12/26/2006                                                                                       View Comments

I admit it. I was wrong.

By Dave, the WM

We human beings like to think we are right, all the time.

Why is this?

Is it:
  • ⇒ An insatiable need to be right which masks a deep fear of being wrong?
  • ⇒ A high need to expect others to see it our way?
  • ⇒ An inability to say, "I don't know." and "I was wrong"?
  • ⇒ A feeling of being threatened from new ideas from other people?
  • ⇒ A fear of hearing new information that threatens our beliefs?
  • ⇒ A preoccupation with winning approval from a god or other people?
  • ⇒ The need to always be seen as tough, powerful and strong?
  • ⇒ A belief that others who disagree with us are wrong and should change?
It could be any of these things, a combination of these things, or something similar, because this issue affects human beings the world over, and not just when it comes to religion, but politics and nearly every subject.

What we human beings don’t like to admit is that we are frequently wrong.

I am quite aware of my ability to be wrong. I believed for decades that being a Christian was the right thing to be. I was sure that studying to show myself approved was the highest of callings, and that sharing my discoveries with others was the greatest good a person could do. I was convinced of my position in all matters religious. No one could argue me out of anything. If someone brought up a question I couldn’t answer, I dove into the masses of commentaries and apologetics until I found an answer that quieted my mind and gave me the assurance that, after all, I was still right. I pacified my ego and pride by telling myself that the Holy Spirit had promised to lead me into all truth, and therefore, it was unlikely that I was wrong. Anyone who insisted on arguing with me I easily dismissed as either mislead or under the oppression of the devil. And of course I did all this with a humble and prayerful heart.

As a Christian, I refused to accept the possibility that I might be wrong when it came to Christianity. Christianity was the truth, and any contradictions or inconsistencies I found in the Bible or the lives of other Christians, I excused as human frailty and the inability to completely comprehend or grasp the will of the Almighty. On top of that, I had the witness of the Spirit. I "felt" that Christianity was the truth. It gave me great comfort to believe in Christ, to walk with HIM and talk with HIM along life’s weary way.

In essence, I stopped questioning anything that would cast doubt on my faith, consumed massive amounts of literature supporting my faith, and made a dogmatic decision to believe, regardless of what anyone, anywhere might say, ever.

I’ve been humbled since that time. Age, experience, and finally, honest, open investigation into the history and development of Christian belief through the last 20 centuries forced me to admit the possibility that no magical ghost was leading or teaching Christians, and that my unshakeable faith in Christianity was more akin to stubbornness and the need to be right, than anything else. Christianity has changed and mutated so much in 2,000 years, and yet, every generation of Christians believes that they, and perhaps they alone, have the best and most true version of the faith that was once delivered to the saints.

Benjamin Franklin once said:
"For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise."

Being right is something that people value. Who wants to be wrong about anything? Who wants to admit to being wrong?

Non-believers and believers alike are equally prone to stubbornly refusing to admit to the possibility of being wrong. But what Christians too frequently fail to understand is that ex-Christians have already admitted to being wrong. Ex-Christians were once Christians who whole-heartedly embraced a cult that claimed to hold all the answers to the universe, and later, sometimes much later, for any number of reasons, came to the realization that they were wrong.

Most people become Christians early in life, before they really have the experience or knowledge to make a well-thought-out decision. Childhood conversions may be sincere, but are bereft of thorough investigation. Adult conversions are often emotional, occurring during times of personal stress or problems, and equally without probing research. The well paraded testimonies of reformed alcoholics, drug addicts, criminals, et al., rather than confirming the truth of Christianity, illustrate something else entirely: a desire for change. Religions and philosophies do offer change, especially for the person who feels out of control. If a person finds the strength to limit or avoid self-destructive behaviors by becoming immersed in a cult, more power to that person, I suppose. However, ultimately, these stories of redemption from self-destruction speak less to the efficaciousness of religion and more to the natural human instinct for personal survival. Most people understand that a lifestyle of self-destruction will eventually destroy a person if nothing changes. And once the person is free of a dangerous addiction, he or she may equate leaving the cult as a guarantee of returning to the abandoned lifestyle. Christianity reinforces this pattern of thought by teaching that a person must abide in Christ or risk being cast aside. At no time will a person be told it is possible to live a clean life outside of Christianity.

Of course there may be other reasons for conversion, but can there be any question that childhood conversions and adult conversions during difficult times comprise the bulk of conversion stories? I was a Christian for 30 years. These two types of personal testimonials filled my ears during those decades.

Now, many years later, I am an ex-Christian. I didn’t become an ex-Christian because someone hurt my feelings. I became an ex-Christian after studiously endeavoring to learn all I could about my God, my faith, Christianity, history, theology, and other closely related topics. Little by little I discovered that Christianity is just another magical cult that captured the imaginations and satisfied the emotional needs of enough people over the years to gather a strong following. I found out that it is not truth, it is not even unique, and that I had been wrong.

No doubt, Christians will continue to insist that the ex-Christian is closed minded — that the ex-Christian hasn’t closely considered all the facts — that the ex-Christian is stubborn and refuses to admit to being wrong. But in reality, it is the Christian who is calling the kettle black. Most Christians are afraid to analyze their religion from a position of neutrality, from outside of the approved list of authors and books. When I was a Christian, I was discouraged from reading anything written by non-Christian authors. Such materials could damage faith, I was told.

Those prophets were correct. Once I finally broke taboo and started reading materials less apologetic in nature, not to just argue with the materials, but to actually listen to what the authors had to say, my faith started to show cracks.

When it comes to religion, few people read things to test their faith. Most read things that confirm their faith. They like to read things that tell them they are right. If they do read an opposing view, it is with the intention of finding flaws in the argument, and once again, confirming the position of faith.

It is a difficult thing to admit being wrong. I know.

So, Christian, when you come here and post, please be aware that ex-Christians have already agonized over being wrong. We know we can be wrong. We admit to having been wrong in the past, and admit that the possibility to be wrong again still exists in the future.

Be honest with yourself, Christian. Are you willing to admit you might be wrong?

72 comments:

Salvatore said...

Dave,

Very powerful, persuasive, and courteous.

I, too, was the Christian apologist whose stack of reference works and support texts stood who knows how many stories high. Coupled with regular scripture reading, I was determined to "show myself approved."

The irony is that through relentless and arduous study (along with the perpetual failings of Christianity to meet my spiritual, social, emotional, and intellectual needs) I confirmed for myself the non-truth of Christianity.

Many Christians who object to me haven't read their _entire_ Bible even once. For those who have read it through completely, it is to them as a "once in a lifetime journey", like a Muslim's journey to Mecca. However, I was committed to reading it cover-to-cover on a yearly basis, through various translations. (Of course, the King James-only lemmings often attribute the various translations for my apostasy.)

I, too, through much study have learned of the true origins of Christianity. Looking back at myself, with my mind-blinders on, I was so certain of the uniqueness of my religion. Gosh, what a deluded fool I was. The idea of an incarnated son-of-a-god coming down to earth is so common in the ancient world. But, given that Christians are generally negligent, not only of their own holy text, but history as well, it's impossible to convince them otherwise.

One who loves Truth, without regard to whether it is "comfortable", cannot continue in Christianity.

(Dave, I was pleased in your having pointed out the countless factions and outgrowths, with each successive generation believing itself to be in possession of "the faith once delivered to the saints.")

As a Christian youth, my favorite pasttime was to criticize other religions (especially Christian "cults", so-called). However, when I turned the same criticisms against my own brand of Christianity, it, too, had to fall.

May the time come on earth when all peoples know that all we have is one another. Then, perhaps, much bloodshed will be averted.

DG said...

Take one day and think to yourself that you are wrong. Not just on a few things but everything? Then come back and tell us how that day went.

I thought I was wrong once but I soon realized that it was just a thought not a reality.

The value of thinking that you are right rests solely on its comparison to the value of thinking you are wrong. It works the same in reverse. Thinking wrongly is given a value only after one has thought rightly. If one is to do neither, than we are no better than the rest of the animal kingdom. There are two factors that many accept as being the cornerstones of our superiority. The first is our ability to reason and the second being our larynx have dropped deeper into our throats thus allowing us the ability to speak what we are thinking. And hopefully done with sophisticated, well-articulated words and sentences.

Dano said...

If Jesus was the only son of God, what does that make me? Chopped liver?

I refuse to go quietly God! You made my ancestors out of clay! What is this shit about Jesus being your only son? Wasn't Mary one of your children? Why did you have my half brother killed as a sacrifice to yourself? Who were you trying to impress?
Dano (Yo, God?)

Lorena said...

I have to say, Dave, that what kept me in Christianity for the final few years was the fear of being wrong.

You are right. I did agonized over that very issue for years. How could it possibly be all wrong?

After I dared to admit that my lifetime of Christianity was a mistake, it has been easier to admit error in other areas of my life.

Yes, I have been wrong before, and will probably be wrong again. Knowing that is highly relieving. The pressure is off. I now feel free to take wrong turns and to go back searching for the wrong path.

Lorena said...

That was the "go back searching for the right path" on my previous post.

Case in point about making mistakes.

.:webmaster:. said...

Case in point about making mistakes.

That's cute.

After I dared to admit that my lifetime of Christianity was a mistake, it has been easier to admit error in other areas of my life.

Excellent observation. That's something I've also found to be true in my own life.

Trans-man said...

This was a great article, Dave!
I once felt ashamed of telling people about Jesus, now I feel ashamed of ever having believed the stuff. I have no excuse, I made the decision to become a christian at age 16 and I was not raised in a religious home. I tried to fulfill emotional needs, and with religion being accepted and part of our society, I never thought I could be wrong. Years later, after doing research about religions in general and christianity in specific, I had to admit, that I could not find any truth about god or Jesus. Once I was finally convinced to leave religion behind me, I felt lost for some time, and alone. I had to learn to fill my life with other values. Now I feel very much relieved not having this pressure in my life to live it in a certain way. I also stopped categorizing people, for example into christians and others, gay and straight, higher economic status and lower economic status, better christians and not-so good ones, etc. I can allow myself to see people in a different way, and to be bold enough to not conform to majority and try to be "normal" but just be myself.

Anonymous said...

Horus was an Egyptian god some 3000 years ago who has the body of a man and the head of a falcon. He descended to earth and took the form of a man, was baptized with water, performed miracles, died, then rose to heaven to reach his godly status.

Although Horus is not worshipped today, anyone caught doing so would be scorned and ridiculed for worshipping a fictitious character.

So why don't people today feel this way when people give up everything they have to worship this fictitious god, Jesus Christ?

Anonymous said...

Dave, you're spot-on again, very brilliant my friend. It takes a giant leap to admitting one is wrong, in almost any subject. I'll quickly admit I'm wrong with an apology, when I'm proved I'm wrong, althoguh to avoid being in that situation, I try to investigate my thoughts before I stick my mouth in gear.

I learned this by believing that I was a Christian and witnessing and proselytizing from memorized and repeated indoctrination, I had to show off my newly found universal knowledge, the Bible says that this is wisdom, but I had not investigated, I had accepted that I received this newly found knowledge as a free gift, it was a free gift alright, but it had hidden costs that involved subservience and submission of my life and my precious time, knowing now it was all in vain.

