From Gospel Preacher to Good Atheist

July 29, 2008 at 8:09 pm 216 comments

My Early Years – Growing up, I was a typical American kid. I had a brother and a sister, a loving mom and dad, and we were taught to believe in Christianity, America’s status quo faith. Mom and dad were not religious fanatics, but they were mild fundamentalists who believed that Christianity was the only way and that no one could have the highest morality without belief in the Christian God. I swallowed this philosophy hook, line, and sinker from day one, though I didn’t become a baptized believer until my eighteenth birthday.

I was converted for the same reason that many others were — I was at a time in my life when I needed emotional and psychological support. I had fought my own battles with depression growing up, but when Christianity came along, that was the end of my singing the blues! Finding something to believe in is a big part of the psychological make up of the individual. I had also just fallen out of a relationship with a girl and this made me begin to “look upward” for help like I’d never done before. I was a party-goer, by and large, but I knew that someday, I would have to give up my selfish life and become a part of what I was taught God told me to do — to be baptized and live as a Christian. I remember how it felt to start looking for answers in the bible and pray like I never had before. I was a changed man at my conversion one cold February morning in 1994. What I felt Christ did for me was all too apparent in my mind. I decided to live for him since he gave so much for me, and I was so thankful that I had escaped the eternal flames of Hell that awaited me for my former lifestyle’s conduct! From then on, my life would change in ways I never imagined.

During the first year of my conversion, I read the bible through, bought perhaps 50 apologetic books and Christian evidence materials, and read them through nearly at the pace of one book per night. Nothing else seemed important to me anymore except the study of God’s word. I was a living, breathing, scripture quoting machine. Only a couple of months after my conversion, I found that I had an easier time memorizing than anyone I knew, so I put this skill to work. This came in handy as I became a determined personal evangelist.

From me, no one was safe from an argument on religion! I’d talked to everyone I knew, beginning with my close family, my friends, and my acquaintances, and they all knew where I stood on the issues: Jesus was the way, Genesis is accurate in all its teachings (and literal too), and only those in the Lord’s true church (the Church of Christ to which I belonged) would be saved on the last day. I went door to door for multiple blocks, talking to every soul I could find. I had to save them from the fires of Hell like I had been saved. I sure made a lot of people mad at me who didn’t want to hear it! I had two college professors walk away from me after I basically refused to let them leave their classrooms in arguments from what they said during class. I had a math professor tell me, “Listen, I’m not going to convert to your religion, guy!” I remember another teacher saying to me, “I’m happy with my church. I don’t need another!” This little crusade of mine continued until a year and a half after my conversion when I decided to enter preaching school and officially prepare myself for the work I had ahead. Secular college was much too worldly and “evil” for me, so preaching school shined out as my only real option.

Let it be clear that the Church of Christ is an ultra-fundamentalist group, far more conservative than even the most stubborn protestant churches out there: so conservative, in fact, that members of my group were constantly withdrawing fellowship from each other and our sister congregations that disagreed with us over greater or lesser points. According to our group, an unscriptural marriage, a second marriage without meeting the scriptural standards of God, constituted adultery, and therefore, had to be broken up, even if there were children involved. Of course, no one could be saved outside of our group and every detail of the scriptures was the absolute word of God and had to be true! Using musical instruments during church services was wrong and sinful and Hell would be the penalty for it if done! The God of the Church of Christ was a very legally-minded God, indeed. Even a sincere candidate making his way to the baptistery out of faith to obey God, should he die, would find himself in Hell because he had to get immersed to get any forgiveness (Acts 2:38).

Beginning Ministerial Training

I began attending the Southwest School of Bible Studies in 1995 and graduated in 1997. This well respected, 216 hour preparation for my preaching work taught me a lot about every area of the work of the minister. It was a thorough walk-through of every book and chapter of the bible, preaching protocol, and particularly, the fact and the how of bible apologetics. That is, the bible needed a lot of defending. It brood so much controversy and conflict on every level of thought that it needed scholars at its aide. But my best arguing experience came from real life, from running into people with radically different beliefs than mine and learning how to defend my position over theirs. I ran into the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses, the Baptists and Adventists, the Catholics and Greek Orthodox, the infidels and mystics, the psychics and the Buddhists, and the typical “unchurched” folk who weren’t interested in religion, one way or the other. To me they all didn’t make sense. With each encounter, I became more and more confident that my faith was the right one to have. Every debate I watched or heard, I found that my side seemed to make the better points and this bothered me a little because I felt that I didn’t understand the opposing side’s views well enough. This demanded yet more study.

In heart, I have always been a bit of a rationalist, even back then. I felt the need for compelling evidence to back up a claim, especially in a world of religions where so many flimflam artists are at work. So it bothered me when I heard others express the “just have faith” aspect of religion. Others, most people, in fact, weren’t like me. They didn’t care like I did if a claim made sense or not. If their parents said it, if the bible said it, if they had heard it for a long enough time, then it was true, period. I kept trying to understand why the faith of most people wasn’t as urgent a thing to them as my faith was to me. This led me to believe even more so that I was truly converted and most of those around me were not. But even among my own brethren, so many seemed to not be as flexible with their views as I thought they should be. Very few of them would stick their necks out in an argument like I would and put their faith on the line: “Prove to me that my religion is wrong and I’ll convert to the right one tonight.” I didn’t see this attitude very often and this worried me. Throughout my ministry, I remember watching and reading debates just to prove myself
wrong, though this never happened early on. It seemed I could never get to a point in my mind where I just accepted I had truth. My quest for answers was unending.

Preaching life begins

After graduating from seminary in 1997, I held down four preaching works until my resignation as minister in 2003. In August of 1997, I began my first work. I didn’t end up staying there long on account of financial reasons. The church couldn’t afford to pay me enough, so after six months, my wife and I headed out for work number two. I spent two years at this church and learned a lot about human nature and people’s unwillingness to change.

Throughout my Christian life, I always had little doubts that bothered me from conversion onward. They were small doubts that made my stomach burn from time to time, but I would study them away before they became a problem. It was towards the end of this work (in 1999) that I began to experience doubts a little harder. This was the time in my life that I began to first question prayer.

On one occasion, our church diligently prayed that a dear elderly sister with cancer get better. She seemed to improve as her cancer went into remission for a while and I considered this a true evidence of prayer, until a year later when the cancer relapsed and she died quite suddenly! God was really working there! From then on, it was as though my mind kept a log of unanswered prayers and the results always seemed to be 50/50 at best. This was my beginning of questioning what I believed, though I didn’t acknowledge it altogether. It was just in the back of my mind. I prided myself on being able to “answer” infidel arguments, but I would later find that my study of evidence on these issues was one sided. Up till now, my knowledge pool was theological and Christian. I had no way to reason outside of the box. I could only arrive at Christian conclusions because that was my worldview. So I decided to take a little harder look at the other side.

I began acquiring some other books, this time books on the natural sciences and freethought. I began with Thomas Paine, George H. Smith, and Ingersoll (to name just a few), and my library expanded monthly. Plus, I began to take a closer look at astronomy, cosmology, geology, and microbiology. I was beginning to get a different picture of the world than my bible was giving me. But even now that I was broadening my horizons, my faith was still not in any danger of being destroyed just yet. I still readily and fervently opposed, like a true, belligerent fanatic, anyone (including those in the books I read), who opposed fundamentalist Christianity. It would take time to see a better way.

2000 rolls around and the doubts worsen

Before I knew it, the summer of 2000 had rolled around. I was at my third preaching work now and the work of God in the local church went on as normal. It was a hot night in August as a guest speaker addressed my congregation in regard to his missionary work that we were supporting overseas. I had been fighting away my doubts successfully up until this point, but this was about to change. Behind him was the screen where he showed us a video of the work that the brethren were doing in India. The pagans were pulling apart a bull in a town square in honor of a pagan god. “It is unfortunate that this sort of pagan worship goes on in the world today, but it does, and we must remember as Christians that these souls are lost without the gospel. If people can be saved without it, then we are wasting our time and money trying to save souls.” It was as though time stopped for me at that moment. The speaker’s words made my heart race like never before, even though I had preached and heard the same message a thousand times by now. But unlike before, I was now actually thinking of the implications of what I believed!

According to my God, these ignorant, bull-slaughtering, heathens were going to be condemned to eternal fire to burn forever, and yet so many of them had lived and died under their own wrong pagan ways and laws for countless generations. It wasn’t right for God to put them in Hell for simply living in ignorance as they had been taught. I felt like a twerp with my no-other-way-to-salvation gospel, futilely trying to convert a people who already had a belief system and a culture to direct their lives. My heart began pounding and I began to sweat. I was beginning to think for myself and not just sweep every lost person into a secret compartment in my mind, never to be thought about again (as I had been doing). This Hell idea I had been preaching was starting to seem like a terrible thing. Though I wouldn’t have admitted it, I never could harmonize the concept of hell with the concept of a merciful God, especially when God could easily rehabilitate sinners or just blot them out of existence. After all, you get rid of a sick dog, you don’t torture it, right?

But this posed a dilemma; if God could choose to save some lost souls without the gospel, then he must do the same for everyone lest he be branded a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35), in which case, his word would not always be true (John 10:35). Or, if it is as the bible says, and literally no one can be saved without the gospel, then you have the uncomfortable and unjust position of making God a tyrant who condemns helpless and ignorant pagans who never heard of Jews or Jesus or the Christian Church (Luke 12:4-5; Mark 16:16; Matthew 7:21-23; John 14:6). There is no way to answer this dilemma and maintain both the soundness of God’s word and the mercy of God. I used to be content explaining this by saying that since God himself was the only immutable standard of morality, then he could do whatever he wanted with souls and his will would be “good” and ours would be “bad,” but this no longer resolved the problem in my mind. Now the idea of eternal torment started to seem like the truly malicious thing it was. God was running a “little shop of horrors” all his own! The more I thought about it, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to serve a monster capable of such cruelty. It would take time, but this would soon begin to interfere with my evangelism efforts.

Not a month had passed by until I found myself working late one night at the church building. I spent all the time I had to prepare bible classes and sermons, studying out bible discrepancies and evidences for and against evolution, instead. My doubts, though not unmanageable, were starting to interfere with my work, and things would finally reach the breaking point by the next year. Looking back now, I can see it all clearly. My experience tells me it’s the same with just about everyone; once you begin to think critically and analyze what you are taught in the bible, faith will eventually terminate in atheism.

My Last Work

The last church I preached at was my biggest work yet. I loved preaching the gospel and had given my life to cherish and defend it. I had so much on my plate with this new work: visitation, counseling, prison correspondence, bulletin preparation, preaching and teaching sermons and bible classes, and a Sunday morning radio program. When I tried to look at this as a wonderful thing, I still found that most of my time and effort was being spent in apologetics. I found myself constantly explaining away bible atrocities, such as the Midianites’ extermination at the hands of Israel (Numbers 31:15-18), and why God allowed bad things to happen to good people. Answering the problem of evil and innocent human suffering was a big thing to all churches because it is a relevant question and every member of every church worldwide has heard every preacher they know try to explain it, but they all failed just like I did. The scriptural problems
never would quit coming at me. I was constantly explaining away bible discrepancies, “patching up” the old book to make it fit a skeptical, modern world. I was constantly explaining away many errors in the text.

For instance, one passage says Ahaziah was 22 years old when he began to reign and another passage says he was forty two (2 Kings 8:26 vs. 2 Chronicles 22:2). One text has Josiah dying in Megiddo and another has him dying in Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:29-30 vs. 2 Chronicles 35:24). I was taught contradictions like these were just “scribal errors” from copying mistakes in earlier manuscripts. However, it didn’t sit well with me that God did not provide us with a spiritual roadmap that could be trusted without having to go digging through a pile of human-penned manuscripts to finally stumble upon what God actually intended to say! It was difficult trying to find scientific truths in God’s book, while explaining away the many unscientific things that bothered me, like flat earth passages such as Job 9:6 and I Samuel 2:8, “the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them.” The idea that striped rods produce striped offspring in animals (Genesis 30:35-39), proved very difficult to explain, and let’s not forget the work I had to do in explaining what the bible really meant when it mentioned those cud chewing rabbits (Leviticus 11:6)!

I couldn’t keep up with all the work I had to do to make Christianity seem viable. This worsened my doubts and I started realizing that the issues I was explaining away were valid discrepancies, indeed, and my way of correcting these problems could be applied to any false book, making it impossible to find a contradiction in anything! I was using bad reasoning to find my way out of erroneous conclusions, brought on by false bible statements.

The doubts were now so bad I found myself having to take mini-vacations, usually for a weekend or so, to clear my head and ask myself where I stood on the issues. The problem was, the vacations ended and I came right back to my problems! I decided to use my off time to keep resolving my doubts. I prayed and cried and stayed up late into the nights looking for those magic resolutions that would shed light on my problems — needless to say, they never came! Those feelings of depression and loneliness, the feelings of fear of an angry God, were quite troubling. Joe, the once-proud preacher of the gospel, was now weak in faith and questioned the validity of the most esteemed message on earth. I was hurting and doubting, and I still had no evidence or experience with this God at all, yet all these years I trusted and prayed to him and this seemed to justify my worldview.

What had happened? Did I sin? Did I not pray sincerely enough? Did I need to learn patience? Was my God going to burn me for doubting when I couldn’t help it and while I still wanted to continue with him in full faith? Come to think of it, I couldn’t even define this god! I could tell you traits God had (omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, omni-benevolence) and what God wasn’t (a man, a liar, etc. Numbers 23:19). I could even tell you that God was a “perfect spirit entity” (John 4:24), but again, I had no experience with a “spirit” entity. What was that? Was it matter? No. It can’t be matter because matter is a thing of the temporal universe, but God was eternal, outside and above the universe. Therefore, whatever God was, he was unknowable because he was outside of the universe, but now my speech about God was again rendered unintelligible. I might as well say that God is a “dagegfqyeulm” or something?! So, I was forced to retreat back into the safe-haven of illusive, theistic-agnostic jargon by saying that “God is above our understanding. God is unknowable. We would have to be God to understand him.” Now I was right back where I started — with no answers! And if you think defining God is hard, imagine trying to define a Trinitarian God (Matthew 28:19)! As a minister, I would explain the trinity as water, steam, and ice — three components making up one substance. This doesn’t apply very well to individuals, does it? Now I had three uncreated, perfect, and infinite beings existing forever! This was an even less intelligible idea!

Like a [mentally challenged individual wandering] the mall, I was lost and left to wander aimlessly, playing the same old guessing game of finding what solution would solve this problem and what God wanted me to do. My spiritual world was turned upside down. Like most religious people, Christians are very theatrical in their thinking, and so was I. I kept imagining the drama that went on as Satan was before God telling him I would fail the test, but that God was telling Satan that I would pass it, just like Job’s triumphant journey into greater faith. I had to stay faithful! But, this disposition could only last so long. The time comes when you develop the courage to admit to yourself, “If there is a God, he sure has done a good job at making a universe where so many like me can’t see it.” In such dilemmas, you keep waiting for the right tract or email or book or conversation from a friend to come along and set you straight, but it never happens.

When 2002 came around, things were definitely changing. My preaching work was now showing serious signs of sloppiness and hurt. I stepped into that pulpit every Sunday and gave my weekly motivational speeches and forgot about my doubts for the time — but they always came back! By mid-2002, I was a virtual atheist undercover, trying to keep a paycheck coming and almost resigned to finally accepting that my god had bailed on me!

As one last measure, I decided to reach out to other ministers for help. I went to their houses, swore them to secrecy, and unloaded on them my issues. I had tried this a couple of times before with no success, but I thought I’d try it again. They didn’t understand and actually attacked me viciously for asking them demanding questions they only thought they had answers to. They tried to come back with the same theistic hogwash I once so proudly peddled, but those words had lost their power. The people I went to for comfort ended up chiding me for a situation I wished I wasn’t in. Several of them refused to speak to me again. I was hurt and it didn’t take long to realize that I was on my own in this search.

I took any down time I had and investigated other world religions more clearly than I had in the past. To sum up the matter, not one of them struck me as divine and all of them seemed at least a little more credible than the religion I promoted! No one of them had any of the big answers to the world’s problems and no one of them could explain human suffering. None of the basic philosophical arguments for God (the cosmological, teleological, axiological arguments, etc.) were valid, and a thorough investigation of the roots of Christianity revealed that it was not unique at all.

Christianity was composed of borrowed components of many religions. There were a myriad of virgin-born, savior-gods in the world before Christ’s time. Justin Martyr admits this much in his work Apologia I. I found nothing but dishonesty in my preaching comrades who showed no real interest in finding (or facing) the truth. I came to see that all those shelves of creationist books spoke for not so much as a microscopic part of the scientific community and that even my preaching brethren with actual degrees in the natural sciences rejected fully the scientific consensus of the real experts’ opinions on evolution and cosmology. I had been listening to dishonest crackpots who knew very little to nothing about what evolution really taught, and yet they trashed it and taught nonsense just to support the worldview of an archaic book that told of a six thousand year old earth, had numerous contradictions, false prophecies, and a plethora of errors. I was starting to see a bigger world out there than my limited Christian worldview would allow for, and I was starting to see that I needed to go back and relearn what little I was taught about science, knowing that the sources I trusted before were no good now.

There was no water canopy that surrounded the earth at creation as I had been taught (Genesis 1:6-8). In an attempt to bolster the credibility of the Noahic flood account (Genesis 6-8), I had been told that many flood myths of cultures around the world existed. This was true, but what I was not told was that a huge portion of those myths were not stories of universal floods, but local floods — natural exaggerations from floods in history which came about as fall off from our most recent ice age. Exaggerations like this are to be expected as myths have always developed about natural disasters. There are plenty of fire myths too. I also learned that many of these flood sagas had virtually nothing in common with each other; for instance, some flood legends, like the Pygmy version of the myth, describe a flood as an act of a god creating humanity in water. Other accounts, like that of the Hopi Indians, have an impending flood averted. The Hebrews’ take on the flood was not unique and not original. Many flood stories predate theirs. The Egyptians have detailed and reliable records going back a long way, verifying that no flood occurred some 5,000 years ago or round-abouts.

So, what I once thought supported the Genesis record actually robbed it of credibility. Different races did not exist because Noah had three sons that emerged from an ark and repopulated the world (Genesis 9-11). The earth was not six thousand years old. Languages did not originate from a mysterious separation of peoples while building some tower to heaven (Genesis 11:1-9). The pyramids of different cultures around the world were not built in similar shapes because their ancestors came from the Tower of Babel. They were built as pyramids simply because they had no rebar or similar technology that would allow them to build straight upward to support their own weight when multiple stories were added to a structure.

