and I know things now, many valuable things, that I hadn’t known before.

Library WallIt was Sunday afternoon. I was in “my” room. The living room. Looking out the window that spans nearly an entire wall, hypnotically watching a baby squirrel chowing down on the suet in the birdfeeder. I call it “my” room because it’s lined with a 12 foot wide by 7 foot high wall of 12×12 cubby shelves filled with books about God. Theology. Spiritual Growth. Prayer. Suffering. blah. blah. blah.

84 square feet. My own personal little library. That’s a lot of books. A lot of words. I’ve learned a lot from those books. With endless more still to learn.

My husband was chilling out in the adjacent room. Even though we’re visually separated by the wall of books, we never have to raise our voice to hear each other.

The clock ticks.

Me, softly: “I miss the old me.”

FirstHusband: “What do you mean?”

Me: “You don’t notice a difference?”


He knows what I’m talking about.

The clock ticks.

Me: “I miss optimism.”

silence. He’s not ignoring me. He’s waiting. He knows me. I’m not done talking. I’m not done thinking.

(I know, I know. I’m NEVER done thinking.)

The clock ticks.

Me: “I hate that the gate is so narrow.”I hate that the gate is so narrow Matthew 7 13-14 JSM Quotes

FirstHusband: “I know.”

A few years ago, when I experienced the deafening silence and pitch black darkness and seeming cavernous distance from all that I had come to recognize and understand and depend on as the presence of God, I couldn’t understand why He was allowing such intense pain. I wondered then if the separation was temporary or permanent. If it was temporary, I wondered if the other side would prove to be a pruning that led to a more fruitful bounce back to what I had come to know as “normal” or if this season was a “refined by fire” step leading to an altogether new and different relationship with God.

I’m still not sure.

I’m not sure I’m completely done with that season, so it very well may be that it’s premature to be contemplating the “lessons learned” of it all.

Romans 9 2-3One thing I understand better than I did before is when Paul wrote these words:

“that I have great sorrow and
unceasing anguish in my heart.
For I could wish
that I myself were accursed
and cut off from Christ
for the sake of my brothers,
my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
Romans 9: 2-3 ESV

Paul is saying, “I genuinely grieve for those who don’t know Christ. I would give up eternity with Him, if it meant that they could know Him.”

And just to be clear, me saying I understand Paul better, does NOT mean I share his sentiments about sacrificing my relationship with God so that somebody else could know Him.

I know me. I’m much. much. too selfish for that.

The pain I experienced during my recent separation from Him here on earth is more than enough to tell me that eternal separation would be…

unbearable doesn’t begin to describe it.

But I do understand what Paul is saying.

And the raw truth of it is suppressing optimism. It’s sabotaging Hope.

Not that I don’t know Satan will be defeated in the end, because I know he will. It’s just that the evidence that the earth is Satan’s domain seems to be everywhere I look.

I can’t not see it.

Back in December of 2013, I wrote about asking God to “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.” Here’s an excerpt from that post:

“The next morning, I woke up…brokenhearted. Seriously. It’s the only word that fits. I was literally grieving over how many people HATE God. or even the idea of Him.

Immeasurable grace. Unconditional love the likes of which I will never fully comprehend.

and so often – much too often – the response is arrogant and caustic rejection. vehement acrimonious derision. revulsion. hate.

and then there’s indifference.

God, through the ultimate expression of love, sacrificed Himself on the cross so that ANYone can experience abundant life in Him.

and so many people respond with “meh.” So many people don’t respond at all.

I’m brokenhearted. Not just for people I know and love, but for people I’ve never met.

this is new. and not from me. On my own, I’m incapable of this kind of intuitive compassion.

Some read those words and thought I was being arrogant. condescending. sanctimonious. I can’t stop them from thinking that. Haters gonna hate.

Some might read them and think I’m an emotionally driven drama queen. Those people obviously don’t know me very well.

The fact is, it’s much easier to live with the knowledge that so many people hate God when you only process the information intellectually. It’s their choice. And the choice has consequences: current and eternal separation from the God who loves them unconditionally. End of story.

But when you genuinely care about someone, and you know they’ve mistaken religion for a restored relationship with God through Jesus, you grieve for their loss.

God uses our deepes pain launching pad greatest callingI grieve for their loss.


Again. I can’t stop people from thinking that.

