Interview with John Loftus, author of Why I Became an Atheist

John Loftus served in the ministry for 14 years, first as a youth minister, then a minister, then a senior minister for a number of (conservative) Christian churches of Christ. He studied under the likes of Dr. William Lane Craig and has degrees from Lincoln Christian Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He’s taught apologetics classes at Christian colleges.

And now, he’s an atheist.

He’s also the author of the soon-to-be-released Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity.

He recently answered questions via email:

Hemant Mehta: How “strong” of a Christian were you in your earlier life?

John Loftus: For a long time I had no doubts whatsoever about the Christian faith. I was a believer, not just to the bone, but to the very marrow. I was as passionate as one could get about the faith. That passion was what motivated me to want to study about my faith, to share it, to preach it, and to defend it.

HM: Was your change to atheism sudden or gradual?

JL: Perhaps the more entrenched one is both emotional and intellectual, the longer of a process it is. The process for me took about six years, perhaps due to the fact that I suppressed my doubts, perhaps because I was involved in the church, perhaps because of my education. After six years I became a liberal existential deist, who simply chose to believe in God and the afterlife. Then I became an agnostic. I wrote my first book as an agnostic in 2004. Then I became an atheist shortly afterward.

HM: When your doubts began to form, how did you justify your religious faith before finally abandoning it?

JL: Out of ignorance; at least, that’s what I think now. I was blinded by my upbringing to believe. I was raised to put on God glasses, which only allowed me to see the world through Christian eyes. I discounted disconfirming evidence. I didn’t understand Biblical archaeology. I didn’t understand the nature of historical studies when it comes to supporting a historical religion like Christianity. I didn’t understand the true nature of the ancient superstitious and barbaric writings found in the Bible. I didn’t understand science. I didn’t understand that philosophy can be used to confirm what I wanted to believe, but that what I believed could not be sustained by a true reading of canonized Bible. I simply read the wrong books. Because of a blinding faith I just could not see things differently.

HM: What were some of the reactions you received when you told others you were no longer a Christian?

JL: “You need to seek counseling.” “I feel very sad for you.” Most of the Christians I knew simply asked me what happened, “why did you change your mind?” That’s what prompted me to write my book, to help them understand. Christians who never knew me while I was a believer drill me with questions looking for anything that might evidence I was never was a true believer in the first place.

HM: Do you think a Christian audience will read this book or will it just reiterate to atheists what we already know? How do you get Christians to take a look at a book like this?

JL: I think many Christians will read this book, because I wrote it with them in mind, not the skeptic. I treat their beliefs respectfully, too, without demeaning them for believing, because I myself believed what they did with all seriousness. I have a unique pedigree among evangelical thinkers as I studied under some of the best of them, like Dr. Craig, Dr. Strauss, Dr. Paul Feinberg, Dr. Kenneth Kantzer, Dr. Stuart C. Hackett, and Dr. Ronald Feenstra. There are many books written on both sides of this great debate that merely “preach to the choir.” Mine is not one of them. Most skeptics who read it will see, for perhaps the first time, how Christian apologists defend their faith. I don’t think most skeptics understand Christianity enough to be able to deal effectively with believers. So skeptics will learn some valuable lessons and arguments if they want to convince believers they are deluded.

HM: How could you convince someone to become an atheist if they’re not quite religious anymore but not yet ready to abandon their faith?

JL: I don’t know what will convince any particular person to become an atheist, since that which is considered convincing to people is person-related. There is an irreducible personal element involved in whether an argument is convincing or not, in the absence of a mutually agreed upon repeatable scientific experiment. That being said, I think the arguments in my book will push the reader in that direction. The major goal in my book is not to convince people to become atheists, though, although I do argue for this. My major goal is to do the hard work of pushing Christians off of dead center. I aim to dislodge them from their certainties, to provoke them to doubt; intensive doubt if possible. Where they end up after I get them to think for themselves, without reliance on dogma or an authoritative inspired book, will be up to them. But I show them the way if they wish to follow in my path.

