What does a de-converted minister do with all their stuff?

June 10, 2008 at 11:45 pm 140 comments

I was an ordained minister for almost three years when I asked to leave and have my license revoked because I could no longer see any reason to believe in God. I have now moved out of the house I was living in (provided by the parish I worked for) and into an apartment. Packing, tying up loose ends, saying good-bye and moving can be painful no matter what the surrounding circumstances, but in this context I found myself dealing with more stress and depression than any previous move I’ve made.

I boxed the birthday card the Sunday school had made for me, telling me, “Yu are a good Minster”. I packed away the photos of the confirmation class I taught, and the farewell gifts presented to me by the congregations I ministered to. I also found, and carefully packed, gifts I had been given at my ordination: from my family, from the congregation of the church I interned at, and even a a few from some of the dear women who had taught me Sunday school decades previously. They were all so proud and so happy for me at my ordination. I felt like such a disappointment as I put their gifts in boxes to go with me on my move. I couldn’t throw these things out, though. Not yet. It would hurt too much. It doesn’t matter that I have no practical use for greeting cards, angel statuettes, or portable communion kits. I look at these things and think about the people who gave these to me, people who felt that God had touched their lives through me, and now I could not even manage to believe that there is a God who could do so.

Then there are the things I’ve bought myself, with God in mind. Shelves full of books I bought, knowing that I would be in rural parishes and would have access to no theological library other than one I brought with me. Shelf after shelf of books on preaching, pastoral care, ethics, theology, liturgy and the Bible. I had to decide what I wanted to do with these now. Do I try to sell these to other clergy, or keep them in case I find some reason to believe once again and sense a renewed call to ordained ministry. I can’t imagine this happening, but years ago, I couldn’t imagine not believing. The limits of my imagination have been proven to be smaller than the limits of what the future might hold.

I end up deciding to keep the books, and the Christian videos too. The videos are of Rob Bell and Veggie Tales, for the most part. My wife is still Christian and enjoys watching these.

CD’s of Christian music go into boxes, and I find myself wondering if I even know what sort of music I like. I bought Christian CD’s because I knew I could trust the lyrics, more than any actual appreciation for the music. It’s not that I don’t like the music, or didn’t, but what do I listen to now?

One of the most personally disturbing moments for me is packing away my clergy vestments: those black shirts with the white, plastic collar tabs; the long, white gowns (albs) and colourful scarves (stoles). My mother made me those stoles, and one of those albs was a gift from the church I interned at. And now the whole lot is packed in the same box as my tie-dyed lab coat and purple zoot suit. How long will it take before these vestments which told people who I was and what I stood for become simply costume pieces like the clothing they are being boxed in with? Do I want them to? If not, what do I want?

I respectfully burned the holy oils, returned the dried palm branches to the church, and solemnly poured the holy water into the garden, but there is so much I have left. Books, CDs, DVDs, shirts, “Jesus junk” and mementos… I am finally moved into my apartment, and have been for a week, but there are boxes I do not want to open again. At the same time, I do not want to throw them out. They are part of who I was, and helped make me who I am. They are gifts from loved ones, or investments into a future I no longer expect to have, but sometimes still wish I did.

Over the last several months, I have seen many metaphors for de-conversion on different websites such as this one. Lately, the metaphor that resonates most strongly with me is divorce. My friends and family still claim to see God, continue relationships with God, invite God to gatherings and grow nervous about offending me by mentioning God in my presence in case I am angered by our recent separation.

I am not angered that God has left me, or abandoned me or betrayed me. I don’t feel that is the case. After all, God has a perfectly understandable reason for not being a part of my life. God does not exist. I just can’t bring myself to take that personally. So, I am not angry, but I am sometimes very depressed that life is not how I pictured it would be, the world is not as I thought and I am not in a relationship I had devoted my life to. Perhaps this is part of growing up- a process that hopefully does not stop with becoming an adult- but that does not make anything any less painful. I do try to not take that pain out on my loved ones as I try to guess how best to respond to their attempts at tactful circumspection.

The divorce metaphor is underscored for me in that it seems in the aftermath of my committed relationship, I have been allowed to keep everything but the house, and almost everything I have reminds me of God and the relationship I thought we had. I want to start anew, but at the same time do not want to disown or even disrespect who I was. I can not progress from the past by disdaining it, but by building on it. Figuring out how to do so is not easy, and having to downsize as I move from a house to an apartment adds an extra layer of complexity to ice the cake with, but life is beginning to look up again as I enter into some new beginnings and re-establish some old relationships.

This is what I’ve been up to, and part of why you haven’t been hearing from me in the last month. And it leaves me with a question to those of you who have travelled similar paths as I am now:

When you de-converted, what did you do with all of your “stuff”?

- Quester

Entry filed under: Quester. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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140 Comments Add your own

  • 1. lwayswright  |  June 11, 2008 at 12:22 am

    Why did you de-convert? That truly makes my heart sad. Just know this…the reason you can’t get rid of that stuff, that christian stuff, is because somewhere, deep within you, you are still questioning your decision. Unlike a divorce God doesn’t just leave you….he sticks. Your relationship with God is still there…you have just moved away from it…God didn’t go anywhere! Maybe, hopefully you will find him again.

  • 2. Frederick Polgardy  |  June 11, 2008 at 12:32 am

    This is a really beautiful piece of self-reflection. Your honesty is courageous. I’m annoyed by ex-Christians who are so angry with their past that they can’t say anything good about it at all – but then I have to remind myself that we all have a process to go through. The stage you’re talking about needs more press time though. The part about the nostalgia and the emotions of wanting to be a part of it again, even as you know in your heart and mind that you no longer believe. I still listen to my old Christian music sometimes, because in my case, it takes me back to when I was a kid and a teenager, and puts me back in touch with old feelings that I shouldn’t totally forget. I wonder sometimes what to do with things around the house, things that say Jesus, or have Bible verses on them. I’m not opposed to Jesus or Bible verses, even though I don’t believe in Jesus or the Bible literally… But it just feels strange to have symbolic things around that are often meant more to be signs that say “I am a Christian” than as what they really say.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this.

  • 3. Jim J  |  June 11, 2008 at 1:24 am

    I have an idea. You can send what you don’t want to me! My email is in the profile on my website. I’ll pay shipping. I’m not belittling your divorce by the way, it is a painful experience. Anytime we have a sea change in life, we face separation from others. Take care and good luck.

  • 4. HeIsSailing  |  June 11, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Quester, this was a most painful article for me to read. I have never been a pastor nor church minister – merely a host to home bible studies and occassional missionary.

    But being the sentimental and reflective type, I can understand a bit of what you are experiencing. I know you are no longer a Christian now, yet all these momentos of your Christian life have still shaped who you are *now* in some way or another. Unlike many ex-Christians, I do not look at my former beliefs, customs or scriptures with bitterness or resentment. I do not believe in them anymore, yet they have been an enormous influence on who I am now – at this moment – as an ex-Christian. I know you no longer believe, but if those momentos, gifts and keepsakes mean anything at all, it is their value in influencing part of your life. The gifts and vestments were given to you by people who love you, and despite your beliefs, those gifts reflect a love that is still present! That is why they are painful to hold onto. Sentiment is a powerful force because it was built by something that loves and appreciates you and your efforts as a pastor very much.

    I left the US AirForce 23 years ago, yet I still have a pressed Class A dress uniform complete with appropriate insignia and ribbons hanging in my closet. I am no longer an airman, yet I keep that uniform as a reminder that that life and mindset will always be a part of me – for better or worse. A bad comparison perhaps, but I hang on to anything that has influenced me in my life.

    Same goes with my old Christian beliefs. I still have some of my old Christian CDs (I still dig Kerry Livgren), I still have old videos of some of my missionary trips, and I even read the Bible and appreciate it for what it is. I no longer have beliefs in God, but like it or not, 40 years of Christian beliefs have forever left its stamp on my life. Much of it is good – the rest I try to place in proper perspective and use as a tool for learning. All I can do is hang on to it, make the best of it, learn from it to be a better person and move on.

    Quester, I have struggled like you… and I guess what I am trying to say is that you don’t have to look at these reminders of your former beleifs with any bitterness or resentment. They will always be a part of you. They shaped who you are – and I am certain you learned many things that made you a better person. Cling onto that. Whether you decide to hold onto those mementos or hawk them on ebay is beside the issue really. They are just material items. But the fact that they are mere symbols for something much deeper ingrained with you is something that I hope you are able to accept and learn to properly deal with in your new life.

    It is not easy, I know – from one ex-christian to another, I wish you strength and wisdom.

  • 5. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 11, 2008 at 2:24 am

    I suppose I’m fortunate in the fact that I never felt inclined to collect much Christian “stuff.” I’ve got my Bible, a couple CDs-worth of music, and a necklace with a cross. I’ll probably keep them all as reminders of where I’ve been, for nostalgia’s sake, but I don’t suspect I’ll be using them much anymore.

  • 6. athinkingman  |  June 11, 2008 at 3:27 am

    Thanks for this moving post.

    I kept my theological books for sometime – you know, just in case I re-converted. The thought of having to buy all those commentaries that I had spent year acquiring again was just too much. When I finally realized I wasn’t going to re-convert I then started trying to give them away to friends and other ministers. A few came round but I sensed that most were too embarrassed to take them – almost as if they did they would be sealing my de-conversion in some way. Finally I just took them to the dump, but it took several trips as there were so many. I’m glad to say that the empty shelves are now slowly filling up with more relevant reading matter.

  • 7. exevangel  |  June 11, 2008 at 3:53 am

    I still have books and Christian music CDs, and these things are accumulating, not diminishing, due to my parents’ attempts to ‘subtly’ influence me back to the church still. But your plight really does sound like divorce, and I have to admit in my earthly divorce I walked away from almost everything. I hardly have a piece of furniture or a dish in my cupboard from those days. I’ve destroyed most of the wedding photos, left the gifts behind with my ex, threw out the cards and generally tried to turn over a new leaf. It didn’t happen all at once though, and I encourage you to take your time. Some of the stuff moved with me in boxes across the country and then across the ocean before I was finally ready to part with it. Time really does do wonders in this context.

  • 8. Heraclitean Fire » Links  |  June 11, 2008 at 6:00 am

    [...] What does a de-converted minister do with all their stuff? « de-conversion A thoughtful and moving post over at de-conversion. (del.icio.us tags: religion ) links, religion | 11 June 2008 at 10:00 am | RSS « You say what now? Some related posts: [...]

  • 9. Zoe  |  June 11, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Quester,

    I was with you as you typed every word here. It’s been 4 years now for me and each year, I’ve parted with more of my “stuff.” I threw away countless books, hundreds actually. I kept those that I thought might be of interest to me in writing one day. I shredded countless copies of studies, notes, Bible college stuff. I threw out the remnents of our past youth ministry and associated missions stuff. I gave my tapes and CD’s to friends, though I think there are still some here that linger. I went back to listening to music that I was told was no good, like easy rock, Simon & Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Diamond, Eagles, Phil Collins, Cat Stevens and many more. I began to connect again with someone who I thought was me, somewhere back in time, before the template of literalism was stamped on my brain.

    All I can say is give yourself time.

    I know for me that knowing what to do with stuff came to me in different stages.

    I do know that, one day when I realized certain “stuff” caused me chest pain, literally, I threw it out post haste. I realized it’s presence was making me sick. But that’s just me, and there were reasons for that.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • 10. notabarbie  |  June 11, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Quester,
    Thank you so much for your post. It was quite moving and it spoke directly to my heart. It’s been about two years for me, and you are right, it is very much like a divorce. In the beginning, I felt so alone in the world. It was as if I was the only one who was going through this type of thing. I had no one to talk to and then I reached out through cyberspace and found support and love. I hope you have too. I have gradually gotten rid of most of my books from the past, commentaries, bible studies, devotionals, etc. I didn’t do it because I was angry or bitter, but mostly because I needed to make room for other books, books I had never felt comfortable having on my shelves before. My bookshelves are so eclectic now and this makes me smile. As far as music goes, it was a huge part of my religious life. I sang in the praise band and sang solos for worship services all the time. In the beginning, I believe that is what I missed most. Music is very important to me and like you, I realized most of my musical choices were made because of the lyrics, not because I truly liked it. I am in the process of discovering a world full of amazing music. I try listening to different radio stations to see what’s out there and am having so much fun finding out what I really like, not what I am supposed to like. My whole life is that way now. I’m looking through Barbara’s eyes, not “god’s eyes, but as a very wise woman (Zoe) once told me, “Give yourself time. It takes time.”
    I know how difficult de-converting has been for me. I can only imagine what it must be like for a pastor. You are very brave in my eyes, brave and honest. There a many pastors who don’t believe what they preach from the pulpit, but don’t have the courage to do what you have done and it is true, it does take time. If I can give you any advice at all, it is to enjoy your journey or to continue with the divorce analogy, enjoy your singleness, get to know yourself and who you truly are. You are free now.

  • 11. LeoPardus  |  June 11, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Quester:

    Very moving post. De-conversion has to be so hard on ministers. The faith is your whole life. At least my job needs to have no relation to faith. … That makes me wonder, what are you doing, or will you do, for a living now? I think we will all be interested to see how that works out.

    On music: I’ve always been fairly eclectic in my musical tastes. I only demand that it be high quality and well performed. Over the past year or two i’ve gotten to love some songs in Italian. It’s been fun to learn a bit of that language so I can sing along.

    HIS:

    Great response. Like you I feel no resentment toward my years in the faith. They were mostly quite good, positive years. And they form a big part of who I am today.

  • 12. finallyhappy  |  June 11, 2008 at 9:53 am

    It’s been 5 years since I walked away from youth ministry and a very messed up church to begin my deconversion. Because, as you say, it was very much like a divorce, I had to let go of “stuff” a little bit each year. On a practical note, I sold many of my books and cds on amazon (marketplace) and used the $$ to do something fun for myself. For me, it helped.
    Now, where there used to be 15 boxes of everything imaginable, there sits 1 box. There are no more cds, books or t-shirts, but it is filled with notes and pictures that were given to me over the years. I’ll keep them. I know that no matter what I believe or don’t believe now, I touched these peoples lives in a sincere way and I don’t want to forget that.

  • 13. Sandy  |  June 11, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Keep them until you feel the need to no longer keep them. There is no reason to throw them out, there is nothing wrong with keeping them indefinitely. Put them in storage, back of the closet, attic, what have you. Your family obviously knows, send it to them to store for you if you wish and they are willing. Keep them as long as you need to, and get rid of things as you feel comfortable doing so.

