Convenient categories: Why Christians believe de-cons leave the faith

March 27, 2008 at 12:09 am 89 comments

Often enough, Christians pop in to the de-conversion blog and proceed to enlighten us as to the “real reason” why we left the faith. Sometimes, we shoot down their reasons, thus inconveniencing them with the need to come up with others. So we de-cons have compiled a list from which one can simply select.

We hope this will save wear and tear (on the brain) and time (running to the pastor to hear what to think next) for intellectually indolent, but judgmentally industrious christians (using the lower-case ‘c’ for lower case minds).

So without further ado, we hereby present:

Convenient categories into which Christians can shoehorn or pigeonhole ex-Christians:

1. You’re looking for an excuse not to believe.
2. You’re being manipulated by Satan.
3. You’re indulging your desire to live hedonistically.
4. You want instant gratification.
5. You’re not thinking about the future/afterlife.
6. You never had a true personal relationship with Jesus.
7. You never experienced/received the Holy Spirit.
8. You were “religious” but not born again. (OR, in better church jargon) You had a “said faith, not a real faith.”
9. Your decision is based on other Christians’ behavior, not on Jesus’ teachings.
10. You were hurt by your pastor/other Christians.
11. You were in the “wrong” denomination or sect.
12. People disappointed you and so you “threw out the baby with the bathwater”.
13. You weren’t following the real (or historical) Jesus.
14. You’re angry and resentful and taking it out on God.
15. You’re mad at God for some misfortune in your life.
16. You were never saved/Christian to start with. (Good ole Calvinism)
17. You’re harboring sin in your heart.
18. You’re too prideful/arrogant to humble yourself before the Lord.
19. You have a rebellious spirit.
20. You didn’t pray/read the Bible enough.
21. You forsook assembling together.
22. You can’t accept authority.
23. You never dealt with sin in your life. (i.e. You were a carnal Christian.)
24. You are having a mid-life, or some other life wide, crisis.
25. You’re, “going through a phase.”
26. You are self-centered/serving yourself.
27. You are shutting your eyes to the obvious truth of God.
28. You love/serve science/job/hobbies more than God.
29. You were unequally yoked (e.g. wife is Catholic, you were Protestant).
30. You looked to your own will/emotions instead of God’s will.
31. You’re mind was poisoned by man’s philosophy.
32. You became “wise in your own eyes.”
33. You were trying too hard to see God, and your own efforts kept you from success. (OR, said a little differently) You never “let go and let God.” (OR, said a little differently) You depended too much on your own strength/intellect.
34. You quit seeking, or stopped “growing in the faith”, or allowed your faith to become stagnant.
35. You didn’t “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
36. You were too legalistic.
37. You want to be your own god.
38. You didn’t really understand the scriptures (Bible).
[Last three added 4/25/08]

- LeoPardus (with contributions from karen, HeIsSailing, notabarbie, Quester and others)


Please read our follow up post:

Inconvenient categories: The really real reasons de-cons leave the faith

Entry filed under: LeoPardus. Tags: , , , , .

The Double Standard of Christian Skepticism The Christian God Is Not a God At All

89 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The Apostate  |  March 27, 2008 at 1:30 am

    I know this is similar to a couple, including a combination of 3, 4, 21, 28, and 31, but it must be said: You went to a secular university and were deceived.
    *I only know this because I used it on several of my own friends

  • 2. Richard  |  March 27, 2008 at 1:38 am

    Great post, Leo. I dont think Ive ever seen such a thorough summary! Each one of those could be a post.

    For me, my deconversion was different. Back in the day, I wanted to find a reason not to believe. So Satan encouraged me to “live for the moment” — after all, I was mad at my life and hurt by all the people in it and so wanted to punish God anyway — so I just quit seeking & quit worrying about heaven. I indulged my pride (never did like taking orders) and hardend my rebellious heart to the obvious truth of God. Not praying or going to church freed me up to read some Nietzsche, who made me realize how wise I had been all along! It was so much better looking out after Number One. “If it feels good, do it” — thats my motto! Now, I can spend more time at my scientific job, which of course was my real god all along. My Jewish wife was thrilled.

  • 3. Quester  |  March 27, 2008 at 1:43 am

    For me, my deconversion was different. Back in the day…

    *applause* Too good, Richard. Too good.

  • 4. Richard  |  March 27, 2008 at 1:50 am

    On a more serious note, there is (and I say this cautiously) some truth in some of these. From my deconversion, for example, I found that Christian theology had tied my up into unsolvable little knots trying to surrender my will to God, which made me miserable (#33), and finally began (chose, really, in desparation) to take my unhappiness as a symptom of a faulty *system*, rather than *my* fault (#30, #35, #19), and quit trying to surrender my will to God (#34), and made emotional health by other means more of a priority (#26).

    The common thread here is that built into evangelical Christian theology is an assault on autonomy — i.e., anything less than submission of the will/mind/intellect to God (which is to say, the conception of God fed you by the theology) is to put part of the self before “God”, which is pride, which is sin. In other words, to fail to accept whatever an evangelical tells you is sin. You cannot disagree with an evangelical. You can only submit to his “truth”, or else you can sin.

    So, what this means is that, in part, they are right — if you have rejected evangelical Christianity, then you have indeed asserted something ahead of their image of God. For some, it is reason and critical thinking. For me, at the time I deconverted, it was emotional health: Christianity was making me miserable and I didnt want to be miserable anymore. From their vantage point, that is the definition of rebellion.

  • 5. The Apostate  |  March 27, 2008 at 3:06 am

    Richard,

    The common thread here is that built into evangelical Christian theology is an assault on autonomy

    Does anyone find this truth ironic, noting the message of freedom that Paul espoused? One must wonder how much we really have to blame on Augustine for the bondage of Christianity.

  • 6. Brad  |  March 27, 2008 at 7:46 am

    TA,

    I do find it ironic, but for a different reason. The kind of freedom Paul talked about was a result of that submission and humility before God. The way we use “freedom” implies “autonomous freedom” to do as we will individually (a very western concept). Paul used it in the sense that we are most free when we are doing that which we were designed and created to do: worship God.

    You reference Augustine… what do you mean? I missed the connection you’re making….

  • 7. writerdd  |  March 27, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I thought of another one last night: “You were too legalistic.”

    This one makes me laugh, because it just shows that it doesn’t matter what you do. If you’re too relaxed in your behavior, then “You were a carnal Christian,” but if you’re too separated from the world, then “You were too legalistic.” So there’s no winning.

    This list looks like the table of contents for a terrific book!

  • 8. ED  |  March 27, 2008 at 9:16 am

    How about, “you were molested by the priest,” or “the boy scout camp master.”

    or I can’t afford to be a christian, “Robert Tilton has all my money.”

    or; I can’t see, to find a church, I need a pastor that was at least as smart as I am.

  • 9. Fern  |  March 27, 2008 at 9:38 am

    How about something like, “You just want an excuse to worship idols, run around naked, and be a harlot – – I mean a Pagan.”

    Isn’t it great how Christians can read our minds!?

  • 10. Gene Thomas  |  March 27, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Ouch! I guess the shoe fits in most cases. But you left out the real reason. It really simple. You want to fully exercise your free will and be your own god. The “Captain of your soul. . .” and all that. That’s your right, and I hope your right.

    Because–if I’m wrong I haven’t lost anything, and I’ve enjoyed a good and happy life up to now. But if your wrong your good and happy life wont count for much.

  • 11. Michelle  |  March 27, 2008 at 11:08 am

    I don’t get the accusations, “You…”

    We can’t know anyone’s mind. I believe…others don’t. How can I speak for others? Each of us has our own reasons for belief or unbelief – it’s totally personal. Isn’t it?

    Now, I happen to think that was a respectful comment – much like the others I have made on this site – and yet, I didn’t make Leo’s list! What’s that about?! ;)

  • 12. LeoPardus  |  March 27, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Richard: Post #2 LOLOLOL :D

    And you’re right about each one being a complete post itself. I’ve thought about it. That could keep me occupied for months….

  • 13. LeoPardus  |  March 27, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Brad:

    we are most free when we are doing that which we were designed and created to do: worship God.

    Actually, from the Christian point of view, this is quite correct.

    Once you see God as only a figment of imagination though, then freedom obviously can’t carry that meaning anymore.

  • 14. LeoPardus  |  March 27, 2008 at 11:23 am

    36. You were too legalistic.
    37. You want to be your own god.

    I just knew that as soon as I posted this, more would roll in.

    Michelle:
    I knew that list would expand too. :)

  • 15. LeoPardus  |  March 27, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Hey de-Convert! I think the image on this should be a filing cabinet. Got any images of that? :)

  • 16. Michelle  |  March 27, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Did I make it? I really made it! Thank you, thank you very much. ;)

  • 17. MonolithTMA  |  March 27, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    My favorite of all that I received: “You didn’t know God because you weren’t Catholic!”

  • 18. mewho  |  March 27, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Mine is related to #31 but a little more specific (and I’ve had it said to me) “It’s because of those dumb books you’ve been reading!” The quote refers to Dawkins, Dennet, & Harris.

    The doubt, however, preceded the books, because I do have a couple of the “excuses” listed above. And, to my mind, they are legit:

    #20. You didn’t pray/read the Bible enough.
    Prayer NEVER worked for me, and I was (even as a child) VERY skeptical of the whole process. Plus, I was prone to falling asleep. Some of the Bible was beautiful to a point, but so much of it was cryptic and confusing that I started wondering whether the “depth” of the Bible was actually its shortcomings.

    #10. You were hurt by your pastor/other Christians
    I watched a church split because two deacons were found to drink a little wine on New Year’s Day. The deacons were expelled, the church limped along and I said to myself “This happens too often.”

    #5. You’re not thinking about the future/afterlife.
    Many believer’s lives were unimpressive to me because ALL they thought about was the afterlife. I observed scores of Christians mock and jeer about what good people did here on Earth (doctors, lawyers, inventors) while simultaneously enjoying 21st century progress. It just didn’t make sense to me to belittle the work of people but then turn around and use cars, electricity and modern medicine. The afterlife began to appear as an excuse for mediocrity more than anything else.

    This list is an awesome list, Leo, and I have to give it two thumbs up. I, too, noticed the Christian posts on occassion and they are like sniper-fire, unexpected and out of nowhere, sometimes never to be heard from again. It is a little funny to read them because they sound like the old me. I was wondering how to respond to them, and your posts does so quite eloquently.

  • 19. karen  |  March 27, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    You want to fully exercise your free will and be your own god. The “Captain of your soul. . .” and all that.

    Let’s not forget “master of my domain” (ObSeinfeld Ref).

    Because–if I’m wrong I haven’t lost anything, and I’ve enjoyed a good and happy life up to now. But if your wrong your good and happy life wont count for much.

    Ding, ding, ding!! I call the first Pascal’s Wager sighting of the day! ;-)

    Isn’t it great how Christians can read our minds!?

    Obviously, the work of the holy spirit.

    For me, my deconversion was different. Back in the day, I wanted to find a reason not to believe. So Satan encouraged me to “live for the moment” — after all, I was mad at my life and hurt by all the people in it and so wanted to punish God anyway — so I just quit seeking & quit worrying about heaven. I indulged my pride (never did like taking orders) and hardend my rebellious heart to the obvious truth of God. Not praying or going to church freed me up to read some Nietzsche, who made me realize how wise I had been all along! It was so much better looking out after Number One. “If it feels good, do it” — thats my motto! Now, I can spend more time at my scientific job, which of course was my real god all along. My Jewish wife was thrilled.

    That’s completely hilarious – I just had to repost that. :-)

  • 20. LeoPardus  |  March 27, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Gene Thomas:

    Please look over on the right side of the page. A little ways down you’ll see the “de-conversion wager”. Please read it.

  • 21. karen  |  March 27, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    So, what this means is that, in part, they are right — if you have rejected evangelical Christianity, then you have indeed asserted something ahead of their image of God. For some, it is reason and critical thinking. For me, at the time I deconverted, it was emotional health: Christianity was making me miserable and I didnt want to be miserable anymore. From their vantage point, that is the definition of rebellion.

    Interesting. I’ve taken HIS’s recommendation (I think it was HIS?) and picked up “The True Believer” at the library. The subtitle is “Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.”

    It’s quite dated. Copyrighted in 1951, it dwells a lot on the Communism of the Soviet Union. Also, when it refers to women at all, the comments are strikingly sexist – of course it’s only a reflection of its time I suppose.

    I’m only about halfway through, but I am finding some good insights. Particularly about how mass movements (religious, political, revolutionary) recruit people who have low self-esteem and tend to be unsuccessful misfits or minorities in their culture. Along with appealing to people already in those categories, they also inflict a stigma of self-hatred and ineffectiveness in their ongoing followers.

    I pulled out some quotes that go along with what Richard said:

    Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.

    The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.

    The burning conviction that we have a holy duty toward others is often a way of attaching our drowning selves to a passing raft. What looks like giving a hand is often a holding on for dear life. Take away our holy duties and you leave our lives puny and meaningless.

  • 22. The Apostate  |  March 27, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Brad,

    I do find it ironic, but for a different reason. The kind of freedom Paul talked about was a result of that submission and humility before God. The way we use “freedom” implies “autonomous freedom” to do as we will individually (a very western concept). Paul used it in the sense that we are most free when we are doing that which we were designed and created to do: worship God.
    You reference Augustine… what do you mean? I missed the connection you’re making….

