How Creationism Drove Me out of the Church

To be more specific, creationism led me to a crisis of faith that ultimately, through some twists and turns, drove me out of the Christianity. My parents did not realize that in teaching me that literal young earth creationism was the foundation of Christianity they did not simply fortify my faith but rather gave my faith an Achilles heel. And apparently, I am not alone. Really, really not alone.


My parents taught me that Christianity was about being filled with the Holy Spirit and having a personal relationship with Jesus. They taught me that Christianity was about love and service, not rules and regulations. I really wish they had stopped there. Instead, they added and added and added.

Growing up, Christianity was a package deal. Blogger Fred Clark argues that the borders of evangelicalism are defined by the “big four” issues: Abortion is murder, homosexuality is sin, evolution is nonsense, and environmentalism is a farce. This was certainly true for me. I was essentially taught that you could not be a Christian and believe otherwise on these issues. In other words, these issues were so tied into Christianity that they became an essential part of it. I would add a few more issues as well, namely anti-feminism, capitalism, spanking children as divinely mandated, and parental control over their children’s education through homeschooling. These issues were made into essential Christian doctrines.

I have sometimes described the faith my parents constructed for me as a sort of crystalline structure.


Everything my parents taught me fit together. It was a cohesive whole. The problem, though, was that if you took one piece out, the whole thing would fall down. My parents taught me young earth creationism alongside the virgin birth, anti-environmentalism alongside the trinity, and anti-abortionism alongside the divinity of Christ. Everything fit together into an integrated whole, but it was a whole that was dependent on all of its parts holding true.

These other beliefs – creationism, anti-abortionism, anti-environmentalism, anti-gay rights, anti-feminism, capitalism, the importance of spanking children, and homeschooling as commanded by God – became so entwined with conventional Christian beliefs such as Christ’s atonement on the cross that they became almost indistinguishable. They were Christianity. Anyone who didn’t share these beliefs was not Christian, was misled, was walking down the path toward damnation. Christianity, then, became dependent on the truth of these other beliefs, most especially creationism.

My parents taught me that we could know our faith was true because of the scientific truth of creation. Science pointed to a literal six day creation six thousand years ago, they taught me, and “liberal, atheistic” scientists who supported evolution were either misled or intentionally misleading. We could know our faith was true, my parents taught me, because the Bible was true, and we knew the Bible was true because creation was true. My parents intentionally, purposefully taught me to make young earth creationism the foundation of my faith. And, they taught me, if I ever gave up young earth creationism and became an “evolutionist,” I would have to give up my faith. Christianity and evolution were simply incompatible.

If a young person has had issues such as creationism, anti-abortionism, or anti-gay rights integrated into his or her faith and then finds those beliefs in question, it triggers a crisis of faith. If that belief, taught as gospel truth alongside such doctrines as the trinity, was not true, then what was true? If my parents and church were wrong about that, the young person wonders, what else were they wrong about? The reality is that elevating creationism or anti-abortionism or anti-feminism to gospel truth means that if one of those beliefs is called into question so too is the gospel.

It could have started with anything. It could have started with having a gay friend who caused me to rethink my anti-gay rights stance, or with feelings of the injustice of female submission. For me, though, it started with creationism. The answer, I think, is simple. Being anti-gay rights or anti-abortion were, for me, theological positions. I might emotionally question them if, for example, I had a college friend faced with an unexpected pregnancy, but that would probably not be enough to make me rethink them. It had to be creationism, I think, because it was something that could be examined scientifically, not just theologically or emotionally.

I never had any college science professors tell me what I could and could not believe. There was no “indoctrination.” What happened was that college opened me to a new array of facts and arguments about evolution and creation, facts and arguments conspicuously missing from the creationist science textbooks I studied from in high school. This was my first exposure to real science. I soon found that I had a problem. I had to choose between rejecting facts and evidence and going with the literal interpretation of Genesis I had been taught was the only acceptable Christian position, or accepting facts and evidence and becoming a dreaded “evolutionist” on my way to damnation.

I was forced to choose between reality and faith.

I’m a very honest person and a very logical person. I simply could not reject the evidence I saw before me (and believe me, I struggled over this for a long time, trying desperately to disprove it, using my creationist resources, and yet coming up short again and again). And so, I accepted the scientific reality of the theory of evolution. But as I did so, the crystalline structure that was my faith began to crumble. I desperately tried to hold it together and pin it up, but I could not. I had been taught to integrate young earth creationism into my faith in such a way that I was not sure my faith could survive without it.

Most of all, I was terribly, completely confused. If my parents had been wrong about creationism, I realized that they could be wrong about anything, or even everything. I could no longer implicitly trust what they had taught me as I had before. Instead, everything they had taught me was suddenly suspect, potentially untrue. I had to rethink all of it and figure out what should be kept and what must be thrown out.

I know I’m being repetitive here, but by holding the truth of creationism up as high as that of the trinity, my parents created a very problematic situation for me, and for my faith. They created a situation where my faith depended on creationism being true, a situation where learning that scientific evidence actually points to evolution would lead me into a crisis of faith and throw their every teaching into question.

