Showing posts with label deconversion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label deconversion. Show all posts

What Was Your Pivot Point? Tom Flynn, Editor of Free Inquiry Wants to Know

At the request of my friend Fellow Feather, and with Tom Flynn's permission, I'm sharing the entire text of Tom’s recent Op-Ed to Free Inquiry readers. It contains a very interesting challenge, which might be the subject of a lot of discussion in the years ahead. I've asked people for the issues that initially caused them to doubt, which are multifaceted since there are so many reasons to begin doubting. In this new pivot challenge the request is to share the pivot moment when you decided to walk away from your faith. In his Op-Ed Flynn shares his own pivot point along with those of two others, Dale O'Neal and Bart Erhman. Fellow Feather shared with me still more stories, from Robert Ingersoll at the age of 7, from Howard Van Till, who was forced to wake up to a drastically different God, and from Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins. Share your own pivot points in the comments if you wish.

Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson On Losing One's Religion

A few weeks ago bestselling author Joshua Harris announced he's renounced his religion, saying "I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is 'deconstruction', the biblical phrase is 'falling away.' By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian." LINK. Then more recently Marty Sampson of the worship team Hillsong announced his religious faith "is on incredibly shaky ground." LINK. He names a few atheists he's been listening to. Guess who is one of them!

After Marty made his announcement I contacted him, and we're messaging a bit. I told him I know it's a struggle. I was there at one time. It's gut wrenching with lots of confusion and disappointment to consider my life was build on a delusion. I wept and prayed daily to god for months to help me and even send me a sign if he would. I received nothing in response.

People who wonder about the evidential weight of Conversion/Defection stories might be helped by reading what I've written previously.

For the record, in the years 1992-98 when I was in the throes of doubt myself, there was one song I played hundreds of times in hopes my god would reach out to me as I shouted out to him, "Shout to the Lord" (1994) by Hillsong:

Escaping the Spooky Christian Spy God


A Review of Drew Bekius’ book, The Rise and Fall of Faith

I was a lucky teenage Christian, way back in the 1950s, in rural northern Indiana. I was one of three brothers, and our devout Methodist mother bequeathed us her faith. It was never an option not to go to church on Sundays. We said grace before meals and read the Bible. But there was never anything extreme or heavy-handed about this, so I was lucky.

We never know as much about our parents as we would like, so it’s a mystery to me that my mother, born in 1905 in southern Indiana, never drifted into fundamentalism. Moreover, she had great distaste for evangelicalism. Although she never went to college, she had made a great effort to expand her horizons; she was a voracious reader, especially biography and history. Even our minister was surprised when she purchased the 12-Volume Interpreter’s Bible, a product, for the most part, of liberal Protestant scholarship. She wanted to study the Bible, and I too dived right into those books.

The Evidential Value of Conversion/Deconversion Stories. Reviewing Mittelberg's "Confident Faith" Part 7


I'm reviewing Mark Mittelberg's book Confident Faith. [See the "Mark Mittelberg" tag below for others].

I want to digress a bit for this post to discuss the value of personal conversion/deconversion stories. [Nomenclature: A conversion story is one which an atheist or nonbeliever becomes a Christian. A deconversion story is one in which a Christian becomes a non-believer or atheist.] In Mittelberg's book, conversion stories seem to play an important role. He discusses the apostle Paul's Damascus Road conversion experience, who was a persecutor of the church then a believer. Then there's Augustine of Hippo's conversion, from out of the pagan religion of Manichaeism. Jumping to our time he tells us of Lee Strobel, an atheist who turned evangelical, and the late Nabeel Qureshi, who was a Muslim but later became an evangelical after discussions with David Wood, who has his own shocking conversion story from atheist to evangelical Christian (which has 825K hits so far!). There is Mark Mittelberg's own story in this book, from a doubter to a confident Christian. He mentions other nonbelievers who became Christians, like Simon Greeleaf, Frank Morison (A.K.A. Albert Henry Ross), C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell. Mittelberg also exploits the late Antony Flew's story (pp. 144-145), who was an atheist philosopher but came to believe in a deistic creator of the universe (but nothing more).

Mittelberg never tells any Christian-to-atheist deconversion stories. He just tells atheist-to-Christian conversion stories (plus Antony Flew's story). Should we fault him for not telling any deconversion stories? Yes, I think so! For it means he's not offering readers any evidence to consider, but rather trying to persuade them to believe based on the conclusions others reached. His faulty line of reasoning goes this: since atheist person X became a Christian, you should too. Why should that matter? He had asked readers to follow the evidence for themselves. But by putting forth several stories of skeptic/atheist conversions to Christianity he's not actually presenting any objective evidence for the readers to consider. Instead, he's presenting the conclusions of others about the evidence, which is arguing by authority, the very thing he questions later. He had also asked readers to follow logic. But by adopting the conclusion of others just because they adopted it is not logical. Why not just present the evidence? The stories are a propaganda technique designed purposefully to persuade.

Lighting the Fuse

At a recent atheist meetup, I was talking with a former Muslim, and asked him what had led to his deconversion. He said that he had come to the United States from Pakistan and was working as a taxi driver while attending college. One night, after his shift ended, he asked a fellow driver to give him a ride home. As they were talking, the other driver, in a passing remark, said:

“You know, all religions are man-made.”

There was no discussion on the topic, just that simple statement, but it stuck with him, nagging at his thinking. Approximately two years later, he rejected religion and became an atheist.

Why People Walk Away From Their Faith

I had previously wrote about Ruth Tucker's talk to the Freethought Association of West Michigan, in which she gave 5 myths about those who walk away from their faith. See here. Ken Pulliam recently mentioned this talk and highlighted the fact that Tucker went on to list the real reasons people give for leaving their faith:

Still a Believer: James F. Sennett Responds to Questions About His Faith

I've written about my friend Dr. Sennett's struggles of faith in my book and also here, where in the comments section he replied. The rumor has it that "he's really struggling with his faith." Sennett is the author of a book on Alvin Plantinga, and along with Douglas Groothuis edited the book, In Defense of Natural Theology: A Post-humean Assessment. You can find his books on

Here is his unedited response to this rumor:

Seven Steps to Recovery

Hello Everyone,

This is a summary outline I've come up with for recovering from authoritarian religions like fundamentalist Christianity. In my years of counseling experience, I've found that for a lot of people (not everyone), the leaving process takes time and has some important steps. This outline is not meant to be a formula or cover the issues in depth, but I hope it is useful for you to think about.

Kind regards,
Marlene Winell

1. Get Real.
Be honest with yourself about whether your religion is working for you. Let go of trying to force it to make sense. Have a look at life and the world AS IT IS, and stop trying to live in a parallel universe. This world might not be perfect but facing reality will help you get your life on track. If you feel guilty, realize that the religion teaches you to feel responsible when it isn’t working and tells you to go back and try harder, just like an abusive relationship.

2. Get a Grip.

Don’t panic. The fear you feel is part of the indoctrination. All those messages about what will happen to you if you leave the religion are a self-serving part of the religion. If you calm down, you’ll be just fine. Many people have been through this.

3. Get Informed.
Do everything you can to educate yourself. You are free to read and expose yourself to all the knowledge in the world – history, philosophy, other religions, mythology, anthropology, biology, psychology, sociology, and more. In particular, read about how the Bible was put together and church history. Read authors who have explained why they deconverted. Many websites have deconversion stories and helpful reading lists.

4. Get Help.
Find support in any way you can. Explore online forums to discuss issues with others leaving their religion. Join a supportive group in your area. If necessary, find a therapist who understands or go to a recovery retreat. Do the work to heal the wounds of religious abuse.

5. Get a Life.
Rebuild your life around new values and engage fully with your choices. Develop your identity as you learn to love and trust yourself. Take responsibility and create the life that works for you – in work, family, leisure, social – all the areas of commitment that make a life structure. If you still want a spiritual life, define it for yourself. Venture into the “world” for new experiences and new friends. This will take time but you can do it.

6. Get With the Program.
Welcome to the human race. Accept the idea that Earth is your home and humanity is your true family. If you aren't part of a special group that is leaving, consider what that means for you. You may want to participating in larger concerns to make the world a better place, such as caring for the environment or working for social justice. Let go of expecting God to take care of all the problems. You can begin with knowing your neighbors.

7. Get Your Groove On.
Reclaim enjoyment of sensation and pleasure as you relax with the idea of being an animal like all the others on Earth. Learn to be present here and now. Discover all the ways to appreciate nature. Enjoy and love other people instead of judging. Reclaim your creativity and express yourself any way you like, not just to “glorify God.” Love your body and take care of it. Embrace this life instead of worrying about the next. Sing and dance and laugh for no reason except Being Alive.

Marlene Winell, Ph.D., is a psychologist who works in religious recovery, and the author of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. Information about counseling services and weekend retreats can be found at

A Stone-Cold Liar

That's me, according to Phil Johnson over at TeamPyro. He's decided that my rejection of Christianity is to be explained by calling me a liar. No time for any extended look at Phil's post here just now, and I'm not sure what there is to say in response to someone who dismisses all you say as lies, anyway. Here's the comment I left for Phil on his blog earlier. It's not likely to show up in the comment stream there.

Hey Phil,

If you have the courage of your convictions in saying what you do here, I encourage you hear from my friends and family, who remain devout Christians, about my commitment, and more importantly the "fruit" I was known by as a Christian. I'm happy to make it convenient for you to hear from them if you are willing to report back here what testimony you receive from them.

I totally understand that no evidence presented will prevent you from leaning farther the way you already incline -- away from anything that's problematic for your worldview; you can dismiss all that just as easily as lies on their part or a decades long conspiracy on my part to "walk the walk" just to... well, just because of demons I guess you might conclude.

In any case, I bet my wife, former pastors and others would be willing to spare a few minutes to share their understanding of my beliefs and commitments when I was a Christian, even as they might commiserate with you about my rejection of the faith; for them, having real world evidence to deal with -- a relationship with me over time in the real world -- it's not so neat and convenient as the position you've helped yourself to here.

I don't expect that to change your view, but I do think it would commit you to a more honest appraisal of the evidence, having to call me a liar over against the real experiences of those who know me best. I'm sure you can and will maintain your conclusion, because if your blog shows anything about you, it's that certitude and a priori conclusions are what's really divine to you.

But readers would have some background information to contrast your claims with. Even if they agree, they will have had more to work with in judging.

It's convenient to say "I'm too busy" to have a phone call that takes a fraction of the time it took to write your post. It's tempting, I'm sure, to just assume that anyone around me is also under my amazing powers of deception, and therefore of little value in understanding what background is here. But I'm offering, all the same, just because getting an honest view of the situation, any situation, is a good ingredient in making judgments. It's a hassle for me, too, to set that up, especially given the futility it represents in changing anything for you. But I'm willing, just in the interests of doing better than just carving the reality out we like best with our keyboards, and offering soothing and self-medicating rationalizations for our readers.

Let me know if you want to take me up on the offer, and I will put you in contact with people who can speak to the evidence and experience they have of me as a committed, engaged, fruit-bearing Christian. An honest look at the reports of those who know me best won't fit nicely into your narrative here, I anticipate, but that's the thing with being honest: sometimes the pieces don't fit as neatly as you'd like, and sometimes it leads to dissonance, contradiction, and yes, bane of all things Pyro, uncertainty.


