The point of Christian faith in a secular world

February 23, 2008 at 7:49 pm 91 comments

earth_large.jpgWhat exactly does faith provide in a secular world, and what is the future of the church? These were issues addressed in a recent talk I got to see by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and head of the Church of England, who was accompanied by his second-in-command the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. I walked away from the experience wholly unsatisfied. There were a number of real questions that I found problematic in the dialog.

Question 1: What is the point of the Christianity in secular society? In a world where neither morals nor ethics require a religious connection, where atheists exhibit both, and where laws exist to keep a society in check, where personal fulfillment is associated with achievement in the workplace or otherwise, how does the Christianity fill a necessary role?

The answer presented (and I apologise that I cannot recall which Archbishop said it) was that a Christian faith presents the “forgiveness of sins” and that this was fundamental. It immediately brought to mind the idea of a snake-oil salesman, uttering the conversion tactic used by evangelicals, “you have a problem… SIN! But I have a cure! Christ.”

Sentamu, had very interesting things to say about Africa but it wasn’t clear to me that his words reflected the current state of right and wrong. As regards many of the atrocities that take place in modern society, including especially in Africa, people either don’t know something is wrong or they know it is wrong but they know they can get away with it. Where does Christianity fix this? By being up-front about the issue of “what is wrong, what is sin” it defines things better, and provides a mechanism to ask for forgiveness, but is it really a qualitative difference?

If sin is the big thing, then that has to go with guilt over sin. If the quest for being a “better person” is the role of Christianity, then is God the answer, or is therapy the answer? If learning to love yourself is the greatest problem, then surely that can be learned without having to rely on a supreme being? I walked away from the evening completely unclear as to how Christianity was a necessary thing aside from the fear tactics “you’re going to hell!” that are common amongst the more fiery evangelicals.

This question arose when Archbishop Rowan was asked about whether he finds it easy to believe. He stated that yes, he had never not believed, and he found this easy and that he found living a life worthy of his belief was the more difficult task. This is interesting, and immediately begs the question of, “what is wrong with us that don’t find this baseline faith to be so simple?” He went on to discuss the potential tactics for those who do not find it so easy to believe, and claimed that faith was potentially for everyone, not just those who had his lucky doubt-free existence. The direct statement was that someone who is having doubts should continue to immerse themselves in a Christian experience and that eventually they would come to faith. I’m sure many of us on the de-conversion path would question this, and would feel as though our further researchers have left us further than ever from the faith, in light of rational thought and considerations.

I grew up in a world where the “born again” emotional experience was essentially the “have an epiphany” moment that was supposed to sustain you for the rest of your Christian days. I have, in rational days, been extremely cautious about “road to Damascus” moments just as I have been hesitant to believe the hormone-fuelled words of someone who claims to have fallen in love. All important transitions in life are processes, which involve baby-steps taking place over the course of years. I can recall the day I met my partner without claiming that our relationship today is the same as it was the day we met; there was attraction at first, then over many years there was true love, that of the “I would die for you” sort. The same thing is true of many conversions to Christian faith, there is an infatuation phase, especially in those raised outside the church when they first discover it, and then over time there is a gradual acclimatization to the Christian life. But I remain extremely skeptical of anyone who claims a never-ceasing faith that arrived from nowhere and has never wavered. I guess if I was the Archbishop I would say so in public as well, although perhaps that turns off more confused people than the number of the devoted that it reassures.

What exactly is going on with those people who would like to have faith but cannot seem to reconcile it with their own experiences? Is this the fault of the modern church for not being approachable? The fault of the person who is not somehow opening themselves up to the experience? The fault of the Christian community who are like a bad high school “mean girls” clique existing solely for their own benefit?

I walked away, as I do from most religious events these days, with more questions than answers. I am no longer an evangelical middle-American Christian, but in my new incarnation I had held out hopes at being an Anglican chorister with some remnants of my Christian faith retained. Unfortunately, the more I delve into this, the harder I find it to maintain any sense of allegiance to the gospels of Christ.

- ExEvangel

Entry filed under: ExEvangel. Tags: , , .

Defending “Doubting Thomas” The need to help each other, regardless of faith or creed.

91 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lauralea  |  February 24, 2008 at 8:56 am

    I love this post! It raises so many questions that I have myself and so many of the reasons I’ve had for being disgruntled with the church. The questions are hard and the answers even harder to find but I think they’re both very necessary and not enough of us are asking them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • 2. Matt  |  February 24, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    It’s classic circular logic.

    Sin only exists, as they refer to it, if their deity and religion are valid. Their main boon as a religion only exists if sin exists.

    That being said, they can not prove sin exists or that it can be forgiven which is where they fall back on the old ‘faith’ position which is unprovable to begin with.

  • 3. Pete W  |  February 24, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    The problem is expressed nicely in the title of your question: what’s the point of it. That’s like asking what’s the point of two plus two equaling four. You assume there has to be a reason behind it, beyond “It’s just the right answer”.

    You seem to believe there has to be a point as to why Christianity is needed. What if the answer is simply that it’s true?

    And in response to the snake oil salesman issue, that’s also a pointless argument. Don’t tar the product with the salesman’s brush. Just because something is sold in a rubbish way, doesn’t mean it can’t do what it says it can.

  • 4. notabarbie  |  February 24, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    ExEvangel – What a great post. Thank you.
    You said, “Unfortunately, the more I delve into this, the harder I find it to maintain any sense of allegiance to the gospels of Christ.”