    And if you never get rid of the stuff…then that is ok too. Just like the stuff we collect from our childhood, it is a part of who you are, that part of your life may be over, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t have a big impact on who you are TODAY.

    It is painful, but like any break in any relationship, time will heal and there will be a day you can look back on the “stuff” and not feel so much pain, only fond memories of the people you helped.

  • 14. orDover  |  June 11, 2008 at 11:02 am

    When I moved out of my parents’ house at 18 I decided not to bring any of my Christian trappings along with me. I had completely de-converted a year prior, and I couldn’t stomach putting Christian books into the boxes that represented my new life that was just about to start. But I had a dilemma, how could I throw them out without my parents noticing? (Yeah, I was in the closet now, and I still am.) I was throwing away a lot of stuff, including all of the notes and papers I had saved from high school. As I filled up trashbag after trashbag with ratty three ring binders and pages and pages of notebook paper I tossed one of my religious books somewhere in the center, and covered it up with more paper. One book per trashbag. The first one to go was the Bible I had had since I was in 3rd grade, The Rainbow Study Bible. It felt really good to literally get rid of all of that baggage.

    A few years later I moved to another state and I felt like I had the freedom and anonymity to start buying things that expressed my atheistic beliefs. I bought a refrigerator magnet with Kurt Vonnegut’s picture on it that quotes him saying, “If God were alive today, He’d be an atheist.” I bought books on evolution, the Big Bag, and the history of the universe. I bought books by Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Carl Sagan. And then I realized I had a new problem: what to do with my atheist stuff when my family comes to visit. Just last week my Mom was here, and before her arrival I found an empty box and filled it to the brim with any book that would raise her suspicions. I tucked that box in the back of my closet and filled a small portion of the empty space with some of the religious books she had given me since I moved out that usually are stored in said closet.

  • 15. Jonathan Blake  |  June 11, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Like others have said, the transition just takes time. You can’t speed it up. For me, it felt like I wasn’t sure where I was headed, but slowly things came together piece by piece until I had a better picture of what my life would look like.

  • 16. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 11, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    orDover, I can definitely empathize with your situation. I’m in the unenviable position of living the same area as my parents and attending the same church. I could never move away, I’ve got a very close circle of friends (consisting of an even mix of Christians and atheists) that acts as a sort of second family for me (I see more “Christ-like” behavior in my atheist friends than I see in most church-goers, which I wouldn’t doubt was a small factor in my de-conversion).

    I only de-converted in the last month or so, and I need to figure out how I’m going to deal with my parents. I’m certain that my Christian friends will be understanding and helpful, but my parents, mother in particular, aren’t going to take it well. And the only other option is to continue going to church and listen to my mother talk about God; basically, living a lie every Sunday. I think that’s ultimately going to be more difficult than telling my parents the truth, but I’m really dreading it.

    Quester,
    While I can’t speak for you, I don’t think I would keep that birthday card from the Sunday School. I would find that one of the most painful reminders of the change I’ve made in my life possible.

  • 17. Yurka  |  June 11, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Quester, what theology books do you have? Anything by Turretin or Edwards? I’d be happy to take it off your hands. I’ve been looking around for a used copy of Turretin’s Elenctic Institutes.

  • 18. TheNerd  |  June 11, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Quester, that was very moving. It brought back emotions from my own experiences with a long-term relationship that just wasn’t ment to be. Except he left me, and he tried to give me back the gifts I had given him.

    Having been on the other side of the equasion, I would recommend you don’t return any gifts. Those gifts are a peice of love from that person to you. To give it back is to reject their love for you. (It hurt me a lot when he tried to do that – it felt like he was leaving me all over again.) Just pack it away, sell it, burn it if you must. But don’t give it back.

    Obviously, time healls all wounds. I now know that he’s gay, I am happily married, and when I find a relic of our past together, I can toss it without a twinge of guilt.

    As far as my de-conversion went, I had no internal conflicts. As you say, God doesn’t care. It was actually quite freeing (kind of like how Christians say conversion to their religion is supposed to feel). The worst that happened to me was my Mom yelling at me “but what am I going to tell people when they ask why you aren’t at church?” I can’t imagine what being a minister would add to the whole equasion, but I hope to hear updates on how you’re pulling through.

  • 19. Obi  |  June 11, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    I never felt this way when I left Christianity, to be honest. I just faced up to reality, and accepted that the truth hurts and that we may not always be comfortable with it. I’ve realized now that religion continues to exist and will most likely always exist because of one simple reason.

    Fear.

    When you learn to get over that as you apparently have, you feel like a much freer person, in my opinion. Thankfully I de-converted a year ago at 16, so I never got a chance to accumulate all of the baggage, it was an easy transition into reality for me.

  • 20. Joe Sperling  |  June 11, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Quester–

    I boxed the birthday card the Sunday school had made for me, telling me, “Yu are a good Minster”.

    Of course, being a Christian who believes, I would tell you to keep all the stuff, especially this birthday card.

    Sometimes, when we lose faith, we shouldn’t look up, but rather look down, into the little faces looking up at us. God is in those faces, and in those laughs—-nothing more infectious then a group of children laughing! Little Children sometimes believe that their Mom’s and Dad’s have “left them” and don’t love them any more. We as adults can feel the same way about God. But He is always there!

    Jesus said “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven”. Quester, hold onto the stuff, because I am sure Yu are a good minster and will need it all again one day.

    –Joe

  • 21. LeoPardus  |  June 11, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Joe Sperling:

    Nice sentiment, but your current perspective prevents you from seeing what we see. I profoundly doubt Quester, or any of us, will ever return to any theistic belief. It’s all just too clear now.

  • 22. MM  |  June 11, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Quester–

    I feel the thoughtfulness and reflectiveness that has truly gone into your de-conversion, and yet I feel hardly qualified to offer any consolable words to you.

    My personal relationship with any sort of Christianity is nothing like the one you detail so thoughtfully above. The only thing I can truly relate to is the fact that I do have several Christian songs in my music library, and every time I hear them, I feel like a hypocrite. A hypocrite who so desperately wants to believe in the beauty of love that the songs express, yet a hypocrite who cannot ascribe to a philosophy so muddled with a dark history and endless theological questions that come along with the words.

    Letting go and moving on from anything in life is hard. But this, as your post showed, is something so deeper. Something that was so deep in your life… I truly cannot even imagine myself in your position, but I thank you for sharing it with those of us who have read it; it truly is a story to be shared…

    I’m sorry I have no advice to offer you, no words to console you, nothing to truly stand up and say, other than thank you. I wish you the best as you enter the next leg of life… that is truly all I can do.

    –MM

  • 23. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 11, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Joe Sperling:

    Children sometimes believe that their Mom’s and Dad’s have “left them” and don’t love them any more. We as adults can feel the same way about God. But He is always there!

    I don’t feel like God “left me.” I doubt anyone here does. I once felt that God loved me, but God should be more than just feelings that anyone can experience whether they believe in God or not.

    There’s a pretty significant difference between feeling like God left me and realizing that God was never there to begin with.

  • 24. The de-Convert  |  June 11, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    As Quester said above:

    I am not angered that God has left me, or abandoned me or betrayed me. I don’t feel that is the case. After all, God has a perfectly understandable reason for not being a part of my life. God does not exist. I just can’t bring myself to take that personally.

  • 25. Joe Sperling  |  June 11, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Snuggly Buffalo—

    Understood– the sentiment I was speaking of was “before” your deconversion process. Many, as I read their testimonies, confess an anger towards God (at the time) for not proving He is there—after repeated prayers, failure of signs from Him, etc., the choice was made to walk away.

    Of course, these are “some” of the sentiments expressed—-some have no anger at all it seems–but some do express a feeling or sentiment that God has deserted them, or isn’t who He says he is, or He would have responded to their grief, etc.

    These are the ones I was referring to when I said that sometimes children feel their parents don’t love them anymore, and adults can feel that way towards God sometimes. They may not feel that way now, after deconverting, but many may have felt that before they made the “decision” to walk away from the faith.

    But I do understand where you are coming from.

    Thanks, Joe

  • 26. Joe Sperling  |  June 11, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Just to clarify—what I mean is that when you “used” to believe in God and you were moving to deconversion, there would naturally be frustration and anger towards God for not helping you to believe, or making it clear He was there. “Why doesn’t he answer my prayers??” God, where are you!!??” This can be interpreted into the same realm as a child who has developed a “sentiment” that their parents don’t love them any more, or have abandoned them, when it clearly is not the case. Little children often can be heard saying “I’m not going to love you any more, Mommy!!” when they get angry when their needs are not being met.

    Of course, we as parents realize this sentiment will last all of about an hour, but to the child it is very real. But, if the child really and finally came to a settled conclusion that the parent/parents do not really exist (just an example), their anger would disappear—why be angry with someone who isn’t really there? But this would be AFTER their “deconversion” from believing in these parents.

    This still would not erase the fact that the parents do indeed exist though—the child has made a “decision” to believe they do not exist, and after that, it will be pretty hard to convince them differently, even if there is evidence that their decision was an incorrect one.

  • 27. LeoPardus  |  June 11, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Joe:

    I trust you see the rather massive problems with your parents/God analogy.

  • 28. Mike aka MonolithTMA  |  June 11, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    That’s a wonderful post. I’m less than six months into my deconversion. I’m keeping all my Christian music as I was pretty picky about it and only listened to stuff that I really enjoyed musically. The few Christian shirts I have will go. A lot of the books will stay. I love books too much, even ones I don’t agree with. All my cross necklaces are hanging from a post in my bedroom, and I don’t really have any plans for them.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • 29. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 11, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Actually, until I found this blog, every de-conversion I’d heard of was like you describe, Joe. Part of what I love about this blog is that it’s not full of people who are angry at God so they’re choosing to abandon him. It’s full of people who have taken a hard look at their beliefs and found them wanting, at least as far as I can tell.

    Even before my de-conversion I never felt any anger toward God. I was perfectly happy with my beliefs and my life in the context of them. As I was de-converting I never felt anger toward God for not answering my prayers; if God was real, he would answer them and I would be satisfied, and if he was not real, there was no reason to get angry for unanswered prayers. At worst it was a sort of grim acceptance. A significant aspect of my life that was there since my birth has changed radically, and that certainly hasn’t been easy to come to terms with.

    While I’m still somewhat in the process of de-converting (I continue to pray that God will stop me from going down this path, but I don’t really expect an answer anymore), what’s really finalizing it is the realization that fear is the strongest emotion I’m feeling through all this. Fear that I could be wrong and am thus damning myself to an eternity in hell, fear of the impact this will have on my relationship with my family. Fear is no reason to believe anything. Should I believe what Christianity teaches because I’m afraid of hell, or should I believe it because what it teaches is real? I certainly can’t bring myself to do the latter anymore…

  • 30. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 11, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    As for the parent analogy, there is a big difference between feeling that your parents have abandoned you so you stop believing in them, and realizing that you’ve been an orphan your whole life in spite.

  • 31. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 11, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Err, that “in spite” part was going to say “in spite of [some point that I forgot]” but I forgot to delete the text. This blog needs an edit ability or something :P

  • 32. Ubi Dubium  |  June 11, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    I’ve found that old religious stuff (and the new stuff that my Fundie Brother-in-law keeps sending) makes nice gifts for my religious friends and family. I’ve been sending the religious-themed jewelry to Fundie Brother-in-Law’s kids. It took a little longer to find a home for the beautifully bound, boxed, volume of Bishop Usshers’s nonsense that he gave us in return, but we eventually did. Even if I think it’s all a bunch of tripe, it might be bringing comfort to somebody who still needs their faith. And it might really shake up their image of what an atheist is – that we would give them a gift in keeping with their values rather than trying to shove ours down their throats.

    Quester, have you thought of donating books and CD’s and vestments to one of those rural churches you mentioned? Especially for the items that were gifts, I would think that doing that would be more in keeping with the sentiments of those who gave you that stuff than leaving it mouldering in boxes. Were I in your place, I think I might look for a church that focuses more on feeding the poor and housing the homeless than they do on hellfire and brimstone, and pass them stuff as I was ready part with it. Just a thought.

  • 33. Quester  |  June 12, 2008 at 6:28 am

    lwayswright

    Why I de-converted is a long and detailed story which I can summarize as:

    1) I stopped feeling God’s presence in my life.
    2) I began to doubt I ever had experienced God’s presence in my life as I reinterpreted past events in light of new data.
    3) I realized there is no consistent, compelling evidence for God’s existence or character outside of experiencing God’s presence in one’s life.

    I am open to finding such evidence, but I am not open to treating it non-critically.

    Frederick Polgardy

    Thank-you for your compliments. I agree that there are certain Bible verses, some claiming to be the words of Jesus, that I still agree with, though I see the Bible very differently now then how I once did.

    Jim J and Yurka

    If I decide to give my things away, I’m confident I’ll have plenty of takers locally.

    Um, Jim, you did catch that I was using divorce as a metaphor, right?

    HIS

    Not a bad comparison at all. Thank-you for sharing your experiences. They helped.

    I don’t view what I have left with bitterness so much as disappointment in how things turned out. I hope I gain the strength and wisdom you have wished for me, that I might make the choices I need to become a better person.

    Snuggly

    Outside of things I collected purposefully as parts of a resource library, I have tried to amass very little. Still, small amounts over many years can add up quickly. As for the card, we’ll see. Sometimes something that hurts the most does so because it holds the most personal value.

    And I agree that fear is no reason to believe.

    ATM

    The thought of trying to gather all these books once again if I reconvert is definitely a factor in my hesitation to just start throwing things out.

    Exevangel

    As impatient as I can get, I am striving to allow the passage of time to give me perspective.

    Zoe

    I’ll have to try listening to some of those musicians! I’m glad you got rid of what hurt you, though sorry to hear you felt such pain.

    Notabarbie

    I am greatful for having Stumbled across this community last November, and I’m glad that you have as well. Thank-you for your reminder to look at the opportunities, and not just the struggles.

    LP

    When it comes to Italian songs, I know “That’s Amore” and some opera. Good stuff, but not really my taste for every day listening.

    As for making a living, before going to seminary, I worked in a library. For the last three months, I’ve been trying to get back into library work. I haven’t had much luck, but next week I’m starting a three month contract with the public library in the city my wife and I both grew up in. It’s just covering a medical leave, but I hope I’ll be able to turn it into something more permanent as time goes by.

