How to Reach Believers about Atheism: Through their Hearts

Editor’s Note: This post is derived, with permission, from a letter Dennis Augustine wrote to Sean Faircloth thanking him for guiding him to The Clergy Project.  Augustine describes how he came to atheism via emotion, not reason.

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By Dennis Augustine

It’s been a few months since Sean Faircloth put me in contact with a screener from The Clergy Project and my official coming out as an atheist. I want to thank him for the role that The Clergy Project and he and his colleagues play in helping to create a community of folks like me. It’s so very comforting to understand that there are people who go through the same deep personal, emotional, psychological, practical and social issues that I did.

I’ve spent the last few months in a concerted effort to rebuild my life and psyche from the ground up — teaching myself that I am not a degenerate, worthless sinner whose only salvation comes from believing the unbelievable. I have a sister who blamed the Church for the anguish that contributed to her bipolar disorder, which in turn, contributed to a postpartum psychotic episode she suffered a few years ago. During that episode she killed both of her children–one was five years old, the other just two months. I helped raise those children and the pain of their loss was a big factor in my decision to come out and be genuine about my disbelief. My journey hasn’t been easy; I was indoctrinated from childhood by parents who were also ministers; the shame of sin runs deep and learning to truly love oneself without prior experience is something that’s not easy for a 44 year-old man.

I’ve been trying to figure out how I can not only make amends for promulgating the falsehoods that I did as a minister, but also how to best use my natural love for people and the love for the truth that drove me away from the faith to help prevent the kind of psychological abuse that I endured.

All this has been very much inspired by the types of conversations I’ve had with religious people (conservative, evangelical Christians in particular) over the last few months. Those conversations have been both enlightening and frustrating. It’s pretty pointless trying to reason with a believer. It is futile to try to reason a man out of a belief that he wasn’t reasoned into. It’s also very difficult to get believers to listen to anything that threatens their faith.

In an effort to understand how to help others I began asking myself, “How did I manage to break free? What really was the catalyst?” The answers to that question came to me very lucidly recently.

After watching two poignant videos —a documentary entitled, “Kumare” and a series of deconversion videos posted on YouTube by a former minister, I’m convinced that reason, while having great prophylactic value for the un-indoctrinated, is pretty ineffective against the armor-plated defenses that shield believers from reason: the shame of sin, the terror of isolation and a fear of death (the ultimate isolation). What’s really been driven home to me was that it was my inability to overcome the shame of sin despite my best efforts that drove me to a tipping point. Once I accepted defeat and admitted the impotence of faith to cleanse me of these feelings, I rebelled against the idea that I was a worthless degenerate and slowly started to embrace my own self-worth. What a revelation for me!

I think that it’s easy for people who are so steeped in a scientific environment dominated by the intellect to think that evidence and reason will make the difference.  It’s possible, but only after one breaks through the walls around someone’s heart.

It’s mostly my naiveté and zeal as a freshly-out atheist that’s gotten me so riled up, but I do hope that my voice will underscore the obvious: the way to reach believers is to make them value themselves, to let them know that they need not be ashamed of being human and to let them know that they will not be alone if they make one of the scariest decisions a person ever has to make.

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Bio:  Dennis Augustine is a former Pentecostal minister who had doubts in seminary as he learned about the problematic history of the biblical cannon. His faith in God died a slow painful death for years. When his sister murdered her own children there was no more denying it. Today, Dennis works as a software developer and business analyst in Toronto, Canada.  He speaks out passionately about rational thought and the psychological and social impacts of religious faith and hopes to contribute to research in these areas in the years ahead.

 

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About Linda LaScola

Linda LaScola is co-author, with Daniel C. Dennett, of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind (2013) and “Preachers who are not Believers” (2010). She is an independent qualitative research consultant who works out of Washington, D.C. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the Catholic University of America and is a co-founder of the Clergy Project.

  • Maine_Skeptic

    My heart goes out to you about your niece and nephew, and your sister. There aren’t many things that make the word “tragedy” seem inadequate. As a former Charismatic, I have some sense of the chaos a miracle-believing church can inflict on those within its orbit. If you’re ready to talk about your experiences and reach out like this, I hope you can help prevent other disasters like that from happening. More importantly, I hope you find a place to be happy and supportive people to be happy with.

    • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

      Thank you so much for your sympathies. I’m happy to report that I have found a great deal of happiness and joy in my life though the pain of their loss and periodic bouts of depression linger.

      I most certainly am ready to talk about my experience. I feel uniquely, if not unfortunately, qualified to speak on these issues and to help others come through it.

  • Justas399 .

    I don’t see how your atheism is going to help you. Since you deny sin and evil, You are now left with looking at the world without any ability to explain why it is so evil and purposeless. Atheism does not offer you any value as a human being. It is incapable of doing so.

    • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

      Not so. We have many good explanations for a great deal of things good and bad. We know, for example that many diseases are caused by micro-organisms and earthquakes are caused by shifts in the earth’s tectonic plates. Compare that with the explanations that religion people used to offer with regards to these phenomena and that some still do today, namely that they are caused by evil spirits and the wrath of angry gods. Science offers far better explanations as to how things happen.

      As for this purposeless universe, I find it very liberating indeed. You see I am now free to define my own purpose.

      The greatest lie of the Abrahamic faiths is that we are degenerate and worthless. It’s a lie that comes straight out of the “how to groom a victim for abuse” manual. It’s an insidious trap that seeks to make us feel worthless then offers us back false dignity at the price of servitude to the dictates of ancient warlords and threatens death and worse as a punishment, all while demanding that we love the abuser.

      Our value as a human beings comes from being the utterly amazing material being that I am and that we all are. Once one gains an appreciation for our complexity and the staggering odds that we beat to be here it’s impossible to question our value. And of course, this begs the question, “Valuable to whom?” There’s nobody else here but us. it’s compassion and love that makes us valuable to each other. No myths needed.

      • Justas399 .

        Some people in the pre-scientific era did try to understand why things happened. They cannot be faulted for that.

        Sometimes evil spirits are the causes of certain conditions such as demon possessions. These conditions cannot be explained by viruses etc. There is no way for science to rule out demon possession in principle.

        You can tell yourself you have purpose but ultimately you don’t. When you die and cease to exist it matters not how you lived given their is no ultimate accountability. Your life is no more important than a rock or any other physical object. In fact without God you have no immaterial soul. All you are is a complex machine with no ultimate purpose. Once you die, you will soon be forgotten forever.

        There is no value to anything in a universe that has no ultimate purpose. Dawkins puts it so well when he writes–”In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has
        precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
        ― Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

        This is the view of the atheist and it is one despair because it means everything is utterly meaningless.

        You do not understand the message of the Scripture. If man was worthless, God would not have sent Christ into the world to die for men that they might have eternal life. In atheism you have nothing because ultimately you are without any value.

        • John Lombard

          Justas399 — Wow…you’ve managed to lump a whole bunch of logical fallacies together there. Let’s see if we can untangle that mess, shall we?

          1) “You can’t prove how it happens” is not proof of the supernatural. Like “You can’t prove what causes psychological problems, therefore it is caused by demons.” I can illustrate this very simply — 2000 years ago, people could not explain the REAL reasons for earthquakes, volcanoes, or disease. Since they couldn’t explain it, they blamed it on the supernatural. But today, we know that there are entirely natural reasons for all of those things, that there’s nothing supernatural about it.

          Every time someone starts trotting out that old “You can’t explain this” thing, it’s a demonstration only of their lack of understanding of how science actually works. My god, if we’d contented ourselves with “We can’t explain it, so it must be god”, we would NEVER have gained any understanding of our world, and would still effectively be living in the stone age.

          2) You are also wrong in your assertion that illness or psychological disorders cannot be explained by science. Actually, they can. Quite exhaustively. The fact that YOU personally don’t understand that is not proof of anything except your own lack of knowledge. It’s like Bill O’Reilley’s famous statement that “The tide goes in, the tide goes out. You can’t explain that!” statement, to ‘prove’ god’s existence. Of course, scientists CAN explain it, and the only thing he “proved” was his own ignorance.

          3) “There is no way for science to rule out demon possession in principle.” Another logical fallacy. If I told you that there is an invisible dragon flying above us right now, it would be impossible for science to rule that out in principle. Would that, then, be ‘proof’ that the invisible dragon existed? Of course not. “You can’t prove it’s not true” is not proof of ANYTHING…you need to be able to provide actual, verifiable EVIDENCE of your claim, or your claim has exactly zero value.

          By that same token, I’m an atheist, but I do not claim that I can prove god does not exist; I only claim that the evidence for NO god is far greater than the evidence for the EXISTENCE of god. By that, I mean that science has TONS of verifiable, concrete evidence for a natural world view; while religion has exactly ZERO verifiable, concrete evidence for the existence of god.

          4) You have quote-mined Dawkins. Yes, he DID say that. But you’ve taken it entirely out of context, and attempted to ascribe a meaning to it that Dawkins never intended. Dawkins said the UNIVERSE doesn’t care about us. And you know what? It doesn’t. In fact, Christians and Muslims ALSO think that the universe doesn’t care about us. The universe isn’t alive. The universe doesn’t think. Viruses don’t have emotions, or thoughts. The universe IS a cold, uncaring place.

          But Dawkins did NOT say that life has no value or purpose. He said that the UNIVERSE has no purpose for our lives. He did not say that WE have no purpose for our lives. At best, this is a demonstration of your ignorance, that you didn’t bother to check the full context of that Dawkins quote; at worst, it is a demonstration of intellectual dishonesty, deliberately trying to twist Dawkins’ words to mean something other than what he intended.

          I cannot speak for all atheists, but for myself, this is not depressing, or negative. I don’t NEED some remote, invisible entity to tell me that my life has purpose. I have the freedom and the ability to define my life’s purpose for myself. And the fact that when I die, that’s the end, doesn’t make life LESS valuable, it makes it MORE valuable.

          So, let’s get back to the basics. Let me begin with two suggestions:

          A) Do NOT try to tell me what atheists think, or how atheists feel. You very obviously don’t have a clue, and I’m afraid that your own very limited view of the world is NOT authoritative to draw conclusions on this matter.

          B) Instead of using your IGNORANCE as proof of something, try educating yourself and learning what science ACTUALLY knows about physical and mental illness.

          CONCLUSION

          There’s a great irony to your comments, one that I’m sure you yourself will not appreciate. Dennis wrote an article in which he said that there are many people with whom attempting to reason using logic and evidence is useless, because they won’t listen; their religious beliefs are emotional, not intellectual.

          And you’ve come here with a PERFECT demonstration of exactly the kind of person he was describing.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Thanks, John, for your very thorough reply.

            Giving Justas399 the benefit of the doubt on the Richard Dawkins issue, let me speculate that his views could have come from a poor explanation of Dawkins’ thinking from another source. I’ve seen Dawkins misinterpreted many times by people who have never read his work, but instead rely on what they’ve heard from sources that are biased and misinformed.

            I see, however that Justas quotes Dawkins, so perhaps it is his own misunderstanding, as well.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            There’s no misunderstanding as to what was said. Dawkins certainly has said those words or words to that effect many times. The misunderstanding is in the evaluation that a purposeless, meaningless universe means that MY life is without meaning or purpose.

            Universes, rocks and even living organisms like ourselves arise as the result of blind processes. The universe and, yes, life itself is without purpose or meaning because they are NOT designed for a purpose but the world that we create and the lives that we build for ourselves DO have a purpose. They have whatever purpose we chose to give them.

            A purposeless universe is like a blank canvas. What will you paint on it? I’m excited to have found it.

            Here’s a short blog post I wrote a couple years back that reiterates the same point. http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca/2012/11/my-life-is-meaningless.html

          • Linda_LaScola

            Well said, Dennis – I hope Justas399 is listening and attempting to understand.

          • John Lombard

            @Justas — Again, you make several fundamental errors in your arguments.

            1) You seem to base almost all of your arguments on what belief system would make you FEEL better. You personally would FEEL better — that your life has purpose, etc. — if there were a god.

            However, REALITY is not determined by what makes me FEEL good. If it were, I’d choose to believe in an afterlife where I spend all eternity surrounded by gorgeous women who cater to my every whim and desire. Reality is just that…reality. If I don’t like the consequences of gravity, choosing not to believe in it doesn’t make it any LESS real; and likewise, just because believing in Santa Claus makes me feel happier, that doesn’t make Santa any MORE real.

            My decision to be an atheist is based on actual, verifiable evidence…not on wishful thinking, or how I’d like the universe to be. Even if atheism WERE more negative than religious belief (and I don’t think it is), that wouldn’t have any impact on its TRUTH.

            2) This should be obvious, but reality and truth are NOT determined by your own personal experience or knowledge., Just because YOU don’t understand something doesn’t mean that it is “impossible to explain”, or proof of a god. And just because YOU can’t understand how atheists can be moral, or positive, or happy, or fulfilled…doesn’t mean that they cannot.

            You are one of those curious people for whom “reality” is defined by their own ignorance.

            3) In many ways, I pity people like you. You live in such a tiny, constrained, and restricted universe. You find it impossible to envision any meaning for your life without someone else telling you what that meaning is. You find it impossible to envision morality without someone else telling you what is right or wrong. Your entire belief system is defined by ignorance, rather than by knowledge…you believe because you don’t understand or can’t explain things.

            My universe is far larger, far more majestic, and far more meaningful than yours. In my universe, I don’t need someone else to tell me what the meaning of my life is — I can determine that for myself. I don’t need someone else to tell me what is moral — I can determine that for myself (and as a Humanist, I believe very strongly in moral principles such as equality, brotherhood, freedom, helping others, etc.). And my conclusions about life and reality are based on concrete, verifiable evidence…on things that I can prove are true. For me, lack of understanding of something doesn’t mean that I must grasp for some sort of supernatural cause; it means that I must study and learn more about that topic, to understand the actual causes.