I had been misinformed about the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which is continually misapplied by creationists everyday. The second law did not prevent or hinder evolution or an eternal universe at all. I had been misinformed about DNA and the facts of taxonomy, mutations, and genetic variants in species. I jumped at the opportunity to know the truth now. My knowledge pool was filling, and my worldview that was kept so small before and full of intolerance and scientific illiteracy, was now growing, and with this knowledge came peace like the bible only claimed to give me.

Too, I was realizing that morality which I thought was delegated by a book, had nothing to do with religion. I was stunned to see many different forms of morality all over my world. Almost all higher forms of life showed the beginnings of culture, and to one extent or another, forms of morality. The morality of my people was a little different from the Head Hunters of Borneo, yet we had a similar rule that said that it wasn’t right to steal. This rule was never given by a god. It was a result of rationality in species who understood that stealing could never be allowed in structured societies. Prides of lions have the same rule. It became apparent that the greatest morality was not to do right for the bribe of a reward (Heaven), or because of the threat of punishment (Hell), but to do right for right’s sake. This, to me, sums up higher morality. Morality comes no more to man from a god than it does from a god to a baboon to sacrifice himself to the leopard to preserve the lives of his troop. Once again, I looked around and saw a bigger, more natural world around me, a world that made more sense.

The Finality

I never quit getting asked what it was that finally closed my door of faith forever. If I had to pick a “nail in the coffin” that ended my theological journey, I don’t think I would be able to. De-conversion takes time and a lot of thinking and rethinking. But I suppose, if my feet were to the fire and I had to pick the biggest blow, I would have to say that it came by way of understanding the basic premise of the law of rationality. I was taught in school, KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid! Look for the simplest answer first and not the most complex. You’ve probably heard this too. Logicians would call this principle, Occam’s Razor — in a dilemma, pick the simplest answer whenever you can. I was compelled as a freethinker to draw only those conclusions which were warranted by the evidence. That meant that if I can explain design by means of evolution, then I don’t need a god. If I can explain the construction of the bible on natural processes and that it is of human origin, then I am not warranted to conclude that a god wrote it. If I can look up at the stars at night, as I so fondly do, and see a natural explanation for them, then it is pointless to throw a god into the process somewhere.

Science had been replacing the god notion for centuries. Now God only existed in the gaps of our knowledge of the world. I had been holding back the progress of mankind by holding onto a book that promised the world, but delivered nothing. It was the very source of some of the problems it claimed to solve. I could now embrace a more fulfilling and enlightening worldview. I could now have a glass of wine without fear of eternal damnation and I could breathe the fresh air of being honest with myself. I do not expect that everyone can be an atheist. I am convinced that it will not happen for a good many people because religion is a psychological thing and many people just aren’t ready to make the leap to a purely material world, but as it was for me, so it will be the right move for a good many religious thinkers who find no stopping place short of rejecting theism.

I tried to resign from the ministry quietly, but the ministers I trusted in made that impossible. September 28, 2003 was the date of my resignation. I have never regretted that decision for a moment. In fact, I look back now and wonder how I could ever have believed in an angry tyrant of a god who brought unimaginable guilt and fear of eternal torture on his children. It was hard for my wife (who is still Christian) and my family to adjust to my new views, and it was very difficult to hunt a new career, but it had to be done. I don’t have a single regret.

After I resigned, I was put on more prayer lists than I could imagine — a lot of good they did! I got my share of emotional phone calls from ministers, friends, and members of the churches I preached at before, pleading me to “hold on”, telling me I was too good a minister to leave the fold. Generally, I got the usual thoughts from people who didn’t understand my outlook and made every effort to blame my change on all the wrong reasons: “You were never really converted.” “You were pushed into preaching too soon.” “You just had too strict a church and their interpretation ruined you to real moderate Christianity.” “You were just frustrated by the brethren.” “You are just going through a phase, a sort of midlife crisis.” But when I defended my decision to leave, I quickly became the flaming heretic without hope of saving: “You are evil!!” “Do you worship the devil now, Joe?” “Joe, you have no morality!” “Will you beat me and take my wallet now that you’re an atheist, Joe?” They called me not knowing what they were in for. It was almost funny to listen as they got upset and tried to get off the phone as quickly as possible! At least several preachers and long-time church friends, forbade me to contact them ever again, and most of them haven’t reached out since, except for one, maybe.

Looking back now, I can remember sitting on my couch shortly before my resignation and recalling the end of a movie I saw years earlier, the 1991 movie Drop Dead Fred. It’s a silly little flick that focuses on a troubled girl who has an imaginary friend who stays with her until this friend feels she has grown up enough to be on her own. I can remember the emotion that ran through me as I applied it to my situation. Drop Dead Fred says to her towards the end of the movie, “I’ve got to leave you now. You don’t need me anymore.” After that, the girl went on about her life as a normal girl and Fred became some other little girl’s imaginary friend. For me, it was exactly as though my god, my imaginary friend who was a stepping stone to help me develop confidence and to reach out towards maturity in life, suddenly said to me, “I’ve got to leave you now. You don’t need me anymore.” It was sad at first, but I knew all along it was necessary. I “grew up” in my mind. My imaginary friend was gone. Santa Claus was dead. There was no ghost in the machine. Pinocchio’s strings had been cut. Cinderella’s magic carriage ran out of gas. My little green dragon I clutched so tightly in my arms as a small child at bedtime was useless now.

My journey through Christianity and into atheistic freethought was a journey of finding myself, and now I can say with great confidence that I have. I am one small link in a long chain, and all I can do is my little part to make my fellow links feel that much happier and that much more loved. The standards of peace and happiness I sought as I believer, I found as an atheist – Who would have thought?

What shocked me was that the evidences for materialism were there all along, right in front of me, only I never noticed them because of my former, religious delusions. Anyone who wanted hard facts that would support a natural universe could find a good number of evidences, if only they were willing to accept what they saw. I could now aim to live out my life with self honesty and intellectual dignity. I was never a “sinner” and didn’t need a savior. What I needed was truth and the liberty of enlightenment.

I found that life is not about Joe Holman, or planet earth, or my wants and desires, or those of my family. Life is about change: blind, but awesome, disappointing, but surprising, change. Life is about being born, growing, and dying, for no purpose at all except for the one we make for ourselves. Life is about the evolution of all things, great and small, and in the process, it is as though the universe, through us, developed a way to view itself. For me, life is not the main event anymore. When my time on earth is spent, I will enjoy my eternal sleep, the only place where genuine, lasting tranquility can be obtained. In an eternal universe, who knows how unthinkably long it will be before another galaxy sprouts up somewhere someday and another planet is formed, where another innocent, naive, and zealous Joe Holman comes around again, asking the same questions and learning the same lessons.

- Joe E. Holman (Guest Contributor)
Originally Published at Minister Turns Atheist

Entry filed under: ~Guest. Tags: , , , , , .

The question of suffering and my de-conversion The Case For Christianity

216 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Notcalvin  |  July 29, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    [quote edited above]

    Great story. You have touched many of my own experience.

  • 2. Obi  |  July 29, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Great read, mate. I needed something to do to spend the time before the premier episode of “Evolve” comes on at 10 PM on the History Channel, haha.

    Oh, and the problem of evil is indeed quite the insurmountable problem for many religions, including Christianity. Sometimes I wonder how ministers, preachers, theologians, and others who have studied religion for their entire lives still hold to the truth of their beliefs. I’m sure they’ve run these issues over in their minds time and time again…

  • 3. grace  |  July 29, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    I’m trying to understand in a deeper way what makes the difference in our faith journey. There are many Christian people who have wrestled with various issues of faith, from questions relating to Scripture, to the problem of evil, and suffering in the world. And, their faith in God is only deepened by their questioning, and experience. Other become total atheists, sometimes with nothing but mockery, and scorn for the Christian faith.

    There are scientists out there like Dr. Francis Collins, director of the well-known U.S. National Genome Research Insitute whose great knowledge and study has deepened his faith in a creator. He actually has written a book entitled, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief.”

    So, what makes the significant difference, do you think?

  • 4. Loving Thinker  |  July 29, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    This was a great read, I linked to it today. Its nothing new, nothing I haven’t heard from many others and that’s what makes it so great. Its confirmation that I am not crazy :)

    You have a lot of courage, Joe, and I sense that you have a lot of peace too.

  • 5. John Morales  |  July 29, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Thank you, Joe!

    I found it a fascinating read.

  • 6. Obi  |  July 29, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Psychological need for belief. It often overrides the rational parts of our mind, and allows insufficient answers to become acceptable, only because the belief in question is so entrenched in one’s very person, as religious beliefs often are. Some people can “break free” of it and realize what they were doing, while others just “go with the flow”, so to speak, and push aside anything that might conflict with their beliefs. Most I assume do this subcionsciously, but in others it might be a conscious decision. Take the 19th century Millerites, for example. After their leader’s predictions of the end of the world failed repeatedly, they continued to believe because their beliefs were so important to them that they overrided the rational parts of their mind that would normally kick in and say “Hmm, this belief doesn’t have much credence to it, and it’s contradicted by repeated events in the outside world, so let’s discard it”. Of course not all cases of belief are this severe/strong, but I think the point is clear.

    And then there’s the fact that every one of our brains has been shaped differently due to genetics and our environment, so that would also account for different experiences.

  • 7. CheezChoc  |  July 29, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Joe, that was an excellent piece of writing and testimony.

  • 8. DB  |  July 29, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Great post and story. I am sure you are living happier than before with your freedom to live your own life without fear. I don’t know what it is like to live with the fear of god on your shoulders, but from these stories I can only imagine how horrible it must be. Hopefully stories like yours help others who are on the fence come to a conclusion to better their lives.

  • 9. finallyhappy  |  July 29, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Very well done. Thanks for sharing that section of your life. I’ve really been trying to figure out how to explain my deconversion to my still christian family. You’ve given me some great things to think about.
    On a practical note, can anyone tell me where I could find info about the borrowed components of other religions that was mentioned in the post? I’ve read bits and pieces here and there, but I’d like to be able to understand them a bit better. (book, website, article, etc.)
    Thanks again, Joe.

  • 10. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 29, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    This is an incredible post. It echoes much of what I feel having deconverted. I think I might start pointing friends to this entry when trying to articulate why I gave up my faith.

  • 11. John Morales  |  July 29, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    Finallyhappy: do a search on the origins of Judaism and Syncretism.

  • 12. Ubi Dubium  |  July 29, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Joe, that was wonderful. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I have copied your last paragraph into my “keepers” file – that’s a terrific piece of writing.

  • 13. orDover  |  July 29, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    “There are many Christian people who have wrestled with various issues of faith, from questions relating to Scripture, to the problem of evil, and suffering in the world. And, their faith in God is only deepened by their questioning, and experience.”

    I’d like to know how exactly struggling with the problem of suffering in the world leads to deeper faith. What is it they say to rationalize it? That God brings suffering into the world to give Christians an opportunity to be charitable and “do unto the lease of these”? That Adam and Eve sinned and fairly brought suffering and sin into the world?

    I’ve yet to hear a logically sound, honest, convincing argument for a loving god that allows senseless and random human suffering.

    Thanks for the great post Joe!

  • 14. Obi  |  July 29, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    By the way, was anyone else reminded of one of George Carlin’s bits on religion by this sentence?

    Joe said, “From then on, it was as though my mind kept a log of unanswered prayers and the results always seemed to be 50/50 at best.

    George Carlin said, “ I noticed that of all the prayers I used to offer to God, and all the prayers that I now offer to Joe Pesci, are being answered at about the same 50 percent rate. Half the time I get what I want. Half the time I don’t. Same as God 50-50. Same as the four leaf clover, the horse shoe, the rabbit’s foot, and the wishing well. Same as the mojo man. Same as the voodoo lady who tells your fortune by squeezing the goat’s testicles. It’s all the same; 50-50. So just pick your superstitions, sit back, make a wish and enjoy yourself.

    Just thought I’d point that out…

  • 15. gracehead  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Hello.

    Hell is a teaching, like purgatory, that has no basis in scripture. It is a tradition that has become orthodox, but scripture as in most cases runs contrary to traditional viewpoints.
    Consider John 3:16 … “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that as many as believe in Him may not PERISH but have Eternal Life.”

    Life is a gift … we are not owed life, but we each have it for a time. But it is inherently TEMPORARY … having a beginning and an end. The doctrine of hell depicts no end … no “PERISHING” … but continued and unending conscious torment.

    In reality, to accept the very Life of God is to be made alive by His life … a Life that is unending and unbeginning .. .ETERNAL. To reject that Life is to remain temporal … having no Eternal destiny.

    To perish is to be UNFORMED to nothing .. and those that receive the second death to be made no more will have no thoughts to realize they have received it or not. Thoughts perish with the perishing

    The serpent said: “You shall surely not die.” … and the church has been repeating the refrain, even when such teaching goes against the most popular verse … John 3:16.

    Perish means perish.

    Consider this:
    1/14/06 – From God the Father
    …Shall I, even I, torment My beloved, they who are tormented continually by he who is, and has, torment in his vesture? Satan is the tormentor. … Become, again, a child of God, and learn to walk uprightly, leading others into love, by love, not fear.MORE of this letter about unbiblical “hell” HERE

    18 reasons why in a single verse

    Theological Myth – Unending conscious torture

  • 16. Aussie Ali  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:32 am

    Thanks Joe for your story. I really identified with this bit:

    “I had to stay faithful! But, this disposition could only last so long. The time comes when you develop the courage to admit to yourself, “If there is a God, he sure has done a good job at making a universe where so many like me can’t see it.” In such dilemmas, you keep waiting for the right tract or email or book or conversation from a friend to come along and set you straight, but it never happens.”

    That was exactly how I felt. I figured if I just had enough faith and kept on waiting for long enough then I eventually would experience that moment when it all made sense. A huge part of my deconversion was finally being honest with myself and admitting that I just didn’t have enough of that kind of faith.

  • 17. edwinhere  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:38 am

    The problem of evil and unjustified suffering are the best arguments against a God.

  • 18. The Nerd  |  July 30, 2008 at 2:38 am

    Notcalvin: yeah, I caught that one too. Kind of ruined the heartfelt mood, I think.

    But mood or no mood, it was a very good post. Thank you for telling your story. You never know how many lives your words will touch.

  • 19. athinkingman  |  July 30, 2008 at 3:37 am

    Thanks for the detail and depth of this. Thanks for your honesty and courage.

  • 20. anneandkate  |  July 30, 2008 at 4:15 am

    I have gone through a similar experience. Not quite to the extent you have…I haven’t given over to total atheism….I would say that now I am a deist (agnostic perhaps) rather than a theist. I’m sure you’re familiar with Christopher Hitchens. If there is the slightest chance you’re not, check him out on youtube (his debates are wondrous).

  • 21. anonymous  |  July 30, 2008 at 5:56 am

    ” When my time on earth is spent, I will enjoy my eternal sleep, the only place where genuine, lasting tranquility can be obtained”(Joe)

    I wonder if anyone else noticed the deep sadness in this statement. Im sure he has made a genuine change, Im not so sure its lead to more happiness though.

  • 22. John Morales  |  July 30, 2008 at 6:22 am

    I noticed deep acceptance, actually.

  • 23. anonymous  |  July 30, 2008 at 6:36 am

    “I noticed deep acceptance, actually”(john)

    Just like the condemned man has accepted the hangman? At least in that one statement.

  • 24. finallyhappy  |  July 30, 2008 at 6:47 am

    “When my time on earth is spent, I will enjoy my eternal sleep, the only place where genuine, lasting tranquility can be obtained”

    Sorta makes my days here on earth all the more important to me.

  • 25. anonymous  |  July 30, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Its interesting but not all Christians seem to read scripture the same:

    Excerpt from the Inescapable Love of God, by Thomas Talbott

    The idea that divine justice requires forgiveness accords very well with the NT analogy
    between God and a loving parent. It also illuminates in an intriguing way the nature of Gods opposition to sin. As the Augustinians see it, God opposes sin enough to punish it, but not enough to destroy it altogether; instead of destroying sin altogether, he merely confines it to a specially prepared region of his creation, known as hell, where he keeps it alive for an eternity. According to our alternative picture, however, God forgives sin for this very reason: in no other way could he oppose it with his entire being. For as the St. Paul saw so clearly, our specific sins express a sinful condition, and the latter is a form of spiritual death; it is simply our condition of being separated or estranged or alienated form God and from each other. So the oppostie of a sinful condition is a state of reconciliation; and if that is so, then God cannot be against sin, cannot oppose it with his entire being, unless he is for reconciliation. And he can hardly be for reconciiation unless he is prepared to forgive others even as he has commanded us to forgive them. Indeed, if God should refuse to forgive someone, as is not even possible given his loving nature, he would then separate himself from this person; and that is the very essence of sin as Paul himself understood it.

    But there is, I believe an even more subtle reason why divine justice requires the forgiveness of sin, namely this: Divine forgiveness is one of the essential means by which God protects the innocent from irreparable harm and will eventually vindicate his righteousness in the face of unjust suffering. Without any cooperation from us, God can deflect much of the harm that we might intend to do to others; he can resurrect victims of murder, for example, just as easily as he can victims of old age. He can even use the harm that we intend to do to others as a means of perfecting them and of promoting their good. But the real harm we do to others is another matter, because it rests upon the harm we do to ourselves, as the mother whose teenage daughter commits suicide illustrates so nicely; the agony the mother experiences rests upon the harm that the daughter has done to herself. Of course, in this case, God can always reunite the mother with her daughter in another life. But suppose that God should refuse to do this; suppose that he should refuse to do anything to reclaim the daughter and refuse to forgive her even on the condition of repentance. If he should thus permit the daughter to harm herself irreparably, then he would also permit irreparable harm to befall all of those , such as the mother, who love her; and if he should refuse to forgive the daughter, even as the mother would forgive he, then he would separate himself not only from the daughter, but from the mother as well. Nor would it make any difference if , instead of committing suicide, the daughter had committed murder or even if , like Ted Bundy and Jeff Dahmer, she had committed a series of brutal murders. When the mother of Ted Bundy declared, so agonizingly and yet so appropriately, her continuing love for her son who had become a mosnter, she illustrated how in harming himself her son had also harmed his own mother. She also illustrated this all-important point: that not even God can impart supreme joy to such a mother or vindicate his righteousness in permitting her to suffer so, unless his forgiveness can find a way to reclaim her son.