    Finallyhappy

    Sounds like you made some intelligent decisions. You have given me a few things to think about.

    Sandy

    I look forward to being able to remember things with simple fondness. That would be nice.

    orDover

    While I could not lie to my parents and say I was not leaving the ministry, I did spend quite a bit of time emphasizing that I have not completely given up that God might be there, I simply don’t know what anyone can say we know about God or what God wants. I know something about polite fictions to keep things peaceful with parents, but I find life is easiest when I can be most honest. I hope things work out with your folks.

    Jonathan Blake

    I am not only uncertain about the future, but have recent evidence that my ability to predict the future is non-existent. I am beginning to look forward to it, though, which is a nice change of pace.

    TheNerd

    Not returning the gifts sounds like good advice, thank-you. I don’t want these people to feel I’m rejecting them.

    Obi

    Reality has it’s advantages, though I’ve never seen ease or lack of fear as numbering among them. I’m glad you had an easy transition at a young age.

    Joe Sperling

    Thanks for thinking I’d be a good minister if called to it. Your analogy about the parents suffers from a slight problem, though. It is only possible to decide they do not exist if they are not there. If the parents are absent, it is possible to choose to believe they do not exist. I suppose, following that analogy, it is possible that God exists, but is simply absent.

    MM

    If you want to believe the ideas, but don’t, in what way are you a hypocrite? Wanting the world to be a better place is not hypocrisy, it’s inspiration. Isn’t it?

    Mike aka MonolithTMA

    Your comment about your few shirts reminds me of a personal anecdote. Two years ago, my wife got me a shirt with a picture of a jester’s hat on it. Beneath the hat is the citation, “Psalm 14:1″. She got it for me without looking up the Bible verse. She knows I like to identify myself as a clown or fool sometimes, and assumed that the verse was something about “Fools in Christ” or how God has hidden His wisdom from the wise and revealed it to fools. When I looked up the verse and read, “The fool says in his heart there is no God”, I thanked my wife, then put the shirt in my closet. I had no desire to insult anyone. Recently, I’ve started wearing the shirt. The irony appeals to me. It’s the only Christian shirt I have left that isn’t clergy uniform (I had others that were casualties to my time as chaplain at summer camp).

    Ubi Dubium

    Quester, have you thought of donating books and CD’s and vestments to one of those rural churches you mentioned?

    I hadn’t, actually. The seminary I attended frequently sells things given to them by retiring clergy. They sell these at cheap prices to their students who will be soon starting out with limited funds (more likely in debt). I had been thinking about donating some things to them (especially that which I bought from them).

    Finding a church or a minister to personally (rather than impersonally) support is an idea worth thinking about. Thanks.

  • 34. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 12, 2008 at 11:29 am

    In a way, I think my lack of a Christian resource library contributed to my eventual de-conversion. The way I saw it, all these books people were writing were written by fallible humans, as opposed to the Bible’s supposed divine inerrancy, and so the Bible and God were the only resources I needed. Suffice it to say that the Bible and God alone were not enough when I finally stopped ignoring challenges to my faith.

  • 35. Joe Sperling  |  June 12, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Yes—my “parents” analogy was a very poor choice and I admit it. :>)

    Snuggly Buffalo—

    You mention you are still “in the process” of deconversion, and that “fear is the strongest emotion you are feeling” right now.

    In sincerely hope you will not continue with the deconversion process. One thing to seriously consider, and the great divines like John Owen, Johnathan Edwards, CH Spurgeon, etc. have all stated this, is that God has both strong encouragement and great threatenings in his word—-with a design in them. The threatenings are “designed” to produce fear—especially in those heading the wrong direction.

    I you are moving “towards” God the promises are what attract you. If you are moving “away” from God, the threatenings become a greater focus, as you fear you are “falling away”. When a Christian begins to turn back, such verses as Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26 can scare the living daylights out of you, and they are designed to do just that. They hold a very serious reality–one can truly “fall away” and apostasize, but they also serve the purpose of warning one not to proceed in that direction.

    I will be blunt here—but I believe this to be very true—that the one that can continue past those threatening verses, until they do not threaten them personally any more, have literally BECOME what the verses are talking about. So, if you still have fear, you are actually in a good place, believe it or not. There is still great hope for you!

    To those how have “become” those threatening verses, what I am saying is “bunk” and “foolishness”, but to those who tremble when they read them for fear of falling, they are doing what they are intended to do—and you need to turn around and run towards God with all of your might—because He loves you dearly.

    –Joe

  • 36. Non Sicuro  |  June 12, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    I can relate to some degree to your situation though I wasn’t a minister and therefore didn’t have quite the emotional connection to my stuff. My plan so far has been to keep all of my books because I think they may be helpful over time as I seek to engage various topics from my new perspective. My writing, while not particularly good or profound, tends to involve frequent use of resources to confirm or correct my understanding.

    But I am still quite the neophyte with this idea that life can be lived without religion.

  • 37. karen  |  June 12, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Quester, thanks so much for your honest and poignant essay.

    I was amazed when I discovered (some years ago as my mother was declining) how much simple possessions become parts of our lives and even define us. As mom became older and more impaired, her world shrank from a home to a shared condo to a senior apartment to one room in a retirement home to one bed in a nursing home. With each move, we winnowed more of her things away until she was reduced to a couple of photos and a robe and nightgown. She seemed to diminish, mentally and physically, in tandem with the shrinking of her collection of cherished items.

    I believe this is why we all have such trouble parting with our “stuff” – giving it away involves renouncing or moving beyond some portion of ourselves or some phase of our lives, good or bad. It’s a recognition that time marches on, I guess.

    Anyway, I agree with those who advise you to give this time. Keeping things in boxes allows you to process this whole segment of your life and at some point you’ll feel more comfortable and you’ll know what to do with the things you don’t want and where to put the things you do want to keep. In terms of books, there’s a thriving used book market at Half.com (now part of eBay) that I use all the time to buy and sell – just a tip. ;-)

    SnugglyBuffalo:
    I too was haunted by fear during the early months after I deconverted. Give it time. Eventually, the idea that there’s an evil force called satan, lurking in the world and implanting thoughts in your mind – or that there’s an all-loving, all-powerful god who must coerce humans into bowing down to him by threatening them with eternal punishment, will become so self-evidently absurd to you that you will be surprised you ever took such primitive, superstitious nonsense seriously. At that point you’ll be able to laugh at it, not be frightened by it. But it does take some time for the old ideas to be exorcised out of your brain!

    People like Joe are happy that you’re scared, because keeping you scared is the only way to keep you toeing the line. Once the faithful sheep get past fear into reason, there’s a danger that they might start thinking for themselves – and we know where that leads!! (gasp-thehorror!) ;-)

  • 38. Joe Sperling  |  June 12, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Karen–

    People like Joe are happy that you’re scared, because keeping you scared is the only way to keep you toeing the line. Once the faithful sheep get past fear into reason, there’s a danger that they might start thinking for themselves – and we know where that leads!! (gasp-thehorror!)

    You couldn’t be more wrong. I am not happy that anyone is scared. I look at those verses as I would a sign at the beach that says “Enter at your own risk—shark infested waters”. They are there to warn you, not to keep you “toeing the line”.

    When we are moving towards God we are looking at “exceedingly great and precious promises”—that is our whole focus. When we begin to turn back, the warnings are there for our own good—just like a warning at the beach, or a warning anywhere that is put there for our own protection.

    I’m not sure what you mean by getting past fear and thinking for oneself? I think for myself in many decisions I make. I am not going to ask God which toothpaste I should use, though I know he would prefer I use Colgate (just kidding)—but I will submit to God when it comes to the eternal value of my soul.

    Read Psalm 1 and you will see the picture of someone who has yielded to an evil heart of unbelief (something the warnings are specifically there for):

    Blessed is the man
    who does not “walk” in the counsel of the wicked
    or “stand” in the way of sinners
    or “sit” in the seat of mockers.

    Note the progression—–one begins to “walk” in the counsel of the wicked (wicked is a strong term, but refers to those who do not reverence God)— then one goes from “walking” to “standing in the way of sinners”—their “walk” has slowed to a “standstill”—and then finally the “sit” in the seat of mockers–they literally laugh at what they should be fearing. It is a progressive, slow process–from walking, to standing to sitting—-slowly erasing all belief. It is a very sad process.

    I believe (and I know I will be trounced on for such a negative and judgmental attitude) that the saddest people on judgment day will not be original atheists, or free-thinkers who never believed—but it will be those who actually knew the way of truth, and could have been saved, and traded it all in based on their own finite reason, and are told to “Depart from me” from the Lord Himself on that day. The anguish one would feel knowing they were once on the right path, but left it for almost nothing, would be umimaginable. Of course, when you don’t believe in that, it causes a chuckle I guess—-but to me it is eternal, and I am being as serious as a heart attack.

    –Joe

  • 39. Non Sicuro  |  June 12, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Joe,

    Yes (referring to your last sentence), I am initially inclined to a chuckle…but quickly, the chuckle passes and I am just sad for you to be stuck in that worldview I recall all too clearly.

  • 40. Quester  |  June 12, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Karen

    It amazes me how much I have let “stuff” define me. I hadn’t even realized it until I seriously started thinking of getting rid of some stuff, in one fashion or another.

    Joe

    All right, Joe, let’s address this seriously. Where is God, that I might run to Him, and in what manner do I run? The Bible is unclear and contradictory. Christian churches disagree- sometimes violently. Christian pastors, for the most part, received similar training to what I did. But if you see clearly, tell me which way to run, and how you know this way is the true way. I have been learning about Sikhism lately. If there is a god, it seems as good a way toward that god as any, and better than many.

  • 41. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 12, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Joe, I believe you are genuinely concerned for me; I felt much the same as you for people I heard who were “falling away,” I understand where you’re coming from. I do appreciate the fact that you care enough to have this discourse, even if I disagree with you.

    I’ve made a point of not basing my de-conversion on my own understanding of God, on my finite reason. When I first seriously looked at my beliefs, I decided the only way to truly test them was to dig into God’s word and to pray that he would guide me, help me with my unbelief. But I found contradictions in the Bible that God didn’t help me to resolve, and my prayers to this day are answered with silence. I can agree that God might use fear to bring someone back to him. But I try to come back and find that he’s not there, and never was to begin with.

  • 42. Joe Sperling  |  June 12, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Quester—-

    All right, Joe, let’s address this seriously. Where is God, that I might run to Him, and in what manner do I run? The Bible is unclear and contradictory.

    The Bible may appear to have “contradictions” in some places, I agree (Which can be explained if you read a good commentator)–but there are far more “coincidences” –so is the glass half empty or half full? I find no contradictions concerning coming to God though—it’s pretty clear—repent, and turn to him in prayer. Cast aside your unbelief and trust the Word of God that he is there. “Casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).
    (When I say “coinicidences” above I mean things that cross-reference to one another perfectly, though the authors lived thousands of years apart).

    I came to Christ when a friend of mine gave me a Gospel of John to read. I had never read the Bible before, or had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t read it at first, but after a week or so I picked it up and began to read it alone in my bedroom. A miraculous change took place in me–if, as some say, it was “all in my head”, I have to say I have never had that happen reading any other book in my life. All I did was ask Jesus if I could be one of his sheep after reading John Chapter 10 where he says he calls his sheep “by name”.

    The Christian life appears to follow the same pattern usually—enlightenment and joy and a sense of God’s presence–but then there appears to be a long “dry period”—just as Israel was in the wilderness, so Christians are put to the test to see if they will endure. It is at that point, where God “seems” to be so far away, and not answering prayer, or showing himself at all that doubts can set in. This is when we need to run to him in our hearts and cling to him, because he is strengthening us by the trial—our faith is being refined.

    If we turn back and give up (not that many christians give up “for a time”) totally, and renounce our faith in him, we have failed the test, and are “reprobate silver”–I say this bluntly—but it is what the Bible says. I do not believe that someone who gives up totally does not have a chance to come back—I believe God will accept anyone who truly repents and returns to him.

    Sorry for the long post, but I feel so strongly about this, and so sad when I see someone has given up faith in God–because he is so faithful. I have been a Christian for 38 years now, and I am more determined and filled with joy than when I started—but this was after many extremely dry spells where I almost threw in the towel and gave up for good—how glad I am I did not !!!!!! When I say run to him, I mean cast yourself upon him in faith and believe, no matter how you feel, or what your circumstances are—–it may take a while–sometimes a great while—but God WILL come through and prove he loves you more than words could possibly say!

  • 43. Quester  |  June 12, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    When the later authors could read the works of the earlier authors, I find the the “coincidences” to be less impressive and the contradictions more glaring. Even limiting our discussion to the New Testament, it is possible to argue that our actions do matter or do not matter in terms of our salvation only if you ignore the verses that argue the exact opposite. The word “repent” means to turn toward God and God’s will. It is only possible if we can distinguish God from non-God and can can discern what God’s will actually is. Telling me that the path to God is to go to God is about as useful as a map without landmarks or roads marked on it that tells me in order to get to my destination, I should go to my destination.

    I have read all four Gospels, I assure you, and I used commentaries to help me wrestle with the harder to understand bits. I have spent the last ten years unable to feel God’s presence, but trying to discern His will through careful study of the scripture, fervent prayer, and memories of past experiences when I felt God was communicating to me. If after ten years of being tested I have failed, so be it. I can only search so long for something or someone before deciding it is either not there, or not able to be discovered in the manner I am seeking it.

    I have tried your way. I have tried it sincerely. I have invested years of time, effort, energy and study into trying it. It did not work for me.

  • 44. LorMarie  |  June 12, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    I really feel for you. I have purged the Christian label from my being but don’t see myself becoming an atheist. I’d consider myself apathetic at this point, just ignoring the issue of God. As for you Christian material, keep them if it’s not too painful. Just look at it as a part of your life thus a part of who you were. Ugghhh, why does this God have such a hold on people?

  • 45. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 12, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Why do we even need Bibles with commentaries? Isn’t the Holy Spirit supposed to grant us understanding of scriptures?

  • 46. Joe Sperling  |  June 13, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Snuggly—-

    We shouldn’t rely on commentaries for everything, that’s for sure. What I meant is that if there is an apparent contradiction, and one reads a few commentaries by different authors, often that contradiction has an explanation—and most of the commentators will agree. “In the multitude of counselors there is wisdom”.

