Godless Tour

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  1. Video
  2. Response to the Video
  3. My Story, My Reasons
  4. Living Godless in the Deep South
  5. Objections I Hear A LOT
  6. Critiques of Fundamentalism
  7. Critiques of the Skeptical Movement
  8. Thoughts About Religion in General
  9. My Life in Movies
  10. Miscellaneous
  11. Letters to My Daughters

Introduction

  1. Video – These are the videos from the church interview in which I “came out” as an atheist. The Friendly Atheist picked up the story and posted about it a couple of days later.
  2. Response to the Video
    • It Takes All Kinds – Diplomacy has a place in the culture wars, and building alliances with those who are not against you is just as important as fighting those who are.
    • Why I Am an Anti-Fundamentalist (part 1) – I make a distinction between those forms of religion which are harmful and those which are not.  I also explain how interchangeable are the theologies of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism.
    • Why I Am an Anti-Fundamentalist (part 2) – Four elements of Fundamentalism which are harmful and should be opposed, with an explanation for how they work together.
    • In Praise of Social Networks – I wrote this to thank those who sent encouraging notes thanking me for my tone and my approach in the interview posted on YouTube. This is also when I realized there is a great need for more of this out there.
    • (Video) Response to the Interview (6:48)
    • Encouragement from Strangers – A short testimony from a new virtual friend encouraged me, so I shared it.  Perspectives like hers help convince me that a civil, conversational approach will do more to persuade someone to question his beliefs than a belligerent, aggressive one.
  3. My Story, My Reasons
    • Losing My Religion (part 1) – My “coming out letter” to my friends, stating the two main reasons for my loss of faith.
    • Losing My Religion (part 2) – The much longer follow-up letter to my friends’ responses to my shorter coming out letter.  I list as many issues as I could remember wrestling with at the time (about a dozen).
    • What Has Atheism Done for Me – I list 9 ways becoming an atheist has improved my life.
    • Why Some of Us Stay Closeted – I give two reasons why some atheists (especially in the South) choose not to “come out,” and explain why it’s not necessarily a failure of nerve or courage.
    • Have You Had a Wizard of Oz Moment? – Going deeper into a faith—even to the point of assuming a leadership role—can be the very thing which leads you right out of your own religion.
    • Why I’m Becoming More Antagonistic Toward Religion – Taking the long view has led me to feel that confronting irrational beliefs is the only responsible thing to do, more important than keeping the peace. I address some of the harmful effects of even non-extremist religions.
    • Reading Through My Old Journals, I Found This: – I share an old journal entry from ten years ago demonstrating the inner struggle of a person trying to reconcile reason and faith.
    • The High Cost of Leaving Your Faith – When you build your entire life around your faith, leaving that faith means losing everything and having to start over again from scratch. This is why so many who lose their faith keep it to themselves.
  4. Living Godless in the Deep South
    • Godless in Dixie – Living as an atheist in the Deep South is different from anywhere else.  Religion is ubiquitous and non-theists are deeply distrusted.  It’s like being in church all the time, everywhere you go.
    • Free Rein to Proselytize – I discuss a new law passed in my state which enables Christian students in public schools to openly proselytize in their schools.  I also point out that this opens the door for other religions (and atheists) to do the same.
    • Maggie’s Story – The story of a woman whose loss of faith resulted in harsh social consequences.  Part 1 of a two part post.
    • Your Religion May Be Harmful If… – Part two follow-up to Maggie’s Story.  I give 10 signs your religion is harmful to you and to others.  I also link to the video response to this post by Hemant Mehta.
    • The Never-Ending Pursuit of Religious Liberty – Keeping church and state separate benefits both institutions, but many seem to have forgotten this.  I contrast two opposite approaches to the matter (basically Baptist vs. Calvinist).
    • Be Brave – A favorite song of mine which reminds me of the struggles of closeted skeptics, especially in my region of the country.
    • Advice for the Unequally Yoked – When couples who start out “on the same page” one day find themselves on opposite ends of the faith spectrum, it can bring a great deal of tension. Borrowing some helpful tips from Dale McGowan’s upcoming book In Faith and In Doubt, this article gives advice to the “unequally yoked.”
  5. Objections I Hear A LOT
    • You Were Never Really One of Us – An explanation of a classic technique people use for dismissing the opinion of those who once adhered to the Christian faith, like me.
    • Changing the Subject – Why attacking the motives or character of an atheist is a diversion from what really matters.
    • God DOES Exist – My explanation for why it’s no use telling someone who believes in God that s/he doesn’t exist.
    • Party Tricks – The God of the Bible is not above performing party tricks.  I give several examples of Yahweh/Jesus responding affirmatively to a person’s need for “proof.”
    • How Can Atheists Have Morals? (part one) – When some ask this question, it’s not a question but an accusation that we cannot have morals. I explain why this accusation isn’t deserved and why the charge of relativism fits Christianity better than atheism.
    • How Can Atheists Have Morals? (part two) – Human moral reasoning springs from empathy, which is a natural product of our biological evolution. Other animals exhibit empathy as well, but we have the sophistication to build complex societies out of these morals.
