Unequally yoked marraige – episode 1

May 8, 2010 at 8:27 am 54 comments

OK, here it is, warts and all, the first episode of … this. Whatever this turns out to be. Warning, it is about 38 minutes long, so make sure you have a bit of time on your hands.

Don’t expect a Hollywood production here, folks. This has absolutely no production value, and the only edits I made were to remove two or three times where I slipped and called RoseMary by her real name. But I think the audio came out ok, and that is what is important.

I uploaded this to blip.tv since they allow me to embed an audio player here. Here is the description I put there:

My wife RoseMary and I would like to welcome you to the first episode our podcast. She is a Catholic Christian, and has been her entire life. I met her in 2004. We dated, and even though I was a liberal Baptist Christian, we fell in love. We wed in 2005. Some time in 2007, after 2 years of marraige, I lost my Christian Faith, and now considers the term ‘atheist’ to most accurately describe my religious stance. But my wife loves him whom I do not believe exists.

Does this story sound familiar? Is your marraige challenged with a similar situation? Has one of you fallen out of the Faith? Believer, what advice have you gotten from your friends, family and church? Non-believer, do you have anywhere to turn for support, or do you feel compelled to stay in the closet? RoseMary and I both believe that these stories are very common, yet few are willing to share these stories.

We are not so sure that we want to tell others our own stories, but are willing to give it a try. We want to share our experiences of being “unequally yoked”. Do you have a story to share? We would like to hear it, and possibly share it with others. Please contact us at unequallyyoked@hotmail.com

It is my hope that this proves beneficial to somebody out there, and it generates some healthy discussion around here.

- HeIsSailing

Entry filed under: HeIsSailing. Tags: , , .

Are you unequaly yoked? Ideas About Groups For Nonbelievers

54 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Zoe  |  May 8, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Well, I just finished listening to the new Joe and RoseMary show ;-) and I found it very interesting and enjoyable to listen to. The sound quality btw, is very good on my end.

    I was wondering if the Catholic church recognizes your marriage RoseMary since you weren’t married in the Catholic church? I have my reasons for asking but think it best that I not elaborate if that’s okay?

    I remember when I first told my husband that I didn’t think I believed in Jesus/God anymore. It had been a long slow and gentle conversation having to do with my wishes for arrangements after my death (I know, sobering conversation)…anyway, the short of it is, I asked hubby is he could live with someone who wasn’t a Christian and he told me he loved “me” no matter what I believed.

    Many years later, I got to thinking, what if I had left Christianity and chosen Islam or Wicca? Would he still love me? What if all of a sudden I started wearing a burka?

    Often we hear there is a big adjustment to one spouse leaving the faith for atheism/agnosticism or somethingelseorism, but I’ve got a feeling that maybe, just maybe if Joe had converted to Islam or RoseMary to Scientology, these might have been bigger issues to deal with? What do you two think?

    Thank you for sharing. :-)

  • 2. HeIsSailing  |  May 9, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Well, thinking back on this recording, I cannot believe the huge blunder I made – which just goes to show how my memory is fading. It also goes to show how absolutely clueless I am when it comes to pop culture.

    In the recording, I was remembering a time when I was scolding my wife for wanting to see a Harry Potter movie. Boy, I must have been really tired when I said that, because I meant to say the Da Vinci Code movie. I somehow was mixing up Harry Potter with Dan Brown – so I am just bringing this up in case it confused anybody.

  • 3. HeIsSailing  |  May 9, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Zoe, thanks for listening. Those are good questions you asked.

    “I was wondering if the Catholic church recognizes your marriage RoseMary since you weren’t married in the Catholic church?”

    No, they do not. Before my de-conversion, we would swap weeks at churches, I would attend her catholic, and the next week she would attend my Baptist. When marraige time came, we decided to do it in the Baptist church. Marrying in the catholic church would have required me to attend some sort of cathechism – so the plan was for me to do this nominally, wed in the Baptist church, then at some time in the future wed again in the Catholic church in Philippines (RoseMary’s native land). This way, her family would be able to participate in the ceremony. Since only my family was involved in the Baptist wedding, we thought that would be most appropriate.

    Strangely enough, I am still not oppossed to that scheme. I would not mind going through the Catholic ceremony just for the benefit of RoseMary’s family when we next go to Philippines. In fact, I am more at ease with the idea now than I was a Baptist – in fact, it seems like it might be kind of fun. But RoseMary is now oppossed to the idea. She says that now that I do not believe in God at all, going through the catholic ceremony together would seem very hypocritical. Funny how this stuff works now, huh? I, the atheist, would not mind doing the Catholic ceremony because I do not take it too seriously, and she, the Catholic, does not want the Catholic ceremony because I do not take it too seriously.

    So what does RoseMary do about the catholic sacrament of marraige? I have asked her about this, and she does not feel compelled to hold to every jot and tittle of Catholic dogma. I think she kind of does with that what I did as a Baptist who believed in Evolution and the Adam and Eve story was myth – we brush the inconsistancy under the rug and hope nobody notices.

    I’ll answer you next question in a bit – thanks for listening, Zoe..!!!

  • 4. HeIsSailing  |  May 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Zoe asks:
    “Many years later, I got to thinking, what if I had left Christianity and chosen Islam or Wicca? Would he still love me? What if all of a sudden I started wearing a burka?
    Often we hear there is a big adjustment to one spouse leaving the faith for atheism/agnosticism or somethingelseorism, but I’ve got a feeling that maybe, just maybe if Joe had converted to Islam or RoseMary to Scientology, these might have been bigger issues to deal with? What do you two think?”

    Wow Zoe, I have thought about this too – how far does our acceptance of each other go? I think it very interesting that she was ultimately able to accept me as an atheist (one of our friends who is a Catholic nun says that she thinks God made me an atheist to rescue me from Fundamentalism – hilarious..!!), but she might be able to accept me as a Jehovah Witness. My snarky side would just say “Well of course she can accept me because ultimately atheism is correct..”, but that is too easy, and I do understand what you are asking.

    I admit that it would be very difficult for RoseMary if I started declaring that there is no God but Allah and Muhammed is his prophet, and bowing to Mecca 5 times per day, and it would be for me if she were to do the same. I do not expect her to ever leave her Catholic faith, although her beliefs within that faith will certainly evolve over time. I suppose I could say that this is consistant with the woman I fell in love with and married. If she were to suddenly come home wearing a burka, this would be inconsistant with her character – almost as if this would *not* be the same woman I married. Same thing if she found out I joined the unification or LDS church, or even if I were still a Christian but decided to join a monestary, of full time mission work. She knows I would never do those things, since those are inconsistant to my character, so if I were to do something so out-of-character, it would not be the same “person” whom she fell in love with and married. Does that make sense?

    Here is another way to look at it – What made the transition from Christianity to Atheism easier for RoseMary, was that I really did not change too much. Actually, before my de-conversion, I was slowly becoming more conservative in my Fundamentalism, and if I had continued down that path, I do not know what would have become of our marraige, but it would have added greater stress. If I would have left the house to work full time for Samaritan’s Purse, it would certainly have led to divorce, not because I left Christianity, but because I was doing something so radically outside of the character of the person she fell in love with.

    But when I became an atheist, I obviously dropped the Fundamentalist beliefs and habits, but outside of that, I really did not change. My attitude toward religion and my outlook on life obviously changed (I would say that I matured), but I was still acting like *me* – I was still, by and large, acting like the person RoseMary fell in love with. In fact, her influence keeps me friendly to many of our Christian friends, and to remember their point-of-view. So, she still loves the same person – I don’t think I have changed that much – I just grew up.

