This Atheist Ex-Pastor has More Questions and Insights than Guilt

This Atheist Ex-Pastor has More Questions and Insights than Guilt June 22, 2017

Editor’s Note: This writer is an example of someone who left his pastorate while still in the doubting stage (that is, the stage that’s supposed to return to faith but didn’t in the case of the 800 members of The Clergy Project – and countless lay people – who no longer believe in the supernatural.) He’s pretty placid compared to clergy who stay on for a while. Any doubting clergy reading here might consider following his example.

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  1. What are some of the things you regret, if any, about staying a member of the clergy after you no longer believed?

I have no regrets since I retired when I started having doubts and lost my passion for ministry.

  1. and 3.  What are some of the things you learned about yourself, your family, your congregation or society from your new perspective as a non-believing clergy? What are some of the things you learned once you left the clergy?  

From my perspective as a non-believer, I have a deeper appreciation for how tribal we are as humans.  Once you leave, the tribe moves on without you and would rather not have anything to do with you.  I also learned that while clergy talk a lot about reaching the lost for Christ, they do not really want to engage with non-believers.  Once I went public as an atheist and published a book to give a detailed explanation of my journey, no one, lay or clergy, has ever wanted to sit down and talk about my reasons for leaving the faith, if only to win me back.  While I was at first baffled and then bitter about that, I was helped by a quote attributed to Carl Sagan:

Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society

“You can’t convince a believer of anything because their belief isn’t based on evidence but on a deep-seated need to believe.”

  1. What advantages, to yourself or to society, have you seen in getting out of the clergy.

The advantage of getting out or in my case, going public, is that I gave comfort to many who also no longer believe but must remain closeted.

  1. Were there times while speaking to someone it was hard not to just blurt out what you wanted to say? If so, please describe.

I find it hard to keep my mouth shut even now when I want to point out what to me seems obvious when I hear people talk about healing and prayer and heaven, etc.  I also want to post atheist-inspired memes on Facebook or Instagram but I don’t want to be someone who is known only as an atheist.  Who I am is more than that.

  1. Who was the first person you told you no longer believed, if that’s already happened, and how did conversation go?

The first person I told I no longer believe was a clergy friend from New York.  He was great.  He said he still loved me and, in fact, wrote the forward for my book, Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Deconversion.

  1. How have you been treated by people in your former congregation or community?

While I still have moments when I feel isolated and shunned, I have slowly developed a new circle of friends, including a new ‘tribe’ of runners.

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ripley2 photoBio:  Bob Ripley, aka “Dave the Atheist ex-pastor” is a syndicated religion columnist, broadcaster, former preacher and author of Christian devotional material. His new book, which came out in October, 2014 is titled Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Deconversion. Find out more about the book and his other writing here.

>>>Photo Credits: By NASA/JPL – Image:Planetary society.jpghttp://technology.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/index.cfm?page=imageDetail&ItemID=43&catId=9http://Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1180936

 


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  • DennisLurvey

    As I learned more and more and became more convinced there was no god I got excited and talked about it too much, including to family (most of whom have abandoned me now). I wasn’t trying to convince them, just talking about something new for me, I thought. But they took it as proselytising. They take everything as an attack.
    Now we need movies about this, maybe this man’s book made into a movie? Atheists don’t have a belief problem, we have a public relations problem.

  • mason

    Absolutely. I just wrote someone saying atheists need an Anti-Defamation League and vastly improved public relations. There has been some improvement with atheists like Dan Barker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMME3-H5Tj4 appearing on major cable network shows. And added to the wish list, the Reason Museum built in Wash DC near the new 500K Bible Museum. Here’s a great new movie/video https://vimeo.com/208442766

  • mason

    “Once I went public as an atheist and published a book to give a detailed explanation of my journey, no one, lay or clergy, has ever wanted to sit down and talk about my reasons for leaving the faith, if only to win me back.”

    That’s for sure Bob the way it most always is. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/390979d7cb903d8f6d7951ba92e6bec4a43c1698fda5acfb8a80889bb12292eb.jpg I also had that same illusion/delusion that they might want to engage in civil discussion. Nope. They know their irrational faith hangs by a weak thread and that just one seriously considered question can send their Christmas ornament crashing down in irreparable pieces. Like your Sagan quote, this one helped me understand the situation, even if the chance for discussion occurs.

  • Bob Ripley

    Thanks Mason.

  • Linda_LaScola

    wow, Mason, you’ve got all the best visuals. I recommend that everyone watch this Fox news segment. Dan Barker does a great job and it’s hilarious that tucker Carlson calls him an ogre while Dan sits there smiling benignly.