    Exactly, that’s what most who have completely de-converted have discovered. I know that I fought and fought and fought, but to no avail. There comes a point where you have to finally say, “enough is enough, I’m done.”

    Peter W – You said, “You assume there has to be a reason behind it, beyond “It’s just the right answer,” and “You seem to believe there has to be a point as to why Christianity is needed. What if the answer is simply that it’s true?”
    I would say, because it isn’t the answer and it isn’t true. Hear ye, hear ye, the Emperor has no clothes!!!

  • 5. Kelly  |  February 24, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Christianity creates a need and fulfills it. It’s how the system sustains itself. It sells itself to the highest bidders with the lowest self-esteem.

    I forget who said it, but it goes something like this:

    “They cut you with a knife to sell you a bandage.”

  • 6. Zar  |  February 25, 2008 at 2:09 am

    Could some of your own assertions be wrong, though?

    For instance, when you said that learnign to love onself is the greatest problem, you displayed somethign that is perhaps wrong. What if learnign to lvoe yourself isn’t the greatest problem?

    Now, as for the point of Christianity, you may as well ask what the poitn of Political theory is, or Sociology, or Psycology.

    Christianity is, at its base, the same as all other religions int he role it plays, and htis inclidudes the Variosu religions adopted by Atheists, even in the west where thry claim to hold no Religion. That is, at its base it is nothign but codified Philosophy, and a basic mean by which we understand our world aroudn us.

    Thus, the role Christianity plays is in both creatign the basic framework by which the Christian himself woudl view the world and intepret the Data given him, and thus supply him with an ability to make sece of his world and determine his actions, and, communily,it provides a unifying force that keeps everyone ont he same page, and htus provides a mean fo social cohesion.

    In our age that priases Self-Help, Mlti-Culturalism, and Secularism, this may seem refutable, but I have yet to see anyone claim successfully that Christianity did not dhape European, and later North American Culture.

    Rather tyou liek it or not, most of the Moral and Legal codes in our society emerged from Christianity, which has by and large shaped how even Ahtiestic Philosophers have understood the world.

    To this end, when you say that oen can be Moral and Ehtical as an Ahteist, you still do nt show how that really relates to evidence agaisnt Christianity havign a point. Where did the Ethics come from that they adopted? The Morals? Even if the imediate soruce is from other Ahtiestic writers, if you trace their own Origin, you find Christianity as a rather promenant player.

    Now, I grant you that Christian thoguth emerged form earlier systems, but this is simply the natural order of things.

    Besides, when lookign at actual clinical studies, we find that Adherants to the major world religions who,Actually practice their religion show far lower signs of stress, greater senc eof self-fulfillment in work, social, and home life, ar eless prone to Depressiona nd suicidiality, and tend to be less apt for Criminal conduct, and that among the lowest fo these are those who are Devout Christians As opposed to In name only sorts, or those less devout, one can readily also contest the claim that ones fulfillment comes form work alone, or that we can substitute modern lesure activities, advancement in our careers, and some vauge notion of modern ethics with the benifits of Christianity.

    It offers mroe than the remedy for a non-existant illness, rather, it offers a stabilising and concice worldview that many would find to accuratley convey the world aroudn them.

    I remidn those here that Christians arne’t midnless zombies and can think for themselves, but, just as Atheusts adopt variosu assumptions, so do Cbristains, and it seems form where I sit that the Christian assumptiosn elad to a mroe balanced life overall.

    Of coruse their are problems in Christains lives, but the poitn isn’t that their ar eno problems. Rather, the poitn is that the Christian overcomes them with greater ease.

    The Christain also understands what Sin is, regretably unlike the many wroters inthis vien have.

    We all have a notion of right and wrong, and thats all Sin boils down to. IF an action was right or wrong. ( With many actosn not beign either. Such as pickign rye bread as opposed to wheat for breakfast.)

    But there is the point, in this ramblign post. ( SOrry, its 1:06 AM where I am, at the tiem of this writting, so, Im a bit tired.)

    CHristianity provides for people an understandign fo the world, and serves the same funciton as ertrand Russel, Frederich Neitche, Karl Marx, Plato, Socratese, and others we can name. It plays the same role as any society does in helping teahc us both how to have a better life and become better people, and abtu how to udnerstand Human Behaviour.

    Other Religions exist and so do other Optiosn that fuil the same role, and this is because of Natural Law. All peopel have the same basic needs, ad oen of those is a common social outlook, and a Private means by which to understand the world, awith the latter usually learned soemhow.

    Christianity thus serves the end of teahcign people variosu things and helpign them lead decent lives.

    You may contest this, but its foolish to.

    If you argue that Ahtiests can be moral, os no poitn in Christainity, I can turn that arugment on you. Christians can be mroal, so no poitn in Ahtiests.

    Athrists can be Ethical? Well, no need for that, we have Christians.

    Atheists can somehow find fulfillment? Well, why be an Ahtiets when you can be a Chistian?

    And thats the logical flaw o your arugment. You argue as if your Atheism is somehow a better choice becayse you don’t need Christianity. Well, Christians don’t need Atheism, do they?

    But, I’m afraid I didnt make this post as clear as I coudl have, btu fear rewrites as I may make it worse, so I’ll stop thee and how the poitns I raised are udnerstood.

  • 7. Matt  |  February 25, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Rather tyou liek it or not, most of the Moral and Legal codes in our society emerged from Christianity

    Really? How do you figure that? Societies that existed before christianity had overall similar moral codes to modern society in a lot of aspects. How did they get those if christianity didn’t exist yet?