If Phil wants to look honestly at the subject he's addressing, I'm willing to support some further analysis. Does his claim fit with the views of my family, friends, and colleagues, that I'm a liar or a generaly dishonest person? I'm all for looking at the evidence, evidence which should support Phil's allegations if they are true, right? As above, once Phil's convinced of a conspiracy theory, there's no talking him out of it, as the talking just becomes part of the conspiracy in his view. But just for the record, if Phil wants to make personal contact with the people who've known me best, I'm fine with that -- let the evidence show what it shows.

In any case, in the words of a friend who emailed to alert me to Phil's post this morning: "you should have seen this coming... this is what they do."


If the retort is nothing more than just to dismiss everything I've said as a lie, and focus on discrediting me and my integrity personally, that's just more evidence against Phil's brand of Christianity as a credible, defensible set of ideas. When you have to resort to dismissing your critics and ideological opponents as liars who can't be even given credit for meaning what they say, there's not much poorer you can get in terms of argument and apology.

Scot McKnight and Conversion Theory: Why Apostates Leave the Church

[Written by John W. Loftus] Evangelical New Testament scholar Dr. Scot McKnight has written a very interesting book on conversion theory, called Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy (with Hauna Ondrey, one of his “finest students”). Here is my review of it: In this book the authors have written four detailed chapter length studies of people who have converted: 1) away from the church to agnosticism/atheism; 2) away from the synagogue to the church, 3) away from the Catholic church to evangelicalism; and 4) away from evangelicalism to Catholicism. McKnight argues that all conversions go through the same process, and even if none of them are identical, they fall into similar patterns. (p.1). His goal is to describe the conversion process with hopes that the patterns that emerge can be used to explain them, with the further goal that scholars and pastors “will work out the implications of conversion theory in the pastoral context.” (pp. 231-236). He writes: "If mapping conversion theory shows anything…it shows the need for grace, humility, and openness to one another as we listen to and learn from one another’s stories. The sincerity of each convert’s (often opposite) experience underscores the need to learn from one’s another’s experience rather than denounce the other’s experience.” (p. 236) While most of us here at DC describe our leaving the faith as a “deconversion,” (which is the usual nomenclature) McKnight argues instead that leaving the Christian faith follows the same pattern of conversion itself. Deconversion stories are about "leaving from," instead of "coming to," but a deconversion follows the same process as a conversion. He writes: “All conversions are apostasies and all apostasies are therefore conversions." McKnight quotes approvingly of John Barbour in his book, Versions of Deconversion, that there are four lenses with which people see their own conversion stories:
"they doubt or deny the truth of the previous system of beliefs; they criticize the morality of the former life; they express emotional upheaval upon leaving a former faith; and they speak of being rejected by their former community.” (pp. 1-2)
Since he deals with several of the Bloggers here at DC (with some notable exceptions in Dr. Hector Avalos, Joe Holman, and Valerie Tarico) let me focus on this particular chapter of his as an example of what he does in the rest of the book (pp. 7-61). In his first chapter he provides an “anatomy of apostasy,” and he includes most of the recognized apostates and debunkers, including me (who’s story he highlights), Ed Babinski, Ken Daniels, Harry McCall, Charles Templeton, Robert M. Price, Dan Barker, Farrell Till, and many others. McKnight observes there is almost always some sort of crisis for the person. “Each, for a variety of reasons, encountered issues and ideas and experiences that simply shook the faith beyond stability.” “Guilt,” for instance, “drove Christine Wicker, a journalist, who covers the religious scene in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from the faith (seen in her well-written memoir, God Knows My Heart). For us apostates there was also a crisis of “unnerving intellectual incoherence to the Christian faith," and he quotes me as saying: “I am now an atheist. One major reason why I have become an atheist is because I could not answer the questions I was encountering.” There are five major elements that are combined to cause the adherent to question the viability of his or her faith, McKnight claims. One) Scripture became part of the problem for us. McKnight writes of Kenneth Daniels that “while on the mission field, he became convinced the Bible could not be inerrant or infallible, walked away from the mission field and became an agnostic.” Of Farrell Till, he “became a skeptic and at the heart of his departure from orthodoxy was a critical approach to Scripture.” Of Ed Babinski, whom he said is “an indefatigable recorder of those who have left fundamentalism,” his problem “was the Bible’s record of Jesus’ predictions and Paul’s own expectations that he think did not come true that undid the truthfulness of the Bible. He pursued every angle he thought necessary to support his faith but his doubts could not be satisfied. ‘I became,’ he confesses, ‘disenchanted with Christianity in toto, and became an agnostic with theistic leanings.’” McKnight, who is a conservative himself, seems to lay blame for our rejection of the Bible because we held to “a rigid view of Scripture.” When we “encounter the empirical evidence of the sciences, particularly concerning evolution and the origins as well as development of life as we now know it, a rigid view of Scripture collapses….For some the whole ship sinks.” Two) The empirical realities of science also demolish our faith, he notes. Ed Babinski was “completely devoted to a six-day creation theory” but eventually “became disillusioned with Christianity and the Bible because of the lack of evidence for what was considered so central to the faith – the scientific accuracy of a simplistic theory of creation.” McKnight opines that “a simplistic theory of origins, along with special pleading theories that are designed to explain away that evidence, when combined then with knowledge of the ancient Near East parallels to both the creation accounts and the story of Noah’s flood not infrequently are the collision point for many who leave the orthodox Christian faith.” Three) The behavior of Christians is another factor in our apostacy. McKnight: “For many, the failure of Christians to be transformed by the claimed grace of God and the indwelling power of the Spirit obliterates the truthfulness of the Christian claim.” Robert Price gained an insight while attending a lecture by Harvey Cox, McKnight pens. Price is quoted as saying: “As I looked at the secular students gathered there, I suddenly thought, ‘Listen, is there really that much difference between ‘them’ and ‘us’?’ I had always accepted the qualitative difference between the ‘saved’ and the ‘unsaved.’ Until that moment … Then, in a flash, we were all just people.” Four) The traditional Christian doctrine of hell is another factor. McKnight points out that “belief in hell has led some to contend the Christian faith is inherently unjust and morally repugnant,” such that his judgment leads him to think the Christian doctrine of hell is “far more fundamental to those who leave the faith than is normally recognized.” Then he quotes me as saying: “The whole notion of a punishment after we die is sick and barbaric. The whole concept of hell developed among superstitious and barbaric peoples, and tells us nothing about life after death.” Five) Apostates also reject the God we actually find in the Bible, who is vindictive, hateful, racist, and barbaric--my words. There are other reasons, McKnight admits. There is the problem of religious diversity in which it’s hard to dispute that “one’s faith is more shaped by one’s social location than by one’s personal choice.” Then there is the problem of evil which causes many to leave the faith. Of course, I’m surprised that these last two reasons are not highlighted as reasons in their own right, especially since I highlight them in my book. But at least he mentioned them. Another suggested reason for our defection from the Christian faith comes out of nowhere, with no evidence for it at all, and guided more by McKnight’s theological persuasions than anything else. His next suggestion is not helpful to a scientific investigation of conversion theory, which I take it, is one of his aims—to merely describe the conversion process. His next suggestion is based, not on anything he’s read, but on his “own intuition,” and even admits he “did not find anyone speak in this way.” He furthermore does not find this a factor in any other conversion stories in his other three chapters, which shows his theological biases. He suggests that “the demand put on one’s life by Jesus, by the orthodox faith and by a local church’s expectations can provoke a crisis on the part of the person who wants to go her or his own way. I am suggesting that behind some of the stories is a desire to live as one wants, to break certain moral codes that are experienced as confining, and that were either forgotten when telling the story or were an unacknowledged dimension of the experience.” Indeed, “one might summarize the entire process of leaving the faith as the quest for personal autonomy, freedom and intellectual stability. These factors seem present at some level in nearly all the stories I have studied.” Christian professor Ruth A. Tucker who wrote the book Walking Away From Faith: Unraveling the Mystery of Belief disagrees with this. In a talk to a Grand Rapids, MI, Freethought group (which I have also spoken for) Professor Tucker listed five myths about people who have abandoned their faith (note # 4):
1) "They are angry and rebellious." She found virtually no evidence for this. Rather, people felt sorrow, initially. They experienced pain, not anger. 2) "They can be argued back into faith." Because the person leaving his/her faith has carefully and painstakingly dissected the reasons behind this major worldview change, the Christian who proffers apologetics is more likely to convert into non-belief in such an exchange. 3) "Doubters can find help at Christian colleges and seminaries." This is not seen to be the case. 4) "They abandon their faith so that they can go out and sin freely." Tucker pointed out that too many people who profess faith sin more often than non-believers and that this argument was not a motivational issue in de-converting from faith. 5) "They were never sincere Christians to begin with." She has come across example after example of the most earnest and devout of evangelical, fundamentalist believers who became non-theists. Dan Barker was mentioned as just one of these erstwhile believers.
McKnight goes on to discuss the “advocates,” meaning those who go on to debunk the faith they left. He finds in us an “animus” in the “constant diatribes” of ours, from Charles Templeton’s “white-hot prose” to my whole book, to Harry McCall resorting “to caricature,” or even to Dan Barker, whom he claims has much “less rancor but still finding a need to tell that story in Losing Faith in Faith.” “The ‘anti-rhetoric,’ or the rhetoric that is so negatively against what they formerly believed, is both a characteristic of all kinds of conversion but especially those whose ‘conversion’ is leaving orthodox Christianity. Not all, however, are as white-hot in their antipathy to orthodoxy.” Of course, if he actually read my book, or my posts on DC, he should know I have no rancor towards Christians and that I treat my opponents respectfully. I suspect he feels the sting of our arguments rather than those other conversions he details in the other three chapters because he is simply a Christian believer, and we argue against his faith. McKnight does acknowledge people should not minimize the anguish we apostates have when going through our crisis of faith. It is not an easy process. It is agonizing. Quoting Dan Barker he writes: “It was like tearing my whole frame of reality to pieces, ripping to shreds the fabric of meaning and hope, betraying the values of existence. And it hurt bad. It was like spitting on my mother, or like throwing one of my children out a window. It was sacrilege. All of my bases for thinking and values had to be restructured. Add to that inner conflict the outer conflict of reputation and you have a destabilizing war.” McKnight also sees an interrelationship between us. Ed Babinski’s “fine collection of stories of those who have left the faith demonstrates an interlocking relationship at times – Babinski himself was influenced by William Bagley and by Robert Price while others were influenced by Dan Barker. There is presently, then, a connection for those who are reconsidering their faith, a connection that is filled with folks who have already traveled that path, know its rocks and its cliffs and who can guide the pilgrim away from faith.” The internet is also an important facilitator in our apostasy, McKnight understands. While doubts are not to be expressed publicly in the churches, the internet is another matter entirely…”many find their way to the multitude of sites, like Positive Atheism or Debunking Christianity, where one can hear arguments against the orthodox faith and apologies for alternative systems of thought and meaning." In the end, those of us who walk away from our faith find a sense of relief and independence when we finally decide to leave it all behind us. McKnight tells us that at some point we just had to decide, and sometimes it meant giving up our positions in life to gain the needed relief. He writes: “Harry McCall, a biblical scholar who voluntarily chose to leave Bob Jones University…chose to abandon his faith because ‘Jesus is so obviously a product of human imagination coupled with arbitrary faith that I chose to simply acknowledge the obvious rather than remain religious.”’ Robert M Price is an example of someone who found his relief akin to being “born again”: “I had to swallow hard after twelve years as an evangelical, but almost immediately life began to open up in an exciting way. I felt like a college freshman, thinking through important questions for the first time. The anxiety of doubt had passed into the adventure of discovery. It was like being born again.” McKnight finally recommends Lewis Rambo’s book Understanding Religious Conversion as “required reading for every minister and theologian.” This is a good, well researched book. I liked it very much. In one way it shows that those of us who have converted away from Christianity are not alone when we factor in the many other people who are also being converted to different theological positions. People change their minds, that’s all, and many of us do it.