            You, obviously, are incapable of understanding how atheists can be happy, live positive lives, etc. But my life is not defined by your lack of understanding. For me, the universe is an incredibly, amazing place; and while my own presence in it is an accident, and has no special “reason” defined by some invisible higher power, that doesn’t render my life pointless or empty. Quite the opposite, it means that my time here is an incredible opportunity, an accident upon which I can capitalize; and the fact that my existence within this universe is brief, and will end, only makes the time that I have here all the more valuable and special.

          • John Lombard

            @ Justas — Just one more question. Do you SERIOUSLY believe that if you stopped believing in god, that you would become a mass-murdering rapist, that you’d abandon all morality?

            If your answer is yes, then I pity you even more, that your entire moral/ethical system is something that must be forced on you by someone else, and that you have so little empathy and love for your fellow human beings that without someone telling you what to do, you’d want to kill/rape/torture them.

            If your answer is no (which I hope it is), then that is a simple demonstration of how atheists can still be moral without a god.

          • Justas399 .

            No. Atheists can have some morality that they live by. The problem is that their morality cannot never be grounded nor be binding on anyone. You believe helping old ladies across the street is good while another person could care less. Whose to say one is right and the other wrong if atheism is true?

          • John Lombard

            Justas,

            It’s funny how you miss one vital fact in your assessment of morality. You are correct, different atheists have different ideas about right and wrong.

            But THE SAME IS TRUE OF RELIGIOUS PEOPLE. In fact, throughout history, religious morality has changed all over the place. Just within Christianity, in the Old Testament, we have God commanding the Israelites to murder unarmed, captured women, children, and babies in cold blood…and to take the virgin women as their slaves. Is this something that Christians TODAY would consider moral? I hope not.

            What about slavery? The New Testament is pro-slavery. Several times, Paul comments on slave owners and slavery…but he NEVER tells them that slavery is wrong, or sinful; only that they should treat their slaves nicely.

            Would modern Christians consider slavery to be “moral” as long as they treat their slaves nicely? I sure hope not.

            Or let’s take just modern Christianity. Some Christians believe it is immoral to drink alcohol; others think it is moral. Some think that dancing is immoral; others think it is moral. I could go on and on and on with this list, in fact there is almost NO moral/ethical issue that all Christians can agree on.

            But the end result is this. Despite your claim that atheists have no basis for morality, but Christians do…the plain fact is that if you were to assess the moral beliefs of Humanists, and the moral beliefs of Christians, you’d find that Humanists are actually far more CONSISTENT in their moral beliefs than Christians are.

            So please tell me — if religion-based morality is so superior to atheist morality, why is it that religious people have so much more DIFFICULTY agreeing with each other about morality than we “godless Humanists” do?

            Or here’s another evidence-based argument. IF religion-based morality is superior to atheist-based morality, we’d also expect to find that religious people are more likely to be moral than atheists…correct?

            So let’s take a look at some actual evidence. Here is a map (http://geocurrents.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/US-Murder-Rtae-map.jpg) that tracks murder rates in the U.S. from 1996-2010 (so it is quite recent). Please note that the states that are in the Bible Belt — those that have the highest percentage of Christians — also have the highest murder rates. While those states that are more known for being ‘liberal’, and have a lower percentage of Christians, also have lower murder rates.

            How do we explain this under the “Christians are more moral” theory?

            I see NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER for your claims that a religion-based morality is superior to an atheistic morality…and plenty of evidence to contradict that claim in quite convincing terms.

          • Justas399 .

            You misunderstand what I’m saying. Just because Christians have different moral beliefs on secondary issues such as drinking or dancing does not mean there is an objective moral standard that is grounded in the character of God. In fact the Scripture does allow room for Christians to have different opinions on such matters. Romans 14 addresses this. On other issues such as the 10 commandments, they are binding on all.

            Slavery in the ancient world is a complex issue. The Jews were to treat their conquerored enemies with respect when they were enslaved. They were forbidden by the law not to treat them as animals. In some cases a person was better off being a slave than a freeman because the freeman had to fend for himself while the slave was taken care of by his master.

            As for “the states that are in the Bible Belt — those that have the highest percentage of Christians — also have the highest murder rates…” really doesn’t tell us to much. For one, just because someone claims to be a Christian does not mean they are one or that they seek to live like one. We would also have to look at each murder case to see what led to the murder and if that individual truly was a practicing Christian. If a person is truly a practicing Christian and seeks to please God, that person will not murder.

            AS for humanism there probably is not much to disagree about since its just opinion on what is right or wrong. The humanist cannot say that murder is objectively wrong. There is no consequences to a humanist if he breaks one of the rules of humanism. In Christianity there is because all men will face the judgement of God and be held accountable for everything they have done.

            We also know that the Christianity morality has guided societies for centuries. Even today the 10 commandments carry a lot of weight for people. You don’t see this kind of thing with humanism. In fact I can’t think of one moral law of humanism that binds me or compels me to live by.

            If you were to ask the average person on the street what the top 10 humanism principles he was to live by I suspect he could not answer you. Would you agree?

          • John Lombard

            @Justas,

            Your reply regarding slavery was completely predictable, I was waiting for it — it is also completely, absolutely wrong, What’s more, I can provide evidence from the Bible as to how absolutely and completely wrong your claim is.

            First, you have to understand that the Bible has two different categories of slaves…one is Hebrew slaves, the other is foreign slaves. Hebrew slaves must be treated better, and can only be held as slaves for seven years…then they must be released. Whenever Christians argue about the “morality” of O.T. slavery, they tend to refer to these verses.

            HOWEVER…what about the treatment of FOREIGN slaves? Here is what the Bible has to say about that:

            1) There is no ‘seven year’ limit on foreign slaves; they are slaves for life, and are not to be regarded as people, but as property. PROOF:

            Leviticus 25:44-46 “Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of thestrangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of theirfamilies that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall beyour bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.”

            2) Slaves were NOT treated humanely, or given even basic rights. In fact, a slave owner could beat his slave as much as he wanted, and as long as the slave didn’t actually DIE from the beating, it was okay. PROOF:

            Exodus 21:20-21 “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his property.”

            3) Women from foreign countries can be taken as spoils of war, taken as slaves, and forced into slavery. Keep in mind, what this is describing is RAPE — forcing a woman to marry and engage in sex. They very “kindly” give her a month to mourn the deaths of her parents before she’s forced to marry. PROOF:

            Deuteronomy 21:10-14 “When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.”

            4) If a Hebrew man engages in an adulterous relationship with a slave woman, the WOMAN should be publicly whipped, while the MAN should go to the temple and make an offering. Keep in mind, in most cases, it would be the MAN who was forcing the situation…the Bible verse itself says the woman was a slave, and had no choice. But the WOMAN gets publicly whipped, and the man just has to go offer a sacrifice. This is one of the MOST misogynist verses in the Bible, and indicative of how BRUTAL Hebrew slavery was. PROOF:

            Leviticus 19:20-22 “And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the Lord, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the Lord for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.”

            5) Even in regards to the treatment of Hebrew slaves, not all was “good and moral”. If a Hebrew slave gets married while he is a slave, his wife and children belong to the owner. When the slave is freed, his wife and children are held by the slave owner essentially as blackmail, and if he wants to remain with them, he must agree to become a permanent slave. PROOF:

            Exodus 21:2-6 “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever.”

            Now, after all of that, allow me to present to you what I see as the most fundamental difference between YOUR “Christian morality”, and my Humanist morality.

            As a Humanist, I can and do declare that ALL OF THE ACTIONS ABOVE ARE ABSOLUTELY IMMORAL! It doesn’t matter if it is Jews, or Christians, or Muslims, or atheists; it doesn’t matter if it is happening today, or 3000 years ago. IT IS ALWAYS WRONG, ALWAYS IMMORAL.

            Period.

            But you, with your much-loved “Christian morality”, will not do that. Oh, if Muslims do these things, you’ll declare it’s immoral. If atheists do these things, you’ll declare it’s immoral. Hell, even if Christians did these things TODAY, you’d probably declare it’s immoral.

            In fact, I’m quite sure that even as you read those Bible verses, it causes a moral repugnance in you…your instinctive reaction is that it is WRONG. To capture foreign women, rape them, and force them to be your wife? Or to have sex with a slave woman, and then whip the woman while the man only has to give a sacrifice? Or to use a man’s wife and children as blackmail to force him into lifelong slavery?

            Of COURSE they’re wrong! That’s your OWN instinctive reaction!

            But…wait! The BIBLE says it is right! The BIBLE says that GOD COMMANDED THEM TO DO THIS!!

            So, unlike the Humanist, and despite the fact you instinctively feel this is wrong — YOU MUST COME UP WITH EXCUSES AND JUSTIFICATIONS TO TRY TO EXPLAIN HOW THIS IS ACTUALLY NOT IMMORAL.

            You must try to justify publicly whipping a woman who is a slave, because her owner forced her to have sex. You must try to justify a law where humans are no better than animals, and can be beaten and abused as much as their owner desires, so long as he doesn’t actually KILL them.

            And that, Justas, is why MY morality is infinitely superior to yours. Because MY morality is CONSISTENT, it doesn’t require bizarre mental gymnastics to justify what is truly unjustifiable abuse.

            I would accuse your of deliberately lying when you said that, “The Jews were to treat their conquerored enemies with respect when they were enslaved. They were forbidden by the law not to treat them as animals.” Because, as the Bible verses quoted above indicate, that ABSOLUTELY WAS NOT TRUE.

            But no, I don’t think you’re deliberately lying. I think that you are just woefully ignorant, that you’re just parroting what other Christians have told you, without ever actually examining the TRUTH for yourself.

            Of course, you’re going to respond with vain and painful “justifications” about why all these things actually WEREN’T immoral; you’ll subject us to another example of the irrationality and fundamental immorality of Christian belief as you seek to explain why all these things are actually acceptable.

            But one warning — if, in future, you EVER make the claim that, “The Jews were to treat their conquerored enemies with respect when they were enslaved. They were forbidden by the law not to treat them as animals”…then at that moment, you WILL be guilty of telling a blatant lie. Because you can no longer claim ignorance…it has been MORE than adequately demonstrated just how completely wrong that claim is.

            I now await the inevitable exercise in mental gymnastics.

          • Justas399 .

            Slavery in the ancient past is to complex to address here. I do want to address what you wrote here–
            “As a Humanist, I can and do declare that ALL OF THE ACTIONS ABOVE ARE ABSOLUTELY IMMORAL! It doesn’t matter if it is Jews, or Christians, or Muslims, or atheists; it doesn’t matter if it is happening today, or 3000 years ago. IT IS ALWAYS WRONG, ALWAYS IMMORAL.

            Period”

            Ok, On what objective grounds (moral law) do you have to make this assertion? Who says this is universally binding on every human being and what is the consequences if someone ignores this?

          • John Lombard

            Sorry, but no…you’re avoiding my questions BECAUSE you know that you have no way to defend this stuff morally. You KNOW that it is wrong. So you answer my questions first:

            1) Do you still stand by your initial claim that, ” The Jews were to treat their conquerored enemies with respect when they were enslaved. They were forbidden by the law not to treat them as animals.”? It seems to me to be pretty darn obvious that this claim is 100% wrong…will you admit that?

            2) I don’t care if it is ancient times, or today. Do YOU believe that it is moral, at ANY time, to kidnap a woman captured in war, force her to marry you, and rape her?

            Do YOU believe that it is moral, at ANY time, to whip a slave woman because her owner forced her to have sex…while the man only has to give a sacrifice at the temple?

            Do YOU believe that it is moral, at ANY time, to treat humans like property that can be beaten and abused as much as you want, with no punishment, so long as you don’t kill them?

            The BIBLE SAYS THAT ALL THESE THINGS ARE MORAL. In fact, it has specific RULES that this is how slave owners should conduct themselves.

            Skip the whole “too complex to discuss here” garbage. It’s a simple question. ARE THE ABOVE ACTIONS MORAL, OR IMMORAL?

            I’m 100% CERTAIN that if it was Muslims doing it, you’d have no problems saying it was immoral. If it was ATHEISTS doing it, you’d say it was immoral. If it was ANYONE ELSE doing it, you’d say it was immoral.

            So come on…put your money where your mouth is. YOU are the one who claims that the Bible is the ultimate source of moral teaching…so…WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH ABOUT SLAVERY?

            You answer the above questions…and I’ll happily answer yours. But I’ll tell you right now…the foundation for MY moral beliefs is much, much better than YOURS…founded on a Bible that teaches all the above atrocities as being “moral”.

            YOU are the one claiming that the Bible is the ultimate source of moral teaching…so explain to me WHY I should accept the Bible’s “moral authority” when YOUR GOD says that things like this are MORAL.,

          • Justas399 .

            I’m not avoiding your questions. Its just to complex. I will answer my question to you though. You have no moral grounding for your morality. All you have is opinion and that’s it. Without God as the foundation for morality all you are left with is opinion. In such a world, one man thinks its wrong to have slaves and another doesn’t. One many thinks kidnapping is wrong and another does not. Without an objective standard of morality its all opinion.

          • John Lombard

            “I’m not avoiding your questions.” I’m sorry…but bullshit. I asked you a very simple question…do you still stand by your claim that, “The Jews were to treat their conquerored enemies with respect when they were enslaved. They were forbidden by the law not to treat them as animals.”? A very simple “Yes” or “No” will suffice. (Obviously, the answer is “No”, the Bible verses quoted CLEARLY demonstrate that your claim was false…but you’ll never admit that, and I’m sure you’ll continue to make the same claim in future.)