When the makings of my faith tumbled, though, I was left with one thing, and that was my relationship with Jesus. Jesus had always been my best friend, my confidant, my constant companion. I cried out to Jesus, I told him I was scared, that I did not understand, that I felt my life was crumbling around me. I found comfort and solace in Jesus, and the permission to rethink the beliefs my parents had taught me. I rethought my anti-environmentalism, my anti-gay rights and anti-abortionism, my unblinking faith in capitalism and my anti-feminism.  Eventually, I even rethought my belief in spanking and homeschooling. And, little by little, I reconstructed my life and put my faith back together, making it truly mine. My faith felt more real, more exciting, and more beautiful. I felt energized and more in love with Jesus than ever. My faith was an adventure, and suddenly I could ask anything, consider anything, and truly explore, with Jesus and Jesus alone at my side.

My parents reaction was, not surprisingly, extremely negative. They could not see that I felt closer to Jesus than I had ever been. All they saw was that I had rejected my faith, for that was what rejecting such things as creationism meant. They treated me as a fallen, rebellious daughter. In their actions, they made themselves unavailable to me and pushed me away, all because they had made creationism, capitalism, and anti-feminism core tenets of their faith. They had so integrated beliefs like anti-environmentalism and the godliness and necessity of spanking into the essence of their faith that they could not comprehend what was happening to me. And when I was with them, they worked their hardest to push me back into the box-like beliefs in which they had raised me. It was stifling and belittling, and having tasted the freedom of being able to ask questions and come to my own beliefs, I refused to go back into their box.

Stung by my parents rejection but basking in Jesus’ love and my freedom I explored other faith traditions, especially Catholicism. In them I found much to be admired, but I found something even more important. I found a faith that was not tied to capitalism or anti-environmentalism. I found people who did not integrate creationism or anti-feminism into the very structure of their faith. I found diversity, richness, and beauty. I found a faith that truly placed love and service, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, at the top, and relegated other issues to secondary positions. I found faith that did not come with its own built in politics, faith that transcended politics, nation, and differences of opinion.

But. The removal of creationism from the structure of my faith created a nagging problem I was never able to solve. Because creationism had been elevated to the same level of importance as core doctrines like the trinity, I could never see those core doctrines as above question. Just as I had questioned anti-feminism, unthinking capitalism, and anti-environmentalism, even so I found myself questioning the trinity, substitutionary atonement, and even the divinity of Christ. After what happened with creationism, I could no longer take these doctrines for granted. And as I questioned, thought, and explored, many of them stopped making sense. I was afraid, and I once again grabbed at my faith desperately, trying to hold onto it and not let it slip through my fingers. I wanted the trinity to make sense, wanted God to make sense, wanted Jesus to be real. But wanting it could not make it so.

I was afraid as I looked the possibility of losing my faith in the face, but I was also upheld by the same energetic buoyancy that had supported me before. There was something invigorating about considering new ideas, questioning everything, and asking hard questions rather than simply accepting pat answers. There was something intoxicating about finally really and truly being free and, for the first time, truly forming my own beliefs. My questions took me in directions I never thought I would go, and I found myself moving in the direction of universalism, pantheism, skepticism, agnosticism, and, eventually, atheism. The excitement of having the freedom to ask questions and form my own beliefs never left me. The world still seemed a beautiful and wondrous place, the birds still sang, and life was still an adventure filled with purpose. Only this time, it was adventure and purpose I created for myself.

What of Jesus? He was there for me when I needed him in the emotional turmoil of those early days of questions, but the more comfortable I became in being able to stand on my own two feet, the less I needed him. For a while, as I questioned my faith itself, I was desperately afraid of losing him. But by that time, truth mattered more to me than comfort. I realized that Jesus might be nothing more than an imaginary friend that I could lean on or confide in, and that truth and reality mattered more than my desire to keep an imaginary friend. In the midst of all my questions, I actually became so distraught that I had to take a break, and so for a month, I took a break from the questions and a break from faith. At the end of that month, I realized that my faith had gone, and that Jesus had slipped away like the imaginary friend he was. Strange as it may sound, I will always be glad I had an imaginary friend to support me in the turmoil of those early years. But that in itself does not make him real.

I have been an atheist for several years now, and life has gone on. I still have hope and purpose, I still see beauty and wonder. I have a wonderful, fulfilling life and am not bitter about the past. I honestly think I am a kinder and more loving person today than I was growing up, even without religion instructing my life. But then, that may be because I have replaced religion with humanism. I don’t believe in nothing, you see. I believe in human potential, human value, and human worth. I no longer see children as full of sin and I no longer classify people as saved (“good”) and unsaved (“bad”). Atheism is what I do not believe, and humanism I do believe.

I want to bring this post full circle and address its main point once again. If my parents had not elevated creationism to the same importance as the virgin birth, I would never have had my crisis of faith. Doing so gave my faith an Achilles heel. I’m not saying this happens to everyone raised to equate creationism with Christianity – it doesn’t. What I am saying is that elevating things like capitalism and spanking to the same level of truth as the trinity creates a Christianity in a box. It shuts off questions and exploration. It closes the door to differences of opinion. It creates a situation where you are either in, or out. And, more importantly, it creates a situation where questioning something as simple as capitalism means rejection and changing your mind on something as little as anti-gay rights means potentially throwing everything from the trinity to the divinity of Jesus into question.

