Is This Christian Author Really a Former Atheist?

If you’re trying to make a name for yourself in the Christian world, one way to gain instant credibility is to claim that you used to be an atheist. Lee Strobel and Kirk Cameron have both said as much — though you won’t find them making any public statements regarding their atheism before they began evangelizing.

I bring that up because Matthew Botsford and his wife Nancy have a new book out called A Day in Hell which I’m sure some bookstores have wrongly placed in their non-fiction section. According to the book’s description:

A Day in Hell is the riveting, true-life account of one man’s descent to the bowels of hell after dying from a gunshot wound to the head in March of 1992, and the true, wholehearted prayer of love by his newly wedded wife. Matthew survived, waking up twenty-seven days later. Unbeknownst to all those surrounding him, God had pulled him from his cell in hell and said, ‘It’s not your time.’ A Day in Hell is a story flooded with hope and inspiration as this young couple figures out how to plot their new life.

He didn’t go to hell. He clearly didn’t die. And it’s probably not a riveting story, either.

The obvious question here is: Why should anyone believe the story? Because Matthew says he used to be an atheist, of course! And he does it in the most confusing way you’ve ever heard…

Christian Post: Can you tell us about your life before the accident? Did you believe in God?

Botsford: No, I did not believe in God. I knew God existed but I didn’t have a relationship with His son. During college I turned my back; I was my own boss kind of thing.

If you’re trying to make sense of that remark, join the club.

I don’t want to commit the No True Scotsman fallacy here… but screw it: No true atheist “knows” god exists but chooses not to believe in him. Those two things are mutually exclusive. You either believe god exists, or you don’t. Atheists are in the latter category. Botsford is not.

It even threw off the reporter at the Christian Post. When the article first went up and appeared in my Google Reader, this was the headline I saw:

Atheists must have complained, because when I finally read the article, the headline had changed:

Doesn’t quite have that punch, does it?

Looks like no one told the picture-caption-writer to make the change:

If anyone has to stomach to do a little research project, I would suggest reading this book along with Bill Wiese‘s 23 Minutes In Hell. Compare and contrast them. Let’s find out how different their versions of hell are :) They’re both liars (either that, or they tricked themselves into believing their own imaginations), and maybe we can use one of them to discredit the other.

  • benji

    So, let me attempt to make sense of this. He didn’t believe in God, and yet knew he existed. (I think my mind just imploded and exploded at the same time with that statement.) And he has been to Hell, as well. I’m glad I didn’t read this while drinking. I’m sure I would have liquid all over my keyboard from the laughter that is escaping me. The contradiction in his statement about not believing in God and yet knowing he existed is enough to make me shake my head in confusion.

    ETA: Also, someone should tell him there’s a medical explanation for near death experiences with the “after life”. Then again, don’t want to spoil his fun, do we?

  • geralyn mott

    i don’t believe in cabbage. oh, i know it exists, i just don’t believe in it. and after my accident, i spent a day in wonderland with alice and the rabbit.
    sheesh.
    those who WANT to believe in superstitious nonsene will go to GREAT LENGTHS to do so!!

  • http://ateizam.org zike

    He was dead and he awake 27 days later? Wait, they kept him dead for 27 days without placing him in a grave? And then he rose, right?

    No, we call that coma, and anyone who says that was in hell we call a liar, just as we called Bill Wiese.

  • http://pinkydead.com David McNerney

    What is with these people – even if this were all true, can they not see that the belief system they are trying to promote is a hideous abomination?

    This is terrorism – using fear to promote an ideology – no more, no less.

  • RTH

    The only way that I can make any sense out of what he’s said is by interpreting it in this way: When he says he didn’t “believe” in god, he means “believe” as a synonym for “support.” For example, I don’t believe in fascism, but I know it exists.

    If that’s what he’s doing, then he’s abusing linguistic ambiguity to suit his purposes. However, Christians do that a lot.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    I do believe that’s what we call a “bad trip”.

  • Brendan

    I’d phrase it this way to avoid a NTS fallacy:

    “An atheist is not someone who believes in God but ‘turns his back on him’. Someone like that is just a bad believer. An atheist is someone who does not believe in God period. Full stop. End of discussion. No further explanation required.’

    There. You avoided the NTS fallacy with logic, proof, and standing. It’s the definition of atheist!

  • littlejohn

    I’m a good bit older than you and, I suspect, most of your readers.
    During the height of the Cold War, it was routine for conservative tent preachers to claim to be “former communists.” They were almost certainly lying.
    With the emergence of the “new atheists,” I suspect I similar thing is going on now.

  • http://brickwindow.wordpress.com Brick Window

    Thank you to whoever pointed out the ridiculousness of the headline to the editors at Google Alerts, if anyone did.

    It’s great to see a collective (I use the term loosely) calling out these types of errors. Doing so helps all of us in the end. Let’s keep up the good work.