I believe that God, through the ultimate expression of love, sacrificed Himself on the cross so that ANYone can be restored to uninhibited relationship with Him and experience abundant life through Christ, not only for eternity but also now – here on earth. And so. many. people say He doesn’t even exist. So. many people blame Him for Satan’s handiwork. They want Him to intervene and stop “bad” people from hurting “good” people, not thinking through the implications that would have in their own lives if God intervened and stopped them from ever doing anything rebellious.

My acute awareness of how many people live separated from God brings with it the broken heart I prayed for. Not just for people I know and love, but for people I’ve never met.

And I can’t not see it. I can’t not know it.

And so I find myself wrestling with the paradox of personally experiencing the joy of abundant life in Christ and grieving because so many people seem to hate God. And anyone who loves Him.

I wouldn’t change the seeing. or the knowing. It’s good to know.

And a little bit not…

Richard Dawkins acknowledges the possibility of Intelligent Design…

Richard Dawkins on the Possibility of Intelligent DesignHow did I not know this?

Anti-theist, Richard Dawkins believes in the possibility of intelligent design:

“It could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, by probably some kind of Darwinian means, to a very, very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto, perhaps, this planet. That is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the D cells of biochemistry and molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer. And that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe.”

Doing the math…

That’s: 3 “coulds” 1 “somewhere” 1 “probably” 1 “perhaps” 3 “possibilities” and 2 “mights” all adding up to

– if I understand him correctly –


from outer space.

or more specifically, from “somewhere” in space, at “some earlier time” in history.

perhaps. He supposes.

He makes this statement in an interview with Ben Stein, who comments:

“So, Professor Dawkins was not against intelligent design. Just certain types of designers. Such as God.”

Aliens are a reasonable scientific theory.

But a different kind of transcendent being,

such as God,

is not.

Here’s two data points I will remember forever about Richard Dawkins:

1. When asked, without even a hint of argument, he immediately acknowledged the possibility of intelligent design:

“It could come about in the following way.”

2. Without any citing any scientific evidence, using words like could, probably, perhaps, possible and might, he believes aliens are a reasonable scientific theory to explain intelligent design.

“And that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe.”

And then there’s his quote about “people who claim to be religious” from my post yesterday:

“Mock them. Ridicule them. In public.” Religion “needs to be ridiculed. With contempt.

Richard Dawkins on Christians: “mock them. ridicule them. in public. with contempt.”

[Background Photo Source and Prints Available to Purchase from: ]
[Background Photo Source and Prints Available to Purchase from: ]

Been thinking about something Richard Dawkins said
when he spoke about
meeting someone who claims to be religious:

“Mock them.

Ridicule them.

In public.”

Religion “needs to be ridiculed.

With contempt.”

And the crowd he addressed laughed and cheered and applauded.

I don’t agree.

I can’t fathom a single situation in which contemptuous ridicule is “needed.”

Public or private.

Everybody is ‪#‎justadifferentkindofbroken‬ ‪#‎edify‬

doubt assumptions, ask questions, search for answers.

When I work as a computer trainer and consultant, I offer potential or new clients a free “needs analysis.” It didn’t take me long to realize that most of these clients fall into one of three categories:

1. They know exactly what they need, and they are right. They understand their situation and possibilities.
2. They know exactly what they need, and they are wrong. Their perspective is limited and/or skewed.
3. They’re not sure what they need, but they know they need help.

I’ve found a similar pattern with people who believe they are a Christian:

1. They believe they are a Christian and they are right. They have a relationship with Christ.
2. They believe they are a Christian, but they are missing a relationship with Christ.
3. They’re not sure what they believe, but they are seeking.

(And then there are those who are comfortable with where they are and aren’t seeking.)

John Wesley saw that second group of people clearly. Adam Hamilton, in his book Revival, described it this way:

“Wesley said that many who thought they were Christians seemed to be so in name only; they were almost Christians. They did not have the joy, assurance, or peace that comes from being wholly surrendered to God. They lived their lives in compromise with sin, willing to do just enough good but no more. They entertained evil, provided that it wasn’t too extreme. They did little or nothing to grow in love with God.

In what ways did faith in the church of Wesley’s day resemble the faith in our churches today? Some would suggest in a great many ways.

Wesley said there is so much more to being a Christian than simple acceptance; there is a power, love, and joy that come from walking with God. And God expects more of Christians than simply trying to not be so bad as other people.”