I recently came across this blog. The author is a self-described young evangelical Christian who does not equate things like capitalism and anti-gay rights with Christianity. The Christianity he lives is one that is open to questions, differences of opinion, and diversity of belief united only by core beliefs in things like Jesus, love, and service. I cannot help but think that if my parents had raised me like this, emphasizing core ideas like love and letting issues like capitalism or environmentalism be peripheral and individual I might have kept my faith. I would have had room to explore without rejection, room to question without judgement, and room to form my own beliefs without ostracism. If the core tenets had truly been love and service instead of anti-feminism and anti-abortionism, I would probably never have felt stifled by Christianity in the way that I did. I might have still left, but I might not have.

I am glad that my faith journey led me to skepticism and beyond. I wouldn’t undo it. I am happy where I am and I am a certain as I can be that there is no God and that religions are invented. I am happy to be joined in this by others who have similar journeys. But I don’t value atheism for itself. I value questions, freedom, and people’s ability to form their own beliefs. I know Christians, especially in the blogging world, who do this, thinking outside of the box and asking hard questions, valuing love, acceptance, tolerance, and service above conformity, and yet still maintaining their faith. I don’t necessarily want a world where everyone is an atheist, but rather a world where everyone is allowed to ask questions and think outside of the box, where everyone is allowed to form their own beliefs, and where love and service and acceptance matter more than judgement or boundaries.  

You see, I have noticed something about way too many faith communities: they will say it’s all about loving Jesus and then they make that a lie with their actions. My parents reacted negatively to me not because I had rejected Jesus but because I had rejected creationism. Overnight, I went from golden girl to pariah. I know a girl who was rejected from her loving faith community when she came out to a mentor as bisexual. All of the women who had loved her and mentored her, the women she had grown up with and admired, suddenly turned on her and rejected her. I know a man who is about to be fired as pastor of his church because he has started wearing his hair long and has pierced one of his ears. He teaches the same doctrine and provides his parishioners with the same love and care he always has, but they have turned against him, holding secret meetings and talking behind his back.

Growing up, I was told that Christianity was about love and acceptance, but I have to be honest, I really don’t see a lot of that. Instead, I see an emphasis on conformity and a turning on anyone who doesn’t fit the box. The problem is that this emphasis on conformity and demonization of questions or a diversity of opinion on more peripheral matters risks driving away anyone who steps across the (often invisible) boundaries of what is acceptable. By responding as they did when I questioned creationism, my parents pushed me away rather than giving me room to breathe, room to be different. My friend who came out as bisexual was so jaded by her treatment at the hands of supposedly “Christian” women that she is now an atheist. My friend who is in the process of being fired is also jaded by his experience, and is toying with agnosticism. By creating a sort of Christianity in a box, bordered by issues as mundane as capitalism or proper disciplinary practices, you create a situation that drives away those on the borders. It closes up instead of reaching out, pushes away instead of attracting, rejects instead of loving.

I’m going to take a moment here to offer advice to Christian parents. As I said above, I don’t have some secret agenda to turn your children into atheists. Instead, my hope for your children is that they be allowed the freedom to form their own beliefs, the room to ask questions, and love and acceptance on their faith journeys. In this light, I would suggest that you not make things like creationism and anti-gay rights as central and fundamental to your children’s faith as my parents did to me. Leave room for exploration and room for differences of opinion. Make faith more dynamic than stultifying. Allow your children room to explore, and the ability to form their own beliefs. You may disagree with your newly socialist daughter or your ear-piercing son, but are those issues really as important to you as Christ’s substitutionary atonement or God’s love? Is the length of your son’s hair or your daughter’s sexuality really more important than Christ’s command to love and serve others? Does the age of the earth matter more than a heart sold out for God?

I ask you, Christian parents, please throw out your boxes and any narrow preconceptions you may have inherited from Christian leaders like those who taught my parents. Your children deserve better. If you make creationism or unbridled capitalism core tenets of your children’s faith, you only set your children up for potential problems. Your children deserve freedom and the ability to form their own thoughts and opinions rather than being simply forced into yours. If you deprive them of that freedom you risk suffocating them and losing them. You risk driving them away, and I speak from experience on that.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06401440551873070129 Elin

    Wow! I loved this post, and I could really relate to struggling although I came from atheism to Christianity. I struggled and struggled hard with my feelings of faith, believing in something that cannot be proven and later with combining my very strong lead to wear a headcovering although I was and still am a feminist… The end result has been that I am way too conservative to be a liberal Christian and way too liberal to be a conservative and both sides see me as weird. Anyway, I am happy now and you cannot please everyone.