    Now thats a mouthful that gets you thinking …………………..

  • 26. John Morales  |  July 30, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Sorry all, I’m not going to belabour this point with Anon, but I want to clarify my earlier comment: I noticed not just acceptance, but contentment:

    The standards of peace and happiness I sought as I believer, I found as an atheist – Who would have thought?

    The post, if anything, evinces Joe’s wistfulness during his Christian years.

  • 27. grace  |  July 30, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Obi,

    Do you feel that people may come to this psychological need for belief at anytime? I was reading recently about the dramatic turnaround in the thinking of Anthony Flew, the famous atheistic philosopher. He was well-known for his debates around the globe with Christian apologists for years, and years.

    Now he feels that it is too unlikely that the complexity of even basic life can truly be well explained without postulating some kind of intelligent first cause. His present beliefs are more along the line of deistic thought.

    I have to be honest, and say that in reading, and listening to his reasoning through all this, he doesn’t strike me as someone who has a strong emotional need to be a “believer,” just the opposite actually.

    More later.

  • 28. Griffin  |  July 30, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Great post, Joe. I really appreciated the notion that not everyone can make the ‘clean break’ from religion. The psychological need for stability, firm answers and ‘heavenly protection’ is too great for many people.

    I’ve always felt that religion is like a chair you buy at a furniture store and atheism is like a pile of lumber. The chair is right there, ready for use and requires no work or assembly. The atheist must be willing do the work to needed make his or her own chair (system of morality, etc.) and not everybody is willing to that.

    In the end, I find that the ‘chair’ that I made for myself is better.

  • 29. Mehmed Mustafa  |  July 30, 2008 at 9:45 am

    There aren’t lots of evidences for materialism. You find them because materialism is the dogma of the modern ages since the enlightenement and there has emerged a very big library that expounds on and develops that dogma, large enough to persuade many people to mistake it for reality.

    Actually the only rational belief is that all reality is about consciousness, meaning and purpose, all of this requiring the rule of a supreme consciousness over the universe. You cannot avoid the ultimate responsibility for the good or bad preferences that you make in this world by denying the responsibility, by arguing that it is the rule of unconscious nonsense over the universe (thus total freedom for you) that exists. We all know that unconscious nonsense does not rule us. Otherwise there would be no way for ourselves to be capable of having a conscious, meaningful and purposeful existence, with our creator(s) eternally devoid of all that.

    God is just there, overseeing all of us and noting who deserves what in an eternal existence. He’s making a great point by letting us live in total freedom from His presence, during His seeming abscence from our existence for a short period of time that we spend in this “lower” life (al hayaat al dunya). The next world has to come logically and for ultimate justice and goodness to prevail. Don’t let people delude you into believing that you can escape the day of accounting for your acts.

    Don’t think that if He exists God must be eternally vengeful and must torture you for ever and ever and ever… As some Muslim scholars have rightly pointed out and cited the evidence from the Qur’an and the sunnah since the earliest times of Muslim history (for instance Abd ibn Humayd, a teacher of the great hadith compiler Bukhari, in the 2nd century after the prophet and later ibn taymiyyah and ibn qayyim al jawziyyah and others), hell as a place of punishment and purification will last for a long but finite period of time. There will remain no one, not even the unbelievers in hell when its duty of punishment and purification comes to an end finally. But the caution follows: Even after that those who managed to be good during the actual test will be above the formerly evil people, that is, those who had to be purified in hell. They will have the higher rewards in paradise.

  • 30. Obi  |  July 30, 2008 at 10:11 am

    A psychological need for belief seems like it would almost exclusively be expressed in the context of an established theistic religion, because those are usually more firmly rooted in an individual due to such beliefs commonly having roots in their culture; as well as the fact that such beliefs usually provide people with comfort against the harsh realities of the world. Deism, on the other hand isn’t an established religion anywhere; it has no sacred beliefs, specific god(s), or holy books, meaning it has less root in the mind and activities of the believer. However, deism could also be the “need to believe” on a smaller scale. As in, one rejects religious theism but doesn’t want to make the “jump” to atheism (or in this case, stay as an atheist) so they go the route of the deist.

    However, I frequently find that arguments for God (such as in the case of Mr. Flew) boil down to “We don’t know how/why this works/happens and “This seems unlikely to happen”, so therefore some mystical/divine/supernatural force must have been at work. To me, something like that should trigger more study, more research, more experimenting, more exploring, et cetera instead of jumping to conclusions regarding divine/supernatural forces and utilizing arguments from ignorance and personal incredulity. But perhaps that’s just me.

  • 31. Obi  |  July 30, 2008 at 10:12 am

    That post was addressed to Grace, by the way.

  • 32. Cthulhu  |  July 30, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Mehmed Mustafa,

    Actually the only rational belief is that all reality is about consciousness, meaning and purpose, all of this requiring the rule of a supreme consciousness over the universe.

    Your argument is tautological. And I’m sorry, Islam, if anything, is more irrational than Christianity. And yes – I have read the Qur’an and the Hadith’s. I would like to know how you can rationalize the principle of abrogation if the Qur’an was dictated by your God.

  • 33. Mike aka MonolithTMA  |  July 30, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Great post Joe. Thanks for sharing!

  • 34. notcalvin  |  July 30, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Joe and whoever else wants to reply:

    For the last two weeks I have attempted to live my life as if I did not believe in God. I did not go as far as praying to Joe Piscipo, but I gave it a shot.

    My first reaction to life without God was, “wow, I am totally insignificant”. My thought was that I could be killed by an astroid hitting earth or by a reversal of Earth’s poles, etc… If there is no God in charge then I am at exposed to the whatever the natural world throws at me. This is a scary thought.

    My next thought was that I was free to commit sins that I had previously not committed. I could view pornography. I could lie a little more as long as it didn’t hurt anyone.

    Then I thought well since this life is my only opportunity to do whatever I want then I better start thinking less about those around me and start spending my money on me and living it up a bit.

    Did you have any of these thoughts? How did you get past them? Why shouldn’t this life be all about me and only about others when it is convenient?

  • 35. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 30, 2008 at 11:59 am

    There will remain no one, not even the unbelievers in hell when its duty of punishment and purification comes to an end finally.

    Ah, so, in Islam, hell is God’s reeducation camp?

    Anyway, I didn’t become an atheist because of the dogma of the modern world. I abandoned belief in God because of what I personally observed in reality.

  • 36. Jake  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    I was also born into a religious family, and sent to a religious school, and so logic would dictate that I would also have a beleif in god.

    However, from as young as I can remember I have never truly beleived in a god, and since the age of 7 or 8 have been convinced one does not exist.

    I loved your argument on the moral compass of man though. I have myself used this argument when arguing with one of my fundamentalist friends, that doing right for its own sake, and for the sake of other people, is better than the selfish idea of doing right for your own gain (Heaven) or to avoid punishment (Hell). I think in this small argument the majority of christian faith becomes unravelled, as this way of thinking is very childlike.

    And indeed, many religious people become so at an early age, as they are taught to by their schools and parents. I beleive that after this, their brains shut out other logical arguments, and hang to the childlike views of an omnipotent, omnisocant god, a very freudian image of god (Our father defiied).

    I think, that as many people age, they have to accept the new logic of scientific theories which are taught to them, and so begin to question their beliefs. If people do not do this, and stick rigidly to their Gods, I do not beleive they fully mature as an adult, as their view of the world will always be slightly distorted.

  • 37. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    notcalvin-

    My first reaction to life without God was, “wow, I am totally insignificant”. My thought was that I could be killed by an astroid hitting earth or by a reversal of Earth’s poles, etc… If there is no God in charge then I am at exposed to the whatever the natural world throws at me. This is a scary thought.

    Is this really any different than life with God? Do you really think God will stop a natural disaster from killing you? What about all the Christians who have died to natural disasters in the past? I would argue that the only difference between life with God and without is that you realize that God’s not going to save you from death, protect you from harm.

    My next thought was that I was free to commit sins that I had previously not committed. I could view pornography. I could lie a little more as long as it didn’t hurt anyone.

    Seems about right to me. If you aren’t harming anyone, is there really anything wrong with what Christians consider “sin?” Just be sure that you consider the indirect harm you may cause.

    Then I thought well since this life is my only opportunity to do whatever I want then I better start thinking less about those around me and start spending my money on me and living it up a bit.

    This is where I think you make a bit of a leap. Just because you don’t have some moral imperative from on high commanding you to love your neighbor doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. Do it for the sake of bettering humanity instead of “because God told me to.”

    Of course, some people do think that way, and that’s where we get into Objectivism.

  • 38. Griffin  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    notcalvin said:

    “My first reaction to life without God was, “wow, I am totally insignificant”. My thought was that I could be killed by an astroid hitting earth or by a reversal of Earth’s poles, etc… If there is no God in charge then I am at exposed to the whatever the natural world throws at me. This is a scary thought.

    My next thought was that I was free to commit sins that I had previously not committed. I could view pornography. I could lie a little more as long as it didn’t hurt anyone.

    Then I thought well since this life is my only opportunity to do whatever I want then I better start thinking less about those around me and start spending my money on me and living it up a bit.”

    A bit of both, actually.

    I think that I had (have) the same feeling that you describe as “feeling insignificant.” I would characterize it more as feeling diminutive. I accepted that I was but one of 6 billion people inhabiting a small rock orbiting a unremarkable star on the outskirts of one of billions of galaxies in the universe. That’s a big change in perspective from being a loved child of an omnipotent god.

    It’s also a fact.

    It’s a bit like a teenager accepting that they’re not actually going to be an NFL quarterback. Yeah, you have to go get a job selling insurance but to coming to the realization that you won’t be starting for the Patriots allows a person to address the realities of life. You have to find joy in the real world instead of surviving on an illusion.

    Feeling free to commit ‘sins’ wasn’t something that occurred to me – at least not in that sense. While I was now free to deny the existence of god and have a glass of wine, the idea that I could start stealing people’s wallets and beating up people who made me angry never crossed my mind.

    Doing what is ‘right’ only out of fear of punishment is a very basic sort of morality. As a human being, I have the ability to recognize that my actions have an impact on the lives of other human beings around me. If I steal another person’s wallet, I cause them harm. I wouldn’t want them to cause me harm, so it would be wrong for me not to hold myself to the same standard.

    As for your final point, about feeling the desire to ‘live it up,’ I found the realization that life ends at death a bit invigorating. I didn’t find that my mortality caused me to devalue those around me. It caused me to cherish those I love more and to extend more love and respect to those I didn’t know because this is their only go-round too. While it would be silly to spend money willy-nilly and engage in dangerous behavior the knowledge that I have a limited time here on earth caused me to seek out new and different experiences. I enriched my life by being actively interested in making it as rich and as full as possible. How sad would it be to live a life of regrets and missed opportunities while waiting for a reward that wasn’t coming?

  • 39. joe  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Griffin

    I accepted that I was but one of 6 billion people inhabiting a small rock orbiting a unremarkable star on the outskirts of one of billions of galaxies in the universe. That’s a big change in perspective from being a loved child of an omnipotent god.

    It’s also a fact.

    Ah the absolutes. You sound like a Fundy.

  • 40. truthwalker  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Joe that was beautiful. I’ve said often that I have been rejected by every teacher I had because I took their teachings more seriously than they did. Ultimately, Christianity as whole rejected me because I took justice, hope, and promise of peace and joy more seriously than the apologists who expounded them to me.

    “The standards of peace and happiness I sought as I believer, I found as an atheist – Who would have thought?”

    I have also found that to be so true.

    And to Notcalvin.

    You say you would like to see woman in various states of undress and that you would prefer to get a Coke instead of Sam’s Choice Cola.

    “How do you get past these thoughts”. “Why shouldn’t this life be all about me and only about others when it is convenient?”

    Um, why do you need to “get past them”? And then you say “Why shouldn’t life be all about me…” My friend, if wanting sex and drinking Coke is your the idea of the totally selfish and hedonistic lifestyle you fear….Oh, brother, do you need to get out more! :)

    Seriously, though, its a pretty far leap from liking things that most of your peers like to a fearful state of selfishness. Its about moderation. Selfishness can be self-respect, and self-respect is good. When your selfishness starts to hurt yourself or others, thats when you start to worry about it. If you are looking at porn so often you are missing work, or being a poor father/husband/friend, or if you find yourself obsessed with porn that focuses on abuse of others, talk to a shrink.

    Otherwise, ask yourself what sort of a world view would make you feel guilt for being sexually aroused by that which is designed to sexually arouse, and “living it up a bit.”

  • 41. notcalvin  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks for your responses. To clarify, as a christian I do a lot of things because Christ teaches me that I am the least among men and I should seek to do good to those around me. I should love others because he first loved me. I go out of my way to do good in order to please a loving God. I was never motivated much by the whole angry God concept. So if there is no God, then there is no one to please by serving others, except myself, so I will only serve them if the desire for self gratification moves me to do so. So I do not have to go out of my way to serve and do good to others because it is really useless. Sure I want humanity to survive so I don’t harm anyone, but neither do I go out of my way to help anyone. This is radically different then the type of Christianity I have been lived.

  • 42. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    My friend, if wanting sex and drinking Coke is your the idea of the totally selfish and hedonistic lifestyle you fear….Oh, brother, do you need to get out more! :)

    But, wanting sex, why, that could lead to… dancing!

    (a bit cliche, but it still makes me chuckle every time)

  • 43. notcalvin  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Truthwalker,

    Isn’t it disturbing that we may be just hurtling through space clinging to a tempermental rock?

    By the way, like most christians I occassionally drink coke in the dark recesses of my humble abode. We are walking contradictions.

  • 44. notcalvin  |  July 30, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    or hepatitis

  • 45. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 30, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    notcalvin, why not love others to please them instead of to please God?

    A while back I commented on the whole JOY acronym (actually, I think I paraphrased it, and someone else reminded me of the acronym). The whole order of importance is supposed to be Jesus – Others – Yourself. Once you take Jesus out of that, you still have Others taking precedence over Yourself.

    Sure I want humanity to survive so I don’t harm anyone, but neither do I go out of my way to help anyone.

    But if you think about it, not going out of your way to help others means their lives are worse-off for it. You could have made their lives better, but you didn’t. Their lives are worse than they could have been.

    Not to mention that humans naturally empathize with each other. If actively ignoring the needs of others to focus only on yourself makes you happy, you may in fact be a psychopath (literally unable to empathize with others).

    Finally, might it be possible that you are still approaching this from a biased, Christian perspective? No one at this blog seems to have decided to become selfish jerks after de-converting. The atheists I know personally, who have been atheists their whole lives, are some of the most caring people I know.

  • 46. Bobbi Jo  |  July 30, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Not Calvin,

    This is interesting as I too have tried to do the same thing(live as though I did not believe). I had to go to a catholic vigil (my uncle died). It was interesting as I could not bring myself to say “well, he’s in a better place now” to my grieving aunt. I also thought the rosary part seemed rushed and rehearsed. I knew all the lines (even though I myself am not catholic) but did not recite any of it. When I look at it from an outside perspective, christians do seem to hold on to some psychological god to make them feel better. This was a big eye opener for me. I have not prayed for 2 weeks now. No, I take that back, I did pray the other day, then realized I was praying, so I told God what I was doing and bid him a “see you later”. I said this because I’m not discounting what I belive yet, I’m just doing this experiment to see. So I expect I will pray again when this is done. Although, interesting enough, I didn’t put a time limit on it. Hmm….

    Though I do not feel as you do that I can do whatever I want. I still feel like I want to continue my current lifestyle (maybe because I think I will go back to it?). Also, maybe I don’t think it’s all about me because I have kids and see the need to be unselfish for their greater good. (ie-buy food instead of a new outfit for me).

    Just my thoughts this week….

    Joe, amazing post though.

  • 47. notcalvin  |  July 30, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    snuggly,

    I am absolutely coming at this with a christian bias. it is hard to lay that down. I know you and your peers are not “selfish jerks” that is what I am trying to figure out. Aethism, from my biased persepective, seems to lean more naturally toward serving the “self”. Seek your own survival first and then the betterment of the group. Sometimes the thing that motivates me to do “additional” good is my love for Christ. If I no longer have this love it seems to me that some of the good I do would diminish base on the loss of that motivator. I certainly would not stop doing good, but isn’t it logical to assume that there would be some de-motivation?

  • 48. Cthulhu  |  July 30, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    SnugglyBuffalo,

    Finally, might it be possible that you are still approaching this from a biased, Christian perspective? No one at this blog seems to have decided to become selfish jerks after de-converting. The atheists I know personally, who have been atheists their whole lives, are some of the most caring people I know.

    I think you have stated that very well. I too find that the atheists I know are caring giving people. They are not perfect – just human. I am sure that their are self-centered atheist just as there are self-centered Christians. But IMO people who are caring just for the sake of others happiness has a purer motive that Christians who claim that they have been ‘taught’ to care (or fear punishment).

  • 49. notcalvin  |  July 30, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    bobbi Jo,

    I have a wife and kids and I don’t want to treat them any different. I am sharing the thoughts that come into my mind during this experience. As humans, I think we would all agree that we need restraints in place. We have civil laws and religious laws designed to curtail our tendencies toward what we consider bad behavior. I was merely suggesting that without any religious restraints I feel that I may be more easily tempted to engage in those things which do not edify. For each of us those things may be different. I amspeaking of subtle “sins”, not murder or grand theft, but things that suit me. I will always sacrifice for my family, but maybe not so much for my fellow man as I used to. I am not asking anyone to defend atheism. I want to know how you overcome these feelings

  • 50. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 30, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    notcalvin, I’m not trying to defend atheism. I guess I’m coming at this from the other end: after giving up God, I found there were no feelings like you describe to overcome. I feel no desire to ignore the needs of others, to focus on myself; at least no more than I did as a Christian. I no longer believe in God, but I still feel that helping my fellow man is the right thing to do. My motivation has changed, not disappeared.

    I hope some of this makes sense. I’m not very good at articulating such things.

  • 51. Cthulhu  |  July 30, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    SnugglyBuffalo,

    My motivation has changed, not disappeared.

    Perhaps your motivation hasn’t changed – it just no longer associated with God.

  • 52. CheezChoc  |  July 30, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    gracehead: Interesting blog. Thank you for the links.

  • 53. notcalvin  |  July 30, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    snuggly,

    did you faith in God have any positive impact on how you lived your life?

