it is not difficult to understand; but, unfortunately, a full appreciation of its force requires some philosophic expertise. A knowledge of geometry is of great help, but it is seldom taught in the public high schools. One cannot realistically expect Christians to have read and to have understood Spinoza; and Protestant churches usually anathematize plain, ordinary Aristotelian logic.

    In geometry there are axioms and theorems. One of the early theorems is, “An exterior angle of a triangle is greater than either opposite interior angle.” A later one is the famous Pythagorean theorem: the sum of the squares of the other two sides of a right triangle equals the square of its hypotenuse. How theological all this sounds! These two theorems and all others are deduced logically from a certain set of axioms. But the axioms are never deduced. They are assumed without proof.

    There is a definite reason why not everything can be deduced. If one tried to prove the axioms of geometry, one must refer back to prior propositions. If these too must be deduced, there must be previous propositions, and so on back ad infinitum. From which it follows: If everything must be demonstrated, nothing can be demonstrated, for there would be no starting point. If you cannot start, then you surely cannot finish.

    Every system of theology or philosophy must have a starting point. Logical Positivists started with the unproved assumption that a sentence can have no meaning unless it can be tested by sensation. To speak without referring to something that can be touched, seen, smelled, and especially measured, is to speak nonsense. But they never deduce this principle. It is their non-demonstrable axiom. Worse, it is self-contradictory, for it has not been seen, smelled, or measured; therefore it is self-condemned as nonsense.

    If the axioms of other secularists are not nonsense, they are nonetheless axioms. Every system must start somewhere, and it cannot have started before it starts. A naturalist might amend the Logical Positivist’s principle and make it say that all knowledge is derived from sensation. This is not nonsense, but it is still an empirically unverifiable axiom. If it is not self-contradictory, it is at least without empirical justification. Other arguments against empiricism need not be given here: The point is that no system can deduce its axioms.

    The inference is this: No one can consistently object to Christianity’s being based on a non-demonstrable axiom. If the secularists exercise their privilege of basing their theorems on axioms, then so can Christians. If the former refuse to accept our axioms, then they can have no logical objection to our rejecting theirs. Accordingly, we reject the very basis of atheism, Logical Positivism, and, in general, empiricism. Our axiom shall be, God has spoken. More completely, God has spoken in the Bible. More precisely, what the Bible says, God has spoken.

    An Article written by Gordon H. Clark
    from The Trinity Review, July-August 1983

  • 37. LeoPardus  |  February 14, 2008 at 2:56 am

    Rafael Garcia:

    Nice to see that you and Gordon have us all figured out.

    I think your cut and paste can be said to constitute “blog clog”.

  • 38. Rafael Garcia  |  February 14, 2008 at 3:32 am

    LeoPardus :

    That has got to be the quickest escape I have ever seen an atheist make. I find it interesting that on both of my posts of “Cut & Paste” you failed to refute it. This was the extent of your argument:

    “I think your cut and paste can be said to constitute “blog clog”.

    Very Impressive move.

  • 39. Reynvaan  |  February 14, 2008 at 4:57 am

    Rafael Garcia:

    Your post here does many amazing things. It argues that virtually anyone who is not a follower of an Abrahamic religion is an atheist, it outlines the author’s miraculously gleaned understanding of the mindsets and thought processes of every non-Christian, and it informs Christians on how they should try to convert “[their] enemies” to their particular flavor of the religion.

    However, when it comes to refuting atheism, or more accurately, any non-Semitic religious belief, it falls short. Running in logical and verbal circles, it serves ultimately to say, “If atheists get to say our God doesn’t exist, based on reasons we find to be nonsense, then we get to do the same to them. Nyah nyah nyah,” and we are left wanting for a comment with some substance. By the way, I am not an atheist.

    Great post, CTC.

  • 40. Quester  |  February 14, 2008 at 6:06 am

    Rafael, thank-you for something different. It looked very interesting and useful until you got to “non-demonstrable axioms”. At that point, Clark seems to have conceded he has no way of demonstrating that God exists or has any characteristics that can be defined. I’m not sure how he, or you, consider that useful.

  • 41. notabarbie  |  February 14, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    CTC: Another interesting and well thought out post….very nice. Keep it up!

