Finding Yourself After De-converting

February 2, 2009 at 3:59 am 141 comments

I have a confession to make. Despite the way I may sound confident after leaving the faith, I admit that being myself has been so difficult. It has taken about a year for me to see this, but this last year has been a massive realization that so much of how I thought about life was driven not by who I actually was but by who I felt expected to be as a ‘mature’ Christian.

Within the faith I feel there is a sub-class of the elite faithful. These are the individuals who are looked up to for advice and who in many ways drive the faith forward. In many ways I saw myself as one of these individuals within Christianity just a year ago. Was it arrogance? Probably. Was it accurate? I don’t know.

But I am just now discovering how it truly affected my thinking. This last summer as I was leaving the faith I can remember this sense of hurling over a cliff… as if my entire thought process about the world and life was being reinvented. Oddly I was the same person, but the way in which I thought about things was changing.

One area I have struggled with is the area of friendships. On the one hand, I love my old friends within the faith. On the other hand, I am finding that so many of my previous friendships just are not working the same way anymore. So many of those friendships were based on the faith itself – on discussions about Bible passages or prayer or accountability – that now I find I do not have much in common with those people. Furthermore I am finding that some of the friendship decisions I made within the faith were actually really poor, but I made them for ‘spiritual’ reasons. For example, there were friendships I started or kept going because I thought that the Lord wanted me to be a ministry to someone but if I had not been a Christian I probably would have stayed away. How damaging were some of these? It is hard to tell. And what about the good friendships I cleverly destroyed because I was trying to be spiritual and witness to someone? How many smart and helpful people avoided me because of my judgmental attitude and over-the-top witnessing?

To make matters more frustrating, I am discovering that there was a whole side of myself I had completely ignored as ‘carnal’ or ‘fleeting’ and had suppressed in many ways due to my faith. This primarily is in the area of sexuality, but even extends into the realm of hobbies. For example, I loved building computer games all through high school and even wanted to make a career of it but eventually abandoned that notion due to this feeling that the Lord would rather have me do something that would impact eternity more. Now that I am not a Christian, that old flame for building computer games is coming back.

Romantic relationships are equally as difficult. What do I want in a future long-term mate? As a Christian, the list generally extended only one line after Proverbs 31: “… and super hot.” But now that I am no longer a Christian, what am I looking for? Has my list of desirables changed much? On one hand, probably not. On the other, I am ironically more attracted to intelligent emotionally mature girls now that I am out of the faith than I was before. Within the faith I felt like it was somehow my prerogative to avoid certain types of girls and so that made them more desirable. I found myself attracted to the types of girls Christianity says you should not have simply because they were off limits. [It is ironic that the search word "pornography" is most prevalent in Utah, is it not?] Now that I can ‘have’ anyone I want, I am actually pretty confused about what I like in a partner. Oddly, I am finding that this is forcing a level of responsibility on me that somehow I expected the Lord just to work out when I was in the faith.

What a strange feeling. It is like I am becoming myself all over again. Is this just the post-college years, or is this a part of leaving the faith? I continually find myself revisiting old thought patterns I had suppressed for spiritual reasons, and finally being forced to address them in a serious fashion. It is like I am being forced to grow up in ways that my faith had allowed me to avoid. When in a cloistered environment, sheltered from the ‘world’, it is easy to avoid certain issues. They can either be categorized as temptations (and not to be thought about), secular (and to be fought against), or cares of the world (and we should just trust God that He will work them out). Faith had become my water cooler to avoid working hard in my life and taking responsibility for everything.

I was talking to a friend about this recently and we both agreed that while most parents probably hope that growing in ones faith will encourage maturity as one enters adulthood, we were discovering that it actually can have the exact opposite effect. Rather then taking intiative to find a career and settle down, one can just “trust the Lord” that it will all work out. Rather than working hard at being attractive to find a mate, one can actually do the opposite and avoid being attractive for fear of its carnality and assume that God will just plop someone into your life. Rather than thinking hard about issues like global warming, terrorism, the middle east conflict, euthanasia, abortion, homosexuality, politics, etc. – one can just accept all the faith based packaged conclusions that [insert denomination here] supports. Rather than seriously looking for solid friendships based on real mutual interests and hobbies that will advance one forward in life, one can just accept the crowd of friends provided by the local church or homeschool group because they agree on the same doctrinal issues – no matter how detrimental they may in actuality be.

I feel like leaving the faith is making me grow up a second time.

- Josh

Entry filed under: Josh. Tags: , , .

My journey into and, later, out of Christianity (Introduction) Finding home again after de-conversion

141 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Quester  |  February 2, 2009 at 4:24 am

    Good for you, Josh! Congratulations! I can relate so much to what you have shared here, especially in the first few paragraphs. There is so much I have done because a Christian should, or because I felt God desired it. Finding out who I am, or could be, has been exciting and scary.

    Best wishes.

  • 2. Eshu  |  February 2, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Thanks for your honest and insightful post. Good luck on continuing to find yourself. You’ve leapt the biggest hurdle already.

  • 3. writerdd  |  February 2, 2009 at 11:07 am

    It is like I am becoming myself all over again. Is this just the post-college years, or is this a part of leaving the faith?

    it is part of leaving faith behind. I went through exactly the same thing in my early 30s. I called it ” turning into myself”….

  • 4. fffearlesss  |  February 2, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I feel a lot of that too. In fact, we were just discussing this over on the forums. When I was a Christian, whenever I would find myself worrying about things like war, overpopulation, pollution, whatever, I was able to push it away saying, “Well, Jesus is going to come back way before that ever becomes a problem.” Now that I’ve de-converted, I am freaked the F*** out about it because I know, NOBODY is going to some down and clean this mess up. If we don’t grow up and do it ourselves, we are clearly screwed. Now we have to deal with these “bullies” (the ones in power) ourselves, since we can tell our Dad and trust that he’ll step in and deal with them. Growing up sucks sometimes.

  • 5. Not a Church Goer anymore  |  February 2, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Auesome story and I can relate. That’s the sting of religion; a controlling factor to drive you into one way of thinking. Many of us before we left the faith or were deep into the faith were being in a sense controled by the religion, the religion was actually thinking for us and not us thinking and growing for ourselves, but the human mind is always curious, and when you feed that curious beast you’ll begin to see the meat over the fat and your whole way of thinking will begin change; fortunately and unfortunately as you referenced in your post; its a process of renewal and finding your true self as referenced in some ot the Gnostic gospels, and Budah sayings. Continue the Journey brotha, but have fun while you do.

  • 6. SnugglyBuffalo  |  February 2, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I can identify with a lot of this. I still find myself wishing I could just “turn it over to God” sometimes.

    I used to lament this fact, but now I suppose I’m lucky that virtually all of my friends, including the religious, were met outside of church. None of my friendships were based on a common faith, and so losing that faith has had no real impact in this area of my life.

  • 7. AB  |  February 2, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I can soooo relate because that is where I am right now. I’ve come to realize that I don’t know what I want in just about any situation because I’ve always sought what God wants (either via supernatural direction itself or via the obligation to sacrifice my own desires to serve others). I’ve been in a funk for the last couple of months because I haven’t known what to do with myself now that I am no longer seeking that direction and therefore no longer have that affirmation. In some ways this is freeing because it removes the guilt of not measuring up but its also very hard in that I feel I’m totally starting from scratch.

    It was actually just last night that I clued in to how I now have the responsibility and the freedom to decide what I want. My satisfaction in life is not going to come from a deity saying ‘well done’ but from my fulfilment of my own goals. What do I want to accomplish with my life…what will I look back on as successful and satisfying? The words ‘I want’ tend to automatically connote selfishness, but I’m realizing that is not valid. For example, I enjoy bringing a smile to others’ faces. And doing that because its something I have acknowledged I want to do is actually far more satisfying that doing it because I feel I’m supposed to. In addition, I too am re-discovering old hobbies that I really enjoyed but set aside because they didn’t have enough perceived eternal significance.

    I’m beginning to reexamine every area of my life, ferretting out what my own interests, tastes, opinions and desires are. I’ve been stuck, frozen in time because of this whole deconversion process…but its time to start moving forward again. Time to find myself. Reading your post this morning was very affirming and encouraging. Thanks for sharing.

  • 8. LeoPardus  |  February 2, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Right on Josh. I found, even at my much later age, that leaving the faith made it easier to “be a good Christian”. Ironic that they very limitations we all try to force on ourselves in the name of the faith, were the very things that made real growth so damn difficult.

  • 9. writerdd  |  February 2, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Do you all think this is only true of fundamentalists/evangelicals (aka fanatics) or do people who follow liberal versions of religion have the same problems?

  • 10. TitforTat  |  February 2, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Josh

    I heard a good quote years ago, not sure where it comes from, but it may help you with some of the things your going through. I find it has helped me tremendously through the years. Hope it does the same for you.

    “Would the boy in you, like the man that you have become”

  • 11. orDover  |  February 2, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    I still find myself wishing I could just “turn it over to God” sometimes.

    Me too! All the time. It is without a doubt the one thing I miss most about being a Christian. I am suddenly 100% responsible for all my actions and choices. Recently my husband and I began very seriously discussing having a child in the near future. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like an impossible decision to make. No time will ever seem like the “right” time, because we’ll always be hoping for more money or a better house or a different situation in life. I wish so bad that I could just go off of my birth control and “leave it in the hands of God,” fully trusting that if this is the right time for us, he will allow us to become pregnant, and if it isn’t the right time, he’ll prevent it.

    But that’s avoidance, and it is immaturity. I want God to be able to make these difficult decisions for me. I don’t want to deal with them, and I especially don’t want to deal with the fear that I’ll have screwed them up. Before I knew that God couldn’t screw things up, so it seemed like the perfect solution to just opt myself out of the decision making process.

    I am the only one responsible for me. As Sartre said, I am condemned to be free.

  • 12. wowy  |  February 2, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    I can relate to so much that you’ve written here. It stirs up a lot in me.

    would it also be possible to have this attitude that Josh described (the attitude of taking responsibility, of embracing freedom, of being in touch with one’s own self and one’s own desires, of being authentic, of not avoiding decisions and choices) also be possible as a Christian? Or does it only make sense after leaving faith?

  • 13. orDover  |  February 2, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    would it also be possible to have this attitude that Josh described (the attitude of taking responsibility, of embracing freedom, of being in touch with one’s own self and one’s own desires, of being authentic, of not avoiding decisions and choices) also be possible as a Christian?

    Yes, I think it is completely possible. However, it is just so much easier as a Christian to rely on God, meaning to sit back and let him “make” your decisions, that even the best people might find themselves slipping into this pattern of avoidance.

  • 14. writerdd  |  February 2, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    There’s a great book called Decision Making and the Will of God that talks about this issue from the Christian perspective — how to make your own decisions without feeling guilty or feeling like you are not in “God’s perfect will”.

  • 15. the chaplain  |  February 3, 2009 at 12:20 am

    It is like I am becoming myself all over again. Is this just the post-college years, or is this a part of leaving the faith?

    Writerdd beat me to it, but it’s part of leaving faith behind even for people who go through it in their late 40s, as I did. Correction – I’m still doing it.

    Thanks for a nice post. I really like what you said about exploring parts of yourself that were off-limits before. I’m still doing that, too.

  • 16. Jeffrey  |  February 3, 2009 at 2:13 am

    Wow. Pretty much that entire post is me exactly. Especially:

    >Rather than working hard at being attractive to find a mate, one can actually do the opposite and avoid being attractive for fear of its carnality and assume that God will just plop someone into your life.

    That was actually a major factor in my loss of faith. As an observer, I understood how Christian relationships were supposed to work. But when it was me, I just couldn’t do it and feel right about it. It felt like functional atheism. So I yo-yoed back and forth between thinking rationally about girls and blowing all my chances by trying to follow God’s will.

    This wasn’t just an emotional crisis of needing emotional support and better circumstances, but an intellectual crisis of faith. The reason I needed support in the first place was because I keep making room for God and he keep on not filling the space. Why not?

    Eventually, I just stopped trying. I didn’t give up on God in the sense of trying to do it on my own. I just stopped. If he won’t tell me where to go, and if every time I move God doesn’t follow, then I’ll just sit here. One and only one bitter reality was being offered. I thought I was growing in my relationship with God and learning to trust him even when he wasn’t there. I was really preparing myself for the shock of deconversion.

  • 17. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    This post and these comments are why I like this site. Christianity does take the easy way out, and you guys point out exactly what Christianity ought to instead be doing. Josh is exactly right, Christianity as a whole sticks its head way down in the sand. For example, and I am currently arguing with my fundamentalist Nazarene pastor father on this, the church of my upbringing teaches of the evils of alcohol. Yet it completely ignores the evils of obesity. It further ignores the very strong cardioprotective effect of moderate alcohol consumption. When you look at the stats, far more people are dying each year of obestiy and its related diseases than are dying of alcohol consumption. Yet much of fundamentalist Christianity still adheres to alcohol as evil. Standing on that position is a refusal to look at the truth. And further, according to the NT, Christ even supported wine usage at a wedding. That is far from considering it evil.

