conversations with a born-again atheist: comparing belief in God to belief in Santa. and faires. and WibbleFoo.

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: This started as my brief reply to what I fondly refer to AtypicalAtheist’s “shotgun email” (because it spread out and hit so many points at once, I couldn’t possibly address everything in one email response).

Before I could reply to the rest of the shotgun email, he asked me for my thoughts on his “Santa Comparison.” So. Santa tangent ahead.


JSM: AtypicalAtheist,

I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten back to you yet. It was a whirlwind family weekend and I have to work on client site today, but I have been thinking (a LOT) about your emails and I have some thoughts I’d like to get to you either tonight or tomorrow.

Just wanted to let you know you haven’t scared me off, I’m not blowing you off and that I’ve been thinking intently about all that’s been said/written so far.

I will respond to the first request in your “Shotgun Email” – I’ve definitely included myself in praying for an open heart and mind. I should have stated that directly. I realize now that by not mentioning it, you might think I hadn’t. (I’ve been praying that for myself since you compared faith to belief in fairies.)

Have a great day!
Julie

AtypicalAtheist: Hey Julie,

No problem. I was trying to be really careful not to be inflammatory, but I realize that this topic can, by it’s very nature, be inflammatory.

Could you answer this question from the heart/gut?

A few back-and-forth correspondences between us has made something clear – you were touched (irritated / annoyed / pissed) by my equation of ‘Belief in God’ with ‘Belief in ‘. The reason I’m drilling into this reaction is because of a similar reaction that my wife had when we had the aforementioned conversation while we circumnavigated the neighborhood Park. I’ll describe how that conversation went:

Wife: Of course God (or at least some gods) has to exist. Look at the shear number of people that believe in God (or gods) – they clearly can’t all be wrong…

Me: (somewhat smugly) Well – consider this. There’s a whole population of little people in the world that believe in Santa Clause. In fact, their observations are that Santa Clause delivers gifts to them every Christmas morning. There are television commercials with Santa Clause, books about Santa Clause. Santa Clause visits with them at the mall. Indeed, on Christmas Eve, you can get onto an American government web site, and track Santa’s progress as he delivers gifts to all the children of the world. There are millions of little people that have plenty of evidence that Santa Clause exists, and can rationally demonstrate the existence of Santa Clause. However, we as adults know that there really is no Santa Clause. So – just because millions of people believe that something is real, doesn’t in any way mean that it is real.

So – what does my wife recollect from that conversation, even today? Not that I had a really good point, but that she was injured by my equation of “belief in God” with “belief in Santa Clause.”

This injured her sensibilities in a way I’ll never understand, and she heard nothing of the logic of the matter (regardless of my attempts to explain). I suspect something similar has happened with you.

If I’ve insulted your faith or the object of your faith, it was unintentional. However, if I get into a similar conversation in the future, I’d really like to have a less insulting allegory… Would you mind rating the following from least insulting to most insulting?

‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in Isis’ (Egyptian God)
‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in Buddha’ (Indian God)
‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in UFOs’ (Concept, not a God)
‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in Fairies’ (No comment required)
‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in Thor’ (Norse God)
‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in Krishna’ (Hindu God)
‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in Magic Elves’ (No comment required)
‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in Santa Clause’ (No comment required)
‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in WibbleFoo’ (WibbleFoo is a nonsensical nothing)
‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in Zeus’ (Greek God)
‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in Leprechauns’ (Irish Fairy)
‘belief in God’ … blah blah … like ‘belief in Hercules’ (Roman God)

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?

AtypicalAtheist


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: the “shotgun” email (more reasons why faith is unreasonable, illogical and irrational.)

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: Below is AtypicalAtheist’s response to “conversations with a born-again atheist: Christianity buried so deep in religion, it’s almost impossible to find.”

I fondly refer to this as “the shotgun email” because it spread out and hit so many points at once, I couldn’t possibly address everything in one email response. wowza.


AtypicalAtheist: Hey Julie,

Do me a favor in your prayers… pray for God to open your heart and your mind as well – not just mine… Fair?

A couple of quick points and answers:

A – I didn’t really mention that in during my inquiry in my 30s, I did re-validate my findings with the King James version, as well as the New Standard Edition. All the verses I’ve sent you have been verified on biblegateway.com as well just so you know.

B – I really don’t mind having visited all these various churches actually. To me, it was part of free-inquiry – something a free thinker like myself should do.

C – I’d actually claim that the variety of churches forced me to read the bible. The churches didn’t warp my sense of things so much, I believe the bible did. The bible alone is responsible for my distaste of Christianity really, not all the churches. The churches made me think … huh … WTH (why the heck) 😉 does everyone demand something different if the source material is the same??? Reading the bible cleared it up for me. The inerrant word of God is filled with horrors, murders of children, rape, incest, and absurdities.

D – ** Danger – possibly inflammatory statements ahead… deep breath ** – You and I have both read plenty of apologetics on the subject of the bible I’m sure. One thing that should strike you though, and that’s the basic difference between reason and theology. Philosophy is committed to the discovery of truth – it is not required to defend any particular set of beliefs at any cost. On the other hand, theology is concerned with the defense of religion (Christianity in this case) regardless of the evidence. The theologian will never find a contradiction between faith and reason, because it’s the job of the theologian to interpret them away. As a theologian, a decision has been made that proposition of faith can be defended – defending those propositions is what theology is. So – through the prior assumption that belief in faith is true, the theologian *must* conclude that any conflict must be a mistake in transcription, or in translation somewhere, or that when the bible said “square”, it really meant circles aligned in a square. There literally is nothing that a theologian will accept as evidence of a contradiction because he can’t (or else surrender being a theologian). I don’t mean to be harsh with this statement, but it’s my conclusion (and others as well) based on reading many many books and apologist rationalizations.