    Babs: Your story sounds so much like my story. I really thought I could never share my disbelief either. I was born into christianity and am over 40 now, so you can see that I had been a believer for a long time. When I thought about coming out with my disbelief, my biggest concern was my children and my husband and then the loss of friends. The more I studied outside “the faith,” the more I saw the cracks and the bigger the cracks became. Finally, the reality that there is no rational proof for the Christian faith, especially fundamentalist Christianity, was too much to ignore. It came to the point where I couldn’t live a lie anymore. It was becoming detrimental to my health. It has been a bit of a long road and it’s one I’m still on, but the freedom of being honest is making it easier and easier to say, I’m not a christian anymore. I can honestly say, I simply don’t know if there is a god, let alone a personal one and it there is, what that god is like…there is just simply no way of knowing for sure. Babs, you need to do what is best for you and your family and only you know what that is, but honesty is really always the best way to go. You don’t have to come completely out to maintain honesty and just so you know—my kids and my husband are fine. As a matter of fact, I have had relationships mended because of my deconversion. You will lose friends, but you will find new ones. I can guarantee you there are other women around you in your same predicament. If you watch and listen, you will find them and we are always here too. I wish you all the best of luck and keep reading here. It will give you strength.

    On another note:

    I’ve read some of the posts from christians here, debating the existence of god and I find myself wondering, even if their arguments make any sense at all, (which to me they don’t) where do they get the idea of a christian god, or any other religiously specific god? Truth be told, each one of them would probably argue with the other about the specifics of even that…Here is one question that nagged me for years: If each christian has the holy spirit dwelling in him or her and this spirit is unified, why is there no unity among christians? I mean, there are hundreds of christian churches where I live in Northern California alone, several are half empty on Sunday morning and more crop up every day…doesn’t sound very unified to me, eh?

  • 42. Michelle  |  February 14, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Rafael Garcia:

    An Article written by Gordon H. Clark
    from The Trinity Review, July-August 1983

    I call this wallpaper on my site. The comment section is not the place to “post,” I agree with LeoPardus – it’s “blog clog.”

  • 43. karen  |  February 14, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Rafael, our little community here is engaged in dialog and discussion. We’re exchanging original thoughts and ideas, not looking for long, off-topic sermons to be inserted into the middle of what has been a fascinating thread.

    If you want to refer to some published material that bolsters or explicates a point you YOURSELF are making, please link to it so that we can go read it elsewhere if we’re interested.

    Cutting and pasting a whole lot of verbiage won’t get you much – if any – traction in this discussion.

  • 44. Rafael Garcia  |  February 14, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Karen & Michelle:

    My apologies for not following the house rules. Won’t happen again. In the future, I will paste a link, not the whole article.

    I am interested in knowing this : If life is meaningless to a person who claims that there is no God, because he/ she thinks there is not a God, then why place so much emphasis on proving either to non-Christians, Christians or themselves that God does not exist.

    Secondly, how do you account for the logic by which you came your conclusions that “God does not exist?

    -Rafael Garcia

    -Rafael Garcia

  • 45. Thinking Ape  |  February 14, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Rafael,

    If life is meaningless to a person who claims that there is no God…

    Meaningless, meaningless, life is meaningless. How often do you hear these words come from an atheist/agnostic? Perhaps there is no ontological purpose to life, but there is hardly no meaning in our lives. What is the meaning of your life in your system of belief?
    (Feel free to read my own articles on the subject, in parts one and two).

    …then why place so much emphasis on proving either to non-Christians, Christians or themselves that God does not exist.

    If we lived in a world where no one wanted to impose one’s ideas, moralities, and revelations on another, I suppose there wouldn’t really be a need. Sadly, we do. When people vote for a president that gets his directions from God, then these sort of things affect us all.
    Furthermore, we are not here to convince anyone. Like anyone in our species, we need community. We have lost the majority of ours for obvious reasons. This a place where ex-religionists can discuss past beliefs and engage in dialogue with current believers. Some of us are even looking for reasons to believe again.

    how do you account for the logic by which you came your conclusions that “God does not exist?

    As an agnostic, I have personally not come to such a conclusion and I believe that the “knowledge” of the lack of anything is absurd. I think that there are reasonable justifications for belief in a God as much as I do that there isn’t. I do, however, believe that there are logical and inherent problems in believing in the God of the major theistic religions, especially the so-called Trinity of Christianity or the co-opting of Judaism’s Yahweh.
    So for an agnostic such as myself, the question is somewhat moot – but only to a degree. As a de-converted evangelical, however, I have come to realize that the onus of the logic is on that of the positive, not the negative. The reason that silly examples such as the Flying Spaghetti Monster or unicorns are often given by atheists is to prove that exact point. No one asks you “by what logic do you come to the conclusion that unicorns do not exist?” It is on the onus of the unicornist to show why they exist, not on that of the anti-unicornist. I believe it is reasonable to assume there are no gods until the evidence shows otherwise, no?

