A Letter to Me

November 24, 2009 at 2:05 pm 43 comments

Josh,

That’s an excellent quote [quote from Ken Daniels], and a great attempt at defining the world view of the post-modern skeptic. However it is only valid if one of the two following statements is true:

  1. There is no god, or
  2. if God or the gods exist, they are unconcerned with revealing themselves to man and have left mankind alone to sort out things all by themselves.

I don’t believe either is true.

I maintain that an all powerful, infinite Creator does exist. I think that is self evident in the creation itself. For those who deny it, I believe the burden of proof lies in their court to prove that God does not exist.

I also maintain that this Creator God does reveal Himself. He reveals Himself to each person who honestly and humbly and incessantly seeks after Him, and sometimes even to those who don’t.

I base this upon the historical record, also upon personal experience and also upon the testimonies of countless others who, like me, have had unmistakable, life changing encounters with Jesus Christ. No longer is He just the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but now He is the God and Savior of [name withheld].

Can I explain it? Not really other than to say that He continually opens my spiritually blind eyes to recognize Him for who He is — the Almighty holy and perfectly righteous judge of all His creation, and me for who I am, — a wretched despicable sinner, desperately in need of a savior. As a result, I now also understand the truths of Scripture that I had previously not understood. For those who can’t make heads or tails of it, I must conclude that they don’t truly know their Creator.

My prayer is that my God would open your spiritual eyes to see the wonder and the majesty and the beauty of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, and that He would rescue you also from the wrath to come, which will come upon all who refuse to turn to Him and cry out, “God be merciful to me the sinner”.

I pray daily to that end. But I also recognize that my words are powerless to change you. I cannot change your thinking. In fact I don’t want to change your thinking.  The church is full of men who think they have “reasoned” their way into the kingdom of God. Usually they have been duped or have duped themselves. Rather, entrance into the kingdom of God is by being born from above.

Do I want your thinking to change? By all means. But only the Lord can accomplish that. Only He is capable of birthing anyone from above.

I love you Josh, and implore you. Please, seek the Lord while He may be found.

Sigh. Why do I bother.

- Josh

Entry filed under: 809334. Tags: .

Life’s Value Leaving a Faith: What to Expect

43 Comments Add your own

  • 1. LeoPardus  |  November 24, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Almost every one of the letter writer’s trite comments have been addressed in an entire article on this site.

    How about you give him/her a Merry Christmas present by parsing the letter and inserting the entire text of articles and posts that rip his/her silly, trite platitudes to shreds.

    Doubtless one such response will shut this nit up forever.

  • 2. peridot  |  November 24, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I wouldn’t call this person a nit myself. On the basis of this letter alone, I would say that this person is sincere and truly cares for Josh. It takes time and effort to write a letter like this.

    The worst, most evil thing about these kinds of beliefs is how they alienate families and friends from one another. It’s downright evil. I’ve come to the conclusion that anytime anyone thinks they know more about God than other people do, it’s evil. The “knowledge of God” destroys families.

  • 3. peridot  |  November 24, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Btw, I say this in humility. I once thought I knew more about God than my friends and family, and thought that the dissent I fomented was justified.

    What is a substitute for the phrase “except for the grace of God go I” suitable for deconverts? Maybe “except for the grace of the universe, go I.”

  • 4. Roy  |  November 24, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Good to hear from you again Josh!

    I agree with peridot that the writer of this letter is expressing their love in language that makes sense to them. I would suggest taking it in the spirit that it was intended and discard the parts that are nonsense to you. Love is the universal language that we all understand.

    Peridot, I say pot-a-to, you say pot-ah-to.

  • 5. LeoPardus  |  November 24, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    peridot:

    In response to your last question: One possible substitute I’ve been thinking about is, “I’d likely be there if I hadn’t gotten my head out of my ass.”

  • 6. Roy  |  November 24, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    That works Leo. :)

  • 7. Roy  |  November 24, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    BTW Josh, who is Ken Daniels and what quote is the letter writer referencing?

  • 8. Stephen P  |  November 24, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    It makes a difference whether this is a person who has never had the nature of these comments pointed out to him/her (there is a first time for everyone) or who has indeed had it pointed out but refuses to listen.

    If it’s the former it might be worth trying to put together a constructive response.