  • keystothekid

    It couldn’t have been that bad if 27 days there equates to only 1 days worth of book…

  • ewan

    This doesn’t sounds like he was even a non-Christian; he was just a bad Christian.

    And if he “turned his back” during college, then presumably he was a practicing Christian before that. So in short we have:
    Practising Christian->Bad Christian->Big Scare->Practising Christian again.

  • Ali

    I’ve been saying/thinking the same thing about Kirk Cameron since I first heard him claim to be an atheist.

    My first thought was, “pffft.” It’s definitely a strategic move on his part… and a dishonest one. I think, at best, he just didn’t think about God. He was young and famous. Not a skeptic and DEFINITELY had/has NO understanding of evolution, etc.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    No True Scotsman is only a fallacy when the definition you’re working with is altered ad-hoc to attempt to exclude specific behavior. It’s pretty much universally accepted that an atheist can’t “know God exist[s],” so it’s not a fallacy to say that someone who claims to do so wasn’t a true atheist.

    No true football player brings a baseball bat onto the field for a football game, and no true atheist believes in a god.

  • cass_m

    Does he get little jumpy flames in his eyes when he remembers his experience? Sam Winchester does and neither Sam or Dean even want to talk about their time in Hell. Think of how easily they could fund their demon hunting.

    No true atheist =/= no true Christian.

  • Trace

    I do believe in zombies, I do, I do.

  • http://www.travisjmorgan.com Travis Morgan

    “I used to be an atheist…” Duh. Everyone used to be an atheist at one point in their life. Some of us still are towards the popular god figure. EVERYONE is an atheist towards all other gods they don’t believe in.

    “No, I did not believe in God. I knew God existed but I didn’t have a relationship with His son.”

    He totally contradicts himself in an attempt to suggest that atheists are confused and that they actually believe a god exist but deny a relationship with it.

    Nothing new here. Common theist misdirection.

  • zachofalltrades

    Wow, that’s…astoundingly stupid. Did that dude know they were writing down the stuff he said? That’s just embarassing.

    Lee Strobel in particular pisses me off with that “I used to be an atheist” crap. If he was, then he was a really, really shitty atheist. It’s nothing more than lying on a resume to seem more credible.

  • http://ottodestruct.com Otto

    They fixed the photo caption now too. Check it out.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    @cass_m

    Imaginary +1 for the Supernatural reference.

  • Erp

    According to a Pew Forum survey a while back a fair number of Americans who consider themselves atheists also believe in God so I think a large number of people (these ‘atheists’ and those in the particular Christian milieus they come from) use a different definition (e.g., atheist is someone opposed to God). I don’t think any survey has looked at what definitions people have of atheist.

  • http://www.ooblick.com/weblog/ arensb

    This sounds like equivocation on the term “believe”. If someone says “I believe in America” or “I don’t believe in violence”, it’s not about whether America or violence exist, it’s about whether they’re good things or not.

    Likewise, the ex-”atheist”‘s story makes sense if what he meant was “sure, I thought there was a god; I just didn’t think it should run my life.”

  • StaggerLee

    I don’t think you really engaged in the NTS fallacy, what the guy said is just as ridiculous as a believer saying:”I know god does not exist, I just choose to believe in it” No believer would ever say that.

  • Martin

    I’m starting to wonder if this is why atheists are so disliked or mistrusted in America – they’re seen not as people who don’t accept the existence of a god, but people who think it’s there, but hate it, or are angry at it. In other words, enemies of that god. I’m sure this Botsford guy can’t be the only one who thinks that way. What’s going on here? Are atheists not clear enough on this point? I’m not sure how we could be clearer!

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    As many Christians, he was sloppily using the term “atheist” to merely mean “not believing all the stuff that I do now”. It sounds like he believed quite a bit of stuff before, he just wasn’t focused on the personality of Jesus. It seems he previously believed in God and spirits and afterlives… It just wasn’t well organized in a nice tidy package. His near-death experience and his wife just guided him to reorganized his preexisting supernatural beliefs within a particular stain of Christianity.

  • Ben a

    You assume they are either lying or tricked themselves into believing their imaginations. I would think the later is more accurate, although I believe what these people experienced is very real, real in the sense that it was like real life – almost like a dream that seems so real, you cannot tell the difference.

  • Steve

    The idiotic thing is claiming to know that god exists. That’s just impossible. But that does that automatically mean you believe in him? Or maybe the distinction should be made between believing and worshiping. For me, even if I knew that the god described in the Bible existed, I wouldn’t worship him. He is nothing but a malevolent, incompetent psychopath.

  • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

    As others have pointed out, the word ‘believe’ is ambiguous between affirming a proposition and holding a positive attitude.

    “I don’t believe in God” can legitimately be taken to mean “I don’t approve of God” or “I don’t think God exists.”

  • JD

    It sounds like a sad or clever failure of vocabulary. Not believing in a God doesn’t just mean not worshipping/following it, but not believing in the existence at all.