  • 46. LeoPardus  |  February 14, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Raphael:

    It’s never polite to walk into someone else’s place and spew. You shouldn’t have needed “house rules” to know that.

    Now before you go on around here, take some time to find out who we are and why we are as we are.

    For me you can look in the archives for the three articles entitled “Reasons I can no long believe”. You can also go to the de-conversion forum and find my bio there.

    Most of the rest of the folks around here will gladly point you to their stories, wherever they are.

    You’ll find, if you take the time, that atheist, agnostics, skeptics, de-converts, or whatever else we may be are not as cookie-cutter as Mr Clark would mislead you to imagine.

  • 47. Rafael Garcia  |  February 14, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Think Ape:

    Thank you for your reply.

    “What is the meaning of your life in your system of belief?”

    The reason life has meaning is outside of myself. There is meaning to life for one reason alone. God made it. The Scripture says that He made all things according to His good pleasure. Now, you may say, ” Wait a minute, I am an agnostic/ atheist, it is irrelevant to me what God said or did.” However, for me to forsake the Scriptures because one does not agree with it defeats the whole purpose in making a Biblical defense. To do so would be foolish and ridiculous and hypocritical on my part. This is like a captain of a platoon telling his men to lay down their choice tactical weapons just because their enemies do have it. So, would it make any sense for me, a Christian, to lay down my choice sword when it is my only defense?

    First, let’s us lay down the premise by which we will discourse.

    In order to make a clear and logical conclusion on any matter, there must first be absolute knowledge on how it is absolutely true or not. In the case of the existence of God, the agnostic or atheist must first have investigated all possible means for determining that outcome. In this case the outcome is either 1. ” I do not know if there is a God” or 2. “I know with absolute knowledge from within myself that there is no God”. To come to a logical conclusion about such a great claim, one must first have been able to explore all the possibilities to make such an authoritative claim.

    Secondly, this authoritative claim cannot originate from the one who has to investigate it in order to know it. It must be wholly external from himself.

    You say “As an agnostic, I have personally not come to such a conclusion and I believe that the “knowledge” of the lack of anything is absurd. =>I think that there are reasonable justifications for belief in a God as much as I do that there isn’t.”I think that there are reasonable justifications for belief in a God as much as I do that there isn’t.”<=

    Either you think there are justifiable reasons or you don’t.

    Thank you.
    -Rafael

  • 48. orDover  |  February 14, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    You claim that God exists. Do you have absolute proof of that? Have you explored all of the possibilities? I really doubt that you have. PS – The Bible doesn’t count as proof of any sort.

    In order to make a clear and logical conclusion on any matter, there must first be absolute knowledge on how it is absolutely true or not.

    This is not true. I’ve made this argument before, so apologies to anyone who has to re-read it. In this life, there are no absolutes. There is no way to know for certain, for example, that if I jump off of a 12 story building I will smash against the pavement and be seriously wounded. I could be saved by a hang-glider, I could land in the back of a truck carrying mattresses, I could be miraculously scooped out of the air by Jesus, or gravity could suddenly turn off. So how do I made a “clear and logical conclusion” about whether or not I should jump off of a building? All I can do it use my past experiences, my past observations, to help me determine what is LIKELY to be the outcome of jumping. But what if I am remembering wrong? What if I saw a movie where a guy jumps and is saved by a giant eagle, and I confuse that with reality? So I also consider the cumulation of observations from other people.

    In a similar fashion, I use my past experiences and observations coupled with the cumulation of human observation (something I like to call “science”) to deduce if the existence of a god is likely. When I pool these resources I come to the conclusion, and it is a logical one, that if I jump from a 12 story building I will die, and that the universe is capable of operating on its own, of existing without a supernatural deity running things.

  • 49. Rafael Garcia  |  February 14, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    orDover

    You said: “In this life, there are no absolutes. There is no way to know for certain, for example, that if I jump off of a 12 story building I will smash against the pavement and be seriously wounded.”

    My Reply: The obvious follow up question to a statement like that is:

    1. If there are no absolutes, how can you be certain about there not being absolutes?
    2. To say there is no absolutes is in fact an absolute declaration. This is AKA a , ” self-contradiction”.
    3. How do you know there are no absolutes unless someone told you and you accepted it as an absolute truth. This is AKA as “circular reasoning” or the slang term is ” a dog chasing his tail”. ( I am not inferring you to be a dog. It is just for the sake of the argument).

