Was belief a waste of time?

Many readers of this site have religious backgrounds. Do you think being religious was a waste of time for you? That is, do you wish you were always an atheist/agnostic/skeptic?

In many ways, I wish I had the foundation of skepticism for my entire life. But I also don’t think my time believing in God was a complete waste. I came to love reading, found great friends, and asked many questions that would eventually lead me to atheism. My belief was a necessary part of who I am now, and why this blog exists. It’s a hard question for me to answer.

How about you?

(Thanks to McBloggenstein for the question.)

  • Tory

    I didn’t have a ‘Religious’ upbringing, but more of a unintended sceptic’s upbringing.

    My mother was on a Religious burn out from her own upbrining, going from Roman Catholic, to Evangelical Mega-church/televangilists, Chritian Scientists, and more durring her life. She brought me up to take all the evidence and review it and make my opinions/decisions based on that. As well as to update those opinions if new evidence is presented.

    So I didn’t grow up with Religion, though there was a bible in the house, I never saw it opened.

    Later in life, as a teenager and beyond once I joined the Military. I read the bible, attended Church services of many denominations of chrisianity. I attended an Islamic service, recived catholic communion and even briefly sung in a chior. I was investigating what I understood based on what everybody told me, to be the truth and what I believed. And for the briefest of times I did believe, a week or so at most.

    That’s when the worst thing for any believer to have happen, happened. I actually thought about it, and what little faith or belief I had been able to attain fell apart. Just like so much smoke and mirror’s in a stiff breeze.

    So at this point I found myself for many years an Agnostic, aka. an Atheist that isn’t sure. I’m an Ateist now and far happier then since before I began to explore religion. In truth, though I wouldn’t call it a waste of time, it was the more miserable time of my life. Full of self loathing, confusion and internal conflict.

    I find it useful, because it’s something I can fall back on. Not to embrace the ‘Faith’ and the warm fuzzy it supposedly gives people. It doesn’t, and I challenge anyone to claim it does when you really get down to brass tacks about it. It’s a reminder of just how happy I am now, and just how bad my life could have been, had I not had the sense to question the information being presented to me.

    It wasn’t a waste of time for me, but a needed time in my life, only because of the tools and understanding it provided me. I feel very sorry for those that didn’t have the more sceptical upbrining that I had.

    On a sadder note, my mother has been “Born Again” and just won’t listen. She’s more miserable now then ever in her life, putting it on on Jesus and that book to try and make her life better, and things only get worse. It’s not becuase there isn’t a solution, it’s because that solution would require that she take the wheel and steer herself, rather then covering her eye’s and praying that it will all get better. I try to talk to her about it, but she won’t listen, she won’t use those skills that she taught me.

    That’s enough from me.

  • Flood

    I grew up in a total immersion religious environment – religious family, relatives, school and society. My gut reaction is that it set my personal development back by about 20 years.
    Of course it’s also an intrinsic part of who I am.

    It’s a good question and one I’ll have to think about some more.

  • http://jivlain.wordpress.com jivlain

    Nah, being a Bible-literate atheist is so much more fun than being a Bible-illiterate atheist.

  • http://journalnous.wordpress.com augustine

    I was never ‘strongly’ religious, but I did certainly believe in God for a while. I can’t say that it ever improved my life in any discernible, although I also don’t remember it having any sort of negative impact on me. I suppose that’s why it was so easy to become an atheist – once I really thought about God, there was no emotional attachment to stop the whole thing falling apart.

  • Karl Taylor

    Huge waste of time, yes. But something far worse happened when I got out, massive guilt took over.

    Not guilt for my “soul” or my eternal life or for back sliding. I’ve left all that behind and now understand my place in the universe. No, the guilt came about because of all the other people I lied to. People I tried to terrify into believing as I did with the same stories of hell and damnation, that kept me terrified for so long. I felt incredible guilt over the other lives I had tried to manipulate and especially the ones I had succeeded in manipulating to my point of view.

    Now, more than 10 years after admitting to living a lie, I still struggle with feelings of guilt over my past actions. I have apologized to many people from my past and some have even forgiven me for my actions. Some however, the ones I did manage to convert, show me exactly what I was like all those years ago. I see a different kind of mirror now as I’ve watched and listened to them, try to scare me back into the fold.

  • lucien

    I grew up in a profoundly conservative, traditional Roman Catholic family/school/church. I consider my belief and practices during that time to be, for the most part, a colossal waste of time. The only benefit I have from that time is that I learned the Catholic theology and am thus armed to argue it.

    I’ll also echo flood’s comment that my religious belief put my personal development back a good 15-20 years. A theology of corrupted, damned humanity caused untold damage to my personality.

  • Patrick

    I think, initially, people are angry after they reject a belief system they grew up in. They feel betrayed, feeling their entire life up to that point has been a lie. Once they let go of all that, they get busy looking at things in an whole different way, taking responsibility for themselves and what happens to them, rather than being fatalists (whatever happens to me is by design. It is the will of _____.) I was in midlife when I rejected the beliefs I grew up on, totally, and now review that part of my life with new eyes.

    I don’t think it was a waste of time, because it’s important to understand many people do believe, and act on those beliefs, but they’re not my beliefs anymore, and I feel better than ever before.

  • anon

    I grew up with a lapsed-Catholic mom and an atheist dad. But I think my dad, who grew up Catholic, felt quite sheepish about “imposing” his ideas on his children. I grew up knowing that he didn’t believe in god, but we never had any kind of conversation about this. I think he thought that to discuss it at all with me, while I was a child, would be to press his beliefs on me.
    But really, it meant that when I hit 14 or 15 and started to ask questions myself, I didn’t know who to speak to. My mum was vaguely Catholic, vaguely agnostic, but not terribly interested in religous questions really – she was quite pragmatic and happily drew on her religious upbringing when she felt she needed to, and abandoned it at other times. My dad was the one who’d grappled with doubts and atheistic questions before, but he never raised the subject with me. It was always understood that he was a non-believer, but we never discussed it in more detail. In fact, I think he worried that his kids might be missing out – he gave us bibles and bible-story books – I think he was determined to ensure that his children didn’t miss out on these texts, which are crucial to an understanding of Western literature and history. Looking back, I’m grateful for this – but I also wish that I’d been able to talk to him when I was a teenager struggling with those first inklings of atheism.
    We’ve talked more frankly since, and I’ve been surprised to find that I’m much less dogmatic than he is. Whereas he still feels passionate and embattled as an atheist, I feel more ambivalent, and more sympathetic to believers. His atheism is the atheism of someone who’s had to break away from a conservative religious tradition: he sees religion as oppressive. I’ve never had to break away like he did, so I can feel more nostalgia for the comfort of religious belief.
    I’m not sure how this all relates to your blog post or your question! Only that…. I grew up in a family in which it was perfectly acceptable to be an atheist, but this didn’t mean I didn’t go through stages of confusion and fear and regret. In the end, if we’re thinking things through ourselves, we all have to deal with belief and doubt by ourselves. I guess what I’m suggesting is that belief can’t be a “waste of time”, because we all end up dealing with the same basic questions, whether or not we’ve been raised to believe.
    \

  • Brian

    I was allways skeptic in some sense, growing up in a catholic home I was allways questioning myself about catholic church, I couldn’t understand all that expensive ceremony, all the expensive ornaments, clothes, etc, when there was so much poverty in my home town. Bu I never spoke up.

    Then, being indoctrinated by jehova’s witnesses for almost 6 years, I was really skeptic about their teachings, in the back of my mind I was like “WTF?”. But I never spoke up, I did not want to offend my parents or jehova with my questioning. I never got baptized I went to another town to univeristy against jw’s wishes. I then I stop studying the bible and going to meetings.

    I was not into realigion until later.

    Today I really wish I was more outspoken, If I were smart enough I would have studied about jw’s history when my parents started, and I would have told them.

    Today, they are so much into it, that breaks my heart. My brother is an elder, my sister was disfellowshipped, my family is broken. My sister become an atheist and she is happy now that she has not more guilty feelings.

    Yes, I wish I was an atheist before. I wasted time, there were birthdays and christmas ans girlfriends I missed because of that brainless religion. How come I never picked a book before? I don’t know. I regreted it. I wish I could have save my parents when we started recieving that guy into our house for bible studies.

    I fell like I let them down.

    I am not an atheist due to anger, I am an atheist based on intellectual grounds.

    On the other hand, studying the history of jw’s drove me to study the history of christianity, the catholic church and islam, all of that made me realize that I was an agnostic before, and then drove me to atheism.

    I still read apologetics christians authors and they have only made my atheism stronger.

    Daniel, thank you for your block.

  • http://alphonsuspeck.wordpress.com Alphonsus

    I was born and raised utterly without religion. Religion was not practiced, nor was any skepticism expressed. Sure, my father hated televangelists, but this is a good and healthy thing to do for even the devote, and says nothing about religion itself. Religion simply, “wasn’t.” No time wasted there.

    It was through my own choices that I chose to explore religion. I was fortunate to live in a town where many self contradicting beliefs were practiced. When one is forced to “choose” a religion, by what criteria is the choice to be made? ALL fail the logic and self consistency test.

    I was forced, thus, to develop my own religious beliefs, and this has made me into the devote agnostic that I am today. I cherish the time I thought, and still think, about religion. I can provide comfort to both the devote christian and to the radical atheist without losing any of myself in the process. Attacking those who are devotedly religious is self-defeating. But expressing the questions by which I came to my own beliefs has opened more than a few minds. I love it.

  • John B

    I asked myself that question a few times over the years, having been a passionate evangelical christian for about 10 years (similar to your background). But I don’t think it was a waste of time. Sure, maybe I could have been doing other things, like studying languages instead of the bible, or whatever. But I also used to stay up late at night watching rock music videos when I was in my teens. Was that a waste of time? I mean, I could’ve been learning to actually *play* guitar, instead of watching other people play. But I enjoyed myself at the time, and quite a bit. I do similar things today, as an atheist- don’t watch much tv, but recently got hooked on Lost. Takes time away from my Spanish studies, but I enjoy it, so I don’t think it’s a waste of time. It’s the old, “If I knew then what I know now” line; if I had been an atheist all along and somehow tried to squash it and lumber on in the christian world, I might think of it as a waste of time. But since we only go through this life once, we don’t have the benefit of hindsight at the outset. I think, like you, that my belief was a necessary part of who I am today.

