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

April 7, 2008 at 10:50 am 629 comments

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 faith.

Now, with help from several folks around here, I put together a list of the inconvenient categories that amount to the real reasons why we left.

Here are the inconvenient, real reasons that a number of de-cons on this blog have given for their leaving the faith. I’ve edited them a bit for clarity, and I’ve removed some extra or explanatory text that some de-cons included. This was just to get them all down to as concise a set of statements as I could. If any of you feel I’ve overdone it, and messed up your meaning, my apologies. Please post a correction or fuller explanation.

And if you don’t see you’re reason in here, please add it in a response below.

1. God never shows up. Not in visions, miracles, visitations, angelic appearances, or challenge matches (think of Elijah vs. 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.
8. The Universe is capable of functioning without divine influence
9. There is no proof of ANYTHING supernatural
10. Christians use dishonest tactics to support their beliefs.
11. Pascal’s Wager is a horrific false dichotomy.
12. The idea that God would hurt someone to test their faith is completely disgusting.
13. “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.” –OR, as stated by another de-con¬– I took a Systematic Theology class and discovered all my deepest questions were answered with, “It’s a mystery.”
14. Christianity promised life fuller and more abundantly. Instead, it separated me from life. It made me miserable. –OR, as stated by another de-con– Having “Jesus in my heart” didn’t give me joy or peace.
15. 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?
16. There are no outlying data about the Christian Bible not explained by the 5-word sentence: “It is a human text.”
17. Evil.
18. I visited the Natural History Museum in NYC.
19. I analyzed my own religion in the same way I had others.
20. I realized Christianity’s stories are just as ridiculous and fantastical as every other religion’s.
21. Eternal punishment for wrongs committed in a mortal lifetime, or for failing to figure out which religion to follow, is in no way just or moral.
22. I stopped going to church and didn’t become a prostitute or drug addict as I was told I would if I “backslid”.
23. I read other things besides the Bible, including a lot of science books, and the other books made more sense.
24. No matter how much money I give to churches, preachers, or prosperity-gospel ministers, I’m never blessed with abundant health, wealth, or prosperity other than what I work my ass off for.
25. Original sin, The notion that God chose Adam to be the federal head of all humanity, knowing that he would fall, and that all of mankind would be born with a predisposition towards sin; that these creatures, would act in accordance with their fallen nature, and as a result would be tortured and tormented forever and ever, and that the church would call this just.
26. To be a good Christian you must continually defer your own judgment to that of a book as interpreted by your church.
27. I had sex for the first time and then I knew I’d been lied to.
28. I realized my parents lied to me about everything else too.
29. The core of Christianity is a rejection of the Jewish tradition, not the fulfillment that it declares to be, and the history of this Christian religion has only proved to be an overtly anti-semitic one.

- LeoPardus

Updated 4/8/08 to include the latest contributions.

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

Satan: The Greatest Bible Myth? Go ahead. Blow away my free will.

629 Comments Add your own

  • 1. writerdd  |  April 7, 2008 at 11:41 am

    That’s a great list and I agree with most of them. Here are two more:

    I stopped going to church and didn’t become a prostitute or drug addict as I was told I would if I “backslid”.

    I read other things besides the Bible, including a lot of science books, and the other books made more sense.

    Plus, I would revise #6 to say:

    The God depicted in the Bible is NOT loving, merciful, good, just, etc.

  • 2. karen  |  April 7, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Nice job, Leo. Thanks for doing this – it’s a keeper.

  • 3. Quester  |  April 7, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    *Applause*.

    er- what’s with 14?

  • 4. GoDamn  |  April 7, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Im guesing 14 was intentional? Coming right after ‘its a mystery’. Heh Heh, good one.

  • 5. Anonymous  |  April 7, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    #14 = ???

  • 6. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 7, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    How about:

    “No matter how much money I give to churches, preachers, or prosperity-gospel ministers, I’m never blessed with abundant health, wealth, or prosperity other than what I work my ass off for.”

  • 7. LeoPardus  |  April 7, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Well 14 was a boo boo. But it has now garnered such interesting speculation……

    I think I’ll be updating this list soon though as there are already a couple new ones. I’ll fix the numbering then.

    OR…. I could just leave it as it is and insist that the meaning of it is “a mystery”. or that it can only be “spiritually perceived”. :)

  • 8. ED  |  April 7, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Original sin, The notion that 6000 years ago, being omniscient, God, chose a man, Adam, to be the federal head of all humanity, knowing that he would fall, and that all of mankind would be born with a predisposition towards sin; that these creatures, born with a proclivity to sin, due to Adam’s transgression, would act in accordance with their fallen nature, and as a result would be tortured and tormented forever and ever, and that the church would call this just. There is absolutely no way that an omni-benevolent being, came up with that nonsense.

  • 9. Rose / Intergalactic Hussy  |  April 7, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Great points everyone!

    I don’t know of a good one to add, but I feel like saying this here anyway:
    I was raised Jewish, where Heaven and Hell are thought to be distance and/or closeness to/from god. And no one ever talks about Hell at all anyway. Heaven isn’t even mentioned all that much.

    As a young child, I was certain that Heaven and Hell were myths, something campy and cliche people said for fun or to ease mental hardships. I would say things like “I don’t know about god, but as well all know Heaven and Hell are bullshit”, not even considering or realizing for a moment that people really believed such things and would take offense. Kids say the darnedest things!

    I just felt the desire to add my little story, showing that ones who are brought up without faith (at least in certain areas), have no problem saying calling them out.

    Well, after this, I do have one to say:

    Where is Heaven & Hell, anyway? Now that we know the Earth is round, is Hell no longer below but at the Earth’s core?

  • 10. Jersey  |  April 7, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    I just woke up and smelt the coffee and realized that I was living without religion regardless.

    Plus, 8, 9, 13, 19 (only in DC rather than NYC), and 20 hit me best.

  • 11. gmcfly  |  April 7, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    How about this: To be a good Christian you must continually defer your own judgment to that of a book as interpreted by your church.

    In college I learned about Stanley Milgram’s experiment and how good people are led to do terrible things if they defer their judgment to others. If you add in 3 and 7, you can see how I quickly lost my appetite for any religion (as well as religion-like organizations).

    Oh, and the whole antigay thing was personally offensive. I guess you might call this, “Christians’ preoccupation with stuff that’s none of their business.”

  • 12. Kim  |  April 7, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    47. I had sex for the first time and then I knew I’d been lied to.

  • 13. The Apostate  |  April 7, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    How about that the core of Christianity is a rejection of the Jewish tradition, not the fulfillment that it declares to be, and the history of this Christian religion has only proved to be an overtly anti-semitic one.

  • 14. George  |  April 8, 2008 at 3:15 am

    OK, I got one…

    How about… They are all hypocrites in the church… no one is living what they are preaching… Wait… neither am I… hmmm… God must not be real.

  • 15. HeIsSailing  |  April 8, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Intergalactic Hussy sez:
    “Where is Heaven & Hell, anyway? Now that we know the Earth is round, is Hell no longer below but at the Earth’s core?”

    Believe it or not, questions like this helped my de-conversion. When I was a kid, Heaven and Hell were still thought to be literally, up there for heaven and down there hell. I remember speculation that Heaven was somewhere on the other side of Jupiter, or someplace like that.

    Well as technology and space exploration and observation continued, and we have discovered more and more about what is ‘up there’, I don’t think there is a single denomination left that still teaches that Heaven is ‘up there’ (I know I am wrong, I am sure there are some, but I am un-aware of them). Most now slip into weird language from science fiction novels, stuff about Heaven being in another parallel dimension, a ‘spiritual realm’, or some other alternate reality.

    Just observing for myself how science and understanding forced Christian thinking to change so fast on this subject, and into something so contrived to boot, showed me that Christians were frankly making this stuff up as they went along. And yeah, I bought it hook line and sinker too.

    Hell, on the other hand is still routinely taught to be in the center of the earth or the center of a star.

  • 16. bipolar2  |  April 8, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    ** You want autonomy — to become who you are **

    Becoming-who-you-are or “individuation” (to use Jung’s terminology) is the goal of personal growth. It cannot occur without self-doubt or without doubting authority and authority figures.

    When you’ve made a “leap of faith” into hyper-religious space there is no return except by self-assertion, and doubt is just a form of it.

    It’s not surprising that even attempting to leave a near-eastern religious culture which demands ’subordination’ or ’submission’ to someone else’s interpretation of an alleged “will of god” adversely affects the psychological well-being of the so-called apostate.

    You’d rather emulate defiant Prometheus and not submissive Jesus. The hero labors, struggles, succeeds, or dies trying; but throughout remains human.

    bipolar2

  • 17. exevangel  |  April 8, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I realized my parents lied to me about everything else too.

    Question everything!

  • 18. Journeyman  |  April 9, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Socrates!

  • 19. Frreal  |  April 9, 2008 at 10:34 am

    I learned the books of the Bible were written by and assembled by MEN who also chose not to include some books because MEN decided they did not satisfy their agenda despite the fact that the excluded books are referenced by the included books.

    The Lost Books of the Bible

    The Johannine Comma.

    Sargon of Akkaad

    Iron Chariots

    Hills of foreskins and talking snakes and donkeys.

    The overwhelming LACK of archaeological or written evidence to prove the flood, the Exodus, the plagues, Sodom and Gomorrah, Solomon and his great wealth, Herod and the killing of first borns but the escape of John the Baptist, Herod and the census, the telephone game played by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the errors in the geneology of Jesus, the Easter Challenge, the absence of any account concerning the dead rising and walking around following the death of Jesus.

    The fact that of all the ways God could communicate with me he chooses to have other people to tell me that God told them to tell me he exists. He writes a book like all the other religions before and after him.

    ……… Just as it would be if Man invented God.

    God has healed all sorts of ailments and even brought the dead back to life on occasion. All ailments even cancer or blindness have been healed naturally at one time or another. Yet throughout history God has never regrown an amputated limb.
    ……….. Just as it would be if Man invented God.

    God decides to save ALL of Mankind. Unfortunately God only saves the people that Christians try to save. The spread of Christianity coincidentally coincides with the devolopment of trade routes, war victories and sea worthy ships.

    ……… Just as it would be if Man invented God.

  • 20. George  |  April 9, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Frreal,

    Did you actually write: “The overwhelming LACK of archaeological or written evidence”.

    ROTFL….

  • 21. Longing for Holiday  |  April 9, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    I came from a non Christian home and came to faith independently of the family (as did my husband). Even though we both have found our faith intellectually plausible (the “mystery” argument for Biblical antimonies works for me considering we don’t really know what happens beyond four dimensions), it’s really the experience of God that made both of us know something had changed. That included a sense of God’s presence not there before and changes in our motivations and behavior that we seemed supernatural. This is what interests me with those of you who contribute to this blog: have any of you had what felt like a real experience of God and still walked away from the faith. I already know some of you will say yes (because I have seen it happen), but I wonder if it is harder to do so having had an experience. Just curious. I subscribe to this blog because it’s a good way to keep me intellectually honest… And I’m curious (I only know one long time Christian who’s walked away… mostly its been folks either brought up in Christian homes and it faith was assumed or fairly new adherents who really never got it.)

  • 22. Quester  |  April 9, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Oh yes, Longing, I had many, many experiences of what felt like God’s presence and God’s miracles in my life. Then I had nine years of not feeling any presence or witnessing any miracles during which I came to doubt my interpretations of the earlier experiences and then eventually found “intellectual reasons” to doubt God’s existence entirely (mostly in scripture).

    I still hold onto hope that I will feel God’s presence again, as many on this site hoped for years (and in some cases, decades).

  • 23. Longing for Holiday  |  April 10, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    I can’t imagine waiting for decades to hear from God again. That makes me so sad.

  • 24. LeoPardus  |  April 11, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Longing:

    have any of you had what felt like a real experience of God and still walked away from the faith

    I think that I have. But then “felt like” is the critical term there. Just because I “felt like” I experienced something, doesn’t mean I actually did. I mean the Mormons are supposed to experience the “burning in the bosom” as part of their assurance. But is psychosomatic heartburn really the thing to base your faith on?

    If you want, I can point you to my story. It’s not too long. It may help you to get some feel for how I left/lost the faith after so many years. Others hereabouts also have put their stories online. They will be glad to point you to them if you wish.

    Thank you for taking the time to ask and try to understand us. It is truly refreshing.

  • 25. Rachel  |  April 11, 2008 at 12:17 am

    Leo, I’m curious about your story if you wouldn’t mind posting a link. :)

  • 26. LeoPardus  |  April 11, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Rachel: (and of course anyone else)

    Here’s the link: http://de-conversion.org/news.php?readmore=19

  • 27. Longing for Holiday  |  April 11, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Leo: Thanks for calling me “refreshing!” And for posting your link. The folks I’ve known to “de-convert” either never really committed (in my opinion) or had really icky Christina family upbringings. I’ve had the pleasure of being aquainted most of my Christian life with balanced, mature, THINKING Christians, which, of course, encouraged my faith. I’ve not run into really thinking folks (like you all obviously are) who have left the faith, but one. (And I am still in shock with this person’s walk way. I NEVER saw it coming… ) So I am curious. Once in a while, I do a version of Pascal’s wager and I think to myself, “what if I die and find out this was all not true?” And then I think, oh, well, I still had a good life as a result of living as if it was. But, frankly, it’s more than just a feeling (and I know what you mean about feelings like the burning bosom… the plague of many churches, too), it’s something like a very deep knowing. But, still, it’s always good to question oneself (don’t I sound high minded. Hah!). If any of you out there is open to hearing a very rational defense of the faith (it doesn’t cover every point you’ve mentioned above, nor every argument, tho), I HIGHLY recommend Tim Keller’s The Reason for God (reasonforgod.com). It’s been on NYT bestseller list for weeks. By the way, I think that when so-called Christians attack you all or give unwanted advice (like I just did?), it shows not a strong faith, but a weak one, a faith that feels the need to defend God. That’s the last thing He needs from us humans…

  • 28. Longing for Holiday  |  April 11, 2008 at 8:19 am

    away, not way

  • 29. Longing for Holiday  |  April 11, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Oh one more thing.

    I just put up post called Ten Questions I’ll Ask God When I See Him

    http://lpkalal.wordpress.com/2008/04/10/ten-questions-ill-ask-god-when-i-see-him/

    I’m sure you all could add some good questions in the comments. I had a dream last night that this post went viral and that I made it to the front of wordpress. No joke!

    Help me get famous and visit!!

  • 30. Rachel  |  April 11, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    I noticed that LfH mentioned Pascal’s wager and I know that has gotten some flak on this blog, so I just thought I would mention that Pascal didn’t “wager” himself into becoming a Christian. He had some sort of mystical experience and used the wager after the fact to explain why being a Christian was reasonable.

  • 31. karen  |  April 12, 2008 at 12:24 am

    . I’ve not run into really thinking folks (like you all obviously are) who have left the faith, but one.

    Welcome, Longing, and thanks for the kind and respectful tone of your posts. We don’t always get that from Christians (I’m thinking it’s about 60/40 attack dogs vs friendly questioners?) and we appreciate it when we see it.

    Leo has just in the past couple of weeks posted some entries you might be interested in reading (if you haven’t already) on the topic of how and why we left the faith, as well as how some Christians “spin” our decisions for us.

  • 32. Dan  |  April 12, 2008 at 1:06 am

    I find it impossible to believe in God whom in the biblical story created Jesus of Nazerath. Even if I did – I wouldn’t have anything to do with him. Consider, for instance, would you toss your own son in a lake of fire?

    Dan

  • 33. Longing for Holiday  |  April 12, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Well, I believe that when he tossed His son up on the cross, He tossed Himself up there. One of the mysteries of the Trinity. He has suffered with us.

  • 34. Longing for Holiday  |  April 12, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Leo: Just read your story. Thanks.

    Two interesting points for me. One, you talked about the widespread Calvinism in the evy/fundy church. Funny, but we Calvinists see it as widespread Arminianism in the evy/fundy chruch, and also do our best to distance ourselves from the term fundy (based NOT on what it originally meant, adherence to the fundamentals, but on the current association with lambastic legalism). We pride ourselves on being the “intellectual” wing of conservative Christianity, the logical ones… And it’s from this camp that I”ve heard of more folks migrating to the Orthodox position.

    Re prayer (now, I know this will sound like a circular argument, but here goes), as a “Calvinist” (I really don’t like that term, cause it seems I follow a man, not view God in a certain way), I sometimes have a hard time asking for God to do something, because, really, He’s going to do what He’s going to do. Which would explain the studies you mentioned – we can’t really persuade God to change HIs mind. I ‘ve come to see prayer much less as a To Do list for God to accomplish, as it is a time of fellowship between two friends. A time to express my inner thoughts and to draw close to Him. A time to hear what He is up to. And unanswered prayers for me are more about finding out what He is up to (by virtue of the answer) than in getting what I want. I have experienced a sense of Him putting a prayer on my heart and seeing it answered, but that isn’t the norm.

    A nice point of emphasizing the sovereignty of God, FYI, is that we believe that just only God converts or reconverts. We can be instruments, but not means. So it takes all the pressure off of trying to persuade someone one way or the other. Maybe that’s why I can come off less fanatical than others… Plus, I can’t get why someone still convinced of the reality of Jesus would even think that nastiness would drive someone back to His arms!! It’s love that does it, if anything.

  • 35. LeoPardus  |  April 12, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Longing:

    I am still in shock with this person’s walk way. I NEVER saw it coming

    Nor did anyone see mine coming. Including me up to less than half a year of it happening.

    Once in a while, I do a version of Pascal’s wager and I think to myself, “what if I die and find out this was all not true?” And then I think, oh, well, I still had a good life as a result of living as if it was.

    And that’s really good too. Have you read the “de-conversion wager” up near the top of this blog? That’s where I’m coming from nowadays.

    If any of you out there is open to hearing a very rational defense of the faith

    No offense, but I was a Christian apologist. I’ve read more of that stuff than most people even know exists. It’s not apologetics that I’m lacking. It’s reality. A real, demonstrable deity whose absence does not need explaining.

    I think that when so-called Christians attack you all or give unwanted advice (like I just did?), it shows not a strong faith, but a weak one

    You’ve offered everything you’ve said with kindness, humility and an effort to be kind and understanding. It would be hard to really take offense at that. And you are dead right about the attack dogs. They are weak and very insecure.

  • 36. Longing for Holiday  |  April 12, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Karen: I read the list. I heartlily disagree wth most of it. However there were 3-4 that said the same thing differently and I would say I sort of agree: I do think that some folks who “de-convert” never were Christians in the sense that God never really entered their lives. That’s not a judgment on the person, just an explanation of why they could walk away. And I am saying that from the position of one who had a rather stunning conversion (over time, but stunning nevertheless in that as an 8 year old, I walked in to a faith that for years my family ridiculed) and a strong sense of God doing something. That experience — so real — so affected the trajectory of my life, that I can’t imagine walking away. So it seems logical to assume that the only person who could walk away, must never had that experience.

    HOWEVER, I know of two people who had such an experience and DID walk away. After many many years, and a life that was as far away from Christian ethics as one could go, one of these people returned to the faith and is now a full time missionary overseas. The other was a very very close friend of mine with whom I shared deep discussions of God. This person has walked away to the extent of turning to another religion and commiting adultery. When I spoke to this person recently, it was like speaking to another person from who I once knew. What does that mean? I don’t know. But another option (than that the person never became a Christian) was that such a person is on sort of a sabbatical from God. Quester mentioned he hangs onto the hope of feeling God’s presence again. I hope you all don’t mind that I pray that for you, that if indeed for some inexplicable reason, God has removed that sense of His presence, or let the line out too far, that He would graciously reel you back in. To do otherwise would be hypocrisy on my part.

  • 37. Rachel  |  April 12, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    It’s not apologetics that I’m lacking. It’s reality. A real, demonstrable deity whose absence does not need explaining.

    Leo,

    I hear ya. I really do. It makes me think of Mother Theresa’s 50 year crisis of faith. I read one commentator who talked about how she had prayed to know Christ in his sufferings and had gotten more than she bargained for. Because as we know, the very worst of Christ’s suffering was his abandonment on the cross. I think the very worst of the human experience is the silence of God, and Christ’s cry of abandonment was his protest against suffering and separation from God. That’s the only way I can make sense out of that theologically. But there are times when I feel very much like I’m flailing in the wind.

  • 38. Longing for Holiday  |  April 12, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Leo: Actually, while Tim’s book is an apologetic, it’s more, too. It sounds like you were in a healthy church for some time, wtih good teaching. My time at Redeemer under Tim was like that. One of the things I liked about his teaching and the book is that it goes beyond apologetics (and, fyi, he takes a presuppositional approach); he also gives just amazing examples of God at work. I basically came from him dealing with the same issues over and over again with New York semi-intellectual cynics (I say semi-intellectual because I think Boston is more purely intellectual…).

    Leo and Rachel: I think I told Quester this on his blog, but I have two friends (both very involved in ministry) who are struggling with doubts and not feeling God’s presence. For both of them, they hang by Peter’s words: Where shall we go, for you have the gift of eternal life. They want more, but that’s all they have now.

    Frankly, I’d rather hear you guys talk honestly about these issues than for people to be so out of touch with themselves (as am I?? sometimes I wonder) that they just spout stuff they never question.

  • 39. Longing for Holiday  |  April 12, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    I meant “It (the book) basically came…”

    I wish I could edit comments after the fact…

  • 40. LeoPardus  |  April 12, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Longing:

    we Calvinists see it as widespread Arminianism in the evy/fundy chruc

    I don’t really know what percentages of Calvinism/Arminianism you would find in the fundy churches. I suspect that you’d probably find a lot of mixes of both. (No, that isn’t sensible. It’s none the less what I’d expect.)

    We pride ourselves on being the “intellectual” wing of conservative Christianity, the logical ones

    They do have a bit of that reputation. Until you meet the Orthodox.

    And it’s from this camp that I”ve heard of more folks migrating to the Orthodox position.

    From Calvinism to Eastern Orthodoxy? I have seen that, but all the Calvinists-turned-Orthodox I know rejected Calvinism before, or at the time of, their conversion.

    I do think that some folks who “de-convert” never were Christians in the sense that God never really entered their lives.

    Well, I would agree with this in that there is no God to do such entering.

    they hang by Peter’s words: Where shall we go, for you have the gift of eternal life.

    I hung onto that too. Then I finally accepted that there is only one life. Eternity isn’t something I need concern myself with.

    [Tim] takes a presuppositional approach

    Then he’s doomed before he starts. Presuppositionalism is breaking the rules, or more accurately just refusing to even acknowledge that there are rules that govern thinking and logic.

  • 41. Longing for Holiday  |  April 12, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Leo:
    ‘Spalin that last comment. I don’t understand…

    Tiim’s stuff sure sounds reasoned and logical to me, but I guess you’d have to read it to see if you agree or not. (I can’t imagine you’d do that for the sake of this discussion, but you could check out his recent Q&A at Google: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Kxup3OS5ZhQ. There are also youtube videos from Berkeley and MIT Q&As from his book tour.)

  • 42. LeoPardus  |  April 13, 2008 at 12:10 am

    Longing:

    To explain the comment I will first set forth a definition of the basis of presuppositional apologetics. (Cut/Pasted for elsewhere)

    “The key feature of presuppositional apologetics is that the apologist must assume the truth of the supernatural revelation contained in the Bible (that is, the Christian worldview), both prior to the apologetic exercise and as the result of it.

    THAT is intellectual bankruptcy. Start with your conclusion; use it as a given in your arguments, and make sure that everything takes you back to that presumed conclusion. The simplest, common term for it is circular reasoning.

    If you use that sort of idiocy, then there is nothing to stop me from arguing in rebuttal like so:
    There is no god.
    We know this a priori
    Since then there is no god, it is clear that there can be no god, therefore there is no god, so your religious beliefs are erroneous.

    If I now take the above idiocy and add several thousand words to it (in order to hide its vapidity) and publish it in a book, it is still just plain idiocy.

    So why does Keller or van Til or Piper or any other presuppositionalist deserve anything other than complete dismissal for playing apologetic shell games? Especially when there isn’t a pea under any of the shells.

  • 43. Longing for Holiday  |  April 13, 2008 at 12:16 am

    I ‘m not smart enough to respond to that! What I know he does, however, is help folks see that very point of view re god (if he exists or not) requires faith.

    FYI, the Google video is cut off, so it seems. The Berkely one is not.

  • 44. Longing for Holiday  |  April 13, 2008 at 12:17 am

    every, not very

    Sigh my typos

  • 45. Longing for Holiday  |  April 13, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Also, if I misprepresented Tim to the point that he comes off as an idiot, I am sorry. It is best that you check him out first hand before coming to that conclusion. He always seemed logical and reasoned to me!

  • 46. LeoPardus  |  April 13, 2008 at 12:37 am

    You’re easily smart enough to see that you cannot first assume a conclusion is true, then use that assumption to construct a logical argument that leads back to the conclusion you assumed in the first place.

    As for Tim being an idiot,… I’ve met a lot of intelligent people who argue presuppositinally, and not just about God. People use presuppositional “logic” to argue for atheism, theism, conservatism, global warming, lower taxes, how to yodel, and just about everything. But is is “illegal” just the same.

    The argument that I put in post 42 was just a very simple example of how silly it is. It’s obvious because I stripped away all the confounding verbiage that people love to put around their presuppositionalism, that allows them to think that it is actually a valid argument.

    So the take home on any presuppositionalist is that he/she is hopeless from the get-go. They are using an argumentative or logical method that is WRONG. And no amount of “sounding logical” can change that.

  • 47. Longing for Holiday  |  April 13, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Well, maybe that’s not what he is doing (arguing presuppositionally…). I’ll have to think about it. It doesn’t seem that he starts with a conclusion. (oh, and the google video is working if you are interested…).

    Off to bed. My head hurts!

  • 48. karen  |  April 13, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    I do think that some folks who “de-convert” never were Christians in the sense that God never really entered their lives.

    Longing, please don’t take offense, but who are you to assume something so deeply personal and subjective about a stranger? If they SAY god entered their lives and they truly believed and had a relationship with Jesus for umpteen decades, is there an honest response required of you other than to take their words at face value?

    You see, it seems extremely arrogant to me to make sweeping assumptions about other people – whether we think we know them or whether they are complete ciphers to us. As you mentioned, you were shocked by your friend’s deconversion and you never saw it coming. How then would you know the state of someone’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) whom you’ve never met?

    That’s not a judgment on the person, just an explanation of why they could walk away.

    But why do you need to concoct an explanation that makes sense to you? Why not just say, “Wow, I don’t understand this person’s decision, and I can’t imagine making it myself, but if I’m to be respectful I must accept their life story as they tell it.”

    Richard alludes to this very point in this morning’s post, “Why Doesn’t God Make Things Clearer?”

    There didn’t have to be a good guy and a bad guy. Just two humans disagreeing. There is nothing unusual about this; we see it and take it for granted everyday. (I have since come to believe that it is this, this dichotomous, black-and-white thinking, that is the heart of fundamentalism, not the particular beliefs. But that is another essay.)

    Being able to accept that someone can validly disagree with your point of view without having to make up an explanation that validates your own point of view is tough, but I think it’s an important step to maturity in discussion with people outside your own circle of thinkers.

  • 49. The Apostate  |  April 13, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    I do think that some folks who “de-convert” never were Christians in the sense that God never really entered their lives.

    I don’t think you are really a Christian.

    Now how does that feel?

  • 50. Zoe  |  April 13, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    I remember working in the church nursery oh so many years ago. One of the co-workers more mature in age and supposed wisdom, inquired of my personal testimony.

    I shared with her my acceptance of Christ. When I was finished she told me I couldn’t be a Christian if I did it in the context of my past denomination. Those people aren’t Christians. If I were you, I’d question my salvation.

    Here I had just shared my personal and intimate born-again experience and she completely ignored it, casting it and me aside.

    I can only imagine if I had asked her for her testimony and then discounted her words what a tongue lashing I would have received.

    I never could understand that even within Christianity itself, it’s not uncommon for them to call their own, heretics, carnal, or never saved in the first place. As a deconvert, it doesn’t shock me at all when someone tosses my testimony and experience aside, because it happened all the time when I was a Christian.

  • 51. LeoPardus  |  April 13, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Zoe:

    I’ve seen/heard that so much. Sickening. One thing I really like with the EOC is that they just aren’t like that. Their official position, which I can almost quote, runs like, “We take no position on the state anyone’s salvation. While we hold that the EOC has the fullest revelation of God’s truth, we cannot know how He, in His grace, may reveal Himself to others.”

  • 52. Longing for Holiday  |  April 14, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    I am telling you all what in one’s mind is a logical explanation. From the Christian perspective: there are really two choices logically: either the person wasn’t a Christian or the person was and is temporarily not feeling like it for whatever reason. That is not a judgment. That is logic.

    Leo of course adds the outside of Christian perspective which is that if there is no God, then this is a moot point; Christianity is a figment of some peoples’ imagination (in the sense that Chrstiainity says Jesus is God) and no one is or is not a Christian since there is no god to follow. So a De-convert is aware of reality, and professed Christians are not. We who say we are Christians are deceived or living a lie. That’s another logical way to look at it. And I have to consider that (given that that is a possibility), that I am not a Christian either (since it’s a logical impossiblity to follow a god who does not exist) and I am deluding myself.

    The only thing that felt bad Apostate, was the feeling I was being yelled at for what I thought was a logical discussion and honest sharing. I am not (as others have said) blaming you all and saying you are naughty bad ex-Christians, that you have done something sinful and walkedaway from God. Who am I to say that? I am simply laying out the logical conclusions that have come to my mind. And I appreciate Leo’s having laid out another logical conclusion that I hadn’t considered.

    Leo suggests that since there is no God, then of course no one who deconverts was ever a Christian, since no one can follow a God who doesn’t exist.

  • 53. LeoPardus  |  April 14, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Longing:

    Pretty well laid out. And you definitely got what I was saying.

    FWIW I don’t think anyone is yelling at you. Folks here think that any idea should be challenged. Sometimes we challenge bluntly. It’s just to see if an idea (and the person who holds the idea) can take hard testing. No one is immune to this testing either. [I don't agree with a lot of folks hereabouts on homosexuality. When that is a topic of conversation, I get plenty challenged.] So don’t take it personally. This is only a test……..

    Now directly to something you said in post 52:
    From the Christian perspective: there are really two choices logically: either the person wasn’t a Christian or the person was and is temporarily not feeling like it

    One error here. It should start out, “From the Calvinist perspective….”

    Don’t conflate Calvinism with Christianity. The former is only one viewpoint within the latter.

  • 54. Longing for Holiday  |  April 14, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Leo:

    I KNEW you would catch that (Christian vs. Calvinist), but if you think about it, even if one were to take the other (you can “lose” salvation) point of view, what does it mean if you leave the faith? You’d either be temporarily on hold (coming back one day) or you’d be someone who walked away permanently (there’s not necessarily any coming back since there’s no eternal security guaranteed). What is a person who walked away permanently, then? Someone who decided that the original decision wasn’t valid for some reason, then wouldn’t it put that person in one of your categories? (which is similar to not ever having been a Christian since the term Christian is no longer valid…).

  • 55. Gregg  |  April 14, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    This is an interesting discussion. And following Leo’s point in #53, I wonder if we could reconcile some of our divergent views by looking at how a Calvinist approach deals with truth (and Truth)?

    Here’s what I’m getting at: Calvinism is “hard and fast” about one’s absolute position before God and how one got there—one is either saved or not, and this by God alone (grace, like a good box of chocolates, is “irresistible”). The noteworthy point is that Calvin focused on seeing things from God’s perspective. But what makes for interesting speculation (or theology) does not often make for tenable epistemology (or experience). So, following Richard Rorty, we (and Calvin) lack the epistemic “skyhook” necessary to take us up to where we can see things from God’s perspective.

    More to the point, the problem (as I see it) comes not so much from Calvin’s perspective but from what over-emphasis on the perspective forces its adherents to ignore . And what is ignored? Not our absolute situation, but our experiential, existential situation . That is, Calvin focuses on (absolute) Truth and, by and large, dismisses personal truth (call it “truth-for-me”). In other words, experience (what happens to me, how I interpret it, and how I integrate this into my own story) matters. A lot.

    So it seems to me that we can resolve (though not solve) the dispute here by differentiating Calvin’s Truth from truth-for-me (tfm). So while I can understand and agree that Longing is focusing on Truth (as she logically, following Calvin, understands it—not said pejoratively), I am rather persuaded by Karen’s point. We have to accept the de-convert’s own story (his/her “tfm”). And further, one not only cannot know whether another was or was not a Christian (even the relatively audacious St. Paul is timid on this one: see 1 Cor 4:1-5), I think this is actually beside the point. Because we seek not some absolute state-of-affairs after-death but a real, living, here-and-now relationship. Or at least that’s my game.

    And that takes us back to Leo’s #1 point (initial article): the problem of God not “showing up.” However it may be done, I wager that solving this issue require experiencing and understanding this Truth on a human level, though not as the truth of Sovereignty (see my comments on this in Comment #68, http://de-conversion.com/2008/04/09/go-ahead-blow-away-my-free-will/#comment-18501).

    Rather, I believe that Truth and tfm must intersect (such that God “shows up” in ways that I can understand, experience, and feel while yet being bigger than me—the God I meet must really be God ). But the result of this intersection must not only be the possibility of my tfm being confirmed (because I know some true things), critiqued, and ultimately expanded by something greater (sovereignty). No, instead this intersection must take place in the experiential context which somehow communicates a love that loves me as much as and beyond how I love myself (both confirming and surpassing my self-love).

    I think, at the end of the day, God must show Godself as “more,” and this “more” is a chiefly a matter of truth an love.

  • 56. karen  |  April 14, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I am telling you all what in one’s mind is a logical explanation. From the Christian perspective: there are really two choices logically: either the person wasn’t a Christian or the person was and is temporarily not feeling like it for whatever reason. That is not a judgment. That is logic.

    Sorry, but that is a judgment which comes from your own theological corner, not from “logic” per se. Logic would consider many different possibilities, such as “maybe I don’t rightly understand what’s going on here so I should suspend drawing any conclusions”‘; or “maybe I’m not interpreting scripture correctly and there are many other ways of viewing this”; or “maybe god doesn’t care so much whether one claims allegiance to any particular theological beliefs at all.”

    Be careful about putting a very narrow mindset on and calling it “the Christian perspective.” That may be the fundamentalist perspective, or the Calvinist perspective, but your black-and-white dichotomy (they were never true Christians or they’re backsliders) does not reflect the far larger world of moderate and liberal Christianity.

  • 57. LeoPardus  |  April 14, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Longing:

    Someone who decided that the original decision wasn’t valid for some reason… is similar to not ever having been a Christian since the term Christian is no longer valid…

    The noun “Christian” would remain valid because it means (in this case), “one who believes in and practices the Christian faith”.

    So in my case, I believed and practiced for 25 years. I was a Christian. Now I do not believe or practice. I am no longer a Christian.

    BUT, if we use another definition (like unto what you are working with), “one who is saved, or in a state of grace, or accepted by God, or has eternal life”, then we run into an intractable problem. Namely, how do we know who is in such a state. Those are all things that only God could know.

    So, using Calvinist standards, you can never know if anyone, even yourself, is a Christian.

    After all, you cannot know but that you may really NOT be a Christian (Calvinist def.), and one day you will leave the faith/church/etc and live the rest of your life a Hindu.

    AND, for all you know, I may be the real Christian (Calvinist def.) in this exchange. For how do you know but that one day I may return to the fold and live my life out as a priest?

    That’s one of the BIG problems with Calvinism’s “logic”. It’s circular. You can never KNOW where you stand. You know what that amounts to right? Eternal insecurity.

  • 58. Adrian  |  April 15, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    One of my first blogs was on the dichotomy between the vengeful, wrathful God of the Old Testament and the loving, parental and forgiving God of the New Testament. Somewhere during the process of writing that blog, I realized how silly even discussing the differences seemed. I didn’t really believe in either of them, although I sort of missed believing in the paternal Father figure. I have settled on the idea of the Great Initiator God who really could care less about humainty and just provided the spark for the creation of the uni/multiverse. I call it the Big Bang God. It’s really just a holdover from my childhood and my upbringing, but it’s proving to be the most difficult to dispense.

  • 59. Adrian  |  April 15, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    BTW, has anybody got an explanation for the “Ineffability of God’ issue? I always hit a wall with this.

    It goes something like this: Man cannot know the will of God.
    God’s will is spelled out in the Bible.
    Men wrote the Bible by God’s will.
    So, if Man cannot know the will (or mind, as some say) of God, how the hell could Man have written it down as a representation of His will? That’s like a stenographer being deaf and blind and typing War and Peace just by guessing what Dostoyvsky (sic) wanted to say. There is NO evidence given to the stenographer of what has been said. Basically, over a billion people on earth are following a doctrine that may or may not be what God wanted them to follow.

    Two words: Crap Shoot

  • 60. Longing for Holiday  |  April 17, 2008 at 12:17 am

    I tell you, there are some smart folks in this comment section. I think I’d like to sit down with some of you and just listen. I’ve learned alot… and gotten confused, too!

    Anyway, yes, Leo: eternal insecurity could be a problem. Then there’s that assurance deal. And the evidence over time. That “sense” (of course, which could be heartburn!) and the changes (of course, which happen to everyone) are part of my evidence. But, I may die and find out it was all a fable. Still, there’s that Jesus guy. He just seems like He was something (and I really sense I know Him… oops, there goes that feeling.)

    Regarding presuppositional apologetics. My husband (a pastor) and I talked about this (he’s going to come here and check all this out soon) and we both had heard your explanaton of what it is, but we’ve seen it used more to reveal the unwitting presuppositions others hold. I think that’s how Keller uses it in his book, more than what you describe.

    Finally, I am truly sorry I so hastily used words that were categories of understanding to me but may have hurt others. I HATE upsetting people. Is it fair to say this: people who are no longer Christians (or who are thinking of deconverting) will either 1) exit Christianity permanently or 2) return at some point.

    I haven’t looked around this site too much, but am curious. You call it resources for skeptical, deconverting… Are any of these resources those that could help the person return to Christianity if they want to find a reason to return (i.e., wanted to address their skepticism)? If not, I’ll be glad to offer myself as such a resource (not that I’ll prove to be helpful, but I wanted to make the offer).

  • 61. Slapdash  |  April 17, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Longing for Holiday,

    Why should this website include resources to help people return to Christianity? If I wanted to return to it, I have scads of friends, family, members, and church connections in real life to turn to. The whole point, and joy, of this site is that there are *so* *few* resources to help people who are struggling, asking questions, deconverting. Resources for returning to the faith are not generally unrepresented in the world, or on the ‘net.

    Apart from that, it strikes me as a strange offer: do websites intended to bolster faith offer resources to help people who just might want to leave the faith?

  • 62. HeIsSailing  |  April 17, 2008 at 9:36 am

    LongingForHoliday:
    “Are any of these resources those that could help the person return to Christianity if they want to find a reason to return (i.e., wanted to address their skepticism)? ”

    There is a regular bunch of Christians who visit this site and sometimes debate our reasoning for leaving the Faith (and they are welcome to do so). That is about the only resource here for returning to Christianity. I don’t visit this site as often as I used to – I used to be a regular contributor of articles. But the resources mentioned here is mostly just a sense of community for us apostates, doubters and skeptics. Upon first losing our faith, we are often very confused and bewildered. Sometimes we have spouses who are just as confused at our lose of faith. Many of us have approached our pastor or priest with our doubts and are very dissatisfied with the results.

    Some of us have been threatened divorce, and Christian churches are not equipped to handle this problem. Some of us have been shunned and treated very poorly by our old Christian communities and have nowhere else to turn. Some of us are even pastors who are terrified of confronting our congregations with our doubts and losing our only means of livelihood.

    The resource that this site has provided for me is a reassurance that I am not alone, and I am not crazy, and yes indeed – and confirmation that I DID have good reasons for leaving Christianity. There are many apostates in the church who are just afraid to speak up.

  • 63. Gregg  |  April 17, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Slapdash,

    You wrote “Why should this website include resources to help people return to Christianity? If I wanted to return to it, I have scads of friends, family, members, and church connections in real life to turn to. . . . Resources for returning to the faith are not generally unrepresented in the world, or on the ‘net.”

    I beg do differ, or at least to re-define.

    Bound up with any notion of returning to Christianity is why one left in the first place. And one of the few consistent themes I have read across so many entries on this site is that people left Christianity because they realized that something about it was false. In other words, a departure of this nature is always a movement from less truth to more truth: “decon’s” are truth-seekers (and truth-finders)!

    If this is the case, then I’m not sure how your comments apply. Because any notion of return to Christianity will always be intimately related to the truth we have found (I call it truth-for-me). I will never reject this truth-for-me, but will always seek more of. By corollary, any legitimate return to Christianity must confirm—not deny—this valuable truth-for-me that I have acquired.

    But this is just the thing that my “friends, family, members, and church connections” didn’t have: if they had them, I may not have left. And further, because what an authentic return to Christianity needs is a new way of conceptualizing the faith (and a new, living experience of God), I actually know of no resources on the ‘net that offer this.

    Those who have left Christianity have done so, it seems to me, for a desire for more truth. So if there are resources for living better, those resources begin with truth-for-me. And if there are possibilities (for those who have left) to return to Christianity, I believe that this return can begin only where Christianity’s (absolute) Truth intersects with this truth-for-me.

  • 64. LeoPardus  |  April 17, 2008 at 11:20 am

    On returning to the faith, I just don’t see it as a problem. Just start going back to church. Whether it’s where you were before, or a new one. People will be happy to have you. If it’s your old church, folks will be so glad that “the Lord brought you back”. If it’s a new church, they will be happy that you “saw the errors of your old confession”, and “found your way through the wilderness of unbelief” to finally get to “the true faith”. [Of course those are only approximate responses. In reality you'd get more variety. Including some who would be suspicious of your "return".]

    Frankly what would any “resource for returning” be? Just walk back in and pick up your hymnal.

  • 65. Tim  |  April 17, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Excuse me for hopping in like this, mid-debate, but I understand exactly what Gregg’s saying here. For example, if I were an Evolutionist Christian trying to convince a Creationist Christian to think like I do, then that’s the example of “more truth” in terms of scientific research, understanding fallacies that I have found in Creationism, and so on.

    However, for me to argue the other way, from Evolution to Creationism, you’re going to have to provide resources that provide “more convincing truth” than what is presented from science. The only way that tends to happen in the current culture is by discounting science as biased heresy (or putting hands over your ears and screaming, so you drown out the noise from the scientists), not by providing more fundamentally sound science.

    Where the ID movement gained a bit of traction, was by suggesting to “truth seekers” that there was, in fact, better science to be found than what had been presented in the Creation/Evolution debate. Unfortunately, when you peel away the jargon that comes along with ID, you end up finding Creationism wrapped up in different clothing.

    I don’t really have any recommendations, other than to continue to pursue the truth, even if it means discarding things that I’ve long-held to be true. Even so, I’ll posit that, short of any “Matrix-like” reality layered on top of reality, there is almost certainly objective reality and absolute truth, even if no humans are ever able to figure it out.

    Edging toward absolute truth, tirelessly pursuing it (in a manner akin to my blog entry about trying to determine the exact nature of Pi, but always ending up at an approximation) is for me, part and parcel to the journey. If I ever come to the place where I think I’ve got it all figured out (for me, much less anyone else), I probably need my head examined. – Tim

  • 66. Gregg  |  April 17, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Sorry, Leo, I’m not sure I’m understanding you. Are you saying that you left Christianity because you had a “perception” that it was not correct, or perhaps because your “preference” was for something less organized (agnosticism or atheism, for example)? I think not.

    So why are you reducing the notion of returning to Christianity to the “perceptions” of church-goers? How can you ignore the fact (you would call it that, wouldn’t you?) that your beef was that you found that Christianity was not true? And if it is not true, then how on earth can you return to it unless a) you magically re-construe your attachment to truth (or truth-for-me, as I call it) into a mere “perception” or a “preference”, or b) the (absolute) Truth of Christianity somehow is both confirmed by and confirms my truth, truth-for-me.

    On my point a), above, I am incredulous that a “de-con” such as yourself would be willing to sacrifice the truth that you’ve found (for it is truth: you call your very list of reasons for deconverting real in the sense of “true”).

    So its not (nor ever has been) about how people would feel about or respond to someone coming back to Christianity, but about whether such a return is possible and, if so, under what conditions. And that is my point b). And pretty clearly, by your own admission (it is a fairly lengthy list that you’ve drawn up in this article, above), this is about waaay more than “pick[ing] up your hymnal.”

    Unless the leopard has changed his spots.

  • 67. Gregg  |  April 17, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks for your comments on moving towards “more truth,” Tim. So yes, I want to moving towards a fuller and fuller conception of the real, but to do so I think that we need to broaden our conception of reality. In other words, I want to consider truth as understanding “reality” as meaning both the true (versus false) and the actual (as the current state-of-affairs, versus the possible [as what may be]).

    I’ve written more about this in entry entry #32 (http://de-conversion.com/2008/04/13/god-and-the-irs-part-ii/). So while I agree that we want to find out more truth (like more and more decimal values of Pi), yet truth is greater than scientific truth: beauty and love have a relationship to truth.

  • 68. Anonymous  |  April 17, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    The reasons why some peolpe leave the faith is because they feel that Christianity is wrong. I say that it is okay to feel that way because you are right. But just because there are some questionable parts or people in a religion, does that mean that you should give up on it? Of course not! Life is filled with mysteries, and so is religion, every religion, and it is up to us to make the best use of it we can.

  • 69. Anonymous  |  April 17, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    God is loving, but people often corrupt the real image of God. This comes from the quote “Man adds fear to God’s message.” Its seems like atheists believe in a God of wrath and judgment, seeing that many of them use false messages from God from the Bible. In this world, no one wants to see a loving and nonjudging God. If they saw the real God, athiests wouldn’t try to disprove Christianity and Christians would have no way or means of controlling others. As for proving that God exists, I cannot answer that or prove that to you. It is up to you to look inside yourselves to find the unique experience and meaning that God has to you.

  • 70. LeoPardus  |  April 17, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Its seems like atheists believe in a God of wrath and judgment,

    One of the sillier statements I’ve seen in a while.

  • 71. LeoPardus  |  April 17, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Gregg:

    Are you saying that you left Christianity because you had a “perception” that it was not correct

    I left because I am reasonably certain that there is no god.

    So why are you reducing the notion of returning to Christianity to the “perceptions” of church-goers?

    I’m not. I simply don’t see what anyone thinks “resources for returning to the faith” are. If you come to believe the faith is true, then go back to church. What resource do you need for that?

    As for me returning (and some others here too), it would require God showing up in a clear and unmistakable way. If that happened then I would be convinced that my current position is wrong (i.e. untrue). I would then return fully to the faith. (Unless of course God showed up and said that some other faith was the way to go.)

    Unless the leopard has changed his spots.

    There’s an article around here where you can see my icon rendered much larger. As you’ll see, I can’t change my spots….. ’cause I’m a melanistic leopard. :)

  • 72. karen  |  April 17, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    I’m not. I simply don’t see what anyone thinks “resources for returning to the faith” are. If you come to believe the faith is true, then go back to church. What resource do you need for that?

    I agree. No church would turn away a prodigal son or daughter who came in asking to rejoin the fellowship after a deconversion. To the contrary, the “backslider” would likely be given the spotlight for their testimony at the next worship service or prayer meeting! There’s nothing more juicy for a fundy or evangelical congregation than hearing a repentant sinner.

    Not to mention there are umpteen million Christian websites, blogs and forums online, and they represent the spectrum from the most conservative fundamentalist belief to the most far-out liberal New Age-style Christian hybrid.

    Why would we need to duplicate any of that here on a site that is aimed specifically at supporting and encouraging deconverts?

  • 73. Longing for Holiday  |  April 17, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    WOW. You can understand why when I said
    I’ll be glad to offer myself as such a resource

    that I also said “not that I’ll prove to be helpful…”

    (and maybe you should change the name to “Support for those….”)

    I am sure there would be many in churches who would welcome you back to the faith, but I imagine (from what some of you said) that those are the same people who helped render Christianity “not truth” by their actions and/or words.

    I would also imagine there are folks here, who while they are moving toward de-conversion, aren’t sure they really want to go, but are wavering. And you guys are such a smart crowd that not many Christians could really address your concerns. So, if you went back to the church, it wouldn’t be because the majority of those sitting in pews could speak to your concerns. Having said that, I realize in retrospect how unhumble it might have been to make an offer – like I could answer the questions myself. HA! The best I can do is sort of follow some of your discussions!! Maybe the most I could do is listen and pray (to a God who may or may not exist!). So, the offer still stands!

  • 74. Longing for Holiday  |  April 17, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    I don’t know how to undo italics and have no idea where that smiley face came from.

  • 75. Gregg  |  April 17, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Hi Leo,

    I’m more than a bit confused. You seem to be saying one thing and then contradicting it—let me show you what I mean.

    In the first instance, you write, “I simply don’t see what anyone thinks ‘resources for returning to the faith’ are. If you come to believe the faith is true, then go back to church. What resource do you need for that?”

    In the second instance, you write, “As for me returning (and some others here too), it would require God showing up in a clear and unmistakable way. If that happened then I would be convinced that my current position is wrong (i.e. untrue). I would then return fully to the faith.”

    Here’s the problem I see with these two quotes. On the one hand, then, we agree that it is not a matter of preference, but of truth (or truth as far as I can perceive it: truth-for-me). But this means that one must feel pretty sure about one’s decision—worldviews are, by their nature, all-involving and thus giving one up in favour of another is never done lightly: it’s a painful process (as your bio in “Hello, my name is…” points to, I think).

    On the other hand, however, believing that “the faith is true” would require this “true” faith being other than what one had before—for I know that certain important things about this old faith are false. Yet how do we bridge the gap? I suggest that we can only do so by having more resources than our Christian pasts’ provided.

    And what are the resources, then?

    First, the most important follows from your comment about God “showing up.” So while I agree that this must be “unmistakable,” yet if God is a subject to be related to (and not an object to be grasped) then surely God should have some say in what manner God will “show up” (my wife has certain views on what how she will—and will not—participate in a discussion on contentious issues, which is her right: should not God be permitted similar rights?).

    But second, this of course is predicated on just who this God is. And here again, we need newresources in order to construe God in a new way. For example, as you have noted, Calvinism is enormously problematic. And further, as you replied to me): “Gregg: Sounds like we are on the same page. We need a God who answers not with words, but with God-self. Words to that effect are just what I’m about.” Yet how this may happen (i.e., how God answers with God-self and not with words) is not (or at least not in my experience) discussed and formulated in a viable way in churches. So the resources also include better ways of conceptualizing (and exegeting—so my comments on N. T. Wright) who God is.

    And third, the “clear and unmistakable way” in which we want God to show up (for here again I agree with you) must be intimately related (maybe even must “follow from”?) the preceding two points: a) how God may show up based on b) who God is. And this relationship, as I have tried to show elsewhere (#’s 10, 14, 18, etc.), must relate to who I am. So when I say that it was as clear as “sky-writing” that I was in love with my wife, I’m not saying that it was actually sky-writing (or that anyone else would necessarily view it as such). But it was overwhelmingly clear to me—it was true for me. Better formulating the relationship between Truth and truth-for-me then also seems essential.

    In the end, knowledge is personal knowledge, intimately related to what I have experienced and how I interpret it. So we need resources to construe more productively this relation, whence I have been focusing elsewhere on the relationship between my story and the biblical story (above, #’s 10, 14, 18, etc.). And it is in these three areas that resources are needed, because they aren’t to be found in churches—at least the ones I’ve been a part of.

  • 76. Gregg  |  April 17, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Oops! Seems like my links directly to particular comments didn’t work.

    In order, they are: Go Ahead, Blow away my Free Will #’s 51 and 75; God and the IRS (part II); If Christians are Wrong # 16.

  • 77. James  |  April 23, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    I got sick of not feeling any better after going to confession.

  • 78. LeoPardus  |  April 23, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    I got sick of not feeling any better after going to confession.

    Hey! Someone else who’s been through this. Hi James.

    I’m guessing you were in the Catholic church. Mine was Orthodox. (Actually I still go there, but I no longer believe, and I sure don’t do confession.)

    Most of the folks where I go are converts to Orthodoxy. I remember a number of them telling me how the felt “freed” or “cleansed” after their first confession. (I’ve also heard lifelong O’s and C’s say this sort of thing.) I did two confessions, and they were big nothings. I couldn’t even make any sense out of it from a Biblical perspective. I mean if God forgives when I tell Him my sins, and the Bible says he does, what the hell good does it do to have a priest hear my sins and tell me God forgave them?

    Anyway I just did two confessions, saw how empty it was, and said, “Forget it. God can forgive me and the priest can find other things to do.” Later of course I realized that there was no God to forgive me (or to sin against for that matter.)

  • [...] Inconvenient categories: The really real reasons de-cons leave the faith [...]

  • 80. clive smit  |  July 15, 2008 at 7:32 am

    1. God never shows up. Not in visions, miracles, visitations, angelic appearances, or challenge matches (think of Elijah vs. the Baal priests).

    Who are you to assert that?
    Do you know what happens in other people’s experiences?
    How do you know that miracles , visions, angelic visitations aren’t occurring?

    Common guys, for a bunch of thinking people… LAME!

    2. Prayers are NOT answered.

    See above.

    3. Christians are NOT different from non-Christians.

    I know Christians who are different.
    That’s like saying there are no intellectuals who think differently.
    Talk about stereotyping!

    4. Church disunity.

    And there is no argument in the scientific community?
    Common!
    What about the churches that are unified… or doesn’t that fit?

    I found this post disappointing I must say. I’m all for questioning things, but common, this post was just shameful (not to say there weren’t some good things in it)

  • 81. ubi dubium  |  July 15, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Clive-
    The point of this article is not to try to prove or disprove each of the above points.

    The point is that christians are frequently showing up here, and telling us all about “why we deconverted”. What they usually say to us is listed in the “convenient categories” post, and they are usually totally wrong about us.

    If you are going to come here and preach at us (and we’ve heard it all before: some of the de-cons are ex-pastors) you should take a moment to listen to the reasons why we actually left. Then, when you talk to us, you at least know what subjects to talk about. If you are looking for further discussion on those topics, please see all the articles on the rest of this website.

  • 82. The Apostate  |  July 15, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Aww come on ubi, give clive smit a break – don’t you want to hear more responses such as “LAME”? I always appreciate the loving displays of wisdom and high level of articulation of these former peers of mine.

  • 83. ubi dubium  |  July 15, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Yes, TA, I do get a laugh from them! But I usually go to venganza.org for my daily dose of laughing at christinanity. Here, I’d really rather have some intelligent conversation. And not with evangelists who think their arguments are stronger when they put them in ALL CAPS. :)

  • 84. The Apostate  |  July 15, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    And not with evangelists who think their arguments are stronger when they put them in ALL CAPS.

    You mean it doesn’t make it stronger? I was just about to re-convert.

  • 85. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 15, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    People need to learn about using <em> html tags.

  • 86. clive smit  |  July 17, 2008 at 6:13 am

    it seems you’re all good to pay Christians out, but you don’t like the challenge when it comes it your way. Hope I didn’t hurt your feelings Apostate.
    PS: I never once said I had all the answers, you shouldn’t stereotype.

    I would never tell you about why you de-converted.
    I’m on the sight to engage in conversation, not preach. Not attack or belittle.

  • 87. John Morales  |  July 17, 2008 at 6:21 am

    Clive, what was that challenge again?

  • 88. The Apostate  |  July 17, 2008 at 10:07 am

    clive, why would you think you hurt my feelings? There are no challenges in your post: just type in some keywords that you wrote in the search bar on the top right of the page and you will see we have dealt with such “challenges” on numerous occasions. I would highly recommend attending a seminary with a good apologetics program if I were you. We see many great challenges from Christians on this site, but those are hardly worthy of repeating the same tired answers to the same tired questions.

  • 89. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 17, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Indeed, Clive, each one of those four points you made originally have been dealt with quite thoroughly on this site, if you’d take the time to find them.

    I’m on the sight to engage in conversation, not preach. Not attack or belittle.

    Uh huh…

    Previously:

    Common guys, for a bunch of thinking people… LAME!

    and:

    I’m all for questioning things, but common, this post was just shameful

    You’re right, I don’t see how anyone could assume those statements are attacking or belittling. *end sarcasm*

    Also, you need to learn the difference between “come on” or “c’mon” and “common.” Trying to read those sentences was painful.

  • 90. LeoPardus  |  July 18, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    clive:

    Someone pointed out your errors in the English language. Since it appears you’re a native speaker, do we take it you are dyslexic? Just asking so that no one bothers you about your spelling or grammar if you can’t help yourself.

    1. God never shows up. Not in visions, miracles, visitations, angelic appearances, or challenge matches (think of Elijah vs. the Baal priests).
    Who are you to assert that?
    Do you know what happens in other people’s experiences?
    How do you know that miracles , visions, angelic visitations aren’t occurring?

    Never in my experience, nor in the experience of the people on this blog, nor in the experience of anyone I know personally has a miracle occurrred. There are certainly claims by people, as we all know, however I usually have no means of confirming those claims. And when I do have means, it turns out not to be a miracle; just normal life combined with wishful thinking.

    Maybe there are miracles, but there are no confirmable ones so far as I’ve ever been able to trace. I won’t base my faith on ‘maybes’.

    2. Prayers are NOT answered.
    See above.

    See above.

    3. Christians are NOT different from non-Christians.
    I know Christians who are different.
    That’s like saying there are no intellectuals who think differently.
    Talk about stereotyping!

    Look in the archives for the post “Reasons why I can no longer believe: 3 – Unchanged lives” Especially the italicized paragraph Karen wrote.

    You may also look in the mirror. What will you see? Will you see a youth minister who is filled with love and compassion for the lost? Or will you see a self-righteous, derisive prater who shows up in blogs and treats the denizens there with belittlement, put-downs, and contempt? …. And you’re different from non-Christians just how…..?

    Oh, and you do believe in the Golden Rule right? (After all, it’s right from Jesus’ lips.) So you do WANT us to treat you with sarcasm, belittlement, derisiveness, contempt, put-downs, and so on don’t you?

    4. Church disunity.
    And there is no argument in the scientific community?

    Do you know what a non-sequitur is?

    You’ve of course tossed out a typical non-sequitur that the utterly, scientifically ignorant like to make. Here, let me try to help you with a process called “thinking it through”.

    1-Where was it ever said that the scientific community is supposed to be unified? (I’ll help you here: “Nowhere” is the answer.) Now the scientific community is unified on some things: the laws of momentum, the efficacy of antibiotics, etc. On those things thought they have a mass of data that all points one way.

    2-Where was it said that the church is supposed to be unified? (Answer: in the Bible. Do you need help finding the verses?)

    3-Now think about the claims of the church. It claims to have absolute truth, straight from the omniscient God. It also claims to be made up of people filled with the spirit of that God. Yet, you find them quarreling and dividing and contradicting on everything. Does this make you think they really represent “the one, true, God”?? Is this the unity that Jesus was praying for?

    What about the churches that are unified… or doesn’t that fit?

    NAME ONE!!!!!!!!! Hells bells man! You can’t find a unified church even if you just look in the doors of Hometown Community Church on the corner of 1st and Main.

    I found this post disappointing

    I think we all found your response disappointing. We keep looking for thinking Christians to visit. (And they do.) In your case though I think the best single term to apply is …… LAME.

  • 91. Joe  |  July 18, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    LOL—-Reading the exchanges above is hilarious. It reminds me of thee “intellectuals” sitting in the restaurant and demeaning others:

    Leo “Oh good lord, he used the word “lame”. What bus from Mississippi did he get off of? (chuckles around the table) Pass the caviar would you dear?”

    The Apostate: “Here you are. Yes, these dim-wits descend on this place and think they can sit in the same restaurant and make such undignified comments. (taps at corners of mouth with a silk napkin)

    John: “I’ll bet they use caps when they are trying to make a point on a blog. They’d forget their own middle name if you didn’t remind them” (titters all about) Well, that fat illegal person should be just about done waxing my car by now—ta ta, gotta go.”

    Sorry—just reminded me of a scene like that was all. Really—just “TRYING” (oops,” trying”) to be funny.

  • 92. Joe  |  July 18, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    It reminds me of thee

    Sorry–meant to say “three”

  • 93. Joe  |  July 18, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    By the way—-

    I know you could just as easily re-write the scene using (3) rude christians too. LOL I’d like to see it. Most likely it would be hilarious. :>)

  • 94. LorMarie  |  July 31, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    I personally cannot stand the concept of election and predestination . To simply create someone in order to torture them in hell suggests a cruel God. That really is what that boils down to…creating someone just to send them to hell.

  • 95. Leonard  |  August 1, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    The cause of the confusion is probably misunderstanding about the basic concept of why must believing in God, regardless of religion:

    1. There cannot be creation without creator.
    2. The intelligent human being is a proof of infinitely intelligent creator, there is a cause to human existence.
    3. Afterlife might seems illogical, but eternity is not, things cannot be really destroyed, they only change from one being into another, for example water into clouds into ice. Matter are neither created nor just came into existence without a cause. Prima Causa, or the cause of every things should have be existed.

    Finite man’s intelligence cannot grabs the infinite intelligence, like a snail cannot understand computer.

  • 96. rover  |  August 1, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Leonard:

    What?

  • 97. Jasper  |  August 1, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Finite man’s intelligence cannot grabs the infinite intelligence, like a snail cannot understand computer.

    A better way to put that might be to say “like a teacup cannot ride a bicycle”. it makes more sense.

  • 98. LeoPardus  |  August 1, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    LorMarie:

    Re post #94 – RIGHT ON! That’s part of why I rejected Calvinism long ago.

  • 99. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 1, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    A friend of mine apparently comes from some subset of Calvinism, and believes that some people are predestined for heaven, but that no one is predestined for hell.

  • 100. LeoPardus  |  August 1, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Leonard:

    There cannot be creation without creator.

    I’d actually agree with this. Now you have a problem. What if the universe isn’t a creation? What if it just happened over huge amounts of time?
    What I’m getting at is that just because you call it “creation” doesn’t mean that in fact it was created. So what you’ve stated is really a sort of petitio principii.

    The intelligent human being is a proof of infinitely intelligent creator, there is a cause to human existence.

    Here again you have the same problem as your first statement. You start with a presupposition that you insist is s priori knowledge and proceed from there. Petitio principii again.

    Afterlife might seems illogical, but eternity is not,

    Huh?

    things cannot be really destroyed, they only change from one being into another, for example water into clouds into ice.

    People who have no scientific education need to avoid trying to use science-based arguments. You just wind up looking like a complete idiot when you try this around those who actually do know their science. Here’s a suggestion. Try asking questions about things like this, instead of showing off your ignorance.

    Matter are neither created nor just came into existence without a cause. Prima Causa, or the cause of every things should have be existed.

    This sentence is really bad and is hardly the first glaring error in your writing. Is English not your native language? If it isn’t, (or if you’re dyslexic) then you can be forgiven such bloopers.

    As to the statement itself, the logical error here is, I believe, ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’.

    Finite man’s intelligence cannot grabs the infinite intelligence, like a snail cannot understand computer.

    This won’t’ stop you from “telling” us all about an infinite deity though, will it?

    Sign up for some science courses, and add on a course in logic too.