    When I was a teenager, there was a denominational paper for youth produced that had a cartoon at the top showing a person sitting at the wheel of a car with their hands folded back behind their head giving the implication that God was driving. That bothered me then and still does. It is an obvious truth in the world that I believe God is responsible for creating that nothing improves without a great deal of work and struggle and often a fair amount of pain. Nowhere that I know of are believers in God excluded from that principle. You do not get something for nothing. And in fact, if you do get something for nothing (examples could be winning the lottery or being spoiled by rich parents or the magic “weight loss pill” for which everyone is looking), you often end up worse off than you originally were. I believe that God expects us to struggle and wrestle and question and doubt with him and that it is in the struggle and the tension that one finds God. Finding God is not in some systematic theological box. Believing in that fashion is childish and immature.

    I commend you men and women for displaying exactly that here on this site. It is why I check it nearly every day. We may disagree on the existence of God, but we are right in line on the way we ought to be living. Thanks.

  • 18. Derek  |  February 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Josh, like you I’ve always had lots of fun building computer games. And like you, I used to think I should do something pleasing to the Lord and wanted to go into music because I was pretty good at it, figured God had given me a gift and wanted me to use it for his glory and all that. Fortunately my mom pushed me into computer science, wanting ONE of her children to make lots of money :)

    This may be totally off topic but I’ve got over a decade of programming experience under my belt and have wanted to break into game development for years now. My plan has always been to build up a portfolio of open source games and use that to get my foot in the door at a real game company. Of course, in reality I have a slew of abandoned projects that I make headway into and then just lose focus on due to my normal work duties.

    Anyhow if you’re at all interested in talking about a partnership to help each other hammer out an open source game or six in our spare time, let me know and I’ll shoot you an email. Just a thought.

    OK, back to your regularly scheduled d-c comment posting ;-)

  • 19. finallyhappy  |  February 3, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    As I gradually let go of my idea of god, I expected to feel a complete and utter hopelessness. Having been taught all my life that life without god is misery, I expected as much, although I knew I still had to make that decision. Much to my pleasant surprise, quite the opposite happened. What I discovered (and am still discovering) is that my life has great opportunities–and I can no longer blame god or god’s will for what does or doesn’t happen in my life. At the end of the day, it’s up to me. It brings on a whole new energy for what my life can actually be and who I can actually help along the way. It’s a grand exploration into myself and just how much good I can do in this world of ours.
    I love Titfortat’s quote earlier about “would the boy you were…” I feel like I am finally becoming someone that “the girl I was” would enjoy being around. I’m sure she’s saying…”It’s about damn time!”

  • 20. Josh  |  February 3, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Hey everyone! Thanks for all of your kind comments. Glad I was able to post something many of you were able to connect with :)

    I think TitForTat’s quote is really good. Actually, its perfect. I keep thinking back to that first moment when I had a first introduction to Christianity. My mom gave me a child’s book about growing in a relationship with God. I still remember that sense of freedom, that thrill I had of just being me and that was all. At that moment I rejected the book and Christianity. I was happy to just enjoy life and be me.

    Now I am finding more and more that that exact same feeling is coming back again. So I do feel like the child in me is starting to really like the man I am becoming :) Its a wonderful feeling! Its like I’m finding the person I was always meant to be.

    Derek -

    We should definitely get together – if not just to exchange ideas. I’ve been tossing around ideas of developing games for the Google Android operating system. Contact me at g u i t a r s t r u m m r @ g m a i l . c o m.

  • 21. Kim Bach  |  February 3, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    I’ve been following you online, and it’s been interesting.

    Being from Denmark where we, generally, have a much more open Church, that – strangely enough – is also a Constitutional State Religion, I find it difficult to understand that you have leave Christianity alltogether, reading your this post made me understand why you had to do it.

    I haven’t really been that religious, but Christianity is hardwired into Danish culture, so despite The Danish People’s Church being open, doesn’t mean that I haven’t felt the heavy burden of living in shame that religion traditionally has perpetuated.

    Good luck with pursuing your passions, and the only thing in life that we can take for granted is that we only have this one life, so make the most of it.

  • 22. Finding home, again « de-conversion  |  February 3, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    [...] said my good-byes, and changed out of my clergy garb for the last time. Since then, I’ve learned some things similar to Josh’s experiences, though our roads have had some different [...]

  • 23. Who am I.  |  February 3, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
    Would care to know my name
    Would care to feel my hurt
    Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
    Would choose to light the way
    For my ever wandering he

    Not because of who I am
    But because of what You’ve done
    Not because of what I’ve done
    But because of who You are

    I am a flower quickly fading
    Here today and gone tomorrow
    A wave tossed in the ocean
    Vapor in the wind
    Still You hear me when I’m calling
    Lord, You catch me when I’m falling
    And You’ve told me who I am
    I am Yours, I am Yours

    Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
    Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
    Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
    Would call out through the rain
    And calm the storm in me

    I am Yours
    Whom shall I fear
    Whom shall I fear
    ‘Cause I am Yours
    I am Yours

  • 24. Josh  |  February 3, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    One of these is not like the other. Can you find it?

  • 25. Quester  |  February 4, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Wow. If I remember right, the last song posted randomly on here was Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.” It’s been a while.

  • 26. Josh  |  February 4, 2009 at 12:36 am

    Quester is right! That’s 500 points for Quester.

    Now for 1000 points, can anyone tell me how many angels were at the tomb when the women arrived?

    Haha.

  • 27. Quester  |  February 4, 2009 at 12:53 am

    Ha! Ouch, good one!

  • 28. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 4, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Can’t tell you that for sure. I think 2. But I can tell you that those lyrics are from the Christian group, Casting Crowns. Which is a dumb name. What does it mean any way? Reminds me of my mom telling me that heaven would be a place where we could join the “heavenly choir” which I think is just as stupid. I may still be a Christian but I have zero desire to cast any crowns, sit on some dumb cloud playing a harp, or sing in some dumb angel choir. My Christianity is just not like that, and I think this kind of crap is what makes Christianity look so stupid sometime to thinking people.

  • 29. BigHouse  |  February 4, 2009 at 10:11 am

    My Christianity is just not like that, and I think this kind of crap is what makes Christianity look so stupid sometime to thinking people.

    So what rennovations have you done to make it more thinking-person-friendly?

  • 30. LeoPardus  |  February 4, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Casting Crowns. Which is a dumb name. What does it mean any way?

    It’s derived from the book of Revelations, chapter 4, where the elders before the throne of God were casting their crowns down before the throne (that God was sitting on) as they worshipped. There’s a passage about casting crowns in the old him “Holy, Holy, Holy” too. ‘Tis a fairly common phrase/concept in fundy churches.

  • 31. Derek  |  February 4, 2009 at 11:41 am

    It’s derived from the book of Revelations, chapter 4, where the elders before the throne of God were casting their crowns down before the throne (that God was sitting on) as they worshipped. There’s a passage about casting crowns in the old him “Holy, Holy, Holy” too. ‘Tis a fairly common phrase/concept in fundy churches.

    Even as a Christian, it always struck me as odd that people would insist that the bulk of Revelation was allegorical, essentially referring to Nero’s inquisition and the destruction of Jerusalem, but encoded into metaphor so that it could be transmitted without suspicion, but suddenly when you got to the parts about the Dragon being thrown into Hell, actual descriptions of Heaven, the return and 1000-year reign of Christ, etc., suddenly those were actual, literal descriptions of things to come.

  • 32. LeoPardus  |  February 4, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    I think the book of Revelations was written by a long ago ancestor of Lewis Carroll. :)

  • 33. writerdd  |  February 4, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    John was stoned when he wrote Revelations.

  • 34. LeoPardus  |  February 4, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    So he WAS an ancestor of Lewis Carroll! :D

  • 35. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 4, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    “So what rennovations have you done to make it more thinking-person-friendly?” (Big House)

    I don’t think I claimed to be making any renovations. And certainly, I have no power to change the major Christian landscape. All I can account for is what I have done for myself personally. And those things are significant. I have broken away from my fundamentalist upbringing completely, left a huge “power church”, and attend a quiet little gathering of about 40 people that are not connected to any denomination. I have read Richard Dawkins and Antony Flew and NT Wright and Rob Bell and Paul Davies and Alister McGrath and Brian McClaren. I am currently re-reading the entire bible in an attempt to look at it differently than I was taught as a child and young adult. I have re-examined just about everything I believed in a spiritual sense and continue to do so and have thrown out old and tired answers like just needing more faith, just believing more, just trusting more, that are hollow and of little help with anything. I have withstood countless unkind and sometimes even malicious criticism from my fundamentalist head-in-the-sand family and friends who now think I am straight on the path to hell. The only thing I have not done is completely abandon Christianity. At this point, I do not see the need to do so. I disagree with many in the atheist community who on my reading believe that if something can’t be separated out from yourself and objectively studied, then it has no truth. I think that if I do that, I am closing myself off to some possible truths that are currently beyond our scientific ability to understand. I realize that there is a problem with why one then chooses Christianity over any other religion, and I don’t have a good answer for that yet, need to study and understand some of the other religions in greater depth, but, as I have said, do not see the need to abandon Christianity at this point. So while I cannot answer for all of Christianity, this is my own personal answer to your question. I apologize for spouting off a bit about the song lyrics, but when I see someone trivializing all that I have gone through in recent years by giving some canned, soft answer that is really unhelpful in response to difficult problems, a bit of a fight wells up within me.

  • 36. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 4, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    I imagine that many of this community on decon feel similarly when Christians come on this site and recite the same old tired answers that you all have heard all your life while thinking they are going to be the ones that say the magic thing that returns you to the faith. I think I can relate to that.

  • 37. Nivekfreeze  |  February 4, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    impressive, yet… how can you de-convert? either you have salvation, or you never did… which is it?

  • 38. LeoPardus  |  February 4, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Nivekfreeze gets today’s booby prize for pulling out a “convenient category” from his/her hat.

    Way to not think Nivek. :P

  • 39. BigHouse  |  February 4, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I don’t think I claimed to be making any renovations.

    You said you had made your own brand of Christianity that was devoid of the “kind of crap is (that) makes Christianity look so stupid sometime to thinking people.” Why won’t you share with it everyone else? You know, be a “fisher of men” and all..

  • 40. seth  |  February 4, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Hmm. This is very interesting. I share a lot of your ideas..we should chat it up sometime.

  • 41. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 4, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Big House. I disagree that I have claimed what you say. I think I have explained that I am tired of the same old same old, hollow answers to hard that mean essentially nothing. I have seen countless times on the decon site the same expression of frustration. I also understand that there is nothing I can tell you or any of the decon folks anything about Christianity that you have not already heard. I am not claiming some “new” Christianity, and in fact, most of what I am coming to have an interest in is actually a return to things that are much older, before the Enlightenment thinking crept into Christianity, which I also know that you guys and gals have also heard. I have no desire to be a “fisher of men” in the sense that I try to convince you that I hold some truth which is so special that you should want it too. You have already considered those things and found them lacking. Who am I to tell you otherwise? I appreciate the fact that you are trying to draw me out and get me to say all of those things you have already heard. I’m not going to fall for it though. :)

  • 42. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 4, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Of course I have a typo. “Questions” is supposed to fit in that nice little space after “hard.” Sorry.

  • 43. Josh  |  February 4, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    There is a “that’s what she said” somewhere in there, I just can’t find it. Haha.

    But in all seriousness, I am curious how God could allow people to discover the type of thinking that would lead to the enlightenment which would improve so many lives across the world and then allow that new thinking to actually turn people away from the very perspective which could save them?

    Thoughts?

  • 44. drdave  |  February 4, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Josh,

    Thank you for the long and wonderful story.

    I was born an atheist (we all are), and spent my childhood learning my parent’s version of Christianity. At 16, I realized in a clear, conscious manner, I was still an atheist.

    Later, I married a nice, radical Catholic lady, whom throughout my life I have encouraged to pursue her ambitions. After 40 years, we still get along. I am currently a bachelor, as she is off on a week long retreat, learning how to be silent. She returns Saturday, and we will both be happy for it.

    So, fret not about a mate. She will come along.

  • 45. Calvin  |  February 4, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    LeoPardus, I’m not sure that’s what Nivekfreeze meant by saying that. I think he’s just trying to figure out what is how can you turn your back on God if you’re actually a christian, probably meaning that you never were a christian. Or, most certainly, you’re still going to heaven when you die.