  • Jim Jones

    > “You can’t convince a believer of anything because their belief isn’t based on evidence but on a deep-seated need to believe.”

    This is a good summary of why they go after kids:

    “We all know that any emotional bias — irrespective of truth or falsity — can be implanted by suggestion in the emotions of the young, hence the inherited traditions of an orthodox community are absolutely without evidential value…. If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences. With such an honest and inflexible openness to evidence, they could not fail to receive any real truth which might be manifesting itself around them. The fact that religionists do not follow this honourable course, but cheat at their game by invoking juvenile quasi-hypnosis, is enough to destroy their pretensions in my eyes even if their absurdity were not manifest in every other direction.”

    ― H.P. Lovecraft, Against Religion: The Atheist Writings of H.P. Lovecraft

    And for a modern view of the damage this causes:

    “One of the problems with faith-based teaching is it teaches children not to trust their own reason and intuition, undermining their ability to have confidence in their own knowledge and ability to process information. There is a lot of psychological damage that follows when people are trained not to trust themselves.”

    ― Child psychologist Valerie Tarico

    Many theists have learned through bitter experience that none of them is ready for a skeptical adult. They have no real product to sell, just a “time share” you have to die to ‘enjoy’.

  • rationalobservations?

    Karl Popper wrote a theory in which “is true” is replaced with “corresponds to the facts”. The existence of any of the many thousands of undetected and undetectable gods, goddesses and god-men corresponds to similar endlessly recycled myths legends and lies but never empirical evidence supported facts.
    It’s a unremarkable coincidence that the religion of the nation in which any religionist is born is always the “real and true” one and all others are false.
    Fewer than 18% of Americans and fewer than 6% of Europeans (under 2% in the UK and Sweden) are currently active members of any cult, sect or business of religion according to the remaining religions own published attendance figures while the vast vast majority of the millennial generation shun all religion and ignore all phony gods, goddesses and god-men (including christian gods and god-men) and redundant churches litter our villages, towns and cities.
    To the non-indoctrinated and those of us who shrugged off indoctrination in favour of common sense, logic and evidence – nothing appears to distinguish one god, goddess or god-man/”messiah”., from any other of the many thousands of undetected and undetectable, entirely and exclusively hypothetical gods, goddesses and god-men/”messiahs.
    Christians are often baffled how atheists could deny the existence of their (originally Canaanite) god, “Jehovah/Yahweh” and their (Roman) god-man/”messiah” “Yeshu/Jesus”, but they shouldn’t be. Christians deny many tens of thousands of the same gods that atheists deny. Atheists just deny one more ridiculously unconvincing god and one more stereotypical and entirely mythical god-man (among many hundreds of thousands of extremely similar undetectable and imaginary gods, goddesses and god-men) than Christians.
    Many among the declining cohort of the religionists (of the free, secular democracies of the world) join those christians who fail to justify their enthrallment to their specific brand of religion by pointing out that the non-existence of any of the gods cannot be proved.
    Evidence of the nonexistence of the nonexistent is nonexistent because the nonexistent is nonexistent.
    However – If inability to prove the non-existence of deities is enough for christians and other religionists to believe in them.,they must be very busy worshiping Amun-Ra, Apollo/Zeus, Odin, Quetzalcoatl, Pratibhanapratisamvit, (Buddhist goddess of context analysis) and Acat, (Mayan god of tattoo artists) and Tsa’qamae, (North American god of salmon migration) – and many thousands of other undetectable hypothetical entities among which the ridiculous “Yahweh” and “Jesus” remain merely mythical and of which no one ever provides proof or reason of (or for) existence and therefore non-existence may be sensibly and rationally assumed by default – as the third largest and fastest growing cohort of humanity (the godless / non-religious) conclude.
    All the evidence appears to indicate that the “christian” religion was cobbled together in the 4th century from mainly “pagan” components and exclusively “pagan” feast days and festivals.
    The burden of proof and the onus of convincing the rest of us of the validity of the “proof” is always upon the religionists and the rest of the rapidly declining membership of fraudulent religions. All religionists, fail too rise to meet that challenge and therefore your myths, legends and human businesses of religion remain debunked in the minds of most young folk and a large and growing number of us older folk who saw through and rejected the bunkum at some time in our life.
    It’s very noticeable that no one can tell me (and the growing legion of the happy, peaceful and humanitarian godless) about (the originally Canaanite god) “Yahweh” and (Roman god-man) “Jesus” (or any of the many thousands of other mythical deities) through logic and actual authenticated historical and scientific evidence and without any reference to the confused and internally contradictory mythology within any of the many diverse and different versions of human authored bibles, papyri, manuscripts and texts that were written centuries after the time in which their tales are backdated and merely set.
    Atheists make no claims. Religionists claim a god and/or gods and/or a god-man/men exist. The onus remains upon them to justify, validate or excuse that apparently bizarre claim.
    Meanwhile; the rapidly growing rest of us simply find no compelling reason to believe in any of the gods or religions because they present nothing but myths, legends and lies and the fact that a declining cohort of mankind personally believe in magic, supernatural entities and the myths legends and lies in which such childish superstition exclusively resides – is unconvincing to those of us who have shrugged off that indoctrinated BS and the millennial generation who have mostly not been infected by that garbage.