  • 101. LeoPardus  |  August 1, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    SB:

    A friend of mine apparently comes from some subset of Calvinism, and believes that some people are predestined for heaven, but that no one is predestined for hell.

    That is called “single predestination”. It’s nicer than double predestination, but just as nonsensical.

  • 102. Jasper  |  August 1, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    This Psychic I know does “Life Flow Charts” which chronicle the ups and downs your life will take. 80% of these flow-charts that she does for people end with an arrow pointing down rather than up, so there might be something to that Calvinistic doctrine after all.

  • 103. JC  |  August 11, 2008 at 12:06 am

    So after I’ve read these two post are there any other “must read” sections? where do I go from here?

    I haven’t ever called myself a decon but I have chosen to leave “make believe” for many of the reasons stated above…

  • 104. Quester  |  August 11, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Welcome, JC.

    You’ve now read about who we are and who we aren’t, more or less. Leo, what’s that third post you keep recommending? I can neither remember nor find reference to it. Speaking of finding, I can’t find the post warning against trollish behaviour or feeding the trolls, either. That might be a good introductory read, as well.

    Otherwise, JC, read what sparks your interest and respond where you think you have something to contribute, or a question to ask.

    You may also choose to drop by the Forums and introduce yourself there.

    I hope this helps.

  • 105. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 11, 2008 at 2:25 am

    I believe the third post that’s been recommended is By the way, who are the de-cons?

  • [...] Attention Christian Readers Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted. [...]

  • 107. AJ  |  August 24, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    In this “holy” Bible, it says that you can’t get to heaven “by good works alone”. So why are so many people threatened by the church with the possibility of going to hell if they don’t do good deeds for their fellow man (or church – cha-ching!)?

    Christians appear to me to be the single most hypocritical group in the world. “Love thy neighbor – but not if he’s gay!” “Do not murder – unless it’s a bad guy!” “Do not molest little boys – unless you’re a pastor/priest, then we’ll sweep it under the rug!”

    WHERE. THE. HELL. ARE. THE. DINOSAURS?

  • 108. LeoPardus  |  August 24, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    AJ:

    What amazes me is the willingness of religious people to just ignore what their holy books say.

    In the case of the Bible and good works, you’ve got Matt 25 (the sheep and the goats), John 5:29, Romans 2:6, 13, most of James (esp 2:22), 1 Peter 1:17, Revelation 2:23, Revelation 20:12.

    There are more of course.

    Hey let’s beat the silly ass apologists to the punch.

    “Well you’re not saved by works, your saved by faith. Then you do works if you’re really saved.”

    “It’s not by works ‘alone’, but you should have them.”

  • 109. orDover  |  August 24, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Don’t forget, the more good works you do, the more jewels you get in your heavily crown.

  • 110. pastoreric  |  August 24, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    The God depicted in the Bible is NOT loving, merciful, good, just, etc

    As I agree with most of these reasons to leave Christianity, I must say that remember the Word “Christian” was never meant to be some stereotypical organization that you become a part of. The word Christian was a derogetory comment used to identify people with followers of Jesus Christ. However, let me say in response to this statement about God. If you only read the old testament, then you might only see God in this fashion. However, If you read the New Testament you will see God in a much different light. Jesus Christ was an atonement for your sin. That says it all! If tha’t not all of these combined above than I don’t know what is?

  • 111. bigham  |  September 10, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Greetings,

    I have a proposal. You know how news stations that clearly lean to one side of the aisle or the other always have a “token” guy who leans the other way. He’s basically the guy that nobody likes. For example, conservative Fox News has that guy that nobody likes or listens to. He is a liberal who is doggedly devoted to the liberal cause. He is always outnumbered, and nobody really gives him any consideration. So, why is he on the show? Because it gives the show at least a facade of credibility.

    So, my idea is this. What do you guys think about allowing me to be “that guy”? I can be the one Christian (or the one “de-convert” who “re-converted,” if you like) on the “program.”

    I can be that guy that nobody really considers, that guy that nobody agrees with, but that guy that you can point to and say “we consider their views, but disagree with them.”

    So, whadya think?

  • 112. bigham  |  September 10, 2008 at 11:10 am

    (Oh, and if you worry about me overloading the site with too many posts, I wouldn’t be opposed to certain restrictions- such as a word limit for my posts, a post-per-week limit, etc.)

  • 113. Quester  |  September 10, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Bigham,

    You’d be (by an approximate count) the twenty-somethingth “that guy” to post on this site since I joined it last November. Most of them don’t last more than a month or three, though some doggedly persist. We have no real way of stopping you if you decide to be yet another.

    We also have a small handful of respectful and intelligent theists who come to learn more than to preach. They share their point of view, but more often seek to truly understand ours. If you want to join that number, you’re welcome to try.

    There is no membership fee or application process for either category; you simply get judged by your words. If you have any worth sharing, you’ll be welcomed. If you don’t, you’ll be ignored by everyone who’s managed to learn how to ignore a troll.

  • 114. BigHouse  |  September 10, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    So, why is he on the show? Because it gives the show at least a facade of credibility.

    Should we imply that you believe the site lacks credibility and you (or someone like you) can ‘solve’ that?

  • 115. Cooper  |  September 10, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Don’t forget, the more good works you do, the more jewels you get in your heavily crown.

    OrDover—

    Don’t forget, in Revelation it says that all of those crowns are thrown at Jesus’ feet. So, if someone is trying to get more jewels for their own crown they are pursuing the wrong thing.

  • 116. Cooper  |  September 10, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    If you only read the old testament, then you might only see God in this fashion

    pastoreric–

    Actually, if you read the Old Testament and peruse the Psalms, and many other books you will come to an opposite conclusion.

    One example:

    “Let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord which exercise Lovingkindness, Judgment and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24)—Note: what does he put FIRST of the things he “delights” in? Lovingkindess.

    There are many, many other passages in the OT just like this.

  • 117. orDover  |  September 10, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Bigham,

    We’ve already had several “Christian Contributors” here who have written posts, such as Justin and Rachel. You can find their posts here.

    As Quester mentioned, you’re always welcome to post in the comments.

  • 118. Carolyn  |  September 17, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    to whom it may concern: to anyone who has de-converted

    I want to understand more of where you are coming from. I have an idea, but I want to here it from you. I have read your “reasons” for de-converting, but I don’t see any explanations. I pick up my cross and follow after Jesus everyday to the best of my ability. I don’t like to say that I’m Christian, since this has become corrupt in the world’s eyes, although, i do fit the true meaning of the word. I am indeed a “little Christ” which is what Christian means. Churches and believers have corrupted this word to mean something of hypocrisy. I will never claim that I am better than anyone else. I am not worthy of salvation. Salvation is a free gift. It is free to anyone willing to give up their free will and follow God’s. He is but a gentlemen and does not interfere without permission.
    I feel like those who have de-converted were mislead or even lied to about Christianity. When you truly become a Christian live each moment for someone else you die to yourself and live to bring God glory.
    I look forward to discussing this with anyone who is willing. I really want to know where you are coming from, now that you have a idea of where I stand.
    thank you so much for this opportunity to post on your site!
    a fellow human being,
    carolyn

  • 119. The de-Convert  |  September 17, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    Carolyn,

    If you’re genuinely interested in dialogue, I suggest you read through the following stories:

    http://de-conversion.com/tag/de-conversion-story/

    Enjoy,
    Paul

  • 120. Quester  |  September 17, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Carolyn,

    I picked up my cross to follow Christ, but could not find Him anywhere. I looked in the Bible, but Christ wasn’t there. I looked in the churches, but Christ wasn’t there. I looked in Creation, but Christ wasn’t there. I knelt in prayer, but Christ wasn’t there. I waited in silence, but Christ wasn’t there. I opened my heart, but Christ wasn’t there. After ten years of not being able to find Christ, I set down my cross and walked away. If He wants me, He knows where to find me.

    In the meantime, I have a life (and only one) to live.

  • 121. The de-Convert  |  September 18, 2008 at 12:16 am

    Quester,

    I was reading a blog that referenced us today:

    http://anik946.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/3/

    where the author asks:

    I wonder if those people on this blog were actually Christians in the first place. ….. Did they ever experience the love of Christ?

    .. and I thought, wow, I have never really experienced the “love of Christ”.. thought I did, but in reality, what does that really look like?

    Paul

  • 122. The Apostate  |  September 18, 2008 at 1:19 am

    Quester,

    After ten years of not being able to find Christ, I set down my cross and walked away.

    Sometimes it felt like that cross was literally snatched from my hand. I had little choice in the matter. Perhaps I was just one of those people who held on so tightly that I realized all I was holding was a block of wood.

  • 123. Quester  |  September 18, 2008 at 1:36 am

    TA,

    By “setting down my cross and walking away”, I’m referring to how I stopped trying to live out the Christian faith after I realized I no longer believed in a Christ. What are you referring to as your “cross”.

  • 124. The Apostate  |  September 18, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Quester,
    Ah, i see. My “cross” is my reference to my entire faith.

  • 125. Quester  |  September 18, 2008 at 3:08 am

    TA,

    That’s the fun of metaphors.

    You say snatched, but I’ve gotten the impression that this wasn’t in any way a sudden thing for you. Am I wrong?

  • 126. Quester  |  September 18, 2008 at 3:09 am

    The de-Convert,

    Hey, at least she asked it as a question instead of declaring it as a certainty. It may not be much, but it’s something.

  • 127. underthefloor  |  September 18, 2008 at 5:28 am

    longing for holiday (21)

    I wasn’t raised a Christian, but a Muslim, and I have had feelings of sublimity and just complete love and awe and devoation.

    I’m not going to lie. It was VERY hard denying God. Throughout the period, I felt like He was watching me always and being angry that I’ve chosen to rebel. I was scared that at any time, he’d choose to take my life and I’d die an unbeliever – one of the worst things that could happen to a Muslim.

    We don’t call it deconversion in Islam. Since in Islam, people are born Muslims, and it is only culture that changes their faith to any other religion. And from what I know, Islam’s not particularly into proletysing, and accepts that good atheists are better than hypocritical believers.

    I didn’t want to be a hypocritical believer, and I wasn’t. I decided to reject God for reasons that seem so superficial now – because the man I loved didn’t believe in God and I thought it was such an awesome and amazing thing that someone could sincerely not believe in a God.

    Then I discovered pantheism.. and was into that for a while. I think being an agnostic atheist is something I can live with.

    There is a lot of humiliation in Islam if you leave the religion. You’re immediately condemned, and unlike Christianity – which is more “modern” in this sense – there are no shepherd-sheep relationships, and you’re just left on your own. I don’t really mind if someone does come and talk to me sincerely and unjudgementally about this. Not necessarily to bring me back to the religion, but just to understand me.

    It’d be great too if I could believe again, but an intentional leaving of the religion is much harder than an unintentional leaving. For one thing, I really suffered a lot during the period of leaving. The sense of hopelessness, loss, and intense melancholia almost all the time. I learnt to live with it. After a while, I stopped hearing His voice.

    And to think I never thought this would happen to me. As a child, I had very strong faith, and could deflect most logical arguments. I love reasoning and logic, and I used that to my advantage. My own parents were amazed at my faith, although they did find it odd that I could still bear reading things that could erode my faith. How random that I should have lost faith because of love.

    I onced read somewhere that the moment your love becomes God, it becomes the devil. I can understand that.
    :) Cheers.

  • 128. underthefloor  |  September 18, 2008 at 5:32 am

    (27) Oh yes! I want to read that book actually! The Reason For God. The visting pastor in the church I crashed – it had a postmodernism lecture relevant to my thesis – recommended it.

  • 129. The Apostate  |  September 18, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Quester,

    You say snatched, but I’ve gotten the impression that this wasn’t in any way a sudden thing for you. Am I wrong?

    De-conversion, I believe, is similar to conversion in a lot of ways. Most people experience both a slow steady aspect of their conversion augmented with radical moments in their life. You are correct that my de-conversion was not a instantaneous event, but there were moments, I recall vividly, where I felt that my faith had suddenly been snatched – perhaps in pieces – and I was powerless, no, God was powerless to stop it. I have described before how intellectual beliefs lead to deeply emotional side effects, and this was probably one of the sickest feelings I ever had. My de-conversion was a slow intellectual process, but the emotional self-realizations of what I was going through often hit me like a semi-truck.

  • 130. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 18, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    My deconversion was fairly rapid, and I would say the actual de-conversion itself was almost instantaneous.

    It was definitely a long process overall for me, but I think it was largely a process of developing critical thinking skills, and then learning to accept that I no longer believed. In between there was a very sudden realization that I had no reason to believe.

    Quite literally, I was sitting at my desk at work reading something somewhat critical of religion, and suddenly wondered “why do I believe this stuff?” Thinking back on my life, all I could come up with is that it was how I was raised.

    After that, I kept trying to push such thoughts away, I kept praying and trying to effectively make myself believe, but eventually had to accept that I had no reason to believe, and had become an atheist almost overnight. There was a lot of pain involved, as well as fear, and it took a while to deal with all of that and finally accept that I no longer believed. But the actual shift from belief to unbelief was shockingly sudden for me.

  • 131. Rover  |  September 18, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    amen

  • 132. cooper  |  September 18, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Kind of off subject a bit here. But there is a “Jack-In-the Box” commercial on now where a lady is pushing two business men sitting next to one another in a stroller. The one man says “I really nailed that deal” as he looks at his laptop. The other man starts to say something sales related, when the first man’s lip starts quivering, and he bursts into tears and screams “I’m Hungry!!” Of course, this causes the other man to start crying to, and the “Mom” runs around to the front and says “here are your snacks” and both the men start clapping like little tots would when given a snack.

    It is funny, but reminded me how Christians really start off the same way. We come to Christ and live off of emotions. When God seems far away we cry and complain. We want “proof” he is there at all times. But as we begin to mature we realize more and more that we cannot trust our own feelings in regards to God. Because we “feel” God is not there does not make it a reality! We learn to walk by faith—trusting that what he says is true, no matter how we may “feel”. Often what we “feel” can lead to “reasoning” about God’s existence too.

    Because we “feel” we are receiving no response, or “proof” of God’s existence, we reason that such a person must not exist. We are making what we “feel and reason” our reality—though we have not changed what is real at all. God exists whether we feel he does or not. He exists though we try to reason him away. He still sits on the throne, though we try to take his place upon it.

    Some Christians though are just like those two men being pushed in the stroller. They continue to act like babies, when they should be mature Christians. And some go even further and renounce it all together. And when it comes down to it, it is all based in emotions in reality. We didn’t get what we want–we didn’t receive the proof we want, so we make reality what we want it to be—not what it truly is.

  • 133. ubi dubium  |  September 18, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Cooper, please stop preaching. This is not an appropriate place.

  • 134. nick.huelsman  |  September 19, 2008 at 10:01 am

    This is a list which bashes ‘American Christianity’ and it is correct in most all of its claims. Unfortunately, ‘American Christianity’ doesn’t have all that much to do real Christianity. Real Christianity isn’t fluff; it is real.
    The ‘real stuff’ of Christianity can be summed up in a response to point #21 which states: “Eternal punishment for wrongs committed in a mortal lifetime, or for failing to figure out which religion to follow, is in no way just or moral.”
    Response: Eternal punishment has nothing to do with wrongs committed or with failing to figure out which religion to follow, Jesus died on the cross for all these things and so they don’t have any bearing on eternal life or eternal death. The only ‘requirement’ (though ‘requirement’ is a misleading term) is that a person believe that Jesus DID take away all her/his sins when He died on the cross; that eternal life doesn’t depend upon us, but God, i.e. Christ. These are false teachings: that a Christian will always have joy in His heart (the Christian does have more reason to be joyful, but this joy isn’t really ‘felt’ all the time, it can’t because we are still sinners); it is false that the Christian will be any more wealthy than a ‘non-Christian’ if she/he gives to the church; it is false that the church will always be in perfect harmony, everyone loving everyone else and getting along (again, Christians are sinners too). These things have nothing to do with Christianity or being a Christian or eternal life or eternal death.
    Down with ‘American pop-Christianity’. Death to the fluff. We need more of the real stuff, the real Christianity, that actually has something to do with reality, with our difficult lives.

  • 135. Brad Feaker  |  September 19, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Nick,

    Sorry – epic fail. All you have is ‘your’ interpretation of what ‘real christianity’ is. If I had a nickel for every time I have heard that from a believer I could retire. You will have to do much better than that…

  • 136. LeoPardus  |  September 19, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Nick H:

    American Christianity is certainly a particularly awful thing, and many on this blog are its victims. There are however some Brits here, and some who come out of traditions other than American Protestant fundamentalism. There are also just a few former believers from non-Christian faiths (Judaism, Islam). So really this list is a compilation of reasons for disbelieving any religion that proposes a personal, benevolent deity.

    And if you read the list, you’ll see that it’s not limited to American Christianity. #s 1,7,9,17 are a few (there are others) that certainly apply to any theistic faith.

  • 137. The Apostate  |  September 19, 2008 at 10:44 am

    …and now nick is going to give us the ‘real Christianity’… just like everyone else – every eastern orthodox and eastern catholic variety, the various Anglican factions, the oriental orthodox churches, the grand ol’ roman catholics, the hussites, waldensians, the fifty+ lutheran denominations, the 20+ reformed sects, presbyterians of different colours, the handful of congregationalists, my personal favourite the anabaptists, all those methodists, pietists, holiness churches, the slew of baptists with various ad hoc theologies, the brethren, the pentecostals and charismatics, the united churches, quakers, etc. etc. etc.

    But why stop there? The Mormons, Seventh day adventists, Jehovah’s witnesses all proclaim the ‘real’ Christianity – so why not them? Why not the Christadelphians or Christian Scientists?

    But isn’t that the great thing about the Bible? No one uses all of it and everyone uses some it for their own benefit?

  • 138. orDover  |  September 19, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Don’t forget the Mennonites!

  • 139. Rover  |  September 19, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Nick,

    What do you make of this form Christianity:

    Rev.20:12-15: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. “

  • 140. LeoPardus  |  September 19, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    And BTW Nick, what is “Real Christianity” anyway as you uphold it? Is it a particular denomination? Or a particular school of interpretation? Of is is whatever happens to agree with Nick?

    I know, I know. You’re almost sure to say it, so I might as well say it for you, “It’s what the Bible says.”

  • 141. nick.huelsman  |  September 19, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    so, one thing at a time:

    ‘real’ Christianity: there is not such thing as a subjective interpretation of what Christianity is; it’s either Christianity or not; it’s either real or not. Doctrine must have a starting and ending point, otherwise conversation about particulars doctrines of the faith can go nowhere. That point is God’s Word, which is the Bible (an accurate portrayal of God in history, as He has revealed Himself; and historically supported). Denominational differences are inevitable because no one can have it all correct.

    Rover: good find! I stand corrected (that’s the great thing about objective truth). So the truth is this: a person will not enter into eternal life based upon HIS OWN works (otherwise no one could ever ‘make it’, for this reason God took upon Himself the evil works of man); but a person who rejects this reality (that God was punished for that person’s evil) retains His evil and thus will experience eternal punishment.

    But I suppose a more fundamental question is this: why must there be a different life than this anyhow, namely the eternal life (or death)? Because the very essence of life is relational (a person cannot exist alone on this earth, everyone is dependent upon someone or something else, e.g. water) and the most fundamental relationship is the one a person has with God. The ‘next life’ is necessary because the relationship with God in this one is naturally/fundamentally screwed up.

  • 142. nick.huelsman  |  September 19, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Leo: you’re right, it is based upon “what the bible says”. but it’s not based upon what the bible says because the bible says that’s what it’s supposed to be based upon.

    All: faith does play a part in all this. the beliefs that i have verses the beliefs that some else has (including the belief that there is no god) has to do with faith also; though not solely on faith. my understanding of faith is that is non-rational, namely that it can contradict reason, but not necessarily. my beliefs, the teachings of the Bible, are not only based upon faith, but also reason (including historical data and logical thinking).

  • 143. LeoPardus  |  September 19, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    nick:

    my understanding of faith is that is non-rational, namely that it can contradict reason,

    Ah. Well that pretty much makes communication impossible then.

  • 144. nick.huelsman  |  September 19, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    well that all depends upon where you are coming from. if you are a fideist, then communication with you is impossible; i’m assuming you are not. i’m also assuming your position is that faith must be rational. my position is that faith is rational, but it can contradict reason insofar as reason isn’t able to understand, explain, comprehend certain things, such as miracles. Rationally, miracles are impossible, but for faith they are possible.

    Put another way, my understanding is that reason can only go so far; faith can go further than reason. So for a person who says they have no faith (though everyone has this faith in one way or another), they are limited to things rational/logical. But again, as I argued above, logics is also fundamentally based upon faith due to the assumptions it begins with.

    I hope this helps.

    Let me ask you all this: why exactly is it that you de-converted (from whatever religion you did)? I’m sure you all have your own ‘final pushes’, etc but i’m interested to learn.

  • 145. The Apostate  |  September 19, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    nick, the question is not “why not believe?” – it is “why believe?”

  • 146. LeoPardus  |  September 20, 2008 at 5:19 am

    nick:

    why exactly is it that you de-converted (from whatever religion you did)? I’m sure you all have your own ‘final pushes’, etc but i’m interested to learn.

    Rather than try to retype it all, I’ll refer you to articles I’ve put up here on the blog site. Look in the archives for:
    -From Fundy to Orthodox to Apostate
    -Praying my way to losing faith
    -Reasons why I can no longer believe (there are 3 of these, all of which talk about parts of why I left)

  • 147. LeoPardus  |  September 20, 2008 at 5:25 am

    my position is that faith is rational, but it can contradict reason insofar as reason

    Father Brown would write you off as criminal. (Fr Brown is a fictional detective character created by G.K. Chesterton in case you didn’t know.)

    Rationally, miracles are impossible, but for faith they are possible.

    Miracles are not impossible rationally. They would simply require action by a supernatural being or force. Faith does not make them possible, nor does it make them happen.

    logics is also fundamentally based upon faith due to the assumptions it begins with.

    What assumptions are you talking about?

  • 148. nick.huelsman  |  September 20, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Leo,
    my understanding is that the assumption of logics (as a field of study) is that things are the way they are because they haven’t been found to be different. a person has faith in the law of non-contradiction, for example.

    i do understand that these ‘laws’ represent concepts; but if something happened in our world, within the perameters of our ‘reality’, that contradicted the ‘law of non-contradiction, etc., then the law would change. we believe these laws because they haven’t been otherwise disproven yet.

    maybe i’m wrong, i don’t know. i’m here to learn too. maybe someone can enlighten me.

  • 149. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 20, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Logic has axioms, things that are assumed because they appear to be self-evident. That’s a far cry from the kind of faith Christians ask for, where you are to have faith in something that is not self-evident.

  • 150. nick.huelsman  |  September 20, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    snug,
    so there are different kinds of faith. i am assuming, correct me if i’m wrong, that you would call the faith of Christian or other religion ‘blind faith’, while faith/trust in logical axioms is qualitatively different. or is it quantitatively different? in other words, the two are faith, but one is a more believable faith, while the other is less believable. OR are they altogether different: having nothing in coming?

    if quantitative, then what makes them so? the object of the faith? etc.

    thanks for your help!

  • 151. orDover  |  September 20, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    my understanding is that the assumption of logics (as a field of study) is that things are the way they are because they haven’t been found to be different. a person has faith in the law of non-contradiction, for example.

    Christianity doesn’t even hold up this assumption of logic. Case in point: evolution. Everyone assumed for thousands of years that God created animals just as they are, and then post-1860 that changed completely. The myth of creation was “found to be different,” very different.

  • 152. nick.huelsman  |  September 20, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    maybe i haven’t been too clear. what i’m talking about is the two faculties of the mind: faith and reason. my position is that the faculty of faith is ultimately that which all knowledge is depends upn (partly for the reasons expressed above). ‘faith in Christ’, i.e. the faith that makes one a Christian is not a ‘natural’ faculty of the mind. faith itself is natural, faith in Christ is a gift from God. (but that’s another issue altogether). I’m trying to understand how the de-convert understands this relationship between the two natural faculties of man: faith and reason.

    snug’s comment suggested a different level of faith; i asked that he would go further and explain whether this difference is quantitative or qualititative. i hope others would comment as well.

    {maybe it would beneficial if one of the contributors (possibly Leo) would write an article on this very topic: ‘the relationship of faith and reason in the eyes of the de-convert’ }

  • 153. The Apostate  |  September 20, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    nick,
    What is “faith” to you? What do you believe “faith” was for Paul? Do you believe that the concept of “faith” has remained more or less similar or has evolved over the history of the church?

  • 154. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 20, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I would call it qualitative, to the point that the acceptance of logical axioms is not faith at all, but within the realm of reason. It is perfectly reasonable to accept an axiom, something that is self-evident. Nothing about faith involves axioms.

  • 155. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 20, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    And as a quick addendum, the idea that non-belief in God involves faith is a tired one; if you really want to look into it, do a google search, because I’m really not interested in debating this.

  • 156. orDover  |  September 20, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    I do indeed believe they are different levels of faith–faith exists on a continuum. Science operates in a world of probabilities, with nothing ever really being certain, just statistically very likely. For example, if I jump off of a building I have to have faith that gravity will pull me do the ground, because I could accidentally fall into some sort of quantum worm hole, or gravity could suddenly fluctuate. But that is statically very unlikely, so I have faith in gravity, but that faith is very small because it is build upon empirical evidence. It would actually take more faith NOT to believe in gravity, to believe that I’ll encounter that statistically nearly-impossible fluctuation or strange quantum warp. It is nearly impossible, but not completely impossible that gravity could fluctuate. So we all put on faith in gravity when we get out of bed in the morning, shoot a basketball, or ride in an airplane. But that faith is build out of measureable, stable, empirical, testable, reproducible information, so it really isn’t much faith at all.

    Faith in God, on the other hand, requires a greater amount of faith. God can’t be measured or tested. There is no physical empirical evidence of a God. In short, there is no good reason to believe in God. It takes more faith to believe in God then to not believe in God.

    As for the relationship between faith and reason, in the mind of a functional adult, is that I think that we use our capacities for rational thought to decide what to have faith in and what not to have faith in. I have faith in gravity. I have faith that the sun will rise in the morning. I have faith that I can’t breathe underwater. These faiths are based on reason. They are established after I used my reason to evaluate empirical, testable, repeatable evidence, and the require a very small degree of faith.

    But that is just one of the many facets of reason and faith. Blind faith can be an evolutionary benefit, for example. If you learn to trust without questioning, to put your faith completely into the warning calls of your family group, then you are going to survive that tiger attack. I don’t think that reason has anything to do with that kind of faith. This is similar to my childhood indoctrination into Christianity. I was taught never to question my parents, and so I believed what they told me without rational discourse. Reason had nothing to do with my Christian faith, it was just blind acceptable and blind submission to authority.

    And then there is such thing as irrational faith–where one suppresses reason in order to establish or continue a believe that is runs counter to reason– i.e. cognitive dissonance.

  • 157. LeoPardus  |  September 20, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    my understanding is that the assumption of logics (as a field of study) is that things are the way they are because they haven’t been found to be different

    It’s simpler than that. Things are the way they are because that’s the way they are.

    . a person has faith in the law of non-contradiction, for example.

    You don’t need faith in that. You don’t need faith the the law of gravity. They simply are laws. You can’t even ignore them or violate them. You can however try and then pay the price. (e.g., madness or going splat)

    i do understand that these ‘laws’ represent concepts;

    No. These laws are statements of reality.

    but if something happened in our world, within the perameters of our ‘reality’, that contradicted the ‘law of non-contradiction,

    You cannot contradict the law of non-contradiction. If you did, you would not be in reality. You’d be in Wonderland or in asylum perhaps, but not in reality.

    Basically what you’re doing is setting up your world so that reality, facts, logic, etc can be attended to or ignored at your whims. As I said before, you have made communication impossible. You will believe what you want to believe, no matter what. Hence you have nothing to say to anyone here.

  • 158. nick.huelsman  |  September 20, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    orDover, first, thank you for your responses, they are quite helpful as i try to understand where you are coming from.

    If i understand you correctly, you are saying that there are two types of faith: (1) rational faith, which is built on reason, i.e. reason determines faith’s limits. (2) irrational faith, which does away with reason altogether.

    where does blind faith fit in here? you used 2 examples: one of the tribal call and one of your upbringing. I think that in both of those examples, reason is used. for the tribal call, a person probably heard stories about an individual who used to be part of that tribe, but didn’t heed the call. thus it is a reasonable thing to heed the call (self preservation) second, i suppose you believed your parents because you experienced what it was like when you didn’t, e.g. touching the hot stove.

    you say that there is no empirical evidence for the existence of God. so, faith in God would be considered irrational faith. correct?

    also, what would be an example of empirical evidence that there were a God? (please don’t take this wrong, i am just trying to figure out where you’re coming from.)

    again, thanks for your comments. i appreciate your honesty.

  • 159. silentj  |  September 20, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Nick,

    The others have addressed many points I agree with. However, I want to point out one other issue:

    You mention that the mind is ultimately divided into faith and reason, and I’m not sure that’s true. That’s more of a man made dichotomy than any real description of what’s going on in the brain. Just to throw concepts out there, you could also add instinctive and sensuous faculties among others.

    In my very simplistic understanding of how the brain works, we take concepts in virtually without discrimination. (“This is blue.” “That is a bicycle.” “There is a God.”) As we take in concepts, we experience cognitive dissonance. (The next ten thousand people you encounter say that what you were calling a bicycle is actually a horse. Thus, you learn that it is a horse.) The mind settles on what makes the most sense to it. That is why we can have things like the power of suggestion or propaganda that is not really a matter of faith or rational thought. Rather, the brain is being made to believe the idea through cognitive dissonance, often tied into overwhelming emotion or fear.

    So, what we “know” and how we “know” it is more of how we define our reality than what reality actually is. Some people might call trusting in gravity faith. However, every time you throw a rock in the air, it will fall down unless acted on by another force. Whether or not we dispute the claim, try to put a statistical probability on it, or apply the scientific method to it, the rock will fall. You and I can argue whether I have faith in the rock, rationalize the rock, or whatever else we might do to explain the rock. It really doesn’t matter.

    Essentially, what we do in our heads is decide whether we need evidence for something or don’t, an attempt to vanquish the cognitive dissonance. None of us deliberate much over whether or not the rock will fall, only how we judge, size, and categorize that understanding. The difference between the rock and a God is that there is virtually no evidence for the existence for God, other than stories. For some, that’s enough evidence, taken for granted the way others take for granted the rock will fall. The central difference of the two views is that one was planted by story and one was planted by daily observance.

  • 160. nick.huelsman  |  September 21, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    silentj- Very interesting, some great things to think about. It seems to me that you’re saying this: that there is a real world. We all come to understand, or “know”, this world by “vanquishing the cognitive dissonance”. And you gave two avenues by which ‘information’ gets planted into our minds: by story and by daily observance.

    When info is planted through “daily observance”, we use faith and reason, etc to mesh together the new information we just received and the old information we already had, in order to make sense of the world/ “vanquish the cognitive dissonance”. (is this right?)

    When you say “story”, i assume you mean stories which are completely disconnected from anything that resembles our daily observations, e.g. “falling off Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel produces a lot of adrenaline”. Unless you’ve done it, you could only ‘know’ this by way of story, i.e. someone telling you about it. But since you have observed/felt adrenaline and you have seen at least a picture of Niagara, this information is planted and accepted by your mind with little or no cog dissonance.
    Would you say that information planted by stories that are disconnected from daily observation are not valid, not ‘real’?

    Also, we “know” the rock exists and that it will fall because of “daily observance”. 1) Does ‘daily observance’ only come through our senses? 2) Are there any other valid ways by which something is planted into our minds (to show us that it is ‘real’)

    Sorry, it’s a lot of stuff to chew on. You opened a can of worms. Great thoughts, thanks!

  • 161. Paul Wilkinson  |  September 25, 2008 at 10:26 am

    #17

    Instead of asking, “Is there a God, why is there so much evil in the world?” we should ask, “If there is NO God, why is there so much good and beauty in the world?”

  • 162. Quester  |  September 25, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Thank-you for your question, Paul. Let’s see if you can answer it.

    What evolutionary benefits are there for a species like us to develop attractions to certain things (beauty) and social relations with each other (good)? What evolutionary benefits are there for plants and animals, as species, to appear attractive (beautiful) to animals like us?

    Can you think of any?

  • 163. Jesse M.  |  October 7, 2008 at 12:15 am

    the fact that the only thing that does any good after a sin is directly asking forgiveness to the people i hurt, rather than god. the fact that i am told to worship something that gave me no decision to my current situation and that an all loving all forgiving god could keep a morally good non believer out of heaven when we live in a world where god “gave” us logic, in which we take emperical evidence to base all of our other beliefs but need faith on the most important belief. these might be reasons not to believe.

  • 164. Paul H.  |  October 19, 2008 at 2:06 am

    I was born in a Christian family, but even as a child I realized that the church-goers didn’t know God. Later I devoted myself on a quest to find out and experience the absolute truth, and instead of the Christian conception of God, I found myself face to face with Sri Krishna, the speaker of Bhagavad-gita, who revealed Himself as the one and only Supreme Personality of Godhead beyond any doubt. http://vedabase.net/bg/en

    Since then, I’ve understood the Christian mythology as largely atheistic. They have some idea that there is God, but they do not know who God is or what is His nature. God never becomes man. Although He has a form with two arms, two legs, a head, torso, etc., His form is always entirely spiritual. It is not that he “has” a form like I, this spirit soul, have this material body; His form is identical with Himself, completely spiritual, and not separate at all. He never suffers, He is never born, and He never dies. He appears anywhere in His eternal form according to His sweet will. He has begotten unlimited sons, and He has no need to kill any of them to save anyone or everyone.

    It’s a mystery how Jesus thought he could teach religion to such barbaric people. Rather it was his mercy to give them a beginning, but somehow these sinful fools think they know everything. It’s a simple fact that sinful people, especially meat-eaters, cannot know God.

  • 165. Josh  |  November 3, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    “especially meat-eaters, cannot know God”

    Darn, I’m screwed.

  • 166. SnugglyBuffalo  |  November 3, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Man, if abandoning the consumption of meat is required to know God, then I’m damn happy not knowing him.

  • 167. Josh  |  November 3, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Haha, I remember the first time it occurred to me that if Adam had never sinned and God had not sent the global flood we would have never been able to eat meat.

    I guess Adam’s fall and the global flood are a blessing indeed! Praise God!

  • 168. gary  |  November 3, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Greetings all! Not to downplay your psychological trauma or ridicule you fine folks, but, I thought I would throw my own two cents into the mix. Somewhere on this site, I read that the ex-Christians here studied apologetics spending years, in some cases, trying to save their faith. Quite frankly, however, this just doesn’t seem to be true. The reasons in the above list would be totally successful only in defeating the most shallow of faiths, it seems to me. In the interest of time (and space) I shall only address, briefly, the first several items.

    1. God never showed up-Aside from the fact that this is simply untrue (“think Elijah and the Baal priests”), it is an undeniable fact that absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence.
    2. Prayers are not anwered-Mine are.
    3. Christians are no different from others-Even if this were true (and known to be so), to use this as evidence against Christian doctrine in general would be to commit the ad hominem fallacy.
    4. Church disunity-Another ad hominem fallacy.
    5. The Bible is contradictory-I base my ethics on the Scriptures themself so it is meaningless, from my point of view, to say that ethical truth contradicts the claims of the Bible. What is more, hospitals, equal rights for women, and the abolition of slavery is all the result, at least in part, of Christians who were taking Biblical ethics seriously. As for contradicting reality, there are two ways in which this may be meant. First, contradictions of science or history. However, I know of no such contradictions. The common charges of a purportedly flat earth or terracentric system, for example, are easily explained as examples of phenominological language (which is perfectly acceptable, albeit not totally literal, language). Second, if one first adopts a non-supernatural view, then one is obviously forced to reject the supernatural aspects of the Bible. But this is begging the question. Finally, I am aware of no self-contradictions within the Bible. There is, of course, no end to alleged contradictions in, say, new atheist literature but these normally (perhaps always) have plausible alternative interpretations. People have been claiming self-contradiction in the Bible for at least the last 2000 years, and yet, people continue to believe it inerrant even after spending their whole lives studying it.

    The other items on the above list can easily be answered in similar fashion, so, either your faiths were much shallower than you would have me believe, or there was perhaps some ulterior motive in your deconversions. Thoughts?

  • 169. orDover  |  November 3, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    gary,

    Try reading an actual full article (maybe start with the latest series from Richard on the Psychology of Apologetics which you can find on the front page). This is just a quick laundry list of points, not a deep argument. I thought that would be obvious.

    God never showed up-Aside from the fact that this is simply untrue (”think Elijah and the Baal priests”), it is an undeniable fact that absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence.

    The Bible doesn’t count, because that is circular reasoning. And yes, it isn’t absolute evidence of absence, but it is suggestive of the probablity of absence. We realize the difference.

    Finally, I am aware of no self-contradictions within the Bible.

    You need to read a bit more then. And try reading critically. By the way, when we say self-contradictions we don’t mean irrelevant issue like disparages between numbers, we mean contradictions in doctrine, for example the doctrines of salvation by faith or salvation by works (http://de-conversion.com/2008/10/18/if-marty-luther-rewrote-the-bible/).

    There is, of course, no end to alleged contradictions in, say, new atheist literature but these normally (perhaps always) have plausible alternative interpretations.

    Atheist can be contraditory. That isn’t a problem because we don’t claim to all believe the same thing or to be writing absolute truth as related by a supernatural force. We’re just people who don’t believe in a god. We can disagree and contradict each other all we want.

  • 170. Josh  |  November 4, 2008 at 1:59 am

    “Church disunity-Another ad hominem fallacy.”

    This is not ad hominem simply because Jesus’ prayer was that the church would be unified (John 17). If the church is not unified, then this begs the questions as to whether God answered Jesus’ prayer. If the church was unified, this would be good evidence that God answered Jesus’ prayer.

    Furthermore, I do not believe it could be called ad hominem if the argument was simply holing the accused to their own standards. If an atheist claimed to be completely rational in all his arguments and to have claimed to discover the ultimate meaning in the universe it would not be ad hominem to point out fallacies in his argument. If a church claims to have the secrets of the universe figured out and also claims that all morality falls to pieces unless those secrets are true – it is not really ad hominem to analyze their own behavior and see if maybe they are on to something or not… This is not “attacking the man”, it is attacking the claims of the man.

    Checking to see if an economists personal finances are in order is probably a good idea before putting him in charge of the treasury!

  • 171. Josh  |  November 4, 2008 at 2:00 am

    *holing = holding

  • 172. LeoPardus  |  November 4, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    The reasons in the above list would be totally successful only in defeating the most shallow of faiths, it seems to me.

    Quite the contrary. The reasons in this list have no effect on those of shallow faith or mind. You’d actually have to be thinking and feeling and struggling with hard issues. Nice, lazy, feel good, fantasy faith is unaffected by reason.

    it is an undeniable fact that absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence.

    Once again we are visited by a “pop wisdom” robot.
    First: You’re going to need to put in some serious work to learn what a ‘fact’ is and what ‘undeniable’ means.
    Second: You’re going to need to stop parroting pop phrases without thinking. Absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence. Here’s just one simple example: If you fear your dog peed in the living room, you look for wet spots on the rug, and bad odors in some area. Finding no wetness, no discoloration, and no smells, you now have ‘absence of evidence’. This comprises fairly good evidence that there’s no pee in the living room and hence Fido is innocent.

    Prayers are not anwered-Mine are.

    I’m sure we would all be much amused to hear about your answered prayers. Fire away.

    to use this as evidence against Christian doctrine in general would be to commit the ad hominem fallacy…. Another ad hominem fallacy.

    In this day and age of search engines, wikipedia, etc. there’s really no excuse for not knowing what ‘ad hominem’ is. Now you could try making a case for it being a red herring, or a fallacy of association (though I think this would be weak), or cherry picking (again weak), or perhaps an over generalization. But then I’m not surprised that you don’t know about logical fallacies considering that your first point was a logical fallacy.
    Further to the point at hand though (i.e. that lack of church unity or notable difference in the lives of Christians constitutes evidence for the non-verity of the faith), see the archives for an article called, “Reasons why I can no longer believe: 3 – Unchanged lives”.

    Perhaps some others will be so kind as to inundate you with contradictions from Scripture.

    Meanwhile take a couple semesters of logic and critical thinking at your local college.

    Thoughts?

    If you ever have any of your own, let us know.

  • 173. SnugglyBuffalo  |  November 4, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    “absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence”

    Man, the first time I heard that phrase was on the Boondocks cartoon on Adult Swim; I was still a Fundie Christian at the time, and even then I thought that was the dumbest phrase I’d ever heard.

  • 174. LeoPardus  |  November 4, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    There’s a sort of list of “pop wisdom” saying that are wrong, and frankly stupid, in my head. “Absence of evidence…. ” is one. Another fave of mine is, “You can’t legislate morality.” It always amazes me how people will just take up a saying and use it without the slightest consideration as to whether it’s right/wrong, smart/dumb, etc.

  • 175. Josh  |  November 4, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    “You can’t legislate morality.”

    Gosh, I could have sworn I saw someone legislating morality at the poles today…

  • 176. Josh  |  November 4, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    *that, of course, would be “polls”, not “poles” Kansas-boy is having flashbacks of the countryside again…

  • 177. Bob  |  November 5, 2008 at 1:43 am

    Gary –
    First let me say that I was born and raised Pentecostal the first 21 years of my life. Holy Ghost speaking in tongues, the whole bit. So to say the least I had a very DEEP spiritual “walk.”

    And yet I find all the points made on the list to be very valid. The BIble is a joke… Read it critically and you’ll see a very different God; One of hate and all sort of dispicable acts.

    Further more religion is way past it’s usefulness in our society. We no longer need the threats of Hell to keep us “in line.” There is a quote that goes something like, “There was a time when religion ruled the world, it was called the Dark Ages.”

    … just my “two cents”

  • 178. Bob  |  November 5, 2008 at 1:46 am

    Clarification……. I meant the points made against religion, I.E. The list at the beginning of the post.

  • 179. Not a Church Goer anymore  |  November 5, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Religion is a farce!!!

  • 180. Dave CASHIN  |  November 25, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Dealing with the Supernatural: The Importance of the Dream World
    Does God speak to people through dreams? How you answer that question tells a lot about what you believe concerning the spiritual realm influencing the physical. Before I went to Bangladesh if anyone had asked me what I believed about dreams I would have had little to say. Dreams are just fantasies of a resting brain. If someone pointed out the frequency of dream episodes in the scriptures my theological argument would have been, God spoke in this way before the scriptures were fully given. Now that we have the complete scriptures with us, there is no further need for God to communicate with us through dreams. This was my position until I served as a missionary in Bangladesh.
    Let me relate just one of many stories I could tell. One day I was leading a Bible study in a small town in central Bangladesh. I was seated on the floor with 6 or 7 enquirers reading a passage of scripture when a gentleman about 35 years old peeked his head in the door. He quickly entered and strode to the front of the room and sat down directly in from of me. I will never forget his first words: “What does Matthew 1:21 say?” This is not the sort of question you get every day from a Muslim enquirer so I asked him, “Why do you want to know?” “Well”, he said, “Jesus told me to ask you!” “How did Jesus tell you to ask me?” I said. He went on to tell the following story.
    The previous night had been the night of Shobe Bhorot, the night of power when Muslims believe the first Surah (chapter) of the Qur’an was revealed. Muslims believe that prayer on this auspicious night conveys special power. If one is able to stay awake and pray throughout the night then one’s fate will be established in a positive way for the coming year. There is a catch however, you must not fall asleep. If you do, you miss the blessing. My friend attempted to pray through the night, but, though his spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. He fell asleep.
    As he slept he had a dream that he was sitting on a pathway outside his house. His father appeared on the pathway. Now his father had been dead for five years so the man fell on his knees and showed respect to his father by touching his feet. Then he asked, “Father, tell me the way of salvation, how can I know if God will accept my deeds?” His father sadly shook his head and said that he did not know, “but speak to the one who comes after me”. The father vanished and shortly another old man appeared. He had never met this man for he died before he was born but he recognized him from pictures he had seen. It was his grandfather. Now his grandfather was known as the most religious man in the villages history. He was the first man from his village to ever go on the Hajj, the pilgrimage to mecca. He had a long white beard dyed red with henna to signify that he was a Hajji. Once again he fell on his knees and touched his grandfather’s feet in respect and then asked, “Grandfather, tell me the way of salvation, how can I know if God will accept my deeds?” The grandfather also sadly shook his head and said, “I do not know, but speak to the one who comes after me.”
    Now the man was very perplexed wondering who might be coming next. I don’t know how or why Muslims recognize this fellow, even though they have never seen him before, but they always do. When the third man appeared on the pathway he knew that it was Hajrat Isa Masih, the Lord Jesus Christ. So he fell on his knees before Jesus and begged him, “what is the way of salvation, how can I know if God will accept my deeds?” Jesus said, “I will show you. But first you most go to K town and ask the missionary you find there what Matthew 1:21 says.” Mind you, this fellow had never seen a Bible, he had no idea what “Matthew” referred to or even what 1:21 meant.
    So he said to me, “What does Matthew 1:21 say?” We opened the scriptures together and read how the angel told Joseph in a dream, “You shall call his name Jesus because he shall save his people from their sins.” This fellow shortly came to faith in Jesus.
    Questions:
    1. How would a person with naturalistic assumptions explain this event?
    2. Do you believe that God can speak to people through dreams? What reasons do you have for or against this idea?
    3. Why do westerners not pay attention to their dreams?
    4. How does one discern a true dream from God from a false dream?
    5. Why doesn’t God speak to everyone by dreams?

  • 181. LeoPardus  |  November 25, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    1. How would a person with naturalistic assumptions explain this event?

    It did not happen.

    2. Do you believe that God can speak to people through dreams? What reasons do you have for or against this idea?

    No. God is imaginary. He can’t speak in dreams or anything else anymore than Santa Claus can.

    3. Why do westerners not pay attention to their dreams?

    I never remember them.

    4. How does one discern a true dream from God from a false dream?

    Any dream “from God” is false. :)

    5. Why doesn’t God speak to everyone by dreams?

    Same reason he doesn’t speak to anyone in dreams.

  • 182. Karissa  |  December 2, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Here’s a list:
    1. God does show up! In visions, in his mere presence, he is here. You just have to be open and truly believe he does.
    2. Prayers are answered!! Just not always the way that WE want them to be answered!
    3. Christians are different from non-christians! Christians are saved through Jesus’ death and forgiven from their sins!
    4. Church disunity does happen sometimes. I won’t deny it. But the body of Christ, when the whole-heartedly seek God, will become unified. It’s inevitable!
    5. The Bible may seem self-contradictory, but take a closer look. Notice the context and the authors and see that it is in fact consistent.
    6. God is SO loving, merciful, good, just! How could an unloving, unmerciful God die on a cross in your place and consider you forgiven! If that is not love and mercy, then love and mercy don’t even exist!
    7. People who make up their own ideas of God are just decieving themselves. People will always learn more about God becase he cannot be fully understood, but that doesn’t mean that they make up who he. No one can re-define God.
    8. The Universe is NOT capable of functioning without divine influence! God created it all! To take him out of the picture would be to wipe the universe out of existance!
    9. Supernatural events and handiwork don’t always need proof. They need belief! When we believe, we can see the proof and recognize it was right before our eyes all along!
    10. Christians and their tactics should not be to blame for de-converting! God is central! His followers follow him the best they can and if some people choose to be dishonest in their belief, that is their problem!
    12. It is in times of hurt and struggle that we recognize how much we need God. We might want to hate him, reject him, or turn away from him, but when it comes down to it, what we need most is HIM.
    13. We are not supposed to comprehend all that God does! We would not be able to handle it! God’s mind is FAR SUPERIOR to ours!
    14. If you don’t feel that your life is fuller with Christ, tell me what it feels like without him?? He gives meaning and purpose to life!
    15. The infinite almighty all loving Creator who has the simple message of the gospel to impart to us, is only seen as spectacularly ineffective at doing so when people are closed to the Gospel! In reality, his words reach farther than you know!
    16. The Bible is “God-breathed”. This means that it is the words of God told to people who wrote it down.
    17. Evil exists. Yes it does. That is why we need a holy God. Without him, the world would be purely evil
    18. History is God’s story. Yes, God allows certain things to happen that we may not agree with, but he sees the ultimate bigger picture that we can only attempt to understand. His will is always the best whether we like it or not!
    19. Christianity is different from all other religions. It is the only truth!
    20. All the scriptures of the Bible are true! This is why it is holy and set apart from the world!
    21. We are not eternally punished for wrongs commited. Christ’s death saves us from that. He was punished in our place.
    22. Going to church isn’t a requirement for Christianity. The only point of Christianity that determines one as a Christian is believing that Jesus died for your sins and that, through him and only him, you can see God in heaven
    23. Of course God is going to be the most confusing subject! How could someone so vast and incomprehensible possibly be easy to understand! He is greater than we can attempt to imagine! Of course the books written by human authors will be more understandable!
    24. Giving money/tithe to church or good causes will only bless you if you WANT to give! If you desire to give, not even expecting anything in return and just trusting that God will provide, he WILL provide what you need!
    25. Once again, we are not tortured and tormented forever and ever! our sins have been thrown away, demolished, erased, because of Jesus’ death on the cross for us!
    26. The Bible is not just a book! It is God’s words that were written down for us! To refer to the Bible is to refer to God’s advice. The Bible is not like text book. It is a story, a love letter, a treasure that God so graciously gave to us!
    27. God created sex to be an incredible experience between a married man and woman. Yes, outside of marriage the feeling may be the same, but that is not the way that God intended. Sex is perfectly a part of God’s plan!
    28. Because people/parents/friends/christians lie DOES NOT mean that God does! He never does!

    I pray that you will find the truth whether through conviction, revelation or seeking! I know that the God of love that died for you wants you back.

  • 183. TitforTat  |  December 2, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Looks like someone is off her meds.

  • 184. orDover  |  December 3, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Karissa, please read this before leaving any more comments. We are already aware of every single thing you have to say. You seem to be under the impression that we have never heard the “good news” or the standard apologetic arguments for God.

  • 185. Karissa  |  December 3, 2008 at 1:07 am

    I guess i just don’t understand how one can possibly fall away from the one truth after believing it. It just doesn’t seem rational, logical, possible to disregard all the God has done for you. It makes no sense to me. I don’t mean to offend anyone, at all! I guess i just can’t comprehend how anyone could leave the Christian faith.

  • 186. Jeffrey  |  December 3, 2008 at 1:19 am

    As the majority of my reasons were biblical, I would expand 5 greatly.

    The Torah:

    5.1) It wasn’t written by Moses, but is the compilation of at least four sources, known as JEPD. 5.1.1) One place to see this is that there are two creation stories which scramble the order of events. 5.1.2) Another place to see this is that the flood account is two distinct flood stories that are spliced together. 5.1.3) Yet another place is that the books of Moses anachronistically refer to kings ruling Israel despite Moses living centuries before Israel’s first king. 5.1.4) Once you divide up the four sources, you see differing concepts of who God is and differing names of God. The paradox of God doesn’t come from God being paradoxical, but from contradictory ideas being mushed together.

    5.2) Archeology doesn’t support any of the acts of Moses, from the Exodus, to the conquest of the promised land. Together with JEPD stealing authorship from him, we have every reason to think Moses never existed.

    5.3) Science doesn’t support any version of creation. The biblical account contradicts the consensus of geology, cosmology, archeology, biology, etc. It would take an evil conspiracy for creation science to be correct. Which is why creationists do think science is an evil conspiracy.

    OT history:

    5.4) With all the genocide commanded of God, you really have to wonder if he was anything more than a typical tribal deity. He wasn’t good. He was just on their side. And then when Israel lost, they must have sinned. That’s it! That’s how our God is all powerful and yet we lost!

    5.5) Samuels + Kings differ from Chronicles in some key points. 5.5.1) Like who killed Goliath. 5.5.2) And who prompted David to call for a census – God or Satan?

    5.6) When Josiah was king, a “lost book of the Law” was found. 5.6.1) From what we know of JEPD, you can bet that someone just made up a new book, and pretended that Moses really wrote it. (This is the D.) Thus, much of Israel’s history was written while Josiah was king. 5.6.2) By the way, after the division of Israel, Josiah was the only good king. Who saw that one coming?

    The Gospels:

    5.7) Jesus prophesied the end of the world, his return, stars will fall, the moon will be blood, etc. before this generation passes away, before some standing here die, etc. And the world is still here.

    5.8) The Resurrection accounts contradict each other. 5.8.1) In Mark the women tell no one, in the other three their telling people is very important to the story. 5.8.2) In Matthew, the first Jesus-sighting is in Galilee, while in Luke and John, they are in Jerusalem. 5.8.3) And the Gospels written later have more stories of Jesus-sightings because a legend is growing.

    5.9) Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Jesus is special, but seemingly unaware of being God Himself. He dodges questions about his identity, speaks in parables, and suggests that works are the way to heaven. John’s Jesus knows he is God, has a long series of I AMs, uses no parables, and knows he is the way to heaven.

    5.10) People in the First Century were so superstitious that what they believed about Jesus is barely evidence at all. For instance, it took pretty much nothing for them to think John the Baptist was raised from the dead or that Paul and Barnabas were gods who came down as men.

    NT v. OT

    5.11) The NT consistently uses the OT to say things that it doesn’t say.

    5.11.1) Contra Matthew, the OT doesn’t say the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, born of a virgin, come out of Egypt, be called a Nazarene, etc.

    5.11.2) Contra Jesus, the OT doesn’t clearly teach about an afterlife, or at least not via “I AM the God of Abraham.” The OT doesn’t say the Messiah will be raised three days later.

    5.11.3) Contra Paul, Abraham’s promise was not to “seed” singular but to “seed” plural.

    The Canon:

    5.12) And finally, after centuries of fighting over whose Christianity is the real one, we get the 66 books due to a council of people deciding what books they thought God inspired.

    If God didn’t inspire the Bible, we should expect books with scientific errors. We should expect historical errors. We should expect stories that don’t line up. We should expect disagreement on basic doctrines. And that is exactly what we find. The Bible is the work of man from cover to cover, and you can see this everywhere you look.

    (Looking back, I should consider making this a formal post rather than comment. It might happen eventually.)

  • 187. LeoPardus  |  December 3, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Karissa:

    I guess i just don’t understand …… I guess i just can’t comprehend

    Yes’m. That is exactly what I, and most of the folks on this blog, would have said once. The mere concept of leaving the faith was not comprehensible to me. Now I have somewhat the opposite problem; I can hardly understand how I kept believing for so long. The “untruth” of it all is so clear.

    I don’t know that we can make it clear to you or help you understand really. But then that’s not the purpose of this site. We’re here for skeptical, de-converting, or former Christians. For the absolutely convinced Christian, this site offers little unless they want to gain some perspective/understanding of de-cons.

  • 188. Jeffrey  |  December 3, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Karissa,

    At the expense of shamelessly plugging for my blog, click my name. Unlike this site, its target audience includes Christians who are neither deconverting nor close. So far it’s 90% biblical reasons and it will stay that way for a while.

  • 189. Bruce  |  December 3, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I remember hearing Dawkins speak about a scale of belief where 1 signifies unshakeable faith and 7 is absolute nontheism. He called himself a 6, leaving the slimmest of possibilities of God, Santa and the Easter Bunny all existing.

    I’d say I’m at a 3 right now. I’m enjoying reading the arguments from both sides. I still believe, but I am looking at my faith much more critically now. Since I’m at a 3, Jesus probably hates me, given His statement that “I wish you were either hot or cold”

    I’m sure this is the case, but any of you during your journeys feel really guilty about rejecting things you once regarded as true? I sure am. Probably a good reason to question my faith all the more.

  • 190. Jeffrey  |  December 3, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Bruce,

    I felt a great deal guilt during the process, especially right after deconverting. I personify the bad guy as evaluated by me just a year ago. Watching Harvey Dent crack in The Dark Knight really struck a nerve – that is me, I just wasn’t strong enough to make it. When I rewatched the Revenge of the Sith, I found myself identifying with Anakin. But not during the last scene, where Anakin’s “I hate you” is played against Obi Wan’s “But I love you.” When my Christian friends/family and I look at each other, we both say “But I still love you.”

    The hard part is knowing that when I left for college/grad school, my parents worst fear was that I would lose my faith. It happened, and nothing I can say can soften the blow, and nothing I do with my life can make the way I turned out not be a disappointment.

  • 191. orDover  |  December 3, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Jeffrey, your last paragraph sums up my worst struggle and source of guilt. My dad and I aren’t on the best of terms. He only calls me maybe twice a year, and the only thing he says is, “Remember where you come from, what your mother and I have taught you. Remember the moral foundation we built for you.” They were so afraid when I went away to college that I would be corrupted by “liberal academics.” Granted, I de-converted in my senior year of high school, but the more education I procure the more staunch of an atheist I become. And I wanted to so badly to make them proud.

  • 192. Karissa  |  December 3, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Bruce, God certainly does NOT hate you for being only at a 3! I defintiely am not fully “hot” and on track with my relationship with the Lord all the time, but he will never stop loving me because I have things in life that start to pull me away from him. No matter where I’m at, he’ll still love me. Feeling guilty about rejecting things you once regarded as true is probably inevitable. I have no idea how much of a difficulty it must be. But is it all guilt, or is it some conviction? God doesn’t instill guilt in us, he convicts us. If it is God’s conviction, I suggest you stop and pray, give over to him the things that you seem to feel guilty about. What happens after that is up to you. I just pray you don’t fully let go yet. Keep believing, even if only an inkling of faith. Keep on. Don’t give up. He will NEVER give up on you. Just remember that.

  • 193. Jeffrey  |  December 3, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Karissa,

    Either God left most of us here, or the Christian God doesn’t exist. If you haven’t already, you should read the testimonials, including most recently Josh’s and mine.

    Telling someone God will never leave is like telling a kid whose dog is dying that dogs will never die. It might make her feel better for a while, but it’s not true, and in the end, she’s going to have to let go. That’s what this site is about. Helping people let go so they can move on with their lives.

  • 194. Quester  |  December 3, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Bruce,

    I feel guilty for disappointing people, but not for rejecting things I once saw as true. I don’t reject God; I simply don’t see any reason to believe He exists. I don’t reject God’s Will for my life; I just don’t see any clear revelation of what it might be. I don’t reject Heaven; I simply see no sense in the concept. I don’t reject salvation; I just finally gave up on trying to make sense of the word. I reject the pretence of being what I’m not and believing what I can’t. I reject the claim of knowledge I don’t hold. That’s about it, and I see nothing to feel guilty of in it.

  • 195. Karissa  |  December 4, 2008 at 1:42 am

    Jeffrey, I’m sorry that you feel that God has left you. In actuality, if you seek him, you will find him, but if you give up and turn your back on him, then no doubt it will feel as if he is not there. But he is. And he always will be. Whether you recognize that or not.

  • 196. Quester  |  December 4, 2008 at 1:45 am

    While He’s there, do you think you could talk Him into doing something revelatory, or even just something useful? No matter how much I seek, He doesn’t appear interested in being found by me and I have some questions about disease, disaster and famine I’d like Him to answer.

  • 197. The Apostate  |  December 4, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Karissa,

    In actuality, if you seek him, you will find him,

    This is so true.
    But then again, if I want peace and tranquility in my life I will find it. If I want revenge and justice I will find it. This is what it means to be human. The immaterial things we seek we will generally find because of how bad we want to see those things in the external world. You have not found a god, you have found a god in your mind.

  • 198. LeoPardus  |  December 4, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Karissa:

    1. God does show up! In visions, in his mere presence, he is here. You just have to be open and truly believe he does.

    If you just want to believe enough, you’ll delude yourself into believing anything. (BTW, no he doesn’t show up. See my article in the archives, “Reasons why I can no longer believe: God as a ‘no-show’.”)

    2. Prayers are answered!! Just not always the way that WE want them to be answered!

    By playing that game, I can get the same level of response to prayer from a bag of Fritos.

    4. Church disunity does happen sometimes. I won’t deny it. But the body of Christ, when the whole-heartedly seek God, will become unified. It’s inevitable!

    Put down the pipe and back away.
    It doesn’t happen “sometimes”. In 2000 years of church history there has been never been unity. Only increasing disunity. Your pipe dream is just deluded insistence in the face of reality.

    5. The Bible may seem self-contradictory, but take a closer look. Notice the context and the authors and see that it is in fact consistent.

    I’ll join you in your game of condescension. YOU try reading it. I’d dare to say that everyone on this blog site has read the Bible all the way through. More than once in most cases.

    6. God is SO loving, merciful, good, just!

    Put down the pipe and back away. Now go read the Bible. Now tell that to the babies he ordered killed. (Yep it’s in the Bible. Your ‘pro-life’ God ordered the murder of babies. In one case he did the murder himself.)

    7. People who make up their own ideas of God are just deceiving themselves.

    YES! You got it. Now the only problem is that you’re deceiving yourself. So STOP IT!

    8. The Universe is NOT capable of functioning without divine influence! God created it all! To take him out of the picture would be to wipe the universe out of existence!

    Sheesh! I think some of the folks around here can help you think through this one.

    9. Supernatural events and handiwork don’t always need proof. They need belief! When we believe, we can see the proof and recognize it was right before our eyes all along!

    If you just want to believe enough, you’ll delude yourself into believing anything.

    10. Christians and their tactics should not be to blame for de-converting! God is central! His followers follow him the best they can and if some people choose to be dishonest in their belief, that is their problem!

    Read your Bible. Who are his ambassadors to the world?? The world will know him because who has love for one another?? …. I could go on.

    14. If you don’t feel that your life is fuller with Christ, tell me what it feels like without him?? He gives meaning and purpose to life!

    The truth will set you free. I found that’s true. No longer am I trying to live up to some imaginary being’s demands. My life is full. And I don’t need an imaginary friend to provide meaning. I enjoy life. All the more without thinking that some capricious super-being is constantly on the watch. (I know, I know. You have no comprehension of this. I didn’t either a few years ago. But honesty, with myself, has opened my eyes.)

    17. Evil exists. Yes it does. That is why we need a holy God. Without him, the world would be purely evil

    The world is not purely evil, and there is no BibleGod. Atheists are all around you and we aren’t axe murderers. [Ah heck. Do you have any idea why presuppositions are wrong?]

    19. Christianity is different from all other religions. It is the only truth!

    Whoopee. I can get you any number of Muslims, Mormons, HareKrishnas, etc. to insist on their nonsense just as loudly.

    23. Of course God is going to be the most confusing subject! How could someone so vast and incomprehensible possibly be easy to understand! He is greater than we can attempt to imagine! Of course the books written by human authors will be more understandable!

    See my article in the archives entitled, “Reasons why I can no longer believe: God is “we know not what.”

    24. Giving money/tithe to church or good causes will only bless you if you WANT to give! If you desire to give, not even expecting anything in return and just trusting that God will provide, he WILL provide what you need!

    Tell it to the Christians starving around the world, watching their children die, watching their homes destroyed, etc. “Oh, don’t worry, God will provide what you need.” Apparently a lot of them need a bullet in the chest and a dead family.

    25. Once again, we are not tortured and tormented forever and ever! our sins have been thrown away, demolished, erased, because of Jesus’ death on the cross for us!

