Leaving faith behind: a reader’s story

I’ve exchanged a few emails with reader Matthew, who has his own website called Confessions of a (former) young earth creationistHe originally sent me pictures of himself with monkeys from his childhood in Africa (this was prompted by yesterday’s girl-with-baby-gorilla post), but also mentioned something about being the son of missionaries and how he gave up his Christianity. When I asked him for more information, he sent me a detailed account of how he was weaned from faith, and how painful the repercussions had been.

This reminded me that my own “conversion,” which was virtually instantaneous, is not the norm, and that many of the deeply religious have to sever many ties, with great difficulty, when they abandon their faith.  It also reminds us that, despite the claims of accommodationists, learning science and evolution can be a powerful way to lever people out of religion.

We often hear from accommodationists that evolution and science are not inimical to faith, but really, who believes that?  If you accept and appreciate science, you are buying into a completely different way of finding out what’s true than does religion, whose supposed “truths” rest entirely on indoctrination, revelation, dogma, and authority.  The methods of science for learning about the universe are the complete opposite.  And so if you learn to doubt and question, and ask for evidence, then you will —if rational—inevitably apply those practices to faith claims. If you’re intellectually honest, you’ll become an atheist.

Everyone knows this, but accommodationists pretend otherwise. “Religion and evolution are not inimical,” say the National Academy of Sciences, the National Center for Science Education, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and so on.  They’re wrong and they know it. That’s public relations, not truth. The fact is that science has been remarkably effective at turning religious people into nonbelievers, and never has the opposite effect. It weakens faith rather than buttresses it.

Matthew’s story, told below in his own words, testifies to this. But it also testifies to a lot of other stuff, too. As nonbelievers (many of us from birth) we should remember how hard it is for some people to give up beliefs they’ve held for a lifetime, one reason being that this can weaken or sever ties to those you love.

I’m grateful to Matthew for giving me permission to put up the following:

******

My family moved to Zambia in about 1970 and I returned to the UK at 18, so my entire childhood was effectively based in the missionary culture there. I have recently turned my back on Christianity and the creationism I was taught as a child and its since then that I have found your blog and have been following it for a couple of years now.

Shedding my faith was a long process; it was painful rather than difficult. It began with the gradual realisation that I was wrong about evolution. The more I studied the more I realised that shallowness of creationism and the depth of scientific understanding.

It all started when I began listening to podcasts and I grabbed a selection of religious and scientific podcasts, among others. Two that stand out were the Skeptics Guide to the Universe and AstronomyCast. I heard science talked about in ways that interested me and, more than that, I heard why that science was right. This was very important. SGU also gave me a good introduction to being critical in my thinking. When I compared these (and other science podcasts) to the Christian equivalents, I found that the creationist position wasn’t satisfying. To be blunt, creationism is more about denying and objecting than it is about actual science. This was my wake up call and I started soaking up as much evolutionary information as I could. I moved to reading blogs as well as listening to podcasts, and a few short years later I realised that I no longer had a logical foundation on which to base my Christianity. Intellectually it was a great relief. Emotionally, it was a difficult ride.

More than once on your blog you have stated that the Christian story needs the first chapters of Genesis. This was my conclusion too. I tried hard to reconcile the rest of the Bible with the fact that the garden of Eden is a myth, along with the flood, the Tower of Babel and the exodus from Egypt. I could not do it. It was really that simple—you take those away and the whole shebang collapses.

I did flirt with the idea of a liberal Christianity but found it unfulfilling. The pain comes from the life lived immersed in Christianity. It took me a full 3 years to come clean to my wife—and only then because I reached a point where I had no choice. I no longer go to church, which makes me happier; but the cost to the marriage is hard to measure because I have removed the single most important thing we shared for many years. She is a good and loving wife, but it is an emotional thing for both of us and takes some adjustment. On a personal level I swing between being anti-religion and being tolerant of it. It’s a difficult balance to reach because my entire friends and family circle is Christian. My two best friends from my 20s are now both Church of England vicars, and they knew me as a dedicated Christian man.

I have not lost any friends over my decision, of which I am glad, but I do know they pray for me and they are sad I have made this decision. It’s hard not to feel insulted by that and I have to keep reminding myself that they do it because they love me.

Leaving my faith was not hard—once I started down the proper route of logic and evidence it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. But it was painful because of the consequences and the emotional adjustments and conversations.

I have reached the point where I do not wish to actively hide my atheism. I think doing that caused more damage than the revelation would have and that was a difficult lesson to learn. Hiding it made me dishonest and I do not wish to do that any longer. I hid it out of fear for the hurt and disappointment I would cause others. There were many times I wanted to confide in people close to me, but telling a fellow Christian that you now reject what you once shared is a surprisingly difficult thing to do.

I’ve been lent books by those who now know: one in particular is the awful ‘Does God Believe in Atheists?’. I do know these Christians mean well, because I was once one, but they don’t realise that they are actually being patronising and disrespectful. It’s hard not to get angry because they are just doing what they think is right. But it’s just the wrong thing to do to me because I’ve been there and believed as they do. Sadly, what I want from them is a challenging discussion, but I know they will never start one because they think it’ll be seen as confrontational. What they are trying to do is to ‘love me into the kingdom’.

To be honest I’d love to turn my back on church and live a life that never has to engage with it again. That will never happen though, so instead I have to make the best of the life I have and find a solution that works. This is where the challenge is for me now. The closest friends we currently socialise with are great people, yet they include the Church minister and his wife, I am the sole atheist, conversation will invariable include church or Christianity. The only way I can socialise with fellow atheists and remove religion from the conversation is to is to do so on my own.

I struggle a lot with stridency, and I often find the rhetoric of Dawkins and others, even yourself, difficult to read. This is because I find it very easy to read the words from the religious perspective and I know my former self would find them deeply uncomfortable, even offensive. Sometimes it’s deserved, other times I am not so sure and it’s at those times I wonder if it’s really worth putting those words out there. Stridency never helped me leave the faith; more than likely it delayed my leaving because it gave me reason to encamp in it.

I am at peace with the decision I have made and I do not regret it at all. The challenge for me is to navigate the maze I now find before me.

175 Comments

  1. Posted August 28, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Welcome to rationality, Michael. As you’re discovering, it’s not at superficially soft and fluffy as faith, but it does have its perks.

    If nothing else, if you ever wish to have any hope of seeing the heaven you once thought was your ultimate destination, you’ll need the tools of reason to built if here in the real world.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      *Matthew 😉

      • Posted August 28, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        Aargh! Sorry!

        In my defense, I have a pair of nephews a decade younger than me, brothers named “Matthew” and “Michael,” and I never can remember which is which….

        b&

  2. Kevin Meredith
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    If you like these kinds of stories, I highly recommend “A Matter of Doubt,” a podcast that presents apostasy stories in an interview format. It’s at http://www.amatterofdoubt.com/. (Disclaimer — one of the hosts, Steve, is a friend of mine, and he interviewed my wife & me a few interviews back — but they’ve gotten some big fish too, authors & such, and they’re very good at producing a fun show)

  3. gbjames
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    The salient sentence for me was:

    “Hiding it made me dishonest and I do not wish to do that any longer.”

    It goes for us “strident” folk, too. We don’t wish to offer false respect to ideas we find reprehensible.

    • Sines
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Agreed to an extent. However, there is still a difference between attacking arguments and attacking persons, and it’s easy to cross that line, or at least appear to the listener that you have crossed that line.

      Especially given some of the ideas. It’s really hard for me not to start yelling or ranting at otherwise good people who sincerely claim that humans are all worthless insects who deserve nothing less than eternal torture.

      But in cases like that, the indignation might add an emotional sting to your arguments that might work where logic was sidestepped by years of dogma.

      • gbjames
        Posted August 29, 2013 at 4:34 am | Permalink

        As I said, I’m speaking of ideas. I see no reason to not attack ideas with reason, humor, snark, or whatever. Ideas deserve no protection.

        Of course there are those who have difficulty telling the difference between attacks on ideas and attacks on people. But that’s not really an excuse to hold back.

        And, I maintain that an exception that I think appropriate. People who make it their public business to push willful ignorance at the expense of the credulous also deserve ridicule. I’m thinking of the Pat Robertsons, Ray Comforts, and Ken Hams of the world.

        • Posted August 29, 2013 at 4:53 am | Permalink

          For the people you name, they will simply use the criticism as validation. I have seen many times that perceived persecution creates greater faith. The more you oppose the stronger there fervency and the stronger the faith of their flock.

          There are elements of Christianity that feed on this. I have a theory that the most effective way of weakening them is to welcome them because it removes their strongest pillar. Make them comfortable and over time their numbers will fall because there is nothing for the head honchoes to rail against.

          • Jesper Both Pedersen
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 5:08 am | Permalink

            Sounds reasonable. I have some christian friends and we sometimes discuss religion over a couple of beers. Even though it can get a bit heated from time to time, we have a common starting point because we simply want to discuss what we think is true.

            Our opinions differ, but our relationship endures because of the mutual respect we have for each other.

            That said, there are times where unjustifiable claims has to be met with a stern reality check, and some christians perceive that as an attack on their person even though that is far from the truth.

          • Timothy Hughbanks
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 6:22 am | Permalink

            I have seen many times that perceived persecution creates greater faith.