  • carolyntclark

    I left the nunnery and god-belief many years ago. I still maintained friendship with some convent friends.Out of respect, in our interactions, I avoided serious debate, but by commenting on some of the silliness of the practices, I gave honest clues to my new mindset. All seemed well until……. I became more visible on the public atheism sites. With a “like” or gentle comment on FB, and a recent pod-cast with Dan Barker, I’ve identified as being godless.

    Satan still has a very real presence in Catholic doctrine. Not believing in God is equated with being “anti-God”. Being anti-God is to have succumbed to the devil. That evil, possibly contagious presence, is to be shunned. As long as that superstitious, hocus-pocus is alive and well, it’s understandable that the faithful will be fearful of association.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Carolyn, have you noticed that since you’ve become more public you are being shunned by your former nun friends?

  • carolyntclark

    Yes Linda. As evidenced by some recent events, that seems to be happening. As I said, in the minds of true believers,
    being atheist implies a connection to the evil forces of Satan.
    That association would be dangerous. I’m sure there are many prayers being said for my return.

  • ElizabetB.

    whew… Mr. Carlson surely makes a powerful case against Christianity. Paired with Dan Barker, religion gets the old one-two.

    Today was a day of contrasts… watching Carlson vs a neat PBS NewsHour piece on William Barber’s taking up Dr. King’s mantel, updating the Poor People’s Campaign.

    And then seeing just what you and Dennis Lurvey say is needed — that really great film insight on “Leaving God” — while listening to a process theologian say, “I see Whitehead much more than I used to as the whole philosophy of compassion,” similar to the Bhagavad Gita’s description of the most ethical life: “Their every action is wed to the welfare of other creatures – those who burn with the bliss and suffer the sorrow of every creature within their own hearts, making their own each bliss and each sorrow – them I hold the highest,” [6.32]

    I’m really happy for the initiatives now like Drew Bekius’ new book to foster dialog and understanding among theists and atheists. A real dialog holds much promise I think!!

  • ctcss

    “You can’t convince a believer of anything because their belief isn’t based on evidence but on a deep-seated need to believe.”

    While I often enjoy Sagan, I am rather disappointed in this quote. It’s way too broad brush to be useful and implies that he truly knows what is in the mind of each and every believer. He can’t actually say this as a universal because one person who approached their religion differently than what he is stating would disprove that statement.

    Evidence is not considered to be the same as proof, yet he seems to be strongly implying this. A person can easily have evidence that persuades them to explore a subject area further and simply wants to pursue their investigation to see where it leads. And if they continue to encounter more useful evidence during their exploration, they may decide that the pathway that they are on is worthwhile. And if not, they may simply discard that pathway for something better.

    I’d be a lot more impressed if Sagan had actually made an in depth study of a great number and variety of religious believers and presented his evidence from that study. As it is, this statement just strikes me as being snarky and dismissive.

  • ctcss

    I just wrote someone saying atheists need an Anti-Defamation League and vastly improved public relations.

    I have long thought that atheists really need a good PR campaign but, for some reason, never made the effort to do it.

    Atheists, as a percentage of the population far outnumber Jews, yet the Jews are the ones who have an Anti-Defamation League and use it. And my own very non-mainstream Christian sect (vastly smaller than either the Jews or atheists) very early on set about making sure our needs were made known on an ongoing basis to state and national legislatures, as well as to newspapers and magazines to present our case to the public when unkind or unfair statements were made about us.

    The 1st amendment covers a of of useful ground. Atheists should take advantage of all of its aspects.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Sagan was an astrophysicist, not a religious scholar and would not have taken on the type of study you suggest, or been taken seriously if he had. I don’t think anyone has done this sort of study.

    This quote may not be his best, but I don’t think it rises to the level of being snarky or dismissive.

  • carolyntclark

    Sagan was factual. Supernatural belief is not based on evidence.

