Dr. Jaco Gericke's Deconversion Story: "Autobiography of a 'Died-Again Christian'"

This is an appendix to his Ph.D. dissertation written in 2003, which he has granted me permission to share. Dr. Gericke is also writing a chapter for my work in progress. Listen up Christian, does this sound like a person who wanted to reject God? No way in hell! It is the story of us all. We wanted the gospel to be true. We put our whole lives into serving God. It is quite literally life shattering to find out we were wrong. What you'll read below also describes why it's so damned hard to help Christians see their faith for the delusion it is. It's because you want it to be true. It's because it would be life-shattering for you to admit you're wrong.

Autobiography of a 'Died-Again Christian by Dr. Jaco Gericke: [The bold print is by Loftus]

Are you a Christian? Do you consider yourself to be a true Christian who sincerely believes in God in such a way that He is what matters most to you in this life? Do you truly believe that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant Word of God? Are you completely convinced that the credibility of Christian faith depends on its veracity in all matters?

If so, what would you consider as the pinnacle of disillusionment? Something that could not possibly happen but, if it did, it would shatter your reality completely. How would you feel if everything that ever mattered to you; everything that gave happiness, meaning and purpose to your existence should somehow prove to be an illusion? How would you feel if you discovered that you were nowhere closer to understanding and relating to ultimate reality that some savage who lived and died with a mind saturated by myth and superstition? How would you feel if you were a happy born-again Christian who, by some sick twist of fate, happen to discover that the God you believed in does not really exist? Do you have any idea what it feels like to be a "died-again" Christian?

Once, I did not. I was born into a Christian family. From the beginning, I participated in organized Church religion. Like many others, I went to Sunday school and, at home, I listened to stories from the Bible. For the first twelve years of my life, I practised my faith without any real problems. Yet there was not anything magical about it; it was cultural baggage and simply one more compartment of my life. Like most children, I was often more interested in playing and talking with my friends than listening to the minister or to the Sunday school teacher. To be honest, some sermons and prayers seemed real boring and many of the hymns too sentimental and dreary.

However, all this changed when I was about twelve-and-a-half years old. One day I was reading my Bible when I came across the Book of Revelation. For some hitherto inexplicable reason, I was totally gripped and enthralled with the vivid imagery and story line of the book. I did not understand much of the alien symbolism but somehow reading that book triggered something deep inside of me. I was so moved by the text that I experienced something I can only describe as a spiritual rebirth.

For the first time in my life, I felt an utter willingness and obsession to believe in God and to love Him with every fibre of my being. He became an undeniable and totally overwhelming presence in my life and I was flooded with a perpetual euphoria and a deep sense of inner peace and purpose. I had an unquenchable desire to devote my entire existence to the service of Christ.

Everything was different. The Bible became something that I could not get enough of and nothing about it seemed boring anymore. The highlight of my weeks was no longer playing with friends but going to Church, listening to long sermons, singing sentimental old fashioned hymns, going to Sunday school and cultivating my spirituality.

Everybody who knew me could testify that I literally had a personality transformation. Almost everything about me changed. I no longer delighted in myoid ways of living. All I wanted to do was to live my life to the glory of God and commit myself to following Christ wherever he might lead me. I could literally feel the Holy Spirit working in me, making me sensitive to sin and giving me a holy aversion to all things that were not honouring to God. I could see the fruit of the Spirit in my daily life and each day I seemed like today might be the day that Christ would return on the clouds and we would live happily ever after. I longed for that return and had no fear of judgement or death as I felt completely at ease in my relationship with God. Never before was my life so meaningful and so filled with joy and purpose.

I soon decided that I would like everyone to experience what God has graciously given me. I wanted to become a missionary.

As the years went on and I passed through high school I was spared things like peer pressure and the typical teenage identity crisis. I knew exactly who I was and where I was going and what I wanted to do with my life. I had no desire whatsoever to indulge in anything that might damage my relation with God. I loved Him so much that the lack of friends and unpopularity resulting from a godly lifestyle was hardly even noticed by me. I was completely enraptured by God's guiding and loving presence and I wanted to share it with everyone.

One day, when I was seventeen, a missionary came to visit our school during a prayer meeting. After the meeting I talked with him and asked him regarding the options open to someone like myself who was about to finish school and wanted to become a fulltime missionary. He listened to everything I said and told me that the best thing for me might be to study theology. I could specialise in missiology and become a minister sent to the mission field by a local Church or an international missionary agency.

After that encounter, I decided that following matric I would like to study theology. After all, what could be more pleasant than having to study the Bible and learning more about the things of God and his Church? I really looked forward to my studies as even back then I had an insatiable and unquenchable desire to spend ever more time with the Word of God and share my experiences and thoughts with fellow believers. Everything was going to be perfect and my whole meaningful life ahead of me flashed constantly before my eyes. What a way to go!

After school I enrolled at the local university to study theology. During the first few years I came to discover that the Bible was a much more complex book than I could ever imagine despite all the times I had previously spent reading through it. Of course, I was not a little upset when some of the professors seemed to say things that were at odds with what I had learned at Sunday school and from all the devotional books I had collected over the years.

All the talk about historical critical issues, hermeneutical problems and the beliefs of other ancient Near Eastern religions were somewhat offensive to my naive conservative evangelical sensibilities. Maybe that is why, in those days, my favourite subject was dogmatic theology. This subject, taught as it was by conservative yet respectable and intellectually gifted scholars, provided me with the kind of interesting and relevant knowledge that I liked and which confirmed and supplemented what I had learned in Sunday school.

During the first three years at varsity, my studies in dogmatics and philosophy led me to decide that, if I could not get a job as a missionary, I would certainly not mind becoming a professional systematic theologian. As I strove to discern my exact theological identity I became certain that, whatever the stigmas pertaining to the label, I want to be known as a conservative evangelical theologian. Being a fundamentalist was what I wanted to be and I clung to that identity with pride as it seemed to be the option most loyal to God and the one that seemed to enrich my spirituality the most.

I started to read and internalise many books written by conservative evangelical scholars. Back then I became very distraught and saddened by liberal theology which I believed to be a satanic delusion. I decided to do something about the matter as I had also developed an interest in apologetics.

I was always the first one to enter into heated debate with any professor or student whose views of God or the Bible did not live up to what I considered to be orthodox. Especially Old Testament studies were somewhat offensive to me since so much of the prescribed material was of the historical-critical variety and that was utterly incompatible with my belief in the verbal inerrancy of scripture. It irritated me no end that so much of critical scholarship talked about Yahweh and Yahwism as if God and the Bible were merely part of just another outdated mythology.

At that point in time, I used to think that anyone who did not believe that the Bible is the complete and inerrant work of God could not possibly be a true Christian. I became depressed by the liberal tendencies of people at the university and in the Church. I often considered the prospect of quitting my studies and going overseas to study at a conservative evangelical seminary. I've had it with inquiries that seemed to be detrimental to my fundamentalist faith.

For many years my favourite theologian was a fundamentalist New Testament scholar from the United States called John Macarthur. I read all his works and identified myself completely with his theology and spirituality. Moreover, I was happy with such a theology and the related evangelical spirituality. It seemed to me the only authentic kind of Christianity there could be.

Meanwhile my interest in apologetics led me to read further in philosophy and theology and, unlike many of my fellow students, my reading was not limited to what was prescribed by the course. Even during holidays, I spent my time in the library reading everything that seemed interesting. I read all the popular conservative apologists who defended the belief that the Bible was inerrant in matters of theology, history and science.

At the time, I was also pursuing post-graduate studies in Semitic languages and developed an absolute passion for biblical studies - albeit only via conservative evangelical hermeneutical approaches to the text. It would become my mission in life to expose critical scholarship for being the fraudulent instrument of Satan that I truly believed it to be. I soon thought that I had explanations for all the pseudo-problems generated by critical theology about God and the Bible. There was only one truth and I had it.

During my fifth year, while I was looking for more conservative apologetic literature in the university library, I came upon two books with the word "fundamentalism" in the title. However, little did I know when I checked out these books that their contents were anything but fundamentalist. Both books were actually written by a well-known Old Testament theologian who actually intended to criticise the fundamentalist ideology. However, since I felt so sure about the veracity of my own convictions on the matter, I decided to read the books anyway to see what someone could possibly argue against my own unshakeable viewpoint.

Looking back today, I can point to many shortcomings in those books. Yet at that time, though they did not provide me with satisfactory answers to my subsequent theological questions, these writings of James Barr initiated within me a process that eventually led me to recognise what was wrong with conservative theology. Completely against my own desire I had to admit that, on some points, the antifundamentalist critiques were valid. What shook me up the most was the dreadful realisation that the Bible that I thought I new may not be the perfect Word of God that my fundamentalist ideology made it out to be. Moreover, as every fundamentalist knows, if the Bible becomes suspect, everything becomes in doubt...

Frantically I became obsessed with reading all I could about critical books on the Bible. I also started reading critical philosophy of religion as well as critical works on the history of religion and comparative religion. Even psychology of religion eventually also became a subject of interest.

This spree with critical theology and philosophy was not because I could yet identify myself with anything other than the conservative evangelical theology I was accustomed to. Rather, I was searching to see for myself from first hand accounts whether the conservative criticisms of critical theology were correct or not and viceversa. I desperately wanted to remain conservative but was willing to reluctantly follow the truth wherever it might lead me. Surely, since God is truth, the quest for it could never lead me away from God, could it? I dared not think about the prospect; nothing would make me lose faith completely.

I read everything that dealt with the problems of theology and philosophy. Whether it pertained to the synoptic problem, the historical Jesus, the nature, origins and diversity of earliest Christianity, the history of Israelite religion, pentateuchal criticism, contradictions in the Bible concerning history / theology / eschatology / thanatology / ethics, unfulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament, the use of the Old testament 10 the New, the history and development of biblical interpretation and Christian dogma, myth in the Bible, biblical archaeology, parallels with other religions, the relation between religion and science, arguments for and against the existence of God, stories of people having lost their faith and people who claimed that scholarship does not destroy faith, theories about the origin of religion, the history of philosophy (especially modern European philosophy and post-modernism), psychology of religion, sociology of religion, Old Testament theology, New Testament theology, etc. etc. - been there, read that.

Of course, as Robert Carroll (1991: 124) noted:
Reading is a dangerous thing. It can harm your psychic life. It can certainly change your life. Of course, whether it does or not depends on your situation and how you read ... A chance remark, a glimpsed graffito on a wall, a sentence on a page or in a book, a half-remembered line from an old song, or something much more substantial such as an argument in a book understood for the first time, a story, a novel, a biography, even a critical study of something (dare I say, a commentary on a classic text?) - any such encounter could be the means of changing one's life in ways impossible to predict before the experience.
No kidding!

I really tried to get to the truth of the matter and kept on reading everything from the most fideistic and conservative apologetics to the most critical and heretical radical theology, including the liberal and moderate varieties in between these extremes. Deep down I kept hoping to find solutions to my problems and a way back to where and what I used to be - the more conservative the better.

I never did find the truth in any school or theory in theology or philosophy. What I did find there, however, was legitimate criticism and good reasons why my own stereotypical conservative evangelical theology was demonstrably not as perfect and biblical as it pretended to be. I also found that, while so much of critical theology is more like fashion than science and could not give me certainty regarding what was really what, at least it showed me what could not possibly be the case. It also made me aware of some problems that no one is likely to solve until the oceans froze over.

To many lay people looking in from the outside, it may look as though theologians know what they are talking about; that the subject of theology is a body of objective knowledge. To eager and naIve undergraduate students like I myself use to be, books, dictionaries, articles and encyclopaedias all appear to convey nothing but the facts. Sooner or later, however, most interested people will come to realise that, at the forefront of scholarship and in the fray of cutting edge research, there are no certain truths. Everything is a game; a running debate where ultimate truth is beyond retrieval. There is nothing else to do but to stumble forward regardless and blunder on relentlessly.

In the academic world, what is held to be true is merely the theory on top. What is thought of as being correct is merely the story on top. The truth about any issue under the sun comes and goes like shares on the stock market. Everything should be taken with a pinch of salt. Yet the uninitiated may well be deluded by the apparent objectivity and factuality of it all. Serious scholarship demands that the spelling out of personal assumptions, agendas and beliefs is a no-no for the sake of conveying the sense of an objective and scientific rhetoric of cold, hard facts. As time passes and one learns more about the nature of the enterprise, it becomes clear that at a certain level and in a certain sense, theology (like all other sciences) is indeed no more than a game. There is no perfect method or ideology in scholarship and nothing has escaped some or other legitimate criticism.