  • Meggie

    Wow. This has made so many little pieces click into place. I am very liberal in religion and in politics. (As far left as the Duggars are right.) I have been told by members of the family that I am "not as Christian as them" or "not a real Christian". I find both extremely offensive. For me, Christianity is an in or out thing – either you believe in Jesus or you don't. You can't be "more" Christian than someone else. These same people tend to tie politics to religion. I don't know how many times I have heard that if I was a real Christian I would vote for the Christian Democrats (Rick Santorum would fit in well) and/or the Australian Liberal Party (The equivalent of your Republicans. Don't let the name fool you – these guys are not liberal.)Abortion, homosexuality, environmentalism & creation.These four little points explain so much. I have no problem with abortion. I have many homosexual friends and am actively supporting attempts to make homosexual marriage legal in Australia. Environmental degradation is everywhere – you just have to open your eyes to see it. I have never seen a contradiction between evolution and Genesis. If these four points are to be the basis of Christianity, then I understand why so many of the family do not see me as Christian. (I am a member of the wrong political party too.)I am going to keep these ideas in mind next time I am with the family. Maybe understanding where they are coming from will help me to get along with them better in the future. It has certainly helped me understand some of their past actions.

  • http://www.freejinger.org Flora Poste

    I just came across this "Christian Worldview" test. Though the test is online, you have to submit $4.50 to get your score and find out if you are Biblical Theist, a Moderate Christian, a Secular Humanism or a Socialist. I suspect I am between Secular Humanist and Socialist. In other words, I'm going straight to H-E-double toothpick. (I love how these 4 possible "worldviews" are arranged on a continuum from Godly to Satanic)http://www.nehemiahinstitute.com/peers_test.htm

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11944182376387560776 Andrea

    "I don't simply want a world where everyone is an atheist, but rather a world where everyone is allowed to ask questions and think outside of the box, where everyone is allowed to form their own beliefs, where love and service and acceptance matter more than judgement or boundaries." THIS! Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13211182794921080338 Rae Brown

    Exactly!

  • Rosa

    Beautiful. You're definitely not alone, and the way you reach out to people of faith is humanistic at its core.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01264973121255366118 Jennifer

    I love reading your blog. Your words give me hope – for all of the other children out there who have been indoctrinated (brainwashed) by their parents – if you can think rationally and logically and come to these conclusions in spite of the environment you came from, then hopefully others will be able to do so to. Thank you again for speaking out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13930917517196516292 Jason Dick

    It was very similar for me. The first inkling I had that my faith might be wrong was when my creationist beliefs clashed directly with physical evidence. If my parents were more liberal, I'm not sure I would ever have genuinely questioned the rest of my faith. But just opening up a chink in the armor of my religious beliefs allowed reason to seep in.I do not regret this in the least, however. I am very glad that I began to truly question my beliefs. It was a bit painful (though less so than for most, I hear), but I am very happy with who I have become out the other side.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "I don't simply want a world where everyone is an atheist, but rather a world where everyone is allowed to ask questions and think outside of the box, where everyone is allowed to form their own beliefs, where love and service and acceptance matter more than judgement or boundaries."Yes, free thought, before labels. Then again, if it took a world where everyone were an non-theist(atheist) to have a world where everyone is allowed to ask questions and think outside of boxes, I would gladly welcome and accept such a world.

  • Anonymous

    My move from evangelism to Catholicism was about realizing that my parents aren't always right, and may have taught me some wrong things; but my move from Catholicism to agnosticism was even more similar to yours: I saw the crack in the matrix when I realized that the sacraments don't do jack – it's all just our own effort to keep our marriages intact, etc. From there everything else fell into piles of dust rather quickly.FYI, when Fred Clark wrote about evangelical's 4 points he was quoting Jonathon Dudley's book "Broken Words." (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2011/12/01/broken-words-and-the-freedom-to-ask-questions/)Unfortunately, evangelicals will never admit (even to themselves) that those are their 4 critical issues; "it's all about Jesus" – but read their last year's worth of Facebook posts, and that's all they seem to care about.I agree that capitalism should be added to the list.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14097266657351609701 Jeri

    So true. Makes me wonder how Ken Ham would feel if he could realize how many Christians he's helped turn into skeptics.

  • Meggie

    @ Flora PosteLove the quiz. It has given us a great laugh. Biblical theist – Moderate Christians – Secular Humanist – Socialist! We went through the website to read the descriptions of each catagory and, as we had already predicted, we are socialists. What puzzles me is why socialism and Christianity are mutually exclusive?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "Makes me wonder how Ken Ham would feel if he could realize how many Christians he's helped turn into skeptics."Good point, but I think there are better descriptions for "skeptics", in this case. Perhaps if Ken Ham realized how many Christians he's helped turn into former Christians(or at best, doubting Christians), this would make a better case. I merely say this, since, everyone is skeptical of someone else's beliefs. Hell, Christians are skeptical of other Christian's beliefs. Seriously, it's like, Christians would have us believe that if they got everyone "saved", that everything would be hunky-dory, as if Christians wouldn't be bumping heads with other Christians. Please.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08252374623355509404 Kristen