To say this quote resonates with me would be an understatement. I can only speak from my experience and understanding, so I’ll say it this way. When I accepted Christ at 15, He became my savior. I lived my life in the context of that relationship with Him until 2007, when He revealed to me that I was holding back. He wanted to be more than my Savior. He wanted to be the Lord of my life. He wanted me to give up my will and trust Him in every aspect of my life, with no limitations. Over the last 7 years, by the grace of God and through the equipping of the Holy Spirit, I’ve taken down the boundaries between the different aspects of my life and I’ve been striving to offer up all of me to Him. I’ve been growing into an intimate, dependent, living relationship with Christ.

Live wisely make the most of every opportunityWhile I’ve spent most of my career as a computer trainer and consultant, at my core, I’m an educator. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a passion to help people grow. As I myself have grown closer to Christ, the Holy Spirit has taken that passion and set it on fire. I’m determined to encourage and challenge people to intentionally examine what they believe and why they believe it. I’m determined to encourage people to doubt their assumptions, ask questions, search for answers and make informed and intentional decisions about their beliefs.

Notice the language I just used. It’s very specific. I said “decisions about their beliefs” not “decisions about God.”

My goal within any of these conversations is not to change someone’s mind.

My goal is to leave a “spiritual stone” in the shoe of everyone with whom I interact, mostly through asking questions and listening.

I fail often.

But when I have a conversation with someone who wasn’t thinking about God, and the conversation results in them thinking about God – especially long after the conversation is over – I haven’t failed. After the conversation is over, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to soften that person’s heart and open their mind as he draws them closer to Himself.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” John 6:44a (ESV)

Relating to the three possibilities above, God has specifically planted and grown in me three distinct, compelling and persistent passions:

1. Discipleship
In addition to my own desire to be discipled, I have a passion to disciple others – to help people who have a relationship with Christ, continuously grow closer to Christ. My prayer is that God would reveal to all who know Him what he revealed to me: That He wants them to give up their will and trust Him in every aspect of their lives. That He doesn’t just want to be their Savior, He wants to be the Lord of their Life. He wants an intimate, dependent, living relationship with them.

2. Relational Evangelism
a) For the people who believe they are Christian but have never entered into a relationship with Christ, my prayer is that they would enter into that relationship. I can’t help but think of this verse:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Matthew 7:21-2321 

b) For the people who know they aren’t Christian, but are willing to share with me what they think and feel about God and, more specifically, Jesus, I’m determined to be a safe person with whom they can voice their doubts, ask hard questions and search for answers. My prayer is that they come to faith in Christ. It’s not my job. It’s my prayer.

iceberg doubt assumptions ask questions search for answers3. Apologetics
For people who are apathetic about God, who don’t believe in Him or flat out hate Him and all His followers, my passion is to help them set aside the baggage that so often comes from religion and help them see that the selfish behavior of some of the people who profess to be Christian is more a reflection of flawed humanity than that of a perfect God. My prayer is that they make their own personal decision about Jesus based on Jesus, and Jesus alone, rather than on their thoughts and feelings about religion and the bad behavior and beliefs of other people.

John 10:10 tells us that Christ came that we may have life, and have it abundantly, in all its fullness. Not abundant blessings or stuff. Abundant LIFE.

That’s what Biblical discipleship leads to.

Abundant Life in Christ.

CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series.

the donkey is busy.

It’s taken me months to nail down the problem. WHY did I shut down after publishing my “Christ-centered church” series?

writers block keyboardI couldn’t even think about public speaking.
In most interpersonal conversations, I didn’t go near a discussion about faith.
I couldn’t write a word in “my” book.
I couldn’t even open the document.

Anything I had to say was pointless. recycled and contrived. self-important rambling. vomit from my fingertips.

my confidence wasn’t the only thing that was shot. my credibility was in a crumpled heap:

Who did I think I was? If God has a message, He does NOT want me to share it. As a matter of fact, if He wants anybody to actually hear a message, He really needs to find someone else to share it. seriously. look at the history. I suck at this.

Not only did the message of the Christ-centered church series get vehemently rejected, it was so vehemently rejected, people rejected stuff I didn’t even SAY. Those posts shut down conversation and built unscalable walls of defensiveness that are still impenetrable today.