  • 46. orDover  |  February 5, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Right Calvin, that is only something that every other Christian tells us here. Who can ever really say if we were “true” Christians or not? We certainly thought we were. We believed as ardently as any Christian commentor here, at some point. The general idea put forward is that if you “truly know God” (whatever that means), the experience will be so glorious and self-evident that you will never doubt it. Well, we all felt that we knew God, and that he was self-evident to us. And then we opened our eyes a little wider and learned something about the world. Maybe we never really did experience God. Maybe YOU never really experience God. You don’t now that you are a “true” Christian any more than I knew. There’s no way any of us will ever be able to tell until we are dead and gone, so what is the point of theorizing who is “true” Christian and who isn’t?

  • 47. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 5, 2009 at 12:30 am

    “But in all seriousness, I am curious how God could allow people to discover the type of thinking that would lead to the enlightenment which would improve so many lives across the world and then allow that new thinking to actually turn people away from the very perspective which could save them?”

    I continually feel like you guys are all trying to get me to say what I know, which is what you already know, and then trap me somehow. But I guess that wouldn’t be the worst thing to ever happen to me. I’ll do the best I can without obviously walking into a trap. Josh asked for “thoughts” so here they are.

    I have for a long time thought that it can’t all be about jumping through a set of hoops, and if it is, then I don’t really want to be a part of that. Is God really just about us doing the right series of things, believing the right series of things, saying the right series of things. Most of Christianity today would have us believe that. They are all about getting individuals to conform to a set of beliefs and behaviors to then be included. If you don’t do along, then you are out and on your way to hell. It’s all just a big behavioral modification program where we fool ourselves into thinking we have God’s approval because we are going along with all the systems. This is what the enlightenment contributed to. If you want to call that the improvement of lives, then call it that. I call it self-deception.

    When I look at Christ in the NT, I don’t see someone who forced people into a large behavioral modification program. I see someone who accepted everyone accept the people who were forcing the behavioral modification program. Christ accepted all comers with open arms. He didn’t demand a certain way of thinking to first be included in his community of friends. The church seems to me to have it all backwards. We expect everyone to behave a certain way, believe a certain set of things, make a certain prayer, say a certain pledge, and then we include them. That’s not what I think God is about.

    Those are my thoughts. Now shoot holes in them.

  • 48. Ubi Dubium  |  February 5, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Whenever I read a christian commentator use the “not a true christian” accusation, I tend to think there must be some measure of fear behind it. If loss of faith could happen to the “Best Christians(TM) out there, what’s to say that it coudn’t happen to them as well? By simply denying that the de-cons ever were True Christians(TM) they can talk themselves into feeling safe from all of our scary ideas.

  • 49. Josh  |  February 5, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Ubi,

    I can agree from experience that is probably a part of it. Remember Templeton? I can remember the odd mixture of fear and intrigue as Christians would discuss him.

    But it is a different experience. Leaving the faith is probably similar to suffering the loss of a family member. Would anyone honestly want to walk into that situation?

    The frustration seems to come when those who have already left actually seem fine. And normal. And happy. How could someone leave the one thing that another person believes is bringing them complete happiness (their faith) and come out on the other side just as happy – or happier? The only way it makes sense is if the happiness if not coming from the faith they think it is. Which is evidence the other person is right. At least that is what always scared me when I first started reading things by atheists. How could they be so happy, and smart, and clear headed, and – confident? I think most Christians are not as confident in their faith as they wish they could be (which is why ‘doubt’ is such a big issue). I certainly never was. Ever.

    Then you see someone like Dawkins, or Hitchens, or Harris, or Flew, or Barker who seem completely oblivious to the Holy Spirit’s influence and Bible quoting and it makes one start to wonder…

  • 50. Calvin  |  February 5, 2009 at 1:26 am

    true christian I am… however, the fact that I am a true christian is not determined by my own “fuzzy” feeling… its determined in and of the fact that I choose to follow God, and choose to read the bible!

  • 51. Quester  |  February 5, 2009 at 1:38 am

    FSRT,

    Those are my thoughts. Now shoot holes in them.

    Bang, bang- one of the times you said “accept”, you meant “except”. *smirk* Okay, I’m done.

    Seriously, you seem to be trying to become a better person by following a certain understanding of Christ that can be derived from the Bible (it can also be denied by the Bible, but that’s half the fun of the Bible). You’re trying to avoid the easy answers without throwing out the vocabulary. It’s easy for someone who sees no evidence for God’s existence and contrary accounts of what He wants us to do to understand why, when you try to be the best person you can be using your own mind and experiences, you think of it as trying to do God’s will- but that’s your choice.

  • 52. Jeffrey  |  February 5, 2009 at 1:40 am

    According to that definition, all of us were true Christians…

  • 53. Josh  |  February 5, 2009 at 1:50 am

    Good point Jeffrey.

    Calvin, I couldn’t get past the irony between your name and your post. If the humor is intentional, well played :)

    Somehow that made my night.

  • 54. BigHouse  |  February 5, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Those are my thoughts. Now shoot holes in them.

    Free, you have quite the paramoid complex about your beliefs and what we may think of them. If oyu don’t want to suss them out here, fine, but then, why are you cutely dancing around your beliefs in your posts, only to get defensive when the curious minds here want to know more?

    In short, what are you trying to accomplish here? I am sincerely confused…

  • 55. Ubi Dubium  |  February 5, 2009 at 9:09 am

    The frustration seems to come when those who have already left actually seem fine. And normal. And happy. How could someone leave the one thing that another person believes is bringing them complete happiness (their faith) and come out on the other side just as happy – or happier? The only way it makes sense is if the happiness if not coming from the faith they think it is. Which is evidence the other person is right. At least that is what always scared me when I first started reading things by atheists. How could they be so happy, and smart, and clear headed, and – confident? I think most Christians are not as confident in their faith as they wish they could be (which is why ‘doubt’ is such a big issue).

    Very well put, Josh. I keep a file of well-written and thoughtful quotes about unbelief, and I will be adding this one to it. Thanks.

  • 56. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 5, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Big House. Sorry if you think I am defensive. That is not my tone. And my only purpose is enjoying the discussion and learning something about myself by having such a discussion with people who believe differently than me. Josh mentions a few comments up of the problem of doubt. I don’t see that as a problem at all. In fact, I think it is one of the strongest pieces of my faith. Doubt about what I believe causes me to explore more which then leads to me understanding more. Consequently, I am not at all concerned about what various decon regulars think about what I believe. What you interpret as defensiveness or fear is actually an attempt on my part to not rehash the same old stuff that you all have already considered. I doubt that I have much to say that you all would consider new or different. So why say it? But as I look back over my comments, I have been saying it in bits and pieces anyway, not cutely dancing around them. In the end the only thing I am trying to accomplish is enter into a discussion which we all hopefully learn something from.

  • 57. BigHouse  |  February 5, 2009 at 10:35 am

    In the end the only thing I am trying to accomplish is enter into a discussion which we all hopefully learn something from.

    Sounds good. I hope you find that, here. But it;s hard for us to learn something when you keep your stuff so close to the vest :-)

  • 58. Derek  |  February 5, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Josh — dropped you an email yesterday. Let me know if you got it.

  • 59. Josh  |  February 5, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Derek -

    Yep, got it

    FSRT -

    Well, I do see how we could appear to be trying to trap you. Some of it is probably unintentional on our (well, my) part.

    There is a sense of genuine curiosity I have about what you believe. At the same time there is a small part of me that doubts that you actually have a decent answer because it feels like you are dancing around the issue. So that is probably why you feel like I (at least) am trying to “trap” you. If you have found something wonderful that makes you feel happy… and it appears that someone else could potentially attack that very thing and remove your happiness… then that would definitely make you feel trapped. It is not my intention to attack you as a person or remove something that is making you happy. At all.

    We just all respect open discussion and the willingness to change ones mind. One cannot change their mind unless they are open enough about what they think to let it be critiqued. The best way to test an idea is to shoot it with everything that anyone can muster. Arguments. Bullets. Howitzers. If it survives then its a fucking brilliant idea. If it doesn’t, well, you don’t insist everyone use smaller guns – you just need a bigger idea.

  • 60. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 5, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Josh and Big House. Ok. I agree with you guys and am willing to summarize what I believe. I will try to be brief. I don’t know if this is exaclty on topic of the orignal post, but this is where we are so I will do it here. If there is a better place to carry on this piece of work, let me know and I will go there.

    A little background…I was raised in a family of Nazarene ministers which includes my dad, grandpa, uncle, cousin, brother-in-law, another cousin. People who are not ministers are employed by Nazarene institutions such as colleges and various churches as secretaries, professors, teachers. I am the alone outside the protection of the denomination. I work in the field of medicine and am completely outside of the Nazarene church.

    From way back into my teenage years I have felt like my faith in God really looked more and more like just a series of hoops to jump through. A series of steps to conformity to a way of belief. I was taught to believe in the trinity, creation science, the penal theory of atonement, the inerrancy of the bible, the bible as a handbook of truth for living, that we are just here waiting for heaven someday, that we could become perfect and sinless. After a couple of decades of believing that stuff and realizing that it doesn’t work out in real life, that really we are just fooling ourselves into thinking we are perfect and sinless if we are honest about it, that this system of belief was broken, I decided I had had enough and that I was going to reexamine my beliefs.

    I started with with Richard Dawkins and the God Delusion. To get both sides of the coin I then picked up CS Lewis and Mere Christianity. On the advice of a friend I then moved on to Brian McClaren and realized that there was a completely different way to look at Christianity than what I had been taught. I for example, did not ever realize that there were multiple other theories of atonement. I branched out into Rob Bell and NT Wright. To keep the other side of coin active I also read some of Antony Flew. So after all that, and my searching continues I might add, this is where I stand.

    I do see plenty of evidence that God exists and have outlined some of that on my blog. We can discuss that further here if you like. But suffice it to say that I have not seen anything that convinces me that he does not exist. I feel like many of you have come to the position for various reasons that because God can’t be proven to exist and can’t be objectively studied outside of one’s self, that to believe in him is irrational. And I understand how you can come to that position. But I think that if I am not willing to consider that there is truth which exists outside of the empiric, then I might be closing myself off from some important truths. So my belief in God continues.

    How one gets to Christianity then is a completely different set of decisions and one that I do not have a good answer for yet. But I am unwilling to say that I hold the only truth while everyone else who follows some other religious path is wrong. I am willing to at least consider that we all in the end may discover that we are all contemplating the same God in our various ways. Why I think that is a big conversation that I would be willing to get into also if anyone cares to discuss.

    So I really probably hold onto Christianity because that is what I have known and see no reason to abandon it although I don’t think about it in the same way as I once did. My Christian beliefs could be summarized as such: I don’t know that the idea of the trinity is all that important. It is a human convention. The important point is that God is about relationships. That is what the trinity is attempting to describe. And God wants a relationship with his creation which includes me. Second, God’s creation is not what he intended it to be. His relationship with it is broken. My Nazarene family of course calls that sin because Eve chose to eat an apple. There is much more in that story than what is on the surface with the apple. Genesis is a narrative that describes this broken relationship. Whether it is literal truth is not all that relevant. The idea behind it is what is most important. That idea is a broken relationship and how God starts to go about fixing it.

    Christ’s work then becomes about God redeeming his creation, all of it, not just people, to himself. It is God’s restoration process. He is working on it, and my part of the relationship is to join him in that work where I can. Christ was about grace and acceptance and inclusion. If he is my model, then this is what I am supposed to be about too. The Enlightenment brought in with it the idea that this world is evil and bad and that God in his heaven is pure and good. Under that way of thinking my work in life becomes avoiding sin. But if I instead believe that God still wants a relationship with his creation, all of it, then my work becomes about doing rather than about avoiding.

    As a side, I don’t think that God is able to be boxed inside some systematic theology. If he is, then he is not God. And when we box him in what we really have is an image that we have created of God. When we then worship that image, we are commiting idolatry. So I don’t think that the Bible is necessarily some manual that tells us all there is to know about God and how to, as my father-in-law would say, get to heaven. I think there is a part of God that is and will always be mysterious. And doubting and questioning and wondering and rethinking is all a part of getting to know God better. I have no problem with doubting. God is not threatened by my questions or my doubts.

    As a result of these changes, my friends have left me, my own father has labelled me as “unhinged,” I have been told that I am having a mid-life crisis, I have been told that I am “off the deep end,” I have been considered on the road to hell. But I can tell you that I feel I know what I believe better than at any other point in my life. I love this journey of questioning and discovering.

    In all honesty, it looks to me like many on the decon site have not been able to get away from their fundamentalist upbringing. You have not been able to allow yourself to consider that there may a different way to think about Christianity. That maybe we were taught some wrong stuff. It looks to me like many of you think that if you do that, then you don’t have Christianity anymore. I don’t feel that way about it. I instead have come to understand that I think I was thinking about it all wrong to begin with.