            Exactly. But then one of the things I detest about Chistianity is the way its most obnoxious adherents promote martyrdom as its most compelling virtue – when, usually, it is pretty sick. Fanatics love martyrs.

          • Notagod
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

            Too bad, if they use the criticism as validation. Haven’t you noticed? They will use anything as validation including an atheist being nice or silent when faced with their god-idea. There are elements of christianity that will feed on anything like starving pigs at a crowded trough. No offense intended to starving pigs of course.

        • Notagod
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

          I’m with you gbjames, it doesn’t work to be nice to the christian’s ideas they simply think kindness is weakness. Their god-ideas are ridiculous and should be pointed out as being ridiculous. If someone has friends like those that you named, they need to reevaluate what a friend should be.

  4. Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    When I clicked on your link, it told me that I don’t have permission to edit a post on your site.

    Perhaps you accidentally used the wrong url in the link.

    In any case, I do follow the blog you mention, though I know the author as “limey” rather than “Matthew”.

  5. Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    you are buying into a completely different way of finding out what’s true than does religion,

    To my mind, this is the nub of the religion-science conflict. A sufficiently Sophisticated Theology[tm] can probably always find a way around specific empirical or logical objections, but inevitably founders on the rock of trying to justify its positive claims (and I’ve noticed that the theologies that best evade falsification are also those that make the fewest positive claims).

    But I mustn’t omit to say: that is a deeply moving story from Matthew. I wish him the best in his struggle to find a way to live authentically within his family and social situation.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Yes to that last paragraph.

  6. Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    //

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations Mathew. I’ve often questioned if I were a religious person surrounded by religious family members, could I break free from that. I don’t know what the answer is but I’m impressed with anyone who does!

    Two things stood out for me in this post:

    “It all started when I began listening to podcasts and I grabbed a selection of religious and scientific podcasts, among others. Two that stand out were the Skeptics Guide to the Universe and AstronomyCast.”

    This makes me so happy that people are able to find answers so easily in this day & age. It really hammers home that (for the most part) in the age of information, ignorance is a choice.

    Also:

    “I have reached the point where I do not wish to actively hide my atheism. I think doing that caused more damage than the revelation would have and that was a difficult lesson to learn.”

    I am a life long atheist though I investigated religion to see if there was something to it but never bought into any of it. I did however keep quiet about who I was until fairly recently because I didn’t want to offend others. Then I realized if those around me (friends, acquaintances) didn’t accept me, I’d find new friends and acquaintances because those aren’t nice people….I wouldn’t abandon them for their ideas! Also, it is a horrible thing to hide who you are. It takes an emotional toll and the sting of someone leaving me as a friend is not as great as the pain of keeping who I am inside. A lot of atheists tend to “come out” to me as well.

    Also, it is important for life long atheists to understand that the religious are often not bad people. It’s hard to recognize that because we see the bad side way too often and we are often the ones attacked by the religious. It’s also important for life long atheists to understand that coming out as an atheist is bitter sweet because although you don’t have to live a lie, you risk losing everything (jobs, relationships) and that is a very heavy burden to bear.

    • strongforce
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      ” in the age of information, ignorance is a choice.”

      Thanks, I will keep that line as it is a good one.

      • Matt G
        Posted August 28, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        +1

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 28, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        Goodreads says it’s by an author called Donny Miller so it’s not original to me but I really like the quote as I used to say similar but in a more round about way. This is nice & pithy! 🙂

    • Matt G
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      You spelled Matthew wrong, Dina. If there is a Matthew out there who spells his name with one “t”, I have yet to meet him. Sorry for being hypersensitive on this subject….

      • pacopicopiedra
        Posted August 28, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        I’ve met him. And a quick google will introduce you to a few more.

        • Matt G
          Posted August 28, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

          If his parents screwed up his name, you gotta wonder what else they screwed up. My parents named me Matthew because they didn’t know any Matthews (Ithaca in the 60s). Now they’re freakin’ everywhere – it was the third most common boy name in the US a decade ago.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 28, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        Whatevs, I made a typo. I have a hard time seeing the font on my work computer. You didn’t see me go all crazy every time someone calls me Diane, do you?

        • Posted August 28, 2013 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

          And at least you got his name phonetically right…as opposed to somebody who didn’t even get close….

          b&

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 4:14 am | Permalink

            🙂

  8. darrelle
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    A moving story, life I should say, Matthew. Well told as well. I don’t envy you, but I am very impressed by you.

    Not that I am competent to give advice, and not that you might not already well know this but, please do remember that it is perfectly okay for you to seek companionship, social activities, what have you, that please you.

  9. Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Welcome Matthew – We all have our stories of conversion, even Darwin did. Atheism does not guarentee peace of mind or happiness, but it allows you to find the truth about your place on this wonderful but indifferent planet. What more can anyone wish for?

  10. Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic, relatable and more important coherent loss of faith confession. I particularly identified with this line:

    “I no longer had a logical foundation on which to base my Christianity. Intellectually it was a great relief”; although, in my case it was actually a relief psychologically as well because my “faith” (if you can call it that since I always had doubts even as a young child) was based almost entirely on a fear of eternal damnation. To realize I truly don’t have to fear such nonsense has been hugely liberating.

    I very much see this emancipation of my psyche as Ayaan Hirsi Ali described it in “Infidel” as a “shutter” clicking open. I feel like I can see now, or at least see with a lot more clarity than I ever did as a “believer” 🙂

  11. NewEnglandBob
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Matthew, you have come a long way. I understand your pain even though I did not have to come as far.

    Keep reaching out to others who see reality and try to help others take the journey.

  12. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing, Matthew and good on you for being honest with yourself and your surroundings.

    For some of us it is easy to forget that losing faith can be a long and painfull experience, but on the bright side there is a whole universe of nature waiting to be discovered.

    I started out as an agnostic and can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for you to make it to where you are today.

    Respect, mate.

  13. eheffa
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Matthew.

    You have done a great job of articulating the painful process of pursuing the truth; even if it means that the people you love will reject you as having fallen away from the faith.

    “Leaving my faith was not hard—once I started down the proper route of logic and evidence it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. But it was painful because of the consequences and the emotional adjustments and conversations.”

    I totally relate to this statement as my own experience closely mirrors yours.

    So many of the people I love dearly are still committed Christians. For many of them, my coming out as an unbeliever has meant that that there is now an unbridgeable gulf between us, as they are obliged to consider me to be lost and an outsider to them.

    There is great liberty in being free to pursue truth without needing to be loyal to false dogma; but, it comes at a price.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    -evan

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I can appreciate why listening to podcasts like AstronomyCast and so forth could bring someone out of fundamentalist religion. For me personally, it was the study of history, not science which was very challenging to my liberal Christianity which was so non-dogmatic and non-creedal that it was somewhat easier to accommodate with science.

    Apophatic theologians claim that much of the Bible is symbolic metaphor and that God is an ineffable transcendent mystery of which all our thoughts are a complex combination of the real and imaginary. But Paul “Ground of Being” Tillich claims a continuity between his views and the Protestant Reformers which just ain’t there. Karen Armstrong blames the rise of fundamentalism on the scientific revolution is a way I find tendentious. Liberal Christianity also cherry-picks the Christian tradition. It is in severe tension with the apocalyptic strain in the New Testament and downplays the substitutionary interpretation of Jesus’ death in a way although this is clearly laid out in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

    Christian evolutionists like Ken Miller engage in a lot of improbable speculation, They don’t exploit the gaps in our understanding to widen them (which is a good thing).
    (A creationist sees a jigsaw puzzle only partly assembled and therefore assumes it must have been assembled wrongly. A Christian evolutionist tries to paint in the missing bits with something other than the remaining scattered pieces.)

    As I criticized Karen Armstrong above, I must say that ironically, given recent postings here at WEIT, a fascinating piece of writing about the Beatles is in Armstrong’s autobiography “The Spiral Staircase”. Upon leaving the convent, she heard them for the first time in 1969 without having the faintest idea who they were. She was both repelled by their emotional rawness and yearned for it at the same time. She also notes that John Lennon’s remark about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus was self-evidently entirely true.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      !!!JERRY COYNE, PLEASE DELETE either first or second post. It looked like the first hadn’t gone thru due to a glitch!!!!!

    • truthspeaker
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Armstrong’s claim about the rise of fundamentalism bothers me as well. It seems evident to me that fundamentalism rose as a response to modern Biblical scholarship. Some Christians weren’t happy about college boys with their newfangled documentary hypoyhesis saying Moses didn’t really write the Pentateuch.

  15. kmbunday
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing, Matthew. My story is somewhat similar, except that my children are the missionaries’ children, and I was the missionary. 🙂 I was brought up in a home that was rather devout and church-going, but also a home in which my parents had higher education in actual science disciplines (although at church-affiliated colleges), so I could have gone straight into atheism as a child, as I recall I did for a time, but I was also surrounded by the devoutly religious people (of various denominations) of my upper Midwest living environment, and it was actually classmates I met in public school and public university who were most influential in intensifying my devotion to the Bible and to church work. It was eventually pursuing church-planting evangelism overseas, with the methodological skepticism I had already received from my own two higher education degree programs, that prompted me to examine whether I was basing my life goals on solid evidence or on wishful thinking.