  • http://merelyadequate.net Mike aka MonolithTMA

    I value what I learned and experienced as a Christian. I think I learned quite a bit about humanity as a species. I also have wonderful friends that I might now have now if I wasn’t Christian.

  • jen

    I was raised in the church and in church schools from first through sixth grades. I don’t regret having been religious, because I think it’s valuable to have the experience of what religion is. It’s something of a vaccination – I know that the emotions don’t make it real, and I believe I am far less likely to fall for some religious line when I’m having a bad time in my life.

    But I regret the school. I went to tiny little schools, that weren’t very good academically. I was smart enough I don’t think that held me back much, but I was *miserable*. See, all those good little Christian students – and those good Christian teachers – all disliked me. I was smart, tall, poor, and it was easy to make me cry. And my family was known in the church for the fact that my dad was cranky and disrespectful of church leadership, and my older brothers had been problems. And I paid for it all.

    I’d been told that public school was basically the halls of hell – that students there were horrible, mean, hateful, demon-spawn. The summer before 7th grade, when I knew I’d be going to a public school, I was *terrified*. And then, on my first day, I made something like a dozen friends.

    That may have been, in a lot of ways, the beginning of my doubts about Christianity. The Christian kids had never shown me any kindness. The non-Christians did, in spades. Clearly, Christianity did NOT have a monopoly on basic human kindness, the way they claimed to.

  • http://whyareyousofat.wordpress.com McBloggenstein

    @jivlain

    “Nah, being a Bible-literate atheist is so much more fun than being a Bible-illiterate atheist.”

    Well put. This is something I regret having grown up with non-religious parents (rather than “atheist”, because we just didn’t discuss religion at all). Having a recent fondness for discussing religion, I wish I were more Bible-literate!

    I should say that I didn’t expect all of the de-converted to come screaming that they regret it all, and wish it upon no one. I know that most people recognize that they wouldn’t be who they are today without their past. I think probably a lot of folks wouldn’t be as interested in history, philosophy, religion, and science as they are… if it weren’t for the de-conversion process.

    @Karl Taylor
    You brought up a good point that I didn’t even think about, and I believe would haunt me as well:

    “I felt incredible guilt over the other lives I had tried to manipulate and especially the ones I had succeeded in manipulating to my point of view.”

    Thanks for using my suggestion, Daniel.

  • http://whyareyousofat.wordpress.com McBloggenstein

    P.S. Good post to do on a Sunday morning, by the way, while all the good Christians are in church. :)

  • http://www.noctua.org.uk/paul/ Paul Wright

    As Aslan says, you never find out what would have happened, but that won’t stop me guessing. So… (Note to Christians: these are my thoughts on whether Christianity makes you happier, not whether it’s true).

    There were times when I found Christianity comforting, or when, as an under-confident young man, it gave me the strength to go against the flow and be happy going against it. For example, lots of people at university liked to get very drunk (you can buy drink in bars at 18 years old in the UK), something I didn’t, and still don’t, enjoy. If you’re a Christian who doesn’t drink, there’s a narrative there which makes you feel you’re part of some grand cosmic struggle rather than just being a party-pooper. These days I have enough confidence of my own, but Christianity allows you to borrow some confidence if you don’t have enough.

    I also really got into the intellectual side of evangelicalism, arguing with atheists and non-evangelicals on the uk.religion.christian newsgroup. That was fun.

    Like you, I also made friends I wouldn’t have made otherwise.

    On the other hand I spent a lot of time as a Christian fretting about stupid stuff, like what, if anything, I should do about feelings towards girls, whether I should do more evangelism or serve on a Christian summer camp or … etc. etc. Of course, as an evangelical I’d've said that none of that stuff matters for salvation, but when you’re part of a group, you naturally seek the approval of people around you, and of the god in your head. Not having those nagging worries any more is a relief, not to have had them in the first place would have been even better.

    On the whole, I think I’d wish that I could have acquired the confidence to reject Christianity, and to be my own person in other ways, sooner than I did.

  • SarahH

    Interesting question!

    Like others have already posted, I am certainly glad that I’m very familiar with the Bible and with Christian arguments, language and ideas. It makes both debates and friendships with Christians much easier, and I can certainly see more sides to each issue.

    OTOH, I do wish that my time as a Christian hadn’t been so long and hadn’t been during the formative years of my life. I was already a perfectionistic, anxious kid by nature, and Christian guilt added a hefty punch. I certainly don’t feel grateful for that part of my Christian upbringing, or for the friends I may have lost, the boyfriends I ruled out, and the experiences my faith barred me from.

  • David

    Nope.

    It’s true that being a Bible-literate atheist is better than being Bible-illiterate, but that’s only because the religious set so much store by that ridiculous omnibus of bronze-age mythology and prejudice.

    The usefulness of Bible knowledge, therefore, is due to tha fact that, for some obscure reason, we let the mythologists set the terms of many a debate.

    Since all my religious friends dropped me like a hot potato once they knew I could not be reconverted, I would say that the time of my life I spent religious is a 25-year sinkhole.

    Only one positive came out of those years, my kids were born then. And the fact that I was religious had nothing to do with any of that good, so I would have to say I am a firm, “Yes! Waste of time!”

  • William Schmitt

    Good question. I actually am still rather fond of many things I experienced as a believer. There are certain things I did based on faulty assumptions I held for many years, and they have held be back in many areas, but I put them more on my own personal flaws than Christianity itself. Even when I was in Christianity I had a lot of problems with “church”, most of which is not in the Bible, and much of which is actually condemned. On the other hand, the social aspects of much of it I do miss, we had very many good friends. Of course, since Christianity is an all-consuming aspect of a believer’s life we only hear from a very few of these old friends. It was funny however, that the best sales job I ever had involved calling on churches! So in that aspect I am very glad for my past. I fully agree, it is better to be a Bible-literate agnostic, at least if you are trying to converse with those who still believe. As to whether I am a better person now then back then, I don’t see a whole lot of difference. I didn’t drop a whole lot of my moral beliefs, I still believe them because I think they are right, but no longer because “the Bible says so.” Which is the reason that Christianity/Bible believing continues to grow; there are a lot of good, sound teachings in the Bible that can help people become better people. To quote Jack Nicholson’e character; “You make me want to be a better man.” If this a person’s motivation, there’s a lot of good stuff in the Bible, but you have to be free to take what you feel is good and be free to leave the rest. Of course, therein lies the debate!

  • Restless D

    Wow there are some touching stories of the personal journeys some people have gone through.

    I have never been religious although have always been very interested in the topic and different religious beliefs. If I’m honest I suppose deep down was playing my own version of Pascal’s Wager. Not that I did believe God, but I never really wanted to close off the possibility by not really thinking about it and challenging myself in that way. I dunno if that makes any sense.

    This all changed aged 30 however when about 8 months ago I read The God Delusion, which even though I was not religious at the beginning, still made me feel like I have had my head buried in the sand all these years. This lead to Harris, Hitchens etc, & becoming somewhat if a militant rationalist hunting down all these blogs to post on & doing everything I can to challenge religious delusion. I suppose some of the desire for this is the guilt I feel for before for even while not believing, not really challenging things you just hope might be true i.e. the possibility of heaven. The more I debate with people now the more I realise how much Science is under attack in every way from alternative medicine to religion. I also feel guilt for not realising this sooner & am now a frequently intolerant anti-religionist and ready to challenge whatever nonsense claims people make.

  • Caryl

    I didn’t have a religious upbringing, beyond the occasional Sunday School visit with my grandmother during visits to her house. But I got sucked into “the cult” (as I refer to the strict mainline southern denomination I became a member of) during my last semester of college.

    Either directly or indirectly because of the teachings of “the cult”, I dropped out of graduate school, spent every weekend (and many many weeknights) in church or at church functions, forgot I had a high IQ, stopped drinking, watching TV, seeing movies, and dating, and pretty much waited for “God” to “bring me a husband” like a good Christian woman. I forgot I had gone to college, and worked low-wage non-thinking jobs and just waited.

    Yes. I wasted 8 years of my life. My entire twenties!!! It took me years to leave, even after the sham became clear. Fortunately, “God” never “brought me a husband.” I have so often thought with dread about how my life would be had I ended up married to one of the men I knew from church.

    Instead, after a long period of grief, I found my way again, finished graduate school, married a wonderfully intelligent atheist man, and discovered a career that would challenge fulfill me.

    It was a frightful waste of time, but without it I might not have the life I have now, which does fulfill me in a very real way, and makes me very happy.

    Incidentally, I remember in high school being warned about cults and the danger of joining a cult in college. But nobody ever told me that cults come in all shapes and sizes, and that they frequently take the form of churches we’ve grown up around. This is the part that still makes me quite angry.

  • http://adventuresandmusings.wordpress.com adventuresandmusings

    I have never really believed. My parents did not go to church when I was growing up. Several times I went to Vacation Bible School or to church with my friends at various churches. When I was in 4th grade, I found out there was no Santa. I then thought that there was no Easter Bunny, No Tooth Fairy and No God. Until I was in my mid-twenties I didn’t admit this to anyone. I thought that I would be ostracized and that people would think I was an awful heathen.

    I’m with you on one thing. I don’t regret any part of my past. I like myself now and my current persona is the sum of all of my past experiences.

    This is a great blog!

  • Michele

    I don’t think it was a waste of time in that I learned quite a bit about myself that I might not otherwise have learned. I do regret however indoctinating my children so thoroughly. They have made their own decisions in life and honestly I’m not sure they would have been that different given a more sceptical upbringing.

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    @McBloggenstein : Until they come back in the afternoon with new zeal for the Lord and smacking down atheists! :)

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    I’m really enjoying these answers — thanks everyone!

  • lra364

    Interesting question. I believe in God still (whatever God may be) but have rejected all religions and especially those fundamentalist religions that proselytize and start wars (culture wars included).

    Was being a Christian a waste of time? Yes and no.

    Yes, because a good chunk of my 20′s was lost to one of those “Baptidome”- style mega-churches. There were good friends that I had made who turned away from me, so I left almost empty-handed from those years.

    However, I’m doing graduate work in the humanities, and knowing the bible has sure come in handy!!! Western philosophy has its underpinnings in Greek writings and the bible, so, at least on a scholarly level, I’ve got some good knowledge.