    I have had several crises of faith in my adult life, the last of which occurred around 2007. I ended up revising my Christianity yet again (I think it was the 3rd or 4th time), but not leaving it altogether. One idea that I brought away from the 2007 shift was to question all assumptions, not just those associated with religious belief. That is, there were reasons why the secular/physicalist mindset made sense to me as a 21st-century Western thinker, and not all of those reasons were rooted in establishable fact. I began to question, not just Christianity, but the assumptions behind atheism as well. This blog post over at Peaceful Turmoil (the owner has a primarily Buddhist outlook on life, though he defies labels in general) expresses some of the thinking I found necessary to consider, in an attempt to be as honest with myself as I'm currently capable of being. It's interesting because he actually describes the exact scenario you explained above, Libby Ann, and then talks about other factors that may be unknowingly involved in any change in belief systems. http://peacefulturmoil.blogspot.com/2011/11/lack-of-compelling-evidence-for-belief.htmlWhat I'm trying to say, I think, is that we're all on our own journeys, and they're not over for any of us; none of us has "arrived" at the "full truth" in any sense of those words. Continuing to explore and learn is the best we can do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "I began to question, not just Christianity, but the assumptions behind atheism as well."What assumptions would those be? I'm genuinely curious, because to say that atheism has something "behind" it, as in, backing it, supporting it, etc., this implies that atheism is asserting something."none of us has 'arrived' at the 'full truth' in any sense of those words. Continuing to explore and learn is the best we can do."This, I agree with. I'd only add that not all methods for exploring and learning are equally reliable. Additionally, we don't necessarily need to know "full truth" to know what is closer to being true. IOW, it's not a situation where we either know everything, or we know nothing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08252374623355509404 Kristen

    Well, atheism itself, being merely a lack of belief in God, does not contain assumptions; it simply says there is no God. Atheism does not exist in a vacuum, however– as you yourself implied above with regards to believing in humanity. We all hold beliefs and disbeliefs that we use together to navigate our world. The decision that there is no evidence for God, for instance (which is what most people base their atheism upon) is itself based on certain assumptions about what constitutes evidence. Generally the assumption comes from the scientific rationalism of the 20th-21st century West, which does include certain default positions which are worth examining. Even your assertion that not all methods for exploring and learning are equally reliable, is based on certain background ideas as to what constitutes reliability. I'm not saying these ideas are wrong; I'm just saying that it's easy not to notice that we're thinking in terms of Western rationalism, because it's so completely natural for us. Even fundamentalist Christians tend to think this way by default; in fact, I believe this is what lies behind the insistence that Genesis 1 is meant to be a scientifically accurate record of events in the first place.It's always a good idea to examine the default bases for the way we think, even if it's only to acknowledge their existence. You may find the Peaceful Turmoil site interesting in this regard.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08252374623355509404 Kristen

    Sorry– I meant "as Libby Ann implied above with regards to believing in humanity," — not Boomslang.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "Well, atheism itself, being merely a lack of belief in God, does not contain assumptions; it simply says there is no God."Agreed, that atheism, itself, does not contain assumptions. I disagree, however, that "lack of belief in God", and the statement, "there is no God", are one and the same. They're not. The latter is an implicit statement of knowledge, and no human being can know with absolute certainty that an invisible, conscious being of some sort doesn't exist. On the other hand, to merely lack belief in God isn't saying anything about knowledge at all. It's simply saying that, while one cannot know if a god exists/doesn't exist, one can still not believe(lack belief) that one does exist. IOW, atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive."The decision that there is no evidence for God, for instance (which is what most people base their atheism upon) is itself based on certain assumptions about what constitutes evidence."True, where the evidence is based on how those who insist a God exists define him/her/it. For instance, if theist X insists that God is things like "all-loving" and "all-powerful", then I'm justified when I make the assumption that, since a child dies of hunger every 5 seconds, this constitutes evidence that theist X' God does not/cannot exist.(unless you redefine "all-loving"/all-powerful") "Even your assertion that not all methods for exploring and learning are equally reliable, is based on certain background ideas as to what constitutes reliability."What is reliable is based upon a proven track-record. To assume something is reliable in lack of such a track-record is to employ "faith". People can and do employ such faith. I would never argue otherwise. If they expect me to believe their "faith" is reliable and/or a good tool for learning and exploring, they'll need to demonstrate it. Regarding your recommended link, I see a false corollary being made in a few areas. For example, he or she says…This is how we tend to imagine the debate over compelling evidence for belief or disbelief.Compelling evidence for disbelief? If "disbelief" is synonymous with "non-belief, then such is the default position; it's a position of neutrality. Take, for instance, Poseidon. I don't need to proffer compelling evidence that Poseidon does not exist before I'm justified in disbelieving in Poseidon. In fact, that there is no compelling evidence that Poseidon does exist only makes it more reasonable to lack a belief in Poseidon. This is not to say that Poseidon most certainly does not exist. Maybe Poseidon sits at the bottom of the Ocean with his trusty trident and we just haven't discovered him yet. I don't think it's bloody-likely – and I'd be willing to bet a large sum of money that it's not so – but I cannot say with absolute certainty that it's not so. That I leave the door open to the possibility(even slightly), this constitutes a position of neutrality.Again, non-belief and belief aren't just opposite sides of the same coin.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08252374623355509404 Kristen