            As to the rest, what unmitigated and hypocritical nonsense. It is me — the atheist and Humanist — who is saying that slavery is ALWAYS wrong, that kidnapping women and raping them while forcing them to marry you is ALWAYS wrong.

            It is YOU, the Christian, who CANNOT SAY THAT. I’ve asked you twice, and you’ve refused to answer BECAUSE you are stuck in a Catch-22. If you say that slavery is immoral, or that treating slaves in such an abominable manner is wrong, then YOU ARE CONTRADICTING THE TEACHINGS OF YOUR OWN BIBLE, AND WHAT GOD HIMSELF SAID TO DO!

            But you know that if you say such things WERE moral…well…you’ll sound like a misogynistic bigot who believes that slaves are no more than chattel, to be treated however we want.

            You CLAIM that it is I, the atheist, whose morality has no foundation, and will not be consistent.

            But the EVIDENCE, and your own deliberate refusal to answer simple questions, demonstrates quite plainly that it is YOU who lacks a real moral foundation.

            Dude — do you know how PATHETIC it is that, because of your religious beliefs, it is IMPOSSIBLE for you to simply say that it is WRONG to kidnap and rape women? Or WRONG to treat people like property that can be beaten at will, so long as you don’t kill them?

            Why on Earth would ANYONE want to follow a belief system that renders it IMPOSSIBLE for them simply to say, “Yes, raping women is always wrong” or “Treating people like animals is always wrong”. It is pathetic, and symptomatic of the worst problems with “religious morality”

            And having said all of this, you will STILL be entirely unable to respond to my questions…you will still just give more evasions. Because you’ve backed yourself into a corner where there TRULY IS no good answer. You KNOW that these teachings are immoral…but you can’t say it, because your religious beliefs won’t allow you to.

          • Justas399 .

            Here is what Exodus 21:16 says about kidnapping: “”He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.”

            Rape would also be wrong because its fornication or adultery.

            You cannot say these things are objectively wrong because you have nothing beyond mere opinion to say they are wrong.

          • Brian Kellogg

            “you have nothing beyond mere opinion to say they are wrong.” I find this remark self incriminating as the opinions on what the Bible is saying and what is still binding today are quite wide and varying; often contradictory as well. The verse you quote testifies against the book it is found in. It admits a double standard or at least a might makes right moral standard.

            I think much of the basis for morality is founded in self awareness and being aware of other self aware entities coupled with the fact that we are social creatures. Add empathy to the mix and we have the evolving struggle to define morality. Moral behavior has been demonstrated in our evolutionary relatives as well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcJxRqTs5nk Empathy would serve as a strong evolutionary advantage for a social species.

            Speaking from experience, the fundamentally conditioned mind errs toward black and white absolute type solutions. It is very emotionally painful to come to grips with a very grey world when you’ve been conditioned to seek and only accept absolutes.

            Don’t get me wrong there are things in Christianity that I love; its emphasis on forgiveness between people being among the chief of them. For this I am extremely thankful for my fundamentalist roots despite the years of painful deconversion I went through while studying the book upon which I founded my life and self on. My love of poetry grew out of reading the only AUTHORIZED VERSION of the Bible while growing up in a very legalistic fundamentalist sect as a very young lad.

            But at the end of it all even the Bible is full of so much grey. I can understand and greatly respect those who despite knowing its problems still choose to believe. I may even join them at some point. I endeavor to never be so blindly certain of what I believe so as to rule out other possibilities.

            My two bits…

          • John Lombard

            Justas,

            You keep saying it’s “too complex”. Well, my father was a minister, I was born and raised in an evangelical Christian home., I studied theology at Bible College, and served as a missionary in China for several years. I have read the Bible from cover-to-cover several times, and am fully conversant with Christian history, Christian theology, etc. Calvinism vs. Arminianism, pre-destination vs. free will, O.T. vs. N.T., etc…I’ll bet that I’m MORE conversant with all of it than you are.

            So I assure you…you’re not going to confuse me.

            So go ahead…EXPLAIN to me about the morality of slavery in the Bible. Personally, I don’t think you can; I think that the whole “It’s too complicated” thing is just an excuse to avoid admitting, “I can’t answer your question,”

          • Justas399 .

            Then you know that slavery is a complex issue in the ancient world. It was a way of life for societies. When Israel conquered another nation they had a number of options that they could apply to the people they conquered. They could wipe them out. They could let them all go but this would have led to mass starvation or they enslave them. In some cases they dd. There is nothing immoral about that since there was no way to end slavery at this time in history.

            What are atheistic organizations doing today to end the human slavery that is still happening in the world today? There are millions of women and children that are used as sex slaves. What are atheist doing about this?

            Now tell me the objective moral basis for atheism-humanism? I know what your opinion about it but that is not a moral fact.

          • Justas399 .

            I’m not basing my beliefs about God and Christ on feelings but on research, facts and discussions.

            My belief in the afterlife is not feeling based but on:

            1- its not unreasonable to believe.

            2- hope

            3- God who created men with immortal souls. WE are more than just a physical-living machine.

            4- What Christ taught about life after death

            5- His resurrection.

            You claim–”My decision to be an atheist is based on actual, verifiable evidence…not on wishful thinking, or how I’d like the universe to be.” What specifically is this evidence? Please give me a couple of examples that I can check out for myself.

            You also claim that your “conclusions about life and reality are based on concrete, verifiable evidence…on things that I can prove are true” Please do. What evidence do you have that demonstrates this?

            If you study something you don’t understand and in your studying it points to God will you accept that?

            How does it follow that your life is valuable and special if at death you cease to exist? After all, in a short amount of time after your death you will be forgotten and eventually this world will cease to exist also. Who is going to care you even existed????

          • John Lombard

            Justin,

            Again, my responses:

            1) Much of your argument is based on the claim that religion provides hope, while there is no hope in atheism. Not only is that wrong (as many atheists will confirm), but it is an emotional argument. It has nothing to do with whether atheism is TRUE, only with how you think atheism makes people FEEL.

            2) I look forward to your “proofs” of unexplainable phenomena. However, I wish to provide some criteria for you:

            A) They must be phenomena where non-religious scientists had FULL ACCESS at all stages. For example, if we’re talking about someone who was ‘miraculously cured’, then non-religious scientists must have had access to observe and test the afflicted person, and verify that they actually had the disease/affliction in question; they must be able to confirm what treatments (if any) were used; they must be able to confirm that the person was actually cured; and they must be entirely unable to provide any scientific explanation for the result.

            In almost every case I’ve seen, these “proofs” consist of situations where it was religious people who oversaw everything, and it is impossible to scientifically verify that the claimed event actually occurred as claimed. Or, even more laughably, people will refer to things like Jesus casting demons out of a man into a herd of pigs…an event for which we have no proof whatsoever that it actually happened, nor do we have any means to test or determine what happened, or why.

            B) It’s not enough to say, “They can’t explain it”…it must be something that, in your own words, is scientifically impossible. For example, if you could provide proof of someone with no legs, whose legs grew back after prayer, THAT is something I’d accept as scientifically impossible. But just saying “we can’t explain it” does not equal “scientifically impossible.” As shown previously, people 2000 years ago could not explain that viruses and bacteria caused disease…but that didn’t mean it was impossible that viruses and bacteria caused disease.

            2) Not one of the things that you listed about what you believe is a “fact”. They are all things that you’ve CHOSEN to believe; but none of them have been (or can be) confirmed as truth. These are items of FAITH, not FACT.

            3) In regards to evidence, my evidence for atheism is as follows:

            A) There is no phenomenon in this world that cannot be scientifically explained. All “unexplainable phenomena” are inevitably phenomena where scientists are unable to actually confirm and test the claim in question. By contrast, the vast majority of things that religious people thought in the past were “unexplainable” have since been explained by science. Sickness, earthquakes, volcanoes, stars, etc. These are ALL things that religions thought at one time could not be explained by natural means, and that developed demonstrably untrue beliefs to explain them instead.

            B) Actual testing of religious claims shows they are false. For example, the power of prayer. IF prayer actually worked, then we would expect to find that there is a HIGHER percentage of people who recover from illness when they are prayed for, than when they are not. Yet this is not the case. Study after study after study has shown that the recover rate for both groups is practically identical. Which means either that prayer is pointless, or that even if real, in the end it makes no difference.

            And if you seek to cite any research that claims prayer makes a difference, please do research on those claims first. I’m aware of at least three studies that supposedly “proved” that people who were prayed for recovered more often; yet subsequent study of the research proved beyond a doubt that it was based on falsified information. The most famous of these was a study done in South Korea, which at first was heralded by Christians all over the world as ‘proof’ of the power of prayer; but it was subsequently proven that they falsified their data, and even the authors of the study themselves admitted their conclusions were false.

            C) The evidence of our natural world — the age of the earth, the size of the universe (and how long it takes light to reach us), and numerous other such things –demonstrate that the claims of the Bible (and other religious writings) about the origins of the Earth and the universe are wrong.

            You quoted from Dawkins above…but other than quote-mining isolated passages out of context, have you ever actually read one of his books? I’d very strongly recommend “The Greatest Show On Earth”, as an excellent demonstration of scientific proofs, versus the untestable, unprovable claims of religion.

            D) I was once a devout Christian, and attended Bible College for several years to train as a missionary. As I studied the Bible and Christian history/theology, I started recognizing more and more contradictions and falsehoods. I wasn’t ‘converted’ to atheism by people who didn’t believe in god; it was because of actually UNDERSTANDING the claims of Christianity, and realizing how ridiculous and false many of those claims were.

            You asked, “If you study something you don’t understand and in your studying it points to God will you accept that?” Allow me to give a somewhat qualified “yes” to that answer. But it’s a very conditionial one.

            First, as I said above, just saying “We can’t explain it” doesn’t mean a thing. It isn’t proof of anything supernatural. There are three requirements for me to consider the possibility that such an instance could serve as evidence of the existence of god:

            A) It’s not just something that I don’t understand or can’t explain; it is something that NO scientists can understand or explain. There are PLENTY of things, like electricity and gravity, that I don’t fully understand…yet I know that they are true. I don’t base my conclusions only on what I am personally able to understand.

            B) There is actual testable and verifiable evidence for the supernatural claim. Not just “you can’t explain it, so it must be god”…but ACTUAL EVIDENCE for your claim.

            C) The evidence for YOUR claim must be GREATER than the evidence for my current beliefs.

            If you meet all three of those criteria…then yes, at that point, I’d at least be willing to CONSIDER the possibility that it is supernatural, and evidence of some kind of god.

            And for your final question: “How does it follow that your life is valuable and special if at death you cease to exist?” Again, this is an example where your own inability to understand is turned into a conclusion…because YOU can’t understand it, it must not be true.

            Allow me to present an alternative perspective. Let’s say that you were told that you had exactly one week left to live, and that then you would die. There is no way to escape it. So you have one week left to spend with your family, and your friends. DO you consider that time to be LESS PRECIOUS and valuable, because you only have one week left?

            I certainly HOPE not. To me, that week would be far MORE valuable, because I know that once that week is finished, I will have no more chance to show my family how much I love them, to give them great memories of me, etc.

            Same thing with my atheist view of death. My time here on Earth is all the more valuable SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE I don’t have any second chances. I won’t be able to see my loved ones in Heaven…so I must do everything I can while here on Earth to show them my love, and make their lives worthwhile.

            As to nobody remembering me…I’m sorry, but you’ve gotta’ be a terribly insecure and unconfident person if you measure the value of your life by what OTHER people think of you, or if OTHER people remember you. The soldier who sacrifices his life to protect his nation isn’t rendered unimportant or worthless because other people forget him. The scientist who makes discoveries that help cure disease and reduce suffering isn’t rendered insignificant because nobody knows who they are.

            The value of my life is measured simply by what I do with it, and how it affects those around me. If I’ve done my best to live up to my own potential, and if I’ve helped make the lives of those around me better…then my life had value, REGARDLESS of whether or not there’s a Heaven, and REGARDLESS of whether people remember me after I die.

          • Justas399 .

            There is a lot here. There is no hope in atheism. Once you die, you cease to exist. You have no hope of life after death or seeing your loved one again. You also have no hope that the injustices in this life that those who committed them were never brought to justice got away with it.

            Let me address the miracle issue. If God does not exist, then miracles are impossible. If God exist, then they are possible. I’m reading a book called Miracles by Keener who investigates and gives accounts of over 100 claimed miracles of all kinds in the modern era. The range of people reporting these miracles come from all over the planet. Many of them have been verified by doctors. In some of these cases, atheists were healed.

            We also know that Jesus performed miracles in public and He rose from the dead with was also verified publically.

            This statement -” There is no phenomenon in this world that cannot be scientifically explained” is not true. The origin of DNA and the universe cannot be. Closer to home, how would you explain the love you have for your loved one scientifically? How would you explain meaning and purpose scientifically?

            Prayer really can’t be tested scientifically because it is something that is dealing with the will of Someone. What God wills to do in a given situation cannot be tested scientifically. No more than the will of a person.

            What scientific tests did you perform that led you to believe that God does not exist? What tests did you perform that led you to believe you do not have an immaterial soul?

            The problem that the atheist has is that his worldview is to constricted. He assumes more than he knows in his rejection of God.

          • Justas399 .

            1- there are some conditions that people have that cannot be explained by natural causes and have evidence of demon possessions. There are many cases like this down through the centuries. Dismissing these things out of hand does not make them go away.

            2- never asserted that “illness or psychological disorders cannot be explained by science.” Most can.