    Take the Romans for example. While they were still well into their mult-deity worship and such, they had a very set and defined criminal and moral code. A great deal of their laws are very similar to ones used today.

    Modern morals and ethics from christianity? There’s no proof of such at all.

    Instead, Evolution could very well be the fundamental source of what we understand to be ethical and acceptable behaviour. Altruism has been witnessed in nature on many occasions – and since these are mere godless beasts, you wouldn’t expect that under the theory that christianity is the source of such.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB411.html

  • 8. Hugo  |  February 25, 2008 at 5:11 am

    Reading Marcus Borg’s “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time” gave me an appreciation for, um, “the gospel” (which was a secular word/concept, good news…) and a use for it: indeed, it’s the fundie Christians that need to hear it. Of course, the problem is that a fundie Christian wouldn’t finish reading a book like that. (C’mon, “Gospel of John is non-factual”? They’d probably throw it across the room that instant and not read any more. *sigh*.)

  • 9. sun  |  February 25, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    hi

    I have seen many in india people get de-converted after 5 years or 10 years. initially they get attracted by prayer meetings where they demonstrate blind can see this world and deaf can hear or disable person can walk. miracles can happen you can built house you will make lot of money, you can score high marks ……….and so on LATTER THEY COME TO KNOW ALL THE TRUTH AND GET DE-CONVERTED

    sun

  • 10. exevangel  |  February 26, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Zar said:
    Could some of your own assertions be wrong, though?
    For instance, when you said that learnign to love onself is the greatest problem, you displayed somethign that is perhaps wrong. What if learnign to lvoe yourself isn’t the greatest problem?

    It’s interesting, that was just my hypothesis of what people could be getting out of Christianity if there was no obvious reward aside from “saved from fire and brimstone”. Given the self-help flavor of the modern church in America, it’s all I could come up with.

  • 11. exevangel  |  February 26, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Matt–

    I’m with you, and I think most of the basic human behaviors are traced far back beyond the Romans. A series of interesting studies on human behavior and economics has demonstrated all sorts of “going against logic” irrational behaviors and sociologists find a series of “this behavior is found in all cultures” patterns. In both cases the behavior is apparently really deeply rooted, far beyond our written record.

  • 12. The point of it all « Unsaved  |  February 26, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    […] point of it all I wrote again on de-conversion, this time about the place for the Christian church in a modern secularized world.  I’m still pretty confused when it comes down to it, and thus far I have been disappointed […]

  • 13. mewho  |  February 26, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    I think that there is a truly worshipful experience beginning to develop in the spectacular Universe being unfolded by science before our modern eyes. There is a great archived interview of Ann Druyan on http://www.ffrf.org talking about Carl Sagan’s posthumous book and her own views on religion. To hear her talk about the incredible natural world compared to the paltry supernatural claimed by ANY religion is very touching. There is a worshipful way that most Atheists could approach the uncomprehensible billions of possible worlds just in THIS galaxy. If you listen to her testimony of parting with her late husband there is a beautiful humanity that makes me thankful to now be on THIS side of the aisle.

    Religion had an important scaffolding in getting our species to where it is today. Without it humans may not have become the dominant species. But the scaffolding could slowly disappear to reveal the humanity that we are without ANY of the supernatural claims imposed by religion. It has already happened in many parts of the world today and people in the future may grow up not even KNOWING what “going to church” even means.

    The “point” of the Christian church in a secular world may be like the nomadic life enjoyed by the American Indians. Or human sacrifice to the Incas. Or cannibalism. Or slavery. Or making all your own clothes and canning all your own vegetables. There are many ways of living and thinking that were once assumed essential that are now either extinct or endangered.

  • 14. exevangel  |  February 26, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Mewho,

    that is a really interesting point. The idea that the religious thing has served its purpose and now is over… will not sit well with many devotees but is truly something to consider in terms of human biology. I only wish I was a better biologist (difficult for a biophysicist!) to be able to address these points more fully. But you interest me very much with your comments. Thanks much.

    I know I am much more “wowed” by the Universe than by God but I always wonder if I am missing something; if I am somehow confining myself to a too small piece of the existence by considering a distinction between God and the Universe. I certainly became more and more enamoured of the amazing features of nature as I de-converted.

  • 15. Brad  |  February 26, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    “There are many ways of living and thinking that were once assumed essential that are now either extinct or endangered.”

    Wow… ok, I see what you are saying, but there are some MAJOR, MAJOR cultural assumptions made here. Totally regardless of religion, the implications of your statement involve some heavy qualitative judgment that is shaped by your particular worldview.

    I definitely do not want to pick an argument here, but the values that influence your opinion here are not necessarily shared by others across the globe. You espouse very western, very educated-based values of scientific progress. Many in say, China or other Eastern countries would probably disagree with you (Japan being an exception), much less most of Africa.

    I’m not saying you are necessarily wrong, only that this is something to be aware of because we (western/American, educated, comparatively affluent) make up a very very small minority of the planet.

    Make sense?

  • 16. notfromaroundhere  |  February 26, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Brad-

    actually, no, I’m not sure I get your point (although not directed at me). I think the human condition is less different than you say, and I base that on both my own travels across the globe and current expat existence and my sister’s life as an expat in rural China. This is change that is happening rapidly in the globalized world, not as slowly as it once was. Affluent or not, information travels much better now because of the internet and all of modern life evolves much more quickly because of that.