    I hope that makes sense. Obviously, I think every couple has their breaking point – and divorce is sometimes the only option, but having come from a terribly broken home, I think that should be a last resort. That is where I stand right now. Having left Christianity about three years ago, I now look at our home-life and think it is no big deal, and letting our differing beliefs about invisible things get in the way of that seems crazy. I suppose it helps us both that RoseMary is somewhat liberal in her Catholic beliefs and takes a lot of what comes out of the Vatican with a grain of salt. She may be liberal, but she is devout.

    I hope that is as clear as mud. Thanks again for listening, Zoe..!!

  • 5. atimetorend  |  May 12, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    HIS, I’m almost through listening. I would have more notes except I listened while driving. Couple of thoughts:

    It was very encouraging to listen to, so much different than the Christian “unequally yoked” web sites out there. Refreshing because you are both able to look at the positives in the experience of being married, rather than bemoaning the trauma and separation caused. I wish there was more out there like that.

    RoseMary is very wise and understanding! And you both have a great emphasis on respecting each other’s beliefs and wanting each other to find happiness. I especially liked the dialog about loving the individual person you married, not the religion they had at the time.

    As my beliefs have changed in leaving the faith, that has been a tough battle in our marriage. I really do believe we still share almost all the same things in common as before, but it can be an uphill battle to work through the rhetoric. Especially when fundamentalist Christianity has such an emphasis on division and separation with the world based on belief/unbelief.

  • 6. Zoe  |  May 12, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Thank you HIS for the continued conversation. Very interesting. I do appreciate it. BTW, I caught the Harry Potter/Dan Brown thing but new what you were saying. :-)

  • 7. HeIsSailing  |  May 13, 2010 at 9:32 am

    timetorend says:
    “It was very encouraging to listen to, so much different than the Christian “unequally yoked” web sites out there. Refreshing because you are both able to look at the positives in the experience of being married, rather than bemoaning the trauma and separation caused. I wish there was more out there like that.”

    Wow, I really really appreciate that, timetorend. Thanks – that was the whole intent of our recording. We know there are so many stories, just like ours, and yet they are never heard. Rosemary and I both notice that ‘Unequally Yoked’ marriages are automatically branded by our churches as unnatural, and that is all we hear – all *I* have heard from the pulpit my entire church-going life.

    Frankly, I am sick of it – I am sick of the characatures the church makes of us because their orthodoxy demands it.

    “As my beliefs have changed in leaving the faith, that has been a tough battle in our marriage”

    For a while there, it was also very tough for us. There were a couple of months there, especially, that were very difficult for both of us – we felt like we did not know each other because my beliefs were being shattered. And once after we got over that hump, the problems did not cease – we still had lots of family and friends that had to accept the fact that I left Christianity (I was not quiet about losing Faith). All of her family has accepted me after the initial shock, but it took a while for me to prove to them that a non-believer could treat RoseMary well. Most of our Christian friends however, have abandoned us (with some exceptions – mostly Catholic friends). Maybe in our next episode, RoseMary and I can talk a little about that.

    I would love to hear more of your story, timetorend. I know your wife, back in January, said she is “sew” not ready to talk about your relationship. How is the communication going between you two now? Do you think she might be now willing to share some of your story?

    Thanks again for listening, timetorend

  • 8. atimetorend  |  May 13, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Frankly, I am sick of it – I am sick of the characatures the church makes of us because their orthodoxy demands it.

    Amen. And that’s also why I like to try to get away from the “unequally yoked” terminology, accepting the fundamentalist paradigm.

    It is still too difficult for my wife to get into (I asked her last night). She would like to listen to your dialog with RoseMary, so we’ll see after that. :^) It is painful of course, but it is also obviously so worthwhile. I hope as there are more stories like yours out there that it will become less painful for others to share.

  • 9. Tammie Utter  |  August 1, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    I ran across your article “The book that made me doubt my Christian faith” and read it and the comments. I could relate much to what you wrote, so I wanted to read/hear more about your experience.

    I have been struggling with my Christian evangelical faith/upbringing for over a decade. But I did not really begin to vocalize it until around 2008. Now that I have become more and more open with my family about my doubts and current beliefs and way of thinking, I am feeling more and more distant from them which saddens me.

    I appreciated hearing you and your wife share about your marriage and life. I am not married, but grew up in a home where I was told all my life that my parents were “unequally yoked”. My mother places the blame on my father as she states when she married him, he professed to be a Christian. But for whatever reason my father did not attend church or read the bible and usually made fun of religous or Christian beliefs. Their marriage was far from harmonious. Both intent on trying to make the other be more what they wanted/expected, never satisfied with one another and constantly casting stones of judgement that hurt not only them, but their children. My parents finally divorced when I was thirty. Now my father claims to be a Christian and sends me emails about God, Jesus, forgiveness, love, etc. and I want to scream “Where was all that when I was growing up, when I could have used the harmony, forgiveness and love?! I do not have a strong relationship with my father and sometimes wish I had my old dad back…the one who cussed and saw through the phoniness of Christianity. Ironic!

    I have difficulty accepting there is no God or gods, because if that is so…”how did the beauty of the world just happen? Even with trillions of years of evolution, it seems impossible? And if God doesn’t exist why do so many passionately believe in Him or their spirituality? Why do people so passionately believe or purport a belief in an afterlife?

    But I strongly question the existence of an afterlife and these thoughts run through my mind…why would it be so bad if “it were truly ashes to ashes and dust to dust”? Why would it be so horrible for life to just end when we die? And then I wonder…do we really have spirits? What is the purpose of the one’s spirit? And if so what happens to one’s spirit when life in the body and soul ends?

    These are a few of the many questions that have been running through my mind for years, but I don’t know where to go to find the answers. Mostly I listen to Christian apologetic teachers, like Ravi Zacharias and Lee Strobel, but I feel like I’m being led in circles.

    I have expressed these questions and doubts with family and friends, but it ‘s like if you question your evangelical upbringings and the beliefs and teachings of fundamental Christianity and do not see or agree with the answers or defenses of the faith they give then they will avoid you or distance themselves from you. I’m thinking (because it is what I was taught all my life) that they now believe I must be spiritually dead or are most likely one of those whom the bible references as “falling away from the faith in the end times” (Matt. 24:10, I Tim. 4:1). I have even had family tell me that I was most likely not truly saved or I would not be living my life as I am and I would not be doubting and thinking as I am.

    All I know is: I have the hardest time with the whole issue of “judgement”. Judging others and saying one spiritual belief is more pleasing to God than another or that following one spiritual belief system alone will allow you to spend an eternity with God! It is one of the areas of fundamental, evangelical Christianity that causes me the greatest amount of doubt.

    And in the same way…any one who casts stones of judgement on others for their beliefs, including atheists, could possibly be just as in the wrong. What is wrong with everyone being individually held accountable for their own spirituality and respecting one another despite differences, conclusions, beliefs and spiritual journeys. Is it possible for us to live in harmony when we disagree?

    I think you and your wife are attempting to shed light and hope on such a discourse. Thank-you.

  • 10. HeIsSailing  |  August 2, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Tammie. How honored I am that some people actually downloaded that recording my wife and I made a few months ago. We have actually gotten a little feed-back on it – really not much though, and have not felt the desire to continue with another recording. Maybe another will come in the future. Anyway, Rosemary is busy cooking, and I read her your long comment. Here is what we have to say in reply:

    I ran across your article “The book that made me doubt my Christian faith” and read it and the comments. I could relate much to what you wrote, so I wanted to read/hear more about your experience.

    Ah yes.. Let the Trumpet Sound. That book did more damage to my Christian faith than pretty much anything I read – but it was not just the book, it was my mindset at the time. Evangelicalism was driving me nuts. If that book did not push me over the edge, something else would have.
    I have been struggling with my Christian evangelical faith/upbringing for over a decade. But I did not really begin to vocalize it until around 2008. Now that I have become more and more open with my family about my doubts and current beliefs and way of thinking, I am feeling more and more distant from them which saddens me.