    Finally, I’m sad to say that I have to keep quiet around my family, some members of which believe that the earth is 6000 years old and that evolution is a conspiracy from the scientific community who is covering up evidence of a worldwide flood.

    No, really. That is the sh*t I have to listen to at family gatherings, and I have a master’s degree in biotechnology/neuroscience, so I REALLY have to bite my tongue (as they are basically calling my hard earned degree from an IVY league school a load of horse crap!)

    So at this point, I guess the family gatherings are the real waste of time.

  • lra364

    You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. You can pick your butt. But you can’t pick your family.

  • http://thinkingforfree.blogspot.com/ Eamon Knight

    Speaking very roughly, I was fundamentalist from age 15 to 27, a liberal Christian from then until 44. On the whole, I don’t think it was a waste of time. I mean, most of my actual *time* was spent doing what everyone does: getting an education (to Master’s level), having a career, raising kids, going on vacations. Even the “church” stuff wasn’t wasted time, in that it was a social life, and I got into the musical side in a big way, both as a chorister and a solo guitarist/singer.

    Could I possibly have made better use of my spare time, to do some of the things I’m only picking up now? “If I knew then what I know now” — but that’s asking my 15yo self to have the smarts that my 50yo self now has. Even if the kid-that-was-me had taken a different turn, he was still the same naive kid, and there’s no guarantee he would have done anything significantly better.

  • rcn2

    In this culture, at this time, I find being a former ‘believer’ fairly useful. In my experience somebody who has never believed often has just no idea exactly what those Christians ‘really’ believe and do.

    My wife (for example), once left our daughter in the care of my brother. She thought it would be cool if she learned a bit about religion and heard some funny stories. Naturally I got over there and made some excuses why my daughter had to leave. Immediately.

    Religious nuts don’t tell funny stories to children. They describe them burning in hell, and their parents burning in hell, and that there’s only one way to save themselves. Torturing a child to save their soul is simply being kind, in their eyes.

    A thorough understanding of Christian mythology is essential to understanding our culture.

  • anon

    The only part that was flat out a waste of time was the music. If I could have the many hours of singing and listening to worship music back, I would be happy.

    I was born into a Christian family and strongly believed in God, albeit with a fairly liberal mindset. The biggest negative that came with that was definitely the emotional pain caused by doubt in the long process of deconversion. I started questioning at 15, and for at least two years my number one priority in life was figuring out whether God exists, and whether Christianity was true. The fact that God was essential to a good life was implicit in what I was taught, so the doubt the came with honest questioning was hard to deal with. Looking back, I wonder if I missed out on some opportunities because I was forced to look at the question from a Christian perspective and deal with the emotional trauma that came from that. Still, I think the question would have been important to me at any rate, and it’s hard to pin negatives on my Christian upbringing when they might have come about anyway based on my personality.

    Still, there were some positives: I made great friends and went on service projects that expanded my perspective. Plus, I know first-hand what it means to be a Christian, so I’m not phased by the argument that atheists just don’t understand God’s love. I know what it’s like, and can vouch for the intellectual integrity and freedom of conscience I have now that I lacked when I was a Christian.

    So, all in all, I think it would be disingenuous to simply call belief a waste of time. Still, I’m happy to have moved on from it and finally be confident in my intellectual position and direction in life with most of my life still before me (I’m 19). I’m not happy to have been indoctrinated from birth, but I am glad to have been in an environment that allowed me to question it for myself so early in life (although I was supposed to arrive at a different conclusion…)

  • Not Delusioned

    went to a catholic grade school for 8 years. very religious roman catholic family and upbringing. a few classes in morals, ethics, family values, would have saved me 8 freaking years of daily religion classes and endless hours of church. a huge, huge waste of time that would have been much more beneficial to me as science and math instruction (true education, in other words).

  • http://vidlord.com/ vidlord.com

    was a complete waste of time. pure brainwashing. i finally woke up one day when i saw my mom staring intently at a picture of a statue of mary and repeating the hail mary over and over and over. it was freakish. i remember yelling at her ‘it’s a statue!!!’ lol.
    i just saw this amazing video about a cult. i highly recommend you watch it. Notice the scary blankness in the cult followers eyes. They all look the same – completely brainwashed.

    http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/inside-a-cult-3401/Overview?#tab-Videos/05168_00

  • Rob

    A lot of effort to prove others wrong.

  • http://madamkatarra.blogspot.com Kayla

    I didn’t really grow up religious – just sort of barebones christianity. (Sorta read the bible, never went to chruch, jesus was brought up every so often, etc.)

    When I was around 10, I finally sat down with my mom’s jumbo bible (mostly because the letters were big) along with my “kid friendly” bible an ultra-christian friend gave me, to help translate some of the tougher sections of it.

    After getting through it (the WHOLE thing, took me weeks) I asked myself “Do I believe any of it?”

    The answer I came to was “No.” It hasn’t changed, and I’ve been an atheist ever since. The brief time I actually believed, I don’t feel anything was wasted there, because I wasted no time on religion even then.

  • Rob

    You people went to some whacky churches if this is what you took away from it.

  • dr.R.

    Funny, I was just thinking about this the other day. It’s a difficult question – in the end, it is impossible to know how your life would have worked out, so I guess at some point we reconcile ourselves to what has happened and what made us who we are right now. Yet, if I look at it factually, I have to agree with “Not Delusioned” above: it was a huge waste of time that could have been spent on education, for example.

    Personally, I tend to believe that I could have become more self-confident if I would have had a more normal and down-to-earth upbringing. I’m not an overly confident person myself, but instead of being encouraged and stimulated I was sent to church. I wouldn’t say it’s a setback of so many years, it’s much more than that. How you grow up as a little child influences you for the rest of your life.

  • http://northerngnome.wordpress.com/ Gnorthern Gnome

    I guess I had a pretty good start in life. I have parents who are semi-agnostic. At the age of six I probably believed both were Christians but by 8 or 9 I knew my Dad just enjoyed the social side from his youth and my mum had been a practising Buddhist for a while so they were hardly devote and never pressured any “faith” upon me. School was similar, CofE so had a Christian underpinning which I greatly value; it taught me a set of morals I more or less believe to be correct today. They also introduced me to UK evangelical Christians who are still some of the nicest people I’ve ever met (not talking US crazy-arms and tongues weird stuff) with some very well reasoned arguments.
    I progressed to secondary education into a Catholic school. Catholic teachers are, in my experience, best avoided. However monks are brilliant, incredibly kind people with some amazing perspectives. I loved being taught by the few we had at school; I left with a deep cynicism for the Catholic church itself but a great respect for Christianity and those that felt faith.

    Personally I guess I’m not the average commentator here as I still have faith, still believe in a mono-theistic religion. I would not trade my time with Christians and other religions for the world; personally I find atheists that are so close minded as to refuse to even conduct civil research into religion one of the worst form of fundamentalist, far more so than most fundamental Christians I’ve met. Both have very negative viewpoints on life but I find at least the majority of Christians respectful towards other people.. that said you can get some very disrespectful ones in both camps.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    I was raised as a liberal Christian. I enjoyed the sense of community from my church family, and I enjoyed a lot of the things we did in our youth groups and at the Christian youth gatherings I attended. I liked many of the hymns, and I sang in our choir for several years.

    I do not regret being a religious believer. As others have stated, it is much better to be a belief-literate atheist than to be a belief-illiterate atheist.

    Also, Biblical knowledge in supremely useful in debates with Christians. ;)

    Yes, I wish I had not had to feel the sense of guilt that I felt at times for “not doing enough”. But again, as others have said, my period of belief made me who I am today.

  • John Charles

    @Teleprompter >> “Also, Biblical knowledge in supremely useful in debates with Christians. ;)”

    I’m baffled that anyone who reads and understand the Bible would remain a Christan.

  • sarahbee2005

    I don’t think it was a waste of time at all. For me, it was what got me through life entirely. If faith (or anything for that matter) is considered a waste of time, than so is atheism. I have found that no matter what you believe or don’t believe, it’s worth the experience and contributes to your life and who you are as a person.

  • Atheist at 40

    Daniel,

    I can’t honestly say it was a waste of time, because my strong religious upbringing made me the person I am, and because I like the person I am, it would be a mistake to regret all of my upbringing.

    My church–which was very evangelical, seriously into witnessing, very musical—gave me a confidence to speak publicly and a love of music. It was also very strong socially, and I was part of a warm supportive network of friends and wider family. In fact, if it hadn’t been for my fear of offending them I’d probably have left the church much sooner.

    BUT none of this had anything to do with faith. I remember that now as hard work–tedious sermons, protracted prayer meetings, severe policing of morality. I tried to do everything I was told, I had the usual terror of hell and punishment (that evil film ‘Left Behind’ made me sick with terror of the rapture happening and either me or my family not being right with God at that exact moment and therefore being abandoned and punished). I know that for many years my faith was genuine, my love of God unconditional, my baptism of the spirit a real event—just as I know the trolls at this site will say I never really believed/understood/prayed properly/had faith etc. But I read the bible many times, and all sorts of other Christian writers, and I prayed, I spoke in tongues (don’t get me started on that idiocy) I attended bible college, and for a long time I believed I’d been called to be a minister.

    That said, I remember clearly, aged about 8, thinking to myself, ‘But if God is real, why won’t he talk to me? Why doesn’t he come here right now, wrap me in his arms, and take away my evil doubts.’ And he never did. I doubted even then the story of Noah’s flood. I thought it was bad of God to kill the Egyptians’ children. I couldn’t think why he’d let so many other people believe in different gods–why didn’t he just stop them? BTW my parents were missionaries, and I lived for 5 years on a christian mission station in Africa, so my doubts came from a purely internal source. And (for the christian trolls) I’m not talking about Satan tempting me or God testing me (I was eight FFS), I’m talking about my own evolved, reasoning consciousness.

    In my late twenties I finally acknowledged I didn’t believe this and it was okay to leave and say why. Leaving church was such a blessed relief. Finally I felt the peace and freedom Christianity had promised but never delivered to me.