Though I have dabbled in conservative, liberal and radical theologies, none completely satisfied me and, the more I read, the more questions came home to roost. I found out that, in general, Old Testament scholars seemed to be more aware of the theological problems related to the Bible than their colleges in other theological disciplines. The systematic theologians seemed unaware of the nature and scope of the problems in biblical theology and the history of religion yet they were the ones responsible for arguing the issues in the philosophy of religion. However, the Old Testament scholars who were in the perfect position to deal with the philosophical problems generated by biblical criticism often seemed to be philosophically inept. Many appeared reluctant to address the philosophical, and particularly the ontological, implications of their research.

Having a background where my faith was linked to the Bible (or so I thought), I yearned for a domain of research within biblical scholarship where one could ask the questions philosophers of religion asked. These inquiries should pertain to biblical and not dogmatic theology. Only if this happened could I somehow gain perspective on my dilemma.

It was a little late in the day, however, when I realised that studying theology can be a downright dangerous business for any believer. You go into it full of romanticised and naive ideas of what it is all about. You enter thinking you know quite a bit about the Bible, only to discover that you were grossly overestimating yourself on this matter. You expect to be spiritually fed, only to discover that all is not as it seems.

The problem with studying theology, as I suppose it is with most occupations, is the reality shock that follows as the magic of the initial encounter begins to fade. You arrive having a magical view of God, the Bible and religion but, as you begin to study the history of ideas, traditions, institutions, texts and practices, you sooner or later begin to feel like someone has robbed you. It's all a bit like finding out for the first time where food comes from; all the magic is gone. One goes on eating - one has to yet things will probably never be the same again.

Curiosity and research pertaining to the origins and nature of the Bible, one's religion, one's tradition, one's own beliefs and one's personal view of reality can be a sobering if not devastating experience. It is a reality shock of the worst sort. There are times when I wished I had never been born. How would life have turned out had one not decided to study theology? Would I not have been happy in my ignorance? One keeps on wishing that it is all merely a bad dream and that, in no time, mom or dad will come to wake you up so that you will not be late for Sunday school. Where did it all go wrong? Why, oh why, this cruel fate? Surely, this cannot be ...

Maybe I should have expected all of this. After all, the religio-cultural context certainly stacked the odds against a peaceful transition from Sunday school layperson to scientific biblical theologian to minister of a congregation.

During the eleven years of Sunday school in the Dutch Reformed Church, one is largely exposed to the Bible in the form of paraphrased Bible stories, censored and reinterpreted to be amenable to conservative reformed sensibilities. In the sermons, the underlying message about the nature and contents of the biblical text is wholly fundamentalist. As children, no one ever taught us about the findings and contents of critical scholarship.

This negligence may, however, be understandable. Communicating the latest results of biblical critical research would surely upset many people who could make life very difficult for anyone not living as thought this were seventeenth century Europe. It may be downright dangerous for those who know more than they should to rock the boat and come out as ex-fundamentalists.

As noted above, the view of the Bible with which one is indoctrinated in Sunday school materials can only be classified as "fundamentalist". In addition, if like me, one also reads a lot of the spiritual literature found in public bookshops, one also gets a generous dose of conservative evangelical theology from America and Britain. In short, along this route and by the time you enter the faculty of theology at the university, your beliefs about God, the Bible and reality is totally fundamentalist.

Then, at varsity, the student eager to learn more about the Bible is exposed to biblical criticism. He learns about the discoveries of the historical-critical approach and that of comparative religion. For the average student of theology, being exposed to these perspectives after a lifetime of fundamentalism can be very disorientating. Most students, of course, prefer to either ignore the critical approach, as it appears to be detrimental to their spirituality. Those who do try to make sense of it and internalise what they read - as opposed to merely memorising it for short-term memory to pass the test the next day - may be in for a hard time. Of course, if all one reads is conservative evangelical apologetics against higher criticism, one will come to believe that there are no serious problems about the belief that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. However, neither will one really understand what is actually involved. If, however, one does delve into the details of the critical research itself rather than merely noting its findings, one soon discovers that the Bible is not exactly the inerrant, infallible and dogma supporting book the Church proclaims it to be.

Now what is one to do? You want to keep the faith but you also want to accept the Bible on its own terms. After all, is not this exactly what the tradition always suggested should be done - sola scriptura? Yet now the problem is that reading the Bible on its own terms seems to lead away from the dogmas of tradition about the Bible!

Consider the following scenario: One's life begins with eighteen years of being indoctrinated with fundamentalist theological dogma. This is followed by six years of exposure to the critical approach to the text. After having to deal with the kind of intense personal anguish resulting from changing from a pre-critical layperson to a critical theologian, the student expecting to become a minister in the Church has to be prepared to become a hypocrite. He must sign in acceptance of the claims made by seventeenth century Reformed confessions thus implying that those texts have correctly interpreted the Bible. This after six years of being told that the ways in which texts like the confessions have read the Bible are no longer acceptable. One cannot be blamed for feeling that those responsible for the present structuring of theological education goofed big time.

Of course, many soothe their consciences by deliberately reinterpreting and relativising the contents of the confessions with its outrageous application of proof texts to support its ideology. Yet the fact remains that no one who has a sense of integrity and has read both the confessions and biblical criticism will have total peace of mind on the matter. In any case, all this is a sure recipe for theological "schizophrenia". If one does not decide to abandon the idea of ministering to a congregation then the only option is a life of repression. That is, repression until the demands of ministry and the company of fundamentalists allows one to think that the critical approach to the text is of no value at all and might just as well be forgotten. In many cases, time heals all wounds.

But let's get back to the story of my untimely demise. In the end, I do not know if I will find out what the truth is; and I may be sorry if I ever do. Truth has become a 5 letter word, full of fury and signifying nothing. It hurts and I can't handle it. It feels as if the whole history since the reformation has a micro-counterpart in my own spiritual psychological experience. I started out as a reformer, without too much dogma and overwhelmed by my experience of grace. Soon it all crystallised into orthodoxy but at least I knew the divine truth and had an identity. Then came the critical phase characterised by a modernist mindset starting with deism and, after developing through nineteenth century historicism and positivism, culminates in the twentieth century post-theistic and post-modem form of anti-realist Christian theology. The mutation from premodern through modem to post-modem in a matter of years may be too much for any normal psyche to bear unscathed.

A once unshakeable perception that GOD IS NOW HERE blurred into an ambiguous and confusing understanding that GODISNOWHERE only to result in a horrible suspicion that GOD IS NOWHERE. My situation was no longer one of "faith seeking understanding" but rather "understanding seeking faith". How disconcerting it was to discover that many cherished readings of biblical texts and subsequent periods of spiritual highs were based on gross misinterpretations and illusion. It is not easy coming to terms with the fact that the discourse of favourite biblical passages actually meant something quite different than what I thought the "Holy Spirit" revealed to me.

How soul wrenching it is to hear others speak of how the text totally changed their lives when it was obvious that they too had completely misunderstood the actual meaning the author intended to convey. Alas, I did not have the cheek to point out that the emperor had no clothes and that it was all a farce kept in tact by a socially constructed illusion based on years of systematic and unwitting socialisation, indoctrination and well meant brainwashing.

At times, one is gripped by an extreme and fearful sense of nihilism, historical change and epistemological relativism. Carried on the wings of time and change, against your own choice, one feels powerless to do anything about it.

I used to hear stories of people who started their studies as Christians and left it as atheists. I used to laugh at those impossible fictions. After all, as a sound and orthodox reformed theologian, I genuinely believed in the endurance of the saints and the impossibility of a true Christian losing faith. Becoming an atheist was the last thing that could happen to me, a true Christian, especially from studying the Bible. It was simply a preposterous and inconceivable notion. But somewhere along the way something happened. Something went horribly and frighteningly wrong. Today I no longer laugh at those stories. To be sure, I have become a character in my own impossible horror story. I would like to cry but there is no more tears left to do so. Now I am not even post-modem. I am nothing. I cannot be labelled. I have no mentors. I have no heroes. All scholarship seems like a game without any capital T Truths, any real progress or telos.

Even God seemed to have become a three-letter word. Reality has become a white empty canvas messed up by running watercolours. My world has melted. I have graduated from the faculty of mythology.

What is truth? I thought that the truth would make me free but not that free. Coming from a background where I was completely happy with conservative evangelical theology and spirituality, the discovery of the problems generated by biblical criticism and the philosophy of religion was like dying all over again. I sure wish there was a local chapter of Fundamentalists Anonymous or something like "The Fellowship of Died-Again Christians". Trying to find one's way through the half-life that was now my fate can be terrifying ... absolutely , bloody terrifying. I am confused and do not know what to believe about anything anymore.

I had lost reality. It was not merely the death of someone or something within the greater scheme of things. The entire scheme of things of things itself seemed awry and was slipping away like water through my clutching fingers. The experience of being a born again conservative evangelical biblical Christian who can no longer believe in an inerrant Bible or in any of those cherished theological dogmas he once held dear can only be described as a daymare. You do not know if you are dreaming or not and keep hoping that it might all just be a nightmare and that you might wake up - late for class but with faith in tact.

Alas, you do not wake up. As expressed in the vulgar lyrics of a song I once heard, reality seemed to have mutated into a "fu****d-up dream". It is a reality that has become frighteningly strange. The sky shines with a different kind of blue. The neighbour's dog doesn't bark like he used to. The world suddenly seems a very lonely and very scary place to be in. It can be extremely anxiety provoking to contemplate the idea that your life does not have the kind of cosmic back-up from a personal and favourable Source that you once thought it did. In the absence of this comforting belief you must now live with the knowledge that you must fend for yourself in a wholly indifferent universe where, in nature, there is no place for sentiment.

The thought that the world at large is a vast impersonal, unanimated environment with no concern for one's hopes, fears, dreams, expectation, needs, desires, ambition and expectations can be immensely disconcerting. The realisation that one is a wholly contingent microbe fighting for survival in a hostile world where no built in metanarrative exists is frightening. Coming to terms with a reality where there is no God and where, if other people do not give a damn, nothing and nobody will - now that is scary! With a realisation of the death of God, an existential crisis of the worst sort of angst mixed with generous doses of ennui, ahedonia, depression and multiple phobias ensue with a vengeance.

The "world" out there seemed to be constituted by nothing more than the essential elements. It appears as a mundane world, now bereft of its former enchantment and consisting of nothing more than earth, water, fire and air (and bullsh***?). There was nothing to be happy or excited about; everyday became just "one damn thing after' another". In the words of every song about lost hopes, nostalgia, missing a loved one, broken relationships or faded dreams, I could find an allegory of my own tragic experience with a God no longer there. On many occasions, I wondered whether I could survive psychologically or whether something would snap and that I would go completely insane.

In fact, there were times when I wished I would lose it so I would no longer be so obsessively aware of the sheer horror I experienced at having my consciousness transformed. What has happened is a most inexpressible calamity. It is a brutal form of tragic irony when studying theology does not help you to grow spiritually but leads to spiritual suicide. But, alas, you are not so fortunate as to die and finish the farce.

You know something is wrong when your life begins to resemble scenes from movies like "The Matrix (Part I)", "Groundhog Day", "The Truman Show", or even some episodes of television stories like "The Twilight Zone", "The X-files" or "Ripley's Believe it or Not". The truth hurts and you can't handle it. Reality bites and the poison of its venom is slowly but surely divesting you of everything that once gave meaning and purpose to your existence. Who would have thought it? If only I was never born. If only I never studied theology. Who would have thought that one so certain - a born again Christian - could discover the impossible - that, despite whatever divine reality there may be, the God he always believed in does not exist?

From this perspective, the myth of Eden gains new meaning. You have eaten from the tree of knowledge. Your eyes were opened. You saw that...that you were naked. Something has died inside of you. You are banished from Eden. You no longer have any access to the tree of life. Life east of Eden is thoroughly miserable. You feel as though the rest of your days will be spent as an outcast wandering aimlessly, like Cain.

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? Vanity of vanities, it is all vanity. You are hanging on a cross of the mind, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" No one can see God and live ...

You feel as confused as a chameleon on a box of "Smarties". I used to worry about my looks but now I am complaining about my intellectual ability, i.e. the lack thereof. Damn my feeble brain! Why can I not finally be absolutely sure about what is what in the world I have constructed in my mind and in which I am now an exile in what was once my God's kingdom?

There are so many mysteries, so many unanswerable questions; yet we all keep trying like fools. We try to capture the truth but, in doing so, we are, on the one hand, like a man trying to reach the horizon only to find it forever receding beyond our grasp. On the other hand, we are like dogs who chase after cars trying to bite their tires without thinking what we would do should we ever succeed in catching the vehicles.

