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.


AtypicalAtheist:

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.

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: 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?

and

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…

Later,
Julie

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,
AtypicalAtheist

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

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

AtypicalAtheist:

[… 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,
AtypicalAtheist

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.

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: 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?

“hhhhhhhhhhhh”

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.

NOTHING.

A gallup poll published on January 9th states “Only 5 or 6 percent of Americans say they don’t believe in God”
http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/lifestyle/55584689-80/religious-religion-gallup-church.html.csp

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 WordPlay-kmweiland.blogspot.com

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.

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: 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: 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


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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: 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


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.
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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


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.