    Once I gave up wishful thinking (I found the magazines Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer here in the United States helpful for that process) I had to be hard-headedly realistic about the consequences of setting aside an ardent belief in God, especially the consequences on my family life. My wife is a pastor’s daughter, and all our children have Biblical names (including one with your name), and we were so deeply in a network of devout people that I was wary of wrecking my marriage or rupturing relationships with relatives who had often been very kind to us. Now I am more and more open about what I believe and what I don’t believe, and my wife and I have reconstituted our relationship on a foundation of shared experiences through think and thin, and loyalty to each other as a matter of keeping our promises to each other, even though God isn’t listening in on us.

    A funny observation is that one of my public school friends who was the first militant atheist I ever met is now a follower of the Baha’i religion, while another friend from school, who was by far the most influential in prompting me to be more devout, is still church-going but now much less orthodox than he was in youth. People’s opinions change in every which way over the course of life, and online communication seems to help people remember this phenomenon and gradually become more tolerant–in all directions–about people’s differing opinions at a given moment.

    All the best wishes for continuing the adventure of human life in unity with your closest loved ones and in the pursuit of truth, both giving and receiving compassion among your fellow human beings.

  16. eric
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Nice post, Matthew, thanks.

    I’ve been lent books by those who now know: one in particular is the awful ‘Does God Believe in Atheists?’. I do know these Christians mean well, because I was once one, but they don’t realise that they are actually being patronising and disrespectful

    I find humor can be a good coping mechanism. Start a bookshelf of all the apologetics books you’re given. See how many duplicates of of Mere Christianity you can rack up. 🙂

    • towlesda
      Posted August 28, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      At the same time, I’ve found that the same people who give me recommendation after recommendation refuse to read anything I recommend them.

      • gbjames
        Posted August 28, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        I once “trapped” a fundamentalist Facebook friend (old high school colleague from 40 years earlier) into purchasing Why Evolution is True. He had been spouting off about why evolution was wrong, the usual creationist nonsense, and I accused him of Lying for Jesus. That freaked him out. But he was lying. He was presenting himself as knowledgeable about a subject that he knew nothing about.

        He started it but after the first chapter I think he stopped. He evaporated on Facebook thereafter, at least I never see him anymore. At least he stopped trying to convert me.

        • Posted August 28, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

          //

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 28, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

          Ha ha, I once tricked a religious relative on Facebook into visiting this site. Muhahahaha!

          • Jesper Both Pedersen
            Posted August 28, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

            LOL. Sneaky atheists…tsk tsk tsk. 🙂

          • JBlilie
            Posted August 28, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

            🙂

  17. Stuart Sorensen
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing, Matthew.
    I was a creationist myself. Left the church and most of my friends behind 20 years ago. That loss of social circle was really hard at the time but looking back it was worth it.

    So if the worst happens and you do end up losing friends don’t despair. It gets better – much better.

    Cheers,

    Stuart

  18. towlesda
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Accepting evolution killed my fundamentalism, but I remained a Christian for almost a year after I quit being a YEC (I just started to take the first 11 chapters of Genesis as old myths God used to introduce himself to early man). For me also, losing my faith was extremely painful; at the time it was one of the hardest things I ever went through. Jesus was my best friend and the person I constantly talked to, it was also my hope for the future.

    Now that I’ve been completely on the non-theist side for a year and a half, I don’t miss it one bit. I’d say that life without God actually makes me happier. Its not that I can now “sin”, but instead believing in God always was full of disappointments; Theodicy failed me. Without God life makes so much more sense.

  19. Dale
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I really admire your courage and fortitude in undertaking this journey from faith toward reason. I think many believers have doubts which they keep hidden away for fear of losing the ground beneath their feet. By your actions you have shown that there is so much more to gain! Congratulations!

  20. BilBy
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    As someone who was never anything but an unbeliever – Christian (nominally) mother and atheist father; one sent me to Sunday School at local CofE church, one gave me lots of science books to read – I have never had a conversion; therefore, it’s very touching to read about those who do: good for you Matthew.

  21. Marella
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    I love these stories, they give me hope, and never having been religious they give me an understanding of those who were and are. I think the most important thing for Matthew now, is to go out and find some more congenial friends. There’s plenty of them out there, none of my friends are religious, all of my best friends are staunch atheists. I live in Australia where it’s easy to do this but England is full of atheists too, so Matthew just needs to go and find them. It will make a big difference. It is very difficult to be truly friends with someone who believes in nonsense. You have to mind your tongue and tippy-toe around them all the time. It’s very wearing, (especially for a loud mouth like me) and there’s a whiff of dishonesty about it, which is destabilising as well.

  22. JBlilie
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Well done Matthew! And you write very nicely as well! 🙂

  23. lucychili
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    I agree about stridency and encampment. This is why I suggested posting things about the constructive use of science rather than ridicule of faith. Evangelism? is maybe not needed? Something more earthed and applied =)

    On 29 August 2013 04:16, Why Evolution Is True

  24. krzysztof1
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I would be interested to know what he thinks motivated him to start listening to podcasts in the first place. I could be wrong, but I don’t think he mentioned that.

    • Posted August 29, 2013 at 2:15 am | Permalink

      Hi, good question.

      Given my upbringing and the closeness I was to nature for much of my young life there was always an interest there. Also, despite the indoctrinated creationism, I was taught that it is important to be curious about the world in which we live because finding out stuff brings us closer to god.

      The podcasts came when an iPod was bought and in exploring iTunes the value of podcasts was discovered. It was simply a case of trying out loads and sticking with those I got on with. It helped that I spent a lot of time working from home and so could work away while the computer played me all this stuff for a few hours each day.

      • krzysztof1
        Posted August 29, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        Interesting! It seems that somewhere along the line you were encouraged not to tune out stuff that might conflict with the world view in which you grew up. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that your parents and/or teachers were overly confident that “finding out stuff” would result in increased faith as well as understanding of God’s role in the world. In other words, it sort of backfired!

      • Sagra
        Posted August 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        So you’re saying your iPod let Satan whisper directly into your brain. 🙂

        • truthspeaker
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

          If that were the case, you can be sure Apple would threaten Satan with a lawsuit over infringement of unspecified patents.

  25. David in SA
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Hi Matthew, thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story. I would like to share a bit in response. I applaud you searching out and developing your own worldview and belief system. A son or daughter can only go so far on his or her parents’ faith or worldview and then they have to find their own.

    A bit about me, I am Christian with a biology-based degree. I tend to be a “both/and” kind of guy. I believe God created all there is, and that natural processes are what He put in place to keep the universe working essentially on auto-pilot. This includes what would be considered evolutionary processes.

    I also believe there is a realm beyond the natural that generally is referred to as supernatural. I say this in reference to one thing you said.

    “Leaving my faith was not hard—once I started down the proper route of logic and evidence it wasn’t a difficult decision to make.”

    The “proper” route of logic and evidence is proper – for the natural world. There are aspects of God beyond the natural world, however, that simply are not logical.

    A few examples: To get we must give. To save our life we have to lose it. To be wise, we must become fools. To reign we must serve. To be exalted we must become humble. To be first we must be last. I’m sure you can come up with others.

    I just want to encourage you to keep seeking and say you do not have to throw your science away. It’s rather comforting to me to know that the sun is going to come up tomorrow and I don’t have to do anything about it.

    But there are things that science cannot explain and as Jesus told “Doubting” Thomas after the resurrection and before He went on to Heaven, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    May your journey be fruitful.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 29, 2013 at 5:10 am | Permalink

      To get we must give. To save our life we have to lose it. To be wise, we must become fools. To reign we must serve. To be exalted we must become humble. To be first we must be last.

      Sorry, David in SA, but this is perfect nonsense masquerading as profundity.

      • Leigh Jackson
        Posted August 29, 2013 at 5:54 am | Permalink

        I wouldn’t say that. What *is* nonsense is to imagine that such moral sentiments require supernatural provenance.

        What Jesus said to Thomas wasn’t nonsense either. Worse than nonsense, it was pure evil.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 6:00 am | Permalink

          Huh? In what sense is “To be wise, we must become fools.” meaningful?

          This is not a statement about morality. It is a small word salad.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

            Wisdom requires the ability to acknowledge what you don’t know, and to be aware of your preconceptions and how they can prevent you from acquiring new knowledge.

            “To be wise, we must become fools” is a trite way of expressing that sentiment. It’s meaningful, but it’s not illogical and does not require a suspension of rational or logical thought. It certainly does not imply the existence of the supernatural.

            The same goes for the rest of those statements.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

              So sez you.

              The word “fool” does not refer to simple ignorance. This little bit of nonsense can be rephrased as an equally stupid:

              “To be wise, we must become persons who act unwisely or imprudently; silly persons.”

              I maintain my position. It is word salad, masquerading as profundity. But I’ll agree that it is trite word salad. And the same is true for the other “insights”.

              • David in SA
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

                It’s not necessarily supposed to be taken out of context, it was simply an example of a paradox. You have to understand the context. All biblical meaning is context dependent. Paul was writing to the church in Corinth where there was a division between groups who were following two different leaders. Basically Paul was telling everyone to chill, that they were all in it together. To become humble and pull together. Here it is within a larger literary context:

                1st Corinth 3 (verse 18 is the one referenced above)

                1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

                5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

                10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

                16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

                18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

                I’m fairly certain you are preaching up the wrong tree, and what you apparently perceive as humility sounds like groveling to an imaginary angry dad.