Vehement rejection aside, there seem to be just as many people who didn’t understand what I was trying to say in the first place. Not even a little. Then there are the people who are convinced they understand, but when they comment or talk to me, it’s clear. Not even close. I hadn’t succinctly explained what I was talking about. I sometimes wondered if I would have been better understood if I had written those posts in pig-Latin.

Am I dismissing the relatively few people who did understand? who identified with what I said? who responded positively?

of course I am. It’s what we humans do. In an employee review, we will dismiss the 9 “excellents” and obsess over the one “needs improvement.” Because the next review? We want that “needs improvement” to be improved. significantly.

For months after that series, I was convinced I couldn’t put words together in comprehensible sentences. I couldn’t write. I stopped the “conversations with a born-again athiest” series. If what I said about my faith caused CHRISTIANS such confusion and anger, I had NO business talking to an atheist. seriously.

I was paralyzed by a complete and total lack of confidence in my ability to discern ANYthing. God’s will, God’s prompting, God’s movement. Wisdom?


It was months of paralyzing doubt…no – paralyzing conviction – that I had nothing of value to contribute to…anyone – and even if I did – I was incapable of articulating it with any clarity at all.

I threw myself into physical labor. I can’t screw that up, right?

I began asking God for a mentor. To send someone wise and blessed with discernment. Then, just two weeks ago, I had coffee with a new friend. A deep thinker. We read the same authors. She took the time to listen and dig. She’s a question asker. It was a short four hours. I put my finger on it:


and I already KNEW it. I mentioned it in the middle of the Christ-centered church series, in a post entitled ““Christ-centered Church.” I do not think it means what you think it means.”

“Encoding is, to simplify it, the words and pictures I use to convey my message…it’s MY RESPONSIBILITY TO MODIFY MY ENCODING in an effort to clarify my message and minimize any misinterpretation”

encoding and decoding

I went back and read the Christ-centered church series again. and again. and again.

Was WHAT I said inaccurate? no. and I do NOT answer that question lightly. More than 6 months later and I’ve got even more and detailed reasons for believing it’s true. Hard. heart wrenchingly hard. but true.

So. Was HOW I shared the message ineffective? I shared personally and chronologically. I stepped through what I believe God was revealing to me in the order He revealed it. I explained how He revealed it. I read the series again. I went over and over it. I read my prayer journal entries from that time. I couldn’t see any other way to do it. Should I have left myself completely out of it? Excluded my thoughts and feelings? Should I have just stated facts and stuck exclusively with movie clips and metaphors, like dominoes? Was all that personal stuff just a self-indulgent, cathartic purge? If I had just stated the premise of the message up front, would it have had more clarity? Or, as I suspect, would the message have been rejected even faster? Having already decided I was wrong, no one would have come back to read any more; there would have been absolutely NO reason to hear me out.

And here’s the gist of it: If I did such a phenomenally poor job encoding a blog series, how in the world could I possibly encode a book?

I was a communication major. I should be able to structure and articulate a message. Supposedly, I’m an educator. What I came face to face with – what paralyzed me – was that it doesn’t matter a flyin flip WHAT I have to say if I’m incapable of saying it in a way it can be understood.

And then God reminded me of Balaam’s ass.

sometimes God sounds like an ass - Balaams donkey

“Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth…”

I don’t believe in coincidences. God led me to this book, and this passage:

“As the final song was sung before I was to be introduced, I leaned to Boneface and out of fear and desperation [I] blurted, “I don’t know why I am here. I don’t know why God would send me here to speak to these people, Why me?” Without hesitation, and with a big grin, Boneface turned to me and said, “You are here because the donkey was busy tonight.”
He was making a not-so-veiled reference to the prophet Balaam’s talking donkey in the Old Testament.
I got the message. God uses anything or anyone He chooses.”
Elijah, Steps to a Life of Power by Bob Saffrin

If God can speak through an ass, He can speak through me.

and it has not escaped my attention that Balaam beat the crap out of that donkey THREE times before he understood what the donkey was trying to tell him.

I just need to keep reminding myself of one thing:

“…Balaam replied. ‘But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.'”

Holy Veruca Salt, Batman.

If you’ve been following along for the last week, you’re probably wondering what the heck is wrong with me.


me too.

My husband and a friend have both referred to it as me being “refined by fire.”

I should probably be happy about this.

I’m sure one day I will be.


You may be wondering. Where did this come from? Was there a trigger?

yes. yes there was.

two, actually.