E – ** Danger – more inflammatory statements ahead… putting on the fundamentalist hat here ** – Conflicting beliefs of Christians on the topic of Hell abound. In fact, many (often liberal Christians) simply choose to ignore that part of the New Testament because it’s hard to believe that a just and loving God would create a place of eternal torment and would cast people there to suffer for eternity. So the uncomfortable is often ignored which is simply anti-scriptural. An example of this is a quote from theological liberal Leslie Weatherhead:

[… snip …] when Jesus is reported as consigning to everlasting torture those who displease him or do not “believe” what he says, I know in my heart that there is something wrong somewhere. Either he is mis-reported or misunderstood…. So I put this alleged saying in my mental drawer awaiting further light, or else I reject it out of hand. By the judgment of a court within my own breast … I reject such sayings”

This also relates to the closely held belief of some of the existence of an ‘age of accountability’ which is thoroughly unsupported by scripture. The doctrine of original sin (Genesis 8:21, Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:3, Proverbs 22:15, Ecclesiastes 9:3, Romans 3:23, and most importantly, Romans 5:12 ) and the teachings of the New Testament (John 14:6 and Acts 4:12) indicate clearly that all have sinned or are tainted by original sin, and salvation is an individual choice that must be assented to. Apologists and biblical gerrymanderers will try to twist the Gods law for the purpose of appearing to say what “seems right in our eyes”. It’s unbiblical and self-serving because it presupposes that sin must first be recognized as sin before it’s accountable. There is no scriptural basis for this. Romans 3:10 should clear that up somewhat.

Of course, as mentioned in ‘D’ above, I can easily find a less dogmatic view of the scripture that can ease ones mind – the more liberal “I know in my heart because the Lord is a just Lord” version. But the age of accountability is (without significant re-interpretation of scripture) unbiblical. And hence, if babies and those with mental retardation are to be cast into hell because they haven’t assented to the Lord’s word, then the whole concept is ridiculous and must be rejected out of hand as capricious, irrational, unjust, and unworthy of belief in any form or fashion. (wince … sorry for the harshness of the above)

F- Regarding your question on “God commanded the killing of children”, I have quite an impressive list for you – please, look them up using the links I’ve provided on biblegateway.com

Specific Mentions of Killing, Raping, or defiling Children – Asterisks (*) are God commanded or God performed

Exodus 12:29

Leviticus 26:22

Numbers 31:1-18

Deuteronomy 2:33-34 (not commanded by God, but God delivered them to be destroyed)

Deuteronomy 3:2-6 (not commanded by God, but God delivered them to be destroyed)

Joshua 6:16-21 (not commanded by God, but God hath given them the city to ravage)

Judges 21:10-12 (read the whole chapter for instructions on how to lurk in a vineyard and steal a woman)

1 Samuel 15:1-8

2 Samuel 12:7-17 (God actually kills the kid for something the dad did.)

Jeremiah 16:1-4

Jeremiah 19:6-9

2 Kings 2:23-24

2 Kings 15:16

Job 1

Psalms 137:4-9

Isaiah 13:9-18

Isaiah 14:20-22

Ezekiel 5:8-10

Ezekiel 9:4-6

Ezekiel 23:25-47

Hosea 13:4-16

Mark 7:9-10 (Jesus)

So – these are specific mentions of horrible things done to children specifically calling out children or things like first-born. It doesn’t begin to scratch the surface though when you consider general murder by God including (but not limited to) numerous plagues that kill indiscriminately which presumably kill men, women, and children. If you really want chapter and verse all the horrors in the bible, I could literally spend hours compiling them if you wish. Even Jesus is known to order slayings (although most don’t admit it – read Luke 19:22-27).

G – Response to ” Irrelevant. What does all that have to do with CHRIST?’ … ‘ I mean that religion and doctrine have nothing to do with a relationship with Christ.

Well, Christ is part of the Christian religion which has a specific set of doctrines. To wrest Christ from the moorings of theism would be to render him meaningless. Indeed, without the doctrine of hell, what is the fuss about sin and saving me about then? The bible is the only remaining so-called authority for the historicity of Jesus Christ, and if it contains the fabulous and horrific, it should (in my opinion) be discarded as irrational and irrelevant … as well as any notion of Jesus. Put another way, we have not seen (in any time of enlightenment) nature going out of course. Things behave according to their nature, plain and simple. We have seen however, man tell lies – millions of them in that same time. So – what’s more probable? That nature go out of course (the dead suddenly rising / seas part mysteriously / Jesus walking on water), or that a man should lie? I submit that the latter rather than the former is millions to one more likely. I’m not trying to turn this into a debate, I’m just trying to convey my opinion on the matter, that’s all. No offense or intention to coerce intended – really. For this, I’ll quote David Hume:

“When any one tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.”

Suffice it to say – I believe the bible alone is sufficient to smother out any notion of a loving God, and all conceptions of Jesus Christ. I’m content to let it choke itself out by its horrific and absurd content (sorry if this is resoundingly harsh – I edited this a few times and settled on these adjectives as the least inflammatory).

AtypicalAtheist


Click HERE to read the next post in this series, entitled: comparing belief in God to belief in Santa. and faires. and WibbleFoo.

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: why faith is unreasonable, illogical and irrational.

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.


Below is AtypicalAtheist’s response to my second question: (CLICK HERE to read my first question and his two-part answer.)

JSM: Why do you view faith in God as unreasonable, illogical and irrational?

AtypicalAtheist: Regarding question #2, I’ll try to answer in a form less than a book this time… 😀

The super-short answer is this – I don’t accept the existence of God, gods, or any documents, books, letters, or anything ‘on faith’ because I reject faith as a valid means to acquire knowledge. The specific object of faith, whether UFOs or gods is irrelevant. Reason is one’s only guide to knowledge. From this position, if doctrines of theism must be accepted on faith, theism is necessarily excluded from the realm of reason.

Further, the entire book is replete with contempt for man’s ability to reason our desire for knowledge. You need go no further than Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve. Beyond this though, is verse after verse of hostility to wisdom and knowledge.

Matthew 11:25
Colossians 2:8
Mark 4:11-12
1 Corinthians 1:18-27 and 3:18-19
1 Timothy 6:20

Add to that the biblical means of tying faith and morality together which ends up equating doubt and disbelief with immorality. Rather, one must believe uncritically, or be condemned as immoral.