    You Said: “In a similar fashion, I use my past experiences and observations coupled with the cumulation of human observation (something I like to call “science”) to deduce if the existence of a god is likely.”

    My Reply: There is an obvious problem with this statement. Please take a moment to figure it out. ………… Ok. Times up. You stated that science is the method you use to prove that God does not exist. Here is where your worldview begins to beg the question. First of all, what is the definition of the word “science?” . According the Webster’s it means :

    1. The state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding.

    2.a : a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study *the science of theology*

    3 a : knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method b : such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena :

    Science is the state of knowing something. Science is a system of knowledge…covering the operation of general laws.

    Here is a note worthy detail. If there are no absolutes, than the means that the state of things are constantly changing. Thus making it impossible to test it resulting in the inability to know anything or study it. In science there are certain laws in place that maintain a continuum providing the scientist a possibility to study it. For example, the there are laws in “Thermodynamics”. Here is a clip regarding this law that has a key word you do not like. See if you can find it:
    >>>“By 1873, for example, thermodynamicist Josiah Willard Gibbs, in his “Graphical Methods in the Thermodynamics of Fluids”, clearly stated that there were two absolute laws of thermodynamics, a first law and a second law.”<<<

    If you hold to science as your “Truth Bearer to Life” Than you must accept these laws of science. In order for a scientist to be able to study anything there must be a uniformity other wise they cease to study it. When there are scientific laws in place, it is not because they were enacted by the science dept. , but by the consistency of the behavior of the thing studied. This is an atribute of the Triune God as it is written:

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

    -Hebrews 13:8

    Thank you.

    Rafael Garcia

  • 50. Thinking Ape  |  February 15, 2008 at 4:26 am

    Rafael,

    The reason life has meaning is outside of myself. There is meaning to life for one reason alone. God made it. The Scripture says that He made all things according to His good pleasure.

    Do you dismiss any meaning that you yourself create or do you deny that meaning can be created? Your first sentence I quoted appears to be a non sequitur. It is not self-apparent, at least to myself, that simply because you hold your life’s meaning to be external that this is the actual reason for life. The following sentences don’t offer me much comfort. You are saying that the reason life has meaning is solely because God made it – not why he made, but only that he did. What if this theoretical god is a malevolent deity? Surely it might have meaning, but most definitely a corrupt and perverted one. Furthermore, your concluding sentence in the block makes your god edge closer to a self-gratifying deity, similar to some of those of Norse or Hindu mythologies. If God sets the standard of what is “good,” then isn’t it redundant to say that all things are made for his “good pleasure”? Theoretically speaking.

    Now, you may say, ” Wait a minute, I am an agnostic/ atheist, it is irrelevant to me what God said or did.

    Never in my wildest responses would such a proclamation come to mind. I may not be the most intelligent person, but what I deem to be a justifiable belief has no bearing on the actual truth of the matter. If I don’t believe in God, but there is actually a God, my disbelief hardly changes the fact – and so it is not irrelevant to what God said or did. But the same goes for everyone.

    However, for me to forsake the Scriptures because one does not agree with it defeats the whole purpose in making a Biblical defense.

    A wise comment, and I would never ask you to forsake your scripture based on my word or anyone elses. I majored in Theology in hopes of becoming a great apologist. Not even the greatest arguments from the most articulate, rational atheist, Buddhist, or Jew could convince me that my ideas were misguided. My doubts come solely from the observation of fellow Christians and a hermeneutic study of the scriptures.

    In order to make a clear and logical conclusion on any matter, there must first be absolute knowledge on how it is absolutely true or not.

    Why is this the case? I have never heard an epistemologist argue for such a premise. Of course, this all depends on your definition of the following: “clear and logical”, “conclusion”, “absolute”, and most importantly, “knowledge.” For it is my understanding that, by the very nature of human knowledge, we cannot attain “absolute knowledge” unless we were gods.

    In the case of the existence of God, the agnostic or atheist must first have investigated all possible means for determining that outcome.

    It is impossible to determine all possible means, although we could certainly simplify them. How we phrase those possibilities, I find, is important. For example, you narrowed all the possibilities down to two:

    1. ” I do not know if there is a God” or 2. “I know with absolute knowledge from within myself that there is no God”.