  • El Bastardo

    According to the local news paper at the time he didn’t die, he was critically injured, but his friend did die, and didn’t come back

  • El Bastardo
  • Reginald Selkirk

    ewan: This doesn’t sounds like he was even a non-Christian; he was just a bad Christian.

    Of course. How else would God know which Hell to send him to?

  • demetriusofpharos

    Jeff P said what I was going to – many Christians think that atheists are just angry with God and need to only open up their hearts to love and yadda yadda yadda. The fool that wrote this book appears no different.

    I’d be willing to bet that’s where Cameron, Strobel, and many others who claim to be former atheists fall: they weren’t atheist in the sense we know the word, they were atheist by their very convoluted (and completely wrong) definition. They stubbornly refuse to admit the correct definition of atheist is mutually exclusive to the sorts of claims they make about themselves.

  • Steve

    No such thing as a former atheist!!! It’s obvious the guy was just a weak Christian. True atheists will discount this garbage, no doubt he’ll make a few dollars from the gullible!!! Is this just an American thing? lol

  • Blacksheep

    Hemant wrote:

    The obvious question here is: Why should anyone believe the story? Because Matthew says he used to be an atheist, of course! And he does it in the most confusing way you’ve ever heard…

    Quote:

    Christian Post: Can you tell us about your life before the accident? Did you believe in God?

    Botsford: No, I did not believe in God. I knew God existed but I didn’t have a relationship with His son. During college I turned my back; I was my own boss kind of thing.

    Hemant wrote:

    If you’re trying to make sense of that remark, join the club.

    What’s to make sense of? is it really explained in “The most confusing way you’ve ever heard?”
    Hemant is smart enough to know exactly what Botsford is saying. He believed in a general, abstract God, but was not a Christian. Now he is – and therefore feels a closeness to God that he never did before.

  • Alexis

    1992 and he’s just coming out about it now?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @Alexis,

    Good observation.

    For religion, things need to incubate for a while (so the story can be invented after the fact). Kind-of like the way Christianity started. It wasn’t until a generation later (or two) that the story of Jesus was written down. Funny how those things work.

  • Shoop

    He may have thought he was going to hell if he had a near death experience. Theres a substance called Dimethyltryptamine that floods the brain when a person dies or, if they live to tell about it, a near death experience. Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, is a powerful psychedelic that occurs naturally in the human body that causes all kinds of “reality changing effects” There is some controversy over if it is actually naturally occurring in the human brain. However, in clinical studies where subjects were given doses they are quickly metabolized within an hour. Here is the wiki link http://goo.gl/zCMu

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    God either has bad aim or is very absent minded. He lets someone languish in hell for nearly a month – then says “Ooops, we made a mistake. Someone lost the paperwork and you weren’t supposed to be dead yet. Sending you back.” Kind of like the Jews in Egypt putting a dab of blood on their door frames so their firstborn sons wouldn’t be killed. I mean, really, if god is this bad at knowing his own followers, then that whole “sheep from lambs” sorting at Armageddon is not going to be pretty.

  • Larry Meredith

    You either believe god exists, or you don’t.

    Well that’s pretty black and white of you, isn’t it? Some people genuinely are in between, not knowing but suspecting that either side could be true. Just because you lean to one side (which most agnostics do) doesn’t mean you strictly believe or disbelieve.

  • Blacksheep

    The idiotic thing is claiming to know that god exists. That’s just impossible.

    Most Christians believe that God exists based upon all of their experience and also a deep sense that what they understand about their faith is true. We choose faith because it simply makes more sense to us than the alternative. We don’t “know” that God exists any more than you “know” that God does not exist.

    Or maybe the distinction should be made between believing and worshiping. For me, even if I knew that the god described in the Bible existed, I wouldn’t worship him. He is nothing but a malevolent, incompetent psychopath.

    If you “knew” (for a fact) that the God of the Bible existed, I’m certain you would not only believe in Him but also eventually worship Him.
    The reason is that it would be God. And your analysis would shift as you understood his character better. I know you’ll hate this analogy, but most 16 year olds think that their parents are incompetent. Then they turn 24 and realize what life is like, and so on.

  • Jon Peterson

    Ugh. Anyone who claims to have seen hell just pisses me off.

    I was involved in a boating accident and drowned when I was 12 (hit a submerged log while kneeboarding, smacked my head pretty hard, and then got stuck attached to the board upside down). I was revived 15-25 minutes later by paramedics on the beach.

    Know what I experienced? Nothing. Total disorientation as I went from watching the world spin as my body tumbled out of control just before my head connected with whatever it hit…. instantly to the side of a paramedic’s face as he was performing CPR.

    I spent a LOT of time thinking about that. Being told that you had been dead… having to see your parents’ and siblings’ terrified tear-streaked faces… and not being able to share their emotion because it feels like nothing happened… I tried so hard to remember anything else. But there was nothing.

    So when anyone claims to have seen anything, I’m extremely skeptical.

  • Daniel

    1992 and he’s just coming out about it now?