    That at least scratches the surface I think. Sorry for the lenghth and any typos that may be there.

  • 61. BigHouse  |  February 5, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks, free. I will ponder your post and perhaps post a reply later on. I will try to keep my gun holstered if I do :-)

  • 62. Anonymous  |  February 5, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Big House. Go ahead and blast. I agree with Josh’s refining process. Have never been fearful. Was just trying to be respectful. But since you guys asked me to open it up, let’s not waste it.

  • 63. orDover  |  February 5, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    In all honesty, it looks to me like many on the decon site have not been able to get away from their fundamentalist upbringing. You have not been able to allow yourself to consider that there may a different way to think about Christianity. That maybe we were taught some wrong stuff. It looks to me like many of you think that if you do that, then you don’t have Christianity anymore.

    Sorry to jump in the middle of this dialog, and I’m only speaking for myself here, not the other decons, but the problems I had that initially lead to my de-conversion had virtually nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with the concept of any deity at all. I didn’t de-convert because of the Problem of Evil or the confusion of the Trinity or the supposed methods of salvation or even the contradictions of the Bible. Even the most open and liberal form of Christianity, or even something like Deism won’t make a difference. The problem wasn’t with the doctrine, but what the doctrine (that goes for any doctrine of any religion) sought to support.

    I do see plenty of evidence that God exists… But suffice it to say that I have not seen anything that convinces me that he does not exist.

    I think that this is the fundamental difference between you and the majority of the de-cons, or at least between you and me.

    I feel like many of you have come to the position for various reasons that because God can’t be proven to exist and can’t be objectively studied outside of one’s self, that to believe in him is irrational.

    I think that is both a simplification and untrue. Again speaking for myself here, I actually believe that God can be proven. If he exists we should see proofs of it all around, from miracles to phenomena like answered prayers to “top-down” design in nature to radically changed lives of believers to historical verification of the events of the Bible. This is the major point of Dawkin’s The Gold Delusion, that God is a hypothesis which can indeed be proven. I didn’t stop believing because I realized through deep philosophical reflection that the question of God’s existence is fundamentally unanswerable. Ultimately it is because, as it has been said, one cannot prove a negative, but one can amass evidence that makes the negative more probable than the positive. That is why I don’t believe in the Christian God or any other conception of God at all.

    But I think that if I am not willing to consider that there is truth which exists outside of the empiric, then I might be closing myself off from some important truths. So my belief in God continues.

    The problem that I have with this sort of thinking, with accepting that there is something, anything, outside of what we consider to be reality, is where do you draw the line? You allow God to be a magical (meaning non-empiric) entity. What about ghosts? What about space aliens with invisibility technology? What about psychics? What about witches who can cast magic spells? What about faeries? What about Krishna? These things all share in common the fact that they are not supported by empirical evidence, and so they are all just as likely to be true as the other. Either life is what it appears to be, nothing but empirical reality, or the door is opened wide enough to admit every single form of superstition and magic every thought of by the human mind.

  • 64. writerdd  |  February 5, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    freestyleroadtrip, thanks for sharing. It’s great to see someone who is thoughtful about their faith. We don’t all have to end up at the same destination, but I think we all should be asking ourselves the hard questions and doing our best to find what answers we can. It’s sometimes hard to remember that people can look at the same evidence and information and come to different conclusions — and usually that’s OK.

  • 65. hambydammit  |  February 5, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    What a brave post. I’ve just discovered your blog, and am bookmarking it. For what it’s worth, I am also an ex-Christian, and have been for… I guess fifteen years now. I’ve been through a lot of what I’m seeing in your blogs, and my blog has a lot of articles about the science that helped me find meaning and happiness, and the things that helped me discover and remove many of the vestiges of religious thought from my own mind.

    I am always thrilled when I read thoughtful posts by people who are willing to speak plainly about leaving the faith. Thank you again.

    http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/

  • 66. SnugglyBuffalo  |  February 5, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I think orDover covered everything I felt like saying. I don’t believe in God, not because of problems with the fundamentalist Christianity I was raised in, but because of problems with any concept of a deity.

    I could believe in a liberal concept of God, but why should I? I could believe in a deist concept of God, but again, why? I don’t even find pantheism to be all that interesting. I simply see no reason to believe there is any kind of deity out there. So while I agree that there are other type of Christianity than what I was raised with, I still can’t get around the fact that they all believe in a deity that I, so far, can’t find any reason to believe in.

  • 67. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 5, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    “I think orDover covered everything I felt like saying. I don’t believe in God, not because of problems with the fundamentalist Christianity I was raised in, but because of problems with any concept of a deity.” (SnuggyBuffalo and by extension, orDover)

    I can certainly respect what you are saying here. It is certainly possible to look at the same evidence and come to the reasonable conclusion that God in fact does not exist. And I don’t have a problem with that and respect your position. I recognized that I generalize a bit when I try to describe the individuals on decon in a single sentence. Thanks for helping me see your position. One of the things that I see as a bit tragic is when people give up on faith because they got tired of trying to make all the pieces fit. More negative baggage from the Enlightenment thinking in my opinion is that Christianity tries to treat itself as science when it isn’t. The bible gets turned into a science text with every single word breathed straight from God himself and which contains all truth. Because of the inconsistencies that are rather obviously present, a bunch of mental and theological gymnastics come into play to smooth it all out into some rigid systematic theology. When someone disagrees, questions, challenges, or doubts, they are labeled as weak, heretical, and without faith. Such defensiveness and harshness really reveals fundamentalism for what it is, a house of cards. If someone even breaths hard the whole thing is libel to come down. Working to keep that kind of thing up becomes very burdensome. Eventually some, usually those who are not in positions of power but sometimes even them, get tired of keeping the cards all lined up and jumping through the right hoops over and over so they quit and end up throwing it all away. God, the bible, the whole lot. I consider that kind of thing spiritual abuse, and it saddens me. I know what it is like to live under that kind of pressure continually but have found my way out without abandoning God and faith altogether.

    “The problem that I have with this sort of thinking, with accepting that there is something, anything, outside of what we consider to be reality, is where do you draw the line” (orDover)

    I see your point, and it is well made. But rather than retreat altogether I think it is better to try and draw the line of which you speak. I have come to believe that there is probably a bit of truth in just about everything. There may only be a tiny bit, but there probably is some, and if I look hard enough I can probably find it. So I am willing to at least listen to most things. I would draw the line based on amount of evidence. I see significant evidence that God exists. I understand that you do not. I’m OK with that. I don’t see significant evidence for space aliens or witches that cast spells (that at least work). Most of the psychics material to which I have been exposed at least reveals it to be a sham in most cases. Faeries, well, I still try and convince my sons that the tooth faery is responsible for a lot. :) But I understand that you can look at the same evidence that I think supports God’s existence and say that it does not. So that line does come at a different place for all of us.

    “So while I agree that there are other type of Christianity than what I was raised with, I still can’t get around the fact that they all believe in a deity that I, so far, can’t find any reason to believe in.” (Snuggy)

    I would probably say somewhat the opposite. I can’t yet find any sufficient reason that convinces me not to believe in that deity. However, I have found a ton of reasons to get rid of the crap that filled my head about that deity.

    “We don’t all have to end up at the same destination, but I think we all should be asking ourselves the hard questions and doing our best to find what answers we can. It’s sometimes hard to remember that people can look at the same evidence and information and come to different conclusions — and usually that’s OK.” (writterdd)

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Very well said. I have tremendous respect for all of the decon people. You all believe what you believe for solid well-though out reasons. We may look at the same evidence and come to different and even opposing conclusions, but that does not mean that we can’t sit at the same table and drink a Jack and Coke.

  • 68. orDover  |  February 5, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    I would draw the line based on amount of evidence.

    Now I’m wondering how you decide what evidence is, if you except things outside of empiricism. You haven’t given your evidences for God, but you say you find evidence for him and not for witches and spells. Am I wrong to assume this evidence is subjective, that is, based on your own experiences (putting aside that you almost certainly agree with some of the most popular arguments for God like the anthropomorphic principle)? Then what do you have to say to people who experience witches? There was a news story recently of a school who expelled a 15 year old girl for casting a hex which they believed make one of the teachers sick. Those school administrators (who happen to also be Christians), believe they have experience witchcraft. Who is right, you are them? They believe they have evidence for witchcraft, so how does one go about analyzing that evidence and deciding if it is really evidence or not?

    I think to honestly deal with the problem of supposed supernatural events one has to rely on an agreed upon definition of evidence, to outline first what can count as evidence. Should anecdotal evidence count? Should personal experience count? Or should we all hold each other to a higher standard to facilitate and even-handed and intellectually honest search for the Truth?

  • 69. orDover  |  February 5, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Sorry, typo, except = accept. Damn homonyms.

  • 70. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 5, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    “I think to honestly deal with the problem of supposed supernatural events one has to rely on an agreed upon definition of evidence, to outline first what can count as evidence. Should anecdotal evidence count? Should personal experience count? Or should we all hold each other to a higher standard to facilitate and even-handed and intellectually honest search for the Truth?” (orDover)

    Great questions. The answers are not easy. In the name of being forthright, I will state the evidence that I believe points to God. You have named one, the anthropic principle. The other three are a common morality, the trouble with evolutionary naturalism, and the regularity of nature. I have blogged about each of these on my own blog. If you care to know what I think of these in detail, feel free to check them out there and comment either there or here. This is not an exhaustive list but are the things that I have put out for general consideration. I realize I have a bit of a problem or contradiction when I above talk about how the Enlightenment in some ways turns Christianity into a science and then use science to talk about why I think God exists. There is a tension there, and I am well aware of it. I don’t know that I have everything smoothed out as well as I would like, but in a sense if I do ever get it smoothed out, then I would find myself in a bit of a theological box, something which greatly bothers me. So I keep working through it.

    In answer to your question….I think that evidence has to be of the non-anecdotal or non-subjective type, the reason being that one’s personal anecdotal experience can always be used as the ultimate trump card which un-evens the playing field. I can always say that God told me this or that or I can always say that I know God exists because he talks to me or I can always say that I had a bad go of it because a witch cast a spell on me or etc. And what does anyone have to say about it? Not much. It ends the conversation in some respects. I have always hated it when spiritual leaders shut down my questions by resorting to such tactics. Its cheap and unhelpful.

    The thing about the four pieces I have laid out is that they are things that we all can look at outside of ourselves. They don’t rely on what somebody experienced. We can all sit and look at them together. We come to different conclusions, but it is not a he-said-she-said proposition. I believe we should hold each other to a higher standard. My personal experience of God means nothing to you. The Christian school administrators experiences of what they think are acts of witchcraft means nothing to me. The standard has to be higher.

  • 71. Anonymous  |  February 5, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Free,

    The others have responded in ways similar to how I would have, but I wanted to add another point.

    You keep saying that you “found know reason to give up Christianity altogehter”. To me this reads like you are still presupposing God exists, then looking for the evidence/support of that claim.

    For me, the big realization was that I was doing it backwards when I was a Christian: concluding first, then supporting the conclusion with what I could find.

    It should be the other way around, start from zero and see if you can find evidence to support a claim that God (or even more specifically, the Christian God) exists.

    Going in this direction, I found the Bible to be woefully inadequate as evidence. It was almost like in the Wizard of Oz when the man behind the curtain was revealed.

    If you see God in nature, I would just implore of you to actually look at it from all angles and see if it is indeed evidence of God or is it rationalization of an already pre-supposed God.

    Thanks again for opening up, hope I didn’t come across to “trappy” to get you here :-)

  • 72. BigHouse  |  February 5, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Above was me, forget I wasn’t logged in.

  • 73. Josh  |  February 5, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    orDover -

    “If he exists we should see proofs of it all around, from miracles to phenomena like answered prayers to “top-down” design in nature to radically changed lives of believers to historical verification of the events of the Bible.”

    Actually I’d have to disagree for myself on this one. This would be attune to anthropomorphizing god. It would be like saying “Well, if a God exists, He would be like us in this way, so we would expect to be able to predict these features in the universe.” [Lets say, for example, that miracles were commonplace. By being commonplace suddenly they would somehow be predictable. Predictability would not preclude the existence of a deity - it could be some other force in the universe as not yet discovered.] It would be projecting on God our best understanding of how we make things ‘work’ within the universe and then assuming that if he exists he would have made the universe work that exact same way – in our best interest. Why? Because we damn well would have wanted it that way.

    I am speaking generically about any god, although it appears you are specifically talking about the Christian God here. So I might be missing the point.

    As for proofs, I find it hard to imagine we would actually find any proofs at all. The only way one can have a proof of a god’s involvement would be if one received information about a restriction placed on this god so that we could accurately predict its behavior. For example, if humans received information that this god ‘could not’ design something that did not fit a certain pattern. Then if we found something that did not fit that certain pattern we could reject its existence.