My Anti-Climactic Milestone

Last weekend at the pool, in response to some of my critical questions about pagan cannibalism and communion, one of my family asked me if I was an Atheist. Yikes!
We were hanging out in the pool. The local preacher lives close by and he was blaring some Old Ancient Medieval Church music and we were commenting on it. Someone said it reminded them of taking communion. I make it a habit of asking critical questions about religion whenever I find the topic comes up but I don't usually give my opinion other than "I don't get it". So, I asked the critical question about the "body and the blood", cannibalism and pagan ritual. That was when they asked me if I was an Atheist. This was a turning point, an engagement that I wasn't sure I wanted to have especially on the weekend in the pool, but to deny it would obviously be lying so I had to "frame it" properly to do damage control. I said
"I don't believe a God Exists".
and they said
"Well, I'm not sure if I do either".
and another said
"Well, I do."
and that was it. We went back to splashing around and talking about summery, pooly stuff. My milestone was surprisingly anti-climactic. I guess I could say it went swimmingly. I think my strategy of asking critical questions and giving them food for thought paid off for me. What a relief. Now I am officially out of the closet.

My Path Out of Christianity

A Personal Project
About a year ago now, I began a major personal project. As a devout Christian husband and father of six children, I was unhappy with the "drifting" I had been doing. We had not attended church regularly for over three years at that point, and while we were still actively involved in a weekly small group/Bible study, my disillusionment with Evangelical Protestantism was such that while I remained committed to my belief in God and my faith in Jesus as my redeemer and savior, Christian faith tends to atrophy and even die when it is not connected to a the support systems of church and faith-based community, in my experience.

The "major personal project", then, was the rebuilding and fortification of my faith and beliefs in such a way that I could, along with my family, "swim the Tiber", and become committed, permanent members of the Roman Catholic Church. I embarked on the effort with some enthusiasm; while I still had some major issues to confront in order to become a Catholic, fully committed in good conscience, these issues seemed surmountable, and at the conclusion of this effort, I expected to begin RCIA with my family, and begin the happy process of settling into our new "spiritual home", where we belonged all along, as Catholic friends regularly reminded me.

I took a "first principles" approach, as a means for really doing the thinking and reasoning that would lay the foundation for decades to come as a faithful, enthusiastic and effective Catholic. For the first time ever, I think, I purposely put everything I believed on the table for review, and went to some length in making careful notes and comments in an MS Word Document and an Excel spreadsheet to keep things organized. My faith in God wasn't in question, but I "cleared the decks" as a kind of "provisional atheist", that I might clearly identify the grounding and basis for "non-negotiables" of my belief. The last thing I wanted was to lead a family move to the Catholic church, only to become a dissident there again, as I had become for so many parts of the Protestant faith and culture I lived in presently. More than anything, I wanted clarity about these issues that would stick.

My efforts quickly became a case study for the caution that one should be careful what one wishes for. I wished for clarity and durability in my beliefs about God and religion, and I got it (durability being tentative just a year in, of course). In forcing myself to do a tabula rasa accounting of what I believed and why, I ended up with undeniable clarity on two propositions: my 30+ years of Christian faith were predicated note on verifiable interaction with God and reasoned justification for the truth of the Bible, but instead 1) an (nearly) overwhelming desire for Christianity to be true in some form and 2) cowardice in confronting the prospects of unbelief in my life.

I had pages and pages of outline items documenting the usual historical (claims) of evidence for Jesus' divinity and the resurrection. I had the standard cadre of philosophical arguments in there - the Ontological Argument, The Transcendental Argument, the Cosmological Argument, etc. I had a list of the "miracles" and events in my life I believed represented supernatural intervention and interaction. One by one, though, all of these fell apart under skeptical, honest review. For instance, I had become concerned several years ago at the frankly pathetic state of Intellectual Evangelicalism. In discussing this with friends, they pointed me at C.S. Lewis and William Lane Craig. I was intimately familiar with Lewis, of course, who was the closest thing I had to an intellectual hero of the faith (Chesterton was appealing too, but not nearly in the way Lewis was).

Immersing myself in the books, articles, and debates of Craig, though, just exacerbated the problem. If Craig was even representative of Intellectual Christianity, never mind being one of its best examples, the situation was much worse than I had previously thought. Reading Bahnsen, Frame, Poythress, Plantinga and rest of the Reformed philosophers made the picture bleaker still, a kind of demon-apologetic wearing a cross, and carrying a Bible.

Provisional Agnosticism
Over several months I worked through philosophical and historical arguments from a new, hypothetical perspective. Rather than presupposing God, and synthesizing what I read and heard accordingly, I was now to a point where I began Craig's Reasonable Faith and Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus without extreme prejudice.

At that point, I was still a believer, but on the horns of a very serious dilemma. My project was backfiring, my "first principles" strategy aimed at shoring up my beliefs and convictions was seriously destabilizing them. If I continued, I understood the potential outcome, and the ramifications were quite troubling. If I aborted the effort, no one else would be the wiser, and I could return to my comfortable faith. But I would still know, and would have to live with the knowledge that I bailed out because of my fear, and an unwillingness to be fully honest and self-critical.

It seems "right for the story" to relate my struggle over that dilemma, and how I struggled over time to be deeply honest and transparent with myself and others about the justification and reasonableness of my faith. I did choose to pursue critical examination, the path of honesty, but as it happened, no sooner had I realized the dilemma I was facing, then it was over. I awoke in the middle of the night, and prowled the house through the rest of the night, agonized, exhilarated, shocked and in despair over facing the facts. I did not have a good basis for my beliefs, and the nature of my faith as an expression of my desires and my fears laid open to see, undeniable. I was a Christian because I was raised to be one, and I remained one because it's what I wanted. Moreover, I remained one because it seemed the only choice available in terms of my social connections and relationships. I was an evangelical homeschooler, deeply embedded in my church, thoroughly immersed in my faith, identified by it. I was a "godly man", and a good man because of my faith in God, which I was never shy about or ashamed to admit.

That night, with the realization of how motivated and determined I was, subconsciously or otherwise to tell my own story to myself and the world in terms of am active, powerful relationship with a living God, the creator of the universe, I for the first time faced the reality of God as a creature of my own invention. I "inherited" it in a way, being raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, but I had made the illusion my own, and I now had no way to deny my own self-deception. God was God because that's the way I wanted the truth to be. I wanted to live forever. I wanted a neat clean way to resolve the problems of my immoral and unethical actions. I wanted an easy clear-cut basis for right and wrong. I wanted to think I was special, cosmically-special, just like all my Christian friends and family members. I wanted to think that all men will see judgment day, after death, as a way of relieving the despair of seeing evil triumph on earth, and as a way of abdicating my own personal responsibility to do my part to see justice served; God would fix everything in the end, so I could do what I managed or wanted to do, and sleep easy at night because God would make up any cosmic differences, and ultimately right all wrongs.

I read parts of the book of Job the next morning, which has always been one of my favorite books of the Bible, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Rather than just man being used as cosmic chits in a bit of gamesmanship between God and Satan, I saw man creating God is his own image. I had a daughter die during delivery several years ago (so really, I should probably always say I have seven kids, with one that's dead to be fair and respectful to her), and though I didn't realize it until much later, it was a kind of "Jobian" experience for me. The anguish and pain of losing a child in the delivery room -- her heartbeat and vital signs were terrific at a doctor's checkup at 9am that very morning -- was powerful in reinforcing my conviction this was NOT the end, and that I would see my daughter again some day, beyond this life. It was the only right way for the world to be, and what a happy, hopeful thing to be a Christian, where I did have that very expectation and assurance! If I hadn't ever believed in God until that day, I suppose I would have been quite motivated to invent God, and his heaven, and the afterlife on my own, very much in the mode of Job declaring "And in my flesh I shall see God", out of sheer emotional rejection of the idea that death is final, and some losses are never recovered, some injustices are never set right.

The insight into the plausibility, and the reasonability of my decades of faith being accounted for as imagination, exaggeration and credulity borne of desire caused the full collapse of my faith. I no longer believed, and had achieved a broad, if excruciating, view of why my faith was unfounded and why I had embraced and promoted it still for so long. I knew that I could not prove to myself of anyone else that God did not exist, but I now had a reasonable basis for understanding not just the poverty of evidential arguments for Christianity and the disingenuous dishonesty of the various philosophical arguments for God, but also an explanation for my experiences, and my interpretations of the Holy Spirit and his perceived mediate influence in my life. I had arrived at atheism in my application of honesty, introspection, and fair appraisal of the evidence and issues involved.

I was an atheist.

Costs of De-conversion

My wife is a believer, and has been since before we were married. My family is fundamentalist Baptist. My social circles are dominated by my faith community. I have plenty of non-Christian colleagues and friends through work, but even years after "dropping out" of regular church attendance, my social peers remain members of our last church, and similar churches. We homeshool our children, and so a large part of our lives revolves around the activities of our homeschool co-op. As you might imagine, our homeschool group is a hotbed of religious zeal and fundamentalist/evangelical fervor.

My conclusion, then, or perhaps it's more accurate to say my discovery, was a terrifying one. In a way that is difficult to articulate, the discovery was profoundly relieving, a fact that attests, I think, the latent, subliminal anxieties and stresses that accumulate for thinking Christians and the inevitable cognitive dissonances they must bear. Maybe it captures something of the moment to say that felt supremely honest and open, the liberating effect of renouncing the "sin" of my self-deceptions and indulgences of desire and caprice. But the overriding reality at that point was, in fact, fear. I no longer believed in God, or in anything supernatural as far as I knew, but I very much believed in the value and preciousness of my marriage, and my relationship with my wife. I've been fortunate in many respects in my life, but nowhere so fortunate as I have been in finding and developing the relationship I have with my wife. I've since met a couple men who've confessed to me that they are "closet atheists" who go to church dutifully every Sunday, leading AWANA on Wed. night, and showing up regularly for men's Bible study on Monday evenings. For them, they simply see their atheism as a threat to that which matters most to them, their marriages.