    Read your Bible. Listen to the sermons. What do you hear? Only Christians (and only “real” Christians at that) get off. The rest are given eternal torture for their temporal crimes. Such a just system.

    26. The Bible is not just a book! It is God’s words that were written down for us! To refer to the Bible is to refer to God’s advice. The Bible is not like textbook. It is a story, a love letter, a treasure that God so graciously gave to us!

    Put down the pipe and back away. Now sober up and try reading it again. Try honesty.

    I pray that you will find the truth whether through conviction, revelation or seeking! I know that the God of love that died for you wants you back.

    I hope you will find the truth by clear thinking, by refusing to accept comforting presuppositions, by honesty, and by seeking. I know there’s no personal deity, and your mind wants its proper functioning back.

  • 199. Heather  |  December 6, 2008 at 1:15 am

    If a connection is made with Jesus Christ, if you form a personal relationship with Christ, not the other Christians in the Church you attended, I wonder if the list would be the same. How many “Christians” are that due to the church they go to, the “religion” they practice, the people they need to impress or satisfy. Those “Christians” will not have the relationship with God needed to make it through trials and tribulations. As a de-converted Christian, pick up your Bible and spend time reading God’s word, spend time in a relationship with Jesus…no people allowed, leave the “Christians” of religion out of your life. I am curious what you would find in yourself…

    Who knows, maybe you would find something you never had before…and maybe you would reaffirm your standings…but it would be interesting to see…

  • 200. Jeffrey  |  December 6, 2008 at 1:29 am

    Heather,

    >As a de-converted Christian, pick up your Bible and spend time reading God’s word,

    Read post 186…

  • 201. Heather  |  December 6, 2008 at 1:44 am

    Bruce – I hope that you are following up and looking at the responses to your post. What is so awesome about God, is that we have to do nothing. We are saved by His grace. No matter where we are at on that scale, no matter the struggles we face as man, He is there. He loves us. He will never leave our side, even though we may leave His, while we may became distant from God, he never is distant from us…Every person has unique convictions and unique callings from God. Don’t let people, pastors, churches, tell you who to be. You know who you are, and by knowing Gods word you will know what personal convictions you have. My church abstains from alcohol…but guess what, I don’t. I don’t see that the scriptures tell me that I do or don’t have to partake in a beer! Do I feel guilty because my fellow church goers do something a tad different than I, nope, not at all…they are merely men, and I follow God, not man. Don’t let legalism affect your Faith. Don’t let science affect your Faith. If you see Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and you live a life based on love and his teachings…you will find happiness. Don’t get me wrong, the challenges are there, I am faced with them weekly! However, they are challenges of the flesh, challenges that when I give them to God, get so much easier. But, I have to give up my independence and lean on God…but who better to lean on! Someone who never leaves you, always loves you and never judges you…Awesome!!!

    I hope that you see this season in your life as a blessing, as a gift. All of the seasons of our lives are there for a reason…who knows whose path you will cross that has experienced just what you are experiencing now, you will have words of wisdom to share, something to relate, and you may prove to be just what that person needs to give themselves fully to God at that time. There are great things for you in Gods Kingdom!! Even the tiniest thing has great repercussions in this life of ours…

  • 202. Josh  |  December 6, 2008 at 2:14 am

    “He will never leave our side”

    Why is it, then, that nearly every de-con on this site complains that they felt God left them first?

    If God’s presence can be mistaken for lack of presence, then He must be a rather boring chap to hang out with.

  • 203. Heather  |  December 6, 2008 at 2:31 am

    We feel that God leaves us when we are not being diligient with our walk with Him. It is a daily thing, a relationship with God…it takes work. While He may nudge us, He does not take the inititive to cultivate a relationship with Him, we have to pursue a relationship with Him. When I take the time to nurture the relationship, it is awesome, when I ignore it, it is not there…kind of like the relationship with my husband!! :) If I am not feeding it everyday, it starves.

  • 204. Quester  |  December 6, 2008 at 2:34 am

    Wow, Heather, you’re right! If we try to form a relationship with God using only the Bible and our own experiences, not allowing other people to sway our judgement (which is completely contrary to biblical teaching, but what the hell) the list does indeed change. Now it just includes 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 25, and 29. Oh, and we end up having to add:

    30. In order to ignore the contradictions between biblical descriptions of the church (not descriptions of what it should be, mind you, but descriptions of what it is) and the actual church comprised of actual people, we have to shut our eyes and create a hypothetical universe where only God and we exist, and others are not allowed.

    Still, it was a fun intellectual exercise. Here’s one for you:

    Read the New Testament passages regarding the church and God’s Kingdom and see if you still believe that a personal relationship between you and God (or Jesus) has anything to do with what the bible depicts and commands. Who knows, you may come away confirmed that what your church taught you was right, without admitting the church’s role in your believing such, of course. But maybe you would see that the Bible presents a communal, covenantal relationship with a people, not an individual- a church, not a Christian. Is it supposed to be you and God, or Christ and the church, His bride? Perhaps you would decide that by ignoring people, pastors and churches, you are turning away from what the bible reveals as God and God’s will and turning toward an idol created by the American churches as they worship the notion of independent merit and value the idea of “making it on their own” with God’s help, but no one else’s- a concept of God and of relating to God which has only come about in the last few centuries.

    Maybe you won’t reach that conclusion, but it would be interesting to see…

  • 205. Heather  |  December 6, 2008 at 2:56 am

    The bride that you speak of is the people of Christ. We are the bride…what man has made the church that most people experience is not what was called for by God, or by Jesus. We are to enter into a relationship with Jesus and through Jesus we are able to have that relationship with God. Drawing together with others that have that relationship forms the Bride, or the church. The church was never meant to recreate the legalistic ways that Jesus delivered us out of!! I love my church. I love the worship we have and I enjoy the Pastors sermons…does that mean that what the Pastor says is gospel? No, it is his wisdom and interpretation for the majority and I take it as such.

    I don’t agree with any of the “reasons”…just so you know, and I am also curious of what your intrepretations of a “biblical” church is…

  • 206. BigHouse  |  December 6, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    I’m always amazed that there are people that will post this stuff and have no idea what this site is about and the overall background of the community.

  • 207. TitforTat  |  December 6, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Bighouse

    Of course they are aware. Im sure they just have the “need” to save our sorry asses lol. I dont know about you, but its snowing here and I could use the Heat ;)

  • 208. Jeffrey  |  December 6, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Josh: If God’s presence can be mistaken for lack of presence, then He must be a rather boring chap to hang out with.

    I laughed so hard when I read that…

  • 209. LeoPardus  |  December 6, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Heather:

    if you form a personal relationship with Christ,…. spend time in a relationship with Jesus

    Look in the archives for my article, “A personal relationship with Jesus?”

    Reading your other posts, it’s interesting to note that you advocate just reading your Bible and leaving others out of the “knowing God” process. Yet you constantly spit out phrases from the fundamentalist teaching you’re under. Most of it doesn’t even come from the Bible.

    Out of curiosity, how many times have you read the entire Bible? By that I don’t mean a geusstimate; I mean times you made certain that you read every, single word from cover to cover.

  • 210. LeoPardus  |  December 6, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Don’t let science affect your Faith.

    Oh no! By no means! Don’t let verifiable, reproducible facts ever infect your fantasy.

    If you see Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and you live a life based on love and his teachings…you will find happiness.

    I found happiness without bothering with the teachings of a primitive tribe of the Middle East thank you. You want to try it? If you see reality as it is, and live a life of love and decency, you can be happy without an imaginary friend.

    they are challenges of the flesh, challenges that when I give them to God, get so much easier.

    When I stopped thinking about those as sins, they went away. I don’t have those struggles anymore. The Truth set me free.

    but who better to lean on! Someone who never leaves you, always loves you and never judges you

    MY DOG!

  • 211. LeoPardus  |  December 6, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    I enjoy the Pastors sermons…does that mean that what the Pastor says is gospel? No, it is his wisdom and interpretation for the majority and I take it as such.

    But you are a special minority??

    I am also curious of what your intrepretations of a “biblical” church is…

    A non-sequitur; a non-entity; a phrase people use, but it has no reality behind it; a thing that never existed; a fantasy; like a square circle.

  • 212. northportphoneguy  |  December 6, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Don’t let science affect your faith

    I’m not a very good writer nor as heavy duty philosophers as you’all, so if this has a modicum of sense, please feel free to rewrite and expand.

    I am a de-con and the statement above was one of the reasons I decided there was no god. If god made everything and made us in his image, I assumed he made us intelligent, inquisitive, with the ability to reason. And indeed, you look around and see the advances our ‘god given’ intelligence has made since those nomadic days.

    So…To find god and for him to grant me eternal life, I have to reverse something he created. I must become an illogical, non reasoning person, who must willfully suspend intelligence(that which he gave me, mind you) and have ‘faith’ in what is most illogical.

    Seemed like a Catch-22 to me. “I will create you smart, but you will have to make yourself dumb to find me”.

  • 213. Heather  |  December 6, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Yikes…I thought I was commenting to Bruce. Oops…guess I hit a cord. Sorry. I understand that many people think that Christianity is bunk…fine. I don’t. I just post my thoughts, just like you do. I enjoy a debate, a conversation. I have no false hope that I will be converting the de-converted, (although it would be neat!!) I simply like a good conversation!! :) I also wanted to offer some encouragement to Bruce…

    I would consider myself a new Christian, and I concentrate the time I have to read the Bible in the NT…I have read the words in the NT many times, but I have probably not read every word in the OT…but I have read a lot of them. Sometimes I do feel like I am in the minority…because I am a new Christian, and I was not raised in a religious home, I do not have many of the “traditions” and “thinkings” of many mainstream Christians. So, yes, I feel like I am in a minority (one that is growing though).

  • 214. Heather  |  December 6, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Not dumb, just Faithful. Science has its place, and it has done good, and it has done evil…I am simply saying that in relation to Faith in God, it is not neccessary. You should educate yourself in all other ways…the things man has learned and created are awesome! Where would we be without them! However, they are two separate subjects…So, yes, embrace science, technology, and education, and embrace Faith in God too.

  • 215. Jeffrey  |  December 6, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    >So, yes, embrace science, technology, and education, and embrace Faith in God too.

    I agree that science and religion are not necessarily incompatible, although science disproves pieces of most people’s faith. I was a theistic evolutionist who accepted the entirety of modern science for a while, and science itself had little to do with my Christian evolutionist to non-Christian theist switch. (Although, the observation of what Christianity does to most Christians’ views on science was a significant factor.)

    More importantly, it was part of a trend I discovered. There are some scientific arguments for Christianity – knowledge of science leads people to reject these arguments. There are some philosophical arguments for Christianity – knowledge of philosophy leads people to reject these arguments. Similarly with ancient history, first-century history, biblical studies, comparative religion, etc. Christianity is verifiably false in all the places where it makes verifiable claims about reality.

  • 216. northportphoneguy  |  December 6, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Not dumb, just Faithful

    How shall I rephrase this. If god created everything, including my intellect, and because of the intellect that I was given, I have learned/discovered material that leads me to the conclusion that the bible god is a myth, where does faith fit in. Am I now to ask a mythical god to give me a substance called ‘faith’ which will then negate the things which have lead me to the conclusion that he does not exist?

    Like many of you, I have found so much relief and peace, in giving up this convoluted belief system.

  • 217. VorJack  |  December 6, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    “So, yes, embrace science, technology, and education, and embrace Faith in God too.”

    I think the greatest problem that Science presents to religion has nothing to do with the body of knowledge or technology. It’s simply a matter of epistemology; how do we know what we believe we know?

    Science says we can know by observing and by testing, then by making predictions and testing the predictions. Every scientific claim must be open to argument, testable in light of new evidence, and changeable in response to legitimate criticism.

    Different religions begin in different places, but most end up in the same location. For traditional Christianity, it begins with some revelation, either through the Bible or through tradition (not that the two can really be separated.) Liberal Christianity begins with the experience of piety. But then, rather than test, test and test again, they make a virtue out of faith. You can’t really be sure of what you believe, but continuing to believe it despite any and all evidence is a really, really good thing.

    This is what Science encourages people to point at and laugh. It’s not the claims themselves, it’s how those claims are supported. Fact is, they AREN’T supported. We’re just supposed to believe them because believing them is good for us in some vague way. Why we’re supposed to have faith in Jesus, rather than Ahura Mazda, Allah, Nyalarthotep, or the slew of Hindu gods is never explained. Because we have no means of testing, any claim is as good as any other.

    This is why Science makes a mockery of Religion. Not because of what Science has to say, but because Science has something to say AT ALL. Religion,sadly, gives us a jumble of assertions that are based solely upon the desires of the speaker.

  • 218. ubi dubium  |  December 6, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    northportphoneguy

    So…To find god and for him to grant me eternal life, I have to reverse something he created. I must become an illogical, non reasoning person, who must willfully suspend intelligence (that which he gave me, mind you) and have ‘faith’ in what is most illogical.

    Seemed like a Catch-22 to me. “I will create you smart, but you will have to make yourself dumb to find me”.

    I like the way you put that. Well said.

  • 219. Karissa  |  December 7, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    Here’s what I have to say about science and christianity.
    Science: very influencial, informative, world-changing and it does provide answers. But, how much more does an omniscient God understand!? He, in fact, created all of what we, people, try to figure out! Of course he will know more than us! There are answers unattainable by man! only God knows! That is where science ends and faith begins! we have to just trust that certain things are the way they are because God created it! Mankind cannot comprehend the answers to everything! it is just impossible!

  • 220. Jeffrey  |  December 7, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    >Mankind cannot comprehend the answers to everything!

    Absolutely! Where did the universe come from? God did it. How are we alive? God did it, etc. These answers are just too easy. Theism involves taking all the mystery of the universe and sealing it away in a box marked “God.” Science keeps answering questions while believers keep fighting to keep the questions unanswered so as to have a bigger God.

    Science will never have all the answers, but the history of science keeps reducing the number of things we don’t know – this suggests that not knowing something is a poor reason to believe in God. I’m an atheist because I can look at a mystery, see that it is a mystery, and allow it to remain a mystery.

  • 221. orDover  |  December 8, 2008 at 12:07 am

    we have to just trust that certain things are the way they are because God created it.

    If we went around thinking like that we would still assume that the world is flat, that stars are holes in the tapestry of the skies, that the earth is the center of the universe, that the sun revolves around the earth, etc, etc.

    If you stop inquiring and just say, “this are this way because God made them so,” then you never learn and never discover.

  • 222. VorJack  |  December 8, 2008 at 10:43 am

    “That is where science ends and faith begins! we have to just trust that certain things are the way they are because God created it!”

    I think Jeffrey & orDover caught the major points with this.

    I’d just like to ask how you determine which claims you take on faith and which you don’t.

    For example, you use the word God frequently. Why singular and not plural? Polytheism has been the dominant mode of religious expression for thousands of years. It still has millions (billions?) of adherents, so it must still be a live option.

    Two people stand before you: one a monotheist and the other a polytheist. Which person’s claim do you accept and take on faith? And why? If the nature of the divine is “unattainable by man,” can you judge between these two claims?

  • 223. ubi dubium  |  December 8, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Karissa –
    You are very good at parroting what your chuch told you to say and what they told you to think. You get a gold star on your sunday school exam.

    Now, have you ever had a question that they did not have a satisfactory answer for? Have you ever thought about a hard question and come to a different conclusion than they did? Has there ever been anything about your religion that does not make total sense to you? If your answer is “no, I agree with them totally, in all ways” then this website is probably not the place for you. Sincere questions are welcome here, preaching is not.

  • 224. Quester  |  December 9, 2008 at 12:47 am

    Sorry to leave you hanging, Heather. It was a full weekend.

    I don’t agree with any of the “reasons”…just so you know,

    Thanks for clearing that up.

    and I am also curious of what your intrepretations of a “biblical” church is…

    Hmm.. I had hoped you would go to the Bible with that question, but all right.

    Viewing the Old Testement, we see that God tends to choose one person as a representative of a people. God enters into a covenantal relationship with the people through that one person. In the New Testament, the trend continues with a small group of disciples being told the truth as God enters a new covenant with every one through a small select group. Jesus never sends His disciples out in groups smaller than two, because of the importance of community. He describes God’s will realized as God’s Kingdom- a large and hierarchical community. In the Epistles, entire households are baptized at a time. Indeed, many of the epistles are addressed to such households. Husbands are set up as the heads of the households, as the representatives of God’s covenantal relationship, as priests are in a parish setting. God relates to the household (or church) through His chosen representative.

    In the first few centuries, this is how the church progressed. Household heads would come to believe, and their household would be baptized. Town rulers would come to believe, and everyone in the town would be baptized. Emperor Constantine converted, and the empire became the Holy Roman Empire.

    Throughout the Bible, and throughout history, God is seen to work through representatives and hierarchies, rather than appearing to each individual or craving an intimate personal relationship with them. Suddenly, in the past couple of centuries, it all became “me and my pal, Jesus.”

    What passages of scripture can you find to support the idea that God wants a personal relationship with you?

  • 225. LeoPardus  |  December 9, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Oh. A biblical church. Well, the only church-like descriptions we get in the Bible are in the OT. There priests had robes (nice ones) and the wore symbolic artifacts (the ephod and such). There were candles and incense in the service. There was an altar. There were lots of very nice looking decorations all around the place.

    So, if you want to know what a Biblical church would look like; if you want to know what it looked like when Jesus or Paul or Peter went to church; try going to a very conservative, Orthodox, Jewish service. Or, if you want a touch of NT in there, you can try a service at an Eastern Orthodox church.

    Whatcha say Karissa? Want to try a “Biblical” church?

  • 226. Kim  |  December 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    you are some sad, hateful, negative, grouchy people.

  • 227. LeoPardus  |  December 18, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Kim:

    Without bothering to question the truth of what you said, just how is your comment supposed to help anyone?

    Does it make you feel better?

    Do you think it is likely to make any of us happier, less hateful, positive, or less grouchy?

    Do you think it will make anyone reflect on their life?

    Does it make you feel superior because you’re not sad/hateful/negative/grouchy?

    Do you think it will lead to positive interaction with us sad/hateful/negative/grouchy people?

    If you think that you can’t have positive interaction or get us to reflect, then why did you even bother to say anything?

    I’d truly like to know why you thought your comment needed to be made?

  • 228. Josh  |  December 18, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    “I’d truly like to know why you thought your comment needed to be made?”

    Put downs are self lift-ups.

  • 229. Josh  |  December 18, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    BTW, I damn love life right now. It couldn’t be better :)

  • 230. steve miller  |  January 9, 2009 at 8:25 am

    This list seems very complimentary of the previous list (list of the convenient categories that Christians like to come up with to explain why people leave the faith.) I think when read together they give a great binocular view of those who reject Christianity. Thanks for the lists and being honest about a touchy subject. This is a great resource.

  • 231. mnemosyne  |  January 11, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I tried and tried to believe in God and I couldn’t. You can’t make yourself believe things. All the arguments the Christians have are circular; God is real because the Bible says it is. The Bible is the truth because God says it is. No one was ever able to offer me anything that caused me to believe.

    Now that I’ve admitted I don’t believe I can admit one more thing: I think it is morally wrong to worship the Christian God. This God created evil, does not prevent harm to innocent people and his idea of punishment is eternal damnation. There is no love, goodness or grace that I can see in the concept. Even if I had solid proof I think now I would choose an eternity in hell to committing what I consider a real sin.

  • 232. Servant  |  January 11, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    @mnemosyne
    I think it is morally wrong to worship the Christian God. This God created evil, does not prevent harm to innocent people and his idea of punishment is eternal damnation.
    1)Evil in it’s fundamental form is the rebellion from the law. But if you set up some sort of law, and allow free will, through eternity someone will eventually break the law. So creation of evil is not an act of God, it is consequence of the system variables. 2) Inability to prevent harm to innocent people is also consequence of the free will. But those who suffer, suffer for a cause – without suffering there would never be progress towards the End of suffering. 3) True punishment is not eternal damnaton, it is eternal erasing. Think of the Final punishment similar to one given to Roy in the Bladerunner finale: “All those moments will be washed in time, like tears in the rain.”

  • 233. LeoPardus  |  January 11, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    True punishment is not eternal damnaton, it is eternal erasing.

    So you’re of the belief that those not “of the faith” will be removed from existence? I.e. they simply will no longer exist in any way?

  • 234. Yurka  |  January 14, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    27. Anti intellectualism: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/01/deconversion-wager.html

  • 235. Quester  |  January 14, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Thank-you, Yurka. Once again, I agree with you, 100%. That link you have shared with us directs the viewer to a blatant and almost painful example of anti-intellectualism. Good job on pointing it out.

  • 236. mrs. vk  |  January 17, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Hate to just point out a book, but I will. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. Read it closely and think. You will have a hard time refuting his logic.

  • 237. Quester  |  January 17, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Who are you pointing that book out to, Mrs. Vk? The deconverted?

  • 238. Don Hubbard  |  February 18, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    I really don’t know what to think anymore. I have tried since childhood to be a religious person. I’ve gone through the meditation stage, vegetarian monkey god worship stage, Buddha stage, back to Jesus and still have nothing to hold onto or show for it. The people I thought where true Christians and true new agers and true what ever you call them have not stayed my friends. I not a freak, I hold a job ( same one for 37 years) I am involved in my community. I support and help with charities. The more I see people with the need to have a parent in the sky the more I am sad. But, oh well, dem’s the breaks! Love the web site.

  • 239. LeoPardus  |  February 19, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Don:

    Glad you like the site.

    Sounds like you’re busy being a decent person. No religion needed for that. Keep it up.

  • 240. Yurka  |  February 19, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Don? Parent in the sky? Let me ask you – have you ever done anything morally wrong? Do you consider that a nothing? Doesn’t the existence of a moral law imply a conscious entity that is the source of that law? Or do you deny that in order to tell yourself that your sins will be annihilated when you and the people you wronged will be annihilated?

  • 241. LeoPardus  |  February 19, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Doesn’t the existence of a moral law imply a conscious entity that is the source of that law?

    NO! Sheesh! Can’t we make it any clearer?
    The answer to your question is, “NO! it does NOT!”

  • 242. Kevin  |  February 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    We’re mortal meat. And we are here. Why is that not enough?

  • 243. Josh (guitarstrummr)  |  February 19, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Does the existence of common coding standards among programmers imply a conscious entity that is the source of those coding standards? Does that entity have to be a deity?

    Does the existence of the war between the light and the darkness imply the existence of two deities battling each other in the heavens?

    Does the existence of common moral standards among men imply that something outside of men is the source of those standards?

    Or could it be that men invent rules because they don’t like to get hurt and like to put restrictions on others who might hurt them?

  • 244. paleale  |  February 19, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    It seems that Yurka is the one who is constantly battling to find a source for morality, perhaps projecting is own insecurities onto us because we have found solid ground.

    The essence of morality is avoidance of harm. At whatever point societies began to gather, whether that society was two people or two hundred, morality was invented to A: protect oneself, B: to protect another individual, and C: to protect society at large.

    If caveman Sam has fire and caveman Bob takes Sam’s fire then Sam may likely suffer injury or die from the cold. Look out! Here comes empathy! And just in case we try to pass the question on as to where empathy comes from, chimpanzees and gorillas possess the ability empathize (did God make them in his image too?). Empathy gives us the ability to calculate the harm that Sam would incur if his fire is taken. Further, the harm that the society would incur if they lose a valuable hunter. Thus a moral is developed that it’s ‘bad’ to steal fire from another member of the society. And as time goes on, it becomes obvious that killing another member of society causes harm to both the one being killed, perhaps his or her mate, and the society at large. As societies become more complex, so does their moral code. Eventually it becomes necessary to create legislation. And then finally….

    Taxes.

  • 245. Don Hubbard  |  February 19, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    How many people have been murdered in the name of god? How many people are blowing themselves and others up in the same name? Where is the morality? I say the morality is in each of us. We all make mistakes. We all need to learn from the mistakes we make. If we make large societal mistakes we pay the large price. Morality is something we need as a culture, but, I don’t believe that religion has any kind of corner on the market. We, as evolving humanoids, must take responsibility for our selves and our brothers & sisters. We need to grow as a species, to evolve into creatures that love and serve each other and can explore the universe of possibilities that exist for us.

  • 246. Yurka  |  February 20, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Have any of you people ever listened to William Lane Craig’s debates? He demolishes the notion of morality apart from a transcendent source. For instance – you believe there is an objective principle that we shouldn’t harm innocent children. If that is just an intuition that is just ‘out there’, why should I favor that over the psychopath who has the opposite intuition?

    What meaning does a moral intuition apart from consciousness? None, as far as I can see. Bishop Berkeley may have been wacky with his ‘esse est percipi’, but for our *moral* intuitions to have OBJECTIVE reality, it does seem to demand a transcendent consciousness to give it validity.

  • 247. Yurka  |  February 20, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Because the very notion of morality necessarily involves consciousness/personhood and therefore necessitates a mind as its source.

  • 248. Josh (guitarstrummr)  |  February 20, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Yurka, your comment shows a lack of understanding of what evolution is.

    Regardless, you have an equal problem with the Christian worldview. According to numerous places in Scripture, God will blind the minds of people so that they cannot see the truth, right? God hardened Pharoah’s heart. He is hardening the hearts of present day Judaism (according to Paul). According to Paul, the non-spiritual man cannot understand the spiritual things of the gospel. According to numerous writers in the New Testament, man’s reason (wisdom) is foolishness in the eyes of God, right?

    So then, consider this. According to the Christian worldview, man’s reason is untrustworthy. Yurka, if your heart right now is hardened toward God and you only *think* you are saved, then your “reason” would be telling you that *can* reason when you actually *cannot*. In other words, according to Scripture, you cannot trust your reason or faculties at all. You don’t know if you are one of the ones who *thinks* you are saved and are not *really* saved.

    Now consider the only foundational belief that leads me to trust my reason:

    * The universe runs according to consistent patterns.

    That’s it.

    From this we can extrapolate that any creature that would evolve with faculties that disagreed with these consistent patterns would be eliminated by death. Rational faculties are faculties that align themselves with these consistent patterns of nature. Therefore, creatures that evolve with more rational faculties are preserved and their genes are passed on.

    Yes, you are right, we cannot *know* 100% for sure that our reason is 100% accurate. How would we know? How could we know? Well, we can be assured our faculties are fairly accurate based upon the above considerations. And what the heck is the point of insinuating this anyway? Are you saying that we cannot know our reason is accurate unless we assume that God exists and that he gave us accurate reasoning?

    How do we know our faculties are accurate when we make the above assertion that the universe runs according to consistent patterns? Well… one has to assume their faculties are somewhat trustworthy to even ask the question.

    I submit these are three assumptions we all make when we even start to ask questions:

    1) Our environment is consistent enough to yield answers (assumes consistent universe)
    2) Our faculties are aligned to the environment we find ourselves in (evolution answers this nicely, because it asserts our faculties are created by nature’s forces and only those creatures with faculties aligned to the environment will survive and reproduce effectively)

    Therefore,

    3) We can find answers about our environment by using our faculties (reason)

    No assumption of God – or a Christian worldview – is necessary.

  • 249. Josh (guitarstrummr)  |  February 20, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    “you believe there is an objective principle that we shouldn’t harm innocent children”

    Wow, who said this. There is no objective principle that says harming innocent children is wrong. There is an inbuilt repulsion in the majority of humans that says this is wrong. It makes us extremely uncomfortable. It causes pain. It incites empathy of the strongest sort. A man or woman who harms innocent children has a problem because they are lacking that inbuilt repulsion. A creature within a species who would do the very things that hinder that species from surviving shows faculties that do not line up with healthy human behavior (behavior that fits the norm). A man or woman who does this is revolting and most likely mentally or psychologically sick. They should be stopped.

    Penguins do everything in their power to protect their young. A penguin that refuses to protect its young is ill. This is “wrong”, but there is no objective moral law that says a penguin must protect its young, is there?

    You don’t need objective moral laws, Yurka. You just need to be an average human with a resistance to pain, an ability to empathize, and working mental faculties. That’s healthy human behavior and the standard which we use to judge the behavior of others. A person who lacks a resistance to pain is considered self-destructive. A person who lacks the ability to empathize is a psychopath. A person who lacks mental faculties is insane.

  • 250. Josh (guitarstrummr)  |  February 20, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    “Because the very notion of morality necessarily involves consciousness/personhood and therefore necessitates a mind as its source.”

    And that mind is the mind of man.

  • 251. LeoPardus  |  February 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Have any of you people ever listened to William Lane Craig’s debates?

    Make that William “Lame” Craig. Yurka, you’ve got to at the very least try a non-presuppositional approach someday.

    He demolishes the notion of morality apart from a transcendent source.

    OOOOO!! “Demolishes” it does he? Wow! It’s a wonder anyone fails to agree with William the Demolisher.

    you believe there is an objective principle that we shouldn’t harm innocent children. If that is just an intuition that is just ‘out there’, why should I favor that over the psychopath who has the opposite intuition?

    It’s about survival of the species. That is what we’re all programmed for. Psychopaths have the program messed up. Restraining them is another part of survival for the species. It’s all really easy to understand once you learn what evolution is about. But as long as you are listening to liars (creationists, ID’ers, presuppers) you’ll never understand.

    What meaning does a moral intuition apart from consciousness? None, as far as I can see.

    You finally got something right. Only problem is that in your world that is run by a big, invisible, intangible, inaudible, undetectable, magic man in the sky, you’ve identified the wrong consciousness. Try looking closer to home. WE humans have consciousness.

    but for our *moral* intuitions to have OBJECTIVE reality, it does seem to demand a transcendent consciousness to give it validity.

    Nope. Simple human consciousness and struggle are quite enough.

  • 252. orDover  |  February 20, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Because the very notion of morality necessarily involves consciousness/personhood and therefore necessitates a mind as its source.

    Then by your definition, every species of great ape is a person.

  • 253. Don Hubbard  |  February 20, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    It seems that the question is does a mind/ consciousness
    /personhood = a godhead who created it? What is the definition of mind/ consciousness/personhood?
    A quick Google is as follows:
    consciousness
    [kon′shəsnes]
    a clear state of awareness of self and the environment in which attention is focused on immediate matters, as distinguished from mental activity of an unconscious or subconscious nature.

    This is from

    http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Conscious+mind

    Now where do we derive from that the godhead fantasy?
    If people want to believe I say let them. Many people want to believe that their dead loved one talk to them during mystic experiences. If that give them balm for their soul, let them believe. Many people need to feel forgiven from their “sins” from a higher power, let them be forgiven. Many people need to dance in their gardens to make it rain, let them dance! The world is a rough place. Many people are in need of the help from supernatural forces.
    Some of us are not.
    Some people want to take responsibility for their own actions. Some people want to live life to the fullest without the threat of hell looming over them. Some people live good and moral lives without looking for the spacemen to take them away and make everything better.

  • 254. Cy  |  March 30, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Yeah, probably you are right at some point; but then I know that at one point in your life later on there will be this unquenchable thirst to seek God’s face. Later on, it’s you crying in His arms. Later on, it’s God calling you back, wanting you so badly in His family.

    Probably all I’m saying is just nothing to you. I have to tell you this though, you don’t need all these pastors fighting each other in order to become a Christian. Probably you just realize at some point that their love for God is so intense that going against what they believe of God would be so degrading for their church. I understand them there. But I know the Christian church today is not united one way or another, and it’s not good.

    But Jesus is good. Jesus loved you. He died for you, didn’t He? It’s the first step of becoming a Christian. At least believe in Jesus. I don’t care what the rest says.

    I’d like to see you guys in Paradise some day.

    ~Cy,
    18, UP-Diliman,
    Philippines

  • 255. LeoPardus  |  March 30, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    At least believe in Jesus. I don’t care what the rest says

    Well then, we won’t bother trying to engage your mind.

  • 256. Don Hubbard  |  March 30, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Look I’ve talked with folks like you most of my life. To ” seek Gods face” is some kind of weird fantasy you have, much like seeking the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s face. I know I’ll die, but I don’t fear death and don’t need to have the Easter bunny come and save me. I don’t want to chant hare Krishna or anything like that. I love my life. I try to help my fellow people. I don’t condemn folks I don’t know to HELL!!! U know!! FIRE BAD!! Although I do like the Flying Spaghetti Monster the more I read about him.

  • 257. Ubi Dubium  |  March 31, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Yarrr, Don! Come join us at the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (pesto be upon him). The Forums are particularly fun, and we all get a great laugh at our hate-mailers. As fictional religions go, (and they are all fictional) it’s the best one around. (www.venganza.org) RAmen!

  • 258. Anonymous  |  April 26, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    This is just a confession–not a list of why you should leave any particular religion. Religion, when done right, is full of sacrifices. Life is not supposed to be easy, therefore why should religion be easy? If you could just simply say, “Praise God!” and get into whatever type of afterlife or posthumous experience you subscribe to instantly, THERE WOULD BE NO POINT TO RELIGION.

    This list is simply a confession saying, in effect, “I am sick of suffering from the pains that come with life and religion and am therefore going to do whatever I can go avoid pain–which includes dropping from my faith.” This is the sign of someone who has no one to lean on spiritually.

    With sacrifice, comes discipline, and with discipline, comes the ability to hold fast in whatever your beliefs and morals are. I’m not saying that these beliefs and morals have to automatically be Christian, but this fact goes for anything.

    All I am saying is that life is full of pain. What religion gives a person is the ability to channel this pain and sacrifice into healthy choice, people to be there when a person is wavering in their faith or just in life in general, and hope that there really is a point to all the madness a person sees around him or herself.

    So, in conclusion, I hope you all can consider this post your own personally Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann/Kamina to Simon/WAKE THE HELL UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE PUNCH!!!

    Life is full of sacrifice.

    Religion is full of sacrifice.

    Have faith in this world and even if you don’t mean to do so, people around you will have faith in turn.

    With faith comes hope, and hope is perhaps a person’s most powerful weapon against humanity and the chaotic world around us. Blessed are those who see not and believe. There is a reason. I know it takes an immense amount of faith, but there is a reason to believe in. This is the biggest problem with people like those who believe in the FSM and those who try to disprove religion with reason and scientific proof.

    This is because you can’t see, hear, feel, touch, or taste religion! Our puny minds can bearly grasp it! It’s all we can do to just bearly cling to that rope of faith when things get tough and God just seems to “abandon” us out of the blue. Believe what you want… but I suppose in the end it comes down to choice… believe or do not believe.

    I choose to believe that there is a reason in life, that there is a reason in pain, suffering, evil, and all that bad stuff in the world. If nothing else, it gives us something to fight against and something to serve as an example of how not to behave. I also believe that there was a reason I randomly decided to click on this link while reading over a movie review in another section. But again, it’s all in the choice to believe or not. Do you have enough faith. I know you do, I’m sure everone does. Whether you choose to suck it up and take the pain that comes with belief is based on your own personal limits.

  • 259. Zane  |  April 30, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    It brings me sorrow in a way that I have not felt for years to see so many gifted people work so hard to pull away from God and lead others on the same path. Most of the problems listed seem to hinge on the lack of perfection in man (church, text, or personal expressions of faith) none seem to deal with the reality of Christ. When you are in need, call on Him, He will be there, even if you can’t weigh Him on a scale or stick your finger in His side. He held me when I was at my lowest. The Love is real even if it doesn’t meet your ideas of how it should be…

  • 260. Quester  |  April 30, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    When you are in need, call on Him, He will be there, even if you can’t weigh Him on a scale or stick your finger in His side.

    If He’s there, but there’s no way to know, and He doesn’t do anything, then He might as well not be there, for all the difference it makes. Thanks for trying, Zane. Have a good day.

  • 261. LeoPardus  |  April 30, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Zane:

    none seem to deal with the reality of Christ.

    There is no reality of Christ. He’s just an historical character with a large following that thinks he’s God. You can call on this long-dead character all you want. It may bring you some psychological relief, just like a child gets from his teddy bear, but there’s no reality behind it.

    And just about all of us here did call on him when we were in need. When we were frightened beyond words at the time we found the faith slipping. We asked for ANYTHING. Just any clear revelation or something to let us know He was there. The silence was deafening. It remains so.

  • 262. ArchangelChuck  |  May 1, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Zane, who is this Jesus fellow you speak of, and where can I find him? Does he have an email address?

  • 263. Others  |  May 4, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Zane, you’re doing it wrong. When talking to people here, you probably should just not say “Jesus” or “God” while on here. It makes it too easy for people here to just say, “Can you show me proof of God?”

    Of course we can give reasons for faith but never proof. That is what makes us who we are. We just stick to “Blessed are those who believe and do not see,” and move on.

  • 264. Quester  |  May 4, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Better yet, Others, just move on.

  • 265. BigHouse  |  May 5, 2009 at 9:08 am

    “Blessed are those who believe and do not see,” and move on.

    See, this I do not get. Why is it considered virtuous to believe something lacking in evidence?

  • 266. LeoPardus  |  May 5, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Of course we can give reasons for faith but never proof. That is what makes us who we are. We just stick to “Blessed are those who believe and do not see,” and move on.

    This sort of mindlessness puts me in mind of a query by Douglas Adams. To paraphrase a bit, “Why is it that when it comes to religion, which is supposed to be the most important thing in the world, that we are expected to accept specious reasoning and logic that would get us a failing grade if we used its like in any other area?”

  • 267. Others  |  May 6, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Because taking the world around us as we see it, analyze it, and define it leaves so much to be desired. Without faith and mystery there is no soul in the Earth. The sun is not a sustainer of life or a beautiful orb that dances across our skies each day… but simply a ball of constantly fusing hydrogen atoms. So too would the moon no longer be this great, glowing presence that casts upon a dark world an eerie yet serine hue… but nothing more than a hunk of rock that was once part of the Earth, broke off during a collision during Earth’s formation and now orbits our planet.
    Without faith, mystery, and myth, there is no relationship between anything. All the things around us are merely tools and have no greater purpose. What a sad existence.

    And to Quester: if people like me–meaning believers–“moved on” then what would you do? I don’t ask this completely in sarcasm, but I would really like to know what plans you have made for when after you’ve deconverted the entire world.

  • 268. Quester  |  May 6, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Others,

    I think you have “faith, mystery, and myth” confused with “imagination”. Nothing wrong with imagination, of course, so long as you don’t confuse it with reality.

    What have I said that makes you think I want to deconvert anyone? By “move on”, I meant “go about your day without bothering us”.

  • 269. LeoPardus  |  May 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Quester: You’re probably right. One thing’s very evident. ‘Others’ lacks imagination.

  • 270. Quester  |  May 6, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Leo,

    Lacks imagination, or a boundary between imagination and reality?

  • 271. paleale  |  May 6, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Others

    I understand the poetic meanings that apply to the sun and moon and our world at large. But what you have demonstrated is that we are the ones who give it meaning. For the moon simply is a hunk of rock. And the sun simply is a giant ball of fusing atoms. It’s because we have the capacity to superimpose this element of deification upon these objects that they take on the shroud of mystery. It’s not that they begin in mystery and we strip away the cloak. It is we who dressed them up in the first place.

    Is it not so hard to imagine a prehistoric human personifying the moon? Or the ocean? Or nature itself? And then as societies became increasingly complex so then did our ideas of the numinous and our relationship to it.

    We don’t wish to take away the poetry, Others. The sun still is a sustainer of life and the moon still casts its glow. These ideas will always appeal to those of us who have poetic personalities. But to continue to explode these mere poetic notions of mystery into something that obligates one to devote one’s life to worshiping the costumes of ever-increasingly complex gods does not give the earth ‘soul’. It gives it nonsense and deception.

    Let the sun wear his crown while recognizing that it is we who presided over the coronation.

  • 272. LeoPardus  |  May 6, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Others:

    paleale nailed it. Listen, learn, and live.

    taking the world around us as we see it, analyze it, and define it leaves so much to be desired.

    I can tell you aren’t a scientist.

    Without faith and mystery there is no soul in the Earth.

    There IS no soul in the Earth. (Unless maybe your of the Gaia crowd.) The idea of “soul” as you’re using it here is a man-made concept.

    The sun is not a sustainer of life or a beautiful orb that dances across our skies each day… but simply a ball of constantly fusing hydrogen atoms.

    It IS a ball of gas. It is also critical to sustaining life. It is also beautiful to many folks. That last one is not intrinsic. It’s purely subjective.

    So too would the moon no longer be this great, glowing presence that casts upon a dark world an eerie yet serine hue… but nothing more than a hunk of rock

    The terms “eerie” and “serene” are purely subjective. Many people, including poetic ones, might well tell you there’s nothing eerie about the moon. It is however just a big collection of rock.

    that was once part of the Earth, broke off during a collision during Earth’s formation and now orbits our planet.

    This is not a fact. It’s an hypothesis.

    Without faith, mystery, and myth, there is no relationship between anything.

    I can tell you aren’t a scientist at all.

    All the things around us are merely tools and have no greater purpose.

    Take man away. Now what are those things? Rocks, balls of gas, etc. WE are the ones who assign these other values to them.

    You really must learn to distinguish between reality, poetry, fantasy, subjectivity, objectivity, etc. You have a tremendous job of remedial, critical thinking education ahead.

  • 273. RLWemm  |  May 12, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    @Others:

    Non-believers can be just as poetical as those with religious beliefs. One of the most beautiful pieces of poetical prose in praise of nature that I ever read is contained in the first chapter of Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion”. Look it up, read it, savour it, and then see what else he has to say.

  • 274. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 5:22 am

    Hi! I’m an ex-de-con who recently re-converted. I want to try countering the reasons above because I’m very challenge-driven, so I’m always looking for ways to test my faith. If there’s a question I can’t answer with confidence then I want to explore that topic, and maybe you guys can help shed some light.

    1. Oh, he shows up, alright. The presence of God is the driving force behind the best Christian testimonies.

    2. “Not in the ways we want,” I think is what someone said. It’s true. I would replace “want” with “expect”, though. These last few months have been full of pleasant surprises.

    3. Jesus is the difference. Other than that, I’d say we’re all pretty vulnerable to the power of greed and hormones and mid-life crises.

    4. Yeah. A big reason I left the faith is because my church was a humongously horrible drama fest. I’m still scarred. But you know, all churches are run by human beings. Unfortunate, I know.

    5. It definitely seems that way when taken at face-value. I see the Old Testament as one super long allegory for a person’s inability to completely commit to God. Or anything, really. Yes, he asked the Israelites to bathe a bird in another bird’s blood and set it free. And to stay away from pork. And to kill people. We can say, “how dare he call himself loving and just when he ordered his people to slaughter other nations?” But can we say what the world would be like now if they had just chosen to follow God’s orders? We can imagine, but I’d rather not. The past is the past. Plus, so much of reality and morality and the Bible itself (but not all) is left up to interpretation. I feel like if human beings were as moral as we’d like to believe, murder and corruption wouldn’t be so prevalent.

    7. Two essential elements of a Christian life: the Bible and the community. The Bible to learn about God and follow his word and the community to keep you in check. Both are necessary constants that all Christians must commit to, especially to escape the pit of distorted perceptions.

    8. I fly a lot. Even in my long interlude as a non-believer I couldn’t stop myself from praying for a safe flight every time I got on a plane. I think the ratio of planes crashing to planes landing safely is too good to be true.

    9. The platypus is not of this earth.

    10. Yeah. Some do. I’m sorry.

    11. Can someone give me a link to whatever this Wager is?

    12. The idea that you think a person can grow without trials and errors is completely ridiculous. Although, when I was a child I somehow knew that I didn’t want to grow up. Now I know why. Oh well, what’s done is done.

    13. We can talk about God all we want but we’ll never fully understand him as long as we’re alive on earth. I know that notion turns a lot of people off. It definitely kept me away from him for a long while. Since committing I’ve discovered that getting to know God is a truly worthwhile experience, and exciting precisely because I know it’s a lifelong journey.

    14. The Bible actually asks us to be “in the world, but not of it.” If that’s too much to handle, then, well… too bad.

    15. Because we make it so spectacularly ineffective for him to do so.

    16. Technically it’s a human text written by humans imbued with the power of God. But we all knew that, right?

    17. Love.

    18. I haven’t. But I took high school biology. It was really interesting.

    19. I decided that the uniqueness of the Christian belief surpasses all comparison.

    20. Which ones?

    21. Try reading C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce.” He writes the most realistic depiction of hell I’ve ever read.

    22. I know that many churches forgo the message of grace to focus on lessons of lifestyle and sin. This is extremely unfortunate and something the Christian community has to work really hard on.

    23. There is no textbook called “God.” You may get an idea of who he is from reading the Bible and then spend your whole life trying to comprehend it all. If you’re willing to do so, go for it.

    24. So you think you deserve more from this world than what you work for?

    25. Hey, Adam chose to eat the fruit. God knew he was going to do it, because he knows us better than we could ever hope to know ourselves. But it was Adam’s choice.

    26. I remember once before my de-con days, I asked my pastor about evolution. He said that although time for us in our daily lives is systematic and exact, it may not have been the same for God at the beginning of time. I was confused. I believe that to be a good Christian, you must continually question your faith and seek God’s answers. And always put God first, even before your own judgment or the church’s.

    27. I’ve never had sex and I’m not yet that interested, so.

    28. Like Santa Clause? Yeah. How dare they?

    29. I will agree that the history of Christianity is not very pretty. History is not pretty. But hey, we Christians are still around, and I think that says something.

  • 275. Quester  |  May 18, 2009 at 6:25 am

    If there’s a question I can’t answer with confidence then I want to explore that topic, and maybe you guys can help shed some light.

    Here’s the main question, Ash: what evidence do you have that there is one or more gods?

    1. Oh, he shows up, alright. The presence of God is the driving force behind the best Christian testimonies.

    The presence of the Great Gazoo is the driving force behind some of the strangest episodes of the Flintstones. He’s still a fictional character, though. Perhaps you could offer a reason to think God is not equally fictional?

    2. “Not in the ways we want,” I think is what someone said. It’s true. I would replace “want” with “expect”, though. These last few months have been full of pleasant surprises.

    Someone may have said that. I say that we have no reason to think prayers are answered at all. Perhaps you know of some studies that prove otherwise?

    3. Jesus is the difference. Other than that, I’d say we’re all pretty vulnerable to the power of greed and hormones and mid-life crises.

    It’s too bad that Jesus isn’t a discernible difference, then.

    5. It definitely seems that way when taken at face-value.

    And after extensive research, it seems that way to an even greater extent.

    7. Two essential elements of a Christian life: the Bible and the community. The Bible to learn about God and follow his word and the community to keep you in check. Both are necessary constants that all Christians must commit to, especially to escape the pit of distorted perceptions.

    What reason do you have to think that either can tell you anything about God or God’s will.

    8. I fly a lot. Even in my long interlude as a non-believer I couldn’t stop myself from praying for a safe flight every time I got on a plane. I think the ratio of planes crashing to planes landing safely is too good to be true.

    Your ignorance does not count as evidence.

    9. The platypus is not of this earth.

    Ha ha?

    10. Yeah. Some do. I’m sorry.

    Too bad there’s no honest evidence they could use instead, eh?

    11. Can someone give me a link to whatever this Wager is?

    Google and Wikipedia are sites you may want to familiarlize yourself with at some point. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_wager

    12. The idea that you think a person can grow without trials and errors is completely ridiculous.

    Are you saying that God is a person who made mistakes while growing up, or that painful testing processes are indistinguishable from normal trials and errors?

    14. The Bible actually asks us to be “in the world, but not of it.” If that’s too much to handle, then, well… too bad.

    What does this have to do with reason 14?

    15. Because we make it so spectacularly ineffective for him to do so.

    It’s too bad we’re so much more powerful than God, then.

    16. Technically it’s a human text written by humans imbued with the power of God. But we all knew that, right?

    Well, we knew that’s one of the 70+ orthodox understandings of the Bible, depending upon your denomination. Not that there’s any evidence for any interpretation beyond “it was written by humans”.

    17. Love.

    Balderdash.

    19. I decided that the uniqueness of the Christian belief surpasses all comparison.

    Next time, study before deciding.

    20. Which ones?

    Pick one.

    21. Try reading C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce.” He writes the most realistic depiction of hell I’ve ever read.

    Ah, so you’ve been to hell and can confirm that Lewis’ fictional account is an accurate depiction? The Great Divorce is a fun book, but it’s just a story.

    23. There is no textbook called “God.” You may get an idea of who he is from reading the Bible and then spend your whole life trying to comprehend it all. If you’re willing to do so, go for it.

    As the biblical depictions of God range from inconsistent to incoherent, I see no reason to waste any more of my time.

    25. Hey, Adam chose to eat the fruit. God knew he was going to do it, because he knows us better than we could ever hope to know ourselves. But it was Adam’s choice.

    Defending an abusive husband by blaming the abused wife does not actually make the abuse morally acceptable.

    26. And always put God first, even before your own judgment or the church’s.

    If God said anything comprehensible, or did anything discernible, perhaps this would be an option.

    29. I will agree that the history of Christianity is not very pretty. History is not pretty. But hey, we Christians are still around, and I think that says something.

    Yeah, it says that Christians are still around.

  • 276. Ubi Dubium  |  May 18, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Ash, at least you are holding your beliefs up to scrutiny, which is something that many believers never seem to do. Keep questioning, keep demanding that things make sense to you, and always be open to changing your mind.

  • 277. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 8:48 am

    The only “evidence” I have to offer is my faith and conviction. Since the grace of God cannot be explained in scientific terms, I’m not going to try and put it in such terms- but you know, I love Star Wars. If you never watched and you ask me why, I’ll tell you, “just watch it.”

    The presence of the Great Gazoo is the driving force behind some of the strangest episodes of the Flintstones. He’s still a fictional character, though. Perhaps you could offer a reason to think God is not equally fictional?

    Nonbelievers are pretty accurate when they call us crazy. What is faith without the denial of reason? Though, if we’re crazy, then people who go bungee jumping are equally as crazy. Can you really say that human beings thrive solely on knowledge and reason? And yes, Fred is a fictional character, but you still watched the cartoon. That experience of watching the cartoon happened. It’s real. So I guess my reason is my experience, although it’s probably not the kind of reason you’re looking for.

    Someone may have said that. I say that we have no reason to think prayers are answered at all. Perhaps you know of some studies that prove otherwise?

    Do you ever actually ask a strong believer about their own personal experiences, ever? Just curious. If you want studies, there are plenty of us available. You can study me, I am completely willing.

    It’s too bad that Jesus isn’t a discernible difference, then.

    He is to me, and to many people I know. But you’re not too interested in that, right?

    And after extensive research, it seems that way to an even greater extent.

    Ah, research. Don’t they say something in the field of psychology about how results from research are never purely objective because the human mind and… something like that. Sorry, I don’t have enough confidence in my biblical knowledge to seriously defend it.

    What reason do you have to think that either can tell you anything about God or God’s will.

    One, because the Bible is God’s will in written form. Two, because the community is the proof of God’s will.

    Your ignorance does not count as evidence.

    Neither does your sense of superiority. No offense.

    Ha ha?

    I’m glad I got a laugh.

    Too bad there’s no honest evidence they could use instead, eh?

    I’m being completely honest about my feelings, but I guess in this world emotions are meaningless. “How sad,” I’d like to say.

    Google and Wikipedia are sites you may want to familiarlize yourself with at some point.

    Oh, that thing! Sorry, I couldn’t remember what it was called. Thank you for the sarcastic criticism of my intelligence.

    Are you saying that God is a person who made mistakes while growing up, or that painful testing processes are indistinguishable from normal trials and errors?

    God is not a person. God is God, a perfect being. Hard concept to grasp, right?

    If you must know, my house burned down when I was 12 and I was bitter about it until just about two months ago. You can choose to believe me, or not.

    What does this have to do with reason 14?

    14 complained about feeling separated from life. This may be one of the most offensive things a nonbeliever could hear: that Christians are called to be an influence on the world, but to not be influenced by it. We tend to fail on both aspects and we do feel miserable for it. But the grace of God means he forgives us for our failures. His love is our inspiration.

    It’s too bad we’re so much more powerful than God, then.

    I love it when people take what I say and turn it into an offensive defense for themselves. Actually, I hate it, but anyway. By “spectacularly ineffective” I mean we’re stubborn and don’t want to accept God even when all arrows are pointing to him. Like Thomas, who refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he touched the marks on his hands and feet. It’s even harder for us since there can only be one Jesus. I guess you’ll just have to wait for someone to create a time machine so you can go check him out for yourself.

    Well, we knew that’s one of the 70+ orthodox understandings of the Bible, depending upon your denomination. Not that there’s any evidence for any interpretation beyond “it was written by humans”.

    I don’t suppose we could delve into the subject of “spiritual evidence?” Maybe say really radical things like “the evidence of love?”

    Balderdash.

    I’m really curious, what is your definition of love? I see on your wager that you should “live your life with love.” What does that mean to you?

    Next time, study before deciding.

    I studied the bible extensively when I was younger and am in the process of refreshing my memory. I’ve talked to my non-Christian friends about other beliefs, especially Buddhism. If by “study” you mean school, I’ve taken AP bio, physics, history, blah blah blah. Tell me, do you know of another major belief/philosophy in the world that tells you that you can’t earn your place in the afterlife, because someone already earned it for you? I’m genuinely curious.

    Pick one.

    I’d like you to, since it’s your argument.

    Ah, so you’ve been to hell and can confirm that Lewis’ fictional account is an accurate depiction? The Great Divorce is a fun book, but it’s just a story.

    Obviously Lewis (nor I) didn’t go to hell and come back to tell you about it. And yes, it is a story. But please don’t try to tell me that you don’t learn anything from stories. I think the reason Lewis’ hell from that book is so much like earth is because he wasn’t trying to tell us, “fear God for he will send you to utmost despair,” but “let go of your worldly self and you can join God’s kingdom.” I know that I sound overly optimistic about all this, because I’m not used to it either. The optimism, that is.

    As the biblical depictions of God range from inconsistent to incoherent, I see no reason to waste any more of my time.

    I’m trying to read the bible straight through, am only on Leviticus right now. I’ll try to look for these inconsistencies that you speak of, but can’t guarantee that I’ll see what you see. Obviously.

    Defending an abusive husband by blaming the abused wife does not actually make the abuse morally acceptable.

    Um, metaphor not applicable? God did nothing but love Adam and ask that he love him in return, and Adam threw away that relationship for his own selfish sake. It’s like a kid who chooses to rebel against his perfectly decent dad just for the sake of rebelling. Barriers are created. God is willing to ignore the barrier, but only if you try and do the same.

    If God said anything comprehensible, or did anything discernible, perhaps this would be an option.

    I don’t know about you, but I learned a lot from Sunday school. Honesty, compassion, loneliness, suffering. The world without the context of God taught me a lot, but I could never deny the influence of God in my life. To me, that influence is just as comprehensible as anything he could “say.”

    Yeah, it says that Christians are still around.

    And as long as we’re around we will praise God and spread his word. Obnoxious, right? Sorry about that. But for all the bad publicity, seeing just one person being influenced positively by God can make all our failures seem irrelevant.

  • 278. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Ubi,

    thanks, but that’s because I’m a perfectionist, lol. In small groups and retreats we actually spend a lot of time questioning our own faith and figuring out how to grow stronger. When we address the rest of the world we get so caught up in the performance and we often forget that being genuine is more important. I’m willing to be vulnerable and I want to encourage other people to open up as well.

  • 279. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 9:21 am

    ps. It breaks my heart to read about people’s decisions to stop following Christ, something I did myself when I was 12. Because I’m on a sort of spiritual high I can’t really remember what I thought/felt at that time, and to be honest I don’t want to. If anyone is willing to share their experience or point me to a particularly strong article, I’d love to discuss.

  • 280. BigHouse  |  May 18, 2009 at 10:14 am

    So, Ash, is your mission here to re-convert others? Or something else. Just want to know where you are coming from.

    Sorry to hear about your traumatix experience with your house :-(

  • 281. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 10:37 am

    I don’t have the power to convince other people of Christ’s love- that is entirely the person’s decision. Some people- both true and untrue Christians- do believe they have that power of persuasion, and that is their sin, the sin of pride. In other words, ego. We all have it, I’m pretty sure. Ego (and a plethora of other things) gets in many people’s way of properly glorifying God. My mission is to do the best that I can do, which is open my heart up to as many people as I can and give anyone who wants to pursue Christ my full support. I don’t think people see enough of the “grace” side of the community, so I like to talk a lot about Christ’s grace, at least what I understand of it.

  • 282. LeoPardus  |  May 18, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Ash was never a real de-convert.

  • 283. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Are you serious? Are you me? I’m honestly insulted. This proves what they say about atheists resorting to insults based on emotions rather than the logic and reason they’re so attached to. I’m feeling pretty disappointed right now, and I challenge any of you to try and argue your way out of this. If you don’t, it’s okay, I’m already over it. I’ll just spend some quality time baffling at your, well, to put it bluntly, stupidity.

    ^ that’s all me, no God. Yeah, I have my pride. I know I’m putting myself over God. Good thing he loves me enough to forgive me.

    I would explain to you exactly why I know I’m a re-converted de-convert, but I don’t know if you guys are worth the effort. Well, actually, you are. In God’s eyes, at least. I’m just trying really hard to stop shaking my head.

  • 284. BigHouse  |  May 18, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Ash, if you’re willing to tar all atheists with one brush given the one-liner from Leo, it is you who is acting from emotion and illogic.

    So your mission is to open up your heart and show yourself, for the purpose of hoping we re-convert? Again, just trying to understand where you are coming from.

    BTW, why do you think God let you de then re convert?

  • 285. Frreal  |  May 18, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I got it Leo. It made me LOL. Thank You.

  • 286. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    The reason I issued the challenge is because I’m NOT willing to use Leo as the face of all atheists. But I’m not going to hold back on my honest opinion which yes, I admit, was mostly based largely on my own selfish emotions (perhaps I should have bolded the ‘me, not God’ part), but if you try to argue that emotion is the opposite of logic thus emotion has no place in a productive, logical life or some bullshit like that, I’ve heard it before and I don’t care. Give me valid reasons for why you say what you say. Although, it seems Leo was making some kind of joke I don’t understand. Does anyone care to elaborate, for my sake?

    This weekend at retreat the speaker said that the grace of God is so great that, once a person commits he is committed for life. This means if someone who claims to have been Christian before says God is no longer with them, there are two possibilities: they never actually believed in Christ in the first place, or they are in a rut, a crisis in their faith.

    In the house fire my younger brother got third degree burns all over his body and lost most of his left shin (bone was intact, I think). After this incident I kept going to church for a while, singing and praying as usual. At home I watched violent movies and looked at gross pictures on the internet and watched a ton of porn. My way of coping was pretty much desensitizing myself. I became almost completely apathetic. Almost, because no amount of apathy could get rid of the guilt I felt for my brother’s situation. For me, it wasn’t a matter of “God is not there for me,” because I filled my mind with things that made me forget about him. The Bible says “seek, and you will find.” I stopped seeking.

    Sure I tried to find alternatives. I read just about anything that didn’t have anything to do with the Christian God, since hey, I knew him once, great guy, oh look, an article on atheism. Sure, yeah, that makes sense. Trust me, I’m not new to your logic.

    I tried to be happy. Well, I tried to live which is what you guys are all about, right? I tried it out. I thought I could do it. I was ready to accept that this was my life, that if I tried I could be content with what I had.

    And then God reappeared in my life, and no, it was not instant rebirth. For two years I poked and prodded, wondering, will it be worth it, and will terrible things happen to me or my loved ones if I go down this path? I understood the concept of faith but I couldn’t accept it in my heart. Two years of apprehension and doubt and indecisiveness after five years of numbness. It sucked.

    Now that I’m back, everything I ever knew is like new again, a rebirth. The guilt is gone and I’m finding it amazingly easy to open up to people. I have so much faith right now, and I hope it keeps growing. But this faith is familiar. It feels like home. I don’t know if that’s because I strayed and now I’m back, or because even if I never truly believed in the past, God always had a place for me. I think it’s both. Man first strayed from God, but because God created man to have a relationship with Him it is inevitable for man to seek God and (hopefully) find him.

    Christians live by hope and faith in God. A cynic may call us delusional/illogical/emotional/needy/pathetic etc. but that’s because he cannot see the love of Jesus. God has a place for everyone, but it means nothing to you if you don’t choose to accept it.

    My hope is that you guys don’t just read my confessions as another Christian loony rant, but as a genuine expression of my beliefs. I’m totally willing to put time and effort into these kinds of discussions (effort meaning acting out of love and understanding instead of trying to win an argument, which can be way easier). If you don’t agree with something, please tell me why, and elaborate since I’m bad at making assumptions. If you choose to ignore me, I’ll pray that God keeps seeking you even if you refuse to seek him. I’ve got hope.

  • 287. BigHouse  |  May 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Ash, you haven’t really said anything, albeit with a lot of words. Look at your paragraph that begins “And then God reappeared..”. You’ve intrestingly left out the details of that reappearance, why is that?

    And I’m glad you are now “happier” but that doesn’t mean that you have found truth. It sounds like you like deluding yourself.

  • 288. LeoPardus  |  May 18, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Ash:

    Did you get it yet? If not, go read the “Convenient Categories” article in the archives.

    Now try not to pop off like a hot-headed kid. Doesn’t your holy book say something about being slow to anger, patient, ready to give an answer but with gentleness, living at peace with all, not being give to quarreling, and other such nice ideals that Christians consistently fail to do even though they are supposed to be enabled by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?

  • 289. Quester  |  May 18, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I’m not going to try and put it in such terms- but you know, I love Star Wars. If you never watched and you ask me why, I’ll tell you, “just watch it.”

    And I could do so, because DVDs with the Star Wars film on it exist. What’s the divine equivalent?

    Though, if we’re crazy, then people who go bungee jumping are equally as crazy.

    Only if they do so with a bungee cord they have no evidence toward the existence of, outside of faith and conviction.

    Can you really say that human beings thrive solely on knowledge and reason?

    Nope. Not trying to, either.

    And yes, Fred is a fictional character, but you still watched the cartoon. That experience of watching the cartoon happened. It’s real. So I guess my reason is my experience, although it’s probably not the kind of reason you’re looking for.

    But the cartoon exists. What is your divine equivalent?

    Do you ever actually ask a strong believer about their own personal experiences, ever?

    Yes, during the 25+ years I was a strong believer. Have you ever looked at your experiences and thought about what they actually provide evidence for?

    He is to me, and to many people I know. But you’re not too interested in that, right?

    I am if you can show me that non-belevers and believers of other deities don’t exhibit the same characteristics.

    Sorry, I don’t have enough confidence in my biblical knowledge to seriously defend it.

    That’s all right, so long as you don’t use the Bible as support for anything you want to argue.

    One, because the Bible is God’s will in written form. Two, because the community is the proof of God’s will.

    Perhaps I was too vague. What I want is reasons for why you believe those two statements are true.

    Neither does your sense of superiority. No offense.

    Not a problem. I’m not the one with something to prove.

    I’m being completely honest about my feelings, but I guess in this world emotions are meaningless.

    Really? What feelings have you shared that support your beliefs?

    God is not a person. God is God, a perfect being. Hard concept to grasp, right?

    When trying to justify God-commanded atrocities, it becomes a very hard concept to grasp, indeed.

    If you must know, my house burned down when I was 12 and I was bitter about it until just about two months ago. You can choose to believe me, or not.

    It doesn’t matter what I choose to believe about your house, as it has nothing to do with explaining how God choosing to hurt someone is a good thing.

    14 complained about feeling separated from life.