But sometimes I wonder if Jesus wasn't talking about how truth without religion and traditions would set you free and the people that supposedly quoted Jesus misconstrued and misunderstood everything he may have meant to say, no doubt they were gold diggers looking for reasons to appear to look righteous, there's no way to tell.

I remember writing to a fundy that was supporting a pastor that had molested a little girl, and I told them that to admit that the pastor was wrong, meant that the whole congregation got it wrong, their beliefs were wrong and their whole religious philosophy was wrong, because of one, the one whom commands them to be as they, Saintly holy and pure, if a spirit annointed pastor cannot uphold a moral example, whom shall they follow?

All very brilliant responces before me also.

Dave, Not the WM said...

Lorena
I have to agree with your comment ... it has been easier to admit error in other areas of my life. I too have found it easier to accept my mistakes and admit to them.

This is a fascinating article. Occasionally as I talk to Christians today who know I'm ex-Christian, I find an emotional boundary that simply precludes any entertainment of the idea they may be wrong. These people, who are some of the nicest people I know, are completely attached to the wonderful story of Christ and all of the good they perceive as coming from Christianity. As one said to me a couple of weeks ago, she just likes being in church and singing with everyone else. I believe she emotionally needs this positive force to be in her life - other than her children, the rest of her life isn't that great. She is very bright and I think if she should ever consider the facts, she would realize it's all BS, but given her emotional state, it would probably be devastating. Consequently, she's afraid to even consider the possibility it's not true.

Paul said...

The Serious Misunderstanding of Christian Thought

Dave, you said that you lived as a narrow-minded, non-critical thinking
Christian all through your Christian life and you left it when you started to think critically. Good, but you know Christianity never asks
us to follow Christ blindly. God calls us in Isaiah chapter 1, "Come let us reason together". Reason has the more important place in Christianity than in Atheism. Apostle Paul, who was persecuting Christians became a staunch Christian after his encounter with Living Christ. He did not stop there. He found the accurate fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament being fulfilled in Christ. He studied Greek philosophers and in Athens, as we read in Acts 17, he showed how Christ gives satisfying answers to the questions of the Greek philosophers.
Your branding of Christianity as a non-thinking religion is a serious misunderstanding of the faith and no
wonder you left Christianity blindly.
Yes, you are right that conversion stories do not prove the trustworthiness of Christianity. In fact, the Bible never claims that it is true because it converts bad people into good people. Bible says that because Christ rose from the dead our faith is not vain (I Corinthians 15). Thus, the resurrection of Lord Jesus is the essential testimony of the truth of Christianity.
How sad, you ignored that historical evidence and blindly became an atheist. Repend and reconvert to Christianity my friend. Before it is too late. The judgment of God will burst upon the ungodly soon. Before that happens experience the love of Christ and come back to the church.
Long Live Christianity, Glory to Lord Jesus Christ

CyborgX said...

"Wrong" is merely a word that people like to use to extort power over others. If one is "wrong" they they are seen as weak and easy to control the minds of. Therefore one doesn't *dare* to be "wrong" or admit to failure because vultures will inevitably come by and pluck at you for it. This is why the concept of "wrong" was invented. There really isn't such a thing as "wrong" or "right". What is fact in one person's world and existance is totally inconceivable and not fact in another's. And things change.

There is always something around that humanity tries to grab at to cease being wrong. And if one is wrong someone else will want the one being wrong to suffer badly.

If one is right then there is power in that. This power becomes wrong anyway.

In the universal sense, wrong and right are purely a human concept altogether, based on rules and ideas created by humans based on what they each experience.

The world can appear flat to some who never been outside it. Are they wrong? Not from what they see and experience. Therefore they can't be wrong. But the world is not flat to those who have looked outside of it, from space. Are they right? Perhaps, but only from what they see and experience. If some type of anomoly passed by their viewpoint at the proper times, distorting their image of the world so it was flat, how would they know any better?

You can also travel in circles on a flat surface.

It's more about "perception" than right and wrong.

What is bad is when one tries to force someone else to percieve things the way they do and anything else would be deemed "wrong" and thus the person being "wrong" should suffer. It's like a never-ending catch-22.

"You're going to hell."
"No, you're wrong. I'm not."
"Yes you are. The Bible says so."
"The Bible was written by men. So it's not correct."
"Men were inspired by God so it was correct."
"No you are wrong. I can prove it."
"No YOU are wrong. When you die you will see I was right all along!"
"The facts are plainly spelled out here..."
"Those 'facts' were written by people too! So how do you know they are true from what you say?"
"So how do you know the Bible is right?"

Etc. Etc. Etc.

You could go in circles forever with this. It's all about perception. And in perception there is no right or wrong.

And I've found also that you can prove virtually anything to be "true" or "right" if you work hard enough at it and analyse it enough. Anything can be twisted into anything.

What is important is that we each enjoy what we perceive to be the way our lives are, and change things that we don't like. And not let anyone else determine how we should live.

Once they get into your head, they have you. Your perception changes radically. Same as if you stop believing in what you are sure is not true.

At least, that has been my observations.

jfraysse said...

Great article and many thoughtful comments posted as well!

The older I get, the more I seem to be aware of what I don’t know. I love learning new things and sometimes this means “unlearning” concepts I once thought to be true, or as your article so adroitly points out, I must admit to being wrong. Here, you have only asked Christians to accept the possibility that they “might” be wrong – not that they are, in fact, wrong.

No one, Christian or otherwise, should be afraid of doing this. This is a very healthy approach to achieving any worthwhile goal or accepting scientific and philosophical theories – religions included. I will never forget the class I took on “The Cults”. As the instructor expounded the mutual characteristics of these apostate (going to Hell) groups, I remember whispering to the guy next to me, “gee, these sound like this church!” Many that heard my comments laughed and the instructor thought that we were laughing about how absurd the cults were, not that our church met its own definition of “A Cult!” I have been very skeptical about being “Religiously Correct” ever since!

Again, a righteous literary work!

Dano said...

To Good OLE Paul above, posted on wrong thread, but now I've seen the light.

After reading thousands of times that he can't prove the bible to be correct by quoting the bible, he just keeps on doing it. His brain is impermeable to reason.

Is it possible that some of the totally brainwashed cult members cannot be saved, just put out of business by drinking the Kool Aid or taking the ride on the comet?
Dano (Global warming is more significant than sin. Right?)

.:webmaster:. said...

Paul wrote: "Dave, you said that you lived as a narrow-minded, non-critical thinking Christian all through your Christian life and you left it when you started to think critically."

No, Paul, what I basically said was that I spent 30 years in Christianity and refused to seriously entertain the idea that I might be mistaken about the truth of Christianity. I was entirely sold out to the cult -- just like you are now.

Paul said: "Your branding of Christianity as a non-thinking religion is a serious misunderstanding of the faith and no
wonder you left Christianity blindly."


If you say so.

Paul wrote: "The Bible never claims that it is true because it converts bad people into good people."

No, but Christian testimonials are frequently given by Christians as one of the main evidences for the truth of Christianity.

Paul wrote: "Repend and reconvert to Christianity my friend. Before it is too late. The judgment of God will burst upon the ungodly soon. Before that happens experience the love of Christ and come back to the church."

No thanks, Paul.

However, you have my sincere gratitude for reminding me what it was like to be a True Christian™. In the unlikely event that I'm ever tempted to return to the loving/hell-threatening embrace of Christianity, all I'll have to do is read through a few of your posts again, and I'll be cured of the temptation.

In a way, reading what you have to say is like receiving an inoculation against a virulent disease. A shot of an anti- bacterial or viral agent can initially make a person slightly ill, but the eventual effect is immunity from infection.

Keep up the good work, Paul. The longer you are here, the more people will be cured.

kenny said...

Paul, I know I'm wasting my time, because you refuse to see anything past your nose.

Do you honestly believe that a God created the whole universe in just six days, including over 125 billion galaxies, similar to our own, just so he could toss people into hell, based on whether they believed in Jesus or not?

Paul do you believe that other galaxies exist?

Why would a God go to the trouble to create a universe knowing that some people would be subject of a burning hell?

What pleasure does this God get out of sending people to hell?

I know you will say, God sends no one to hell, people send themselves to hell.

But I didn't make the rules, I didn't create the universe.

You must realize Paul, that the people who wrote the Bible it was not a God, nor Jesus, if God can create the universe in just six days, why can he not write his own book?

This God could have just as very easily wrote his rules for salvation on giant rocks etched permantly in all languages on every continent every 10 miles and could destroy anyone coming near those giant rocks to amend them or deface them.

Yet Paul, this God chose 'people' to write his book, that he admitted himself, was a mistake in making, because their hearts were continually wicked, he supposedly destroyed the first generation, when did people's hearts stop being so continuely wicked?

You must realize Paul, the people that wrote those books had no education, they thought the world was flat, and that the Earth was the center of the universe and that the Sun revolved over the Earth, and they had no knowledge of other galaxies existing similar to our own, they also thought that the heart was the center of all thought and emotion, they had no medical knowledge of the brain, surely this god would have told them about the brain, but the word brain is not mentioned in the bible, why not Paul.

Paul, you cannot rightly say that your beliefs are correct. If the world was flat and the Earth was the center of the universe, then you might has some valid points, but your belief is centered on what people thought in their minds, through their world view, over 2000 years ago, their perception of the world thousands of years ago.

Paul, do you believe that other galaxies exist, similar to our own?

If not, then you do not live in present day reality.

Paul, do you believe that other galaxies may also contain other human beings, similar to us?

If not, then you do not live in present day reality.

Paul you never mention the word science, this is scary for people not willing to accept what we now know about our universe.

Paul your old 2000 year old religious philosophy is dead, it died with Jesus, Jesus predicted his return in the disciples life time, Mark 9:1

Christopher Columbus predicted the end of the world 150 years, after his discovery of America, Billy Graham predicted the end of time in 1960's, now you Paul are predicting the end of time being near, but anyone can make that claim, it means nothing.

Predicting the end is near, shows blatant ignorance of a brainwashed fundy, because the Earth is billions of years old.

Paul is a prime example of someone who is afraid to admit that he is wrong, he's done made a public commitment and to admit that he is wrong, would mean his religious colleagues would scoff and ridicule him just as he scoffs and ridicules us all here.

When I was in religion, I was wrong, totally wrong, because I trusted the people that wrote the Bible knew more then me, they may have known more than the people of their day, but now after 2000 years and more with the advancement of scientific and medical knowledge, I no longer believe that the Bible holds more knowledge than what is known today.

Paul it's up to you to prove to us that the Bible holds more knowledge, than what is known today in this age of the 21st century.

So far you haven't done that, just to let you know.

Sarge said...

I guess I was five or six when I figured out that ice cream cones were hollow, the truth about the tooth fairy, Santa, and the Easter Bunny. Started looking at Sunday school and church, and doggoned if they weren't another version just with larger letters in the name. I was told that I wasn't 'thinking about it correctly'.