Finally, consider the coercive nature of faith:
* The bribery side – if you have faith, you go to heaven ( John 3:!6 )
* The blackmail side – you face God’s wrath if you do not have faith ( John 3:36 ).

Have a quick re-read of Romans 14:23 and one of my favorites … Mark 9:43-48

Essentially, the bible says that you must believe in Jesus, regardless of the evidence on the matter, or be subjected to eternal torture (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

Threatening punishment for disbelief is strong-arm coercion and intimidation. On these grounds alone, it must be rejected as irrational and unreasonable.

Whew – that one was much shorter than the other one. 😀

AtypicalAtheist


Click HERE to read the next post, “conversations with a born-again atheist: the “shotgun” email (more reasons why faith is unreasonable, illogical and irrational.)

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: Christianity buried so deep in religion, it’s almost impossible to find.

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: This post is my response to AtypicalAthiest’s two part answer to my question:

“How did you – a self-professed born again Christian – become an atheist?”

You can read his answer here:
conversations with a born-again atheist: an atheist’s testimony (part 1)
conversations with a born-again atheist: an atheist’s testimony (part 2)

(These posts are weeks behind the actual emails we are sending.
In reading over this post again, I can already see something I’m going to have to retract.)


JSM: wow.

I had to stop reading your reply to my first question for a few minutes because I was completely overwhelmed. I am honored and humbled that you would share this with anybody, much less me, someone you hardly know. I’m not just blowing rainbows.

SERIOUSLY. Honored and humbled.

One of the conditions of this interchange is that I get to be authentic with you, so I believe I have to tell you, in full disclosure, that I am praying for you. I said before that I will never be able to reason someone into a faith in Christ. I honestly believe there is absolutely nothing I can say that will poof you into a Christian, so I’m not even going to try. I know I will not say something brilliant that prompts you to exclaim, “oh my gosh! That’s IT! THAT’S what I needed to hear in order to have faith!” I can’t convert you. I can’t “save” you.

But I believe God can.

So my prayer for you is simple: “Lord, please soften AtypicalAtheist’s heart and open his mind.”

And I’m praying that God will equip me for these conversations.

And I should probably tell you, I pray like a widow. (Luke 18:1-8 – a parable Jesus told)

But back to your testimony. I do want to respond to some things, but I have to show you something first:

Living Bible

The inscription shows my mom gave this to me for Christmas in 1980. I was 16. It was a good first Bible, but it isn’t an authorized translation. It’s not actually a translation at all, it’s a paraphrase. Check out the explanation HERE:

http://www.davnet.org/kevin/articles/bibletrans.html

He describes The Living Bible by saying “It leaves out details from the Greek manuscripts and makes up its own details out of thin air. It “reads nice” but it reads wrong.” (One cool thing this guy did was to show the same verse in about 30 different versions.)

I don’t know when, but after a few years of reading The Living Bible, I suddenly SAW the word “paraphrased” and it hit me. Paraphrased? pshhh. I can paraphrase. What does the BIBLE say?

I started collecting translations. The only paraphrase I use these days is The Message, and I view it more as a commentary. You can find many translations online too. My go-to site is www.biblegateway.com and for researching original language and some thorough commentaries, I use www.blueletterbible.com. For everyday reading, I use ESV (English Standard Version) and for mid-level learning, I have parallel bible (two versions, with verses side by side on the same page) containing the NIV and The Message, but when I want the most literal translation, I go to NASB (New American Standard Bible). When I need even more help, I go to my friend, who has just embarked on a plan to read the Bible this year – in GREEK.

okay, NOW back to your testimony.

You attended a Baptist church and a Nazarene church. In the seventies. That explains a LOT. Heavy doctrinal rules. Conservative. Fundamental. Legalistic. Arrogant, unchecked theocracy running rampant.

Christianity buried so deep in religion,
it’s almost impossible to find.

And I have to admit. I would personally like to smack the crap out of the legalistic, deluded, Christians you were exposed to.

Much evil has been done in the name of God.

MUCH evil.

And I repeat. I would like to smack the CRAP out of the legalistic, deluded Christians you were exposed to.

Instead, I’ll settle for sending a message to them via the internet, passing back through time:

yo. lean over. so I can smack you on the back of the head. WHAT were you thinking? idiot. How many people have believed you? How many people have rejected God because of your confusing, unbending interpretation of a punishing and unreasonable God?

okay. I’m done. for now.

When I was younger, I found myself bombarded by some of the same conflicting and nonsensical rules and confusing interpretations. How did I handle it? Well, when I was 11 or 12, I told my pastor – in front of a classroom of my peers, that something he said was stupid. Here’s the back story on that one:

if it’s not about the elements, could we use oreos and milk?

Then, I auto-piloted through church until I was fifteen, when I accepted Christ. That’s when I started searching. I seek knowledge. It’s what I do. Because I have issues (that’s another story). But also because I know I’m not all that special. Somewhere, sometime, somehow, someone has gone through whatever it is that I’m going through. And I’m convinced someone wrote about it. I’m usually right. And I can learn from both their discoveries and their mistakes.

When I first became a Christian, I began attending a Southern Baptist church. It was 1979. Southern Baptist. Lots of rules. I wanted to know WHY. I questioned everything I was told. And quickly learned that expressing doubt equated to heretic. So I toned down the questions and sought answers on my own. Since I was a new Christian, I didn’t really know how to do that, and my spiritual grown was sloooowwwww. It was a confusing time. But when I was told something I believed was wrong, I knew this:

it was the people who were getting it wrong.

Because people are flawed. People are subjective. People have issues. They interpret everything through their own filters.

So I sought knowledge. On my own. So I could interpret through my own filters. 🙂

My husband will tell you I have a problem with authority. (I will concede that I failed submission school.) Bottom line? I’m in charge of my own learning, thankyouverymuch. I seek information from every source I can find. I call myself an incurable bibliophile and I love to hear people’s stories. But if someone tells me something that doesn’t sound reasonable, I research it.

To death.