HM: What changed the most for you when you became an atheist?

JL: Well, I didn’t become a serial-killer, if that’s what you mean ;-) I’m the same person I was when I believed. Nothing much has changed in that department, except I don’t go to church activities and I no longer feel guilt for the lack of tithing or prayer or evangelism or unforgiveness, and so on and so on. I feel, well, human!

HM: Where do you agree and disagree with the New Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc)?

JL: I am grateful for the awareness these men have created among the English speaking world. Just like the gays had to grab our attention by being obnoxious, so also Dawkins in particular, had to treat religion in demeaning ways to provoke believers to really think about what they believe. He treats the monotheistic religions just like everyone else does to dead gods like Zeus or Apollo or Poseidon. We easily dismiss these mythical characters. Sam Harris reminds us that the sole difference is that the majority of people alive today believe in the God of the Bible. Now that these “New Atheists” have accomplished this rise in consciousness I want to treat the arguments of the believers seriously, and show why they are deluded to continue believing in a non-threatening, respectful manner.

HM: Are you optimistic about the future of atheism?

JL: Yes, very much so. I think it’s the wave of the future, even if it is sloughing along at a slow but steady pace. There will always be believers, of course, but skepticism will continue to rise in the polls.

Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity is slated for release on July 15th.

If you have any questions you’d like to ask him, leave them in the comments and I’ll pass them along.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • trey

    Hi,
    I am interested in John’s conversion from agnostism to aitheism. What changed, and what does he see as the difference?

    Very interesting story, I’ll be sure to pick up his book!

    Trey

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    Does the Stuart C. Hackett he studied under have two kids (grown) named Stuart and Arthur? If so, I grew up with them.

    I’ll definitely be picking this book up. It’ll be a very interesting insight into the deconversion of so faithful an evangelical, and also considering I often find myself on the same long and meandering path (though I’ve always been “laity” as it were).

  • Brian E

    Don’t forget a link to his blog – lots of great information over there and sometimes some lively debates:

    Debunking Christianity

    Oh wait, the links in his name, nevermind. Still check it out though, good stuff!

  • Ron in Houston

    For most ex Christians I know, the movement was a slow process. I think meeting and talking to people in ways they can relate to is important. I think that’s why Loftus’ book will be successful in creating doubt in Christians.

  • Krista

    “Just like the gays had to grab our attention by being obnoxious…”
    I’m not even sure why but that made me laugh. (I’m gay)

  • Maakuz

    I would like to ask mr. Loftus: Did you read any science while you converted? Was it just the proof missing for god, or did you study science and then converted?

    Personally this topic is big for me- my younger brother and my mother are both young earth- creationists, and I just can´t seem to explain reality to them well enough.

    Basically, I´m wondering does studying and understanding the principles of science lead you out of skyman-delusion?

  • Steffen Spear

    While I Share The Same Beliefs As The Interviewer And The Interviewee, I Must Ask The Question- Why Should We Try To Convince Christians To Become Atheists? Christianity Serves As A Comfort In A Person’s Most Vulnerable Time- Death. It Allows People To Be Happy In Depressing Times And Motivates Many People To Leave A Less Than Desirable Path And Become Good People. While I Am A Strong Atheist, I Also Believe That Christianity Has Many Merits, Both Socially And Personally, That Many Atheists And Agnostics Disregard. Why Deprive These Devout Christians Of Happiness, Even If It Is An Ignorant Happiness?

  • Steffen Spear

    Oh And Feel Free To Email Me- Damann23@gmail.com

  • Ubi Dubium

    Maakuz,

    Basically, what I have seen is that understanding the principles of science might start someone on the road to dumping their tribal sky-god delusion. It’s helpful, but it’s not usually enough on its’ own. Learning to think critically and objectively about science can lead someone to decide to think critically and objectively about their faith as well. Then it’s often a long process of examining their doubts before they are ready to dump theism entirely.

    Try reading some of the related posts over at de-conversion, (like this one ) where they have talked about this at length. Hope that helps.