At one point as a teenager, I got lonely. I'd been an outsider all my life, and my lack of belief, which I made no secret of, entitled me to generous helpings of grief from the "children of god'. So, since I couldn't yet avoid going, I thought, 'what if I'm wrong?'and studied it, tried to become a believer. At the end of six months of this, I knew that the object I'd been trying to sell myself so hard was NOT a Baby Ruth bar, it was a turd. Nothing more than that, and I'd accomplished what I set out for. From the first words it made no sense at all. Nothing but circular reasoning that many people were willing to keep in a corner of their lives, something they wouldn't test as they'd test the claims of a car dealer.

I think, though that an examination of at least the west's look at changing of the mind. Error has always been punished. To admit error is to invite punishment and ridicule. We find that out in school from ay one, it is a mark of failure. There have been times it was punished by death, so maybe we are loathe to admit it for good reason.

It is true that such things are not as dangerous as once they were, but the fires if the auto da fe are well banked with plenty of wood standing by, and the instruments of inquisition are well oiled, in good order, and ready to hand. And people willing to use them. All at the word of someone strong in his belief who wants to eradicate error.

Alan said...

I think what keeps most Christians from critically examining their beliefs is fear. Fear is the cornerstone of Christianity: fear of death, fear of hell, fear of angering an incomprehensible father figure, fear of judgment, fear of taking responsibility for one's own actions. Most Christians want to believe that the religion is really based on love, but its impossible to reconcile that with the belief in hell. Once fear of nonexistent spirits is cultivated in someone it can become very difficult to remove, and Christianity offers coping mechanisms to deal with this induced fear, thus reinforcing itself. Reason can overcome fear, but it seems most Christians would rather cling to their superstitions.

Anonymous said...

Dave,

A very interesting argument. I agree with salvitore in that it was written courteously, and for the most part, from a non-biased view.

However, There were a few things on which I would question you.

Firstly, you said that Christianity has "changed and mutated so much". How? In what ways has Chrstianity changed? It's major premises are still the same, even most of its minor premises are still the same. The Bible is still the same as it ever was, and that is, amung other things, what keeps Christianity together

As to your references to conversions of Children not being reasoned and studied, I agree with you. However, many children (such as myself) have learned to think critically and reason our faith.

You seemed to be implying that Christians use the testimonies of converted people as evadence for the truth of the Bible, and I would agree with you that this is not logical. However you turned the argument around and into a straw man fallicy and a part-to- whole fallicy by implying that ALL Christians do this.
Still, here are a few names of people who can hardly be called illogical who were Christians.
-Descarts
-Sir Isaac Newton
-Roger Bacon
-Copernicus
-Johannes Kepler
-Galileo
-Blaise Pascal
-Gregor Mendel
-Thomas Aquinas
All these men helped shape the world as we know it, and all were whole hearted followers of Christ.Even if they were persicutd for their faith, they believed. They knew they had truth, and believed in God with conviction.

I have anouther question, how do you know that "these stories of redemption...speak less to the effaciousness of religion and more to the natural human instinct for personal survival"? Were you there to ask these converted people? Maby in some cases this could have been true, but You or I will ever know for sure.

One last thing, Now that you have renounced you faith in thing unseen you are claiming to have found truth. You are claiming that since you have renounced Christianity, then you have discovered what we Christians have been "trying" to find, truth.

cholebear said...

Dave,

As usual, a perfect piece. Everything you felt, I felt, too. All the reasons you found to leave the faith were the same as mine. I did not leave because of people. I especially like your point of 'controlled' reading of religious people. When I've asked Christians to honestly read books outside their faith, they'll say, 'yes'. But then I find out they spoke with their priest or minister who answered all their questions! Unbelievable how those Christians won't even admit that their information is spoon fed. It must be they are afraid to be wrong.

I did not struggle too much with that. It was easier for me to admit I was wrong. However, I am not like most people, so this helps me to be able to maybe reach others who are questioning. It must be their fear of being wrong.

matthew said...

It is somewhat interesting, to me, that your article suggests that Christians have a very difficult time admitting they are wrong, when most people become Christians by doing that very thing.

There is, however, quite a bit of truth in what you are saying in regards to the thought process of many professing Christians.

forever and ever said...

Thanks again webe
Excellent article very informative.

When is the book coming out.?

Maybe an ebook for a start.
ebay 99 cent auction
viral marketing ?

just a thought


If there is a god.You are for sure without a doubt his leeding man.
Maybe your a god yourself.

maybe I'm wrong

.:webmaster:. said...

Matthew,

Christians admit to being wrong when they convert. But, how many do it as children, or as adults in some difficult time of life. Neither children nor distraught adults generally make well reasoned decisions. Few, if any, adult Christians convert because everything in their life is going great and they've taken the time to investigate all the competing religions out there to arrive at the conclusion that Christianity is the truth.

Those who leave Christianity do so after considerable investigation. It is not done lightly or because of an emotional experience that "reveals" some truth.

That's the point.

.:webmaster:. said...

F&F:

That made me laugh!

Thanks!

.:webmaster:. said...

Thanks, CB.

Maybe what you noticed, the desire of Christians to be spoon-fed, is less the fear of being wrong and more just plain pure mental laziness.

Regardless, fear and laziness are a good recipe for being controlled by others.

boomSLANG said...

The Bible is still the same as it ever was...

Yes, and that's a real problem in a reality where the only absolute is "change". "Knowledge" that is revealed from within religious convictions is not subject to change, yet, knowledge as we aquire it from the empirical world around us is guaranteed to change. A perfect example would be that there exists a "Society" of people who still insist the world is flat.

.....and that is, amung other things, what keeps Christianity together.[the fact that the bible is the "same"]

THOUSANDS of denominations/sects = "together"? The fact that Christians fall on opposite sides of the fence on anything from abortion...to evolution...to capital punishment...to war...to the shape of the earth, is "together"? I'm sorry, but I totally disagree.

Religion, Christianity included, is totally divisive. Wake up.

matthew said...

Webmaster,

Actually, I find almost the complete opposite to be true. Of the people I've observed leave the Christian faith, it was due to a crisis in their life, an emotional time.

My point is, your general theme is true. Many people don't like to admit they are wrong. But your point can be equally applied to christians, non-christians, atheists, agnostics, etc.

.:webmaster:. said...

Matthew said: "Of the people I've observed leave the Christian faith, it was due to a crisis in their life, an emotional time."

Really? How many have you personally observed leaving the faith? Is it a large number? What were the exact circumstances and reasons given? Did they become Christians as children or during a life crisis? How old were they when they left? Had any of them become Christians after careful investigation and thoughtful consideration? Was the emotional time, as you called it, something caused by Christianity or because Christianity couldn't address their need? Or was it something altogether different? Did you personally interview any of these people?

I'd be interested in anything you can share. Sincerely.

matthew said...

hey

well, i don't know how to share every case of apostasy that i've observed so i'll just share a few examples.

To give you a little background on who i am. I am a christian. I said the 'sinnners prayer' when i was a kid. I made a serious, reasoned commitment to Christ when I was 17. I went to Bible college for 4 years. I have been pastoring for almost 4 years now.

I dated a girl that did not grow up in the church. She became a Christian at 18. She was not in any kind of crisis at her conversion, simply found a church that was loving and accepting. Her church was filled, though, with a pastor and the kind of people you describe in your post: Cult-like (but considered to be evangelical).

We dated for our entire first year of college. She was considered the model bible college student. top in the class. personable, etc. Knowing her better than anyone else, though, I could tell she had some messed up concepts about who God is.

She eventually graduated 2nd in our class. The following year she went to Japan to teach english for a year with another of our classmates. While she was there, she got incredibly homesick. She became very lonely. Couldn't deal with a different culture. Etc.

At the end of her time there, or shortly thereafter, she decided she was no longer a Christian. Currently, she won't even dialogue with most or any of her former Christian friends.

So, in that case, we have the opposite of what you are saying. We have a girl that converted to Christianity while life was going fine. And then un-coverted during a crisis. On top of that, we have someone who isn't even willing to dialogue with Christians (thus, isn't open to the possibility that she is wrong).

my point is, there are cases both ways. To answer your specific questions, I know the details of a dozen of my college friends who left the faith. And probably a dozen other people. Of course, i KNOW of hundreds, but only enough details on a couple dozen overall. The majority of these, it seems to me, left the Christian faith during a personal crisis in their life.

I'm an arminian. I have no reason to doubt most or many of these weren't Christians to begin with. I suspect they simply didn't have a very true view of who God was or what the christian faith entailed.

Like I said, a lot of what you say is true for many Christians. And it's true for many non-Christians.

I strive to always be open to the possibility that I am wrong. I am slow to change my views, but I've made major changes in various doctrines over the past few years. I've had to admit I was wrong about such things.

.:webmaster:. said...

I perused your website the first day you posted, Matt, so I already had a heads up on you. But thanks for the info.

You said: "I have no reason to doubt most or many of these weren't Christians to begin with. I suspect they simply didn't have a very true view of who God was or what the christian faith entailed.

So, in other words, they were Christians but were really were not exactly true Christians. Or, perhaps the Holy Spirit just didn't reveal Himself in a big way to them in order to straighten out their skewered thinking. Or, it was something else altogether. But regardless, (as I read between the lines of your post) Christianity is still absolutely true.

Do you hear yourself?

Well, whatever.

I think your girlfriend, rather than proving your point, actually lends weight to mine. She, for whatever reason, became a Christian after living 18 years apart from religion. (As an aside here, I’d like to say that perhaps my definition of childhood is broader than yours. To me, 18 years old is very young. I realize 18-year-olds can vote and drive, but no one wants them drinking. Few people at 48 think 18-year-olds have the knowledge or experience to make wise life-changing decisions, although 48-year-olds generally agree that when they were 18, they thought they had it all together. But I suppose this is off topic.) Anyway, she tried Christianity, and found it unsatisfying, for whatever reason. Then, she left it, and is now no longer interested in arguing about it. The reaction of your girlfriend may be completely understandable considering this statement you wrote:

"Knowing her better than anyone else, though, I could tell she had some messed up concepts about who God is."

This suggests to me a possible reason as to why she may not want to talk to you. I mean, "My understanding of God is right, and yours is wrong" is fairly offensive, even if well intentioned. If you really knew her better than anyone, which after only a year of dating, I find doubtful, it seems reasonable that she knows you equally well.

And your own testimony tends to confirm my little rant. You were immersed in Christianity from day one. You finally made a solid commitment at 17, but 17 (like 18) is very young. You didn’t say one way or the other, but I’d guess you didn’t really give much thought to Islam, or Confucianism, or for that matter, atheism. My guess is that the only choice you thought realistically available to you was to be a backslidden Christian or a committed Christian. However, admittedly, on this I’m only guessing.

You wrote: “Of course, i KNOW of hundreds, but only enough details on a couple dozen overall. The majority of these, it seems to me, left the Christian faith during a personal crisis in their life.”