  • 17. Brad  |  February 26, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    notfromaroundhere,

    Yeah, and I can see that, but there are many things that technology and scientific progress brings that other worldviews do not value.

    Busyness

    The 24/7 lifestyle

    The loss of cultural identity

    Again, I’m not saying that this is wrong, or that I even disagree. I’m only trying to say that it is important we are aware of how our worldview/lens colors what we value and how we see the world.

  • 18. LeoPardus  |  February 26, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    Hmmm. Interesting. The point of faith (any faith) may in part be to remind us to look outside of, or away from, our day to day hustle and bustle, in order to contemplate that which transcends the hustle and bustle. It can be a stress reducer even.

    This is part of why I like the EOC liturgy. It’s decidedly transcendent. Well, except for the part where the priest derails it with a sermon. But one can step out for a quick donut then.

  • 19. exevangel  |  February 26, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    LeoPardus,

    that’s my point really, it does not require Christian faith to do that. You can indulge in yoga or meditation or many other things that allow you to escape from the hustle and bustle of modern society (which I agree, is worth stepping back from!)

    So if there are other ways to do that, I am still seeking a meaning in the church. I sing in an Anglican evensong service and I definitely find the experience peaceful to the point of being transcendent but I definitely do not see how faith in the going liturgy is required.

  • 20. notfromaroundhere  |  February 26, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Brad-

    I assume you are in the US? I’m not, and it’s amazing the extent to which we think those things are universal as Americans (I am one) but most of the rest of the western, modern, industrialized world has different values.

    I should note that I am a scientist and it is my science that has brought me abroad for a job, so it’s not like I’m off in Europe leading a life of leisure. My colleagues here think I’m nuts! And that I work too hard! Even in a scientific job, another culture does not have the same view. There’s variety everywhere, and yet overall the secular worldview is starting to dominate no matter where you are, how they view work (not 24/7 as in the US–here in the UK we have a state religion that no one participates in…)

  • 21. midori01  |  February 27, 2008 at 5:33 am

    I do like your brief and concise on your entry. I am a person who respect other people’s viewpoints and I believe one’s faith is a very complex matter that takes a lifetime to understand. I wish you the best.

  • 22. malia  |  March 4, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    I have a general issue with religion that is based in the afterlife – ie do this and you will go to heaven. I suppose if you do believe in heaven and value afterlife, above and beyond you current exsistance, than christianity still has a place in current culture.

    I practice a non-christian religion and find that is does provide the personal fufillment that I cannot find anywhere else, even in this modern culture. In fact, I think that modern culture pulls us from the spiritually motivated self-study and meditation on THIS life.

  • 23. Lady through the Looking Glass  |  March 6, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Hi, stumbled across this site yesterday from Unsaved’s blog, and have been having an eye-opening time browsing through.

    Just a brief introduction: have been in Christianity for most of my 30-something years, raised as a Methodist, then transitioned to Seventh-day Adventism. Over the last couple of years, have grown disillusioned with Christianity as a belief system. It just isn’t working for me anymore. Had what I would call a faith crisis recently when I decided first, to examine my denominational beliefs, then realised that I should examine my total beliefs, Christianity included. That’s when my world was rocked, which I think is a good thing, for it dawned on me that I needed to become a thinker, instead of being a sponge.

    This new journey towards truth will more than likely take me the rest of my life. That’s okay, I’m not in any rush. I don’t remember which one of the contributors it was who wrote in an earlier article on deconversion, I think, but in effect, he/she states that one should “choose wisely, go cautiously and slowly.” I was so grateful for that advice, one that I intend to heed.

    Now I find that I’m leaning more towards Deism, as a personal philosophy. Concerning my Christianity, I’m in neutral position right now, as I’m in the process of researching both the evidence for and against it. As an SDA, I’m going through the motions presently. Everything feels rather messy and complicated right now, while I’m working through it all, and that’s okay too, I think. That’s why I’m also grateful for your words – “All important transitions in life are processes, which involve baby-steps taking place over the course of years.”

    Socrates states that “the unexamined life isn’t worth living” and James Luther Adams said that “an unexamined faith is not worth having.” I’m glad I’ve decided to examine both. It’s my right and responsibility.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Thanks for this site. Looking forward to learning more from all of you in my ongoing journey towards truth.

  • 24. Greg Lusignan  |  November 26, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Where does the butterfly begin? How much of the human brains capacity is actually used? What transitions or growth can a 2 month expect to undergo on the way to adulthood? These humble beginnings foreshadow future growth or give indications of a more ‘complete’ end to come. Many move forward with the faith that what efforts they put forth now lead to the ultimate goal they wish to achieve. The student devotes much of his/her time toward a degree. Is the job/career they are working toward guaranteed? Is the knowledge they hoped to gather what they expected? Four years in the undergraduate program, then how many toward a masters or PHD? Without knowing the outcome, they fervently work, hope toward the unknown. Then there is the worker at the same company for years. Then the parent, who sacrifices for the child or the scientist hoping to prove their theories. The list of individuals who, without knowing yet the outcomes to their efforts, work toward – something. The truth in each persons devotion to the task there is no guaranteed outcome. Some might call this faith.