    Yes, I understand. I have lost quite a few friends, and so has Rosemary. But in the process, I have gained others. Fortunately, both our families have been patient and understanding with us. Rosemary’s family found it harder to accept me, but I think they have come around after a few years of getting to know each other. I know it is sometimes hard though.

    I appreciated hearing you and your wife share about your marriage and life. I am not married, but grew up in a home where I was told all my life that my parents were “unequally yoked”. My mother places the blame on my father as she states when she married him, he professed to be a Christian. But for whatever reason my father did not attend church or read the bible and usually made fun of religous or Christian beliefs. Their marriage was far from harmonious. Both intent on trying to make the other be more what they wanted/expected, never satisfied with one another and constantly casting stones of judgement that hurt not only them, but their children. My parents finally divorced when I was thirty. Now my father claims to be a Christian and sends me emails about God, Jesus, forgiveness, love, etc. and I want to scream “Where was all that when I was growing up, when I could have used the harmony, forgiveness and love?! I do not have a strong relationship with my father and sometimes wish I had my old dad back…the one who cussed and saw through the phoniness of Christianity. Ironic!

    Yes it is, and your dad sounds a little like my own dad. He was not anti-Christian when I was growing up, but he was a bit of a monster. In the years since, he has ‘found God’ through Mormonism, and I can honestly say he is a better and happier man for it. But sometimes he gets carried away with the guilt he feels when he thinks about what kind of dad he was to us (me and my brothers/sisters). I have long since forgotten those bad years and forgiven him, but to this day he says that he feels guilt and even though I may have forgiven him, he continues to ask God to forgive him. I get so sick of it!! I once got bold a couple of years ago, and told him to stop waiting to feel the forgiveness of God and just realize that he has to forgive himself . Worrying about a God who will forgive him is just so much extra baggage that he has to carry around with him – and in my opinion, just a psychological validation for his own guilt. How I wish he could live in peace..!!

    I have difficulty accepting there is no God or gods, because if that is so…”how did the beauty of the world just happen? Even with trillions of years of evolution, it seems impossible? And if God doesn’t exist why do so many passionately believe in Him or their spirituality? Why do people so passionately believe or purport a belief in an afterlife?

    Rosemary and I still ask each other these questions. I think I have answers to each of those questions, or at least answers that satisfy me. But I also understand that answering seemingly unknowable and transcendant questions with rationalistic responses does not satisfy every imagination. I am a physicist, so I understand the scientific method, yet who needs that when magic, miracle and wonder are ready at hand? I remember just a few months ago, when Rosemary and I were on the north coast of California, overlooking some majestic seacliffs. She asked me, “When you see this, don’t you just wonder – How could there not be a god with such beauty”? She understands how the geology works, she understands that beauty is purely subjective, She understands that this natural beautiful world also brings horrific natural cruelty. But she still asks. Because magic, miracle and wonder are poetry.

    But I strongly question the existence of an afterlife and these thoughts run through my mind…why would it be so bad if “it were truly ashes to ashes and dust to dust”? Why would it be so horrible for life to just end when we die? And then I wonder…do we really have spirits? What is the purpose of the one’s spirit? And if so what happens to one’s spirit when life in the body and soul ends?

    In this regard, you think a lot like Rosemary. My process of leaving Christianity was just that – a long process. I did not wake up one day and just decide I was no longer a Christian. There was no altar call, no moment of conversion. It was gradual, and there was a long transitory period of time where I did not know what my beliefs were. During that time, I shared many of my thoughts with Rosemary, and thoughts of judgement, sin and the afterlife plagued her the most. She still regards herself as a Christian, but believes that sin does not exist, and that Hell is just a scare story. She is near-Universalist. People come to God, whomever God is, by interpreting as best they can, the spiritual world around them. She believes God to transcend our mundane world to such an extent, that people cannot hope to know or understand God – much less know the ‘one true’ path to Him. She and I have both come a long way, but we both went down different paths of thought.

    These are a few of the many questions that have been running through my mind for years, but I don’t know where to go to find the answers. Mostly I listen to Christian apologetic teachers, like Ravi Zacharias and Lee Strobel, but I feel like I’m being led in circles.

    Christian apologetics will do that to you. I can read Christian thinkers, and appreciate much of what they have to say, but apologists are, in my opinion, nothing more than spin-doctors. I am personally convinced that these people will bend any fact, strain any argument, and exaggerate any claim in order to have you stay in the Christian Faith. This is not really the place for me to vent about people like Zacharias and Strobel, but let me tell you that during my transition time, I was also reading plenty of apologetics. The book I read that made me realize unbelievable straining that apologists engage in was Herbert Lockyer’s, All the Messianic Prophecies of the Bible. Even as a Christian, I found Lockyer’s arguments to be so far-fetched and ludicrous, that I knew I was headed down the wrong path, or as you say, “I felt like I was being led in circles”.

    All I know is: I have the hardest time with the whole issue of “judgement”. Judging others and saying one spiritual belief is more pleasing to God than another or that following one spiritual belief system alone will allow you to spend an eternity with God! It is one of the areas of fundamental, evangelical Christianity that causes me the greatest amount of doubt.

    Rosemary and I could not agree more with you, Tammie. The transition is not easy. Working out all these problems made me unpopular with some people. I just figured if they did not want to be around me just because I was starting to think differently from them, then that is a pretty superficial friendship to begin with. In my opinion, it is all a method of religious thought control. Think like us, or you are out of our club.

    Do you want a demonstration of this thought control? There is a radio program that I sometimes listen to on my drive home from work – a maddening Christian apologetics show on CSN (Christian Satellite Network) called ’To Every Man an Answer’. It features callers’ questions to evangelical pastor Mike Kestler and a guest host. I am not sure what the point of having a guest host is, because Kestler and the guest host will always, each and every time and without exception, agree with each other on every single question asked of them. There is never a difference of opnion, never a conflicting view, never a different frame of reference. It is pure lockstep, dogmatic apologetics. What is the point of inquiry, if in the end, everybody agrees with each other? It is utterly maddening just to listen to, and it is a world I am glad to be out of.

    I think you and your wife are attempting to shed light and hope on such a discourse. Thank-you.

    Thank you for listening and replying, Tammie. This might just encourage us to do another recording..!!

  • 11. Hendy  |  August 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Wow. Just found this. I will absolutely have to listen to this when I’m home from work. My wife and I were married in the Catholic church and this past Christmas (after 2 years of marriage), I began to doubt Christianity for the first time. It has been a 7mos journey thus far of extreme frustration that is two-fold: it’s hard enough wrestling with all the conflicting information in books, blogs, and debates to try to find the truth but in addition to the inner turmoil… there is turmoil from without: my Christian men’s group, not wanting many to know right now, and my wife.

    I look forward to listening this and perhaps directing my wife toward it as well.

  • 12. HeIsSailing  |  August 6, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Glad you found it, Hendy. There are no solid answers in it – just “unequally yoked” husband and wife sharing stories and thoughts. I was involved with a home Bible Study (in fact, we hosted it in our house), and I shared quite a few of my doubts with the group. I did not have any secrets during the entire deconversion ordeal, and while it sure confused everyone, it avoided the big ‘coming out” moment that apostates seem to dread. In my case, everyone already knew.

  • 13. HeIsSailing  |  August 6, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Woops – pressed send before I meant to..

    So Hendy, how did your group take it when you shared some of your doubts?

  • 14. Hendy  |  August 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    “Take it?” Reactions were quite mixed!

    - For myself, I’ll tell a quick story. When down in FL for Christmas with my parents (when it all started), they had just gotten this food dehydrator and had some amazingly good dehydrated bananas. I ate the heck out of those things. They gave me a huge ziplok bag to take home with me. Once I was into doubt for about three days without telling anyone else, I started feeling physically nauseous all the time. Thinking about or seeing the bag of dried bananas made me want to throw up. I had to hide the bag. When I told my wife I felt immediately better. It was nuts. I can’t recall ever being so physically affected by something internal before.