    I don't think Peaceful Turmoil is making "non-belief" synonymous with "disbelief." He is a very careful thinker; I assume he's saying exactly what he means.For the rest, I'm not trying to persuade you to believe in the Christian God or in any dieties whatsoever. I don't want to get into an argument about how, if there is any sort of god or gods, he, she, it or they might be expected to make the world work. I'm only pointing out that you appear to me to be reasoning from a paradigm of Western rationalism, as most Americans do automatically. Even your definition of "reliable" as "having a proven track record" is within this paradigm. I have found it useful in my own journey to recognize, identify and try to learn to step outside this paradigm, in order to learn other ways of thinking about the universe. That's all.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Talking about Asiatic country it got me thinking, I would love my country was as secular and religion as unimportant as in Japan. Let me esplain what I mean. Yes, theoretically there's a majority of people there who are shintoism, japanese buddhism and more commonly a mixture of both. In reality, the society it's pretty much secular and religion has pretty much the same weight in society than superstition like the blood type a person has marks the type of personality or lucky and unlucky days (horoscopes and such) with just a hint more importance in traditions like visiting a New Year to wish for Happy New Year or a healthy child. Still 70% japanese claim they have no religious association and 84% claim no personal religion. How does that make sense? Because those same people still go in New York's tot he Temple because it's really a tradition, not religion. Also a japanese person tends to have 3 diferent Temple associated with his/her life (the one thye are buried a buddhist one usually but I don't want to bore you to death with details). In general religion is like a fashion there. For example, there is only about a 2% of catholics there but 80% of the weddings 5 years ago where in catholic churches with the brides in white occidental dresses because it was (and still is) the IN thing. Religion is still important as a source of folklore and such but a normal japanese person don't live their everyday lives by relying on a supernatural force (en if they make a skeptic like me a bit squeemish sometimes XP) and they don't encounter it everywhere they go either. Living in a country where I ahev learnt all the basic catholic prayers, the nativity and most of the bible stories, … without having decided it for myself because you breath catholicism here makes me long for that type of approach to religion *wishfull thinking*

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    New Year's not New York's. I suck at typing and this is what happens when you type a post just after waking up with sleepy eyes and a foggy brain. Sorry

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    Hi, againWhere "disbelief" is defined a refusal to believe, I agree that this is not mutually inclusive with "non-belief", which is to simply lack a belief. As an agnostic atheist, and speaking only for myself, I do not "refuse to believe" in the Christian biblegod, or any other god. Again, I am simply unable to honestly believe. So, when/if someone says, "the decision that there is no evidence for God", it's just not as simple as making a "choice" to not believe, and I think portraying it in this light is slightly dishonest. As for this guy at Peaceful Turmoil, he might very well be a careful thinker. Fair enough. This, however – and I'm fairly sure you'd agree – doesn't preclude him from being wrong or harboring false ideas about certain subjects, for instance, the subject of epistemology. As for expectations from "God"/gods, I have none, except for when/if theists assign very specific attributes to their respective deities…e.g.."omnibenevolent", "omniscient", "omnipotent", and on and on. When/if they do this, I, yes, make an assumption that, if what they say is true, the world should then reflect this truth, which I would consider compelling evidence if it did.As for "Western paradigms" such as what constitutes "reliable" and "evidence", etc., I feel this is ultimately a red herring. We could get needlessly/endlessly bogged down in disagreement as to what constitutes what. For instance, when you say someone is a "careful thinker", do we really need to analyze which geographical paradigm the word "careful" comes from? Personally, I don't think so. Certain concepts are implicitly agreed upon across cultures. There is no reason to not accept the colloquial meaning of "careful", and by the same consideration, I feel the same way about the word "reliable".In closing, I don't feel this is so much about Western paradigms Vs Eastern, but about scientific methods Vs non-scientific methods. I'm not saying that there aren't many different ways of "thinking about the universe". There are. But thinking about it and knowing about it are two different things.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08252374623355509404 Kristen