    For the christian this ties into the butterfly analogy; that this physical body is but a cocoon. What seems to be missed in most (if not all) of what I’ve read here is a view of sin beyond this world. As if to say ‘my dad doesn’t know what I’m doing here at college so I’ll never have to answer for it” or “what my parents don’t know won’t hurt them”. In saying this the young adult acknowledges the underlying truth that what they are doing is wrong but that they will hide it from those they answer to. Others might be a little bolder in their rebellion and say “I don’t care what my dad thinks” or bolder still saying “I don’t like or need my dad so he doesn’t exist to me”. Still some say “I wish I could be more like my father” and try their best to do as he instructed while they are away from him. The one commonality shared by each of them is the starting point – they came from somewhere, or more accurately they were born. That is true for all of whether we choose to acknowledge our parents or not – without them we would not exist. So what then of creation? Do we put our broken watch in a box, shake it and hope it all comes back together again? Is this universe we live in a fortuitous blending of atoms that shape the order we have found in all levels; symbiosis, gravity, the magnetic shield, aligning planets and here (on earth), life. In the end, I suppose, we all choose to believe (have faith) in something, some explanation for it all. My fear is that I might join the other parts of this vehicle (we call society) and refuse to acknowledge the manufacturer. It seems pointless to argue this on the way to the scrap pile for as it is the mortality rate is 100%.

    So what then is the point to Christianity? Is it found in the rewards of this world? Is it a self-improvement toll leading to a better way of living? Or is it simply the acknowledgment of our Father who trying to teach his kids the way to living well. After all, what parent would knowingly allow their child to steal; to hurt their sister or brother; to lie; to murder; to rape; to speed through a red light? As parents I’d imagine we want to teach our children how to behave with regard to others, that in essence they are not alone and selfishness will not be tolerable. Pretty good expectations wouldn’t you agree? Yet as children often do rebel we can’t force them to do as we ask, we can only put the consequences before them in contrast to the rewards and hope they make the right choice. What is your choice? Do wish to obey your Father? Do you wish to be like Him? Or do you wish instead to ignore His existence outright thus gaining the freedom to do what you want? (a freedom given to you by the way). In this forum I find those who are still sitting on the fence. Let me remind you of the proposed question at the beginning of all this, ‘What is the point of Christian faith in a secular world?’ The answer is none! It really has nothing to do with this world at all. But if you think we are here to learn, if you think we might be at some sort of college or teaching institution and there is a belief at all that some day you might be going home – remember your Father will be waiting. He wants you to learn from His infinite knowledge base. He wants to teach you proper etiquette and moral value. He wants, in essence, for you to behave like your His child. This is the reason for Christ. Not that we might gain in this world, as we are taught to the contrary expecting suffering and persecution, but that we might go on with a degree to the workforce of eternity. God promises no other reward than that we will be transformed into His image.

    Personally, I’d like very much to be like my Father. I find Him to be honest, reliable, dependable and so devoted to His kids that He would die for them. In reading the Word of God I find more of a tool to learn, to have hope, to find encouragement and reason behind this messed up place (argue with that if you will) – not a list of to-dos for others but for myself. If in your christian walk you’ve been let down by what you’ve seen in the christian community, let me gently remind that the list was meant for you, not them. Don’t base your beliefs on what you expect from others for the only guarantee then is that you will be let down, regardless of what theology you adhere to. Most find it easy to complain – against politicians, their neighbors, family members, their boss or clients, the laws or the enforcement of them – and against God. It seems there are a great number who believe that if they were in power things would be better. Are you one of these?

    At the end of the day you will have to finish school and whether you try to avoid home (and your dad) or not, you will find yourself on the doorstep. The question for each of us is do we want to in. Dad doesn’t want to force you and if you don’t want to live under His roof you don’t have to.

  • 25. LeoPardus  |  November 26, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Post #24: Possible “Drivel of the Month Award” winner??

  • 26. Josh  |  November 26, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Greg –

    There may be a beauty and artistry when one applies logic and a twist of wisdom to unfalsifiable metaphysical ideas, but geez man, this doesn’t make any of it true any more than drawing goblins and fairies on a canvas makes them exist.

    LeoPardus –

    Ooh, I love awards!

  • 27. SnugglyBuffalo  |  November 26, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    How much of the human brains capacity is actually used?

    100%

    I’m so sick of this myth that we only use a fraction of our brains. It’s patently false, but gets repeated so often that most people assume it’s true.

    Jokes about the truth of the myth when applied to certain individuals aside :P

  • 28. orDover  |  November 26, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Me too SB! I was just jumping on that one. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves.

  • 29. Greg Lusignan  |  November 26, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    LeoPardus –

    Wonderfully witty!

    Josh –

    As relativity applies here I guess your finger to the keyboard makes what you say that much more dependable?

    SB and orDover –

    All myths aside, think of the logic – how many brain cells do you have? How many are active, that is attached to a synaptic nerve and the rest of the participating group? If you have a million and only 30 000 are adjoined, my guess is there’s a few more to invite to the party!