  • 54. Ubi Dubium  |  July 30, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    notcalvin:

    Seek your own survival first and then the betterment of the group.

    To me, the “betterment of the group” is part of my own survival. Since I have no belief in an afterlife, part of my understanding of “survival” includes my children and their children, and also those I care about and their offspring. “Betterment of the group” certainly helps their future prospects, and that’s certainly a source of motivation that does not require the concept of a “god” to justify it.

  • 55. orDover  |  July 30, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    notcalvis wrote,
    “Aethism, from my biased persepective, seems to lean more naturally toward serving the “self”. Seek your own survival first and then the betterment of the group. Sometimes the thing that motivates me to do “additional” good is my love for Christ. If I no longer have this love it seems to me that some of the good I do would diminish base on the loss of that motivator. I certainly would not stop doing good, but isn’t it logical to assume that there would be some de-motivation?”

    I don’t know if you realize it, but by your last few sentences, you make it seem like the only reason you really do any good is because you think God wants you to. Think about that for a second. It sounds so [i]empty[/i] from someone like me on the outside. It actually makes you seem kind of mean. [i]I[/i] do good things, not because I think someone else wants me to and I want to make them happy, but because [i]I[/i] want to. Does that make me selfish? No. It makes my motives more pure. I do good in order to do good, not in order to please a God, or obey his commandments. I don’t need any motivation from on high.

    When you were a kid, did you ever have a friend who played with you just because his or her mom told you to? I did. And let me tell you, I felt hurt when I found out the only motive for friendship was a higher authority. The friendship was not genuine. In the same way, to me, Christians who do good deeds because God said “do unto the least of these” seem less genuine than those who care and go good completely of their own volition.

    If you really are a good person, you’ll keep doing good, with or without God expressly telling you to.

  • 56. orDover  |  July 30, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Oops, I used the wrong tags up there.

  • 57. Mike  |  July 30, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Let’s start from the beginning, the major dilemma. Everything else takes more time (and I’ve been working on it concurrently to everything else in my life). You’re absolutely right to question your previous conception of hell and how it applies to the ignorant. However, some of us have never been taught that description of hell. The typical Christian view of hell is absolutely not the biblical view of hell [http://www.tomorrowsworld.org/cgi-bin/tw/tw-mag.cgi?category=Magazine1&item=1103817219]. The core of the problem is that you were trying to save everyone from a fate that did not exist! Furthermore, as far as I understand it, the role of a Christian is very different than trying to save everyone on earth [http://www.tomorrowsworld.org/cgi-bin/tw/booklets/tw-bk.cgi?category=Booklets1&item=1104339431]. You are right to view that as an impossible mission.

    I say this not as a hardcore believer, but as a young man (in a scientific field of study) who is seeing this same debate unfurl on a national scale. I enjoy reading and thinking about this debate. I applaud your carefulness in learning about scientific matters. However, just as there are masses that grossly misinterpret and misrepresent scientific ideas (and few who understand and correctly teach them), there are masses that grossly misinterpret and misrepresent Christ’s ideas. I do not necessarily espouse all the ideas in the articles (and can think of wording in a few places that I really don’t like), but I find them illustrative of my two main points.

  • 58. Joan Ball  |  July 30, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    I was fascinated by your story because mine was just the opposite. I grew up in a completely secular home without any faith in God. I sought in eastern religions and new age philosophies for many years before deciding that there was no God. I viewed Christianity to be a crutch for weak minded people and the Bible to be words on a page. I made my fortune in Public Relations in New York City, earned a comfortable 6-figure salary (my husband did too, so we had lots of green), built a 4000 sq. ft house and was living the American dream when I had a dramatic conversion experience. I now find myself a Christian among life-long Christians and I am not quite sure where I fit. The one thing I am sure of is that no amount of debate or “evidence” could have convinced me to move off of my stance as an atheist. No preaching or teaching or evangelizing could or would have done it for me. I did not ask or pray or have a serious illness. I didn’t even have a bad day. I just had a deep and profound knowing that wasn’t there before. Something, I suppose, like your deep and profound unknowing. I wish you the best and thank you for a thought provoking article.

  • 59. orDover  |  July 30, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    As an addendum to my comment #55, I’d like to point out that two of the world’s leading philanthropists, those who have donated the most of their own money to charities, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, are an atheist and agnostic respectively.

  • 60. Mudshark  |  July 30, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Joan—

    Thanks for sharing that. Though I wasn’t an atheist, I had a similar experience. I was brought up in a home where Christianity wasn’t taught, or really any belief in God for that matter. One day, I read part of the Bible, and literally in a few moments time I went from not believing anything to being a believer–which I have remianed ever since. it’s interesting how some people end in unbelief, and others seem to get stronger in their faith. I still don’t really understand it–it’s truly amazing to read the different types of testimonies on the board. Thanks for sharing your story Joe.

  • 61. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 30, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Cthulhu-

    Perhaps your motivation hasn’t changed – it just no longer associated with God.

    A very good point. I think that is very likely the case.

    notcalvin-

    did you faith in God have any positive impact on how you lived your life?

    Honestly, I’m not sure it did. It’s difficult to say, as I was raised a Christian. Would I be any different today if I had not? It’s impossible to say, really. I can’t really think of any positive act or behavior I exhibited that would have been different had I not believed (though I can think of a few negative ones).

    orDover-

    When you were a kid, did you ever have a friend who played with you just because his or her mom told you to? I did.

    Ugh, my mom did that to me all the time, though from the other side. Making me play with some kid that I don’t know; I’m a really introverted person, I don’t make friends easily. These situations generally ended up with me feeling incredibly awkward as I tried to play with a kid that had nothing in common with me, and feeling bad that the kid was stuck with me instead of a genuine friend. I really have to wonder what motivates parents to think that sort of thing is a good idea.

  • 62. yurushitasamurai  |  July 30, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    with all due respect, you of course have the right to your decisions, but your basing those decisions on err ency, opinion, and not scripture. First of all, the pagans sacrificing the bull, you said that God is either a respecter of persons, or unmerciful, either one would negate scripture. it appears you forgot Romans 1, here is part of that chapter.

    Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    now one would say… ok this means that that one could figure out there was a God, but would not be able to say what god, since indeed there are many. Here we have two choices, either 1: God wants to be known to and by his creation, or 2: he does not want to be known and just wants to be some tyrant who shows nothing of himself till he kills all who oppose him.

    well a review of John 1 will show that he wants to be known. and also Hebrews 1:1-2 shows that before Christ came (which has been proven a historical fact, not just biblical writing) he made himself known in certain ways, and then sent his own son to teach, and pay the price we could not pay, for all have sinned (even your pagan’s with the cow know that there has to be blood to cover sin… they just don’t realize the price has already been paid.)

    AHHA you say… and that is your point, how can they know? god is thus cruel.

    you then are forgetting the passage that says

    Mat 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
    Mat 7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
    Mat 7:9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
    Mat 7:10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
    Mat 7:11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

    So if God, all powerful wants to be known, which he does, and promises that those who seek will find, the only answer for God sending people to hell (which is NOT an eternal punishment… but we will get into that in a moment.) would be, as peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:5, they become “willingly ignorant”.
    Willing ignorance is a trap FAR to many fall into, including “Christians” people have a tendency to just believe things they are told, without looking for the foundations of the things that are being told. we ALL have to choose for ourselves what path to follow… I talk to some people who say “I am christian because my parents are christian” THAT is complete rubbish. you might go to church because your parents went to church, the pagans might sacrifice cows because their parents did… but when will we as a people stand up and make our own choices? I am a christian because I CHOSE to be, not because my parents were, but because one day I said to Jesus You are Lord of my life, forgive me when I screw up, I will follow you as best I can. I believe you rose from the dead for my sin, and paid the price to redeem me. sitting in church does not make you a christian, PREACHING in church does not make you a christian, following Christ and holding him as the only possible source for redemption (which is findable if one does seek) makes you a christian. (and please, when I said you, I was not speaking of “you” the blog writer… I mean you as in humanity, so please do not take offense to this)
    I have had many talks with a friend of mine who is pagan, and she always told me she looked at me and talked to me expecting a higher standard because I choose to follow Christ of my own… not just like those who go with the flow and “are” a way because they were brought up in that way. if you ARE something because you were brought up that way, and did not make a conscious CHOICE to be that way, you ARE nothing.

    now, as to sending someone to “”eternal torment” for not knowing Christ (which as above we see is because they are willingly ignorant, not searching for truth, and just accepting of the way things are. Which I might add, would get you killed in any kingdom on earth, so why not the kingdom of heaven? YHWH is king and creator, so if someone is going to just do his own thing with no regard for the king, would that not get you killed? but the question then becomes… is it fair? well as before we see that there is enough to know that there is SOME kind of God out there, that should lead one to seek to find out how to live for that God, and to make sure it is the Right God that one is serving (since EVERYONE knows there are many…) then yes… ignorance of the law is then no excuse. There are more to prove this point, but I don’t want to seem like I am beating a dead horse so to speak. suffice it to say that “all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God, Sin is punishable by death, there IS a way to be redeemed from that death if one chooses to seek it, and there is enough in nature and ones own heart to know there is something that should be sought. As one christian philosopher said ” I am not upset at God that there are not many ways to receive forgiveness, I am thankful that he allowed even ONE way to be forgiven… remember HE is king… he does not HAVE to bestow mercy on ANYONE.)
    OK right… eternal punishment. Now we see from the parable of lazerus and the rich man (beginning at Luke 16:19) that there was Abraham’s bosom, and a place of torment (which is commonly labeled “hell) ANYWAY… these were storage tanks for holding spirits until the final place was prepared. I won’t take to long on this point, because knowing Christ as savior is MUCH more important than this point… but, since you brought it up… Rev 20:14 says Death and Hell were thrown into the lake of fire… This is the second DEATH… death is an ending… the torment is not eternal. God, even a merciful God (merciful in that he DOES offer forgiveness for rebellion against his throne) would be completely righteous in having an eternal punishment… but this is not Biblical… the spirits that are thrown into the lake of fire die the second death. it is not eternal suffering. Let me ask you this. My uncle, I loved my uncle by the way, was very hostile to the word, to God, and Granted… who knows what happened in the last seconds of his life… but for all I know he rejected God and his son Yeshua (Jesus). now How in the world could I, or anyone who has a heart live for all eternity with no tears (since Christ will wipe away all tears… and there will be no more sorrow) with the knowledge that some loved ones are suffering? it would be impossible… Eternal Torment is fiction, not biblical AT ALL… This is what happens when people go by opinion rather than scripture, which is happening all to much. we take our ideas, or someone else s ideas, whether given behind a pulpit or not, and then blame Christ, and Christianity for our wrong conceptions… because… we became somewhere along the way, willingly ignorant, and stopped seeking. there is no other way to put it. People would rather take the easy road, that defies logic and become an atheist, than take the time to seek God, and find out the explanations to those things we do not understand. OH sure… there are things in the scripture I do not understand… but I at least acknowledge the problem lies in my understanding, I don’t see the whole picture yet… and not blame it on God for not making sense. I have a friend who could talk (literally) quantum mechanics all day long without batting an eyelash. I would not understand half of it… but it does not mean he is wrong, or that I should not believe him because I don’t see the whole picture… the picture is there… if it is important to me, I will seek an understanding, and if I seek I will find. This is the basic view of my life in the scripture… I don’t understand something… I know the problem lies with me… I seek more answers from God in the scriptures… I find them… and then I know God better… then I find something else I don’t understand… repeat FOREVER. This is how all relationships work, does it not? unless one party gives up on learning about the other party, and just goes on their own opinions or other teachings based on opinion. This is dangerous. ESPECIALLY for someone who once knew the truth and then denies it.

    and as to explaining everything by evolution?!?!?!?! are you serious? there is Ton’s of evidence… REAL evidence that refutes EVERY theory evolution ever came up with… if… you seek it. evolution is the crutch of someone who DESPERATELY wants God not to exist. fortunately… wishing for a thing does not make it so.

    and to truthwalker… what kind of sense does it make to throw away belief in one person due to the actions of others? that’s like saying I don’t believe in love because someone else showed me hate… there is no logic in that, as a christian one must follow Christ, as Christ leads… not just teachers… sure teachers should be right, but many are not… we follow Christ alone, never teachers… like the bareans in acts… if some teacher came and tried to teach them something, they would check with scripture (following Christ, not the teacher) if the teachers word was good, they still followed it because they followed christ… if the teachers word was bad, they would disregard THAT TEACHER… not Christ…

    ok I know some of that might have seemed a little heated. if it came across that way, you have my apologies, I mean no offense by any of this… you certainly have the right to ignore God… or truly any god you choose to ignore. you can even ignore me… but that does not mean I cease to exist. I would never try, or even want to take away that right. My arch enemy though is Satan, and one of his main tools is ignorance… which is far to prevalent these days. Again… you have the right to your opinions, but those opinions, from what I have read above are based on opinions, not facts, which is a completely illogical foundation for any belief system.

    I know this is long… I could write forever on such topics… and truly I only talked about a couple of points… if you have any questions feel free to contact me… (questions only please… no hate mail… I said you have a right to your opinion… I have a right to mine… Granted… only one can be true… since they are opposites…) I would be honored at your correspondence, if I can clarify anything that I have said, or perhaps something you wish to know (not that I know everything, but the things you wish to know that I don’t know I will find out for you :) ) Then all glory and honor to God.

  • 63. yurushitasamurai  |  July 30, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    sorry… >.< my e-mail address (for questions) is gaidin.mahdi@gmail.com forgot to post this and I don’t check my blog every day so e-mail would be the best place to ask.

  • 64. dalitdiscussions  |  July 30, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Joe, thanks for taking the time to share and for the brutal honesty. Being new to this blog, it seems like brutal honesty is a staple. I come from the same Church movement that you are from, except that we use intraments are don’t think we’re the only ones going to Heaven. I was sick to my stomach reading about how you were treated, and are still treated, by those whom you left at the Churches of Christ. That is terrible in more ways than I can say. Unfortunately, it is a common thing.

    I guess I just felt the need to say that I really value what you have written, that I wish more Christians were as honest as the people on this blog, and that I respect everyone’s ability for open and civil discussion. I believe, as some are saying here, that non-religious people can be and often are more moral than a lot of religious people. That is not a problem for me. I agree the problem of sufferring is a huge obstacle, and I offer no treatment on the issue here, only that I believe and trust the Biblical account of Christ’s sufferring, and I don’t feel alone in any of my own sufferrings and the questions that come from them. As far as Occam’s Razor, I guess for me God was a simpler answer than Naturalism.

    Some things are matters of opinion I supose. Again, I really appreciate your story.

  • 65. orDover  |  July 30, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    “and as to explaining everything by evolution?!?!?!?! are you serious? there is Ton’s of evidence… REAL evidence that refutes EVERY theory evolution ever came up with… if… you seek it. evolution is the crutch of someone who DESPERATELY wants God not to exist. fortunately… wishing for a thing does not make it so.”

    Give me ONE example of evidence that refutes evolution.

  • 66. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 30, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    yurushitasamurai is stating the same “seek and you will find” bull I’ve heard so often. Since every de-convert here, myself included, indeed sought and did not find, I feel pretty safe in disregarding that entire lengthy, stream of consciousness post.

  • 67. LeoPardus  |  July 30, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Wow! Post #62 deserves some sort of special rant award. It’s long, rambling, only partly coherent, badly capitalized, poorly written, and causes eye tremors if you try to read it.

  • 68. Joan Ball  |  July 30, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Joe: I don’t understand it either. I thought I understood much more when I was younger. I even thought I knew much more when I originally came to a place of faith. Yet, as I grow and change, I’ve come to believe that simple answers and neat intellectual packages for or against faith underestimate the vastness of both God and the Cosmos. Despite a credible IQ, significant education and devout faith, I just don’t feel qualified to have all the answers any more. I am, however, enjoying the process of raising questions (and challenges) and evolving in the direction of a deeper understanding of a sometimes confounding faith. I hope to keep up with your journey. I’ll be tracking mine at joanball.wordpress.com.

    All the best to you…
    Joan

  • 69. Mudshark  |  July 30, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Yuru—

    and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

    And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20)

    Not to get into a religious argument—but please read the two above verses (in response to your post regarding “hell” above)—it says that the devil and the beast (who is a man)
    shall be “tormented day and night forever and ever”. Forever and ever does not sound like the end of something–but a conscious eternal torment. And note—all those not found written in the book are thrown into the same place.

    Death in the Bible does not mean an end—it means a “separation”. The second death is an eternal separation from God—not an end to existence. Just wanted to clarify that—perhaps you have some further thoughts on this.

  • 70. Mudshark  |  July 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    perhaps you have some further thoughts on this.

    Let me re-phrase that—perhaps you have a short thought about that.

  • 71. Mudshark  |  July 30, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Now that I think about it, forget the whole thing. The subject isn’t about hell—-it’s about Joe’s article. Best to stay on subject.

  • 72. Obi  |  July 30, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Someone should write up a post about the problem of evil — I’d like to see what people think of it since it seems to have popped up quite a few times here.

  • 73. The de-Convert  |  July 30, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Obi,

    Go for it!

    Paul

  • 74. Quester  |  July 30, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Joe

    I can relate to your story only all too well. Best wishes as your story continues!

    Notcalvin and Bobby Jo

    Congrats on opening yourselves to new experiences and trying to see things from another’s point of view. But if your faith makes you a better person than you would be without it, keep it! The only reason I can see for choosing to act (over the long term) like God does not exist is the utter absence of God. Atheism does not make a person smarter, richer, more giving, or more compassionate, any more than it makes a person foolish, poorer, or immoral. If you’re convinced a God exists, then you can choose to commit all you have and all you are to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the lonely, educating the ignorant, healing the sick, and standing up for the victims of injustice- all for the greater glory of your God. If you ever find yourself where many of us do, unable to believe in a God, then feel free to do the same thing- because it’s worth doing.

  • 75. Quester  |  July 30, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Isn’t it disturbing that we may be just hurtling through space clinging to a tempermental rock?

    I find it disturbing. Anyone know effective ways to support and encourage more space travel? I feel a need to get some of our eggs out of this fragile basket and spread out a bit.

  • 76. John Morales  |  July 30, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    [off-topic]
    Quester, you may find this interesting.

    It’s a disquisition by one of my favourite SF authors, and addresses “the problems I face in trying to write believable science fiction about space colonization.”

    The science in it is very good, and the outlook dispassionate.

