Why d-C? – Stand Back, I’m going to try SCIENCE!

June 18, 2008 at 1:09 am 63 comments

Earlier I stated that dissatisfaction with the answers to simple questions proffered by the religion was the most common reason cited for de-conversion amongst the sample I read (14.89%). However, the realisation that religious dogma contradicted observable reality was the second most an equally common reason for de-conversion cited within the sample (also at 14.89%). In other words, religious fundamentalists wage war against science with good reason.

Surprisingly, as the following examples highlight, rarely was it Richard Dawkins ramming logic down someone’s throat with something like The God Delusion that resulted in de-conversion. De-conversion appeared to occur when people didn’t have their religiously trained defenses up. And again, it could happen at a young age:

When I was in 8th grade, I was studying my cousin’s biology book, which happened to teach evolution. I remember hearing things about how evolution was “incorrect” according to the sometimes Christian media. I did not completely dismiss the idea of god at this time, but it caused me to invalidate the idea of an actual organized religion because they were inelastic and unable to accept change or new ideas because their “holy” scripture was infallible. This was the beginning of my de-conversion to atheism.

Simple facts, and simple doubts. It did not even have to be evolution, something as simple as a scouting trip can provoke doubt:

I heard that the the world was only 10,000 years old, and that dinosaurs and people used to frollick together (probably mostly people running away from dinosaurs!), and how God intentionally (deceptively) made the fossil record to look like it was millions of years old so as to make blind faith necessary. Maybe the average Fundamentalist might have accepted this at face value, but I had always had a healthy respect for knowledge obtained through science. So, this was a bit of a tall order … I went to a big backwoods summer camp in New Mexico, called Philmont Scout Ranch, with my Scout troop. There, I learned about the Tooth of Time, an igneous mountain which dated back several millions of years.

And for the above de-convertee, doubt set in. Science engenders a different way of looking at things, using observable reality and deduction instead of blind faith. It’s not just the hard sciences either, this story relates how a person deciding to look at religion ever so briefly, through the lense of sociology, led to an epiphany:

The change came because of humanities class. We had to do experience logs, and one option was to visit a church and do a report. I wondered, what it would be like for someone doing that assignment and attending my church for the first time. So, one mass, I sat there, and did not participate. I immediately noticed how hard it was to do that. My mouth almost moved by itself to say the prayers along with everyone. And that’s when I realized how close to chanting everyone sounded. Nothing has scared me that much sense that moment when I realised I was the member of a cult.

Science led these people to doubt their religion. They came to realise their religion contradicted reality, and that one of the two had to be false.

- Originally published by Kieran Bennett, reprinted with permission.

Entry filed under: KieranBennett. Tags: , , , .

A Curious Christian with A Few Questions for de-cons Since god didn’t create the matter, where did it come from?

63 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jim J  |  June 18, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Greetings, Kieran, if you do exist [don't worry, I believe you do]…Your “series” is sounding more and more like a menu at a Mexican restaurant.

    “What’s an enchilada?”

    “It’s a corn tortilla with meat and cheese.”

    “What’s a burrito?”

    “Oh, it’s a flour tortilla with meat and cheese.”

    “And the Flautas special?”

    “Oh, that’s two flour tortillas with meat and cheese…and they’re deep-fried!”

    You see, it’s the same old thing. I don’t find these de-conversion menus the least bit exciting or challenging. You merely traded in one stupidity for another.

    If you’d only ordered the Carne Asada…..:-)

  • 2. Tania  |  June 18, 2008 at 3:09 am

    Can I be the first to say “What the fuck, Jim?”

  • 3. Ubi Dubium  |  June 18, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Seconded, Tania.

    JimJ, If you are not finding the posts on this website interesting or challenging, then why are you here?

  • 4. Robert  |  June 18, 2008 at 10:56 am

    My deconversion was more rebellion. I simply couldn’t take the guilt, fear and self-hate that Christianity fostered. However, it is science that has moved me almost to full atheism.

  • 5. Yurka  |  June 18, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    JimJ, If you are not finding the posts on this website interesting or challenging, then why are you here?

    I don’t speak for jj, but I’d guess the same reason I’m here – not so much for your sakes, but for the sake of those going through difficult times that you would mislead. You need to be countered.

    This post is an excellent example:
    Science engenders a different way of looking at things, using observable reality and deduction instead of blind faith.
    Actually, “observable reality” is that the universe had a beginning which demands an explanation outside of itself. Consciousness and morality demand the same (a stream cannot rise higher than its source). THAT is observable reality.

    What is NOT observable reality are ridiculous speculations about what no one has observed, in conditions that no one has the foggiest clue about, that necessitates laughable kludges such as “punctuated equilibrium” to compensate for the non-existent evidence.

  • 6. Jim J  |  June 18, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    To clarify my late-night comment. I try not to post comments past my bedtime. Why D-C? (2) through (6) are just reworkings of the complaints of Why D-C? (1).

    Kieran writes Earlier I stated that dissatisfaction with the answers to simple questions proffered by the religion was the most common reason cited for de-conversion amongst the sample I read (14.89%). However, the realisation that religious dogma contradicted observable reality was the second most an equally common reason for de-conversion cited within the sample (also at 14.89%)

    “dissatisfaction with the answers to simple questions proffered”
    versus
    “religious dogma contradicted observable reality”

    These are ostensibly the same observation. What makes someone dissatisfied? They looked at reality and said, this is contradictory. What’s contradictory? Religious dogma i.e. the answers. Enchilada, burrito. Wasn’t the worst analogy I’ve ever made. I don’t know where the Carne Asada came from, though.:-)

    Christians are wrong about things therefore Christianity must be false. The Bible has contradictions. Look at this website – they’ve got dozens listed. You shouldn’t run from flimsy, shallow Christianity to atheism, which IMO is flimsy and shallow by definition. And, as Yurka pointed out, atheism does not and cannot answer the ultimate questions of why and how are we here.

    JimJ, If you are not finding the posts on this website interesting or challenging, then why are you here?