    - My wife took it and has continued to take it in varying ways. She was initially supportive and understanding but it has fluctuated between that and hopelessness, anger, fear, etc. Her primary fears seem to be based on “what kind of person I will become”, “not having the life she always dreamed of”, and perhaps even “being stuck” with an atheist. There is quite a tension there and I am back and forth on how to best deal with it, for on one hand I think this is hard on me and I never asked for this! On the other hand, I can’t imagine what it’s like to have something at the root level of life-defining-qualities change in one you love… Perhaps it would be like if she told me that she had discerned that she was never going to have sex again? Sounds ridiculous but I think that might be similar in magnitude for when I try to understand things from her perspective. I guess I would summarize by saying that she’s 90% supportive and 10% fearful, angry, disliking of my potential future self.

    - Others. These reactions have been extremely varied…
    — A small minority have reassured me of their love and support, and the majority of this minority are comprised of my parents and brother.
    — I’ve been told by one of my group members that me suspending belief was like coming to group once and saying I fought with my wife and then coming back a month later to say I was divorced
    — Another told me that I was crazy when I said that I thought the gospel writers made things up/lied (though the answer was kind of in response to an ultimatum-type question whereas my view is more accurately defined as thinking they may very well have believed what the wrote but it’s still not actually true…)
    — Been repeatedly asked “Well then what’s the point of living?” when other apologetic tactics didn’t work

    All kinds of stuff. Overall I feel pretty lonely and outcast. I want to know the truth and think about this stuff about 90% of my day but there’s no one to really share all those thoughts with. I could but it would probably just upset people and be awkward… thus, I am mostly alive in the blogosphere and started my own to track my progress through Common Sense Atheism’s Ultimate Truth-Seeker Challenge (Easy Version).

    In the end, though, I just don’t know what the “tipping point” will be. I set Christmas (1 year total since doubt began) as a deadline to try and make a decision one way or the other. Pursuing the facts has proven difficult because experts on either side of the aisle seem to have great supporting arguments for their side. In the end, though, I think your list of reasons unbelievers don’t believe sums up a lot of my thoughts. A lot of it comes under what I call “common sense” objections:

    - why an omnipotent/omniscient god would come to us how all the other gods came to us: one time and place to one group of people
    - why god can’t give everyone a strong sense of his existence; free-will doesn’t work, for this sense/compulsion could be as strong as the desire for food or the desire to avoid murder or eating feces for these aren’t held to override free-will
    - that there’s no reconciling OT atrocities with NT Jesus/Christianity overall
    - and so on

    I don’t know if some formulation of the cosmological argument or Swinburne or Plantinga will every come up with something that overrides what I just think makes more sense now that I’ve been thinking critically, ya know?

    Sorry to ramble so darned long… Thanks for the response.

  • 15. atimetorend  |  August 6, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Hi Hendy, a few thoughts, commiserations:

    My wife has takent things much as yours has. The hardest part for her, I think, are the things that we do not share in common that she expected when getting married. For instance, I will listen to and support her in anything she is struggling with, or we are struggling with together, but at the end of the conversation I don’t think the best way of handling it is to pray for supernatural intervention. Another is that I want our kids to think for themselves about religion, not be indoctrinated. We are coming from a conservative Christian church background, so that could mean the difference between eternal glory and eternal damnation. She is moderating a lot on things like that, but it’s still tough. Very similar I think to, “I guess I would summarize by saying that she’s 90% supportive and 10% fearful, angry, disliking of my potential future self.

    Overall I feel pretty lonely and outcast. I want to know the truth and think about this stuff about 90% of my day but there’s no one to really share all those thoughts with.

    I was very much there, as were a lot of people on this site. It has changed a lot over 2 years for me. Being alive in the blogosphere as you describe was very important to me.

    Like what you say about understanding things with common sense. I agree, and think that apologetics in general, Christian or atheist, is just spin doctoring those common sense things around this way and that. For me, my goal is to get educated on issues as best I can, and trust that the common sense part will follow, so I try not to be too influenced by following apologists, Christian or atheist or in between. :^)

  • 16. prairie nymph/sarah  |  August 6, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Hello,
    My husband has a strong sense of God and still calls himself a Christian, although very different from when we met. He still values group prayer highly but asks me what kind of prayer I’m comfortable with.

    I was very afraid to talk to him about my doubts and what I was reading. Common sense athiesm was the first blog I found and I told him I was just trying to understand deconverts, but he knew why. I was also afraid that I would turn into an immoral person :P

    What he was most afraid of was of us drifting apart. We’ve found that it wasn’t just the prayer and bible study that brought us together ;) I know we both have other fears, but I think time will help too.

    HIS, you and Rosemary have been encouraging too.
    Do you think it would have been different if she had been the one to deconvert instead of you?

    Hendy- we haven’t told our small group anything as its been off for summer. I’m dreading that. Its nice to hear that some are still supportive.

  • 17. Hendy  |  August 6, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Sarah — I don’t know that I would entirely call it supportive, but it hasn’t been utter rejection or hatred or anything, either. I will say it’s been alienating. That’s the best word I can say. I feel like the “defective” person of the bunch, like people think something might be wrong with me.

    See a series of posts I just put up on my blog about a multi-level marketing company analysis + how that relates to my issues with how I feel viewed by others: LINK.

    If you don’t want to read it all, go to part 3 for what I’d want to add about this topic and why it puzzles me that I could be so respected/admired in some areas but the same virtues/tendencies get me criticized in another.

    Good luck in your search. Take it easy, it’s taking me far longer than I hoped to find peace with the answer I settle on.

  • 18. HeIsSailing  |  August 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Sarah asks:
    HIS, you and Rosemary have been encouraging too.
    Do you think it would have been different if she had been the one to deconvert instead of you?

    Wow, interesting question that I never considered before. We have vastly different backgrounds, both religious and cultural, and we have always viewed our Christianity differently. She is a pious catholic believer, although her piousness is quite liberal. And although she is pious, she views her Christianity as a marker of her identity. She is from the island of Luzon in Philippines, and she will never give that up no matter how long she lives in El Paso Texas. Similiarly, she is a Catholic Christian, and she will never give that up, no matter how her views of God, Jesus and religion in general, change. I don’t expect her to give up her Christian faith, nor do I want her to give it up any more than I want her stop speaking her native language. Her Christianity is almost intrinsic to who she is.

    I never viewed my Christianity quite like that. I did not view Jesus or my Faith as an a descriptor to who I was any more than a relationship with my mother or my best friends described who I was. It is a subtle difference, but it never made sense to me until I wed somebody who was obviously a very devout Christian yet expressed their beliefs differently than I.

    So I guess what I am trying to say is that… your question is tough one to answer. If she were to leave the Faith, I suppose her mother would have panicked more than she did when I left the Faith (and let me tell you, she was mighty upset with me). I think our marraige would have been more difficult because I would probably return to Calvary Chapel or something, and she would definitely refuse to go there as a non-believer. I do not mind attending Catholic mass with her on occassion, because the Catholic church around her is not as devisive on that issue as a Calvary Chapel would be. I have been asked to dispense the bread and wine during mass, and I politely declined, saying I was not a believer. I remember the priest appreciated my honesty and never brought the issue up again. I cannot imagine that happening in a more Fundamentalist church!!

    Had she left rather than me, and knowing my personality, I do think it would have harder on our marraige. I will ask Rosemary later and see what she thinks. Thanks for the interesting question, Sarah..!!

  • 19. HeIsSailing  |  August 6, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Hendy, thanks for your interesting reply.