    14 complained about Jesus failing to carry through on His promises. That’s something a bit different.

    By “spectacularly ineffective” I mean we’re stubborn and don’t want to accept God even when all arrows are pointing to him.

    I’d think an all-powerful God could do something about that.

    Like Thomas, who refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he touched the marks on his hands and feet.

    Don’t be too hard on Thomas. Re-read the gospeal accounts. Every single one of Jesus’ followers needed evidence before they’d believe Jesus did what He said He would. Not one of them believed without Jesus appearing to them first.

    It’s even harder for us since there can only be one Jesus. I guess you’ll just have to wait for someone to create a time machine so you can go check him out for yourself.

    Or I could wait for God to do something in the world today to show who He is and what He wants. The time machine might be the shorter wait, though.

    I don’t suppose we could delve into the subject of “spiritual evidence?” Maybe say really radical things like “the evidence of love?”

    Go for it. What spiritual or loving evidence do you have that supports anything about the Bible other than “it was written by humans”?

    I’m really curious, what is your definition of love?

    Off the top of my head, it is a decision to value, and act accordingly. My turn, what, in your definition of love, lessens the argument that evil is evidence against the existence of an all-powerful, loving God?

    Tell me, do you know of another major belief/philosophy in the world that tells you that you can’t earn your place in the afterlife, because someone already earned it for you?

    You know, I can’t think of one. I’ll concede this point. I may still quibble with “the uniqueness of the Christian belief surpasses all comparison”, but I’ll admit that, as far as I know, there is at least one unique thing about Christianity.

    I’d like you to, since it’s your argument.

    All right:
    Old Testament: the creation stories.
    New Testament: Jesus’ birth.

    Obviously Lewis (nor I) didn’t go to hell and come back to tell you about it.

    Then in what way can you say his portrayal of hell is the most “realistic”?

    I’m trying to read the bible straight through, am only on Leviticus right now. I’ll try to look for these inconsistencies that you speak of, but can’t guarantee that I’ll see what you see.

    Not a problem. I highly encourage you in reading your Bible and thinking about what it says about who God is and what God wants.

    Um, metaphor not applicable? God did nothing but love Adam and ask that he love him in return, and Adam threw away that relationship for his own selfish sake.

    What’s that have to do with the pain we suffer?

    I don’t know about you, but I learned a lot from Sunday school. Honesty, compassion, loneliness, suffering. The world without the context of God taught me a lot, but I could never deny the influence of God in my life. To me, that influence is just as comprehensible as anything he could “say.”

    Hey, if you want to live life holding to the principles of honesty and compassion, letting each temper the other, more power to you! But if you want to tell us to put God first, it would help if you could define, or even point to, God.

    And as long as we’re around we will praise God and spread his word. Obnoxious, right? Sorry about that. But for all the bad publicity, seeing just one person being influenced positively by God can make all our failures seem irrelevant.

    Except to the people affected by the failures, but no one cares about them, right? Oh yes, God does. God will make it all better. Well, not in this life, but in the next one that we have no evidence for. Good thing there’s a God that prevents Christians from needing to think about the effects of their actions before they act and the idea of an afterlife they can use to absolve their guilt for their actions in this life. Yay, God.

  • 290. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Big, thank you so much for responding, it’s really encouraging.

    I didn’t think the details were that important for the overall picture, but since you asked: for two years my roommate encouraged me to put my faith in God again. When we met in high school she was already a very strong Christian, and that’s when I started thinking about God, after years of ignoring his existence. That’s what I mean by “God appeared.”

    To you my words are nothing because you’re not willing to trust in anything anyone says about God. My truth is not your truth, so of course everything I say sounds like rubbish and delusion. I can easily say the same about you as well, but that’s not the point. If you want to really know God, my truth can become your truth; if I somehow become sick of God, your truth can become mine. Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the light, no one gets to the father except through me.” that means following his example and his word. Since he asks us to be “fishers of men,” we feel the obligation to expose people to Christ- besides that, we just really want to share our experiences, believe it or not.

    I am happier because I’ve found truth. Do you believe you’ve found truth? Or are you one of those “truth is relevant” people? I was, once.

  • 291. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Leo,

    Are you saying that nothing from the convenient list applies to you? At all? I read your “personal relationship” article. It sounds to me like you were angry at God for not showing himself to you in corporeal form.

    Do you think that when you were following God, you felt anything that the Bible promised you? Do you think you truly felt God’s love? I’m asking because you claim to have been a pastor, but you fail to mention anything about God’s love and grace, the core of Christianity. Instead you accuse me of being human, which God clearly forgives us for in the scripture what with the death of Jesus and all. You choose to take the mistakes of Christians and apply them to your view of God. To embrace God means to embrace him wholly- his perfection, his grace, and his love. Fear of damnation and morality is not enough, because there is nothing you can do to make him love you less. Above all, it’s about love. If you keep thinking along the lines of “Christians fail at this love thing so God must be imperfect” then you’ll never experience grace.

    Trying to explain my faith is trying to explain love. Or any emotion, really. Explain to me sorrow. Not what you think it means, not its purpose in life or the history of sorrow or the dictionary definition or the biological theory behind it, but what it is. Faith, like sorrow, is in your heart.

  • 292. LeoPardus  |  May 18, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Ash:

    Are you saying that nothing from the convenient list applies to you?

    No. This query was addressed after the article in some of the posts. Some categories may apply or not. What Christians love to do is to apply them as if they have it all figured out.
    Now think about how you reacted when I said you weren’t a real de-convert.
    Now think about a thing you call the Golden Rule.

    It sounds to me like you were angry at God for not showing himself to you in corporeal form.

    You have a habit, quite common among Christians who come in here, of not reading. Just scanning and them lobbing your half-baked opinions only forces us to conclude that you’re another “christian” troll.

    Do you think that when you were following God, you felt anything that the Bible promised you? Do you think you truly felt God’s love?

    Of course I thought I felt that. So what? People psyche themselves into all sorts of feelings.

    I’m asking because you claim to have been a pastor

    See what I said before about not reading and just scanning.

    but you fail to mention anything about God’s love and grace, the core of Christianity.

    Want a whole sermon on it? It doesn’t fit into the story because I came to see that God isn’t real. Why talk about fantasies?

    Instead you accuse me of being human

    YOU are NOT in my story, nor in the “Convenient Categories” article. What the hell are you babbling about? Try to keep your mind on one thing OK.

    I’ll skip your mini sermon here……

    Explain to me sorrow. Not what you think it means, not its purpose in life or the history of sorrow or the dictionary definition or the biological theory behind it, but what it is.

    First you want it explained, then you forbid using any foundations for explaining it. Brilliant. This is how faith works. You believe whatever you want, insist no one can talk about it, and then you’re secure. Kind of like the famous bit from the Tao Te Ching, “The true Tao cannot be known. If anyone says he speaks of the true Tao, he lies.” OR, to quote from your posts, “The only “evidence” I have to offer is my faith and conviction.”

    Look if you’re not going to listen, not going to focus, not going to think, why are you here? …. Of course we already know why. You’re here to save us. Thanks but no. We are safe. You are the one in danger of losing your humanity.

  • 293. orDover  |  May 18, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    To you my words are nothing because you’re not willing to trust in anything anyone says about God. My truth is not your truth, so of course everything I say sounds like rubbish and delusion

    Truth is NOT subjective. There isn’t “my” truth and “your” truth. There is one truth. And then there are things that people believe to be true. Real truth is established through evidence, not words.

    If you want to put forward this my-truth-your-truth stuff, then realize that your claims to truth are no better than someone who believes in ghosts or aliens or psychics or telekinesis or Allah or Vishnu or trolls or Big Foot or reincarnation. The list could go on. All of these people believe they have a monopoly on the truth, just as you do. They’ll even offer to share their truth with you, so that it can become your truth. So how are we to distinguish who is right and who is wrong. By words? Testimony? Feelings? All of the proponents have those. We need EVIDENCE. Real evidence. Hard evidence. Not anecdotes or personal experience, but physical, verifiable evidence. Faith and conviction do not cut it. They don’t add up to truth.

  • 294. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    And I could do so, because DVDs with the Star Wars film on it exist. What’s the divine equivalent?

    The Bible.

    Only if they do so with a bungee cord they have no evidence toward the existence of, outside of faith and conviction.

    People who do have evidence are those who believe. Your definition of “evidence” cannot apply to God because he is not of this world. But still he invites you to join him, and promises eternal life. So yeah, faith is kind of like a bungee cord you’re told is there but you can’t see. But if it’s there, and you choose to believe it’s there, you can reach for it and you will touch it. God is like that.

    Nope. Not trying to, either.

    Then what are your views on emotions, intuition and instinct?

    But the cartoon exists. What is your divine equivalent?

    The world.

    Yes, during the 25+ years I was a strong believer. Have you ever looked at your experiences and thought about what they actually provide evidence for?

    Yes, they provide evidence for my belief in God. What kept you going for 25 years? Faith by definition is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see. Did you experience this kind of faith for 25 years?

    I am if you can show me that non-belevers and believers of other deities don’t exhibit the same characteristics.

    Grace.

    That’s all right, so long as you don’t use the Bible as support for anything you want to argue.

    But the Bible is my main support besides my conviction and the support of other believes.

    Perhaps I was too vague. What I want is reasons for why you believe those two statements are true.

    God says it’s true, and we feel it to be true. Like I said, none of my reasons will satisfy you because you don’t want to be satisfied, you want to use them to prove your own belief. And as long as you have that mindset, that’s what’ll happen.

    Not a problem. I’m not the one with something to prove.

    I don’t believe that, because then you wouldn’t be here.

    Really? What feelings have you shared that support your beliefs?

    My faith, my desire to keep sharing about God, and my strengthened conviction after just one day on this site, which comes out in my tenacity. My knowledge that I’m serving God just by talking about him. You can try to psychoanalyze me and come to the conclusion that I’m doing all this for myself, if you want.

    When trying to justify God-commanded atrocities, it becomes a very hard concept to grasp, indeed.

    ex-atheist.com wrote an article about that. I find God completely just and perfectly fair, and that includes the war in Numbers. If you’re talking about the crusades, we humans made the mistake of ignoring a huge chunk of the Bible that commanded us to forget about the past and act in love. Imagine that.

    It doesn’t matter what I choose to believe about your house, as it has nothing to do with explaining how God choosing to hurt someone is a good thing.

    At the risk of sounding repetitive: Adam chose the world over God, not the other way around. The suffering we endure is a result of original sin.

    14 complained about Jesus failing to carry through on His promises. That’s something a bit different.

    Jesus promises eternal life and peace that surpasses understanding, that he’ll be with you til the end of time. The only catch is that we love him and pursue him. If you are not willing to separate yourself from the life you know, you cannot truly love Jesus.

    I’d think an all-powerful God could do something about that.

    So you’d rather Him force you to obey him than give you the choice? Where’s the worth in that?

    Don’t be too hard on Thomas. Re-read the gospeal accounts. Every single one of Jesus’ followers needed evidence before they’d believe Jesus did what He said He would. Not one of them believed without Jesus appearing to them first.

    Jesus appeared to his apostles resurrected and it was a one-time deal. But the apostles, who already had faith in him, witnessed the event and passed it down history. We are in the opposite situation- we have the evidence, the bearing of witness, so for us it’s a matter of taking that leap of faith.

    Or I could wait for God to do something in the world today to show who He is and what He wants. The time machine might be the shorter wait, though.

    He shows his will through the people who follow him. It’s up to you to enter that world. If you don’t have even the slightest desire to know God, you will reject him no matter what.

    Go for it. What spiritual or loving evidence do you have that supports anything about the Bible other than “it was written by humans”?

    That people would have the strength to look beyond themselves and hold fast to their beliefs despite intense suffering, is proof enough for me.

    Off the top of my head, it is a decision to value, and act accordingly. My turn, what, in your definition of love, lessens the argument that evil is evidence against the existence of an all-powerful, loving God?

    That love still exists and can compete against evil convinces me of a loving God, for he loved us so that he sent his only son to die for us.

    Old Testament: the creation stories.
    New Testament: Jesus’ birth.

    With OT I read something about the context that was lost in translation, how the Hebrew language uses tenses differently, and it made sense to me because I took latin. What about Jesus’ birth is so baffling?

    Then in what way can you say his portrayal of hell is the most “realistic”?

    In that instead of focusing on an image of hellfire and brimstone he makes hell an extension of earth- and illustrates that God is the ultimate salvation. So to me, his hell is the most realistic because it’s so insignificant in the face of God’s kingdom.

    What’s that have to do with the pain we suffer?

    We deserve it. That’s what makes God’s grace so sweet.

    Hey, if you want to live life holding to the principles of honesty and compassion, letting each temper the other, more power to you! But if you want to tell us to put God first, it would help if you could define, or even point to, God.

    I wish I could make it easy for you. I wish I could give you all the answers. But then you wouldn’t get the satisfaction of finding the answers yourself.

    Except to the people affected by the failures, but no one cares about them, right? Oh yes, God does. God will make it all better. Well, not in this life, but in the next one that we have no evidence for. Good thing there’s a God that prevents Christians from needing to think about the effects of their actions before they act and the idea of an afterlife they can use to absolve their guilt for their actions in this life. Yay, God.

    To love means to willingly bear another’s burden, to support them through their suffering. God asks us to love our neighbor and Jesus asks us to love our enemies. He died so that we don’t have to live by sin. (we still choose to, though.) We don’t have to worry about our futures because God is our future. Yay, God!

  • 295. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    There is one truth.

    This is true. My one truth is God. Because I believe in God, who says that he is THE truth, I believe God is the one truth.

    You will never understand this truth unless you let go of your obsession with worldly evidence. But are not words and emotions evidence? Are you saying the mind is more real than the heart? If you’ve hardened your heart to God then it’s impossible to see evidence of him, for God invades all of you. I’m not saying that you can’t feel genuine emotions. I’m saying that until you open your heart to God you will not experience faith.

    If truth is not subjective then I don’t even know why we’re having this conversation.

  • 296. BigHouse  |  May 18, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Ash,

    This: What about Jesus’ birth is so baffling?

    is the most baffling question I have read in a long time. You ask it earnestly? If so, you are truly so brainwashed for “the Lord” that I don’t see any positive coming from interacting with you.

    You say the Bible is a pillar of your evidence for God. The Bible is a fantastical collection of history, mythology, contradictions, nonsense, and truth. To march in here and lend it the power you do without a shred of backup for that authority is the definition of pre-supposition. That line of argument is nonsensical and will get you know where.

    So, do you care to actually defend the authority of the Bible without using the Bible to support it’s own authority? It’s just like in grammar school when you weren’t allowed to define a word using the word itself in the definition.

    I doubt you’ll try, because you’ve probbaly never asked this question of yourself before. I hope you will earnestly now.

  • 297. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Leo:

    No. This query was addressed after the article in some of the posts. Some categories may apply or not. What Christians love to do is to apply them as if they have it all figured out.
    Now think about how you reacted when I said you weren’t a real de-convert.
    Now think about a thing you call the Golden Rule.

    Of course we don’t have it all figured out. How can you assume that? When you were Christian did you think that you had it all figured out? God is a lifelong journey. You’re the one who decided that it wasn’t worth it. As for my reaction, I’m just following my own rule of addressing issues when I see them. You accuse me of assuming that I know anything about your story, but you did exactly the same.

    You have a habit, quite common among Christians who come in here, of not reading. Just scanning and them lobbing your half-baked opinions only forces us to conclude that you’re another “christian” troll.

    “Sorry, but it’s not a personal relationship. Heck, it’s even less than getting a letter from the President. At least there’s a small chance that you might actually be able to meet him and shake his hand.”

    Of course I thought I felt that. So what? People psyche themselves into all sorts of feelings.

    ..is what I believed not too long ago. Believe it or not.

    See what I said before about not reading and just scanning.

    sorry, I don’t have much of an attention span and I tend to mix up certain memories. Just a couple things from my endless list of faults and shortcomings.

    Want a whole sermon on it? It doesn’t fit into the story because I came to see that God isn’t real. Why talk about fantasies?

    because there’s a reason you came to your unbelief, and I’m truly curious about the process.

    Instead you accuse me of being human

    YOU are NOT in my story, nor in the “Convenient Categories” article. What the hell are you babbling about? Try to keep your mind on one thing OK.

    I meant you’re not basing your argument on God, but instead on your own judgments about me and Christians in general. I was only responding to what you said in the above post about how I’m not being the “perfect example” of Christianity. I’m sorry? Forgive me as God forgives me? Is all I can say.

    I’ll skip your mini sermon here……

    aww, that’s what I find so disappointing about all this. Oh well.

    First you want it explained, then you forbid using any foundations for explaining it. Brilliant. This is how faith works. You believe whatever you want, insist no one can talk about it, and then you’re secure. Kind of like the famous bit from the Tao Te Ching, “The true Tao cannot be known. If anyone says he speaks of the true Tao, he lies.” OR, to quote from your posts, “The only “evidence” I have to offer is my faith and conviction.”

    I’m challenging you to explain it to me in terms that you don’t seem to be very comfortable with. And that’s my point- you can’t explain something like sorrow if you strip it down bare, you can only complain about how I’m not letting you explain it like you explain everything else. But take away all the foundations for explanation and it’s still there, isn’t it? That’s what faith means to me. I WANT you to talk about it so that I can compare your view on faith with mine. FYI, I’m completely insecure in my faith, and that’s why I’m here, to grow in it.

    Look if you’re not going to listen, not going to focus, not going to think, why are you here? …. Of course we already know why. You’re here to save us. Thanks but no. We are safe. You are the one in danger of losing your humanity.

    I listen and focus to the best of my abilities, and then I think about it as I am, a Christian. I have no intention to save you or anyone here, because it’s not in my power to do. Talking to nonbelievers about God is hard and painful. So why? Why do we keep doing it? Why don’t we leave you guys alone? Because we want to follow Jesus, and we experience joy in sharing the word. If I become a tiny window of opportunity for someone, anyone to seek to know God, it’s worth it to me.

  • 298. Quester  |  May 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    The Bible.

    Very good. The Bible is evidence that God exists to the exact same extent that a Star Wars DVD is evidence that Darth Vader exists. Bravo.

    People who do have evidence are those who believe.

    Since you are one of those people, I invite you to share that evidence with me.

    Your definition of “evidence” cannot apply to God because he is not of this world.

    If God acts in this world, then my definition of evidence applies. If God doesn’t act in this world, why should I care about God?

    So yeah, faith is kind of like a bungee cord you’re told is there but you can’t see. But if it’s there, and you choose to believe it’s there, you can reach for it and you will touch it. God is like that.

    Been there, done that, smashed my head on the rocks. After much therapy, I realized there was no bungee cord. Now I’m here.

    Then what are your views on emotions, intuition and instinct?

    Could you narrow the scope of that question a touch?

    The world.

    Good for you! When you look at the world, what sort of god can you find the evidence for?

    Yes, they provide evidence for my belief in God.

    Lovely. Can you describe an experience you have had and tell us what characteristics of God that experience provides evidence for?

    What kept you going for 25 years?

    Faith-centered interpretations of personal experiences.

    Faith by definition is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see. Did you experience this kind of faith for 25 years?

    Yep.

    Grace.

    So, no non-beleiver or person who believes in a different deity than you shows grace towards anyone else? I’m afraid I disagree with that, wholeheartedly.

    But the Bible is my main support besides my conviction and the support of other believes

    Then stop entering into conversations with non-theists about your faith until you “have enough confidence in [your] biblical knowledge to seriously defend it.”

    God says it’s true

    Where, when, how? If your answer is in the Bible, please quote book, chapter and verse.

    Like I said, none of my reasons will satisfy you because you don’t want to be satisfied, you want to use them to prove your own belief.

    What makes you think that?

    I don’t believe that, because then you wouldn’t be here.

    I’m here to give and receive support through a rough time of transition, to spend time with intelligent people and to enter the occasional debate to keep my brain in working order and see if I can learn something. None of this requires me to prove anything. That’s what you’re here for. Kindly, don’t project.

    My faith, my desire to keep sharing about God, and my strengthened conviction after just one day on this site, which comes out in my tenacity.

    Your faith is an emotion? Wanting to share about something is evidence you believe it exists? Posting two days in a row is tenacity? This is pretty weak stuff. What other emotional evidence do you have for God?

    You can try to psychoanalyze me and come to the conclusion that I’m doing all this for myself, if you want.

    Now that I know you’re aware of it, I don’t need to.

    I find God completely just and perfectly fair, and that includes the war in Numbers.

    All right, then, what in the war in the book of Numbers reveals God to be perfectly fair, moral and just? How about the book of Joshua?

    At the risk of sounding repetitive: Adam chose the world over God, not the other way around. The suffering we endure is a result of original sin.

    And that’s what makes my metaphor applicable. God is causing us to suffer because of the actions of a man with no experience or knowledge to base a decision on. How can you justify that as moral?

    Jesus promises eternal life and peace that surpasses understanding, that he’ll be with you til the end of time.

    Jesus promises His followers will have life in all its fullness (John 10:10).

    So you’d rather Him force you to obey him than give you the choice? Where’s the worth in that?

    I’d prefer God reveal God’s self clearly.

    Jesus appeared to his apostles resurrected and it was a one-time deal. But the apostles, who already had faith in him, witnessed the event and passed it down history. We are in the opposite situation- we have the evidence, the bearing of witness, so for us it’s a matter of taking that leap of faith.

    Why should we need less evidence than those who lived with Jesus and watched Him perform miracles?

    He shows his will through the people who follow him.

    Fine, except that His followers never seem to get it right, so we still can’t know with any certainty what God wills.

    That people would have the strength to look beyond themselves and hold fast to their beliefs despite intense suffering, is proof enough for me.

    Because no one’s ever been inspired to suffer and look beyond themselves by anything written by a human?

    That love still exists and can compete against evil convinces me of a loving God, for he loved us so that he sent his only son to die for us.

    A loving God, perhaps, but not a loving, all-powerful one.

    With OT I read something about the context that was lost in translation, how the Hebrew language uses tenses differently, and it made sense to me because I took latin. What about Jesus’ birth is so baffling?

    Not “baffling”, but “just as ridiculous and fantastical as every other religion’s [stories]“.

    So to me, his hell is the most realistic because it’s so insignificant in the face of God’s kingdom.

    So, “realistic”, to you, means, “matches with how I want reality to be like”?

    We deserve it.

    In what way do we deserve suffering?

    I wish I could make it easy for you. I wish I could give you all the answers. But then you wouldn’t get the satisfaction of finding the answers yourself.

    Please tell me, if you believe suffering is the result of sin and hell is the destination of non-believers, how refusing to give answers so that I might “get the satisfaction of finding the answers [my]self” is a moral choice for you to make? From here, it looks horribly evil.

    To love means to willingly bear another’s burden, to support them through their suffering.

    When love leads you or God to lessen burdens and reduce suffering, I’ll be more impressed.

    He died so that we don’t have to live by sin.

    What does this even mean?

    We don’t have to worry about our futures because God is our future.

    I feel sorry for those whose lives are affected by your decisions, if that’s your attitude.

  • 299. Blue  |  May 18, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Oblivious troll is oblivious.

  • 300. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Big,

    I was actually asking for your answer and didn’t mean it rhetorically, and you didn’t disappoint. Once again I don’t get a straightforward answer. Is it the fact that the virgin Mary was impregnated by God, or the idea of God being born into a body of flesh? God becoming man, isn’t that what you wanted? It happened. Jesus was born to walk with us.

    To me God is always baffling because he is supernatural. Part of accepting God is acknowledging that he is not of this earth, so I feel no need to be ruled by human reason.

  • 301. orDover  |  May 18, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Okay, this is probably all I’m going to say because it seems pretty obvious, as Blue pointed out, that we’re dealing with a black hole of Christian theology here. But…

    I said that there is only one truth. Ash wrote,

    This is true….

    If truth is not subjective then I don’t even know why we’re having this conversation.

    If there is only one truth, then how can it be subjective?

    And then,

    My one truth is God. Because I believe in God, who says that he is THE truth, I believe God is the one truth.

    Circular reasoning. I believe in Wotan, because Wotan says he is THE truth. I believe that McDonalds is healthy because McDonals says it is healthy. I believe that Richard Nixon is not a crook because he says he is NOT a crook.

    Do you see why this doesn’t work?

    You will never understand this truth unless you let go of your obsession with worldly evidence. But are not words and emotions evidence? Are you saying the mind is more real than the heart? If you’ve hardened your heart to God then it’s impossible to see evidence of him, for God invades all of you. I’m not saying that you can’t feel genuine emotions. I’m saying that until you open your heart to God you will not experience faith.

    I was talking to a devotee of Hare Krishna the other day, and he told me that his emotions are evidence for the existence of Krishna. He told me that if I open up my heart and become responsive, that Krishna will reveal himself to me just as clearly as he has revealed himself to him. If I open my heart, I can experience the truth of Krishna.

    Now you’re telling me exactly the same thing. I prayed to the Christian God and I felt warm and comforted. I chanted the Hare Krishna mantra and felt centered, at one with the universe, and even warm and comforted. My emotional evidence for the existence of these two gods is equal.

    So who do I follow? How can I decide which God is the one true God?

    Followers of both gods tell me about their emotional experience, the truth that the gods revealed to their hearts. If that is all the evidence I’m given then I’m at a stalemate. I need to rely on something else. How about objective (rather than subjective, i.e. emotional) evidence?

    This sort of “worldly” evidence is all I have to distinguish between Krishna and Jesus. It is the only reliable tool to determine who is more worthy of my faith.

  • 302. Ash  |  May 18, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Darth Vader is alive in the hearts of fans everywhere.

  • 303. Quester  |  May 18, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Darth Vader is alive in the hearts of fans everywhere.

    Very well, Ash. That appears to be an appropriate place for you to end your challenge-driven quest for ways to test your faith. I’m willing to leave it there, unless you want to continue?

  • 304. BigHouse  |  May 18, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Big,

    I was actually asking for your answer and didn’t mean it rhetorically, and you didn’t disappoint. Once again I don’t get a straightforward answer. Is it the fact that the virgin Mary was impregnated by God, or the idea of God being born into a body of flesh? God becoming man, isn’t that what you wanted? It happened. Jesus was born to walk with us.

    My answer is, Jesus was supposedly born by immaculate conception by God. If you require no support for such a fantastical claim other than an anicent book whose authority is yet to be established, then your definition of baffling probbaly isn’t in any dictionary on earth.

    And if you can invoke the supernatural as some sort of uncombatable trump card, then ANY argument can be supported with this claim, not just the ones you trot out. So they lose all power.

  • 305. kilter  |  May 18, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Hey, I’ve been reading over the debate that seems to be going on here and I’m curious to know what it feels like to be a de-convert. I mean, Christians always have a description of how it felt to be reborn, so what does it feel like from the other side?

  • 306. Quester  |  May 18, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Kilter,

    For me, the Kübler-Ross model for describing the steps of grief come pretty darn close: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. The steps did not actually come in that order, nor did they only come once each. I’d also expand upon Acceptance to include Celebration. CarriedtheCross has a good article on the subject here: http://de-conversion.com/2008/07/20/thoughts-on-my-de-conversion-one-year-later/

  • 307. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 12:06 am

    Quester,

    Thanks for the link. That’s really interesting and has given me a lot to think about. A lot of Christians I know tell me that, before they converted, they felt a hole in their lives, a hole that they filled with God. Do you ever feel anything like that? Or have you filled it with other things, like the charity work CarriedtheCross mentions?

    Also, say that the Christian God is real and that you find yourself in hell after you die. Would you think it was worth it to have lived your life based on the evidence (or lack thereof) of him you saw in the world? To word it another way, if you were able to know for sure that God is real, would you still reject him knowing that he allows suffering? Just hypothetically.

  • 308. Quester  |  May 19, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Kilter,

    I was actually very surprised to find I felt no hole in my life, just a need to take responsibility for my own choices instead of relying on God.

    Would I think believing only what I had a reason to believe in was worth Hell? No, but what choice do I have? Lying? I do not reject God. I can’t find a God anywhere. If I were able to know God existed, I might love, follow, reject, ignore, or actively work against that God, depending on that God’s will and character.

    How about you? Would the fear of Hell, if you believed in it, be enough for you to justify lying to yourself or submitting to the will of a supernatural tyrant you knew was evil?

  • 309. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 12:32 am

    That’s a very hard question for me to answer, because I am a Christian and I do believe that God is perfectly good. But if I take myself out of that mindset and imagine a world where God was evil and I knew it, I don’t think the fear of hell would be enough to stop me from acting against him. The promise of eternity in paradise would probably convince me to suffer through the evils, but not fear of hell alone. I truly believe that life controlled by an evil God would be hell itself, so what would it matter whether I followed him or not? Besides, even now the fear of hell isn’t enough to keep me following Christ. It’s the joy that I find in him that convinces me it’s worth it.

    Another question: When you did believe, I assume you saw God somewhere in your life. Do you think you were just fooling yourself, or did God just stop appearing?

  • 310. Quester  |  May 19, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Kilter,

    For roughly ten years, I believed that God had simply stopped appearing. Now I think that I was- well, not fooling myself- misinterpreting what I was experiencing when I thought I saw God in my life. Am I certain now that there was no God for me to experience? No. I just see no reason to assume that the presence I felt I experienced, if there was one, was a singular, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving being as described in the Bible.

    When you see God appear in your life, what lets you know it is the God of the New Testament, and not Allah, Hanuman, the entire Norse pantheon, a group of leprechauns, or your own imagination?

  • 311. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 1:12 am

    Quester,

    I suppose there’s nothing that lets me know this the same way that I know that I fall because of gravity and that my arm hurts if I pinch it because of the nerves in my skin. But for me, God has fulfilled every promise that affects my personal life, and I see signs of the fulfillment of his future promises in what I’ve studied of eschatology. What I see of God in the world matches what he says in scripture. For example, I often struggle financially. Somehow, though, I always get just enough to get by on, to support me for just a little bit longer. When Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well,” he didn’t promise great wealth, just necessities, and that’s what I receive. It’s possible that it’s coincidence and that what I think is a blessing from God is simply the kindness of others or good luck, but that’s how I see God work throughout the Bible. So often he chooses to work through the rules the world has, even though he has the power to make money appear on my doorstep, if he chose. To me, these things are evidence that God is there and he is faithful to his promises, even when I’m not.

    So what are your reasons for assuming that God is not a being as he is described in the Bible?

  • 312. Quester  |  May 19, 2009 at 2:10 am

    How about those who do not receive the necessities? Those who, through drought, famine or plague, starve to death? Those who freeze to death or get fatal pneumonia due to inadequate shelter- through no fault of their own? Those killed in hurricanes, blizzards, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcano eruptions? Those with inadequate supplies of drinking water? Those dying of malaria or other diseases they can not avoid and don’t know how to cure? How about those born with physical or mental handicaps? How about those who are healthy all their lives, then get crippled through the aging process? How about those who are perfectly healthy, but end up dying from complications raised by our poorly constructed bodies (the appendix seems to be a useless remnant of our evolutionary history, but appendicitis can kill you)? Our spines are imperfectly adapted to walking on two legs, leaving how many of us with back problems? That should do, for a start.

  • 313. orDover  |  May 19, 2009 at 2:13 am

    So what are your reasons for assuming that God is not a being as he is described in the Bible?

    You’re going to have to narrow that down a bit. The Bible describes God in several different, contradictory ways.

  • 314. orDover  |  May 19, 2009 at 2:18 am

    How about those who do not receive the necessities? Those who, through drought, famine or plague, starve to death? Those who freeze to death or get fatal pneumonia due to inadequate shelter- through no fault of their own? Those killed in hurricanes, blizzards, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcano eruptions? Those with inadequate supplies of drinking water?

    Don’t forget Quester, your typical Christian only thinks God is responsible for the good things. When kilter lives a life of righteousness, God provides for him. With others live a life of righteousness but terrible things happen to them it isn’t that God did it, it’s that man did, because man created all of the evil in the world when Adam sinned in the Garden. When good things happen, God did it. When bad things happen, it’s all somehow our faults, regardless of the level of righteousness.

    (Just jumping the gun.)

  • 315. Ash  |  May 19, 2009 at 2:46 am

    Quester,

    I had to get some school work done, but I’d like to continue. It’s been a great experience for me to speak on behalf of my beliefs and learn from it. I was pretty much preaching to myself to see if I could. Thanks for putting up with it!

    I’ll start off fresh with why I think we’re undeserving. When I look at the history of man as told in the bible, I can see that we’re beyond redemption. The world has become corrupted by man’s sin and cannot be saved by the hands of man. This is something I would always believe strongly even if I wasn’t a Christian.

    It’s not surprising that people can’t accept the idea of a perfect God since none of us have experienced perfection on earth. I actually find it very easy to believe in God’s perfection because of my worldly experience, but I know that same experience can ruin a person’s hope for something better.

    If not for God’s grace born out of his perfect love, what is our worth? Nonbelievers strive to establish their own worth in the time they have left. I chose to believe in Jesus because, frankly, I’ve lost faith in humanity. I believe we’re all capable of doing good, but I also believe that no amount of good can live up to God.

  • 316. Ash  |  May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

    Big,

    I’m not trying to argue for God’s existence by calling him a supernatural, but simply stating that that is how I see God. Wikipedia’s definition: order of existence beyond the scientifically visible universe. Pretty accurate description of God, I’d say.

  • 317. Quester  |  May 19, 2009 at 3:03 am

    Ash,

    I had today off of work. I can’t guarantee I’ll always be able to answer so quickly, but I’m willing to go another couple of rounds. I’m not too interested in why we’re undeserving of God’s grace, but why we’re deserving of suffering might be worth a little discussion. Maybe a little bit about why we were created unable to save ourselves, why the consequences of the first Adam’s actions are so much more effective than the second Adam’s, and what strikes you as even vaguely moral in the salvation story. The core concern for me will continue to be what evidence we have for God’s existence, character and will, but I’m willing to discuss these side issues for a bit.

  • 318. RLWemm  |  May 19, 2009 at 3:55 am

    @Ash

    First let me congratulate you on your decision to study the basic literature of your belief system. This is admirable. Up to this point you have accepted what others have told you about the contents of these books. It is absolutely necessary for every child to begin life by accepting without question what adults tell them is true. As they mature they gradually discover that parents and even teachers, are not omniscient and are prone to error. They lose their faith in second hand authority and begin exploring the world on their own. Now you have reached this stage in your religious thinking, too.: you have decided to examine the complete range of biblical texts for yourself, not just those dished out to you by people with a favorite religious viewpoint to support.
    That’s very admirable but it’s quite a heavy task you have set yourself. Do you intend to struggle with the Ancient British English (and poor scholarship) of the KJV, or do you intend to pursue clarity and authenticity by using a text in modern American English that is reasonably consistent with the concensus of modern biblical scholars?

    First hand knowledge from primary sources is only one tool of higher level scholarship. A more important tool is the ability to examine material critically. Up to this point you have mostly accepted the tenents of your belief without a great deal of serious critical thought. That is to be expected in the young. Our first few years of schooling demand it and for some this habit is never broken. Now you say you have begun to change this immature mind set and are already moving towards the next maturational goal. That can feel exhilerating, liberating or terrifying – and frequently a kaleidoscopic mixture of all of these emotions. Hold on tight!

    I wonder, though, whether this step may prove too large for you at this point in your life. You explain that you have lived through an extremely traumatic and painful childhood experience. The usual reaction to such an event is to seek comfort in the security of the familiar, not the stress of newness and challenge. It will depend on whether you stuck at some stage of the grief cycle described by Kubler-Ross (immobilzation-denial-anger-bargaining-depression-testing-acceptance) http://changingminds.org/disciplines/change_management/kubler_ross/kubler_ross.htm

    It will also be heavily dependent on how much social support your personality needs, how much social support you receive and whether that support encourages you to explore where-ever you wish or threatens to withhold support if you stray outside some super-imposed limit. What I hear you describing is a relatively new support group which you fear will abandon you if you do not conform to the group beliefs, norms and values. Unless you can find foul-weather friends who will offer you unconditional support and regard no matter what happens to your world-view, I would strongly advise you to rethink your decision to aim for this goal at this moment. Do you think that you have sufficient personal resolve and resources for challenging a familiar and life-long world view should you be rejected by the people who are currently supporting you? Be prepared for this type of under-the-radar emotional blackmail.

    You are obviously intelligent. You have finished basic schooling and completed, and possibly passed, more than one American AP level subject. This puts you in the top few percent of American High School graduates. This is a good indication that you have the ability to develop good critical thinking abilities. Please be aware AP level study is only an indication of potential. It is perfecty possible to pass American AP levels on the basis of good fact regurgitation without demonstrating the ability to think critically.
    (This is one of the main criticisms of the AP level in relation to the international Year 12 counterparts which require demonstration of high level reasoning skills in order to obtain a passing grade. This requisite is reserved for American Senior College level. By my computations you are about 18 or 19. That puts you at about Sophomore level. As you probably know, this is traditionally viewed as the Know-It-All Year. Next year you will be horrified to discover how much you don’t know. :) )

    Now all this is great but I have to voice some objections, too.

    _De-conversion, or anger at god?_

    You do not seem to have gone through the kind of deconversion process which characterizes people on this forum. What you describe is better defined within the Christian concept of “backsliding”. You may have became angry at your concept of god when your parent’s house burned down and then tried to avoid practising your religion because this emotion got in the way and caused you distress instead of comfort. It seems very unlikely that you actually lost your belief in a god during this time or you would not have found yourself praying to it when you experienced a terror of flying.

    In a frightening situation a de-convert acts differently. If the fear is sufficiently disorientating, she may respond with automatic behaviour, which may include the commencement of praying behavior. The difference is that this behavior rarely continues for more than a few seconds before rational thinking intervenes and the process is stopped.

    Likewise, when you were approached by a friend who told you how much her life had been changed by a more extended version of your childhood faith you were easily persuaded that her explanation of the cause of this change was rational. You make no mention of any significant challenge to her logic. It seems that your mind put up a very weak fight and it took very little to persuade you. It was comforting and familiar, and that is probably what you crave right now.

    This is not a scenario which makes much sense to a real de-convert. To us it has become second nature to challenge supernatural claims and illogical explanations. As well as that, many of us have spent thirty or forty years in professions where challenging ideas is part of the discipline (science, law, philosphy and all forms of academic research and fact finding). Unless we have acquired some form of brain damage, dysfunction or impairment we do not accept extraordinary claims without objective evidence. Nothing you have said so far suggests that you applied this level of skepticism to what you have been told about religion. The proof you offer for your current version of Christianity is consists almost entirely of second-hand subjective opinion about the origins of certain feelings and emotional experiences. That is incredibly weak evidence for anything.

    There is no compelling evidence that you ever de-converted from Christianity or from general theism. In any case, you were too younb to have the necessary intellectual or emotional maturity at the time.

    You have now reached an age where true de-conversion could conceivably happen. All that stops you now is emotional baggage, social maturity, the development of critical thinking skills, knowledge outside the box of your restricted education, opportunity, determination and persistence. My guess, based on how you present in your postings, is that you lack the emotional strength and the intellectual ruthlessness at the moment. At least some of these things may change in the future. In fact, it probably will. I would not recommend that you rattle your comfort cage until then.

  • 319. Ash  |  May 19, 2009 at 3:58 am

    God originally created us to live with him forever. That all changed when Adam and Eve defied him. He tried to save the Israelites and they still defied him. The option of God was always there, but we kept defying him over and over. If you ask me, we ask for it. Suffering, that is.

    The morality argument doesn’t effect me since I think I’m a terrible person anyway, but I believe that God is perfectly just, so I trust in His decisions. Also, Jesus’ actions had a way more significant consequence than Adam’s; he turned our whole world around by walking with us and then taking up original sin. Because he walked the earth we have witness, and because he died for our sins we have salvation.

    and still we continue to defy God. because there’s that choice, you know? Temptation is serious business.

  • 320. Ash  |  May 19, 2009 at 4:24 am

    @ RLWemm

    LOL. Wow, thanks for making me laugh. I think I’m going to print this out.

    Thanks, but don’t worry about me. Seven years of near complete apathy have given me immunity from disappointment and stress and emotional needs. As for critical thinking, my ability to complicate a subject of discussion is not as important to me as my ability to say exactly what I mean.

    as for everything I’ve posted today, I’ve only spoken from the heart about something I truly believe in. I knew I didn’t belong here from the start but you guys haven’t screamed at me yet, so.

    Let’s keep having fun!

  • 321. RLWemm  |  May 19, 2009 at 5:13 am

    @Ash.

    You are welcome. More tomorrow. I need sleep – and so, I think, do you.

  • 322. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 10:47 am

    How about those who do not receive the necessities? Those who, through drought, famine or plague, starve to death? Those who freeze to death or get fatal pneumonia due to inadequate shelter- through no fault of their own? Those killed in hurricanes, blizzards, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcano eruptions? Those with inadequate supplies of drinking water? Those dying of malaria or other diseases they can not avoid and don’t know how to cure? How about those born with physical or mental handicaps? How about those who are healthy all their lives, then get crippled through the aging process? How about those who are perfectly healthy, but end up dying from complications raised by our poorly constructed bodies (the appendix seems to be a useless remnant of our evolutionary history, but appendicitis can kill you)? Our spines are imperfectly adapted to walking on two legs, leaving how many of us with back problems? That should do, for a start.

    I often think about these people when I receive aid. I could say that these people are not living righteously, but I can’t believe that of all the people starving in the world there is not even one true Christian among them. The only way I can really explain it (and I know this is a weak explanation, so bear with me) is that this is the way God chooses for them to die. He doesn’t promise us a long life on earth, just that he’ll take care of us while it lasts. He could cure people’s diseases endlessly so that no one ever dies, but that’s not what he wants. He set up the world so that we do die, often from illness or tragedy. The part about physical ailments — mental/physical handicaps, cripples, back problems — doesn’t seem relevant to me. Those things hurt and they make life extremely difficult, but a perfect body isn’t necessary to living.

  • 323. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 11:07 am

    You’re going to have to narrow that down a bit. The Bible describes God in several different, contradictory ways.

    I actually don’t see the contradictions. God is described as loving, jealous, and wrathful, but I think these are just different parts of his nature. I respond differently to different situations and it makes sense to me that God would do the same. So I guess just choose whichever description of God you feel is the falsest and explain to me your reasons for thinking that, please.

    Don’t forget Quester, your typical Christian only thinks God is responsible for the good things. When kilter lives a life of righteousness, God provides for him. With others live a life of righteousness but terrible things happen to them it isn’t that God did it, it’s that man did, because man created all of the evil in the world when Adam sinned in the Garden. When good things happen, God did it. When bad things happen, it’s all somehow our faults, regardless of the level of righteousness.

    I do believe that the evil in the world comes from mankind’s mistakes and from Satan’s influence, but I also believe that God has a hand in everything, and that nothing, even the bad things, happens without his will. I have often asked myself why, if God is omnipotent, he doesn’t just destroy Satan in a single instant and save us all a lot of grief. All I can say is that, for some reason, God chooses to work through humans. I don’t think that, when I lack in my faith, God throws punishment at me. Jesus already took that punishment for me. I think he allows us to suffer because it strengthens us and, if we stay faithful, it proves an amazing testimony to God’s glory. I think a lot of the things he does in this world are not about us, but about bringing greater glory to himself, and to me, that purpose is worth it.

    When you hear Christians talk about the trials they went through and see that it doesn’t destroy their faith, what do you think? Just that they’re deluding themselves? I’ve heard it said that Christians who believe they are achieving God’s purpose in their lives are really just huge egomaniacs trying to give themselves importance. Would you agree with that?

  • 324. Quester  |  May 19, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Ash,

    Suffering for defiance can only be called just if obedience is an option. With only one sinless person in the biblical narrative, in what way do you think obedience is possible? What does a person have to do to not deserve suffering?

    Also, Adam’s actions, in your worldview, condemned us all to suffering. Why did Jesus’ actions not free us from that suffering?

  • 325. Quester  |  May 19, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Kilter,

    Apparently OrDover was right and I should have started by asking you which Biblical portrayal of God you wanted to defend. I did not expect callous, evil, but honest to be your top choice. Which Biblical view of God do you hold to?

  • 326. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Quester,

    I’m not posting because I want to defend God, I’m posting because I want to understand why you no longer believe. People often tell me that I have a very logical way of thinking, and I’ve always found it odd that what I know of Christianity does seem logical to me when non-Christians tell me that it’s not. So I’m asking you to explain to me why you think any of the Biblical views of God are not supported by what you see in the world. I don’t have solid, scientific evidence for the existence of God, so I want to hear the evidence that shows that the Christian God does not exist.

    Also, when you say callous and evil, do you mean that God is callous and evil for letting people die? Just to clarify.

  • 327. Tit for Tat  |  May 19, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I don’t have solid, scientific evidence for the existence of God, so I want to hear the evidence that shows that the Christian God does not exist.(Kilter)

    Why would evidence be necessary for disproving if you cant even prove the “Christian G-ds” existence. You really do seem to have it all backwards.

  • 328. Quester  |  May 19, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Kilter,

    Ah, I see. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to help you much. I have no evidence that God doesn’t exist. I also have no evidence God does exist. Finally, I have no evidence that aliens, djinn, leprecauns, or yeti do or do not exist.

    And no, I’m not saying that God is callous and evil for letting people die, but for creating us bodies with so many weaknesses and putting us in a world with so much to attack these weaknesses. It is not death, but suffering that I decry. Death does not need to be accompanied by pain, suffering and tragedy.

  • 329. Tit for Tat  |  May 19, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    As far as the evil thing goes, this pretty much sums up who did it. At least from a “Christian” perspective.

    Isaiah 45:7 (King James Version)

    I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create EVIL: I the LORD do all these things

  • 330. LeoPardus  |  May 19, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    killer:

    I’m curious to know what it feels like to be a de-convert. I mean, Christians always have a description of how it felt to be reborn, so what does it feel like from the other side?

    At first it’s very confusing and even distressing. As you get used to the fact of a cosmos without a personal deity, and as you gradually get over the fallbacks of religious thinking, you come to a place of great freedom. To borrow from Christian jargon, it is like having been blind and now developing sight. It’s like coming out of a great dark shroud into a world of light. It is finding real truth. It is like being reborn.

  • 331. paleale  |  May 19, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Kilter,

    I’ll side with Leo on this. It hurts a bit at first. There’s a great article in here somewhere about red pill vs blue pill and those that think ‘Why? Oh why didn’t I just take the blue pill?” W/out revealing the true extent of my sci-fi geekiness I find that to be an apt analogy for some of the process I have gone through. I really wish that the loving, benevolent god of mercy I used to believe in was truly there. But I have concluded that he (at least the Christian version of god) is not. And sometimes it really sucks.

    But mostly life just continues. I love the same way I did before. I feel joy and contentment the same way I did before. The only major difference is that when life gets overwhelming I don’t have that psychological sense of security that tells me that ‘everything works for the good of those who love the lord.’ I know it’s up to me to make that good come about if any is there to be had.

  • 332. LeoPardus  |  May 19, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    killer:

    Look in the archives for my series of articles that all start with “Reasons why I can no longer believe” That will give some material for you to peruse on why we don’t think the personal deity of Christianity exists.

  • 333. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Why would evidence be necessary for disproving if you can’t even prove the “Christian G-ds” existence. You really do seem to have it all backwards.

    I’m asking out of curiosity because, in the debate above with Ash, I saw someone mention that emotional evidence was too weak to prove the existence of God, so I wanted to see whether anyone could give me something stronger than that for the other side of the argument. If we have nothing solid for either side, then I feel like personal testimonies are the best way to find the truth, which is why I’m on this site, reading what you guys have to say.

    As far as the evil thing goes, this pretty much sums up who did it. At least from a “Christian” perspective.

    I just looked up multiple translations of this verse, and the most common translation of “evil” here is calamity, or specifically physical evil. Yes, of course God creates physical suffering in our lives. I don’t contest that. I just don’t think it makes him evil.

  • 334. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Ah, I see. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to help you much. I have no evidence that God doesn’t exist. I also have no evidence God does exist. Finally, I have no evidence that aliens, djinn, leprecauns, or yeti do or do not exist.

    Okay, this is what I wanted to know. Like I said to Tit for Tat, I’m trying to see if you guys have something beyond personal experience to explain the lack of God, since all I have is personal experience to show my belief in God.

    And no, I’m not saying that God is callous and evil for letting people die, but for creating us bodies with so many weaknesses and putting us in a world with so much to attack these weaknesses. It is not death, but suffering that I decry. Death does not need to be accompanied by pain, suffering and tragedy.

    Okay, I can understand that. I’m sure that when you were a believer that you heard all the justifications for suffering, about how it strengthens our faith. Did you ever believe this, and if so, at what point did you stop? At the same time you felt that God stopped appearing? Or was this idea something you always struggled with, even in your times of strongest faith?

  • 335. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    LeoPardus,

    Thank you for sharing what it felt like to de-convert. So do you believe that, during your years as a Christian, you were tricking yourself/misinterpreting what you believed was the presence of God? Also, when you first became Christian, did you feel that same kind of rebirth? Since it seems to have felt very similar to what most Christians describe, I’m curious.

    I found your articles and will read them as soon as I get a chance. Thank you.

  • 336. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Paleale,

    Thanks for sharing. Sorry I have so many questions, but please bear with me, as I don’t actually know any de-converts personally. So at your times of strongest faith, did you think you could ever stop believing? And now that you have, do you believe you could ever go back to believing in the Christian God?

  • 337. Quester  |  May 19, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Kilter,

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to respond to a few points you made to others, as well as to myself.

    Yes, of course God creates physical suffering in our lives. I don’t contest that. I just don’t think it makes him evil.

    Fair enough. Writing poetry doesn’t make me a poet; it just makes me a person who writes poetry. Causing suffering doesn’t make God evil, it simply means He’s a god who does evil things. I’ll concede that.

    Like I said to Tit for Tat, I’m trying to see if you guys have something beyond personal experience to explain the lack of God, since all I have is personal experience to show my belief in God.

    You are aware that not having evidence *for* something and not having evidence *against* it does not make the likelihood of it existing 50/50, right? Name something other than God that you think exists that you don’t have evidence *for*.

    Did you ever believe this, and if so, at what point did you stop?

    I believed it on a personal level, because I hated myself and thought I deserved suffering. When I reached a point where it was my responsibility to teach others, I tried to predict what their objections would be and find answers. I found no good answers. When I partook in Hospital chaplaincy, all the easy justifications tasted like dust in my mouth. When an infant suffers for it’s entire two month lifespan, what possible justification could there be?

    So at your times of strongest faith, did you think you could ever stop believing?

    No. It simply wasn’t imaginable.

    And now that you have, do you believe you could ever go back to believing in the Christian God?

    If I found evidence He exists, sure. I’m not sure whether or not I could worship Him again, but I could believe.

  • 338. Donny  |  May 19, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I have also been following the de-con and have found it to be amusing, in a good sense. I wanted to chime in n the question of what it feels like to be a de-con.
    I’ve only been the big “A” for a couple of years and have found an incredible feeling of peace. What I don’t find is any Christians that have a very good understanding of their faith. Now, I know that this will bring the well read faithful down on me. What I mean is the average type Christian. You know the type that you are likely to meet are church. Most have not read their bibles, only using them to store obits and cards. But back to the point, I didn’t become a de-con because of hurt, fear, helplessness or the myriad of other reasons that most supers lay on us. I became a de-con because the whole of religion thing is just to weird to ever be possible. I mean, come on now, I’d rather believe that the universe was made from a flower coming from the navel of Vishnu than anything else. It’s just a likely to be as the Genesis story. I do find it strange that de-cons are addresses in such a way that they are on the constant defense.
    The person I’m involved with is a new age type / Krishna person. I don’t bring up the subject of religion. I don’t do it because it make as little difference to me as the color of paint on her walls. That is up to her. She prays for me and I don’t say “ Oh no, you can’t do the I’m a atheist. I don’t believe in prayer”. Come on I’m 57 years old and if that make her feel good, who does it hurt. I’m a happy de-con. I don’t feel a need to compel other to believe as I do. If they are interested I’ll share, and yes I do try to share just not shove.
    Please all on you believers, we don’t think hell exists so we’re not worries a bit about going there. We don’t respond well to threats or the carrot and stick thing that seems to run so many peoples loves. Personally I’m glad that you’re imaginary friend tell you to be good. I just hope that he doesn’t tell you to kill me.

  • 339. LeoPardus  |  May 19, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    killer:

    do you believe that, during your years as a Christian, you were tricking yourself/misinterpreting what you believed was the presence of God?

    That is indeed what I was doing, and it is what many millions still do and will continue to do.

    when you first became Christian, did you feel that same kind of rebirth?

    My initial “saved” experiences were not as dramatic as many I’ve known. On the proverbial ’10 scale’ (0=no change; 10=instant missionary) I’d say I was a 6. Interestingly my felt experience was much more intense when I became Orthodox.

    it seems to have felt very similar to what most Christians describe, I’m curious.

    Similar in some ways, very different in others. Kinda hard to describe.

    Enjoy the articles.

  • 340. TitforTat  |  May 19, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    just looked up multiple translations of this verse, and the most common translation of “evil” here is calamity, or specifically physical evil. Yes, of course God creates physical suffering in our lives. I don’t contest that. I just don’t think it makes him evil.(Kilter)

    Well, Im glad you found the right Bible with the right translation to make G-d not be the creator of Evil. You should sleep well tonight. ;)

  • 341. writerdd  |  May 19, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    If creating suffering is not evil or immoral, than what is? Two consenting adults having sex outside of marriage? Christianity has a really frakked up idea about what evil is.

  • 342. writerdd  |  May 19, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    That’s one of the real reasons I left. The “morality” I was taught just didn’t seem all that moral to me any more. It’s like black is white.

  • 343. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Fair enough. Writing poetry doesn’t make me a poet; it just makes me a person who writes poetry. Causing suffering doesn’t make God evil, it simply means He’s a god who does evil things. I’ll concede that.

    Did your parents punish you when you disobeyed them as a child? If so, are they evil? And I’m asking this seriously, not rhetorically. If you don’t think your parents are evil for causing you suffering, why not? Because the magnitude of the pain differs?

    You are aware that not having evidence *for* something and not having evidence *against* it does not make the likelihood of it existing 50/50, right? Name something other than God that you think exists that you don’t have evidence *for*.

    I know it doesn’t make it 50/50, but I don’t think it makes God’s existence 100% false, either. I’m aware that by worldly logic, it’s more likely that God does not exist. That’s why I’m looking at your reasons for thinking this.

    I think that the world is composed of molecules whose structure determines the hardness of each substance, as well as the physical state (gas, liquid, water) depending on its temperature. But as I have never conducted any experiments that would prove this to me, the only evidence I have is what people have told me, nothing solid that I’ve seen for myself.

    I believed it on a personal level, because I hated myself and thought I deserved suffering. When I reached a point where it was my responsibility to teach others, I tried to predict what their objections would be and find answers. I found no good answers. When I partook in Hospital chaplaincy, all the easy justifications tasted like dust in my mouth. When an infant suffers for it’s entire two month lifespan, what possible justification could there be?

    So you never found any benefits that came about as a result of suffering? What do you think about people who say that, despite their suffering, they still love God and they are glad that they can use their suffering to relate to people who are experiencing the same thing?

    I don’t have any justification for an infant’s suffering or premature death. I’m okay with my lack of understanding because I think it’s impossible to know God completely, although that doesn’t keep me from looking for answers and praying that someday he’ll give me understanding. When you were Christian, did you feel okay when you didn’t understand things, or was it something you struggled with? I’m not asking this to judge the strength of your faith in any way, because I know Christians who do struggle with being unable to understand things like this. I just want to know how you felt when you still believed.

    If I found evidence He exists, sure. I’m not sure whether or not I could worship Him again, but I could believe.

    What would that look like in your daily life? Believing in a God that you choose not to worship, I mean.

  • 344. paleale  |  May 19, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Kilter

    So at your times of strongest faith, did you think you could ever stop believing? And now that you have, do you believe you could ever go back to believing in the Christian God?

    I was not what we commonly referred to as a ‘nominal’ Christian. I had passion in my beliefs. I loved going to church. I enjoyed telling people about the lord. So no. I never, ever in my wildest dreams would have believed that I would be an atheist.

    As for going back to believing, I would love to. I really, really would. But it would literally take a miracle. An honest, true blue miracle.

  • 345. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Donny,

    Thanks for sharing, and I’m glad to hear that you’re so tolerant of other people’s faiths. I find it really encouraging that you are so comfortable allowing other people to believe what they like. I have a couple points/questions for you, if you don’t mind.

    What I don’t find is any Christians that have a very good understanding of their faith. Now, I know that this will bring the well read faithful down on me. What I mean is the average type Christian. You know the type that you are likely to meet are church. Most have not read their bibles, only using them to store obits and cards

    I completely agree that most Christians do not know enough about their faith, and I really wish they had enough passion for Christ to study the Bible and to really pursue Christ in their daily lives, instead of only on Sundays for an hour or so at church. Knowing that their actions are a problem for you because of the inconsistencies they present encourages me to try and be a better example of the Christian lifestyle.

    I became a de-con because the whole of religion thing is just to weird to ever be possible. I mean, come on now, I’d rather believe that the universe was made from a flower coming from the navel of Vishnu than anything else. It’s just a likely to be as the Genesis story.

    It is weird, isn’t it? I think about this all the time. So, in your life, what do you believe, if you don’t mind me asking? Do you hold to any principles or morals for yourself? What makes life worthwhile for you?

    I do find it strange that de-cons are addresses in such a way that they are on the constant defense.

    If this is directed at me, I’m sorry if what I’m writing comes off as offensive, because I don’t mean it to be, and I don’t want any of you to have to defend or explain yourselves to me. I’m just trying to understand the experience of de-converting and what kind of mindset you live with after leaving the church.

    If they are interested I’ll share, and yes I do try to share just not shove.
    Please all on you believers, we don’t think hell exists so we’re not worries a bit about going there. We don’t respond well to threats or the carrot and stick thing that seems to run so many peoples loves.

    I try to take the same approach to sharing my faith, although I often fail. My goal is to explain to someone unfamiliar with Christianity what it means to be Christian, and then, if they express interest, to encourage them to pursue it. Please understand, though, that the reason Christians often act pushy is because we do believe in hell, so it’s a lot harder for us to brush off a non-believer’s decision because we are worried about you going there, whether or not you are worried about it yourself. I don’t want anyone to believe just because they fear hell, but it does play into my desire to share my faith with people, and I’m not sure if that can be helped.

  • 346. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    That is indeed what I was doing, and it is what many millions still do and will continue to do.

    Do you think there’s a chance that you’re deceiving yourself now?

    My initial “saved” experiences were not as dramatic as many I’ve known. On the proverbial ‘10 scale’ (0=no change; 10=instant missionary) I’d say I was a 6. Interestingly my felt experience was much more intense when I became Orthodox.

    But did you have those same feelings of a veil being lifted from your eyes? Or, to word it another way, what differences did you notice in your life before and after your conversion, if any?

    I read your articles, and you bring up some interesting points. I’m actually surprised that they don’t make me doubt God’s existence or his goodness. Assuming that you think I and all other Christians are fooling ourselves, why do you think we do this? Why am I able to believe despite my inability to understand God’s motivations, actions, etc.?

  • 347. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    Writerdd,

    If creating suffering is not evil or immoral, than what is? Two consenting adults having sex outside of marriage? Christianity has a really frakked up idea about what evil is.

    That’s one of the real reasons I left. The “morality” I was taught just didn’t seem all that moral to me any more. It’s like black is white.

    Like I said to Quester, do you think that your parents were either evil or immoral when they punished you for disobeying them? Again, I’m asking this honestly, not rhetorically. Could you share your definitions or your views of evil and good?

  • 348. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Paleale,

    As for going back to believing, I would love to. I really, really would. But it would literally take a miracle. An honest, true blue miracle.

    When you hear of miracles that other people experience in current times, do you think of them as just coincidences? Or do you need the miracle to happen to you and not to someone else? What would constitute a miracle for you?

  • 349. writerdd  |  May 19, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Like I said to Quester, do you think that your parents were either evil or immoral when they punished you for disobeying them? Again, I’m asking this honestly, not rhetorically. Could you share your definitions or your views of evil and good?

    My parents never claimed to be perfect, all loving, all powerful beings. However, they did not harm me when I disobeyed them. My parents would have — and still would — do everything in their power to prevent harm and suffering from coming to me in any way. (I seriously hope that you were not abused by your parents.)

    Any God that would send someone to hell because they don’t believe that he is real is not an all-loving, perfect being either. He is a monster. If I did uncover evidence of his existence, I hope I would have the moral fortitude to fight against him. I would never volunteer to worship such a being.

    I don’t believe in absolute good and evil, per se. But I believe that morality should be based on alleviating and reducing suffering and pain and bringing joy and pleasure whenever possible. This is the only life we have and we need to make it as good as possible for as many people as possible. Anything else is immoral. It’s not black and white, nothing is. Sometimes one thing causes one person pleasure and another pain. There is no absolute morality and there are no easy answers.

  • 350. Quester  |  May 19, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Kilter,

    Did your parents punish you when you disobeyed them as a child? If so, are they evil? And I’m asking this seriously, not rhetorically. If you don’t think your parents are evil for causing you suffering, why not? Because the magnitude of the pain differs?

    My parents did punish me when I disobeyed them. I don’t think they were evil for doing so, partially because of the magnitude of the pain suffered, and partially because I could discern what I had done and how to avoid punishment in the future.

    Did your parents create contradictory lists of rules you could not possibly follow, then pour scalding water on you at random intervals while others told you that you deserved it? Did they also feed you at random intervals so you could never tell what you did to earn this blessing, while others told you that it was not earned but a free gift? Did you ever watch your parents enter a room with a steaming pot and realize you had no idea if you were going to get scalded or fed because you received either randomly and had no way of affecting what would happen to you? If you did experience any of this, or anything like this, why don’t you think your parents did evil things to you? I’m asking this seriously, not rhetorically. Would you be okay with your lack of understanding because you’d think it’s impossible to know your parents completely? Would you still trust them, because they’re your parents and you believe they love you and want what’s best for you?

    I know it doesn’t make it 50/50, but I don’t think it makes God’s existence 100% false, either. I’m aware that by worldly logic, it’s more likely that God does not exist. That’s why I’m looking at your reasons for thinking this.

    My reasons for thinking this include a complete lack of reasons to think otherwise. What reasons do you have for not believing in any other god?

    I think that the world is composed of molecules whose structure determines the hardness of each substance, as well as the physical state (gas, liquid, water) depending on its temperature. But as I have never conducted any experiments that would prove this to me, the only evidence I have is what people have told me, nothing solid that I’ve seen for myself.

    But you could have more evidence for this. The evidence exists. You could do the experiments. Do you not see this as different at all?

    So you never found any benefits that came about as a result of suffering?

    Sure I did. Have you never found suffering with no benefits you could discern?

    What do you think about people who say that, despite their suffering, they still love God and they are glad that they can use their suffering to relate to people who are experiencing the same thing?

    I am glad they’ve found a coping strategy that works for them and hope it wouldn’t turn upon them when the logic supporting this idea failed them.

    I don’t have any justification for an infant’s suffering or premature death. I’m okay with my lack of understanding because I think it’s impossible to know God completely, although that doesn’t keep me from looking for answers and praying that someday he’ll give me understanding. When you were Christian, did you feel okay when you didn’t understand things, or was it something you struggled with?