    I remember one place in the Old testament where it says 24,000 died. Then in the New Testament it says 23,000 died. But if you read further it says “23,000 died in one day”–the “one day” actually clears up the contradiction, because as in many disasters, there is immediate death, and then the casulties that follow after. The TOTAL who died were 24,000, but 23,000 of them died in “one day” of the plague that fell on them. But the person “looking” for a contradiction would immediately say “See!! The Old Testament says 24,000—the New says 23,000—it is a glaring contradiction! (See Numbers 25:9 vs. 1Cor. 10:8 )

    If I had not read a commentary which explained this “apparent” contradiction, I would most likely still be confused about it—-so commentaries can help at times.

    Quester—-I have to say I am a bit confused by you. When someone says to me “Joe–come over here” I usually move in that direction. Or if they ask me a question, I usually answer. That is all it takes to “come” to the Lord—come to him in prayer and confess all to him—it is that simple. The Lord does not requires “steps” to approach him. We just come to him in prayer.

    –Joe

  • 47. Joe Sperling  |  June 13, 2008 at 11:24 am

    The verse I mentioned above turned into a smiley. It is supposed to be 1 Corinthians 10 verse 8.

  • 48. Yurka  |  June 13, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Why do we even need Bibles with commentaries? Isn’t the Holy Spirit supposed to grant us understanding of scriptures?

    Commentaries aren’t infallible, but why would you reject them? Would a mathematical theorem be invalid if the original author used different terminology than you were used to and it had to be explained to you by someone else?

    There is biblical precedent for this. Think of the Ethiopian eunuch in acts to whom Philip had to explain Isaiah 53.

    Remember: the Bible is the sole infallible rule of faith, but Christianity is a communal religion (Heb 10:26). Teachers are part of the body.

    Of course, whether you are eventually able to hate your sin and trust in Christ alone for your salvation is by the Holy Spirit, but this has *nothing* to do with there being something wrong with referring to a commentary!

  • 49. Yurka  |  June 13, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Also remember the end of John’s gospel. If everything Jesus did were recorded, there would not be space enough for all the books!
    You will always be able to draw some distinction that is not spelled out in the text, since all distinctions cannot be spelled out as that would require an infinite amount of papyri. It is perfectly reasonable for you to go to some other resource to find out what the *other* passages of scripture have to say on the matter (analogy of scripture).

  • 50. Zoe  |  June 13, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Joe,

    I wonder what part of, been there, done that in this regard: “That is all it takes to “come” to the Lord—come to him in prayer and confess all to him—it is that simple. The Lord does not requires “steps” to approach him. We just come to him in prayer.

    –Joe”

    don’t you understand. How many times can one say, I did or in some cases, I am. Some people keep going around in circles on this. :-(

  • 51. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 13, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    “In the multitude of counselors there is wisdom.”

    And at the same time, the Bible tells us not to rely on the wisdom of man, and that God will give understanding of the scriptures through the Holy Spirit. Not to mention that one can find a “multitude of counselors” to support just about any interpretation of the Bible imaginable.

    The fact that there is biblical precedent just seems to be a further contradiction. The Holy Spirit will grant you understanding of scripture. But you still need fallible men to explain it to you, and to tell you what the Holy Spirit is telling you.

    That is all it takes to “come” to the Lord—come to him in prayer and confess all to him—it is that simple.

    That’s what I had been doing for the last month. Trying to come back to God and finding nothing is precisely why I don’t believe anymore.

    There are plenty of reasons not to believe in God, to reject Christianity. And I would ignore them all if God called me back to him. But He doesn’t, so I don’t.

  • 52. Debbie  |  June 13, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Touching blog entry. I feel your pain, in a sense. As a former Catholic, I know that feeling of loss. Now there’s no emotional safety net.

    In a sense, though, you sound as if you still believe. “…I would igrnore them al lif God call me back to him. But He doesn’t, so I don’t.” You speak of “God” as if he is a real person. In a way, your doubting reminds me of what Mother Teresa went through–hearing nothing from god and suffering in silece.

  • 53. Joe Sperling  |  June 13, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    SnugglyBuffalo—

    You need to keep praying. Your faith is being tested. God wants you to rely on his Word, not your feelings, impressions or experiences. If you were in a boat during a storm, and had a radio and a compass, bound for Spain, and your radio messages are apparently not being heard, do you give up on the compass? It would be the only thing you could rely on, and you would keep trying with the radio.

    And because your radio messages are not being heard, does that mean Spain no longer exists? No, so you keep sending the radio messages, and relying on the compass for direction.

    Ver bad analogy I know—but the Bible is your compass—the radio calls are your prayers. Right now, it appears the distress calls are not being heard—-so put your faith in the compass, and continue to make the calls. God didn’t go anywhere, just like Spain didn’t leave in the poor analogy I gave, just because your prayers are not being clearly answered at the present time.

    If you can, read a book called “Spiritual Desertion” by a couple of Dutch reformed authors named Voetius and Hoornbeeck if you have the time. They lived in the 17th and 18th centuries. This book truly helped me to understand why so many Christians face such dryness and deadness in their walks at times. It is how God trains one in the faith. We can often think God has abandoned us, when he is trying to teach us. Just as a parent may walk into another room away from their two year old for a moment. The two year old looks around, used to the Mother’s presence, and then bursts out crying.

    God does the same with us to train us up in faith–the Bible says the “trying of your faith reaps great reward if one is exercised thereby” —-meaning, don’t give up. I hope you will give it another shot, and not turn away for good. I mean it sincerely when I say that if you hang in there, God has wonderful things for you!

    –Joe

  • 54. Quester  |  June 13, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Joe, the main problem with your analogy is that the compass needle keeps swinging in different directions. You speak as if the Bible has a clear and consistent message about how God wants us to act. The more I read the Bible, the more I see that it doesn’t. There is no voice saying, “Come over here.” There are many voices saying, “Go somewhere poorly defined using a route that is mostly metaphorical. No, wait, don’t go anywhere, just rely on God to bring you where you need to be. No, ignore that, nothing needs to be done. It’s all been taken care of. Except in regards to you, that is. You’d really better shape up, or you’ll pay for it eternally.”

    And why should I assume that at least one of the contradictory Christian paths to God is correct, and not those of a completely different religion?

    Debbie

    When I heard about Mother Theresa’s doubts, they sounded very familiar. Like her, I had felt God’s presence strongly in my life until I reached the point where I was responding to God’s call to me and living out His vocation for me. Once I reached that point, any sense of His presence, direction or support disappeared. She lasted fifty years crying out to a God who did not answer. In the mean time, she saw suffering as a way to God. I lasted only ten years, and am not going to put myself through that for another forty. There is enough suffering inherent in life that purposefully pursuing more seems unsound.

  • 55. Quester  |  June 13, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Debbie

    I should have added that I am willing to believe. I changed my mind once when the evidence pointed in a different direction under closer examination. I am willing to change my mind again, in the light of new evidence.

  • 56. Joe Sperling  |  June 13, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Quester—–

    Yes–the needle does swing in different directions during a storm sometimes. And we as Christians, even though we are in the same boat as Jesus (while he is sleeping) scream out in fear because of the storm.

    You sound like you want God to appear and clearly point the way for you. That isn’t going to happen. But even if the compass needle is swinging erratically, as I asked in my analogy—does that mean Spain doesn’t exist now? Does the existence of Spain rely on my understanding of the compass? Maybe I need to study how to use the compass a bit more effectively—I can still be frightened by the storm—-but I shouldn’t conclude Spain doesn’t exist due to my own feelings and experience.

    If you want to conclude there is no God because you don’t understand the Word, and feel confused by it, or you don’t have any close sense of his presence or direction, be my guest. But in my opinion that is foolishness–that would be like the guy on the boat saying “this compass sucks, and the *&^%^ radio isn’t getting any response, I therefore conclude that Spain no longer exists”. Not very wise in my opinion–sorry to be so blunt, but seriously feel that way.

  • 57. Joe Sperling  |  June 13, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Just to add—-the guy on the boat knows Spain exists, just as a former believer “knew certainly” that God existed—when he believed. The analogy applies far more to a deconvert, than to someone who never believed in the first place. –JS

  • 58. Quester  |  June 13, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Fair enough, but if there is no reason for the guy on the boat to believe that Spain does exist other than his own feelings and experience, and neither his compass nor radio help him get any closer to it, what should he do when the storm strikes?

    I’m not saying that he should decide that Spain does not exist, but it might be a good idea to come in out of the rain and see if there is any map, compass or other tool that would tell him how to get to Spain. Perhaps he should go on an airplane piloted by a captain with a bunch of people trying to get to the same destination.

    But if he does so and realizes that no compass points to Spain, no two maps agree on where it might be, and that the plane flies in circles generation after generation promising to get to Spain someday, and in the meantime can you contribute to help cover the cost of fuel? Well, he might rationally conclude that either Spain does not exist, or, at the very least, that the Spaniards have no desire for him to come visit.

  • 59. Yurka  |  June 13, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    As for Mother Teresa.

  • 60. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 13, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I speak of God as if he is a real person because up until recently I thought he was. It’s just more natural to speak this way. I expect that with time that habit will fade.

    Joe, I think one point you are missing is that I don’t feel like God is no longer there. After looking at my life, I don’t think he ever was to begin with. Looking at other Christians I know, I see no evidence for him there, either. No aspect of God seems to hold up to real scrutiny.

    That God does not seem to answer me is why I conclude as definitively as I can that he is not there (seek and ye shall find). That he never seemed to be anywhere in the first place is why I started to question him. I didn’t start feeling that God wasn’t there anymore before I de-converted. Quite literally, one day I randomly asked myself why I believe in God, and didn’t have an answer. The harder I looked, the less support I found.

    This isn’t “spiritual dryness” (I hear they have a cream for that now). The Bible says that if you seek God, you will find him. The idea that God would sometimes NOT let you find him, just to screw with your head and see if you still believe, is appalling. When that 2-year-old child starts crying, does the parent decide to hide around the corner to test the child? Essentially I’ve spent the last 23 years assuming God was there, sometimes pretending to hear him or “feel his presence.” I finally decided to stop assuming, and looked around. He’s not in the room, and when I call out to him there is no reply. Examining the room more closely, I can find no signs that he was ever in the room, just a lot of people who refuse to look around but still tell me that God is there. I can keep calling out to him, or I can face reality.

    Or, to follow your boating analogy, I’ve realized that the compass is just a rod that points in whatever direction I left it facing, and that the only radio messages I got from “Spain” were imagined in my self-delusion. After 23 years, it’s time to change course and head for land, for a place whose radio signals are real.

  • 61. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 13, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    And perhaps it would be more accurate to use Atlantis as the destination instead of Spain.

  • 62. Quester  |  June 13, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    *applauds SnugglyBuffalo*

    That was very well-written.

  • 63. Joe Sperling  |  June 13, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Atlantis would be a cool destination if we were fairly certain it existed before we left on the boat though. But LOL. What I was trying to say is that deconverts “started” out bound for a place they “knew” existed (at the time–before they lost faith)—should they then claim the place no longer exists just because the “means” (the compass and radio in analogy, or Bible and prayers in reality) they were using to arrive there appear to be failing?

    If one starts out for Spain with knowledge it exists, and then half way there decides it must not exist because their own “experience” has changed, they might as well turn back and go to their Atlantis of earthly reason where they alone are God.

    Quester—- You are right in your assertion that there are many different churches saying many different things. However, the majority of Christian churches hold to the same “basic” doctrine (orthodoxy)— The Virgin birth, Deity of Christ, salvation by faith through Grace, the Trinity, etc. — it is on other doctrinal issues that there are far more disagreements. Some say you “must be baptized” in the name of Jesus, other in the name of the Trinity–by immersion or sprkinkling, etc. etc. My church teaches you must be baptized by doing a triple flip into the pool, and you only get three tries to accomplsh it or you will be excommunicated. (just kidding—but you get the point).

    What I mean is that the basic doctrines are there—and coming to the Lord is the least difficult of all. You come to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ in prayer, and pour out your heart before him: “God, you feel so far away. Where are you? Why are you deserting me?” And if one is learning by the experience they might ask along with the leper “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief”. That is a very honest prayer—we ALL need help in believing–sometimes it’s not an easy thing to believe.

    –Joe

  • 64. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 13, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    …coming to the Lord is the least difficult of all.

    And yet earlier you say that God will sometimes make it difficult, to test us?

    …should they then claim the place no longer exists just because the “means” (the compass and radio in analogy, or Bible and prayers in reality) they were using to arrive there appear to be failing?

    No, but they should claim it never existed if they realized that the “means” they were using have been failing the entire time, that everyone else’s “means” are also likely not working, and the only evidence for the place is an ancient text saying it’s there (coincidentally, and quite unintentionally, this would perfectly describe any group that actually was seeking Atlantis and claimed to have real evidence of its existence).

  • 65. Quester  |  June 13, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    I once also “knew” that Santa and the Easter Bunny existed, Joe. But I stopped believing in them when the same sources that told me the did exist (my parents) told me that they didn’t.

    Now the source that told me God existed (personal experience) tells me that either God does not exist, does not (perhaps can not) care, or can not affect the world in a manner that expresses whatever caring God has for this realm.

    If my parents tell me today that they were kidding and Santa is real, I might try to find some other evidence to support their claim. If I experience God’s presence, I will try to figure out God’s will that I may follow it.

    The virgin birth, deity of Christ and Trinity are fun to argue about, but at the end of the day these points of agreement are utterly unimportant. What we can not seem to answer is “who is God?” “what does God want of us?” and “why should we care?”. These are the questions there is incredible disagreement on, in the churches and in scripture.

    I’ve prayed the prayers you offer above until I could no longer believe anyone was listening. If I could convince myself it’s worth the bother, I might try again. As it is, though, God knows where I am.

  • 66. orDover  |  June 13, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    I think next Joe is going to quote the “Footprints” poem to us.

  • 67. Joe Sperling  |  June 13, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    …coming to the Lord is the least difficult of all.

    And yet earlier you say that God will sometimes make it difficult, to test us?

    It is a bit of a paradox isn’t it? It is the easiest thing to do—just to pray and believe. When you first receive Christ it is a rather simple thing: You come to him, ask him to come into your heart, and you believe. Normally a new believer has a “sense of God’s presence” and a deep feeling of joy associated with it. But then the dry periods can come—-it’s just as “easy” to come to God, what is missing is the “feeling of assurance” that He is there. He is teaching us to walk by faith, and not by the “feeling of assurance” we have that He is there.