AtypicalAtheist posed the following question to me in an email:

“If you didn’t believe that there was some higher being able to influence the course of events, of what possible value would prayer be?”

and immediately, I found myself asking the same question, but going deeper. Do I really believe prayer changes GOD? If God has a sovereign plan, why pray? If He already knows everything, why am I telling Him everything? He doesn’t need reminding. He doesn’t forget. And why do I pray like a widow?

The generic Christian reply is “We pray because Jesus prayed.”

thank you. thank you very much. that clears it right up for me. I’m better now.


Thankfully, I know I’m not that unique. I know someone has asked themself these questions before. I was betting they had written about it.

It would seem I am in good company. Everybody from Pascal to C.S. Lewis to Yancy, to name just a few.

Philip Yancy in his book, “Prayer” said

“I envy, truly I envy, those people who pray in simple faith without fretting about how prayer works and how God governs this planet. For some reason I cannot avoid pondering these imponderables.”

solidarity, brother.

A second thing happened within a matter of days of receiving AtypicalAtheist’s email. God opened a door for someone I know. He provided a phenomenal opportunity. Out of nowhere. Total “God thing.”

And I remembered something I used to say all the time. “God can do ANYthing.” Beyond what we can ask or imagine.

I realized that I couldn’t see God’s hand in something I was pursuing. Tunnel vision pursuing. And none of what I was pursuing was beyond what I could ask or imagine. It was all “reasonable.”

Veruca Salt wants the golden eggand it was all me.

me. me. me. me. me. I wanted what I wanted. the way I wanted it.

and I wanted it now.

Holy Veruca Salt, batman.

The absolute LAST thing I want is to find myself in a “successful” situation and say, “Look at what I did!” instead of “Look what GOD did!”

but I saw it clearly. that’s exactly the direction I was headed.

Not a good look in the mirror for me.

I was a mess.

You combine my inability to reconcile praying petitionary prayers to a sovereign God with a sovereign plan and not seeing God’s hand in what I was pursuing and you’ve got someone who came face to face with hopeless selfishness.

not a good place.

I couldn’t pray.

What does faith look like when you can’t pray?

It’s not pretty.

it’s dark.

it’s a pit.

In my last post, I said that my husband had suggested I re-read Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper and Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View by Garry Friesen

I said they were both responsible for pivot points in my faith.

It appears I’m at another pivot point in my faith.

When I first read these books, the basic premise each of these guys set forth resonated with me.

In a teeny, tiny nutshell?

Piper – Serving God does not have to be sacrificial. It can be – sometimes it is – but it doesn’t have to be. There isn’t some sort of causal, yin and yang relationship between how much I sacrifice and how much God is pleased with my service. I can serve God by doing what I love and I can find joy in it. God wants me to find joy in serving him with my gifts. The passion I have for doing so was given to me by God. Sacrifice is not the marker of mature spirituality. Enjoying what I do does not mean I am selfish.

Friesen – God doesn’t have a predetermined, detailed individual plan for my life that I have to discover. A plan that is derailed if I make a wrong choice. (THANK GOD. Because if so, I veered off course a long time ago. multiple times.) Friesen’s premise is that the idea of God having a specific, detailed, individual will for each person’s life isn’t supported in scripture. That God has a sovereign will and it does not change. God has a moral will that we are to strive to stay within. Within His sovereign and moral will, God allows us to choose. He gives us the responsibility to choose. He gives us the wisdom to choose. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust Him to work it for His good. Within His sovereign plan.

again, I agree with Piper and Friesen’s basic premises. But some of what they say…

was seriously screwing me up.

I couldn’t reconcile the dichotomies in what I was finding.

Why is it that I can read C.S. Lewis and call him Jack when he gets all puffy and full of himself, but with these two guys I had trouble actually separating the wheat from the chaff?

And I see the chaff.

next time. this post is too long. I wouldn’t have read this far.

and like I said in my last post, if you know me IRL, don’t weird out when you see me. Like you’ve never seen a hot mess when you’ve looked into the mirror before.

[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series “the search for Joy.”]

conversations with a born-again atheist: abandoning Santa.

faith and reasonIf you’re new to the party, HERE are the previous posts in this series. If you want to skip the history and prefer the twitter version, I’m having an ongoing conversation with a born-again atheist. When I say “born-again atheist” I mean he was a born again Christian, but is now an atheist.