  • ctcss

    Linda, Sagan was indeed, an astrophysicist, but his statement here is not about astrophysics, but about religious belief. So why should his statement about something he is not an expert in be taken as anything other than a personal opinion rather than as something solidly factual? If one claims to be a scientist (and Sagan certainly is one), wouldn’t it be better to back up an assertion with at least a clearly (and cautiously) stated scientific approach rather than simply employing a sound bite that sounds clever, but is not based on anything more than his gut instinct?

    And perhaps I was going a little overboard with snarky as a characterization. But how is it not dismissive to broad brush all believers that way rather than cautiously modifying that statement along the lines of “It is difficult to otherwise convince someone who adheres to a belief because they have a deep-seated desire to believe, rather than convincing someone who believes something based on evidence that they have encountered about it.” That, at least , would be a fair characterization of two different mental approaches (rather than people) and would not just dismiss a whole group without actually examining the evidence for such a dismissal.

  • mason

    I know FFRF, The Secular Coalition, ACLU, Americans for Separation of Church and State, are active in certain related ways to the subject, but I still think the AADL is needed.

  • mason

    Did you notice how Tucker completely misquoted the First Amendment starting at 4:55 and Dan nailed him to the Reality Cross?

  • ctcss

    I agree. They need to calmly and clearly speak up when their rights are being abused, just as other groups have.

  • ctcss

    Carolyn, see my response to Linda.

    But don’t you see how using dismissive terms like “supernatural belief” completely sidesteps the need for a person to fairly evaluate and carefully characterize evidence before arriving at a conclusion about others? I am most definitely a religious believer, but I do not engage in beliefs without evidence. The reason I pursue my particular pathway is because I have encountered enough evidence engaging in that pursuit that makes me want to explore my pathway further.

    Is the evidence I have encountered enough to convince an outsider to change their own pathway and look at mine? Not necessarily. People have to be free to make up their own minds about such things. Also, I am not super interested in evangelizing others. But I am interested in finding out the truth for myself. Which means pursuing an exploration and gathering whatever evidence is encountered along the way.

    Would you really just have me just unquestioningly accept your assertion that following any religion is a useless endeavor, or would you rather have me do my own legwork, evaluate what I have encountered, and come to my own conclusions?

  • Linda_LaScola

    Ctcss — I don’t think he was being dismissive – just expressing his opinion – one the many people hold. However, he is correct in saying (as Carolyn points out) that religious belief is not based on evidence.

    I don’t know the context of the quote — but just because an scientist says something, doesn’t make it empirically accurate.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Good idea!

  • ElizabetB.

    Thanks, Mason! I don’t quite get the distinction between “establishing” a religion and “making laws to” establish a religion…. seems like the bottom line would be the same in this case?

    Technical problems made me post my very rough first draft yesterday… I wanted to say about “Leaving God” how much I appreciate its approach. Sometimes videos rail against the worst of religion, which moderate religionists hate too; or websites make spurious claims about archeology, manuscripts, etc; but this approach I think is imminently fair and fact based, capturing not only the enduring problem of evil but the disconnects that happen between professed values and hurtful or cynical actions. I was shocked at the children’s textbook showing who God loves more — the baptised baby over the unbaptised one!!!!!!! And I was intrigued by calling the non-religious “ironically, the largest — and fastest growing — religious group in the country.” I’m guessing he calls it a religious group there only as it appears in studies and polls regarding religion — but it was a surprise! Creator John Follis is hugely talented and will be a great voice in the conversations, I think. Thanks for posting it!

  • ctcss

    religious belief is not based on evidence.

    Once again (as I stated in my initial comment about Sagan), are you equating “evidence” with “proof” or are you saying that you have exhaustively examined all forms and practices of religious belief (i.e. religious study, life, and practice) and can absolutely state that none of it is based in any way on evidence? I don’t think you can.

    I called out that statement for a reason. It assumes way too much. I will accept it as a valid statement of a person’s personal impression of religious belief (i.e. their opinion), but for some reason, people keep stating it as fact rather than as opinion.

    just because an scientist says something, doesn’t make it empirically accurate.

    Scientists, of all people, should be aware of the need to speak with accuracy and to be as critical of their own pronouncements as they are of other people’s pronouncements. Humans are way too quick to accept a statement from a perceived authority figure as fact. So if scientists (and other thoughtful people) lament about other people accepting falsehoods as facts, perhaps they should be more careful themselves before asserting something that has not been thoroughly proven.

    Is that a tough standard to meet? Yes it is. But it is necessary if we expect to help one another move forward based on accurate, carefully qualified statements.

  • mason

    Look like you and I will need to start the AADL. Shall we start with gofundme.com ?

  • Sporkfighter

    “You can’t convince a believer of anything because their belief isn’t based on evidence but on a deep-seated need to believe.”