                19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.

                This is poison to the inquisitive mind. The silly notion that intelligence and “true” knowledge is reserved for the supernatural deity. What a waste of human potential.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

                David in SA: Please refrain from reading biblical passages here. I don’t welcome it any more than if you were passing on passages from The Urantia Book.

                These sorts of statements are simply examples of sticking two opposite ideas next to one another in a sentences. Doing so does not generate an insight.

        • David in SA
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

          Leigh, please expand on your reasoning for the “pure evil” comment.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

            John 20:29 “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.‘”

            I bolded the part that’s pure evil.

            • Posted August 29, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

              And, just to drive the point home, so to speak, the line is delivered by a walking corpse who, two verses earlier, had just had his intestines groped by one of his thralls.

              It really doesn’t get any more blatant and in-your-face pure-evil kicks-kittens bad guy than that. Hell, I bet Jesus was even wearing a black Stetson in that scene — if anything, I’m surprised John didn’t mention the anachronistic headgear. Then again, what with the incoherent ambulatory rotting corpse and the horny ghosts and the braaaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnnnssssss and what-not, I suppose it’s understandable that he overlooked such a minor little detail.

              Cheers,

              b&

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        Hmmm. Blue Cheese or Thousand Island to go with this?

        Even “we had to bomb the village in order to save it” makes more sense.

        • Posted August 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          Smells like some sort of combination of limburger, sardines, durian, garlic, and bubblegum. Not sure how that mixed together, nor why anybody would pour it over a salad….

          b&

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

            Ha ha durian!

            • Jesper Both Pedersen
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

              LOL. I had to google it and this popped up.

              youtube.com/watch?v=oQj-hFfmYkQ

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

                Ha ha, a person I worked with from Thailand told me he was once on a bus in Thailand & someone dropped a durian & the everyone on the bus rushed off because of the stench. I tried some but mine was frozen so it wasn’t as stinky.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

                I gotta see if I can find a store that sells them around here. 🙂

              • Posted August 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

                Lee Lee’s Oriental Supermarket in Mesa, on the northeast corner of Dobson and Warner, sells them frozen. Look in the southeast corner of the market, next to the bakery and near the live seafood and the root vegetables.

                …but the things are huge — watermelon-sized. That’s why I’ve never bought one. What the hell would I do with that much fruit, even if I did like it?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 2:35 am | Permalink

                Thanks, Ben. 🙂

              • Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:17 am | Permalink

                You’re welcome!

                I don’t remember if you’re one of the many here in Arizona…but, if not, if you’re in a metropolitan area of any decent size, chances are good you’ve got a similar such store in town.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:31 am | Permalink

                Hehe…I’m danish so “around here” means denmark.

                I live nearby our second largest city and I’m pretty sure it should be possible to find it in one of the import greengrocers. My curiosity often gets the best of me so I have to try that durian know. 🙂

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

                The frozen ones aren’t as stinky but still my Indonesian friend advised to eat it outside. That smell stays in the house! 🙂

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

                I’ll be sure to eat it outside then. Nothing like the stench of rotten flesh. 🙂

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      To get we must give. To save our life we have to lose it. To be wise, we must become fools. To reign we must serve. To be exalted we must become humble. To be first we must be last. I’m sure you can come up with others.

      Here are three good ones:
      WAR IS PEACE
      FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
      IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

        😉

  26. Posted August 28, 2013 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Like the others, I thank you for sharing your story. I had the “luxury” of growing up in an agnostic (if not slightly new-agey) home and so I never endured the fear and pain of a conversion such as yours. It takes a whole shit load of bravery to turn your back on the very real (to you) God, Satan, Hell, etc. bits. I can’t even imagine the struggle. I’m glad you came through the other side fairly undamaged and that you haven’t yet lost family and friends. I do worry about how you will continue to find your current relationships fulfilling. It’s not fair that you have to act as if your values don’t matter in order not to make everyone else in your life uncomfortable. I HAVE been there – and it’s lonely. In fact, just this afternoon my boss lost an aunt to cancer. He was very close to her and was talking to me and another coworker, going over what he was going to tell his 5 yo son about Aunt Sheila when he got almost aggressive with me. (I was just listening and offering my heartfelt condolences up til then). He said “What would you tell your kid? That they are just gone forever? You can’t tell that to a kid!” It wasn’t fair that he turned on me in a moment of grief. I just gently responded that I would tell my child that their loved one would become part of the sunshine, skies, flowers, and birds and that every time we think of them, that helps a part of them live on. I was still scoffed at. I wasn’t going to be nasty back and declare “Well that’s better than LYING to them!” or any of the hundreds of valid responses I could have had. And this is just work. I don’t envy your current situation in the least – all I can say is try to find at least one other person you can interact with IRL who has similar views, someone with whom you don’t have to monitor or censor yourself. Hang in there and thank you again for sharing 🙂 Welcome!

    • towlesda
      Posted August 29, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      “In fact, just this afternoon my boss lost an aunt to cancer. He was very close to her and was talking to me and another coworker, going over what he was going to tell his 5 yo son about Aunt Sheila when he got almost aggressive with me. (I was just listening and offering my heartfelt condolences up til then). He said ‘What would you tell your kid? That they are just gone forever? You can’t tell that to a kid!'”

      After I started to lose my faith, I tried everything I could to gain it back again, for every non christian book I read, I’d read the christian counterargument. While I had already lost most of my faith, I still was searching, the day I quit looking and officially became a non-theist was the day my brother died. Before he died, I loved the idea of an eternal life, a hope for the future. My brother was a little wild and for two days after he died my my deeply religious family talked and talked about if he went to heaven. For them, it was a truly terrifying time, because if he didn’t get his life right and fully give his heart to God, he’d be burning and tortured for an eternity. They could finally grieve after the third day when my aunt had a dream that he was in heaven, to them this was a sign from God and now the grieving process could start.

      So my question is, if his aunt died a non-believer would he also tell his kid that she’s burning for an eternity. That seems far worse to me than for someone to tell their child that “their loved one would become part of the sunshine, skies, flowers, and birds and that every time we think of them, that helps a part of them live on.”

      • Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

        I’m so sorry regarding the loss of your little brother 😦 How heartbreaking that the loss was made that much worse by your very real fears that he might be suffering – what kind of comfort does faith offer at that point?
        The odd thing is…this guy isn’t even THAT religious – only goes to church on the major religious holidays…I guess it was just that moment of loss in which he gripped on to his faith rather than face reality. I don’t even know if he believes in a literal hell. But I do know he thinks it’s ridiculous that I “don’t believe in something.” Meaning something godly or supernatural I guess. I believe in a lot of things – I just don’t believe those things for which there is no evidence.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 29, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      “You can’t tell that to a kid.”

      Why not? That’s more or less what we told our kids when their grandparents and aunt died. No horrors resulted.

  27. Diane G.
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Compelling story, Matthew. As with a previous commenter, “[i]ntellectually it was a great relief” was the phrase that jumped out at me. Realism sometimes gives one answers one would prefer not to hear, but cognitive dissonance will eventually drive you crazy.

    If you haven’t already, I would strongly recommend reading Dan Barker’s “Godless.” He also went from a staunch evangelical background to atheism, and his book deals quite a bit with the pain and difficulty of re-engaging (or not) with friends and family who remain religious. And he’s a wonderful writer as well.

    (Hope the ‘removing-the-http://-trick works with Amazon links…)

    http://www.amazon.com/Godless-Evangelical-Preacher-Americas-Atheists/dp/1569756775/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377758691&sr=1-1&keywords=godless+dan+barker

  28. Posted August 29, 2013 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    I could never believe in religion, not from the earliest age, because I had a pond ! My childhood was spent staring at tadpoles and all manner of water creatures, and I learned of the complex interaction of living things, and most of all, that the living world is a bloody abattoir of conflict. (Very important, that!) And so when at eight, my teacher started on religion, I told her sharply that she was confusing fairy-tales with the real world. (Back of the class for that!) And when she told us that the sky was blue because the gods wanted to please us, I retorted my scientific answer that the sky was blue because air is a faint blue, and when you see through lots of it, then the colour shows, just as with pond-water! (Yeh, I found out later that I was wrong)
    A second influence was a clever chemistry master who would do an experiment and ask the class, one by one, what they had observed. The first kid always seemed to look into the master’s face to find the answer, and then make a wild guess. It disturbed me why the kid would not look at the experiment itself. That was a sharp pointer to the reality of human belief and behaviour. The whole class would then repeat the first error, even when holding the experiment in their hands! But the wily teacher kept me for last, because I would defy the consensus, look closely, and describe what I saw in detail, which contradicted all the others. Observation is power. Today, it topples religions, but it did not do so in Galileo’s day.
    And so, after seventy years I wrote a long book, 1800 pages; ‘The Origins of Belief and Behaviour, which, for the first time, explains religious belief’ It seems to me not to be indoctrination, but rather a false set of precepts with which to comprehend the world, and to find one’s place within it. Two notable early precepts are that we live in an intentional universe, and that all knowledge comes from authority. Those two alone are so damaging to the human brain that those who believe such things are obliged to dismantle their ability to process ‘experiential information’ such as all the common observations, that contradict those two precepts.
    It seems that human intellectual thought works upon the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ principle, that when you have eliminated the obvious answers, what remains must be true. (Like my ‘blue-sky’ explanation) It is the curse of all intellectual activity, leading to ice-palaces of error. For all of human history, by far the greatest proportion of humans have clung to ludicrous beliefs, even when glaring counter-evidence is all around them.
    But we do all believe in freedom of religion, and we must hold dear to that.