Note: Wrapping up the “Santa tangent.” (Before I could reply to the “Shotgun” email, AtypicalAtheist asked me for my thoughts on his comparison between Santa and faith in God.

Here’s his question:
comparing belief in God to belief in Santa. and faires. and WibbleFoo.”

and Here’s my response:
the Santa Comparison.”

Below is his reply.


Hey Julie,

I love the analysis, and I think you’re absolutely correct in some respects. I’m not trying to be condescending. I do attempt to speak by example though, and that may come off as condescending. In fact, my wife has made that statement before, so I know that, in spite of my attempts to not sound condescending, I come off as such anyway. Bah!

If I had said “Well, 1.6 billion people believe in Islam, and 1.4 billion people believe in Buddha. Just because people believe in all their hearts that something exists or something is right, doesn’t necessarily make it exist or make it right”.

My point is – belief that it exists is irrelevant to whether it does in fact exist. People believe a lot of stuff, but that doesn’t make it so.

A minor quibble along these lines then is that we disagree is the statement “Look at the sheer number of people that believe in God – they clearly can’t all be wrong…” is a valid LOGICAL point (your emphasis). I believe that to be a statement of feeling, not a logical point. A logical point is based on facts and based on reasoning. As I said above – just because you wish, think, or believe something is there, doesn’t make it there.

Regarding the Santa thing in that finally, I think you know now that I was trying to show an example of where it’s an absurd conclusion so as to block off the exit. Because it was Santa though, your critique was spot-on in that built into “belief in Santa” includes “child-like” and “ignorant”. So the larger part of the argument is completely overlooked. I won’t belabor the point – your criticism is quite right, and I’m happy to abandon the comparison.

One more (not trying to beat the dead horse again), but how would you feel in a debate, not that we’re having one, if I had instead chosen Astrology, Voodoo, or John Smith? Now, before you disagree with me for listing those things specifically, according to a Harris Poll released in 2008, 31% of Americans believe in Astrology; there are millions of people in Haiti, Africa, and Brazil that have faith in Voodoo; according to various sources, nearly 14 million people are baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints worldwide.

The sustaining goal being to point out that the # of believers doesn’t contribute one iota to whether a proposition is true. That was the point I was trying (and failing) to make.

Thank-you for the constructive criticism – it’s well received.


Click HERE to see all “conversations with a born-again atheist” posts.

NOTE: All comments will be held for approval. This blog is a no-hate zone.

conversations with a born-again atheist: some behind the scenes banter

faith and reasonIf you’re new to the party, HERE are the previous posts in this series. If you want to skip the history and prefer the twitter version, I’m having an ongoing conversation with a “born-again atheist” as we continue to explore my original questions:

Why do you believe faith in God is unreasonable, illogical and irrational?


How did a born-again Christian become an atheist?

Note: This is some in-between/behind the scenes conversation between AtypicalAtheist and myself. I’m including it in the blog series because I want to remind readers that he and are actually friends in real life – even though we hold very, very different beliefs about God.

AtypicalAtheist: Actually… one thing at a time. I’d love to get your opinion of my prior e-mail before I get your input from my last e-mail. Sorry – – – didn’t mean to overload the queue.

JSM: “One thing at a time.” NOW you say that? 🙂

Seriously. You called yourself a “free-thinker” but I would also describe you as a “shotgun thinker!” Following those first few emails was like trying to watch a bullet in a steel room. This might be a personal question, but all the coffee you drink…do you have ADD? Because if you do, you are very good at it. Meanwhile, I’ll try to keep up.

For my own clarity, I need to break up my responses into more manageable pieces. I’ve got so much written and it’s all starting to blend together. The pages are growing and there’s no reason not to start sending you the responses I have written. Unless you load up another shotgun…


AtypicalAtheist: Naw … I don’t have another shot…

Oooh – Squirrel!

Uh, where was I?