Everyday now, when I look in the mirror I ask myself, " Am 1. .. a fool?" Whatever possessed me to make my life come to this? Was it all just a mistake? Surely, for a mistake, this is too big. What would I say to myself if I could speak to my younger self from ten years ago? Surely, he would not possibly recognise or understand what I have devolved and mutated into. Of all the outcomes I envisaged for my theological education, atheism was not on the list of possible destinies.
To be sure, few in this world could appreciate my predicament. Those who still have the faith cannot understand the problem and trying to explain everything in detail only lead to judgements and sermons of repentance. And who could blame them. Surely only a year or so ago I myself would have had little sympathy with the sort of apostasy that I have blundered into.

Neither can all critical scholars understand the predicament. At least one can talk to them - but they fail to grasp the nature of the catastrophe. All they can do is to talk about reaching a second naivete and about how liberating it was for them to leave their conservative background behind and become more critical. Liberating? That is the last concept that I would use to describe my experience. I was happy in my conservative fundamentalism. The only liberation I feel is from reality and it is anything but pleasant. To be sure, if hell is separation from the presence of God ... well this is it. I really am in hell!

Sometimes, as is human inclination, I feel the need to blame someone for what has happened. But who can I blame? My parents? Surely not, they did nothing wrong. My Church? No, she witnessed to what she believed. My Sunday school teachers or the local minister? No, they were all sincere and just doing their job. My professors? No, what else could they do but teach me what they know? Myself? No, how could I have known what was what and how things would turn out? God? No, for it is meaningless, irrational and unsatisfying to blame something that one no longer believes actually exists. So whom shall I blame? How shall I vent my pent up frustration? I do not know, I am not that kind of person. Suppression is the only option left.

Of course, the fact that what I believed in was wrong, that what I felt to be the most real was not - this definitely needs to be repressed for the sake of sanity. It is almost as if my eyes have opened to a lifetime of brainwashing by an eccentric religious cult. After all, there is little difference between churches and cults. Christianity started as a cult and only social statistics turned it into an acceptable and respectable institute. The brainwashing and pressure to conform in the church may be less cohersive and more subtle, but it's all nonetheless still very real.

In the same way I was both oddly amused and horrified at beholding the mechanics of other cults from the outside, so too, I have now come to see the Church in the same light. The leaders in the church may be sincere and believe they are communicating God's will but it is very difficult from a outsider's point of view not to perceive everything as brainwashing and indoctrination based on superstitious and discriminating ideologies.

Focusing on, or seriously contemplating just what exactly happened to me, what the implications are and how I now relate to the world out there drives me crazy. Repression is definitely compulsory if I am to survive. Maybe I should taper off. Going cold turkey after years of being a god-addict is unthinkable. I will never make it. I still have trouble admitting my problem. I still have trouble talking about the experience. After all this time I cannot bring myself to say it out loud, to admit that I am an athei...

Could my religious beliefs really all have been built on an illusion? Am I really chaff in the wind and no more closer to the truth about ultimate reality than the myth saturated pagans of far away and long ago? Could so many millions of people, so many sincere individuals, all be hopelessly deceived? Are Yahweh and Jesus really mythology's last gods? Am I an anonymous character in a Hegelian history of religion that will become a cipher and an object of pity and ridicule for future generations?

When Job, Qohelet and Psalm 88 become your canon in the canon, you know you are in trouble. Where am I? Who am I? Why am I here? Why are things the way they are and why are they at all? Once I had the answers. Now all I know is that I don't know. I cannot be certain about anything anymore. I can never commit to a point of view for fear of being disillusioned once again. Not even about my own unbelief. That is why I cannot commit even to atheism.

If life can spring upon me the most nasty of all surprises - that of finding out that what you believed to be the truth about everything was just another all-too-human story with no relation to reality (whatever that is) - who knows what else may happen?

Maybe being an atheist would not be as unbearable as I fear it might be. After all, as a new born baby I used to be an atheist. If nobody told me about God, would I even have known or cared whether He existed or not? And was I not always an atheist in the relative sense of not believing in the deities of other religions or the versions of God as constructed by other denominations of my own religion? Would it really be impossible to go on with life if I were to add only one more God to what was already a long list of unbelievable deities?

These days, all I own are questions. Where others see answers, I see problems. All advice given to me leaves me with more questions than the answers it purports to supply. Though I now know more than ever about all the answers to the perennial questions that people have in all sincerity preached throughout history, I am sadly none the wiser. Sure, I can tell you what this or that person thought, but with regard to what is really what - I haven't the foggiest. That unacceptable reply - I don't know now constitutes the sum total of my sagely vocabulary.

When you see how everyone seems to be hopelessly a product of their historical and cultural context and how they project their psycho-social imagination onto the whole cosmos you can no longer do it for yourself. Yet neither can you believe that whatever you do engage in will allow you any more privileged access to what is really going on. I do not know what is what. All I do seem to know are some of the things that are demonstrably not the case.


All I know is that I do not know and that is the highest flight of my reason. History has become "his-story" and that is how I feel: The world is not made up of facts but of stories. It is all a game without any purpose other than what people make of it. Any awareness of the history of ideas, morals and whatever else shows the need to repress the fact that it has always been we ourselves who made up the rules as we go along. And for me the game is over. I have run out of credits. I have run out of lives. I am in the middle of nowhere. Once adrift, I am now drowning in the grossly polluted ocean of truth. I feel as though I am running my heart out on a treadmill to oblivion. I am seriously contemplating the option of emigrating to never-never land.

God is dead and I am not feeling so good myself.

They say losing a spouse is the most stressful experience most people will have. They say its like living in a reality with a part of oneself gone, or with a hole in the fabric of one's existence. Well let me tell you, the death of one's God is no picnic either. In fact, what you lose is not simply a part of reality - it is nothing short of what used to be reality itself.

You will not be left with merely an absence of someone but rather with a collapse of the entire scheme of things. At least when you lose a spouse you can see things in perspective against the background of a larger reality and eventually the gap can be filled. But what do you do when you lose not merely a part of yourself but everything you once considered to constitute The Real and that which gave meaning and purpose, hope and inspiration to your existence?

According some psychologists, when informed that one is about to die the patient goes through five stages: shock, denial, anger, depression, and finally, acceptance. These phases are not to be seen as rigid and immutable nor does everyone experience every stage equally intensely. Some individuals may even skip some stages. Others may get stuck in one of them. Then there are the possibilities of regression and the re-experiencing of phases one already went through.

Now this scenario conveys something of experiencing the death of one's God, which by the way, also inevitably seems to lead to the death of the Self (in a psychological sense). I too went through stages of shock, denial, anger, depression and acceptance. I too do not experience all stages in equal proportions. I too go to bed one night filled with acceptance only to wake up the next morning in shock, denial or repression. The fact that this is not the death of one's physical self (although that part certainly does not remain unaffected) allows for an endless reliving of the entire cycle of coming to terms with the subjective reality of the death of God.

One may eventually think that the loss has been accepted but this is an illusion. Hearing a familiar melody, reading a text that alludes to biblical discourse, eating certain foods associated with religious occasions, smelling certain flowers, watching a sunset, having a dream, etc., -- all these can trigger a wave of nostalgia. Anything at any time has the potential to plunge one right back into the cycle of shock, denial, etc ... all over again.

There is nothing more to say except to finally acknowledge that "sh** happens". My heart and my mind can find no rest. I cannot rest in peace. I rest in pieces. Reality has shattered.

65 comments:

PersonalFailure said...

I once heard being an atheist as "standing still while in free fall." I like that description.

Fundamentalists tell me to read the Bible all the time. They don't like it when I tell them that it was a careful reading of the Bible that led me to this state in the first place.

Rob R said...

Reminds me of the rich young ruler. he presented himself to Christ as one who kept the law. What more could he possibly need.

And now we have conservative theologians, rich with a pristine world view. What more could they possibly need?

Chritianity is not just or even primarily an intellectual matter. That's all good and well and essential for the church, but we are called to persevere and why shouldn't that perseverance involve times of intellectual struggle as well as anything else?

Some of the things that I haven't read here was how Gericke saught help not just intellectually but with people to pray for him and with him. And when did he fast in this?

And he drunk deeply of modernistic conservativism (and liberalism) with it's quest for objectivity and certainty (knowledge without faith) and it bore it's bankrupt post-modern fruit since little to no such knowledge can be had. Virtually all knowledge requires faith, not just religious knowledge so it's odd to think that the conservative quest comes dangerously close to that affirmation of knowledge without faith which is of course impossible.

Andy said...

Dr. Gericke,

My own experience with leaving the faith was very similar to your own. Raised a fundamentalist, I became disillusioned when I began to accept the claims of historical-critical scholarship and eventually I even donned the title “atheist”. I'm sure I can't understand exactly what it's been like for you, but I readily identify with so much of your post-faith experience. Feelings of abandonment, betrayal, guilt, meaninglessness, purposelessness, grief, anger, and and hopelessness ceaselessly haunted me in what seemed to be an endless nightmare. Like you said, it's one thing to lose a particular person important to you, but an entirely different thing to lose the universal scheme of things you've known your entire life. Words cannot be bent deftly enough to communicate what that feels like.

At the risk of arrogance, let me offer you one piece of advice that I wish I had clung to initially: give it time. I know that right now it is the most godawful, terrible experience of your life, but I promise that if you just give it time, things will start to get better. Yes, you have to reorient your life and your philosophy; yes, you have to dredge up meaning and purpose from this cold life; yes, you have to recover a moral foundation; yes, you have to grapple with life's overwhelming uncertainty; yes, you have to cope with the rejection of friends, family, and colleagues; and yes, you have to endure the days where life does not seem worth living. In my own case there were entire weeks where I did not see the sun. It's hell.

But time heals. I know it sounds crazy. I know it sounds impossible. But I'm telling you from experience that if you don't give up, you can learn to live a satisfied life again. It's a gargantuan adjustment, but it's possible. I've known so many atheists who have had similar experiences but, after a few years, are back on track.

From one ex-Christian to another, I salute you. The courage and vigor to follow the truth wherever it may lead is rare, and therefore precious. When you look back on this in a few years, I trust that you will see your life is the same—rare, and therefore precious.

Anonymous said...

I see Rob "the answer man" has the answer. Do you suppose for one second that as a conservative he didn't pray and fast merely because he didn't mention it? I wonder what else he didn't mention that you or others can fault. Remember, this was long enough. Space does not allow him to write about everything. He was just like you--of that you'll never admit will you?

Anonymous said...

Andy, he wrote this in 2003. That was six years ago. He's fine.

Andy said...

Haha, d'oh! Well let's hope some recently deconverted wayfarer will stumble on the comment and find it useful.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

I think I have witnessed and experienced firsthand how many ppl of all kinds of faiths promote a goal of happiness that doesn't fit what Jesus revealed. I am guilty of this too - Perhaps the desire to flee or fight/eliminate suffering motivates ppl to set an expectation for 'escapsim faith' that was never promised by Christ. Accepting grace and increasing my capacity to love is quite an overcoming, but shaping character and forming a full life story is proving to be worth more than I can fully articulate. I believe it is especially difficult to overcome disbelief for those who are used to subjugation to impersonal rulesfor behavior/obligations and obedience to unrealistic demands/expectations and immediate compliance/instant gratification - but I know it can be accomplished. Sometimes ppl practice faith on a superficial,hypocritical level (there is grace even for the "sons of hell") while others allow God to bring the depths of the subliminal to light to be set free from the ulterior forces that maintain destruction and perishing.

When I hear religious ppl say that they "are" saved, I compare that to the reality of salvation and deliverance being an ongoing process and recognize that some are attempting to achieve salvation "on demand".

From my own experience, I can testify that atheism provided the very impetus that helped set me free from idolotry.

As always, I wish
the very best to you all.

Rob R said...

Do you suppose for one second that as a conservative he didn't pray and fast merely because he didn't mention it?

I do suppose for much more than that that he like most christians didn't really live a lifestyle of prayer, something that I am only learning about now. Do you suppose that Jesus' disciples as faithful Jews didn't pray? and yet they faced a demon possession they couldn't oppose because why? It could only be confronted with one who lived a lifestyle of prayer.

And no Professor, I don't suppose that was the only problem. Of course I have a friend who is trained at the grad level who used to pray for hours (when he belonged to the International Church of Christ) but is now anything but an orthodox Christian. I'm sure sure I could be wrong about Dr. Gericke's prayer level and I didn't limit my criticism to that.

He was just like you--of that you'll never admit will you?

He was just as you still are, thinking according to the quality of thought that is unfortunately rampant in many circles of conservative evangelicalism. I find the liberal/conservative dichotomy marginally useful, but it's an oversimplification that is still powerful for you and evidently for those of a dieing faith. And that's just one thing.

And all three of us are similar in another fashion. We all had a crisis of faith, but I persevered. Not that I would pretend that those crises were exactly the same.

I'm sure he was of a similar faith to mine, but we are all individuals and things just aren't in fact as simple as discussing who was like who. I geuss we westerners are all individualists until we want to oversimplify something we disagree with.