    All –

    Perhaps something with a little more substance or you might find yourselves winning that award. The whole idea behind throwing a few drops on the fire of a whole lifetime seems fruitless. I was raised with bikers, a lesbian mother, alcoholic dad. Spent most of my youth in and out of jail, curb stomping from 12 and carrying weapons from 10. I’ve done, more than once, most drugs out there and lost my virginity at the age 12 – I can’t remember the many after that. I made my first hundred grand before eighteen (which was something back then) and it was legit. We won’t discuss the 18 counts of break enter and theft they caught me with at age 13, the drug dealing or other sources of income. Models, penthouses, high living and fun! I could tell you my moral code caused me to be honest with all those women, telling each the truth about the others. Maybe that my morals wouldn’t allow me to kill anyone, though I came close a couple times (try to picture this as my photographic memory provides me one); maybe how important it was that I didn’t steal from those who didn’t deserve it or even at times I needed to just to survive. Most of my family is well educated with about 50 plus years combined from Harvard to who knows where, teachers, lawyers, philosophers and so on. The point in all of this is to point out, as you obviously didn’t know, I’ve heard a lot better than your few drops. I’ve looked for answers just like you, lived experiences just like you and tested theories just like you. I’ve tested God’s love. I’ve found Him to be trustworthy. Now I don’t wish to belittle your obvious concerns to impart wisdom, share truth and encourage as its apparent based on what you’ve said throughout this blog that you are indeed trustworthy; I’m sure your words will be ringing thousands of years into the future and your name remembered unto the end of time. Mine won’t, I can assure you of that! Not to say I’m not important, I am. I don’t walk around with my head between my legs overwrought with guilt, Ive made peace with my past. But you should know I don’t walk around with my head in the clouds either, thinking my opinion is more valuable than yours. I seek greater wisdom than my own. You?

    Now heres the kicker – if you have a more valid argument to help me change my ridiculous beliefs in a Creator who loves His creation – let’em fly and we’ll have a healthy debate. If instead you reduce yourself to small insults and ‘mightier than thou’ approach let me suggest you use that little stirrup thing there to get down from your horse.

    The truth is we all choose something to trust. My something teaches me I’m a very small cog in a very big wheel, meaning two things; my cog’s important to the wheels operation and there are ten’s of billions of other cog’s just like me. I am indeed a part of a larger society so I’d better recognize its not just about me being sure to support, encourage, uplift and help my brother. That’s sort of like saying loving the one next to me so much I’d be willing to give up those things that matter most to me for them. Now God did this for you and His proof is in the pudding. Jesus is proven an historical fact. Read what He says and you might actually agree.

    P.S five minutes of time spent in study equates to a very low grade – four years in study equates to a degree. Also, there is a substantial difference between applied science and theoretical science – living and talking about living.

    I look forward to sharing with you gang.

  • 30. the chaplain  |  November 27, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Greg – you seem to have the mistaken idea that the people who contribute to this site are interested in debating with believers. In case you hadn’t noticed, this is a site for people who are wrestling with questions of faith to express themselves and interact with others who are dealing with similar issues.

    You probably won’t believe this, but we’ve heard all of the arguments that you have to offer, we’ve heard other testimonies similar to yours and we’ve definitely heard more cogent sermons than the samples that you’ve posted here. In short, you may look forward to sharing with us, but don’t be too surprised if many here don’t return the sentiment.

  • 31. Josh  |  November 27, 2008 at 12:50 am

    Greg –

    I appreciate your story and am thankful that you have found your way out of that lifestyle for sure. I’m confident that was not difficult and will be thinking of you tomorrow in particular, thankful that many men find their way into a better life.

    That said, I find your post somewhat hypocritical. You desire debate, egging us on, standing strong, claiming to be something, claiming that we lack substance, etc. And then you tell us that we should not have a “mightier than thou” attitude.

  • 32. Josh  |  November 27, 2008 at 12:51 am

    “I’m confident that was not difficult”

    * I’m confident that was difficult

  • 33. TitforTat  |  November 27, 2008 at 6:54 am

    Not to say I’m not important, I am. I don’t walk around with my head between my legs overwrought with guilt, Ive made peace with my past. But you should know I don’t walk around with my head in the clouds either, thinking my opinion is more valuable than yours. I seek greater wisdom than my own. You?(greg)

    Wow, if your head is not in the clouds then I guess you havnt been raptured yet, or maybe its just stuck somewhere else.

  • 34. Greg Lusignan  |  November 27, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Please accept my apologies, ladies and gents – it seems I’ve still got much to learn. Re-reading my last post I’ve found my words to be “egging on” as opposed to discussing, promoting argument.

    Thankfully, most of your responses I perceived to well thought out and gentle – thanks.

    Josh –

    This may be a site where you are able to discuss freely your struggles with faith but if your honest it seems more like a place to finger point and offer judgment on those whom you don’t agree with. I ask then, is it fair those recipients of your combined lashings have no opportunity to defend themselves? More still, is it healthy to feed in your anger/hatred without accountability? So many comments here carry such generalizations and prejudice similar to those prejudices against blacks, women, Iranians or anyone else you can through into a group and condemn.

    I just happened upon this site searching for the answer ‘Has sin lost its meaning in today’s secular world?” What I’ve read has helped me find some of the issues surrounding this question. It seems simple enough – if we replace sin with words like morals or ethical values then we don’t need God, we are good enough to manage ourselves. Belief in humanity and its inherent good nature vs the sinful nature of man.

    If its okay I’d like to stick around a little while and talk some more over the weeks ahead.

  • 35. Josh  |  November 27, 2008 at 11:26 am

    “I ask then, is it fair those recipients of your combined lashings have no opportunity to defend themselves?”

    You do have an opportunity to defend yourself, Greg. Plenty of it. We just want to see solid, well-reasoned arguments, and a respect for our loss of belief – thats all :)

    “More still, is it healthy to feed in your anger/hatred without accountability?”