My purpose in asking for the details was more an exercise for you than informational for me. There are hundreds of detailed testimonies on this site, so I have the advantage of actually knowing the details. “It seems to me” testifies to a lack of real experiential knowledge, to borrow a phrase. Plus, when people do leave a cult, there will be a lot of anger, but that doesn’t mean the anger is what caused the faith to fail. Anyone who really believes in Christianity doesn’t just leave because they are homesick, or because someone pissed them off. Those things may help a person re-evaluate, but to ascribe true believer apostasy to something shallow, is, well, shallow.

But, that’s just my opinion.

I await other ex-Christian input.

matthew said...

Couple of points (thanks for the discussion)...

1. I would never say they weren't 'true christians'. The Bible is very clear that many people will genuinely respond to the Gospel, but later turn away. It is far from surprising. Matthew 13 says this happens for various reasons. Some didn't really understand what they were getting into. Some had a shallow faith. Some let the world tempt them away.

2. My ex-girlfriend has no issues with me. The 1 or 2 former friends that she does still keep in touch with at all (though she won't let them talk about faith), say she speaks very highly of me.

3. Again, the opposite of what you theorieze is the actual reality. In our relationship, I was the one that wanted to discuss different views and whatnot. She was the one that had a legalistic, 'my way or the highway' mentality. She's still like that, that's why she has stopped discussing.

4. I wasn't saying I knew her better than anyone in the WORLD, I was saying I knew her better than anyone at school. The school was in New Brunswick. She was from Alberta. I believe she was the only student from Alberta, but in any case, she didn't know anyone when she arrived.

5. I never seriously considered atheism because I don't consider it a legitimate theory. I considered agnosticism. I'm willing to consider any form of monotheism, which I believe is the only very reasonable approach to worldview. But there are basically only 3 major types of monotheism and they are all related.

Karen said...

Matthew said,
"To give you a little background on who i am. I am a christian. I said the 'sinnners prayer' when i was a kid. I made a serious, reasoned commitment to Christ when I was 17. I went to Bible college for 4 years. I have been pastoring for almost 4 years now.

I have no reason to doubt most or many of these weren't Christians to begin with. I suspect they simply didn't have a very true view of who God was or what the christian faith entailed."


Ok so tell us all about God, what is God?

You went to college for 4 years to search the mind of God.

Let me guess your answer, God is truth, peace, understanding and love.

So

Where does God reside?

What is God's favorite food?

Is God a male/female/shemale?

Is God overweight or trim and slim?

Is God black/white/other?

boomSLANG said...

Matthew: I'm an arminian. I have no reason to doubt most or many of these weren't Christians to begin with. I suspect they simply didn't have a very true view of who God was or what the christian faith entailed.

Either anybody can be a "True Christian™, or nobody can be one. There is no "litmus test". You can no more tell someone else that they are not/were not a "True Christian™", than you'd allow them to tell you that you aren't currently a "True Christian". Think about it---it would be absurd to tell an "ex-wife" that she was never "Truly" married, whether you 'think' she had the "true view" of what it means to be married, or not. It's not your call.

Matthew: I could tell she had some messed up concepts about who God is.

There is no "who"...and until there is empirical evidence that is both testable and falsifiable for any such "being", then that's the only place that "God" exists....in "concept". Moreover, I will readily admit error in my thinking and reconvert the second that there is such evidence.

The fact that one is indoctrinated into a specific religion from childhood, yet, comes to dismiss all other religions in adulthood, speaks for itself.

As far people choosing not to discuss specific "God-beliefs" with others---if such a "discussion" entailed someone insisting that "Amon Ra" was the creator and ruler of the universe, while providing zero evidence other than person testimony, hell, I'd probably avoid such discussions too....in fact, I'd probably RUN the other way. lol.

Matthew: I never seriously considered atheism because I don't consider it a legitimate theory. I considered agnosticism.

You were born an Atheist, and you didn't need to "consider" it then. And the truth is, the word "Atheist" would be totally unnecessary if it weren't for people insisting that "god(s)" do exist. Furthermore, "Atheism" deals with "belief"; "agnosticism" deals with "knowledge"...so if you lack belief in a gazillion other "gods", then yes, you DO consider "Atheism" a "legitimate theory". Maybe investigate the definitions a little more before engaging here.

.:webmaster:. said...

Matt said: "I never seriously considered atheism because I don't consider it a legitimate theory."

Interesting choice of words: theory, not [...] legitimate.

Matt said: "Some didn't really understand what they were getting into. Some had a shallow faith. Some let the world tempt them away."

You left out: some studied the history and development of Christianity with a vengence, including the constant battle of Christianity against the advancement of science, the belief in magical witches that needed killing, the plethra of obvious contradictions throughout the Bible that need libraries of "Bible Difficulty" books to deal with them, the complete lack of Christian unity on nearly every doctrine, the way the current incarnations of Christianity resemble not in the slightest the versions of the faith considered orthodox in any past generations, and finally, the gross anti-intellectualism of believing in flying fiery chariots, snakes that talk, zombies walking out of graveyards, magic floating ax heads, angels that screw women and produce giants, and everyone's favorite: a flying un-dead god-man who loves us so much he was dead for a couple of days and if we don't show proper appreciation for that wonderous sacrafice, then he will return to mercilessly punish us for all eternity.

That was a reason you left out.

Those reasons you quoted are too simplistic and shallow for me. They are probably effective with teens, however. Most teens do tend to be a bit shallow.

Of course, in all honesty, for over 30 years I parroted much the same type of rhetoric you are undoubtedly filled with. I was entrenched and mired in a religious mindset. I won converts the world over. I even evangelized in Japan.

It's embarrassing.

Anyway, have a great week.

matthew said...

Karen,

I think your questions are very strange since God is spirit. In other words, my answer for your questions is "N/A"

matthew said...

boomslang,

I never pretended to be able to know for sure who's a true christian and who isn't. That's not my job. I simply said there are some true Christians, some fake one's, and some that won't remain christians.

By limiting yourself to what can be proven by scientific testing, you're making a gigantic assumption and pledging your allegiance to the worldview of naturalism. That's your choice, but I think it's a very bad one (I don't think it even makes good 'sense')

Besides, Christians don't believe in an invisble God, we believe in a God who became flesh. He revealed Himself in history.

You can play with words all you want, but I will state once again that I don't consider atheism a legitimate worldview. Nor do I think people are born atheists, as you say. The evidence is to the contrary.

matthew said...

Webmaster,

I didn't mention your supposed case since Matthew 13 doesn't and I was talking about Matthew 13.

Of course, we could dialogue about all the objections that you brought up. But I'll attempt to remember to check back on this site and discuss them as they come up. Needless to say, I believe they are faulty objections based on bad history, misinformation, and observation of misinformed Christianity.

I've visited many sites like this. I find your articles well written in comparison, but your attitudes a bit too close minded to make the site worth a routine visit. Just my opinion.

lata

boomSLANG said...

Matthew: I think your questions are very strange since God is spirit.[bold added]

I think that "answer" is strange, myself. So just what is a "spirit", anyway? The implication is that whatever this "spirit" thing is, it's meta-physical, i.e...beyond physical, hence, why direct questions regarding "God" "can't be" answered. So how does one "detect" something that is "meta-physical", from a physical perspective, using physical senses? Listening.

Jim Arvo said...

matthew said to boomslang "By limiting yourself to what can be proven by scientific testing, you're making a gigantic assumption and pledging your allegiance to the worldview of naturalism. That's your choice, but I think it's a very bad one (I don't think it even makes good 'sense')"

I do not wish to speak for boomslang (he's quite capable of defending his own views), but I see this type of fallacy frequently and feel compelled to point it out. In your statement above you are painting boomslang as a dogmatist who "pledges allegiance" to a worldview. Simply put, that is complete nonsense. Asking for evidence, or equivalently, for an objective means of making some determination, does not make one a dogmatic materialist. If you cannot meet the simple request for evidence, then please consider what you are left with; a subjective and unverifiable assertion, of which there are myriad. On what basis, then, would you expect anybody to accept your view? By your authority perhaps?

In my opinion, it is both foolish and irresponsible to accept such claims with no evidence whatsoever, for then you are buffeted about by happenstance; i.e. by the inconsequential events that affect which opinions happen to reach your ears. Without evidence or reason, there is no way to reliably detect erroneous claims, which we are all bombarded with daily.

matthew: "Besides, Christians don't believe in an invisble God, we believe in a God who became flesh. He revealed Himself in history."

Here you are playing a word game. You most certainly do believe in an invisible god if your beliefs are even remotely similar to the vast majority of those professing to be Christians. Even if your purported savior existed and at one time donned flesh, he (or his spirit) is ever present is he/it not? Isn't your god omnipresent? Unless you are claiming that god is perpetually seated beside you, wearing a suit of flesh, then you do indeed believe in an invisible god.

matthew: "You can play with words all you want, but I will state once again that I don't consider atheism a legitimate worldview."

I do not believe in your god because I have personally seen no credible evidence for her existence. On the contrary, I have seen thousands of bogus arguments, inflated claims, and outright nonsense in lieu of sound reasoning and evidence. Thus, my worldview contains one less god than yours. Now, please explain why my worldview is not "legitimate". I look forward to a well-reasoned explanation, which includes a definition of what is means for a worldview to be "legitimate".

matthew: " Nor do I think people are born atheists, as you say. The evidence is to the contrary."

If atheism means lacking belief in a god (which is how I use the word), then it would appear that we are indeed all atheists at birth, for our capacity for abstract thinking is effectively zero at birth. If, on the other hand, what you mean by "atheism" is the deliberate consideration of a god concept, and then not believing it (which would also be reasonable), then of course nobody would be an atheist until at least the age of six or seven. Either way, I don't see what the issue is. If you're careful to define what you mean by "atheist", then you can make a fairly clear case for one or the other. If you don't bother to define the word, then all such distinctions are moot.

boomSLANG said...

Matthew: I simply said there are some true Christians, some fake one's, and some that won't remain christians.

Correct..."fake" would mean not real. So, again---you are in essence telling them they aren't a "True Christian™. You made a distinction without a difference, and my original point remains.

By limiting yourself to what can be proven by scientific testing, you're making a gigantic assumption and pledging your allegiance to the worldview of naturalism.

So I take it you are "limiting yourself" because you lack belief in Allah? How about Zeus? Shazam? Furthermore, I think the "gigantic assumption" is to say that just because we can conceive of something out of the natural world, that it can, and does, exist.....while not having one drop of objective evidence to support said claim.

Matthew: Besides, Christians don't believe in an invisble God, we believe in a God who became flesh. He revealed Himself in history.

Evidence, please. And if the Holy Bible is "evidence", then the Holy Q'ran is "evidence".

Matthew: You can play with words all you want, but I will state once again that I don't consider atheism a legitimate worldview.

And you can ignore my words all you want, but if you disbelieve in thousands of other "gods"(and you do), then the "non-belief" in those deities makes Atheism legitimate enough for you to apply it where you see fit.

Matthew: Nor do I think people are born atheists, as you say. The evidence is to the contrary.

Again, Atheism is the "lack of belief in gods"..:hic'p:.."lack of belief in gods"..:hic'p:..."lack of belief in gods". Human beings are born into into this world with NO BELIEVE in gods. If you can show me an infant who professes "Christ", or any other deity, I'd be happy to change my mind.