    I know I have a knack for opening up a can of worms, but lets see if I can answer this without writing a book.
    One, we assume we know what Paul was talking about through the lens of people studying the rest of the New Testament even though he came before that was developed. Not that this really matters in this case because I believe the most significant change in Christian theology came as a result of the political shift of Constantine and Augustine’s apologetics for that deviance. Orthodoxy could never be the same after Christianity came to power because original Christianity was always apolitical. Jesus especially taught that the Kingdom of God was at hand and commanded all his disciples and followers to forget about the ordinary day to day concerns such as food and earthly possession (Luke 12:33 et al). Not only was his followers to give away their money and property, but even family should be abandoned.

    This is where this could turn into a lengthy essay, but I think you might be able to tell where I am going with this. It isn’t a coincidence that radical teachers such as Jesus and the Buddha stressed such ideals – imagine the freedom in it! No property. No money. No family. Don’t even get me started on what Paul thought of family relations. How can one be focused so entirely on God and the coming kingdom when we are so bogged down with such earthly concerns!? This freedom was both spiritual and practical, and can be shown through an analysis of almost every book in the New Testament and the early church fathers. Freedom not only in these matters, but freedom and liberty from the Roman state played a huge role in the advancement of Christianity. Sure freedom is western, but so is Christianity. Christianity has so much Greek influence that to dismiss it should cause much concern. Our own ideals about autonomy go farther than Christianity into the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle.

    The fact is, original Christianity as taught by Jesus, Paul, and others included the Jewish intrinsic worth of life – something that we still see today, but with a perverted side effect tacked on by the Augustinian creation of humanity’s enslavement to sin, almost completely based on one poor translation of one verse in Romans (5:12) – all because he only had access to the Latin translation rather than the Greek. Of course, it ended up triumphing over the Jovian “heresy” for purely political reasons, not theological ones.

    I would heavily recommend Elaine Pagel’s Adam, Eve, and the Serpent for a more thorough account – it is by far her most significant work (not to mention underrated).

  • 23. Steelman  |  March 27, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Karen, I just read Eric Hoffer’s book myself a couple of weeks ago. Interesting to see my former self reflected, at points, within its pages.

  • 24. LeoPardus  |  March 28, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    This article made me think that we ought to make the opposing list. Namely: “The Really Real Reasons why we left the faith”.

    I realize that it would be harder to put them in simple sentences though. After all real reasons tend to be more complicated than convenient categorizations. But we cant try.

    I’ll start off with a few and do my best to keep them short.

    1. God never shows up. Not in visions, miracles, visitations, angelic appearances, or challenge matches (think of Elijah and the Baal priests) .
    2. Prayers are NOT answered.
    3. Christians are NOT different from non-Christians.
    4. Church disunity.
    5. The Bible is contradictory with itself, reality, and morality.
    6. God is NOT loving, merciful, good, just, etc.
    7. Everyone makes up their faith and their ideas of God as they go along.

    I realize as I write these that each one needs a whole article to flesh them out. Fortunately I have already posted articles about them.

  • 25. orDover  |  March 28, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    That’s a good idea Leo!

    Here’s my list:

    1. The Universe is capable of functioning without divine influence
    2. Having “Jesus in my heart” didn’t give me joy or peace
    3. There is no proof of ANYTHING supernatural
    4. Christians use dishonest tactics to support their belief (ie Ben Stein’s new movie Expelled, teaching that Darwin refuted evolution on his death bed, multiple Kent Hovind youtube videos which present bold-faced lies about carbon dating)
    5. Pascal’s Wager is a horrific false dichotomy
    6. The idea that God would hurt someone to test their faith is completely disgusting

  • 26. karen  |  March 28, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    How about:

    “God works in mysterious ways” or “We’ll get all the answers in heaven” are not satisfactory answers to important questions. They’re code for: “Shut up and stop asking.”

  • 27. Richard  |  March 29, 2008 at 12:55 am

    karen-
    I entirely agree with the mechanism suggested by your quotes. I am convinced that much of the psychological appeal of fundamentalism inheres in a kind of psychological fusion with an idealized Other — in this case the group/text/Savior complex. Being identified with something Bigger than oneself is a powerful way to shore up self esteem and anxiety about all kinds of things, including mortality.

    For it to work, though, whatever elements of the self that remain intact the the believer converts must be torn down. Like a military recruit, he must be dismantled so he can be built anew. This, I think, is the role of apologetics I alluded to in my prior comment. To *fail* to submit this way — to try to hold onto some island of independent/autonomous thought — threatens the whole enterprise. So, autonomy must be undermined entirely – hence it becomes rebellion and therefore sin. This is the real meaning of taking every thought captive.

    This explains, I think, what is really scary about fundamentalism: the conscience itself has be hijacked and overridden by the dictates of the dogma. Hence, for example, infinite torture comes to be seen as justified. It must be — God said it was, and what God says goes. I can disagree with God, of course, but that would be sinful and I would be wrong.

    A true fundamentalist loses any basis for disagreeing with or rejecting whatever he understands to be taught him by his belief system. No brakes. And thats scary.

  • 28. Richard  |  March 29, 2008 at 1:10 am

    Heres my short list:

    1. Christianity promised life fuller and more abundantly. Instead, it separated me from life. It made me miserable.
    2. If there is an infinite almighty all loving Creator who has one single, simple message to impart to us, why is he so spectacularly ineffective at doing so? My local news channel can get out information about whether or not it will rain more effectively, in a more convincing way, and with less disagreement (no one I know denies the existence of, say, umbrellas) than God apparently is able to about how to live in bliss forever.
    3. There are no outlying data about the Christian Bible not explained by the 5-word sentence: “It is a human text.”
    4. Evil.

    So: empirical effectiveness, divine hiddenness, explanatory parsimony, theodicy = Ockham’s razor. Atheism is a simpler hypothesis. Nothing left to explain away.

  • 29. notabarbie  |  March 29, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Great post LP. It would make a great book.

    Richard, you had me cracking up. We de-converts, we’re a funny lot aren’t we?

    I would add to LP’s new list:

    1. I took a Systematic Theology class and discovered all my deepest questions were answered with, “It’s a mystery.”

    2. Visited the Natural History Museum in NYC.

    3. Analyzed my own religion in the same way I had others.

    4. Realized Christianity’s stories are just as ridiculous and fantastical as every other religion’s.

  • 30. writerdd  |  March 29, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    It would be a great book. The list could be the table of contents.

  • 31. carriedthecross  |  March 29, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    I have been accused of many of these over the last eight months or so. Especially these:

    9. Your decision is based on other Christians’ behavior, not on Jesus’ teachings.
    10. You were hurt by your pastor/other Christians.
    14. You’re angry and resentful and taking it out on God.
    15. You’re mad at God for some misfortune in your life.
    24. You are having a mid-life, or some other life wide, crisis.
    25. You’re, “going through a phase.”
    28. You love/serve science/job/hobbies more than God.
    31. You’re mind was poisoned by man’s philosophy.

    It amazes me that so many of my Christian friends/acquaintances are unwilling to even entertain the idea that someone would leave Christianity simply because they think it is wrong.

    *sigh*

  • 32. exevangel  |  March 30, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    “you are too selfish”

    Not unrelated to “self-centered” (#26) yet not exactly the same. Self-centered = placing yourself first, selfish = placing yourself first to the exclusion of others, here including God…

  • 33. karen  |  March 30, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Richard:

    For it to work, though, whatever elements of the self that remain intact the the believer converts must be torn down. Like a military recruit, he must be dismantled so he can be built anew. This, I think, is the role of apologetics I alluded to in my prior comment. To *fail* to submit this way — to try to hold onto some island of independent/autonomous thought — threatens the whole enterprise. So, autonomy must be undermined entirely – hence it becomes rebellion and therefore sin. This is the real meaning of taking every thought captive.

    Exactly – you’ve got the nutshell of the whole book, right there, Richard.

  • 34. Grampster  |  April 1, 2008 at 12:34 am

    I happened upon your website, and, as a Christian, I find it more than a little insightful. Not suprisingly, I disagree with some, though certainly not all, of your entries. I was especially interested in LeoPardus entry regarding God Not Showing Up. Don’t know if you welcome different points of view, but if you do, here are a few thoughts from a non deconverter.

    1. God never shows up. Not in visions, miracles, visitations, angelic appearances, or challenge matches (think of Elijah and the Baal priests) .
    Wouldn’t make any difference to you. Or most of us, I suspect. No Baal converts after their altar was consumed is noted in the Biblical record. Pharoah didn’t change his mind during the plagues. Guards at the tomb should have believed differently, according to your implication, but didn’t. A few were convinced by the miraculous, but truly, while I mean no offense, I suspect that God “showing up” in the fashion you suggest wouldn’t change your mind regarding Christianity. Probably mine either. Becoming a Christian is a sobering, life altering decision : we are counseled to ponder the decision, to “consider the cost”, and to understand that it is a life changing event. A relationship with Christ is strictly voluntary, and despite what many think, Christians cannot convert others. Won’t happen. Can’t. Ever. Look it up.

    2. Prayers are NOT answered.
    Sure they are. Most prayers of genuine Christians, I think, are fairly simple: requesting grace to love more, be more forgiving, to be kinder, a better friend, parent, child, worker, etc., and, of course, seeking forgiveness for wrong doing. Pretty straightforward, fabric of life stuff. Many of the best miracles are transformed lives, made possible, in part, through prayer. Your are inferring, I would guess, that you are personally unfamiliar with spectacular, water into wine stuff. Me too: still doable, I believe, though this doesn’t currently seem to be His modus operandi. Puzzling, in a way, why, according to the Biblical account, Satan would challenge Jesus to perform miracles at His temptation, and of course, Christ didn’t. Still, with no disrespect to you, I don’t think the spectacular would make any difference regarding your belief/unbelief.

    3. Christians are NOT different from non-Christians.
    Ouch. Should they be?. Do you expect Christians to be different from non-Christians? Based upon what? Sure you do, and actually, if this is the case, I’m glad you do, because we are, in fact, called to be different (though we are not intrinsically “better”). Possibly you came from a church that taught but didn’t act out the teachings of Christ. Sorry that sometimes we aren’t different. Should be; good trees produce good fruit and all that. Some follow the call better than others. Much of the NT, as you know, is meant to be corrective of sub Christian morality among believers. Sounds like your Christian acquaintances, or perhaps “prominent Christians” you may be alluding to, may be an intended target of these letters.

    4. Church disunity
    Seems that there was a Baptist that was shipwrecked alone on a desert isle for a number of years. At long last, a ship came to his aid, though his rescurers were puzzled. You have three huts here, they observed: what are they for? Well, he responded slowly, the one on my left is my house, the one on the right is my church, and the one in the middle is the church that I used to attend.
    You are, of course, correct: Church disunity is not a Biblical concept. Google the high priestly prayer of Jesus
    Vs 20-21

    5. The Bible is contradictory with itself, reality, and morality.
    Contradictory? Perhaps, though maybe for me in a different sense than you may mean. I tend to believe that the Bible is baffling, for want of a better word. I know that I want to:
    Be first- I’m told to be last
    Be exalted-I’m told to humble myself
    To be rich-I’m told to be poor
    To be saved-Im’ told I must come to the realization that I’m lost.
    I’m also told that the method to become a Christian is easy, but the decision itself is hard.
    Kind of like the episode featuring George on Seinfeld; do the opposite in order to get it right.
    Baffling , though ultimately, I do expect God to be baffling in some respects (otherwise, He wouldn’t be God-you know, a little mysterium tremendum ).

    6. God is NOT loving, merciful, good, just, etc.

    Hmm. Don’t really know how to answer this. Pretty broad statement, and I’m not personally familiar with the god you reference, though obviously you believe he exists. If you are referring to the Christian God, could you be dissabused of this idea by the countless acts of Christian charity and acts of mercy done in the name of Christ?
    (We aren’t the only ones who are kind to our fellow man, but really, the record for Christians on this one is pretty good-perhaps you are referring to some personal affront from someone claiming to be a Christian).

    7. Everyone makes up their faith and their ideas of God as they go along
    Everyone? I think you can find some commonality among many believers. Christianity is a revealed faith, so you might expect that we could coalesce around some central truths, and I believe that this is the case among those who treat Scripture as God’s word. Differences? Sure. Why? We would argue our falleness and imperfections, but still-unity in essentials, liberty in non essentials and charity in all things strikes me as reasonable way to live our faith (didn’t make that one up, though I kind of wish I had).

    Thanks; this is an interesting and thoughtful site, and I really do appreciate the chance to chime in (as a recruit with low self esteem as well as an unsuccesful misfit inflicted with a stigma of self hatred and ineffectiveness, I don’t get an opportunity to write much. Unless my wife tells me to).

  • 35. LeoPardus  |  April 1, 2008 at 1:12 am

    Grampster:

    I can try to get back to you more later. For now, if you’ll look in the archives for some articles I wrote you’ll see where I’ve already addressed a number of the things you talk on. Look at “The call for miracles” and the three articles with “Reasons I can no longer believe:”

    Just a quick bit of background: I was in the faith for 25 years. I’ve read and studied the Bible mucho, studied a lot of apologetics, did a lot of ‘witnessing’, and generally “walked the walk” a lot. I was in the evangelical/fundamentalist wing of Protestantism for years, then converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, then de-converted. If you want more, you can look at the forum site that is ‘sister’ to this blog and find my story. You can also look at the article “Who are the de-cons”.