Yeah – I was diagnosed with ADHD way back before it was common-place. I was on Ritalin for years until I worked out that Nicotine was a great substitute. Nicotine – what a fantastic drug … it just has a crappy delivery mechanism. Anyway – I smoked from the age of about 14 to about 40. I am proud to say though that my kids never saw me with a cigarette although my middle child did find an empty pack of smokes in my car once. But alas, I digress. I now treat my ADHD with a pot of coffee and 3 hits of crystal meth every day whether I need it or not (uhh, just kidding about the crystal meth) 😉

Hope you’re still retaining your sense of humor,

JSM: lol! Definitely. In that vein, here’s a little atheist music for you:

p.s. I’m loving this. You are really making me think. But I’m far from convinced that faith in God is illogical. 🙂


[… snip …]
“I’m far from convinced that faith in God is illogical”
[… snip …]

I’d just like to reiterate that I have no intention of trying you convince you of anything. My past attempts to wrest my wife’s faith from her were misguided and completely unfair – she’s a theist, and I’m an atheist – live and let live. My experience indicates that it’s not really possible to convince you (or any other thorough-going theist) of anything regarding your beliefs. I will happily present the things that convince me that theism is absurd and the product of a time when mysticism abounded. That said, I don’t believe that there will be any argumentation or force in the presentation – that’s not the point of our fun discussion. If this were a proper debate, I would have started the discussion with something like “So – if I am able to demolish your evidence for theism, are you willing to immediately relinquish your belief in God?” Of course, about 99.9770233% of the time, the answer is No. So why bother really.

I did receive your book, and the admonition to not read it cover-to-cover. [Note to blog readers: “The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict” It’s GIANT]

Regarding my book, I have located a PDF version of “Atheism, the Case Against God” – the one I’d love you to read cover-to-cover/ Would you like me to send you a PDF, or do you want a physical book to thumb through?

Love the conversation,

JSM: I got a copy of “Atheism: the Case Against God” from an online book swap. It arrived today. My yellow highlighter and I need the freedom to explore (and to ruin the resale value of the book).

I’m a “thorough-going theist?” ooooo. I like that label. And I know I can’t convince you of anything either. My focus for the conversation is still on digging through your statement that belief in God isn’t logical, reasonable or rational. As well as my continued interest in how you went from born-again Christian to atheist. For me, that’s by far the most intriguing part of all this.

And right back atcha. If and when you come to a place where you no longer think that my belief in God is irrational, illogical or unreasonable, I do not expect you to instantly believe in God yourself. I’ve met more than a few people who believe in God but are not a Christian.

I have the exact same copy of Evidence that Demands a Verdict, so if we discuss it anything in it, our page numbers will match up.


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NOTE: All comments will be held for approval. This blog is a no-hate zone.

conversations with a born-again atheist: the Santa comparison

faith and reasonIf you’re new to the party, HERE are the previous posts in this series. If you want to skip the history and prefer the twitter version, I’m having an ongoing conversation with a born-again atheist. When I say “born-again atheist” I mean he was a born again Christian, but is now an atheist.

Note: Santa tangent ahead. Before I could reply to the “Shotgun” email, AtypicalAtheist asked me for my thoughts on his “Santa Comparison.” [snip] “Also, do you have a suggestion of better language or terms that I could use, knowing how I feel about the topic, and how you feel about having your beliefs seemingly trivialized?”

or CLICK HERE to read what he said about Santa in the last post, entitled “comparing belief in God to belief in Santa. and faires. and WibbleFoo.”

JSM: AtypicalAtheist,

We have ourselves some apples and oranges here. When you used the Santa comparison with me, your premise was:

“I don’t believe in Santa, but I respect your right to believe in Santa.”

When you used the Santa comparison with your wife, you said:

“just because millions of people believe that something is real, doesn’t in any way mean that it is real.”

You were using Santa to make a completely different point with me than the point you were trying to make with your wife.

Santa did not serve you well in either situation.

You asked:

“do you have a suggestion of better language or terms that I could use, knowing how I feel about the topic, and how you feel about having your beliefs seemingly trivialized?”

Now you’re tapping into my formal education and training. I was a communication major and later taught a business and professional communication course at UCF for 7 years before I started training and coaching back in 2001. Learning about interpersonal communication and conflict resolution is something I do for fun.

So, I have two answers to this question, based on (1) how I reacted to the comparison and (2) how “normal” people might be offended by it.

How I Reacted to Your Comparison of a Belief in God to a Belief in Santa, Fairies, etc.:
I promise you, I wasn’t “touched (irritated / annoyed / pissed)” at your language. Seriously. Not trying to smooth anything over. Not even a little. You are such a phenomenally nice guy, I know you probably don’t believe that’s possible, but if we’re going be authentic in these conversations, we have to get you to a place where you believe that what you say will not hurt my feelings or make me mad, or whatever.