  • 77. A child of the "King"  |  July 30, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    My My My…Joe …What a story!!!
    As I read it , I thought wow this guy is so smart ….As I thought about it I began to wonder ….how will this story end? I mean I saw the title and thought well maybe this is just a topic to get attention and that in the end his doubts will be over and he will turn back to you God ? Boy was I shocked!!!
    Joe I am not sure what to say to you ….What could I possibly tell you or share with you that you don’t know already, Except that the God I know is alot like the one that you spoke of …But the God I serve is a loving God also….Who loves you Joe ….he calls you by your name …and I would rather believe in him and take a chance and be wrong …than to live for myself on this earth and take a chance on what ever comes my way in the next life…..not here to bicker with anyone …Just wanted to let you know Joe that maybe all is not to be understood iin this world…that’s where our faith comes in…And as all (Christ Like ) born again people should be doing I will lift you up in prayer my brother ….take care ….Jesus loves You ….
    sincerly….a sister that cares…..

  • 78. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 12:13 am

    And yet another one stumbles in to impart their revelatory wisdom…

  • 79. joyindestructible  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:30 am

    I have come to faith from exactly the direction that you have ended yours. Darwin and free-thought were the only answers I was given for the purpose of life. None of them really deal with the fact that humanbeings are spiritual creatures that long for more than the daily grind. Science can’t fill that. Jesus does fill that in my life. Christianity and most especially, churchianity does not but a relationship with God through Jesus is the way to truth and life. That does not mean that I have all the answers or that I can define God in such a way as to stop all arguement. I can argue no one into faith or out of it. It is the Holy Spirit Who calls us to God for His own purpose and that purpose is much larger than ourselves.

    You are right about the Christian religion being fraught with myth. It is founded more upon Catholocism than the Bible. Even fundamentalists who despise Catholocism have beliefs and traditions that come only from there. I think if you studied Hebrew thought and began to study the Bible from that perspective many of your questions would be answered. It is easy to twist scripture to our own understanding and that is what most of us do. It takes a lot of work to begin to turn your understanding over to scripture. It also takes the Holy Spirit as the Bible is a spiritual book and it is spiritually discerned. It is not a science book and though it is a history of God’s people,past,present, and future, it is not a history book in the common sense of the term.

    To know God personally, one must be willing not to set aside the ability to reason but to begin to reason from God’s perspective. This process can only begin by accepting Jesus as being who He claimed himself to be. Whether we be a believer, an agnostic, or atheist, we all define ourselves according to God. Jesus defined Himself as the Son of God and the Son of Man. Through faith in Him, we who believe are being made just like Him. That is the crux of faith. The rest is peripheral as the whats of faith have no meaning and no cohesiveness apart from the Who of the Christian faith. There are actually many Christian religions but there is only one Jesus.

    I will leave you with this: the Jews do not believe in a hell of eternal torment. Hell is actually a theological word imposed on the text by the KJV translators. Its root is ‘to conceal’ and it does conceal several different concepts in scripture. Jesus is a Jew and as all Jews believe that the dead are simply dead and reside in Sheol or the pit(the common grave)and will be raised again on judgement day. Jesus would believe this as well and He did not come to start a new religion. He came to do the Father’s Will and establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. He came to conquer sin and death and give us eternal life.

  • 80. John Morales  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:52 am

    Behold my superhuman self-control as I avoid the temptation of responding to commenters such as joyindestructible.

  • 81. orDover  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:05 am

    John, your strength gives me strength!

  • 82. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Joe–

    Thanks for sharing your detailed story. The only real question I have for you, and
    I hope you can bear with me, is related to your salvation. You mention being saved,
    and being so glad to be “saved from the fires of hell”. But one thing I don’t see in your
    testimony of conversion is a confession of great love for Christ himself. You see, one can
    be “saved” in that they believe they have been saved from a fiery hell, really get into reading
    the Bible, and even preach to others, but if they haven’t really met Jesus himself, they WILL
    eventually fall away.

    When I thank the Lord for my salvation I always remember meeting HIM, and rejoice in the day
    I will see HIM—I rejoice in that far more than what I was saved FROM. If one is drawn to the Gospel
    for the Gospel’s sake, or for excitement about the faith itself, without really meeting Jesus, that one
    will fall away. In the parable of the sower this is the seed that fell on the rocky ground. “They receive
    the word with great joy…but then afterwards fall away”.

    I mention this because I have seen this in some of the other testimonies of deconversion. Great joy is
    mentioned–an excitement about the Gospel, etc.—but love for the Lord himself will not be mentioned in
    many cases—and to me this is very telling. Perhaps you could elaborate a bit more on your conversion experience. I in no way mean to demean, or make light of what you have gone through—I am just trying to understand why some become atheists after conversion, and others grow stronger in their faith.

    Again, bear with me, I am just trying to understand.

  • 83. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    And yet another one. Of course, he only fell away because he wasn’t a “real Christian”. Never heard that one before, heh.

    joyindestructible said, “None of them really deal with the fact that humanbeings [sic] are spiritual creatures that long for more than the daily grind.

    The fact that human beings are spiritual creatures? Every biological and neurological study I’ve ever read has shown me that human beings are totally and completely physical creatures. What evidence do you have to back up your “fact” and show me otherwise?

  • 84. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Joe—

    Real quick—-I read Dan Barker’s testimony from a book called “losing faith in faith” and asked him the same question. His book title is “losing faith in faith” not “losing faith in Christ”–and much of his testimony talks about his excitement in believing the Gospel, etc.—-but he talks very little about his love for Christ himself. That’s why I am asking.

  • 85. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Obi—

    As I said—just trying to understand. Often, people i have met will say “I used to believe that stuff”–but never say “I used to know the Lord”. There really appears to be a difference and I am trying to understand it.

  • 86. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Larry T-

    Obi—

    As I said—just trying to understand. Often, people i have met will say “I used to believe that stuff”–but never say “I used to know the Lord”. There really appears to be a difference and I am trying to understand it.

    Why would I say “I used to know the Lord?” Saying such a thing would imply that I think “the Lord” exists, and that I simply no longer know him. We’re not going to talk about God like this if we no longer believe he exists.

    I used to love God, I used to pray to him all the time, and I used to think I heard him speak back to me. Now, I realize God isn’t there, my prayers were effectively just talking to myself, and all I heard was my own inner voice, mistaken for God. I have heard this same sort of “testimony” repeatedly from numerous de-converts here. I didn’t de-convert because I didn’t really know God, I de-converted because I can see no evidence that he’s there.

  • 87. Philip  |  July 31, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Larry T.

    If one no longer believes in the reality of god, then it’s really hard to say that they used to know “the Lord” in any way like “I used to know Jerry before we moved apart” or even “I used to know Jerry before he died.” If that sort of language is to be used, then it would probably sound more like “I used to think the Lord was real and that I knew him” then something that would indicate that the Lord has any ontological significance.

    Often, though, what we see as knowledge of god at one point has to be reinterpreted or broken down. Whether it be a basic belief in the gospel, a feeling of presence or thankfulness during prayer, a radical shift in attitude toward life which coincides with salvation experience…these experiences and others like them are at least what a good number of believers and decons both consider to be knowledge of the Lord, or the indwelling of the Spirit or what have you. If one becomes convinced of a more natural explanation of these phenomena, it no longer needs to be described as “knowing the Lord” but simply as the experience itself.

  • 88. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    I used to love God, I used to pray to him all the time, and I used to think I heard him speak back to me. Now, I realize God isn’t there, my prayers were effectively just talking to myself, and all I heard was my own inner voice, mistaken for God.

    Snuggly/Philip—

    Thanks. As I said, just trying to understand.

  • 89. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I didn’t de-convert because I didn’t really know God, I de-converted because I can see no evidence that he’s there.

    Snuggly—

    This is hard to explain—’cause I understand where you are coming from. But from my perspective, if you really did “know” God, that would be the “evidence” you need. if you never met him then you would be able to turn away, but if you have really met him how could you possibly turn away from such a friend filled with so much lovingkindness and comfort?

    This is what is so hard for me to comprehend. See, when I received Christ he made himself so real that even in my times of strongest doubt, I always have to look back and remember when I first met him, and how real that was. So, I find this all very hard to understand. But I know you also have gone through a very real experience of coming to unbelief also–so I hear you.

  • 90. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Are your “real” experiences of him feelings? No matter how strong the emotion, or the “just know”-ing, that’s not sufficient evidence for me. The more I’ve learned about the human brain, the more I’ve realized that a lot of people are claiming to experience God in completely natural, psychological phenomena.

    I’ve felt what I thought was God’s unconditional, total love. And I’ve realized that it was all in my head.

    I can turn away from it because I know it’s not real.

  • 91. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Snuggly—

    Is your love for another person all in your head also? If you really love that person it’s awfully hard to just turn away. The experience I had was not because I “wanted” it—it happened to me—–a sense of completely being comforted, loved and accepted by God. A sense of having a tremendous burden taken off of me, and being so clean I still cannot describe it in words.

    How could this happen to me when I was looking for it, or expecting it? I could understand if I was trying to “work myself up into a frenzy” or something like that. But this was from simply reading the Bible for myself. I wasn’t “trying” to have an experience—–it just happened to me, and it was like a comforting Father receiving me, and I KNEW I had been saved. There is no way to rationally descibe it—I realize that—but it is something that was so real I absolutely to this day cannot deny it. I know that God exists—I cannot “prove” it on paper–that’s for sure. This was not “all in my head”—no way.

    I understand what you are saying—but there is no way I can deny what happened. Too real and too life-changing to have been all in my imagination.

  • 92. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    How could this happen to me when I was looking for it, or expecting it?

    Meant to say when I was NOT looking for it—-typo–sorry.

  • 93. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Larry T —

    Your experience was indeed very real, and it was indeed “all in your head”. What you most likely experienced was a rush of neurotransmitters (endorphins or serotonin, for example) that gave you this feeling of well-being that you describe. Everyone from Buddhists to Muslims to Hindus to oracles (Greek and Roman religions), shamans (Aztec, Incan, and other Native American religions) to other types of spiritualists and mystics throughout human history and from all types of religious and cultural backgrounds experience such things. Does that mean all of their gods are real…?

    No. It just means that humans share common mental experiences that they interpret as “communion with the divine” or some sort of revelation, epiphany, et cetera. Just so you know.
    ;)

  • 94. Bobbi Jo  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Quester,

    I started praying again today without realizing it until I was into the prayer. I decided I have been too depressed this week not praying. I miss telling God about everything going on with me (since he knows anyway :) ). So even if everyone else thinks it’s psychological comfort, I’m okay with that. Thanks for the comforting words.

    Not Calvin,

    I can’t really answer how to get rid of your thoughts on being “free” from religious restraints as I didn’t think that way. I felt like I always feel, just depressed, like I missed my best friend. Of course, since this was an experiement, I’m going back to my friend. But I am wondering how anyone else got around that initial depression of losing someone close to you when you de-converted?

  • 95. Bobbi Jo  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    actually, I just found Mystery’s site and she covers some of this. But you all can answer anyway. thanks!

  • 96. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Obi—

    I appreciate the input. Many of these shamans are “trying” to work themself into a feeling of euphoria. What I experienced I was not looking for or expecting. How could my brain make me feel forgiven, accepted and loved by God when I was not even looking for it, or even knew what that would feel like?

    If I had smoked peyote fine, but I was simply reading the Bible for myself, and asked Jesus to come into my heart (read Revelation 3:20). I do not think my own brain “decided” to release all the right neurotransmitters at that particular moment to fool me. No—something wonderful definitely happened and I haven’t been the same since.

    Again—I can’t explain it on paper, or convince through rational means—I think that might be impossible. But I understand where you are coming from Obi–you are looking for very rational and scientific explanations for everything, and there is nothing wrong with that.

  • 97. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Bobbi Jo–

    I’ve tried not to pray at times before too. I can’t last long. It’s not because I’m looking for answers–it’s as you said:

    “Of course, since this was an experiement, I’m going back to my friend. But I am wondering how anyone else got around that initial depression of losing someone close to you when you de-converted”?

    I too would start to greatly miss my friend. This is what I have the hardest time understanding—and have been asking on this thread also. If you really love Christ, and know his great love for you and his great lovingkindness, and how can you turn away and stay away if you really have once experienced it?

    I can understand becoming doubtful, or feeling cold and far away from God. I can understand investigating those doubts in books written by atheists and others even. I too have done all those things. But I cannot deny the affirmation I had when I first received Christ. I just cannot deny that, and all the arguments in the world have not been able to dissuade me from my belief ever since that day.

    I appreciate Joe’s article very much. I understand it—but I also don’t understand it at all. I guess I can’t say much more than that.

  • 98. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Larry T —

    How old were you when this happened to you? Have you lived in a Christian culture/environment for a large part of your life (family and country)? I suspect that your expectation that something could possibly happen subconsciously triggered such an event. Since religion is ubiquitous in human society, the expectation that such an experience could happen is embedded in us from birth, no matter where we are. Something such as reading the Bible could trigger (or coincide with) a flood of electrochemical signals that you interpreted as being touched by God. It’s definitely nothing new, and humans interpret in different ways depending on what they expect it (or wish it) to be. Again, if you were raised in a Muslim country, you’d feel that Allah touched you. If you were raised in ancient Persia, then Ahura Mazda had communcated with you. If you lived in ancient Mexico, it might be Quetzalcoatl.

    Oh, and those first questions were rhetorical. You don’t have to answer them, heh. Wouldn’t want to reveal too much on the internet, eh? I understand that you might want to veil this from a rational/scientific explanation to preserve its supernatural meaning to you, but wouldn’t you rather actually know what it really was?

  • 99. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    I think there might be a rift running between people in this thread due to different methods of thinking.

    There’s a difference between actual, objectively observed reality and subjectively perceived “reality”…

  • 100. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    For instance, one passage says Ahaziah was 22 years old when he began to reign and another passage says he was forty two (2 Kings 8:26 vs. 2 Chronicles 22:2).

    Joe—

    By the way, I forgot to add this link. It is quite involved and needs to be read in it’s entirety. But it explains the “apparent” contradiction you mention here. Thanks.

    http://www.febc.edu.sg/VPP4.htm

  • 101. Bobbi Jo  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Obi,

    so what about the people that have come from the other side, had no religion in their life, and now feel God’s presence? What would you say their reality was or is now?

    Good thoughts though, I do agree that there is a difference between subjective/objective. It’s hard when your subjective feels like your objective at that moment. :)

  • 102. BigHouse  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    larry,

    When you watch a sad movie, do you ‘try’ to work yourself up to cry? Nope, I bet it just happens. Why do you think that the ‘message’ of the Bible had a similar effect on you that a sad movie did?

  • 103. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Bobbi Jo —

    When you find me a human being that has never come across the concept of religion in their life (even that much is impossible) spontaneously creating a complex belief system involving a God who communicates with humans based on a single (or even multiple) neurological experience(s), that would be a great question.
    ;)

    People interpret these things as they do because we’ve all been conditioned by our environment to (be able to) do so. One who had never experienced religion in their life yet who was well-versed in the neurological causes of such phenomena so as not to fall into the age old trap of attributing the unknown to some “force” I assume would never interpret such an event in that fashion.

  • 104. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Again, if you were raised in a Muslim country, you’d feel that Allah touched you. If you were raised in ancient Persia, then Ahura Mazda had communcated with you. If you lived in ancient Mexico, it might be Quetzalcoatl.

    Obi—

    Can’t argue against you on that. I’ve never lived in those places so I wouldn’t know anything about it.

    I understand that you might want to veil this from a rational/scientific explanation to preserve its supernatural meaning to you, but wouldn’t you rather actually know what it really was?

    I guess I would have to say who would really know what it actually was? If you think life is purely a physical existence and there is a totally rational explanation for every experience in life then one would say it is just the brain at work. And that would work fine as an explanation for someone who holds to that.

    But for the person who experienced it and “knows” (no matter much you may say it is a “subjective” experience of reality) that it was more than the brain at work, that explanation is just not going to work. I can work myself into great excitement—and music can make you “feel” like you are in another world, etc. But this salvation experience was far deeper than all of that. It was a literal life changing event. The problem is there is no way to explain it in a rational manner, or define it, or really put it into words.

    So I guess what I’m saying is you can go on all day long trying to explain to me “what it actually was” and there is no way I will accept it was just my brain or something physical that caused the sense of deep love from God and sense of forgiveness it brought to me that day. Just no way. I appreciate your point of view though Obi—I understand where you are coming from–thanks for the input.

  • 105. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Larry T., I would say I have had an identical experience of God. I have had that same sense when I wasn’t looking for it. I, too, “knew” it was God. And, now, I don’t think it came anywhere but from my own mind. The experience is very real, but that does not make God real. With enough study of the human brain, I’m sure we could rig up some electrodes in your head to give you that same feeling, that same “sense” with the push of a button (we can already do this for a lot of basic emotions).

    Basically, I’ve learned enough about the human brain that I simply cannot accept “feelings” or “senses” as evidence for God. To paraphrase something I’ve said elsewhere, the fact that the human mind can conjure up such intense feelings and attribute them to something that doesn’t exist is one of the more normal things I’ve learned about the mind.

    Bobbi Jo,
    Based on what I’ve read, I think a lot of de-converts here experienced that depression. I think you have a pretty good idea of how a lot of us feel when we first de-convert. None of us go “Oh, God doesn’t exist, oh well,” it’s usually a pretty painful process of giving up belief in a God we all loved dearly.

  • 106. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Larry T. —

    How do you “know” that it was more than the brain? There are ways to rationally and scientifically explain it, mate. Neurology has been making leaps and bounds in just that — explaining these matters of the mind/brain — for much of the 20th and now 21st century. You state that “there is no way” that you’ll accept that it wasn’t God communicating with you no matter how in-depth of an explanation or how much evidence I present to you, which quite frankly sounds quite unreasonable, mate. Surely you can see that when you put it that way it makes you seem quite close-minded to the objective reality that I was talking about?

    By the way, I’m not trying to be hostile here. Just so you know. ;)

  • 107. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Reading back on that post, I might have said “quite” quite a bit too much, hoho.

  • 108. grace  |  July 31, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Guys, has anyone noticed the last comments in Joe’s sharing. Hasn’t his former faith been replaced with something else that also cannot be empirically shown.

    To say that death will bring eternal tranquility, and that he will enjoy an eternal sleep, or that another reincarnation of himself in a different galaxy can happen, is also a belief (faith) statement.

    You see, deep within every person, even an atheist, I think there is this hidden longing for a greater purpose, and for a life that goes on. Where does it come from?