    Your point of view is quite welcome here. Especially as you are offering it in a kind, humble manner and appear to be trying to understand and not just preach.

  • 36. Quester  |  April 1, 2008 at 1:31 am

    Welcome, Grampster. If you take a look at some of the links along the top and the right hand sidebars, you will find some other articles on this blog which may interest you. LeoP will get back to you, as he says, but I’ve got some time, so here are some of my responses to your points:

    1) That the followers of Baal, the Pharaoh at the time of Moses, and the guards at the tomb did not convert is stronger evidence, in my mind, that the miracles did not happen than evidence that people are unconvinced by miracles.

    I am bothered by the idea that people would refuse to change their conclusions after receiving new information. I find that a sadly cynical look at humanity. Most of us here are de-converts, meaning we held one view until we found sufficient reason to hold another. With different information, surely we could change our conclusions once again.

    I do agree that conversion of the Spirit is not the job of Christians, but of the Holy Spirit. I’m just not sure why He’s doing such an ineffective job of it.

    2) What is the difference between a God who doesn’t impact the world in a discernible manner, and a god who doesn’t exist?

    You comment on Satan’s demand for miracles. Think instead of Jesus’ disciples. Even though they had been told in advance that Jesus would rise again three days after He’d died, not one single disciple believed this until Jesus appeared to them. This is after three years of following Him closely and listening to Him teach. Should we settle for less evidence than the eleven closest to Jesus needed?

    3) What is the difference between a God who is not revealed in the lives of His followers, and a God who does not exist? If the trees in one forest and the trees in a second forest have the same percentage of fruitful and dying trees, it grows difficult to claim either forest has something the other one needs.

    4) And yet Paul wrote letters to a church which was already splitting, “What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul'; another, ‘I follow Apollos'; another, ‘I follow Cephas'; still another, ‘I follow Christ’ (1 Corinthians 1:12). I’d hope a clear revelation of who God is would last at least the lifetime of those who witnessed the revelation. As it hadn’t, what can we trust of our ability to recognize God from any false idol?

    5) Yes, the paradoxes can be nice. For contradictions, the following sources might be enlightening for you:

    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/by_name.html

    http://ffrf.org/books/lfif/?t=contra

    http://www.islamway.com/english/images/library/contradictions.htm

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html

    Some of these can be successfully argued away, but they are worth thinking about.

    6) The God referenced is the one described in the Bible who commands murder, destruction and enslavement, hardens a Pharaoh’s heart, then punishes him for it, chooses one people, leaving the others condemned, and created a world with natural disasters and diseases that cause so many to suffer. It is what God does or fails to do that is the issue here, not just what those who claim to follow Him do or fail to do.

    7) A revealed faith based on vague and contradictory revelations results in a need to make up what one wants to believe, or replace faith with looking at what is and thinking about what could be.

    I hope you enjoy your time on this site, Grampster. I, too, am a misfit with low self-esteem. Therapy can do wonders for self-hatred; I speak from experience.

  • 37. karen  |  April 1, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Still, with no disrespect to you, I don’t think the spectacular would make any difference regarding your belief/unbelief.

    Be very careful about assumptions like this. You say you don’t mean to be disrespectful, but it is not a good feeling for me to be told that you (or anyone else) know how I’d react or not react to something. You don’t know me, nor anyone here, so that’s making quite a leap on your part.

    The truth is that most of us experienced Christian conversions (born-again experiences) at some time in our lives and then went through long and (typically) painful deconversions later for a variety of reasons. So, we’re perhaps more open to new information and not as entrenched in our viewpoints as you seem to think.

    Christians are NOT different from non-Christians.
    Ouch. Should they be?. Do you expect Christians to be different from non-Christians? Based upon what?

    Based on the promise that they are given the holy spirit, a member of the trinity who is supposed to live in their hearts and provide them guidance and produce the “fruit” of the holy spirit in their lives.

    Look, the rest of us poor slobs have to base our behavior on our reason, our personal ethics, our cultural norms and the laws and regulations that govern us. Christians are supposed to have all that PLUS a supernatural cheerleader that “sticks closer than a brother.” Damn straight I expect them to be better (more moral, more loving, kinder, gentler, fairer, etc) than the rest of us.

    But the sad thing is, I look at history and I look around me today, and I just don’t see it. There are wonderful, generous Christians and nasty, rude ones (see another thread for an excellent example of the latter). The two biggest philanthropists in the world today are two atheists: Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. People are people for good and bad; it doesn’t seem to matter what religion they hold.

    Yes, you’ll say that the badly behaving Christians are ignoring the prompting of holy spirit, but then I’d say that his promise isn’t being fulfilled. And what’s the point of Jesus’s leaving us with the holy spirit if it’s pretty much useless to influence Christians to be good role models and attract the “lost” to the kingdom? The better, simpler explanation for me is that there is no holy spirit – and no god at all, for that matter.

    as a recruit with low self esteem as well as an unsuccesful misfit inflicted with a stigma of self hatred and ineffectiveness, I don’t get an opportunity to write much.

    Grampster, I’m very sorry to hear of your low self-esteem and self-hatred. I can really relate to what you’re saying, and I realize now that these issues in my life were mainly caused by my fervent belief in the idea of original sin.

    I took very, very seriously the notion that I was tainted, filthy, unable to do anything right and completely worthless in my own right. This doctrine is one of the most destructive in all of Christianity, in my view. Once I freed myself of it – which took a lot of time and effort, by the way – my self-esteem and confidence has soared. I’ve become a much happier, freer person since I shed that dogma that is so toxic.

    I hope you’re able to do that some day. Thanks for joining our discussion and thanks much for your respectful tone.

  • 38. Julian Rodriguez  |  April 1, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Where it says “You’re mind was poisoned by man’s philosophy.”, the first word should be “your”.

    Grammar nazi off… (please delete this comment after the correction)

  • 39. Grampster  |  April 1, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Karen: Thanks for the thoughful reply; seems to characterize those that post there.
    Regarding my assumprtion about belief change and the supernatural: it is just that, an assumption (not an accusation),based upon my understanding of the Scriptural record and my observation of human nature (perhaps similar in method to your observation and conclusions regarding the character of comtemporary Christians).You may note, too, that I lumped myself in that “probably wouldn’t change my belief” group. I respectfully stand by my statement.
    Thanks, also, for pointedly reminding Christians that, like it or not, high moral standards are expected of us. I am beginning to believe that it is the perceived , or sometimes real, hypocrisy in the visible church, as well as the “rude, nasty behavior” of Christians that seems to elicit the most criticism of theists here . Duly noted. That behavior, oddly enough, (I’ve noticed it on other sites) was instrumental in attracting me to the blog. Seems to me that, at least upon occasion, a more civil tone is order from this side. Beats me why the beat you (collectively, that is).
    Regarding atheists and charity, as exemplified by Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and probably others that believe as you do : I’m all for it. I am glad that there are moral atheists (and Hindis, Taoist, Bhuddists, rationalists or whatever). Moral people make for good community and good neighbors, and it seems that many Christians miss this point. I sense, too, a high moral standard here, as noted in your de-conversion wager.
    Concerning self hatred: probably a misleading term. Suffice to say, I don’t view “lostness” as a negative, but rather a prerequisite for a needful transition.

    Thanks again, Karen.

  • 40. Richard  |  April 2, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Grampster-
    Though you already replied to karen on this point, let me echo her anyway: please take care with such assumptions, especially given that you seem to understand that it *is* an assumption. Grounded in observation or not, its usually the better part of courtesy to let others speak for themselves.

    Heres why. Us de-cons have had a *lot* of experience with sometimes-concerned, sometimes-nasty Christians who think they know better than we do what’s in our own heads. There was a thread just recently about the top “reasons” ascribed to us about why we deconverted. (We “really” harbored secret sin. We “really” loved ourselves best.) We’ve all been accused of one or more of these. As opposed to, just for kicks, letting *us* tell *them* why we left.

    Saying “no miracle would convince you anyway” is the same sort of thing, and my reply is the same: you dont know that and your only way to find out is to ask me.

    And, for what its worth, let me answer it: yes the right sort of miracle would indeed convince me. A real, gen-u-ine, bona fide *miracle*, not just a my-headaches-are-gone, but if, say, prayer to the Christian God, specifically, reliably regrew amputated limbs. Yes, that would convince me. Or if the stars spontaneously rearranged themselves to spell the text of John 3:16. (After all, this is *God* we’re talking about here.) How about appearing before everyone in the world simultaneously and giving everyone the message of salvation?

    So, theres my 2 cents. As the others have said, you are most welcome here, and thank you for your thoughtfulness.

  • 41. Grampster  |  April 2, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Richard: Your point is well taken and your admonishment accepted. Ironically, regarding your comment on miracles, I attempt to think in a similar vein regarding the spiritual: If I may paraphrase you: grounded in observation or not, it’s usually the better part of courtesy to let Him speak for Himself. Obviously, if I struggle with this issue when dealing with people, I probably have similar problems with the Divine. My apologies.

  • 42. Cthulhu  |  April 2, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Grampster,

    I for one define myself as an agnostic non-theist – meaning I see no evidence to prove there is a God nor can I empirically prove that there is not, but I do not believe in such a being. If I were to see a bona fide miracle (i.e. empirical evidence for a supreme being) I would have no problems changing my position. It is an indispensible part of skeptical thinking that you be willing to change your position based on new data. If find in my personal experience that Christians are the ones who refuse to by swayed by evidence and new data – relying on ‘faith’ to ignore what contradicts their belief system. I have only been here a short time, but have seen more civility and tolerance for different views than I have ever seen in any Christian congregation I have experience with. I know that I was an intolerant, arrogant ass while I was a practicing Christian (not that this describes all Christians by any means). And I too thank you for your civility – and the integrity it takes to admit when you might be mistaken…many Christians could take a lesson from you – so do not sell yourself short.

  • 43. Andrea  |  April 4, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    The last “reason” is the creepiest one of all. Let’s all become automatons, shall we?

  • 44. Grampster  |  April 9, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Quester: I participated in church softball league for years, and used to joke to my team mates that I enjoyed playing against the local synagogue because they had such a wonderful Christian attitude. Thank you for your civility; Christians would do well to learn from your example.
    No claims to Biblical scholarship here, just my opinions on your previous comments.
    1) That the followers of Baal, the Pharaoh at the time of Moses, and the guards at the tomb did not convert is stronger evidence, in my mind, that the miracles did not happen than evidence that people are unconvinced by miracles.

    Fair enough; we’ll agree to disagree on this, though I do believe, of course, that one particular miracle had (has) an immeasurable affect on those of our faith.

    2) I am bothered by the idea that people would refuse to change their conclusions after receiving new information. I find that a sadly cynical look at humanity. Most of us here are de-converts, meaning we held one view until we found sufficient reason to hold another. With different information, surely we could change our conclusions once again.

    Actually, I am bothered by that idea also, though not surprised by it. Cynical? Perhaps a little, but realistic for some people, I think, though I have come to consider that skeptics (perhaps those with a little more intellectual curiosity?) might react differently, based upon what I have seen here. However, if a person changes his mind based solely upon a (spectacular) miracle, what does that say regarding the merits of his other objections?

    3) I do agree that conversion of the Spirit is not the job of Christians, but of the Holy Spirit. I’m just not sure why He’s doing such an ineffective job of it.

    Perhaps, Quester, it is because Christians are doing an ineffective job of communicating the message clearly. Our bad. Based upon many of the comments I’ve seen here, some Christians, (or pseudo Christians?), have done an inept job of representing their faith.
    4) What is the difference between a God who doesn’t impact the world in a discernible manner, and a god who doesn’t exist? You comment on Satan’s demand for miracles. Think instead of Jesus’ disciples. Even though they had been told in advance that Jesus would rise again three days after He’d died, not one single disciple believed this until Jesus appeared to them. This is after three years of following Him closely and listening to Him teach. Should we settle for less evidence than the eleven closest to Jesus needed?

    Exactly. Odd, isn’t it? Why is there such a reluctance to believe, especially in view of their first hand evidence? It seems to me there are volitional, not just evidential, issues involved. This, in a sense, is my point. It is not easy to believe; harder, it appears, for some than others.
    If by “settling” for less evidence, you mean that if I haven’t witnessed any miracles why should I believe when they had such a hard time, I would say yes, by all means, I should “settle”, as I believe that Jesus commends it. Check out His response to Thomas (and, by implication, future followers), in His post resurrection appearance.

    5) What is the difference between a God who is not revealed in the lives of His followers, and a God who does not exist? If the trees in one forest and the trees in a second forest have the same percentage of fruitful and dying trees, it grows difficult to claim either forest has something the other one needs.

    I would argue that God is revealed in the lives of His followers, though never perfectly. My concern is not over a God who impacts the world, because I believe He can, and will, act at His pleasure. My concern is that Christians won’t impact the world; working through people, at this point in time, appears to be His risky choice of options.
    6) And yet Paul wrote letters to a church which was already splitting, “What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ’ (1 Corinthians 1:12). I’d hope a clear revelation of who God is would last at least the lifetime of those who witnessed the revelation. As it hadn’t, what can we trust of our ability to recognize God from any false idol?