    • Diversionary Tactics – Christians wouldn’t disparage the motives of young Muslims or Mormons critically analyzing their own religions, as if impure motives invalidated their quest for truth. But they won’t hesitate to do that for anyone questioning the Christian faith.
    • Why I Keep Talking to People Who Won’t Listen – I give five reasons why I keep talking to people whose religious beliefs discourage them from even considering alternative viewpoints. It’s not always about changing their minds.
  6. Critiques of Fundamentalism
    • Why Evangelicalism and Humanism Cannot Be Friends – How the core messages of these two cultures are diametrically opposed to one another.  I also explain how differently each defines the word “good.”
    • Evangelical Christianity and Low Self-Esteem – You cannot advocate for a positive self-image while telling people they deserve eternal torture.  I also discuss how Christian music relays a message of self-hatred, and I discuss some of the negative consequences of the message.
    • Sorry Apologetics – Exposes the weaknesses inherent in the presuppositionalist apologetics method. I find it presumptuous, circular, and lacking in real logical support because ultimately it is an appeal to faith, not to reason.
    • Do Atheists Have Faith? – It’s not consistent to refer to atheism and Christianity equally as “faiths” because it requires that you switch meanings mid-way through.  Faith and empiricism indicate two very different modes of perceiving the world.
    • Why We Don’t Have Christian Meteorology – If random, impersonal forces of nature account for the weather, why can’t the same be true for the development of our species?  I illustrate the inconsistency and suggest a way of approaching the topic of science that doesn’t jettison basic scientific principles.
    • Your Religion May Be Harmful If… – Part two follow-up to Maggie’s Story.  I give 10 signs your religion is harmful to you and to others.  I also link to the video response to this post by Hemant Mehta.
    • I Draw the Line at Canaan – The biblical story of the conquest of Canaan serves as an excellent test case to illustrate what’s wrong with the way defenders of the Bible approach the topic of morality.  I also conclude that I just can’t pass stuff like this on to my children.
    • Not a Fan of Jesus – The Bible depicts Jesus demanding loyalty to him over all other relationships, even to one’s spouse and children.  It also portrays him advocating for a negative posture toward the self.  To whatever extent this accurately represents the man and his message, I am not a fan.
    • Confronting the Lies – My response to Nate Pyle’s viral blog post about God failing to live up to his promises.  I give six more failed promises and issue a prayer challenge of my own.
    • It’s Better to Give Than to Receive – I explain why “It’s better to give than to receive” is a really poor choice of quotes for a tithing sermon.
    • Why I Find the Notion of Hell Absurd – Short post listing three reasons the notion of Hell makes no sense.  Originally a part of Why I Am an Anti-Fundamentalist, but I decided to post these separately.
    • Evangelicals and Closet Fundamentalism – Evangelicals believe the same things as Fundamentalists—they just would rather not talk about it because it embarrasses them.  I use the concept of Hell to illustrate the difference of approach.
    • Absolving God from Hell – Trying to remove from God the responsibility for Hell is both unbiblical and illogical.  I also explain from an analogy why the notion of Hell makes God a monster no matter how you look at the topic.
    • Anti-Intellectualism and the Bible – Traces the thread of anti-intellectualism in the Bible from the Garden of Eden through the story of Israel to Jesus and ultimately, quintessentially, to the apostle Paul.
    • Why God Cannot Forsake You – While I have been told before that wanting evidence for God’s existence somehow stacks the deck in favor of non-belief, the reality is that the Christian concept of God has been constructed in such a way that it is impossible for God to do wrong.
    • Sex and Christianity Make Strange Bedfellows – I argue that the church’s extreme awkwardness around the subject of sexuality stems from a fundamental discomfort with our physical selves. Early Christianity was incurably dualistic so that sex became the greatest rival to spirituality.
    • You Forgot to Take Up Your Cross – I question the notion that expressing bigotry is a legitimate reason to feel persecuted. More importantly, I ask why anyone following a crucified savior should act surprised upon encountering persecution, even the self-inflicted or imagined kind.
    • Having Faith in Faith – For Evangelicals, believing in Jesus isn’t enough. You have to believe in believing in Jesus. That’s why people who subscribe to no faith at all are the most repulsive of all to Evangelicals.
    • Lessons Learned from the Death of a Snake Handler – While Evangelicals understandably shake their heads when they see snake handling preachers risking life and limb to prove their faith, I explain how Evangelicals live by similar principles on a less dramatic scale.
  7. Critiques of the Skeptical Movement
    • Atheists Need Community – People need communities, and not just virtual ones (although those are better than nothing, and have their place).  I believe it would be well worth the effort for more non-believers to actively organize around positive values besides just atheism.
    • It’s All About the Cape – I borrow an insightful metaphor from Frederica Mathewes-Green about heroism and the downside to letting commitment to a cause overshadow everything else in your life and relationships.