    Ultimately if there is a god, there is no reason to say he would or would not ‘do’ anything in any particular way at all. The most accurate thing we could probably say would be “he is”. Even this would be sketchy because “is” implies existence and existence or non-existence is a concept found in our minds inside the universe. Beyond that we would be ascribing traits found within the universe as we know it (human traits) to a ‘thing’ that is ‘outside’ of the universe.

    So in conclusion, if a god ‘exists’, my guess is he could care less what we thought about him because everything we could think would be wrong anyway. A truly secure god would have as much respect for the thoughts of an atheist as he would for a theist. After all, he would somehow be in control of the molecules in our head anyway.

    Hell, why would a god want us to think certain things about it when it would be the very thing that ‘created’ our thoughts?

  • 74. Josh  |  February 5, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    And yes, orDover: Dam homonyms!
    :)

  • 75. orDover  |  February 5, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    BigHouse kind of covered the points I wanted to make above, but I’ll leave this comment anyway…

    I think that evidence has to be of the non-anecdotal or non-subjective type…The thing about the four pieces I have laid out is that they are things that we all can look at outside of ourselves. They don’t rely on what somebody experienced. We can all sit and look at them together. We come to different conclusions, but it is not a he-said-she-said proposition.

    I disagree with you that something like the anthropic principle. What you would consider the anthropic principle, something akin to the idea that the universe is perfectly suited for life, is something that I do not see. Usually people who come to that sort of conclusion when looking at nature have a priori assumptions that must be unpacked. They usually first assume that humans are special or the purpose for life, the apex of creation (even if they don’t believe in Adam). The second assumption is that the universe is the way it is for a reason. It’s been posted on here several times, but I suppose it’s worth posting again. There is a Douglas Adams quote which perfectly encapsulates these two forms of thought:

    “…imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

    To put it in my own words, some people look at the universe and say it is perfectly tuned for life. I, on the other hand, look at life and say that it is perfectly tuned to the universe. So the anthropic principle is rather subjective, in the sense both that not everyone agrees with it, but that some do not see it at all.

    Likewise common morality. I have argued on my personal blog in a few different post that absolute morality, or even concrete common morality, is largely an illusion facilitated by a series of very vague and subjective moral generalities. Where you see common morality, I see none (or rather a few unimpressive generalities that we also happen to share with apes and other animals). I’m not sure what you mean by “the trouble with evolutionary naturalism,” because as far as I am aware their are none. I’m also not clear about the concept of the “regularity of nature,” but that would seem to be another observation based on certain a priori assumptions. I fail to see how any of these proofs of the supernatural escape subjectivity.

  • 76. orDover  |  February 5, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I am speaking generically about any god, although it appears you are specifically talking about the Christian God here. So I might be missing the point.

    Yes, I was specifically talking about the Christian God or any other form of God that believers claim to understand some attributes of. Basically if you tell me that the Christian God violates nature to perform miracles, as most Christians will claim, then that is a testable hypothesis.

    If we are talking about a concept of God more akin to Deism then the rules change quite a bit and God becomes even more “we know not what” (to steal a phrase from LeoP). At that point then the question does become void and worthless, because if God merely conforms to nature and never allows its laws to be violated and never interacts personally with people there is no way to prove its existence just as there is no way to disprove it, and it doesn’t really matter either way.

  • 77. Josh  |  February 5, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    orDover -

    “because if God merely conforms to nature and never allows its laws to be violated and never interacts personally with people there is no way to prove its existence just as there is no way to disprove it, and it doesn’t really matter either way.”

    So then we agree? What a divine coincidence!

  • 78. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 5, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    “It should be the other way around, start from zero and see if you can find evidence to support a claim that God (or even more specifically, the Christian God) exists.” (Big House)

    That is a really nice idea. But in reality, for me and for others who were raised from the first minute of life to believe in God, it is impossible. There is no way any of us in those shoes can completely get rid of our bias. It is nice to think that it can be done, but it really can’t. I may very well be looking for evidence to support what I already believe in some respects. I am willing to give you that because it is impossible to get rid of that bias.

    “So in conclusion, if a god ‘exists’, my guess is he could care less what we thought about him because everything we could think would be wrong anyway. A truly secure god would have as much respect for the thoughts of an atheist as he would for a theist.” (Josh)

    I actually agree just about spot on with this statement. This is why I am on the path coming to believe that all of Christianity’s systematic theologies may be a bunch of junk. If it was all that important to have a particular set of hoops to jump through and believe this or that, I think God might have spelled it out a bit more clearly. In the end, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see all of us sitting around with God talking while the religious zealots fight it out somewhere else until they come to realize that their systems are not all that important.

    “So the anthropic principle is rather subjective, in the sense both that not everyone agrees with it, but that some do not see it at all.” (orDover)

    Ok. I would agree with you that the description as “anthropic principle” could be problematic. The term itself is biased towards seeing the world as you describe. But the equations and factors that come together to cause some to reach this conclusion are not fabricated. They are real. You may put them together and call it something else. But they still exist. The description of them together as the “anthropic principle” may be subjective, but the fact that they exist is not.

    On the common morality thing I have come since I wrote that post to describe it as a common human dignity. I think it is more descriptive and deals better with what you call “vague and subjective moral generalities.” The terminology, however, may not make much difference to you.

    On the trouble with evolutionary naturalism I will copy a section from my blog on this topic to help you understand what I mean: “Strict Evolutionary Naturalists such as Richard Dawkins propose that a belief in God is just a by-product of adaptive behaviors that were selected for because they offered a survival advantage. An example of this could be given as our early ancestors being more keenly aware of things that might jump out of the bush and devour them than others who were present at that time, maybe even so keenly aware that they sensed danger in the brush when it wasn’t there. Over time and cultural changes, this belief could then make us more likely to believe in something that wasn’t there. That thing could be God. I realize that this is an over-simplistic description of the actual arguments that have been presented by Dawkins and Dennet and Harris, but I think it describes the point.

    So if Natural Selection is all about survival advantage and not necessarily about what is reality, how can I completely trust the intellect and reasoning skills that it has handed down to me through the ages? If a belief such as that outlined above is accurate as it has been suggested to us, then we should have reason to question much of what we are because Natural Selection is not concerned about giving us beliefs and values and skills that are true but only that what offers a survival advantage.”

    I have no problem accepting evolution, natural selection, etc as forces that are active in nature. That is not what my post is about. It is about this one little part of evolutionary naturalism.

    “I fail to see how any of these proofs of the supernatural escape subjectivity.” (orDover)

    I guess I don’t understand why you think there is subjectivity. These are my interpretations of things that are in the world. Dawkins himself talks about all of them. And I would like to point out your use of the word “proofs.” I have never claimed to be able to prove God exists. I don’t think it can be proven either way. I make no claim to being able to prove that God exists. I only think his existence can be supported by these things.

  • 79. Josh  |  February 5, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    FSRT -

    “So if Natural Selection is all about survival advantage and not necessarily about what is reality, how can I completely trust the intellect and reasoning skills that it has handed down to me through the ages?”

    You can trust them because reasoning by definition is a set of mental tools that conform themselves to the reality outside of the mind. Get hit with a hammer, suddenly the mind reasons that hammers cause pain. See two objects and the mind reasons that there can be more than one. Be born with six fingers and the mind has no problem hooking up nerve endings.

    Our minds are molded by the universe, not built for it.

    Oh, and I just invented that definition on the spot, haha.

  • 80. Josh  |  February 5, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    “You can trust them because reasoning by definition is a set of mental tools that conform themselves to the reality outside of the mind.”

    should probably be

    You can trust them because reasoning by definition is a set of mental tools that are made to conform to the reality outside of the mental processes themselves.

    er… something like that…

  • 81. BigHouse  |  February 6, 2009 at 7:58 am

    That is a really nice idea. But in reality, for me and for others who were raised from the first minute of life to believe in God, it is impossible.

    This isn’t true and a lot of us on this blog are proof of that. Yes, it’s really hard, but it’s not impossible.

  • 82. Ubi Dubium  |  February 6, 2009 at 8:48 am

    So if Natural Selection is all about survival advantage and not necessarily about what is reality, how can I completely trust the intellect and reasoning skills that it has handed down to me through the ages?

    If intellect and reasoning skills that can produce correct answers confer a survival advantage, then that’s what will preferentially survive. For our distant ancestors, figuring out animal migration patterns, or when the mongongo nuts would ripen, was a crucial survival skill. Later, with the beginnings of agriculture, we had to be able to plan ahead, predict the seasons and seasonal weather patterns, and get it right, or risk crop failure. The skills of pattern recognition, analysis, and testing to be sure we have the right theory were vital. They got us through and helped us survive back then. I think we can rely on them now.

  • 83. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 6, 2009 at 9:32 am

    “This isn’t true and a lot of us on this blog are proof of that. Yes, it’s really hard, but it’s not impossible.” (BigHouse)

    We will have to differ on this one. Yes, it is impossible. I appreciate the fact that you think you and many others on decon think you have done this, re-examined the evidence without bias from the completely opposite end of the spectrum, but I maintain that it is impossible and that you have not. You may have gotten close, but you have not rid yourself of bias. That can’t be done. The bible writers had bias, medical researchers have bias, history writers have bias, teachers have bias, professors have bias, preachers have bias, etc. The question is how much have our various biases tainted what we do and say and think. Have they played such a large role as to invalidate the position upon which we stand?

  • 84. Ubi Dubium  |  February 6, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Freestyle -
    I’ll have to differ on the bias issue too. Yes, we are all full of biases, and no, we cannot rid ourselves of all of them, since there are so many we are not even really aware we have. But I think it is possible to rid yourself of a particular bias, once you are aware that you have it, and have decided that it should be discarded.

    I was raised, as you were, with the “god exists” bias. But for me it is long gone.

  • 85. BigHouse  |  February 6, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Agree with Ubi. Acknowledging your bias is a big step towards being able to analyze situations while minimizing or eliminating the bias AS IT APPLIES TO A PARTICULAR ANALYSIS.

  • 86. Anonymous  |  February 6, 2009 at 11:22 am

    I have no problem acknowledging bias. But it seems to me that it becomes a slippery slope very quickly. Even acknowledging your bias and working to minimize it is itself a bias, introducing new things to the scenario. There is no way to get completely away from it.

  • 87. BigHouse  |  February 6, 2009 at 11:31 am

    So, you are saying you choose to continue to use your bias proactively to avoid a slipper y slope in the opposite direction?

    To each his own I guess but that doesn’t sound to me like an earnest pursuit of truth.

  • 88. writerdd  |  February 6, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Interestingly, for me the whole topic of whether or not God exists is not that interesting any more. I just don’t care. I’ve finished my searching and agonizing over this years ago and I’ve moved on. I am completely at peace with my current state of unbelief.

    The only reason I am involved in writing on blogs like this is a) to help other people who are de-converting to overcome their fears and realize that everything will be OK and b) to promote the separation of church and state and to keep religion out of government.

  • 89. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 6, 2009 at 11:56 am

    “So, you are saying you choose to continue to use your bias proactively to avoid a slipper y slope in the opposite direction?

    To each his own I guess but that doesn’t sound to me like an earnest pursuit of truth.” (BigHouse)

    I am not at all saying that. You have claimed to have rid yourself of this “god exists” bias, to use Ubi Dubium’s words, and all I am saying is that while I admit that you and many others on decon have done significant work to minimize that bias, I doubt that it is ever possible to truly be free of any bias. Look at what writerdd has put just above, the topic is not even interesting to writerdd anymore. Writerdd has “finished searching and agonizing over this years ago.” Maybe writerdd has overcompensated for the “god exists.” Writerdd is not even considering it any more. But maybe not. It is hard to know. I seems to me that whenever a person arrives at a place where the search is over, the issue is resolved, there is no more to be considered, you are right back in the fundamentalist box, just in a different location.

  • 90. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 6, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Damn typos! I hate making them. Forgive me.

  • 91. writerdd  |  February 6, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I seems to me that whenever a person arrives at a place where the search is over, the issue is resolved, there is no more to be considered, you are right back in the fundamentalist box, just in a different location.

    Not at all. I am not saying that everyone or anyone else has to agree with me or that I am right and everyone else is wrong. I am not saying “you are either with me or against me” and I am not condemning those who come to other conclusions. Those are the hallmarks of fundamentalism.

    I have moved on. There is no need to keep hashing the same crap over and over and over again once you are comfortable that you have evaluated the evidence and come to a conclusion that you can live with. I think that is also a hallmark of fundamentalism. You are always concerned with the same few issues and you never move on to learn about other things.

  • 92. LeoPardus  |  February 6, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    “It should be the other way around, start from zero and see if you can find evidence to support a claim that God (or even more specifically, the Christian God) exists.” (Big House)
    That is a really nice idea. But in reality, for me and for others who were raised from the first minute of life to believe in God, it is impossible.