    I agree with the words of Augustine.

    “You have made us for yourself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless, until they fine their rest in thee.”

  • 109. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Obi—

    Yes–it does make me sound close-minded for sure. But that’s because I realize that no “rational” explanation based on science etc. is going to change what I know was a very real experience.

    “I would say I have had an identical experience of God. I have had that same sense when I wasn’t looking for it. I, too, “knew” it was God. And, now, I don’t think it came anywhere but from my own mind. The experience is very real, but that does not make God real.”

    I’ll include Snuggly here since he/she is speaking in the same vein. Snuggly says he/she now thinks it came from his/her own mind. And that’s fine. It could also be pure “unbelief” at work also. We can, through unbelief, totally deny that God is at work, or was at work in our lives. But then again, maybe through his/her own experience he/she has totally come to the conclusion it was all in the brain.

    I will willingly admit that I am close-minded when it comes to this because I know what happened—I’ve experienced many things in my life–and I’m sure my brain lent a lot of the emotion etc, to some of those experiences—–but my salvation was so totally unlike anything else I have ever experienced that I can say for sure it was an act of God, and not of my brain.

    I can’t make you believe that, or even give “evidence” to support it—it’s just the case.

  • 110. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    When you watch a sad movie, do you ‘try’ to work yourself up to cry? Nope, I bet it just happens. Why do you think that the ‘message’ of the Bible had a similar effect on you that a sad movie did?

    BigHouse—

    One last comment on this. To reply to you. Yes–a movie or a song can move one to tears. But a movie does not usually turn someone’s life completely around in one moment. Many people get emotional when they hear of Jesus being crucified—I’m sure many people cried while watching “The Passion” (Mel Gibson’s movie)—but then left the theater and continued on in their same lives.

    Again, I cannot put into words what I am trying to say. As I read the Bible, in almost one moment something changed so drastically that it completely turned my life around. It wasn’t just being moved to tears, or “feeling sad”—it was like a huge burden being lifted, something new entering me–being cleansed completely and forgiven. A sense of the deepest love, like a Father embracing me—again, I cannot explain it in physical terms, or in words—but to this very day I always recall it. If I read someone say “it was all in your brain” I want to laugh—because I know without a doubt that is not the case.

    I know I posted a similar thing above so I apologize—-I’m just trying the best I can to explain why I cannot accept some scientific interpretation of a real salvation experience. It totally changed my life forever—and “feeling sad” will never do that—it was something outside of myself, and very very real.

    I’ve said enough and don’t mean to fill up the board with this. I’m just trying to respond to what a few have asked.

  • 111. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Larry T.–

    Alright mate, think what you may…
    Just continue to present your experience with the “this isn’t rational/scientific nor proof/evidence of anything” disclaimer that you’ve been using and we’re alright.
    ;)

    grace–

    I think you may have misintrepreted him. Referring to eternal tranquility/sleep doesn’t mean that one believes in some type of mystical afterlife, it’s merely a more poetic way of describing the finality of death. The latter has been empirically proven.

  • 112. Rover  |  July 31, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Larry T “it changed my life forever”

    Can you be more specific?
    Do you pray fervently daily? I don’t mean just talk to God as you go about your business like he is your buddy. Do you have fervent prayer like James decribes?

    Have you surrendered you material possession to Christ? Do you work merely to support your family and meet the needs of the saints or do you spend most of your money on your desires and give the saints the little that is left over?

    Have you controlled your sin life through the power of the Holy Spirit or do you still lust in your heart which according to Christ is adultery?

    Do you harbor anger and bitterness against anyone?

    When someone asks you for money to you gladly give it and then some?

    Do worry about tomorrow? Do you have a 401k?

  • 113. Bobbi Jo  |  July 31, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Obi,

    “How do you “know” that it was more than the brain? There are ways to rationally and scientifically explain it, mate”

    is it possible that God put those neurotransmitters in our brain so we “knew” when we felt Him? They are there and so we “know” when we are elated, depressed, ect. Why not when we feel moved by His presence? I know you will say something to the effect of it just being another emotion, but I am trying to understand where Larry is comming from as well as where all of you are comming from.

    Of course, you’ll come back with “we can’t prove God put anything there” but we can’t prove he didn’t either. :)

  • 114. john t.  |  July 31, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Bobbi Jo

    I think its reasonable to believe you were created and therefore theres a creator. Just dont put a name to it, because you havnt met it yet.

  • 115. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Bobbi Jo —

    Sure it’s “possible”, but do you have any evidence for it? It’s also “possible” that the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Invisible Pink Unicorn did the same thing, but (1) Since there is no evidence for these entities and (2) The addition of said entities adds no additional explaining power and only serves to further complicate things, the (vastly) preferred option is that no such entities had anything to do with our brain function.

  • 116. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    grace-

    You see, deep within every person, even an atheist, I think there is this hidden longing for a greater purpose, and for a life that goes on. Where does it come from?

    I don’t necessarily disagree with this. But longing for a greater purpose doesn’t mean that there is one. I would say the hope for a life that goes on is simply our fear of death, of oblivion; we don’t want to cease existing when we die, so we hope for an afterlife.

    I also agree with Obi; I think he was just being poetic about death, and you are reading a little more into what he said than what he intended.

    Larry T.,
    Just for future reference, I’m male (to avoid the excessive “he/she” usage).

    I have no problem with you believing with absolute certainty that your experience is evidence of God. I do take issue with the implication that we de-converted because we didn’t have this real experience (back in your original post). Just because you are unable to accept a natural explanation for such an experience does not mean anyone who does accept it couldn’t have had a similar experience.

    As for denying God because of unbelief, I recommend you read the following articles from the blog: I never wanted to be an Atheist and A Confession – I Want to Believe.

    Bobbi Jo-

    is it possible that God put those neurotransmitters in our brain so we “knew” when we felt Him?

    It’s certainly possible. The point, though, is that we don’t need God to explain it. That we can feel presences and experience love does not mean God exists. Only that our minds are capable of feeling presences and strong emotions.

    Of course, you’ll come back with “we can’t prove God put anything there” but we can’t prove he didn’t either. :)

    This is where I counter that the burden of proof is on the one making the claim. ;)
    It’s also possible that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created everything.

  • 117. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Snuggly—

    That is a very fair statement. I’ll read the other links. Thanks!

    Rover—-

    If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)

    To answer your question—I am not perfect if that is what you mean. But my desire to serve Christ is still very strong. From that day onward my desire has been towards Christ and to one day see him and be in his presence. That fills my heart with total joy. As for fervently praying and giving—I do not have measuring stick on my own “peformance”–when I give I try to give gladly, and when I pray for others I try to be sincere.

    if I do have lustful thoughts, or see myself thinking in a bitter manner I confess it and ask for help to change and to repent. If I said I didn’t have times like that I would be a liar, just like the verse above states(1 John 1:8).

    When I say my life radically changed from that moment on, I mean that the whole focus of my life changed. Not that I have never experienced doubts, or times of unbelief–that has happened for sure—-but each time I have returned with my focus even stronger. I know I am talking about “me” –I know everyone’s experience can be different. Since Rover asked I am just trying to give the best explanation I can.

  • 118. Bobbi Jo  |  July 31, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    “It’s also possible that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created everything.”

    “Sure it’s “possible”, but do you have any evidence for it? It’s also “possible” that the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Invisible Pink Unicorn did the same thing,”

    It seems that God’s real name is Flying spagetti monster. I will have to try and remember that when I am praying to Him tonight. ;) On a side note, the unicorn used to be a symbol for christianity and is prettier than said flying spaggetti monster, so maybe I’ll go by that intead.

  • 119. John Morales  |  July 31, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Grace:

    You see, deep within every person, even an atheist, I think there is this hidden longing for a greater purpose, and for a life that goes on.

    I call that it the instinct for self-preservation.

    I assure you I have no longing at all for a “greater purpose” – nay, not even for a purpose – or, if I do, it’s so well hidden I’ve never become aware of it.

  • 120. Paul S  |  July 31, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    I sincerely appreciate the civil tone everyone is taking on this thread.

    But I have to plead with the believers posting here to stop quoting Bible verses when trying to make a point. Since the majority of people on this blog are former Christians who have rejected the Bible as being the Word of God, you are not telling us anything we all haven’t heard ad nauseum.

  • 121. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Paul S–

    Is it OK to use a Bible verse if a decon references one or refers to one in their post. For example Rover in #112 references a verse from James, and then asks several other questions which refer to the Bible. I responded using one verse from 1 John 1 as a point of reference. Will something like that be OK with you? Just want to make sure.

  • 122. Paul S  |  July 31, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    I don’t want to be so presumptuous as to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t be able to post. That’s not my place. I was just trying to make the point that citing the Bible as a backup to an argument for a belief in God is unconvincing to those of us who have spent a large part of our lives within Christianity and have made the decision to reject it.

  • 123. Rover  |  July 31, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Speaking for Rover who actually does exist, I am not a de convert. I am a Christian with questions.

    Larry T – when I asked you questions I never thought for a moment that you were claiming to be perfect, but are you living like a true Christian or have you cherry picked verses that suit you? I struggle with the way most Christians live. If we have God IN us then boy it is sure hard to tell most of time. Well, we shouldn’t judge Christianity by it’s followers you might say and I will reply that I am not judging Christianity as a whole, but rather whether God living in us has a truly demonstrable effect; one that makes a difference. It should. Well you mght say that there are very few true believers. Okay, that might be true, but you are a true believer, so back to my questions in my previous post. How come you don’t live like a true believer? How come I don’t? Do we only adhere to those teachings nuture our need for security and acceptance? Read Luke 14 – are you a true disciple?

  • 124. john t.  |  July 31, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    John M.

    I assure you I have no longing at all for a “greater purpose” – nay, not even for a purpose – or, if I do, it’s so well hidden I’ve never become aware of it.

    I think Grace erred by saying “every person”. There are others such as yourself who dont think like that. But from my experience in life you are definately in the minority.

  • 125. john t.  |  July 31, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Snuggly

    #116
    It’s certainly possible. The point, though, is that we don’t need God to explain it. That we can feel presences and experience love does not mean God exists. Only that our minds are capable of feeling presences and strong emotions

    Do you think that maybe peoples “need” for a creator is because our limited understanding of the Universe has yet to show what its origin is?

  • 126. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    John T.

    Yes, without a doubt.

  • 127. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Rover—-

    I didn’t realize you were a believer. I think anyone reading Luke 14, or some of the other Gospel’s immediately feels they don’t “measure up” to what a disciple would be.

    It’s interesting that Luke 14 opens up with the Pharisees asking Jesus if it lawful to cure someone on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees were so “religious” that they kept “rules” above mercy and grace towards others. Often, in “trying” to be a disciple, one can become like a Pharisee, judging others for the lack of the righteousness we feel is required to be a true Christian. We can literally set a standard in our own minds as to what a Christian “should be”, and when these other Christians don’t measure up we judge them for it.

    In Revelation 2 Jesus has something “against” the church at Epesus. But it isn’t because of “works”–he said it was because they had “lost their first love”. The true mark of a disciple is love for Christ, and love for his sheep. We can make our lists of what we think a disciple should be, but in the end it is what is in the heart–what is the intent of your service to Christ? Are we looking for Brownie points, or do we love the Lord? Are we Pharisees, or believers? At least that’s how I see it. But I hear where you are coming from Rover.

    This post was from one believer to another—didn’t mean to get to “preachy” in the post. :)

  • 128. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    By the way—–can anyone tell me how to italicize for emphasis, or to embolden words on this board? Because I can’t use italics or bold the words I have to put quote marks, etc. Is there a way to do that on the board?

  • 129. Larry T  |  July 31, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Do you think that maybe peoples “need” for a creator is because our limited understanding of the Universe has yet to show what its origin is?

    John T—

    Just curious. Suppose they found that the Universe’s origin was that it exploded forth from a little pin sized piece of matter almost infinitely condensed? Even if we found that that was the origin, wouldn’t people still ask “Where did the pin sized piece of matter come from?” And the question concerning a Creator would come full circle. Do you think so?

  • 130. john t.  |  July 31, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Larry T.

    Exactly, thats why we have infinite chances to talk about it all, lol. Well at least in this life span…………..or maybe……..
    ;)

  • 131. Cthulhu  |  July 31, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Larry T,

    Even if we found that that was the origin, wouldn’t people still ask “Where did the pin sized piece of matter come from?” And the question concerning a Creator would come full circle. Do you think so?

    That is no different than a believer saying Goad always existed when asked who or what created God. And it is quite possible that our universe is one of countless others that exist in ‘super-space’ that has always exists.

    As for emphasizing text – do you know how to use html tags? Look just below the comment box for examples…

  • 132. Cthulhu  |  July 31, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Pardon – that’s God not Goad….

  • 133. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Larry T. —

    yourtexthere
    Without the spaces for…
    yourtexthere

    yourtexthere
    Without the spaces for…
    yourtexthere
    ;)

  • 134. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    o.O

    I didn’t know the spaces counted…
    Well, let me retry that.


    yourtexthere

    Put those all on the same line without spaces for: yourtexthere.


    yourtexthere

    Put those all on the same line without spaces for: yourtexthere.

    Also, you can have spaces in your text if you want, just not in the tags. Hope that works out this time…
    :)

  • 135. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    What the fuck…? I give up…just try using the HTML tags at the bottom.

  • 136. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Oh, by the way, sorry for the language.
    :(

  • 137. Cthulhu  |  July 31, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Obi,

    WTF??? That really should be ‘Worse Than Failure’ :-)

  • 138. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    <em>italics</em>
    <strong>bold</strong>

  • 139. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    btw, you can print the less-than and greater-than symbols such that they won’t turn their enclosed text into html tags by typing &gt; or &lt; (or do &amp; to print the ampersand without turning the following text and semicolon into a special symbol)

  • 140. Quester  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Larry,

    I will willingly admit that I am close-minded when it comes to this because I know what happened

    This tells me that you’re not here to learn.

    I can’t make you believe that, or even give “evidence” to support it—it’s just the case.

    This tells me you’re not here to teach.

    When I thank the Lord for my salvation I always remember meeting HIM, and rejoice in the day

    This tells me you are not a deconvert here for support or other resources.

    So, tell me, Larry- why are you posting here?

  • 141. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    John T.-

    Do you think that maybe peoples “need” for a creator is because our limited understanding of the Universe has yet to show what its origin is?

    Mmm, that might be part of it, and it seems to be the only motivation I see for deism, but I think theism runs deeper than that. People don’t like chaos, they like to think there’s a big man in control, watching over us. It’s comforting to think there’s a higher power that’s interested in our lives.

  • 142. Griffin  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Larry T:

    italics

    bold

    Without the underscores, obviously.

    underline

  • 143. grace  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Cthulhu, and everyone,

    To my knowledge most cosmologists agree today that the universe is not eternal, though, and that it actually came into existence billions of years ago. The universe had a beginning in time, and is not expected to last forever. To me, the Big Bang theory which most current scientists accept, is really an indicator pointing toward a creater.

    Has anyone else thought through some of the implications of current cosmological thought in this way., read anything by Stephen Hawking.

  • 144. Griffin  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Larry T:

    Damn, underscores count too. Go here:

    http://www.ironspider.ca/format_text/fontstyles.htm

  • 145. Griffin  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    This thread has drifted quite a bit from Joe’s original post. Discussions about Big Bang theory and debates about certainty of our own experiences aren’t really going to sway de-cons.

    The burden of evidence falls upon those making the claims and talking about what you felt and what your book of choice says really has no more bearing on my belief than what I feel or what Christopher Hitchen’s says has on your belief.

    If it makes you feel better to post here, we’re not stopping you, but you’re probably doing more to convince yourself than you are to convince us.

  • 146. Brad Feaker  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    grace

    To my knowledge most cosmologists agree today that the universe is not eternal, though, and that it actually came into existence billions of years ago. The universe had a beginning in time, and is not expected to last forever. To me, the Big Bang theory which most current scientists accept, is really an indicator pointing toward a creater.

    Has anyone else thought through some of the implications of current cosmological thought in this way., read anything by Stephen Hawking.

    From the artist formerly know as Cthulhu :-)

    Stephen Hawking is no longer at the cutting edge of cosmology – to understand what I said above read anything by Brian Greene or Lisa Randall. I didn’t state that the universe we inhabit is eternal – but that it could be one of billions of ‘bubble’ universes contained in a ‘super universe’ which has existed forever. Another idea is Lee Smolins theory that when a black hole is created it spawns another universe with slightly different physics. And how does THAT truly imply a creator?

  • 147. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Grace —

    The Big Bang theory states that the Universe in it’s present state is not eternal, and that it (and space-time) indeed began to exist about 13.7 billion years ago. The mass-energy that makes up the Universe, on the other hand, seems to have always existed in the form of a singularity. Why did it expand into our Universe? Who knows. Scientists are trying to figure it out, but in the meantime it seems that most theists (not implicating you) take solace in the fact there’s one remaining gap where their God(s) can take up hiding. That is, until science finds its way in there, which seems inevitable when considering the thousands of other times that it has.
    ;)

  • 148. john t.  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Snuggly

    “but I think theism runs deeper than that. People don’t like chaos, they like to think there’s a big man in control, watching over us. It’s comforting to think there’s a higher power that’s interested in our lives.”(snuggly)

    I guess thats why I would be considered a Deist :)

  • 149. john t.  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Obi

    “That is, until science finds its way in there, which seems inevitable when considering the thousands of other times that it has.”

    That almost sounds like someone who is waiting for Jesus to return ;)

  • 150. Brad Feaker  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    john t

    I guess thats why I would be considered a Deist

    A Deist doesn’t believe in a God who interferes in our Universe at all.

  • 151. joyindestructible  |  July 31, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    obi,

    Faith in Christ is a gift from God and doesn’t need to be proven before receiving one simply accepts it. In this instance, one has to believe before gaining understanding.

    Evidence as to the spiritual nature of human beings is hard to miss unless one decides to close their eyes to all the forms in which this spiritual hunger exists.

  • 152. Brad Feaker  |  July 31, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    joy,

    Faith in Christ is a gift from God and doesn’t need to be proven before receiving one simply accepts it. In this instance, one has to believe before gaining understanding.

    I can see you missed the links on the sidebar for Christians to read before commenting, You will need to do better than spout Christian platitudes here.

  • 153. Obi  |  August 1, 2008 at 12:04 am

    John T. said, “That almost sounds like someone who is waiting for Jesus to return.