    Depends on the something. I was okay with not knowing for certain whether or not Mary was a virgin all her life, or just when she gave birth to Jesus. In the face of unreasonable suffering, I was not okay with my lack of understanding. I was filled with anguish and pain. I prayed fervently, read my Bible, spoke with clergy, went to pastoral care workshops, and cried out to God. Seeing that you’re okay with your lack of understanding in this area, in what way do you consider yourself moral? I don’t mean to insult you by asking this, I really am curious what sort of morality is okay with this sort of thing.

    What would that look like in your daily life? Believing in a God that you choose not to worship, I mean.

    That would depend on what sort of character that God exhibited.

  • 351. kilter  |  May 19, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    My parents never claimed to be perfect, all loving, all powerful beings. However, they did not harm me when I disobeyed them. My parents would have — and still would — do everything in their power to prevent harm and suffering from coming to me in any way. (I seriously hope that you were not abused by your parents.)

    No, I was never abused, thankfully. But my parents punished me if I did something wrong — time-out, brief spanking — out of their love for me. They told me not to run into the street because they didn’t want me to get hit by a car, and if I did run out, they spanked me so that I would know not to do it again, to prevent greater suffering from coming to me. My point is that they caused me pain to teach me something and I’m glad that they did this. It makes sense to me that God would use the suffering we introduced into the world in the same way — take it into his own hands and give it to us in order to strengthen our faith in him, that he truly knows best. I understand that this does not explain every instance of suffering in the world and that you consider this suffering evil, but I want to share my view of it.

    Any God that would send someone to hell because they don’t believe that he is real is not an all-loving, perfect being either. He is a monster.

    So when you were talking about creating suffering earlier, were you talking about hell? I want to clarify because I was still talking about suffering on earth.

    So how would you expect an all-loving, perfect being to act towards those who denied his existence despite the testimonies of his followers? Again, I’m not asking rhetorically. Is your definition of a loving God one who gives every soul eternal life, regardless of what they did with their mortal lives?

  • 352. orDover  |  May 19, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    So how would you expect an all-loving, perfect being to act towards those who denied his existence despite the testimonies of his followers?

    Testimony of followers is simply not adequate, especially if their lives are no different than your average person. Their prayers are not answered more. Their live are not more comfortable. They are not happier or more moral or even necessarily kinder. They have a story to tell, but other than that, there is no manifestation of verifiable evidence. And their story is competing with several other just like it.

    If God really wants us to believe, he must give us better evidence for his existence than hearsay. We need more than personal anecdotes in order to make up our minds.

    I would also hope that an all-knowing, all-loving God who created man with a reasoning brain capable of critical thought would realize this and not chastise us for simply demanding an adequate amount of evidence that conforms to the very rationality he created within us.

    “Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear”

  • 353. paleale  |  May 19, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    kilter

    Unfortunately the word ‘miracle’ has been watered down quite a bit within Christian vernacular to the point that finding the best parking spot a Nordstrom becomes a ‘miracle’. You don’t seem like the type of person to make the mundane into a miracle, though. You seem like a very intelligent person who is honestly intrigued by other people’s opinions. That is SOOOO refreshing after the rest of this thread.

    Let’s weed out the parking space miracles. What’s left are improbable events that seem miraculous but usually have quite worldly explanations if people would just take the time to dig a bit deeper. However, we were trained as Christians to point to any ‘good’ event and cry “Praise God!” as if miracles were occurring on a second to second basis.

    What I want to see as proof of God’s existence is someone being completely healed of Down’s syndrome. Physical deformities and all. Or a double leg amputee grow back both limbs.

  • 354. donny  |  May 19, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    So, in your life, what do you believe, if you don’t mind me asking? Do you hold to any principles or morals for yourself? What makes life worthwhile for you?

    1. I believe that people do just what they want to do, regardless of their religious/ethical beliefs. Look at the rate of divorce, murder, incest, child abuse among the faithful. Not them I would consider them good Christians, but what the hay.
    2. This is a small list of what I try to avoid:

    Six Mistakes of Man

    1. The delusion that individual advancement is made by crushing others.

    2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be corrected.

    3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it.

    4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences.

    5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind and not acquiring the habit of reading and studying.

    6. Attempting to compel other persons to believe and live as we do.

    -Cicero, 106 BC-43 BC

    3.The very fact that we are alive is what make life worthwhile. We are here to witness birth, death, flowers, summer, winter. How much more do you want? We can make this planet such a great place or we can go on killing each other because we don’t believe in the same version of imaginary friends.

    I do find it strange that de-cons are addresses in such a way that they are on the constant defense.

    I wasn’t directing this at anybody particularly. It just seems to be a general theme on all of the web sites that I follow.

    Please understand, though, that the reason Christians often act pushy is because we do believe in hell, so it’s a lot harder for us to brush off a non-believer’s decision because we are worried about you going there, whether or not you are worried about it yourself. I don’t want anyone to believe just because they fear hell, but it does play into my desire to share my faith with people, and I’m not sure if that can be helped.
    My friend, please don’t worry about me. If you must worry do so for the folks of faith that I listed in #1 of the first question. I do know that fear of hell does nothing because if it did our country, being highly religious, would be virtually crime free

  • 355. Aussie Ali  |  May 20, 2009 at 12:11 am

    To Kilter

    How can you possibly compare the pain and suffering caused by loving parents to the pain and suffering in the world caused or allowed by God. No parent would willingly inflict that kind of suffering on their child. There is a big difference between the spanking that you received compared with a baby enduring a painful congenital illness.

  • 356. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Quester,

    Did your parents create contradictory lists of rules you could not possibly follow, then pour scalding water on you at random intervals while others told you that you deserved it? Did they also feed you at random intervals so you could never tell what you did to earn this blessing, while others told you that it was not earned but a free gift?

    In this comparison, are you referring primarily to God as he is portrayed in the Old Testament? Even then, though no one was able to follow it perfectly, it says that God loved Moses because he did his best to not fall into sin, and that was enough for God to have mercy on him. The same holds true for all the leaders God chooses, and I believe the case is the same for many of the Jews, even though we don’t have detailed accounts of their lives. The suffering that people received was God trying to call his people back to him by showing them that it’s not their lives in this world that matters, but their relationship with him. I think that a lot of the daily sufferings that people endure have the same function. We’re not being punished when we lose our jobs, for example; God is reaching out to us, asking us to let go of what the world values in order to have him in our lives. If you’re talking about the New Testament in this example, then the fact that we can’t follow these rules is the whole point. That’s why God reached down to us, because we can never reach the entire way up to him. Again, he needed to show us that we can’t do it on our own.

    I agree that the blessings often seem random in the OT, but I think that’s because blessings have nothing to do with whether we deserve them. Just like how the New Testament says we can never earn salvation through works, that it comes only from grace freely given that, yes, we don’t deserve, I don’t think God gives blessings on the basis of who earned them.

    Did you ever watch your parents enter a room with a steaming pot and realize you had no idea if you were going to get scalded or fed because you received either randomly and had no way of affecting what would happen to you?

    I think this argument only applies if I fear the suffering God may bring me to the extent that I would rather leave him than wait to see if he’ll bless me or give me pain. Since I do trust that both options will lead to the greater glory of God, I’m willing to accept either one.

    If you did experience any of this, or anything like this, why don’t you think your parents did evil things to you? I’m asking this seriously, not rhetorically. Would you be okay with your lack of understanding because you’d think it’s impossible to know your parents completely? Would you still trust them, because they’re your parents and you believe they love you and want what’s best for you?

    I didn’t experience anything like this from my parents. I find these questions hard to answer because I know that my parents were human and God is not, but I understand that you’re coming from the perspective of not already believing that God is all-loving and just. But if, during that suffering, I looked at my older sister, who had already gone through this experience, and saw that she continued to love and trust my parents, and that she believed that the joy she experienced in her daily life came about because of their actions, then yes, I think I would be okay with not understanding. The many people I know who have endured more than I can imagine are this older sister figure to me in my relationship with God. Since I have never gone through what most people would consider any major trauma in my life, I don’t feel like I can truly understand what it’s like to be in that position. But the way I see God use suffering in the Bible just describes, to me, a God who is crying for us to return to him.

    Have you experienced a major trauma in your life? If so, was it when you were a Christian? What did it feel like? How did it affect your de-conversion?

    My reasons for thinking this include a complete lack of reasons to think otherwise. What reasons do you have for not believing in any other god?

    What I know of other religions tells me that, if I’m good enough, if I cling to a set of morals closely enough, I will reach God/transcend life, life will be good, or I will be rewarded after death for my faithfulness. I see no evidence in human nature that anyone can cling perfectly to any of these rules. Christianity is the only one I know of that says, no, you can never reach God, that instead he is going to reach down to you and breach the gap between you and him by sacrificing himself.

    But you could have more evidence for this. The evidence exists. You could do the experiments. Do you not see this as different at all?

    Okay, I see the difference. To me, the experiment is believing in God and seeing how he changes your life. That doesn’t fit in with worldly evidence. I’m not sure why the existence of a supernatural being would, though. I think, for me, this is a dead end in this line of thought, because although I believe that God could have a daily physical presence in the world, as he did for a brief time with Jesus, he chooses not to because he can do more through our faith, and our faith brings him greater glory.

    Sure I did. Have you never found suffering with no benefits you could discern?

    Like what? How do you think about them? Just that, because suffering is unavoidable in life, we might as well learn something from it? Or do you go through a period of pain and then look back later and see how it has affected your life in a positive way?

    I have found suffering with no benefits that I could discern at the time, but then years later I’ll look back and see that it changed my life for the better. I hear the same story from other people. Regardless, we both seem to have the same line of logic (please correct me if I’m wrong): I believe suffering has a purpose, I understand the benefit of some suffering in my life, so I believe that all suffering produces some good, even if I don’t know what it is. I see no purpose for the suffering in the world, I understand the negative effects suffering sometimes has on individual people, so I believe that suffering as a whole is evil. What leads you to choose the prioritizing of the negative view over the positive?

    Seeing that you’re okay with your lack of understanding in this area, in what way do you consider yourself moral? I don’t mean to insult you by asking this, I really am curious what sort of morality is okay with this sort of thing.

    Like I’ve already said, I don’t think that because something is painful means that it is evil. To me, evil is something that is cruel for the sake of being cruel, and that’s not what I see described in the Bible. I consider myself moral because I do my best to follow God’s example in not inflicting pain on others merely for the sake of watching them writhe in pain.

  • 357. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 1:58 am

    orDover,

    If God really wants us to believe, he must give us better evidence for his existence than hearsay. We need more than personal anecdotes in order to make up our minds.

    I would also hope that an all-knowing, all-loving God who created man with a reasoning brain capable of critical thought would realize this and not chastise us for simply demanding an adequate amount of evidence that conforms to the very rationality he created within us.

    Why do you think, then, that so many people do accept God just based on these testimonies? If we’re disillusioning ourselves, do you have an opinion on why people feel the need to do this?

  • 358. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Paleale,

    What’s left are improbable events that seem miraculous but usually have quite worldly explanations if people would just take the time to dig a bit deeper. However, we were trained as Christians to point to any ‘good’ event and cry “Praise God!” as if miracles were occurring on a second to second basis.

    I definitely don’t believe that miracles occur in my daily life, or that any convenient event constitutes a miracle, so thank you for giving me that much credit. Do you think that the reason that seemingly miraculous events have worldly explanations could be that God chooses to work through the world? Jericho, for instance, lay directly over a major fault line, so what probably caused the walls to fall was an earthquake. But God chose to tell his people to go at that specific time and to foolishly walk in circles to prove their faith to their enemies before that wall fell, knowing that their enemies would take it as a sign of his power. I realize that has a lot of assumptions in it, but my main point is that I think God chooses to work through the rules he put into the world when he can. Another example, a pastor I know grew up in a broken home, was deep in gang activities, a drug addict, and one night he decided to kill himself. As he was loading his gun, he asked God to show himself in some way if he was real and worth following. He heard a voice yell his name, and he went to his window and saw his friend standing outside, asking if he had any extra heroine. Do you think it’s possible that, rather than sending a disembodied voice into the room, God chose to work through his friend?

    What I want to see as proof of God’s existence is someone being completely healed of Down’s syndrome. Physical deformities and all. Or a double leg amputee grow back both limbs.

    I admit that I’ve never seen or heard of a miracle that powerful. Having previously believed so strongly, how do you think you came to the point where you require a miracle to believe again?

  • 359. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 2:16 am

    donny,

    Most of Cicero’s “Six Mistakes of Man” list match up pretty closely to Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament. Do you think that this is just because they are universal truths? Do you think it could point to a universal, moral logic that all humans have because we were created by the same hand? If not, how do you account for these similarities?

  • 360. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 2:19 am

    Aussie Ali,

    I did not mean to compare a child’s punishment to the suffering in the world, and I’m sorry if it came off that way. I was trying to understand if Quester believed suffering could be inflicted for a purpose. So for you, is it the difference in magnitude of pain that says that, if God exists, he must be evil to allow this suffering?

  • 361. RLWemm  |  May 20, 2009 at 2:50 am

    @Killer:

    What’s if feel like to de-convert?
    Very disturbing and frightening to begin with. It upset my whole comfortable world view so I wanted the doubts to just go away and leave me alone. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have a personality which highly values intellectual integrity and needs to pursue the evidence where-ever it goes.

    After the dust settled life just continued on as before, minus the time spent on religious pursuits. I found other ways of meeting needs previously met by Christianity and discovered that they were generally more effective. I began to notice that teachers, social workers, physicians, mental health workers and other secular professionals and community members were frequently able to bring about significant and positive changes in people’s lives which far outstripped those claimed to have been caused by a supernatural being. Moreover, these people rarely claimed to be working miracles and they generally did not loudly promote their skill or their god to packed rooms of adoring hoards. It became apparent that the louder the screaming, the faker the product.

    In the early years I found it easier to follow a code of ethics which made logical and moral sense without being hampered by sadistic biblical injunctions or Christian’s sadistic interpretations of them. It was a huge relief to be freed from the mental acrobatics involved in making excuses for a god who revealed itself as increasingly inhumane the more I learned about it.

    Among the rewards in later years was a sense of relief that I was no longer subject to many of the psychological difficulties which religion appeared to have caused or exacerbated in my clients. .

    If we have nothing solid for either side, then I feel like personal testimonies are the best way to find the truth

    Modern systems which are set up to determine the truth of a matter flatly disagree with you.

    There is a huge body of research confirming the extreme unreliability of human perception, memory and cognitive processing. Since the beginning of empirical psychology (Wundt) the methodological research strategies of that field have concerned themselves with controlling for the biasing effects of subjective human input.

    In spite of growing awareness of the unreliability of witness statements, the court systems of civilized countries will allow human testimony. Even so, the standard rules of evidence will only allow human testimony which is confined to information gained through the physical senses. Emotional “feelings”, opinions, conclusions and attributions of cause are not permitted and will be struck from the record if submitted. Objective evidence (CSI stuff) carries far more weight and will be accepted over human testimony if there is a conflict, as there often is.

    Unlike other parts of the world, Americans are fond of using human testimonials as a means to persuade others. They are used for determing character, professional competence and suitability as a tenent. They play a huge part in marketing campaigns, including the marketing of Evangelical type Christianity. All of these personal testimonials, especially those used to market or “prove” the Christian faith, have very little weight as evidence of objective verifiable truth. They do not meet the Rules of Evidence used in the courts of civilized countries. Nor do they meet the criteria for acceptable evidence in scientific studies. This is before we even look at whether they meet the Rules of Logic. The reason why testimonials are so popular in the US appears to be due to a schooling system which fails to teach and promote critical thinking until way past the age when these skills are taught in other developed countries.

    If you are hoping to find “the truth” here through personal testimony you will not find it. You are asking the wrong questions and looking at the wrong things. How we have experienced de-conversion and how we perceive our lives have been changed as a result are immaterial. They have absoluately no bearing on whether we arrived at the correct conclusion at the end of our investigation.

    It would be just as senseless to ask a medical researcher how she feels before and after discovering that there is no valid evidence to support the hypothesis that thimersol additives in childhood vaccines causes autism spectrum disorders or that kelation therapy (used to remove heavy metals from the body) is far more likely to harm an autistic child than help them. How she feels has absolutely no bearing on the truth of the matter.

    The story of The Matrix provides a useful parallel. All but a few humans are living in a fake but pleasant dream world created by computers. One human is wrenched out of this false world into a real world which is far from pleasant. An implied question is whether knowing the truth is worth the disillusion. Another is whether an enlightened person would want to back to their delusional word, and if so, if they could then suppress what they had learned about the real world.

    Until recently most de-converts went quietly about their lives and did not try to wrench others away from their religious delusions unless they expressed an interest in discovering the truth. My first realization that they existed was during the early stages of my candidature for the Methodist Ministry. Several ministers of religion dropped puzzling pieces of information into the conversation that suggested that they were trapped in a profession which they wanted to get out of. After my de-conversion I had several chats with one of them who admitted that he had stopped believing in a god some considerable time ago but was “owned” by the church.

    Things changed dramatically over the last decade. It began with the election of an incompetent and simple minded American President who took orders from the nation’s religious right, then continued through 9/11, global warming, the Catholic pedophile scandal, the Pope’s resistance to the fight against AIDS, the moral unmasking of a whole range of prominent loud-mouthed evangelical christians in positions of power and trust in the USA, and the increasingly visable harm being wrought by a whole range of religious people. Many of us have finally become vocal out of concern and alarm.

  • 362. Quester  |  May 20, 2009 at 3:06 am

    Kilter,

    In this comparison, are you referring primarily to God as he is portrayed in the Old Testament?

    Nope. After all, the Pharisees claimed to follow the laws of the Old Testament perfectly. I can’t say if they’ve manged it. I’ve never tried, myself. It’s Jesus, though, who takes the laws and makes them impossible to follow (equating thoughts and feelings with actions [Mt. 5:21-22, 27-28]). It is Jesus who borrowed the Greek’s image of Hades and threatened hellfire. Eternal punishment is not to be found in the Old Testament. Then, it is Jesus who provided contradictory advice on how to avoid hell by telling some to act, some to believe, and some that their salvation depended upon Him, not on them. All three of those ideas can be argued for or against, using Jesus’ words.

    As for the random blessings and sufferings, I was not looking at the Bible at all, but the world we live in. Pious Christians and unabashed sinners both may have healthy children, abundant crops, and then come down with degenerative, terminal diseases which rob them of the mental capacity to gain any benefit from their suffering, leaving them with only enough conciousness to be aware they are suffering. Their faith, or lack of it, affects these blessings and sufferings in no discernible fashion.

    If suffering in the world was necessary to teach and guide us, giving actions consequences should provide enough, so long as God informs us what actions cause what consequences. If I jump off of a cliff, I expect to get hurt. Adding Swine Flu to the mix is gratuitous and unnecessarily cruel.

    Again, he needed to show us that we can’t do it on our own.

    God makes it so that we can’t do it on our own, then punishes us for not making it on our own? This is love?

    I didn’t experience anything like this from my parents.

    I am glad to hear that.

    I find these questions hard to answer because I know that my parents were human and God is not

    Comparing God to parents is a weak analogy, I admit. after all, if God is all-knowing and all-powerful He should be able to teach us without any punishment at all.

    But if, during that suffering, I looked at my older sister, who had already gone through this experience, and saw that she continued to love and trust my parents, and that she believed that the joy she experienced in her daily life came about because of their actions, then yes, I think I would be okay with not understanding.

    Really? I ask you to think about this, Kilter. Not as an evangelist- as a human being. If your parents abused you and your sister horribly, in ways that crippled you both, would you be satisfied if your sister managed to deal with the excrucuiating pain by holding onto whatever joys she could find in her life, and crediting those joys to the parents that abused you both? If you would truly, honestly, be okay with this, I beg you to go to a hospital or psychologist and tell them this. Please, get professional help. I’m not kidding, being sarcastic, or attempting to insult you, here. This is one of the scariest statements I’ve ever read. I don’t know you at all, Kilter, but no one deserves pain like this, and if you don’t have the critical thinking skills to refuse or avoid it, please get yourself help. I’m actually tempted to pray, here. Please, please, talk to a therapist, or even your pastor.

    I can’t even finish this conversation. Please tell me you’ll find someone who can explain to you how dangerous this is!

  • 363. RLWemm  |  May 20, 2009 at 3:40 am

    @Pastoretic

    If you only read the old testament, then you might only see God in this fashion. However, If you read the New Testament you will see God in a much different light.

    The problem, and it’s a huge one, is that the two personalities are not logically consistent. One is a bad-tempered jealous tyrant who curses, kills and punishes humans with all manner of plagues and illness; the other goes around trying to heal sick people. One teams up with the Devil (in Hell?) in order to “test” one of his most devout followers. The other gets tempted by the Devil (who appears to have escaped Hell once again.) One induces a Follower to traumatize his son by preparing to kill him as a sacrifice; the other is tortured to death for supposedly preaching against this god, who then abandons him as he hangs there in agony.

    If this is the same god then it has a severe case of multiple personality and needs a lot of psychotherapy.

    It could be two gods. If Jesus is Yahweh’s son then this is a very dysfunctional family and there must be some rip roaring arguments in heaven.

    Or one could be god and the other one a mere human being. That means you get the nasty one to worship, not the nice one.

    Or the Yahweh god does not exist and Jesus was as deluded about his his existence as every other ordinary human of his time and place.

    Take your pick.

  • 364. RLWemm  |  May 20, 2009 at 5:11 am

    @Kilter:

    To me, evil is something that is cruel for the sake of being cruel, and that’s not what I see described in the Bible. I consider myself moral because I do my best to follow God’s example in not inflicting pain on others merely for the sake of watching them writhe in pain.

    The most insidious of the world’s monsters are those who give their victims “reasons” for why they are torturing them. Battered wives are repeatedly told by their abusive spouses that they are being punished for their failings or behaviour. This plays such havoc with the view that they have of themselves that they become convinced that they really do deserve the physical abuse they are receiving. In my professional experience it can be exceedingly difficult to persuade battered women to leave their abusive spouses or do make a formal police complaint which they do not withdraw 24 hours later. Few of these physically and pschologically abuses women will leave unless their children are also being bashed and told they are worthless; then they see through it. Since the bashing is usually about control, the abusing spouse generally leaves the children alone in order to keep his wife at his mercy.

    The kind of abuse which the Yahweh god inflicts on his subjects has strong similarities to this kind of seriously disturbed behavior.

    Many psychopaths, including religious zealots, also mentally abuse their victims. Fred Phelps is a good case in point. What he did to his family in the name of the Lord is horrifying. He justified everything with verses from the Bible. The Yahweh god is an unfortunately good model for this kind of horrific mental and physical torture.

    It disturbs me greatly that you, like the battered wife, seek to excuse the behavior of the tyrant by blaming the victim or implying that it is necessary for their improvement. The worst argument of all is that the suffering of these people is necessary for the greater glory of the torturer (aka god). Creating a nice collection of harmed people so that your followers can repair some of the damage in your name is dispicable behavior.

    But the way I see God use suffering in the Bible just describes, to me, a God who is crying for us to return to him./blockquote

    This is pretty disgusting reasoning.

    The bottom line is that the type of behavior that you are trying to defend would be condemned as monstrous by every civilized court in today’s world. The argument that the perpetrator had a mysterious purpose which was unfathomable to normal humans would be inadmissable and reason to have the accused undergo psychiatric assessment.

    Since I have never gone through what most people would consider any major trauma in my life, I don’t feel like I can truly understand what it’s like to be in that position.

    This sheltered existence seems to be at the root of your lack of understanding and compassion. If you have never seen or experienced the horrific aspects of life then you lack the background necessary to develop empathy skills. This suggests that you are still very young and inexperienced, at least in this area.

    What is disturbing about O.T. accounts of the Yahweh god and his actions is that it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to tell the difference between the actions of the god and the actions of the angels he condemned to eternal torture for disagreeing with him. The Yahweh god is reported to have killed, tortured, maimed, harmed and enslaved millions of humans (or commanded his followers to carry out the actions for him). The devil, on the other hand, is not reported to have caused anything like this level of suffering. Are you sure you are worshiping the right supernatural being?

    Sometimes the bibilical writers cannot tell the difference between this two rival gods – the God of Light (Lucifer) and the God of Vengence (Yahweh). One writer says that the Yahweh god commanded that King David take a census then later reports that god punished him severely for doing so. There is no reason given for what is sinful about taking a census or why god punished David for doing what he told him to do. Several books later a different author tells us that Satan told David to take the census. There is still no reason provided to explain what was to sinful about taking a census.

    Then there is the time that the Yahweh god enlists Satan’s help to make Job’s life miserable. That’s called consorting and its a criminal activity in modern legal codes. The Yahweh god is as morally guilty as the entity which pulled the trigger.

    You have shown yourself ready to not only excuse the behavior of a monster but to worship him and imbue him with all kinds of characteristics which are not in evidence. What does that say about the level of your moral reasoning?

  • 365. donny  |  May 20, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Most of Cicero’s “Six Mistakes of Man” list match up pretty closely to Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament. Do you think that this is just because they are universal truths? Do you think it could point to a universal, moral logic that all humans have because we were created by the same hand? If not, how do you account for these similarities?

    Yes I do believe that most moralities are universal. If you read Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion” and “The Selfish Gene” it would explain it much better than I do. Basically altruistic actions are for the betterment of the gene’s themselves, now I don’t mean that genes control us in our every move. Bit that is in people best interest to act morally.

    I believe in an earth that is super naturally not supernatural.

  • 366. LeoPardus  |  May 20, 2009 at 10:25 am

    killer:

    Do you think there’s a chance that you’re deceiving yourself now?

    I do not think so. It is of course possible that there is some sort of supreme being. I will say categorically that the deity held to exist by any set of Christianity does not exist; allowing the caveat that if such a being did/does exist, he has divorced himself from the world utterly and has changed his nature to no longer be loving, good, etc.

    But did you have those same feelings of a veil being lifted from your eyes?

    I had the belief that I saw things more clearly with my Christian mindset than others saw without it.

    >i> Or, to word it another way, what differences did you notice in your life before and after your conversion, if any?

    A very different question from the preceding one I think. Differences between my life BC and afterwards. That’s actually easy. As a late teenager, I was what could best be labeled a nihilist and hedonist. After deciding to become Christian, I took on the moral codes commonly held by Christians. (In other words I too seriously the need to behave according to what the faith taught.)

    I read your articles, and you bring up some interesting points. I’m actually surprised that they don’t make me doubt God’s existence or his goodness.

    That’s OK. They are food for thought.

    Assuming that you think I and all other Christians are fooling ourselves, why do you think we do this? Why am I able to believe despite my inability to understand God’s motivations, actions, etc.?

    Gotta be a squillion reasons. Social pressure. Fear. Cognitive dissonance. Willful ignorance. Strong delusion. Lack of known alternatives. Really wanting it to be true. Not wanting to admit one is very wrong. Force of habit. No idea what else to do. …… The list could go on and on. Obviously I could only guess what reasons hold you or any other individual.

  • 367. orDover  |  May 20, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Why do you think, then, that so many people do accept God just based on these testimonies? If we’re disillusioning ourselves, do you have an opinion on why people feel the need to do this?

    The same reason people accept acupuncture, the existence of ghosts, homeopathic medicine, space aliens, and Mormonism based on nothing but personal testimonies.

    Humans like to hear and tell stories. It’s one of the best way we learn. It’s the reason I’m spending at least two hours a day listening through the archive of This American Life. It’s the reason why every website selling snake-oil and magic crystals and ghost hunters and psychic readings has a long an impressive “testimonials” page. A personal story can be very convincing.

    BUT, and this is a big but, that doesn’t mean that anecdotal evidence is good evidence, and it doesn’t mean we should use it to make decisions. Most people do not understand this. For most people, their standard of evidence is very low. They’ll accept almost anything they’re told, especially if it confirms with their preconceived biases (i.e. you’re more likely to accept the claims of homeopathy based on testimony if you already believe that “natural” “remedies” are superior to science-based medicine).

    I don’t think people who believe in Jesus, acupuncture, the existence of ghosts, homeopathic medicine, space aliens, and Mormonism are deluding or “disillusioning” themselves. I think they just have set for themselves a very low standard of evidence, and I think they don’t understand their own minds enough to know why something like personal testimony is poor evidnece. This is one of the reasons critical thinking needs to be taught in secondary schools. People need to learn how to evaluate claims, they need to learn the difference between a logically sound argument and a fallacious one, and the difference between reliable evidence and poor evidence. Children need to understand how their brain works. They need to realize that their brains have certain biases (i.e. our tendency to believe statements made by people in authority), and they need to learn to be on the lookout for them.

    It isn’t that I reject personal testimony for religious claims. I reject personal testimony for ALL claims.

  • 368. RLWemm  |  May 20, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Why do you think, then, that so many people do accept God just based on these testimonies? If we’re disillusioning ourselves, do you have an opinion on why people feel the need to do this?

    People are persuaded by personal testimonies largely because their society has persuaded them that they are a valid form of evidence and their schooling has not disabused them of that notion.

    People believe weird things for all kinds of reasons. Leo has already provided a fairly good starter list. From my professional perspective it seems that the underlying motive is generally social.

    People like to be accepted by others around them and this generally means that they have to conform to the group values and norms. If you live in the USA, especially in the Bible Belt, you have to be a very emotionally secure person with a high self-esteem in order to survive comfortably without conforming to the prevailing religious viewpoint. It is significant that most religious conversion occur at times when a person is emotionally stressed. That is when people most need the comfort and support which only other people can provide.

    While de-conversions from religion frequently happen in the absence of other people, religious conversions rarely, if ever, do. People convert to a social group and its norms but they deconvert from the logical system.

  • 369. paleale  |  May 20, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    I admit that I’ve never seen or heard of a miracle that powerful. Having previously believed so strongly, how do you think you came to the point where you require a miracle to believe again?

    I came to understand that everything I had previously thought of as miracles were simply misinterpretations of natural events based on personal bias and that times when a true miracle was warranted or needed there was a complete absence of intervention by god.

    It’s all chance. What do you think the parents of a child who has just died of cancer will ‘learn’ from that horror? What do you think that the thousands and thousands of Christians who die from disease, starvation and war due to terribly impoverished conditions learn from their suffering? What is there to learn but the grim randomness that is the process of life and death in the human experience?

    Referring to one of your most recent posts– assuming that you do find something to learn that you could look back on and say that it made your life turn out for the better, what do you have to base that on? How do you know how good or bad your life may have turned out without the suffering?

    a pastor I know grew up in a broken home, was deep in gang activities, a drug addict, and one night he decided to kill himself. As he was loading his gun, he asked God to show himself in some way if he was real and worth following. He heard a voice yell his name, and he went to his window and saw his friend standing outside, asking if he had any extra heroine. Do you think it’s possible that, rather than sending a disembodied voice into the room, God chose to work through his friend?

    This is a very, very common anecdote. I’ve heard it used time and time again (with some variation, of course). It is either coincidence, quite common or just a story that people use to beef up their testimony in order to gain influence.

  • 370. orDover  |  May 20, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    As he was loading his gun, he asked God to show himself in some way if he was real and worth following. He heard a voice yell his name, and he went to his window and saw his friend standing outside, asking if he had any extra heroine. Do you think it’s possible that, rather than sending a disembodied voice into the room, God chose to work through his friend?

    That is not a clear sign. That is muddy and coincidental at best. Again, this is about having a high standard for evidence. Here’s a true personal anecdote of my own: When my sister-in-law was a teenager she and her friends were playing with a ouija board. They were trying to contact the ghost of her recently deceased grandma. They asked if the grandma was present, and then the pointed moved to “Yes.” They then asked for a sign, and right at that moment, the light bulb directly above my sister-in-law’s head burnt out with a loud POP! Was the light bulb a sign that her grandma’s ghosts was in the room? Or is it more likely that the event was just a coincidence. Light bulbs burn out all the time, after all. That in and of itself is not a remarkable event.

    The pastor’s story would be a lot more powerful if the event that occurred wasn’t something that was exceedingly likely to have occurred at random, just like the light bulb tale. A friend showing up at your house happens all the time. A drug addict looking for more H is even more common. Let’s say that he heard his name called, and there at his window was a pastor who he had never met before holding a Bible and telling him, “God wanted me to tell you that he loves you.” That would at least be a bit unusual.

  • 371. LeoPardus  |  May 20, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    I’m thinking that if that pastor wanted a real, undeniable sign from God he should have gotten something like this.

    Poof of smoke; blare of trumpets — Big muscle-guy shows up from the smoke. “I’m Sampson! Yeah. That’s right. The strong guy from Judges.” Then Sampson yanks the gun away and crushes it in his hands. Then he picks up the pastor and says, “You get your shit together or I will come back and bitch slap you purple.” He throw the pastor at the wall and disappears.
    When he’s gone the pastor has a crushed gun, a hole in the wall, and a set of bruises for lingering reminders and evidence that he didn’t just hallucinate.

  • 372. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    RLWemm,

    This is what I was looking for earlier when I asked Quester whether he had any solid evidence to offer me that combats Christianity. Thank you for your input. The reason I was asking questions like “How did you feel before and after your de-conversion” is because I’m trying to understand a de-con’s way of thinking, and I believe what you wrote is very helpful. Do you feel a need now to show Christians that they are believing in something that doesn’t exist, or do you not care that they choose to base their lives on a lie?

  • 373. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Quester,

    I have some responses to what you wrote, but as I think they’re probably things you’ve heard before, I’ll go ahead and skip to the last issue, unless you prefer that I do otherwise.

    Really? I ask you to think about this, Kilter. Not as an evangelist- as a human being. If your parents abused you and your sister horribly, in ways that crippled you both, would you be satisfied if your sister managed to deal with the excruciating pain by holding onto whatever joys she could find in her life, and crediting those joys to the parents that abused you both?

    Reading back, I realize that what I wrote sounds crazy, and I think this is because I’m trying to put my reasoning for following a supernatural being into human logic, and I’m not doing a very good job. I didn’t say that I would be satisfied if my sister dealt with her pain by lying to herself, I said I’d be satisfied if, after taking the time to analyze her thinking and conclude that she was being completely honest with herself, she still thought the pain was worth it. I think the difference is that I am willing to believe that, despite their many biases (as RLWemm brought up), humans are capable of honestly concluding that their suffering had a purpose without deceiving themselves, and I take this as a sign that God exists.

    If I had to make a general statement about the difference between our mindsets based on what we’ve talked about, I think I’d say that you expect God to fit human logic and I do not. Would you agree with this?

  • 374. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    RLWemm,

    What is disturbing about O.T. accounts of the Yahweh god and his actions is that it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to tell the difference between the actions of the god and the actions of the angels he condemned to eternal torture for disagreeing with him. The Yahweh god is reported to have killed, tortured, maimed, harmed and enslaved millions of humans (or commanded his followers to carry out the actions for him). The devil, on the other hand, is not reported to have caused anything like this level of suffering. Are you sure you are worshiping the right supernatural being?

    This is not an argument I’ve heard before, so thank you for bringing it up. I need to spend time thinking about this, but I wanted to point out that the Bible states that the devil introduced suffering into the world initially, and that afterwards God uses it for his purpose, which is why I think the accounts are more concerned with why God would cause suffering than the devil. Also, the devil also is not reported to have caused anything good, either, so I’m not sure that your last question is relevant at all.

  • 375. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    LeoPardus,

    After deciding to become Christian, I took on the moral codes commonly held by Christians. (In other words I too seriously the need to behave according to what the faith taught.)

    At the time, did you feel emotionally affected at all? Like when Christians say they feel joy, peace, etc. after converting? Or was it primarily a difference of changing your moral code? Did the people close to you notice any differences in your personality?

  • 376. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    orDover, RLWemm, and Leopardus,

    Thank you all for answering my question on why you think people believe testimonies and why they continue to disillusion themselves. I’d like to repeat my question to Quester to you three. If I had to make a general statement about the difference between our mindsets based on what we’ve talked about, I think I’d say that you expect God to fit human logic and I do not. Would you agree with this?

  • 377. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Paleale,

    Referring to one of your most recent posts– assuming that you do find something to learn that you could look back on and say that it made your life turn out for the better, what do you have to base that on? How do you know how good or bad your life may have turned out without the suffering?

    That’s a good point. There is no way to know for sure, I think, there’s only what you feel at the end of it.

    This is a very, very common anecdote. I’ve heard it used time and time again (with some variation, of course). It is either coincidence, quite common or just a story that people use to beef up their testimony in order to gain influence.

    So, would your answer to my question be that, no, you can’t believe that God would choose to work through humans rather than use showier proofs of his power?

  • 378. Quester  |  May 20, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Kilter,

    Unless you are capable of teaching me supernatural logic, I’m not sure there is any use continuing this conversation. Conversation, even language itself, depends upon human logic to function. If you do not wish to continue this conversation using human logic, we might as well hit random keys as type to each other, for all the hope we’ll have for mutual ability to communicate.

    As it is, you seem to think that personal glory is a morally acceptable reason for a being capable of creating a realm with no suffering, to instead create this realm create people to populate it, and cause those people to suffer (or at least fail to prevent their suffering). I assume you are using a supernatural logic based on mythical premises to reach this conclusion, as I am incapable of understanding- using only human logic- how you can believe in a being like this without denouncing it as evil (or, at least, as performing evil deeds).

  • 379. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Quester,

    I’ll take that as a yes, you believe God should fit human logic. Although I think it’s important to discuss these issues, my belief is that the reason we don’t understand parts of God is exactly because we don’t have access to supernatural logic. I do think that personal glory is an acceptable reason in the context of a God who is perfectly good (I know that you do not believe that the Christian God is all-loving, but I’m just clarifying my mindset) and thus deserves worship and glory.

    Thank you for patiently answering my questions. I do feel like I have a better understanding of the de-con mindset, even though I don’t agree with it, and I think that I’ll continue to read the archived articles on this site to find challenges to Christianity I haven’t considered.

  • 380. Quester  |  May 20, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Kilter,

    You believe that personal glory is an acceptable reason to commit evil deeds, if the being committing those deeds is, according to a logic we can’t possibly comprehend, perfectly good?

    I’m glad you have a better grasp of my mindset. I’m afraid I’ve been completely unable to grasp yours. Enjoy your reading.

  • 381. paleale  |  May 20, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    That’s a good point. There is no way to know for sure, I think, there’s only what you feel at the end of it.

    So bearing that in mind, do you think that the Christian’s experience for learning from one’s trials are any different from a non-Christian’s? I don’t believe you think only Christians can derive positive outcome from suffering. Or do you? Or do you believe that god uses suffering to teach those who don’t believe in him? And in that case, why would one need to believe in him if his benefits reach beyond the boundary of belief?

    So, would your answer to my question be that, no, you can’t believe that God would choose to work through humans rather than use showier proofs of his power?

    Supposing that god exists, he could do whatever he wanted, I guess. If he wanted to use people to work for him that’s his prerogative. But if he wants to show that he exists by working through humans it’s rather ineffective, don’t you think? I mean, even in the bible it took his “showier proofs” to get people to believe.

  • 382. orDover  |  May 20, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    If I had to make a general statement about the difference between our mindsets based on what we’ve talked about, I think I’d say that you expect God to fit human logic and I do not.

    I don’t expect that God “fit” human logic in the sense that man should be able to comprehend God and perfectly understand his nature and his actions, but simply that logic be able to reveal God. He is supposed to be self-evident according to Christian theology, right? He’s supposed to reveal himself through nature and through the Bible. When I look at nature I see the bottom-up evidence for evolution, not the top-down evidence for design. When I look at the Bible I see a collection to spliced together stories lacking any internal consistency. If God is self-evident, I should be able to use nothing but the logical brain he gave me to find him. His existence should be provable by logic, even if his nature remains too great of a mystery.

  • 383. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    So bearing that in mind, do you think that the Christian’s experience for learning from one’s trials are any different from a non-Christian’s? I don’t believe you think only Christians can derive positive outcome from suffering. Or do you? Or do you believe that god uses suffering to teach those who don’t believe in him? And in that case, why would one need to believe in him if his benefits reach beyond the boundary of belief?

    I believe both Christians and non-Christians learn from suffering. I think that the fact that everyone can learn from suffering is an example of how God brings good out of the evil in the world, regardless of whether we believe in him. So, yes, I think he sometimes uses suffering to teach those who don’t believe in him because that could encourage some people to come to him. I understand that not all people think this way, but I know some people who do. Clearly his benefits reach beyond the boundary of belief in many ways because people still have healthy births, peace of mind, intelligence, etc. despite their absence of belief. I think the point of following him is that he fills our lives in a way that worldly knowledge and success can’t, at least not for most people, because he designed us to live with him.

    I understand that you don’t believe in this God, so this is not evidence for you. I’m just answering your question with my viewpoint.

  • 384. kilter  |  May 20, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Sorry that I’m answering this in separate posts, I accidentally hit submit.

    Supposing that god exists, he could do whatever he wanted, I guess. If he wanted to use people to work for him that’s his prerogative. But if he wants to show that he exists by working through humans it’s rather ineffective, don’t you think? I mean, even in the bible it took his “showier proofs” to get people to believe.

    For me, it’s just as effective for God to work through people because it shows how his presence influences them without their even knowing it. I think the reason he currently uses people more often than the obvious physical miracles of the Old Testament and the time period immediately following Jesus’ life is that we’ve now had the Holy Spirit for a long time. You can call this an inconsistency, but when Jesus said, “It is finished,” he implied that the old age was ending and a new one was beginning. Based on that, I’d expect things to change, including the ways in which God shows himself.

  • 385. orDover  |  May 20, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    For me, it’s just as effective for God to work through people because it shows how his presence influences them without their even knowing it.

    If God is working through people and they don’t know it, how do you know it? If no one really knows what is going on, how can you claim to know that God is behind it all? You can say that God was working through the drug addict looking for more heroin without him knowing it, but how does that seem any more likely that the guy just acting randomly and naturally through his own recourse?

    This implies that God is some sort of cosmic puppeteer pulling all of our strings, getting us to do his work, but not giving us an option, and not even letting us know that it’s going on. That makes the concept of free will that Christians are so fond of really problematic.

    Further, the entire thing just seems superfluous. God is working through people without them knowing it. Take out the God part. Everything stays the same.

  • 386. paleale  |  May 20, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Based on that, I’d expect things to change, including the ways in which God shows himself.

    Ahh… but it didn’t change. At least until after John got through writing the Book of Revelation. There were at least two pretty explosive appearances by god after the death of Jesus, not counting Jesus floating off into the sky. Paul had his encounter and the later John the Revelator as I mentioned earlier. So… was there a sunset clause or something?

    To echo a bit of orDover’s sentiment– regarding God’s benefits and how widespread they are regardless of belief, how do you know they are God’s? How do you know that life just doesn’t happen that way? Or that some other religion’s god is responsible for all the good things in life and you’ve got the wrong guy? After all, that’s what you’re saying about the other religion, isn’t it?

  • 387. kilter  |  May 21, 2009 at 2:18 am

    orDover and paleale,

    I think my reasoning seems superfluous and illogical to you because you believe it is possible to take emotion out of the equation for these issues and still arrive at the correct conclusion. I disagree. When I combine my logic with what I feel from my personal experiences, I always come back to God, and I always feel fulfilled. If I try to understand things from a purely scientific logic, I feel that emptiness that LeoPardus describes in his explanation of who the people on this site are. Of course I will live my life by the one that I find fulfilling.

    From my understanding of evolution, the theory is that, as species develop, anything unnecessary in their design weakens or even disappears altogether. Why, then, do we still have emotion, and why do people feel it so strongly, to the point that people can cause themselves physical illness from sorrow? Am I misunderstanding where emotion fits into this theory of evolution?

    From what I see in the world, two huge things separate us from animals. One is our intelligence, which allows us to improve our society almost endlessly. The other is our greater capacity for emotion. If these two things separate us from animals, why should I not use both in determining the existence of God? Human logic tells me to rely on human logic because, according to rules created by human logic, only human logic produces results that human logic says equal truth. Isn’t this the same as using a word to define itself, or as using the Bible as an authority for itself, which someone previously criticized in this thread? If you have a meta-logic to help me understand these things, please share it with me. I believe the closest thing we have to that is God’s supernatural logic, but I don’t think we have much access to it, so I choose to use both the logic and the emotions that I was born with.

    I have answers for the other issues you raise, but as they are the standard Christian viewpoint, I’m sure you’ve heard them before, so I’ll refrain from sharing them. Like I said earlier, I didn’t come here to defend my faith, I came here to ask you guys questions because I didn’t know how you would respond. If you have questions about my viewpoint, feel free to ask. If you are asking questions in order to tell me that I am wrong, I will probably not answer. I know that you think I’m wrong. I’m okay with that. I’m not interested in why you think I, personally, am wrong. I’m interested in understanding why it makes more sense to you that the Christian God does not exist despite your previous faith.

  • 388. Ubi Dubium  |  May 21, 2009 at 7:28 am

    From my understanding of evolution, the theory is that, as species develop, anything unnecessary in their design weakens or even disappears altogether. Why, then, do we still have emotion, and why do people feel it so strongly, to the point that people can cause themselves physical illness from sorrow? Am I misunderstanding where emotion fits into this theory of evolution?

    From what I see in the world, two huge things separate us from animals. One is our intelligence, which allows us to improve our society almost endlessly. The other is our greater capacity for emotion.

    I think maybe you are misunderstanding. We are social creatures. To survive, we not only must care for our own mates and children, but also all the other people we depend on for survival. Emotion does not weaken this, it makes our social groups stronger, and so is usually an advantageous trait.

    And I don’t think that we are really that emotionally different from the animals. Your dog certainly experiences happiness when he sees you. Elephants mourn their dead. Other primates can feel outrage over being cheated, or envy of what another has. I’ve even seen my parakeet get angry! I don’t see that the human capacity for emotion is in any way unique.

    And as for intelligence, I think we are premature in claiming superiority. To paraphrase Douglas Adams – we think we are the most intelligent because we invented money and wars and religion, and all dolphins do is muck about in the water having a good time. Dolphins think they are the most intelligent for exactly the same reason. Dolphins have brains as large and complex as our own, and a complicated communication system of clicks, pops and whistles that we have not yet been able to translate. It’s possible that once we do translate it, we will find Sea World is full of dolphin missionaries sent to convert us to faith in the great Dolphin God. But I rather hope not. I hope that we will manage to translate their language, or they ours, and we will find out that they used to be religious, back in the dolphin dark ages, but that they got over it.

    Most humans seem to need to feel some special superiority that makes us somehow intrinsically different from the other animals, and therefore better. We need to get over ourselves.

  • 389. LeoPardus  |  May 21, 2009 at 10:59 am

    killer:

    At the time, did you feel emotionally affected at all? Like when Christians say they feel joy, peace, etc. after converting?

    There was some emotion from time to time. As emotions are wont to do, they fluctuated. Over time I came to a sense that I was “saved” and “right with God”. Over the span of my life though I have always placed little importance on emotions because of their fluctuating and unreliable nature.

    Or was it primarily a difference of changing your moral code?

    Over time my moral code changed, my approach to and regard of other people changed, my outlook on life changed. All slowly, over time.

    Did the people close to you notice any differences in your personality?

    Over time yes. There was not dramatic, overnight change.

    you expect God to fit human logic and I do not. Would you agree with this?

    Assuming that indeed you do not expect God to fit human logic, then I’d say ‘yes’, this is a huge difference between us. If you do not expect God to fit human logic, then you can never know anything about him, never have the foggiest what to expect from him, never have any kind of relationship with him, and can never rely on anything you think he has said, done, or promised. In short all you can say is, “God is ‘we know not what’.”

  • 390. orDover  |  May 21, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I think my reasoning seems superfluous and illogical to you because you believe it is possible to take emotion out of the equation for these issues and still arrive at the correct conclusion. I disagree. When I combine my logic with what I feel from my personal experiences, I always come back to God, and I always feel fulfilled.

    All that we are trying to get you to see is that if you want to fall back on proof from emotion, your God claim has no more weight or validity than the same claim made by a person of any other religion.

    I know you aren’t likely to agree with me here, but I’d even suggest that if you grew up in Iran or India, in a country where Christianity was not the norm, you would interpret your vague emotional notions of God as the presence of Krishna or Allah. I’d wonder, what about your emotions makes you sure you are sensing the Christian God? How can you be sure you are interpreting your emotions correctly? What if you sense of God is really Allah after all, but you are unable to realize it because your culture has pre-programmed you to see Jesus? What if, when you pray to Jesus, Allah is really the one hearing your prayers, and although they are slightly misdirected, he understands and blesses you anyway? How can you be certain this isn’t going on?

    This is why we simply don’t give a crap about arguments from emotion. They are literally worthless. Bankrupt. They prove nothing. If you are happy with your empty reasoning, that is fine with me. But just realize it isn’t going to convince any of us, or even convince us that you are actually “experiencing” something noteworthy.

    If I try to understand things from a purely scientific logic, I feel that emptiness that LeoPardus describes in his explanation of who the people on this site are. Of course I will live my life by the one that I find fulfilling.

    Do you realize that the emptiness he was referring to was not a personal emotion, but rather a realization of the empty claims of the faith, and empty defenses of the faith? It’s the emptiness of a God who never really answers prayer or is “there” in any real way. It’s the emptiness of shallow logic and apologetic. It isn’t that we personally feel empty, it’s that we are aware of the emptiness of Christianity.

    From my understanding of evolution, the theory is that, as species develop, anything unnecessary in their design weakens or even disappears altogether.

    Just to echo Ubi, you don’t know that emotion isn’t something that we need. Emotion is imperative for much of our survival. Just one example: if a parent does not bond with their infant, they won’t take care of it. If none of the babies survive, the species died. Therefore we (and almost every other mammal you can think of) evolved very strong emotions attaching us to our young.

  • 391. LeoPardus  |  May 21, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    kilter: (Just noticed that I’ve been spelling it ‘killer’. Didn’t notice the crossbar on the ‘t’ in my screen’s tiny font.)

    From my understanding of evolution, the theory is that, as species develop, anything unnecessary in their design weakens or even disappears altogether.

    Not quite. Things detrimental to survival would be weeded out. Things unnecessary could hang around indefinitely since their would be not pressure to deselect them.

    Why, then, do we still have emotion, and why do people feel it so strongly, to the point that people can cause themselves physical illness from sorrow?

    Emotion provides obvious survival advantages. Emotional ties to your spouse, offspring, family, friends provides strong drive to preserve them, thus preserving the species in general and those traits common to your line.

    Am I misunderstanding where emotion fits into this theory of evolution?

    Probably, but then most people don’t understand evolution well at all. I did my grad work in comparative immunology and am considerably better versed in evolution then most folks. It’s not that hard to understand, but it is also not so hard to misunderstand.

    why should I not use both in determining the existence of God?

    You should not use your emotions to understand things because emotions are fickle, unreliable, changeable, largely ungoverned, etc. Emotions are fine to provide an initial indication for intelligent investigation, but emotions are not thinking/investigational tools.

    Human logic tells me to rely on human logic because, according to rules created by human logic, only human logic produces results that human logic says equal truth.

    Logic produces results that are reproducible, verifiable, falsifiable, reliable. Logic discovers physical facts, cures for diseases, safe behaviors, explanations for the world around us, sanitation, computers, and the list goes on. There is not possibility of objecting to F=ma, or to the germ theory of disease without getting badly hurt.

  • 392. paleale  |  May 21, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Dang it, the internet ate my post

    Kilter

    I’m interested in understanding why it makes more sense to you that the Christian God does not exist despite your previous faith.

    It makes more sense to me than believing in stories written thousands of years of ago by nomadic goat herders trying to understand their world with incredibly limited knowledge. I would do just as well to base my life’s purpose on the will of any of the mythical characters who you deem ludicrous. I like to bring up Thor because he makes me laugh. I always picture him on the cover of the comic books, charging into the foreground with his hammer out before him and his powerful mane flowing back from beneath his viking helmet. Love it.

    It makes more sense than ignoring an overwhelming lack of evidence for the existence of any god, much less Christianity’s particular brand of god, in favor of gut feeling. It’s not that emotion doesn’t come into play. I’m a very emotional person. But there are times when logic outweighs emotion. I can’t emote my way to the conclusion that 2+2=4. If I had my way it would equal 42. For every sum. ;-)

    It makes more sense than relying on prayer. I think prayer is a psychological band-aid. It’s comforting to think that someone is looking out for us. I think it’s a parental replacement for when we no longer have that protective relationship. But there’s nothing to suggest that prayers are actually heard or answered. If events transpire that correspond to the desire of the supplicant then the prayer must have been answered. If not, then the he/she tells themselves that God didn’t want that or has something better later or is trying to teach them something, like patience. That is a HUGE get-out-of-jail-free card.

    I do feel fulfilled, Kilter. I feel a sense of newness and satisfaction of having shed an unnecessary system of belief that, in my opinion, is often dangerous to society. I feel fulfilled when I do something good it’s not because I’m following orders, it’s because I want to do something good. I feel obligation towards my fellow man much more deeply than before. I feel deeper obligation to this life whereas before I couldn’t wait to get out of here.

    We could tell you why following logic is not circular reasoning but you’re not interested in knowing why we think you’re wrong (which I think is wrong in itself considering you’ve continually put forth your beliefs and opinions for critique and debate since you came in). I have to say I feel a little exploited after hearing that sentiment. Like having a girlfriend saying she never loved me and only wanted my money.

  • 393. kilter  |  May 21, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    To all who responded to my questions about evolution,

    I know that emotions like the mothering instinct help the species and thus stay according to evolution, but what about the negative emotions? I’m pretty sure hatred harms our chances for survival because it often leads to violence. Why do we still have these kinds of emotions?

    I didn’t mean to imply that animals have no emotion, I just think that one of the things that separates us is that we seem to feel so much more emotion and that it seems to have more of an effect on our decisions. As for intelligence, I don’t think that civilization and our need to constantly change it makes us better than animals, but I think it does mark a difference. No animal society that I know of spends as much time trying to change their society as humans.

    And I have to say, both Hitchhiker’s references made me smile.

  • 394. kilter  |  May 21, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    orDover,

    I previously posted my reason for believing in the Christian God over other gods. To briefly restate it, I feel that the representation of the Christian God is unique and consistent with what I see in the world. I know you disagree with this last point, but that’s my reason.

    Do you realize that the emptiness he was referring to was not a personal emotion, but rather a realization of the empty claims of the faith, and empty defenses of the faith? It’s the emptiness of a God who never really answers prayer or is “there” in any real way. It’s the emptiness of shallow logic and apologetic. It isn’t that we personally feel empty, it’s that we are aware of the emptiness of Christianity.

    Thank you for explaining this, I was viewing it as a personal emotion. Even so, human logic feels just as shallow and empty to me. Maybe this is just because I don’t have a scientific mind, but everything I’ve learned about proving things in science (psychology especially) just frustrates me and makes me feel that you can depend on basically nothing in the world. In this sense, I equate the emptiness I see in human logic to the emptiness you see in Christianity.

  • 395. kilter  |  May 21, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    LeoPardus,

    No problem on the name, I didn’t even notice until a couple posts ago.

    Logic produces results that are reproducible, verifiable, falsifiable, reliable. Logic discovers physical facts, cures for diseases, safe behaviors, explanations for the world around us, sanitation, computers, and the list goes on. There is not possibility of objecting to F=ma, or to the germ theory of disease without getting badly hurt.

    But my point is that it is human logic that tells us that because something is reproducible, verifiable, etc. it is true. Is acting the same way every time the same thing as being true? I think it’s an explanation of how a world created by a logical God works consistently. I’m not sure if that’s the same thing as truth. Is there a way to define truth outside of human logic, a meta-logic like I mentioned before? If not, isn’t it the same thing as using a word to define itself?

  • 396. LeoPardus  |  May 21, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Emotions like anger/hatred can be harmful. They can also be helpful. For instance, anger can drive one to destroy something that is a danger to self or society. (Like wiping out a tribe that keeps raiding and killing your tribe.) Like most anything hatred/anger is not just bad/negative.

    As for emotion having more of an effect on our actions. I don’t think so. Do you think any animal ever thinks about his reaction to another animal stealing his food? Nope. They tend to just snarl and leap. Humans by contrast can think through such an event and see that the thief is starving, insane, retarded, etc. and then curb the emotional drive to snarl and leap.

    Thinking about something as big as evolution requires viewing everything in balance. Very few things are all good or all bad; I’d even say nothing is all good/bad.

  • 397. kilter  |  May 21, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    paleale,

    It makes more sense to me than believing in stories written thousands of years of ago by nomadic goat herders trying to understand their world with incredibly limited knowledge.

    What do you think about the prophecies made in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament, as well as the end times prophecies that have evidence of being fulfilled today? Do you think they’re all made up and that someone inserted them all after the fact? Or do you have another explanation?

    I do feel fulfilled, Kilter.

    I didn’t mean to imply that you didn’t. I’m glad that you do, I was just explaining my reasoning for depending on emotion.

    We could tell you why following logic is not circular reasoning but you’re not interested in knowing why we think you’re wrong (which I think is wrong in itself considering you’ve continually put forth your beliefs and opinions for critique and debate since you came in). I have to say I feel a little exploited after hearing that sentiment. Like having a girlfriend saying she never loved me and only wanted my money.

    I’m sorry if it feels like I’m using you. I’m trying to avoid just defending my faith against your arguments because I’m more interested in hearing your reasons and explanations than your doubts. Because people have directed questions at me, I’ve answered with my beliefs and opinions when I think your responses may lead me to getting those reasons I’m trying to understand. I’m trying my best to phrase these beliefs just as representations of myself, not criticisms of how you all think. I’m totally open to hearing why you think I’m wrong and responding to that another time, I’m just trying to resist moving in that direction at the moment.

  • 398. LeoPardus  |  May 21, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    kilter:

    You’re dancing into the realm of rendering communication impossible. If you refuse to recognize undeniable things like the conclusions of logic, science, and other things that can be readily seen, tested, and evaluated, then it is utterly impossible to talk about things that can’t bee seen, tested, etc.

    Now about “human logic”. It isn’t “human logic”. We didn’t invent it. It simply is. If we ever find other life in the universe, they will not have “another logic”. “If A, then B. A therefore B” will still hold, as will all other logic. Like gravity or electromagnetism, or reality, logic simply is. And if all humanity poofs out of existence tomorrow, logic will still be, and will not change.

    Now, if you are going to go on about trying to get away from logic or trying to categorize reality (or logic) as some human construct, then we cannot communicate. It really is just as simple as that.

  • 399. kilter  |  May 21, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    LeoPardus,

    Emotions like anger/hatred can be harmful. They can also be helpful. For instance, anger can drive one to destroy something that is a danger to self or society. (Like wiping out a tribe that keeps raiding and killing your tribe.) Like most anything hatred/anger is not just bad/negative.

    Okay, I can understand that. What about the existence of hatred/anger in today’s society? Keeping to the laws that prevent violence is more beneficial than disobeying them, and when others disobey them, we have a legal system to deal with them. Do you think that, in a million years, the existence of hatred will have diminished because we now have different ways to destroy dangers to self and society?

    As for emotion having more of an effect on our actions. I don’t think so. Do you think any animal ever thinks about his reaction to another animal stealing his food? Nope. They tend to just snarl and leap. Humans by contrast can think through such an event and see that the thief is starving, insane, retarded, etc. and then curb the emotional drive to snarl and leap.

    Are you equating instinct to emotion? I think there is a difference between an animal who immediately reacts to his food being stolen because his instinct tells him that it is his and he does not know when he will get food again. I think this is different from the anger that humans feel.

  • 400. kilter  |  May 21, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Now about “human logic”. It isn’t “human logic”. We didn’t invent it. It simply is. If we ever find other life in the universe, they will not have “another logic”. “If A, then B. A therefore B” will still hold, as will all other logic. Like gravity or electromagnetism, or reality, logic simply is. And if all humanity poofs out of existence tomorrow, logic will still be, and will not change.

    Okay, just to make sure I’m understanding you correctly, you believe that there is absolutely no possibility that beings whose consciousness’ differ from ours could exist somewhere in the universe?

  • 401. Quester  |  May 21, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    To briefly restate it, I feel that the representation of the Christian God is unique and consistent with what I see in the world.

    I’m going to have to call you on this one, Kilter. If you thought that the representation of the Christian God was consistent with what you see in the world, you would not have to invent an unknowable meta-logic to justify anything. Those parts of the world you see that you are justifying with unknowable meta-logic are inconsistent with the representation of the Christian God. If they were consistent, you’d be able to use human logic (also known as the sort of logic that actually exists) to show how they are consistent. You’ve already told us that you’ve found inconsistencies and that you are relying on faith to get around or past them. You can’t have it both ways.

  • 402. paleale  |  May 21, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Kilter:

    First, thanks for clarifying your intentions. I want to apologize for the cheap shot. Sorry.

    As far as prophecy goes, there are several options besides the supernatural fulfillment of prophecy. It could have been self-fulfilling, unfulfilled, ‘fulfilled’ by writers after the fact, accidentally fulfilled due the vagueness of the prophesy, allegory or poetry misinterpreted as prophecy or finally– bullsh*t.

    One can look at one of the more famous prophecies orbiting the birth of Jesus, Isaiah 7:14, to find an example of questionable fulfillment. There is an enormous gap between the text of the verse and the event that it is said to refer to in Christian teaching. It seems clear that Matthew plagiarized the scripture in question and forced it into his own story. And so on and so forth with other prophecies in scripture. I don’t think it can be submitted as evidence for the validity of scripture unless you already believe that it’s valid.

  • 403. paleale  |  May 21, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Okay, just to make sure I’m understanding you correctly, you believe that there is absolutely no possibility that beings whose consciousness’ differ from ours could exist somewhere in the universe?

    I’m sure he’s going to respond but I wanted to chime in. That’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying that regardless of a being’s consciousness, logic is still logic. No matter what type of consciousness a being possesses A will always be A and not non-A. Math still works. Deductive reasoning still works. Logic is universal.

  • 404. kilter  |  May 21, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Quester,

    I’m going to have to call you on this one, Kilter. If you thought that the representation of the Christian God was consistent with what you see in the world, you would not have to invent an unknowable meta-logic to justify anything. Those parts of the world you see that you are justifying with unknowable meta-logic are inconsistent with the representation of the Christian God. If they were consistent, you’d be able to use human logic (also known as the sort of logic that actually exists) to show how they are consistent. You’ve already told us that you’ve found inconsistencies and that you are relying on faith to get around or past them. You can’t have it both ways.

    I include reliance on faith when I say “the representation of the Christian God,” as that’s part of how he’s explained in the Bible. I know that has no evidence to support it, but I’ve already explained my reasons for believing in emotion, believing in faith, and this is just my explanation for why I believe in the Christian God specifically.

  • 405. kilter  |  May 21, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    paleale,

    As far as prophecy goes, there are several options besides the supernatural fulfillment of prophecy. It could have been self-fulfilling, unfulfilled, ‘fulfilled’ by writers after the fact, accidentally fulfilled due the vagueness of the prophesy, allegory or poetry misinterpreted as prophecy or finally– bullsh*t.

    Do you hold to one example in particular, or do you just think about them all equally? What about the end times prophecies that eschatologists say are being fulfilled today? Coincidence?

    One can look at one of the more famous prophecies orbiting the birth of Jesus, Isaiah 7:14, to find an example of questionable fulfillment. There is an enormous gap between the text of the verse and the event that it is said to refer to in Christian teaching. It seems clear that Matthew plagiarized the scripture in question and forced it into his own story.