I was in my 20s when I started reading books on apologetics. Not because I wanted to be able to defend my faith, but because I wanted answers. It was about that time I purchased Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Volume I. If I was going to depend on the Bible for answers and wisdom, I needed to confirm the Bible was a verified historical resource. I mentioned before that ETDaV was a difficult read, but it provided some of the evidence I was searching for and spurred me to search for more. At this point, I have a stack of books on apologetics, all read because I was seeking answers to my own doubts. I still refer to them. Because I still have questions.

I don’t read much fiction. I like to say that I keep all my fiction books at the library. But I devour non-fiction. I read commentaries and books on theology, because I want – and need – to think outside my own filter. I know my perspective is skewed by my past. I am rarely, if ever, satisfied by my own interpretation of something I learn. Hence the voracious reading. Authors are my favorite conversationalists. My journal and my blog are my favorite therapists and my clearest mirrors. And I talk to people. People who hold similar beliefs and people who believe very differently that I do.

I’ve learned from experience, that when I depend wholly on myself, I find what I’m looking for.

Because when I seek knowledge in a vacuum, sometimes, what I find isn’t truth. Sometimes, what I find is rationalization and support for what I want to believe or do.

I hate it when that happens. It’s not logical. It’s not pragmatic.

That’s one reason I’m willing to read the book you recommended.

Something I find compelling about your history is that you refer often to religion and doctrine, either by stating the actual word religion or through your description of elements of religion and doctrine. I want to think about this a little more, but the gist is this: I don’t see a relationship with Christ evidenced in anything you’ve shared. All that religion and doctrine? You’re going to hear this a lot from me. Are you ready?

Irrelevant. What does all that have to do with CHRIST?

NOT irrelevant to your life. Clearly, your LIFE – your marriage, your parenting, everything – have been significantly impacted by all that (warped) religion and doctrine. When I say irrelevant, I mean that religion and doctrine have nothing to do with a relationship with Christ.

You said you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior. It sounds to me like you accepted Him as your Savior, but your discipleship was so corrupt that your relationship with Christ was wrenched apart before you ever got a chance to experience Him being Lord of your life. Like I said, I need to think on this some more.

I know there’s more in your testimony that I want to respond to, and I haven’t even begun looking up the verses you included in your answer to my question “Why do you view faith in God as unreasonable, illogical and irrational?” But in the meantime, I have a question. To what are you referring when you say God commanded the killing of children? Is that a reference to Elijah’s bald head incident or something else?

Later,
Julie


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: an atheist’s testimony (part 2)

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.


Below is part 2 of AtypicalAtheist’s response to my question:

How did you – a self-professed born again Christian – become an atheist?

CLICK HERE to read part 1

AtypicalAtheist: Fast forward to my senior year and I’ve proposed to high school sweetheart. When we begin discussing our wedding plans, we needed to agree upon what church we’re going to be married in. Hmmm…. well, by this point, I wasn’t affiliated with any specific religion anymore and really was a bit hostile to the idea. She wasn’t regularly visiting church either, but was of very strong faith. But I was rather firm that I didn’t want a standard service. Instead, I wanted something like a “New Life” kinda service (I may have that name wrong, but the idea is about right). Basically something more non-denominational. She assented to this I think without us really getting into my hostility toward the bible and toward what is now commonly referred to as “organized religion” – I didn’t have that moniker for it, but that’s what it’s now kinda lumped into. Anyway, we were married by a pastor in the Lompoc Mission – definitely not a traditional service.

Our first seven years of marriage were perfect really. We mostly didn’t attend church services, although occasionally, I was asked to attend an Easter service or my wife would just go to a service without me. Then she got pregnant after much trying in our seventh year. Here is where things began to change a bit for me, and where our perspectives on religion had a much more consequential impact. I was certain that I didn’t want my children “brainwashed with religion” (you can check with my wife – I’m certain I used that phrase a time or two) and she was aghast at my contempt for it. But it wasn’t based on deep research at this point, only based on my prior readings of the bible really. I remember two very distinct clashes between us in these early days that forever changed our personal rules of engagement on the religion issue:

1- We were in the outlet mall near I-Drive and there was a Christian store that my wife and kids wanted to go into. My wife started showing my eldest a bible and I nearly had an aneurysm (you see, my wife has never actually read the bible), and I made quite a pitiful scene in this store. I raised my voice saying things like “Do you really want your daughter to read how it’s ok to sell your daughters into slavery since it’s permitted in ‘your’ bible?” and “The amount of killing, rape and plundering makes this book rated X in my opinion. There’s no way I want my daughter to be reading this trash”. Suffice it to say that it was an embarrassment for all.

2- One year, my eldest was about 2 maybe, and my wife wanted us to go to a church service. During the service, I was openly hostile to the pastor who was just doing his thing… I was loudly sighing in disagreement and basically making an ass out of myself. I was in his place of worship trying to appease my wife by going to a service, and yet I was acting like I was in my own house being put off by his message. Again, a childish response to my ever-growing disagreement with religion and the bible, but my wife swore to never ever ask me back into a church service. It was for the best really.

As years passed, I (on more than one occasion) would make sure that any reference to God or Jesus based on some story, song, movie or whatever was at least accompanied by a quick (although probably painful from my wife’s point of view) mention that history is replete with people using gods to explain phenomena they couldn’t explain any other way. For example Thor… (blah blah) or Buddha (blah blah). You get the picture. I didn’t want only Christianity to be mentioned – I wanted all kids to know for sure that there are opposing views to religion and that just because mom (or dad) believes X doesn’t mean there aren’t other areas to investigate. I mentioned comparative religion many times in those years. And, to my wife’s credit, she was completely onboard with the idea that we shouldn’t just mention God/Jesus either. On this level, she completely agreed.

I started really researching atheism somewhere in my 30s. My wife started regularly attending church alone, and to counter this, I believe I went on a research “binge”. My spare time was consumed with reading books on various topics covering religion, evolution, and atheism. I purchased books, used the internet to research critiques for and against religion in general, not just against the revealed religion of Christianity. Ultimately, after much research, I concluded that I am, after all, an atheist. I am without belief in a god or gods.