Laurel said...

Believers like Rob R are often quick to suggest that unbelief is a sign of some sort of failure on the part of the unbeliever to do this or that, which action or course taken, would, if done---so they believe---have resulted in a reaffirmation and re-solidification of faith. What believers like Rob R can't do is accept the fact that the "faith" one is attached to by social and cultural ties---i.e., one's "religion"---may well not be sustainable when one's "faith" is finally seen through clearer lenses.

Anthony said...

For anyone interested in reading some of Dr. Gericke's articles here is a link. There you can access each article and download them in PDF format.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob R.

You said, "Chritianity is not just or even primarily an intellectual matter. That's all good and well and essential for the church, but we are called to persevere and why shouldn't that perseverance involve times of intellectual struggle as well as anything else?"

What is the fruit of your perserverance? I leaned on this assumption as my faith began to unravel this past year and came to a moment where I said to myself, "Am I helping anyone by persevering? How is this type of misery good?" My understanding of Christian theology is one persaveres to give glory to God as an admission of his sovreignty but, for what? To maintain good standing in the kingdom? What is the benefit?

My morals and ethics have not changed since I dropped the need to distance myself from the doubts Christianity inspires and have begun to clarify what the basis is for my morals and ethics. Letting go of the obligation to persevere towards an ambigious prophetic future has allowed me to take stock of the moment and get busy living out my ethics in action.

Chuck O'Connor said...

MMM,

You said, "As always, I wish
the very best to you all."

Even though you would define us as, "sons of Hell."

Hmmmm, this kind of passive-aggressive piety from religious folk really is annoying and is a pretty negative advertisement for the faith.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

"When I hear religious ppl say that they "are" saved, I compare that to the reality of salvation and deliverance being an ongoing process and recognize that some are attempting to achieve salvation "on demand"."

MMM,

Do you consider evangelicals to be religious people?

What I see going on in alot in the churches of the evangelical world is that they think that if the just say a prayer and ask Jesus into their heart then that somehow saves them and they can just live anyway they please. This wasn't what I was taught as a calvinist. I was always told that there were three stages of salvation.

Salvation = justification

Salvation = sanctification

Salvation = glorification

I've always believed that regeneration of the heart comes before faith and then we recieve salvation (justification) by faith. And then the growth process of sanctification (salvation) begins.

I'm real hesitent to judge whether or not someone is saved though. The reason why is that I can remember times when I thought I was saved and was talking the talk and walking the walk only to slip up and go out and do drugs. Here I was telling others about how Christ was so awesome and how much He can change people's lives and how much he has changed my life and everything. The next few days I fell and I was out smoking dope only to wonder how it all happened the next day. This has been going on in my life for years. It's things like this that cause me to doubt my salvation because I will then have some christians come up to me and tell me I need to get saved as if I wasn't ever saved to begin with. Let me ask you a question if you don't mind. I was saved when I was 15 years old (or so I thought) I'm now 35. I'm not really sure anymore that I was saved because like I said there were times when I would slip up and go out and get drunk and high for months at a time. I really did feel the love of God for awhile before this would happen and I can say that I do love Him dearly now but what happens if I slip up again and I overdose on drugs and die? Do you think I'll make it to heaven?

I just got a letter from my pastor telling me about a 14 year old girl that goes to my church who recently supposedly found Jesus and was baptized a week ago. This past weekend she killed herself. Do you think she made it to heaven?

It's all very confusing to me at times.

Al Moritz said...

This is sad and dark story, and I sympathize with the anguish of the writer. However, in my view it says more about the tragedy of evangelical fundamentalism (a form of Christianity that I was confronted with only after having come to the US) than about the validity of Christianity.

Anthony said...

Al Moritz said: This is sad and dark story, and I sympathize with the anguish of the writer.

Al, I know this is somewhat off topic but may I ask why you personally are convinced that Christianity is true? You have argued that the evidence of science points to the existence of God (if I have understood you correctly), but to me that at best leads a person to deism. You have acknowledged evolution (and have in fact argued that abiogenesis was by natural processes) and that the Bible is not an inerrant book. So, again my question, why do you believe that Christianity is true? If you have published this somewhere else please provide a link.

My question is honest and sincere, I am not trying to trap you or anything like that.

Rob R said...

What believers like Rob R can't do is accept the fact that the "faith" one is attached to by social and cultural ties---i.e., one's "religion"---may well not be sustainable when one's "faith" is finally seen through clearer lenses.

Well, Laurell, if such is the case, then it is time for one to dig deeper to a better understanding of faith

Rob R said...

chuck,

What is the fruit of your perserverance? I leaned on this assumption as my faith began to unravel this past year and came to a moment where I said to myself, "Am I helping anyone by persevering? How is this type of misery good?" My understanding of Christian theology is one persaveres to give glory to God as an admission of his sovreignty but, for what? To maintain good standing in the kingdom? What is the benefit?

Chuck, I know little of the quality of your faith and whether it was worth perseverance. But I've already said as much. The fruit is of course to see God's kingdom advanced here and now today and to see it in it's fullness and glory in the future.

My morals and ethics have not changed since I dropped the need to distance myself from the doubts Christianity inspires and have begun to clarify what the basis is for my morals and ethics.

yes, well there's as much variety in faithlessness as there is in faith and Robert Price for instance sees the lack of sexual morals in the youth as a bad thing for Christians. Obviously.

But ethics and morality isn't the primary matter in our faith anyhow. It's important but it's not the complete issue.

Letting go of the obligation to persevere towards an ambigious prophetic future has allowed me to take stock of the moment and get busy living out my ethics in action.

If you really embraced and internalized the future promise of Jesus, then the loss of that would cause you to weep and despair for the loss of that hope and the continuance of the nightmare that is this world. But most of us in the fat comfortable west can't really fully appreciate that.

Of course that you felt that mere passivity was at home with your former faith and now you are more active, I'd say you haven't really internalized the message of Jesus. I'm not saying you weren't really a Christian. That's not my approach, but still, you never really fully grasped that message to confuse it with the pie in the sky view rightfully criticized by Marx. But that is one of those problems that runs rampant in much (and most certainly not all) of conservative evangelicalism.

Laurel said...

Laurel wrote: "What believers like Rob R can't do is accept the fact that the "faith" one is attached to by social and cultural ties---i.e., one's "religion"---may well not be sustainable when one's "faith" is finally seen through clearer lenses."

Rob R wrote: "Well, Laurell, if such is the case, then it is time for one to dig deeper to a better understanding of faith."

My response: That's often what believers do when confronted with the unbelief of others. That is, they redouble their efforts to reinforce the conclusions they began with and are determined to maintain despite evidence that might lead to a different conclusion.

Rob R said...

My response: That's often what believers do when confronted with the unbelief of others. That is, they redouble their efforts to reinforce the conclusions they began with and are determined to maintain despite evidence that might lead to a different conclusion.

Laurell, the unbelief of others doesn't imply anything apart from an examination of the specific facts and you say they lead one way, but saying it doesn't prove it. I get it that that's your general assesment, but I've seen differently and unless you want to get into the specific details (which is actually the focus of Loftus' blog here) it really isn't something that I have any reason to agree with you on.

And of course what you say is something that everyone does. I find atheists who just redouble their efforts to defend their pet criticisms after they have been demonstrated to be fundamentally flawed or at least inconclusive.

And some atheists also just love their own Christian beliefs, the ones that they deem were the best expression of the faith who's flaws demonstrate the irrevocable failure of Christianity. but when another Christian has a different take on the matter, they just can't stand that there favorite christian failing is something that just was never necessary to Christianity to begin with.

Those are my observations but like yours, they don't prove much. The devil is in the details.

roscoe said...

Dr. Gericke keeps whining 'Why Me?' I ask him 'Why not?' Who said he has to escape the knowledge that he has trodden a blind path. Religion is just a matter of geography--another land, another belief. If he wants to climb up from the morass, get involved with other`s torments. Start that Fundies Anonymous. Give your experiences to others less fortunate in escaping the snares of superstition.

Al Moritz said...

I find atheists who just redouble their efforts to defend their pet criticisms after they have been demonstrated to be fundamentally flawed or at least inconclusive.

Oh yes, how true.

Al Moritz said...

Al, I know this is somewhat off topic but may I ask why you personally are convinced that Christianity is true? You have argued that the evidence of science points to the existence of God (if I have understood you correctly), but to me that at best leads a person to deism. You have acknowledged evolution (and have in fact argued that abiogenesis was by natural processes) and that the Bible is not an inerrant book. So, again my question, why do you believe that Christianity is true? If you have published this somewhere else please provide a link.

My question is honest and sincere, I am not trying to trap you or anything like that.


Certainly, Anthony, I'll answer that. You are a nice guy, and I know you would not ask trick questions. I'll give a brief outline; however, at the moment I am not in the mood for a detailed discussion of this or that aspect of my train of thought.

Yes, I do think that cosmological evidence leads to God, and from just that, theoretically deism would suffice. However, I don't think that deism is a particularly rational position. Why would God want to create life and then loose interest -- or did He die? It doesn't make much sense to me. Also, I believe that God has a more direct role in the creation of the human mind, as suggested by the argument from reason, which I briefly mention in the "Background" section of:

http://home.earthlink.net/~almoritz/cosmological-arguments-god.htm

If there is a God who created life *), it would not be irrational to assume that he has revealed himself to a resulting life-form that is able to accept his message –- us, at the least. Therefore, the acceptance of divine revelation, which is extra-rational in the sense that it refers to things that one cannot arrive at and contemplate by rational powers alone, can be seen as a rational act.

*) I use "if " in the sense in which it is applied in logic, e.g. if A holds, then B follows.

Historically it may be reasonably argued that if there was a revelation by God, it first happened to the Jewish people, who then believed in one single God who made all of nature, whereas all other peoples continued to believe in many gods (by the way, the associated demystification of nature into mere things led to a mindset that made the rise of science possible). It may further be argued that the prophecies of the Old Testament regarding the appearance of a saviour reached their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

What about other religions? I think that God gives a chance to many people, and that eternal life is not just reserved for Christians. For this, see also:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extra_Ecclesiam_nulla_salus

heading: Roman Catholic interpretation

Philosophy alone (e.g. cosmological arguments, argument from reason) does not suffice, and divine revelation alone might be dismissed as 'ancient fairytales'. However, the combination of both forms of evidence -- converging evidence -- makes a powerful punch, in my view. And I guess that is how God intended to provide a platform for the (science-minded) intellectual that may allow belief (or in my case, to keep the faith).

Certainly, when it comes to accepting God, it is not just about intellectual consent, but also about faith, which requires trust in God. As an agnostic, turned atheist (upon reading The God Delusion), turned Catholic, once put it well on a message board (I quote from memory): "It is not about whether there is evidence -- the evidence is there --, the issue is if you trust the evidence."

Al

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob R,

You suggest that I didn't internalize the message of Christ and, you may be right but, I ask, which message?

Love the Lord your God with all your strength, heart and mind and love your neighbor as yourself?

Or, is it that Christ died for my sins and took my place on Calvary because I am a worthless, depraved sinner?

Or is it that at the end times I will be one of the chosen and not cut in half by the vengeful Jesus?

What message did I not internalize?

I don't believe in a millennial kingdom and I don't believe I am in the midst of a spiritual war. Leaving aside both those superstitions has allowed me to more freely love and appreciate all people, not just those who adhere to Christianity. I no longer believe that people are lost simply because they fail to accept the unique American superstition rooted in Evangelical Christianity. And, I don't see how accepting that superstition leads to goodness.

You are a perfect case in point. What has your faith given you but a worldview which is incapable of seeing the world as pleasant. You see the world as terrible and ugly. I know it can be terrifically bleak but, I get to love my wife and be loved by her. I get to practice kindness towards those around me. These actions fill me with hope and they are not predicated on believing that this life is valued through perseverance towards the next one.

I feel sorry for you Rob. You seem very sad and if you need to believe in superstitions to make this life bearable then I won't begrudge that but, your assertion that your particular form of misery somehow entails ultimate truth is not consistent with what I consider a mature or hopeful ethic.

Wanderin' Weeta said...

"I used to hear stories of people who started their studies as Christians and left it as atheists. I used to laugh at those impossible fictions. After all, as a sound and orthodox reformed theologian, I genuinely believed in the endurance of the saints and the impossibility of a true Christian losing faith. Becoming an atheist was the last thing that could happen to me, a true Christian, especially from studying the Bible. It was simply a preposterous and inconceivable notion."

I could have written those words. Dr. Gericke is fortunate, at least in that he found that he was mistaken while he was still young. I was in my 50s, after a lifetime as a missionary. And losing my faith felt like the death of everything and everyone I cared about.