It's easy from outside of that situation to sniff and snort and decry the dishonesty of that kind of "double life", and for what it's worth, it is dishonest, and in a way, quite cowardly. But having been in that same position, those men will find no condemnation or judgment from me. When push comes to shove, I can understand keeping my atheism tightly concealed as a means of preserving stability and continuity for a marriage. One of the best things about my marriage has been an unusual level of honesty and frankness, and this was highly problematic. The most painful experience in all of this was the .... distance I felt from my wife in those few days where I had become an atheist, but not let her know. It didn't take long for the pain of that to outweigh the fear of turmoil and disruption -- I let it all out in a long, difficult night just a few days after the collapse.

It's been a painful, hard year. I'm sure many atheists have a story that relates their de-conversion as mostly "upside". For me, it is fundamentally, upside as well, but the cost of "coming out" is big, unpredictable, and long lasting. I'm happy to say that my marriage is intact, and as good as ever. My kids are aware, and although mostly unhappy about it and feeling a bit betrayed (which they should, given the unfounded things I've been indoctrinating them with sense birth), and of course dislocated. I've been "disfellowshipped" by some Christian friends, and have caused a major uproar in the homeschooling groups and forums where I have related my story. The Christian myth that morality and ethical "goodness" is predicated on the belief in God, and either impossible without, or at best accidental, runs very deep in the evangelical/fundamentalist community. So, many who learn of my de-conversion wonder, often aloud, what happens now that I'm free to cheat on my wife, steal, or do any number of things worse than that. It's been an eye-opening experience, and my de-conversion is a kind of Rorschach test for Christians, I think. When they confront my rejection of Christianity for atheism, one gets a sense of what they imagine themselves to be in their "native" state. They say they are wondering about my actions as an atheist, but I'm a year on into this as my usual self, a faithful husband, engaged father, hard worker, etc., and what they are often telling me is what they suppose they would be like if they had to develop and execute their own moral and ethical principles. I don't really agree with this, as I think the truth as truth is an important good in its own right, but many Christians I know make a good case for embracing Christianity, even if it is false; by their own accounts, the kind of person they would be without their invented gods and demons and heaven and hell is often downright scary.

Worst Case Scenario

In cases like mine, inevitably, there are questions raised and suspicions launched about the actuality or sincerity of my faith in the first place. For what it's worth, I claim to be an atheist who was a deeply committed, "sold out" believer for decades. Raised in an extremely devout Baptist home, I "accepted Jesus into my heart" as a gradeschooler like any good, rational kid does who has grown up with hellfire and brimstone on one side, and felt-cloth Jesus on the easel, welcoming the children into his arms, on the other. I was baptized at 12 years old, had a solid string of ecstatic, powerful "mountain-top" spiritual experiences at Christian youth camps and retreats as a teen. I hit a bit of brick wall in college, as I was set up by my parents to embrace young earth creationism, and allowed to continue in my folly right into enrolling in university. That shook my faith badly, as I'd been betrayed and lied to by many of the people I'd trusted most, but that crisis triggered a transformation for me toward a more mature, thoughtful, and personal faith in Jesus Christ. Through the child raising years, and founding several tech startups that failed badly, then one that did well and eventually got bought by a large Internet company in the dot com days, church was my life outside of work (and inside it, too, often enough!), and I continually identified God's hand in influencing and shaping the world around me and in me according to his will. In the last decade when we've been fortunate enough -- blessed by God, as I saw it at the time -- to have the means, my wife and I have gotten involved with our hands and our funds in church planting and church growth as part of our commitment to reifying the Kingdom of God on earth through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I was not a pastor like John, or Dan Barker. I never went to seminary, and my most impressive "official" credentials in the church were nothing higher than "guitarist in the worship band", but I was a "died-in-the-wool" believer. I never heard God "speak" in an audible way, but I saw many things I considered miracles, many events I interpreted as God's special message of reassurance, love and hope to me. I was an avid student of theology, a circumstance which had faith-building and faith-destroying ramifications for me over the years. In any case, I was not a "lukewarm Christian", one of those who slowly drifted out of the faith. My faith did not fade away, it came crashing down, quite unexpectedly, and frankly not of my own choosing (at least at the start). I was a cradle Evangelical fully immersed, well-read and fully on board. As a poster on a forum for (Christian) homeschoolers commented recent in a large "discussion" over my atheism: it's the "worst case scenario". Such is the dissonance for many who have known me, a good share of them have decided I've just been lying or faking it all these years, or I somehow just was never saved, never a Christian that "took".

A Moral Imperative
The irony for me, given all the indoctrination I've received along with so many other evangelicals and fundamentalists over there years about the necessity of God as an underwriter for moral values, is that while my faith collapsed out of reasoning and skepticism, my eventual rejection of Christianity on a lasting basis was predicated on realizing the moral poverty of Christianity. Some come to disbelief in God out of moral outrage toward God, and understandable but dubious path to knowledge. I came to realize my belief was sublimated desire and fear, and that I just did not have any foundation for believing in God's existence, even (especially) in light of my own subjective experiences, which I overlaid on the bare scaffolding of dubious history and incoherent philosophy/theology. I disbelieved first, but freed from my Christian presuppositions, Christianity took on a much more complex, problematic moral character; for whatever good elements remained, the God of Christianity on many fronts represented cruelty, viciousness, caprice, abuse, injustice, and moral incoherence. I did not believe there was any Christian God, or any gods at all, but if the Christian God somehow was real, and I was badly mistaken, I realized I would have to resist his authority and power on moral grounds, as a matter of good moral conscience.

With that, the matter was decided. I had no remaining basis for belief, and Christian belief had become morally problematic, even if I did have basis for it. In the past year, despite all the pain and stress that necessarily comes from someone in my position renounces his faith, I feel like I have a new lease on life, and life itself has value and moral meaning for me that it never did before. There's a lot of adjustment to do when you've come into your life thinking yourself just a "sojourner" here on Earth, making a brief stop on the way to eternal life with God. But as St. Paul said, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child". At 40 years old, I had done well professionally, had a happy, healthy, growing family and a great marriage, but I was stilling clinging to childish thinking and emotions when it came to God, my faith, my moral foundation and the principles I was passing on to my children. Like many Christians, I find great comfort and pleasure in indulging in dreams of living past my death, and living forever. But this past year has been the year -- better late than never -- to put away childish things, and to embrace reality as it is, and live in such a way as to take full advantage of the precious moments I have in this life, and to build a life of virtue, making my little part of the world a better, more just, happier, and humane place for my kids, their grandkids, and all they will share their world with.


Low cost spots at recovery retreat!

Hi everybody,
A while ago I posted a notice about a weekend workshop we are offering soon. I'm pleased to say we have some space available for some "pay what you can" participants. The room and board would still be $125 but beyond that is negotiable. So get in touch soon!

Kind regards,
Marlen Winell

Here's the notice again:


It's not the end of the world! Join us at a recovery retreat.


August 15-17, 2008, with Dr. Marlene Winell

Do you feel alone in your struggle for healing? Come to a supportive and powerful weekend with others who can understand you -- an oasis from dogmatic teachings and judgmental groups. We'll rant and rave, tell our stories, discuss the issues, visualize, role-play, dance and draw – whatever it takes to think for ourselves and reclaim our lives. A joyful, empowered life is your birthright and you can start now.

WHEN: FRIDAY, Aug. 15, 7PM - SUNDAY, Aug. 17, 3PM.

WHERE: A beautiful house in Berkeley, California,
with hot tub and other amenities.

COST: $320 for the workshop, $125 for room and board. Financial need considered & options available.

TO REGISTER: Call 510-292-0509 or send an email to Register soon as group size is limited.

Dr. Marlene Winell is a psychologist & author of "Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists & Others Leaving their Religion." She has a practice in Berkeley & also counsels individuals by phone. For more info, mailing list, comments about retreats, & Youtube link, visit: Or call Dr. Winell for a complimentary discussion about your interest.

Robert Bumbalough's DeConversion Story

Greetings readers. I thank Harry McCall and John W. Loftus, Harry for suggesting to John that I be offered an opportunity to join the Debunking Christianity team and John for allowing me to post. On offer is my deconversion story....

The first part of the essay is my personal recollections of how I became a Christian and subsequently left the faith. The second part is a partial survey of some arguments critical of the Resurrection of Christ. [*] The best defense is a strong offense. Thus I attack the principle claim made by Christianity. For as Paul is alleged to have written: "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." 1 Cor. 15:14

Robert Bumbalough's Deconversion From Christianity

From the time of my earliest childhood, I was indoctrinated into the Christian religion. My Aunt and Uncle who raised me after the death of my mother, were devout Christians and members of the Church of Christ. Our home was in Sparta Tennessee, and the faith was “that old time religion”. My Aunt taught me to read using a picture book Bible. I recall the beautiful medieval and renaissance paintings of Biblical heroes that illustrated the stories. I was only five years old, and I loved the painting of Elijah taken up to Heaven by Caspar Luiken (Dutch 1672-1708). The first words I learned to read were from 2 King 2:11 “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” Aunt Grace may have chosen that passage because of her love for bright sunny days.[1] I recall how pleased she was and how I, in turn, wanted to please her. So naturally, I just prayed the sinner’s and bedtime prayers she taught me to say. Thus I was a Christian.

Quite normally, in my teen years I rebelled against convention and all the things that were expected of me. When I was seventeen years old, that changed on Halloween night of 1973. One of my little high school buddies had found Jesus at a Church called “The Lord’s House”. Jay invited me to attend the Worship service that Wednesday evening. Since Jay was one of the cool kids and I was not, I was happy to accompany him. After the congregation would sing its hymns they all raised their hands to God and Jesus. I had never seen that in any other Worship services, but I recall thinking “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. So I too raised my hands and told God what a swell guy he was. The faith inculcated in me had not died, rather it had only gone dormant while my teenage rebellion wore on. The sermon was a typical need for salvation exhortation based on Romans chapter 6. I went down to the front on the second verse of “Just As I Am” for the altar call along with 5 or 6 other teenagers. After leading me through the “Sinner’s Prayer”, Pastor Carlson asked me how I felt. I thoughtfully considered for a moment while thinking of the things my friend, Jay, had said to me about being “Born Again”. I decided to say, “I feel new” because I wanted to please the pastor despite not actually being personally acquainted. This satisfied Pastor Carlson. Yet I did feel something. The feeling others identified as “The Real Presence” or “The Burning In The Breast” signifying the presence of the Holy Ghost witnessing to my “soul” the truth and efficacy of the Gospel. The Lord’s House was a full Gospel Pentecostal Church. A couple of months after being “saved” I became baptized with the Holy Spirit. Speaking in Tongues seemed to me at the time to be a strong confirmation of Christian reality.

As I grew up, Christianity and Church were the most important factors in my life. I was literally living for and experiencing Jesus as what seemed like ultimate reality. I truly loved God. My life was a living sacrifice for Jesus. Time passed, and a few years later, I was staying on campus at Memphis State University in Browning Hall men’s residence. Those years on campus were delightful and fun. I was regularly attending a small Charismatic Baptist Church. I had a part time job, a car, a Christian girl friend, and many Christian pals. My mentors were the mature and mothering Christian ladies of the Church and a number of good friends who were Medical School students. Church, Bible Study, prayer meetings, Devotions and the associated social activities occupied all my free time. I was very keenly aware and motivated to please God and Jesus in all my activities.