    While I often enjoy Sagan, I am rather disappointed in this quote. It’s way
    too broad brush to be useful and implies that he truly knows what is in
    the mind of each and every believer. He can’t actually say this as a
    universal because one person who approached their religion differently
    than what he is stating would disprove that statement.

    It’s been my experience that Carl Sagan is correct. I’ve never known a theist to be convince by evidence presented to him. Those who have left their religion have had to come across reasons on their own and in a way that doesn’t raise their defenses immediately.

  • ctcss

    I’ve never known a theist to be convince by evidence presented to him.

    OK, 1 – how many theists are we talking here that you’ve had deep conversations with and 2 – how many varieties of theists were they? I don’t doubt for a moment that this is your sincerely held opinion, but how wide and how varied are your samples?

    And personally, I would be willing to be convinced by very solid evidence that pointed out to me why I was very much mistaken in my beliefs, detailing all of the irrefutable reasons where I had been misled, but I haven’t run into anyone that has supplied such information.

    That, and the thing is, wouldn’t they also need to know exactly everything about my beliefs (and the reasons for them) before they could present their countervailing evidence? Basically, if a person doesn’t have religious beliefs that are even close to what an atheist thinks they should be, and the atheist also hasn’t done truly extensive research on their own to determine where the obvious errors are in a person’s beliefs, they are not likely to be very convincing.

    IMO religion is something to be lived, not argued about. But if someone were to make the attempt, it would have to be a very good attempt. And usually, the typical approach is to go for the low hanging fruit of fundamentalism and literalism. And knocking down weak arguments is not a proof of the strength of one’s countervailing arguments, but is rather evidence of the other person’s weak arguments.

    My 2 cents.

  • ctcss

    Mason, if I was a card-carrying member of this non-believing group, I would be more than happy to contribute. But I doubt very seriously that the Jewish ADL finds a need to solicit funds from outsiders. They have come to realize the need to band together and to fight the good fight and that is to their credit. Likewise, my own religion supplies its own contributions to staff the need to lobby, advise, rebut or inform when needed.

    So I think that it is only right and proper that atheists come together and fund and organize their own lobbying and defense group. If they are not willing to stand up for themselves both financially and boots-on-the-ground wise, how do they ever expect to gain a seat at the table?

    Mind you, they very much deserve one. But sadly, it is not something just handed out. It needs to be established by solid, persistent effort, hopefully done in good will and with the notion that all of us on this planet need to respectfully regard each other as neighbors.

    Yeah, not easy. But that’s how good relationships are established. Over time, and with patience, respect, and good will.

  • Sporkfighter

    “OK, 1 – how many theists are we talking here that you’ve had deep
    conversations with and 2 – how many varieties of theists were they? I
    don’t doubt for a moment that this is your sincerely held opinion, but
    how wide and how varied are your samples?”

    I’m 57 and my family is atheist going back at least two generations…I’ve had quite a few discussions about religion and why there’s no evidence to support the idea…probably spoken to five hundred people on the subject. Granted, that’s not the entire human race, but it leads me to say that statistically speaking, the chance of arguing someone out of a religious belief approximates zero. As for the variety of theist, I don’t expect that to matter much.

  • Sporkfighter

    “Linda, Sagan was indeed, an astrophysicist, but his statement here is
    not about astrophysics, but about religious belief. So why should his
    statement about something he is not an expert in be taken as anything
    other than a personal opinion rather than as something solidly factual?”

    The problem with referring the argument to theologists because they are better versed in theology is that they have never provided evidence that their field of study studies anything that really exists.

    I could envision a department of leprechaunology that studies different types of leprechauns, literature discussing leprechauns, the internal consistency of different theories of leprechauns, all without any evidence that leprechauns exist. Moreover, I submit that I’ve done exactly that; I’ve taken a college course on the Hobbit and the Lord of the Lings trilogy. The only thing missing was any belief that hobbits et al. exist outside of literature.

    Without a reason to believe the object of their study exists, why should we value their opinion? What reason do we have to believe that theologists know anything about anything outside the literature of their particular faith?

    Nobody’s asking for proof, just evidence.

  • Sporkfighter

    “But don’t you see how using dismissive terms like ‘supernatural belief’
    completely sidesteps the need for a person to fairly evaluate and
    carefully characterize evidence before arriving at a conclusion about
    others?”

    You do believe in the supernatural! You believe in a realm and a god not subject to natural law. That is exactly what supernatural means . . . above and beyond the natural. Any god that lives bounded by the same universe and natural laws we are bound by is just one of us. Perhaps not a human, but certainly a natural creature like us.