    Yes. This really frustrates a lot of Christians, too. This portion of Corinthians kind of reminds me of the Bud Lite commercial I find so amusing (can I say that as a Christian?) where the guy incredulously uses the word dude in different scenes. It’s as if Paul is saying to the church: “Dude! What are you guys doing? This is one of many Scriptural reminders expecting followers to review, and if necessary, change their conduct. You have to appreciate the honesty regarding these problems.
    I believe, too, that a clear revelation of God did in fact last a lifetime for those who witnessed this revelation (and this belief led to untimely deaths for many of them). It did not “take”, for most, however, until after the Resurrection.
    As for trusting our ability to recognize the true God from the pantheon of imposters? Tough question, because, if I understand correctly, you have had (all, collectively) experienced Christianity in some fashion. I cannot, obviously, speak to your particular situations. Still, if you are asking me, I would commend the God of the Bible.
    7) Yes, the paradoxes can be nice. For contradictions, the following sources might be enlightening for you:

    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/by_name.html

    http://ffrf.org/books/lfif/?t=contra

    http://www.islamway.com/english/images/library/contradictions.htm

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html

    Some of these can be successfully argued away, but they are worth thinking about.

    Thanks; I have perused the skeptic’s website before. Some good legitimate questions there, I think, mixed in with a lot of graffiti like comments. I will say that the author has taken a lot of time reading the Bible; I wish I had his (their) discipline. I would fault him, though, for the same one dimensional out of context methodology that seems to typify Fundamentalism. Hard questions, I think, require contextual answers. I’ll look at the others at first opportunity, though I trust you know that most, if not all, of these questions have been addressed by Christian scholars (yes, I believe they exist, too).
    8) The God referenced is the one described in the Bible who commands murder, destruction and enslavement, hardens a Pharaoh’s heart, then punishes him for it, chooses one people, leaving the others condemned, and created a world with natural disasters and diseases that cause so many to suffer. It is what God does or fails to do that is the issue here, not just what those who claim to follow Him do or fail to do.

    Regarding commanding murder (referencing the Israelites return to Canaan, I would guess): I accept the divine command theory, the necessity of the Messiah, 400 years of willful Canaanite depravity. High stakes, high accountability; an unusual, though purposeful, historical circumstance and not a regular means of behavior.

    Regarding the hardening Pharaoh’s heart: this question, as you know, has flummoxed many better men and women than me, and you have no doubt heard more convincing responses than I could offer. I would note, however, that, out of all of the thousands of hearts for God to “harden” in the world, whatever harden may actually mean, Pharaoh does not appear to have been chosen at random. I sense that there was some history involving Pharaoh’s dealing with God before the “hardening” took place. Chance to repent, perhaps?

    I wish I had a better response on your note regarding natural disasters, other than to say that, in one sense, I believe they are not natural, but a result of a world corrupted. Life is, as you know, difficult at times for Christians too. When it is, our faith gives us temporal solace and future hope. Many of the best minds in Christendom have struggled with the issue of pain and suffering, and I would defer to their responses

    9) A revealed faith based on vague and contradictory revelations results in a need to make up what one wants to believe, or replace faith with looking at what is and thinking about what could be.

    I believe that only fundamentalists (of any ilk) believe that they have all the answers, so yes; I acknowledge some vagaries in life. I hope, too, that I did not give the impression that I discount the rational. Since I believe that man is created in God’s image, I would expect him to have some God-like qualities, and affirm that he does: (intelligence, creativity, a desire to be gratified with beauty, harmony and diversity, capable of love, intimacy etc), as well as to possess a spiritual dimension. I think that, for instance, belief in a rational God is one of the reasons that Western Europe became an incubator for modern science (why try to investigate nature if you can’t produce repeatable results?), but I also believe in an unseen world; spiritual, after all, indicates something immaterial, so yes, faith is important to me also. Actually, I think all of us operate, in part, on a basis of faith. The objects of faith, of course, differ greatly. Regarding the “need” to make up religion: if I were making Christianity up: I would omit the part about high standards, loosen up the accountability issues some, strike the portions where followers screw up, guarantee followers financial prosperity, minimize the importance of the atonement, arrange for moral arrogance to be a virtue, consider dishonesty a trifling matter and make the whole faith process a lot easier (oh, wait, some “Christians” have already done that). As to admitting a need; yes, I do. That is, after all, a requirement of orthodox Christianity.
    9) I hope you enjoy your time on this site, Grampster. I, too, am a misfit with low self-esteem. Therapy can do wonders for self-hatred; I speak from experience
    Thanks; it has indeed been informative for me; just as an fyi, I agree that I am a misfit of sorts, but I don’t believe people hate themselves. Just the opposite, in fact: I think we all love ourselves (which is what makes the Golden Rule so insightful), but I also know that people hate their circumstances, the way they are treated, what their station in life is etc, and that this leads to a great deal of unhappiness and misery. Subtle, but significant difference, I think.
    Quester: Thanks again for your time. I truly appreciate it.

  • […] 7, 2008 Recently, with help from several folks around here, I put together a list of the convenient categories that Christians like to come up with to explain why people leave the […]

  • 46. Quester  |  April 9, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Hello again, Gramps.

    Thank you for your civility

    You’re welcome.

    Fair enough; we’ll agree to disagree on this, though I do believe, of course, that one particular miracle had (has) an immeasurable affect on those of our faith.

    And yet you argue, in #34 above, that, miracles “Wouldn’t make any difference to you. Or most of us, I suspect.” I think we may more agree than disagree on this. Witnessing miracles can make a difference in how a person views things.

    However, if a person changes his mind based solely upon a (spectacular) miracle, what does that say regarding the merits of his other objections?

    Good question! I think you will find, though, that most of the other objections are based on the character of the supernatural. Once evidence was provided to show that the supernatural exists, it could then be examined to see what it says about the supernatural. If the evidence argues for an all-powerful, all-knowing entity who loves us, then that it what will be believed in.

    That might take more than one miracle, I admit; depending on the ability of the miracle to communicate clearly.

    Perhaps, Quester, it is because Christians are doing an ineffective job of communicating the message clearly. Our bad.

    Perhaps. Yet if God’s self-revelation in scripture and creation are either unclear or point to an evil, indifferent, or absent God, I don’t think Christians can take the blame at ineffectively pointing out God’s revelations, let alone living according to them.

    This, in a sense, is my point. It is not easy to believe; harder, it appears, for some than others.

    Perhaps, or perhaps the prophecies (of Christ coming back on the third day) were written in later, and so the doubt in them was more understandable.

    My concern is that Christians won’t impact the world; working through people, at this point in time, appears to be His risky choice of options.

    My concern is that it is *our* lives God is risking with this “risky” choice.

    Still, if you are asking me, I would commend the God of the Bible.

    Which God of which Bible? There are many orthodox choices.

    I would fault him, though, for the same one dimensional out of context methodology that seems to typify Fundamentalism. Hard questions, I think, require contextual answers.

    In some cases, the context explains the contradictions. If we were to read the Chronicles, however, and count the contradictions with the books that come previous, I am not sure what context we could bring in to help matters out.

    I’ll look at the others at first opportunity, though

    Read as you will. You might toss out the ideas entirely, or they may cause you to look at your Bible in a new way. I don’t expect you to read them all, then come back here to refute each and every one. I just found it a convenient way to point out that contradictions exist, not just paradoxes.

    I trust you know that most, if not all, of these questions have been addressed by Christian scholars (yes, I believe they exist, too).

    I believe Christian scholars exist, and some are capable of quality scholarship. I believe it is not hard to find evidence of both. Indeed, if the existence of God had as much evidence as the existence of Christian scholarship, there would not have to be so many Christian scholars.

    Regarding commanding murder (referencing the Israelites return to Canaan, I would guess):

    It tends to be handiest.

    I accept the divine command theory,

    I’m not sure what that is.

    the necessity of the Messiah

    If the Messiah was what was necessary, why were orders for slaughter issued instead?

    400 years of willful Canaanite depravity.

    As opposed to following the law that was given to Moses just one generation back, and hadn’t been shared with the Canaanites yet?

    High stakes, high accountability; an unusual, though purposeful, historical circumstance and not a regular means of behavior.

    And therefore not evil? If I only burn one city to the ground, and killed all the inhabitants thereof, would it be all right, so long as I did not make a regular habit of it?

    I sense that there was some history involving Pharaoh’s dealing with God before the “hardening” took place. Chance to repent, perhaps?

    Perhaps, but hardening his heart multiple times, then sending a plague each time because Pharaoh responded as his hardened heart decreed, is really hard to justify. What history could there have been that made killing all of the first born an appropriate action?

    Many of the best minds in Christendom have struggled with the issue of pain and suffering, and I would defer to their responses

    The best (and most common) responses I have read thus far were, “We don’t know, but we trust God does and that God loves us.” I can agree with the first half, but don’t see a lot of basis for the trust expressed in the second half.

    Since I believe that man is created in God’s image, I would expect him to have some God-like qualities, and affirm that he does: (intelligence, creativity, a desire to be gratified with beauty, harmony and diversity, capable of love, intimacy etc), as well as to possess a spiritual dimension.

    Interesting. I consider “creativity, a desire to be gratified with beauty, harmony and diversity, capable of love, intimacy etc” to be part of, if not most of, the “spiritual dimension”.

    I think that, for instance, belief in a rational God is one of the reasons that Western Europe became an incubator for modern science

    I think a great deal of value was learned by people trying to learn about God by examining creation.

    but I also believe in an unseen world; spiritual, after all, indicates something immaterial, so yes, faith is important to me also.

    Fair enough, but can we learn anything about this unseen world except in how it affects the seen one? I think reason is important here, too.

    Regarding the “need” to make up religion: if I were making Christianity up: I would omit the part about high standards, loosen up the accountability issues some, strike the portions where followers screw up, guarantee followers financial prosperity, minimize the importance of the atonement, arrange for moral arrogance to be a virtue, consider dishonesty a trifling matter and make the whole faith process a lot easier

    Sure, but how could you control others, judge others, or bury your own guilt with a religion like that? (mostly kidding)

    (oh, wait, some “Christians” have already done that).

    Indeed.

    I don’t believe people hate themselves.

    That’s the exact opposite of my experience. With all the people I know with eating disorders, suicidal tendencies and other self-destructive habits, I can’t say that it is all due to how they feel about their context. It tends to be more about doubt that God could love them, when they don’t even love themselves.

    I also find this hard to reconcile with what you said in #34 (you do realize my numbered points were referring to the points you made in #34, right?) where you described yourself “as a recruit with low self esteem as well as an unsuccesful misfit inflicted with a stigma of self hatred and ineffectiveness” what did you mean if not that you struggled with not hating yourself?

    Thanks again for your time. I truly appreciate it.

    My pleasure.

  • 47. Richard  |  April 10, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Grampster-
    No apologies necessary. Your willingness to listen and engage and allow us to speak for our own experiences is all we ask.

    Forgive me for butting into your conversation with Quester, but I have a question. You said:

    “Regarding the “need” to make up religion: if I were making Christianity up: I would omit the part about high standards, loosen up the accountability issues some, strike the portions where followers screw up, guarantee followers financial prosperity, minimize the importance of the atonement, arrange for moral arrogance to be a virtue, consider dishonesty a trifling matter and make the whole faith process a lot easier”

    My question is this: is this really true? It interests me because I argue that having a “Ultimate” ground for our morality is inessential to its being experienced as, for want of a better word, “commanding”. I.e, in contrast to some theists who suggest that without a God there can be no morality, I counter that proof that ones ethics has such a ground makes no practical difference. To wit: if someone were to prove, beyond all doubt (and, hypothetically, to your own personal satisfaction) that there is no God and no “Ultimate” ground of morality possible, would that really change anything for you? “God is dead, all is permitted” — so you would suddenly feel freed to be dishonest, immoral, ignore your wrongs to others, indulge your most brutish nature?

    My point is that morality, psychologically speaking, is not rooted in religion. It is a psychological and developmental phenomenon that grows, mainly, from interactions with early caregivers. *Most* people behave themselves, *most* of the time, regardless of religion, because it is evolutionarily wired in us to do so. Which is an “is”, not an “ought”, of course, but nevertheless- most people do feel compelled to care for those they love, be honest, etc, because that is our nature as social primates.

    Do you agree? And if so, why do you assume that your basest self — the part of you that *would* feel liberated in a godless universe — is your truest?