    I think because of my experience I’m a slightly/very evangelical non-believer. I don’t want to sit idly by and see other people enslaved by bronze-age superstition for as long as I was. I truly do believe that religion poisons everything–it closes minds, it fosters hatred, it damages relationships–it’s about power of a few over many. In some ways I envy my wife, who grew up in an unbelieving household and is so blithely unencumbered by my baggage. All religions are, and always have been, patently silly to her. She tries to be polite, but I could see her incredulity when many of my extended family believed they’d cure a loved one of cancer through prayer (guess what–she died).

    It’s wonderful to be able to teach my children to think, ask questions, be tolerant of difference, be open minded. Their morality is innate, I think they are good people.

    So what do I regret? Mostly the lost opportunities of my youth. I wish I’d milked my one life for every experience and morsel of excitement it had to offer. I wish I’d put on a backpack and explored the world by train and foot instead of squandering my precious youth in bible camps and church meetings. I wish I hadn’t been brought up to hate homosexuals and other people who were born different. I wish I’d been taught about my body, learned about responsible sexuality, and not frittered away so many years feeling guilty, frustrated and tormented about my healthy and natural desires. Oh yes–and I wish the bible hadn’t made my parents think it was important to have my foreskin cut off.

    You try to enter into a reasonable dialogue here Daniel, and I admire you. But I find it hard to read a lot of the posts without feeling angry. I detest many of the supercilious Christians who pontificate here, because I know that behind their glib cherry-picked bible verses and offers to pray for me lies a real world that will include all or some of: hatred of gays, relish that non-believers will burn in hell, not sparing the rod on their children, subjugation of wives, denigration of science etc. etc.

    So, yes, my Christian childhood and adult faith have helped make me who I am and I’m glad of that. But of much greater happiness is the fact that I escaped religion while I was still young enough to refashion and enjoy my life. I’ve been an unbeliever of various shades for almost two decades now–the happiest years of my life to date. You religious types can keep eternity–this is my heaven right here, right now and it’s up to me to make the best of it. In the words of the reprehensible Smoggy Batzrubble who posts at ‘Stuff God Hates’:

    Just laugh with your family, love all your friends,
    This is your ride, and it too quickly ends.
    I don’t want a heaven, I don’t need a hell,
    The best that will happen, as far as I can tell,
    Is that one day a few of my myriad atoms,
    Will be out in space forming marvelous patterns,
    And so too will yours, and maybe they’ll meet,
    And that’s better than a heaven with God and Saint Pete.

  • http://treedreamer.com Tree Dreamer

    It was a huge, massive waste of my time and life. The only thing I got out if it is the ability to really skewer believers in debate using their own scriptures, and that is a skill I could have lived without.

  • William Schmitt

    Anon wrote

    “The only part that was flat out a waste of time was the music. If I could have the many hours of singing and listening to worship music back, I would be happy.”

    Amen to that!! OOps sorry, I meant Right on!!

  • Matt L

    Thinking of it as a waste in some ways means I regret; I don’t want to regret. I want to spend all the available time of my life being happy and loving all that deserves love.

    However, more recently, I wish I de-converted sooner.

    I become extremely depressed and mostly a burden on my wife and family. Fully understanding and appreciating the only life I have makes me want to never again be depressed.

    Wondering if their was a “divine spirit” did waste time, time I can’t get back, and time I’m trying to prevent my wife from currently wasting.

  • http://dougintology.blogspot.com Ibid

    I never thought it was anything but a waste of time. Even as a really little kid I saw it only as my parents trying to drag me out of bed on a weekend, go to class, then sit through an hour long ceremony and lecture. I hate ceremonies. Elect me President and I’ll have the formal swearing in and that’s it.
    I skipped all graduation ceremonies. I attended confirmation classes and then didn’t get confirmed. If I have my way my marriage ceremony will consist of “Sign here, here, here, and initial there.”
    It was my hatred for ceremonies that first turned me against the Methodist church. I’d probably be a real threat if I were raised Catholic.

  • Struan

    Like many here, in some ways I regret it, in others I don’t. I regret the hours lost to “the” Church (not attending, but participating). I regret the ridiculous, holier-than-thou pomposity of it all. I regret (hate?) the pastors, standing on stage with their cool, collected demeanour preaching circular reasoning and getting applauded for it.

    I love the fact that I know the religion better than any practicing Christian I know. That’s the part I don’t regret. It took me seven years as a practising evangelical Christian to realise that it was utter bullshit, but it was the best first-hand education in how powerful indoctrination is that anybody could wish for.

  • lonlonmilk

    I’m kind of the opposite of you, Daniel. I somewhat wish that I had had an introduction to spiritualism and religion at some point in my life. I am happy to be an atheist, and would prefer that over a life of blind faith, but because I was raised with no religious framework, I find it hard to empathize with those who do. Most notably, I make fun of them like I’d make fun of anyone who believed in anything else stupid and undemonstratable. This has strained alot of friendships over the years.

    I also am bothered by the fact that I simply do not get alot of biblical or otherwise references, because I never had great exposure to the bible, exept through popular culture. I’m trying to understand it better now that I am older, but it’s simply difficult to read and be interested in.

  • Patrick

    @Atheist at 40 Very well said. Best post on this string! Your sentiment is honest and true. I wish I’d said it. Well done, Sir!

  • http://digitopus.com/ skatoolaki

    As a child, I vacillated between fervor and terror wherein my religious upbringing was concerned.

    Though my parents went through a brief period (about a year) of absolute devotion, the rest of childhood was spent actively involved in the church while coming from an open-minded and rather religiously-lax home. I consider the Methodist version of Christianity to be the least strict – and perhaps the least scarring – of them all, and I am glad it was the path my parents chose for us.

    Even with the seeming permissiveness of Methodism, being the precocious, imaginative, and intense child I was, my views on the religion I was being brought up in were abject devotion to Jesus, utter befuddlement concerning God, and resolute terror of the Devil. Of all three, my terror reigned supreme.

    As I understood it, our mere thoughts were dripping with sin and – with my thoughts always spiraling into dangerous territory – I was sure I could never make it into heaven under the guidelines that God had set out. Therefore, I reasoned, I was destined for that fiery pit of agony and an eternity under the glare of that most ominous of evils – the Devil. I was terrified, and that’s putting it lightly, of the Devil. Thoughts of how alluring my impure soul must be to him convinced me he was after me on a nightly basis and many a night was spent too terrified to sleep lest he should come and snatch my soul and ferret it off into the night. Sleep often brought nightmares of the same ilk and I spent a good deal of my youth in despair.

    Naturally, I today see the Christian time in my life as being fear-based and would never dream of subjecting a child to such. Regardless of assurances that Christ had died for my sins and that I was saved, I could not shake the dire warnings I read and heard; ones I am now convinced were built into the framework of Christianity to keep the flock too cowed by fear to seek answers elsewhere.

    Obviously this was not everyone’s experience. Even as a teen who began to branch out and study other religions and ideas, there was the gnawing fear that I was sinning and going to burn in hell for my questions. It was a dread that took many years to shake. I can only imagine it would have been much worse had I come from a decidedly religious family.

    I do not regret my Christian upbringing, and am now even able to look back at some of it with much positivity. I am no longer bitter and still care for the small church I grew up in – whose teeny, local congregation were more like family than anything, though I no longer consider myself even remotely Christian.

    The things I went through and learned have all been valuable tools in my on-going spiritual journey, and – even better – excellent fodder for the many rebuttals of Christian doctrine and myth I have written over the years; not to mention in the enjoyable dissertations I have gotten into with practicing Christians and born-agains.

    I’m not one to regret where I’ve been or anything I have experienced, regardless of how negative seeming or painful it was at the time. All of these things have shaped who I am today, and – with all the work I have put into self and in learning to love and value myself – that is something I would not trade for anything.

  • Rickibirder

    I began as an atheist, found my way into hinduism and threw away nine years on it.

    All I have to show for those years are my skills in preparing Indian cuisine, an ability to quote the Bhagavad-gita chapter and verse in Sanskrit, some broken Bengali and loads of regret and bitterness.

    It was a monumental waste of time. I should have spent those years working in the science (ornithology) that I returned to after hinduism and actually helping to do some real good in the environment.

    I’m ashamed that I fell for such BS and ashamed that I wasted years in such self centered delusion, when there’s so much to give and good to be done.

  • Kevin

    A liberal ‘liturgical’ Christian with Baptist and Christian & Missionary Alliance friends. Considered the ministry. The scales fell from my eyes around the age of 20.

    Not a complete waste of time, for me. Gave me much more self-confidence than I would have had. Helped me speak in front of a crowd. And – importantly, I think – gave me tools that I use now to help educate my kids on religion. (Though, much as I try to be even-handed and objective, my 10 year old daughter just keeps saying, “Yeah – right!” when I try to explain things like the resurrection, transubstantiation, and the like.)

    Happy to be Bible-literate, for sure.

  • Atheist at 40

    Thanks Patrick,

    Very good to know you found some reason to agree with me. In my Christian days we used to have to testify a lot. I like my atheist testimony a lot better.

  • lra364

    ROB

    Your comments aren’t constructive. Seriously, you’re being a troll. It’s not appreciated.

    Our experiences are what they are and you have no right to judge them.

    If your experience was so fantastic, then why don’t you expound upon your experience, rather than judging others whose experiences were less than ideal.

    The fact is, that any “religion” that is actually from a perfect and loving god *should* mean that any person could go into any church and get that closeness to this god, and yet for the majority of us that doesn’t happen. So what does that say about your religion?

    What it says is that it DOESN’T come from god.

    Go ahead, challenge me. I dare you to be logical.

  • Yesol

    –William Schmitt

    Anon wrote

    “The only part that was flat out a waste of time was the music. If I could have the many hours of singing and listening to worship music back, I would be happy.”