Jim Arvo said...

matthew said to the webmaster "...your attitudes a bit too close minded to make the site worth a routine visit."

So, that means you will not be defending your statements or answering questions put to you? I think it's a bit rude to call someone "close minded" and then dash off on some pretense.

Passerby said...

Matthew said, "You can play with words all you want, but I will state once again that I don't consider atheism a legitimate worldview."

You're entilted to "your" opinion, but the brainwashed Muslim fundamentalist says the same thing, as does the Raelian, as did members of the Heaven's Gate cult, as does most religious cults, including your cult.


Matthew said, "Nor do I think people are born atheists, as you say. The evidence is to the contrary."

Please provide the evidence?

Cheers

matthew said...

Boomslang Said...
So how does one "detect" something that is "meta-physical", from a physical perspective, using physical senses?

I reply...
Obviously, one is only able to detect a God who is spirit when that God reveals Himself. God has done this in a multitude of ways which we are all free to accept or deny.

Jim Arvo said...
On what basis, then, would you expect anybody to accept your view? By your authority perhaps?

I reply...
Certainly not. First of all, I don't 'expect' anyone to accept my view. I hope they do. But I don't really have any 'authority' to offer. I hope people will submit to Jesus' authority though.

Jim arvo said...
In my opinion, it is both foolish and irresponsible to accept such claims with no evidence whatsoever

I reply...
I reject your notion that there is no evidence whatsover. You are using a logical fallacy of assuming your argument is true and using your conclusion as evidence.

Jim Arvo said...
You most certainly do believe in an invisible god if your beliefs are even remotely similar to the vast majority of those professing to be Christians. Even if your purported savior existed and at one time donned flesh

I reply...
This argument doesn't make any good sense. If God became flesh, that changes everything. I can't really think of anyone in biblical history or in the time since that was asked to believe in God without some physical evidence.

Jim Arvo said...
Now, please explain why my worldview is not "legitimate"

I reply...
I find it interesting that you get defensive over my statement that your worldview is not legitimate when you are part of a website seemingly purposed in discrediting another worldview. That being said, the reason I find naturalism illegitimate is because it demands that something came from nothing. I can appreciate someone saying they don't know how the world came about, but I can only be baffled by someone who thinks there's no need for a causer.

Boomslang said...
"fake" would mean not real. So, again---you are in essence telling them they aren't a "True Christian™. You made a distinction without a difference, and my original point remains.

I reply...
Telling who? You're failing to comprehend my point. I'm saying that there are fake Christians. I never said I know who they are. It's not my job to label who's a Christian and who's not. And even if it were my job, I am unqualified for such a role.

Boomslang said...
Evidence, please. And if the Holy Bible is "evidence", then the Holy Q'ran is "evidence".

I reply...
Are you truly trying to say that all pieces of evidence have equal value? I've never once asked people to trust the Bible blindly. Frankly, I've never asked anyone to trust the Bible. I trust Jesus. Jesus trusted the Bible.

Boomslang said...
if you disbelieve in thousands of other "gods"(and you do), then the "non-belief" in those deities makes Atheism legitimate enough for you to apply it where you see fit.

I reply...
Your impication that all claims are of equal merit is one of the most absurd things i've ever read on the internet. and that is saying a lot. certainly you don't live such a principle out in real life.

Boomslang said...
Human beings are born into into this world with NO BELIEVE in gods. If you can show me an infant who professes "Christ", or any other deity, I'd be happy to change my mind.

I reply...
Once again, this is a disappointing argument. Infants seemingly have no positive or negative view of God. And even if they did we wouldn't know it. Atheism is active. Infants are passive. Every culture in the history of the world has included some level of belief in deity, no matter how isolated. If atheism was our natural state, this would not be so, naturally.

But your challenge, that I produce an infant who's willing and able to verbalize his beliefs, and your statement that you'd change your mind if I produce such an infant, shows your closed mindedness. You've already decided that the only things that would convince you that you are wrong are things you know won't happen. In other words, you've set up the test to fail. Your mindset is the complete opposite of what this article was attempting to produce.

Jim arvo said...
So, that means you will not be defending your statements or answering questions put to you? I think it's a bit rude to call someone "close minded" and then dash off on some pretense.

I reply...
Haha, Mr. Arvo. I've already replied 7 times. And This is my 8th. I've hardly 'dashed off'. I even stated that I'd check back from time to time.

My statement was my honest evaluation of this site. If you guys/girls are up for critique, how will you ever be able to improve? Failure to accept critique goes totally againt the theme of this article. If my critique sucks, don't worry about it.

Passerby said...
You're entilted to "your" opinion, but the brainwashed Muslim fundamentalist says the same thing, as does the Raelian, as did members of the Heaven's Gate cult, as does most religious cults, including your cult.

I reply...
Same thing. Since I'm new to this site, am I to assume that most of you commenters are regulars? You call Christianity a cult, but you type like robots or clones. All truth claims are not equal. That's absurd.

It certainly doesn't fit this genre, nor do I have the knowledge to speak on every single religious belief in the world. But it's stupid to pretend that they are all equally true or equally false. At every point of disagreement one is closer to the truth than the other.

...

Like I said, I think the site is well put together and has some well thought out and well worded articles, but it seems like you're actually hardened toward discussion, which is very odd! I would think you'd be very friendly people who are excited to discuss these issues and seek the truth with passion. In stark contrast, you seem somewhat bitter, hardened, cliched, robotic, etc. (i don't mean to make a blanket statement. I don't know any of you. I'm just expressing my initial impressions).

I, like you (i assume and hope) and most interested in truth. Lovers of truth should welcome all differing viewpoints since they can only help us clarify what truth is. Lovers of truth should love discussion and friendly natured argumentation.

Does it ever cross your mind that perhaps, some of you, to some degree, have become the atheistic versions of what you hate the most?

Karen said...

Matthew:
"Christians don't believe in an invisble God, we believe in a God who became flesh. He revealed Himself in history."

Karen,

I think your questions are very strange since God is spirit. In other words, my answer for your questions is "N/A"


Just the type of synthetic answer I was expecting because, the Little Boy Soldier for God, got way over his head when he came on this website, he thought he would jump on here and convert a legion of Atheists with his college impressive credentials and ancient Biblical wisdom.

He's got his pseudo job of pastor granted by credited college courses.

How can they give scholarly credited courses for an unproven invisible diety?

Does Santa have a credited college course, or Mickey Mouse or Zeus.

Mat:
"I've visited many sites like this. I find your articles well written in comparison, but your attitudes a bit too close minded to make the site worth a routine visit. Just my opinion."

There's not many sites like this one, again another lie!

There's people out in the world like this guy preaching false doctrines, what a disgrace, humanity has allowed religions to dominate their intelligence.

Matthew, grow up! I know you do not want to, you're a religious Bozo zealot, full of lies!

Go, continue to spread your falsehoods and lies it's just exactly what Christians want to hear, how wonderful they are and that Jesus loves them, this is what you learned after 4 years of useless college indoctrination, just another wacked-out brain-dead
fundamentalist.

Matthew you're a dime-a dozen, go jump into the Bible of lies and stay there, until the lies make you sick, bask in the pseudo religiousity, continue to lie to people for money, that's your job, you're a perpetual liar.

Karen said...

Matthew said;
"I, like you (i assume and hope) and most interested in truth. Lovers of truth should welcome all differing viewpoints since they can only help us clarify what truth is. Lovers of truth should love discussion and friendly natured argumentation."

Truth??? What one thing in the Bible represents truth???

Waiting...

.:webmaster:. said...

Matt: I don't consider atheism a legitimate worldview.

Atheism is the non-belief in a god. That's not a worldview, it's simply non-belief.

Matt: Nor do I think people are born atheists, as you say. The evidence is to the contrary.

They're not? What are they born, Christian? That's ludicrous. What possible evidence could you have that infants are born with religion?

Matt: Of course, we could dialogue about all the objections that you brought up. [...] I believe they are faulty objections based on bad history, misinformation, and observation of misinformed Christianity.

That's what Christians always say when they don't have anything to say in response, but are determined to remain closed-minded.

Matt: Your attitudes a bit too close minded to make the site worth a routine visit. Just my opinion.

And that's what Christians say when they're beginning to get pissed off. Sorry, Matt, your religion is bunk. There is no Holy Ghost of power, and the only evidence you will ever have for your invisible dead/un-dead peasant-god on a stick is in your head.

Take care.

Dano said...

Matthew,
This is God speaking here!
Beg, borrow, buy, or steal, Richard Dawkins' THE GOD DELUSION" Read it and come back here and do a book report!

When you have done that I have another assignment for you. I am NOT going to let you into heaven until you get over your obsession with your outdated mythology.

In the meantime please don't tell any children they are going to burn in hell, or there is a mean little guy with a red suit a tail and a pitchfork trying to get them to do bad things.

NOW GIT!
Dano speaks for "HER"

.:webmaster:. said...

Observations and comments on Matt’s apologetic attempts:

Matt: One is only able to detect a God who is spirit when that God reveals Himself. God has done this in a multitude of ways which we are all free to accept or deny.

No evidence listed at all to support this claim, just a bold statement of Matt's authoritative belief.

Matt: I don't 'expect' anyone to accept my view. […] I hope people will submit to Jesus' authority though.

Matt’s view of authority is that Jesus’ exists and has authority. Matt wants everyone to submit to Matt's view of authority.


Matt: I reject your notion that there is no evidence whatsover. You are using a logical fallacy of assuming your argument is true and using your conclusion as evidence.

Another unsupported statement of authority. Saying something is a logical fallacy does not make it a logical fallacy. One should be able to identify the fallacy, not just throw a meaningless blanket statement out, because that in itself would be a fallacy, or at least an appeal to authority (in this case, Matt's authority).

Matt: This argument (that God is invisible) doesn't make any good sense. If God became flesh, that changes everything. I can't really think of anyone in biblical history or in the time since that was asked to believe in God without some physical evidence.

No physical evidence is offered to support this claim either. Again, only an authoritative statement of belief is offered that such evidence exists, somewhere.

Matt: I find it interesting that you get defensive over my statement that your worldview is not legitimate when you are part of a website seemingly purposed in discrediting another worldview. That being said, the reason I find naturalism illegitimate is because it demands that something came from nothing. I can appreciate someone saying they don't know how the world came about, but I can only be baffled by someone who thinks there's no need for a causer.

I'm not defensive. I'm having fun. No one knows how the world came about. At one time no one knew what caused lightening, earthquakes, or tornadoes. These forces of nature were believed to be cause by a god. Christians believed these forces of nature were caused by GOD or Satan, depending on the prevailing theology of the day. Now we know better. As science moves forward, God retreats. Today he’s retreated all the way back to the beginning of the universe.


Matt: Frankly, I've never asked anyone to trust the Bible. I trust Jesus. Jesus trusted the Bible.

Can anyone say circular? God exists because the Bible says so. The Bible is true because the God of the Bible says so. Jesus existed because the Bible says so. The Bible is trustworthy because the Jesus in the Bible says so.

Matt: Your impication that all claims are of equal merit is one of the most absurd things i've ever read on the internet. and that is saying a lot. certainly you don't live such a principle out in real life.