    There’s only so many times I can feel challenged by the same complaint. I do sympathize with those of you who had the misfortune of growing up around pushy fundamentalists but the fact is all these complaints come from those experiences with anti-intellectual Christians.

    Christianity has not had so much power through the ages out of sheer compulsion. Intelligent people have been convinced over and over that it is true.

  • 7. TheNerd  |  June 18, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Science. It works, bitches.

    XKCD

  • 8. orDover  |  June 18, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    I don’t speak for jj, but I’d guess the same reason I’m here – not so much for your sakes, but for the sake of those going through difficult times that you would mislead. You need to be countered.

    How are the blog contributors misleading people? They encourage critical thought (esp. in regard to things that religion considers established “facts”) and offer an honest description of their personal experiences. On the other hand, you are offering the same old Bible verses that the struggling people have already heard over and over again.

    When I’ve read comments from people coming here because they are going through a difficult time, I’ve never heard anyone say “Eh just give it up, it’s all a load of garbage.” The typical answer is “I know how you feel, I’ve gone through that too.” Unlike Christians, they aren’t pushy, and they don’t seek to force their beliefs on others.

  • 9. orDover  |  June 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    That emoticon wasn’t suppose to show up.

  • 10. DagoodS  |  June 18, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Yurka: I don’t speak for jj, but I’d guess the same reason I’m here – not so much for your sakes, but for the sake of those going through difficult times that you would mislead. You need to be countered.

    I know Joe Sperling has expressed similar sentiments as to his reason for being here.

    At one time I was going through the deconversion process and was completely engrossed in theistic/non-theistic internet debate. I was looking for exactly what you propose you are doing—counters to those who would mislead me going through difficult times.

    Do you know what I was looking for? I am curious as to what arguments or methods or facts you think would be most effective for informing those “going through difficult times.” What do you think the deconverting are looking for to avoid becoming the deconverted?

  • 11. Yurka  |  June 18, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    I think it’s mostly defensive, #10. That people attack the faith with accusations relating to textual, scientific, historical, moral, and philosophical issues, and someone slipping into doubt can be shown why these accusations are wrong: either because of a)flat out incorrectness, or b) unwarranted presuppositions/prejudices.

    Examples of a) critics are often incorrect about what the bible says from a grammatico-historical/exegetical point of view and this can easily be pointed out. Or that the science is incorrect/inadequate to explain a particular phenomena (such as the human eye, or the origin of the universe).

    Examples of b) would be reasons why ‘the bible is immoral’. These usually represent the critic’s own arbitrary (often self refuting) morality and can be shown as such. Also many ‘higher critical’ theories are based on pure speculation about how the text came about, and there isn’t one single manuscript that can back them up. The sole reason for their speculations are their naturalistic presuppositions.

  • 12. Yurka  |  June 18, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    I think probably the biggest problem is that, as C.S. Lewis noted, we are not influenced by sound arguments, but by ‘climates of opinion’. This is another point to emphasize to the person in doubt- is he being brainwashed by secular liberal culture? Haven’t all advances been made by ignoring the ‘climate of opinion?’ Hasn’t the climate changed within his lifetime, showing how fickle it is?

  • 13. orDover  |  June 18, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Talk about “flat out incorrectness”!!

    Science does indeed explain the human eye. For a break down:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section3.html
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/01/1/l_011_01.html

    And science has the capacity to explain the origin of the universe. Just because it hasn’t yet doesn’t make it impossible or inadequate. Just a few hundred years ago science didn’t know what air was made of, but lo-and-behold, given the right advances it worked out the mystery.

    Some scientists believe we will never know what happened before the Big Bang because it is impossible, give our current understand of physics or the type of physics we use know, to find out what happened before the dimension of time was established, but this does not rule out what is referred to as “new physics,” or any other developments that seem unforeseeable now.

    And at least science gives measurable and falsifiable answers instead of the hackneyed “goddidit.”

  • 14. Joe Sperling  |  June 18, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    My deconversion was more rebellion. I simply couldn’t take the guilt, fear and self-hate that Christianity fostered.

    Robert—

    I truly appreciate that logic. This kid on our block uses that too. He was born in 1995. The last big earthquake was 1994. Here’s what he said: “My parents and everyone keep saying there’s going to be an earthquake, there’s going to be an earthquake. I’ve never seen an earthquake. Sure—I’ve heard of ‘em, but they’ve never happened to me. I’m so frickin’ tired of being afraid of earthquakes, and feeling guilt for not being prepared. It literally makes me abhor myself. So, I have finally come to the conclusion earthquakes don’t exist. Now, I don’t suffer the fear, guilt, or self-hate that I used to. I feel wonderful now. That is a really logical and well-thought out thinking process–and I told him so too.

  • 15. Steelman  |  June 18, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Joe Spearling said: ” ‘My parents and everyone keep saying there’s going to be an earthquake, there’s going to be an earthquake.’
    [...]
    “That is a really logical and well-thought out thinking process–and I told him so too.”

    If hearsay of parents and neighbors alone is the totality of the evidence presented then yes, you’re right; he can honestly put as much stock in earthquakes as he does the bogeyman.

    However, if by “everyone” he means his science teacher who explained the concepts involved; his geology text book; library books on subjects as wide ranging as economics, history, geology, and geography; the US Geological Survey; television news reporters standing next to the corpses of earthquake victims in China; and the state park guide, who showed him the local fault line, then I’d say he’s got a bit more homework to do before he waves the problem away.

    So, if you’re saying that someone is waving away any given concept of a god just because they don’t happen to like the way it makes them feel, then you might be on to something. Critical thinking should be applied to both sides of an argument. For the rest of the de-con folks who usually post here though, I think they’ve been a bit more thorough in their examination of whether or not Christianity is true.

    Perhaps Robert could tell us a bit more? He mentioned something about science.

  • 16. Joe Sperling  |  June 18, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Steelman—-

    Yes—Robert said that he left Christianity due to “rebellion” and because it caused him fear and guilt—-but that after that science helped to seal the deal for him.