    Amen to that!! OOps sorry, I meant Right on!!–

    I’m surprised! My opinion is complete opposite. I loved the solemn choir, joyful singing of gospel, all the hallelujah’s, amen’s, dancing and clapping… I grew up with minimal exposure to religions (maybe a bit of Buddhism) and I sought it out myself, which in retrospect, was an attempt to find a place to belong. I drifted through various churches, including Catholic, through my teen years and early twenties. I would get so immersed in the atmosphere and music, I seriously believed the euphoria to be the religious experience. Problem was, the euphoria was gone once the music stopped and sermon began, and I’d be again left with this nagging feeling that it’s not right. I’m quite content with my agnostic ways and happy that I no longer feel the need to attach myself to a religious group to belong. But the music, I miss the feeling. Even to this day, I like singing a few gospel songs occasionally. It makes me feel like such a liar though…

  • Tom

    this video sums up my thoughts perfectly:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAIpRRZvnJg

  • http://verywide.net/ Moody834

    I was raised in a nominally Catholic household and attended church with my parents all through my youth. I also went to CCD (catechism). These things were just a part of growing up, but so too was the occasional cynical outburst from my father. He had converted my mother away from her Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, and she had the faith of a convert–more zealous and less likely to bend. He was raised Catholic and found a lot of the behavior of nuns and priests to be hypocritical. He studied comparative religion and we had a lot of philosophy, theology, and sociology books in the house. We also had a lot of the “Great Books”, and I was constantly encouraged to read them. However, when I did read some of them (such as Gargantua & Pantagruel) and developed questions that threatened a standard religious view my father would become very unhappy.

    I spent a lot of time as a pre-adolescent questioning religion, to the point that my mother was flummoxed and put out by me. Perhaps that is one of the reasons my parents opted to send me to an all-boys Catholic school for my freshman year as a high school student. It was a catastrophic mistake on their part, as I got to witness first-hand the terribly abusive behavior of priests. I was also horribly mistreated by many of my fellow classmates, to the point that I began suffering terrible stomach cramps every morning before classes and eventually had a nervous breakdown.

    The breakdown followed my meeting with the school’s principal, who happened to be the priest of my parents’ church. I was a shaking, sobbing mess when I talked with him, and I was in desperate need of comfort and kindness. Instead, he actually said to me, “Did you ever stop to think that maybe God is punishing you for your sins?” And it was this, the ultimate betrayal to my mind, that finally confirmed the fear I had that it was all a mugs game.

    Still, I clung to the varieties of religious experience (haha) for a long time. I couldn’t tell you why, really, except to say I was searching and searching for something I felt I had lost. I tried a lot of different religious approaches during my adolescence, but nothing really stuck with me and I never felt honest in the midst of believers. And still I refined and honed my conceptions until the day I realized that I defined “God” right out of existence and could not in any way believe there was any divine or supernatural anything. I had to admit that I found the Bible to be a sad mish-mash of pastoral masturbatory fantasies, and other religious literature from other cultures seemed remote and unreal.

    My point is that I spent a lot of time on something that I’d been raised to value that, in the end, held no value at all for me. I wasted my time on it. It tied my psyche up in knots and held me hostage for years in one way or another. I am nothing but glad to be well shut of it now, and I find the idea of raising a child to be religious abhorrent and nauseating.

    Did it teach me morality and goodness? No. My parents taught me those things, however it was they felt informed of the merits of those qualities. Religion had a good impact on me insofar as it pushed me to read more, and more diversely. But that may well have been more the influence of my father, of my genes, of the era…. And in any case, it was a waste of my time reading all those religious books. But maybe I simply had to go through all that so that I wasn’t left wondering all the time.

    Do I wish my experience had been better? Yes and no. I mean, if I’d not been pushed away from religion as I was, I might have gone on with it and ultimately made a fool of myself. Then again, the amount of trauma I had to overcome from that one year of high school is not something I’d wish on anyone. So, um, yeah. Now that I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself on the subject and reading up, I’m especially glad to have made peace with my own honest assessment of religion and “God”. I’m glad to say I’m an atheist.

    But here’s one thing I have to consider: how is it I have come to a place in my life that I still spend so much time dealing with religion? I know that it’s my culture, my upbringing and the times we live in; but damn, dude, I should be out hiking and taking pictures and not worrying about crazy religious people messing up my country. I am drawn to the fray because I was made a part of it, and now my atheism cements my role as antagonistic. It’s not what I want, but it’s what I recognize as simply a part of my life as a middle-aged American only recently freed from the Bush admin. and still faced with things like “Intelligent Design”.

    It would be so much better if there was no religion to keep us fighting these stupid fights. I wish I’d never had to deal with it. Ideally, you know? But I have no real idea what my life would have turned out like in such a case, and it’s probably in my best interest not to yield to that particular form of wistfulness.

  • Sock

    Atheist at 40

    Fantastic and touching story. One that I intend to share with others. Kudos to you, sir.

  • Jabster

    The majority view seems to an overall negative but I was wondering if anyone feels that they were a ‘better’ person, from a moral perspective, than they would have otherwise been. This is really based around the idea that a community (even one based of something that it’s unreasonable to believe is true) can foster a more social/community outlook and therefore change someone’s behaviour for the better. I may have been lucky in that most of the believers that I know are what you could term ‘good’ people probably as we here in the UK religion is generally more progressive than in many countries. So in summing up where there any positive moral aspects to religion?

  • http://coultart.com/trevor Trevor

    Great question Daniel, and lots of interesting responses. I’m still in the church and calling myself an “agnostic Christian” so have some thoughts on this.

    My background first: not raised in a religious environment, converted to Christianity by big London Crusade at the age of 15 (Luis Palau at QPR stadium). I’d found somewhere I felt at home. Joined local Baptist church after an invitation and have been there ever since. That’s 25 years. Active member of the church, was on the leadership team as a deacon for six years, helped with various evangelistic campains over the years, still play drums in the worship band. (Learned especially so that I could do so.)

    Over recent years, began to feel that much of what we do in church (not just in my own church but wider) just doesn’t make sense. Am feeling it might possibly be just a load of superstitious nonsense. have read Delusion and some other bits, am trying to balance that with reading some more Christian material but generally finding it just isn’t interesting me and I’m not finding arguments convincing. Am in regular dialogue with my minister and others about all this. One thing I decided not to do is pretend, so anyone I speak to at church or outside knows that I have no clue whether I believe there’s a God or not.

    Anyway – to your question. No, not a waste of time. The majority of my friendships have been made within the church, and most of my life experience is intrinsically liked to it. Most of my musical ability has developed and been encouraged and nurtured within the church. (Indeed, it’s often referreed to as my “gifting”.) I now play drums in a local rock band and have no way of knowing whether I’d ever have got involved and learned to play if my life had taken a different path. Most significantly of all, I met my wife there. And where would I be without her?

    Now I’ve got older and (just a little) wiser, I recognise in myself a greed and selfishness that’s probably not healthy. I do suspect that being in the church has helped me keep this under control while I didn’t have the self-confidence and self-awareness to do so under my own steam, so to speak. I think being in the church has kept me safe from a lit of external influences that I could well imagine me struggling with.

    However…

    … that last point is something of a two-edged-sword. It’s only recently that I’ve realised one of my regrets in life is that by shutting myself away in the church at the age of 15, just when I should have been getting out into the world and experiencing things and making choices and learning, I’ve probably missed out on a lot. Maybe not all good experiences, but I missed them none the less. And as a 40 year old family man with responsibilities, a wife and a young child there is simply no way I’ll ever have such opportunities again.

    So – time wasted? No.
    Opportunities missed? Yes.

    But happy with where I am just now. Ask me again in another ten years.

  • Pingback: Do I regret being a Christian? « A work in progress

  • Alex

    No it wasn’t a waste of time. I met many friends and discovered who I am through my experience being a christian. It’s best to experience something before you can truly reject it.

    The christians I know are very good people. In fact they are some of the best people I know. Would they be this giving and caring if they didn’t believe? I don’t know, but I doubt it. Faith can bring out the best in people, even if it’s faith that isn’t grounded in something believable. If it helps people get through hard times, then it isn’t a waste of time. As for myself, I didn’t find any personal fulfillment in my faith. And the deeper I dug, the harder it was to call myself a christian. To each his own.

  • tlandon5

    I want the past 18 years of my life back!! Memorizing Bible verses for Bible drill… endless Bible studies with other kids who I no longer know… playing keyboard to help the worship leader… spending time judging my non-Christian peers instead of trying to befriend them… the summer beach camps slash brainwashing trips… the awkward relationship I now have with my family… spending so many years thinking humanity was in some innately evil, cursed state of existence… being made to feel guilty for receiving something I never asked for… losing my love of science during high school…

    Yes, I regret being a Christian!

  • http://recusatorysarcasm.wordpress.com/ Sam

    I was born and raised an evangelical fundementalist. It is a give and take on how I feel about it.

    On one hand I am glad for the experience. I am glad that I took the time to learn the Bible, something I am quite sure I would never have done with out my religion and in alot of ways I relish my path to enlightenment. It is a journey to self discovery that most do at a very young age with no appreciation for what is found. In my case though each new discovery is a delight because I am finding it so late in life.

    On the other hand though is a life time of guilt and inadequacy that has messed my mind up in major ways. My views on many issues from abortion to sex are forced and my instincts tell me to react a certain way to events and concepts and I must force myself to react differently. I feel as though I missed out on much of what life has to offer in my formative years for even if I did venture out and live a little the resulting guilt was, at times, too much to bear.

    There are periods in my life when I miss the church and a community of like minded people. The easy out when things go wrong, that this is Gods will. It is comfortable. I miss at times not worrying about things I don’t understand and just accepting that God in his majesty works in mysterious ways and I dont NEED to understand I just need to have faith and it will all make sense when I get to heaven.

    Then I wake up, and I realize I WANT to understand and that copping out to the higher power explanation is not in me and that is why I left that life to begin with. I am quite sure that if I could change the past I would choose a different road for my first 25 that would have made my last 10 much more enjoyable.

  • Rob

    IRA364-

    Please reread my comment: “You people went to some whacky churches if this is what you took away from it.”

    My comment was pointed at your church, not your experience or you. Sorry if I got you worked up.

  • Rob

    Many posts seem to focus on peoples feelings as the test for truth. Christianity is either true or false, but this is not dependent on my/your experience or whether I/you believe it or not. Just a point of clarification.

  • http://recusatorysarcasm.wordpress.com/ Sam

    @Rob
    That makes no sense at all. Every Christian that comes on this board offers his/her feelings, experiences and believes as proof that Christianity is true. While those here offer fact and reason.

    This particular post is about feelings, whether or not we think our experience was a waste of time.

    Your point of clarification is irrelevant in this topic.

  • Rob

    Sam-
    Let me give another example. You and I read a newspaper that says green rabits can run 100 mph. It either is a true or false statement. My experiences, hopes, or bias have no bearing on making the statement true or false. It is my fault that my comment was not more clear.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    Rob –

    Your comments are sufficiently clear — and sufficiently pointless.