There was one other blow-up regarding religion in my family I’ll share – largely because it shows my inability to convince anyone to “convert” to atheism, and why I’ve adopted a live-and-let live policy on this topic. My eldest daughter was dating a creep (yeah, he really was a creep), but the creep wanted her to go to church to be with him on Sundays. My wife was more than happy to take her. At one point, there was a large blow-up in front of my eldest daughter regarding my concern that church would somehow brainwash her. This, it seemed, was happening in spite of my attempts to educate my kids that religion isn’t necessarily true and that it was the construct of a superstitious people long ago. Anyway, my wife and I walked for hours around the neighborhood park one evening as I carefully and thoughtfully laid out my “acquired” evidences for the absurdity of belief in gods. And here’s the thing … it didn’t matter. To my wife, her faith is more important than facts. Her faith is more important than reality. It’s what gets her through her day, and to take it away by brute force would be evil. She needs her faith – who the hell am I to try to wrest that from her grasp. What a jerk I was in that moment. It was momentously important to me that she see the “truth”, but it wasn’t important to her.

What did turn out to be important though was this – by introducing the notion of multiple competing religions to my children, and multiple competing versions of “the truth”, I believe we’ve equipped our children to make a decision regarding their assent or rejection of religion. Instead of just being an atheist because daddy is, my kids know that many people believe a variety of things, and it’s up to them to make a decision based on research, not based on passed-down edict. I think we did that well my wife and I – and it took great concession / compromise on both our parts. If my wife had it her way, her children would be in church every Sunday. If I had it my way, my children would be in a free thought meeting every Saturday. We do neither, and instead have encouraged our kids to research and make up their own mind.

In the end, I’ve asked myself this… How would I feel if my middle child wanted to go join the Latter Day Saints? Well, I guess I’d be disappointed – unless of course, she researched the various religions, visited them one by one, and decided for herself that it was the one that represented the truth to her. In that case, I’d feel like we succeeded.

AtypicalAtheist


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NOTE: All comments will be held for approval. This blog is a no-hate zone.
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conversations with a born-again atheist: an atheist’s testimony (part 1)

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.


Below is PART ONE of AtypicalAtheist’s response to one of two questions I posed to him in my previous email.” (CLICK HERE to read part 2)

JSM: How did you – a self-professed born again Christian – become an atheist?

AtypicalAtheist: Hey Julie,

Here’s a book of info written over a couple of hours. I’ll answer the second question tomorrow.

You’re absolutely right – I was not coerced into accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior as a kid, nor was I coerced into immersion Baptism. Those were my choices, although in retrospect, they were kinda expected in my family. My upbringing, much like others I suspect, was that religion was handed down to me with the expectation of being assimilated. That is, whilst growing up, I wasn’t presented with a buffet of religious beliefs to choose from – I was presented with only one … on Sunday morning, we go see ReverendT at the chapel on base where we get a little sermon, I sing in the kids choir, once a month we take communion (the sweetest nastiest red wine and a wafer that stuck to the roof of my mouth), and then had donuts waiting for mom and dad in Sunday school because I was too young to participate.

I recall many services, but the two that stick out most for me was:

* Burying a time capsule in 1976 to commemorate the bicentennial after church on Sunday, July 4th, 1976 right there in the yard of the church.

* Playing Jesus in a musical … I remember soloing in a song called “3 Silver Coins”.

While we were on base, we went to church every Sunday, even when my dad was PCS or TDY. [that’s “permanent change of station” and “temporary duty travel” for us non-military folk] When my dad retired from the Air Force, we ended up with a Baptist church literally behind our house. I believe my dad went to that church, and rejected it for some reason (that I found out later). We ended up going regularly to a Nazarene church. We really were part of this congregation for over a year – and my dad used to write Christian songs to perform in the church. It should be noted that my best friends in 4-7th grade were Saul (Jewish) and Jacky (although her last name Goldstein makes one think she was Jewish, she followed something completely different that I still am unaware of even today). Anyway, at one point, my dad wrote the words to a song (By Bread Alone), but didn’t have a melody in mind. He gave me the words, and it actually started my songwriting – I wrote the music for the song, and performed it in the Nazarene church. I recall my dad being really proud that I had the guts to get up there and play the piano and sing to the song. At the same time, I noticed that, unlike the chapel on base, they didn’t clap at anything in the Nazarene church. There was a profound silence and many an “amen”, but no clapping. I recall not caring for that much. 😀

At some point (I don’t recall the point I’m afraid) my mom somewhat changed, and my dad didn’t do much about it really. We maintained Sunday as a family day, but it wasn’t really a church day anymore. My dad was still pursuing songwriting, but instead of Christian music, he pursued country music. I did however jump over the back wall to occasionally fill in on organ, and more regularly play the Krumar string machine for church services at the Baptist church. In fact, I was baptized in that church – I was in Middle School, but I don’t remember if it was 7th or 8th grade honestly. But one of those. The church was convenient because the parking lot was literally over the back wall from my house.

It was right around this time that I began studying the bible. Not at the behest of anyone in particular, but because people in the Baptist church seemed to have very different ideas about the bible than the folks at the Nazarene church and different also than in the on-base chapel. I’m trying to remember exactly what prompted my first reading of the bible, but it was around this time, and I remember very different experiences at each place. Now, having the benefit of the internet, I can see that the two churches have very different views regarding the trinity – perhaps this was the trigger. I’d be disingenuous if I stated my exact impetus – it was so long ago that I cannot recall. I just know that my first reading was after visiting all three places of worship. I know I read the bible to try to make sense of differences. I didn’t have the benefit of the internet to look things up – all I had was my bible. Funny enough, it’s one I still have today. It’s still in its bible cover replete with pen and pencil holders, and dedicated to me on my 11th birthday (1978). In fact, my dad and I painstakingly added bible book page turn stickers to the entire book. The bible is … “The Living Bible, Paraphrased, Study Reference Edition with Concordance – Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois” – Copyright 1971.