    Parents have to do this with children–they have to learn to have faith that when Mommy/Daddy leave for a while she/he is coming back. Little children will start crying when their parents leave even for a short time. But soon they begin to develop “faith” that their Mom has not left them forever, but will be back in time. They don’t need to be held and reassured all of the time.

    With Christians it is always “easy” to come to God—He is only a prayer away, or even a thought away. What is “difficult”, and what is the “test” for us, is whether we are going to hang in there and “believe” even though there is no “sense of comfort” when we pray to God or approach Him. Are we going to believe He is there or not based on our feelings, or on the Word of God? So, it is very easy, if we continue to believe, to come to God, but it is not always easy to bear with the absence of his revealed presence in our lives.

    I hope I made that understanable. Again, there are books about “Spiritual Desertion”, written by scholars, which present the case much more clearly than I can—I can really only state my own experience, and use the dim-witted logic I possess. :>)

  • 68. Joe Sperling  |  June 13, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    orDover—

    Actually I was getting ready to sing Kum Ba Yah :>)

    –Joe

  • 69. orDover  |  June 13, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    I don’t understand why Joe believes in god, or rather, what he bases that belief on. He says the “word of god” is what we should base our feelings on, but how can we do that if we haven’t first accepted that god, and the Christian concept of god, are real or correct? Wouldn’t that initial decision have to be based on some sort of emotion, i.e. the touching story in the book of John, or fear of the Biblical hell? And please don’t say that the Bible is god’s word because the Bible says it is god’s word.

  • 70. Joe Sperling  |  June 13, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    I don’t understand why Joe believes in god, or rather, what he bases that belief on. He says the “word of god” is what we should base our feelings on, but how can we do that if we haven’t first accepted that god, and the Christian concept of god, are real or correct?

    onDover—-

    I thought that a deconvert was someone who HAD accepted that God and the Christian concept of God were real—and then lost faith in that, or turned away from it. Maybe you are not a person who deconverted–perhaps you can clarify.

    I have actually been posting regarding a few people in here who said they are “in the process” of deconverting, so they will understand what I mean by “putting faith in the Word of God” (even if they no longer believe it holds any validity or power any more). They are the ones I am basically addressing when I say to continue to pray and have faith and you WILL see a breakthrough to the deadness, and dullness, and frustration that can occur in the Christian walk.

    But if you have never really known the Christian walk, the concept of believing in the Bible may be foreign to you.
    By the way, I didn’t say we “base our feelings” on the Bible–I said you trust in what it says no matter how you may feel.

    –Joe

  • 71. orDover  |  June 13, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    I have indeed “really known the Christian walk,” but I don’t feel like giving my life story again on this site. Suffice it to say: I was born into a strong Christian family, accepted Jesus into my heart as my personal savior, attended Christian school, read the Bible and devotionals every day, attempted to “pray without ceasing” and develop my personal relationship with Jesus as much as possible, and believed that the Bible was the infallible word of god, until I was a senior in high school.

    I know that I took what you were saying slightly out of context, but you did not answer my question. Why do you believe in god? And if your answer is “the Bible,” then why do you believe in the Bible?

    Quester and SnugglyBuffalo were both saying that their belief in god was based on a strong emotion, the feeling that god existed, not on their reason or intellectual deduction. For myself, I believed in god because I had always believed in god, just like my parents and teachers had taught me. I’m curious to know why you believe, since you are a later-in-life convert, and I’m curious if that belief is based on emotion or not.

  • 72. karen  |  June 14, 2008 at 1:35 am

    continue to pray and have faith and you WILL see a breakthrough to the deadness, and dullness, and frustration that can occur in the Christian walk.

    Joe, just how long is one supposed to hang on out of desperation, waiting for a voice to come on the line and getting nothing but a dial tone? Honestly, as Quester said, if there’s a god out there, he knows my number. He knows exactly what it would take to persuade me (or Quester, or SnugglyBuffalo, or any other deconvert on here) to believe in him again. If he wants to reach out to me, my phone is turned on and I’m willing to pick up the phone if it rings.

    But there comes a point where one has to move on with life, for mental health sake if nothing else.

    It seems to me that when I hear Christians saying things like “keep believing and praying and having faith!!” what that means is that if you diligently try to persuade yourself to believe, and will yourself to believe, and put yourself in an emotionally suggestible state – maybe, indeed, you can convince yourself to go back to what is (for me, at least) basically a brainwashed state. After all, it’s a lot easier socially and perhaps emotionally, to just give in and re-join the crowd of religious people who make up the vast majority of our population. So, the earnest Christian says, hang in there long enough and eventually you’ll capitulate.

    And I’ve no doubt that’s the case for a lot of people: Those “backsliders” we used to hear so much about, who wandered away from faith and then returned when they hit rock bottom due to their “sins.”

    But for people who have rationally and exhaustively researched theism – as most of us here have – just clicking our heels three times and saying the magic words ain’t gonna work. We need to get that phone call. And if the phone doesn’t ring – and it hasn’t for me after eight years – we’re not going to twist and worry our way back into believing something that now seems absurd to our rational minds.

    I doubt you will be able to understand what I’m saying, because it’s really one of those things that you don’t “get” until you’ve been there. But suffice it to say that your advice isn’t likely to be valuable to someone going through a serious deconversion process; it is likely to sound shallow and useless.

    SB:

    This isn’t “spiritual dryness” (I hear they have a cream for that now).

    That had me rolling on the floor …. maybe you could market it! ;-)

  • 73. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 14, 2008 at 4:34 am

    Karen,
    I can definitely see people convincing themselves to believe again. It’s almost unbelievable the extent to which some people will deceive themselves. If you tell yourself anything for long enough, you’ll start to believe it.

    Joe,
    While it meant something to me once, I’ve realized that “feeling God’s presence” is worth absolutely nothing. With almost no effort, I can trick my mind into “feeling a presence” of any sort I want (and sometimes don’t want: when I was a child trying to fall asleep I would occasionally get the feeling that there was a fairly large spider behind me, though I was rational enough to know it was all in my head). It’s not that I don’t feel God’s presence anymore; I’m convinced I’ve never felt it, and at this point I’m pretty sure there’s no presence for me to feel anyway.

    I think the only reason I used to believe is because I never took the time to really analyze my beliefs, not because I had any good reasons to believe. I’ve believed in God for a long time when I had no reason to, beyond the fact that it was familiar. I’ve finally come to my senses and decided that I want to believe in God because he’s real, not because it’s safe and familiar. Since God has not shown himself to be real, and did not do so for 23 years, I think I’m safe concluding that he’s not there, or at least isn’t there for all practical purposes.

    I think we’re starting to go in circles here. You keep making the analogy of a parent leaving but always eventually returning, and I keep saying there was no parent to start with. And we keep going back-and-forth on this, basically saying the same things in different ways each time.

  • 74. LorMarie  |  June 14, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    It seems to me that when I hear Christians saying things like “keep believing and praying and having faith!!” what that means is that if you diligently try to persuade yourself to believe, and will yourself to believe, and put yourself in an emotionally suggestible state – maybe, indeed, you can convince yourself to go back to what is (for me, at least) basically a brainwashed state. After all, it’s a lot easier socially and perhaps emotionally, to just give in and re-join the crowd of religious people who make up the vast majority of our population. So, the earnest Christian says, hang in there long enough and eventually you’ll capitulate.–Karen

    Thank you Karen for your words. This is exactly what I have been trying to express since it mirrors where I am now. In all honesty, I’d love for the God of the bible to be true, but for mental health’s sake as you say, I can’t go on waiting. I’ve realized that the healthiest way for me to go is to remain neutral. I don’t acknowledge God/Jesus but at the same time don’t reject the idea. I.E. I’m just leaving well enough alone until I’m ready to deal with it. In the meantime, God knows where to find me if he’s interested.

  • 75. LeoPardus  |  June 15, 2008 at 12:09 am

    Karen:

    It seems to me that when I hear Christians saying things like “keep believing and praying and having faith!!” what that means is that if you diligently try to persuade yourself to believe, and will yourself to believe, and put yourself in an emotionally suggestible state – maybe, indeed, you can convince yourself to go back to what is (for me, at least) basically a brainwashed state.

    Smack on. That is exactly what it is.

    Snuggly Buffalo:

    Good follow on to what Karen said…

    With almost no effort, I can trick my mind into “feeling a presence” of any sort I want

    This is what mentalists do to their audiences. It’s also what cult leaders do to their followers.

    As both of you are saying, you can convince yourself that almost anything is true if you want to. And a good mentalist or charismatic leader can convince people of amazing things.

    There’s a great Darrin Brown bit where he goes to a church and pretends he can do something like the “slain in the Spirit” thing to people. He does indeed to it to people. You can find the clip on youtube.

    Joe S:

    Hells bells man. The Mormons use the exact same thing you’re recommending as “proof” of the veracity of their faith. You may have heard of their “burning in the bosom” that they are supposed to get as “proof”. So they will say quite convincingly that they felt God’s presence.

    Cults of all sorts are full of people swearing that they have been touched by God, or some such nonsense.

    It’s all purely subjective. I will not follow something that requires pure subjectivity to believe, and massive amounts of apologetics (bad logic) to defend its failings. Like the apostle Thomas until I see something, or touch something, “I will not believe”. If it’s good enough for an apostle who actually knew Jesus, I’ll take it as good enough for me.

  • 76. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 15, 2008 at 4:48 am

    You know, even when I believed I still thought that “slain in the spirit” stuff was a bunch of nonsense. This was especially reinforced when a preacher tried to do it to me, and I just stood there.

  • 77. The de-Convert  |  June 15, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Here’s a post by HIS:

    Slain in the Spirit… by an Atheist

  • 78. Yobaba  |  June 15, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Anyone who was born and raised in the United States has had extreme exposure to the Christian Myth. It is not surprising that, once a person realizes and then accepts that he/she has been brainwashed by The Myth and its perpetrators, their only healthy option is “de-conversion”. Just knowing this – that what they have been given along with their mother’s milk is simply a myth (one of many that the religious world has spawned) – does not make the path to reality any less painful. Quester’s heartfelt essay is proof of that. His decision to leave the Fairy Tale behind for the real world should be commended and supported. ‘Praying for him’ to find his way back is demeaning.

    I broke free of the brainwashing more than 20 years ago, but not before devoting the previous 25 years to church and bible study and praying and prozelytizing door-to-door. I searched for the “Truth” for a very long time; I searched for it in many different places and in many different books; I asked a lot of questions and was given a myriad of answers. I freely admit that I benefited from these varied religious associations. My questions and my searching gave me a solid foundation to build on when I finally rejected the Fantasy.

    It wasn’t a piece of cake. You don’t devote half your life to something without sensing a ‘loss’ when it is gone. Even after all these years I still feel a twinge when I hear holiday music – but the twinge is not of remorse. It is a sense of shame for being a bit of a hypocrite because I happen to like some of the “Christmas” music. I grew up listening to it after all; it’s just music.

    I realize that anyone who considers him or herself to be a “person of faith” won’t take advice from a non-believer, but just in case I will offer some: open your eyes and ears and brain to as many things as you possibly can. Experience life without blinders or filters. You just might learn something unexpected and enlightened – and maybe, just maybe, we might be reading your own story here.

    Peace and Hope

  • 79. Anonymous  |  June 15, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Hello–

    I am a certified Psychiatrist at John Hopkins University. I am writing because I found this blog by accident, but I felt it might be a great help in understanding a case I am currently working on.

    A patient of mine, has a split personality. At this time we have discerned only two personalities, but there may possibly be a third. The curious thing is that one of the personalities is a born-again christian, and the other peronality “used” to be a born-again christian, nut is now what is called “deconverted”. The patient sits and argues with himself for hours, and I don’t know how to approach it. Do you have any recommendations? The christian personality, Hugo, goes to church, but during the services, his other personality Rocky, has a tendency to show up and say things such as this is all *&*&^%^ man! and he winds up being thrown out of the service. He is in great torments–perhaps you can help.

    Thanks,

    P.S. Leo—you mention Thomas being a doubter, but fail to mention that after he does believe Jesus says “you see and believe, how blessed are those who never having seen believe” (paraphrase)—just an observation.

  • 80. Joe Sperlng  |  June 15, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    My post as Dr.Greenbllatt above was tongue in cheek. The thought came to me of a person with a split personality–one personality believes, the other doesn’t—good stuff for a comedy skit.

    orDover—

    I believe in God for various reasons. In the begiinning it was almost entirely emotional—but I have learned to put faith in the Bible, and it’s promises have held true for me. But even in nature, and especially in astronomy and considering the vastness of the Universe–a God must exist.

    It’s funny–I was watching a program about people who believe in the a “Moon landing Conspiracy”, and go to great lengths to “prove” man never landed on the moon. At the end of the program the narrator says “If the Government had to go to such lengths to fake the whole thing, and then cover it up, it would have been far easier to actually land on the moon itself.”

    I kind of believe the same thing applies to those who go to such great lengths to disprove the existence of God. When you look at eternity of time, the infiniteness of the Universe (though scientists do believe it has an end—but what comes after this end to the Universe? What then?), and our own finite reason, one is lead to think “it would be far easier for there to be a God, than for Him not to exist”. This is pure logic—and very real in my opinion. It makes far more sense that there is a Creator, than trying to go to such lengths to prove that there isn’t.

    But, I have seen things happen in my own life that are far from being a coincidence. I watched the tape of Marjoe Goertner and confess there are many charlatans. preying on the praying emotions of the weak and uninformed/unintelligent people out there. But there are also many real and sincere pastors and teachers who have seen God work in lives to such an extent it cannot be pure fantasy or coincidence. So, in answer, I believe in God due to the Bible, the very core of nature itself, and the amazing miracles I see (not being “slain in the spirit, or speaking in tongues, etc.) daily—the true miracles of hearts changed for good, and the effects of great goodness and healing on many lives.

    –Joe

  • 81. Quester  |  June 15, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Joe, you mention the lengths one has to go to disprove the existence of God. I disagree with you utterly. One need not go to any lengths to disprove God’s existence. All one needs to do is live day to day, assuming that God does not exist, and if anything ever happens to suggest otherwise, they can change their mind.

    The one who needs to go to great lengths is the one trying to prove that God exists, for the one trying to prove God’s existence needs to find evidence that God exists. From my own experience, I can speak of how difficult this is. If you have any actual evidence that God exists, feel free to present some.