  • 48. Grampster  |  April 17, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Richard: You are certainly not butting in; if anything, I am the interloper. I actually prefer reading to writing, and I apologize for being so wordy. If you are asking me if I believe that :a) morality is intrinsic to man, I would answer yes, but would want to know if the morality in question is good or bad, and, further, I would be interested in how you make that distinction (theists, of course, would ultimately define goodness as revealed virtues). Morality by conscience or consensus, it seems to me, will always be arbitrary, and that, I believe, is the core of the issue. Today’s virtues, I fear, can easily become tomorrow’s vices; and b) if you are asking if I believe that non theists can be moral-yes, of course, though I would argue that they would be employing, though unwittingly, Godly morality. Paul wrote, for instance, that man can demonstrate that he instinctively obeys the law, even without having heard it I do not believe, however, that conscience, or as you believe, natural, evolutionary inclinations,, nor instinctive compelling emotions based upon our primate status are the choicest pillars for a just society. What long term assurance do we have that these beliefs will still be valued next year? Or next Tuesday?
    Regarding your question whether “disproving” God’s existence (and this is purely speculative, of course), would cause me to act in my basest fashion, I would probably say no: again, people who do not believe in God can be, and are, both moral and immoral. Those who call themselves Christians can be the same, though I would argue that we have a more stable means of evaluating our actions. Ultimately, though, I am pleased, of course, when people are good, regardless of motivation.
    Autonomy? You and I both already have the ability to think and behave as we see fit, which I believe is part of the creative fiat.

    Richard: thanks for provoking me to thought; Mrs. Grampster claims that this is nearly impossible to do. A small miracle, perhaps.

  • 49. Richard  |  April 17, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Grampster-

    Thank you for your response. I am always interested in how others, theists and non-theists alike, pursue these questions. They are significant for me because this is something that I have struggled with in the process of leaving fundamentalism where, of course, it is taught there is and can be no other basis for morality.

    In that vein I certainly appreciate your concerns regarding arbitrariness, as I have shared them myself, and in a way, still do. My position currently has emerged out of a dissatisfaction with the theistic view on this matter, so, since you are a thoughtful and articulate “interloper” ( ;) ), if you will indulge a bit of Devils advocacy, let me bounce my ideas off you.

    My problem with revealed morality is, essentially, that I dont think it really solves the problem of arbitrariness. It is similar, in fact, to the Euthypro problem: does God create morality? If so, is it not arbitrary? Or does he discover it, independent of himself, and if so, is God not (strictly speaking) unnecessary?

    The theistic answer here is usually some form of identifying God with capital-“G”-Goodness. It is as though God becomes Goodness personified and given voice: Goodness itself is speaking to us, telling us of itself.

    I confess I am of two minds about this move. On the one hand, it is both lovely and elegant, as well as eminently relatable. Who wouldnt wish for such a God? On the other hand, the philosopher in me is unsatisified, and asks, “How do we know Goodness is good?”

    Because it says so? Well, thats obviously circular. Because we can know by an independent standard that this is so? Well, where do we get this standard, how do we know it is truthful, and, anyway, isnt this Goodness itself supposed to be primary, the basic Good?

    Theology answers, I think, that this Goodness (which is to say, God) is defined as Good. What else can it answer?

    And it is a fine answer — except that it is arbitrary. Why can nontheists define the Good also? And, in fact, I think this is precisely what they do.

    For any proposed good, we can always ask *why* it is good and how we know it is. I think any proposed system of morality eventually reduces to some axiomatic posit: some things are just asserted (or, we might equally say, assumed) to be good, and there is no larger justification to be given. And our evolutionary heritage as social primates can generate such axioms as well as anything. Why do we love and care for our children? Because it is Good. It just is.

    I agree with you — I, too, share a certain unease with this, because it is arbitrary. At the same time, I cant help but wonder whether this longing for certainty and larger “ground” is not a hangover from fundamentalism. Because — and here is my pragmatic critique — again, what difference does it make if these values *are* arbitrary? My values might change, but I dont think they will. Societies values might change, but that does not and (would not) require me to change mine. And the range of such arbitrary values is arguably not quite as broad as we might fear — again, thanks to our evolutionary heritage, not many feel proud to have double-crossed their loved ones or take delight in causing their children pain. Some do, yes, but not most, and those that do are dealt with by communal consensus that this is axiomatically wrong. And, of course, if in the end someone asserts that murder is axiomatically good, what do we do? Argue with them? Or simply oppose them?

    Again — I am not fully satisfied with this answer, either. It troubles me a bit to not have a better terra firma — but then I look at my children (sorry — my kids are young, I am in the flush of new fatherhood, and so they serve as my favorite example) and all my anxieties about arbitrariness fall away. I know I must love and protect my children. It makes no differrnece to me whether there is a God to back up that sentiment.

    I have never been accused of being short-winded, at least in my writing. So, let me finally cede the floor. What are your thoughts?

  • 50. Grampster  |  April 19, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Quester: May I submit a few additional comments as a response to your most recent, thought provoking notes? This continues to be a learning experience for me.

    1) I think we may more agree than disagree on this. Witnessing miracles can make a difference in how a person views things.Good question! I think you will find, though, that most of the other objections are based on the character of the supernatural. Once evidence was provided to show that the supernatural exists, it could then be examined to see what it says about the supernatural. If the evidence argues for an all-powerful, all-knowing entity who loves us, then that it what will be believed in.
    That might take more than one miracle, I admit; depending on the ability of the miracle to communicate clearly.

    >Probably some agreement here. The distinction that I might make would be over “miracles on demand” as I see no Biblical teaching that merits this belief. In that regard, I guess, I am a skeptic.
    .

    2) Perhaps. Yet if God’s self-revelation in scripture and creation are either unclear or point to an evil, indifferent, or absent God, I don’t think Christians can take the blame at ineffectively pointing out God’s revelations, let alone living according to

    >I think that God’s revelation is clear in many respects. For me, the existence and complexity of the cosmos, for instance, is miraculous. Interesting, isn’t it, how people can look at the same circumstances and come to different conclusions. Somewhat analogous, perhaps to the block versus charge call in basketball (forgive my simple mindedness here- I like sports). One group of fans will look at the play one way, the second, another. Same information, different interpretation.

    3) Perhaps, or perhaps the prophecies (of Christ coming back on the third day) were written in later, and so the doubt in them was more understandable.

    >My belief is that the only rational explanation for the disciple’s radically changed behavior is the reality of the Resurrection. They were, after all, hiding in fear for their lives after Jesus’ death. Why die for a known lie? I wouldn’t.

    4) My concern is that it is *our* lives God is risking with this “risky” choice.

    >It appears to me that God’s risk is perhaps greater: asking followers to believe in Him, without employing tactics that many seem to demand. All we have to do is choose, though I would admit that this choosing is not without challenges. I would argue that relying on fallible people is in fact risky for Him, as well as willful restraint to elicit genuine affection.

    6) Which God of which Bible? There are many orthodox choices.

    >I would amend that to read: God of my faith, since the term orthodox apparently has different connotations for different readers.

    7) In some cases, the context explains the contradictions. If we were to read the Chronicles, however, and count the contradictions with the books that come previous, I am not sure what context we could bring in to help matters out.

    >The age of Ahaziah etc? Solutions by respectable scholars have been proffered to these questions also, though my assumption is that skeptics are either unaware of them (most Christians would probably be, too), or, more likely, simply reject them. These rejections are understandable, as I believe that all humans are biased. I know that I am.

    8) Read as you will. You might toss out the ideas entirely, or they may cause you to look at your Bible in a new way. I don’t expect you to read them all, then come back here to refute each and every one. I just found it a convenient way to point out that contradictions exist, not just paradoxes.
    I believe Christian scholars exist, and some are capable of quality scholarship. I believe it is not hard to find evidence of both. Indeed, if the existence of God had as much evidence as the existence of Christian scholarship, there would not have to be so many Christian scholars.

    >(Apparent) contradictions can actually be good, I think, in the sense that they test our faith, and cause us to examine it seriously. Some, as you note, are easily addressed. Others, not so easily. Seems to me to be an excellent reason for Christian scholars to exist. I certainly do not have the wherewithal to answer all of these questions…

    9) As opposed to following the law that was given to Moses just one generation back, and hadn’t been shared with the Canaanites yet?

    >Actually, the Canaanites did in fact have prior knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Genesis 15 implies that God’s mercy gave the Canaanites time: 400 years of Israelite captivity to reform their corrupt culture. Further, at the time of the Israelites return, the Canaanites were convinced of God’s strength. Rahab, for instance, testified that they, the Canaanites, were terrified of the God of Israel based upon, at least in part, the incidents in Egypt implied below. Why didn’t pragmatism, if not altruism, inspire them to be more receptive to the Israelites and their God? The Biblical record informs us that the Canaanites were aware of God’s miraculous deliverance of Israel, and yet it resulted in no changed behavior. No, aw, you know, the child sacrifice stuff we’ve been doing has been a mistake all along, let’s reconsider and welcome these guys. I believe that the Canaanites had a choice, and that they chose poorly.
    Grampster comments on Canaanites, hundreds convert? Nah.
    I harbor no illusion that you or others will be swayed by these arguments, and I respect that right. For the skeptic, disbelief in God’s right to determine what is moral probably eliminates any attempt for a plausible explanation for you. This, I understand. I just disagree.

    (As an aside, the existence of civilizations such as this one argues, at least for me, against the belief that man, through either some inherent evolutionary tendencies or communally derived consensus will, of necessity, discover a decent moral compass. I find greater comfort in knowing that I have more permanent grounds for evaluating their, as well as my own, behavior.)

    9) And therefore not evil? If I only burn one city to the ground, and killed all the inhabitants thereof, would it be all right, so long as I did not make a regular habit of it?

    >The frequency of the event is not, I think, the central issue. I mentioned that it was a unique occurrence simply to point out that this episode was not normative for the Israelites. The Ammonites, for instance, were not targeted for destruction, the Israelites were commanded NOT to further expand their territory, and as far as I know, there are no similar events planned for, say, the Norwegians. The crux of the question seems to be: do some Christians think that God has the right to command such stern, temporal justice. Yes. But it is not His usual way.

    10) Perhaps, but hardening his heart multiple times, then sending a plague each time because Pharaoh responded as his hardened heart decreed, is really hard to justify. What history could there have been that made killing all of the first born an appropriate action?

    >Kind of a chicken or egg question, I guess. You believe that the story depicts God capriciously hardening Pharaoh’s heart; I understand that Pharaoh could have-should have- responded appropriately to Moses’ request to let the Israelites go (what, no criticism of the Egyptians for owning slaves?). I believe that Pharaoh was accountable for his actions, and responsible for the events that followed. Interestingly, the Bible teaches that the plagues were directed at Egypt’s gods: “against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments”. You would think Pharaoh would have learned something from this, but it appears that the more defiant one becomes, the more difficult it is to change one’s mind.

    11) Interesting. I consider “creativity, a desire to be gratified with beauty, harmony and diversity, capable of love, intimacy etc” to be part of, if not most of, the “spiritual dimension”.

    >Intertwined, in my opinion.

    12) think a great deal of value was learned by people trying to learn about God by examining creation.
    Fair enough, but can we learn anything about this unseen world except in how it affects the seen one? I think reason is important here, too.

    >I actually see the pattern somewhat reversed: we learn, I think, about the unknown from the known, the immaterial from the material. Jesus often taught in this fashion: the kingdom of heaven is like… like what? I can’t see it. Like something you can see: it’s like a mustard seed, like a lost valuable, like the wind. In the OT, laws pertaining to, for instance, dietary restrictions did the same. Growing up in a culture that teaches: good food, bad food, enables you, as you mature, to learn the distinction between good and evil. From the concrete to the spiritual, I would say.

    13) Sure, but how could you control others, judge others, or bury your own guilt with a religion like that? (mostly kidding)

    > I agree with you that some of the more prominent “Christian ministries” are Biblically aberrant, though I believe that many, lesser known ones are not. I am also coming to understand that judgmentalism, control and “guilt trips” seem to be a common offense among religionists you know. All Christians, especially me, need to “take heed lest we fall.” Seems like I frequently dangle on the precipice.

    14) Indeed.

    >And some, I think, have not.

    15) That’s the exact opposite of my experience. With all the people I know with eating disorders, suicidal tendencies and other self-destructive habits, I can’t say that it is all due to how they feel about their context. It tends to be more about doubt that God could love them, when they don’t even love themselves.

    >If there is one thing that I believe that Christians should affirm, it’s that no prerequisite condition exists to “make” God love you. No changing your ways first, no initial resolutions to turn over a new leaf. Accept God’s love, yes. Attempt to merit it, in my opinion, no. You don’t have to be” good” to be loved, but God’s love becomes a subsequent motivation for change.

    15) I also find this hard to reconcile with what you said in #34 (you do realize my numbered points were referring to the points you made in #34, right?) where you described yourself “as a recruit with low self esteem as well as an unsuccessful misfit inflicted with a stigma of self hatred and ineffectiveness” what did you mean if not that you struggled with not hating yourself?

    >it was, in retrospect, an ill conceived attempt at humor through sarcasm based upon what I believe is a mischaracterization of Christians, and I apologize for the misconception it left… I have issues, but self hate is not one of them.

    My pleasure.

    >Quester, once more, I thank you for your indulgence.

  • 51. Quester  |  April 21, 2008 at 12:28 am

    1. Probably some agreement here. The distinction that I might make would be over “miracles on demand” as I see no Biblical teaching that merits this belief. In that regard, I guess, I am a skeptic.

    Do you see no difference between asking God to reveal Himself before expecting us to choose Him and “miracles on demand”?

    2. I think that God’s revelation is clear in many respects. For me, the existence and complexity of the cosmos, for instance, is miraculous.

    What does the cosmos’ existence and complexity clearly reveal about God’s character and God’s will?