    “…I do not engage in beliefs without evidence.”

    You are welcome to your beliefs if they make you happy, but if you enter a dialog with people who lack your beliefs, if you claim to have evidence to support your beliefs, you shouldn’t be surprised if people like me ask you about your evidence. I’ve seen a lot of people claim to have evidence, but they either fail to show their evidence or they claim as evidence something I don’t count as evidence.

    “Also, I am not super interested in evangelizing others.”

    Would that your fellows were as tolerant.

    “Would you really just have me just unquestioningly accept your assertion that following any religion is a useless endeavor, or would you rather have me do my own legwork, evaluate what I have encountered, and come to my own conclusions?”

    In the United States, many Christians assert a lot of things. They assert that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that the science of biology is false, that God tells them to tell us which body parts we can use for what, with who, and in what position in the privacy of our own houses.

    I have know idea what your specific beliefs and behaviors are, but I know we are the ones on the defense, not you.

  • Scooter

    Perhaps Sagan’s quote with a little tweaking can also be applied to an atheist:
    “You can’t convince a disbeliever of anything because their disbelief isn’t based on evidence but on a deep-seated need to disbelieve.”

  • ctcss

    The problem with referring the argument to theologists because they are better versed in theology is that they have never provided evidence that their field of study studies anything that really exists.

    That wasn’t my point. I was trying to point out that Sagan wasn’t experienced in this area and yet was speaking about it as though he was. I was not suggesting that only theologians could possibly talk about such things at all. I wasn’t even interested in involving them. I was simply pointing out that Sagan would have needed to do the required due diligence to actually substantiate any positive claims he was making. IMO he did not appear to be doing so. He was simply speaking from his current set of opinions about the matter. Thus, I was not very impressed with what he was saying.

  • mason

    I should have added a 🙂 to the gofundme …the Jewish Anti-Defamation League does solicit donations 🙂 https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=10657

  • Linda_LaScola

    It could be applied to an atheist who didn’t use empirical facts to arrive at atheism. Personally, I don’t know anyone like that.

    Meanwhile, I know many religious people who proudly shun facts when it comes to religious belief, relying totally on faith.

  • ctcss

    And there are also religious believers who do rely on more than faith when pursuing their religious pathways.

    Honestly, can we just all admit that in every camp there are those who aspire to something more than just the lowest common denominator?

  • ctcss

    As for the variety of theist, I don’t expect that to matter much.

    Actually, that can matter a whole lot. There would be a huge difference talking to someone who believes in a personal God, Jesus as God, substitutionary atonement, Satan as real, Hell as an actual place, eternal damnation as a given, original sin, Bible literalism, human souls, etc. and someone who doesn’t have any of those concepts in their religion.

    Religion comes in far more than one flavor, you know.

    Also, why would anyone desire to argue someone out of, or into, a religion? That strikes me as behaving rather rudely towards one’s neighbor. It certainly doesn’t show respect for them as an individual, at least IMO.

  • carolyntclark

    ctcss, You often allude to the religion you’ve discovered as being very different from the religions being discussed here. It seems to have none of the negatives that we criticize, but a host of other enlightening concepts.

    ctcss : ” I am most definitely a religious believer, but I do not engage in beliefs without evidence. The reason I pursue my particular pathway is because I have encountered enough evidence engaging in that pursuit…”

    Could you explain that “enough evidence” with us ?

    ctcss : “…wouldn’t they also need to know exactly everything about my beliefs (and the reasons for them) before they could present their countervailing evidence? ”

    Yes, we would like to know “exactly everything” about your beliefs….”.

    This is not the place to proselytize, but rather than just refuting the logical opinions made here, please tell us why your religion makes sense.

    .

  • mason

    Disrespecting an irrational belief is not disrespecting the person. I’ve have numerous discussions with even Evangelicals and with clear explanation ridiculed the ridiculous, and they understood I was not disrespecting them personally, but their beliefs. Every time I have a conversation like that it ends up exactly the same with them saying, ” I know it sounds crazy, (or irrational) but I believe it.” They are also quite clear that they compartmentalize this kind of cognitive activity in their brain. But then I’m the Wizard
    of such discussion. 🙂

  • mason

    I have argued, more precisely, debated/discussed, largely with questions probably over a hundred people out to their theistic belief, most were liberal Christians; they are easy since most are Christian-lite-almost-agnostic, already. I’ve had success with some relative, nieces & nephews who were Evangelicals, but it took some time.