No, what was meant is that Matt applies atheistic principles in his life every day when he rejects the claims of other non-Christian theists. Matt is an atheist when it comes to the myriad of gods believed in throughout history and the world, except of course, the one he was brought up and trained to believe in. Had Matt been born in Iran, he’d be spending his time in a Mosque, and his arguments would have been equally unsupported.

Matt: Once again, this is a disappointing argument. Infants seemingly have no positive or negative view of God. And even if they did we wouldn't know it. Atheism is active. Infants are passive.

Atheism is non-belief. A-theism: non-belief in a god. Atheism is the default position when one does not have a god belief. Infants are, by default, atheists, because they have to be taught about god. Infants, are , as you admitted neutral. In other words, they are non-believers. Belief is active. Non-belief is passive, as in, "I'm sorry, I just don't believe that story." Infants also do not believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, Bigfoot, UFOs, Allah, Mithras, Zeus, Ra, or any other invisible magical entity. Infants are non-believers until taught otherwise. If an infant is isolated from all human verbal contact, the infant will not learn language. Infants learn everything from parents and other people. Infants are atheists. This is obvious.

What Matt seems to think is that the word atheism is an organized denominational movement with doctrines and beliefs marching to war, or something, against religion. All atheism is, is the non-belief in gods, goddesses, angels, devils, and levitating, magical, face-changing, super-saviors on a stick. Some atheists apply their non-belief for various humanist causes, but there is absolutely no "one way" to be an atheist. It only means non-belief.

Matt: Every culture in the history of the world has included some level of belief in deity, no matter how isolated. If atheism was our natural state, this would not be so, naturally.

That’s not entirely true. Please read this article: Primitive Skepticisms.

Matt: But your challenge, that I produce an infant who's willing and able to verbalize his beliefs, and your statement that you'd change your mind if I produce such an infant, shows your closed mindedness. You've already decided that the only things that would convince you that you are wrong are things you know won't happen. In other words, you've set up the test to fail. Your mindset is the complete opposite of what this article was attempting to produce.

Rather than even attempt to offer what he would see as a better way to support his statements of belief that infants are born with religion, Matt chooses instead to toss criticism at the question itself. That’s because Matt believes what he believes and has nothing with which to support that belief except his belief.

My statement was my honest evaluation of this site. If you guys/girls are up for critique, how will you ever be able to improve? Failure to accept critique goes totally againt the theme of this article. If my critique sucks, don't worry about it.

I’m not worried about it… at all. I wonder if Matt is up for critique?

All truth claims are not equal. That's absurd.

All religious truth claims are absolutely equal. None are able to offer any support for their truth claims outside of their religious writings and the belief of believers. Matt also resorts to calling something absurd without showing how it is absurd.

Lovers of truth should welcome all differing viewpoints since they can only help us clarify what truth is. Lovers of truth should love discussion and friendly natured argumentation.

I wonder if Matt can honestly list any books he’s read that are written from the perspective of rejection and non-belief in Christianity. He has already admitted to some measure of ignorance when it comes to his religious competitors.

Does it ever cross your mind that perhaps, some of you, to some degree, have become the atheistic versions of what you hate the most?

No one wants to think they are wrong. However, as I stated, most of us here have already admitted to being wrong about religion. And for many of us, that admission was costly. Some here are former ministers who now are struggling to put food on the table because they no longer have a flock to fleece.

However, you are illustrating the point of the article quite nicely. Thanks.

Jim Arvo said...

Matthew, your posts (particularly the last one) are rife with classical fallacies, which is making it very difficult to have a reasonable discussion with you. The webmaster has already pointed out many of these fallacies, so I'll try to be brief (but specific). You have employed ad hominems (...you get defensive..., ...you type like robots...), many many straw men (...naturalism...demands that something came from nothing..., ...someone who thinks there's no need for a causer..., ...all claims are of equal merit..., ...Failure to accept critique...), unsupported claims (God has done this [revealed himself] in a multitude of ways...), question begging (I trust Jesus. Jesus trusted the Bible.), and half a dozen others. With respect to question begging, you continue to tout the "authority" of Jesus, when that is clearly one of the central assertions that must be established. If you need further explication of these fallacies I'll be happy to provide it.

matthew: "I reject your notion that there is no evidence whatsover. You are using a logical fallacy of assuming your argument is true and using your conclusion as evidence."

While it's true that I have personally seen no credible evidence for the fantastic claims of Christianity in four decades of research, that was not my point. My point was that you have produced no evidence to support your assertions. I am left to wonder whether you expect to persuade anybody by your authority. Deferring to the authority of Jesus is a dodge, as his very existence is questionable, and his being the "son of god" is the very point at issue. If you defer to this extraordinary claim as the "fact" from which his "authority" originates, then you are simply begging the question. Do you see that?

matthew: "This argument [that matthew believes in an invisible god] doesn't make any good sense. If God became flesh, that changes everything."

I'll try to spell this out again. Whether your purported god at one time became manifest is a red herring. Do you at this very moment believe in god? (I'll assume you do.) Can you at this very moment see or in any other way physically detect the presence of god? (I'll assume that you cannot.) Do you nonetheless insist that she is real and present? (I'll assume that you do.) If my assumptions are correct, then you believe in a god RIGHT NOW, that cannot be detected in any physical way; which is another way of saying that she is invisible. If you still disagree, please either 1) explain how it is that you can physically detect god in the present, or 2) admit that you do not believe in such an entity at the present time. If there is a third option, please enlighten me.

matthew: "I can't really think of anyone in biblical history or in the time since that was asked to believe in God without some physical evidence."

Really? What is the "physical evidence" that persuaded you? Unless you are referring to the physical existence of printed Bibles, I suspect that you are confusing stories of physical evidence with physical evidence. Again, it is the veracity of those stories that is at issue. If we all agreed that they were true, then we would all be Christians, wouldn't we? So, on what basis do you deem the stories true?

Do you think that you can actually address the issues that I and others have raised? Your rhetoric regarding "love of truth" rings very hollow so far, and your assertion that we are the ones who have closed minds is laughable. If you (or anybody else) can provide sound reasoning and compelling evidence for the fantastic claims of Christianity, then I will gladly believe them, for they would be far and away the most important facts in existence for all of humanity. However, thus far, my studies have lead me to conclude that Christianity is an elaborate myth, just like every other religion invented by man.

Alan said...

Matthew, its all very simple: just provide some evidence that backs up the claims made in the Bible. Let the evidence speak for itself. You are talking about reality, are you not? If I told you there are aliens living on Mars, would you want to see my evidence, or would you accept my claim on faith? If faith is good enough then I've got some waterfront property for sale that you're going to love.

matthew said...

karen said...
Just the type of synthetic answer I was expecting because, the Little Boy Soldier for God, got way over his head when he came on this website, he thought he would jump on here and convert a legion of Atheists with his college impressive credentials and ancient Biblical wisdom. He's got his pseudo job of pastor granted by credited college courses.

matthew said...
Once again, very little actual response except by way of attacking the person. I didn't come here to convert anyone. I stumbled upon the site, found an article interesting, and responded. Personally, I don't think 'college' was all that valuable to begin with, nor do I consider myself a guru by any means. But thanks for improving my impression of the attitude at this site!

webmaster said...
That's what Christians always say when they don't have anything to say in response, but are determined to remain closed-minded.

I reply...
That's what atheists always say when they try to win an argument by throwing out a long list of objections so they can feel victorious when the christian doesn't respond point for point on a commment page, haha. Obviously I'm here dialoguing with you for 2 or 3 days. I'd be happy to deal with 1 issue at a time.

Webmaster said...
a bunch of things

I reply...
Have of that has already been responded to an any open minded person reading this dialogue is free to take what arguments he/she thought were better and think for themselves

Most of the rest was a failure to understand the genre of a comment page, basically implying that I have to respond in volumes when we're actually just having a casual minute for minute dialogue. Webmaster attempted to show poor argumentation on my part, but failed to admit that the replies to me have contained the same type of argumentation. It's not a failure of argumentation on either side. It's a comment page, not a book writing club.

Jim Arvo listed....
a bunch of fallacies that i'm supposedly responsible of typing, especially calling me a rude jerk for calling you poor atheists mean names.

I reply....
Oh, the irony.

You also seem showed, once again, that for you to have 'faith' you'd have to be able to visibly see God at every moment. Or you implied that if I can't do that I have a stupid faith. Talk about living for the moment!

....

The conversation doesn't seem to be going very far since, at this point, most of you are (in general) just calling my an idiot or, and this is sorta funny, saying that I'm just making statements without backing them up (which is pretty much all you all have done so far). I'd welcome actual conversation on 1 or 2 issues at a time.

We live in an age of unbelief and skepticism. I can certainly sympathize with your views to some degree. On a personal level, I know that God is real, so it would be very stupid for me to become an atheist. I don't expect any of you to accept personal evidence or experiential evidence. But I do believe that this is a cynical and skeptical age. And I think this mindset is misleading. If we lived our lives with as much doubt and skepticism as we think about theology, this world would be a bunch of people huddled in their own corners.

The failure for us to have meaningful dialogue is because this isn't the best forum and because we have two totally different ways of looking at the world. Yours is naturalism and mine is theistic. For you everything looks like evidence against, for me everything looks like evidence for.

I was simply hoping for a more friendly dialogue. I'll obviously forget about this site some time in the next weeks, but you'll still be here. In my opinion, you're evangelistic hopes will be more successful if you adjust your methods of argumentation.

matthew said...

alan said...
Matthew, its all very simple: just provide some evidence that backs up the claims made in the Bible. Let the evidence speak for itself.

I reply...
That sounds fair and reasonable (are you new to this site?!). Of course, I'm sure you can predict my reply. I believe the gospel accounts are reliable accounts of Jesus life/death/resurrection. I think church history is evidence of such. And I think atheists trust other 'history' that is much less reliable and evidentiary than the 4 narratives of Jesus' life. Why? Because they're motivated to.

freeman said...

Matthew,

So you agree with the teachings of Islam since the history of the mosque/religion speaks for itself! How about the Hindu and Buddhist whose history is longer than that of the Jeudo/Christian faith!

You offer no evidence which make your religion any more special than the other religions of the world! Therefore, your religion is nothing more than a mythology just like the rest!

freeman said...

Matthew,
You label us robotic!? We have searched for the truth and here we are, exchristians! You are the robot, brainwashed for 4 years in a bible college regurgitating what you were force feed. Quite sad indeed.

Alan said...

Matthew

Saying "I believe" is not evidence, surely you can see that. I don't want to predict your reply, I just want to see some proof. If the proof is in church history then let's hear it. If there is evidence then we can dispense with belief and talk about facts instead.

Larry said...

Atheists are idiots!!!

How could we Atheists be so blatantly stupid? How we missed this fact, I'll never know, when the obvious truth was in front of us all along, in the Bible.

Atheists are just plainly un-logical and unreasonable because they do not believe in talking snakes, bushes and donkeys or unicorns or dragons, and virgin births and walking on water, or raising people from the dead and converting water into wine, three day resurections, and assorted miracles, how could we Atheist have missed that, when all the evidence was plainly in front of us all along.