I read the thing cover to cover – I can’t honestly say exactly how long it took, but I have my little John 3:16 bookmark and made a little progress each day. There were things I didn’t understand – like Numbers 21:8 (I still have it underlined in my bible). I also have sections with blue and yellow highlighters that I recall using for various conditions. I have yellowed James 2:13, and blued James 2:22 and Psalms 34:15. I (funny enough) circled Sin as well as Repentance in the concordance. I also found a few places where my mom wrote in cursive in the bible – perhaps she borrowed it from time to time – I don’t recall. Anyway, my recollection of my first reading was one of a bit of titillation at some of the parts, and also it seemed that God was pretty mean. Lots of people being smoted and killed. This seemed to be weird to me because of how church people were saying how loving God is, but I was finding passage after passage to negate that sentiment. I see various other underlinings such as Numbers 15:30-31, and 35 which indicate I found some significance in them. Of course, it could have been find-the-passage from VBS – who knows. But I do recall this – I was a bit put off at the number of slayings. I really don’t believe I understood much of Revelations at the time either, and I found all the letters from Paul to be rather tedious. But I read. Oddly enough, after I finished the bible, I didn’t find I had much of a taste for it anymore. We moved to the other side of town and I was entering high school – so religion really fell off for me. I didn’t re-enter a place of worship until I was in 10th grade, and I was playing the piano for someone at another church.

It started innocently of course – Mrs. P. couldn’t accompany someone because she was sick – “Could you please just play this one thing for me at church? It’s only two services …. please???” In the end, I played regularly for 4 young ladies (I don’t recall playing for any guys now that I think about it). But in one case, Lisa (the Amy Grant fanatic) had me playing at churches everywhere. And they didn’t seem to be affiliated churches – like all Baptist or all Presbyterian or whatever. It was like she had an agent and was being booked all over… I’m sure it wasn’t that, but in retrospect, that’s what it seemed like. I played in Catholic churches (lots of stand, kneel, stand, kneel, and lots of Latin. But they never cracked the bible), I played a Christadelphian church where someone did something in tongues and I saw a snake participate in the service, I was in a relatively quiet church I believe was either “New Life” or something similar that I don’t have anything specific to note just that it wasn’t really specific about anything, and I also played in Pentecostal and Lutheran churches. I know the Christadelphian church wasn’t for Lisa, and neither was the Catholic. One common theme resonating throughout was “give me money” and “we’re the only right ones”. It seemed to me everyone can’t be right, and why are they always passing the plate around??? In one service I played, they passed the plate twice – once for regular tithing, and once for the new annex they were building. Gaaack!

It was around this time that I was thinking … jeeze – there are sure a lot of versions of “the truth”. I could go with this one, and be wrong, or that one and be just as wrong. So who’s right? So I read the bible again, multiple times. I think I largely skimmed some of the more boring parts my first-re-read, but I did look over each page again. Other re-reads focused on the New Testament and did laser-focus on Hell, or trying to count up the Old Testament murders. Other times, I tried to find differences in stories. I guess in retrospect, I’ve really only read it cover to cover twice, not the six times I stated earlier. The two times were complete readings. The other four times (at least, maybe more) were to focus on things that differed from church to church or were trying to find inconsistencies. In talking with Lisa one day, I mentioned a bit about some of my findings, and she said something to the effect of “Well, that’s the Old Testament God. We don’t really read much of that anymore, we’re much more concerned about the New Testament and God’s love”. That’s when it kinda hit me that she would get out of it whatever she wanted and didn’t worry about the other stuff. I recall speaking at a high-level on this to my mom, but I really don’t recall the outcome other than “take what you want and leave the rest”. Hmmm

I guess that left me with a bit of apathy then toward the bible. Several “experts” with the same book in hand, all demanding we believe different things with respect to the same document, and all claiming they’re right. Add to that my Jewish friends which believe that they’re right, and everyone believing that a god could command the killing of children and be somehow loving and just. That pretty much did it for me I think.

(CLICK HERE to read part 2)


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conversations with a born-again atheist: gods, God and clarifying the purpose of these talks

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.



CLICK HERE
to read the previous post: “conversations with a born-again atheist: a few definitions

JSM:It’s good that we’re clarifying some terms, but I think I need to clarify my reasons for wanting to continue our conversation.

As long as we’re going back to the beginning of the conversation, I don’t remember professing belief in God. I didn’t need to. I knew you already knew I was a Christian. I already knew you were an atheist. And I had already figured out that you didn’t look down on me or my family because of our beliefs. Rather, I found you to be gracious and respectful. That’s why I was so comfortable talking to you about Christian music even though I knew you were an atheist. I did not, however, know about your extensive background in Christian music! Could have knocked me over with a feather. Then, when you told me that you had prayed to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior when you were younger? I was hooked. How does a born again Christian become an atheist? Seriously. How does that happen!?

So, to clarify –

I’m not looking to learn about atheism in general. I’m a voracious reader, so I can get generic knowledge about atheism from books. I agree with you that lumping all atheists together is wrong. From what I’ve read and learned in the past, there are many, many reasons for a lack of belief in God. I’m interested in which of those reasons resonated with you and were compelling enough to lead you to reject your faith in Christ.

I’m also not interested in a formal debate. I’m not an expert in Christian theology and, as you said, you’re not an expert in atheism. Besides, given our strong convictions and our individual commitments to holding them, I’m fairly certain a debate would be an exercise in futility.

Your statements in our initial conversation sparked my interest in two ways:

1. How did you – a self-professed born again Christian – become an atheist? You said you made an informed decision, on your own, when you asked Christ to become your Lord and Savior. You even quoted scripture [to support your claim that you understood the decision you were making]. (Not something I expected an atheist to do, by the way.) You said you weren’t coerced or manipulated in any way when you made your decision for Christ. I really, really want to know – how in the world did you come to abandon that faith? I’m interested in reading the book you’ve recommended because you’ve said it helps to explain why you became an atheist. I understand that I’ll be learning more about atheism in the process of learning your story, but it’s your story I’m interested in. There are lots of atheists in the world, it’s your story that is unique.