    There is an excellent book out, The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons that is all about how our memories distort events while making us more and more sure we remember them correctly.

    In one study in the book, the day after 9/11, one of these professors studying memory had all his students write down how they had learned of the events and what their day was like. Several years later, he contacted them again, had them write down their experiences on 9/11 and how sure they were that they remembered the events correctly.

    All were quite a ways off from what they wrote a day after 9/11, and all were positive they remembered it correctly, some to the point of questioning if their original recollections were forgeries.

    Long story short, by this time, It’s entirely possible that this guy has very clear, realistic feeling memories of being in Hell. But that doesn’t make it real, it simply illustrates failures in our memories.

    And that’s not even factoring in that he took a shotgun blast to the head, and woke up to a wife telling him she’d been praying for him.

  • mcbender

    Blacksheep said:

    If you “knew” (for a fact) that the God of the Bible existed, I’m certain you would not only believe in Him but also eventually worship Him.
    The reason is that it would be God. And your analysis would shift as you understood his character better. I know you’ll hate this analogy, but most 16 year olds think that their parents are incompetent. Then they turn 24 and realize what life is like, and so on

    No. NO. A thousand times no. (I can’t speak for the person to whom you’re responding, but I felt the need to reply to that statement nevertheless).

    If the Christian god existed, I would of course acknowledge its existence, but I would consider it a moral and ethical duty to oppose it in any way possible, even if doing so would lead to my being tortured for eternity. The Christian god is one of the most offensive and brutal dictators of which I know and there is absolutely no way I would submit to it in a misguided sense that might makes right.

    Milton’s Lucifer said it quite well, when he said he would prefer to reign in hell than serve in heaven.

    Divine command ethics are incoherent, and outside that framework, the Christian god is not praiseworthy, and is in fact almost completely repugnant. I am very glad it doesn’t exist.

  • Alexis

    Blacksheep,
    “If you “knew” (for a fact) that the God of the Bible existed, I’m certain you would not only believe in Him but also eventually worship Him.
    The reason is that it would be God. And your analysis would shift as you understood his character better. I know you’ll hate this analogy, but most 16 year olds think that their parents are incompetent. Then they turn 24 and realize what life is like, and so on.”

    You remind me of Orwell’s 1984. . Winston Smith finally realizes the wisdom in the government’s policies of thought suppression, constant war, shifting alliances, etc. And finally “He loved Big Brother”.

  • Kamaka

    We don’t “know” that God exists any more than you “know” that God does not exist.

    The monotheists have had a long, long time to pony up some *evidence* for the existence of their sky-monster. Nada, bupkis, not one tiny shred of evidence.

    Really, the bible and it’s god are so obviously a bunch of made-up stuff it is undeserving of even the slightest benefit of doubt. So I do “know” that god does not exist.

    And hell? Believe in god or be tortured for eternity? Preposterous! That is the stupidest attempt at extortion I have ever heard of.

    No evidence, just extortion. That’s all you goddists have.

  • Blacksheep

    If the Christian god existed, I would of course acknowledge its existence, but I would consider it a moral and ethical duty to oppose it in any way possible, even if doing so would lead to my being tortured for eternity. The Christian god is one of the most offensive and brutal dictators of which I know and there is absolutely no way I would submit to it in a misguided sense that might makes right.

    What if what you see as being offensive and brutal is simply the nature of the universe?

    There is certainly pain in life, and it’s shared by atheists and people of faith alike. It’s a fact of existence.

    Are you angry when a cheetah takes down a gazelle? When a killer whale plays catch with a baby seal before eating it? When a tornado takes a whole town apart? At genocide? When a loved one dies? All of those things are offensive and brutal. how about people hating other people? The anger that many people feel at fellow humans for an offense as slight as cutting them off in traffic? Where do you direct your hatred of those (or some) of those things?

    Are you saying that there is no God, and therefore all of the evil, pain, and destruction in this world are completely man’s own doing? That would make mankind as desrving of your hatred as God is.

  • Blacksheep

    You remind me of Orwell’s 1984. . Winston Smith finally realizes the wisdom in the government’s policies of thought suppression, constant war, shifting alliances, etc. And finally “He loved Big Brother”.

    Totally get the analogy. The difference is that Christians believe that ultimately God is good, and the ultimate source of peace. In 1984, that’s not the case.

  • Alexis

    Blacksheep says “Totally get the analogy. The difference is that Christians believe that ultimately God is good, and the ultimate source of peace. In 1984, that’s not the case.”

    But Winston Smith now totally believes that ultimately Big Brother is good, and the ultimate source of peace.

  • Steve

    Blacksheep, if your god is a puppetmaster, then it stands to reason he’s responsible for the bad as well as the good in this world. If he sends people to hell, then the devil is merely doing your god’s work. Simple.

  • Randy

    Are you angry when a cheetah takes down a gazelle? When a killer whale plays catch with a baby seal before eating it

    But it DOES die. The cheetah and killer whale don’t chuck into a lake of fire for eternity for not accepting their coolness. Bad analogy.