    Somewhat analogous, perhaps to the block versus charge call in basketball (forgive my simple mindedness here- I like sports). One group of fans will look at the play one way, the second, another.

    I’m not really up on my basketball knowledge, but aren’t those multiple interpretations reached because what happened is not clear?

    3. My belief is that the only rational explanation for the disciple’s radically changed behavior is the reality of the Resurrection. They were, after all, hiding in fear for their lives after Jesus’ death. Why die for a known lie?

    And how do we know they hid, changed or died?

    4. It appears to me that God’s risk is perhaps greater: asking followers to believe in Him, without employing tactics that many seem to demand.

    What exactly is God risking? We might be tormented eternally, but I haven’t heard about anything happening to Him.

    6. I would amend that to read: God of my faith, since the term orthodox apparently has different connotations for different readers

    All right. That still leaves me with no idea of how to distinguish between your God and one you might consider a false god.

    7. Seems to me to be an excellent reason for Christian scholars to exist. I certainly do not have the wherewithal to answer all of these questions…

    Fair enough.

    8. Actually, the Canaanites did in fact have prior knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Genesis 15 implies that God’s mercy gave the Canaanites time: 400 years of Israelite captivity to reform their corrupt culture.

    That captivity wasn’t in Canaan, but in Egypt. How did that help (or inform) the Canaanites?

    Why didn’t pragmatism, if not altruism, inspire them to be more receptive to the Israelites and their God?

    Because the Israelites invaded their land and attacked them, instead of giving them a choice?

    I find greater comfort in knowing that I have more permanent grounds for evaluating their, as well as my own, behavior.

    I find lesser comfort in knowing that your more permanent grounds for evaluating behaviour allows for occasional genocide without providing any reasons mere mortals can understand. “I burned your house down and killed your family because God told me to and I trust God had a good reason” is the sort of claim which leads me to think there are preferable ways to determine what is moral.

    9. The crux of the question seems to be: do some Christians think that God has the right to command such stern, temporal justice.

    For me, there are three central points to the question:
    a) Are such commands justice?
    b) Should Christians kill, burn and destroy if they believe God is telling them to?
    c) Worse things happen in North America today. How is God responding?

    10. You believe that the story depicts God capriciously hardening Pharaoh’s heart; I understand that Pharaoh could have-should have- responded appropriately to Moses’ request to let the Israelites go

    Re-read Exodus 7 and tell me that again.

    what, no criticism of the Egyptians for owning slaves?

    No one is claiming that the Egyptians were all-knowing, all-powerful, or perfectly righteous. You feel they should be held to the same standard as God?

    Interestingly, the Bible teaches that the plagues were directed at Egypt’s gods: “against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments”.

    Sadly, it was Egypt’s people who got hurt.

    11. Intertwined, in my opinion.

    If you say so. I’m not sure what’s left out.

    12. I actually see the pattern somewhat reversed: we learn, I think, about the unknown from the known, the immaterial from the material.

    Isn’t that exactly what I said?

    13. I agree with you that some of the more prominent “Christian ministries” are Biblically aberrant, though I believe that many, lesser known ones are not.

    Sadly a great many horrors can be justified with the Bible. Many wonders can be motivated by it, too, but just because something is evil, does not mean it’s Biblically aberrant.

    14. And some, I think, have not.

    Yes, some have not.

    15. it was, in retrospect, an ill conceived attempt at humor through sarcasm based upon what I believe is a mischaracterization of Christians, and I apologize for the misconception it left… I have issues, but self hate is not one of them.

    I completely misread you and took you for your word. Glad you don’t have that particular problem.

    Quester, once more, I thank you for your indulgence.

    Out of curiosity, what (if anything) do you think you have learned so far?

  • 52. Grampster  |  April 23, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Do you see no difference between asking God to reveal Himself before expecting us to choose Him and “miracles on demand”?
    >I see no problems with asking God to reveal Himself, and I did not mean to imply that desiring evidence is an illogical request. Christians, perhaps, would benefit more than some from a “spectacular” miracle, adding additional substance, if you will, to our faith. I just think that I cannot personally set the conditions for God’s actions, and genuinely believe that, now, at this time, revelation comes in the form of creation, His Word and His love lived out in people. But would I like one? Sure. I’m not any different in that respect, but I really would be skeptical of any such claims. Benny Hinn , I think, is wrong .

    What does the cosmos’ existence and complexity clearly reveal about God’s character and God’s will?
    >If the cosmos are immense, complex, beautiful, majestic, powerful and inspiring I would expect the same of its creator. If the creator is immense, complex, beautiful, majestic, powerful and inspiring, and I’m not, he’s probably in charge.

    I’m not really up on my basketball knowledge, but aren’t those multiple interpretations reached because what happened is not clear?
    >That is an insightful observation. I was, however, looking at the example in a slightly different vein. My thought on this comparison was that what occurs is objectively real. It is not both a block and a charge at the same time. It is one or the other. In the case of a close call, bias, I think, or vision, or attentiveness, or knowledge of the rules, colors the interpretation of the event.

    And how do we know they hid, changed or died?
    >I choose to believe the Biblical account.

    What exactly is God risking? We might be tormented eternally, but I haven’t heard about anything happening to Him.
    >Rejection by those He loves, as well as the problems associated with having flawed followers representing Him correctly. Your collective regard of Christians seems evidence, at least in part, of this being the case.

    All right. That still leaves me with no idea of how to distinguish between your God and one you might consider a false god.
    >Fair question: if one’s God is immense, complex, beautiful, majestic, powerful and inspiring, desires that we are considerate of one another, demands selfless love, personal accountability, worship from love and not fear, inspires you to get involved in helping the less fortunate, calls for fidelity in family and personal realtionships, expects you to exchange immoral behavior for moral living, to honor civil authority and interceded with His Son on our behalf, then, possibly, we might be talking about the same one.

    That captivity wasn’t in Canaan, but in Egypt. How did that help (or inform) the Canaanites?
    >True, the captivity wasn’t in Canaan, but previously, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and clan were.

    I find lesser comfort in knowing that your more permanent grounds for evaluating behavior allows for occasional genocide without providing any reasons mere mortals can understand. “I burned your house down and killed your family because God told me to and I trust God had a good reason” is the sort of claim which leads me to think there are preferable ways to determine what is moral.
    .
    >I respectfully disagree with your premise, as well as your conclusion. One, the events you reference are historical, not a standing policy or doctrine; these events were not allowed, they were commanded. This was not, and is not, a general call to obliterate everyone, or even those of the Israelites’ own choosing. You give ample evidence of knowing the Bible better than I. To whom was God speaking? Since I am not an Old Testament Jew reentering Canaan, I won’t be joining the act. Secondly, if someone were to burn your house down in the name of God, then I would expect him to be held accountable for his actions. And I’d try to help put out the fire. And, I think that you’d do the same for me, too.
    .
    For me, there are three central points to the question:
    a) Are such commands justice?
    b) Should Christians kill, burn and destroy if they believe God is telling them to?
    c) Worse things happen in North America today. How is God responding?

    a) As noted before, I believe this command was just.
    b) It would have to be demonstrated that it is commanded of us; the internal voices alone don’t work for me.
    c) Through moral people acting in compassionate fashion (no, not just Christians).

    Re-read Exodus 7 and tell me that again.
    >See below

    No one is claiming that the Egyptians were all-knowing, all-powerful, or perfectly righteous. You feel they should be held to the same standard as God?
    >While this was actually poorly planned sarcasm (see below again), you do raise an interesting point. I hadn’t thought of this before, but didn’t Pharaoh compare his religion to the God of the Israelites, and, after making that comparison, conclude that his gods were superior?
    .
    If you say so. I’m not sure what’s left out.
    >Nothing, sir,was omitted on your part ; this is just a comment, not a critique.

    Isn’t that exactly what I said?
    >Sorry if I missed that; we both agree that reasoning is absolutely necessary (and sometimes my reasoning isn’t so sharp, as you can tell), but spiritual concepts are hard to get. Especially for me. I need something to paint a picture, if you will. With a broad brush.

    Sadly a great many horrors can be justified with the Bible. Many wonders can be motivated by it, too, but just because something is evil, does not mean it’s Biblically aberrant.
    >I suspect that you and I would agree more often than not on what might be horrible, despite some other differences.

    I completely misread you and took you for your word. Glad you don’t have that particular problem.
    >Note to self. Exercise more thoughtfulness. See below.

    Out of curiosity, what (if anything) do you think you have learned so far?
    > Quite a bit, actually.
    >A couple of personal issues: sarcasm is sometimes inappropriate (see above); and, I think I need to learn to be more sensitive regarding others and less presumptive (not just on a website-personally, also).
    > As others have rightly pointed out, Christians are supposed to act (for lack of a better word), nice: this is, in a sense, a kind of a self check regarding my own attitude, since I have truly been disappointed with the tone of Christian responses I have noted elsewhere. It is obvious to me that I still need much improvement here. Regardless of the content of my message, and no matter how convoluted it may seem to you, the spirit of the response should be one of gentleness and respect. I continue to be a work in progress.
    > I am impressed, also, with the depth of your responses, though this is not unexpected. Nor is your disdain of fundamentalism: it does, however, confirm my suspicions regarding its impact.
    >I am willing to rethink my position on what hardening means. I have seen this as a function of God’s foreknowledge, but I may be mistaken. Thanks for the stimulus to revisit the issue.
    >As I have mentioned before, I appreciate the tenor of your response. This has been instructive for me also.
    >I’ve posted much more than I ever intended. Perhaps I will haunt a few Fundamentalist websites. If I offend them, who cares?
    >That we agree on some issues
    >That I can disagree with you on other issues, and harbor no animosity in doing so .
    >That skeptics have a lot of excellent questions (though I suspected this previously).
    >That I don’t have all the answers (though I knew this previously); heck, I don’t even have all the questions.
    >That if I had been taught that history was be to equated with normative Christian living , I may have left the church.

    I, too, am curious. Two questions remain somewhat unanswered for me: there are a host of self revealed reasons here for leaving Christianity, and I honestly believe that I can empathize with a couple issues you raise; those concerning rationality/contradictions and Christians behaving poorly. Which is the more common reason, or the greater offense, in your estimation?
    Secondly, when atheists argue against the morality of Biblical events, do you believe the events didn’t actually happen (which is what I now think may be the case), but if they hypothetically did, would be inconsistent with a God whom Christians claim to follow; or, do you believe the events really did occur, and God is immoral because they did?
    Thanks, Quester.

  • 53. Quester  |  April 24, 2008 at 2:13 am

    Hey Grampster,

    >I see no problems with asking God to reveal Himself, and I did not mean to imply that desiring evidence is an illogical request.

    That’s all I’m asking for. I don’t need a genie or a Santa Claus, just some evidence that God is and some signs of God’s character.

    >If the cosmos are immense, complex, beautiful, majestic, powerful and inspiring I would expect the same of its creator. If the creator is immense, complex, beautiful, majestic, powerful and inspiring, and I’m not, he’s probably in charge.

    Very well-written. But the cosmos is also filled with violent, destructive energy, is constantly moving and changing, and is largely hostile to life as we know it.

    It is not both a block and a charge at the same time. It is one or the other. In the case of a close call, bias, I think, or vision, or attentiveness, or knowledge of the rules, colors the interpretation of the event.

    Very true. This is why I wish God would reveal God’s self and will in ways that are clearer than a “close call”.

    >True, the captivity wasn’t in Canaan, but previously, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and clan were.

    400 years earlier, one family that was ignorant of God’s law passed through, and you feel this is sufficient warning and instruction for the people of Canaan, while the Israelites who were actually freed from Egypt and handed the law still managed to upset God enough that God waited for an entire generation to die off before letting not them but their descendants into the promised land? Seems more than a little unjust.

    >I respectfully disagree with your premise, as well as your conclusion. One, the events you reference are historical, not a standing policy or doctrine; these events were not allowed, they were commanded.

    “Kill, burn and destroy” are not standing policy or doctrine, I agree, but “Do what God commands, even if you can not see how it is good, moral or just for God defines what is good and knows more than you can” is standing policy. And that is my premise. I did not say, “your more permanent grounds for evaluating behavior insists upon occasional genocide without providing any reasons mere mortals can understand.” I said, “your more permanent grounds for evaluating behavior allows for occasional genocide without providing any reasons mere mortals can understand.” I still stand by that premise, and am bothered by the truth of it.

    Secondly, if someone were to burn your house down in the name of God, then I would expect him to be held accountable for his actions. And I’d try to help put out the fire. And, I think that you’d do the same for me, too.

    Well, that’s good to hear.

    a) As noted before, I believe this command was just.

    That’s what worries me.

    b) It would have to be demonstrated that it is commanded of us; the internal voices alone don’t work for me.

    How can, or should, it be demonstrated, then? And do you insist that all understandings of God’s commandments (or even God’s existence) be as thoroughly demonstrated?

    c) Through moral people acting in compassionate fashion (no, not just Christians)

    That’s a good answer that tells me that I may have asked the wrong question. What I meant to say is that there are crimes in North America identical to or even worse than those listed in the bible as having happened in Canaan at that time. Why is God acting differently now, and does it affect your concept of what was a just action then?

    I hadn’t thought of this before, but didn’t Pharaoh compare his religion to the God of the Israelites, and, after making that comparison, conclude that his gods were superior?