  • Rob

    Teleprompter and Sam-
    Pointing out the relationship that feelings to truth testing is far from pointless in those who look for truth in science, history, economics etc. Why disregard it on this website in a discussion on feelings? Sam states this website is “offering fact and reason”.

  • Jabster

    @Rob

    No one is disgagreeing with your point it’s the fact that’s not relevant (or helpful) in this thread.

  • william Schmitt

    Not to jump on Rob, but the point to see on this thread is how people have felt after coming to the conclusion that Christianity is not a fact. As to whether we all went to a wacky church my only response would be – DUH! But I’m sure of all the hundreds of Christian denominations, yours is different.

  • Atheist at 40

    Rob,

    We were asked to respond to the question: ‘Do YOU think being religious was a waste of time for YOU?’ See the pronoun? So naturally we talked about personal experience, and so our posts are subjective.

    I could easily give you chapter and verse on why I believe religions in general are social and cultural constructs that evolved out of a primitive human need to explain the apparently inexplicable (the things science now explains), and also why they are so readily used by those in power to subjugate others and enforce privilege. But that wasn’t what this thread is about.

    I also believe you have been disingenuous in trying to suggest that your comment about as all having gone to ‘wacky churches’ was anything other than a typical sanctimonious put down from a ‘true believer’. It’s clear we went to a huge cross section of usual churches. My parents moved a lot–I’ve been a member of 15 different congregations, and all pretty normal if you can call unreasonable belief normal. I wish my church had been wackier–I’d have left a lot sooner. I’d also wager that most of us have thought longer and harder about issues of faith and belief than most of the trolls who turn up here thinking they can teach us a lesson because we didn’t really believe, or we didn’t pray hard enough, or we didn’t understand the bible, or we didn’t have faith.

    Let me play your ‘I’m the superior one’ game for a minute, Rob. I think what bothers you is that we have learned something that threatens your belief system. We’ve learned that it is all hollow—God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, The Bible, the Virgin Mary. etc They’re all limited creations of human minds–unreal, contradictory, and an insufficient foundation on which to base one’s thoughts, deeds and actions (Rob, when you pray…there’s nothing listening). We learned all this after years/decades of bible study, prayer, witnessing and so on. We know exactly where you’re coming from–many of us were the people sitting next to you in church (or standing before you preaching). We’ve since discovered that what matters in a society isn’t subjection to an imaginary friend but real people and actual community–treating others as you’d like to be treated yourself. That’s where true civility and morality comes from–we don’t need a contradictory tissue of ancient superstition to make us good people.

    Someone said earlier that many of the best people they know are Christians. To that I’d say–’Get out more’, I know some truly good people who don’t believe in gods (I married one) and I know many, many Christians not fit to tie their shoelaces.

    PS Thanks, Sock. Have a good day.

  • Molly

    If I were to say that my time as a Christian was wasted, I would be forced to say that most of my life was a waste of time, which strikes me as unnecessarily depressing. I enjoyed many things about Christianity and my time in the Church, honestly. I do miss the music; I was an Evangelical rather than a Catholic, but some of the old Latin masses are incredible and there are hymns that still make me feel a little nostalgic. The Bible has some very intense, poetic, moving passages that still, in some way, resonate with me. Church was a great place to meet people and make connections, and the sense of community, when everyone was on their good behavior, was wonderful. It was great to feel like I was making a difference, being a part of something bigger and more permanent than myself.

    All that being said, I did waste so much time and so much of myself on fear and guilt. Unlike others on this post, I was never terrified of hell because I was so certain that I was obviously going to heaven. However, I was always worried about letting God down, or as one pastor put it, “spitting in Jesus’ face while He’s hanging on the cross for you” whenever I sinned. Talk about some serious guilt! Or, “every time you sin, you’re pounding another nail into your Savior’s hand”… did anyone else get this?

    I was horribly abused as a child, and when I came out with this in my church (es), I was told that everything is a part of God’s plan (“‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’.”, etc) and that this may, in fact, be a blessing in disguise or something that God will use for future good. What kind of fucked-up God makes plans to prosper His children and tries to give them hope by ensuring that they are molested and burned with cigarettes while they are small? How can that be part of a divine plan? Do you want to worship a god who uses child molestation to make a point? So, this would definitely be one area where I wasted a lot of time – trying to be grateful or accepting of my childhood.

    Mostly, I regret that I spent all of my college years as a Christian. I avoided parties so that I wouldn’t damage my testimony by being associated with drunkenness. Guess what? I made very few close friends because I never hung out with people. Mostly, I pissed people off by trying to start and win religious arguments. Frequently they would just give up because I was being so obnoxious. I do regret that – I could have had so much fun and made so many wonderful friends, and I totally isolated myself to try to keep myself from being defiled by the world or whatever.

    I also wasted time trying to humble myself before the Lord. I could not hate myself enough! I had to convince myself that I was a sinner unworthy of salvation, but that God wanted to give it to me anyway (yet another huge dose of guilt). I kept trying to remind myself that I was utterly dependent upon God, that nothing was possible without Him, and when I finally let go of Christianity, it was like letting go of a life raft and expecting to drown, only to find that I had only been knee-deep in water the whole time.

  • Mrs. Grackle

    I was raised in a totally non-religious home and have never read the Bible. There are too many great books out there to waste my time on that one. I haven’t read the Koran, either. So, like lonlonmilk above, I have no idea what it would mean to let god into my life or to be spiritual in that way. I don’t think I’ll ever have a good grasp of that since it’s so far out of my experience. I am often completely baffled by the idea of prayer and of people’s belief in miracles. I was a teenager before I realized that people really do believe Jesus was a real person who walked on water and died on a cross. And I was almost 30 before I found out that Catholics really do believe those wafers are Christ’s body. That one still gets me.

  • Roger

    There are times when I think that the whole enterprise was a waste of time–especially when I consider my college years. The years I spent in a fundamentalist church with an even more fundamentalist mother (I missed the birth of rap music, thanks to her!) were pretty much beyond my control; however, by the time I’d gotten to college, I was so thoroughly brainwashed and afraid to piss off the imaginary sky friend, I had become what I now jokingly call “the moral minority.” I would barely go to parties, NEVER drank, and sex was out of the question (just as well; who needed to fumble around with a closet case?). In other words, I could be a ginormous pain in the ass to be around.

    What was even worse to deal with was coming out. I was convinced that the Christian God not only didn’t like me, but was going to send me to hell for being gay. Oh, the time I wasted trying to pray the gay away! Hours in churches, Bible studies and such trying to be “straight,” all so I could get a ticket punched to heaven.

    Fortunately, I got all that nonsense sorted out, but still maintained a belief in God; however, I had modified it so that this one liked gays, didn’t care about whether or not you were in church every Sunday, Saturday or whenever, and wasn’t really all that evil. The first thing to go was the concept of Hell. Simply didn’t make sense that this kinder, gentler Sky Daddy would send his pwecious children off to hell.

    Finally, at 37, I had an epiphany: the concept of god simply doesn’t make one iota of sense. I looked around at all my colleagues who made all these mental gymnastics and thought, “Why so stupid?” That is, things that make sense tend to do so simply. And if the god of whom they spoke and wrote existed, then why’s it so damned contradictory, confusing, and capricious? Why the frak doesn’t it speak loudly and clearly for all the world to know? It CAN do “anything,” right?

    In a sense, I think the strange trip has been useful; I’m glad I didn’t come to an atheistic orientation out of anger with the church (I had left the church a loooong time ago) or over homophobia. It was a moment of rational thought that was something more like me deciding that I really liked sushi.

  • Whatev

    Big time waste. I only have so many minutes on this earth, and by my calcualtions I have already wasted at least 300000 of them in freaking church.

  • aproustian

    My conversion to atheism has been happening slowly over the last 7 years–ever since I got away from mandatory church on Sundays by going to college. I don’t think the time spent as a die hard Christian was wasted in all ways–but I do agree very much with the point that I feel guilty now about my attempts to convert others (admittedly, evangelizing was always my least favorite part of it all, and I usually tried to avoid it).

    But I came out of it with some good friends, who actually remain my friends even after I admitted my atheism, and those people helped get me through high school.

    I wish, though, that my family weren’t still all Christian. It makes for a lonelier existence, as my family is pretty close, to be the odd one out.

  • http://hookum.wordpress.com/ Grimm

    It’s taken me all morning to sort out what I intended to write, here. Oddly, as a lurker – I have always enjoyed reading the posts and comments here, but this is the first question asked about which I felt compelled to say something.

    Let me preface all of this by saying I am a very recent athiest. The Church, in all of its myriad incarnations, and I have had a slow falling out over the years that, like a bad marriage, eventually just reached a tipping point.

    I was (At the time) the youngest Lay Eucharistic Minister (LEM) in the American Episcopalian church, earning that distinction at the age of fifteen in a tiny parish down in South Louisiana. I never experienced directly the fire and brimstone that others did – I was never threatened with hell, and my exposure to the more charismatic or evangelical flavors of my faith was usually one consisting of a vague unease and a need to keep it at arms length… like a smelly sweatsock found on the gym floor. I can’t honestly say that my faith ever did more than flirt with the sort of judgemental, our-way-or-nothing brittleness of what we considered our Brothers… if by brother you meant that uncle that only got invited to the family reunions out of politeness.

    Polite faith, however, remains faith. I believed. I read, I studied. I came to understand miracles from a more relaxed perspective, from the apologetic viewpoint of God working through His creation rather than operating wholly within the supernatural. Manna from heaven became leading the Israelites through a valley where food would be available during those times of day and showing them how to eat it. The crossing of the Red Sea became going over a sludgy floodplain at low tide by convenient coincidence.

    As Penn and Teller have said, though – “are those miracles, then?” Is crossing through a marsh at low tide really proof of the existence of God? Worse, can you even prove that they did /that/, or were even in bondage to Egypt at the time the Bible suggests?

    The older I got, the wider the holes got. Learning that the Gospels were written several generations after Christ gnawed at me. Learning about the Diet of Worms and the construction of what would become the modern Bible did not (As it was intended) confirm my faith, but eroded it still farther.

    What did me in, though, was this news story from the bbc. One of the ‘holiest’ sights in Christendom, populated by (supposedly) the best representatives of six different denominations of the Faith – and it has devolved into conflict so severe that they can’t even agree to fix the roof? Great Christian /monks/, men who should epitomize the faith, are fighting over someone moving a chair?