  • Another Steve

    Blacksheep just doesn’t get it. It’s one gigantic fail after another.

    Your god isn’t an evil, disgusting monster because of the things he allows to happen. Though given the time millions of people waste on prayer, only for nothing ever to change, one can certainly make that argument.

    No, your god is evil for the way he is described in your “holy” book. For the actions he himself directly committed. He is evil because he stands for a revolting moral system that revolves solely around punishing another being for one’s own failings and condemning people to eternal torture when they don’t accept that. He is evil for sending people to hell when they don’t believe in him although he didn’t present them with a single shred of evidence for his existence.
    And he is utterly incompetent in the management of his supposed creation. Constantly punishing humans although he knew beforehand that they would fail his arbitrary standards. And at the third attempt to correct his screwups, his best solution is a primitive, brutal human sacrifice. Nope, I certainly wouldn’t worship him.

  • Blacksheep

    But Winston Smith now totally believes that ultimately Big Brother is good, and the ultimate source of peace.

    Yes, but we as the reader know that not to be true. To Christians, we believe that God is actually good, not because we are coerced into thinking so.

  • Blacksheep

    Blacksheep, if your god is a puppetmaster, then it stands to reason he’s responsible for the bad as well as the good in this world. If he sends people to hell, then the devil is merely doing your god’s work. Simple.

    never said puppetmaster – unfortunatley it’s not that simple, nothing is. But we’re not here to paste the whole Bible into this little blue square.

    You believe in your heart that men have free will. So do I – but I also believe in God.

  • Luis E. Espinosa

    “No, I did not believe in God. I knew God existed but I didn’t have a relationship with his son.” Only a Christian would state such a plainly stupid phrase in order to advance his agenda. The latter is pretty obvious, also that no serious atheist will be converted by Botsford’s A Day in Hell (if any read it) and only can be convincing to those that already believe, so… This seems as an announced failure. By so far is much better to see the movie Un día con el diablo (A Day with the Devil, 1945) starring by Mario Moreno “Cantinflas”. Worth more some laughs than Christian crap.

  • Blacksheep

    But it DOES die. The cheetah and killer whale don’t chuck into a lake of fire for eternity for not accepting their coolness. Bad analogy.

    Not for not accepting his ‘coolness,” (sarcasm noted) but for being incompatible with His nature. It’s more of an oil and water don’t mix kind of thing. Christians believe that God requires perfection. That’s why we follow Christ, because of his promise of salvation based on faith and not on works.

  • Another Steve

    That’s why we follow Christ, because of his promise of salvation based on faith and not on works.

    That’s not exactly a point in favor of your belief system. Quite the opposite actually. Just one more reason to reject it.

  • Steve

    By that logic, evil doers can and do believe in your saviour.

  • JB

    God exists.
    In the sense that it is a concept the religious hold dear, that it is something to which the Faithful attribute changes in behavior, and a subject that we find ourselves discussing, God is real, and along with their faith and the actions that come from their beliefs, God takes a place in our reality.
    So while we can believe there is no God as a creator or big daddy, it certainly exists as a topic.

  • Daniel

    Are you angry when a cheetah takes down a gazelle? When a killer whale plays catch with a baby seal before eating it?

    Nope. I might even be glad that cheetahs and whales are keeping the gazelle and seal populations in check

    When a tornado takes a whole town apart?

    There is no way this would make me angry. Maybe sad that houses in the area are not built to withstand tornadoes, that a tornado formed outside of expected areas, or contemptuous if they are interviewing people who have been hit over and over but choose to rebuild in the same spot. But never angry over weather.

    At genocide?

    Of course. I would be angry at the human agents of genocide.

    When a loved one dies?

    If they were murdered or otherwise died due to human agency, I would be mad at that agency, but otherwise, again, not angry. My grandmother is pushing 90 years old. She will die soon. I will be extremely sad about that, but certainly not angry.

    All of those things are offensive and brutal.

    I disagree. None of those are offensive, except genocide, which is far, far beyond “offensive”. And brutal? Again, only genocide. Otherwise, just anthromorphizing in the first few examples. A tornado might be particularly damaging, but not cruel.

    how about people hating other people? The anger that many people feel at fellow humans for an offense as slight as cutting them off in traffic?

    People hate other people. Sad, but true. I would posit that religious and political reasons are among the top reasons for that hatred. Being cut off in traffic angers me because they are not driving safely. When I have my daughters in the car, and we get cut off, I certainly get angry – but I don’t respond in a way that would put them at even greater risk.

    Where do you direct your hatred of those (or some) of those things?

    Again, very few of those elicit anger in me. For a genocide, I would direct my anger towards those committing the genocide and for those risking the live of myself and my family but cutting us off, I would direct my anger towards the driver. If it was a work vehicle, I would (and have) called the company and told them their driver was unsafe. Otherwise, there’s nothing to do, so I take a deep breath, let it go, and slow down to give unsafe drivers space to get clear of me.