            3- It is true that science cannot rule out other beings that may exist. To do so, science would have to know the universe exhaustively and we know that is not the case.
            In the gospels for example it is recorded that angels and demons have appeared in history. The most famous in the temptation of Christ. Again, dismissing this out of hand is not doing so by any facts or science.
            It is true that science tells us a lot about reality. Its also true that there is far far more we don’t know about reality that some things cannot be ruled out. We also know that much of what science claims to know is later found to false.

            4- Dawkins is right. You can read his book if you think its out of context. Remember he said he universe has no meaning, Since we are part of the universe, we have no meaning. Also, evolution cannot give you meaning either. Its mindless-purposeless process. Processes cannot give you meaning.
            You can tell yourself your life has meaning but in reality can’t if atheism is true. For your life to have meaning it must be given to you by a being that is greater than you.That being must have the power to hold you accountable for your life and reward or punish you for how you lived. Without this, life cannot have meaning. Life cannot have meaning if at death you cease to exist.

            Each belief system has implications for life and meaning. Atheism and Christianity both have huge implications if either of them is true. Lets continue the discussion and see who does have logic, reason and evidence on their side.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            John has addressed the rest so I’ll just address the meaning thing again.

            A single day of our brief finite lives is more valuable than some hypothetical after-life without end. If it’s life after life that makes it meaningful what is it that makes the after-life meaningful? And meaningful to whom?

            MEANINGFUL TO WHOM?

            That’s the point of the post. My life is meaningful and precious to me and to those who love me. Fundamentalist faith’s first job is to rob us of that basic source of human dignity. It’s the same thing you’ll hear from an abuser, “You need me.”, “Love me or I’ll hurt you.” “I don’t want to hurt you but you make me so mad when you don’t do what I want.” “You’re dirty and only I can fix you”. It’s abusive and relies on you believing exactly the thing you just reiterated. That your life is meaningless without god. It isn’t. It should be meaningful TO YOU.

            That’s my point. You’ll never be free from that abusive lie until you can accept your own human dignity and the fact that you are valuable in and of yourself.

          • Justas399 .

            To say that “A single day of our brief finite lives is more valuable than some hypothetical after-life without end” does not follow. It actually shows its insignificant. Take a fly. It dies after a few days and is not even remembered. So will man be when the earth is swallowed up by the sun and is no more.

            What makes ” after-life meaningful” is God. Only He can hold men accountable for their lives. Only He can reward or punish each of us for the kind of life we lived. This is exactly what Christ taught.

            It is true that man is fallen. Just look at the world around you and look at your own life. All men are sinners. All men are guilty. It is true, that only God fix this and He has in Christ. By denying Christ, you are on your own to deal with your guilt and sin.

            God gave men dignity when He created man in His image and sent Christ into the world to become a man so that He might redeem us. There is no higher dignity than that. This is what gives men value and meaning. Meaning cannot come from within us but only from someone greater than us.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            There’s nothing that anyone could say that’ll disabuse you of that belief Justas399. I only hope that one day you’ll realize that you do have value apart from the myths perpetrated by ancient Palestinian warlords or anyone else and remind you that those myths would be different had you been born someplace or sometime else.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I like to think that there are people listening here who are more open to other ways of thinking, and that this conversation is affecting them in positive ways.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            I’m sure there are. For years I too was one of those lurking in the shadows with my secret doubts. I hope that what’e been shared here can help those of you who are in that boat. If you need help making that leap of reason contact the good people at http://recoveringfromreligion.org/ today. There are counselors in many areas waiting to help.

          • Justas399 .

            What makes you think that the gospel accounts are myths?

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            From the unbiased viewpoint of literary and textual criticism, they, like many other works of ancient literature, are mix of myth, history, apologetic and theological polemic.

            Consider them as you would the scriptures of any other faith or even along side of the scores of non-canonical writing rejected by the early Catholic church councils and that’s the only reasonable conclusion.

            The gospels are an attempt to explain to Jews and gentiles why they should worship a failed messiah.

            Ask yourself why do you consider the Qur’an of the book of Mormon to be a myth and you’ll get the picture.

          • Justas399 .

            No one is unbiased. Just because that there are works in antiquity that are myths does not mean the gospels are myths. The gospels are well supported with historical facts.

            Here is what C S Lewis said about the gospels being myths:
            ““All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that’s my job. And I am prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legend or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I’ve read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people, and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff” (C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, 209)”

            Just because there are “apologetic and theological polemic” elements in the gospels does not mean they are false.

            There were good reasons the church accepted the 4 gospels as Scripture and true and rejected other writings. These other writings for example were not written by an apostle or one closely associated with one. This is one of the reasons they were rejected.

            It is true the gospels were written to explain who Christ was, what He came to do and that all men should believe in Him. Again, this does not mean they are false.

            The Qur’an was written 600 years or so after Christ and after Muhammad died. Muhammad said he got his revelation from an angel that no one else saw and he never did any miracles to support his claims as Christ did.

            The book of Mormon has been shown to be false in some of its history.

            What evidence can you show me that would lead me to think atheism is true?

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            Justas399. C S Lewis’ reputation as an intellectual notwithstanding, he’s simply wrong with regards to his categorization of the scriptures from a literary standpoint and I think his bias as a Christian apologist explains his inability to judge the matter objectively. I would have said similar things myself. I too was wrong and now plainly see that the scriptures are indeed what I previously described them to be.

            I’ll also note that your understanding of how the gospels (and the other books of the cannon) were selected, the criteria used and the certainty of their authorship is mistaken. My journey away from faith actually began in a conservative seminary when we learned about the history of the biblical cannon and the “challenges” presented by the texts.

            I could break that all down for you but that would be pointless. I saw all of the issues quite clearly in seminary. We all did. We were told that it was something that the laity “wouldn’t be able to handle” so it would be best to simply tell them that the scriptures were well attested and so forth. I’m not surprised that you repeated a lot of the same lines we were taught to teach the faithful. We ministers have been doing a good job of it for thousands of years.

            You’re also mistaken with regards to there being no miraculous claims re Mohammed. There were many. Here’s a reference regarding some. http://www.sunnah.org/history/miracles_of_Prophet.htm

            The same can be said about Smith and Mormonism and while we’re on the topic of historical inaccuracies here’s a sampling of some of the ones in the Gospels: http://www.answering-christianity.com/abdullah_smith/historical_errors_in_the_gospels-3.htm

            Justas399, If you’re like most believers you have an honest love for truth. If that’s the case I implore you to do yourself a favor and study these matters for yourself using both secular and Christian sources.

            If you’re honest about your quest for truth I think you owe it to yourself to present yourself with the strongest challenges. Surely the truth of the Almighty can withstand a few honest questions? Did he not say “Come, let us reason together?” I offer you two references that will lay out for you a reasonable narrative that very easily explains how the blood cult of the slain Nazarene (Christianity) came to power: Reza Aslan’s Zealot and Bart Ehrnman’s “How Jesus Became God”

            Heck, if you message me I’ll even loan you my copies of these excellent books!

            http://www.amazon.ca/Zealot-Life-Times-Jesus-Nazareth/dp/140006922X
            http://www.amazon.com/How-Jesus-Became-God-Exaltation/dp/0061778184

            With regards to “evidence for atheism” I’ll point out that it’s not up to the atheist to provide evidence for the nonexistence of gods. Just as if I was talking to a man who believed in Santa Clause it wouldn’t be up to me to provide him with evidence that Santa didn’t exist. It behooves those making claims to provide evidence for them and it’s not reasonable to believe in things without evidence.

            Having said that, all the evidence you’ll need in order to construct a rational narrative with regards to how we got religion, and Christianity in particular, is out there. It’s only your own process that’ll be able to convince you for, as I said in the post, I can’t reason you out of your position. It wasn’t reason that got you into it in the first place.

          • Justas399 .

            Lewis was an authority in his field of knowing the difference between a myth and history. Please give me a couple of examples from the gospels that demonstrate it to be a myth. Then we can see if you have some facts to back your claim up or its just your opinion.

            I have studied the canon quite extensively and have listened to debates on it. I can handle any of your objections.

            There are no recorded miracles by Muhammad in the Quran.

            Since you are an atheist and a critic of Christianity I expect you to show me where Christianity is false then we can see if it holds up to scrutiny. I have listened to a number of interviews and critiques of the books you have recommended. There are a number of problems with them. Perhaps, you can give me a couple of examples from them that you found to be compelling and then we can discuss them.

            You do bear the burden of proof for atheism as I do for Christianity. If atheism is true it must have some facts and good reasons that support it Without it, then its not be taken seriously.

            I’m not making any claims for santa claus but for the God who created everything and became a man.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            Justas399. I think I’ve spent quite enough time on this already and won’t be dragged into a prolonged debate with you. I’ll encourage you to make the journey yourself. If you won’t then that’s fine with me. There are others who are more prepared to listen to reason.

            For your benefit in your future research I’ll clarify one point. The miracles of Mohammed are not in the Quran. The Quran was for his teachings. His acts are recorded in other works and are part of many Muslim sects beliefs. It’s all outlined in the link I provided you.

            I wish you luck in your quest.

          • Maine_Skeptic

            Reading over your posts, I notice you make a lot of references to “meaning” and “explanations,” and those have always been important to me as well. It would be a comfort to me to believe there was a benevolent supreme being in control of the universe, and I’m open to the possibility there is one. For several years, I believed the Trinity was that Supreme Being. Eventually, I realized the evidence doesn’t point toward Christianity, and decided I’d rather have the factual truth than a comfortable lie.

            Once I moved past faith, though, I also realized Christianity isn’t even “a comfortable lie.” When someone suffers and dies horribly because of an accident, which is more comforting to you? The idea that Jesus had the ability to save that person from suffering but chose not to for some obscure and unknowable reason? Or that some things happen randomly, and the suffering in the world is up to human beings to fix?

            It also seems to bother you that we’re forgotten when we die. Does that mean that you’d rather not live if you aren’t going to live forever? If so, what does that say about you and your approach to life?

          • Justas399 .

            What specific evidence did you look at that made you think Christianity was false?

            In Christianity when someone dies horribly this is not the end for that person. There is still hope in the next life. This is why suffering for the Christian is not a defeat.
            In the same situation in atheism there is no hope. Bad things happen and that’s to bad because that person no longer exist.

            It does not matter to you if anyone remembers your death. You are not aware of it.

            In Christianity, I have not only hope but meaning. Knowing that my life matters to God and how I live it gives purpose. WE need to live for someone. That ultimate “Someone” is God who alone can satisfy all our needs.

            Living forever gives great comfort, hope and strength for life. It helps me to cope with life when it is difficult.

            For the atheist each day lived is one day closer to non-existence. To think I will no longer exist and never see my loved ones again would be unbearable.

          • Maine_Skeptic

            “In Christianity when someone dies horribly this is not the end for that
            person. There is still hope in the next life. This is why suffering for
            the Christian is not a defeat.”

            Those are statements of dogma, not arguments, and the fact that you find them desirable beliefs doesn’t make them true. Neither one of us knows what happens after someone dies, but there is no evidence that anything happens other than that someone stops living. My question to you was this: if you knew your life ended permanently at death, would that REALLY make life not worthwhile? I hope it wouldn’t.

            “Living forever gives great comfort, hope and strength for life. It helps me to cope with life when it is difficult.” I sympathize with your feelings on this. I don’t like the idea of my own death any more than anyone else does. That’s one reason it took me a long time to accept what my conscience was telling me about Christianity: that it wasn’t true.

            You ask about evidence, and there’s no evidence I can give you that would disprove the existence of Jesus, because by definition, supernatural things don’t require evidence. Ultimately, though, when I looked at the explanatory power of Christianity versus nonChristianity, nonChristianity explained the world better. I can give you examples, but you and I both know we’re unlikely to persuade each other. I hope you’ll at least acknowledge that it’s reasonable for me to disbelieve.

            For me, it started with the Bible. I was never bothered by seeming doctrinal contradictions in the scriptures, but when I realized the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection couldn’t be reconciled with each other without assuming at least some of their claims were false, that was a problem to me. The same with the two creation stories in Genesis, the stories of Jesus’ birth, his genealogy, etc. These were pivotal events of Christian dogma, but the inerrant Bible couldn’t be reconciled with itself about them.

            I’ve also seen a lot of “miracles” in my life, except that they never stood up to the slightest scrutiny. Healings that undid themselves between Sunday night and Wednesday. The miraculous timely arrival of money, that turned out to be sent by a human being who knew money was needed. Success against all odds, that became less remarkable when all the previous failures were factored in. Remarkable prophecies that came true, except that the prophecy was so vaguely worded that it would have been more remarkable had it NOT come true.

            What about changes of the heart, though, right? Repentance? The miracle impact of love on an unregenerate heart? It’s strange how people from all religions and philosophies have breakthroughs, and the direction of their life changes permanently. Why should that happen if the only way to truth is through Jesus? Is Christian repentance something different in scope? Or does it fade away for the same percentage of repenters as in other faiths? We both know what I found to be the answer.

            There are philosophical self-contradictions within Christianity as well, but I never spent time on those until years after I left Christianity. Conflicts such such as how an omniscient, omnipotent, omni-benevolent Being couldn’t foresee, prevent, or develop a better solution for the “fall of man” than to torture the overwhelming majority of humans for eternity. Or to sacrifice himself to himself, but only for a short time, in order to satisfy his own legalism.

            These of course leave out the scientific evidence against certain specific miraculous claims, like the seven-day creation 6,000 years ago, or evolution explaining the origin of the species better than the Bible ever could.

            These are reasons off the top of my head. I could go on for hours, but the main reason I answered is to show you I do have evidence, even if you don’t consider it persuasive evidence.