    I am seeing a pattern such as this in many of the testimonies I’ve read here. Some “event” causes a turning away (a death in the family, a bad situation with another Christian, massive guilt feelings, a period of great emotional deadness, God isn’t doing what He said He would… etc. etc.)–then because of the guilt feeling associated by turning away, the person looks to “confirm” that their “turning away” was the right thing to do.

    Then, after investigating science—and looking at claims by SOME Christians of a 6000 year old earth (or some other such nonsense), they decide that ALL of Christianity is “Bunk”—and it assuages the guilt they feel, and now they “feel free” from the drudgery and hardness that Christianity brought to them. Soon, their consciences no longer bother them and they come to the conclusion they must be right, or they wouldn’t “feel” so assured.

    It is quite amazing actually—and I am enjoying see the psychological steps involved in denying the reality of a Deity. LOL

  • 17. orDover  |  June 18, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    This is the exact same metaphor that Joe S. used before, only instead of not believing in earthquakes, it was Spain.

    Snugglybuffalo and Quester did a great job dismantling the argument within the metaphor, much in the same way that Steelman has, but he didn’t let it go. I would suggest not even engaging with him at this point, because he is going to keep saying the same thing over and over again. It’s tiresome.

    You can read the back-and-forth here: http://de-conversion.com/2008/06/10/baggage-emotional-and-otherwise/#comments

  • 18. DagoodS  |  June 19, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Yurka,

    Thank you for your response (#11). You think by the time the person is in the process of re-evaluating their preciously held belief system they haven’t considered “flat-out incorrectness” or “unwarranted presuppositions”? What new item or viewpoint do you think you are presenting? (That sounds harsher than I mean it to. This is inquiry; not accusation.)

    I am also curious what you meant by:

    Yurka: Also many ‘higher critical’ theories are based on pure speculation about how the text came about, and there isn’t one single manuscript that can back them up. The sole reason for their speculations are their naturalistic presuppositions.

    What theories do you mean? The Synoptic Problem? Authorship of the books of the Bible? Interpolations? Documentary Hypothesis?

    Thanks.

  • 19. Cthulhu  |  June 19, 2008 at 8:55 am

    orDover

    JimJ does not understand anything about basic science or formal logic. You are correct, there is no use reasoning with him as he simply re-phrases the same arguments over and over. Some folks just don’t know how to let go…

  • 20. Joe Sperling  |  June 19, 2008 at 10:46 am

    orDover–

    SnugglyBuffalo and Quester did not “dismantle” anything. It all depends how you are interpreting the argument. The Spain argument had a lot of validity and still does. Their points had validity also. Steelman said:

    So, if you’re saying that someone is waving away any given concept of a god just because they don’t happen to like the way it makes them feel, then you might be on to something. Critical thinking should be applied to both sides of an argument

    That doesn’t sound like Steelman has “dismantled” an argument–he is agreeing there are two sides to every argument.

    You are saying the same things over and over also orDover, because it is your side of the argument. I would suggest not even engaging yourself in a conversation at this point, because both of your personalities would immediately suggest they have lost.

  • 21. Joe Sperling  |  June 19, 2008 at 10:55 am

    orDover—

    Also, why not use the same metaphor if it is making a very valid point? I have read Robert Ingersoll and he uses the same metaphors in a different form over and over and over again.

    The metaphor is simply stating that the easiest way out of anything that makes one uncomfortable, or that they do not fully understand, is simply to say it doesn’t exist. It is a very stupid thing to do in my opinion, but many people do it—and feel very happy for a time—because all responsibility is gone,
    along with the tension that is often associated with that.

    That’s what people do when they drink—they inebriate themselves until the “problem” isn’t there (only for a while) so they don’t have to face it. It is a lot easier that accepting the problem is real. They “feel” great for a few hours, until the reality sets back in again. The same thing can be done with fear and guilt associated with Christianity (though one shouldn’t be filled with so much fear and guilt if they really understood the Word)—simply say that Christianity and God are not real. You’ll feel great for a while. No God judging you, no “rules” to follow, no implications due to “sin”—wow, what a relief!! But, the problem is, your denying Christianity and God do not remove the fact that he is exists, and the fact that we ALL will stand before him one day.

  • 22. Ubi Dubium  |  June 19, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Joe Sperling:

    I am seeing a pattern such as this in many of the testimonies I’ve read here. Some “event” causes a turning away (a death in the family, a bad situation with another Christian, massive guilt feelings, a period of great emotional deadness, God isn’t doing what He said He would… etc. etc.)–then because of the guilt feeling associated by turning away, the person looks to “confirm” that their “turning away” was the right thing to do.

    Joe, I don’t see this pattern at all. What I see, over and over, is that some event triggered, not a “turning away”, but just a single “doubt”. (Or maybe not even a real doubt, but just a question.) Then the search for an answer to that doubt turns up a non-answer, which adds another layer of doubt. Each search for an answer, only to find an unsatisfactory non-answer, increases the doubt.

    A single event triggers a search. Its the search that eventually leads us to de-convert.

  • 23. Jim J  |  June 19, 2008 at 11:53 am

    From or Dover’s library on the evolution of the eye:

    Here’s how some scientists think some eyes may have evolved: The simple light-sensitive spot on the skin of some ancestral creature gave it some tiny survival advantage, perhaps allowing it to evade a predator. Random changes then created a depression in the light-sensitive patch, a deepening pit that made “vision” a little sharper. At the same time, the pit’s opening gradually narrowed, so light entered through a small aperture, like a pinhole camera.

    Every change had to confer a survival advantage, no matter how slight. Eventually, the light-sensitive spot evolved into a retina, the layer of cells and pigment at the back of the human eye. Over time a lens formed at the front of the eye. It could have arisen as a double-layered transparent tissue containing increasing amounts of liquid that gave it the convex curvature of the human eye.