I loved learning. Class and homework were a delight. When I learned from Geology, Physics, and Biology classes that the Genesis Creation accounts were not literally true, I was shocked since form earliest childhood, I'd been taught that Genesis was true. What, there was no Adam and Eve, no Garden, no expulsion, no original sin, no Deluge? The evidence of reality told a quite different story. How was I to determine what was real? Should I trust the evidence or the unsupported Bible stories? This was more than my mind could reasonably hold. Something had to go; I chose to accept the evidence and let Mythology go. Yet, I still had faith in God and Jesus because I felt the inner witnessing of what I thought to be the Holy Spirit.

My little job in a restaurant put me in contact with several Navy Vets, and their sea stories influenced me to join the US Navy. I wanted to see the world, so I dropped out of college and enlisted in the Navy. To my chagrin the Navy was unpleasant in its special obnoxious military manner. Despite that, when I look back on those years spent serving aboard ARS-40, USS Hoist, its plain that I was having a great and fun time. Life on the ship was hard work, but going to foreign ports of call made all the work and military nonsense worth while. During this time, I was still a Christian and completely open to whatsoever God had is store for me. My shipboard duties consumed almost all my time. To fit in with the shipmates, I kept my devotions private. But the problems of Christian mythology in light of modern science dogged my thinking.

Hoist was an ocean going tug boat with salvage capability. Fleet command ordered the ship to Haifa Israel for a job recovering an anchor lost by another US Navy vessel. The job took three weeks, and the crew got liberty several times. On a Sunday, the ships service officer arraigned for a bus tour of interesting tourist sites in Israel. The bus visited several ancient Biblical places where we got off for a few minutes to snap some pictures and hear the tour guide lecture. Then it was back onto the bus and off to the next place. The bus took us to what we were told was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We all got off and took the tour of the Church including a visit to the alleged empty tomb. I was still nominally a Christian, but my doubts had crystallized by leading a more secular life in the company of several non-believers.

Reflecting on my Christian Conversion and experience, the doubts engendered by learning the teleology taught to me by my Aunt and Uncle and Sunday School teachers when I was young was false occupied my mind as I walked the tour at The Church of The Holy Sepulcher that Sunday in early summer 1980. After paying the five dollars, the priest showed us about. Walking on the concave path worn down by countless Christian pilgrims back to the Edicule where the supposed tomb of Joseph of Areamathea allegedly once held the corpse of Jesus Christ, I felt a sense of awe and being very small in relation to the depth of history. Then it finally came to be my turn to walk into the tomb. While inside, I was struck by the stark barren walls and crumbling rubble strewn about. There were no carvings or graffiti, no inscriptions, no iconography of any sort, and no way to identify this particular hole in the wall as the tomb of anyone in particular. Yet there I was inside the place where the ultimate act of redemption for mankind was supposed to have occurred, so I prayed. I called on God to show me if he really was real. I recall that I said to God: “Here I am Lord. This is the place where it all took place. If your real, this is the place to show me. If you’ll reveal yourself to me, I’ll spend the rest of my life serving you in ministry. This I pray in Jesus’ name.” In my mind at that time was the sincere intention to devote the remainder of my life to service to God and mankind if God would only show me he was actually real. Then the priest shooed me out of the tomb to make way for the next visitor. As I walked out of the tomb, I thought to myself that all the religious experiences of my life were somehow no longer meaningful. The Spirit did not move me a bit while I prayed and waited. I was reminded of this when I watched the scene in "Kingdom Of Heaven" where Balian stands on the Hill of Calvary and prays for God to show him a sign. Like my own experience, Balian got only silence. Like Balian, I was open to whatsoever the Lord would have me do, but just as God was depicted hiding Himself from Balian, so also He hid from me.

Back at the Hoist, later that evening as I read my Bible, and as much as I wanted a passage to be illuminated to my understanding, none were. Later I recalled Mark 8:12 “And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.” And Matthew 12:39 “But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas”. But why would no sign be given? If we love someone would you or I or anyone else not take time to show that our case was believable? Would not it be wrong to demand someone not only believe but base their life on a fantastic story we offered up without good evidence? So if its wrong for us why is it not wrong for God? Is morality objective? If so then that which is right for us is right for God and what is wrong for us is wrong for God. If Jesus condemns us for not believing, Jesus cannot be “good”. If we say Jesus is good despite the arbitrary and unjust demand to believe without evidence, are we not denuding the concept of goodness of any meaning.

Is a person justified in asking for confirmation from God? The Bible teaches that we are allowed to ask God for confirming signs of his will. Abraham sought a sign from Yahweh in Genesis 15:7-16 to confirm the inheritance promise Yahweh had made to him. In Judges 6:36-40 is found the story of Gideon and the sign of the dewy fleece. Gideon had earlier asked for a sign in Judges 6:17-21 too, yet in verse 39 Gideon asks for double confirmation in order to be sure Yahweh was with him in a war against the Midianites and the Amalekites. In 1 Kings 18:36-39, the prophet Elijah calls for a sign from Yahweh to demonstrate that Yahweh is God rather than Baal. Yahweh is depicted as demonstrating he is God by sending fire to consume a sacrifice that resulted in Elijah murdering lots of people. And in 2 Kings 20:8-11, King Hezekiah wanted a sign that he would be healed. Isaiah the prophet offered the King the choice of either the sun advancing or retreating 10 degrees. Hezekiah choose to see the sun retreat 10 degrees. According to the scripture: “20:11 And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.” In Acts 1:23-26, the Eleven Apostles pray that God show them by way of lottery who is to replace the dead Judas Iscariot. These Biblical periscopes show that one can expect God to reveal Himself when committed to obeying the will of God. But the very fact that God remains hidden in the face of open and sincere seeking is puzzling. Given that God is loving, fair, just, and is not a respecter of persons, then the vast number of non-resistant, open minded and willing seekers who fail to find or experience God in any way is a strong evidential phenomena that God probably does not exist.

John Schellenberg, author of “Divine Hiddenness And Human Reason” expressed an argument from non-resistant non-belief in an essay entitled “What Divine Hiddenness Reveals, or How Weak Theistic Evidence is Strong Atheistic Proof (2008)” [2]

  1. If there is a perfectly loving God, all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God are in a position to participate in such relationships--i.e., able to do so just by trying to.

  1. No one can be in a position to participate in such relationships without believing that God exists.

  1. If there is a perfectly loving God, all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God believe that God exists (from 1 and 2).

  1. It is not the case that all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God believe that God exists: there is nonresistant nonbelief; God is hidden.

  1. It is not the case that there is a perfectly loving God (from 3 and 4).

  1. If God exists, God is perfectly loving.

  1. It is not the case that God exists (from 5 and 6).

A truly loving being would not make unjust, unreasonable demands, and impossible demands on those it allegedly loves. Such a being would very reasonably reveal itself in no uncertain manner to those it loves. Jesus would not expect worship, surrender of moral autonomy, or blind faith under auspices more akin to an ultimatum: "You have 'free will' to worship Jesus or not as you please — just remember that if you don't, there's a lake of fire, a burning Hell where the worm does not die with your name on it." That's more like the Mob’s protection racket than "free will." "Nice little immortal soul ya got here — be a shame if somethin was ta happen to it! Souls burn, ya know..." .

In 1 John 4:8 we’re told that “…God is Love.” This cannot be, for love is a human emotion not a metaphysical quality. It follows from the assignment of value to the love object. God is logically incapable of valuing anything as He is allegedly an eternal, transcendent, infinite, perfect, indestructible, immutable, self-sufficient, self-contained, complete being which lacks nothing. If God did exist, He would not act in the interest of a goal. He would have no basis for goal-setting whatsoever. He would always be what He is, nothing can change Him, nothing can harm Him, nothing can threaten Him, nothing can deprive Him. Nothing can be of any value to Him because value presupposes some want, or desire to be fulfilled in pursuit of continuing to live. But God needs nothing to continue to live, for that reason, He would be incapable of valuing or loving anything. If the Christian God existed, He could do nothing for any action would diminish its perfection, perturb its sufficiency and immutability.

Jesus promised the believers in Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:”

Jesus said unto him,” in Mark 9:23 and continued, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

In Luke 17:6 Jesus promised: “And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”

Jesus promises n John 14:12-14 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”

When I stood inside the alleged empty tomb and prayed, I was a believer. Yet Jesus did not answer my prayer according to his promises. Instead there was only silence, only inertness, and only the myths that had been inculcated into my child mind by those whom I loved the most. This conflicted with all the promises made by Jesus that He would not only answer our prayers but that He would actually respond to our sincere requests for confirmation and revelation of his will and presence. The confusion and doubt I felt before visiting the Tomb was only exacerbated by God’s silence. If our eternal souls are at stake, and if belief is required, and if God is Love, then why would God remain silent? If God were real, then the silence made no sense. But if God is imaginary then silence, inertness, and hiddenness is to just what would be expected especially in light of the now irrefutable fact that no one can successfully form any sort of an argument for God's existence from natural teleology or cosmology [3] For the next several years, I waited and sought for God to show me he was actually real to no avail. God was silent, hidden, and inert.

With the passage of time, I left the Navy and put Christianity on a lower priority and moved on with my life. Marriage, home life, and career occupied my time. But the questions still haunted me. If the Christian God would not respond to my heart felt earnest faith believing prayer from inside the Tomb when I was simply asking for clarity and verification, then the Christian religion could not be real so I reasoned. Why would God not respond to me in some special way that only an Omnipotent Being could such that I would have known axiomatically beyond the shadow of a doubt that He and Christianity were really true? If God is actually real and actually loves me and is omniscient knowing that I need to know and not just feign belief, then why would He remain silent, hidden, and inert? I am not a slacker. If God had spoken to me inside the Tomb, just think what a powerful testimony for Christ that would have been. If God is totally compassionate and desperately wants to save mankind, then why was He silent in the face of my solid and firm intent to offer the rest of my life in Christian Ministry Service? Many thousands could have been saved, but God was silent, hidden, and inert.

That was the reason why I fell away from the faith. Several years ago all the old feelings from my well Churched youth surfaced in my mind. Since then I’ve spent much time investigating the possibility of the existence of some sort of god, and the validity of Christianity.

Looking back on the visit to the Tomb, I can now see that was the beginning of my deconversion from Christianity to atheism. However, then I started to think that perhaps I was too hasty. There is no reason why God would have to respond to me, and there was the matter of the Empty Tomb and the Resurrection? Was it real? If so, why was the tomb empty? (This is a question I will address below.) I was more confused than ever, and I was left alone to search for answers. But how would I find the answers I sought. Faith simply would not do as faith has no way to distinguish the difference between fact and fiction. One can believe anything by faith, and be convinced by faith to the extent of delusion. Yet without validation and confirmation, the propositions believed by faith are only hollow vapid assertions. If God exists, He requires us to believe the most unbelievable propositions by faith alone. This I neither could accept or act out. I needed empirical evidence upon which to base logical acceptance of valid and soundly induced knowledge that conforms with the argument to the best explanation. Nevertheless, the question of my religious experience remains? Wouldn’t my feelings be countable as evidence? Didn’t I “feel” the Holy Ghost when I thought I was born again or when I spoke with the tongues of “Angels”? Sure, I felt something, but was it God? How can I, a mere person, made of physical matter feel the transcendent Spirit of God? He is not in space and time. An entity that is non-spatial has no dimensions, no coordinates, and no location. The entity’s non-temporality means it lacks duration and can perform no actions. Without location, duration or potential for action, it is impossible for any relation or attachment to interact with something that is spatially located and in time. Any non-located and atemporal relation or relational attachment would have to cross the boundary between the transcendent realm of God and physical existence. [4] Such boundary crossing cannot occur because an entity, relation or attachment cannot be both non-spatial and spatial, both atemporal and temporal simultaneously because the Law of Identity, A=A is in effect. The Law of Identity cannot be evaded; consequently, that which exists must exist as and only as something specific. It is impossible for a human being to feel or sense in any way the transcendent because to so do would be directly self-contradictory. Like a spheroidal-cube, that which is self-contradictory cannot exist.