2. Why do you view faith in God as unreasonable, illogical and irrational? As polite as you are about respecting my right to believe what I want to believe (and I appreciate that), the fact is that you personally don’t respect the belief itself. Logically, here’s how I see it:

1. You’ve stated that you don’t find faith in Christ to be reasonable, logical or rational.
2. My faith in Jesus Christ is at the central core of my life.
3. Therefore, you don’t find my faith to be reasonable, logical or rational.

Logically, there’s no sugar coating that. It is what it is. No need to smooth it over or apologize for it. I promise you, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. But as polite as you are about respecting my right to believe what I want to believe, you are correct when you say people often take these things personally. In our conversation so far, you’ve compared belief in God to belief in UFOs, guardian angels, Santa Claus and most recently, fairies. You do see why some people might be offended, right? (and again, I promise you, I’m not.)

On to your questions…

What is my definition of a god?
I’ll answer, but I’d rather cut to the chase. You don’t believe in any god and I only believe in the Christian God. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to pass on discussion of gods with lower case “g” – unless talking about gods in general will help me understand how you lost/rejected your faith in the Christian God? Besides, you’ve already given me so many reasons and examples of why you don’t find belief in Christ to be (I’ll just pick one) reasonable, we may never get through them all. [in additional emails we haven’t gotten to yet] The last thing I want to do is add more. Especially irrelevant more.

That said….

What is my definition of a god?
Because I’m impatient, I’m going to dumb this one way down: “a transcendent entity.”

transcendent: adjective “Beyond or above the range of normal or merely physical human experience.

entity: noun “A thing with distinct and independent existence.”

What are the attributes of the Christian God?
I’ll start what I’m sure is an incomplete listing of attributes that I reserve the right to add to later:

(in no particular order)
transcendent entity (obviously)
The three O’s:
Omniscient (all knowing – infinite awareness, understanding, and insight)
Omnipotent (all powerful – unlimited authority)
Omnipresent (everywhere, all the time)
Holy (worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness)
Sovereign (supreme authority)
Just (guided by truth, reason and justice)
Compassionate (sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it)
Fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control)
and finally,
Inconceivable!

If I’m going to be posting these conversations on my blog, you’re going to need a pseudonym. Everybody on my blog gets one. You want to pick it? (my family members are referred to as FirstHusband (sometimes upgraded to FavoriteHusband), FavoriteSon and PinkGirl. My personal trainer was TinyPowerHouse, daughter’s bully was TheBully and my bully is Narcissa. You get the idea) [note to bloggers: obviously, he picked AtypicalAtheist]

And, while I’ll send you previews of the posts for approval before they go live, I’d prefer to only edit out personal details that might give away your identity. I realize we both run the risk of lookinlikafool every once in a while, but I don’t want to hide behind what could easily morph into an unauthentic script.

If at any time, you become bored with this and want to quit, just say so.

Later,
Julie


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NOTE: All comments will be held for approval. This blog is a no-hate zone.
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conversations with a born-again atheist: a few definitions

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: So far, I’ve been including the back and forth of these conversations in one post, but I think I’m going to shift and begin posting most of these emails one at a time. The fact that you don’t see my response to AtypicalAtheist’s email below is ZERO indication that I agree with the statements he’s made. Just means I haven’t responded…YET. Conversely, a post that contains only my statements is ZERO indication that AtypicalAtheist agrees with anything I’ve said.


… snip … (from the “ground rules” email):

JSM: “…your statement “It does not trouble me for people believe in god any more than it troubles me for people to believe in UFO visits, guardian angels, or Santa Clause.” leads me to conclude you don’t view faith as reasonable, logical or rational. Actually, I think you’ve used all three of those words. I’m curious as to why you believe faith in Christ is incompatible with reason and logic. And I don’t take it at all personally, that holding such a belief, you might view me as lacking in reason and logic because I myself have faith in Christ.”

AtypicalAtheist: Hey Julie,

I’m glad for your qualifier – people often take these things personally. Suffice it to say I don’t find it a reasonable belief, but I support your right to believe as you wish. As to why I don’t find it reasonable, I think we’d have to back up in the conversation to the beginning. You profess belief in a god (the Christian God). Before we begin a discussion, we need to agree on some definitions I think. First, let me start with defining atheism and agnosticism – I touched on this early in our conversation, but it’s important to me not to gloss over it. Then, I’ll ask you for a definition or two so we’re on the same page…

1- Theism comes from the Greek root ‘theos’ meaning ‘god’, and is the belief in the existence of a god or gods. Atheism literally translates into ‘without’ + ‘belief in the existence of a god or gods’ because in Latin, the ‘a’ prefix means without (other examples include asexual, amoral, anarchy, anhydrous, etc). So – atheism is simply being “without the belief in a god or gods” and nothing more. It doesn’t say why there is a lack of belief, it simply is the lack of belief. According to my readings, the lack of belief could be implicit (for example, a tribe of Amazonians that don’t happen to believe in a god or gods), or could be explicit (someone that is familiar with the concept of a god or gods, and rejects the concept).

2- Gnosticism comes from the Latin word ‘gnostos’ meaning ‘known’, or ‘posessing knowledge’. Agnosticism is then literally ‘without knowledge’ or ‘without ultimate knowledge’. As a general term, agnosticism now signifies the impossibility of knowledge in some area – commonly, a person who believes that something is inherently unknowable. Coined by Thomas Huxley some time in the 1860’s, it was his assertion that “anything beyond the material world, including the existence and nature of God, was unknowable”. Contrary to popular belief, an agnostic isn’t some kind of middle-ground between belief in theism and atheism.

3- Atheism does not imply any type of moral code or world view. In fact, it’s merely the absense of a belief. There is no positive assertion or statements in atheism, just a negative one (without belief in a god or gods). So, lumping all atheists together in one bundle is as wrong as lumping all theists together under a common label. There are plenty of theists that don’t believe in the death penalty, do believe in a womans right to choose, and even don’t believe in Jesus. There are as many varied and principled and unprincipled atheists as there are principled and unprincipled theists (think Jim and Tammy Faye). Bottom line here is that one cannot infer that an atheist subscribes to any particular positive beliefs. The failure to believe in fairies does not entail a set of principles or a code of ethics – merely that one is an afairiest. 😀

So let me get a couple of definitions from you…

* What is your definition of a god?