  • Jonsi

    Steffan: why would we want them to change their beliefs? Sam Harris makes a compelling point in the forward to Letter to a Christian Nation.

    Forty-four percent of the American population is convinced that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next fifty years. According to the most common interpretation of biblical prophecy, Jesus will return only after things have gone horribly awry here on earth. It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen—the return of Christ. It should be blindingly obvious that beliefs of this sort will do little to help us create a durable future for ourselves—socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically. Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency.

    While his numbers may be slightly off, there is a danger in dogma. While most atheists have no problem with religion as a personal source of comfort or community, the dogma of even moderate Christians may be ill-posed to meet the challenges in the coming century. Global warming, increased energy costs, running out of oil and the effect that will have on agriculture and shipping and commerce, and many other problems: religious comfort will not present solutions, and considering something like 50% or more of all politicians in this country (local to federal) believe in a 10,000 year old or less earth and a second coming apocalypse, I really do not trust that the people possessing power can create a durable future for me and my children unless they liberate themselves from dogma.

    And let’s not forget, God told George Bush to invade Iraq. Whether you agree with that foreign policy or not, what will be the consequences of such dogma in policy decisions in the coming years? It does not present to me a durable future. That is why I have a vested interest in liberalizing theists. 50 years from now, we will be unlikely to be able to transport goods across the oceans in mass, yet politicians are equally concerned whether the wildfires in California are the result of Gay marriage.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I think many Christians will read this book, because I wrote it with them in mind, not the skeptic. I treat their beliefs respectfully, too, without demeaning them for believing, because I myself believed what they did with all seriousness.

    I’m glad he takes this approach. Atheists need more folks on their side who are able to understand religious people sympathetically, not antagonistically (and vice versa for religious folks regarding atheists).

    However, this comment left me in some doubt about his reliability in representing religious beliefs accurately:

    He treats the monotheistic religions just like everyone else does to dead gods like Zeus or Apollo or Poseidon. We easily dismiss these mythical characters. Sam Harris reminds us that the sole difference is that the majority of people alive today believe in the God of the Bible.

    This is one of the absolute weakest arguments in the atheist arsenal, and I have to question Loftus’ ability as a philosopher and apologist if he honestly can’t see any other differences between monotheism and polytheism.

  • Siamang

    “This is one of the absolute weakest arguments in the atheist arsenal, and I have to question Loftus’ ability as a philosopher and apologist if he honestly can’t see any other differences between monotheism and polytheism.”

    You mean other than the (alleged) difference in number?

    Mike, help me understand. Why is this the weakest, and what’s weak about it?

    Also, help me out, I think there are at least two gods in Christianity. – Zeus and Hades, right? If you want to call Hercules a god, then you’ve got one more. Once you add the angels and saints and demons, you’ve got a whole bunch of lesser immortals hanging around Mt. Olympus, don’t you?

  • Jonsi

    This is one of the absolute weakest arguments in the atheist arsenal, and I have to question Loftus’ ability as a philosopher and apologist if he honestly can’t see any other differences between monotheism and polytheism.

    It’s not that weak considering the mainstream Christian perspective is: those gods were all made up, they are myth. People prayed to those gods, their prayers were answered (or so they thought), they had personal relationships with those gods and they sincerely believed it as much as any Christian. But they were myth, made up, entirely fabricated.

    Rarely is it argued that people worshiped those gods because they used their ability to reason to discern the existence of god in some way, but they were somehow off the mark while admirably trying. It’s generally conceded that their Gods were made up and their miracles did not happen, not that they had an insight into the Abrahamic god but somehow messed it up.

    So if you are going to dismiss those gods, the prayers, the miracles, the sincere beliefs and communion that people had with those gods as pure myth and fabrication, why does the Jesus god carry more weight? You can pose the existence of a monotheistic god over polytheistic, but you are still left with two choices: (1) that people did have a relationship with god, that their prayers were answered, that miracles did occur, but people were off the mark because civilization had not advanced enough to discern gods message or (2) the experiences that people sincerely believed in were entirely made up, fictional delusions. (3) Would be the devil did it.