    In fact, eyes corresponding to every stage in this sequence have been found in existing living species. The existence of this range of less complex light-sensitive structures supports scientists’ hypotheses about how complex eyes like ours could evolve. The first animals with anything resembling an eye lived about 550 million years ago. And, according to one scientist’s calculations, only 364,000 years would have been needed for a camera-like eye to evolve from a light-sensitive patch.

    That is called a story. Just because one has a story they can refer to doesn’t count as proof.

  • 24. Yurka  |  June 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    #18 – You think by the time the person is in the process of re-evaluating their preciously held belief system they haven’t considered “flat-out incorrectness” or “unwarranted presuppositions”?

    No, I don’t mean to say they are insincere, it just seems to me a significant portion of them may not be aware of the pitfalls involved in accepting authority- in Mere Christianity, Lewis cautions, “When Freud is talking as a medical specialist, he knows what he’s talking about, but when he speaks off his field on what I do know something about (namely languages) he is very ignorant.”

    Look at the success of the New Atheist movement! There was a woman who posted here a few months ago saying that she was deconverting and secretly reading Dawkins and Hitchens. And yet it has been pointed out ad nauseum by Alvin Plantinga and others that Dawkins is no theologian – he’s a biologist.

    Look at Ehrman – now he’s trying to be an ethical philosopher, and not telling people he’s a textual critic.

    So although I don’t doubt the sincerity or diligence of decons – there still need to be warnings.

    The Synoptic Problem? Authorship of the books of the Bible? Interpolations? Documentary Hypothesis?

    Primarily interpolations and dating issues. “John has a high Christology so it must have been very late”. “Such-and-so epistle has an advanced notion of ecclesiology, so Paul couldn’t have written it, since the church structures *must* have been simpler at that point”.

    There’s no hard evidence to support such speculations – I think Lewis debunked this notion in Fernseed and Elephants, by showing they couldn’t even analyze his work correctly according to such methods. Yet the higher critics tend to present these assertions as fact, it’s bothersome.

  • 25. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 19, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I agree that denying God and Christianity because it’s convenient is foolish. If you’re going to make a decision that affects your eternal soul (assuming for the moment that souls are real) you should have a pretty damn good reason for the decision.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I was quite happy as a Christian. There was nothing pushing me away from it, nothing that made me want to de-convert. There were many things that perhaps weakened the foundation of my faith (the fact that the books of the new testament were effectively chosen by committee, for example, or the inefficacy of prayer) but nothing that made me want to leave it.

    I asked myself why I believe, and realized I had no good answers. And I could find no good answers when I looked for them. I asked God to help me with my unbelief, but I kept finding more and more reasons not to believe.

  • 26. Jim J  |  June 19, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Snuggly wrote–I asked myself why I believe, and realized I had no good answers. And I could find no good answers when I looked for them. I asked God to help me with my unbelief, but I kept finding more and more reasons not to believe.

    That’s an honest testimony that can be respected IMO. It isn’t the fault of a senile Sunday school teacher.

    Btw, A critique of Nilsson and Pelger’s “eye evolved” experiment is here. Not sure where the science angle came in however. Cheers.

  • 27. Ubi Dubium  |  June 19, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    JimJ

    That is called a story. Just because one has a story they can refer to doesn’t count as proof.

    Yes. Our story came from looking at living animals and fossils, and working out what happened. As long as our “story” is able to make testable, accurate predictions about the world, we’ll keep it. If we find new evidence, we can further refine our story, even change it, to match what we see. Science works, as evidenced by the computer you are reading this on.

    You have a story too. It was largely written in the Bronze age, by various members of a nomadic mid-eastern tribe. The rest was put together by a committee who lived in the Roman empire. You call your story “scripture”, and say that it has a special privilege of being “true”. I do not concur.

    If we rely on your “story” for our modern science, we will stay in the Bronze Age.

    If you would like to rely on your “story” regarding matters of faith and your belief in the supernatural, that is fine. If you find it comforting, and that it helps you to be a better person, great. But I refuse to let my worldview be locked into place by one ancient text.

  • 28. Ubi Dubium  |  June 19, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    JimJ

    That’s an honest testimony that can be respected IMO. It isn’t the fault of a senile Sunday school teacher.

    I love comments like that. I can tell that you are really listening and thinking about what people say here, and not just pigeonhoing us. I wish more of the christian commenters here were like that.

    Thank you.

  • 29. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 19, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    If we rely on your “story” for our modern science, we will stay in the Bronze Age.

    This reminds me of the most frightening thing I think I’ve ever heard. I was talking with my mom one day, and she off-handedly commented that we shouldn’t study science, and just let God reveal what he wishes us to know.

    I was too stunned to respond.

  • 30. orDover  |  June 19, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Ubi Dubium-

    Thanks, you took the words right out of my mouth. (Er..umm…off of my fingers? Is that better?)

    Joe Sperling-

    No God judging you, no “rules” to follow, no implications due to “sin”—wow, what a relief!!

    Aside from the person who said their de-conversion was like a rebellion, this is very very far from the truth of most of the de-conversion accounts I have read, and very far from my own. I didn’t stop believing in god because I wanted to be able to do whatever I wanted or because I was living in fear of damnation. In fact, rules make life much easier. The reason you give for de-conversion is one that I often heard given at my Christian school, “People fall away from the faith because they want to be bad and not have to suffer any consequences.” Right. I’m rolling my eyes right now.

    Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about the three great emotions that people experience when they realize that god does not exist, and one of them is forlornness: “it is very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer be an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and prefect consciousness to think it.” In other words, when I realized that there was no god, I had to construct my own rules for living. I couldn’t just sit back and have someone tell me what to do, I had to examine the gray areas of life and decide all on my own what was moral and what was immoral or less moral, not based on what a church leader or the Bible said. It’s a difficult thing to do, and it causes another great emotion: anguish, which comes from the realization that I am the one who has to establish what is Good, since there isn’t a god to do it for me. Anguish comes from realizing that since there is no god to act as judge and to moderate behavior, that we must be our own moderators, and that we have a social responsibility to make sure that all of our actions are good. Sartre wrote, “Certainly, many people believe that when they do something, they themselves are the only ones involved, and when someone says to them, ‘What if everyone acted that way?’ they shrug their shoulders and answer, ‘Everyone doesn’t act that way.’ But really, one should always ask himself, ‘What would happen if everybody looked at things this way?'” Instead of being responsible to one God with a clear set of rules, I am responsible to every one of my fellow humans, and it is up to us to establish the rules and make sure they are good. Every moral decision I have made post-de-conversion has reflected this heavy burden. Believe me, life was much more carefree and simple when I could just say “The Bible says…” and move on.