* What are the attributes of the Christian God?

Thoughtfully,
AtypicalAtheist


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.
Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. I don’t use them because I make any money on the 4 cents per dollar, but because they track click throughs. And I am that addicted to stats.

conversations with a born-again atheist: the ground rules

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.

Below is the email exchange in which we set the ground rules for blog posting. One thing I want to emphasize is the pseudonym. I’m going to respect the pseudonym. Don’t ask me about the identity of AtypicalAtheist, because if you do, I’m going to give you the look that says “seriously? You did NOT just ask me that.


AtypicalAtheist: Well – I’m not an expert with respect to atheism or philosophy, and I’m not sure I’m the guy to fully represent rational thought on religion. Ultimately, I’ve read the opinions of many philosophers on the topic as well as the bible at least six times and I’ve come to the conclusion that atheism makes sense to me.

JSM: I’m definitely not an expert either. My formal education is in communication and business, not theology. I’m just finding this conversation a tremendous impetus for learning and as a teacher/trainer, I always want to share learning experiences and what they teach me. I’ve never discussed theology with an atheist before and I can already say – It’s definitely not boring.

I suppose you can post stuff about this on your blog as long as:

AtypicalAtheist: “I’m not named – I would hate for my beliefs to negatively affect any person or organization I’m associated with. There are many Christians that believe that atheists are somehow inherently amoral and not to be trusted. I have a strong sense of right and wrong, and have imbued that within my kids. I just don’t happen to require the promise of paradise or the threat of hell to do what’s right.”

JSM: Anonymity is definitely what I had in mind. There’s absolutely no reason to and nothing to be gained from identifying you. Although I personally don’t know any Christians who view atheists as inherently amoral or untrustworthy, I understand your concern. I would never put you, your family or any organization you are associated with at risk. I realize I will run the risk of nasty comments/emails, but it’s my blog and I can filter or block comments. And I know how to delete emails.

AtypicalAtheist: “That none of my beliefs are associated in any way with what my wife believes. She was brought up Catholic as a child, and now more closely aligns with protestants. Yeah – a protestant and an atheist have been married for over 25 years – who’d have thunk it?”

JSM: Understood. AtypicalWife and I have our own discussions about faith. (obviously, very different from the one you and find ourselves engaged it)

AtypicalAtheist: “That none of my beliefs affect the relationship between our families. I shared something with you that I don’t normally share with other people because I believe that religion (or lack thereof) is a personal choice. I don’t want this to somehow taint your view any of my kids. They are their own beings, and I don’t force my views onto them. I encouraged my children to study and compare religions and to not just choose Christianity or atheism because their parents are one or another.

JSM: I would never let that happen. My family has known for months that you are an atheist and I don’t see that it has strained our relationship at all. I see this dialog as an exploration. Your explanation of why you don’t believe there is a God, as well as your statement “It does not trouble me for people believe in god any more than it troubles me for people to believe in UFO visits, guardian angels, or Santa Clause.” leads me to conclude you don’t view faith as reasonable, logical or rational. Actually, I think you’ve used all three of those words. I’m curious as to why you believe faith in Christ is incompatible with reason and logic. And I don’t take it at all personally, that holding such a belief, you might view me as lacking in reason and logic because I myself have faith in Christ.

AtypicalAtheist: * Your OK that since I’m not an expert, that I won’t have all the answers – I will likely have to research things and evaluate different opinions. No matter what, I’m constantly in a state of learning.

JSM: me. too.


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.
Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. I don’t use them because I make any money on the 4 cents per dollar, but because they track click throughs. And I am that addicted to stats.

conversations with a born-again atheist: the first emails

faith and reasonA few days back I posted that I had an opportunity to have a 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. (If you missed it, check it out here: conversations with a born-again atheist: the beginning)

Below is the first email exchange to follow that verbal conversation. I realize no one reading these blog posts was privy to the initial in-person conversation, but keep reading. You’ll catch up.


AtypicalAtheist: I just wanted to follow up on our conversation. If you’d like, I can forward information on some of my claims this earlier morning, as well as my sources and the biblical references I referred to. Just drop me an e-mail and I’ll follow up.

Thanks again for being such good company whilst our kids froliced.

JSM: I would love that! Thanks! And I do actually have an extra copy of Evidence That Demands A Verdict if you would like to have it. (that’s the one written by Josh McDowell – the atheist who set out to scientifically disprove God and ended up a Christian) I pick them up at garage sales and thrift stores whenever I find a copy.

Something did occur to me. You said the burden of proof for the possibility of the supernatural was on the person who claimed it is possible? But wouldn’t that require me to use science, which is the observation of the natural, to prove the supernatural, which by definition is something that cannot be proven by the natural? A bit of circular reasoning? (and I had to read that twice.)

Thanks again to you and your family for a wonderful evening and one of the strangest theological discussions I’ve ever found myself engaged in.

AtypicalAtheist: Not a problem – it was most engaging.

Regarding proof for the supernatural, someone making a claim is required to back up the claim. If someone claims that god told them to kill their first born son, the burden of proof would be on them. You would not be compelled to somehow prove that they did not have a miraculous conversation with god, even if there’s precedence for such a conversation in the bible. And we both know, it’s more likely that the person making such a claim is either delusional, or simply lying.

We have regularity in nature, and we know that an entity won’t simply disappear or act in a manner inconsistent to it’s nature. We know that a cat will not begin quoting scripture, and we know that a flock of seagulls will not suddenly walk into a karaoke bar singing “Bend and Snap”.

And how about this – I have a copy of “Atheism: The Case Against God” by George H. Smith. Let’s trade. I’ll read yours cover to cover if you’ll read mine cover to cover. Heck, we can even trade book reports!

By the way – just to be clear – I’m not any kind of activist atheist. It does not trouble me for people to believe in god any more than it troubles me for people to believe in UFO visits, guardian angels, or Santa Clause.

Thanks again for wonderful conversation.

Take care


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