    By “enormous gap,” do you mean in time or in logic? Sorry, for some reason your wording is unclear for me. Why do you think it’s clear that Matthew plagiarized? Because we have no other record of a virgin giving birth and science has yet to find an explanation for it?

  • 406. kilter  |  May 21, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    He’s saying that regardless of a being’s consciousness, logic is still logic. No matter what type of consciousness a being possesses A will always be A and not non-A. Math still works. Deductive reasoning still works. Logic is universal.

    I guess what I meant to ask was, do you think it’s possible for something to exist that cannot be explained by logic? Can logic explain everything in the universe?

    I don’t know that a meta-logic exists. I think it makes more sense that God’s logic matches ours, he just knows more than we do about our situation, which is why we have gaps in understanding. I thought it was worth bringing up though because, if I lived in a two-dimensional world, I wouldn’t be able to imagine a third dimension, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  • 407. Quester  |  May 21, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    I include reliance on faith when I say “the representation of the Christian God,” as that’s part of how he’s explained in the Bible.

    Book, chapter and verse, please. The Christian God is constantly revealing Himself in the bible. I can’t think of one instance where reliance on faith was expected.

    By “enormous gap,” do you mean in time or in logic?,/i>

    Go read Isaiah, Kilter. The authour of Matthew tries very hard to make it look like the events surrounding Jesus’ life fulfill Old Testament prophecies, but in what ways are the prophecies in Isaiah 7 actually fulfilled by Jesus? Is Isaiah 40:3 really fulfilled by John the Baptist? Take a look at how Matthew’s misunderstanding of ancient Hebrew poetry techniques leave Jesus simultaneously riding a donkey and a colt in Matthew 21, in order to fulfill the words of Zechariah 9:9. This has nothing to do with physical impossibilities, but textual absurdities. Read these chapters yourself and see if you can understand what Paleale is getting at.

    What about the end times prophecies that eschatologists say are being fulfilled today? Coincidence?

    Seeing as they’re the same prophecies that eschatologists of the time claimed were fulfilled when Nero was emperor of Rome, yeah, it’s a coincidence.

  • 408. Quester  |  May 21, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    I thought it was worth bringing up though because, if I lived in a two-dimensional world, I wouldn’t be able to imagine a third dimension, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    It doesn’t, no, but if that three dimensional world impacted upon your two dimensional one, there would be evidence that you could use logic to help you understand. Emotional appeals, or claims of a higher meta-logic would be completely unhelpful.

  • 409. Quester  |  May 21, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Looks like I made a mistake on the italics in 407. Can everyone tell that the paragraph directing Kilter to read the Bible is my own, and not me quoting him?

  • 410. RLWemm  |  May 21, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Kilter:

    Sorry for the delayed reply. I have been attending to the plethora of chores, responsibilities, hobbies and such which clutter up my “empty” life.

    Before I answer your very good question, may I ask how you interpreted Leo’s writings as evidence that we have “empty” lives? The feeling of “emptiness” in one’s life is a psychiatric symptom which has little or no correlation with religious belief or lack of it. It results from malevolent changes in brain chemistry which may result from traumatic events, a boring life, a dreary existence or stress from caring an intolerable burden of care for children or adults with special needs. More usually, such cases are entirely or largely the result of bad genes. These may be triggered by environmental or hormonal factors (such as adolescence or pregnancy) but may have no obvious trigger at all.

    Contrary to the beliefs of deeply religious people, levels of unhappiness and immorality also have an inverse relationship with religious belief. Citizens from countries with a large proportion of atheists (Sweden and most of Europe) tend to report more happiness and contentment than citizens of countries (such as the USA) that have large proportions of Christians. They also have lower crime rates, divorce rates and abortion rates. Within the USA, the more conservatively Christian the State, the higher the rates of crime, divorce, single parenthood, drug abuse, abortion, poor education, poverty, apathy and general unhappiness. In the USA, the more a person attends church the more likely they are to support water-boarding and other forms of torture. These trends are consistent across a variety of studies from a variety of sources, including the Christian Pew Report.

    This is the reverse of the message preached by the churches.

    Do you feel a need now to show Christians that they are believing in something that doesn’t exist, or do you not care that they choose to base their lives on a lie?

    If you have been following this thread then you already have an answer for this. Look back at my response to Ash, the 19 year old who had been freshly re-converted to Christianity but had never read the Bible in its entirety. This did not stop here from arrogantly assuming that she had a better understanding of the “real” Christianity than any of the older and much better informed and religiously qualified members of this group.

    I did not try to “convert” her to non-belief because it would be the greater evil in her current emotional and developmental state. She went off to print out my response and will no doubt be sharing it with her friends and laughing about the “silly atheist” who wrote it. There are, however, a few time bombs in there. Later in her life, when she is better educated, more emotionally stable and less dependent on others for her self-esteem needs, these messages may get through to her. She probably won’t remember where she heard them and she probably won’t remember me. That’s O.K. Meanwhile the delusion and its accompanying social support is of more value to her than being forcibly faced with an unpleasant truth and being plummeted back into the long depression she is only just overcoming.

    In my previous profession there are many similar cases of ethical dilemma. Not all delusions are bad. Nor are they necessarily entirely dysfunctional. For every ten cases where the person was tortured by their delusions, there was a case where the delusions were a source of comfort and delight.

    I remember one infectiously happy young woman who laughed delightfully throughout her day in the psychiatric ward. She was convinced that she was Anastasia, the lost Russian Princess. When she was due to be discharged, the social worker found her a room in the Salvation Army’s People’s Palace. Except for the practical problems caused by the disorder (which prevented her from properly caring for herself or any of her dependents) there was no good reason for disabusing her of her delusions.

    I treat people with religious delusions in the same way I treated delusional patients. If the delusion is functional I leave it alone, at least until the reason why it is functional has been dealt with and/or the person has the emotional and physical resources to deal with challenge and change.

    On the other hand, if the delusion is harming someone, causing them to harm others or significantly contributing to factors which devastate the environment and planet that we all share, I will challenge that delusion to the fullest extend of my ability.

    I include educational opportunity in the above section. I believe it is deeply immoral as well as downright dangerous to allow religious doctrine to be taught in a science classroom as if it were actually scientific.

    The fallout from teaching logic, debating rules, critical thinking and the methodology of evidence sifting is often the loss or radical change of previously unexamined religious and ideological beliefs. This is a part of human development which I encourage. Will I would not force my conclusions on others I am more than happy to debate the evidence with those who are interesting in exploring new ideas. People who try to force their ideas on me get short shrift, especially if they are merely repeating what they have heard or read elsewhere and never taken the time to investigate, verify and critically examine.

    Like most humans, I have red buttons. If you press one of those, watch out! I have a reasonably well controlled post-traumatic stress disorder which has a tendency to express itself if I am threatened by unreasoning authority figures. If the malevolent Yahweh god turned out to exist he would get a bucket of rage in his face.

    Finally, I wanted to take you up on your answer to the problem of the existence of pain, disaster and evil in the world and your response to the existence of Biblical passages which implicate the Yahweh god and the Jesus figure in behavior which ranges from petty tantrums, through irresponsible behavior, unwise decisions, stupidity, anti-social acts and terrorism.

    You suggested that behavior attributed to Yahweh and Jesus had to be good no matter how bad it looked because the nature of god is to be perfect and we are too ignorant to completely understand the purpose of god.

    This is a hand wave, not an argument. It is what I term the Charles Manson excuse. Manson’s followers engaged in horrendous acts of violence because they were persuaded that Manson had an elevated purpose which they were not yet sufficiently enlightened enough to understand.

    I could just as well called it the Luther excuse or the Hitler excuse. Both of these gentlemen preached that Jews were so evil that they were less than animals. The Catholic Popes of the times agreed with them on this matter, if not on others. With both Catholic and Protestant authorities supporting them it is understandable that Germans who believed in doing what they were told by authorities (as all good soldiers must do) could not see that they were behaving as monsters when torturing and killing Jews. It was what god wanted them to do, wasn’t it?

    For the bulk of sane and intelligent humanity, if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck and has DNA like a duck, then it is a duck for all non-fictional purposes.

    You argue that the monstrously depicted god of the Bible is the epitome of goodness simply because your definition of god demands that he must be.

    1. My version of god is the epitome of goodness. (Assertion without proof)
    2. The Yahweh god of the Bible is credited with multiple atrocities. (Facts in evidence)
    3. Therefore they cannot be atrocities. (Assertion without proof.) Does not follow from the above.)

    The illogic begins in the very first line. “God” is an assumption with no proof. Your definition of this assumed entity (= the epitome of goodness) also has no valid and consistent proof.
    * If you argue that God exists “because the Bible says so” then you have to prove that the Bible’s words have substantially more weight than hearsay evidence and aural tradition is given in any modern system concerned with determining truth of falsehood.
    * If you argue that God exists “because people say their lives have been changed by this entity” then, again, you have to prove that their word has substantially more weight than is given to personal testimony in modern systems concerned with determining truth. You have, in fact, to prove that they are infallible or that your judgment of them is infallible. Good luck with that one.
    * If you argue that he/it is essentially good “because the Bible says so” then you are undermined by 2 which states that the Bible does not consistently say so. That is circular.
    * Line 3 cannot be true because you have not proved the truth of line 1.

    Finally, if you want to argue that the atrocities attributed to god in the Bible cannot be atrocities because (by your unprovable definition) god is beyond your understanding then you are faced with the requirement to accept the same argument for any other god who is defined as being “good” and “beyond human understanding” but is also reputed to have engaged in acts which would brand a human as evil, wicked or monstrous. There have been quite a few of them 

    The bottom line is that you are setting yourself up to be an infallible judge of what is said about the supernatural. I await with interest your proof of essential infallibility.

    Cheers.

  • 411. RLWemm  |  May 21, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Agghhh. The lack of ability to edit these posts is really annoying.

    Quilter’s quoted words don’t show up as quoted. They are (and I will do this without going through my Word Editor):

    Do you feel a need now to show Christians that they are believing in something that doesn’t exist, or do you not care that they choose to base their lives on a lie?

    “stress from caring an intolerable burden of care for children or adults with special needs”

    should read

    “stress from _carrying_ an intolerable burden of care for children or adults with special needs..”

    “Will I would not force my conclusions on others I am more than happy to debate the evidence with those who are interesting in exploring new ideas.”

    should read

    “While I would not force my conclusions on others ….”

  • 412. paleale  |  May 21, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    What about the end times prophecies that eschatologists say are being fulfilled today? Coincidence?

    Without a shadow of a doubt, yes. Those ‘end times prophecies’ have been being fulfilled since the day they were written. Every time there is a new earthquake or war or hurricane or gay person getting married to another gay person it’s counted as end times prophecy being fulfilled.

    To which eschatologists are you referring? The common evangelical/fundamentalist view of the end times is a rather recent theological development, particularly the theology of the Left Behind series which has it’s origins in turn of the 20th century Pentecostalism. Historically, the church has looked at most of those passages of scripture as having been fulfilled, with obvious exception of the Battle of Armageddon. It’s quite easy to look back through history and point to events that line up to the authors’ grim predictions.

    Regarding the ‘enormous gap’, I mean Matthew’s take on it and thus Christianity’s take on it are quite different than the actual verse in context. The most glaring inconsistency is that no one ever calls Jesus ‘Immanuel’. He’s obviously named Jesus! Isaiah specifically tells King Ahaz that the child’s mother will name him Immanuel. Matthew’s reference is the only mention of the name in the entire New Testament.

    Further, the prophecy seems to be directed towards King Ahaz. Isaiah tells him that a young girl (the Hebrew text does not specify virginity and Isaiah doesn’t use the Hebrew word for virgin) will be (some think “is already”) pregnant (with the child, Immanuel) and that before the child grows up some serious calamity will befall ‘the land whose two kings thou abhorrest”. Just read the context. It’s pretty detached from any sort of messiah theme. Matthew conveniently leaves out anything that would give it a frame of reference.

  • 413. orDover  |  May 21, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    What about the end times prophecies that eschatologists say are being fulfilled today? Coincidence?

    What about the prophecies about modern day fulfilled by Nostradamus? Do you think that those are just conincidences?

    (Although “coincidence” isn’t the right word the problem is that both sets of prophecies are so vague that they can be applied to a plethora of situations. It’s just like numerology. You can make meaning out of anything if you extend yourself far enough.)

  • 414. paleale  |  May 21, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    RL

    You seem to know quite a bit about special needs cases. You and I need to talk. Rather, I need to talk to you.

  • 415. RLWemm  |  May 21, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    @paleale

    I have a special needs kid :-) It’s like a “busman’s holiday” for a psychologist :-) If you mosey over to Atheist Nexus and put in a “friend” request you will get my personal email.

  • 416. RLWemm  |  May 21, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    @paleale and @ kilter

    In the Hebrew text the word used means “young woman”.
    The writer of Matthew was apparently using a Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Greek word has a dual meaning which includes “virgin”.

    In other words, the doctrine of the virgin birth is based on semantic and linguistic ignorance. Since this ignorance is written into the canon of the New Testament that rather upsets the notion of “divine inspiration” of all scripture.

  • 417. LeoPardus  |  May 22, 2009 at 10:30 am

    What about the existence of hatred/anger in today’s society?…. Do you think that, in a million years, the existence of hatred will have diminished because we now have different ways to destroy dangers to self and society?

    Way too soon to say about the first question. We’ve only been at it for several millennia. As to the second question, it’s possible I think.

    Are you equating instinct to emotion? …. I think this is different from the anger that humans feel.

    No I’m not. Animals have both instinct and emotion. An animal attacking because its food is taken is not entirely instinct. And they get angry for other reasons. To be sure animals seem to experience emotions differently from us, but not entirely. The main difference I was looking at is that humans can use their higher reasoning faculties to temper emotional reactions.

    you believe that there is absolutely no possibility that beings whose consciousness’ differ from ours could exist somewhere in the universe?

    paleale covered this well. I can imagine beings with all sorts of abilities; even god-like beings. But even for them logic, the laws of physics, etc will apply.

  • 418. LeoPardus  |  May 22, 2009 at 10:32 am

    RL:

    Well hello from another special needs kid parent.

  • 419. LeoPardus  |  May 22, 2009 at 10:35 am

    What about the end times prophecies that eschatologists say are being fulfilled today? Coincidence?

    I missed this. Heavens to murgatroid. This is really silly. These “fulfillments” are purely interpretational. People who desperately want to believe the Bible is divine and prophetic see an event and race to say, “See? Revelation clearly said this would happen.” Just plain silly.

  • 420. Joe  |  May 22, 2009 at 11:05 am

    from #413 above:

    Although “coincidence” isn’t the right word the problem is that both sets of prophecies are so vague that they can be applied to a plethora of situations. It’s just like numerology. You can make meaning out of anything if you extend yourself far enough.)

    Actually—-not sure when you say “vagueness”. One of the most startling fulfillment of prophecies is the nation Israel. In the 1911 Encylopedia Brittanica when speaking of the Hebrew language it says (paraphrase): “the change of Hebrew ever being used as a standard language is about as remote as Israel ever becoming a nation again”.

    People scoffed at a notion of Israel being restored as a “Jewish State” just 30 some years before it happened. Yet we see Israel right there in the Middle East—-and Ezekiel in the Bible especially predicts this event with great certainty.

  • 421. Joe  |  May 22, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Error: above when I say “change of Hebrew language” I meant “chance”.

  • 422. Joe  |  May 22, 2009 at 11:08 am

    from #419

    “I missed this. Heavens to murgatroid. This is really silly. These “fulfillments” are purely interpretational. People who desperately want to believe the Bible is divine and prophetic see an event and race to say, “See? Revelation clearly said this would happen.” Just plain silly”.

    Leo—-once again, all I waill say is ISRAEL. That isn’t silly—it’s actually a miracle.

  • 423. paleale  |  May 22, 2009 at 11:21 am

    RL, Leo

    Really? That many of us here?

  • 424. LeoPardus  |  May 22, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Well I went to RL Atheist Nexus page and put in a friend request. Had to register first of course, so now I have a page there.

    paleale, go do likewise and we three can chat about it.

    Does seem coincidental eh?

  • 425. RLWemm  |  May 22, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    PaleAle, LeoP and Me:

    Should we now discuss whether “god” sent this plague upon us to test our faith or because he/it knew that we would end up disbelieving? [This is pure and delicious sarcasm, guys.]

  • 426. paleale  |  May 22, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    cue creepy melotron music now.

  • 427. CheezChoc  |  May 22, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    re post 232: Servant, you got the quote and the context wrong from Blade Runner.
    Roy, the android, was dying and saying to Deckard that all of his memories were going to be lost in time, like tears in rain.

  • 428. paleale  |  May 22, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    (smiling at the Blade Runner reference)

  • 429. orDover  |  May 23, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

  • 430. CheezChoc  |  May 23, 2009 at 2:19 am

    Good question, Or. I actually wrote a lengthy academic paper on the book and film back in my college days.

  • 431. kilter  |  May 23, 2009 at 4:04 am

    paleale and LeoPardus,

    I’d like to repeat my question about logic, because I don’t see an answer in your posts. Do you think it’s possible for something to exist that cannot be explained by logic? Can logic explain everything in the universe?

  • 432. kilter  |  May 23, 2009 at 4:20 am

    RLWemm,

    Before I answer your very good question, may I ask how you interpreted Leo’s writings as evidence that we have “empty” lives?

    I didn’t mean to imply that you live an empty life and I’m sorry it came across that way. I meant that for me, logic does not answer my questions, only shows that no one can know anything for sure, and so I believe that that’s where emotion comes in. Because this is the only thing that helps me make sense of the world, I live my life by it, i.e. I personally find it more fulfilling. Since this is the second time this has been misunderstood, I’m going to go ahead and try to explain why I think that logic is empty by referring back to some of the arguments made here and why I don’t think they prove anything either.

    Someone said earlier that de-converting was a relief for them because they don’t have to take part in the “mental acrobatics” it takes to explain God. But for me, I have to twist my mind in ways that are completely unnatural to me in order to try and understand your logic. I think you’ll probably say that this is because I’m brainwashed with religious thinking and that I prefer it because it’s familiar and thus comforting, but is there a possibility that you’ve brainwashed yourself into believing logic is the ultimate answer because you are uncomfortable with admitting that there are things that logic can’t explain? Do you have a reason besides saying that God should be able to be proved with logic, or is that all it comes down to? As always, I’m not asking rhetorically, I really want to hear your reasons.

    Earlier, Quester asked me if there was anything I believed in that I couldn’t prove. I think I should have said that I believe in an infinite universe. There’s a small, improbable chance that the universe is not infinite, but if it’s not, there’s proof of this at the end of it. It’s impossible to prove that the universe is infinite because you never know if somewhere there is an end ahead of you. Why, then, do we still believe the universe is infinite? Just because it’s more likely?

    We talked about miracles as well. Either they’re an act of God or they’re a coincidence. Does the fact that there’s an alternate explanation, that it could be coincidence and not God, necessarily mean that the alternate is correct? Do you have any way of knowing which one is right? One is more likely to be true based on the standards of logic. Again, is the more likely option always the answer? Why? Isn’t that putting faith in coincidence, because at some point you have to accept that you can’t know for sure and believe that the fact that it’s more likely means that it’s correct? There’s not really any way to explain it, you just believe that it must be a coincidence. I don’t have proof that it wasn’t a coincidence, but you don’t have proof that it was. All you can say is that it’s more likely, which again, doesn’t really say anything about what it actually is.

    When I was talking asking about logic, LeoPardus explained that it is reproducible, verifiable, falsifiable, reliable. How are reliability and reproducibility absolute proof of truth? All it tells me is that, up to this point, it has always been true. There is no way to ever know what will happen tomorrow. You have no evidence that it will not change tomorrow. We’ve had countless tomorrows and it hasn’t changed yet, so you can assume that it won’t, but you can’t actually prove it, right? Again, it comes down to a matter of probability, just believing that it will never change. As for verifiable and falsifiable, since you can’t guarantee that things won’t change, can anything really be verified?

    When Ash said that truth is subjective, orDover responded that “Truth is NOT subjective… Real truth is established through evidence, not words…We need EVIDENCE. Real evidence. Hard evidence. Not anecdotes or personal experience, but physical, verifiable evidence. Faith and conviction do not cut it. They don’t add up to truth.” Please, someone share with me the evidence that it is just a coincidence that end times prophecies are being fulfilled or that the miracles recorded today are coincidences.

    Contrary to the beliefs of deeply religious people, levels of unhappiness and immorality also have an inverse relationship with religious belief. Citizens from countries with a large proportion of atheists (Sweden and most of Europe) tend to report more happiness and contentment than citizens of countries (such as the USA) that have large proportions of Christians. They also have lower crime rates, divorce rates and abortion rates. Within the USA, the more conservatively Christian the State, the higher the rates of crime, divorce, single parenthood, drug abuse, abortion, poor education, poverty, apathy and general unhappiness. In the USA, the more a person attends church the more likely they are to support water-boarding and other forms of torture. This is the reverse of the message preached by the churches.

    Actually, this is exactly what my pastor tells us. I think you’re forgetting that I believe in Satan, an evil being dedicated to pulling us away from God. I always hear pastors say that Christians have harder lives because Satan is purposely giving them trouble in an attempt to make them fall away from God, and he often succeeds. But why would he bother giving atheists trouble? They’re doing a fine job on their own of living without God. It’s actually in his better interest to just keep them happy.

    Also, surveys like this can only account for those who call themselves Christian. There’s no way of knowing whether they are truly Christian or not, so wouldn’t this skew the results? Can you trust surveys like this when you have no way of knowing whether the people you are testing are truly Christian or just call themselves that because that’s how they were raised?

    I include educational opportunity in the above section. I believe it is deeply immoral as well as downright dangerous to allow religious doctrine to be taught in a science classroom as if it were actually scientific.

    Why?

    Finally, I wanted to take you up on your answer to the problem of the existence of pain, disaster and evil in the world and your response to the existence of Biblical passages which implicate the Yahweh god and the Jesus figure in behavior which ranges from petty tantrums, through irresponsible behavior, unwise decisions, stupidity, anti-social acts and terrorism.

    Thank you for this detailed response. It definitely tells me why you think my reasoning is wrong. Now can you tell me why you think your reasoning is right, after considering the points I made above?

  • 433. paleale  |  May 23, 2009 at 11:39 am

    my question about logic

    I’m assuming you meant this one

    I guess what I meant to ask was, do you think it’s possible for something to exist that cannot be explained by logic? Can logic explain everything in the universe?

    That’s a hard question and probably a bit over my head but I’ll give it a go anyway. I think I missed it the first time you posted it. Since I’ve never considered the question in such a way I’m going to think this out as I go.

    I believe that logic can explain everything in the universe. Even an act that seems completely random has a psychological cause which can uncover why the act was committed thus taking away it’s status as ‘random’. But I’m assuming you are talking about entities and not acts or objects.

    Can an entity exist that defies logic? I don’t know if I believe that or not. Perhaps it could exist on such a level that it would seem to defy logic but I think that ultimately a reasonable explanation must follow. This can be applied to God. If the God you worship does, in fact, exist then how do you explain his existence? I certainly couldn’t. But that doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be an explanation. The idea that he simply is and always has been and always will be would definitely seem to defy known logic. I say known logic. Yet perhaps there could be a race of beings to which God belongs which exists in time outside of our time (incidentally I think it’s impossible to have an existence outside of time because I believe time is defined by actions) and would seem to have an infinite nature but this is just speculation, of course and plays with the realm of science fiction. However I would venture to use that as a more likely explanation and it does include logic. I think the idea of a single, absolutely unique, omni-everything, infinite entity spontaneously existing in and of itself is %99.99999999999999999999999999 ad infinitum impossible. To make another ‘Hitchhiker” reference, it would take an improbability drive set to max power. If God exists then God must have a definable origin and that would denote logic. I can’t believe that God just poofed into existence as he is, sorry.

    So I guess to answer your question–

    Yes. I believe that logic can ultimately explain everything since I believe that everything ultimately has a reasonable explanation.

  • 434. paleale  |  May 23, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Frakking html italics. Sorry ’bout that. italics close after the word “known” and open again at the word “seem”

  • 435. orDover  |  May 23, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Do you think it’s possible for something to exist that cannot be explained by logic? Can logic explain everything in the universe?

    I believe there are unexplainable things, but that doesn’t mean they will always be that way. For example, there used to be no logical explanation of lighting. We had no idea what was going on there. It took good ol Ben Franklin just a few hundred years ago to realize it’s electricity. Unexplainable is a passing condition.

    However, I do not think that there is anything that exists that cannot potentially be explained by logic (or rather, science). Just because something is outside of our grasp right now does not mean that it always will be, and if we follow the model of history, it’s almost certainly to come within reach one of these days. I believe there is no limit to the bounds that our knowledge, or logic, will someday reach.

    Let me explain what I mean when I say that I do not think that there exists anything that cannot eventually be explained by logic. First we have to consider what we mean by “exist.” If something exists then we are aware of it, and if we are aware of it, then it can be observed. If something can be observed, then we have the potential to learn about it and eventually figure it out. Therefore anything that can be said to “exist” exists within the bounds of logic.

    The problem with applying this concept to God is that no one can establish if he really exists or not. Even the most honest believers will admit that they don’t have any real evidence. Does that mean God exists outside of logic? No, it means he doesn’t really exist at all. If something cannot be reliably observed and measured, it cannot be said to exist. And if you don’t buy this argument, I have an invisible pink unicorn over here to show you.

  • 436. LeoPardus  |  May 23, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Do you think it’s possible for something to exist that cannot be explained by logic?

    No.

    Can logic explain everything in the universe?

    Very nearly..

    That said, I do not mean that human intelligence can figure out or understand everything.
    And the existence of intelligence itself implies the ability of an intelligent being to understand logic, and then choose to do something illogical.
    A really good example would be an apologist using logic to try to show that God must exist and then insisting that we can’t understand God with human logic.

  • 437. paleale  |  May 23, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    is there a possibility that you’ve brainwashed yourself into believing logic is the ultimate answer because you are uncomfortable with admitting that there are things that logic can’t explain?

    Yes. There is the possibility that I have brainwashed or deluded myself. It would be a very complex delusion, however. Using logic, I would have to have deluded myself into thinking that I was deluded and used logic to reasonably deconstruct the previous ‘delusion’ which was not really a delusion at all.

    Do you have a reason besides saying that God should be able to be proved with logic, or is that all it comes down to?

    That’s not all it comes down to. We’ve given many different reasons besides logic. We’ve talked about the ineffectiveness of prayer, the inconsistency of holy books, and ‘which of the thousands of gods are you attempting to prove?’

    You haven’t given us anything other than the idea that you ‘feel’ it to be true so it must be. Tell me how that’s different from anyone else in any other religion worshiping any other god? What makes your feeling so special that it denies the existence of every other god?

    Satan and happy atheists

    Are you and your pastor saying that atheists don’t or shouldn’t experience suffering or unhappiness or stressful trials of any kind? Seriously?

    You’re essentially saying that since there is this being called Satan who is the origin of evil and is committed to tearing down (only) Christians that my life should be rosy because this evil being got what he wants and doesn’t care to mess with me anymore? Good grief.

    Is this really what you believe? That someone can’t be truly happy without God but if someone believes in God he’s more likely to get crapped on and be unhappy and get divorced and stuff because of Satan’s wiles but then if someone doesn’t believe in God he’s more likely to be happy because Satan doesn’t want have to worry about pulling him away from God anymore even though you can’t really be happy without God.

    Do you not see how silly this is?

  • 438. paleale  |  May 23, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Further along that line, what of the millions of people who believe in other gods yet suffer tremendously? According to your pastor’s reasoning shouldn’t Satan be making it super chill for them so that they don’t see how much they need God?

    I’m sorry to come back to that but I just can’t let it go. That concept is simply ridiculous in the most strict sense of the word.

  • 439. paleale  |  May 23, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Or is Satan just a lousy strategist? Or is God causing their suffering? Oh wait. We cause our own suffering and God allows it to happen so we can see the futility of our efforts and come running back to him. Exceptions given for Sweden and large portions of Europe.

  • 440. mrichards  |  May 23, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    I was a Christian, Born Again, for 17 years. I deconverted 6 years ago. I just wanted to say I enjoy reading through your commentscetion here. I especially love reading the cirlcular “logic” of christians and their endless foolishness. Good stuff.

  • 441. RLWemm  |  May 23, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    @kilter

    LOGIC and EMOTION

    Is there a possibility that you’ve brainwashed yourself into believing logic is the ultimate answer because you are uncomfortable with admitting that there are things that logic can’t explain? Do you have a reason besides saying that God should be able to be proved with logic, or is that all it comes down to?

    Logic is required to prove matters of fact. Logic is not required to validate personal opinions, emotional states, art, music and fictional literature.

    If you want to hold your beliefs because they make you feel good, you don’t need logic. If you want to hold your beliefs because they are true, then you need to prove that with logic.

    If you cannot prove the truth of your religious beliefs then all you have is something which makes you feel good. That puts the religion on the same level as yoga, meditation, art, music, good literature, friendship, love, cocaine, Ecstasy, birdsong, fireflies, Disney movies, etc. Things that make you feel good are an essential part of a meaningful life. The trick is to avoid those which cause harm, or more harm than good.

    If you follow the practices of your religion because it makes you feel good, regardless of its truth value, then you have no conflict. The problem with almost every religion (Buddhism may be an exception) is that it demands that the follower also act on the assumption that it is true.

    WHAT IS “TRUTH”?

    Now “truth” is a slippery philosophical concept. Someone who believes themselves to be telling the truth my not be repeating facts which can be objectively verified. That is, they are unwittingly telling untruths or partial truths. Just because someone fervently believes that something is true does not make it so. The writers of the Biblical books are almost certainly telling the truth as they see it rather than saying things that can be objectively shown to be fact.

    ABSOLUTE TRUTH versus PROBABLE TRUTH.

    Another concept which is important here is the difference between Absolute Truth and Probable Truth. Dogmatic systems (religion, psycho-analysis, communism, nationalism, etc) deal in black and white absolutes, not shades of grey. The absolutes may be difficult or impossible to “prove” because they are vague. The statement “America is a free country” is an absolute statement which is difficult to validate because the term “free” is relative.

    Some branches of science and philosophy can discover absolute truths (mathematics, logic, and physics). One plus one will always equal exactly two, (unless you are an engineer and deal in approximations). Most sciences, however, are not so exact. They deal in relative truths and statistical probabilities. The more randomness, volition and “free will” are involved, the more the truth is expressed in probabilistic terms. Human and animal behavior has a strong component of randomness built in due to the nature of biological systems. The likelihood of exceptions are rated along a scale from improbable through unlikely, random, possible, likely, probable and very probable to almost certain. The “truth” of the statement that someone who is brought up in a violent home will end up in the prison system is expressed in probabilistic statistical terms. In lay language this particular “truth” translates as “very likely but not inevitable”.

    Does the fact that there’s an alternate explanation, that it could be coincidence and not God, necessarily mean that the alternate is correct? Do you have any way of knowing which one is right? One is more likely to be true based on the standards of logic. Again, is the more likely option always the answer? Why? Isn’t that putting faith in coincidence, because at some point you have to accept that you can’t know for sure and believe that the fact that it’s more likely means that it’s correct? There’s not really any way to explain it, you just believe that it must be a coincidence. I don’t have proof that it wasn’t a coincidence, but you don’t have proof that it was. All you can say is that it’s more likely, which again, doesn’t really say anything about what it actually is.

    In every probabilistic finding there is a statistically expressed measure of possible error. The scientific system acknowledges and lives with the permanent possibility of error. In fact, the progress of science requires it. Religions, on the other hand, do not accept the possibility of error and engage in incredible contortions to avoid accepting it. As a consequence they are slow to change in response to new knowledge and understandings from the secular world, and then deny that they have been influenced by these things at all. Religions are rarely, if ever, in the van guard of social change; they merely hop on the band wagon once it is in exorable motion.

    Some scientific facts are more certain than others. In spite of the objections of people like Ken Hovind, the theory that man evolved from the ancestors of apes as a result of natural (rather than artificial) selection is an extremely robust and well-supported scientific explanation of how the observable process of evolution works in regards to the development of species. (BTW, _evolution_ is an observable fact which is basis of medical pharmacology. What IDiots complain about it is the _theory_ of evolution in relation to man’s origins.) Darwin’s explanation is supported across many branches of science. Even if there were no fossils it would still be overwhelmingly supported, especially by the knowledge we now have of genetics.

    BTW, the so-called “missing link” has finally been found and has been reported in current scientific news. The link is between lemurs and apes/humans. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/05/090519-missing-link-found.html

    In the behavioral sciences an event is considered “not due to chance” if the statistical probablity of it being due to chance is less than one chance in twenty. (This is expressed as a probability of zero point five [p=0.5] or a degree of certaintly of ninety-five percent [95% degree of confidence]. Medical science generally requires a higher level of significance and certainty because an error will result in death. The probability of a new medicine being harmful may be set at the 99% confidence level or higher. In the non-exact sciences probability values and associated confidence ranges are the closest a scientist will ever get to saying that something is “true”.

    Religion, on the other hand, has a very low standard of proof. You seem willing to run with a 5% level of certainty which is well inside the level which is explainable by chance or human error. In science that comes up with a soundly “not supported” conclusion and researchers go looking in other directions. (To be technical, if you get a result which is widely outside the 50/50 range in either direction it is considered to be significant. In the case of religion, it would suggest that the result is contrived, rather than due to chance.)

    The concept of the existence of any god, the existence of some version of the Christian god or the absolute truth of some verse in the Koran or the Bible can also be given a probabilistic rating. Most atheists and many agnostics conclude that the existence of a god is statistically extremely unlikely or highly improbable. De-converts from Christianity conclude that the existence of the Christian god, in any of its denominational guises, is extremely unlikely. Others go so far as to argue that the non-existence of such a god is an absolute truth because the theological system on which this belief is based is internally inconsistent.

    CHOICES of LOGIC and EMOTION

    In summary, Kilter, you have the choice of
    1. continuing to practice a religious system which cannot be logically justified as fact, simply because it makes you feel good,
    2. pretending that the system of belief which makes you feel good can be justified by some esoteric system which exists outside the realm of natural reason
    3. ignoring the fact that the system which makes you feel good cannot be logically justified as truth
    4. deciding that the truth of the system which makes you feel good is unimportant (this implies that engage in “let’s pretend” and “make-believe” games)
    5. seeking for something which makes you feel good which does not require that you believe things which are logically unsupportable

    If you travel the path many ex-cons take, then you will cycle through numbers one through four until you finally settle on number five.

    PROPHECIES versus COINCIDENCE

    Please, someone share with me the evidence that it is just a coincidence that end times prophecies are being fulfilled or that the miracles recorded today are coincidences.

    These “prophecies” need to be “interpreted” to make them fit whatever they are supposed to predict. Not one of them is written in the type of clear and precise language which science requires as a predictor of an event. In order for them to “work” it is often necessary to ignore their context, the historical background at the time they were written, that they have been misquoted in the New Testament, that they were written after the events they “predict”, that the gospel writer misinterpreted the Hebrew of an Old Testament passage because he was using a Greek translation which employed a word which included meanings not available in the language used in the original text, [see http://www.sullivan-county.com/identity/prophecy.htm%5D, that the names are different [Immanuel versus Jesus], and a whole heap of other embarrassing things.

    Excerpt from a blogger on biblical prophecy:

    A prophecy is a prediction about what will happen in the future, inspired by God or some supernatural force. It is probably the best way that God could be proven. However, there are some qualifications that a prediction must meet before we can decide it is the work of the supernatural. These qualifications are:

    1) The prophecy must be proven to have been spoken before it was fulfilled. This is a major problem with Old Testament Prophecy. To prove that the prophecy wasn’t written after the fact, one must find the earliest copy we have of a prophecy and carbon date it. That date must be sometime before the prophesied event occurred. The Book of Daniel runs into this problem, as all evidence suggests it was written long after its alleged “predictions”.

    2) The prophecy must be specific. No vague, Nostradamus Style prophecy. The Book of Revelation runs into exactly this problem. The prophecies are so vague that they can have easily had many different “fulfillments”. For instance, who is the beast of Revelation 13 (whose number is 666)? Some Fundamentalist Christians insist that it is the pope; Catholics believe it was Caesar Nero; and yet a few conspiracy theorists argue that it is Ronald Reagan! These symbolic prophecies are meaningless because they can be interpreted to fulfill anything that happens.

    3) The prophecy must be of something that was not foreseeable. For instance, a lot of people predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union, because they saw that it was a very unstable government. Yet we do not think of them as prophets. A prophecy must be something that few/none would have predicted when it was made.

    The sad truth for Christians is that I have yet to find a prophecy that fulfills these three requirements. Even worse for them, the bible contains prophecies that were not fulfilled. Ezekiel 26 predicts that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Tyre and make it “as a bare rock”. Best of all, biblical scholars are in agreement that this book was written hundreds of years before Tyre was destroyed. Yet we know from history that it was Alexander the Great, not Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed Tyre. Isaiah 19:5 predicts that the Nile River would dry up. And yet it never has. Now, some people may say that that prophecy is yet to come, but remember: These prophecies were about the people at that time.

    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forum/index.php?PHPSESSID=e81359e8fd6f1819256d8968f0cc9ad3&topic=21928.0

    It is very easy to fool humans into thinking that a vague passage has specific meaning. See the Barnum Effect. http://www.paranormality.com/barnum_effect.shtml http://www.skepdic.com/barnum.html

    RELGION MAKES A PERSON GOOD

    I always hear pastors say that Christians have harder lives because Satan is purposely giving them trouble in an attempt to make them fall away from God, and he often succeeds. But why would he bother giving atheists trouble? They’re doing a fine job on their own of living without God. It’s actually in his better interest to just keep them happy.

    This is one of the craziest arguments I have ever heard. Your pastor must be desperate. According to this argument, the worse a person behaves and the more unhappy they are, the more likely they are to be Christians. The happier a person is and the more they appear to be filled with the “gifts of the spirit” the more likely they are to be a non-believer. If believing in god makes you unhappy and criminal while not believing in god makes you law-abiding and happy, why would anyone want to believe in this man’s version of god?

    You appear to be a reasonably intelligent person. How could you fall for this level of argument? Or did you actually see through it? Please tell me you did.

    REAL versus FAKE CHRISTIANS

    Surveys like this can only account for those who call themselves Christian. There’s no way of knowing whether they are truly Christian or not, so wouldn’t this skew the results? Can you trust surveys like this when you have no way of knowing whether the people you are testing are truly Christian or just call themselves that because that’s how they were raised?

    That is a specious cop out. If every person who calls him or herself a Christian needed to have exactly the same god-beliefs as you (and possibly your Pastor and some of your friends) and to behave in exactly the manner you think is consistent with this set of beliefs then there would be only a few people on this planet whom we could call “True Christians”. It reminds of the old saying:” All are queer save thee and me, and even thee’s a little queer”.

    In any case, that is of no consequence because we are talking about the steadily increasing likelihood of someone being unhappy, uneducated, criminal and sadistic in proportion to the extent of contact they have with people who call themselves Christians and steadily decreasing likelihood of these things occurring in proportion to the extent that they do not have contact with people who call themselves Christian. Whether the places are filled with what you would accept as “real” Christians or whether are filled with people you would like to label as “fake” ones seems to make no difference.

    THE RELIGIOUS NOTION OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN versus THE SCIENTIFIC THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION

    = = = I believe it is deeply immoral as well as downright dangerous to allow religious doctrine to be taught in a science classroom as if it were actually scientific.= = =
    Why?

    Because ID is not a scientific theory and cannot be couched in those terms.

    It is not measurable, precise, repeatable or predictive. It does not express itself in a way which could conceivably be falsifiable. It is a philosophical and theologically based viewpoint which seeks to discredit a scientific theory which it fails to comprehend. It does not provide a viable testable alternative in its place. It provides no tools for engaging in scientific research in support of its proposals. It has been very thorough ally debunked and proved to be a “pseudo science” in multiple venues which use scientific and legal standards of proof. Its proponents have been convicted of fraud (criminal), lying (contempt of court) and serious scientific ignorance (a mountain of papers, books, debates and so on).

    It is wrong to allow or (worse) insist that science teachers teach non-scientific theories to children who have not yet developed full reasoning powers. (These are not fully developed until somewhere between 16-20 on average). It confuses children about what a scientific theory is and what is required before it can take its place as an established “truth”. Nor do they have the knowledge required to critically examine the ID claims. It is notable that the scientists who are claimed to support ID as a “science” have not graduated in areas which require them to know any of the science which supports the theory of speciation by natural selection (a theory of how the observed fact of evolution works in long-term practice). They are economists, engineers, mathematicians and the like. They are not biologists, geneticists, medical scientists, virologists, pharmacologists, paleontologists and the like.

    It opens the floodgates for every non-scientific ideology or religion to claim the right to teach their viewpoint to impressionable children as if adhered to the same rigorous standards of truth as science. We would have to include the study of alchemy along with chemistry, palmistry, tarot card reading, and head bump interpretation along with psychology, iridology along with germ theory, astrology with astronomy and astro-physics, water divining along with geology. We would have adherents of hundreds of religions and mythologies requiring equal time to teach their version of the creation of the world. There would be little time to teach real science to children. The advancement of science would be left to countries like Sweden, Japan, India, China, Australia, and Singapore. In fact, that is already happening.

  • 442. RLWemm  |  May 23, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks for editing my first post, Leo. Now kindly delete it and leave the second one. :-)

  • 443. RLWemm  |  May 23, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks, my friend. PS. Sorry for “taking over” your blog.

  • 444. kilter  |  May 24, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Quester,

    Book, chapter and verse, please. The Christian God is constantly revealing Himself in the bible. I can’t think of one instance where reliance on faith was expected.

    “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1, KJV

    “But without faith it is impossible to please Him. For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6, KJV

  • 445. kilter  |  May 24, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Paleale,

    To which eschatologists are you referring?

    I was thinking primarily of Joel Rosenburg, if you’re familiar with him.

    It’s quite easy to look back through history and point to events that line up to the authors’ grim predictions.

    I was going to bring up the same example that Joe did in #420. Not only did Israel become a nation again, it’s also become one of the wealthiest in the world, also predicted in Ezekiel, and right now it looks like they’re set to become even wealthier as they’ve discovered huge pockets of natural gas underground that will likely lead to oil. Ezekiel also predicts an alliance between Russia and Iran, which looks like it’s happening as Russia continues to supply Iran with materials to build nuclear weapons, as well as a whole bunch of other things related to current events in the Middle East.

    Regarding the ‘enormous gap’, I mean Matthew’s take on it and thus Christianity’s take on it are quite different than the actual verse in context. The most glaring inconsistency is that no one ever calls Jesus ‘Immanuel’. He’s obviously named Jesus! Isaiah specifically tells King Ahaz that the child’s mother will name him Immanuel. Matthew’s reference is the only mention of the name in the entire New Testament.

    He’s named Jesus, but he was called all sorts of things, including the son of God, and if the son of God is walking on the earth, that sounds like “God is with us” to me. I don’t know enough actual history to respond to your other points, but I’ll be sure to research that.

    I think the idea of a single, absolutely unique, omni-everything, infinite entity spontaneously existing in and of itself is %99.99999999999999999999999999 ad infinitum impossible.

    I have a question about the “spontaneously existing” part of this, as I’ve always been confused why atheists bring that up as a reason for why God can’t exist. What about all the “materials” of the universe? At some point, don’t you have to believe that the basic molecules that make up the world spontaneously sprang into being? Or have we discovered a way to create matter out of nothing?

    Are you and your pastor saying that atheists don’t or shouldn’t experience suffering or unhappiness or stressful trials of any kind? Seriously?

    No. I’m saying that this could be a reason that atheists find it easier to be happy in this world, since they aren’t striving for anything more.

    That someone can’t be truly happy without God but if someone believes in God he’s more likely to get crapped on and be unhappy and get divorced and stuff because of Satan’s wiles but then if someone doesn’t believe in God he’s more likely to be happy because Satan doesn’t want have to worry about pulling him away from God anymore even though you can’t really be happy without God.

    If you resign yourself to living only for this world, I’m sure you can be perfectly happy without God, because your definition of happiness changes. Success, comfortable living, and all that is worthless to me. Sure, it’s enjoyable and nice to have, I won’t deny that. But without God, you can’t live the actual purpose of your life, you can’t live the life you were created to live. Happiness has nothing to do with it.

    Further along that line, what of the millions of people who believe in other gods yet suffer tremendously? According to your pastor’s reasoning shouldn’t Satan be making it super chill for them so that they don’t see how much they need God?

    But there’s a big difference between looking at atheists’ happiness and other religions’ suffering in relation to Satan, isn’t there? An atheist believes in no god and has decided to live his or his life only for this world, which blocks them off pretty well from any influence of God, in that they’ll always ignore it. Anyone religious, however, still believes in a god and is thus more likely to believe in the Christian God when they encounter him because they already believe that there is a god. So I think it makes sense that Satan might continue to try to bring suffering on these people in order to drive them away from belief in any god.

    That said, I don’t think you can narrow this argument down to just one reason for suffering. We introduced it to the world, God uses it to teach us, and Satan uses us to drive us away from God. Each instance of suffering can have different reasons and motivations behind it.

  • 446. kilter  |  May 24, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    orDover,

    First we have to consider what we mean by “exist.” If something exists then we are aware of it, and if we are aware of it, then it can be observed. If something cannot be reliably observed and measured, it cannot be said to exist.

    Okay, this is what I was trying to say when I was talking about the circularity of human logic earlier. I guess what I meant was scientific reasoning. According to science, if it can’t be observed, it doesn’t exist. Scientific process was developed to study and explain the world. Why would you expect it to explain anything supernatural? The Bible says the existence of God is evident in the works of his hands, but it doesn’t say “but only when you consider it from a scientific perspective.” When I drop my pen, I see it fall and I know that it’s gravity making it fall. But to me, that points to a God who created gravity. I see how evolution works, how you can trace back man’s development and prove that that’s how we developed. But again, that points to a God who guided our development and who created the world in such a way that that development would lead us to a point where we could acknowledge and worship him.

  • 447. kilter  |  May 24, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    RLWemm,

    Thank you again for such a detailed response to all my questions about what science really proves. I guess I just find it strange that you guys have brought up the lack of proof of God repeatedly when science never proves anything for sure either. I think I understand your reasons a little more now, although I don’t think I could ever convince myself to believe them. Would you consider yourself as having faith in science instead of God now, since it points to more likely answers? I often hear atheists say that “they only believe in science,” so I’m curious how you think of it.

    If believing in god makes you unhappy and criminal while not believing in god makes you law-abiding and happy, why would anyone want to believe in this man’s version of god?

    Being happy is not the point of Christianity. You saying this actually just convinces me further that Satan does take advantage of people’s love of the world and uses that to attack Christians. It’s like how the most effective way of lying is to tell as much of the truth as possible and only change a small part. Satan, knowing that we think being happy in this world is the point of life, could attack Christians with painful struggles and temptations which some inevitably fall to exactly because he knows people will say, “See? Being Christian sucks. Don’t do that. Believe that this world is all there is and you’ll be much better off.”

  • 448. paleale  |  May 24, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Israel is a nation again. Looks like he got one right. I guess if you make enough predictions the odds are that sooner or later one might actually take. It only took a few thousand years, World War II and the Holocaust. And the League of Nations. And millions and millions and millions of U.S. dollars.

    Russia, huh? Where exactly does it mention Russia? Does it also mention France who is also selling them nuclear technology? Everyone talked about how Russia was the ‘Great Bear of the North’ back in the Cold War and it was the end times and the Shah and the Ayatollah and the end’s a-comin’. This is purely interpretational. Please wake up to how easy it is to plug in events as they come along.

    but he was called all sorts of things, including the son of God, and if the son of God is walking on the earth, that sounds like “God is with us” to me

    You’re missing the point. It was specifically prophesied that a kid would specifically be named Immanuel. Not like a nickname or alias. His mother would name him Immanuel.

    At some point, don’t you have to believe that the basic molecules that make up the world spontaneously sprang into being?

    No. We don’t know where matter came from. It doesn’t go to say that we won’t eventually be able to explain it through some landmark discovery. That’s the beauty of science. What science says is that something happened that scattered matter in all directions which over billions and billions of years organized itself through atomic attraction. This happened on a near infinite scale with the formation of a near infinite number of stars and planets which bumps up the probability of something organizing itself into what we think of as life which over more billions of years increased in complexity into what we have now.

    Conversely, what you are saying with the spontaneity of God’s existence is that not only did something come from nothing, that particular something is an all-powerful, trans-dimensional super intelligence that loves everybody. See the difference?

    …atheists find it easier to be happy in this world, since they aren’t striving for anything more.

    Wow. I’m kind of laughing but kind of not. That is quite a statement to make, my friend.

    But there’s a big difference between looking at atheists’ happiness and other religions’ suffering in relation to Satan, isn’t there?

    Why? Besides, didn’t you just say not suffering is what would keep us from God? If we’re not suffering then why would we need God? Suffering makes someone aware of a need. Need for food, release from pain or as you as insist, need for God. So it seems like Satan would make their lives as awesome as possible so they wouldn’t think they need anything else. You’re contradicting yourself all over the place on this one. If I were you I’d take a serious look at my reasoning here.

    It’s been kind of fun talking to you Kilter but I’m gonna duck out here. I see no point in continuing this conversation. I hope that one day you’ll look back on this and something will click.

    Best wishes,

    Paleale

  • 449. LeoPardus  |  May 24, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    I guess I just find it strange that you guys have brought up the lack of proof of God repeatedly when science never proves anything for sure either.

    What incredible hogwash! Just think about it for a moment. Has science proved anything for sure? If you can’t name a few dozen things at least, you must have slept through school, the news, water cooler conversations, and the rest of life.

  • 450. kilter  |  May 25, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    Paleale,

    Thank you for being patient with me and answering my questions.

    -kilter

  • 451. RLWemm  |  May 26, 2009 at 4:42 am

    @Kilter:

    Would you consider yourself as having faith in science instead of God now, since it points to more likely answers?

    Your question makes neither semantic nor logical semantic sense.

    First, it asks me to compare a supernatural proper noun with a natural abtract noun. The things belong to neither the same realm nor the same type.

    The only way the question could make some semantic sense is if the word “God” were replaced with the word “Christian religion” and the word “science” were redefined as a religion: a body of contentions and speculations about things not in evidence which does not require that the dogma conform to the rules of evidence or meet the rigors of logical reasoning and objective verification.

    It would still be nonsense because science, by accepted definition, cannot be a religion. Someone who has faith in science is not practising science. Science requires that we do not have faith in it. Someone who believes that is is possible to “have faith in science” does not understand what science is.

    Science is a body of knowledge (facts) obtained by the scientific method. The method requires material evidence and logical proof. The body of knowledge must be precise, testable and able to be proved false. Theories must explain how the discovered facts work. Theories must be constantly checked in an attempt to prove them false in some or all respects. Experiments and testing must be precise, documented, verifiable, repeatable and consistent. Anyone who repeats the tests should come up with the same answers or be able to explain what they did wrong or how the current working theory needs to be modified to fit the new circumstances.

    Faith, on the other hand, is a set of beliefs which do not rest on logical proof or material evidence. Text books are almost invariably imprecise and internally inconsistent, the theories cannot be objectively tested or falsified and practitioners overwhelmingly come to different conclusions on the basis of the same evidence. Faith evolves in line with culture and historical events, and rarely and slowly in response to newly discovered objective evidence. It does not seek to rigorously test its conclusions or continuously try to disprove them. It seeks to re-interpret facts which do not fit its theories rather than redesign the theories to fit the facts.

    Substituting a branch of science for the general term may help to explain the point better.

    Would you consider yourself as having faith in mathematic instead of God now, since it points to more likely answers?

    Would you consider yourself as having faith in engineering instead of God now, since it points to more likely answers?

    Would you consider yourself as having faith in genetics instead of God now, since it points to more likely answers?

    Or reverse the time line:

    Would you consider yourself as having faith in God instead of mathematics then, since God pointed to more likely answers?

    There is no logical reason why a change in beliefs about the supernatural world would have any bearing on someone’s opinion or use of a branch of knowledge which is based on observed and verified facts, or about methods which have proved to be the best and most reliable ways of discovering and determining truth.

    What I discovered over time, is that the tools used by the Christian religion to “prove” its case were poor quality tools which rarely discovered the truth of a matter in other circumstances. When I applied the best tools available for determining the truth of a matter, the Christian belief structure crumbled.

    I believe in using the best available method for determining truth. This is a combination of the natural laws of logic, the scientific method and the rules of evidence used in court-rooms. They are all inter-related. These methods are capable of discovering things “beyond reasonable doubt”. The rules commonly used to discover “religious truth” cannot establish things to anything like this level of certainty. Religious methods are not equally valid ways of knowing, they are deeply flawed. Part of their flawed nature is that they claim to be able to know things “without any doubt at all” in the absence of any vaoid proof.

    I guess I just find it strange that you guys have brought up the lack of proof of God repeatedly when science never proves anything for sure either.

    The scientific method and the legal system have come up with a measurements which define how certain we can be that something is true. I would take “beyond reasonable doubt” and a “probability level of 99 percent with a confidence interval of 1” as WAY more certain than a method which has an average 99 percent chance of being wrong and a best case hit rate of 50% (which is equivalent to chance). Religion does not use reliable methods of truth determination and yet claims to be able to determine truth with 100 percent accuracy. This is the arrogance of ignorance.

    Being happy is not the point of Christianity.

    The POINT of Christainity, as I recall it, seemed to vary somewhat with the brand.

    The main points for most people were one or all of these. If you believe in the Christian god then

    1. Your life here on earth will improve. (This is the Jewish position). You will be
    a. happier
    b. richer
    c. saner
    d. calmer
    e. healthier
    f. nicer
    g. more law-abiding
    h. your wishes will be heard and may be granted

    2. You will have life after death which goes on forever.

    3. You will not be sentenced to eternal torture by a god after you die

    4. You will spend eternity in the company of a god in a nice place called Heaven.

    Number 1 is empty because there are no significant differences between believers and non-believers in a positive direction and there are significant differences in the other direction.

    Number 2 is empty because the doctrine is internally inconsistent. It teaches that everyone will be resurrected and made to live forever. If this were not so then the threat of hell would not be effective. It is not necessary to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” to have eternal life. It’s a free gift to everyone. Unfortunately the “free gift” will be hell for all those who don’t share your beliefs.

    Number 3 and 4 are empty because the doctrine asserts that the god you would be spending an eternity with is a torturer. Since the Jesus figure and the Yahweh figure are so different in temprement and compassion, you could expect a lot of unpleasant arguments. You may find that you want to defect, along with the Angel of Light (Lucifer) and the one in three angels who joined him in his protest. Considering how much time Satan spends on Earth making Christians into horrible people, Hell must be very porous.

    Which one/s best describe your position? How do you justify it?

    The main point of Christianity appears to be to appease a supernatural being so that it will not torture you for eternity. That makes some adherents happy, some relieved, many smug and a lot of others terrified and anxious that they will not be spared after all. You don’t need the devil to make people miserable. The god concept can do that all on its own.

    According to the story set out in the Bible and embroidered by religious leaders, some supernatural beings (plural in the early text) made humans in their own image but made a mess of it. When killing most of them didn’t fix the problem (floods, plagues, fire, war and just plain slaughter) he (singular at this stage of the written text) got a human pregnant, grew up as a half human, tortured and killed the human part and then decided that he’d be prepared to put up with his messed up creations for eternity after all, provided that they asked him nicely enough for forgiveness. Frankenstein is reputed to have treated his creation better than that.

    It seems to me that the god you believe exists is not the one described in detail in the Bible. Yours is all the things you want it to be, provided that your culture, your community and your pastor concurs. You have literally created god in your own image and ignored all the biblical material which does not support it. Such a being is very seductive, because it is really your idealized self. Like an animal protecting its young, you attack and vilify anything and anyone who dents this wonderful self projection. A devil god (Satan/Lucifer/Belzebub) is a convenient device for focusing and directing your anger. Part of the pain of losing one’s religious beliefs is the painful realization that what you have been worshipping is your own creation. (I imagine that your response to this will be incredulous laughter, as mine would have been if someone had said this to me when I was 18).

    You saying this actually just convinces me further that Satan does take advantage of people’s love of the world and uses that to attack Christians.

    Your conviction does not arise from any logic I can make sense of. You seem to be arguing for a weak, absent, uncaring or stupid god. According to your reasoning, your god is extremely bad at marketing and PR. What is the point of worshipping something like that?

    Although you state that you now have a better understanding of how de-converts think, your questions and statements make it seem that ninety percent of what we say is going straight over the top of your head.

    Have you heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? It’s a cognitive bias in which people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices because their incompetence in an area of knowledge or skill robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. They therefore suffer an illusonary superiority, rating their own ability as above average. This leads to a perverse result where people with less competence will rate their ability more highly than people with relatively more competence.

    Try this with a three year old. Pour a cup of water into a low wide glass. Pour three-quarters of a cup into a glass which is thin and tall enough for the water level to come up higher than the water in the wide glass. Ask the child which glass has more water in it. Try to persuade him that you are correct. Persist until he relents and says he agrees with you. Come back the day after and try the experiment again. Use different shaped glasses. Try using mounds of ice-cream, one fat and short and the other tall and thin. Use the same measuring spoon to dish out each mound. Try again in a week, two weeks, a month, a year. Finally, when he’s a few years older, he will get it, but only when his brain has developed some more. Meantime, you will know how I feel trying to explain to you the importance of valid methods of truth determination and the role of logic, reasoning, levels of certainty, and the scientific method in avoiding the cognitive biases we are all subject to.

  • 452. Joe  |  May 26, 2009 at 11:38 am

    “Try this with a three year old. Pour a cup of water into a low wide glass. Pour three-quarters of a cup into a glass which is thin and tall enough for the water level to come up higher than the water in the wide glass. Ask the child which glass has more water in it”

    RLWemm—

    Here’s another experiment. Fill a glass half way to the top then ask a three year old if the glass is half empty or half full.

    Show the three-year old his finger-tips, and the fingerprints on them. Explain that no one else in the whole world has fingerprints that match his—-that he is absolutely unique in the world.

    Then explain (though a three year old might have a bit of a problem understanding this without reducing it to utter simplicity for him) that Jesus once said “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” and people would scoff at such a statement. But explain, that now, with knowledge of DNA (you can tell the three year old it is a type of amazing thing in him that tells his body exactly how to grow) that statement is not so far from the truth—-in fact the very hairs of his head in a very real way ARE numbered.

    Hopefully, after considering these things the three year old will want to see the glass half full, and not half empty.

  • 453. Joe  |  May 26, 2009 at 11:45 am

    The point I am trying to make above is that scientific experiment is very cool. No doubt. But there are some things in life that APPEAR to be fantasy—-sometimes for many, many years, that later prove to be factual—or very close to a factual statements.

    Take the statement “the very hairs of your head are all numbered”. Jesus said it. So, I’m sure atheists and scientists 200 years ago scoffed at such a statement. But we know now that DNA literally is coded information that tells the body EXACTLY how to grow. The color of the eyes, the number of hairs on the head, height, type of smile, etc. etc.

    So, when using a glass with water in an experiment with a three year old, don’t forget how important imagination and belief are to that child also. Do we want him to grow up seeing the glass half empty, or the glass half full?

  • 454. paleale  |  May 26, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Joe

    Perhaps you misinterpreted the exercise with the toddler posted by RLWEMM? It was an allegory to illustrate the difference between the toddler’s reasoning capability and the one filling the glasses and how the toddler’s reasoning capability increases at she grows older. She’s not suggesting that we give 3 year-old’s philosophy lessons.

  • 455. kilter  |  May 26, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    RLWemm,

    Your question makes neither semantic nor logical semantic sense. First, it asks me to compare a supernatural proper noun with a natural abstract noun. The things belong to neither the same realm nor the same type.

    Sorry if it was unclear. I was comparing science and God in that, for me, God is my foundation for everything and what I always come back to when I don’t understand something, and I was wondering if science is that foundation for you. I think it’s pretty clear from your response that your answer is yes.

    Which one/s best describe your position? How do you justify it?

    What you list may be the initial motivation for some people, but I still hold that none of these are the point of Christianity, more like amazing side effects. Perhaps I should say “purpose” rather than “point.” The purpose has always been to love God and others (Matthew 22:34-40, 1 John 4:7-10, 1 Corinthians 13:13, 1 Peter 4:8) and to follow his will for our lives in order to bring him glory and worship in everything we do (Proverbs 19:21, Romans 8:28, Psalm 16:5-8). Nothing else matters. Happiness, success, health — those things are temporary, and the Bible tells us not to place our energy in running after them. Those things are not the reason I’m alive. Anything related to the afterlife only matters because it is our promise from God that there is something beyond this world, something that isn’t temporary, and thus much more worthy of seeking. Everything you listed is not related to the purpose of living as a Christian.

    Although you state that you now have a better understanding of how de-converts think, your questions and statements make it seem that ninety percent of what we say is going straight over the top of your head.

    Sorry if it has come across that way. I’m trying to purposely ask questions that I think I know the answer to or that come from a very typical Christian perspective in order to see how you’ll respond. I’m here to ask questions, but not because I’m actually thinking of de-converting. I just have a hard time understanding how someone could live as a Christian for such a long time and then leave it.

    I believe in using the best available method for determining truth. This is a combination of the natural laws of logic, the scientific method and the rules of evidence used in court-rooms.

    I agree that these are the best methods for determining worldly truth, i.e. physical laws of the earth, animal behavior, psychology, all of that. But the rules for these methods (especially the scientific method and court-room evidence) were created specifically for this world and do not take the supernatural into account. That’s fine if you’re just trying to explain the causes of a disease or prove someone’s participation in a crime, but why would you expect it to explain the supernatural? To make a rather extreme example, I don’t expect the rules of mathematics to tell me anything about grammar. That would be ridiculous, as they deal with two completely different subjects. It’s actually impossible to apply math to grammar because, without the presence of numbers or mathematic variables, grammar has nothing that math can work with. You might go so far as to say that, to math, grammar doesn’t exist because words aren’t something that the rules of mathematics give any value to. To me, all science says about the supernatural is that it is unable to prove its existence, which makes perfect sense, as science’s goal is to prove things about the universe and the supernatural is, by definition, something separate from the physical universe.

  • 456. RLWemm  |  May 26, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Here is a rewording and expansion of the development of intellectual stages allegory. I hope it clarifies things a little. The first one was written off the top of my head, contains a couple of minor inaccuracies and is not as tight as it could be.

    The stage of development which I was outlining usually begins at age four, so I will start there this time.

    Here we go again…..

    Try this with a four year old.

    While the child is watching, pour water into a measuring jug until it reaches the one cup level. Point this out to the child.
    Now pour water into an identical measuring jug until it reaches the three-quarters of a cup mark. Point this out to the child. Ask the child which dipper has more water in it. They should be able to give you the correct answer.

    While the child is watching, pour the cup of water into a low fat glass. Now pour the three-quarter cup of water into a tall thin glass. The width of the glass should be sufficiently different to cause the level of the water in the tall thin glass to be higher than the water in the fat thin glass. Now ask the child which of the glasses has more water in it? The child will tell you that the tall thin glass has more water in it. Ask them why they think that. They will tell you that the water is higher in the tall thin glass so there must be more water. Try to explain to them why this answer is wrong. Repeat the experiment and the explanations enough times for them to give you the answer they know you want to hear. Stop.