    If it’s the latter – well, we understand you wanting to blow off steam.

  • 9. the chaplain  |  November 24, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    A lot of you are probably familiar with Thomas Kuhn’s classic philosophy of science book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Using the shift from a geocentric worldview to the heliocentric worldview to illustrate his point, he contends that some changes in knowledge, etc. are so far-reaching that they require a “paradigm shift” – a complete overhaul of the way one understands the world. This letter confirms my position that believers and non-believers literally operate in two distinct paradigms. That’s why de-conversion is often such an excruciating process, because moving out of one paradigm into a totally different one requires re-building one’s worldview from the ground up. It’s hard work.

    As I read this letter, I had to stifle the urge to retch. Since I don’t know the letter-writer, it’s easy for me to snicker and say, “yeah, yeah, yeah, more of the same, yada yada yada…what a dork.” But, if I had received this letter from a friend, my reaction would have been different. I’d be frustrated, but I probably wouldn’t ridicule my friend (not that Josh did – he just expressed frustration). I understand all too well how the world looks from within the evangelical paradigm. I also understand how incredibly foreign and inconceivable a non-believer’s paradigm is to a believer.

    Josh, you asked, “why do I bother?” I wish I could provide an easy answer to that question. We probably all “bother” to greater or lesser degrees depending on the significance of particular relationships to us. In some (many?) situations, it may be the case that we should stop “bothering” and just get on with our lives. The best we may get with some friends is an agreement to disagree agreeably.

    I doubt that you are proselytizing for the “atheist cause,” Josh, and suspect that you’re probably just being honest about what you believe, or don’t believe, as the case may be. It may be appropriate, at some point, for you to ask some people, such as this letter-writer, to just accept you as you are, to disagree agreeably and perhaps even to agree not to discuss religion anymore. And, sadly, it may be the case that, in some situations, if people can’t cease their evangelism, you may have to break, or at least loosen, the ties for the sake of your own peace of mind. You are not obligated to live with 24/7/365 evangelism.

  • 10. Joshua  |  November 24, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I agree, the tone of the letter is loving in intent. My response probably wasn’t the best.

    Stephen,

    It’s the latter. I was looking through my email archives and realize I’ve had this exact conversation probably 10+ times in completely different forms. Each time it starts out civil, this person does not get what I am saying, and the conversation devolves into this person making assertions and then me asking questions. It normally ends up with me angry and this person confused. My questions never get answered, yet this person still feels it is okay to believe I am deceived, deluded liar who is lost.

    Which explains both the anger on my part and the confusion on his.

    I think I have a lot of bitterness toward this person and I’m trying to figure out where it lies…

  • 11. Joshua  |  November 24, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    the chaplain,

    This letter is from my dad.

    I think that the heart of what I am dealing with is this:

    My dad has on several occasions blatantly and without a qualm called me a liar yet still maintains that he loves me. I think I’m trying to resolve mentally and emotionally how to have a stable relationship with someone who hit me in the one area that I have worked the hardest in my life to be consistent at: honesty.

    You have no idea how much that hurt. You have no clue. To sit across from my dad and ask him “dad, in the last 10 years can you remember the last time I have lied to you?” And he says “no.” Then I say “but you think I am a liar now?” And to hear him say “yes”…

  • 12. Roy  |  November 24, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Josh,

    I think the Socratic method is good but we have to keep our cool when using it. You know the answer to those questions. I know the answer to those questions. Obviously this person does not. There are Christians who do not think you are deceived, a deluded liar, or lost. I’m among them. Atheists and Christians *both* ridicule me, but so what? All I can do is treat both with love and respet.

    Robert (I was accidently outted) :)

  • 13. LeoPardus  |  November 24, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Now that I know it’s from your dad, I definitely recommend a thorough, point-for-point deconstructing of every bit of it. Whole articles of clear thinking in response to each trite platitude.

  • 14. Joshua  |  November 24, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Leo, that’s what I did.

  • 15. LeoPardus  |  November 24, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    To this very letter? Good on ya.