    Back to genocide. Among my many problems with the story of the Christian God is this: according to the Bible, God killed civilians to bring about a political change in Egypt, namely that Pharaoh free a subset of his slaves – those of a specific ethnicity. Attacks on civilians to bring about political change is the very definition of terrorism. Even if I thought God were real, I could not morally justify worshiping a terrorist.

    Adding the belief that not just did those murdered innocents have a brief existence snuffed out early, but that their existence is actually eternal and full of torment just makes anyone who would do this all that much worse.

  • Mike E

    The “formerly an atheist” meme is used by any Christian apologist who wants to ensure that he/she has credibility. It makes Christians believe whatever they have to say. Lee Stroebel is the worst of the bunch. He has been a Christian since he was born and certainly since he started writing books. If you don’t claim to have not believed, you can’t make money doing this. I have seen several other speakers and writers in this vein and they all start out with the same storyline.

  • ButchKitties

    I have seen Lord Ganesha. It was probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I can’t even put what I saw into words.

    Am I a Hindu after this experience? No. I know that my vision, no matter how beautiful or moving it may have been, was simply a hallucination.

  • Blacksheep

    By that logic, evil doers can and do believe in your saviour.

    Acording to the Bible, (technically speaking), everyone is an evildoer, so yes.

  • Alexis

    “To Christians, we believe that God is actually good, not because we are coerced into thinking so.” I had years worth of coercion and indoctrination. Sunday school, church services, youth group, meal time prayers, bed time prayers, withering glares when suggesting anything out of accepted bounds, stories of “lost” members in the family or community, tales of how we need christ to avoid sickness, drugs, alcoholism and hell, and the list goes on.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    Actually he is an ex-atheist – http://exm.nr/eKmdxR

  • ACN

    Not for not accepting his ‘coolness,” (sarcasm noted) but for being incompatible with His nature. It’s more of an oil and water don’t mix kind of thing.

    Isn’t your god omnipotent? Does he really lack the ability to form a decent emulsion? Has he ever dressed a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette?

    Can you seriously tell me that I could be incompatible with the nature of an omnipotent being, even if I wanted to?

  • Blacksheep

    Isn’t your god omnipotent? Does he really lack the ability to form a decent emulsion? Has he ever dressed a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette?

    Can you seriously tell me that I could be incompatible with the nature of an omnipotent being, even if I wanted to?

    In answer to your first, that’s my own dumb analogy, (decent emulsion, I’m smiling) the second is Biblical.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Blacksheep:

    Hemant is smart enough to know exactly what Botsford is saying. He believed in a general, abstract God, but was not a Christian.

    … Are you reading the same article I am? He came right out and said “No, I did not believe in God. I knew God existed but I didn’t have a relationship with His son.”

    You’re acting like this isn’t a contradiction – as if “No, I did not believe in God” can actually be interepreted as “yes, I believed in a god.”

    Also…

    I know you’ll hate this analogy, but most 16 year olds think that their parents are incompetent. Then they turn 24 and realize what life is like, and so on.

    Fine. So when will I grow up and become God?

    Also also…

    Are you saying that there is no God, and therefore all of the evil, pain, and destruction in this world are completely man’s own doing? That would make mankind as desrving of your hatred as God is.

    Not hatred. Compassion. Humanity, we can fix. If there’s a god behind it all, there’s no fixing him. He’ll just keep on being evil.

    Also also also…

    Yes, but we as the reader know that not to be true. To Christians, we believe that God is actually good, not because we are coerced into thinking so.

    Most people born into a dictatorship wouldn’t have to be coerced. When your entire culture tells you that the dictator is the ultimate good and ultimate source of peace, you’ll happily say that two plus two makes five if he ordains it to be so.

    Also also also also…

    Acording to the Bible, (technically speaking), everyone is an evildoer, so yes.

    And who designed us, again? Who cursed us to be born with the stain of the original sin?

    What kind of perfect judge lets evildoers get off of a death sentence because they showed adoration toward a human sacrifice in the instant before the end of a life full of vile behavior, while a murdered child rape victim spends an eternity in torment because they hadn’t yet sworn allegiance?

    Moreover, how can a judge possibly be called perfect, just, righteous, moral, or even GOOD if the judge considers that lack of sworn allegiance to be EQUALLY DESERVING OF PUNISHMENT as the rape and murder of a child?

    Also also also also also…

    the second is Biblical.

    You do realize the concept of omnipotence is not actually in the Bible, right?

    You missed ACN’s point, too. The point is that a truly omnipotent being could not be prevented from bringing you into its presence, no matter what. No excuses about “it’d be against its nature” or anything like that. Omnipotent literally means that anything is possible.

    Larry Meredith:

    You either believe god exists, or you don’t.

    Well that’s pretty black and white of you, isn’t it? Some people genuinely are in between, not knowing but suspecting that either side could be true. Just because you lean to one side (which most agnostics do) doesn’t mean you strictly believe or disbelieve.