    I understand and when through a lot fo what you are writing about. Leaving Christianity was troubling enough for me, but it made it worse by dragging a very confused wife with me for the ride. Early on, she also asked me how I was going to be moral, and she even one asked me if our marraige vows were still valid after I lost Faith in God. You know, when I heard stories from the pulpit about people who were ‘backsliding’, they were always assuming to be out drinking, gambling, having an affair, what have you. They were never painted as people who left the Faith, but who still remained faithful and loving husbands. NEVER! And I guess those stories are what my wife, or your wife thinks of when they think of somebody leaving Christianity. “How can you be good without God?” they will say. “How can you find direction, purpose, meaning?

    I guess all the advice I can give on that is just to wait it out and give it time. Eventually, Rosemary figured out that I was the same loving husband, with morals, respect, everything she wanted out of me as a husband. After several months, I told her to face it – you do not need God to be good, as a matter of fact, I highly doubt people really get their morals from their religious beliefs anyway. After viewing my upright behavior without Faith for so long, she had to concede that I was right. So give it time – hopefully, eventually, your wife will understand.

    I am honestly not sure what a “Common Sense Atheism Ultimate Truth-Seeker Challenge” is. Should I google it and try it out for myself?

    If I may add one more thing – I don’t know how wise it is to set a deadline on yourself to decide what you do/don’t believe in. I don’t think of this stuff anymore in terms of conversion experience or decisions. I have discovered that what works best for me about these kinds of beliefs is that it is a process. I cannot point to a date where I de-converted, because it is a process, and continues to be a process. Let your beliefs evolve naturally – and share with your family along the way. I just fear that setting deadlines on yourself like that will just add more unneeded pressure on yourself to make a ‘decision for Christ or a decision for Apostacy’, then you will have to make a big announcement to your family and church one way or the other.

    Anyway, good luck to you, Hendy and keep us posted!!!

  • 20. Hendy  |  August 7, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Weird, I thought I replied but maybe did not…

    Re. the deadline… I think it’s almost for others more than for myself. I’ve all but lost my faith entirely. I see a near impossibility of having Christianity proven to me beyond a reasonable doubt based on all of my various objections and the issues I see with it. Emotionally, however, I feel like I need to ensure (or prove to others) that I’ve done my “due diligence.” I think the deadline is perhaps more of a way to make it easier to finally just “come out” or make it more “official” rather than continuing to have others hold out hope for re-conversion.

    Does that make sense?

    I think it helps set a more definitive moment such that we can go our separate ways on this matter and I can somewhat “get on with my life” rather than spending 90% of my time engrossed in research and thinking.

    BUT… don’t get me wrong. I want to be a lifelong student and if god revealed himself personally in a way that was undeniable I would return. That’s all it takes for any of us: something we, individually, can’t deny. God knows (if he exists) what that threshold is for me and can meet it if he desires. At the same time, however, having a deadline somewhat allows me to stop feeling compelled to pour over apologetics in an attempt to hear absolutely everything pro-theism to try and figure out if there’s any way for Christianity to be more true given the evidence than agnosticism/atheism.

    Being able to make this “deadline-based decision” allows me to start getting into what appeals to me far more: what is morality from a naturalistic point of view? How do we foster self-improvement? What are all the awesomely cool things I can know about the world and the human person that I’ve missed out on all these years?!

    Stuff like that. Having been able to pick a fork rather than standing there like Robert Frost lets me start rebuilding some of myself rather than not even knowing which bricks and mortar to buy…

  • 21. atimetorend  |  August 7, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I had deadlines like that for myself; withdrawing from leadership at church, working through Christian apologetics, taking steps to being more open about what I believed, or more importantly, what I did not believe. And finally studying what I really wanted to and benefited from the most. So what you said makes a lot of sense to me.

  • 22. prairie nymph  |  August 9, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Hendy,
    I read your posts but couldn’t comment on your blog. Instead of figuring it out, I just came here.

    Fear is a huge reason for not analyzing the bible in the way you learn about other things like multi-level marketing. In my case, I delayed the search because I was afraid that

    1) what Christians said about those who became more liberal was true- immoral people who waste their lives and kill babies

    2) what Christians said about God was true- the god of the Bible has always been intolerable but I was willing to live in the hope that they were wrong, I didn’t know what I would do if they were proven right.

    In hindsight, those were sad reasons for not exploring and searching for truth.

  • 23. Hendy  |  August 10, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    @prairie nymph:

    [I fiddled with my comments options a little... not sure what was up. I did open it up so anonymous people can leave comments rather than just those with google or other IDs so hopefully that helps?]

    Fear is, indeed, a big one. Mine is more like “What if I’m wrong?” I don’t think about hell so much… just that I want to be aligned with the truth and part of me keeps wondering:

    - what if all of those crazy apologetics are right?
    - does atheism have any basis for morality, does it require a subscription to nihilism, is it self-contradicting?
    - does atheism have any hope of explaining the origins of the universe/life, morality, or the consciousness?

    The last one doesn’t keep me up because no matter how much one says, “God did it,” 1) it’s not an explanation, 2) anything outside of our known universe could have don it, 3) just because we don’t know now doesn’t mean we never will and 4) “I don’t know” is okay by me (but many others have a big issue with leaving it at that)

    The others do bother me. I can second guess my thinking and wonder if I find something incredibly implausible that I should find satisfactory when it comes to evidence or argument.

    The second is troublesome and yet not. If theists are right, my basis for morality has been gone for 7mos but I not consider my life having altered it’s moral course much at all. Also, because god doesn’t exist hasn’t led me to feel that life is meaningless, but I’m still worried that the intellectual argument works and so that does bother me. I still want to live, but also want to know if somehow logically atheism entails life and suicide being equivalent.

    Anyway, there’s some rambling for ya. Thanks for the comments.

  • 24. cag  |  August 10, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Hendy #23 – Remember that it is the Xtians who say that life without god is meaningless, not the atheists! Ditto for morality and all the other lies that some theists attribute to atheists.

  • 25. Ubi Dubium  |  August 11, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Hendy,
    “- what if all of those crazy apologetics are right?”
    Sounds a bit like Pascal’s Wager, which is a brazen attempt to play on your fear. What if they’re right? What if the crazy Muslim apologetics are right? What if the Hindus are right? If you are choosing to follow a religion based on “what if it’s right” then you should look for the religion with the worst punishments for disbelief and follow that one just to be safe. Does that really make sense?

    “- does atheism have any basis for morality, does it require a subscription to nihilism, is it self-contradicting?”
    Atheism is simply a lack of belief in a god, and that’s it. Nothing more. But humans have morality built into our brains, because we evolved to be social animals. Morals are rules that we have developed to allow us to co-exist and cooperate with one another as a community. (A hermit would have no need for morals.) Morality and ethics did not originate from some ancient book written by bronze-age goatherders.

    “- does atheism have any hope of explaining the origins of the universe/life, morality, or the consciousness?”
    Again, atheism is simply a lack of belief in a god, and is not an explanation of anything, nor is it meant to be. But once you no longer have a religion telling you that you must ingore your curiosity and rationality, then you are free to explore those questions for yourself. Science is the best tool we have for finding things out, and it works. (I’m writing on a COMPUTER for FSM’s sake! When was the last time that religion or prayer produced anything so wonderful as that?) For your answers, go read up on Astronomy, Abiogenisis, Sociology, Neuroscience, or anything else that interests you, and see what we have discovered so far in our search for those answers. It’s all fascinating.

  • 26. Hendy  |  August 11, 2010 at 11:28 am

    @Ubi:

    - Re. Pascal’s Wager: I hear you, but I wouldn’t put it quite that way. It’s more like, what if it really is true. Period. I don’t want to believe because I fear hell. I want to believe because it’s true. So it’s more like someone wondering if the earth really does revolve around the sun, but also being torn by all of the geocentric apologetics in circulation and looking back over one’s shoulder.

    - Re. morality: mostly agreed, though the non-existence of god has caused some to reject objective moral values. I’m nowhere advanced on this and could see it either way. Objective values are appealing for numerous reasons, but if it turns out that societal agreements and conventions as well as our inner senses work fine… then that’s just fine. Even if objective values don’t exist, I think it’s the police, not god, who prevent most crime.