    Perhaps, if Jesus had returned hundreds (even thousands) of times before and appeared to and helped millions of people around the world in various everyday activities…

    Such is the power of knowledge gained through science, eh? Call me when prayer to Jesus heals an amputee, but in the meantime science will be working on improving prosthetics through studies of biomechanics as well as working on growing new legs (it’s a possibility) through stem cells.

    Yeah John, I know you were just joking around.
    ;)

  • 154. Obi  |  August 1, 2008 at 12:08 am

    joyindestructible —

    I certainly hope that when you get suspicious e-mails from Nigerian “princes” that you don’t employ the strategy that you’re recommending to me. “Blindly accept first, and try not to ask questions later” certainly isn’t how the mind of any sane and rational person works in any matter that is important to them, so why should religion be any different?

  • 155. john t.  |  August 1, 2008 at 6:10 am

    Brad Feaker

    A Deist doesn’t believe in a God who interferes in our Universe at all.(Brad)

    Where did I say the creator interferes with the universe? Oh by the way, it was someone on here that labelled me a Deist, Im not so sure what I would call myself, in regards to my belief that is. I used that term because it seems to not be viewed in quite so negative of a way.

  • 156. john t.  |  August 1, 2008 at 6:13 am

    Oops I meant “viewed in not so negative of a way”……………..dam its too early lol.

  • 157. John Morales  |  August 1, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Sigh.
    #155: “Oh by the way, it was someone on here that labelled me a Deist”
    #148: “I guess thats why I would be considered a Deist”

  • 158. john t.  |  August 1, 2008 at 7:42 am

    John M.

    Remember, Deep diaphragmatic breaths, very calming.

  • 159. Brad Feaker  |  August 1, 2008 at 9:29 am

    john t,

    Where did I say the creator interferes with the universe?

    When you referenced this remark from Snuggly…seemed a little odd to me :-)

    “but I think theism runs deeper than that. People don’t like chaos, they like to think there’s a big man in control, watching over us. It’s comforting to think there’s a higher power that’s interested in our lives.”(snuggly)

  • 160. Larry T  |  August 1, 2008 at 11:12 am

    So, tell me, Larry- why are you posting here?

    Quester—

    This is from your post #140 above. Actually, all the comments you quoted regard one issue only—my salvation. I was commenting that nothing will convince me otherwise when it comes to my salvation experience. But I am very open-minded to many other issues that are being discussed.

    Please note I said:

    I will willingly admit that I am close-minded when it comes to this (my conversion)

    But there are many other issues and the board being discussed Quester, and I find them interesting. Hope that answers your question.

    Thanks.

  • 161. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 1, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    John T.

    Maybe sometime you should hop on the forums here and post a bit about your experience and what you believe (the blog threads don’t really seem like the place for it). As I understand it, you are a de-convert, and have settled on some sort of deism (you wouldn’t be the only one to settle on such a belief on this blog).

    I’d be very interested to see you elaborate on your beliefs.

  • 162. Rob  |  August 3, 2008 at 9:42 am

    That was just what I needed… my story is very similar but I am only at the beginning of my journey. You can’t imagine how great it feels to read your story, It gives me support and confidence.

    thank you.

  • 163. joyindestructible  |  August 3, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Religion should be checked out carefully if you are thinking of adopting one. Faith isn’t religion though it can be expressed through one’s religion. People express a lot of different things through religion and many of those expressions have little to do with God. It is common for human beings to want to whittle God down to human size and religion works quite nicely for that. That is also why many people can never find God. For them there is nothing greater than human beings. Or that’s how it seems to me.

    Anyway, I don’t think it is religion that is a problem for atheists. Isn’t it God that bothers you?

  • 164. Rose  |  August 10, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    You were never truy Saved in the first place. Did ou ever think you were like the Mormons? Believing and doing works, but never truly committed your heart to God? Rom 10:9That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your “heart” that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

    There is evidence about why evolution is wrong. Have you ever heard of Ken Ham? He teaches on evolution and how the earth began and so much more.

    To further explain, if the Bible is wrong, then why are all the prophecies of the end times coming to place?
    2 Timothy 1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
    6They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

    In the past 60 years the society has gone this direction very obviously.

  • 165. Obi  |  August 10, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Rose —

    Hey there. If I may direct your attention to our rather helpful sidebar, specifically a section marked by a large red exclamation mark. Please read the two articles highlighted therein, and familiarize yourself with the reasons why you’re wrong when you say “you were never truly saved/you were never truly a Christian, et cetera”.

    Oh, and you really should educate yourself on the theory of evolution. . To be honest, I usually wave away anyone who doesn’t accept the theory as not knowing what they’re talking about, because the theory is simply too well-supported to be dismissed. I can’t really think of another scientific theory with as much empirical evidence supporting it coming from all different fields of science.

  • 166. Obi  |  August 10, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    *sigh*

    I knew something along those lines was going to happen… Simply click anywhere on my last paragraph to direct yourself over to the Berkeley site on evolution.

  • 167. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 10, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Wow, not only does Rose state one of the most common cliches, but she phrases it in the most cliche way possible.

    On a serious note, I’d like to point out that the “prophecy” of 2 Timothy 1 there can pretty much apply to every generation of humanity that has ever existed.

  • 168. rover  |  August 11, 2008 at 6:44 am

    de cons,

    Can you recommend any good posts or other material refuting the argument for God from the beauty and awesomeness of creation. I am not talking about the “fine tuning” argument, but the mere fact that creation is often jaw droppingly awe inspiring, ie, hubble pictures of the universe, the beauty of the world, oceans, moiuntain scenes, etc… even in areas that are not “beautiful” there is an awesomeness. Even the fiercness of a hurricane is awe inspiring. Have we trained ourselves to see these things as beautiful? Are things awe inspiring simply because we are so small and insignificant? Can you point me to some material on this?

  • 169. silentj  |  August 11, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Snuggly,

    No doubt about the prophecy applying to every generation. How many guys in the last 1,000 years were thought by many to be the anti-Christ? Yet, we keep trucking along.

    Haven’t the end times been “near” for almost 2,000 years now?

    I was watching one of the Hitchens debates a couple of days ago. I got a pretty good laugh when he said a man told him that the world would likely end in 4.5 million years, but then corrected himself by saying it would actually be 4.5 billion. Hitchens replies something like, “well, that’s a relief.”

  • 170. silentj  |  August 11, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Rover,

    Your question about the “sublime” is one of the only “real” experiences we can routinely point to for the possible existence of a god. However, just because we’re filled with beauty doesn’t mean there is an immense man-like spirit that creates it.

    I think things affect us in a few different ways. One is the way you mentioned, when nature demonstrates its power, making us feel insignificant. Another is when things surprise us amid the mundane observations of daily life. That’s when, for example, you notice how amazing lizards are or take a close look at the flowers in you yard.

    However, why not just make the realization that nature is beautiful and amazing? To make it even more amazing, all of the attributes of plants and animals were parts of their survival as a species. To me beauty then is not only an aesthetic experience, but a great narrative of triumph that constantly living all around me.

  • 171. Obi  |  August 11, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Rover —

    I’m afraid not. The argument from beauty isn’t really an argument for god(s) at all, because beauty is rather subjective. Of course we have a few in-built evolutionary standards for aesthetics that are most likely the same across the board such as cuteness (to make us more willing to care for our young), as well as beauty in other sexes that allows us to pick better mates (a woman with fuller lips is more attractive to a man, for example), but arguing that god(s) exist because we each see some things as beautiful in the Universe is quite a stretch.

  • 172. silentj  |  August 11, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Obi,

    I don’t think it’s just beauty that people use to make the argument for a god, but the sense of the sublime they feel when they witness nature. (e.g. Francis Collins seeing the sublime in the frozen waterfall) I’m not saying that this feeling is legitimate; I argue to the contrary above. However, it’s the feeling, as if god were speaking, and not just the subjective experience of seeing beauty.

  • 173. silentj  |  August 11, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Rover,

    One argument that I should have thrown in to my other post is the idea of Occam’s Razor: the idea that the simplest solution is usually the best.

    If I see a footprint that looks like a dog’s, I can reasonably assume that a family of lady bugs or a tip-toeing elephant did not make it, unless given evidence to the contrary. Likewise, the biggest argument against god in terms of nature is that we have a pretty solid explanation for everything that does not need a god. So, why invent the concept?

    The classic argument to the contrary is that you can’t say he doesn’t exist either, that he might in fact be the one who started the process. The only problem with the idea is that people just don’t let the creator be; they subscribe religious beliefs and rules to this creator that completely unfounded. If it wasn’t for this last idea, I think a lot more atheists might be agnostics or deists, as there would be less potential for harm in believing so.

  • 174. Quester  |  August 11, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Rover, what is “the argument for God from the beauty and awesomeness of creation”? Much of what is, is beautiful and awesome. Most of it is also deadly to all forms of life we currently know anything about. What does this argue about any God who may or may not exist?

  • 175. john t.  |  August 11, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Quester

    “Much of what is, is beautiful and awesome. Most of it is also deadly to all forms of life we currently know anything about.”

    I think for many people of faith both Fundies and agnostics and just plain old spiritual folk, this isnt that relevant seeing as life never ends. Afterall its only Ateists who actually have to worry about something being deadly, as for everyone else that believes, there is just a continuation, No worries. Well other than the little HELL thingie for the Fundies ;)

  • 176. Pat Man  |  September 9, 2008 at 5:45 am

    I am noticing a common theme with a lot of de-converted people. In this case, I KNOW very well the church described.

    The common theme is that a lot (not all) de-converts have backgrounds in churches that stress a literal reading of Genesis. When the “creationism” wears off, the Christian sort of comes out of a daze! They see the world for what it is! Unfortunately, they throw the baby out with the bath water.

    The beliefs that people determine as authentic christianity usually are modern ideas to begin with.

    The bible isn’t meant to be literal. Even the church that created the Bible (RCC) has historically maintained that items can be innacurate. That doesn’t mean that it’s salvation story isn’t true, but it is a book–written by inspired men.

    When Christians (like that at Harding University where I studied for some time) accept the PREMISE that the Bible is a secret code, perfect and innerrannt, the christian is inevitably going to be faced with a major let down.

    The RCC never intended the Bible to be used in this way–hence giving some reason to why catholics were not urged to read without guidance for so long. Even today, when the bible is read by catholics, we understand that it is to be read in junction with historic church teachings.

    Jesus never wrote a bible–he established a church. Today’s protestants don’t quite get this and their angst is clear.

    Jesus chose men to lead his church. The bible is a book produced by some of those men, and collected by their successors.

    If the proper premise is accepted, I don’t think there would be as many broken hearts.

    Can it be assumed that most “de-converts” do love the teachings of Christ? Probably so. It is the portrayal of Christ’s teachings by new churches that botch the gospel–instilling unrealistic promises.

    My two cents. I can completely understand this story in particular because for a little while I was there! However, I know that mankind is never satisfied with life without God–I believe it is simply hard-wired. I don’t think anyone here is truly happy, and it is tragic.

  • 177. silentj  |  September 9, 2008 at 6:48 am

    I just want to address your last point about happiness.

    You’re saying that people aren’t “truly happy.” I think your judging that happiness on the posts of many people working out problems online. So, in essence, the side you are seeing of most these people wouldn’t be described as happy, though, not especially sad either.

    I think one of the common misconceptions about atheists/agnostics is that we’re sad people roaming the earth only waiting to be eaten by a predator. That’s not the case. A lot of us experience most of the joy that Christians face: joy with family, pleasure in food and nature, fun in games and play, and connectedness in brotherhood. We just don’t claim that a God created everything and watches over us because we don’t see any evidence for it.

    In that regard, we might miss out on this man-made joy of life, much like we no longer believe in the tooth fairy or Santa. However, there’s still plenty of joy.

    As for everything else you said, I’ll just sum up by saying that it’s not one particular reading of the Bible or just interactions with hypocritical Christians. It’s the whole faith in its entirety. Most of the people here simply lost faith. So, it doesn’t really matter if the “‘de-cons’ do love the teachings of Christ.” We love a lot of stories. That doesn’t mean we place our faith in them as an explanation for existence and pray to its characters to intercede in our lives.

    To get back to my main point, you probably read the above paragraph as angry. However, it wasn’t written out of anger at all and is not directed at the Bible, Christians, or anyone else. The words above is simply a statement of a lack of faith.

  • 178. Pat Man  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:00 am

    I don’t see anger in you at all to be honest. I’m really trying to understand. I’m noticing themes and finding (may not be correct though) connections with how certain premises “predispose” people to lose faith.

    Peace

  • 179. ubi dubium  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:07 am

    PatMan –
    Please be sure you have read the posts by the big red exclamation point on the right of the screen. They explain a lot.

  • 180. Pat Man  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Yes, thanks. I’m not looking for “reasons” that triggered a lose of faith though. I’m noticing accepted premises that predisposes people to lose faith. I chose this post to comment on because I found familiarity with it.

    I know everyone is different and humans are complex–no fit for every person. And I’m not trying to be simplistic.

    I lose faith from time to time (so did mother theresa) but not completely.

    For what it’s worth (and I’m not assuming much) I don’t believe most people who “lose faith” are not “saved.” It doesn’t mean much to people who don’t buy into “salvation” theory anyway but hear me out. Except for those who say things like “I hate God” and extreme statements like that, I think most “de-converts) are mostly apathetic to God. I don’t see them as going to hell/not saved/ or anything like that. I think a time will come when de-cons will feel like “the haze has lifted” EVEN MORE than when they felt when it was lifted as they left their faith! At that moment, God and “de-con” will look at each other and think, “man, we should have gone out for a beer years ago!”

    I am personally convinced that God’s will is for all to be saved. Sure it’s my Catholic faith–but I don’t suffer from a “fundamentalist elitism” that wishes people to be damned.

    For what it’s worth (though many christians probably have knee-jerk hatred for this site) I find value here. Not that I agree with much, but because it shows the human condition so well. We are all either pilgrims or animals wandering around the same rocky sphere in the middle of space trying to make sense of it all.

    Peace to all.

  • 181. BigHouse  |  September 9, 2008 at 9:33 am

    So Pat Man, if the bible isn’t literal, where do you draw the line on what’s real and to be followed and what isn’t? And HOW/WHY do you draw that line?

  • 182. Pat Man  |  September 9, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    There are parts of course.
    The Church’s magesterium draws the line. For Catholics, we believe Christ gave the apostles to “call the shots.”

    IF we believe in Christ, then we believe his church.

    WE are not called to understand his lines, we are called to obey.

  • 183. ubi dubium  |  September 9, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    PatMan-

    Obey who? The gospels? Pauls interpretation of the story?

    Or do you obey what the pope and your local parish say, without worrying about whether it matches anything else?

  • 184. Pat Man  |  September 9, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Ubi dubium,
    You asked who I obey. First Christ.
    We believe Christ gave his Apostles authority as the “end all” authority in the Church–not replacing Christ, but in his name. That’s why we call the Pope the Vicar of Christ. That’s why when we “Confess” to a priest, we believe that the priest is in persona Christi–that Jesus is the mediator.

    Yes, Paul’s “interpretation” as “interpreted” by the Church is valid. After all, it is the Church that created the Bible. Just as Mormons have the say on how to interpret the Book of Mormon, Muslims have say on how to interpret the Koran, the Catholic Church has say on how to interpret the Bible. The Bible is her book, she created it, and she interprets it.

    For close to 400 years, Christianity existed with no canon. Because we don’t accept the nonsensical assumptions of “sola scriptura” we understand those Christians are saved. What those Christians had was an oral tradition and a faith in Christ took hold. Yes I believe the Bible is mostly accurate, but perfect in the cases of faith and morals. That’s the stand of the Church. The “protestant publishing machine” would have us think that the Bible was beamed down from outer space on Christ’s birthday and it is the ONLY instruction manual for humankind. It just isn’t so. The Bible is a “handbook” and is useful for learning–but not imperative for salvation.

    The “how to interpret” argument has been the derailing point for people for centuries.

    As for “worrying” or whether it “matches” anything else, I’m not sure what you mean. Do you mean “Creation science” (which the church doesn’t back) or something like that? I am pretty familiar with popular “proofs” against the validity of the Bible, is there one you are thinking of?

    I think the main point of your question is, How do we KNOW anything? Well, faith is a gift. It can be strong, it can be weak. I have faith that Christ was God and he knew that his apostles would keep the lantern of faith alive until the end of the world. I have faith that Christ knew men well enough that we (even his apostles) would f___ up once in a while–even 1 of his 12 gave him up for money! Yet still, the lantern survives. Through schism, through “reformation,” through holy wars and unholy wars, through scandal and simony, the lantern has not blown out. I have faith that Christ knew this–and that Christ knew it would be MORE difficult for people to have faith as time moved forward.

    That’s what it comes down to–was Christ a nut or was he God? I believe the “bible only” Christians sabotaged a lot of people’s faith from the beginning because the assumption was that the Bible answered everything–well it doesn’t. So I have faith that the Magesterium (leadership that we believe Christ established) would not go astray on matters of faith and morals. This very Catholic premise, as opposed to Protestant’s premise of “bible only” has kept me from being derailed.

  • 185. Pat Man  |  September 9, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Ubi dubium,
    You asked who I obey. First Christ.
    We believe Christ gave his Apostles authority as the “end all” authority in the Church–not replacing Christ, but in his name. That’s why we call the Pope the Vicar of Christ. That’s why when we “Confess” to a priest, we believe that the priest is in persona Christi–that Jesus is the mediator.

    Yes, Paul’s “interpretation” as “interpreted” by the Church is valid. After all, it is the Church that created the Bible. Just as Mormons have the say on how to interpret the Book of Mormon, Muslims have say on how to interpret the Koran, the Catholic Church has say on how to interpret the Bible. The Bible is her book, she created it, and she interprets it.

    For close to 400 years, Christianity existed with no canon. Because we don’t accept the nonsensical assumptions of “sola scriptura” we understand those Christians are saved. What those Christians had was an oral tradition and a faith in Christ took hold. Yes I believe the Bible is mostly accurate, but perfect in the cases of faith and morals. That’s the stand of the Church. The “protestant publishing machine” would have us think that the Bible was beamed down from outer space on Christ’s birthday and it is the ONLY instruction manual for humankind. It just isn’t so. The Bible is a “handbook” and is useful for learning–but not imperative for salvation.

    The “how to interpret” argument has been the derailing point for people for centuries.