    The following day, measure out two cups of water, one is one measuring jug and the other in an identical measuring cup. Now pour this water into the two glasses which are of different widths. Ask the child which has more water now. Try to explain to them why their answer is wrong. (It will be.) Continue until they give you the answer they know you want to hear. Stop.

    The following day a scoop of ice-cream on a plate while the child is watching. Repeat this on a different plate, but flatten the mound a little with the back of the scoop. Now ask the child which mound of ice-cream they would prefer to eat. Ask them why. Ask them whether one of them has more ice-cream in it or whether they are both the same. Try to explain why their answer is wrong.

    Try the same set of experiments again in a week, two weeks, a month, a year, annually. Remember that getting a child to tell you want he thinks you want to hear is not the same thing as the child actually understanding the concept to the point where they can apply it successfully across a variety of circumstances even when you “cheat”.

    Finally, when the child is about eight or nine, he will get it, even if you try to confuse them. If you pour a cup of water into an apparently thick glass (where the internal volume is a lot less than it looks from the outside) and a cup of water into a thin glass (with an internal volume consistent with what it looks like from the outside) the child will want to know how you managed to make the water look higher in the thick glass. They will investigate, and probably discover the fake lining in the apparently wide glass.

    This cognitive change will not happen because you have taught him the concept, it will be because his brain has developed to the point that he can deal with more than one dimension at a time. If you have been priming his observation skills regularly he may get the idea right at the beginning of the maturational brain growth spurt that occurs around the age of eight rather than some months later. He will not, however, get this concept before the maturational spurt begins, no matter how you much you try to explain it to him.

    This is an experiment which is used to demonstrate the levels of intellectual development observed and set out by the Swiss child psychologist, Jean Piaget. The time at which children move from one stage of development to another is strongly correlated with the time at which there are surges in the maturation of brain cells in specific regions of the brain.

    The final (formal operations) stage of Piaget’s schemata coincides with the maturation of cells in the frontal lobes of the brain at 12+ years. This is the last part of the brain to evolve along the lemur to human evolutionary chain, and the last one to mature in humans.

    There is another surge of frontal lobe development at around the age of 16. Psychologists have extended Piaget’s scheme to include another stage of cognitive development (higher level reasoning).

    While the stages of development are constant across all cultures, the age at which children pass from one stage to another varies. In neuro-typical humans (without brain impairment), the speed is heavily dependent on the richness of the environment and the educational experiences provided to the child. Age is a necessary but not a sufficient requirement for the successful transition from one intellectual level to another. Without adequate higher level education many people never reach the higher level reasoning stage. In fact, the proportion of citizens who fail to reach this final stage is an indicator of the universality and strength of a nation’s education system.

    The sad fact is that the existence of fundamentalist type religious beliefs is dependent on the failure of adherents to develop higher level reasoning skills. This helps to explain the strong correlation between educational level and quality and religious belief change or loss.

  • 457. RLWemm  |  May 26, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    All mistakes in the above posting are the result of my transition to a lower level of intellectual functioning in line with my increasing stupidity////////// age. I would like to take no responsibility for it :-)

  • 458. orDover  |  May 26, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Okay, this is what I was trying to say when I was talking about the circularity of human logic earlier. I guess what I meant was scientific reasoning. According to science, if it can’t be observed, it doesn’t exist.

    I’d like you to suggest another way to discern whether or not something exists. And anyway, I’m not talking about Science with a capital S, I’m talking about simple, everyday logic. Again, I’d like to know how there can be something that exists but can no way be observed. How to you qualify the fact that it exists. Give me an example, if you can.

    Scientific process was developed to study and explain the world. Why would you expect it to explain anything supernatural?

    Do you not claim to be able to observe God on some level. Do you “hear” his voice? Do you “feel” his presence? Does your life benefit from his goodness? Do you see your prayers answered? These are all things we can keep tally of. God never scores very well, however.

    I don’t expect science to be able to explain anything supernatural, but if there is something that is supernatural that is interacting with the physical world, those interactions should be observable. Do you think God interacts with the physical world? If so, wouldn’t you expect those interactions to be noticeable? If you believe in a Deist sort of God who created the world and set the laws of nature rolling but does not interact in any way with creation, then you can safely say God is forever removed from the realm of basic logic and science, but you cannot insist the same if you believe in a God who actively engages with nature.

    The Bible says the existence of God is evident in the works of his hands, but it doesn’t say “but only when you consider it from a scientific perspective.”

    If the work if God is self-evident, why would it fail under scientific scrutiny, when scientific scrutiny is just basic observations with as many biases as possible eliminated? What is the difference between a lay person looking at the world and a scientist? Why should they see two different things?

    When I drop my pen, I see it fall and I know that it’s gravity making it fall. But to me, that points to a God who created gravity.

    I’d be interested to know why you make such a drastic leap of logic. How does gravity suggest God? And besides, why should I give any credence to what things “point to” to you? Should I give equal credence to those who say that the existence of the pyramids of Giza “point to” sentient alien beings who helped accomplish the feats of engineering? You’re both making large leaps without any factual or evidential bases.

    I see how evolution works, how you can trace back man’s development and prove that that’s how we developed. But again, that points to a God who guided our development and who created the world in such a way that that development would lead us to a point where we could acknowledge and worship him.

    That seems like a really sloppy way for God to go about doing things. And if he is so concerned with creating highly evolved forms of life capable of acknowledging him, doesn’t that necessarily suggest they have brains capable of both observation and extrapolation? If God made us reasoning animals, and wanted us to develop our reason until it leads us to him, then why would he chose to only reveal himself in illogical ways? If he wants us to use our evolved brains to find him, why doesn’t he give us evidence that conforms with the even the simplest logic our ape-brains have developed? Further, why did God become evident to only one very small group of people, if his entire goal of creation was to make humans smart enough to come to the conclusion that he exists through the self-evidential nature of the physical world? Why did the first humans who developed the ideas of religion go with Osiris instead of Yahweh?

    Also, what evidence do you have that humans were the purpose for evolution, when all lines of reason point to the conclusion that evolution is not teleological? Do you think God would have been okay with it if given some tweak in evolution a few million years ago dolphins evolved the ability to read and write before apes? Do you think dolphins were also made in his image? Would Jesus have been a dolphin?

  • 459. orDover  |  May 26, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    RLWemm, don’t beat yourself up about typos so much! We all make them! It’s just an artifact of the messy process of typing.

  • 460. Ash  |  May 26, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    so do you guys have faith in anything?

  • 461. orDover  |  May 26, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Nope, Ash. We’re a hardened bunch of empiricists.

    Although, I am personally willing to give certain concepts the benefit of the doubt, such as human decency. But then again, I only claim to believe in human decency because I have been treated so decently in the past, so I guess I believe in that according to evidence rather than faith as well.

  • 462. Ash  |  May 27, 2009 at 12:12 am

    do you trust people?

  • 463. Quester  |  May 27, 2009 at 12:57 am

    I trust people to be people. Is this going somewhere?

  • 464. RLWemm  |  May 27, 2009 at 2:03 am

    @Ash

    It depends on how you define the word “faith”. Here are some examples.

    The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD):
    1. strong belief in something, especially without proof
    2. a specific system of religious beliefs
    3. complete confidence or trust, such as in a person or remedy
    4. allegiance to a person or cause

    Collins Essential English Dictionary (CEED):
    1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
    2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
    3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one’s supporters.
    4. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.
    5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
    6. A set of principles or beliefs.

    I prefer not to strongly believe something without proof (AHD:1; CEED 2). I no longer have a specific system of religious beliefs (AHD:2; CEED:2 & 5). I rarely have complete confidence or trust in a person or remedy unless there is a long history which supports the idea that the behavior or efficacy is likely to occur consistently (AHD:3; CEED:1) I do not give unconditional allegiance or loyalty to a person or cause (AHD:4; CEED:3). I no longer have a secure belief in a god and a trusting acceptance of a god’s will (CEED:4). I do not have a set of principles or beliefs to which I dogmatically adhere. (CEED: 6).

    I do have a set of thought out moral principles which I use as a standard, but I do not hold them in a way which qualifies for the “faith” word since I would be quite happy to change or modify them in the light of new evidence.

    So, no. That’s the short answer. My considered opinion is that having a strong belief in anything without good evidence is stupid.

    I suspect that this is not what you thought you meant. Perhaps you are confusing the religious definition of “faith” (belief without evidence) with a confident belief about something based on considerable experience of how it has behaved in the past (belief on the basis of evidence). That is the mistake which Kilter made when he asked whether I now had faith in science instead of faith in his version of god. In his question the word “faith” has two very different meanings. In formal logic this is known as the equivocation fallacy.

    Here is how someone else explained it.

    Faith that the bus will arrive because it is on a schedule and has consistently arrived in the past is not the same thing as faith in a supernatural force. The former is basically just a synonym for belief; the latter is something else entirely. There are individuals without faith in either, I believe, but it is important to be clear which definition is being suggested as a universal human behavior. Often the suggestion that one has the former type of ‘faith’, simple belief or conviction in recurring phenomena, is used to imply that one has faith of the latter type, which is where the equivocation fallacy comes in. Belief in demons ratable occurrences and belief in realms of existence beyond the natural are, clearly, very different things.
    . . . . . . .
    The postulation that one cannot possibly exist without faith seems merely an act of projection: because one cannot comprehend existing without faith, one assumes others cannot exist without it either. Most such acts are rather obvious (if I were to project my disbelief in god onto society and assume that nobody can really believe in such a thing, that would be patently ridiculous), but when the vast majority of human society is a certain way, it’s all too easy to assume the entirety of human society is that way, and those who claim otherwise are merely deluding themselves in some fashion.

    It is doubtful if faith like that glorified in the Bible actually exists anywhere today, or even that it really existed in the past.

    Jesus said “if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘be removed and be cast into the sea’, it will be done.”(Matthew 21:21).

    Have you ever seen anyone move a mountain by telling the mountain to go jump in the ocean and then simply trusting that it would? No? I thought not. Have you seen anyone kill a fig tree by the same means? No? In fact, have you ever heard anyone at all tell an inanimate object to do something and then see that object do what they have commanded? Yes? Were they a stage magician or a Christian with no magical skills?

    In any case, what is the point of engaging in magic tricks of the petty caliber reported in the Bible? If you can work miracles by faith then why not do something worthwhile for the whole of humanity instead of throwing a temper tantrum over a fig tree, showing off by walking on water or making people drunker at a wedding? The Jesus figure is not painted as any different from all the others of that time who claimed to work miracles, heal the sick and be the true Messiah. In case you did not know, Jesus of Nazareth was not the only one reported to be engaging in this kind of thing. He is just the only one you know about. Google for Honi the Circle-Maker

  • 465. RLWemm  |  May 27, 2009 at 2:04 am

    @Kilter.

    God is my foundation for everything and what I always come back to when I don’t understand something, and I was wondering if science is that foundation for you. I think it’s pretty clear from your response that your answer is yes.

    You are quite wrong. I do not treat science like you treat your version of god.

    When I don’t understand something I look at the evidence and then use logic and/or the scientific method of enquiry to evaluate what I find. If the gap in understanding has to do with a branch of science then I will look at what the experts in that branch of science have to say. If the gap is in some other branch of knowledge then I will look at what the experts have to say there.

    If there is a controversy about it I will deliberately read what people have to say from both, or all, sides. I will look to see how the experts arrived at their conclusion (methodology) and at the quality of the evidence on which they base it (data). I am usually come down on one side or another but frequently I suspend my judgment until more facts are known. Sometimes I disagree with all of the experts, usually because I have some knowledge about the subject which they lack. If the controversy is within my own area of expertise then I may engage in discussion with the experts and/or plan a research project designed to clear up the confusion.

    Except in simple cases, like deciding the meaning of a word or the inter-language translation of another, I never pick up the nearest available text book in the area and uncritically believe what I read. I get the impression that you think that I uncritically accept anything which I read which is labeled “science” while perhaps allowing myself to think critically about information from other academic domains.

    The bottom line for me is not science. Nor is it language, art, music or yoga. It is certainly not a supernatural being which is, as a court of law would say, “not in evidence”. The bottom line for me is logic. The rules of logic are no more open to question than any other natural phenomena which can be empirically discovered. They are unquestionably axiomatic. If I want to determine the truth of something that is my ground.

    BTW, did any other reader conclude from my writings that I use science (the body of knowledge) rather than the tools of science, as the foundation of my decision making process?

    The purpose has always been to love God and to follow his will for our lives in order to bring him glory and worship in everything we do. Nothing else matters.

    What is the point of doing this if you gain nothing from it? Is it something you do because you are compelled by some force over which you have no control? Or are you going to relent and admit that you do it because it makes you feel good? In that case we have come full circle. I repeat, if it makes you feel good and it harms no-one else, then go for it. Just realize that you cannot validly claim it to be fact or reality.

    To me, all science says about the supernatural is that it is unable to prove its existence, which makes perfect sense, as science’s goal is to prove things about the universe and the supernatural is, by definition, something separate from the physical universe. …(T)he rules for these methods (especially the scientific method and court-room evidence) were created specifically for this world and do not take the supernatural into account.

    This is a specious cop-out. You know that there are no axiomatic rules of reasoning for dealing with the supernatural realm. You have only your fallible brain to lead you. Remember that there is reliable evidence that human brains are subject to all kinds of distortion and cannot be trusted in the absence of objective confirmation.

    You have also blatantly ignored the fact that disagreement about the supernatural realm is the norm, not the exception. You have absolutely no way of determining that your particular subjective belief or experience is any more real than the millions of contradictory ones that have preceded yours, co-exist with it, or will occur in the future.

    You have just admitted that you prefer to work with a flawed instrument and with rules of reasoning which you make up with its help. Now that is the kind of screwed up logic which led us to abandon our belief in a supernatural realm.

    If you can live with that kind of mental distortion, that’s fine. We can’t.

  • 466. RLWemm  |  May 27, 2009 at 2:12 am

    I tried to provide a link to the source of my quotation but the program discarded my posting when this was included. I have had this problem before. It is rather annoying as I like to acknowledge other people’s work.

    I am sure readers could find the original by searching for a chunk of its text.

  • 467. Ash  |  May 27, 2009 at 3:06 am

    I trust people to be people. Is this going somewhere?

    I’m just naturally curious and I wonder if I could gain more of an understanding of how your mind works. If my questions get too personal, please say so.

    what does “being a person” mean to you? Is there anything in the world that you trust completely, be it a person or an idea? Is there someone you would trust with your life? And is there anyone in the world that you would die for?

    Just to be clear I’m not going to try to psychoanalyze you or anything, I just want to see how your views on trust/faith/love differ with mine.

    RLWemm:

    “if you have faith and do not doubt”

    I would absolutely love to meet someone who has complete faith and zero doubt.

    So are you saying that you don’t believe in any one scientific theory, but in the scientific process itself? Would you say you have faith in your own intellect?

  • 468. Quester  |  May 27, 2009 at 3:19 am

    I know some people that I would trust with my life, but not my wallet. There are others I would trust with my car, so long as they were driving it and not trying to repair it. I trust absent-minded people to be absent-minded, arrogant people to be arrogant, honorable people to be honorable and most people to be some combination of the three, and more. I trust people will make mistakes. I trust people will occasionally surpise me, occasionally impress me, and occasionally disappoint me. I trust that I know no person perfectly, and that I will often be in error when I predict their responses to my trusting them. No one’s perfect, including me.

    There are several people I would die for. Dying’s easy. Living for people is much, much harder, and even more impressive. I can’t say that I do that, yet, but I’m working on it.

  • 469. Ash  |  May 27, 2009 at 4:46 am

    Interesting… you sound pretty healthy in the trusting people department.

    When I talk to people I always assume that they’re being honest and genuine (unless they’re being obviously sarcastic), but at the same time I’m always prepared to be disappointed. Not because I think they’ll disappoint me, but because certain circumstances in my life have led me to build a ridiculous mental shock guard. If I died and went to the gates of heaven and God decided to send me to hell, I might be crushed a little emotionally but my mind would been ready for it. If someone managed to come up with proof of God’s non-existence that was absolutely irrefutable, I would be disappointed, but ready for it.

    Three months ago, the only thing I knew for sure about the world was “people are different.” Before deciding to trust in the absoluteness of God, I was trying to figure out how to live without believing in anything.

    Do you have any absolutes in your life? If not, what do you think about the existence of the idea of an absolute?

  • 470. RLWemm  |  May 27, 2009 at 6:52 am

    @Ash:

    what does “being a person” mean to you? Is there anything in the world that you trust completely, be it a person or an idea? Is there someone you would trust with your life? And is there anyone in the world that you would die for?

    Although this was directed elsewhere I would like to answer it from my perspective.

    I am a retired clinical neuro-psychologist so I have a fairly wide understanding about the parameters of human behavior and personality. People are infinitely varied and variable and never absolutely predictable. You can make reasonable predictions about what a group of people might do in a specific circumstance if you have enough data to work with, but making predictions about specific people and how they will react in specific situations is difficult to do without a wide margin of error.

    For this logical reason I would be unwise to trust anyone completely and absolutely. People are not perfect; they make mistakes. Nobody is omniscient. No-one is an expert at everything and even experts make mistakes. The only absolute is that there is randomness and uncertainty built into biological beings.

    While I do not believe anyone is perfect, I am pragmatic enough to trust where trust appears to be necessary, wise or fairly well justified. When it is necessary to trust someone to do something it is wise to choose those who are best qualified for the job; by training, experience or personality.

    For example, I regularly trust doctors and surgeons with my life. That does not stop me worrying about them making an error of some kind. Before you sign a consent form, an ethical surgeon will explain the risks of the procedure and the estimated probabilities of these occurring. Unfortunately, I have already been the victim of an extremely rare “slip” by an otherwise excellent anesthetist. These things happen to the best of us. It cost me a lot of pain for a long time. I don’t blame the doctor for that. That’s real life.

    I would probably die for a lot of people, especially my husband and child. Sacrificing one’s life for one’s children seems to be programmed into parents. I am not sure whether I would be prepared to die for my country. Political agendas do not seem very moral in many cases.

    Someone once said: “Nothing is certain in this life except death and taxes”. That’s not far from the truth as I see it.

    I have good reason to be completely certain that I will die some day. I trust that idea absolutely. There is plenty of evidence to support it. Most things, however, are relative and probabilistic.

    Some people find uncertainty easier to deal with than others. Most children grow out of belief in absolutes, but some do not. In the course of my practice I met adults who had extreme difficulty seeing things in anything but extreme terms. They tried to force things into a minimum of categories, and preferred polar opposites where-ever possible. They processed things as all good or all bad, entirely white or entirely black. Where do you think you fit along this spectrum? Do you prefer to see life as black and white and good or bad, or do you cope well with a wide range of grays and the concept of relative goodness?

    I would absolutely love to meet someone who has complete faith and zero doubt.

    Fred Phelps and family are good examples. They have complete faith that god hates fags and loves only the fag-hating members of the Phelps family and their admirers.

    People with religious faith consequent to some forms of temporal lobe epilepsy are another example. They are totally convinced that the “sensed presence” they have as the result of faulty brain functioning is the god they are familiar with. They have no doubts about his whatever.

    Most people with schizophrenia, mania, paranoia, narcissistic personalities and other delusional conditions have complete faith in their delusions of god, saints, or their own divinity. They will perform “miracles” for you (very funny to watch because you can’t see anything actually happening) and have been known to kill themselves because of an unshakable belief in their ability to perform some kind of miracle or rise from the dead. They certainly have complete faith and zero doubt, even to the point of unintentional suicide.

    So are you saying that you don’t believe in any one scientific theory, but in the scientific process itself?

    “Yes” and “Yes, with conditions”. I’m flexible. I prefer to use the scientific process of truth evaluation only if it is appropriate for the problem at hand. I make little if any use of the scientific method when I am deciding how to express myself in Indonesian or Spanish, figuring out how to play a new piano piece, discovering if my husband would like to be hugged or guessing if my child wants more time to create podcasts on his computer.

    As far as science is concerned, if a theory about how an empirically determined fact works is well supported I will accept the explanation with whatever degree of certainty it has been assigned by those who have tested it. As for empirically determined facts, they are not in dispute.

    In case your science education was insufficient to make you aware of the difference between a fact and a theory about a fact, let me expand.

    Evolution is an empirically determined observable fact. No argument possible.

    On the other hand, a theory about how evolution works is open to question and assessment.

    As far as I know, there has only been one theory proposed to explain how evolution works. It is the well-known theory of the origin of the species by natural (rather than artificial) selection processes.

    It happens to be one of the best substantiated scientific theories of all time. Its predictions have been confirmed in a whole range of scientific specialties and new discoveries have been adding support from hitherto unthought of areas. On this basis, I believe I have good reason to accept that this explanation of the origin of the species is almost certainly correct, at least in its general tenets. I am aware that it has already been slightly modified in the light of new information and disconfirming evidence so it seems reasonable that other details might also be modified in the light of future discoveries. It seems extremely unlikely that the general tenets will ever be disconfirmed.

    In contrast to the theory of natural selection, the theory of direct creation of the different species does not rest on an empirical fact. There is no empirically determined fact of creation; there is only conjecture that his happened. Furthermore, the theory that (the so-called “fact” of) creation was the cause of the different species has no predictive power and no supporting data or evidence. It is fairly safe to say that it is not a scientific theory and almost certainly a false explanation of the origin of the species. Almost anything is theoretically possible but the creationist/ID explanation is highly improbable. There is no need to entertain it considering the overwhelming absence of compelling evidence.

    Would you say you have faith in your own intellect?

    Faith is not the right word. Unlike my delusional patients, I do not claim to be omniscient or omnipotent. According to my academic record I do better than most but I can only recall a handful of times when I have got a perfect score on an examination, assignment or project. I don’t trust my memory so I do a lot of fact checking and (not enough) proof reading.

    For most practical purposes, I have a reasonable expectation that my intellect will continue to help me figure things out fairly well and that I will probably do better than most people in a lot of areas, (at least until I aquire a brain impairement). I would not, however, expect to outsmart someone in their area of expertise if it were not also my own. [PZ Myers, please note that I will not have the gall to challenge your biological knowledge any time soon.]

  • 471. orDover  |  May 27, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Do you have any absolutes in your life?

    No

    If not, what do you think about the existence of the idea of an absolute?

    I’ve yet to see any evidence that actual absolutes exist, but the idea of it is not incomprehensible.

  • 472. Anonymous  |  May 27, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    “Joe

    Perhaps you misinterpreted the exercise with the toddler posted by RLWEMM? It was an allegory to illustrate the difference between the toddler’s reasoning capability and the one filling the glasses and how the toddler’s reasoning capability increases at she grows older. She’s not suggesting that we give 3 year-old’s philosophy lessons”.

    Paleale–

    Understood. However, I think it’s kind of cool to hear a 3 year old say “I think, therefore I am”. You don’t hear that too often. :>)

  • 473. LeoPardus  |  May 27, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Three months ago, the only thing I knew for sure about the world was “people are different.” Before deciding to trust in the absoluteness of God, I was trying to figure out how to live without believing in anything.

    Are you saying you’ve been a believer for 3 months?

    Do you have any absolutes in your life?

    I think so, but I’m not absolutely sure.

    If not, what do you think about the existence of the idea of an absolute?

    There is no question of the existence of the idea of an absolute. I’ve met too many folks who have that idea to deny it.

  • 474. paleale  |  May 27, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Leo

    I think so, but I’m not absolutely sure.

    I played a rimshot for you.

  • 475. kilter  |  May 27, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    RLWemm,

    When I don’t understand something I look at the evidence and then use logic and/or the scientific method of enquiry to evaluate what I find.

    Clearly, I am wording this extremely poorly. When I said “science” I meant the tools of science, i.e. evidence, logic, and the scientific method of enquiry, not just a blind belief in science itself. I am sorry that my meaning came across this way. I fully believe that you do your utmost to check every side of an issue and look at the evidence that supports each claim. From your many extensive replies, I cannot imagine you doing anything less.

    What is the point of doing this if you gain nothing from it? Is it something you do because you are compelled by some force over which you have no control? Or are you going to relent and admit that you do it because it makes you feel good? In that case we have come full circle. I repeat, if it makes you feel good and it harms no-one else, then go for it. Just realize that you cannot validly claim it to be fact or reality.

    I love my mother. When I visit home, I make a point of cleaning the house while she’s at work. It does not make me feel good while I do it (mostly I find it tedious and boring), nor do I receive anything for doing this except the occasional “Thank you.” I do this simply because I love my mother and I know that she doesn’t have time to clean the house as often as she’d like to. It’s a similar case for God. I love God because I believe that he loves me enough to die for me, thus I have dedicated my life to serving him. This is the basis of Christianity, not any hope of gaining anything. Sometimes I do gain things, but that is absolutely not the motivation for doing it.

    I am fully aware that I cannot claim God’s existence as fact. I’m not trying to convince you or prove anything. I’m just here to ask questions. I only pursued this point because I really wanted to clarify that Christianity has nothing to do with happiness because I find that people often misunderstand this.

    I think from here this conversation will just go in circles, but thank you for your detailed responses. I’ve learned something, believe me.

  • 476. Ash  |  May 27, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Do you prefer to see life as black and white and good or bad, or do you cope well with a wide range of grays and the concept of relative goodness?

    If I see white I’ll ponder the black, and if I see light grey I’ll ponder the dark grey. It’s not something that I do because I want to. It’s just, in my journey to completely desensitize my mind, I’ve gotten to a point where I see the opposite possibility for everything. However, since committing to Christianity I have become noticeably less of a devil’s advocate. (badumching)

    Most people with schizophrenia, mania, paranoia, narcissistic personalities and other delusional conditions have complete faith in their delusions of god, saints, or their own divinity.

    I won’t deny that the human mind can be weak and frail, hell I was on my way to becoming a psychopath myself. However, I was talking about faith and doubt concerning the God of the Bible, following Jesus’ rules to the letter, never letting their own arrogance/self-dependence or worldly matters come before God. In our society, I’m not sure such an existence is possible.

    Evolution is an empirically determined observable fact. No argument possible.

    I’m going to attempt to lay out my thoughts concerning evolution. If I’m going about this the wrong way, please forgive me for my ignorance. All I know of evolution is what I learned in high school and bits and pieces I hear from various sources.

    From what I gather microevolution is observable fact. I can believe that. Change is inevitable… in animals they respond to their environment, and with people it’s more complicated- who we mate with, ecology, mutations and physical deformities (I keep thinking Hiroshima bombings), etc.

    Microevolution happens only on the species level (?). Macroevolution is the whole ape to human, bird to dinosaur thing, right? When you say “evolution is an empirically determined observable fact,” are you talking purely microevolution, since macroevolution has never been observed (or has it?)? Or do you also believe firmly in macroevolution, since it is “almost certainly correct”?

    Although the fact of microevolution could be a model for the theory of macroevolution, I feel like the jump from “fruit fly—>new brand of fruit fly” to “fish—>mammal” is a bit radical, especially since such a thing has never been observed. Until I see evidence that macroevolution is more than a theory constructed through fossils and carbon dating and what not, I don’t feel that creationist ideas conflict with microevolution.

    From what I remember, in school they teach macroevolution as fact (I still remember the pictures). Has this changed, and if it hasn’t, do you think it’s fair that they teach theory as fact? When I learned about evolution, I had already stopped being a Christian for a while, so the concept was not hard to accept. I don’t think I cared much about how we came to be anyway- now that I think back, I guess I was more of a nihilist than any sort of hardcore atheist.

    Maybe this is because I’m not a scientist, but I see a lot of science as description… gravity describes how we are stuck to the ground, molecular biology describes how our bodies function, and microevolution describes the changes that go on in a species. Do you think it’s possible to reconcile the “fact” of evolution with the “theory” of creationism? I know a lot of creationists flaunt creationism as fact, when it’s actually just a theory… but then again, so is macroevolution (or not? Sorry I’m such a newb about this stuff!). Since I do believe in God, I believe he created us (in his image to boot), and I’m fine with not knowing how, but this seems to be a huge problem for so many people.

  • 477. Ash  |  May 27, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    orDover:

    nothing? Nothing like a “constant,” like in Lost?

    LeoPardus:

    Are you saying you’ve been a believer for 3 months?

    That was when I committed myself to God, more or less. Before that it took me almost two years to get over my own indecisiveness and disbelief in the concept of faith. I kept putting it off.

    I think so, but I’m not absolutely sure.

    lol.

  • 478. Quester  |  May 28, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Do I have any absolutes in my life? That’s hard to say. I used to. not many, but some. I still act as if there is an absolute reality and that it is possible to know something about it. My worldview is founded on the premise that what is, is, and the principle of cause and effect. But with appropriate evidence, I might be convinced to let go of even these absolutes. I don’t hold them as tightly as I once held my certainties.

    Until I see evidence that macroevolution is more than a theory constructed through fossils and carbon dating and what not, I don’t feel that creationist ideas conflict with microevolution.

    Have you looked for any evidence? Have you found a reasonable boundary that would stop microevolution from becoming macroevolution? Have you read even one book on introductory biology? Have you looked at how scientists define the word “theory” and how it differs from “hypothesis”?

  • 479. SnugglyBuffalo  |  May 28, 2009 at 1:03 am

    I’ve largely been content to sit back and lurk for the past few months, but I need to jump in here. Ash, you need to keep in mind that evolution is a theory in the same way that special relativity is a theory. You need to understand the difference between a scientific theory and the common, every-day usage of the word “theory,” which tends to be closer to “hypothesis” in science.

    Regarding the evidence, we have observed speciation. The only thing that has not yet been directly observed is changes drastic enough to result in a new genus. There is no valid reason I have seen that this cannot occur (I’ve seen plenty that seemed valid, but don’t stand up to scrutiny), and it is the best explanation we have for what we do observe about life.

    I was where you are at a number of years ago. In my last few years as a Christian, I finally had to admit that the evidence was overwhelming, and shifted my view to theistic evolution. As an aside, this shift had no part in my de-conversion, and there are plenty of people who are capable of reconciling evolution with Christianity; the idea that the two cannot co-exist is pure bunk from Biblical literalists who accept that Eve crushing the serpent’s head is a metaphor for Jesus defeat of Satan, but cannot accept that the story of Genesis might have been a metaphor to explain the origin of life.

  • 480. Ash  |  May 28, 2009 at 1:31 am

    I will admit that I’m a little elementary when it comes to science, but I can understand the basics. A hypothesis is a prediction about how an experiment will go, and a theory is a consistent collection of many hypotheses that forms a logical statement about certain phenomena… however, theories are always subject to testing and the possibility of change is always present. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Since I like to believe in the integrity of the scientific community, I take in most of what is said assuming the information is not skewed… although I don’t believe that scientists can’t lie, despite honesty being such a super important rule. That being said, is the fact that microevolution has never been seen to evolve to macroevolution not considered a boundary, since the possibility is still there? As I said before, I’m not a scientist, and that’s why I’m asking for solid information while questioning my own knowledge. Am I right in thinking that macroevolution has never actually been observed, or have I been misinformed?

    I am not a fundamentalist, never have been, and I do think the Bible uses a lot of figurative language. Right now I’m entertaining the possibility that monkeys to humans can be actual fact. God said that he made us from the dust– could the dust be referring to what you call the single cell lifeform that evolved into pretty much every living thing that exists today? As for “in God’s image,” I believe it is referring to the human spirit (if you believe in it) that makes us so different from animals. I’m wondering if he “breathed” the human spirit into the homo sapien form of our ancestors. If I did believe in macroevolution (and maybe someday I will, I’m definitely open to the idea should more evidence be found), I would still be able to see God’s hand in our creation.

    I do not believe logic is all there is to the world. I also believe faith and rationality can co-exist, just like the two “artistic” and “logical” halves of our brains.

    SnugglyBuffalo, if you don’t mind me asking, what did cause the shift to your de-conversion?

  • 481. RLWemm  |  May 28, 2009 at 4:23 am

    I won’t deny that the human mind can be weak and frail, hell I was on my way to becoming a psychopath myself. >

    Have no fear! Psychopaths are born, not made. You have a post-traumatic stress disorder: an acquired condition. You appear to have got beyond the depression and “empty” stages but my experience suggests that you are still in recovery and emotionally and socially at risk. Be kind to yourself. Time and love will heal most of the wounds but there will probably always be a part of you which remains vulnerable.

    From what I gather microevolution is observable fact. ….Microevolution happens only on the species level (?). Macroevolution is the whole ape to human, bird to dinosaur thing, right? When you say “evolution is an empirically determined observable fact,” are you talking purely microevolution, since macroevolution has never been observed (or has it?)? Or do you also believe firmly in macroevolution, since it is “almost certainly correct”?>

    Before I answer this I want to put the creation theory in geographical and historical perspective.

    I wonder if you know that the modern day creationist view of the origin of the species is almost exclusively confined to the adherents of a particular variant of American Christianity. A literal view of creationism ceased to be popular in other parts of the Christian world many decades ago. Even the archly conservative Catholic Pope has issued a statement saying that his church no longer sees a conflict between Christian dogma and Darwin’s theory of species development via the evolutionary process.

    Biblical scholars have known for over half a century that the Christian creation myths came from pagan religions. The Genesis creation stories arise from the aural traditions of both the north of Israel and the south of Israel. One tradition refers to god as El, the other refers to god as Yahweh. El was the chief God of the Canaanite pantheon while Yahweh was originally a deity of the Midianites and other desert tribes. In some versions of the El tradition, his Elohim (lower gods) included the god Yahweh. Yahweh was admonished by El for being a bad god. (Does this sound like the story of Satan to you?) The Yahweh god became the dominant one fairly early in the Jewish religious tradition and there is no mention of El or his Elohim after the first few books in what we call the Old Testament.

    Genesis recounts the two versions of creation one after the other: the El version and the Yahweh version. If you read them, you will discover that the order of creation is different. Biblical literalists engage in considerable semantic gymnastics in an attempt to reconcile them.

    Both the El and the Yahweh versions of the creation myth are based on a mythical story from a neighboring race with a different religion. Fortunately for scholars, this was recorded in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a document which was written much earlier than the first Jewish manuscripts and which has a number of linguistic features which marks it as the original story.

    In other words, the Genesis creation stories were borrowed from a religion which predates Judaism.

    Now that we have established some historical and literary background, let’s get back to your questions.

    There is no valid reason (apart from religious ones) why the process of evolution should be divided into micro- and macro-processes. It is the same process; only the time span is different.

    The evolution of new species has been observed both in the wild and in the laboratory. It is true that the changes have not been as dramatic as a shift from one class of animals to another. If such a huge change were observed in a short space of time this would invalidate Darwin’s theory, not support it. Nevertheless, the life-forms meet the criteria for a new species. (Do you know what these are?)

    There are numerous compelling arguments for the truth of Darwin’s theory. His scientific prophecies (predictions) have been fulfilled over and over again in a huge variety of specialist areas, and with incredible accuracy and specificity. The Biblical prophecies are hopelessly weak compared to these.

    You can find out all the details, which are far too numerous to mention here, at sites like http://www.worsleyschool.net/science/files/evolution/facts.html .

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-fact.html

    http://hms-beagle.com/PDFs/Facts%20about%20Evolution.pdf

    The bottom line is that evolution (the observable fact) is the same process whether it is called “micro” or “macro” and the theory of how it works to produce a variety of different species has passed all its tests with flying colors and is now rightfully and overwhelmingly considered to be a well-confirmed scientific fact in its own right by all but a few American pseudo-biologists. Creationism/ID, on the other hand, has failed to get to first base because it has failed to formulate a falsifiable hypothesis. It disqualifies itself entirely by requiring that a miracles occur as part of the process.

    Until I see evidence that macroevolution is more than a theory constructed through fossils and carbon dating and what not, I don’t feel that creationist ideas conflict with microevolution.

    [Insert huge sigh here.] My dear Ash, you really do need to get yourself a decent education in the sciences. You could drive a truck through the holes and build a warp drive from the distortions.

    There is absolutely no justification for splitting the process of evolution into micro- and macro-processes. There is no difference in the mechanism, speed, or effect over time.

    The theory of speciation via evolutionary processes does not depend on fossils and carbon dating. You could discard all of that and still have overwhelming evidence that the theory works and, contrary to the creation conjecture, has extraordinary explanatory and predictive power.

    The current knowledge in the field of genetics would be sufficient all on its own. Here is a small sample. (I am not a geneticist so I apologize to any experts reading this if I have not got it quite right. Do correct me.)

    When retroviruses infect organisms they copy their information permanently into the cells they infect and this information is passed down to future generations – provided that the original organisms survive the attack, of course. Somewhere in the history of human-kind a retrovirus infected the genome. We can trace that retrovirus back to the point where it first infected the genome – right back through the apes to an earlier ancestor. Darwin’s theory predicts that all the animals in that evolutionary line will show evidence of this retrovirus in their cells. And what do you know? All the animals which Darwin’s theory predicts should show evidence of the retrovirus do, in fact, show evidence of it. This is much better proof or our family tree than the incomplete fossil record.

    Apes and humans have 98 percent of their genes in common. Before you try to argue that god just used the same material to make everything, consider this.

    Humans have 23 chromosome pairs, apes have 24. You might expect that humans, being more complex, would have more rather than less chromosomes. Someone discovered that one of the human chromosomes had end-markers in its middle section as well as at both ends. When the pieces were separated and examined they turned out to have the same sequences as two of the ape chromosomes. We hadn’t lost a chromosome, there was a copying accident in one of our ancestors and two chromosomes were fused. The accident was passed into the line which eventually became human.

    Not all our genetic material is being used. Some of it is copying duplication errors. Some of it appears to be nonsense and/or structural material and some of it turns out to be incomplete, damaged or turned off genes that are functioning in species further down the family tree. One of these recently discovered genes gives African monkeys immunity to the HIV virus. Geneticists are trying to find a way to turn this dormant gene back on in humans so that we also become resistant to this virus. It’s nice to know that our ancient ancestors are still of use to us.

    Perhaps someone will find a way to turn off the genes which stop our gills from developing beyond the rudimentary stage in the uterus so that we can make use of our fish ancestry as well.

    And the list goes on and on and on, not only in the genetics field but in many other fields.

    BTW, getting back to the fossil record, the science news has been buzzing recently with news about the discovery of the so-called “missing link” . It links humans to lemurs. You can Google it under “missing link”.

    From what I remember, in school they teach macroevolution as fact … Has this changed, and if it hasn’t, do you think it’s fair that they teach theory as fact?

    You are confusing the common meaning of the word “theory” (=an unsubstantiated opinion or conjecture) with the meaning given to it in the scientific context (= a well supported explanation of how some observable phenomena works). In science a fact is something that is so highly probable that it would be silly not to accept it. Reputable schools teach scientific theories as fact because for all reasonable purposes they are fact. (There are no more than 5 chances in a 100 that it is false.) They don’t teach conjecture or religious doctrine as fact because, for all reasonable purposes, it isn’t. (There are 50 or more chances in a 100 that it is false.)

    Scientific theories are only tentative before they are tested and confirmed. Established scientific theories are actually a more complex form of scientific law. Like the word “theory”, the word “law” has a different meaning in science than it does in the legal world. In the legal world a law is something which has been legislated about: it requires a human law giver. In science a law is the quick summary of how something works. It is not legislated and it does not require a law giver. It requires a discoverer and a hoard of testers.

    If you did not learn these important definitions and distinctions in school than your science education failed you. Unfortunately this leaves you wide open to easy manipulation by the scientifically ignorant but charismatically persuasive individual.

    I see a lot of science as description… gravity describes how we are stuck to the ground, molecular biology describes how our bodies function, and microevolution describes the changes that go on in a species.

    You need to do a little research on the difference between an observable fact and the theory or explanation of how the observable fact works. Gravity is an observable fact. You are stuck to the ground by something we give this name. The theory of gravity explains how it works, how gravity keeps you on the ground. Like the theory of evolution, it is an extremely well supported theory so we call it factual. On the other hand, the theory of intelligent falling is not. This theory explains the process of gravity as the intentional act of the intelligence who invented the law.

    I am surprised your science teacher did not make the distinction between fact and descriptive explanation clear. Did you attend school in Kansas, by any chance? That would help explain why you divide the process of evolution into two parts, one which happens within species and one which happens somewhere else (goodness knows where you think that is). There is no valid basis for this distinction. It’s exactly the same process working at exactly the same speed in exactly the same way.

    Do you think it’s possible to reconcile the “fact” of evolution with the “theory” of creationism? I know a lot of creationists flaunt creationism as fact, when it’s actually just a theory, but then again, so is macroevolution (or not?)

    Creationism doesn’t even rate as a scientific theory. It’s an opinionated conjecture with no factual evidence to support it. The Pope thinks that the theory of speciation by evolution and the concept of creation can be reconciled, but I do not believe he has any expertise in any of the relevant sciences.

    I would lump “micro” and “macro” evolution in the “unsubstantiated opinion” basket along with the creation conjecture. I wouldn’t elevate either of them to the status of scientific theory.

    Since I do believe in God, I believe he created us (in his image to boot).

    What do you think this actually mean, Ash? Do you look like your version of god? Entirely? Partly? Which parts are different? Here is an exercise to help you figure it out. Begin by deciding whether you are made in the image of El, Yahweh, or Jesus then start with the hairs on your head and work down to your toes. Be brutally honest. Don’t cheat by ignoring parts.

    Which of your bodily parts would be useful in a spirit state? Which would not? Does your version of god have the “design failures” we have inherited from our ancestors? Things like an appendix? back-to-front eyes with a blind spot in each eye because of it? a tail bone with no tail attached to it? nipples?

    Does god have hair? What color is it? What color is his skin? Does he have hair on his chest? Does he have a heart which pumps? What does it pump and why? Why would he need fingers when he can just think something into existence? Why would he need legs when he is everywhere? Does he have a penis or a vagina, and if so, what does he do with them. Since you are female does this make you an inferior copy of your male god?

    Does he have chromosomes? Does he have 23 pairs like us, or 24 like the great apes? Where did the matched pairs come from? Or does he have an unmatched set? Which ones did he give to Mary when he impregnated her? How many of the god-genes were turned on in Jesus and how many of the god-genes were turned off by more dominant Mary genes?

    If you decide that it is just too difficult to prove equality, or even similarity, of physical image, try defining the image as spiritual instead? If it is your spirit which is made in the same mould as the spirit of god, what would that imply? How much of it is identical? How many god-like qualities do you have? Omniscience? Omnipresence? Omnipotence? Omni benevolence? Fear producing characteristics? Terribleness? A capacity for provoking a worshipful response from others? Does god have “free will” or is that not part of the shared image?

    Are you sure you want to take the Bible as the literal non-allegorical truth in every respect, or only where it supports the group think of the people you currently identify with?

  • 482. RLWemm  |  May 28, 2009 at 4:37 am

    @Leo

    I think so, but I’m not absolutely sure.

    LOL. Droll.

  • 483. LeoPardus  |  May 28, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Ash:

    A hypothesis is a prediction about how an experiment will go, and a theory is a consistent collection of many hypotheses that forms a logical statement about certain phenomena… however, theories are always subject to testing and the possibility of change is always present. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    You’re right about ‘hypothesis’ and mostly right about ‘theory’. The term ‘theory’ gets used in such a way that it actually covers a large spectrum. Sometimes ‘theory’ is just a notch above ‘hypothesis’. Sometimes ‘theory’ is tantamount to ‘law’. The only way to actually know where in the spectrum any given use of ‘theory’ falls, is to study it a bit yourself.

    So the ‘theories’ of special and general relativity have been tested so extensively that considerable parts of them could be called ‘laws’. Of course there are still parts of relativity that haven’t been tested and there are caveats to parts of the theories where modification can still happen.

    The situation is much the same in evolution. It’s been tested extensively and stood up well to the testing. At the same time there are parts of the theory that are still plenty malleable.

    Don’t know if that helped.

  • 484. RLWemm  |  May 28, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    @Ash.

    I am sorry for being rather blunt about your lack of basic science knowledge yesterday. Considering that you had mentioned that you might not know it all, my response was a little over the top.

    I was having a lot of trouble squaring up your assertion that you had studied biology at American College level (AP) when an Australian Year 10 graduate would have shot holes in what you were writing about this subject. I was aware that there were differences in educational level between my country of origin and my country of residence but seeing it presented so starkly was a shock. The standard of education in the USA is not your fault.

    It would have been better if I had waited before I responded to your posting. I was operating on four hours sleep and frustration over having to buy my son a set of formal clothes for his school graduation tomorrow (which he will never wear again because he will have grown out of them next year) and my son’s teenage tantrum over it all. Bad day.

    Truce?

  • 485. SnugglyBuffalo  |  May 28, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    To put it another way, macroevolution is nothing more than microevolution over a long period of time. While we have not directly observed evolution over a long period of time, we can make predictions based on that hypothesis, and they have tended to be very accurate. All the evidence we have points to it, and the only people who still push against the idea anymore are those who feel their faith is threatened by it (and those who simply don’t understand it fully).

    As for my de-conversion, it largely focused on a simple lack of evidence for God. I had plenty of subjective experience to point to God, but nothing that I could say with even reasonable certainty wasn’t just fabricated by my mind. When I look at the world around me, I see no evidence of anything supernatural. I realized that I only believed it because it was what I had been taught, that it all appeared utterly ridiculous when I came at it from a neutral starting point instead of beginning with God’s existence as my premise.

  • 486. Ash  |  May 28, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    RLWemm:

    It’s okay, I’m also at fault for not being an expert. Thanks for the encouragement, but I honestly don’t have much interest in the sciences. I’m sorry if that makes me less intelligent in your eyes. However, I will read up more about current-day theories of evolution when I have time, since it’s become one of the biggest arguments against the existence of God.

    I also agree that high school education in America is pretty weak. I mean, I did all my studying the morning before the AP and still passed it. For the last essay question I wrote “my hands hurts.” XD I still consider that 3 a miracle (in the “how the hell did that happen” way, not in the “God gave me a pass because he loves me” way.)

    as for your answer to my question about micro vs. macro:

    micro and macro evolution are one in the same, but species to new species evolution is impossible to observe because of the time it takes for that kind of transition. All evidence from observable microevolution is consistent with the theory of macroevolution, thus macroevolution is a strong theory which has become a law, and thus, it is fact.

    Sorry I had to dumb it down so much for myself to understand, but is this what you’re saying?

    I see evolution as the explanation for our origins a probable possibility, but still, just a possibility. My personal philosophy in life is dependence on the possible, not the probable. It’s improbable for me to leave college and become a nun, but it’s possible. There are no more than 5 chances in a 100 that it is false sounds to me like there is still a small chance that the theory is false.

    Even if the theory was true, I don’t think it points to the definite non-existence of God. Genesis tells us that God made us, but it’s never specified how he made us. In the Bible it’s not the how, but the fact that we were created by Him that’s important. It’s not the physical realm that connects us with God, it’s our souls (if you believe in such a thing). So I don’t think “in His image” has anything to do with our physical bodies.

    Leo: thank you for making clear the scientific definition of theory. I find it admirable that scientists have so much respect for malleability.

    I realized that I only believed it because it was what I had been taught, that it all appeared utterly ridiculous when I came at it from a neutral starting point instead of beginning with God’s existence as my premise.

    I understand that. When I left Christianity I didn’t bother studying the Bible because I didn’t care if God existed or not. I never approached it with an atheist mindset because I never approached it at all. I imagine if I didn’t have faith in God’s existence I would probably find everything ridiculous as well.

  • 487. RLWemm  |  May 29, 2009 at 12:49 am

    @Ash.

    No-one is at fault for not being an expert, only for pretending to be one if you are not. You were not pretending so that’s fine.

    I don’t consider you to be less intelligent because you don’t know everything I know :-) You continue to prove that you are quite intelligent. You simply lack knowledge in areas crucial to the thesis you want to be true. There is no shame in that, unless you leave it at that.

    You paraphrased the micro/macro comments (made by me and others) fairly well. The only mistake is that it is phylla to phylla changes which cannot directly observe due to our relatively short life span. There have been several examples of species to species changes observed and noted by scientists.

    The arguments you are not making are similar to those used in main stream churches throughout the world. I don’t think they go far enough (obviously) but they are much saner than the Creationist/ID position.

    There are no more than 5 chances in a 100 that it is false sounds to me like there is still a small chance that the theory is false.

    The figures I quoted for scientific theories versus religious theories are bare minimum figures. The cut-off point in the behavioural sciences for deciding whether something is a real or a chance phenomena is set at 5 chances in a 100. In reality is it usually much slimer than this. In medical science the cut off level is often set as high as 1 chance in a thousand. No matter what the cut-off point is set at, experimenters report the actual probability levels obtained for their sample. The chances of an effect being due to chance may be close to zero.

    The chance level is set at 1 chance in 2 (or 50 in 100). Unless a scientist has couched his hypothesis in the negative the true probability of something NOT being true is not calculated and is politely assumed to be equal to pure chance.

    Many conjectures which have been proposed by religions and ideologies, when able to be tested, do very much worse than chance.

    Examples.

    Darwin’s theory of the origin of the species by evolution has been so well supported that the probability of it being wrong in its general contentions approaches zero. Whatever the actual figure is, it is a remote chance indeed.

    On the other hand, the chance of the creationist conjecture being correct is WAY smaller than chance levels. It’s more like one chance in several billion than an equal 50/50 chance. In other words, the chance of it being correct are as remote as the existence of Santa Claus orfairies. That doesn’t stop young kids from believing in their heart that St Nick and Tinkerbell exist or that they saw or talked to one or both of them.

  • 488. Anonymous  |  May 29, 2009 at 9:50 am

    There are no more than 5 chances in a 100 that it is false sounds to me like there is still a small chance that the theory is false.

    The fact that you are willing to disbelieve the theory based on 5 in 100 odds in favor of a much LESS supported theory tells me your mind is already made up and you are searching for reasons to keep your beliefs.

  • 489. LeoPardus  |  May 29, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Ash:

    A note on your statement that evolution is an argument against the existence of God: It is not. There are huge numbers of people who believe in BibleGod and believe evolution. There’s no conflict unless you want there to be one.

  • 490. RLWemm  |  May 29, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    @Leo:

    That’s half right, Leo.

    The people who have difficulty are those whose beliefs depend on accepting the Bible as a the literal “word of God”, with no mistakes possible.

    The way my theology school explained it was that the Bible was a tale of man’s increasing understanding about the nature of God. That effectively dismissed all the Old Testament stuff as well as allowing the New Testament stuff to be partially correct and dismissed if it did not fit the morals and ethics of modern societies .

    Another interpretation was that the moral teachings in the Bible were appropriate for the time and place but may not be literally appropriate for modern society. I recall going to great lengths to prove to myself, and others, that Jesus was not against divorce, just against the cruelty to women which resulted from capricious dismissal and failure to financially and socially support them.

    In the end I couldn’t justify these arguments, either, but they remain the bulwark of so-called Christian “moderates”.

  • 491. LeoPardus  |  May 29, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    The people who have difficulty are those whose beliefs depend on accepting the Bible as a the literal “word of God”, with no mistakes possible.

    Ah yes. Those kind. Did you know that recent archeological findings have proven that those sorts of folks have been around a long time?

  • 492. paleale  |  May 29, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Nice, Leo. Nice link. lol!

  • 493. Joe  |  May 29, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    The anonymous post replying to Eve’s Apple and OrDover is me by the way. I forgot to put my name. I do seriously mean that I am trying to understand–I have been trying to understand for some time now.

  • 494. Ash  |  May 29, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    The fact that you are willing to disbelieve the theory based on 5 in 100 odds in favor of a much LESS supported theory tells me your mind is already made up and you are searching for reasons to keep your beliefs.

    This is not what I meant. I’m not closing my mind to the possibility of it being false, either in details or in its entirety. That has nothing to do with my beliefs, and everything to do with my attitude concerning possibilities.

    Leo:

    I definitely don’t want there to be a conflict! Then my own insecurities would no longer be the main source of my doubt. There are already so many other things I have to verify for myself, such as the history, so-called contradictions in the Bible, etc. Creationism vs. Evolution is the least of my problems.

    I’m really grateful to you guys for being so patient with me and answering my questions. I also have to apologize for getting a bit carried away in the beginning, but it was a great way for me to find out where I was in my faith.

    I have to focus on finals now, and projects for the summer, but I’ll try to drop by every once in a while- unless of course you’d prefer I stay away. And this will probably piss you off, but I’ll pray for you. I just can’t help it! =P

  • 495. RLWemm  |  May 29, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Very politically incorrect, Leo. [Insert politically incorrect giggle here.]

    BTW, what form of leopardus are you?

  • 496. paleale  |  May 29, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    . I also have to apologize for getting a bit carried away in the beginning, but it was a great way for me to find out where I was in my faith.

    No worries, Ash! Sometimes it takes a bit of overdoing it in order learn where your boundaries are. I’ve definitely been guilty of the same thing more than a few times in my life. :-)

  • 497. RLWemm  |  May 29, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    @Ash.

    Good luck with your finals. See ya later.

  • 498. LeoPardus  |  May 30, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Ash:
    Good luck on finals and projects. And drop by anytime. Sadly, decent, open, Christians who just ask questions and make mild counters are rare. And don’t worry about being carried away, you pulled up and apologized. What more could anyone ask?

  • 499. LeoPardus  |  May 30, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Politically incorrect I sure am. No matter which side of politics I’m dealing with. I just never fit in any camp. :)

    BTW, what form of leopardus are you?

    Melanistic. I just vanish in the night.

  • 500. LeoPardus  |  May 30, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Darn italics tag. The last line isn’t supposed to be italicized.

  • 501. RLWemm  |  May 30, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    That would make you rare and beautiful :-)

  • 502. Laura Brooks  |  August 2, 2009 at 1:26 am

    I know why you guys think God isn’t real, or that He left you. It happened to me too after going to Iraq (I was in the Marine Corps). I tried to pray, I tried to read the Bible, and I went to some really ignorant, backwoods stupid churches. I went to psychiatrists, I went to preachers, I spoke with atheists and Christians (REAL ones not hypo’s or liars)and I FINALLY realized, it was I who left HIM, not the other way around. He has given us free will to do as we please. Its a LOT of work to stay close to Him, because the world, society, evil and evil people, mirder rape etc all make us want to pull away, like a rebellious child, whic is what we are. But He allowed His own son to suffer and die, to pay for our “misbehaving”, so now it’s free. A free ticket to heaven, we just have to have a little trust, and take it. I promise, if you are honest with your own basic need for Him and your loneliness and sadness and disappointment that He has never answered, He WILL if you are HONEST with yourself first, and then Him. I applaud your reasoning and debate without totally hating on us Christians…there are so many bigots and racists and ignorant fools pretenging to be Christians just becuase…I;m so sorry for their behavior and misrepresentation. Id like to make up for that if i can./

    OH—I once told God I hated Him and didn’t believe in Him anymore…and then I got closer to Him than ever before. I think I kind of made a psychological breajthrough, I told the God I didnt understand to “go away”, and kind of invited the REAL one to come and help me.

    I love you all dearly and pray for your understanding. There is NOTING wrong with hating religion. Religion itself was invented by man. God never did. We did, and we screwed it all up.

  • 503. Quester  |  August 2, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Have you tries reading what you just typed, Laura? You just told us that Jesus gave us a free ticket to heaven. All we need to do in order to receive this free ticket is:

    – “a LOT of work to stay close to Him”
    – “have a little trust, and take it”
    – be “honest with [our] own basic need for Him and [our] loneliness and sadness and disappointment that He has never answered”
    – be “HONEST with [ourselves] first, and then Him”
    – make a “psychological breajthrough”
    – and tell “the God [we] [don't] understand to “go away”, and kind of [invite] the REAL one to come and help [us]“.

    You know, Laura, I have a free trip to Paris I’d like to offer you. You just have to pay for:

    – your airfare
    – your accomodations
    – your food
    – and everything else

    But at least Paris exists.

    Thank-you for dropping by. Thank-you for caring, and for several kind words. I don’t thank-you, though, for telling me what I feel and what I’m going through. You don’t have to make up for any other Christians, Laura, but neither should you feel obliged to try to fix atheists. We’re actually doing quite fine. Thanks.

  • 504. RLWemm  |  August 2, 2009 at 3:04 am

    @Laura from the Marine Corp

    It’s very obvious that you did not read much on this site or you would be well aware that you have absolutely no idea why de-cons no longer believe that there is a god.

    Your logic is very flawed. Someone cant imagine that a god has left them if they don”t believe that any god exists. Nor can they hate a god they don’t think exists. You can only believe such things if you actually believe that a god, or a particular god, exists.

    The statement: “I once told God I hated Him and didn’t believe in Him anymore” is a logical contradiction. Unless, of course, you think that ceasing to “believe in” someone means that you just don’t trust them rather than that you don’t believe that they exist.

    We, OTOH, no longer believe that there is any good logical reason to believe that a god exists. We think exactly the same thing about Santa Claus, the Easter Rabbit and the Tooth Fairy. We no longer think there is any good logical reason why these entities exist in reality either. I presume that you have come to a similar conclusion about the validity of these three.

    Just so that you can get an idea of how rediculous your argument sounds to us let me substitute appropriately.

    I once told Santa I hated him and didn’t believe in him anymore…and then I got closer to him than ever before. I think I kind of made a psychological breakthrough, I told the Santa I didnt understand to “go away”, and kind of invited the REAL one to come and help me.’..

    I agree with you that religion was invented by man (and woman) and not by the supernatural entities that are worshiped by the religious. I do not, however, find anything logical about your belief that your own personally made-over god is any more real than anyone else’s. Nor do I find anything logical about your statement that your worship of that unique personalized version is anything less of a religion than the religions and religious practices you despise.

    The very definition of religion (look it up in on-line dictionaries) includes your description of your own beliefs and behaviors, ergo you practice a religion whether you like the term or not. You and other like-minded Christians cannot simply redefine the word to suit yourselves. It is semantic nonsense to do so and marks the (mis)user as an inadequately educated person.

    What you apparently mean to say is that you simply do not choose to worship other people’s versions of the Christian god (or any other named god), and that you do not choose to worship your version of god in the company of others and/or in formalized ceremonies. You also choose to distance yourself from people who call themselves Christians but who don’t behave in a fashion which meets your personal moral standards and personal ideals. That is all.

    Think about this. When you behave in ways that other people who call themselves Christians don’t like they will be equally quick to brand you as “not a real Christian” and/or blame it on the fact that you are “religious” while maintaining that they are not.

  • 505. LeoPardus  |  August 2, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Laura,

    Not sure if you;re even going to read this since you may be a drive by.

    You do not know why we think God isn’t real. If you did, you would not have bothered with your post.

    Find the BIG, RED EXCLAMATION POINT near the top right of the site and read those posts. They might help you understand.

    Briefly, I don’t think most of us have even the slightest doubt that BibleGod is simply a figment of mythology and imagination. He is utterly NOT a real being. This fact is demonstrable from all possible starting points (except presuppositional ones).

    To quote Billy Joel, “It’s just a fantasy, whoaohoh, it’s not the real thing”

  • 506. Quester  |  August 2, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Leo, this *is* one of the two posts linked to beside the big, red exclamation point.

  • 507. Joshua  |  August 3, 2009 at 11:06 am

    “OH—I once told God I hated Him and didn’t believe in Him anymore…and then I got closer to Him than ever before.”

    If you don’t believe in God, who were you talking to when you said you don’t believe in Him?

  • 508. Joe  |  August 3, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    As a visitor here and reading the above posts I do have to say that one of the hardest things for me to grasp (though I think I am able to see if far more clearly now) is that many of the deconverted here REALLY do not believe in God any more.

    For a while I thought—“oh they SAY they don’t believe–but inside they really MUST believe” and I admit this was a huge error. I think that mindset is what leads to a lot of misunderstanding, and a lot of mis-posting by myself and others.

    Coming to “accept” that you really have come to the conclusions you STATE, rather than feeling that some other reality actually exists that you REALLY MEAN. I guess what I am trying to say is that I have found it very hard to BELIEVE what you are saying is really true—but I do see that that is indeed the case, and many of my arguments have come from the realm of what I BELIEVE, rather than what is REAL in your case. I hope I am explaining that correctly—and my aplogies for not making an attempt at understanding your position.

  • 509. Joe  |  August 3, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I know it sounds crazy that I could have visited here this long and never really believed that you actually DON’T BELIEVE–but I really feel that is the case. Perhpas that is why I have continued to visit—-trying to understand how someone could go from believing to REALLY not believing. I have been unwilling to accept that that could literally be the case! I see that I have always addressed everyone here as though they believed (even secretly) but “say” they don’t—rather than really ACCEPTING the fact that you truly have come to a place where you literally do not believe.

    I think that is very hard for some people (myself the biggest offender) to accept as truth. When Leo said “you just don’t get it” he was right. Though I think it was more “you just don’t WANT to get it”. I’ll continue (as I have been doing) to just listen —but I wanted to share this moment of “enlightenment” if you will. :>)

  • 510. RLWemm  |  August 3, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    @Joe

    Hearty congratulations! You have indeed made a breakthrough in understanding. Yes, we really did believe, many of us quite fervently. Yes, we now really do not believe that there is any logical justification for believing what we once believed. And the world continues to revolve in the manner as it did before.

    To us it is a past chapter in our lives, rather similar to those fondly remembered times when we fervently believed in fairies, Santa and the Easter Rabbit. The only qualitative difference is that belief in fairies, Santa and that egg laying rabbit is not socially acceptable beyond a certain age so losing our beliefs in that realm were encouraged, not hampered. They also did not take over our lives in the same way that our religious beliefs did. If they had we would have been shipped off to the psychiatrist by our concerned teachers and parents. Other than that, there is essentially no difference.

    We have at least the same level of moral development and practice (and possibly higher) than we had before. We still care about others. We continue to love our spouses, children and friends and many of us would be prepared to lay down our lives for them if this would save them from some horror which our death could prevent.

    Life would simply go on without drama if it were not for the fact that religious people discriminate against us, try to force their beliefs (which may have been ours in the past) on us by way of legislation and social pressure. If this did not happen then thoughts of our previous beliefs would take a back seat like our other discards ones.

  • 511. Joshua  |  August 3, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Wow, Joe. A hearty applause – even from me – for that breakthrough.

    Yes, I really do not believe. What is more, I cannot believe. This has been something that I have been trying to communicate to believers for quite some time: it is not that I secretly believe and don’t want to admit it. Also, it is not that I do not believe, but do not want to even if presented valid evidence. It is just that I sometimes even want to believe, but cannot.

    I sometimes want to believe, but cannot. I cannot believe.

    And I mean what I just said as plainly as I could say “the sky is blue”.

    So in a sense, I think it is important to all Christian readers to realize this. To believe us when we say it, not to judgmentally insinuate we are not only depraved sinners turning our back on God, but that we are lying about not believing.

    I mean, how can relationships go anywhere – how can communication go anywhere – if one person starts with the assumption the other person does not really mean what they say? It is somewhat arrogant to start with this assumption, and that, that!, my friend, is what leads to “angry atheists”. We are not angry at the Christian god, we are angry at those of you who believe in that god, and who now continue a relationship and interaction with us on the foundational premise that we are depraved liars who do not mean what we say.

    That is why we sometimes get angry.