    But, the problem is, your denying Christianity and God do not remove the fact that he is exists, and the fact that we ALL will stand before him one day.

    Fact? How can you say with a straight face that the existence of god, and especially the Christian god, is a FACT? The most pious and godly Christians I have ever known at least have the humility to admit that the existence of god is impossible to prove, and is thus an uncertainty. That is why they have something called “faith.” If the existence of god was actually a fact, they would just call it “duh.”

  • 31. TheNerd  |  June 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Joe Sperling says:

    I am seeing a pattern such as this in many of the testimonies I’ve read here. Some “event” causes a turning away (a death in the family, a bad situation with another Christian, massive guilt feelings, a period of great emotional deadness, God isn’t doing what He said He would… etc. etc.)–then because of the guilt feeling associated by turning away, the person looks to “confirm” that their “turning away” was the right thing to do.

    This completely leaves out those of us who were lead away by science and reason. Science has always been my true love. I used to think that Christianity and Science didn’t contradict each other (although I will admit I only thought that because my Christian school science textbook said so), so I would try to learn as much about God through Science as I could. Nothing would satisfy my hunger for knowledge. I guess I just learned too much to suspend my disbelief in the Bible any longer.

    Yes, learning Science is very dangerous – dangerous to ignorance and superstition!

  • 32. TheNerd  |  June 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    hmm… looks like I forgot a / in there somewhere

  • 33. OneSmallStep  |  June 19, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    You’ll feel great for a while. No God judging you, no “rules” to follow, no implications due to “sin”—wow, what a relief!!

    I’ve read quite a few de-conversion stories, and none of them have ever said that they de-converted due to this revision, or even that their morality became “looser.” If anything, they said they became kinder to other people, more compassionate, more aware of what an impact they could have on others. They did follow the rules, there were implications to wrong behavior, and so forth.

  • 34. Cthulhu  |  June 19, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    TheNerd,

    Yes, learning Science is very dangerous – dangerous to ignorance and superstition!

    Exactly!! Any Fundamentalist should truly fear Science…it is the greatest threat to their world view. Richard Dawkins said as much at the TED conference…and that Science should fear religion. Witness the (not very) Intelligent Design bills repeatedly being pushed at state legislatures.

    Here is a plea to the folks here who love science…if you can – please support the National Center for Science Education NCSE. You can find them at http://www.ncseweb.org/

    Enough already – I am off to help my daughter with her trigonometry!

  • 35. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 19, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    While we’re on the subject of science, I am obligated to prove a link to the webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

  • 36. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 19, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Provide, not prove… The ‘-id-‘ got lost on the way from my brain to my fingers.

  • 37. samanthamj  |  June 19, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    I agree with OneSmallStep (#33).

    I didn’t stop believing in God so that I could go out and have a good ole time and not worry about going to hell… ?? And, because I don’t believe – I do not run around town with no morals or sense of right and wrong. That is just absurd.

    I have just recently been talking to some Christians on my blog – and this reasoinging did come up.

    My reasons for deconversion were more like comment #4, that said:

    “I simply couldn’t take the guilt, fear and self-hate that Christianity fostered. ”

    On top of that, I couldn’t take the self-rightous, judgemental, and FEAR for everyone ELSE going to hell. It was this contradiction of a “loving God” that first made me question things.

    I couldn’t believe that thousands of people would go to hell because of having a different religious belief (the wrong one, obviously)?? Throw in the big fact that my own father was an atheist… (who I loved dearly and was a great Dad)… and, I had some serious issues and doubts.

    Eventually, the more I tried to make sense of things and tried to believe (in God)… the less and less I believed… until I finally accepted not believeing, and then realized I felt so much better off without it.

    ~smj

  • 38. Steelman  |  June 19, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Joe Sperling said at #20: That doesn’t sound like Steelman has “dismantled” an argument–he is agreeing there are two sides to every argument.

    Actually, I was demonstrating good and bad arguments for accepting something as true, and stating that evidence trumps assertion.

    You brought up a good point about the danger of accepting ideologies on emotion alone (it makes you feel better), and not considering all the evidence (the existence of creationists makes all of Christianity false). Selective thinking and emotional transitions (death in the family, divorce, moving to a new city, going away to college) are points where an individual can make a paradigmatic shift in their thinking. They might fall under the power of a religious cult or political ideology, or convert to an atheistic or Christian worldview, based on gut feelings and poor reasoning. Bad methodology.

    I, and others after me, also made the point that the regulars around here didn’t do the above. They went through a process of doubt and rational inquiry, and arrived at the conclusion that Christianity is false. I think that’s a good methodology, whether or not one agrees with the conclusion reached.

  • 39. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 19, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Steelman,

    Indeed, I’ve been out of college for a little over a year now, with a good, steady career. Aside from my de-conversion, my life couldn’t be much more stable than it is right now.

  • 40. The Apostate  |  June 19, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    The biggest reason that science, for myself, makes any religion sweat is not its findings – as this post, and many others, present – it is the method itself that shows how religionists lack integrity in their beliefs. Science must start with the a falsifiable hypothesis – religion, on the other hand, begins with a gross, unprovable assumption and then steamrolls from there.

    Jim, Joe, and the rest of theists: what I believe is being asked here is not so much why someone should actually de-convert, it is simply asking why one should convert in the first place. Why assume the Bible is coherent? Why assume that God, if existent, is omnibenevolent? Why assume that although some individuals may claim to be of divine origin that they are so?
    What science, and genuine philosophy, does for us is provide a way, albeit flawed, for us to hold higher standards for interpreting reality. Theology, on the other hand, is entirely ad hoc and radically subjective.