    When you look at eternity of time, the infiniteness of the Universe (though scientists do believe it has an end—but what comes after this end to the Universe? What then?), and our own finite reason, one is lead to think “it would be far easier for there to be a God, than for Him not to exist”. This is pure logic—and very real in my opinion.

    No, Joe, there is no logic in what you are saying. First of all, easier does not mean more logical. It may be easier to believe in fairies under the hood of my car that keep the engine running than it would be to educate myself in automotive mechanics, but that does not make fairies more logical than an engine. Secondly, if we are going to take the time to find a satisfactory answer to any question, God is not an easier option because the obvious follow-up questions are “what is God?” and “how do we know?” Since we have no physical evidence which can clearly tell us about the existence and nature of God, and plenty that with time, effort and the right tools we can use to work towards other answers, those other answers are in that way “easier”. I’m being vague on purpose, but can refine this to almost any specific question. In a previous article, I spoke of the danger of using God as an answer to a question. People once attributed thunder to a god’s anger, or angel’s bowling, or something similar. Now, we can study meteorology.

    As for Thomas, I wrote this article earlier: Defending “Doubting Thomas”. Apparently this is my day for quoting myself.

    In short, none of Jesus’ disciples believed without proof. Not one. Supposedly, they had followed Jesus around and seen all of his miracles, but not one believed that He would rise from the dead until He showed Himself to them. Those who have never seen may be blessed, but this is a blessing I can do with out.

    By the way, look up the etymology of “silly” some time. It comes from the Germanic “selig”, meaning blessed.

    How silly are those who have not seen, and yet believe?

  • 82. Joe Sperling  |  June 16, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Quester—

    I understand where you are coming from. I use the wrong terminology at times–such as the word “easy”. What I mean to say is that when looks at the odds of the earth coming to be in the midst of this huge Universe, and how everything is “exactly” in place to produce life, and how little we really do know about the Universe (we’ve only been to the moon as men), it makes more sense that there is a Creator, than to believe that all of this came about through a series of “chance” happenings.

    Even the fact that we have a sense of taste, and there are so many, many amazingly and wonderfully tasting things, all made to size, to fit human consumption, seems a far stretch to have just “happened”—I mean, come on, think about it a minute—–man appears, and then all of this vegetation, made to be eaten by humans all just “happens” to appear at the same time. You probably have your “logical” explanation to explain why this doesn’t mean there is a God—-fine—believe that if you want—-to me it is OBVIOUS there is a Creator, even though I cannot explain Him, and only know an infintesimal amount about Him—-I know he is there.

    I was reading the Psalms this morning, in #81, and saw this:

    I am the *LORD your God.
    I brought you out of the land of Egypt.
    Open your mouth wide and I will fill it”.
    But my people did not listen to my voice
    and Israel did not obey me.
    And so I let them follow their own ideas.
    They did whatever they wanted to do.

    It’s interesting that due to their unbelief God says “so I let them follow ‘their own ideas’. In Romans 1 it also says that God gave them over, and they wound up “worshipping the creature rather than the Creator”. Man will go to great lengths to push God to the side—even claiming the were not created by him. Man, rather than believing God, resorts to his “own ideas”, and pretty soon it’s man sitting on the thrown of God and saying to Him—”Hey God, look! There’s two of us now!”

  • 83. Joe Sperling  |  June 16, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I meant to say “throne of God” and spelled it “thrown” in error. LOL

  • 84. LeoPardus  |  June 16, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Joe S:

    I have learned to put faith in the Bible, and it’s promises have held true for me.

    What promises? How have they been demonstrably true?

    But even in nature, and especially in astronomy and considering the vastness of the Universe–a God must exist.

    Entirely presuppositional. There is no a priori reason that a controlling deity must exist just because you are faced with a big, complex universe. People used to think that winds, seasons, etc, could only be explained by deities. You’ve just moved the deity back one level. I.e. the winds and seasons we can explain, but a deity had to get them started in the first place.

    I kind of believe the same thing applies to those who go to such great lengths to disprove the existence of God.

    And what of those who go to great lengths to prove the existence of a deity? They refuse to accept the natural world as natural. The refuse to accept complete absence of any tangible evidence of their deity as an indication that they are praying to the air. They use the sort of specious logic that would get them an ‘F’ in any subject accept religion. They write libraries of apologetics to explain why there is a deity even though we can never see, hear, touch, or otherwise detect it. They refuse to acknowledge the total inefficacy of prayer. Who did you say was going to great lengths again?

    When you look at eternity of time, the infiniteness of the Universe (though scientists do believe it has an end—but what comes after this end to the Universe? What then?), and our own finite reason, one is lead to think “it would be far easier for there to be a God, than for Him not to exist”.

    Back to presuppositional thinking (otherwise known as circular illogic). Just because something currently lacks explanation, there must be a magic fairy behind it????? That’s not pure logic. That’s pure abandonment of the thought process.

    This is pure logic

    No. It is pure sophistry and pure presuppositionalism.

    It makes far more sense that there is a Creator, than trying to go to such lengths to prove that there isn’t.

    If the rest of the world were willing to follow this idiocy, we’d all be sitting in caves still, praying to the gods of wind, wave, and storm, for better weather, better hunting, and more berries to gather. Fortunately many of us aren’t willing to just resign ourselves to such stupidity.

    But, I have seen things happen in my own life that are far from being a coincidence.

    You listed some earlier. They were nothing of the sort. The only way to put a deity behind them was wishful thinking. Tell you what; when you see a blind guy gain sight, or a deaf guy gain hearing, or a legless guy grow limbs, …. then you’ve seen something that is far from coincidence. But “hearts changed for good, and the effects of great goodness and healing on many lives” is just normal life. [And while we're on "lives changed for good", look in the archives for "Reasons I can no longer believe: Unchanged lives". Basically if a handful of changed lives is supposed to be evidence for the faith, then the truckloads of unchanged lives comprise evidence to the contrary.]

    But there are also many real and sincere pastors and teachers who have seen God work in lives to such an extent it cannot be pure fantasy or coincidence.

    No there aren’t! You find any one of these liars and demand proof. They won’t have it. They’ll just have stories they claim are true. To again quote Thomas Payne, “We have never seen, in our time, nature go out of her course; but we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time; it is, therefore, at least millions to one, that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie.”

    I believe in God due to the Bible

    Fine. I believe in Santa due to the TV specials each Christmas.

    the very core of nature itself

    Of which you have evidenced a profound ignorance.

    and the amazing miracles I see daily

    Look up the definition of ‘miracle’. Try to keep it in your mind and quite conflating it with ‘everyday ordinariness’.

  • 85. Joe Sperling  |  June 16, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Leo—

    You call all the Pastors, who are men, “liars”, and then proceed to quote from another “man” to prove it.

    You say:
    They refuse to acknowledge the total inefficacy of prayer.

    God answers our prayers in many different ways. For all you know Leo, people who enter this blog, arguing for God’s existence, could be answers to your prayers to God to show himself. He works most often through People.

    It’s like that old story of the man on the roof during a flood saying “God!! Show yourself!! Please help me!!” and a boat goes by and he refuses the ride. Then another boat, and another and He shouts “I’ve asked God to help me!! Let him show himself and save me!!” So he dies and goes to Heaven, and God says “Man, I sent you three boats you idiot!!”

    Leo—You, and others here, are looking for a personal phone call from God to show himself. Yet, He may have answered you several times, but because it isn’t in the way you would choose, you say He doesn’t answer prayers. I again repeat—I have seen God answer prayers for CERTAIN—they were not huge miracles—they took time—-but they were DEFINITE answers to prayer. You can deny it all you want to—and claim I have my head in the clouds—-but I KNOW what I have seen.

    I don’t need God to materialize in front of me and say “look at my hands and feet”—He has shown me enough times he is there that I do not need any further proof. Thomas doubted before he had the gift of the Holy Spirit. We all doubt–this is natural. But Thomas is not given as an example for us to follow–he is given as an example of someone who was right there with the savior, saw all the evidence, and still doubted.

    We, as Christians, have been given the Holy Spirit. He is the direct witness of Jesus Christ in our hearts. If we choose not to believe, and grieve him, and then finally quench Him, that is all our own doing. We “have the witness in ourselves”–we have far more than Thomas ever had—after Thomas received the Holy Spirit be became extremely bold, and was the first apostle to become a witness in India. The Lord knows we are ALL doubters at heart–that’s why he sent the COMFORTER (The Holy Spirit) to us. We are ALL faced with unbelief—-we either believe despite our feelings and doubts, or we yield to it, and finally turn completely away for good if we never had this comforter in the first place. When one turns away in complete apostasy, they show they never really possessed the “seal of the Inheritance”. Others may turn completely away, but they WILL be pulled back because they really did receive the gift, and are truly God’s children.

    I believe the Lord sends Christians to blogs like this for those—the ones that He loves dearly, and knows still have a faint spark of belief left in them. The spark may barely be smoking, but He can bring it back to life again. And He will.

  • 86. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 16, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    If I’m doubting God, and asking him to reveal himself to me, it seems like he’s making a poor choice to “reveal himself” in such a way that it does nothing to remove my doubt. Christians arguing for God’s existence on this blog is exactly what I would expect, whether God exists or not. It’s not even remotely convincing.

    As for the inefficacy of prayer, how about the fact that the rate of crime and illness seem to affect Christians and non-Christians equally? If prayer is effective, why are Christians no healthier for it? My mom is battling cancer for the second time now, and no amount of prayer has helped her beyond what medical science has done. And this seems to apply to even the “strongest” Christians.

    When one turns away in complete apostasy, they show they never really possessed the “seal of the Inheritance”.

    Ah, yes, if we turn away in complete apostasy, it’s because we were never really Christians in the first place. I’m so tired of reading that in postings by Christians on this blog.

  • 87. Joe Sperling  |  June 16, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Snuggly—

    I know you have heard that same thing about never really being a Christian to begin with, and I know, it must get tiring. However, it is a real teaching of Scripture, and that’s why Christians ask it, or repeat it. For instance, in the book of Jude, it speaks of apsotates, and warns of them, saying that these people are “sensual, having not the Spirit”. They “claim” to be christians, or to have been christians, but they never really were—they never really had the Spirit.

    However, near the end of the same small book right before Revelation it says of other “apostates”:

    21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment [7] stained by the flesh.

    It says “have mercy on those who doubt” and “save others by snatching them out of the fire”, and “to others show mercy

  • 88. Joe Sperling  |  June 16, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    continued.. I posted by mistake before finishing :>)

    “to others show mercy with fear”. So, sometimes there are those, who through great doubt, resemble apostates, while at the same time there are apostates that resemble Christians.

    So, there really are those who never had the Spirit, though they “appear to be christians”, and those who really are Christians, though for the time they “appear” to be apostates.

    And that is why I share here—-I hope that those who really are christians, but in great doubt, can return again and hear the call.

    –Joe

  • 89. Joe Sperling  |  June 16, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    To clarify even a bit more—a person like Marjoe Goertner is an apostate—a person who hypocritically “appeared” to be a christian, but never had the Spirit of God (of course, only God really knows this to be the case, but it definitely appears to be the case)—and yet there are others, so filled with doubt, that they say “I don’t believe in God—if he wants to show himself, let him!”
    who may be real Christians, but have so grieved and quenched the Spirit that they no longer sense his presence (He is deeply grieved by unbelief–see Hebrews 3)—and yet they REALLY ARE Christians—just so far away from God it is hard to tell, and one would think they were true apostates.

    So, again, you have one person, who is an apostate at heart, parading about as a Christian, though he really isn’t, and others parading around as though they are apostates, who really have a spark of faith through the Spirit inside. Very intriguing!

  • 90. Joe Sperling  |  June 16, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    orDover—

    From 6-13-08 post:

    I’m curious to know why you believe, since you are a later-in-life convert, and I’m curious if that belief is based on emotion or not.

    I wanted to tell you I was converted when I was 17 years old. (I mis-stated earlier in saying I had been a Christian 38 years, as it was really 35 years ago—-I am 52 years old). So my conversion wasn’t later it life, but as a teenager. I was converted in a room by myself reading the Gospel of John—I had no idea what was in it as I had never read the Bible (except for stories about Noah and Jonah in a picture book)–I really had no idea who Jesus was, and had been laughed at a week before for not knowing who Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were.

    As I read though something amazing happened—-yes, there was a “feeling” involved, but also there was a gift of genuine faith given to me, as the book began to belong to “me” as a believer when I read, and was no longer just some history book.
    I was genuinely born-again—-not through some crowd emotion, or laying on of hands, or preacher, etc.—as so many say that the whole experience is “in your head”, etc. No—something very real happened, and I have continued to believe for 35 years—not without difficult times—-but my faith is much stronger than when I began this amazing walk. I thank the Lord daily for having put that Gospel of John in my hands. It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me—though at the time I rebelled against it, because I wasn’t really ready to give up all to follow the Lord. But now, I fall down in gratitude to such a gracious Savior. (I know, you probably think I’m going to recite the “Footprints” poem, as you said LOL!)

    –Joe

  • 91. Quester  |  June 16, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Even the fact that we have a sense of taste, and there are so many, many amazingly and wonderfully tasting things, all made to size, to fit human consumption, seems a far stretch to have just “happened”—I mean, come on, think about it a minute—–man appears, and then all of this vegetation, made to be eaten by humans all just “happens” to appear at the same time.

    Joe, please tell me you’re kidding again. This is like your Dr.Greenbllatt post all over again, right? You are aware that vegetation came along well before humans, correct? I’m talking millions and millions of years, here. There is no coincidence of time going on here.

    I’m hoping you also are aware that producing tasty fruit has long been a survival technique of plants (a way for them to spread their seeds along with fertilizer to help those seeds grow). That’s not coincidence; that’s life, and you don’t need to posit a creator to explain it.

    And yes, everything is just right for life to form here the way it did. That’s why life formed here the way it did. That’s like saying rain is intelligent because it filled a pothole completely, ignoring all the rain that did not fill the pothole.

  • 92. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 17, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Ah, the Anthropic Principle: conditions are perfect for life, because if they weren’t, we wouldn’t be here to observe them.

    In other words, things are the way they are, because otherwise they’d be different.

    Anyway, Joe, you effectively say it wasn’t “all in your head” but that’s exactly what it was. The important distinction is whether it was all in your head because of God’s influence, or your own. That’s why I can’t rely on “feelings” for evidence of God. I could have the most genuine, sincere feelings with regard to God imaginable, and I could do it without God’s influence if I really wanted. If God is real and active in people’s lives, he should be more than feelings and lives changed for the better, both of which can happen without God.