  • 16. atimetorend  |  November 24, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Roy, since Josh is blowing you off (just kidding Josh!), Ken Daniels is probably:

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ken_daniels/why.html

  • 17. Joshua  |  November 24, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Yeah, here is the quote:

    “In the end I realized it is human judgment alone that comes to the conclusion that the Bible is God-breathed. When skeptics challenge the Christian faith, they are merely pitting one fallible human perspective against another. There is no more to it than that. Did God tap ever me on the shoulder to tell me he wrote the Bible? No, and even if he had, how would I have known it was God? Ultimately I had to fall back on human judgment to make that determination. This debate is not one between skeptics and God; it is one between fallible skeptics and fallible believers. When my high school Mormon friend learned of my deconversion, he admonished me not to lean on “the arm of flesh” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 4:34) or human reason, but to listen to God. Yet we must all use our human reason or intuition or tradition to decide where we think God’s voice can be found (if it is to be found at all), whether in the Jewish scriptures, in the Protestant Bible, in the Catholic Bible, in the Koran, in the Upanishads, in the Book of Mormon, in other sacred texts, in nature, or in our own heads. There is no way out of this bootstrapping problem other than to make a human judgment at some level.” ~ Kenneth Daniels

    I don’t know where my dad got the idea it was post-modern. I feel like “post-modern” is just a label that can be thrown at something that a Christian doesn’t understand and that was said after the year 2000 so that they can dismiss it.

  • 18. atomicgumbo  |  November 24, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    I remember learning about the existence of Post Modernism back in the early nineties, in writings from the seventies– Francis Schaeffer, I believe. It was just as vague then as it is now.

    Can anyone really nail down when it started or if it’s ended yet? And for that matter, can anyone pin down what was “modern” so that there can be a “post” modern movement? Are we in Post-Post-Modernism now?

    I can empathize with your to a degree, Josh. I am currently in a similar situation with my father, who is trying to woo me back to the flock. This is one of those times where I really wish that I could say, “I’m praying for you.” Sigh…

    You have my respect, Josh. Hang in there.

  • 19. atomicgumbo  |  November 24, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    dang it. Keep forgetting to tell everyone I changed my name.

    Brad
    aka PaleAle
    aka Atomic Gumbo

  • 20. Roy  |  November 24, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Thanks for the link. It looks like something I want to read. The only thing I got from Google on Ken Daniels was a Detroit Redwings announcer or some such.

  • 21. Roy  |  November 24, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Roy, since Josh is blowing you off (just kidding Josh!)

    The only humor I get out of this could be regarded as highly offensive to some, so I will leave it there. :)

    Not that I’m offended, mind you. :)

  • 22. LeoPardus  |  November 25, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Yep. “Post-modern’ is just a junk term. It’s useful for pigeon-holing things so you can dismiss them without thought.

    Quick way to stop the efforts to re-convert. Cut to the chase.
    “Listen; nothing you or anyone else can say will ever make me believe. Because no matter what you say, all you will have is your blah blah blah. You still won’t have a god. If you want me to believe, you must bring an actual, functioning deity along. Once your god can do something – like show up, heal an amputee, blow my mind, part the local lake, etc – then and only then, will I be willing to believe in him. Until then, I will not be bothered to believe in a deity so pathetic that the best he can do is to send blathering apologists with really bad logic.”

    I used this on my wife. Of course there were a few silly ass follow ups: you wouldn’t believe if you did see something; god doesn’t have to answer to you; you gotta have faith; etc. but once I shot those down (all too easy) she realized she was beaten and hasn’t tried anything since. In fact she’s afraid to since the 2 or 3 times she’s dared, she got trounced.
    [Aside: I have to admit a certain satisfaction here. She is considerable smarter than me. I mean in outright IQ, she's probably got 20+ points on me. I almost never win any debate with her. But in this theism/atheism realm, it was child's play. The case for theism is just so poor that no amount of IQ can help it.]

  • 23. BigHouse  |  November 25, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Leo, if you don’t mind me asking, you’ve been a lot more confrontational and acebric of late in your posts. Any specific reasons for the apparent change?

  • 24. LeoPardus  |  November 25, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Fair question BH. I wouldn’t have been able to make the assessment myself, but I take your word for it. Not sure why it would be. Possible contributors that come to mind:
    -I’m coming increasingly to the conclusion that religion is actually detrimental to humanity. This is rather different from where I was previously when I saw it as perhaps beneficial in ways. I can still acknowledge some good to religions, and some things it has contributed to or served for in humanity’s past; but I am more and more believing that Emile Zola was right, “Civilization will not attain perfection until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest.”
    -I’ve had a string of bad health (nothing major, just lots of minor stuff) for over a month.
    -Work’s been scant, which worries one.