            I hope you’ll consider that I didn’t set out to be an atheist, and that my reasons for becoming an atheist have nothing to do with a disappointing church experience or rebellion against authority. I’m not asking you to change your mind about anything except one thing: if you believe atheists and other former Christians are so different from you, reconsider. People who have a lot in common with you believe very differently than you do. Atheism may not be the vacuum of meaning you think it is.

          • Justas399 .

            So much here. Suffering does have a purpose, Its not just dogma but an argument based on revelation.

            There are many reasons to believe in life after death. The resurrection of Christ is one of the best attested historical facts of the ancient world.
            NDE’s also support the idea of an immaterial soul surviving outside a physical body. Some of the stories cannot be explained by brain activity alone.

            There is a 1200 page book called Miracles by Craig Keener that documents many miracles that have happened to people. Some have some good medical documentation.

            To disprove life after death or miracles you would have to give some good reasons why God cannot exist.

            Just because there is evil in the world does not mean God does not exist nor that He is not good. He allows evil for His own purposes.

            The life of Christ is the strongest evidence that God exist and that He is a loving Creator. .

          • Maine_Skeptic

            An argument based on revelation is not an argument. That doesn’t mean the revelation was untrue, but it’s an unreliable source of information– even for the person who received it. You yourself are unlikely to accept a revelation as evidence that Islam is the one true religion.

            “The resurrection of Christ is one of the best attested historical facts of the ancient world.”

            You’re mistaken. We only have the gospel accounts, which are irreconcilable with each other. (It isn’t possible to put one story together that includes all of the claims included in all of the gospel accounts of the resurrection without any self-contradictions.) Beyond the gospels, written decades after his death, there are no contemporary accounts of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, etc.

            Near-death experiences can be produced by stimulating certain sections of the brain. Anecdotes aside, there have been no confirmed accounts of people waking from NDEs with knowledge they could not have known but for traveling outside the body. Given the number of Near Death Experiences that have occurred, and the number of claims made about them, we should have some independent indication that these are non-physical experiences.

            I’m not familiar with Craig Keener, and I may look for his book, but others who have claimed to “document” miracles have essentially just told the stories told to them by other people. When there is a claim of medical evidence, it tends to be a single test result or scan that shows evidence of a problem, followed by a scan that shows no problem. Individual test results can be wrong, and if there’s only one test showing a problem, the best explanation for the problem’s disappearance is a bad test result. People with well-documented illnesses in multiple sources don’t have the same “miracles” in which an illness completely disappears.

            “To disprove life after death or miracles you would have to give some good reasons why God cannot exist.”

            I never claimed to be able to disprove them; I just said there’s no good reason to believe them. Supernatural claims, whether they’re the existence of gods, leprechauns, or body thetans, can’t be disproved, because they are said to happen outside the physical laws of the universe. In other words, they are claims that, even if true, don’t necessarily leave evidence behind.

            If I can’t prove or disprove something, I don’t claim it as positively true or untrue, but I’m not going to base my life on it. For me, that’s the only approach that makes sense, since once you accept one set of supernatural claims, you have no excuse for rejecting all of the others ones, and even believers agree that MOST supernatural claims are false.

            “Just because there is evil in the world does not mean God does not exist
            nor that He is not good. He allows evil for His own purposes.”

            I want to be clear that I didn’t move past faith because there’s evil in the world; my bar for the acceptable behavior of gods is pretty low. Long after I left Christianity, though, I realized that even the most basic claims of Christianity are self-contradictory. Christianity says that the Trinity is all-powerful, all-knowing, and omni-benevolent. Those three things can’t all be true in a universe in which the majority of human beings would go to hell. You can appeal to divine mystery if you like, but these are problems of definition. There can be no reason beyond the reach of an all-powerful being why the eternal suffering of billions is preferable to another alternative.

            “The life of Christ is the strongest evidence that God exist and that He is a loving Creator.”

            I understand the sentiment behind what you’re saying, but since Jesus is also claimed to be god, using him as evidence of the existence of himself is circular.

            Once again, I’m aware that you and I are unlikely to convince each other on the facts, but setting aside the question of whether gods exist… You believe they do; why do you think atheists don’t? Do you think it’s possible for a reasonable person of good conscience to find insufficient reason for believing in Christianity’s claims?

          • Justas399 .

            An argument from revelation would not be unreliable if it
            matches up to reality. An argument from revelation is a lot like an argument from authority. If the authority has been shown to be truthful in one area then they can be trusted in an area that cannot be tested. Jesus taught that there was life after death and that there is a heaven and a hell. There is no way to test if there is a heaven or a hell. Since He was truthful in other areas and supported His claims with miracles then we should believe Him when we have no way to prove something that cannot be proven here.

            I’m not mistaken about “the resurrection of Christ being one the best attested historical facts of the ancient world”.
            There 4 gospels are independent eyewitness accounts of it and they are historical accounts that have good historical support for them. There is nothing like this in ancient world for any person or event.
            Give me a couple of examples where they contradict.
            (Historians don’t discount an historical account just because there may be discrepancies or inaccuracies)

            Though the gospels may be have been written a
            couple decades after does not mean they are not accurate. There is no reason to think the disciples did not take notes or had excellent memories. One thing that would have reinforced their memories would have been the miracles. When some extraordinary happens (raising
            the dead, giving sight to the blind etc) a person would not forget these things even decades later. We know this to be true from our own lives. 911 is a casein point. Many people can still remember that day clearly even though it
            happened over a decade ago because it was such an out of the ordinary event. So it would be with the miracles in gospels that would reinforce who Jesus was and what He taught.

            Compare when the gospels were written with the
            first bio of Alexander the Great that was first written almost 400 years after his death. Historians consider them reliable even though written so long after
            the events and were no eyewitness accounts. The gospels were written by eyewitness within a few decades. If you accept this account of Alexander then you must
            accept the gospels since they are written by eyewitness and closer to the events.

            There NDE’s experiences that cannot be produced by stimulating certain sections of the brain. Some examples are a young boy in a NDE state that was able to tell the doctors after he came to what his parents and family were doing 5 miles away. This cannot be explained
            by stimulation of the brain. There are many examples like this that have been checked out.

            Though most supernatural claims may be false
            not all are. The life of Christ certainly points to the supernatural and God. Christ certainly left evidence behind for those who personally saw Him do these
            things and certainly did to all mankind in His resurrection.

            I believe in the supernatural but that does not mean I accept or believe all claims that people make about it. I test supernatural claims by what Christ and His apostles taught. If a claim contradicts what they taught then its false. You have no way to test any claims even if there is good evidence for something supernatural because you assume (not prove) the supernatural cannot exist.

            The existence of hell is not an argument against the existence of God or Christianity. Your dislike of it is not an argument against it.

            The life of Christ as recorded in the New Testament as evidence of God is not a circular argument. It’s a record of His life that demonstrated that He was God in the flesh. He just didn’t just say this but demonstrated it by His miracles and resurrection. When one looks at the evidence for Christ in a fair and objective manner would have to conclude that the claims of Christianity are
            true.

            I think anyone who denies the existence of God
            is suppressing that knowledge in a number of ways. Without God, the atheist is forced to believe all kinds of things that boggle the mind. It forces the atheist to conclude that the complex design of our world is just the result of the mindless forces of nature which from a statistical analysis is so high a probability as to be impossible. There are just to many just right “coincidences” that make this world possible to conclude we just happened to be lucky. On a person level, it forces that atheist to conclude that all she is, is just a meat
            machine with no purpose beyond this world. This is the bargain you get with atheism.

          • Maine_Skeptic

            These back-and-forth exchanges can distract from more
            central questions. For that reason, I want to focus on an earlier question before I respond.

            I asked if you think a reasonable person of good conscience can be an atheist. You said,”I think anyone who denies the existence of God is suppressing that knowledge” Your answer therefore appears to be “no,” but I want to make sure I’ve understood you correctly. Have I?

            It’s logical to ask, then: do I think a reasonable person of good conscience can be a Christian? The answer is “yes.” There are frameworks of thinking in which it is logical to think Christianity is accurate in its claims.

            I do think, though, that Christians, atheists, and all human beings have cognitive biases that cause us to filter out information that doesn’t fit our perspective. We’re not aware we do it; it’s part of how we are wired. No one likes discovering they’ve been wrong, but if we’re aware of the cognitive blind spots we all have, we can save ourselves a lot of trouble by catching some of our own mistakes.

            Why do I think these distinctions matter? If I believe that no reasonable person of good conscience can be a Christian, then I’m dangerously close to circular
            reasoning. I’m making the blanket statement that anyone who is a Christian is not just mistaken, but as if by
            definition, they know at some level that they’re wrong, and they’re lying to themselves or to me or to both.

            When I talk with Joe Christian, I know that he’s lying , eitherto me or to himself ,when we talk about Christianity. Why? Because no reasonable person of good conscience can be a Christian. Anything he says that sounds persuasive therefore has to be a lie. If I start thinking he might have good reasons for believing as he does, then I must be lying to myself, suppressing the truth. !!!

            It’s possible that any given Christian or atheist could
            actually be delusional or “suppressing truth,” but when we say that all of them are, we’re making every one of them wrong, as if by definition. We’re walling ourselves in and closing ourselves off from new information that might change our minds.

            The problem is that real communication can’t happen until
            two sides can put themselves in each others’ shoes and imagine how things look from that perspective. That’s too risky for the person behind the closed loop of reasoning. Any sympathy for the other side puts them in danger of apostasy.

          • Justas399 .

            Yes. The atheist is being unreasonable in assuming God does not exist. There is just to much in the world that cannot be explained by the forces of nature. To many coincidences.

            I agree we are all biased. However, that does not mean we cannot know the truth. This is why I think its best to test our beliefs as worldviews. In that way we can discover which worldview best interprets the world not only in the physical but also those things that are very personal such as meaning, justice and life after death. There are a number of characteristics of a good worldview such as consistency and can it be lived out. These things are worthwhile to discuss.

          • Maine_Skeptic

            “Yes. The atheist is being unreasonable in assuming God does not exist…”

            That sounds pretty definitive. All atheists everywhere started with the assumption that no gods exist?

          • Justas399 .

            No. From what I have read, it seems atheists at one time did believe God did exist.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            “He allows evil for His own purposes.”

            Yes, that’s how I’d describe a cruel and selfish person. It would be a lot more reasonable for believers to promote the sometimes kind, sometimes cruel god that’s found in the scriptures as that’s more inline with the world we see.

            Any person who possessed the ability to end all suffering and make the universe perfect through a mere act of their will and didn’t immediately do so is not worthy of the title “loving”.

            The “love” offered by the god of the bible is the kind of “love” offered by child abusers: one that allows and inflicts suffering for it’s own ends at the expense of others.

            No, suffering doesn’t prove there’s not a god but it does prove that there’s not a loving and kind God.

          • Justas399 .

            Even if God were cruel that would not mean atheism is true. All it would mean is that God is cruel by your opinion. When you say God is cruel, you are only expressing your opinion because there is no such thing as an objective moral code in atheism or humanism.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            Ah, you’re almost there. You see, there’s no such thing as an objective moral code in theism either for good and evil in theism are defined by the will of God. In other words, good and evil are defined as God’s subjective morality in theism.

            Of course God’s morality really is the subjective morality of his spokesmen. You can see this at play as theology changes with common morality throughout history. Cruel people create cruel gods. Moses’ God endorsed genocide. The slave owner’s God endorsed slavery. The civil libertarian’s God wanted freedom. We make our god’s morality fit ours not the other way around.

            Justas, let me let you in on the big secret. It’s found in the first commandment ever given which was…. “Don’t eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In other words, don’t decide for yourself what’s right and what’s wrong. That’s where they got you.

            All morality is subjective. That’s why it’s immoral for a man to do what he thinks is wrong NO MATTER WHO says it’s right.

            If I believed there was a God and further believed that he told me to kill some children I would refuse to do it. I would refuse to do it because I think it’s wrong to kill children. If I say to myself, “I believe killing children is wrong but I’m going to do it anyway because God said I should.” That would the same sort of immorality that allowed Nazism to grip Germany, Abraham to be willing to murder his son and allowed Israel to justify the Amalekite genocide.

            Yes, it’s my own personal morality I’m expressing. We must all express our own in good conscience or we are acting immorally. My personal morality says that murdering children and committing genocides, and flooding the world and refusing to fix the world when you could is wrong and that ANYONE who justifies these things is evil.

            This is why I say your journey out of this trap you’re in will come by way of finding your own dignity as a man and being able to look at the petty creature in the scriptures and realizing that he’s not half the man you are. You’re better than that god Justas. Pretty much all of us who aren’t insane are better than him.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            The truth is that the God of the Bible is NOT the one you worship Justas. He’s awful. Yours isn’t that guy. And that’s good because if he was you’d be that kind of guy. What you don’t realize is that the god you worship is not Moses’ God. He’s been your creation all along. Time to skip the middleman and start running your own life bro.

          • Justas399 .

            Another assertion. Give me some counter facts that show that the God of the Lord Jesus Christ does not exist. When you do, then I will take your atheism seriously.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            The fact that his is the god of hell, a place so awful that it makes the gas chambers of the holocaust look like a Disney resort. Common human empathy makes the creator of such a place a monster. From there it is a question of whether you have enough dignity and integrity to admit that those ideas are the backward creation of backward men. The god of Jesus Christ isn’t good enough to rule over me. I hope you find the courage to think as much of yourself.

          • Justas399 .

            Someday you will bend the knee to Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord.

          • Justas399 .

            Its not true that morality that is grounded in the very person of God and is expressed in His Law is subjective. Rather is it objective in that all men are bound to it because God is the one who made men and has written His law on the hearts of men. Even though the atheist denies this he lives by it. He knows in his heart that murder , stealing, adultery and bearing false is wrong.

            God did command the total destruction of a people because they were evil. They were evil because they wickedly violated the law of God that was written on their hearts.