My feelings come from my brain and central nervous system, and since I cannot feel that which is not in this Universe of space and time, then I cannot feel that which is Transcendent. And that means my feelings and emotions are no help in determining if God is real. How then can I account for the evidence of my Christian experience that I took to be the inner presence of the Holy Spirit?

In "Has Science Found God" Victor J. Stenger describes an experiment conducted (without a control group or statistical error accounting) by neurologist Andrew Newberg on eight Buddhists and several Franciscan nuns in prayer. The test subjects engaged in Tibetan style meditation and prayer. All participants reported transcendent feelings. The Buddhists described the feelings as a sense of timelessness and infinity as if they were [part of everything in existence while the Nuns claimed a tangible sense of the closeness to and mingling with god. None of the subjects reported any "revelations about future events or risky predictions that could be used to objectively confirm a true otherworldly reality to the experience." The subject's brains were imaged with a SPECT camera (single photon emission computed tomography). The images depicted decreased brain activity in an area dubbed, by Newberg, the orientation association area (OAA). Newberg's contends the function of the OAA is to "draw a sharp distinction between the individual and everything else, to sort out the you from the infinite not-you that makes up the rest of the universe." According to Newberg the reduced OAA activity results from a decrease in the flow of incoming sensory information during meditation or prayer. Newberg surmises that without this information the OAA cannot find the boundary between the self and non-self. Therefore the brain has no option but to detect the self as in touch with the transcendent. [5] Newberg's study was coauthored by Eugene d'Aquili and published in his book "Why God Won't Go Away", p.5 Stenger agrees with Newberg and d'Aquili that the sensation born again Christian's experience in response to their emotions of faith and belief has a neuro-physiological basis. The feeling of the presence of the Holy Spirit is most probably a brain phenomena.

Subsequently, the only tool I have to ascertain truth is my human ability to reason, to use methodological naturalism and the scientific method. Only these can actually inform me of what is truth. Therefore it is essential to turn to what can be determined from the evidence.

The defining claim of Christianity is that Jesus Christ Resurrected from the dead via supernatural miracle. The Resurrection hypothesis does not entail survival from swooning. The Resurrection is not resuscitation, or revivification. There can be no possibility of natural causation or of a statistically uncaused event that is mistaken for a miracle. Resurrection presupposes that “supernatural” is a valid concept, but what else does resurrected entail? The characteristics of the resurrected Jesus are listed as propositions by Robert Greg Cavin in his essay “Is There Sufficient Historical Evidence To Establish the Resurrection of Jesus”. Cavin list the properties of resurrection that apologists claim can be demonstrated from the Gospel accounts. Those attributes are that Jesus is unable to be injured, to die, to age, to be sick, and is able to move instantaneously from place to place at will. In order to establish that Jesus was transformed into a super being by supernatural miracle, it is necessary to establish the claimed attributes listed above. Cavin considers what kind of evidence would be necessary to establish such claims. He point out two methods whereby claims are established by evidence.

The first method Cavin dubs “from above”. By favorable comparative reference to an already established general conception whereby obvious axiomatic similarity of the claimed phenomena to the known concept, the phenomena in question can be identified. This works for processes and things because of the nature of conceptual knowledge. Ayn Rand defined concepts as: “A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted.” [7]. Ms Rand further noted what concepts do for people: “A concept is a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition. By organizing his perceptual material into concepts, and his concepts into wider and still wider concepts, man is able to grasp and retain, to identify and integrate an unlimited amount of knowledge, a knowledge extending beyond the immediate concretes of any given, immediate moment.” [8] Cavin's argument is that the claims of the Christian apologists regarding the resurrection cannot be established “from above” because humanity has no experience of any human being possessing super powers like those asserted for the risen Jesus. Without a broad scope of prior experience of humans with super powers, human beings cannot form concepts with which to compare the asserted attributes of the resurrected Jesus. Thus the resurrection cannot be established “from above” using comparative similarity to human super power concepts.

Cavin's names his second method “from below”. He notes that: “ order to establish universal generalizations of the form of (Object S is able/unable to C after time T.) “from below” it is necessary (and indeed sufficient) to have as evidence a large number of independent instances acquired over a relatively long period of time in which object S is exposed to a wide variety of conditions that cause C-ing and yet does/does not C.” [9] He argues that the small number (11 reported incidents) of encounters with the alleged risen Jesus are insufficient to establish the proposed resurrection attributes claimed by Christian apologists. Even if it is granted that the New Testament Gospel accounts of the risen Jesus are historical, they are not enough to establish the resurrection of Jesus because they do nothing to specifically test the properties of the alleged Jesus. The disciples do not attempt to burn Jesus at the stake, or to stab him, or to feed him poison, or to smash him with a large object. There is no testing to determine if Jesus aged or was susceptible to disease in the forty days prior to the alleged ascension depicted in the Acts account. But a lengthy and methodological program of such testing would have been required to ascertain if Jesus was actually supernaturally resurrected. Thus the resurrection cannot be established “from below” because the disciples did not use scientific testing of the properties of the alleged resurrected Jesus.

The assertion that “supernatural” is a valid concept is presupposed by Christianity. Ayn Rand's definition of concept renders the notion of “supernatural” specious. How can human beings mentally integrate “...two or more (supernatural) units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s)...” [10] when all human perceptual and instrumentation faculties are limited to sensing natural phenomena. By definition “supernatural” implies the negation of all that is natural. Thus no natural effect can have a “supernatural” cause, nor can any natural system interact with anything that is “supernatural”. It is unclear how a miracle of resurrection could occur.

Taken at face value, all should be deeply suspicious of miracle claims because the Uniformity of Nature arises from material existence. David Hume, 19th century atheist [29] philosopher noted this when he wrote:

“A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined. Why is it more than probable, that all men must die; that lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in the air; that fire consumes wood, and is extinguished by water; unless it be, that these events are found agreeable to the laws of nature, and there is required a violation of these laws, or in other words, a miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happen in the common course of nature… There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation…

The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), ‘That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish….’ When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.” - David Hume, [11]

The making of the extreme claim that Jesus of Nazareth rose from dead via means of supernatural miracle resurrection requires extreme evidence in order that legitimate warrant for belief may obtain. The canonical Gospels of the New Testament do not provide such evidence, nor do the writings of Paul or the other epistolary authors. Without warrant a belief cannot be justified. Without justification a belief cannot be considered probably true. It is far more likely that the Gospel stories are the product of early Hellenistic/Jewish Religious and Gnostic cults who created allegorical metaphor stories via midrashic analysis and story making of Septuagint scriptures combined with pagan mysteries to assert doctrinal positions relevant to their mystery faith communities.

Dr. Robert M. Price wrote about Hume in an essay [12] that: “...Hume simply pointed out that, faced with a report of a miracle, the responsible person would have to reject it, not because he has a time machine in the garage and can go prove it didn't happen, but because he knows the propensity of people to exaggerate, to prevaricate, to misunderstand, to be tricked, etc. Balance against the possible truth of this report of a miracle all the evidence of contemporary experience against violations, suspensions, whatever, of the regular occurrence of events, and where will you come out? You do not know for a fact that the miracle report is mistaken because you can never absolutely know the past. But you have to make your call whether the thing is plausible of not.”

A miracle must be extremely unlikely or else then no one would take notice of them and say “The gods are with us.” However, if we accept all reports of the miraculous without evidence, then we would be up to our eye balls in such claims. It is special pleading that one should believe the purported miracles of Christianity and reject those of the other religions when there is no good evidence for any miracle claim. What does this mean? How are we to judge what is plausible? Christianity as a mystery religion is plausible as Joseph Campbell [13] shows how universal mythemes of dying/rising saviours across the world's many cultures underlay the great religions. This prescient fact vivifies Hume's contention. It is far more likely that reports of miraculous occurrences from antiquity are the product of expression of the dying/rising savior mythemes. These myths in turn developed in the northern and southern latitudes where people depended on seasonal agriculture. The death of vegetation in the Autumn and renewal in the Spring in conjunction with the solar cycles of nature are the driving force behind the human tendency to create savior hero myths.

Richard Carrier in his superb essay , "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb" [14] demonstrates that it was very probable that earliest Paulian Christians thought of Jesus's resurrection as a spiritual event wherein the rotting corpse remained in the grave. Paul's assertions thatIt (the resurrection of the dead) is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” [15] and “...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” [16] are used by Carrier to make help make his case that Paul believed the Resurrection of Jesus was a spiritual event. Since "supernatural" is not positively defined with any vivifying potentialities, it is therefore simply the negation of the natural. To demonstrate a miracle, the theist must prove the absolute impossibility of any natural causation for the event in question to be held as a justified belief. Carrier and many others have demonstrated that there is a very good probability of naturalistic causation for the alleged resurrection.

It could be, as Dr. Michael Martin points out, that “ ... it might be the case that what we thought were strictly deterministic laws are I fact statistical laws. These are compatible with rare occurrences of uncaused events. Thus, the events designated as miracles may be wrongly designated; they may be uncaused in the sense of being neither naturally nor supernaturally determined.” [17]

What of the New Testament’s own witness? There were no eye witnesses to the resurrection itself. The four accounts of post resurrection Jesus sightings cannot be harmonized. The long ending of Mark from 16:9-20 is an acknowledged interpolated appending. Thus there are no post resurrection appearances in Mark. Paul’s list of post resurrection appearances contradicts the Gospels and Acts which in turn contradict each other. The clear progression of legendary development apparent with the chronological order of writing of the Gospels indicates that the original writers had no concern with historical fact. They instead were very much interested in asserting doctrinal and theological points of significance to their faith communities.

Randal Helms, In a great book, “Gospel Fictions” notes many examples of how the Matthew, Luke, and John Gospel evangelists engaged in literary midrash by deliberately and self-consciously changing by elaborative additions to Mark's Gospel. In the second chapter Helms points out that in three of the four canonical Gospels that the alleged final dying words of Jesus are recorded differently, and Matthew spins the words for his own purposes. I will cite the text at length as Helms is an excellent writer.

"For example, according to Matthew and Mark, the dying words of Jesus were, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" According to Luke, Jesus' dying words were, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." But according to John they were , "It is accomplished." To put it another way, we cannot know what the dying words of Jesus were, or even whether he uttered any; it is not that we have too little information, but that we have too much. Each narrative implicitly argues that the others are fictional. In this case at least, it is inappropriate to ask of the Gospels what "actually" happened; they may pretend to be telling us, but the effort remains a pretense, a fiction.