    • Posted August 29, 2013 at 4:03 am | Permalink

      In the interests of understanding Western religious belief, and respecting the fragile state of those who have left it behind, perhaps Matthew would not mind answering, briefly, a few questions….
      • From the religious perspective, what did you understand atheism to be?
      • Were you aware of the threat in The Koran, that anyone who had heard of The Koran, and refused to follow it, would be condemned to everlasting hell?
      • Were you ever aware of the great mass of observations of all things around you that flatly contradicted the claims of the bible?
      • What did you make of the idea of The Fall, and of the claim that all carnivores, even dinosaurs, ate vegetation before The Fall?
      • Why didn’t your observations of seas, mountains, rocks and fossils not lead you to believe in a very old earth?
      • In what common objects and processes did you see the work of the gods?
      • Did you ever believe that all natural disasters, human suffering and all accidents were down to ‘sin’?
      • Were you aware of a weakened interest in the present world since it was a temporary staging-post on the way to the everlasting world?
      • Were you aware that according to religious doctrine, and to the claims of the bible, scarcely one person in four thousand could possibly go to heaven? For example there is an obligation to kill all those who refuse to honour the Sabbath?
      • Were there any seeds of disbelief in early childhood?
      • Did you ever feel that Darwin was diabolical?
      • Is it possible to go back?

      • Posted August 29, 2013 at 4:46 am | Permalink

        1) People who actively proclaimed there to be no God.

        2) no

        3) I was aware there was stuff people claimed refuted the bible, they were mistaken.

        4) The Fall was literal. I didn’t really buy the pre-fall vegetarian idea.

        5) People who said it was old were mistaken. That said, it was a visit to the Grand Canyon in 2003 that was one of the prompts for me because I sat there viewing it and simply could not see the young age conclusion. Old was the only thing that made sense.

        6) Not sure I understand the question.

        7) No. You’ll need to provide a reference.

        8) None that I recall.

        9) No, just misguided.

        10) No.

      • David in SA
        Posted August 29, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        George, I go out of my way to be cordial, at least civil, as I want to keep the dialogue open, but I have to say the following is the most preposterous statement I have ever seen by anyone trying to “debunk” the bible:

        “Were you aware that according to religious doctrine, and to the claims of the bible, scarcely one person in four thousand could possibly go to heaven? For example there is an obligation to kill all those who refuse to honour the Sabbath?”

        You are so far off the mark that you not only missed the target, you missed the whole firing range.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

          Exodus 31:15 says to kill anyone who works on the Sabbath.

          I’m sure you will respond that Jesus’s coming means Old Testament laws don’t apply to Christians, but that’s just one interpretation. It’s not any closer to “the mark” than the commenter’s interpretation.

          • David in SA
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 8:54 am | Permalink

            Look at it in context – all biblical meaning is context dependent.

            12 Then the Lord said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.
            14 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

            A. This was to the Israelites only, not everyone on the planet.

            B. Jesus fulfilled the law. ““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matt 5:17. From the cross: “It is finished.”

            C. Paul writes: “you are not under the (Mosaic) law, but under grace”. Romans 6:14b.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

              “Biblical meaning”.

              Another paradox? I’d go with “oxymoron”.

              • David in SA
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

                And so it begins…

            • truthspeaker
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

              That is your interpretation. It is just one of many possible interpretations. Going by context, you could argue that the Ten Commandments should only apply to the Israelites, but most Christian denominations claim they apply to all Christians.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

              However as truthspeaker alludes to, not all interpretations take the wider context into account while some will argue for a different context. Such is the problem with religious interpretation — this is no one interpretation on no one that seems to be embraced over all others. This is why George’s interpretation is just as valid.

  29. Posted August 29, 2013 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    Wow, what a lot of kind comments. Thank you all and thank you to Jerry for thinking my story worthy.

    I won’t flood this post by replying to every comment but please know that your appreciation is appreciated 🙂

    Thank you too to those who have found my blog and paid a visit. This all started with a cute photo of a monkey that I thought Jerry would like, I never expected this.

  30. Newish Gnu
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    “This all started with a cute photo of a monkey that I thought Jerry would like…”

    See?? Hand of d*g, right there!!

    /snark

    • Newish Gnu
      Posted August 29, 2013 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      I wrote the above nonsense from the perspective of being another former YEC who became a quite non-believer and who much later became not so quiet (hence, screen name).

      Matthew’s story was lovely to read. Thank you for sharing.

  31. Chris
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    A nicely written article. Thanks!

  32. David in SA
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Dr Coynes, as this is your website, is this your viewpoint? If so, I will leave you to your intellectual pursuits. As I said in my very first post, I do my part in being at least civil, if not cordial. It didn’t take long for the dialogue to go downhill and I have no wish to continue when what I say is dismissed out of hand. This is not the only, nor the worst, example.

    “gbjames

    Posted August 29, 2013 at 8:34 am

    David in SA: Please refrain from reading biblical passages here. I don’t welcome it any more than if you were passing on passages from The Urantia Book.

    These sorts of statements are simply examples of sticking two opposite ideas next to one another in a sentences. Doing so does not generate an insight.”

    • David in SA
      Posted August 29, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Sorry Dr Coyne, I meant to correct the spelling of your name but hit the “post comment” button too quick.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted August 29, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      I don’t see anything uncivil in gbjames’s comment.

      • David in SA
        Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        Ok, wow. First, my question was to Dr Coyne. It’s not up to anyone else to say this unless I missed something:

        “David in SA: Please refrain from reading biblical passages here. I don’t welcome it any more than if you were passing on passages from The Urantia Book.”

        Second, civility has multiple aspects. While not overt per se, there was an undertone of dismissal that is tantamount to being uncivil as far as I am concerned.

        Third, I did not specifically say anyone was attacking me personally. However, if you’re interested in what I have to say, then I can’t do it without referencing the bible at times. Especially if I am attempting to bring better understanding when someone else attempts to interpret it. If you’re not willing to entertain a difference of opinion, well, so be it. I would wish you all the best and go on about my business.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

          If you want a private channel to someone then a comment on a web site is probably not the best option.

          Do I need to point out the irony of someone reading scripture on the doorstep of an atheist only to turn around and claim incivility when the door is closed in his face?

          My recommendation would be to thicken your skin a bit and don’t mistaking scripture for argument. We are generally a rather civil lot here, as web commentariats go But most of us don’t appreciate proselytization. Cats, yes. The Beatles, yes. Jesus-loves-you, not so much.

          • Jesper Both Pedersen
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

            Dammit…you beat me to it. 🙂

          • David in SA
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

            Differing viewpoints are not welcome here?

            • gbjames
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

              We have a constant flow of differing viewpoints here. But there is generally a pretty negative reaction to people wandering in to inform us that Jesus saves. We’re all quite familiar with the “good news” and have long ago dismissed it for the childish fiction that it is.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

              Well-argued viewpoints are welcome here.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

              If you take a look at some of our discussions on free will and musical tastes, you will see we are pretty welcoming of differing opinions. If you want to talk to Jerry privately, you can search for his email on google and email him. If you post something here, it’s for public consumption.

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

          If you wish to quote biblical passages as a way of expressing your opinion, I’d advise you to grow some thicker skin.

          The bible holds no authority whatsoever around here.

          • David in SA
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

            So I can’t quote the bible in response to someone quoting the bible?

            • Jesper Both Pedersen
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

              Of course you can. You haven’t been banned, have you?

              You just can’t expect any respect based on your ability to quote biblical passages.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

              That’s not what gbjames was objecting to. You started the Bible quotes with Comment #25.

          • David in SA
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

            Funny how the bible is authority if an Evolutionist is using it and it is not if a Christian is using.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

              I think you will have a hard time finding some here (other than a wandering preacher) using scripture as authority. It may be used as example, but definitely not authority.

            • Jesper Both Pedersen
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

              Can you elaborate a bit on how “evolutionists” use the bible as an authority?

        • truthspeaker
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

          Yes, dismissal of the Bible. We dismiss it for good reasons. A book is not a person and there is no obligation to be civil toward a book.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 29, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      @David in SA: I don’t believe I’ve said anything uncivil to you. I have attacked ideas in your comments, not you.

      One really bad idea is that quoting the bible constitutes some sort of reasonable argument on this website. If you think that comment uncivil then please take a moment to consider the difference between people and ideas.

      • David in SA
        Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        “One really bad idea is that quoting the bible constitutes some sort of reasonable argument on this website.”

        Even if it is in response to someone else quoting or interpreting the bible?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 29, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      David, I don’t think there were any personal attacks launched here. If you are going to assert something, you will be challenged unless you back up with acceptable evidence.