    • I Am Not a Freethinker – I don’t prefer the term “freethinker” to describe myself because it seems to imply an absence of outside influences.  We are all products of our own histories, and the more we are aware of them the better we can weed through our own prejudices.
    • The Challenge of an Atheist Outlier – I discuss how coming from a functional/healthy church background affects my perception of Christianity and tempers my approach to it.  I also contrast this with the approach of those whose Christian experience was more negative than mine (or perhaps non-existent).
    • If the Shoe Fits – Is there such a thing as a fundamentalist atheist?  It depends on what you mean.  If your conversational style matches that of a fundamentalist, maybe the label isn’t unfair.
    • What Too Many Atheists Don’t Get About Christians (part one) – Phil Vischer’s response to Peter Boghossian’s Manual for Creating Atheists does a good job of illustrating that many Christians use their minds far more than many atheists will acknowledge.
    • What Too Many Atheists Don’t Get About Christians (part two) – Defining faith as “believing without evidence” misrepresents how Christians themselves view the notion of faith. I explain from my own past experience how I would change that definition to make it more accurate.
  8. Thoughts About Religion in General
    • It’s a Religion, Too, Not Just a Relationship – I explain why it’s a false dichotomy to say that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion.
    • Hey Christians, Let’s Make a Deal – People deserve respect; ideas do not.  But if you would like, I can offer to show the same level of respect for the beliefs of Christians which they show for mine.  You might want to think through the consequences of that, though.
    • If You Have to Believe, It Probably Isn’t Real – Like Santa Claus, if what you believe HAS to be believed in before it makes any difference, it’s probably not real.
    • What Will Save Us From Our Own Subjectivity? – Science and faith are compared as rival epistemologies and I demonstrate how empiricism can learn from its mistakes while dogmatism cannot.
    • Father Abraham Had Many Psychoses – A fellow blogger at A Pasta Sea parses out what the story of the near sacrifice of Isaac tells us about biblical morality, hermeneutical gymnastics, and cognitive bias.
    • Does Evolution Contradict Christianity? – Contrary to my own personal inclinations, I explain my reluctant conclusion that the clearly unguided nature of our long evolutionary history points away from any kind of guiding intelligence. I also explain that while this by no means precludes the existence of any and all deities, it certainly contradicts the notion of an intelligent, personal God who intervenes in any observable way.
    • What the World Vision Reversal Should Teach Us – In March of this year, World Vision (U.S.) announced it would not exclude applicants living in same-sex relationships, but then reversed their decision within hours of that announcement due to overwhelming pressure from multiple corners of Evangelical culture. I explore what this high-profile reversal signals to those who follow these things.
  9. My Life in Movies
    • Toy Story – Buzz Lightyear’s discovery of his true identity illustrates what it felt like for some of us when we deconverted.
    • A Beautiful Mind, Watchmen, and Castaway – For me, overcoming delusional thinking was key to letting go of religious dogma. Each of these three movies dramatically illustrates what that looks and feels like.
    • Groundhog Day – Besides being one of my favorite movies of all time, Groundhog Day does an excellent job of exploring human behavior and motivation once belief in transcendence is removed.
    • The Wizard of Oz – Dorothy’s desperation to get home takes her past a gauntlet of illusions to the top of the chain of command only to discover that it’s just another man calling the shots. For many of us who held leadership positions in the church, this illustrates our experience well.
    • The Matrix – Neo questioned every story he was told about what makes the world tick, and his skepticism helped him break through the systems that enslaved both him and the people he loved. This, too, illustrates something about the deconversion experience.
    • Review: Man of Steal – My review of the movie Man of Steel.  I discuss the odd and incongruous pairing of humanism and Christianity.  I also discuss how all great stories (including the biblical ones) steal liberally from earlier mythologies.
  10. Miscellaneous
    • An Atheist’s Take on Sex and Monogamy – I discuss the Christian uncomfortability with sex and address the pros and cons of monogamous commitment.  In the end I question the notion that sexual exclusivity is an indispensable part of a loving commitment to another person.
    • Being a Mom (or Dad) is More Than Enough – I give a shout out to the irreplaceable importance of people who choose to devote their time to raising children.  I also discuss how misguided it is to judge the value of work by the income which it generates.
    • A Christian’s Plea for Civil Discourse – A response to Rachel Held Evans’s request for civil discourse between Christians and atheists.  I applaud her sentiment and then point out a couple of points of disagreement.
    • GOP: The Anti-Jesus Party – I tell the story of how the Republican party came to own the American Evangelical vote despite being largely oppositional to the concerns and emphases of Jesus.
    • How the GOP Convinced Evangelicals to Neglect the Poor – This post explains what cultural factors influenced conservative American Christians to consistently choose leaders who disenfranchise the poorest among us. I also discuss the FOX News effect.
    • Let the Stars Be My Guide – The first thing I wrote as an atheist.  I tell how looking up at a starry night settles me and gives me a sense of perspective on life.
    • Some Frequently Asked Questions – Doesn’t it take faith to be an atheist? Should I come out to my family about my atheism? And how do you deal with suffering and injustice in the world?
  11. Letters to My Daughters