    Boomslang, I intended no insult, nor was I being "dishonest." I think as far as the word "decision" is concerned, we are talking past one another. If you mean that you consulted all the available evidence and were compelled by the lack of evidence supporting the existence of any dieties, and in that sense you made no "decision" not to believe– then ok, you made no decision. I also was in no sense accusing you of "refusal" to believe, as if this were some sort of moral fault– and I am certain, knowing Peaceful Turmoil, that he meant no such thing either. I recognize that other Christians may have approached you in this judgmental way, but I assure you I am not doing that. I simply meant that when one examines evidence, one then makes a rational decision what to believe or not to believe based on the evidence, or lack thereof. If you want to see this as a compulsion and not a decision, that's all right with me. I really meant nothing so serious by the word. And anyway, all of this is within the paradigm of Western rationalism, as is the binary you then mention between scientific and non-scientific methods. Western rationalism is based on the fundamental idea that science is how we determine the truth or falsehood of things. What I'm saying is that there are other ways of approaching the world than through scientific thinking as the arbiter of reality; and that we tend to not notice these fundamental assumptions we make about how we view the nature of the world. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with scientific thinking; it is an excellent way to understand many things about ourselves and our world. I simply think that there are things that science is the wrong tool to use to try to find. If one is going to question, then I think one should not exempt the supreme value we place on scientific thinking, from questioning as well. That is all I meant.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "Boomslang, I intended no insult, nor was I being 'dishonest'."Okay, fair enough. You have since clarified your position, so thanks, and I retract my comment as it pertains to you, specifically. You clarify….."If you mean that you consulted all the available evidence and were compelled by the lack of evidence supporting the existence of any dieties, and in that sense you made no 'decision' not to believe– then ok, you made no decision."Yes, that's precisely what I mean."I also was in no sense accusing you of 'refusal' to believe, as if this were some sort of moral fault– and I am certain, knowing Peaceful Turmoil, that he meant no such thing either."Again, fair enough. Unfortunately, one definition of "disbelief" is refusal to believe. So, if this gentleman was as careful as what you say he is, I would think he'd use the more suitable, "non-belief", assuming he's talking about those who lack belief."What I'm saying is that there are other ways of approaching the world than through scientific thinking as the arbiter of reality; and that we tend to not notice these fundamental assumptions we make about how we view the nature of the world."It's looking like we're just going to have to agree to disagree, which is fine, as I am used to doing so when discussing epistemology with spiritualists/theists. Again, people can and do "approach" the world however they please. I would never deny this. Some folks "approach" the world as if there is not only a physical world, but a non-physical world, too. Fine. But the latter, by definition, is not subject to empirical testing/falsifiying…IOW, not subject to scientific inquiry/methods. Science isn't just about knowing a bunch of scientific facts, it's also about understanding what you, yourself, call "the nature of the world". Yes, we can view and study the nature of the world and understand (some of) its laws. Conversely, we *cannot* view and study the "supernature" of the world. Thus, the latter is speculation, so there can be nothing to call a "law". For instance, special "creation" by supernatural beings is neither fact, theory, or law. It's a hypothesis, at best. "I'm not saying there's anything wrong with scientific thinking; it is an excellent way to understand many things about ourselves and our world."Yes, understand things to the point of knowing. "I simply think that there are things that science is the wrong tool to use to try to find."Fair enough. I assume you have in mind one of these things for which science is the "wrong tool" to find it, and if so, I'd be curious to have look at the alternative used to find said "thing", specifically, how it confirms the finding(s)."If one is going to question, then I think one should not exempt the supreme value we place on scientific thinking, from questioning as well. That is all I meant."Science is provisional and subject to peer review. Science and its methods are completely open to questioning. As for value being placed on science being a "Western paradigm", maybe, just maybe the West has it right? In any case, until another alternative comes along and makes this Western paradigm obsolete, I'm sticking with it. And I'm not trying to be combative or one-up anyone. I'm merely discussing. Again, we can agree to disagree and move on. All the best,

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07941425280564280124 bitwise

    I've been reading Slacktivist for a few years now, and I agree that Fred's posts are top-notch and thought provoking. His ongoing critique of the Left Behind series is both a sharp indictment of evangelicalism and a thoughtful examination of the alternatives (and it's hilarious).A little history: Slacktivist used to be hosted on TypePad, but for a variety of reasons, Fred moved to Patheos. A lot of his long-team readers were very uncomfortable with the change, because Patheos as a whole is very conservative-Christian-centric and unwelcoming to other faiths. After some debate and discussion, it was eventually decided that the original Slacktivist on TypePad would be entrusted to those long-time commenters, who transformed it into the 'Slacktiverse', a welcoming and comfortable place for people of various beliefs to have open discussions, submit guest posts, and bring together links to posts on their own blogs. It really is a great community; I don't post there as often as I would like. I think the Slacktiverse is a great example of a group of diverse people who took what could have been a very nasty situation and created something beautiful out of it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17212877636980569324 James Sweet

    So I was raised Mormon, and I very clearly recall a specific incident when I was about 14 or so… The Bishop of our church (basically the equivalent of the pastor or reverend or what have you) was sitting in on our priesthood class, and somehow or other a friend and I got onto a discussion where we were talking about how, since the "fulfillment of the law of Moses" (i.e. Jesus coming and replacing Judaic law), most commandments had gone from the overly specific, e.g. if you steal your neighbors sheep you repay him with 2 goats and a chicken, to just general mandates like "love your neighbor" — but that the Sabbath remained somewhat specific, i.e. it is Sunday and must be Sunday, not just some random day you pick as a day of rest.After we'd sort of talked on this for a while, the bishop said something along the lines of, "I know you guys like to joke around, but I know you know in your hearts what is right." I was like, WTF?!? I wasn't even questioning the doctrine; I was just thinking critically about why some doctrines had some characteristics and other doctrines had other characteristics. This was the example that stuck most in my head, but it was just one symptom among many of the central problem: In Mormonism, as in many types of religion, "question everything" is simply not what is done. And yet that is fundamental to my nature. I do so compulsively. (You know how four-year-olds will ask "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" in a seemingly infinite loop? Not to me they don't. They get bored waaaay before I do. I love that game! I actually had one of my son's friends ask me, "Will you please stop talking?" after she tried to pull the "why" game on me)And that was a big part of driving me away from the church. It's not even really a philosophical objection; it's more of an aesthetic one. I didn't get along with people like that, not to mention I hated the music… I wanted to just think about stuff, think a lot, I didn't even want to reject it, I just wanted to think about it — but that's not what these folks do.Would I still have become an atheist if it hadn't been like that? Possibly, but it's hard to say. I must admit, many former theists have a point in their deconversion story that goes something like, "I desperately wanted it to be true, but I just couldn't believe any more", but I don't really have that, not really. The non-questioning was just so ugly to me… dunno how people can stand it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13738377880145008895 Kim Hosey