God invented Christianity and religion because, Satan would not worship him in heaven, so God kicked Satan out, and now people refuse to worship him, so God had to do something after four thousand years, he decided to send his sperm in the form of a "Holy Ghost" (the most highest Holy ghost availble, at that moment) into a virgin girl, so that people, would not question such nonsense and believe it and trick people into worshipping an invisible God and give the preacher money for telling them it's the truth.

Yeah, this is proof, Atheists are such idiots, unreasonable, un-logical.

.:webmaster:. said...

Matt: "you're evangelistic hopes will be more successful if you adjust your methods of argumentation."

Please read the Site Purpose and Disclaimer. This site was never intended for any kind of evangelism. Evangelists come here.

Matt, please keep in mind that you are exchanging dialogue with a number of separate individuals. Not all these individuals have exactly the same viewpoint or personality.

Matt said: "That's what atheists always say when they try to win an argument by throwing out a long list of objections so they can feel victorious when the christian doesn't respond point for point on a commment page, haha. Obviously I'm here dialoguing with you for 2 or 3 days. I'd be happy to deal with 1 issue at a time."

Fair enough. I will patiently wait for your to address, one-by-one, the points in my so-called long list of objections.

Matt said: "I'd welcome actual conversation on 1 or 2 issues at a time."

Well, there are plenty of solid issues to choose from expressed by several posters. Jim Arvo's are especially insightful. Just take your pick.

Matt said: "On a personal level, I know that God is real"

OK. So, how do you know this? You say you know it. Can you explain your reasoning?

Matt said: "I reject your notion that there is no evidence whatsover."

OK. So what is the evidence?

Matt said: "Have of that has already been responded to an any open minded person reading this dialogue is free to take what arguments he/she thought were better and think for themselves"

Huh?

Matt: "For you everything looks like evidence against, for me everything looks like evidence for."

Well, for me it looks like Christianity makes fantastic, amazing, and magical claims but doesn't offer any evidence supporting those claims. I don't think doubting the validity of ancient myths requires evidence. I mean, what would be the evidence for rejecting the magical stories of other cultures? Evidence doesn't work that way. Magic doesn't exist, unless you can show some evidence to the contrary.

I doubt Christian claims because of the LACK of evidence suppporting those claims. Show some evidence and there might be a few more warm pews this Sunday.

.:webmaster:. said...

Matt said: "I believe the gospel accounts are reliable accounts of Jesus life/death/resurrection. I think church history is evidence of such."

Why do you believe the gospel accounts are reliable. What reasoning did you use to come to that conclusion? I mean, there is a lot of magical stuff in there: face changing, levitation, mind reading, dematerializing and rematerializing, demons, devils, walking zombies... Great stories, but reality? How did you come to the conclusion that the wild stories in the gospels match reality?

matthew said...

First of all, I recognize that a few of you are insisting I alter my definition of the word 'atheist'. But I don't feel any alteration is necessary on my part. We are not talking about passive atheism here, we are talking about active atheism. We are not talking about a neutral position. You are a group of ex-christians and/or atheists, aligned together, with a purpose. In a large sense of the word, you are a club. You have your own stories, cliches, leaders, beliefs, community, literature, etc. You are not, actually, very different from a church.

I am not here to prove, or even argue for the Christian worldview. I commented on the article, which I felt was a good one.

Many Christians DO have a hard time admitting they are wrong. So do many non-christians. Humans are prideful beings. The article is almost preachable, although, obviously, I'd be coming at the subject from a different angle.

I'd speculate that this site has had many zealous Christians visit attempting to evangelize and so I'm being categorized. Simply put, I just wanted to comment on a well-written article. I'd rather have stayed on topic, but I kept being asked to go off of it.

I'll check back on the site at least a few times and comment again if I feel an article is interesting. As for the long list of things that I'm supposed to take the time to respond to, I'll await future articles on those subjects before I comment. Feel free to read into that that I'm just afraid, having no answers :)

Hope you all have a happy new year

boomSLANG said...

The now patronizing Energizer Fundy is "stilllll goinggggg".

I reply...
Like clockwork, the Christian fundamentalist's argument amounts to "I believe". NOTHING more. And if I'm not mistaken, I think it was the "fundy"(from here on in, the "fundamentalist" abbreviation) who first started hurling ad hominem attacks, oui? Yes, I have "faith" that that is the case, and even if I'm presented evidence to the contrary?....tough f%cking shit. After all, "I believe". So I guess in lieu of trying to further converse with the equivalent of cinder block---what's sauce for the goose has now become sauce for the gander. Touché.

To get started, isn't it utterly fanTASTic that our fundy guest's argument amounts to "I believe"? OutSTANDING!....::standing ovation::...Yes, I think our fundy guest should win a free vacation to the luxorious Beluga Campgrounds for a three night stay in a cozy 2/bed 2/bath whale's stomach....::snare drum/crash cymbal:: lol!

From there, he will conveniently be shuttled in the comfort of a 'magical swimming hammer' to the Garden of Majick! There, he will never feel lonely, as the locals.....the trees, shrubbs, vines, and other talking vegetation, are very hospitable..."H-e-l-l-o, M-a-t-t-h-e-w"....said the smoldering Hibiscus plant. LMAO!

Oooooo, but watch out!...there are eeeeevil talking snakes in the Garden!

Scene one:

"Sssssssssorry you've been had, young Matthew", said the talking tree python...."But if you, Matthew, could jussssssst accept the fact that Majick isn't Real and that you will expire jusssst like every other living thing, you wouldn't need to believe in your sssssilly God and Hissss utterly ridiculous handbook."

Scene two:

Matthew expires or is banned, whichever comes first, and is cured of his disease. Bye, bye Matthew...::sniff, sniff::

Where reason fails, being a sarcastic prick prevails!!!!YES!!!lol

boomSLANG said...

News flash: Asking for empirical objective evidence for "Jesus"---the same kind of evidence that any/every Christian would ask of a Muslim for "Muhammad"---is NOT "off topic". Happy New Year! Beat it.

matthew said...

haha, the topic at hand is the wrongness of someone not being able to admit they are wrong.

Dano said...

I think Matthew means well. It's just that he is bored shitless, with his young warrior for Christ stance and all the predictable Bible verses and screwy logic on his web site.

He finds us like a breath of fresh air! He wants more. The more unassailable reason that he reads here, the more he hungers for it. He is a young crusader for Christ, who yearns to be free.
Dan (rationalist for God)

boomSLANG said...

"haha", blow it out your ass. Objective empirical evidence for the current existance of the "God" known as "Jesus Christ", please.....and I will readily "admit" I was wrong, retract my statements, publically apologize, and reconvert in a second, even commencing to killing non-believers(Deut) and hating my parents(Luke)...... all, so I can be Jesus' disciple.

Waiting.

Frank said...

Listen folks,
After reading the Rev. Matthews comments on here, I believe with all my heart that God and Jesus are real. But 'I know for sure, in my mind,' it's all a crock of lies.

The heart pumps blood only, but the brain has the ability to separate fact from fiction.

Sarge said...

I have always thought about Martin Luther's statement which I think he took from one of the early fathers of the church: that if an angel came from heaven and told him it was all false, he'd still believe it. And that's what a lot of the fundies say at the bottom of it. It's like a tree they clutch in i flood. Doesn't matter if it's floating down the river toward rapids, sinking even, they feel safe so they hold on all the tighter the more insecure things are. I'll swim on my own, thank you.

Jim Arvo said...

I pointed out numerous fallacies that matthew committed in his posts, to which he replied

"Oh, the irony."

Methinks he meant to say hypocrisy, not irony. Either way, he doesn't seem to be the least bit interested in addressing anything I've pointed out, and has consistently ignored every argument I've put to him. He went on to say

"You also seem showed, once again, that for you to have 'faith' you'd have to be able to visibly see God at every moment. Or you implied that if I can't do that I have a stupid faith. Talk about living for the moment!

More straw men and ad hominem attacks. Matthew is apparently responding to some completely unrelated stream of dialogue in his imagination. I made no mention of what it would take for me to share his "faith", and certainly implied nothing about the necessity of seeing god at every moment. I never denigrated his "faith"; I merely pointed out where he was arguing in circles, and why I was not inclined to believe his assertions. I'm astonished at how far he can twist what I said, particularly as I spelled it out plainly several times. Well, it's certainly entertaining. And the fun continues...

matthew: "The conversation doesn't seem to be going very far since, at this point, most of you are (in general) just calling my an idiot or, and this is sorta funny, saying that I'm just making statements without backing them up (which is pretty much all you all have done so far)."

Matthew, I have given you some brief explanation for every assertion I've made, and I'd be happy to elaborate extensively on absolutely any point. You have not done likewise. You have made assertion after assertion with virtually no attempt to explain what they are based on. As it is YOU who is making the fantastic claims about invisible beings, the initial burden of proof is with YOU and YOU ALONE. If you cannot provide anything of substance beyond "church history" (which could mean just about anything), then where do you expect such a discussion to go? What is there to discuss?

matthew: "If we lived our lives with as much doubt and skepticism as we think about theology, this world would be a bunch of people huddled in their own corners."

I think you are exactly wrong--it's precisely the opposite. The reason we can fight diseases and grow abundant crops is science, which depends critically upon skepticism. The opposite of skepticism is credulity, which is the currency of religion. The Dark Ages are a stunning testimony to the perils of credulity stoked by religion. You speak of people huddled in corners--just look at any theocracy.

matthew: "The failure for us to have meaningful dialogue is because this isn't the best forum and because we have two totally different ways of looking at the world..."

No, Matthew. We cannot have a dialogue because you refuse to have one. I have yet to see you respond directly and honestly to a single comment or question. Instead you twist what is said into absurd straw men (as I pointed out above) which you then kick with apparent glee (and absolutely no gain).

I'm willing to give this one last try. I will ask you several straightforward questions that I often put to visiting Christians in one form or another. If you can answer any of them directly and honestly, then maybe we will have something to discuss. Here we go:

1) Do you admit the possibility that the god you worship is mythical?

2) What, if anything, would count as evidence against the existence of your god?

3) On what basis do you assert that the gospels are reliable accounts?

4) Do you know what "midrash" or "hagiography" are, and how they relate to the gospels?

5) Can you please list several books you've read that are critical of Christianity?

If you give a direct and succinct answer to even one of these I'll be pleasantly surprised, and will be happy to reciprocate by answering similar questions from you.

matthew said...

jim,

As I've stated numerous times, I'd be happy to discuss your list of issues in their proper context. This article is about the problem people have admitting they are wrong. If you need a reminder, my original comment was...

It is somewhat interesting, to me, that your article suggests that Christians have a very difficult time admitting they are wrong, when most people become Christians by doing that very thing.

There is, however, quite a bit of truth in what you are saying in regards to the thought process of many professing Christians.


I don't know if you are a contributer to this website, a regular commenter, or just someone stopping by, like me. But it seems it would be much more orderly and fruitful to stay on topic.

In other words...
1) Do you disagree with me that Christians often become Christian by submitting to the idea that they were previously wrong?
2) DO you disagree with me that there is a lot of truth in the article?