    It was the straw – not the whole argument, but the single straw that shattered the tattered remnants of what I believed, then. Already battered by bhuddism’s simpler statements of reality, already cut by my friends’ marriage liscenses being invalidated simply because someone was afraid of “the gay” getting on their Christian lifestyle – it all just came apart. Done.

    So this post, well, it is timely. I look back now at twenty wasted years of belief, and I am forced to ask the question ‘was it worth it?’

    Yes.

    Yes, because I discovered freedom, the liberating sense of being master of my own fate, soon enough to do something with it, and with enough grounding in what others believe to live and work alongside them.

    Yes, because I have been exposed to a worldview that means well, but cannot deliver honestly and logically- and I know that that is not good enough. I have seen it in action at its best and worst (I work, even now, for a Christian charity that does very good work in my home city… and just up the road there is a long history of cross burnings that stretches from the civil war to the 70′s, in the name of God). I know that blind faith is poisonous, and reasoned faith leaves gaping wounds in its wake. And I can empathize with those who still believe – I understand now, even if I don’t share their faith.

    Yes, because I come to understand that there is beauty even in something I consider deeply flawed. I can appreciate Mozart’s Requiem in all of its contexts, in the comprehension of the beliefs that shaped it – and I do not dismiss its beauty simply because I do not share its expression of faith. I can see the facade, and I can see beneath it – and things are more beautiful for that.

    Yes, because I can be a better human being in my own passage, understanding the worthwhile statements of intent outside of the context of faith.

    Yes, because I have learned to think, and think critically, and to understand that something being false does not end my world. There is life – a very rich life – in reason.

    So, no. It wasn’t a waste of time in the slightest. Nostalgic, a place I wouldn’t care to return? Certainly – but no waste at all.

  • Elastic Planet

    I think that going to church and investigating beliefs was a big part of my personal journey towards skepticism.

    I didn’t grow up in a religious household. My parents (one presbyterian, one catholic) never “forced” religion on me or my brother, but they did encourage us to go to church. After a while, I started questioning the various beliefs and stories because most of them just didn’t sit right with me.

    I then moved on to studying other spiritual philosophies such as Taoism, Buddhism and Celtic Paganism. My thought at the time was that religion was the problem, but I still needed spiritualism.

    About a year ago I was exposed to Skepticism when I came across the SGU podcast.

    Currently, I do have a few remaining beliefs, but the important thing is that I know they are beliefs and aren’t based on evidence. My goal now is to figure out whether they are things I truly believe, or remnants of my past spiritualism.

    So I think that internal journey/struggle was important for me to go through, and even though I don’t subscribe to any of it now, I wouldn’t consider it a waste of time.

  • Rob

    Athiest at 40.
    Nice post. All I would like to point out is that I have not attacked anyone’s feelings, bias, beliefs. Please re-read my posts if you disagree. The only thing I have attacked is the church that isolates people from life.

    For these comments the posts directed at me have made assumptions about me, stated my comments about feelings were irrelevant, and I’m a troll. So much for a bipartisan discussion.

  • Atheist at 40

    You’re right Rob–I have made some assumptions about you that were unwarranted. I apologise. In truth, most of my comments were directed not at you, but at a type of Christian troll that gets under my skin with their sneering, simplistic responses to these complexities. A case in point, the insufferable Carlotta in the ‘Bank Error’ post. Quote: ‘I haven’t met a professing Christian yet who turned from God’s grace to unbelief.’ Personally, I haven’t met a Christian without legitimate doubts who was anything other than an empty vessel, clanging cymbal etc. etc.

    So, again, apologies for the unfair assumptions–although not for the reaction to the use of ‘wacky’–which everyone recognised straight away as a put-down, however you tried to airbrush it later.

  • http://www.recusatorysarcasm.wordpress.com Sam

    ……..All I would like to point out is that I have not attacked anyone’s feelings, bias, beliefs. Please re-read my posts if you disagree. The only thing I have attacked is the church that isolates people from life.

    For these comments the posts directed at me have made assumptions about me, stated my comments about feelings were irrelevant, and I’m a troll. So much for a bipartisan discussion.
    _______________________________________________

    Lets see Rob here are you posts:

    “A lot of effort to prove others wrong.”

    Pointless statement = troll

    “You people went to some whacky churches if this is what you took away from it.”

    The “You people” is obviously a superiorist stab and then you further discount those who had posted by summing up their experiences in saying that their churches were wacky. I can almost certainly garauntee the churches attended by those here are no more wacky than yours, if I am wrong then you certianly have something to contribute, so contribute something.

    “IRA364
    Please reread my comment: “You people went to some whacky churches if this is what you took away from it.”

    My comment was pointed at your church, not your experience or you. Sorry if I got you worked up.”

    Belittling, I think he is smart enough to understand what you are saying and as pointed out previously your disingenuous explanation is insulting. = troll

    “Many posts seem to focus on peoples feelings as the test for truth. Christianity is either true or false, but this is not dependent on my/your experience or whether I/you believe it or not. Just a point of clarification”

    As I and others said earier – wrong topic

    “Sam-
    Let me give another example. You and I read a newspaper that says green rabits can run 100 mph. It either is a true or false statement. My experiences, hopes, or bias have no bearing on making the statement true or false. It is my fault that my comment was not more clear.”

    Work on your analogies a bit and WRONG TOPIC!

    So ya Rob, you are a troll today. Don’t feel bad though, it happens to everyone from time to time. Better luck next time.

    PS if you are going to hang with this crowd and be pro-God in a vague abstract way you better grow your skin a bit thicker. The heavy hitters didn’t even address you today :)

  • Rob

    Sam-
    Great post. I’ll take the troll badge for the day.
    Rob

  • Rob

    By heavy hitters you mean they would be willing to have a discussion in without attacks? Don’t worry about thick skin I’m a critical care physician.

  • Ty

    I regret the fact that my religion was so anti-education. I really wish I’d been able to attend university at a young age. I think the fact that I didn’t has wasted a lot of time and opportunities for me.

    Add to that that any relationships I developed during my religious period are now completely gone, with the exception of my wife.

    So, yeah, a lot of waste there.

    Rob:

    Most of us have spent an awful lot of time having discussions on this topic that don’t include attacks. Keep in mind, unless you’ve got some radically new info to share, most of us will probably roll our eyes a bit. Most of us spent some significant portion of our lives studying the religious arguments. We’ve already rejected them as false. A lot of what you might want to say will get a ‘been there, done that’ type reaction.

    Oh, and your profession is meaningless as a measuring stick of your ‘thick skin’. One of my close friends is a former ER doc who is about as fragile emotionally as anyone I know.

    Now, if you’d said postman…

  • lra364

    ROB-

    you seem like an ok guy, so I’ll just ask you this:

    Define truth.
    Is it ultimate or relative?
    If it is ultimate, then where does it come from?
    If it comes from an divine being, then how is it expressed?
    If it is expressed in language (which evolves and is unreliable), then how is it permanent/ultimate/unchanging?

    Is it possible that the foundations of what we call truth are socially constructed and evolve over time? (IE web of knowledge a la Quine?)

  • http://danielo.posterous.com danielo

    I hesitate to say that my belief in earlier life was a waste of time, because all experiences combine into a my current persona. A part of me wishes I had been wiser, earlier, but then again that fantasy-belief didn’t do any lasting harm to me, and it might have made me a more rounded person.

  • Atheist at 40

    Ira364

    God point about the evolution of language. I once knew people in a fundamentalist sect who refused to read anything except the King James Version. So one day, in a spirit of bloody-mindedness (and while I was still a Christian actually) I presented them with a facsimile edition of the first King James Bible. Have you seen it? The Bible Society used to have it available as a curiosity. It’s virtually indecipherable by your average modern-day KJV bonehead (all the f’s look like s’s). It was fun seeing them squirm a bit. Another interesting read is the minutes of the meetings of the KJV translators–what they argued about, how poor their understanding of some of the original languages was. One of my favourite Bible reading passages is in A Clockwork Orange when Alex is reading the bible in prison for all the sex and violence in it. Now there’s a novel that understands how tricky language can be.

  • Roger

    Oh, no, I do not even want to engage “Rob”; perhaps on another thread or another topic, but not this one. The question was: “Was belief a waste of time?”, not “Let’s play another round of justify your temple to the Imaginary Sky Friend/Trot Out the Cosmological Argument”. I find your comments to be disingenuous and not at all in the spirit of this particular topic.

    At any rate, I’d been to all kinds of churches (from super fundy, speaking in tongues, rolling around crazy to Unitarian Universalist), and for me, all of them maintained an unreasoned belief in a sky deity.

  • rob

    Ira364-
    Sure I’ll give it a shot.

    (1) Define truth. I can give you the “bible thumping” answer that God is truth. I think a more meat and potatoes answer would be to give 2 easy characteristics of truth. Truth is internally consistent and in agreement with reality.

    (2) Is it ultimate or relative? There are truths representative of both. An ultimate truth is valid and unchangeable without a qualifier.

    (3) If it is ultimate, then where does it come from? A truth giver.
    (4) If it comes from an divine being, then how is it expressed? Let me give the truth of love as an example. Love is revealed by the “giver” within us= Love makes us do miraculous things( revealed by action), go to war for others, jump in front of a train to save someone, work long hours to pay bills, give birth. These are manifestations of love as an internal characteristic. Love is also described to us in the New Testament (written). Love, doing unselfish actions for the well being of others is ultimate. It is not relative. I cannot disqualify love as truth without a qualifier. I am less certain about where you are going here but hope this is at least in the ball park.

    **A kick back to you: How does a concept of love persist through ages, independent of social norms and relative values if it is not ultimate (expressed by design within us)?

    (5) If it is expressed in language (which evolves and is unreliable), then how is it permanent/ultimate/unchanging? While language is subject to variation, the objects and truth they represent do not change. For example, love and death, all have different names throughout cultures and time periods but the very nature of love and death do not change. Jumping in front of a bus to save someone is inherent love regardless of the term or word you apply to it.