    Why the equivocation between knowing and believing?

    Yes, it’s pretty black and white, beacuse belief is a true dichotomy. For any proposition, you either belief it or you don’t. Knowledge is not a requirement for belief. It doesn’t enter into it. If someone asks if you believe in God, and your response is “I don’t know if God exists or not,” you haven’t answered the question.

  • Dan W

    I’m always skeptical of these “former atheists,” especially the ones who are now getting lots of publicity about how religious they are like this Christian author. More often than not, they’re basing their claims of “I used to be an atheist” on some incorrect definition of what an atheist is. Sorry Christians, but you weren’t an atheist those years back when you didn’t go to church very often but still “knew God existed.”

  • CthuluFhtagn

    Blacksheep said:

    If you “knew” (for a fact) that the God of the Bible existed, I’m certain you would not only believe in Him but also eventually worship Him.
    The reason is that it would be God. And your analysis would shift as you understood his character better. I know you’ll hate this analogy, but most 16 year olds think that their parents are incompetent. Then they turn 24 and realize what life is like, and so on

    As stated above, if I knew for a fact that Yahweh existed, I would no longer be an atheist. However, neither would I be an christian.

    I will never, ever worship a person who would douse someone in gasoline and light them on fire for their beliefs.

    As for the idea that atheism makes me incompatible with Yahweh, why wouldn’t he just snuff me out? Why would he have to torture me for all eternity?

    Are you angry when a cheetah takes down a gazelle? When a killer whale plays catch with a baby seal before eating it? When a tornado takes a whole town apart? At genocide? When a loved one dies? All of those things are offensive and brutal. how about people hating other people? The anger that many people feel at fellow humans for an offense as slight as cutting them off in traffic? Where do you direct your hatred of those (or some) of those things?

    Are you saying that there is no God, and therefore all of the evil, pain, and destruction in this world are completely man’s own doing? That would make mankind as desrving of your hatred as God is.

    Anyone who commits genocide, whether supernatural or human, is deserving of my hatred. I would not worship someone who did such a thing.

    As for the rest, tornados are the result of weather patterns. Cheetahs and killer whales maintain prey populations and prevent mass deaths by starvation. I’m crushed when someone I love dies. I have no hatred unless toward the person who caused it. I don’t hate angry people unless their anger manifests itself in violence.

    That’s why we follow Christ, because of his promise of salvation based on faith and not on works.

    I’ve never understood the “Good works alone won’t save you” view of life. You truly believe that Yahweh will accept a person who commits horrible crimes, lives selfishly, and harms others, as long as they ask for forgiveness and worship his son?

    And you truly believe that someone who was raised in a religion other than christianity will be burned alive for the beliefs indoctrinated into them from birth, no matter how much good they do in the world?

    This is okay to you?

  • Blacksheep

    You do realize the concept of omnipotence is not actually in the Bible, right?

    yes, and I didn’t bring up the term. I don’t jump on every word in a conversation, which is what this is. If I did, I would get caught up in rhetoric and trying to “catch” people in their words, which I have no interest in. I took ACN to mean aLL powerful God, or something along those lines. This is not a contest, it’s about debate, understanding, and communication.

    You missed ACN’s point, too. The point is that a truly omnipotent being could not be prevented from bringing you into its presence, no matter what. No excuses about “it’d be against its nature” or anything like that. Omnipotent literally means that anything is possible.

    Didn’t miss it, we simply disagree on the nature of God. In my view, God cannot go against his own nature. And since the concept of omnipotence is “not actually in the Bible” why are you using it to debate this point?

  • Blacksheep

    And who designed us, again? Who cursed us to be born with the stain of the original sin?

    God designed us with free will. The concept of original sin is more complex than that, The Bible teaches that everyone who has ever lived other than Christ has been sinful, so original sin has little bearing on things. Everyone still has free will to put God first or not to.

    What kind of perfect judge lets evildoers get off of a death sentence because they showed adoration toward a human sacrifice in the instant before the end of a life full of vile behavior, while a murdered child rape victim spends an eternity in torment because they hadn’t yet sworn allegiance?

    I think it’s because God wants to save everyone, no matter how vile. And I agree with that concept – even the most vile person should have a way to be saved from torment. The only reason that I am able to accept the idea of Hell is because of Christ as savior.

    You are also setting up your own rules about who is an evil doer and who isn’t. What if the worst thing that a person can do is to reject God? What if that is the greatest evil?

    The thief next to Christ whom you are referring to said, “Lord, remember me when you go to your kingdom.” You use the term “swore allegience” to put a negative spin on it.

    I also fail to understand why you use the words “human sacrifice” in a sarcastic/negative way. At the very least, jesus was an innocent man being tortured – you have no compassion for that? crucifiction was a pretty barbaric death sentence.

    And if Jesus was God, as we claim, the fact that he would be tortured and personally experience hell and torment for us is an amazing act of love. Neither scenario merits sneering at.