    - Re. explanations: I don’t want to give off the idea that I think there’s no hope for these things. Even if we never identify them scientifically doesn’t mean that “god did it” is any better. I do plan on reading much about science :) It’s still one of the biggest objections I hear and so I think about it a lot.

  • 27. BigHouse  |  August 11, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    - Re. Pascal’s Wager: I hear you, but I wouldn’t put it quite that way. It’s more like, what if it really is true.

    Then use your method for establishing truth. Which is what? And how does Christianity perform using that test?

    If fear or Pacal are really not part of the equation, then it shouldn’t matter how horrible the outcome is iif Christianity is true.

    Follow the evidence and ascertain truth the best you can.

  • 28. Ubi Dubium  |  August 11, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    It’s not a bad idea, when evaluating truth, to compare your religion to other religions that you are quite confident are not true. How does the “evidence” in favor of yours stack up against the “evidence” in favor of theirs?

    Look at, for example, Islam, Hinduism and (my favorite) the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You probably don’t accept the first two as true, and the last is clearly fictional.

    You have a “holy” book, which says it’s true. So do all the others.

    You have people who say they “feel in their heart it is true”. Same for the others.

    You have anecdotes of miracles and faith healings and miraculous appearances. Yup, they do too.

    You grew up being told yours is true, you have authority figures telling you it’s true, and you have a community or people around you who reassure you that it’s true. The others do too (except the Pastafarians, who are almost all recent converts, and geographically scattered.)

    People have believed yours for a long time. Hinduism is older.

    Do any of these religions have claims that stand up under real scientific testing? As far as I know, only the Church of the FSM meets this test.

    Is there anything you can think of that’s evidence for the truth of your religion that other religions don’t also claim?

  • 29. Hendy  |  August 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    @BigHouse:

    You may be responding via an assumption that I believe. I don’t… Using my method for establishing truth, I have essentially been an “intellectual atheist/agnostic” for about 6 months. What is that method? I would call it a form of common sense, perhaps? The best I can do is take in evidence from both sides and compare the two. Having done that, I have found Christianity, as far as I can figure, to be false or at least completely unconvincing.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have said no fear at all. It’s a fear of being wrong because I want to be aligned with the truth. Hell factors in extremely little. I think I have more faith than Christians in the forgiveness of their god. Should I die having chosen wrong, I do not fear being damned. I think any loving god who exists will understand that I did the best that I could given the available evidence. Such a good would not be surprised or angry about my final position. Nor, upon finding out a perfect god existed upon my death, would I reject such a being. If a perfect god existed and I could finally see and understand all of that after I died, I would bend my knee. I don’t know what I would do if such a being was not perfect and horrid… would I courageously reject the tyrant or pay lip service as not to be in eternal pain?

    I realize this is all speculation about an afterlife that has no supporting evidence… I’m just illustrating that I don’t worry much about the prospect of hell whatsoever.

  • 30. Hendy  |  August 11, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    @Ubi Dubium:

    Agreed. I think the “outsider test of faith” (LINK) is a fine method forward.

    When I began to doubt, I wondered what the best way to establish truth was. I concluded that the best way to determine if Christianity was true would be to doubt it and try to prove it back to myself. I was able to more or less “suspend belief” and go forward like this. Some of that was largely due to the little bit that I read of atheistic material being extremely convincing from the start, as I realize without a “crack in my dogmatic shell”, suspension of belief would have been impossible or nearly so. Even as it was, perhaps I shouldn’t even say that I “chose to suspend belief” but rather than my belief was already on hold.

    I agree that I-feel-it-in-my-heart is a poor justification for belief as well, though Plantinga seems to support it via moderate foundationalism. I had a debate entirely centered on this in two parts: ONE and TWO. I think I came out ahead…

    What does Christianity claim that others don’t have? I guess I’d say:
    - uniquenss of Jesus compared to others
    — only person to claim divinity or god-ness
    — use of prophetic language to describe himself
    - most historically accurate
    - four “facts” to explain: crucifixion, empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, uprising of the Christian faith quickly
    - more miracles than others and more dependence on them in general (e.g. 67 Lourdes miracles)

    There’s a start. Do I think these are quite convincing myself? Not really. I don’t think we can know what Jesus really said, period. Anything he claimed to have said aligning with the prophets could just as easily been written by the gospel writers, not to mention that such sayings are not repeated throughout all four.

    Many say the gospels really do read like historical books, but I don’t think it’s very hard to see them as mythical stories. They’re very saturated with extravagant language and things that a historian wouldn’t have inserted were he reporting just occurrences. Things about what Jesus knew others were thinking “in their hearts” for example. The pure fact of some focusing primarily on prophetic fulfillment and John being the only one to have such an advantageous story of Doubting Thomas is enough to make on wonder why the hell such material wouldn’t have made it into the others.

    There’s a whole separate issue of why Paul, the one putting forth the entire theology of Christianity, doesn’t references a single teaching of Jesus other than recounting the last supper. How the heck do you teach in the name of Jesus without using anything he said or did? How ridiculously helpful it would have been when writing to various communities to say, “Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remember when our Lord and Savior said x, y, and z… therefore, let us…” Why in the world would he not have done that anywhere?

    Re. the miracles. Who knows. I’d like to know how many miracles we could find if we stationed a medical committee at every single hospital and clinic in the world to study any disease that went into remission or any other odd medical occurrence. If you literally are focused entirely on anything and everything that happens to the millions and millions who pour through your doors every year (since 1854), your’e bound to get 67 really cool things.

    Set up a committee like that to study every health treatment facility in the world for 5 years and let’s see what we can find.

    We’re still not to the point of healing anyone born blind or regrowing limbs, so whatever happens still isn’t out of the naturally possible.

    If god wanted to convince us via miracles, he’d send some pillars of fire/cloud, part the oceans so that genocide victims could escape, send down manna from heaven to feed the hungry, or let us put a pile of water-soaked sticks out in the open for him to engulf in flames. Anything like that would truly be outside of any known operations in nature.

    Lots of gibberish. So, yes, I think Christians, at least, think that they have claims other religions don’t but I still don’t find them convincing. A lot of this is on an emotional level. I fear walking away prematurely and probably a lot of that comes from not wanting to be dismissed by those in my Christian circles. Not dismissed as in un-friended, but dismissed as in not having to deal with the rational reasons I find the faith improbable. I don’t want to be labeled as someone with an alternative agenda of immorality, someone who just hates god, doesn’t want authority, etc. If and when (if not already?) I deconvert… I want others to have to face square in the face that there were excellent reasons for such action.

  • 31. BigHouse  |  August 11, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    A did not make the assumption that you believe and in fact didn’t think you did.

    My point was, if you desire the truth, then seek it as best you can and know that you were true to yourself.

    I don’t stay up at night wondering if I am wrong about whether the Red Sox are worth rooting for. Or did I pick the right thing for dinner last night. Religion and/or why/how are we here to me is no different. I can only reason with the mind I have and follow where the evidence leads me.

    Just because Christianity has a fire and brimstone message attached to it does not place it above other claims to the truth of the universe and therefore, it requires no more “What if” ponderance than any other religion.

  • 32. Hendy  |  August 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    @BigHouse:

    Thanks for the clarification. I agree that I can only go where my mind and abilities allow given the available evidence.

    Perhaps the crux of this discussion, then, is how to break free emotionally. I have the most difficult time making somewhat of a “final call” which I desire to do just to make it clear where I stand to others. I find it difficult with others still thinking I believe and then attending various Christian things with my wife but not really wanting to be there and also not participating.

    I still love the friends I have but it gets awkward to say the least. At present I’m tackling a lot of reading and hope that doing that will provide a tangible way to cut the cords. I hope to keep learning my whole life but think there needs to be some sort of finality so that those around me know where I stand.