Fundamentalists who say, like I would have said, "Before", that either you never truly believed or that you wanted to find an excuse to leave, or worse, that you didn't try hard enough (fasting has been mentioned. As if!), are babbling a pat answer that has been handed down for generations. We know, by experience, that it is not true.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi Chuck - You wrote, "Even though you would define us as, "sons of Hell."

Would you kindly do me a favor and re-read what I wrote? I am also prone to applying misinterpretations on others' writings, but please try and see what I am saying - okay? okay! I don't want to sound like a broken record but there are plenty of comments from me here that clarify that I am talking about what Jesus said about the religious who practice moral conceit/subjugation. He called them the sons of hell.

As far as you are concerned, you may have actually been one of those religious sons of hell, but as it is, perhaps you have done everyone the favor of dropping out of the business of making God look like an a--hole. If that is the case, I thank you!

Ciao!and Cheers!
3M

Laurel said...

Rob R wrote: "Laurell, the unbelief of others doesn't imply anything apart from an examination of the specific facts and you say they lead one way, but saying it doesn't prove it. I get it that that's your general assesment, but I've seen differently and unless you want to get into the specific details (which is actually the focus of Loftus' blog here) it really isn't something that I have any reason to agree with you on."

What have you seen that you feel conclusively establishes that your assessment is the correct one?

Rob R wrote: "And of course what you say is something that everyone does. I find atheists who just redouble their efforts to defend their pet criticisms after they have been demonstrated to be fundamentally flawed or at least inconclusive."

Atheists aren't the ones making extraordinary claims, thus they don't have to struggle to maintain unbelief. The responsibility for proof rests upon those making extraordinary claims and it is they who must (and inevitably do) redouble their efforts in order to maintain claims they've made.

Rob R wrote: "And some atheists also just love their own Christian beliefs, the ones that they deem were the best expression of the faith who's flaws demonstrate the irrevocable failure of Christianity. but when another Christian has a different take on the matter, they just can't stand that there favorite christian failing is something that just was never necessary to Christianity to begin with."

What in your assessment, are the true Christian beliefs?

Al Moritz said...

Atheists aren't the ones making extraordinary claims, thus they don't have to struggle to maintain unbelief. The responsibility for proof rests upon those making extraordinary claims and it is they who must (and inevitably do) redouble their efforts in order to maintain claims they've made.

Not so fast. Experience shows that the vast majority of atheists (though not all) are convinced naturalists, or choose naturalism as their default position – while atheism is often defined as simply just "lack of belief", in general it results in worldviews that do make positive claims, just like theism does.

And a naturalistic origin of the universe, for example, is certainly an extraordinary claim.

Laurel said...

Al Moritz wrote: Not so fast. Experience shows that the vast majority of atheists (though not all) are convinced naturalists, or choose naturalism as their default position – while atheism is often defined as simply just "lack of belief", in general it results in worldviews that do make positive claims, just like theism does.

As I see it, Christian doctrine is one endless parade of claims that demand suspension of disbelief, one fanciful claim piled on top of another, stacked to the clouds. The non-believer says,"Sorry. I don't believe it," while eager believers rush in to assure him that if only he had faith he would believe it. The responsibility for proving theism is theirs alone, but their explanations inevitably boil down to "have faith" which actually means: you've got to suspend your disbelief. As Dan Barker says, the requirement of faith means that reason has failed.

Al Moritz wrote: And a naturalistic origin of the universe, for example, is certainly an extraordinary claim.

Extraordinary perhaps for those who have already been bound to theism by faith held in place by fear of hell---which BTW, is gruesomely depicted, described, and warned against in my 1960 My Catholic Faith catechism.

Al Moritz said...

I wrote:
And a naturalistic origin of the universe, for example, is certainly an extraordinary claim.

Laurel responded:
Extraordinary perhaps for those who have already been bound to theism by faith held in place by fear of hell---which BTW, is gruesomely depicted, described, and warned against in my 1960 My Catholic Faith catechism.

First of all, I am not afraid of hell. Second, I don't see what hell has to with that at all. A naturalistic origin of the universe is an extraordinary claim also on the level of what we know from science.

You think that belief is just based on fear, and once you shake that off, all things explain themselves naturally? Sorry, I don't subscribe to that kind of simplistic thinking.

Laurel said...

Laurel responded:
Extraordinary perhaps for those who have already been bound to theism by faith held in place by fear of hell---which BTW, is gruesomely depicted, described, and warned against in my 1960 My Catholic Faith catechism.

First of all, I am not afraid of hell. Second, I don't see what hell has to with that at all.

I realize that some believers don't believe in hell, but eternal punishment in hell is what the Savior is said to save people from. If there is no hell to be saved from, what is the need for a Savior?

A naturalistic origin of the universe is an extraordinary claim also on the level of what we know from science.

Virgin births, bodily ascensions into heaven, and people rising from the dead are extraordinary claims. Those extraordinary claims are embedded in the creeds of the Church which is the well from which Christian theism flows.

You think that belief is just based on fear, and once you shake that off, all things explain themselves naturally? Sorry, I don't subscribe to that kind of simplistic thinking.

No, I don't think that belief is just based on fear or that once fear is shaken off all things explain themselves naturally, but threat of eternal punishment for unbelief is inherent in the "simplistic" Christian teachings taught to believers for millennia---and multitudes do believe in it. I realize it's become unfashionable in some more liberal theist quarters to believe in hell and that something bland like "separation from God" has taken its place, but when "simplistic" teachings are left behind, Christianity becomes something other than what has been taught to believers for ages.

John Spong is a retired and highly controversial Episcopal bishop who doesn't believe in hell. He's left simplistic teachings behind, and, more importantly, he's left theism itself behind. He calls for a new non-theist, Christianity. Do you know of his views? If so, do you disagree with him? If so, why?

Al Moritz said...

I said:

First of all, I am not afraid of hell. Second, I don't see what hell has to with that at all.

Laurel responded:

I realize that some believers don't believe in hell, but eternal punishment in hell is what the Savior is said to save people from. If there is no hell to be saved from, what is the need for a Savior?

What is the logical connection between belief in hell and being afraid of hell? Fortunately, I have a healthy psyche, and the two don't connect with me; I strive to build my relationship with God on better and more interesting things than fear of hell -- love, for example. Rather, I look forward to the eternal reward of seeing God in heaven, God willing of course -- while living my life on Earth to the fullest. Have you ever thought that a saviour might be needed in order to allow for seeing God in heaven? You seem to base your theology just on negative things.

I do believe in the existence of hell, yes, but I am not sure either if it is "hellfire" or separation from God. The latter seems punishment enough, especially if you have a painful knowledge of what you could have had. And no, I don't know how many people land in hell either, and I withhold judgement on that -- this is God's call.

Virgin births, bodily ascensions into heaven, and people rising from the dead are extraordinary claims. Those extraordinary claims are embedded in the creeds of the Church which is the well from which Christian theism flows.

This does not take away the fact that a naturalistic origin of the universe is an extraordinary claim as well.

Rob R said...

You suggest that I didn't internalize the message of Christ and, you may be right but, I ask, which message?

I restricted myself to what you described, that our faith is not at home with passivity. You said you became more actively good after leaving your faith. Clearly, that you were more passive in your faith speaks for itself. I don't have to argue that. You said it yourself.

What message did I not internalize?

Chuck, it is not my view that one who has lost their faith never was a Christian, but you did mention the two great commandments and it is the life mission of Christians to fulfill these commandments. I suspect that whoever does internalize and live them perfectly could never leave the faith. Chuck, I'd be cautious about claiming to be such a person, because that is akin to the error of the Pharisees who thought they were perfect before God.

Leaving aside both those superstitions has allowed me to more freely love and appreciate all people, not just those who adhere to Christianity.

Then you've established that you didn't internalize and live Jesus' command to love your enemies. If you did, I don't know why you'd say what you just said.

You are a perfect case in point. What has your faith given you but a worldview which is incapable of seeing the world as pleasant.

This is an oversimplification of my view based on one part of it that I described. Of course the world is full of the glory of God and there is much to be joyful and happy about even if you don't know that it is by God's grace that you enjoy the world. And at the same time, the world is a grievous nightmare broken and needing desperate repair. John Loftus can tell you some very horrific things that he can wax eloquent on when discussing the problem of evil. Such things which demand healing and atheism and secularism cannot offer anything remotely resembling hope but only despair without something beyond the material world to repair it. Evil is by definition a problem and if you don't think it is a problem, then your secularism does not offer a realistic solution that the world needs. it doesn't offer a realistic outlook on the world.

I feel sorry for you Rob. You seem very sad and if you need to believe in superstitions to make this life bearable

Oh, I love pity chuck if it means you'll follow through and send me chocolate or money or something to cheer me up but there are people in the world, many in the states and far more in the rest of the world who deserve it more. But no I'm not sad, I have hope that evil will be judged and will be put to an end and all sorrows and injustices will be made right which is something that only theistic views propose while the alternative here has nothing to offer for so much evil that is otherwise irrevocable on our own power. It may be conceivable that secularism may establish human rights and put an end to much but not all suffering. But it does nothing for the dead and for multitudes of those for whom it is beyond our current material power to help. It's not enough for Hope to be in the future but it must deal with present realities for which that future, when it is only described on the terms of materialism, will never materialize.

Yes, Chuck I am well aware that secularism proposes solutions to the worlds ills, but it is virtually a necessary fact of the matter that a complete solution will never be found. Only a God who transcends the world and is sovereign over it can give us a full hope. But it doesn't justify passivity either because those who will benefit are those who will not resist God's grace and who will take part in bringing about the future that God is bringing to us even this minute.

Rob R said...

Laurel,

What have you seen that you feel conclusively establishes that your assessment is the correct one?

What conclusion? The one's about Gericke? I've argued for what was challenged and the rest I think are consistent with what he wrote. If you disagree, I'd like to see an explanation to the contrary of what I already wrote. And I'll admit that there is speculation, but I think it's educated reasoned speculation.

About Christianity? A few short posts is far too small of a space, but I will say that I think it elegantly meets our existential needs and beliefs in morality, the worth of the individual, community, a thorough solution to the problems of evil (as in the end of it, something that secularism and atheism cannot promise).

Atheists aren't the ones making extraordinary claims, thus they don't have to struggle to maintain unbelief.

That's not relevant to what I said. Not that it is true either since atheists do have beliefs in morality and human worth and dignity and the ability of materialism to cohere and explain subjective experience (I won't defend that here, I am going to post a topic on it at the blog my profile is attached to). It's not my approach to say that they can't have such things, I just don't believe that atheistic materialism is the best companion of those things.

Of course, when you say "conclusively" if you mean what I think proves my case decisively, there's no such thing. Faith takes faith. That surely doesn't mean faith is blind and doesn't mean that we don't have reasons and insist on the importance of learning powerful reasons for our faith. And that it can't be proven absolutely does not distinguish it from any other field of human knowledge including science and even logic (though logic takes the least amount of faith of any beliefs).

What in your assessment, are the true Christian beliefs?

Christianity is not belief oriented. It's not about having a perfect flawless worldview and undertanding of scripture. It is Christ centered. It is relationship oriented, about having an appropriate response to God and while beliefs are important and essential, they like everything else are means to that end. It may be the case that "whosoever believes in him will not perish" but belief here is about following.

That's the best I can do in a short space. And that probably is the best I can do anyway.

Laurel said...

Laurel responded:

I realize that some believers don't believe in hell, but eternal punishment in hell is what the Savior is said to save people from. If there is no hell to be saved from, what is the need for a Savior?

Al Moritz wrote:What is the logical connection between belief in hell and being afraid of hell? Fortunately, I have a healthy psyche, and the two don't connect with me; I strive to build my relationship with God on better and more interesting things than fear of hell -- love, for example. Rather, I look forward to the eternal reward of seeing God in heaven, God willing of course -- while living my life on Earth to the fullest.

The connection is that punishment in hell has been part and parcel of Christian doctrine for millennia, and that the threat of hell has been used for millennia to make believers of unbelievers and to keep believers obedient and submissive to Church authority. I reported earlier what is written and depicted about hell in my 1960 Catholic catechism. You obviously have a different Catholic theology than the "simplistic" one I was taught and that my husband and children---and multitudes before us and since---were taught. From where did your Catholic theology come?

Al Mortiz wrote: Have you ever thought that a saviour might be needed in order to allow for seeing God in heaven? You seem to base your theology just on negative things.

Why is a "savior" necessary if not for a negative reason?

Al Moritz wrote: I do believe in the existence of hell, yes, but I am not sure either if it is "hellfire" or separation from God. The latter seems punishment enough, especially if you have a painful knowledge of what you could have had. And no, I don't know how many people land in hell either, and I withhold judgement on that -- this is God's call.