            The reason that the children died was because of the sins of the parents and the society in which they lived. The suffered the consequences of the actions of their parents. This kind of thing still happens today.

            How could you have been a former minister and think” …the big secret. It’s found in the first commandment ever given which was…. “Don’t eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In other words, don’t decide for yourself what’s right and what’s wrong.” means that you are not to think for yourself? If this is how you interpret and understand Scripture then you should have left the ministry a long time ago. There is no scholarly commentary on this verse would ever say it means what you claim it does.

            If “All morality is subjective.” then you can’t claim that killing children is wrong. It may be wrong for you personally but it would not be wrong for the person who thinks it right to kill children. You can’t even say that Hitler was wrong for creating the holocaust. This is the bankruptcy of your position.

            What were the crimes that the Amalekites guilty of?

            Since you believe you are better than the God of the Lord Jesus, why don’t you give me a list of 10 commandments that have stood the test of time and has had a great influence on men who follow them? How many people would follow the 10 you make up and influence the world more than the 10 commandments of the Law of God?

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            Well, that saved me the trouble. Yes Justas… exactly what John just said up there ^

          • David: Atheist Ex-Pastor

            Well said, John. If someone is not prepared to use logic and evidence, applying them as criteria is fruitless.

      • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

        I’ll also point out that “evil” (which ultimately is suffering) makes much more sense in a universe without an omnibenevolent all powerful creator than one with one.

        • Justas399 .

          Evil has to do with morality. If there is no objective standard of good then there is no way to determine what evil is. Its all opinion.
          In an atheistic universe there is no such thing as evil. Things happen and that’s it. Its all atoms in motion. Suffering is just electrical impulses to the brain that makes a person uncomfortable.

          In Christianity, there is evil. Evil is a denial of the good and God and His law is that standard of good. To break the law of God is to do evil.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            On the contrary. Humanism is the only way to establish an “objective” (justifiable) morality and religion is a perversion of Morality. Let me explain.

            Morality ALWAYS is in reference to the well-being of conscious creatures. If you want to confirm this think of an ethical situation that has nothing to do with the well-being of a conscious creature. I’m sure you cannot.

            Humanism, not atheism, is the objective measure. Atheism is simply a statement re what one doesn’t believe not what one believes in. Humanism places human well-being at the center. That which promotes human well-being is good. That which does not is evil.

            Compare this with religion which displaces people and puts the words of a divinity as arbitrated by his earthly representatives (the god’s never do anything themselves… a bit suspicious, no?) ahead ot human well-being.

            I don’t need a god to tell me to have empathy and to be good to people. All I need for that is to recognize the innate value and dignity of human beings (again, that’s part of the point of the post). What religion and gods are good for is to justify evil.

            Want proof of this? You need look no further than the Bible. In it you will find genocides prescribed, children being slaughtered and people being enslaved so that God’s “chosen” people could cut a swath of blood through the land.

            It is religion that provides what is ultimately and arbitrary morality that can be twisted to suit the most perverse desires of its leaders simply by tacking “thus saith the Lord” on to the end of whatever they like. If it’s objective morality you seek dump the gods.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            Now, I’ve said this before but you choose to ignore it (examine that about yourself): The standard for good and evil in a godless universe is the that which is the well-being of living things. We have objective ways of determining the kinds of things that encourage well-being (e.g. compassion and honesty) and the kinds of things that do not (e.g. telling people to take no care for tomorrow or to put their religion before their family). That is an objective standard.

            What’s NOT an objective standard is religion for it declares that WHATEVER the spokespeople of a god declare as good is good. So in a religious model genocide is sometimes bad but can be good when a god commands it. This is a perversion of morality. Religion perverts people’s moral compasses so they can justify any evil while compassion and empathy for living things is an justifiable (much better word than “objective”) standard.

    • rdnaskela

      Justas, What value does your world view offer me, as a human being? This is a serious question, and I’d like to know your thoughts. Of course this discussion doesn’t speak to the veracity of either an atheist, or theist worldview. In my opinion the evidence is clearly against the existence of the supernatural, but if I were to concede the possibility, I’d like to know what it is that this world view offers.

      • Justas399 .

        Christianity as worldview gives you a true view of the world and life. It explains why you are here, what your purpose is and what destiny is. It tells you why there are problems in the world and how to deal with them. It gives hope beyond this world. It tells you that you have incalculable worth as a human being. It gives you a blueprint on how to live life and strength in times of difficulties.

        • rdnaskela

          If I find the claims of Christianity to be unbelieveable, like the majority of people in the world do, and am therefore unable to adopt them as truth in my life, what is the consequence?

    • David: Atheist Ex-Pastor

      Justas399 I would have agreed with you at one time in my life. Atheists were lost souls without a moral code and incapable of doing good. And I was a pastor of a huge church. Now, as a former pastor, and an atheist, I would implore you to consider that living without a deity does not mean living without joy or purpose. We all wrestle with the problem of evil in the world because we humans are animals and quite capable of horrific behaviour. But believing that their is a supernatural being does not solve the problem of evil and give value to a human life where there was none before.

      • Justas399 .

        I can understand how an atheist would think his life has meaning and can live with some joy and purpose. So long as he doesn’t think to deeply about it he should be fine. Its just when he looks for grounding his beliefs about these things that he runs into problems. Anyone can be happy when life is going well. Its when it gets tough that people’s belief systems are tested and so many fail. Jesus, taught this kind of thing in Matthew 7:24-27.

        When the atheist is confronted with the death of a loved one he has no where to go to deal with it. If he truly believes he will never see that loved one again, then he must accept that and deal with the emptiness and despair for the rest of his life. Soon he will face it again and again until he faces extinction himself if he lives long enough. Each day you live brings you one day closer to extinction.

        You admit that there is evil in the world but there is no such thing as evil in atheism. All events are just the result of atoms in motion. There is also no justice in atheism. Without a judgement after death, many people have done wicked deeds that they were never held accountable for in this world nor in any world for that matter. Since they cease to exist, they are never held accountable.

        In Christianity there are answers to all of these issues.

        • David: Atheist Ex-Pastor

          “When the atheist is confronted with the death of a loved one he has no where to go to deal with it….” Where was I a year before I was born? I didn’t exist. Where will I be after I die? I won’t exist. It may be sad, but it is reality. Rather than be swallowed in emptiness and despair, however, my response is to embrace every day as an amazing gift that has been given to me.

          • Justas399 .

            You don’t know you will not exist after death. You only assume it. If atheism is true, then you are an accident of nature. Here today and gone tomorrow with no significance to the universe or this world.

          • David: Atheist Ex-Pastor

            And you assume that you will live forever and that you have universal significance? Please don’t tell me you think that atheists are arrogant too.

          • Justas399 .

            It is not unreasonable to believe we live after death. The reason that could be true is if we have an immaterial soul.

            I also believe we have life after death because of what Jesus said and did. Since He claimed to be the judge of mankind then He gives significance to mankind,

            NDE’s also is evidence of some kind of limited survival of men that is not dependent on a physical body.

            These 3 reasons are quite powerful. Arrogance has nothing to do with this.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            Being around longer doesn’t make something more significant. Caring about it does. I care about my life. It’s significant. The fact that it isn’t significant to you or to your god’s spokesmen is of no significance to me…. sad, but irrelevant. Life has value because WE care about it. That’s where the dignity and self-respect comes in.

  • ctcss

    Dennis

    Condolences on your family’s tragedy. Things like that really should never happen to anyone, believing or non-believing. And I am glad you found a new “home” where you can feel safe and free. But as a believer, I wonder if you realize that the following quote doesn’t apply to everyone who believes.

    It’s pretty pointless trying to reason with a believer. It is futile to try to reason a man out of a belief that he wasn’t reasoned into. It’s also very difficult to get believers to listen to anything that threatens their faith.

    You should note that there are believers who have arrived (or remained) at their position through reason, and it’s entirely possible to engage with a believer who has. The caveat is, if they have thought things through and have good reasons for following their current religious path, unless your counter arguments are rather convincing, they are not likely to be persuaded out of that position. As I’ve said before on this blog, it isn’t too difficult to challenge a weakly held position. But it’s a lot harder to challenge a position that has been well examined. And believers do exist who have examined their beliefs rather thoroughly. Plus, it should be noted that not every argument will find traction with every believer.

    For instance, a religious Jew will obviously not lose their faith in God if, somehow, a person makes a case for Jesus not existing. And a non-trinitarian Christian will not have a problem if an argument is made for Jesus not being God. And it should be obvious that a believer who does not approach scripture as a literal, stenographic transcript of events is not going to put off by a challenge to a literalist take on scripture.

    Furthermore, an anti-science stance is not at all a given for religious believers. For instance, Jesus pointed out that one should render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s, therefore bringing out the point that paying taxes to Caesar did not automatically imperil the spiritual safety of any Jew (or Christian) who did so. Similarly, one’s spiritual relationship to God is no more imperilled by studying the science of the world than it is by studying the math, art, music, literature, etc. of the world. Making room for everyday needful things, whether in requirements for taxes to be paid to governments or adherence to scholastic standards required for state education, does not automatically displace God from one’s heart, nor should it. None of these challenges will gain traction with such believers if their religious beliefs are not founded on those points. And the harsh theological points associated with your former Christian faith may not exist in all other forms of Christianity. They certainly weren’t part of my religious instruction.

    The point being, there are many religious (and non-religious) choices and approaches for people to ponder and to choose from. In a free society, no one should feel trapped in a religious (or non-religious) position that doesn’t suit them.

    So, once again, I am glad you have found a new home. But I do hope you realize that religion itself, isn’t the problem so much as less-than-helpful approaches to pretty much any human activity such as business, sports, finance, marriage, politics, etc., religion simply being one of them. A less-than-helpful approach to marriage (resulting in a miserable coexistence or a painful divorce) does not therefore invalidate all marriages or marriage partners. A less-than-helpful approach to politics (resulting in a loss of rights, services, corruption, etc.) does not therefore invalidate all political activities or political participants. And a less-than-helpful approach to religion (resulting in fear, depression, oppression, etc.) does not therefore invalidate all religion or religious participants.

    The point being, once someone realizes that approaches can differ, and those differences can result in vastly changed experiences and outcomes, helpful choices can be made to affect one’s life directions. You have chosen to lead a life without religion and religious belief. If that makes things works better for you, that’s wonderful. But others can also choose to lead a life with component parts that differ from yours (including religion) and also have things work very nicely.

    So although the dark corner you found yourself in (through no fault of your own) and have now departed from certainly helped form your current world view, please realize that the world is a much larger place (with many more personal stories and experiences) than just what you experienced with religion.

    • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

      Thanks. I’m very much aware of the breath and diversity of religious experience and my critique stands. There are many believers who will claim to have “reasonable faith” but faith is not reasonable. It is reasonable to believe things that there are evidence for and when there is evidence for something faith is not required.

      That’s the crux of the conflict between faith and reason. Ultimately no religion can be reasonable if it relies on a fundamentally inscrutable divine revelation. That’s why theology is not a science and believers have been killing each other over theological conflicts since the dawn of time, because there aren’t reasonable ways to resolve issues of faith, it always comes down to the declared authority of some an interpretation of a divine revelation that takes precedence over our reason.

      So, am I to assume that you consider your faith reasonable? If so what are the rational criteria that you use to justify it and how doe those criteria show that your faith is reasonable while others are not?

      • Justas399 .

        Christ gave many reasons to believe in Him. Jesus demonstrated by His miracles who He was. His revelation of God was not unreasonable because He revealed what God was like in His person and ministry

        BTW- its politics and the use of science that has killed more people than any religion. .

        • xscd

          Justas says: “Jesus demonstrated by His miracles who He was.”

          All we have is hearsay. People exaggerate and tell tall tales. You weren’t there and neither was anybody else who’s alive today. No confirming evidence, no way to know–

          • Justas399 .

            If the gospel accounts are hearsay i.e.”information received from other people that one cannot adequately substantiate; rumor.” https://www.google.com/search?q=hearsay&rlz=2C1CHFX_enUS0537US0538&oq=hearsay&aqs=chrome..69i57&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8
            Then all of ancient history is also.

          • xscd

            Justas says: “If the gospel accounts are hearsay … Then all of ancient history is also.”

            No it’s not. We have lots of evidence for much of what has happened during our long history, including before the invention of writing or recording anything. But we don’t “fill in the gaps” where we don’t have evidence, like religion does. That’s one of religions greatest flaws.

            Science requires no faith (despite the ridiculous protests of religious people who say it does, and then expect us to believe that _their_ kind of religious faith is somehow better than any other kind of faith).

            Religion on the other hand requires no evidence. Just a collection of beliefs, many of them unsupported, unsubstantiated, with little or no evidence at all, just pure blind belief.

            I’ll take science over religion any day. We humans have made a mess of all of our religions and societies because our religions and our gods are and have always been as flawed as we are.

          • Justas399 .

            Ok. Tell me some personal details of Alexander the Great that was written by eyewitnesses? Or, tell me what Nero was thinking when he burned Rome?

            The methods of science are based on unproveable assumptions that are believed to be true by faith. Consider this:
            The orderly nature of the external world
            The knowability of the external world
            The existence of truth
            The laws of logic
            The reliability of our senses to serve as
            truth gathers and as a source of justified beliefs
            The uniformity of nature. We can only assume that nature is the same at all times and places in the universe. It cannot be proven.

            It is true that many people of various religions do believe things by blind faith. However that is not true of Christianity. Christianity gives evidence for its beliefs. Jesus performed miracles so that people would believe in Him. These miracles were seen by the public and could be tested. Jesus raising a dead man who was dead for 4 days and in a tomb is an example of this. Many people saw this happen. Jesus’s resurrection also has eyewitnesses to support it. In fact, its one of the best attested facts of the ancient world.