      • David in SA
        Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        I’m up for a challenge any time. In fact, this is good for me. Helps me to understand you better and is a good brain exercise to keep me sharp. How is more scripture and an pretty decent understanding of how to interpret scripture not an acceptable response or evidence when it’s in reply to someone else quoting and interpreting a bible verse? That would be just like me remarking about evolutionary theory but you can’t use any textbooks, journal articles or any other resources to counter it.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

          What you mistake for a “pretty decent understanding of how to intpret scripture” is not. It is your opinion of how to interpret scripture. Like all works of literature, there are many ways to interpret it and none of them are more correct than any other.

          • David in SA
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

            I guess you’ve never heard of hermaneutics, archeography, or linguistics. Sciences all, advancing over time. There are definite rules of interpreting ancient texts. I don’t have an “opinion” of how to interpret the bible, I have formal training. To go with my biology degree. I have a well-informed understanding of both sides of the evolutionary theory discussion plus experience(s) you haven’t.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink

              My degree is in linguistics. Linguistics is not used in interpreting texts. It can be used for translating them, especially when they are written in languages that are no longer spoken, but it is not used for interpretation.

              As for hermaneutics, millions of Christians have used that come up with interpretations that are very different from yours. Doesn’t that tell you something?

              • David in SA
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

                SMH. If it’s discovered that a word should be translated a different way than previously thought, that changes the text, which then needs to be re-interpreted in light of the new information.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

                That only gets you closer to the author’s intent, which has very little to do with the interpretation of a text. Most denominations of Christianity are based on older translations of the Bible. They don’t care what the author’s intent was or the historical context. They think the whole book is divinely inspired if not divinely authored.

              • Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

                Never mind the authorship of the Bible; what matter is the readership.

                And not the general readership, but one individual reader in particular.

                That individual, of course, being none other than Jesus H. Christ himself.

                Has Jesus read the King James Bible?

                (Not, of course, “Did he read the KJV Bible during his extended BDSM fantasy vacation on Earth,” but, “Has Jesus, Only Begotten Son of the Father, sitting at His Right Hand, who judges the living and the dead — has that Jesus read the KJV Bible?”)

                Either Jesus has read the Bible or he hasn’t.

                If he hasn’t, then what right has he to judge humans, especially those who have read it and taken it as their inspiration to emulate him?

                But, assuming he actually has read the KJV Bible, we must now consider his competence to judge humanity. Either he understands our tendencies to take things literally and is perfectly cool with people reading his command to kill all non-Christians as a literal command, or he’s set up his most ardent followers for failure. Look at the current debate over gay marriage; either the Bible means what it says and we’re damned if we don’t stone teh gheys to death, or we’re left with struggling to figure out how to metaphorically interpret some of the worst hate speech in all of Western literature, worse than Mein Kampf.

                Now, let’s assume that Jesus is unhappy with popular literal interpretations of the Bible.

                So, okay. It’s all a great metaphor for butterflies and rainbows and kittens and girls on ponies with ribbons in their hair.

                So why the fuck doesn’t Jesus use his magic Jesus powers to come down from the sky and clear up all the confusion? Why didn’t he use his magic Jesus powers when the Bible was being written to keep all the nasty shit out of it?

                When it comes right down to it, a literal, word-for-word interpretation of the Bible is the only one that even pretends to make sense if we’re to assume that Jesus has even a fraction of the powers he’s claimed to have. But, of course, then the problem becomes that it’s painfully clear that such a Jesus would be the worst enemy humanity could ever imagine, an insane psychopath of an evil monster, and one that must be fought with every ounce of breath even if defeat were certain.

                Thankfully, he’s nothing more than the monster that lives under Christian beds. But even that’s bad enough, for Christians actually believe these delusions….

                Cheers,

                b&

              • David in SA
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

                Scientists have different viewpoints on things, as someone earlier remarked. Why shouldn’t Christians be allowed to do the same? Look at our Constitution. We have significant differences in our country over how to interpret it. Again, it’s not surprising to me that there are different interpretations of the bible.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

                Christians are allowed to have different interpretations of the Bible. But when a commenter above expressed one of those Christian interpretations – namely that the commandments and laws in Exodus apply to modern Christians just as they did to iron-age Israelites – you claimed that your interpretation was correct while theirs was wrong and the commenter was mistaken to cite it.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

          I am okay with you putting scripture in a greater context but not without evidence of what that context is. For example, if you were to assert that a particular passage was typical of a way of speaking for the time and was poorly translated, you would need to back that up with linguistic evidence outside the text. Another example would be placing an event in an historical context – there would need to be primary source evidence outside the bible itself to back that up. Of course, this evidence is acceptable only if it is provable.

          So this is different than remarking about evolutionary theory without referencing textbooks or journal articles because unlike the bible, there is no “scripture of evolutionary theory” that is a compilation of anecdotes, often compiled without direct observation, written down 10s or 100s of years after the events then assembled by a group of people.

          • David in SA
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

            The original point was made that only 1 in 4000 could make it to heaven based on Exodus 31:15. Exodus 31:1 says “Tell the Israelites…” So I posted the chapter. That’s part of its literary context and the most obvious refutation of the need to kill everyone who works on the sabbath as it was just for Israel, not anyone else. There was no need for more than that. The additional text was to explain how after Jesus’ resurrection, that provision no longer applied anyway. It has to be ok to include other parts of the bible in developing understanding, else it’s just like ripping out 900 pages out of The Stand and asking you to explain how Stuart, Frances, Harold, Glen and the rest survived Captain Trips and what happened on the way to Las Vegas with the remaining 100 or so pages.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

              But you then have to recognize that your interpretation shows no more evidence than another’s interpretation. The error bars will be fairly high. This is the problem with religion.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

              But none of that changes the fact that there are many Christians who DO think Exodus 31:15 means only 1 in 4000 could make it to heaven. Its one of the bases for Calvinism. “To Israel” means it applies to Christians because Christianity is the inheritor of the nation of Israel.

              If you think your interpretation is superior to theirs then you need to try to convince THEM, not us. We don’t care. What matters to us is that there are Christian denominations that do, in fact, think that Exodus 31:15 applies to Christians.

    • Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      David, the problem here is that you’re trying to pass off the Bible as some sort of profound source of great wisdom, when it’s much closer to the sorts of faery tales that a cross between Hitler and Torquemada might dream up. The responses to you have been exceedingly civil. Imagine somebody coming here to post quotes from Mein Kampf extolling their poetic beauty and insightfulness; do you think they’d be treated with the same kid gloves you’ve been receiving?

      To be fair to you, you’ve never actually read your Bible, so you really don’t understand its context. Oh, sure, you’ve moved your eyes past the words, but what you were really reading was some sort of apologetic exculpation of the exact same variety you’ve been parroting — it’s not the Bible’s fault; people were much worse back then; you’re taking it out of context; it’s all a metaphor. That’s how we get people like William Lane Craig who can take passages like Numbers 31, where Moses and his merry men, at YHWH’s direct order, kill all the Midianite adults, rape all the girls for the rest of their lives, and enslave all the boys…and somehow make the tragedy about the mental hardships the Israelites must have endured while carrying out those orders.

      That’s the insider’s perspective of the Bible, the one induced by the Stockholm Syndrome.

      The outsider’s view is that it’s superficially a fourth-rate anthology of really bad ancient faery tales. It opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard; it prominently features a talking plant (on fire!) that gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero; and it ends with an utterly bizarre zombie snuff pr0n fantasy with the climax coming shortly after Patient Zero gets one of his thralls to fondle his (Patient Zero’s) intestines through a gaping chest wound. And along the way we get sea monsters, giants, sky castles, and more magic tricks than you can shake a stick at.

      But the truly insidious nature of the Bible is the “deeper” meanings of those stories.

      That enchanted garden? It’s about a deadbeat father who leaves poison in a juice bottle in the fridge. He goes off somewhere, leaving the preteen kids alone in the house. His stoner brother drops in and thinks it’d be funny to get the kids sick on the poison and tricks them into drinking it. When Dad gets home and finds the kids puking on the carpet, he flies into a rage and kicks the kids, naked and still sick, to the curb, never to let them in again. But instead of Dad getting arrested by Child Protective Services and serving an extended prison sentence and the kids getting adopted by a responsible couple, Dad is held up as the ultimate hero and the kids, who grow up on the streets, get the blame for literally everything that’s worng in the world.

      In the story about the talking plant, we find that the whole magic wand thing is just a setup for YHWH to play with his sniny new biowarfare weapons, where he utterly devastates one of the greatest civilizations in the history of the world just for the hell of it. He commits horrific war crime after horrific war crime, indiscriminately killing civilians, destroying food production, and wreaking horrific environmental damage. And, though it is ostensibly within his power to do so, he never even pretends to consider simply making all the Egyptians sleep for a day or three so the Israelites can make a clean-but-mysterious escape. The only redeeming virtue of this story is that it’s pure bullshit, and nothing ever even vaguely remotely like it ever actually happened.

      And the zombie fantasy?

      The whole thing is about how he’s going to come back, real soon now, and destroy the world. All but a select few will be subjected to infinite torture by his direct order, with his uncle — the same loser who tricked the kids into drinking the poison — as torturer-in-chief. In the mean time, his followers are commanded — see Luke 19:27 — do prepare the way for him by killing all non-believers just as he’ll do when he gets back. To make sure there’s no doubt about it, he has an extended rant about how he comes not to bring peace but a sword, how he’ll rip families asunder, and those with the temerity to love their own children more than him will get the worst of it. To really drive this point home, we get it twice — in Matthew 10 and Luke 12. And this type of evil is far from an isolated incident; right there in the opening to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemns not only all women who remarry but all men who’ve ever merely looked admiringly at a woman and failed to gouge out their own eyeballs to infinite torture. That shit’s everywhere, inescapable. Jesus drops more hellfire than Samuel Jackson does motherfucking f-bombs.