    Well, contrary to how damning many of the comments are on this site, few of us actually hate anyone. Imagine growing up in the church of Jim Jones and then finding out later it was all a scam. You might be pretty livid that you were duped into believing that stuff, but you wouldn’t hate everyone else in the church, would you? I, for one, might be angry and my comments might come across as if they were filled with hatred (e.g. “Jim Jones was an awful pastor and a murderer!”) But it is hard to hate believers when I know that they do sincerely believe and I also know how traumatic it is to discover the faith is a sham.

    Love the believer, hate the beliefs.

    And you are more than welcome to stick around (at least I don’t have a problem with it) if you are willing to engage in intelligent, respectful conversation and to focus on the theme of this blog.

  • 36. Rover  |  November 27, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Greg,

    I am a christian and I find your comments above to be very uniformed. Probably because you don’t have a firm foundation in either logic or the Bible. If you have answers to the many issues that arise on this blog then please provide them. I think, however, that you don’t have any, so you make unproven criticisms. That’s okay, but it doesn’t move the conversation on at all. The ladies and gentlemen on this blog have very well thought out arguments and objections to our faith. Where are your answers? If you have them then please answer a few questions for me and we will see if you bring any new information to the table.

    1. If God’s moral Law is objective then why does he promote the owning and beating of slaves in OT? The non-hebrew slaves could be treated ruthlessly. Paul doesn’t even allow that in the NT.
    2. If God values women why does he allow them to be taken as sex slaves in the OT? In DT 20 God says do not commit adultery then in Dt. 21 he says a man can have mulitple wives.
    3. If you have faith in God how come you don’t serve Him like you know you should? (Question for all Christians). Is it because we doubt?
    4. Why is answered prayer no more effective about then that which would come about by chance? 5. Why is there so much evidence for evolution?

    These are just a few quesions I would love to hear your responses to Greg. Then we can see how foolish our discussions have been.

  • 37. Quester  |  November 27, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    So many comments here carry such generalizations and prejudice similar to those prejudices against blacks, women, Iranians or anyone else you can through into a group and condemn.

    Except that we’re judging the actions of people who choose to perform certain actions, instead of choosing randomly identifiable characteristics that were not the choice of their possessor. Are you arguing that we can not judge foolish and destructive actions as foolish and destructive? If so, why not?

    Jesus is proven an historical fact.

    A few scattered references to the mere existance of a man, is not the same thing as proof of his actions, words or divinity.

    Read what He says and you might actually agree.

    Try preaching on His words in regular rotation for a few years, not skipping anything He says, while trying to present a consistent and loving portrayal of his words and will, and you might find out that he presents the same hateful and destructive thoughts of too many of his followers.

  • 38. LeoPardus  |  November 27, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    That’s quite a dramatic bit of braggadocio you made up for your story. Reminds of other story-tellers I’ve heard. Mike Warnke springs most immediately to mind. I’m sure most of us here have heard dramatic stories like yours before. Likewise many of us were around later, when the braggarts were revealed as frauds. Most of them eventually are.

    Why don’t you take your tale on the evangelical speaking circuit? You could pack ‘em in for a while, until some reporter actually investigates your past. But by then, you’d have fattened your bank account, written a book, and started a big national ministry full of suckers who will say the reporter is the devil’s agent.

    It worked for Warnke; it worked for Hovind; it just might work for you.

  • 39. Quester  |  November 27, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    LP,

    I think we should give Greg the benefit of the doubt on his autobiography. I don’t want to open us to the return fire of, “Yeah, well, you’re lying if you claim you were really Christians”.

    Besides, it’s not like the story adds any weight to his arguments.

  • 40. SnugglyBuffalo  |  November 28, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    All myths aside, think of the logic – how many brain cells do you have? How many are active, that is attached to a synaptic nerve and the rest of the participating group? If you have a million and only 30 000 are adjoined, my guess is there’s a few more to invite to the party!

    I’m not a neurologist, and I’m guessing you’re not either. You can “think of the logic” all you want, but you’re not factoring in brain scans that show we use all of our bains.

    Read what He says and you might actually agree.

    Care to point me to a resource containing words Jesus definitively spoke, as opposed to accounts written from memory many decades after-the-fact?

    Also, it’s rather presumptuous to think that none of us here have read the Bible. I’d be willing to wager that everyone here has “read what he says.” Heck, some of the de-cons here were pastors.

    You need to keep in mind that no one here is a life-long atheist that has never seriously investigated the Christian faith. Many of us were serious believers for decades.

  • 41. LeoPardus  |  November 28, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Quester:

    He’s a liar and an idiot (as in low IQ). I’ve heard quite a few of the hucksters who “witness” with these dramatic stories, then been heard later when they were shown up as frauds. Even if that didn’t give me a bit of an eye/ear for spotting them, GL’s sorry effort to provide a prop for his ego is silly. Here’s what I mean…..

    Juxtapose this:
    I was raised with bikers, a lesbian mother, alcoholic dad.
    with this:
    Most of my family is well educated with about 50 plus years combined from Harvard to who knows where, teachers, lawyers, philosophers and so on.

    They aren’t mutually exclusive, but they are rather unlikely together.

    Or this:
    I made my first hundred grand before eighteen (which was something back then) and it was legit.
    with this:
    We won’t discuss the 18 counts of break enter and theft they caught me with at age 13, the drug dealing or other sources of income.
    and this:
    I didn’t steal from those who didn’t deserve it or even at times I needed to just to survive.

    Or combine the bad spelling, bad grammar, lousy syntax, and apparent inability to keep his made up story straight with his claim of “my photographic memory” (Maybe he never saw an English book??)