    (6) Is it possible that the foundations of what we call truth are socially constructed and evolve over time? Truth is more likely than not to be transcendent of time/social norms. Beg my use of another example. If Hitler had won WWII and through genocide wiped out all Jews and also irradicated all social sympathies or social notions that Jews are human beings who deserve liberties/life. So that now only people who believe that the genocide of Jews is a social good and that killing of Jews was a “good”, this socially constructed truth is still not truth. Genocide is wrong regardless of the relative social constructs.

    I hated philosophy in college so be gentle.

  • lra364

    Rob-

    Rather than go through a detailed response (as I’m afraid I would offend someone who feels that this conversation may not be appropriate to the thread), I’ll post this website:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth/

    It is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and it addresses the many sides of the question I posted.

    I know you hated Philosophy in college, but I think this will be an interesting read for you.

    A few final points:

    - a system of truths cannot ever be totally internally consistent. Please see Goedel’s theory of incompleteness for further explanation.

    -in response to “genocide is wrong regardless of social constructions,” please explain to me why the genocides that the Israelites committed in the OT are acceptable, as in (for instance) the defeat of Jericho in which the entire population of the city was slaughtered.

  • Margaret

    “I was a teenager before I realized that people really do believe …”

    I was middle-aged before I realized that some people really do seem to believe in gods and devils and such. And even now I can’t really understand that or even say more than that they “seem” to believe.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that I escaped the indoctrination of my Catholic upbringing. No, the feelings of fear and worthlessness are so much harder to escape than the obvious silliness of gods & devils.

    My life would have been much better without religion.

  • Roger

    As others noted, what I found most useful about Christianity was the feeling of community. Granted, it was at times an extraordinarily toxic community, but the church was a place that made me feel like I belonged somewhere. Again, the problem is that that feeling can be smothering–not only do you have a place where you belong, you can’t think *anything* differently than what is presented.

    I think in some ways, I wish my mother had not been “born again,” as it precipitated a conversion to a strangling fundamentalism. On the other hand, it probably helped her be a (marginally) better parent. She once told me that she came back to the church so we could have a strong moral footing (she too bought into the ideology that morality comes from “god”). I can’t write off all of church as a big waste; I can, however, regard my adult years spent being a super-fundy as a big waste, but also an invaluable learning experience. I learned what kind of person I never, ever, EVER want to be.

  • Kelley

    This is sort of off topic, but was unsure where else to post because I really wanted this group’s answer because you are all very insightful.

    I constantly get asked the question, how can someone who has any faith at all support Obama? To me it is simple – but the abortion issue is always the fave defense to not support him.

    What are you thoughts?

  • Elastic Planet

    @Kelley

    I’m not sure I’m the most qualified to answer your question, but I’ll give it a shot.

    I have a cousin who is ultra-religious and ultra-conservative and I think that’s the core of the problem. Conservatives are very good at claiming themselves the “Christian Party” regardless of whether or not their actions match their proclamations as such. In a sense they ignore the separation of church and state and proclaim that they’re politics are backed up by God and The Bible. This gives them, along with conservative churches the ability to paint the other-side/Democrats as anti-Christian, anti-faith, etc even though that argument is not based in reality.

    Democrats are more likely to uphold the separation of church and state, and conservative Christians view that as a threat. Obama is a Christian, and I think his actions reflect that within the boundries of the separation of church and state. However, no matter how much that is pointed out to some people, they will always side with Conservatives who proclaim that they are Christians.

    In regards to abortion: Banning abortion is blatantly unconstitutional, it violates the right to privacy. I have yet to see an argument from the Pro-Life side that address that fact without ignoring it or proposing an amendment to change the Constitution. Nor can they argue that banning abortion would be better for the country as a whole and not just for their own slice of it (for example: technically banning prostitution is unconstitutional, however the health and healthcare costs to the society as a whole outweighs the Constitutional legality of it). If Pro-Life proponents, and any religion-based group for that matter, could make valid, logical arguments without resorting to distortions, ignoring of facts, or outright lies to support their claims, I think they would sway more people. The problem is, they can’t.

    I’ve made a few generalizations here, but I think that can be excused for the sake of brevity.

    How that helps!

  • Elastic Planet

    @Kelley

    My shorter answer should’ve been: It’s more about perception than reality. Conservative Christians perceive Democrats as anti-faith, even though that perception is not based in reality. Therefor, they can’t comprehend why someone could vote for Obama or any Democrat.

    I’m sure there are exceptions, and I don’t mean to intentionally draw a strawman, but in my experience and from everything I’ve read, this seems to be the case for the most part.

  • william Schmitt

    Elastic Planet wrote;
    If Pro-Life proponents, and any religion-based group for that matter, could make valid, logical arguments without resorting to distortions, ignoring of facts, or outright lies to support their claims, I think they would sway more people. The problem is, they can’t.

    This is the wrong thread for this but UGH! What a straw man statement! Both sides of the abortion issue are equally guilty of distortions, ignoring of facts, or outright lies to support their claims. As I said earlier, it is a problem for many to find out that while they have left a fundamentalist Religious way of thinking, they keep it when it comes to other areas, such as politics.

  • Elastic Planet

    @William Schmitt

    I apologize, I should’ve put “in my opinion” instead of “I think that’s…” and maybe repeated that ad nauseum throughout the post. As I stated at the start with “I think that’s the core of the problem” I was stating an opinion based on my personal experience. I also admitted that I was making generalizations.

    You are right though. This is the wrong thread for this. Kelley posed an interesting question (and admitted that it was off-topic. So far you’re 2 for 2 in pointing out problems that the original posters already admitted to). I was on my lunch break, saw her question and thought I’d try to pose an answer as the thread itself seemed to be dying down.

    I don’t post comments on any blog that often. I’m sure my debate skills aren’t that honed and I probably made some mistakes. I thought I made it clear enough that I was making generalizations from experience, but I guess it was too subtle. I even admitted to making a Strawman.

    In retrospect, I did leave out some things. I guess I didn’t frame things as opinion well enough. But I do still think that I’m correct in a broad, generalization sort of way. I admitted to as much, and even mentioned exceptions. If you think I’m wrong, then please, prove me wrong. I’m always looking for enlightenment. Heck, even if you can help me frame my arguments better, that would be cool too.

    But at least try to make it better than “Both sides of the abortion issue are equally guilty of distortions, ignoring of facts, or outright lies to support their claims.” I’m pretty sure that’s a False Continuum, or maybe a Tu Quoque.

  • lra364

    Kelly-

    I think the question you should be asking is this:

    If many in the Republican party are pro-life as they claim, then how can they support the death penalty?

    The Bible says “Vengence is mine sayeth the Lord” just as it says “I knew you before you were knitted together in your mother’s womb.”

    BUT WAIT!

    It also says to stone sinners to death and that God (Yahweh) ordered the slaughtering of tens of thousands of innocent people at the hands of the Israelites!

    So really, what is the Bible, pro-life or not?

    The fact is, the Bible is not clear on this issue or ANY other. So it is up to you to do what YOU think is right using rationality and educating yourself over time. ONE BOOK will never have all of life’s answers. NO ONE has all of life’s answers.

    ANYONE WHO TELLS YOU THAT THEY HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS is either trying to sell you something or is trying to control you.

    You have a brain; use it.

  • william Schmitt

    @ Elastic Planet.
    Liked your reply, just the right amount of sarcasm! Actually, I apologize for my reply because I only dealt with your last statement;
    “If Pro-Life proponents, and any religion-based group for that matter, could make valid, logical arguments without resorting to distortions, ignoring of facts, or outright lies to support their claims, I think they would sway more people. The problem is, they can’t.”

    Up to that part I agreed with your generalizations, they were fair and well written. The last statement wasn’t.

    By the way, my statement was more of a Tu Quoque than a False Continuum. I’m not saying that the distinction between the extremes is not real or meaningful, only that those on opposite sides use the exact same tactics that they hate in the other (like Democrats and Republicans), therefore it leans towards the hypocritical side. My main point is that we (I do it all the time) while changing what we believe in, tend to still think in the same way, we essentially become fundamentalists in other areas, politics being the most obvious. Didn’t mean to offend.

  • Sunny Day

    “I constantly get asked the question, how can someone who has any faith at all support Obama? To me it is simple – but the abortion issue is always the fave defense to not support him.”

    Ask them of all the other issues, “Is the question of whether or not a total stranger has a child is the most important thing to focus on?”

  • Avalon

    For some reason I just don’t understand how can somebody think that there is a higher power, I mean humans are the highest there is. Also, when I hit twelve I just started to think that God was something like Santaclaus, created by parents to scare little kids into behaving and going to bed when needed…

  • http://RantingRaving.wordpress.com/ Nikita

    Hmm. Deep thoughts…
    I think my faith kept me out of trouble through my teen years… no sex, drugs, booze. My friends from in and out of the church were all great and we had fun together so I didn’t feel like I was missing out.

    I identify as agnostic but I’ve rejected organized religion completely as well as their definition of “God”. If there is anything god-like out there it certainly isn’t some old dude in a white robe interfering in the minutae of our lives and he certainly doesn’t give a rats ass about our suffering or happiness.

    Losing my religion was a painful process and I was quite depressed for a time but I eventually overcame it. Then I made up for those lost experimental teen years and had a mini rebellion in my 20′s. I have many foggy but fond memories of my freedom from guilt.

    I agree with what others have said… those years were not necessarily a waste of time; just a delay of personal growth.

  • Avalon

    Well, I suppose it largely depends on how far you go with the religion….

  • http://peshmedia.no Per

    Interesting read! I’m a christian, so I can’t really comment on the original question. Still: Being 28 (not so old), I don’t feel that my personal development has been hindered (quite the opposite! I’m lucky, I guees). It’s probably hard for me to tell, but I don’t think my non christian friends view my life like that either. Better ask:)

    It’s certainly important for me to be “free” and to use whatever intelligence I have to explore life & cosmos….I’m sure many churches don’t encourage critical thinking. On the other hand, I live in Scandinavia, and the conservative ethics and faith I feel at home with, is not linked to anti-science so much…I’m a “conservative” christian and I embrace Big Bang. Anyway; interesting read! I love the science stuff!

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  • John B

    I tend to think that debating fundamentalists is a complete and total waste of time, at least for atheists. Let the fundies debate their different theological points of view among themselves and fight it out over who’s really ‘right’, (keeps them busy and out of our hair) but since there’s going to be no convincing them that they could possibly be wrong, I just don’t see the point. I really have better things to do with my time.

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