  • 41. Jim J  |  June 19, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Hi Apostate
    Why assume the Bible is coherent?

    It’s unity within a God-centered viewpoint even though it was created over many centuries by approx. 40 different writers. It’s message is consistent throughout. It also has a life lesson every so many verses (with the exception of some of the histories).

    Why assume that God, if existent, is omnibenevolent?

    People have an instinctive sense of right and wrong, the Moral Law. As far as the word “omnibenevolent” goes, I’ve seen lots of people interpret it to mean God will always do what we think is right, which is wrong and a good breeder of unbelief. But the Moral Law shows that we have a plumb line imbedded in our psyches by whoever created us that convicts us when we do wrong. Is God then “good” or “bad”? I think we can classify the creation of the universe as a good thing.

    Why assume that although some individuals may claim to be of divine origin that they are so?

    Jesus of Nazareth was the “reveal” that made the Old Testament come together. I recently posted an article comparing the movie “The Red Violin” to the Bible in this way. You don’t understand the tarot card readings until the very end in the movie, yet it’s mind-blowing because the answer was given repeatedly but was hidden. We consider that a flawless fiction.

    But how can you dismiss a man who comes along and preaches for less than three years, is executed in his thirties but fulfills dozens and dozens of prophecies, several of which inferred that he would be crucified and come back from the dead. I never go more than a few chapters in the OT before something of Jesus’ character or life is revealed. I could go on for days with the parallels (try reading Genesis 22 and Psalm 22 in light of the crucifixion for starters). As I told somebody last week, “nobody could make this stuff up!”

    By the way, I am a fan of science and philosophy. Like you I interpret reality with my senses and my mind. It’s just that we came to different conclusions about Jesus Christ.

  • 42. orDover  |  June 20, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Ever hear of Occam’s razor? Let’s just operate within those parameters for a second.

    Which scenario seems more likely, and conforms the closest with known reality and the laws of the universe as we understand them:

    1. God inspired David to write about his turmoil which turned into a prophecy about the Jewish Messiah. God causes a woman to become miraculously pregnant with his son, who is half-god half-man a la Hercules. That man dies in the EXACT same way described in the text that David wrote hundreds of years before, fulfilling that prophecy, and also fulfilling the Messiah’s requirement of fulfilling OT prophecy.

    2. Jewish followers of Jesus want to prove that he is the Messiah, so, being familiar with their own sacred text, they write down their accounts of his death to conform with the account in Psalms, in an almost cut-and-paste fashion.

    The first scenario requires several miracles of which there is no physical evidence of, including telling the future, psychic connections, immaculate conceptions, and substanceless deities.

    The second requires some strongly religious Jews to have a remedial understanding of their own religion and act accordingly.

    “All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.”

    Scenario 2 is the simplest and best solution. It requires no miracles and no supernatural phenomena and explains the similarity between the two texts just as well.

  • 43. Ubi Dubium  |  June 20, 2008 at 12:35 am

    JimJ

    People have an instinctive sense of right and wrong, the Moral Law.

    Yes, I would agree that people have an instinctive sense of right and wrong. I am glad we are on the same wavelength about that. (So often I hear christians insisting that right and wrong can only be taught to you by a church.)

    I think our innate sense of good and evil springs from the fact that we are social animals. We need to support ourselves and raise children, while meanwhile getting along with and cooperating successfully with our fellow human beings. Those humans lacking an ethical sense would be less able to participate in society (because, for instance, they would be imprisoned, exiled or executed), and thus less able to leave progeny.

    So, to me, our ethical sense is not an evidence for the existence of god. It’s just evidence that humans have been social animals for a very very long time.

    “Morals” on the other hand, start with our basic ethical sense, and then add layers of cultural and religious traditions, some of which may actually be helpful under the circumstances, some neutral, and some negative, but so enshrined in tradition that they are hard to eliminate. I don’t see this as evidence for a god, either.

    As for “nobody could make this stuff up” – well there are a lot of holy books in other religions out there, and their devotees find them just as true and divinely inspired as you find your bible (the Qur’an, for instance). But if you hold that their religions are not true, then do you consider that somebody must have just “made that stuff up”? In that case, people do “make stuff up” that other people consider to be the true word of god.

  • 44. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 20, 2008 at 2:12 am

    Jim J-

    People have an instinctive sense of right and wrong, the Moral Law.

    Most people, sure, and someone already explained that this makes sense in the context of humans as social creatures where such behavior is advantageous.

    In addition to that, I’d like to point out that it seems there are people without an instinctive sense of right and wrong. We call such people psychopaths. It’s not just people who ignore their sense of right and wrong, they literally do not see what they do as wrong.

    You can read up on it at Damn Interesting’s article The Unburdened Mind, it’s really fascinating.

  • 45. The Apostate  |  June 20, 2008 at 2:53 am

    Jim,(only time for two points tonight)

    It’s unity within a God-centered viewpoint even though it was created over many centuries by approx. 40 different writers. It’s message is consistent throughout…

    You have simply rephrased my question to make a statement without providing any evidence. I am sure that if you wanted to, you could find the radical diversities, theological and otherwise, within the Bible, just as you currently “choose” not to see them. I wonder if you would see these diversities if you were born in a household with practicing Jews? I wonder whether the perversions of the Christian message on the Jewish tradition would not make you gag. I wonder if you could sit in the same room with someone who would point to your Jewish heroes as mere fore-shadowing of a later rabbi. I wonder if you could see what a sham the so-called monotheism of Christianity is, with its Greco-Roman and pagan prejudices. I wonder if you would be downright confused by every Christian who sees that Jesus was preaching anything but simply another interpretation of the Jewish law, only to be completely overhauled, gutted, and replaced with a Pauline philosophy.

    People have an instinctive sense of right and wrong, the Moral Law…But the Moral Law shows that we have a plumb line imbedded in our psyches by whoever created us that convicts us when we do wrong. Is God then “good” or “bad”? I think we can classify the creation of the universe as a good thing.