    In a black and white universe this would be great, but let me twist a Buddhist parable to represent why it is not as simple as option (1) or (2). You are standing in one corner of a darkened room and you see a coiled rope on the other side of that room. You are sure that is a coiled rope. You take several steps in. You swear you just saw that rope move. Maybe there is something tangled in it. As you move closer to grab the rope to see what is hidden, you realize that the rope is actually a serpent.
    The point in the Buddhist parable is the realization of dharma, in my analogy the purpose is to show the degrees, faulty or not, of certainty or “knowledge.” The problem is, we can only make educated guesses until it is probably too late. So using your two possibilities I would say 1.4 (or any random decimal numger): I do not know if there is a God (or not), but I find reasons for a justifiable belief or non-belief. I have not explored all possibilities, but furthermore, I hope you would agree that doing so would require an infinitude of time and knowledge, neither of which humans possess. So I take the agnostic route which is not to be convoluted with that of the atheist. However, if I were to ever label as an atheist, it would be only that I justifiably do not believe that there are any gods, to the extent that my certainty as a human could allow me – this would hardly be an authoritative declaration of unanswerable truth (what one would generally find in a revealed religion, whether true or not).

    Either you think there are justifiable reasons or you don’t.

    You had to take two quotes out of context not to understand what I was saying. The first statement you quoted of mine (re: absurdity) was explicitly saying that having knowledge of nothing is absurd. This is not hard to understand. You can only have knowledge of something, imaginary or not. I have justifiable knowledge that this laptop is in front of me. I cannot of knowledge of the other laptop that is not front of me, for their is nothing to have knowledge of (and before anyone tries to get into Anselm’s ontological argument, please refer to Kant’s refutation). You may have knowledge that there is nothing on your lap, but you do not have knowledge of the not-laptop. It is absurd.
    The second quote has nothing to do with the first. It is merely an admission that there are evidences both for and against the existence of gods or a God. I have spent my entire short life thus far reading and researching the various arguments and I will continue to do so. At this point in my life I believe it is foolish to say that one side far outweighs the other, and until you recognize the reality of degrees in your knowledge, I cannot explain my agnostic position any clearer.

  • 51. Thinking Ape  |  February 15, 2008 at 4:27 am

    Rafael, as you can decipher from the length of my response to you, I value your input and discussion and I do not take criticism personally.

  • 52. Min Dear  |  February 15, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    It’s so sad how we are kept controlled by the fundamentalist views. I’ve grown up into a very strong, very perfectionist, very strict Christian family where I was babied and protected from the world. Now I realize that it was a hinderance, a grave mistake that religion has caused, and I have to fight with myself every day to keep my sanity and recognize that I am not wrong. I have noticed the very things you noticed. The fact that we are kept in a box, and it’s made up of fear, damnation, the distrust of self, and ignorance. I despise religion for that.

  • [...] Reasons I Remained Faithful (for so long)  A re-post from something I put up on de-Conversion a few days ago.  Worth reading are some of the personal stories various people left in the comments section….  [...]

  • 54. karen  |  February 15, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    The fact that we are kept in a box, and it’s made up of fear, damnation, the distrust of self, and ignorance. I despise religion for that.

    Amen! Min Dear, congratulations on finding your way out of the box. That metaphor is so apt, I relied on it for several years while clawing my way outside also.

  • 55. Quester  |  February 17, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Raphael,

    You asked, So, would it make any sense for me, a Christian, to lay down my choice sword when it is my only defense?

    Of course it wouldn’t. But if your sword has neither point nor edge and indeed is missing both blade and hilt, no one is obliged to pretend to be injured simply because you believe you have a sword in your waving hand.

    If the bible is your only defence, it may be time to consider why you have no defence for your beliefs outside of the bible.

    You further went on to say, In the case of the existence of God, the agnostic or atheist must first have investigated all possible means for determining that outcome.

    I agree, if you define God as a being with no interest in humanity and no impact on reality. If, on the other hand, you define God as one who loves humanity and intervenes in human history, all one needs to investigate is human history and look for evidence of God at work in our world today. You are right in saying that the authoritative claim “There is no God” needs to be the result of extraordinary study. But to say, “If there is a God, that God is not working in the world today and makes so little impact on our lives that there would be no difference if there was no God” is a much smaller claim more easily made by looking at the world we live in and our lives here. This claim can be made by the person investigating.