  • 93. LorMarie  |  June 17, 2008 at 7:59 am

    “As I read though something amazing happened—-yes, there was a “feeling” involved, but also there was a gift of genuine faith given to me”–Joe Sperling

    Do you mean that a gift was given to you that perhaps is not given to others? And if so, how does God decide who gets this gift and who doesn’t?

  • 94. LeoPardus  |  June 17, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Joe S:

    You call all the Pastors, who are men, “liars”, and then proceed to quote from another “man” to prove it.

    You really must learn what “prove” or “proof” is. Payne points out that we’ve all heard tons of lies and liars, but zero bona-fide miracles. Look, if I told you that I saw a unicorn in the mountains, would you believe me, or would you think me a liar or deluded? Obviously you’d be quite sure I was lying or deluded. Why? Because no one has ever verifiably seen a unicorn, and there are plenty of cases of people saying they saw unicorns, Yeti, Loch ness monsters, etc.
    So in like manner, when someone reports a miracle, you may be sure they are lying, deluded, or reporting something 3rd hand or further from the incident and thus unreliable.

    God answers our prayers in many different ways. For all you know Leo, people who enter this blog, arguing for God’s existence, could be answers to your prayers to God to show himself. He works most often through People.

    Blah blah blah. The only thing I’ve ever seen from prayer is a lot talk from wishful thinking apologist who are trying to apologize for a no-show deity. Talk is cheap. Show me a real God and then there’s something to talk about. Can you see Paul or Peter offering the pathetic blather you’re offering? No. They’d turn to a blind friend of mine and say, “Receive your sight.” Then I’d have real reasons instead of blather.

    You, and others here, are looking for a personal phone call from God to show himself.

    Yep. I won’t play “Where’s Goddo?” If God wants followers, he can prove it. (Well, your pathetic, made up deity can’t, but a real one could.)

    Yet, He may have answered you several times, but because it isn’t in the way you would choose, you say He doesn’t answer prayers. I again repeat—I have seen God answer prayers for CERTAIN—they were not huge miracles—they took time—-but they were DEFINITE answers to prayer.

    No they were not answered. It’s just wish fulfillment on your part; deliberate self deception. The tremendously disturbing thing for you is the growing and horror-inducing thought you’re getting around here, that we are right and are forcing you to face reality. That’s why it is so important to you to maintain that we were never “really” in the faith. As long as you can maintain that, you can stave off the fearful thought that what happened to a bunch of hardcors like us could happen to you.

    I don’t need God to materialize in front of me and say “look at my hands and feet”—He has shown me enough times he is there that I do not need any further proof. Thomas doubted before he had the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    So you came up with a nice, tidy explanation that comforts you. Never mind it’s a crock. Thomas did miracles himself before Jesus even died, He lived with Jesus. Sorry man, but if that didn’t do it for Thomas, I’m gonna need a bit more than the silly likes of online apologists.

    We, as Christians, have been given the Holy Spirit.

    Really? Then why is your pathetic, ineffective deity unable to make even a decent sized chunk of his followers into better people. If they’ve got God living right inside of them “leading them into all truth’ and so on, how about some evidence?

  • 95. Joe Sperling  |  June 17, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I wasn’t trying to say that men were created at the same time as fruits and vegetables. I was trying to say that it is all a bit too perfect to have just “happened”—-there is definitely a design to the Universe, and to the very earth itself. I know you are dead-set on not believing in God, so I guess it is useless to try to point out the wonders and beauty of the world, and the changed lives of Christians (I agree, there are many Christians who are hypocrits, and do not represent Christ).

    Most (not all I know) organizations that seek to feed the hungry, or provide donations and aid are Christian based. I have never seen the news say “Atheist United today came to the aid of the flood victims”—it is normally groups of caring people (and a large majority of them are Christians) due their deep faith in God who respond. Of course, we can go on and on and around in circles about this.

    Yes—I WANT to believe, and you do not WANT to believe, so for you every prayer I say was answered is to you a “fantasy”—and I truly believe that with an attitude like that, God could answer your prayers and you will deny they have been answered. In Luke, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man says “If you could only send someone to warn my brothers” and Abraham says “If they will not believe the Moses and the prophets, they will not believe should one be sent from the dead”.

    Leo—you like to say “If it was good enough for Thomas, it was good enough for me.” But at the same time Thomas was living there were a group of Pharisees who had miracles done right in front of their very eyes, and they REFUSED to believe though they had seen it! The very OPPOSITE of Thomas. I believe one can hit a point where they want to disbelieve everything, despite proofs that may come there way everyday.

    LorMarie—

    Do you mean that a gift was given to you that perhaps is not given to others? And if so, how does God decide who gets this gift and who doesn’t?

    No—-it is a gift offered to all. I was just stating that I came to this belief completely on my own (someone gave me the Gospel of John and I just read it), and it was not the result of a meeting, or some highly emotional experience generated by religious fervor. I had read several books in my life before reading this Gospel, and had never anything even remotely close happen to me like it did after reading and “accepting” what I was reading as the truth. My life literally turned around by reading one booklet—I will never forget it, nor can I, it was so deeply imbedded into me. Others can repeat over and over that answers to prayer are “bunk” or “fantasy”—-I can only say with the blind man in John 9—(paraphrase) as he responded to the Pharisees (who called that miracle “fantasy” also so to speak): “Hey dudes, all I can say is that once I was blind, but now I see”. It’s as simple as that.

  • 96. LorMarie  |  June 17, 2008 at 11:42 am

    LorMarie—

    Do you mean that a gift was given to you that perhaps is not given to others? And if so, how does God decide who gets this gift and who doesn’t?

    “No—-it is a gift offered to all.”–Joe Sterling

    Why wouldn’t a loving and compassionate God offer it to all? Thus, it would be our choice to accept or reject it. Did your God not die for all?

  • 97. Joe Sperling  |  June 17, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Lori—
    Why wouldn’t a loving and compassionate God offer it to all? Thus, it would be our choice to accept or reject it. Did your God not die for all?

    I just said it is offered to all. Perhaps you need to read my post again. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that WHOSOEVER believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

    Yes—it definitely is your choice to accept or reject it. Hopefully though, one is not like the Pharisees, who seeing all that Jesus was doing (they heard his teaching and saw his miracles) REFUSES to believe. That would be a most sad thing to do for sure.

  • 98. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 17, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    I think it’s rather presumptuous to say that any of us don’t want to believe. While I can’t speak for the others here, I certainly know I want to believe, and I’m pretty sure there was at least one blog post that made the same point.

    I want to believe, but I can’t anymore. When I say I want answers to prayers, I mean something that can’t happen without God. If I pray for God to heal the blister on my foot, and a week later my foot is healed, do I attribute that to God, or my body’s natural healing mechanisms? If I pray for financial help and later someone I barely know gives me some money, I have no way to be certain that it was God’s influence, that it wouldn’t have happened without him. My mom attributes the fact that her doctors caught her cancer early to God instead of her doctors and advances in medical science, but the fact that this is now her second battle with cancer in spite of her deep faith and prayers doesn’t seem contradictory to her at all.

    The Pharisees saw real miracles but didn’t want to believe. I want to believe but see no miracles, in my life or others’.

  • 99. Joe Sperling  |  June 17, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Snuggly—

    Thanks for clarifying that. I fully understand where you are coming from. I’m glad you want to believe—that is a very good thing. The only thing I would state is that if you come from an attitude that everything could be “just coincidence”, etc., then you will never see anything as God’s answers to prayer. Many of his answers are not totally miraculous. They come about through time—-in fact, we can forget we even asked. We may receive a very good job, and forget we asked God to help us financially. Because it all seems so mundane, we are tempted to think “Oh, I would have gotten that job anyway. It is a natural process of life—I earned the new position through hard work, and I got it, etc., etc.

    We can literally downgrade an answer to prayer to nothing—and in effect, be very unthankful to God for something he definitely had a hand in. We want to see God part the Red Sea in front of our eyes, when he may be working in the life of one of children, and slowly changing them, due to our prayers with tears for that child. Often God does thing in such a manner we forget or don’t see his direct intervention in it, and we can become unthankful. The very gift of life is a miracle–if you want to, you can call it just chance you are here (even though everyone in the world has different fingerprints—even identical twins have different fingerprints–we are all SO VERY UNIQUE)—or we can be thankful, and tell God how thankful we are to even be alive. It’s all a choice though—I know.

  • 100. Joe Sperling  |  June 17, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Snuggly—

    I wanted to mention above, and I forgot to, that I was reading this book again called “Spiritual Desertiion” (this blog sparked my interest in the book again), and the author is comforting those who believe God has forsaken them, or that they are not “saved” etc. (fears that can assail the believer) and he says something to this effect (paraphrase):

    “The very reason you “desire” to believe shows that grace is at work within you. If you feel you cannot believe, but desire with all of your heart that you COULD believe, God is at work within your heart, drawing you to himself”. And the author states that it is similar to the leper who cried “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief!” It is when someone hits the point that they don’t even desire to believe any more, that it will be very hard for them to acknowledge any work at all of God in their lives. But the desire to believe, even though at this point you feel you cannot, is a very good thing to have. I hope you keep searching and asking God to help you to believe again.

    –Joe

  • 101. LorMarie  |  June 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    It appears I did misread your comment. But, i’m sure you didn’t mean to imply that the posters here at DC were not genuinely in the faith. I guess that also means that you are not in the predestination camp which is a good thing.

    Yes—it definitely is your choice to accept or reject it. Hopefully though, one is not like the Pharisees, who seeing all that Jesus was doing (they heard his teaching and saw his miracles) REFUSES to believe. That would be a most sad thing to do for sure.

    But that’s the problem. People need undeniable proof to believe. It appears that most do not get that proof. Thus, they feel no need to believe.

  • 102. Joe Sperling  |  June 17, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    LorMarie—-

    Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who diligently search for him. (Heb 11:6)

    It appears the Lord is not going to provide that “undeniable proof” you say people are looking for. In a sense, my salvation is “Undeniable proof” to me—but if we are looking for some miraculous appearance of God, or a loud voice, or an instantaneous answer to prayer, it isn’t coming.

    We come to God on HIS terms, not ours, and his terms are faith in the fact he exists, and that he rewards those who diligently search for him.

  • 103. LorMarie  |  June 17, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    for. In a sense, my salvation is “Undeniable proof” to me—but if we are looking for some miraculous appearance of God, or a loud voice, or an instantaneous answer to prayer, it isn’t coming.–Joe Sperling

    It’s funny you mentioned that we should not look for some miraculous event when you also made this comment:

    , “one is not like the Pharisees, who seeing all that Jesus was doing (they heard his teaching and saw his miracles) REFUSES to believe.”

    In fact, Jesus performed miracle after miracle in the Gospels. But that is all beside the point.

    Your salvation may be proof for you, but it doesn’t help the unsaved person growing up in secular surroundings. They need proof against all the evidence they’ve seen. It is common for christians to mention that “people are asking for too much…a sign…a miracle,” etc. What people would probably prefer is for everything to line up after careful study of the bible or comparative religion in general. You brought in the issue of faith, but even Islam contains claims about belief and submission to God. There are plenty of muslims who will speak of faith in God. In other words, what makes Christianity any more worthy of faith than other religions.

  • 104. Joe Sperling  |  June 17, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    I said “undeniable proof to ME”—I wasn’t inferring this proves anything to anyone else. What I mean is that was miracle enough for me—others here, who once claimed to have a salvation experience apparently don’t think that was enough. They are looking for some physical proof from God or something—but even though the Pharisees SAW the physical proof they still refused to believe—that was my point.

  • 105. LeoPardus  |  June 19, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Joe S:

    at the same time Thomas was living there were a group of Pharisees who had miracles done right in front of their very eyes, and they REFUSED to believe though they had seen it! The very OPPOSITE of Thomas.

    Read your Bible more carefully. It does not say they didn’t believe the miracles happened, nor does it say that they didn’t believe in God.

    In one place the pharisees claimed Jesus cast out demons by the devil’s power. In another they saw a miracle, did not deny it at all, but none the less went off to plot killing Jesus. In another place it actually says that many leaders DID believe in Jesus. Then there’s Nicodemus, who was identified as a Pharisee.

    Many (most?) of the pharisees didn’t believe Jesus was the son of God, but they did believe in God and in supernatural things.

    I believe one can hit a point where they want to disbelieve everything, despite proofs that may come there way everyday

    Maybe one can. I’m not there. Give me something clear and I’ll be content. But this “everyday miracles” think is crap. I’m not gonna believe in fairies just ’cause the sun comes up.

  • 106. Mike aka MonolithTMA  |  June 20, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Quester, I love the jester shirt. That’s awesome!

  • 107. Joe Sperling  |  June 20, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Leo—

    Read your Bible more carefully. It does not say they didn’t believe the miracles happened, nor does it say that they didn’t believe in God. Actually that’s not what I meant at all:

    I just wanted to clear up something—-I came back to read the last responses to my posts, but will be posting elsewhere for a while– when I said the Pharisees “refused to believe”–I mean they literally refused to believe Jesus was who he said he was, even though they saw the miracles he did. Right after Jesus did a miracle, they said “he casts out demons by the Prince of demons” even though they KNEW that wasn’t the case. This is why Jesus warned shortly after of the “Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit”—which many believe is the sin of willfully rejecting Jesus Christ even though you have all the evidence you need to know he exists.

    I just wanted to clarify that. All the best Leo—I’ve enjoyed reading your posts, and also sharing here.

  • 108. TheNerd  |  June 20, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Wow. This conversation is still going on? This must be a record!

    Keep up the deep thinking, everyone! :)

  • 109. The de-Convert  |  June 24, 2008 at 12:22 am

    Actually, this is the record :)

    Paul

  • 110. kenny  |  July 15, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    good sir, after reading this moving vignette, one questions stood out in my mind: how can you live being still married to a believer? My parents got divorced when my dad became an atheist, and my mom is barely religious. As for me, I couldn’t imagine sharing a life with someone who didn’t understand something so fundamental to my identity. We need to be meet on a deep level by our spouses. I hope your wife ends up seeing reason, too, and I hope dearly that what happened to my parents doesn’t happen to you. Sorry to introduce this sad thought into the mix, but my heart goes out to you.

  • 111. Quester  |  July 16, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Kenny,

    My faith was fundamental to my identity when I had it. My lack of faith is not fundamental to my identity. Indeed, it seems almost peripheral. My wife and I can meet on other levels. Thanks for your concern, though.