The matter becomes even more complex when we add to it the virtual certainty that Luke knew perfectly well what Mark had written as the dying words, and the likelihood that John also knew what Mark and perhaps Luke had wrote, but that both Luke and John chose to tell the story differently."

The interesting thing here is that both the Lukian and Johnine writers were working from Mark and other source documents, but they choose to tell the story in very different ways for doctrinal and theological reasons related to the needs of their faith communities. Helms continues.

"The Gospels are Hellenistic religious narratives in the tradition of th Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament, which constituted the "Scriptures" to those Greek-speaking Christians who wrote the four canonical Gospels and who appealed to it, explicitly or implicitly, in nearly every paragraph the wrote.

A simple example is the case of the las words of Christ. Mark presents these words in self-consciously realistic fashion, shifting from his usual Greek into the Aramaic of Jesus, transliterated into Greek letters: "'Eloi eloi lama sabachthanei (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? - Mark 15:34). Mark gives us no hint that Jesus is "quoting" Psalm 22:1; we are clearly to believe that we are hearing the grieving outcry of a dying man. But the author of Matthew, who used Mark as one of his major written sources is self-consciously "Literary" in both this and yet another way: though using Mark as his major source for the passion story, Matthew if fully aware that Mark's crucifixion narrative is based largely on the 22 nd Psalm, fully aware, that is, that Mark's Gospel is part of a literary tradition (this description would not be Matthew's vocabulary, but his method is nonetheless literary). Aware of the tradition, Matthew knew that no Aramaic speaker present at the Cross would mistake a cry to God (Eloi) for one to Elijah - the words are too dissimilar. So Matthew self-consciously evoked yet another literary tradition in the service both of verisimilitude and of greater faithfulness to the Scriptures: not the Aramaic of Psalm 22:1 but the Hebrew, which he too transliterated into Greek - "Eli Eli" (Matt. 27:46) - a cry which could more realistically be confused for "Eleian". Matthew self-consciously appeals both to literary tradition -a "purer" text of the Psalms-and to verisimilitude as he reshapes Mark, his literary source. ..... Matthew certainly knew that he was creating a linguistic fiction in his case (Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew.) though just as clearly he felt justified in doing so, given his conviction that since Psalm 22 had "predicted" events in the crucifixion, it could be appealed to even in the literary sense of one vocabulary rather that another, as a more "valid description of the Passion.

Luke is even more self-consciously literary and fictive than Matthew in his crucifixion scene. Though, as I have said, he knew perfectly well what Mark had written as the dying words of Jesus, he created new ones more suitable to his understanding of what the death of Jesus meant - and act with at least two critical implications: First, that he has thus implicitly declared Mark's account a fiction; second, that he self-consciously presents his own as a fictions. For like Matthew, Luke in 23:46 deliberately placed his own work in the literary tradition by quoting Psalm 30 (31):5 in the Septuagint as the dying speech of Jesus: "Into your hands I will commit my spirit" ("eis cheiras sou parathesomai to pneuma mou"), changing the verb from future to present (paratithemai) to suit the circumstances and leaving the rest of the quotation exact. This is self-conscious creation of literary fiction, creation of part of a narrative scene for religious and moral rather than historical purposes. Luke knew perfectly well, I would venture to assert, that he was creating an ideal model of Christian death, authorized both by doctrine and by literary precedent." [18]

Helms illuminates purposeful editorial revisionism throughout "Gospel Fictions". There are many examples of this sort of redaction to assert midrashic theological-doctrinaire teachings. The last words of Jesus were and are of utmost importance to Christians as is indicated by many Christian citations of John 19:30. Yet each of the canonical Gospels tells it differently or spins it differently in the case of Matthew. This shows that the Gospel authors were self-consciously aware they were not dealing with history but rather with pious fiction. Taken together almost all content of the Gospels can be shown to be based on earlier Moses, Elijah, Elisha, David stories or from bits of liturgical text form the Jewish apocrypha.

Dr. Robert M. Price's does a masterful job of illustrating the midrashic nature of the Gospels. Price informs the reader of the evolution of literary criticism applied to study of the Gospels. “Scholars including Erhardt Guttgemanns, Robert M. Fowler, Frasn Neirynck, and Werner Kelber began to show that, despite their brief episodic character, the gospel stories bear extensive traces of authorial creation, original de novo storytelling. Earlier tradition may have played a role, but there is less and less reason to think so, the more 'Markan', 'Matthean', 'Lukan', or 'Johannine' a story appears. This is measured by the extent to which each gospel story employs the familiar themes and vocabulary of each writer as established by studying his redactional treatment of prior gospels. The resultant theory would see Mark as writing much or even most of his work (as the radical critic Bruno Bauer had said already in the nineteenth century) out of his imagination, with Matthew and Luke freely redacting Mark's work and adding much new material of their own invention.” [19]

There is an interesting puzzle within the Gospel of Mark itself that bears upon the question its reliability regarding historical happenings. We read in Mark 16:5 “...they saw a young man sitting on the right side...”(RSV) and in 16:8 that “And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid. (RSV).[20] Who was the young man? The original ending is an obvious literary device to account for why people had not head this story previously. That the women ran away and told nobody is a good reason why the story had not been previously known. Verse 16:8 also functions to explain why it is that the author knows what happened, for implicit is the notion that the young man sitting on the right in verse 16:5 is the author. Mark, or whoever originally penned Mark, wrote himself into the story so that he could authoritatively claim to know what happened. Use of a literary device to feign history would be suspicious. Employed to create pious fiction for the Kingdom of God, use of the literary device would be praise worthy within the faith community that spawned Mark.

What about the Tomb itself? Jerusalem is surrounded by a vast necropolis with many thousands of rock cut tombs. The hole in the wall in question, as it turns out, was selected as a site of veneration by Helen, Emperor Constantine's devote mother, in 325 CE shortly before she commissioned the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. No person living in Jerusalem in 325 could possibly have any factual knowledge regarding the location of the tomb as two major wars and almost three centuries had transpired between the legendary events and Helen's choice. Local Christian traditions articulated by Saint Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, probably influenced Helen's choice. The controversy as to whether the site is actually Golgatha assumes the Gospel stories are true. Such presumption is question begging and special pleading. Mark was knowingly written as an inspirational but fictional liturgy. Since the other Gospels are based on Mark, the Tomb cannot be evidence of any truth.

When the earliest Christian documents, the genuine Pauline epistles, are examined, there is no trace of the life and ministry of Jesus, the Passion, the Trial, details of the Crucifixion, details of the Burial, details of the Resurrection or Empty Tomb. Paul's silence is puzzling. Why would “the Apostle to the Gentiles” not be keen on telling the story of his Master to the Converts? All Christians that have ever lived have at least one thing in common, they are intensely interested in all things Jesus. Would it have been any less so in Paul's day? Of course not.

Peter Kirby in "The Historicity of the Empty Tomb Evaluated: Argument from Silence" points to the silence in early Christian first century writings regarding the Empty Tomb tradition as the reason why the Christian has a burden of proof.

It should be noted that, outside of the four gospels, all Christian documents that may come the first century mention neither tomb burial by Joseph of Arimathea nor the subsequent discovery of such a tomb as empty. Although there may have been no particular reason for any one of these writers to mention the story, it could be argued that, if they all accepted the story, perhaps one of them would have entered a discussion that would mention the empty tomb story. For example, if there were a polemic going around that the disciples had stolen the body, one of these early writers may have written to refute such accusations. In any case, it is necessary to mention these documents if only to note that there is no conflicting evidence that would show that the empty tomb story was an early or widespread tradition since the argument from silence would be shown false if there were. Here is a list of these early documents:

1. 1 Thessalonians, 2. Philippians, 3. Galatians, 4. 1 Corinthians, 5. 2 Corinthians, 6. Romans, 7. Philemon, 8. Hebrews, 9. James, 10. Colossians, 11. 1 Peter, 12. Ephesians, 13. 2 Thessalonians, 14. Jude, 15. The Apocalypse of John, 16. 1 John, 17. 2 John, 18. 3 John, 19. Didache, 20. 1 Clement, 21. 1 Timothy, 22. 2 Timothy, 23. Titus, 24. The Epistle of Barnabas,

Indeed, outside of the four canonical gospels, the Gospel of Peter is the only document before Justin Martyr that mentions the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea or the discovery of the empty tomb. If the Gospel of Peter as it stands is considered to be dependent on the canonical gospels, then there is no independent witness to the empty tomb story told in the four gospels.” [21]

Christian apologists widely acknowledge there was not a tradition within early Christianity of veneration of Jesus’ tomb. By this they commit error by predicating on that basis argument for an empty tomb. Rather the lack of Christian worship at a tomb site indicates the lack of knowledge of any tomb of Jesus, full or empty. Modern Christian of whatever stripe are intensely interested in visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the empty tomb. It is quite likely that first century Christians would have felt likewise and hence would have wanted to visit and worship at a tomb site. The fact that they did not is evidence against a tomb.

Dr. Michael Martin argues that “Its is difficult to take seriously the alleged fact of the empty tomb given: the inconsistencies in the stories, the lack of contemporary eyewitnesses, the unclarity of who exactly the eyewitnesses were, the lack of knowledge of the reliability of th eyewitnesses,the failure of early Christian writers to mention the empty tomb, the failure of the empty tomb story to be confirmed in Jewish or pagan sources, It is significant that Habermas does not even consider the problem of the failure to confirm the empty tomb story by independent sources.” [22]

Michael Martin cites a goodly number of scholars who are skeptical of various aspects to the resurrection story to rebut Gary Habermas’ claim that “… events that are listed as agreed to be virtually all critical scholars…” regarding the main points of the Jesus story. Dr. Martin continued: “But is there the degree of agreement among scholars that Habermas claims? That he has at least exaggerated this agreement can be inferred from the following. W.Trilling argues that “not a single date of Jesus’ life” can be established with certainty, and J.Kahl maintains that the only thing that is known about him is that he existed at a date and place which can be established approximately”. Other scholars argue that the quest for the historical Jesus is hopeless. Ian Wilson argues that, concerning the Resurrection, “Ultimately, we must concede that on the basis of the available evidence, knowledge of exactly what happened is beyond us.” H. Conzelman finds that the Passion narratives are shaped by the evangelists’ own theological convictions, that they are the results of “intensive theological interpretation”, and that they establish only the bare fact that Jesus was crucified: “Everything else about the sequence of events is contestable.” C.F. Evans argues that “almost all the main factors” in the Passion story “have become problematic.” Dieter Georgi maintains that since Paul’s writing omits any mention of an empty tomb this raises the possibility that Jesus’ body was still inside. He also suggests that the empty tomb stories may have been added to the Gospels after the sack of Jerusalem in A.D.70 at which time the tomb may have been empty. We have already seen that scholars such as Marxsen, Fuller, Kummel, and Anderson disagree over whether the empty tomb stories entered the Christian tradition early or late.” Martin makes it clear that the claims of Christian apologetics regarding any consensus on the soundness of the Gospel traditions is exaggeration. [23]

After thoroughly examining the case for and the evidence against the resurrection of Jesus, Martin concludes “that the available evidence should lead a rational person to disbelieve the claim that Jesus was resurrected from the dead around A.D.30” [24]

John Loftus in his book “Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains” cites Uta Ranke-Heineman who argued against the Empty Tomb tradition from the silence of Paul. “The empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning is a legend. This is shown by the simple fact that the apostle Paul, the most crucial preacher of Christ's resurrection, says nothing about it. Thus it also means nothing to him, that is, and empty tomb has no significance for the truth of the resurrection, which he so emphatically proclaims. Since he gathers together and cites all the evidence for Jesus' resurrection that has been handed down to him, He certainly would have found the empty tomb worth mention. That he doesn't proves that it never existed and hence the accounts of it must not have arisen until later.... The belief in the resurrection is older that the belief in the empty tomb; rather the legend of the empty tomb grew out of th faith of Easter.” [25]

If Paul had known of the details of the life, ministry, passion, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, he would have used that information in his preaching and writing. The principle of final causation dictates that a rational and reasonable person will for a given desired end, employ an appropriate means to achieve that end. Paul would have done just that had the Gospel stories been part of his knowledge base.