Of course I admit and consider the possibility that Christianity is not true. I am a skeptic by nature. I just don't, obviously, think the case against it is convincing. To be honest, I find the seeming majority position of this website (that Jesus never existed) to be the least convincing theory of all. It's much more likely that Jesus' teachings were distorted in the 1st few centuries, if anything.

But after answering 1 of yours, I give up my 'right' to ask you one back, since it is a tangent.

boomSLANG said...

...::yawn::....

I just don't, obviously, think the case against it(Christianity) is convincing.

Notice, once again, that the theist clings like a moth to a flame, to how there's "not enough evidence" for why Christianity..i.e. "god's existance" is NOT true, and says jack' about evidence for why it IS "true", as if "God" can be "defaulted" into existance. Nothing shocking; nothing new from the theist.

I'm positive Jim Arvo will handle it, as well, and I await his comments.

Jim Arvo said...

Matthew,

I appreciate your effort to keep to the initial theme of this thread (and I also appreciate the tone of your last post). However, it's not uncommon to follow various tangents in threads like this; quite often a discussion will take on a life of its own that is quite far removed from the original post--and quite interesting. Does anybody here object to following a few tangents? (I suspect not.)

Here are succinct answers to your questions, with more elaboration to follow:

1) Yes, I agree that some Christians become Christians by admitting they were wrong about (or ignorant of) the central tenets of the religion. One could argue that this is so almost by definition, for if you adopt a new belief, is that not equivalent to asserting that you had been wrong to not believe it previously? (However, I think this is misleading, which I will explain below.)

2) And yes, of course I agree that there is much truth to the article.

Now, I said my answer to #1 was misleading without further explanation, and here is why. To admit that one was "wrong" previously does not necessarily imply that one has thought through either position sufficiently. For example, may people are converted to Christianity through emotional appeals and by believing grossly exaggerated claims about Jesus, the Bible, etc. While such a person may freely admit that they had been wrong to have eschewed Christianity before, their new-found faith may be a tissue of nonsense. Hence, having been "wrong" before does not imply that one is now "right".

I believe that such a scenario (i.e. having been won over by emotional appeals, etc.) is common for conversions INTO Christianity, but a rarity for conversions OUT of Christianity. I say this because of the large number of people I am aware of (both personally and via sites like this) who have left Christianity via a very long an painful process of study and relentless questioning. Hence, I believe it is vastly more common for an apostate to know both sides of the issue intimately than for a "born-again" believer. (I don't have any objective statistics to back this up--mostly just a subjective assessment based on my own observations.) Moreover, I do not think it's possible to make a truly informed judgment without knowing the actual arguments on both (or all) sides, not straw man summaries. This puts apostates, in general, on much more solid ground IMHO.

However, the central point is this: While it's important to be able to admit it when you are wrong, it's just as important (perhaps even more so) to know how to make an informed decision, to consider all sides as dispassionately as possible, to weigh evidence, and to withhold judgment when the evidence is scant or inconclusive. In short, it's a virtue to be able to say "I was wrong", but it takes an even greater commitment to say "Here is why I believe what I believe."

You went on to say that you don't think the argument against Christianity is convincing. As Boomslang already pointed out, that's putting the cart before the horse. On what basis can one deem its fantastic claims to be true? You seem to put a lot of stock in the gospels. Once again, on what basis do you deem them reliable? I've studied them extensively, and I think they very clearly show a pattern of mythological embellishment, extensive midrashic interpolation, repeated copying and redaction, and they fit the overall genre of hagiographic writings of the period. As for whether Jesus actually existed, I don't think it's a majority opinion here that he did not (as you suggested). My own leaning is toward the mythicist camp, but I don't think it's anywhere near conclusive and I readily admit that there may have been an itinerate preacher by the name of Jesus around whom a fantastic legend later grew. I think there is some intriguing evidence that there was not, however. (The astonishing silence of the early epistles about an earthly Jesus is only the starting point.)

matthew said...

jim,

thanks for the feedback

I think part of the difficulty in having this discussion is that the word 'Christian' is such a vague term. Tons of people call themselves Christians. You said many people become Christians based on emotional appeals or false teaching. It is true that many people gain the title 'Christian' through these means, but it is up for debate whether they truly become Christian.

I agree with you that these methods are more common in 'conversion' than in 'de-conversion', but I think that most people who truly become Christians do so very thoughtfully. It is often a (to steal your words) very long an painful process of study and relentless questioning. At least it was for me.

I agree with you, of course, that most 'apostates' leave the church for 'good' reasons. I mean that in the sense that they come, through study, to believe that Christianity isn't true. I wouldn't respect someone who followed something that they didn't think was true. In my opinion the problem is that they've learned bad methods for evaluating truth.

I freely admit that I don't consider atheism a solid option. You imply that I should start with nothing and look at the evidence. To me, the fact that I exist as a person assumes that some personality is the ultimate cause. To me, this is common sense. I can't start with a blank slate b/c the slate isn't blank. I'm here. I'm sure, though, that you don't view things quite like that.

In my observation there is plenty of evidence for the historical accuracy of the gospels. If someone is determined to not believe, they'll find reasons to doubt. If someone is determined to believe, they'll find reasons to accept. I don't anyone can really be neutral, as you say. Buf if they could, hypothetically, I think they'd become Christians.

Individual examples aren't very helpful since many people have stopped being Christians by looking at information and many people have started being Christians by looking at information. To me, this is a matter of the lens with which we view the information and no amount of discussion will help 2 people with different ways of seeing, see eye to eye.

As for the topic at hand, I have often thought, myself, about why Christians are often unwilling to admit they are wrong. I came up with reasons very similar to what was posted in the original article, except from a Christian perspective, dealing more with why Christianity continues to disagree with each other over doctrines.

Jim Arvo said...

Matthew,

Here are a few replies. I didn't have time to address everything, such as what it means to be a "True Christian". Perhaps others will address that. Suffice it to say, it's a can of worms.

matthew: "...I think that most people who truly become Christians do so very thoughtfully. It is often a (to steal your words) very long an painful process of study and relentless questioning. At least it was for me."

First, I'd like to point out that what "most" people do is largely irrelevant. (I think you will agree with that.) When I explore any position I want to hear the *best* arguments on both sides--thus I try to find the "best" apologists to read rather than the garden-variety fire-and-brimstone type. So even if every person on Earth had bogus arguments for Christianity except for one, then it would be that one I would want to hear.

That said, your assertion as to the majority of Christians coming to the faith "very thoughtfully" could not be more dramatically opposed to my experience. Perhaps we mean different things by being "thoughtful". I do not mean simply contemplating the doctrines before accepting them (and perhaps you don't either). To me that would be like rendering a verdict in a trial after hearing only the prosecutor's side. I would not consider a person's acceptance of any faith to be "thoughtful" unless one assiduously tested its doctrines against those of other faiths and/or carefully considered the positions of those who find fault with them. In my experience, it's a very rare Christian who will do either of those. In fact, I am simply appalled by the utter lack of curiosity shown by many (indeed most) Christians about opposing points of view. I have never in my life seen a pastor, a church service, or a Christian web site that lends even a modicum of respect to those who hold different views; indeed, in almost every case they present an absurd straw man in the place of non-believers, and thereby (tacitly if not overtly) discourage those in their flock from looking any further.

matthew: "In my opinion the problem is that they've [apostates] learned bad methods for evaluating truth."

Maybe this is just a semantic quibble, but in my view the issue is evidence, not "truth." When dealing with any complex empirical, philosophical, or theological issues, it's nearly impossible to reach certitude--yet one can hope to eventually find overwhelming evidence in support of one side or the other. So, I will interpret your statement as suggesting that apostates will often employ poor methods of weighing evidence. If that is an accurate reading, what, specifically, did you have in mind? In my experience by far the most pervasive error that people make is what comes down to "special pleading," which is intimately tied to cognitive dissonance. That is, people will only look at one side, and only retain what confirms their current beliefs. Can you seriously suggest that apostates are more vulnerable to this error than the typical believer?

"I freely admit that I don't consider atheism a solid option."

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by a "solid option," but I imagine you mean that the position of atheism is untenable in the face of overwhelming evidence for Christianity. Or maybe you mean that the Christian worldview "explains more" than a naturalistic worldview. If it's the former, obviously I disagree most strenuously. If it's the latter, then we disagree fundamentally on what it means to "explain" something. But perhaps you mean something else altogether.

To me, what is untenable--in fact foolish--is to accept any doctrine on "faith". I have never seen a valid argument for why such a leap would be justified, given that one could choose to have "faith" in many competing doctrines. Once the leap is made, there are many psychological and social incentives to bolster that faith--which is to say, there is no reason to believe that such a leap will get one nearer the truth, and many reasons to suspect that it can do just the opposite. But, again, maybe you have a different view of "faith", and I don't want to joust with a straw man.

matthew: "You imply that I should start with nothing and look at the evidence."

No, that's not what I implied. Nobody can start from nothing, as you went on to point out. In fact, I am a big fan of using one's intuition, but only in a limited way. Specifically, it categorically should not be used as the final arbiter in any important matter. (More on this below.)

matthew: "To me, the fact that I exist as a person assumes that some personality is the ultimate cause. To me, this is common sense."

To me that's an infinitely huge leap. It's nothing more than a hunch, or naive intuition if you will. That's a fine place to start investigating, but what makes you think that your intuition about such a meta-physical issue has any grounding? After all, it's well known that we humans often seek to "explain" events through human (or human-like) agency--it's part of how we perceive the world using our highly social mental machinery. Thus, I think it *infinitely* more likely that your intuition about a "personal" creator is a mundane side effect of our long social history as a species, and not a glimpse into a meta-physical reality.

matthew: "In my observation there is plenty of evidence for the historical accuracy of the gospels."

The phrase "historical accuracy" gets tossed around a lot. Do you mean that the people (such as various rulers) and places mentioned in the Bible generally correspond to real people and places? If so, then that does not lend any credibility to the fantastic claims in the Bible. The Bible was written in a historical context, so it's no surprise that many of its characters and scenes are historically based. But where is the corroboration for the resurrection, or for dozens of people rising from their graves and walking about, or for the slaughter of the innocents, or for the virgin birth, or any other fantastic claim of the Bible? Why is it that the Bible's claims are true while those of the Koran or the Book of Mormon are not?

matthew: "I don't anyone can really be neutral, as you say. Buf if they could, hypothetically, I think they'd become Christians."

I did not say anybody can be neutral. I said one should strive to be as "dispassionate as possible" when evaluating evidence--that is, one should attempt to follow the dictates of reason to the extent possible, rather than being swayed by what one wishes to be the case. NOBODY can do this fully, but in my experience it can be approximated with constant practice. As for which side a hypothetical "neutral party" would find most compelling, it depends very much on what is presented to them. If they are educated in all the world's religions, and shown hundreds of similar hagiographic tracts that we all agree are wild fictions, then it's hard for me to see how this person could find that Christianity somehow rises to the top as the "one true myth" (to steal C. S. Lewis's phrase). But, this is all academic, isn't it?