      So, yeah. Everybody else has actually been quite gentle with you. Sorry if my post upsets you, but you’re the one who’s trying to bullshit your way in here passing off this hate speech as love poetry.

      If you want our respect, there’s a simple way to earn it: grow up. Stop fearing the monsters under your bed, stop having tea parties with your imaginary friends, and accept reality for what it is — not for what you wish it were.

      That’s all there is to it. And, really, that’s all that civilization in general, and the pursuit of scientific knowledge in particular, is about.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • David in SA
        Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        Ben, I am not upset in the slightest. I am amazed that not one person has been willing to give a neutrino’s worth of credence to what I have to say. I had hoped for a meaningful conversation but I can see that’s not going to happen. Everyone’s mind is already made up. Good thing early scientists weren’t that way or the earth would still be flat, doctors would only use leeches to treat patients, and houses would all still be log cabins.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

          “I am amazed that not one person has been willing to give a neutrino’s worth of credence to what I have to say.”

          Maybe that’s because what you have to say isn’t very convincing. Have you considered that possibility?

          • David in SA
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

            I haven’t been given much of a chance. Everyone’s composing their response to what I post as they read and the content is not even seen. Since then, I have had to defend myself. At whatever point I leave, everyone will pat themselves and each other on the back and say “shot down another one! That Numbers 31 thing gets ’em every time!” And you will continue on in your lack of understanding when all I want to do is bring a little balance to the force.

            The ultimate irony is I have all you have. But I have more that I am trying to give away but you refuse to even consider it. If I was trying to take something from you that would be a different proposition altogether, but I’m not. But it’s your choice and I have to be ok with that so I am.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

              See my comment above on what constitutes acceptable evidence. Your interpretations have largly lacked this evidence and you have used the bible to prove your assertions about the bible. That is tautology. We’d be willing to talk about tangible evidence and we have done so on this site before in discussions about the historical Jesus for example.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

              What makes you think the content has not been seen?

              Your first post contained this:

              The “proper” route of logic and evidence is proper – for the natural world. There are aspects of God beyond the natural world, however, that simply are not logical.

              A few examples: To get we must give. To save our life we have to lose it. To be wise, we must become fools. To reign we must serve. To be exalted we must become humble. To be first we must be last. I’m sure you can come up with others.

              Did you really think that merited serious discussion?

        • gbjames
          Posted August 29, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

          Define “meaningful conversation”.

          And then tell me about civil discourse. My irony alarm is about to break.

        • Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          Hi David,

          Do bear in mind that many of the responders here have already given considerable consideration to the Bible already. You are not the first (and unlikely to be the last) person to put forth a biblical viewpoint. The idea of god (and god) has been tested and found wanting.

          If you really do want to impress you need to come up with an argument that has not been previously posited. So far you haven’t and that will be the reason for your comments getting short thrift, its not that your responders are closed minded, its that they have already fended off the arguments you’ve put forward.

        • Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

          I am amazed that not one person has been willing to give a neutrinos worth of credence to what I have to say.

          Of course not. Would you give credence to somebody preaching the superiority of not your own Christian pantheon, but any of the others that were also popular in the Mediterranean in the Classical Era? Such as the familiar Greco-Roman ones, or the less familiar Egyptian one, or the more obscure Persian ones?

          In reality, you are in perfect agreement with us about how silly it is that Zeus turned himself into a bull to get it on with the ladies, or that Set weighed the souls of the dead against a feather, or that bread and water turned into the body and blood of Mithra in a mystical ceremony, or that Perseus was born of a virgin, or that Bellerophon bodily ascended into the heavens, or that Asclepius raised the dead, or any of the rest. You just get upset and think we’re disrespecting you personally when we also laugh at the notion that YHWH “came unto” Mary, that Jesus judges the living and the dead, that bread and wine turn into his body and blood, that he was born of a virgin, that he ascended bodily into the heavens, that he raised the dead, or any of the rest.

          When you understand why you dismiss all the other gods of all the other religions, you will understand why all but your coreligionists dismiss your own gods likewise.

          I had hoped for a meaningful conversation but I can see thats not going to happen.

          Mohammed flew off into the sunset on a winged horse. Harry Potter rides a broomstick. Jesus’s undead corpse levitated into the sky. How shall we have a meaningful conversation with anybody who thinks any of those things really, truly, honestly actually did happen, for real?

          I’m utterly serious. How well could you keep a straight face if somebody came to you insisting, no joke, pinky swear and all, that he believes that thunder is the sound of Thor tossing Mjölnir and we all must beware the Frost Giants? And if you couldn’t, why do you expect us to keep a straight face when a Christian insists that Jesus brought us into this world and, by the gods, it’s his right to take us out of it if he wants to?

          Good thing early scientists werent that way or the earth would still be flat, doctors would only use leeches to treat patients, and houses would all still be log cabins.

          Indeed.

          And, you know how we started to figure all that out?

          We actually looked behind the curtain, and paid attention to the man behind it, and discovered that he really was a humbug, after all.

          Your ultimate problem is that you’re still refusing to open your eyes, even as the rest of us have drawn back the curtain and are pointing right at the humbug.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Newish Gnu
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

            Ben,

            I just love it when you do this.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

              The stoner brother story is favourite

            • truthspeaker
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

              I admire Ben’s skill with the written word, but I do take some umbrage at the implication that just because a story contains many fantastic elements it cannot offer insight into the human condition.

              I do, of course, agree that a story that contains many fantastic elements is not a literal account of events.

              • Posted August 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

                The insight that comes from fantasy comes either from the non-fantastical elements of the story or from within the reader himself.

                Anybody who got a decent grade in a college-level English class should be able to pick any two ISBN numbers at random and explain how the one is really a metaphorical exposition of the other. “This Little Piggy Went To Market” is an epic tale of the struggle of the proletariat to survive the oppression of the capitalist overclass, and the joys to be found in coming home to the freedoms of Marx’s utopia. You get the idea.

                In reality, the insight is its own novel creation, even if it draws inspiration from the original work. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that the insight is dependent upon the original once it has been conceived; at that point, it stands or falls on its own.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

                Yep, the art consumer brings their own baggage to the art.

          • David in SA
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

            Ben, you have no clue as to who I am, what I know, and what I have experienced.

            “How well could you keep a straight face if somebody came to you insisting, no joke, pinky swear and all, that he believes that thunder is the sound of Thor tossing Mjölnir and we all must beware the Frost Giants?”

            I would be delighted to talk to him about it. He would obviously be open to spiritual things, which no one here apparently is.

            Your ultimate problem is that you think you know all there is to know and there’s always more. Even Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Albert Einstein, and… Richard Dawkins himself were/are agnostic.

            The thing is, by definition, science may only consider natural solutions to any problem presented. God, being supernatural, cannot be “proven” by science, or at the very least, science would not accept it. God must be experienced. The invitation is always open to come hang out with me for six months or so if you want to experience something science cannot explain.

            “‘I can’t be sure God DOES NOT exist’: World’s most notorious atheist Richard Dawkins admits he is in fact agnostic”

            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2105834/Career-atheist-Richard-Dawkins-admits-fact-agnostic.html

            • truthspeaker
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

              Nobody here thinks they know all there is to know. Quite the contrary.

              But we do recognize that the only reliable way to gain new information is to use empiricism and reason.

              The thing is, by definition, science may only consider natural solutions to any problem presented. God, being supernatural, cannot be “proven” by science, or at the very least, science would not accept it. God must be experienced.

              That’s how we know it’s a con job.

              Anytime someone tells you the existence of something can’t be proven, it has to be experienced, it’s a dead giveaway they are conning you.

              • David in SA
                Posted August 29, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

                Come and see.

              • Posted August 29, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

                This point cannot be emphasized strongly enough.

                David, try an experiment.

                Write a paragraph or three on the importance and virtues of Christian faith — why it’s important to believe, how you know Christ is your salvation, that sort of thing.

                Then, take what you’ve written, and replace every reference to Christianity with a suitable reference to the stock market and a particular ticker symbol.

                If you read a prospectus like that, you’d know, almost without thinking, that it was a scam.

                In fact, the hard sell you’re doing for Christianity, in any other context in your life, would set off so many alarm bells in your head that you’d run, not walk, for the exits.

                If you tried to buy a used car and the salesman insisted you’ll love it after you’ve driven it for a month, you’d be certain he left his plaid sport coat in the office. If somebody tried to sell you Arizona beachfront property, sight unseen, with that same spiel, you’d be second-guessing the punchline of the joke. If a vacuum cleaner salesman showed up at your door with those lines, you’d slam the door in his face before he could finish his opening sentence.

                You owe it to yourself to think long and hard about why you’ve not only fallen for this particular scam, but why you’re trying to pull in more suckers.

                And, while you’re at it, if you want a nudge in the direction of the answer, read up on cognitive dissonance theory.