    You are most definitely not alone. I was raised sorta kinda Catholic, definitely Christian and very conservative, but free to think about things. Then we changed churches, and in came young earth creationism, end times, Christian warrior talk, and all the rest. A couple of the "big four" were present before our switch (most notably abortion and homosexuality), but all four, and more, were presented in our new congregation. Most especially troubling to me were the ideas that the world was doomed anyway, so we should pray instead of taking any responsibility for its welfare; and the idea that everyone was evil, by their very nature. Very long story short, I came to my senses, and yes, it was that extreme push that made me re-examine the whole religion bag. I still can't tell most of my family, but happily, I came to my senses before raising my son in it. He's been a deist, a strong atheist, wondered at pantheism, and settled into an atheist-freethinker way of viewing the world. And he's 9. I'm kind of proud of that.Thanks for the post. I really look forward to your writing on FTB.

  • Anonymous

    Oh my goodness – I have goosebumps reading this, but also tears in my eyes!!!! This is my life story as well as yours, and I have never seen it written with such compassion and understanding, yet firmness. Our parents raised up a whole generation of young evangelical christians who realized too late that the real world did not fit our prescribed beliefs as neatly as we were taught. Your post helped me make sense of my own journey. Thanks so much!

  • Anonymous

    I think that a lot of the logic is flawed in this argument. Saying that Christian parents shouldn't teach the things in the Bible (i.e. Creationism) because of the risk of their children rejecting the faith, is like an atheist saying they don't want to teach their children evolution for fear of them believing in Creationism.I think your road towards Humanism has less to do with what you were taught as a child, and more of the fact that you never had a true Faith to begin with.

  • Just A Reader

    It was so wonderful to read this article, because so much of it is the way I feel. I was raised in a strict Christian family. Though my family isn’t nearly as strict as yours, they still believe many of the same things–like Creationism. I was taught that the entire world was made in six days and anyone who said otherwise was intentionally lying, because there was “no proof” for Evolution. Then I took Freshman Biology :) I realized that it was so obvious, so clear and true that we had evolved. From there I began questioning more and more of what I’d been taught, of what I’d assumed. Slowly, over the course of a year or two, I laid aside almost all of my former beliefs, accept one. I still believed that there might be a god out there somewhere. I wanted there to be, honestly. I prayed for months, waiting to feel something, to see some sign that would convince me that there was a god, and that he loved me. But none came. Finally, last summer during my church youth group’s annual trip, I was forced to admit to myself that I don’t believe. And suddenly, I felt not afraid, not lost or confused, but free. The only regret I have is that I can’t share my beliefs and feelings with my family and friends. I’d love for them to be able to feel this too!

  • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

    Although I wasn’t brought up in a strict Christian home, lack of questioning and lack of exposure to other viewpoints led to a similar result for me as well. As a young child, Christianity was a given, and the Bible was literal truth–no one I knew belonged to any other religions (some might have been atheist, but while I knew that some people weren’t baptized, at that age I couldn’t quite figure out the implications). So it happened that when I was 10 and evolution was briefly mentioned in school, never having been taught to distrust teachers, the contradiction with a literal reading of Genesis turned into a complete shattering of faith and sent me into a period of atheism.

    It’s only been in more recent years, through questioning and trying to reconcile things in my own mind, that I’ve been able to build a more spiritual foundation for myself. Between actually thinking about my beliefs and now knowing that there are other religions with their own texts, my faith is better able to withstand challenges and losing or changing one belief no longer means throwing everything out.

  • Joseph O Polanco

    Contrary to the amphigory of Fundamentalists, Genesis does not teach that the universe, including the earth and all living things on it, was created abruptly in the relatively recent past. Rather, the description in Genesis of the creation of the universe and the appearance of life on earth harmonizes with many recent scientific discoveries.

    Because of their philosophical beliefs, many scientists reject the Bible’s declaration that God created all things. Interestingly, however, in the ancient Bible book of Genesis, Moses wrote that the universe had a beginning and that life appeared in stages, progressively, over periods of time. How could Moses gain access to such scientifically accurate information some 3,500 years ago? There is one logical explanation. The One with the power and wisdom to create the heavens and the earth could certainly give Moses such exceedingly advanced knowledge. This gives compelling weight to the Bible’s claim that it is “inspired of God.”—2 Timothy 3:16.

    http://bit.ly/11T5YpD

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