    The existence of other gods and the fact that people did have relationships and miracles and prayers answered needs to be accounted for more deeply than: it was all made up. You have to account for peoples’ experiences even if you dismiss their gods, and I’ve never encountered an apologist who has done that unless they resort to the Satan argument.

  • EKM

    Christians who never knew me while I was a believer drill me with questions looking for anything that might evidence I was never was a true believer in the first place.

    Cue the Ray Comfort quote:
    He was never really a Christian. It was a false conversion!

  • Steffen Spear

    Jonsi: While I Hadnt Looked At The Topic From That Perspective, And You Highlight A Very Good Point About The Political Aspects Of Christianity In Our Political Decisions, I Hesitate To Believe That the American Christian Population Will Go So Far As To Hasten The Apocalypse When An Environmental, Political Or Biological Disaster Occurs. While It Would Seem Logical For That Phenomenon To Occur, And I Do Believe That Many Hard Line Christians Would Resort To These Actions, I Dont Believe That Enough Americans Are That Devoutly Christian As To Encourage Such Disasters.

  • Siamang

    Awhile ago we had a long thread for author Lee Strobel. I guess he didn’t respond to the questions, right Hemant?

    Anyway, Loftus made the opposite journey to Strobel. I’d like to see a conversation between the two of them.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Awhile ago we had a long thread for author Lee Strobel. I guess he didn’t respond to the questions, right Hemant?

    Lee Strobel said he would respond… he hasn’t.

  • cipher

    Lee Strobel said he would respond… he hasn’t.

    He has nothing to say, Hemant. He can’t interact; he can only pontificate.

    Mike, I have to agree with the others. I can’t see why Loftus’ argument is “weak”. You know the saying – “Religion is what we believe; mythology is what everyone else believes.”

  • cornwalker

    Forget about the plurality of gods of the past, what about the plurality of gods of the present? Each religion claims to be the one true way and there’s only two possible resolutions to the claim: either one is right and all the others are wrong or all of them are wrong. This fact is apparent to any eight year old but instead of fermenting critical thinking in our children we teach them that “doubt” is a tool of the devil. We blinder their minds and cripple their ability to question and reason about the world around them and their own beliefs.

    I can recall my own childhood encountering this very question of the plurality of religious belief. At the time I considered how lucky I was to have been born into the one true faith. It wasn’t until I was eleven or so that it occurred to me that all religious belief was an accident of birth. Yet I rationalized this as the reason we were to go out and preach to all nations.

    It’s only from some distance now that I can understand how truly absurd Christian belief is. While I was a part of it I was a true believer. I prayed fervently to God, and sought daily to understand his purpose for my existence. I decided that I would attend seminary after graduating from High School. Two things, however, knocked me off center and eventually led to my abandonment of my faith. The first was exposure to critical thinking in the form of a course on epistemology. The second was the experience of an LDS friend who after making a spiritual quest found (surprise surprise) the LDS faith to be the one true belief. It was then that I realized that religion was invented by man to serve man’s egotistical needs. My parents, obviously, didn’t do an adequate job of shuttering my mind to reason.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Mike, help me understand. Why is this the weakest, and what’s weak about it?

    Because just on a philosophical level monotheism and polytheism are vastly different. Polytheistic deities are conceived of as facets of this world, this universe, thus their existence can be confirmed or disproven through empirical investigations into this world. Monotheism on the other hand conceives of a God who is transcendent and beyond this world, and therefore is beyond the reach of empirical investigations. Because of this the arguments for each are totally different and thus the arguments for disbelieving in one or the other are not analogous either.

    Bottom line, when Harris or whoever says “Well you don’t believe in Zeus or Apollo, so why believe in God?” the monotheist simply replies “Well, God is not much like Zeus or Apollo, so my reasons for disbelieving in the one have no effect on my belief in the other.”