    So some odd stresses combined with a shift in opinion/philosophy. Might explain things a bit. Of course there’s always my never-ending irritation with myself for being so long a complete dupe in believing this utterly unbelievable crap.

  • 25. Joshua  |  November 25, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    I’ve noticed the change Leo, but I’ve felt it myself. I’m growing weary of diplomacy.

    One of the most influential conversations I once had when I was still a Christian was with a guy who was:

    a) kind enough to communicate with me on how genetics works
    b) forthright enough to call me an idiot and tell me I was talking shit

    Those two attitudes combined together made me feel very, very ignorant and made me want to brush up my knowledge of genetics a little more before I talked to him again.

    Because the truth is most Christians will actually admit to me that I know more than they do. Yet somehow I am supposed to entertain their ideas?

    There is a difference between respect and patronization. I feel in many ways that most of my conversations end up turning into forms of patronization where I feel like I have to “like” and “respect” Christians when they say what they do even though they are full of it and need to go get, quite frankly, an education.

    I’m tired of it. The attitude that says “I’ll respect what you believe because it is important for you right now” seems less and less appealing to me when I see those beliefs causing harm.

    I’m almost – almost! – to the point where I’d rather call bullshit, tell someone their idea is stupid, and then be kind enough to educate them on why what they are saying is stupid.

  • 26. Joe  |  November 25, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    It was one against a thousand, one against a thousand. I would move forward, and then be beaten back. The battle was fiercer than I had ever known. One against a thousand, one against a thousand.

    Finally I had a break-through, but again was thrown back. How long could this go on? How long could one man stand up against a thousand others? The batlling became even fiercer and for the first time I was fearful I would be on the losing end of this torrid affair.

    Then it happened. I thrust my sword and hit pay dirt. Me and the other 999 of us were finally able to get that sucker.

  • 27. Joe  |  November 25, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    By the way, no matter WHO you are thankful to, I want to wish all the “turkeys” on the board a HAPPY THANKSGIVING tomorrow.
    :>)

    Don’t eat too much!

  • 28. mec  |  November 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Let me encourage diplomacy. I lurked here for about 6 months a year ago, but I finally had to leave because of the viciousness. I began lurking again when the “do not feed the trolls” topic was hot a month (or so?) ago because I was very impressed with the commitment to keep the peace.

    God has not shown up for me, and I’m looking for a reason why. I know that this blog provides an obvious answer, but I’m not there yet.

    Anyway, I greatly appreciate the perspective (sans trolls) and discussion. Thanks a bunch.

  • 29. LeoPardus  |  November 25, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Thanks mec. Appreciate the encouragement.

  • 30. BigHouse  |  November 25, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Leo, I’m sorry to hear of your hardhsips but thanks for addressing the question.

    When I first came here, your logical and interesting posts helped me along my journey. I fear that the tone you’ve taken recently would have the opposite effect on other newcomers. It’s hard to see the analysis and logic when there’s animosity and vulgarity in front of it.

    I hope things get better for you and look forward to more of your future posts.

  • 31. Roy  |  November 25, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    God has not shown up for me, and I’m looking for a reason why. I know that this blog provides an obvious answer, but I’m not there yet.

    Could it be where you’ve yet to look? Could it be in the sky? Could it be in a book?

    Have a thankful Thanksgiving all!

    Dr. Roy Suess

  • 32. Roy  |  November 25, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Joe, are we the only ones around here with a sense of humor?

    No.

    I know Joshua has one.

    I think Leo might, but I’m not sure. BTW, Leo, I’m unemployed, so I’m feelin’ the pain too. I’m blessed in many other ways… and no that is not a statement of faith or religion. Just a statment of fact. Our realities start with our thinking.

  • 33. J.J.E.  |  November 26, 2009 at 4:51 am

    I feel that blessed is such an odd word that goes beyond the religious connotations. Especially when people say “I’m blessed.”

    Well, I looked it up to help nail down why I think it is odd. And I think I hit upon it. “Blessed” means you’ve been actively given something, even in the secular connotations. So, when I say “I’m fortunate” I often don’t mean “I’m blessed” because I’ve worked damned hard for what I have and I attribute much of my fortunate circumstances to luck (which has no intention behind it) and hard work.