  • mason

    HUGH difference … “shall not establish a religion”; there shall be no national religion (which is not what it says, and rather silly that Tucker would not even be able to quote it correctly and says, “Of course I have, that’s how I made my living” 🙂 He sounds like a graduate from Liberty University (misnomer for Mental Bondage Univ.) With this wording there could be no state religion but the politicians being the sneaky bastards they are, could still pass legislation giving favoritism etc.

    ….. “Shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion”; this speaks not just to establishing, but also no respecting, favoritism, bias, enforcement etc. which is exactly what this school was allowing. The government employees, teachers, were using their position of power to influence and brainwash their students. Without this you could still have no national religion, but the government would allow (like Trump is trying to do now with DeVos & Falwell given power) all kinds of bias, influence, respecting, favoritism, bestowed on a particular religions or religions.

  • Scooter

    It seems to me that if an atheist is confused about anything, it’s the idea that Christianity demands “blind faith.” Even popular atheist apologists such as Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins promote the skewed and nonsensical idea that “Christianity in particular is addicted to “blind faith.” Augustine argued that that rationality was a prerequisite of belief. Thomas Aquinas made the point that Christianity was uncertain not because the evidence is poor, but because of “the weakness of the human intellect.”
    What’s really interesting and should be noted is that the scientific evidence that folks like Dawkins tout, is based on faith-exactly the same sort of faith as informed Christians have in God. Science is based on at least 3 kinds of of reasonable but fallible faith: trust in the mind, in the senses, and in other people. As you think about it, none of these 3 things can be proven but good science relies on these.

  • Linda_LaScola

    I see your quote about “blind faith” comes on page 9 of book by Christian apologist William Lane Craig https://books.google.com/books?id=rX3tGSzi16AC&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9&dq=%22Christianity+in+particular+is+addicted+to+%22blind+faith.%22&source=bl&ots=jOWfxDN1m3&sig=3c_FQST7wQ24Rb4dt_ADWKug04s&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjL08GO6tnUAhVGbz4KHf6GBrkQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q=%22Christianity%20in%20particular%20is%20addicted%20to%20%22blind%20faith.%22&f=false referring to Daniel Dennett only.

    The footnote refers to pp 200-248 of “Breaking the Spell.” I have started to scan those pages, but I don’t expect to see that exact quote. It seems to me if the quote existed, Craig would have cited the exact spot in which it was found, instead of a 48 page range. So it seems more likely that it is Craig’s interpretation of something Dennett said.

  • ElizabetB.

    o… I went back to listen and Carlson does say “the gov’t cannot MAKE a religion” and doesn’t seem to deal with “establish” via FAVORing a religion or non-religion. Thanks for pointing it out… likely to be useful at some point!!

  • ctcss

    Thanks for responding Carolyn. As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t often seem to have a chance to discuss much in a serious fashion.

    And as I’ve also mentioned before, I’m not into evangelizing. To the best of my knowledge, I have never invited anyone here to join me on my journey, nor asked anyone to investigate my religion. In fact, the closest anyone has come to wanting to know more has been Elizabeth, who suspects she knows what I am, but (at least as far I can tell) has never followed up on her own to do any self-directed research into it. Or if she has, she has never asked anything further about the concepts she has encountered in such research.

    For myself, however, I have tried to give some sense of what it is that I believe in a number of posts, mostly to illustrate the conceptual differences between mainstream Christianity and my own sect, and perhaps (I hoped) to explain why it was that I had felt comfortable staying with my religion when others here had given on following their particular paths. However, in the effort in doing so, I am not sure that anyone here (with the possible exception of Elizabeth) has ever asked any specific follow up questions like, “Oh, X sounds like an interesting concept, but how does that translate into actual practice? or “How does X relate to Y then?”

    And this, at times, has been rather frustrating. Not because no one wanted to “join up” with my religion, but because no one ever spoke as though they had even understood what I was trying to explain. (Explaining can be rather hard work!) And since understanding something does not necessarily equate to believing in it (it simply means that the concepts being spoken of are understood by the parties discussing them), I was not trying to “witness” to anyone here, I was just trying to discuss concepts that I thought had relevance.

    So my question to you is, are you interested in actually understanding the conceptual notions that relate to what I believe so that we can have a friendly discussion about them? If so, then I will make the effort to try (yet again) to convey some of these points in (what I hope will be) an intelligible way. But if this subject area is either boring or distasteful to you, I’m not sure whether it would be worth going into, for either of us.

    Thoughts?

  • ElizabetB.

    Hi ctcss! Yes, I have enjoyed reading your explanations — especially back in March ’16 (Two Active Clergy Openly Deny Bodily Resurrection). Actually, I think you could refer people to those posts for elaborations.