    I don’t worry about tons of other stuff, either. Religions are often different for whatever reason and can be very hard to shake psychologically, at least I’m finding that to be the case.

  • 33. Quester  |  August 11, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Hendy,

    Two and a half years ago, when I was just beginning to doubt and this blog was much more active, I came here and took the atheist point of view in arguments against Christians who came to proselytize, just to see if there were any arguments that I had not come across yet- arguments that could show me what obvious *something* I was blinding myself to. I was still a believer, if struggling, surely it should be easy to show me the evidence of why Christianity was right, or even that God exists. I wanted to believe. It would have made my life so much easier. But no one ever did have any evidence. I still occasionally read books or blogs written by believers, just in case I’ve overlooked something. Nothing wrong with learning other points of view. But I do it with much more passive curiosity than years ago.

    I hope things go well for you with your wife and your small group. This can be a really tough time to go through.

  • 34. Hendy  |  August 11, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    @Quester:

    You describe something I’d like to get to. I think I’m still in the more “active” curiosity phase but far more eager to get to a more confident stance that I’m on solid ground in my disbelief, and from there proceed in a far more tranquil, relaxed manner (“passive” curiosity).

    Right now it seems that I’m at a cross roads and it’s difficult moving forward in some areas because the most important decision affecting forward progress is not established!

    I would much rather be able to stop looking over my shoulder and learn about naturalistic moral systems, more about science, etc. than be where I am now.

    It’s hard to describe what creates the “back-over-the-shoulder” pull, but it’s there. It is a really tough time. The worst for me was finding out that the truth was not established, proven, concrete, tangible, available, etc. The cloudy, convoluted nature of this subject is horrifying. Of all the things to be learned, I can’t believe this is the most seemingly murky.

    Of course, I see this as a strike against the god hypothesis, as a being who wants me to know him can easily help me to know him…

  • 35. Quester  |  August 11, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Hendy,

    I’ve browsed your blog a little, and see that you’re a geek like me, so remember when you’re in a quagmire like this to go back and make sure you’ve defined your terms properly and are asking the right question.

    “Does God exist?” is a muddle of a question with at least one undefinable term and a number of slippery responses.

    “What would the world look like if there existed an omnipotent being who wanted the best for each individual human?” just leaves you with defining ‘the best’, but can bring you much more readily to an answer.

  • 36. Hendy  |  August 11, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    @Quester:

    Agreed! I’m far more interested in: “Does the god of Christianity exist?” or perhaps more accurately, “Is the Christian story plausible?” And this breaks down into sub-questions:
    - the fall?
    - the resurrection?
    - OT/NT reconciliation?
    - NT discrepancies/contradictions?
    - and so on

    My current stance would be perhaps more targeted at the belief I used to hold and following from finding that implausible to say that I find most definitions of at least any kind of intervening/revealing god to be incredibly unlikely and/or that any being who does exist is probably not defined by any existing religion! “I don’t know and you don’t either” seems reasonable to me.

    Your question fits with my self-coined definition of theology I formed reasonably early on:

    Theology is a field of study in which the objective is to convince properly functioning and rational individuals that what they would imagine to be the case were an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving being to exist and be in control… is utterly false and that not only does this being exist, but, in fact, the world as we experience it is the only logically possible way things could have occurred.

  • 37. Hendy  |  August 11, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Also, you are correct that “the best” is the focal point and also a source of unbelievable convolution. I’ve been narrowing in on exactly that in the comments over at Common Sense Atheism in a post called “What do believers really think about God and evil?”

    I can’t seem to link to it as my comment gets rejected by wordpress ever time. It was in my post above but I had to cut it out to get it to work. Weird.

    If you go to the second page (scroll all the way down and click “older posts”) and find the title above, you might find an enjoyable read over the last 20 comments or so of the post.

  • 38. Quester  |  August 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Hendy,

    My question ended up boiling down to, “Do I have any confidence that I know anything, or can know anything, about any being or beings labeled ‘god’- including, but not limited to, character, will, or even existence?”

    When I realized the answer was “no”, I left the church. Eventually, I realized that I no longer believed, as I had nothing to believe in. There was some overlap between those last two statements.

    I didn’t tell people, when I left, that I stopped believing in God, or that I was now an atheist. I wasn’t yet sure that was true. I simply said, “I’m no longer confident I know who God is or what God wills, so I’m stepping back for a while.”

  • 39. Anonymous  |  August 11, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    @Quester:

    I definitely like the question. I would concur with your answer for the most part. I think we could know at least something, but that given the evidence available, whatever we think we know is almost certainly untrue.

    The only thing I don’t like is the “step back for a while.” For me, I want some form of hard line as I was extremely active in my faith. To just “step back for a while” is essentially what I’ve been doing but I’m still in a men’s small group, go to Mass sometimes, and so on. It makes for awkwardness to have people have that look of hope in their eyes every time they see me or ask how things are going. I think I’d prefer it just get left alone somewhat and have the freedom to move into another stage of my life.

    I’m not sure I would call myself an atheist either. I just don’t know! Practically, I think that works out to be a “lived atheism,” but I have no idea if there is a deity or not or what exists “outside” of our universe. I think some boundaries will be helpful in my case. I feel a bit hounded and it just makes for awkwardness. Perhaps I’m just not yet comfortable with the divide that has been created between me and a lot of others because of this, though…

  • 40. Hendy  |  August 11, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Whoop — that was from me… I didn’t put in my name and it posted as Anon.

  • 41. Quester  |  August 12, 2010 at 12:25 am

    You’re right, Hendy, in that my ‘no’ was a bit too comprehensive. I do think that we could know something about a god, if there was a god to know something about.

    As for stepping back, I’m in a bit of a rarer position. I’m ordained clergy, so stepping back resulted in me giving up my license to preside over the sacraments, which meant I had to move out of the clergy housing and get a new job, both of which led me to move back to my home town I’d grown up in. So, some boundaries were inherent.

  • 42. BigHouse  |  August 12, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Hendy, I wonder if your need for a “hard line” isn’t a remnant of your religious past. One of the most brilliant parts of letting go of dogmatic belef systems is that “I don’t know” or “I am not sure” or “The evidence so far is inconclusive” are very reasonable and defnesible positions to take on many of life’s most mysterious questions. Reject the premise that you are required to take a hard line yes or no stance on every question the universe could possibly offer. Because really, who has the right to demand you to do this?

  • 43. Hendy  |  August 12, 2010 at 10:04 am

    @Quester: ah, yes. That would entail some boundaries!

    @BigHouse:

    You may possibly be right re. religious spillover into the desire for a “hard line.” On the other hand, I’ve been open but not quite at the level of lay-down-in-the-extreme about my stance. I think many might think of this as a “phase” or “struggle” whereas I see an extremely small chance that I will return to the Catholic faith any time soon, if ever.

    I don’t want to know all the answers, but it is precisely that I want those around me to know that my indefinite position moving forward is “I don’t know” rather than “I’m Catholic.”

    Without that I just feel a little awkward like everyone is still wondering when I’ll finally come out and say, “Wow was I stupid. Forgive me, brothers and sisters. I’m soooo glad to be back.”

    Does that make sense?

  • 44. BigHouse  |  August 12, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Honestly, Hendy, everything in life is a “phase”. I go where the evidence leads and if a religion becomes justified for belief based on evidence, I’d gladly follow so long as that was the case. So right now, though atheism fits the evidence best, I cannot say I’ll never change, because I don’t know what future evidence may crop up.

    So don’t feel the need to continue the unnecessary habits of dogmatic thinking, including the need to draw a line in the sand that’s never to be moved.