    I think the main point of your question is, How do we KNOW anything? Well, faith is a gift. It can be strong, it can be weak. I have faith that Christ was God and he knew that his apostles would keep the lantern of faith alive until the end of the world. I have faith that Christ knew men well enough that we (even his apostles) would f___ up once in a while–even 1 of his 12 gave him up for money! Yet still, the lantern survives. Through schism, through “reformation,” through holy wars and unholy wars, through scandal and simony, the lantern has not blown out. I have faith that Christ knew this–and that Christ knew it would be MORE difficult for people to have faith as time moved forward.

    That’s what it comes down to–was Christ a nut or was he God? I believe the “bible only” Christians sabotaged a lot of people’s faith from the beginning because the assumption was that the Bible answered everything–well it doesn’t. So I have faith that the Magesterium (leadership that we believe Christ established) would not go astray on matters of faith and morals. This very Catholic premise, as opposed to Protestant’s premise of “bible only” has kept me from being derailed.

  • 186. Pat Man  |  September 9, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    sorry for the double post.

  • 187. BigHouse  |  September 9, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    “The Bible is a “handbook” and is useful for learning–but not imperative for salvation.”

    The Bible itself says that this is wrong. Do not add, subtract, nor change anything herein. Why does it say that if it was meant to be read the way you think so?

  • 188. ubi dubium  |  September 9, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    OK, so you are following your church, rather than following your book alone. That’s fine – it just lets us in on the background you are speaking from. It’s good to have a believer here who does not argue from the “bible has all the answers” perspective. We see too many of those.

    A couple of comments. Not all protestants argue that the bible is word-for-word infallible. I was raised Presbyterian, and my old church certainly didn’t preach that. They did think it was a better authority than human institutions. (Which makes sense, once you learn that the Presbyterians are run by committee.) The evangelicals may be noisy and obnoxious, but they don’t represent nearly all the Protestants.

    That’s what it comes down to–was Christ a nut or was he God?

    Careful – this dichotomy won’t work on non-believers because it does not cover all the possibilities. He might have thought he was the messiah and simply been mistaken. Jesus might have been all or partly mythological (as in a real person whose life was embellished by tall tales) . Or maybe he really existed and preached, but has been so misquoted and misunderstood that current church dogma bears no resemblance to what he was originally teaching. There’s just not enough evidence from objective sources to really know.

    Please join in the conversations. Just remember not to preach, because the de-cons have heard it all before. (Some of them used to be pastors!)

  • 189. ubi dubium  |  September 9, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Big House

    The Bible itself says that this is wrong. Do not add, subtract, nor change anything herein. Why does it say that if it was meant to be read the way you think so?

    Oh, there’s an easy answer for that – that passage is one of those that “isn’t perfect”! :)

  • 190. Pat Man  |  September 9, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Yes, the Bible does say that. Do you believe Revelation (where you found the verse) was the last book of the bible written simply because it is last placed as the last book in the canon? The Catholic Church put the book of Revelation not because it was written last, but because it made literary sense. The Bible starts out with “Beginnings” and ends with “The end.”

    In fact, that “verse” is stated in various forms in 3 different places (rev, dt, and pv)in the Bible spanning several thousand years. Therefore, your interpretation is false. Because if your interpretation is accurate, then we would still be using only the books of Moses (at least part).

    If the Bible was needed for salvation, then are the first 300+ years of Christians going to hell? Are the apostles going to hell? Are illiterates and blind going to hell? Are those who have only heard the gospel going to hell? Of course not. The meaning of the scriptures that say “don’t add to God’s words” means just that–Don’t add to Gods words. My “interpretation” is sound, just as it has been sound for a long, long time.

    The argument you came up with is a modern stance that allows “bible only” types to attack the Catholic Church–usually as an argument against the apocrypha. I understand the point (I taught it for a long time) but is is simply not rational, not biblical, and not historical.

    With respect, I’m noticing a theme by some people sort of how politicians play “gatcha” politics. It looks like verses are taken with little understanding, and thrown out like, “Well ah ahhhh, look at this!!!!” I’m not saying I know everything, but I do know that context with history, submission to a couple of (faith premises) and an honest curiosity goes a long way.

    Seriously, I’m not trying to convert anyone. I initially came here to learn and understand people. I can answer questions as far as I understand the answers, but man, there are questions that I have about faith and Bible as well! Nobody will ever know all the anwers–but it doesn’t mean we should put off believeing simply because we don’t “get it” because nobody “gets it.”

    I’m going to go eat lunch here in a minute because I know it will nourish me and make my stomach stop growling. I don’t know how, but I know enough to go eat.

    An honest thanks to all of your peaceful comments.
    Pat

  • 191. john t.  |  September 9, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    So I have faith that the Magesterium (leadership that we believe Christ established) would not go astray on matters of faith and morals. (Pat)

    Well considering what many Priests have been showing in regards to their true nature, I would say, you have some kind of strong faith. ;)

  • 192. Pat Man  |  September 9, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    So you are “judging” the Church by the action of some bad dudes? Is your lack of faith a result of the bad behavior of others? That’s a cop-out. No clergy believes people are perfect–even the Pope goes to confession.

    The teaching, not the hypocrisy, of faith and morals does not go astray.

    No Catholic condones the behavior of bad guys, but most Catholics understand that the percentage of good clergy to bad is greater or comparable any other “denomination” and certainly better than any secular count.

    Everyone here is an alpha type–sort of like “an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object (Joker).” So I don’t think anyone will change anyone’s attitude. My faith isn’t torn when others lose theirs–even if it is a priest. In a way, it makes me understand the plight of humanity and our imperfections–all the more we need a savior.

  • 193. john t.  |  September 9, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Pat man

    “No Catholic condones the behavior of bad guys, but most Catholics understand that the percentage of good clergy to bad is greater or comparable any other “denomination” and certainly better than any secular count.”(Pat)

    Lol. That reminds me of a joke. Someone called a meeting for functional families and only 2 showed up, and they were both in denial………

  • 194. BigHouse  |  September 9, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Not to mention that the offending priests were systematically moved to other parishes, not pulled from their positions where they could do it again. Reprehensible.

    Pat, you say your faith comes from the people who tech it, yet it;s off-limits to question the worthiness of that source/ it doesn’t make any sense. Not to mention the HUGE conflict of interest a group of ‘preferred teachers of a faith” has to abuse their power to fill the vaticans coffers (the richest entity in the world)

  • 195. Pat Man  |  September 9, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Well, it seems that there is a lack of honesty in some of the “arguments” against the Church–it’s really not a new thing.

    Nothing is off limits to question–where would you get that? So it comes down to priests sinning that is the “big argument” for invalidating the Catholic Church. That’s “reasoning” that I just don’t understand.

    The Church is good, even though people sin.
    Marriage is good, even though couples fight.
    Cats are good… actually they suck.
    Dogs are good companions even though they bite.
    Computers are good even though people use them for crime.

    I have faith in the Church BECAUSE I have faith in Christ, and I believe that his church, though may stumble, will not die.

    No, I did not say faith comes from those who teach it, faith is a gift. What comes from those who teach it is the “deposit of faith” that is its teachings on issues of faith and morality.

    This thread is very scattered–now someone wants to talk about the Vatican’s wallet????

    Please notice the topic of this thread. It is under “conversion stories” and I chose this point of entry because I found so much familiarity with its story. I am trying to understand “de-converts”, not trying to convert anyone back. Some people have really good points, still some “throw bombs” that reveal an ignorance of facts–points often attributed to “closed-minded Christians.”

    I’m willing to believe that most de-converts (here at least) are very intelligent. Faith, i believe, is more difficult for the brighter half to receive and that’s why I enjoy talking to you all. Bet let’s be honest with facts (ie. vatian isn’t rich, it has a smaller budget than the archdiocese of Chicago and often runs in the red because it helps the poor). It just reveals a lack of desire to think seriously.

    The “tough” questions like “bad things/good people” stuff is more like it! That’s philosophical and can completely understand faith being shaken. It happens to “the best” of us.

    I don’t want to treat this blog as a “forum” so I’m going to take the day off from it. But I must admit, I do love this site.

  • 196. john t.  |  September 9, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Pat

    I think maybe I picked at you a little because of your reference……..”but most Catholics understand that the percentage of good clergy to bad is greater or comparable any other “denomination” and certainly better than any secular count.”(Pat)

    I think once you make a comparison or insinuation that Catholics are greater or better than others, then you should be ready for some conflict. Enjoy your evening off.
    .

  • 197. Pat Man  |  September 9, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    I Can’t resist the temptation to check in! (you know how it goes)

    Fair enough on that one. I was trying to stir a little balance that is often NOT given to the RCC clergy.

    Fair point.

  • 198. BigHouse  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    I’m willing to believe that most de-converts (here at least) are very intelligent. Faith, i believe, is more difficult for the brighter half to receive and that’s why I enjoy talking to you all. Bet let’s be honest with facts (ie. vatian isn’t rich, it has a smaller budget than the archdiocese of Chicago and often runs in the red because it helps the poor). It just reveals a lack of desire to think seriously.

    By ”Vatican’ I meant Catholic Church, and all of it’s assets are values in the billions. It’s runniing in the red due to its sex scandals and poor money management. Riches is defined by property and assest, not just cash flow.

    Who’s being dishonest…

  • 199. Joe  |  October 31, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Hello, Pat.
    I abandoned faith not because I thought it was evil or because some clergy man or their followers seemed to be a bit wicked in their behavior, I abandoned faith and church because of the concept of faith itself and its implications. I found it to be erroneous. Weather this conclusion is right or wrong is not the point.
    The point is, my de-convertion did not occur because of human behavior or misbehavior, as it is more thaN evident to the rational mind that, Good and evil comes in all sizes, colors, and beliefs.
    NO OFFENSE MEANT, PAT.
    Have a great one.

  • 200. Mehmed Mustafa  |  October 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    A cliché atheist retort:

    However, I frequently find that arguments for God (such as in the case of Mr. Flew) boil down to “We don’t know how/why this works/happens andystical/divine/supernatural force must have been at work. To “This seems unlikely to happen”, so therefore some mme, something like that should trigger more study, more research, more experimenting, more exploring, et cetera instead of jumping to conclusions regarding divine/supernatural forces and utilizing arguments from ignorance and personal incredulity. But perhaps that’s just me.

    This is what happens when you erroneously reformulate other people’s arguments as atheists do to satisfy themselves. The other side’s argument is not “We don’t know how/why this works/happens, so a mystical/divine/supernatural force must have been at work.”

    It is rather “We do know that this cannot happen by itself without a governing, organizing conscious intelligence. So that conscious intelligence whom we call God exists.”

  • 201. Anonymous  |  October 31, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    It is rather “We do know that this cannot happen by itself without a governing, organizing conscious intelligence. So that conscious intelligence whom we call God exists.”

    I’d love to see the back-up for this statement. Have any?

  • 202. Josh  |  November 1, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    “We do know that this cannot happen by itself without a governing, organizing conscious intelligence”

    “I’d love to see the back-up for this statement. Have any?”

    Yeah I want to see this backed up too. I suppose if we imagine ourselves as God then I can see this as being true, but I personally have too small of a brain and feel too inferior to imagine myself as God!

  • 203. Mehmed Mustafa  |  November 1, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Okay have a backup in the following essay. Something I wrote somewhere, maybe here, earlier and taken to my blog-like thing too.

    An unconscious, feelingless and purposeless nature cannot produce consciousness, love or meaning. And many people assume this nature to be the source of all existence. This belief is evidently false in rational terms alone. Let me try to explain a bit.

    Consciousness and meaningfulness is the most basic thing in existence. Actually existence becomes existence only through a conscious agent that is aware of himself/herself and the existence around him/her. In this context, claiming that this essential consciousness and sense of meaning do not belong to the origin of existence but is only an ephemeral byproduct of an eternal lack of consciousness and eternal lack of any sense of meaning is a total absurdity.

    Hence consciousness, love and meaning was at the origin and at the beginning of all existence. We call this original consciousness “God” in religious terminology. All in all, reason tells us that a conscious creator who consciously chose to create us and our universe is an evident reality.

  • 204. Josh  |  November 1, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Mehmed Mustafa –

    First of all I want to complement you on your writing style. You are extremely good.

    But I must confess that the reasoning contained in your essay seems like it could be self-defeating. You say:

    “Actually existence becomes existence only through a conscious agent that is aware of himself/herself and the existence around him/her.”

    If this is true, then God cannot be conscious unless there is something else in existence outside of God. This creates an infinite regress by begging the question “How, then, can God exist and be conscious?” Did God come into existence vai a conscious agent that is aware of himself? Where did that agent come into existence?

    It could, just perhaps, be that we cannot comprehend what actually lies beyond natural reality. If in order to define God we have to use our own understanding of the world then we limit our explanation of God to our own experience within this world. By doing this we effectively create a God of our own imagination.

    Let me know what you think.

  • 205. Mehmed Mustafa  |  November 2, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Before God created things, He was alone and was aware of Himself. Why would He need something else to be conscious of? He is the source and originator of all being other than Himself and is the ultimate reality (al-Haqq) Himself. He is enough for His own consciousness

    The importance of the reality of the great phenomenon of consciousness for us is essential. An unconscious universe cannot create a conscious being such as the human being. Therefore we understand that the originator of the human being, the other conscious beings and the unconscious things among which he/she lives is a conscious and consciousness-giving God.

    P.S. 1: Caution on the use of past tense in the first paragraph: Actually God is not limited by time and it is suggested by some scientists today that perhaps time did not exist before the moment of the big bang. And in an authentic “sacred hadith”, that is, a hadith in which God speaks but is not part of the Quran, God says that people should not swear at time when they are in distress because “I am Time” [Ana ad-dahr]. This does not mean that the concept of time is worshipped in Islam because no Islamic sect has ever drawn such a conclusion from that hadith. It has always been taken to mean a transcendental relationship between God and time, and especially God’s complete control over time.

    P.S. 2: For personal reasons and occupations I should give a break to posting comments on the internet. Plus I think I have already expressed my case well enough. It’s now time for you and myself to contemplate. Regards to you.

  • 206. rltjs  |  November 2, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    “it is suggested by some scientists today that perhaps time did not exist before the moment of the big bang.”

    Time did not exist at one time or at any time? Wow, I can break my head figuring that out but I’m sure I wont be able to get it. Why do some people speak that only themselves can comprehend.

  • 207. rltjs  |  November 2, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I mean, time was, is, and will always be there. matter cannot be created nor destroyed, remember? Matter has infinity of time behind and ahead of it. Time is infinite. no explanation. cannot be explained. mystery.

  • 208. rltjs  |  November 2, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    I think it is suggested there that some people have gone nuts trying to fathom the unfathomable – Time.

  • 209. Josh  |  November 2, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Before time. An oxymoron!

  • 210. rltjs  |  November 3, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    There is no such thing as “before time”. matter cannot be created nor destroyed, remember? It was always there. There is not even such thing as “before matter”. Many have gone nuts figuring that out. mystery.

    “before matter” means we have to redefine matter as something that CAN BE created but cannot be destroyed

  • 211. rltjs  |  November 3, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    It is the mysteries of Time and Matter that gave man the idea of GOD. Solve all mysteries and God is dead, finished.

  • 212. Rod J  |  November 4, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    We have something real we call Matter. Fact is, matter cannot be created therefore it has no beginning. Fact is, matter cannot be destroyed therefore it has no end. Matter is infinite and it occupies space. Man’s attempt to plot and measure the duration of matter is called time. Space, Time and Matter share the same fate (matter without time and space is nonsense) – and they are all INFINITE.

    10, 100, 1000, 100000000000000 trillions of years and more therefore won’t even qualify as dust in INFINITY of time. In fact man is nowhere in infinite time. He is 2008 years after Christ, in some billions of years of planet Earth, in infinite time that no one will be able to pinpoint when or where.

    Science has established that the Cosmos is not fixed. Things are all moving. And, indications point to everything in the cosmos as moving towards a point. And, the 1+2+3 of science point to a Big Bang comes a time. I did not say in the “end” but comes a time. Now the scientist said to have suggested that “perhaps time did not exist before the moment (time) of the big bang” is a fake. He does not understand what he is talking about. He forgot the irrefutable law of physics that matter cannot be created!

    Matter is infinite. And since time is infinite as matter, was he talking about the first bang or the second bang? Or, why can’t it be the 10000000th bang already that happened in infinite time? Matter is tossed out, they lost momentum, and they pulled themselves together, and get tossed all over again in space. After that, they pull themselves together again and guess what – my guess is another bang.

    But let’s go back to the word “beginning”. Beginning (and End) denotes Finite “Time”

    So, we have matter, space including time without beginning. That’s a fact. This cannot be, says man. Finite man sees everything as having a beginning and an end. If Albert Einstein is alive today maybe he’ll say “Go figure that out guys, but I have better things to do and I’m out of here.” Maybe he knew the answers but he’d rather keep them to himself in private. Maybe he hated to redefine matter as something that can be created. And when it can be created it can also be destroyed by who or what that created it! This would be incomprehensible to all his peers. A totally baseless theory!

    The subject matter is beyond things concrete and solid. Man in his search for truth has come to dead ends where he faced only fathomless mysteries. Man has been attempting to find answers to the fathomless.

    Welcome to the abstract world, a world of virtual reality, where everyone cannot be absolutely right, perhaps cannot be wrong. For or against any argument in here cannot be proven. It’s every man according to what he believes is rational, logical and sense without proof. People cannot even agree what they “saw”, or what to believe or not to believe in here.

    Anyway, I also have my beliefs and on top of them, I buy Georg Hegel – that only God knows himself. May I add to that, that only God has the sure truths because all by man (yours and mine included) in the spiritual dimension are just perceptions. Maybe I have other things to do, keep figuring, guys. Really. (Don’t fight over who is right about God, folks.)

  • 213. The Time Before Time « RLTJ’s Weblog  |  November 5, 2008 at 6:56 am

    [...] The Time Before Time Posted on November 5, 2008 by rltjs I had been into Religion lately and this caught my attention. [...]

  • 214. phillipwoodfin  |  May 23, 2010 at 12:37 am

    wow! thanks for posting this, i am not a minister, but your story is similar to what i feel i am experiencing now. I am not at a point where I can confidently say there is no god, but the fears of eternal torment, guilt, and never being good enough have faded.

  • 215. Quester  |  May 23, 2010 at 2:14 am

    Welsome, Phillip. Glad to hear you’re getting past your fears. Let us know if we can help.

  • 216. chichi  |  June 19, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    there is a God and Henis the owner of us all. rest your case joe

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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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