    Not that I remember, but I’ll concede the point. What I should have said is that I am judging God more harshly than I am judging the Pharaoh because I have no expectation of goodness, wisdom or perfection from the Pharaoh.

    If it helps, I don’t believe that the gods of the Pharaoh exist either.

    Perhaps I will haunt a few Fundamentalist websites. If I offend them, who cares?

    I burst out in laughter when I read this.

    there are a host of self revealed reasons here for leaving Christianity, and I honestly believe that I can empathize with a couple issues you raise; those concerning rationality/contradictions and Christians behaving poorly. Which is the more common reason, or the greater offense, in your estimation?

    Neither, really. In my personal estimation (without actually researching the subject and knowing there is a lot of ground for disagreeing with me), the most common reason for leaving Christianity is realizing that there is no clear sign or evidence of a God at work in the world. Issues concerning rationality and contradictions or Christians behaving poorly may help inspire this realization, but if there was any clear sign or evidence of God at work in the world presently, or at any time in the past, or even clear sign or evidence of God’s will for the future, contradictions in reason and/or behaviour would not have been enough to cause me to leave.

    Secondly, when atheists argue against the morality of Biblical events, do you believe the events didn’t actually happen (which is what I now think may be the case), but if they hypothetically did, would be inconsistent with a God whom Christians claim to follow; or, do you believe the events really did occur, and God is immoral because they did?

    Again, speaking for myself and realizing others on this site may easily disagree, I have, with great difficulty and resistance, come to think that very little of what happened in the bible actually occurred. Instead, I look at the bible as a book that many claim reveals who God is, and realize the character of God thus revealed is inconsistent with the character many of those same people believe that God has.

  • 54. Ubi Dubium  |  April 24, 2008 at 11:17 am

    “Secondly, when atheists argue against the morality of Biblical events, do you believe the events didn’t actually happen (which is what I now think may be the case), but if they hypothetically did, would be inconsistent with a God whom Christians claim to follow; or, do you believe the events really did occur, and God is immoral because they did?”

    I’d like to offer another atheist’s viewpoint on this. Considering the large part of the OT that is concerned with ancient tribal warfare, I think it is not unreasonable to think that many of those biblical accounts are based around events that actually happened. Mideastern tribes made war upon each other all the time (as they still do), and each side used the excuse of “our god is greater than yours” for committing atrocities upon the other (as they also still do).

    So two ancient tribes have a battle, one wins and does all the rape, murder, sacking, and pillaging that they can get away with. Then, they proclaim that it was obviously the “will of god” that they behaved as they did, as evidenced by the fact that they won. (If the other side happened to win, they would do exactly the same thing, and procalim the supremacy of their own god.) If they are literate, they write an account of the battle, proclaiming that their actions were ordered by their god, and therefore just and righteous. They might also embellish it and write in a miracle or two, just to make it more convincing. Eventually they can persuade themselves that something horrible and senseless was actually glorious and divine will. Over time, they gather all these accounts and proclaim them “scripture”.

    So, when I read biblical accounts of miraculous victories, I don’t see them as direct evidence for OR against the existence of a god. I see them as history written by spin doctors. I see them as evidence that human nature has changed very little over time. We keep the profits and shift the blame.

    However – when you propose the existence of a omniscient and omnipotent god, who is ALSO loving and benevolent, AND who also is the same warlike tribal god trumpeted by the Old Testament writers, now I see a real inconsistency. I cannot imagine an all-loving god ordering such atrocities, or an all-powerful god allowing such atrocities to be blamed on him, or allowing his followers to proclaim for millennia that such events were god’s will. So that would point me toward one of two conclusions – either some omnipotent god exists who is NOT the Old Testament god (the Gnostic viewpoint) but who for some reason allows millions of people to assume he is, or that an all-powerful, all-loving god does not exist. I choose the second conclusion as far more likely.

  • 55. Anonymous  |  April 24, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I am a believer in God, and I might have an answer for some of the presenting complaints. There are a lot of things in the Bible that are false and/or misinterpreted. The creaton story in Genesis is just that-a story. It is a story told to prove a point. (I won’t get into that now) All the violence in the Bible was propogated by a false god. The key to finding God isn’t out there in the world or high in the sky. The only place to find God is within. It’s funny that many religions, inclucing Christianity, say what I’m saying, yet Christians don’t apply that to themselves or anyone else.

  • 56. LeoPardus  |  April 25, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Over in the would-you-please-reschedule-your-crisis thread, Benjamin hit one that’s not in the list!

    -You didn’t really understand the scriptures (Bible)

    That gets us up to 38.

    Thanks Benjamin.

  • 57. Grampster  |  April 26, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Richard: My apologies for the lengthy delay in responding. I have neither the energy nor the mental acumen to keep up with so many difficult questions.

    That, plus the fact that like everyone else, the mundane, but necessary, issues of life often take precedent over other matters.

    Regarding your musings on morality, particularly the question “ Why can nontheists define the Good also? And, in fact, I think this is precisely what they do”.

    I actually agree with you on this issue; they can , and do define the Good.

    Again, I would like to reaffirm that I believe there are, in fact, both de facto universalists (I would describe them as those who do not subscribe to a particular codified system of belief, but who nonetheless have settled, stable values) as well as non theistic moralists . I am sure that there are a myriad of them. And further, I am glad of it, for both practical and philosophical reasons: the practical; I desire good fellow citizens, and secondly, I believe that ” If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we should avoid offering insults to Him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising the gifts we insult the giver.” Thank you for loving your family, for I share those values, and more, in all probability.

    There are, of course, a virtual buffet of religions, life styles, philosophies and belief systems from which to choose, some systematized, others the result of a kind of an ad hoc pragmatism. Further adding to the confusion seems to be the fact that some have overlapping ideals. So why God? I guess that I would see the question as “how to choose, or how should we live”? No deep insights, unfortunately from this side. I do believe that you and I, and others (all of us, I would say) are in fact choosing, or have chosen, an ethical system. It’s not as though any of us are without morals, but rather the question seems to be what morals do we go with? It also seems to that if I “evaluate” these various moralities, then I must , of necessity, already have a preexisting ethical system.

    So, it seems to me, I am left with somewhat unsatisfactory response that it’s all about choosing. We have to make a decision. Perhaps it is, at least in in some ways, like choosing a car (though morality is, of course, a much more weighty matter). How do people make that decision? Don’t some go for propositional truth that resonates with them (this Chevy gets 30 mpg); or perhaps believe recommendations of a friend (buy the Chevy, it has been great for me); or choose experientially (let’s go for a test ride in the Chevy); or after investigation (I really looked into a lot of information regarding this Chevy); or some perhaps out of desperation (I really need a car, I’m going to get this Chevy)., or from tradition (we’ve always bought Chevys). We consider, and then we choose. This is a weak analogy, probably, but it really does seem, at least to me, to be an issue of applying reasonalbe faith, then making your choice. Great question; I wish I had a more persuasive answer. (The author of this message is neither employed by, nor received an endorsement from, Chervrolet of America).

  • 58. Leslie  |  May 1, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    One that I get – ” Well, that crazy church you were in is why you are having doubts. MY church on the other hand…..”

    Everyone, EVERYONE has THE perfect church! If only I’d give them a try! LOL

  • 59. bibletrip  |  July 1, 2008 at 11:15 am

    I Am a believer… and am truly convinced in that. I read the thread and am very impressed with the civility of this Blog. Its refreshing, as most places normally end up dishing out a lot of negativity.

    So im not arguing or looking for an answer. All im doing is saying thanks for an excellently run Blog.

  • 60. Joe  |  July 3, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I read through the list and it is very impressive. One thing you left off though (or maybe you didn’t—I’m just not sure where to put it is this:

    I have heard several people state: “You don’t know me. You have no idea the anguish we deconverted have gone though to come to our decision”. This is stated often, seemingly without thinking that many, many other people have suffered through the same anguish yet have come out of it believing, or believing even stronger.

    So you might want to add to the list for reasons to leave having a “martyr complex” or something associated with that—you know, feeling that you have suffered greater than the average person who calls himself a Christian has with doubts and seemingly unanswered prayers. And because of this you no longer believe and they still do–they still haven’t seen the light that your special kind of torment brought to you. I’m not sure what you would call that, or how it would fit on the list, but I have seen this almost more than any other comment when questioning someone seriously on why they deconverted. It happened again yesterday and I told the person to “stop sniveling”, which is odd because I hardly ever use that term.

  • 61. LeoPardus  |  July 9, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Once again Joe shows everyone that he has his pig-head shoved so far up his rectal cavity that he can’t see for sh|t.

    I have to hand it to you Joe, you have done as much as any “Christian” who’s come along here to confirm the ugliness, pig-headedness, arrogance, and uncharitable nature that so many here see as the stereotype of Christians.

    Fortunately I still attend church (and a very conservative one at that) where I get to see decent, kind, loving, humble Christians. This helps me maintain the perspective that tells me you are just an unfortunate aberration.

  • 62. TheNerd  |  July 14, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Just so everyone knows, this very post is why I joined this site. I read the list and knew I had found a safe place on the internet. Thanks for publishing it, and thanks for keeping up the website.

  • 63. Joe  |  July 14, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Once again Joe shows everyone that he has his pig-head shoved so far up his rectal cavity that he can’t see for sh|t.

    Leo—

    I really do have to say that you, and several others show a “touchiness” above any I have encountered on blogs or boards before. All I mentioned was a “martyr-complex”.

    Does that warrant this: ??

    I have to hand it to you Joe, you have done as much as any “Christian” who’s come along here to confirm the ugliness, pig-headedness, arrogance, and uncharitable nature that so many here see as the stereotype of Christians.

    When I printed out my post and showed it to others I received this common response: “It looks like a bit of a sarcastic piece done a bit tongue in cheek.” When I showed your response I received this “The person has taken what you said very, very personally, and DOES appear to have a martyr complex, or that post would mean nothing.” I received the same type of response from both christian and unbeliever. There is nothing in the post insulting anyone, attacking anyone—the only thing I said in a sarcastic tongue and cheek way is that people on the blog tend to TAKE THEMSELVES FAR TOO SERIOUSLY, and feel they have suffered more than others have with their faith—-which simply is not true. From Leo’s post it appears even more to me than before that the “martyr complex” SHOULD be added to the list. Talk about having a chip on one’s shoulder!!

    What? Are Christians supposed to come to the blog and never be sarcastic, tongue in cheek, or come out with a forceful opionion? It sounds like Leo and others want Christians to come in with syrupy niceness, and when they don’t they become dispicable creatures!! LOL Let a Christian display a bit of what the de-converts display in some of their own posts themselves, and they are “pig-headed and arrogant with an uncharitable nature”. Excuse me for being real and trying to have a little fun at the same time.

  • 64. Joe  |  July 14, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I forgot to mention, but find the hypocrisy hilarious, how quite a few times now, when a few de-cons here are faced with sarcasm, or something they feel “attacks” them somehow, they resort to the “And you call yourself a Christian?” guilt trip. LOL LOL.

    “Fortunately I still attend church (and a very conservative one at that) where I get to see decent, kind, loving, humble Christians. This helps me maintain the perspective that tells me you are just an unfortunate aberration”.

    Definition: They don’t give me any flack. They never really state their opinions about de-cons, and are so syrupy nice that it sits really well with me. As long as no one is sarcastic or forceful, or talks like a real person would talk, I consider them to be kind, loving, humble Christians. But let them get sarcastic, or really speak their minds, and they will become to me despicable, horrible creatures that I have to ask “How can they call themselves Christians??” LOL

  • 65. HeIsSailing  |  July 14, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Joe sez:

    Are Christians supposed to come to the blog and never be sarcastic, tongue in cheek, or come out with a forceful opionion?

    Forceful opinion is fine. But when that opinion is expressed as absolute truth that they hold to, and more, universal truth that I must hold to, then the line is crossed. I no longer have the stomach or patience for a ‘Correct Orthodoxy’ that I must hold to in order to be a human of any value.

  • 66. LeoPardus  |  July 14, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Once again, Joe demonstrates his total self absorption and willing blindness to all outside of his cranial-rectal inversion.

    feel they have suffered more than others have with their faith

    No one ever said this, nor do any of us think this. YOU attribute this to us. ….. Of course once you’ve attributed something, or determined in your own mind that it’s true, then it’s settled in stone.

    I printed out my post and showed it to others

    So you found a couple people to stroke you. I guess you must be all right then.

    I forgot to mention, but find the hypocrisy hilarious,

    I find it deplorable.

    Definition: They don’t give me any flack. They never really state their opinions about de-cons, and are so syrupy nice that it sits really well with me.

    Tell me about the people at my church. Are the liberal, conservative, opinionated, educated, knowledgeable, “Bible-believing”, …. ???? Surly you know. Do they know I’m a de-con or not? Do/would they care? How do they view/treat non-Christians? Oh do tell me more, OH all knowing Joe!

  • 67. Joe  |  July 14, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Leo—

    So I say something about “martyr complex” and some feeling they have suffered more than others. Leo—it’s true. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “you have no idea the crisis I have faced, and what I have suffered, etc. etc.” To say I have “no idea” is to say that I have never suffered what that person has—and yet they don’t know that. I may have suffered the same crisis, but come through it believing. To say “you have no idea what I have suffered” is basically a “martyr complex” Leo. Accept it or not.