The point is that punishment in hell, fear of which you've termed "simplistic," is part and parcel of Christian doctrine and has been for ages. The idea that who goes there is "God's call" assumes that there is an actual hell, and that there is a God that created it.

Laurel wrote: Virgin births, bodily ascensions into heaven, and people rising from the dead are extraordinary claims. Those extraordinary claims are embedded in the creeds of the Church which is the well from which Christian theism flows.

Al Moritz wrote: This does not take away the fact that a naturalistic origin of the universe is an extraordinary claim as well.

The point is that virgin births, bodily ascensions into heaven, and the dead rising from the grave are and have been essential components of Christian doctrine for ages, belief in which is testified to in the creeds of the Church and are widely believed by believers to be factual events.

Critics of the so-called New Atheists complain that the New Atheists argue against a bogus fundamentalist Christianity and not against the "true" Christianity. The problem with that is that the creeds say what they say, and people have been taught to believe what they've been taught to believe which are "simplistic" things such as: hell is to be feared and only a savior can protect sinners from its fiery torment. Most believers are instructed in a whole array of extraordinary doctrinal claims long before they ever (if ever) hear about "extraordinary naturalistic claims," and by then, their "faith" is well-entrenched and absorbed, and they're most likely firmly predisposed to believe that things that contradict their "faith" are too extraordinary to be taken seriously.

If such beliefs represent a false fundamentalist Christianity, what is the "true" Christianity, what are its precepts and creeds, and where are they taught?

Andre said...

Does anyone know of a personal testimony or a conversion story that is as good as this deconversion story? I'm just wondering how they would compare in terms of sincerity, rationality, and courage.

Laurel said...

Laurel wrote: What have you seen that you feel conclusively establishes that your assessment is the correct one?

Rob R wrote: What conclusion...
...About Christianity? A few short posts is far too small of a space, but I will say that I think it elegantly meets our existential needs and beliefs in morality, the worth of the individual, community, a thorough solution to the problems of evil (as in the end of it, something that secularism and atheism cannot promise).


By what means, as you see it, are these things accomplished by Christianity---particularly the "thorough solution to the problems of evil?"

Laurel wrote: Atheists aren't the ones making extraordinary claims, thus they don't have to struggle to maintain unbelief.

Rob R wrote: That's not relevant to what I said. Not that it is true either since atheists do have beliefs in morality and human worth and dignity and the ability of materialism to cohere and explain subjective experience (I won't defend that here, I am going to post a topic on it at the blog my profile is attached to).

I believe it is relevant to what you said. You wrote: "I find atheists who just redouble their efforts to defend their pet criticisms after they have been demonstrated to be fundamentally flawed or at least inconclusive." My point is that unlike believers often do when challenged by unbelief, non-believers challenged by believers don't have to double down in their unbelief. Whatever "pet criticisms" they may have, the crux of the matter for them is that they just don't believe the extraordinary claims expressed by believers.

Rob R wrote:It's not my approach to say that they can't have such things, I just don't believe that atheistic materialism is the best companion of those things.

Do you have an opinion on the non-theist "new" Christianity of John Spong? If so, do you find it a suitable companion of those things?" If not, why not?

Rob R wrote: Of course, when you say "conclusively" if you mean what I think proves my case decisively, there's no such thing. Faith takes faith. That surely doesn't mean faith is blind and doesn't mean that we don't have reasons and insist on the importance of learning powerful reasons for our faith. And that it can't be proven absolutely does not distinguish it from any other field of human knowledge including science and even logic (though logic takes the least amount of faith of any beliefs).

I asked the question in response to your obvious confidence in your "assessment" as opposed to mine.

Laurel wrote: What in your assessment, are the true Christian beliefs?

Rob R wrote: Christianity is not belief oriented.

Christianity involves quite a number of beliefs (quite extraordinary ones) as revealed in its creeds and doctrines.

Rob R wrote: It's not about having a perfect flawless worldview and undertanding of scripture. It is Christ centered. It is relationship oriented, about having an appropriate response to God and while beliefs are important and essential, they like everything else are means to that end. It may be the case that "whosoever believes in him will not perish" but belief here is about following.

Does such "following," IYO, require belief in a theistic God? If so, please explain.

Christian Agnostic said...

Personally I'm happy in the warm glow of vaguely Christian Agnosticism. Happy to extract meaning from the stories in the Bible when appropriate, happy to disregard those stories that don't speak to me. Content to wallow in the joyful mystery of life. Unconvinced that the answer to the question is to wallow in existential angst. Certain that the answer is somehow in the questions.

I enjoyed the story by the way, it's just further proof of the intense damage that fundamentalism does to young minds. I just hope that existential angst can give way to the wholehearted embrace of glorious uncertainty....

ismellarat said...

Dang, Christian Agnostic, I was about to say everyone here is full of it to some degree, but you summed up about where I stand, so of course you can't be... ;-)

I'll start with Rob R, who said,

"Christianity is not belief oriented... ...beliefs are important and essential..."

This is one thing I've never understood. It's all about the relationship? Ok. Let's say you witness someone go so far as to die rather than deny their Lord. My, what faith, what commitment, what sacrifice!

Then you find out that the person was often asked about fundamental points of doctrine, and replied with something like, "oh, I don't believe that stuff, the Bible was written by superstitious old men anyway. I just put my trust in Jesus."

Just how "important" are these "essential" beliefs really, would you say?

This is one thing that has always amazed me. It seems people can just wish away what they don't enjoy believing, while declaring that they do believe in the real article. Stupid, stupid me. I'm going to be judged for taking it all at face value and saying I can't therefore label myself as orthodox, when this easy (and blatantly dishonest) option had been available to me all along.

I should just declare I believe it all. And then don't! Ignorance is bliss, knowledge leads to judgement. Am I right?

Al Moritz said...

Laurel:

From where did your Catholic theology come?

From a Catholic faith that begins with a love story:

"God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life."

(Official Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, paragraph 1.)

I had said:
This does not take away the fact that a naturalistic origin of the universe is an extraordinary claim as well.

Laurel responded:
Most believers are instructed in a whole array of extraordinary doctrinal claims long before they ever (if ever) hear about "extraordinary naturalistic claims," and by then, their "faith" is well-entrenched and absorbed, and they're most likely firmly predisposed to believe that things that contradict their "faith" are too extraordinary to be taken seriously.

Positing a naturalistic origin of the universe is full of philosophical and scientific difficulties which have nothing to do with: "...and they're most likely firmly predisposed to believe that things that contradict their "faith" are too extraordinary to be taken seriously." Even though you want to make it sound like there is a connection.

Critics of the so-called New Atheists complain that the New Atheists argue against a bogus fundamentalist Christianity and not against the "true" Christianity.

Well, for one thing the New Atheists argue against a Christianity that does not accept mainstream scientific findings, something that isn't an issue with Catholicism and other denominations. For example, the Vatican does not endorse anti-evolutionistic Intelligent Design.

Laurel said...

Al Moritz said...
Laurel wrote:

From where did your Catholic theology come?

From a Catholic faith that begins with a love story:

"God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life."

(Official Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, paragraph 1.)


Which sounds a whole lot different from what is written in my 1960 pre-Vatican ll Catholic Catechism instruction manual ("All material from 'A Catechism of Christian Doctrine,' Revised Edition of the Baltimore Catechism...") For example:

"On account of of the sin of Adam, we, his descendants, come into the world deprived of sanctifying grace and inherit his punishment, as we would have inherited his gifts had he been obedient to God...This sin in us is called original sin. It is the state in which every descendant of Adam comes into the world, totally deprived of grace, through inheriting the punishment, not of Adam's personal sin but of his sin as head of the human race...All men are born in sin, that is they are born without the friendship of God, and with no right to heaven...Our original sin comes to us through our first father...The chief punishments of Adam which we inherit through original sin are: death, suffering, ignorance, and a strong inclination to sin..."

As I see it, that's not much of a "love story," but it is the foundation of Christian doctrine.

Laurel said...

Al Moritz said:
This does not take away the fact that a naturalistic origin of the universe is an extraordinary claim as well.

Laurel responded:
Most believers are instructed in a whole array of extraordinary doctrinal claims long before they ever (if ever) hear about "extraordinary naturalistic claims," and by then, their "faith" is well-entrenched and absorbed, and they're most likely firmly predisposed to believe that things that contradict their "faith" are too extraordinary to be taken seriously.

Al Moritz wrote: Positing a naturalistic origin of the universe is full of philosophical and scientific difficulties which have nothing to do with: "...and they're most likely firmly predisposed to believe that things that contradict their "faith" are too extraordinary to be taken seriously." Even though you want to make it sound like there is a connection.

My point is that from a believer's position, there is so much to lose from retreating from the belief in a divine theist creator that most believers will find a way, any way, to circumnavigate and refute anything, scientific or otherwise, that threatens their belief in a theistic creator however non-ID that anything may be. IOW, as I see it, the scientific/theological conclusions of most theist believers are compromised by their profound need to continue believing the premises their theist faith is built upon.

Laurel wrote: Critics of the so-called New Atheists complain that the New Atheists argue against a bogus fundamentalist Christianity and not against the "true" Christianity.

Al Moritz wrote: Well, for one thing the New Atheists argue against a Christianity that does not accept mainstream scientific findings, something that isn't an issue with Catholicism and other denominations. For example, the Vatican does not endorse anti-evolutionistic Intelligent Design.

Laurel: But we still haven't discovered what the alleged "true" Christianity is. It seems to me that once embarked into post-literalism, Christianity wanders off into a sort of warm gnostic froth that proudly distances itself from "simplistic" literalism while enjoying the advantages of the company of its multitudes of adherents.

Al Moritz said...

Laurel said:

"My point is that from a believer's position, there is so much to lose from retreating from the belief in a divine theist creator that most believers will find a way, any way, to circumnavigate and refute anything, scientific or otherwise, that threatens their belief in a theistic creator however non-ID that anything may be. IOW, as I see it, the scientific/theological conclusions of most theist believers are compromised by their profound need to continue believing the premises their theist faith is built upon."

I don't know about most believers, but trust me, I would have easily embraced atheism a few years ago had the evidence allowed it. It didn't.

Laurel said...

Al Moritz wrote: I don't know about most believers, but trust me, I would have easily embraced atheism a few years ago had the evidence allowed it. It didn't.

Lack of evidence for the existence of a personal, all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, theist God is what leads most if not all non-believers to unbelief.

Rob R said...

Laurel,

By what means, as you see it, are these things accomplished by Christianity---particularly the "thorough solution to the problems of evil?"

Laurel, as I said before, a few short posts is too short to really explore these issues.

the problem of evil (again, I am not speaking of the logical problem of evil for theism. I have dealt with that http://thebarbwire.blogspot.com/2009/03/three-problems-of-evil.html

The problem of evil for atheism is that some evil's will never be fixed. This obviously includes all the evils of the past. (see what I last wrote to chuck immeadiately above for an elaboration. Of course the heart and central point of Christianity is that God will restore creation will judge evil and restore the victims and reward the martyrs.

Atheists aren't the ones making extraordinary claims, thus they don't have to struggle to maintain unbelief.

What does it matter if beliefs may be extraordinary (whatever that means, sure what we believe isn't boring nor is it the metaphysical and epistemic poverty as materialistic atheism is) or that one may have to struggle to maintain them? A more important issue is whether we are epistemically responsible in holding these beliefs.

My point is that unlike believers often do when challenged by unbelief, non-believers challenged by believers don't have to double down in their unbelief.

then my point remains. If what you say isn't irrelevant, it's just wrong. Atheists do indeed maintain some very silly and irrational ideas in order to criticize Christianity and they double their efforts to defend these ideas when they are challenged on them. And I'm not saying this is true of all atheists, but it certainly is true in my experience.

Whatever "pet criticisms" they may have, the crux of the matter for them is that they just don't believe the extraordinary claims expressed by believers.

The only value I see in this is this criticism is that we are accused of doubling up our effort in defending irrational ideas. And the fact is every position has people who do this.

And irrational claims and criticisms are indeed extraordinary claims.

Do you have an opinion on the non-theist "new" Christianity of John Spong? If so, do you find it a suitable companion of those things?" If not, why not?

Besides that I'm a Christian and not a spongian and am not interested in a "new" christianity unless it's a reasonable development of the old Christianity yet still the same faith. I don't know how spong would respond to the issues raised. But I don't believe that he accepts completely the Judeo-Christian narrative and as such, I think that's a handicap.

Christianity involves quite a number of beliefs (quite extraordinary ones) as revealed in its creeds and doctrines.

As it should and as I implied as much in the following statement that noted that beliefs were a means to an end.

Does such "following," IYO, require belief in a theistic God? If so, please explain.

It entails it considering that strongly identifies himself with Yahweh. Can someone follow Jesus without being a theist? In some ways it would be an immatature relationship and whether it would please God is according to God's judgement of the situation which of course would include the circumstances in which such a situation arose.