  • 56. paulmct  |  February 17, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Quester,

    I like the image of the useless/non-existent sword being waved around. But I dsagree about atheists and agnostics having to prove the non-existence of god. That concedes the believers’ assertion that god is the default position. IT IS NOT.

    God is a theory, and the onus is on the proponents of that theory to prove it, using scientific method. They have never done so. Being unable to do so, their favourite response is to turn the tables and say “prove there is no god”. Don’t let them away with it or encourage them.

  • 57. Quester  |  February 17, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Paulmct,

    I understand the argument about burden of proof, but isn’t there a difference between not believing God exists, and believing there is no God?

    To refer to the popular unicorn argument, the person claiming a unicorn exists would carry the burden of proof. But for me to authoritatively state that there are no unicorns, anywhere, and never were, I would feel a need to have searched for evidence for and against before making such a claim.

    Personally, I am looking for evidence God does exist. I want to remain a theist. I am also open to the possibility of unicorns.

  • 58. Defending Thomas « de-conversion  |  February 20, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    [...] Reasons I Remained Faithful (for so long) [...]

  • 59. paulmct  |  February 22, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Sorry for the delay.

    Maybe I’m missing some subtle nuance, but those two statements appear to mean the same thing to me. Exist = is.

    I can’t say that I’ve personally undertaken any serious archaeological work on or research into unicorns, but everything I’ve heard about them indicates they never existed in anything but myths. How long and far do we keep searching for something before we decide that it’s just not there. Forever?

    Besides, you said you are looking for evidence to support what you want to be true. That is what they call bad science. You draw the conclusion from the available evidence, rather than look for the evidence to match the desired conclusion.

    Having said that, happy hunting and good luck with those unicorns. ;-)

  • 60. Quester  |  February 22, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    How long and far do we keep searching for something before we decide that it’s just not there. Forever?

    That depends on whether we’re deciding that, “barring evidence to the contrary, it’s not there”, or “I can definitively state that it’s not there”.

    Besides, you said you are looking for evidence to support what you want to be true. That is what they call bad science. You draw the conclusion from the available evidence, rather than look for the evidence to match the desired conclusion.

    I’ll concede that.

    Having said that, happy hunting and good luck with those unicorns.

    *grin* Thanks.

  • 61. Anonymous  |  April 21, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    I don’t understand what the problem is with having a healthy belief in God. GoDamn has serious problems. Why not believe in a God that can heal? Sidharth did, and look what happened. He was healed. He knew that if he was to get treatment, the problem would never go away. If you think that a cure for cancer or any other disease will be released to the public, you are sadly mistaken. Oh yeah, just because something negative happened to you, that doesn’t give you the right to wish death on another. GROW UP!

  • 62. LeoPardus  |  April 21, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Anonymous:

    Sidharth….. who? Kindly provide the story. Then you can tell us why we would believe in a story about someone we don’t know at all.

    If you think that a cure for cancer or any other disease will be released to the public, you are sadly mistaken.

    Oh. Are you a conspiracy nut? …. Somewhere, in a secret government lab, they have a cure for cancer. But they won’t let us have it. Because they invented cancer in the first place to control the population levels……. Makes fair movie copy I guess.

  • 63. John T.  |  July 20, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    “Warnings Against Intellectualism. The Bible is not very friendly to questioning and skepticism.”

    I find the above quote funny. Though I am not Christian, a scripture that suits my personality, actually promotes questioning.

    l Thessalonians 5:21

    “Test everything, hold on to the good.”

  • 64. dovelove  |  July 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Just one of the multitudes of contradictions. The bible also says “Fear not,” and yet you won’t convince me that any true “believer” of a literal “Hell” isn’t living a life knee-deep in fear. No matter how much they “believe” or “accept.” If they don’t put the “fear of God” into people, that plate (or church) won’t get filled.

    Teaching this bullshit to children is child abuse, plain and simple. They gotta get ‘em while they’re young and impressionable, make that fear stick…even as SHOULD become clear to an adult that it’s an absurdity. It’s the fear that overrides the reason.

    It’s brainwashing, without question — and it should be illegal…to burn into a child’s brain that either it does this or that or it will BURN IN HELL…over and over and over. It should be illegal to teach (brainwash) a child that she/he is NOTHING (“wretches” “sinners”) without some fairytale being that they dont’ even understand — but they do understand being NOTHING or innately bad.

    And the consequences of teaching this to our children? Look at our self-destructive, self-loathing world…even trashing the very planet we live on. Religion is the ultimate and most insidious CULT. Damn right, it should be a crime to do this to children.

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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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