    That’s why I call this a weak argument. I’m sure atheists have plenty of good arguments against polytheism. I’m sure they also have plenty of good arguments against monotheism. But to fail to recognize the difference between these two ideas and to therefore attempt use the arguments of the former against the latter just strikes me as either sloppy or lazy.

    Also, help me out, I think there are at least two gods in Christianity. – Zeus and Hades, right? If you want to call Hercules a god, then you’ve got one more. Once you add the angels and saints and demons, you’ve got a whole bunch of lesser immortals hanging around Mt. Olympus, don’t you?

    I honestly have no idea what you’re referring to.

  • Siamang

    “Monotheism on the other hand conceives of a God who is transcendent and beyond this world, and therefore is beyond the reach of empirical investigations.”

    Sorry, wasn’t Thomas sticking his finger into Jesus’ side an empirical investigation?

    Of a god who was IN this world?

    I honestly have no idea what you’re referring to.

    I’m saying that the Christian pantheon has its Zeus, it has its Hades, it even has its Hercules. It’s got a whole heavenly host of immortals, and yet it still classifies itself as a monotheism.

  • http://metroblog.blogspot.com Metro

    Steffen:

    Why should we work at evangelising atheism?

    Three little words: George Dubya Bush.

    If the Christian right hadn’t thrown their not-inconsiderable weight behind that particular moron, four thousand Americans and some 100,000 non-Americans might be alive today who aren’t.

    Also, the US might not be trying to alternately launder itself clean of/roll about in the cesspool of Guantanamo Bay, black prisons, and torture.

    You have to recall that before ordering four thousand better people than himself to die in the type of war he fought so hard to avoid getting to serve in thirty years ago, W didn’t sit and consult with international leaders. He didn’t seek the advice of outside, impartial experts.

    He prayed.

    And the invisible great sky faerie inside his own tiny little head gave him the answers he wanted to hear, the enabling ones.

    While such people stalk the earth, we have a duty and a responsibility to tell them that they, and their beliefs, are daft. Civility should be used where possible, but we need not be obsessive.

    In fact, the most worrying bit of this interview for me was this:

    I want to treat the arguments of the believers seriously, and show why they are deluded to continue believing in a non-threatening, respectful manner.

    You cannot tell someone that the cherished beliefs upon which they base their entire lives are false and foolish, and still be considered “non-threatening.”

    Atheists threaten theists simply by being who we are. It’s like prominent Repub congressmen hating teh gay: they hate it because they’re terrified they might really like it if they tried it, and thus prove their prior beliefs and fondly nurtured bigotries to be false.

    So we should all go forth and spread the Really Good News: You don’t have to worry about that “Hell” place–they just made that up to keep the kids in line.

  • cipher

    I’m saying that the Christian pantheon has its Zeus, it has its Hades, it even has its Hercules. It’s got a whole heavenly host of immortals, and yet it still classifies itself as a monotheism.

    I see what Siamang is saying. Mike, as you know, this is the charge Judaism has been leveling at Christianity for 2,000 years. The rabbis didn’t have the same problem with Islam; they considered it a “true” monotheism.

    Indian religion – “Hinduism” – also has the idea of God becoming incarnate as a human, and, simultaneously, manifesting as millions of deities. And, to use the example already given, even among the ancient Greeks, the ways in which the gods were conceptualized varied with time and place. The god of the philosopher wasn’t the god of the common person.

    The line between monotheism and polytheism isn’t really so distinct.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Sorry, wasn’t Thomas sticking his finger into Jesus’ side an empirical investigation?

    Of a god who was IN this world?

    Yes, what of it? The question there was of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, not about the truth of monotheism in general. And yes, the Christian idea of Incarnation sets it apart from other forms of monotheism, and yet that still doesn’t make it the same as polytheism. There is still a fundamental difference between believing in God as the Creator of all that is, and believing in gods who exist as simply one more part of a larger creation.