    There are so many non sequiturs and unproven assumptions in there it makes my head spin. Although I agree that we have an instinctive sense of right and wrong, it is an assumption. Seeing as we both agree, I won’t bother going further. However, this in no way would argue that we, as supposed creations of a supposed Creator, attain this knowledge from a omni-benevolent Being. Classifing the universe as a “good thing” is, however, utterly subjective. I find the universe to be value neutral with varying chaos and order and humans having, likewise, a massive spectrum of variance. Dropping the universe in either category of “good” or “bad” is not only ambiguous and subjective, it is grossly simplistic. I could easily look into the heavens and the processes of nature and probably argue much more persuasively for a dual-natured god or gods with good and evil traits. Of course, isn’t this why medieval theology was so enveloped with the devil and demonology, and ended up giving an incredible amount of power in evil that was almost an equal to God’s goodness (which we continue to see to this day in various Christian sects)?

    Jim, I asked for reasons for your assumptions and you have only given me even more assumptions with little or no evidence of truth or actual content.

  • 46. jonfeatherstone  |  June 20, 2008 at 5:18 am

    I’m with Robert #4. One of the main reasons I finally left christianity is because it always placed me in a position of never being quite enough. Every Sunday, week after week after week, the pulpit would always use the same basic formulation of challenge: “Well everyone, today we are looking at prayer/fasting/tithing/you name it. Now I’m the first to admit I don’t do this enough, but … I just want to challenge you (in Jesus name) that we all really need to try harder at this as we accept to carry the cross” blah. blah. The message was always the same – that I’m no good the way I am, that I have to change, have to do more, and have to become something that is other than what I am now. When I finally quit church, what a relief to be rid of this horrible weight from my shoulders.

  • 47. Cthulhu  |  June 20, 2008 at 9:28 am

    JimJ Ubi and SnugglyBuffalo,

    People have an instinctive sense of right and wrong, the Moral Law.

    I must disagree a bit here. Our sense of right and wrong is learned through the teaching of our parents, interactions with peers and via social constructs of the society we are raised in. If you were to take a child and raise him/here in complete isolation, that child would have no moral sense – just the instinct to survive. Believe me when I say (as a father of 2) that my children had to learn right from wrong – often the hard way (just like I did!!).

  • 48. Jim J  |  June 20, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Apostate—Jim, I asked for reasons for your assumptions and you have only given me even more assumptions with little or no evidence of truth or actual content.

    I gave you my seat of the pants version. The book will be out next Spring.:-) Really, though, you are asking for biblical references and historical references to back up what I asserted. Fair enough, but that will be a loooong post. Of course you guys were once Christians and should have some idea of the evidence I am talking about. it’s really as easy as following the margins of your bible to see how one passage is linked to another.

    cthulhu,
    Interesting point, however the chld rebels, they still have an innate sense of right and wrong.

  • 49. Cthulhu  |  June 20, 2008 at 10:35 am

    JimJ,

    Interesting point, however the chld rebels, they still have an innate sense of right and wrong.

    I must disagree again. I am almost certain that all here would agree that strapping a bomb to your body and then detonating it in a crowd of innocent strangers (civilians) is wrong. Yet children as young as 12 years old have done this very thing in the Middle East. It seems that their version of right and wrong are different than ours. So how does this demonstrate an ‘innate sense of right and wrong’. I do not think suicide bombing is ‘Rebelling’. They have been taught a different moral code – by their parents, culture and religion – strong enough to override the instinct of survival.

  • 50. Ubi Dubium  |  June 20, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Chthulu:

    I am almost certain that all here would agree that strapping a bomb to your body and then detonating it in a crowd of innocent strangers (civilians) is wrong. Yet children as young as 12 years old have done this very thing in the Middle East. It seems that their version of right and wrong are different than ours.

    As odd as it seems, I must concur with JimJ that I do think we have an innate sense of right and wrong. I am also raising two children, and well remember the early struggle to civilize them. But they already seemed to have a basic understanding of concepts like “sharing”, or “that’s not fair!” (At least once they matured past the “gimme” stage.) Even chimps have this sense – I have read research that showed that chimps would scream in protest when they saw another chimp being given a better reward for accomplishing the same task. They have even been shown to exhibit altruistic behavior toward unfamiliar chimps or humans.

    As for atrocities like 12-year-old suicide bombers: I don’t think that their basic sense of right and wrong is different than ours. But that sense can be perverted by religious extremism. If they spend their entire life being brainwashed that being subservient to the “will of allah” is the definition of “good” and is more important than kindness to their fellow man, then they can be turned into killing machines. Those children are still wanting to do what is “good” – they have just had their understanding of “good” twisted by religious leaders so they can be “used”. It’s a human trait that can be used by a warlord to his (and his subjects’) advantage. If his subjects, tribe “A”, who usually live peacefully with their neighbors, can be convinced that “god wants us to kill tribe “B”, and take their land”, and they are successful in doing so, that gives a reproductive advantage to tribe A. So, in addition to having an innate sense of good and evil, we also have the innate tendency to subordinate it to the whims of kings and their gods. Sad, really.

  • 51. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 20, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Cthulhu, I guess I would agree that we don’t have an innate sense of morality, but I think we do have an innate ability to empathize with other people. I would also suggest that ideas of morality tend to arise from this empathy. Thus, you get wildly varying views of what is right and wrong, but very few people who are capable of truly heinous acts. As mentioned in the article I linked, even the most hardened criminals are disturbed by psychopaths’ complete lack of empathy.

  • 52. Cthulhu  |  June 20, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Ubi,

    As odd as it seems, I must concur with JimJ that I do think we have an innate sense of right and wrong. I am also raising two children, and well remember the early struggle to civilize them. But they already seemed to have a basic understanding of concepts like “sharing”, or “that’s not fair!” (At least once they matured past the “gimme” stage.)