Charles B. Waite spent years in the Library of Congress often in inaccessible rooms with the help of friends and insiders researching ancient texts to ascertain a history of Christianity up till the second century. His book is titled “History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred” and is fully and freely available on Google books. This book is considered one of the most accurate histories of Christianity with much information not found elsewhere. Waite wrote much on lost books, early Church fathers and heresy. His conclusion on page 433 of the downloadable PDF reads:

“…no evidence is found, of the existence in the first century, of either of the following doctrines; the immaculate conception – the miracles of Christ – his material resurrection. No one of these doctrines is to be found in the epistles of the New Testament, nor have we been able to find them in any other writings of the first century.

As to the four gospels, in coming to the conclusion that they were not written in the first century, we have but recorded the convictions of the more advanced scholars of the present day, irrespective of their religious views in other respects; with whom, the question as now presented is, how early in the second century were they composed?

Discarding, as inventions of the second century, having no historical foundation, the three doctrines above named, and much else which must necessarily stand or fall with them, what remains of the Christian Religion?”[26] Waite's conclusion is a powerful evidence against literalistic fundamental Christianity.

Richard Carrier made this strong argument in an podcast discussion of the resurrection. My version of that argument is based on what Dr. Carrier said on the Infidelguy podcast. In ACTS 23:26-31 we find Claudius Lysias' letter to Felix. Claudius was Tribune and Chief of Police in Jerusalem. Claudius Lysias was Greek who had purchased his Roman citizenship and likely an initiate of the Elysian mysteries with no belief in a physical bodily resurrection. Claudius' letter claims he was present in the council of the Jews when the Apostle Paul explained his case. Claudius found Paul to be only in dispute with the Jews over a matter of their law. This letter makes no sense in light of a physical resurrection of Jesus, but Lysias' letter is readily explained if Paul believed Jesus to be a spiritual divinity that performed its salvific action only in the spirit realm or via way of a spiritual resurrection in the spirit realm. If Claudius had heard Paul say something like, "Jesus was recently a living man who the Jews tricked the Romans into condemning and crucifying, but GOD physically raised him from the dead, and we know this because he was seen alive by the disciples", then Claudius, being Tribune and top cop in Jerusalem, would have thought Paul had assisted the criminal Jesus in escaping or that Paul knew who helped Jesus get away. So instead of sending Paul to Felix with a nice letter, Claudius would have tortured Paul to find out were the disciples were and would have sent out the troops to search for Jesus. So it would seem that Paul in the council of the Jews said nothing about Jesus being a man in Jerusalem recently crucified by the Romans and physically raised from the dead. If however he had instead presented Jesus as a spirit world deity similar to an ordinary god or as spiritually resurrected in the spirit world, then Claudius Lysias would have acted as he is recorded as doing in Acts 23. In Rome of the first century, it was a capital crime to deify any person after their death other than the Emperor. If Claudius had heard Paul doing so, he would have had to have arrested Paul on charges of treason. But Claudius sent Paul on to Felix, so Claudius heard Paul and the Jews disputing only about matters of Jewish law. This is very well explained if Paul believed Christ Jesus to be only a spirit world deity. Paul's silence regarding details of the alleged passion, crucifixion, burial and physical resurrection of Jesus is strong evidence against a Resurrection and the Empty Tomb.

Why didn't Paul know about the details of Jesus' life, ministry, passion, trial, crucifixion, burial or resurrection? The reason why Paul knew nothing of Jesus' story is that it had not yet been invented. The Q Gospel and the Gospel of Thomas both predate Mark, yet they know nothing of the Story as Mark tells it. The Circular nature of Mark with its abrupt ending at 16:8 depicting the women running away in fear and silence after the young mans tells then Jesus will rejoin his disciples in Galilee prompts the reader to go back to the beginning. In “Deconstructing Jesus”, Robert M. Price notes that Darrell J. Doughty suggest this idea. Price continues: “Mark wants the reader to look next at the only place there is left to look: the beginning. There we find the episode of Jesus' calling the disciples at an the lakeside and the mysteriously immediate response: the disciples drop what they are doing and follow him. Doughty noticed how much sense this scene makes if we assume the disciples know him already. Think of how similar the scene is both to Luke 5:1-11 and to that in John 21:1-11, where it is explicitly a resurrection story! This is the reunion Mark's young man was talking about (Mark 16:7)! So once the Risen Jesus regains his disciples at the sea of Galilee, the post-resurrection teachings begin. They continue throughout the Gospel of Mark.” [27] This sort of religious circularity is characteristic of early Christianity. The presence of such a literary device is yet another piece of evidence betraying Mark's non-historical nature. The other three Gospels depend on Mark, but Matthew, Luke, and John each modify and redact Mark freely. They could only do this if they viewed Mark as Pious fiction to begin with. That their stories differ so profoundly indicates that they were self-consciously crafting liturgical fairy tales for their own faith communities. Thus Christianity is, like all other religions, the result of mythological and legendary accretion.

Nevertheless, even if the Gospels could be shown to be historical and the Empty Tomb established, it would not mean that Jesus had actually Resurrected from the dead by supernatural miracle, Christianity would still be irrational and unreasonable. This finding was reached by Walter Cassels in his great book “Supernatural Religion” after lengthy research and study. Published in 1902, Cassels' magnum opus surveys many of the early Church patriarchs and apologists in detail. (This book is available for free download on Google books.) Its worth quoting at length.

Orrexamining the alleged miraculous evidence for Christianity as Divine Revelation, we find that, even if the actual occurrence of the supposed miracles could be substantiated, their value as evidence would be destroyed by the necessary admission that miracles are not limited to one source and are not exclusively associated with truth, but are performed by various spiritual Beings, Satanic as well as Divine, and are not always evidential, but are sometimes to be regarded as delusive and for the trial of faith. As the doctrines supposed to be revealed are beyond Reason, and cannot in any sense be intelligently approved by the human intellect, no evidence which is of so doubtful and inconclusive a nature could sufficiently attest them. This alone would disqualify the Christian miracles for the duty which only miracles are capable of performing.

The supposed miraculous evidence for the Divine Revelation, moreover, is not only without any special divine character, being avowedly common also to Satanic agency, but it is not original either in conception or details. Similar miracles are reported long antecedently to the first promulgation of Christianity, and continued to be performed for centuries after it. A stream of miraculous pretension, in fact, has flowed through all human history, deep and broad as it has passed through the darker ages, but dwindling down to a thread as it has entered days of enlightenment. The evidence was too hackneyed and commonplace to make any impression upon those before whom the Christian miracles are said to have been performed, and it altogether failed to convince the people to whom the Revelation was primarily addressed. The selection of such evidence for such a purpose is much more characteristic of human weakness than of divine power.

The true character of miracles is at once betrayed by the fact that their supposed occurrence has thus been confined to ages of ignorance and superstition, and that they are absolutely unknown in any time or place where science has provided witnesses fitted to appreciate and ascertain the nature of such exhibitions of supernatural power. There is not the slightest evidence that any attempt was made to investigate the supposed miraculous occurrences, or to justify the inferences so freely drawn from them, nor is there any reason to believe that the witnesses possessed, in any considerable degree, the fullness of knowledge and sobriety of judgment requisite for the purpose. No miracle has yet established its claim to the rank even of apparent reality, and all such phenomena must remain in the dim region of imagination.” [28]

The story of Jesus' resurrection is probably fictional. However, even if that miracle could be established as happening, there would be no way to determine the actual cause of the miracle. Consequently, there can be no justification for Christian belief. I am justified in deconverting from Christianity in 1981. Nevertheless, the question of the existence of a God of some sort remains, but that is a subject for another time.

[1] Elijah is quite obviously a version of a sun god.


[3] See Victor J. Stenger's book “God: The Failed Hypothesis.” and Richard Dawkins' “The God Delusion”.

[4] “Gods Spatial Unlocatedness Prevents Him From Being the Creator of the Universe”

[5] Stenger's well researched book yields much of interest, and the above material is loosely quoted and paraphrased from pages 293 and 294 of "Has Science Found God".

[6] “Is There Sufficient Historical Evidence To Establish the Resurrection of Jesus” published in “The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave” p.19

[7] Ayn Rand, “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” p.15

[8] Ayn Rand, “The Psycho—Epistemology of Art,” published in “The Romantic Manifesto” p.17

[9] Cavin, p.27

[10] Rand, “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” p.15

[11] David Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”, p. 114-16

[12] Dr. Robert M. Price, “William Lane Craig's “Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence For the Resurrection of Jesus Christ” published in “Jesus is Dead” p. 199

[13] Joseph Campbell, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”

[14] The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, p105-233

[15] 1 Corinthians 15:44 (RSV)

[16] 1 Corinthians 15:50 (RSV)

[17] Dr. Michael Martin, “The Case Against Christianity”, p.75

[18] Randel Helms, "Gospel Fictions" p.15-17

[19] Price, "The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man", p.30

[20] It is widely acknowledged that Mark ended at 16:8 and that the long ending from 16:9-20 is an appended interpolation.

[21] Peter Kirby, “The Historicity of the Empty Tomb Evaluated: Argument from Silence"

[22] Martin, ibid, p.89

[23] Ibid, p.88-89

[24] Ibid, p.96

[25] John Loftus, “Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains”, p.210

[26] Charles B. Waite, “History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred”, p.433 – (fully available as a complete book on Google Books)

[27] Robert M. Price, “Deconstructing Jesus”, p.34-35

[28] Walter Cassels, “Supernatural Religion”, p.902-903- (fully available as a complete book on Google Books)

[29] "Hume was charged with heresy, but he was defended by his young clerical friends who argued that as an atheist he laid outside the jurisdiction of the Church. Despite his acquittal and possibly due to the opposition of Thomas Reid of Aberdeen, who that year launched a Christian critique of his metaphysics Hume failed to gain the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Glasgow." -

[*] I apologize for my poor writing.
Edit History:

1. 6/11/08, 9:41 EST - Corrected bad assertion regarding David Hume having been a Christian Churchman by correctly referencing Hume as the Atheist he actually was and added end note [29].