    Now for a moment, try to put your self in our shoes and imagine just how much that would confound and infuriate you. Imagine trying to talk to someone who assumes you are guilty until proven innocent. Every word, every comment of yours is scanned for the tiniest piece of evidence that your suspicion is correct. Everything you say must be said as if treading on eggshells, and even then, when you say what you plainly mean, the other person tries to interpret it in such a way that it confirms their suspicion that you are a liar. After a while, you would just give up and give in to the emotion and not care, because all the rational discussion in the world means nothing to a man who does not trust the one speaking.

    It is a matter of believing us when we speak. Believe us.

    So now, the real kicker. See if you can believe and comprehend this!

    We do not talk about religion and god so much because we secretly believe in him, we talk about him so much because god – even in not existing – is a concept that directly affects our lives on a daily basis.

    Imagine living with an extremely superstitious person. You know the type, the type who believes dropping a dish towel means an unwanted guest is going to show up at the door. That type.

    Now imagine dealing with this day after day after day and trying to reason with this person daily about how their superstition does not work, and every time they offer a “rational” explanation about how they were “misinterpreting” the signs, you just want to explode.

    You would start a blog about how stupid superstition is.

    Then imagine someone coming onto your blog claiming that the reason you started the blog was because you secretly believed superstition was true. After all, why would you spend so much time talking about it?

    Maybe, just maybe, you get a glimpse of what we deal with.

    Now imagine that every person in your life is superstitious.

    Hell is real. Don’t be a demon.

  • 512. Joshua  |  August 3, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    Oh, I might add.

    Can Christians imagine how inane, how preposterous, how uncouth, how demonically sadistic it would be if atheists went around pronouncing… at every opportunity:

    that all Christians secretly do not believe but are just claiming they do for social reasons?

    Can you imagine how insultingly infuriating that would be?

    My guess is a lot of Christians would call this a form of persecution.

    Don’t persecute us.

  • 513. donny  |  August 3, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    I must say that I have tries to be a believer. I’ve asked and wished the holy spirit to come to me. I’ve practiced meditation and mantra’s I’ve eaten the right foods and tried to do the right breathing. My chakras have been aligned. I’m now 57 and have realized that I spent the better part of my life looking for something that does not exist.

    Now I have come to the point where I love what does exist. I feel good about my life and as weird as it sounds feel good about my fellow humans. I truly believe that if we could get past the meme of religion and belief in imaginary friends then we could make the world a better place to live. Imagine all the people living life in peace, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

  • 514. Quester  |  August 3, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Welcome, Donny! Enjoy making the world a better place!

  • 515. Joe  |  August 4, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Joshua—

    #511 and #512. Very well put. You hit it on the head for sure. I realize now that the way I have been addressing deconverts here is like a person trying to make someone who doesn’t love them jealous. It is just never going to happen. Trying to “convince” someone who REALLY does not believe by using the very Scripture they now reject is futile. I truly see that very clearly now.

  • 516. Joshua  |  August 4, 2009 at 11:46 am

    “here is like a person trying to make someone who doesn’t love them jealous.”

    I’m not sure I get your analogy, but okay :)

    “Trying to “convince” someone who REALLY does not believe by using the very Scripture they now reject is futile.”

    Hahaha, so you ARE here to proselytize :)

  • 517. Joshua  |  August 4, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Oh, I guess I get your analogy now… you are just pointing out the futility of trying to access an emotional or intellectual base that does not exist because an assumption is incorrect. I like it.

  • 518. Joe  |  August 4, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Joshua—-

    Yes—in the past I believed I might be able to get some deconverts to turn back to God. I came to try to understand–but a lot of the time I also spent trying to “re-convince”.

    Yes—strange analogy—but kind of true. Have you ever seen someone who will not accept the fact that a person TRULY does not love them, or like them in a romantic manner? They will make attempts to make the other person jealous, or “attract” them—-but it is utterly futile—-the other person REALLY does not like them that way—but they refuse to accept that or admit it.

    In like manner, some Christians (pointing finger at me also) will not ACCEPT the fact that there REALLY ARE people who once believed, who now REALLY do not believe any more!

    I could not accept this for a very long time. I’m not sure why, but it’s like a light went on and I see it now clearly. I continue to believe—-but others have chosen not to—–and I need to just accept that fact. I know it’s silly that I didn’t see it before—-but what can I say? I’ve got a thick skull.

  • 519. Joshua  |  August 4, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    It seems to me that we tend to interpret the actions of others through how we would act. So if we cannot imagine actually believing X, we conclude that a person who says they believe X does Y because of Z, not X. If that makes sense.

    So for example. I once sat with my dad and explained to him that I was an atheist. During our conversation he alluded to the fact that I was either:

    a) lying when I was a Christian
    b) lying when I now say I am an atheist

    It made complete sense to me why he would say that, because it was founded on the assumption that:

    People who truly believe never leave.

    This is, as Richard once pointed out, the No True Scotsman fallacy. By defining the group of True Believers as those who never stop believing, you basically alienate that entire group. It is insulting to tell a man born in Scotland that he is not a True Scotsman because of the way he prepares his tea.

    [This, btw, is an example TO ME of a logical fallacy committed by some of the Biblical authors. Obviously to others, it is not an error, because they start with the assumption the Bible does not have errors and interpret the data through that assumption, rather than determining whether the Bible has errors or not based upon the data.]

    Actually, that is a good point as well.

    Do we start with assertions and then interpret the data, or do we gather the data, determine all the possible hypothesis’, set up a test to determine which hypothesis is correct, and then accept that one?

    It sounds like you were before interpreting apostates (the data) based upon assertions (like “no one who truly believes ever leaves”). Instead, we should all be gathering the data and finding ways to determine which assertions are the most accurate given the data we have.

  • 520. Joe  |  August 4, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Joshua—-

    #519—again, you hit the nail on the head. “People who truly believe never leave”, and “either you were never a true believer or you are lying now that you claim to be an atheist” (paraphrase) is exactly how I was interpreting deconverts on the board.

    I think the same happens to MANY Christians who stumble in here or visit—-they say to themselves “No way!” They cannot accept that someone could once have been a Christian who no longer believes, and interpret the “atheism” as not real—-a “front” for a belief they are holding onto secretly. It seems it should be so simple to understand this—but I have to admit I have struggled with it for some time now.

  • 521. Quester  |  August 4, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Joe,

    Go a step further and realize that not believing was not something we chose, and you’ll almost be at the point we’d expect a reasonable person to be, before you made your first post here.

  • 522. Joshua  |  August 4, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    “It seems it should be so simple to understand this—but I have to admit I have struggled with it for some time now.”

    And quite honestly, I don’t know normally know how to “deal” with this:

    On the oft-Christian assumption we secretly believe…

    If we (ex-Christians) use reason, Christian’s assume we must be deceiving / deceived with our intelligence.
    If we use humor, they say we are not using enough reason.
    If we use pathos, they say we are are not dealing with the arguments.
    If we get angry, they say this reveals we are angry at God.
    If we remain calm or apathetic, they say we are not dealing seriously with the issues.

    How could I ever convince someone that their presupposition is the problem when they will not allow their presupposition to be tested because they don’t trust any test we could propose?

  • 523. Joe  |  August 4, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Quester—

    I understand what you are saying. But you see, that is the part I think that is so hard for a Christian who stumbles in here to get a grip on. It seems to any believer that it MUST be something that was chosen—-and that is because the believer has never been where you are now—they really cannot accept that someone could once believe, then REALLY come to a place of not believing.

    That truly is a hard thing for someone who believes to grasp. I apologize for not undertanding—I am being completely honest by saying that I had a terribly hard time understanding that people here REALLY do not believe any more– as I explained above. It is still hard for me to fully understand—–though I have come to accept it.

  • 524. Joe  |  August 4, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Quester—

    Just to add—I have mentioned to many Christians about visiting this board. I tell them it is people who “used to believe” and “used to be Christians” but are no longer. Almost without fail the response is “What do you mean? How can someone no longer believe?” So, I understand your definition of a “reasonable person”—but I think there are also many well-meaning people who would fall into the “unreasonable” category simply due to an inability to grasp a simple concept.

  • 525. Rosita  |  August 4, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Joe

    I think you would get even longer stares, and lots of anger, if you suggested to Christians, or to adherents of any religion, that most of the did not actually “choose” to believe it in the first place. Either is was indoctrinated into them so that the idea of believing any other religion was a very remote possibility. Or they succumbed to mind manipulation techniques of which they (and usually the also the perpetrators) were unaware.

  • 526. Joe  |  August 4, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Rosita—

    Very true. Many people label themselves “christians” simply because they were brought up that way.

  • 527. paleale  |  August 4, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Thank you, Joe.

  • 528. Joshua  |  August 5, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    It seems the problem we ex-Christians sometimes make is assuming humans are rational beings.

    When I think of the effort it takes to teach a child to overcome his immediate desires and to think rationally about his decisions, it does not surprise me that it can take those involved in religion year upon year to submit their faith claims to purely rational thought as well.

    This has nothing to do with the intelligence of those involved, it has to do with one’s willingness and readiness to submit their entire human experience to logic.

    This is probably why every time I talk to a believer, the conversation ends up at “But I just can’t believe…” It’s not about believing, it is about submitting ones experience to the results of a test. Most believers mean “I just can’t submit what I have experienced to purely logical / rational thought.”

    It’s about not trusting our own perception and experience – no matter how divine it may appear. “Do not lean on your own understanding…”

  • 529. LeoPardus  |  August 6, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Yes, I really do not believe. What is more, I cannot believe.

    WORD!

    And congratulations to Joe on his breakthrough.

  • 530. orDover  |  August 6, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    In like manner, some Christians (pointing finger at me also) will not ACCEPT the fact that there REALLY ARE people who once believed, who now REALLY do not believe any more!

    I could not accept this for a very long time. I’m not sure why, but it’s like a light went on and I see it now clearly. I continue to believe—-but others have chosen not to—–and I need to just accept that fact. I know it’s silly that I didn’t see it before—-but what can I say? I’ve got a thick skull.

    I don’t think it’s the fault of your skull, Joe. This is what Christians are taught. This is what you were taught. I can’t even remember how many times in church or during Bible classes it was discussed, and stated matter-of-factly, that everyone living on this earth knows intuitively (at least on some level) that God exists. The evidence is too great, they say, for anyone to not know. It’s hard to unlearn something like that.

    It seems to any believer that it MUST be something that was chosen—-and that is because the believer has never been where you are now—they really cannot accept that someone could once believe, then REALLY come to a place of not believing.

    Again, this is another falsehood regarding non-believers that the church teaches very sternly and frequently. A person doesn’t suddenly stop believing in God, they make a conscious decision to denounce God. They rebel against him, they assert their own will over his. Is this sounding familiar? Don’t feel bad about thinking exactly how you’ve been conditioned to think.

  • 531. Joe  |  August 6, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    orDover—-

    Thanks for the comments–I appreciate it. I’m really trying to listen far more than speak–which is very hard for a loudmouth, opinionated person like me. :>)

  • 532. Joe  |  August 6, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    orDover—

    Forgot to add—-you are correct–the church does condition one to believe that no one can REALLY stop believing—I trulyfelt it had to be a conscious, rebellious choice also. There were no options. I am learning to rethink that stance.

  • 533. Rosita  |  August 6, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    I recall a relevant incident at one of the many evangelical summer camps I attended in my youth. One of the campers told the group that she had a friend who had ceased to believe in God. One of the leaders quickly replied: “She’ll be back”!

    I can recall that the idea of people actually losing their faith was an extremely uncomfortable thought. It did not gel with the often and loudly proclaimed notion that people failed to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour simply because they had not heard the good news properly proclaimed. All it took, we were taught, was for someone to demonstrate the goodness which the Holy Spirit was working in our lives, convince them of the joy to be had in Christ and show them them right verses in the Bible. After that it was all self-evidence – just as long as they could be persuaded to join a church group or Christian fellowship, read the right kind of Bible regularly (preferably every day) with the right kind of commentary and study guide and read a selection of books written from the right perspective.

    The intriguing factor was that so many of these evangelical types insisted that none of this was “religious”, just “Christian”. Just as they felt free to interpret the Bible as their spirit led them (and call it the Holy Spirit) they also felt free to redefine words in the dictionary in line with whatever beliefs their non-religious religious group believed. It was quite a semantic smorgasbord.

  • 534. Carolyn  |  August 13, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    These comments are not at all surprising. I have been a Christian for over thirty years and the case for the reality of God and Jesus is more applicable than ever. Rather than getting on a soapbox, I would encourage all of you ‘deconverts’ NOT to give up. Heaven and hell are certainly quite real – the devil does not want you to keep trying. There is too much evidence for God to deny! It takes more ‘faith” to be an atheist/agnostic than for Christianity! May God bless you and please don’t give up.

  • 535. LeoPardus  |  August 13, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Carolyn:

    Asserting your opinions does not make them true. Here watch:

    -The lack of evidence for God is too much to deny.
    -Heaven and hell are just imaginary, mythological constructs.
    -It takes more “delusionary thinking” to be a Christian than to accept reality and be an atheist.
    -I encourage you not to give up thinking.

    There now. Have I made my case? NO? But I just asserted my positions without knowing you or making the slightest effort to understand any mindset but my own, infallible one. Aren’t you convinced?

    Now. Do you want to actually understand why we are where we are? Do you want to actually look at what took us out of the faith? Do you want to actually look at the evidence for atheism? If so, we can converse. If not, just move along.

    And honestly, I did not actually do any of the above, and wasn’t really willing to do so for years. When I finally did, the journey was frightening to say the least. But I’m glad now that I did it.

  • 536. Joshua  |  August 13, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Rather than getting on a soapbox, I would encourage all of you ‘deconverts’ NOT to give up.

    I gave up because I finally figured out it was impossible.

    Now to me the silly one is the person who keeps trying.

  • 537. Joshua  |  August 13, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    You can’t kick against the goad.

  • 538. Rosita  |  August 13, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    @Carolyn

    All of that just sounds silly. I believed the same crap for years. Once I actually looked at both sides myr eyes were opened. It seems that yours are wide shut.

    I understand just how appealing and emotionally satisfying such socially supported delusions an be. I used to be caught up in them myself. I’ve worked with mental patients and people with seizure disorders who are also exerience states of bliss and ecstatic certainty. Once stabilized on medication they may realize, with a thump, that what they were convinced was true does not match reality. A number of them need a lot of therapy before they can let go of them. Many fight valiently to keep them. The grandiose ones are like old friends who offer the gift of specialness.

    It’s much the same with the kind of ideas you are expressing. Most of us fought to be able to keep them but, having lost them, cannot go back to pretending that they are true unless we lose our intellectual faculties.

    Simply asserting that what we once believed is, in fact, does absolutely nothing to overcome the averlanche of objections which will all had to face.

    Your faith has clearly never been examined in depth. You are still niavely ignorant of the case against your current beliefs and culpably disinclined to investigate it. That is an intellectual crime. You are like a jury who makes its mind up after hearing the case for the defense and refuses to consider the case for the prosecution. Like them, your position is the result of a mistrial.

  • 539. Gary  |  August 13, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    I would encourage all of you ‘deconverts’ NOT to give up. Heaven and hell are certainly quite real – the devil does not want you to keep trying.

    Surely, Carolyn, your God, if he exists, would not be so unjust as to punish someone simply for not believing that he exists — would he?

  • 540. RtPt  |  August 23, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Never have felt, seen or logically deduced anything that would lead me to believe or to even think about a leap of faith. I never have felt anything but an atheist. I realize that is a small minority because most kids are brain-washed from an early age. When my parents talked about God when I was too young for really deep thinking, I thought religion was like the comic book heroes. A story that adults really liked which was like kids like Spiderman comics. I never thought it was real at all, just story telling for adults. In retrospect, that was spot-on description for a young kid.

  • 541. kramii  |  October 21, 2009 at 5:53 am

    Interesting that nobody’s mentioned the ascention. If Jesus had stuck around after coming back from the dead then Xian claims would be somewhat more compelling, wouldn’t they? He could have appeared on Oprah and everything! (BTW – I’m still a Xian – but trying to be an honest one).

  • 542. Quester  |  October 21, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Kramii,

    I think that’s covered in point 1: God never shows up.

  • 543. Roista  |  October 21, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Kramii,

    There have been numerous assertions by Believers that the risen Jesus has appeared to them. In all cases, both past and present, there is good reason to suppose that it was a case of wishful thinking combined with faulty brain functioning and/or unsupported hearsay evidence.

    In all cases the appearances only happen to people who have already been exposed to verbal and/or visual material which primes them about what to expect to see and hear. No-one sees such visions in the absence of prior information orindoctrination.

    No person brought up in the Muslim tradition, the Hindu tradition or the Buddhist tradition ever sees such visions. No remote African tribe who has never been exposed to the teachings of Christian missionaries ever sees such visions.

    Psychotics, dementing persons,epileptics,recipients of LSD and magic mushrooms and those suffering from extreme hunger, fatigue or stress see visions in line with their prior experience and knowledge. Even meditators, mystics and UFO abductees only see visions of beings their brain is already primed to see. Generally speaking, only a Muslim will see Allah, a Catholic will see the Virgin Mary and Hindu will see Krishna. The exceptions all have some background knowledge of entities they see from other religions, doctrines or schemas.

    If the phenomena were real then it would be expected that people with no primed background would also experience it. This does not happen.

    Ergo they all result from the imaginations of the human brain, especially when it damaged, stressed, diseased or deliberately manipulated in a way which produces altered states of consciousness.

    This is the reason why subjective “sightings” (of gods or anything else) are considered by scientists and lawyers to be extremely unreliable testimony of anything when unsupported by physical evidence of the supposed phenomena.

  • 544. LeoPardus  |  October 21, 2009 at 11:32 am

    No person brought up in the Muslim tradition, the Hindu tradition or the Buddhist tradition ever sees such visions. No remote African tribe who has never been exposed to the teachings of Christian missionaries ever sees such visions.

    The rest was OK, but the above paragraph was completely wrong.

  • 545. Philip  |  October 21, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    LeoPardus: I’m not sure if you might have misread that paragraph or if you’re aware of something I am not. You’re saying that people who have never heard of Jesus have seen visions of him?

  • 546. Rosita  |  October 21, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    @Leo and Phillip

    Phillip is correct. That is what is meant. The context should have made that clear. Leo, tut tut tut. You would have made a great Christian take-verse- out-of-context apologist :-)

  • 547. Mystery Porcupine  |  October 21, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    So many of these really hit home with me. But if I had to point to one thing that sent me over the edge, it was this: I observed the suffering and denial in cancer patients (and their family members) who kept praying to God for miracles and did not receive them. I realized that life would be less painful if there was no God involved in it. People would have more time to love each other, to prepare for death, to enjoy life, to stop blaming and begging. It was an incredibly freeing realization.

  • 548. kramii  |  October 21, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    @Quester

    Of course! I would miss no. 1, wouldn’t I?

    @Roista

    Thanks for taking the time to explain your POV.

    At best, you think I’m seeing faces in the clouds, at worst I’m trusting others who see such faces? You could be right! For now, like all of us here, I’m following my best guess based on my experience and limited reasoning.

    Anyway, I don’t find it strange that describe experiences based on their frame of reference. Indeed, it intrigues me is that people’s “religious experiences” often have a great deal in common, no matter the world-view of the person who has them – not that that makes them any more (or less) reliable as evidence for anything.

  • 549. Joe  |  October 21, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    i was reading something last night and wondered whether you could all confirm if it is true or not. The gentleman was saying that many Christians suffer doubts—sometimes their doubts can be so severe it scares them, as they are afraid they will slip into total unbelief.

    As any things in life are “opposites” or a “spectrum” so to speak, this writer posited that atheists also suffer an opposite reaction—having times where belief assails them and they are afraid that their atheistic convictions are completely incorrect. In a strange twist, this “belief” would actually be “atheistic doubt”.

    Does anyone concur? Or is the dude full of hot air? :)

  • 550. Joe  |  October 21, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Meant to say “as many things in life” not “any things in life”

  • 551. LeoPardus  |  October 21, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    You would have made a great Christian take-verse- out-of-context apologist

    Would have?? I been there, done that, and had the John 3:16 t-shirt.

    Did misunderstand you though. I thought “such visions” meant having visions of a religious nature. I see you meant visions of Jesus. So, except for Muslims, your original paragraph would be right then. (Muslims have been known to have Jesus visions. After all, he is a prophet to them.)

  • 552. Quester  |  October 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Kramii,

    Glad you have a sense of humor about things!

    Joe,

    Can’t answer for anyone but myself, but my atheism is less a matter of convictions than a lack of evidence to justify theism. Thus, I do occasionally spend time doubting that I’m right and seeking such evidence. Of course, and again speaking just for myself, I often see doubt as more of a virtue than faith.

  • 553. Joe  |  October 21, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Quester–

    Thanks. The idea sounded plausible–just wanted to check it out.

  • 554. Brian  |  October 21, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Joe,

    I went through a period like that while in the midst of deconverting, though I think it was just lingering fear of hell. The “how can I be sure” menace kept rearing it’s head and I kind of figured that even if I went to full blown atheism, that fear of hell would never really go away. I’m about a year out from my deconversion at this point and I think the “me” of a year ago would be very surprised to know that the fear of hell hasn’t given me a moment’s pause in months. Not sure if it will come back unexpectedly years from now, but for the time being I feel confident enough in my own research to say I have very little “atheistic doubt.”

  • 555. Roy  |  October 21, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    i was reading something last night and wondered whether you could all confirm if it is true or not. The gentleman was saying that many Christians suffer doubts—sometimes their doubts can be so severe it scares them, as they are afraid they will slip into total unbelief.

    As any things in life are “opposites” or a “spectrum” so to speak, this writer posited that atheists also suffer an opposite reaction—having times where belief assails them and they are afraid that their atheistic convictions are completely incorrect. In a strange twist, this “belief” would actually be “atheistic doubt”.

    Does anyone concur? Or is the dude full of hot air?

    I don’t see this as an opposite reaction. It is the exact same reaction that the Christian who doubts has. When one is being psycologically coerced, of course there are going to be reactions when an attempt is made to free oneself of the coercion. The only opposite possible would be if atheists went around threating each other with bodily harm if they ever start believing. Atheists don’t do that.

    It’s hot air.

  • 556. orDover  |  October 21, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    As a Christian, I had a lot of doubts. They started when I was old enough to understand what I was really getting myself into, and they persisted until my de-conversion.

    As an atheist, when I first totally de-converted, I had a few doubts. I read a lot of Christian apologetics just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, any great argument for God that could pull me back. I didn’t find anything. It’s hard to get over the fear of hell, but I did it. I’d say now I have no doubts, and no times of doubt. I’m certainly never afraid, and I never have moments of thinking that my “atheist convictions are completely incorrect.” I think the reason that I am not as doubtful as I was when a Christian is because my convictions are actually based on something, rather than basing them on “faith” or fuzzy notions of intuition and personal revelation. It’s really hard to rely on faith. I don’t have to do that anymore.

    That being said, I try to keep an open mind, in the sense that I am always willing to listen to “new” arguments for the existence of God (although I’m increasingly disappointed by each one). I’m not going to isolate myself in an atheist bubble, brush my hands off, and say “Alright, that’s done with. My decision is made.” My decision is made, but given the nature of the question at hand, I’m always willing to reconsider. It’s a very different feeling than doubt, though.

  • 557. Philip  |  October 21, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Joe: There have been a handful of times when belief seemed very easy again and I felt a “spirit” that I had last experienced in church settings. It’s not being overcome with beauty or anything like that…it’s more this feeling of warmth and a compulsion to bow before I-know-not-what.

    Otherwise I haven’t had any doubts since reading TGD. Something in Dawkin’s discussion about chance and the anthropic principle stilled any doubts I had, like I haven’t really felt the need to double-guess everything but rather have the freedom to do so.

  • 558. LeoPardus  |  October 21, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Joe:

    Upon first de-converting I had some “I might be wrong” moments for a while. They became fewer with time, and by now they never happen.
    So at least for me, and I am sure this applies to some others on this site, there in no “atheist doubt” at all.

  • 559. Joe  |  October 21, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Philip—-

    I read the book also. I have to say at one point I burst out laughing because Dawkin’s argument about there still being “a chance” even if it was “one in a billion” that life started by itself in the Universe was STILL A CHANCE reminded me of the movie Dumb and Dumber.

    The one character asks this beautiful woman “what are the chances you and I could get to together?” The woman replies “about one in a million”. The character then smiles broadly and puts his fist in the air and yells “So your saying there is STILL A CHANCE!!” The woman looks at him in amazement. :)

    I do have to say that Dawkins does present a very intelligent argument throughout the book, but that one part put me into a laughing fit at the time (even though I actually think that movie is one of the dumbest films ever LOL)

  • 560. Rosita  |  October 21, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    @Leo

    I had temporarily forgotten that Muslims also have a place for Jesus in their framework. Thanks for reminding me. While it is possible that they could have visions of him saying that the imans are wrong and he is, in fact, Allah/God I think it is eminently more likely that the Jesus character in their visions would tell them that he is, in fact, not Allah/God.

    If the same character tells people from different religions contradictory things then the implication is clearly that the character is a figment of the Believer’s imagination experienced in the context of past experiences and knowledge and consistent with the person’s personality and his or her role in a particular community.

  • 561. Rosita  |  October 21, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    @Joe

    That’s an interesting question which I had never thought about until now.

    I recall the agony of doubt as a believing and practising Christian but have experienced nothing remotely like it as an atheist.

    The context is very different.

    As an intelligent Theist I had to suppress and avoid evidence which failed to confirm my cherished religious beliefs and upset my world view. I had an emotional attachment to these beliefs so losing them was traumatic and painful.

    As an atheist I do not have to suppress any evidence whatever and am free to read or think about anything. I have no emotional commitment to my non-belief so I have no need to avoid exploring evidence and going where-ever it leads. I have no need to force myself to stop following a line of thought because it was leading me away from my beliefs. I do not have to defend anything. I do not even have to defend my lack of belief to myself.

    I can read and consider things from all sides without fear or significant discomfit. I get angry with people who justify inhumanity in any form via their particular version and interpretation of whatever religion they practice. I used to get angry with much the same set of people while I was still a theist so that has not changed much.

    There is no fear in “doubt” which is welcomed and explored because the end result does not matter. I go where the evidence leads me and am free to change my opinion whenever I discover evidence which challenges my present position.

    All I feel now is relief and intellectual freedom.

    The bottom line is that I believe that your contact was engaging in wishful thinking which matched his world view of how things “must be” for atheists.

  • 562. Roy  |  October 21, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Joe and Philip,

    I also read “The God Delusion”. By my calculation, however infinitesimal the odds are of something happening in a given instant, over the course of eternity they increase immensely to a virtual certainty. Surely the odds are not zero because here we are. Is my calculation faulty?

  • 563. Roy  |  October 21, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Clarification:

    Surely the odds [of life coming into existence] are not zero because here we are.

  • 564. Rosita  |  October 21, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    @Kramii


    Indeed, it intrigues me is that people’s “religious experiences” often have a great deal in common, no matter the world-view of the person who has them – not that that makes them any more (or less) reliable as evidence for anything.

    Neuro-scientist have long known that those who suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy frequently have ecstatic, mystical, spiritual experiences. Not all of these are pleasant. Some are horrific. The victims tend, however, to discard the negative expererience and hang on to the positive ones. As a result they frequently become hyper-religious in line with their cultural traditions.

    Building on this neurological knowledge, there have been numerous scientific studies done over the past 30 years of people who have “mystical” experiences, especially those who can induce them by prayer or meditation. In line with what you say, there were significant similarities between the experiences and what happened to the brain along the way.

    The bottom line is that Buddhist atheists and Christian nuns use the same brain circuitry and similar methods of upsetting the brain’s normal functioning to produce and experience their experience of being in touch with something outside themselves. Carmelite nuns call it the Catholic god, while Buddhist monks call it “oneness with the universe”. Same experience, vastly different interpretations.

    The research discovered that nuns and meditators, using different but similar methods, ultimately blocked normal brain functioning in an area of the right brain. This area normally helps a person determine their place in space and time and enables them to distinguish between their sense of self and their sense of the external world. When this area ceases to function properly people of all religious, and no religion, experience a feeling of transcendence or mysticism.

    The deciding study was performed recently by a group of neuropsychologists who were able to show that patients who had sustained injury to his area of the brain became religious, in line with their previous belief set or in line with whatever religious or supernatural belief system they were in contact with after their accident.

    Ramachandran, the leader of the first research team, gave the press the impression that there is a “god spot” in the brain. The press continued to reinterpret the research along these lines even after the research teams became quite specific about the non-existence of such a spot.

    Newberg and his team eventually provided a neuro-chemical model which detailed the chemistry and areas of the brain involved and outlined the mechanism which resulted in the brain behaving in such a way that the person experienced a state of “otherness” which their brain experienced as “reality” and continued to think of in this way after the experience ended.

    The process involves causing the brain to overload on a dangerous neuro-chemical which then triggers a “repair” hormone which produces hallucinations as a side effect of its brain-protecting function. With the area in the right parietal lobe area turned off, the brain has no way of interpreting or recalling the experience as anything other than “real”.

    The bottom line: mystical beliefs occur as the result of involuntary or voluntary impairment of specific brain functions and areas. The resulting malfunctional experience is interpreted according to the person’s prior or current experience. It is extremely unlikely to be “god” that is being experienced. Think of this next time you pray, chant, sing and sway and experience a profound sense of something outside yourself. Ask yourself what brain area is failing to provide you with information about reality.

  • 565. Rosita  |  October 21, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    @Roy.

    You are correct. The odds are not zero because here we are.

    The chances are astronomically small of a yellow finch flying over my lawn at 2:33pm yesterday and pooping on a particular blade of grass with a ladybird crawling up the stem while I happened to be watching. It happened so the chances are not zero.

    The argument does not, however, work in reverse.

    The chances of the exact same thing happening at any other given time is effectively zero.

    The first case is an explanation for an event which is largely random. The second is a prediction of what might happen in the future or a conjecture about what could have happened in the past. Positing a god or gods who created the universe, especially being/s with characteristics which you have been taught to believe exists, belongs to the remote possibilities in the second instance. Too small to be reasonably accepted.

  • 566. Xtine  |  October 21, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Joe, @549
    I like what Rosita said here: #561
    As an intelligent Theist I had to suppress and avoid evidence which failed to confirm my cherished religious beliefs and upset my world view. I had an emotional attachment to these beliefs so losing them was traumatic and painful.

    This was true for me at a certain point, but I actually came out of that doubt stronger in my faith. When the veil lifted for me, I did have a few moments of panic that I might be wrong as a non-believer. These moments of dread passed quickly and were of the same sensation of realizing that “o shoot – i forgot to ______. O well.” It’s been almost 9 years for me – and I rarely/never have those moments anymore. (go ahead – say it – my heart is hardened). As Brian describes above, #554 it was part of the deprogramming from the fear of death/hell.

    I know christians will say that those moments of panic prove this or that point. I know christians will say a true christian doesn’t fear death/hell. I didn’t fear hell – I was born-again. I was very excited about and ABSOLUTELY SURE of heaven. I did have a certain fear of the actual moment of death that I no longer have to the same degree as I used to. Humans experience all sorts of panic that is residual from our animal instincts. The more I know about what it means to be finitely human the less panic and fear slip into my thoughts… or should I say the less attached I am to doubts, panic, fear.

    So – no – I’m not afraid that I might be wrong about not believing what I used to believe. I’m extremely at peace with who I am, what I’ve done, what I can and can’t do, what I can and can’t know.

  • 567. kramii  |  October 22, 2009 at 3:56 am

    @Rosita

    Wow – what a response! You certainly know your stuff. I studied psychology to degree level about 15 years ago, and find all this stuf absolutely fascinating. Many thanks.

  • 568. Joe  |  October 22, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Rosita (#560)—

    I saw a show covering religion which covered Christian Believers in Iran at a secret meeting at night. They need to meet secretly as they are former muslims who can be beaten severely for accepting an alternate religion.

    Of course, I have to go with what the news program SAID (which could be distorted or false of course)–but some of these believers stated that Jesus had appeared to them in “visions”—not the Muslim Jesus, but the Christian Jesus—resulting in their conversion to Christianity.

    I realize these are just “claims” but wanted to share that. I have forgotten what Network I saw it on, but it was a valid news station like CNN, not religious networking. That doesn’t make it “true”, but validates the fact that some do claim to see visions of a Chriatian Jesus in Muslim countries.

  • 569. Joe  |  October 22, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Christian not Chriatian

  • 570. Rosita  |  October 22, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    @Joe.

    As LeoPardus reminded us, Muslims already have a concept of Jesus as a prophet. He is not an unknown entity Muslims with some knowledge of the outside world will also know that Christians regard their prophet as a god. This gives any person who is in a state of altered consciousness enough fodder to create a Jesus in line with what they perceive to be the “christian” interpretation of the Jesus figure.

    A true test would be if some uncivilized tribesman (or woman) were to experience visions of one of the many Christian version of Jesus without ever having heard of the guy. So far, no missionary, Christian, Islam or other, has ever reported that primitive people they went out to convert told them that they had already seen visions of the god they are want to teach them about or tried to convert them to their way of perceiving the Jesus figure. The missionaries always have to tell the natives what to believe before they will have the “right” kind of visions.

    BTW, Islam takes just as strong an objection to atheists who are former Muslims as it does to Christians, Hindus or Buddhists who were once Muslim. They all have to hide.

  • 571. Joe  |  October 22, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Rosita—

    Thanks. I was more talking about “claims” than anything proven—but I do understand your point. True— I would imagine that former muslims who are atheists in those countries would have to hide just as much for sure.

  • 572. kramii  |  October 23, 2009 at 5:35 am

    If the phenomena were real then it would be expected that people with no primed background would also experience it. This does not happen.

    I’m not sure that this follows.

    Naturally, people will always interpret things from the POV of their own worldview. It is hardly surprising, then, that people interpret mystical phenomena in terms of the religion to which they have been exposed. As we gain experience, we also re-interpret our experiences according to our new vantage point.

    If, for the sake of argumet, a Buddhist without exposure to the gospel were to have a man in white appear to them in a vision and say that goodness conquers evil, then this person will interpret the vision in Buddhist terms rather than Xian ones. (Of course, on hearing the gospel, the vision might be re-interpreted, and the person be identified as Jesus.)

    There is also a reporting problem. People can only talk about their religious experience in familiar terms. Imagine the Xian who has never encountered pasta (poor man) and who has a genuine encounter with the FSM – what terminology would he use to describe the experience? Xian terminology, I imagine. Furthermore, I wouldn’t be surprised if that same Xian said little about noodle-like appendages – such talk wouldn’t go down well with his fellows – but the Xian might drone on at length about the transendental qualities of the being encountered.

    It makes sense to me that there is a correct interpretation of any given religious experience, but that many people misunderstand the wider implications of these experiences. In itself, however, this misunderstanding doesn’t argue for the validity of one claim over another.

    Does this make sense?

  • 573. Ubi Dubium  |  October 23, 2009 at 7:05 am

    It makes sense to me that there is a correct interpretation of any given religious experience, but that many people misunderstand the wider implications of these experiences. In itself, however, this misunderstanding doesn’t argue for the validity of one claim over another.

    I would certainly concur. However, one of the possible interpretations needs to be “This is a natural phenomenon that occurs entirety within the brain. There is no supernatural event happening, people simply interpret the experience as religious because religion is familiar to them and they have no better explanation.”

  • 574. Quester  |  October 23, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    I’ll second Ubi, but also in response to Kramii, if the FSM clearly articulated the correspondence between global temperature and pirates, then even if the Christian interpreted the experience as Christian, the teachings would have been Pastafarian. If the man in white appeared to the Buddhist and said, “drop by the local Sikh temple and ask about joining them” the experience- while still open to interpretation, would have been much clearer.

  • 575. kramii  |  October 26, 2009 at 10:38 am

    @Ubi:

    I agree. An honest, rational investigation of religious experience requires proper consideration a non-religious explanation. Of course, some Xians will object to this – but IMHO, honesty is one of the foundations of our faith. If the persuit of truth challanges our current belief system, so be it.

    @Quester:

    A valid point. Some religious experiences are more open to interpretation than others.

    I freely admit, this presents difficult questions for me as a Xian:

    Why doesn’t God make himself clearer?

    Is it fair how we judge other people’s expeperiences – as “of God” if we agree with them, or “of the Enemy” if we don’t?

    However, I can’t reject Xianity simply because people who have never heard of Jesus rarely (or never) put their faith in him.

  • 576. DSimon  |  October 26, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Rosita, I’m very interested in these studies you mentioned on the neurological basis of religious experience. Can you give me a link or at least a specific title to search for?

  • 577. Rosita  |  October 26, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    @DSimon

    Here are a few pointers for you.

    There are four main teams working in this area.

    Team 1: V.S.Ramachandran

    Team 2: Eugene D’Aquili & Andrew Newberg

    Team 3. Mario Beauregard & Vincent Paquette

    Team 4. Michael Persinger

    Ramachandran started the ball rolling. He is responsible for the quotes which got the press bellowing about the existence of a “god spot”. He has had cause to regret that.

    The Newberg team (D’Aquili died) is probably the most prolific and the most reliable. Note that their views have changed somewhat over the years. Newberg still seems to be trying to justify his religious beliefs but others in his team bring a different perspective. It is interesting that the original research by the D’Aquili and Newberg duo began by investigating the neural mechanisms of the so-called “god spot” or “got net” in atheist Buddhists.

    Persinger is an avowed atheist but a lot of his work is independent and not peer reviewed. He lacks the rounded perspective of the Newberg team and has been tainted (possibly unfairly) by the marketing of his “god helmet”.

    Beauregard and Pacquette are not prolific but their work is seminal. Ditto for the Johnstone and Glass study.

    SELECTED PAPERS, ARTICLES and NEWS ITEMS

    D’Aquili, E & Newberg, A. [1998] The neuropsychological basis of religions, or why god won’t go away. Zygon,33,2,187-201

    Newberg, A.B. & Iversen, J. [2003] The neural basis of the complex mental task of meditiation: neurotransmitter and neurochemical considerations. Medical Hypotheses, 61,2,282-291

    Johnstone, B. & Glass, B.A. [2008] Support for a neuropsychological model of spirituality in persons with traumatic brain injury. Zygon, 43, 4.

    Hidalgo, Ben. [2005] The utility of a neuropsychology of religious experience. bhidalgo.tripoc.com/litreview.htm#cartography OR http://www.psych.uiuc.edu/~bhidalgo/
    (May 16, 2005)

    Lopez.C. & Blanke, O. [year?] [unpublished] Neuropsychology and neurophysiology of self-consciousness. Multisensory and vestibular mechanisms. [Out of body experiences, etc.]

    Kapogiannis, D., Bargey, A.K., Su, M., Zamboni, G., Krueger, F. & Grafman, J. [2009] Cognitive and neural foundations of religions belief. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/03/06/0811717106

    Cooke, Stephen P. [200?] Neurotheology: neuroscience of the soul. Armstrong Atlantic State U.

    Lee, Adam [blogger] [2009]. A ghost in the machine: the existence of the soul. http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism.ghost.html [Excellent summary by a non-medico of the problems which neuropsychology and neurology pose for the existences of a soul.]

    Hsu, Jeremy. [journalist] [2009] Scientists locate “god spot” in human brain. March 10, 2009, Live Science (Fox News). [About what you would expect from Faux News.]

    Bowles, Paula.[blogger/journalist] [2009]News: no god spot found in the brain. religioncompass.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/news-no-%E2%8

  • 578. Rosita  |  October 26, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    @DSimon.

    Some additional “easy reading” and easily accessed material on the topic. Some of these have good summaries of the major work in the area.

    Anon. [blogger][2009] Not quite the “god spot”. http://www.tellycomtally.com/blog/2009-03/not_quite_the_god-_spot_1

    Anon. [blogger?] [year?] The “god spot” that wasn’t. In “The cosmic web”. Re article from “Mail” titled: Scientists discovere the brain’s “god spot”. cosmic-web.co.uk?p=352

    Briglass [blogger] [2002] God spot. everything2.com/title/God+spot

    Haggerty, Barbara Bradley. [journalist] [2009] Are spiritual encounters all in your head? http://www.npr.org/templates/story

    Heneghan, Tom. [journalist] [2009] God on the brain at Penn’s neuoscience boot camp. blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/05/god-on/the-brain-at-penn

  • 579. Rosita  |  October 26, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    @DSimon

    Be aware that there are some typos in the list I just uploaded. They appear to be self-evident (neuoscience for neuroscience, discovere for discover, existences for existence, for example. ) You should be able to locate them all, or at least references and pointers to them, by doing a Google search using some or all of the main terms.

  • 580. Quester  |  October 26, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Kramii,

    However, I can’t reject Xianity simply because people who have never heard of Jesus rarely (or never) put their faith in him.

    You are not required to reject Christianity, for that reason or any of the others in the article above. Could I ask you, though, what are you hoping to get out of your time on this site?

  • 581. Rosita  |  October 27, 2009 at 3:02 am

    @Kramii

    The point is not that people who have never heard of Jesus never put their faith in him. The point is that the Jesus figure does not make himself known or turn up in cultures which have no background knowledge of this god.

    Missionaries who go to a different culture learn the words which people use to describe their encounters with real phenomena and people. They have words to describe all things they have seen or experienced: tsunamis, earthquakes, mothers-in-law, head man and so on. If some particular person visited the tribe they will have a name for him or her, too, which may be different from the one used by the missionaries, if they happen to know this person also.

    OTOH there are no words used to describe the Christian god/s because it/they have never been met. Knowledge of this god, as with any other, is language dependent.

    Ergo, the look and personality of the god you worship has been learned by you from others. You did not experience him/it before you have the language and concepts handed to you.

  • 582. kramii  |  October 27, 2009 at 7:30 am

    @Quester

    <blockquote<You are not required to reject Christianity, for that reason or any of the others in the article above

    I you are mistaken. I appreciate that the community here is not out to (de-)convert anyone, but rather to support those who are de-converting. I appreciate the respect you show me – unlike many, you respect my right to be wrong.

    On the other hand, Xians are supposed to be people who value truth. My faith requires me to honestly evaluate its own basis, and to walk away if I find that basis flawed.

    what are you hoping to get out of your time on this site?

    I have been a long-time reader of the articles / comments on this site, and in the past have had more time to contribute to discussions.

    Like many, I came across the the site because it was featured on the WordPress front page. I was intrigued to understand why people turned away from Xianity. At first I found many of the arguments absurd, but soon recognised that this was frequently due to ignorance on my part. I’m learning.

    Why do I still come here? Several reasons:

    1) Intellectual honesty. I have re-evaluated aspects of my faith as a result of the discussions I have enjoyed here. I am sure will continue to do so.

    2) To broaden my understanding. I have learned a lot about the people here, and their reasons for leaving their faith. I have also learned a lot about my fellow Xians, and about myself.

    3) I like and respect the people who meet here. My participation has been made welcome in the past, and I enjoy getting to know people here.

    4) I like a good debate. There are good and bad reasons for holding any position in a discussion (by which I mean strong and weak arguments). Through debate, we can at least agree to reject the bad reasons. I think this benefits everyone.

    5) It may appear paradoxical (or even hypocritical), but I respect and support the reasons for this site’s existence. Decons need support. After all, I could be a de-con one day (although not today).

    6) I want to be able to inform other Xians. Frankly, the ignorance among my fellow believers makes me cringe.

    I could go on…

    The one think I am *not* here to do is evangelise. Of course, I’d be pleased to hear of anyone here discovering new faith, but I really don’t think it is likely that my particular brand of Xianity will impress you any more than the one that you’ve already left behind.

  • 583. Quester  |  October 29, 2009 at 1:29 am

    Kramii,

    You sound like you’re at a place where a chance to debate some aspects of your faith, if only to get things clearer in your mind- judging the arguments for and against. The Christian side of such a debate may indeed come across as unwelcome and redundant evangelism on this site, and I don’t want to ruin your reputation here. I have a blog of my own, though, and we could go there. I haven’t used it in a while, but this could be a good purpose to put it to. *IF* such a thing would help you where you are right now, I could open up a thread for us to debate in. I also offer to take the theist’s side in the debate, granting you the atheist’s role- such switching of sides can sometimes help reveal more. At the end of the debate, we can critique each other’s arguments, so you can trust I won’t just strawman my way through. I’m moving soon, so I may be away for days at a time while I get things arranged in my new house, and maybe my empathy is missing a beat and this wouldn’t be helpful to you at all. If it’s something you think you would enjoy or otherwise benefit from, please let me know.

  • 584. Shadowfx  |  October 29, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Well, I have just finished reading this entire thread. It is quite interesting and I got a lot out of it. My wife introduced me to this site. I am a somewhat liberal christian, but this thread has gotten me thinking about a number of things. As a result I pulled out my copy of Gospel Parallels for the very first time to actually read it. (Been sitting on my shelf for years.) In the first few pages, I discovered something interesting, maybe you’ve seen it yourselves. It would appear that only the book of Mathew talks about the family of Jesus moving to Egypt after leaving Bethlehem. If you read Luke, it appears that they go straight to Galilee. Also, the book of Matthew suggests that they waited for Herod to die before they came back and then someone else was ruling Isreal. But from Luke it appears that Herod was still in charge at the time of Jesus’s preaching. In fact he is the one who had John the Baptist put to death. Another Herod? Maybe one or more of you have observed these things and would be able to share any observations you might have on them.

  • 585. LeoPardus  |  October 29, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Oooh. Contradictions in the Bible? There are lots of them. I’m actually planning on a series about them here soon.

    For now, you may want to see the contradictions I found just in the Resurrection accounts.

    http://de-conversion.com/2009/05/14/resurrection-challenge-results/

  • 586. Joe  |  October 29, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Shadow—-

    Herod the Great and Herod Antipas are two different people (father and son) who served right after one another. Herod the Great ordered the children slain, while Antipas was the Herod whom Jesus appeared before when crucified.

  • 587. Shadowfx  |  October 29, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Leo,

    Just read the thread you lilnked to. It is pretty interesting. Thanks for posting it. I look forward to reading your series when you put it up.

  • 588. Shadowfx  |  October 29, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Joe,

    Thanks. Antipas was the name from Matthew. I thought that looked a little glaring.

  • 589. DSimon  |  October 30, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Rosita, thanks very much for the detailed response! I’ve only had time to look at a few of your links so far, but I’ve marked your comment on my todo list and intend to follow through on all those you’ve mentioned that I can reach.

  • 590. kramii  |  November 5, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    @Quester:

    Thanks for the offer of a proper debe. I’d love to take you up on the offer – it would certainly be interesting. Unfortunately, however, I’m going to have little opportunity over the next couple of months as I’m travelling / starting a new job.

  • 591. Quester  |  November 5, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    No problem, Kramii– I’m going through my own transitions. See you around, and I hope all goes well for you!

  • 592. Kelly  |  December 29, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    For years, I’ve been meaning to put together a list of the multitude of reasons for my de-conversion. Imagine my relief to find that this list has been here for over a year already! I do believe it covers all of my reasons plus a couple I hadn’t thought of. Great work, and a sticky post if ever I’ve seen one.

  • 593. Anonymous  |  December 29, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Could someone explain no 27 to me? the sex thing?

  • 594. stimme17  |  December 29, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    that was me !!!! sorry! i just don´t get no 27

  • 595. Rosita  |  December 29, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    I don’t know what the original contributer meant by Reason Number 27. I do know that starting my sex life meant re-considering the standard Fundie views on the morality of sex before marriage. It was the first of many instances where I found that my intellectual conclusions were way ahead of my emotional development. That is, it took some time before the learned guilt response was no longer automatic and my emotions caught up with my reasoning.

  • 596. Quester  |  December 30, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Kelly- welcome aboard!

    Stimme- sorry, I have no idea.

  • 597. MK  |  March 4, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Because all the “proofs” for existence of a Christian god are equally strong proofs for the existence of a non-christian god, but all religions cannot be correct, since they contradict each other.

    Good list.

    BTW, there’s s typo in the sentence just before the list: you’re should be your

  • 598. Joe  |  March 4, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    MK—-(#597)

    There is a punctuation error in your post. There should be a “.” (period symbol) at the end of the sentence after the word “your”.

  • 599. MK  |  March 4, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Thanks Joe. I realized that after I posted it.

  • 600. Joe  |  March 4, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    MK—

    Just kidding. Couldn’t resist. :)

  • 601. portwes  |  May 12, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Strangely, I didn’t find “MY” reason for de-converting in the list (although it’s likely somewhere in the 600 subsequent comments!):

    The concept of Hell. How could a loving God possibly condemn 95% of his children to eternal torture for something believed or not believed? (I was christian and missionary in europe because I really believed this bullshit!) Whenever humans kill other humans over beliefs, we are outraged! But God has a free pass to do it.

  • 602. portwes  |  May 12, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    And even plain killing isn’t too bad. But God is going put us in a torture rack for ever, for infinity, for not believing in Jesus as our saviour? Again, fucking bullshit!

  • 603. Quester  |  May 13, 2010 at 3:16 am

    Reason #21 on the list, Portwes! You are not alone.

  • 604. Thomas  |  June 4, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Maybe mine could be sumamrized as #2 “Prayers are not answered”, but one of the key events for me in deconverting was an answered prayer – which brought me to a painful paradox where either choice would mean admitting that there was no God.

  • 605. Blue  |  August 11, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Do you have proof of these miracles or are you just a liar for whatever god you worship?

  • 606. RtPt  |  August 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    You assume that we (non-believers/rational individuals) do not have good and satisfying lives. Bob, that is rubbish.

    You make up miracles everyday. Life is wonderful and does not need any metaphysical nonsense to make it so.

    You are partly correct…people can make their lives better but they do not need some delusional thinking like you do in order to achieve it.

    Agnostics and Atheists embrace “this” world and not some imaginary better afterlife. We understand that his life is the best that we will ever get, it makes us appreciate every small and large part of it instead denouncing it as lacking as the faithful often do.

  • 607. LeoPardus  |  August 11, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Some assholes are sufficiently odiferous to bring even me out of the basement.

    Bob is outahere. Me too now.

    Best to all.

  • 608. Rosita  |  August 11, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Bob: another condescenidng delusional with a reading comprehension problem and a critical thinking deficit.

    Psychotics, epileptics, and adherents of a huge variety of religions, including Bob’s, believe that they “see miracles everyday”. De-cons have figured out that this does not prove that these events are really supernatural or that the supernatural agents who are purported to cause them actually exist. Bob suffers from the common religious fallacy that _his_ perception is infallible and everyone else is wrong.

    My life is no worse, and probably better, than it was when I was a devout Christian. There is no evidence that Christians have better lives than non-believers, and quite a lot of evidence that they are actually worse off. There is no evidence at all that someone can have “the best life anyone could ever ask for” just by wanting it, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Kalathumpian or non-theist. Of course, it helps if you have good health and lots of money. It is more important to be able to choose one’s parents carefully than one’s god. Most people have no real choice about either.

    Bob needs a better education.

  • 609. Hendy  |  August 11, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    I always love referring to this STUDY when this kind of life quality argument comes up.

    Snippet:

    In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies (Figures 1-9). The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is exceptional, but not in the manner Franklin predicted. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a “shining city on the hill” to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health.

  • 610. Rosita  |  August 11, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Hendy, that was the study I was obliquely referring to in my last post. Thanks for the reference.

  • 611. GearHedEd  |  August 23, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I know this is late in the game, but this one isn’t yet in the list:

    “My parents neglected to poke Christianity through the soft spot in my skull before it hardened and was too late to affect me, therefore, I grew up an atheist and never had to go through a painful de-conversion.”

  • 612. Ubi Dubium  |  August 24, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    That’s a valid reason why you are not a believer, but I don’t quite think it’s a “reason you left the faith” that should be on this list. More of a “reason I never had any faith to begin with”. Congratulations on having parents who did not indoctrinate you. I wish more children could grow up like that!

  • 613. Elsa  |  October 11, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Their blind denial of archaeological evidence. The bones are there, carbon dating works, and sticking your fingers in your ears and going la-la-la won’t change that.

  • 614. Kevin  |  March 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    When I really deeply considered and thought long and hard about what I would value more than an afterlife in the absence of God, I realized I valued my fellow humans more! I became more concerned about the problems and issues and status of humans more than anything. Without a “god” to fix or manage or intercede, I realized I had a deep and real responsibility to humans as a whole. Maybe what we call God is nothing more than being more human to each other.

  • 615. Neil C. Reinhardt  |  May 31, 2011 at 1:28 am

    While it has been many many years since I started toward my “Dis-Belief: my reason was # 2.

    We were living in Peru when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor and so we packed up and came back to the United States. Some of the things we packed included a trunk which had all of my toys in it.

    As it never got to us,.I prayed for our trunk and my toys to show up. As, after nearly two years of praying and my toys were never found, I remember saying some thing like, at age nine, the following to myself:

    “If this all knowing, all powerful, caring, kind, compassionate and fair god can not even get my toys, just how can I depend on him for something really important?”

    Thus began my journey to the freedom of mind which non-religious belief brings.

    IF YOU WANT TO HELP ATHEISTS BEING TREATED AS WELL AS OTHERS AND TO HELP GROW OUR RANKS.

    I BESEECH YOU, I URGE YOU, NAY, I BEG YOU TO PLEASE JOIN ONE, OR MORE, OR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING GROUPS I BELONG TO.

    THANK YOU!

    http://www.Atheists.org/

    http://www.AtheistsUnited.org/

    http://www.FFRF.org/

    http://MAAF.info/

  • 616. Anonymous  |  June 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    3 yrs ago at 38 yrs old, I decided to give my life over to God. Before that, my lifestyle was crazy! I was in a rock band and lived my life like a rock star. I tried all of the drugs there was, drank all the beer I could. Jaeger – bombs were my favorite. I slept with over 100’s of women. I was addicted to pornography. I was addicted to sex. I stared at women at the malls, Wal-Mart, anywhere in public. I was like a predator looking for my next victim to devour and have sex with. Every woman that passed by, I undressed her with my eyes. I had a very foul mouth. GD and F bombs were my favorite choice of words. I was very selfish. I did not care about anybody but myself. My favorite saying was “I don’t need God to be a good person.” In February 2008 I got pulled over by the police at 4am and got my 2nd DWI. The next day I started realizing that I have to turn my life around. I knew about Jesus Christ because my mother took me to church when I was little even though I didn’t like church. So I finally decided to give Jesus a chance and asked Him to come into my heart and tale over my life.

    Suddenly I got a bible and started reading. At first it did not make sense, but eventually it started coming to life. I have never even read a book in my life, but I started getting addicted to reading the Word of God. Sexual Immorality was my first junk in the closet that God told me needed to be cleaned out.

    Today, I am married to a beautiful blonde woman. We are having our first child together in July. She has two boys with autism. Well, God has removed autism from one of the boys within our 2 yrs of marriage and He is working on the other one now. God instantly took away my foul mouth and He instantly took away my desire to drink. I have not had one sip of alcohol since 2009. It took awhile for God to remove my porn addiction. Over time God has shown me that He created us men as protectors of women NOT predators. When I see women now, I look at them in a totally different way. I thank God for creating beautiful women. I pray for them. I went on Facebook and found a lot of women that I had slept with in the past and apologized to them for using them in a sexual way. I care for people all the time now. I pray for people I don’t even know. I tell people all the time my story and how God has changed my life. Thank you Jesus for changing me into the man You created us to be!

    God is good – the devil is bad!

  • 617. rlwemm  |  June 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    I am very pleased to hear that you were able to turn your life around. I believe that this was your doing, not the effect of a particular version of a particular god that you happened to be familiar with because of your upbringing and culture.
    People often very vulnerable to conversion to religion when they are in emotional crisis. They then make the mistake of attributing any consequence changes to their life to that particular version of religion.

    All religions and their sects, factions and sub branches have stories such as yours about how their particular diety wrought wonderful changes. There is nothing to choose between them in regards to their apparent successes – and failures (but these are not acknowledged, are they?)

    The truth of the matter is that therapy delivered by a competent licenses mental health professional is provably more effective at changing lives, in both the short and the long term, compared to religious conversion.

    In other words, you have attributed your maturation to the wrong cause. You need to give yourself more credit for finally taking control of your life and permitting yourself to grow up. Some people just take longer to get there than others.

  • 618. Anonymous  |  June 7, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    i went to AA. for alcohol..they said i had a disease and was gonna be an alcoholic forever…God said you dont have a disease i have removed your selfish nature and put all that upon Jesus on the cross..same thing for porn the phsyc said i had an addiction disease and will never be able to totally be free from it but control it…God said you are free from this and i am now free…Galations 5:1

  • 619. rlwemm  |  June 7, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    BTW,”anonymous”, there is no record of any properly diagnosed case of “autism” that just disappeared. Either your wife’s son did not have that disorder or the symptoms have progressed and changed, as they do over the course of the disorder. It’s genetic. There is no properly documented case of a god EVER changing a person’s genetic code. There is no “god cure” for Fragile X syndrome,Turner Syndrome, Myopia, Huntington’s Disease, Down Syndrome, Systic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Alzheimers, Type 1 Diabetes, MERFF (a type of epilepsy), MELAS (a form of dementia).

    There are, however, some cases where medical scientists have managed to therapeutically change someone’s genetic code. That makes medical science a much stronger source of medical “miracles” than any god known to man.

    Your chances of helping your wife’s two sons would be maximized by consulting the most appropriate well-trained medical practitioner in your area. According to most reliable research data, the most unhelpful thing you could do for your shared children would be to leave it all to the “mercy” of your particular version of your particular church’s version of the Christian god.

    To be very blunt (someone has to do it and it won’t be those close to you), you have some more growing up to do yet. You have taken responsibility for sorting out your own life. Now it is time to learn how to be wisely responsible for your dependents.

  • 620. rlwemm  |  June 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Most AA groups incorporate religion. Apparently you just did not like the rest of the message so you chose a version of Christianity (and it could have been any other religion) that matched what you preferred to believe.

    I am happy that you managed to tailor your religion to meet your needs. This, however, is no proof that what you believe about the supernatural is in any way true.

  • 621. Anonymous  |  June 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    God’s word is like seeds. Your heart is like soil in the ground. When God’s word is spoken, it goes into the heart. People hear God’s teaching, but then the devil comes and causes them to stop thinking about it. This keeps them from believing it and being saved. Some people hear God’s teaching and gladly accept it, but they don’t have deep roots. They only believe for a short time. But when trouble comes, they turn away from God.

    Godly Character
    Good – kind,tender hearted, forgiving, love, self-control,
    patience, hope, faithfullness, gentleness, love, peace, joy, long
    suffering, humble, caring, humility, willing to yield, full of mercy,
    courtesy,courteous, civil, polite, gallant, chivalrous, self-
    sacrificing, giving, gentle, hospitable, sober, vigilant

    Satans Character

    Bad – sexual sin, fornication, uncleanness, covetousness,
    filthiness, idolatry, adultery, lewdness, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, envy, murder, drunkeness, revelries, selfish, sorcery,
    hatred, prejudice, judging others, haughty, boasting, proud,
    bitter envy, self seeking hearts, hypocrisy, evil speaking,
    grumbling, complaining, lawlessness,greedy

  • 622. rlwemm  |  June 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Dear Anonymous. Once again you have proved that you uncritically and unthinkingly accept what your elders and leaders tell you, just like a small child who has yet to grow up.
    What you wrote is simply a summary of the some of the standard doctrines of evangelical Christians. If you had bothered to read the De-Con site before you provided an ignorant knee-jerk response, you have realized that we had all hear this type of thing before but, unlike you, we had compared it the rest of the biblical picture and thought about the implications long and hard. You, however, are speaking from a position of considerable relative ignorance. You have never bothered to investigate the complete picture, only the bits that are comfortably familiar to you and make you feel like you belong to your current social group.

    You would do well to read your religious text book properly, instead of just the passages that support the view you just expressed here. You will find that the original god (the Yahweh god described in the pages of the books in the Old Testament) demonstrated behavior consistent with the behavior you have defined as satanic (outbursts of wrath, envy, murder, selfishness, hatred, prejudice, judging others, haughty, boasting, proud, envious (of Adam and Eve’s new knowledge about the difference between good and evil that he previously been confined only to gods), self seeking and a whole host of other things that are considered to be indications of social immaturity at one end of the scale or sociopathy and heinous criminality at the other.

    What this god does not do himself he permits, encourages or demands that others perform. He makes pacts with the devil he supposedly through out of heaven (because he was too “just” to put up with him or be near him) to harm one of his most righteous subjects just to win a bet that this man would not curse him even if all his possessions (which included women and children in those days) were tortured and killed. This god was supposedly responsible for the well being of Job and his wife and his children, yet he deliberately goaded Satan into harming them. In modern enlightened courts of justice this would be considered to be criminal collusion and just as heinous as carrying out the crime oneself.

    In other words, the god your leaders have created is a fiction. It is not consistent with the ACTUAL description of this character in your holy books. You need to stop behaving like a little kid who believes what they are told without question and start acting like an adult who really cares about what is actually true, regardless of what the implications of that might be.

  • 623. Sue  |  April 26, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Do you serve Tums with your whine?

  • 624. rlwemm  |  April 26, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    This seems like cognitive projection. Sue’s site is full of it. Looks like she had a crappy childhood in a household full of apatheists who had no interest in religion and fairly inadequate parenting skills. Sue ended up as a pretty emotionally sick kid with a lot of psychological issues and a good deal of maturing to do. It seems that she latched onto a version of fundamentalist Christianity as a way of coping. It doesn’t seem to have been terribly successful at any more than a superficial level. She either needs a better therapist or she needs to reassess the ones she has misrepresented.

    http://www.worldlyannoyances.blogspot.com/

  • 625. LeoPardus  |  April 27, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Like so many, Sue is simply a hypocrite. She’s also a bitter, sad person who has failed to find a real answer to her problems and unhappiness. So she tries to visit some of her misery on others by pretending to an imagined authority, greater then herself. This lets her lord it over others and feel superior. Reality would be a much better help to her sad case.
    Now about that hypocrisy: All the following are in the story book if Sue or any others care to actually read it.

    “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

    “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

    “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.”

  • 626. Sue  |  May 2, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Leo, you have just managed to invalidate many of your own teammates who have found themselves sad and bitter as a result of childhood experiences. Sweetie,, you really should think before engaging that pie hole of yours. Have a nice day.

  • 627. LeoPardus  |  May 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Little one: You’re trying to use concepts outside of your grasp. For instance “invalidate”: that term doesn’t apply at all. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “You use that word: I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
    Then you follow up with an effort at insult, but “pie hole” refers to the mouth; I didn’t speak, I used my fingers. Perhaps “pie grabbers” would have worked better.
    And of course you implored me to “think”. Really; couldn’t you try that for yourself? …. Oh, sorry, you can’t; your religion abhors it.
    Now then, did you enjoy my string of insults? You should have. After all, the bible says to do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. So naturally I took it that you, being a ‘good’ christian, wanted me to be condescending and insulting back to you.
    Have a blessed day.

  • 628. cag  |  May 3, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Why is it that people who spend their whole lives worrying about going to hell for some minor “transgression” of the ridiculous “rules” of some imaginary tyrant think that those not so mentally constrained are unhappy?

    My suspicion is that people like Sue get their information from people whose livelihood is threatened by the truth. Preachers who lie about there being a god also lie about those that do not add to their bottom line. Where reality rules, clergy disappear.

  • 629. website  |  August 20, 2014 at 11:22 am

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!

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