Rob R said...

Ismeallarat,

Then you find out that the person was often asked about fundamental points of doctrine, and replied with something like, "oh, I don't believe that stuff, the Bible was written by superstitious old men anyway. I just put my trust in Jesus."


How well this person actually followed Jesus is not a matter I can judge but I don't think that it's impossible that God's grace would cover them.

It seems people can just wish away what they don't enjoy believing, while declaring that they do believe in the real article.

who does this? Me or your hypothetical Christian? And what do you mean by "enjoy?"

Rob R said...

oops,

the link above that I intended was this.

Laurel said...

Rob R:

I (Laurel) wrote:

My point is that unlike believers often do when challenged by unbelief, non-believers challenged by believers don't have to double down in their unbelief.

Rob R:then my point remains. If what you say isn't irrelevant, it's just wrong. Atheists do indeed maintain some very silly and irrational ideas in order to criticize Christianity and they double their efforts to defend these ideas when they are challenged on them. And I'm not saying this is true of all atheists, but it certainly is true in my experience.

In my experience, believers challenged by the views of unbelievers often if not usually end up using the threat of hell/punishment---veiled or straight out---as a trump card against the unbeliever. Unbelievers need no such trump card.

Laurel wrote: Whatever "pet criticisms" they may have, the crux of the matter for them is that they just don't believe the extraordinary claims expressed by believers.

Rob R: The only value I see in this is this criticism is that we are accused of doubling up our effort in defending irrational ideas. And the fact is every position has people who do this.

Unlike believers, unbelievers don't see themselves as having the threat of hell and punishment looming ahead of them if they fail to believe the doctrines of Christianity, thus they don't have a sense of urgency to double down as do believers.

Rob R: And irrational claims and criticisms are indeed extraordinary claims.

None so extraordinary as, for example, an inerrant Bible, virgin births, resurrected dead, and bodily ascensions into heaven. Most of Christian theology requires a complete suspension of disbelief.

Laurel wrote: Christianity involves quite a number of beliefs (quite extraordinary ones) as revealed in its creeds and doctrines.

Rob R: As it should and as I implied as much in the following statement that noted that beliefs were a means to an end.

As I see it, requiring belief in extremely extraordinary claims as a means to the end of the believer avoiding a threatened eternal punishment in hell is an immoral concept that amounts to, well, terrorism.

Rob R said...

In my experience, believers challenged by the views of unbelievers often if not usually end up using the threat of hell/punishment---veiled or straight out---as a trump card against the unbeliever. Unbelievers need no such trump card.

laurel, at the end of the day, the broad brushstrokes just don't get us anywhere.

I'm sure there are some contexts where the threat of hell (or judgement) is a legitimate point.

I get it and fully understand and have always known that Christians discuss these things in irrational ways. So do atheists. So do atheists who retain some of the flawed thinking that they had as Christians.

Unlike believers, unbelievers don't see themselves as having the threat of hell and punishment looming ahead of them if they fail to believe the doctrines of Christianity, thus they don't have a sense of urgency to double down as do believers.

yes, the avoidance of judgment, be it an eternal hell or otherwise is one of the many rational reasons that Christians have for following Jesus.


I said, "And irrational claims and criticisms are indeed extraordinary claims."

To which you replied:

None so extraordinary as, for example, an inerrant Bible, virgin births, resurrected dead, and bodily ascensions into heaven. Most of Christian theology requires a complete suspension of disbelief.

Nonsense laurel. irrationality is the ultimate epistemic mistake. You do not want to put rationality as less important belief than a denial of something such as ressurection because without rationality, there are absolutely no rules whatsoever by which we may come to know things or believe things to be false.

If you don't put a high priority on rationality, there is no reason whatsoever

As I see it, requiring belief in extremely extraordinary claims as a means to the end of the believer avoiding a threatened eternal punishment in hell is an immoral concept that amounts to, well, terrorism.

I understand that your faith which you are still loyal to even as an atheist (as many atheists are often loyal to their former Christian perspectives as the best ones) is primarily about avoiding hell, but some Christians have a much deeper understanding. The central message about Christianity is about God's rescue plan for what is undeniably an unfortunate world, more specifically a broken world. That souls should be lost is a part of that, but we aren't gnostics who do not value this world and God's rescue plan is for this world, not the one for which we leave this one.

The world is broken and the atheists have nothing to promise in order to fix it. So for us to look to Christ who's gaurantee is restoration, there is nothing irrational in that. It's just the choice between hope and despair.

Gandolf said...

Rob R -->"is one of the many rational reasons that Christians have for following Jesus."

Its maybe rational if its proved to be reasonable,but as Laurels been trying to explain to you its now no longer accepted by everyone that faith beliefs are really so reasonable or rational.

Rob R -->"And irrational claims and criticisms are indeed extraordinary claims"

Sure there are some extraordinary irrational criticisms...But that doesnt prove that the atheists criticism of faith or christian belief,is a irrational thing to do.No not at all.

I think there is the good reasoning of "need" for criticism of faith beliefs to be happening.And thats what makes it such a rational thing to be doing.

Its irrational that more folks didnt criticise more long ago,but people were more superstitious and uneducated and full of fear of ending up in mythical places like hell.

Whats also irrational is that many faith believers seem to think faithful folk should simply be able to do and believe what ever they jolly well want in this world,and also expect non faithful folks should simply have to sit back shut up and not be interested at all in doing anything about it.

Thats irrational.That is a extraordinary irrational criticism.

ismellarat said...

Rob R,

"How well this person actually followed Jesus is not a matter I can judge but I don't think that it's impossible that God's grace would cover them."

Doesn't "following Jesus" include doing and believing whatever is known to be in accord with what the Bible teaches? How can "X is sin/heresy" have any meaning at all, when you allow X to be done/believed, as long as the object has Jesus in their heart? I wouldn't even know what "having a relationship with Jesus" means, if a person could theoretically molest children, if they somehow believed it wasn't a big deal, for example. "Maybe" answers can be just as problematic as yeses and nos.

Me: It seems people can just wish away what they don't enjoy believing, while declaring that they do believe in the real article.

Rob R: who does this? Me or your hypothetical Christian? And what do you mean by "enjoy?"

Just about every Christian I've ever known! And you also, come to think of it, since last month I could not get you to publicly say that you would obediently and proudly bash a woman's face in with stones at Jesus' direction.

I supplied a video for your edification:

http://www.apostatesofislam.com/media/stoning.htm

You asked if I meant you had you lived in those times, or the you who exists now. I think it's irrelevant, but let's say Jesus took you back in a time machine. I think you said the present you would not follow such an order. So I don't understand. God says it, you believe it, that settles it, right? Yet I never heard back an unqualified, "YES, YES, YES!!!"

Maybe I'd do it in your place by sheer virtue of being scared shitless. "Good God, it's all true, and if I don't obey him, I'll burn eternally." But this would sap any enthusiasm I otherwise might have had for spreading the Word. I'd probably go insane. But then I should see insanity being preached as being part of the package, and I don't see that.

It's amazing, the conundrums you can come up with, if you're strict with definitions and try not to care where the logic leads you.

I was so blind, back when the only conclusion I thought was acceptable had to be in accord with "isn't the Lord good."

I thought the way I meant "enjoy" was obvious. People (not just Christians) tend to spotlight the good, and hush up the bad. I guess it's all about feeling secure in one's beliefs, or something. Someone once did a study on why people subscribed to certain newsletters. It was to have their worldviews confirmed. Not "to pursue the evidence, wherever it may lead." They don't "enjoy" having the rug pulled out from under them. I didn't either, but I guess I enjoyed pretending everything still made sense to me even less.

ismellarat said...

I know I'm repeating myself to some, but don't want anyone to be misled about where I stand. I hope there's something beyond the grave, that everyone will come to agree is perfectly just. I don't want to be seen as "bashing Christianity" or any other religion in its entirety. But I see no need for the barbarism that seems to be such an integral part of these beliefs. Either believers should be publicly saying they embrace it, or they should admit that they have as much a problem with it as I do. I rarely see this mentioned (except by atheists, who seem to have their own set of problems they rarely mention), and think it's dishonest.

Laurel said...

Rob R wrote:

...but some Christians have a much deeper understanding.

Do they?

Rob R: The central message about Christianity is about God's rescue plan for what is undeniably an unfortunate world, more specifically a broken world. That souls should be lost is a part of that, but we aren't gnostics who do not value this world and God's rescue plan is for this world, not the one for which we leave this one.

That message is what fundamentalists have chosen to extract from the Bible. It's an ugly message that portrays a divine creator as irrationally blaming his own creations for not being perfect like "He" is and then requiring a savage blood sacrifice to appease his anger against his own creation for its failure in not being perfect as the means to human "salvation." I see the worship of such a "God" as the response of the terrorized to the one who terrorizes. It may be rational to do so under the circumstances of terrorism, but, as I see it, as a world-view, it's morbidly unhealthy.

The world is broken and the atheists have nothing to promise in order to fix it. So for us to look to Christ who's gaurantee is restoration, there is nothing irrational in that. It's just the choice between hope and despair.

To have a personal hope is one thing. To insist and preach to others that the God/broken world/need-a-savior story is literally and historically true and to warn ominously that unbelief in it (which believers most certainly do) will lead to eternal punishment (sometimes modified to "estrangement from God") in an afterlife, is quite another.

As for the world being "undeniably broken," I disagree. As a fundamental element of the "God" story, the "brokenness" is essential, but in reality, it can be reasonably argued that the world---more specifically, the people in it---have simply not yet become what they could and may yet someday become.

Rob R said...

First post of several.

Gandolf,

Its maybe rational if its proved to be reasonable,

I don't believe this is true. We can have beliefs that are rational even if we don't always know the reasoning behind them. Morality is this way. Even if one does not have a strong grasp of morality, he can be rational to believe that murder is wrong.

but as Laurels been trying to explain to you its now no longer accepted by everyone that faith beliefs are really so reasonable or rational.

So? rationality isn't decided by popular vote.

But that doesnt prove that the atheists criticism of faith or christian belief,is a irrational thing to do.No not at all.

I never implied otherwise.

Its irrational that more folks didnt criticise more long ago,but people were more superstitious and uneducated and full of fear of ending up in mythical places like hell.

It's irrational that you think the center of Christianity is about avoiding hell though for so many great thinkers of the church, this is not their principal reason for becoming a Christian. I doubt this is true for Augustine. It's not true of C S Lewis. Christianity is just more complex than that.

Fact is, Christianity has always dealt with Christicisms and doubts since the beginning and even during the middle ages when there was very little decent do we see a developement of argumentation for the existence of God.

The only way that you could say that Christian thought hasn't been engaged in the project of rationality is to be ignorant of it's history. But most atheists are.

Whats also irrational is that many faith believers seem to think faithful folk should simply be able to do and believe what ever they jolly well want in this world

yes, and many atheists are irrational as well. What's you're point?

Rob R said...

Next post of several

Ismellarat,


Doesn't "following Jesus" include doing and believing whatever is known to be in accord with what the Bible teaches?

Whatever including everything and everthing? Of course not. The whole of scriptures is beneficial for the church as a whole and much of it is relevant for the growth of individual believers. It is for their growth and deepening of their relationship with God. While there are essential things, the question isn't whether someone believes everything in the bible and acts perfectly but rather whether one is faithful to Jesus and is in a positive relationship that is growing and alive. You can be growing and believe many wrong things. You can be growing and yet fail to act as you should. But that you are growing means that along the way, you will find corrections to many issues relevant to your situation.

How can "X is sin/heresy" have any meaning at all, when you allow X to be done/believed, as long as the object has Jesus in their heart?

maybe the heresy is such that one really isn't truely following Jesus and has been mislead about Jesus to the point where they aren't on a fruitful path at all.

And sin must be confessed and repented of when one is aware of it. If someone isn't aware of it, God may judge that he can overlook the sin. After all, Jesus said to forgive those who didn't know what they were doing when they crucified him. Paul said that God overlooked idolatry of the pagans and even made it possible for them to reach him and find him in a situation prior to the gospel even being preached to them.

I wouldn't even know what "having a relationship with Jesus" means, if a person could theoretically molest children,

Me neither but even Paul has said that even those who knew neither Jesus or Moses demonstrated that they had the law written on their heart that would both judge them and defend them.

You asked if I meant you had you lived in those times, or the you who exists now. I think it's irrelevant,

I can't help you understand why what i say is reasonable if you don't want to hear it. I explained why it most absolutely is certainly not irrelevant. You refuse to acknowledge that God's chosen people's relationship with him has developed and if you refuse to deal with that point, then you cannot possibly understand Christianity nor criticize it validly since worthwhile criticism takes understanding.

but let's say Jesus took you back in a time machine.