    You just made my point for me :-)

    Your ‘early struggle’ was the mechanism that taught them those values – not an ‘innate sense of right and wrong’. Remember the ‘terrible twos’? That is pure self interest on display – if you had never told your children that they needed to share and reinforced it often, I am compelled to believe that they would NOT share.

    SnugglyBuffalo,

    Cthulhu, I guess I would agree that we don’t have an innate sense of morality, but I think we do have an innate ability to empathize with other people. I would also suggest that ideas of morality tend to arise from this empathy.

    I agree with you here…I have done some reading about evolutionary psychology and this sounds much like some of the conclusions I found in those texts. However it should be noted – I ain’t no evolutionary psychologist ;-) – just a dad with 2 teenagers.

  • 53. TheNerd  |  June 20, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I agree with the above. Many creatures beyond humans posess empathy. What sets us apart is that once we agree on what morals arise from this empathy, we can write it down and pass it on to later generations. We can build upon the wisdom of those past.

    I assert that there is no “right” or “wrong” apart from an empathetic interaction. The proverbial man on a deserted island is incapable of committing evil acts, as there is simply no one to be the recipiant of his evil! Sure, he can cause himself physical or emotional pain, but pain without empathetic interaction is not evil. It is simply pain.

    Obviously, none of us live on an island (at least one without the internet). Therefore we must make moral judgements every day, the majority of which happen to align with others’ morality. Does this prove there is a God? No. It simply proves that we do not live in isolation.

  • 54. Cthulhu  |  June 20, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    TheNerd,

    The proverbial man on a deserted island is incapable of committing evil acts, as there is simply no one to be the recipiant of his evil! Sure, he can cause himself physical or emotional pain, but pain without empathetic interaction is not evil. It is simply pain.

    Well put…What I am about to say will vex Christians reading it – but I am going there anyway :-)

    Even Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible had the central tenet of ‘Do as thou wilt, save it harm not other’. Not too far from the Golden Rule or the philosophy of the Jain religion. Just as an aside – a good (to me at least) book on this subject is ‘The Science of Good and Evil’ by Micael Shermer…avalable here :-)

    http://www.amazon.com/Science-Good-Evil-People-Gossip/dp/0805077693/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213984693&sr=8-1

  • 55. Cthulhu  |  June 20, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Sorry that should be ‘NO other’ and ‘available’ respectively :-(

  • 56. orDover  |  June 20, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    It’s really refreshing to see this thread take a different direction form the typical “God is real” “No he isn’t” back and forth.

    Anyway, I really don’t know how I feel about humans and other animals having an innate since of good and wrong, or of altruism. I’ve heard a lot of really compelling stories of animal altruism, and I don’t doubt it’s prevalence, but I do wonder if it is a learned behavior, a social construct. Even among social insects there is a strong sense of altruism, but is it programmed behavior or copied behavior? I don’t know. I think this is a problem that comes up again and again though, because it’s very difficult to separate socially generation meme-ish behaviors from actual instincts, since almost every living thing has been socialized to some extent.

    I spend a great deal of time a few months ago reading about cases of feral children. Feral children, and especially isolated children, lack everything that could be considered normal human behavior, including the ability to display emotions and walk upright. I’ve read that the mind of feral children lack “consciousness,” that is they lack an understanding of themselves in relation to other people or the outside world. According to some child psychologists that I have read, understanding yourself in relation to other people or objects can only come through social interactions (i.e. Object Relations Theory). Without that essential definition of consciousness, I don’t see how a feral child could be altruistic, which is understanding right and wrong at the most basic level.

  • 57. Cthulhu  |  June 20, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    orDover,

    According to some child psychologists that I have read, understanding yourself in relation to other people or objects can only come through social interactions (i.e. Object Relations Theory). Without that essential definition of consciousness, I don’t see how a feral child could be altruistic, which is understanding right and wrong at the most basic level.

    Agreed – these feral children also lack the symbology of social interactions i.e. language and seem incapable of any ‘internal dialogue’ that we take for granted. But this is far from established fact – but a plausible hypothesis.

    As for animal altruism, the best example I can think of are elephants. Elephants in the wild have been repeatedly documented apparently grieving for dead members of the herd. When they pass the spot where the other elephant died, whey will stop and trumpet in distress

  • 58. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 20, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    I have to wonder about a child that is raised with other humans but never actually taught what is normal human behavior? Perhaps a group of children growing up feral, instead of individuals.

    How much of a feral child’s behavior is due to never being taught normal behavior, vs. never having the opportunity to naturally develop normal behavior through interactions with others? Sort of how a muscle will atrophy if you never use it.

    Just wild speculation, since I really know very little of psychology.

  • 59. Cthulhu  |  June 20, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    SnugglyBuffalo,

    How much of a feral child’s behavior is due to never being taught normal behavior, vs. never having the opportunity to naturally develop normal behavior through interactions with others? Sort of how a muscle will atrophy if you never use it.

    I would point to inner city gangs as an example of what you are talking about I think. Sure looks like regressive behaviour to me…

  • 60. orDover  |  June 20, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    There are instances of street children in countries like Bulgaria, where children are abandoned at an early age and care for each other. They certainly develop a different sense of morals. For example to them, stealing is okay, because stealing is the only way they can feed themselves and their social group. All according to context.

  • 61. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 21, 2008 at 2:15 am

    Yeah, but I would wager that kids in inner city gangs are capable of being empathetic to someone, which is still different from a psychopath who’s brain just isn’t wired to be able to feel such emotions.

  • 62. Bad  |  June 21, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Jimj: “And, as Yurka pointed out, atheism does not and cannot answer the ultimate questions of why and how are we here.”

    This is just so confused. Atheism isn’t itself a set of explanations. It’s simply a label given to people that don’t jump to a particular set of conclusions.

    Conclusions which, I might add, never really provide any serious answers to those questions. “It got done by something that can do anything” is basically synonymous with saying “I have no idea how it got done.”

  • 63. 7 Reasons why Christians de-convert « de-conversion  |  June 29, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    [...] Why d-C? (6) Stand Back, I’m going to try SCIENCE! [...]

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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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