    I made that post.

    I truly mean it—-you have a HUGE chip on your shoulder. You are greatly offended if anyone “questions” what you went through to come to your decision. Yes–I did show the post to a couple of people to see if they thought you were overreacting. I’m sorry but the vote was unanimous. I can’t help that. I just wanted to see if anyone thought I had gone over the line. You do. Apparently, YOU can call someone anything you feel like, and that is fine. I have never called you one name Leo—-all I have done is state my opinion. Apparently you are a person who needs to be told “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” but you keep coming back with pot-holders in hand and cussing at the cook.

  • 68. Joe  |  July 14, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    P.S. I am not saying that some people have had unique aspects of suffering I may not have suffered exactly. I’ve faced death, but maybe not in the same way others have. But we are talking about faith. I can tell you I have gone through the same crisis that ANY believer goes through. Unasnwered prayers, deadness, suffering, coldness, etc. etc. and sometimes for huge periods of time.

    For me to say “You don’t know me. You have no idea what crisis I have gone through in my Christian walk” to another Christian would be for me to have a “maryr complex”—beause I am stating (not directly–but I am saying it) that they have no idea—–yet they are Christians and go through the same dealings of faith that I do–of course they have an idea of what I have gone through!!

    I was being sarcastic in the post—–but I wasn’t attacking anyone personally Leo—-you seem to hit a point (I think it has to do with that giant chip you have on your shoulder) where you feel it is necessary to address people as “self-centered asses” and the like. I’ll state my point and what I believe (and I do believe a “martyr complex” is involved here), but I am not going to call you names Leo. I’ll try to trod more quietly around you.

  • 69. Joe  |  July 14, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    HelsSailing—-

    Just stating my opinion and using some sarcasm. I can’t force you to believe anything. None of us are in a room talking to one another face to face. I think actually it is funny for Leo to call me a “self-centered ass”—-the only thing wrong is that he feels I cannot do the same. If I were to say something like that to him, he would come back with “And you call yourself a Christian?”

    Leo has one set of standards for de-cons, and another set of standards for Christians. Christians have to act the way HE WANTS THEM TO or they are “self-centered asses” LOL. Christians are not allowed to use sarcasm, forcefulness, or any kind of mocking tone (though often a mocking tone can be seen in posts by de-cons) because they have to meet LEO”S STANDARD of a Christian. This is a dang blog isn’t it? Or are we in church?

  • 70. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 14, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but as I recall it’s been stated that de-converting was a difficult, sometimes painful process, but I don’t recall anyone ever saying anything to the effect of “You don’t know what I’ve gone through.” Mostly, I hear people saying it’s a difficult process in response to people trying to trivialize de-conversion. Again, if I’m wrong I apologize, and would love to see where that response has been given.

    As for Leo’s response to your accusation of a martyr complex, it may be a bit more hostile than I would like, but I’ve always been a pretty patient, almost passive person. I do think that if you’re going to come to a blog and talk with de-cons, you need to have a little tact with your sarcasm. Accusing someone of a martyr complex, even tongue-in-cheek, is rather low. You remind me of my sister, smacking my brother upside the head and then complaining “I was just joking” to my parents.

  • 71. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 14, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Oh, and Joe, regardless of whether anyone has actually said as much before, I would argue that it is in fact true that you don’t understand what de-cons have gone through. You haven’t de-converted. Generally, when we say the process is painful and difficult, we mean the actual process of giving up your faith, not the conditions that lead you to question it in the first place. I’ve suffered through doubt before, and come out of it believing. That’s not the same process as actually giving up your faith. Going through periods of strong doubt, apparent abandonment by God and the like, is not the same thing as actually giving up your faith.

    I have no doubt that you understand what it is to experience doubts of your faith. But you have never de-converted, so you don’t actually realize what’s involved.

  • 72. LeoPardus  |  July 14, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    Ah, what the hey. Waste a little more time talking to the brick wall.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “you have no idea the crisis I have faced, and what I have suffered, etc. etc.”

    You’ve confused me with you. (Not surprising as you’re the center of the universe.) You’re the one telling us how you and others faced the same crises and came through, faith intact. You’re also the one telling me what the people at church are like.

    you have a HUGE chip on your shoulder.

    Perhaps you’re right here. Some people, after getting through some big mistake, have great patience with others going through the same thing. Other people, after getting through some big mistake, are angered at seeing it again in others. Unfortunately I’m usually in that latter category. So I see you being a self-centered, arrogant, know-it-all, and I see the young dumb-ass I used to be. And i wish I could get into a time machine and go back and hit my younger self so hard, I wouldn’t know what hit me.
    So you get caught in the temporal backlash.

    You are greatly offended if anyone “questions” what you went through to come to your decision.

    Slight correction. I get offended when some know-it-all comes in and judges all of us here from the standpoint of ignorance, without the slightest effort to actually understand anyone or anything.

    If you stopped “telling us” things from your all wise, all knowing, holy mountain, and start showing even the slightest effort to understand anything other than your own presuppositions, you just might find yourself getting some other response around here apart from disgust. But, frankly, you show no signs of having the mental age or maturity to even grasp what I mean by this last paragraph.

  • 73. Joe  |  July 14, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    but I don’t recall anyone ever saying anything to the effect of “You don’t know what I’ve gone through.”

    Snuggly–

    I can tell you you’re wrong. I have had “several” people tell me this when they feel they are being “attacked”: “You don’t know me. You have no idea what I and other de-cons have gone through before we made the decision to de-convert”. I have heard this many times on the board—–that’s why I describe a “martyr complex”—I didn’t pull that out of thin air—-I stated that after hearing it many times.

  • 74. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 14, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Can you point me to the specific post, so I can be sure this is the actual phrasing they used, and not your interpretation of it? I don’t mean this as an attack on you, but I know I personally have repeated things incorrectly, adding my own twist of interpretation to them without realizing it till much later.

  • 75. Joe  |  July 14, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Accusing someone of a martyr complex, even tongue-in-cheek, is rather low. You remind me of my sister, smacking my brother upside the head and then complaining “I was just joking” to my parents.

    Snuggly—

    I have been “tongue-in-cheek” in the WAY I presented my opinion on the “martyr complex”, but I assure you, I am SERIOUS about stating it. I am not “accusing someone”—I am stating it is REAL—-because I see it here all the time. I saw it on another post today “Why me Lord, why did I deconvert?”

    Karen states that her experience of finding out Santa Claus doesn’t exist, coupled with Darwinism led to her deconversion. She states that these two things convince her as to why she deconverted and others did not. She is in a sense saying she has had a “special experience” or “special enlightenment” as to why Christianity is false that convinces HER, while others STILL BELIEVE. A “martyr complex” is when someone thinks they are suffering something special, and above what others feel—-and I swear to you——-I get that sense here all the time. “We have had our eyes opened due to our special crisis of faith” etc. etc.

    I’m not saying ALL say this—-but many, many do—-I have been on the board long enough to have heard it quite often. So, I, in a sarcastic manner, suggested adding that to the list of why decons deconvert. I took a serious point of view, and in jest, suggested it in sarcasm. And I do not feel there is anything wrong with that. I’m sure much jesting and joking about Christians, their ideas, their beliefs, their attitudes on this board. And I will laugh with you about that. This is a blog for Pete’s sake. If someone says i became a Christian because I love spaghetti, and appears to be serious as heck about it, I should just laugh—and take it with a grain of salt.
    The :”touchiness” displayed concerning deconversion shows me that the “martyr complex” has validity in some cases, as people perceive a strong opinion, coupled with sarcasm as an “attack”, and then resort to name calling.

    Others seem to be able to take it easily, and seem to laugh it off as nothing. So, I assert—with some there definitely is a “martyr complex” involved in their deconversion. Sorry—it’s just what I observe.

  • 76. Joe  |  July 14, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Snuggly—

    I would have to search the threads. I’ll see if I can find them—–It’ll take a little searching. I know I can find an example though.

    –Joe

  • 77. The Apostate  |  August 6, 2008 at 2:02 am

    Just thought I would point some current readers in the direction of a recent post by c michael patton over at the Parchment and Pen theological blog entitled, “Leaving Christianity for all of the Wrong Reasons.” I’ve already been cheerfully dismissed as an irrelevant nuisance on the site so I didn’t bother to respond. According to this Calivinist author, we de-converts are apparently the victims of creating our straw-man (or straw-god) which ends up getting knocked over in the wind. Essentially, our god was one of the following:

    1) The “My will be done” type of God named “Jesus”
    or the “My God is here to serve ME god

    2) The personal promise maker God named “Jesus”
    or the “My God is here to center around ME god

    3) The “I am primarily concerned about your success and stability” God named “Jesus”
    No comment – this is just a joke for anyone with any theological background

    4) The “I am about your glory” God named “Jesus”
    Oh look, another “My God is here to center around ME god

    5) The “Jesus” who said the world was flat
    No – he only said the world was coming to an end. No one leaves because of this, we only ridicule it later. People will believe the world is flat til their dying day.

    So basically, de-conversion is a result of our selfish misrepresentations of our god.

  • 78. LeoPardus  |  August 6, 2008 at 10:44 am

    So basically, de-conversion is a result of our selfish misrepresentations of our god.

    By contrast, remaining converted is the result of one’s personal interpretation of god.

    Yes. That’s so different. How could I miss it?

    *Sarcasm mode off.*

  • 79. silentj  |  August 6, 2008 at 10:49 am

    IT’s wrong of me to find this funny, but…

    At the top of the post Apostate linked to:

    “Reclaiming the Mind Ministries is in great financial need. Please consider a small (or large!) tax-deductable donation. Thanks for visiting!”

  • 80. Daon  |  August 11, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    What? Only 38 reasons? What a disappointment!

  • 81. The de-Convert  |  August 17, 2008 at 1:16 am

    Great organization of our lists:

    http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2008/08/deconversion.html

  • […] That’s it for now. Y’all pile on with more and I’ll add them in time. Previous Lists: Convenient categories: Why Christians believe de-cons leave the faith Inconvenient categories: The reasons de-cons leave […]

  • 83. wotthe7734  |  August 20, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    A direct quote from an InterVarsity leader:

    “You think too much. God doesn’t need thinkers.”

    Sometimes I wish I could meet him again and tell him thanks for driving me to write off the entire Evangelical scene with that piece of whizz-dumb.

  • 84. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 21, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Hah, that still doesn’t top the time my mom said we shouldn’t do science and just let God reveal what he wants to us.

  • 85. geyser of pish-posh  |  May 12, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    i came upon this site this very day and was guilty of skimmimg its waterfall of commentary until i came to the VERY attention-commanding exchange between Joe and this man called LeoPardus; i am on the fly right now but may i debut hereupon by opining that Joe’s steady (whatever you do don’t mention the rockl!) perseverance – maybe even forbearance? – in the face of LP’s fierce outrage has, well it’s got me going already, and may i ask Joe if he thinks it is possible that we could do any better than the somewhat inscrutable idea of a ‘martyr complex’? The term is way too rooted somehow in glug, glug, depth psychology and most-of-all raises the threshold-of-signification too high – i think the only way to hurdle this hurdle is to cease to speak of who has suffered the most as if this were some hit parade; and learn to slowly express, in some small way, just what one estimates has been suffered – hopefully without copious recourse to choldhood abuse and all the circular gothic narratives proceeding from that – i am of the reckoning that the worst suffreing IS wholly inexplicable & indescribable – who after all can find words for a single nightmare that scrapes your very soul of its substance and requires days for personal recomposition… but this is too hasty a post – please know i’m stoked to be on board; now hand me a decent OAR why don’t you!

  • 86. Anonymous  |  November 5, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Um, forgive my ignorance here (I’m a Christian and I just sort of skimmed through the article and comments, no time for it heh heh :/ ) But is this list of categories supposed to make these arguments invalid somehow? Or is it just a list? Because as far as I can see, these are all things that I’ve observed in people leaving their faith (edit: not ALL of the reasons. I’m not about to tell you you’re being controlled by Satan or any of that garbage.) . If you’re saying these are invalid judgments, please tell me. I do believe people should think freely and believe what they want, but I don’t understand why saying something such as “You might have felt wronged by the Church because the people in it and/or that particular faith just didn’t cut it for you and/or just weren’t a good fit with you.” Again, forgive me if I sound like a jerk here, because I really don’t want to. I just want a reasonable debate and stuff.

  • 87. Ubi Dubium  |  November 5, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Anonymous, the list above is a list of the typical assumptions christians make about why we left, instead of asking us our reasons and listening to what we say. We hear these assumptions over and over, and they are not correct. I’ve never heard a single deconvert give any of the reasons listed above as a reason why they left religion.

    There is another companion post to this about “inconvenient categories” that describes the reasons why we really deconverted. You can find it here: http://de-conversion.com/2008/04/07/inconvenient-categories-the-really-real-reasons-de-cons-left-the-faith/ Read that, and see if you understand more.

  • 88. pokerstars  |  November 8, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    pokerstars…

    […]Convenient categories: Why Christians believe de-cons leave the faith « de-conversion[…]…

  • 89. stohrj@gmail.com  |  September 26, 2014 at 5:52 am

    Do not rush / push me.

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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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