            Jesus is like no other man who has ever lived. No one ever lived with such integrity and in courage.

            It is the atheist who believes without facts or reason tha atheism is true. There are no facts to support it. Not one.

          • xscd

            Justas says: “Ok. Tell me some personal details of Alexander the Great that was written by eyewitnesses? Or, tell me what Nero was thinking when he burned Rome?”

            We have not built an entire mythology around Alexander the Great nor Roman Emperor Nero, as Christianity has built around Jesus and an imaginary god, or other religions have created.

            The danger is in believing this religious mythology as though it were fact, and in thinking there are some sort of dire consequences if we do not regard it as fact.

            It would be like someone threatening to cut off another person’s head if they did not take Harry Potter seriously and believe every word of that account of “the wizarding world.”

            Religion is as silly as Harry Potter. But while Harry Potter is entertaining because we don’t take it seriously, religious people take their religion very seriously, to everyone’s detriment including their own.

            In my opinion, both Christianity and Islam need to die.

          • Justas399 .

            Since we don’t have any eyewitness accounts of Alexander that means he must not have existed. Actually some ancient writers do claim Alexander was born of the gods or something like that. Its all hearsay.

            Your confused about Harry Potter and Christianity being comparable. Christianity is historical and Potter is not.

          • xscd

            Justas says: “Since we don’t have any eyewitness accounts of Alexander that means he must not have existed.”

            I think we have a lot more evidence, from a variety of sources, for the life of Alexander the Great than we do for Jesus. But as I said, no one is basing a religion around Alexander the Great or trying to suggest that there is more to the story than we actually have evidence for, and what we don’t have much evidence for, we don’t necessarily believe or simply remain tentative about.

            If someone said to you that Alexander the Great was the son of God and that he could save you from an eternal torture in the afterlife, and that he was the _only_ one who could save you, it would sound silly. Well, it sounds just as silly if it’s said about Jesus. I would personally want a _lot_ more evidence than what we have before I’d be willing to pin that amount of trust on either of them.

          • Justas399 .

            The earliest bio of Alexander is about 400 years after his death. The gospels were written within 50 years of Christ by eyewitnesses or those associated with the eyewitnesses. If you believe the bio of Alexander is correct and not mere hearsay then you must accept the gospels as true.

            There are over 10 secular writers who make mention of Christ and others from the New Testament.

          • xscd

            Justas says: “The earliest bio of Alexander is about 400 years after his death. The gospels were written within 50 years of Christ”

            So what? There’s no getting around the whole ridiculous mythology surrounding Jesus, claiming he’s a supernatural person with an invisible father, that he can save us from some imaginary horrible fate, etc.

            There is NO, NONE, ZIP, NADA evidence for any of that. So even if there was an actual person associated with the name Jesus, from all descriptions he most resembles a modern cult leader. A loony, charismatic but crazy man with all kinds of wild claims.

            Christianity is a fantasy based upon a lot of suppositions supported by flimsly, scant evidence and elaborate religious rationales, a religion built on a base of sand.

            No matter how much you argue or how sidetracked you get, there’s no getting around the glaring fact that Christianity (like most religions) is almost entirely and purely imaginary and unreal, a fantasy created by humans for humans. It’s ridiculous.

          • Justas399 .

            Billions of people over the centuries have not believed Christ was a “a modern cult leader. A loony, charismatic but crazy man with all kinds of wild claims.” Rather they consider Him to be the most influential man in history. Consider this:

            “One Solitary Life
            He was born in an obscure village
            The child of a peasant woman
            He grew up in another obscure village
            Where he worked in a carpenter shop
            Until he was thirty when public opinion turned against him

            He never wrote a book
            He never held an office
            He never went to college
            He never visited a big city
            He never travelled more than two hundred miles
            From the place where he was born
            He did none of the things
            Usually associated with greatness
            He had no credentials but himself

            He was only thirty three

            His friends ran away
            One of them denied him
            He was turned over to his enemies
            And went through the mockery of a trial
            He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
            While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
            The only property he had on earth

            When he was dead
            He was laid in a borrowed grave
            Through the pity of a friend

            Nineteen centuries have come and gone
            And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
            And the leader of mankind’s progress
            All the armies that have ever marched
            All the navies that have ever sailed
            All the parliaments that have ever sat
            All the kings that ever reigned put together
            Have not affected the life of mankind on earth

            As powerfully as that one solitary life”
            Dr James Allan Francis

            There is no one like Christ. No one comes close to the great influence He has had on the world.

          • xscd

            Sure sounds like a cult leader to me.

            You’re just another annoying Christian trying to sell a bag of lies.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            David Koresh’s followers didn’t think he was a cult leader either but he was. Jesus was much like Koresh or a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood: he was a political activist who wanted to kick the oppressors out of the land that God gave to his people (i.e. the land that men pretending to speak for God said they should commit genocide to steal), he used charity and social issues to garner support and he encouraged both nonviolent and violent opposition to the government.

            After his death his disciples who left everything were as good as dead if they got caught so they started to subversively spread their message. They had to compete with other god-men (like the emperor) so their messiah became a god and being a god you couldn’t very well leave him dead so he became a risen god-man. It’s all pretty plain to see once you step back a few feet. You’re just too close to it right now.

          • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

            Jesus existed. There’s good support for that in unbiased historical scholarship. There’s also lots of indications that he was yet another failed messiah. He just happened to have better marketing (Paul and the Disciples) and timing than the others.

          • http://www.400monkeys.com/God/ Richard Routledge

            The history of war is essentially written by the winners, so that seems like a good starting hypothesis, yes

      • ctcss

        Dennis

        It is reasonable to believe things that there are evidence for and when there is evidence for something faith is not required.

        Basically we are talking semantics here. You (along with Daniel Fincke) appear to like to define faith as blind faith. I disagree with that because it strikes me as being an overly simplistic usage. I prefer to think of what I do as reasoned faith, or reasoned trust, if you will. I have faith/trust in God because I have personally learned (over time) that God can be trusted. So from your perspective, I don’t actually have what would be termed faith, because I have enough personal evidence to consider the relationship I have with God to be one where I can consider God to be trustworthy. But nonetheless, I consider what I do to be faith.

        believers have been killing each other over theological conflicts since the dawn of time, because there aren’t reasonable ways to resolve issues of faith

        Yes there is. It’s called live and let live. What you are referring to is the sad state of tribalistic competition among human groups. Religion isn’t the cause of this. Tribalism is. Humanity needs to grow out of this rather base behaviour. That’s why I was talking about the less-than-helpful ways that humans approach different activities in life. One does not have to approach marriage in an abusive way. One does not have to approach politics in an abusive way. And one certainly does not have to approach religion in an abusive way. Your critique is aimed at less-than-helpful approaches. I dare say that you would approve of an approach to religion if you thought that reason could be applied to it. Which means that your critique is aimed at an unreasoned approach to religion, not religion itself. But your conundrum arises because you think that reason cannot be applied to religion, thus you are (IMO) lumping religion in with another quality not necessarily related to it. One could create a religion based on reasoned principles. Some might even consider Buddhism to be an example of such a beast. The point being, religion is not necessarily something incapable of being used with reason.

        So, am I to assume that you consider your faith reasonable? If so what are the rational criteria that you use to justify it and how doe those criteria show that your faith is reasonable while others are not?

        I don’t know that others are not reasonable. I’m certainly not here to judge others. And reason can be applied to anything that has a framework of consistency about it. People reason about more trivial things such as comic book characters and video games and classic tales, all of which are works of fiction. They also obviously reason about things which are serious, real-world, and non-trivial. Furthermore, religions have different approaches to life. Judaism apparently considers their scripture to be something given to them for their use here and now. They don’t have a formally defined sense of an afterlife. They are simply trying to live in accordance with the principles they have received (and have developed) over time. They also don’t approach their scriptures in a literalist way. Rather, they ask themselves why the scriptures were written in the way they were. Their goal is to understand what they were given in scripture, not to use it to escape hell fire. They don’t believe in original sin, and if punishment is to be meted out for transgressions, they don’t think it will extend more than about 1 year. Thus, their approach to their religion provides an interesting contrast with the approach of your former Christian faith, despite the fact that both are regarding what should be the same God. (I have no problem with this seeming divergence simply because humans always have different takes on what they see and hear, despite the fact that they be looking at the same thing. God doesn’t change, but people’s view of God does.)

        The point being, different religions have different approaches, starting points, and conclusions. Since I don’t know all that there is to know about every religion, I’m not in a good position to gauge their basis for being reasoned. I’d have to know more in order to offer a reasonable take.

        For myself, I consider my religion to be reasonable because I can apply reason within its theological principles and use them in my life. I ask no one else to join me in this application, because I am not trying to evangelize others. The point is to explore what has been laid out in its teachings and to prove its usefulness (or uselessness) in my life. So far I have found it to be useful.

        However, if you are curious regarding what I believe, I am already having a discussion with “Brian” over at the “Kids, Catholicism, and Compromise” thread regarding some of it. You can visit there if you wish more details and see what we have been saying to one another. Feel free to chime in. As I have told him, I am simply trying to explain some of what I do. I am not interested in having an argument or a debate. People are free to follow whatever path they find to be helpful.

  • David: Atheist Ex-Pastor

    Thank you Dennis for your courageous step in going public. I was intrigued by your notion that the way to help someone break free from the shackles of their faith community is by way of the heart rather than the head; by helping them break free of the shame of sin. Where the emphasis in on our sinful nature before a holy God I can understand the strategy of helping others “value themselves”.

    As a former pastor, my faith community was not as evangelical as PAOC but a more liberal denomination where intellect was held in higher regard than emotion. (particularly in my last church before leaving the pulpit which was in a city known for both a university and college). For me, then, the question has been “How did I actually proclaim notions that today, seem absolutely ludicrous?”. My first line of defence, then, was to say that intellectually, I was wrong. I have changed my mind and here are the reasons why.” What is important, then, is to understand that theists will need different approaches by atheists, depending on ‘where they are coming from’ if you’ll pardon the euphemism. Just as we once used different approaches to convert, we need different approaches to deconvert.

    • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

      Certainly David. The path for everyone is slightly different. I think that ex ministers like you and I can play an important role in reaching believers since we understand them so intimately and were in the business of speaking to minds and hearts just like theirs. I’m glad to see that TCP has helped to inspire and mobilize so many of us and I’m excited to see how it’ll shape the discussion going forward.

  • cadunphy280

    First Dennis, let me say how sorry I am for your loss. Despite best efforts, trying to help someone who is coping with grief is one of those things that everyone does clumsily. When I was in seminary taking my pastoral education courses, the prof. made it seem that just uttering those magic words “he/he/they are in a better place, you’ll be with him again” was all that it would take to cease the ache from loss. When confronted with the responsibility of having to pastor someone through this grief, I felt ill prepared. On some level I knew my playlist of responses was not comforting and I questioned their usefulness and truthfulness, yet still I spoke them.
    I spoke them, because like you, I had been raised in an extremely religious home; I was reared to concede my doubts, and embrace my faith and all its promises.
    I see now that faith was a crutch that allowed me to limp my way through reality, it hobbled my intellect, and stymied my maturity, but at the time, it was all I knew.
    Despite that, I still cringe when I think back on the pathetic words of consolation that I spoke to assist the grieving.

    • http://sonofsamuel.blogspot.ca Dennis A.

      Thank you Catherine. Yes, I know what you mean. I’ve offered similar words to others. They were echoed back at me at the children’s funeral. Today when I here folks talk about the after-life and heaven I hear it as a sad devaluation of the only life we’re know we have… this one.

  • John Lombard

    A Challenge For Justas399:

    There are too many different discussions going on below involving Justas, so I’m starting this new one for him.

    Justas…you cite all sorts of “evidence”…but that “evidence” consists of claims based on what the Bible says. For example, your statement that, “Christ gave many reasons to believe in Him. Jesus demonstrated by His miracles who He was.”

    The problem with this, of course, is that just because the Bible says it, doesn’t mean it is true. That’s not “evidence”, that is hearsay. It is literally IMPOSSIBLE to verify the factuality or accuracy of the claims in the Bible. YOU may believe they are true…but they are not “evidence”.

    Let me demonstrate the problem with this using simple logic and critical thinking. You are, by your own admission, a Christian. So…what if a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Wiccan came to you with the same kinds of “proof”? What if a Muslim said, “Well, the Koran says that Mohammed was God’s prophet, and shows many miracles that he did.” Or a Hindu said, “The Bhagavad Gita reveals many spiritual truths, and tells of many miracles”.

    Would you accept that as “proof” that their religion is true? That their god is real?

    Of course not.

    So why should we be expected to give YOUR claims any more credibility, than the claims made by OTHER religions? In fact, for EVERY kind of “evidence” that you claim, other religions will make the same or similar claims, with the same or similar “evidence”. Yet you will dismiss all of them, saying that it’s not real “evidence”, while expecting us to accept YOUR claims.

    So here is my challenge to you.

    Present to me evidence for YOUR beliefs which, if OTHER religions presented the SAME evidence, you would not reject it.

    I very much doubt you’ll be able to do so. And this, to me, is where the fundamental difference between you and me is.

    For you, you’ve already decided what the “truth” is. All information that you get, all “evidence” that you view, will be filtered through that. If a particular claim SUPPORTS your beliefs, you’ll accept it as true, even if there’s no actual proof; but if a particular claim DIFFERS from your beliefs, you’ll reject it as false.

    For me, I try to examine ALL evidence equally. And based on the available evidence, draw the conclusion that BEST EXPLAINS that evidence. If the evidence for something else is STRONGER than the evidence for my own current beliefs, then that means I need to re-examine and perhaps change my beliefs.