    I’m actually gonna jump on your wagon FSRT. If you’ve been raised with belief, it’s very difficult to shed it and look at the world without “god-colored glasses”. So I would say that what BigHouse recommends isn’t really necessary. I reexamined things from within a Christian belief framework. So did others here. The only requirement is to be willing to follow what you find (the data if you will) wherever it leads.

    I am on the path coming to believe that all of Christianity’s systematic theologies may be a bunch of junk.

    D’accord!

  • 93. BigHouse  |  February 6, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    and all I am saying is that while I admit that you and many others on decon have done significant work to minimize that bias, I doubt that it is ever possible to truly be free of any bias.

    And minimizing the bias is a worthwhile endeavor, rather than throwing up your hands and giving up because you don’t think you can ever eliminate it totally.

    And I think you overestimate the “stickiness” of this bias. I realized that I believed in God because I had been indoctrinated to, The “bias” I really learned to eliminate was that I didn’t “have to” believe in God. I have the power to evaluate evidence and come to my own conclusions. I don’t need to look for support of a faith handed to me by my family and church, lest I fall away and damn myself forever. It’s a lot different looking for God under those circumstances and where I am now.

  • 94. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 6, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Writerdd. Point taken. I also have no desire to condemn and do not expect everyone to agree with me. It is one of the great things of human relationships that we can examine the same evidence, the same information, and come to passionately different conclusions. As long as we are respecting each other for our differences, we are on the path to learning from each other.

    I can see how rehashing the same thing over and over could be considered fundamentalism. There is a small difference though I think. If one is rehashing for the purpose of convincing oneself that one’s particular ideas is true, then yes, I agree. But if one is re-examining for the purpose of trying to find areas to improve an idea or add to an idea, then I disagree. I do not want to ever be in a place where I am not willing to reconsider something and add to it or change it if need be. I agree LeoPardus and Socrates and CS Lewis and Antony Flew the one needs to be willing to follow the data “wherever it leads.”

    LeoPardus. Thanks for the support. I am trying my best to hold my own here. You guys are all very bright which is why I like to occassionally get involved here. It helps me get rid of whatever junk I may be hanging on to and refine my thoughts on all this stuff. Thanks also for copying that last little quote. I am glad I said it.

  • 95. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 6, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Again, damn typos. I need to proof before I hit submit. I vow to never again post a typo. We’ll see how long that lasts. :)

  • 96. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    “And minimizing the bias is a worthwhile endeavor, rather than throwing up your hands and giving up because you don’t think you can ever eliminate it totally.” (BigHouse)

    I agree spot on. You are right that I may also be overestimating the “sickiness.” I admit that I am only a couple of years into this journey of breaking away from fundamentalism whereas many of you are years further down this road. I actually have much to learn from you which is why I find myself hanging out here on a regular basis.

  • 97. BigHouse  |  February 6, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Free, I think the increased knowledge and perspective for both sides you sought to have in discussions like these are happeninh in spades. Kudos to you, it’s been helpful for me to flesh this out.

  • 98. Connie Nelson  |  February 6, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    I have just come across your site and felt I would share a bit of my story that is different, yet similar.
    I was not raised in any religion, but in my 20′s, I had a strong inner compulsion to read the Bible and upon reading it, experienced a shift in my soul. This brought me to a belief in GOD. I did end up in the “denominational scene” for about 20 years, tho I was not sold on what appeared to me to have much “exclusivism” in it. I ventured outside enough to be labeled as rebellious, yet stayed within what was called “christian”.
    Then in the last 10 years, another strong inner experience happened to me, that has been even more life changing. I began to experience GODS love toward me. I dont know how to describe it, other than to say I just knew for the first time in my life that GOD really loved me and it had nothing to do with what I did or didnt do,,,HE just loved me. That was healing to my heart and mind, big time!! I didnt know that I needed that healing so bad, but we are all in need of it I think. Just bieng human and living on this planet qualifies us for some healing touch.
    So now, in my 60th year on this blue ball, I am having a most freeing journey, as I read many of you are also.. We all see and live as we do, because of what we have experienced, and what can you do about that? My perspective is different now than it was years ago and I suspect that will change again.. this is the journey…and maybe the journey is what its all about… Just my limited perspective..

  • 99. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 6, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Connie. Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey. If you’ve looked a few comments up you will see where we talked about subjective and anecdotal experiences as evidence for God. Most here, including myself, would not say that it is proof of much, but the experiences you have had are very real to you, and I am glad that they have had significant meaning for you and brought about positive change. Certainly, we all do have things for which we need healing, and it appears you have found that for yourself. Thanks for sharing.

  • 100. Sarah  |  February 7, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Josh, the last paragraph of your post made me wonder (and maybe you’ve addressed it before in other posts): What do your parents think of your deconversion?

    My mom seems conflicted about the way she raised me. On the one hand, raising me with faith did teach me self-discipline, kindness towards others, patience and a whole lot of other positive traits (all of which could have been fostered w/out religion, but that’s a different issue I’m not going into right now…). On the other hand, the repression I experienced due to my faith has left me, like you, an adult who is now trying to “grow up.” My mom, who is barely a Christian now, doesn’t know how to feel about this all. I don’t think she can yet imagine having raised me without faith, but she also sees how it oppressed me and has resulted in lost time. I’ve tried to comfort her by explaining that she did exactly what a parent is supposed to do: raise their child to think critically and be able to make intentional, positive, responsible decisions about life.

  • 101. guitarstrummr  |  February 7, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Sarah -

    Things have been difficult, to say the least. On the one hand I know that my parents care about me, but I am finding it hard to be friends with them. My father still does not understand and makes almost no attempt to understand.

    Its been difficult.

    I know they still love me, but the way they express love: by praying for me, witnessing to me, offering “biblical advice” is just falling on deaf ears on my end. Honestly my mom has actually been doing a pretty good job of genuinely expressing care for me. I love her to death.

    I suppose we probably are both very very hurt. They are hurt that their attempts to show love are not appreciated in the way they like, and I am hurt that the one thing they could do to show love – listen to me – is the one thing they cannot do. Its like no one is at “fault”, per se. Its just difficult and hard to deal with.

    I’m sorry to hear about your mom. I would just continue to encourage her that it wasn’t her fault. I am really thankful for my mom as well. She taught me how to teach myself. I am thankful for my dad as well for teaching me how to think critically. He is really smart. It is just difficult for me now because in all honesty the things they taught me about common sense and being smart are the very things that eventually caused me to leave the faith they were also teaching me. I am sure it is equally difficult for them.

    I have been trying recently to restore a relationship with my father in particular – as a friend. I do care about him and we’ll just have to see how it works out :)

  • 102. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 7, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Josh. No rebuttal? You and BigHouse nearly dared me to “quit holding things close to my chest.” So I release them. I was expecting your bazooka. At this point, just as you were genuinely curious about what I believe, I am genuinely curious about what you think about what I believe. Give me a piece of your mind.

  • 103. BigHouse  |  February 7, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Alanis Morisette would find you amusing, Free :-)

  • 104. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 7, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Ahhh……Alanis. “Jagged Little Pill” was a great album.

  • 105. Josh  |  February 7, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    All righty then, FSRT. Just want to let you know since you took the time to open up I’m actually going to seriously consider your position :)

    “I feel like many of you have come to the position for various reasons that because God can’t be proven to exist and can’t be objectively studied outside of one’s self, that to believe in him is irrational.”

    It is certainly not irrational. It only becomes irrational when the definition one ascribes to God does not match the universe as we observe it.

    [Btw, I often capitalize God out of habit and out of respect for those who still believe. There is enough conflict between atheists and theists without insulting a theist for saying god.]

    Let me try to explain why I eventually rejected the notion of any God at all. When anyone makes a statement about God, they are ascribing characteristics to God. A characteristic determines action. So then, if one can say something about God, they can say something about what it would do.

    So then, it is one thing to say there is “evidence” for a god, it is another to say there is one God (as if the concept of numbers could be applied to anything outside the universe), quite another to say there is a God who is three-in-one, and quite another to say this God is a person (like us), and quite another to begin to ascribe strongly defined character traits to this God.

    As I considered the secular / scientific perspective I realized that any concept of God that man was bound to invent would reflect man’s best understanding of this universe. Humans know that we effect change in the universe, and so we would naturally begin to think that all changes in this universe that we cannot ascribe to human behavior must also come from a being “above” us. If a tree falls by itself when there is no wind – and no man touched it, then who touched it? Because there is no perceivable source of the fall, there must be an invisible being who caused the tree to fall.

    From here it was only a simple logical step to realize that as time progresses in mankind’s attempt to understand the universe, two things would happen. First, men’s collective societal understanding would increase. Men would not necessarily get “smarter”, they would just have more facts with which to deal. Second, as the forces of nature are discovered (like fungal rot which could cause a tree to fall) the being behind the mysterious forces would get more and more transcendent.

    At some point, God would be just like man. Move on farther and we would reach a point of absolute paradox. Because men cannot imagine motives other than human motives (love, anger, hate, jealousy, etc.) we cannot speak of God’s actions without speaking of them in terms of human motives. “God was angry”, “God was jealous”, “God loves us”, etc. Unfortunately this only works as long as the description of God actually matches the universe. Saying “God loves us” only works as long as there is nothing in the universe to contradict that claim.

    Eventually, God becomes the great incomprehensible collection of all mysteries. Undefinable, indeterminate, and absorbed into man’s collective understanding of all the forces that cause every change we see in the universe.

    So then, one can say that God is “behind” certain events (like 911, tsunamis, etc.). But then how does one explain God’s involvement in or allowance of the events of this universe without destroying all the characteristics ascribed to God in every form of Christianity?

    “How one gets to Christianity then is a completely different set of decisions and one that I do not have a good answer for yet.”

    This was my original attempt as I began to study apologetics. My goal was to start with no assumptions and then build up a case that lead to Christianity. I could not do it. I tried desperately for a year and a half and completely and utterly failed. I have a 115 page book I was writing when I failed this process. If you ever wish to read it, I would love to send it to you.

    It seems to me that you are starting in your heart with your conclusion and then trying to figure out how to get there in your mind. This is similar to what I was trying to do, if I am not mistaken.

    As regards the anthropic principle. I must confess I do not find much here that has not already been said. The puddle fits the hole, not the other way around. Humans fit the world, not the other way around. It is just a lot more fun to think the world was made for us :)

    “The important point is that God is about relationships. That is what the trinity is attempting to describe. And God wants a relationship with his creation which includes me. Second, God’s creation is not what he intended it to be. His relationship with it is broken… That idea is a broken relationship and how God starts to go about fixing it.”

    This is actually an intriguing idea. If true, it would mean that God is in a continual correlative time-based process of renewal of all things. Pulling them back into himself, so to speak. Its an intriguing idea.

    Only two questions:

    1) Is this what the Bible has ever said?
    2) is it true?

    If men continually reinvent their deities based on the things they experience in this world, what separates what you believe from the thousands of other man-made inventions about deities?

    “In all honesty, it looks to me like many on the decon site have not been able to get away from their fundamentalist upbringing. You have not been able to allow yourself to consider that there may a different way to think about Christianity. That maybe we were taught some wrong stuff. It looks to me like many of you think that if you do that, then you don’t have Christianity anymore. I don’t feel that way about it. I instead have come to understand that I think I was thinking about it all wrong to begin with.”

    This is actually probably true to some extent. I think for me it comes down to this:

    Did Jesus actually rise from the dead?

    If not, then no amount of rehashing of the Christian narrative will get someone any closer to the truth. Sure, someone may be able to continually rehash it until they come up with a theory for which there is no contradiction in the universe as it is observed. At this point the person will be at peace, but this may simply mean that the person has invented a theory that really is saying nothing at all and might as well be discarded.

    The way I view psychology is this: men seek continually to conform their beliefs to what they find in their experience. A person is at peace as long as their beliefs are not contradicted by anything in their experience. So then, if a person can invent a description of a deity that is never contradicted by their experience, that person will be at peace. This is why, in my opinion, as people “mature” in the faith they generally either grow more liberal in their faith or they simply reduce the number of hills they die on. The former reformulate their beliefs. The latter just don’t bring their beliefs up.

    I am not interested in whether a belief system works, I am interested in whether it is true or not. This is because I start with the assumption that the most effective belief system is the one that is true. Yes Christianity can be viewed in such a way that it is not contradicted by what we observe in the universe… but is it true or just an invention?

    As I was becoming more and more liberal in my faith last year I realized something. Atheism attacks religion by claiming religion makes stuff up. So then, as I left the faith I damn well better not be making anything up or I was claiming to have discovered something no other Christian in the past truly understood and was also doing exactly what atheism blames religion for. If the faith was handed to the early church fathers “once for all”, then anything I discovered must:

    a) Conform to the apostles
    b) Not be my own invention

    Does your view fit these two items?

