Giving to Help the Smith Family

Earlier this week, the virtual community to which I belong was devastated to learn that one of our own had taken the life of his wife, Jennifer Smith, followed by taking his own life, leaving behind four children (three of whom are pictured below). The next few weeks and months will be difficult for them, but every kind of help we can provide will go toward helping them cope with their loss. Family of the victims have set up a GoFundMe… Read more

How the Bible Helped Me Become an Atheist

Christianity immortalized the seeds of its own deconstruction by putting them in the mouth of its very founder. This hit me like a ton of bricks today, and I’m not sure why I didn’t see it sooner. I was thinking again this week about the reasons why I left my faith (or rather why it left me), and it dawned on me how centrally Jesus’s own teachings factored into my deconversion. It has become cliche among atheists when asked what book… Read more

Does It Take Faith to Be an Atheist?

“I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” I know it must be gratifying to pull out a zinger like this from time to time, but I’m here to tell you it’s not as clever as it sounds to you. When people say this, they’re going for style over substance, and it only works on people who are already members of their tribe. It’s like a verbal hair flip meant to communicate confidence and superiority. But it’s as disingenuous… Read more

FAQ: Should I “Come Out” as an Atheist?

A religion editor for a national publication wrote me recently with a couple of questions for an upcoming piece, and it occurred to me that these questions recur often enough to lead me to include my responses in a post of my own for future reference. She basically had two main questions to ask, and my answers follow: What are some lessons you’ve learned after leaving the religious tradition you were raised in? (Lessons about navigating doubt, about maintaining relationships… Read more

7 Reasons to Stop Believing in Hell

Because I write mostly about the challenges people face upon leaving their religion, I receive a good many emails and private messages from friends who still struggle with the fear of Hell. The curious thing about this is that most of these people no longer feel they have sufficient reason to believe in God. Most of them have left the religions of their youth (or of their young adult lives), yet they still fear everlasting torment. How is that even… Read more

When Things Don’t Have to Make Sense

I think one of the most detrimental things my faith did to me, and to everyone else like me, was to convince me that things don’t have to make sense. Imagine what that would do to a person’s ability to discern fact from fiction. Imagine how this could be used to influence an entire voting bloc prone to follow instructions because they believe those who are leading them are representing The Voice of God in their lives. Just imagine. The… Read more

The Sociology of Belief

When I was still a Christian, I would often bristle whenever someone tried to analyze my faith from a scientific point of view. The tools of the scientist, I argued, could not reliably detect the things of the spirit because they are only discernible by those with the right organs of perception (see 1 Cor. 2:6-16). You must have “ears to hear,” Jesus would often say, and in a manner befitting both evangelicals and fundamentalists (I contend the differences between the two groups are… Read more

When Other People’s Fear of Hell Rubs Off on You

I seem to have a lot of friends who are in what we call “mixed faith” marriages, meaning pairings in which one partner still believes all the same things they did when they first began their new life together while the other one has since changed their views. This may happen more than you think, and it makes perfect sense considering how many of us entered adulthood with its accompanying romantic commitments before we had a chance to rethink our… Read more

September 11 and the Birth of New Atheism

Today marks the 16th anniversary of the day a group of radicalized Islamic extremists attacked us with our own commercial airliners, hijacking multiple planes and flying them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, plus one more that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania thanks to a group of passengers unwilling to allow their plane to be used as a weapon to take thousands more lives. The students I’m currently teaching wouldn’t be born for another couple of years, but… Read more

What Praising God in the Storm Reveals About Faith

Nothing puts the cognitive dissonance of faith on display like a destructive storm system ripping through a religious community. “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” –Amos 3:6 “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.” –Isaiah 45:7 This week people all over the southeastern United States are bracing themselves for another potentially disastrous storm, thanks to a significant uptick in oceanic… Read more

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