  • sven

    @Blacksheep
    Let me correct this for you:
    Blacksheep thinks a God designed us with free will. Blacksheep think the concept of original sin is more complex than that, some of The many ancient scriptures that were translated and selected to be in one of the many Bibles seems to teaches that everyone who has ever lived other than a mythical figure by the name of Christ has been sinful, so Blacksheep thinks original sin has little bearing on things. Blacksheep thinks Everyone still has free will to put Blacksheeps idea of what a God should be, first or not to.

    I think it’s because Blacksheeps idea of what a God should be, wants to save everyone, no matter how vile. And I agree with that concept – even the most vile person should have a way to be saved from torment. The only reason that I am able to accept the idea of Hell is because of a mythical figure by the name of Christ as savior.

    Want me to go on?

  • Blacksheep

    Sven,

    If you’re having fun, then by all means, go on!

    Wait, how did you come up with that?
    So clever!
    You actually took my post, and you’re using it against me – by adding “Blacksheep thinks” in front of my opinions – and here’s the brilliant part – also adding your own words – to really make a statement.

    Good job! Great conversation!

  • Blacksheep

    Mike,

    … Are you reading the same article I am? He came right out and said “No, I did not believe in God. I knew God existed but I didn’t have a relationship with His son.”

    You’re acting like this isn’t a contradiction – as if “No, I did not believe in God” can actually be interepreted as “yes, I believed in a god.”

    I said that Hemant “knew what he meant” – and then I explained it. I think you know what he means too. In interviews, people sometimes have trouble finding the perfect words to express their feelings. By looking at his whole statement, it’s clear what he meant. If you’re in a courtroom grilling him on his wording at that exact moment in the interview, and isolating it, then I guess you have a point.

  • sven

    @Blacksheep

    You seemed to leave out a lot of crucial info.
    Glad to be of service.


    You actually took my post, and you’re using it against me – by adding “Blacksheep thinks” in front of my opinions – and here’s the brilliant part – also adding your own words – to really make a statement about how Blacksheep keeps himself from accepting reality.

    I´m having fun!

  • Blacksheep

    Sven,

    I’m actually glad you’re having fun.

    (No sarcasm).

  • sven

    Blacksheep

    (No sarcasm).

    I know.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    God designed us with free will.

    … Another concept absolutely nonexistent in the Bible. Didja miss the part in the New Testament where it talks about God predestining people before they’re born? Yeah… not so much free will.

  • Steve

    Most of the stuff sold as core Christian theological principles were made up out of thin air in the Middle Ages. And some them were discarded again later (like limbo).

    Even leaving out predestination, the only paths “free will” leaves us with are accepting God/Jesus and spent eternal servitude in heaven or eternal torture in hell. Great choice…

    Oh and, hell as we understand it today was made up in the Middle Ages too.

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Assuming that you take atheist to mean someone with no belief in gods and assuming that you accept that babies have no beliefs until they learn something and have to make decisions based on belief then technically all Christians used to be atheists. As such it is hardly an interesting assertion to make.

  • ACN

    God designed us with free will.

    Oh sure. There is free will, because the boss gave it to you. Of course there is free will, the big guy in the sky says so! At least when you hear people like Hitch say things like “Of course we have free will, we have no choice” we can appreciate the irony. But you’re saying that completely seriously aren’t you?

    Do you realize that various christian groups, who consider themselves all equally christian, hold the mutually exclusive view that men have free will or that they are predestined for heaven or hell. Frankly, I don’t think that the “free will” crowd is taking the alleged attributes of their deity very seriously.

    Moreover, the claim that all people have original sin is not a biblical idea either. Biblically, the first two humans and the creation were perfect until Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Depending on what flavor of Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox church you are, the original sin then enters the human race as either some sort of inherited Adamic guilt or some sort of heritable propensity to sin. Either way, the story is ridiculous.

    Also, there is zero evidence that human beings were designed for anything. Much less for something as nebulous as free will.

  • Another Steve

    If you look at the numerous design flaws in the human body, it brings us back to god being extremely incompetent (assuming he exists for a second).

    Apparently he designed our eyes with the optical nerve entering the eyeball right at the focal point and blood vessels in front of the light receptors. Later he realized his screwup and fixed it in octopus eyes.

  • ACN

    yay cephalopods!

  • ButchKitties

    God designed us with free will? Tell that to the Pharaoh in Exodus.

    Exodus 4:21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

    What happened to the Pharaoh’s free will? Sounds like he was open to letting the Hebrews go, but God forced Pharaoh to change his mind, just so God would have the opportunity to show off his power.

  • http://www.martyro.blogspot.com Dan Rodger

    Yeah the above example is stupid, I agree with you, but lets not paint all of us with the same brush! I was most certainly an Atheist and am now a Christian and there are plenty more of us just as there are Ex-Christians whom are now Atheists.

    Great site by the way I always enjoy a read!

    Dan


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