    Of course, in many specific instances, I have literally been blessed (if only in the secular sense) by granting agencies or family, so I’ll grudgingly start to acknowledge that by saying “blessed”.

    But no, I will never say “I’m blessed to have such a wonderful family.” Not because they aren’t wonderful, but because nobody endowed me with those people. God sure didn’t.

  • 34. Roy  |  November 26, 2009 at 8:30 am

    But no, I will never say “I’m blessed to have such a wonderful family.” Not because they aren’t wonderful, but because nobody endowed me with those people. God sure didn’t.

    Nobody? Are you sure? What about their parents?

  • 35. Melanie Stephan  |  November 26, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Joshua thank you for writing for the following:

    You have no idea how much that hurt. You have no clue. To sit across from my dad and ask him “dad, in the last 10 years can you remember the last time I have lied to you?” And he says “no.” Then I say “but you think I am a liar now?” And to hear him say “yes”…

    Sorry but that is the funniest thing I have read all day. Now it hit me right in the funny bone because my parents are just as annoying as yours are. I think we all can relate to having a parent just like you have. Now I don’t know why it makes me feel so good that you have an annoying parent? Maybe cause I am not all alone in this.

    Josh somehow I think your Dad just enjoys being an ass.

    Melanie on a Mission

  • 36. Lucian  |  November 26, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Why do I bother?

    Beats me… :-|

  • 37. DSimon  |  November 26, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Could it be where you’ve yet to look? Could it be in the sky? Could it be in a book?

    I don’t think God’s where I haven’t yet looked. I do not think he’s in a book. I won’t ever find God in a cook, or even in my two chess rooks. I do not think there’s a God nook, nor was God stolen by a crook. I can’t find God wherever I look!

    Green eggs, on the other hand, I’m basically alright with.

  • 38. Miriam  |  November 26, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    When I read stuff like that, I get scared very easily. Because the view the writer seems to have is till so present in my own head and thinking that it becomes very difficult for me to defy it. Still, i really think that that person truly cares for Josh. The letter is written with sencerity, and they really spoke their heart.

    I´m sorry people, but the mail I´ve sent hasn´t been answered yet, and i´d really like to sign up: Can I sign up for free? And which of the services involve payment? For some reason (probably my incapability of proper reading) I haven´t understood that, and since I´d really like to be a member, it would be cool if someone would tell me real quick. Thanks,
    Miriam

  • 39. Joshua  |  November 26, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Josh somehow I think your Dad just enjoys being an ass.

    I think that is probably the most insightful thing anyone has said about my dad ever.

  • 40. J.J.E.  |  November 26, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    @Roy

    So my parents were a gift from my grandparents to me? How percipient of them.

  • 41. Joshua  |  November 27, 2009 at 2:53 am

    So my parents were a gift from my grandparents to me?

    Obviously, God designed your grandparents special for you so that they would produce your exact parents so that you would exist! Isn’t it amazing how God set everything up just perfect for you :)

  • 42. societyvs  |  December 1, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    I read the note – the person obviously cares – in fact – he’s your father…and I don’t think taking a hard boiled attitude is wise (I encourage diplomacy also – this is your dad we are talking about here).

    What you need to do is get behind his motivation for writing the letter and his personal concerns and address those in some depth. I am sure his logic for a belief in God makes no real sense to you – but that really is a side issue in some ways. If you answer his motivations for writing that letter (his concerns) then maybe it ends diplomatically and he understands why you are where you are at and families can live in peace.

    I know religious people can be pretty upfront and even hard boiled about their faith…some things I would address are:

    Why the strong concern and what does it mean to him if you choose not to partake of that faith system? Also what it means to you to be ‘honest’ with yourself.

    Address his concerns about the afterlife – and put the basis back on the ‘now’…since relationships matter now – even for him (ie: love your neighbors is about the now).

    I think his concerns are about his love for his son – at least – that’s what I think. He also has concerns about the afterlife but if you can move the conversation to the importance of relationships of the now and even how religion has this core concern – he may be open to discussing that.

    Just my opinion – can’t say if it’ll work or not.

  • 43. Mark  |  December 7, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Prove to me that Zeus does not exist and I will just use your method.

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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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