    I’m saying that the Christian pantheon has its Zeus, it has its Hades, it even has its Hercules. It’s got a whole heavenly host of immortals, and yet it still classifies itself as a monotheism.

    No matter how many types of other spiritual beings or saints various forms of Christianity believe in (I still don’t know where you think Zeus, Hades and Hercules show up in Christianity), these are not at all placed on the same level as God. There is a fundamental, categorical difference between God as the transcendent Creator, and any other created being. Even if Zeus, Hades or whoever actually exist, they are still an entirely different kind of thing than the Creator God of Christian belief.

    Indian religion – “Hinduism” – also has the idea of God becoming incarnate as a human, and, simultaneously, manifesting as millions of deities.

    Yes it does, and that is therefore another type of theistic belief that should be dealt with on it’s own terms and according to its own arguments, not just lumped in together with monotheism, or polytheism, or whatever.

    And, to use the example already given, even among the ancient Greeks, the ways in which the gods were conceptualized varied with time and place. The god of the philosopher wasn’t the god of the common person.

    Indeed. In fact many of the Greek philosophers were not really polytheists at all and were probably more akin to monotheists.

    The line between monotheism and polytheism isn’t really so distinct.

    Of course there are many different forms and shades of theistic belief, but that doesn’t make them all just the same (nor subject to the same philosophical arguments) either. I respect the person who can see the difference between different belief systems and has taken the time to consider each on its own terms, rather than assuming that their arguments against one necessarily pertain to all. Of course, all that takes time and effort, so I can see why some would prefer not to bother.

  • Darryl

    Of course there are many different forms and shades of theistic belief, but that doesn’t make them all just the same (nor subject to the same philosophical arguments) either. I respect the person who can see the difference between different belief systems and has taken the time to consider each on its own terms, rather than assuming that their arguments against one necessarily pertain to all. Of course, all that takes time and effort, so I can see why some would prefer not to bother.

    I’m willing to set apart time to learn the distinctions of a religion and how it may compare to others, but that in no way keeps me from rejecting them all insofar as they believe in gods. There is no reason for me to believe in the category of invisible super-human conscious active entities found in religions throughout time and around the world. And they are all invisible, though some may be believed to be visible, because they do not exist. And no evidence may be found for them, any of them, yours or theirs.

  • cornwalker

    If Judaism were historically monotheistic that would be fine. What should be troubling for the rabbi and pastor alike are those passages in the dead sea scrolls and septuagint that suggest the origins of judaism were polytheistic in nature and received a later editing to support a monotheistic orthodoxy.

  • Blair

    I think Mr. Loftus glosses over some of the personal reasons he left Christianity, which, at least in the FIRST version of his book, were equal to any intellectual question.

    I am wondering if his new book will include those?

    Also, what I find most disturbing is that he, like some other “ex ministers” continued to preach after he no longer believed. This reflects on his credibility in my opinion.

  • http://merelyadequate.net MonolithTMA

    If the spiritual forces in the old and new testaments aren’t polytheistic then they sure are schizophrenic.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    If Judaism were historically monotheistic that would be fine. What should be troubling for the rabbi and pastor alike are those passages in the dead sea scrolls and septuagint that suggest the origins of judaism were polytheistic in nature and received a later editing to support a monotheistic orthodoxy.

    Indeed. The Hebrew scriptures certainly seem to describe an evolving understanding of the nature of God. Abraham and the early Israelites were almost certainly henotheists, not strict monotheists (though it would rather quickly turn into monolatrism). And while the Torah contains the seeds of a more robust monotheism, it’s not until the later prophets that this really gets fully expressed.

  • cipher

    Indeed. The Hebrew scriptures certainly seem to describe an evolving understanding of the nature of God. Abraham and the early Israelites were almost certainly henotheists, not strict monotheists (though it would rather quickly turn into monolatrism). And while the Torah contains the seeds of a more robust monotheism, it’s not until the later prophets that this really gets fully expressed.

    I tend to agree – but I can introduce you to any number of Orthodox apologists who would argue with you.