I’ve alluded to my “issues” before, but here’s a peek into my “normal.” It’s very, very rare that I react emotionally. I won’t say never. In the last year, I can remember only two occasions:

January 2012 – dealing with people after my mother passed away.

April 2012 – an intentional communication experiment that only lasted a few weeks before I abandoned it for my normal.

Both situations were exponentially bigger than an inference that I have the reasoning capacity of a small child. So, again, I promise, the Santa/UFO/Fairy/God comparison didn’t hurt my feelings or insult me.

However, because of both my background and my issues, it’s possible my actual response may irritate, annoy or tick you off: When you used inflammatory language (good description, btw) with me, your credibility took a hit. Your argument was weakened. You told me in our initial conversation that you were a logical person and that was one of the reasons you didn’t believe in God. I asked you to explain why you don’t believe faith is logical (or reasonable or rational) and then you compare belief in God to things most grown-ups don’t believe in. My honest reaction when I read that?


Why Might Other People Take Offense to the Santa Comparison?
With your wife, your point was not “I don’t believe in Santa, but I support your right to believe in him.” Your wife said “Look at the sheer number of people that believe in God – they clearly can’t all be wrong…”

and you compared all those people to children.

young children.

Here’s the thing. She had a point. A LOGICAL point. And the logic of it has absolutely nothing to do with whether God (or Santa) exists.


A gallup poll published on January 9th states “Only 5 or 6 percent of Americans say they don’t believe in God”

With that very recent poll in mind, let me restate her point:

All these people who believe in God? They are not ALL stupider than you.

When you compare God to Santa, it’s NOT that the other person’s beliefs are “seemingly trivialized” by your comparison.

You’re calling them ignorant.
You’re telling them they have the reasoning capacity of a small child, while assuring them at the same time that you support their right to continue thinking like a child. The only way it could be more condescending and arrogant would be if you were to pat them on the head at the same time.

Everyone who believes in God is ignorant and has the reasoning capacity of a small child? It’s not plausible. Can you see it? When you (albeit unintentionally) set up a statistically improbable premise like that, you become the unreasonable one.

and now you’ve added elves, leprechauns and “WibbleFoo”

So the Christian communication coach is going to give the atheist some advice on how to strengthen his argument. (who’da thunk it?)

Don’t compare faith in God to any of those things. Too many people don’t believe in any of the things/entities in your list. Too many people think they are fiction.

For those times when you might use “The Santa Comparison” to make the “just because lots of people believe something, doesn’t make it true” argument, just don’t. The negative connotations far overshadow the point you are trying to make. Some might call it sibling rivalry. You’ve got two points in your statement and one of them (the unintentional one) is clobbering the other (intentional one).

For those times when you might use it to tell someone that you respect their right to believe, use politics instead:

“We don’t agree. I don’t respect your candidate, but I respect your right to support your candidate.”

Can you see how much more respectful and logical you would appear by saying something like this instead? With politics, people have strong opinions about both sides, but because everyone agrees the issues actually exist, the foundation of the disagreement – first and foremost – is about a difference of opinion. Sure, underlying, spoken or unspoken is the assumption by each person they are right and the other person is wrong. But, by comparing political views, you are using an example that most reasonable and intelligent people would view as a difference of opinion instead of a verbalized inference that they had the reasoning capacity of a small child.

I understand you think you’re making a good point, but it does more damage than it does good – both in a discussion and a relationship.

In writing, there’s a saying. “kill your darlings.” Here’s how one writer explains it:

“I should be taking a good, long look at my “darlings” and analyzing whether their presence . . . was the result of necessity or just my smug enjoyment of my own supposed brilliance.

If this is arguably the most painful lesson an author has to learn, it’s also arguably the most valuable. Self-editing is the keenest blade in a writer’s armory. Too often, we fall so much in love with . . . [our darlings] . . . that we miss the bigger picture. We fail to see that our darlings are actually stumbling blocks, both to our writing of the story and certainly to the reading of it.

K.M. Weiland at

My advice to you as a communication trainer and coach? Kill your darling. Ditch the Santa/God allegory (along with all the multiple choice gods and fairytale creatures on your list). It doesn’t strengthen your point, it just makes you come off condescending and arrogant. And that shuts down communication. Because interacting with someone who is condescending and arrogant is unpleasant.


Click HERE to see all “conversations with a born-again atheist” posts.

NOTE: All comments will be held for approval. This blog is a no-hate zone.