    THAT is the reason that I rejected Christianity…after attending Bible College and serving as a missionary to China for several years. Not because I didn’t like Christianity. Not because I thought Christianity was ‘bad’. But simply because, when I looked at all the evidence, I could no longer support belief in a god — Christian, or otherwise.

    The fundamental problem here seems to be in our definitions of “evidence”. For you, “evidence” means “any claim that supports my beliefs”. For me, “evidence” means “anything that can be independently tested and verified.” For you, the Bible is “evidence”; for me, it is a book with stories that are impossible to verify, making claims that are impossible to test.

    Just like the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, and every other religious text out there. And I am no more willing to accept claims based on the Bible, than you are willing to accept claims based on the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita. These aren’t “evidence”. They are “beliefs”.

    And there’s a world of difference between the two.

    So…back to my challenge. To summarize:

    Present your “evidence” of the truth of Christianity. But ONLY present those proofs that, if another religion were to offer the same “evidence”, you would not dismiss it. Be CONSISTENT in your presentations of evidence…one of the most fundamental indicators of intellectual dishonesty is to claim, “If I say it, it is true, and proof of what I say; but if OTHERS say it, it is false, and should not be trusted.”

    For myself, I can honestly say that if someone were to offer evidence EQUAL TO OR GREATER THAN the evidence that I have for my own current beliefs, I would be open to adjust my beliefs accordingly. I can say that this is true because I’ve done so quite a few times in my life…not just in regards to rejecting Christianity, but in many other areas, also.

    • Justas399 .

      It is true that the Bible is a record- history of what God
      did in the past. It is also revelation because it tells us about things we
      could not have discovered on our own. Since the Bible makes historical claims those claims can be checked out by historians and archaeologists. None of their findings have disproven the Bible but have
      supported much of it. Luke for example, is known as a first rate historian by many.

      If the Bible is just hearsay then all of history is also. The question though is all hearsay false? Since much of the Bible has been proven to be historically reliable its not merely hearsay. This means that we are on solid grounds to take its claims on things we can’t prove seriously.

      Since the Bible tells us that Christ is God incarnate that means what He says is the Truth. He is the ultimate authority because of who He is. That being the case, anyone who says something that contradicts what He
      said and did is false. Muhammad said that Christ was not God or died on the cross. That statement is false not only because this denies what Christ said and did but it denies the historical fact of Him dying on the cross.

      Jesus did many miracles that were witnessed by others. What
      recorded miracles did Mohammed, Buddha, Hindu Guru etc perform that was recorded by known eyewitnesses? What is the earliest manuscripts or documents to these leaders? When was it recorded i.e. how close to the events?

      You should certainly give credibility to the claims of Christ
      because they are well attested by eyewitnesses. Take Luke 1:1-4—“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants
      of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know
      the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

      Luke is going to check out the truth of the gospel by interviewing the eyewitnesses from the beginning. This is not just some hearsay account.

      Do these other religions make claims like this? I’m not aware
      of any.

      You have no evidence for your atheism. To even begin to support your assertion for atheism you would have to have almost exhaustive knowledge of the universe for all time.

      At this point, without any evidence for atheism, you would have to admit that Christianity has GREATER evidence for being true than atheism does.

      • xscd

        Justas says:

        It is true that the Bible is a record- history of what God did in the past.

        Why on Earth would you think that?

        We have a tremendous amount of evidence to reconstruct and know much of history, but very little evidence to support most Biblical and religious contentions.

        The Bible is unreliable. It is a man-made product. Religion is a man-made product. Even God is a man-made product.

        Religion is what primitive man created to try to explain the universe, before science and the rational mind began to do a much better job of that. Science requires no faith; religion requires no evidence.

        Religion, whether Christian or Muslim, is mostly obsolete now, unnecessary, an archaic relic of earlier humanity. Because Christianity seems as silly to everyone else as Islam seems to Christians, all religious believers are placed in a position of having to defend a confusing, paradoxical and often conflicting set of beliefs and doctrines.

        To the extent that Christians (or any religious person) finds himself defending his beliefs, he actually questions and doubts them.

        • Justas399 .

          Huh??? “The Bible is unreliable. It is a man-made product. Religion is a man-made product. Even God is a man-made product.” I think not. A supreme being as an explanation for where the world came from is not unreasonable.

          What evidence would it take to “support most Biblical and religious contentions”? What exactly should that be? Much of science makes claims about things we have no direct evidence for. No one has seen the first life being created or touched a black hole. Science cannot explain by natural processes where DNA came from and how the first cell was created by naturalistic processes.

          Without religion a person cannot even begin to answer the most important question of life such as meaning and what happens after death,

          Keep in mind that Christianity has been far more beneficial for mankind than atheism, Those who follow Christ have done more good than any atheist could. The reason is that there are compelling reasons to sacrifice for Christ that results in many cases helping others than there is in atheism. There is no compelling reason in atheism to sacrifice.

          • xscd

            –> Justas says: “I think not.”

            That phrase pretty much sums it up.

            You can believe with all your heart, but evidence, not belief, is what we base knowledge upon. There is no knowledge of God, or Allah, or any of the Hindu gods, or the Greek gods, Roman gods, Egyptian gods or any other gods or religious we now consider archaic, quaint, charming but silly.

            Christianity and Islam will one day, probably sooner than we think, join those other religions as curious relics in the sociological and anthropological museum of our shared consciousness.

            Christianity and Islam are both destructive to society, even though members of both religions have contributed personally to society in various ways. Private spirituality is fine, but public, institutionalized, socialized religion is not.

            The only “meaning of life” is the meaning we ascribe to it, the values (non-religious values) we aspire to. An atheist can be (and often is) a very good and moral person. Religious people by contrast are often immoral and bad, authoritarian, sanctimonious and manipulative and controlling of others and of society.

            Religion bad. Freedom from religion good.

          • Justas399 .

            If you think religion is bad would you rather live in a communistic country? How about North Korea?

          • xscd

            Justas says: “If you think religion is bad would you rather live in a communistic country?”

            No. Are those the only choices?

          • Justas399 .

            Communistic countries don’t have the “baggage” of God. I would think you would want to live in these kinds of societies. You did say “Religion bad. Freedom from religion good.”

            I never said that The Declaration of Independence is a Christian document. The statement that I quoted from it is a Christian belief that is contained in secular document.

          • xscd

            Justas says:

            Communistic countries don’t have the “baggage” of God.

            Are you saying that no one in a communist country believes in God? Are you saying that every citizen of any particular country must have the same religious beliefs?

            The Declaration of Independence does not refer to the Christian God. It merely refers to an authority higher than that of the king for whose eyes the Declaration of Independence was intended, and for reasons that should be obvious to you if you think about it a little.

          • Justas399 .

            No to your first 2 questions. However, God has no part in the communist platform. Right?

            The majority of the founders of our country were Christians. This “authority higher than that of the king” would be the God of the Bible and not some unknown god.

          • xscd

            –> Justas says: “However, God has no part in the communist platform. Right?”

            I don’t know, I don’t care, and the issue is irrelevant to the conversation. I want to live in a country where each citizen has the greatest freedom to believe and behave as he or she wishes. I don’t want a country ruled by authoritarian Christians or authoritarian Muslims or even authoritarian atheists. Authoritarianism in America exists chiefly among the religious, more specifically among the Christians, so I regard Christians as currently the greatest threat to the ideals and values of America and its founders.

            –> Justas says: “The majority of the founders of our country were Christians”

            No, they weren’t. Christians like to think that everything is about their religion, and that’s so tedious to the rest of us.

          • Justas399 .

            Here is the breakdown of the founding fathers:

            “The denominational affiliation of these men is a matter of public record. Among the delegates were 28 Episcopalians, 8 Presbyterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists, 2 Roman Catholics, 1 unknown and only 3 deists–Williamson, Wilson and Franklin, this at a time when church membership entailed a sworn public confession of biblical faith.(John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), p. 43.)

          • xscd

            Justas says: “Here is the breakdown of the founding fathers”

            Christians always pick and choose who they include as “the founders” of the United States. You can’t trust Christian lists and Christian authors, who are highly biased and have an aggressive agenda to support. They are frequently embarrassed by, neglect to include, or speak disparagingly of Thomas Paine, for example, and avoid many quotations by Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and many others.

            Christians just want us to think that the U.S. is “a Christian nation” when it isn’t, and when it was set up by the founders as a strictly secular nation, intentionally.

            This is yet another reason that I resent Christians, trying to appropriate our entire country for themselves. You seem as though you might be a good example of the rather ugly and authoritarian type of Christian I was raised around. I’m against both Christianity and Islam, and any other socialized religion.

          • Justas399 .

            The US is not a “Christian nation” but a nation that has been influenced by Christianity.

          • xscd

            Justas says: “The US is not a ‘Christian nation’ but a nation that has been influenced by Christianity.”

            Christians are just one group of many that have influenced the nation and continue to do so. The Christian idea that they should predominate (and dominate) society and government, as Islam does in other parts of the world, is dangerous and destructive, as authoritarianism always is, whether of religious or non-religious origin.

            Christians always try to fit reality into the narrow confines of their religion, a ridiculous and useless exercise that is a complete waste of time.

          • Justas399 .

            Its a free country for people or groups to influence the laws of the land. Surely you don’t want censer people from expressing or influencing the laws of the land do you?

          • xscd

            Justas says: “Surely you don’t want censer people from expressing or influencing the laws of the land do you?”

            It depends. If the people are authoritarian such as many Christians (and Muslims if they were more pervasive in the U.S.), then they are unconstitutional and anti-American. So yes, I would put my effort and time with many other people to prevent such religious authoritarians from undermining the Constitutional principles of freedom and the individual authority of each citizen.

            In the United States, our “bible” is the Constitution, not the Bible. Christians are a threat to the American way of life.

          • Justas399 .

            So you are intolerant of other views that oppose your own. What you want is a totalitarian state.

          • xscd

            Justas says: “What you want is a totalitarian state.

            I think you’re confusing me with Christians or Muslims and their authoritarian socialized religion as theocracy.

            You don’t seem to realize that you seem just as silly and repulsive to others as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Mormons or other religious people would seem to you, if they were trying to sell you their particular brand of fantasy cure-all.

            Christianity is ridiculous. The fact that some people take it so seriously (like you) is the only reason we need to watch out for it and prevent Christians or Muslims or any religious group from trying to take over and force everyone to believe and behave as they think their imaginary god wants us to.

            Christians are a threat to America, to the Constitution, to society.

            Asking others to be tolerant of Christian intolerance, bigotry, authoritarianism, sanctimony, hypocrisy and abuse is like telling a wife injured by her husband to be “tolerant” or “understanding” of his abuse. Christian intolerance does not deserve tolerance.

            Christianity is destructive and detrimental both to the individual and to society in general. The fact that you are willing to be a part of that makes you complicit in the blame, and heaping the responsibility and blame for your actions and those of other Christians upon the shoulders of your imaginary God does not help. You can’t exculpate yourself that easily, any more than the Muslim terrorists who crashed into the twin towers can be held blameless because they did that for their god.

          • Justas399 .

            The fact is you are intolerant of other views especially Christians. This is called bigotry.

          • xscd

            Justas says: “The fact is you are intolerant of other views especially Christians. This is called bigotry.”

            No, it’s called rationality.

            As a Christian, you aren’t asking people to merely “be tolerant” of your views, you are asking them to actually accept your contrary-to-fact religious nonsense, and there is no more reason for anyone to do that than there is for you to accept the religious nonsense of another religion such as Islam.

          • Justas399 .

            Do you realize your freedom as a US citizen is based on a Christian principle?

            “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..”The Declaration of Independence

          • xscd

            The Declaration of Independence is a great document, but it is not a Christian document and you don’t understand its context.

      • Gehennah

        Since the Bible makes historical claims those claims can be checked out by historians and archaeologists. None of their findings have disproven the Bible but havesupported much of it.

        World wide flood in human history – debunked by geology, physics, biology, genetics, archaeology, history, and paleontology.

        Garden of Eden – debunked by genetics and biology

        Battle of Jericho – the evidence points to the city actually not being walled at the time. I know of AiG’s claims on it, and most other archaeologists, even Christian and Jewish ones disagree.

        Exodus – No evidence of it. In fact the logistics doesn’t work nor does it make any sense. And the fact that the line of people would be 85 miles long (1.5 million people, 10 people wide, 3 feet total space from one person’s chest to the next person’s chest (this isn’t space front to back, this is total space being occupied by the person plus a small gap).

        Mass Jewish enslavement by the Egyptians – Not supported by the evidence.

        Zombie uprising in Jerusalem after the resurrection – no one bothered to write it down in all of Jerusalem.

  • Gehennah

    teaching myself that I am not a degenerate, worthless sinner whose only salvation comes from believing the unbelievable.

    That was one of the hard things for me during my deconversion too. That and waking up in a cold sweat from having a nightmare about hell.

    I’d say that religion can and does often cause quite a bit of psychological trauma that can make it really hard to leave, much like an abusive spouse. Other people may see it, they may point out to you that your spouse is abusive, you need to get away, but you don’t see it like that.

    I am thankful that I had a neighbor who happened to be an atheist help me out during my deconversion. She never told me not to believe in god, she never told me what to believe or to accept. She was simply there for me in my time of need to talk to and to help guide me. It was really great and I wish everyone had someone to help them out with their deconversions.

  • Pofarmer

    I realize this is an old post, but I read it and just realized something. I like to think my deconversion was rational, and much of it was, but it was started iff by the very emotional experience of my Catholic wife basically dumping on my Protestant faith. That got me searching and questioning and it was all down hill from there. Thsnks for the post.


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