    Unfortunately our library doesn’t carry the foundational writings, I discovered, and they’re charging now for inter-library loans, so I just added to what you’ve been saying thru online reading. — Probably would have ordered books if I weren’t just too enamored of matter!

    I see your point about avoiding people’s “labeling” prejudices, but I have a hunch that that would be less a problem here on Rational Doubt (except for the occasional visitor)…. Rather than your being tarred with pre-formed opinions, maybe instead you would correct some misinformation that’s abroad. The conversation might possibly become more productive…. possibly!

    At any rate, glad you write! Happy Summer!

  • ctcss

    Elizabeth

    Thank you for your kind words.

    And as for your remarks on whether it would be a productive endeavor to share who and what I am on RD, I think that your word “possibly” kind of hints at how it might go. One of the fun things about explaining concepts to you was that you were actually interested in new ideas and wanted to understand, even though you might not wish to follow through. You were definitely curious about what might be there, mostly because you seem to have admitted to yourself that aspects of religious thought still seem to have value. But most everyone here (understandably, given their histories), seems to be very uncurious about such things. They appear to have closed the door on the value of religious thought and thus, no longer think about exploring it to see what, if anything, it might still offer. Thus, this is not a community of seekers. They have found what they feel most comfortable with and are just trying to move on.

    Also, IMO, there seems to be an ongoing issue where skeptics seem to conflate “evidence” with “proof”. They often state that they are open minded about religion and simply ask for evidence, but what they actually seem to want is slam dunk proof where there is no need for investigative effort on their part. In contrast, any police detective seeking evidence regarding a crime knows that a piece of evidence would not be considered proof. Evidence simply points them towards further ideas of what they hope will provide proof of a crime, and they work very hard at building up a case based on lots of pieces of related evidence. But even when a case has been built and has gone to trial, it still needs to be evaluated by a judge and/or a jury and they may not be convinced of its merit. Which means that a whole lot of work may have been for naught. But despite that possibility, those detectives are still fully committed to finding out what the truth is by seeking for and examining whatever evidence seems to have relevance.

    So if the main thought in the skeptical camp is that only rock-solid proof (rather than possibly intriguing evidence) will be accepted by them before any further investigative interest is merited, then it seems doubtful that they will uncover anything new or surprising regarding the subject of religion, simply because of a lack of interest or curiosity. After all, who investigates what they have no compelling interest in? You, OTOH, seem to be very curious.

    I think that this is one reason why my religion is not evangelical in nature. We have found that people need to possess an inherent interest and curiosity of their own before they will consider something rather different in nature from what they are used to. (If they feel that they have no need of what we offer, why should they bother looking?) However, we do make our information readily and publicly available, but it is up to the individual as to whether they wish to delve into what it may offer to them. And another good reason that we do not have an evangelical bent is that we have no need to “rescue” anyone from eternal punishment because that purported danger is not part of our theology.

    So unless the subject of my religion comes up on RD, perhaps in the form of an unexpected verbal attack on it (highly unlikely since this site seems to be centered around clergy and the dilemma of doubt they find themselves in, while my religion has no clergy at all), it doesn’t seem likely that I will find myself needing to bring it up, just on the off chance that someone here might have some questions about it.

    I’m curious, though, when you you say you are supplementing what I have explained before with online reading, are you talking about reading the primary reference work from the church’s website? Also, I am sorry to hear that your local library doesn’t have what you were looking for. I thought most libraries had a decent selection of books in the religious section, just so people could find out what a particular religion actually was about. I wonder if they take book donations to help address such needs? Or maybe there just isn’t enough shelf space these days?

    All the best.

  • ElizabetB.

    Thanks, ctcss! My reading was around a year ago, but I’m pretty sure it was the church’s website; that looks familiar when I visit now. Yes, I was very surprised by the library un-collection, and yes, they do accept donations. (I’ve made at least one, accompanied by the Library Journal’s recommendation, like “The Horrors We Bless,” a great little book about Just War theory.)

    I see what you’re saying about not being specific. I surely hope there’s never an attack! but as the ever-curious one, of course I think the conversation would be fascinating : ) About there being any value in religion — I keep thinking that along with findings of science there ought to be room for intuitive leaps — held lightly until found not helpful, and not leaping clear off the spectrum : )

    As I’ve mentioned, I do include matter in my values or view of reality, but I’m enjoying very much recently reading about Whitehead’s views of it — how we have experience and make choices, and how that character “goes all the way down” to the smallest possible bits of existence. I hope I can find a process theologian to ask if anyone talks about that description’s also “going all the way up” to complexity greater than human. The website Homebrewed Christianity is a process community, on line and actual, so I may get to ask there!

    Thanks always for the thoughtful exploring!