    Nah. What we have here is an adult who is still reading comic books, and wishes he was the Green Lantern. A sad, little mind.

  • 42. Nathalie Lusignan  |  November 30, 2008 at 1:13 am

    You know, I have to say that some of you are unbelievable, as I guess it works too ways as you say Greg is unbelievable too. Here my husband lays his story to you, and you want to crush him. His heart is genuine.

    I have to say I have been with this man for 15 years, and his life story is true, no matter what you say. I know his family and am his new family. I guess this is one reason God give a new start with our own families.

    Yes some times his approach doesn’t come a cross the way he would like it, but then who truly does. No man is perfect, hence why we need Jesus.

    I know that some of you will laugh saying his wife is coming to his rescue, but that is not it.

    My husband is intelligent and studies scripture daily and prays fervently. He struggles like everyone else. His true desire is to reach people with the hope of Jesus Christ. He would like people to see that there is no point in life where you can be too low that God can’t reach you. How life can truly change. A greater hope that this world has to offer.

    In life we are all are learning, I believe that we need to encourage each other and try to lift each other up, the world and Satan does enough taring down.

    I know that it seemed like he was attacking you, I’m sorry if that was the case, I believe his intent was to have some good challenges and questions. For him, he would then pray and study the scriptures and maybe shed some light (not intending you don’t know scripture also), but it would challenge him to dig for solid answers.

    He really does look to God for all his answer and direction with all avenues in life.

    He is in school, and because of his research it lead him to this sight. What you guys are talking about is just the start of our lives. We will have a life of missions, despite what you think. No there really is not good money in it, and money has never been a priority. God is!

    Yes he (we) have a long road a head and are learning, so if you have some concerns, then yes bring them forward as some have.

    BUT DON”T TARE DOWN HIS CHARACTER WHEN YOU DON”T KNOW THE MAN.

    When he apologized I know he truly meant it. We all do need to learn, but don’t shut him out, I believe you all can learn from each other.

    Thank you for listening, or should I say reading.
    Please no banter, I am not on here to join the conversation, just to learn, watch and pray.

  • 43. orDover  |  November 30, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Leo wrote,

    Or combine the bad spelling, bad grammar, lousy syntax…

    Isn’t it a strange coincidence that his wife also suffers from the same?

  • 44. Quester  |  November 30, 2008 at 3:16 am

    Greg and Nathalie,

    If you have a hard time believing that God exists, we will support you through your struggle, your grief over your loss of faith, and your looking at the world again without theism.

    If you have evidence (not anecdotal) that God exists, present it.

    If you want to learn, go ahead and read. If you have any questions which aren’t clearly rhetorical, or haven’t been answered several times, go ahead and ask.

    If you want to share your life stories, tales of what Jesus has done for you, what God has called you to, scripture passages and unconvincing analogies, try a Google search for “Christian forums” and visit them, or start a blog or forum of your own. As you might be able to guess by now, such stories are not particularly welcome here. They’re both condescending and unhelpful, like most mission work.

    I don’t care how genuine your heart is, nor how tragic your life story before Jesus found you. If you have evidence we can examine for ourselves, share it. Otherwise, stay and learn or leave and preach elsewhere. If you choose instead to stay and preach, don’t be surprised if the response you garner treats you with no more respect than your words earn you, as has been the case thus far.

  • 45. ubi dubium  |  November 30, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Thank you Quester. That echoes my sentiments exactly.

  • 46. LeoPardus  |  November 30, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Isn’t it a strange coincidence that his wife also suffers from the same?

    I’ve noticed that happens every time when some low IQ troll creates a “sock puppet” identity.

  • 47. Josh  |  November 30, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Guys, no offense, but we should not judge people based on their IQ, period. I agree that Greg is most likely a troll, but lets not create an elitist mentality and fulfill people’s stereotypes of us.

  • 48. ExEvangel  |  November 30, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I’ve been out of the loop lately–my job has made questions of faith pretty low down the list of things I wrestle with on a daily basis. I have been focused on struggling to keep up and hopefully build for the future. I remember being busy when I was younger and yet still having time to do things that I wanted to do (like go to church! LOL), and I find now that that that has not necessarily been the case.

    But the reason that I wanted to comment now after all these comments is that I agree that there really is no good reason to make the comments about IQ. I’ve been fairly agitated about this assumption during the election campaign, since I live in England I discovered that the majority of Brits here seem to think the red-center state-Christian types are all toothless wonders who couldn’t finish high school. I really despise any association of the concepts of intelligence and religious belief as though having one meant you could not have the other. Some of the Christians I know are some of the smartest people I know.

    Now I can agree that there are some grammatical issues here in these comments, but last time I checked IQ was a measure of base intelligence, not education level (which is often associated with good grammar). Never good to sink to the levels of the trolls!

  • 49. orDover  |  November 30, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    I just want to point out that my comment above had nothing to do with IQ. It’s a relevant observation that both parties had grammar and spelling errors. This isn’t the first time that a Christian commentor’s spouse or relative has come to their defense. There have also been trolls who use a series of different aliases to bolster their own opinions. It follows and typical pattern of behavior, and so we are understandably skeptical.

  • 50. LeoPardus  |  November 30, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Apologia for comments on IQ. It is indeed something that people cannot help (since it’s intrinsic) and as such should not be something that is picked on anymore than eye color or height.

  • 51. LeoPardus  |  November 30, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Apology for that last sentence too. Sheesh!

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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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