                Cheers,

                b&

            • Posted August 29, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

              Yeah, you’ve experienced God, and other people have experienced Allah, and still others have experienced other deities incompatible with yours. That is called a delusion. You have no way of knowing that your delusion is correct, or the right one among many. The fact is that there is no evidence for your God beyond what you tell yourself in your head.

              You obviously haven’t read this site, because if God interacts with the world, one can get probabilities that he exists, so he’s not supernatural in that sense. What you’ve done is erect an entity that cannot be disproven.

              I maintain that the existence of Auschwitz, of natural evils like earthquakes and childhood cancer, and other things make the existence of an omnipotent and omniscient god highly improbable. That’s evidence against him. The only evidence you have for him is what you hear in your own head. Other people hear different things in their heads

              And you have distorted what Dawkins meant.

              I suggest you go proselytize elsewhere, because the arguments you’ve made here are not convincing at all. Revelation is not a way of knowing ANYTHING.

              • Posted August 29, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

                If I could get in one last word for David before (if) he leaves…it would be to ask a simple question:

                Why doesn’t Jesus ever call 9-1-1?

                If you can come up with a convincing answer for that question that still leaves Jesus worthy of worship, do please let the rest of us know.

                Cheers,

                b&

            • eheffa
              Posted August 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

              @ David in SA.

              You say:
              ‘God, being supernatural, cannot be “proven” by science, or at the very least, science would not accept it. God must be experienced. ‘

              That’s a seemingly safe but essentially dishonest statement.

              Let me try to put it simply…

              If the verifiable & falsifiable bits of the Bible can be shown to be inaccurate or simply false (e.g. The Genesis creation account, Flood, The Exodus, the Solomonic wonders of Israel…
              etc.) the metaphysical & unverifiable claims made by the Bible are even less likely to have any veracity or reliability. These histories have been refuted & proven to be false.

              (How the Precision-Freak Creator of the genome & the Supernova couldn’t communicate a reasonably accurate accounting of his activities is hard to understand… unless humans simply made it all up. )

              All the evidence shows that the Biblical claims about history & the existence & character of god are nothing more than pious BS. The experiences of the Bible believers interpreted as they are through the false paradigm of the Judeo-Christian assertions must be by definition also false & essentially delusional.

            • Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

              How dare you come here pretending to want “conversation” when you want nothing of the sort. How dare you come here attempting to present your monster of a god as worthy of any respectful discourse. How dare you come here and throw a tantrum we won’t listen to you when you haven’t taken to heart a word we said.
              Do you understand that the notion of your god is vile to most of us? The problem of evil is not as easily dismissed by us as it is by you and your kind- no matter how many pretty words you try to cover it up with. All manner of unspeakable cruelty is happening over the entire world, every second of the day. Thousands of babies and children are dying of starvation, thirst, abuse, or torture right this second, many of them alone and crying out for someone – yet it’s perfectly fine with you and your brethren that your god sit smugly by, acutely aware of the death cries from creatures across this planet. It’s the ugliest, darkest, cruelest, and most arrogant of mythologies – and you dare try to pass ANY of that off as poetic or something to aspire to? Screw you. Where was God when that 6 yo Chinese boy was getting his fucking eyeballs gouged out of his eyes by a madwoman yesterday? Save your breath for people who are willing to by your bullshit snake oil. We aren’t.

              • Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:15 am | Permalink

                David, if you’re still reading, Jeanine’s is a sincere and typical representation of the visceral reaction most atheists have to the Christian pantheon, me included. We read the stories that proudly list the Numbers (q.v.) of people, men and women and young and old, murdered and raped and enslaved, by the tens of thousands, and we feel as sick to our stomachs as we do when we read histories of WWII or new stories of Darfur. Then, we notice that these horrors were done at the explicit command of YHWH, that his henchmen did it with smiles on their lips and songs in their heart; Psalm 137 is one of the most famous examples. And that’s before we get to the insane perversion of the already-horrific Hammurabic code that the Bible codifies. Is it any wonder that we conclude that YHWH and his disciples are all monsters, worse even than the archetypal Christian caricature of Satanists?

                And then we are told that YHWH is yesterday’s news, that Jesus, his son, is the kinder, gentler idol before whom we should now bow down. And we read his official biography…and there he is, bringing not peace but a sword, ripping families asunder, and commanding his followers to kill all infidels just as he will when he comes back any day now. And condemning everybody he doesn’t like to hellish torture, in pornographic detail, on nearly every page.

                That Christians can cherry-pick a few isolated words here and there and turn the putrid perversion of love that is the Biblical variety into something not entirely corrupt is to their credit.

                But why on Earth would it even occur to anybody that it’s worth the effort to do so?

                Really, it’s the battered spouse syndrome, on steroids. Here’s Jesus, a literal zombie, a walking corpse with holes in his hands and his guts spilling out of his gaping chest wound, and you’re so desperate to find something nice to say about him that you latch on to the one dime-sized spot on his robes not soiled and use that as evidence when you exclaim what a fine tailor he has.

                I suspect you’ve never seen Christianity like this, through the eyes of one not inculcated in the cult. But, again: think of how you sincerely perceive the competition, and you’ll understand why your own pack of hate-filled lies is no different.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • David in SA
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

                Hi Ben, Jeanine, and Everyone,

                I’m sorry for yesterday. I was in Facebook mode and this obviously isn’t FB. I screwed up big-time and I apologize.

                David

              • Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

                Thanks, David. It takes courage to admit a mistrake, and I appreciate that you’ve done so.

                If you’re planning on hanging around for a while, I’d at least appreciate an answer to that question I asked yesterday:

                Why doesn’t Jesus ever call 9-1-1?

                Cheers,

                b&

        • Posted August 29, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

          I should add: you definitely didn’t come here for conversation. Possibly argument, and very likely abuse, but certainly not conversation.

          What you most likely did come here for was reassurance that your superstitions aren’t as silly as you fear they are.

          And, if that’s the case, I’m sorry to inform you that you’ll be sore disappointed.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • David in SA
            Posted August 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

            Ben, I did not stereotype you or anyone else here and I can guarantee I don’t fit whatever stereotype you have of Christians.

            • Posted August 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

              I hate to break it to you, David, but your behavior in this thread is straight-up by-the-book Christian proselytizing. You’re reading — if not copy / pasting — from the exact same script as every other Christian I’ve ever encountered on Teh Innertubes over the years. And before.

              Sorry, but, whatever you are, a unique little sunflower you ain’t. You may think you’re an individual, but you’re not.

              Cheers,

              b&

  33. Posted August 30, 2013 at 3:41 am | Permalink

    I am the possible cause of David’s (of SA) anger, and I am sorry for it. I was actually talking to a Non-Believer, and asking questions that might better help me understand the religious mind. It was never intended for a touchy theologian. And, anyway, your explosion of incredulity at my words were, somehow, unconvincing. Why, for example, did you not attack the rest of the questions-to-an-atheist? Were they too difficult?
    Curiously, as a Brit, I have spent more time listening to Muslims than to Xtians. I am a great believer in Freedom of Religion, and try to avoid conflict with true-believers. These days, it is difficult to uphold the idea of freedom of religion, when those of faith, Sunni and Shiite, are involved in mass slaughter in the Middle East; and not shy or using poisonous gas on women and children. There are about 100 car-bombs a day going off in the world, and almost every one has been constructed by a very religious team!
    We had enough of religious wars in Europe and they filled many centuries and many lives. Those long centuries of religious wars have been minimised by church influence on education. What about that rabid Christian, Hitler, who had a desire to try for the priesthood (William Shirer’s book on the Third Reich) and who’s reputation has since been though the Christian laundry to try to, ahem, to bleach his Xtian beliefs away? And so too, with Stalin, who went to both school and college in a Catholic seminary, (Wikipedia) and tried to establish his own Eastern Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union with him playing the infallible god. His reputation, too, went through the Christian Laundry in order to hide his religious origins.
    It is possible and likely, given his tendency to quote verses from the bible, that David (of SA) is a priest. And given David’s presence in an atheist blog by a world-class biologist, I might guess that David is suffering the beginnings of a crisis in his faith. The last act of a ‘turning’ Christian is to go to the lion’s mouth with the last, desperate handful of unconvincing apologetics. When the Jesus- cult begins to lose its credibility, it collapses in a thunder-clap. Your claims that the truths of the bible are only understood by their context, is a very old, and very discredited claim. It amounts to claiming that the verses of the bible mean exactly what I want them to mean. And, besides, your ‘contextual readings’ are at variance with the majority of Christians.
    If you are at the point of losing your faith, and are seeking warmth from those who have gone before, then clearly, this could be a good site for you. My own Pastor, lost his faith in my kitchen, complete with tears, and the desperate cry, “What am I gonna dooooo,!” He was surprised to find compassion from perhaps the only two atheists in his parish.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 4:29 am | Permalink

      “I am the possible cause of David’s (of SA) anger”

      Damn. I was thinking it was me!

      You might be right about that “crisis of faith” suggestion.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        I don’t think it was hard to set SA off. I think he was kind of looking to play the victim. You were probably the final straw! LOL

    • David in SA
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      Hi George,

      At the risk of being argumentative still, it’s all on me. I blew it and I’m sorry.

      David

  34. Dominic
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    The older I get the more I dislike religion.

  35. Posted September 3, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on christianagnostic and commented:
    A story that I can really relate to…Matthew shares the emotional side and relational pain of realizing that one’s faith is not true.


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