  • 106. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 8, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Josh. Thanks for the detailed and respectful response. I am working on my reply. Am working this weekend so it may be a bit before I get something up, but I will. I want to continue this conversation. By the way, I think I am remembering right that you are from Kansas. Me to. Live here now. Doug (FSRT)

  • 107. Josh  |  February 8, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    fSRT -

    Do we know each other? That would be weird. And cool.

  • 108. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 8, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Josh,

    I don’t believe that we know each other. I wasn’t born and raised here. Just ended up here because my dad pastored a church out west in Garden City. Met my wife while in college and finished schooling at KU. Now live in Andover.

    Second, yes, please send me your unfinished book. I would love to pour over it. Have wanted to write a book myself for a long time, but just don’t know what it would be about. It’s strange to have a strong desire to do something but then not know the slightest about what it should be. I’ll keep searching.

    Now to my response. You covered a lot of ground, and I am not sure where to start. Let me first try to summarize what you have said about God to make certain I have the proper understanding of your thoughts. If I don’t then all that follows may have to be reworked to some extent.

    I think you are in essence saying that as mankind understands more about itself and the universe in which we find ourselves, less and less becomes attributable to God’s supernatural ability to act. Eventually what we are left with is just saying that God is some mysterious thing beyond which we can comprehend. Up until that point, we look at God much as we look at ourselves and assign human qualities to him. As we learn more and understand more he still retains some of those human qualities, but we push him into the unable to understand category in order to keep our belief in God intact. Christianity then is exactly what you expect if mankind was creating a religion on its own. No divine intervention necessary. That is at least what I got out of your comment after printing it off and reading it several times.

    I would have to say that your process here makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t, however, prove that Christianity is not true. I will admit that is does cast a certain amount of doubt.

    That being said and looking at your comments about your attempts to start at zero and build up a case for Christianity, I have come to look at apologetics as somewhat misguided. Generally, it starts in the wrong place. It takes the bible and Christianity and tries to look at it the way a scientist looks at nature. It tries to take evidence and prove God and Christianity as scientific fact, which at the same time says that other religions are not fact, with the conclusion that you can’t then refuse it. The problem with this is that the bible is not that kind of book. It is not a science text. It is not a fact book. It is a narrative describing God’s involvement in the world and in humanity. Hell, a bunch of dudes in the 3rd and 4th centuries had to vote to decide what was going to be in it. If what’s in it was so super crucial to God, he might have gone to greater lengths to get it set up a bit better. But it is not a fact book. It is a book about how various people and peoples through history have experienced God. And it itself is full of the bias of the writers. I don’t think it is meant to be an infallible book of facts. To make it a fact book is to misuse it. Looking at the bible this way did not really come about until the Enlightenment was in full swing, and this fact book view is what has led to much of the systematic fundamental theologies which place God in a nice little pretty box, all figured out and neat without any inconsistencies as long as you adhere to the strict line of thought. You say this a person can be a peace when they find a way to look at their Christianity this way. I think that is a false peace. If God had wanted to be put in a box, he would have defined the edges of the box more clearly.

    I agree with you about men reinventing their deities. That can’t happen and it be truth. And I like you agree that what is important is not whether a belief system works or not but whether or not it is the truth. Who cares where a belief system gets you if you are lying to yourself to get there. I don’t want any part of that kind of thing any more than you do. If you can re-invent your God, then you don’t have the truth. I don’t think I am doing that.

    One writer who has done a great deal to help me see that maybe the bible and theologies and such have been distorted to a significant degree is NT Wright. Maybe you know of him or not. I really think he has some good stuff to say and that he is pretty spot on. Some would say that he is a premier NT scholar, but what he says does kind of turn today’s fundamentalism on its head so he is strongly criticized too. I understand that the ideas he has about Christianity are not so much new as they are a return to what the church, especially more orthodox groups, have believed for centuries. So he is not inventing something new about God.

    This idea of God redeeming his creation to himself in a continual coming of his kingdom that began with Christ is from him. His book, Surprised By Hope, pretty much lays this out, and I think it makes a lot of sense. He heavily references NT scripture as he discusses the return to this interpretation and how the Reformation and Enlightenment worked in some ways to bring wide spread misconceptions into mainstream Christianity. To quote him on page 204 of stated text: “…when we reintegrate what should never have been separated-the kingdom-inaugurating public work of Jesus and his redemptive death and resurrection-we find that the gospels tell a different story. It isn’t just a story of some splendid and exciting social work with an unhappy ending. Nor is it just a story of an atoning death with an extended introduction. It is something much bigger than the sum of those two diminished perspectives. It is the story of God’s kingdom being launched on earth as in heaven, generating a new state of affairs in which the power of evil has been decisively defeated, the new creation has been decisively launched, and Jesus’s followers have been commissioned and equipped to put that victory and that inaugurated new world into practice. Atonement, redemption, and salvation are what happen on the way because engaging in this work demands that people themselves be rescued…” Continuing on page 211, “ To put it bluntly, creation is to be redeemed: that is, space is to be redeemed, time is to be redeemed, and matter is to be redeemed. God said ‘very good’ over his space-time-and-matter creation, and though the redeeming of this world from its present corruption…”

    I apologize for just putting in pieces of the whole, but there is not space to put more. I know you understand that, and I am not trying to manipulate what NT Wright is saying. As I have understood him, this is his message and interpretation of scripture, especially the New Testament, and it is not some new invention. In a way it could be said that the current misconceptions are the new invention and NT Wright is returning to what was before. I tend to agree with him. It works without twisting things around. It works without laying out a bunch of hoops to jump through (I am thinking of things like “the sinners prayer” and “entire sanctification” and “spiritual laws” and “the trinity” and blah blah blay). All those things are human conventions to try and explain various characteristics of God, and if they were all that important I think God would have been a great deal more damn clear about them.

    On the anthropic principle thing…I agree to some extent. Our universe is shaped for life and here we are. Sure. But that still does not address the why behind that shape. Multiverse theory is a why and not any more provable than God. I think the puddle comparison is good but avoids the real question.

    I agree with you on the resurrection. If Christ was not raised, then it doesn’t matter one lick. And I do not deny that I may be in fact trying to find evidence in my head for what is in my heart. That is my bias. But I am trying to be as open-minded on this search as I know how to be. Hence, I am spending a bunch of time on the decon site, testing my beliefs. Seeing what holds up under pressure.

    So to answer your final two questions…I think the faith that I am exploring with the help of NT Wright does in fact conform to what the first apostles believed. He is an authority on Paul and goes to great lengths to show these beliefs in Paul’s writings. And second, it certainly is not my invention. I understand it to be centuries old and still existing in more orthodox factions of Christianity. It is helping me get away from fundamentalism and retain my belief in God.

    Sorry for the length.

  • 109. TitforTat  |  February 8, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    I agree with you on the resurrection. If Christ was not raised, then it doesn’t matter one lick. And I do not deny that I may be in fact trying to find evidence in my head for what is in my heart. That is my bias.(freestyle)

    Im curious why you have a bias “for” Jesus and his resurrection? Other than what you have been taught, how do you come to the conclusion that we need a saviour?

  • 110. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 8, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    John. That is a great question. And a tough one. I know that I am biased and that Josh is right in his evaluation of me here. I can only say that it has been part of who I am for 40 years. I was born on a Friday and in church on Sunday. It is very hard to get a bias for God’s existence and for Christ on the cross, out of my head or probably more accurate, my heart. It has been amazing to hear Yael say as a Jew that she has no need for Christ. Discussing that with her has been good for me. When I finally saw that the systematic theology all around me was broken and didn’t work and didn’t fit together really all that well, I began to pull myself out of it. It at times has been gut wrenching and traumatic, and most of my friends have left me for it. I have broken free and this is where I am at.

    I don’t know that I would any longer see Jesus so much as a savior as I see him as a restorer. He is a living and breathing manifestation of God restoring his creation, all of it, to what he originally intended it to be. And I am damn close to thinking that this includes everyone whether they have jumped through the classic sinners prayer hoop or not.

  • 111. TitforTat  |  February 9, 2009 at 12:15 am

    He is a living and breathing manifestation of God restoring his creation, all of it, to what he originally intended it to be(doug)

    Maybe one day you’ll get to the point of accepting that this is the way it was intended. Who knows eh.

  • [...] 7, 2009 This post is somewhat of an addendum to my previous post. In my previous post I discussed how I was beginning to realize just what being an “elite” Christian had [...]

  • 113. guitarstrummr  |  February 9, 2009 at 2:05 am

    “I think you are in essence saying that as mankind understands more about itself and the universe in which we find ourselves, less and less becomes attributable to God’s supernatural ability to act.”

    No, no, no. Well, sortof. You’re really close :)

    Here’s what I am saying (sorry more thoughts….)

    Lets begin with the assumption that Christianity is the only viable religious monotheistic option for the sake of discussion.

    Given all the evidence, Christianity appears unclear.

    So then, Christianity:

    a) Is invented by man
    b) God is a poor communicator
    c) God only effectively communicates with a select few

    [I can't think of any other options here]

    If (a), then I feel I can dismiss Christianity
    If (b), why should I trust God?
    If (c), my searching is vain

    All Christian theology that I can think of falls into the category of assuming (a) is false and then trying desperately to account for (or “wrestle” with) (b) and (c).

    To resolve (b), Christians usually say that it is not God who is the poor communicator, it is men who are poor listeners. Every resolution of this issue I know can be explained by the statement: those who seek God properly will act in a way determined by those who have already arrived. In other words, the correctness of ones seeking can only be determined by those who say to do the seeking. Accurate results are determined by the ones who are already in the sect and therefore demonstrate that (a) is true or that (c) is true.

    If Christianity is true, (c) is the only option left.

    To resolve (c), Christians usually say that men can only seek God if God chooses them. How does one know if God has chosen them? The ones God has chosen are those who act in a way determined by those who are claiming to have already been chosen. But how can one know if those who say they have been chosen actually are? This is either unclear or determined by behavior chosen by the religions founders. Since (b) cannot be true, this demonstrates (a) is true.

    Let me know if I missed something :)

  • 114. Quester  |  February 9, 2009 at 2:48 am

    FSRT,

    Now, I’ve only read one book by NT Wright and can’t say I was particularly impressed, but what you describe is not very different from the thoughts of certain theologians over the centuries. You can read Athanasius’ On the Incarnation (from the early 300′s AD) on the Internet, and you might find the ideas rather complementary.

    My question to you is, how can you tell whether or not you are inventing your god? Not by yourself, sure, you have help from scriptures and scholars, but still, how do you know it is not invented?

    Let me elabourate: when you look at the world, what signs do you see that “the power of evil has been decisively defeated”, “the new creation has been decisively launched”, and “Jesus’s followers have been… equipped to put that victory and that inaugurated new world into practice”? Do you see any evidence that undermines or contradicts these ideas?

    You judge that Wright “makes a lot of sense”, but what do you compare his words to in order to see if they make sense? The Bible may not be a book of fact, nor God in a box, but if we cannot look at the world and derive a consistant (if incomplete) picture of God’s character and will, how can we conclude anything other than ‘our understanding of God is our invention’?

    And if our understanding is an invention, in what way can we relate to the truth of what or who God is or isn’t?

  • 115. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 9, 2009 at 9:30 am

    “but what you describe is not very different from the thoughts of certain theologians over the centuries” (Quester)

    Part of my point to Josh. I am not inventing my own thing.

    “My question to you is, how can you tell whether or not you are inventing your god” (Quester)

    To be honest, I don’t know that, and I struggle with the evil that does not seem to be decisively defeated. I do see evidence that seems to contradict.

    What I feel I default to is that I have to believe something. I can’t believe nothing. I either have to believe God is true or that he is not true. I have to have some system of thought. I can’t just be blank. So I hold on to what has been this part of my life and keep searching. But I can’t say with certainty that this system is any better than any other (atheism, Taoism, Judaism, Buddhism, etc). It is just what I know.

    How’s that for being honest?

  • 116. BigHouse  |  February 9, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Very honest and helpful to the discussion, thanks.

    I either have to believe God is true or that he is not true.

    Just because God exsiting is binary doesn’t mean it’s a 50/50 shot that he exists.

    I have to have some system of thought. I can’t just be blank. So I hold on to what has been this part of my life and keep searching.

    Here it might be helpful to you to take the reasons why you reject Buddhism, Jainsim, Islam, etc and turn those against Christianity and see how it performs. This was very enlightening to me.