  • 112. Kyle  |  July 16, 2008 at 1:47 am

    That was heart-wrenching to read and reminds me of so much I had forgotten. The good news, perhaps, is that I had indeed forgotten it – the pain and the sense of disconnectedness – so in time it is likely that you too will find brighter lights amidst this present darkness.

    Nevertheless, there is a bittersweet quality to the things we carry . Our religious items and memories do not lose their meaning even when religion itself does. They should not be forgotten or cast aside, because they are responsible for who we became. If we are proud of who we are, we must be in some way thankful for who we were, and we must appreciate the people who helped us along the way.

    Keep the things that made you happy, and remember daily why they did.

    I admire your bravery to no end, and I hope you find the contentment you deserve. I suspect you will.

  • 113. Alex Rochon  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:39 am

    This was quite a touching post on multiple levels… I’m rather disgusted by some of the posts here that discourage your decision, ones that are downright resentful of it, because no matter how religion-oriented someone might be, there is nothing but bravery in your decision.

    All the best.

  • 114. Quester  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Thanks, Alex. you too, Kyle.

  • 115. Allison  |  August 1, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    You’ve probably already received the answer to your question in one form or another but I just wanted to share with you and say thanks for sharing yourself. I’ve actually de-converted twice! Once as a catholic to a pagan then as a pagan to an athiest and believe me, the second one was so much harder! The first time around I had my teenage rebellion to fuel my search and keep me strong. I didn’t have much catholic stuff to begin with but I kept it cuz they were keepsakes and gifts such as crosses I’d received as a baby. They didn’t take up much room. But, jeez, when I realized I was an atheist, no longer a pagan, I had a mountain of stuff to process (inside and out ;) I had alters, whole bookshelves filled with stuff, folder after folder in files and on my computer, gifts, decor in my house, clothes, jewelry! yes, pagans do love to shop! I was also a minister of sorts as a priestess in my tradition. I’ve married people and presided over a memorial for a 4 month old. I took my position very seriously. My wand, my chalice, my blade, these are probably equal to your vestments. What did I do? I can’t say I was as zen as some of your other commenters ;) I threw a bunch of my stuff in a garbage bag as I cried and ranted about how hollow I felt inside. My husband rescued the bag because he knew that what I had done was symbolic. Eventually I was able to take down the altar which was like burying a part of me, taking apart my very identity. I’m sure you can relate. It’s in a box now and actually I don’t miss it very much. Still, it took me a year to get to that point and another year of it being in a box for me to feel some sort of okayness with deconverting. There are still things around the house that I look at now and then and wonder if I’m ready to say goodbye. I think there is a grieving process involved and a lot of people aren’t going to understand unless they’ve been through it. Just donate as much as you can of your old stuff when the time feels right, don’t force yourself. I wish you luck in the future and peace in your heart.

  • 116. Quester  |  August 2, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Welcome, Allison. I empathize so well with what you’ve been through. I’m glad that you’re finding some peace.

  • 117. Rawl  |  August 5, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Good for you. I recall crying and crying, wondering how I could ever relate to my family, whose beliefs I no longer shared. We’re still working things out.

    But man, the possibilities of this world, grappling with this reality and figuring out one’s place in it ON ONE’S OWN is so terrifying, exciting and rewarding, I end up feeling bad for the Christians who will never have that experience.

    I guess we all end up feeling sorry for each other. Best of luck, enjoy the new intellectual and emotional possibilities in front of you.

  • 118. LeoPardus  |  August 5, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Kyle:

    Our religious items and memories do not lose their meaning even when religion itself does. They should not be forgotten or cast aside, because they are responsible for who we became. If we are proud of who we are, we must be in some way thankful for who we were, and we must appreciate the people who helped us along the way.

    Very well said.

  • 119. LeoPardus  |  August 5, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Rawl:

    I end up feeling bad for the Christians who will never have that experience.

    Heh heh. Me too.

  • 120. LeoPardus  |  August 5, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Allison:

    I think all of us hereabouts can identify with what you described. As you said, “I think there is a grieving process involved and a lot of people aren’t going to understand unless they’ve been through it.” Indeed there is grieving, and we all move through it a different rates and to different ends.

    There are still things around the house that I look at now and then and wonder if I’m ready to say goodbye.

    D’accord. There’s very little of that left for me now, but it did take a while. And I dod still love good religious art, architecture, and music.

  • 121. Larry T  |  August 5, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    But man, the possibilities of this world, grappling with this reality and figuring out one’s place in it ON ONE’S OWN is so terrifying, exciting and rewarding, I end up feeling bad for the Christians who will never have that experience.

    This actually confuses me a bit. Why does one think that a Christian would not figure out one’s place on one’s own? Sure–you look to God for wisdom, but most decisions are made on one’s own. I saw the New England Patriots being interviewed and a number of them are born-again Christians. I’m just picking this as an example. If they hadn’t taken the iniative to use their own physical gifts they never would have been Pro Players. I’m sure they are quite happy with the decisions they have made. I hope when you are making the above comment you are not referring to ALL christians. Granted, there are those who are frozen, and are afraid to make the important life decisions—but many of these are not frozen because they are Christians, but because of the ministers and teaching they sit under. There is a huge difference.

  • 122. Larry T  |  August 5, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    To clarify a bit. Many sit under legalistic teachers who tell them that every decision they make must be made by God—-so they wind up doing nothing. Whereas, true teaching would be that God has given you a brain, so use it. He has given you physical abilities, so use them, etc. etc. God doesn’t ask us to pray that we don’t burn the rice when we are cooking—some seem to have this idea. God asks us to use what he has given us, and base our decisions on what we are good at–what gifts and talents we have.

  • 123. Corky  |  August 29, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Hello—first time visitor here. My name is Corky. I’m the lead singer for the band “Corky and the Vestibules”. When I saw “What does a deconverted minister do with all his stuff?” I immediately thought of the vestments that some ministers use when performing ceremonies and what-not. If you still have them would you be willing to part with them? I’d be willing to offer some money—especially if they are purple and white.

    We have a song called “Defrocked Mininster eaten by cannabilistic zombies” and I’d like to wear the vestments while I sing the song. It’s pretty cool–lots of blood and howling–of course it’s metal to the core man. Let me know.

    corky&thevestibules@band.com

  • 124. DeeVee  |  August 31, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    When I de-converted…after having been diagnosed with breast cancer…and “curing myself,”….I took the bible, folded it up like a football and threw it across the street. I sold every religious picture, book, and artifact at a garage sale…and made some money.

    When I de-converted, not only was there a bunch of “jesus junk” to get rid of, but I had to rid my mind of all religious junk as well…Religious indoctrination teaches one how to “not think” but function intellectually on a utopian level. I stopped believing that the “poor” were noble and god’s children.

    I took a long, hard cold look at the poor and found that their own magical and religious beliefs in drugs, religion, their nonfunctional culture of poverty, of the state and other people including tax payers owed them something…including MY MONEY. I found that one of the reasons why people are POOR is because of religion which does not allow them to use executive functions in the brain to solve problems, or prevent magical thinking which ends up in bad decisions that affect the rest of their lives. I found the poor, as opposed to the “rich” (anyone with a job)…believe jesus is going to let them win the lottery, and so on.

    Since I work with the poor…I have been paying very close attention to their statements…in that if someone does something good for them, a doctor cures their illness, they DO NOT thank the doctor or the other person, but thank god. How ungrateful! It is this kind of delusionary thinking that causes poverty…and its high time, we throw this “jesus junk” philosophy out the window into the trash heap of history…and get down to realistic thinking about how to solve poverty.

    The first thing I’d do is close all churches…throw that religious crap out, and turn churches into learning centers…teaching logic, science, and how to strip magical, religious thinking out of one’s mind and personality. Atheist logic is to my mind…driven by consequential and ethical behaviors….each of which is not a part of any religion that I know of. To wit: There are no real consequences for stupid behaviors because god forgives…providing an escape hatch out..in which one does not have to learn from poor behavior, and ….there are no consequences for bad, nonfunctional behaviors.

    Religion is a belief in magic, and well know that magic does not exist. Right? All of this magical, mysterious, religious junk has to be thrown out and reside in the trash heap of history.

    I can’t wait.

    DeeVee

  • 125. Respect for Gratitude  |  August 31, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Keep them. These objects are now artifacts that you’ve collected on your personal quest. You only live once, and you spent a lot of time doing this. It serves as a way to respect the kind-hearted acts of your friends, family and congregation, as well as a way for you to reflect on the amount of change you’ve undergone.

  • 126. MM  |  October 29, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    God didn’t leave you…. You left Him.

  • 127. Trying to kick off this thing « Reason Is Treason  |  December 23, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    [...] I barelt, if ever, heard of an ex-Christian who became such through anything other than thinking. Even ministers have become atheists through using their head. Being an atheist is certainly not a necessity to use your head, however. I certainly know of [...]

  • 128. Bob  |  February 1, 2009 at 11:00 am

    I don’t know what you’ve done with them since it’s been several months now but have you considered keeping them as reference tools? You’re a public speaker. You can speak out for atheists and use the books to help you. The books still have some good advice. They also would be great to show people that you understand where they are coming from if anyone else is having the same problems you had.

  • 129. Quester  |  February 2, 2009 at 4:13 am

    Thanks, Bob. I don’t throw stuff away easily at the best of times, and I have used a book or two as reference since this time. I’ve been asked to lead a secular celebration of a birth (in place of a baptism) and help compose a liturgy for a person entering perimenopause. Having books on writing liturgy have helped with both.

  • 130. Noble  |  April 1, 2009 at 4:05 am

    Hi all! The babes are here! This is my best site to visit. I make sure I am alone in case I get too hot. Post your favorite link here.

  • 131. Quester  |  April 1, 2009 at 4:41 am

    Wait, is this a spambot that doesn’t actually advertise anything, or an April Fool’s joke?

  • 132. Thomas  |  June 6, 2010 at 7:06 am

    One of the themes I wanted to include in my deconversion story (rough draft written) was a bit on “all the stuff.” I’m not sure this element would stay through all the drafts – indeed, I find many deconversion stories too wordy to get through, so I’d like to weed out the extraneous bits.

    I have a cheap little name-plate plaque which my mother gave me at my adult baptism. This little object has meant so many different things to me over the years. When it was new, I had a hard time with it because my mom went to the wrong kind of church. In fact, when she first heard I was going to be baptized (by “partial” immersion a la Achilles), she suggested that the infant baptism she did for me should be sufficient. So, as a believer, I never knew what to think of this gift.

    Later, it ended up in a box with the other Jesus items I couldn’t bear to keep or throw away. For years I could hardly look at the T-shirts and books and so on … for many reasons, I’m sure you’re already familiar with.

    Finally, now that more than 15 years has passed (and Mom is slowly fading away from Alsheimers), I can see this a new way. It is a token of my mom doing somethng nice for me at a special moment in my life. True, I left the path she was helping me celebrate, but she stayed my mom and I stayed her son.

    I’m glad I kept it.

  • 133. ACN  |  June 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Thomas,

    I felt similarly about a particular bible my mom gave me after my confirmation class years ago. I am a recent de-convert, but I don’t think I will ever get rid of it for similar reasons, even though I no longer accept the absurd claims of the biblical accounts, it has significant sentimental value as a token of my mom’s pride and happiness.

    I’d like to have it remember her, and a particularly happy time we shared, when she eventually dies.

  • 134. Lyra's Alias  |  June 6, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Moving story. I am struggling quite hard with Christianity, and have talked with people knowing that is realistic I may not be a Christian anymore sometime in the forseeable future about these kinds of things, how to handle friendships and possessions and whatnot.

    I went with my brother’s girlfriend to their church today and became pretty emotional when they started playing a worship song I associate with a lot of people I am close to from my university and another one, with whom I have lived and worked and prayed. To see my brother, whom I love dearly and have been afraid to talk to about my doubts playing drums for that song and thinking about these friends, all of whom are Christians, was powerful and painful. That’s how a few worship songs are for me – I don’t tend to enjoy worship music much, but the songs I associate with specific people who have really meant a lot to me, those songs will always resonate regardless of my philosophical stance.

  • 135. Quester  |  June 6, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Well, it’s been two years and three moves since this post. I still have most of my “stuff”. I’m sending one box of books to my old seminary’s booksale, which still leaves me with many Christian books. I’ve gotten rid of a number of bibles, only keeping the six with sentimental value. Some things are in boxes that I’m simply not opening yet.

    Yeah, I’m a packrat.

    And I still like some VeggieTales songs…

  • 136. scootwes  |  June 7, 2010 at 1:50 am

    I only just found this posting (sometimes these posts get “resurrected” a couple of years later, don’t they?).

    My wife and I are trying to figure out what to do with the christian part of our library, which after 30 years of marriage is about 75% of the total. I’m embarrassed that if we throw them out, it will appear to visitors that we don’t love books as much as we actually do! I was so proud of my collection of books by and about C.S. Lewis. I must have 30 or 40 of those!

    Lyra’s Alias nails it on the head about what is the most difficult part of shedding one’s faith: leaving behind the warmth and love of the church family, or rather, having them turn their backs on you. There is no easy way around that. Some people I read about find it so hard that they actually remain a part of the church community while maintaining a firm non-belief in god. I believe Robert Wright (The Evolution of God) is one of those.

  • 137. Thomas  |  June 7, 2010 at 6:08 am

    Heck, our entire Veggie Tales collection was purchased A.D. (After De-conversion.)

  • 138. Lyra's Alias  |  June 7, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Given my context is that of being very involved in a campus church at a secular university, I think they are much more used to seeing people question and renounce faith. This could be why people there are responding to my doubt and frustration with religion like they are – with respect, kindness, and genuine friendship.

    I don’t expect as good a response from my brother when I do talk to him about how I’m doing, but given neither of my parents are Christians, the general disposition of the church I’ve been a part of, and that I am single, my situation could be leagues more difficult/complicated. I’m grateful that it isn’t.

  • 139. Quester  |  June 9, 2010 at 12:56 am

    In my church community, most of the people were twice to thrice my age. Wonderful people, but not really who I would go to socialize with. To find Christians my age, I had to look outside of my church, for the most part, and I left pretty much all of those people when I went to my first pastorate, in a rural parish. So while there was some sad breaking of relationships, it wasn’t the same sort of thing most people might go through.

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Attention Christian Readers

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

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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