Why would he put me in a position where the agreement he has with his believers has been reversed? until you deal with that, there is no rational reason I have to change my position. You can repeat yourself. But can you advance the discussion? One is a waste of time. The other makes all the difference.

Rob R said...

next post of several,


God says it, you believe it, that settles it, right? Yet I never heard back an unqualified, "YES, YES, YES!!!"

YES YES YES! God says it, I believe it. The problem is that you want me to believe only the things you find detestable but nothing else that qualifies it that has come after. Sorry ismellarat, I'm not going to believe my faith in part. I'm going to embrace the whole thing developments and all and you want me only to embrace a part.

It's amazing, the conundrums you can come up with, if you're strict with definitions and try not to care where the logic leads you.

If I have said something illogical, you tell me the rule of logic that I broke. There are actual rules of logic. You can actually take college courses on them. You can actually specialize in them in grad school. It's not based on ismellarat's intuition.

Not "to pursue the evidence, wherever it may lead."

No one does that ismellarat. Even you refuse to acknowledge that development is intrinsic to Christianity which has absolutely necessary implications for some of what you call the ugly parts of scripture (some of which I call the ugly consequences of sins against features humanity that we need to learn are extremely sacred) so it's not like you can claim to have followed the evidence.

The evidence doesn't lead anywhere anyway. We must actively interpret the evidence. The idea that we can have a neutral interpretation of the evidence that will lead us to truth is a modernist myth that has not survived scrutiny.

Rob R said...

That message is what fundamentalists have chosen to extract from the Bible.

Now Laurel, here you are lecturing me on rationality but here you seem to want to label any orthodox view of Christianity as fundamentalist. Why? because fundamentalism is an insult and the accusation often does not represent an actual rational criticism but rather it is an exercise in guilt by association.

But I expect that because atheists are irrational. (and I know that isn't strictly true, but why act in such a way that feeds it?)

It's an ugly message that portrays a divine creator as irrationally blaming his own creations for not being perfect like "He" is

If they were capable of that, I don't see how this is irrational. If they were not capable of that perfection, then you aren't dealing with the claims made about God and creation made by Christianity.

and then requiring a savage blood sacrifice to appease his anger against his own creation

And why is that irrational? Seems to me that to forgive an evil, an emotional loss is accepted. A self physical self sacrifice seems to me to convey the depths of this loss that is accepted. The resurrection conveys the completeness of redemption.

You call it irrational. But that's only true if the dynamics of good and evil do not work as the Christian narrative implies. Even then, it isn't irrational. It's only wrong. The two are not the same.

I see the worship of such a "God" as the response of the terrorized to the one who terrorizes.

Well i wouldn't take a psychology class from you. I wouldn't identify what I see on sunday morning as anything resembling terror.

To have a personal hope is one thing...

To have hope for no reason at all is one thing. To have a hope on the basis of a reasonable yet profound narrative of God and humanity is far better.

As for the world being "undeniably broken," I disagree.

well then don't complain. About anything. period. not pain, suffering, death, disease, slavery, torture. It just is what it is. And that's what atheism offers us.

But no thank you. That is indeed a profound irrationality.

Rob R said...

oh, if I didn't head my top post, it is the last one and for Laurel

Gandolf said...

Rob R -->"I don't believe this is true. We can have beliefs that are rational even if we don't always know the reasoning behind them. Morality is this way. Even if one does not have a strong grasp of morality, he can be rational to believe that murder is wrong."

Sorry Rob my opinions is reasoning is exactly whats behind all morals.Even when we might not always understand the reasoning ourselves.The moral has still been reasoned to be reasonable.One can believe murder to be wrong quite easily through use of reason and thats how it happens,not many folks are going to enjoy being murdered so that just for starters helps most folks to reason murder isnt really so great.

Tell me if you think folks ideas dont need to be reasoned to be reasonable,does that mean you simply agree with some people that happen to believe Aliens actually abduct people?,or do you do what i suggest, and reason whether the idea seems reasonable or not.

While i agree we can have rational beliefs of certain things without quite really knowing the reason at the time, but we soon find reasons in the end for most beliefs that are actually rational.

Rob R -->"So? rationality isn't decided by popular vote."

You dont think so ..Oh well thats fine but i still disagree with you ,i think popular vote has a lot more to do with deciding these matters than you might like to give it credit for.

With regard to women voting,it was popular vote that finally helped make changes.With regards to slavery,popular vote once again had a lot to do with what happened.With voting,its popular vote.With gay marriage,popular vote involved.Abortion,again popular vote involved.Global warming,popular vote involved.Matters of conservation ,popular vote also involved

Rob R -->"The only way that you could say that Christian thought hasn't been engaged in the project of rationality is to be ignorant of it's history. But most atheists are."

I dont agree.If i use history say to think about how long it has actually taken many christians to even agree that yes evolution actually does happen,i suggest reasoning tells me it seems many christians were neither using reasoning or being very rational.Stoning folks, was never so reasonable or rational.Burning witches wasnt really either.etc

No i say one really needs to be quite ignorant of history to try and say christians havent really often been both irrational and unreasonable.Hell they still are so even today with some in Africa killing kids as supposed witches, and/or doing exorcisms etc.And some refuse their kids medical treatment killing their children in the process,due to being unreasonable and irationally believing god would heal if he felt like it.

History right up to even today!! suggests christians dont really have such a very good track record of "thought" when it comes to the project of "rationality".

However im not saying christians cant get involved in thought and the project of rationality no not at all,for instance i think maybe time will prove the likes of Bishop John Shelby Spong is using more thought and rationality.

Rob R said...

God bless you Gandolf but there comes a time when I'm just going to have to take a page out of the book of John Loftus and say go read a book, specifically a couple, a college text book on logic and and an introduction to philosophy.

ismellarat said...

Rob R,

You and I would probably be in agreement on many points, mostly having to do with what we'd both consider to be "good" about Christianity. And this, I believe, is more true than I think you'd like to believe, since I think you also have a personal list of things you *don't* like about it, although it's kept secretly.

The way you seem to get around most OT unpleasantries is by saying that

1. an OT "you" might very well agree with them, but the present "you" can't be expected to defend them, because, well, we'd really be talking about two different "yous," and

2. Jesus (I deliberately use the name, to put a point on the fact that he's identical to the God of the OT) wouldn't take you back to the OT and have you do anything that seems unpleasant to the present "you," because the present you is under a different covenant than an OT you would be.

The issue simply doesn't exist. Problem solved!

I did not foresee this defense, because I've never seen it used by anyone else. Every commentary or sermon I've ever run across that even touches on the morality of ANYTHING that was done in the OT at least attempts to explain why God was justified in doing what he did, or giving these kinds of commands. I've never been to seminary, but this stuff has been on my mind for probably 25 years, so I'm at least aware of most of what's out there on this.

I should have started with a more innocent question: Had Jesus taken you back to the OT and asked you to do something much more innocuous, like observe dietary regulations, or anything else that is no longer in force, would you have said the same? (Or, what if he'd taken you back and simply had you watch and comment?)

I don't think so - and I believe it's because you secretly *do* have a problem with some of what you claim to believe. As do I (albeit not secretly), and as does just about everyone else who claims to believe every jot and tittle, while really only going along with the parts belonging to their own, secret, "canon behind the canon."

I don't think you've watched this stoning video yet:

http://www.apostatesofislam.com/media/stoning.htm

As advertised at the site, I also practically went into shock when I first saw it, and even a couple of years later I've yet to muster up the courage to see it a second time.

I was still shuddering a day later, when I passed it along to a friend in an email.

I expect your experience will be the same.

And, I expect that your explanation for your experience will match mine:

You will have been overwhelmed by the sheer barbarity of this procedure. And it WON'T be because you're merely incensed by the fact that it would really be OK to do this, save for the fact that it's taking place in the wrong covenant.

BTW, come to think of it, who's to say that stoning has actually been banned in our time?

If God is in favor of the death penalty (and I'm not necessarily against it myself in cases of mass murder - I don't see any candlelight vigils held for executed Nazis, for anyone who wishes to disagree), why couldn't a "real" Christian advocate stoning?

I think we share the same disease of wanting to love our neighbors more than the God of the Bible seems to allow, Rob R. And that includes what happens after the grave. But I'm not embarrassed to admit it. ;-)

Laurel said...

Laurel wrote:That message is what fundamentalists have chosen to extract from the Bible.

Rob R: Now Laurel, here you are lecturing me on rationality but here you seem to want to label any orthodox view of Christianity as fundamentalist. Why? because fundamentalism is an insult and the accusation often does not represent an actual rational criticism but rather it is an exercise in guilt by association.

I didn't use 'fundamentalist' as an insult, but to indicate an adherence to orthodoxy, i.e., adherence to the 'fundamentals'.

Rob R: But I expect that because atheists are irrational. (and I know that isn't strictly true, but why act in such a way that feeds it?

Claiming that atheists are irrational doesn't make it true.

Laurel: It's an ugly message that portrays a divine creator as irrationally blaming his own creations for not being perfect like "He" is

Rob R:If they were capable of that, I don't see how this is irrational. If they were not capable of that perfection, then you aren't dealing with the claims made about God and creation made by Christianity.

The basic question is whether the claims made by Christianity are true. You believe them, I don't. Your task as an apologist is to prove them true. You can't.

Laurel: and then requiring a savage blood sacrifice to appease his anger against his own creation

Rob R: And why is that irrational? Seems to me that to forgive an evil, an emotional loss is accepted. A self physical self sacrifice seems to me to convey the depths of this loss that is accepted. The resurrection conveys the completeness of redemption.

It's irrational for a creator to blame and condemn his creation for the "evil" of not being perfect.

Rob R: You call it irrational. But that's only true if the dynamics of good and evil do not work as the Christian narrative implies. Even then, it isn't irrational. It's only wrong. The two are not the same.

Blaming one's own creation for being imperfect and requiring a savage blood sacrifice in atonement for the failure of the imperfect creation, is, as I see it, profoundly immoral.

Laurel: I see the worship of such a "God" as the response of the terrorized to the one who terrorizes.

Rob R: Well i wouldn't take a psychology class from you. I wouldn't identify what I see on sunday morning as anything resembling terror.

Consider the condition known as "Stockholm Syndrome."

Laurel: To have a personal hope is one thing...

Rob R: To have hope for no reason at all is one thing. To have a hope on the basis of a reasonable yet profound narrative of God and humanity is far better.

The "God" narrative isn't reasonable. It requires a continuous suspension of disbelief.

Laurel: As for the world being "undeniably broken," I disagree.

Rob R: well then don't complain. About anything. period. not pain, suffering, death, disease, slavery, torture. It just is what it is. And that's what atheism offers us.

But no thank you. That is indeed a profound irrationality.


In fact, life on earth is what it is, with all its pain, suffering, death, disease, slavery, torture. It is what it is, and no amount of praying is any indicator of how an awful circumstance will turn out. Believers have a whole range of pious rationalizations to explain why their "loving God" didn't save the young hikers lost on the snow-covered mountain, or save the teen-age girl who was tortured to death, or heal the baby born with hydrocephaly or the woman with metasticized lymphoma, etc., etc., etc.,. In the end, things either turn out as hoped and prayed for, or they don't. That's a fact.

building construction said...

I found Jaco Gerickes name here:
Died again Christian Syndrom and then googled for it finding this page.

I'm not sure what his position is and how he came to his conclusion, although I already have a slight idea how it came to be. Would anyone be interested in my comment on this once I'm ready?

Little Green Penguin said...

You know, I have something to say to Rob R., MMM, and the other Christian apologists on here:

You're obviously very intelligent, well-read, philosophical, and given to deep thought. As you yourselves say, you are not like the vast majority of Christians, and understand Christianity from a much more sophisticated position than most believers do.

However, your scope is far too narrow, and your well is already poisoned, so to speak. You are presupposing your faith is true. I suspect many of you have not done comparative religious studies, found out where the broad brushstrokes of the OT mythos came from, or researched the sheer jaw-dropping amount of pious fraud that went into the early centuries of Christianity.

Your arguments are convincing, coherent, and forceful...and based on a system that did not exist and was never intended to exist by Jesus. You are arguing well...for a modern chimera that calls itself Christianity. You see the beauty of a cosmic escape plan...put there by a God who, being all-knowing and all-powerful, bears responsibility for the fact that said plan is needed.

In short, you are puissant and well-spoken apologists; however, your object is rotten to the core.

ismellarat said...

Here's Gericke's entire doctoral thesis, of which this was the appendix:

http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-03192004-135203/

Wesley said...

Who are you, Little Green Penguin? You must be a writer and a thinker. I need to read any books you have written, for surely you are a published author!? Please supply links.

(This comment is not likely to be read at this late date, but I can but try!)