  • 117. TitforTat  |  February 9, 2009 at 10:32 am

    How’s that for being honest?(doug)

    Very honest……….I wonder, is it possible to have a creator/god and not have to know what it is. Can you make meaning from your existence with that mystery? I believe in a creator, I just dont have any clue what it is. So my relation to it, is through the creation. And there is enough learning in that to keep me busy for a lifetime. ;)

  • 118. writerdd  |  February 9, 2009 at 11:36 am

    sounds to me like freestyleroadtrip believes in belief more than he actually believes in any particular god or faith tradition.

  • 119. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 9, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    I am surprised by what I am experiencing today since my last statement a couple of hours ago. I have a profound sense of loss. Almost agonizing loss. Loss that I have never felt. I am not sure why it is there. I find I am near tears. I did not expect this.

  • 120. Josh  |  February 9, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    FSRT -

    I’m not sure what to say.

    I’m sorry for what you are experiencing. You are not alone in the least. I actually think I know what you are talking about, I felt it for the first time a year ago, if I am not mistaken.

    If I remember, I’ll try to find you the journal entry where I posted a very similar feeling almost one year ago.

    Please stay in touch.

  • 121. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Josh. I’ll stay in touch. Many of my friends and all of my family other than my wife would say in response to this experience that this is what I should expect when I hang out with the decon people. That just isn’t helpful and is rather shaming and judgmental. Rather unChristian actually.

    I don’t know what to say or think either. I don’t know if I have let go of something to which I was clinging for dear life and feel loss over that. I don’t know if I am understanding something better. I don’t know if I just feel like the fight is futile. I just don’t know. I think I do feel afraid. Of what I am not sure. This is a strange day.

  • 122. TitforTat  |  February 9, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    FSRT

    My wife has the perfect word for it. “Metamorphosis”. Of course that would be unsettling for anyone. Im sure most people on here know exactly what youre feeling. I think youre in good hands. :)

  • 123. Quester  |  February 9, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    FSRT,

    Part of my point to Josh. I am not inventing my own thing.

    Er, yes. Sorry if I was unclear. I was trying to agree with you and support what you were saying, there.

    What I feel I default to is that I have to believe something. I can’t believe nothing. I either have to believe God is true or that he is not true. I have to have some system of thought. I can’t just be blank.

    I hear you. That’s sort of what my Finding Home, Again post was about. I can’t seem to stop on “no god”. I feel I have to move to “then what else”.

    I have a profound sense of loss. Almost agonizing loss. Loss that I have never felt. I am not sure why it is there. I find I am near tears. I did not expect this.

    I don’t know what to say or think either. I don’t know if I have let go of something to which I was clinging for dear life and feel loss over that. I don’t know if I am understanding something better. I don’t know if I just feel like the fight is futile. I just don’t know. I think I do feel afraid. Of what I am not sure. This is a strange day.

    Thank-you for your honesty. I can empathize with pain and loss accompanying integrity and honesty. Let us know if we can help you somehow. You may be undergoing something similar to what we have, or maybe something quite different. Either way, having somewhere to share what you’re going through can help.

  • 124. Josh  |  February 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    “Let us know if we can help you somehow. You may be undergoing something similar to what we have, or maybe something quite different. Either way, having somewhere to share what you’re going through can help.”

    Completely agreed, we are not insinuating (well, I can speak for myself) that you are going “anywhere” in particular, just that we do understand and connect with what you are experiencing. The odd sense of loss, of confusion, of feeling a sense of growth and at the same time pain of loss. The sudden fear of how one will express all this to close friends and family.

    Melancholy desperation. Things will get better :)

  • 125. SnugglyBuffalo  |  February 9, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Whether it’s similar or completely different from what many of us went through, FSRT, we’re here for ya.

  • 126. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 9, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Thanks to everyone. I had a thought as I was reading these gracious comments that this is the way church ought to be. I left a fundamentalist large power church because it was exclusive and everybody was fake nearly all the time. I went to a smaller church that is much more inclusive, but there is still fakeness. Nobody is willing to be broken. It is so ironic that the very place that ought to accept everyone, a church based on the example of Christ in the NT, is the place where only a select few can be accepted. That is wacked out. It’s not a new revelation for me, but this is a new experience for me, being accepted by non-Christians. I really understand a huge bit of Josh’s most recent post about the exclusivity and judgmentalism that he has experienced from his former Christian community and the way he acted while in it. That stuff is almost the norm in Christianity. Why is that? It ought to be the other way. Even if it is a religion contrived in the minds of men, it should result in people caring for each other in the end. Why does it do the opposite so much of the time?

  • 127. LeoPardus  |  February 9, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    FRST:

    First let me also say that we’re here to help anyone who is in or even near de-conversion or just serious reconsideration of the faith. Wherever your search takes you, I wish you the best.

    in response to this experience that this is what I should expect when I hang out with the decon people

    Yeppers. Heard that one. But I’ll bet that like almost all of us, you went to believers first and only bothered with us apostates when you couldn’t find satisfactory answers elsewhere.

    this is a new experience for me, being accepted by non-Christians. I really understand a huge bit of Josh’s most recent post about the exclusivity and judgmentalism that he has experienced from his former Christian community and the way he acted while in it. That stuff is almost the norm in Christianity. Why is that? It ought to be the other way. Even if it is a religion contrived in the minds of men, it should result in people caring for each other in the end. Why does it do the opposite so much of the time?

    I think when you don’t hold to one authoritative source of truth, it’s a bit easier to be accepting. There’s less to feel threatened about.
    Mind you (and lest we de-cons pat ourselves to heartily on our backs), you can get plenty .. ahem…. warm debate/feedback if you pick certain issues (e.g., conservative vs liberal political issues, some moral issues, global warming). So we’re all still quite human. :)

  • 128. Quester  |  February 9, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Even if it is a religion contrived in the minds of men, it should result in people caring for each other in the end. Why does it do the opposite so much of the time?

    I don’t think it’s a religion thing, or a non-religion thing. I think it’s a people thing.

    There are so many benefits, for the individual and the species, for humans to practice ethics of reciprocity (the Golden Rule, etc.), so why do we do the opposite so much of the time?

    In many ways, this is the same question as yours.

    A Christian might talk about original sin or ineffable plans, but I think this has more to do with how we have evolved and what we are as humans. We have learned, as a species, to detect patterns and to predict potential outcomes. We know that sometimes things go well for us, and sometimes they do not, and that we have some influence over which but we don’t really have control. So, we fear. In our fear, we seek power in various ways so that we can control what happens to us to the greatest extent possible. Several ways of seeking power harm those around us, or at the very least does not result in caring for them. I’m sure there are other reasons, including limited resources and imperfect empathy, but I think a lot of the harm we cause each other (through or without religion) comes from fear. Even a religion that promises freedom from fear by giving certainty, like Christianity, has more than enough room for uncertainty (while at the same time claiming the uncertainty as a vice), can create a lot of fear resulting in judgment and condemning.

  • 129. writerdd  |  February 9, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Whether it’s similar or completely different from what many of us went through, FSRT, we’re here for ya.

    Yeah, it’s a rough journey. I’m also in an ex-fundamentalist list. Not everyone ends up de-converting, but the whole process of really and honestly evaluating your faith and finding it lacking is hard. It’s hardest though, I think, if you end up leaving it behind because you had this whole support system and now you need a new one. That’s rough. On the other hand, I think you have to leave that old support system if you want to find your own way. It’s almost like a drug addict needing to get all new friends in order to stay clean. At least for a while, for some people forever.

  • 130. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 9, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    “I can empathize with pain and loss accompanying integrity and honesty” (Quester)

    If I can say anything, it is that my quest, my search, has been and will continue to be as full of honesty and integrity as I know how to make it. As Josh said earlier, I want what I believe not to just work. I want it to be true. I want to think about things rightly and live in a way that manifests it. I don’t want to have to lie to myself. I don’t want to have to convince myself of something. I want to be real.

    I still have that sense of loss with which I started the day. I think it comes from this, the realization that I do have to quit trying to find evidence to convince myself of what is in my heart. I really do have to follow the evidence wherever it leads. To this point I have been doing that with one hand while holding on to some things with the other. It is scary to let go and wander around without the leash. But it is probably also very freeing to not be anchored down.

  • 131. Josh  |  February 10, 2009 at 1:22 am

    “It is scary to let go and wander around without the leash. But it is probably also very freeing to not be anchored down.”

    It is scary. That scary feeling has gone quite a bit since last year, although its still there. I think honestly the sense of freedom brings its own joys and scares as well.

    For me, there is fear that one no longer has the metaphysical hope that one once had – that all actions / reactions are part of a bigger purpose and we just have to wait and see. Suddenly responsibility is thrust upon me. Because of the freedom I am now responsible for all my own actions. At least for me, I felt last year like I left my parents supervision for a second time. The sense of sadness of leaving one thing and the sense of excitement of finding another.

    Man I’m melancholy tonight.

  • 132. TitforTat  |  February 10, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Josh

    Just because of your deconversion doesnt mean that there is no creator. It just means that how you once tried to define it didnt work. There are other ways to look at it though.
    Ways that include personal responsibility mixed with faith in some things unseen. I think its important that atheists and faith based people try to stay away from absolutes, unless you can prove youre absolutely right. ;)

  • 133. Josh  |  February 10, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Oh certainly not, TitforTat :) I hope I didn’t mean to imply that. I’m simply expressing that for me, at least, losing that feeling of “God working out all things for good for those who love him…” was gone.

    “There are other ways to look at it though.”

    Oh certainly. So I guess the next question would be “Are you looking for a way to look at the Creator that is not contradicted by the evidence?” or “Do you want to know the truth about the Creator?”

    Correct me if I am wrong, but these seem to me to be completely different questions.

  • 134. Josh  |  February 10, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Oh, and…

    “I think its important that atheists and faith based people try to stay away from absolutes, unless you can prove youre absolutely right.”

    … absolutely :)

  • 135. freestyleroadtrip  |  February 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Just to update…Today is much better. Had really good discussion with my wife last night in a way we hadn’t really talked about our God beliefs before. We both expressed disillusionment with how the fundamentalism that we grew up with and from which we have worked so hard to break free from still has a grip at times; how the fundamentalism that we grew up with really doesn’t deliver what it promises because the same evils in the rest of the world are present in the same percentages in that fundamental world; how the fundamentalism that we grew up with then really could be seen to make us worse because we have the same problems but have a smoke screen to hide behind which makes us look all good and holy but really results in a lie.

    I think yesterday was about finally being in a place where I am not clinging to some of that fundy tradition and letting go to have the freedom to look at things from a less biased paradigm.

  • 136. LeoPardus  |  February 10, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    FSRT:

    Great! Having the lines of communication open with the lady is soooo important. Good on ya, and good on Mrs. FSRT.

  • 137. TitforTat  |  February 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    So I guess the next question would be “Are you looking for a way to look at the Creator that is not contradicted by the evidence?” or “Do you want to know the truth about the Creator?”(Josh)

    I think if there is a Creative force it is ultimately mysterious to us in this life. So if I am to relate to it, wouldnt the best way be, through the Creation itself? So for me that means you and me and the world around us. There are very tangible, verifiable ways to determine whether or not its “real”. If I was to use a religious(christian) term that may be appropriate, maybe Ecclesia would fit ;) One body that the whole world is part of. Hey even science tried to get the idea of the world being an organism, The Gaia principle.

  • 138. sarahpoliticaljunkie  |  February 13, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Josh, I have struggled with relgion my whole life. I enjoyed reading your blogs and I plan on using one of your thoughts to blog on myspace about. I have found the older I get…the ones who are more enlightened, humantarianistic, kind-hearted, intelligent, non-judgemental are non-Christians ironically enough. I agree that Christianity has become a bourgeosie greek fraternity with exclusive mebershio and if you don’t subscribe to the sheep movement then you are excluded. I think that religion is just silly. The myth is over. It has its placed with charitiable organizations, but on an individual basis, or a policy driven basis people need to just quite. Evolution? Hello can’t believe that this is really a debate. But whatever. I am glad you broke free from the opressive chains..NOt that walking as Jesus did is a bad thing. I live my life modeled after Jesus. I believe in WWJD..but Jesus the man…not the divine.

  • 139. lauradee24  |  February 22, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Me, too.

    I find myself newly reinvented–from my thoughts to my career. I like the change. :)

    (Though it does have its moments.)

  • 140. Bryan  |  June 6, 2009 at 2:09 am

    Welcome to the reality of life. Its very interesting to read how someone feels and thinks after waking up from religious brain washing.

    Do you feel that you have been manipulated? Do you feel sympathy for your friends that have the same thought process you had a year ago?

  • 141. letselschade advocaten  |  February 9, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Ik zou moeten gaan hier met jou. Dat is niet een ding I normaal doen! Ik geniet van nemen genoegen met de het bestuderen van een submit die maken mensen denken. Ook , bedankt voor het toestaan ​​ het toelaat dat ik commentaar !

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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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