  • cornwalker

    I tend to agree – but I can introduce you to any number of Orthodox apologists who would argue with you.

    Of course, because it’s all about translation and interpretation. The Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you they have the one true translation and interpretation of the bible, which just happens to differ from Greek Orthodoxy or Catholicism which also have the one true interpretation of the biblical scripture.

    They all start with the assumption that the judaism that arose in Canaan was monotheistic, and then translate and interpret the historical scriptures to affirm that belief, discarding any “heretical” scriptures that do not affirm that conclusion. It’s no surprise that this happens – we all suffer from confirmation bias – but it does sometimes give me pause to see the extent to which people will discard reason, logic, and experience to affirm what they wish to be true.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I tend to agree – but I can introduce you to any number of Orthodox apologists who would argue with you.

    By capitalizing “Orthodox” are you referring specifically to “Eastern Orthodox” or do you just mean something like “traditional Christianity” (whatever that is) or “conservative evangelical Christianity”?

    At any rate, I’m too know plenty of Christians who don’t think we should read the Bible through a historical lens and don’t want to admit that the Judeo-Christian faiths have been continually evolving throughout the millenia, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with them.

    However, I also know plenty of conservative evangelical scholars who would have no problem saying that the Patriarchs did not have the same conception of God that Christians do today. They would simply say that God has chosen to reveal his nature to us in stages, over time, not all at once. Theologians over the centuries (Augustine is the first I am aware of) have referred to this as “Divine Accommodation” in the sense that God accommodates his revelation to our own ability to comprehend it.

  • cipher

    By capitalizing “Orthodox” are you referring specifically to “Eastern Orthodox” or do you just mean something like “traditional Christianity” (whatever that is) or “conservative evangelical Christianity”?

    Sorry – I meant Orthodox Jews. They think we were strict monotheists from Abraham on. They simply ignore the evidence, and they have an arsenal of rationalizations, just as the Christians do. We have our fundamentalists too, Mike – but there are fewer of them, and they tend to be xenophobic, so they’re easier to ignore. At least, they used to be; the problem is, over the past few decades, their influence over all of Orthodoxy has become so pervasive and insidious that Orthodoxy as a whole has moved decidedly to the right.

    By the way, were you aware that Baylor has a Department of Jewish Studies?

  • Darryl

    They would simply say that God has chosen to reveal his nature to us in stages, over time, not all at once. Theologians over the centuries (Augustine is the first I am aware of) have referred to this as “Divine Accommodation” in the sense that God accommodates his revelation to our own ability to comprehend it.

    It’s comic how the changing conceptions of gods that people have had over time are transformed by apologists into the intentions of gods. What is actually an example of undirected change within religion becomes a display of god’s goodness. It’s a win-win: problem solved and God gets the glory! There is no mooring that restrains the imaginations or rationalizations of believers. What they want to believe they invent, and if they are challenged, they invent another Deus Ex Machina, and there is nothing to rein them in.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    What is actually an example of undirected change within religion becomes a display of god’s goodness.

    Assuming that it is “actually” undirected change begs the question.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    By the way, were you aware that Baylor has a Department of Jewish Studies?

    Yes, though I think there’s only one, maybe two profs in it.

  • renderedtruth

    John Loftus is like many of the people who become disaffected with Chritianity in never considering the source of their faith. In many cases it is the conservative controlling style of the fundamentalist which causes the loss of faith. In order to be free or relieved of the smothering blaming threatening cosmological point of view they must debunk it. They are never in a position to consider that there are more pleasant and correct ways to view religion. Conservative Fundamentalism is not the only religion. It is not representative of the values of many other religions. It should not be used as often by atheists as the sole excuse for not believing.

  • http://merelyadequate.net Mike aka MonolithTMA

    Hi renderedtruth,

    I can’t speak for John, but many of the ex-Christians I know, including myself, explored more liberal versions of our faith, but just came the realization that we just, plain didn’t believe anymore. If I believed in God in any variation I would certainly go to great lengths to understand him and his wishes for me.


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