  • 45. Hendy  |  August 12, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    @BigHouse:

    Agreed! It seems very hard to phrase this well… It’s like I want to draw a firm but completely moveable line in the sand, as odd as that sounds. If I become convinced of x in the future given evidence… I want to believe x. I want to follow whatever is discovered to be the case about reality.

    Did you deconvert from a tight circle of believers? Perhaps a lot of this stems from my high involvement in a Christian community. As I perhaps stated earlier, I’m in a weekly recurring couple’s group where we sing praise and worship and talk about our relationship with god. Something has to be said at some point to make the break with that…

    That’s the kind of line I mean, that’s all. Primarily just so that others know not to ask me to lead praise and worship music anymore, distribute communion, lead retreat small groups… that kind of stuff.

    By your comments it seems that perhaps you weren’t quite as connected tangibly like this. Many don’t even know and I’ve not said anything yet simply because if I returned to belief, I didn’t think they would need to know about all of this.

    But it’s looking like a 1% chance (or less) that this will happen… so I kind of have to do something to communicate my situation?

  • 46. prairie nymph  |  August 13, 2010 at 12:56 am

    Hendy,
    I agree with you that it is the emotional ties that are interfering with your breaking away process. There are many books that can help you with your questions about Christianity and the resurrection, but that doesn’t make it any easier to break ties with a group that is bound together by believing the same things.

    I think many people here were very involved in church community.

    I was very involved in a small church. We left that one (mostly over headcovering issues) and are now involved in a baptist church. We have been fasting from church services but are still in the small group. Since its been off for the summer I haven’t had to deal with anything yet.

    I’m dreading it. I want their friendships but not at the expense of my integrity.

  • 47. Hendy  |  August 13, 2010 at 1:37 am

    @prairie nymph:

    Indeed. I’m sad that some friendships will almost surely fizzle, or at least that has been my read. Some I just don’t think can see me the same, though I suppose that’s inevitable. One downside of being a very strong believer and then walking away is that my relationships really were founded on God/Jesus/Faith/Holiness. With that being something I have no interest in anymore… where is our common bond?

    That’s one of the hardest parts of marriage as well. My wife and I used to pray together, sing praise and worship, bless and thank God for things, and all that… what about now? She has used the phrase, “This isn’t what I signed up for” and I totally understand. She pictured a life filled with X and I’m saying I don’t want to do X with you anymore. Hard stuff.

    I agree about integrity. I realized recently that I can’t be anyone other than myself. I won’t be held emotionally hostage by those who tell me how hard this will be on others, even my wife. I just can’t. If friends and even family can’t be “pro Hendy” then they loved a version of me all along.

    This “quest” has taught me the value of seeking to love a person rather than a version of them which you prefer. That’s hard, but to support potential and fullness of life, one must give up preference/comfort for the sake of the flourishing of the other.

  • 48. HeIsSailing  |  August 13, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Hendy, prairienymph,

    If you are leaving a church community, you will undoubtedly lose friends. I don’t know a nice way to say it.

    I have lost all the friends who attended our home Bible Study and Prayer Groups. One if them even came to RoseMary and admitted to her that it was hard to love us when I publicly admitted my doubts. Even a couple of our more pious Catholic freinds have distanced themselves from us. We still see each other, but our conversations seem more.. .. superficial.

    But all is not lost. I still have one or two dear friends who are holdovers from my old Christian days, I have kept plenty of friends and acquaintences from work and other interests who know nothing of my religious beliefs and frankly do not care, and I have also made plenty of freinds since leaving the Church.

    Let me tell you one thing that I think is important. Like I said, I have two, especially one but I could say two, friends who are holdovers from my old Christian days. We still see each other regularly, and are truly friends. We have sacrificed greatly for them, and they have done the same for us. But the one thing they have in common is that we have ties to each other *outside* of religion or religious beliefs. When we spend time together, 90 % of our time is focused on other interests and concerns and religion is never an issue.

    Not that we don’t discuss it on occassion, and I am thankful that religion is not a taboo topic. Just yesterday, I debated with my friend concerning our ‘moral compass’ that she claims is God given and when I question whether such a thing really exists. It was heated, passionate, firm and friendly, and when we were done, we talked about coming to our house next week for a BBQ. It is a wonderful relationship.

    But that is the key – we were friends with plenty of other interests besides religion when I left the Faith. And we continue to focus on those other interests. The other people in my Bible Study, in my Church group – we shared no other common interests. The only glue that binded our freindship was religion. When that was gone – they had no desire to spend time with us – and frankly.. yeah I was remorseful, but in the end, I was not exactly missing their company either.

    My advice is maintain relationships with friends and relatives with interests and ties other than religion. If religion is the only thing you have between each other, and you let religion go, then prepare to end that relationship on a positive note. Seriously.

    As far as marraige, RoseMary and I had to kind of do the same thing. We did not marry each other because of our common religious ground, and we kept our marraige going by focusing on other parts of our lives. Sure we brought religion up, and she knows exactly why I doubt the way I do. But in the end, we had to decide if our marraige was worth the effort to work around the differences. And that was what we did – it was not always easy, but that is pretty much how we did it.

    I know – easier said than done. But keep searching, keep asking questions, and keep communicating with your wife, husband, family, freinds. whatever. I truly wish their were more church councelling sessions where this sort of thing was discussed, but there are not, and this sorry blog way of communicating is the best we have got for now. But keep writing here, and writing articles on your blogs so we know you are doing.

  • 49. HeIsSailing  |  August 13, 2010 at 10:19 am

    prairienymph says:
    We left that one (mostly over headcovering issues) and are now involved in a baptist church.

    Fascinating. This brings back plenty of memories from my teenage years in Missouri. Not too many concerns over head-coverings here in Southwestern Texas, but I sure remember the handwringing in my church in Missouri. These regional differences in Christian Faith are pretty interesting to me.

  • 50. BigHouse  |  August 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Hendy, I was pretty involved in the church for many many years but was less so at the time of my deconversion so it was likely easier for me on that front than you.

    But I am also still “in the closet” to my family as they remain dedicated Christians. I don’t see the need to volunteer the painful info to them. But I admit that part of me wants to be up front and fully truthful about it proactively. For now, we’re living in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” zone.

    That being said, I would recommend to you that friends that only want to be your friend if you believe as they do, aren’t really your friends to begin with. There’s always pain in change, but it would be for the best.

  • 51. Hendy  |  August 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    @HiS:

    Thanks for the comments. I think some friendships have become what you describe already, namely kind of awkward and/or superficial. There’s others I have high hopes of continuing to be in relationship with and I found an atheists meetup group that is filled with very receptive and kind people even in the few times I’ve participated. It’s been quite nice to find some others who are open minded.

  • 52. Hendy  |  August 13, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    @BigHouse:

    Thanks for the comments. My parents have never been believers and it’s actually made our relationship stronger! I see them in an entirely different light now that I realize how non-obvious the answers are! Before I wrote them off much as I’m now being written off or judged by some others. It’s been a wonderful change of view toward them.

    My friends, community, wife and in-laws are another story! My in-laws are believers but not really in the extreme devout end of the spectrum. My wife has told her sister and parents about me and they’ve been pretty supportive.

    I would agree with you: those who cannot acknowledge me as a rational/good/truth-seeking individual unless I believe in their god.. probably won’t last very long if at all post-deconversion and that may very well be for the best.

  • 53. Hendy  |  October 24, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Hey, still kicking. Just thought I’d leave a link here to a lengthy write-up I just did of my own “unequally yoked” marriage on my BLOG. I’m hoping to make it a multiple part series and keep it updated.

    HiS, mainly thought you might like to read some of my own thoughts. I think things are in a reasonably good spot right now and thus took the opportunity to write about the past/present difficulties as well as some reflections on what I think will preserve our marriage.

  • 54. HeIsSailing  |  October 25, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Hey Hendy, thanks alot for the link to your own story. Sorry not much going on here – I am afraid this once vibrant blog is dead, so I don’t visit anymore.

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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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